MoboReader > Literature > Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family

   Chapter 7 No.7

Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family By Elizabeth Rundle Charles Characters: 38948

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Elsè's Story.

January 23.

It is too plain now why Fritz would not look back as he went down the street. He thought it would be looking back from the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God, then, is the cloister, and the world, we are that!-father, mother, brothers, sisters, friends, home, that is the world! I shall never understand it. For if all my younger brothers say is true, either all the priests and monks are not in the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of God is strangely governed here on earth.

Fritz was helping us all so much. He would have been the stay of our parents' old age. He was the example and admiration of the boys, and the pride and delight of us all; and to me! My heart grows so bitter when I write about it, I seem to hate and reproach every one. Every one but Fritz; I cannot, of course, hate him. But why was all that was gentlest and noblest in him made to work towards this last dreadful step?

If our father had only been more successful, Fritz need not have entered on that monastic foundation at Erfurt, which made his conscience so sensitive; if my mother had only not been so religious, and taught us to reverence Aunt Agnes as so much better than herself, he might never have thought of the monastic life; if I had been more religious he might have confided more in me, and I might have induced him to pause, at least, a few years before taking this unalterable step. If Eva had not been so wilful, and insisted on braving the contagion from me, she might never have been stricken, and that vow might not yet, might never have been taken. If God had not caused him so innocently to bring the pestilence among us! But I must not dare to say another word of complaint, or it will become blasphemy. Doubtless it is God who has willed to bring all this misery on us; and to rebel against God is a deadly sin. As Aunt Agnes said, "The Lord is a jealous God," he will not suffer us to make idols. We must love him best, first, alone. We must make a great void in our heart by renouncing all earthly affections, that he may fill it. We must mortify the flesh, that we may live. What, then, is the flesh? I suppose all our natural affections, which the monks call our fleshly lusts. These Fritz has renounced. Then if all our natural affections are to die in us, what is to live in us? The "spiritual life," they say in some of the sermons, and "the love of God." But are not my natural affections my heart; and if I am not to love God with my heart, with the heart with which I love my father and mother, what am I to love him with?

It seems to me, the love of God to us is something quite different from any human being's love to us.

When human beings love us they like to have us with them; they delight to make us happy; they delight in our being happy, whether they make us so or not, if it is a right happiness, a happiness that does us good.

But with God's love it must be quite different. He warns us not on any account to come too near Him. We have to place priests, and saints, and penances between us and Him, and then approach Him with the greatest caution, lest, after all, it should be in the wrong way, and He should be angry. And, instead of delighting in our happiness, He is never so much pleased as when we renounce all the happiness of our life, and make other people wretched in doing so, as Fritz, our own Fritz, has just done.

Therefore, also, no doubt, the love God requires we should feel for Him is something entirely different from the love we give each other. It must, I suppose, be a serious, severe, calm adoration, too sublime to give either joy or sorrow, such as had left its stamp on Aunt Agnes's grave impassive face. I can never, never even attempt to attain to it. Certainly at present I have no time to think of it.

Thank Heaven, thou livest still, mother of mercy! In thy face there have been tears, real, bitter, human tears; in thine eyes there have been smiles of joy, real, simple, human joy. Thou wilt understand and have pity. Yet oh, couldst not thou, even thou, sweet mother, have reminded him of the mother he has left to battle on alone? thou who art a mother, and didst bend over a cradle, and hadst a little lowly home at Nazareth once?

But I know my own mother would not even herself have uttered a word to keep Fritz back. When first we heard of it, and I entreated her to write and remonstrate, although the tears were streaming from her eyes, she said, "Not a word, Elsè, not a syllable. Shall not I give my son up freely to Him who gave him to me. God might have called him away from earth altogether when he lay smitten with the plague, and shall I grudge him to the cloister? I shall see him again," she added, "once or twice at least. When he is consecrated priest, shall I not have joy then, and see him in his white robes at the altar, and, perhaps, even receive my Creator from his hands!"

