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Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family By Elizabeth Rundle Charles Characters: 55329

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Elsè's Story.

Friedrich wishes me to write a chronicle of my life. Friedrich is my eldest brother. I am sixteen, and he is seventeen, and I have always been in the habit of doing what he wishes; and therefore, although it seems to me a very strange idea, I do so now. It is easy for Friedrich to write a chronicle, or anything else, because he has thoughts. But I have so few thoughts, I can only write what I see and hear about people and things. And that is certainly very little to write about, because everything goes on so much the same always with us. The people around me are the same I have known since I was a baby, and the things have changed very little; except that the people are more, because there are so many little children in our home now, and the things seem to me to become less, because my father does not grow richer: and there are more to clothe and feed. However, since Fritz wishes it, I will try; especially as ink and paper are the two things which are plentiful among us, because my father is a printer.

Fritz and I have never been separated all our lives until now. Yesterday he went to the University at Erfurt. It was when I was crying at the thought of parting with him that he told me his plan about the chronicle. He is to write one, and I another. He said it would be a help to him, as our twilight talk has been-when always, ever since I can remember, we two have crept away in summer into the garden, under the great pear-tree, and in winter into the deep window of the lumber-room inside my father's printing-room, where the bales of paper are kept, and old books are piled up, among which we used to make ourselves a seat.

It may be a help and comfort to Fritz, but I do not see how it ever can be any to me. He had all the thoughts, and he will have them still. But I-what shall I have for his voice and his dear face, but cold, blank paper, and no thoughts at all! Besides, I am so very busy, being the eldest; and the mother is far from strong, and the father so often wants me to help him at his types, or to read to him while he sets them. However, Fritz wishes it, and I shall do it. I wonder what his chronicle will be like!

But where am I to begin? What is a chronicle? Two of the books in the Bible are called "Chronicles" in Latin-at least Fritz says that is what the other long word[1] means-and the first book begins with "Adam," I know, because I read it one day to my father for his printing. But Fritz certainly cannot mean me to begin so far back as that. Of course I could not remember. I think I had better begin with the oldest person I know, because she is the furthest on the way back to Adam; and that is our grandmother Von Sch?nberg. She is very old-more than sixty-but her form is so erect, and her dark eyes so piercing, that sometimes she looks almost younger than her daughter, our precious mother, who is often bowed down with ill-health and cares.

Our grandmother's father was of a noble Bohemian family, and that is what links us with the nobles, although my father's family belongs to the burgher class. Fritz and I like to look at the old seal of our grandfather Von Sch?nberg, with all its quarterings, and to hear the tales of our knightly and soldier ancestors-of crusader and baron. My mother, indeed, tells us this is a mean pride, and that my father's printing-press is a symbol of a truer nobility than any crest of battle-axe or sword; but our grandmother, I know, thinks it a great condescension for a Sch?nberg to have married into a burgher family. Fritz feels with my mother, and says the true crusade will be waged by our father's black types far better than by our great-grandfather's lances. But the old warfare was so beautiful, with the prancing horses and the streaming banners! And I cannot help thinking it would have been pleasanter to sit at the window of some grand old castle like the Wartburg, which towers above our town, and wave my hand to Fritz, as he rode, in flashing armour, on his war-horse, down the steep hill side, instead of climbing up on piles of dusty books at our lumber-room window, and watching him, in his humble burgher dress, with his wallet (not too well filled), walk down the street, while no one turned to look. Ah, well! the parting would have been as dreary, and Fritz himself could not be nobler. Only I cannot help seeing that people do honour the bindings and the gilded titles, in spite of all my mother and Fritz can say; and I should like my precious book to have such a binding, that the people who could not read the inside, might yet stop to look at the gold clasps and the jewelled back. To those who can read the inside, perhaps it would not matter. For of all the old barons and crusaders my grandmother tells us of, I know well none ever were or looked nobler than our Fritz. His eyes are not blue, like mine-which are only German Cotta eyes, but dark and flashing. Mine are very good for seeing, sewing, and helping about the printing; but his, I think, would penetrate men's hearts and command them, or survey a battle-field at a glance.

Last week, however, when I said something of the kind to him, he laughed, and said there were better battle-fields than those on which men's bones lay bleaching; and then there came that deep look into his eyes, when he seems to see into a world beyond my reach.

But I began with our grandmother, and here I am thinking about Friedrich again. I am afraid that he will be the beginning and end of my chronicle. Fritz has been nearly all the world to me. I wonder if that is why he is to leave me. The monks say we must not love any one too much; and one day, when we went to see Aunt Agnes, my mother's only sister, who is a nun in the convent of Nimptschen, I remember her saying to me when I had been admiring the flowers in the convent garden, "Little Elsè, will you come and live with us, and be a happy, blessed sister here?"

I said, "Whose sister, Aunt Agnes? I am Fritz's sister! May Fritz come too?"

"Fritz could go into the monastry at Eisenach," she said.

"Then I would go with him," I said. "I am Fritz's sister, and I would go nowhere in the world without him."

She looked on me with a cold, grave pity, and murmured, "Poor little one, she is like her mother, the heart learns to idolize early. She has much to unlearn. God's hand is against all idols."

That is many years ago; but I remember as if it were yesterday, how the fair convent garden seemed to me all at once to grow dull and cheerless at her words and her grave looks, and I felt it damp and cold like a church-yard; and the flowers looked like made flowers; and the walls seemed to rise like the walls of a cave, and I scarcely breathed until I was outside again, and had hold of Fritz's hand.

