COBB: The False Knight

Cobb’s False Knight: 18. A Revelation—Conclusion

The term “shotgun wedding”, which most English speaking people are familiar with, loses all its descriptive impact in German. “Mussehe” doesn’t sound as dramatic at all. It means “have-to wedding”. The first word, muss, meaning “have to”, also means “mash” or “sauce”, although that word is pronounced with a soft “s”. It sounds a bit ho-hum or mundane, totally unlike what awaits you in the final chapter.

There’s actually a German website that helps get rid of some of the ho-hum at weddings, at least for any kids attending. Sort of for when the shotgun has been implied or threatened many times before perhaps. They offer a service where you can choose your favourite fairy princess to turn up, singing songs, doing face-painting and so on. Ghastly. Probably slightly better than a circus clown, I suppose. But, as I said, the final chapter has no need for any such boredom relief.

In the English speaking world, royal weddings are all too well documented in publications that do that sort of thing (e.g., Royalty Magazine, Royal Life, New Idea). We hear little about the same sort of thing in Germany however. Of course the sorts of Germans who are into royal weddings can read all about British royal “tie the knot shindigs” too in the Bunte Illustrierte, in “Heim und Welt” or whatever hair salon magazine they read, but there still are German royal weddings too, long after royal titles and privileges were done away with in the Weimar constitution of 1919.

When the Hohenzollern heir weds, or the Prince of Hannover, Frau Schulz or Mueller can still see all the details of whatever wedding dress was chosen, etc, at least in those sorts of magazines. Because the old royal families and suburban housewife interest in them still do exist. Somewhat diminished perhaps, but some former royals still own vast swathes of land, royal jewels and so on.

I remember a popular family TV show in the eighties, “The Rudi Carrell Show”. Perhaps because there were only two channels at the time. They did a skit involving an expensive jewel necklace. Quite bizarrely, there, in the front row of the audience, was Krupp family heir Arndt von Bohlen-Halbach, famously and obviously very gay, but who had married some Princess Henrietta von somethingorother, “graciously” nodding, almost royally waving and smiling at Rudi Carrell for his grovelling acknowledgement in allowing the use of his probably well insured, glittering and sparkling family heirloom for the show, which Carrell handed back to him. As I said, truly bizarre, but it illustrates that Germans are still just as much “royal watchers” as the Brits or Americans.

Part of the Landshut Wedding of 2005 (source: de.wikipedia.org) CC BY-SA 3.0

In the town of Landshut, the wedding of Duke George of Bavaria in the year 1474 is still re-enacted every year, with thousands of people watching knights and participants dressed in mediaeval costumes parading through the streets in this amazing pageant. I’m sure you will enjoy the wedding in this final chapter. With a happy end? Who knows? I wouldn’t want to be a spoiler…


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

A REVELATION—CONCLUSION

Sir Pascal had caused a clock to be set up in the sitting-room occupied by the ladies, towards the face of which our heroine glanced over and anon, to note the passing of the lime—the passing of the brief hour that had been given her in which to prepare for her nuptials. As the fateful moments drew near she caught her mother’s hand, and asked her, with a world of earnest entreaty in her gaze,—Did she really think they would come? The simplest word of hope would give her comfort.

“Let us hope. They have promised; and we know they will keep the promise if they can.”

At the same time, in the great audience chamber, or hall of state, of the castle—sometimes the banqueting hall—Sir Pascal Dunwolf had assembled his chief officers, together with a number of men-at-arms, who were stationed at the doors as sentinels and ushers. He was determined that his marriage should not lack publicity. These men-at-arms, it is worthwhile stating, were all of the original garrison-men, who had willingly sworn fealty to the new chief.

