E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE YOUNG CARPENTERS OF FREIBERG.
A Tale of the Thirty Years' War.
Translated from the German by
J. Latchmore, Jun.
[Frontispiece: 'She seized the robber unexpectedly by the legs, and tipped him head first into the mighty chest.']
Edinburgh: William Oliphant & Co. 1880.
I. THE MILLER'S WIFE OF ERBISDORF II. THE FAMILY AT HOME III. PRIVATE RIGHTS MUST GIVE PLACE TO PUBLIC NECESSITIES IV. THE ENEMY BEFORE THE TOWN V. THE SOWER OF TARES VI. THE SECOND ASSAULT VII. CONRAD UNDER THE WINDOW-SEAT VIII. ORDINARY INCIDENTS OF A SIEGE IX. DIVERSE HUMAN HEARTS X. WAR OFTEN OPPOSES THE TEACHINGS OF CHRISTIANITY XI. HISTORICAL XII. TREACHERY AND DELIVERANCE
'She seized the robber unexpectedly by the legs, and tipped him head first into the mighty chest.' . . . . . . Frontispiece
Conrad recognized an old comrade, John Hillner.
Promise me that I shall have an honourable burial; and let the lads say, "A good journey to thee, old comrade!"
Nothing but the moustache on the pale face indicated the warlike calling of the man who now addressed Conrad.
THE YOUNG CARPENTERS OF FREIBERG.
THE MILLER'S WIFE OF ERBISDORF.
The ancient and free mountain city of Freiberg lies only about five-and-twenty miles south-west of Dresden, yet has a far more severe climate than the Saxon capital—a fact that may be understood if we remember that the road which leads from Dresden to Freiberg is up hill almost all the way. The Saxon Erzgebirge must not be pictured as a chain of separate mountains, with peaks rising one behind the other and closing in the horizon. Hills and valleys lie mingled, assuming such long, wave-like forms that in some parts of the district it is difficult to fancy oneself in a mountain-land at all. Immediately around Freiberg the landscape takes the form of a wide table-land, which has an upward slope only on the south-west of the city, so that from a short distance but little is seen of the town save the tops of its towers and a confused glimpse of house-roofs. In former days it was the residence of the Duke of Saxony, and before the Thirty Years' War contained 32,000 inhabitants, a number which has now dwindled to 19,000. Its ancient fortifications, which of late years have been rapidly giving place to modern improvements, consisted of a double line of walls, guarded by towers, pierced by strongly-fortified gates, and surrounded by a deep and wide moat. The ramparts were built of quarried stone, which, though much harder than sandstone, was far more difficult to bind together with mortar. In view of this fact, we may well be surprised that a place so weakly fortified was able for two long months to withstand the vehement siege operations of the whole Swedish army—an army so brave and so highly trained in the art of war, that it had subdued many far stronger fortresses. Yet so it was: how the thing came about, and what an important part young Conrad, the carpenter's apprentice, played in these great events, will be found narrated in the following pages.
* * * * * *
On the 1st of November in the year 1642, a carpenter's apprentice, Conrad Schmidt by name, passed out at the Erbis Gate of Freiberg, pushing before him a covered hand-truck. This contained a piece of carpenter's work that always tells its own sad story—a little child's coffin. As the truck with its sorrowful burden jolted along over the rough pavement, the sentry stepped forward from the gate, and asked inquisitively, 'What have you there, youngster, and where are you off to?'
'Only a child's coffin for the mill at Erbisdorf.'
'What! has the plague been gleaning among the little brood down there?'
'The plague!' repeated Conrad, bringing his truck to a stand. 'Well, yes, something like it. Now-a-days the soldiers are the worst plague, and it was one of them that put an end to the miller's little son.'
'What do you mean by that, boy?'
'Why, Master Prieme,' replied the youth, 'are you the only man in Freiberg who has not heard the cruel story?'
'How should I know anything about it?' answered the citizen. 'I only came home from Dresden late last night, and I had to mount guard early this morning. What has happened to the miller's son?'
'The day before yesterday, in the afternoon,' said the lad, 'a soldier came to the mill at Erbisdorf and demanded quarters for himself and a woman that he said was his wife. With the soldiers it is always a word and a blow, so the miller yielded, and by way of putting his guest into a good humour, took him straight down to the cellar and gave him a draught of strong beer. Meantime the miller's wife stayed with the woman, who, as soon as the coast was clear, declared herself to be a soldier in disguise, and threatened her hostess with instant death unless she fetched out all her jewels and valuables on the spot. The poor woman accordingly had to open her great linen chest, in the bottom of which her little store of silver was hidden, and in this the ruffian began to rummage. Just when he had almost emptied it, and was stooping to reach the last articles from the bottom, a happy thought came into the brave woman's mind. She seized the robber unexpectedly by the legs and tipped him head first into the mighty chest; then she slammed down the lid and had the hasp fastened in a second.'
''Pon my word,' laughed the sentry, 'that was a smart stroke of business. How the two-legged mouse must have kicked about inside his trap! And how did things go on after that, my lad?'
'The miller's little son stood by, and his mother, as the quickest way out of the difficulty, told him to run down to the cellar and whisper to his father to come and bind the robber. On his way the poor little fellow met the other villain, who had got rid of his host by some excuse, and was now coming up-stairs to help his comrade. Well, the sight of the boy running towards him made him suspicious, so he stopped him and took him back with him into the mill. When the soldier reached the room where he had left his comrade, he found that the miller's wife had bolted the door, and refused to open it; so he threatened to kill her child, and when the frightened woman persisted in keeping him out, he was as good, or at least as bad, as his word. Then the murderer tried to force his way into the house through the mill-wheel, but the miller's wife set the wheel going, and the fellow'—
'Just so—was flattened like a pancake,' said the sentry. 'She is something like a brave woman!'
'And when they opened the chest they found 'that the robber inside was suffocated,' said Conrad, taking up the handle of his truck again.
'Well, he received the due reward of his deeds,' said Master Prieme gravely. 'But to which side did the two men belong? They must have been either Swedes or Imperialists.'
'They were just soldiers,' said the youth, 'and when you've said that, you've said all. Whether they were Saxons, or Swedes, or Imperialists, it all comes to the same thing. They change about from one master to another, but they are all alike in tormenting the unhappy people.'
'That's all the fault of this dreadful war,' muttered Prieme. 'It has been going on now for over twenty-four years. The soldiers are getting so used to killing people, that they do it even when there are no enemies for them to kill.'
Conrad hurried on his way. He had not yet reached the village of Erbisdorf, when his quick eye caught the glitter of a troop of cavalry coming in the distance. In those days an unarmed person was always afraid to meet soldiers. Conrad, however, fortunately for him, knew what he was to do if he met any troopers on the road. He opened his truck, took out the little coffin, and put it into a shallow dry ditch by the roadside; then wheeling the truck hastily to the edge of the road, got into it, and pulled the lid over himself as he lay. He had not long to wait before the trampling of many horse-hoofs warned him that the troopers were approaching. The men did not take much notice of his truck, but some of the horses were frightened at it. Several of them shied, and their riders urged them on at a rapid trot. The last man alone could not get his horse to pass it. The animal reared and threatened to fall backwards on its rider, who appeared to be in a towering passion. He rode back a short distance, and used all the arts of his horsemanship to reduce his refractory steed to obedience. The man did not spare either oaths, spurring, or blows of his heavy whip, until the horse, still shying but obedient at last, went trembling past the truck. Then the rider turned the animal back once more, and did not rest until he had made it leap over the object of its terror. As it did so, one of its hind hoofs touched the lid of the truck and threw it back. The soldier turned in mid-career, saw the form of the apprentice, drew a pistol from his holster like lightning, and fired at him where he lay. At the report and flash the youth started up, and the bullet passed close by his hand, grazing the skin, and lodged in the side of the truck. Fortunately for him, the report of the pistol had such a startling effect on the already frightened horse, that the rider could no longer restrain it, and rode off at full speed after his comrades, leaving the apprentice to pursue his way to Erbisdorf in peace. On reaching the village, he directed his steps towards the mill, where he was received by a slender, pale little woman, not at all like the miller's wife he expected to see, for he had pictured the heroine of his story as a tall, strong woman, with a loud voice and great muscular arms. He soon found out his mistake, however, for at sight of the sorrowful burden he had brought, she cried out, 'What! must I lay my little Georgie to rest in such a thing as that? Why, my husband need not have sent to Freiberg for it. We could have made a prettier resting-place ourselves for my little son, and'—
'Please have patience,' interrupted the apprentice, 'and do not despise our work before you have examined it. But first, would you be so good as to give me a bit of sopped bread to tie on my hand; it begins to burn and smart pretty badly. Just look, Mistress Miller, there's a Swedish dragoon's bullet in the side of the truck; if you would lend me a chisel or a pair of pincers, I could get it out, and take it home in my pocket.'
While the woman was gone to fetch what he had asked for, Conrad carried the little coffin into the house.
'I know one thing,' he said to the miller's wife when she returned, 'our senior journeyman must be a very smart man; I should think he can almost hear the grass grow. If he had not been, my last hour would have come today. "Conrad Schmidt," he said to me before I started,—"Conrad Schmidt, in these days we must mind what we are about. You will perhaps meet some soldiers on the way to Erbisdorf, and if you do, I will tell you how to escape." If he had not told me what to do, they would have killed me to a certainty. But where is the poor little boy?'
The miller's wife stepped across to a corner of the room and drew back a large linen cloth from a bed, disclosing the body of a fine boy between eight and nine years old. He lay with closed eyes and little hands peacefully folded on his breast, so quiet that any one might have thought it was only sleep.
