Julia saw, by a single glance at the box, that it was that
An idea prevails, in ill-informed circles, that our new Grand- Master Albert was no better than a kind of cheat; that he took this Grand-Mastership of Preussen; and then, in gayety of heart, surreptitiously pocketed Preussen for his own behoof. Which is an idle idea; inconsistent with the least inquiry, or real knowledge how the matter stood. [Voigt, ix. 740-749; Pauli, iv. 404-407.] By no means in gayety of heart, did Albert pocket Preussen; nor till after as tough a struggle to do other with it as could have been expected of any man.
One thing not suspected by the Teutsch Ritters, and least of all by their young Hochmeister, was, That the Teutsch Ritters had well deserved that terrible down-come at Tannenberg, that ignominious dismissal out of West-Preussen with kicks. Their insolence, luxury, degeneracy had gone to great lengths. Nor did that humiliation mend them at all; the reverse rather. It was deeply hidden from the young Hochmeister as from them, That probably they were now at length got to the end of their capability: and ready to be withdrawn from the scene, as soon as any good way offered!-- Of course, they Were reluctant enough to fulfil their bargain to Poland; very loath they to do Homage now for Preussen, and own themselves sunk to the second degree. For the Ritters had still their old haughtiness of humor, their deepseated pride of place, gone now into the unhappy CONSCIOUS state. That is usually the last thing that deserts a sinking House: pride of place, gone to the conscious state;--as if, in a reverse manner, the House felt that it deserved to sink.
For the rest, Albert's position among them was what Friedrich of Sachsen's had been; worse, not better; and the main ultimate difference was, he did not die of it, like Friedrich of Sachsen; but found an outlet, not open in Friedrich's time, and lived. To the Ritters, and vague Public which called itself the Reich, Albert had promised he would refuse the Homage to Poland; on which Ritters and Reich had clapt their hands: and that was pretty much all the assistance he got of them. The Reich, as a formal body, had never asserted its right to Preussen, nor indeed spoken definitely on the subject: it was only the vague Public that had spoken, in the name of the Reich. From the Reich, or from any individual of it, Kaiser or Prince, when actually applied to, Albert could get simply nothing. From what, Ritters were in Preussen, he might perhaps expect promptitude to fight, if it came to that; which was not much as things stood. But, from the great body of the Ritters, scattered over Germany, with their rich territories (BALLEYS, bailliwicks), safe resources, and comfortable "Teutschmeister" over them, he got flat refusal: [The titles HOCHMEISTER and TEUTSCHMEISTER are defined, in many Books and in all manner of Dictionaries, as meaning the same thing. But that is not quite the case. They were at first synonymous, so far as I can see; and after Albert's time, they again became so; but at the date where we now are, and for a long while back, they represent different entities, and indeed oftenest, since the Prussian DECLINE began, antagonistic ones. Teutschmeister, Sub- president over the GERMAN affairs and possessions of the Order, resides at Mergentheim in that Country: Hochmeister is Chief President of the whole, but resident at Marienburg in Preussen, and feels there acutely where the shoe pinches,--much too acutely, thinks the Teutschmeister in his soft list-slippers, at Mergentheim in the safe Wurzburg region.] "We will not be concerned in the adventure at all; we wish you well through it!" Never was a spirited young fellow placed in more impossible position. His Brother Casimir (George was then in Hungary), his Cousin Joachim Kur-Brandenburg, Friedrich Duke of Liegnitz, a Silesian connection of the Family, ["Duke Friedrich II.:" comes by mothers from Kurfurst Friedrich I.; marries Margraf George's Daughter even now, 1519 (Hubner, tt. 179, 100, 101).] consulted, advised, negotiated to all lengths, Albert's own effort was incessant. "Agree with King Sigismund," said they; "Uncle Sigismund, your good Mother's Brother; a King softly inclined to us all!"--"How agree?" answered Albert: "He insists on the Homage, which I have promised not to give!" Casimir went and came, to Konigsberg, to Berlin; went once himself to Cracow, to the King, on this errand: but it was a case of "Yes AND No;" not to be solved by Casimir.
As to King Sigismund, he was patient with it to a degree; made the friendliest paternal professions;--testifying withal, That the claim was undeniable; and could by him, Sigismund, never be foregone with the least shadow of honor, and of course never would: "My dear Nephew can consider whether his dissolute, vain-minded, half-heretical Ritterdom, nay whether this Prussian fraction of it, is in a condition to take Poland by the beard in an unjust quarrel; or can hope to do Tannenberg over again in the reverse way, by Beelzehub's help?"--
For seven years, Albert held out in this intermediate state, neither peace nor war; moving Heaven and Earth to raise supplies, that he might be able to defy Poland, and begin war. The Reich answers, "We have really nothing for you." Teutschmeister answers again and again, "I tell you we have nothing!" In the end, Sigismund grew impatient; made (December, 1519) some movements of a hostile nature. Albert did not yield; eager only to procrastinate till he were ready. By superhuman efforts, of borrowing, bargaining, soliciting, and galloping to and fro, Albert did, about the end of next year, get up some appearance of an Army: "14,000 German mercenaries horse and foot," so many in theory; who, to the extent of 8,000 in actual result, came marching towards him (October, 1520); to serve "for eight months." With these he will besiege Dantzig, besiege Thorn; will plunge, suddenly, like a fiery javelin, into the heart of Poland, and make Poland surrender its claim. Whereupon King Sigismund bestirred himself in earnest; came out with vast clouds of Polish chivalry; overset Albert's 8,000;--who took to eating the country, instead of fighting for it; being indeed in want of all things. One of the gladdest days Albert had yet seen, was when he got the 8,000 sent home again.
What then is to be done? "Armistice for four years," Sigismund was still kind enough to consent to that: "Truce for four years: try everywhere, my poor Nephew; after that, your mind will perhaps become pliant." Albert tried the Reich again: "Four years, 0 Princes, and then I must do it, or be eaten!" Reich, busy with Lutheran-Papal, Turk-Christian quarrels, merely shrugged its shoulders upon Albert. Teutschmeister did the like; everybody the like. In Heaven or Earth, then, is there no hope for me? thought Albert. And his stock of ready money--we will not speak of that!
Meanwhile Dr. Osiander of Anspach had come to him; and the pious young man was getting utterly shaken in his religion. Monkish vows, Pope, Holy Church itself, what is one to think, Herr Doctor? Albert, religious to an eminent degree, was getting deep into Protestantism. In his many journeyings, to Nurnberg, to Brandenburg, and up and down, he had been at Wittenberg too: he saw Luther in person more than once there; corresponded with Luther; in fine believed in the truth of Luther. The Culmbach Brothers were both, at least George ardently was, inclined to Protestantism, as we have seen; but Albert was foremost of the three in this course. Osiander and flights of zealous Culmbach Preachers made many converts in Preussen. In these circumstances the Four Years came to a close.
Albert, we may believe, is greatly at a loss; and deep deliberations, Culmbach, Berlin, Liegnitz, Poland all called in, are held:--a case beyond measure intricate. You have given your word; word must be kept,--and cannot, without plain hurt, or ruin even, to those that took it of you. Withdraw, therefore; fling it up!--Fling it up? A valuable article to fling up; fling it up is the last resource. Nay, in fact, to whom will you fling it up? The Prussian Ritters themselves are getting greatly divided on the point; and at last on all manner of points, Protestantism ever more spreading among them. As for the German Brethren, they and their comfortable Teutschmeister, who refused to partake in the dangerous adventure at all; are they entitled to have much to say in the settlement of it now?--