“Succumb!” Sir Hans von Obernitz, the Nuremberg magistrate, here interposed indignantly. “A Groland, who, moreover, is blessed with a loyal, lovely wife, succumb to the sparkling eyes of a vagabond wanton! The Pegnitz would flow up the castle cliff first. I should think we might have less vulgar subjects to discuss.”
“The daring, skilful ropedancer certainly does not belong to the latter,” Doctor Peutinger eagerly retorted. “Besides, who would not desire to know how the free, hot-blooded daughter of the highway settled the account with you, friend Lienhard? Love disdained is said to be the mother of hatred, and from the days of Potiphar’s wife has often caused cruel vengeance. Had this girl whom Sir Hans holds in such light esteem really possessed an evil nature, like others of her class—”
“That she does not,” Lienhard Groland here warmly interrupted the Augsburg guest.
“Whatever Kuni may lack, and whatever errors she may have committed, she is, and will remain a rare creature, even among the few whose lofty spirit can not be bowed or broken by the deepest calamity. When I met her here again at The Blue Pike, among the most corrupt vagabonds, ill and poor, perhaps already the victim of death, I thought it a fitting time to renew the gift which she had refused. I would gladly do more for the poor girl, and my wife at home certainly would not be vexed; she, too, is fond of Kuni, and—I repeat it—this girl has a good, nay, the best nature. If, instead of among vagabonds, she had been born in a respectable household—”
Here the young envoy was suddenly interrupted. His table companions also raised their heads in surprise—a strange noise echoed through the night air.
Little Doctor Eberbach started up in affright, Hans von Obernitz, the Nuremberg magistrate, grasped the hilt of his sword, but Doctor Schedel instantly perceived that the sound which reached his aged ears was nothing but a violent, long-repressed fit of coughing. He and the other gentlemen were gazing at the oleander tree whence, before any one approached it, a groan of pain was heard.
The experienced physician shook his white locks gravely and said:
“Whoever uttered that is near the end of his sufferings.”
He made a movement to rise as he spoke; he felt that his help was needed.
But another incident diverted the attention of his companions and himself.
Dietel, the waiter, had at last been released from his confinement in the cellar, and instantly began the search for the thief in the garden with twofold zeal.