'We found him with his little hands folded just like that,' said the miller's wife, bursting into tears. 'His soul has gone to heaven, I am sure.'
'Ah! you can see he did not suffer much,' said Conrad softly, 'and that is something to be thankful for. Whether the two soldiers were Imperialists or Swedes, they might have tied the little fellow to a barn-door and practised at him with their pistols, or tortured him in fifty cruel ways, as they have often done to others. My mistress always says it is a happy thing for those who rest peacefully in their quiet graves. But what have you done with the bodies of the two wicked men?'
At this question a sudden change came over the miller's wife. A bright colour rose to her pale face, her eyes sparkled, and her hands clenched themselves tightly, as her trembling lips gave utterance to the words, 'They lie out there, behind the barn, waiting till the executioner comes to bury them.'
In the meantime the room had filled with country people, who had strolled into the mill on hearing that the child's coffin had arrived.
'H'm!' said the young carpenter; 'are you quite sure the dragoons I met will not come here and find that the two murderers were comrades of theirs? If they did, your brave deed might cost you dear.'
A smile was the woman's only reply, but a peasant answered for her: 'Dragoons, did you say, youngster? What countrymen were they?'
'Well,' replied Conrad, 'you can't always tell a bird by its feathers, especially if you don't happen to be a bird fancier. Whether they were Saxons, Imperialists, or Swedes, I do not know. The soldier that tried to kill me spoke good German, and he wore a blue doublet with bright yellow facings.'
'God help us!' cried the peasant. 'They are the Swedes, sure enough; I have known the blue doublets ever since 1639, the year they did so much harm to Erbisdorf, when General Bannier made his attack on Freiberg.'
'But come,' said Conrad, trying to rally his own courage, 'there's plenty of blue cloth and yellow facings in the world besides what is on Swedish uniforms; and as I told you before, that dragoon could swear in downright good German.'
'The Swedes! the Swedes!' was now heard from outside the house. 'The schoolmaster saw them from the top of the church tower.'
'The Swedes are coming!' was the general exclamation as every face turned pale. 'May heaven have mercy on us!' With this cry the frightened people rushed out of the room, leaving the terrified young apprentice and the miller's wife alone together. The latter did not appear to be much disturbed. She quietly counted out to the lad the price of the little coffin, and then turned away to lay her son's body in it. Conrad Schmidt hardly knew what he had better do. First of all he hid the money he had just received in one of his shoes, and then began to consider whether he should leave his hand-truck at the mill or take it back with him to Freiberg. His uncertainty did not last long. What the horse is to a horseman, that his truck is to a carpenter's apprentice. Neither the one nor the other will willingly part from his faithful companion except in great emergencies. Full of inward fears, but without showing any outward signs of panic, the youth set forth on his homeward way, a distance of six or eight miles.
THE FAMILY AT HOME.
Conrad reached the town without any further adventure, and found it in a state of high excitement. The drawbridges before the gates were up, and the city walls and towers swarmed with armed men. 'The Swedes have been seen,' was the general outcry, and the mere sound of the words had been enough to throw the whole place into a ferment. To the number of about six hundred, the Swedes had appeared and opened a parley with the town, demanding supplies, and when—as was only to be expected—their demands were refused, they had drawn off and retired to the neighbourhood of Wilsdruf. As soon as ever Conrad reached home, which he did at last, pushing his truck before him and hobbling along in a very lame fashion over the rough pavement, he took off the shoe he had turned into a money-box.
'I thought so,' he cried. 'I was sure those hard gulden would raise blisters. But I say, mistress, that's a great deal better than coming home without any money at all. I can tell you I have had a narrow escape. Just look here; this scratch on my left hand was done by a Swedish bullet aimed at my heart. I have lots of news to tell you about my journey.'
And then all the people of the house gathered eagerly round to listen while he told his adventures. Many an accomplished story-teller has had less attentive listeners than those who hung on the lips of this humble carpenter's apprentice, transformed into a sort of hero by a sudden and unexpected accident. Out of doors it was already growing dark, as the cold November wind swept past the house, driving a few flakes of snow before it. But in the comfortable livingroom that adjoined the workshop, the little company sat cozily enough round the warm stove, listening eagerly to the lad who had seen the dreadful Swedes, and, wonder of wonders! lived to tell the tale.
'As I lay hidden there in the truck,' said Conrad in conclusion, 'and heard the soldiers coming like the noise of a great hail-storm, I almost gave myself up for lost; and when the cover was dashed back, like a starling falling out of a spout, I thought my last hour was come.'
'That would not have been so very bad,' said the younger journeyman, 'if one only had to suffer death and nothing worse. But these Swedes torture people as the very headsman himself would be ashamed to do. My father died by the dreadful "Swedish Drink," and then they took my eldest brother, and—ah! it's too horrible to talk about.'
'They hang people up by the feet,' said a miner who was present, 'and light fires under them to make them tell where their treasures are hidden. They make their way into the very bowels of the earth, so that the miners themselves are not safe from them. When wicked General Bannier was here three years ago, we hid ourselves from the Swedes, with our wives and children, in the mines. To hinder them from following us, we lighted fires at the bottom of the shafts, and put all kinds of pungent things in them, that sent up a thick, stifling smoke through every cranny and crevice. What followed? While I was sitting by the fire putting on more fuel,—I had sent my wife and children farther into the mine to be out of the reek,—something suddenly came plunging down through the smoke-cloud, and I was astounded to see my dog, this very Turk here, drop upon me with his four legs all tied together and fastened to a cord. His tongue was hanging out, and only a faint quiver or two told me he was not quite dead. What did the cruel Swedes do that for? They wanted to try whether the smoke was so bad that human beings would die coming through it, and they let my dog down first to see.'
'Well, and what happened after that, neighbour Roller?' asked the carpenter's young widow, as the speaker paused.
'You must excuse me for a minute or two, neighbours,' replied Roller. 'You know we miners are often rather short of breath.' While he was silent all sat waiting.
'That Turk did not die,' he went on at last, 'you can all see for yourselves, for here he is, and in very good company too. The animal happily came down just far enough for me to cut him loose from the cord. By way of encouraging his tormentors to come down after him, I threw my mining leather, my shoes, and even my miner's coat, on to the fire, and they sent up such a pother of smoke that the Swedes gave it up as a bad job, for that time at all events. I am only a poor miner, but I never repented giving up my mining leather, my shoes, and my coat, to save that dog's life.'
'Come to me, Conrad, my son,' said a gentle woman's voice. 'Give me your hand, and let me feel sure that I have you still, and that you have really and truly escaped from the dreadful Swedes.'
The apprentice drew near to the speaker, who occupied the place of honour in the armchair, and the upper part of whose face was hidden by a large green shade. As he gave his right hand to his blind mother, a little girl, who sat on a stool at the woman's feet, gently took the left hand that the Swedish bullet had wounded.
'Does it hurt, poor Conrad?' asked the child earnestly.
'No, little Dollie,' replied the youth. 'The scratch on my hand isn't nearly so bad as the blisters the hard gulden have made on my feet.'
'Ah!' cried Dollie, with a shudder; 'but how it would have hurt you if the Swedes had caught you!'
'Dollie is quite right,' said the mistress of the house. 'My late husband used to say the Swedes came from the same place where the Turks and the Tartars live, and that that was why they were so cruel.'
The elder journeyman, a young man who had been sitting by with his head resting on his hand, apparently uninterested in what was passing, at this point broke into the conversation rather suddenly. 'Have the Imperialists been one bit less cruel than the Swedes? Have they not tortured people too?'
'It is perfectly true,' said the miner. 'The Swedes and the Imperialists are both tarred with the same brush. For plundering, murdering, and burning, there is not a pin to choose between them.'
'And that,' said the elder journeyman, 'is just because this long, long war has given us a new sort of men—men in whom desperate greediness takes the place of a heart, and whose conscience has been replaced by an empty purse, to fill which is their one object in life. Their general is their god, and they follow him or desert him just according as he leads them to victory and plunder, or to defeat. They march from country to country, selling their services to whichever side they think will give them the richest booty. Swedes! I can assure you, there is not a Swede left in the Swedish army, or, at all events, very few. The men the great Gustavus Adolphus brought over the Baltic Sea are gone long ago, and those who have taken their places will sell both soul and body any day to the highest bidder.'
'Yes,' interrupted the apprentice, 'that's just what I say. The Swedes are no more Swedes than I am; else how could I have understood the oaths of the Swedish dragoon that fired at me to-day? He swore in good round German, and it was one of the most wonderful oaths I ever heard. He said'—
The journeyman sprang up hastily, and put his hand before the lad's mouth. 'Silence!' he cried earnestly. 'Do not repeat the oath you heard to any one. When a man has once heard a wicked thing, it sticks in his memory for years. It is the good things we find so hard to remember. But to return to the Swedes. Their anger against us is not altogether without excuse. After our Elector had actually begged for an alliance with them, to protect him against the Emperor's tyranny,—after Gustavus Adolphus had fought for us Saxons, bled for us, won battles for us,—the Elector deserted his new ally as suddenly as he had joined him, just because fortune frowned on him in one or two battles. He did more than desert him; he threw himself again into the arms of the Emperor, whom he had good reason to know for his worst enemy. For this ingratitude'—
'Come, come, young fellow!' cried the miner, frowning. 'I shall have to serve you as you did the boy just now. What! You take on yourself to blame our illustrious Elector and his court! Pray, do you get better lessons in statesmanship over the glue-pot and vice than what our Elector and his princely council can teach you? You are forgetting that you live in the faithful mountain city of Freiberg—a city that is proud of being loyal to its prince without any grumbling or asking why and wherefore. "Fear God! honour the king! do right and fear no man!" That's what the Bible says.'
