But, as they approached the house, they slackened their pace, took counsel together, and became silent. The maidens, shut up in the house, had arranged little cracks at the windows, through which they watched them march up and form in battle-array. A fine, cold rain was falling, and added to the interest of the occasion, while a huge fire was crackling on the hearth inside. Marie would have liked to abridge the inevitable tedious length of this formal siege; she did not like to see her lover catching cold, but she had no voice in the council under the circumstances, and, indeed, she was expected to join, ostensibly, in the mischievous cruelty of her companions.
When the two camps were thus confronted, a discharge of fire-arms without created great excitement among all the dogs in the neighborhood. Those of the household rushed to the door barking vociferously, thinking that a real attack was in progress, and the small children, whom their mothers tried in vain to reassure, began to tremble and cry. The whole scene was so well played that a stranger might well have been deceived by it and have considered the advisability of preparing to defend himself against a band of brigands.
Thereupon, the grave-digger, the bridegroom’s bard and orator, took his place in front of the door, and, in a lugubrious voice, began the following dialogue with the hemp-beater, who was stationed at the small round window above the same door:
Alas! my good people, my dear parishioners, for the love of God open the door.
Who are you, pray, and why do you presume to call us your dear parishioners? We do not know you.
We are honest folk in sore distress. Be not afraid of us, my friends! receive us hospitably. The rain freezes as it falls, our poor feet are frozen, and we have come such a long distance that our shoes are split.
If your shoes are split, you can look on the ground; you will surely find osier withes to make arcelets [little strips of iron in the shape of bows, with which shoes (wooden) were mended].
Osier arcelets are not very strong. You are making sport of us, good people, and you would do better to open the door to us. We can see the gleam of a noble blaze within your house; doubtless the spit is in place, and your hearts and your stomachs are rejoicing together. Open, then, to poor pilgrims, who will die at your door if you do not have mercy on them.
Aha! you are pilgrims? you did not tell us that. From what pilgrimage are you returning, by your leave?