THE WICKED BISHOP
“The Rhine is the loveliest river in the world. I know it must be,” said Bertha.
“Of course it is,” answered her brother. “I’ve seen it, and I ought to know. And father thinks so, too. He says it is not only beautiful, but it is also bound into the whole history of our country. Think of the battles that have been fought on its shores, and the great generals who have crossed it!”
“Yes, and the castles, Hans! Think of the legends father and mother have told us about the beautiful princesses who have lived in the castles, and the brave knights who have fought for them! I shall be perfectly happy if I can ever sail down the Rhine and see the noted places on its shores.”
“The schoolmaster has taught you all about the war with France, hasn’t he, Bertha?”
“Of course. And it really seemed at one time as if France would make us Germans agree to have the Rhine divide the two countries. Just as if we would be willing to let the French own one shore of our beautiful river. I should say not!”
Bertha’s cheeks grew rosier than usual at the thought of such a thing. She talked faster than German children usually do, for they are rather slow in their speech.
“We do not own all of the river, little sister, as it is. The baby Rhine sleeps in an icy cradle in the mountains of Switzerland. Then it makes its way through our country, but before it reaches the sea it flows through the low lands of Holland.”
“I know all that, Hans. But we own the best of the Rhine, anyway. I am perfectly satisfied.”
“I wish I knew all the legends about the river. There are enough of them to fill many books. Did you ever hear about the Rats’ Tower opposite the town of Bingen, Bertha?”
[Illustration: The Rats’ Tower.]
“What a funny name for a tower! No. Is there a story about it, Hans?”
“Yes, one of the boys was telling it to me yesterday while we were getting wood in the forest. It is a good story, although my friend said he wasn’t sure it is true.”
“What is the story?”
“It is about a very wicked bishop who was a miser. It happened one time that the harvests were poor and grain was scarce. The cruel bishop bought all the grain he could get and locked it up. He intended to sell it for a high price, and in this way to become very rich.
“As the days went by, the food became scarcer and scarcer. The people began to sicken and die of hunger. They had but one thought: they must get something to eat for their children and themselves.
“They knew of the stores of grain held by the bishop. They went to him and begged for some of it, but he paid no attention to their prayers. Then they demanded that he open the doors of the storehouse and let them have the grain. It was of no use.