'I will be prudent and hold my peace,' said the young journeyman quietly. 'Yet even over the glue-pot and vice thoughts come to a man that cannot easily be got rid of.'
There followed a pause in the conversation, which lasted until Dollie, the miner's little daughter, turned to the apprentice with the question, 'Were the Swedes so very ugly? Had they got horns on their heads, or only one eye each, like the giants in the "Seven-leagued Boots," who used to eat little boys and girls? And oh, perhaps they had dreadful, great mouths, with rows of sharp teeth in them!'
In spite of their terrors, none of those present could restrain their laughter at the child's artless fears.
'I only had one look at the Swede as he leaped his horse over me,' said Conrad; 'and he looked just like anybody else, only that he had black hair and a fierce red moustache, just like'—and he broke off abruptly, and stared at the elder journeyman, then went on: 'Yes, such a long moustache that he could have tied it in a knot behind his head.'
'What!' stammered the journeyman, turning pale; 'black hair and a red moustache?'
'Yes,' replied Conrad; 'it looked so uncommonly odd, that it was the only thing I noticed about him.'
The journeyman sat silent for the rest of the evening. When the company had dispersed, he turned to the lad and said: 'My boy, now tell me the oath you heard the—the Swede use.'
Conrad looked at his companion in astonishment, and saw signs of some deep emotion on his face. 'But,' he objected, 'only a little while ago you said I was not to let any one hear the oath, and now'—
'You are quite right,' replied the journeyman. 'Hold fast by what I told you. But if you write down the words on this piece of paper for me it will hurt no one. I have a good reason for wanting to see them. Can you write?'
'I should just think I could,' said Conrad, half offended by the question. He wrote the words down, and noticed that as soon as the journeyman had read them he became even paler than before, and muttered something between his set teeth.
PRIVATE RIGHTS MUST GIVE PLACE TO PUBLIC NECESSITIES.
On the 9th of November 1642, the forest of Freiberg presented a scene of the busiest activity. Several hundred men were at work, and many a great pine and fir tree bowed its lofty head beneath the stroke of axe and saw, to fall at last crashing to earth. The wood-cutters from the mines vied with those from the city—joiners, carpenters, wheelwrights, and coopers—in thinning the dense masses of beautiful forest trees as rapidly as possible. Burghers and others, aided by the gaunt-looking mining people, with earth-stained clothes and red night-caps on their heads, were loading the long heavy trunks upon drays that stood in readiness, and driving them off with all speed towards the town. The wind blew sharp and cool, yet no one complained of the cold; on the contrary, the large drops that tell of honest toil stood out on many a swarthy brow. The household of Mistress Bluethgen, the carpenter's young widow, whose acquaintance we made in the last chapter, were all among the workers.
'All this looks as if the Swedes were before the gates of Freiberg now,' said Rudorf, the younger journeyman; 'whereas the fact is, there isn't a sign to be seen of them anywhere. There does not seem to me to be any such tremendous hurry, that we can't even stop to have our dinners.'
'"Make hay while the sun shines,"' said Hillner, the elder journeyman. 'I can tell you Burgomaster Richzenhayn could not have done a wiser and better thing than to have plenty of wood brought in. It is as needful for the town as bread—indeed it is almost more needful. If it is not all wanted for palisadoes, chevaux-de-frise, covered ways, and galleries, we can always find a use for it in the stoves, and comfort ourselves with the warmth it will give us.'
'Hallo, you boy!' cried Rudorf, suddenly turning to Conrad the apprentice; 'look yonder how your step-father is enjoying his bread and bacon. Only see, too, what a fat bottle of beer he has got standing by him! Step across to him and ask him to give you a share of his good things, and to lend us his bottle for a minute or two.'
Conrad, who was busy sharpening a saw, looked up and answered with a sigh: 'I am glad enough to be out of his sight. If I went to him I should only get a sound thrashing instead of bread and bacon.'
The two journeymen were both watching Conrad's step-father, the town servant Juechziger. As the lad spoke they saw the man leave his table, the stump of a fallen tree, and go across to a little girl who was busy picking up the scattered chips that lay about, and storing them in her long basket.
'You little thief!' he shouted angrily, 'I'll teach you to come here stealing wood.' He boxed the child's ears soundly, tore her basket off her back, emptied it, and crushed it under his foot.'
The little one began to cry, not so much on account of the blows she had received, as over her spoiled basket.
'What a burning shame!' said Conrad. 'It's our Dollie. Poor child, just look how she trembles!'
Without saying a word, Hillner, the senior journeyman, left his work. With his saw in his left hand, and his right fist tightly clenched, he strode up to the town servant, his angry face showing pretty plainly what was coming. As soon as he reached the offender, his hand unclenched to grasp Juechziger by the collar. 'How dare you touch the child and destroy her basket?' he said, as he shook the astonished man roughly. 'Will you pay for that basket on the spot, hey?'
It must not be forgotten that a town servant often thinks himself a far greater man than even a town councillor. The bold and unexpected attack at first took Juechziger by surprise, but when he had had time to take a good look at his assailant, and to see by his blue apron and general appearance that he was only a journeyman carpenter, all his rage came back at a bound, and he in his turn began to play the part of the offended person. He poured out a torrent of abuse on the journeyman, at the same time trying to collar the young man and pay him out in kind. By way of making up for the journeyman's superior strength, Juechziger brought his official position into play, and called on the bystanders to come to his assistance. This step, however, only made matters worse for him. The deed he had been seen to do, the weeping child, the ruined basket, and the young carpenter's indignant story, all helped to rouse the popular anger against the offending town servant.
'What harm had the child done to you?' cried one. 'Are the sticks to lie here and rot, or be a welcome booty for the Swedes? Pray, how much could a child like that carry away? Does not the whole forest belong to us Freibergers, and shall not our own children pick up a basketful of sticks while we are slaving here without pay? Give the fellow a sound drubbing! Down with him, if he does not pay for the basket straight away!'
At these words fifty strong arms were raised threateningly, and Juechziger saw that if he meant to save his skin it would be prudent to fetch out his purse and pay for the basket without loss of time.
'And a groschen for each of the cuffs he gave her,' shouted a voice from the crowd, and stingy Juechziger had to obey this order too, which he did with a very bad grace. Dollie's tears dried up with wonderful quickness when she saw the shining silver really lying on her little palm, and she skipped merrily away to the town without either basket or wood.
While Hillner and Rudorf went quietly back to their work, Juechziger kept a watchful eye on the former. As the tiger glares at his victim, but awaits impatiently the moment when he may safely spring upon it, so did the town servant promise himself to take a terrible revenge on the journeyman. As soon as the day's work was over, and the workers had reached the Peter Gate on their return home, he would have Hillner arrested by the guard and marched straight off to prison.
An unexpected incident hindered, for the time at all events, the execution of this promising scheme. The activity of the citizens in preparing to give the enemy a warm reception had by no means been confined to their day's work in the forest. Such buildings without the walls as had escaped in General Bannier's attack were now doomed to destruction. Thus it came about that the returning wood-cutters found a large number of people outside the Peter Gate, fetching the furniture out of their houses, and moving all their goods and chattels into the town as quickly as possible.
Two houses adjoining one another—one a handsome building and the other of humbler appearance—had already been stripped of windows, doors, roofing, and rafters, and busy hands were now at work tearing down the walls.
When Juechziger so unmercifully destroyed Dollie's basket, he did not suspect that at that very moment the same fate was overtaking his wife's inheritance. For a moment the sight he now saw almost paralyzed him; then recovering his presence of mind, he hastened towards the scene of destruction, forgetful of all his plans for revenge.
But his angry protestations were of no avail; even his prayers were all in vain, which seemed to him very hard. The labourers went quietly and steadily on with their work, as though it were a thing that had to be done; and when Juechziger laid his hand on one and another of them, with the idea of hindering them by force, he soon found himself repulsed in no very gentle fashion. While he stood in front of his little house wringing his hands, the very picture of misery and irresolution, a well-dressed man, of respectable appearance though he was covered with dust and bits, came out of the door of the larger mansion.
'Oh, my dear neighbour Loewe!' cried Juechziger, 'advise me, stand by me, help me to send this rabble about their business! I only married the old blind woman because she owned this house, and now that there's no getting out of the bargain they are tearing my nest to pieces before my very eyes. Come, my dear neighbour, let us hasten at once to the burgomaster. You are a man of influence in the city, and your request added to mine will, even now, soon put a stop to this shocking business.'
'Our trouble would be all in vain,' replied Lowe quietly. 'These buildings are being pulled down by order of the burgomaster himself and of the town council; and quite right too, although I suffer a serious loss by it. "Private rights must always give place to public necessities." I was the first man to lay hands on my own house, and that makes it less hard for me to bear.'
In his heart Juechziger cursed the good man for a fool, and turned away from him in a rage. 'If only Richzenhayn were not the acting burgomaster,' he said to himself. 'If Herr Jonas Schoenleben were only at the head of affairs, he would be certain to listen to me. The cowardly blockheads! There is not a single Swedish plume to be seen round the whole horizon, and yet they must needs begin pulling down houses. But I will have ample compensation, or the whole town shall smart for it.'
'My poor, poor mother,' thought Conrad sorrowfully, as he watched the destruction of her little property. 'Father will make her pay dearly for all this that he is muttering and grumbling about there. Oh, whatever will become of her?'
Juechziger lived with his wife in the town, and the elder men gave Conrad leave to run on ahead, that he might have time to tell his mother about the destruction of her house, and prepare her for the outburst of passion she might expect when her husband reached home.
