Gottlieb was gone, having often before heard mention of the calamity experienced by these fated women.
‘Comfort thee, good heart, on my breast,’ said Margarita, taking Lisbeth to that sweet nest of peace and fortitude.
’Margarita! ’tis your doing! have I not said—lure them not, for they swarm too early upon us! And here they are! and, perhaps, in five minutes all will be over!
Herr Je!—What, you are laughing! Heavens of goodness, the girl is delighted!’
Here a mocking ha-ha! accompanied by a thundering snack at the door, shook the whole house, and again the trumpet burst the ears with fury.
This summons, which seemed to Aunt Lisbeth final, wrought a strange composure in her countenance. She was very pale, but spread her dress decently, as if fear had departed, and clasped her hands on her knees.
‘The will of the Lord above must be done,’ said she; ’it is impious to complain when we are given into the hand of the Philistines. Others have been martyred, and were yet acceptable.’
To this heroic speech she added, with cold energy: ‘Let them come!’
‘Aunt,’ cried Margarita, ’I hear my father’s voice with those men. Aunty! I will not let him be alone. I must go down to him. You will be safe here. I shall come to you if there’s cause for alarm.’
And in spite of Aunt Lisbeth’s astonished shriek of remonstrance, she hurried off to rejoin Gottlieb.
Ere Margarita had reached the landing of the stairs, she repented her haste and shrank back. Wrapt in a thunder of oaths, she distinguished: ’’Tis the little maiden we want; let’s salute her and begone! or cap your skull with something thicker than you’ve on it now, if you want a whole one, happy father!’
‘Gottlieb von Groschen I am,’ answered her father, ‘and the Kaiser——’
’’S as fond of a pretty girl as we are! Down with her, and no more drivelling! It’s only for a moment, old Measure and Scales!’
’I tell you, rascals, I know your master, and if you’re not punished for this, may I die a beggar!’ exclaimed Gottlieb, jumping with rage.
’May you die as rich as an abbot! And so you will, if you don’t bring her down, for I’ve sworn to see her; there ‘s the end of it, man!’
‘I’ll see, too, if the laws allow this villany!’ cried Gottlieb. ’Insulting a peaceful citizen! in his own house! a friend of your emperor! Gottlieb von Groschen!’
’Groschen? We’re cousins, then! You wouldn’t shut out your nearest kin? Devil’s lightning! Don’t you know me? Pfennig? Von Pfennig! This here’s Heller: that’s Zwanziger: all of us Vons, every soul! You’re not decided? This’ll sharpen you, my jolly King Paunch!’
And Margarita heard the ruffian step as if to get swing for a blow. She hurried into the passage, and slipping in front of her father, said to his assailant: