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Title: Gudrun - Life Stories for Young People
Author: Schmidt, Ferdinand
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: _How Hartmut sued for Gudrun_]

                    _Life Stories for Young People_



                                 GUDRUN


                     _Translated from the German of
                           Ferdinand Schmidt_

                                   BY
                            GEORGE P. UPTON
                    _Translator of “Memories,” etc._

                        WITH THREE ILLUSTRATIONS

                  [Illustration: A. C. McCLURG & CO.]

                                CHICAGO
                          A. C. McCLURG & CO.
                                  1906

                               Copyright
                          A. C. McClurg & Co.
                                  1906
                      Published September 22, 1906

                THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.



                          Translator’s Preface


The charming story of “Gudrun” is a romance of the old heroic period,
written by some unknown poet of Austria or Bavaria in the thirteenth
century. Next to the “Nibelungen Lied,” it is the most important of the
German epic poems. Indeed some of the personæ in “Gudrun” are found in
the “Lied,” though varying in personal characteristics, probably because
they were taken from different legends. The scenes of “Gudrun” are
principally laid along the shores of the North Sea and in Normandy. The
men and women in this poem resemble generally those in the “Lied.” The
same elemental passions are depicted. The men are brave, vigorous
heroes, rejoicing in battle and feats of prowess; the women are
beautiful, constant, and courageous. There are many fine delineations of
character in the original, as well as vigorous sketches of northern
scenery. The figure of Gudrun stands out in bold relief among the
maidens. There are few more beautiful characters, indeed, in the poems
of the old heroic period, and it adds to the charm of the epic that she
does not suffer the tragic fate of Kriemhild in the “Nibelungen Lied,”
but that her constancy and devotion are rewarded by her ultimate reunion
with her knightly lover, King Herwig. There are many serious passages,
but from the very first there is the conviction that Gudrun and Herwig,
in spite of all the dangers and vicissitudes through which they pass,
will in the end be reunited. And so it happens. Gudrun’s name is always
spoken by her people with reverence. “Her courage and constancy were
extolled by them, and in after days her fame was as radiant as the stars
in the heavens.”

                                                                G. P. U.

Chicago, July 1, 1906.



                                Contents


  I. The Maiden and the Princely Suitor                               11
  II. The Contest                                                     17
  III. Siegfried’s Revenge                                            23
  IV. Hartmut Captures Gudrun                                         26
  V. The Evil Tidings                                                 30
  VI. The Battle on the Wulpensand                                    34
  VII. Gudrun’s Danger                                                40
  VIII. The Reception                                                 43
  IX. Gudrun’s Test                                                   46
  X. Ortrun                                                           51
  XI. Gudrun’s Trials                                                 54
  XII. On the Wulpensand                                              57
  XIII. The Tale of Hagen and the Griffin                             62
  XIV. The Welcome Message                                            78
  XV. The Two Knights                                                 83
  XVI. Danger and Stratagem                                           93
  XVII. The Morning                                                  102
  XVIII. Hartmut Fights with Ortwin and Horant                       110
  XIX. Ludwig Fights with Herwig                                     114
  XX. Hartmut Fights with Wate                                       117
  XXI. Gudrun and Ortrun                                             120
  XXII. Retribution                                                  123
  XXIII. The Home Coming                                             129



                             Illustrations


  How Hartmut Sued for Gudrun                             _Frontispiece_
  Gudrun on the Strand                                                78
  Gudrun’s Deliverance                                               126



                                 Gudrun



                               Chapter I
                   The Maiden and the Princely Suitor


There once lived in Denmark a mighty King named Hetel, whose fame spread
far and wide. His wife Hilda bore him two children, a son and a daughter
called Ortwin and Gudrun, who were endowed with such surpassing strength
and beauty that as they grew to manhood and womanhood the whole country
rang with their praises. Ortwin’s master-in-arms was Count Wate, a hero
who loved the strife and tumult of battle better than making merry with
fair dames, and from him the young prince acquired skill in all knightly
exercises. Gudrun grew up so tall and strong that she too could have
wielded a sword with credit had such feats been seemly for a maiden, and
when the brother and sister stood side by side, all who beheld them
declared no sculptor could have wrought anything half so beautiful.

Princes came from far and near to seek Gudrun in marriage, but her
haughty father, King Hetel, sent them all away, some departing in
sorrow, others with bitterness and anger in their hearts. Among those
attracted by the fame of Gudrun’s beauty was Siegfried, King of
Moreland, to whom seven princes did homage as their lord. With a
splendid retinue he appeared at Hetel’s court to sue for the hand of the
maiden, only to share the fate of all her other suitors. Filled with
rage and chagrin he took his departure, vowing never to rest till he had
wrought vengeance on the proud monarch.