The citizens of Freiberg were preparing at all points for the expected siege. All the corn, hay, and straw stored at their farms in readiness for the coming winter was brought into the city, and every care was taken betimes that there should be no danger of famine; for experience teaches that more strongholds have been conquered by hunger than by hard fighting. The fear that the Swedes inspired in the city increased when it became known that Leipzig and Pleissenburg had fallen into their hands on November 28, and that Silberstadt was their next destination. It was a fortunate circumstance that armies in those days could not move so quickly as they can now. Thanks to this fact, Freiberg had time to make all due preparation for the enemy's reception. John George II., 'the father of his people,' was not remiss in caring for the mountain city. He sent Lieutenant-Colonel George Hermann von Schweinitz, a brave and experienced commander, with three companies of infantry and one of dragoons, to conduct the defence. These troops mustered only two hundred and ninety men all told; yet this little band, aided by the citizens, gloriously held at bay for two long months an entire Swedish army of eight brigades, with a hundred and nine pieces of artillery.
Hillner, the journeyman carpenter, was still a free man; for Juechziger had determined to find some other way of satisfying his thirst for vengeance, and had therefore laid aside his schemes till a more convenient season. In spite of the dark and doubtful future, busy life reigned in the workshop of the carpenter's widow, as it re-echoed once again to the din of tools wielded by the two journeymen and the apprentice. One day—it was the 4th of December in the memorable year 1642—the hollow roll of drums was heard coming down the street, and the senior journeyman, laying his plane on the bench, crossed the workshop to look out at the window facing the street. Having done so, he at once left the workroom and went out to the street door, followed by his two comrades, to watch the entrance of the regular soldiers, who were just marching into the town.
There were, as has already been said, only two hundred and ninety men, yet the mere sight of them awakened joyful and reassuring feelings in the breasts of all who saw them. The roll of the drums in itself had an inspiriting effect. As the townspeople gazed at the long, level lines, and heard the heavy, regular tramp beneath which the very pavement seemed to shake; as they saw each bronzed face with its look of stedfastness and assured courage, the open iron helmet on the head, the breastplate covered by a military coat reaching to the knees and allowing the body free play from the hips, the halberd grasped in the strong right hand, and the shield in the left, bearing the Saxon coat-of-arms,—as these various points were noted and remarked on, each moment brought fresh courage to hearts that had been almost ready to despond. In all ages there have been jealousies and strife between the military and the respectable burgher class, and Freiberg was no exception to this rule. But to-day the soldiers were welcomed with loud and joyful shouts, which they, fully conscious of their own value, acknowledged by friendly nods as they passed along the streets.
Conrad Schmidt, standing beside the miner's little daughter Dollie, watched the warlike procession with the curious eyes of youth. From time to time he stole a glance at the senior journeyman, observing his movements with surprise and some amusement. The young man had taken off his blue apron, and held it rolled up in his left hand, while his right grasped the carpenter's square, exactly as the soldiers held their halberds. His whole bearing was changed; he had become positively warlike; his eyes flashed, and his feet rose and fell in measured time, as though he could hardly restrain himself from marching off at the sound of the drum. Conrad laughed and shook his head merrily, but kept back a speech he had been on the point of making when he saw the change in his old friend.
'I was right after all,' he said to himself. 'If he were just to let his beard grow, he would be exactly like'— His sentence was left unfinished, for at this moment he heard his mistress' voice reproving them for neglecting their duty, and they all hastened back into the workshop.
The commandant made it his first business to inspect the condition of the fortifications, strengthening them wherever that was possible, and obstructing the approaches in every way that could offer impediments to an enemy's successful advance. The approach of the foe was plainly indicated by the number of country people who now poured steadily into the town, seeking shelter behind the city walls for their household goods, their wives, children, and cattle. Long trains of waggons and droves of animals, accompanied by men, and beasts of burden bearing heavy loads, were making their way towards the gates of Freiberg; and the city authorities thought themselves bound in honour not to repulse these suppliants for shelter, but rather to make their town what every such town ought to be in time of war, a true city of refuge for all needy ones. Moreover, many strong arms would be wanted to defend the widespreading ramparts; and the former siege by General Bannier had proved how well the country people could fight in defence of their liberties.
'Hallo! ho there!' shouted a powerful voice one afternoon late in December, beneath the window of Mistress Bluethgen, the carpenter's widow, and the brawny hand of a burly countryman knocked so vigorously on the window itself that the glass shivered under the blow. 'Can't you make room in your house for a small family? I have always been a regular customer of yours, and many is the gulden I have spent with you.'
At this abrupt demand, journeymen and apprentice hastened to the window. Six asses, each laden with a heavy sack of flour, stood before the door of the house lazily turning their long ears backward and forward, as though they felt quite sure of finding comfortable quarters there. Farther down the street was a heavily-loaded waggon with two powerful brown horses. In the waggon, almost buried among beds and other household gear, sat a woman with a baby in her arms. Four cows, in charge of a servant-maid, were lowing behind the waggon, and a dozen sheep stood bleating round them. Mistress Bluethgen did not take many seconds to settle with her would-be lodger, whose calling in life was shown by the floury state of his clothes.
'That is the miller from Erbisdorf,' said Conrad, and at a sign from his mistress hastened to open the yard gates, that the fugitives might put their various possessions under cover. Willing hands were soon at work unloading and stowing away the goods, and before long the miller, leaving his wife established in her new home, set off with his waggon to return to Erbisdorf and fetch the rest of his possessions.
'Praise be to God!' cried Mistress Bluethgen joyfully. 'We shall not starve now, even if the Swedes do come. God grant they may neither take the town, nor set it on fire over our heads with their shells.'
'We must all do our best to prevent it,' said Hillner boldly. 'God gave us strong arms and brave hearts for that very purpose.'
 A small German coin.
THE ENEMY BEFORE THE TOWN.
The tower of St. Peter's Church rises high into the air above all the other buildings of Freiberg. In those early days church-towers were too often used for purposes with which religion had but little to do. Grim cannon sometimes stood there, not to fire harmless salutes on days of public rejoicing, but more often to be loaded with deadly missiles and fired at an enemy. Thus it happened that one of these instruments of death had been planted in the highest chamber of the St. Peter's Tower at Freiberg. Round this cannon, on December 27, 1642, stood Burgomaster Jonas Schoenleben and several others, among whom were Hillner the journeyman, and the town servant Juechziger. Winter had come in all its might, and the cold, particularly up here in the windy tower, was very severe, while snow lay deep over all the surrounding landscape. The eyes of those present were intently gazing beyond the town, to where, on the hill above the Hospital Church, many cavalry soldiers could be seen moving about and beginning to take up their positions. There had been a good deal of doubt expressed in the town as to whether the Swedish commander really meant to undertake a siege up there among the mountains at such an inclement season, with snow lying thickly on the frozen ground. The appearance of these horsemen and their business-like movements seemed to set such doubts at rest once for all.
'Respected Herr Burgomaster,' began Juechziger, 'in my humble opinion those soldiers are not Swedes at all, but Imperialists who have reached us from Bohemia before the enemy had time to come up. I should think Marshal Piccolomini has sent them to frighten the Swedes into leaving the city alone.'
'What we ardently wish we soon believe,' and Juechziger's speech found favour with the Burgomaster no less than with his other hearers. Hillner alone said respectfully but firmly, 'Herr Burgomaster, they are Swedes beyond the possibility of doubt. I know them well; they are Diedemann's dragoons.'
'And how may you happen to know that, young man?' asked Schoenleben gloomily.
'Because—well, in fact, because I once served among the Swedes myself,' replied Hillner.
'What!' cried Schoenleben in astonishment; 'you a Swede, and here in Freiberg!'
'I crave your pardon, Herr Burgomaster,' returned Hillner. 'By this time very few in the Swedish army are really Swedes at all; they are men gathered in from all nations—not a few of them from Saxony itself. Many a citizen and countryman too has been driven by starvation to take up the hard life of a soldier just to get the means of keeping body and soul together. Others have been dragged by force into the Swedish ranks, as I was. I only served one year, the year in which General Bannier laid siege to Freiberg. I was wounded in the course of that siege, taken prisoner, and brought into the city, and being recognised for a Saxon born and bred, I was allowed to return to my trade. I am just about to become a master carpenter, and have already applied to be enrolled among the citizens.'
'John Hillner of Struppen, near Pirna. Might I entreat your worship's gracious influence on my behalf?'
'I am not yet acting-Burgomaster,' replied Schoenleben rather shortly. 'You must make your application to my brother in office, Burgomaster Richzenhayn.'
'But your worship will be in office in two or three days,' persisted Hillner, in a tone of entreaty. 'And when you are so, let me beg you kindly to remember my request.'
'I'll take good care to see all about that,' muttered Juechziger to himself. 'And thank you, Master Shavings, for giving me a handle to catch hold of you by.'
Hillner's practised eye had not deceived him. The cavalry, between seven and eight hundred in number, proved to belong to the enemy, and sharply attacking the Saxon dragoons sent out to observe them, compelled them to retire within the fortifications. Upon this the commandant at once made all necessary preparations for defending the town. Two companies of infantry, under Captain von Arnim, had charge of the Peter Gate; Major Mueffel, with his own men and some others, mounted guard at the Erbis and Donat Gates; Captain Badehorn, with the City Guard, garrisoned the Electoral Castle and the Kreuz Gate, together with the works and space that lay between. The remaining citizens were told off to defend the posterns and walls, in which task they were assisted by companies of country-people and journeymen of the various city guilds armed in all haste. Some of these auxiliaries also waited, drawn up in their ranks before the town hall, ready to march at a moment's notice to any specially threatened point. To the brave and faithful miners were assigned the most dangerous duties of all, such as extinguishing the fires caused by shells, repairing the defences wherever the enemy might destroy them, counter-working such mines as should be directed against the town, and making sorties to destroy the enemy's trenches and siege-works. When all the inhabitants capable of bearing arms had been thus told off to their several duties, the old men, women, and children were requested to observe the appointed hours for prayer, and ask help from the Almighty in the city's time of need.
