Anne of Geierstein, by Walter Scott

Chapter 15

And this place our forefathers built for man!

Old Play.

The dungeon in which the younger Philipson was immured 10 was one of those gloomy caverns which cry shame on the inhumanity of our ancestors. They seem to have been almost insensible to the distinction betwixt innocence and guilt, as the consequences of mere accusation must have been far more severe in those days, than is in our own that species of imprisonment which is adjudged as an express punishment for crime.

The cell of Arthur Philipson was of considerable length, but dark and narrow, and dug out of the solid rock upon which the tower was founded. A small lamp was allowed him, not however without some grumbling, but his arms were still kept bound; and when he asked for a draught of water, one of the grim satellites, by whom he was thrust into this cell, answered surlily, that he might endure his thirst for all the time his life was likely to last — a gloomy response, which augured that his privations would continue as long as his life, yet neither be of long duration. By the dim lamp he had groped his way to a bench, or rough seat, cut in the rock; and, as his eyes got gradually accustomed to the obscurity of the region in which he was immured, he became aware of a ghastly cleft in the floor of his dungeon, somewhat resembling the opening of a draw well, but irregular in its aperture, and apparently the mouth of a gulf of Nature’s conformation, slightly assisted by the labor of human art.

“Here then, is my death-bed,” he said, “and that gulf perhaps the grave which yawns for my remains Nay, I have heard of prisoners being plunged into such horrid abysses while they were yet alive, to die at leisure, crushed with wounds, their groans unheard, and their fate unpitied!”

He approached his head to the dismal cavity, and heard, as at a great depth, the sound of a sullen, and, as it seemed, subterranean stream. The sunless waves appeared murmuring for their victim. Death is dreadful at all ages; but in the first springtide of youth, with all the feelings of enjoyment afloat, and eager for gratification, to be snatched forcibly from the banquet to which the individual has but just sat down, is peculiarly appalling, even when the change comes in the ordinary course of nature, But to sit, like young Philipson, on the brink of the subterranean abyss, and ruminate in horrid doubt concerning the mode in which death was to be inflicted, was a situation which might break the spirit of the boldest; and the unfortunate captive was wholly unable to suppress the natural tears that flowed from his eyes in torrents, and which his bound arms did not permit him to wipe away. We have already noticed that although a gallant young man in aught of danger which was to be faced and overcome by active exertion, the youth was strongly imaginative, and sensitive to a powerful extent to all those exaggerations, which, in a situation of helpless uncertainty, fancy lends to distract the soul of him who must passively expect an approaching evil.

Yet the feelings of Arthur Philipson were not selfish. They reverted to his father, whose just and noble character was as much formed to attract veneration, as his unceasing paternal care and affection to excite love and gratitude. He, too, was in the hands of remorseless villains, who were determined to conceal robbery by secret murder — he, too, undaunted in so many dangers, resolute in so many encounters; lay bound and defenceless, exposed to the dagger of the meanest stabbet. Arthur remembered, too, the giddy peak of the rock near Geierstein, and the grim vulture which claimed him as its prey. Here was no angel to burst through the mist, and marshal him on a path of safety — here the darkness was subterranean and eternal, saving when the captive should behold the knife of the ruffian flash against the lamp, which lent him light to aim the vital blow. This agony of mind lasted until the feelings of the unhappy prisoner arose to ecstasy. He started up, and struggled so hard to free himself of his bonds, that it seemed they should have fallen from him as from the arms of the mighty Nazarene. But the cords were of too firm a texture; and after a violent and unavailing struggle, in which the ligatures seemed to enter his flesh, the prisoner lost his balance, and, while the feeling thrilled through him that he was tumbling backward into the subterranean abyss, he fell to the ground with great force.

Fortunately he escaped the danger which in his agony he apprehended, but so narrowly, that his head struck against the low and broken fence with which the mouth of the homble pit was partly surrounded. Here he lay stunned and motionless, and, as the lamp was extinguished in his fall, immersed in absolute and total darkness. He was recalled to sensation by a jarring noise.

“They come — they come — the murderers! Oh, Lady of Mercy! and oh, gracious Heaven, forgive my transgressions!”