In a far corner, at the head of the hall, where over the permanent dais a canopy of silk had been suspended from the vaulted roof, stood the knight in company with good father Alexis. The priest was in full canonicals, and was comparatively sober. His patron had drunk with him several times, and had caused his lieutenant to do the same, well knowing that a certain quantity of wine would inspire the priest with a daring obliviousness to consequences which might not otherwise possess him. And success had crowned his efforts. The ecclesiastic had reached that happy state between inebriety and soberness which, without seriously clouding his mental faculties, yet blunted every moral sense, rendering him fit and ready for any work not terribly wicked or fraught with mortal danger.

“Produce the lovely bride,” he said, heroically. “There shall be no delay on my part.”

“You will allow nothing to stop you. As soon as I give the word you will proceed with the service.”

“Yes, my lord, and I will finish it right speedily.”

“All right, remain you here, do not leave until I am done with you.”

The priest promised, and the knight went away. He touched his lieutenant on the arm as he passed him, whispering in his ear a caution to look to the good father, and see that he drank no more wine until after the marriage service had been performed.

In her prison chamber Electra still watched the passing of the minutes, pale and prayerful. At the stroke of ten, as she had expected, Sir Pascal appeared. As he approached her and extended his hand she arose. She had resolved that she would offer no senseless opposition—no opposition which could only serve to render her treatment at the bad man’s hands more harsh and painful.

The Reluctant Bride (1866), Auguste Toulmouche (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

“Dear lady—Electra—the hour is up, and all is ready for the brief ceremony that is to make us one. I had hoped that you would have felt like arraying yourself in a more befitting costume than that is you now wear. You might, at least, have put on a few jewels.”

She did not tell him that her jewels were all in a place far from the castle, because, if she had had them near her, she would not have worn them.

“Never mind,” he added, trying to smile. “If you are satisfied, I will be. After all, it is Electra I want, and not her finery. Come.—Good mother, you may walk by your, daughter’s side, or follow us, as you please.”

For a single instant the sorely tried maiden came near fainting. Her limbs weakened, and her brain reeled; but with a mighty effort she recovered herself and moved on by the knight’s side. Her mother came close behind her, walking with Theresa, the two women of the forest bringing up the rear.

So the procession moved on, down the great stairway, into the main hall of the keep, and thence to the broad doorway of the chamber of audience, which was open for their reception. At the arch of the vestibule Electra saw, as she passed, a squad of men-at-arms, who seemed to be stationed there for guard duty; a little further on, at the opening of a passage which led to a side porch, other sentinels were posted, and at the door of the audience chamber itself armed men were stationed.

Her heart throbbed painfully as she entered the old hall of state. The first thing upon which her eyes fell, as she crossed the threshold, was the silken canopy at the far end. O! what a mockery it seemed! And then she saw the full-robed priest standing on the dais! When she saw this she came near stopping. It was an instinctive movement, without premeditation; the pressure of her companion’s hand, however, drew her on, and she hesitated no more.

Half way up the long room the knight stopped to speak with his lieutenant, and he appeared to desire that the ladies should hear.

“Franz, has there been any sign of interruption yet?”

“None, my lord.”

“Are the guards thoroughly instructed?”

“They are.”

“And every avenue efficiently guarded?”

“Everything has been done, my lord, as you commanded.”

“It is well.”

And then, with head erect, and a proud step, Sir Pascal moved on to the dais; assisted his fair companion to ascend; stopped at the proper place, and turned, bringing the prospective bride upon his right hand.

“Now, good father, you may proceed at once.”

The priest had stepped to the front, and made ready to commence the service, when the baroness, with a sudden movement, dashed him aside, and turned to the men who had assembled there, many of whom she recognised as having belonged to her own guard.

 “O! in Heaven’s name! are you men, to stand and see this thing? Is there not—”

At this point the lieutenant, at a sign from his chief, laid his hand upon the lady’s arm, and drew her aside. She started to struggle; but when she found that among those who stood before her she had not a friend who would, or who dared, to move in her behalf, she gave up, and resisted no more; but she turned upon the false knight, with flaming eyes, and with her hand extended, exclaiming, in a voice that rang like the blast of a cornet:

“Base, wicked man! thou shalt not succeed! High Heaven will not permit it! O! for one brave, true heart to stand by me now! Cowards! cowards, all!”

