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THE ENTIRE SHORT WORKS OF GEORGE MEREDITH
Case of General Opel
The Tale of Chloe
The House on the Beach
The Gentleman of Fifty
By George Meredith
THE WHITE ROSE CLUB
In those lusty ages when the Kaisers lifted high the golden goblet of
Aachen, and drank, elbow upward, the green-eyed wine of old romance,
there lived, a bow-shot from the bones of the Eleven Thousand Virgins and
the Three Holy Kings, a prosperous Rhinelander, by name Gottlieb
Groschen, or, as it was sometimes ennobled, Gottlieb von Groschen; than
whom no wealthier merchant bartered for the glory of his ancient mother-
city, nor more honoured burgess swallowed impartially red juice and white
under the shadow of his own fig-tree.
Vine-hills, among the hottest sun-bibbers of the Rheingau, glistened in
the roll of Gottlieb's possessions; corn-acres below Cologne; basalt-
quarries about Linz; mineral-springs in Nassau, a legacy of the Romans to
the genius and enterprise of the first of German traders. He could have
bought up every hawking crag, owner and all, from Hatto's Tower to
Rheineck. Lore-ley, combing her yellow locks against the night-cloud,
beheld old Gottlieb's rafts endlessly stealing on the moonlight through
the iron pass she peoples above St. Goar. A wailful host were the wives
of his raftsmen widowed there by her watery music!
This worthy citizen of Cologne held vasty manuscript letters of the
Kaiser addressed to him:
'Dear Well-born son and Subject of mine, Gottlieb!' and he was easy with
the proudest princes of the Holy German Realm. For Gottlieb was a money-
lender and an honest man in one body. He laid out for the plenteous
harvests of usury, not pressing the seasons with too much rigour. 'I sow
my seed in winter,' said he, 'and hope to reap good profit in autumn; but
if the crop be scanty, better let it lie and fatten the soil.'
'Old earth's the wisest creditor,' he would add; 'she never squeezes the
sun, but just takes what he can give her year by year, and so makes sure
of good annual interest.'
Therefore when people asked Gottlieb how he had risen to such a pinnacle
of fortune, the old merchant screwed his eye into its wisest corner, and
answered slyly, 'Because I 've always been a student of the heavenly
bodies'; a communication which failed not to make the orbs and systems
objects of ardent popular worship in Cologne, where the science was long
since considered alchymic, and still may be.
Seldom could the Kaiser go to war on Welschland without first taking
earnest counsel of his Well-born son and Subject Gottlieb, and lightening
his chests. Indeed the imperial pastime must have ceased, and the Kaiser
had languished but for him. Cologne counted its illustrious citizen
something more than man. The burghers doffed when he passed; and
scampish leather-draggled urchins gazed after him with praeternatural
respect on their hanging chins, as if a gold-mine of great girth had
walked through the awe-struck game.
But, for the young men of Cologne he had a higher claim to reverence as
father of the fair Margarita, the White Rose of Germany; a noble maiden,
peerless, and a jewel for princes.
The devotion of these youths should give them a name in chivalry. In her
honour, daily and nightly, they earned among themselves black bruises and
paraded discoloured countenances, with the humble hope to find it
pleasing in her sight. The tender fanatics went in bands up and down
Rhineland, challenging wayfarers and the peasantry with staff and beaker
to acknowledge the supremacy of their mistress. Whoso of them journeyed
into foreign parts, wrote home boasting how many times his head had been
broken on behalf of the fair Margarita; and if this happened very often,
a spirit of envy was created, which compelled him, when he returned, to
verify his prowess on no less than a score of his rivals. Not to possess
a beauty-scar, as the wounds received in these endless combats were
called, became the sign of inferiority, so that much voluntary maiming
was conjectured to be going on; and to obviate this piece of treachery,
minutes of fights were taken and attested, setting forth that a certain
glorious cut or crack was honourably won in fair field; on what occasion;
and from whom; every member of the White Rose Club keeping his particular
scroll, and, on days of festival and holiday, wearing it haughtily in his
helm. Strangers entering Cologne were astonished at the hideous
appearance of the striplings, and thought they never had observed so ugly
a race; but they were forced to admit the fine influence of beauty on
commerce, seeing that the consumption of beer increased almost hourly.
All Bavaria could not equal Cologne for quantity made away with.
The chief members of the White Rose Club were Berthold Schmidt, the rich
goldsmith's son; Dietrich Schill, son of the imperial saddler; Heinrich
Abt, Franz Endermann, and Ernst Geller, sons of chief burghers, each of
whom carried a yard-long scroll in his cap, and was too disfigured in
person for men to require an inspection of the document. They were
dangerous youths to meet, for the oaths, ceremonies, and recantations
they demanded from every wayfarer, under the rank of baron, were what few
might satisfactorily perform, if lovers of woman other than the fair
Margarita, or loyal husbands; and what none save trained heads and
stomachs could withstand, however naturally manful. The captain of the
Club was he who could drink most beer without intermediate sighing, and
whose face reckoned the proudest number of slices and mixture of colours.
The captaincy was most in dispute between Dietrich Schill and Berthold
Schmidt, who, in the heat and constancy of contention, were gradually
losing likeness to man. 'Good coin,' they gloried to reflect, 'needs no
One youth in Cologne held out against the standing tyranny, and chose to
do beauty homage in his own fashion, and at his leisure. It was Farina,
and oaths were registered against him over empty beer-barrels. An axiom
of the White Rose Club laid it down that everybody must be enamoured of
Margarita, and the conscience of the Club made them trebly suspicious of
those who were not members. They had the consolation of knowing that
Farina was poor, but then he was affirmed a student of Black Arts, and
from such a one the worst might reasonably be feared. He might bewitch
Dietrich Schill was deputed by the Club to sound the White Rose herself
on the subject of Farina, and one afternoon in the vintage season, when
she sat under the hot vine-poles among maiden friends, eating ripe
grapes, up sauntered Dietrich, smirking, cap in hand, with his scroll
trailed behind him.
'Wilt thou?' said Margarita, offering him a bunch.
'Unhappy villain that I am!' replied Dietrich, gesticulating fox-like
refusal; 'if I but accept a favour, I break faith with the Club.'
'Break it to pleasure me,' said Margarita, smiling wickedly.
Dietrich gasped. He stood on tiptoe to see if any of the Club were by,
and half-stretched out his hand. A mocking laugh caused him to draw it
back as if stung. The grapes fell. Farina was at Margarita's feet
offering them in return.
'Wilt thou?' said Margarita, with softer stress, and slight excess of
bloom in her cheeks.
Farina put the purple cluster to his breast, and clutched them hard on
his heart, still kneeling.
Margarita's brow and bosom seemed to be reflections of the streaming
crimson there. She shook her face to the sky, and affected laughter at
the symbol. Her companions clapped hands. Farina's eyes yearned to her
once, and then he rose and joined in the pleasantry.
Fury helped Dietrich to forget his awkwardness. He touched Farina on the
shoulder with two fingers, and muttered huskily: 'The Club never allow
Farina bowed, as to thank him deeply for the rules of the Club. 'I am
not a member, you know,' said he, and strolled to a seat close by
Dietrich glared after him. As head of a Club he understood the use of
symbols. He had lost a splendid opportunity, and Farina had seized it.
Farina had robbed him.
'May I speak with Mistress Margarita?' inquired the White Rose chief, in
a ragged voice.
'Surely, Dietrich! do speak,' said Margarita.
'Alone?' he continued.
'Is that allowed by the Club?' said one of the young girls, with a saucy
Dietrich deigned no reply, but awaited Margarita's decision. She
hesitated a second; then stood up her full height before him; faced him
steadily, and beckoned him some steps up the vine-path. Dietrich bowed,
and passing Farina, informed him that the Club would wring satisfaction
out of him for the insult.
Farina laughed, but answered, 'Look, you of the Club! beer-swilling has
improved your manners as much as fighting has beautified your faces. Go
on; drink and fight! but remember that the Kaiser's coming, and fellows
with him who will not be bullied.'
'What mean you?' cried Dietrich, lurching round on his enemy.
'Not so loud, friend,' returned Farina. 'Or do you wish to frighten the
maidens? I mean this, that the Club had better give as little offence as
possible, and keep their eyes as wide as they can, if they want to be of
service to Mistress Margarita.'
Dietrich turned off with a grunt.
'Now!' said Margarita.
She was tapping her foot. Dietrich grew unfaithful to the Club, and
looked at her longer than his mission warranted. She was bright as the
sunset gardens of the Golden Apples. The braids of her yellow hair were
bound in wreaths, and on one side of her head a saffron crocus was stuck
with the bell downward. Sweetness, song, and wit hung like dews of
morning on her grape-stained lips. She wore a scarlet corset with bands
of black velvet across her shoulders. The girlish gown was thin blue
stuff, and fell short over her firm-set feet, neatly cased in white
leather with buckles. There was witness in her limbs and the way she
carried her neck of an amiable, but capable, dragon, ready, when aroused,
to bristle up and guard the Golden Apples against all save the rightful
claimant. Yet her nether lip and little white chin-ball had a dreamy
droop; her frank blue eyes went straight into the speaker: the dragon
slept. It was a dangerous charm. 'For,' says the minnesinger, 'what
ornament more enchants us on a young beauty than the soft slumber of a
strength never yet called forth, and that herself knows not of! It sings
double things to the heart of knighthood; lures, and warns us; woos, and
threatens. 'Tis as nature, shining peace, yet the mother of storm.'
'There is no man,' rapturously exclaims Heinrich von der Jungferweide,
'can resist the desire to win a sweet treasure before which lies a dragon
sleeping. The very danger prattles promise.'
But the dragon must really sleep, as with Margarita.
'A sham dragon, shamming sleep, has destroyed more virgins than all the
heathen emperors,' says old Hans Aepfelmann of Duesseldorf.
Margarita's foot was tapping quicker.
'Speak, Dietrich!' she said.
Dietrich declared to the Club that at this point he muttered, 'We love
you.' Margarita was glad to believe he had not spoken of himself. He
then informed her of the fears entertained by the Club, sworn to watch
over and protect her, regarding Farina's arts.
'And what fear you?' said Margarita.
'We fear, sweet mistress, he may be in league with Sathanas,' replied
'Truly, then,' said Margarita, 'of all the youths in Cologne he is the
least like his confederate.'
