The Sword Maker by Robert Barr
VIII. The Missing Leader and the Missing Gold
Probably because of the new responsibility resting upon him, Joseph Greusel was the first to awaken next morning. He let his long cloak fall from his shoulders as he sat up, and gazed about him with astonishment. It seemed as if some powerful wizard of the hills had spirited him away during the night. He had gone to sleep in a place of terror. The thunder rolled threateningly among the peaks of Taunus, and the reflection of the lightning flash, almost incessant in its recurrence, had lit up the grove with an unholy yellow glare. The never-ceasing roar of the foaming torrent, which in the darkness gleamed with ghostly pallor, had somehow got on his nerves. Under the momentary illumination of the lightning, the waves appeared to leap up at him like a pack of hungry wolves, flecked with froth, and the noise strove to emulate the distant thunder. The grove itself was ominous in its gloom, and sinister shapes seemed to be moving about among the trees.
How different was the aspect now! The sun was still beneath the eastern horizon. The cloudless sky gave promise of another warm day, and the air, of crystalline clearness, was inspiring to breathe. To Greusel's mind, tinged with religious feeling, the situation in which he found himself seemed like a section of the Garden of Eden. The stream, which the night before had been to his superstitious mind a thing of terror, was this morning a placid, smiling, rippling brook that a man might without effort leap across.
He rubbed his eyes in amazement, thinking the mists of sleep must be responsible for this magic transformation, until he remembered the distant thunderstorm of the night before among the eastern mountains, and surmised that a heavy rainfall had deluged these speedily drained peaks and valleys.
"What a blessed thing," he said to himself fervently, "is the ever-recurring morning. How it clears away the errors and the passions of darkness! It is as if God desired to give man repeated opportunities of reform, and of encouragement. How sane everything seems now, as compared with the turbulence of the sulphurous night."
As he rose he became aware of an unaccustomed weight by his side, and putting down his hand was astonished to encounter a bag evidently filled with coin. It had been tied by its deerskin thong to his belt, just as was his own empty wallet. He sat down again, drew it round to the front of him, and unfastened it. Pouring out the gold, he found that the wallet contained a hundred and fifteen thalers, mostly in gold, with the addition of a few silver coins. At once it occurred to him that these were Roland's sixty thalers, his own thirty, and Ebearhard's twenty-five. For some reason, probably fearing the men would suspect the ruse practiced on them the night before, Roland had made him treasurer of the company. But why should he have done it surreptitiously?
Readjusting the leathern sack, he again rose to his feet, but now cast his cloak about him, thus concealing the purse. Ebearhard lay sound asleep near him. Farther away the eighteen remaining members of the company were huddled closely together, as if they had gone to rest in a room too small for them, although the whole country was theirs from which to choose sleeping quarters.
Remembering how the brook had decreased in size, and was now running clear and pellucid, he feared that the bag of stones Roland had so dramatically flung into it might be plainly visible. He determined to rouse his commander, and seek the bag for some distance downstream; for he knew that when the men awakened, all night-fear would have departed from them, and seeing the shrinkage of the brook they might themselves institute a search.
On looking round for Roland he saw no sign of him, but this caused little disquietude, for he supposed that the leader had risen still earlier than himself, wishing to stroll through the forest, or up and down the rivulet.
Greusel, with the purpose of finding the bag, and in the hope, also, of encountering his chief, walked down the valley by the margin of the waterway. Peering constantly into the limpid waters, he discovered no trace of what he sought. Down and down the valley, which was wooded all the way, he walked, and sometimes he was compelled to forsake his liquid guide, and clamber through thickets to reach its border again.
At last he arrived at a little waterfall, and here occurred a break in the woods, causing him to stand entranced by the view which presented itself. Down the declivity the forest lasted for some distance, then it gave place to ever-descending vineyards, with here and there a house showing among the vines. At the foot of this hill ran a broad blue ribbon, which he knew to be the Rhine, although he had never seen it before. Over it floated a silvery gauze of rapidly disappearing mist. The western shore appeared to be flat, and farther along the horizon was formed by hills, not so lofty as that on which he stood, but beautiful against the blue sky, made to seem nearer than they were by the first rays of the rising sun, which tipped the summits with crimson.
