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The Golden Roof:
Marjorie Bowen:
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The Golden Roof


Marjorie Bowen

Cover Image

The Golden Roof (das goldene Dachl), Innsbruck
Based on a vintage Austrian postcard (ca. 1900)


First published by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., London, 1928

This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2023

Cover Image

"The Golden Roof," Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., London, 1928

Cover Image

"The Golden Roof," Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., London, 1928

Uncertain, whether by the Winds convey'd,
On Real Seas to Real Shores he strayed;
Or by the Fables driv'n from Coast to Coast
In New Imaginary worlds was Lost.

—Aulius Tibullus, Elegy IV. Book I.


[This appears in the closing pages of the book, together with advertisements for other novels published by Hodder and Stoughton.]

The Golden Roof, an Historical Novel by Marjorie Bowen author of The Pagoda, The Countess Fanny, etc.

The title is taken from the Golden Roof (of copper tiles, gilded) on the Imperial Palace at Innsbrück, one of the few tangible memorials left of the greatness of Maximilian I of Hapsburg, 1459-1519, Holy Roman Emperor, who dreamed once to roof the whole world with the gold of his achievements. The characters in the tale are all historic, the Emperor himself, Ludovice Sforza, Louis XII of France, Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII of England, Charles Egmont, Duke of Guelders, and the scene is the Tyrol, Vienna, Augsburg, Flanders, Guelders, and France. The love interest is provided by the love story of Maximilian himself with his first wife, Mary of Burgundy.


Cover Image

Maximilian I, 1519
A portrait by Albrecht Dürer


MAXIMILIAN I of Hapsburg, crowned King of the Romans and Emperor Elect of the Holy Roman Empire, "Maximilianus, divina favente dementia, Romanorum rex semper Augustus, etc.," as he styled himself, was descended from that House of Austria that achieved imperial honours in the person of Rudolph I, Count of Hapsburg (Emperor 1273-1291), who succeeded the doomed and splendid dynasty of the Hohenstaufen in those vague dominions which were supposed to include the kingdoms and glories enjoyed by the Roman Caesars, by Otto, by Constantine, and by Charlemagne.

Maximilian I was the most remarkable of this family which became so dominant in Europe, and with the rule of his grandson, Charles V, united under the double eagles as wide an Empire as the world was to know till the nineteenth century. Maximilian brought his house, though not either Germany or the Empire, to an extraordinary pitch of material prosperity; a series of brilliant marriages gave rise to the famous "tu felix, Austria, nube," and Maximilian, though constantly defeated and disappointed, left kingdoms to all his grandchildren, Charles, Emperor and King of Spain, Ferdinand Emperor, Eleanor Queen of Portugal, Mary Queen of Hungary; the Spanish Hapsburgs ruled the most important Latin kingdom till 1700; they intermarried with the successful Bourbons who pushed French supremacy as far as Europe would endure, and the "high mouth" of Mary of Burgundy can be seen in Louis XV.

The other branch of the family is not yet extinct though deposed from all power; on the abolition of that superb pretension, the Holy Roman Empire, in 1806, the Hapsburgs retained the Imperial title and named themselves Emperors of Austria; there is no other instance in history of one family retaining such a position for such a length of time, over seven hundred years; it is extraordinary that, except Maximilian I, Charles V and Maria Theresa, none of the Hapsburgs were conspicuous for either mental or moral qualities or any manner of talent.

The period of Maximilian I's life (1459-1519) covers the end of that epoch we call the Renascence, and the beginning of that epoch we call the Reformation; some of the names contemporary with this Emperor, who died the oldest of the then rulers of Europe are: Charles VIII, Louis XII, François I, Kings of France; Henry VII, Henry VIII, Kings of England; Ferdinand and Isabella, sovereigns of Aragon and Castile; Alexander VI; Julius II, Leo X, Popes; Cardinal Georges d'Amboise, Cardinal Wolsey, Cardinal Ximènes; Thomas Cromwell, statesman; Gaston de Foix, Bayard, Ludovico Sforza, Caesare Borgia, Pico della Merandola are a few of the other men whose names most frequently appear in chronicles of the reign of Maximilian I. Among men of genius were Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Hans Holbein and Albrecht Dürer; among the men expressing in writing aspects of their time were Machiavelli and Erasmus; among the men who influenced religious thought were Savonarola and Luther; Columbus had just discovered one new world, and the invention of printing had opened up another, the study of the ancient learning had resulted in a fresh humanism, in every direction was an expansion, an effort to throw off the old crudities, cruelties and ignorances of the feudal middle ages, to substitute for the brute force of the knight and unquestioned tyranny of the king, a rule of justice and reason that considered the rights of the trader and the peasant and welcomed the refining and ennobling effect of science, learning and art.

Maximilian I of Hapsburg was not in the forefront of this new movement; though in much he encouraged it, he remained in essentials the mediaeval patrician, a member of a narrow military caste, trained to fight and to rule. He has been called "the last of the knights"; this is perhaps partially true, for though there were many men of this type subsequent to Maximilian none of them were ever able to display their qualities on the elevation where Maximilian paraded so superbly.

If he hardly noticed the Renascence he was indifferent to the Reformation; a sincerely religious man, he could not fail to be disgusted by the corruptions of the Church of Rome and irritated by the Papacy which had to be reckoned with, not as a spiritual force or a mouthpiece of Heaven, but as a mighty temporal power and the opportunity of some ambitious, able and worldly Italian priest, supported by a Curia as venial, as clever, and as unscrupulous as any ruling body in Europe, but he was not moved in the direction of Martin Luther who was guiding the malcontents, and he died before anyone was forced to side either with Pope or heretic.

Among the humanists directly patronized by Maximilian were many men whose teachings had considerable influence in the formation of the German people; Jacob Wimpheling, Conrad Celtes, Sebastian Brant (whose Ship of Fools attracted almost as much interest as the writings of Erasmus), Conrad Peutinger, and Willibald Pirkheimer, the senator of Nüremburg, that beautiful city that could boast Hans Sachs and Albrecht Dürer, greatest of the artists who served Maximilian I.

Hans Burgmair, Leonard Beck and Freydal worked for the Emperor; these, like the scholars and humanists quoted above, and the coppersmiths like Peter Vischer, were employed in celebrating the glories of the House of Hapsburg.

Maximilian himself dictated the romantic tales illustrative of his own life, Weisskunig and Theuerdank which Burgmair and Freydal illustrated with wood engravings, now far more valuable and interesting than the letterpress they accompany, for Maximilian displays his own character but not his own history in these ingenuous fairy tales.

The Triumphzug and Triumphwagen are now given wholly to Burgmair though long attributed to Albrecht Dürer; a careful account of these wonderful wood engravings and reproductions of them were published for the Holbein Society in 1873.

There are four notable portraits of Maximilian I, that by Ambrogio de Predis, signed and dated 1502, profile, dark dress and cap, the order of the Golden Fleece; the chalk drawing by Albrecht Dürer of 1518; the mixed etching and engraving by Lucas van Leyden, dated 1520, but probably taken from life; and the rich and elegant portrait showing, as none of the others do, Maximilian I in imperial robes and diadem.

The kneeling statue of Maximilian on the cenotaph in the Hofkirche at Innsbrück, and his recurring figure in the bas-reliefs round the empty sarcophagus, were made after his death (1566) by the brothers Abel and Alexander Colin, but are obviously carefully constructed from contemporary sketches or busts; the likeness throughout is exact and true.

There is also a sumptuous figure of Maximilian in armour as Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, wearing the Black Knights' immense "panache" of peacocks' plumes and a crown, by Hans Burgmair.

Maximilian died at Wels, near Linz, the ancient capital of Upper Austria: his body was buried in the Church of St. George at Wiener Neustadt, his heart sent to die church at Bruges where Mary of Burgundy's lovely tomb is still standing by that of her father.

A number of Maximilian's own works have been reprinted in the Jahrbücher der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen etc.; the principal collections of his letters are: Correspondance de l'Empereur Maximilian 1-er et de Marguerite d'Autriche, Le Glay, Paris, 1839, Lettres indites de Maximilian I, etc., Bruxelles, 1851, 2 vols.; other letters and a mass of material relating to Maximilian are to be found in various books, archives, &c., the briefest list of which would be too long for this place. Among modern works on Maximilian I perhaps pride of place goes to Prof. Heinrich Ulmann's Kaiser Maximilian I auf urkundlicher Grundlage dargestellt, Stuttgart, 1884, 2 vols. In English there is not very much: Maximilian I is the subject of the Stanhope historical essay, 1901, by R. W. Seton Watson (Constable, 1902), and of one of Prof. Van Dyke's Renascence Portraits (Constable, 1906).

As far as the present writer is aware Maximilian has never figured in fiction.

The best authority for the affairs of Guelders is Geschiedenis van Guelderland, P. Nijhoff, var. ed. Arnhem. The above particulars are given as the bare bones of the subject treated in The Golden Roof; the writer's experience is that an historical novel is apt to cause some confusion and vexation to the reader who has no time nor inclination to discover which of the material presented to him is fact and which, fiction, and also that there are people who like to follow the characters of an historical novel into history itself—for them the above brief outline may be of some help. Maximilian I is not well known in England, nor are the facts relating to him easily accessible; most of the known details of his character and career have been incorporated in The Golden Roof where no historic truth or event, character or atmosphere has been wilfully or carelessly violated; the effort of the writer has not been to present a "capa e spada" story of romance and adventure, where an historical background is given to actions of fictitious personages (an excellent form of fiction), but to create out of the material of history itself, at once a narrative and a succession of pictures illustrating a certain period (1493-1519) and the characters of that period who lived in the Holy Roman Empire (Guelders, Innsbrück, Austria, Flanders) under the rule of a man who was one of the most attractive and interesting figures to ever wear the unwieldy diadem of the Empire of the West.

The author has, with some reluctance, revealed the reverse of the tapestry—to the rather rare reader who glances at prefaces—and only because experience has shown the confusions and misunderstandings that obscure attempts at historical novels—a difficult and lonely type of fiction.

M. B.
London, 1928.

PART I. (1493). THE SWAN

Forget not yet The Tried intent
Of such a Truth as I have Meant:
My great Travail so gladly Spent,
Forget not yet!

Forget not yet when First began
The weary Life we know, since whan
The Suit, the Service none telle can
Forget not yet!

Forget not yet the great Assays
The cruel Wrong, the Scornful Ways,
The Painful Patience in Delay,
Forget not yet!

—Sir Thomas Wyat. (15th Century.)


THE flat gold pink brick front of the house was shaded by a closely set espalier of clipped lime trees.

It was high noon of a mid August day and the bees were busy in the kitchen garden behind the inn. There was no expectation of any guest, and the green shutters painted with hourglass-shaped white curtains were closed against the glare of the sun. But a traveller, stained with summer dust, had wearily arrived along the white lonely road, and now struck on the door. His knock echoed sharply in the drowsy stillness; a dog barked, and Rosina, setting curds in an out-house, was startled. She wiped her hands on her clean linen apron and hastened to the door. As she opened it she saw the stranger leaning against the trunk of one of the lime trees as if grateful for that gentle shade. Beyond this shelter of the espalier the landscape was vague with heat, swelling to a shimmering horizon sparkling with gold, and the upper air was pale with the fervent rays of the sun. The traveller, turning his head negligently, asked how many leagues it was to Roermonde?

"It is only about half a league," said Rosina, studying him curiously.

Although he was on foot he wore riding attire and spurs, and though he appeared to be of the meaner sort, a travelling merchant or burgher, he carried two weapons—a short sword and a dagger in his belt.

Realizing the presence of Rosina standing thoughtfully and dubiously in the doorway, he took off his flat, dusty cap.

"I cannot walk another half-league," he smiled, courteously. "This is an inn, I think; I may rest here, and eat, perhaps?"

A foreigner, thought Rosina, for his speech, his intonation and accent, were strange to her ear; but she understood what he meant.

"Of course. Come in," she answered, and stepped aside so that he could pass into the long cool passage.

"I have walked a long way," he remarked, "almost from Venlo."

"Yes, that is a long way," she admitted, surprised. "And have you lost your horse, sir, and your companions?"

"I have, indeed," he replied, with a grimace, half-disgust, half amusement. "We were attacked in a wood, and I do not know how many of my companions escaped with their skins, for it was as much as I could do to escape with mine. I have been robbed; but, never fear"—he touched a small wallet fastened to his belt—"that I have not sufficient left wherewith to pay my reckoning."

Rosina was used to these tales of misfortune. The roads were most unsafe in Guelders and violent robberies were of common occurrence. People generally travelled, she rebuked the foreigner, in cavalcades, in large numbers.

"There were a fair number of us," replied the stranger, "but we were attacked by a large band—robbers or soldiers, I do not know who they were."

"I expect they are the Duke of Guelders' people," said Rosina, "they attack everyone. Guelders, you know, is in a state of war, or revolt—I don't quite know what you would call it," she added, ingenuously, "there are always fights and frays, we often have wounded and robbed people coming here; it's very bad for trade," she finished, wisely. And then she asked the stranger if he would like some food set out at once.

But he replied that his greatest necessity was repose. He had been riding, he said, all night and most of the morning until the attack, and then he had been walking, wandering, trying to find his way to Roermonde.

"For this country is strange to me," he remarked, "and I have not been able to come upon a guide. Perhaps there is someone here who, when I have rested a little, can put me on my way?"

Rosina said yes, there were several who would go with him as far as the gates of Roermonde; "But unless you are in good favour with the Duke of Guelders," she added, "it is hardly wise for you to go there, for it is a great walled city full of soldiers."

The stranger easily replied that he knew this, but he had an audience with a high personage there which must be by no means neglected.

Rosina had brought him to an upper chamber, one which looked from the front of the house and directly on to the thick green of the clipped limes which filled the room with a goldish-green shade, for the sun was pouring strongly through the thick elegancy of the clustering leaves, as if it poured through transparent glass, and the shutters were but half closed.

"One may rest very well here," mused the stranger with a sigh of relief.

There was a wooden bed with a coarse coverlet, two wooden chairs, a small press, and a black crucifix hanging on a panelled wall.

"Is there anything that you would like?" asked Rosina, timidly. "We do not keep the shutters latched in this room, for the trees prevent the sun from being too fierce."

"No, there is nothing that I would like," replied the stranger courteously, "I am quite content. No, wait, I would have two ewers of pure water from a well, if you have a well, and six clean linen napkins."

The girl stared. "You could wash down below in the courtyard," she said. "My mistress would never give you six napkins. Even when we have had people of quality here we give them no more than one."

"Still, bring me six napkins and a ewer of water," insisted the stranger, gently, "and I shall do very well. Presently, I will come downstairs and see what you have in the way of food, and order a meal. Till then, leave me undisturbed, and, believe me, I can pay for what I ask."

Rosina, tall, heavy and fair, with her rough, red, work-stained hands folded in the apron, to which still clung the florid fragrance of the curds, turned again in the doorway.

"Well, you will not be richly served, it is not often that we have visitors in the daytime, only in the evening, and sometimes at mid-day for food; but lately, not anyone very much at all, as travelling has become so dangerous in Guelders that we live by the farm," she remarked, placidly, "though it does not matter very much," and then she left the room, and the stranger to his repose.

In her slow placid mind she turned over the question of the foreign guest as she filled two brown earthenware crocks with clear water from the well, and went to a large press in the cool room, and took out the extravagant luxury of six clean linen napkins, which had lain there for weeks, perfumed with sprigs of box pressed between their smooth folds. She thought it was very curious even for a wealthy man to make such a request. Water and clean linen in such profusion was truly remarkable to Rosina. She went slowly up the stairs, a ewer of water in each hand, and the napkins under her arm, and knocked at the door of the room occupied by the traveller. When she had knocked several times and there was no answer she cautiously opened the door and saw what she had expected, to see. He had flung himself on the bed and fallen asleep; he had not even taken off his spurs or the belt in which were the two weapons. Rosina put the rough pressed napkins on the chair in front of the window, then made another journey to the door and brought in the two crocks of water, and then stood undecided; presently, with a placid curiosity, turned to stare at the stranger, who lay carelessly flung on the rough quilt, his cap on the floor beside the bed.

He was a man not more than thirty-four years of age, of a considerable stature, at once slight and powerful, graceful and robust. His clothes were of a plain grey cloth, much stained with dust, and in places torn. His hair, tangled and dark with sweat on his brow, was the bright yellow colour Rosina was accustomed to see in the people of Guelders; it hung down on to his shoulders, which was new to the girl, for the Duke of Guelders had introduced the fashion of the Courts of Burgundy, the shaven head for gentlemen. This long hair added to the strange foreign appearance of the traveller in the eyes of Rosina. He had a remarkable face; the nose high, the complexion pale, the expression at once lively and amiable, even in his sleep he smiled. She noticed, in her slow quiet scrutiny, the beauty of the two weapons he wore in that plain belt, a deeply ornamented steel handle adorned the short dagger, and the sword was of uncommon and costly workmanship. The wallet to which he had called her notice was strapped to the sword-belt.

"I hope he has some money," thought Rosina, quietly, "for his own sake. It's ill travelling without a penny in your pouch."

Then she wondered why he had appeared so quiet and even agreeable when he had lost everything—baggage, his servants, and his companions, in one of those forays which made the journey to and fro Guelders excitement and peril to all travellers. "Why does he want to go to Roermonde," she thought, slowly, "and I wonder what he would like to eat. I expect there will be trouble to please him," and this was her tribute to his haughty and fastidious air which dominated even his amiable and charming aspect. Rosina thought that perhaps, despite his plain dress he was a great man, or at least in attendance on some great man, and she considered that she had better go and tell her parents, who were working in the fields, that a person of some consequence had come to the inn, which had remained empty for so many days. Then she took up the napkins again and folded them, three over each of the ewers of clear water, and decided that after all she could not go and send her parents, who were busily occupied gathering in the early apples, the late plums and pears from the orchard which sloped at the back of the house down to the river Roer, which wound through the lovely landscape towards Roermonde, whose high walls it washed, and there fell into the Maas. She went about her own duties in the cool dairy, setting her curds in the nets for cheeses, and putting underneath them the bowls into which the milky whey dropped. Then she considered what meal she should set before the stranger, and took some pots of preserve from a shelf in the kitchen, and set out the table in the dark dining-room (where the windows were still shuttered against the August blaze) with a white cloth, rough and fragrant of bay and box, and on this she placed a mug for beer, a loaf of bread, a cheese of her own making, and a dish of dried meat. While she was thus engaged, her mind and her fingers deep in her task, she was surprised by the sound of horsemen outside, and a little terror leapt into her placid mind. Everyone in Guelders lived in this terror—soldiers, robbers! Some quarrel of the great in which they most unwillingly would be involved. She paused to listen, and then peered through the round holes in the centre of the shutter, which let in a long ray of bright light; and there she saw, pausing in front of the espalier of lime trees, a group of four horsemen, armed and finely dressed, the horses fresh and impatient, and moving round and round although their riders strove to check them. These were men of her own province, she knew that at once by their appearance, and with a better heart she went and opened the door to them, standing in mute humility until they should choose to make their wishes known.

One of the riders dismounted at once, giving his rein to a companion.

"We can get food here?" he asked.

And Rosina replied patiently that some modest food she could provide, but scarcely a repast fit for such as he.

"We are hungry men," replied the other, "give us the best you can, and is there a stable for the horses?"

Rosina replied yes, there was some poor accommodation, and she walked out into the flecked and flickering shade of the lime trees, and pointed out the stables, which adjoined the farm at the back of the inn buildings. She had now perceived that two of the newcomers were gentlemen and two servants. It was these servants—soldiers they appeared to be—who led away the four horses, while the two gentlemen preceded Rosina into the inn, and walked at once into the dining-room where she had laid her poor but fragrant repast for the stranger who slept upstairs in the room behind the thick lime trees.

Perceiving the table set out, the younger of the two men exclaimed—"Ah, you have someone here?"

"There is a stranger upstairs," said Rosina, doubtfully, "a foreigner, I think. He is very fatigued. He has been plundered in the woods near Venlo this morning early, and has walked all the way from there, missing his path often enough."

"Plundered, eh?" repeated the elder of the two strangers, and then both of them, at the repetition of that word, laughed.

"We will share his meal; bring in what you have," said the younger man, in a tone of arrogant authority, "and tell him to come and eat with us. A stranger who has been plundered and robbed in Guelders is likely to be of some interest, eh?" and he nodded to his companion.

Rosina did not like either of the newcomers. Her interest and sympathy belonged wholly to the man upstairs.

The elder of these two was of a fierce and terrible appearance, at once gross and powerful, bloated and magnificent in bulk, in stature, his appointments handsome. The younger one had a peculiar face, long, smooth and cold in expression, as if his spirit retired in itself in an obstinate reserve. He wore a cloak, and a hat with a coif twisted round which he had not removed, and was partially armed on back and breast with worn, dinted, but well-polished steel. Both of them carried weapons at their belts.

Rosina thought them to be no better than those marauding bands of mercenaries or robbers who attacked all travellers on the roads of Guelders, and to whom that particular traveller, who lay above in the chamber behind the lime espalier, had fallen a victim.

"Would you not rather dine by yourselves?" she asked doubtfully; but they both sharply bid her fetch the stranger down; they spoke together, the austere tones of the younger, the coarse tones of the elder, mingled in one command.


ROSINA went heavily up the shallow stairs to the stranger's chamber. She had no thought of disobedience in her mind, but she did not much like her errand. She must, of course, do as the two gentlemen—captain-adventurers she called them to herself—had told her, but she hoped they meant no harm to the foreigner. She found him as she had left him, asleep on the poor quilt. He had not moved, and she looked at him with a slow vague stirring of compassion. Very likely they meant him ill, those two men below; they might even be members of the band that had attacked him, slain his companions, and stolen his baggage. But she did not dare to linger on her errand, she was too well schooled in implicit submission to her superiors. So, with a certain timidity mingled with kindness, she touched the sleeping man on the shoulder, grasped him more and more vigorously until she almost shook him, and at length he woke, and sat up.

"There are two men below," said Rosina heavily, "and they want you to share their meal. We have only the one room and table, save the kitchen, where their two servants will go."

The stranger stared at her as if he did not comprehend, as one waking from a deep sleep in a strange place will stare, wondering for a moment where he is and who speaks to him.

"I will come down," he answered, "after a second, though I would rather sleep."

"But this is really a command," remarked Rosina simply, "they are soldiers, noblemen, perhaps, and they always question and detain strangers—Guelders, as you know, is at war with many States, and you should not really be here; it is better that you go down," she added, anxiously, "and speak them fairly, than anger them by remaining here, so that perhaps they will fetch you. I have brought you water," nodding towards the two crocks and napkins, "and I will go down and tell them that you are coming."

The stranger smiled, as if all this were rather amusing than alarming.

"Perhaps these gentlemen are going to Roermonde," he suggested, "in which case they can accompany me."

He sprang off the bed, stretched himself and yawned, and, with a smile, told Rosina that he would come down immediately.

She left him, closing the door slowly. She was sorry to think that he was in danger; light-hearted as he might be about it, she knew that he, a foreigner, was certainly in peril from those two soldiers below. Perhaps he is a Hollander, she considered, or a German, and for all she knew of the matter, Guelders was at war with both Holland and Germany.

When she returned to the kitchen she found her mother there, her face hot and wet under the linen cap, her stout arm grasping a basket of purple plums, bloomed with blue. Rosina told her of her three guests. The old woman shrugged her shoulders as she set her load of fruit on the table.

"Nowadays one must be prepared for anything," she answered, "there is enough food in the house for five or six, and these people pay well."

Rosina explained that one of the guests had been attacked in the woods outside Venlo, and that maybe the other two were perhaps members of the band that had robbed him.

Again the old woman shrugged her thick shoulders. "Let them settle that between them, it is no business of ours. Do you hurry yourself, Rosina, and set food on the table. Nothing will anger them more than to keep them waiting for their meal. I have known farms laid waste and houses burnt down for no more cause than keeping gentlemen waiting for their food and drink. As for the other man it is no business of ours, if he has been robbed it was foolish of you to give him a room, Rosina; who knows that he can pay?"

"He has a wallet with him," replied the girl, "and I noticed a carbuncle ring on his hand, I think he is of quality," and while she spoke she skilfully piled dishes and trays with all the food in her store.

When she returned to the front room the two men had taken off their armour, which had become too hot in the August sun, and had piled it in a corner with their weapons and the younger had pulled out a packet of papers which he was reading earnestly with a frowning brow.

Rosina considered again, furtively and timidly, this man's appearance. He was slender, young and handsome—ten years younger, perhaps, than the stranger upstairs, but for all that Rosina was repelled by his appearance. His smooth long face, with the exact slight features, the light grey eyes, the shaven head so closely cropped that one could scarcely discern the colour of his hair, something more than cruel in the firm cut of the even lips—all this gave her a sensation of fear and hostility. As for his companion, the older man, at him she hardly dared look at all. He was silent and unoccupied, merely gazing blankly out of the window, from which he could see only the level boughs of the lime trees.

Rosina had a terrible impression of this second man; she was careful not to glance at him, she had seen sufficient of his person when she had admitted him with his companion. His great unwieldy bulk, the massiveness of his shoulders and arms, the power conveyed by his huge hands, his heavy head, the small flat nose, jutting brow, deep sunken eyes, and pendants of coarse yellow skin on either side of his thick-lipped mouth, conveyed at once to Rosina merciless ferocity and dominant authority; she feared and disliked the man; and as she left the room a fascination of terror caused her to glance back to observe the shaven head, which, coarse as it was, seemed too small for the body, and his powerful face outlined against the sunny square of the window. He was more, she thought, like a monster than a human being, and she wondered how the younger man, who had such an air of cold delicacy and arrogant dignity, could suffer such a companion. When she had placed all the food the inn afforded on the table, and while her mother was busy with the wants of the armed servants in the kitchen, she asked them in her dull timid way what more she could do for them, and told them that the meal was ready.

The elder man came immediately to the table and at once began to eat in a heavy gross fashion, seizing pie and meat and thrusting it into his mouth before it touched the plate. The younger man dealt more slowly and fastidiously with his food. He seemed to have little appetite, and broke a piece of bread on the cloth while he kept his cold light eyes turned on the papers he had brought from his wallet.

"Where is your stranger?" he demanded, negligently, "I have an interest in all the strangers who travel through Guelders."

"He asked for six napkins and two ewers of water," answered Rosina dully. "I think he must be a person of quality—he is washing off the dust of the day."

"Six napkins," repeated the younger man, "you have a traveller in this inn who asks for six napkins!"

"No less would content him," said Rosina, "I gave him all we had in the press."

"And why?" questioned the stranger, "since he has, as you say, been plundered in the woods by Venlo, he is not likely to be able to pay you for these luxuries."

Rosina hung her head stupidly. She did not wish to confess that she had a desire to please the other man at any cost; it had not been a question of money; compassion and admiration had made her fulfil a most unusual request; and while she stood there awkwardly twisting her apron in her hands, fearful to go without a dismissal, and yet fearful to offend by remaining, the other man himself entered the room.

His step was light, his air agreeable, he seemed in no way discomposed or alarmed. He had removed the dust from his face and his hands, and largely from his clothes. His long dark yellow hair, which was such a remarkable feature of his appearance, hung, wet with drops of the well water which Rosina had brought in the ewers, on to his candid forehead and broad shoulders.

The two men at the table glanced at him quickly, the elder wrinkled up his heavy features to stare. The newcomer returned this scrutiny with a careless and amiable salute, and took his place at the table.

"I find that, after all, I am hungry," he returned to Rosina with a smile, "and I am glad that you awakened me. If you had not I should probably have slept till this time to-morrow."

The younger of the other two men thrust his papers into his pockets and asked brusquely, "Who are you? We do not see many strangers in Guelders nowadays."

"I am a German," replied the other steadily, "travelling on business. I was—as I was warned I should be—robbed by a band of villains as I was passing through a wood near to Venlo, I think, though I am not familiar with this country."

"That is very likely," replied the young man, grimly. "And you lost, noble sir, I suppose, your baggage and your servants?"

"Both," replied the German, "my companions also," he added, indifferently; "two of them at least were slain, I saw that with my own eyes. But I," he continued with satisfaction, "disposed of at least four of the enemy, and should have done, indeed, better execution had they not shot my horse beneath me. I regret the horse more than friends, servants or baggage; he was a fine beast and excellently trained."

"You take your misfortune lightly," replied the young man coldly.

"I am used to misfortunes," smiled the German, "and have learnt to treat them in a philosophic manner."

"Are you now returning to your own country?"

"No," replied the foreigner, "I am bound for Roermonde."

At this the two others exchanged a quick suspicious glance.

"Why for Roermonde?"

"And why not?" asked the German, and poured out beer into his stone mug and drank indifferently.

The two men of Guelders continued to stare at the stranger with a scrutiny at once hostile and menacing. The pale, clear, cold eyes of the younger held as steady an antagonism as the brutal threatening look of the elder, but the German, as he had named himself, took no heed of either, and appeared little discomposed by their haughty and discourteous survey. He took his meal with elegancy, and yet with a certain relish, as one bred to good manners and yet kept long fasting. Whatever he might have thought of his companions he kept his counsel to himself, but now and then a smile touched his finely-shaped lips, which was more ironic than timid, and appeared to inflame the two men who so keenly regarded him.

"I have seen you before," remarked the younger, "when I was a child, I think. Was it," he added, harshly, "at the Court of Burgundy?"

And the German shrugged his shapely shoulders, and admitted, "it may have been at the Court of Burgundy."

"You are a Burgundian?" asked the other.

"Eh? I am a German, as I have already told you, and I am in Guelders on business."

"We," replied the stern young man, who seemed irritated by this, "have it as our duty to scrutinize and, if need be, to arrest travellers in Guelders who are here on business—of any kind."

"Why?" demanded the German, smoothly. "The Empire is at peace within itself, is it not? and Guelders is a part of the Empire."

He made this statement quietly, without any note of challenge.

But the young man replied, with cold ferocity, "No, no, Guelders is not a part of the Empire, and we are here to maintain that fact."

"Rebels, eh?" said the German, softly, "so I thought, so I have been informed. These forays and outrages such as I and my companions have been subject to to-day are fostered by Karel of Guelders and his soldiers."

"The whole country is in rebellion against tyranny," admitted the other young man, "for we do not admit an overlord," and his older, ferocious-looking companion, who was then pushing into his mouth large portions of pigeon pie, added in a choked voice, "We do not acknowledge the Emperor."

"Oh, treason," said the German, smilingly, "I thought as much. Karel of Guelders has set himself out to be a gadfly in the side of one engaged in great affairs, and it is a pest, good sirs, which must be plucked out, and crushed between finger and thumb."

"You're a bold fool to talk like that," replied the cold young man. "You are in the Duke of Guelders' country."

The German leant back in his vast wooden chair, and fastidiously wiped his fingers.

"Then, perhaps, you can help me to my destination," he smiled.

"You said it was Roermonde," growled the older man, picking the pigeon bones roughly with his crooked yellow teeth.

"Yes, it is to Roermonde, and, precisely, to the Kasteel van Meurs, which is, I think, not far from Roermonde. You can perhaps direct me there?" And he glanced courteously, and yet in a half mocking fashion from one to another of his hostile companions.

The name that he had mentioned, that of the Kasteel van Meurs, appeared to have a startling and ugly effect on both of these gentlemen. They glanced at each other in quick questioning fashion, and then at him, and the German remarked, with curiosity, the extraordinary eyes of the young man who was sitting at the other end of the short table, so pale as to appear nearly silver, and hard and bright as if they were of metal; set flat in the long smooth face these eyes gave the sinister effect that Rosina in her slow and heavy way had noticed, when she felt herself repelled by the young horseman.

"You wish to see the Graaf van Meurs?" exclaimed this young man, "and who are you? You will deliver your message to me and not to him."

"No," said the German indifferently, "my affair is frankly with the old Graaf Vincent. He is a very ancient man now, I think, and lives retired—more than eighty years old, is he not? and yet he will receive me, for I am come on matters concerning his grandson—the prisoner in Peronne."

At this name the young man gave a deep and half uttered sigh, and cast down his cold eyes, while his companion said harshly: "That is a name not mentioned in Guelders."

"I can believe that," replied the German, in a mocking tone. "Not mentioned these eight years for very shame in Guelders."

The young man, still keeping his eyes downcast, demanded steadily and haughtily: "Why do you use that word 'shame?' Speak me fairly and answer me honestly, for I have it in my power to prevent you fulfilling your business, whatever it may be."

The German made pellets of the bread crumbs and rolled them towards himself across the rough white cloth. "I know you have," he replied indifferently, "and I know you and who you are. My memory is better than yours, Karel van Egmond."

"You know me!" cried the young Duke, at once interested and exasperated.

"I certainly know you, and it was at the Court of Burgundy we met—ten years ago when you were no more than a youth."

"Who are you?"

"One who knows the story of Bernard van Meurs," replied the German, scornfully, and yet with a certain graceful humour that adorned all his words and actions.


THE German, though so completely in the power of the other two men, a stranger in the country, yet appeared master of the situation. He rose and strolled to the corner where their weapons, that had been so carelessly piled, were shining in the obscurity of the shadowed room, and from this vantage ground he watched them, as they sat at the table staring at him, in curiosity and antagonism. Karel van Egmont was most angry and suspicious though he had sufficient command of himself to betray neither of these emotions. More, he made a slight gesture with his slender right hand which rested on the table, as if he would command prudence to his friend who appeared to be about to break into coarse and furious language; this gesture was not lost on the long-haired German, who remarked, with a smile, "It is quite true that you saw me at the Burgundian Court. I am here on an errand of policy and I regret that I have been despoiled of my train and shall cut so mean a figure before Graaf Vincent."

"I am sorry that you have been attacked," replied Egmond, coldly and falsely. "It is no affair of mine."

"You are not able to guard these dominions which you prize so dearly?" asked the German, proudly. "That is what you must expect. Since you refuse the authority of the Emperor, your subjects, as you call them, refuse your authority."

"Not at all," replied Egmond, impatiently. "Do not let us waste time, my noble sir, on foolish and mincing words. Tell me what you are, and what is your embassy?"

"I am one deeply in the confidence of the Emperor," smiled the German, "and my embassy—I should not dignify it by so magnificent a name—is to old Graaf Vincent. It is about his grandson, who is a prisoner in Peronne."

"That affair can be no business of the Emperor," cried the Duke of Guelders, roughly. "I have had too much of this German and Burgundian meddling of late. Listen, sir; it is not a week ago since I caught two more fellows like you—German spies."

"I am not here to spy," returned the other, drily. "I have definitely told you my errand. I have also come to Guelders to see you, and to arrive at some accommodation with you on behalf of the Emperor as to this petty warfare that you wage against him, slily, and behind his back," added the German, "with secret, cunning treachery."

Here Karel's gross and monstrous companion broke in, with the harsh violent words he had with difficulty restrained.

"Emperor! Why do you keep using that word 'Emperor?' Who do you mean—Maximilian, Archduke of Austria?—he is no more though he called himself the King of the Romans."

"He is elected Emperor," said the German, slowly and agreeably, he seemed a man who very seldom lost his temper, "and he means to maintain that splendid pretension with full dignity."

At this both the others laughed coarsely.

"He has empty pockets and an empty head," cried the elder of the two. "I think your Maximilian of Hapsburg is a fool. If you are his man you may tell him so from me. Here in Guelders we pay no heed to him, nor to Albert of Saxony, his stadtholder."

"No," smiled the German, with irony, "and that is why you are in such a ruin of disorder. But, believe me, Maximilian does not intend to be a puppet Emperor—he means to rule well and wisely over all his dominions, and to make great conquests, one in the West, and one in the East, until his Empire spreads across Europe into Asia."

At these grandiose words both the men laughed again, with the ringing scornful laughter of practical people faced by the vapourings of a fool.

But the German took their laughter in good part and seemed, in his turn, to disdain them and their scorn.

"Fair words for an Emperor, perhaps, long ago," remarked Karel van Egmond, "but that was in the Golden Age. We in these modern days have no room or place for such visionaries. These are not the good old times, my friend, but the year 1493, and you will not find anywhere the simple folk who were glad to do homage to your Constantines, and Charlemagnes, and Ottos. Tell your master who wishes to revive these rusty glories that he is better employed in ruling his own duchy."

"A rebel, as I thought," remarked the German, softly, "an insolent rebel." But he spoke without malice and looked at Karel van Egmond with an interest that was almost kindly, and he thought, as Rosina had thought, in her slow diffident way, that this man of the great Guelders family, who called himself Duke of Guelders, and supported that claim by every device that his turbulent and crafty nature suggested, was of an appearance as repulsive as remarkable.

Karel had now removed his hat and coif; his close-shaven head showed of a fine compact form, exactly in proportion to his long narrow features. There was grace in the sharp line of nose and mouth, but the nostrils were too thin, the lips too deeply cut at the corner, and though those light eyes might be accounted a beauty in themselves, in their expression they were cold and unattractive. The German knew this prince to be bold and cunning, disillusioned and mocking, ambitious, restless and dangerous. If he had either passions or weaknesses they had not yet been made apparent to the public eye. Karel van Egmond possessed, however, two negative virtues which highly recommended him in the opinion of the other—he was not cruel, though perhaps not merciful, and he was not dissolute or licentious, but chaste in his' manners and severe in his private life. On both these points the stranger sympathized with him and applauded him, and he thought of these merits now as he looked at those hard, long, smooth features, the small compact head set so arrogantly on the wide shoulders. For he, this German gentleman, had a way of thinking always of the merits and attractions of those with whom he spoke, and it was to this quality of kindly courtesy and sympathetic consideration of others that he owed much of the fascination of his amiable personality.

"Come," he said now, smiling from one to the other of his companions and opponents (as he knew them to be), "we are ill met in an ill place, and I have no state with which to impress you, but, as you say, we live in modern times where we are all practical and reasonable, and disillusioned, no doubt. I have not come to Guelders to discuss dreams or chimeras or fairy tales, but to make substantial proposals for peace between the Duke of Guelders and the Emperor, and to open negotiations for the return of Graaf Bernard from Peronne."

Karel van Egmond's companion looked up from his plate, for he had again begun feeding grossly from the cold remnants of the meal, and demanded in an offensive tone what affair of the Emperor, as he called him, was Graaf Bernard?

"How many years since the battle of Bethune?" replied the German, quietly. "Eight years ago," he answered himself, with emphasis.

Karel van Egmond violently rose from the table: "You say," he remarked drily, "that you have come here as a reasonable man, to talk to reasonable men; you say you are sent from the Archduke of Austria, lately elected Emperor? Well, I do not wish to dispute either your credentials or his rank—though both seem flimsy enough—but you offer nothing but insolence."

"My credentials," smiled the German, "were lost in the attack in the woods; I have nothing with me but my purse in my pouch, and my wits in my head, and two good weapons by my side; and if a man have all those he need not regret anything else."

"You carry it flourishingly," responded Karel van Egmond insolently, and yet with an attempt to subdue his insolence. "I and my Maarshalk here are willing to listen to you, as reasonable and practical men, if as such you speak."

The German glanced at the Maarshalk, as Karel van Egmond had just named his hideous companion: "So you are Maarten van Rossem?"

"I am," snarled the heavy, gross soldier, grimly. "Make a point of remembering me."

"I have heard of you," smiled the German, with disdain.

Karel van Egmond was walking with a light and springing tread up and down the room.

"I can see," he remarked, speaking as if with a cold attempt at conciliation, "that you are a man of quality, and a person of sense and penetration, and I will listen to you, though lately there have been several gentry like yourself travelling in Guelders who pretended to have errands from the Court of Vienna."

"Yes," replied the German, "it was because these messengers did not return that I came myself. Where are they? In your prisons, Karel van Egmond?"

"Leave that," remarked the Duke, sharply, "before I decide how to treat you or your business tell me what affair it is of Maximilian of Hapsburg that Bernard van Meurs should return from Peronne?"

"Where a man has been for eight years," put in Maarten van Rossem sourly, "he may well stay for eighty, it seems to me. No one any longer worries about Graaf Bernard, and why does your Emperor, who is concerned with such vast designs, meddle in so trivial an affair as that of one prisoner, more or less, in the fortress of Peronne?"

Maarten van Rossem accompanied his sneering remark with a piercing look from his deep-sunk bloodshot eyes, and his thick lips fell back over his broken teeth in an ugly sneer.

The German moved aside with an instinctive gesture of repulsion, which all his good breeding could not avail to conceal. But Karel van Egmond broke in heavily—

"Do not talk so grossly of the affair, Maarten. I in my good time will see to the release from captivity of Bernard van Meurs.

"It is as well," remarked the German gentleman, with the first hostile note that had been heard in his voice, and with the first antagonistic glance that had darkened his handsome eyes, "that you should do so, Karel van Egmond. Who was captured at the battle of Bethune? Not he, but you; and he took your place in that fortress, out of courtly friendship, and chivalrous regard. And you were to release him from that imprisonment, to return to Peronne, or by some means free a few months, you said, Karel van Egmond, and everyone of knightly estate and kindly honour has been watching to see you keep your Word. And that is eight years ago, and Graaf Bernard is still in Peronne."

The fierce young Duke of Guelders could not fail to be deeply moved and deeply affronted by these words, spoken so keenly and so fearlessly. His light cruel eyes glanced sideways at the speaker, he bit his thin underlip, and the veins in his neck swelled, but he had sufficient control not to break out into open anger.

"Eh," he answered in a voice of forced quietness; "you take the view of the outsiders. You do not know the inner meaning; I am worth everything to Guelders—it is not possible for me to abandon my country to release Graaf Bernard—he knows that and prefers to remain in captivity."

At this Maarten van Rossem laughed deeply and loudly, pushed his chair roughly back from the disordered table, and slapped his great thigh, laughing again.

"No man loves a prison," mused the German. He looked away from both of them, and out at the sunlight which lay flickering in bright lozenges of dazzling gold among the shadows cast by the espalier of limes. "Graaf Bernard," he added, "performed a brave, chivalrous and gracious act when he took your place in Peronne, and the Emperor, who admires such actions, is not minded that he should suffer any longer for it."

Maarten van Rossem stared at the speaker rudely, as if he resented these words. "Mark it, my good sir," growled the Maarshalk, "this is not a country where a man who has no followers to back him can offer plain and ugly truths. Let me tell you that no one for years has mentioned Graaf Bernard to Karel van Egmond."

"It is time then," answered the German, still smiling, "that someone did so, and that is why I have come from Maximilian of Austria to Roermonde—to Kasteel van Meurs, for the old Graaf Vincent still remembers Bernard, his grandson, and unless I do not make an error, there is another who does also remember him, and that is Gertrude van Bayer van Boppart, who should have been his wife."

"How in the name of the great devil do you know that?" roared Maarten van Rossem, as ferociously as if he had been personally insulted by these simple words; the young Duke of Guelders turned his cold smooth face with a look of bitter menace towards the speaker.

"Leave Guelders, and the affairs of Guelders," he commanded, shortly, "it will be to your safety to do so. I would not willingly openly affront Maximilian of Austria, and I wish to preserve courtesy towards his embassy."

"Yes, you were always sly and crafty," smiled the German; himself so bold and reckless. "Your rebellion has never been open, but subtle, and indirect. Eh, I know quite well that you are a dangerous man, Karel van Egmond."

"I do not think you are," grumbled Maarten van Rossem, "or you would not be here alone like this. What sort of a company did you bring with you that it was so easily scattered on the first attack?"

And so saying the Maarshalk seized a bone from the table and began to chew off the remaining portion of meat.

"It is a hot day," remarked the German, looking at this with extreme disgust: "shall we not walk outside in the garden where it is pleasant among the flowers, and the bees, and the fruit trees? This room oppresses me."

"People who live as I do," replied Karel van Egmond, shortly, "boot and saddle, hole and corner, touch and go, get used to common inns."

Rosina entered heavily and timidly. She carried a dish of fresh curds and a pot of cream which she placed on the table, looking apprehensively from one to another of the three gentlemen, all of whom appeared rather terrible in her eyes, but one of whom was a shining attraction, and this was the German stranger with the long yellow hair, who now stood in such an agreeable and good-humoured attitude by the window, outlined in his radiant fairness against the background of the sunny limes, while the others appeared disordered and stern; the Maarshalk, red, coarse, his forehead beaded with sweat—the Duke, pale, frigid, his attitude one of barely contained anger. The German alone had a courteous, easy, smiling word for Rosina; he thanked her for the curds and cream and asked if they might walk in the garden, to which the girl, with amazed humility, replied that all the house and farm were at their disposal.

"I will not walk in any garden," grumbled the Maarshalk, wiping his face with his sleeve, "it is my custom to sleep after meals."

Egmond placed on his shaven head the linen coif he wore under his steel hat, and said grimly and gloomily that he was at the stranger's disposition—"as well indoors as out," he remarked sourly. "I cannot think your views to be of great moment."

Yet he was plainly disturbed and eyed the German with hostility and apprehension.

When Rosina had gone, the German laughed and exclaimed gaily—"Why, do you not know me, Egmond—I am Maximilian of Hapsburg."


THE German gentleman, who had just announced himself as Maximilian of Hapsburg, had made his statement courteously and quietly, and yet not without a keen sense of its importance; for he was one who loved everything romantical and flourishing, and to him there was something splendid in being able thus to reveal his identity in this poor room of an inn in Guelders, and so put to a sudden shame and confusion his two companions who had taken him so lightly, and spoken of him with a certain disparagement.

Karel van Egmond coloured darkly all over his gloomy face, inwardly he named himself a fool for not having guessed, immediately, who it was to whom he spoke. He had sensed that the stranger possessed an uncommon quality, and had been teasing his memory as to whom he had been at the Burgundian Court where he, Karel, had been in his childhood and youth. But those days had grown dim with him since he had been absorbed with his good Guelders, and he could not recall one personality above the others. Now that Maximilian had made known himself, he did remember the tall athletic figure, with long dark yellow hair, the high aquiline nose, though in ten years Maximilian was changed, as no doubt he, Karel, was changed.

When the Emperor, as he had named himself, had first spoken his name, it had seemed to Karel van Egmond a gross absurdity to suppose that he, Maximilian of Hapsburg, should be in Guelders in disguise with a small escort and forced to put up at this lonely mean inn; then he instantly recollected Maximilian's character was reputed at once extravagant and unstable, and that his action was in keeping with extravagance and unstability; he was indeed a man to undertake just such a venture light-heartedly and with no fear of the consequences. So Egmond, quick and able as he was, made no dispute about this astonishing affair, but accepted what the other said; he peered at him keenly, and spoke with what courtesy he could, on the sudden, muster:

"I should have known you, Kaiser, but it was a long time ago we saw one another last, and I hardly thought to meet you in such a manner, in such a place."

Maximilian agreed that their meeting was strange enough, and as he was superstitious, he imputed this to more than chance. He came to the table now where Egmond had paused beside the chair of the Maarshalk, and remarked, smiling from one to the other, in the most amiable fashion, "Now we are met we can come to some agreement. I believe in these informal conversations between men of intelligence. What do you say to that, Maarshalk?" he added, greeting the old warrior with a brilliant smile.

Maarten van Rossem was at a loss. He stared and sucked his thick lips, trying to remember what manner of insult he had put upon the Emperor in their late talk. He had called him a fool; well, he thought him a fool, and, after all, what did it matter? The German, Emperor or no, was in their power. Van Rossem continued to stare at him rudely, he did not believe in men like that; frivolous and stupid. What was he doing in Guelders with a small escort, getting into a commonplace fray in a wood, and tramping about alone? Pah! This was no Emperor worth the following—he preferred a warrior like the hard young Duke of Guelders, and he turned looks of loyal love on his master.

Maximilian laughed at the old Maarshalk's sullen discourtesy. "You have a faithful servant there, Egmond," he said in familiar tones. "I would he followed me; perhaps some day that will be the same service, eh, Maarshalk?"

Maarten van Rossem made no response to this specious flattery, save to grunt out some half inarticulate answer, and to gaze with eyes of experience upon the person of Maximilian, taking in every detail of his figure and face. The Maarshalk did not approve what he saw, he disliked high Roman noses and long hair, he scorned hunting trousers and soft boots—a sensible man would always go in steel nowadays...a reckless trivial fellow, this boasting Hapsburg.

"Come," added Maximilian, still smiling, perhaps half ironically, "I cannot endure any longer the closeness of this room, I am going out into the garden, and so you join me when you have a little consulted together what you would say to me."

With that he left them with a dignity that they could not deny, gracefully opened and closed the door, with as easy an air as if they had met on some State and ceremonious opportunity in one of their own houses.

"Good faith!" cried Karel, when the door had shut upon Maximilian, "what do you make of that, Maarshalk?"

"The man is a boasting fool," was the sneering reply of the old warrior. "The best way out of this affair is to slit his throat—it will pass for the act of some of these wayside robbers. It could quite easily be done," he added, with a hopeful look at his master. "We have a party of fifty coming up in an hour or so to this appointment."

Karel van Egmond was not surprised at this suggestion. He was used to such instances of brutal ill-breeding on the part of his Maarshalk—he did not trouble to give the remark serious consideration.

"Chivalry and, I think, policy," he replied, drily, "forbid that we should touch him; he is entirely in our power. It would certainly be convenient to clap him in prison, but that could not be done without a great scandal, which would not work out to our profit."

"As you will," grumbled Maarten van Rossem, "you are always too nice. Most men would take advantage of a fool like that."

"Are you sure that he is a fool?" asked Karel van Egmond softly, "he may have very precise and subtle reasons for coming like this to Guelders, and as for that misfortune in the woods about Venlo, I must wash my hands of that, it has an ill colour. He is Emperor Elect, Maarshalk."

"Eh, eh," sneered Maarten van Rossem rudely, "you do not intend to do homage for him for Guelders, do you, Egmond?—that is why he has come here, to force you, Egmond. He has been importuned by the entreaties of Albert of Saxony, his stadtholder, to come to Guelders and deal with the matter himself; and, being romantical and extravagant, he has done so—not at the head of an army, but alone, like a wandering pedlar or mean merchant, to confer with you as one prince to another. That would be his humour."

"That would not be unlike his humour, at least," conceded the Duke of Guelders, reluctantly, "and I must meet him in the same fashion—extravagant caprice though it be."

"Caprice," sneered van Rossem, "caprice! This Maximilian wishes to behave like the heroes they put in fairy stories to amuse the children. He is sick with dreams."

"Perhaps he has the elements of greatness in him," mused Karel van Egmond, frowning. "I do not know him. During his father's life he has been somewhat eclipsed."

"He couldn't hold his wife's dowry," jeered the Maarshalk, "they had him on his knees in the marketplace at Bruges, didn't they? His head is in the clouds. He dreams to be a Constantine, or an Otto, or a Charlemagne, and he has no revenue, and no army, and no capital. Faugh! do not trouble with him, Egmond."

But the Duke of Guelders could not feel this robust contempt for Maximilian of Hapsburg, whose character might be fantastic, and whose circumstances were doubtful and perhaps desperate, but who was Emperor Elect, protected by the Pope—Emperor of Germany, of the West, of the Holy Roman Empire. There was a splendid pretension there, as he had said. And what was he, the Duke of Guelders? A man who held a fief of that same Empire—a little country between Germany and the Netherlands, and one that was scarcely his by right, for his grandfather had mortgaged Guelders to the house of Burgundy and never redeemed it. If this came to a matter of sheer equity, it was Maximilian, and not he, that was lord of this beloved strip of land on the banks of the Waal and Rhine; so the jurists would decide—that he, Karel van Egmond was what Maximilian had named him—a bold, audacious rebel.

Maarten van Rossem spoke again. "If this Maximilian," he asked scornfully, "could hold the whole Empire, do you think he would trouble about Guelders? What is rule here to one who rules from the Danube to the Marne, from Hungary to Holland?"

"You judge men coarsely and rudely," replied Karel van Egmond briefly, "maybe this Maximilian is deep and subtle. His life has been full of heroic actions, but none of them fruitful. It may be his destiny, and not he himself which has so far restrained his glory. It may be that he has some deep meaning in coming here like this. Why did he mention Graaf Bernard?—that touched me closely."

"Go out and speak to him," advised the Maarshalk, "while I sleep off my food. I shall be of no use in your subtle and cunning council. You are the better man, Egmond. See that he does not flatter or beguile you. As you say, I judge grossly, I have no dealings in your deep practices. Were it left to me I would despatch the fellow, for I take him to be but a plague and an impediment to better men."

Karel van Egmond had no answer to this rough counsel. The Maarshalk was deep in his confidence, the best trusted leader of his vagabond armies—one who loved Guelders and Egmond. But, also a man careless and indifferent in matters of policy, a man of action, of the camp not the council room.

With a frown on his smooth brow Karel van Egmond went slowly through the dark corridors of the inn, and out into the pleasant garden at the back, where Maximilian waited for him under the fruit trees which grew at the end of the vegetable and flower patch, and sloped down towards the wide shining river.

This nobleman had been brought up in exile and penury. His father had always rebelled against his grandfather, and the two princes between them had torn Guelders into miserable factions, the sufferings of the elder and the cruelties of the younger had been a scandal in Europe, and the rich and beautiful province of Guelders had been lost to the family of Egmond. The old Duke Arnold had mortgaged his province for what money he could raise from Charles the Rash, Duke of Burgundy, and the young Duke Adolf had been slain in a paltry skirmish beneath the walls of Nimwegen. His wife, Charlotte de Bourbon, died of a broken heart, and was buried in the great church of St. Stephen, lonely, behind the altar, in that same magnificent city, while her two little children, Karel and Filipa, had been brought up in pity and charity at the Court of Burgundy, under the wise and tender care of Mary, the heiress of Charles the Rash. She had married this Maximilian, the Archduke of Austria, the same year as the great battle of Nancy, when her father had gone down in the red ruin of a terrible fray, conquered by the same Rene of Lorraine who was now the husband of Karel's sister Filipa. On the death of Mary, only five years after the date of her marriage, Karel had fled from the Burgundian Court, and joined any noble who might be in the field in any petty warfare, fighting under Englebert of Nassau, and any other princeling who would hire his sword and his youthful energy. Karel had not remembered with gratitude the kindness he had received from the House of Burgundy, or the gentle ministrations of Mary; he had remembered only the grievance that his grandfather, Arnold, had sold for those ninety-two thousand ducats the Dukedom of Guelders, in return for aid against his son Adolf. And now they were both dead, that contending bitter father and son; and he, the grandson, was disinherited through their folly and cruelty. Escaping from the guardianship of Englebert of Nassau, Karel had returned to Guelders and been most warmly received by the warlike inhabitants and the independent nobility of that province, who had never consented to the sale of their land to the Court of Burgundy, and despised the overlordship both of that House and of the man to whom that House's honours had descended—Maximilian of Hapsburg, Archduke of Austria, now Emperor Elect.

Katharine of Guelders, the aunt of Karel, had been ruling the province in his name, and she gladly and proudly proclaimed him Duke. But all these high and brilliant hopes were consumed by the fact that a few months later Karel was taken prisoner in that skirmish with the French at Bethune, when he had been placed in the fortress of Peronne. After many sharp and bitter negotiations he had been ransomed by eighty thousand gulden supplied by the men and women of Guelders, and by the fact that Graaf Bernard van Meurs, grandson of Vincent Graaf van Meurs, had taken his place. This was eight years ago, and Graaf Bernard was still in Peronne. Karel van Egmond had craftily held his lordship in Guelders—not openly defying either Frederick the Third, the late Emperor, nor Maximilian, King of the Romans and, in right of his wife, Lord of Burgundy and the Netherlands, but ignoring their claims, and gripping his own dear lands against the peaceable and industrious Hollanders, the Flemings, and the Duke of Juliers and Cleves, who lay on his strongly fortified borders. Karel van Egmond, playing this sharp high game with impetuous ardour and crafty intelligence, had not believed that the turbulent and troubled Maximilian of Hapsburg would interfere with him, either as Overlord of the Netherlands, or as Emperor Elect.

Now the man was here—in this mountebank fashion, sitting under the fruit trees of this mean inn garden, waiting for him to speak to him. And speak to him about what? That atrocious affair of Bernard van Meurs? Karel van Egmond was vexed and disturbed, on his guard, afraid of a trap. Did Maximilian hope to get him back into the great fortress at Peronne—prisoner for life? He walked reluctantly down the narrow garden path and, for once, he omitted to give a look of fierce gratitude and passionate love to the rich and smiling beauty of the landscape, which so seldom failed to fill him with the warmest and purest emotions a man might know; love of Guelders and the warlike people of Guelders had coloured all his turbulent and difficult life.

Maximilian was sitting by a row of beehives which stood under some apple trees which had just been stripped of their early fruit, and he was gazing with an appreciative eye at the spreading loveliness of the landscape. Karel van Egmond observed this with jealousy. "It is a fair country, is it not?" he remarked, as he approached Maximilian. "All your Empire!" and he could not keep the mockery from his cold voice. "I think you have nothing finer than Guelders with its woods and valleys and castles and fields—"

"A prince of your temper," replied Maximilian with a smile, "should be addicted more to the arts of peace than those of war. If you love the beauty of our rich country, Egmond, why do you not keep it immaculate from outrage and rapine?"

"The nobles are greedy and powerful," said Karel, solemnly.

"But your Overlord is strong," smiled Maximilian. "What the Duke of Guelders cannot achieve the Emperor may."