So far had she gone when Franz, with evident reluctance, placed a strong hand over her lips, thus stopping her impassioned appeal.

Twice the daughter tried to break away to go to her mother’s assistance; but the man at her side, now beside himself with anger and chagrin, had held her back; and when he had seen the baroness under control, he turned again to the priest.

“Now, Sir Priest, should the very walls come crashing down about us, do you proceed. Not a word more than is necessary; and speak the words you must speak quickly. Up, up, my sweet wife that is to be! No fainting now. By Heaven! this fair hand’s mine at length!”

“Not quite yet!” spoke a voice close beside him.

At the sound of that voice the drooping maiden started out from her half swooning state into which she had sank, and found no difficulty in breaking away from the hand that had held her. It was the rich, deep voice heard once before—the voice of him whose life she had saved in the forest. Her heart bounded with rapture unspeakable, for it was to her a note of redemption.

Sir Pascal turned, and beheld, just stepped from behind the old tapestry that hung against the wall, a man in whose majestic presence he quailed instinctively—a man but little past the middle-age; of powerful frame, his lower features covered by a full beard, his brow full and expansive, with a pair of dark gray eyes, that seemed to look him through and through.

“No quite yet, Pascal Dunwolf. There are others who have an interest in this matter.”

“What ho, Franz! Bring up your guard!” So shouted the knight, as soon as he could command his speech; and when he had seen his lieutenant start to obey, he laid his hand upon his sword, and drew it half way from its scabbard.

But he drew it no further, for at that moment his attention was called to a newcomer upon the scene.

Following close upon the steps of him who has surely been recognized as our friend of the mountain-side, known to us thus far as Thorbrand, came that other friend—the blue-eyed, fair-haired Wolfgang. But now, in place of the leathern doublet of the forester, he wore a coat of purple velvet richly embroidered, and upon his breast a golden star blazing with diamonds.

The effect upon Dunwolf was terrible. He gasped for breath; turned pale as death; his legs quivered and grew limp beneath him; and his sword dropped back into its scabbard, and his hand fell powerless at his side, a deep groan escaped his bloodless lips.

A squad of the headstrong men-at-arms, made pot-valiant by numerous potations of strong- drink, eager to obey the command of their chief, and indignant at seeing the exhibition thus interfered with, had hastened forward, and would have rushed upon the dais, had not Franz, aroused from his stupor by the impending calamity, put himself quickly in their way.

“Back! Back!” he cried, vehemently.

“No, no!” vociferated a stout trooper. ”Who dares come hither to interfere with our master?”

“Fool! It is the grand duke!”

The effect was electrical; not only upon the rough soldiers, who fell back like so many frightened animals, but upon others as well. Electra, as she heard, gazed upon the transformed man in utter amazement as did her mother; and the thought came to them both at the same moment,—”If Wolfgang is the grand duke, who is Thorbrand?”

But their thoughts were soon called in a new direction by the appearance of Martin Oberwald and Ernest von Linden. Our hero flew to the side of his darling and caught her hand.

“Saved! Saved! O! thank Heaven!” So ejaculated Electra, in answer to her lover’s eager look of inquiry; and on the next instant she was clasped closely to his bosom.

Sir Pascal saw it all, but could utter not a word nor a movement in opposition. Still pale and trembling he stood before the sovereign whom he had betrayed, knowing full well that his race was run—his short-lived power at an end.

 Ernest, when he had seen Electra’s sweet face once more beaming with happy smiles, called to still another new-comer to advance and take his place; and in a moment more the dear girl found herself in the loving embrace of Irene Oberwald, with her faithful stag-hound, mad with joy, leaping and frisking about her.