Greusel drew a long breath of deep satisfaction. He had never before realized that the world was so enchanting and so peaceful. It seemed impossible that men privileged to live in such a land could find no better occupation than cutting one another's throats.
The gentle plash of the waterfall at his right hand accentuated the stillness. From his height he glanced down into the broad, pellucid pool, into whose depths the water fell, and there, perfectly visible, lay the bag of bogus treasure. Cautiously he worked his way down to the gravelly border of the little lake, flung off his clothes, and plunged head-first into this Diana's pool. It was a delicious experience, and he swam round and round the circular basin, clambered up on the gravel and allowed the stream to fall over his glistening shoulders, reveling in Nature's shower-bath. Satisfied at length, he indulged in another rainbow plunge, grasped the bag, and rose again to the surface. Coming ashore, he unloosened the swollen thongs, poured out the stones along the strand, then, after a moment's thought, he wrung the water out of the bag itself, and tied it to his belt, for there was no predicting where the men would wander when once they awoke, and if he threw it away among the bushes, it might be found, breeding first wonder how it came there, and then suspicion of the trick.
Greusel walked back to camp by the other bank of the stream. Although the early rays of the sun percolated through the upper branches of the trees above them, the eighteen prone men slept as if they were but seven. He sprang over the brook, touched the recumbent Ebearhard with his foot, and so awoke him. This excellent man yawned, and stretched out his arms above his head.
"You're an early bird, Greusel," he said. "Have you got the worm?"
"Yes, I have," replied the latter. "I found it in the basin of a waterfall nearly a league from here," and with that he drew aside his cloak, showing the still wet but empty bag.
For a few moments Ebearhard did not understand. He rose and shook himself, glancing about him.
"Great Jove!" he cried, "this surely isn't the stream by which we lay down last night? Do you mean to tell me that thread of water struck terror into my heart only a few hours ago? I never slept out of doors before in all my life, and could not have imagined it would produce such an effect. I see what you mean now. You have found the bag which Roland threw into the foaming torrent."
"Yes; I was as much astonished at the transformation as you when I awoke, and then it occurred to me that when our friends saw the reduction of the rivulet, they would forthwith begin a treasure-hunt, so I determined to obliterate the evidence."
"Was the bag really full of stones?"
"Well, that is a lesson to me. I believe after all that Roland is helplessly truthful, but last night I thought he befooled us. I was certain it was the bag of coin he had thrown away, and becoming ashamed of himself, had lied to us."
"How could you imagine that? He showed us both the bag of money."
"He produced a bag full of something, but I, being the doubting Thomas of the group, was not convinced it contained money."
"Ah, that reminds me, Ebearhard; here is the bag we saw last night. I discovered it attached to my belt this morning."
"He attached it to the wrong belt, then, for you believed him. He should have tied it to mine. What reason does he give for presenting it to you?"
"Ah, now you touch a point of anxiety in my own mind. I have seen nothing of Roland this morning. I surmised that he had arisen before me, and expected to meet him somewhere down the stream, but have not done so."
"He may have gone farther afield. As you found the bag, he of course, missed it, and probably continued his search."
"I doubt that, because I came upon a point of view reaching to the Rhine and the hills beyond. I could trace the stream for a considerable distance, and watched it for a long time, but there appeared to be nothing alive in the forest."
"You don't suppose he has gone back to Frankfort, do you?"
"I am at loss what to think."
"If he has abandoned this gang of malcontents, I should be the last to blame him. The way these pigs acted yesterday was disgraceful, ending up their day with rank mutiny and threats of violence. By the iron Cross, Greusel, he has forsaken this misbegotten lot, and it serves them perfectly right, prating about comradeship and carrying themselves like cut-throats. This is Roland's method of returning our money, for I suppose that bag contains your thirty thalers and my twenty-five."