"Once or twice!-O mother!" I sobbed, "and in church, amongst hundreds of others! What pleasure will there be in that?"

"Elsè," she said softly, but with a firmness unusual with her, "my child, do not say another word. Once I myself had some faint inclination to the cloister, which, if I had nourished it, might have grown into a vocation. But I saw your father, and I neglected it. And see what troubles my children have to bear! Has there not also been a kind of fatal spell on all your father's inventions? Perhaps God will at last accept from me in my son what I withheld in myself, and will be pacified towards us, and send us better days; and then your father's great invention will be completed yet. But do not say anything of what I told you to him!"

I have never seen our father so troubled about anything.

"Just as he was able to understand my projects!" he said, "and I would have bequeathed them all to him!"

For some days he never touched a model! but now he has crept back to his old follies and his instruments, and tells us there was something in Fritz's horoscope which might have prepared us for this, had he only understood it a little before. However, this discovery, although too late to warn us of the blow, consoles our father, and he has resumed his usual occupations.

Eva looks very pale and fragile, partly, no doubt, from the effects of the pestilence; but when first the rumour reached us, I sought some sympathy from her, and said, "O Eva, how strange it seems, when Fritz always thought of us before himself, to abandon us all thus without one word of warning."

"Cousin Elsè," she said, "Fritz has done now as he always does. He has thought of us first, I am as sure of it as if I could hear him say so. He thought he would serve us best by leaving us thus, or he would never have left us."

She understood him best of all, as she so often does. When his letter came to our mother, it gave just the reasons she had often told me she was sure had moved him.

It is difficult to tell what Eva feels, because of that strange inward peace in her which seems always to flow under all her other feelings.

I have not seen her shed any tears at all; and whilst I can scarcely bear to enter our dear old lumber-room, or to do anything I did with him, her great delight seems to be to read every book he liked, and to learn and repeat every hymn she learned with him.

Eva and the mother cling very closely together. She will scarcely let my mother do any household work, but insists on sharing every laborious task which hitherto we have kept her from, because of her slight and delicate frame.

It is true I rise early to save them all the work I can, because they have neither of them half the strength I have, and I enjoy stirring about. Thoughts come so much more bitterly on me when I am sitting still.

But when I am kneading the dough, or pounding the clothes with stones in the stream on washing-days, I feel as I were pounding at all my perplexities; and that makes my hands stronger and my perplexities more shadowy, until even now I find myself often singing as I am wringing the clothes by the stream. It is so pleasant in the winter sunshine, with the brook babbling among the rushes and cresses, and little Thekla prattling by my side, and pretending to help.

But when I have finished my day's work, and come into the house, I find the mother and Eva sitting close side by side; and perhaps Eva is silent and my mother brushes tears away as they fall on her knitting; but when they look up, their faces are calm and peaceful, and then I know they have been talking about Fritz.

Eisenach, February 2.

Yesterday afternoon I found Eva translating a Latin hymn he loved, to our mother, and then she sang it through in her sweet clear voice. It was about the dear, dear country in heaven, and Jerusalem the Golden.

In the evening I said to her-

"O Eva, how can you bear to sing the hymns Fritz loved so dearly? I could not sing a line steadily of any song he had cared to hear me sing! And he delighted always so much to listen to you. His voice would echo 'never, never more' to every note I sung, and the songs would all end in sobs."

"But I do not feel separated from Fritz, Cousin Elsè," she said, "and I never shall. Instead of hearing that melancholy chant you think of, 'never, never more' echo from all the hymns he loved, I always seem to hear his voice responding, 'For ever and for evermore.' And I think of the time when we shall sing them together again."

"Do you mean in heaven, Eva?" I said, "that is so very far off, if we ever reach it-"

"Not so very far off, Cousin Elsè," she said. "I often think it is very near. If it were not so, how could the angels be so much with us and yet with God?"

"But life seems so long, now Fritz is gone."