He looked up, and observed, with dazzled eyes, that a dark form approached him, with a knife in one hand, and a torch in the other. He might well have seemed the man who was to do the last deed upon the unhappy prisoner, if he had come alone. But he came not alone — his torch gleamed upon the white dress of a female, which was so much illuminated by it, that Arthur could discover a form, arid had even a glimpse of features, never to be forgotten, though now seen under circumstances least of all to be expected. The prisoner’s unutterable astonishment impressed him with a degree of awe which overcame even his personal fear — “Can these things be?” was his muttered reflection; “has she really the power of an elementary spirit? has she conjured up this earthlike and dark demon to concur with her in my deliverance?”

It appeared as if his guess were real; for the figure in black, giving the light to Anne of Geierstein, or at least the form which bore her perfect resemblance, stooped over the prisoner, and cut the cord that bound his arms, with so much despatch, that it seemed as if it fell from his person at a touch. Arthur’s first attempt to arise was unsuccessful, and a second time it was the hand of Anne of Geierstein — a living hand sensible to touch as to sight — which aided to raise and to support him, as it had formerly done when the tormented waters of the river thundered at their feet. Her touch produced an effect far beyond that of the slight personal aid which the maiden’s strength could have rendered. Courage was restored to his heart, vigor and animation to his benumbed and bruised limbs; such influence does the human mind, when excited to energy, possess over the infirmities of the human body. He was about to address Anne in accents of the deepest gratitude. But the accents died away of his tongue, when the mysterious female, laying her finger on her lips, made him a sign to be silent, and at the same time beckoned him to follow her. He obeyed in silent amazement. They passed the entrance of the melancholy dungeon, and through one or two short but intricate passages,which, cut out of the rock in some places, and built in others with hewn stone of the same kind, probably led to holds similar to that in which Arthur was so lately a captive.

The recollection that his father might be immured in some such horrid cell as he himself had just quitted, induced Arthur to pause as they reached the bottom of a small winding staircase, which conducted apparently from this region of the building.

“Come,” he said, “dearest Anne, lead me to his deliverance! I must not leave my father.”

She shook her head impatiently, and beckoned him on.

“If your power extends not to save my father’s life, I will remain and save him or die! — Anne, dearest Anne — ”

She answered not, but her companion replied, in a deep voice, not unsuitable to his appearance, “Speak, young man, to those who are permitted to answer you; or rather, be silent, and listen to my instructions, which direct to the only course which can bring thy father to freedom and safety.”

They ascended the stair, Anne of Geierstein going first; while Arthur, who followed close behind, could not help thinking that her form gave existence to a part of the light which her garment reflected from the torch. This was probably the effect of the superstitious belief impressed on his mind by Rudolph’s tale respecting her mother, and which was confirmed by her sudden appearance in a place and situation where she was so little to have been expected. He had not much time, however, to speculate upon her appearance or demeanor, for, mounting the stair with a lighter pace than he was able at the time to follow closely, she was no longer to be seen when he reached the landing-place. But whether she had melted into the air, or turned aside into some other passage, he was not permitted a moment’s leisure to examine.

“Here lies your way,” said his sable guide; and at the same time dashing out the light, and seizing Philipson by the arm, he led him along a dark gallery of considerable length. The young man was not without some momentary misgivings while he recollected the ominous looks of his conductor, and that he was armed with a dagger, or knife, which he could plunge of a sudden into his bosom. But he could not bring himself to dread treachery from anyone whom he had seen in company with Anne of Geierstein; and in his heart he demanded her pardon for the fear which bad flashed across him, and resigned himself to the guidance of his companion, who advanced with hasty but light footsteps, and cautioned him by a whisper to do the same.

“Our journey,” he atlength said, “ends here.”

As he spoke, a door gave way and admitted them into a gloomy Gothic apartment, furnished with large oaken presses, apparently filled with books and manuscripts. As Arthur looked round, with eyes dazzled with the sudden gleam of daylight from which he had been for some time excluded, the door by which they had entered disappeared. This, however, did not greatly surprise him, who judged that, being formed in appearance to correspond with the presses around the entrance which they had used, it could not when shut be distinguished from them; a device sometimes then practised, as indeed it often is at the present day. He had now a full view of his deliverer, who, when seen by daylight, showed only the vestments and features of a clergyman, without any of that expression of supernatural horror, which the partial light and the melancholy appearance of all in the dungeon had combined to impress on him.