TO the acute, alert and practical mind of Karel van Egmond nothing could have sounded more futile and foolish than this statement which Maximilian made so sedately and graciously. For Karel believed that Maximilian of Hapsburg had scarcely any power at all; he was, as the Maarshalk had just so rudely said, a prince without an army, capital or revenue. He moved from town to town, from castle to castle, often as now, from inn to inn. He was full of a thousand golden projects, and pursued by a thousand humiliating disappointments. His life had been full of great affairs, but they had left little substantial benefit behind them. Wars and peace, treaties and alliances, and even the most resplendent marriage, had left Maximilian of Hapsburg little more than a brilliant adventurer. Karel van Egmond's designs had been on a smaller scale, and so far he had more accurately achieved his ambition. He was at least master in this little dukedom of Guelders in a way that Maximilian of Hapsburg could not consider himself master in any spot of ground—not even in his own native archduchy of Austria. In aiming at so much the House of Hapsburg had lost a great deal of what they might have had, naturally and by right. Over two hundred years ago Rudolf, Count of Hapsburg, and Landgrave of Alsace, had been elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and his successor had held that dubious yet grand office ever since, having added to it by conquest and by marriage two kingdoms of Bohemia and Hungary, and many lordships and principalities, until their domains, as Maarten van Rossem had said, reached from the banks of the Danube in Hungary to the banks of the Marne. With sneering admiration it had been remarked that the House of Austria had gained more by prudent marriages than others gained by costly wars, and this young man sitting under the apple trees by the beehives had been of all his predecessors the most fortunate in that he had married Mary of Burgundy, sole heiress to her father's vast pretensions, which Charles the Rash had inherited himself by a fortunate marriage and conquests of his ancestors, the House of Burgundy having gained the Earldom of Flanders by marriage, and the Countship of Holland and Zeeland and Hainault by intrigue and violence.

Burgundy had been seized by Louis XI, King of France, at the death of Charles the Rash on the fatal field of Nancy, but all this Prince's other possessions had descended to his daughter, and through her to this Maximilian, Archduke of Austria, afterwards King of the Romans, and Emperor Elect. It was a most magnificent dowry the young girl had brought her husband—a landless man, and son of a prince who had been elected Emperor, because of his feeble impotence, and who was sometimes called, because of his penury, Frederick of the Empty Bags, the nickname given to his namesake and cousin, Frederick of the Tyrol.

Even stripped of Burgundy, Mary's dowry had consisted of sixteen provinces, two hundred and fifty large cities, six thousand three hundred large villages, and a hundred thousand small villages.

Often had Karel van Egmond, even while as a child he was being brought up under Mary's tender care, gloated over this same dowry. "What would I have not accomplished," he had thought, sternly, in after struggles, "if I had married a woman with such princely dependencies?" And even now, meeting again the man on whom this high dazzling fortune had fallen, he considered him with some contempt and some compassion, because he had not made a better use of such an opportunity. But, no doubt, Maximilian of Hapsburg (Karel could admit as much) had been harried and hampered by rebellious burghers and turbulent nobles. Now, perhaps, that he was able to call himself Emperor, now that the feeble and futile old father was dead, he would contrive to assert his overthrown authority. He was, at least, a man of a multitude of designs and of a restless ambition.

Karel van Egmond paused by the beehives, waiting for Maximilian to speak, and regarding with his light and sullen glance the dear and desired prospect of Guelders. While he had been considering the fortunes of Maximilian, Maximilian had been considering the fortunes of Egmond.

The Emperor was a prince who could justly pride himself on his management of his fellow-men, his pleasing courtesy, his unstrained agreeable manners. The charm and graciousness of his personality had so far won more for him than either his statecraft or his arms, and he had assured himself and his councillors that, once he had met Karel van Egmond, he would be able immediately to adjust the differences between that prince and himself. He had been pleased with his fantastic meeting with Egmond, but now, ardent, volatile and gay himself, he was a little distressed by that straight narrow face, those cold, light eyes, by the hard severe manner of the man whom he remembered as an impetuous and wilful boy...not so long ago, in the Burgundian Court at Bruges.

"You and I should be friends, Egmond," he began in an agreeable and engaging manner. "Men like ourselves should not quarrel, but be united."

"I have no wish to quarrel with you, Maximilian of Hapsburg," replied Karel van Egmond, drily; "for ten years—that is, since I was free and in my own estate, I have not affronted your power nor crossed your schemes."

Pleased by this fair opening the Emperor stated his case plainly and with candour.

"You have raided my towns of Holland, you have taken many by force, and many by treachery. You rob and plunder my subjects coming to and fro Germany and the Netherlands, as yesterday, Egmond, I was robbed and plundered outside Venlo. You have married your sister to the prince who slew my father-in-law at Nancy, you intrigue and ally yourself secretly to the French who are the greatest enemies I have. You have repeatedly refused to come to the Diet to do homage to my father for the Duchy of Guelders, and you have often forgotten, Egmond, it is not your Duchy at all, but that your grandfather, Arnold, sold it to my father-in-law for ninety-two thousand gulden."

Karel van Egmond had hot and stern answers ready to all these accusations, but he did not care to voice any of them. He was, above everything, prudent. He contented himself, therefore, with quietly replying:

"As to that bargain with my unhappy grandfather, Duke Arnold, I was not privy to it, nor were the people of Guelders, and if you are in need of the ninety-two thousand gulden, I have no doubt that we can raise them, and so redeem the mortgage on the Duchy."

He said this with a little scorn, almost as if he spoke to a merchant or tradesman, for he knew that Maxi, like his father, was always in bitter want of cash. But Maximilian was also contemptuous of money; when he had any he spent it on luxuries, not necessities; in adding to the rich treasures of the Hapsburgs which had been accumulating since the days of Rudolph, or on some brilliancy of adornment for his person, his troops and his houses. He, therefore, at once refused Karel's offer without even considering its value.

"I did not come here to bargain about money," he replied, at once sweetly and grandly; "I came to see if we could not enter into some manner of alliance. I have, Egmond, princely schemes on foot and it is men like you to whom I would entrust them. A scheme of conquest, crusade—"

"A scheme," smiled Egmond, coldly.

"I wish," said Maximilian, "to drive the Turks out of Croatia, to lead a crusade east, to sail up the Danube into the Bosphorus, and snatch Constantinople from the heathen. Is that not a worthy design for a prince?"

"It is a pretty ambition," conceded Karel van Egmond.

"And he who does not respond to such a pretty ambition," said Maximilian, "has a cold and narrow heart. Do not think, Egmond, such an affair impossible—I have driven the Bohemians out of Vienna, and have ridden through the shouting streets of that city in triumph. Can I not therefore drive the heathen out of Constantinople and enter that city in triumph? I have been crowned King of the Romans at Aachen, Charlemagne's own city, can I not therefore be crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire at Rome?"

"It may be," said Karel van Egmond, "it may be."

"And will you not be my captain?" asked Maximilian, with a flashing look; "will you not be my second in these enterprises? There are the French, always insolent, to subdue. Charles, that vain weakling with so much money to spend, intends to overrun Italy, and I and the Pope, the Republic of Venice and the Sforza of Milan must league against him. There is another pretty enterprise, Egmond."

The Duke of Guelders knew that there was personal hatred behind this design against the Valois. The daughter of Maximilian had been brought up at the French Court as affianced bride of the young King under the care of Anne de Bourbon; while Maximilian, soon after the death of his first wife, had been betrothed to Anne of Brittany, who was heiress to that magnificent province, and Charles had married this young girl, stealing Maximilian's bride and repudiating his daughter in one act. Margaret had been returned to her insulted and indignant father, and Charles had seized Brittany and annexed it firmly to the Crown of France. Karel van Egmond knew all this, and also the laughter it had caused in Europe to see the most warlike, most ambitious Maximilian of Hapsburg, King of the Romans, so completely defeated and flouted by the young and sickly Charles de Valois, King of France. The outraged Maximilian had been able to do little in the matter of revenge. He had wished, of course, to carry the banner of the Empire into France, but the princes of Germany had not given him men or money, and Maximilian had had to be content with an invasion of the ancient Burgundian lands, and with the capture of Senlis, where he had received back the larger portion of his daughter's dowry; these events had taken place a few months ago, in May of this year, just before Maximilian was elected Emperor, and Karel van Egmond was sure that the hatred of the Valois must still be hot in the Emperor's heart.

But Maximilian seemed to glance away from this subject and in a deep and ardent voice began to unfold his plans, taking no regard of the fact that the young man who listened to him was neither loyal nor friendly, nor in the least enthusiastic towards any of these glowing schemes.

"I shall be Emperor of Constantinople, I shall join the East and the West in one huge Empire," asserted Maximilian. "I shall control the destinies of Italy. Do you think I can keep out of that combat which that wretched boy Charles means to engage in? I tell you that I have stirred up more there than you can guess. I shall send my troops down the Danube, break the walls of Constantinople, and pursue the heathen across the Bosphorus. I shall take the field against everyone in Europe who disputes my power. Come, Egmond, will you not serve under an Emperor who has such designs?"

But Karel van Egmond sneered to himself—"Castles in the air—castles in the air! You have not the ability to undertake a quarter of what you boast." And he kept his cold light eyes fondly fixed upon the Guelders fields.

"I have little ambition," he remarked aloud, "save to rule quietly in my father's Duchy."

"Quietly?" questioned Maximilian; "why, there is more brawling and fighting in Guelders than in all the rest of the Empire put together."

"That is because I have to hold my own against enemies," said the Duke of Guelders, drily. "For these same brawls and fights I am not responsible, they are the actions of the nobles and mercenaries who are beyond my control."

"Leave them, leave them," cried Maximilian, with a certain generous impatience. "An expedition across the Alps, or across the Bosphorus, promises adventure and glory. It is better to undertake that than to spend one's life in skirmishes in Guelders. I intend to reestablish the Roman Empire in the East—no less a thing than that. Come, I should like a man like you about the steps of my new Imperial throne. This year," he added, "I am going to Rome to receive the Crown of Empire at the hands of the Pope, and then I shall march as the head of Europe against the infidel."

"Meanwhile," asked Karel van Egmond, "what of the King of France and his design on Italy? It looks as if he might sweep all before him there; he has all his father's money and sixty thousand men; Naples may soon lie at his feet, and he will begin to dictate to the Princes of Italy, like a lord of the world. Perhaps he, also," added the young duke, with a sneer, "has cherished this daydream to drive the Turk from Europe. You, Kaiser, are not the only ambitious prince."

"You are well informed in politics, Egmond," smiled Maximilian. "Eh, so much the better; but you do not give me a straight answer to my straight demand. Will you not serve me as my soldier and friend?"

These extravagances did not move Karel van Egmond, whose first thought was for Guelders and Guelders only, whose mind was narrow and practical, whose nature was hard and not romantic.

"Tell me, Kaiser," he asked, "why you came to Guelders? Was it only to broach these matters, or is it true that you wish to see old Graaf Vincent?"

"That is quite true," said Maximilian. "It hurts my honour, as Emperor, that the young Graaf Bernard should remain a prisoner in Peronne. It is a shame to all of us, and I wish to put before the old Graaf my plans for his release."

"It is strange," replied Karel van Egmond, grimly, "that you should concern yourself with such a detail, when you have in your head such magnificent designs, Kaiser."

"I have summoned the Reichstadt at Worms for this autumn," mused Maximilian.

Karel van Egmond was able to complete this sentence—"Until then," he reflected with a sneer, "you have neither men nor funds, and you thought you would fill up the time by a fantastic adventure here in Guelders, rousing up the old Graaf Vincent against me." Aloud, he carefully and courteously offered his escort to the Emperor as far as Roermonde, and the residence of the old Graaf Vincent, Slot van Meurs, which stood outside the walls of the fortified city.


VINCENT, GRAAF VAN MEURS, lived in a small slot, or kasteel, outside the fine walled city of Roermonde, which stood between the river Maas on the South and the river Roer on the West, three leagues from Venlo and twelve from Liege in Upper Guelders. Vincent, Graaf van Meurs, had been reduced to moderate fortunes since he had subscribed so handsomely eight years ago to the ransom required for Karel van Egmond, and of all his property he preferred this residence which, though modest, was finely situate, and lay well within the powerful protection of the city of Roermonde, which was a Hansa town that had lately fallen into the hands of the Hollanders, but had been recently recovered by the Duke of Guelders. The old Graaf lived in little state and had but a few followers; his estates at Meurs were neglected, the great castle closed. He appeared to take no interest in outside affairs, not so much through his great age, and the infirmities of deafness and blindness which had come upon him; but because of his deep sorrow and disappointment at the long detention of his grandson in the fortress of Peronne. The old Graaf had no other relatives, his sons and grandsons, save this one, Bernard, having perished in the tedious and bloody contests of the time; but there lived with him, and was constantly enclosed in this slot of Meurs outside Roermonde, one Gertrude van Bayer van Boppart.

This gentlewoman, though no relation of the old Graaf Vincent, was under his most special and jealous care, for she had been the betrothed wife of Graaf Bernard, and it was said that they had been (though they had not known each other a great while and were very young) most constant lovers in childish affection; she had waited for him eight years, with loyalty and steadfast faith—a quiet woman who had acquired a nun-like air from long seclusion, and whose outward manner was both sharp and cold, and who was little sought after and little loved; indeed, by most men forgotten. She had never had but a small dowry, and most of that had gone to swell the ransom of Karel van Egmond. What was left the old Graaf Vincent had prudently invested in the Convent of Santa Chiara in Roermonde, to buy the lady a peaceful retreat and a small annuity if fortune should turn out blackly, and Graaf Bernard never return from Peronne. That was the fate of Gertrude, as dearly and straightly marked out for her as the avenue which led to the drawbridge across the moat, which surrounded the castle where she had lived for eight years—the fate to wait for Graaf Bernard and, if he never returned, to retire into the Convent in Roermonde.

"And if I die," the old Graaf Vincent had said often enough, "before my grandson is released, you must then go into the Convent and wait—all that is arranged and provided for."

The young gentlewoman always replied, in sentences quiet and dutiful. In late years she had acquiesced into the quietude which surrounded the old Graaf Vincent. She moved evenly about domestic duties, and listened without attention to news of the outer world. She wove a tapestry of the Seven Virtues, and she grew a few poor flowers—mean parterres on the small ramparts of the castle, and she directed the servants, was attentive at her Holy Offices, and sometimes sat with a book on her knee, but not often reading; and no one ever asked her what her thoughts were, nor did she disclose herself to anyone.

It was this Gertrude who received the messenger who came to say that the Duke of Guelders was bringing a guest to see old Graaf Vincent—a man of quality and distinction, who had come on an important errand from the Emperor, but newly elected, Maximilian of Hapsburg, Archduke of Austria.

"We have no splendid entertainment to offer anyone," said Gertrude, placidly; "The best that we have is at the disposal of the Duke of Guelders and his friend."

She sent the messenger to the kitchen for entertainment, and took her keys from her waist, went to her store shelves, examined her provisions, and then leisurely opened the guest chambers.

The castle was not very well furnished, the hangings were faded and, in parts, threadbare. The furniture was massive and polished by years of heavy use. The only objects of luxury were a few pictures in the old Flemish style, and some books, painted manuscripts, for the old Graaf Vincent detested the modern fashion of printing.

Gertrude, with her own hands, because there were so few servants in the castle, prepared the two guest chambers—one for the Duke of Guelders and one for his friend. She hung the pale coloured striped hangings on to the dark bedpoles, and spread the needlework quilts over the mattresses. She fixed a crucifix between the two lancet-shaped windows, and set cushions of damask in the window seats, and in the closet off each chamber she set out basins and ewers of fresh water, and folded linen napkins, precisely as Maximilian had demanded this should be done when he came to the inn. Then by each bed she placed a little Persian carpet, which were greatly treasured possessions of the old Graaf Vincent, and had come from the East years ago by way of Venice; and in each room she opened the garde robe to let the air in, and set wide the casement glazed with thick glass, that the fresh summer sun might purify the long shut-away rooms which had a smell of dust. All these tasks Gertrude performed without any change in her countenance, which remained as always, still and calm. When she had completed these duties she went to her own small room which looked directly over the entrance, the portcullis, the drawbridge, and the deep dark moat on which swans sailed, and the little park beyond which was dark with beech trees. This was a narrow, simple room like a nun's cell, with a statue of Saint Gertrude, who was Pepin of Landen's daughter, in gilt wood above the bed which had no hangings or coverings; it was a straight and simple couch, covered with a cloth of Gertrude's own sewing. She had placed small boughs of box and bay in a pot in the open window, and the strong sun had drawn a fragrant pungent perfume from these sprigs of green which filled the whole narrow chamber; this strong scent drawn by the heat from the glossy leaves was very grateful to Gertrude. She sat down by the open window and looked across the familiar prospect, while she took off her linen coif and let down on to her wide shoulders a quantity of her smoky-black hair, which was so hot and heavy when coiled round her small head. She unbuttoned her fine cloth bodice which was neither of very rich material nor of very fashionable cut, and sat slackly on her low wooden chair which had once been gilded, but from which now all the gilding was nearly rubbed away.

In the strong sunlight and in the strong perfume of the box and bay she sat languid, drowsy, as if she enjoyed this moment of solitude and freedom in the light, the silence, and the aroma of the shrubs. Gertrude was nearly twenty-five years old—one year older than Graaf Bernard and the Duke of Guelders—tall and slender, but with opulent shoulders and bosom. Her colour was of a golden amber tint, and her chestnut-black hair so abundant that it seemed extravagant, when she loosened it as it was loosened now on to her shoulders. Her eyes were of a peculiar light greyish-yellow, the iris large, the pupil dilated, wide-set apart and deep-cut, her glance indifferent, her lips full and pale. Her limbs were most delicately made, and her hands and feet very fine; her voice deep and a little harsh. She had the habit of a sudden laugh which showed all her white teeth, but mostly she was silent, and when she was in the old Graaf Vincent's presence—and that was almost continuously—she perpetually looked at him, as if waiting for instructions. Now she looked at nobody, but stared blankly at the sunlight, falling in with such sumptuous glory through the narrow open window into the narrow bare chamber. Gertrude was a beautiful woman, but there was something fearful in her beauty. Many men had said they were afraid of her; there was nothing about her that was gracious, or simple, or charming. There appeared to be a menace in her indifferent silence, but it was years since any had passed this opinion on her, for she had lived in such a seclusion that no one saw her, save the old Graaf Vincent and the servants, to whom she was neither beautiful nor menacing, but merely Gertrude, the affianced of young Graaf Bernard waiting with dutiful patience for his return from Peronne.

Presently, observing the sun leaving her window, and that it must be late in the day, she roused herself reluctantly as if from a delicious depth of dreams, and with the regret of one whose sole delight it is to dream.

She changed her plain gown for one of rubbed blue velvet, which she took carefully from a small press. Her beautiful hair was hidden again under a small cap of folded linen, then over her used habit, which had belonged to her mother before her, she placed with grave consideration a thin chain of gold, and went downstairs to the long dining-room, where she found Graaf Vincent dozing in the sun. Rousing him, she told him in her monotonous, slightly raucous voice, that the Duke of Guelders was coming and bringing with him a spend the night...everything was ready...

"Egmond is here far too often," complained old Graaf Vincent, bitterly.

Gertrude did not reply; she went to the window and looked down into the moat, where the swans were waiting in expectation of the morsels of bread she so often threw them.

"Why does he dare to come here?" the old man continued, in a peevish grumble; "he must know that I detest him. Does he want to mock at our poverty and our patience? Has he come with news of Bernard in Peronne?"

"Perhaps he has," replied Gertrude quietly, still looking out of the window. "Perhaps he has come with news of him at last, Graaf Vincent."

"Why does he come here so often," mused the old man, bitterly, "knowing I have nothing for him but hard words and contempt? And yet he always seeks me gently, in a manner not usual to his temper. I am glad that my eyes fail, Gertrude, and that I cannot see him very well."

"You loved him once; I suppose he thinks of that," commented Gertrude, coldly, as if the whole affair were a matter of indifference to her languorous apathy.

"I despise him, and I detest him," lamented the old man, in tones trembling with anguish. "I have good reason to detest him. He has taken my money and my grandson, and has made no return for either. I think I shall perish before I see Bernard again, and perhaps, Gertrude, Bernard will perish before he sees you again. Eight years, Gertrude, eight years this spring, since he went into Peronne in exchange for Karel van Egmond."

"How often you say that," replied the young woman indifferently, "think of something else for the sake of your peace of mind, Graaf Vincent."

"I have nothing else to think of," replied the old man, simply; he sat silent, shivering in the strong sunshine, nursing his hopeless and helpless anger and rage. He believed that Karel van Egmond had betrayed him and mocked him, that the Duke had no honour or friendship in his disposition, no loyalty or constancy to his word. He never made any effort to rescue Graaf Bernard from Peronne, he was leaving him there to a miserable and slow death, while he enjoyed to the full the results of the ambition which he had been able to gratify through the liberality and devotion of the family of van Meurs. Graaf Vincent was poor, he was neglected, he was despoiled of his hope and love, his grandson; why then did Karel van Egmond continually come to his miserable castle as if to mock at his wretchedness? He was an old man, who had perhaps, very little longer to live. He had no money, no power, no influence. His House, of which he had been so proud, was extinct in him, unless Bernard was rescued from Peronne.

"The Duke of Guelders brings someone with him," remarked Gertrude, still indifferently—"someone, I think, from Germany, perhaps an ambassador from the new Emperor."

"Will the Emperor see justice done, do you think?" asked the old Graaf sorrowfully.

"Maybe; they say he is a generous and magnificent prince, and he has all reason to hate the French, who have so insulted him and whose ambitions so cross his own."

As Gertrude spoke she heard horsemen coming through the park, but the sound was not audible to the old dull ears of Graaf Vincent. Gazing keenly from the window she saw the small cavalcade pass the drawbridge which had been duly lowered at their approach. She marked Karel van Egmond at the head of the little troop. He was to her a most familiar figure. She hardly glanced at him, but she looked long and steadily at the knight who accompanied him, Maximilian of Hapsburg, talking gaily, riding with accomplished grace, a head above all his fellows.


GERTRUDE stood behind the old Graaf Vincent to receive the guests. First, with a sulphur taper, she had lit the lamps set in the middle of the long white cloth on the dining-table, for though it was still light outside in the fields, here in the interior of the castle, it was already dark for the windows were deep-set and narrow. A considerable company of men had accompanied Karel and Maximilian into the castle, for many of Maximilian's followers had escaped from the ambush in the woods outside Venlo, and made towards Roermonde, meeting him on the way. As Gertrude saw this company she wondered about her store of provisions, and if they had sufficient in the house, and when she saw Maximilian she was ashamed for the modesty of the feast she had prepared, for she knew at once that he was of greater quality than even Karel van Egmond, and a foreigner, because of his long hair and his peculiar dress. With these two came Maarten van Rossem. The Maarshalk was in a sulky humour. He detested these dull visits to the Kasteel van Meurs, where the food was common and scanty and the conversation too spiritual for his liking, but he had that manner of fidelity which cannot bear to be separated from its object, and save where there was some grave stress of circumstance, he never left Karel van Egmond.

The Graaf Vincent asked haughtily who the stranger was, and turned his dim eyes in the direction of the newcomers. He could see very little even when the light was clear, and now between the twilight and the flickering lamplight, light was obscured, and the room full of shadows.

"This gentleman," said Karel drily, "is Maximilian of Hapsburg, Archduke of Austria, King of the Romans, Emperor Elect."

Gertrude glanced quickly at the man to whom these high mounting titles, not without irony, had been applied by Karel van Egmond, while the old man rose, and made an abrupt and feeble reverence. He had no admiration or reverence for the House of Austria. But Maximilian ignored alike the cold awkwardness of the girl and the cold hostility of the old man. He felt that they were surprised and that he had taken them at a disadvantage, and he was moved by the austere poverty of the room; the threadbare hangings on the rough stone walls, the common benches on either side the long table, the mean service—a few cups and spoons; plain food yet arranged decorously; jugs of wine and dishes of fruit, and white bread laid on napkins; Gertrude in her rubbed velvet, and the old man in his turned-about cloth robes, had also this quality of austerity and poverty, dignity and reserve.

"This is a sudden and overwhelming honour," remarked the old Graaf Vincent sternly. "We have lived so long apart from the world, Kaiser, that I have forgotten ancient courtesies."

Maximilian put all this pleasantly aside, as he put aside the stiff silence of Gertrude, the cold and menacing air of Karel van Egmond, and the sullen gross rudeness of Maarten van Rossem. Superbly self-confident, the moods and manners of those with whom he mingled were of little moment to him, and he had never yet failed, if he troubled to take sufficient pains, to win all manner of men to his own ends. He had come to Guelders to win Karel van Egmond over to his side, to make him into one of his captains; for he was in need of captains to further the many grandiose projects that daily passed in such brilliant colours through his mind. He had also his purpose in coming to Meurs, and as they all sat down to the table round the two flickering coarse lamps, eating salad and slices of dried meat with bay leaves, and drinking wine out of thick jugs, Maximilian, leaning forward into the circle of light, began to unfold these projects, careless of the indifference, timidity and hostility of his audience. He could not like the Duke of Guelders, and he must despise the coarse Maarshalk. Towards the old man and the girl he was himself indifferent; all the emotions of his listeners he secretly disdained. The frugality of the food had not displeased him; he was, like Karel van Egmond, fastidious and plain in what he ate; he drank little wine. He sat at the head of the narrow table in the humble chair which was in the place of honour, at his right was Karel van Egmond, and to his left Maarten van Rossem and further down the old man and the girl. They were in shadow, nor had Maximilian greatly troubled with either of them, save to mark with a certain compassion their infirmities—the poverty of both, the age of one and the nun-like obscurity of the other. As Maximilian leant forward and began to talk the light of the lamp illuminated his strong features and notable face from the deep shadow; the high nose, the heavy-lidded eyes, the wide mouth, and the long, smooth, hanging yellow hair. He still wore his plain riding suit, with trousers; the collar buttoned high over the shirt, and no ornament whatever. Even the carbuncle ring which he had worn when he came to the inn outside Roermonde was gone; for, when he had come to look in his wallet, he found that he had, after all, lost his purse, and the ring had been left in pledge for his bill, a circumstance that had caused Karel van Egmond to sneer with contempt, and despise even more definitely than he had despised before this errant emperor, this captain-adventurer, who strove to gain the power of the ancient Caesars, and put himself on a level with the Ottos, Constantines and Charlemagnes of the past. But, despite this great contempt, Karel van Egmond listened carefully when Maximilian began to speak; although he was scornful of the Emperor, he was also a cautious, a wary, and a subtle man, and he never made the mistake of too keenly underrating an opponent.

Maximilian began to talk rapidly, he spoke in German—a dialect a great deal of which was unintelligible to his listeners, and now and then he used Latin—not the Latin of the new learning, but the old Latin of the monks. Despite the fact that they could not follow clearly what he said, there was an ardour in his words, a brilliancy in his looks, an animation in his gestures that brought home to them all he wished to say. It was more that he raised images for them to gaze at than that he expounded theories in words.

"Do not think me a man like my father—God rest his patient soul!—who was content with a name and did not seek for power. I am Emperor Elect of the Holy Roman Empire, and I do not intend that that shall be a title of mockery!"

"What is the Holy Roman Empire?" interrupted Karel van Egmond, with irony. "Can you or any other man revive the domination of the Caesars or the power of Charlemagne, or Barbarossa?"

"They were only men," replied Maximilian. "If they could bear the victorious eagles through the world, cannot I?"

"The Empire is in pieces," mused the old man, "threatened on the East by the Turks, and on the West by the French; all the princes rebelling one against the other. You will need to be a fine captain, Kaiser, and a good statesman, if you can make come true some of these dreams of yours, which I am told you cherish! What is the diadem but a symbol? What is the coronation at Aachen, at Rome, but a ceremony? How many emperors have we had who have borne these hollow titles and contented themselves with these shallow honours?"

"I am not one of them," replied Maximilian warmly. "I know well enough that the power of the Germans is wasted in trivial disputes, that our discipline is undermined, our justice is shamefully administered—that luxury has broken the strength, the ambition of the princes; but all this sloth and disorder may be overcome! I dream, Graaf Vincent, of a united Germany—a wide empire controlled by one power, splendour and strength gathered into one circlet of authority Our policy is clear. We cannot attack Turkey leaving France in the rear. France may seize Italy; we must hold it for certain that we cannot retain the Empire unless we protect Italy from France. France, after she has conquered Italy, can conquer us. Our fortune must lie with Venice and Spain—England, too, if she is called, will come and share in the spoil. Let the princes take counsel in this matter, and I shall not fail to lead them to success!"

He paused, flushed with pleasure at the brilliancy of his own words, and waited applause.

"Aye, Kaiser," said Karel van Egmond, ironically, turning his hard light eyes keenly on the ardent face of Maximilian, which was radiant with the splendour and promise of his own speech, "you talk as other men talk, but what is the truth? France has seized Burgundy, Picardy, Brittany, and may seize Milan. She has returned your daughter and snatched your wife; the lilies are ready to sweep across Italy from Lombardy to Calabria; the Turks are almost at the door of Vienna, and those whom you quote as allies—Venice, and Spain, and England, sit close hugging their own interests. No, Kaiser, this empire of yours is a dream. Let every man look to the little land he has, and keep that. I, Kaiser, intend to keep Guelders."

Maximilian answered this in an ardent voice:

"Fifteen hundred years since Christ suffered on the Cross, and we have yet to outgrow the manners of barbarians. Still these civil wars, vulgar spites, and cheap ambitions! Such things do not suffice for these modern times, Egmond. The people look now for justice, for peaceful administration, for a united country, trade must be encouraged...that is going to be one of the most vital forces of the future. See these great cities, free cities, those of the Hansa League, of the Netherlands, who do nothing but trade—are they not become as powerful as the princes?"

"The more reason," sneered Karel van Egmond, "for putting them down; that is not difficult, for they are soft from money-making and have forgotten how to fight."

"No," answered Maximilian, "they must be coordinated, they must be ruled, subdued; make the country safe for them, protect them from robbery and unjust taxation, and they will contribute their fair share to the upkeep of the Empire. This is an age, too, of art and science, Egmond. Humanists have shown us how dry and false was the enclosed learning of the monks! In every direction we see a new era, beauty and splendour which can only flourish in perfect security lie in wait to reward us for our trouble—let us but conquer France and the heathen!"

Karel van Egmond interrupted:

"How can you do that, Kaiser? Your dream is a very vain one, fitter for women and children to indulge in such visions than for men and princes! This is still the age of the sword—by the sword we conquer, and by the sword we hold that which we have conquered. Leave your paintings, and your statues, and your gilded armour, and your mocking verses, and your church music, and your lutes of peace to the effeminates of Italy. We in Germany are men of arms and horses."

"That, too," cried Maximilian, eagerly. "Do not think I despise arms. I am something versed in them myself. When I have united the princes of Germany together, when I have expressed my ideal of power in these two great wars—"

Karel van Egmond interrupted again, and this time with a furious impatience:

"The princes of Germany will never put you in possession of the revenue for armies to lead these two great wars, Kaiser! They are too envious of you, too divided among themselves and, believe me," he added violently, "they do not think you the man to revive the empire of a Constantine or Charlemagne!"

"You do not consider," exclaimed Maximilian, "that I am capable of conducting large enterprises?"

"No man in the Empire thinks so," replied Karel van Egmond, coldly; "although, Kaiser, you have all the graces and all the talents. Small-minded and mean-spirited and envious these same princes may be, they have reason and justice on their side, too, Kaiser. Germany cries out for internal reform. You yourself have spoken of robbery, of violence, of harsh taxation, of trade destroyed, and confidence slain. Reform Germany, Kaiser, make that into one consolidated nation, and then think of leading your forces against the French and the Turks. Why should we offer our swords and our cash that you may browbeat the Italians, subdue the Netherlanders, and destroy the glories of France?"

"Because," answered Maximilian, "my throne, my diadem should be the rallying point for a confederation—without this confederation we can have no progress. I am the head of an organization so loose that it is useless. And how better," he added with animation, "do you think, Egmond, that I can unite this vague circle of princes, electors and free cities, than by joining them all in one vast army to fight for the might and power of the Empire against foreigners—men who speak other languages, who have other ways; against the heathen who are the natural enemies of all Christians, and against the French who are the natural enemies of all Germans?"

Maarten van Rossem who had been sitting without the circle of light in heavy shadow, and who had seemed sullenly and grossly asleep in his chair, now spoke.

"That is all very well, Kaiser, you talk of Germans and Germany—"

"German honour is my honour, and my honour is German honour," said Maximilian. "When I speak of myself I mean the Empire, Germany; when I speak of Germany, the Empire, I mean myself."

These words came easily to the Emperor, for he was fond of uttering them.

"That is all very well," insisted the Maarshalk; "but there are many people who think, Kaiser, that you put the House of Austria and the glory of the Hapsburgs before the German Empire, or any German creature."

"Here are two good reasons why you will meet with no success," added Karel van Egmond coldly. "I tell them to your face, Kaiser, for you seem to have come here for plain clear speaking. The first is that the German princes and any allies that they might have do not think you a man to lead great and glorious enterprises; and the second is, they do not believe you work for their good, but for your own. The House of Austria has not a meek or humble reputation, Kaiser Max. The Hapsburgs have been bold and clever, fortunate and diligent, but always for their own advantage."

At this rebuke Maximilian looked at the Duke of Guelders with the first impatience he had shown.

"How small and narrow your mind is!" he cried. "Are you, after all, Egmond, nothing but a brawler, one who organizes bands to attack travellers on the road? Listen, listen, all of you!"


MAXIMILIAN moved away the lamp from in front of him; the room seemed close, airless, oppressive; he leant forward and continued to speak easily and eagerly. He knew that he held the attention of the three men, but had not drawn the attention of the woman, for he had glimpsed her cold looks, even through the shadows. While he spoke she had never moved, but had remained with her hands lightly laid on the table in front of her, regarding him with that intensity of gaze which he had so often noticed in an exquisitely-carven image.

"Consider Europe," he cried, on fire with his own enthusiasm, "and who has any pretension equal to our pretensions? Look at them, consider them, all these States. Let us regard it, as men of these times, as practical men of to-day. I know that you, Egmond, believe that I am extravagant and, perhaps, fantastical; but I have, though not yet past my youth, had a few successful affairs, you must confess! This year I have beaten the Turks out of Croatia, I have quelled the French in Burgundy, I have got back my daughter's dowry, and have made the peace of Senlis. I have been in negotiation with Ludovico Sforza, I have entered Vienna in triumph, I am a fair diplomat; when Albert of Bavaria married my sister against my father's will, through that old fool Sigismund of Tyrol I made peace between them, though their armies were facing each other in the field. I have abilities."

"No one has ever denied it," remarked Karel van Egmond quietly; "the question is, Kaiser Max, how you can direct your abilities, how you can get other men to second them? Did you not ask for eighteen thousand ducats from the Reichstadt, and did you not get six thousand?"

"That was through lack of organization in the taxation," replied Maximilian with animation. "It is absurd, it is foolish, it is behaving like children, for us to continue like this. All the electors and the princes and the bishops in the free cities quarrel one with another; envious, jealous, and full of petty concerns, they must be consolidated."

"They ask, and they wait for internal reform," said old Graaf Vincent in his thin voice, "and that was promised them some years ago and they have not yet had it. That destroys their confidence. Cities lose trade through the wars of the nobles, and the nobles try to keep the cities down because they grow too rich and powerful."

"Everyone must work together," declared Maximilian, warmly, "contribute to the common cause, pull in the same direction."

"Yes, under the Emperor," sneered Karel van Egmond.

"Exactly, under the Emperor," repeated Maximilian, defiantly. "Again, I ask you, as men of these times, to consider Europe. Look at England. Will she be quiet for long? Her King is an old man, a miser. Why, he has even sold his pretension to the crown of France for a round sum, and out of sheer fear he is quiet, lest he is forced to spend any of his hoard. He has two young princes growing up—Arthur, who will have his Crown, and Henry who is to be head of the Church in England. Think what these two young princes will do when they get their hands on their father's money bags!! Why, exactly as that young spendthrift, Charles de Valois has done in France. He is spending in the first vainglorious enterprise that comes to hand what his father and sister have hoarded and saved for him These people must be met, we must be strong and thrust them back into their own country; armies from France, fleets from England, where is Germany between them when she is divided by rebellion, and when men like you, Karel van Egmond, ferment disunion and evil feeling?"

"I stand by my own," replied the Duke, unmoved by this reproach. "I recognize no Emperor—I give you that to your face, Kaiser; I ask for nothing but Guelders—Guelders I will have and will rule as my fathers ruled before me."

"Yes," replied Maximilian, "you will rule it by misrule—by sword and force; travellers will be robbed and outraged on your highways, as I was robbed and outraged yesterday. Traders and merchants will avoid your roads and rivers; you and your nobles will live like what you are—robbers and murderers; men who live by violence will perish by violence!"

"There is no living on any other terms these days," smiled Maarten van Rossem, as if he spoke to a child.

"You are wrong," retorted Maximilian, "you are a reactionary, you and your kind, Maarshalk, it is that keep the world back. Can't you see how things are changing under your very eyes? This new humanism is opposed to scholasticism, learning is let out of monasteries, life decorated with all the arts, all the sciences; why, look at Vienna, my University, I am going to found a chair of mathematics there. I have engaged learned, wise men, men of the new school—"

"Yes, and what have you engaged them for?" grumbled Maarten van Rossem, "to write of your crazes, eh, Kaiser, compile books showing how many saints and heroes you had in your ancestry; design armour, and statues and buildings for yourself?"

"Yes, all that," admitted Maximilian, proudly, "and more. I believe in adorning life with every splendour and every grace. Certainly, I have filled my courts with goldsmiths and engravers, and architects, and statuaries, and painters, and jewellers—all working for me. I intend to build a palace in Innsbrück roofed with gold."

"Confound your universities and your learned men, Kaiser," sneered Maarten van Rossem grossly, "think of your walled towns and your men-at-arms and your cannon balls I Do you consider that we should be ruled by traders and monks, scholars and philosophers—men who sap their strength poring over books?"

Maximilian strove eagerly to persuade the sombre and ferocious old soldier how mistaken were his antique views. The Emperor pointed to Italy, Venice, Florence and Rome, to the adventurous ships that were tracing on the ocean the great high roads of travel, the discoveries that might be made any year now in the Indies where mines full of gold and silver, rich with untold wonders, were to be revealed. "Look at Venice now, built up on trade, how magnificent! Ships unloading their cargoes at the steps of the palace, bales of wool and rolls of silk lying beside the trophies won in the fights with infidels! Hundreds of patricians living in princely style, well-educated—not as some brought up in the last generation, as monks used to be brought up, but with real learning. Take this new invention, printing—what will that mean?"

Here, understanding at last something of what the Kaiser was saying, old Graaf Vincent struck into the conversation with peevish anger:

"Don't speak to me about printing," he cried, "that is an invention of the Great Devil, clear and obvious. I will not have a printed book inside my house. Everything that is good for a man to read the hand of man can write. The printing machine is for your cursed prophets and astrologers who try to foretell us the weather, and dictate to us when we should plant our crops, and when we shall take them in, and such like impish fry who hope to gain wisdom by selling their souls."

Maximilian smiled with soft compassion, and glanced past the still wide face of the girl to the bowed feeble figure of the old man, who added in a dreadful and whimpering voice—"What's all this to me, Kaiser, what's all this to me? I want to know when my grandson is coming out of the fortress of Peronne!"

Maximilian regarded him graciously. "Your grandson, Graaf Vincent, shall leave the fortress of Peronne, I give you my word for that. He shall be one of the captains who shall accompany me when I make these two great wars—these two great crusades which I shall make to drive the heathen back across the Bosphorus, and to drive the French back across the Alps, should they dare to cross them."

"You talk about the blessings of peace," remarked Karel van Egmond, "of universities, of the ministration of justice, and of safety for the poor man, and of trade, building great palaces and ports, of rivers choked with barges bringing merchandise, and yet you plan two colossal wars."

"These are wars," explained Maximilian serenely, "to prevent any other wars—war to prevent war. When I have the power of these two victories behind me—"

"You count on victories, then?" interrupted Karel van Egmond quickly.

"Certainly, I count on victory—"

"If you can get the men and the money, the armour and the horses, and the cannon," put in Maarten van Rossem, "if you can get the captains, if you can get the common people to pay the taxes—a good bundle of 'ifs ', Kaiser!"

Maximilian was not disconcerted by these dry rebukes. He tried again to paint his gorgeous and glittering picture of what he conceived the world would be under a consolidated and glorious Holy Roman Empire. He dilated eagerly and with vivid intelligence on the States of Italy as they were now, how they had grown and flourished through peace and trade, the magnificence of Milan, the glory of the great cathedrals, the magnificent old city of Genoa, all marble and peopled by princes...Rome rising, more gorgeous than it was in the days of the Caesars, on the ruins of heathen temples, the Medici merchants themselves rearing a superb city in Tuscany, everywhere men's minds being opened, men's hearts being animated, men's souls being elevated, a thousand inventions, a thousand devices, to make life more glorious, more splendid, more worth living. "What a futile waste, what a stupid horror is war!" cried the Kaiser. "We have so short a life that every moment of it should be made delightful and glorious. I tell you again, consider Venice, so different from our rude cities of the north, where on the Rialto, travellers tell us, you can see a thousand people buying and selling. It is the prettiest and pleasantest sight imaginable, and everyone is well-clad and well-fed, and all their tables excellently spread, with glass crystal, spoons and even forks of silver."

"Aye," replied Karel van Egmond coldly, "and they live on preserved peaches and sweetmeats, and the men wear silk day and night—enervating viciousness! Wait till Venice is attacked, Kaiser, and see if she can breed warriors. They made their money when they lived simply, and worked and fought hard. I know something of the Courts of Italy, aye, and even of the houses of the gentry and the merchants. Robes of black velvet, jerkins of cloth of gold, gowns of ermine for their wives, white fox skins and embroidery, gold chains, glassware from Murano, majolica, woodcarving, medals and silverware, oriental hangings and tapestry—all toys for children! What does a man need with any of these? One may live with health and vigour one's full tale of years and never care for any such trash or rubbish. They are but shadows, flowers in the springtide grass, to be glanced at and trodden underfoot."

"And as for forks, or even spoons—such newfangled follies," broke in Maarten van Rossem, "who wants them, Kaiser? A man must have a jaded appetite, or a full stomach, who can't use his fingers to his food."

"He speaks grossly," commented Karel van Egmond, drily; "but he is a good fighter; such men as he are those I wish to serve me, Kaiser."

"And such men as you," replied Maximilian, with sweet courtesy, "are those I wish to serve me, Egmond. You cannot be of so cold a mind or so narrow a soul, as not to be inflamed by what I have said."

Karel van Egmond was silent for a little space and, staring boldly, while he rested his folded arms on the narrow table, at the candid and noble countenance of Maximilian, he considered his case. What the Emperor had said was not altogether new to Egmond; in his rude and rough travels, before he had seized his father's duchy for himself, he had heard this same talk of the change in the world, of power passing into the hands of bankers and traders, and even these humanists or learned men, who strove to make life so delicious that one might almost forget paradise. He had heard of this talk of peaceful administration of a country, and the rights of the burgher and the peasant; but he had not been very much impressed by it, for he had never yet seen it put into practice. It might some day be done, however; a colossal ordered empire might be created out of the chaotic state of the free cities which formed Central Europe, but was Maximilian the man to achieve this tremendous task? Karel van Egmond judged him coldly and shrewdly. He knew much that was admirable in the character of Maximilian; though he had talked so warmly of luxury and learning, there were other sides to his nature. Allowing for the adulation and exaggeration of his flatterers, Maximilian of Hapsburg still had some remarkable skill in knightly exercises. He could more than make a fair show at a tournament; he could carry an eighteen-foot lance and charge with full harness on his back; he had invented new armour, improving greatly on the old-fashioned style; he could drive the shaft of an arrow without any iron on it through two fingers' breadth of larch planks; he could beat all the gun-masters at shooting with the cannon, could kill huge boars single-handed with the sword, and had followed the chamois to the highest heights of the Tyrol; he could use brains as well as strength and skill. He would never ride a hard-mouthed horse, and he had invented a new bit; he had a knowledge of casting cannon, and had invented several sights for guns; he practised powder-making, and had shown an armourer at Innsbrück how to fit a new sort of screw to a cuirass. In spite of his boasting now about the new learning, he had not shown himself very apt at his own learning, as a child and a lad; he had been more employed, as Karel von Egmond well knew, in stalking the calves and chickens with bow and arrow, and setting the hounds on the cats and his father's pet animals. At twelve he had hardly been able to read or talk Latin, and his father had said—when noticing afterwards his astonishing ability—that he had thought he would either turn out a mute or a fool. But all this was decidedly in his favour with a man like Karel van Egmond; he did not deny either that Maximilian was a man of most pleasing address, the most noble and powerful figure, of a fine and impressive presence, fit indeed to be a leader of warriors; his manners, too, were ingratiating; he had not boasted when he had said that he had considerable diplomatic ability. It had been rare indeed when he had not been able to win over an opponent, if he was able to meet him face to face. But, for all this, Karel van Egmond did not feel disposed to follow the banner of the Eagles, either in the East against the heathen, or in the West against the French; he had seized his own Duchy and he wished to maintain it. To follow the unstable fortunes of the brilliant Maximilian would be to abandon Guelders, and, perhaps, receive nothing in return; and he thought hotly in his heart, "Whatever I receive in return it will not be of the value of Guelders." So, folding his lean and well-shaped hands firmly on the table, and fixing those pale and hostile eyes steadily on the Emperor, he said:

"All you say may be true, Kaiser, but I am a man of my hands and my horse; I know nothing about your learning or the changes in Europe, or the rights of the trader or the peasant. I have Guelders, which has belonged to the Egmonds for many generations now. If you will let me keep it, if you will leave me alone and engage on your project, I will give this guarantee not to molest you. I will seize no more towns from those water-dogs, the Hollanders; I will not irritate the Duke of Cleves and Juliers, but I cannot follow you myself nor rouse my nobles to follow you, and I cannot contribute a penny towards your campaigns."

Maximilian was a man of noted self-control. Seldom did he allow his temper to thwart his interest, but now the veins on his neck and forehead swelled, and a dark flush showed on his face; he felt he had been too gracious, had gone too far in confidences. "You seem to forget, Egmond," he replied, with difficult courtesy, "that you are a fief, a vassal of the Empire, and that as such I should expect you to do homage. I can, and I will, summon you to Vienna, with a worthy following of knights, to accompany me on whatever enterprise I choose to undertake."

"It may be," smiled the Duke of Guelders, "that you will have to come and fetch me, Kaiser."

Old Graaf Vincent had not heard this last part of the conversation; he had been involved in his own peevish and sad dreams. Now he turned suddenly and asked insolently:

"What about the Netherlands, Kaiser, what about Ghent, and Bruges, and Middleburg?—they have wealth enough there; why don't you ask them to contribute? Their pockets are crammed with gold and their bellies with good food, and they never pay a penny to anyone. Why do you think that Karel van Egmond has been able to raid their frontiers and take their towns? Because they would pay nothing for their own defence. You are lord of the Netherlands, are you not, Kaiser? Make them pay for some of your schemes!"

"The Netherlanders are either boors or pedants," said Maximilian, his temper almost slipping his control, "and, believe me, I shall yet make them pay their full quota, but, before appealing to burghers, I shall make my appeal to noblemen, such as you, Karel van Egmond. I shall summon you to the next Diet, to be disposed of with your full force, as I, the Emperor choose."


GRAAF VINCENT, weary of all of them, said it was time Gertrude went to her room; it was late for a woman to be sitting at table.

"We have sat here too long troubling your head with the talk of men," he complained, with feeble tenderness.

Gertrude rose instantly, and the three men gave her an indifferent glance as they also rose out of respect to her still and pure presence.

She took up one of the lamps and the light of it fell full on her pale face; Maximilian noticed, with a start of pain that was like his heart turning over in his bosom, that she had an extraordinary resemblance to the dead woman with whom he had been in love for ten years—his first wife, Mary, and he forgot all he had been saying and the presence of the other three men, and stared at her across the yellow glow of the lamp-light. How was it that he had not noticed her before? That same long slender body, that high mouth, those eyes, mingled grey and yellow, deep-set, sharp-cut; that still look, so indifferent and noble. It was like facing the dead, as if she had come again from her enamelled brass tomb in Bruges. She stood with the lamp in her hands gazing at him. He had intended to erect her statue in bronze to stand for ever at the foot of her own tomb, with a torch in her fingers to flame into the desk of the great church's interior when there were festivals. That would be one of his dreams realized—at least—Mary of Burgundy, in her embroidered robes and deep-cut jewels, watching for ever beside his own amazing tomb. This woman had no splendour. Only the faded blue velvet, with the thin chain round her neck, and the simple coif folded on her head. But it was the face of the dead, the very air of Mary; the exact words of the letter which he had written to Sigismund Prüschenk after their wedding day, came back to him. "I have a lovely, good, virtuous wife that I am satisfied with, very slender of body, and snow white; brown hair, a small nose, a small head and features, brown eyes mixed with grey, dear and beautiful, the underlids of her eyes are relaxed, as if she slept, but it is not very noticeable. Her mouth is somewhat high, but pure and red...If only we had peace it would be a garden of roses." Yes, how well he could remember that wedding—the finest event in his fine life. At five o'clock in the morning in silver armour he had ridden into the castle, where five hundred white-clad burghers met him in stately procession carrying wide, tall banners. Mary had received him with a kiss as he ascended the steps by torchlight; then the wedding in the chapel of the castle...She was clad in damask embossed in gems, girt with a wide girdle heavy with emeralds and rubies. She wore a little mantle of spotless ermine over her shoulders, and a rich golden purse at her waist, on her small head was set the Ducal crown of Burgundy, interlaced with precious stones and metals—glittering. There had been a great cake of plums, sugar and spice before them on a noble salver, and each had taken a fragment and eaten after the Papal Legate bad cut it, and then they had divided it equally, looking at each other; they had both drunk from the same crystal beaker of dark red wine, and stood upright smiling, side by and wife...sixteen years ago And here was this woman gazing at him, with the same peculiar eyes in the same dear face...that same figure, disguised in the used velvet, wearing only the poor thin gold chain.

The voice of Karel van Egmond, cold and dry, broke in on the confusion of his amazing dream.

"What are you staring at, Kaiser?"

Maximilian would not and could not say. He never could mention Mary without a deep and bitter sigh, nor hear her mentioned without a deep and bitter pang. Her death had been in every way the worst disaster of his life; not without agony could he recall those bleak marshy flats outside Bruges—that cold March day, her stumbling horse that fell, the hunt that had ended in such ghastly confusion, her death, leaving him with her tremendous inheritance, and her two young children, her cry, "Alas, we have had little time together!" It was odd, perhaps, that he had loved her; such a dowry had been sufficient to hold her high in any prince's regard, but he had loved her apart from the dowry; she had loved him, she had enthralled him, she had adorned and glorified life.

Again Karel van Egmond harshly demanded, "What are you staring at, Kaiser?"

Now Gertrude had moved away from the table with an indifferent obeisance towards all of them, holding carefully her feeble lamp.

"Who is she?" asked Maximilian, as the shadows gathered again over the door she had closed behind herself and her light.

Old Graaf Vincent replied in his thin, decided, but fatigued voice: "That is Gertrude van Bayer van Boppart, who is the betrothed of my grandson, Graaf Bernard."

"The betrothed of your grandson?" repeated Maximilian, "but he has been for eight years in Peronne."

"And she has waited eight years," answered the old man sternly, "and will wait eighty if she lives as long. But you, Kaiser," he added on a softer note, one almost touched with wistfulness, "you said, I think, that you would get my grandson out of Peronne? You can do that if you are half the mighty Prince your flatterers say you are..."

"I can do that," replied Maximilian, absently; it had long seemed to him (since indeed he had first heard the story) a monstrous thing that the young Graaf Bernard should wither so long in prison for the sake of another man. The boy's gallant and impetuous action in offering himself in the stead of his friend and lord, Karel van Egmond, had always appealed to the generous and chivalrous nature of Maximilian. It was the type of action in which he delighted and in which he would have excelled himself. And he had never been able to understand, and could not understand now, why one of such a princely nature as Karel van Egmond possessed should have allowed his friend to suffer thus for his sake. He turned now to him and said sharply: "With all the towns you have taken, towns of mine in the Netherlands, towns of the Duke of Cleves and Juliers in Germany, could not you have taken Peronne?"

Karel van Egmond did not answer. He strode to the window and stared out into the dark which now encompassed Kasteel van Meurs.

The old man had sunk again trembling into his rude seat and sat huddled over the table keeping his knotted quivering fingers on the rough clean cloth, yellow in the lamplight.

"That is what I always ask, Kaiser, that is what I always ask. Here I sit, old and lonely and blind, with failing senses, decaying into the tangles and snares of death, and there is he, young, strong and mighty, and makes no effort to rescue his friend. Months, we talked of months! Now it is eight years."

"And she, that young woman," mused Maximilian, "she still waits for him. There is a rare constancy and a beautiful fidelity. I saw it in her face, I think, a beauty beyond the fairness of the flesh."

"She is not a lovely or pretty woman," remarked Karel van Egmond harshly, without turning from his contemplation of the dark night beyond the narrow window, "and she has no dowry, she has no relations, nothing."

"And yet," sighed Maximilian, "that constancy does give her a loveliness. Eight years, and she living here like a nun!"

"She will be a nun," muttered Graaf Vincent, "if he does not come out while she is of marriageable age. I have purchased an annuity for her in the Convent of Santa Chiara of Roermonde. She stays with them now and then, to become used to the life. She is a very pious and diligent housewife."

"Does she love your grandson?" asked Maximilian with a certain tenderness. "They must have been so very young."

"Who knows," sighed the old man wearily, "after eight years...if he comes out, I suppose he will be changed. Men lose their strength, and their grace, and their heart—he will be broken after eight years...who knows about love?"

Maximilian resumed his place at the table and took his head in his hands, so that his long thick dark yellow hair almost hid his face, and asked the old man to tell him the story of his grandson and of the young Gertrude to whom he had been affianced.

Graaf Vincent replied that there was very little to tell beyond the story everyone knew. When Karel van Egmond, the hope of all Guelders, was captured by the French, Bernard had taken his place, and that, together with eighty thousand gulden which had been scraped together from all parts of the Duchy, had sufficed for the release of the young Duke.

"But it was on the understanding," lamented the old man with bitter and querulous sadness, "that Bernard should soon be released; either that Egmond should go and take his place again when he had put the affairs of the Duchy in order, or he should take Peronne by force. He has had men, he has had money, he has had opportunity, but it has never been done. Month to month, and year to year, it has been put off, and still he has done nothing! I have stripped myself, and if Bernard dies before he leaves the place I am the last of my name."

Maximilian thought that this was a shameful story, and that Karel van Egmond played a contemptible part in it. He looked sharply at the broad back of the splendid figure, the close-shaven head, the upright carriage of that Prince who still remained steadfastly gazing out into the dark. A cold, difficult and hard man,' thought the Emperor. 'Now what is his reason for leaving his friend in Peronne?'

"Egmond," he cried, "Karel van Egmond, turn and speak to me. Have I journeyed to Guelders in vain; risked my life and the dignity of my person in your ill-guarded woods and high roads? Will you or will you not serve me?"

He spoke without his usual serenity and superb self-confidence, for both had been shaken by that sudden revelation of the girl's figure standing up holding the lamp with the exact appearance of the dead woman whom he had loved for ten years. He had been moved, too, by the story of her constancy. It was like the story of his own constancy; as he had been faithful to the brilliant memory of Mary, so she had been faithful to the memory of Bernard van Meurs—Mary in her grave at Bruges and Bernard in his dungeon at Peronne—both of them separated for so long from the object of their devoted love. Then his quick and eager mind went over a device whereby he might secure this girl as a model for his coppersmith, Peter Vischer, who was casting the statue for the tomb in Innsbrück. Maximilian thought he would live very many years until he was an old man, older even than his father, who had just died at seventy-eight, yet he was always preparing his tomb, and he thought that she, robed in the robes of Mary which he still cherished, would be a fair model for the artists and craftsmen who were to make the figure for that superb mausoleum. He did not speak of this, knowing that it was a project which must be approached discreetly. Therefore, he had called to Karel van Egmond and tried to engage in conversation with him, and to bring the talk back to what it had been before, about the building up of a united Germany. Karel came to the table with an abstracted air of indifference, while Maximilian talked of the pleasures of administration, of agriculture, of universities, of schools, of all the great opportunities there were nowadays, how men were getting away from the narrow lives of warrior or monk.

"Eh, there is more in the world," he cried, "than hunting and love-making, war and feasting."

"Yes, there is more in the world," said Maarten van Rossem, sullenly and sombrely, waking from a doze of tedium, "there are priests and fleas and flies, and choking with fish bones, and a few things like that, but they are not usually considered by men of common sense."

Maximilian took no heed of this. He leaned forward eagerly between the red, huge, gross soldier and the thin, pale old man, and spoke of the wonders of Germany and the Empire—the splendid and fertile highlands and lowlands, great rivers and forests—how this all might be beautified and refined by the hand of man, great walled cities like crowns set upon the plains might rise up, how there might be universities, schools built, how the vineyards and the cornfields might overspread the marshes and heaths without any more barren wastes, how great galleons might sail to the new world from every port of the empire, as they sailed from Genoa and Venice, how all the luxuries and delights and beauties and richnesses of life might flow in to the lands of the Empire seated like a great goddess high above the world...with the tributes of all mankind piled at her feet.

"Aye," cried Maximilian in his enthusiasm, "I talked of building a palace with a roof of gold in Innsbrück, but it is the whole world I would like to roof with gold!"

Then he fell silent suddenly, in a profound muse, thinking of that woman who had looked like his wife. Odd that he should have met her in this lone place, he who moved so rapidly from city to city, from court to court, from palace to palace and saw so many people...Suddenly here, in this poor sad house, to see that face and that figure. Odd and a little menacing, as if there were some disaster in the if she were a portent of disaster...the dead, do they lightly return to earth?

He rose restlessly.