"Not so very long, Cousin Elsè," she said. "I often think it may be very short, and often I pray it may."

"Eva!" I exclaimed, "you surely do not pray that you may die?"

"Why not?" she said, very quietly. "I think if God took us to himself, we might help those we love better there than at Eisenach, or perhaps even in the convent. And it is there we shall meet again, and there are never any partings. My father told me so," she added, "before he died."

Then I understood how Eva mourns for Fritz, and why she does not weep; but I could only say-

"O Eva, do not pray to die. There are all the saints in heaven: and you help us so much more here!"

February 8.

I cannot feel at all reconciled to losing Fritz, nor do I think I ever shall. Like all the other troubles, it was no doubt meant to do me good; but it does me none, I am sure, although of course, that is my fault. What did me good was being happy, as I was when Fritz came back; and that is passed for ever.

My great comfort is our grandmother. The mother and Eva look on everything from such sublime heights; but my grandmother feels more as I do. Often, indeed, she speaks very severely of Fritz, which always does me good, because, of course, I defend him, and then she becomes angry, and says we are an incomprehensible family, and have the strangest ideas of right and wrong, from my father downward, she ever heard of; and then I grow angry, and say my father is the best and wisest man in the Electoral States. Then our grandmother begins to lament over her poor, dear daughter, and the life she has led, and rejoices, in a plaintive voice, that she herself has nearly done with the world altogether; and then I try to comfort her, and say that I am sure there is not much in the world to make any one wish to stay in it; and, having reached this point of despondency, we both cry and embrace each other, and she says I am a poor, good child, and Fritz was always the delight of her heart, which I know very well;-and thus we comfort each other. We have, moreover, solemnly resolved, our grandmother and I, that, whatever comes of it, we will never call Fritz anything but Fritz.

"Brother Sebastian, indeed!" she said, "your mother might as well take a new husband as your brother a new name! Was not she married, and was not he christened in church? Is not Friedrich a good, honest name, which hundreds of your ancestors have borne? And shall we call him instead a heathen foreign name, that none of your kindred were ever known by?"

"Not heathen, grandmother," I ventured to suggest. "You remember telling us of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian by the heathen emperor?"

"Do you contradict me, child?" she exclaimed.

"Did I not know the whole martyrology before your mother was born? I say it is a heathen name. No blame to the saint if his parents were poor benighted Pagans, and knew no better name to give him; but that our Fritz should adopt it instead of his own is a disgrace. My lips at least are too old to learn such new fashioned nonsense. I shall call him the name I called him at the font and in his cradle, and no other."

Yes, Fritz! Fritz! he is to us, and shall be always. Fritz in our hearts till death!

February 15.

We have just heard that Fritz has finished his first month of probation, and has been invested with the frock of the novice. I hate to think of his thick, dark, waving hair clipped in the circle of the tonsure. But the worst part of it is the effect of his becoming a monk has had on the other boys, Christopher and Pollux.

They, who before this thought Fritz the model of everything good and great, seem repelled from all religion now. I have difficulty even in getting them to church.

Christopher said to me the other day-

"Elsè, why is a man who suddenly deserts his family to become a soldier called a villain, while the man who deserts those who depend on him to become a monk is called a saint?"

It is very unfortunate the boys should come to me with their religious perplexities, because I am so perplexed myself, I have no idea how to answer them. I generally advise them to ask Eva.

This time I could only say, as our grandmother had so often said to me,-

"You must wait till you are older, and then you will understand." But I added, "Of course it is quite different: one leaves his home for God, and the other for the world."

But Christopher is the worst, and he continued,-

"Sister Elsè, I do not like the monks at all. You and Eva and our mother have no idea how wicked many of them are. Reinhardt says he has seen them drunk often, and heard them swear, and that some of them make a jest even of the mass, and that the priests' houses are not fit for any honest maiden to visit, and,-

"Reinhardt is a bad boy," I said, colouring; "and I have often told you I do not want to hear anything he says."