For I am not at all religious. I am afraid I do not even wish to be. All the religious men and women I have ever seen do not seem to me half so sweet as my poor dear mother; nor as kind, clever, and cheerful as my father; nor half as noble and good as Fritz. And the Lives of the Saints puzzle me exceedingly, because it seems to me that if every one were to follow the example of St. Catherine, and even our own St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and disobey their parents, and leave their little children, it would make everything so very wrong and confused. I wonder if any one else ever felt the same, because these are thoughts I have never even told to Fritz; for he is religious, and I am afraid it would pain him.

Our grandmother's husband fled from Bohemia on account of religion; but I am afraid it was not the right kind of religion, because no one seems to like to speak about it; and what Fritz and I know about him is only what we have picked up from time to time, and put together for ourselves.

Nearly a hundred years ago, two priests preached in Bohemia, called John Huss and Jerome of Prague. They seem to have been dearly beloved, and to have been thought good men during their life-time; but people must have been mistaken about them, for they were both burnt alive as heretics at Constance in two following years-in 1415 and 1416; which of course proves that they could not have been good men, but exceedingly bad.

However, their friends in Bohemia would not give up believing what they had learned of these men, although they had seen what end it led to. I do not think this was strange, because it is so very difficult to make oneself believe what one ought, as it is, and I do not see that the fear of being burned even would help one to do it; although, certainly, it might keep one silent. But these friends of John Huss were many of them nobles and great men, who were not accustomed to conceal their thoughts, and they would not be silent about what Huss had taught them. What this was, Fritz and I never could find out, because my grandmother, who answers all our other questions, never would tell us a word about this. We are, therefore, afraid it must be something very wicked indeed. And yet, when I asked one day if our grandfather (who, we think, had followed Huss), was a wicked man, her eyes flashed like lightning, and she said vehemently,-

"Better never lived or died!"

This perplexes us, but perhaps we shall understand it, like so many other things, when we are older.

Great troubles followed on the death of Huss. Bohemia was divided into three parties, who fought against each other. Castles were sacked, and noble women and little children were driven into caves and forests. Our forefathers were among the sufferers. In 1458 the conflict reached its height; many were beheaded, hung, burned alive, or tortured. My grandfather was killed as he was escaping, and my grandmother encountered great dangers, and lost all the little property which was left her, in reaching Eisenach, a young widow with two little children, my mother and Aunt Agnes.

Whatever it was that my great grandfather believed wrong, his wife did not seem to share it. She took refuge in the Augustinian Convent, where she lived until my Aunt Agnes took the veil, and my mother was married, when she came to live with us. She is as fond of Fritz as I am, in her way; although she scolds us all in turn, which is perhaps a good thing, because as she says, no one else does. And she has taught me nearly all I know, except the Apostles' Creed and Ten Commandments, which our father taught us, and the Paternoster and Ave Mary which we learned at our mother's knee. Fritz, of course, knows infinitely more than I do. He can say the Cisio Janus (the Church Calendar) through without one mistake, and also the Latin Grammar, I believe; and he has read Latin Books of which I cannot remember the names; and he understands all that the priests read and sing, and can sing himself as well as any of them.

But the legends of the saints, and the multiplication table, and the names of herbs and flowers, and the account of the Holy Sepulchre, and of the pilgrimage to Rome,-all these our grandmother has taught us. She looks so beautiful, our dear old grandmother, as she sits by the stove with her knitting, and talks to Fritz and me, with her lovely white hair and her dark bright eyes, so full of life and youth, they make us think of the fire on the hearth when the snow is on the roof, all warm within, or, as Fritz says,-

"It seems as if her heart lived always in the summer, and the winter of old age could only touch her body."

But I think the summer in which our grandmother's soul lives must be rather a fiery kind of summer, in which there are lightnings as well as sunshine. Fritz thinks we shall know her again at the Resurrection Day by that look in her eyes, only perhaps a little softened. But that seems to me terrible, and very far off; and I do not like to think of it. We often debate which of the saints she is like. I think St. Anna, the mother of Mary, mother of God, but Fritz thinks St. Catherine of Egypt, because she is so like a queen.

Besides all this, I had nearly forgotten to say I know the names of several of the stars, which Fritz taught me. And I can knit and spin, and do point stitch, and embroider a little. I intend to teach it to all the children. There are a great many children in our home and more every year. If there had not been so many, I might have had time to learn more, and also to be more religious; but I cannot see what they would do at home if I were to have a vocation. Perhaps some of the younger ones may be spared to become saints. I wonder if this should turn out to be so, and if I help them, if any one ever found some little humble place in heaven for helping some one else to be religious. Because then there might perhaps be hope for me after all.

* * *

Our father is the wisest man in Eisenach. The mother thinks, perhaps, in the world. Of this, however, our grandmother has doubts. She has seen other places besides Eisenach, which is perhaps the reason. He certainly is the wisest man I ever saw. He talks about more things that I cannot understand than any one else I know. He is also a great inventor. He thought of the plan of printing books before any one else, and had almost completed the invention before any press was set up. And he always believed there was another world on the other side of the great sea, long before the Admiral Christopher Columbus discovered America. The only misfortune has been that some one else has always stepped in just before he had completed his inventions, when nothing but some little insignificant detail was wanting to make everything perfect, and carried off all the credit and profit. It is this which has kept us from becoming rich,-this and the children. But the father's temper is so placid and even, nothing ever sours it. And this is what makes us all admire and love him so much, even more than his great abilities. He seems to rejoice in these successes of other people just as much as if he had quite succeeded in making them himself. If the mother laments a little over the fame that might have been his, he smiles and says,-

"Never mind, little mother. It will be all the same a hundred years hence. Let us not grudge any one his reward. The world has the benefit if we have not."

