I BECOME A TRAITOR
Much was I flattered, and very naturally so, when Michael Texel made so manifest a work about pleasing me and having me for his comrade. For though I was now nineteen, he was five years my senior, and his father, being both Burgomeister and Chief Brewer, was of the first consideration in the town of Thorn.
“Hugo,” said Michael Texel, “there be many lads in the city that are well, and well enough, but none of them please me like you. It may be that your keeping so greatly to yourself has made you passing thoughtful for your age. And whereas these street-corner scraps of rascaldom care for nothing but the pleasing of pothouse Gretchens, we that are men think of the concerns of the State, and make us ready for the great things that shall one day come to pass in Thorn and the Wolfmark.”
I nodded my head as if I knew all about it. But, indeed, in my heart, I too preferred the way of the other lads—as the favor of maids, and other lighter matters. But since one so great and distinguished as Michael Texel declared that such things were but useless gauds, unworthy of thought, I considered that I had better keep my tongue tight-reined as to my own desires.
I shall now tell the manner of my introduction to the famous society of the White Wolf.
From the very first time that ever I saw him, Michael Texel had much to say about a certain wondrous league of the young men of Thorn and the Wolfmark. He told me how that every man with a heart in him was enrolled among them: the sons of the rich and great, like himself; the sons of the folk of no account (like myself, doubtless); the soldiers of the Duke—nay, it was whispered very low in my ear, that even the young Count Otho von Reuss, the Duke’s nephew and heir, had taken high rank in the society.
I asked Michael what were the declared objects of the association.
“See,” he cried, grandly, with a wave of his hand, “this city of Thorn. It lies there under the Wolfsberg. With a few cannon like Paul Grete, the Margrave’s treasure, Duke Casimir could lay our houses in ruins. Therefore, in the meantime, let us not break out against Duke Casimir. But one day there will come an end to the tyrant Duke. Tiles will not always break harmless on helmets, nor the point of steel always be turned aside by links of chain-armor. As I say, an hour will come for Casimir as for other malefactors. And then—why, there is the young Otho. And he has sworn the vows of the White Wolf to make of Thorn a free city with a Stadtholder—one with power and justice, chosen freely by the people, as in other Baltic cities. Is there a man of us that has not been plundered?—a maid that does not go in fear of her honor while Casimir reigns? Shall this thing be? Not surely forever. The White Wolf shall see to it. She has many children, and they are all dear to her. Let the Duke Casimir take his count with that!”