"Yes, and his own sixty as well. Poor disappointed devil, generous to the last. It was he who obtained all the money at the beginning, then these drunken swine spend it on wine, and prove so generous and brave that eighteen of them muster courage enough to face one man, and he the man who had bestowed the gold upon them."
"Greusel, the whole situation fills me with disgust. I propose we leave the lot sleeping there, go to Wiesbaden for breakfast, and then trudge back to Frankfort. It would serve the brutes right."
"No," said Greusel quietly; "I shall carry out Roland's instructions."
"I thought you hadn't seen him this morning?"
"Not a trace of him. You heard his orders at Breckenheim."
"I don't remember. What were they?"
"That if anything happened to him, I was to drive the herd to Assmannshausen. I quite agree with you, Ebearhard, that he is justified in deserting this menagerie, but, on the other hand, you and I have stood faithfully by him, and it doesn't seem to me right that he should leave us without a word. I don't believe he has done so, and I expect any moment to see him return."
"You're wrong, Greusel. He's gone. That purse is sufficient explanation, and as you recall to my mind his instructions, I believe something of this must have suggested itself to him even that early in the day. He has divested himself of every particle of money in his possession, turning it over to you, but instead of returning to Frankfort he has made his way over the hills to Assmannshausen, and will await us there."
"What would be the object of that?"
"One reason may be that he will learn whether or not you have enough control over these people to bring them to the Rhine. He will satisfy himself that your discipline is such as to improve their manners. It may be in his mind to resign, and make you leader, if you prove yourself able to control them."
"Suppose I fail in that?"
"Well, then--this is all fancy, remember--I imagine he may look round Assmannshausen to find another company who will at least obey him."
"What you say sounds very reasonable. Still, I do not see why he should have left two friends like us without a word."
"A word, my dear Greusel, would have led to another, and another, and another. One of the first questions asked him would be 'But what are Ebearhard and I to do?' That's exactly what he doesn't wish to answer. He desires to know what you will do of your own accord. He is likely rather hopeless about this mob, but is giving you an opportunity, and then another chance. Why, his design is clear as that rivulet there, and as easily seen through. You will either bring those men across the hills, or you won't. If you and I are compelled to clamber over to Assmannshausen alone, Roland will probably be more pleased to see us than if we brought this rogues' contingent straggling at our heels. He will appoint you chief officer of his new company, and me the second. If you doubt my conclusions, I'll wager twenty-five thalers against your thirty that I am in the right."
"I never gamble, Ebearhard, especially when certain to lose. You are a shrewder man than I, by a long bowshot."
In a work of fiction it would of course be concealed till the proper time came that all of these men were completely wrong in their prognostications regarding the fate of Roland, but this being history it may be stated that the young man had not the least desire to test Greusel's ability, nor would his lieutenants find him awaiting them when they reached Assmannshausen.
"Hello! Rouse up there! What have we for breakfast? Has all the wine been drunk? I hope not. My mouth's like a brick furnace!"
It was the brave Kurzbold who spoke, as he playfully kicked, not too gently, those of his comrades who lay nearest him. He was answered by groans and imprecations, as one by one the sleeping beauties aroused themselves, and wondered where the deuce they were.
"Who has stolen the river?" cried Gensbein.
"Oh, stealing the river doesn't matter," said a third. "It's only running water. Who drank all the wine? That's a more serious question."
"Well, whoever's taken away the river, I can swear without searching my pouch has made no theft from me, for I spent my last stiver yesterday."
"Don't boast," growled Kurzbold. "You're not alone in your poverty. We're all in the same case. Curse that fool of a Roland for throwing away good money just when it's most needed."
"Good money is always most needed," exclaimed the philosophic Gensbein.
He rose and shook himself, then looked down at the beautiful but unimportant rivulet.
"I say, lads, were we as drunk as all that last night? Was there an impassable torrent here or not?"
"How could we be drunk, you fool, on little more than a liter of wine each," cried Kurzbold.
