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- Margery, Volume 8. - 5/11 -
drew me most strongly; yet was a third; a dear, sweet, childish face; the very same as now looks into mine so gladly and lovingly. Yes, it is the very face I had hoped to find it; and when, erewhile, I saw your likeness in the red hood, and heard your speech as you poured forth your inmost soul to grandmother Pernhart, I knew my own mind."
How dear the newcomer was, in truth, to all in the Pernhart household I might mark that evening. The old grandam's eyes rested on him as though he were a dear son, and Master Pernhart would come close to him now and again, and stroke his arm. Twice only did he hastily turn away and privily wipe his eyes. Nevertheless he saw our love-making with no jealousy; nay, when Gotz could scarce tear himself away from my picture, Master Pernhart whispered to him that if ever a maid should stand in his Gertrude's place it should be Margery, and the grandam had cried Amen.
It was already midnight when horses' hoofs were heard in the street, and when they stopped Gotz rose, and then presently all the others vanished from the chamber. Yet were we not long suffered to enjoy each other's fellowship, inasmuch as he himself had ordered his horse, to the end that he might ride forth spite of the lateness of the hour to the forest. His servingman, himself the son of a forester, had been there already to desire Grubner, the headman, to bid my uncle to his dwelling early on the morrow, and the good son purposed there to gladden himself by meeting his father, after that he had greeted the house unseen in the darkness.
But how hard it was to part after so brief a meeting from this newly- found and best-beloved lover, and to see the weary traveller fare forth once more into the dark night. And how few words in secret had we as yet spoken, how little had we discussed what might befall on the morrow, and how he should demean himself to his mother!
To my humble entreaty that he would set aside the unnatural and sinful oath which forbade him to enter his parents' house he had turned a deaf ear. Yet how lovingly had he given me to understand his stern refusal, which I justly deserved, inasmuch as I knew full well the meaning of an oath; and yet I besought him with all my heart to send away his horse, and bid me not farewell when welcome had scarce been spoken. On the morrow it would be a joy to me to ride forth with him, and my uncle could never chafe at a few short hours' delay.
All this poured from my lips smoothly and warmly enough, and he calmly heard me to the end; but then he solemnly declared to me that, sweet as he might deem it to have me by his side to keep him company, it might not be; and he set forth clearly and fully how he had ordered the matter yestereve, and I looked up at him as to a general who foresees and governs all that may befall, to the wisest ends. So steadfast and clear a purpose I had never met; howbeit, Mother Eve's part in me was ill- content. It was too much for me to suffer that he should depart, and, like the fool that I was, the desire possessed me to bend to my will this man of all men, whose stiff-necked will was ever as firm as iron.
I began once more to beseech him, and this time he broke in, declaring that, say what I would, he must depart, and therewith he pulled the hood of his cloak over his head so that his well-favored, honest brown face, with its pointed beard, framed as it were in the green cloth, looked down on me, the very image of manly beauty and mild gravity.
My heart beat higher than ever for joy and pride at calling the heart of such a man mine own, and therewith my desire waxed stronger to exert my power. And I knew right well how to get the upper-hand of my lovers. My Hans had never said me nay when I had entreated him with certain wiles. And whereas I had in no wise forgotten my tricks, I took Gotz by the hem of his hood and drew his dear head down to my face. Then I rubbed my nose against his as hares do when they sniff at each other, put up my lips for a kiss, stood on tip-toe, offered him my lips from afar, and whispered to him right sweetly and beseechingly:
"And, in spite of all, now you are to be my good, dear heart's treasure, and will do Margery's bidding when she entreats you so fondly and will give you a sweet kiss for your pains."
But I had reckoned vainly. The reward for which my Hans modestly served me, this bold warrior cared not to win. His bearded lips, to be sure, were ready enough to meet mine, nor was he content with one kiss only; but, as soon as he had enjoyed the last, he took both my hands tight in his own, and said solemnly but sweetly:
"Do you not love me, Margery?" And when I had hastily declared that I did, he went on in the same tone, and still holding my bands: "Then you must know, once for all, that I could refuse you nought, neither in great matters nor small, unless it were needful. Yet, when once I have said," and he spoke loud, "nothing can move me in the very least. You have known me from a child, and of your own free will you have given yourself over to this iron brain. Now, kiss me once more, and bear me no malice! Till to-morrow. Out in the forest, please God, we will belong to each other for many a long day!"
Therewith he clasped me firmly and truly in his arms, and I willingly and hotly returned his kiss, and or ever I could find a word to reply he had quitted the chamber. I hastened to the window, and as he waved his hand and rode off down the street facing the snow-storm, I pressed my hand to my breast, and rarely has a human being so overflowed with pure gladness at being twice worsted in the fray, albeit I had forced it on myself.
How I returned home I know not; but I know that I had rarely knelt at my prayers with such fervent thanksgiving, and that meseemed as though my mother in Heaven and my dead Hans likewise must rejoice at this which had befallen me.
As I lay in bed, or ever I slept, all that was fairest in my past life came back to me as clearly as if it were living truth, and first and chiefest I saw myself as little Red-riding-hood, under the forest-trees with Gotz, who did me a thousand services and preferred me above all others till, for Gertrude's sake, he departed beyond seas, and set my childish soul in a turmoil.