Young Philipson once more breathed with freedom, as one awakened from a hideous dream; and the supernatural qualities with which his imagination had invested Anne of Geierstein having begun to vanish, he addressed his deliverer thus:—

“That I may testify my thanks, holy father, where they are so especially due, let me inquire of you if Anne of Geierstein — ”

“Speak of that which pertains to your house and family,” answered the priest, as briefly as before. “Hast thou so soon forgot thy father’s danger?”

“By heavens, no!” replied the youth; “tell me but how to act for his deliverance, and thou shalt see how a son can fight for a parent!”

“It is well, for it is needful,” said the priest. “Don thou this vestment and follow me.”

The vestment presented was the gown and hood of a novice.

“Draw the cowl over thy face,” said the priest, “and return no answer to any man who meets thee. I will say thou art under a vow. — May Heaven forgive the unworthy tyrant who imposes on us the necessity of such profane dissimulation! Follow me close and near — beware that you speak not.”

The business of disguise was soon accomplished, and the Priest of St. Paul’s, for such he was, moving on, Arthur followed him a pace or two behind, assuming as well as he could the modest step and humble demeanor of a spiritual novice. On leaving the library, or study, and descending a short stair, he found himself in the street of Breisach. Irresistibly tempted to look back, he had only time, however, to see that the house he had left was a very small building of a Gothic character, on the one side of which rose the church of St. Paul’s, and on the other the stern black gate-house or entrance-tower.

“Follow me, Melchior,” said the deep voice of the priest; and his keen eyes were at the same time fixed upon the supposed novice, with a look which instantly recalled Arthur to a sense of his situation.

They passed along, nobody noticing them, unless to greet the priest with a silent obeisance, or muttered phrase of salutation, until, having nearly gained the middle of the village, the guide turned abruptly off from the street, and moving northward by a short lane, reached a flight of steps, which, as usual in fortified towns, led to the banquette, or walk behind the parapet, which was of the old Gothic fashion, flanked with towers from space to space, of different forms and various heights at different angles.

There were sentinels on the walls; but the watch, as it seemed, was kept not by regular soldiers, but by burghers, with spears, or swords, in their hands. The first whom they passed said to the priest, in a half whispered tone, “Holds our purpose?”

“It holds,” replied the priest of St Paul’s — “Benedicite!”

“Deo Gratias!” replied the armed citizen, and continued his walk upon the battlements.

The other sentinels seemed to avoid them; for they disappeared when they came near, or passed them without looking or seeming to observe them. At last their walk brought them to an ancient turret, which raised its head above the wall, and in which there was a small door opening from the battlement. It was in a corner, distinct from and uncommanded by any of the angles of the fortification. In a well-guarded fortress, such a point ought to have had a sentinel for its special protection, but no one was there upon duty.

“Now mark me,” said the priest, “for your father’s life, and, it may be, that of many a man besides, depends upon your attention, and no less upon your despatch. — You can run? — You can leap?”

“I feel no weariness, father, since you freed me,” answered Arthur; “and the dun deer that I have often chased shall not beat me in such a wager.”

“Observe, then,” replied the Black Priest of St. Paul’s “this turret contains a staircase, which descends to a small sallyport. I will give you entrance to it — The sallyport is barred on the inside, but not locked. It will give you access to the moat, which is almost entirely dry. On crossing it, you will find yourself in the circuit of the outer barriers. You may see sentinels, but they will not see you — speak not to them, but make your way over the palisade as you can. I trust you can climb over an undefended rampart?”

“I have surmounted a defended one,” said Arthur. “What is my next charge? — All this is easy.”

“You will see a species of thicket, or stretch of low bushes — make for it with all speed. When you are there, turn to the eastward; but beware, while holding that course, that you are not seen by the Burgundian Free Companions, who are on watch on that part of the walls. A volley of arrows, and the sally of a body of cavalry in pursuit, will be the consequence, if they get sight of you; and their eyes are those of the eagle, that spy the carnage afar off.

