For Somerset, off with his guilty head.
Third Part of Henry VI.
The Governor of La Ferette stood on the battlements of the eastern entrance-tower of his fortress, and looked out on the road to Bale, when first the vanguard of the Swiss mission, then the centre and rear, appeared in the distance. At the same moment the van halting, the main body closed with it, while the females and baggage, and mules in the rear, moved in their turn up to the main body, and the whole were united in one group.
A messenger then stepped forth, and winded one of those tremendous horns, the spoils of the wild bulls, so numerous in the Canton of Uri, that they are supposed to have given rise to its name.
“They demand admittance,” said the esquire.
“They shall have it,” answered Sir Archibald de Hagenbach. “Marry, how they may pass out again, is another and a deeper question.”
“Think yet a moment, noble sir,” continued the esquire. “Bethink you, these Switzers are very fiends in fight, and have, besides, no booty to repay the conquest — some paltry chains of good copper, perchance, or adulterated silver. You have knocked out the marrow — do not damage your teeth by trying to grind tile bone.”
“Thou art a fool, Kilian,” answered De Hagenbach, “and it may be a coward besides. The approach of some score, or at most some score and a half of Swiss partisans, makes thee draw in thy horns like a snail at a child’s finger! Mine are strong and inflexible as those of the Urus, of whom they talk so much, and on which they blow so boldly. Keep in mind, thou timid creature, that if the Swiss Deputies, as they presume to call themselves, are permitted to pass free, they carry to the Duke stories of merchants bound to his court, and fraught with precious commodities, specially addressed to his Grace! Charles has then at once to endure the presence of the ambassadors, whom he contemns and hates, and learns by them that the Governor of La Ferette, permitting such to pass, has nevertheless presumed to stop those whom he would full gladly see; for what prince would not blithely welcome such a casket as that which we have taken from yonder strolling English pedler?”
“I see not how the assault on these ambassadors will mend your excellency’s plea for despoiling the Englishmen,” said Kilian.
“Because thou art a blind mole, Kilian,” answered his chief. “If Burgundy hears of a ruffle between my garrison and the mountain churls, whom he scorns and yet hates, it will drown all notice of the two pedlers who have perished in the fray. If after an inquiry should come, an hour’s ride transports me with my confidants into the Imperial dominions, where, though the Emperor be a spiritless fool, the rich prize I have found on these islanders will ensure me a good reception.”
“I will stick by your excellency to the last,” returned the esquire; “and you shall yourself witness, that if a fool, I am at least no coward.”
“I never thought thee such when it came to hard blows,” said De Hagenbach; “but in policy thou art timid and irresolute. Hand me mine armor, Kilian, and beware thou brace it well. The Swiss pikes and swords are no wasp-stings.”
“May your excellency wear it with honor and profit,” said Kilian; and, according to the duty of his office, he buckled upon his principal the complete panoply of a knight of the empire. “Your purpose of assaulting the Swiss then holds firm? said Kilian. “But what pretext will your excellency assign?”
“Let me alone,” said Archibald de Hagenbach, “to take one, or to make one. Do you only have Schonfeldt and the soldiers on their stations. And remember the words are — ‘ Burgundy to the Rescue.’ When these words are first spoken, let the soldiers show themselves — when repeated, let them fall on. And now that I am accoutred, away to the churls and admit them.”
Kilian bowed, and withdrew.
The bugle of the Switzers had repeatedly emitted its angry roar, exasperated by the delay of nearly half-an-hour, without an answer from the guarded gate of Breisach; and every blast declared, by the prolonged echoes which it awakened, the in creased impatience of those who summoned the town. At length the portcullis arose, the gate opened, the drawbridge fell, and Kilian, in the equipage of a man-at-arms arrayed for fight, rode forth on an ambling palfrey.
“What bold men are ye, sirs, who are here in arms before the fortress of Breisach, appertaining in right and seignorie to the thrice noble Duke of Burgundy and Lorraine, and garrisoned for his cause and interest by the excellent Sir Archibald, Lord of Hagenbach, Knight of the most Holy Roman Empire?”
“So please you, Sir Esquire,” said the Landamman, “for such I conjecture you to be by the feather in your bonnet, we are here with no hostile intentions though armed, as you see, t6 defend us in a perilous journey, where we are something unsafe by day, and cannot always repose by night in places of security. But our arms have no offensive purpose; if they had such, our numbers had not been so few as you see them.”
“What then is your character and purpose?” said Kilian, who had learned to use, in his master’s absence, the lordly and insolent tone of the Governor himself.
“We are Delegates,” answered the Landamman, in a calm and even tone of voice, without appearing to take offence at, or to observe, the insolent demeanor of the esquire, “from the Free and Confederated Cantons of the Swiss States and provinces, and from the good town of Soleure, who are accredited from our Diet of Legislature to travel to the presence of his Grace the Duke of Burgundy, on an errand of high importance to both countries, and with a hope of establishing with your master’s lord — I mean with the noble Duke of Burgundy — a sure and steadfast peace, upon such terms as shall be to the mutual honor and advantage of both countries, and to avert disputes, and the effusion of Christian blood, which may otherwise be shed for want of timely and good understanding.”
“Show me your letters of credence,” said the esquire.
“Under your forgiveness, Sir Esquire,” replied the Landamman, “it will be time enough to exhibit these when we are admitted to the presence of your master the Governor.
“That is as much as to say, wilful will to it. It is well, my masters; and yet you may take this advice from Kilian of Kersberg. It is sometimes better to reel backwards than to run forwards. — My master, and my master’s master, are more ticklish persons than the dealers of Bale, to whom you bell your cheeses. Home, honest men, home! your way lies before. you, and you are fairly warned.”