"Please be more civil in your talk," returned his friend. "You were drunk all day. The liter and a half was a mere nightcap. If you are certain there was a torrent, then I must have been in the same condition as yourself."
The spokesman of the previous night, who had been chided for not springing on Roland before he succeeded in doing away with the treasure, here uttered a shout.
"This water," he said, "is clear as air. You can see every pebble at the bottom. Get to work, you sleepyheads, and search down the stream. We'll recover that bag yet, and then it's back to Sonnenberg for breakfast. Whoever finds it, finds it for the guild; a fair and equal division amongst us. That is, amongst the eighteen of us. I propose that Roland, Greusel, and Ebearhard do not share. They were all in the plot to rob us."
"Agreed!" cried the others, and the treasure-hunt impetuously began.
Greusel and Ebearhard watched them disappear through the forest down the stream.
"Greusel," said Ebearhard, "what a deplorable passion is the frantic quest for money in these days, especially money that we have not earned. Our excited treasure-hunters do not realize that at such a moment in the early morning the only subject worth consideration is breakfast. Being unsparing and prodigal last night, it would take a small miracle of the fishes to suffice them to-day. There is barely enough for two hungry men, and as we are rid of these chaps for half an hour at least, I propose we sit down to our first meal."
Greusel made no comment upon this remark, but the advice commended itself to him, for he followed it.
Some time after they had finished breakfast, the unsuccessful company returned by twos and threes. Apparently they had not wandered so far as the waterfall, for no one said anything of the amazing view of the Rhine. Indeed, it was plain that they considered themselves involved in a boundless wilderness, and were too perplexed to suggest a way out. After a storm of malediction over the breakfastless state of things, and a good deal of quarreling among themselves anent who had been most greedy the night before, they now turned their attention to the silent men who were watching them.
"Where's Roland?" they demanded.
"I don't know," replied Greusel.
"Didn't he tell you where he was going?"
"We have not seen him this morning," explained Ebearhard gently. "He seems to have disappeared in the night. Perhaps he fell into the stream. Perhaps, on the other hand, he has deliberately deserted us. He gave us no hint of his intentions last night, and we are as ignorant as yourselves regarding his whereabouts."
"This is outrageous!" cried Kurzbold. "It is the duty of a leader to provide for his following."
"Yes; if the following follows."
"We have followed," said Kurzbold indignantly, "and have been led into this desert, not in the least knowing where in Heaven's name we are. And now to be left like this, breakfastless, thirsty--" Here Kurzbold's language failed him, and he drew the back of his hand across parched lips.
"When you remember, gentlemen," continued Ebearhard, in accents of honey, "that your last dealings with your leader took place with eighteen swords drawn; when you recollect that you expressed your determination to rob him, and when you call to mind that you brave eighteen threatened him with personal violence if he resisted this brigandage on your part, I cannot understand why you should be surprised at his withdrawal from your fellowship."
"Oh, you always were a glib talker, but the question now is what are we to do?"
"Yes, and that is a question for you to decide," said Ebearhard. "When you mutinied last night, you practically deposed Roland from the leadership. To my mind, he had no further obligations towards you, so, having roughly taken the power into your own hands, it is for you to deal with it as you think best. I should never so far forget myself as to venture even a suggestion."
"As I hinted to you," said Kurzbold, "you are talking too much. You are merely one of ourselves, although you have kept yourself separate from us. Greusel has been appointed lieutenant by our unanimous vote, and if his chief proves a poltroon, he is the man to act. Therefore, Joseph Greusel, I ask on behalf of the company what you intend to do?"
"Before I can answer that question," replied Greusel, "I must know whether or not you will act as you did yesterday?"
"What do you mean by that?" Several, speaking together, put the question.
"I wish to know whether you will follow cheerfully and without demur where I lead? I refuse to act as guide if I run the risk of finding eighteen sword-points at my throat when I have done my best."
"Oh, you talk like a fool," commented Kurzbold. "We followed Roland faithfully enough until he brought us into this impasse. You make entirely too much of last night's episode. None of us intended to hurt him, as you are very well aware, and besides, we don't want a leader who is frightened, and runs away at the first sign of danger."
