Gottlieb stared, and then patted her.
‘I would I were a man, father!’
Gottlieb smiled, and stroked his beard.
‘Oh! how I burn!’
And the girl shivered visibly.
’Grete! mind to be as much of a woman as you can, and soon such raff as this you may sweep away, like cobwebs, and no harm done.’
He was startled by a violent thumping at the streetdoor, and as brazen a blast as if the dead were being summoned. Aunt Lisbeth entered, and flitted duskily round the room, crying:
’We are lost: they are upon us! better death with a bodkin! Never shall it be said of me; never! the monsters!’
Then admonishing them to lock, bar, bolt, and block up every room in the house, Aunt Lisbeth perched herself on the edge of a chair, and reversed the habits of the screech-owl, by being silent when stationary.
‘There’s nothing to fear for you, Lisbeth,’ said Gottlieb, with discourteous emphasis.
’Gottlieb! do you remember what happened at the siege of Mainz? and poor Marthe Herbstblum, who had hoped to die as she was; and Dame Altknopfchen, and Frau Kaltblut, and the old baker, Hans Topf’s sister, all of them as holy as abbesses, and that did not save them! and nothing will from such godless devourers.’
Gottlieb was gone, having often before heard mention of the calamity experienced by these fated women.
‘Comfort thee, good heart, on my breast,’ said Margarita, taking Lisbeth to that sweet nest of peace and fortitude.
’Margarita! ’tis your doing! have I not said—lure them not, for they swarm too early upon us! And here they are! and, perhaps, in five minutes all will be over!
Herr Je!—What, you are laughing! Heavens of goodness, the girl is delighted!’
Here a mocking ha-ha! accompanied by a thundering snack at the door, shook the whole house, and again the trumpet burst the ears with fury.
This summons, which seemed to Aunt Lisbeth final, wrought a strange composure in her countenance. She was very pale, but spread her dress decently, as if fear had departed, and clasped her hands on her knees.
‘The will of the Lord above must be done,’ said she; ’it is impious to complain when we are given into the hand of the Philistines. Others have been martyred, and were yet acceptable.’
To this heroic speech she added, with cold energy: ‘Let them come!’
‘Aunt,’ cried Margarita, ’I hear my father’s voice with those men. Aunty! I will not let him be alone. I must go down to him. You will be safe here. I shall come to you if there’s cause for alarm.’
And in spite of Aunt Lisbeth’s astonished shriek of remonstrance, she hurried off to rejoin Gottlieb.
Ere Margarita had reached the landing of the stairs, she repented her haste and shrank back. Wrapt in a thunder of oaths, she distinguished: ’’Tis the little maiden we want; let’s salute her and begone! or cap your skull with something thicker than you’ve on it now, if you want a whole one, happy father!’