“We thank thee for thy counsel,” said the Landamman, interrupting the Banneret of Berne, who had commenced an angry reply — “surprizing it kindly meant; if not, an uncivil jest is like an overcharged gun, which recoils on the cannonier. Our road lies onward through Breisach, and onward we propose to go, and take such hap as that which we may find before us.”
“Go onward then, in the devil’s name,” said the squire, who had entertained some hope of deterring them from pursuing their journey, but found himself effectually foiled.
The Switzers entered the town, and stopped by the barricade of cars which the Governor had formed across the street, at about twenty yards from the gate, they drew themselves up in military order, with their little body formed into three lines, the two females and the fathers of the deputation being in the centre. The little phalanx presented a double front, one to each side of the street, while the centre line faced so as to move forward, and only waited for the removal of the barricade in order to do so. But while they stood thus inactive, a knight in complete armor appeared from a side door of the great tower, under the arch of which they had entered into the town. His visor was raised, and he walked along the front of the little line formed by the Swiss, with a stern and frowning aspect.
“Who are you,” he said, “who have thus far intruded yourselves in arms into a Burgundian garrison?”
“With your excellency’s leave,” said the Landamman, “we are men who come on a peaceful errand, though we carry arms for our own defence. Deputies we are from the towns of Berne and Soleure, the Cantons of Uri, Schwytz, and Unterwalden, come to adjust matters of importance with the gracious Duke of Burgundy and Lorraine.”
“What towns, what cantons?” said the Governor of La Ferette. “I have heard no such names among the Free Cities of Germany. — Berne, truly! when became Berne a Free State?”
“Since the twenty-first day of June,” said Arnold Biederman, “in the year of grace one thousand three hundred and thirty-nine, on which day the battle of Laupen was fought.”
“Away, vain old man,” said the Knight “thinkest thou that such idle boasts can avail thee here? We have heard, indeed, of some insurgent villages and communities among the Alps, and how they rebelled against the Emperor, and by the advantage of fastnesses, ambuscades, and lurking-places, how they have murdered some knights and gentlemen sent against them by the Duke of Austria; but we little thought that such paltry townships and insignificant bands of mutineers had the insolence to term themselves Free States, and propose to enter into negotiation as such with a mighty prince like Charles of Burgundy.”
“May it please your excellency,” replied the Landamman, with perfect temper, “your own laws of chivalry declare, that if the stronger wrong the weaker, or the noble does injury to the less gentle, the very act levels distinctions between them, and the doer of an injury becomes bound to give condign satisfaction, of such kind as the wronged party shall demand.”
“Hence to thy hills, churl!” exclaimed the haughty Knight; “there comb thy beard and roast thy chestnuts. What! because a few rats and mice find retreat among the walls and wainscoting of our dwelling-houses, shall we therefore allow them to intrude their disgusting presence, and their airs of freedom and independence, into our personal presence? No, we will rather crush them beneath the heel of our iron shod boots.”
“We are not men to be trodden on,” said Arnold Biederman, calmly; “those who have attempted it have found us stumbling-blocks. Lay, Sir Knight, lay aside for an instant this haughty language, which can only lead to warfare, and listen to the words of peace. Dismiss our comrade, the English merchant Philipson, on whom you have this morning laid unlawful hands let him pay a moderate sum for his ransom, and we, who are bound instantly to the Duke’s presence, will bear a fair report to him of his Governor of La Ferette.”
“You will be so generous, will you!” said Sir Archibald, in a tone of ridicule. “And what pledge shall I have that you will favor me so kindly as you propose?”
“The word of a man who never broke his promise,” answered the stoical Landamman.
“Insolent hind!” replied the Knight, “dost thou stipulate? thou offer thy paltry word as a pledge betwixt the Duke of Burgundy and Archibald de Hagenbach? Know that ye go not to Burgundy at all, or you go thither with fetters on your hands and halters round your necks. — So ho, Burgundy to the Rescue!”
Instantly as he spoke, the soldiers showed themselves before, behind, and around the narrow space where the Swiss had drawn themselves up. The battlements of the town were lined with men, others presented themselves at the doors of each house in the street, prepared to sally, and, at the windows, prepared to shoot, as well with guns as with bows and crossbows. The soldiers who defended the barricade also started up; and seemed ready to dispute the passage in front. The little band, encompassed and over-matched, but neither startled nor disheartened, stood to their arms. The centre rank under the Landamman prepared to force their way over the barricade. The two fronts stood back to back, ready to dispute the street with those that should issue from the houses. It could not fail to prove a work of no small blood and toil to subdue this handful of determined men, even with five times their number. Some sense of this, perhaps, made Sir Archibald delay giving the signal for onset, when suddenly behind arose a cry of “Treason, treason!”
A soldier covered with mud rushed before the Governor, and said, in hurried accents, that, as he endeavored to stop a prisoner who had made his escape some short time since, he had been seized by the burghers of the town, and well-nigh drowned in the moat. He added, that the citizens were even now admitting the enemy into the place.
“Kilian,” said the Knight, “take two score of men — hasten to the northern sallyport stab, cut down, or throw from the battlements, whomsoever you meet in arms, townsmen or strangers. Leave me to settle with these peasants by fair means or foul.”
But ere Kilian could obey his master’s commands, a shout arose in the rear, where they cried, “Bale! Bale — Freedom! freedom — The day is our own!”
Onward came the youth of Bale, who had not been at such a distance but that Rudolph had contrived to recall them — onward came many Swiss who had hovered around the embassy, hiding themselves in readiness for such a piece of service; and onward came the armed citizens of La Ferette, who, compelled to take arms and mount guard by the tyranny of De Hagenbach, had availed themselves of the opportunity to admit the Balese, at the sallyport through which Philipson had lately made his escape.