"Make up your minds what you propose to do," said Greusel stubbornly, "and give me your decision; then you will receive mine."
Greusel saw that although Kurzbold talked like the bully he was, the others were rather subdued, and no voice but his was raised in defense of their previous conduct.
"There is one thing you must tell us before we can come to a decision," went on Kurzbold. "How much money have you and Ebearhard?"
"At midday yesterday I had thirty thalers, and Ebearhard had twenty-five. While you were all sleeping on the grass, after our meal at Breckenheim, Roland asked us for the money."
"You surely were not such idiots as to give it to him?"
"He was our commander, and we both considered it right to do what he asked of us."
"He said," put in Ebearhard, "that your suggestion about a finance committee was a good one, and that he had determined to be that committee. He asked us if any of you had money, but I told him I thought it was all spent, which probably accounts for his restricting the application to us two."
"Then we are here in an unknown wilderness, twenty men, hungry, and without a florin amongst us," wailed Kurzbold, and the comments of those behind him were painful to hear.
"I am glad that at last you thoroughly appreciate our situation, and I hope that in addition you realize it has been brought about not through any fault of Roland's, who gave in to your whims and childishness until you came to the point of murder and robbery. Therefore blame yourselves and not him. You now know as much of our position as I do, so make up your minds about the next step, and inform me what conclusion you come to."
"You're a mighty courageous leader," cried Kurzbold scornfully, and with this the hungry ones retired some distance into the grove, from whence echoes of an angry debate came to the two men who sat by the margin of the stream. After a time they strode forward again. Once more Kurzbold was the spokesman.
"We have determined to return to Frankfort."
"I suppose you remember enough of the way to lead us at least as far as Wiesbaden. Beyond that point we can look to ourselves."
"I should be delighted," said Greusel, "to be your guide, but unfortunately I am traveling in the other direction with Ebearhard."
"Why, in the name of starvation?" roared Kurzbold. "You know no more of the country ahead of us than we do. By going back we can get something to eat, and a drink, at one of the farmhouses we passed this side of Sonnenberg."
"How?" inquired Greusel.
"Why, if they ask for payment we will give them iron instead of silver. No man need starve with a sword by his side."
"Granted that this is feasible, and that the farmers yield instead of raising the country-side against you, when you reach Frankfort what are you going to do? Eat and drink with the landlord of the Rheingold until he becomes bankrupt? You must remember that it was Roland who liquidated our last debt there, without asking or receiving a word of thanks, and he did that not a moment too soon, for the landlord was at the end of his resources and would have closed his tavern within another week."
Kurzbold stormed at this harping on the subject of Roland and his generosity, but those with him were hungry, and they now remembered, too late, that what Greusel said was strictly true. If Roland had put in an appearance then, he would have found a most docile company to lead. They were actually murmuring against Kurzbold, and blaming him and his clan for the disaster that had overtaken them.
"Why will you not come back with us?" pleaded the penitents, with surprising mildness.
"Because the future in Frankfort strikes me as hopeless. Not one amongst us has the brains of Roland, whom we have thrown out. Besides, it is nine and a half long leagues to Frankfort, and only three and a half leagues to Assmannshausen. I expect to find Roland there, and although I know nothing of his intentions, I imagine he has gone to enlist a company of a score or thereabouts that will obey his commands. There is some hope by going forward to Assmannshausen; there is absolutely none in retreating to Frankfort. Then, as I said, Assmannshausen is little more than three leagues away; a fact worth consideration by hungry men. On the Rhine we are in the rich wine country, where there is plenty to eat and drink, probably for the asking, whereas if we turn our faces towards the east we are marching upon starvation."
The buzz of comment aroused by this speech proved to the two men that Kurzbold stood once more alone. Greusel, without seeming to care which way the cat jumped, had induced that unreasoning animal to leap as he liked. His air of supreme indifference aroused Ebearhard's admiration, especially when he remembered that under his cloak there rested a hundred and fifteen thalers in gold and silver.
