Fury helped Dietrich to forget his awkwardness. He touched Farina on the shoulder with two fingers, and muttered huskily: ’The Club never allow that.’
Farina bowed, as to thank him deeply for the rules of the Club. ’I am not a member, you know,’ said he, and strolled to a seat close by Margarita.
Dietrich glared after him. As head of a Club he understood the use of symbols. He had lost a splendid opportunity, and Farina had seized it. Farina had robbed him.
‘May I speak with Mistress Margarita?’ inquired the White Rose chief, in a ragged voice.
‘Surely, Dietrich! do speak,’ said Margarita.
‘Alone?’ he continued.
‘Is that allowed by the Club?’ said one of the young girls, with a saucy glance.
Dietrich deigned no reply, but awaited Margarita’s decision. She hesitated a second; then stood up her full height before him; faced him steadily, and beckoned him some steps up the vine-path. Dietrich bowed, and passing Farina, informed him that the Club would wring satisfaction out of him for the insult.
Farina laughed, but answered, ’Look, you of the Club! beer-swilling has improved your manners as much as fighting has beautified your faces. Go on; drink and fight! but remember that the Kaiser’s coming, and fellows with him who will not be bullied.’
‘What mean you?’ cried Dietrich, lurching round on his enemy.
‘Not so loud, friend,’ returned Farina. ’Or do you wish to frighten the maidens? I mean this, that the Club had better give as little offence as possible, and keep their eyes as wide as they can, if they want to be of service to Mistress Margarita.’
Dietrich turned off with a grunt.
‘Now!’ said Margarita.
She was tapping her foot. Dietrich grew unfaithful to the Club, and looked at her longer than his mission warranted. She was bright as the sunset gardens of the Golden Apples. The braids of her yellow hair were bound in wreaths, and on one side of her head a saffron crocus was stuck with the bell downward. Sweetness, song, and wit hung like dews of morning on her grape-stained lips. She wore a scarlet corset with bands of black velvet across her shoulders. The girlish gown was thin blue stuff, and fell short over her firm-set feet, neatly cased in white leather with buckles. There was witness in her limbs and the way she carried her neck of an amiable, but capable, dragon, ready, when aroused, to bristle up and guard the Golden Apples against all save the rightful claimant. Yet her nether lip and little white chin-ball had a dreamy droop; her frank blue eyes went straight into the speaker: the dragon slept. It was a dangerous charm. ‘For,’ says the minnesinger, ’what ornament more enchants us on a young beauty than the soft slumber of a strength never yet called forth, and that herself knows not of! It sings double things to the heart of knighthood; lures, and warns us; woos, and threatens. ‘Tis as nature, shining peace, yet the mother of storm.’