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thrown to little Ulrich. The door was cautiously opened and a soldier in the Lichtenteins uniform hesitatingly entered.
"Do not be alarmed," whispered he, as they shrunk from his approach. "I am Dorn, and have smuggled myself into the house in this disguise, that I might bring you consolation and see for myself how you were situated. Your mother and sister are in health and safety, and send kind greetings to you. Nor need you be anxious on your husband's account. I am certain that it is better for him to be in confinement than to be free and expose himself to the outrages to which every hour gives birth, and do things in moments of passion and excitement which would only make matters worse. Should his situation become more critical, I shall always be near him."
"In God's name, master Dorn, what is to be the end of all this?" anxiously asked Katharine.
"A city full of heretics," answered Dorn with a bitter smile. "The count of Dohna has arrived to-day. That is a sufficient reason for fearing the worst. From a renegade, who expects to win the principality of Breslau by his tyrannical fury, nothing is to be hoped.'
"Then God help us!" sobbed Katharine, wringing her hands.
"By means of our arms, if it cannot be otherwise," said Dorn, with energy. "I have carefully avoided encountering your worthy guest, because I well know that one of us must in that case remain dead upon the spot, and that would little help you in any event; but, if it becomes necessary, I will strike the devil to the earth and free you from him."
No," anxiously entreated Katharine ; no murder on our
"That is man's work, dear lady," said Dorn. can reason upon the subject. Every one must act according to his conscience. It will be well for me and him if the necessity does not occur.'
A gentle and afterwards a more decided knock was heard at the door. A voice asked, are you alone, madam Fessel ?" and directly the pale and bleeding face of parson Beer peered into the room.
"How pale you look! what has happened to you?" cried the frightened Katharine.
'My face bears the marks of the converting zeal of the imperial apostles," answered the parson with suppressed anger. "Most terribly do these Lichtensteins deal with the servants of the word. I have escaped with less injury than some of my
brethren. Me they only misused and smote with their side arms, because I preached the truth to them with the sharp fire of the spirit which had come upon me. I heed it not, and even consider myself honoured by the blows I received; one of which came near making me a martyr. My worthy associate, Bartsch, was much more shamefully treated, and my blood boils and foams when I think of it. That they hustled, abused and plundered him, might be passed over; but the hellish crew, adding to these outrages the most shameful scorn and mockery, compelled that man of God to dance before them; himself, his wife and children to dance, like the infatuated Israelites before the golden calf. For which the reprobates will one day be compelled to dance to the howlings of damned spirits in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels !"
"How goes it with the poor citizens?" asked Dorn, for the purpose of diverting the attention of the zealot from the occurrences which had so excited his anger.
"As might be supposed, very badly," answered the parson. "The counter reformation may be said to have dated its commencement from the arrival of the terrible Dohna. The soldiers are quartered only upon the Lutherans, to whom they say, "the moment you go and confess to the Dominican or Franciscan priests, and bring a certificate of the fact, that moment we will leave you and go elsewhere." When the poor people have been thus oppressed until they can bear it no longer, they become frantic and repair to the priests for the certificate of confession. The tormenting fiends then leave them and are distributed among such of their neighbours as yet hold to the Lutheran faith, and treat them in the same manner, until they, overcome by the weight of the burthen, also go, like Peter, and deny their lord and master in the churches of their adversaries. In this way we clergymen have each sixty men quartered upon us, and the aldermen the same number. Burgomaster Yunge has already over a hundred men to provide for, and if the apostacy extends much further, the last true believing christian of Schweidnitz will have the whole seven squadrons of converters collected in his own house."
Why do not the wretched people flee and abandon house and home, property and sustenance?" asked the excited Dorn. "So they would have done, by thousands," answered the parson; "but the converters will not let them go. The citizens are kept prisoners in their city, and every householder is confined to his house. The gates are closed, and each family is guarded by those who are quartered upon it. In vain have
some of our wealthiest citizens offered to give up all their property with the promise never to ask for it again; in vain have others sought death rather than a continuance of their sufferings. That is not the object of our oppressors, whose only answer to all our prayers is, you must embrace our faith.'"
"I have heard enough," cried Dorn, with bursting rage. “Say no more, or, unable to restrain my wrath, I shall strike some of the hounds to the earth and thereby bring my life to a sudden end. Farewell, Frau Katharine,-I return to my hiding place; but shall not be far off, and most joyfully will I lay down my life, if need be, in defence of you and yours."
He strode forth,—the parson stepped to the window, through which the bright moon was pouring its silver light, and, while watching Dorn's retreating steps, convulsively pressed his hands across his breast and gave frightful utterance to the following imprecations: "Thy hand shall find all thine enemies. Thy right hand shall find them that hate thee. Thou wilt melt them as in a furnace when thou lookest upon them; the Lord will consume them in his anger, fire shall devour them. Their seed wilt thou destroy from the face of the earth, and their names from among the children of men.'