In Normandy at this time there lived a prince named Hartmut who no
sooner heard of Gudrun than he too was seized with the desire to make
her his wife. His mother, Queen Gerlinda, gladly assented to his wishes,
for she was an overbearing and ambitious woman and longed to see her son
distinguished above all the other princely wooers. But his father, King
Ludwig, said to him:

“How do we know if this Gudrun be as fair as report paints her? Yet were
she the very flower of maidenhood, it would profit thee little, for
bethink thee how far our realm doth lie from Denmark! Never would her
parents permit their only daughter to go so far from them.”

Hartmut was not to be moved from his purpose by these remonstrances,
however, and Gerlinda said: “Let messengers be despatched thither, and I
will bestow gold upon them, besides costly apparel.”

But Ludwig, foreboding evil, continued; “King Hetel and his wife Hilda
are well known to me. Haughty and overbearing are they both and ’tis
like their daughter will prove the same.”

“Be that as it may,” replied Hartmut, “I cannot live if Gudrun be not
mine. In truth if I may not win her in peaceful fashion then will I go
with an army and wrest her from them by force of arms!”

Gerlinda too urged and entreated the King, till at last he yielded and
consented to Hartmut’s making the attempt. “As to an army,” he said,
“there is yet time enough for that: let us first see what may be
peacefully accomplished.”

Accordingly Hartmut chose sixty knights from the noblest houses in the
land, to lay his suit before King Hetel; they set out forthwith, attired
in rich garments, their spotless armor shining in the sun, while twelve
superb sumpter horses followed, led by retainers and laden with gold and
silver. Full a hundred days passed before they reached the borders of
Hetel’s kingdom, where they found a warlike people, most of them going
about in helm and mail. They asked where the King was to be found and
were shown the way to the royal castle, Hegelingen. As they rode up to
it the people came flocking about them full of eager curiosity to gaze
at the splendid strangers, while the King ordered sumptuous lodgings to
be prepared for them.

On the twelfth day they were summoned before Hetel who, seated on a
shining throne and surrounded by his vassals, received them graciously
and asked their errand. One of the knights stepped forward and delivered
to him the letter containing King Ludwig’s suit for his son Hartmut; but
scarcely had he learned its contents when his brow darkened and he cried
angrily:

“Now, by my faith! doth Ludwig dare to dishonor my crown with such
proposals? Let him seek a Queen for his son where’er it pleaseth him,
but approach not my throne with his presumptuous desires!”

At these words there was a stir among the Norman knights, and their
swords seemed to rattle in their sheaths; but they restrained
themselves, and one ventured to reply: “Hartmut is well worthy to be thy
son-in-law, O King! for truly there is no braver knight alive!”

Thereupon Queen Hilda, who sat beside the King, lifted her head
haughtily and said: “Knowst thou not that thy prince was liegeman to my
father, King Hagen, whose fame hath surely reached thine ears? And shall
the son of my father’s vassal lead our child homeward as his bride?”

Therewith the knights were dismissed, and the next morning they left the
court. Full of hope and impatience Hartmut looked forward to their
return, but their appearance, when at last they rode into the courtyard,
boded him little good. Reluctantly they made known the answer of Hetel
and Hilda to his suit; whereat Ludwig foamed with rage, and Gerlinda
burst into a storm of angry tears, but Hartmut asked one of the knights
whether the maiden was really so beautiful as it was said.

“In truth, my lord,” he replied, “so fair is she that he who once
beholds her must ever bear her image in his heart.”

“Now may God chastise King Hetel for the affront he hath dealt to me and
to my house! But for the maiden, she shall yet be mine, I swear!”

These words gladdened Gerlinda’s heart. “Ha!” she cried, trembling with
passion, “may I but live to behold her here!”



                               Chapter II
                              The Contest


Zealand, the neighboring country to Denmark, was ruled by a young prince
named Herwig, who also came to woo the fair Gudrun, but Hetel rejected
him as haughtily as he had rejected all the rest. Nevertheless Herwig
tarried for some months at the court, where, from time to time, he might
behold the maiden; but although he often renewed his suit, the King’s
answer was ever the same.

