Has your gender ever held you back?

Mark Twain
Awful, Terrible Medieval Romance
Mark Twain

Mark Twain

A cruel, terrible love story from the Middle Ages

Translated by Winfried Heppner © 2005


The secret is revealed

It was night Silence reigned over the venerable old family castle of those von Klugenstein. The year 1222 was drawing to a close. A solitary light flickered high up in the tallest tower of the castle. A secret meeting was held there. The stern old Baron von Klugenstein sat on a splendid chair and thought about it. Suddenly he said in a mild tone:

"My daughter!"

A young man of noble appearance, clad from head to toe in armor, replied:

"Speak, my father!"

“My daughter, the time has come to reveal to you the secret that has preoccupied you all your young life. So then know that it has its origin in the things that I will now reveal to you. My brother Ulrich is the Duke of Brandenburg. Our father had decreed on his deathbed that, should Ulrich not have a son, the line of succession would pass to our family if I should have a son. And further, if no one has a son but only daughters, the line of succession passes to Ulrich's daughter, if she remains immaculate; if not, my daughter will follow on the condition that she keep an impeccable name for herself. It so happened that my old wife and myself prayed fervently to be blessed with a son. But our prayers were not answered. I was desperate. I had to watch as the grand prize threatened to slip out of my hands, the wonderful dream burst. And yet I had such high hopes! Ulrich had been married for five years, but his wife had no heir, be it a girl or a boy, born.

"But wait," I said, "all is not lost yet." A saving trick had occurred to me. You were born at midnight. Only the court yard, the nurse and six servants knew your gender. Less than an hour had passed before I had hung them all up. The next morning the whole barony went crazy because it was announced that Klugenstein had a son and an heir to the mighty Brandenburg! And the secret has been kept all this time. Your mother's sister took care of you in your childhood and from that time on we were no longer afraid.

A daughter was born to Ulrich when you were ten years old. We were very sad but hoped for the charitable work of measles, doctors or other natural enemies of childhood, but we were always disappointed. She lived, she prospered - all the plagues of heaven upon her! But that doesn't mean anything. We are sure. Because - ha, ha - we don't have a son? And is not our son the future Duke? Our beloved Conrad, isn't it? - because, woman of 28 years that you are, my child, you have never been given any other name than this.

Now it has so happened that old age has laid its hand on my brother and he is getting weaker and weaker. Concerns about the state make life difficult for him. That is why he wants you to come to him and already become a duke - de facto, if not de iure. Our followers are ready - you begin your journey tonight.

And now listen carefully to me. Think of every word I say. There is a law as old as Germany. It says that a woman who sits on the great ducal throne for even a moment before being legally crowned in the presence of the people MUST DIE. So listen to my words! Give yourself humble. Announce your decisions from the Prime Minister's chair at the foot of the throne. Do this until you are crowned and safe. Your gender is unlikely to be discovered; but it shows wisdom when you secure everything as well as possible in this world full of traitors. "

'Oh my father, is that why my life has been a lie? Should I rob my innocent cousin of her rights? Spare me, father, spare your child! "

“What's the nonsense? Is that the thanks for the sublime happiness my brain has created for itself? By the bones of my father, your whimpering sentimentalism hits me in the bile.

Go to the Duke, now! And think carefully about how you deal with my intentions. "

Enough of this conversation. It is enough for us to know that the prayers, supplications and tears of the meek girl were of no avail. Neither she nor anything else could move the manly Herr von Klugenstein. And so the daughter finally saw with a heavy heart how the gates of the castle closed behind her and had to ride into the darkness, accompanied by a knightly band of armed vassals and a large number of loyal servants.