Marshal Torstenson appeared before Freiberg on December 29. He at once took possession of the Hospital Church and a mansion near it, both of these buildings lying at some little distance outside the Peter Gate; here he planted a battery of artillery, the guns of which were levelled at the St. Peter's Tower. Before commencing hostilities, however, the Swedish marshal sent a trumpeter to the town to inquire whether the commandant intended to defend the place, what was his name, and whether he knew him, Torstenson. The intrepid commandant returned for answer that his name was George Hermann von Schweinitz, and that he hoped the marshal would spend no more time in asking questions, but set at once to work, when he trusted to find him a right valiant soldier.
On the same day an extraordinary surprise befell Conrad Schmidt. He was setting things straight in the workshop, which now stood silent and deserted, when he heard heavy footsteps approaching, and behold, in marched an armed man whom he seemed to know and yet not to know. The visitor wore a broad cocked hat with a little bunch of feathers at the side, and a short tunic of green cloth, the collar and edges of which were thickly laced with gold brocade wherever the broad sword-belt girt round his body permitted them to be seen. From left shoulder to right hip hung the bandolier or cartridge-belt, which was adorned with many golden tufts, and partly hid the lion of the Freiberg city arms embroidered on his breast. Tight breeches of green cloth reached to the ankles, where they were met by high shoes slashed on the inner side, and fitting much more neatly to the foot than do the shoes worn in the present day. A long gun with a large old-fashioned German lock, and a curved sabre, completed the equipment of the soldier, in whom Conrad recognised first a member of the city guard known as the 'Defensioners,' and then his old comrade, John Hillner.
'Do I look better now,' asked the newly-fledged soldier, 'than in my blue apron and coloured jerkin, in the days when I handled the plane and square?'
'Whoever could have guessed,' cried Conrad, heedless of the question, 'that you would be made a Defensioner! But are you a citizen, and do you know your drill? The Defensioners never admit a man unless he is a citizen and knows his exercises.'
'I know my drill all right enough,' replied John, 'and I daresay I shall get my certificate of citizenship. Your own eyes can tell you whether I am a Defensioner or not.'
'And you have got a beard coming too,' said Conrad, laughing. 'It's only a little one yet, but anybody can see that it is a beard. Hallo! Why, I declare you look uncommonly like that Swede who shot'—
Hillner's face darkened suddenly, as he interrupted Conrad with the abrupt question, 'Is the mistress in the house?'
'Here she comes,' said Conrad, pointing to the living-room door, through which the young widow was just entering the workshop. What wonders a uniform can work! Mistress Bluethgen coloured with pleasure when she saw her foreman in his new dress, asked how he was in very friendly tones, and sent the apprentice to fetch some refreshments for him.
On his way to the cellar Conrad said to himself: 'So at last he has let his beard grow, and he always used to shave it all off and hide every scrap of the hair. Bah! I knew long enough ago that it was as red as the beard of that ugly Swede who tried to shoot me. It's an uncommonly odd thing; coal-black hair and a red beard!'
When the lad reached the living-room again, he found the entire household, including the miller and his wife, with little Dollie and her father, gathered round the gaily dressed young guardsman.
'How do matters look as to the Swedes?' asked the miller.
'The marshal has sent a messenger to ask our commandant a question or two, and has had his answer.'
'And what were the questions and answers?'
The roar of cannon followed close on the words, and the women and children huddled together in alarm.
'You may give a pretty good guess by that what they were,' replied Hillner. 'That's Marshal Torstenson's way of telling us how he likes his answer.'
The thunder of the guns was heard again. While all were gazing in the direction whence the reports seemed to come, they saw a flash issue from the side of St. Peter's Tower, followed in a few seconds by a loud report.
'There you have question and answer again,' said Hillner. This exchange of shots had not gone on for very long, however, before the fire of the Swedes destroyed the topmost parapet of the tower. The gun planted there was silenced, and had to be moved down to a lower chamber. By way of covering this movement, the garrison opened a heavy fire with cannon and double arquebuses on the Swedes, who had ventured rather nearer to the town than was quite prudent.
'Now I must be off,' said John suddenly. 'The game has begun, and I must go and take my share in it. May God keep you all! Good-bye!'
As he hastened away the assembled household watched his retreating figure with very various feelings.
The next day, December 31, in spite of the snow and the heavy fire of the garrison, the Swedes opened their entrenchments before the Peter Gate, and planted three mortars there, which threw great stones, shells, and hundred-and-fifty pound shot into the town.
Thus closed the old year 1642, and the new year was not destined to open upon brighter or more joyful prospects.
THE SOWER OF TARES.
The 1st of January, 1643, had hardly dawned, when the town servant Juechziger presented himself before the new acting-Burgomaster, Herr Jonas Schoenleben.
'Respected Herr Burgomaster,' he began humbly, 'permit the most unworthy of all your servants to be first in wishing you a happy new year, and congratulating you on the honour you have now attained. The new year promises to be a very hard one, and your new office will be harder still. I thank God that in these difficult times we are so happy as to have your worship for our Burgomaster.'
'I am obliged to you, Juechziger,' replied Schoenleben feelingly. 'I am obliged to you for all your kind wishes. Yes, these are indeed hard times in which I undertake the management of public business. The care of more than sixty thousand souls is laid on me at a time when even a Solomon would have had need of all his wisdom. This thought has been much in my mind, and last night I followed the wise king's example,—I commended myself earnestly to God, praying Him to teach me the right, and then to give me strength and courage to do it.'
'To maintain the right with strength and courage against all comers, against friends as well as foes,' said Juechziger. 'For, alas! how many are there who would be only too glad to interfere with your worship's rights as Burgomaster, and put all your wise intentions aside to carry out their own selfish schemes,—men who would be only too glad, in a word, to leave you the mere name of acting-Burgomaster, and nothing more. I am quite sure it is your worship's kindly heart that has made you give ear to them until misfortune is hanging over the town, and the citizens and the rest are all bemoaning themselves, while your worship's false friends raise their heads like snakes, as they are, to sting you the moment your worship's back is turned.'
Schoenleben stood silent, gazing thoughtfully on the ground.
'Did either your worship or any of our other worthy magistrates give orders for every armed journeyman to receive a gulden a week and two pounds of bread a day?' continued Juechziger in an injured tone; 'or that on this very New Year's Day, eight hundred Freiberg citizens should tear up the pavement in the streets of their own city to protect the houses from the Swedish cannon? Do you know, respected Herr Burgomaster, that that young Swedish turncoat who was so impudent to you in the St. Peter's Tower, and demanded to be made a citizen, has been admitted by the commandant into the City Guard, contrary to all custom and right? Who will guarantee that the pretended Saxon is not really a spy, plotting to betray the city into the hands of the Swedes the first chance he gets?'
'Is this really so?' asked Schoenleben with displeasure.
'If you doubt my word, your worship can easily see for yourself,' replied Juechziger. 'The fellow struts about the streets every day in his Defensioner's uniform, until he nearly runs himself off his legs.'
'Tell Badehorn, the captain of the City Guard, to meet me here in an hour's time,' said Schoenleben angrily; 'and bid him be ready to explain why he has admitted a stranger among his men in this irregular way.'
'The soldier,' continued Juechziger, 'risks nothing in war but just his life. The citizen risks a great deal more, for he has a wife and children, hearth and home. When a town is taken, the soldiers are either made prisoners of war or allowed to march out unhurt; it is into the citizen's house that the enemy comes, to ill-use his wife, children, and servants. These Swedes now are pressing the siege of our town so hard that we cannot possibly hold out for long. They say that even if Torstenson offers us fair terms, the commandant means to refuse them without even asking your worship anything about it, and so to give the town up to be stormed and pillaged. Now I, in my humble way, should have thought your worship's voice ought to count for something in this matter. Your worship knows what is for the good of the town a great deal better than a soldier of fortune that has only been here a few weeks.'
The Burgomaster made no reply. His thoughtful air, however, as he stood absently drumming on the window-pane, showed that the mischief-maker had not spoken in vain. By way of striking while the iron was hot, Juechziger continued: 'As I was on my way to your worship's house this morning, I saw the Herr Burgomaster Richzenhayn going to call on the commandant, no doubt meaning to offer him a new year's greeting. Are you going to do the same, most noble sir, or don't you think a Burgomaster of the free city of Freiberg—which, with refugees, now counts over sixty thousand souls—is at least as good a man as the commander of two hundred and ninety soldiers?'
Schoenleben clasped his hands behind his back, and paced slowly and thoughtfully up and down his room.
If any reader mentally charges the author with exaggeration here, he does him an injustice. The writer has had many opportunities of knowing officials, both of high and low degree, who were, quite unconsciously to themselves, tools in the hands of their servants, the latter being permitted a freedom of speech that would never have been tolerated in equals. Such servants have always had the knack of making themselves indispensable, while preserving an outward appearance of the deepest humility; and thus it has often come to pass that a lord has been made to discharge a shaft aimed by his humble vassal.
When Juechziger's crafty eye saw that the arrow he had thus been pointing was, so to speak, ready to be loosed from the bow, he adroitly changed the subject of conversation to something that lay much nearer his heart.
