Swiss Heroes - George Upton

The Entry of the Princes

Irmy's journey was not accomplished so easily as he had expected; he was frequently obliged to wait, as all the horses obtainable were needed for the use of those travellers who, as members of the Emperor's household or as envoys or functionaries of the Empire, could claim first consideration. Nor was this a small matter, for fully seven hundred deputies from the various cities assembled at Treves to greet the Emperor, all of noble birth, not to mention the curiosity-seekers.

It was late in the evening of the twenty-ninth of September when the Councillor at last entered Treves. The Emperor had already arrived that morning, and the city was so crowded with strangers that only by paying a large sum was Irmy able to secure even the poorest kind of a lodging. Charles the Bold was expected to appear the following morning, when the Emperor was to ride out to meet him, and the people were eagerly looking forward to the coming spectacle.

"It is there I shall be most likely to find the lad," thought Irmy. "I will rise early and go out to meet the procession; Vogeli will be with the Duke, and wherever he is, Walter will surely not be far away."

He was the first to awake in the house the next morning; quickly rising, he peered out through the round leaded window panes, as well as their dinginess would permit, at the gray sky above. "Everything is dirty here," he growled—" the bed and the furniture as well as the room; and these panes might be any color."

He flung open the sash in a rage and thrust his head out into the cool morning air. Nothing was stirring as yet in the street below, and he might still have enjoyed several hours of slumber without losing anything; but anxiety for his only child had disturbed his natural serenity of mind and made him restless.

"Now I can make my way through the town easily," he thought. He dressed himself and went carefully down the dark stairs of his lodging house, the garret of which had never before been honored by a guest of Irmy's wealth and standing. When he reached the sidewalk he looked up once more at the dark gray sky, then took his way through the deserted streets that reechoed to the sound of his footsteps. No one was in sight but a watchman pacing his rounds.

"It is an old city," said Irmy to himself, "and not so badly built, but it cannot compare with Basle."

At the gate of the town, a small fee procured him ready egress, and the guards showed him the way to the camp that had been pitched for the Duke and his followers. Slowly he wandered about among the tents, sure that here he must find his son, since Hagenbach and his officers had already taken possession of the quarters assigned to them as part of the Duke's retinue. As yet, however, all was still both without and within the tents, and the Councillor turned his steps toward a sutler's wine shop, on the wooden front of which was a large shield bearing in Italian the name and calling of its occupant. A servant with black hair and unmistakably Italian cast of countenance was brushing away the dried leaves from before the door and strewing the path with white sand. Addressing him in his own tongue, Irmy asked for a breakfast of meat, bread, and porridge, with a draught of good wine.

"I ought not to give you anything," replied the Italian, "since you are not of the Burgundian soldiery nor yet in the Duke's service, it is plain. But since none of the soldiers are stirring, belike you may enter."

This the Councillor gladly did, and to pass the time chatted with the friendly waiter, who had been much in Venice and Genoa in former days, and knew of many of the great mercantile houses with which he was connected. He asked him about two lads who must have arrived in camp with one of the Burgundian captains, but the Lombard could tell him nothing of them.

"We came hither with some Italian cuirassiers, levied for Duke Charles in Italy," he replied, "and know nothing of his other followers. But if you will station yourself by the roadside against yonder tree, no part of the procession can escape you."

By this time signs of life began to appear about the camp. Tents were thrown open here and there, and the soldiers could be seen busied with the various offices of their toilet. But none had any news to give of Vogeli and the two boys. One man remembered that the Captain had been sent to Basle, but further than that he knew nothing.

Soon a trumpeter emerged from one of the tents and sounded a call, whereat the whole camp instantly sprang to life. All was bustle and activity as each man bestirred himself to make ready for the day—a more difficult task than usual, for on this occasion everything must appear at its very best. The cuirassiers had already burnished their arms and mail to spotless brilliancy on the previous day, but there still remained more to be done than could well be accomplished in the short time left them. Swiftly they rubbed down the horses, standing in long rows tethered to a rope. The horses of the Italians were magnificent creatures, and each was the individual property of its rider. These cuirassiers were for the most part men of quality; each was entitled to a mounted esquire and one foot-soldier as his escort. None but the rich were permitted to join their ranks; and many nobles, survivors of the old knighthood, were to be found serving in this troop of mercenaries, whose pay was at least thrice that of a lieutenant in these days.

At length all was finished, and it was an imposing array that rode past the wine shop toward the high-road along which the train of the Emperor was already seen approaching. A band of drummers and musicians led the way, and next, preceded by waving banners and pennons, came Frederick himself, followed by a long and brilliant cavalcade, among which Irmy looked in vain for Vogeli. Hagenbach was there indeed; but even had the merchant forced himself to ask for the Captain he would have met with no reply from the haughty Governor, who, riding to-day in attendance on the Emperor, looked even more arrogant and pompous than usual. The Burgundian cuirassiers brought up the rear of the procession, during the passage of which Irmy maintained the position pointed out to him, beside the tree, which afforded him an excellent view.

By this time he was no longer the only spectator. Crowds had been pouring out from the gates of the city and assembling from all the surrounding villages, until the whole road on both sides was lined with sightseers. For hours they waited cheerfully while the two princes, who had met after half an hour's ride, were engaged in a friendly dispute over a question of honor. Frederick wished the Duke to ride at his side, while Charles insisted that he as the lesser potentate should modestly follow. At length the heavens, which had lowered for a full hour upon this ceremonious pretence, opened their flood gates and deluged Duke and Emperor, noble and henchman alike; for Nature at such times is no respecter of persons. Especially inopportune was it now, however, for all were in their most sumptuous array; and many looked upon it as an evil omen.

