A gentle was Fridolin,
And he his mistress dear,
Savern's fair Countess, honored in
All truth and godly fear.
She was so meek, and, ah! so good!
Yet each wish of her wayward mood,
He would have studied to fulfil,
To please his God, with earnest will.
From the first hour when daylight shone
Till rang the vesper-chime,
He lived but for her will alone,
And deemed e'en that scarce time.
And if she said, "Less anxious be!"
His eye then glistened tearfully.
Thinking that he in duty failed,
And so before no toil he quailed.
And so, before her serving train,
The Countess loved to raise him;
While her fair mouth, in endless strain,
Was ever wont to praise him.
She never held him as her slave,
Her heart a child's rights to him gave;
Her clear eye hung in fond delight
Upon his well-formed features bright.
Soon in the huntsman Robert's breast
Was poisonous anger fired;
His black soul, long by lust possessed,
With malice was inspired;
He sought the Count, whom, quick in deed,
A traitor might with ease mislead,
As once from hunting home they rode,
And in his heart suspicion sowed.
"Happy art thou, great Count, in truth,"
Thus cunningly he spoke;
"For ne'er mistrust's envenomed tooth
Thy golden slumbers broke;
A noble wife thy love rewards,
And modesty her person guards.
The tempter will be able ne'er
Her true fidelity to snare."
A gloomy scowl the Count's eye filled:
"What's this thou say'st to me?
Shall I on woman's virtue build,
Inconstant as the sea?
The flatterer's mouth with ease may lure;
My trust is placed on ground more sure.
No one, methinks, dare ever burn
To tempt the wife of Count Savern."
The other spoke: "Thou sayest it well,
The fool deserves thy scorn
Who ventures on such thoughts to dwell,
A mere retainer born,--
Who to the lady he obeys
Fears not his wishes' lust to raise."--
"What!" tremblingly the Count began,
"Dost speak, then, of a living man?"--
"Is, then, the thing, to all revealed,
Hid from my master's view?
Yet, since with care from thee concealed,
I'd fain conceal it too"--
"Speak quickly, villain! speak or die!"
Exclaimed the other fearfully.
"Who dares to look on Cunigond?"
"'Tis the fair page that is so fond."
"He's not ill-shaped in form, I wot,"
He craftily went on;
The Count meanwhile felt cold and hot,
By turns in every bone.
"Is't possible thou seest not, sir,
How he has eyes for none but her?
At table ne'er attends to thee,
But sighs behind her ceaselessly?"
"Behold the rhymes that from him came
His passion to confess"--
"Confess!"--"And for an answering flame,--
The impious knave!--to press.
My gracious lady, soft and meek,
Through pity, doubtless, feared to speak;
That it has 'scaped me, sore I rue;
What, lord, canst thou to help it do?"
Into the neighboring wood then rode
The Count, inflamed with wrath,
Where, in his iron foundry, glowed
The ore, and bubbled forth.
The workmen here, with busy hand,
The fire both late and early fanned.
The sparks fly out, the bellows ply,
As if the rock to liquefy.
The fire and water's might twofold
Are here united found;
The mill-wheel, by the flood seized hold,
Is whirling round and round;
The works are clattering night and day,
With measured stroke the hammers play,
And, yielding to the mighty blows,
The very iron plastic grows.
Then to two workmen beckons he,
And speaks thus in his ire;
"The first who's hither sent by me
Thus of ye to inquire
'Have ye obeyed my lord's word well?'
Him cast ye into yonder hell,
That into ashes he may fly,
And ne'er again torment mine eye!"
The inhuman pair were overjoyed,
With devilish glee possessed
For as the iron, feeling void,
Their heart was in their breast,
And brisker with the bellows' blast,
The foundry's womb now heat they fast,
And with a murderous mind prepare
To offer up the victim there.
Then Robert to his comrade spake,
With false hypocrisy:
"Up, comrade, up! no tarrying make!
Our lord has need of thee."
