James Fenimore Cooper.

The Heidenmauer; or, The Benedictines (Volume vol. 3) online

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From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy,

Have 1 not seen what human things could do?"








" Masters, you ought to consider with yourselves."
Midsummer Night's Dream.

THE constant moral sentinel that God hath
set on watch in every man's breast, but which
acts so differently in different circumstances,
though, perhaps, in no condition of humiliation
and ignorance does it ever entirely desert its
trust, is sure to bring repentance with the sense
of error. It is vain to say that this innate sen
timent of truth, which we call conscience, is the



mere result of opinion and habit, since it is even
more apparent in the guileless and untrained
child than in the most practised man, and na
ture has so plainly set her mark upon all its
workings, as to prove its identity with the fear
ful being that forms the incorporeal part of our
existence. Like all else that is good, it may
be weakened and perverted, or be otherwise
abused; but, like every thing that comes from
the same high source, even amid these vicious
changes, it will retain traces of its divine author.
We look upon this unwearied monitor as a ves
tige of that high condition from which the race
fell ; and we hold it to be beyond dispute, that
precisely as men feel and admit its influence do
they approach, or recede from, their original
condition of innocence.

The destruction of the Abbey was succeeded
by most of those signs which attend all acts of
violence, in degrees that are proportioned to
previous habits. Even they who had been


most active in accomplishing this long-meditated
blow, began to tremble for its consequences;
and few in the Palatinate heard of the deed,
without holding their breaths like men wlio ex
pected Heaven would summarily avenge the
sacrilege. But in order that the thread of the
narrative should not be broken, we will return
to our incidents in their proper order, advan
cing the time but a few days after the night of
the conflagration.

The reader will have to imagine another view
of the Jaegerthal. There was the same smiling
sun, and the same beneficent season ; the forest
was as green and waving, the meadows were as
smooth and dark, the hill-sides as bright be
neath the play of light and shade, while the
murmuring brook was as limpid and swift, as
when first presented to his eye in these pages.
Not a hut or cottage was disturbed, either in
the hamlets or along the travelled paths, and
the hold of Hartenburg still frowned in feudal
B 2


power and baronial state, on the well-known
pass of the mountains, gloomy, massive and
dark. But the hill of Limburg presented one
of those sad and melancholy proofs of the effects
of violence which are still scattered over the
face of the old world, like so many admonitory
beacons of the scenes through which its people
have reached their present state of comparative
security ; beacons that should be as useful in
communicating lessons for the future, as they
are pregnant with pictures of the past.

The outer wall remained unharmed, with the
single exception of the principal gate, which
bore the indelible marks of the smith's sledges ;
but above this barrier the work of devastation
appeared in characters not to be mistaken.
Every roof, and there had been fifty, was fallen ;
every wall, some of which were already totter
ing, was blackened, and not a tower pointed to
wards the sky, that did not show marks of the
manner in which the flames had wreathed


around its slender shaft. Here and there, a
small thread of white smoke curled upwards,
losing itself in the currents of the air, resem
bling so many of the lessening symptoms of a
volcano after an explosion. A small crucifix,
which popular rumour said was wood, but
which, in fact, was of painted stone, still kept
its place on a gable of the ruined church ; and
many a peasant addressed to it his silent pray
ers, firm in the belief that God had protected
this image of his sacrifice, throughout the ter
rors of the memorable night.

In and about the castle there appeared the
usual evidences of a distrustful watch ; such
ward as is kept by him who feels that he has
justly become obnoxious to the hand of the
constituted powers. The gates were closed ;
the sentinels on the walls and bastions were
doubled; and, from time to time, signals were
made that communicated with look-outs, so
stationed on the hills that they could command


views of the roads which led towards the Rhine,
beyond the gorge of the valley.