"A man like you," he declared to Karel van Egmond—he paused, looked at Maarten van Rossem and the old Graaf Vincent, both now asleep in their hard chairs: so that was all his eloquent flow of fiery talk had ended in—the two old men slept, and the young man endured him with indifference.

But Maximilian pursued his point, though now with a flourish of defiance.

"I have employed a hundred writers to write me a hundred books on a hundred different subjects," he smiled—"all different and all full of interest. I have employed a hundred gravers to engrave me a hundred pictures—all of different matters; that will show you, Egmond, something of what there is in the world, besides fortresses and armour and walled cities."

"But all these hundred books and these hundred designs, do they not all tend to glorify the House of Hapsburg?" asked Karel van Egmond. "I am such a man that I would rather be little in my own country than great in that of another person. What I desire is liberty."

"Or, in other words," replied the Emperor, "leave to oppress at your own will. You have the temperament of a tyrant, Egmond. And I would most closely question you as to why you have not seen that this young man Bernard is set at liberty. For to-night, enough. I am somewhat depressed that I have spoken as if to stone walls or petrified images. These two old men here—one is gross and the other senile, but for you—a man like you—" he repeated.

"A man like myself, Kaiser," said Karel van Egmond, with a bitter smile, "who has passed his youth in adversity and exile grips what he has and does not risk it for any chimerical stake, even though it were the diadem itself!"

He walked away abruptly and steadily down the long narrow room, with no salutations, no excuses, and no leave-taking, and left Maximilian with his dreams and projects, bright about him, between the two sleeping men—the gross and ugly figure of Maarten van Rossem huddled in his chair, and the thin, withered figure of the old Graaf Vincent, with his head fallen forward across his breast, suddenly, as the very old will fall asleep from bitterness and tedium.

"That young Egmond should be subdued by force," thought Maximilian, with disappointment and repulsion, "he has no chivalry, no generosity in him. I have wasted my time in Guelders. Certainly I will see that this young man, Bernard, released."

Wasted his time! But he soon flung that disappointment from him. He was always travelling, always moving, and as well in Guelders as another place. To-morrow he would be gone on his way again back to Innsbrück or Vienna, trying to get money and arms and men, even before the Diet met at Worms; he always had so many schemes in his head that there was never time to pursue any of them to a just conclusion. Perhaps if he had given more patience to the task he might have won over Karel van Egmond, he knew he was a man worth winning over, but he could not trouble with him any longer. To-morrow he would be gone...enough of this, of Guelders, of all of them!

Maximilian left the room and called to such of his company as had found their way to the castle. Among them was one of his secretaries and histographers, Dr. Mennel—a laborious and patient man. Maximilian ordered him to come to the guest chamber which Gertrude had prepared, and there he had to bring out quills and paper, and take notes of many designs and devices, both for art and letters, for buildings and administration, for wars and intrigues, which Maximilian dictated to him far into the hot August night, sitting by the open window and listening to the lap of the moat water against the dark walls of the castle, and seeing presently, when the stars came out and he peered from the window, the white shape of the swans passing by...slowly, indifferently.

Karel von Egmond, when he left the dining-hall, had gone, stepping lightly, to the small forlorn chapel in one of the tourelles of the castle, and there had found, as he knew he would find, Gertrude, in still humility, kneeling straightly before the poor altar, which bore no more than a plain crucifix above the stone table, lit with a small red lamp.

Karel knelt beside her and delicately folded his hands, he did not look at her until she had finished her prayers; he did not pray himself, he was not afraid of God, and did not think it necessary to solicit or placate Him; when the summoning angel should come for him, he, Egmond, would have his account coldly ready; till then he put aside the eternal enigma.


THE darkness, only faintly dispersed by the feeble red lamp above the altar, exaggerated everything; the two kneeling figures of Karel and Gertrude, who appeared more noble and beautiful than they were; the size of the bleak little chapel, which, lost in obscurity, seemed to expand to endless height and breadth, and the figure on the cross which lost its lifeless rigidity and seemed to palpitate in pain.

Gertrude was the first to rise from their silent devotions. She had knelt with her long hands closed in front of her, like a figure on a tombstone in an attitude of perpetual adoration. Karel followed her at once. She left the chapel and came out into a passage and opened another tall narrow door which gave on to the battlements and the night, now thick with stars and very hot...a sultry heat vapour rose from the unseen fields, dimming deeper the vague starlight.

"Do you really pray?" asked Karel van Egmond curiously. "You spend so much time in the chapel and, if you do pray, what is it for, for your life is both blameless and eventless?"

"I pray because I am afraid of God," replied Gertrude indifferently.

Karel leant against the lintel of the open sunken wooden door. The stars, which appeared low over the fields, gave a dim and luxurious light, by which the river and the trees and the pastures of Guelders were faintly and alluringly visible. The air was voluptuously perfumed with the odours of harvest and hay, of fruit and blossom—all the fulness of summer. Directly beneath them was the blackness of the moat; faintly, vaguely-moving water encircling the house.

Gertrude rested her arms on the low, worn battlements and looked down into this depth of obscurity.

"God is slow," mused Karel van Egmond, bitterly. "What did Maximilian of Hapsburg say to-night? Nearly fifteen hundred years since He was crucified, and we are as we are in these modern times..."

The woman's voice came out of the sweet dark:

"But, did he not say that things were altering, that men were leaving fighting and slaying, that violence was to go? He painted, I thought, a wonderful world. Do you believe, Karel, that it is a possible one?"

"Men have always dreamt such things," replied the young Duke of Guelders, sombrely and mournfully, "and I take dreams to be but toys. What comes at the end of all this mighty talk? He wants men and money to fight the heathen; he tries to win and beguile everyone into serving his ambition. That is all, Gertrude. The House of Hapsburg has always been of a boundless arrogance, however they may disguise it with smooth smiles."

"You do not think well of him?" asked Gertrude timidly.

"I think him a tyrant," replied Karel, "who lacks the means to enforce his tyranny."

"But what he said," urged Gertrude in a quiet, warm voice, "—he drew pictures for me, such as I have never conceived of...Venice now, with all the people coming and going, the great towns of Flanders the ships sailing across the seas to new lands, gold and jewels, fine linen and white wool being brought back...feast and gaiety and carnival...why couldn't life be like that? He made me ashamed, too, of my poor service; that there were no forks on the table, nor any silver cups. Why, I had not so much as peaches or a melon to put before him—only the common fruits of the field."

"Be not ashamed of simplicity," answered Karel, sternly; "rather let him be ashamed of his senseless luxuries. Did you remark what he said—'I will roof the world with gold?'...and to-day he had not the wherewithal to pay his inn bill, but must leave behind a carbuncle ring—a poor stone at that."

"Why has he come to Guelders?" mused Gertrude.

"Because he is unstable and extravagant," replied Karel, coldly, "because he hoped with a few fair words to win me over, to serve under him with all my nobility, with all my knights and friends, in one or another useless and fantastic enterprise, to help to make him master of Italy, or to give him the glory of driving the Turk back into Asia!"

"He has defeated the Turks and the French," said Gertrude, "did he not speak of it just now? He drove the Turks out of Croatia, and he defeated the French at Senlis."

"So he boasts," answered Karel, "but they were easy victories, Gertrude. He soon made a peace with the French when they turned on him; and as for the Turks he caught them in the rearguard, they were already retreating. Do not be impressed with his boasting. As far as my affairs go he has come to Guelders in vain. But I am concerned about what he said of Bernard."

At this name, spoken with difficulty, Gertrude sighed.

"Would you care for him to be released?" asked Karel, keenly; he came up to the battlements, the rough stone of which was still warm with the heat of the summer sun that had not so long since set and, leaning beside her, he gazed down into the blackness of the moat which separated them, like a deep impassable gulf, from the fair, warm, dark beauty of the fields and pastures and orchards beyond.

"How do I know after eight years?" replied Gertrude hurriedly; "I hardly remember him, I was so young myself. I did not see him very often. I daresay he has changed—men do in prison, you know, as Graaf Vincent said—they are broken. He is never allowed to write, nor may we send to him...perhaps even he has not his wits, men lose their wits in prison, Karel; and Peronne is a dreadful fortress."

"He is well treated," replied the Duke of Guelders. "He is allowed to exercise on the ramparts, he is given what he wishes for food, he has his own attendant and doctor, but no doubt," added the young Egmond bitterly, "this Maximilian will get Bernard out of Peronne."

"As you could have done before now, had you wished," said Gertrude. "Why did you not, Karel?"

"True," he answered, "and I do not wish to tell you, yet now perhaps I must. I should never have told you as long as he was in Peronne with no chance of escape."

He did not tell her now, but mused in an angry silence. He loved Gertrude, or loved some quality or virtue in her...he loved her legend—her constancy and pure fidelity, the austerity with which she lived with the old man in the mean castle; the fact that she was so set apart from other women. She was like a Fate to Karel van Egmond, and yet a Fate that might be loved. He was a man of a cold and fastidious temperament, and women either as housewives or as voluptuous pleasures were little to his difficult taste, but in Gertrude he had found satisfaction. She was more to him than a woman, she was an enshrined creature, above and beyond the rough, noisy and violent world where he moved. Because of her he had left his friend in prison. He was in love with the constancy of Gertrude, but he could not endure that this constancy should be rewarded. He wished Bernard to perish in Peronne and Gertrude to go into the Convent of Santa Chiara in Roermonde. He did not think himself likely to marry, his fortunes were too unstable for him to be able to achieve the bride whom his ambition desired. But even if he did marry, Gertrude, either living with old Graaf Vincent in this poor little castle or enclosed with the cold nuns in Roermonde, would be his love. Even if he never saw her it would scarcely matter to his secret and stern devotion. But, if she married another man, then the idyll would be over...he could not afford to lose this idyll...his one treasure...

"How few," he pondered sombrely, "would have been as constant as you have been, Gertrude, and that to a man you do not know if you love or not."

"I have been so hemmed in," she replied, "by the old man and by God."

"If you had any temptation," urged Karel, "you would not yield to it."

"Who will tempt me?" replied Gertrude faintly, through the dark. "Nobody knows of me. I have lived here alone in complete dullness. The old man grows very peevish and fretful and the servants are stupid, and it is dull to have so little money. To-night, when I heard this Maximilian speak, it seemed to me as if the walls fell away and I was sailing down the river to the great walled cities like imperial diadems that he spoke of...Venice now, palaces rising out of the blue sea, those boats sailing to the East, and women gorgeously attired, with gold and silver on their heads and feet, and all day long laughter and music..."

"These are the crude temptations that the devil sends to tempt the feeble," replied Karel van Egmond; "nor are they in the power of this Maximilian to give anyone."

He considered, helped by the extravagance of the night, where the darkness seemed to exaggerate all emotion, whether he should make this woman, Gertrude, his wife after all...marriage would be a violation of the idyll, yet, if Graaf Bernard were to leave Peronne, she must marry; but he, Karel van Egmond could marry her before Graaf Bernard had left Peronne, even if Maximilian struck swiftly in that direction. Should he make her his wife? There was no object from the practical angle in such an action; Karel van Egmond usually considered all his actions from the practical angle. She had no dowry, and no provision, and he was ill-fitted to take such an inconsiderable wife, for his own fortunes fluctuated, his own power was only supported by the might of his own character, and he had to maintain Guelders single-handed against the whole weight of the Empire, and against his powerful neighbour in Germany, the Duke of Cleves and Juliers. He was not in the least inclined to follow Maximilian of Hapsburg as a captain-adventurer; he meant to maintain himself in Guelders, to make Nimwegen the capital of an independent state. And, thinking of Nimwegen, he thought of his mother's tomb there. She had been a Bourbon. Should he give his children a less illustrious mother? This Gertrude was nobody. And yet, for eight years, whatever cold distraction he might have sometimes found in his violent life, he had really loved no one but Gertrude. There was a power and a menace about her personality in which he delighted. There was something about her beauty like the darkness of thunder coming up over the hills on a clear sunny day. Something almost terrible had pleased his restless and turbulent—yet controlled and cold character. Life with her would be different from life with any other woman, of that he was sure, and yet he did not speak to her, for fear that she should be amazed or reject him, and that in this way their relationship should be spoilt. There was, too, the treachery this would involve, and the scandal there would be; he ought to consider how the old man's heart would be broken, and how Bernard, when he came out from Peronne, would probably try to kill him, at any rate fly into a rebellion. This did not weigh with him very much, for he was a man used to swift action, and blood and terror. He did not believe it was of any use living by other means. Karel van Egmond wondered if Gertrude guessed his secret. She was so reserved, so peering in on herself, and this was part of her fascination for him. He would not have cared to know if she was aware of what he felt for her. Sometimes for months together he would not see her; engaged in sieges, in councils in his city of Arnhem or Nimwegen, in raids into the Netherlands, or Cleves, he would not be able to come to Roermonde, but always he thought of her, by day and by night, and her image was transfigured, heroic, above the life; so that when he actually did behold her it was often with a sense of disappointment. For in his imagination she had come to be to him a superb being above humanity, crowned with stars like the Madonna in the wood carvings in the church of St. Stephen's at Nimwegen, crowned with stars seven times seven, and standing on the powerful folds of a serpent which represented all that was vile and hideous in this poor battered world. If she became the wife of Bernard, or of any other, it would be the end of all these dreams and visions, and Karel van Egmond would be like a man whose idol has been broken, and must content himself with an empty pedestal.

"Does she know?" he asked himself, and then, "I can never make that demand. It is her inscrutable quiet that I adore."

Egmond knew that women looked upon him more with fear than admiration, though he was young and strong he was already broken by fatigue, and severe of aspect. His education had been neglected and his speech was abrupt. He cared little for personal adornment. In his flat cap he wore seven silver roses as a charm, and on his fingers three rings—an emerald to guard him against diseases of the eyes, one against the plague, and one against gunshot wounds; and it was for these practical reasons he had these ornaments, not because they were beautiful or decorated his austere person. He always wore the plainest of clothes; in winter a wolf's skin, in summer a plain cloth, and always common, but stout armour, such as was used by his own soldiers.

"If I was a man," murmured Gertrude, "if I was a warrior, I would follow Maximilian of Hapsburg."

"You!" exclaimed Karel violently, waking from his bitter musings about her and Graaf Bernard, "because he has talked of arcs of triumph, of conquering entries into cities, of robes powdered with silver, of festivals gilt and flaming like suns, for this you would follow him?"

"I heard a sound," cried Gertrude, suddenly, leaning over the parapet, "a voice that came from the dark. What do you think it is, Karel?"

He listened. It was a mournful voice rising, as she had said, from the dark, from the moat below, he thought, like the note of a song, broken and sad, like the cry of something gentle wounded...dying with no protest but this tender lamentation.

"It's one of the swans, I think," said Gertrude, "fetch a lamp from inside, Karel, and we'll go down and see."

He turned back into the castle and detached a small dim oil lamp that hung from the wall, and preceded her round the battlements until they came to the tourelle that had a small staircase that wound down to the moat. They said nothing during this journey, which was dark save for the stars when they were on the battlements and for the lamp when they walked down the staircase, one behind the other. He could see her used velvet gown, her thin gold chain, the lock of dusky hair which had fallen outside her coif; it was very hot, and in the narrow tower stiflingly oppressive. When they reached the side of the moat it was cooler, and a little fresh breeze seemed to be blowing from the water; Egmond felt, cold against his hand, the wet leaves of a large tuft of weeds.

Gertrude took the lantern from him and held it up and looked round the moat. A swan was floating past with its head fallen back over its body.

"It is dying," said Gertrude. She sat down on the step of the door into the tourelle, handed Karel the lantern again, and held out her arms to the bird, which floated up, whether by its own volition, or borne on the blackness of the water, Karel did not know, to her feet. Gertrude caught hold of the swan and drew its warm heavy whiteness on to her knee and up to her bosom.

"Yes, it is dying," she said.

The swan drooped its long neck across her knees, and a cry of regret and sorrow came from the vague dark. "It is dead," said Gertrude, and stroked the smooth pure feathers.

Karel set down the lantern and sat beside her on the damp step beside the sombre cluster of wide-leaved weeds. He also touched the swan whose flesh glowed warm through the thick gleaming plumage. The night was so hot, the stars so near, the perfume from the fields so sensuous, and there was that coolness from the moat...dark, lapping, moving water.

"Oh, Gertrude," sighed Egmond, "place your palm on my forehead like you are placing it over the plumage of the swan."

He bent his head towards her knee where lay the dead bird on which was his thin nervous hand which was so unused to acts of gentleness or to caresses. Gertrude looked at him in that flickering light with those yellow-grey eyes which always seemed to him as if she had just awakened from slumber.

She put her fingers on his forehead as he had asked, and he was no longer proud and ferocious, though cold and hard in his demeanour, but sat there humbly, leaning his head in her lap, and thought of death, the past and the present, and the lines he had seen on one of the tombs of his ancestors:

"Knight, Duke, Prince I was,
I am air, shadow, nothing."


MAXIMILIAN could not sleep, the passionate night was too warm, the chamber too close and narrow. When he had finished dictating the letters to his secretary he begged him to read to him some of the chapters of the History of the House of Austria, which were being composed under his, Maximilian's, own direction. The humanists had lately traced his ancestry back to Charlemagne and Julius Caesar, and discovered more heroes and saints in his pedigree than all his artists and engravers had been able to depict, or his statuaries or goldsmiths able to make models of...nothing delighted Maximilian more than to dwell upon these heroes, and he lay now upon his bed, sighing with the heat of the night and trying to distract his restless thoughts which were always so eager as to torment him, by listening to Dr. Mennel reading some of the manuscript chapters of the History of the House of Austria. He read how the Dukes of Austria had established their residence on the mountain of Kahlenberg, this superb height which overlooked the loveliest fertile plain on the banks of the Danube. Then they transported their residence to the bank of the river, and Vienna was created—Vienna which became the depot of the merchandise which came and went to and from the East; workshops were built and a university.

Then, while the city was still young, civil war tore Germany, and the story told how the Roman Curia had laughed together and sneered—"Let the German bears dispute and battle amongst themselves in their forests beyond the Alps, let them bite and tear each other, they will not trouble us any more." The chapter ended with the story of Rudolph of Hapsburg riding from the mountains of Switzerland to raise the standard of the Imperial Eagle in the little town of Vienna. Rudolph was a small provincial magnate who had a modest castle on the Rhone between Zürich and Basle. One summer, said the book, on returning from the chase (for he had been pursuing a huge boar in a steep rocky 'valley) he met on the verge of the river, swollen with the late thunderous rains, a poor monk and a little boy, carrying between them the Viaticum, and helplessly gazing at the hastening torrent which they could not pass. Rudolph of Hapsburg approached them, jumped to the ground, and taking his horse by the bridle said: "Venerable father, put yourself in the saddle and the boy behind you, my horse has often carried Death through the dark terrible forest, to-day let him carry Hope and Life." The priest accepted the offer and Rudolph watched the gallant beast swim the current with the priest, the child and the Viaticum on his back, then he knelt at the foot of the oak, high and glorious as a church, and prayed for the soul of whoever was about to die; soon the priest returned to give Rudolph back the charger, which again, without fault, had swum the river. The knight said, "No, keep the horse, it is yours, for now it is in the service of God." The priest then blessed him and replied, "To-day you have done a noble and holy action, and in recompense of your conduct, you and your descendants will sit on the Imperial Throne of the Caesars."

"God grant me that such is his will," Rudolph cried, humbly. Two years later the prediction came true. Rudolph knelt before the Pope, who knew his virtue and piety, and was elected Emperor of the West. After him reigned his son, Albert of Austria, who faced the Swiss revolt, and who died under the banner of his nephew, in the marsh of Reuss. His friend and his cousin, the Duke of Luxembourg, elected Emperor in his place, strode over the Alps at the head of all his bannered army. Of him Dante, the poet of Florence, has sung, "I have seen thee, O knight full of grace and majesty, my hands have touched thy feet, and my soul has found a hymn of triumph!"

After him followed other princes of the House of Hapsburg, Henry VII, who died of poison administered in the Holy Wafer which a false friend had given him. "Murderer!" cried the agonizing Emperor, "you have given me death in the bread of life eternal! Fly, fly, to escape the vengeance of my servants!"

Frederick III, father of Maximilian, had found a combination of the five vowels a-e-i-o-u, Austria est imperae orbi universo—a Latin phrase which said that all the earth belongs to Austria. This was the most notable thing he had done. He had graved this device on his furniture, on his drinking vessels, on his armour, on the harness of his horses, the collars of his dogs, the walls of his palace, and even on the trunks of the trees in his park. Much of his life had been passed in the search for the philosopher's stone which should give him gold and diamonds, but he had died a poor man in the chateau at Vienna, at once fortress and palace, where were preserved the ensigns of the Empire, the crown, the cross, the sceptre, surmounted by the eagle with the two heads, for Upper and Lower Austria.

Maximilian's thoughts went from these splendours of the Hapsburg dynasty to the splendour of the Hapsburgs' treasures which through all his penury and stress for money he had preserved. Jewels scintillating as stars, jewels which sparkled like sun dust, which gleamed like marsh fires—topaz, emeralds, rubies, wrought together in bouquets like flowers, and in clusters like flames from saltpetre and sulphur; the high bonnet that the Archdukes of Austria wore when they were crowned at Frankfurt, in fine gold, ornamented with flat diamonds, pearls and rubies; the Imperial Globe constellated with pearls, with diamonds and with rubies, with sapphires, carrying the monogram of Frederick II; the crown of diamonds of the Empress, which cost one million five hundred thousand florins; the Order of the Golden Fleece in flint and steel with the lamb in pure gold. Hoards of square emeralds, necklaces of roses made of brilliants, pins and jewels for hats, ear-rings, aigrettes mounted in enamel, buttons for coats and waistcoats formed of topazes ornamented with little brilliants, garnitures of pearls, treasures the catalogue of which Maximilian was never fatigued with hearing, and which he still preserved in Vienna, though now and then he had had to take the link of a chain, or even the whole chain itself to pledge with the Fuggers of Antwerp, the bankers, for ready money; still the treasures remained intact, and he had even contrived to add to them now and then. Almost dearer to him than his own dreams of conquest were the jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, even more cherished than the history of his House were the treasures which he kept in the Imperial Castle in Vienna. Often had he stared at them as a child when his father and his tutors had allowed him to visit the dark yet gleaming treasure house. He remembered an enamelled figure, green, violet-robed, representing the Son of God in a glory, with this sentence, It is through me that kings reign, and the Book of the Evangelist on which the Emperor must take his oath, which had been found by the Emperor Otto II, they said, on the knees of Charlemagne in the tomb at Aachen. At the end of this book was the code of laws written in characters of gold, on leaves of parchment stained violet. Here, too, was kept the coronation robe, which was made in Sicily in 1133, by a Saracen artist; on the border eight metres broad was thickly embroidered in golden thread an Arabic inscription, edged in purple, with great arabesques, and terminated in two fringes of rows of pearls, and borders of yellow silk with fringes of metallic lustre, medallions enclosed with Imperial Eagles set on a ground of gold. The girdle was of tissue of gold, and the pallium and dalmatic of stiff brocade with precious stones encrusted on the back had fringed and enamelled hems, covered with designs of leaves in Roman style and one-headed eagles; the stockings were of red silk traced with arabesques embroidered in gold; shoes also embroidered in silk with double rows of pearls and medallions, of fleur de lys, of birds with plumage of gold...Then there were the vases of extravagant, fantastic, curious, embossed beaten gold and silver for baptisms and the ceremony of coronation, cups and bowls of rock crystal and smoked topaz, caryatides formed of one huge pearl, with wings in enamelled gold, heads of lions formed of pearls of which the eyes were in diamonds; sheep, lambs, turtles, stags, horses, dragons, tigers, elephants, all made with the bodies of pearl, and other treasures which Maximilian and his father had purchased from Italy, where such things were being turned up in the vineyards outside Rome, Florence and Naples. The old gods of ancient times were being brought to light by the spades of labourers; Bacchus with vine leaves growing out of his hair, a Diana riding on a centaur—all these Maximilian saw now, blooming like flowers out of the dark, as he lay half drowsy, half teased by the heat, in the narrow simple chamber. What could he do with all this hoarded glory, where find sufficient place of power in which to display it? He regretted that he had come to Guelders, the young Egmond was hard and cold, and not to be moved by generous imaginings. Maximilian tossed and turned on his couch and bade the secretary leave off reading. The night seemed full of passion, he thought it was like the Feast of the Dead on the First of November, when the air is full of the ghosts of those who have gone, and those who are about to go that same year...these dead Hapsburgs with their crowns and swords, and all his own dreams of glory like eyeless inanimate figures moving among them...where to turn, what to do? There were so many projects in his head and so little in his hands!

The Diet must be faced, he must have men and money; he could see his designs all so clearly in this small mean chamber, he moved his strong hands as if with one he pushed back the French and with the other the Infidel; he saw the whole world like an ornament to hang at his girdle—a world gold and green with silver rivers running round it, dangling there for him to play with...first, the palace at Innsbrück that he would roof in gold, instead of with the thousands of gilded bronze tiles his cousin had placed there. Beautiful was the city of Innsbrück with the swift clean river running through the centre of the town, and down each street a mountain torrent as pure as rock crystal. There in the square was a church, the Hofkirche, with a cupola like a dried lily bulb, and in that he would raise his tomb—all those figures of bronze, all those men whose exploits Dr. Mennel had been reading about in the History of the Dukes of Austria, all the Hapsburgs and the Caesars, Constantines and the Ottos; all these great ones with whom he was connected, would stand there in the church throughout the centuries, strongly cast in bronze, bearing coats of arms, all the proud coats of arms of the world, and in one hand a socket in which a torch of sweet resin would be placed, and which would flare into the smoky darkness of the church, and cast light like living blood on the carved gold and engraved silver of the altar. There he would lay in the middle of the statues, Maximilian, for all the centuries, clad in the dalmatic and the pallium, with the Imperial Crown on his head, as Frederick II, of Hohenstaufen lay in the cathedral at Montreale above Palermo, as Charlemagne had sat in the cathedral at the Aachen, with the Bible on his knees, the Bible with the violet-tinted leaves and the gold letters, which was now among the treasures of the Hapsburg, in the Hofburg at Vienna. There would stand his mother, Eleanor of Portugal, and his only daughter, Margaret, and there would stand his wife, the woman who had been his only true wife, Mary of Burgundy. The greatest skill must be expended on her robes, which would be bordered with a foliated design to indicate jewels, and the greatest care must be taken with her face, which must be like that face which he could never forget, with the high mouth, the wide deep-set eyes, the face of the woman whom he had seen just now downstairs across the crude lamplight of the narrow dining-room. "Why had she been taken from me? that looked like a chastisement from God." What should he do to placate God? Men now told tales of God different from any tales that had been told before; the monks had had their way, but now there were others speaking. What should he, Maximilian of Hapsburg, do to placate God, that God might set him in his right kingdom over all the world, make him to be Pope as well as Emperor? Could not he, as well as Roderigo Borgia, send mules laden with gold ducats to the College of Cardinals to buy their vote at the next elections?

He thought feverishly and restlessly that he might even pledge some of those hoarded treasures of the Hapsburgs with cautious moneylenders and bankers, the Fuggers, so as to obtain money to bribe the Curia to give him the Papacy. That would be a position that as yet no mortal man had attained, the Tiara and the Imperial Diadem.

He wished that he had not come to Guelders, that he had not lost time in this unimportant he would take his horse and his followers and go to Innsbrück...He resented the brevity of life. There was so much to do, so many adventures that he would like to experience. Even the advantage of being a hermit, or living solitary in a poor castle like this, in a rude province like Guelders, and smelling the haysel and the harvest scents floating in at the window, and eating meat flavoured with bay leaves on a table without a silver cup or spoon as at the poor feast to-night.

Half dreaming in the heat Maximilian thought he was walking through an old turretted castle, sombre of aspect, on the shores of the Adriatic, which had belonged to a pirate who had gathered there all the weapons stolen from galleons he had attacked on the blue seas of the Adriatic—daggers and swords, Venetian, Neapolitan, Turkish, Spanish, French—Maximilian saw them all gleaming on the smooth dark walls of the ancient castle lost on the shores of the Adriatic. He wished that he could dominate the seas and sail up and down cutting dark blue waves in a high proud galleon, to rule not only the earth but the sea, and have not only cities but ports...The Eagles must make every land flourish and bear rich fruits; there must be no barren mountains or sterile valleys...Maximilian recalled a night of thunder...the serenity of the evening had been superb, when suddenly huge black clouds came up and the rain poured on the hot ground, on the tall rank grass and over-blown flowers. He took pleasure in remembering this, the thunder and the rain, the rotting fruit wet amid the orchard weeds, the sudden passing of the tempest and the white clearness of the moon that followed, hard, chill, and keen after the heat. Another time it had been winter and cold, and he had had a sensation of solitude that weighed on his heart and yet pleased him. It was in the Tyrol when he had been staying with his cousin, Sigismund, a foolish man given up to incantations and card playing and childish plays, and the company of greedy, doll-faced women. Beautiful was the Tyrol, beautiful and lordly, these old great mountains where the thunderstorm rejoiced to linger...thinking of the Tyrol and the mountains of the Tyrol and the bright blue lakes that lay between them, Maximilian dwelt on the woman who had never seen anything of these things, who came from the flats of Flanders—Mary, with her eyes that were grey and yellow mingled, her long lashes, sending a light shadow over her fresh cheeks, tall and slender, breathing vigour and health, her unbound locks like gold and light, silver and warmth...

"Open the window wider," he cried, starting up, to the secretary, "the evening is too warm!"

Dr. Mennel humbly replied that the windows were already open, they were but narrow and let in only little air...a sultry night...a vapour thick like incense...

Maximilian rose, leant in the window and looked out on to the darkness, and marked, as Karel van Egmond and Gertrude had marked, how low the stars seemed over the fields, so that they were scattered over the unseen harvest of hay as if they were fireflies which appear entangled in the withering summer trees in Italy. The sight of these stars encouraged him. Surely, his dreams were not so difficult of accomplishment. He must be confident in his own ability, his rare tenacity, and his patience. Life stretched long before him, there would be many years yet before he descended into the great tomb in Innsbrück. He wished he could hear some music now while he looked out into the night, and viewed the stars so low over the fields. He had a deep passion for music. He was building an organ, or Positiv, of cedar-wood, that the finest masters in Germany should perform and boys' voices singing, he longed for them now...thin, fine, clear music that was like the voices of seraphs, or the sound of angels' wings going up the steps of Paradise. Music full of delicate embroideries, full of gaiety, of soft stifled laughter, of the pleasure of jest and carnival, easy, elegant, spiritual and above all angelic—the music of the angels, and angels who had the face of Mary of Burgundy, angels who were perhaps sitting now on the brass tomb in the city of Bruges, bending their wings over her stiff, straight, sculptured figure.

Looking into the night and entangled as it seemed to him between the starlight and his own dreams, Maximilian heard a cry—the cry of the dying bird, and it pierced his heart as it had pierced the heart of Gertrude, so mournful and so desolate it was, coining out of the warm perfume and starry shadow of the night. Restless and agitated, Maximilian left his room, and made his way, after some delay of false turnings, to the sunken door which Karel van Egmond had left ajar, on to the narrow battlements.

Maximilian breathed deeply with delight at the freshness and sweetness of the air coming up from the moat. A little breeze was surely abroad after the overwhelming heat of the night...looking down he saw the yellow light of a lantern, crude and lean under the light of the stars, and it cast its rays on to the waters turning them golden, and on to the figure of Gertrude, with the dead swan on her lap, and by her Karel van Egmond, resting his haggard face against her shoulder. The bird's large wings had fallen wide, and looked like the silver plumage of those angels of whom Maximilian had been dreaming, walking with rosy feet up the steps of Paradise, or bending over the brass tomb of Mary at Bruges. Gertrude sat motionless in an attitude of compassion, as if her wide and useless pity encompassed both the dead bird and the living man. Maximilian stared down at the scene in the rude light of the tiny lantern underneath the eternal light of the stars, and was smitten with visions of torment and desire, and of the veiled faces of the menacing figures of members of his dynasty, those dead and those as yet unborn.


THE sight of the swan, the large pure white wings spreading their sweeping plumage over the lap of the woman whose face he could not see, gave Maximilian both pleasure and pain. He wished to do something sumptuous and noble—something that would be different from anything that even an emperor had attempted before. He might free the Jews, who were without doubt most unjustly treated; he might build cathedrals, orphanages and universities; but he wished to do something to please God; it was difficult to get at God because of the priests—always the priests in front of God; he could not spare money for the priests, they took enough already; half of his revenues seemed to go into the lap of Rome. He wished he could command a mighty fleet that could sail for the new worlds, not for the sake of rifling them for their treasures of gold, silver, spice and feathers, but to plant there the Cross above a magnificent cathedral. He could sympathize now with Karel van Egmond whom he had disliked as much as it was in his warm and generous nature to dislike anyone. He believed that Egmond loved Gertrude, had long loved her with the same fidelity which he, Maximilian, exquisitely cherished towards his dead wife; that was why Egmond prevented Bernard from leaving Peronne. Maximilian could sympathize now with that cowardly and cunning action. He, too, wished to leave Bernard in Peronne rather than permit him freedom in which to claim Gertrude. He felt compassionately and even ardently towards Karel, he could sympathize now with his patriotism, with his efforts to keep his own small duchy, and the loyalty of the men of Guelders who were ready to stand behind him, and defy the whole Empire that they might keep their freedom. And he thought, "If only he will do homage to me, I will leave him and Guelders in peace."

The night was so beautiful, warm as a loving embrace, perfumed as summer itself, so spangled with stars that seemed to be on the earth as well as in the sky, and the cry of the dying swan out of all this warmth and beauty and fluctuating light, and the sight of the dead swan lying in the little human illumination of the dim red lantern, touched Maximilian's heart with a piercing sweetness and sorrow. He descended the close dark stairs in the tourelle, and came out on the narrow door which stood open behind the man and woman and the dead bird.

Karel van Egmond rose sombrely and, without speaking to either of them, passed Maximilian and disappeared into the darkness of the stairs. They heard his light firm tread going slowly up the tourelle, and then a door closed as he entered the castle at the top of the stairs.

Gertrude moved the white swan from her lap, huge and silver the limp wings hung over the damp step and brushed the tuft of weeds. She took up the lantern which had stood on the stone behind her, raised it a little, and turned to stare at the Emperor. He stared at her, so that they looked closely into each other's eyes, and he thought that he saw the bronze statue of his dead wife, guarding his tomb at Innsbrück. A great melancholy came over him, he leant against the lintel of the door, and could not speak. Though his nature was gay and volatile sometimes he was brushed by the dim plumes of Melancholia, flying fast on her sombre journeys over the world of striving, baffled men. Albrecht Darer, his friend in Nuremberg, had often spoken of drawing a picture of Melancholia, and another painter had designed a little engraving which had pleased Maximilian very much; it haunted him, this design, too, with a bitter and sinister sorrow. It was a drawing of Eulenspiegel, the Flemish clown, with his pipes and little imps peering behind him through the precise thick foliage. Maximilian, thinking of these fragmentary, visionary things, seeing the woman standing in front of him holding aloft the lantern, and the dead bird with its useless wings at her feet, felt his heart cramped and chilled by vague memories of death. He thought of his wife's body in the church at Bruges; now there would be only her small bones lying amid magnificent vestments, and the gold studs that held the silk on her bosom would have fallen through her perished flesh, and lie on the bottom of the coffin. He decided that he would not be buried in the stiff scarlet and violet brocade robes of his Imperial honours, but rather in some friar's dusty frayed habit; he would lie, when dying, stretched out on a cross of ashes; he would not have his body embalmed—his body which no one had seen unclothed, but would be buried in the worn monk's cloak in which he died, only with hot lime poured into his nostrils, into his throat, and ears and eyes, so to burn out his perishing corruption. Maximilian wondered whether this humiliation would please God. There were humanists now, learned men, who said that God was not gratified by any sacrifice or humility, but delighted rather in a woven rush basket filled with African carnations, pink and white, with ragged edges and glossy petals; or the first pale violets found in hedgerows by little children and carried in triumph to Vienna when the Spring feast was held; or in a white-skinned, yellow-haired boy singing to a carved organ with gilded pipes, and smooth bright paintings of cherubim.

"The swan died just now," whispered Gertrude, "perhaps you heard its cry—has it brought you here? Karel van Egmond heard it, too."

"I know," said Maximilian, stirring reluctantly from sad, sweet dreams, "why he will not have Graaf Bernard released from Peronne."

"Perhaps I know, too," mused Gertrude; "he has never told me, nor I think ever will. My life here is as monotonous as a litany."

"I have a life that never pauses," answered Maximilian; "I fret because time is so short, but no doubt to you it seems long enough."

"Neither short nor long, but always the same," said Gertrude. "It is strange that you should have come here to this poor place; I am ashamed of my mean service at the supper."

"Frugality pleases me," remarked the Emperor, "splendour is a robe which one keeps in a press, but seldom wears. I have always been, personally, of an easy simplicity."

"Your room, too, was narrow and dark," pondered Gertrude, "therefore you could not sleep; if you had been asleep you would not have heard the cry of the swan. I suppose you will go to-morrow," she added, serenely. "I think, Kaiser, you do not stay long in any one place."

Maximilian wished to speak of something beautiful and noble, which would yet have no connection with either of them, nor with the dead swan, nor with the castle behind or the moat in front of them or the distant summer fields, nor of the stars overhead, drawn like a veil of brilliants beneath the everlasting void.

"Did you think," he asked, sweetly, "that I spoke boastingly to-night, when I said so much of my desires, my wishes for pomp and power? But a prince ought to imitate God, because he is made in the image of God, Who built Paradise for the angels and the world for men, placing on the first facade of Heaven His coat of arms, painted by the brush of archangels, an orb of gold with the infinite stars, and a crescent of silver in a broad field of bright blue—a divine heraldry. God made the world as we see it shining in the air with fresh radiance, gently moving with tender winds so that the strong trees and delicate flowers bend sweetly with reverence towards the Maker of all this exquisite beauty...and a man may do something, too. I have seen glasses made in Murano, decorated with the arabesque of Giovanni da Udine, and I will send you a case of them," added the Emperor, eagerly. "They are covered with tracery in dark blue, green, crimson lake and powdered gold, covered with shapes of shells, strawberries and little white blossoms."

"What should I do with such things here?" asked Gertrude. "The old man would throw them out of the window into the moat. He dislikes all novelties. He will not have a printed book in the house. Even flowers I may not grow for pleasure, only those which change afterwards into fruit, and so are of use; and the common unconsidered ones that grow in the hedgerows."

"These are sufficient," mused Maximilian, "the nobility and excellence of women are best served by austere retirement, therefore can I well understand the reverence that the Duke of Guelders has for you, for men who go abroad see much of the shames of life, and the vileness of cities, and to them it is like opening a window on to the air of the mountains to behold such a woman as you. I should like to see you walking on the mountains," he added. "I have slept in huts in the Tyrol, all night under my cloak, and left the window open, and through it has shone all through the night one fixed star—I think you are like that."

"Men, it seems," replied Gertrude, slowly, looking away from the lantern and Maximilian, "must have these fantastical, romantical ideas about women, and women must suffer for them."

"There are some women who arouse such extravagances," smiled Maximilian, "there are others who are merely for the church, and children, and cooking, as the priests say in the old proverb. Would you be pleased," he asked, curiously, "if I were to procure the release of Graaf Bernard from Peronne?"

Gertrude answered at once:

"You must do what you think is honourable, I cannot judge for men."

"Karel van Egmond has not behaved honourably," said Maximilian, sadly, "but I am sorry for him, since I have seen him with you and the dead swan. But no doubt my compassion is for nothing, for he will prove a lusty rebel."

"He will never submit to you," agreed Gertrude, "he will fight to the end, even if he is so proud that he will not marry, because no woman high-placed enough will face his unstable fortunes, so he must die without heirs. Still, he will fight to the end, even if it leads but to his tomb in Nimwegen or Arnhem. As for you, Kaiser, and what you said at the supper table of your great designs and your good hopes of them, I long to think that you will carry them out, though living here I shall never hear of their accomplishment."

"What shall we do with the swan?" asked Maximilian, as if he had not heard these words.

"Put him back in the moat and let him float on the waters," she answered. "We cannot leave him here for someone opening the door might fall over him and slip into the water."

Maximilian did not wish to touch the great white wings and the soft plumed body; he took the lantern from Gertrude and entered the castle. As they went up the stairs, he carrying the light, Maximilian, without looking backward over his shoulders, spoke of different things, and told her that she should certainly grow flowers to pass the time, and little salads, though she must be careful to keep the small stones away from the beds. She might copy the Florentine fashion and decorate her table with roses, washing the glasses with perfumed water, which she could easily make herself from her own herbs, and keeping the wine down the wells for coolness. Without much trouble she might have a garden so pleasant and so well arranged and so much praised, that it would be like the parterres of paradise, and beguile the long days.

"Beguile the fear of creeping death," answered Gertrude, as they reached the castle and closed the sunken door at the top of the winding stairs; "but the old man does not wish me to grow flowers."

"The old man will not live very long, I saw decay in all his features," replied the Emperor, "as he sat huddled over the table to-night, and his voice is thin and whispering. When he is gone, what will you do?"

"I shall go into the Convent of the Santa Chiara in Roermonde," said Gertrude, and again they stood looking at each other, face to face, staring into each other's eyes.

Maximilian said:

"Induce the old man to bring you to Innsbrück, where I am going now, and I will do something to please him in his old age."

"Nothing will please him," replied Gertrude, "except the release of Graaf Bernard."

"That, too, I can do."

"I will light you to your room," said Gertrude, ignoring these words, "you will not find your way in the narrow corridors, you are a stranger here...I know nothing else."

She took her place ahead of him, and walked before him down the corridor. They came to his room where a light still burned, and there she left him without any salutation.

Maximilian sat down wearily beside his bed. The night was far spent, and the stars were shivering into a paler light in the brightening sky. His head ached, and he thought of the events of his boyhood, the siege of Vienna when, delighted by the sound of the cannon, he had run out and a huge stone of the bombard, breaking through the wall, had barely missed him. He remembered, too, the coarse distasteful bread he had had to eat in that siege in Vienna, and how a student from Transylvania, in peril of his life, had smuggled into the fortress a partridge and some game that had been drawn up into the castle by a rope. Maximilian never forgot a kindness, and he remembered now with gratitude the pleasure with which he had received the dainties...he recalled his favourite playthings, little figures of jousting knights, his toy cannon, the conspiracy he had formed with some of his companions who concealed powder for him...he remembered how he had hung round the stables taking fencing lessons from the guard...he remembered his blank Latin grammar, and he wished he had been born a little later so that he might have had the advantage of the new learning...He thought, excited by the beauty of the dead swan, that God, whom he still wished to please, would be more gratified by his enlarging of the university at Vienna than by his building of churches whose revenues would go to the priests, for he doubted if God always approved of the priests. Why was he thinking of all these things now when his mind was heated and confused? He put his head on the pillow and endeavoured to sleep. He rose again and bathed his forehead with the cold water filling the ewer in the basin, and wiped it with a linen napkin faintly perfumed with the scent of box. Gertrude had placed the sprigs of box there and pressed the napkin, and she had no doubt watched while the water was drawn from the well and seen that it was carried to his room. Maximilian thought of the inn of yesterday, and the heavy girl, Rosina, who had brought with such amazement the six napkins upstairs to his chamber behind the espalier of thick clipped, amber-green limes. Why did one think of these things—why were his grand projects and grandiose designs mingled with these trivialities? Why in the midst of all these did he feel himself badly used, humiliated and helpless? It was Gertrude who had disturbed him—Gertrude, the hidden treasure of Karel van Egmond. Maximilian had been at the trouble to set one of his secretaries to find something of her history from the servants; he had discovered that she was an orphan and had been brought up in a convent, and knew nothing at all of the world, had always lived with her guardian, old Graaf Vincent. She had come to this castle ten years ago, and had never left it since, save for a walk in the home fields, or a visit to the village church. Maximilian, who had listened eagerly to many curious stories and many extraordinary events related by astrologers and wise men, fortunetellers and prophets, thought that this Gertrude might indeed be his wife who had died about ten years ago.

Who knew but that her soul might have passed into this body so like her own, and that Gertrude had never existed until the day she left the Convent in the likeness of Mary of Burgundy? He would like to have given her a present of a wind-hound, descended from the famous wind-hound owned by his wife; he would like to teach her to ride, to hunt, and to hawk; he would like to ride over his empire in a triumphal procession with this woman by his side; yes, when it came to it, he would like to see her robed in the Imperial Diadem. They had not said much about the projects which he had discussed at supper, but she had looked as if they inspired her with extraordinary enthusiasm.

Maximilian, with a sudden little laugh of excitement at the daring of his own thought, considered it would be a marvellous and extraordinary action if he was to marry this Gertrude, make her his Empress. Since his marriage with Anne of Brittany had come to insult and disaster there had been no scheme for a marriage for him, and he might delight his fancy, make freely his choice, which would be at once an imperial and a noble thing to do, an action which would surely please God. Maximilian felt enthusiastic and animated as he had felt after the battle of Guinegate when, at the head of the Burgundian cavalry, he had driven back the French bowmen and charged the columns of Flemish infantry, when the pikemen had rallied round him, and he, leading them, had rolled the enemy back, and nearly half the French army and many of their captains had fallen in the fight or had been slain by the peasants in the rout. Maximilian had made no use of this victory, but it lingered triumphantly in the memory. He had withdrawn into Flanders with his booty, his wife had ridden out to meet him from the gates of the city of Ghent, and, Maximilian by her side with his infant son in his arms, had enjoyed the triumph of the shouting streets.

In the stately series of books and pictures that Maximilian was planning, with the help of artists and secretaries, to record his virtues, gifts and triumphs for the glory of his descendants and the admiration of the generations to come, this victory had had a noble place. He himself had planned the drawing of the triumphal arch, the triumphal procession, planned and overseen it in every stage. And now there was another figure to be added—this second Mary, this girl like a violet behind a hedge, who had lived here so long waiting for his coming. To take her either as servant or wife, for his pleasure or his inspiration, would be to do a sly wrong to two men—Graaf Bernard who was only a name to him, and Karel van Egmond who was his avowed enemy. Maximilian did not care to do wrong to, any man—stranger or foe. But he believed that with all his ability and tact he could so adjust this that neither of these two men would feel the smart of the hurt he did them. He sat considering the matter, more and more enthusiastic and inflamed, for Gertrude now seemed to him like an omen of brilliant fortune...

When the sun had risen up above the fields still pearled with dew, he went to the window, enjoying the radiance, but he was sad when he glanced down and saw the dead swan at the foot of the steps. He had forgotten it. Now its plumage looked lank and tarnished, and he noticed blood on its beak.


"Love is Nature's second Sun
Causing a spring of Virtues where he Shines."

—George Chapman. (16th Century.)

"And Castels Bright, Abode in Lofty Skies
Which never Yet had Good foundation."

—George Gascoigne, The Steel Glass. (16th Century.)


MAXIMILIAN, riding leisurely, with his small cavalcade of followers, returned from Roermonde through Cleves and Juliers into Germany, on his way to Innsbrück in the Tyrol. He stopped at Augsburg, which was to him one of the most delightful cities, and again at Nuremberg, where he visited the workshops and foundry of Peter Vischer, who was renowned all over Germany. The master had just completed the metal-work of the cathedrals at Bamberg, Meissen, and Würzburg, and was now engaged on monuments in the cathedral at Magdeburg and Breslau. Maximilian wished to consult with him about the first scheme and design for the bronze figures which he hoped to put round his tomb in Innsbruck, and for which he was full of enthusiasm. He desired Peter Vischer to begin at once on the modelling and casting of the figure of Mary of Burgundy in her coronation or wedding robes, a design which Maximilian had longed to put into execution immediately after his wife's death, but which he had delayed for one reason and another, chiefly caprice and lack of money. Now he declared the work must be put in hand at once, and he asked Peter Vischer if the figure could not be made in three weeks, and he wanted drawings at once, almost while he waited in the workshop. The reason for Maximilian's enthusiasm was partly explained to Peter Vischer by the lady whom he brought with him to the foundry, and who had a remarkable and poignant likeness to Mary of Burgundy. The Emperor did not explain to the coppersmith who this lady was, but merely insisted that she should be the model for the statue of his dead wife, which order Peter Vischer was very glad to receive, for he thought the lady had an excellent figure and a more than common likeness to the dead Duchess whom he had seen on one or two occasions in Bruges. The followers of Maximilian, however, knew all about this lady, and her story, and how she came to be in the train of the Emperor, and they did not hesitate to spread the tale all over Nuremberg.

She was a certain Gertrude van Bayer van Boppart, whom the Emperor, on one of his eccentric excursions, undertaken with the object of securing the fidelity of the Duke of Guelders, had discovered at a poor castle outside Roermonde, living with old Graaf Vincent van Meurs, and betrothed to a man who was as good as dead, Graaf Bernard, who had been eight years in Peronne. Maximilian, in all honour and courtesy, had asked the old man if the lady might stand as model for the bronze figure of his dead wife, which was to be, when completed, one of the most beautiful objects in the world, and the old man had refused, without kindness or civility. Maximilian had taken the rebuke with his usual generous pleasantness, and had left the castle by Roermonde and returned into Germany. When he had come into Guelders he had had the desire to pay a visit to the island city of Dordrecht—perhaps to Leyden and the Hague, but he had changed his mind as he so often did, and returned instead into Germany, leaving, as those with him thought, the matter of the lady undecided, or perhaps abandoned. But when the imperial cavalcade had crossed the Rhine and was resting at Cologne, the lady had joined them, riding on a poor hackney and accompanied by one maid, her servant, Josse Weert, who knew, she said, how to cook pastry in the manner of the Low Countries, and for whom she prayed for admission into the kitchen of the Emperor. For herself, she said that she had come very willingly that drawings and casts might be taken of her face and person for the statue of the Duchess Mary. She added that the old man, Graaf Vincent, had agreed, though reluctantly, to her following the Emperor, but he had not been able to send any escort with her, save one rude servant, who had fallen ill on the way, and whom she had left behind at an inn. Maximilian had written at once an amiable and courteous letter to the old Graaf Vincent and enclosed a handsome present of a jewel, a square emerald, which kept off all diseases of the throat and chest, valuable enough to one afflicted with the constant coughing of old age. The lady had been treated with all honour and honesty, lodged handsomely in Cologne, and when the Imperial cortège proceeded on its way she had been put in charge of Madame Renner, the wife of one of the secretaries, who had followed behind with the baggage waggons, for Maximilian's train had swelled as he proceeded.

He had made several purchases and received several gifts on his progress and two laden carts accompanied him from Cologne. No scandal attached to the lady following the Emperor, all declared; she preserved an inscrutable and reserved demeanour, and the Emperor appeared to regard her with reverence and even awe, as if she were a visitant from Paradise, or at least the figure of a saintly virgin come to life, and everyone remarked with a growing marvel at her extraordinary resemblance to the beloved Mary of Burgundy. One of the friends of Maximilian—the painter and engraver, Albrecht Diner, who had just returned from Italy—made drawings of Gertrude, which discovered in her new lovelinesses that the eyes of common men had not been able to discern, showed her in fantastic costumes, such as she had never worn in her life, and these pictures of her increased in the minds of all her fascination and interest. They began to regard her as more than an ordinary woman, as something rare and far removed from the common uses of everyday.

In a short while a legend rose around her, a story of her enclosed life and security, her sudden and romantical appearance in the train of the Emperor, and her quiet demeanour and inscrutable look; even with the women she maintained her reserve, and held no communication with any, save the little maid from the Low Countries, Josse Weerts, who had been taken into the Emperor's kitchen.

Maximilian was far too impatient and restless to stay long in one place, even if the place were as delightful to him as Nuremberg. He moved on into the Tyrol bringing Peter Vischer with him. There were foundries in Innsbrück, and the Emperor wished the statues for his tomb to be cast there. As the season was very hot, Gertrude was sent up to the castle of Amras, the summer residence of the Emperor in the Tyrol. Amras was one of the high castles which Sigismund of Tyrol, when ruined by folly and profusion, had made over to Maximilian when he resigned to him his dominion, retaining therein only his fishing and hunting rights and a modest income. Amras stood above the Paschberg woods which overhung the wide valley with the Northern mountains rising above it; since the time of the Romans a citadel had stood in this commanding position, but it was Sigismund who had done most to enrich it, and make it into a modern pleasure palace. This Sigismund, though a fool, had left amiable memories behind him; the people of Innsbrück, and indeed of the whole Tyrol, spoke of him still with admiration. Though his taxes had been unbearable, his love of extravagance and his magnificence had been greatly to the taste of the Tyrolese, and they still spoke of the day when King Christian of Denmark went through Innsbrück on his journey to Rome, and Sigismund's wife came out to meet him with two gilded wagons full of ladies, and hung with scarlet curtains, accompanied by fifty maidens on white horses, and Sigismund himself followed with three hundred mounted nobles, while for three days and nights anyone who chose to come was freely and sumptuously feasted. True, that great misery had followed this reckless expenditure, but it made a gorgeous tale in the telling. Now the spirits of the people of Innsbrück were beginning to revive again, for Maximilian loved the town, and was building the new Hofburg and an armoury tower on the Rennweg, or raceground, while he talked of adding a golden roof to the old palace, now tiled with gilded tiles; he stayed often and willingly in the capital of the Tyrol, revived the foundry in Innsbrück and established another one, the Mühlau foundry, where some famous cannon had already been produced, including the Purlepaus and the Weckauf which had reduced, fired by Maximilian's own hands, the fortress of Arras. Besides these grandiose embellishments of the palace and the church Maximilian intended to raise a triumphal arch for which he had already designs by Dürer and Burgmair, a tower which should be nearly a hundred and fifty feet high, and which should have no other object than to show the thirty-six coats of arms belonging to himself and his wife, and to support on the top her statue, which was to be copied from Gertrude staying now at Amras.

It seemed to Maximilian that between these likenesses in bronze (which was his favourite medium for sculpture) and the living woman herself enclosed in the castle in the Tyrol, as she had been enclosed in the castle in Guelders, he would have evoked to life again his wife, Mary of Burgundy; and he even played vaguely, in his distracted eager mind, as a child may play with a toy, with the idea that he might marry Gertrude, and make her, to the amazement of Europe and in defiance of all Germany, Empress. Then he thought again he would not do this, but would contrive the release of Graaf Bernard, and bring him to Amras and give him his bride—that would have a sumptuous and magnificent air of nobility about it, and please him perhaps as well as marrying Gertrude himself. He was not yet aware of the precise nature of his feelings for her; they were something too fantastic to be called love and they were not touched with desire. Yet from the night when he had seen her with the dead swan she had some place in his mind from which she could not easily be dislodged. From Graaf Vincent he had heard nothing in reply to his gracious letter; neither had there been anything from Karel van Egmond in the nature of either defiance or submission, but of this Maximilian took little notice. With his usual inconstancy he felt no further interest in Karel van Egmond, though sometimes it crossed his mind with compassion that he also had adored Gertrude, and that perhaps it would be a knightly and imperial thing to give Gertrude not to Bernard but to Karel who had been so long faithful to her in silence, and who had committed for her sake the dastardly action of sanctioning the long imprisonment of his friend; it had pleased Maximilian, when he had time to think of the matter at all, to be able to hold the lady in his power, between these two men—her rightful betrothed and he who had kept her in such long, strange and silent regard. News from his Regent in the Netherlands, Albert of Saxony, came regularly, and reported peace in all the provinces, even in Guelders. Karel was at Arnhem and showed no sign of open warfare and, so far, no secret plot could be discovered against the Stadtholder. "He shall do homage for the Empire," wrote Maximilian to Albert of Saxony, "and after that he may rule Guelders unmolested."

Gertrude never asked for news of Guelders. Her life now was completely idle. She had no longer the care of a household nor any anxiety about money. The Emperor had provided her with several beautiful robes and dresses, made after the fashion of those worn by his wife, and lent her chains, and jewels and embroideries, that she might wear them, and the artists chose those in which she looked the most magnificent, so that in that manner the correct model for the triumphal arch, the tower with the armorial bearings, and the statue in front of the tomb might be with infinite labour attained. There were to be three bronze statues of Gertrude in the likeness of Mary of Burgundy.

Amras stood high up in the mountains near the most distant of their utmost peaks where snow still lingered. Beneath were meadow lands and larch woods, sloping along the jagged edges of the jutting cliff, and great groves of large beech trees which now, by reason of the burning summer, were beginning to wither into a golden colour.

