Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Appendix E

Legend of the Castles

Called the "Swallow's Nest" and "The Brothers," as Condensed from the
Captain's Tale

In the neighborhood of three hundred years ago the Swallow's Nest and
the larger castle between it and Neckarsteinach were owned and occupied
by two old knights who were twin brothers, and bachelors. They had no
relatives. They were very rich. They had fought through the wars and
retired to private life--covered with honorable scars. They were honest,
honorable men in their dealings, but the people had given them a couple
of nicknames which were very suggestive--Herr Givenaught and Herr
Heartless. The old knights were so proud of these names that if a
burgher called them by their right ones they would correct them.

The most renowned scholar in Europe, at the time, was the Herr Doctor
Franz Reikmann, who lived in Heidelberg. All Germany was proud of the
venerable scholar, who lived in the simplest way, for great scholars are
always poor. He was poor, as to money, but very rich in his sweet young
daughter Hildegarde and his library. He had been all his life collecting
his library, book and book, and he lived it as a miser loves his hoarded
gold. He said the two strings of his heart were rooted, the one in his
daughter, the other in his books; and that if either were severed he
must die. Now in an evil hour, hoping to win a marriage portion for his
child, this simple old man had entrusted his small savings to a sharper
to be ventured in a glittering speculation. But that was not the worst
of it: he signed a paper--without reading it. That is the way with poets
and scholars; they always sign without reading. This cunning paper made
him responsible for heaps of things. The rest was that one night he
found himself in debt to the sharper eight thousand pieces of gold!--an
amount so prodigious that it simply stupefied him to think of it. It was
a night of woe in that house.

"I must part with my library--I have nothing else. So perishes one
heartstring," said the old man.

"What will it bring, father?" asked the girl.

"Nothing! It is worth seven hundred pieces of gold; but by auction it
will go for little or nothing."

"Then you will have parted with the half of your heart and the joy of
your life to no purpose, since so mighty of burden of debt will remain

"There is no help for it, my child. Our darlings must pass under the
hammer. We must pay what we can."

"My father, I have a feeling that the dear Virgin will come to our help.
Let us not lose heart."

"She cannot devise a miracle that will turn NOTHING into eight thousand
gold pieces, and lesser help will bring us little peace."

"She can do even greater things, my father. She will save us, I know she

Toward morning, while the old man sat exhausted and asleep in his chair
where he had been sitting before his books as one who watches by his
beloved dead and prints the features on his memory for a solace in the
aftertime of empty desolation, his daughter sprang into the room and
gently woke him, saying--

"My presentiment was true! She will save us. Three times has she
appeared to me in my dreams, and said, 'Go to the Herr Givenaught, go to
the Herr Heartless, ask them to come and bid.' There, did I not tell you
she would save us, the thrice blessed Virgin!"

Sad as the old man was, he was obliged to laugh.

"Thou mightest as well appeal to the rocks their castles stand upon as
to the harder ones that lie in those men's breasts, my child. THEY bid
on books writ in the learned tongues!--they can scarce read their own."

But Hildegarde's faith was in no wise shaken. Bright and early she was
on her way up the Neckar road, as joyous as a bird.

Meantime Herr Givenaught and Herr Heartless were having an early
breakfast in the former's castle--the Sparrow's Nest--and flavoring
it with a quarrel; for although these twins bore a love for each other
which almost amounted to worship, there was one subject upon which they
could not touch without calling each other hard names--and yet it was
the subject which they oftenest touched upon.

"I tell you," said Givenaught, "you will beggar yourself yet with your
insane squanderings of money upon what you choose to consider poor and
worthy objects. All these years I have implored you to stop this foolish
custom and husband your means, but all in vain. You are always lying
to me about these secret benevolences, but you never have managed to
deceive me yet. Every time a poor devil has been set upon his feet I
have detected your hand in it--incorrigible ass!"

"Every time you didn't set him on his feet yourself, you mean. Where I
give one unfortunate a little private lift, you do the same for a dozen.
The idea of YOUR swelling around the country and petting yourself with
the nickname of Givenaught--intolerable humbug! Before I would be such
a fraud as that, I would cut my right hand off. Your life is a continual
lie. But go on, I have tried MY best to save you from beggaring yourself
by your riotous charities--now for the thousandth time I wash my hands
of the consequences. A maundering old fool! that's what you are."

"And you a blethering old idiot!" roared Givenaught, springing up.

"I won't stay in the presence of a man who has no more delicacy than to
call me such names. Mannerless swine!"

So saying, Herr Heartless sprang up in a passion. But some lucky
accident intervened, as usual, to change the subject, and the daily
quarrel ended in the customary daily living reconciliation. The
gray-headed old eccentrics parted, and Herr Heartless walked off to his
own castle.

Half an hour later, Hildegarde was standing in the presence of Herr
Givenaught. He heard her story, and said--

"I am sorry for you, my child, but I am very poor, I care nothing for
bookish rubbish, I shall not be there."