The scene in Duerckheim was different,
though it also had some points of resemblance
with that in the hold. There was the same
apprehension of danger from without, the same
watchfulness on the walls and in the towers,
and the same unusual display of an armed
force. But in a town of this description, it was
not easy to imitate the gloomy reserve of baro
nial state. The citizens grouped together in
the streets, the women gossiped as in all sudden
and strong cases of excitement, and even the
children appeared to reflect the uneasiness and
indecision of their parents ; for as the hand of
authority relaxed in their seniors, most wan
dered idly and vaguely among the men, listen
ing to catch such loose expressions as might en
lighten their growing understandings. The
shops were opened, as usual, but many stopped
to discourse at the doors, while few entered ;


and most of the artisans wasted their time in
speculations on the consequence of the hardy
step of their superiors.

In the mean time there was a council held in
the town-hall. Here were assembled all who
laid claim to civic authority in Duerckheim,
with some who appeared under the claim of
their services in the late assault upon the monks.
A few of the anxious wives of the burghers,
also, were seen collected in the more public
rooms of the building ; for domestic influence
was neither covert nor trifling in that uxorious
and simple community. We shall resume the
narrative within the walls of this municipal

The Burgomaster and other chief men were
much moved, by the vague apprehension which
was the consequence of their hazardous experi
ment. Some were bold in the audacity of suc
cess ; some doubted merely because the destruc
tion of the brotherhood seemed too great a


good, to come unmixed with evil ; some held
their opinions in suspense, waiting for events to
give a value to their predictions, and others
shook their heads in a manner that would appear
to imply a secret knowledge of consequences
that were not apparent to vulgar faculties. The
latter class was more remarkable for its preten
sion to exclusive merit than for numbers, and
would have been equally prompt to exaggerate
the advantages of the recent measure, had the
public pulse just then been beating on the
access. But the public pulse was on the de
cline, and, as we have said, seeing and under
standing all the advantages that were to be
hoped from the defeat of Bonifacius, uncer
tainty quickened most imaginations in a man
ner to conjure disagreeable pictures of the
future. Even Heinrich, who wanted for neither
moral nor physical resolution, was disturbed at
his own victory, though if questioned he could
scarcely have told the reason why. This un-


easiness was heightened by the fact, that most
of his compeers regarded him as the man on
whom the weight of the Church's and of the
Elector's displeasure was most likely to fall,
though it is more than probable that his situa
tion would have been far less prominent had
there been no question of any results but such
as were agreeable.

This sort of distinction, so isolated in defeat,
and so social in prosperity, is a species of re
venge that society is very apt to take of all who
pretend to be wiser or better than itself, by
presuming to point the way in cases of doubt
ful expediency, or in presuming to lead the way
in those that require decision and nerve. He
alone is certain of an unenvied reputation who,
in preceding the main body in the great march
of events, leaves no very sensible space between
him and his fellows ; while he alone can hope
for impunity, who keeps so near his backers as
to be able to confound himself in the general
B 5


mass, when singularity brings comment and

Heinrich fully felt the awkwardness of his
position, and, just then, he would gladly have
compounded for less of the fame acquired by
the bold manner in which he had led the at
tack, in order to be rid of some of his anxiety.
Still, a species of warlike instinct led him to put
the best face on the affair, and when he ad
dressed his colleagues, it was with cheerfulness
in his tones, however little there might have
been of that desirable feeling in his heart.

" Well, brethren," he said, looking around at
the knot of well-known faces which surrounded
him in the gravity of civic authority, " this
weighty matter is, at length, happily, and, as
it has been effected without bloodshed, I may
say, peaceably over ! The Benedictines are
departed, and though the excellent Abbot hath
taken post in a neighbouring abbey, whence he
sends forth brave words to frighten those who


are unused to more dangerous missiles, it will
be long before we shall again hear Limburg
bell tolling in the Jaergerthal."

" For that I can swear," said the smith, who
was among the inferiors that crowded a corner
of the hall, occupying as little space as possi
ble, in deference to their head-men ; " my
own sledge hath helped to put the fine-tuned
instrument out of tune !"

" We are now met to hear further proposi
tions from the monks ; but as the hour set for
the arrival of their agent is not yet come, we
can lighten the moments by such discourse as
the circumstances may seem to require. Hast
any thing to urge that will ease the minds of
the timid, brother Wolfgang ? if so, of God's
name, give it utterance, that we may know the
worst at once."