Maximilian often came to Amras to speak to Peter Vischer who spent many days up there making drawings of Gertrude. But then again for weeks together he would not come, but remained down in the town attending to business, sending despatches to Venice, the Netherlands, and Spain (he hoped to marry his son to King Ferdinand's daughter) to Rome and to Italy. When he did not come and Peter Vischer was weary of making drawings, Gertrude sat alone in the large hall in the castle of Amras. The walls were painted with frescoes of knights and women of the olden days, in red and blue armour; on the ceiling of the great hall were depicted the stars, the sun and the moon; and over the wide doors were antlers of ibex and chamois. The furniture, part of the extravagance of Sigismund of Tyrol, was still rich and splendid, and there were some holy relics in the chapel, which had been brought from abroad by Florian von Waldauf, who was a friend of Maximilian and who had collected them in long travels. One of them was a magic picture of the Mother of God, which smiled when it was about to grant a prayer. There were a number of other holy relics in cases of glass—skulls and portions of skeletons dressed in gold and silver raiment. There was the head of Christ in wood which had real hair threaded beneath the thorns, and which grew—the priest said—every year. There were paintings, and books, and richly illuminated manuscripts, miniatures and old instruments of astronomy and physics in the library of Amras, but Gertrude had no interest in these. When she did not sit brooding by the windows of the castle she walked out into the mountains, changing her rich robes which she donned when sitting to Peter Vischer for the plain cloth habit, used and worn, in which she had ridden from Roermonde to Cologne. She could not go very far, the path became almost immediately either steeply ascending or deeply descending, and she soon became dizzy on these dangerous heights; but she liked to walk a little way just beyond the ramparts of the castle and to tread on the exquisite turf which was composed of thousands of tiny plants, all, it seemed to Gertrude, different one from the other. She always remembered when she looked at them, how Maximilian in Nuremberg had asked Albrecht Dürer to make him a painting which should be nothing but common grasses—dandelions, wild ginger, and such meek blooms of the hedgerow. Gertrude found an extraordinary pleasure and discovered a marvellous beauty in these humble little plants which covered the walks of the Tyrol, all the different shaped leaves, the minute flowers—she walked carefully lest she should crush any beneath her light tread. The servants at the castle at Amras, who w ere Tyrolese, had told her in their dialect which she had so much difficulty in understanding, but with which she grew daily more familiar, many simple stories of the mountain peaks which soared above them, and which were haunted, of course, by all manner of demons and evil spirits. Those white stones, for instance, which she could see when she looked out from the back windows at Amras, had once been a queen of the gods who had taken white loaves to rub her child clean, when poor people were starving, lacking even black bread, and, for punishment, she had been turned into stone.

In September, Peter Vischer said he had completed all his designs for the three bronze statues. He had taken plaster casts of Gertrude's face, and of her hands and arms, and did not require her any more as a model...she was, for him, free...

"And what am I to do now?" mused Gertrude, sitting with interlaced fingers in the red autumn sunlight.

"You will go back to Guelders, will you not?" asked the coppersmith, curiously.

The woman was a mystery to him, he did not like her heavy reserve, the look and attitude with which she would sit silent for hours...too similar to the statues he was casting.

Gertrude did not answer—she never spoke of Guelders.

"The old man, as I read your story—the old Graaf Vincent will miss you," added Peter Vischer; "you must have been his one comfort. It is odd that he does not write to you, even though the roads are dangerous there is time for you to have had a letter."

"But I have sent none," replied Gertrude, coldly, "and there is nothing that we could say to one another."

That evening Maximilian came to Amras. He had been staying in Sigismund's palace at Hall, later at Sturm, and chamois hunting in the mountains, it was some days since he had been down into the town to receive letters or news. He would often keep important business waiting when he was on one of his hunting expeditions. Peter Vischer met him now, and told him that he had finished the drawings.

"We need only now to cast the statue. Why do you not give orders at once?" asked Maximilian, ardently.

"We have no money," replied Peter Vischer. "Your Majesty knows everything is in arrears."


MAXIMILIAN'S buoyant good humour was disappointed and overcast by this dry announcement from the lips of the coppersmith. It was always the same. Everything came to a standstill for lack of money. He still had Sigismund of Tyrol's grumbles in his ears, because his subsidy of sixty-two thousand gulden had not been paid this quarter. The last news he had from Albert of Saxony, his Regent in the Netherlands, had been to demand money for the payment of the troops. The Netherlands, said the Regent, could pay very little taxation this year; their crops had been ruined by floods. There were these two artist-engravers, Dürer and Burgmair, both useless through lack of ducats. The foundries were at a standstill, even the cannon could no longer be cast. He had himself ordered suits of armour for men and horses at Brescia and Milan which would not be delivered unless the cash were sent. His credit was low all over Europe. There were all his buildings in Innsbrück—the church, the castle, the triumphal pillars and arches, all brought to a pause because of this lack of money...

Peter Vischer, a grave and troubled man, looked at his master anxiously; no one liked to vex Maximilian.

"The tomb, as your Majesty has designed it," he said, humbly, "with so many figures, in such elaborate costumes and armour, will cost a great deal of money. The black and red marble which you wish specially brought from Italy, the white alabaster for the basso-relievos will be very expensive."

"The Diet is meeting next month," replied Maximilian, with a quick return of his usual hopefulness, "and then I shall have money."

The coppersmith ventured to remind him respectfully and anxiously that even if the Diet, which was not very likely, should vote him any considerable sum, he would have to spend most of it on the internal administration of Germany, and on the wars projected with France and with the heathen, and there would not be very much left over for such things as casting bronze statues, and paying engravers, and building triumphal arches.

"It were better perhaps, your Majesty, to design the tomb"—continued the coppersmith—"on more modest lines. One might leave out the statues of the heathen emperor, of Julius Caesar, of Augustus, and even of King Arthur of Wales."

Maximilian said no, there must be no less than eighty statues, large and small, and the tomb in the centre of marble and bronze with his own figure kneeling on the top of it—from that design he would not had come to him in visions—it was unalterable.

"Everything is ready for the casting," remarked Peter Vischer, sadly, "and I would not hold back for my own pay, as your Majesty knows, but money is overdue to the workmen, and we have none wherewith to buy metal and keep the furnaces alight."

"Take heart, good Master Peter Vischer," replied Maximilian, cheerfully; "my designs may halt for a time, but they never completely fail."

He entered the castle of Amras, and Peter Vischer, reluctant and hesitant, followed him, and then asked him with great humility what was to be the fate of the lady, Gertrude van Bayer van Boppart, as he had completed all the designs required for the three statues of Mary of Burgundy?

"Could she not be sent back to old Graaf Vincent with a suitable escort? It is a long journey for a woman," urged the coppersmith. "I am not the person who should broach this to your Majesty, but the lady has been much in my company; though I am not in her confidence, nor does she ever open herself to me, I feel she has no nearer friend, for she sees no one save the servants."

Maximilian listened in perplexity. He disliked coming to a decision. Many fine actions of his life had already been ruined by this same dislike, and now a moment had come when a decision was forced on him, when even a man like the simple coppersmith saw that he must act one way or another towards the lady who had served for the model of the bronze statues. He had thought of her a great deal, in a way the less he saw of her the more he thought of her, the more she became a legend in his mind, like a piece of music recurring again and again with sweet insistency. There were three things that he could do with Gertrude. He could return her with all honour and some state to Guelders, to the old man in the castle outside Roermonde, and he could send his wishes—nay, his commands, to Karel van Egmond, to marry the lady, and offer some notable dowry for her—all that would be kingly, and noble and applauded, and might make Karel van Egmond his good friend. On the other hand he might by a fine feat of arms take the castle of Peronne by force and release Graaf Bernard—that would be a defiance and an insult to his enemies the French, and also a chivalrous and magnanimous action to perform, and one that would also be admired and applauded. He could then conduct Graaf Bernard to Amras, and deliver to him the lady, and make of them both his faithful vassals, And, thirdly, he could leave both these men, one of whom was an enemy and the other a stranger, as he had so often reflected, and marry the lady himself, which would certainly be an extraordinary and an extravagant thing to do, and one which might excite more applause and admiration than the other actions which he had revolved in his mind. He was the more moved to this third alternative, as Gertrude had come to be associated in his mind with a design which would leave him good fortune and ultimate triumph. Her likeness to Mary of Burgundy moved him profoundly, and he felt that there was something beyond the ordinary events of the world in the manner in which he had met her on his whimsical and otherwise useless journey into Guelders, in that lonely mean castle. Perhaps, penniless and obscure as she was, his guardian angel had sent her to him as an inspiration of success and the guardian of his achievements. Yet though Maximilian exalted Gertrude in his thoughts, he was too ashamed of these thoughts ever to breathe them to any practical man.

The long castle hall was reddened by the angry light of a cloudy sun which was setting behind the distant mountain peaks, and the frescoes on the walls seemed to rise in brilliant lines of scarlet and gold and blue with the force of living figures. Gertrude sat in a carved chair which had been made for Sigismund of Tyrol. She had taken off the stiff coif, an embroidered and jewelled headdress which she had worn for her last sitting to Peter Vischer, and her thick hair fell in curling and twisting ringlets over the stiff lines of her velvet gown. The murky glow of the sunlight caught in this hair and turned it from its usual colour of smoky black to tints of dark gold and amber brown. The loosening of these tresses went far to destroy her likeness to Mary of Burgundy, who had been a much fairer woman, and whose locks had been a pale brown colour.

Maximilian greeted her absently, and then sat down by the table and took his head in his hands. He seemed to have reached a pause in his busy and restless life, as if his world of action had stopped about him, and left him alone in a muse. Every day so much happened, there were so many things to do, so many people to see, so many letters to dictate, so many schemes and projects to which to attend. In Hall he had been playing cards and practising archery with the old Sigismund of Tyrol, dancing with the merry ladies who formed his court, and listening to Albrecht Dürer talking about mathematics, artillery, and fortifications, and the casting of cannon; and all the while—even while he conversed with animation and intelligence and zest—he had been considering in his mind those larger schemes—the two wars, and how he must cross the Alps and hold Italy, and sail down the Danube to hurl back the heathen. Now he had come to Amras and been met by the old coppersmith and his complaint of lack of money, had turned into the frescoed hall and found Gertrude sitting there alone with her hair flowing over her shoulders, her face propped in her hands; and all these things, both his spoken and unspoken schemes, seemed to vanish away like a puff of smoke after the shock of the cannon-ball which had found its mark and was buried in the earth. Now, as on the night in the castle outside Roermonde when he had heard the cry of the dying swan; a creeping uneasiness chilled his ardent blood, he seemed to hear the pipes of Till Eulenspiegel, the chatter of the imps and goblins who infested the Tyrol, and see the white grinning skeletons that were supposed to prowl the narrow dangerous defiles of the upper mountains. The window was opened on to these mountains and they looked infinitely bright and clear in their white and green against the blurred and smoky colours of the menacing sunset. Something of that same menace was in Gertrude, sitting there silently, her chin in her hand, her elbow on her knee, a grand and magnificent figure in her flowing robes, her unbound hair, and unsmiling face.

"Peter Vischer has finished all his designs and drawings," said Maximilian, and, with his usual wish to push the burden of a decision on to another, he added, "would you wish to return to Guelders?"

Her slightly hoarse voice answered, "I cannot return to Guelders. I fled secretly, and the old man will never forgive me. Perhaps God will not forgive me either, but certainly the old man will not, and I dare not go back."

It had not before occurred to Maximilian that her tale of her guardian's consent to her journey to Cologne was false. Now it seemed most probable that it was so; for, from what he had observed of the old man he was not likely to have given his approval to the departure of Gertrude.

"I told you that tale so that you might not send me back, but probably you did not believe it."

"But it does not matter, you have done nothing wrong, and the old man cannot bear any malice against you. If you wish to return to Guelders, I will have you sent there with all honour and respect..."

"The old man will never forgive me," repeated Gertrude quietly. "Neither will Karel van Egmond," she added; "I have betrayed them both."

She seemed to speak without either remorse or passion.

"Why did you do it?" asked Maximilian, frowning.

"To please you," said Gertrude, unsmiling and unreproachful.

"You have pleased me," answered Maximilian; "without your help the drawings could never have been made nor the statues cast. They will be very beautiful and honourable, and redound to your glory."

"My name will not be on them," said Gertrude, "they will pass as Mary of Burgundy. I have been but her shadow in this. Is not that strange, Kaiser, to be the shadow of a dead person? I never even saw her, and I do not think she was the same manner of woman as I am."

"Sometimes you do not look like her at all," admitted Maximilian uneasily. He rose and went to the window, as if glad of the freshness of the outer air blowing up across the wide valley, and tinged with the coldness of the upper heights of snow. No, she did not now look at all like Mary of Burgundy, sweetest and most agreeable of women. The hidden menace in her personality was accentuated; almost she frightened him, and yet he knew it would be a profound affliction to part from her. If she could not return to Guelders she was completely in his hands, and he must think of something honourable and magnificent to assure her destiny. Should he give her to Karel van Egmond, or to Graaf Bernard; he even reviewed that fantasy of marrying her himself. Honour interfered with this; it seemed to him beneath him to take her either secretly or openly.

"I will go into a convent," said Gertrude, "there is one here, high up in the mountains, is there not? I should like to remain in the mountains."

Maximilian moved restlessly from the window. The sun had now set behind the mountain peaks, the whole range was full of long shadows, while the valley was in a darkness that deepened every moment. The sky which had been so bright was covered with quickly-moving blackish clouds. Maximilian went to the little cedar-wood organ adorned with gold, which stood in one corner of the room and had been sent as a present from the Pope some years before. He had had it with great difficulty brought up to the mountains, because he liked the sound of the music echoing in the great valley beneath the castle of Amras. A book of Masses, tied with yellow strings, lay beside the organ. They were by Guillaume Dufay, who had been an organist in the Pope's chapel, and yet these Masses were all written upon lively and frivolous Italian folk-songs, whose laughing gaiety ran underneath the sacred music like a sparkle of sunlight in a sad dark river.

Maximilian opened this volume and turned over its stiff parchment pages already yellowed with age; he sat in profile to Gertrude, and she looked at him closely, her deep-set, deep-cut eyes darkening as she gazed.

Though he was not yet in his thirty-fourth year his face was already lined, the eyelids dragged heavily, and there were wrinkles either side of his mouth. Now they looked like lines of bitterness, and the whole set of that remarkable face seemed the expression of a man who had tried great throws and gallant hazards and gained little. Gertrude thought of his talk in the castle that night outside Roermonde, how he had seemed to dissolve the walls for her with his speech of the world without—the huge galleons on the stormy and distant seas, and the vast armies sweeping east and west from a united and magnificent empire.

She said, ingenuously as a child—at least ingenuously her voice came to Maximilian—"Have you done any of the deeds you talked of in Roermonde?"

Maximilian smiled and put back the thick dark yellow hair from his pale forehead:

"I lacked money," he answered absently, for he was still wondering what he could do with Gertrude, who was now in his power and at his mercy, and who so strangely inspired him to some magnificence of action. He thought, "I will take Peronne and release Graaf Bernard, that will be the most splendid and chivalrous action. I will bring him up to Amras and see them married here in the chapel, and Bernard in his gratitude will be one of my captains. Though they have not met for eight years, he will love her for her constancy, and she will love him for his misfortunes."

As these grand and beautiful resolutions, like the theme for a new poem or a piece of music came into Maximilian's mind, he flushed with pleasure, so that Gertrude watching him thought he was considering something delightful; she leaned forward hoping he would speak and tell her what it was. Now the light had entirely left the chamber and the darkness that seemed so sudden was over them; then the door opened and people were coming in on them, and Gertrude said quietly, "Oh, can we never be alone?"

Maximilian had left the organ as he had recognized Renner, his secretary, whom he had left at Innsbrück, and the other notables of importance. He thought at once of business and politics, of money and despatches, and forgot Gertrude and his resolution concerning her...she belonged to dreams.

Secretary Renner was the spokesman, and there was news from Guelders.

"From Guelders," whispered Gertrude, as if to herself.

Maximilian, too impatient to read the despatches from Albert of Saxony, which Renner had already opened, asked what the news was in a few words...

"Majesty, in a few words then," replied the secretary gravely, "Karel van Egmond has broken into open rebellion, and in as many days seized four more towns, Gorcum and Leerdam, Rossem and Deurstede. The Duke of Saxony thinks that some of these garrisons were bribed—at least they all made but a poor defence, nor is that wonderful since the soldiery, he complained, had scarcely been paid for weeks, and had hardly shoes to their feet or clothes to their backs, while Karel van Egmond's men do not require pay, but fight for love of him and of liberty, so says the Duke of Saxony."

"The Duke of Saxony mocks at me," cried Maximilian angrily, "how am I to endure such insolence? I would I had dealt harshly and sharply with him when I was in Guelders," he added, forgetting that he himself had been in Karel van Egmond's power, and that he had no army with him, but only a few followers, and at one time had been deprived of even their services.

"Majesty, there is further news," added Secretary Renner, reluctantly, "Karel van Egmond has come to some bargain with the French, who are underhand and always his good friend. As Your Majesty may know, they have released Graaf Bernard from Peronne, and these two princes together made a triumphal entry into Arnhem amid hearty acclamations, and two pieces of gilt cannon have been presented to each of them, in memory of the return of Graaf Bernard; they appear fast friends and are together in all these onslaughts on your authority."

Maximilian glanced at Gertrude. He had, as usual, dallied too long with all his noble projects, Karel van Egmond had acted—he and Graaf Bernard believed that Gertrude had been stolen from them, and had made common cause against the thief; instead of being applauded for noble actions he was scorned and mocked, insulted and defied...the meeting with this woman then had not been a portent of good fortune.


ALBRECHT DÜRER and Hans Burgmair had followed the Emperor and his attendants from Hall with other members of the errant court. The painters had proceeded more slowly on their small mules than the imperial cavalcade; Albrecht Dürer had insisted on stopping more than once to sketch the aloof outlines of the mountains, and then, beneath them on the same piece of paper, forms of some of the minute flowers and grasses that bordered the way; in the margins of his notebook he would jot down, even as he rode, some fantastic shape of armour or costume, to be used in the woodcuts that were to adorn some of the books commanded by the emperor. He and Burgmair discussed these drawings and these books, these triumphal arches and columns which they were to decorate with every embellishment that their fertile inventions could suggest. Both congratulated themselves that the Emperor had chosen, in his enthusiasm for all novelty, to encourage this new art of engraving, which was rapidly taking the place of painted pictures; now even poor and common people were able to buy engravings to hang up in their rooms, those who could never for one moment have hoped to afford a painting in oils; and now that nearly every considerable city had a printing press, and some more than one, books were going all over Europe, and these also were adorned with engravings, or cuts in wood, or etchings on copper. So that by this means many strange and beautiful and wonderful fancies would be spread in time over all the world, and art would be no longer for the pleasure of princes and priests, Popes and Emperors, but would be able to rejoice the spirits of the most humble and the most obscure, for even he who cannot afford to buy a book can look at it in the home of another, or see it in the window of a booth or shop. Yet with all this pleasant talk, and the lovely evening on the mountains, Albrecht Dürer was sad, partly because of the limitations of this same art of which he spoke with such enthusiasm, those sketches that he had just made seemed to him paltry, and his copies both of the tiny flowers and the towering mountains appeared absurd compared with the grandeur and indifferent loveliness of nature, and he would have liked to destroy everything that he had ever created and throw away his tools for ever...In Italy and the Netherlands whence he had just returned, and particularly in Venice and Florence, he had seen things of such startling delight to the senses that it seemed useless for anyone to attempt to compete with them by creating anything else. To his present mood the world seemed too full of beauty, flowing over, like a cup filled with pressed-down grapes, and his own efforts to add to this wealth seemed to him futile. Futility! that word rang in his mind. He also, like Maximilian, heard the mocking wail of Till Eulenspiegel's pipes, and the chatter of the misshapen imps and taunting goblins who haunted the Tyrol...With the sunset his melancholy deepened, and when he reached Amras and met Master Peter Vischer coming out of the castle gates with a sad and fallen face, he felt that this melancholy had been a presage of evil. The two painters asked the coppersmith his news, and he told them: "It is the same news, the Emperor has no money, and though I have made all my designs and sketches and models, I cannot send anything to be wearies with waiting."

"Yes," thought Dürer sombrely, "it is the same with us—our wages have not been paid for a long while, we have no money with which to hire assistants; I doubt if these wonderful books will ever be printed, or these beautiful plates ever engraved."

"Consider," said the grave coppersmith, pausing on the terrace in front of the castle, and speaking seriously to the two painters, "that we deal with an extravagant and unstable man. He is very amiable and suave to speak to, and gives you an impression of nobility, and that he will do wonderful deeds, but what has he performed, what promise has he ever kept?" Peter Vischer lifted his shoulders, bent with stooping over his exact toil in the foundry and the workshops.

Albrecht Dürer reflected that if this were true it would make all his own work, accomplished to celebrate Maximilian, appear dull and ridiculous, a thing to be laughed at by generations to come, and again the word "futility" struck into his mood. He, an artist who must despise his own powers, was celebrating with every effort and every resort an Emperor who was also worthy of contempt I He thought sadly that he would go back to Italy, and make a living by doing engraved plates in the manner of Marc Antonio Raimondi.

Hans Burgmair, however, praised the Emperor, and said that the estimate of Peter Vischer was wrong, that Maximilian was really a great and resplendent prince.

"Look how intelligently he talked just now at Hall when he was disputing with Sigismund of Tyrol; there was no subject on which he did not express himself with grace, with precision, and wisdom! He knows all about everything!"

"You mean," remarked Vischer drily, "that he knows a little about something. For myself, I do not think these hundred books that glorify his ancestors will ever be printed, nor do I think his tomb will ever be completed, nor his triumphal arch and pillar erected, and as for his golden roof—"

"He has spoken to me about that," interrupted Dürer, "I have made a drawing for it...too fanciful. It is to be supported by pillars of red Florentine marble..."

Peter Vischer broke in as if he wished to hear no more of such tales, with which indeed he was too well used.

"I must go my way," he said, "or I shall not be back in Innsbrück before it is dark. I wish to see what' they are doing at the foundry, if there are any workmen still there. Possibly I may be able to hire some apprentices who will come for the sake of learning, but then their work," he added, unhappily, "is seldom of sufficient skill. I have finished all I can do up in the Castle at Amras, and it is not in my nature to linger in any place where I must be idle."

Dürer now asked curiously whether the lady, Gertrude van Bayer van Boppart, was still in Amras, and Peter Vischer answered yes, but that he had finished with her; even if he had not made so many drawings and studies he knew her features by heart. "And what will she do now?" asked Dürer.

Vischer replied that even now they must be discussing that. He had spoken to Maximilian and Maximilian had not given a straight and definite answer—but then, when did the Emperor ever give a straight and definite answer? And now there was some great news come from Innsbrück. The Duke of Guelders was in open revolt, and had seized four good walled towns. He had also released Bernard van Meurs from Peronne which he might have done years ago if he had wished—not by assault, it seemed, but by sly and cunning treaties with the French, with whom he always seemed good friends, and who had no doubt kept the young Graaf prisoner to please him; "and you can see what that all means," added the coppersmith; "these two princes think that the Emperor has taken away the lady for his own pleasure, and they are combined against him. One can realize how hot and bitter they will be, and now it will be quite impossible for her to return to Guelders."

"What will Maximilian do with her?" asked Dürer, thoughtfully, "he is always honest in his dealings with women, and I think this one has a fascination for him, almost as if she used the witchcraft."

"I have thought of that, too," said Peter Vischer, "I do not like her. There is something menacing about her, although she is in a manner beautiful. The way she followed him to Cologne was not in the way of an honest maiden."

Albrecht Dürer declared, however, that he saw no fault in Gertrude, and he could understand the fascination she might have had both for Karel van Egmond and for Maximilian, for by now the story had got abroad that Karel van Egmond had been for these eight years secretly bound by some strange affection for this silent woman who belonged to his imprisoned friend.

Peter Vischer, with rather a bitter smile, said "goodbye" to the two painters and mounted his mule and rode down the narrow mountain way towards Innsbrück into the darkening shadows of the valley of the Inn, which now lay deep and dark like a gulf between the ranges of mountains.

Dürer and Burgmair went into the noble castle of Amras where the lamps were already being lit.

Maximilian and his secretary and the other men who had come up from Innsbrück, were in an inner chamber, talking together. Their voices could be heard clearly. They were discussing the sudden and successful revolt in Guelders. Gertrude sat alone in the long dining-hall, which was now lit by lamps hung between the ibex horns on the walls.

Dürer looked at her as she sat on her low stool with her elbow on her knee and her face in her hand, and her hair flowing over her shoulders, and her long robe which she had worn while she was the model for Peter Vischer's drawing of Mary of Burgundy—a robe made after the fashion of that lady's dresses, a fashion of ten years ago. Gertrude had her chin on her knuckles, her eyes—mingled grey and yellow—stared straight in front of her; she was doing nothing, saying nothing, she appeared to be thinking nothing.

Futility, thought Albrecht Dürer, and then another word came into his mind. Melancholia!

She has lost everything, he thought, with a sad and quick sympathy. And what will she gain in return? Even if she has used her charms over Maximilian she will hardly persuade him to marry her, and he is no man to endure a scandal. And who else will take her, penniless, after these adventures? He wished that she was not of such noble birth, then he might have asked her to his own house, where his new wife, Agnes, might have received her kindly for his sake, and for the present of a jewel or so Gertrude might have given her. But it was of no use thinking of this...the lady was too high set.

Dürer approached Gertrude rather timidly and asked her if she had had any ill news, for he was not quite sure if what Peter Vischer had told him on the terrace outside the castle was correct; the coppersmith had no real interest in affairs and sometimes repeated gossip that had no foundation.

"They have had ill news from Guelders," said Gertrude, dropping her deep lids over her sombre eyes. "There is a revolt there—I cannot go back, and Peter Vischer, the coppersmith, has finished with me. But perhaps you can draw me now," she smiled. "It seems I am of no use for anything but that—to have my face and figure copied. But you will draw me as myself, though he drew me always as the Emperor's wife." She said these two last words in such a manner that he thought suddenly she might cherish such a hope—of being in reality the Emperor's wife.

Staring at her with compassion and a certain respect, and even a certain awe, seeing her grand and vigorous, different from any other woman that he had ever seen, with her air of menace and melancholy, her beauty that was not like any other beauty, and her silence which seemed to hold innumerable secrets, Dürer thought that probably Maximilian might marry this woman, though, of course, it would be secretly and an affair hidden from the world.

"I wonder," mused Gertrude, "what Graaf Bernard looks like now after eight years' imprisonment. Do you know, I have almost forgotten him, but it seems that he is well, for he has joined Karel van Egmond in his assault on the Netherlands towns."

"It seems a sad thing," remarked Dürer, "that your long constancy was broken at the end, and all for a caprice."

"No caprice," said Gertrude, adding, "I am wondering about the old man, who will be alone."

Albrecht Dürer, the grave, fair, lean man, wandered up and down in an aimless fashion. It would be useless now to ask Maximilian for more money for the books and engravings; since this news from Guelders he would be entirely occupied with thoughts of war and politics. Instead of more beauty, kindliness and learning in the world, and pleasure and merriment, there would be more suffering and terror and death. Darer remembered with horror the awful story that Willibald Pirkheimer had told him after the last wars in Austria between the Hungarians, Bohemians and Maximilian; how in a stretch of country that had been ruined by the soldiers he had seen an old woman leading out a troop of children to feed on the grass; they had been doing this so long, Pirkheimer added, that they knew which was the harsh and which the tender grass, and found it at once without any trouble, and lay down and ate like the beasts.

The mountains were now a black and rigid outline without any depth against a dense purple sky. Women came in and out of the long room to lay the supper, some of them had wild autumn strawberries and others honey cakes made by the little Guelders maid, Josse Weerts. Dürer, turning from the window and leaning against the flourishing wall frescoes in red and blue, of naked giants and monstrous, plumed warriors, began to draw Gertrude, who had not changed her melancholy attitude. He put her in his notebook beside some sketches of pine cones that he had picked up on his woodland, mountain way from Hall. A bat flew in at the open window and was chased by the women; for a second it hovered over the head of Gertrude, and Darer put it into his sketch.

Maximilian came from the inner room, and Gertrude went to the table and began re-arranging the dishes, the silver cups and the glasses from Murano. Maximilian, despite his great self-control and his courtesy, sometimes let his emotion rage in a womanish fashion and became hysterical with fury. Now the veins in his throat were swelled and his eyes were bloodshot, and he used fearful and violent language in speaking of Karel van Egmond, sly and treacherous, and Maarten van Rossem, his Maarshalk, whose gross insolence he now recalled with a wrath it had not provoked at the moment.

"I will myself lead an expedition into Guelders," he declared, striding up and down, "Albert of Saxony is useless and I am ill-served by his men. There are enough mercenaries in Innsbrück, Croats, Walloons and Burgundians—Yes, I will go down to Innsbrück to-morrow and lead an army into Guelders immediately!"

Then he left that and fell to railing against the Netherlands, who had so much money in their pockets and never paid any out of it, even for their own defence. How was it these towns had fallen so easily? Even if the Dutch had lost a great deal through the floods, they had money enough to put away—why, their cities were some of the richest in the world, and could compete for wealth with Venice and Genoa. There was Brabant, too, and Flanders—they never paid their full share; it was as difficult as catching a young chamois to get a penny out of their pockets; they should have been able—these Netherlanders and Flemings—to subdue Guelders without any help from him. His rage turned to Egmond. Had that rebel forgotten he was a usurper—that Guelders did not belong to him, but had been sold by his grandfather? Graaf Bernard, too, why should he at once have broken into revolt? Maximilian thought bitterly of both these men, when he considered his own noble intention towards them, the kindliness and generosity with which he had contemplated giving Gertrude to one or the other of them. Again, he had made in his own mind a deep and chivalrous friendship between all of them, strengthened by their common admiration for the woman. It was true that they did not know of these intentions of his, but Maximilian never thought of that. It was true that it must have seemed to both of them that he had stolen the treasured Gertrude out of a mere whimsical extravagance, but Maximilian did not consider that either...he fell into a bitter, brooding silence.

Gertrude turned away from the table and asked Dürer what he was drawing. He shut up his notebook and would not let her see the portrait he had just sketched of her, for there was something in it that was terrible.

Maximilian bade him sit down to table with them and converse on some lively subject that should distract him from his rage. He also invited to the supper Paul Hofheimer, his organist; Heinrich Isaak, his choirmaster, and Karl von Staur, Master of the Game—all of whom had attended him from the Court of Sigismund at Hall. But although Maximilian had asked Dürer to talk there was no opportunity for the painter to do so as the Emperor kept the conversation to himself, speaking in a loud excited voice of Florian van Egmond, Lord of Isselstein, to whom he would give the Golden Fleece if he could successfully take the field against his relation, the Duke of Guelders. Gertrude sat on the right hand of the Emperor and served him with his meat, bread and drink, placing a napkin under his hand. Sometimes she looked at him and sometimes out at the mountains, dark against the darkening sky, far beyond the window.

"I know something about taking towns!" cried Maximilian, and told them all of how he had taken Arras by assault, three years ago, and wondered almost in the same breath how many guns Karel van Egmond had, and regretted that his own foundries must be idle...His rage came round to the French, his perpetual enemies, and he cursed them as sly and treacherous. Dürer wondered if Maximilian realized that Gertrude was sitting by his right hand as if she were his wife. She was silent, a woman accustomed to the talk of men, but her pale sensitive face bore an expression of ardent expectancy. The chamber became cold and the servants entered and closed the shutters over the prospect of the mountains. Maximilian sighed, having talked off a great part of his rage, and commanded Hofheimer to go to the organ, or Positiv, and play; Burgmair could work the bellows for him. The relaxing sweetness of the music quivered in the long room, and Maximilian turned in his chair and gazed at Gertrude; after so much disappointed and angry speech the melody was soothing to all of them. Hofheimer, pale, intent, played delicately.


TO fetch Maximilian's mind from the evil news of Guelders and from the troubles and anxieties that must await him with the dawn, Albrecht Dürer began to talk of his travels in Italy, which was a subject that seldom failed to enthrall Maximilian, who counted among his many dreams that of crossing the Alps like a conqueror, like an emperor, and seeing the whole of the beautiful peninsula broken into submission at his feet. At the moment someone else also dreamt of occupying this daring and perilous position; the weakling King, Charles VIII of France, might be too successful, and already Maximilian had commenced negotiations with the princes of Italy to return under his allegiance and under his guidance, and drive forth the invading Valois, if he really ventured to descend on Lombardy and assert his vague claim on Naples.

Albrecht Dürer, tall, lean, with long hair and beard in spiral curls, spoke ardently of Genoa. These people, he said, were extremely shrewd and hardy, the country was barren and dull, and the proverb said that they had a sea without fish, land without trees, and men without trades. And yet, by reason of the many vaunting palaces which have grown round the hard and rocky sea-shore, Genoa may be accounted one of the most magnificent cities in Europe. The streets were a double row of marble palaces, black, white and yellow, built round courtyards, full of bright-fronded palms, extremely gay and lively. In Genoa, Dürer said, he had seen at least one antiquity, which was the rostrum of a Roman ship hanging over the door of the Arsenal, shaped in iron in such fine work as would please Maximilian, forming a boar's head—bristles, tusks, teeth and foam, hard, permanent in metal.

"There, too, I saw a curiosity," said the painter, "which I would have bought if I had had the money...It was a smooth egg-shaped crystal, which enclosed five drops that looked like pure well water; when shaken colour went in and out of them—though some averred that they were nothing but bubbles of clear air. The priest said they were tears which Jesus Christ had shed over Lazarus which had been gathered up by the seraphs who put them into this little spotless vase and made a gift of it to Mary of Magdala when she, too, was weeping, unclothed save for her hair, in the dry desert of Arabia. Five pedants were engaged in writing books for and against the likelihood of this story; some say it was blasphemy to disbelieve it, and others say it was rank heresy to believe it; and in a Benedictine convent nearby, there are a whole parcel of learned fathers writing in defence of this same tear, and I would have bought it—not because it is supposed to be a holy relic," declared Dürer excitedly, "but because of the pleasures of the colours in the middle of it, which come and go, so that at first you would swear it had all the tints of the rainbow, and then again it is blank, first bright as the sparkling rays of the dog-star, then as negative as snow."

Gertrude broke into the discourse quietly, yet they all started a little to hear the woman's voice. "Did you go through Padua?" she asked, "and did you hear anything of St. Anthony in that town?"

"Yes, I went there," replied Dürer, whose queer eyes were sparkling with interest, "and I heard about St. Anthony, and I bought a booklet newly-printed from a Venetian press. It was sold in the church, and it tells how St. Anthony of Padua preached to the fishes. I remember it well, for I had little else to read on my journey, so I got it by heart—marvelling how this invention of printing spreads abroad both fable and learning."

"Relate the tale," said Maximilian absently.

Albrecht Dürer obediently repeated what he could remember of the story of St. Anthony of Padua preaching to the fishes.

"It seems," he began, "that when the heretics would not regard the preaching of this saint, he took himself to the seashore, and stood on the borders of the Adriatic, calling the fish together in the name of God, and they came swimming towards him in such vast shoals, both from the sea and the rivers, that the surface of the waters was quite covered with them, and arranged themselves according to their species into a very beautiful congregation. St. Anthony was so much impressed by the submission of these poor animals that he found a secret sweetness distilling upon his soul, and he addressed them in the following words: 'Although the infinite power of God discovers itself in all the works of His creation, nevertheless, the goodness of the Divine Majesty shines out in you more eminently than in any other created being, for, although you are reptiles taking the middle nature between stones and beasts and imprisoned in the deep abyss of waters, notwithstanding you are tossed among billows, thrown up and down by tempests, deaf to hearing, dumb to speech, and terrible to behold, notwithstanding, I say, these natural disadvantages, the Divine goodness in you shows itself in a very wonderful manner '."

"How might that be?" asked Maximilian, who smiled.

"St. Anthony," replied Dürer, "would have it that there was a mystery about fishes, that Holy Scripture had made use of them as types and shadows, profound Sacraments. 'Do you not think,' he said, 'that there was something meant by our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who takes the Paschal Lamb for a symbol, Who took so much pleasure in the food provided by fishes? Do you think it was by mere chance that when the Redeemer went to pay tribute to Caesar, he put it in the mouth of a fish? He reminded these poor animals that they had the whole world of water for their habitation, and that God had furnished it with lodgings, chambers, caverns and grottos, in a magnificent retirement, such as is not to be met with in the seats of kings nor the palaces of princes. You have, he told them, the water for your dwelling, a clear transparent element, brighter than crystal; you could see from its deepest bottom everything that passes upon its surface. You have the eyes of a lynx or an argus, you are guided by a secret and unerring principle, delighting in anything that may be beneficial to you, and avoiding everything that may be hurtful; the black dullness of a clouded sky, the colds of winter and the heats of summer, are indifferent to you; the earth abounding in fruits, or cursed with scarcity, has no influence on your welfare. You live secure in rains and thunders, lightning and earthquake, you have no concern in the blossoming of spring or the going of summer, or the fruits of autumn or the frosts of winter. With what dreadful majesty and what wonderful power did Almighty God distinguish you among the creeping creatures that perished in the universal deluge You only were insensible to the mischief that laid waste the whole world!' The book says that in acknowledgment of this the fishes bowed down their heads, moving their bodies up and down in a kind of fondness, thus approving what had been spoken by St. Anthony. Many heretics were converted by this miracle."

Albrecht Dürer then spoke of old Roman statues and figures, bronzes, marbles, masks, and vases which he had seen turned up when the men were ploughing in the fields, of the marble dwellings which looked so clear and pleasant in the sun, for they were washed and kept free from stains and dirt by the rain which, though it was seldom continuous in Italy as in the north, yet came often and slightly, in fresh and delicious showers. "But, after all, I have seen nothing more beautiful than the spot where we are now, Kaiser. I thought as I was riding to-day from Hall, along the narrow road which overhangs the chasm so deep and dark, and with ever before my eyes great ranges of mountains at so vast a distance, that they left open a wonderful variety of pleasing prospects, one after another melting into infinite distance, so that it seemed as if one must look into the very courts of Paradise. Neither the Alps nor the Apennines were so fair as these mountains of the Tyrol...What are artificial curiosities in ivory, amber, crystal, marble and precious stones compared to the prospect of a mountain side? It takes our thoughts away from earthly matters and carries them up towards God."

"But I," objected Hans Burgmair, the other painter, who had been sitting drowsily silent, fatigued by the long ride over the precipices, "find these prospects hard and tedious. I like walls and closed rooms, and human light. I prefer a lamp to the stars, and the heat from a pile of charcoal to the heat from the sun. And as I rode along to-day, far from admiring these prospects that you so extol, Dürer, I was trying to beguile myself by thinking out a new design for a drawing."

"I, too, thought out a design for a drawing," smiled Dürer, with an absent look. "I saw a knight riding along as I was riding on a narrow path, but finely clothed in rich armour, such as your Majesty would not disdain, and, impeding his path, were Death and the Devil...full in the narrow way."

"Does he get past these enemies?" asked Maximilian.

"The picture does not show," replied Dürer, with a sigh. "He is there on his horse, staring in front of him, and Death and the Devil on either hand. He does not seem to see them, but you can tell by the look in his eyes that he knows they are there."

"He might evade the Devil," remarked Maximilian sombrely, "but who of us is there that can evade Death?"

He then commanded that one of them should open the window, for the room had become close, even up here in the mountains the heat of summer lingered, though the air had blown cold at sunset; now, when the shutters were thrown wide, an atmosphere that was of no more than a grateful coolness flowed into the long narrow lamp-lit chamber. The window opened on to darkness, for the high mountains blocked out the stars. The still fragrance of pine blew in and subdued the coarse odour of the oil lamps. Maximilian leaned forward on the table and spoke earnestly to all of them, looking with his quick-moving, heavy-lidded eyes from one to the other as if he begged or commanded their attention. His pale, strongly-marked face, in which the lines were already so deeply cut, was outlined in the shadow; his white pleated shirt showed open at the throat, his broad shoulders had a look of strength and power, his lean powerful hands played with a chain of knotted gold, set with small emeralds, which he wore round his neck.

"We ought to be able to change the world," he declared to the listening company; "here we are—two painters, two musicians, a huntsman, wise counsellors, and myself—a soldier and an emperor; we have quick brains and nimble fingers, we have all of us wide dreams, we are on a mountain top. It seems to me as if I could look out of that window and see the whole earth below and order it to a just design, organized, compact, fruitful and peaceful, and crowned with every excellence and beauty."

He turned to Dürer:

"I would give you palaces—vast palaces—to paint, far more splendid than anything you beheld in Italy. I would order a whole library of books for you to adorn."

He turned to the two musicians:

"And for you, I would build the most splendid organs that any man has ever dreamt of, and set them in churches whose spires would reach nearly as high as the castle where we sit now, and I would have Peter Vischer cast me such fair gates for every city in my realm that they should be the wonder of every traveller. Gates of bronze and iron, adorned with a multitude of statues. I would set up wise men in universities to teach theology and poetry, grammar and rhetoric. I would have trade regulated and banking established in every corner of my dominions. Come now," he added with a note that was half-wistful and half-eager in his voice, "why cannot we do these things—you and I together?"

They were all silent, their faces were set, grave and mournful, peering from shadows.

"Eh, eh," cried Maximilian, "I talk and talk, and you are silent. Is futility then the end of all our endeavour."

Futility was the word that Albrecht Dürer had had in his mind. It was the word that seemed hidden in the mocking lilt of Eulenspiegel's pipes. The painter's face was sombre, half-hidden by the tendrils of his fair hair.

Karl von Staur, the Master of the Game, now broke the silence: "Kaiser, you speak nobly, and your magnificent words hearten us all, but who may hope to change the world? Each man does what he can with what heart he can command, and passes on, and the world remains the same. Ah, great Kaiser, you talk of your gates of bronze and your noble cities, but there is no money in which to cast one statue in the foundry of Innsbrück! And you talk of peace, of trade, of commerce, Kaiser," added the loyal servant with a smile, "and you yourself cannot keep out of a fight, any fight that offers."

Maximilian took no offence at this simple candour from the old huntsman:

"That is true," he admitted. "When I hear an organ play in a church I want to be a monk; when I hear the trumpet's blast I desire to be a soldier; and when I see a learned book I wish to endow a university; when I see one of your designs, Dürer, I wish to give you a noble hall to cover with pictures. It is quite true I have talked just now of peace, and an ordered organized empire, and to-morrow I shall probably go to Guelders to subdue Karel van Egmond."

"It is these contradictions that are to some degree in every man," mused Dürer, "which undo us all."

Maximilian rose from the table abruptly, as if he regretted having said so much, and pleasantly asked them all to leave him, but he bade Gertrude remain. So she who had said nothing, save to ask Dürer about St. Anthony of Padua, stayed in her seat, leaning her face in the palms of her hands, her elbows on the table.

When they were alone together, Maximilian turned to her like a man bewildered, angry, and almost afraid.

"What do you make of it?" he asked ardently and yet with despair, as if he addressed a Sybil, "what do you think of it? What should a man do placed as I am?"

Gertrude seldom spoke, and when she did, uttered some common words, yet she had always seemed to Maximilian to represent a high, pure and passionate wisdom.

"How useless to ask me," she now replied, simply. "I know nothing—I have spent all my life in the convent and that poor castle where you found me. As I have so often told you, I have been hemmed in by God and an old man, and known no company but servants, and if I have thought and dreamt a little, it has only been like the thoughts and dreams of any other ignorant woman."

Maximilian, wearied with the nostalgia of the past, and fear of the future, which at times fell like a dark cloud over the gay buoyancy of his nature, stared at her with his heavy-lidded eyes full of sombre foreboding. She seemed to him to have a dark yet lovely lustre, a rich yet repellent beauty. He thought now he could understand a little his own passion, and that his belief in her wisdom and his own weariness were akin to love, and that his destiny and hers had met in this fashion for his ultimate good and triumph; for she had invaded all the activities and all the dreams of his life, as the gleam of a rainbow will invade all the crannies of a landscape, making it heroic in colour and outline. No scruple was left in his heart, even his pride was in abeyance. He believed that that sense of menacing terror which she gave him was part of his love, one aspect of a love which was a different emotion from that which, amiable and agreeable, he had felt for his wife Mary. At this moment of fatigue and despondence, confusion and trouble, the candid enthusiastic emotions of Maximilian were overwhelmed by the poignancy of this fancy which he named to himself as love. He fondled the long tresses of Gertrude which hung down from her shoulders on to the white cloth of the table; never would he be able to think of her without thinking of a table set for an evening meal, or of a dark night with the stars low over the fields and a dead swan with white outspread wings lying above dark water. Her cloistered constancy was about her like a perfume, delicate and pungent, like the odour of old parchment or fresh incense, or that aroma of the pines that was now blowing in through the open window.

Gertrude made no effort to fix his hovering affections, which were sad and perhaps bitter. She did not smile or lean towards him with any gesture of kindness or seduction. She reminded him of her own picture that Dürer had sketched, sitting like the Madonna with the Child on her knees, and her robe and her arms spread out with an air of quiet protection above the worries and troubles and distresses of men. Behind her the pine trees and a castle on a height stretched upwards to Heaven, and a lonely star formed a crown for her sombre head.

"If I were to ask you anything," she said, "any favour or any pleasure, it would be that those fighting you in Guelders now might come to no bitter end, nor keen humiliation, nor sharp death."

"Does it matter to you," asked Maximilian, "what happens to them?"

"Oh, I do not know," sighed Gertrude, "I do not know." She bent her head with more human passion than he had ever yet seen her disclose, and kissed his hand which rested on the white cloth among the ends of her curling tresses, she kissed his still hand again and again with a warm and despairing fondling of lips and fingers. Maximilian did not move, but looked down curiously at her lowered head. He had resolved to acquire her; she was fair and precious, like the curiosities Albrecht Dürer had seen in Italy—the crystal which contained the tears or bubbles of air that moved when shaken, and became shot with a multitude of hues. She was like that—a crystal full of tears and many colours. She looked up now and he saw that there were real tears in her dark yellow-grey eyes, so deeply set, so sharply cut.

"What I said just now was not really the request I wanted to make—I do not care what you do to those men in Guelders, but what I wanted to ask you was whether you would allow me to follow you always wherever you go, even if I am put among your kitchen women who bake your bread."

Maximilian smiled tenderly, drowsily:

"I will set you higher than that; you shall go with me everywhere, save when I am at the war, and then you shall remain safely here in Amras, with an honourable train and estate."

He was about to make the triumphant declaration that he would marry her, quietly and obscurely at first, but afterwards openly, when Renner, his secretary, entered the room with some excitement and agitation, declaring that he had discovered among the papers which he had brought up from Innsbrück that day, a letter which had not been opened, and which was sealed with the seal of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan and Bari; this letter, lost somehow in the confusion and hurry of their leaving Innsbrück for Amras, had become mingled with the other papers and so been overlooked.

Maximilian was displeased at this rude interruption and did not wish to hear of business. The exquisite loving friendship of his few moments alone with Gertrude were spoilt. He asked drily why the letter could not have waited until the morning? If Gertrude wished she could have detained Maximilian and sent the secretary discomfited away, but she said and did nothing, and, withdrawn into herself again, sat musing. Maximilian, seeing her indifference, reluctantly followed Secretary Renner out of the chamber. When Gertrude discovered herself alone she appeared at first startled, and glanced round as if the empty shadowed room was full of enemies whom she could not see. She rose and shut the window as if afraid of the chill and pungently-perfumed night air. It was late, it must be late, well into the night. She could hear the level tones of the secretary's voice reading the Milanese despatch. Her moment—such a little moment—was over.

She took up one of the lamps and went to bed. She felt neither hope nor despair; she could hear the distant tones of Maximilian's voice coming through open doors, discussing the Sforza despatch; he sounded interested, animated, as if he had already forgotten her; she passed windows set wide on the mountain side, on the scent of pines, on darkness.


THE despatch which Secretary Renner had so unaccountably overlooked proved to be of the greatest possible importance. It stated in clear and precise terms what had been often generally hinted but never brought to a definite conclusion, in was in brief an offer of a matrimonial alliance from Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan and Bari, who was jealous and afraid of the growing menace of the Valois in Italy, although openly he professed himself the obliged and courteous ally of the French King; the shrewd Duke of Milan now proposed to Maximilian that he should lend him all the weight of his authority if he could not send him more practical aid in the shape of troops and possibly his own presence across the Alps, and confirm this by a marriage with his niece, Bianca Maria Sforza, who was generally reckoned, the Duke put in his letter, the most beautiful woman in Italy—"the pearl of the Sforza." He had however a surer recommendation to the favour of the Emperor than even these much praised charms, and this was no less than a dowry of three hundred thousand ducats, which Ludovico was willing to pay in cash on the arrival of the bride in the Imperial dominions.

Maximilian had never handled so much money in one sum before. He instantly pictured it arriving in Austria. Cart-loads, wagon-loads of gold carefully guarded by Swiss mercenaries—gold sufficient for a crusade against the Turks and a war against the French, and for the utmost magnificence of living for months; and gold to be obtained without asking the Diet, bending his stubborn neck beneath the yoke of their intolerable demands, without the effort of wringing taxes from the reluctant Dutch and Flemish, or trying to raise more from his own impoverished dominions of Austria. Gold, in fact, to be got for the asking, merely as the price of marrying this Italian woman...this dowry of sheer gold was almost more valuable in the eyes of Maximilian than the province of Brittany, which the bride whom he had lately lost would have brought with her. He knew by long experience that even a rich appanage may mean more expense than income. His advisers who had listened to the despatch, which was written in a delicate hand and fine and exquisite language that was a marvel to these Germans for its skill and intricacy, were also dazzled with the thought of so much money, but they pointed out to Maximilian that the marriage would be very unpopular in Germany—both because the bride was a foreigner and because of her plebian birth, for, great as the Sforza were now, her grandfather had only been a peasant, and the Sforza, for all their flaunting magnificence, learning and grade of almost royal state, were but captain adventurers, soldiers of fortune; it was really, in one way of looking at the matter, an insolence for the Duke of Milan to have proposed his niece for the Emperor's hand. Still, there was the money...these times, money meant much.

Maximilian excitedly walked up and down the room. Secretary Renner who was much in his confidence, and whose advice he took more often than that of greater men, suggested that there was no need for a decision in a hurry, that the matter might wait days and even months. Maximilian was always in a hurry, quick to come to a decision, though slow to put it into practice, and the thought of all that gold had filled his mind with fresh enthusiastic visions. It was like power suddenly put into his hand, and he wanted to wield it at, why hesitate?

"Affairs can't wait," he answered. "Charles may be sweeping Italy from one end to the other by the spring, and the Turks grow daily more insolent; besides, the iron foundries are at a standstill, and books are waiting to be printed; horses and dogs waiting to be purchased, and to get money without having to ask the Diet, without having to linger while the Diet deal out a few crowns with their stingy palm, it's almost worth it, eh, Renner?"

Maximilian had forgotten Gertrude; if he had remembered her he would have reminded himself that the project of marrying her had only been the merest flicker of an absurd dream, one of those fantasies with which he liked to amuse himself, as other men amused themselves by collecting medals or bronzes, or such curios. He would have told himself that he would see her honourably into a convent, or honestly returned to Guelders, but he did not think of her at all.

"You see," he remarked, "the Duke of Milan is afraid of the King of France, who has grown too great and will certainly invade Italy. We—Ludovico Sforza and I—will be ready for him."

Secretary Renner smiled secretly to himself. He knew that the Duke of Milan's intrigues were as crooked and changing and complicated as Maximilian's own policies. He also knew that behind all these shifting changes there was a steadfast fixity of purpose that the Emperor wholly lacked. Ludovico Sforza played off France and the Empire one against the other, the Papacy and Naples, Venice and England, just as it suited him and his design for the moment, and his larger design in general, which was to so confuse the issues of European politics that no man might point out that he was an usurper, and held his throne wrongfully, for by right Milan and Bari belonged to the infant son of his nephew, Gian Galeazzo, recently dead, not without suspicion of having been poisoned by his uncle.

Maximilian asked for some wine to be brought into the small room. He was excited and felt that he could not sleep. It must be near the dawn. He would work through the rest of the night, dictating letters to his secretaries, going over schemes, plans and projects. What to do with the money when one had it—spend it against the Turk or against France? Of course Ludovico would expect him in Italy, but that would be no reason why he should go if he did not choose. He dwelt for a little while on the pictures of Italy as they had been revealed to him in Dürer's delicate drawings, and Dürer's delicate phrases—a marvellous place to see, full of voluptuous delights; but voluptuous delights did not greatly attract Maximilian. He wanted dreams or actions. Once in Italy he might be crowned in Rome, the Borgia could scarcely refuse him that, if he appeared in the Holy City with the power of Milan behind him. He had been crowned King of the Romans at Aachen, but what was that to being crowned Emperor of the West, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, a descendant of all the Caesars, of a Constantine, an Otto, in the Basilica at Rome? He mentioned this daring project to Renner and Renner reminded him that once Italy was in the hands of the French it would take a mighty army to sweep them across the Alps again...Charles, weakling and half imbecile as he was, had yet an immense treasure behind him, which counted perhaps more than health and strength and intelligence; all the power and money amassed by his prudent father, Louis XI, and his careful sister, Anne de Bourbon...he had now Brittany also...France was consolidated...very powerful.

"Eh, I shall have money, too," replied Maximilian, with enthusiasm, "the money of this dowry, if I accept this marriage, and the money voted me by the Diet in October. Also I must get some taxes in from the Netherlands—say what they will, money can and shall be wrung from them! If I take the Cross, the Church will supply some of the funds. Then," he added, "Dürer and Burgmair will be able in truth to design a triumphal procession for my entry into Rome!"

The Emperor no longer concerned himself about the rebellion in Guelders or the insolence of Karel van Egmond. What did a few Holland towns matter compared with these two great enterprises—a possible Crusade, a possible defeating of the French in Italy?

"Your Majesty will take the marriage with no further thought?" asked Renner, dubiously, folding carefully away Ludovico Sforza's elegant epistle which had been so skilfully considered, so cunningly worded. "Remember that Ludovico Sforza is not as powerful as he was, or he would never offer it. He has no influential allies, he has made advances in vain to the Pope and to Venice; Spain has reconciled Naples and Alexander, and Ludovico finds himself isolated. He invited this feeble-minded Charles de Valois to be his ally in Italy, and now Charles de Valois has outrun all discretion and has become too great for Ludovico, and so he turns to you, Kaiser; take care that you are not his catspaw. The Duke of Orleans, too, his cousin, has designs on Milan, and claims through his grandmother, Valentine Visconti."

Maximilian frowned as he considered the perfidy, insolence and folly of the French, of whose exploits his secretary had just reminded him. Why, he had heard that the crazy, hideous Charles was trying to recover Jerusalem, to throw the heathen from Europe, and to restore in his own person the fallen Empire of Constantinople! Yes, the Valois was even supposed to indulge in those choicest dreams that Maximilian himself cherished, and was accused of intending to force the Pope to crown him Emperor of the West, or of driving him from the Papal throne and reforming the Church; all the adventures Maximilian would like to undertake himself; nothing could have pleased the Emperor better than this offer from Ludovico Sforza, the most powerful of the Italian princes, who was now anxious for the disastrous ruin of the de Valois enterprise as he had been before eager for its triumphant success.

The Emperor sat down at the table, and drew a piece of paper and a pen towards him, and began to write down eagerly the first details of the scheme which unfolded itself before his sanguine anticipation. Ferdinand of Naples could be bribed by the promise of an Apulian port; Charles de Valois, young, inexperienced, half imbecile as he was, could be soothed by friendly proffers of alliances; Ferdinand of Spain might be won by the offer of a double marriage for his young son and daughter and the children of Maximilian, Margaret and Philip. While all these underground and complicated negotiations and policies were being woven he, Maximilian, could conclude a League between himself, Ferdinand of Aragon, Ludovico Sforza, the Venetians and the Pope, and they could call it a Holy League, and declare it was against the Turks... "I must get money from the Diet," declared Maximilian, "continuous money for ten or twelve years, by which I can support a standing army. With these imperial levies I could put all my enemies under my feet. The old military power of the Empire must be revived."

Absently, he traced on the edge of the paper on which he had been writing, the vowels which meant so much to the Hapsburgs, A-E-I-O-U; the perusal of that one letter from a crafty and cornered Italian potentate had set aflame all Maximilian's ambitions, which had been brooding and sombre for some time past, stifled by lack of money, and by a melancholy mood, which had now passed like a thundercloud in front of sunshine. He saw the power of the House of Hapsburg dominating Spain, Italy and France; he saw himself descending the Alps at the head of a magnificent army and in most knightly and glorious fashion defeating Charles VIII in fair fight on the plains of Italy. He saw all his dreams both of armies and cannons, of towns, of pictures, of statues, of palaces—all bursting into bloom like flowers which have waited for the fulness of summer to display their glory. Money, power and splendour—all within his grasp....

"It is almost the dawn," remarked Secretary Renner, endeavouring not to yawn; he was used to these vigils, he had served Maximilian many years and seen many such schemes and opportunities develop and wither, nor was he greatly impressed by the present enthusiasm on the part of his master, or the high importance which he attached to the letter of Ludovico Sforza; he was an elderly man and weary with the day's journey from Innsbrück.

Maximilian's sanguine mind could not submit to sleep that night. Everyone in the castle of Amras, save his secretary and himself, was now abed. He sat through the night in the small room, only pausing in his task of writing to now and then snuff the wick of the oil lamp, scribbling down his schemes in German and in Latin, his notes touched on the policies of all Europe and included almost every person of any importance from the Danube to the Marne, from the Alps to Naples, from the Adriatic to the Baltic. Now and again he mingled with his written sentences the letters which had been familiar to him since he was a little child, when he had seen them on nearly every object that belonged to his father—A-E-I-O-U. Austria Est Imperari Orbi Universo.

In the early morning Maximilian left Amras with all his friends, secretaries, the Master of the Choir, the organist, the Master of the Game, the two painter-engravers—Burgmair and Albrecht Dürer—and his servants. He looked round him, reining in his great white horse, at the extreme loveliness of the fresh and glowing world about him, the deep valleys and the high jutting crags, the tiny plants and the dark noble trees; his ambitious thoughts of the night before took on a faster turn, and he glanced ahead at all the battles and victories which he thought lay immediately before him, to what he would achieve when he was finally crowned with a triumphant peace—of the new humanism which he would encourage and protect, of the universities he would found, of the churches and orphanages he would build, and how nobly he would recompense the services of men like Dürer and Burgmair, and the two musicians...