"But I, at all events, shall never become a monk or a priest," retorted Christopher; "I think the merchants are better. Woman cannot understand about these things," he added, loftily, "and it is better they should not; but I know; and I intend to be a merchant or a soldier."

Christopher and Pollux are fifteen, and Fritz is two-and-twenty; but he never talked in that lofty way to me about women not understanding!

It did make me indignant to hear Christopher, who is always tearing his clothes, and getting into scrapes, and perplexing us to get him out of them, comparing himself with Fritz, and looking down on his sisters; and I said, "It is only boys who talk scornfully of women. Men, true men, honour women."

"The monks do not!" retorted Christopher. "I have heard them say things myself worse than I have ever said about any woman. Only last Sunday, did not Father Boniface say half the mischief in the world had been done by women, from Eve to Helen and Cleopatra?"

"Do not mention our mother Eve with those heathens, Christopher," said our grandmother, coming to my rescue, from her corner by the stove. "Eve is in the Holy Scriptures, and many of these pagans are not fit for people to speak of. Half the saints are women, you know very well. Peasants and traders," she added sublimely, "may talk slightingly of women; but no man can be a true knight who does."

"The monks do!" muttered Christopher doggedly.

"I have nothing to say about the monks," rejoined our grandmother tartly. And accepting this imprudent concession of our grandmother's Christopher retired from the contest.

March 25.

I have just been looking at two letters addressed to Father Johann Braun, one of our Eisenach priests, by Martin Luther. They were addressed to him as "the holy and venerable priest of Christ and of Mary." So much I could understand, and also that he calls himself Brother Martin Luther, not Brother Augustine, a name he assumed on first entering the cloister. Therefore certainly, I may call our Fritz, Brother Friedrich Cotta.

March 29, 1510.

A young man was at Aunt Ursula Cotta's this evening, who told us strange things about the doings at Annaberg.

Dr. Tetzel has been there two years, selling the papal indulgences to the people; and lately, out of regard, he says, to the great piety of the German people, he has reduced their price.

There was a great deal of discussion about it, which I rather regretted the boys were present to hear. My father said indulgences did not mean forgiveness of sins, but only remission of certain penances which the Church had imposed. But the young man from Annaberg told us that Dr. John Tetzel solemnly assured the people, that since it was impossible for them, on account of their sins, to make satisfaction to God by their works, our Holy Father the Pope, who has the control of all the treasury of merits accumulated by the Church throughout the ages, now graciously sells those merits to any who will buy, and thereby bestows on them forgiveness of sins (even of sins which no other priest can absolve), and a certain entrance into eternal life.

The young man said, also, that the great red cross has been erected in the nave of the principal church, with the crown of thorns, the nails, and spear suspended from it, and that at times it has been granted to the people even to see the blood of the Crucified flow from the cross. Beneath this cross are the banners of the Church, and the papal standard, with the triple crown. Before it is the large, strong iron money chest. On one side stands the pulpit, where Dr. Tetzel preaches daily, and exhorts the people to purchase this inestimable favour while yet there is time, for themselves and their relations in purgatory,-and translates the long parchment mandate of the Lord Pope, with the papal seals hanging from it. On the other side is a table, where sit several priests, with pen, ink, and writing desk, selling the indulgence tickets, and counting the money into boxes. Lately he told us, not only have the prices been reduced, but at the end of the letter affixed to the churches, it is added, "Pauperibus dentur gratis."

"Freely to the poor!" That certainly would suit us! And if I had only time to make a pilgrimage to Annaberg, if this is the kind of religion that pleases God, it certainly might be attainable even for me.

If Fritz had only known it before, he need not have made that miserable vow. A journey to Annaberg would have more than answered the purpose.

Only, if the Pope has such inestimable treasures at his disposal, why could he not always give them "freely to the poor," always and everywhere?

But I know it is a sin to question what the Lord Pope does. I might almost as well question what the Lord God Almighty does. For He also, who gave those treasur

es to the Pope, is He not everywhere, and could He not give them freely to us direct? It is plain these are questions too high for me.