Dietrich gulped and winked, like a patient recovering wry-faced from an
'We have warned you, Fraulein Groschen!' he exclaimed. 'It now becomes
our duty to see that you are not snared.'
Margarita reddened, and returned: 'You are kind. But I am a Christian
maiden and not a Pagan soldan, and I do not require a body of tawny
guards at my heels.'
Thereat she flung back to her companions, and began staining her pretty
mouth with grapes anew.
THE TAPESTRY WORD
Fair maids will have their hero in history. Siegfried was Margarita's
chosen. She sang of Siegfried all over the house. 'O the old days of
Germany, when such a hero walked!' she sang.
'And who wins Margarita,' mused Farina, 'happier than Siegfried, has in
his arms Brunhild and Chrimhild together!'
Crowning the young girl's breast was a cameo, and the skill of some
cunning artist out of Welschland had wrought on it the story of the
Drachenfels. Her bosom heaved the battle up and down.
This cameo was a north star to German manhood, but caused many chaste
expressions of abhorrence from Aunt Lisbeth, Gottlieb's unmarried sister,
who seemed instinctively to take part with the Dragon. She was a frail-
fashioned little lady, with a face betokening the perpetual smack of
lemon, and who reigned in her brother's household when the good wife was
gone. Margarita's robustness was beginning to alarm and shock Aunt
Lisbeth's sealed stock of virtue.
'She must be watched, such a madl as that,' said Aunt Lisbeth. 'Ursula!
what limbs she has!'
Margarita was watched; but the spy being neither foe nor friend, nothing
was discovered against her. This did not satisfy Aunt Lisbeth, whose own
suspicion was her best witness. She allowed that Margarita dissembled
'But,' said she to her niece, 'though it is good in a girl not to flaunt
these naughtinesses in effrontery, I care for you too much not to say--Be
what you seem, my little one!'
'And that am I!' exclaimed Margarita, starting up and towering.
'Right good, my niece,' Lisbeth squealed; 'but now Frau Groschen lies in
God's acre, you owe your duty to me, mind! Did you confess last week?'
'From beginning to end,' replied Margarita.
Aunt Lisbeth fixed pious reproach on Margarita's cameo.
'And still you wear that thing?'
'Why not?' said Margarita.
'Girl! who would bid you set it in such a place save Satan? Oh, thou
poor lost child! that the eyes of the idle youths may be drawn there!
and thou become his snare to others, Margarita! What was that Welsh
wandering juggler but the foul fiend himself, mayhap, thou maiden of sin!
They say he has been seen in Cologne lately. He was swarthy as Satan and
limped of one leg. Good Master in heaven, protect us! it was Satan
himself I could swear!'
Aunt Lisbeth crossed brow and breast.
Margarita had commenced fingering the cameo, as if to tear it away; but
Aunt Lisbeth's finish made her laugh outright.
'Where I see no harm, aunty, I shall think the good God is,' she
answered; 'and where I see there's harm, I shall think Satan lurks.'
A simper of sour despair passed over Aunt Lisbeth. She sighed, and was
silent, being one of those very weak reeds who are easily vanquished and
'Let us go on with the Tapestry, child,' said she.
Now, Margarita was ambitious of completing a certain Tapestry for
presentation to Kaiser Heinrich on his entry into Cologne after his last
campaign on the turbaned Danube. The subject was again her beloved
Siegfried slaying the Dragon on Drachenfels. Whenever Aunt Lisbeth
indulged in any bitter virginity, and was overmatched by Margarita's
frank maidenhood, she hung out this tapestry as a flag of truce. They
were working it in bits, not having contrivances to do it in a piece.
Margarita took Siegfried and Aunt Lisbeth the Dragon. They shared the
crag between them. A roguish gleam of the Rhine toward Nonnenwerth could
be already made out, Roland's Corner hanging like a sentinel across the
chanting island, as one top-heavy with long watch.
Aunt Lisbeth was a great proficient in the art, and had taught Margarita.
The little lady learnt it, with many other gruesome matters, in the
Palatine of Bohemia's family. She usually talked of the spectres of
Hollenbogenblitz Castle in the passing of the threads. Those were dismal
spectres in Bohemia, smelling of murder and the charnel-breath of
midnight. They uttered noises that wintered the blood, and revealed
sights that stiffened hair three feet long; ay, and kept it stiff!
Margarita placed herself on a settle by the low-arched window, and Aunt
Lisbeth sat facing her. An evening sun blazoned the buttresses of the
Cathedral, and shadowed the workframes of the peaceful couple to a
temperate light. Margarita unrolled a sampler sheathed with twists of
divers coloured threads, and was soon busy silver-threading Siegfried's
helm and horns.
'I told you of the steward, poor Kraut, did I not, child?' inquired Aunt
Lisbeth, quietly clearing her throat.
'Many times!' said Margarita, and went on humming over her knee
'Her love was a Baron,
A Baron so bold;
She loved him for love,
He loved her for gold.'
'He must see for himself, and be satisfied,' continued Aunt Lisbeth; 'and
Holy Thomas to warn him for an example! Poor Kraut!'
'Poor Kraut!' echoed Margarita.
'The King loved wine, and the Knight loved wine,
And they loved the summer weather:
They might have loved each other well,
But for one they loved together.'
'You may say, poor Kraut, child!' said Aunt Lisbeth. 'Well! his face was
before that as red as this dragon's jaw, and ever after he went about as
white as a pullet's egg. That was something wonderful!' 'That was it!'
'O the King he loved his lawful wife,
The Knight a lawless lady:
And ten on one-made ringing strife,
Beneath the forest shady.'
'Fifty to one, child!' said Aunt Lisbeth: 'You forget the story. They
made Kraut sit with them at the jabbering feast, the only mortal there.
The walls were full of eye-sockets without eyes, but phosphorus instead,
burning blue and damp.'
'Not to-night, aunty dear! It frightens me so,' pleaded Margarita, for
she saw the dolor coming.
'Night! when it's broad mid-day, thou timid one! Good heaven take pity
on such as thou! The dish was seven feet in length by four broad. Kraut
measured it with his eye, and never forgot it. Not he! When the dish-
cover was lifted, there he saw himself lying, boiled!
"'I did not feel uncomfortable then," Kraut told us. "It seemed
'His face, as it lay there, he says, was quite calm, only a little
wrinkled, and piggish-looking-like. There was the mole on his chin, and
the pucker under his left eyelid. Well! the Baron carved. All the
guests were greedy for a piece of him. Some cried out for breast; some
for toes. It was shuddering cold to sit and hear that! The Baroness
'Ah!' shrieked Margarita, 'that can I not bear! I will not hear it,
aunt; I will not!'
'Cheek!' Aunt Lisbeth reiterated, nodding to the floor.
Margarita put her fingers to her ears.
'Still, Kraut says, even then he felt nothing odd. Of course he was
horrified to be sitting with spectres as you and I should be; but the
first tremble of it was over. He had plunged into the bath of horrors,
and there he was. I 've heard that you must pronounce the names of the
Virgin and Trinity, sprinkling water round you all the while for three
minutes; and if you do this without interruption, everything shall
disappear. So they say. "Oh! dear heaven of mercy!" says Kraut, "what
I felt when the Baron laid his long hunting-knife across my left cheek!"'
Here Aunt Lisbeth lifted her eyes to dote upon Margarita's fright. She
was very displeased to find her niece, with elbows on the window-sill and
hands round her head, quietly gazing into the street.
She said severely, 'Where did you learn that song you were last singing,
Margarita? Speak, thou girl!'
'The thrush, and the lark, and the blackbird,
They taught me how to sing:
And O that the hawk would lend his eye,
And the eagle lend his wing.'
'I will not hear these shameless songs,' exclaimed Aunt Lisbeth.
'For I would view the lands they view,
And be where they have been:
It is not enough to be singing
For ever in dells unseen !'
A voice was heard applauding her. 'Good! right good! Carol again,
Gretelchen! my birdie!'
Margarita turned, and beheld her father in the doorway. She tripped
toward him, and heartily gave him their kiss of meeting. Gottlieb
glanced at the helm of Siegfried.
'Guessed the work was going well; you sing so lightsomely to-day, Grete!
Very pretty! And that's Drachenfels? Bones of the Virgins! what a
bold fellow was Siegfried, and a lucky, to have the neatest lass in
Deutschland in love with him. Well, we must marry her to Siegfried after
all, I believe! Aha? or somebody as good as Siegfried. So chirrup on,
'Aunt Lisbeth does not approve of my songs,' replied Margarita,
untwisting some silver threads.
'Do thy father's command, girl!' said Aunt Lisbeth.
'And doing his command,
Should I do a thing of ill,
I'd rather die to his lovely face,
Than wanton at his will.'
'There--there,' said Aunt Lisbeth, straining out her fingers; 'you see,
Gottlieb, what over-indulgence brings her to. Not another girl in
blessed Rhineland, and Bohemia to boot, dared say such words!--than--
I can't repeat them!--don't ask me!--She's becoming a Frankish girl!'
'What ballad's that?' said Gottlieb, smiling.
'The Ballad of Holy Ottilia; and her lover was sold to darkness. And she
loved him--loved him----'
'As you love Siegfried, you little one?'
'More, my father; for she saw Winkried, and I never saw Siegfried. Ah!
if I had seen Siegfried! Never mind. She loved him; but she loved
Virtue more. And Virtue is the child of God, and the good God forgave
her for loving Winkried, the Devil's son, because she loved Virtue more,
and He rescued her as she was being dragged down--down--down, and was
half fainting with the smell of brimstone--rescued her and had her
carried into His Glory, head and feet, on the wings of angels, before
all men, as a hope to little maidens.
'And when I thought that I was lost
I found that I was saved,
And I was borne through blessed clouds,
Where the banners of bliss were waved.'
'And so you think you, too, may fall in, love with Devils' sons, girl?'
was Aunt Lisbeth's comment.
'Do look at Lisbeth's Dragon, little Heart! it's so like!' said Margarita
to her father.
Old Gottlieb twitted his hose, and chuckled.
'She's my girl! that may be seen,' said he, patting her, and wheezed up
from his chair to waddle across to the Dragon. But Aunt Lisbeth tartly
turned the Dragon to the wall.