“I will be heedful,” said the young Englishman.

“You will find,” continued the priest, “upon the outer side of the thicket a path, or rather a sheep-track, which, sweeping at some distance from the walls, will conduct you at last into the road leading from Breisach to Bale. Hasten forward to meet the Swiss who are advancing. Tell them your father’s hours are counted, and that they must press on if they would save him and say to Rudolph Donnerhugel, in special, that the Black Priest of Saint Paul’s waits to bestow upon him his blessing at the northern sallyport. Dost thou understand me?” Perfectly,” answered the young man.

The Priest of Saint Paul’s then pushed open the low-browed gate of the turret, and Arthur was about to precipitate himself down the stair which opened before him.

“Stay yet a moment,” said the Priest, “and doff the novice’s habit, which can only encumber thee.”

Arthur in a trice threw it from him, and was again about to start.

“Stay yet a moment longer,” continued the Black Priest.

“ This gown may be a tell-tale-Stay, therefore, and help me to pull off my upper garment.”

Inwardly glowing with impatience, Arthur yet saw the necessity of obeying his guide; and when he had pulled the long and loose upper vestment from the old man, he stood before him in a cassock of black serge, befitting his order and profession, but begirt, not with a suitable sash such as clergymen wear, but with a most uncanonical buff-belt, supporting a short two-edged sword, calculated alike to stab and to smite.

“Give me now the novice’s habit,” said the venerable father, “and over that I will put the priestly vestment. Since for the present I have some tokens of the laity about me, it is fitting it should be covered with a double portion of the clerical habit.”

As he spoke thus he smiled grimly; and his smile had something more frightful and withering than the stern frown, which suited better with his features, and was their usual expression.

“And now,” said he, “what does the fool tarry for, when life and death are in his speed?”

The young messenger waited not a second hint, but at once descended the stairs, as if it had been by a single step, found the portal, as the priest had said, only secured by bars on the inside, offering little resistance save from their rusted state, which made it difficult to draw them. Arthur succeeded, however, and found himself at the side of the moat, which presented a green and marshy appearance. Without stopping to examine whether it was deep or shallow, and almost without being sensible of the tenacity of the morass, the young Englishman forced his way through it and attained the opposite side, without attracting the attention of two worthy burghers of Breisach, who were the guardians of the barriers. One of them indeed was deeply employed in the perusal of some profane chronicle, or religious legend; the other was as anxiously engaged in examining the margin of the moat, in search of eels, perhaps, or frogs, for he wore over his shoulder a scrip for securing some such amphibious booty.

Seeing that, as the priest foretold, he had nothing to apprehend from the vigilance of the sentinels, Arthur dashed at the palisade, in hope to catch hold of the top of the stockade, and so to clear it by one bold leap. He overrated his powers of activity, however, or they were diminished by his recent bonds and imprisonment. He fell lightly backward on the ground, and as he got to his feet, became aware of the presence of a soldier, in yellow and blue, the livery of De Hagenbach, who came running towards him crying to the slothful and unobservant sentinels, ” Alarm! — alarm! — you lazy swine! Stop the dog, or you are both dead men.”

The fisherman, who was on the farther side, laid down his eel-spear, drew his sword, and flourishing it over his head, advanced towards Philipson with very moderate haste. The student was yet more unfortunate, for in his hurry to fold up his book and attend to his duty, he contrived to throw himself (inadvertently, doubtless) full in the soldier’s way. The latter, who was running at top speed, encountered the burgher with a severe shock, which threw both down; but the citizen, being a solid and substantial man, lay still where he fell, while the other, less weighty, and probably less prepared for the collision, lost his balance and the command of his limbs at once, and, rolling over the edge of the moat, was immersed in the mud and marsh. The fisherman and the student went with deliberate speed to assist the unexpected and unwelcome partner of their watch; while Arthur, stimulated by the imminent sense of danger, sprung at the barrier with more address and vigor than before, and, succeeding in his leap, made, as he had been directed, with his utmost speed for the covert of the adjacent bushes. He reached them without hearing any alarm from the walls. But he was conscious that his situation had become extremely precarious, since his escape from the town was known to one man at least, who would not fail to give the alarm in case he was able to extricate himself from the marsh, — a feat however, in which it seemed to Arthur that the armed citizens were likely to prove rather his apparent than actual assistants. While such thoughts shot across his mind, they served to augment his natural speed of foot, so that in less space than could have been thought possible, he reached the thinner extremity of the thicket, whence, as intimated by tbe Black Priest, he could see the eastern tower and the adjoining battlements of the town, — “With hostile faces throng’d, and fiery arms.”

