'Cheek!' Aunt Lisbeth reiterated, nodding to the floor.
Margarita put her fingers to her ears.
'Still, Kraut says, even then he felt nothing odd. Of course he was horrified to be sitting with spectres as you and I should be; but the first tremble of it was over. He had plunged into the bath of horrors, and there he was. I 've heard that you must pronounce the names of the Virgin and Trinity, sprinkling water round you all the while for three minutes; and if you do this without interruption, everything shall disappear. So they say. "Oh! dear heaven of mercy!" says Kraut, "what I felt when the Baron laid his long hunting-knife across my left cheek!"'
Here Aunt Lisbeth lifted her eyes to dote upon Margarita's fright. She was very displeased to find her niece, with elbows on the window-sill and hands round her head, quietly gazing into the street.
She said severely, 'Where did you learn that song you were last singing, Margarita? Speak, thou girl!'
'The thrush, and the lark, and the blackbird,
They taught me how to sing:
And O that the hawk would lend his eye,
And the eagle lend his wing.'
'I will not hear these shameless songs,' exclaimed Aunt Lisbeth.
'For I would view the lands they view,
And be where they have been:
It is not enough to be singing
For ever in dells unseen!'
A voice was heard applauding her. 'Good! right good! Carol again, Gretelchen! my birdie!'
Margarita turned, and beheld her father in the doorway. She tripped toward him, and heartily gave him their kiss of meeting. Gottlieb glanced at the helm of Siegfried.
'Guessed the work was going well; you sing so lightsomely to-day, Grete! Very pretty! And that's Drachenfels? Bones of the Virgins! what a bold fellow was Siegfried, and a lucky, to have the neatest lass in Deutschland in love with him. Well, we must marry her to Siegfried after all, I believe! Aha? or somebody as good as Siegfried. So chirrup on, my darling!'
'Aunt Lisbeth does not approve of my songs,' replied Margarita, untwisting some silver threads.
'Do thy father's command, girl!' said Aunt Lisbeth.
'And doing his command,
Should I do a thing of ill,
I'd rather die to his lovely face,
Than wanton at his will.'
'There—there,' said Aunt Lisbeth, straining out her fingers; 'you see, Gottlieb, what over-indulgence brings her to. Not another girl in blessed Rhineland, and Bohemia to boot, dared say such words!—than—I can't repeat them!—don't ask me!—She's becoming a Frankish girl!'
'What ballad's that?' said Gottlieb, smiling.
'The Ballad of Holy Ottilia; and her lover was sold to darkness. And she loved him—loved him——'
'As you love Siegfried, you little one?'
'More, my father; for she saw Winkried, and I never saw Siegfried. Ah! if I had seen Siegfried! Never mind. She loved him; but she loved Virtue more. And Virtue is the child of God, and the good God forgave her for loving Winkried, the Devil's son, because she loved Virtue more, and He rescued her as she was being dragged down—down—down, and was half fainting with the smell of brimstone—rescued her and had her carried into His Glory, head and feet, on the wings of angels, before all men, as a hope to little maidens.
'And when I thought that I was lost
I found that I was saved,
And I was borne through blessed clouds,
Where the banners of bliss were waved.'
'And so you think you, too, may fall in, love with Devils' sons, girl?' was Aunt Lisbeth's comment.
'Do look at Lisbeth's Dragon, little Heart! it's so like!' said Margarita to her father.
Old Gottlieb twitted his hose, and chuckled.
'She's my girl! that may be seen,' said he, patting her, and wheezed up from his chair to waddle across to the Dragon. But Aunt Lisbeth tartly turned the Dragon to the wall.
'It is not yet finished, Gottlieb, and must not be looked at,' she interposed. 'I will call for wood, and see to a fire: these evenings of Spring wax cold': and away whimpered Aunt Lisbeth.
'I with my playmates,
In riot and disorder,
Were gathering herb and blossom
Along the forest border.'
'Thy mother's song, child of my heart!' said Gottlieb; 'but vex not good Lisbeth: she loves thee!'
'And do you think she loves me?
And will you say 'tis true?
O, and will she have me,
When I come up to woo?'
'Thou leaping doe! thou chattering pie!' said Gottlieb.
'She shall have ribbons and trinkets,
And shine like a morn of May,
When we are off to the little hill-church,
Our flowery bridal way.'
'That she shall; and something more!' cried Gottlieb. 'But, hark thee, Gretelchen; the Kaiser will be here in three days. Thou dear one! had I not stored and hoarded all for thee, I should now have my feet on a hearthstone where even he might warm his boot. So get thy best dresses and jewels in order, and look thyself; proud as any in the land. A simple burgher's daughter now, Grete; but so shalt thou not end, my butterfly, or there's neither worth nor wit in Gottlieb Groschen!'
'Three days!' Margarita exclaimed; 'and the helm not finished, and the tapestry-pieces not sewed and joined, and the water not shaded off.—Oh! I must work night and day.'
'Child! I'll have no working at night! Your rosy cheeks will soon be sucked out by oil-light, and you look no better than poor tallow Court beauties—to say nothing of the danger. This old house saw Charles the Great embracing the chief magistrate of his liege city yonder. Some swear he slept in it. He did not sneeze at smaller chambers than our Kaisers abide. No gold ceilings with cornice carvings, but plain wooden beams.'
'Know that the men of great renown,
Were men of simple needs:
Bare to the Lord they laid them down,
And slept on mighty deeds.'
'God wot, there's no emptying thy store of ballads, Grete: so much shall be said of thee. Yes; times are changeing: We're growing degenerate. Look at the men of Linz now to what they were! Would they have let the lads of Andernach float down cabbage-stalks to them without a shy back? And why? All because they funk that brigand-beast Werner, who gets redemption from Laach, hard by his hold, whenever he commits a crime worth paying for. As for me, my timber and stuffs must come down stream, and are too good for the nixen under Rhine, or think you I would acknowledge him with a toll, the hell-dog? Thunder and lightning! if old scores could be rubbed out on his hide!'
Gottlieb whirled a thong-lashing arm in air, and groaned of law and justice. What were they coming to!
Margarita softened the theme with a verse:
'And tho' to sting his enemy,
Is sweetness to the angry bee,
The angry bee must busy be,
Ere sweet of sweetness hiveth he.
The arch thrill of his