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THE GERMAN KNIGHT.
There is an old proverb, that some jokes are cut-throats; meaning that certain unlucky jests are apt to bring a tragical ending,—a truth which has been confirmed by many instances, besides that one which I am about to relate.
At the memorable siege of Vienna by the French, in the year , the inhabitants enrolled themselves in great numbers for the defence of the city, and amongst these was one Lodowic, a man of dull intellect and a hasty temper, but withal of a slow courage. He was not one of the last, however, to volunteer; for there was a lady in the back-ground who excited him, with an extraordinary eagerness, to take up arms against the common enemy.
It is notorious that the Germans, though phlegmatic, are a romantic people in their notions; the tales of chivalry, the mysteries of Odin, and diabolical legends, being their most favourite studies. In affairs of business they are plodding, indefatigable, and of an extraordinary patience, their naturalists having counted cod's eggs, by millions, beyond any other people; and in their extravagant nights they equally surpass the rest of mankind, even as it lias been observed of the most sedate drudgehorses, that they kick up highest of any when turned out free into the meadow.
Dorothea, for so the lady was called, partook largely of the national bias; and in truth, for her own peace and contentment, should have lived some centuries sooner, when the customs recorded by the minnesingers and troubadours were the common usages. In her own times, it was a novelty to see a young maiden so overdelighted as she was at the dedication of her lover to deeds of arms and bloodshed; as if, forsooth, he had been going only to tilt with a blunted lance at a holiday tournament, instead of the deadly broil with the French in which he was engaged. With her own hand she embroidered for him a silken scarf, in the manner of the damsels of yore, and bereaved her own headgear to bedeck his helmet with a knightly plume. For it was one of her fancies, that Lodowic should go forth to the war in the costume of her ancestors, from whose armoury she selected a suit of complete steel, which had been worn aforetime in the Holy Land.
The timid spirit of the German made him willingly entrench himself in a coat of mail, and its security helped him to overlook the undue alacrity with which the lady of his love commended him to the bloody field. Not a tear did she spend at the buckling on of his cuirass, nor a single sigh at the delivery of his shield.
"Return with this," said the hard-hearted one, "or upon it,"—a benediction which she had learned of the Spartan heroine.
It was noon, when the redoubtable Lodowic rode forth thus accoutred to join his troop on the parade. His horse, scared by the clattering of the armour, made many desperate plunges by the way, to the manifest derangement of his scarf, and still more of his plumes, which began to droop down his nape in a very unseemly fashion. The joints of his armour being stiff with the rust of age, he had no great command tif his limbs, nor was he very expert or graceful n the management of his lance. As for his shield, he had found convenient to cast it amongst certain gossiping housewives in the street; so that, in extremity, he could fulfil neither of the Spartan conditions.
The common people, who have hawks' eyes for any grotesque figure, shouted lustily after him as he rode, which attracted the general notice of his troop to that quarter, and as soon