“Then in the darkness we came to the castle, and the word was: ’Dismount, and to the shambles!’ Me and my like they meddled not with, but only the great ones. And it was then, as I told you, that I saw Prince Dietrich with the little maid in his arms. I had carried her part of the way for him, and faithfully delivered her up again, feeding her with the choicest meats I could obtain when she could eat. But she was tired, mostly, and would not look at food. So for this he gave me her necklace from about her pretty neck. But the rest of her noble golden gear, the belt and the clasps, were upon the maid when the headsman of Thorn delivered her to one that stood near by. So, being almost asleep with weariness and exhausted with terror, they carried her away, and I saw the maid no more.
“But the Prince Dietrich Hohenfriedberg was beheaded within the hour, and, as is their hellish custom, his body was thrown to the Duke’s blood-hounds that were clamoring all the time behind their fence.
“God help us—such a disaster that night was for Plassenburg! Will the Prince never set about wiping away the disgrace?”
“Aye, that he will!” cried the High Chancellor, suddenly bursting into a fury, strangely unlike him. “He will wash it away in the blood of Duke Casimir and all his evil brood—the Wolves of the Mark truly are they named. And the Wolfsberg shall go up in flaming fire to heaven, so that the ashes of it shall be cast abroad to make the Mark yet grayer and more desolate—like the fell of the beasts that dwelt within it.”
“Amen! Let it come quick, say I—that I may see it before I die!” cried the forester, bowing low before the Chancellor.
THE DECENT SERVITOR
“This grows past all bearing,” cried the Prince one morning, when he had summoned into his hall the Chancellor Dessauer and myself. For, though the Prince was still wont to command in person in any important action, and in the general policy of his realm took counsel with none, yet it had somehow come about that we, the old man and the young, had been constituted an informal council of two which was liable to be summoned at any moment, whenever the Prince was weary or troubled.
He struck one clinched hand into the palm of the other before he spoke again.
“Duke Casimir is either in his dotage, or his riders have gotten out of hand since Hugo and you drove the young wolf over to help the old. Both are likely enough, with a people praying for deliverance and yearning for their Duke’s death. A bare board and an empty treasury may render a new course of plunder necessary abroad, in order to keep his Dukedom from toppling about his ears at home. After all, ’tis natural enough. But I had thought that he would have had enough of sense to let the borders of Plassenburg alone so long as its Prince lived.”
“And what, my lord, has befallen?” asked the High Councillor.