'You are aware, respected Herr Burgomaster,' he began again in a wheedling tone, 'that when I entered on my office I married the widow of Schmidt, my predecessor. I did it partly out of compassion for the poor woman, and partly to save the town the expense of keeping her and her son, who is now a boy of fourteen years old. My wife, a woman five years older than myself, all at once went stone blind, so that now I am forced to have a servant to wait on her. I had the good fortune to apprentice the boy to Mistress Bluethgen, the carpenter's widow, but his mother has petted and pampered him until he is a good-for-nothing, lazy young rascal. And now that the workshops are closed and the craftsmen and journeymen all take their turn at military duty, the boy's mistress threatens to send him home and put me to the expense of keeping him,—me that scarcely knows which way to turn for bread to feed my wife and her servant! The worst of it is that all my wife's little property, a small house outside the Peter Gate, has been levelled with the ground by order of Burgomaster Richzenhayn, and I have never had a single kreuzer for my loss. The house was worth three hundred and fifty gulden. Gracious Herr Burgomaster, take me and my small family under your powerful protection, help me to get proper compensation for my house, and I shall be your grateful servant all the days of my life.'
'My dear Juechziger,' interposed Schoenleben, 'be assured I will do all I can. The times are so bad that the town will want all its strength, and all its money, to defend itself against the Swedes, and we shall have to leave our private interests in the background for a while; but I will see that you suffer no actual want through this misfortune.'
Juechziger concealed the disappointment he felt on hearing these words, thanked the Burgomaster for his kind intentions, and took his leave.
'Do not forget to send Badehorn here!' Schoenleben called after him as he went out. In a comparatively short time he made his appearance again.
'Captain Badehorn presents his respectful compliments to the Herr Burgomaster, and begs to inform his worship that he cannot have the honour of waiting on him at the time mentioned.' Here Juechziger discreetly paused.
'And why not?' asked Schoenleben, starting up. 'Are the ties of obedience that bind citizen to magistrate broken already?'
'He cannot come,' continued Juechziger, 'because the orders of Commandant von Schweinitz forbid it. They are every instant expecting an attack to be made by the Swedes, and the commandant has ordered every man to remain at his post.'
'Ah, of course! That is quite a different thing,' said Schoenleben, as his angry brow grew smooth again. 'Badehorn could not act otherwise, and it becomes my duty to go and see him if I want my question answered.'
When Burgomaster Schoenleben left his house somewhat later in the day, the death-like stillness that reigned throughout the usually busy city weighed on his spirit. Not a clock was striking, not a bell rang out its joyful peal in welcome to the new year. Only at long intervals did he see a human being pass along the street, and then it was in fear and haste. On the other hand, as he went on his way, he saw at various points large bodies of men standing silent in their ranks, waiting the call of duty and the word of command. Here were the vigorous journeymen of the different trades, and the stalwart country-people; there the trusty miners, some with nondescript weapons, others armed with pick-axes, mattocks, and long guns, or provided with ladders and great buckets of water, in readiness for an alarm of fire. In the streets adjoining the Erbis and Kreuz Gates, bustling activity was the order of the day. Hundreds of tireless workers were tearing up the paving of the roadways, while women and children carried away the stones, and piled them against the houses. Not a creature complained of the cold, though it was by no means small.
As Schoenleben drew near to the city wall and the Kreuz Gate, one helmeted head after another came into view, rising above the battlements, and there was a certain comfortable sense of security in the knowledge that they were the heads of the armed citizens mounting guard. Men standing still feel the cold severely, and accordingly huge fires had been built in some of the sheltered corners, round which the armed burghers stood chatting, each with his firelock ready to hand.
On inquiring for Captain Badehorn, Schoenleben was told that the captain had been summoned by the commandant, and that the lieutenant of the City Guard, Peter Schmohl, had command of the Defensioners in the absence of his superior officer. Schoenleben tried to make out the Swedish deserter among the Defensioners present, but was obliged to return home without having done so. Hardly had he turned his back on the fortifications, when the Swedish cannon opened fire on the Peter Gate and the neighbouring defensive works. After firing a score of shots, however, Torstenson sent to the commandant, demanding the surrender of the town. He had, he said, paraded his army and fired a salute in his honour; should any further resistance be offered, he would the next day attack the town more vigorously, and destroy it. The commandant sent a polite but firm refusal, and on the following day Torstenson fulfilled the first part of his threat by opening a terrible fire against the town. In six hours his artillery discharged over thirteen hundred shots, by which the Peter Gate, the adjoining tower, and a portion of the city wall were all severely injured, while many shells, and a perfect hailstorm of large stones, passed over the ramparts into the town itself. Then the enemy drew near with flying colours, bringing ladders, for the purpose of scaling the ramparts. By way of rendering their task easier, they exploded their first mines, which, however, did not accomplish all that was expected from them.
Meantime the besieged, on their part, were by no means idle. To prevent the storming of the breach at the Peter Gate, two cannon were planted in Peter Street, the gaps in the ramparts were hastily repaired, the bastions and inner defences of the gate itself were strengthened, while large quantities of hand-grenades and other ammunition were laid in readiness. Thus prepared, the citizens confidently awaited the threatened attack, which, however, did not take place, partly, it was supposed, because of a violent snow-storm that came on, and partly through the failure of the mines. Scarcely had the Swedish troops withdrawn in the evening, when the besieged made a sortie, in which the miners cleared the moat of the rubbish that encumbered it, and picked up a considerable number of cannon-balls, which they carried into the town as valuable booty.
The Swedes maintained their fire throughout the whole of that evening, and far into the night, to prevent the Freibergers from rebuilding their fortifications; in the course of this firing a miner and a forester were killed in the city, and several others among the defenders severely wounded. On the next day, January 3d, the firing was renewed with heavy siege-guns in addition to the lighter pieces, and a second mine was sprung, making a breach seventy feet wide in the city wall. As soon as this result had been achieved, the Swedes, to the number of two hundred, delivered their first assault against the Peter Gate. The fighting, however, only lasted about a quarter of an hour, and ended in the complete repulse of the besiegers.
During the lull that followed, Juechziger arrived at the house of Burgomaster Schoenleben, to announce that Colonel von Schweinitz wished to speak with him, and requested his worship to come to him at once for that purpose.
Juechziger's tone and look were carefully calculated to provoke the Burgomaster's pride, and Schoenleben made a sign for the messenger to withdraw. 'Am I his slave?' he broke out angrily, as soon as the man was out of hearing. 'Have I not every bit as good a right to send for him as he has to send for me? I will soon let him know which of us has the best right to command here!'
But when the first heat of his anger had spent itself, quieter thoughts began to prevail.
Schoenleben was at heart far too noble and conscientious a man to sacrifice the welfare of a great city, entrusted to his keeping, to a sense of his own offended dignity. 'One must not be too particular,' he said to himself, 'about an affront from a rough old soldier; after all, he may wish to speak about some matter of importance. At all events, I will just go and hear what he has to say.'
With thoughts like these working in his mind, Schoenleben betook himself to the commandant, who laughed boisterously as he shook hands with his visitor, and began at once with: 'Torstenson has already sent a third time to demand the surrender of the city, as if he thought he had knocked us into a cocked hat by that assault we repulsed so easily. He has been kind enough, too, to remind me that Breisach, Regensburg, Gross-Glogau, and Leipzig have all been besieged and taken by the Swedes, and to add that it is quite out of the question for a badly fortified place like Freiberg to withstand his power. We are not to count on any assistance, and if I reject his present kind offers he will take the place by storm, and will not spare even the babe at its mother's breast.'
'And what answer do you propose to send to all this, Herr Colonel?' asked Schoenleben. 'I suppose you sent for me to see what my opinion might be?'
'Not a bit of it, my dear Schoenleben, I assure you,' replied von Schweinitz, laughing. 'The Swede has received his answer some time since, and there was not the smallest need to trouble you in any way about the matter. The enemy has received from me, take my word for it, the only possible answer a soldier could send to such a demand, and I now want to consult with you about pushing matters a little farther.'
'But,' said Schoenleben in an offended tone, 'I should have thought that as acting-Burgomaster I ought at least to have had a word to say where the weal or woe of the thousands of families under my care was at stake. Pray, what is to happen when you and your soldiers are all killed, the citizens and other combatants worn out with their excessive duties in this bitter weather, the walls destroyed, the gates taken by storm, and the Swede bursts in at last to put his threats into execution?'
'What!' cried Schweinitz, astounded by this sudden outburst. 'Is it the Burgomaster of the loyal city of Freiberg I hear speaking such words as these?'
'Undoubtedly it is,' replied Schoenleben; 'and when Leipzig chose of her own free will to open her gates to the Swedish forces, she was not branded as disloyal. I am not speaking now of surrender, but of my absolute right to have at least one word in all that concerns Freiberg.'
'Listen to me, Herr Schoenleben,' said Schweinitz roughly, 'and hear my fixed determination. Our illustrious prince and lord, John George of Saxony, has entrusted to me, George Hermann von Schweinitz, the defence of this city of Freiberg, with orders to hold it to the last man. That being so, I stand in no need of advice from you, either now or at any other time. As commandant, I am here to give orders, and you are here to obey them. Whoever talks to me of surrender shall be considered a traitor to his country, and treated accordingly. Basta!' And Schweinitz emphasized the close of his speech by a thundering blow of his fist on the table before him, and turned his back on the Burgomaster in high dudgeon. Schoenleben himself, as he took his departure and returned home, was quite as angry a man as the indignant warrior.