After his daughter's departure, the old baron sat in silence for a few minutes, then turned to his sad wife and said:

“Mistress, our concerns seem to be moving quickly now. It is now exactly three months since I sent the sly and good-looking Count Detzin Constanze, my brother's daughter, to carry out his diabolical assignment. If it fails, we are not completely safe, but if it succeeds, no power in the world can prevent our daughter from becoming a duchess, even if some unfortunate development should ensure that she never becomes a duke. "" Mine Heart is full of premonitions, but everything can come to a happy end. "

“Oh what, woman! Leave the toads to the toads. To bed with you and dream of Brandenburg and your Highness! "

Festivities and tears

Six days after the events about which we reported in the previous chapter, the splendid capital of the Duchy of Brandenburg shone with military pomp and the cheers of the faithful crowd resounded everywhere; Conrad, the young heir to the throne, had arrived. The heart of the old duke was full of bliss, for Conrad's shapely person and his gracious behavior had immediately inflamed him for himself. The nobles, who respectfully welcomed Conrad, crowded into the great halls of the palace. And everything seemed so bright and cheerful that he felt his grief dissipate and give way to a comforting satisfaction.

In a secluded chamber of the palace, however, a very different scene took place. The Duke's only child, the young Mistress Constanze, stood at a window. Her eyes were puffy red and full of tears. She immediately started crying again and said aloud:

“The criminal Detzin is gone - he fled the duchy. I couldn't believe it at first, but oh, it's all too true. And I loved him so much. I dared to love him, knowing that my father, the Duke, would never allow me to marry him. I loved him - but now I hate him! I hate him with all my heart. Oh what has become of me! I'm lost, lost, lost I'll go crazy!"

The situation is becoming more critical

A few months passed. Everyone sang the high song of the governance of the young Conrad, emphasized the wisdom of his decisions, the compassion in his judgments and the humility with which he carried himself in his important office. The old duke soon put everything in his hands, sat to one side and listened with proud satisfaction as he proclaimed the decrees of the crown from the prime minister's chair. It seemed clear that someone who was loved, praised, and honored by everyone as Conrad was, just had to be happy. But strangely enough, it wasn't at all. Because he had noticed with reluctance that Princess Constanze had fallen in love with him. Everyone else's love was a godsend for him, but this one was very dangerous! And he had also noticed that the Duke had also noticed his daughter's passion and that he was already dreaming of a wedding. Day after day a bit of the deep sadness that had lain on the princess's face faded; Day after day, hope and regained life shone brighter in their eyes; and little by little a smile even flickered over the face that had been so troubled.

Conrad thought it was terrible. He curses himself bitterly for indulging in the instinct of seeking the company of someone of his own sex when he was new and stranger to the palace - when he was grieved and longed for the kind of pity that only a woman can understand and know how to give. He started avoiding his cousin. That only made matters worse, because the more he avoided her, the more naturally he pushed himself towards him. At first he wondered about it; then it baffled him. This girl was chasing him; she chased after him; she ran into him constantly and everywhere, day and night. She seemed strangely tense. There was a secret somewhere.

It just couldn't go on like this. The whole world was talking about it. The Duke was getting confused. As a result of his fear and extreme need, poor Conrad became a real ghost. One day, as he was stepping out of an anteroom of the picture gallery, Constanze introduced him, grabbed him by both hands and exclaimed:

“Oh why are you avoiding me? What did I do - what did I say that I lost your kind opinion of myself - because of course I once had it. Conrad, do not reject me, but have mercy on a tormented heart. I can't hold back the words any longer without them killing me - I LOVE YOU CONRAD! Send me back if you have to, but I had to say it. "

Conrad was speechless. Constanze waited a moment, and then - because she misinterpreted his silence - then wild delight glowed in her eyes and she wrapped her arms around his neck and said:

“You let yourself be softened, you let yourself be softened! You can love me, you will love me! Oh, say that you will love me, my only, my adored Conrad! "

Conrad sighed loudly. A sick pallor ran down his face and he trembled like aspen leaves. At the same moment, in desperation, he pushed the poor girl away and shouted:

“You don't know what you're asking! It is impossible once and for all! And then he fled like a criminal and left the princess completely perplexed. A minute later she was lying there crying and sighing, Conrad crying and sighing in his room. Both were desperate. Both had their doom before their eyes.

Little by little Constanze got to her feet and left. She said:

“The very thought that he rejected my love just as I thought it would melt his cruel heart! I hate him! He pushed me away - yes - pushed me away like a dog! "

The terrible revelation

Time passed. A composed sadness rested once more on the face of the good duke's daughter. You and Conrad never saw anyone together anymore. The Duke was saddened by this. But in the course of the weeks the color returned to Conrad's cheeks, his old vivacity returned to his eye, and he ran the business of government with a clear and steadily maturing mind.