But sunshine followed close upon the rain, and fair weather smiled upon their entry into the city, their approach to which was greeted by a clashing peal of bells from every church tower, and heralded by the blare of trumpets and the rattle of drums long before anything could be seen of the procession. On it came at last,—first, the musicians, then a long train of archers brought by the Duke of Somerset from England, with whose royal house Charles the Bold was connected through his wife. These were followed by a group of heralds. And now, amid the deafening shouts and acclamations of the multitude, appeared the Emperor and the Duke, riding side by side.

Old Irmy's somewhat elevated position enabled him to look over the heads of the intervening spectators. That rider glittering with gold and jewels, his embroidered doublet thickly set with pearls, sitting his horse so stooped and carelessly—the man with the listless, indifferent expression and heavy, protruding under lip—could he be the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire? Alas! what could be hoped for from one whose utter lack of strength and firmness was so evident? It was far pleasanter to look on the youthful figure behind him, the Grand Duke Maximilian, whose handsome and intelligent face was framed with a mass of fair curling hair. Clad all in velvet and silver, he rode between the Archbishops of Mayence and Treves. Accompanying these Princes of the Church was a singular companion, designated by the onlookers as "the Turk." This was a son of the Sultan, who had been taken captive by the Christians and received the baptismal name of Calixtus. He lived at the Austrian court and was fond of appearing in costumes of startling gorgeousness. These personages did not claim attention long, however, for all eyes quickly turned to the centre of interest, the man who rode at the Emperor's side.

Charles the Bold could certainly never have been called handsome, whatever his flatterers might claim; but fire and energy gleamed in his dark eyes, proud self-confidence, inflexible will, and haughty defiance were stamped upon his countenance. The personality of the Prince denoted an overbearing imperiousness that seemed to challenge at once admiration and repugnance, affection and antipathy. Magnificent, indeed, was the Duke's attire. Over the breastplate of polished steel he wore a cloak so covered with pearls, diamonds, and rubies that the merchant from Basle estimated its value at two hundred thousand gold florins, while in his velvet cap sparkled a single jewel that was priceless. The Duke's charger also called forth universal admiration. It was a black horse of matchless strength and beauty, equipped in full mail and decked with gold and jewelled housings that swept the ground. Behind the princes followed a long train of German and Burgundian nobles, among them the privy councillors of the Emperor and of the Duke, and the envoys of Albert of Brandenburg, who was called Achilles.

"Why is he not there himself?" the people asked of one another; "he is deemed the bravest and wisest prince in all the Empire, and they say the Emperor can do nothing without him."

"How think you," asked another, "it would please the Elector to ride modestly behind the Burgundian among all those princes and counts?"

There seemed no end to the cavalcade. Following the Duke's bodyguard, all sumptuously arrayed, both horse and man, came the flower of the Burgundian army, every man clad in new and glittering armor, their banners floating above them in the blaze of the Autumn sunlight, the whole making a scene of splendor such as the people had never before beheld. Pennon after pennon passed old Irmy, and still the end was not yet in sight, although the two princes had already entered the market place in Treves. There a second discussion arose between them as to which should have the honor of escorting the other to his lodgings, the Emperor as governor of the city wishing to act the part of host, and the Duke protesting. At length they agreed to separate at the market place, and the Duke rode at full speed back to the gates, which the last of his followers were just entering.

Once more the Duke passed Irmy while on his way to the Abbey of Saint Maximin, of which his ancestors had been patrons, and where he had taken up his quarters rather than in the town. This time, however, he rode too swiftly, and the people were too full of all the sights they had seen for him to excite the attention that he had received half an hour before. His retinue, the English archers, the Italian cuirassiers, and the native Burgundians with their varied equipment, followed through the gates. Six culverins were also included in the train, mounted on the wooden carriages which the Duke was accustomed to carry with him in the field, and which had been set up here in the camp also.

Dejected and disheartened, the old man turned his steps toward the camp once more. He had seen nothing of Captain Vogeli nor of his son, and had small hope of finding them here now. Exhausted with the fatigues of the day, and faint with hunger, for he had eaten nothing since morning, his first thought was to seek rest and refreshment, and then continue his search. Slowly he walked on through the camp. Artisans of all sorts had set up their workshops near the tents, bakers and butchers were offering their wares for sale, and there were tap-houses by the dozen. The cuirassiers had removed the trappings from their horses and with handfuls of straw were busy rubbing the foam and sweat from their flanks. The Italian's hospitable wine shop stood open; but the tables were already well filled with soldiers, and the Councillor was about to pass on when the friendly servant beckoned to him and, leading him around to the rear, whispered: "This way; enter with me and seat yourself behind the counter; the soldiers will take you for one of us and make no objection to your presence."

The tired and hungry Irmy gladly followed this suggestion. A good and substantial meal revived his strength; but his unwonted exertions proved too much for him, and he offered the waiter a good sum if he would provide him with a place where he might rest for a short time.

"Come right in here, sir," replied the Italian, leading him to a small compartment; "you can lie down on my bed and no one will disturb you."