"But you know nothing of the way," protested Kurzbold. "None of us are acquainted with the country to the west."
"We don't need to be acquainted with it," said Greusel. "We steer westward by glancing at the sun now and then, and cannot go astray, because we must come to the Rhine; then it's either up or down the river, as the case may be, to reach Assmannshausen."
"To the Rhine! To the Rhine!" was now the universal cry.
"Before we begin our journey," said Greusel, as if he accepted the leadership with reluctance, "I must have your promise that you will obey me without question. I am not so patient a man as Roland, but on my part I guarantee you an excellent meal and good wine as soon as we reach Assmannshausen."
"How can you promise that," growled Kurzbold, "when you have given away your money?"
"Because, as I told you, I expect to meet Roland there."
"But he threw away his bag."
"Yes; I told him it was a foolish thing to do, and perhaps that is why he left without saying a word, even to me. He is an ingenious man. Assmannshausen is familiar to him, and I dare say he would not have discarded his money without knowing where to get more."
"To the Rhine! To the Rhine! To the Rhine!" cried the impatient host, gathering up their cloaks, and tightening their belts, as the savage does when he is hungry.
"To the Rhine, then," said Greusel, springing across the little stream in company with Ebearhard.
"You did that very well, Greusel," complimented the latter.
"I would rather have gone alone with you," replied the new leader, "for I have condemned myself to wear this heavy cloak, which is all very well to sleep in, but burdensome under a hot sun."
"The sun won't be so oppressive," predicted his friend, "while we keep to the forest."
"That is very true, but remember we are somewhere in the Rheingau, and that we must come out into the vineyards by and by."
"Don't grumble, Greusel, but hold up your head as a great diplomatist. Roland himself could not have managed these chaps so well, you flaunting hypocrite, the only capitalist amongst us, yet talking as if you were a monk sworn to eternal poverty."
Greusel changed the subject.
"Do you notice," he said, "that we are following some sort of path, which we must have trodden last evening, without seeing it in the dusk."
"I imagine," said Ebearhard, "that Roland knew very well where he was going. He strode along ahead of us as if sure of his ground. I don't doubt but this will lead us to Assmannshausen."
Which, it may be remarked, it did not. The path was little more than a trail, which a sharp-eyed man might follow, and it led up-hill and down dale direct to the Archbishop's Castle of Ehrenfels.
The forest lasted for a distance that the men in front estimated to be about two leagues, then they emerged into open country, and saw the welcome vines growing. Climbing out of the valley, they observed to the right, near the top of a hill, a small hamlet, which had the effect of instantaneously raising the spirits of the woebegone company.
"Hooray for breakfast!" they shouted, and had it not been for their own fatigue, and the steepness of the hill, they would have broken into a run.
"Halt!" cried Greusel sternly, standing before and above them. At once they obeyed the word of command, which caused Ebearhard to smile.
"You will climb to the top of this hill," said Greusel, "and there rest under command of my lieutenant, Ebearhard. As we now emerge into civilization, I warn you that if we are to obtain breakfast it must be by persuasion, and not by force. Therefore, while you wait on the hilltop, I shall go alone into the houses on the right, and see what can be done towards providing a meal for eighteen men. Ebearhard and I will fast until we reach Assmannshausen. On the other hand, you should be prepared for disappointment; loaves of bread are not to be picked up on the point of a sword. If I return and order you to march on unfed, you must do so as cheerfully as you can."
This ultimatum called forth not a word of opposition, and Ebearhard led the van while Greusel deflected up the hill to his right, the sooner to reach the village.
He learned that the name of the place was Anton-Kap; that the route he had been following would take him to Ehrenfels, and that he must adopt a reasonably rough mountain-road to the right in order to reach Assmannshausen.
By somewhat straining the resources of the place, which proved to possess no inn, he collected bread enough for the eighteen, and there was no dearth of wine, although it proved a coarse drink that reflected little credit on the reputation of the Rheingau. He paid for this meal in advance, saying that they were all in a hurry to reach Assmannshausen, and wished to leave as soon as the frugal breakfast was consumed.