One day a prince arrived at the royal castle followed by a glittering
train. He would not give his name, and as he advanced no suit, Hetel
received him kindly and prepared a feast in his honor. So it came to
pass that he soon found an opportunity of seeing Gudrun, and contrived
to make known to her that he was Hartmut, and had come to Denmark for
her sake alone. The maiden pitied the gallant young hero, whose
appearance pleased her well, though she had no wish to wed him, and she
besought him to depart at once, for, should Hetel discover who he was,
he would surely slay him. Sorrowfully Hartmut left the court. Yet he did
not abandon his purpose, but bent all his energies toward raising an
army to revenge himself upon King Hetel.

Herwig was rejoiced when the splendid stranger went upon his way, for he
had feared in him a successful rival. Again he would have renewed his
own suit; but the King sternly forbade him ever again to speak of it,
whereupon he resolved to invade the land with an armed force to prove to
the haughty monarch that he too was a mighty prince. Accordingly, on a
dark night not long thereafter when all within the castle of Hegelingen
lay wrapped in deepest slumber, Herwig landed with a band of stout
warriors, and at daybreak the warder on the tower discovered the enemy
close beneath the walls.

  “‘To arms!’ he thundered from the tower;
    The trump the silence broke,
  And strident blast of larum horns
    The startled sleepers woke.
  With flying hair the women all
    To one another clung;
  Or flocking to the windows, there
    Their hands in terror wrung;
  While calm in danger, knight and man
    To steed and armor sprung.”

When Hetel saw by the device on the banners that it was Herwig who led
the foe, he was secretly pleased that the hero should thus seek to win
the maid by force of arms. This was after his own heart, and Herwig
could not have hit upon a better plan to obtain his favor. With his wife
and Gudrun he stood at a window and watched the gallant struggle that
was in progress before the castle, expecting to see his knights soon
scatter the followers of this fiery wooer; but great was his
consternation when he beheld Herwig gaining step by step. Wherever the
rejected suitor’s plume waved, wherever his flashing sword circled,
there was the fray hottest, and many of Hetel’s stoutest warriors fell
before him. Splendid was Herwig to look upon in battle: the helms of all
who approached him were lit with fiery sparks, while their armor was
speedily adorned with crimson bands. Even Gudrun gazed on him with
admiring eyes, terrible as the sight of the battle was to her.

“Now,” thought Hetel, “is Herwig worthy of my sword”; and donning his
armor, down he strode, only to find his men being irresistibly forced
back within the castle. Already the clash of arms reëchoed from the
vaulted ceiling, armor crashed against armor in the onset. Valiantly
King Hetel dashed among his knights, but all his efforts were powerless
to check their retreat. At last the two princes came face to face, the
gray-haired hero of a hundred battles and the young warrior bent on
winning equal fame. Blows that would have slain many a stout champion
fell thick and fast on helm and shield, yet undismayed and unconquered
fast they stood, while sparks shot forth in fiery showers, and links of
mail fell tinkling to the stone floor. At last Hetel stepped back a pace
and said breathlessly: “He who does not wish me for a friend surely is
no good friend,” and therewith rushed once more upon the young hero; and
fiercer than ever raged the combat.

Terror-stricken, Gudrun watched them until at last she could bear it no
longer. Seizing a shield she hastened down and threw herself between the
two knights, whereat Herwig lowered his sword and gazed joyously at the
stately maiden.

“Peace, peace! my father, in God’s name!” she implored. “Let the
struggle wait until I have asked Herwig where his dearest friend may
be.”

“Oh, thou knowest well,” cried Herwig. “But I will give no peace till
thou dost grant me leave to speak with thee within the castle. No evil
have I in my heart, for unarmed will I enter.”

Accordingly at Gudrun’s desire, the heroes laid aside their arms and
entered the castle together in peace. Then Herwig approached Gudrun once
more to plead his suit, and Gudrun answered: “What maid could scorn so
valiant a hero? Truly, most noble Herwig, there is no damsel living who
could hold thee more dear than I, and if my parents do consent, then
will I gladly evermore with thee abide.”

Then Herwig besought the King and Queen for the hand of Gudrun and they,
turning to their daughter, asked whether this betrothal would be
pleasing to her. She replied that she would choose Herwig for her
husband before all other men. So Hetel, whose heart had been quite won
by the valor of the noble young hero, led Gudrun to him and joined their
hands together. Then all the great lords and vassals were summoned to
the hall, and in their presence the King once more asked Gudrun if she
would have Herwig for her husband.

“Never could I wish for nobler lord,” she answered. So they were
betrothed, and a great feast was held to celebrate the joyful event.

When the festivities were over, Herwig wished to take Gudrun home with
him as his bride; but Queen Hilda besought him to wait till the
following springtime, since her daughter was still so young. In the
meantime she would teach her much that it befitted a future queen to
know and she would also have time to prepare a rich store of marriage
gifts. Herwig agreed to this though with great reluctance; soon
thereafter, bidding a sorrowful farewell to his betrothed, he returned
to his own land, little suspecting what dire results were to follow the
postponement of the nuptials.