Then if the mother sighs a little over the scanty larder and wardrobe, he replies,-

"Cheer up, little mother, there are more Americas yet to be discovered, and more inventions to be made. In fact," he adds, with that deep far seeing look of his, "something else has just occurred to me, which, when I have brought it to perfection, will throw all the discoveries of this and every other age into the shade."

And he kisses the mother and departs into his printing-room. And the mother looks wonderingly after him, and says,-

"We must not disturb the father, children, with our little cares. He has great things in his mind, which we shall all reap the harvest of some day."

So, she goes to patch some little garment once more, and to try to make one day's dinner expand into enough for two.

What the father's great discovery is at present, Fritz and I do not quite know. But we think it has something to do, either with the planets and the stars, or with that wonderful stone the philosophers have been so long occupied about. In either case, it is sure to make us enormously rich all at once; and, meantime, we may well be content to eke out our living as best we can.

* * *

Of the mother I cannot think of anything to say. She is just the mother-our own dear, patient, loving, little mother-unlike every one else in the world; and yet it seems as if there was nothing to say about her by which one could make any one else understand what she is. It seems as if she were to other people (with reverence I say it) just what the blessed Mother of God is to the other saints. St. Catherine has her wheel and her crown, and St. Agnes her lamb and her palm, and St. Ursula her eleven thousand virgins; but Mary, the ever-blessed, has only the Holy Child. She is the blessed woman, the Holy mother, and nothing else. That is just what the mother is. She is the precious little mother, and the best woman in the world, and that is all. I could describe her better by saying what she is not. She never says a harsh word to any one nor of any one. She is never impatient with the father, like our grandmother. She is never impatient with the children, like me. She never complains or scolds. She is never idle. She never looks severe and cross at us, like Aunt Agnes. But I must not compare her with Aunt Agnes, because she herself once reproved me for doing so; she said Aunt Agnes was a religious, a pure, and holy woman, far, far above her sphere or ours; and we might be thankful, if we ever reached heaven, if she let us kiss the hem of her garment.

* * *

Yes, Aunt Agnes is a holy woman-a nun; I must be careful what I say of her. She makes long, long prayers, they say,-so long that she has been found in the morning fainting on the cold floor of the convent church. She eats so little that Father Christopher, who is the convent confessor and ours, says he sometimes thinks she must be sustained by angels. But Fritz and I think that, if that is true, the angel's food cannot be very nourishing; for, when we saw her last, through the convent grating, she looked like a shadow in her black robe, or like that dreadful picture of death we saw in the convent chapel. She wears the coarsest sackcloth, and often, they say, sleeps on ashes. One of the nuns told my mother, that one day when she fainted, and they had to unloose her dress, they found scars and stripes, scarcely healed, on her fair neck and arms, which she must have inflicted on herself. They all say she will have a very high place in heaven; but it seems to me, unless there is a very great difference between the highest and lowest places in heaven, it is a great deal of trouble to take. But, then, I am not religious; and it is altogether so exceedingly difficult to me to understand about heaven. Will every one in heaven be always struggling for the high places? Because when every one does that at church on the great festival days, it is not at all pleasant; those who succeed look proud, and those who fail look cross. But, of course, no one will be cross in heaven, nor proud. Then how will the saints feel who do not get the highest places? Will they be pleased or disappointed? If they are pleased, what is the use of struggling so much to climb a little higher? And if they are not pleased, would that be saint-like? Because the mother always teaches us to choose the lowest places, and the eldest to give up to the little ones. Will the greatest, then, not give up to the little ones in heaven? Of one thing I feel sure: if the mother had a high place in heaven, she would always be stooping down to help some one else up, or making room for others. And then, what are the highest places in heaven? At the emperor's court, I know, they are the places nearest him; the seven Electors stand close around the throne. But can it be possible that any would ever feel at ease, and happy, so very near the Almighty? It seems so exceedingly difficult to please Him here, and so very easy to offend Him, that it does seem to me it would be happier to be a little further off, in some little quiet corner near the gate, with a good many of the saints between. The other day, Father Christopher ordered me such a severe penance for dropping a crumb of the sacred Host; although I could not help thinking it was as much the priest's fault as mine. But he said God would be exceedingly displeased; and Fritz told me the priests fast and torment themselves severely sometimes, for only omitting a word in the Mass.

Then the awful picture of the Lord Christ, with the lightnings in his hand! It is very different from the carving of him on the cross. Why did he suffer so? Was it, like Aunt Agnes, to get a higher place in heaven? or, perhaps, to have the right to be severe, as she is with us? Such very strange things seem to offend and to please God, I cannot understand it at all; but that is because I have no vocation for religion. In the convent, the mother says, they grow like God, and so understand him better.

Is Aunt Agnes, then, more like God than our mother? That face, still and pale as death; those cold, severe eyes; that voice, so hollow and monotonous, as if it came from a metal tube or a sepulchre, instead of from a heart! Is it with that look God will meet us, with that kind of voice he will speak to us? Indeed, the Judgment-day is very dreadful to think of; and one must indeed need to live many years in the convent not to be afraid of going to heaven.