Then came the joy and the pain I had had by reason of the loves of Herdegen and Ann, and then my Hans crossed my path, and how glad I was to remember him and the bliss he had brought me! But or ever I had come to the bitterest hour of my young days, sleep overcame me, and the manly form of Gotz, steeled by much peril and strife for his life, came to me in my dreams; and he did not, as Hans would have done, give me his hand; Oh no! He snatched me up in his arms and carried me, as Saint Christopher bears the Holy Child, and strode forward with a firm step over plains and abysses, whithersoever he desired; and I suffered him to go as he would, and made no resistance, and felt scarce a fear, albeit meseemed the strong grip of his iron arm hurt me. And thus we went on and on, through ancient mountain-forests, while the boughs lashed my face and I could look into the nests of the eagles and wood-pigeons, of the starlings and squirrels. It was a wondrous ramble; now and then I gasped for breath, yet on we went till, on the topmost bough of an oak, behold, there was Lorenz Abenberger, and the evil words he spoke made me wake up.
After this I could sleep no more, and in thought I followed Gotz through the snow-storm. And in spirit I saw Waldtrud, the fair daughter of Grubner, the chief forester, bidding him welcome, and giving him hot spiced wine after his cold ride, and sipping the cup with her rosy lips. Hereupon a pang pierced my heart, and methought indeed how well favored a maid was the forester's daughter, and not more than a year older than I, and by every right deemed the fairest in all the forest. And the evil fiend jealousy, which of yore had had so little hold over me that I could bear to see my Hans pay the friendliest court to the fairest maidens, now whispered wild suspicions in mine ear that Gotz, with his bold warrior's ways, might be like enough to sue for some light love-tokens from the fair and mirthful Waldtrud.
Howbeit, I presently called to mind the honest eyes of my new heart's beloved, and that brought me peace; and how I was struck with horror to think that I had known the sting of that serpent whom men call jealousy. Must it ever creep in where true love hath found a nest? And if indeed it were so, then--and a hot glow thrilled through me--then the love which had bound me to Hans Haller had been a poor manner of thing, and not the real true passion.
No, no! Albeit it had worn another aspect than this brand new flame, which I now felt burning and blazing up from the early-lighted and long smouldering fire, nevertheless it had been of the best, and faithful and true. Albeit as the betrothed of Hans Haller I had been spared the pangs of jealousy, I owed it only to the great and steadfast trust I had gladly placed in him. And Gotz, who had endured so much anguish and toil to be faithful to his other sweetheart, was not less worthy of my faith, and it must be my task to fight against the evil spirit with all the strength that was in me.
Then again I fell asleep; and when, as day was breaking, I woke once more and remembered all that had befallen me yestereve, I had to clutch my shoulders and temples or ever I was certain that indeed my eyes were open on another day. And what a day! My heart overflowed as I saw, look which way I might, no perils, none, nothing, verily nothing that was not well-ordered and brought to a good end, nothing that was not a certainty, and such a blessed certainty!
I rose as fresh and thankful as the lark, my Cousin Maud was standing, as yet not dressed and with screws of paper in her hair, in front of the pictures of my parents, casting a light on their faces from her little lamp; and it was plain that she was telling them, albeit without speech, that her life's labor and care had come to a happy issue, and I was irresistibly moved to fly to her brave and faithful heart; and although, while we held each other in an embrace, we found no words, we each knew full well what the other meant.
After this, in all haste we made ready to set forth, and the Magister came down to us in the hall, inasmuch as my cousin had called him. He made his appearance in the motley morning gabardine which gave him so strange an aspect, and to my greeting of "God be with 'ee !" he gaily replied that he deemed it wasted pains to ask after my health.
Then, when he had been told all, at first he could not refrain himself and good wishes flowed from his lips as honey from the honey-comb; and he was indeed a right merry sight as, in the joy of his heart, he clapped his arms together across his breast, as a woodhewer may, to warm his hands in winter. On a sudden, however, he looked mighty solemn, and when Cousin Maud, bethinking her of Ann, spoke kindly to him, saying that matters were so in this world, that one who stood in the sun must need cast a shadow on other folks, the Magister bowed his head sadly and cried: "A wise saying, worthy Mistress Maud; and he who casts the shade commonly does so against his will, 'sine ira et studio'. And from that saying we may learn--suffer me the syllogism--that, inasmuch as all things which bring woe to one bring joy to another, and vice-versa, there must ever be some sad faces so long as there is no lack of happy ones. As to mine own poor countenance, I may number it indeed with those in shadow--notwithstanding"--here his flow of words stopped on a sudden. Howbeit, or ever we could stay him, he went on in a loud and well-nigh triumphant voice. "Notwithstanding I am no wise woeful--no, not in the least degree. I have found the clue, and who indeed could fail to see it: Your shadow can fall so black on me only by reason that you stand in the fullest sunshine! As for me, it is no hard matter for me to endure the blackness of night; and may you, Mistress Margery, for ever and ever stand in the glory of light, henceforth till your life's end."
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