Gertrude, from a window over the door, watched the cavalcade depart. As soon as it was light she had heard the noise in the castle, and on asking some of the women what it was, they had told her that the imperial train was leaving Amras in such haste that there had been hardly time to pack the baggage; no one would be left behind but a few servants who always remained in the lonely castle. Gertrude had made no answer. She had bathed her face and her hands, and folded her hair away behind a plain linen coif, and had gone to the window to watch the departure of the Emperor and his followers. Closely she stared at Maximilian as he rode directly beneath her; he looked fatigued, his face was lined, and the brilliant fairness of his complexion was overcast with an unnatural pallor. Yet he was animated and joyous, and spoke continuously. He had an air of persistent and tireless energy. His riding coat and trousers were plain and rather shabby; he still wore round his neck the gold chain with the emeralds which Gertrude had noticed and touched the evening before at the supper table.

With a joyous glance he looked about him at the beautiful landscape, and Gertrude drew further back from the window lest he should see her and be reminded of her existence, for she knew perfectly well that he had forgotten all about her: she had heard that some extraordinary despatch or message had been delivered last night, but she did not know or care what it was. Her expression was one of secrecy, of achievement in indifference, and resignation. Albrecht Dürer had sought for her and asked for her, but the women had said she was shut in her chamber and did not wish to take leave of any; Dürer had, in his sensitive way, understood her wretchedness. He would have liked to take a kindly farewell of her, but he dare not linger in Amras, his own wife, pretty and arrogant, would be waiting for him impatiently in Innsbrück; the day also was fair and inviting, he did not wish to remain within walls.

The Imperial retinue left Amras and proceeded slowly down the steeply descending road which led towards the valley of the Inn. Maximilian in his plain grey suit, his black bonnet with the silver brooch, rode ahead of them all, and turned back continuously to talk with joyous animation to whoever might be behind him; though he had been awake all night he felt no fatigue, no premonition of possible failure hazed the clear horizon of his hopes.

When the horsemen were suddenly out of sight round the sharp turn in the high-placed road and hidden in the darkness of a grove of pines, Gertrude left her room and came downstairs to the long dining-table where she had sat the night before with Maximilian, where he had caressed her and she had kissed his hand...the days hung before her like hollow bubbles of emptiness, there was no sun to tinge them with brilliant colours. She heard the bells of the goats and the cows in the high, fresh, lovely pastures outside, and, looking from the window, her eyes instinctively turned to those small snowfields still left on the highest peaks of the mountains, and which now shone with a dazzling cold brilliancy against the sky still flushed with the afterglow of yellow, saffron, amber, and rose colour.

A servant was sweeping the room and Gertrude asked her if she knew whether the Emperor, or Albrecht Dürer, or any of them, would return that evening to Amras, and the girl said she did not know. No manner of message had been left.

"I do not think they will return, any of them," said Gertrude, quietly; "the Emperor has heard of great affairs, and all the others must go with him in his train."

The servant remarked that one could see by the red of the sky that it was going to be a magnificent day. And as she spoke the first rays of the sun, so strong as to appear of solid gold, broke over the high sharp ridge of the mountain. Gertrude thought how such a sun would strike with intolerable splendour on that golden roof which Maximilian hoped to place over his palace in Innsbrück. She went out and sat on the pasture land near about the castle of Amras, a little slip of field now laden with tall, heavy, overripe late summer flowers between the heights of the mountains, where a few smooth cows and long-haired goats grazed with an air of resignation. The steep drop of the mountain was beneath her feet and the swelling rise of the mountain above her head, all around her was vast and peaceful space; she had her carved heavy rosary on her knee, but she did not tell her beads; he had promised to take her with him everywhere; and even while he had spoken those flattering words she had not believed him. Brooding, her elbow on her knees, her chin in her hand, Gertrude sat on the mountain side and stared down into the valley which was filled by a whole creation of shifting phantoms of shadow and light, mists that fled before the sun and retired to the woods of beech and pine, vaporous glories, delicate as a breath that swept over the sloping meadows of thick grass, parsley—flowers and dandelions, far below.

The pearly intermingled colours vanished from the upper skies which changed to a steadfast remote blue, azure as a gentian, the abyss beneath the distant road darkened in contrast to the excess of light in the air.

Gertrude saw none of it, neither the wide space about her nor the tiny plants of wild ginger and clover at the edge of her robe.


THE winter was severe and early in the Tyrol that year; after October it was impossible to live in the castle of Amras; Gertrude and the servants came down to Innsbrück through snowy defiles and bleak groves of pines; Maximilian had not forgotten Gertrude, he had sent Renner up to Amras with messages of goodwill and courtesy, and the suggestion that she should take up her residence at the Convent Santa Chiara at Hotting until the spring, when she could with some safety and comfort return to Guelders.

"I shall never return to Guelders," said Gertrude, "unless I am sent for...perhaps in the spring old Graaf Vincent will send for me."

Renner replied that that was very likely; the news from Guelders, he added, was not good; Karel van Egmond not only held the cities he had taken but continued to harry the Hollanders and to raid Juliers, "but the Emperor takes very little heed of Guelders, he is occupied with great affairs."

The secretary spoke with quiet irony, and a certain sad shrewdness; he had served Maximilian a long time.

Gertrude was not unhappy at Hotting; this large village was an hour's walk beyond Innsbrück on a natural terrace of the mountain side; above the houses, on a higher level, stood the low straight flat buildings of the convent and a chapel which contained a crucifix so large that it was know as "the Great God."

The nuns treated Gertrude with kindness; Renner had promised that the Emperor would pay handsomely for her entertainment; the nuns had smiled a little among themselves at this, everyone knew the debts of Maximilian. Gertrude was closed in the convent by the cold, the snow, and her distance from anyone who knew her; in the evenings she could see, in the valley below, the lights in the Hofburg and the church of Innsbrück, yellow light of lamps in the windows a moment before the shutters were closed, and the red fluttering lights of torches as people went to and fro the courtyards.

She never failed to go to her window and wait for these lights, Maximilian was still in Innsbrück at the Hofburg; sometimes those tawny flares must be lighting him, sometimes those lamps must be burning in a chamber where he sat.

The nuns spoke continuously of Maximilian, they thought him a great man; they had many stories of his exploits, his bravery, his learning and his kindness; they were sure that he would conquer France and Italy and be crowned at Rome...but some of the older nuns complained that he was extravagant and forgetful, full of fantastic projects and sudden schemes that he soon tired of and discarded.

Gertrude never said anything about Maximilian or of her fantastic journey from Kasteel Meurs to Cologne, about which the nuns would gladly have gossiped a little; they thought her a strange woman and even regarded her with a faint fear.

Some news came even to the secluded convent. Gertrude knew that Maximilian had made his bargain with Ludovico Sforza and was in the spring to celebrate his marriage with Bianca Maria; Gertrude wondered about this young girl who would cross the mountains to be an Empress, but the nuns knew nothing about her, and there was no one else to ask.

When Secretary Renner came up to Hotting in April the nuns told him that the foreign lady was ill; for a week she had been in bed, not complaining, but indifferent to everything as if life flowed away like water dripping from a cracked pitcher. "She is lonely and homesick," said Secretary Renner, uneasily; "now that the winter is over she can return to Guelders."

The nuns asked Gertrude if she would see the good secretary: "Oh, yes, I will see him."

The stout, amiable old man in his wide, furred coat, holding his flat bonnet, entered the little room where Gertrude sat; she had risen from bed to receive him, she wore a hood and a robe of plain serge like a nun and crouched over a charcoal fire; the season was still cold, the snow still far down the mountains, the sources of the numberless rivulets and streams choked with ice among the sudden blue of the gentians. Secretary Renner said awkwardly that he would have wished to come to Hotting before, but that he had been in attendance on the Emperor at Hall, where his wedding to Bianca Maria Sforza had taken place nearly a month ago.

"I am sorry that you have been ill," he added, kindly, "I daresay you are pining for Guelders?"

"No," answered Gertrude, "no. I have not been unhappy here. When the snow fell and it was very cold I felt as if I was in an antechamber to another world."

Secretary Renner thought that she looked herself as if she belonged to another world. She was pale from long confinement within walls, and the wide, heavy modelling of her face seemed accentuated; her expression was of brooding resignation and a certain remote compassion for hope and folly alike. "Does the Emperor wish me to return to Guelders?" she asked.

"The Emperor wishes you to do what you desire."

"To do what I desire! I have never desired anything. Only, perhaps, when I heard the Emperor talk, at Kasteel Meurs, I desired to see the world he spoke of."

"He talks very well," said Renner, holding out his dry hands above the charcoal fire.

He was quiet and displeased because of the marriage of the Emperor, which was very unpopular in Germany by reason of the bride's plebeian birth, and had provoked ridicule in Italy because of the bridegroom's poverty. Renner had heard the luxurious attendants of Bianca sneer at "Maximilian of the Empty Purse"—"dei pochi denari."

The marriage at Hall, the festivals, masques and jousts had been very splendid, but they had not imposed on the Milanese who knew that their Duke's money bags had been opened to pay for them, and that he was to receive in return a condonation of his usurpation of a child's heritage, the son of the late Gian Galeazzo, Ludovico's nephew; the three hundred thousand ducats had been paid with cynic promptitude, but there were many of Maximilian's servants besides Secretary Renner who wondered if even this sum was worth what Maximilian had given in exchange.

He said nothing of this, knowing that Gertrude, as a woman, could have no concern in politics, but spoke to her of Albrecht Dürer, who had returned to Nuremberg with his wife Agnes, and who had commenced a series of nearly a hundred plates which were to represent the Triumphs of Maximilian; and of Peter Vischer who had begun to cast the statues of Maximilian and Mary for the column in Innsbrück.

"They have finished the designs for the golden roof," added Renner. "It is to be over a window in the Hofburg, supported on a loggia of red marble in the Italian style, nearly five hundred tiles of gold.

"I should like to see it," said Gertrude.

"If you were well enough to travel you could come to Innsbrück and stay with Peter Vischer and his wife at their house near the foundries—"

"I am quite well enough to travel."

Gertrude and Renner went down to Innsbrück that evening, she wearing against the cold a fur cloak borrowed from the nuns; the sharpness of the outer air made her feel breathless; the sunset gave a transient warmth to the distant peaks and summits and in contrast the woods of pines that mounted to the snowfields showed of a metallic darkness; the church of Hotting overflowed with music, for a choir was practising singing; Renner and Gertrude were accompanied by these voices for a long way as they descended to the valley of the Inn which had long been in shadow; among the flat pastures either side of the swift, grey river, the shapes of the large crucifixes with penthouse roofs to keep off the rain showed rigid and sombre; a chill, new green coloured the fields, by the side of the winding road were violets and thin small weeds and grasses. The tinkle of mountain streams accompanied them all the way; swollen from the snow, released from the bondage of the ice, the water slid down the side of the mountain to the valley and ran in deep channels through the streets of Innsbrück.

When they reached the town Gertrude was fatigued; she was glad to lean on the kind arm of Renner; the narrow streets of dark, carved houses were crowded; Croats, Swiss and Burgundian soldiery moved in and out of the alleys and beer halls, the townspeople crowded round the shops and churches; from balconies, from spires and high jutting roofs hung flags bearing the double-headed eagle of Austria and the Viper of Milan; everyone seemed excited and pleased, for a considerable amount of money was being spent in the town and there was a great number of free entertainments to be had, even for the poorer sort; many peasants from the mountains had come down to see the Emperor and his bride; the fluttering ribbons of their dresses were of bright harsh colours, and they carried bunches of edelweiss, alpine roses and gentian, white, red and blue, tied to staves.

The foundries were in the large square near the Hofburg, and close by was Peter Vischer's house, the façade of which was covered with banners and wreaths of alpine flowers.

"How gay and pleased everyone seems to be," said Gertrude.

"Yes, it is all very well while the money lasts."

While they were waiting for admission to the house a troop of Swiss Landsknechte went by; Maximilian was himself riding at the head of them in the extravagant costume of the mercenaries which he often affected to please them; the yellow and red costume with the huge puffed, slashed and braided sleeves, the stiff wide skirts and the flat divided bonnet with the three monstrous feathers curling to the back of the massive horse gave him a gigantic appearance; he carried easily the eighteen-foot lance, the skilful management of which gained him such applause among the men-at-arms.

He now appeared to Gertrude a soldier and a King, and it seemed strange to her that ever she had sat at his right hand side in the dining-hall at Amras.

"He does not see us," said Renner, for Maximilian was looking joyously ahead, taking pleasure in the moment of action and pride, and had no glance for the two in the doorway.

The horses, trotting briskly, spattered some of the street mud over Gertrude's cloak; when the door was opened she remained on the threshold, gazing after the horsemen.

The coppersmith and his wife welcomed them with easy kindness. Peter Vischer at once asked Gertrude if she would care to come to the foundries and see the statue of herself as Mary of Burgundy, which he had just cast.

"It is that for the triumphal column of red Florentine marble which is to be raised near the Hofburg; on the summit is to be a statue of Maximilian, and this of the wife and the column itself is to be hung with shields with all their coats of arms—there is some work for the heralds—they have been busy with it for months."

"I will go to-morrow," said Gertrude, "to-day I am tired. I should like, too, to see the drawings that Albrecht Dürer made of me at Amras."

"Oh, those," replied the coppersmith, evasively, "he took them back to Nuremberg with him and by the time he had continuously re-touched them they are not like you at all."

During supper they constantly heard the drums and trumpets from the Hofburg; Maximilian was entertaining French and Venetian envoys as well as the Italians who had brought Bianca Maria to Hall.

"They all think," said Renner, who had remained with his friends, "that now the French will not dare descend on Italy because the Duke of Milan has been invested by the Emperor, but I am not so confident. I hear that Charles de Valois has gathered an army of sixty thousand men and surely he will want to make some use of it, for his brain is quite turned with nonsense about chivalry and knight-errantry."

Gertrude, who neither spoke nor ate very much now asked if there were any news from Guelders.

"No," answered Renner thoughtfully, "no, Albert of Saxony writes the usual complaints, it is quite clear that he cannot hold his own against Karel van Egmond and Van Rossem. Lately there have been no letters at all, the post has been delayed by a very severe winter and the war."

"How can one ever progress," remarked the coppersmith, sadly, "when there is always a war somewhere? If I could have half the money for my foundry that is spent on taking one city!" His tired, alert face expressed the disillusion and resignation of the man who is always labouring with inadequate materials to produce work that the violence and indifference of others will destroy.

When the household was asleep, Gertrude, who had not gone to bed, went cautiously down the little crooked stairs and out into the street where the moonlight lay in a strong thin line between the heavy shadows of the close set houses.

She turned in the direction which she had seen Maximilian and the Landsknechte ride, the direction from which had come the sound of drums and trumpets; she was soon in the square before the Hofburg; the moonlight showed a fountain shaped like a thick petalled flower in stone, and a tall column with a foliated capital in the empty space, before the palace, which was closed and shuttered.

Gertrude knew that this was the column on which her bronze image would stand in the likeness of Mary of Burgundy, wearing a flat hood with rosettes and a robe of brocade patterned with twisted designs; she wished that she could become this bronze image and stand for ever beside the image of Maximilian, and watch the people pause to drink at the fountain, and pass in and out of the low doorway of the palace, and stare beyond them at the mountains which rose so high above the valley town that the spire of the highest church did not reach to the lowest grove of pines on the overwhelming slopes of the Tyrolese Alps.

Gertrude could hear the springs of water gurgling in the fountain and purling in stone channels through the square; everywhere in Innsbrück was this sound of running water pouring down from the mountains; she shivered with cold and fatigue; the air was thin and sharp, blowing from the high snowfields behind which the moon was setting.

Gertrude was as encompassed with loneliness as she had been at Kasteel Meurs, at Amras, at Hotting.

As the moon disappeared behind the mountain peaks a deep coldness filled the air, and palace, fountain and empty column became lost in a confusion of intricate shadows through which Gertrude made her way back to the coppersmith's house.


MAXIMILIAN resolved to spend his wife's dowry on a crusade against the Turk, for he was credibly informed that the French, despite the vainglorious dreams of Charles de Valois, would not undertake any conquest of Italy, or attempt to realize any of their young King's fantastic claims on Naples, and there remained nothing to hinder Maximilian from undertaking his designs on the East, which would cover him, his house, and his nation with unsurpassable glory. There was, certainly, the war in Guelders to concern him, but he did not attach very great importance to this, neither to the complaints of the Hollanders of the depredations of Karel van Egmond; several of their stoutest towns were now in the hands of this rebel, and his captains, Maarten van Rossem and Graaf Bernard van Meurs.

Maximilian intended before he set out on the Crusade to make a sharp end to this revolt; he thought to himself that with a few of his good troops, the Swiss and the Burgundians, he would soon finish all the flourishes of Karel van Egmond, whom he had already twice in a friendly and courteous fashion summoned to allegiance, and who had not replied either to him or his stadtholder. Albert of Saxony. He had not succeeded in getting very large supplies from the Diet which had met at Worms in the last autumn, the electors and the princes of the free towns alike demanding internal reforms in Germany before they could contribute heavily to the expenses of any foreign war, either in defiance of France or a Crusade against the heathen. Maximilian, strengthened by the wealth brought to him by his unpopular marriage, looked forward with confidence to the next meeting of the Diet, when he hoped that a standing army, paid for by a definite tax on every soul in the empire, would considerably help him in his designs, and not leave him dependent on mercenaries whom he must pay out of his own pocket.

Sitting in a front room in the Hofburg in Innsbrück from which he could see the column awaiting his statue and that of Mary of Burgundy, and the fountain like a flower of solid stone petals, clearly washed by the early spring sunlight, Maximilian was examining with eager glances a print which had just been sent him from Nuremberg. It was by Hans Burgmair, and was printed in black on a white ground; it was called the Great Imperial Eagle; heavily stamped in jet ink the huge bird spread over the sheet, and on its left was seated the Emperor and beside him two heralds at arms, while below flowed a stream, with the inscription—"Fons musarum." In the basin of the stream were seated the nine Muses, below them the seven Liberal Arts, and beneath that Paris being roused by Mercury to deliver his judgment on the beauty of the three goddesses standing before him, while at the right Discord presented the Golden Apple; on the feathers of the wings were fourteen medallions in two series, containing the Seven Virtues and the Seven Liberal Arts. Hans Burgmair, had sent this with a humble letter to the Emperor, and also a specimen sheet of the wood engravings of The Triumph, which Maximilian had ordered some time ago, and which Dürer had undertaken to design and supervise, but had now abandoned, since through one unfortunate circumstance after another, they had never reached a beginning, but remained a vague plan like so many of Maximilian's schemes and projects. However, Burgmair, having returned to Nuremberg, had engraved some of the Triumph, the original of which was contained in a hundred and nine sheets of parchment, thirty-four inches in length, and twenty inches in height; a series of rich and grandiose miniatures which Burgmair had painted long since for Maximilian, even before he was more than King of the Romans, adding to it now and then (as the different events in the Emperor's life occurred), another symbolical group of figures. Maximilian was still young, and no doubt the greatest of his glories lay before him; the series, of course, was far from being complete, but Maximilian had always been eager to have them engraved, and here the first specimens lay under his hand, altered from the miniatures as Burgmair's fancy had directed. He had been helped, he wrote, in the work by his son, who had shown himself a very conscientious and promising artist, and by the drawings and suggestions of Albrecht Dürer. Maximilian considered that if the work was completed it would consist of over two hundred designs, and would show everything of importance that had occurred in his life and his reign; and it was to be the monument of his princely grandeur, to show the circumstances of his pomp, his pleasures, his possessions, his wars and conquests, by means of a procession of several hundred figures, of which some on foot, some on horseback, others drawn in cars, would form a magnificent tribute to his excellence.

The Emperor Maximilian gazed at the plate which bore his titles and which said in clear and flourishing lettering: "This has been executed in praise of and for the perpetual commemoration of the noble pursuits and glorious victories of this Most Serene and Very Illustrious Prince, Lord Maximilian, Roman Emperor Elect, Chief of Christendom, King and Heir of seven Christian Kingdoms, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, and other grand Principalities and Provinces of Europe."

Maximilian read this over several times with considerable satisfaction. He was only irritated that he had to put Emperor Elect, and to know that in his heart he was no more than Emperor of Germany and could never be a true heir of Constantine, Otto and Charlemagne, until he had become Emperor of the West, of the Holy Roman Empire, and been crowned in Rome, as his father had been before him. Dreaming over this possible coronation in the Holy City, the Crusade began to lose its first attraction, and he wondered if he should not turn his money, his energy and his men in that direction, down the Danube instead of towards the East, and he thought that the figure of Preco, the nude herald who led the procession, mounted on a ragged monstrous griffin without a saddle, partially covered by strong feathered wings, and holding in his mouth a twisted horn of peculiar form, should perhaps be preceding him towards the West and not the East...Maximilian turned over the plates with great pleasure, holding them as near as possible to the light. They did not come in proper sequence, Burgmair having sent engravings made from different episodes in the procession. One showed the fifes and drums, the fifer, Anthony of Doornstadt, mounted on horseback and bearing a couplet on an ornate standard, followed by three mounted fifers playing their instruments, clad in heraldic coats, their heads covered with little slashed hats ornamented with curling plumes, carrying instrument cases and long sabres, all decorated with a crown of honour or laurel wreath. There was, too, Hans Teuchel, the master-falconer, in his hunting coat and trousers, the hawking pouch by his side, with his attendants with falcons and an owl. Then Maximilian recognized with pleasure Conrad Zuberle, five wild goats and a chamois behind him, and five chamois hunters clad in the costume dear to Maximilian—doublet and breeches with high shoes—and carrying clamp irons, haversacks, knives, snow hooks and staves. This reminded Maximilian of some of the most agreeable expeditions of his life, when he had gone up the Tyrol to the highest and most deserted mountains, straight to the bald summit, with iron hooks fastened on to his soles by leather bands to prevent his slipping while mounting steep rocks, or places slippery from snow or ice. He could recall many such journeys when the approach to the place where the chamois lived was slow and difficult, and he had been obliged to take provisions for several days—bread, cheese and a mixture of melted butter and flour. Snow shoes hung from his sides, many bands of leather were interlaced to form the bottom, hooks were attached below the sole of the shoe to save the hunter from the danger of sinking into snowdrifts. Maximilian regretted that his wedding festivities and his business negotiations with France, Milan and Venice, had lately prevented him from having any chamois hunting. Here, too, was the plate of a stag hunt, with Conrad von Rot, master of the staghounds, who was in ancient fashion carrying a hunting horn of the Low Countries, and then with him Van Greyssen, master hunter of the wild boar, also holding a hunting horn, all decorated with the crowns of honour. Maximilian had had none of his servants omitted from this Triumph—even the humblest, those whose services were absolutely necessary, but not glorious, were included in the gorgeous processions. Those who were too mean to put in a personal appearance were commemorated by a herald on horseback, who carried a tablet on which had been inscribed the five offices of the Court—the cupbearer, the cook, the barber, the tailor and the shoemaker, followed by five men on horseback, each carrying respectively a goblet, a ladle, a razor, a tailor's scissors, and a last—all decorated with the crowns of honour.

Burgmair had been inclined to think that the inclusion of these people marred the grandeur of the procession, but the Emperor had said that they were as useful as any of the more high born and noble personages who completed his triumph. There were several cars of music, yet not enough to gratify the Emperor's passion for melody...a car of the music of the Pipes, Trombone and Trumpet, drawn by two rough buffaloes and driven by a little boy, as little boys have the sweetest voices...a car of the Regal and Positiv, with Paul Hofmeyer playing his organ, and his lad working the bellows...a car of the music of Sweet Melody, drawn by a dromedary, and the Music of the Capella, drawn by two bisons, in which was an orchestra of cornets and trombone players, presided over by Herr George Salkony, Bishop of Vienna, who was Maximilian's Master of the Capella. Besides this there was a car, drawn by two elks and driven by a young boy, called the Car of the Music of the Lute and Rebec. There was a car of Jesters, including Conrad van Rosen, who was not only a jester but a confidant of the Emperor, a Car of Fools and a Car of Mummery, led by Peter van Altenhaus, Master of the Mummery, handsomely clad in the surtout of the Golden Mask. All the highly-finished miniatures from which these wood engravings were taken had been painted under the Emperor's close direction. He now looked over them carefully again, to see whether Burgmair had not made some mistake in the details; and he observed that in many places he had greatly altered the original, and he was sorry that he had not engraved any of the plates of the jousts, tourneys, fencing, and sword display, of the marriage of Burgundy, and the Electors, Princes and Counts of the House of Austria, with all the ancient devices; Maximilian was a finer expert in arms and heraldry than anyone who might be found in all his many realms, and he had to keep a watchful eye on all the painters, engravers, designers and coppersmiths, lest they made some mistake, either in heraldry, or in the complicated details of modern arms. There were all the plates of the war, too; the war in Hainault, the first war of Guelders, the war of Utrecht, the first war in Flanders, the war of Liege, the second war in Flanders, the Austrian war, the Hungarian war, and the Bohemian war, the Roman coronation which included so many different fashions of crowns—the Roman Crown, the Crown of Straw, the Crown of Iron, the Royal Crown, and the Gold or Imperial Crown.

Maximilian tied up the portfolio. He decided to tell Renner to write to Burgmair and say that he was pleased with the plates and he was willing that he should engrave the whole series, but that he was to be very careful with the military subjects, the wars and the trophy cars, the artillery, the treasure, and the statues of the saints, kings, archdukes and emperors whose arms Maximilian bore. The miniatures themselves were of course incomplete, and must presently be added to...There was his second marriage to commemorate now, but he did not think of that with much pleasure, for the bride had not many coats of arms to add to those with which Maximilian was already adorned. Still, she had brought him three hundred thousand ducats, and it was fitting that she should be in some way commemorated.

Maximilian looked out of the window, the sun was clear on the high snowfields of the Tyrol, which rose to such a lofty height above the town, dwarfing even the empty column in the market place, although that was higher than the palace. Secretary Renner, a shrewd, pinched figure in his heavy fur coat (he was a man who felt the cold and it was not till full summer that he abandoned his heavy lined fur mantle), came in with letters for Maximilian to sign, which he did without reading them; they were but formal and official documents. Maximilian was thinking of the Triumph, and he spoke of it to Renner, and said how excellently Burgmair had engraved the miniatures, but that the best subjects were still to come, because even in real life they had not yet taken place...

"There must be a car," he remarked, "of the Crusade or Heathen war, showing the Austrian flag being carried down the Danube, and there must be a car of the second war in Guelders, showing the humiliation of Karel van Egmond before the town of Arnhem. I would have the standard-bearers carry little models of towns—walls, citadels, fortresses and cathedrals," added the Emperor eagerly, "carried on a platter or dish, held up aloft."

"This will all cost your Majesty a good deal of money," replied Renner, rather shyly.

Maximilian showed him the letter which Burgmair had sent with the engravings in which he said, "I shall be ready to prepare all work for the cutters and finish it and polish it with my own hand in order that the work shall be all alike in the cut, and finished with the same hands, using three workers instead of myself alone, for I employ beside two good form cutters for a hundred florins a year in order that I may retain them with me, and that they may have enough to live. I pledge myself to furnish your Majesty with six or seven good pieces a month, all done in my very best style, and as soon as I have your consent, we may begin to print. Likewise it may please your Majesty to give orders to these three cutters that they have a private house or room, so that we may be alone and unmolested as the work requires we should be."

"But," objected Renner, still stiff-necked and reluctant, "Your Majesty has so many engravers employed in your service, as well as so many painters and coppersmiths. There are the foundries, too—what is it going to cost for those statues?"

"They will be far more costly than the engravings," smiled Maximilian. "Is that one of the Duchess of Burgundy finished yet?"

"It is finished and on view. Peter Vischer was up here yesterday, he greatly hoped that your Majesty would go and see it, either to-day or to-morrow, but you have been so occupied."

"Yes, it is that statue taken from that Gertrude van Bayer van Boppart, is it not?" asked Maximilian, thoughtfully.

"She went herself to see it two or three days ago," said Renner, "she has been staying in the house of Peter Vischer."

"I hope she has been treated with all courtesy and consideration," remarked Maximilian, "she was with the nuns at Hotting, was she not?"

"Yes, but I took her away from there, she seemed weary, ill—nostalgia, I suppose. Now she has gone home."

"Gone home!" exclaimed Maximilian, "returned to Guelders—with the war—?"

"Yes, as soon as the roads were passable after the winter floods, the old Graaf Vincent sent two ancient robust men to fetch her and the little Dutch girl who made the pastry, and who was in your Majesty's kitchen, home to Guelders. The little Dutch girl would not go, as she is well paid and quite happy; but the lady went alone back to Guelders, she must by now be as far on her way as Cologne. She seemed glad to see the two men who were old servants of Graaf Vincent, and I was quite pleased to allow her to go. I gave her, in the name of your Majesty, a silver cup, with the eagles engraved on it."

"I would have given her more than that," mused Maximilian, and, for a moment, a look of uneasiness passed over his ardent face. "She was a very curious woman, that Gertrude; sometimes I wish I had never seen her, and sometimes I doubt if I have seen her. She crosses me like a dream—sometimes remembered and sometimes forgotten. I think of her as she sat at that supper table at Amras, with her chin in her hand and her elbow on her knee. I wish I could see the sketch of her which Albrecht Dürer said he had made of her then, with the bat which flew in over her head. I would like to have seen her before she went back to Guelders; I hope she will be safe upon the way. I suppose now," he added, "she will marry young Graaf Bernard?"

"She opened her mind to no one," replied Renner, drily, "but seemed glad that she was to return home."

Maximilian seemed to ponder the subject a little and then to dismiss it from his mind with an effort and with an uneasiness combined. He remembered Gertrude with a poignant clearness, but hardly, as he had himself said, as a woman—almost as something he had seen drawn, or painted, or cast in bronze. It appeared to him now as if she had not been the model of the statue Vischer wished to show him, but as if Vischer had created her—a woman who was half like one of Dürer's Madonnas seated beneath a little hill town crowned with pine trees, and half like one of those heathen goddesses painters now delighted to draw, bare of drapery, who stood staring between the wide leaves of some evil tree bearing poisonous flowers—each with a nimbus of stars and each with bouquets of blossoms in their hands, and both followed by children; in one instance, Sacred Love; in the other, Profane Love.

Renner interrupted Maximilian's thoughts by asking him when he was leaving Innsbrück, for the Empress had been teasing him to beg his master to come to a decision to leave for Vienna. "She, also, is homesick, I think," he added; he was often sorry for women for whom he had so little respect, but a certain cold tenderness.

Maximilian frowned, he did not like his second wife, who was pretty, but a cold and stupid girl; she had no influence over him and he avoided her company whenever possible; her presence reminded him of a double humiliation, her plebeian birth that the Germans so resented, and his own poverty that the Italians had mocked; neither did Bianca Sforza soothe him by flatteries or caresses, Maximilian felt he had married the one woman, out of all the women he had met, who did not admire him; he was vexed by the thought that perhaps she loved someone else whom she had been forced to leave behind in Italy; from the first the marriage had been a dull failure. Maximilian thought of Mary of Burgundy as "my true wife."


AT the end of August Gertrude and her escort, who were provided with passports both from the Duke of Guelders and from Maximilian (for this Secretary Renner had taken upon himself to give them), arrived after long and toilsome travelling at Kasteel Meurs; dull and monotonous had been the journey over the flats of Cleves and Juliers where for so great a distance the monstrous cathedral of Cologne overpowered the low landscape. Gertrude had spoken no more to her escort then the few sentences which were absolutely necessary. They had brought her no message from Guelders, nor had she asked for any. When she had crossed the frontier from Cleves she had seen about her the desolation and the gloom of war; bands of soldiers going and coming, farms that had been burnt, cottages that had been overturned, crops trampled down, fruit trees broken and withering with their load of apples and pears, dead men hanging from signposts, and roads deep-rutted with the track of cannon and baggage wagons. She heard, whether she would or not, both from the two old rough men-at-arms who escorted her and from every passer-by to whom they spoke, that Karel van Egmond had fortified the whole of Guelders against the Emperor, and that he and his captains held it stoutly, so that Albert of Saxony, the Imperial stadtholder, had scarcely been able to make an effort to dislodge him. Arnhem and Nimwegen were crowded and noisy with soldiery, cannon, and all engines of war; Karel van Egmond from these two mighty towns commanded the long reaches of the Rhine and the Waal. He had very little money, but that was no matter, for all the men of Guelders served him for love, and many stout mercenaries came to fight under his banner for the sake of the plunder which he could give them when he raided the rich fat lowlands of Holland.

Albert of Saxony could scarcely command any men at all, for the Emperor's troops were never paid, and had not so much as an ell of good cloth or a span of elk skin to cover their backs, or bread and meat to put into their mouths. It was an ironic contrast to the marriage pomp at Hall and Innsbrück this ragged misery of Maximilian's troops in Holland and Brabant. Village after village, and many towns, had fallen into the hands of Karel van Egmond, out of apathy and wretchedness on the part of the ill-paid and ill-fed garrisons. By the stalwart and noble energy, the hard unyielding arrogance of their young leader, the men of Guelders had boldly and triumphantly asserted their independence. On every keep, on every church, on every house that she passed, Gertrude saw the double rampant lion of Guelders flaunting in the summer air, and nowhere the Imperial Eagle. She learned that Karel van Egmond, accompanied by the Maarshalk, Maarten van Rossem, was now engaged on besieging Amersfoort, which was not expected to make a long resistance.

"Before the summer is over," cried the people of Guelders, triumphantly, "our Duke will be in Ghent, and Rotterdam and the Hague, and from there he will dictate his terms to Maximilian."

Gertrude made no comment on anything she saw or heard. She noticed that the home fields looked exactly the same as last year, as the year before, as any year since she came to Roermonde; the dark yellow corn was standing high, stiff, tawny, flushed. The pastures were rich with flowers, parsley, poppies, daisies, and lush with long green blossoming grass; the thinning hedgerows were heavy with the first-fruits of autumn, hard bloomy sloes, scarlet hip and orange haw were displacing the roses, the briar blossom and the hawthorn of summer. As she rode along the path between the orchards on this, the last stage of her long journey, Gertrude saw the peasants gathering the red and golden fruit from the long grass and carrying it away in baskets. As she rode over the drawbridge she heard the children singing in the fields as they carried home pails of milk. Then the singing sweetly ceased as the bells rang out the Angelus from all the churches of Roermonde, the old town that she could see as she looked back, on entering her own doorway, exact and precise, the bastions and spires against the sky saffron-clear in the sunset that overspread the translucent greenish sky.

The old Graaf Vincent was in his accustomed place with his aged wheezing dog at his feet. His head was sunk lower on his breast than she ever remembered to have noticed it sunk before, and he seemed to have grown so blind that he did not know her, though he looked up at once as she entered the darkening room; his thin hair and beard were ragged, the flesh of his face white, glazed and sunken.

"I expect I, too, am changed," thought Gertrude. She crossed the worn floor quickly, went to him and knelt at his side; taking his hand she said, "You sent for me and I have come back. I would never have come if you had not sent for me, for I disobeyed you in going away."

The old man answered, "Is it Gertrude, for I have grown very blind? It is Gertrude!"

He made a gesture with his crooked, wrinkled and trembling hand, which she took to be a command for her to rise.

"The room is as you left it," he muttered, "no one has touched anything of yours—your needlework, you know, the Seven Valiant Virtues, you never finished them, did you?" And he began to laugh with the feeble joyless mirth of the old. She saw that his eyes were filmed and red as if inflamed by perpetual tears flowing and drying, in the sockets.

"I can finish the Virtues now," she said, "there is a long time before me."

"A long time!" repeated Graaf Vincent, still laughing, so that his thin body shook painfully. "Aye aye, a long time!"

"A year is not much out of a whole lifetime," she answered, disappointed with his welcome.

He repeated—"A year—you have been away a year!"

She did not fail to notice the bitterness in his tone. He asked her nothing of how she had fared since she had left, unknown to him, his house, and stolen away to meet Maximilian at Cologne; and she was grateful to him for this; whatever he had asked her she would have told him nothing; nor did he mention to her the letters from the secretary of Maximilian, explaining why the lady had gone to Innsbrück, and that she had been the model for a figure of Mary of Burgundy, for several statues and drawings, or the present of the emerald ring. To none of all this did the old man refer, and Gertrude thought that perhaps he had indeed forgotten both the reason of her going and the reason of her coming back; and yet he had sent for her, had been at that trouble to send those two men-at-arms to Innsbrück to fetch her home. This reflection roused some tenderness in her heart for him, although his greeting had been so cold. He must have wanted her or he would not have taken the trouble of sending for her again, and she tried to fall into her usual duties, though she was met by hostile looks from the servants in the kitchen, and some of the women in the house were strange to her, and all seemed unfriendly. Her chamber was, as old Graaf Vincent had said it would be, unchanged. There was the plain bed with the plain hangings, the worn tapestry on the walls, the humble wooden furniture, and the small window (overlooking the moat fields and, on the horizon, Roermonde) where she had set her pot of aromatic leaves the day that Maximilian had come to the castle, where she had sat with her hair unbound and her coif on her knees, drowsy from that sharp pungent perfume of bay and box, distilling its essence in the sun.

"Everything is just the same," she said to herself, wistfully, "nothing is altered and I am not altered either. I can go on now quite easily until I die, however long that may be."

She opened the window and let in the fresh air, full of the perfume of harvest, of early fruit and ripening flowers; in the dark moat below one swan was sailing, and she wondered how it had endured to live so long lonely, and whether it remembered its mate, who died on the night that Maximilian had come here and lain awake in the hot guest-chamber, where he could not sleep because of the heat.

Gertrude sat down to supper that evening with old Graaf Vincent—the two of them lonely at the long table, and it seemed exactly as if she had never been away, for the little first sharp strangeness of homecoming had soon worn away, it was Innsbrück, and Castle Amras, and the convent at Hotting, and the journey across Germany, Cleves and Juliers that were strange and foreign, and this was what it always had been—home, quiet, monotonous and, as it seemed to Gertrude, immutable. She waited for the old man to give her news; she was sure that he must presently speak of Karel van Egmond and of Bernard van Meurs, his grandson, released at last from Peronne, and tell her whether he still held these two in his regard, and whether they had visited him, lately, or even at all. When he had finished his meat and fruit, the old man began to sip a large tankard of water after his usual custom, and then he mentioned suddenly Karel van Egmond, saying:

"The Duke of Guelders has not been here since you went away."

"Perhaps he will never come again," said Gertrude. She moved away from the old man, and with her face of brooding serenity looked out of the narrow window across those fields of late harvest to the high ramparts of the walled town of Roermonde, which, gilded by the evening light, filled the short horizon that she could see and bounded her prospect.

"Bernard has left Peronne," added the old man, in his voice which age had robbed of all music and all expression. "He is fighting with Karel against this Maximilian who calls himself Emperor."

"You have seen him," asked Gertrude, gently. "He has come here to see you?"

"Yes, I have met him," said the old man, turning on her his grey-filmed eyes, "he is greatly changed by eight years of imprisonment. I could not see him very clearly, I have so rapidly become blind, but I could hear his voice, which was harsh and broken; it used to be pleasant; and I passed my hand over his face and felt deep lines there, round his eyes and his mouth, and hollows in his cheeks, which are strange to youth."

"Karel van Egmond released him," said Gertrude, "he redeemed his promise and released him."

"After eight years," whimpered the old man, "after eight years."

Gertrude propped her chin on her fingers, her elbow on the table and, turning to that poor feeble cold presence said in accents of gentle strength: "Do not blame me so much about this affair; if I had not gone to please the Emperor and to sit for the model of his wife's statue Karel van Egmond would never have released Bernard, it was because I was no longer there that there was no difference between them, so he at once set free his friend...this seems difficult, but I know it to be true."

"That is a foul argument," replied the old man, fiercely, "and one you should be ashamed to use, but it appears to me there is no shame left in women nowadays."

This was the only reproach he addressed to her. Gertrude regarded him mournfully and with a wise compassion. She expected that he was now about to tell her that she must keep her promise and marry Graaf Bernard, for whom she had waited those eight dull, monotonous years; but instead he gave her very different news. "Bernard," he declared, and his sunken voice was shrill with an echo of pleasure and triumph, "is going to be married to Adele von Platen; he will be wed in the autumn. She has a fair fat dowry for she is her father's heiress."

Gertrude did not answer. She could not herself have put through the old compact with Bernard, this stranger, who, because of her, had languished for eight years in Peronne; she would have had to break the promise to which she had sacrificed so much; but she had hoped that this could have been done in a courteous and kindly fashion; the fact that, without a word of excuse or explanation, the man who had been so long affianced to her had betrothed himself to another woman, as it seemed, cheerfully approved of his action, showed at once to Gertrude how her journey to Austria had been viewed by all the men of her house, aye, by all the women too, she did not doubt—even the servants had seemed hostile, and now she could understand why—she was looked upon as a light, perhaps wanton, woman, one who has abandoned her duty for a caprice, a fancy; she was not any longer to be considered with respect, no duty was owing to her. Karel van Egmond had not been to Meurs since she left; no doubt, he too, considered her with scorn. She wondered if her punishment was to be left at this scorn, if the marriage of Bernard to another woman was to be considered sufficient humiliation; she thought that it must be sufficient, for what other punishment could any of them inflict on her? She had no money that they could take, only that little annuity waiting for her in the convent of Santa Chiara in Roermonde, and she had no pleasure that they could take, life had never held any pleasure for her, or any liberties, and she had no jewels, only that thin gold chain which she still wore round her neck, and a silver cup that they did not know of which Secretary Renner had given her from Maximilian the day she left Innsbrück. What else had she that they could take from her? They might order the priests to set a penance for her, she had often been set penances before, and for nothing at all, merely for the very slightest of failures in the most rigid of duties. She tried to think of Graaf Bernard whom she remembered as a gay, ardent and gallant boy, with a fair complexion and childish eyes of bright blue, and to reconcile this remembered image with what his grandfather had just said of him, depicting him as a haggard, broken and embittered man, with lines so deeply cut on his face that they could be felt by the hand; and she wondered vaguely and without interest if he had relinquished her with pleasure, with disdain, with relief, or regret; she must have been to him nothing but a memory, and yet she had been constant to him for eight years.

What a spendthrift waste of virtue was this! An eight years' constancy flung away in a moment at the sight of a stranger's face...

"Bernard," she said aloud, "will be happy, and forget about it all yet. He is still young and eight years are not so long in a man's life."

"He'll never forget," sighed the old man, "nor shall I, nor will you; the only one who will forget all about it is Maximilian, who calls himself the Emperor."

Gertrude was silent again. She knew that this was the bleak and bare truth, Maximilian would not remember her, even when he looked at her likeness cast in bronze and graved on wood, and drawn in pencil, he would think, not of her but of his first wife, Mary of Burgundy, to whom she bore that odd resemblance. He would see her depicted in Mary's robes, wearing Mary's hood with the flat rosettes, and Mary's chain and jewels. How would it be possible with all the crowded and tumultuous actions of his life that he should remember her whom he had met on that summer evening in the castle outside Roermonde and who had followed him to Cologne! The old man knew exactly the truth of what he said when he remarked that Maximilian would forget.

Gertrude was able to reply without agitation, "Yes, of course, the Emperor will forget; he has no leisure for such memories."

The soft violet azure summer dark filled the chamber with a sweet radiance, and she did not see the bare familiar chamber, but the shape and flowing lines of those visions of which Maximilian had talked when he had sat here at supper—great seas covered with gallant ships, trading to and fro, mighty ports and high towns—all gathered together as chains of gold by loyalty and admiration to his throne, the marble and salt-encrusted steps of Venetian palaces, streets of rich houses in Genoa—all these images Gertrude saw as she sat alone with the old man in the mean room of the old castle; her poor environment did not limit her visions, she knew her mind and her spirit to be independent of time and space; though her body was sunk in static repose she was aware of swiftly voyaging over the strength and glitter of infinite seas and of climbing without fatigue sharp and lofty peaks that overlooked plains scattered with proud pinnacled cities displaying banners that bore no earthy device.


KAREL VAN EGMOND had firmly established himself not only in his native state of Guelders, but in all the Dutch and German towns which he had seized, garrisoned and fortified. His armed dominions now lay a threatening barrier between the German States of the Empire and those of the Low Countries, to reach which Maximilian's officers had to travel round by Flanders, Franche-Comté and Burgundy—a laborious and expensive route; every week Karel van Egmond pushed his frontiers further into Holland and Brabant, raiding and spoiling the fat, wealthy and comfortable merchant towns, carrying off their treasure, and putting them under heavy taxation. Egmond was a laborious administrator as well as an active soldier, and with care, patience and energy he organized his native duchy and all his conquests, welding them into one admirably-arranged whole, and repairing with vigour and celerity all the devastation of war, so that even while every man in Guelders went armed, and the Duke was diligently riding from one barriered town to another, always on the alert, yet the life of the people went on with order and exactitude; crops were taken in and fields were tilled; traffic went up and down the roads and the rivers, and only the subjects of Maximilian were molested. In this small hemmed-in State, surrounded on all sides by foes, Karel van Egmond had contrived to build up a flourishing organization. He had still but little money, but this did not much hinder his designs, for his soldiers continued to serve him out of loyalty and never asked for the pay he could not give them; but they were better fed and better clothed than the miserable hordes that followed Albert of Saxony, Maximilian's stadtholder, men who frequently deserted to Karel van Egmond's standard, where at least they were sure of food and lodging, and a few yards of cloth to make coats for their backs, necessities which they could not count on when in the service of the Emperor.

Maximilian never sent money to Albert of Saxony wherewith to pay his troops, and the towns of Holland and Brabant still stubbornly refused to contribute to the expenses for their own defence. The merchants and farmers, given over to money-making and a life of comfort, were no match for the hardy men of Guelders, who prided themselves on their skill in arms, their courage, their knowledge of armour and horses; and who were animated by a passionate love of independence and a passionate hatred of the domineering House of Austria, which was to them in every sense alien and detestable. Neither the skill and courage of Karel van Egmond nor the loyalty and bravery of his subjects, however, would have enabled him to so maintain his position against Maximilian, if he had not had the valuable ally in the person of the French King, who had for long encouraged this rebel against the Emperor, at first secretly and now almost openly. The envoys and messengers of Charles de Valois came frequently between Rosendaal, Arnhem or Nimwegen, wherever Karl van Egmond might be, and raw materials for the making of cannon, powder and shot, and the forging of arms, came in heavy waggons without much disguise through Burgundy to Guelders, where Karel had established foundries and arsenals.

From the extensive information which he derived from these same envoys Karel received much of the courage with which he defied the wide-spreading power of Maximilian, for he knew (months before the event took place) that Charles de Valois had by no means abandoned his design of crossing the Alps and falling on Italy, as Maximilian had hoped and believed, but was busily and diligently spending the treasure amassed by his father and sister in raising a splendid army with which to claim Naples, in which kingdom his antiquaries and heralds had discovered as good a right as ever served a prince to make an unjust war. Karel van Egmond knew also what perhaps Maximilian of Hapsburg did not know...which was that Ludovico Sforza, uncle of the new Empress, was playing as usual, a double, perhaps a treble game, and though openly in alliance with the Emperor, had secretly invited Charles VIII to Milan, and offered to help him in his attempt on Naples; for the widow of the late Duke, whose claim Ludovico Sforza had usurped, was Isabella of Arragon, connected with the present reigning family in Naples, and it was to Ludovico's interest to create a division in Italy which would render the family of this unfortunate young woman unable to champion her wrongs and those of her infant son, who, by right, should have been Duke of Milan and Bari.

With his usual amiable cynicism, Ludovico Sforza had said: "I care not what mischief I bring on Italy, nay, even on the whole world, as long as I may keep what I hold." And in this unscrupulous and cunning ambition of the Milanese Karel van Egmond also found his count, and dared more than he would have dared in his depredations on the possessions of Maximilian, had he not known that soon the Emperor and every available soldier whom he could obtain would be required to meet the menace of the Valois in Italy.

"Lombardy," remarked Karel drily, "is a long way from Guelders, and when the Emperor's troops are the other side of the Alps, I do not think I shall find it very difficult to subdue the Hollanders, Albert of Saxony, and the men of Cleves."

He always spoke with the greatest contempt of Maximilian, who, despite his glittering birth and pretensions, seemed to Karel van Egmond a man of mere surface qualities and superficial abilities. No tales of Maximilian's glories could efface from Egmond's mind the impression which he had received when he had met Maximilian in the little inn outside Roermonde. That fantastic expedition, which Maximilian had not had the good leadership to keep out of a vulgar ambush, savoured far too much of extravagant knight-errantry to gain anything but the contempt of the shrewd and practical Egmond, and he often sternly declared that he had never regretted refusing all the enticing offers of the Emperor to serve under his banner and choosing instead to undertake the desperate hazard of defending his own heritage in Guelders. What he might have thought of the journey of Gertrude from Kasteel Meurs to Cologne, and of her return, he told to no one. He had always been a man who, during a hard and difficult life, had kept his own emotions firmly concealed within his own heart. He never came to the castle outside Roermonde. Gertrude had to depend on common knowledge for her news of Egmond; but in this way she learnt much, for his actions were on the lips of all men.

Graaf Bernard, who was the close companion of Karel van Egmond in all his comings and goings, in all his sieges and journeyings, in all his sallies and invasions of Holland, sent his news to the old Graaf Vincent, but never a letter or a message for Gertrude; this could not appear strange to her, for during the eight years he had been in Peronne she had never heard from him; now, a man-at-arms and busy with the affairs of war, he was no more a stranger to her than the withering prisoner to whom she had devoted her useless constancy; nor did Graaf Vincent ever speak of him; the old man and the young woman pursued the life they had led for so many years in the small, poor castle, only now there was no confidence between them, and even more silence than there had been in the past, though never had they spoken much one to the other.

Gertrude heard that Charles de Valois had crossed the Alps with the largest army that Italy had ever seen since the days of Hannibal, and was being entertained with an excess of voluptuous magnificence at the Court of Ludovico Sforza. This news seemed to make Karel van Egmond secure in his triumphant conquest and to ensure him a long period of repose and pause from any attack of Maximilian. But Albert of Saxony, aided by Florian van Egmond, Lord of Ijsselstein, succeeded at last in desperately wringing some money from the hard palms of the Hollanders and gathered together a few of the mercenaries who had disbanded themselves in search of rapine and plunder all over the Netherlands. The merchants had at length found it cheaper and more convenient to pay these soldiers than to be the victims of their depredations. With the army so gathered together, Albert of Saxony, who now despaired of any aid from Maximilian, absorbed in his new Italian adventure, threw himself from Brabant with bold promptitude across the frontiers of Guelders and attacked Helmont, then garrisoned by Maarten van Rossem. Hearing this news, Egmond hastened in cold fury from Arnhem with a body of his renowned horsemen, relieved the beleaguered town and flung the Imperialists in confusion and disarray back towards Bois-le-Duc. The Walloon captain, who brought this news to Graaf Vincent, also told him that the Duke, on his return from Helmont, intended to stay at Kasteel Meurs, and that he was bringing with him the young Graaf Bernard, his constant companion.

"That is strange," mumbled the old man, "I did not expect they would come here; I never thought that they would come here again."

He turned to Gertrude, who stood beside him, and told her to make ready the two guest-chambers—one for Egmond, "and let it be that which he always used to have, and the other for Bernard—"

"His own room?" asked Gertrude, but the old man said:

"That has long since been dismantled, and the rain has come through the walls, it is an ill room to lie in..."

Gertrude did not dispute with him; she was surprised that he showed no pleasure at the news that he was soon to see his beloved grandson. She went about her business, preparing the two rooms, as exactly a year ago she had prepared them—for Egmond and Maximilian of Hapsburg. She took out the same hoarded hangings and covers from the press where they had lain since that visit, and directed the woman to hang them up; she saw that the ewers of water and the folded diapered napkins were brought up into the rooms. It was sunset and the landscape was red with a brilliant glow. The harvest had all been taken in, the fields gleaned, and many trees were nearly bare of foliage, though here and there a gold leaf hung, so that Gertrude standing at the upper window, could see very clearly the river Roer winding through the valley, and the wide horizon that the sun was staining a fiery sanguine hue. Bernard occupied all her mind, and she wondered whether he would know her or she know him. She believed that the man to whom she had given that long fidelity was dead, and this would be another in his place; no longer young and ardent and laughing, but aged, and grim and bitter. She had never expected to see him again, and she wondered why he was coming here now...he, who had never sent her a message, and who was going to marry another woman. And why was Egmond bringing him—he who loathed her for her broken constancy?

When the first darkness hovered over the wide landscape, and only the river and the moat still held reflected light, Egmond came to Kasteel Meurs—with a cavalcade of fifty men-at-arms, riding swiftly. Gertrude would have wished to have remained hidden in her room or in the oratory, but the old man had ordered her to come and stand by his side in the hall, and receive the Duke and his grandson; and she had never learnt how to disobey.

"I am blind," he had reminded her. "Do you, woman, stand beside me and tell me what they look like—Egmond and Bernard."

In her worn, used gown and the thin gold chain and her plain linen coif, Gertrude stood patiently beside the old man, who had put on his better robe and sat, huddled and bent, in his wide chair, plucking at his fur tippet and sucking in his thin lips.

Egmond entered the low mean darkened room, where he had once been so familiar during his few hours of repose and leisure, paused and looked round. He was not changed; the small shorn head, the wide shoulders, the lean flanks, the massive torso, straight hard features, and those pale, cruel light eyes were unaltered.

Gertrude noticed that his shabby armour—for he was always indifferent to, his personal appearance—was dinted and uncleaned. He had taken off his helmet, and wore a flat cap on his shaven head, and this he doffed to the old man with an air of grim respect. Then he glanced at Gertrude without a flicker of concern or interest. She moved her lips to speak, but, frightened by that hard, cold stare, was mute.

"Where is my grandson?" asked the old man, putting out his hand in the manner of the blind, who strive to touch what they cannot see—"Where is my grandson? It is a long time since I have heard his voice."

Egmond turned to the group of men who had paused behind him in the dark doorway:

"Bring in your burden and set it down."

Vincent van Meurs tried to rise: "What do you mean?" he whimpered, "what is it you are bringing in? Gertrude, tell me what they are bringing in? Is that Egmond speaking? Egmond? What is entering? So many heavy steps—what is it?"

"A bier," said Gertrude. She leant on the back of his high chair and watched the four men who were carrying in a long rudely-shaped bier, fashioned from a wagon wheel, which was covered with the flag of Guelders, the double lions rampant rent across and the silk draggled at the edges.

Egmond lifted up a corner of this disfigured pall, and disclosed a dead man with a military mantle folded for his harsh pillow. White linen—the sleeves of a shirt—had been wrapped round his head and under his face. This bandage was stained with dried blood.

The four armoured men set the bier down in the faint red glow which still lingered in the sky and flowed through the narrow window nearest the shadowed door; this was the only light in the room, the dimensions of which were obscured by gloom.

"What have they brought in?" asked the blind man. "Gertrude, tell me what they have brought in?"

"Tell him who it is," said Egmond, without looking at anyone; he stood austerely, his feet wide apart, his arms folded, as if he were on guard.

"But I do not know who it is," replied Gertrude; "this is a stranger to me."

"Come closer," commanded Egmond.

Gertrude crept round the old man's chair and came nearer, bent and stared at the dead man, whose head was towards the window and whose features were tinged by that trembling and transient sunset light. She beheld a harsh and haggard face, gashed and disfigured, stiff and grey; rigid eyes, half-open as if he peered up at her, and the lips set in a grim lift, as if he sneered at her doubtful scrutiny.

"It is Bernard," said Egmond, "he was slain at Helmont and I have brought him home to you and to the old man."

"Bernard slain," whispered Graaf Vincent, "let me come closer, so that I can touch him..."

"There is no need to touch him," replied Egmond grimly; "you will find him cold, stiff and bloody."

"Dead," sighed Gertrude. "I never thought of that, dead!"

"For eight years," said Egmond, looking at her across the bier on the other side of which he stood, "this Bernard lived in captivity thinking only of one delight—woman's constancy; and when at length he was released he found that that had gone, or never existed: and then, being so cheated and disillusioned, he was very willing to die on the first occasion."

"Willingly?" cried the old man; "he wanted to be slain?"

"He put himself," replied Egmond, "where death could hardly have avoided him."

Gertrude covered the dead ugly face with a corner of the torn flag, she raised her eyes to stare into the hard eyes of Egmond even as he stared into hers, with antagonism and detestation.

"Why do you bring him here to me?" she asked in a low voice. "This is not for my account, but for yours."

Egmond replied, "Take him—take up your promised husband for whom you waited so long."

"I should not have waited so long," replied Gertrude, "but for you. When I was constant to him you left him in prison. Eight years are too many. If he had been released sooner he had not found me gone..."

"Bear him to the chapel, through that door at the end, and up the stairs," said Egmond to the soldiers. Then, to Gertrude and the lamenting old man, "Will you two watch with him to-night, one at the head and one at the feet? Or is he to be lonely, even at the last?"

Graaf Vincent pushed them all aside and clinging to the sleeve of one of the soldiers shuffled after the slow progress of the bier; Egmond and Gertrude were left alone in the darkening hall, from which the vague, sombre, red light had now faded.

"The way you punish me!" she complained quietly. "Would you have been so cruel if I had broken my constancy for you?"

These words were a mere lament; she knew that Egmond would not explain himself to her, nor perhaps to any, not even to God; the motives for all his actions were closely guarded in the deep recesses of his soul.

Never would he confess that he had been in love with her constancy, which had created an image, at once illusive and gleaming, for his consolation in a hard material life, an image that she had destroyed when she had ridden to Cologne. His revenge had been swift and brutal, but it did not surprise Gertrude, who knew that, despite his prudence and caution, he could never be moderate in his emotions; nor had she been much shocked by the sight of the dead man, he was a stranger and she had seen many corpses on the highroads from Innsbrück to Roermonde.

"Do you remember when the swan died?" she asked, peering at Egmond through the dusk. "That was the last time I saw you."

