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Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family By Elizabeth Rundle Charles Characters: 17867

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Atlantis' Story.

Chriemhild and I have always been the least clever of the family, and with much less that is distinctive about us. Indeed, I do not think there is anything particularly characteristic about us, except our being twins. Thekla says we are pure Saxons, and have neither of us anything of the impetuous Czech or Bohemian blood; which may so far be good for me, because Conrad has not a little of the vehement Swiss character in him. Every one always spoke of Chriemhild and me, and thought of us together; and when they called us the beauties of the family, I think they chiefly meant that we looked pleasant together by contrast. Thekla says God sends the flowers into the world as twins; contrasting with each other just as we did,-the dark-eyed violets with the fair primroses; golden gorse, and purple heather. Chriemhild she used sometimes to call sister Primrose, and me sister Violet. Chriemhild, however, is beautiful by herself without me,-so tall, and fair, and placid, and commanding-looking, with her large grey eyes, her calm broad brow, and her erect full figure, which always made her gentle manner seem condescending like a queen's. But I am nothing without Chriemhild; only people used to like to see my small slight figure, and my black eyes and hair, beside hers.

I wonder what Conrad Winkelried's people will think of me in that far-off mountainous Switzerland whither he is to take me! He is sure they will all love me; but how can I tell? Sometimes my heart flutters a great deal to think of leaving home, and Elsè and the dear mother, and all. It is true Chriemhild seemed to find it quite natural when the time came, but she is so different. Every one was sure to be pleased with Chriemhild.

And I am so accustomed to love and kindness. They all know me so well here, and how much less clever I am than the rest, that they all bear with me tenderly. Even Thekla, who is often a little vehement, is always gentle with me, although she may laugh a little sometimes when I say anything more foolish than usual. I am so often making discoveries of things that every one else knew long since. I do not think I am so much afraid on my own account, because I have so little right to expect anything, and always get so much more than I deserve from our dear heavenly Father and from every one. Only on Conrad's account I should like to be a little wiser, because he knows so many languages, and is so very clever. When I spoke to Elsè about it once, she smiled and said she had the same kind of fears once, but if we ask him, God will always give us just the wisdom we want day by day. It is part of the "daily bread," she said. And certainly Elsè is not learned, and yet every one loves her, and she does so much good in a quiet way. But then, although she is not learned, she seems to me wise in little things. And she used to write a Chronicle when she was younger than I am. She told me so, although I have never seen it. I have been thinking that perhaps it is writing the Chronicle that has made her wise, and therefore I intend to try to write one. But as at present I can think of nothing to say of my own, I will begin by copying a narrative Conrad lent me to read a few days since, written by a young Swiss student, a friend of his, who has just come to Wittemberg from St. Gall, where his family live. His name is Johann Kessler, and Conrad thinks him very good and diligent.

"Copy of Johann Kessler's Narrative.

"As we were journeying towards Wittemberg to study the Holy Scriptures, at Jena we encountered a fearful tempest, and after many inquiries in the town for an inn where we might pass the night, we could find none, either by seeking or asking; no one would give us a night's lodging. For it was carnival time, when people have little care for pilgrims and strangers. So we went forth again from the town, to try if we could find a village where we might rest for the night.

"At the gate, however, a respectable-looking man met us, and spoke kindly to us, and asked whither we journeyed so late at night, since in no direction could we reach house or inn where we could find shelter before dark night set in. It was, moreover, a road easy to lose; he counselled us, therefore, to remain all night where we were.

"We answered,-

"'Dear father, we have been at all the inns, and they sent us from one to another; everywhere they refused us lodging; we have, therefore, no choice but to journey further.'

"Then he asked if we had also inquired at the sign of the Black Bear.

"Then we said,-

"'We have not seen it. Friend, where is it?'

"Then he led us a little out of the town. And when we saw the Black Bear, lo, whereas all the other landlords had refused us shelter, the landlord there came himself out at the gate to receive us, bade us welcome, and led us into the room.

"There we found a man sitting alone at the table, and before him lay a little book. He greeted us kindly, asked us to draw near, and to place ourselves by him at the table. For our shoes (may we be excused for writing it) were so covered with mud and dirt, that we were ashamed to enter boldly into the chamber, and had seated ourselves on a little bench in a corner near the door.

"Then he asked us to drink, which we could not refuse. When we saw how cordial and friendly he was, we seated ourselves near him at his table as he had asked us, and ordered wine that we might ask him to drink in return. We thought nothing else but that he was a trooper, as he sat there, according to the custom of the country, in hosen and tunic, without armour, a sword by his side, his right hand on the pommel of his sword, his left grasping its hilt. His eyes were black and deep, flashing and beaming like a star, so that they could not well be looked at.

"Soon he began to ask what was our native country. But he himself replied,-

"'You are Switzers. From what part of Switzerland?"

"We answered,-

"'From St Gall.'