Oh, if only our mother were the saint-the kind of good woman that pleased God-instead of Aunt Agnes, how sweet it would be to try and be a saint then; and how sure one would feel that one might hope to reach heaven, and that, if one reached it, one would be happy there!

* * *

Aunt Ursula Cotta is another of the women I wish were the right kind of saint. She is my father's first cousin's wife; but we have always called her aunt, because almost all little children who know her do,-she is so fond of children, and so kind to every one. She is not poor like us, although Cousin Conrad Cotta never made any discoveries, or even nearly made any. There is a picture of St. Elizabeth of Thuringia, our sainted Landgravine, in our parish church, which always makes me think of Aunt Ursula. St. Elizabeth is standing at the gate of a beautiful castle, something like our castle of the Wartburg, and around her are kneeling a crowd of very poor people-cripples, and blind, and poor thin mothers, with little hungry-looking children-all stretching out their hands to the lady, who is looking on with such kindly compassionate looks, just like Aunt Ursula; except that St. Elizabeth is very thin and pale, and looks almost as nearly starved as the beggars around her, and Aunt Ursula is rosy and fat, with the pleasantest dimples in her round face. But the look in the eyes is the same-so loving, and true, and earnest, and compassionate. The thinness and pallor are, of course, only just the difference there must be between a saint who fasts, and does so much penance, and keeps herself awake whole nights saying prayers, as St. Elizabeth did, and a prosperous burgher's wife, who eats and sleeps like other people, and is only like the good Landgravine in being so kind to every one.

The other half of the story of the picture, however, would not do for Aunt Ursula. In the apron of the saint, instead of loaves of bread are beautiful clusters of red roses. Our grandmother told us the meaning of this. The good Landgravine's husband did not quite like her giving so much to the poor; because she was so generous she would have left the treasury bare. So she used to give her alms unknown to him. But on this day when she was giving away those loaves to the beggars at the castle gate, he happened suddenly to return, and finding her occupied in this way, he asked her rather severely what she had in her apron. She said "roses!"

"Let me see," said the Landgrave.

And God loved her so much, that to save her from being blamed, he wrought a miracle. When she opened her apron, instead of the loaves she had been distributing, there were beautiful flowers. And this is what the picture represents. I always wanted to know the end of the story. I hope God worked another miracle when the Landgrave went away, and changed the roses back into loaves. I suppose He did, because the starving people look so contented. But our grandmother does not know. Only in this, I do not think Aunt Ursula would have done the same as the Landgravine. I think she would have said boldly if Cousin Cotta had asked her, "I have loaves in my apron, and I am giving them to these poor starving subjects of yours and mine," and never been afraid of what he would say. And then, perhaps, Cousin Cotta-I mean the Landgrave's-heart would have been so touched, that he would have forgiven her, and even praised her, and brought her some more loaves. And then instead of the bread being changed to flowers, the Landgrave's heart would have been changed from stone to flesh, which does seem a better thing. But when I once said this to grandmother, she said it was very wrong to fancy other ends to the legends of the saints, just as if they were fairy tales; that St. Elizabeth really lived in that old castle of the Wartburg, not more than three hundred years ago, and walked through those very streets of Eisenach, and gave alms to the poor here, and went into the hospitals, and dressed the most loathsome wounds that no one else would touch, and spoke tender loving words to wretched outcasts no one else would look at. That seems to me so good and dear of her; but that is not what made her a saint, because Aunt Ursula and our mother do things like that, and our mother has told me again and again that it is Aunt Agnes who is like the saint, and not she.

It is what she suffered, I suppose, that has made them put her in the Calendar; and yet it is not suffering in itself that makes people saints, because I do not believe St. Elizabeth herself suffered more than our mother. It is true she used to leave her husband's side and kneel all night on the cold floor, while he was asleep. But the mother has done the same as that often and often. When any of the little ones has been ill, how often she has walked up and down hour after hour, with the sick child in her arms, soothing and fondling it, and quieting all its fretful cries with unwearying tender patience. Then St. Elizabeth fasted until she was almost a shadow; but how often have I seen our mother quietly distribute all that was nice and good in our frugal meals to my father and the children, scarcely leaving herself a bit, and hiding her plate behind a dish that the father might not see. And Fritz and I often say how wasted and worn she looks; not like the Mother of Mercy as we remember her, but too much like the wan pale Mother of Sorrows with the pierced heart. Then as to pain, have not I seen our mother suffer pain compared with which Aunt Agnes or St. Elizabeth's discipline must be like the prick of a pin.

But yet all that is not the right kind of suffering to make a saint. Our precious mother walks up and down all night not to make herself a saint, but to soothe her sick child. She eats no dinner, not because she chooses to fast, but because we are poor, and bread is dear. She suffers, because God lays suffering upon her, not because she takes it on herself. And all this cannot make her a saint. When I say anything to compassionate or to honour her, she smiles and says,-

"My Elsè, I chose this lower life instead of the high vocation of your Aunt Agnes, and I must take the consequences. We cannot have our portion both in this world and the next."

If the size of our mother's portion in the next world were to be in proportion to its smallness in this, I think she might have plenty to spare; but this I do not venture to say to her.

There is one thing St. Elizabeth did which certainly our mother would never do. She left her little father less children to go into a convent. Perhaps it was this that pleased God and the Lord Jesus Christ so very much, that they took her up to be so high in heaven. If this is the case, it is a great mercy for our father and for us that our mother has not set her heart on being a saint. We sometimes think, however, that perhaps although He cannot make her a saint on account of the rules they have in heaven about it, God may giv

e our mother some little good thing, or some kind word, because of her being so very good to us. She says this is no merit, however, because of her loving us so much. If she loved us less, and so found it more a trouble to work for us; or if we were little stranger beggar children she chose to be kind to, instead of her own, I suppose God would like it better.