Once more our hero was captain in the castle. Stepping to the rear of the dais he lifted aside the tapestry, and spoke a wore of command, and directly an armed man appeared, wearing the uniform of the ducal guard; then two more abreast, and another, until a score of them had entered the chamber, and formed in order upon the grand duke’s left hand.

 “Sir Pascal Dunwolf!” said Leopold, “I trust you will offer no word in justification of your conduct. I know the whole story of your treachery against this house, and of your treason against me. Aye, well may you tremble. O! Sir Pascal! I  had not thought it! In memory of the great kindness you once did me—the saving of my life—I would have done much for you. When you told me that the heiress of Deckendorf loved you devotedly, and that her mother desired nothing so much as the union of her daughter with yourself; when, beyond that, I was told that this important fortress was without a commander, Sir Arthur von Morin being near his death, I sent you hither, with full powers of command, and with my consent to the marriage.”

At this point the duke took a step forward and bent upon the miserable culprit a look beneath which he seemed to wither and collapse.

“O! false knight that you are! you had not been three days in this castle before I knew that you were the leading spirit on this side of the border of the treasonable insurrection I had been fearing—that you had entered into a league with the Robber Chief, Thorbrand, and that he was to meet you here, with his chief lieutenant, for the purpose of arranging your plans for the overthrow of all healthful government in the realm. Here, in fact, were to be the headquarters of the conspirators. Can you deny it?”

“Why should I?” sulkily returned the scoundrel, struggling hard to hold up his head. “If Thorbrand—may the fiends seize him—has turned traitor to me—”

“Hold!” commanded a deep, solemn voice. “Curse not the dead!” And he whom we have known as the brigand chieftain stepped forth from where he had seemed to be in hiding, and confronted the false knight.

“Sir Pascal Dunwolf,” he went on, as the grand duke moved back to give him place, “would you have me to tell you why you did not meet the Robber of the Schwarzwald as you had expected?”

“Who—who are you?” the quivering culprit gasped, something in those solemn eyes and in the towering form striking him with awe.

“Who am I? I will tell you that anon. For the present I will tell you that both Thorbrand and his lieutenant, Wolfgang, fell by my hand, though the strife cost me dear; and would have cost me my life but for the providential appearance and ministrations of two angels who found me, dying, in the deep forest. Would you like to hear my story? Would it please you to know how it came to pass that I slew those two men? For, let me add, it will tell you how your treason came to be known.”

Sir Pascal started and caught his breath. He did not speak, but his looks plainly signified that he would be only too glad to hear.

 So others seemed eager to hear. The women, Elize and Zenzel, with dark, lowering brows and compressed lips, listened eagerly; and Franz was eager; and so were all of them, for that matter.

“Pascal Dunwolf, you behold in me one raised from the dead more than once. Years ago, upon a hard fought field, when you might have won glory had you fought for your country and your religion as you fought for plunder. Aye, you were there Dunwolf; and you, with others, thought me dead. But I was not. The spear of a turbaned Moslem had stricken me down and when my consciousness returned I found myself a prisoner in Moslem hands. Those same Moslem hands nursed me back to health and strength, and then put me into the slave market in Constantinople, when I was sold to a merchant of Bagdad. And to Bagdad I was carried; and there I remained, a bondman and a slave, for ten long years.

“At length my master died, and in dying gave me my freedom. Do you ask why I had not escaped? I tell you—I could not. Many times I tried, but the thing was not to be done. But the blessed boon was mine, as I have said, on my owner’s death, and the widow, when she had heard my story, not only kept the faith her dying husband had pledged, but gave me money for my journey home—more than enough, by far.

“Thank the Good Father of us all! nothing occurred to interrupt my homeward voyage. I arrived in my native country well and strong. At Baden-Baden I stopped co see the grand duke; but he whom I had expected to meet was dead, and his son, Leopold, was on the throne. But Leopold received me kindly and affectionately; and when I had told him my story, he embraced me as a son might have done.

