‘And that am I!’ exclaimed Margarita, starting up and towering.
‘Right good, my niece,’ Lisbeth squealed; ’but now Frau Groschen lies in God’s acre, you owe your duty to me, mind! Did you confess last week?’
‘From beginning to end,’ replied Margarita.
Aunt Lisbeth fixed pious reproach on Margarita’s cameo.
‘And still you wear that thing?’
‘Why not?’ said Margarita.
’Girl! who would bid you set it in such a place save Satan? Oh, thou poor lost child! that the eyes of the idle youths may be drawn there! and thou become his snare to others, Margarita! What was that Welsh wandering juggler but the foul fiend himself, mayhap, thou maiden of sin! They say he has been seen in Cologne lately. He was swarthy as Satan and limped of one leg. Good Master in heaven, protect us! it was Satan himself I could swear!’
Aunt Lisbeth crossed brow and breast.
Margarita had commenced fingering the cameo, as if to tear it away; but Aunt Lisbeth’s finish made her laugh outright.
‘Where I see no harm, aunty, I shall think the good God is,’ she answered; ‘and where I see there’s harm, I shall think Satan lurks.’
A simper of sour despair passed over Aunt Lisbeth. She sighed, and was silent, being one of those very weak reeds who are easily vanquished and never overcome.
‘Let us go on with the Tapestry, child,’ said she.
Now, Margarita was ambitious of completing a certain Tapestry for presentation to Kaiser Heinrich on his entry into Cologne after his last campaign on the turbaned Danube. The subject was again her beloved Siegfried slaying the Dragon on Drachenfels. Whenever Aunt Lisbeth indulged in any bitter virginity, and was overmatched by Margarita’s frank maidenhood, she hung out this tapestry as a flag of truce. They were working it in bits, not having contrivances to do it in a piece. Margarita took Siegfried and Aunt Lisbeth the Dragon. They shared the crag between them. A roguish gleam of the Rhine toward Nonnenwerth could be already made out, Roland’s Corner hanging like a sentinel across the chanting island, as one top-heavy with long watch.
Aunt Lisbeth was a great proficient in the art, and had taught Margarita. The little lady learnt it, with many other gruesome matters, in the Palatine of Bohemia’s family. She usually talked of the spectres of Hollenbogenblitz Castle in the passing of the threads. Those were dismal spectres in Bohemia, smelling of murder and the charnel-breath of midnight. They uttered noises that wintered the blood, and revealed sights that stiffened hair three feet long; ay, and kept it stiff!
Margarita placed herself on a settle by the low-arched window, and Aunt Lisbeth sat facing her. An evening sun blazoned the buttresses of the Cathedral, and shadowed the workframes of the peaceful couple to a temperate light. Margarita unrolled a sampler sheathed with twists of divers coloured threads, and was soon busy silver-threading Siegfried’s helm and horns.