He stretched and threw a beaker of wine right and left behind him, and Farina’s despair stiffened his limbs as he recognized the Goshawk and Schwartz Thier strapped to the floor. Their beards were already moist with previous libations similarly bestowed, and they received this in sullen stillness; but Farina thought he observed a rapid glance of encouragement dart from beneath the Goshawk’s bent brows, as Margarita momentarily turned her head half-way on him.
’Lick your chaps, ye beasts, and don’t say Werner stints vermin good cheer his nuptial-night. Now,’ continued the Baron, growing huskier as he talked louder: ’Short and ringing, my devil’s pups:—Werner and his Bride! and may she soon give you a young baron to keep you in better order than I can, as, if she does her duty, she will.’
The Baron stood up, and lifted his huge arm to lead the toast.
‘Werner and his Bride!’
Not a voice followed him. There was a sudden intimation of the call being echoed; but it snapped, and ended in shuffling tones, as if the hall-door had closed on the response.
’What ‘s this?’ roared the Baron, in that caged wild beast voice Margarita remembered she had heard in the Cathedral Square.
No one replied.
‘Speak! or I’ll rot you a fathom in the rock, curs!’
‘Herr Baron!’ said Henker Rothhals impressively; ’the matter is, that there’s something unholy among us.’
The Baron’s goblet flew at his head before the words were uttered.
‘I’ll make an unholy thing of him that says it,’ and Werner lowered at them one by one.
‘Then I say it, Herr Baron!’ pursued Henker Rothhals, wiping his frontispiece: ’The Devil has turned against you at last. Look up there— Ah, it’s gone now; but where’s the man sitting this side saw it not?’
The Baron made one spring, and stood on the board.
‘Now! will any rascal here please to say so?’
Something in the cruel hang of his threatening hatchet jaw silenced many in the act of confirming the assertion.
‘Stand out, Henker Rotthals !’
Rotthals slid a hunting-knife up his wrist, and stepped back from the board.
‘Beast!’ roared the Baron, ’I said I wouldn’t shed blood to-night. I spared a traitor, and an enemy——’
‘Look again!’ said Rothhals; ‘will any fellow say he saw nothing there.’
While all heads, including Werner’s, were directed to the aperture which surveyed them, Rothhals tossed his knife to the Goshawk unperceived.
This time answers came to his challenge, but not in confirmation. The Baron spoke with a gasping gentleness.
’So you trifle with me? I’m dangerous for that game. Mind you of Blass-Gesell? I made a better beast of him by sending him three-quarters of the road to hell for trial.’ Bellowing, ‘Take that!’ he discharged a broad blade, hitherto concealed in his right hand, straight at Rothhals. It fixed in his cheek and jaw, wringing an awful breath of pain from him as he fell against the wall.