he muttered, 'We love you.' Margarita was glad to believe he had not spoken of himself. He then informed her of the fears entertained by the Club, sworn to watch over and protect her, regarding Farina's arts.
'And what fear you?' said Margarita.
'We fear, sweet mistress, he may be in league with Sathanas,' replied Dietrich.
'Truly, then,' said Margarita, 'of all the youths in Cologne he is the least like his confederate.'
Dietrich gulped and winked, like a patient recovering wry-faced from an abhorred potion.
'We have warned you, Fraulein Groschen!' he exclaimed. 'It now becomes our duty to see that you are not snared.'
Margarita reddened, and returned: 'You are kind. But I am a Christian maiden and not a Pagan soldan, and I do not require a body of tawny guards at my heels.'
Thereat she flung back to her companions, and began staining her pretty mouth with grapes anew.
THE TAPESTRY WORD
Fair maids will have their hero in history. Siegfried was Margarita's chosen. She sang of Siegfried all over the house. 'O the old days of Germany, when such a hero walked!' she sang.
'And who wins Margarita,' mused Farina, 'happier than Siegfried, has in his arms Brunhild and Chrimhild together!'
Crowning the young girl's breast was a cameo, and the skill of some cunning artist out of Welschland had wrought on it the story of the Drachenfels. Her bosom heaved the battle up and down.
This cameo was a north star to German manhood, but caused many chaste expressions of abhorrence from Aunt Lisbeth, Gottlieb's unmarried sister, who seemed instinctively to take part with the Dragon. She was a frail-fashioned little lady, with a face betokening the perpetual smack of lemon, and who reigned in her brother's household when the good wife was gone. Margarita's robustness was beginning to alarm and shock Aunt Lisbeth's sealed stock of virtue.
'She must be watched, such a madl as that,' said Aunt Lisbeth. 'Ursula! what limbs she has!'
Margarita was watched; but the spy being neither foe nor friend, nothing was discovered against her. This did not satisfy Aunt Lisbeth, whose own suspicion was her best witness. She allowed that Margarita dissembled well.
'But,' said she to her niece, 'though it is good in a girl not to flaunt these naughtinesses in effrontery, I care for you too much not to say—Be what you seem, my little one!'
'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.
'I told you of the steward, poor Kraut, did I not, child?' inquired Aunt Lisbeth, quietly clearing her throat.
'Many times!' said Margarita, and went on humming over her knee
'Her love was a Baron,
A Baron so bold;
She loved him for love,
He loved her for gold.'
'He must see for himself, and be satisfied,' continued Aunt Lisbeth; 'and Holy Thomas to warn him for an example! Poor Kraut!'
'Poor Kraut!' echoed Margarita.
'The King loved wine, and the Knight loved wine,
And they loved the summer weather:
They might have loved each other well,
But for one they loved together.'
'You may say, poor Kraut, child!' said Aunt Lisbeth. 'Well! his face was before that as red as this dragon's jaw, and ever after he went about as white as a pullet's egg. That was something wonderful!' 'That was it!' chimed Margarita.
'O the King he loved his lawful wife,
The Knight a lawless lady:
And ten on one-made ringing strife,
Beneath the forest shady.'
'Fifty to one, child!' said Aunt Lisbeth: 'You forget the story. They made Kraut sit with them at the jabbering feast, the only mortal there. The walls were full of eye-sockets without eyes, but phosphorus instead, burning blue and damp.'
'Not to-night, aunty dear! It frightens me so,' pleaded Margarita, for she saw the dolor coming.
'Night! when it's broad mid-day, thou timid one! Good heaven take pity on such as thou! The dish was seven feet in length by four broad. Kraut measured it with his eye, and never forgot it. Not he! When the dish-cover was lifted, there he saw himself lying, boiled!
"'I did not feel uncomfortable then," Kraut told us. "It seemed natural."
'His face, as it lay there, he says, was quite calm, only a little wrinkled, and piggish-looking-like. There was the mole on his chin, and the pucker under his left eyelid. Well! the Baron carved. All the guests were greedy for a piece of him. Some cried out for breast; some for toes. It was shuddering cold to sit and hear that! The Baroness said, "Cheek!"'
'Ah!' shrieked Margarita, 'that can I not bear! I will not hear it, aunt; I will not!'