                              Chapter III
                          Siegfried’s Revenge


The news that Herwig had won the heart and hand of the beautiful Gudrun
soon spread to Moreland and filled King Siegfried, still smarting from
his own scornful rejection, with deadly hatred against the fortunate
suitor.

“Now will I kindle for thee, Sir Herwig,” he shouted, “a wedding torch
that shall light thy whole land!”

Forthwith he had twenty ships made ready and filled with chosen knights.
Toward the end of May they reached the coast of Zealand, and then began
such a burning and slaying as never had been known before. Herwig at
once rode forth to meet his fierce enemy, and a long and desperate
battle followed. Red was the soil with the blood of the slain and
bravely did Herwig and his warriors fight, but at last they were forced
to yield to superior numbers and take refuge in a castle near by, where
they were safe for a time from the enemy. Siegfried laid siege to it;
but one of Herwig’s knights succeeded in stealing through the enemy’s
camp by night and, hastening to Hegelingen, told King Hetel of the
ravages Siegfried had committed in Zealand and of Herwig’s dangerous
situation. When Gudrun heard these evil tidings she besought her father
to hasten to the aid of her betrothed.

“That will I gladly do, my daughter,” cried the King, “Herwig shall see
’twas not in vain I swore faith with him, and straightway shall all our
friends be summoned hither.”

Messengers were sent out in haste bidding his vassals join him prepared
for war without delay; and soon a host of gallant knights assembled with
their followers all eager for battle. First came old Wate, that
dauntless champion who never yet had known fear and of whose prowess
great tales were told. Then followed Morung, Irolt, Horand, and the aged
Frute. Had these heroes been in the royal castle when Herwig sought to
storm it, there might well have been a different ending to the fight!
The King’s son Ortwin also donned his armor and begged permission to
accompany the expedition. He longed to prove his valor for the first
time and aid in avenging his sister’s wrong.

Hetel at once took ship with all his forces and soon reached Zealand.
When Siegfried heard of their coming he set forth to meet them; then
there followed a fierce conflict wherein many a good helm and shield
were shattered, but neither side could claim a victory. With morning
light the struggle was renewed, but again the evening of the bloody day
brought no decisive result. So it went on for twelve long days, but when
on the thirteenth morning Siegfried surveyed his dwindling forces, he
knew he might no longer venture to wage open warfare; he retired with
the remnant of his army to a strong castle which was entirely surrounded
by water. Here at first he thought himself quite safe from Hetel’s
swords and spears, but when he found the enemy closely besieging his
retreat he heartily wished himself back in his own land. After sending
messengers to Hegelingen to relieve the suspense of the Queen and
Gudrun, Hetel swore a solemn oath never to stir from that spot till
Siegfried should surrender,—a rash vow, that brought much sorrow to him,
as we shall see.



                               Chapter IV
                        Hartmut Captures Gudrun


King Ludwig had many spies in Zealand and word of Hetel’s vow was soon
brought to him. He asked if the castle held by Siegfried was a strong
one, and learning that it could well sustain a year’s siege, he hastened
joyfully to his wife and Hartmut, saying: “At last the hour of our
revenge is nigh!”

Then he told them how Hetel with all his bravest knights had gone to
Zealand to aid Herwig, leaving his own land but poorly guarded. Gerlinda
was overjoyed when she found the King was bent upon avenging the affront
that had been offered her, and brought gold from her own store to aid in
arming the knights. Hartmut too was rejoiced, and set about placing
himself and his followers in readiness with a will—though with him it
was not so much a question of revenge as of winning the maiden he so
dearly loved. At last all was ready, and Ludwig’s army embarked and put
out to sea.

After a voyage of many days, the eager warriors one morning spied the
gleaming turrets of Matalan, the castle occupied by Queen Hilda and her
daughter, and landing under cover of a wood succeeded in approaching
close to the walls without being seen by the warders. Ludwig wished to
begin the assault at once, but Hartmut persuaded him to wait until he
had made one more attempt to win Gudrun by peaceful means. For this
purpose he despatched two wealthy Counts with a message to her, but when
she learned their errand, she replied:

“Say to your master I am betrothed to King Herwig and never will I break
faith with him!”

