‘There is no man,’ rapturously exclaims Heinrich von der Jungferweide, ’can resist the desire to win a sweet treasure before which lies a dragon sleeping. The very danger prattles promise.’
But the dragon must really sleep, as with Margarita.
’A sham dragon, shamming sleep, has destroyed more virgins than all the heathen emperors,’ says old Hans Aepfelmann of Duesseldorf.
Margarita’s foot was tapping quicker.
‘Speak, Dietrich!’ she said.
Dietrich declared to the Club that at this point he muttered, ’We love you.’ Margarita was glad to believe he had not spoken of himself. He then informed her of the fears entertained by the Club, sworn to watch over and protect her, regarding Farina’s arts.
‘And what fear you?’ said Margarita.
‘We fear, sweet mistress, he may be in league with Sathanas,’ replied Dietrich.
‘Truly, then,’ said Margarita, ’of all the youths in Cologne he is the least like his confederate.’
Dietrich gulped and winked, like a patient recovering wry-faced from an abhorred potion.
‘We have warned you, Fraulein Groschen!’ he exclaimed. ’It now becomes our duty to see that you are not snared.’
Margarita reddened, and returned: ’You are kind. But I am a Christian maiden and not a Pagan soldan, and I do not require a body of tawny guards at my heels.’
Thereat she flung back to her companions, and began staining her pretty mouth with grapes anew.
THE TAPESTRY WORD
Fair maids will have their hero in history. Siegfried was Margarita’s chosen. She sang of Siegfried all over the house. ’O the old days of Germany, when such a hero walked!’ she sang.
‘And who wins Margarita,’ mused Farina, ’happier than Siegfried, has in his arms Brunhild and Chrimhild together!’
Crowning the young girl’s breast was a cameo, and the skill of some cunning artist out of Welschland had wrought on it the story of the Drachenfels. Her bosom heaved the battle up and down.
This cameo was a north star to German manhood, but caused many chaste expressions of abhorrence from Aunt Lisbeth, Gottlieb’s unmarried sister, who seemed instinctively to take part with the Dragon. She was a frail-fashioned little lady, with a face betokening the perpetual smack of lemon, and who reigned in her brother’s household when the good wife was gone. Margarita’s robustness was beginning to alarm and shock Aunt Lisbeth’s sealed stock of virtue.
‘She must be watched, such a madl as that,’ said Aunt Lisbeth. ’Ursula! what limbs she has!’
Margarita was watched; but the spy being neither foe nor friend, nothing was discovered against her. This did not satisfy Aunt Lisbeth, whose own suspicion was her best witness. She allowed that Margarita dissembled well.
‘But,’ said she to her niece, ’though it is good in a girl not to flaunt these naughtinesses in effrontery, I care for you too much not to say—Be what you seem, my little one!’