The garrison, somewhat discouraged before by the firm aspect of the Swiss who had held their numbers at defiance, were totally disconcerted by this new and unexpected insurrection. Most of them prepared rather to fly than to fight, and they threw themselves in numbers from the walls, as the best chance of escaping. Kilian and some others, whom pride prevented from flying, and despair from asking quarter, fought with fury, and were killed on the spot. In the midst of this confusion the Landamman kept his own bands unmoved, permitting them to take no share in the action, save to repel such violence as was offered to them.
“Stand fast all!” sounded the deep voice of Arnold Bieder man along their little body. “Where is Rudolph? — Save lives but take none. — Why, how now, Arthur Philipson! stand fast — I say.”
“I cannot stand fast,” said Arthur, who was in the act of leaving the ranks. “I must seek my father in the dungeons they may be slaying him in this confusion while I stand idle here.”
“By Our Lady of Einsiedlen, you say well,” answered the Landamman; “that I should have forgot my noble guest! I will help thee to search for him, Arthur — the affray seems well nigh ended. — Ho, there, Sir Banneret, worthy Adam Zimmerman, my good friend Nicholas Bonstetten, keep our men standing firm. — Have nothing to do with this affray, but leave the men of Bale to answer their own deeds. I return in a few minutes.”
So saying, he hurried after Arthur Philipson, whose recollection conducted him with sufficient accuracy, to the head of the dungeon stairs. There they met an ill-looking man clad in a buff jerkin, who bore at his girdle a bunch of rusted keys, which intimated the nature of his calling.
“Show me the prison of the English merchant,” said Arthur Philipson, “or thou diest by my hand!”
“Which of them desire you to see?” answered the official:— “The old man, or the young one?”
“The old,” said young Philipson. “His son has escaped thee.”
“Enter here then, gentlemen,” said the jailer, undoing the spring-bolt of a heavy door.
At the upper end of the apartment lay the man they came te seek for, who was instantly raised from the ground, and loaded with their embraces.
“My dear father!” — “My worthy guest!” said his son and friend at the same moment, — how fares it with you?”
“Well,” answered the elder Philipson, “if you, my friend, and son, come, as I judge from your arms and countenance as conquerors, and at liberty — ill, if you come to share my prison-house.”
“Have no fear of that,” said the Landamman; “we have been in danger, but are remarkably delivered. — Your evil lair has benumbed you. Lean on me, my noble guest, and let none assist you to better quarters.”
Here he was interrupted by a heavy clash, as it seemed, of iron, and differing from the distant roar of the popular tumult, which they still heard from the open street, as men hear the deep voice of a remote and tempestuous ocean.
“By Saint Peter of the fetters!” said Arthur who instantly discovered the cause of the sound, “the jailer has cast the door to the staple, or it has escaped his grasp. The spring-lock has closed upon us, and we cannot be liberated saving from the outside. — Ho, jailer dog! villain! open the door, or thou diest!”
“He is probably out of hearing of your threats,” said the elder Philipson, “and your cries avail you nothing. But are you sure the Swiss are in possession of the town?”
“We are peaceful occupants of it,” answered the Landamman, “though without a blow given on our side.”
“Why then,” said the Englishman, “your followers will soon find you out. Arthur and I are paltry ciphers, and our absence might easily pass over unobserved; but you are too important a figure not to be missed and looked after, when the sum of your number is taken.”
“I well hope it will prove so,” said the Landamman, “though methinks I show but scurvily, shut up here like a cat in a cupboard, when he has been stealing cream — Arthur, my brave boy, dost thou see no means of shooting back the bolt?”
Arthur, who had been minutely examining the lock, replied in the negative; and added, that they must take patience perforce, and arm themselves to wait calmly their deliverance, which they could do nothing to accelerate.
Arnold Biederman, however, felt somewhat severely the neglect of his sons and companions.
“All my youths, uncertain whether I am alive or dead, are taking the opportunity of my absence, doubtless, for pillage arid license — and the politic Rudolph, I presume, cares not if I shouild never reappear on the stage — the Banneret, and the white-bearded fool Bonstetten, who calls me his friend — every neighbor has deserted me - and yet they know that I am anxious for the safety of the most insignificant of them all, as dearer to me than my own. By heavens! it looks like stratagem; and shows as if the rash young men desired to get rid of a rule too regular and peaceful to be pleasing to those who are cager for war and conquest.”
The Landamman, fretted out of usual serenity of temper, and afraid of the misbehavior of his countrymen in his absence, thus reflected upon his friends and companions, while the distant noise soon died away into the most absolute and total silence.
“What is to do now?” said Arthur Philipson. “I trust they will take the opportunity of quiet to go through the roll call, and inquire then who are amissing.”
It seemed as if the young man’s wish had some efficacy, for he had scarce uttered it before the lock was turned, and the door set ajar by some one who escaped up stairs from behind it, before those who were set at liberty could obtain a glance of their deliverer.
“It is the jailer, doubtless,” said the Landamman, “who may be apprehensive, as he has some reason, that we might prove more incensed at our detention in the dungeon, than grateful for our deliverance.”
As they spoke thus, they ascended the narrow stairs, and issued from the door of the Gatehouse tower, where a singular spectacle awaited them. The Swiss Deputies, and their escort, still remained standing fast and firm on the very spot where Hagenbach had proposed to assail them. A few of the late Governor’s soldiers, disarmed, and cowenn from the rage of a multitude of the citizens, who now filled the streets, stood with downcast looks behind the phalanx of the mountaineers as their safest place of retreat. But this was not all.