'It is not yet finished, Gottlieb, and must not be looked at,' she
interposed. 'I will call for wood, and see to a fire: these evenings of
Spring wax cold': and away whimpered Aunt Lisbeth.
'I with my playmates,
In riot and disorder,
Were gathering herb and blossom
Along the forest border.'
'Thy mother's song, child of my heart!' said Gottlieb; 'but vex not good
Lisbeth: she loves thee!'
'And do you think she loves me?
And will you say 'tis true?
O, and will she have me,
When I come up to woo?'
'Thou leaping doe! thou chattering pie!' said Gottlieb.
'She shall have ribbons and trinkets,
And shine like a morn of May,
When we are off to the little hill-church,
Our flowery bridal way.'
'That she shall; and something more !' cried Gottlieb. 'But, hark thee,
Gretelchen; the Kaiser will be here in three days. Thou dear one! had I
not stored and hoarded all for thee, I should now have my feet on a
hearthstone where even he might warm his boot. So get thy best dresses
and jewels in order, and look thyself; proud as any in the land. A
simple burgher's daughter now, Grete; but so shalt thou not end, my
butterfly, or there's neither worth nor wit in Gottlieb Groschen!'
'Three days!' Margarita exclaimed; 'and the helm not finished, and the
tapestry-pieces not sewed and joined, and the water not shaded off.--Oh!
I must work night and day.'
'Child! I'll have no working at night! Your rosy cheeks will soon be
sucked out by oil-light, and you look no better than poor tallow Court
beauties--to say nothing of the danger. This old house saw Charles the
Great embracing the chief magistrate of his liege city yonder. Some
swear he slept in it. He did not sneeze at smaller chambers than our
Kaisers abide. No gold ceilings with cornice carvings, but plain wooden
'Know that the men of great renown,
Were men of simple needs:
Bare to the Lord they laid them down,
And slept on mighty deeds.'
'God wot, there's no emptying thy store of ballads, Grete: so much shall
be said of thee. Yes; times are changeing: We're growing degenerate.
Look at the men of Linz now to what they were! Would they have let the
lads of Andernach float down cabbage-stalks to them without a shy back?
And why? All because they funk that brigand-beast Werner, who gets
redemption from Laach, hard by his hold, whenever he commits a crime
worth paying for. As for me, my timber and stuffs must come down stream,
and are too good for the nixen under Rhine, or think you I would
acknowledge him with a toll, the hell-dog? Thunder and lightning! if
old scores could be rubbed out on his hide!'
Gottlieb whirled a thong-lashing arm in air, and groaned of law and
justice. What were they coming to!
Margarita softened the theme with a verse:
'And tho' to sting his enemy,
Is sweetness to the angry bee,
The angry bee must busy be,
Ere sweet of sweetness hiveth he.
The arch thrill of his daughter's voice tickled Gottlieb. 'That's it,
birdie! You and the proverb are right. I don't know which is best
And keep alive
Than vengeance wake
With that you take.'
A clatter in the cathedral square brought Gottlieb on his legs to the
window. It was a company of horsemen sparkling in harness. One
trumpeter rode at the side of the troop, and in front a standard-bearer,
matted down the chest with ochre beard, displayed aloft to the good
citizens of Cologne, three brown hawks, with birds in their beaks, on an
azure stardotted field.
'Holy Cross!' exclaimed Gottlieb, low in his throat; 'the arms of Werner!
Where got he money to mount his men? Why, this is daring all Cologne in
our very teeth! 'Fend that he visit me now! Ruin smokes in that
ruffian's track. I 've felt hot and cold by turns all day.'
The horsemen came jingling carelessly along the street in scattered twos
and threes, laughing together, and singling out the maidens at the gable-
shadowed windows with hawking eyes. The good citizens of Cologne did not
look on them favourably. Some showed their backs and gruffly banged
their doors: others scowled and pocketed their fists: not a few slunk
into the side alleys like well-licked curs, and scurried off with
forebent knees. They were in truth ferocious-looking fellows these
trusty servants of the robber Baron Werner, of Werner's Eck, behind
Andernach. Leather, steel, and dust, clad them from head to foot; big
and black as bears; wolf-eyed, fox-nosed. They glistened bravely in the
falling beams of the sun, and Margarita thrust her fair braided yellow
head a little forward over her father's shoulder to catch the whole
length of the grim cavalcade. One of the troop was not long in
discerning the young beauty. He pointed her boldly out to a comrade, who
approved his appetite, and referred her to a third. The rest followed
lead, and Margarita was as one spell-struck when she became aware that
all those hungry eyes were preying on hers. Old Gottlieb was too full of
his own fears to think for her, and when he drew in his head rather
suddenly, it was with a dismal foreboding that Werner's destination in
Cologne was direct to the house of Gottlieb Groschen, for purposes only
too well to be divined.
'Devil's breeches!' muttered Gottlieb; 'look again, Grete, and see if
that hell-troop stop the way outside.'
Margarita's cheeks were overflowing with the offended rose.
'I will not look at them again, father.'
Gottlieb stared, and then patted her.
'I would I were a man, father!'
Gottlieb smiled, and stroked his beard.
'Oh! how I burn!'
And the girl shivered visibly.
'Grete! mind to be as much of a woman as you can, and soon such raff as
this you may sweep away, like cobwebs, and no harm done.'
He was startled by a violent thumping at the streetdoor, and as brazen a
blast as if the dead were being summoned. Aunt Lisbeth entered, and
flitted duskily round the room, crying:
'We are lost: they are upon us! better death with a bodkin! Never shall
it be said of me; never! the monsters!'
Then admonishing them to lock, bar, bolt, and block up every room in the
house, Aunt Lisbeth perched herself on the edge of a chair, and reversed
the habits of the screech-owl, by being silent when stationary.
'There's nothing to fear for you, Lisbeth,' said Gottlieb, with
'Gottlieb! do you remember what happened at the siege of Mainz? and poor
Marthe Herbstblum, who had hoped to die as she was; and Dame
Altknopfchen, and Frau Kaltblut, and the old baker, Hans Topf's sister,
all of them as holy as abbesses, and that did not save them! and nothing
will from such godless devourers.'
Gottlieb was gone, having often before heard mention of the calamity
experienced by these fated women.
'Comfort thee, good heart, on my breast,' said Margarita, taking Lisbeth
to that sweet nest of peace and fortitude.
'Margarita! 'tis your doing! have I not said--lure them not, for they
swarm too early upon us! And here they are! and, perhaps, in five
minutes all will be over!
Herr Je!--What, you are laughing! Heavens of goodness, the girl is
Here a mocking ha-ha! accompanied by a thundering snack at the door,
shook the whole house, and again the trumpet burst the ears with fury.
This summons, which seemed to Aunt Lisbeth final, wrought a strange
composure in her countenance. She was very pale, but spread her dress
decently, as if fear had departed, and clasped her hands on her knees.
'The will of the Lord above must be done,' said she; 'it is impious to
complain when we are given into the hand of the Philistines. Others have
been martyred, and were yet acceptable.'
To this heroic speech she added, with cold energy: 'Let them come!'
'Aunt,' cried Margarita, 'I hear my father's voice with those men.
Aunty! I will not let him be alone. I must go down to him. You will be
safe here. I shall come to you if there's cause for alarm.'
And in spite of Aunt Lisbeth's astonished shriek of remonstrance, she
hurried off to rejoin Gottlieb.
Ere Margarita had reached the landing of the stairs, she repented her
haste and shrank back. Wrapt in a thunder of oaths, she distinguished:
''Tis the little maiden we want; let's salute her and begone! or cap your
skull with something thicker than you've on it now, if you want a whole
one, happy father!'
'Gottlieb von Groschen I am,' answered her father, 'and the Kaiser----'
''S as fond of a pretty girl as we are! Down with her, and no more
drivelling! It's only for a moment, old Measure and Scales!'
'I tell you, rascals, I know your master, and if you're not punished for
this, may I die a beggar!' exclaimed Gottlieb, jumping with rage.
'May you die as rich as an abbot! And so you will, if you don't bring
her down, for I've sworn to see her; there 's the end of it, man!'
'I'll see, too, if the laws allow this villany !' cried Gottlieb.
'Insulting a peaceful citizen! in his own house! a friend of your
emperor! Gottlieb von Groschen!'
'Groschen? We're cousins, then! You wouldn't shut out your nearest kin?
Devil's lightning! Don't you know me? Pfennig? Von Pfennig! This
here's Heller: that's Zwanziger: all of us Vons, every soul! You're
not decided? This'll sharpen you, my jolly King Paunch!'
And Margarita heard the ruffian step as if to get swing for a blow. She
hurried into the passage, and slipping in front of her father, said to
'You have asked for me! I am here!'
Her face was colourless, and her voice seemed to issue from between a
tightened cord. She stood with her left foot a little in advance, and
her whole body heaving and quivering: her arms folded and pressed hard
below her bosom: her eyes dilated to a strong blue: her mouth ashy white.
A strange lustre, as of suppressed internal fire, flickered over her.
'My name 's Schwartz Thier, and so 's my nature!' said the fellow with a
grin; 'but may I never smack lips with a pretty girl again, if I harm
such a young beauty as this! Friendly dealing's my plan o' life.'
'Clear out of my house, then, fellow, and here's money for you,' said
Gottlieb, displaying a wrathfully-trembling handful of coin.
'Pish! money! forty times that wouldn't cover my bet! And if it did?
Shouldn't I be disgraced? jeered at for a sheep-heart? No, I'm no ninny,
and not to be diddled. I'll talk to the young lady! Silence, out there!
all's going proper': this to his comrades through the door. 'So, my
beautiful maiden! thus it stands: We saw you at the window, looking like
a fresh rose with a gold crown on. Here are we poor fellows come to
welcome the Kaiser. I began to glorify you. "Schwartz Thier!" says
Henker Rothhals to me, "I'll wager you odds you don't have a kiss of that
fine girl within twenty minutes, counting from the hand-smack!" Done!
was my word, and we clapped our fists together. Now, you see, that's
straightforward! All I want is, not to lose my money and be made a fool
of--leaving alone that sugary mouth which makes mine water'; and he drew
the back of his hand along his stubbled jaws: 'So, come! don't hesitate!
no harm to you, my beauty, but a compliment, and Schwartz Thier's your
friend and anything else you like for ever after. Come, time's up,
Margarita leaned to her father a moment as if mortal sickness had seized
her. Then cramping her hands and feet, she said in his ear, 'Leave me to
my own care; go, get the men to protect thee'; and ordered Schwartz Thier
to open the door wide.