The lord to Fridolin then said:
"The pathway toward the foundry tread,
And of the workmen there inquire,
If they have done their lord's desire."
The other answered, "Be it so!"
But o'er him came this thought,
When he was all-prepared to go,
"Will she command me aught?"
So to the Countess straight he went:
"I'm to the iron-foundry sent;
Then say, can I do aught for thee?
For thou 'tis who commandest me."
To this the Lady of Savern
Replied in gentle tone:
"To hear the holy mass I yearn,
For sick now lies my son;
So go, my child, and when thou'rt there,
Utter for me a humble prayer,
And of thy sins think ruefully,
That grace may also fall on me."
And in this welcome duty glad,
He quickly left the place;
But ere the village bounds he had
Attained with rapid pace,
The sound of bells struck on his ear,
From the high belfry ringing clear,
And every sinner, mercy-sent,
Inviting to the sacrament.
"Never from praising God refrain
Where'er by thee He's found!"
He spoke, and stepped into the fane,
But there he heard no sound;
For 'twas the harvest time, and now
Glowed in the fields the reaper's brow;
No choristers were gathered there,
The duties of the mass to share.
The matter paused he not to weigh,
But took the sexton's part;
"That thing," he said, "makes no delay
Which heavenward guides the heart."
Upon the priest, with helping hand,
He placed the stole and sacred band,
The vessels he prepared beside,
That for the mass were sanctified.
And when his duties here were o'er,
Holding the mass-book, he,
Ministering to the priest, before
The altar bowed his knee,
And knelt him left, and knelt him right,
While not a look escaped his sight,
And when the holy Sanctus came,
The bell thrice rang he at the name.
And when the priest, bowed humbly too,
In hand uplifted high,
Facing the altar, showed to view
The present Deity,
The sacristan proclaimed it well,
Sounding the clearly-tinkling bell,
While all knelt down, and beat the breast,
And with a cross the Host confessed.
The rites thus served he, leaving none,
With quick and ready wit;
Each thing that in God's house is done,
He also practised it.
Unweariedly he labored thus,
Till the Vobiscum Dominus,
When toward the people turned the priest,
Blessed them,--and so the service ceased.
Then he disposed each thing again,
In fair and due array;
First purified the holy fane,
And then he went his way,
And gladly, with a mind at rest,
On to the iron-foundry pressed,
Saying the while, complete to be,
Twelve paternosters silently.
And when he saw the furnace smoke,
And saw the workmen stand,
"Have ye, ye fellows," thus he spoke,
"Obeyed the Count's command?"
Grinning they ope the orifice,
And point into the fell abyss:
"He's cared for--all is at an end!
The Count his servants will commend."
The answer to his lord he brought,
Who, when his form his notice caught,
Could scarcely trust his eye:
"Unhappy one! whence comest thou?"--
"Back from the foundry"--"Strange, I vow!
Hast in thy journey, then, delayed?"--
"'Twas only, lord, till I had prayed."
"For when I from thy presence went
(Oh pardon me!) to-day,
As duty bid, my steps I bent
To her whom I obey.
She told me, lord, the mass to hear,
I gladly to her wish gave ear,
And told four rosaries at the shrine,
For her salvation and for thine."
In wonder deep the Count now fell,
And, shuddering, thus spake he:
"And, at the foundry, quickly tell,
What answer gave they thee?"
"Obscure the words they answered in,--
Showing the furnace with a grin:
'He's cared for--all is at an end!
The Count his servants will commend.'"
"And Robert?" interrupted he,
While deadly pale he stood,--
"Did he not, then, fall in with thee?
I sent him to the wood."--
"Lord, neither in the wood nor field
Was trace of Robert's foot revealed."--
"Then," cried the Count, with awe-struck mien,
"Great God in heaven his judge hath been!"
With kindness he before ne'er proved,
He led him by the hand
Up to the Countess,--deeply moved,--
Who naught could understand.
"This child, let him be dear to thee,
No angel is so pure as he!
Though we may have been counselled ill,
God and His hosts watch o'er him still."