As I spoke she drew herself away from me. My hand had unconsciously rested on her hair, for at first she had leaned her head towards me. When I had finished she took my hand by the wrist and gripped it as if she would choke a snake ere she dropped it at arm’s-length. I knew that our interview was at an end.
“Go!” she commanded, pointing to the door. “One day you shall know how precious is the love you have so lightly cast aside. In a dark, dread hour, you, Hugo Gottfried, shall sue as a suppliant. And I shall deny you. There shall come a day when you shall abase yourself—even as you have seen Ysolinde the Princess abase herself to Hugo, the son of the Red Axe of the Wolf mark. Go, I tell you! Go—ere I slay you with my knife!”
And she flashed a keen double-edged blade from some recess of her silken serpentine dress.
“My lady, hear me,” I pleaded. “Out of the depths of my heart I protest to you—”
“Bah!” she cried, with a sudden uprising of tigerish fierceness in her eyes, quick and chill as the glitter of her steel. “Go, I tell you, ere I be tempted to strike! Your heart! Why, man, there is nothing in your heart but empty words out of monks’ copy-books and proverbs dry and rotten as last year’s leaves. Ye have seen me abased. By the lords of hell, I will abase you, Executioner’s son! Aye, and you yourself, Hugo Gottfried, shall work out in flowing blood and bitter tears the doom of the pale trembling girl for whom you have rejected and despised Ysolinde, Princess of Plassenburg!”
THE RED AXE DIES STANDING UP
How I stumbled down the stairs and found myself outside the house in the Weiss Thor I do not know. Whether the servitor, Sir Respectable, showed me out or not has quite passed from me. I only remember that I came upon myself waiting outside the gate of Bishop Peter’s palace ringing at a bell which sounded ghostly enough, tinkling like a cracked kettle behind the door.
The lattice clicked and a face peeped out.
“Get hence, night-raker!” cried a voice. “Wherefore do you come here so untimeously, profaning the holy quiet of our minster-close?”
“There was no very holy calm in the kitchen t’other night, Peter Swinehead!” said I, my wits coming mechanically back to me at the familiar sound.
“Ha, Sir Blackamoor, ’tis you; surely your chafts have grown strangely white, or else are my eyes serving me foully in the torchlight.”
Instinctively I covered as much of my face as I could with my cloak’s cape, for indeed I had washed it ere I went forth to see the Lady Ysolinde.
“’Tis that you have slipped too much of the Rhenish down thy gullet, old comrade,” said I, slapping Peter on the back and getting before him so that he might remark nothing more.
At that, being well pleased with my calling him comrade, he lighted me cordially to my chamber, and there left me to the sleepless meditation of the night.