The cars, so lately placed to obstruct the passage of the street, were now joined together, and served to support a platform, or scaffold, which had been hastily constructed of planks. On this was placed a chair, in which sat a tall man, with his head, neck, and shoulders bare, the rest of his body clothed in bright armor. His countenance was as pale as death, yet young Philipson recognized the hard-hearted Governor, Sir Archibald de Hagenbach. He appeared to be bound to the chair. On his right, and close beside him, stood the Priest of Saint Paul’s, muttering prayers, with his breviary in his hand; while, on his left, and somewhat behind the captive, appeared a tall man attired in red, aud leaning with both hands on the naked sword, which has been described on a former occasion. The instant that Arnold Biederman appeared, and before the Landamman could open his lips to demand the meaning of what he saw, the priest drew back, the executioner stepped forward, the sword was brandished, the blow was struck, and the victim’s head rolled on the scaffold. A general acclamation and clapping of hands, like that by which a crowded theatre approves of some well-graced performer, followed this feat of dexterity. While the headless corpse shot streams from the arteries, which were drunk up by the sawdust that strewed the scaffold, the executioner graceful1y presented himself alternately at the four corners of the stage, modestly bowing, as the multitude greeted him with cheers of approbation.
“Nobles, knights, gentlemen of free-born blood, and good citizens,” he said, “who have assisted at this act of high justice, I pray you to bear me witness that this judgment hath been executed after the form of the sentence, at one blow, and without stroke missed or repeated.”
The acclamations were reiterated.
“Long live our Scharfgerichter Steinernherz, and many a tyrant may he do his duty on!”
“Noble friends,” said the executioner, with the deepest obeisance, “I have yet another word to say, and it must be a proud one. — God be gracious to the soul of this good and noble knight, Sir Archibald de Hagenbach. He was the patron of my youth, and my guide to the path of honor. Eight steps have I made towards freedom and nobility on the heads of free born knights and nobles, who have fallen by his authority and command; and the ninth, by which I have attained it, is upon his own, in grateful memory of which I will expend this purse of gold, which but an hour since he bestowed on me, in masses for his soul. Gentlemen, noble friends, and now my equals, La Ferette has lost a nobleman and gained one. Our Lady be gracious to the departed knight, Sir Archibald de Hagenbach, and bless and prosper the progress of Stephen Steineriiherz van Blut-sacker, now free and noble of right!” 11
“With that he took the feather out of the cap of the deceased, which, soiled with the blood of the wearer, lay near his body upon the scaffold, and, putting it into his own official bonnet, received the homage of the crowd in loud huzzas, which were partly in earnest, partly in ridicule of such an unusual transformation.
Arnold Biederman at length found breath, which the extremity of surprise had at first denied him. Indeed, the whole execution had passed much too rapidly for the possibility of his interference.
“Who had dared to act this tragedy?” he said indignantly; and by what right has it taken place?”
A cavalier, richly dressed in blue, replied to the question — “The free citizens of Bale have acted for themselves, as the fathers of Swiss liberty set them an example and the tyrant, De Hagenbach, has fallen by the same right which put to death the tyrant Geysler. We bore with him till his cup was brimming over, and then we bore no longer.”
“I say not but that he deserved death,” replied the Landamman; “but for your own sake and for ours, you should have forborne him till the Duke’s pleasure was known.”
“What tell you us of the Duke?” answered Laurenz Neipperg, the same blue cavalier whom Arthur had seen at the secret rendezvous of the Balese youth, in company with Rudolph, — “Why talk you of Burgundy to us, who are none of his subjects? The Emperor, our only rightful lord, had no title to pawn the town and fortification of La Ferette, being as it is a dependency of Bale, to the prejudice of our free city. He might have pledged the revenue indeed and supposing him to have done so, the debt has been paid twice over by the exactions levied by yonder oppressor, who has now received his due. But pass on, Landamman of Unterwalden. If our actions displease you, abjure them at the footstool of the Duke of Burgundy; but, in doing so, abjure the memory of William Tell and Stauffacher, of Furst and Melchtal, the fathers of Swiss freedom.”
“You speak truth,” said the Landamman “but it is in an ill-chosen and unhappy time. Patience would have remedied your evils, which none felt more deeply, or would have redressed more willingly, than I. But oh, imprudent young man, you have thrown aside the modesty of your age, and the subjection you owe to your elders. William Tell and his brethren were men of years and judgment, husbands and fathers, having a right to be heard in council, and to be foremost in action. Enough — I leave it with the fathers and senators of your own city, to acknowledge or to reprove your action. — But you, my friends — you, Banneret of Berne — you, Rudolph — above all, you, Nicholas Bonstetten, my comrade and my friend, why did you not take this miserable man under your protection? The action would have shown Burgundy that we were slandered by those who have declared us desirous of seeking a quarrel with him, or of inciting his subjects to revolt. Now, all these prejudices will be confirmed in the minds of men naturally more tenacious of evil impressions than of those which are favorable.”
“As I live by bread, good gossip and neighbor,” answered Nicholas Bonstetten, “I thought to obey your injunctions to a tittle; so much so, that I once thought of breaking in and protecting the man, when Rudolph Donnerhugel reminded me that your last orders were, to stand firm, and let the men of Bale answer for their own actions; and surely, said I to myself, my gossip Arnold knows better than all of us what is fitting to be done.”
“Ah, Rudolph, Rudolph,” said the Landamman, looking on him with a displeased countenance, “wert thou not ashamed thus to deceive an old man?”
“To say I deceived him is a hard charge; but from you, Landamman,” answered the Bernese, with his usual deference, “I can bear anything. I will only say, that, being a member of this embassy, I am obliged to think, and to give my opinion as such, especially when he is not present who is wise enough to lead and direct us all.”
“Thy words are always fair, Rudolph,” replied Arnold Biederman, “and I trust so is thy meaning. Yet there are times when I somewhat doubt it. — But let disputes pass, and let me have your advice, my friends; and for that purpose go we where it may best profit us, even to the Church, where we will first return our thanks for our deliverance from assassination, and then hold counsel what next is to be done.”