They were standing so near to one another that Gertrude could see Egmond's haggard face haunted by a lost delight; one day he, (as she would), might, despite his present cruel bitterness, achieve the triumph of a complete indifference.

"Something else perished beside the swan," he said sternly. "Why do you stare at me? Set about your duties—there are lamps to light...There is blood and soil to wash from Bernard's face...herbs to pluck to fold in his shroud...a vigil to keep."

"I will do these things," answered Gertrude.

Walking slowly, because of the thick twilight, she left the meagre, narrow room.


GRAAF BERNARD VAN MEURS had been buried in the choir of the great church of St. Stephen at Nimwegen—in the lofty, dark, grimly pillared church, above the crowded lofty dark town, above the wide, grey flowing of the river Waal. Egmond had heaped upon this tomb all the pomp of which Bernard had been deprived in life. Day and night the craftsmen worked to build a sarcophagus of red serpentine marble, of brass, of black basalt, and of red Florentine copper; Bernard was to lie sculptured in his knightly harness, his twelve lions round him holding up the shields bearing the arms of all his possessions. A figure of painted wood in his exact likeness was to be made to kneel in an alcove facing the altar, wearing the armour which Graaf Bernard had worn when he had received his death at the siege of Helmont. There were few exploits to inscribe upon his tomb or to tell to any when his name was mentioned; there had only been his hopeful youth, his long imprisonment, and his violent death. He had died unshriven, and Egmond had, out of a scanty purse and a most economical nature, paid for hundreds of masses to be said for his soul, both in that great church of St. Stephen at Nimwegen and in the churches at Arnhem, Roermonde and Meurs.

For two tawny sultry autumn days Egmond had ridden in silence behind the long funeral procession, winding across the gleaned fields from Roermonde to Nimwegen, riding close behind the wagon in which lay the great coffin of Graaf Bernard, covered with the flags of Guelders, of Egmond, of Meurs, and adorned by his polished helmet, his notched sword, and his untarnished shield.

Gertrude had prepared her guest-chambers in vain; Graaf Bernard slept on his bier in the small chapel; and Egmond slept without the walls among his soldiers in the dark fields beyond the moat; in the morning he had left without seeing either Gertrude or the old man; but a secretary had remained who had assured Graaf Vincent, in the Duke's name, that he should remain confirmed in all the possessions of his grandson.

"What is the use of that to me?" lamented the old man, who was broken and embittered. "I have only a few more years, perhaps only a few more months to live, and to whom are all these lands to go? This is an end of my house!"

"The estates of Meurs will go to the Duke of Guelders," replied the secretary smoothly, "to whom you, Graaf, have always had such a loving loyalty, to whom you sacrificed your grandson, Graaf Bernard, and who holds you in the dearest regard."

The secretary also sought some speech with Gertrude, and told her that it was clear to any eye that the old Graaf Vincent would not live much longer, and that when he was dead and there was no one who could protect her, it would be well (and this was the Duke's advice, nay, his commands) that she should withdraw into the convent of the Saint Claires at Roermonde, where she was already provided for; for if that dowry was not sufficient he, Egmond, would see that she had other means that she might live with order and decency for the rest of her days.

"The Duke commands you," added the secretary, "to put up prayers for the soul of Graaf Bernard, who died so young and unassoiled."

"Tell Egmond," replied Gertrude, "that my life has never been in my own hands, and that I have always done as I have been bidden."

The secretary could not forbear a wry smile. "Not when you fled after the Emperor and joined his train at Cologne," he thought, but it was not part of his business to make any such comment, and he left the castle to ride after his master and the slow funeral train. Again the old man and the young woman were lonely together, with the servants now in mourning and weeping because of the death of Graaf Bernard, whom they had thought and talked of for so many years, and for whose homecoming they had looked with such pleasure and patience.

"Now he will reproach me," thought Gertrude; "now he will tell me all that there has been in his heart against me ever since I returned from Innsbrück, and perhaps when he has made his many and bitter laments he will find it in his heart to forgive me, that he can depart in peace at last."

But the failing old man said nothing; as slow day after slow day this dull silence continued, Gertrude thought that perhaps he had not heard the grim accusation which Egmond had made to her over the dead body of Graaf Bernard; the reproach that the young man had thrown himself on death because of her inconstancy. "Or else," she pondered, "he is bewildered in his wits, and knows no longer good nor evil, but has himself to sit, blind and weak, waiting for death to take him by the hand and lead him out of the darkness."

The empty days went by bringing nothing but small duties, and her patient ministrations to the old man. She could not at length forbear to ask him why he had sent for her from Innsbrück?...And he replied: "Some day, soon, you will know."

All the harvest had been taken in; all the flowers had shed their petals, and the fruit and grain were piled high in the barns; the hay stacked beneath the straw thatching, neat and comfortable to the eye, the cattle slain or stalled for the winter; wood hewn and set ready for the fires; the warm hoods and garments of wool and fur taken out from the cupboards and chests; flesh and fish set in pickle and the hanks of yarn stretched on the spinning wheel.

The old man did not often leave his bed now and Gertrude thought "he will not live through the winter."

Every morning he called her to visit him, where he lay propped up with linen pillows piled against the wall, and a Book of Hours painted in colours (which he could not see) in his shaking hand, a shabby fox fur round his curved shoulders and a cloth cap with lapels drawn over his thin, ragged white hair.

Graaf Vincent was now quite blind; he seemed to have lost the last glimmer of his sight on the day that the body of Bernard had been brought into the hall and laid before him as he had sat to await his living grandson. Though Gertrude knew that he could not see her, yet she was convinced that he had a very lively image of her in his mind, for he always spoke to her as if to someone he beheld clearly.

This morning, the day of the dead—of All Souls, and of fair and windless weather, with the tawny sunshine coming full into the old castle through all the narrow deep-set windows and the open sunken doors, Gertrude went on her knees beside the bed and clasped the old hand which quivered on the Book of Hours, and set her cheek against its cold trembling.

"Will you forgive me?" she asked; "will you forgive me?"

"Why to-day," whispered the old man, "do you ask if I will forgive you? You have never said those words before."

"Because everything seems over now," mused Gertrude quietly, and still on her knees, "there is nothing left but just the days, full of small trifles, such as laying sheets and setting cloths for meals, and bringing food and water, and watching from the window the harvest ripening and being taken in, and the river hurrying through the plains; seeing that the women go about their duties, and sitting an hour or two at my tapestry frame; and for you not much either but lying here to watch that little prospect from the window and holding your small book closed."

"Life comes to that for all of us," replied the old man, "the great actions only fill the years which are inspired by the fury of youth and love. To all of us must come violent death or quietness."

"There are so many years of it for me," said Gertrude, still resting her cheek on the old man's hand. "I am only twenty-five, and nuns live a long while. I might be fifty years in the convent in Roermonde, going to and from my white cell and the coloured chapel, and the herb garden, narrow and walled, and the cloistered grounds with high poplar above the walls, and the little space where side by side under plain stones the nuns are buried...fifty years watching the same trees bud every year and the same plants put forth fresh flowers; gazing at the same images above the altar and wearing day and night the same serge robe and hood. I have seen nuns who have done this for fifty years..."

"Aye, aye," nodded the old man.

"You have not said whether you will forgive me," persisted Gertrude.

She glanced up into the white, sunken, implacable old face, with the filmed, red eyes, and then she rose from her knees and did not ask him again. But she said:

"The young man is dead but I did not slay him. If there is someone you should hate it is Egmond."

Graaf Vincent drew his lips wide in a grin. "I want a certain priest," he remarked with irrelevance and unexpectedly, "who is in Roermonde. Will you go to-day and fetch him for me? I will give you the two old sober serving-men who brought you from Innsbrück and whom I can entirely trust."

Gertrude shrank from the thought of leaving the castle.

"Cannot they do your bidding alone?" she asked. "I will write a letter which they can take to the priest."

The old man shook his head impatiently and beat the coverlet with his incapable hands.

"I wish you to go. You must see him yourself, and tell him that I am not likely to live long, and that I wish to unburden my mind to him before I die."

He then gave her the name of the dwelling of this priest, Father Wilhelm Groot, The Golden Shaft, by the wall, and desired her most ardently to set out at once, so that she might bring the good man back with her that afternoon. Though he had demanded and taken the whole of her life for eight years, Gertrude could never remember that he had asked of her a small and definite service like this, and she said, though reluctantly, that she would go, and if need be, without the serving-men. To this Graaf Vincent would not consent; she must take the serving-men, and they must go on foot as there were not sufficient horses in the stable. It would not be a very long nor yet unpleasant walk if they went by the river...he could judge by the silence and the warmth in the room that it was a sweet, windless day.

Gertrude put on her green cloth hood and fastened up her skirts, which were so long, into her girdle, and prepared to set out for Roermonde.

The old man heard her going down the passage and called to her to halt in the chapel and say a prayer before she left the castle—a prayer for the success of her journey. Gertrude, however, did not turn back—"I can say a prayer when I get to Roermonde," she answered. "And how could one fail on such a trifling errand? I remember the priest, he came here before—years ago."

The old man did not reply.

When she had left the castle and reached the river beside which a bridle path ran beneath the close set, yellowing willows, she felt a sense of relief, and realized with what a cold menace those walls had always enclosed her; it was pleasant to be free in the autumn air.

The two serving-men walked some paces behind her, so as not, she thought, to disturb her thoughts. They were old and faithful servants who had been with Graaf Vincent since he had been a boy; and she remembered with a certain gratitude their silence and austere loyalty on that long journey from Innsbrück. And thinking of this journey from Innsbrück it came into her mind that Graaf Vincent had said that some day she would know why he had sent for her back to Meurs, and she wondered what he could have meant by this. But her mind did not long dwell on that, for it was taken by the wide loveliness of the river running between the willows and the fields, that high sky piled with clouds, which were stained with gold and silver. She walked slowly, enjoying the beauty of the day, which was about her like a compassionate benediction, and she was pleased that, after the first mile, the way was so lonely, and that there was no house or farm in sight—only the distant walls of the town of Roermonde. The fields were quite bare, for the harvest had been taken in and it was as yet too early for the plough; the flowers had all perished, only by the river banks grew weeds.

When she was half-way to Roermonde she paused and, sitting on a decaying willow which had been uprooted by a storm and lay across the path, told the two men she would rest awhile.

"I think I hear a bell tolling," she mused, "surely it comes from Roermonde, but it is so faint I can scarcely hear it." She asked the servants if they could hear this bell; they shook their heads and said, "No, they were too far from the city to hear any such sound." She sat, her hand on her chin, her elbow on her knee, her used robe flowing about her round the willow-trunk, and listened for that bell, and as she listened and mused, she noticed that the two serving-men were exchanging a glance, and that one had loosened from his arm a wide scarf he wore, with the colours of Graaf Vincent. Playing restlessly with this length of cloth he moved away and walked apart with his fellow. They both seemed uneasy and morose; Gertrude took no heed of them, for she had often noticed them in this humour on the tedious journey from Innsbrück. She found it pleasant to linger by the river, to watch the swift-flowing of the water past her feet as it hurried to enter the deeper currents of the Waal, to feel about her the soft warmth of the autumn scene, and that wide sense of liberty given by the broad extent of the flat fields and the height of the advancing clouds. She pushed back her hood for delight at the scene and then took off her coif and allowed her heavy hair to fall over her shoulders; she had forgotten her errand.

With idle fingers she plucked some of the harsh weeds and grasses and wove them into a coronal which she bound together with rushes.

"Shall I not be crowned at last?" she smiled, and set the poor diadem on her brow, while she leant forward to see if she could discern her reflection in the river; but the current was too swift and shattered her coloured shadow.

She heard the steps of the servants behind her and looked up, thinking that they were wearied of waiting. They were close behind her and gazed at her in amazement, as if horrified by her flowing tresses and her crown of weeds.

Gertrude stared at them. Then one of them told her to look round for he had seen a beautiful heron startled from the long grasses that grew by the banks of the river...She glanced up because she always liked to see the great birds flying so high, and in that second, when her glance was off the two men, she felt herself seized and her arms bound behind her, while the scarf was held over her mouth—seized so skilfully and pinioned so tightly that she could not struggle; she heard one of them say in a hoarse and labouring voice, "We must do this out of service to our good master, to whom we are sworn, and because you are a woman who deserves no better, and Graaf Vincent bade us to tell you that he had promised you to-day you would know why he had sent for you from Innsbrück." With one of their girdles they tied her hands behind her back, the scarf they flung over her face, her mouth and eyes being alike muffled from sound and sight. They then pushed her violently towards the river. She stumbled to her knees; they thrust her into the water.

"If you do not struggle," she heard them say, "you will not have much pain and die quickly."

They pushed her away from the bank and the willows.

Gertrude felt the cold river penetrate her thick serge robe which, heavy as soon as it was wet, dragged her quickly down. She had writhed and twisted her head and neck so that the scarf had fallen off her eyes, she gave another glance at the relinquished world—the gleaned flat fields, the distant walled town of Roermonde, and those piled-up clouds in the upper air, high in the void space above her sinking, weed-crowned head. Her sodden robe dragged her down, she was swept into the current, her hands being bound she could not make any vain clutches at the weeds and grasses on the banks or at the grey trailing tresses of the willows. A sigh so deep disturbed her that it seemed as if her heaving bosom must burst her bodice; she had not thought she would die to-day; she recalled the white swan that had given a cry and died in the dark moat the night that Maximilian of Hapsburg had come to the castle, and she had prepared for him the modest guest-chamber...She also gave a cry as the water touched her lips, so that the two huddled men, watching her on the banks, shivered; the long thick black hair, which had flowed over her shoulders when Dürer had drawn her with the bat hovering above her, became entangled in the water weeds that struggled with the tide, and one of the grim men went hurriedly on his knees on the trampled bank and pulled these locks loose and took her desperately by the shoulders and pushed her again into the river, where her face was soon covered by the swift and lovely waters.

Seeing that her dress and her hair showed for a while above the surface of the river, the two desperate men, in terror, tore up clods of earth and grass and hurled them at her, then stones, and snapped boughs of willows, until she had sunk from sight, borne down, borne away by the current, though still they fancied they could hear her wailing in the stillness of the autumn afternoon. Then they returned to Kasteel Meurs. They sullenly sought out their master; they were answerable to no one else and safe while he upheld them; not looking at each other they went to his chamber where it was very quiet. The old man was seated in bed, wearing his rubbed fur tippet and gripping his Book of Hours in a hand that no longer shook.

"Master, the woman is dead."

Graaf Vincent did not reply; they noticed that his mouth was open and his skin a livid tint; he would never hear with human ears that Bernard was avenged; he, too, was dead.


"Death, rocke me aslepe, bringe me on quiet Rest."

—Queen Anne Bullen.

The Wolfe from the Door
To Ward and Kepe
From Their Ghostly Shepe
And Spiritual Lambs."

—John Skelton. (16th Century.)


MAXIMILIAN was completing a little treatise on his beloved sport of hunting, which he had written entirely with his own hand, without any criticism or help from his secretaries; eight scholars were writing books from his dictation and supervision to prove that the actions of Maximilian outdid those of Julius Caesar and rivalled the virtues of his two namesakes, Flavius Maximus and Aemilius Paulus. Others were concerned with his Latin autobiography, and in casting into the form of a romance or fairy tale the striking events of his youth, and his marriage with Mary of Burgundy; but this little book on hunting Maximilian had composed and set down himself. It was a work very dear to his heart, and he meant it for the delight and instruction of his grandsons and descendants. He now finished the last paragraph thus: "Always rejoice in the great pleasure of hunting, for your recreation and health, also for the comfort of your subjects, because you can, through hunting, become known to them, the poor as well as the rich; they will daily possess you while you are hunting so that they can complain of their necessities and you can listen to their complaints with pleasure, because during the enjoyment of the hunt you can hear the petitions of the poor. To this end you must always take your secretaries and your counsellors with you on your hunting trips so that you are ready to give satisfaction to the common man when he comes to see you, a thing you can do better on a hunting trip than in houses; in order to lose no time you must never be without a secretary except when the falcons fly or the hounds run."

Maximilian had had a coloured picture made to illustrate this; it showed him dismounted from his horse; on the ground lay his cloak and riding trousers, while the climbing irons for following chamois on the bald crags had just been buckled on to his feet, but he delayed his beloved sport to receive a petition from a poor man who stood humbly before him. Maximilian was pleased with the book; though he kept nearly thirty secretaries writing under his dictation and more than a hundred other scribes working under the secretaries, and though celebrated scholars and humanists such as Brant, Wimpheling, Celtes, were all celebrating his florid exploits, and insisting on the illusion that the Caesar Maximilian of Hapsburg was a direct successor of the Emperors Trajan and Titus (finding in ancient books wisdom with which to direct a new world), still this little treatise on hunting was the only one that Maximilian through all the tumultuous action of his life had found time to write with his own pen, and he took delight in the completed manuscript and the little picture which accompanied it. Maximilian was in Nüremburg, and in that castle which, rising abruptly on a sharp height, built by Frederick Barbarossa and Frederick the Second, his grandson, overlooked the rich and handsome city which pointed heavenwards with a hundred ornate spires and towers.

Maximilian sat in a high room in this high castle and gazed out on the wide plains of Germany spread below. He delighted in upper chambers of high buildings and in a heroic spacious landscape. When he had finished his manuscript he played thoughtfully with an ornament which hung at his girdle, the globe in gold, with the seas and rivers set in lapis lazuli, and he thought without vanity, but with a certain ingenuous simplicity, that so he did play with the whole universe, hanging it negligently between his fingers, or, at least so he would play when at length he received all that fortune owed him—the men, the money, the power. These three lacks had often hindered the House of Hapsburg, but Maximilian was not discouraged. He smiled at the toy at his girdle, and he smiled at the prospect out of the noble window, musing pleasantly with generous thoughts, until his counsellor and adviser, Herr George Slakony, the Bishop of Vienna and Master of the Capella, entered the room, breathing heavily; he was a stout man who had climbed many stairs.

Maximilian received him with the most amiable courtesy, but the Bishop looked drily at the little treatise on hunting; he thought that the Emperor spent too much time on such occupations; the Bishop was a robust, active and assertive personality.

Without speaking he placed a rough sheet of paper on the top of Maximilian's manuscript and flattened it out with his broad, ringed hand.

"This," he remarked, "is being scattered all over Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Ratisbon; I do not know where it is being printed, but it is freely circulating in Germany."

"A pamphlet," said Maximilian indifferently; "a libel, a satire?—such things grow very common, and are no more to be heeded than the stings of flies in summer time."

"It is not any of these," replied the Bishop grimly. "I show it to your Majesty because it represents the feeling of the common people."

"Do those," asked Maximilian, "greatly concern us?" He said this ingenuously, without any thought as to what he had just written about the poor people bringing their petitions to him when he was hunting.

"They concern us," replied the Bishop sombrely, "more and more; there are a thousand portents in the air, signs and omens for any man to see. The common people are convulsed with incipient revolts and manifold discontents, and out of these revolts and discontents arises a strong menace against the power of Rome."

"Let them say in Germany what they like of the Roman Curia," replied Maximilian indifferently, for the Pope, Julius the Second, was too fierce and arrogant a warrior for the liking of the Emperor, though he had lately been in league with His Holiness.

"He who menaces Rome menaces the Empire," replied the Bishop drily. "It is not God who is attacked, but worldly power."

Maximilian reluctantly took up the pamphlet and began to read it. "Many said as much as this in the Reichstadt," he remarked, when he had glanced down a few lines.

"Therefore it is the more dangerous," said the Bishop warmly. "It is because these opinions are universal that I bring them to your notice. Do you not think I heard the murmurs when the Legate at High Mass in the Cathedral bestowed a cardinal's hat on the Archbishop of Mainz? Do you not think that I know what was said when indulgences were sold to pay his debts? And it was not only applause that filled the cathedral when the Legate, in the name of the Vicar of Christ, gave you a consecrated sword, telling you to conquer Constantinople and Jerusalem, and include the whole universe within the bounds of the Empire and the Church!"

"Why do you tease me with this?" cried Maximilian. "You were always cautious and timid; my crusade is now a practical certainty. I have set out military plans to occupy several years, which I have sent to various princes of the start with the conquest of North Africa while the King of England and the King of France will remain at home to maintain European peace and keep down rebellion...for this the Legate and myself exhorted the Reichstadt to vote that every fifth householder should supply an armoured man against the Turks; that a tax of a tenth should be paid by the German clergy, a tax of a twentieth by the German laity for the support of the crusaders I That is perfectly clear and honest and admirably organized," added Maximilian with satisfaction but some heat. "If there is any dissent against these plans it is owing to the Pope and not to me; I do not deny that the Curia is monstrously corrupt; the Pope is afraid to let me go to Rome to be crowned because he fears to be called before a Council by me for the great sins and abuses which he and his predecessors have committed!"

"Your Majesty and the Pope are one in the popular eye," said the Bishop. "They look upon you as the two heads of the Imperial Eagle, who strives to dominate the world between you. Read this pamphlet which, as I said before, expresses only what most men have in their minds, and many on their tongues."

Maximilian read:

"To break the rule of the uncleanest foe who tries with all his strength to blot out the name of Christ, worse than the heathen Turk, is a holy effort that can be blamed by no one who would rather serve Christ than the heathen; to under false pretences plunder the ignorant people, to sap dry the milk of the nation is a crime as bad as any the Turk has committed, not because of the money stolen, but because it is unbearable that the Holy See should change itself into such a devil that the people giving for the glory of God should really give to avarice and greed."

"No one could accuse me of avarice," remarked Maximilian with an ironic smile.

"They mean the Pope and the Curia," said the Bishop. He pointed to another sentence on the sheet: "If the money sent to Rome for fees for the inductions of the Bishops were kept there would be enough for the Turkish war."

"I know that," responded Maximilian impatiently. "Why do not they give the money to me instead of sending it to Rome? I can not understand the art by which these priests contrive to get hold of the cash."

He read another sentence: "The Pope is richer from his own lands than any other Christian prince, and still we buy archbishop's cloaks and send loads of gold to Rome, building gallows to hang Christ upon, and change our good gold for lead on the Seal of the Papal Bull."

"We wish to fight the Devil in Italy, not in Asia; against the Asiatic Devil every Christian prince would defend himself, and the whole Christian world is not enough to restrain the other. You can only satisfy the hell-hounds with streams of gold; you need no weapons, gold will do more than horse or foot."

There followed a long and passionate list of complaints of injuries and abuses inflicted by the Roman Curia on Germany, the granting of benefices, the multiplication of chaplaincies and Papal officials, the pluralities or accumulation of many church offices in one hand, the terrible drain of money on churches and people, and the degradation of religion and the service of God.

"The offices are filled with false shepherds who try to skin the sheep instead of feeding them. Now, oh now, Emperor, and Reichstadt, beg the Pope out of his fatherly love be watchful of these shepherds that they abolish these and other abuses, with a list of which a book could be filled."

"It was written by a heretic," remarked the Emperor, not much impressed.

The bishop said "No," and declared that such a protest against obvious fact and keen sin was not heresy, and many of the ablest and most prominent men who wished to remedy this state of affairs in the church hated heresy. But it was clear to every honest observer that the Roman Curia was too openly materialized; money, which flowed there from all parts of the world, was so manifestly spent on worldly objects, that some reform must take place or open revolution was to be feared.

Every Reichstadt which had voted any supplies to Maximilian had hampered him by a demand for a redress of these grievances and for the reformation of the Empire.

"The Bishop of Luttich," added the Bishop of Vienna, "had sent, in the name of the clergy of his diocese, a complaint of all these abuses, of the gross misuse of patronage centring in the Roman Curia. He sent that letter to Rome written in his own hand by his own messenger...

"In no country of the world have we suffered more from these abuses than in Germany, and I tell your Majesty there is no peasant now in the whole of your Empire who is so blind and stupid that he does not see the position of the Church, and the great bribery which lies at the bottom of it...That is why the tenth and twentieth penny for your Majesty's crusade is so unpopular, for they, the people, knowing the administration of the Church, are aware that this new ecclesiastical tax will be borne by the common man."

Maximilian listened now with interest, as he always did when anyone spoke with sincerity and energy, and his fertile and ambitious mind returned to his old project of making himself Pope. He remarked on this aloud: "That would be a fine solution," he added, "if I were Pope and Emperor, too, there would be none of these complaints and none of these abuses."

The Bishop did not remind him that as he had not been able to reform the Empire, he might not find it any easier to reform the Church.

Maximilian began turning over the papers on his desk, putting aside now the little treatise on hunting.

"Wimpheling," he said, "and Geiler, the cathedral preacher at Strasbourg, and Brant, the Chancellor of Strasbourg, have been preaching about these things for years—the decay of religion and the corruptions and abuses of the Church, and here I have a paper which Geiler has sent me, with a list of ten distinct ecclesiastical abuses; the way in which the Pope violates by dispensations, the revocation of the conventions, the agreements of their predecessors, interference with the election of German prelates, heavy taxes on new incumbents, granting of pastorates to unworthy candidates, more fitted to pasture and guide mules and asses than men! He says," added Maximilian, "that if things go on and the rain of German gold to Rome is continued, there is grave fear lest the common people, unable to bear this addition to their other burdens, would follow the example of the Bohemians of the last century and rise in arms and separate from Rome."

Maximilian looked at the Bishop and shrugged his shoulders. He was sincerely a religious man, regular in his devotions, and he had himself written a prayer book with genuine pious feeling. He could see with a poignant clarity where the Church separated from Christ, but he saw also the practical side of the issue, and put this now before the Bishop of Vienna.

"I will write to the Holy Father to treat us better," he added, "but am I strong enough for action? The clerical electors may not stand by me for fear of Papal censures; the Pope may launch an interdict, the people, however much they complain, will not dare resist that; begging friars, those spies of Rome, will kindle the peasants against me; it is even possible," mused Maximilian, rising, "that the Pope might do what other Popes have done to other Emperors—deprive me of my crown, and set up another, as they deprived Frederick Hohenstaufen of his crown and set up William the Hollander in his place. And how did that end? Frederick was defeated!"

"A ship without sails and rudder, adrift with the tide, will sooner or later meet a storm," replied the Bishop of Vienna sadly. He stood with Maximilian at the window and glanced out at that comfortable and noble prospect, the opulent elegant town and the wide flourishing landscape. He had a sharp love and admiration for Maximilian, in graces and virtues so superior to any other prince of his time; sober, brave, chaste, fair-spoken, courteous, the priest found the Emperor, compared with all the other rulers of Europe, a pattern knight; but the priest, shrewd, experienced, upright and yet worldly, also found something lacking in his noble master. The Emperor was too much wrapped in dreams, the glorious visions among which he daily moved rendered him a shallow judge of character and ability. Practical warnings meant nothing to him, the signs of storms to come were unnoticed by his rapt and ardent eyes. "Germany is a magnificent horse which only needs a rider," someone had said, and the Bishop of Vienna wondered whether Maximilian could be that rider. Then, too, he was absorbed in the glories of the House of Hapsburg, not in the glories of Germany or the Empire, but the glories of the House of Hapsburg. Entangled with all his motives and reasons was that obsession—A-E-I-O-U. Then, as the Bishop of Vienna noticed with a pang, Maximilian with all his health and energy and his exhaustless high spirits, was no longer young. Over now were those days which he had ordered to be chronicled in his autobiography, when he would go out at dawn and brings in three stags, then exercise in arms, using up several horses, often receiving a wound and giving a fall to his opponent which proved fatal, then change into a gorgeous court dress, dance and continue the feast till the dawn of day—over now were those weeks and months of war, one after another, when he had spent the evenings in enjoyment with the wives and daughters of the city patricians, they taking off his boots and spurs and hiding them and begging him to stay the pleasure out, which he often did, revelling from noon till dark, and after supper long into the night. He had still every appearance of energy, and his health was yet heroic, but George Skalkony, the Bishop, considering him with the quizzical eyes of anxious love, saw the grey in the thick yellow hair, now faded from its first lustre, and the heaviness of the lines round the deeply-lidded eyes, deep cut either side of the well-marked nose and the firmly-set mouth. Maximilian's face was now haggard and rugged as one of those bronze statues which were waiting in Innsbrück to be set round his tomb and of which, after so many years during which Peter Vischer had been working, there were still only two or three complete. The Bishop of Vienna shook his head.

"I could wish," he remarked, sadly, "that your Majesty would leave this talk of a Crusade against the Turk. Affairs have gone too ill of late."

But Maximilian faced his trouble with a smile: lifted his heavy shoulders in a slight shrug. He said, "Nothing has gone wrong—nothing. I am still a young man. Come down with me into the town to see Albrecht Dürer...forget your pamphlets and your Popes—your policies and portents."


AUGSBURG was the German city where Maximilian found the most pleasure, but second in his affections was Nuremberg; as he descended the steep incline from the high turretted and pinnacled castle to the deep set street beneath the walls in which Albrecht Dürer lived, he looked around him on the places shaded by limes, planes and elms; at the massive descending lines of the strong walls, and at the haphazard shape of the tiled roofs clustering beneath the lofty ambitious spires, with an agreeable humour that shook off the sad and half-reproachful company of George Slakony, who had of late been a grim counsellor, always full of tedious advice and eager to point out the corruptions and threatened disasters of the times. His gloomy opinions were shared by most of Maximilian's other advisors, and the Princes of the Empire who remained most loyal to him, Albert of Bavaria, Eric of Brunswick, Rudolph Prince of Anhalt, and Casimir Margrave of Brandenburg. Maximilian had become wearied with so much heavy and sombre presages, such talk of threats, portents and mutterings among his peoples, and had turned for company and consolation to Conrad van der Rosen, his gallant fool, to Paul van Hofheimer, his organist, to Anthony van Gran, his Master of the Tourney, and even to the antics of the buffoons Caspar, Metevschy and Dymey. His graver friends accused him of lightness and caprice in thus preferring diversion to labour, but Maximilian knew no difference between work and play, both were to him equally absorbing aspects of life, and from each he drew acute pleasure; the engravings of Albrecht Dürer were as important to him as the policies of the Roman Curia or the Courts of Europe and the bronze statues for his tomb; of as much moment as these swellings and grumblings of revolt against the Papacy about which men like the Bishop of Vienna took so sharp a concern.

Albrecht Dürer had shuttered his gabled, balconied house from the noon-day sun; the front rooms were darkened, those at the back looked on the small square of garden set between the other houses. Agnes Dürer opened the door to the Emperor and the Bishop; she had yet much of the rounded, infantile prettiness which her husband had copied so often into the features of his Madonnas; but her anxious eyes and banded hair were faded; her mouth had fretful lines at the puckered corners. Familiarity had made her indifferent towards the Emperor; he had been for so long her husband's intimate friend, and though he had done much to protect Dürer (for instance, in the matter of the copyright of his drawings which were so often being stolen by other painter-engravers, and in attaching him to his Court at a salary) he was a bad paymaster.

Agnes Dürer had known severe hardship and even want while her husband was in Maximilian's service. She noticed now, in an apathetic mood, the grey in his thick fair hair, as the Bishop had noticed it a few moments ago when he stood at the high window in the high chamber in Barbarossa's castle. They were growing old, all of them, thought Agnes; in her husband's curls, which had been thick and twisting like the tendrils of the vine, grey was mixing with the bright brown. Time was passing, in a clap of the hands it would be past, and they had none of them, in the woman's eyes, accomplished very much. She opened the door of the room where her husband worked, and went about her business in the kitchen, economical as usual about little things. She was always worried about money; her husband worked hard, had gained fame and honour and the friendship of the great, but never had he been able to wholly ease the sting of poverty. Agnes wished that he would leave his designs of winged genii, mournful satyrs, monstrous virtues and glooming monsters, and draw pleasant homely matters that the everyday people who had money in their pockets would her heart she accused him of indulging in his dreams at the expense of her dreams; she had hoped for a larger house, for silk dresses in summer and velvet in winter...for servants and even perhaps for a place at Court...she continued to wash salad, the water dripped over her coarsened hands, the little leaves curled fresh and stiff; the thick yellow bowl into which she cast them was cracked; she could not afford a new one.

Albrecht Dürer rose to greet the Emperor; he had just finished a small drawing of a bunch of violets, sketched from memory, for the violets had long since withered from the fields; it was July, and the limes were in full blossom in the streets of Nuremberg; the weeds were rank that grew round the stone piers above the arched bridge, with the Crucifix set high over the quick rushing waters of the river; the dandelions were in seed, their white coronals flew away and mingled with the long tresses of the willows that bowed beneath the balconies, corridors and lattices of the houses on either side of the water which flowed through the town; these willows were golden now and had begun to shed their long, curling leaves on to the rapid currents of the hemmed in river.

Maximilian admired the violets; he said that Dürer had captured there the perfume as well as the shape and colour of the most modest of flowers, and then he asked to see Dürer's other work. None of it was completed; Dürer had been helping Burgmair with the Triumph, but he had given this up and Burgmair had discovered another assistant in his son. The Triumphal Arch was also unfinished. There was a plate of "The Knight, Death and the Devil," a memory of the ride above Amras; Maximilian had seen that sombre fantasy and did not greatly care to look at it again. He turned it face down on to the piled portfolio which lay in front of him. Dürer said, rather sadly, that he had nothing new to show the Emperor.

"Nothing to take my mind off wars, and State affairs, and complaints about the Pope?" smiled Maximilian kindly. "Come, it will be a long time before I come to see you again, for I am going to escape to the Tyrol, to Innsbrück, to see how Peter Vischer is proceeding with the casting of the statues. One has been put in place, you know, on a column in the square, and of those for my tomb, I think at least four are finished."

"He is a better workman than I am," smiled Dürer. "I proceed slowly—I destroy a great deal."

"You strive so much, you should not long for perfection," said Maximilian, whose taste was more ardent than fastidious; "but I think you must have something here that I have not seen," and he began to go round the room, and himself take down cases of drawings, open portfolios, and pull out drawers.

"You will find nothing that will please you," remarked Dürer, "only old forgotten sketches which should be destroyed...and some odd proofs of the Triumph struck off on old pieces of paper."

Maximilian had taken a drawing from a portfolio that was thick with dust and tied with frayed strings. "What is this?" he said, "I have never seen this before." He put the sheet of paper on the table in front of Dürer, and stared at the design, fascinated by the mysterious face of the figure, and the pose, which seemed to him familiar. The drawing showed a woman with flowing draperies and unbound hair, seated on the ground, on a low stool, which was hidden by the voluminous folds of her robe; her elbow was on her knee and her chin in her hand, and she stared out of the picture; above her head was a little demon, who held a floating banderole, or scroll, on which was written "Melancholia."

"Who is it?" frowned Maximilian.

"Melancholia," said Dürer, uneasily; "she whom we must, all of us, Emperor or peasant, meet sooner or later; even you, sire, with all your high courage have sometimes seen her face.

"Melancholia," mused Maximilian, "but I know this woman."

"Her face," remarked the Bishop, peering over Maximilian's shoulder, "does not seem to me a mortal countenance."

"But it was taken from a mortal model," said Maximilian, "was it not, Dürer?"

"I drew it," admitted the painter, reluctantly, "about ten years ago, in your castle at Amras, in the Tyrol."

"Yes," replied Maximilian, "I remember, that Gertrude who came from Guelders, and was a model for you and Vischer."

"Yes, it was she," admitted Dürer, "a bat flew in and hovered over her head for a moment, and the illumination was that half-twilight, half-lamplight which makes monstrous shadows. She had taken off her coif because of the heat, and her hair was loose; she had too much hair, you know, it was heavy, and I saw her like that—and months—well, I think, years afterwards, I made this drawing and meant to have it engraved."

"Why did you call it Melancholia?" asked Maximilian. "I never forget a face, and I have not forgotten hers; she was an odd silent woman. They sent for her back to Guelders, did they not? What became of her?"

"I do not know," answered Dürer; "I suppose she is there still. She talked of going into a convent—that would be the proper retreat for a woman like that...she seemed to have little use for life."

"But there was that young man, Graaf Bernard," frowned Maximilian, trying to recall that old story, "what became of him?"

"Bernard van Meurs was killed in a skirmish in Guelders," put in the Bishop of Vienna; "you remember, Kaiser? Karel van Egmond gave him a magnificent funeral in Nimwegen, but he was not betrothed to this Gertrude, but to Adele van Platen."

"It is years ago," sighed Dürer; "I suppose she married someone else, or, as I say, is in a convent."

"I should like to know," pondered Maximilian, "I have often thought of writing to her...or to the poor man...I stayed at his was very hot and a swan died."

"Graaf Vincent died, too, suddenly in his bed...years ago."

"Eh, it all comes back to me; how I meant to write so many times, and never did," explained Maximilian. "I have had much to do," he added, with a smile, "this last eight years, or ten, is it?"

He, the Emperor, had had much to do. He fixed his gaze, which was not so bright as it had been when he had stared at Gertrude sitting at the table in the dining-hall of the castle at Amras, on the picture of Melancholia and there flickered through his mind a series of pictures of what he had done with himself and his kingdom and his resources, in those eight or ten years since Albrecht Dürer had drawn the first sketch for this picture of Melancholia. That had been at the time of his second marriage, before the Valois had descended into Italy, when he had been contemplating what he was contemplating now—a Crusade against the Turk. He recalled that he had intended to spend his wife's dowry—the dowry of Bianca Sforza—in that fashion, but somehow it had been dissipated on other things...There had been at last a descent into Italy with only four thousand men; he had gone in August and returned in December, with diminished forces and a diminished reputation. Many grand and noble and startling schemes had revolved in his mind, but none of them had come to anything; he had not had enough money or sufficient horsemen, and then the crazy young Valois had died, and there had been a new King of France to reckon with. But Maximilian had married his handsome son, Philip, to the heiress of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and he had endeavoured when the King of France had died to get back Burgundy which should be Philip's fief. Then two more wars—one with Franche-Comté, one with Guelders; then another war with the Swiss, and he had been defeated...Another French King had crossed the Alps and become stronger in Italy than ever Charles had been. Ludovico had fallen and France had seized Milan. Ten years or so of it, and where was he, Maximilian, now? Exactly where he had been when he sat beside Gertrude in the castle at Amras, save that he had strengthened the prestige of the House of Hapsburg with the Spanish marriage; but Guelders was unsubdued, the French were in Italy, and the Turk was unchecked on the Bosphorus. The war with the Swiss had been a sharp and disastrous defeat; the war with Guelders a humiliation. Egmond, defying the whole might of Austria and all the force of the Empire, still held himself inviolate in that little duchy in the Netherlands. By interfering in the quarrels of the House of Wittelsbach, into which his sister, Kunigunde, had married, Maximilian had seized some of the Bavarian territories, partly by force and partly by cunning, and this was all the advantages he could recall that he had gained in those years, which were nearer twenty than ten, which had taken so much of his energy, of his strength, of his reputation. He turned over the Melancholia, and laid it face downwards on the other drawings.

"Perhaps," he remarked with a smile of slight irony, "you should call it Futility."

"It is the same thing," remarked Albrecht Dürer, sadly. "Melancholia is Futility, and Futility is Melancholia. There is no pain in all the world save to be inadequate to one's desires."

"That woman was like my Mary," he said with a sigh, "but you have lost the likeness there."

"It is like nothing mortal to me," repeated the Bishop. "I have noticed that Albrecht Dürer does that with his models—he takes humanity from them."

"There was a likeness," mused Maximilian, "but I, after seeing this picture, have lost it—I shall get it again when I go to Innsbrück and look at the bronze statue on the column. Inadequacy is only one of our unhappinesses and disgraces, Dürer; it seems to me we have another, and that is growing old."

"Is not growing old an inadequacy?" asked Dürer, bitterly, "when old age cramps and freezes, who is adequate even to the least of his wishes?"

"God has given us a consolation for that grief," said the Bishop of Vienna, "for the older we grow the less we care about wishes or desires."

"That is why," he added in his thoughts, "I turn in vain to you, Emperor, with schemes of reformation in the Church and in the Empire, for you, always unstable and extravagant, are no longer young, and have no longing to achieve great deeds."

"Why do you keep the shutters closed, Dürer?" asked Maximilian suddenly—"they cast bars of shadow all over the room which remind me of a prison. Ludovico Sforza, you know, is still at Loches in a dungeon, and I dislike to think of it. He was a princely man and I would he were with me now, to go hunting in the Tyrol."

"But you have bargained for his better treatment," said the Bishop, soothingly, "he has now a circuit of five miles from his prison for his exercise, a doctor, and attendants."

"That is but scanty grace for a man like the Sforza," cried Maximilian, scornfully, "they say he has grown stout and heavy, and that his hair is quite white. No one would call him Ludovico the Moor, now. He'll see the brooding face of Melancholia, eh, Dürer, staring at him from his prison windows? Come to the Tyrol, Dürer," he added impulsively; "on the mountains one always feels younger, and I want you to see the statues which they are casting for my tomb."

Dürer had no money for any travelling, much less for such a journey as that to the Tyrol. For months the Emperor had not paid his salary. He knew that the work of Burgmair and Vischer had come to a standstill for the same reason. Everything that the Emperor commissioned had for years been hampered most terribly by this lack of means; but none of them complained, for it was Maximilian's penury, not his avarice, which kept them short, and it was quite true what he had declared with some passion when pressed for debts, "I spend nothing on myself, neither my vices nor my pleasures are extravagant!"

Every one knew that his private life was humble and frugal, simple and austere. His magnificence was for his House, his dynasty, his Empire—never for himself personally. Therefore, Albrecht Dürer said nothing of the reasons which forced him to refuse to accompany the Emperor to Innsbrück, his favourite city in the Tyrol, where Maximilian meant to spend the time until the Diet sat in the autumn. Maximilian thought now of this meeting of the Diet with distaste and resignation; he would again, as always, have to ask for money, for taxes, for supplies, for armies, and they as always, would ask first for reform in the State and in the Church, and would try to strip him of his privileges, and clip his power. Always the same, year after year! The sight of that face of Melancholia had reminded him how much it was the same, how many years there had been of few years there were left.

He recalled that odd and impulsive journey into Guelders with a small escort which had been fallen upon and scattered in a foray in a wood outside Venlo; his excellent memory had registered every detail of that summer expedition. With what high hopes he had gone to meet Egmond, sure that the Duke would, in knightly fashion, accept him as Emperor and friend, and follow his banner against a common foe. Instead of that, Egmond had put him aside as if he was a thing of no moment, had refused to follow him and soon broken into open rebellion. Then there had been that affair of the old man and his grandson; there also, Maximilian had meant to interfere and do a noble, splendid and admired action, and that also had come to nothing. Karel van Egmond had released his friend from Peronne, who had been killed soon after in an aimless skirmish. Maximilian recalled the night he had stayed in the poor ancient castle outside Roermonde and the death of the white swan, and he could remember how exactly like this figure of Melancholia Gertrude had looked, seated on the low step beside the dark water, with the dead bird spreading its wide white useless wings across her knees, and Karel van Egmond resting his tired head on her shoulder. What had become of that love and constancy, that treachery and fidelity combined? The prisoner to whom that woman had been so long faithful was killed soon after his release. What had become of her—a convent or another marriage? Had Karel van Egmond forgotten his quiet deep passion for her silent constancy? Entangled and enmeshed with so many other incidents and episodes, wars and sieges, his brief descent of the Alps, with his humiliating struggle with the Swiss, with the visit of his beaten friend Ludovico Sforza to the Tyrol, bringing with him the news of his own disaster, with the marriages of his son and daughter—all the tumultuous occasions of his life into which were packed so many incidents, so many gainings and losings, takings and givings, there came back to Maximilian, clear as an episode of yesterday, as he stood looking at the blank reverse of the drawing of Melancholia which he had placed face downwards on the pile of engravings...the memory of the night on which the swan had died in the mean castle outside Roermonde, and he had seen the man and woman sitting by the light of the lantern set on the step above the moat.

"I wish you had not drawn that," he said to Albrecht Dürer, with a frown, and he so rarely frowned that this wrinkling of his brows gave a strange cast to his face.

Dürer, with his cold painter's scrutiny that was stronger with him than any human compassion, marked this rare expression on the Emperor's face, the furrowed pucker of the lines at the corner of his mouth, the look of resignation, of disappointment, and of disillusion which was like a heritage in the House of Hapsburg most poignantly accentuated, and he thought that he would put this expression into his portrait of the Emperor which he intended to engrave.

When Maximilian had gone the painter sat alone in his darkened room and smiled to himself; he, too, had had his dreams; he had lived like a burgher in Nuremberg who had longed to live like a Prince in Venice or Florence, to work in a room hung with damask and brocade, filled with cameos and engraved stones, elegant vases and bright enamels.

He rose and put away the design for Melancholia, and took out another, from a secret place, that Maximilian had not seen and that he did not care to show him; the meaning of it Dürer could not have explained himself, nor why he had called it, "Nemesis, or the great Fortune."

It showed him a gigantic and hideous woman striding across the clouds of a sultry horizon; she was gross and vile beyond all shame, and powerful and mighty beyond all glory; beneath her was a pleasant, comely landscape, a fair, well-built town and mountains. Over all this her monstrous shadow fell, implacable, coarse and indifferent. She blocked the skies and darkened the earth.

Albrecht Dürer smiled ironically at his own fantasy.


BEFORE leaving Nuremberg, Maximilian took leave of his son, the Archduke Philip, King of the Romans, by right of his wife, King of Castile, who was about to set out for France on a visit which had been long planned by Maximilian, who now schemed to make friends with that House of Valois which he had spent the whole of his life in endeavouring to destroy. He had to forego the design of conquering France, and even the design of causing them to relinquish their conquest in Italy, or even Milan which was one of his fiefs: therefore, being powerless to oppose them by force, owing, as he bitterly told himself, to the niggardly restrictions imposed upon him by the Diet, he must meet them by cunning, and here he had good hopes of succeeding, for Louis of Orleans was not his match in ability. He had proposed to this monarch a union between his infant daughter, Claude of France and Maximilian's grandson, Charles of Luxembourg, the eldest child of the union between the Archduke Philip and Jeanne, the heiress, through three recent unexpected deaths, of the united kingdom of Spain.

With warm urgency Maximilian put before the young man the weighty reason for this tedious journey to Blois in Touraine, the favourite residence of the King of France, and gave him minute and laborious instructions as to his behaviour.

The Archduke Philip sat sullenly, gazing idly over his shoulder out at the prospect of Nuremberg and the rich plains beyond, but not gazing as Maximilian always gazed, when he glanced at this prospect, with any love or affection. This child of his own youthful and romantic marriage, the only son of the beloved Mary of Burgundy, was the one human being on whom Maximilian fixed all his hopes. He had hoped and believed and prayed that this young man would accomplish all that he had failed to accomplish himself; though he was not yet fifty years of age he felt himself worn out, his energy, his vitality and his resourcefulness all drained. He considered therefore, with loving eager pride, hope and gratitude, the brilliant youth of his son. The Archduke Philip, by reason of his magnificent physique, which was of heroic proportions, his superb health, and the brilliancy of his blond colouring, was called, even by people in the streets: Philip the Handsome, the Fair. But his much admired countenance was marred by two defects—he had, in an accentuated form, the high mouth of his mother, the underset jaw, and he had also an expression of sullenness which bordered on stupidity. His character was violent and headstrong, arrogant and tyrannical. He had none of his father's fine tastes, and spent his endless leisure in gross and common pleasures; his luxury and his license were unbounded, and the popularity of the Emperor was not enhanced by the reputation of the King of the Romans. His nature had been further embittered and hardened by his marriage. He did not love the plain, passionate, hysterical and devoted companion who had brought him and his children such a superb inheritance. He found her affection and her jealousy alike tiresome, and he listened now in hostile silence to his father's talk of preparation for this journey which would mean that he would have through the tedium of so many days and nights the restraint of a formal Court and the continual presence of his Spanish wife. Maximilian did not see the sullenness which veiled and marred the heavy features of Philip, for he loved his son most dearly, with a blind paternal love which could never perceive any fault in its object. Nor could he realize that Philip was not interested in a project which, if successful, must redound so much to the glory of the House of Hapsburg.

"Loving son Philip, if your little child, Charles of Luxembourg marries this Claude of France, we have added the whole realm of the Valois to the Empire."

"But what if Louis has a son?" objected the Archduke indifferently, "and even if he has none, how will affairs be when Charles is a grown man?"

And he added, "The scheme seems to me to be hardly worth the journey, so far and so tiresome. The King of France keeps meagre state in Blois, and I shall be tired with threadbare entertainments and the antics of foreigners."

"You," said Maximilian, "have not laboured so hard for the Empire, Philip, that you may not undertake this task, if task it be—Empire, did I say? nay, for the House of Hapsburg, which through you, I hope, will be raised to undreamt-of heights."

"I have not wholly failed," said Phillip haughtily, "in adding to our possessions. My marriage, Sire, was entirely of your devising."

"When you are Emperor, you will be King of Spain as well, of Aragon and Castile, and of all the new world which appertains to Spain. Already I have told Burgmair to engrave for my Triumph a chariot full of savages of Calicut, with elephants and camels and monkeys, and suchlike monstrous animals that have been discovered in the New World. Do you not feel blest, loving son Philip, to think that you will be Lord of the New World as well as of the Old?"

Philip replied that he did not feel blest with anything that interfered with his pleasures, that he would have preferred to remain in Germany or even to have gone to Innsbrück, hunting with his father.

Maximilian replied shrewdly:

"What I have gained with infinite toil you must with a little toil maintain; we have raised Austria into an Archduchy, and maybe I can make it into a kingdom. I see no limit to our power," and he touched the little globe which still hung to his girdle. "See, I take the world up in my hand like this, and so may you, and your grandchildren after you. See what portions of the world you will rule over. There are three distinct circles of the Empire; seven glorious provinces from the Lake of Constance to the Lake of Guarda; six wealthy provinces from the Tyrol to the Danube; the low plains of Hungary, the high plains of Bohemia!"

He paused, and looked earnestly out of his still eager but wrinkled eyes at the smooth golden but dull young face before him.

"I leave you a very magnificent inheritance, loving son Philip—two kingdoms, thirty duchies, an archduchy, four marquisates, many countships, five arch-episcopates, twenty-five bishoprics, twenty abbeys, fifteen priories, five sovereign knightly orders, one territory and a hundred fine free cities!"

Maximilian put his hand on the table between them with a triumphant gesture, as if he placed all these estates like so many chessmen before his son.

"I have gained for you Hungary and Bohemia, and portions of Bavaria; I have defeated both Mathias Corvinus and George Podiebrad!"

"Let us be content with all this," replied the Archduke Philip peevishly, "do not let us waste our time, Sire, on thinking of affiances with France, the Valois are as false and tricky as foxes; I shall squander my leisure and substance on this journey. Let us also forget this crusade against the Turk, which you have been talking about all your life. The days for those adventures are over; we live in these practical modern times—not in the age of fantastic expeditions of knight-errantry."

Maximilian smiled wistfully, but answered nothing. The Archduke Philip turned in his chair, and flicked his finger at the piled manuscript and illuminated parchment on his father's table.

"You spend too much on this also," he added, "too many secretaries working and too many books, too many painters of pictures and engravers of blocks; these foundries, now, that are making statues, and armoury and cannonry—all that is costing money!"

"Not so much as your pleasures," replied Maximilian, quietly, still smiling, "what you waste (and have I ever grudged you your waste?) on fools, and women, on gambling and swift horses and highly-bred dogs, would pay for a great number of my statues and books, loving son Philip."

"It may be," the Archduke laughed grossly, "but I am young and must live my life, and at least what I spend money on are, as you say, pleasures, but these are toys, trifles, they mean nothing. Those who come after us build our tombs or leave us without monuments."

"The tomb I plan in Innsbrück," replied Maximilian, "is not for myself, but a monument to the House of Hapsburg."

The Archduke Philip thought that he cared little what became of the House of Hapsburg once he was dead, but he did not dare to say as much to his father. Weary and impatient he rose, stretched his magnificent figure and yawned. Maximilian, looking at him, was troubled by a rising sense of disillusion; the brooding face of Melancholia seemed to come between him and his son.

Philip was attired most handsomely in such splendour as his father had not worn for years: a coat puffed, ruffled, slashed, of cut and stitched velvets and silks, with huge fashionable sleeves, clipped with jewels, and a fine lawn shirt open on his fair throat; his heavy golden hair was cut square and straight on his shoulders; he wore the Collar of the Golden Fleece, the order, ranking next to the English Garter, that had descended to the House of Hapsburg from Charles the Rash, Duke of Burgundy and Earl of Flanders; this collar was of flint and fire stones alternately and dependent from it was a Golden Fleece hanging from a steel with the double B for Burgundy; this Cipher was also formed by the fusils of the collar, flint stones and fire steels, enamelled in their proper colour and, as they rubbed, emitting sparks of flames.

Maximilian looked at this collar of flaming iron which was symbolical of the glory and pretension of his dynasty.

"No, no," he exclaimed, hastily, almost as if speaking to himself, "you do not mean what you say, Philip, you are still very young; you must be allowed your time for play and wantonness, for pranks and idleness; presently you will be a man."

He tried not to remember, though the point was poignantly clear in his mind, that he, at his son's present age, had been a man, a prince and a king indeed.

"Will you let Conrad van der Rosen, your fool, go with me," asked Philip, still yawning, "on this tedious journey to France? He will a little beguile the weariness."

"Take a chariot of fools with you if you will," smiled Maximilian, "but I do not think that it will be as tedious as you imagine."

"The King of France is old," said the Archduke, fretfully, "and his wife is too economical—a Breton housewife, they say, counting the cheese-parings, with her aprons and her keys!"

"The King is an ailing man; he spent his vigour with his youth, in his games and play, as you may do," said Maximilian, with some sternness. "I have heard lately that you drink too much—that is our most crying German vice—but I should be greatly displeased should you indulge in it."

"You live like a burgher," retorted Philip, rudely; "there is never any wine fit to use at your table, no wonder none of your guests are ever drunk."

"Nor ever will be," said Maximilian, serenely; "nor you either, in my presence, son Philip. Remember, on this visit, you take with you the dignity and the prestige of the Hapsburgs."

"I must have some money," complained the Archduke, "I have no money."

"I will see that you get the money," replied Maximilian, "but where are your own revenues?"

Maximilian had no talent for finance himself, and any money that he ever got slipped through his fingers in all manners of extravagance. Yet the thriftless waste of Philip always startled him. It seemed impossible that the young man should run through his own revenues, those left him by his mother, and the money that accrued to him from his wife, with such prodigal excess.

"You must be plundered," added Maximilian, drily, "by everyone—from the scullions in the kitchens, and Philip agreed, bitterly, that it was so."

They parted with a certain heaviness on both sides; Maximilian strove not to see in the magnificent young man who took such an indifferent leave of him, a useless, dissolute profligate, whose mind was shallow, whose nature was hard, whose heart was narrow, and whose understanding was small, and who lived only for the indulgence of the moment. Through his love, his generosity, and the enthusiasm of his own hopefulness, he tried not to see these faults in the young man who was his principal hope. But Philip viewed him with neither love nor generosity. He thought him a dreamer, consumed by high-flown and impossible ideas, one who squandered on vague and rather ridiculous schemes of glory what might be spent with good advantage on practical enjoyment. Not only did Philip dislike the tedium of this journey ahead of him in the company of his morbid and hysterical wife, but he disliked the task which awaited him when he returned, for Maximilian had said: "When you come back to Germany I will send you against Guelders."

The Archduke hated the thought of an expedition against Guelders; he knew that Karel van Egmond was considered a redoubtable, almost an invincible captain, as were his two Maarshalks, Maarten van Rossem and van Syndewinde; he did not want to be sent to any war whatever, but to enjoy what he called, cynically, the blessings of peace. His sister, Margaret, was now Regent in the Netherlands, and Philip had seen some of her letters and gathered from them, with a shudder of distaste, the almost hopeless condition of imperial affairs in that quarter; he did not like Margaret either, she was careful and preaching and championed his wife.

Maximilian sighed a little when he found himself alone, and fingered again the globe hanging at his girdle. There were very few people now from whom he could take counsel and comfort; he had never been in sympathy with his wife, Bianca Sforza, who after all had brought him little but the contempt of the Empire for her plebeian birth. Her family had fallen from power, and were a mere cypher in the affairs of Europe. She had been called the Pearl of the Sforzas, the most beautiful woman in Italy, but Maximilian had never admired her smooth, negative face, her cold voice stammering broken German, her hard, arrogant and childish ways. He was faithful to her and treated her with respect, but she had no influence with him and often for months he would not see her. She had been a discordant note in his life, in every way a failure; he was amazed now to think of the value he had put on that three hundred thousand ducats which she had brought him. It had seemed an immense fortune at the time, but now he could remember nothing that he had bought with it, save two English wind-hounds—and what were two more hounds when he had already fifteen hundred dogs?

It was hot in Nuremberg, the sun smote the city like a duster of swords, the rays penetrated the narrow streets and pierced between the slats of the shutters, turned the river to gold on its thick wavelets, shone with piercing brightness on the gilded crown of thorns which pressed the brow of the wooden Christ on the crucifix on the bridge, where the passers-by all paused to stay and murmur a prayer, even in this great heat. It was hot in the castle set up so high above the town. Maximilian went out on the battlements and felt the warmth thick about him like a veil which he could almost have brushed with his hand. It was silent, save for the coarse laughter of the Archduke Philip coming from some window where he had found an idle companion. Omens and portents, rumours and menaces the Bishop of Vienna and all his other counsellors had mentioned to Maximilian; but for himself he could see nothing...

Nuremberg was quiet at his feet, the sky gleamed quiet above his head; reforms I had not men spoken of them in every age What priesthood had ever been pure, what government ever single-minded? Maximilian smiled drily to himself. The lines deepened round his mobile mouth, falling now into familiar wrinkles of bitterness. "Who am I," he said to himself, leaning his elbows on the hot wall of the battlements and looking down over the roofs and spires of the magnificent town, "who am I to reform Church or Empire—who is anyone to undertake such a task?"