God preserve us, reverend sir," interposed Katharine. "How can you offer up such a horrible prayer? Rather should you remember and imitate the forgiving spirit of our Saviour when he prayed: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
"Father forgive them, for they know not what they do," he tremblingly repeated after her, his anger rebuked by the divine sentiment, and submissively raised his eyes toward the exhaustless source of love and mercy.
The next morning Katharine was sitting in her closet, with her infant at her breast. Over its rosy cheeks rolled the mother's tears in quick succession. Her other children were pressing around her, like chickens who seek to hide themselves under the mother's sheltering wings, and all were tremblingly and silently listening to the cries of lamentation which occasionally arose from the neighbouring dwellings, evincing the activity of the tormentors.
The clattering of spurs was heard at the door, which was immediately thrown open, and the captain entered the room accompanied by a file of soldiers.
"I am now satisfied!" cried he. "I have subjected your cook to a sharp examination. You have more food prepared daily than is necessary for the family. Dishes are secretly con
veyed away full and returned empty. I am therefore satisfied that your relatives have not departed; but are yet in the city, perhaps in this very house, and my duty requires me to insist on their immediate appearance, that they may become participants in the reformation which we bring to this deluded city."
"I have nothing more to answer upon that subject," said Katharine with firmness.
"No?" asked the captain, grating his teeth. bring me a certificate of confession?"
.. Will you
"Not to all is given such greatness of mind as to enable them to change their faith according to the emergencies of the moment," said Katharine, with a bitterness which the unworthiness of the tempter forced from her naturally mild heart.
"Still scornful!" growled the captain. "The cup now runs over. To the cellar with this brood of young heretics!" thundered he to his soldiers, who immediately forced the children from the room, My children!" shrieked Katharine, making an effort to rush after them; but the captain dragged the unhappy mother back.
"The sands of mercy have run out," he exclaimed; “and the hour of vengeance approaches. It is now no longer question of the runaway girl. I have torn from my heart my sinful passion for the heretic, and have to do only with you and your heterodoxy. I give you an hour to consider whether you will return to the bosom of the mother church. If you then obstinately choose to adhere to your erroneous belief, I will probe your breast yet deeper, and by all the saints I swear to you that I will find your heart."
He left the room. "Preserve me from desperation, O God!" cried Katharine, pressing her infant to her bosom and sinking powerless to the earth.
When she awoke she was sitting in a chair with her slumbering babe in her arms, and before her stood, with weeping eyes, an old Franciscan monk belonging to the city convent, upon whom she stared with wondering and uncertain glances.
"Calm yourself, dear lady," said the old man in a friendly tone. "The cowl I wear may be doubly hateful to you in this heavy hour; but it covers a heart that feels kindly and truly for you. I have heard of your sufferings and have come to bring you succour. I have not forgotten the kind attention and care
I received in your house when, six years ago, I came here from Breslau as a mendicant lay brother, and fell fainting before your door. There were indeed hard-hearted Lutherans who chid you for your charity, and said you ought not to trouble yourself about the beggarly papist priest,-but you answered that it was your christian duty to succour a fellow christian. That was a noble sentiment, and has ever since remained engraved upon my heart, and I have daily offered up my prayers that God would bless you for it through time and eternity. It is true that by some of my brethren this prayer for a heretic has been considered sinful; but I have answered them, • Solum de salute Diaboli desperandum,' and that it may please the Lord in his mercy to bring this good woman one day, if even upon her death bed, into the embrace of the only saving church."
"May God reward your love, my good father," said Katharine with a feeble utterance. "A kindly human heart is always deserving of respect and esteem, even though it wander in error."
The infant was still slumbering upon Katharine's bosom. The door was again thrown open and the captain entered, this time without attendants, bolting the door after him.
"The hour is past," said he with a demoniac smile. "Have you a certificate?"
"No," answered she, and at that moment the child in her arms awoke and cried for its nourishment. "Poor thing," said she, bearing it towards an alcove.
"Where are you going?" asked the captain, seizing her arm as though he would crush it in his ferocious grasp. "To nurse my child," answered Katharine. "You cannot wish that I should do it in the presence of a stranger?" Some one knocked loudly at the door. Frau Katharine?" asked a voice which the captain recognized with terror.
"Back!" cried the sentinel without. the lady."
"Are you here,
"The captain is with
"The captain! and she answers not, and the child is screaming!" exclaimed the same voice, with wild alarm,— and powerful blows thundered upon the door.
"Back!" again cried the sentinel, and immediately afterwards, with the exclamation, "Jesus Maria!" a heavy fall was heard near the door, which now flew in fragments. Dorn rushed into the room over the body of the wounded sentinel, who lay