The Landamman led the way, accordingly, to the Church of St. Paul’s, while his companions and associates followed in their order. This gave Rudolph, who, as youngest, suffered the others to precede him, an opportunity to beckon to him the Landamman’s eldest son. Rudiger, and whisper to him to get rid of the two English merchants.
“Away with them, my dear Rudiger, by fair means, if possible; but away with them directly. Thy father is besotted with these two English pedlers, and will listen to no other counsel and thou and I know, dearest Rudiger, that such men as these are unfit to give laws to free-born Switzers. Get the trumpery they have been robbed of, or as much of it as is extant, together as fast as thou canst, and send them a-travelling in Heaven’s name.”
Rudiger nodded intelligently, and went to offer his services to expedite the departure of the elder Philipson. He found the sagacious merchant as desirous to escape from the scene of confusion now presented in the town, as the young Swiss could be to urge his departure. He only waited to recover the casket of which De Hagenbach had possessed himself, and Rudiger Biederman set on foot a strict search after it, which was the more likely to be successful, that the simplicity of the Swiss prevented them from setting the true value upon its contents. A strict and hasty search was immediately instituted, both on the person of the dead De Hagenbach, on which the precious packet was not to be found, and on all who had approached him at his execution, or were supposed to enjoy his confidence.
Young Arthur Philipson would gladly have availed himself of a few moments to bid farewell to Anne of Geierstein. But the gray wimple was no longer seen in the ranks of the Switzers, and it was reasonable to think, that, in the confusion which followed the execution of De Hagenbach, and the retreat of the leaders of the little battalion, she had made her escape into some of the adjacent houses, while the soldiers around her, no longer restrained by the presence of their chiefs, had dispersed, some to search for the goods of which the Englishmen had been despoiled, others doubtless to mingle with and join in the rejoicings of the victorious youths of Bale, and of those burghers of La Ferette by whom the fortifications of the town had been so gently surrendered.
The cry amongst them was universal, that Breisach, so long considered as the curb of the Swiss confederates, and the barrier against their commerce, should henceforth be garrisoned, as their protection against the encroachments and exactions of the Duke of Burgundy and his officers. The whole town was in a wild but joyful jubilee, while the citizens vied with each other in offering to the Swiss every species of refreshment, and the youths who attended upon the mission hurried gayly, and in triumph, to profit by the circumstances, which had so unexpectedly converted the ambuscade so treacherously laid for them, into a genial and joyous reception.
Amid this scene of confusion, it was impossible for Arthur to quit his father, even to satisfy the feelings which induced him to wish for a few moments at his own disposal. Sad, thoughtful, and sorrowful, amid the general joy, he remained with the parent whom he had so much reason to love and honor, to assist him in securing and placing on their mule the various packages and bales which the honest Switzers had recovered after the death of De Hagenbach, and which they emulated each other in bringing to their rightful owner while they were with difficulty prevailed on to accept the guerdon which the Englishman, from the means which he had still left upon his person, was disposed not merely to offer, but to force upon the restorers of his property, and which, in their rude and simple ideas, seemed greatly to exceed the value of what they had recovered for him.
This scene had scarcely lasted ten or fifteen minutes, when Rudolph Donnerhugel approached the elder Philipson, and in a tone of great courtesy invited him to join the council of the Chiefs of the embassy of the Swiss Cantons, who, he said, were desirous of having the advantage of his experience upon some important questions respecting their conduct on these unexpected occurrences.
“See to our affairs, Arthur, and stir not from the spot on which I leave you,” said Philipson to his son. “Look especially after the sealed packet of which I was so infamously and illegally robbed its recovery is of the utmost consequence.”
So speaking, he instantly prepared himself to attend the Bernese, who, in a confidential manner, whispered, as he went arm-and-arm with him towards the Church of St. Paul’s —
“I think a man of your wisdom will scarce advise us to trust ourselves to the mood of the Duke of Burgundy, when he has received such an injury as the loss of this fortress, and the execution of his officer. You, at least, would be too judicious to afford us any farther the advantage of your company and society, since to do so would be wilfully to engage in our shipwreck.”
“I will give my best advice,” answered Philipson, “when I shall be more particularly acquainted with the circumstances under which it is asked of me.”
Rudolph muttered an oath, or angry exclamation, and led Philipson to the church without farther argument.
In a small chapel adjoining to the church, and dedicated to St. Magnus the Martyr, the four deputies were assembled in close conclave around tbe shrine in which the sainted hero stood, armed as when he lived. The Priest of St. Paul’s was also present, and seemed to interest himself deeply in the debate which was taking place. When Philipson entered, all were for a moment silent, until the Landamman addressed him thus:— “Seignor Philipson, we esteem you a man far travelled, well versed in the manners of foreign lands, and acquainted with the conditions of this Duke Charles of Burgundy; you are therefore fit to advise us in a matter of great weight. You know with what anxiety we go on this mission for peace with the Duke: you also know what has this day happened, which may probably be represented to Charles in the worst colors; — would you advise us, in such a case, to proceed to the Duke’s presence, with the odium of this action attached to us; or should we do better to return home, and prepare for war with Burgundy?”
“How do your own opinions stand on the subject?” said the cautious Englishman.
“We are divided,” answered the Banneret of Berne. — “I have borne the banner of Berne against her foes for thirty years; I am more willing to carry it against the lances of the knights of Hainault and Lorraine, than to undergo the rude treatment which we must look to meet at the footstool of the Duke.”
“We put our heads in the lion’s mouth if we go forward,” said Zimmerman of Soleure:— “my opinion is, that we draw back.”