The heat, the silence, the glitter and the raucous laughter of his son coming from that open window began to oppress him. He thought with pleasure of the green quiet of the Tyrol, the coolness of the upper mountains, and the workshop of Vischer where they were casting the bronze statues; he longed to get away to the Tyrol.


WHEN Maximilian reached Innsbrück, he at once consulted the two experts who were helping with the design for the tomb in the Hofkirche, one was the learned town clerk of Augsburg, Gustav Pentinger, and the other was the painter, Gilg Sesselschreiber, of Munich; these two were assisting the Emperor in the historical and genealogical side of the monument, the design for which had now been decided. It was to show the Emperor's statue in life size, surrounded by forty bronze statues, representing the noble members of his Imperial House, and the historical personalities dearest to his heart, besides a great number of busts and statuettes, all shining in their golden garb. Surrounded by this magnificent gathering of superb and noble figures, the Emperor Maximilian wished to repose during eternity. The memorial, he believed, would be the only one of its kind in the world, and he repeated to his assistants that it was not only for himself, but for his whole dynasty. Gilg Sesselschreiber had now moved to Innsbrück in order to supervise the castings, which were being made in the bronze foundries at Innsbrück, Hotting and Mühlau. Peter Vischer was weary of the work, and had now left the service of the Emperor and returned to Nuremberg. Maximilian had procured in his stead the services of Stefan Godl, who also came from Nuremberg, and who was to undertake the casting of the hundred statuettes which were being made in Mühlau, where Godl had opened a workshop; assisting him was Peter Leiminger and Loftier, who was also to help with the statues, though so far, his work had been the making of church bells, cannon and guns. A workshop was being built for these masters at Mühlau, close where the mill stands on the banks of the Inn. So far, only three of the statues had been completed, Mary of Burgundy and Vischer's two figures, King Arthur and Theodoric, King of East Goths. Maximilian had made a contract with Gilg, according to which two statues would be finished every year, a thousand florins to be paid as annual payment if he had recovered the expenses of the necessary materials, but, as he protested, the gilding alone of one piece had amounted to five hundred florins. It had therefore been so far impossible to gratify Maximilian's wish to have all these statues gilded so that they would show like gold in the enclosed light of the church where his tomb was to be set. The two heralds and genealogists, Putinger and his colleagues, were zealous and hard-working; the artists and coppersmiths seemed to Maximilian to be greedy and indolent; they were continually asking for advances of money and materials, and instead of producing work, only made excuses and pleas for delay.

Maximilian, always enthusiastic and sanguine, had hoped to find a great portion of the work finished. It was a year and more now since he had been at Innsbrück, and he had looked forward to contemplating these efforts of art and these monuments to his own glory as a relief to the tedium of politics, the troubles of the unsettled times and his personal disillusions and disappointments, which seemed to increase with every year. He had, however, to content himself with contemplating the two statues made by Vischer—all complete save for the putting on of the plastrons, the shield sword and belt of Theodoric; the other statue of Mary of Burgundy, for which Gertrude had sat to Peter Vischer, was already finished and in place on the column in the square in front of the Hofburg. This last statue showed a figure in robes flowing round the waist, the bodice tightly fitting, opening over a chemisette of pleated lawn, crossed by two thick cords; all this was of plain material, and the sole decoration was a rich and handsome collar round the throat. The hair flowed freely round the face, and there was no coif or head-covering. The expression was one of tender sweetness, and Maximilian preferred this statue to that which had been cast for the tomb, which showed Mary standing erect, one hand raised ready to hold the torch; her robe of exceptional magnificence, stiff with designs in the brocade, long loose cuffs hanging at the wrists, a girdle round the waist, and on the head a flat hood with a rosette on either side; the face was both the face of Mary of Burgundy and of Gertrude, there were the deep-set, sharp-cut, heavily under-lidded eyes, the high mouth, and the expression at once brooding and compassionate.

"She seems too serious," remarked Maximilian, "could you not have made her smile?"

He moved rather uneasily away from the statue, and turned over the drawings which littered the workshop, which had been all made after his own suggestions. He particularly noticed that of Theodebert of Burgundy in full harness with closed visor, wearing a foliated crown; that of Duke Ernest the Iron of Austria, who wore over his armour a coat of stiff brocade with eagles in relief. Most of all Maximilian was pleased with the drawing for Rudolph of Hapsburg, Emperor and founder of the grand fortunes of his family. None of the figures were at once as grotesque and beautiful as this, and so fitted Maximilian's conception of what splendour should be. He had many suggestions to make as to the details of the armour and the crown, the belt, the sword, and the collar with which this noble figure that strode forward with a stern look was adorned.

The coppersmiths had some objection to the Emperor's advice; they said that the armour as shown in the drawing was not practicable, and that it would be impossible for anyone so encased in metal to ride or walk, or even to move; also that the figure with all these fine and curious details would be extremely difficult to cast.

"Difficulties—nothing but difficulties, always difficulties," said Maximilian, with a cloud over his usual good humour; he left the workshop with a feeling of depression, a conviction that it was impossible to get anything completed, the sketches of the Triumph, the figures for the tomb, the books his secretaries were writing about his life and actions, the cities he wished to fortify, the cannons he wished to cast, the statues he wished to set up, the universities he desired to found—all these things remained unfinished.

He was a grey-haired man, and would the son whom he would leave behind, the Archduke Philip, care to complete his long labours? Maximilian shook off his sensation of depression and disappointment. He would go chamois hunting up the mountains and forget it all. Never did he fail to cast aside gloom and heartache in the mountains. He intended to leave Innsbrück for several days and to pass the nights in one of the small huts high up on the side of the mountains, and he thought with a sensation of yearning of the ancient monastery of Stams, in the valley of the Upper Inn. Maximilian delighted in this monastery, which had been the favourite residence of his cousin Sigismund of the Tyrol. It was situated in dark dense woods of ancient oaks which grew out of the immense grey white rock of the mountain, and there Maximilian could remember receiving, in the presence of his royal household and in full magnificence, the envoy of the Turkish Sultan who had sought the hand of the Princess Kunigunde, his sister, now married to Albert of Bavaria. This was a rich and pleasing memory, and Maximilian thought that he would go again to Stams and spend the night there, while he was on this hunting expedition. Stams was a much revered Cistercian convent, the foundation of Meinhardt the second, Count of Tyrol; his wife, Elizabeth, was the mother—by her first marriage—of Conrad, the last of the Hohenstaufens. In memory of his execution in Naples, Elizabeth had built this monastery in which she was buried. This connection with a dynasty even older than his own had a fascination for Maximilian, and he had enriched the Chapel of the Holy Blood and the Church itself with paintings with wooden reliefs, and a high altar bearing the genealogical tree of Christ. He had made many gifts to the library—richly illuminated manuscripts, miniatures, instruments of astronomy and physics, engravings by Albrecht Dürer, and a small organ or Positiv, a copy of that presented to him by the Pope, which was now in Amras. Thinking with reverence and affection of the monastery of Stams, Maximilian considered whether he should present it with further gifts, and if it might not be a safe resting-place for some of the treasure of the Hapsburgs he had so constantly and carefully guarded in the arsenal at Vienna; but worldly considerations prevailed over this impulse of pious fervour. Nothing would induce Maximilian to tamper with that treasure of the Hapsburgs. Through all his poverty and difficulties, his humiliations and disgraces, he had contrived to leave that intact, even from time to time to add to it some jewel or ornament of gold and precious stones. Though he was so loaded with debt, so embarrassed by obligations, he had been at considerable pains to redeem from the Fuggers of Antwerp the various gold chains which he had been from time to time forced to pledge with them for ready cash. Even when at the time of his desperate expedition with only four thousand men into Italy, he had been so pressed for money that Bianca Sforza's inn bills at Worms had not been paid, he had never touched the treasures at Vienna. The thought of this hoard so faithfully guarded helped him to forget mundane worries and troubles, as he ascended from the town of Innsbrück into the mountains, at first by gently- winding valley ways and then higher up craggy paths. He had only a few companions with him and these he left quickly behind; he wished to be alone. He carried his own knapsack with food, he wore the plain green of a Tryolese hunter, with tight trousers strapped under his feet, and climbing irons fastened to his shoes; as he ascended up and up, further and further from the valley of the Inn, he felt the ancient vigour of his youth return to him, and all doubts and disillusions seemed left behind with the light mist which lay over the river, and blurred the aspiring towers of Innsbrück below.

Maximilian walked rapidly through the rising woods until he came out to a clearing on which stood a monstrous pine tree, its knotted boughs hung with votive tablets—"To our Lady of the Wood." Here he paused, and looked back along the way he had come, the bright meadow slopes, the woods, the bridle path, the valley at the bottom with the grey quick river.

Opposite were Völs and Kematen; he was now dose to the precipices of the Martinswand; below was the little village of Unterpersuss. The summer day was still and the clouds were gathering slowly with a sedate movement round the peaks of the mountain and terraces of the Gnadenwald, and the Bettelwurm range. Maximilian had told his companions and the guides that he would wait here for them, at the foot of the mighty wall of rock or precipices of the Martinswand, and here he paused for a moment in an idle humour, his mind not even on his beloved sport of hunting, although he had been assured that there were chamois in this neighbourhood, and so keen had he been when he heard this that he had promised a silk dress each to the wives and daughters of the men who had brought the news. It was often his custom to make these presents to the peasants who watched the chamois, and saw that the timid and agile beasts were not molested until he came to hunt them. Not immediately seeing the guide and his companions, Maximilian became impatient, and proceeded to ascend the mountain. He was one of the most expert climbers in all his own wide Empire, and it was with a feeling of exultation that he sensed he had lost none of his old skill, and was still as agile and fleet and light of foot as he had ever been in the full delight of his youth. The climb presented obstacles but no difficulties, and Maximilian proceeded slowly, and carefully, and precisely. He had never been afflicted with giddiness, and he had now sufficient command of himself to turn and look over his shoulder at the sheer drop of rock beneath him, at the woods and the bridle path below that, at the slopes of meadows below that, and at the small villages in the valley, and the river which was now like one of the grey threads that mingled with the faded gold of his own hair. Slowly and skilfully he raised himself from one level to another of the mountain face. He had not climbed the Martinswand before without a guide and rope, and he rejoiced in this feat of strength and courage. He recalled how he had ascended to the highest point of the tower of Ulm Cathedral, had stepped out on one of the pinnacles of the jutting masonry, and there shown himself to his people gathered in the place below. Balancing himself like a walker on a tight rope on one foot, he had turned round and round, all those hundreds of metres above the ground—a feat that none had ever attempted before, and a young knight who had essayed it in emulation afterwards had fallen and been dashed to death. Maximilian had been shocked by that accident, but not ill-pleased that he was able to accomplish an exploit beyond the power of any other man. He was glad, too, that he was able to do what even the Tyrolese would not attempt, to climb the Martinswand alone, without assistance. Reaching a narrow ledge of rock almost at the summit of the mountain, he sat down and gazed at the prospect of the Tyrol below him, the drop beneath his feet was so sharp that he seemed almost to be seated in the clouds, or suspended in air; the thin keen atmosphere had made him hungry. He opened his knapsack, took out his bread and mixture of butter and flour which he always carried on these occasions, and some late fruit, and began to eat heartily. He now felt assured of success in all his undertakings, and was convinced that he would outwit the Pope and the French, subdue Egmond, lead a triumphant crusade against the Turk, raise many worthy memorials to the glory of God and the House of Hapsburg, and die an Emperor indeed. He felt certain, too, that he would be crowned in Rome, that he would be able to re-organize the German Empire and reform the Church. In fact the whole of mankind would regard him, not only as a conqueror, but as a benefactor. By the marriages of his grandchildren, as well as through his own force and arts, he would establish his family in the whole of Europe. He saw no obstacles to any of these schemes, as he had seen no obstacles in the climbing of the Martinswand; the tomb, too, would be finished. He felt sure, now, of that. His sense of disappointment had passed with every step he rose above the valley. The book of Triumph would be complete; there would be many other triumphal cars, chariots and wagons to add to those already designed, and he would build the Golden Roof—so far that had not been accomplished. The pillars of red Florentine marble had been put in place, and the sculptured bas-relief that showed his marriage with Bianca Sforza had been set beneath them. The wide balcony was complete, but the roof above was not yet gilded, it waited for the gold tiles which were to gleam all over Innsbrück with a light like that of the sun. So far there had been no money for gilding tiles or gilded statues, but now, sitting high up on the Martinswand, eating his hunter's luncheon, and looking round the entrancing wide prospect of the valley, Maximilian felt no doubts as to the accomplishment of this and all his other desires. The Golden Roof—not only over one house in Innsbrück but over all the world...

Flinging his knapsack over his shoulder and gripping again his alpenstock, Maximilian proceeded to climb yet further up the precipitous face of the mountain.


MAXIMILIAN intended to whistle for his guides and companions, so that they might accompany him on a further ascent of the Martinswand. He peered over the edge of the precipice to see if he could discern them on the paths which ran through the woods below, but he saw no one, and glanced up to discover if they had by any chance gained the heights before him; here again there was no human being, but the straight, smooth face and long hooked horns of a chamois gazed down at him from the highest bold peak of the Martinswand. Forgetting his peril and loneliness and dropping the whistle to his side, Maximilian started in pursuit of the deer, which, beholding his advance, leapt from crag to crag along the ridge of rock. Maximilian followed, almost as agile and sure-footed as the beast which he pursued, and exulting in his skill and strength, which made him feel as if his spirit was carrying his body along with the greatest ease, with a disdain for any possible mishap or danger. When he reached the summit of the precipice his exultation increased, he felt as if he only had to stretch out his hand and thrust it into the bosom of the blue sky, which, with every one of his steps, appeared nearer above his head. He gained the topmost peak of the Martinswand and followed the leaping chamois across the final ridge of rock. Animated by the excitement of the chase, Maximilian ignored the peculiar difficulty and danger of his position; finding a niche of rock wide enough, he crouched on one knee and took aim at his prey. He was about to fire at the leaping animal which he saw dearly before him, when a mist passed before his eyes—a mist which took the shape of a figure. Startled, he dropped his gun—someone, man or woman, was standing on this high ridge of the Martinswand directly between him and the chamois, and stretching out a hand, which seemed to gleam like summer light, towards the drop down the rocks to the valley below. Maximilian sprang to his feet, moved impulsively towards this figure, which, as he stirred, vanished, proving to be but a delusion of the senses, but in that moment that Maximilian had seen the phantom, or believed he had seen it, he had himself made a false step, and fallen over the edge of the rock, head downwards on to a narrow ledge a few feet from the summit. He shook off with a laugh the pain that had smitten him when he had for an instant believed that he was slipping to a sudden and violent death. He was safe and hardly bruised, a stout dwarf pine jutting from the face of the rock had impeded his fall, and by the aid of this he was able, carefully, to raise himself to an upright attitude: when he had done so he found that his position was perilous. At this point the Martinswand fell sheer to the belt of woods which rose above the valley below; the ledge on which Maximilian stood, which was directly above this drop, was no more than a foot wide. Maximilian glanced up, intending to re-ascend the wall of rock over which he had fallen, and so regain the topmost ridge, where he had been pursuing the chamois, but, on turning to help himself by the dwarf pine which had broken his fall, he found that his weight had snapped the stem of the little tree, and that though it remained in its place, it was of no use as a support, and without some support it would be impossible to regain the upper ridge, so straight and smooth was that fall of rock. Maximilian therefore found himself a prisoner between a precipice below and a blank height above. He had lost both his gun and his alpenstock, and, amazed at his own folly, he wondered what confusion had come over his senses for such an accident to have happened to him, so sure, so careful, so confident, so used to climbing in the Tyrol. Why should he, at such a moment, have imagined that he had seen a figure between his prey and himself, and who and what was this figure? He could not name it, even in his imagination. Still untouched by fear, Maximilian examined the ledge on which he stood, though narrow, it was firm. It extended a foot or so to right and left and then ended abruptly. He could therefore move a pace or so in either direction; his whistle still hung at his girdle, and he blew this shrilly, three or four times, but there was no answering signal. After listening in vain to the echoes of his own appeals for help, Maximilian folded his arms and set his back against the face of the rock, and considered, looking still without trepidation at the great depth below him. He could see the tops of the trees, and beyond them the flatness of the valley, and the thread of the river Inn, moving grey across the pasture meadows. He pondered his position into which he appeared to have been led by a wanton and unaccountable fate. He was in a part of the mountain where few ever penetrated. The boldest hunters, the most intrepid mountaineers, sometimes essayed the summit of the Martinswand, but never without ropes, axes and guides. Maximilian did not know himself why he had to-day done so. He could not now understand the impulse which had obliged him to isolate himself from his companions and attempt this precipitous ascent alone, nor why, without any thought for the consequences, he had pursued that solitary chamois over the high bare ridges. He whistled again, and, putting his hands to his mouth, shouted. The echoes rang through the hollows of the rocks, and through the great emptiness of the valley. There was no reply. Maximilian made another attempt to scale the rock behind him, but found to do so was impossible; his outstretched arm would not reach the top of this wall of stone. There was nothing to which he could cling, neither was there any foothold; to ascend was equally impossible, and the sheer precipice beneath his feet gave him no hope of being able to escape in that manner. He reflected that even if he succeeded in attracting attention to his plight it would be extraordinarily difficult to rescue him, even with many men and ropes. Leaning heavily against the rock behind him, he folded his arms and waited; still without fear, but with an amazed wonder that such a fate should have overtaken such a man. He stared across the wide hollow of the valley's space to the mountains opposite from which the clouds were slowly lifting, and whose barren peaks stared at him like so many grim faces slowly unveiled.

Maximilian thought of his ambitions, his wars and policies, the glory and splendour of the House of Hapsburg, which should be so exalted and prolonged in the person of his sons and grandsons. In the clouds dissolving from the brows of the distant mountain peaks he saw a hundred kingdoms, all to be created by his labours and ruled by his descendants. He saw the church at Innsbrück filled with golden statues, and the palace at Innsbrück roofed with gold, and triumphal arches, and a conqueror's procession such as Burgmair was engraving, chariot after chariot, car after car, banners, wreaths, flowers, plumes, armour, cannons, dogs, wild beasts, elephants, camels, savages, adorned to give him pleasure and celebrate his honour. Monstrous, inhuman, and overwhelming, this procession passed across the mountain's face before Maximilian, led by Preco, the nude herald, on a ferocious winged griffin, and adorned by hundreds of unfurled trophied flags.

"A dynasty of kings and emperors," said Maximilian aloud, as the vision faded into the forms of clouds scurrying across the high sky; and he beheld not only the valley of the Inn before him, but the whole of the world; not only Europe but the whole of the world—Asia, Africa, the new countries that were being discovered—all obedient to the sway of Hapsburg—kings, queens, princes of his blood, bearing through generation after generation a mighty empire that should exceed the Empire of Constantine, of Otto, of Charlemagne; the eagles spreading wings over universal dominions. Maximilian saw his universities rising in those clouds, his hospitals and his orphanages; law, order and exact administration taking the place of confusion, rapine and cruelty. He had written in his autobiography that during his reign his realm was safe, and that the poor man might go abroad unmolested. This was not true, and Maximilian knew it, but he had told his secretary to write it as a challenge to the truth and a defiance to the pity and compassion and disease in his own heart. He knew that the knights and the nobles robbed the ploughman at the plough, slew the merchant on the high road. He knew that—under his reign—children had gone forth in flocks to eat grass in the fields, like beasts. His friend, Willibald Perkheimer, had seen this and told him, but Maximilian ignored what he could not alter, and now in his vision he saw a future where such horrors would not exist. He saw Philip, golden fair, beautiful, young and proud, standing in robes, with the globe and sceptre in either hand, and the imperial crown upon his head, robed in dalmatic and pallium, king of kings, emperor of emperors; he saw his grandchildren, Charles and Ferdinand, set on the thrones of Italy and Spain. He saw the Pope reduced to no more than a Bishop of Rome, subservient to these, and he saw them reforming the Church, even as the people demanded it should be reformed, the service of God unobscured by the wickedness of the priests. No human treachery, or corruption, or avarice or lust, coming between the humble people and the divine figure of Christ. Seeing this vision in the clouds Maximilian forgot his perilous position, and lifted his head proudly. "How many men have stood where I stand? Very few since the world began. How many men have set themselves so high above the crowd, dispensing kingdoms, raising realms, leaving half Europe to their children? How many men will have left such monuments behind, statues, and buildings, books and pictures!"

The clouds evaporated into a thin mist, that appeared like a grey stain on the upper blue. The air became delicately and gradually still; Maximilian realized he was becoming stiff in his cramped position; he must have been there for some hours; he stretched his arms and moved as far as he could on the narrow ledge, first to the right and then to the left. It seemed to him that the light was fading in the valley, and for the first time a faint chill creep of fear circled his heart at the thought that he might have to stand there all night, rigid against the rock, knowing that one impetuous step would mean instant death. He whistled and again holla-ed across the valley, and again there was no response. They must be searching for him by now, there must be many looking for him, but they had missed him; it was likely enough that they would continue to miss him, and no one would think that he had reached the summit of the Martinswand. The colour receded from the landscape, the rich darkness of the pines, the verdant brightness of the fields, the silvery sparkle of the river, and the crude colourings of the farms and villages, became merged in one clear blackness; the sun was setting behind the mountains, and large shadows overwhelmed the prospect. Maximilian set his shoulders. He would rather have died in battle, handling his eighteen-foot lance, charging at the head of his Swiss or Burgundians; his visions of kingly pomp had faded. There were no clouds out of which he could build empires, the paling sky was clear. His schemes, like everything else in his life remained incomplete. What does it matter what a man leaves behind him? What avails the mightiest empire, the lordliest kingdom, the widest realm?

"After all, I shall never be buried in that tomb in Innsbrück, I shall never build the golden roof."

The darkness increased rapidly. A troop of shadowy figures seemed to be advancing from the groves of pines below Maximilian and spreading over the face of the mountain, figures similar to that which had stood between them when he was about to fire at the chamois.

"Shadows," whispered Maximilian to himself, "shadows."

For the first time he reflected on what his errand to this mountain had been—to slay and destroy that which was swift and lovely. A figure appeared to have detached itself from those cohorts of phantoms and stood beside Maximilian on the narrow ledge.

"A fog is rising," said the Emperor. "These are fragments of mist."

The figure stood dose to him, shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet, dim, grey, wavering save for an outstretched hand that shone like white and polished bone, a hand that pointed to the depth below, where all those other phantoms were streaming out of the wood, forming and breaking in phalanx after phalanx, obscuring, darkening the valley.

"Who are you?" asked Maximilian.

He heard a faint voice, vague music coming up from the valley and down from the upper heights of the mountain. Not the sweet melody sung by his choirboys, not the gentle song of the caged birds behind the gilt wires in his palace, not the chants and hymns of praise that rose in his chapel, not the noble accompaniment that came from his cedarwood organ, not the music of the quinterns, violin, rebec, and cornet, not the dulcet playing of Artus, Master of the Choir, but a thin and melancholy pipe, the elfin wail of Till Eulenspiegel, futility mocking at itself...

Maximilian put his hands to his ears to shut out this sound. Various disintegrated shadows gathered to form one menacing force against him, from the woods and the valleys and from the skies came these cohorts of darknesses, joining together into one blackness to overwhelm the solitary man, prisoned on the ledge. He thought that these darknesses were composed of figures of horses, of ships, of cities; shapes that were interchanging one with another, and finally merging into black profundities; but he thought that this one figure remained beside him on the ledge, and, before the last light failed, put back a hood, put back long tresses of flowing hair, and gazed at him, its eyes at once ironic and compassionate, and yet no eyes, but empty sockets. A woman. And now she was seated beside him, her robes spread over the face of the mountain, her hair rippling over the wall of rock; she had her chin in her hand and her elbow on her knee. Maximilian knew her for the woman that he had seen in the engraving by Albrecht Dürer in the workshop in Nuremberg—Melancholia, Dürer had called her...above her head fluttered an imp, darker than the surrounding darkness, and across her knees was a white shape. Maximilian peered closer to discover what this might be. Wings—dead wings—broken wings. Useless gleaming snowy pinions spreading wide into the darkness, giving out a radiance.

"The dead swan," said Maximilian, and the cry of the dying swan mingled with the pipes of Till Eulenspiegel. Melancholia pressed her face close to his, and he felt a strong cold breath upon his cheek which penetrated his flesh...He covered his eyes, but this obscuring of mortal sight did not avail him, for in the darkness, distinctly as before, he beheld Melancholia.


DURING the night Maximilian remained erect upon the ledge of rock on the Martinswand, his arms folded on his chest, his head thrown back, eyeing the hordes of shapes which assailed him; shifting figments of darkness, one of which only he recognized—the robed Melancholia with the flowing hair and the broken wings across her lap. Neither his earnest prayers nor his serene defiance dispelled this vision—all night long she abode with him, and, even when she had been dispelled by the first rays of light across the mountains, he heard her sighs mingling with the pipes of Till Eulenspiegel, rising from the cold and dark woods. His physical strength was now failing, and this failure was undermining his courage. Powerful and hardy as was his frame, it was beginning to wince and shudder under the long strain. He lacked food, and even more than food, water. His forehead was damp, and his hands began to quiver; the sighs that tore his magnificent chest mingled with the sighs of Melancholia and the pipes of Eulenspiegel. He considered, still with fortitude, the probable manner of his death. Sooner than stand here and be tormented out of existence by ghosts and devils, sooner than die of slow starvation, he would drop into the depths below, leap forward from this ledge of rock, and be dashed into pieces at the foot of the precipice. As the light strengthened, he perceived a small slow procession coming through the pinewoods at the foot of the Martins-wand, winding from the little village; a procession of men, headed by a priest, carrying the Host. Maximilian, with a bitter effort shook off clustering fancies, and realized that his predicament had been perceived unknown to him, but it had also been considered hopeless. This priest and those people had come out to give him the consolation of the dying; knowing that they could not reach him, that sooner or later he must violently perish, they were endeavouring to console him by offering him the last rites of the Church. Maximilian called out, but it seemed that they could not hear him, for they took no notice of his shouts, although they were all looking up at him—stiff little figures like marionettes they seemed to Maximilian. He shut his eyes, hoping that he might hear the priest's voice, that a miracle might occur, and the Host be wafted into his hand or on to his lips, the Cup given to him. "This is no higher than Ulm Cathedral," he said to himself, "and I no nearer death than I was then, even though I stand here with Melancholia on one side and Death upon the other—both clasping hands across my breast. There is that power can save me from their embraces."

He looked down and saw the priest coming nearer, painfully climbing through the wood, followed by his little procession of villagers—men, women and children. "Perhaps," thought Maximilian, "they do not know who I am, and merely offer up this charity for some stranger in distress." He took sweet comfort in the sight of them, and in the thought of their kindness and compassion, and he fixed his eyes on the Host, which the priest, who was guided by two young boys, held tenderly before him, and which was covered by a cloth of gold and white satin, which gleamed brightly in the first beams of the rising sun that penetrated here and there the dark flat boughs of the gloomy pines. A gentle peace fell over the spirit of Maximilian; he closed his eyes again and rested his weary head against the cold wall of the rock, and old tales which he had loved to hear in his youth came to him; particularly one of Cardinal Peter of Luxemburg, who had died in Avignon, a hundred years or more ago, nineteen years of age, and a saint, and when he died his body was like the breath of violets for perfume, and though he had wished to be buried in a mean habit, they clothed him in his full cardinal's robes and bore him barefaced to the church, that all might have the grace of looking on the exceeding beauty of his countenance. The times had been distracting and tumultuous, honour and decency had been trodden underfoot, everywhere were lewd games, lovemaking, gross dancings and jestings. Rent by despair, men had turned their backs on spiritual matters, and were corrupting their souls with coarse indulgence, with worldly delights, which, indeed, were delights no more, but scourges which men and women could not escape. Through these crowds, weary and dulled by their licentious indulgence, was borne the body of the holy boy, and set before the church altar. All the spring flowers—jonquils, violets, primroses, cyclamen, lily bells—that had dropped from his bier, had taken root, even in the gutters of the streets, and bloomed sweetly among the foul filth of the luxurious city. Men and women cried out that they could see the angels with looks of compassion and love, treading with unsoiled feet through their rank festival, and all hastened in one desperate press to the church where the boy lay in his open coffin...

Maximilian rose and tried to put aside this vision.

"Why do I think of that?" he asked himself. "Why, at this moment, do I think of that?" And he stared down, troubled with a rising giddiness—for the first time in his life that he had known the sensation of giddiness—at the painful procession with the Viaticum coming nearer through the dark pines. Now it had come as far as it could, and the people stopped, and all went on their knees. Directly beneath Maximilian was the priest, holding high the Host. Maximilian folded his arms—he could not kneel—and bent his head. "This world, after all, is nothing," he thought. "What does it matter whether I found kingdoms? What is the Dynasty of the Hapsburgs in the eyes of God? It all seems ridiculous, as a child playing with toys, which, when he is a man, will have forgotten; and I, in paradise, should surely have forgotten all my ambitions on this earth."

He prayed: "O God, forgive me that I have been too proud. That I have set myself too much on baubles and trifles, that I did not reform Thy Church nor chastise Thy priests, because somehow I have got through to Thee despite all these hindrances in the way. I have not been cruel nor dishonest, nor wanton, nor cowardly; it may be that these poor virtues will be remembered to me."

He stretched out his arms, for he saw that the priest was holding out the Host towards him. Then the Holy Vessel appeared to change into a shape of surpassing grace and tenderness, that blotted out all the shadows that surrounded Maximilian. Indifferent to, and negligent of, his position, he stepped forward, felt his hands caught in a strong grasp, felt the perfume, pungent, acrid, of the pines in his nostrils, a rush of air in his ears. The sombre figure of Melancholia broke into a thousand grey wisps of cloud, and the broken pinions of the swan changed into the monstrous wings of some celestial being who overspread the valleys and dwarfed the mountains. Maximilian beheld his empires, his kingdoms, his dynasties, as little heaps of dust beneath his feet. He smiled, and fell into the void. As his visions dissolved into a shapeless dazzle, he found himself being carried along the bridle-path through the pine woods. He was on a litter made of boughs; six peasants carried him, and in front walked the priest.

"How was I saved?" he asked. It was plain that they did not recognize him, and Maximilian thought, "Perhaps I have changed during the night." They told him, in tones of awe, that it seemed he had been rescued from death by a miracle; an angel must have guided him; they had been expecting his horrid death; he seemed to step into space from the ledge of rock on which he was prisoned; he had fallen, as it seemed to them, many feet, but he had been caught on a pine tree, exactly as if outstretched arms had been ready to receive him, and there he had remained in the fork of the sturdy boughs while they had been able to climb up and with ropes rescue him. He was unhurt, though unconscious; certainly it was a miracle.

"Thinking you had no chance of escape the good father had brought out the Host to give you the consolation of the last rites of the dying. See," added one of the peasants simply, "God Himself was here and rescued you."

Maximilian bade them stop and rose from the litter; he was faint and giddy, but in no way harmed; his limbs were sound; he also believed he had been rescued by a miracle.

The scent of the pines was delicious, the early sunshine lay on the ground covered with little pine needles. Through such a wood had ridden the knight whom Dürer had depicted, with Death and the Devil on either side of him; so, too, had Maximilian passed these two opponents. No longer could he hear the pipes of Till Eulenspiegel or see the dreadful countenance of Melancholia. Yet with something of reluctance and something of a sigh he came back to the world. The sun had gilded all the sky, placing a golden roof indeed over the valley of the Inn, and over the mountains, whose giant passive countenances were again veiled in floating clouds, now tinged with a rosy colour. During that night on the Martinswand Maximilian had seen all his endeavours as toys and trifles, and all his ambitions as gatherings of dust beneath his feet. Who had given him this revelation? Eulenspiegel, the mocking clown? Melancholia, with her broken wings, or the Almighty?

"Let us go into the church," said the priest, as they approached the village, "and give thanks to God."

As Maximilian entered the little building which had been raised by human hands, the exaltation of the revelations made to him on the mountain passed from him. He was glad now to be alive. He thought of food and of rest, and though he still gave gratitude to God, he no longer saw Him as a spirit; and as he knelt and prayed in the humble little church he was considering what magnificent offering he might make to commemorate his rescue. Wrought, gilded brass, or an altar-piece of silver, or of copper set with gems...


MAXIMILIAN endeavoured to turn his attention to the reforms for which the Reichstadt were constantly asking. He made an effort to put aside both the distractions of his wars, his policies and his domestic affairs, and really to solve once and for all some of the problems that were preventing Germany from becoming a united empire. His reasons were, as usual, not wholly disinterested nor wholly selfish. He wished the support of an efficient organization against France and against the Turk; but he also wished to accomplish some of the work which he felt that he, as Emperor, should do, work which lay more obviously to his hand than the larger, vaguer and more glorious task of undertaking a crusade against the Turk. The attempts at reform in 1545 had proved absolutely ineffective; now, more than twelve years later, the condition of the Empire was no better than before. The princes were always quarrelling amongst themselves, or else with the free cities, and most of them permitted their retainers to assault and rob on the road. Gentlemen generally lived in some fortified dwelling outside the cities, or in the castle of some prince, or in lonely places; they were always enemies to the burghers, and so proud that in no circumstances would they intermarry with merchants nor debase themselves to practise trade. They made a living, therefore, as captains of mercenaries, and then when that profession failed, did nothing except hunt or rob on the road. Maximilian endeavoured to enforce a strict justice, but still it was not safe to ride unprotected through any part of the Empire, and in Franconia and round Nuremberg the roads were abandoned because of this danger.

Maximilian's reforms were ready upon paper; he suggested providing a court of justice presided over by an imperial chief court, composed of sixteen judges—two from his own hereditary Hapsburg lands; six 'named by electors, six from each circle of the Empire, and two from the lesser nobility. To enforce its decisions he suggested an imperial army, to be commanded by four marshals of the lower Rhine, the upper Rhine, the Elbe and the Danube—to each of these was to be assigned two counts and twenty-four knights; for criminal matters, especially the suppression of robbery, there would be a marshal for the Empire, who would go from place to place and enforce order, and go to the aid of any marshal of the circle whose roads were unsafe.

The Bishop of Vienna had not encouraged these ideas put forward by Maximilian; he told him that the Reichstadt would probably have none of them; they would say that they were in their opinion cunningly devised to enable Maximilian to destroy all local power.

Maximilian's party, despite his popularity, was not composed of the people or the burghers or the representatives of the free cities; it consisted entirely of princes, bishops and nobles—selfish and ambitious. Many of them complained freely enough of the disorders of Germany, but they were not eager for any reform which threatened loss to what they considered their own rights and privileges.

The Bishop of Vienna pointed out to Maximilian that he should follow the example of the prudent, practical long-headed Tudor kings of England, and try to make a party of the burghers, the free cities, and the middle classes, against the princes and the nobility. It had already been proved in England that a union of the burgher classes and the Crown was too strong for the nobility, with all their remnants of feudal privileges. But Maximilian, by predilection and training, was incapable of taking this advice; much as he liked the people and anxious as he was for their good, he could not consider them in any way the equals of the hereditary nobility. To turn for support to the burghers was to Maximilian a detestable idea, and he did not even dally with it; he could not conceive himself, the Emperor, ruling otherwise than with the support of the princes of the Empire, with the hereditary nobility whose privileges went back so far, whose families were so ancient, and whose blood was worthy to be compared with his own.

Therefore, his reforms remained reforms on paper, not acceptable to anyone, the complaints and the disorders that provoked the complaints remained the same, and the ban of the Empire was laughed at by the evildoers. The Imperial Court was a mockery, the judges not fitted for their places, and the legal procedure wearisomely slow; legal decisions were mocked, and there was in the whole of the Empire a general and frightful state of disorder. Travellers were molested by sea and on land, the agricultural labourers on whose labours all in the end depended, were going to destruction; the helpless widows and orphans were not protected; neither the old merchant, nor pious pilgrim, nor eager messenger, was safe on high road or by-lane; robber-knights and the murdering bands of barons became hardened in their lawlessness which went perpetually unpunished. Maximilian, impatient and disheartened, tossed aside his schemes of reform and thought once more of war. It seemed to him that only action could bring him any glory, and that over the Alps or across the Bosphorus he must lead hordes of warlike men to regain his ancient prestige. Italy must be conquered, or the Turk must be conquered; his long diplomatic dealing with France had led to no purpose. Louis the Twelfth's policy was as shifty and complicated as his own; no conclusion was reached by either of their perpetual checkmatings of one another. And he was now more than ever pressed for money—' Maximilian of the empty pockets' rang true with an even deeper sarcasm than when it had been first given him as a nick-name, on the occasion of his marriage to Bianca Sforza, by the insolent and luxurious Italians who composed her train. He had been bankrupt so often, his credit drained so continuously, that it might be said of him that he lived on his debts. Even the House of Fugger was beginning to refuse to lend him any more money. They were indeed his chief creditor, but they had never given him anything for which they had not had valuable treasure in pledge or pawn. Now, without touching the accumulated glories of the House of Hapsburg—the treasure which lay so carefully guarded in the Hofburg in Vienna—Maximilian had nothing more to give them. All his estates were mortgaged, every portion of property that he possessed outside that same Hapsburg treasure was already in the hands of the Fuggers, or with the bankers or moneylenders. He had sold all he could—dispensations, offices, privileges and promises.

"It seems to me," he remarked grimly to Conrad van der Rosen, his fool, "that one is coining oneself, one's own honour and reputation into gold pieces to pay for one's daily bread and lodging."

All his designs had come to a standstill; no more statues were cast in the foundries at Mühlau or Innsbrück, or at Hotting; Dürer, whose salary had not been paid for years, was forced to leave off doing any work for the Emperor, and to engrave such plates as were likely to sell among the burghers, the only people now who had any money.

Hans Burgmair, left without means with which to pay his assistants or even to buy materials, had ceased to design or print any more Triumphs. He talked of breaking up the series and selling them separately, to such as would buy them.

Other matters also had come to a stop. Karel van Egmond still held Guelders and more than Guelders—towns in Holland, Brabant and Cleves, against all the power of the Empire. Margaret of Austria, Maximilian's daughter—Regent in the Netherlands—wrote despairingly for ducats, for troops, or help of any kind; the soldiers were now, as they had been twenty years before, unpaid, clad in rags, discontented, mutinous. Maximilian, instead of sending them assistance, was forced to ask his daughter to send him money, and such as she could raise from the sullen and disaffected cities in the Netherlands in the way of loans or taxes she had to remit to her father.

The Duke of Guelders ruled like a sovereign prince in Arnhem and Nimwegen. He had proved himself an able organizer, an upright administrator, a brave soldier, and a gallant general. Maximilian thought of him with more dislike than he had ever visited on any human being before and the Emperor was not a man to cherish malice, or to be easily provoked to hatred; but hatred was almost the feeling with which he had come to regard that sturdy rebel, Egmond. He wrote hotly to his daughter, and hotly to his generals; but what was the use of words? Karel van Egmond had loyal men behind him, fine walled fortified cities, artillery, and money. Pressed on every side, irritated by lack of ducats, broken in his pride and all his schemes, Maximilian turned to one of his first designs. He would advance into Italy and be crowned in Rome. He would force the Pope to do that. He began to attach a superstitious value to this ceremony which he thought would set him in a different position to that which he now held. He was inclined to attribute all his misfortunes to the fact that he was not yet the Lord's Anointed, only Emperor Elect, only Emperor of Germany—not Emperor of the West. Moving rapidly from Augsburg to Nuremberg, from Innsbrück to Vienna, from one city to another of his dominions, accompanied by a small court of soldiers and priests, musicians and fools, huntsmen and servants, Maximilian resolved first on one scheme and then on another, which might lead to his coronation in the eternal city, which he declared would only be the prelude to his second coronation in Constantinople. There were even more difficulties than usually confronted Maximilian in the way. The Swiss refused to allow him to use their mercenary troops; Venice refused to permit him to cross her territories on his way to Rome unless he came unattended; the French, who held Lombardy, were not likely to allow him an unmolested passage across North Italy. Added to all these obstacles, the subsidies promised by the Empire had, of course, not materialized. Less than one thousand out of the fifteen thousand men promised were under arms; only a quarter of the taxes had been paid; the contributions promised by some of the Italian cities were not sent. Baffled again, Maximilian thought with rage and fury of Venice—this great plebeian republic had been one of the foremost obstacles in the way of the completion of his scheme. How was it possible for him to cross their lands unattended, and how reach Rome without crossing their territory? Maximilian began to consider these traders and merchants as little better than the heathen, and, turning his attention from the design for the coronation at Rome, he resolved to inflict a sharp punishment on the haughty merchants, who had hardly any right to exist.

His councillors in vain pointed out to him that the trade with Venice was one of the main sources of the riches of the German cities, that his own duchy of the Tyrol gained greatly from commerce with the mighty city.

Maximilian called on the German princes for aid, and decided to plunge into the Venetian war. He even wrote to Burgmair to say that when once again he commenced to pay him his salary he was to draw a chariot which was to be entitled "The Venetian War," surmounted by the winged lion of St. Mark, and showing all the trophies which he, Maximilian, would acquire in his triumphant descent on Venice.

The Archduke Philip, King of the Romans, still further sunk into debauchery and indolence, had returned from France—a tedious and futile journey. He was on worse terms than before with his wife, who was developing a morbid gloom which caused her to shut herself away with her priests, and to resist all attempts at consolation and diversion. Between her passion for her God and her passion for her husband, the sullen Spaniard's mind was becoming useless. Maximilian, though he tried to treat her with kindness, was relieved when she and her husband set out for Spain to claim the kingdom which Philip had received as her dowry. Here, at least, one of Maximilian's ambitions was achieved. The Archduke Philip, whom he had sworn to see elected as Emperor after himself, was now King of Spain; in spite of Ferdinand, his father-in-law, he must now inherit his mother-in-law's kingdom, Castile.

When Maximilian received the first letter from the royal party which had landed at Corunna and made a triumphal progress through Spain, he spoke of it with pleasure and animation to the man who happened to be with him at the moment, Eric of Brunswick, his veteran and faithful general—one of the sturdy and loyal soldiers, like Albert of Saxony and Florian van Egmond, who had stood by the Emperor through all his fluctuating and shadowed fortunes. Eric of Brunswick, stout, grizzled, his face disfigured by the scars of sword wounds, listened with sympathy and a certain compassion to Maximilian's delight in his son's success. He knew, as Maximilian would never know, or at least never consent to know it, the value of the Archduke Philip, now calling himself King of Castile as well as King of the Romans; and, as a man of common sense and some worldly experience, he was able to visualize what was likely to be the result in any country of the rule of such a dissolute youth. The Archduke Philip was already intriguing to have his wife—through whom he got his claims to the throne of Castile—set aside, as a lunatic, and full power be given to him alone; so much was common gossip, but Maximilian did not appear to know common gossip.

Maximilian would not contemplate the faults of his son, and Eric of Brunswick knew it would be as harsh as it would be useless to endeavour to remind him of them.

But when Maximilian, turning from the subject of the Archduke Philip, began to speak of the Venetian war, then Eric of Brunswick did express himself and that forcibly.

"Have we not enough on hand without that?" he demanded, vehemently. "Are we not at every turn harassed and hemmed in by politics, poverty and troubles of all kinds? Has not your Majesty two gigantic expeditions in view—one to Rome to receive the Imperial Crown, and one to the East? And must you add to this a Venetian war?"

But Maximilian was obstinate. He had set his mind, he said, through motives perhaps of revenge and pride, but justifiable pride and revenge, on leading his men down the Alpine valleys and punishing Venice and its repulsive burghers, those insolent and low-born merchantmen.

Eric of Brunswick knew Maximilian intimately, but it was surprising even to him that the shallow, extravagant and whimsical inconstancy of his character should show itself so pronouncedly. He knew that this same extravagance and inconstancy was being counted upon, and always had been counted upon, by all Maximilian's opponents, as if it were an evil genius that always stood at Maximilian's elbow. Neither Eric of Brunswick, nor any of the councillors of the Emperor, could see any reason or discern any motive worthy of anyone's consideration which could induce Maximilian to make war on Venice. But the Emperor was obdurate. Now he smiled away Eric of Brunswick's objections, and showed him on paper the list of his artillery and men.

"Cannon which are not cast," muttered Eric of Brunswick, "and men who have not yet joined the colours."

"But they will," insisted Maximilian, with his eternal hopefulness and cheerfulness, "they will; we need a glorious war, my friend, to re-establish the prestige of the House of Hapsburg. When I have defeated Venice, and my son is firmly seated on the throne of Spain, then I shall be able to undertake the journey to Rome, and after that the journey to Constantinople. Think," he added, with a note of almost childish pleasure, "what new lands and cities I shall add to the Empire. I have often thought of the beauties of Venice, and how I should like to see it. But I shall visit it as a conqueror and a king!"

He could see himself, in imagination, like another Frederick Hohenstaufen, ruling North Italy. Seeing that Eric of Brunswick was sombre, sullen and unsympathetic, the Emperor turned from talk of the war, not because his resolution had been shaken, but because he thought it was useless to discuss a decision on which he had so firmly resolved. Instead he pointed out to his general the cages of singing birds whose gilded bars were gleaming in the sun as they hung in the narrow windows of the Hofburg at Innsbrück, and the delicious view across the high snowfields which showed smooth and gleaming against the deep hyacinth azure of the sky. In front of these snowfields rose the column on which was the bronze statue of Mary of Burgundy, with a shield which bore all the achievements of his and her honours. The sight of this statue reminded him of the closed foundries and workshops. He frowned for a second but soon told himself: "When I have conquered Venice I will begin everything again."

He amused himself with thinking out the design of the car which was to be added to Burgmair's Triumph—the car of the Venetian War.

"We have no money," remarked Eric of Brunswick, gloomily, and he marked how shabby the Emperor's aspect was, how used his clothes, and how the grey had overspread the gold in his bright lustrous hair. Maximilian's countenance was haggard, the lines of resignation, disillusion and disappointment were deeply cut in spite of his air of cheerfulness.

Another thought had come into the Emperor's mind, and he spoke it aloud.

"Before I turn against the Venetians," he said, "I will endeavour to subdue Arnhem. I will once and for all crush Guelders. Too long has that insolent rebel triumphed."

It was the sight of the statue of Mary of Burgundy, high on her pillar, set against the background of the mountains which had reminded him of Egmond; the vague connection was Gertrude, the model of the Melancholia.

"Yes, I must punish Egmond," repeated Maximilian, with a sigh, "I have let that go on too long, day after day and year after year."

"It were wiser than embarking on the Venetian War," remarked Eric of Brunswick, and in his heart he doubted Maximilian's ability even to subdue Guelders; though not so grotesque an undertaking as the conquest of Venice, in Maximilian's present condition it seemed hopeless enough.

"I must find something else to pawn," mused Maximilian, and he thought of the three bronze statues that Peter Vischer had completed, which were now lying in the palace waiting to be gilt. They were very wonderful, even unique, and they must be worth a fine sum of money; it would be detestable to part with them; particularly detestable to part with the statue of Mary, but, if he had pawned everything else...? When Fortune turned he could redeem was forced, often, by penury, to do displeasing actions.


MAXIMILIAN had at length subdued Guelders, and the swift and consoling success raised him to something of his ancient actual magnificence, both in his own eyes and those of his soldiers and generals. The last action of the Archduke Philip, before his departure to claim the kingdom of Castile, had been to attack Guelders, and that province was considerably weakened when Maximilian turned suddenly on it with all the force he could command. The armies Maximilian had hoped to lead against France, Italy, and the Heathen, succeeded in subduing this one small province. Maximilian's fearlessness in battle, his considerable knowledge of artillery, the prestige of his presence suddenly appearing, after so many years, on the borders of the rebellious duchy, overthrew the valiant defences of Egmond; Arnhem flamed; the Duke of Guelders, driven from one fortified town to another, defeated in the field, and abandoned by his French allies who were still negotiating with Maximilian for a matrimonial alliance, was forced to capitulate to the Austrian. Egmond accepted his final defeat as serenely as he had accepted the vicissitudes of the long struggle. For nearly twenty years he had held out against the whole force of the Empire, administering, in the midst of the Imperial chaos which Maximilian made his dominions, a small well-ordered, prosperous and defensive State. Though now he had been defeated he did not despair. He counted upon, as his surest ally, the instability and extravagance of Maximilian's character. He remarked bitterly and ironically to Maarten van Rossem, "This Maximilian will not remain long in Guelders, and as soon as his back is turned we shall get back all we have lost."

Maximilian demanded of Karel van Egmond what he had demanded so many years ago—homage for the fief of Guelders; Egmond accorded this, as a woman might accord a toy to a fretful child, or a man a favour to an hysterical woman. Maximilian could not see the contempt with which Egmond slightingly agreed to the terms he offered. Maarten van Rossem, monstrous, gross and surly, was for resisting to the end and perishing in the flames of the city they had so long defended, rather than submit to Maximilian, the loathed Hapsburg, the insolent Austrian.

Egmond was more subtle. He laughed at his Maarshalk's hot and vehement defiance.

"Be assured," he remarked drily, "that we shall regain Guelders within a short while," and he agreed to the ceremony whereby he was to swear fealty to Maximilian as his vassal.

"It is he who is the fool in this pageant, not I," he added.

Maximilian had encamped outside Roermonde. He was not prosperous; no good news came from home; he was still resolved on the Venetian war; the republic increased in insolence, the French were unsteady in their dealings, the heathen flourished on the Bosphorus. Despatches from Spain revealed the fact that the Archduke Philip was not popular in his new kingdom, his exactions and his insolence were provoking dangerous murmurs. In England there was a young and ardent King, with a huge fortune, the result of his father's lifetime savings, behind him; this king looked abroad for a chance to distinguish himself in knightly exploits, he had a marriageable sister. He was handsome, clever, popular; Maximilian considered him with distrust. There was discontent in the large, scattered camp outside Roermonde. The Imperialists had not been paid, and Maximilian had tried to prevent them plundering the conquered duchy. In this, of course, he had not succeeded, and his own generosity and chivalry were discounted by the excesses of his unpaid soldiers. For the first time in his life he found himself sickened by the rude disasters of war; the lewd antics of drunken men, the flare of burning farms, the cut down fruit trees, the trampled fields of grain, the devastated villages and decaying corpses by every roadside, filled Maximilian with weariness and distaste. Always he was trying to set up beauty and nobility, and always, instead, he seemed to create death and destruction. Conquest in the reality was not quite the fine affair it looked when depicted in the triumphal cars drawn under his direction by Hans Burgmair. Here were no crowns of laurels, or flags entwined with trophies, no angels and goddesses, palms and trumpets; only grim sights and harsh sounds and vile odours, ugly and nauseating. Still Maximilian held himself brilliantly, and tried to give an external gloss of glory to all this misery. He received the Duke of Guelders with what pomp he could muster. He strove to give an air of gallantry and chivalry to his discontented mutinous forces, and gathered round him the finest men under his command. He endeavoured to see the whole of them as a picture, as a sculpture, as it would appear when it had been arranged and decorated by some skilful artist, or related by some servile and courteous historian.

His own appearance was aristocratic and noble. He rode a horse fully armed for war, covered with plates of Innsbrück steel, finely engraved, being himself in complete armour, with a stiff metal skirt in pleats, of his own invention, spreading over the horse. He wore enormous steel gloves, skilfully jointed, and carried in his right hand a staff; with the left he gathered close the short, sumptuous reins of his steed. His face was bare; long, thick, grey hair flowed on to his shoulders, confined on his brow by a steel cap with round it a deep circlet of gold and enamel. He was accompanied by a body of knights, grasping truncheons, whose visors were pushed back from their fierce faces, and whose curling plumes rose from their helmets and swept down to the backs of the horses, who were armed also, their faces covered with steel masks, fashioned to the likeness of some grotesque monster, their foreheads adorned with panaches of plumes, their bodies covered with embroidered cloths. Behind the knights was a group of the Swiss Landsknechte—a corps of permanent soldiery originated by Maximilian—their eighteen-foot lances adorned at the end with a tassel. This cavalcade had ridden through a grove of trees which were in their finest and fullest summer foliage, behind this grove was an array of tents, poor and mean in themselves, but bravely adorned with flags of many brilliant quarterings.

Egmond rode up briskly with his attendants, they were all in civilian dress and armed only with swords. The Duke, who had for years worn only armour, or, on the rare occasions when he was at leisure to hunt, a plain leather suit and wolf's skin, had now been at some pains to search out an attire worthy of the occasion,' as he remarked ironically to Maarten van Rossem. He wore a dress of the new fashion, unwieldy and extravagant—a tight coat with a full skirt, enormous sleeves gathered in at the elbow, and hose slashed at the knees; his hair was still shaved close in the old Burgundian fashion; his face was lean and hard, and finely modelled as if it had been cast out of metal. His pale eyes were now set more deeply and shadowed underneath. He was of no more than middle age, but there was no trace of youth left in his grim countenance or spare figure: contrary to the custom of all the princes of his time, he had not married. A group of Guelders nobles followed him on unarmoured horses; they also wore extravagant fashionable costumes—enormous slashed sleeves, full skirts, braided and trimmed with rosettes, hose and boots gashed and fringed, large hats with circlets of feathers, ruffs high up under their faces, and long chains hanging over their square pleated shirts. They bore themselves with hostile indifference, and stared with curiosity at Maximilian.

The Emperor strove to get the utmost satisfaction from this humiliation of his rival. He reminded himself of the long rebellion of Karel van Egmond, and the fatigue and trouble and irritation which he had caused him, and he tried to persuade himself that this was a triumphal moment, and that he was exalted and rejoiced to see the rebellious Duke at last brought publicly to swear fealty to him as Emperor, to admit his wrong as a rebel, and to promise submission and obedience for the future. Maximilian, however, could not provoke this joyous mood in himself.

Karel van Egmond dismounted and advanced towards him, and not for a second could Maximilian cherish the illusion that he was master of this man. Egmond smiled, showing his small, even and perfect teeth, white in his lean weather-beaten face. He saluted the Emperor, and glanced, with an indifference that seemed to mask his amusement, at the grandiose train of horsemen whose spears and banners crossed and re-crossed like a barren forest in front of the grove of living trees.

Gracefully and compassionately Maximilian greeted him: "I am sorry," he said, "that we have had to come to this, that I have had to enforce by feat of arms what should have been given me in kindness and loyalty."

"You have laid waste Guelders," replied Egmond, "and I hope that you are satisfied with your work. If it is your wish that I do homage for this ruined province I will not refuse."

Maximilian looked at him from under troubled brows, he did not wish to be reminded that he had ruined Guelders, there was too much ruin already in his Empire, and had he not again and again reminded himself that his business was to build up, and not destroy?

"Your cities and forts will rise again," he replied hurriedly. "I leave that to you, Egmond; I know you are diligent and able. I am glad to have you as my subject and my captain."

"Captain in what wars?" asked Egmond; he dismounted and advanced towards Maximilian, holding his plumed flat hat in his hand—"Captain in what wars, Kaiser?" he repeated.

Maximilian spoke hurriedly of a crusade, of a league against the Turks...

"You spoke of that when last we met in Guelders, Kaiser," said Egmond, "perhaps you recall it, and how many years ago it was?"

Maximilian raised his head on which he felt the steel cap and heavy crown pressed grimly. Karel van Egmond's words had come like a mock and a rebuke.

He spoke sternly: "You are here to do homage to me, not to question my designs."

"As you please," replied the Duke of Guelders, and he exchanged a look with his stern followers that was displeasing enough to Maximilian, but one that it was beneath his dignity to notice. Egmond stiffly dropped on one knee on the summer grass beside Maximilian, and raising one hand swore fealty to him as his overlord. He did this as if he took part in a play in which he had no interest, his gestures were mechanical, his voice expressionless, only his light eyes remained mocking.

Maximilian was not satisfied with this humiliation of his rebellious subject, partly because it could never be a pleasure to him to humiliate anyone, and partly because he felt the whole act to be without meaning, and that this powerful man kneeling at his feet was no more his subject than he had ever been, and merely put him off lightly and contemptuously with hollow words. However, he performed his part gracefully, as it was his nature to perform gracefully any part that came his way. He raised Edmund from the ground, and spoke to him courteously and began to discuss with him schemes for rebuilding the Guelders towns, and for the raising of soldiers from Guelders to accompany him, Maximilian the Emperor, on his approaching crusade. He then invited Egmond to an entertainment in his camp.

The Duke of Guelders mounted his horse and rode beside Maximilian at the head of the mingled troops of Imperialists and men of Guelders. They rode beside the river Roer, for Maximilian's tent was pitched at some distance from the common camp.

"Kasteel Meurs was here, was it not?" asked Maximilian, "I thought I should have seen it; I have searched for it but have not found the place. That is curious, for my memory is seldom at fault."

"Kasteel Meurs has gone," replied Egmond, indifferently; "some years ago it was struck by lightning, and but a few ruins remain. The family is extinct and the property was mine," he added.

"I thought I should have seen the outline of it if it had been there," replied Maximilian, and he searched the horizon for a sight of the ruins of which Karel van Egmond had spoken.

"Have you a fancy, Kaiser, to see the remains of Kasteel Meurs?" asked Egmond.

And Maximilian, almost against his own volition, said he had this caprice, because of some memories of long ago.

The cavalcade then turned away from the direction in which the Emperor's camp was pitched and, following the river, came to the ruins of the castle where Maximilian had lodged that night, many years past. The moat remained and the portcullis, but the castle itself had been demolished, only a fragment of wall rose from a bare and enclosed space in which grew two young saplings, on the site of the long dining-room where Maximilian had sat and spoken of his wide designs and watched the light of ardour in the dark eyes of Gertrude.