The affinity between Wolfgang and Heinrich
existed altogether in their civic relations. The
former, although he coveted the anticipated


advantages that were to result from the down
fall of Limburg, had a constitutional deference
for all superior power, and was unable to enjoy
the triumph, without the bitterest misgivings
concerning the displeasure of the Elector and
Rome. He was aged, too, a fact that served
to heighten the tremor of tones, that, by a very
general convention, are termed raven.

" It is wise to call upon the experienced and
wise, for council, in pressing straits," returned
the old burgher ; "for years teach the folly of
every thing human, inclining us to look at the
world with moderation, and with less love for
ourselves and our interests."

" Brother Wolfgang, thou art not yet yield
ing so fast as thou wouldst have us believe,"
interrupted Heinrich, who particularly disliked
any discouraging views of the future. " Thou
art but a boy the difference between us
cannot be greater than some five-and-twenty


"Not that, not that; I count but three-
and-seventy, and thou mayest fairly number

" Thou heapest honours on me I little de
serve, friend Wolfgang. I shall not number
the days thou namest these many months, and
Time marches fast enough without any fillips
from us to help him. If I have yet seen more
than fifty-four, may my fathers arise from their
graves to claim the little they left behind, when
they took leave of earth !"

" Words will make neither young, but I
could wish we had found means to lay this un
quiet spirit of Limburg, without so much vio
lence and danger to ourselves. I am old, and
have little interest in life, except to see those
who will come after me happy and peaceful/
Thou knowest that I have neither chick nor
child, neighbour Heinrich, and the heart of
such a man can only beat for all. 'Twere,
indeed, folly in me to think of much else,


than of that great future which lies before

"Sapperment !" exclaimed the smith, who
was disposed to presume a little on the spirit
he had shown in the late attack. " Worship
ful Burgomaster, were Master Wolfgang to
deal out some of his stores a little freely to the
Benedictines, the whole affair might be quietly
settled, and Duerckheim would be a quiet
gainer/ I warrant you now, that Bonifacius
would be glad to receive a well-told sum in
gold, without question or farther account, in
lieu of his lodgings and fare in Limburg, of
which he was only a life- tenant at best. At
least such had been my humour, an' it had
pleased Heaven to have made me a Benedictine,
and Bonifacius a smith."

" And where is this gold to be had, bold-
speaking artisan ?" demanded the aged burgher,

" Where but from your untouched stores,


venerable Wolfgang," answered the single-
minded smith ; " thou art old, father, and, as
thou truly sayest, without offspring ; thy hold
of life is getting loose, and to deal with thee in,
frankness, I see no manner in which the evil
may be so readily turned from our town."

" Peace, senseless talker ! dost think thy
betters have no other employment for their
goods than to cast them to the winds, as thy
sparks scatter at the stroke of the sledge ! the
little I have hath been gained with sore toil
and much saving, and it may yet be needed to
keep want and beggary from my door. Nay,
nay, when we are young we think the dirt may
be turned to gold ; hot blood and lusty limbs
cause us to believe man equal to any labour,
ay, even to living without food; but when
experience and tribulation have taught us
truth, we come to know, neighbours, the value
of pence. I am of a long-living stock, Heaven
help us I and there is greater likelihood of my


yet becoming a charge to the town, than of my
ever doing a tithe of that this heedless smith
hath hinted."

" By St. Benedict, master ! I hinted nought :
what I said was in plain words, and it is this,
that one so venerable for his years, and so
respected for his means, might do great good
in this strait ! Such an act would sweeten the
few days thou yet hast."