I am not the only one perplexed by those indulgences, however. My mother says it is not the way she was taught, and she had rather keep to the old paths. Eva said, "If I were the Lord Pope, and had such a treasure, I think I could not help instantly leaving my palace and my beautiful Rome, and going over the mountains and over the seas, into every city and every village; every hut in the forests, and every room in the lowest streets, that none might miss the blessing, although I had to walk barefoot, and never saw holy Rome again."

"But then," said our father, "the great church at St. Peter's would never be built. It is on that, you know, the indulgence money is to be spent."

"But Jerusalem the Golden would be built, Uncle Cotta!" said Eva; "and would not that be better?"

"We had better not talk about it, Eva," said the mother. "The holy Jerusalem is being built; and I suppose there are many different ways to the same end. Only I like the way I know best."

The boys, I regret to say, had made many irreverent gestures during this conversation about the indulgences, and afterwards I had to speak to them.

"Sister Elsè," said Christopher, "it is quite useless talking to me. I hate the monks, and all belonging to them. And I do not believe a word they say-at least, not because they say it. The boys at school say this Dr. Tetzel is a very bad man and a great liar. Last week Reinhardt told us something he did, which will show you what he is. One day he promised to show the people a feather which the devil plucked out the wing of the archangel Michael. Reinhardt says he supposes the devil gave it to Dr. Tetzel. However that may be, during the night some students in jest found their way to his relic-box, stole the feather, and replaced it by some coals. The next day, when Dr. Tetzel had been preaching fervently for a long time on the wonders of this feather, when he opened the box there was nothing in it but charcoal. But he was not to be disconcerted. He merely said, 'I have taken the wrong box of relics, I perceive; these are some most sacred cinders-the relics of the holy body of St. Laurence, who was roasted on a gridiron.'"

"Schoolboys' stories," said I.

"They are as good as monks' stories, at all events," rejoined Christopher.

I resolved to see if Pollux was as deeply possessed with this irreverent spirit as Christopher, and therefore this morning, when I found him alone, I said, "Pollux, you used to love Fritz so dearly, you would not surely take up thoughts which would pain him so deeply if he knew of it."

"I do love Fritz," Pollux replied, "but I can never think he was right in leaving us all; and I like the religion of the Creeds and the Ten Commandments better than that of the monks."

Daily, hourly I feel the loss of Fritz. It is not half as much the money he earned; although, of course, that helped us; we can do and struggle on without that. It is the influence he had over the boys. They felt he was before them in the same race and when he remonstrated with them about anything, they listened. But if I blame them, they think it is only a woman's ignorance, or a woman's superstition.-and boys, they say, cannot be like women. And now it is the same with Fritz. He is removed into another sphere, which is not theirs; and if I remind them of what he did or said, they say, "Yes, Fritz thought so; but you know he has become a monk; but we do not intend ever to be monks, and the religion of monks and laymen are different things."

April 2.

The spring is come again. I wonder if it sends the thrill of joy into Fritz's cell at Erfurt that it does into all the forests around us here, and into my heart!

I suppose there are trees near him, and birds-little happy birds-making their nests among them, as they do in our yard, and singing as they work.

But the birds are not monks. Their nests are little homes, and they wander freely whither they will, only brought back by love. Perhaps Fritz does not like to listen to the birds now, because they remind him of home, and of our long spring days in the forest. Perhaps, too, they are part of the world he has renounced; and he must be dead to the world!

April 3.

We have had a long day in the forest, gathering sticks and dry twigs. Every creature seemed so happy there! It was such a holiday to watch the ants roofing their nests with fir twigs, and the birds flying hither and thither with food for their nestlings; and to hear the wood-pigeons, which Fritz always said were like Eva, cooing softly in the depths of the forest.

At mid-day we sat down in a clearing of the forest, to enjoy the meal we had brought with us. A little quiet brook prattled near us, of which we drank, and the delicate young twigs on the topmost boughs of the dark, majestic pines trembled softly, as if for joy, in the breeze.