'God is my witness,' said the Burgomaster to himself, when, somewhat later, he was thinking the matter over more quietly, 'that neither cowardice nor disloyalty to my prince made me speak as I did. But when I think that the town may yet share the awful fate that befell Magdeburg, then indeed I set the well-being of my thousands of fellow-citizens far above my own reputation for valour. Alas! who can give my fearful heart any assurance about these things?'
 A small German copper coin.
 A gulden is now worth about two shillings English.
THE SECOND ASSAULT.
On the following day Burgomaster Schoenleben took his way to the council-chamber, which now, indeed, fully deserved its name. Both before and after the commencement of the siege, the magistrates had enough to do in devising necessary plans, even had not their time been fully occupied in carrying their plans into execution. Among other duties, they had to arrange for the accommodation of the wounded, the burial of the dead, and the bodily needs both of those who were defending the city and their families; while not neglecting, on the other hand, to guard against a wasteful use of the provisions, to preserve the strictest order in the city, and to arrange for many other things beside.
Schoenleben did not give his fellow councillors the slightest hint about his quarrel with the commandant, but took care quietly to make out their several opinions, and he did not find one man among them who, either from fear of the Swedes or from personal inclination, was disposed to support his views.
After quitting the council-chamber, he could not help noticing, as he passed along the ranks of the auxiliary troops in front of the town hall, what an eager and even restless desire was manifest among them to be led against the enemy. He betook himself to the cathedral, where the church-superintendent, Dr. Paul Glaser himself, was conducting the daily service, and heard this aged servant of the Lord encourage his great audience to a brave resistance against the foe, and patient endurance of such trouble as the siege might bring. 'Call to mind, my brethren,' the good man was saying, 'what was done by the children of Israel when the wicked King Antiochus and his soldiers troubled them, and each one had to take refuge in the caverns and rocky clefts of the mountains. My hearers, Antiochus and his fierce soldiery did not torture the Jews of old one whit more unmercifully than these Swedes have tortured our Saxon brothers and sisters. And it is vain for you to think that you, at least, will escape torture and death by resigning yourselves into their hands; for their hearts are like the nether mill-stone, and they find an evil pleasure in hearkening to the groans of those who perish under their torments. Therefore defend yourselves, as did the Jews in the days of the Maccabees! And let not strong men alone bear their share in the work, but do you aged men, you women and children, aid with all your feeble might. Think of the brave women of the ancient days! And while you think of them, do not forget that in our very midst there dwells to-day a brave woman who has had to defend hearth and home against a murderous foe; not less truly a woman because this hard task was assigned to her, or because she was found, in the hour of need, capable of discharging it. While we pray to God that such terrible work may never fall to our lot, we cannot but honour this our brave, and now, alas! our bereaved sister.'
As it happened, the miller's wife from Erbisdorf was herself present among the worshippers, without the clergyman's knowledge. As the glances of those around turned naturally towards her where she sat, she endured their friendly scrutiny with blushing cheeks and downcast eyes.
The preacher's words had produced a deep effect in the mind of the worthy Burgomaster. 'If a Christian minister,' said he to himself, 'sees it his duty on this special occasion to encourage the weak, that they may make a valorous deface, surely I, who rule over strong men, should be the last to think of surrendering into an enemy's hands the city entrusted to my care.'
The thunder of the Swedish cannon, as it echoed and re-echoed through the lofty carved-work of the cathedral roof, made the Burgomaster too ill at ease to stay longer in the church. On reaching the open air, he found that the enemy had never yet poured in so heavy a fire as that of to-day. 'By it every building was shaken,' says the chronicle, 'and there was as great alarm in the town as if heaven and earth had been rolled together.'
This time the enemy did not content himself with merely letting his heavy guns play against the walls and gates, especially the Peter Gate, but used his mortars to pour large quantities of stones, balls, and shells directly into the town itself.
The sights and sounds that saluted Schoenleben almost put his newly-formed resolutions to flight. He hastened back to the market-place.
'The enemy is pressing hard on the Meissen and Erbis Gates,' shouted a breathless messenger, sent in haste to summon assistance from the town hall, and immediately detachments of the auxiliaries drawn up there started at the double to strengthen the threatened points. As they went they uttered loud shouts of joy, and clashed their weapons till the market-place rang again.
The crash of bursting shells could now be distinctly heard above the thunder of the artillery, but happily most of these deadly missiles fell in the more open spaces and did but little harm. The miners were acquitting themselves of their dangerous duties courageously and well under the able leadership of their brave captain, George Frederick von Schomberg, and the master miner, Andreas Baumann. Whenever a column of smoke rose, or shells fell on a house, or the fearful cry of 'fire' was heard, their aid was speedily at hand. Beneath a continuous shower of stones and bullets they climbed upon roofs, handed buckets of water, and extinguished flames, heeding neither fire, choking vapour, nor falling rafters. Like boys playing at ball, they sprang on the smouldering shells the moment they touched the ground, and extinguishing the fusee, rendered them harmless before they had time to do their fatal work of death and destruction.
As Schoenleben turned the corner by the butchers' stalls, some ponderous iron object fell with a heavy thud just in front of him, sank into the earth, and disappeared. At the same moment, two young people came out of a neighbouring house and ran across the street to the newly-made hole; they were Conrad Schmidt and Dollie. Close at their heels followed a man in a dusty coat, the miller of Erbisdorf.
'Out of the way directly!' he shouted to the thoughtless youngsters. 'Do you both want to be killed? This is no child's plaything.' So saying, he carefully poured into the hole a large bucketful of water he had brought with him, and then set about digging out the expected shell.
'Well, upon my word!' he cried, in a tone of such astonishment that the Burgomaster paused in curiosity. 'How long have they used bombs with iron rings to catch hold of them by? Why, as sure as I'm here, it is nothing in the world but a lumbering old iron hundred-weight, that the Swedes must have stolen out of some good Saxon's shop to batter our heads in Freiberg with.' While the worthy miller was still expressing his astonishment over this new kind of missile, Dollie's father, the miner Roller, appeared coming down the street, grasping some heavy object with both hands. When he recognised the Burgomaster, he let his burden drop on the ground, and proceeded respectfully to remove his hat.
'What have you got there?' cried the miller, who was near enough to hear Roller's salutation of the magistrate. 'A blacksmith's anvil?'
'The end of one, at all events,' replied Roller. Then, turning to Schoenleben, he added, 'Only half a yard more, respected Herr Burgomaster, and my poor head would have been shattered by this same anvil. But it tells a welcome story too; for if the Swedes have to use things like these to feed their cannon with, they must be running pretty short of ammunition.'
'That seems to contradict you,' said Schoenleben pleasantly, indicating the tremendous noise of the cannonade that filled the air on all sides.
'Ah, but it's beginning to slacken now, respected Herr Burgomaster,' shouted the miller joyfully the next minute. 'Don't you hear that the siege-guns have ceased firing?'
Roller looked thoughtfully up at St. Peter's Tower, from which a blood-red flag now floated in the air. In a moment, from all the hitherto silent towers and steeples, the bells clashed out an alarm.
'That is the signal of an attempt to storm,' said the Burgomaster; then concealing his own agitation as best he might, he hastened from the spot.
'A storm!' said Dollie wonderingly to Conrad. 'But there are no clouds, and no wind; how could there be a storm?' At this point the questioner was sent into the house by the miller, who followed her himself as soon as he had put the iron weight and the anvil away in a place of safety. Roller, although not on duty, hastened off to join his comrades at their work, and Conrad betook himself with all speed to the home where he knew his poor mother was left alone in her blindness.
The minister had just brought his service to a close, and was leaving the church; but on hearing the clang of the alarm-bells, he turned back into the sacred building with the women and children, who poured into it to beseech divine help in this new and pressing danger. Just as Schoenleben was passing by the church door, such a frightful and furious shout arose at the Peter Gate as almost to curdle the Burgomaster's blood in his veins. This terrible shout was uttered by the Swedes, who, two brigades strong, with flying colours and rolling drums, were now advancing with their storming-ladders towards the moat before the Peter Gate. The determined energy with which the advance was made was as great as the noise of the battle-cry. The besieged watched the enemy's approach with stedfast and unshaken courage. They tightened their belts, and each man prepared his weapons to give the foe a warm reception.
'Always bellowing, you Swedish oxen!' shouted a soldier jestingly. 'Do you expect to frighten us with your noise, or do you think the walls of Freiberg are going to fall down like those of Jericho?'
A well-aimed cross fire was now poured into the ranks of the besiegers, as, in dense masses, they filled the moat and struggled to mount the breach. A murderous fight then began, in which neither side would yield an inch. Although successive volleys of balls decimated the Swedish ranks, their losses did not in the least deter them from pursuing their object with the most supreme indifference to death. Fresh men continually took the place of those that fell, and the forces of the besieged being thus either divided or broken, the Erbis and Meissen Gates were both assaulted at once. The storming-ladders of the Swedes, a hundred times hurled back into the moat, were as often replanted against the walls; and although every man who had as yet succeeded in setting foot on the ramparts had paid for his success with his life, others were continually ready to follow the same example.
While the enemy kept up their furious battle-cry, the besieged, on their side, did not fail to encourage one another with joyful shouts. There were even some rash spirits, who, deserting the sheltering breastworks, sprang into the breach, and saluted the dense ranks of the enemy with 'morning-stars' and heavy broadswords. During this attack, which lasted a full hour, the Swedish fire was steadily maintained against gates, walls, and towers, occasionally even against the breach itself, where it inflicted some loss on besiegers as well as besieged. The former, under the command of Generals Wrangel and Mortainne, were led by these officers in person to storm the breach. Field-Marshal Torstenson, a martyr to gout, could only sit at the window of his quarters in the hospital, directing the attack, and chafing inwardly at its continued want of success. While the battle still raged round the Peter, Meissen, and Erbis Gates, and the Swedes fancied the Freibergers a prey to anxiety and fear, the undismayed miners made a sortie through the Donat Gate, destroyed the Swedish siege-works that lay in that quarter, slew a number of the enemy, and returned into the city, bringing with them several prisoners.