Seeing Gottlieb would not leave her, she joined her hands, and begged
him. 'The good God will protect me! I will overmatch these men. Look,
my father! they dare not strike me in the street: you they would fell
without pity. Go! what they dare in a house, they dare not in the
Schwartz Thier had opened the door. At sight of Margarita, the troop
gave a shout.
'Now! on the doorstep, full in view, my beauteous one! that they may see
what a lucky devil I am--and have no doubts about the handing over.'
Margarita looked behind. Gottlieb was still there, every member of him
quaking like a bog under a heavy heel. She ran to him. 'My father! I
have a device wilt thou spoil it, and give me to this beast? You can do
nothing, nothing! protect yourself and save me!'
'Cologne! broad day!' muttered Gottlieb, as if the enormity had
prostrated his belief in facts; and moved slowly back.
Margarita strode to the door-step. Schwartz Thier was awaiting her, his
arm circled out, and his leering face ducked to a level with his
victim's. This rough show of gallantry proved costly to him. As he was
gently closing his iron hold about her, enjoying before hand with grim
mouthridges the flatteries of triumph, Margarita shot past him through
the door, and was already twenty paces beyond the troop before either of
them thought of pursuing her. At the first sound of a hoof, Henker
Rothhals seized the rider's bridle-rein, and roared: 'Fair play for a
fair bet! leave all to the Thier!' The Thier, when he had recovered from
his amazement, sought for old Gottlieb to give him a back-hit, as
Margarita foresaw that he would. Not finding him at hand, out lumbered
the fellow as swiftly as his harness would allow, and caught a glimpse
of Margarita rapidly fleeting up the cathedral square.
'Only five minutes, Schwartz Thier!' some of the troop sung out.
'The devil can do his business in one,' was the retort, and Schwartz
Thier swung himself on his broad-backed charger, and gored the fine beast
till she rattled out a blast of sparkles from the flint.
In a minute he drew up in front of Margarita.
'So! you prefer settling this business in the square.
Good! my choice sweetheart!' and he sprang to her side.
The act of flight had touched the young girl's heart with the spirit of
flight. She crouched like a winded hare under the nose of the hound, and
covered her face with her two hands. Margarita was no wisp in weight,
but Schwartz Thier had her aloft in his arm as easily as if he had tossed
up a kerchief.
'Look all, and witness!' he shouted, lifting the other arm.
Henker Rothhals and the rest of the troop looked, as they came trotting
to the scene, with the coolness of umpires: but they witnessed something
other than what Schwartz Thier proposed. This was the sight of a
formidable staff, whirling an unfriendly halo over the head of the Thier,
and descending on it with such honest intent to confound and overthrow
him, that the Thier succumbed to its force without argument, and the
square echoed blow and fall simultaneously. At the same time the wielder
of this sound piece of logic seized Margarita, and raised a shout in the
square for all true men to stand by him in rescuing a maiden from the
clutch of brigands and ravishers. A crowd was collecting, but seemed to
consider the circle now formed by the horsemen as in a manner charmed,
for only one, a fair slender youth, came forward and ranged himself
beside the stranger.
'Take thou the maiden: I'll keep to the staff,' said this latter,
stumbling over his speech as if he was in a foreign land among old roots
and wolfpits which had already shaken out a few of his teeth, and made
him cautious about the remainder.
'Can it be Margarita!' exclaimed the youth, bending to her, and calling
to her: 'Margarita! Fraulein Groschen!'
She opened her eyes, shuddered, and said: 'I was not afraid! Am I safe?'
'Safe while I have life, and this good friend.'
'Where is my father?'
'I have not seen him.'
'And you--who are you? Do I owe this to you?'
'Oh! no! no! Me you owe nothing.'
Margarita gazed hurriedly round, and at her feet there lay the Thier with
his steel-cap shining in dints, and three rivulets of blood coursing down
his mottled forehead. She looked again at the youth, and a blush of
recognition gave life to her cheeks.
'I did not know you. Pardon me. Farina! what thanks can reward such
courage! Tell me! shall we go?'
'The youth eyed her an instant, but recovering himself, took a rapid
survey, and called to the stranger to follow and help give the young
maiden safe conduct home.
'Just then Henker Rothhals bellowed, 'Time's up!' He was answered by a
chorus of agreement from the troop. They had hitherto patiently acted
their parts as spectators, immovable on their horses. The assault on the
Thier was all in the play, and a visible interference of fortune in
favour of Henker Rothhals. Now general commotion shuttled them, and the
stranger's keen hazel eyes read their intentions rightly when he lifted
his redoubtable staff in preparation for another mighty swoop, this time
defensive. Rothhals, and half a dozen others, with a war-cry of curses,
spurred their steeds at once to ride him down. They had not reckoned the
length and good-will of their antagonist's weapon. Scarce were they in
motion, when round it whizzed, grazing the nostrils of their horses with
a precision that argued practice in the feat, and unhorsing two, Rothhals
among the number. He dropped heavily on his head, and showed signs of
being as incapable of combat as the Thier. A cheer burst from the crowd,
but fell short.
The foremost of their number was struck flat to the earth by a fellow of
Calling on St. George, his patron saint, the stranger began
systematically to make a clear ring in his path forward. Several of the
horsemen essayed a cut at his arm with their long double-handed swords,
but the horses could not be brought a second time to the edge of the
magic circle; and the blood of these warriors being thoroughly up, they
now came at him on foot. In their rage they would have made short work
with the three, in spite of the magistracy of Cologne, had they not been
arrested by cries of 'Werner! Werner!'
At the South-west end of the square, looking Rhinewards, rode the
marauder Baron, in full armour, helm and hauberk, with a single retainer
in his rear. He had apparently caught sight of the brawl, and, either
because he distinguished his own men, or was seeking his natural element,
hastened up for his share in it, which was usually that of the king of
beasts. His first call was for Schwartz Thier. The men made way, and he
beheld his man in no condition to make military responses. He shouted
for Henker Rothhals, and again the men opened their ranks mutely,
exhibiting the two stretched out in diverse directions, with their feet
slanting to a common point. The Baron glared; then caught off his mailed
glove, and thrust it between his teeth. A rasping gurgle of oaths was
all they heard, and presently surged up,
'Who was it?'
Margarita's eyes were shut. She opened them fascinated with horror.
There was an unearthly awful and comic mixture of sounds in Werner's
querulous fury, that was like the noise of a complaining bear, rolling up
from hollow-chested menace to yawning lament. Never in her life had
Margarita such a shock of fear. The half gasp of a laugh broke on her
trembling lips. She stared at Werner, and was falling; but Farina's arm
clung instantly round her waist. The stranger caught up her laugh, loud
'As for who did it, Sir Baron,' he cried, is a cheery tone, 'I am the
man! As you may like to know why--and that's due to you and me both of
us--all I can say is, the Black Muzzle yonder lying got his settler for
merry-making with this peaceful maiden here, without her consent--an
offence in my green island they reckon a crack o' the sconce light
basting for, I warrant all company present,' and he nodded sharply about.
'As for the other there, who looks as if a rope had been round his neck
once and shirked its duty, he counts his wages for helping the devil in
his business, as will any other lad here who likes to come on and try.'
Werner himself, probably, would have given him the work he wanted; but
his eye had sidled a moment over Margarita, and the hardly-suppressed
applause of the crowd at the stranger's speech failed to bring his ire
into action this solitary time.
'Who is the maiden?' he asked aloud.
'Fraulein von Groschen,' replied Farina.
'Von Groschen! Von Groschen! the daughter of Gottlieb Groschen?--
Rascals!' roared the Baron, turning on his men, and out poured a mud-
spring of filthy oaths and threats, which caused Henker Rothhals, who had
opened his eyes, to close them again, as if he had already gone to the
place of heat.
'Only lend me thy staff, friend,' cried Werner.
'Not I! thwack 'em with your own wood,' replied the stranger, and fell
back a leg.
Werner knotted his stringy brows, and seemed torn to pieces with the
different pulling tides of his wrath. He grasped the mane of his horse
and flung abroad handfuls, till the splendid animal reared in agony.
'You shall none of you live over this night, villains! I 'll hang you,
every hag's son! My last orders were,--Keep quiet in the city, ye
devil's brood. Take that! and that!' laying at them with his bare sword.
'Off with you, and carry these two pigs out of sight quickly, or I'll
have their heads, and make sure o' them.'
The latter injunction sprang from policy, for at the head of the chief
street there was a glitter of the city guard, marching with shouldered
'Maiden,' said Werner, with a bull's bow, 'let me conduct thee to thy
Margarita did not reply; but gave her hand to Farina, and took a step
closer to the stranger.
Werner's brows grew black.
'Enough to have saved you, fair maid,' he muttered hoarsely. 'Gratitude
never was a woman's gift. Say to your father that I shall make excuses
to him for the conduct of my men.'
Whereupon, casting a look of leisurely scorn toward the guard coming up
in the last beams of day, the Baron shrugged his huge shoulders to an
altitude expressing the various contemptuous shades of feudal coxcombry,
stuck one leather-ruffled arm in his side, and jolted off at an easy
'Amen!' ejaculated the stranger, leaning on his staff. 'There are Barons
in my old land; but never a brute beast in harness.'
Margarita stood before him, and took his two hands.
'You will come with me to my father! He will thank you. I cannot. You
Tears and a sob of relief started from her.
The city guard, on seeing Werner's redoubtable back turned, had adopted
double time, and now came panting up, while the stranger bent smiling
under a fresh overflow of innocent caresses. Margarita was caught to her
'You shall have vengeance for this, sweet chuck,' cried old Gottlieb in
the intervals of his hugs.
'Fear not, my father; they are punished': and Margarita related the story
of the stranger's prowess, elevating him into a second Siegfried. The
guard huzzaed him, but did not pursue the Baron.
Old Gottlieb, without hesitation, saluted the astonished champion with a
kiss on either cheek.
'My best friend! You have saved my daughter from indignity! Come with
us home, if you can believe that a home where the wolves come daring us,
dragging our dear ones from our very doorsteps. Come, that we may thank
you under a roof at least. My little daughter! Is she not a brave lass?'
