“Do you see them, son Hugo?” he cried, leaning heavily on my shoulder and pointing with his finger; “they are gibbering at me, mowing, processioning by, and pointing mockingly at me. Do you hear them laughing? That horrid one there with his head under his arm? Laughing as if there were no God! But I am not afraid. Mercy of Jesu! Hath God Himself no Justicer, that He should punish me because I have fulfilled my charge? I have all my life been merciful, ever giving the blow of mercy first, and the drop of stupefaction before the Extreme Question. Hence, fiends! Shapes inhuman, torment me not! For in my day I was merciful to you and never struck twice. I will die standing up. The devil shall not fright me—no, nor all his angels!
“God Himself shall not fright me! I appeal to His judgment throne! Get hence, false accusing spirits! I stand at Caesar’s judgment-seat. Give me the axe, boy—I will cut down the evil, I will spare the good. Here is the Red Axe, my son. Take it! Strike with it strong and well. Strike, strike, and spare not!”
Totteringly he handed me the axe, and, clasping his hands, he stood looking up.
“God! God!” he cried in a great voice. “I see my Judge face to face; I am not afraid! But I will die standing up!”
And in this manner, even as I tell it, died Gottfried Gottfried, a strong man, standing up and not afraid. And these arms received him, as, being dead, he fell headlong.
HUGO GOTTFRIED, RED AXE OF THE WOLFMARK
Then cried Dessauer from the door to me as I stood thus holding my father in my arms:
“Haste you, lad; there are men coming across the yard with torches. They are gathering in groups about the door. Now they are on the stairs—many soldiers—and with weapons in their hands!”
And scarcely had he spoken when the sound of the tramping of men in haste came to us up the turret, and the door of the garret was thrust violently open. A turmoil of men-at-arms burst in on us. I stood still, holding Gottfried Gottfried, his head on my shoulder, though I knew that he was dead. But as one came forward with a paper in his hand I stooped and laid my father gently on his bed.
An officer of the Black Hussars, fantastically dressed in their church-yard array, with skull and cross-bones slashed in silver across his breast, accosted me.
“Hugo Gottfried, son of Gottfried Gottfried, in the name of the Duke Otho and the State of the Wolfmark, I arrest you! Also you, Leopold von Dessauer, Chancellor of the Princedom of Plassenburg. You are accused as spies and enemies of the commonweal. Yield yourselves therefore to me, without condition.”
“I am indeed Hugo Gottfried,” said I, “but you may see for yourselves the mission on which I have come hither. And for this hour, at least, you might have spared your brutal entry. Behold!”