The general fight was still raging; the shout of battle, the thunder of the guns, the confused din of the storming-parties, and the showers of great stones and shot still filled the air, as the Burgomaster, agitated by growing anxiety, and unable to find rest anywhere, turned his uneasy steps towards the Peter Gate, the most threatened point of all. It must be remembered that to a brave man like Schoenleben it was a far harder task to stand by, a mere spectator of this important battle, than it would have been to take an active share in its turmoil and danger. To him the assault on the gates, which had perhaps lasted an hour, appeared to have been going on for ever, while those who were actually engaged in the strife would have sworn it had been an affair of a few minutes at the most.
In no small danger of his life, the Burgomaster forced his way, through a storm of bullets and falling masonry, into the strong tower that protected the Peter Gate. Having at last succeeded in ascending the narrow stone stairs and reaching the vaulted guard-room, he was able to make out indistinctly, through the smoke and dust that filled the room, the forms of a number of men who were keeping up an incessant and almost deafening fire on the enemy through the narrow loop-holes with which the thick walls were pierced.
'They fly!' shouted one of these marksmen in a stentorian voice. 'Hurrah! Now to give them something to help them on their way.' So saying, he lighted one hand-grenade after another, and hurled them with all his force through the loop-hole. 'Now, here with the double arquebuses! Dippolt, have you loaded them all?' As he spoke, he seized one of the pieces that stood in readiness, and fired it after the flying Swedes.
The face was so blackened with gunpowder and smoke as to be almost unrecognisable, but Schoenleben knew the voice at once for that of the brave Commandant von Schweinitz, who thus both by word and action encouraged his men to do their utmost against the enemy.
Hastily turning round, and catching sight as he did so of the Burgomaster's face, the soldier frankly stepped up to the new-comer and shook him kindly by the hand, saying in a hearty tone:
'So you are here, Burgomaster! There,' and he pushed the visitor good-humouredly towards a loop-hole; 'have a look at the vagabonds showing us their heels. They'll not carry more than a third of their storming-ladders back with them. So, now you have come, you can help us make merry, Schoenleben. I feel so pleased I scarcely know how to contain myself.'
A great shout of joy rose from the ranks of the besieged at sight of the flying Swedes.
'Right, my children!' cried their commander. 'Shout "Victory" to your heart's content. Schoenleben, I am proud of commanding your Freibergers. They have behaved like veteran and brave soldiers. I must give the palm to your City Guard, who have held the most dangerous post, the one at the breach by the Kreuz Gate, with such calm determination that the Swedes never once set foot on the ramparts. Victory, victory!' he shouted, as the jubilant cry rose again from the ranks below.
Then Schoenleben spoke out honestly and heartily. 'Colonel von Schweinitz,' he said, 'I trust you will pardon the speech I made to you not long since; it might well annoy you. Henceforth I say with you, "Welcome death rather than surrender to the Swedes!"'
'Why, what is all this about?' said Schweinitz heartily; 'I was every bit as much to blame as you were. I'm a rough soldier that doesn't stop to pick his words. You mustn't take too much notice of my speaking out a bit hastily now and then.'
While the two worthy men were making up their quarrel, Schoenleben noticed that the skirt of the other's coat was smeared with blood.
'You are wounded,' cried the Burgomaster in alarm.
'I had not noticed it,' answered Schweinitz carelessly, looking down at the splash of blood on his coat. 'Possibly a chip of masonry or some ball that has glanced aside may have grazed my hip. The Swedes have paid for it dearly enough, anyhow.'
With a brightened and almost joyful heart Schoenleben took leave of the commandant. As the former left the tower and gate, he saw the besieged clambering down into the city moat to make prisoners the wounded Swedes who lay there, and to bring in the firelocks, pikes, and scaling-ladders the enemy had left behind. At the same time, men were set busily to work to repair and rebuild the walls and other defensive works that had suffered injury. The bells were silent, and the glorious words of the Te Deum—'We praise Thee, O God! we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord'—could be plainly heard as they sounded solemnly forth from the various churches,—words in which the Burgomaster joined with a most devout and thankful heart.
 The mediaeval 'morning-star' was a heavy war-club thickly studded with short iron spikes.
CONRAD UNDER THE WINDOW-SEAT.
It was early in the afternoon, yet the long winter night already lay dark over the city of Freiberg. At intervals the gloom was lighted up for a few minutes by the lurid glare of some burning house set on fire by a hostile shell, and as quickly extinguished by the prompt watchfulness and energy of the fire-brigade, whose members had to struggle against a strong wind that by fanning the flames made them doubly dangerous. The streets were almost deserted. Only now and then might some wayfarer be dimly descried stealing along, keeping close in to the houses so as to gain some slight protection from the falling stones and cannon-balls. Among these wayfarers was Conrad Schmidt, hastening from his mistress' house to his mother's distant dwelling. When he had reached his destination, and made sure that his dreaded stepfather was away, he entered the living-room. To his great surprise it was dark and cheerless, and his blind mother sat alone in the midst of it shivering with cold. By way of warming herself, she had taken the sleek tabby cat into her lap and folded her chilled hands over pussy's warm fur. The whole scene sent a pang through the boy's warm and loving heart.
'But, my dearest mother!' he cried, 'has not Hannah got back yet from her parents'? Let me go and call her.'
The woman shook her head sorrowfully. 'Hannah is never coming back,' she said. 'Your stepfather has turned her off because she was no use now and ate so much.'
The boy clasped his hands. 'No use now!' he repeated. 'Now! when he is away himself all day and most of the night too,—when the lives even of people who have their eyesight are in danger,—when the blind need help more than ever! Oh, my poor, dear mother!'
'If it were not for the leaving you and dear old pussy here that Juechziger has many a time threatened to kill,' sobbed the blind woman, 'I would rather die—die by some Swedish bullet! Why should I wish to live? When your father comes home he beats me if he finds the room cold, and do what I will I can't make the fire burn in the stove. The tinder will not light, though I have often struck the flint and steel together till I made my poor hands quite sore. No one lives in the house but ourselves, so I cannot get my lamp lighted, and if I take it across the street to a neighbour's, the wind blows it out again before I get back.'
Conrad set energetically to work, and very soon a brisk fire was crackling in the great stove that stood at one end of the room, gaily ornamented with its long rows of coloured Dutch tiles. He placed his mother carefully in a warm corner, sat down beside her, and then began: 'Rudorf the journeyman is in bed at our house with a broken leg. It's not at all dangerous, and he gets his gulden of pay and his allowance of bread regularly every week. I only wish I was a journeyman, then I could go and fight and earn some money for you. And Hillner the Defensioner has got on first-rate; the officers all like him, and the governor himself talks to him ever so often. Our mistress loves to see him come into the house, and I'm sure she will marry him as soon as the siege is over, and he is made a citizen and a master carpenter. But then we can't even begin to guess when the siege will be over, for these Swedes keep attacking the town worse than ever. You would think they might have been satisfied with knocking ever so many of our houses to pieces, but now, what with their new batteries, and their new trenches, and nobody knows how many fascines'—
'Alas, alas!' interrupted Mistress Juechziger. 'What does a poor blind woman like me know about such dreadful things? Have you a morsel of bread in your pocket, my dear boy? Pussy and I have had nothing to eat since early this morning.'
'My poor mother,' cried her warm-hearted son, 'and has it come to this—that in our own Freiberg, where not even a beggar is allowed to starve, the good and honoured wife of the town servant himself cannot get enough to eat?'
'Your father locks everything up as if I was a thief,' said the woman, 'and he has been out ever since mid-day, so we couldn't get anything.'
'Here, dear mother,' cried Conrad, 'take this. I always take good care now-a-days to have a crust of bread in my pocket. I only wish I could give you something nice to eat with it, but that's all I have.'
The woman broke off a morsel for the expectant cat before beginning to satisfy her own hunger. 'Puss is only a dumb creature,' she said by way of excuse, 'but she is as faithful as many Christians, and a good deal kinder than your stepfather.'
'Yes, mother,' replied Conrad, 'so she is. All he wanted was your little house, and now that's gone he is just showing us what he really is.'
'It was for your sake I promised to be his wife,' said the woman, 'that there might be somebody to look after you when I am gone.'
'I know, I know!' said Conrad. 'And how very kind and sweet-spoken he always used to be to me while he was courting you!'
'He is coming!' said the woman in sudden terror. 'I can hear his step. Quick, hide yourself!'
There was let into the wall of the room, just below the window, a seat, from which, in order to conceal household articles laid there, a low curtain had been hung, thus making a sort of rude cupboard. Conrad crept behind this curtain with all speed, just as his mother succeeded in hiding her crust of bread in her pocket. Immediately afterwards Juechziger entered the room without a word of greeting to his wife. He threw his hat on the seat beneath which his stepson was crouching, and said angrily: 'It's a dog's life now-a-days. On one's legs day and night, always in danger, and never a kreuzer by way of reward. All for the fatherland, forsooth, say the patriots! I am my own fatherland, and I keep my patriotism in my purse. Ever since the fat citizens and journeymen took to cutting about the streets with their pop-guns, they are all grown such big men that if one of them happens to set eyes on you, you must jump out of his way like a bewitched frog. Wife! Wife, I say! Here's a batzen. Run across to Seiler's and fetch me a herring. I begin to feel horribly hungry.'