There is one thing, moreover, in St. Elizabeth's history which once brought Fritz and me into great trouble and perplexity. When we were little children and did not understand things as we do now, but thought we ought to try and imitate the saints, and that what was right for them must be right for us, and when our grandmother had been telling us about the holy Landgravine privately selling her jewels, and emptying her husband's treasury to feed the poor, we resolved one day to go and do likewise. We knew a very poor old woman in the next street, with a great many orphan grandchildren, and we planned a long time together before we thought of the way to help her like St. Elizabeth. At length the opportunity came. It was Christmas eve, and for a rarity there were some meat, and apples, and pies in our storeroom. We crept into the room in the twilight, filled my apron with pies, and meat, and cakes, and stole out to our old woman's to give her our booty.

The next morning the larder was found, despoiled of half of what was to have been our Christmas dinner. The children cried, and the mother looked almost as distressed as they did. The father's placid temper for once was roused, and he cursed the cat and the rats, and wished he had completed his new infallible rat trap. Our grandmother said very quietly,-

"Thieves more discriminating than rats or mice have been here. There are no crumbs, and not a thing is out of place. Besides, I never heard of rats or mice eating pie-dishes."

Fritz and I looked at each other, and began to fear that we had done wrong, when little Christopher said-

"I saw Fritz and Elsè carry out the pies last night."

"Elsè! Fritz!" said our father, "what does this mean?"

I would have confessed, but I remembered St. Elizabeth and the roses, and said, with a trembling voice-

"They were not pies you saw, Christopher, but roses."

"Roses," said the mother very gravely, "at Christmas!"

I almost hoped the pies would have reappeared on the shelves. It was the very juncture at which they did in the legend; but they did not. On the contrary, everything seemed to turn against us.

"Fritz," said our father very sternly, "tell the truth, or I shall give you a flogging."

This was a part of the story where St. Elizabeth's example quite failed us. I did not know what she would have done if some one else had been punished for her generosity; but I felt no doubt what I must do.

"O father!" I said, "it is my fault-it was my thought! We took the things to the poor old woman in the next street for her grandchildren."

"Then she is no better than a thief," said our father, "to have taken them. Fritz and Elsè, foolish children, shall have no Christmas dinner for their pains and Elsè shall, moreover, be locked into her own room for telling a story."

I was sitting shivering in my room, wondering how it was that things succeeded so differently with St. Elizabeth and with us, when Aunt Ursula's round pleasant voice sounded up the stairs, and in another minute she was holding me laughing in her arms.

"My poor little Elsè! We must wait a little before we imitate our patron saint; or we must begin at the other end. It would never do, for instance, for me to travel to Rome with eleven thousand young ladies like St. Ursula."

My grandmother had guessed the meaning of our foray, and Aunt Ursula coming in at the time, had heard the narrative, and insisted on sending us another Christmas dinner. Fritz and I secretly believed that St. Elizabeth had a good deal to do with the replacing of our Christmas dinner; but after that, we understood that caution was needed in transferring the holy example of the saints to our own lives, and that at present we must not venture beyond the ten commandments.

Yet to think that St. Elizabeth, a real canonized saint-whose picture is over altars in the churches-whose good deeds are painted on the church windows, and illumined by the sun shining through them-whose bones are laid up in reliquaries, one of which I wear always next my heart-actually lived and prayed in that dark old castle above us, and walked along these very streets-perhaps even had been seen from this window of Fritz's and my beloved lumber-room.

Only three hundred years ago! If only I had lived three hundred years earlier, or she three hundred years later, I might have seen her and talked to her, and asked her what it was that made her a saint. There are so many questions I should like to have asked her. I would have said, "Dear St. Elizabeth, tell me what it is that makes you a saint? It cannot be your charity, because no one can be more charitable than Aunt Ursula, and she is not a saint; and it cannot be your sufferings, or your patience, or your love, or your denying yourself for the sake of others, because our mother is like you in all that, and she is not a saint. Was it because you left your little children, that God loves you so much? or because you not only did and bore the things God laid on you, as our mother does, but chose out other things for yourself, which you thought harder?" And if she were gentle (as I think she was), and would have listened, I would have asked her, "Holy Landgravine, why are things which were so right and holy in you, wrong for Fritz and me?" And I would also have asked her, "Dear St. Elizabeth, my patroness, what is it in heaven that makes you so happy there?"

But I forgot-she would not have been in heaven at all. She would not even have been made a saint, because it was only after her death, when the sick and crippled were healed by touching her body, that they found out what a saint she had been. Perhaps, even, she would not herself have known she was a saint. And if so, I wonder if it can be possible that our mother is a saint after all, only she does not know it.

* * *

Fritz and I are four or five years older than any of the children. Two little sisters died of the plague before any more were born. One was baptized, and died when she was a year old, before she could soil her baptismal robes. Therefore we feel sure she is in paradise. I think of her whenever I look at the cloud of glory around the Blessed Virgin in St. George's Church. Out of the cloud peep a number of happy child-faces-some leaning their round soft cheeks on their pretty dimpled hands, and all looking up with such confidence at the dear mother of God. I suppose the little children in heaven especially belong to her. It must be very happy, then, to have died young.

