“The honourable Council of Nuremberg—so I am informed—set a praiseworthy example several years ago. There was a youthful member of one of your patrician families—an Ebner, I believe, or a Stromer or Tucher. He had imbibed in Padua mistaken ideas which, unhappily, are held in high esteem by many from whom we should expect more discernment. So it chanced that when he returned home he ventured to contract a formal betrothal with an honourable maiden of noble lineage, against the explicit desire of her distinguished parents. The rebellious youth was therefore summoned before a court of justice, and, on account of his reckless offence and wanton violation of custom and law, banished from the city and sentenced to pay a fine——”
“A punishment which I endured calmly, Herr Professor,” interrupted Lienhard Groland, “for I myself was that ‘rebellious youth.’ Besides, it was by no means the teachings of humanism which led me to an act that you, learned sir, doubtless regard with sterner eyes than the Christian charity which your clerical garb made me expect would permit.”
These words fell, with the winning earnestness peculiar to him, from the lips of the young man who, at a time when he cared for no other woman than his new-made bride, had seen in the poor, endangered rope-dancer a human being worthy of aid. Only his fiery dark eyes met the professor’s sternly enough.
The latter was still seeking a fitting reply, when the folding doors of the room were thrown wide open, and a belated party of travellers entered. They came opportunely, for they afforded a timely excuse to withhold an answer without attracting notice; yet at the head of the new guests of The Blue Pike was his Cologne colleague Conrad Kollin, who was followed, as he himself had been, by a number of Dominican friars.
Tungern, of course, went to greet him, and this made it easy to part from his table companions in a manner that aroused no comment; for while Kollin was surrounded and respectfully welcomed by the Dominican friars and many other travellers, the humanists left the house.
Dietel did not lose sight of the envoys. After whispering together a short time they had risen and gone out. At the door the Abbot of St. AEgidius left them to greet Professor Kollin, and, with the easy kindness characteristic of him, to say that the room had become too warm for the other gentlemen. They presented their compliments to the distinguished citizen of Cologne, and placed their table at the service of the newcomer.
Dietel’s sharp ears had enabled him to catch these words; but then he was obliged to move again, a table had to be set outside the house for the Nuremberg travellers and their companions, and jugs of wine must be filled for them.
Then he was called back to the taproom. While the landlord of The Pike was serving a fresh meal to Professor Kollin at the table vacated by the Nuremberg dignitaries, and Arnold von Tungern was emptying the full vials of his wrath upon the little doctor and the whole body of humanists, the Nuremberg travellers and their guests were now conversing freely, as if relieved from a nightmare, upon the topics which most deeply interested them.