I saw Texel despatch a messenger to the lictors who stood on either side of Helene. The body-guard of the Duke stood closer about her as the Duke Otho himself stood up to read the sentence.
I saw that the form of it had been written out upon a paper. Doubtless, therefore, all had been prearranged, so that neither evidence nor eloquence could possibly have had any effect upon it.
“We, the Court of the Wolfmark, find the prisoner, Helene, called Gottfried, guilty of witchcraft, and especially of compassing and causing the death of our predecessor, the most noble Duke Casimir, and we do hereby adjudge that, on the morning of Sunday presently following, Helene Gottfried shall be executed upon the common scaffold by the axe of the executioner. Of our clemency is this sentence delivered, instead of the torture and the burning alive at the stake which it was within our power to command. This is done in consideration of the youth of the criminal, and as the first exercise of our ducal prerogative of high mercy.”
With an angry roar the people closed in.
“Take her!” they cried; “rescue her out of their hands!”
And there was a fierce rush, in which the outer barriers were snapped like straw. But the lictors had pulled down the trap-door on the instant, and the people surged fiercely over the spot where a moment before Helene had stood. Before them were the levelled pikes and burning matches of the Duke’s guard.
“Have at them!” was still the cry. “Kill the wolves! Tear them to pieces!”
But the mob was undisciplined, and the steady advance of the soldiers soon cleared the hall. Nevertheless the streets without continued angry and throbbing with incipient rebellion. Duke Otho could scarce win scathless across the court-yard to his own apartments. Tiles from the nearest roofs were cast upon the heads of his escort. The streets were impassable with angry men shaking their fists at every courier and soldier of the Duke. Women hung sobbing out of the windows, and all the city of Thorn lamented with uncomforted tears because of the cruel condemnation of their Saint of the plague, Helena, the maiden of the Red Tower.
THE MESSAGE FROM THE WHITE GATE
I rushed out into the street, distract and insensate with grief and madness. I found the city seething with sullen unrest—not yet openly hostile to the powers that abode in the Castle of the Wolfsberg—too long cowed and down-trodden for that, but angry with the anger which one day would of a certainty break out and be pitiless.
The Black Horsemen of the Duke pricked a way with their lances here and there through the people, driving them into the narrow lanes, in jets and spurts of fleeing humanity, only once more to reunite as soon as the Hussars of Death had passed. Pikemen cried “Make way!” and the regular guard of the city paraded in strong companies.