But of that other little nameless babe who died at the same time none of us ever dare to speak. It was not baptized, and they say the souls of little unbaptized babes hover about for ever in the darkness between heaven and hell. Think of the horror of falling from the loving arms of our mother into the cold and the darkness, to shiver and wail there for ever, and belong to no one. At Eisenach we have a Foundling Hospital, attached to one of the nunneries founded by St. Elizabeth, for such forsaken little ones. If St. Elizabeth could only establish a Foundling somewhere near the gates of paradise, for such little nameless outcast child-souls! But I suppose she is too high in heaven, and too far from the gates to hear the plaintive cries of such abandoned little ones. Or perhaps God, who was so much pleased with her for deserting her own little children, would not allow it. I suppose the saints in heaven who have been mothers, or even elder sisters like me, leave their mother's hearts on earth, and that in paradise they are all monks and nuns like Aunt Agnes and Father Christopher.

Next to that little nameless one came the twin girls Chriemhild (named after our grandmother), and Atlantis, so christened by our father on account of the discovery of the great world beyond the sea which he had so often thought of, and which the great admiral Christopher Columbus accomplished about that time. Then the twin boys Boniface Pollux and Christopher Castor; their names being a compromise between our father, who was struck with some remarkable conjunction of their stars at their birth, and my mother, who thought it only right to counterbalance such Pagan appellations with names written in heaven. Then another boy, who only lived a few weeks; and then the present baby, Thekla, who is the plaything and darling of us all.

* * *

These are nearly all the people I know well; except, indeed, Martin Luther, the miner's son, to whom Aunt Ursula Cotta has been so kind. He is dear to us all as one of our own family. He is about the same age as Fritz, who thinks there is no one like him. And he has such a voice, and is so religious, and yet so merry withal; at least at times. It was his voice and his devout ways which first drew Aunt Ursula's attention to him. She had seen him often at the daily prayers at church. He used to sing as a chorister with the boys of the Latin school of the parish of St. George, where Fritz and he studied. The ringing tones of his voice, so clear and true, often attracted Aunt Ursula's attention; and he always seemed so devout. But we knew little about him. He was very poor, and had a pinched, half-starved look when first we noticed him. Often I have seen him on the cold winter evenings singing about the streets for alms, and thankfully receiving a few pieces of broken bread and meat at the doors of the citizens; for he was never a bold and impudent beggar as some of the scholars are. Our acquaintance with him, however, began one day which I remember well. I was at Aunt Ursula's house, which is in George Street, near the church and school. I had watched the choir of boys singing from door to door through the street. No one had given them anything: they looked disappointed and hungry. At last they stopped before the window where Aunt Ursula and I were sitting with her little boy. That clear, high, ringing voice was there again. Aunt Ursula went to the door and called Martin in, and then she went herself to the kitchen, and after giving him a good meal himself, sent him away with his wallet full, and told him to come again very soon. After that, I suppose she consulted with Cousin Conrad Cotta, and the result was that Martin Luther became an inmate of their house, and has lived among us familiarly since then like one of our own cousins.

He is wonderfully changed since that day. Scarcely any one would have thought then what a joyous nature his is. The only thing in which it seemed then to flow out was in his clear true voice. He was subdued and timid like a creature that had been brought up without love. Especially he used to be shy with young maidens, and seemed afraid to look in a woman's face. I think they must have been very severe with him at home. Indeed, he confessed to Fritz, that he had often as a child been beaten till the blood came for trifling offences, such as taking a nut, and that he was afraid to play in his parents' presence. And yet he would not hear a word reflecting on his parents. He says his mother is the most pious woman in Mansfeld, where his family live, and his father denies himself in every way to maintain and educate his children, especially Martin, who is to be the learned man of the family. His parents are inured to hardships themselves, and believe it to be the best early discipline for boys. Certainly poor Martin had enough of hardship here. But that may be the fault of his mother's relations at Eisenach, who, they hoped, would have been kind to him, but who do not seem to have cared for him at all. At one time he told Fritz he was so pinched and discouraged by the extreme poverty he suffered, that he thought of giving up study in despair, and returning to Mansfeld to work with his father at the smelting furnaces, or in the mines under the mountains. Yet indignant tears start to his eyes if any one ventures to hint that his father might have done more for him. He was a poor digger in the mines, he told Fritz, and often he had seen his mother carrying firewood on her shoulders from the pine-woods near Mansfeld.

But it was in the monastic schools, no doubt, that he learned to be so shy and grave. He had been taught to look on married life as a low and evil thing; and, of course, we all know it cannot be so high and pure as the life in the convent. I remember now his look of wonder when Aunt Ursula, who is not fond of monks, said to him one day, "There is nothing on earth more lovely than the love of husband and wife, when it is in the fear of God."

In the warmth of her bright and sunny heart, his whole nature seemed to open like the flowers in summer. And now there is none in all our circle so popular and sociable as he is. He plays on the lute, and sings as we think no one else can. And our children all love him, he tells them such strange, beautiful stories about enchanted gardens and crusaders, and about his own childhood, among the pine-forests and the mines.