As we rested, we told each other stories. Pollux began with wild tales of demon hunts, which flew with the baying of demon dogs through these very forests at midnight. Then, as the children began to look fearfully around, and shiver, even at mid-day, while they listened, Christopher delighted them with quaint stories of wolves in sheeps' clothing politely offering themselves to the farmer as shepherds, which, I suspect, were from some dangerous satirical book, but, without the application, were very amusing.

Chriemhild and Atlantis had their stories of Kobolds, who played strange tricks in the cow-stall; and of Rübezahl and the misshapen dwarf gnomes, who guarded the treasures of gold and silver in the glittering caves under the mountains; and of the elves, who danced beside the brooks at twilight.

"And I," said loving little Thekla, "always want to see poor Nix, the water-sprite, who cries by the streams at moonlight, and lets his tears mix with the waters, because he has no soul, and he wants to live for ever. I should like to give him half mine."

We should all of us have been afraid to speak of these creatures, in their own haunts among the pines, if the sun had not been high in the heavens. Even as it was, I began to feel a little uneasy, and I wished to turn the conversation from these elves and sprites, who, many think, are the spirits of the old heathen gods, who linger about their haunts. One reason why people think so is, that they dare not venture within the sound of the church bells; which makes some, again, think they are worse than poor, shadowy, dethroned heathen gods, and had, indeed, better be never mentioned at all. I thought I could not do better than tell the legend of my beloved giant Offerus, who became Christopher and a saint by carrying the holy child across the river.

Thekla wondered if her favourite Nix could be saved in the same way. She longed to see him and tell him about it.

But Eva had still her story to tell, and she related to us her legend of St. Catharine.

"St. Catharine," she said, "was a lady of royal birth, the only child of the king and queen of Egypt. Her parents were heathens, but they died and left her an orphan when she was only fourteen. She was more beautiful than any of the ladies of her court, and richer than any princess in the world; but she did not care for pomp, or dress, or all her precious things. God's golden stars seemed to her more magnificent than all the splendour of her kingdom, and she shut herself up in her palace, and studied philosophy and the stars until she grew wiser than all the wise men of the East.

"But one day the Diet of Egypt met, and resolved that their young queen must be persuaded to marry. They sent a deputation to her in her palace, who asked her, if they could find a prince beautiful beyond any, surpassing all philosophers in wisdom, of noblest mind and richest inheritance, would she marry him? The queen replied, 'He must be so noble that all men shall worship him, so great that I shall never think I have made him king, so rich that none shall ever say I enriched him, so beautiful that the angels of God shall desire to behold him. If ye can find such a prince, he shall be my husband and the lord of my heart.' Now, near the queen's palace there lived a poor old hermit in a cave, and that very night the holy Mother of God appeared to him, and told him the King who should be lord of the queen's heart was none other than her Son. Then the hermit went to the palace and presented the queen with a picture of the Virgin and Child; and when St. Catharine saw it her heart was so filled with its holy beauty that she forgot her books, her spheres, and the stars; Plato and Socrates became tedious to her as a twice-told tale, and she kept the sacred picture always before her. Then one night she had a dream:-She met on the top of a high mountain a glorious company of angels, clothed in white, with chaplets of white lilies. She fell on her face before them, but they said, 'Stand up, dear sister Catharine, and be right welcome.' Then they led her by the hand to another company of angels more glorious still, clothed in purple with chaplets of red roses. Before these, again, she fell on her face, dazzled with their glory; but they said, 'Stand up, dear sister Catharine; thee hath the King delighted to honour.' Then they led her by the hand to an inner chamber of the palace of heaven, where sat a queen in state; and the angels said to her, 'Our most gracious sovereign Lady, Empress of heaven, and Mother of the King of Blessedness, be pleased that we present unto you this our sister, whose name is in the Book of Life, beseeching you to accept her as your daughter and handmaid.' Then our blessed Lady rose and smiled graciously, and led St. Catharine to her blessed Son; but he turned from her, and said sadly, 'She is not fair enough for Me.' Then St. Catharine awoke, and in her heart all day echoed the words, 'She is not fair enough for Me;' and she rested not until she became a Christian and was baptized. And then, after some years, the tyrant Maximin put her to cruel tortures, and beheaded her because she was a Christian. But the angels took her body, and laid it in a white marble tomb on the top of Mount Sinai, and the Lord Jesus Christ received her soul, and welcomed her to heaven as his pure and spotless bride; for at last he had made her 'fair enough for him.' And so she has lived ever since in heaven, and is the sister of the angels."