" Get thee away, fellow ; thou talkest of
death an 1 it were a joke. Do not the young go
to their graves as well as the old, and are there
not instances of thousands that have outlived
their means ? No, I much fear that this mat
ter will not be appeased without mulcting the
artisans in heavy sums ; but happily, most
that belong to the crafts are young and able to
pay." feW

The reply of the smith, who was getting
warm in a dispute in which he believed all the
merit was on his own side, was cut short by a


movement among the populace, who crowded
the outer door of the town-house ; the burghers
seemed uneasy, as if they saw a crisis was near,
and then a beadle announced the arrival of a
messenger from the routed community of Lim-
burg. The civic authorities of Duerckheim, al
though assembled expressly with the expecta
tion of such a visit, were, like all men of but in
differently regulated minds, taken by surprise
at the moment. Nothing was digested, no plan
of operations had been proposed, and, although
all had dreamed for several nights of the very
subject before them, not one of them all had
thought upon it. Still, it was now necessary to
act, and after a little bustle, which had no other
object than an idle attempt to impose upon the
senses of the messenger, by a senseless parade,
orders were given that the latter should be ad

The agent of the monks was himself a Bene
dictine. He entered the hall, attended only by


the city-guard who had received him at the
gate, with his cowl so far drawn upon his head
as to conceal the features. There was a move
ment of curiosity, and the name of " Father
Siegfried" was whispered from one to another,
as each judged of the man by the exterior.

" Uncover, of Heaven's mercy ! Father,"
said Heinrich, "and seat thyself as freely in
the town-hall of Duerckheim, as if thou wert at
thine ease in the ancient cloisters of Limburg.
We are lions in the attack, but harmless as thy
marble cherubs, when there is not occasion for
your true manly qualities ; so take thy seat, of
God's name ! and be of good cheer ; none
will harm thee."

The voice of the Burgomaster lost its confi
dence as he concluded. The Benedictine was
calmly removing the cowl, and when the cloth
fell, it exposed the respected features of Father

" He that comes in the service of him I call


master, needeth not this assurance," answered
the monk ; " still I rejoice to find ye in this
mood, and not bent on maintaining an original
error, by further outrages. It is never too late
to see our faults, or yet to repair them.*"

" I cry thy mercy, Holy Prior ! we had
taken thee for a very different member of the
fraternity, and thou art not the less welcome
for being him thou art."

Heinrich arose respectfully, and his example
was followed by all present. The Prior seemed
pleased, and a glow, like that which a benevo
lent hope creates, passed athwart his counte
nance. With perfect simplicity he took the
offered stool, as the least obtrusive manner of
inducing the burghers to resume their seats.
The experiment produced the effect he in

" I should pretend to an indifference I do
not feel, were I to say, Heinrich Frey, that I
come among you, men to whom I have often


administered the rites of the church during
long and watchful years, without the wish to
find that my ministrations are remembered."

" If there dwelleth knave in Duerckheim
whose heart hath not been touched by thy good
works, Father, the hound is without bowels,
and unfit to live among honest people."

" Most true !" exclaimed the smith, in his
audible by-play. "The Burgomaster doth us
all justice ! I never struck spark from iron,
more freely than I will render respect to the
most reverend Prior. His prayers are like
tried steel, and next to those of him of the her
mitage are in most esteem among us. Fill me
an abbey with such men, and for one, I shall
be ready to trust all our salvation to their god
liness, without thought or concern for our
selves. Sapperment ! could such a community
be found, it would be a great relief to the lay
men, and more particularly to your artisan,
who might turn all his thoughts to his craft,


with the certainty of being watched by men

capable of setting the quickest witted Devil
at defiance !"

Arnolph listened to this digression with
patience, and he acknowledged the courtesy
and friendliness of his reception, by a slow in
clination of the head. He was too much ac
customed to hear these temporal applications
of the spiritual interests of which he was a
minister, to be surprised at any thing, and
he was too meek on the subject of his own
deserving, to despise any because they were
weaker than himself. The Christian religion
seems to be divided into two great classes of
worshippers ; those who think its consolations
are most palpable in their direct and worldly
form, and those whose aspirations are so spi
ritualized, and whose thoughts are so subli
mated as to consider it a metaphysical theory,
in which the principal object is to preserve the
logical harmony. For ourselves, we believe it


to be a dispensation from God, to those of his
creatures who are fearfully composed of the
material and immaterial, and that so far as it is
connected with our probation here, it is never
to be considered as entirely distinct from one or
the other of the great attributes of our nature.
It is evident that such were not the views
of the honest smith, and it is probable, had
the matter been thoroughly sifted, it would
have been found that, as respects Duerckheim,
he was altogether of the popular party.

