These were, of course, only the lay brothers, and I hope the friars were better behaved. I decided, however, that for the sake of my respect for religion, I should ask Dessauer. Because I saw even the Abbot Tobias lean smilingly over to Abbot Prince Karl, and I marvelled what they spoke about. Not that I had long to wonder, for through the open door of the chapel there streamed a dismal host of invaders from the Wolfmark—black Hussars of Death, in dark armor, with white skeletons painted over them, all charnel-house ribs and bones in hideous and ridiculous array—which was one of Duke Casimir’s devices to frighten children, and no doubt these scarecrows frightened many of these. Specially when these villanous companies were recruited from all the wild bandits of the Mark, and never punished for any atrocity, but, on the contrary, rather encouraged in evil-doing in order to spread the terror of their name.
Yet, when they came rushing in, even the cavaliers of death were daunted by the sight which met them. And as the solemn service proceeded, amid the thunder of the great organ pressing, throbbing against the roof and reverberating along the floor, hands stole to heads, helmets were lifted, and half-forgotten fear of Holy Church stirred in many a wicked and outcast heart. Some of the foremost, with their blades half-drawn, appeared to waver whether or no they should even yet stay the service with the bloody sword.
But as the monks calmly chanted, and the solemn responses were given, a stillness stole over the vociferous babble within the great open doors.
Higher and higher the voices of the choir mounted, breaking a way to heaven. Awe sat on every fierce face, and when the Abbot Tobias arose to pronounce the benediction, the other stood up beside him, and the Hussars of Death knelt awe-stricken before the two mitred dignitaries of the Church.
Without a murmur they arose and slunk away without so much as searching the abbey, and so departed on their errands, leaving us safe and unharmed.
Then, when the three of us were again united in the private rooms of the Abbot Tobias, that hearty ecclesiastic shook us all by the hand and said, “Good friends, we are well out of that. Nay, no thanks! My monks are not a bit the worse of a little additional exercise to keep them humble and lean. Nor is God the less well pleased that we have sought him in time of need—as Prince and Abbot, as well as soldier and peasant, require.”
These being the only words of genuine piety I had heard within the walls of the monastery, I thought more of the Abbot Tobias from that moment that he was not ashamed to speak them in the presence of Prince and Councillor of State, as well as before a rough soldier like myself.
THE FLAG ON THE BED TOWER
It took us all our powers of persuasion with the Prince to induce him to depart homeward on the morrow, under escort of a dozen sturdy and well-armed lanzknechte attached to the monastery. But the thing was done at last.