“I CLAIM HELENE TO BE MY WIFE!”
Then went up such an acclaim from the people as never had been heard in the ancient city. Even the gentlemen within the enclosure threw their hats in the air. The soldiers put their helmets on the points of their spears, and the captains waved their colors as at a victory. The thunder of the cheering roused the very rooks and jackdaws from the towers of Thorn and the bastions of the Wolfsberg till they went drifting in a black cloud clamorously over the city.
Then Helene put her arms about my neck, and, upon the scaffold of death, before all the people, we plighted our troth.
“The Bishop—the Bishop Peter!” cried the people.
And, leaping upon an officer’s horse, a messenger rode post-haste to the palace, the crowd making way for him. Duke Otho disappeared through a private door, for the thing was over-strong even for him. He knew his weakness too well to war with the immemorial privileges of the Wolfmark.
Rulers stronger than he had been broken in doing battle against ancient rights and amenities. Besides, the nobility were afraid of their own perquisites if one of so ancient a charter as that of the Hereditary Justicer were refused.
Then from the palace came the Bishop, with due and decorous attendance of crosier and solemn procession. And there, amid a turmoil of joy and the ringing of every bell in the city, we, that had gone out to be together in death, were joined in the bonds of youth and life.
But the Lady Ysolinde saw not—heard not. For they had carried her out white and still from the place where she had fallen fainting at the foot of the scaffold.
THE LUBBER FIEND’S RETURN
Al these things had overpast so quickly that when Helene and I found ourselves alone in the Red Tower it seemed to both of us that we dreamed.
We sat in a kind of buzzing hush, on the low window-seat of the old room, hand in hand. The shouts of the people came up to us from the square beneath. We heard the tramp of the soldiers, who cheered us as they passed to and fro. Being at last alone, we looked into each other’s eyes, and we could not believe in our own happiness.
“My wife!” I said, but in another fashion than I had said it on the scaffold.
“My husband!” answered Helene, looking up at me.
But I think, for all that we realized of the truth, we might as well have called each other King and Queen of Sheba.
We had been conducted with honor to the Red Tower. For since it was in virtue of my hereditary office that I had obtained the great deliverance, I dared for the present seek no other dwelling-place. For Helene’s sake, indeed, I should have felt safer elsewhere. Besides, desperate and full of baffled hatred as I knew Duke Otho to be, I did not believe that he would dare to molest us—for some time at least. The rage of the people, their unbounded jubilation at the deliverance of their Saint Helena from the jaws of death on the very scaffold, were too recent to be trifled with by a prince sitting so insecure in his ducal seat as Otho of the Wolfmark.