He said the hard words kindly, but they nearly broke poor Hildegarde's
heart, nevertheless. When she was gone the old heartbreaker muttered,
rubbing his hands--

"It was a good stroke. I have saved my brother's pocket this time,
in spite of him. Nothing else would have prevented his rushing off to
rescue the old scholar, the pride of Germany, from his trouble. The poor
child won't venture near HIM after the rebuff she has received from his
brother the Givenaught."

But he was mistaken. The Virgin had commanded, and Hildegarde would
obey. She went to Herr Heartless and told her story. But he said

"I am very poor, my child, and books are nothing to me. I wish you well,
but I shall not come."

When Hildegarde was gone, he chuckled and said--

"How my fool of a soft-headed soft-hearted brother would rage if he knew
how cunningly I have saved his pocket. How he would have flown to the
old man's rescue! But the girl won't venture near him now."

When Hildegarde reached home, her father asked her how she had
prospered. She said--

"The Virgin has promised, and she will keep her word; but not in the way
I thought. She knows her own ways, and they are best."

The old man patted her on the head, and smiled a doubting smile, but he
honored her for her brave faith, nevertheless.


Next day the people assembled in the great hall of the Ritter tavern,
to witness the auction--for the proprietor had said the treasure of
Germany's most honored son should be bartered away in no meaner place.
Hildegarde and her father sat close to the books, silent and sorrowful,
and holding each other's hands. There was a great crowd of people
present. The bidding began--

"How much for this precious library, just as it stands, all complete?"
called the auctioneer.

"Fifty pieces of gold!"

"A hundred!"

"Two hundred."



"Five hundred!"

"Five twenty-five."

A brief pause.

"Five forty!"

A longer pause, while the auctioneer redoubled his persuasions.


A heavy drag--the auctioneer persuaded, pleaded, implored--it was
useless, everybody remained silent--

"Well, then--going, going--one--two--"

"Five hundred and fifty!"

This in a shrill voice, from a bent old man, all hung with rags, and
with a green patch over his left eye. Everybody in his vicinity
turned and gazed at him. It was Givenaught in disguise. He was using a
disguised voice, too.

"Good!" cried the auctioneer. "Going, going--one--two--"

"Five hundred and sixty!"

This, in a deep, harsh voice, from the midst of the crowd at the other
end of the room. The people near by turned, and saw an old man, in a
strange costume, supporting himself on crutches. He wore a long white
beard, and blue spectacles. It was Herr Heartless, in disguise, and
using a disguised voice.

"Good again! Going, going--one--"

"Six hundred!"

Sensation. The crowd raised a cheer, and some one cried out, "Go it,
Green-patch!" This tickled the audience and a score of voices shouted,
"Go it, Green-patch!"

"Going--going--going--third and last call--one--two--"

"Seven hundred!"

"Huzzah!--well done, Crutches!" cried a voice. The crowd took it up, and
shouted altogether, "Well done, Crutches!"

"Splendid, gentlemen! you are doing magnificently. Going, going--"

"A thousand!"

"Three cheers for Green-patch! Up and at him, Crutches!"


"Two thousand!"

And while the people cheered and shouted, "Crutches" muttered, "Who can
this devil be that is fighting so to get these useless books?--But no
matter, he sha'n't have them. The pride of Germany shall have his books
if it beggars me to buy them for him."

"Going, going, going--"

"Three thousand!"

"Come, everybody--give a rouser for Green-patch!"

And while they did it, "Green-patch" muttered, "This cripple is plainly
a lunatic; but the old scholar shall have his books, nevertheless,
though my pocket sweat for it."


"Four thousand!"


"Five thousand!"


"Six thousand!"


"Seven thousand!"


"EIGHT thousand!"

"We are saved, father! I told you the Holy Virgin would keep her word!"
"Blessed be her sacred name!" said the old scholar, with emotion. The
crowd roared, "Huzza, huzza, huzza--at him again, Green-patch!"


"TEN thousand!" As Givenaught shouted this, his excitement was so great
that he forgot himself and used his natural voice. He brother recognized
it, and muttered, under cover of the storm of cheers--

"Aha, you are there, are you, besotted old fool? Take the books, I know
what you'll do with them!"

So saying, he slipped out of the place and the auction was at an end.
Givenaught shouldered his way to Hildegarde, whispered a word in
her ear, and then he also vanished. The old scholar and his daughter
embraced, and the former said, "Truly the Holy Mother has done more than
she promised, child, for she has give you a splendid marriage portion
--think of it, two thousand pieces of gold!"

"And more still," cried Hildegarde, "for she has give you back your
books; the stranger whispered me that he would none of them--'the
honored son of Germany must keep them,' so he said. I would I might have
asked his name and kissed his hand and begged his blessing; but he was
Our Lady's angel, and it is not meet that we of earth should venture
speech with them that dwell above."

Mark Twain