“When he learned that I was going to Deckendorf, a curious plan formed itself in his mind. He told me of the contemplated insurrection in that region, and how necessary it was that he should discover who were the chief conspirators. I told him I would help him in any way within my power. It was then arranged that we should come hither incog., letting no one know of our intention. I was in haste, and started on in advance, arranging to meet him at the cot of the hunter of the Schwarzwolf Mountain, Martin Oberwald. He knew how to find the village of Deckendorf, and I told him the people there would inform him how to find the hunter’s cot.

“Then I set forth, intending first to call upon good old Martin, who had been my dear and loving friend from boyhood, and enlist him in our enterprise; for I had great confidence in his judgment and shrewdness. On the way up the mountain I fell in with two men. They asked me certain questions about the castle over the way. I told them I knew the place well. From the first I guessed their true characters, and led them on for the purpose of gettinq them to commit themselves, and I succeeded. They believed me to be the very man of whom they were in search—Sir Pascal Dunwolf.

“After that the rest was easy—easy until they had discovered their error—and then it became rather difficult. I learned from them all their secrets—learned the whole scheme and scope of the insurrection—learned the names of the chief conspirators; and learned that for giving Deckendorf Castle to be the stronghold of the Grand Brigand Confederacy, Sir Pascal Dunwolf was to be general-in-chief of the Free-Riders.

“At length an unlucky word betrayed me, and I was foolish enough, in the instinct of self-preservation, to lay my hand upon the hilt of my sword. Their eyes followed in that direction, and they saw that he weapon at my side was the double-handed sword of a Knight of the Temple. That was sufficient information for them. No man honestly bearing the knightly accolade would dare to assume a sign of rank or station not his own. Enough to say beyond that,—we were quickly engaged, and I slew then both, though the younger of the twain wounded me so severely that my life would have soon left me had not kind Heaven sent me help.

“The place where we had held our conference had been a deep, hidden nook, shut in by tangled vines and brushwood; and there we had fought. As the two robbers had fallen side by side, I was able to pull a few branches over their dead bodies before I left. A considerable distance I managed to crawl, then I fainted. I think I called for help. A dog came first,—then—Ah! how hard it was to refrain from taking the administering angel to my bosom!—but, believing that the mortal remains of those two robbers would not be found, I had resolved that the duke and I would assume their names, thus “enjoying a freedom in our movements which could not otherwise be ours. So I held my peace, and gave out that I was the terrible Thorbrand.

“O! it was hard—very—very hard! But—but—”

He could hold himself from his loved ones no longer. From the very first the baroness had suspected, and very shortly thereafter she had known. So, too, had the truth burst upon Electra. As the speaker now turned, the flowing beard no longer concealed the well-remembered features. With a quick step he left the dais, and in a moment more wife and daughter were clasped in his loving embrace.

“Gregory! My husband! O! thank God!”

Portrait of a Nobleman (1610), Guilliam van Deynum (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

“Papa! Papa!”

“My blessed child! Your father’s life is yours from this time; for surely he holds it as your gift.”

“And Irene’s, papa. What could I have done without her?”

Already have I thanked that dear girl, my darling, though she knew not until now that her grateful debtor was the Baron von Deckendorf.”

While this latter scene had been going on with the re-united ones, the grand duke had given Sir Pascal Dunwolf into the hands of a double file of his guard, with direction that he should be taken away, and held in strict and sure confinement until further orders. To others of his guard he gave direction that they should clear the chamber of all, saving his true and loyal friends. One man, however, he was inclined to favor. He had marked with what entire revulsion of feeling Lieutenant Franz had recognised him and how luckily he had held back the would-be assailants. Him he called aside as the others were being sent away, and kindly said:

“Franz, I know that you have been played upon by a wicked, designing man, who has taken advantage of your little weaknesses to bend you to his own purpose. I will not lose your love and loyalty if I can help it. Will you take command of the men who came hither with you, and march them back to Baden-Baden? I care not to know who have offered to desert me, provided they will be true in the time to come.”