'She's nothing less than the white rose of Germany,' said the stranger,
with a good bend of the shoulders to Margarita.
'So she's called,' exclaimed Gottlieb; 'she 's worthy to be a man!'
'Men would be the losers, then, more than they could afford,' replied the
stranger, with a ringing laugh.
'Come, good friend,' said Gottlieb; 'you must need refreshment. Prove
you are a true hero by your appetite. As Charles the Great said to
Archbishop Turpin, "I conquered the world because Nature gave me a
gizzard; for everywhere the badge of subjection is a poor stomach."
Come, all! A day well ended, notwithstanding!'
THE SILVER ARROW
At the threshold of Gottlieb's house a number of the chief burgesses of
Cologne had corporated spontaneously to condole with him. As he came
near, they raised a hubbub of gratulation. Strong were the expressions
of abhorrence and disgust of Werner's troop in which these excellent
citizens clothed their outraged feelings; for the insult to Gottlieb was
the insult of all. The Rhinestream taxes were provoking enough to
endure; but that the licence of these free-booting bands should extend to
the homes of free and peaceful men, loyal subjects of the Emperor, was a
sign that the evil had reached from pricks to pokes, as the saying went,
and must now be met as became burgesses of ancient Cologne, and by joint
'In! in, all of you!' said Gottlieb, broadening his smile to suit the
many. 'We 'll talk about that in-doors. Meantime, I've got a hero to
introduce to you: flesh and blood! no old woman's coin and young girl's
dream-o'day: the honest thing, and a rarity, my masters. All that over
some good Rhine-juice from above Bacharach. In, and welcome, friends!'
Gottlieb drew the stranger along with him under the carved old oak-wood
portals, and the rest paired, and reverentially entered in his wake.
Margarita, to make up for this want of courtesy, formed herself the last
of the procession. She may have had another motive, for she took
occasion there to whisper something to Farina, bringing sun and cloud
over his countenance in rapid flushes. He seemed to remonstrate in dumb
show; but she, with an attitude of silence, signified her wish to seal
the conversation, and he drooped again. On the door step she paused a
moment, and hung her head pensively, as if moved by a reminiscence. The
youth had hurried away some strides. Margarita looked after him. His
arms were straightened to his flanks, his hands clenched, and straining
out from the wrist. He had the aspect of one tugging against the
restraint of a chain that suddenly let out link by link to his whole
'Farina!' she called; and wound him back with a run. 'Farina! You do
not think me ungrateful? I could not tell my father in the crowd what
you did for me. He shall know. He will thank you. He does not
understand you now, Farina. He will. Look not so sorrowful. So much I
would say to you.'
So much was rushing on her mind, that her maidenly heart became unruly,
and warned her to beware.
The youth stood as if listening to a nightingale of the old woods, after
the first sweet stress of her voice was in his ear. When she ceased, he
gazed into her eyes. They were no longer deep and calm like forest
lakes; the tender-glowing blue quivered, as with a spark of the young
girl's soul, in the beams of the moon then rising.
'Oh, Margarita!' said the youth, in tones that sank to sighs: 'what am I
to win your thanks, though it were my life for such a boon!'
He took her hand, and she did not withdraw it. Twice his lips dwelt upon
those pure fingers.
'Margarita: you forgive me: I have been so long without hope. I have
kissed your hand, dearest of God's angels!'
She gently restrained the full white hand in his pressure.
'Margarita! I have thought never before death to have had this sacred
bliss. I am guerdoned in advance for every grief coming before death.'
She dropped on him one look of a confiding softness that was to the youth
like the opened gate of the innocent garden of her heart.
'You pardon me, Margarita? I may call you my beloved? strive, wait,
pray, hope, for you, my star of life?'
Her face was so sweet a charity!
'Dear love! one word!--or say nothing, but remain, and move not. So
beautiful you are! Oh, might I kneel to you here; dote on you; worship
this white hand for ever.'
The colour had passed out of her cheeks like a blissful western red
leaving rich paleness in the sky; and with her clear brows levelled at
him, her bosom lifting more and more rapidly, she struggled against the
charm that was on her, and at last released her hand.
'I must go. I cannot stay. Pardon you? Who might not be proud of your
She turned to move away, but lingered a step from him, hastily touching
her bosom and either hand, as if to feel for a brooch or a ring. Then
she blushed, drew the silver arrow from the gathered gold-shot braids
above her neck, held it out to him, and was gone.
Farina clutched the treasure, and reeled into the street. Half a dozen
neighbours were grouped by the door.
'What 's the matter in Master Groschen's house now?' one asked, as he
plunged into the midst of them.
'Matter?' quoth the joy-drunken youth, catching at the word, and mused
off into raptures; 'There never was such happiness! 'Tis paradise
within, exile without. But what exile! A star ever in the heavens to
lighten the road and cheer the path of the banished one'; and he loosened
his vest and hugged the cold shaft on his breast.
'What are you talking and capering at, fellow?' exclaimed another: 'Can't
you answer about those shrieks, like a Christian, you that have just come
out of the house? Why, there's shrieking now! It 's a woman. Thousand
thunders! it sounds like the Frau Lisbeth's voice. What can be happening
'Perhaps she's on fire,' was coolly suggested between two or three.
'Pity to see the old house burnt,' remarked one.
'House! The woman, man! the woman!'
'Ah!' replied the other, an ancient inhabitant of Cologne, shaking his
head, 'the house is oldest!'
Farina, now recovering his senses, heard shrieks that he recognized as
possible in the case of Aunt Lisbeth dreading the wickedness of an
opposing sex, and alarmed by the inrush of old Gottlieb's numerous
guests. To confirm him, she soon appeared, and hung herself halfway out
of one of the upper windows, calling desperately to St. Ursula for aid.
He thanked the old lady in his heart for giving him a pretext to enter
Paradise again; but before even love could speed him, Frau Lisbeth was
seized and dragged remorselessly out of sight, and he and the rosy room
Farina twice strode off to the Rhine-stream; as many times he returned.
It was hard to be away from her. It was harder to be near and not close.
His heart flamed into jealousy of the stranger. Everything threatened to
overturn his slight but lofty structure of bliss so suddenly shot into
the heavens. He had but to remember that his hand was on the silver
arrow, and a radiance broke upon his countenance, and a calm fell upon
his breast. 'It was a plight of her troth to me,' mused the youth. 'She
loves me! She would not trust her frank heart to speak. Oh, generous
young girl! what am I to dare hope for such a prize? for I never can be
worthy. And she is one who, giving her heart, gives it all. Do I not
know her? How lovely she looked thanking the stranger! The blue of her
eyes, the warm-lighted blue, seemed to grow full on the closing lids,
like heaven's gratitude. Her beauty is wonderful. What wonder, then,
if he loves her? I should think him a squire in his degree. There are
squires of high birth and low.'
So mused Farina with his arms folded and his legs crossed in the shadow
of Margarita's chamber. Gradually he fell into a kind of hazy doze. The
houses became branded with silver arrows. All up the Cathedral stone was
a glitter, and dance, and quiver of them. In the sky mazed confusion of
arrowy flights and falls. Farina beheld himself in the service of the
Emperor watching these signs, and expecting on the morrow to win glory
and a name for Margarita. Glory and the name now won, old Gottlieb was
just on the point of paternally blessing them, when a rude pat aroused
him from the delicious moon-dream.
'Hero by day! house-guard by night! That tells a tale,' said a cheerful
The moon was shining down the Cathedral square and street, and Farina
saw the stranger standing solid and ruddy before him. He was at first
prompted to resent such familiar handling, but the stranger's face was
of that bland honest nature which, like the sun, wins everywhere back a
reflection of its own kindliness.
'You are right,' replied Farina; 'so it is!'
'Pretty wines inside there, and a rare young maiden. She has a throat
like a nightingale, and more ballads at command than a piper's wallet.
Now, if I hadn't a wife at home.'
'You're married?' cried Farina, seizing the stranger's hand.
'Surely; and my lass can say something for herself on the score of brave
looks, as well as the best of your German maids here, trust me.'
Farina repressed an inclination to perform a few of those antics which
violent joy excites, and after rushing away and back, determined to give
his secret to the stranger.
'Look,' said he in a whisper, that opens the private doors of a
But the stranger repeated the same word still more earnestly, and brought
Farina's eyes on a couple of dark figures moving under the Cathedral.
'Some lamb's at stake when the wolves are prowling,' he added: ''Tis now
two hours to the midnight. I doubt if our day's work be over till we
hear the chime, friend.'
'What interest do you take in the people of this house that you watch
over them thus?' asked Farina.
The stranger muffled a laugh in his beard.
'An odd question, good sooth. Why, in the first place, we like well
whatso we have done good work for. That goes for something. In the
second, I've broken bread in this house. Put down that in the reckoning.
In the third; well! in the third, add up all together, and the sum
total's at your service, young sir.'
Farina marked him closely. There was not a spot on his face for guile to
lurk in, or suspicion to fasten on. He caught the stranger's hand.
'You called me friend just now. Make me your friend. Look, I was going
to say: I love this maiden! I would die for her. I have loved her long.
This night she has given me a witness that my love is not vain. I am
poor. She is rich. I am poor, I said, and feel richer than the Kaiser
with this she has given me! Look, it is what our German girls slide in
their back-hair, this silver arrow!'
'A very pretty piece of heathenish wear!' exclaimed the stranger.
'Then, I was going to say--tell me, friend, of a way to win honour and
wealth quickly; I care not at how rare a risk. Only to wealth, or high
baronry, will her father give her!'
The stranger buzzed on his moustache in a pause of cool pity, such as
elders assume when young men talk of conquering the world for their
mistresses: and in truth it is a calm of mind well won!
'Things look so brisk at home here in the matter of the maiden, that I
should say, wait a while and watch your chance. But you're a boy of
pluck: I serve in the Kaiser's army, under my lord: the Kaiser will be
here in three days. If you 're of that mind then, I doubt little you may
get posted well: but, look again! there's a ripe brew yonder. Marry, you
may win your spurs this night even; who knows?--'S life! there's a tall
fellow joining those two lurkers.'
'Can you see into the murk shadow, Sir Squire?'
'Ay! thanks to your Styrian dungeons, where I passed a year's
"I learnt to watch the rats and mice
At play, with never a candle-end.
They play'd so well; they sang so nice;
They dubb'd me comrade; called me friend!"