"It should not have been destroyed," murmured Maximilian, reining in his horse. He glanced covertly at Egmond; he did not believe that it was lightning which had demolished Kasteel Meurs, but human agency. "The young man, Graaf Bernard, died, did he not?" he added.

"He was slain," replied Egmond, "in an engagement at Helmont, and is buried in Nimwegen; you can, if you wish, Kaiser, see his tomb. Graaf Vincent lies beside him in the choir in St. Stephen's Church."

Maximilian gazed at the ruins; every detail of them was clear in the summer sunlight, the tufts of weeds growing in between the bricks, the light airy foliage of the young saplings rising above the broken walls, the stagnant water of the moat, the portcullis with its rusty irons, and the common summer flowers growing in unregarded profusion on the bridge.

"And Gertrude"—asked Maximilian—"she is a nun at the Santa Chiara in Roermonde?" He had asked, since he had come to Guelders, several people about Gertrude van Bayer van Boppart, and had received no answer. The woman seemed forgotten, but he was sure that Egmond would know of her existence.

"She is dead," replied the Duke of Guelders, indifferently, "she died years ago; she was found floating in the river under the walls of Roermonde; her hands were tied behind her, she had been murdered, or possibly had destroyed herself. No one will ever know...she had on a little crown of weeds, bound in her hair."

Maximilian was startled. Dead! and so long ago. He recalled the night he had passed on the mountain in the Tyrol and the figure of Melancholia...

"Albrecht Dürer," he said, musingly, "drew her picture; it was like and yet not like."

Egmond was not interested in pictures, nor in any work of handicraft; he looked sternly and contemptuously at Maximilian: "Do you wish to gaze any longer at these ruins?" he asked. "They are useless and all those they housed are dead."

Maximilian did not hear the words; the scene before him recalled another scene—the echo of an echo, the shadow of a dream, the vague tremor of a lost voice in the lonely air, the faint vision of a relinquished delight fading across the ruined fields, robbed of their fruitage and their harvest, barren, desolate.

Across these meadows, then hazed with a sulphurous heat in which the stars seemed to flash very low, Maximilian had gazed that hot August night that he had lodged in Kasteel Meurs...he could recognize nothing but the river—wide, grey, rapid, flowing through the walled town of Roermonde.

A cold peace encompassed the ruins; it seemed impossible that they had ever been the scene of violent action or wild passion...Gertrude had left that castle to be drowned in the Roer, and drowned she had floated under the high grey walls of the city whose turrets had for so many years bounded her horizon.

The light receded from the August sky as a wide swift cloud covered the sun; the water took on a deeper hue of grey and the broken lines of the fallen masonry chilled into a more intense darkness; the still landscape was forlorn.

Egmond, closed in himself, gazed without flinching at the ruins of Roermonde; Maximilian was convinced that it was he who destroyed the castle; if this was so, he stared on the result of his action without either satisfaction or remorse.

It was Maximilian who winced when the pale eyes of the man who had just done homage to him glanced in his direction with irony and disdain. The horizons about them were infinitely far away and melancholy; they turned their horses and rode away along the bridle path that edged the willows by the river.


MAXIMILIAN returned from the war in Guelders to find his affairs were in a worse state of disorder than when he had left them. It had been his intention to join Bianca Sforza, at the castle of Amras, but much as he loved the Tyrol which had come to be the place which held most consolation and solace for him, he was not sorry that the affairs of Germany forced him to visit the towns of Nuremberg and Augsburg; for he did not wish for the company of Bianca Sforza. Always to him she was a foreigner, a plebeian and stupid woman, and her dowry had been so long ago spent that Maximilian had forgotten the reason for which he had married her; he had remained faithful to her, not out of love for her, but out of respect for his own ideals of fidelity and chastity, and because no other woman had disturbed his unfadeable dreams. The Italian was also disillusioned and disappointed. She had not found it a very splendid thing to be an Empress. At present she was consoling herself with a little Maximilian, the child of Ludovico Sforza—the dispossessed Duke of Milan—and Beatrice D'Este. She had complained of the loneliness of Amras, and demanded frequently, as she had demanded ever since her unfortunate marriage, a State and a Court in Vienna. This Maximilian could not give her; he had himself no State or Court. The Hofburg at Vienna was closed, inhabited only by the guardians who watched the great treasure of the Hapsburgs, which Maximilian had contrived to still leave intact.

At Augsburg he received a genial welcome that encouraged him; these gusts of popularity continually held up his spirit. He looked forward with less apprehension than usual to the meeting of the Diet that autumn and, again surrounded by his counsellors and his generals, his friends and advisers, he concerted his schemes on paper for the reduction of Italy and the crusade in the East; while, with ingenuous pride, he boasted of the ease and celerity with which he had reduced Guelders, and caused that stubborn rebel, Egmond, to do homage on the knee beside his horse. "Money, money, we only want money!" he cried, and he asked Willibald Perkheimer, who was now constantly with him, if he could not contrive a loan in Germany, without resorting again to the Fuggers.

Willibald Perkheimer knew the case to be desperate, and that Maximilian had not sufficient to pay his expenses in Augsburg. His debts had mounted into such a confusion and complication that there was no banker who would undertake to unravel them. His prodigality and extravagance were only equalled by his lack of any financial knowledge; he had his own affairs and those of the Empire entwined in a hopeless entanglement. Careful, prudent men of affairs like Willibald Perkheimer and the Bishop of Vienna only marvelled that Maximilian had been able all these years to hold together some semblance of power, merely on the revenues of his own hereditary dominions and what he had been able to squeeze from the reluctant Reichstadt. Both reminded him now that it would be useless to think of asking for more money from the Diet which was meeting at the autumn, if he did not promise them some of the reforms for which they had so continuously asked—nay, more than promise, if he did not put into practice some of these same reforms, now promised such a weary while ago.

"When I am firmly established," replied Maximilian, serenely, "when I have my alliances with France and Spain secure, when I have beaten Venice, and am ready to lead my crusade against the Turks, then I will look into all these reforms. It is impossible," he cried, with vivacity, "for a man to do so many things at once. What I set my hand to do directly, I can do. Consider how I have subdued Guelders; but I am so hampered and hemmed in..."

He stopped abruptly, and glanced from one to the other of the serious, lined elderly faces looking at him—the priest and the patrician, his friends and his advisers, both of them; affectionate and loyal, he knew, and yet in his heart Maximilian often cried, "I would rather have the company of a cage of singing birds, and as for the Bishop, I like him best when he is at the organ and makes music."

Maximilian mused, sitting thoughtfully at his table, between these two anxious men. He would have liked to ask Willibald Perkheimer for news of Albrecht Dürer, but he did not care to do so, for he knew that the painter was engaged on no work for him, because he could send him no money. The Triumph, too, of Burgmair, was still incomplete; the foundries in Innsbrück were still closed; no one anywhere was working for the glory and triumph of Maximilian of Hapsburg. He said aloud: "I must pledge something more with the Fuggers, since I have no longer any credit in Germany."

He mentioned this devastating fact simply, as if it were a matter of course.

"You have, Kaiser," said the Bishop of Vienna, sadly, "pledged, pawned and mortgaged all that there is to pledge, pawn and mortgage. I know of nothing else, except those treasures in Vienna which you will not touch."

"No, those I will not touch," said Maximilian, "my son shall never say that I depleted his hereditary treasure for my own necessity."

Willibald Perkheimer thought: "You hoard those treasures for a spendthrift; the Archduke Philip will soon dissipate what you have so lovingly guarded for him." The heavy, weary man turned his head aside for he loved Maximilian.

The Emperor put his hand to his forehead and rested his elbow on the table: "Hemmed in and hampered, always—lack of money, lack of men, lack of everything." His tired lids drooped over his sunken eyes; he turned over in his active and fertile brain some expedient to extricate himself from all these massed difficulties; he tried to hearten himself by the remembrance of the late humiliation of the Duke of Guelders, but, as he recalled the face and figure of Egmond, he saw there, not a vassal, but a haughty enemy. He saw, too, what he did not want to see—the ruins of Kasteel van Meurs, the saplings growing on the place where he had seen Gertrude seated at the dining table, listening to his extravagant and fantastic dreams put into words; saw, too, a strange gift that Egmond had sent him—a tapestry of the Seven Valiant Virtues—unfinished. The ruined castle became one with the precipice on the Martinswand, and his remembrance of Gertrude became one with the figure of Melancholia, as he had seen her in the engraving by Albrecht Dürer, and as he had seen her sitting beside him with the broken white wings of the swan across her knees, when he had turned his face to Death. His figure became bowed with his brooding, and the two men who were with him moved away to another part of the room, and left him to his thoughts. There was nothing that they could say, nothing perhaps that anyone could say.

Conrad van der Rosen, the gallant fool, entered, news from Guelders—news from Spain! The Emperor brightened, this was like an omen of good fortune to hearten his despondency. He smiled at the fool, whom he liked to bring him his news. Guelders his last conquest; Spain, where his son flourished, carrying the power of the Hapsburg to those distant countries, where no other Hapsburg had ever hoped to bear sway! A fine portent—news from Guelders and Spain! Maximilian himself broke the wide seals of the heavy despatches...first, he read that from was from Albert of Saxony, still his loyal lieutenant under Margaret of Austria in the Netherlands. What news? The news that any other man but Maximilian might have expected—Egmond had immediately disregarded his oath of fealty, and thrown off all duty to the Emperor, he was recapturing town after town, village after village, fort after fort, which Maximilian had taken, and left feebly garrisoned. The men of Guelders were behind Egmond and were serving him without pay but with love and enthusiasm...He was building up again, out of the destruction the Imperialists had wrought, the Guelders he had always loved and defended. Albert of Saxony's letter ended with a bitter regret that Maximilian, when he had this false dangerous prince in his power, had not either slain or imprisoned him—"for in no other way," added the stadtholder, "will your Majesty end this war."

Maximilian passed the letter to the Bishop of Vienna; he had no comment to make; his rage was deep and futile.

Herr George Slakony was not surprised at this bitter, abrupt news; he had always believed that Egmond had, when he had sworn his oath of fealty to Maximilian, only mocked him. He knew that a man like Egmond was not to be bound by any words, nor likely to be enslaved to any power; only death would still the steady resolution, the cool purpose, the stubborn design of Egmond.

The Emperor shrugged his shoulders, roused himself; and made an effort to throw off the effects of this blow from fortune, and opened the Spanish despatch with reluctant fingers; his courage had sunk, he feared further ill news...he gave the letter to Willibald Perkheimer, and bade him read it. Perkheimer doubtfully glanced at the epistle, and, in his turn handed it with a dark look of sorrow to the Bishop of Vienna, and moved away, his face twitching in despair. The Bishop read the letter and placed it on the table in silence, from Perkheimer's smitten glance he had feared disaster—but he had found a more dreadful disaster than he had feared.

"Again, an evil communication?" said Maximilian with a wistful smile. "Does the King of Castile write of trouble and disappointment?"

"The King of Castile," replied the Bishop of Vienna in a low voice, "does not write at all, Kaiser, this is not from him, but from his father-in-law—King Ferdinand."

"What, the fox—the crafty, cunning fox?" exclaimed Maximilian, uneasily, rising and walking up and down. "He never loved Philip; there is trouble, I can see, why did I allow Philip to go to Spain? He has displeased the old, sly, cold man—Philip is a boy, and thoughtless."

"Kaiser," whispered George Slakony, on a sigh of tenderness, "he will displease no one any more. Kaiser, how will you bear this news that I must give you?"

At the grave and broken note in his voice, Maximilian glanced at him sharply, then turned resolutely to the table, took up the letter, and read it steadily.

The Archduke, King of the Romans, King of Castile, was dead. Suddenly, in the midst of his lewd pleasures, his gay debaucheries, his noisy unpopularity, he was dead, of a quick fever, dead His lunatic wife refused to part from his body; Ferdinand, her father, wrote coldly that there was no question that she had lost her reason. The heir to all the honours of the Emperor was Charles of Luxemburg...a young child.

"Leave me," whispered Maximilian, wrinkling his brow. "Leave me."

The two men went sombrely from the room, even the priest attempted no consolation, for well he knew that there was none which could be offered. There would not be many to mourn for the Archduke Philip; he had been in no way worthy of his fortunes, but vicious, haughty, narrow of understanding, popular with neither princes nor people. He had been followed by none save those unworthy ones who hoped to reap a base and ignoble advantage from his extravagances and his vices. No one believed that he would ever be Emperor, or even, for long, King of Spain.

But Maximilian had loved him; he had seen in him not only his only son, the child of his own triumphant youth, and of Mary of Burgundy, his one true wife, but also the symbol of his own power—the heir of the Hapsburgs. In Maximilian's eyes he had been young, golden, brilliant; his faults the faults of a child.

The Emperor opened the window with an instinctive desire for cold, sharp, bitter air. Snow was falling on the roofs of Augsburg. How quickly the seasons went, now, one after the other; and in his youth they had seemed so long...he might have thought it yesterday when he had received the homage of Egmond, under the full leafage of summer trees, that was now six months ago, and the man was in rebellion again; he might have thought it yesterday when he had said goodbye to Philip on his journey to Spain, and now, a year ago, and Philip dead...Philip dead—dead in Spain, so long and so far away, surrounded by those hostile foreigners, with his lunatic wife and his crafty father-in-law.

"Eh!" sighed Maximilian, "eh!"

He leant his sick head against the mullion of the window, and he saw, as he had seen that night on the Martinswand, all his kingdoms, all his designs, his desires, his deeds, which a careless touch might overthrow; tears came to his tired eyes—"I am indeed the mock of all men. Philip dead." He sat down and began to write, not caring to whom he addressed the letter, but placing on the paper these quick lines.

"The Emperor wishes that a plaster cast be taken of his dead son, of his dear son's face..."

Maximilian dropped the pen and thought of his own tomb in Innsbrück. Phillip must join that bronze company now, his gilded figure must stand amongst the others, holding torches beside the sarcophagus, in which he, Maximilian, would repose. Philip never to be Emperor—but a king, nevertheless, a king. He had made Philip a king twice over at least—King of the Romans, King of Castile...Philip would stand there with those double honours on a shield beside him—crowned for all time. He, Maximilian, would design the harness that he would wear, every detail of it...In some sort he would confer immortality on his son. Futility—disillusion! This, like everything else that he touched, was incomplete. The life of Philip brought suddenly to an end, before he had accomplished anything. Here again his poverty nipped and galled the Emperor; he had no money to send to Spain to buy his son's body back; the Spaniards must bury him. He had no money even to make that statue of gilded bronze of which he had just dreamt. Every hope baffled. Philip dead, Mary's child. He recalled how he had carried the boy on his saddlebow in triumph when Mary had ridden out from Ghent to meet him after one of his victories. Those had been brave gay days—the fair woman, the beautiful child—a future like a cup overbrimming with joy and delight and triumph...Maximilian clasped his hands in an attitude of prayer, but he did not gaze upwards, but before him, out of the open window, across the roofs of Augsburg, which were being lightly covered by the first snows of winter. Philip had left children—he must think of that. He must guard their heritage. Ferdinand, Charles, and the women—those little girls, he must contrive marriages for them; they were in his charge now. His blood quickened a little at the consideration that there was still something for him to do, still scope for his ambition, still a chance to spread the power and honours of the glorious House of Hapsburg. Who knew, he might make Charles of Luxemburg, that little boy, Emperor; might make Ferdinand Emperor, one, at least, of them should be King of Spain. The girls must marry Kings. The King of Hungary, the King of Portugal—Maximilian already went over in his mind all the most suitable matches in Europe. Then there was the French alliance. He thought of Philip's visit to France, and how he had not wished to go, the tedium he had experienced on the journey; how he had been bored at Blois. But all his quick, able, fertile schemes fell from him, and he was no longer an Emperor, but a man despairing for the loss of his son. Philip would never come home. Maximilian rose and stood bowed and desperate in the window-place. For the first time in his life he was without hope, without a scheme—they had vanished from him like the petals torn by the winds of winter from some hardy bloom which must at last give way to the power of the tempest. Futility! He thought that Melancholia was with him again, seated on the low chair opposite, staring at him out of her deep eyes, her chin in her hand, her elbow on her knee, her tresses and her robes lying about her, and above her head that evil imp, Philip, dead.

The patient snow drifted in on Maximilian's grey hair and on his used suit, on his wrinkled and resigned face, now stained by tears.


THE loss of the Archduke Philip was such a severe blow to Maximilian that he felt like a desperate man with his back against the wall, surrounded by stalwart foes. Never in all his life had he been so threatened. His alarming and shifting policies convulsed and dismayed Europe; he concluded the League of Cambray with Louis the Twelfth, and sealed it by a pact against the Venetians; the Pope and the Spanish also joined; the Emperor's old rancour against the wealthy and insolent Republic found vent at length. He declared that the Republic had robbed in the space of a hundred years many territories from the Church and other Powers, and he had gone into the North of Italy with fifteen thousand Landsknechte in an expedition that held a flicker of triumph; he took Padua, the burghers kneeled before him and handed him the keys of the city; but in a few months he had to relinquish Padua, and retire discomfited. Soon after, he had again turned on the French, revived the Holy League between the Pope, Venice and Spain, reinstating with the aid of Swiss troops the son of the exiled Ludovico Sforza, Massiliano—his little namesake—as Duke of Milan, another triumph which meant nothing. Maximilian, in turn in league with everyone; in turn fighting with everyone, had no sincere ally in the whole of Europe. His poverty, his instability, and the extravagance of his character had deprived him of all confidence; he aged rapidly, and his superb health began to show the first signs of failure, doctors flocked round him, advised his leisure and restricted his diversions. He should not spend so many hours in the saddle, dance so long, nor climb so high into the passes of the Tyrol...but his vigour remained surprising, and he put so good and proud a face on all his misfortunes that those who were intimate with him could scarcely believe that he was greatly affected by all the swift and unequal turns of Fate which had lately assaulted him. The destinies of his grandchildren were now his main concern. Margaret, his daughter, was their guardian, and Regent for the property and estates of Charles of Luxembourg, in the Netherlands. This Charles was certainly to be King of Spain, inheriting the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile from both his grandparents. He was also, if Maximilian could possibly contrive it, to be Emperor; and there was some mighty kingdom to be carved out for Ferdinand, his brother, the well as kings or princes to be found as husbands for the girls.

The League of Cambray had ended in futility. In the War on Venice, Louis the Twelfth had tried to use the Emperor as a catspaw; Aragon, France and the Pope had seized the lands they wanted out of the conquered territories of the Venetians; but Maximilian got nothing out of these spoils; he did not possess a force of arms to maintain his claim, and his banners remained the other side of the Alps. Germany would not give him an army, and he was at a loss for expedients to pay the only soldiers he had to dispose of, his Swiss and Burgundian mercenaries. The Venetian army was broken at Aquadello, but Maximilian reaped no advantage from this defeat of his enemies, though Verona, Padua, and the towns about the North of the Adriatic raised the Imperial colours, Maximilian had no share of the plunder. He was not able to garrison these towns, and their submission was as nominal as that of the Duke of Guelders had been. Maximilian in marshalling Europe to destroy Venice, had made one of the greatest mistakes of his career, which was so full of mistakes. The desire for revenge, the glory of achieving new conquests and new cities, had led him into a weak and foolish adventure. The Reichstadt would grant him no money with which to attack Venice. Only by giving fresh privileges could he obtain a vote of half the supply he demanded. He had raised all the funds possible by mortgaging to the great Augsburg bankers, the Fuggers, everything on which they would lend, and at last this resource, so long a fruitful one, had come to an end. At the siege of Padua he had damaged his personal reputation, all his glory had seemed set on the hazard of taking the great city, but early in October he abandoned the attempt, and returned to the Tyrol; the army, only held together by the Imperial presence, dissolved before the great gates of Padua. The Venetians, with the favour of the inhabitants, recovered, before winter, most of the fortresses and territories they had lost, so that the Venetian war from the point of view of Maximilian had been a grotesque failure, as was the cumbrous League of Cambray, which now began to fall to pieces, owing, as the wily and crafty and ambitious potentates of Europe sneered, to Maximilian's constant change of plans, to his aptness to drop a design and take up a new one. As the Venetian envoy remarked, in one of his acute despatches, Maximilian was "as lacking in his power of execution as he was abundant in power of invention." Yet, with all these growing defeats and increasing poverty, Maximilian's projects grew. He turned again to one, the most fantastic of all, that he had cherished years before, that of combining the Papacy with the Empire. When the ferocious and warlike Pope, Julius the Second, was supposed to be dying, Maximilian wrote letters saying that he was prepared to take vows of celibacy, lay down his Imperial Insignia and be crowned Pope. No one took any notice of such a scheme, but it further increased Maximilian's reputation for the fantastical, the extravagant, and the impossible policies which were already, too definitely, associated with his name. Then this new combination, which he called the Holy League, with England, Spain and the new Pope, Leo the Tenth, with the object of attacking France and dividing her territories, as the members of the League of Cambray had agreed to divide the territories of Venice, had at first a flicker of success. Maximilian had restored the young Duke, Maximilian Sforza, Massiliano, son of Ludovico, to the throne of Milan; the English, under their new King, Henry the Eighth, had invaded North France, and there Maximilian, though without troops, had hurried to join this new ally. He hoped to make of this wealthy and ambitious young man some kind of a catspaw, as Louis the Twelfth had recently made a catspaw of him. Henry had the money, the arms, and the whole equipment for war and conquest which Maximilian had always lacked. For some years past, Maximilian had been considering, with a keen and hopeful regard, this young heir to the throne of the Tudors, who had now come into his heritage; now with a bewildering change of plan he proposed an alliance with this Henry who was married to his brother's widow, the sister of Philip's widow. He promised to make him Henry, King of France, when Louis should have been defeated and deposed, and to appoint him Vicar and Successor to the Empire. Maximilian also offered to seal this alliance with the marriage of Henry's sister Mary to Maximilian's grandson, Charles; Henry, flattered but cautious, agreed, with of course the mental proviso that if it did not suit him he would not carry out any of the conditions on which the splendid prizes which Maximilian dangled before him depended. But, though Henry Tudor did not lack his full share of caution and cunning, he was still young and inexperienced in the statecraft of Europe, and he was considerably amused and flattered by the attentions of Maximilian, who was, in the eyes of the King of England, the Emperor of the West and the most considerable Prince in Europe. Henry, whose dynasty was not so magnificent nor his descent so ancient, was dazzled by the gorgeous pretensions of the House of Hapsburg. A man of learning and culture himself, one who had been trained for the priesthood and was well versed in all the questions of the day, Henry was impressed by the still deeper culture and learning of Maximilian, who, however, did not take so shrewd a view as did the Englishman of all the problems of the moment, and to whom the vital questions of the reform of the Church and the power of the Pope, to which Maximilian was indifferent, were keenly interesting.

Then there was the question of the Pope to consider; the accession of Leo the Tenth had brought a new figure into politics. Amiable, elegant, with his understanding finely trained, his tastes splendid, his temper mild, Giovanni de Medici, youngest son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, now calling himself Leo the Tenth, thought of little else but how to relish life from every point and how to beautify the magnificent position which he had attained, and which, as he remarked with ingenuous gaiety, he intended to enjoy to the full. He was raising in Rome a church which was to outdo all other churches in the whole of the world; the ancient basilica of St. Peter was being by him so enlarged and adorned that it became a matter of wonder to all beholders. Funds were naturally lacking for this costly enterprise, and Leo the Tenth employed carelessly and without tact various means of raising money, among others an indiscriminate and prodigal sale of indulgences, the management of this sale being entrusted to the Augustines. Maximilian took no heed of any of these Papal affairs; since he could not wear the tiara himself, he turned his attention to other matters, only resolved that the Pope should receive as little money as possible from his own dominions. But Henry the Eighth noted these things, and expressed himself unfavourably about the Pope, though he was equally severe with all heretics or those who endeavoured to deny the Papal authority.

Maximilian, attended by but a small guard of Swiss, for he was now totally deprived of any army, joined Henry in his camp near Dijon, and proposed to him that the English forces should attack the French, which were now not far distant, outside the walls of Terouenne. Henry, avid for glory and gain, but still prudent, listened carefully. He was inclined to be extravagant with the immense fortune he had just inherited from his able, cautious father—a sum amounting to more than Maximilian had ever handled in all his life, but he had no intention of frittering it to other people's advantage. Still he was lured by Maximilian's solemn promise, not only to create him King of France, but to appoint him as his successor in the glories of the Empire. Maximilian discussed these affairs with Henry, using his usual engaging brilliancy and rapid eloquence. As he had no money and no army he made an agreement with Henry whereby the King of England should pay him a hundred ducats a day for his services, as adventurer or mercenary knight in the army of the English—a deep humiliation in the eyes of the Germans and princes of the Empire. This arrangement flattered the young Henry's pride, and he was more easily induced, being thus left with all nominal authority, to give over all real power to Maximilian, who, by reason of his greater age and experience, his dazzling titles, and his kingly presence, soon assumed full authority over the English troops. Maximilian felt a friendly affection for Henry, who was the type of man whom he would have like to have had for his own son, far more after his own heart than the Archduke Philip had ever been, though Maximilian never admitted so much to himself; he believed that Henry Tudor would do notable actions, and, as the Englishman was impressed by Maximilian's birth, the Emperor was impressed by Henry's wealth.

The King of England was an exceedingly handsome man, of great height and strength, a pure, fair complexion, and crisp reddish-gold hair, which he wore, in modern fashion, short. His eyes were a bright hot blue, his features inclined to be too small, but perfect in outline; he had a manner at once courteous and jovial, and showed himself intelligent in everything.

His appointments were of exceeding magnificence: a double Tudor rose combined York and Lancaster, the Leopards and the Lilies quartered by England were emblazoned in gold, in silver, in jewels, on all his armour, his trappings, his tents, his furniture and his banners; his soldiers were stout, healthy, and well-equipped. He was lavish with his money but careful with his accounts. Maximilian had no fault to find with him, except that in spite of all this glitter and magnificence, Henry of England had, in the Emperor's eyes, a plebeian air. The Emperor, haggard, grey-haired, shabby, with no army at his back, no money in his pockets, taking the English crowns for his services, impressed men as possessing a truer dignity than did Harry of England with all his ostentatious flourish of wealth and power, and Henry himself, almost unconsciously, found that he was referring to Maximilian in all matters of moment.

The Emperor advised Henry to at once attack the French, and to start his invasion of France by demolishing their armies, and raising his glory by a decisive combat. This advice was quite to the liking of the King of England, who was anxious to distinguish himself by knightly exploits. Maximilian was delighted to have such material to deal with as was offered by the magnificent army of Henry the Eighth, also by the fact that they were near Guinegate, which had been the scene of one of his most dashing victories years before, and he persuaded the King of England to beleaguer the fortified town of Terouenne. Henry had forty thousand infantry and five thousand cavalry, and a few Germans and Netherlanders had joined the Emperor. Henry, charmed by Maximilian's knowledge of artillery, his vivid personality and air of authority, had allowed him to organize all these forces. Maximilian forgot his grey hair, his used armour, and all the troubles he had left behind him in his dominions, in the pleasure and power he thus enjoyed. The French had sent a large army to relieve the important fortress and for the second time there was a clash of arms at Guinegate, Maximilian leading the cavalry, and Henry of England the infantry. Addressing the men before the engagement, Maximilian lifted his helmet and showed them the hair which had been once of so bright a gold, and now was ash-coloured, telling them that though his hair was grey, his courage was still strong, and reminding them of the great victory he had once gained on this very spot. His demeanour, at once graceful and dignified, bold and amiable, inspired the English; he was at his best in action and in this manner of action. The battle was brief, violent and decisive. Maximilian forgot himself in the exultation of the struggle, and he delighted to see the formidable charge of the great lances, to hear the clash of armoured rider and armoured horse, to smell the powder, and to see the hot August day obscured by acrid smoke. He won an unquestionable victory. The French army was demolished and Terouenne burnt to the ground. The potency of Maximilian's counsel and the bold dash of his charge had combined to secure this victory; the young King of England looked upon him with increased gratitude and respect; the English were gorged with plunder; so many French knights were slain that this was called the Battle of the Spurs.

Maximilian's campaign blazed with success. In September the Swiss mercenaries marched into Burgundy, and invested Dijon; next month the Imperialists totally defeated the Venetians depriving them of all their standards and artillery together with five thousand men and the majority of their officers.

Maximilian, though now subsidized by English gold, had no means of pushing these victories home, and Louis the Twelfth, though he had proved too weak for him in the field proved too astute for him in the cabinet. Stung by the losses of the last campaign, and by the threat of further campaigns that were likely to be equally disastrous, Louis used all his ingenuity to detach Maximilian from Henry, and renewed the offer which had so long remained undecided, that of a marriage with his daughter and Maximilian's grandson, Ferdinand; he now added the tempting bait of the long-disputed Duchy of Milan to the dowry. With his usual instability Maximilian caught at this lure, made a truce with France, with the marriage in prospect. He had counted, however, without the King of England, who, believing that he was deserted and betrayed by both his allies, broke the engagement of his sister Mary with Charles, Maximilian's other grandson and married her to Louis the Twelfth, thus making a close offensive and defensive league with the Valois, who immediately broke the engagement of his other daughter to Ferdinand and prepared once more to cross the Alps, and to fulfil his dream of conquering North Italy. Once again, Maximilian, despite brilliant victories, had been outwitted by the rapid and bewildering diplomacy of Europe. There was, however, some respite for the Emperor. Within a month of his third marriage, Louis the Twelfth died; but he left a bold and youthful successor—a man of the type of Henry of England, eager for valiant exploits, and obsessed, as all the Kings of France had been lately obsessed, with a dream of the conquest of Italy. Francis the First swept over the Alps, and, with the aid of the Venetians, defeated the Swiss and Maximilian's imperialists troops at Marignano, in the greatest battle that men had known for generations. Milan surrendered to the young King of France, and the young Duke Maximilian Sforza was sent a prisoner to France. Spain, England, and Maximilian formed another league against France, and the Emperor, harassed and weary, scarcely knowing with whom he was in league or against whom he was fighting, but bearing through all his caprices, his extravagances, and his displays of unstable hesitation, always before him the one idea of the glory of the House of Hapsburg, advanced over the Alps again at the head of a force of Spaniards, Germans and Swiss, paid for by English gold, and proceeded to assault Milan, where the French army had retired. In the spring of 1518 the Emperor came down with his motley forces before the great city that had been the desire, the shelter and the spoil of so many conflicting armies and so many quarrelling kings, again and again the sport and the prize of brutal and treacherous war. With him were the English commissioners, and the Swiss, German and Spanish captains, recruited from the Netherlands and Burgundy.

Maximilian's presence alone kept this force together—the Swiss were mutinous because their pay was delayed, the Spaniards also were often insubordinate, the English were well paid but not too pleased at serving under a foreigner; the Germans had little heart for the fight, their interests were elsewhere, and such of them as were patriotic and had the affairs of their own country at heart, felt that these wars were but a waste of the energies of the German people, which should be turned to internal reform, and internal administration. All these troops, however, exercised a certain grim patience, for they hoped, too, to share among themselves the plunder of Milan, and to sack the city which was one of the richest in the world, and whose splendours and magnificence had often sounded in the telling like fables in the ears of the ruder Northern men. Maximilian organized his camp on the plains of Lombardy, with intelligence and rapidity, winning the admiration of Pace, the English agent, and Cardinal Zion, who had brought the Swiss into action; but against the advice of these and other counsellors he had unaccountably refused to attack, and remained silent and unoccupied in his tent, surrounded by a discontented and murmuring army.


MAXIMILIAN sat in his tent outside Milan, listened to his counsellors, the English commissioners and his captains, all advising him to make an assault on Milan. Eric of Brunswick, the man who had passionately thrown on the ground, and stamped on, the Treaties which Maximilian had been forced to make with Venice at the end of that disastrous war, now cried: "If you do not take Milan, or at least attempt to do so, there is no one in the whole world, Kaiser, who will think you worth a groat!"

Maximilian did not reply. Those who stood about him were amazed at his irresolution. Changeable and capricious as he had always been in his mind and in his policies, he had never failed to seize the chance of sudden impetuous physical action, had always been bold, eager and hardy, and men could recall how, a short time ago, he had won the second battle of Guinegate, or the Battle of the Spurs, by his sheer personal dash and gallantry. And now, with a numerous army behind him, he sat silent, and seemed to take no heed of these counsels for a push and assault against Milan; that such a man should show such caution at such a moment was beyond the understanding of his advisers and his allies. They bent on him sullen and savage looks, and one of the Swiss captains remarked, "that His Majesty might, if he was afraid, put himself in security in Brescia; if he would only leave them his Horse the Swiss would clear the French out of Italy."

Maximilian roused himself at this and, looking at the speaker, said: "If you take the town you will sack it, there will not be one stone left standing on another, and I wish to conquer Italy by kindness and generosity, not by terror and fear."

At this the captains and the counsellors glanced at each other with contempt for the man who had spoken. They knew that Maximilian had not hesitated to lay waste Flanders to enforce the submission of Ghent—fire and sword had gone all over the Low Countries, and burghers and peasants had been executed for the least suggestion of rebellion; also that not long before he had threatened to compel Florence to abandon the alliance of France by devastating all the villages, houses, gardens, and vineyards outside the city. Maximilian noted this contempt on the part of his companions, but did not seemed moved by it; he dismissed them all telling them he would give them his final decision in the morning.

The spring evening had come to a close, and lamps were lit in the tent. Pace, the English agent, lingered after the others had left, and ventured to argue with the Emperor that if he on this occasion preferred caution to action, his friends would be greatly dispirited, the French would take his prudence as shame.

"If," argued the Englishman, gently and reluctantly, "your Majesty does not soon make an attempt on the town, I fear that your reputation will be greatly damaged."

Maximilian replied to the Englishman as he had replied to the others: "In the morning I will give you my answer."

When he was alone, Maximilian sat down on a camp chair, sighed, and put his face in his hands; his long thick grey hair fell over his fingers. He had no wish to fight—all his one-time energy and vigour had left him. The French were numerous and strongly entrenched and fortified in the great town of Milan, and he did not trust the Swiss...Sixteen years ago, and not far from this very spot, they had sold Ludovico Sforza to France, they might even now be so planning to sell him, and he, the Hapsburg, might find himself the prisoner of this young adventuring King of France, Francis, in the dungeons of Loches. On that day a letter had been put before him secretly which had been intercepted as it was being sent from the French camp to the Swiss. It contained the outlines of a scheme of betrayal. The Swiss captains had indignantly repudiated it, saying that it was a trap on the part of the French, and had been allowed intentionally to fall into the Emperor's hands.

Maximilian took this letter out and re-read it now, with doubt and fear. Terrible, above all things to fall into the hands of the French...Maximilian felt himself baffled and confused, he hardly knew who he was fighting with or who he was fighting against, and what he was fighting for...he tried to keep before himself, clear and distinct, as a guiding flame in a gloomy night the ideal of the glory of the House of Hapsburg, and the future of his grandson; but he found in himself neither capacity nor courage. Lifting the flap of his tent he looked out into the still starless spring night, saw his gathered tents, heard the noises of the camp, and watched the formidable party of Landsknechte in their monstrous uniforms of stripes and parti-colours, their flowing feathers and ribbons, their huge lances with deep vamplates, riding to and fro—the Swiss, the hereditary enemies of his House, who had already inflicted on him a severe defeat. Maximilian returned to his tent; his dinted and worn armour was piled in a corner, under it was an uncommon object, which had lately been in his company during all his travels and his marches—a large coffin to his own measurements, in which he intended his body should one day repose. Moving aside the pieces of mail he stared into the depths of the coffin, which was lined with purple cloth. There lay the plaster death mask of his son, the Archduke Philip—a sullen face, with the high mouth, and the blank eyes, that had been in life so golden, and so beautiful.

A statue of the Archduke Philip had been cast for the tomb in Innsbrück; Maximilian had lovingly supervised every detail of the armour and the adornment. The face was to be a likeness taken from this mask. Maximilian put back the armour over the coffin, and began walking up and down the room. "When one was so ready for death, did it matter how or when one died?" Yes, yes, but not a long imprisonment like that which had tormented Ludovico Sforza—years of it in an alien prison...Maximilian feverishly opened a portfolio of drawings; he turned them over by the light of the tent lamp. Here were the designs of the pawned statues for the tomb in Innsbrück, for armour, for cannon, for the uncompleted Triumph...Maximilian carried these sketches about with him that they might give him some consolation in his turmoils and troubles. As he turned them over, glancing at them with absent eyes, his attention was arrested by the plate which Albrecht Dürer had recently sent him—that of Melancholia, made from the old drawing which had been taken years ago in the castle at Amras; it was now considerably altered.

Maximilian had spoken to Dürer about the death of Gertrude, and told him, haltingly, how she had been found drowned in the river, her body washed against the walls of Roermonde, with a crown of weeds on her hair, and how he thought he had himself seen her again when he had to pass the night in extreme peril on the Martins-wand. Albrecht Dürer had altered his drawing of Melancholia, which he had brought out after the death of his mother, and when it was finished and engraved, he had sent a proof to Maximilian. The female figure had become heavy and monstrous, and was no longer like Gertrude; the hand had been moved, and now pressed the cheek instead of cupping the chin. As Maximilian had mentioned the wings of the swan, Dürer had fastened these at the back of the figure; they hung cumbrously behind her, no one could judge that they were useless and broken. In her other hand she held a compass and, remembering the weeds of the river at Roermonde which Maximilian had said had been found entangled in Gertrude's tresses, Dürer had placed a coronal of small plants in an exact band round the tresses of Melancholia. The bat which had hung for an instant above the head of Gertrude in the castle at Amras was now changed into a small monster and had flown further into the background, where it still held a label on which was written "Melancholia." Behind the figure was an hourglass, with the sands nearly run out. The face was dark and changed and in this shade the light of the eyes appeared pale and menacing—like the eyes, Maximilian thought, of Egmond.

He put the print down. Gertrude was dead, and when she had been alive she had meant nothing to him save in so far as she had arrested his attention by that likeness to Mary of Burgundy—a likeness which had disappeared from the face of Melancholia. Other people nearer to him had died since Gertrude had been drowned in the river outside Roermonde—Philip, his son, whom he had loved; Bianca Sforza, his wife, whom he had never loved; many friends and companions, and many enemies, such as the two kings of France and the two Popes. Still there persisted this little quiet grey memory of Gertrude, the woman seated at that table in the shabby little castle outside Roermonde which was now in ruins, seated at the table in the castle of Amras, with her face in her hands, listening to him, as he spoke of all the glories of the future, none of which had been realized. Maximilian, with an uneasy look, put away the print and tied up the portfolio. Why had there been so much for him to do, and so little time for him to do it? He was an ageing, almost an old, man. His eighteen-foot lance tired his arm; the last time that he had endeavoured to climb the Tyrol he had to stop not so far up from the valley, exhausted and breathless. Exhausted and breathless, he also thought, before other heights than those of the Tyrol. He tried to recapture his dreams of the Martinswand, the exultation of the ascent of Ulm Cathedral, when he had seen his dominions lying beneath him, and felt himself master of them all.

He turned over his letters which had been left by his secretaries, for he had been in no mood to read them; all letters asking for money. Margaret, his Regent in the Netherlands; Albert of Saxony, the commander of his troops on the borders of Guelders—all asking for money. All his counsellors and administrators in all his realms demanded money, and he had none. He could not even get a loan of a thousand gulden from the Fuggers for his personal expenses. Every work to which he had set his hand had been for years at a standstill through this lack of money. He was now, for his daily expenses of horse and food, dependent on the gold of the English king. There was still the treasure of the Hapsburgs in Vienna, but that he would not touch. He lay down on the camp bed, and endeavoured to sleep, putting off his decision till the morning light. Then perhaps his affairs would not look so dark and confused, nor the tent be so crowded with phantoms. He slept at once, and uneasily. He dreamt at once, and dreadfully. He saw the other figure of Albrecht Dürer's creation, the Great Fortune or Nemesis, a gross female figure, ill-favoured and malicious, striding over the clouds, while beneath her lay a castellated landscape, that in a moment would be crushed out of existence by the indifferent tread of her monstrous feet.

Maximilian tossed, groaned and threw off the dream, and endeavoured, in sheer terror of the morning and the moment of decision that it must bring, to sleep again, forcing himself into an oblivion that was more merciful than material facts. Yet this same sleep was not an oblivion after all, but full of evil dreams. Melancholia crouched by the side of the camp-bed as she had crouched by his side on the narrow ledge on the Martinswand; she stared at him with those pale eyes in that dark face, with those water-weeds growing from her long tresses, and those broken swan's wings hanging uselessly from her heavy shoulders. Through the transparent folds of her gown he could see the coffin holding the death-mask of his son, the rusty shabby armour, all his poor battered appointments; he could see, too, an image of himself—the haggard, worn, grey-haired man broken with fatigue, with anxiety, with disappointment, penniless and despised. More than this Melancholia showed him—her sombre face deepened into an awful smile, and behind her bent figure Maximilian beheld the lamplit gloom of the tent filled with charging figures. Two battles were taking place and he knew the names of them—Sampach and Mongarten—both battles in which the Swiss, the foes of his House, had defeated and slain his ancestors. In the second conflict he saw the beautiful countenance of Leopold, Duke of Austria, being trampled into the bloody mud by the feet of the triumphing Swiss; half blotted by stormy clouds stained a menacing red colour by the setting sun these visions of battle raced across the tent. Maximilian heard the groans and screams of man and horse, and heard the deep triumphal shout of the Swiss as they charged again and again the broken forces of Austria...and in front of this terrible pageantry was the figure of Melancholia, motionless and staring at him with that intense and terrible gaze. Maximilian sprang from his couch, crying out aloud; the vision had gone, and the light of dawn was filtering through the opening in the tent; the lamp was fluttering to extinction on the table where lay the letters and the portfolio of drawings. Maximilian, with a deep sigh of anguish, looked round, saw the shabby armour piled above the open coffin which just revealed the death-mask of the young King Philip. The visions had gone but the terror of them remained; without calling for the help of his servants or esquires, Maximilian hastily armed himself. He would abandon Milan, he would fly across the Adda.

An hour later he had left the army with such few faithful soldiers as would follow him, the execrations and curses of the rest of the army hurled after him cries of "Straw King, coward, weakling," breaking from the mutinous ranks, as the small cortege carrying the colours of the Hapsburgs left the encampment. The Imperial army fell to pieces, and the design of taking Milan was left to the Swiss and the English.

Maximilian rode quickly, gave no backward look and offered no explanation. The soldiers reminded each other that he had done as much seven years before at Padua, and they made a coarse and bitter mock of him. Maximilian did not need their scorn to remind him that he had lost Italy and much beside Italy. His captains and counsellors averted their faces from him. Eric of Brunswick passionately besought him to return to the army. Maximilian rode away.

"I had no mind for that fight," was all that he would say, "it was not given for me to do, and," he added, "there will not be much more given for me to do," for he thought of his age, and regretted the coffin which he had left behind him in his hurried flight from the camp; it followed him some days afterwards with the rest of his baggage piled into a rude wagon. Maximilian, racked by doubt, weakened by mental torment, paused at the other side of the Adda. Seated on the coffin for lack of better accommodation, the humiliated and despised man took from his pocket some papers which had long since been his constant companions, and turned them over and considered them, taking no notice of those who surrounded him, and regarded him either with compassion or contempt, according to their nature, their affection and their loyalty. How can a prince be great, how make his subjects prosperous and happy, how build up great cities, great universities, and churches—how, when he has not a penny in his pocket, and on every side is intrigued against and betrayed? Maximilian read over the maxims which he had himself written years before. At the end of them were some questions which he put down from time to time, and which remained as yet without a satisfactory answer. He glanced at them now, in his need and his distraction.

Why does God prefer being believed in by mortals to being known by them?

How comes it that prophets of false religions work miracles?

Why is the Holy Scripture neither complete nor perfectly clear, lacking much which is demanded for a complete faith?

How is the doctrine of the righteousness of God reconcilable with the commission of so much evil often injurious to pious men?

Can a special providence over the fortunes of men, more especially over everything that happens, be proved by Scripture and reason?

Maximilian smiled now at his own questions, not so much that he had ever put them, but that he had ever hoped for a satisfactory reply. He dashed the papers down on the coffin, above the plaster cast of King Philip, and the portfolio that contained the engraving of Melancholia.

"Answer me all that, priests, pedants, answer me all that!"


"I WILL go to Tyrol," sighed Maximilian, "I will get consolation and health amongst the mountains."

Lately he had been sick, and his spirit, clouded with trouble, moved in a constant darkness. His nine years war with Venice had come to a close in disaster and defeat. His grandson Charles, now a grown lad, had made a treaty with France, that of Noyon, without his advice and against his will. All these brutal and useless wars had left him with a huge debt, and everything he owned was mortgaged; the Venetians or the French were in possession of all he had claimed in North Italy; isolated and helpless Maximilian had returned to the Tyrol. He had made another agreement between himself, his grandson, and France. This had given him a certain pleasure to work out on paper, especially the secret articles, which promised the erecting of two new Kingdoms for the Empire: Maximilian was to create the Kingdom of Lombardy for Francis, and the Kingdom of Italy was proposed for Ferdinand. Maximilian's younger grandson's realm must be cut out of Venice, Tuscany, and other middle-Italian states, but nothing had come of this; complete, however, was the final settlement of the agreement about the succession of the Hungarian and Bohemian crowns. With his great ability, of which he was so vain, of arranging banquets and masques, Maximilian had entertained the kings of Hungary and Bohemia, and the King of Poland, at Vienna, and, exerting all his skill and all his charm of personality, had won them over by a magnificent series of entertainments, which, although it had meant the pawning of some of the cherished Hapsburg treasures, had ended by securing an agreement very favourable to the House of Hapsburg. Louis, the Crown Prince of Hungary, was married to Maximilian's granddaughter, Mary; her sister Anna was married to the younger grandson, Ferdinand. All this was to the good, it promised the spread of the Hapsburg power in the future, but it did not mean much to Maximilian at the present moment, either in goods or lands or in any kind of prosperity; for the brides and bridegrooms were still children. And Maximilian knew he would not live to see if these strokes of policy came out in the end successfully or no; the pursuits and the troubles and the turmoils seemed to deepen. Two questions—the reform of the Empire and the reform of the Church of Rome—appeared to have reached a head. One Martin Luther, an Augustine monk and one-time professor of philosophy in Wittenberg, was engaged in a dispute with Rome which was much occupying the minds of men. His quarrel was particularly with the Dominican friars, who were carrying on, as a regular traffic, Leo the Tenth's commerce in the sale of indulgences, the scandal of which the philosopher of Wittenberg was protesting against with ferocious volubility. It was likely that he would be declared a heretic, and that there would be many to follow his heresy. One of the confounded Cardinals had said, "The beast hath deep eyes and much speculation in his mind."

Maximilian was appealed to, but Maximilian was not interested.

"Who is this Luther," he said, "to disturb anyone? All my life I have heard clamour and complaints, always a rising storm, a portent in the air."

A sick man, he pressed on towards Innsbrück. He thought again of his tomb, but he now cherished only a faint hope that it would ever be completed. The bronze statues that had been cast, including that of Mary of Burgundy, he had pawned. Burgmair's Triumph had been broken up and sold up separately to anyone who could purchase them; there was now no design to complete them as monuments of the Hapsburg glories. Maximilian could no longer pay the thirty secretaries who were writing his life and works: his deeds must go, for the greater part, unchronicled. Still, the Emperor had some faith and hope in that posterity for which he had laboured all his life. He left minute written instructions for the completion of all these works, and still pressed towards Innsbrück accompanied by a small train. He had a passionate longing to reach the Hofburg; on the tedious winter journey he went into particular details about the six bronze figures, which had been already, in spite of so many difficulties, and so much penury, cast; Ferdinand, Lady Mary of Burgundy, King Philip, Duke Ernst of Austria, Count Sigismund of the Tyrol, together with Theoderic and several others, were partly finished, though many of the fashions, the weapons, the decorations, and orders had not been completed. These, Maximilian, who knew all about these things, wished to provide himself. All this was much upon his mind, as was the completion of his books.

He hoped that he might have a few more years to live and some turn of fortune by which he could contrive a sum of money to redeem the statues out of pawn, re-open the foundries and again employ a number of secretaries to take down from his dictation accounts of his life and deeds. He was greatly pleased with the noble and graceful statue of King Arthur, with Rudolph of Hapsburg, still incomplete, and with the nineteen bronze statuettes, and the thirty-two busts made for the adornment of the tomb, but these which were finished were all pledged...he had to enjoy them in memory.

"When I get to Innsbrück," he mused, "everything will seem easier."

But when he arrived at the gates of Innsbrück, one of the most bitter humiliations of his life awaited him. He was refused admission by the government of the Tyrol, now bankrupt. His council had not been able to pay the inn bills for twenty-four thousand gulden, which he had contracted years before; the innkeepers therefore refused to receive the penniless court in a penniless town. The Council for the government of the Tyrol, faced by this public disgrace, resigned—all was shame and confusion. Maximilian could not go to Amras, that castle was impossible in the depths of winter; neither had he the strength to climb the mountain to Hall or Stams. Turning away in deep mortification and disgust from the gates of Innsbrück, the small imperial procession escorted Maximilian in a litter and by boat some hundred and fifty miles, but at Wels, in Austria, he was too ill to continue the journey, which he had only contrived to make by exercising considerable fortitude. He had been for months a sick man, and the public humiliation at Innsbrück had broken his remaining strength. Doctors came from Vienna, hurrying through the snowy roads. Maximilian knew as much of medicine as any doctor in his kingdom; he had often declared that he had twice saved his own life by disregarding medical advice. He greeted them with courtesy but indifference, and told them that he had no need for their services. But Doctor Mennel, the historian, who arrived at Wels from Vienna to greet the Emperor, Maximilian received with eagerness, for he was one of that huge band of men Maximilian had employed all his life in celebrating the glories of the Hapsburgs—glories which artists had drawn, cast in bronze, and painted, for which scholars had made researches, secretaries and writers recorded reminiscences, scholars gone into deep calculations, which proved that Maximilian was descended from Hector and Noah, that the Archduchy of Austria was the first kingdom privileged by Julius Caesar when he had all the world in subjection.

The winter was sharp, long, and sombre; snow fell continuously day and night.

In an upper room in a mean house in Wels, the best the town afforded, Maximilian, the Emperor, lay in bed, and drew up the directions for his will, for he thought that death was near, nay, he knew it, and smiled at those who offered him paltry consolation. He was nearly sixty years of age, the oldest reigning prince of his time; his coffin was with him; for five years he had carried it about, and now soon it would be used.

He directed that nine houses for the poor should be founded out of what fortune he left, and commanded to his executors the publication of his book of chronicles, the account of his reign, the record of his life, and the illustrated catalogue of his possessions. When he had dealt with this, he turned again to the plans of his tomb; these, on which he had worked for many years, were now complete, and he was able to show to Dr. Mennel his final design, a life-size figure of himself, kneeling on a bronze sarcophagus, adorned with twenty-four reliefs showing his great deeds, this to be surrounded by forty life-size figures of his heroic relatives, one hundred smaller statues showing the heroes and saints of the Hapsburgs. Maximilian could now never be buried at Innsbrück, the city which had closed its gates on him, and he made elaborate directions as to how these statues and the marbles in bas-relief were to be removed from the foundry to Wels, where he finally directed his body should be laid. Maximilian also occupied himself with the psalter which he had composed himself, and which was intended for the book of prayers for the Order of St. George, to which he had meant to invite all the princes and nobles of the world, so that under his leadership they might drive the Turks from Constantinople, to the glory of God and the House of Austria, in the person of the Emperor Maximilian.

These things occupied the mind of Maximilian, lying on his bed in the upper room of the small house in Wels, looking out upon the continuous snow. Indifferent to Leo and Luther, to the news from Rome, and the news from Wittenburg, caring nothing for portents and menaces, no longer interested in projects for reform, concerned only with the glory of the House of Hapsburg. Nothing had been completed, nothing had been accomplished; Egmond, the grave, sombre soldier, was still defiant in Guelders. The continuous snow made the outside world seem very far away.

Maximilian was enclosed with many dreams and phantoms in a small chamber. He was courteous and considerate to all about him; but took little heed of any.

One of his intimates had contrived to bring a little cage of singing birds, and this, hung up near the stove for warmth, gave the Emperor great pleasure.

He loved to hear the little creatures' songs as they leapt about behind the gilt wires of their cage.

A small organ, too, had been brought into his chamber, a Positiv, and one of his attendants was able to play it—old hymns, which the Emperor had known from childhood, and older songs, even one which he had composed himself, called "Innsbrück, must I leave you?"—a little air, full of haunting home-sickness, which, after a while, Maximilian could not endure to hear, so bade the musician play some other melody else. Many regrets troubled him, his mind was not at ease, nor his heart at rest.

"I wish I could have paid Dürer," he remarked, "I wish I had not needed to pawn those statues."

He turned again and again to his one worldly consolation, which was that his grandchildren would be amazed when they opened the chest in the vaults of the Hofburg at Vienna, and discovered the immensity of the treasure he had left behind. Whatever his straits and humiliations, he had been sacred to that trust, nay, he had added to the hoard. Among these treasures he recalled in particular two suits of armour, the silver armour he had worn when he had entered Bruges on the occasion of his first marriage, and a magnificent suit from Augsburg, which had cost one hundred thousand gulden, at a moment when everything he owned was covered with mortgages, and which he had had made on purpose to appear in full magnificence before the Reichstadt; he had worn this with a sheaf of peacock's feathers two feet high in his helmet.

He could not sleep; the doctors had no name for his disease, his magnificent body seemed at last broken; the life flowed out of it like the sap out of a felled tree. He lay without the power or will to move, looking sometimes at the cage of singing birds, sometimes out at the snow falling past the small window, and sometimes at that poor pile of books, drawings and designs, which was all that was left of the hopeful, glittering undertakings of his ardent life. Sometimes he fell into a deep lassitude which blotted out the realities of the small room. He thought himself again on the Martinswand, with the phantoms marching up from the fir woods, and the mountains unveiling their grim countenances, while the broken swan's wings of Melancholia were transformed into the mighty pinions of an angel. Or, further back into the years, he saw himself making his gallant and foolish expedition into Guelders, and meeting Egmond and Maarten van Rossem at the inn; he wondered now whether this had really happened or not; perhaps it was something he had read in a book; he remembered the woman, Gertrude, and how she had come to Amras, and sat for the statue of Mary of Burgundy, and how her face was the face of the Melancholia; she had been found drowned below the walls of Roermonde with weeds in her hair. All this was woven in his weakening mind into one vague pattern of futility and disaster. They brought him the last rites of the Church; he saw the cup offered to him as it had been offered to him by the humble priest when he had stood aloft on the Martinswand in peril of death, and he accepted it now as then, gladly; despite all doubts and questions and bewilderments, he believed.

With reverence and humility he accepted the symbol.

When the priests had gone his strength revived a little, and he asked Dr. Mennel, who continued by his side, if he had anything new or pleasant to read to him.

The historian knew that there was only one kind of reading that really pleased Maximilian—the stories of the exploits of his own house, and he took down from the little shelf in the corner one of the books that related these—>Lives of the Saints of the House of Hapsburg and Deeds of the Knights of that Proud Lineage.

As he read, Maximilian's weary eyes brightened once more under the heavy lids; but when Doctor Mennel came to the account of one of the Counts of Tyrol, who had wished to build a golden roof, Maximilian checked him, with a sharp note in his fallen voice—

"I had forgotten the golden roof, that will never be built now," he muttered, "at least, not by me."

"But your Majesty has re-gilded the tiles," said the historian, soothingly, "that looks just the same, and will impress posterity as greatly."

"But it was to have been gold," murmured Maximilian, "all gold."

The shape of Melancholia with her compasses and her hourglass, her dark face and light eyes, had taken the place of Dr. Mennel's robust and cheerful presence by the bedside. Maximilian turned on his side, and with complete courage and self-control stared into the face of this awful figure. Doctor Mennel softly closed his book, for he noticed, and with awe, that Maximilian was no longer listening. The silence was so intense that the dropping embers in the stove could be distinctly heard; the singing birds were asleep, ruffled in their plumage behind the gilded bars; the snow fell ceaselessly, large flakes drifted against the window, melted and disappeared, the sky was dark behind them.

The dying man sighed, and put his trembling hand to his grey hair, as if he expected to feel the hard outline of a diadem about his brow.

"So many storms and devils abroad," he murmured, "how may a man combat them all?" A shudder ran down the long length of limb beneath the plain coverlet. He turned on to his other side to escape the figure of Melancholia, but she was there, sitting on the left as she had been sitting on the right, immovable, with her unchanged countenance.

Maximilian closed his eyes, but that could not shut out the phantom. The historian gazed at the Emperor with Compassion and regret; "he only leaves behind broken toys," thought the patient servant. One of the singing birds stirred in his delicate cage, and essayed a little tremulous song...Maximilian opened his eyes, and the figure of Melancholia disappeared into the greyness of the shadowed room.

"Is that music of the organ or the birds?" asked the Emperor, slowly stirring on his pillow.

The historian replied that it was the birds, and his own voice faltered as he made this answer, for he knew that Maximilian's senses must be failing. The heavy-lidded eyes had already a blind passivity like those of the Archduke Philip's in the plaster mask.

Maximilian beckoned with a feeble finger, whether to human beings or to spirits Doctor Mennel did not know, but he bent down to hear what the Emperor might say. Maximilian did not see him, but addressed the tall shapes of his descendants.

Faintly smiling, he whispered into the dusk, whitened by the reflection of the snow without, "Unfinished, all unfinished; you do what you can. Amen."

"I have made an end of my shortcomings
and I have put away my faults."

—Book of the Dead. (25th Century B.C.)


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