‘There’s a lesson for you not to cross me, children!’ said Werner, striding his stumpy legs up and down the crashing board, and puffing his monstrous girth of chest and midriff. ’Let him stop there awhile, to show what comes of thwarting Werner!—Fire-devils! before the baroness, too!—Something unholy is there? Something unholy in his jaw, I think! —Leave it sticking! He’s against meat last, is he? I’ll teach you who he’s for!—Who speaks?’
All hung silent. These men were animals dominated by a mightier brute.
He clasped his throat, and shook the board with a jump, as he squeaked, rather than called, a second time ‘Who spoke?’
He had not again to ask. In this pause, as the Baron glared for his victim, a song, so softly sung that it sounded remote, but of which every syllable was clearly rounded, swelled into his ears, and froze him in his angry posture.
’The blood of the
barons shall turn to ice,
And their castle fall to wreck,
When a true lover dips in the water thrice,
That runs round Werner’s Eck.
Eck the water runs;
The hazels shiver and shake:
The walls that have blotted such happy suns,
Are seized with the ruin-quake.
’And quake with
the ruin, and quake with rue,
Thou last of Werner’s race!
The hearts of the barons were cold that knew
The Water-Dame’s embrace.
’For a sin was
done, and a shame was wrought,
That water went to hide:
And those who thought to make it nought,
They did but spread it wide.
’Hold ready, hold
ready to pay the price,
And keep thy bridal cheer:
A hand has dipped in the water thrice,
And the Water-Dame is here.’
The Goshawk was on his feet. ‘Now, lass,’ said he to Margarita, ’now is the time!’ He took her hand, and led her to the door. Schwartz Thier closed up behind her. Not a man in the hall interposed. Werner’s head moved round after them, like a dog on the watch; but he was dumb. The door opened, and Farina entered. He bore a sheaf of weapons under his arm. The familiar sight relieved Werner’s senses from the charm. He shouted to bar the prisoners’ passage. His men were ranged like statues in the hall. There was a start among them, as if that terrible noise communicated an instinct of obedience, but no more. They glanced at each other, and remained quiet.
The Goshawk had his eye on Werner. ‘Stand back, lass!’ he said to Margarita. She took a sword from Farina, and answered, with white lips and flashing eyes, ‘I can fight, Goshawk!’
’And shall, if need be; but leave it to me now, returned Guy.