’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.
His eye never left the Baron. Suddenly a shriek of steel rang. All fell aside, and the combatants stood opposed on clear ground. Farina, took Margarita’s left hand, and placed her against the wall between the Thier and himself. Werner’s men were well content to let their master fight it out. The words spoken by Henker Rothhals, that the Devil had forsaken him, seemed in their minds confirmed by the weird song which every one present could swear he heard with his ears. ’Let him take his chance, and try his own luck,’ they said, and shrugged. The battle was between Guy, as Margarita’s champion, and Werner.
In Schwartz Thier’s judgement, the two were well matched, and he estimated their diverse qualities from sharp experience. ’For short work the Baron, and my new mate for tough standing to ‘t!’ Farina’s summary in favour of the Goshawk was, ’A stouter heart, harder sinews, and a good cause. The combat was generally regarded with a professional eye, and few prayers. Margarita solely there asked aid from above, and knelt to the Virgin; but her, too, the clash of arms and dire earnest of mortal fight aroused to eager eyes. She had not dallied with heroes in her dreams. She was as ready to second Siegfried on the crimson field as tend him in the silken chamber.
It was well that a woman’s heart was there to mark the grace and glory of manhood in upright foot-to-foot encounter. For the others, it was a mere calculation of lucky hits. Even Farina, in his anxiety for her, saw but the brightening and darkening of the prospect of escape in every attitude and hard-ringing blow. Margarita was possessed with a painful exaltation. In her eyes the bestial Baron now took a nobler form and countenance; but the Goshawk assumed the sovereign aspect of old heroes, who, whether persecuted or favoured of heaven, still maintained their stand, remembering of what stuff they were, and who made them.