Abbildungen der Seite

as he saw his father upon the walls. Don Alonso's eyes, we are told, filled with tears as he cast one long, last look at his firstborn, whom he might not save except at the expense of his truth and honor.

The struggle was bitter, but he broke forth at last in these words : — “I did not beget a son to be made use of against my country, but that he should serve her against her foes. Should Don Juan put him to death, he will but confer honor on me, true life on my son, and on himself eternal shame in this world and everlasting wrath after death. So far am I from yielding this place or betraying my trust, that in case he should want a weapon for his cruel purpose, there goes my knife !”

He cast the knife in his belt over the walls, and returned to the castle, where, commanding his countenance, he sat down to table with his wife. Loud shouts of horror and dismay almost instantly called him forth again. He was told that Don Juan had been seen to cut the boy's throat in a transport of

“I thought the enemy had broken in,” he calmly said, and went back again.

The Moors themselves were horror-struck at the atrocity of their ally, and as the siege was hopeless they gave it up; and Don Juan, afraid and ashamed to return to Morocco, wandered to the court of Granada.

King Sancho was lying sick at Alcala de Henares when the tidings of the price of Guzman's fidelity reached him. Touched to the depths of his heart, he wrote a letter to his faithful subject, comparing his sacrifice to that of Abraham, confirming to him the surname of Good, lamenting his own inability to come and offer his thanks and regrets, but entreating Guzman's presence at Alcala.

All the way thither, the people thronged to see the man true to his word at such a fearful cost. The court was sent out to meet him, and the king, after

blind rage.

embracing him, exclaimed, “Here learn, ye knights, what are exploits of virtue. Behold

model." Lands and honors were heaped upon Alonso de Guzman, and they were not a mockery of his loss, for he had other sons to inherit them. He was the stanch friend of Sancho's widow and son in a long and perilous minority, and died full of years and honors. The lands granted to him were those of Medina Sidonia, which lie between the rivers Guadiana and Guadalquivir, and they have ever since been held by his descendants, who still bear the honored name of Guzman, witnessing that the man who gave the life of his firstborn rather than break his faith to the king has left a posterity as noble and enduring as any family in Europe.





NE of the ladies most admired by the ancient

[ocr errors]

a Roman who was condemned by the Emperor Claudius to become his own executioner. Seeing him waver, his wife, who was resolved to be with him in death as in life, took the dagger from his hand, plunged it into her own breast, and with her last strength held it out to him, gasping out, “ It is not painful, my Pætus."

Such was heathen faithfulness even to death; and where the teaching of Christianity had not forbidden the taking away of life by one's own hand, perhaps wifely love could not go higher. Yet Christian women have endured a yet more fearful ordeal to their tender affection, watching, supporting, and finding unfailing fortitude to uphold the sufferer in agonies that must have rent their hearts.

Natalia was the fair young wife of Adrian, an officer at Nicomedia, in the guards of the Emperor Galerius Maximianus, and only about twenty-eight years old. Natalia was a Christian, but her husband remained a pagan, until, when he was charged with the execution of some martyrs, their constancy, coupled with the testimony of his own wife's virtues, triumphed over his unbelief, and he confessed himself likewise a Christian. He was thrown into prison, and sentenced to death, but he prevailed on his gaoler to permit him to leave the dungeon for a time, that he might see his wife. The report came to Natalia that he was no longer in prison, and she threw herself on the ground, lamenting aloud: “Now will men point at me, and say, “Behold the wife of the ward an apostate, who, for fear of death, hath denied his God.'

"O, thou noble and strong-hearted woman,” said Adrian's voice at the door, “I bless God that I am not unworthy of thee. Open the door, that I may bid thee farewell.”

But this was not the last farewell, though he duly went back to the prison ; for when, the next day, he had been cruelly scourged and tortured before the tribunal, Natalia, with her hair cut short, and wearing the disguise of a youth, was there to tend and comfort him. She took him in her arms, saying, “O, light of mine eyes, and husband of mine heart, blessed art thou, who art chosen to suffer for Christ's sake.”

On the following day, the tyrant ordered that Adrian's limbs should be one by one struck off on a blacksmith's anvil, and lastly his head. And still it was his wife who held him and sustained him through all, and, ere the last stroke of the executioner, had received his last breath. She took up one of the severed hands, kissed it, and placed it in her bosom, and escaping to Byzantium, there spent her life in widowhood.

Nor among these devoted wives should we pass by Gertrude, the wife of Rudolph, Baron von der Wart, a Swabian nobleman, who was so ill-advised as to join in a conspiracy of Johann of Hapsburg, in 1308, against the Emperor, Albrecht I., the son of the great and good Rudolf of Hapsburg.

This Johann was the son of the Emperor's brother Rudolf, a brave knight who had died young, and


Johann had been brought up by a baron called Walther von Eschenbach, until, at nineteen years old, he went to his uncle to demand his father's inherit

Albrecht was a rude and uncouth man, and refused disdainfully the demand, whereupon the noblemen of the disputed territory stirred up the young prince to form a plot against him, all having evidently different views of the lengths to which they would proceed. This was just at the time that the Swiss, angry at the overweening and oppressive behavior of Albrecht's governors, were first taking up arms to maintain that they owed no duty to him as Duke of Austria, but merely as Emperor of Germany. He set out on his way to chastise them as rebels, taking with him a considerable train, of whom his nephew Johann was one. At Baden, Johann, as a last experiment, again applied for his inheritance, but by way of answer, Albrecht held out a wreath of flowers, telling him they better became his years than did the cares of government. He burst into tears, threw the wreath upon the ground, and fed his mind upon the savage purpose of letting his uncle find out what he was fit for.

By and by, the party came to the banks of the Reuss, where there was no bridge, and only one single boat to carry the whole across. The first to cross were the Emperor with one attendant, besides his nephew and four of the secret partisans of Johann. Albrecht's son Leopold was left to follow with the rest of the suite, and the Emperor rode on towards the hills of his home, towards the Castle of Hapsburg, where his father's noble qualities had earned the reputation which was the cause of all the greatness of the line. Suddenly his nephew rode up to him, and while one of the conspirators seized the bridle of his horse, exclaimed,

now restore my inheritance ?and wounded him in the neck. The attendant fled ;

“Will you

« ZurückWeiter »