The Counts warned her that Hartmut’s love was so great he was ready to
carry her away by force if she would not consent to go with him of her
own will; whereat Gudrun’s knights laughed scornfully, so sure were they
of the strength of the castle and their own good swords, and little
suspecting that an army was concealed in the wood. The messengers were
dismissed and costly garments offered them, with wine in gold and silver
drinking-horns, but they haughtily refused the gifts.

“Ha!” cried the Danes angrily, “if ye do scorn King Hetel’s wine, then
shall blood be poured for you, forsooth!”

The Counts rode back to Hartmut and told him what had passed.

“Alas!” he cried, “that such words have been spoken! No longer is there
left me any choice.”

The battle standards were unfurled and Hartmut advanced upon the castle
with his fellows. Queen Hilda was overjoyed when she first beheld him,
for she thought some good fortune had brought King Hetel back. Soon,
however, the device upon the banners showed her it was Hartmut who
approached, and she ordered the gates of the castle to be made fast. Her
knights, thirsting for battle, rushed forth; but scarcely had they met
the foe when Ludwig issued from the forest with a second force, and
dashing among the unlucky Danes, mowed them down, as corn falls before
the reapers. The two soon forced the castle gates and planted their
victorious banners on the battlements of Matalan. Hartmut found Gudrun
in the great hall, her cheeks pale with terror.

“Thou didst scorn me once,” he said to her, love and anger struggling
within him, “and for that should I scorn to make captive any here, but
rather let all be slain!”

Gudrun turned away weeping and cried, “Alas! my father, couldst thou but
know what hath befallen thy poor child!”

Terrible ravages were committed in the castle by Ludwig’s followers,
which Hartmut was powerless to prevent, though he would not suffer it to
be burned. Gudrun, with thirty of her women, was taken captive to the
ships; and after pillaging and laying waste the country for three days,
the Normans again embarked laden with spoils; the anchors were raised,
and on the fourth morning the fleet set sail for home.



                               Chapter V
                            The Evil Tidings


King Hetel, who had been joined by Herwig and his warriors, still
besieged the castle within whose walls Siegfried defied all their
assaults. One day messengers from home arrived, and when Hetel saw them
coming he hastened joyfully to meet them, crying, “Tell me quickly, good
sirs, how fares it with my wife and my dear daughter Gudrun?”

The messengers’ glances fell as one of them said sorrowfully: “Great is
the evil that hath befallen, my lord! Burned are thy cities, and thy
castles ruined. Full a thousand brave knights have fallen fighting for
thy house. Thy treasures hath the enemy despoiled, and thy daughter
Gudrun is taken captive!”

At these words the King laid hold of him fiercely, saying: “Thou
speakest in frenzy, man! Who could have done this? Speak, speak, I say!”

“’Twas Ludwig of Normandy and his son Hartmut, my lord,” replied the
messenger, “who suddenly appeared before Matalan with a mighty army.”

Then the King cried aloud and tore his long gray beard in anguish.
Quickly the news spread through the camp, and the heroes Herwig and
Wate, Irolt, Frute, and Horand, hastened to his side. In bitter grief he
cried:

  “To you, faithful comrades, I pour out my woe!
  On my house hath dire evil been wrought by the foe:
  Alas! but ill-guarded we left our own shore,
  Its gallant defenders shall guard it no more.
  My castles are ruined, my country laid waste,
  My liegemen lie slaughtered, my daughter disgraced;
  In bondage, alas! must that noble maid sigh
  Whom I to the Norman as bride did deny!”

Tears streamed down Herwig’s cheeks when he heard these dreadful
tidings, and all were moved by the grief of the father and lover of
Gudrun. Count Wate alone remained calm.

“Take heart, my lords,” he said, “for the day shall yet come when our
sorrow will be turned to joy again. Cease these laments, I pray, lest
Siegfried hear the sound thereof and take delight in your affliction.”

Hetel strove to regain his composure and asked mournfully what was to be
done. Wate replied: “Now must we press Siegfried so closely on all sides
that he will gladly seize an offer of alliance with us. This done, we
shall have his aid and be free to pursue the base marauders!”

This counsel cheered all the knights, and the next morning they began
such a furious assault on the castle as Siegfried never yet had been
forced to endure. After many knights on both sides had fallen, Irolt
shouted up to the walls: “If thou wouldst have peace with us then ask it
of King Hetel, else shall no man of you go back alive to his own land!”

Siegfried answered: “I may not in honor sue for peace to any man. And
thinkest thou to conquer us? ’Tis but more heroes sent to death on
either side.”

Then Frute raised his voice and said: “Swear thou wilt ever abide by us
with loyal service, and thou mayst go hence in peace.” And Siegfried,
together with all his knights, raised their hands and swore it.