Mounting a small elevation to the west of the village, he signaled to the patient men to come on, which they lost no time in doing. The bread was eaten and the wine drunk without a word being said by any one. And now they took their way down the hill again, crossed the little Geisenheim stream, and up once more, traversing a high table-land giving them a view of the Rhine, finally descending through another valley, which led them into Assmannshausen, celebrated for its red wine, a color they had not yet met with.
Assmannshausen proved to be a city as compared with the hamlets they had passed, yet was small enough to make a thorough search of the place a matter that consumed neither much effort nor time. Greusel led his men to a Weinstaube a short distance out of the village, and, to their delight, succeeded in establishing a credit for them to the extent of one liter of wine each, with a substantial meal of meat, eggs, and what-not. Greusel and Ebearhard left them there in the height of great enjoyment, all the more delightful after the hunger and fatigue they had encountered, for the three and a half leagues had proved almost without a single stretch of level land. The two officers inquired for Roland, without success, at the various houses of entertainment which Assmannshausen boasted, then canvassed every home in the village, but no one had seen anything of the man they described.
Coming out to the river front, deeply discouraged, the two gazed across the empty water, from which all enlivening traffic had departed. It was now evident to both that Roland had not entered Assmannshausen, for in so small and gossipy a hamlet no stranger could even have passed through without being observed.
"Well, Joseph," asked Ebearhard, "what do you intend to do?"
"There is nothing to do but to wait until our money is gone. It is absolutely certain that Roland is not here. Can it be possible that after all he returned?"
"How could he have done so? We know him to have been without money; therefore why to Frankfort, even if such a trip were possible for a penniless man?"
"I am sorry now," said Greusel despondently, "that I did not follow a suggestion that occurred to me, which was to take the men direct down the valley where we encamped, to the banks of the Rhine, and there make inquiries."
"You think he went that way?"
"I did, until you persuaded me out of it."
"Again I ask what could be his object?"
"It seems to me that this mutiny made a greater impression on his mind than I had supposed. After all, he is not one of us, and never has been. You yourself pointed that out when we were talking of him at Breckenheim. If you caught glances of contempt for us while we were all one jolly family in the Kaiser cellar, what must be his loathing for the guild after such a day as yesterday?"
"That's true. You must travel with a man before you learn his real character."
"Meaning this crew, guzzling up at the tavern. Meaning you, meaning me; yes, and meaning Roland also. I never knew until yesterday and to-day what a capable fellow you were, and when I remember that I nominated Kurzbold for our leader before Roland appeared on the scene, I am amazed at my lack of judgment of men. As for Roland himself, my opinion of him has fallen. Nothing could have persuaded me that he would desert us all without a word of explanation, no matter what happened. My predictions regarding his conduct are evidently wrong. What do you think has actually occurred?"
"It's my opinion that the more he thought over the mutiny, the angrier he became; a cold, stubborn anger, not vocal at all, as Kurzbold's would be. I think that after fastening the money to my belt he went down the valley to the Rhine. He knows the country, you must remember. He would then either wait there until the barge appeared, or more likely would proceed up along the margin of the river, and hail the boat when it came in sight. The captain would recognize him, and turn in, and we know the captain is under his command. At this moment they are doubtless poling slowly up the Rhine to the Main again, and will thus reach Frankfort. Herr Goebel has confidence in Roland, otherwise he would never have risked so much on his bare word. He will confess to his financier that he has been mistaken in us, and doubtless tell him all that happened, and the merchant will appreciate that, even though he has lost his five hundred thalers, Roland would not permit him to lose his goods as well."
"Do you suppose Roland will enlist another company?"
"It is very likely, for Herr Goebel trusts him, and, goodness knows, there are enough unemployed men in Frankfort for Roland to select a better score than we have proved to be."
It was quite certain that Roland was not in Assmannshausen, yet Greusel was a prophet as false as Ebearhard.