After Eva's legend we began our work again; and in the evening, as we returned with our faggots, it was pleasant to see the goats creeping on before the long shadows which evening began to throw from the forests across the green valleys.

The hymns which Eva sang as we went, seemed quite in tune with everything else. I did not want to understand the words; everything seemed singing in words I could not help feeling,-

"God is good to us all. He gives twigs to the ants, and grain to the birds, and makes the trees their palaces, and teaches them to sing; and will He not care for you?"

Then the boys were so good! They never gave me a moment's anxiety, not even Christopher, but collected faggots twice as large as ours in half the time, and then finished ours, and then performed all kinds of feats in climbing trees and leaping brooks, and brought home countless treasures for Thekla.

These are the days that always make me feel so much better; even a little religious, and as if I could almost love God! It is only when I come back again into the streets, under the shadow of the nine monasteries, and see the monks and priests in dark robes flitting silently about with downcast eyes, that I remember we are not like the birds or even the ants, for they have never sinned, and that, therefore, God cannot care for us and love us as he seems to do the least of his other creatures, until we have become holy, and worked our way through that great wall of sin which keeps us from him and shadows all our life.

Eva does not feel thus. As we returned she laid her basket down on the threshold of St. George's Church, and crossing herself with holy water, went softly up to the high altar, and there she knelt while the lamp burned before the Holy Sacrament. And when I looked at her face as she rose, it was beaming with joy.

"You are happy, Eva, in the church and in the forest," I said to her as we went home; "you seem at home everywhere."

"Is not God everywhere?" she said; "and has He not loved the world?"

"But our sins!" I said.

"Have we not the Saviour?" she said, bowing her head.

"But think how hard people find it to please him," I said. "Think of the pilgrimages, the penances, the indulgences!"

"I do not quite understand all that," she said; "I only quite understand my sentence and the crucifix which tells us the Son of God died for man. That must have been for love, and I love him; and all the rest I am content to leave."

"But to-night as I look at her dear child-like face asleep on the pillow, and see how thin the cheek is which those long lashes shade, and how transparent the little hand on which she rests, a cold fear comes over me lest God should even now be making her spirit "fair enough for him," and so too fair for earth and for us."

April 4.

This afternoon I was quite cheered by seeing Christopher and Pollux bending together eagerly over a book, which they had placed before them on the window sill. It reminded me of Fritz, and I went to see what they were reading.

I found, however, to my dismay, it was no church-book or learned Latin school-book; but, on the contrary, a German book full of woodcuts, which shocked me very much. It was called Reinecke Fuchs, and as far as I could understand made a jest of everything. There were foxes with monk's frocks, and even in cardinal's hats, and wolves in cassocks with shaven crowns. Altogether it seemed to me a very profane and perilous book; but when I took it to our father, to my amazement he seemed as much amused with it as the boys, and said there were evils in the world which were better attacked by jests than by sermons.

April, St Mark's Day.

I have just heard a sermon about despising the world, from a great preacher, one of the Dominican friars, who is going through the land to awaken people to religion.

He spoke especially against money, which he called "delusion, and dross, and worthless dust, and a soul-destroying canker." To monks no doubt it may be so; for what could they do with it? But it is not so to me. Yesterday money filled my heart with one of the purest joys I have ever known, and made me thank God as I hardly ever thanked him before.

