Swiss Heroes - George Upton

The Lost Found

As old Irmy slept, the wine shop gradually filled, while in the large tavern room the landlord was kept equally busy supplying the Burgundian officers with wine, cards, and dice. Duke Charles would permit no gambling among the common soldiers, and regarded it with great disfavor for the officers also; but to-day the players had no fear of discovery.

"You are on duty to-day, Vogeli?" asked one of the men from Freiburg.

"Yes; that is why I was not in the procession. It is a pity I was forced to miss it."

"Nay, waste no regrets on that," was the answer; "between dust and sweat we almost perished. What say you,—shall we have a game?"

"I do not care much for play," replied Vogeli, "but as you please."

They seated themselves accordingly and began to play, while the other tables were lively with all kinds of sport.

"Do you know," said one, "why the Duke sent that magnificent diamond ring to his new page? Faith, it was because he wished the Prince good luck in his pursuit of Fortune."

"All do not get such rich rewards," said another; "the Duke is often displeased by such things."

"Do you remember Lord de Comines?" asked a third; "he stood high in Charles's favor, was his private secretary, and presumed more than any favorite ever had dared, yet even he once excited the wrath of the Duke. After a banquet, one night, he bethought him 'twould be a rare jest to sleep off his drunkenness in his master's bed. But Charles soon awakened him.

"'Good friend,' he said, 'you have forgotten your boots,' and kneeling down he drew them off himself; then he flung them at the head of the now sobered secretary, and ordered him from the room to finish his slumbers in his own bed. Comines was known ever after as 'Puss in Boots,' and was received with scoffs and jeers whenever he ventured to show his face. Now he hobnobs in Paris with King Louis and weaves intrigues against us."

Vogeli had been winning steadily, and not wishing to take any more of his comrade's money, he arose and left the tavern to attend to his duties as officer of the day. Meanwhile it had been getting very noisy in the wine shop. The good Burgundy dispensed by Giacomo, the host, was greatly enjoyed by the cuirassiers, and they applied themselves to it industriously. Here, too, dice were thrown and cards dealt, but with more caution than the officers displayed. At length the door opened and six English archers entered, who quietly took their places at a table and called for wine.

"What business have they here?" asked the cuirassiers of one another. "Giacomo, you are our sutler and shall serve no others."

As the tavern-keeper paid no heed to this, however, but prepared to supply the wants of the new-comers, one of the esquires, a Lombard of graceful but almost boyish figure sprang up from a table. "Hark you, Giacomo!" he shouted, "if you dare to serve these English curs we will run you through and afterwards burn your shop over your head!"

This threat was approved by loud shouts and vigorous oaths from all sides.

"All honor to my countrymen!" said the Italian, deprecatingly, "but the English must also live; nor do they lack good gold."

"Nay—they have far too much, the dogs, the slanderers!

The archers meanwhile, scarcely comprehending the import of this discourse, sat waiting patiently for the liquor they had ordered.

"Ralph," said one of them to his neighbor, "can you make out what that little devil yonder is saying?"

"Never a word," was the reply. "I only know I have a precious thirst and am kept waiting too long for my wine."

With some difficulty the host succeeded in making his way to the Englishmen's table; but before he could set down the jugs two Lombards planted themselves before him and shouted threateningly: "The Devil take you, Giacomo! Give them nothing, or it shall be the worse for you, do you hear?

At this Giacomo lost his patience. "Nay, go to the Devil yourselves, dear countrymen," he retorted, "or whither you please! As for me, the Englishmen's gold is as good as your own. Give way!"

By this time the archers had grasped the situation, for they had been once praised by the Duke and held up as examples to the disorderly Lombards, who ever since had been their bitter enemies; and when the two cuirassiers proceeded to knock the jugs from Giacomo's hand, spilling the wine upon the floor, Ralph with another tall archer sprang up, seized them by the throat in their iron grasp, and hurled them against the door with such violence that it burst open, and the Lombards rolled out head over heels just at the feet of Captain Vogeli, who was making his rounds through the camp to see that all was in order. This unexpected encounter was far from pleasing to the cuirassiers, for any breach of peace was severely punished. They attempted to explain, but the uproar within was so great, Vogeli did not stop to listen. Hastily entering the tavern he found the Englishmen surrounded on all sides with threatening fists and gleaming knives. Instant silence followed his appearance, for the strictness of the Duke's discipline was well known among his followers, and the officer of the day was therefore a person much to be feared. Each man gave a different account of what had happened; but as all agreed that the two Lombards who had been flung out of the door and who by this time had picked themselves up out of the dust were the chief offenders, the Captain concluded to keep the affair to himself for this once, and merely ordered the archers to leave the wine shop. Before they had departed, however, the door of the servant's sleeping-room opened and old Irmy made his appearance, roused at last by all the commotion.

