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THE FATAL MARKSMAN.
“ LISTEN, dame," said Bertram, the old forester of Linden, to his wife; once for all, listen. It's not many things, thou well know'st, that I would deny to thy asking: but as for this notion, Anne, drive it clean out of thy head; root and branch lay the axe to it; the sooner the better; and never encourage the lass to think more about it. When she knows the worst, she 'll settle herself down to her crying; and when that's over, all's over; she submits, and all goes right. I see no good that comes of standing shilly-shally, and letting the girl nurse herself with hopes of what must not be.”
“ But Bertram, dear Bertram,” replied old Anne,“ why not? could not our Kate live as happily with the bailiff's clerk as with the hunter Robert ? Ah, you don't know what a fine lad William is; so good, so kind-hearted
“May be, like enough,” interrupted Bertram; “kindhearted, I dare say, but no hunter for all that. Now, look here, Anne : for better than two hundred years has this farm in the forest of Linden come down from father to child in my family. Hadst thou brought me a son, well and good: the farm would have gone to him; and the lass might have married whom she would. But, as the
What the devil! have I had all this trouble and vexation of mind to get the duke's allowance for my son-in-law to stand his examination as soon as he is master of the huntsman's business ; and just when all's settled, must I go and throw the girl away? A likely thing, indeed! No, no, mistress Anne, it's no use talking. It's not altogether Robert that I care about. I don't stand upon trifles; and, if the man is not to your taste or the girl's, why, look out any other active huntsman that may take
my office betimes, and give us a comfortable fireside in our old age. Robert or not Robert, so that it be a lad of the forest, I'll never stand upon trifles : but for the clerk
dost hear, Anne? — this hero of a crow-quill, never hang about
neck or think to wheedle me again.” For the clerk's sake old Anne would have ventured to wheedle her husband a little longer : but the forester, who knew by experience the pernicious efficacy of female eloquence, was resolved not to expose his own firmness of purpose
further assaults or trials; and, taking down his
gun from the wall, he walked out into the forest.
Scarcely had he turned the corner of the house, when a rosy, light-haired face looked in at the door. It was Katharine : smiling and blushing, she stopped for a moment in agitation, and said: “Is all right, mother? was it yes, dear mother?” Then, bounding into the room, she fell on her mother's neck for an answer.
“Ah, Kate, be not too confident when thou shouldst be prepared for the worst: thy father is a good man, as good as ever stepped, but he has his fancies ; and he is resolved to give thee to none but a hunter: he has set his heart upon it; and he'll not go from his word ; I know him too well.”
Katharine wept, and avowed her determination to die sooner than to part from her William. Her mother com
forted and scolded her by turns, and at length ended by joining her tears to her daughter's. She was promising to make one more assault of a most vigorous kind upon the old forester's heart, when a knock was heard at the door and in stepped William. “ Ah, William !” — exclaimed Katharine, going up to him with streaming eyes, must part: seek some other sweetheart: me you must never marry; father is resolved to give me to Robert, because he is a huntsman; and my mother can do nothing
But if I am to part from you, never think that I will belong to anybody else: to my dying hour, dear William, I will remain faithful to you.”
These bursts of wounded feeling were softened in the report of the mother: she explained to the bewildered clerk, who knew not what to make of Katharine's ejaculations, that Bertram had no objections to him personally ; but that, simply with a view to the reversionary interest in his place as forester, he insisted on having a son-in-law who understood hunting.
“ Is that all?” said William, recovering his composure, and at the same time he caught the sobbing girl to his bosom, “ Is that all? Then be of good cheer, dearest Kate. I am not unskilled in hunting : for, at one time, I was apprenticed to my uncle Finstersbusch, the forester-general; and it was only to gratify my god-father the bailiff that I exchanged the gun for the writing-desk. What care I for the reversion of the bailiff's place, unless I may
take my Kate into the bailiff's house as mistress? If you can be content to look no higher than your mother did, and Will the forester is not less dear to you than Will the bailiff, then let me die if I won't quit my clerkship this instant; for, in point of pleasure, there's no comparison between the jolly huntsman's life and the formal life of the town.”
“O thou dear, kind lad!” said Katharine, whilst all the clouds dispersed from her forehead, and her eyes swam in a shower of glittering tears.
“ If thou wilt do this for my sake then do so, and speak to my father without delay, before he can possibly make any promise to Robert.”
Stay, Kate : I'll go after him this moment into the forest. He's gone in search of the venison, I dare say, that is to be delivered to-morrow into the office. Give me a gun and a pouch ; I'll find him out, — meet him with a jolly hunter's salutation, and offer my services to him as his hunting-boy."
Both mother and daughter fell upon his neck; helped to equip the new huntsman to the best of their skill; and looked after him, as he disappeared in the forest, with hope, but yet with some anxiety.
“ Upon my soul, but this William's a fine fellow!” exclaimed the forester as he returned home with his comrade from the chase. “ Who the deuce would ever have looked for such a good shot in the flourisher of a crow-quill? Well; to-morrow I shall speak with the bailiff myself; for it would be a sad pity if he were not to pursue the noble profession of hunting. Why, he'll make a second Kuno. You know who Kuno was, I suppose?” said he, turning to William.
William acknowledged that he did not.
“ Not know who Kuno was ? bless my soul! to think that I should never have told you that. Why, Kuno, you're to understand, was my great-grandfather's father ; and was the very first man that ever occupied and cultivated this farm. He began the world no better, I'll assure you, than a poor riding-boy; and lived servant with the
young knight of Wippach. Ah! the knight liked him well, and took him to all places, battles, tournaments, hunts, and what not. Well, once upon a time it happened that this young gentleman of Wippach was present with many other knights and nobles at a great hunt held by the duke. And in this hunt the dogs turned up a stag, upon which a man was seated wringing his hands and crying piteously ; for, in those days, there was a tyrannical custom among the great lords, that, when a poor man had committed any slight matter of trespass against the forest laws, they would take and bind him on the back of the stag, so that he was bruised and gored to death by the herd, - or if he escaped dying that way, he perished of hunger and thirst. Well, when the duke saw this - lord ! but he was angry; and gave command to stop the hunting; and there and then he promised a high reward to any man that would undertake to hit the stag, but threatened him with his severest displeasure in case he wounded the man ; for he was resolved, if possible, to take him alive, that he might learn who it was that had been bold enough to break his law, which forbade all such murderous deeds. Now, amongst all the nobility, not a man could be found tha would undertake the job on these terms. They liked the reward, mind you, but not the risk. So, at last, who should step forward but Kuno, my own great-grandfather's father, — the very man that you see painted in that picture. He spoke up boldly before the duke, and said: 'My noble liege, if it is your pleasure, with God's blessing, I will run the hazard; if I miss, my life is at your Grace's disposal, and must pay
the forfeit; for riches and worldly goods I have none to ransom it; but I pity the poor man; and without fee or reward, I would have exposed my life to the same hazard if I had seen him in the hands of enemies or robbers.' This speech pleased the duke: it pleased him right well: and