Then the gates of the castle were thrown open, Siegfried and Hetel
clasped hands, and the rest of the heroes did the same; so all were
friends who but a short time before had been fighting to the death.
Hetel now opened his heart to Siegfried and told him of the calamity
that had befallen them. And Siegfried said to Herwig:

“Even as I have hated thee, that thou didst win the love of Gudrun, whom
I too would fain have wed, so now will I loyally aid thee to win her
back from Hartmut. Had ye not burned my ships, then might we have
pursued the Norman thieves without delay.”

“There is a band of pilgrims near the shore,” said Wate, “with ten large
ships and many smaller vessels. These they must lend us, whether they
will or no!”

This plan was hailed with joy. Taking with him an hundred knights, Wate
forthwith brought the ships to land, while the pilgrims, whose treasures
were safely stored on shore, were pacified with promises of a speedy
return. The next morning Hetel, with all his companions and followers,
embarked, and a favoring wind soon bore them out to sea.



                               Chapter VI
                      The Battle on the Wulpensand


Ludwig and Hartmut meanwhile had reached a green and thickly wooded
island called the Wulpensand, where they decided to make a camp and rest
them from their labors for a space. Often did Gudrun gaze sadly out
across the water, the tears streaming unheeded down her cheeks.

Some days had passed thus when about noon white sails were seen upon the
far horizon. Word was brought at once to Ludwig and Hartmut, and they
hastened to the shore. Soon they distinguished crosses on the sails and
supposed them to be pilgrim ships. But after a time, Ludwig said: “Yon
ships do gleam and sparkle as they were filled with shining stars—’tis
from helm and shield and spear tip! Up, warriors! Up and arm you to
receive them!”

Instantly the camp was in confusion. All flew to arms, and soon the
shore was lined with shouting warriors eager for battle. Ludwig’s banner
floated out upon the breeze, and he shouted: “Now, by my faith! Our
former work was but child’s play to what now lies before us! Stand fast,
bold knights, and richly will I reward you!”

Nearer and nearer came the hostile fleet bearing Hetel and Herwig and
Siegfried with all their men, till at last the two armies were within
reach of each other’s spears. Then there arose such a clashing and
splintering of javelins and arrows that the noise of the waves was
completely drowned. Hastily Hetel’s men clambered into their boats and
rowed ashore. Wate sprang into the water up to his breast and made his
way to land, Hetel, Herwig, Ortwin, Frute and their brave men following;
and soon the sea far out was red with blood from innumerable wounds.
Ludwig recognized Wate and hurled his spear at the mighty champion, but
he caught it fairly on his shield and it broke, the splinters flying far
and wide. As he gained the shore, he dealt King Ludwig a blow with his
sword that sent him reeling backward; and there with King Hetel’s people
won to land and the fight began in earnest.

Till nightfall the battle raged, when neither side had prevailed. Then
the weary heroes sought a few hours’ repose, but at dawn the battle
trumpets once more sounded and the strife began anew. Backward and
forward rolled the tide of battle, pausing now and then, only to burst
out more fiercely than before. At last the two Kings, Hetel and Ludwig,
met. Hetel fought like a lion robbed of its young, and his sword
whistled frightfully through the air as the blows fell fast and furious
on his adversary’s helm and shield. But Ludwig too was a mighty
champion, grown old in battle: at last he smote King Hetel so powerfully
that he fell dead before him. At this a wild shout went up from the
Normans, and the news soon spread to Gudrun’s tent, whereupon the poor
maiden with a cry of anguish sank unconscious to the ground.

Wate fought like an infuriated wild beast, and many of the enemy fell
before his sword; but in spite of all their efforts they could gain no
real advantage, and darkness fell once more without Herwig’s having
succeeded in rescuing his bride. Watch-fires were lit, and the two
armies were so close to each other that the gleam of their armor could
be plainly seen.

That evening Ludwig took counsel with Hartmut in his tent. He feared
Wate’s strength and deemed it best to retire under cover of night, while
the drums and war-trumpets should sound loudly as if in joyous
anticipation of the morrow’s conflict and their confidence of victory,
and thereby drown all sound of preparation. This plan was forthwith
adopted; the ships were hurriedly laden and made ready to depart, and
the fair captives led thither after having been warned as they valued
their lives to make no outcry. Ludwig’s forces had become so diminished
that he was forced to leave many of his ships behind for lack of men to
man them. His stratagem was successful, however; the Normans put safely
out to sea in the darkness, and a strong breeze bore them swiftly away.