It is from Martin Luther, indeed, that I have heard more than from any one else, except from our grandmother, of the great world beyond Eisenach. He has lived already in three other towns, so that he is quite a traveller, and knows a great deal of the world, although he is not yet twenty. Our father has certainly told us wonderful things about the great islands beyond the seas which the Admiral Columbus discovered, and which will one day, he is sure, be found to be only the other side of the Indies and Tokay and Araby. Already the Spaniards have found gold in those islands, and our father has little doubt that they are the Ophir from which King Solomon's ships brought the gold for the temple. Also, he has told us about the strange lands in the south, in Africa, where the dwarfs live, and the black giants, and the great hairy men who climb the trees and make nests there, and the dreadful men-eaters, and the people who have their heads between their shoulders. But we have not yet met with any one who have seen all those wonders, so that Martin Luther and our grandmother are the greatest travellers Fritz and I are acquainted with.

Martin was born at Eisleben. His mother's is a burgher family. Three of her brothers live here at Eisenach, and here she was married. But his father came of a peasant race. His grandfather had a little farm of his own at Mora, among the Thuringian pine-forests; but Martin's father was the second son; their little property went to the eldest, and he became a miner, went to Eisleben, and then settled at Mansfeld, near the Hartz mountains where the silver and copper lie buried in the earth.

At Mansfeld Martin lived until he was nineteen. I should like to see the place. It must be so strange to watch the great furnaces, where they fuse the copper and smelt the precious silver, gleaming through the pine woods, for they burn all through the night in the clearings of the forest. When Martin was a little boy he may have watched by them with his father, who now has furnaces and a foundry of his own. Then there are the deep pits under the hills, out of which come from time to time troops of grim-looking miners. Martin is fond of the miners; they are such a brave and hardy race, and they have fine bold songs and choruses of their own which he can sing, and wild original pastimes. Chess is a favorite game with them. They are thoughtful too, as men may well be who dive into the secrets of the earth. Martin, when a boy, has often gone into the dark, mysterious pits and winding caverns with them, and seen the veins of precious ore. He has also often seen foreigners of various nations. They come from all parts of the world to Mansfeld for the silver,-from Bavaria and Switzerland, and even from the beautiful Venice, which is a city of palaces, where the streets are canals filled by the blue sea, and instead of waggons they use boats, from which people land on the marble steps of the palaces. All these things Martin has heard described by those who have really seen them, besides what he has seen himself. His father also frequently used to have the schoolmasters and learned men at his house, that his sons might profit by their wise conversation. But I doubt if he can have enjoyed this so much. It must have been difficult to forget the rod with which once he was beaten fourteen times in one morning, so as to feel sufficiently at ease to enjoy their conversation. Old Count Gunther of Mansfeld thinks much of Martin's father, and often used to send for him to consult him about the mines.

Their house at Mansfeld stood at some distance from the school-house which was on the hill, so that, when he was little, an older boy used to be kind to him, and carry him in his arms to school. I daresay that was in winter, when his little feet were swollen with chilblains, and his poor mother used to go up to the woods to gather faggots for the hearth.

His mother must be a very good and holy woman, but not, I fancy, quite like our mother; rather more like Aunt Agnes. I think I should have been rather afraid of her. Martin says she is very religious. He honours and loves her very much, although she was very strict with him, and once, he told Fritz, beat him, for taking a nut from their stores, until the blood came. She must be a brave, truthful woman, who would not spare herself or others; but I think I should have felt more at home with his father, who used so often to kneel beside Martin's bed at night, and pray God to make him a good and useful man. Martin's father, however, does not seem so fond of the monks and nuns, and is therefore, I suppose, not so religious as his mother is. He does not at all wish Martin to become a priest or a monk, but to be a great lawyer, or doctor, or professor at some university.

Mansfeld, however, is a very holy place. There are many monasteries and nunneries there, and in one of them two of the countesses were nuns. There is also a castle there, and our St. Elizabeth worked miracles there as well as here. The devil also is not idle at Mansfeld. A wicked old witch lived close to Martin's house, and used to frighten and distress his mother much, bewitching the children so that they nearly cried themselves to death. Once even, it is said, the devil himself got up into the pulpit, and preached, of course in disguise. But in all the legends it is the same. The devil never seems so busy as where the saints are, which is another reason why I feel how difficult it would be to be religious.

Martin had a sweet voice, and loved music as a child, and he used often to sing at people's doors as he did here. Once, at Christmas time, he was singing carols from village to village among the woods with other boys, when a peasant came to the door of his hut, where they were singing, and said in a loud gruff voice, "Where are you, boys?" The children were so frightened that they scampered away as fast as they could, and only found out afterwards that the man with a rough voice had a kind heart, and had brought them out some sausages. Poor Martin was used to blows in those days, and had good reason to dread them. It must have been pleasant, however, to hear the boys' voices carolling through the woods about Jesus born at Bethlehem. Voices echo so strangely among the silent pine-forests.

When Martin was thirteen he left Mansfeld and went to Magdeburg, where the Archbishop Ernest lives, the brother of our Elector, who has a beautiful palace, and twelve trumpeters to play to him always when he is at dinner. Magdeburg must be a magnificent city, very nearly, we think, as grand as Rome itself. There is a great cathedral there, and knights and princes and many soldiers, who prance about the streets; and tournaments and splendid festivals. But our Martin heard more than he saw of all this. He and John Reineck of Mansfeld (a boy older than himself, who is one of his greatest friends), went to the school of the Franciscan Cloister, and had to spend their time with the monks, or sing about the streets for bread, or in the church-yard when the Franciscans in their grey robes went there to fulfill their office of burying the dead. But it was not for him, the miner's son, to complain, when, as he says, he used to see a Prince of Anhalt going about the streets in a cowl begging bread, with a sack on his shoulders like a beast of burden, insomuch that he was bowed to the ground. The poor prince, Martin said, had fasted and watched and mortified his flesh until he looked like an image of death, with only skin and bones. Indeed, shortly after he died.