It required, at the same time, some address on the part of the fugitive, to keep so much under shelter as to prevent himself from being seen in his turn by those whom he saw so plainly. He therefore expected every moment to hear a bugle wind, or to behold that bustle and commotion among the defenders, which might prognosticate a sally. Neither, however took place, and heedfully observing the footpath, or track which the priest had pointed out to him, young Philipson wheeled his course out of sight of the guarded towers, and soon falling into the public and frequented road, by which his father and he had approached the town in the morning, he had the happiness, by the dust and flash of arms, to see a small body of armed men advancing towards Breisach, whom he justly concluded to be the van of the Swiss deputation.

He soon met the party, which consisted of about ten men, with Rudolph Donnerhugel at their head. The figure of Philipson, covered with mud, and in some places stained with blood (for his fall in the dungeon had cost him a slight wound), attracted the wonder of every one, who crowded around to hear the news. Rudolph alone appeared unmoved. Like the visage on the ancient statues of Hercules, the physiognomy of the hulky Bernese was large and massive, having an air of indifferent and almost sullen composure, which did not change but in moments of the fiercest agitation.

He listened without emotion to the breathless tale of Arthur Philipson, that his father was in prison, and adjudged to death.

“And what else did you expect?” said the Bernese coldly. “Were you not warned? It had been easy to have foreseen the misfortune, but it may be impossible to prevent it.”

“I own — I own,” said Arthur, wringing his hands, “that you were wise, and that we were foolish. — But oh, do not think of our folly, in the moment of our extremity! Be the gallant and generous champion which your Cantons proclaim you — give us your aid in this deadly strait!”

“But how, or in what manner?” said Rudolph, still hesitating. “We have dismissed the Balese, who were willing to have given assistance, so much did your dutiful example weigh with us. We are now scarce above a score of men — how can you ask us to attack a garrison town, secured by fortifications, and where there are six times our number?”

“You have friends within the fortifications,” replied Arthur. — “I am sure you have. Hark in your ear — The Black Priest sent to you — to you, Rudolph Donnerhugel of Berne — that he waits to give you his blessing at the northern sallyport.”

“Ay, doubtless,” said Rudolph, shaking himself free of Arthur’s attempt to engage him in private conference, and speaking so that all around might hear him, “there is little doubt on’t; I will find a priest at the northern sallyport to confess and absolve me, and a block, axe, and headsman, to strike my throat asunder when he has done. But I will scarce put the neck of my father’s son into such a risk. If they assassinate all English pedler, who has never offended them, what will they do with the Bear of Berne, whose fangs and talons Archibald de Hagenbach has felt ere now?”

Young Philipson at these words clasped his hands together, and held them up to Heaven, as one who abandons hope, excepting from thence. The tears started to his eyes, and, clenching his hands and setting his teeth, he turned his back abruptly upon the Swiss.

“What means this passion?” said Rudolph. “Whither would you now?”

“To rescue my father, or perish with him,” said Arthur and was about to run wildly back to La Ferette, when a strong but kindly grasp detained him.

“Tarry a little till I tie my garter,” said Sigismund Biederman,” and I will go with you, King Arthur.”

“You, oaf?” exclaimed Rudolph, “you - and without orders?”

“Why, look you, cousin Rudolph,” said the youth, continuing, with great composure, to fasten his garter, which, after the fashion of the time, was somewhat intricately secured — “you are always telling us that we are Swiss and freemen; and what is the advantage of being a freeman, if one is not at liberty to do what he has a mind? You are my Hauptman, look you, so long as it pleases me, and no longer.”

“And why shouldst thou desert me now, thou fool? Why at this minute, of all other minutes in the year?” demanded the Bernese.