Then gradually a strange whisper began in the palace. It got louder; it spread. The town's gossips got wind of it. And that was whispered:

"Princess Constanze gave birth to a child!"

When Herr von Klugenstein heard about it, he wrapped his helmet plume around his head three times and shouted:

“Long live Duke Conrad! - for behold, his crown is secured from this day on! Detzin has done his job and the good crook should get his wages! "

And he proclaimed the good news far and wide, and for forty-eight hours there was not a soul in the whole barony that had not danced or sung, celebrated or lit a bonfire to celebrate this great event; and all at the expense of the proud and happy old Klugenstein.

The terrible disaster

The trial was getting closer. All the great lords and barons of Brandenburg were gathered in the courtroom of the ducal palace. No place was left unoccupied for an observer to sit or stand. Conrad, dressed in purple and ermine, sat in the prime minister's chair, with the highest judges of the empire seated on either side. The old Duke has given strict instructions that the trial of his daughter should be conducted with an open mind and then go to bed with a broken heart. His days were numbered. Poor Conrad had begged for his life to be spared the misery of having to go to court over his cousin's crime, but it had done no good.

The saddest heart in this whole big gathering beat in Conrad's chest.

The happiest struck in that of his father. Because, without his daughter "Conrad" knowing anything about it, the old Baron Klugenstein had come and was among all the nobles - full of triumph for the good of his house.

After the Heralds had proclaimed the beginning of the event and the other preliminaries were over, the Honorable Chief Justice said:

"Prisoners, step forward!"

The unhappy princess rose and stood before the immense crowd without a veil. The Chief Justice continued:

“My Highly Born Lady, an indictment has been brought before the High Court of Justice of this empire and it has been proven that you have been released of Your Grace outside of the conjugal covenant of a child; and according to our time-honored law, it is the death penalty, with one exception, of which his grace, the reigning Duke, the good Mr. Conrad, will now inform you in his solemn judgment; so watch out!

Conrad hesitantly held out his scepter, and at the same moment the female heart beneath his robes began to wail with pity for the damned prisoner, and tears welled up in his eyes. He opened his lips to speak, but the Chief Justice spoke:

“Not here, my lord, not here! It is against the law to pronounce a judgment against a member of the ducal family from another place THAN FROM THE DUCAL THRONE! "

A shudder ran through poor Conrad's heart, and a tremor ran through his father's iron figure too. CONRAD HAS NOT YET CROWNED - should he dare to desecrate the throne? He hesitated and turned pale with fear. But it had to be. All eyes were already on him. One would be suspicious if he hesitated any longer. He ascended the throne. Then he stretched out his scepter again and said:

"Prisoners, in the name of our lord, Herr Ulrich, Duke of Brandenburg, I am fulfilling the serious duty that has been entrusted to me." Hear my words According to the time-honored law of our country, you must die if you do not bring up the partner in your guilt and hand him over to the executioner. Take this opportunity - save yourself while you still can. Call us the father of your child! "

A solemn silence fell on the great court of justice - a silence so deep that the men could hear their own heartbeat. Then the princess turned slowly, her eyes glowing with hatred, and pointing straight at Conrad with her finger, she said:

"You are the man!"

A disgusting conviction of his own helpless, hopeless endangerment made Conrad's heart so cold as if it were already dead. What power on earth could save him! To invalidate the charges, he had to reveal that he was a woman; and to sit on the ducal throne as an uncrowned woman meant death! In one and the same moment, he and his bitter old father passed out and fell to the ground.

[The rest of this exciting and eventful story will NEITHER be found in this OR any other publication, now or anytime in the future.]

To tell the truth, I have my hero my heroine] in such a mess that I can't see how I'm talking to him. she] should ever bring her out again. For this reason, I am now leaving the finder and leaving it to the person concerned to get out of the matter as safely as possible - or otherwise stay in it. I thought it would be pretty easy to fix the minor issue, but it doesn't look like it at all.

[If Harper's Weekly or the New York Tribune should have the desire to publish these introductory chapters in their esteemed magazines, just as they did with the introductory chapters of novels Ledger and New York Weekly they are free to do so - on the usual terms, provided they "believe me".]