So says the ballad of our red-beard king's captivity. All evil has a
"When our toes and chins are up,
Poison plants make sweetest cup"
as the old wives mumble to us when we're sick. Heigho! would I were in
the little island well home again, though that were just their song of
welcome to me, as I am a Christian.'
'Tell me your name, friend,' said Farina.
'Guy's my name, young man: Goshawk's my title. Guy the Goshawk! so they
called me in my merry land. The cap sticks when it no longer fits. Then
I drove the arrow, and was down on my enemy ere he could ruffle a
feather. Now, what would be my nickname?
"A change so sad, and a change so bad,
Might set both Christian and heathen a sighing:
Change is a curse, for it's all for the worse:
Age creeps up, and youth is flying!"
and so on, with the old song. But here am I, and yonder's a game that
wants harrying; so we'll just begin to nose about them a bit.'
He crossed to the other side of the street, and Farina followed out of
the moonlight. The two figures and the taller one were evidently
observing them; for they also changed their position and passed behind an
angle of the Cathedral.
'Tell me how the streets cross all round the Cathedral you know the
city,' said the stranger, holding out his hand.
Farina traced with his finger a rough map of the streets on the
'Good! that's how my lord always marks the battlefield, and makes me show
him the enemy's posts. Forward, this way!'
He turned from the Cathedral, and both slid along close under the eaves
and front hangings of the houses. Neither spoke. Farina felt that he
was in the hands of a skilful captain, and only regretted the want of a
weapon to make harvest of the intended surprise; for he judged clearly
that those were fellows of Werner's band on the look-out. They wound
down numberless intersections of narrow streets with irregular-built
houses standing or leaning wry-faced in row, here a quaint-beamed
cottage, there almost a mansion with gilt arms, brackets, and devices.
Oil-lamps unlit hung at intervals by the corners, near a pale Christ on
crucifix. Across the passages they hung alight. The passages and alleys
were too dusky and close for the moon in her brightest ardour to
penetrate; down the streets a slender lane of white beams could steal:
'In all conscience,' as the good citizens of Cologne declared, 'enough
for those heathen hounds and sons of the sinful who are abroad when God's
own blessed lamp is out.' So, when there was a moon, the expense of oil
was saved to the Cologne treasury, thereby satisfying the virtuous.
After incessant doubling here and there, listening to footfalls, and
themselves eluding a chase which their suspicious movements aroused, they
came upon the Rhine. A full flood of moonlight burnished the knightly
river in glittering scales, and plates, and rings, as headlong it rolled
seaward on from under crag and banner of old chivalry and rapine. Both
greeted the scene with a burst of pleasure. The grey mist of flats on
the south side glimmered delightful to their sight, coming from that
drowsy crowd and press of habitations; but the solemn glory of the river,
delaying not, heedless, impassioned-pouring on in some sublime conference
between it and heaven to the great marriage of waters, deeply shook
Farina's enamoured heart. The youth could not restrain his tears, as if
a magic wand had touched him. He trembled with love; and that delicate
bliss which maiden hope first showers upon us like a silver rain when she
has taken the shape of some young beauty and plighted us her fair
fleeting hand, tenderly embraced him.
As they were emerging into the spaces of the moon, a cheer from the
stranger arrested Farina.
'Seest thou? on the wharf there! that is the very one, the tallest of the
three. Lakin! but we shall have him.'
Wrapt in a long cloak, with low pointed cap and feather, stood the person
indicated. He appeared to be meditating on the flow of the water,
unaware of hostile presences, or quite regardless of them. There was a
majesty in his height and air, which made the advance of the two upon him
more wary and respectful than their first impulse had counselled. They
could not read his features, which were mantled behind voluminous folds:
all save a pair of very strange eyes, that, even as they gazed directly
downward, seemed charged with restless fiery liquid.
The two were close behind him: Guy the Goshawk prepared for one of those
fatal pounces on the foe that had won him his title. He consulted Farina
mutely, who Nodded readiness; but the instant after, a cry of anguish
escaped from the youth:
'Lost! gone! lost! Where is it? where! the arrow! The Silver Arrow!
Ere the echoes of his voice had ceased lamenting into the distance, they
found themselves alone on the wharf.
THE LILIES OF THE VALLEY
'He opened like a bat!' said the stranger.
'His shadow was red!' said Farina.
'He was off like an arrow!' said the stranger.
'Oh! pledge of my young love, how could I lose thee!' exclaimed the
youth, and his eyes were misted with tears.
Guy the Goshawk shook his brown locks gravely.
'Bring me a man, and I 'll stand up against him, whoever he be, like a
man; but this fellow has an ill scent and foreign ways about him, that he
has! His eye boils all down my backbone and tingles at my finger-tips.
Jesu, save us!'
'Save us!' repeated Farina, with the echo of a deadened soul.
They made the sign of the Cross, and purified the place with holy
'I 've seen him at last; grant it be for the last time! That's my
prayer, in the name of the Virgin and Trinity,' said Guy. 'And now let's
retrace our steps: perchance we shall hunt up that bauble of yours, but
I'm not fit for mortal work this night longer.'
Burdened by their black encounter, the two passed again behind the
Cathedral. Farina's hungry glances devoured each footmark of their
track. Where the moon held no lantern for him, he went on his knees, and
groped for his lost treasure with a miser's eager patience of agony,
drawing his hand slowly over the stony kerb and between the interstices
of the thick-sown flints, like an acute-feeling worm. Despair grew heavy
in his breast. At every turning he invoked some good new saint to aid
him, and ran over all the propitiations his fancy could suggest and his
religious lore inspire. By-and-by they reached the head of the street
where Margarita dwelt. The moon was dipping down, and paler, as if
touched with a warning of dawn. Chill sighs from the open land passed
through the spaces of the city. On certain coloured gables and wood-
crossed fronts, the white light lingered; but mostly the houses were
veiled in dusk, and Gottlieb's house was confused in the twilight with
those of his neighbours, notwithstanding its greater stateliness and the
old grandeur of its timbered bulk. They determined to take up their
position there again, and paced on, Farina with his head below his
shoulders, and Guy nostril in air, as if uneasy in his sense of smell.
On the window-ledge of a fair-fitted domicile stood a flower-pot, a rude
earthen construction in the form of a river-barge, wherein grew some
valley lilies that drooped their white bells over the sides.
The Goshawk eyed them wistfully.
'I must smell those blessed flowers if I wish to be saved!' and he
stamped resolve with his staff.
Moved by this exclamation, Farina gazed up at them.
'How like a company of maidens they look floating in the vessel of life!'
Guy curiously inspected Farina and the flower-pot, shrugged, and with his
comrade's aid, mounted to a level with it, seized the prize and
'There,' he cried, between long luxurious sniffs, 'that chases him out of
the nostril sooner than aught else, the breath of a fresh lass-like
flower! I was tormented till now by the reek of the damned rising from
under me. This is heaven's own incense, I think !'
And Guy inhaled the flowers and spake prettily to them.
'They have a melancholy sweetness, friend,' said Farina. 'I think of
whispering Fays, and Elf, and Erl, when their odour steals through me.
Do not you?'
'Nay, nor hope to till my wits are clean gone,' was the Goshawk's reply.
'To my mind, 'tis an honest flower, and could I do good service by the
young maiden who there set it, I should be rendering back good service
done; for if that flower has not battled the devil in my nose this night,
and beaten him, my head's a medlar!'
'I scarce know whether as a devout Christian I should listen to that,
friend,' Farina mildly remonstrated. 'Lilies are indeed emblems of the
saints; but then they are not poor flowers of earth, being transfigured,
lustrous unfadingly. Oh, Cross and Passion! with what silver serenity
thy glory enwraps me, gazing on these fair bells! I look on the white
sea of the saints. I am enamoured of fleshly anguish and martyrdom. All
beauty is that worn by wan-smiling faces wherein Hope sits as a crown on
Sorrow, and the pale ebb of mortal life is the twilight of joy
everlasting. Colourless peace! Oh, my beloved! So walkest thou for my
soul on the white sea ever at night, clad in the straight fall of thy
spotless virgin linen; bearing in thy hand the lily, and leaning thy
cheek to it, where the human rose is softened to a milky bloom of red,
the espousals of heaven with earth; over thee, moving with thee, a wreath
of sapphire stars, and the solitude of purity around!'
'Ah!' sighed the Goshawk, dandling his flower-pot; 'the moon gives
strokes as well's the sun. I' faith, moon-struck and maid-struck in one!
He'll be asking for his head soon. This dash of the monk and the
minstrel is a sure sign. That 's their way of loving in this land: they
all go mad, straight off. I never heard such talk.'
Guy accompanied these remarks with a pitiful glance at his companion.
'Come, Sir Lover! lend me a help to give back what we've borrowed to its
rightful owner. 'S blood! but I feel an appetite. This night-air takes
me in the wind like a battering ram. I thought I had laid in a stout
four-and-twenty hours' stock of Westphalian Wurst at Master Groschen's
supper-table. Good stuff, washed down with superior Rhine wine; say your
Liebfrauenmilch for my taste; though, when I first tried it, I grimaced
like a Merry-Andrew, and remembered roast beef and Glo'ster ale in my
The Goshawk was in the act of replacing the pot of lilies, when a blow
from a short truncheon, skilfully flung, struck him on the neck and
brought him to the ground. With him fell the lilies. He glared to the
right and left, and grasped the broken flower-pot for a return missile;
but no enemy was in view to test his accuracy of aim.
The deep-arched doorways showed their empty recesses the windows slept.
'Has that youth played me false?' thought the discomfited squire, as he
leaned quietly on his arm. Farina was nowhere near.
Guy was quickly reassured.
'By my fay, now! that's a fine thing! and a fine fellow! and a fleet
foot! That lad 'll rise! He'll be a squire some day. Look at him.
Bowels of a'Becket! 'tis a sight! I'd rather see that, now, than old
Groschen 's supper-table groaning with Wurst again, and running a river
of Rudesheimer! Tussle on! I'll lend a hand if there's occasion; but
you shall have the honour, boy, an you can win it.'
This crying on of the hound was called forth by a chase up the street, in
which the Goshawk beheld Farina pursue and capture a stalwart runaway,
who refused with all his might to be brought back, striving every two and
three of his tiptoe steps to turn against the impulse Farina had got on
his neck and nether garments.