“Look you,” replied the insubordinate follower, “I have hunted with Arthur for this month past, and I love him — he never called me fool or idiot, because my thoughts came slower, may be, and something duller, than those of other folk. And I love his father — the old man gave me this baldric and this horn, which I warrant cost many a kreutzer. He told me, too, not to be discouraged, for that it was better to think justly than to think fast, and that I had sense enough for the one if not for the other. And the kind old man is now in Hagenbach’s butcher-shambles! — But we will free him, Arthur, if two men may. Thou shalt see me fight, while steel blade and ashen shaft will hold together.”

So saying, he shook in the air his enormous partisan, which quivered in his grasp like a slip of willow. Indeed, if Iniquity was to be struck down like an ox, there was not one in that chosen band more likely to perform the feat than Sigismund; for though somewhat shorter in stature than his brethren, and of a less animated spirit, yet his breadth of shoulders and strength of muscles were enormous, and if thoroughly aroused and disclosed for the contest, which was very rarely the case, perhaps Rudolph himself might, as far as sheer force went, have had difficulty in matching him.

Truth of sentiment and energy of expression always produce an effect on natural and generous characters. Several of the youths around began to exclaim that Sigismund said well, that if the old man had put himself in danger, it was because he thought more of the success of their negotiation than of his own safety, and had taken himself from under their protection, rather than involve them in quarrels on his account. “We are the more bound,” they said, “to see him unscathed; and we will do so.”

“Peace! all you wiseacres,” said Rudolph, looking round with an air of superiority; “and you, Arthur of England, pass on to the Landamman, who is close behind; you know he is our chief commander, he is no less your father’s sincere friend, and whatever he may determine in your father’s favor, you will find most ready executors of his pleasure in all of us.”

His companions appeared to concur in this advice, and young Philipson saw that his own compliance with the recommendation was indispensable. Indeed, although he still suspected that the Bernese, by his various intrigues, as well with the Swiss youth as with those of Bale, and, as might be inferred from the Priest of Saint Paul’s, by communication even within the town of La Ferette, possessed the greater power of assisting him at such a conjuncture; yet he trusted far more in the simple candor and perfect faith of Arnold Biederman, and pressed forward to tell to him his mournful tale, and crave his assistance.

From the top of a bank which he reached in a few minutes after he parted from Rudolph and the advanced guard, he saw beneath him the venerable Landamman and his associates, accompanied by a few of the youths who no longer were dispersed upon the flanks of the party, but attended on them closely and in military array, as men prepared to repel any sudden attack.

Behind came a mule or two with baggage, together with the animals which, in the ordinary course of their march, supported Anne of Geierstein and her attendant. Both were occupied by female figures as usual, and to the best of Arthur’s ken, the foremost had the well-known dress of Anne, from the gray mantle to a small heron’s plume, which; since entering Germany, she had worn in compliance with the custom of the country aud in evidence of her rank as a maiden of birth and distinction. Yet, if the youth’s eyes brought him true tidings at present, what was the character of their former information, when, scarce more than half-an-hour since, they had beheld, in the subterranean dungeon of Breisach, the same form which they now rested upon, in circumstances so very different! The feeling excited by this thought was powerful, but it was momentary, like the lightning which blazes through a midnight sky, which is but just seen ere it vanishes into darkness. Or rather, the wonder excited by this marvellous incident only maintained its ground in his thoughts, by allying itself with the anxiety for his father’s safety, which was their predominant occupation.

“If there be indeed a spirit,” he said, “which wears that beautiful form, it must be beneficent as well as lovely, and will extend to my far more deserving father the protection which his son has twice experienced.”

But ere he had time to prosecute such a thought farther, he had met the Landamman and his party. Here his appearance and his condition excited the same surprise as they had formerly occasioned to Rudolph and the vanguard. To the repeated interrogatories of the Landamman, he gave a brief account of his own imprisonment, and of his escape, of which he suffered the whole glory to rest with the Black Priest of St. Paul’s, without mentioning one word of the more interesting female apparition by which he had been attended and assisted in his charitable task. On another point also Arthur was silent. He saw no propriety in communicating to Arnold Biederman the message which the priest had addressed to Rudolph’s ear alone. Whether good should come of it or no, he held sacred the obligation of silence imposed upon him by a man from whom he had just received the most important assistance.