“I would not advise retreat,” said Rudolph Donnerhugel, were my life alone concerned: but the Landamman of Unterwalden is the father of the United Cantons, and it would be parricide if I consented to put his life in peril. My advice is, that we return, and that the Confederacy stand on their defence.”
“My opinion is different,” said Arnold Biederman; “nor will I forgive any man, who, whether in sincere or feigned friendship, places my poor life in the scale with the advantage of the Cantons. If we go forward, we risk our heads — be it so. But if we turn back we involve our country in war with a power of the first magnitude in Europe. Worthy citizens! you are brave in fight, — show your fortitude as boldly now; and let us not hesitate to incur such personal danger as may attend ourselves, if by doing so we can gain a chance of peace for our country.”
I think and vote with my neighbor and gossip, Arnald Biederman,” said the laconic deputy from Schwytz.
“You hear how we are divided in opinion,” said the Landamman to Philipson; “what is your opinion?”
“I would first ask of you,” said the Englishman, “what has been your part in the storming of a town occupied by the Duke’s forces, and putting to death his Governor.”
“So help me, Heaven!” said the Landamman, “as I knew not of any purpose of storming the town until it unexpectedly took place.”
“And for the execution of De Hagenbach,” said the Black Priest, “I swear to you, stranger, by my holy order, that it took place under the direction of a competent court, whose sentence Charles of Burgundy himself is bound to respect, and whose proceedings the Deputies of the Swiss mission could neither have advanced nor retarded.”
“If such be the case, and if you can really prove yourselves free of these proceedings,” answered Philipson, “which must needs be highly resented by the Duke of Burgundy, I would advise you by all means to proceed upon your journey; with the certainty that you will obtain from that prince a just and impartial hearing, and it may be a favorable answer. I know Charles of Burgundy; I may even say that, our different ranks and walks of life considered, I know him well. He will be deeply incensed by the first tidings of what has here chanced, which he will no doubt interpret to your disfavor. But if, in the course of investigation, you are able to clear yourselves of these foul imputations, a sense of his own injustice may perhaps turn the balance in your favor; and in that case, he will rush from the excess of censure into that of indulgence. But your cause must be firmly stated to the Duke, by some tongue better acquainted with the language of courts than yours; and such a friendly interpreter might I have proved to you, had I not been plundered of the valuable packet which I bore with me in order to present to the Duke, and in testimony of my commission to him.”
“A paltry fetch,” whispered Donnerhugel to the Banneret, “that the trader may obtain from us satisfaction for the goods of which he has been plundered.”
The Landamman himself was perhaps for a moment of the same opinion.
“Merchant,” he said, “we hold ourselves bound to make good to you, — that is, if our substance can effect it, — whatever loss you may have sustained, trusting to our protection.”
“Ay, that we will,” said the old man of Schwytz, “should it cost us twenty zechins to make it good.”
“To your guarantee of immunity I can name no claim,” said Philipson, ” seeing I parted company with you before I sustained any loss. And I regret the loss, not so much for its value, although that is greater than you may fancy; hut chiefly because, that the contents of the casket I bore being a token betwixt a person of considerable importance and the Duke of Burgundy, I shall not, I fear, now that I am deprived of them, receive from his grace that credence which I desire, both for my own sake and yours. Without them, and speaking only in the person of a private traveller, I may not take upon me as I might have done, when using the names of the persons whose mandates I carried.”
“This important packet,” said the Landamman, “Shall be most rigorously sought for, and carefully re-delivered to thee. I nor ourselves, not a Swiss of us knows the value of its contents so that, if they are in the hands of any of our men, they will he returned of course as baubles, upon which they set no value.”
As he spoke, there was a knocking at the door of the chapel Rudolph, who stood nearest to it, having held some communication with those without, observed with a smile, which he instantly repressed, lest it had given offence to Arnold Biederman, — “It is Sigismund, the good youth — Shall I admit him to our council?”
“To what purpose, poor simple lad?” said his father, with a sorrowful smile.
“Yet let me undo the door,” said Philipson; “he is anxious to enter, and perhaps he brings news. I have observed, Landamman, that the young man, though with slowness of ideas and expression, is strong in his principles, and sometimes happy in his conceptions.”
He admitted Sigismund accordingly; while Arnold Biederman felt, on the one hand, the soothing compliment which Philipson had paid to a boy, certainly the dullest of his family, and on the other, feared some public display of his son’s infirmity, or lack of understanding. Sigismund, however, seemed all confidence; and he certainly had reason to be so, since as the shortest mode of explanation, he presented to Philipson the necklace of diamonds, with the casket in which it had been deposited.
“This pretty thing is yours,” he said. “I understand so much from your son Arthur, who tells me you would be glad to have it again.”
“Most cordially do I thank you,” said the merchant. “The necklace is certainly mine; that is, the packet of which it formed the contents was under my charge; and it is at this moment of greater additional value to me than even its actual worth, since it serves as my pledge and token for the performance of an important mission — And how, my young friend,” he continued addressing Sigismund, “have you been so fortunate as to recover what we have sought for hitherto in vain? Let me return my best acknowledgments; and do not think be over curious if I ask how it reached you.”
“For that matter,” said Sigismund, “the story is soon told. I had planted myself as near the scaffold as I could, having never beheld an execution before; and I observed the executioner, who I thought did his duty very cleverly, just in the moment that he spread a cloth over the body of De Hagenhach, snatch something from the dead man’s bosom, and huddle it hastily into his own; so, when the rumor arose that an article of value was amissing, I hurried in quest of the fellow. I found he had bespoke masses to the extent of a hundred crowns at the high altar of St. Paul’s; and I traced him to the tavern of the village, where some ill-looking men were joyously drinking to him as a free citizen and a nobleman. So I stepped in amongst them with my partisan, and demanded of his lordship either to surrender to me what he had thus possessed himself of, or to try the weight of the weapon I carried. His lordship, my Lord Hangman, hesitated, and was about to make a brawl. But I was something peremptory, and so he judged it best to give me the parcel, which I trust you, Seignor Philipson, will find safe and entire as it was taken from you. And — and I left them to conclude their festivities — and that is the whole of the story.”
