’Von Groschen! Von Groschen! the daughter of Gottlieb Groschen?— Rascals!’ roared the Baron, turning on his men, and out poured a mud-spring of filthy oaths and threats, which caused Henker Rothhals, who had opened his eyes, to close them again, as if he had already gone to the place of heat.
‘Only lend me thy staff, friend,’ cried Werner.
’Not I! thwack ’em with your own wood,’ replied the stranger, and fell back a leg.
Werner knotted his stringy brows, and seemed torn to pieces with the different pulling tides of his wrath. He grasped the mane of his horse and flung abroad handfuls, till the splendid animal reared in agony.
’You shall none of you live over this night, villains! I ’ll hang you, every hag’s son! My last orders were,—Keep quiet in the city, ye devil’s brood. Take that! and that!’ laying at them with his bare sword. ’Off with you, and carry these two pigs out of sight quickly, or I’ll have their heads, and make sure o’ them.’
The latter injunction sprang from policy, for at the head of the chief street there was a glitter of the city guard, marching with shouldered spears.
‘Maiden,’ said Werner, with a bull’s bow, ’let me conduct thee to thy father.’
Margarita did not reply; but gave her hand to Farina, and took a step closer to the stranger.
Werner’s brows grew black.
‘Enough to have saved you, fair maid,’ he muttered hoarsely. ’Gratitude never was a woman’s gift. Say to your father that I shall make excuses to him for the conduct of my men.’
Whereupon, casting a look of leisurely scorn toward the guard coming up in the last beams of day, the Baron shrugged his huge shoulders to an altitude expressing the various contemptuous shades of feudal coxcombry, stuck one leather-ruffled arm in his side, and jolted off at an easy pace.
‘Amen!’ ejaculated the stranger, leaning on his staff. ’There are Barons in my old land; but never a brute beast in harness.’
Margarita stood before him, and took his two hands.
’You will come with me to my father! He will thank you. I cannot. You will come?’
Tears and a sob of relief started from her.
The city guard, on seeing Werner’s redoubtable back turned, had adopted double time, and now came panting up, while the stranger bent smiling under a fresh overflow of innocent caresses. Margarita was caught to her father’s breast.
‘You shall have vengeance for this, sweet chuck,’ cried old Gottlieb in the intervals of his hugs.
‘Fear not, my father; they are punished’: and Margarita related the story of the stranger’s prowess, elevating him into a second Siegfried. The guard huzzaed him, but did not pursue the Baron.
Old Gottlieb, without hesitation, saluted the astonished champion with a kiss on either cheek.
’My best friend! You have saved my daughter from indignity! Come with us home, if you can believe that a home where the wolves come daring us, dragging our dear ones from our very doorsteps. Come, that we may thank you under a roof at least. My little daughter! Is she not a brave lass?’