The Landamman was struck dumb for a moment, with sorrow and surprise, at the news which he heard. The elder Philipson had gained his respect, as well by the purity and steadiness of the principles which he expressed, as by the extent and depth of his information, which was peculiarly valuable and interesting to the Switzer, who felt his admirable judgment considerably fettered for want of that knowledge of countries, times, and manners, with which his English friend often sup plied him.

“Let us press forward,” he said to the Banneret of Berne and the other deputies; “let us offer our mediation betwixt the tyrant De Hagenbach and our friend, whose life is in danger. He must listen to us, for I know his master expects to see this Philipson at his court. The old man hinted to me so much. As we are possessed of such a secret, Archihald de Hagenbach will not dare to brave our vengeance, since we might easilly send to Duke Charles information how the Governor of La Ferette abuses his power, in matters where not only the Swiss, but where the Duke himself is concerned.”

“Under your reverend favor, my worthy sir,” answered the Banneret of Berne,” we are Swiss Deputies, and go to represent the injuries of Switzerland alone. If we embroil ourselves with the quarrels of strangers, we shall find it more difficult to settle advantageously those of our own country; and if the Duke should, by this villany done upon English merchants, bring upon him the resentment of the English monarch, such breach will only render it more a matter of peremptory necessity for him to make a treaty advantageous to the Swiss Cantons.”

There was so much worldly policy in this advice, that Adam Zimmerman of Soleur instantly expressed his assent, with the additional argument, that their brother Biederman had told them scarce two hours before, how these English merchants had, by his advice and their own free desire, parted company with them that morning, on purpose that they might not involve the Deputies in the quarrels which might be raised by the Governor’s exactions on his merchandise.

“Now what advantage,” he said, “shall we derive from this same parting of company, supposing, as my brother seems to urge, we are still to consider this Englishman’s interest as if he were our fellow traveller, and under our especial protection?”

This personal reasoning pinched the Landamman somewhat closely, for he had but a short while before descanted on the generosity of the elder Philipson, who had freely exposed himself to danger, rather than that he should embarrass their negotiation by remaining one of their company; and it completely shook the fealty of the white-bearded Nicholas Bonstetten, whose eyes wandered from the face of Zimmerman, which expressed triumphant confidence in his argument, to that of his friend the Landamman, which was rather more embarrassed than usual.

“Brethren,” said Arnold at length, with firmness and animation, “I erred in priding myself upon the worldly policy which I taught to you this morning. This man is not of our country, doubtless, but he is of our blood — a copy of the common Creator’s image — and the more worthy of being called so, as he is a man of integrity and worth. We might not, without grievous sin, pass such a person, being in danger, without affording him relief, even if he lay accidently by the side of our path; much less should we abandon him if the danger has been incurred in our own cause, and that we might escape the net in which he is himself caught. Be not, therefore, downcast — We do God’s will in succoring an oppressed man. If we succeed by mild means, as I trust we shall, we do a good action at a cheap rate; — if not, God can assert the cause of humanity by the hand of a few as well as of many.”

“If such is your opinion,” said the Bannerman of Berne, “not a man here will shrink from you. For me, I pleaded against my own inclinations when I advised you to avoid a breach with the Burgundian. But as a soldier, I must needs say, I would rather fight the garrison, were they double the number they talk of, in a fair field, than undertake to storm their defences.”

“Nay,” said the Landamman, “I sincerely hope we shall both enter and depart from the town of Breisach, without deviating from the pacific character with which our mission from the Diet invests us.”

10 Note B. German Dungeon.

In connection with the description of this dungeon, it may be stated that the Author, in composing this novel, derived considerable assistance from a journal of foreign travel, the work of his intimate friend the late James Skene of Rubislaw. It is also curious to observe, that in the Archoeologia Scotica, 1823, vol. iii. p.17, there appears an account by Mr. Skene of a “suit of apartments excavated from the rocks on which the castle of Baden, in Swabia, stands, supposed to have been connected with the jurisdiction of the Secret Tribunal in that country.”

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