In the morning a dense mist enveloped land and sea, but Wate turned to
continue the battle and at the sound of his horn the knights sprang once
more to arms. Just then the sun broke through the clouds, and lo! the
whole country stretched bare before their bewildered gaze—the enemy had
vanished! The ground was strewn with corpses, broken weapons, and torn
banners, while near the shore some empty ships lay tossing on the waves.
At this, such a fury of rage seized Wate that few dared approach him.
Ortwin cried: “Let us pursue them with all speed!”

But Frute, who had been watching the wind, replied: “’Twere useless now,
my lord. Full thirty miles have they the start of us, nor with our
remnant of an army may we venture a pursuit.”

“Then will we take vengeance on the living through the dead!” shouted
grim Irolt. “Unburied shall they lie to feed the ravens!”

But Herwig reproved him, saying: “Nay, comrade, that must never be!
Rather let us dig ample graves and bury friend and foe together.”

  “Dead foes no longer hatred claim;
  Grudge not the dead true hero’s fame!”

This was done, and after all the slain had been consigned to earth, with
heavy hearts the heroes once more embarked and set sail for home.

Soon Queen Hilda’s castle rose before them from the sea, whereat groans
of anguish burst from many a mail-clad breast. Ortwin cried: “Alas! how
can I appear before my mother? Not only have we failed to deliver
Gudrun, but now my father lies beneath the stones of Wulpensand!”

Herwig too shrank from breaking the evil tidings to Queen Hilda, nor
were any of their comrades willing to undertake the task. But when they
had reached the shore Wate gruffly said: “It is useless to attempt to
conceal the truth from the Queen,” and himself rode to the castle,
looking so grim and forbidding that all who beheld him shrank in terror.
But Hilda, who had seen him coming and had also marked the sadly
diminished fleet upon the strand, hastened anxiously to meet him and
asked him in trembling accents for her lord.

“I will not deceive thee, lady,” said the hero, his rough features
clouded with grief; “the King is slain, and with him the greater part of
our comrades”; and therewith he told her of the battle on the island.

Quickly the news spread, and from the castle arose loud wailing and
sounds of woe, to which all the heroes added their lamentations. The
whole court was plunged into grief, and Wate alone retained his
firmness.

“Peace—peace—my friends! No plaints nor sighs will ever open the King’s
grave or bring back Gudrun to us. With the handful of warriors that are
left us, we can do nothing now, ’tis true, but ere-long a younger
generation will be of age to bear arms, and then our day of reckoning
will come!”



                              Chapter VII
                            Gudrun’s Danger


As Ludwig’s fleet drew near the coast of Normandy the gleaming turrets
of his royal castle shone out across the green water; far into the
distance stretched fruitful fields and wooded heights, bathed in bright
sunlight. Then the King led his captive to the ship’s deck, her
trembling companions following, and said kindly to her, “Maiden, behold
the land of which thou art one day to be Queen!”

Hartmut fixed his ardent gaze upon the fair prisoner, hoping she would
at last look with favor on him, but Gudrun answered firmly:

“Rather would I choose death than wed with Hartmut! ’Twas he who brought
all this sorrow upon me through his invasion of our kingdom, and but for
him my noble father who now on yonder island sleeps in his grave, had
been yet alive.”

This enraged the King; but controlling himself, he told her she must
reconcile herself to what had happened, since it could not now be
altered, and she must choose between royal honors and a shameful
captivity.

Undauntedly the maiden replied: “I have sworn faith with Herwig, and
death alone shall free me from my troth.”

Scarcely had she uttered the words when the fierce Norman King seized
her by the hair and flung her into the sea. Hartmut sprang forward to
save his beloved, but in vain. For a moment her fair hair floated on the
water, then he plunged after her and both disappeared below the surface.
Anxiously those on the ship gazed downward, fearing that the King’s son,
too, would find a watery grave. Soon he rose again, however, supporting
the maiden on his strong arm; and the ship’s folk, who had already
sprung into a boat, drew both to safety.

Hartmut gave Gudrun into the hands of her women, ordering them to take
her below and provide her with dry garments without delay. Then
confronting his father with glowing cheeks, he demanded sternly:

“Wherefore wouldst thou have drowned her who is more dear to me than
life itself? By my faith, had another dared what thou hast done, I would
have paid him with my sword.”

Angrily the King answered:

“Boy, speak not thus to me! I am grown old in honors, and honor will I
have from thee till I am dead. Therefore warn Gudrun that she heed her
words in future when she hath speech with me!”