" Thou comest, Father, like the dove to the
ark, the bearer of the olive branch," resumed
Heinrich ; " though for our northern regions
a leaf of the oak would more likely have been
the emblem, had Ararat been one of these well-
wooded hills of ours.""

" I come to offer the conditions of our bro
therhood, and to endeavour to persuade the
misguided in Duerckheim to accept them.
The holy abbots, with the right reverend


fathers in God, the Bishops of Spires and
Worms, now assembled in the latter city, have
permitted me to be the bearer of their terms,
an office I have sought, lest another should
forget to entreat and influence, in the desire to

" Gott bewahre ! thou hast done well, as is
thy wont, excellent Arnolph ! Threats are
about as useful with Duerckheim, as holy
water is in our Rhenish, both being well enough
in their places ; but he that cannot be driven
must be led, and liquor that is right good in
itself needeth no flavour from the Church. As
for this old misunderstanding between Limburg
of the one side, and the noble Count of Harten-
burg with our unworthy town of the other, the
matter may be said to be now of easy adjust
ment, since the late events have cleared it of its
greatest difficulty ; and so, from my heart, I
wish thee joy of thy mission, and felicitate the
town that it hath to treat with one so skilful


and so reasonable. Thou wilt find us in a
friendly humour, and ready to meet thee half
way, for I know not the man in Duerckheim
that desireth to push the controversy a foot
further, or who is not at heart content."

" No, that would be out of reason and cha
rity," said the smith, speaking again among
the auditors. " We ought to show these Bene
dictines an example of moderation, neighbours,
and therefore for one, though no better than a
poor artisan that gaineth his bread by blows on
the anvil, do I agree with the worshipful Hein-
rich, and say, of God's name ! let us be reason
able in our demands, and be content with as lit
tle as may be, in the settlement of our dispute."

The Prior listened patiently, as usual, but a
hectic glowed, for an instant, on his cheek. It
disappeared, and the benevolent blue eye was
again seen shining amid features that the clois
ter and the closet had long since robbed of all
other bloom. " Ye know, burghers of Duerck-


heim," he answered, " that in assailing the
altars of Limburg ye set a double power at
defiance ; that of the Church, as it is consti
tuted and protected on earth, and that of God.
My errand, at this moment, is to speak of the
first. Our Father of Worms is sorely angered,
and he has not failed to address himself directly
and promptly to our Father at Rome. In ad
dition to this reverend appeal, messengers have
been dispatched to both the Elector and Em
peror, as well as to divers of the Ecclesiastical
Princes who rule on the banks of the Rhine.
This is a fearful array of power to be met by
a mountain baron, and a city whose walls can
be measured by the leg in so short a time.
But chiefly would I lay stress on the evil that
may flow from the displeasure of the Head of
the Church."

" And should he read the late exploit with
severity, reverend Prior, what are we to look
to, as its fruits ?"



" To be denounced as excluded from the
fold, and to be left to the wickedness and folly
of your own hearts. In a word, excommuni

" Umph ! this might prove a short way of
recruiting the followers of Brother Luther !
thou knowest, holy Arnolph, that men look
more and more closely, every day, into these
disputed points."

" Would that they looked with more humi
lity and understanding ! If ye consider the
denunciations and benedictions of him to whom
has been confided the authority to bless and to
curse, as of little weight, no words of mine can
heighten their effect ; but all among ye who
are not prepared to go the length that your
Burgomaster hath just hinted, may deem it
prudent to pause, ere they incur the heavy risk
of living under such a weight of Heaven's dis

The burghers regarded each other in doubt,


few among them being yet prepared to push

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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Heidenmauer; or, The Benedictines (Volume vol. 3) → online text (page 1 of 11)