Utterly crushed, and seemingly heart-broken, the conscience-stricken man sank upon his knees, and implored forgiveness, pledging himself, while life should be his, to be honest and true.

So Franz was forgiven; and, for the first time in many days, he was able to think of the present with satisfaction, and look to the future with hope. In the time to come, when he had proved himself worthy, he was to be given Sir Pascal’s old command, that recreant knight having been banished forever from the land he had dishonored.

Ordinarily, the traitor and conspirator should have suffered death; but Leopold could not find it in his heart to take the life of the man who had once saved his own.

And now, back to the old chamber of audience. As soon as the company not wanted had been sent away, Leopold stepped down from the dais and looked about him. He saw the baron, with his wife and daughter in his arms, and Ernest with them, their tears of joy still coursing down their cheeks, their voices mingling in praise and thanksgiving. And presently he saw two others—the hunter and his child. They stood against the tapestry, near to the secret pass, the child held close to the bosom of the father, who appeared to be trying to comfort and console her.

He looked upon them for a little time; then moved quickly forward and captured one of Irene’s hands. She turned, with a wild frightened look upon her beautiful face, a low, startled cry bursting from her lips; but when she saw the loving light of those wondrous eyes, and marked the infinite tenderness of the gaze that was bent upon her, her heart bounded with a renewal of hope, and the light of a great joy chased away the cloud from her face.

“Irene,” he said, with a smile that seemed to her celestial, “do you remember the question I once asked you in your mountain home? I can repeat it, word for word. I asked you if you thought—if you believed—you could make me a good and happy man—a man who could be of use to his fellows and of value to his country—would you give yourself to the work? Would you be willing to place your hand in mine, and go with me to the end? So I asked you, and then gave you time for thought. Dear girl—my love, my life—l repeat the question now. Shall this dear hand be mine?”

Again something of the old frightened look came back.

“You!!—you!—the grand duke! O! it cannot be! Your people would never look upon me—”

“Pshaw!” broke in Leopold, laughingly. “Dear girl, I tell you truly, were you the poorest of the poor, and plebeian to the core, loving you as I do, so you were honest and pure, I would make you my wife. But— My lord,” he continued, turning to Oberwald, “you must tell her who she is.”

“Irene, the story of my life I must tell you at another time. For the present suffice it for me to say, I have promised our duke that I will, for his sake resume the title and station once cast off, and give to him my poor services in the time to come. For yourself, you must answer according to the dictates of your own heart; but, if it will help you any, I will inform you that you are the daughter of a baron of the empire. Something of this you have heard before, but I now give it to you plainly, that you may know your true rank and station.”

“Sweet love, again I ask the question,” said Leopold, taking her hand once more.

Her answer was given upon his bosom. Held close in his strong embrace—a happy, joyous answer, never to be regretted while life should endure.

By-and-by Electra and Irene found themselves together, talking of the wonderful things that had happened, while the grand duke and Ernest, with the two barons and the Lady Bertha, were arranging for the double wedding, which they had planned should come off at the Ducal Palace of Baden-Baden.

And the noble stag-hound went from one to another of his true friends, looking up happily from his great brown eyes, and wagging his tail with infinite satisfaction.

THE END


Notes

  • pot-valiant: cf. “Dutch courage”.
  • dark, lowering brows: “looking sullen: appearing dark and threatening” (Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary).
  • Knight of the Temple: Templar. See Furinchime, “Cobb Biosnip: Laborare est orare” on Cobb’s connection with Freemasonry.
  • recreant knight: (cowardly, unfaithful)
  • Arndt von Bohlen-Halbach: Heir to the 400-year-old Krupp dynasty, producers of steel and armaments. See Time magazine, “West Germany: Who Should Pay the Playboy?” (Aug 15, 1969).

Introduction © 2020 Furin Chime, Oliver Raven

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s