One thing only was lacking. There was no bread. The guests thought it was because the servants had forgotten it, and one of them dared to ask for a piece. Count Frederick at once turned toward his steward and ordered the bread to be brought. Now his master had privately talked with the steward and had told him what words to use at this time.
“I am very sorry,” said the steward, “but there is no bread.”
“You must bake some at once,” ordered his master.
“But we have no flour,” was the answer.
“You must grind some, then,” was the command.
“We cannot do so, for we have no grain.”
“Then see that some is threshed immediately.”
“That is impossible, for the harvests have been burned down,” replied the steward.
“You can at least sow grain, that we may have new harvests as soon as possible.”
“We cannot even do that, for our enemies have burned down all the buildings where the grain was stored for seed-time.”
Frederick now turned to his visitors, and told them they must eat their meat without bread. But that was not all. He told them they must give him enough money to build new houses and barns to take the places of those they had destroyed, and also to buy new seed for grain.
“It is wrong,” he said, sternly, “to carry on war against those who are helpless, and to take away their seeds and tools from the poor peasants.”
It was a sensible speech. It made the knights ashamed of the way they had been carrying on war in the country, and they left the castle wiser and better men.
All this happened long, long ago, before Germany could be called one country, for the different parts of the land were ruled over by different people and in different ways.
This same Count Frederick, their father told them, had great love for the poor. When he was still quite young, he made a vow. He said, “I will never marry a woman of noble family.”
Not long after this, he fell in love with a princess. But he could not ask her to marry him on account of the vow he had made.
He was so unhappy that he went into the army. He did not wish to live, and hoped he would soon meet death.
But the fair princess loved Frederick as deeply as he loved her, and as soon as she learned of the vow he had made, she made up her mind what to do.
She put on the dress of a poor singing-girl, and left her grand home. She followed Frederick from place to place. They met face to face one beautiful evening. Then it was that the princess told her lover she had given up her rank and title for his sake.
How joyful she made him as he listened to her story! You may be sure they were soon married, and the young couple went to live in Heidelberg Castle, where they were as happy and as merry as the day is long.