'Who 'd have thought the lad was so wiry and mettlesome, with his soft
face, blue eyes, and lank locks? but a green mead has more in it than
many a black mountain. Hail, and well done! if I could dub you knight,
I would: trust me!' and he shook Farina by the hand.
Farina modestly stood aside, and allowed the Goshawk to confront his
'So, Sir Shy-i'the-dark! gallant Stick-i'the-back! Squire Truncheon,
and Knight of the noble order of Quicksilver Legs! just take your stand
at the distance you were off me when you discharged this instrument at my
head. By 'r lady! I smart a scratch to pay you in coin, and it's lucky
for you the coin is small, or you might reckon on it the same, trust me.
The Goshawk lunged out with the truncheon, but the prisoner displayed no
hesitation in complying, and fell back about a space of fifteen yards.
'I suppose he guesses I've never done the stupid trick before,' mused
Guy, 'or he would not be so sharp.' Observing that Farina had also
fallen back in a line as guard, Guy motioned him to edge off to the right
more, bawling, 'Never mind why!'
'Now,' thought Guy, 'if I were sure of notching him, I'd do the speech
part first; but as I'm not--throwing truncheons being no honourable
profession anywhere--I'll reserve that. The rascal don't quail. We'll
see how long he stands firm.'
The Goshawk cleared his wrist, fixed his eye, and swung the truncheon
meditatively to and fro by one end. He then launched off the shoulder a
mighty down-fling, calmly, watching it strike the prisoner to earth, like
an ox under the hammer.
'A hit!' said he, and smoothed his wrist.
Farina knelt by the body, and lifted the head on his breast. 'Berthold!
Berthold!' he cried; 'no further harm shall hap to you, man! Speak!'
'You ken the scapegrace?' said Guy, sauntering up.
''Tis Berthold Schmidt, son of old Schmidt, the great goldsmith of
'St. Dunstan was not at his elbow this time!'
'A rival of mine,' whispered Farina.
'Oho!' and the Goshawk wound a low hiss at his tongue's tip. 'Well! as
I should have spoken if his ears had been open: Justice struck the blow;
and a gentle one. This comes of taking a flying shot, and not standing
up fair. And that seems all that can be said. Where lives he?'
Farina pointed to the house of the Lilies.
'Beshrew me! the dog has some right on his side. Whew! yonder he lives?
He took us for some night-prowlers. Why not come up fairly, and ask my
Smelling a flower is not worth a broken neck, nor defending your premises
quite deserving a hole in the pate. Now, my lad, you see what comes of
dealing with cut and run blows; and let this be a warning to you.'
They took the body by head and feet, and laid him at the door of his
father's house. Here the colour came to his cheek, and they wiped off
the streaks of blood that stained him. Guy proved he could be tender
with a fallen foe, and Farina with an ill-fated rival. It was who could
suggest the soundest remedies, or easiest postures. One lent a kerchief
and nursed him; another ran to the city fountain and fetched him water.
Meantime the moon had dropped, and morning, grey and beamless, looked on
the house-peaks and along the streets with steadier eye. They now both
discerned a body of men, far down, fronting Gottlieb's house, and drawn
up in some degree of order. All their charity forsook them at once.
'Possess thyself of the truncheon,' said Guy: 'You see it can damage.
More work before breakfast, and a fine account I must give of myself to
my hostess of the Three Holy Kings!'
Farina recovered the destructive little instrument.
'I am ready,' said he. 'But hark! there's little work for us there, I
fancy. Those be lads of Cologne, no grunters of the wild. 'Tis the
White Rose Club. Always too late for service.'
Voices singing a hunting glee, popular in that age, swelled up the clear
morning air; and gradually the words became distinct.
The Kaiser went a-hunting,
With his bugle-horn at springing morn,
The Kaiser trampled bud and thorn:
And the dew shakes green as the horsemen rear,
And a thousand feathers they flutter with fear;
And a pang drives quick to the heart of the deer;
For the Kaiser's out a-hunting,
Ta, ta, ta, ta,
Ta-ta, tra-ra, tra-ra!
the owner of the truncheon awoke to these reviving tones, and uttered a
faint responsive 'Tra-ra!'
'Hark again!' said Farina, in reply to the commendation of the Goshawk,
whose face was dimpled over with the harmony.
The wild boar lay a-grunting,
And, boom! comes the Kaiser to hunt up me?
Or, queak! the small birdie that hops on the tree?
O birdie, and boar, and deer, lie tame!
For a maiden in bloom, or a full-blown dame,
Are the daintiest prey, and the windingest game,
When Kaisers go a-hunting,
Ha, ha, ha, ha,
Ha-ha, tra-ra, tra-ra!
The voices held long on the last note, and let it die in a forest
''Fore Gad! well done. Hurrah! Tra-ra, ha-ha, tra-ra! That's a trick
we're not half alive to at home,' said Guy. 'I feel friendly with these
The Goshawk's disposition toward German lads was that moment harshly
tested by a smart rap on the shoulder from an end of German oak, and a
proclamation that he was prisoner of the hand that gave the greeting, in
the name of the White Rose Club. Following that, his staff was wrested
from him by a dozen stout young fellows, who gave him no time to get his
famous distance for defence against numbers; and he and Farina were
marched forthwith to the chorusing body in front of Gottlieb Groschen's
Of all the inmates, Gottlieb had slept most with the day on his eyelids,
for Werner hung like a nightmare over him. Margarita lay and dreamed in
rose-colour, and if she thrilled on her pillowed silken couch like a
tense-strung harp, and fretted drowsily in little leaps and starts, it
was that a bird lay in her bosom, panting and singing through the night,
and that he was not to be stilled, but would musically utter the sweetest
secret thoughts of a love-bewitched maiden. Farina's devotion she knew
his tenderness she divined: his courage she had that day witnessed. The
young girl no sooner felt that she could love worthily, than she loved
with her whole strength. Muffed and remote came the hunting-song under
her pillow, and awoke dreamy delicate curves in her fair face, as it
thinned but did not banish her dream. Aunt Lisbeth also heard the song,
and burst out of her bed to see that the door and window were secured
against the wanton Kaiser. Despite her trials, she had taken her spell
of sleep; but being possessed of some mystic maiden belief that in cases
of apprehended peril from man, bed was a rock of refuge and fortified
defence, she crept back there, and allowed the sun to rise without her.
Gottlieb's voice could not awaken her to the household duties she loved
to perform with such a doleful visage. She heard him open his window,
and parley in angry tones with the musicians below.
'Decoys!' muttered Aunt Lisbeth; 'be thou alive to them, Gottlieb!'
He went downstairs and opened the street door, whereupon the scolding and
railing commenced anew.
'Thou hast given them vantage, Gottlieb, brother mine,' she complained;
'and the good heavens only can say what may result from such
A silence, combustible with shuffling of feet in the passage and on the
stairs, dinned horrors into Aunt Lisbeth's head.
'It was just that sound in the left wing of Hollenbogenblitz,' she said:
'only then it was night and not morning. Ursula preserve me!'
'Why, Lisbeth! Lisbeth!' cried Gottlieb from below. 'Come down! 'tis
full five o' the morning. Here's company; and what are we to do without
'Ah, Gottlieb! that is like men! They do not consider how different it
is for us!' which mysterious sentence being uttered to herself alone,
enjoyed a meaning it would elsewhere have been denied.
Aunt Lisbeth dressed, and met Margarita descending. They exchanged the
good-morning of young maiden and old.
'Go thou first,' said Aunt Lisbeth.
Margarita gaily tripped ahead.
'Girl!' cried Aunt Lisbeth, 'what's that thing in thy back hair?'
'I have borrowed Lieschen's arrow, aunt. Mine has had an accident.'
'Lieschen's arrow! An accident! Now I will see to that after breakfast,
'Tra-ra, ta-ta, tra-ra, tra-ra,' sang Margarita.
'The wild boar lay a-grunting,
'A maiden's true and proper ornament! Look at mine, child! I have worn
it fifty years. May I deserve to wear it till I am called! O Margarita!
trifle not with that symbol.'
'"O birdie, and boar, and deer, lie tame!"
I am so happy, aunty.'
'Nice times to be happy in, Margarita.'
"Be happy in Spring, sweet maidens all,
For Autumn's chill will early fall."
So sings the Minnesinger, aunty; and
'"A maiden in the wintry leaf
Will spread her own disease of grief."
I love the Minnesingers! Dear, sweet-mannered men they are! Such
lovers! And men of deeds as well as song: sword on one side and harp on
the other. They fight till set of sun, and then slacken their armour to
waft a ballad to their beloved by moonlight, covered with stains of
battle as they are, and weary!'
'What a girl! Minnesingers! Yes; I know stories of those Minnesingers.
They came to the castle--Margarita, a bead of thy cross is broken. I
will attend to it. Wear the pearl one till I mend this. May'st thou
never fall in the way of Minnesingers. They are not like Werner's troop.
They do not batter at doors: they slide into the house like snakes.'
'Lisbeth! Lisbeth!' they heard Gottlieb calling impatiently.
'We come, Gottlieb!' and in a low murmur Margarita heard her say: 'May
this day pass without trouble and shame to the pious and the chaste.'
Margarita knew the voice of the stranger before she had opened the door,
and on presenting herself, the hero gave her a guardian-like salute.
'One may see,' he said, 'that it requires better men than those of Werner
to drive away the rose from that cheek.'
Gottlieb pressed the rosy cheek to his shoulder and patted her.
'What do you think, Grete? You have now forty of the best lads in
Cologne enrolled to protect you, and keep guard over the house night and
day. There! What more could a Pfalzgrafin ask, now? And voluntary
service; all to be paid with a smile, which I daresay my lady won't
refuse them. Lisbeth, you know our friend. Fear him not, good Lisbeth,
and give us breakfast. Well, sweet chuck, you're to have royal honours
paid you. I warrant they've begun good work already in locking up that
idle moony vagabond, Farina--'
'Him? What for, my father? How dared they! What has he done?'
'O, start not, my fairy maid! A small matter of breakage, pet! He tried
to enter Cunigonde Schmidt's chamber, and knocked down her pot of lilies:
for which Berthold Schmidt knocked him down, and our friend here, out of
good fellowship, knocked down Berthold. However, the chief offender is
marched off to prison by your trusty guard, and there let him cool
himself. Berthold shall tell you the tale himself: he'll be here to
breakfast, and receive your orders, mistress commander-in-chief.'