"What! you here at last?" exclaimed Vogeli, holding out his hand to greet the merchant. "Truly you have kept us waiting long. But how came you here? ''

That is no concern of yours," growled Irmy, refusing the proffered hand. "Where is my child, whom you enticed away from me in return for the hospitality I showed you?"

"My good sir," said the officer, "'twas but in kindness to your friend, the host of The Bears, that you took me in, for it would have fared ill with him had news of that affair become known. As for your son, nothing was farther from my thoughts than to persuade him to leave you. 1 did not believe the lad would return to his home even had I refused to take him with me, and then you might have searched for him, who knows where? If you will go with me to the city, he shall be restored to you at once. Moreover, I have managed already to disgust him with the idea of soldiering. The other youth refuses to be converted, however, and is in a fair way to become a pikeman."

"I care naught for him," replied Irmy, as they left the wine shop; "he was always a good-fornaught. His father settled in the village of Aarau, and thought to ruin us merchants of Basle by his low prices; and when he finally died, himself a bankrupt, nothing would do but I must have the boy brought up in my house. But he never could be taught anything; he is as full of foolish pranks as a donkey is of gray hairs, though not altogether bad at heart,—not so bad as his father was."

"Now you are talking sensibly," said Vogeli. "Methinks you might have spared me your abuse just now."

"Nay, do not judge me too harshly," answered the old man; "it is my nature to grumble, and in a large business like mine one is vexed by so many people every day, one becomes used to quarrelling. Consider, too, that I had lost my only child, the boy who is to succeed to my name and to my business when I no longer have time or strength to carry it on. I am glad to find him here with you, and thank you with all my heart for the wisdom and prudence you have shown."

"Truly that has a different sound," declared the officer; "but let us turn up this street. My lodgings are yonder on the market place, and there we shall find the lad."

Old Irmy hurried on in advance of his companion, till he reached the doorway of the house Vogeli had pointed out; he rushed up the stairway, and the next moment father and son were clasped in each other's arms. The Councilor's forgiveness was easily won, for he had already given his anger full vent, and when, half an hour later, the two Irmys found themselves seated with the Captain at the well spread table of the best inn the town afforded, the last trace of his resentment vanished.

"You ought to remain here with us a few days longer and see all the festivities," said Vogeli—"the tournament, at least."

But Irmy refused, declaring he must return at once to look after his people, who would be out of all bounds were he too long absent.

"It is a gay life you lead here," he continued, "and one cannot much blame a lad of sixteen for longing to join in it."

"All is not gold that glitters," replied the Captain. "I often feel a distaste for my profession; indeed, I should never have left my native land had I been on better terms with my brother Hans. He was always domineering and, being the elder, determined to have his own way in everything. Moreover, he well understood how to win over our father by his flattery, while I with my straightforward disposition could not get on with him at all. I was obliged to submit myself dutifully to my brother's orders and weigh raisins and pour vinegar in my father's grocery shop, with no prospect of ever becoming anything more than a clerk—for Hans always reserved the profits for himself. So I said to myself, ' You had better try some other country,' and though I well knew how deserters were despised, I left my home and took service with Burgundy. Nor have I reason to regret it, for in truth I have prospered better than most. My father disinherited me, it is true, and the city of Freiburg has banished all deserters, but I care little for that. I willingly yield to Hans my share of our inheritance, and should I ever return to Freiburg to visit the graves of my parents, as a Burgundian officer, I shall enter and depart without question. Yet for many reasons I do not like this service, for there is much wrong and injustice, and it often revolts me to be forced to obey Hagenbach's commands. Moreover, it is a sad life to be always wandering among strangers, without a country, without a home, without a family. Here one lives from hand to mouth, and to save enough from one's pay to return at last to the Fatherland to end one's days in peace is scarcely to be thought of."

"Then why not quit this service and go with us?" said Irmy; "surely some place can be found for you, in your own land, that will suit you."

"Nay, I am forbidden to return to Freiburg, and you know I am a Switzer. It must go hard with us before we abandon the masters to whom we have pledged ourselves."

So their talk ran on till the shades of evening began to fall, when they parted, Irmy returning with Walter to what had hitherto been the Captain's lodgings, while the latter hastened back to the camp and took up his quarters in the tent that had been assigned to him there.

On the following morning the merchant and his son bade farewell to their friend and, riding out through the gate of the city, took their way along the highroad that led from Strassburg to Basle.