At Magdeburg also, Martin saw the picture of which he has often told us. "A great ship was painted, meant to signify the Church, wherein there was no layman, not even a king or prince. There were none but the pope with his cardinals and bishops in the prow, with the Holy Ghost hovering over them, the priests and monks with their oars at the side; and thus they were sailing on heavenward. The laymen were swimming along in the water around the ship. Some of them were drowning; some were drawing themselves up to the ship by means of ropes, which the monks, moved with pity, and making over their own good works, did cast out to them to keep them from drowning, and to enable them to cleave to the vessel and to go with the others to heaven. There was no pope, nor cardinal, nor bishop, nor priest, nor monk in the water, but laymen only."

It must have been a very dreadful picture, and enough to make any one afraid of not being religious, or else to make one feel how useless it is for any one except the monks and nuns, to try to be religious at all. Because however little merit any one had acquired, some kind monk might still be found to throw a rope out of the ship and help him in; and, however many good works any layman might do, they would be of no avail to help him out of the flood, or even to keep him from drowning, unless he had some friends in a cloister.

I said Martin was merry; and so he is, with the children, or when he is cheered with music or singing. And yet, on the whole, I think he is rather grave, and often he looks very thoughtful, and even melancholy. His merriment does not seem to be so much from carelessness as from earnestness of heart, so that whether he is telling a story to the little ones, or singing a lively song, his whole heart is in it,-in his play as well as in his work.

In his studies Fritz says there is no one at Eisenach who can come near him, whether in reciting, or writing prose or verse, or translating, or church music.

Master Trebonius, the head of St. George's school, is a very learned man and very polite. He takes off his hat, Fritz says, and bows to his scholars when he enters the school, for he says that "among these boys are future burgomasters, chancellors, doctors, and magistrates." This must be very different from the masters at Mansfeld. Master Trebonius thinks very much of Martin. I wonder if he and Fritz will be burgomasters or doctors one day.

Martin is certainly very religious for a boy, and so is Fritz. They attend mass very regularly, and confession, and keep the fasts.

From what I have heard Martin say, however, I think he is as much afraid of God and Christ and the dreadful day of wrath and judgment as I am. Indeed I am sure he feels, as every one must, there would be no hope for us were it not for the Blessed Mother of God who may remind her Son how she nursed and cared for him, and move him to have some pity.

But Martin has been at the University of Erfurt nearly two years, and Fritz has now left us to study there with him; and we shall have no more music, and the children no more stories until no one knows when.

* * *

These are the people I know. I have nothing else to say except about the things I possess, and the place we live in.

The things are easily described. I have a silver reliquary, with a lock of the hair of St. Elizabeth in it. That is my greatest treasure. I have a black rosary with a large iron cross which Aunt Agnes gave me. I have a missal, and part of a volume of the Nibelungen Lied; and besides my every-day dress, a black taffetas jacket and a crimson stuff petticoat, and two gold ear-rings, and a silver chain for holidays, which Aunt Ursula gave me. Fritz and I between us have also a copy of some old Latin hymns, with woodcuts, printed at Nürnberg. And in the garden I have two rose bushes; and I have a wooden crucifix carved in Rome out of wood which came from Bethlehem, and in a leather purse one gulden my godmother gave me at my christening; and that is all.

The place we live in is Eisenach, and I think it a beautiful place. But never having seen any other town, perhaps I cannot very well judge. There are nine monasteries and nunneries here, many of them founded by St. Elizabeth. And there are I do not know how many priests. In the churches are some beautiful pictures of the sufferings and glory of the saints; and painted windows, and on the altars gorgeous gold and silver plate, and a great many wonderful relics which we go to adore on the great saint's days.

The town is in a valley, and high above the houses rises the hill on which stands the Wartburg, the castle where St. Elizabeth lived. I went inside it once with our father to take some books to the Elector. The rooms were beautifully furnished with carpets and velvet-covered chairs. A lady dressed in silk and jewels, like St. Elizabeth in the pictures, gave me sweetmeats. But the castle seemed to me dark and gloomy. I wondered which was the room in which the proud mother of the Landgrave lived, who was so discourteous to St. Elizabeth when she came a young maiden from her royal home far away in Hungary; and which was the cold wall against which she pressed her burning brow, when she rushed through the castle in despair on hearing suddenly of the death of her husband.

I was glad to escape into the free forest again, for all around the castle, and over all the hills, as far as we can see around Eisenach, it is forest. The tall dark pine woods clothe the hills; but in the valleys the meadows are very green beside the streams. It is better in the valleys among the wild flowers than in that stern old castle, and I did not wonder so much after being there that St. Elizabeth built herself a hut in a lowly valley among the woods, and preferred to live and die there.

It is beautiful in summer in the meadows, at the edge of the pine woods, when the sun brings out the delicious aromatic perfume of the pines, and the birds sing, and the rooks caw. I like it better than the incense in St. George's Church, and almost better than the singing of the choir, and certainly better than the sermons which are so often about the dreadful fires and the judgment-day, or the confessional where they give us such hard penances. The lambs, and the birds, and even the insects, seem so happy, each with its own little bleat, or warble, or coo, or buzz of content.

It almost seems then as if Mary, the dear Mother of God, were governing the world instead of Christ, the Judge, or the Almighty with the thunders. Every creature seems so blithe and so tenderly cared for I cannot help feeling better there than at church. But that is because I have so little religion.

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