The Goshawk had his eye on Margarita. Her teeth were tight down on her
nether lip, and her whole figure had a strange look of awkwardness, she
was so divided with anger.
'As witness of the affair, I think I shall make a clearer statement, fair
maiden,' he interposed. 'In the first place, I am the offender. We
passed under the window of the Fraulein Schmidt, and 'twas I mounted to
greet the lilies. One shoot of them is in my helm, and here let me
present them to a worthier holder.'
He offered the flowers with a smile, and Margarita took them, radiant
'Our friend Berthold,' he continued, 'thought proper to aim a blow at me
behind my back, and then ran for his comrades. He was caught, and by my
gallant young hero, Farina; concerning whose character I regret that your
respected father and I differ: for, on the faith of a soldier and true
man, he's the finest among the fine fellows I've yet met in Germany,
trust me. So, to cut the story short, execution was done upon Berthold
by my hand, for an act of treachery. He appears to be a sort of captain
of one of the troops, and not affectionately disposed to Farina; for the
version of the affair you have heard from your father is a little
invention of Master Berthold's own. To do him justice, he seemed equally
willing to get me under the cold stone; but a word from your good father
changed the current; and as I thought I could serve our friend better
free than behind bars, I accepted liberty. Pshaw! I should have
accepted it any way, to tell the truth, for your German dungeons are
mortal shivering ratty places. So rank me no hero, fair Mistress
Margarita, though the temptation to seem one in such sweet eyes was
beginning to lead me astray. And now, as to our business in the streets
at this hour, believe the best of us.'
'I will! I do!' said Margarita.
'Lisbeth! Lisbeth!' called Gottlieb. 'Breakfast, little sister! our
champion is starving. He asks for wurst, milk-loaves, wine, and all thy
rarest conserves. Haste, then, for the honour of Cologne is at stake.'
Aunt Lisbeth jingled her keys in and out, and soon that harmony drew a
number of domestics with platters of swine flesh, rolls of white wheaten
bread, the perpetual worst, milk, wine, barley-bread, and household
stores of dainties in profusion, all sparkling on silver, relieved by
spotless white cloth. Gottlieb beheld such a sunny twinkle across the
Goshawk's face at this hospitable array, that he gave the word of onset
without waiting for Berthold, and his guest immediately fell to, and did
not relax in his exertions for a full half-hour by the Cathedral clock,
eschewing the beer with a wry look made up of scorn and ruefulness, and
drinking a well-brimmed health in Rhine wine all round. Margarita was
pensive: Aunt Lisbeth on her guard. Gottlieb remembered Charles the
Great's counsel to Archbishop Turpin, and did his best to remain on earth
one of its lords dominant.
'Poor Berthold!' said he. ''Tis a good lad, and deserves his seat at my
table oftener. I suppose the flower-pot business has detained him.
We'll drink to him: eh, Grete?'
'Drink to him, dear father!--but here he is to thank you in person.'
Margarita felt a twinge of pity as Berthold entered. The livid stains of
his bruise deepened about his eyes, and gave them a wicked light whenever
they were fixed intently; but they looked earnest; and spoke of a combat
in which he could say that he proved no coward and was used with some
cruelty. She turned on the Goshawk a mute reproach; yet smiled and loved
him well when she beheld him stretch a hand of welcome and proffer a
brotherly glass to Berthold. The rich goldsmith's son was occupied in
studying the horoscope of his fortunes in Margarita's eyes; but when
Margarita directed his attention to Guy, he turned to him with a glance
of astonishment that yielded to cordial greeting.
'Well done, Berthold, my brave boy! All are friends who sit at table,'
said Gottlieb. 'In any case, at my table:
"'Tis a worthy foe
Forgives the blow
Was dealt him full and fairly,"
says the song; and the proverb takes it up with, "A generous enemy is a
friend on the wrong side"; and no one's to blame for that, save old Dame
Fortune. So now a bumper to this jovial make-up between you. Lisbeth!
you must drink it.'
The little woman bowed melancholy obedience.
'Why did you fling and run?' whispered Guy to Berthold.
'Because you were two against one.'
'Two against one, man! Why, have you no such thing as fair play in this
land of yours? Did you think I should have taken advantage of that?'
'How could I tell who you were, or what you would do?' muttered Berthold,
'Truly no, friend! So you ran to make yourself twenty to two? But don't
be down on the subject. I was going to say, that though I treated you in
a manner upright, 'twas perhaps a trifle severe, considering your youth:
but an example's everything; and I must let you know in confidence, that
no rascal truncheon had I flung in my life before; so, you see, I gave
you all the chances.'
Berthold moved his lips in reply; but thinking of the figure of defeat he
was exhibiting before Margarita, caused him to estimate unfavourably what
chances had stood in his favour.
The health was drunk. Aunt Lisbeth touched the smoky yellow glass with a
mincing lip, and beckoned Margarita to withdraw.
'The tapestry, child!' she said. 'Dangerous things are uttered after the
third glass, I know, Margarita.'
'Do you call my champion handsome, aunt?'
'I was going to speak to you about him, Margarita. If I remember, he has
rough, good looks, as far as they go. Yes: but thou, maiden, art thou
thinking of him? I have thrice watched him wink; and that, as we know,
is a habit of them that have sold themselves. And what is frail
womankind to expect from such a brawny animal?'
'And oh! to lace his armour up,
And speed him to the field;
To pledge him in a kissing-cup,
The knight that will not yield!
I am sure he is tender, aunt. Notice how gentle he looks now and then.'
'Thou girl! Yes, I believe she is madly in love with him. Tender, and
gentle! So is the bear when you're outside his den; but enter it,
maiden, and try! Thou good Ursula, preserve me from such a fate.'
'Fear not, dear aunt! Have not a fear of it! Besides, it is not always
the men that are bad. You must not forget Dalilah, and Lot's wife, and
Pfalzgrafin Jutta, and the Baroness who asked for a piece of poor Kraut.
But, let us work, let us work!'
Margarita sat down before Siegfried, and contemplated the hero. For the
first time, she marked a resemblance in his features to Farina: the same
long yellow hair scattered over his shoulders as that flowing from under
Siegfried's helm; the blue eyes, square brows, and regular outlines.
'This is a marvel,' thought Margarita. 'And Farina! it was to watch over
me that he roamed the street last night, my best one! Is he not
beautiful?' and she looked closer at Siegfried.
Aunt Lisbeth had begun upon the dragon with her usual method, and was
soon wandering through skeleton halls of the old palatial castle in
Bohemia. The woolly tongue of the monster suggested fresh horrors to
her, and if Margarita had listened, she might have had fair excuses to
forget her lover's condition; but her voice only did service like a piece
of clock-work, and her mind was in the prison with Farina. She was long
debating how to win his release; and meditated so deeply, and exclaimed
in so many bursts of impatience, that Aunt Lisbeth found her heart
melting to the maiden. 'Now,' said she, 'that is a well-known story about
the Electress Dowager of Bavaria, when she came on a visit to the castle;
and, my dear child, be it a warning. Terrible, too!' and the little woman
shivered pleasantly. 'She had--I may tell you this, Margarita--yes, she
had been false to her wedded husband.--You understand, maiden; or, no!
you do not understand: I understand it only partly, mind.
False, I say----'
'False--not true: go on, dear aunty,' said Margarita, catching the word.
'I believe she knows as much as I do!' ejaculated Aunt Lisbeth; 'such are
girls nowadays. When I was young-oh! for a maiden to know anything then
--oh! it was general reprobation. No one thought of confessing it. We
blushed and held down our eyes at the very idea. Well, the Electress!
she was--you must guess. So she called for her caudle at eleven o'clock
at night. What do you think that was? Well, there was spirit in it: not
to say nutmeg, and lemon, and peach kernels. She wanted me to sit with
her, but I begged my mistress to keep me from the naughty woman: and no
friend of Hilda of Bayern was Bertha of Bohmen, you may be sure. Oh!
the things she talked while she was drinking her caudle.
Isentrude sat with her,'and said it was fearful!--beyond blasphemy! and
that she looked like a Bible witch, sitting up drinking and swearing and
glaring in her nightclothes and nightcap. She was on a journey into
Hungary, and claimed the hospitality of the castle on her way there.
Both were widows. Well, it was a quarter to twelve. The Electress
dropped back on her pillow, as she always did when she had finished the
candle. Isentrude covered her over, heaped up logs on the fire, wrapped
her dressing-gown about her, and prepared to sleep. It was Winter, and
the wind howled at the doors, and rattled the windows, and shook the
arras--Lord help us! Outside was all snow, and nothing but forest; as
you saw when you came to me there, Gretelchen. Twelve struck. Isentrude
was dozing; but she says that after the last stroke she woke with cold.
A foggy chill hung in the room. She looked at the Electress, who had not
moved. The fire burned feebly, and seemed weighed upon: Herr Je!--she
thought she heard a noise. No. Quite quiet! As heaven preserve her,
says slip, the smell in that room grew like an open grave, clammily
putrid. Holy Virgin! This time she was certain she heard a noise; but
it seemed on both sides of her. There was the great door leading to the
first landing and state-room; and opposite exactly there was the panel of
the secret passage. The noises seemed to advance as if step by step, and
grew louder in each ear as she stood horrified on the marble of the
hearth. She looked at the Electress again, and her eyes were wide open;
but for all Isentrude's calling, she would not wake. Only think! Now
the noise increased, and was a regular tramp-grate, tramp-screw sound-
coming nearer and nearer: Saints of mercy! The apartment was choking
with vapours. Isentrude made a dart, and robed herself behind a curtain
of the bed just as the two doors opened. She could see through a slit in
the woven work, and winked her eyes which she had shut close on hearing
the scream of the door-hinges--winked her eyes to catch a sight for
moment--we are such sinful, curious creatures!--What she saw then, she
says she shall never forget; nor I! As she was a living woman, there she
saw the two dead princes, the Prince Palatine of Bohemia and the Elector
of Bavaria, standing front to front at the foot of the bed, all in white
armour, with drawn swords, and attendants holding pine-torches. Neither
of them spoke. Their vizors were down; but she knew them by their arms
and bearing: both tall, stately presences, good knights in their day, and