Thou art a brave lad,” said Philipson; “and with aheart always right, the head can seldom be far wrong. But the Church shall not lose its dues; and I take it on myself, ere I leave La Ferette, to pay for the masses which the man had ordered for the sake of De Hagenbach’s soul, snatched from the world so unexpectedly.”
Sigismund was about to reply; but Philipson, fearing he might bring out some foolery to diminish the sense which his father had so joyously entertained of his late conduct, immediately added, “Hie away, my good youth, and give to my son Arthur this precious casket.”
With simple exultation at receiving applause to which he was little accustomed, Sigismund took his leave, and the council was once more left to their own privacy.
There was a moment’s silence for the Landamman could not overcome the feeling of exquisite pleasure at the sagacity which poor Sigismund, whose general conduct warranted no such expectations, had displayed on the present occasion. It was not, however, a feeling to which circumstances permitted him to give vent, and he reserved it for his own secret enjoyment, as a solace to the anxiety which be had hitherto entertained concerning the limited intellect of this simple-minded young man. When he spoke, it was to Philipson, with the usual candor and manliness of his character.
“Seignor Philipson,” he said, “we will hold you bound by no offer which you made while these glittering matters were out of your possession; because a man may often think, that if he were in such and such a situation, he would he able to achieve certain ends, which, that position being attained, he may find himself unable to accomplish. But I now ask you whether, having thus fortunately and unexpectedly regained possession of what you say will give you certain credence with the Duke of Burgundy, you conceive yourself entitled to mediate with him on our behalf, as you formerly proposed?”
All bent forward to hear the merchant’s answer.
“Landamman,” he replied, “I never spoke the word in difficulty which I was not ready to redeem when that difficulty was removed. You say, and I believe, that you had no concern with this sto~ing of La Ferette. You say also, that the life of De Hagenbach was taken by a judicature over which you had no control, and exercised none — let a protocol be drawn up, averring these circumstances, and, as far as possible, proving them. Intrust it to me, — under seal if you will, — and if such points he established, I will pledge my word as a — as a — as an honest man and a true-born Englishman, that the Duke of Burgundy will neither detain or offer you any personal injury. I also hope to show to Charles strong and weighty reasons why a league of friendship betwixt Burgundy and the United Cantons of Helvetia is, on his grace’s part, a wise and generous measure. But it is possible I may fail in this last point; and if I do, I shall deeply grieve it. In warranting your safe passage to the Duke’s court, and your safe return from it to your own country, I think I cannot fail. If I do, my own life, and that of my beloved and only child, shall pay the ransom for my excess of confidence in the Duke’s justice and honor.’
The other deputies stood silent, and looked on the Landamman; but Rudolph Donnerhugel spoke.
Are we then to trust our own lives, and what is still dearer to us, that of our honored associate, Arnold Biederman, on the simple word of a foreign trader? We all know the temper of the Duke, and how vindictively and relentlessly he has ever felt towards our country and its interests. Methinks this English merchant should express the nature of his interest at the court of Burgundy more plainly, if he expects us to place such implicit reliance in it.”
“That, Seignor Rudolph Donnerhugel,” replied the merchant, “I find myself not at liberty to do. I pry not into your secrets, whether they belong to you as a body or as individuals. My own are sacred. If I consulted my own safety merely, I should act most wisely to part company with you here. But the object of your mission is peace; and your sudden return, after what has chanced at La Ferette, will make war inevitable. I think I can assure you of a safe and free audience from the Duke, and I am willing, for the chance of securing the peace of Christendom, to encounter any personal peril which may attach to myself.”
“Say no more, worthy Philipson,” said the Landamman; “thy good faith is undoubted on our part, and ill luck is his who cannot read it written on thy manly forehead. We go forward, then, prepared to risk our own safety at the hand of a despotic prince, rather than leave undischarged the mission which our country has intrusted us with. He is but half a brave man who will risk his life only in the field of battle. There are other dangers, to front which is equally honorable; and since the weal of Switzerland demands that we should encounter them, not one of us will hesitate to take the risk.”
The other members of the mission bowed in assent, and the conclave broke up to prepare for their farther entrance into Burgundy.
11 Note C. Public executioner.
There is abundant evidence that, in the middle ages, the office of public executioner was esteemed highly honorable all over Germany. It still is, in such parts of that country as retain the old custom of execution by stroke of sword, very far from being held discreditable to the extent to which we carry our feelings on the subject, and which exposed the magistrates of a Scotch town, — I rather think no less a one than Glasgow, — to a good deal of ridicule, when they advertised, some few years ago, on occasion of the death of their hangman, that “none but persons of respectable character” need apply for the vacant situation. At this day, in China, in Persia, and probably in other Oriental kingdoms, the Chief Executioner is one of the great officers of state, and is as proud of the emblem of his fatal duty as any European Lord Chamberlain of his Golden Key.
The circumstances of the strange trial and execution of the Knight of Hagenbach are detailed minutely by M. de Barante, from contemporary MS. documents the reader will be gratified with a specimen of that writer’s narrative. A translation is also given for the benefit of many of my kind readers.
“Such was the detestation in which this cruel governor was held, that multitudes flocked in from all quarters to be present at his trial. He heard from his prison the bridge re-echo with the tread of horses, and would ask of his jailer respecting those who were arriving, whether they might be his judges, or those desirous of witnessing his punishment. Sometimes the jailer would answer, ‘These are strangers whom I know not.” ‘Are not they,’ said the prisoner, ‘men meanly-clad, tall in stature, and of bold mien, mounted on short-eared horses?” And if the jailer answered in the affirm’ ative, ‘Ah, these are the Swiss,’ cried Hagenbach. ‘My God, have mercy on me!’ and he recalled to mind all the insults and cruelties he had heaped upon them. He considered, but too late, that their alliance with the house of Austria had been his destruction.
