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- Greifenstein - 80/80 -


heart would burst with gladness. There, in his small cradle, lay the realisation of a hope she had thought vain for nearly twenty years. There lay a little Sigmundskron, a sturdy little baby with white hair and bright eyes and rosy mouth, his tiny hands clenched stubbornly in the first effort to feel his own mimic strength, fair as a Gothic child should be, without blemish, perfect and noble in every point. There he was, and his name was Sigmundskron as well as Sigmund, and the day would come when he should be tall and strong. In his veins there stirred that good blood that had never known fear or dishonour, untainted still through nigh a thousand years. Not only had he the name, as Greif had--that little child had the blood also, and he would surely have the loyal heart and the strong hand. And he should have brothers, too. Never again should the fate of the ancient race hang by the single silken strand that had borne its burden so bravely. And that little child was to have not only the name and the lion's soul, and the bare walls of Sigmundskron. He was to have broad lands and princely wealth. He was to have the power, as well as the will, the worldly greatness befitting the son of such a high and lordly line.

It seemed too good to believe, too good to think, too good to see. Day after day from his birth the white-haired lady came and looked at him and never tired of the wonderful truth. All had been wonderful of late, but the rosy little Sigmund was the best of all her wonders. She had grown to care for little else. She loved them all with a great love passing words, but she loved them best for what they had given her, for what lay in the cradle in the great cool nursery.

The tears would come, and she let them flow on unheeded, day by day. But they were not the old tears of long ago, that had left cruel stains upon her cheeks and aching fires in her brain. Their soothing streams came from the fountain of a new life and washed away the pain of the grey years in their healing flood. Instead of the pale dye of grief, they left behind them soft, faint hues as of returning day; instead of fierce, smarting heat, they brought the clear light of other years to the eyes that had seen such horror of death, such misery of want, and that now gazed tranquilly on such sights of unspeakable joy.

To-day, she spent long hours alone beside what she loved best in the world. The christening had given a new impulse to all she felt, and it seemed to her that the child was more her own than ever. A long time she stood with folded hands before the tiny bed, thinking, thinking always of the great deeds that little boy should one day dare and do, for God and king and country. Many times she stooped and kissed his dazzling face, that seemed to glow with light from within, and each time her cheeks were wet, as the sudden and almost unbearable thrill of certain happiness leaped through her heart. Then all at once she smiled, then turned and went out softly and entered her own room.

The glory of the summer's day streamed in through the lofty window, shedding a blaze of light upon all within, upon the smooth matting that had replaced the patched old carpet, upon the old chest that held so many of her dearest treasures, upon the broad expanse of black velvet whereon were hung the most precious things she owned, two swords in their scabbards and a leathern helmet with a gilded spike.

She went up to the place and stood a moment, looking at the three objects. Then she took down the sabre and held it in her two hands, lovingly, as she would have held the child she adored. Her white hand grasped the hilt, and the burnished blade leaped from its sheath like a meteor into the blazing sunshine.

There was not a tarnished spot upon the good steel, not a speck of dust upon its gleaming length, not a shadow along the bright bevel. But she was not satisfied. With endless care she polished the shining surface again and again, with leather and silk, as she had done every day since she had brought it back nearly twenty years ago. She sheathed it then in its scabbard, and rubbed that, and last of all the hilt. Then she was satisfied.

Once more she paused and gazed at the spot where it had hung so long, as though asking herself whether she could part with it. But her hesitation was short, and the bright smile came again to her face as she went back to her grandson's cradle. With her own hands she drove two nails into the tapestried wall above his head. As the clock struck twelve, she fastened the burnished weapon securely in its new place.

'It is the sword of his fathers,' she said softly. 'God give him strength and grace to draw it in good cause!'


Greifenstein - 80/80

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