"Then he said,-

"If you are going hence to Wittemberg, as I hear, you will find good fellow-countrymen there, namely, Doctor Hieronymus Schurf, and his brother, Doctor Augustin.'

"We said,-

"'We have letters to them.' And then we inquired,

"'Sir, can you inform us if Martin Luther is now at Wittemberg, or if not, where he is?'

"He said,-

"'I have reliable information that Luther is not now at Wittemberg. He will, however, soon be there. Philip Melancthon is there now; he teaches Greek, and others teach Hebrew. I counsel you earnestly to study both; for both are necessary in order to understand the Holy Scriptures.'

"We said,-

"'God be praised! For if God spare our lives we will not depart till we see and hear that man; since on his account we have undertaken this journey, because we understood that he purposes to abolish the priesthood, together with the mass, as an unfounded worship. For as we have from our youth been destined by our parents to be priests, we would know what kind of instruction he will give us, and on what authority he seeks to effect such an object.'

"After these words, he asked,-

"'Where have you studied hitherto?'

"Answer, 'At Basel.'

"Then he said, 'How goes it at Basel? Is Erasmus of Rotterdam still there, and what is he doing?"

"'Sir,' said we, 'we know not that things are going on there otherwise than well. Also, Erasmus is there, but what he is occupied with is unknown to any one, for he keeps himself very quiet, and in great seclusion.'

"This discourse seemed to us very strange in the trooper; that he should know how to speak of both the Schurfs, of Philip, and Erasmus, and also of the study of Hebrew and Greek.

"Moreover, he now and then used Latin words, so that we deemed he must be more than a common trooper.

"'Friend,' he asked, 'what do they think in Switzerland of Luther.'

"'Sir, there, as elsewhere, there are various opinions. Many cannot enough exalt him, and praise God that He has made His truth plain through him, and laid error bare; many, on the other hand, and among these more especially the clergy, condemn him as a reprobate heretic.'

"Then he said, 'I can easily believe it is the clergy that speak thus.'

"With such conversation we grew quite confidential, so that my companion took up the little book that lay before him, and looked at it. It was a Hebrew Psalter. Then he laid it quickly down again, and the trooper drew it to himself. And my companion said, 'I would give a finger from my hand to understand that language.'

"He answered, 'You will soon comprehend it, if you are diligent; I also desire to understand it better, and practise myself daily in it.'

"Meantime the day declined, and it became quite dark, when the host came to the table.

"When he understood our fervent desire and longing to see Martin Luther, he said,-

"'Good friends, if you had been here two days ago, you would have ha

d your wish, for he sat here at table, and' (pointing with his finger) 'in that place.'

"It vexed and fretted us much that we should have lingered on the way; and we vented our anger on the muddy and wretched roads that had delayed us.

"But we added,-

"'It rejoices us, however, to sit in the house and at the table where he sat.'

"Thereat the host laughed, and went out at the door.

"After a little while, he called me to come to him at the door of the chamber. I was alarmed, fearing I had done something unsuitable, or that I had unwittingly given some offence. But the host said to me,-

"Since I perceive that you so much wish to see and hear Luther,-that is he who is sitting with you.'

"I thought he was jesting, and said,-

"'Ah, Sir Host, you would befool me and my wishes with a false image of Luther!'

"He answered,-

"'It is certainly he. But do not seem as if you knew this.'

"I could not believe it; but I went back into the room, and longed to tell my companion what the host had disclosed to me. At last I turned to him, and whispered softly,-

"'The host has told me that is Luther.'

"He, like me, could not at once believe it, and said,-

"'He said, perhaps, it was Hutten, and thou hast misunderstood him.'

"And because the stranger's bearing and military dress suited Hutten better than Luther, I suffered myself to be persuaded he had said, 'It is Hutten,' since the two names had a somewhat similar sound. What I said further, therefore, was on the supposition that I was conversing with Huldrich ab Hutten, the knight.

"While this was going on, two merchants arrived, who intended also to remain the night; and after they had taken off their outer coats and their spurs, one laid down beside him an unbound book.

"Then he the host had (as I thought) called Martin Luther, asked what the book was.

"'It is Dr. Martin Luther's Exposition of certain Gospels and Epistles, just published. Have you not yet seen it?'

"Said Martin, 'It will soon be sent to me.'

"Then said the host,-

"'Place yourselves at table; we will eat.'

"But we besought him to excuse us, and give us a place apart. But he said,-

"'Good friends, seat yourselves at the table. I will see that you are welcome.'

"When Martin heard that he said,-

"'Come, come, I will settle the score with the host by-and-by.'

"During the meal, Martin said many pious and friendly words, so that the merchants and we were dumb before him, and heeded his discourse far more than our food. Among other things, he complained, with a sigh, how the princes and nobles were gathered at the Diet at Nürnberg on account of God's word, many difficult matters, and the oppression of the German nation, and yet seemed to have no purpose but to bring about better times by means of tourneys, sleigh-rides, and all kinds of vain, courtly pleasures; whereas the fear of God and Christian prayer would accomplish so much more.