The time had come round to pay for some of the printing materials, and we did not know where to turn for the sum we needed. Lately I have been employing my leisure hours in embroidering some fine Venetian silk Aunt Ursula gave me; and not having any copies, I had brought in some fresh leaves and flowers from the forest and tried to imitate them, hoping to sell them.

When I had finished, it was thought pretty, and I carried it to the merchant, who took the father's precious models, long ago.

He has always been kind to us since, and has procured us ink and paper at a cheaper rate than others can buy it.

When I showed him my work he seemed surprised, and instead of showing it to his wife, as I had expected, he said smiling,-

"These things are not for poor honest burghers like me. You know my wife might be fined by the sumptuary laws if she aped the nobility by wearing anything so fine as this. I am going to the Wartburg to speak about a commission I have executed for the Elector-Frederick, and if you like I will take you and your embroidery with me."

I felt dismayed at first at such an idea, but I had on the new dress Fritz gave me a year ago, and I resolved to venture.

It was so many years since I had passed through that massive gateway into the great court-yard; and I thought of St. Elizabeth distributing loaves, perhaps, at that very gate, and inwardly entreated her to make the elector or the ladies of his court propitious to me.

I was left standing what seemed to me a long time in an ante-room. Some very gaily-dressed gentlemen and ladies passed me and looked at me rather scornfully. I thought the courtiers were not much improved since the days when they were so rude to St. Elizabeth.

But at last I was summoned into the Elector's presence. I trembled very much, for I thought-If the servants are so haughty, what will the master be? But he smiled on me quite kindly, and said, "My good child, I like this work of thine; and this merchant tells me thou art a dutiful daughter. I will purchase this at once for one of my sisters, and pay thee at once."

I was so surprised and delighted with his kindness that I cannot remember the exact words of what he said afterwards, but the substance of them was that the elector is building a new church at his new university town of Wittemberg which is to have choicer relics than any church in Germany. And I am engaged to embroider altar-cloths and coverings for the reliquaries. And the sum already paid me nearly covers our present debt.

No! whatever that Dominican preacher might say nothing would ever persuade me that these precious guldens, which I took home yesterday evening with a heart brimming over with joy and thankfulness, which made our father clasp his hands in thanksgiving, and our mother's eyes overflow with happy tears, are mere delusion, or dross, or dust.

Is not money what we make it? Dust in the miser's chests; canker in the proud man's heart; but golden sunbeams, streams of blessing earned by a child's labour and comforting a parent's heart, or lovingly poured from rich men's hands into poor men's homes.

April 20.

Better days seem dawning at last. Dr. Martin, who preaches now at the elector's new university of Wittemberg, must, we think, have spoken to the elector for us, and our father is appointed to superintend the printing-press especially for Latin books, which is to be set up there.

And sweeter even than this, it must be from Fritz that this boon comes to us. Fritz, dear, unselfish Fritz, is the benefactor of the family after all. It must have been he who asked Dr. Martin Luther to speak for us. There, in his lonely cell at Erfurt, he thinks then of us! And he prays for us. He will never forget us. His new name will not alter his heart. And, perhaps, one day, when the novitiate is over, we may see him again. But to see him as no more our Fritz, but Brother Sebastian!-his home, the Augustinian cloister!-his mother, the church!-his sisters, all holy women!-would it not be almost worse than not seeing him at all?

We are all to move to Wittemberg in a month, except Pollux, who is to remain with Cousin Conrad Cotta, to learn to be a merchant.

Christopher begins to help about the printing.

There was another thing also in my visit to the Wartburg, which gives me many a gleam of joy when I think of it. If the elector whose presence I so trembled to enter, proved so much more condescending and accessible than his courtiers,-oh, if it could only be possible that we are making some mistake about God, and that He after all may be more gracious and ready to listen to us than His priests, or even than the saints who wait on Him in His palace in heaven!

* * *

(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares