Father Gregory and Farina found themselves in the centre of a group ere they drew rein, and a cry rose, ’The good father shall decide, and all’s fair,’ followed by, ‘Agreed! Hail and tempest! he’s dropped down o’ purpose.’
‘Father,’ said one, ’here it is! I say I saw the Devil himself fly off Drachenfels, and flop into Cologne. Fritz here, and Frankenbauch, saw him too. They’ll swear to him: so ’ll I. Hell’s thunder! will we. Yonder fellows will have it ‘twas a flash o’ lightning, as if I didn’t see him, horns, tail, and claws, and a mighty sight ’twas, as I’m a sinner.’
A clash of voices, for the Devil and against him, burst on this accurate description of the Evil spirit. The Monk sank his neck into his chest.
‘Gladly would I hold silence on this, my sons,’ said he, in a supplicating voice.
‘Speak, Father,’ cried the first spokesman, gathering courage from the looks of the Monk.
Father Gregory appeared to commune with himself deeply. At last, lifting his head, and murmuring, ‘It must be,’ he said aloud:
’’Twas verily Satan, O my sons! Him this night in mortal combat I encountered and overcame on the summit of Drachenfels, before the eyes of this youth; and from Satan I this night deliver ye! an instrument herein as in all other.’
Shouts, and a far-spreading buzz resounded in the camp. Hundreds had now seen Satan flying off the Drachenstein. Father Gregory could no longer hope to escape from the importunate crowds that beset him for particulars. The much-contested point now was, as to the exact position of Satan’s tail during his airy circuit, before descending into Cologne. It lashed like a lion’s. ’Twas cocked, for certain! He sneaked it between his legs like a lurcher! He made it stumpy as a brown bear’s! He carried it upright as a pike!
‘O my sons! have I sown dissension? Have I not given ye peace?’ exclaimed the Monk.
But they continued to discuss it with increasing frenzy.
Farina cast a glance over the tumult, and beheld his friend Guy beckoning earnestly. He had no difficulty in getting away to him, as the fetters of all eyes were on the Monk alone.
The Goshawk was stamping with excitement.
‘Not a moment to be lost, my lad,’ said Guy, catching his arm. ’Here, I’ve had half-a-dozen fights already for this bit of ground. Do you know that fellow squatting there?’
Farina beheld the Thier at the entrance of a tumbledown tent. He was ruefully rubbing a broken head.
‘Now,’ continued Guy, ’to mount him is the thing; and then after the wolves of Werner as fast as horse-flesh can carry us. No questions! Bound, are you? And what am I? But this is life and death, lad! Hark!’
The Goshawk whispered something that sucked the blood out of Farina’s cheek.
’Look you—what’s your lockjaw name? Keep good faith with me, and you shall have your revenge, and the shiners I promise, besides my lord’s interest for a better master: but, sharp! we won’t mount till we’re out of sight o’ the hell-scum you horde with.’