“On the 4th of May, 1474, after being put to the torture, he was brought before his judges in the public square of Brisach, at the instance of Hermann d’Eptingen, who governed for the Archduke. His countenance was firm, as one who fears not death. Henry Iselin of Bale first spoke in the name of Hermann d’Eptingen, who acted for the lord of the country. He proceeded in nearly these terms:— ‘ Peter de Hagenbach, knight, steward of my lord the Duke of Burgundy, and his governor in the country of Seratte and Haute Alsace, was bound to observe the privileges reserved by act of compact, but he has alike trampled under foot the laws of God and man, and the rights which have been guaranteed by oath to the country. He has caused four worshipful burgesses of Seratte to be put to death without trial; he has spoiled the city of Brisach, and established there judges and counsels chosen by himself; he has broken and dispersed the various communities of burghers and craftsmen; he has levied Imposts of his own will; contrary to every law, he has quartered upon the inhabitants soldiers of various countries — Lombards, French, men of Picardy, and Flemings, and has encouraged them in pillage and disorder; he has even commanded these men to butcher their hosts during night, and had caused boats to be prepared to embark therein women and children to be sunk in the Rhine. Finally, should he read the orders which he had received as an excuse for these cruelties, how can he clear himself of having dishonored so many women and maidens, even those under religious vows?’
“Other accusations were brought against him by examination, and witnesses proved outrages committed on the people of Mulhausen, and the merchants of Bale.
“That every form of justice might be observed, an advocate was appointed to deferd the accused. ‘ Messire Peter de Hageubach,’ said he, ‘recognizes no other judge or master than my lord the Duke of Burgundy, whose commission he bore, and whose orders he received. He had no control over the orders he was charged to execute; — his duty was to obey. Who is ignorant of the submission due by military retainer! to their lord and master? Can anyone believe that the landvogt of my lord the Duke could remonstrate with or resist him? And has not my lord confirmed and ratified by his presence all acts done in his name? If imposts have been levied, it was because he had need of money; to obtain it, it was necessary to punish those who refused payment; this proceeding my lord the Duke, and the Emperor himself, when present, have considered as expedient. The quartering of soldiers was also in accordance with the orders of the Duke. With respect to the jurisdiction of Brisach, could the landvogt permit any resistance from that quarter? To conclude, in so serious an affair — one which touches the life of the prisoner — can the last accusation be really considered a grievance? Among all those who hear me, is there one man who can say he has never committed similar imprudence? Is it not evident that Messire de Hagenbach has only taken advantage of the good-will of some girls and women; or, at the worst, that his money was the only restraint imposed upon them?’
“The judges sat for a long time on the tribunal. Twelve hours elapsed before the termination of the trial. The Knight of Hagenbach, always calm and undaunted, brought forward no other defence or excuse than what he had before given when under the torture: viz. the orders and will of his lord, who alone was his judge, and who alone could demand an explanation. At length, at seven in the evening, and by the light of torches, the judges, after having declared it their province to pronounce judgment on the crimes of which the landvogt was accused, caused him to be called before them, and delivered their sentence — condemning him to death. He betrayed no emotion, and only demanded, as a favor, that he should be beheaded. Fight executioners, of various towns, presented themselves to execute the sentence; the one belonging to Colmar, who was accounted the most expert, was preferred.
“Before conducting him to the scaffold, the sixteen knights who acted as judges, required that Messire de Hagenbach should be degraded from the dignity of knight, and from all his honors. Then advanced Gaspar Hurter, herald of the Emperor, and said:— ‘ Peter de Hagenbach, I deeply deplore that you have so employed your mortal life, that you must lose not only the dignity and honor of knighthood, but your life also. Your duty was to render justice, to protect the widow and orphan, to respect women and maidens, to honor the holy priests, to oppose every unjust outrage; but you have yourself committed what you ought to have opposed in others. Having broken, therefore, the oaths which you have sworn, and having forfeited the noble order of knighthood, the knights here present have enjoined me to deprive you of its insignia. Not perceiving them on your person at this moment, I proclaim you unworthy Knight of St. George, in whose name and honor you were formerly admitted in the order of knighthood.’ Then Hermann d’Eptingen advanced, ‘Since you are degraded from knighthood, I deprive you of your collar, gold chain, ring, poniard, pur, and gauntlet.’ He then took them from him, and, striking him on the face, added:— ‘Knights, and you who aspire to that honor, I trust this public punishment will serve as an example to you, and that you will live in the fear of God, nobly arid valiantly, in accordance with the dignity of knighthood, and the honor of your name.’ At last the provost of Einselheim, and marshal of that commission of judges, arose, and addressing himself to the executioner —’ Let justice be done.’
“All the judges, along with Hermann d’Eptingen, mounted on horseback; in the midst of them walked Peter de Hagenbach between two priests. It was night, and they marched by the light of torches; an immense crowd pressed around this sad procession. The prisoner conversed with his confessor, with pious, collected, and firm demeanor recommending himself to the prayers of the spectators. On arriving at a meadow without the gate of the town, he mounted the scaffold with a firm step, and elevating his voice, exclaimed:—
“‘I fear not death, I have always expected it; not, indeed, in this manner, but with arms in my hand. I regret alone the blood which mine will cause to be shed; my lord will not permit this day to pass unavenged. I regret neither my life nor body I was a man — pray for me.!’ He conversed an instant more with his confessor, presented his head, and received the blow.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00