"'Yet these,' said he sadly, 'are our Christian princes!'

"'Further, he said, 'We must hope that the evangelical truth will bring forth better fruit in our children and successors-who will never have been poisoned by papal error, but will be planted in the pure truth and word of God-than in their parents, in whom these errors are so deeply rooted that they are hard to eradicate.'

"After this, the merchants gave their opinion, and the elder of them said,-

"'I am a simple, unlearned layman, and have no special understanding of these matters; but as I look at the thing, I say, Luther must either be an angel from heaven or a devil from hell. I would gladly give ten florins to be confessed by him, for I believe he could and would enlighten my conscience.'

"Meantime the host came secretly to us and said,-

"'Martin has paid for your supper.'

"This pleased us much, not on account of the gold or the meal, but because that man had made us his guests.

"After supper, the merchants rose and went into the stable to look after their horses. Meanwhile Martin remained in the room with us, and we thanked him for his kindness and generosity, and ventured to say we took him to be Huldrich ab Hutten. But he said,-

"'I am not he.'

"Thereon the host came, and Martin said,-

"'I have to-night become a nobleman, for these Switzers take me for Huldrich ab Hutten.'

"And then he laughed at the jest, and said,-

"'They take me for Hutten, and you take me for Luther. Soon I shall become Markolfus the clown.'

"And after this he took a tall beer-glass, and said, according to the custom of the country,-

"'Switzers, drink after me a friendly draught to each other's welfare.'

"But as I was about to take the glass from him, he changed it, and ordered, instead, a glass of wine, and said,-

"'Beer is a strange and unwonted beverage to you. Drink the wine.'

"Thereupon he stood up, threw his mantle over his shoulder, and took leave. He offered us his hand, and said,-

"'When you come to Wittemberg, greet Dr. Hieronymus Schurf from me.'

"We said,-

"'Gladly would we do that, but what shall we call you, that he may understand the greeting?'

"He said,-

"'Say nothing more than, He who is coming sends you greeting. He will at once understand the words.'

"Thus he took leave of us, and retired to rest.

"Afterwards the merchants returned into the room, and desired the host to bring them more to drink, whilst they had much talk with him as to who this guest really was.

"The host confessed he took him to be Luther; whereupon they were soon persuaded, and regretted that they had spoken so unbecomingly before him, and said they would rise early on the following morning, before he rode off, and beg him not to be angry with them, or to think evil of them, since they had not known who he was.

"This happened as they wished, and they found him the next morning in the stable.

"But Martin said, 'You said last night at supper you would gladly give ten florins to confess to Luther. When you confess yourselves to him you will know whether I am Martin Luther or not.'

"Further than this he did not declare who he was, but soon afterwards mounted and rode off to Wittemberg.

"On the same day we came to Naumburg, and as we entered a village (it lies under a mountain, and I think the mountain is called Orlamunde, and the village Nasshausen), a stream was flowing through it which was swollen by the rain of the previous day, and had carried away part of the bridge, so that no one could ride over it. In the same village we lodged for the night, and it happened that we again found in the inn the two merchants; so they, for Luther's sake, insisted on making us their guests at this inn.

"On the Saturday after, the day before the first Sunday in Lent, we went to Dr. Hieronymus Schurf, to deliver our letters of introduction. When we were called into the room, lo and behold! there we found the trooper Martin, as before at Jena; and with him were Philip Melancthon, Justus Jonas, Nicolaus Amsdorf, and Dr. Augustin Schurf, who were relating to him what had happened at Wittemberg during his absence. He greeted us, and, laughing, pointed with his finger and said, 'This is Philip Melancthon, of whom I spoke to you.'"

* * *

I have copied this to begin to improve myself, that I may be a better companion for Conrad, and also because in after years I think we shall prize anything which shows how our Martin Luther won the hearts of strangers, and how, when returning to Wittemberg an excommunicated and outlawed man, with all the care of the evangelical doctrine on him, he had a heart at leisure for little acts of kindness and words of faithful counsel.

What a blessing it is for me, who can understand nothing of the "Theologia Teutsch," even in German, and never could have learned Latin like Eva, that Dr. Luther's sermons are so plain to me, great and learned as he is. Chriemhild and I always understood them; and although we could never talk much to others, at night in our bed-room we used to speak to each other about them, and say how very simple religion seemed when he spoke of it,-just to believe in our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and to love him, and to do all we can to make every one around us happier and better. What a blessing for people who are not clever, like Chriemhild and me, to have been born in days when we are taught that religion is faith and love, instead of all of those complicated rules and lofty supernatural virtues which people used to call religion.

And yet they say faith and love and humility are more really hard than all the old penances and good works.

But that must be, I think, to people who have never heard, as we have from Dr. Luther, so much about God to make us love him; or to people who have more to be proud of than Chriemhild and I and so find it more difficult to think little of themselves.

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