                              Chapter VIII
                             The Reception


Soon the fleet reached the shore, and Hartmut sent messengers to his
mother to bid her prepare to receive Gudrun as became her rank. Gerlinda
was overjoyed when she learned that the daughter of that haughty monarch
who had once offered her such an affront was with the Normans on the
ships, and ordered the costliest apparel to be made ready, though
rather, it must be said, to display her own riches than to fulfil the
wishes of her son.

Now Hartmut had a sister named Ortrun, who rejoiced in the thought that
Gudrun would be a beloved sister to her, and joyfully assisted in all
the preparations for the festivities. Three days were thus occupied, and
on the fourth morning a splendid procession wended its way down from the
royal castle to the shore. Gerlinda and Ortrun came first, mounted on
white palfreys and arrayed in magnificent robes of silk interwoven with
gold, while behind them rode a glittering train of knights, all
sumptuously attired.

Joyous strains of music penetrated to the ships, but they fell on
Gudrun’s ear like the harsh cry of the screech-owl. Soon she with her
maidens was conducted to the land.

  The broken-hearted royal maid
    With tottering steps was seen—
  Shrinking from Hartmut’s proffered aid—
    Approach the haughty Queen.

  Ortrun, impatient, longed to make
    Her loving welcome known,
  For to her seemed this stranger maid
    Like sister all her own.

  But as she joyously draws nigh,
    With sinking heart she sees
  In Gudrun’s eyes the bitter tears—
    Then all her rapture flees.

  They closely clasp each other’s hand—
    A kiss—and then they part:
  No words they speak, but in their eyes
    Each reads the other’s heart.

  Then Queen Gerlinda turned to her
    With falsely flattering look
  And would have sought a greeting kiss—
    This Gudrun would not brook.

  “Approach me not!” she proudly said,
    “Thou cause of all my woe!
  For me to suffer thy embrace
    Were worse than crime, I trow!”

Gerlinda seemed not to hear these words, but her heart swelled within
her with rage. Tents were now pitched on the green sunny meadow, and
Hartmut spared no pains to please and cheer Gudrun with music and
tilting, but her tears flowed unceasingly, nor could all his efforts
avail to comfort her. She sat with her head on Ortrun’s shoulder, and
Ortrun wept with her.

Moved by her sorrow, Hartmut put an end to the games and gave the signal
for departure. At the castle Gudrun found sumptuous apartments prepared
for her and her maidens, but she felt as if she were entering a tomb; in
truth, it would have been a welcome thought to her could she have felt
that never again should she awake.



                               Chapter IX
                             Gudrun’s Test


Many months passed during which Hartmut omitted no proof of devotion to
his fair captive, but never did the King’s daughter cease to think of
him whose ring of gold she wore upon her finger.

One day Gerlinda said to Gudrun in the presence of her son: “When wilt
thou relent, perverse one? Delay no longer, but give thy hand to
Hartmut, for, of a truth, he is the peer of any king alive!”

For answer Gudrun turned toward her and asked: “Wouldst thou, Lady
Gerlinda, take for thy husband one who had caused the death of so many
of thine own people?”

Gerlinda, knowing how her son’s heart was set on Gudrun, replied: “Nay,
dwell not on what is past, thou foolish maid! Wed him who loves thee
well, and gladly will I yield to thee my crown.”

Gudrun’s eyes filled with tears and her cheeks grew red, as she
answered:

  “Can there be love where treacherous deeds
  Of bloody crimes have sown the seeds?
  The bitter tears mine eyes so drown,
  They dim the glitter of a crown.
  For freedom thirsts my soul for aye,
  Of freedom dream I night and day:
  Naught but a captive I’ll remain,
  Nor wed him whom my sire hath slain!”

She left the hall weeping.

Hartmut sprang up angrily, saying: “Enough of this! Since she ever doth
scorn me, I will no longer show her favor!”

This filled Gerlinda with secret joy, for now at least she thought the
haughty princess would be in her power, and following Hartmut she said
to him: “My son, ’tis beyond thy skill to deal with Gudrun. So stubborn
a child can be brought to better ways only by those of more experience.
Leave her to me and thou shalt soon find her pride humbled.”

“Heaven grant it!” cried Hartmut. “Easily might I force her to be mine,
yet my heart rebels against such harshness.”

“Trust me,—all shall be as thou dost wish,” replied Gerlinda, eagerly.

“Fail not to deal with her as becomes her rank,” he continued, “and
forget not that the poor maid hath had much cause for grief!”

The next morning Hartmut took leave of his parents and left the court,
but ere he departed he sought his mother once more and charged her to
treat Gudrun kindly. Then he rode forth with his followers to drown
remembrance of his love and sorrow in the dangers of battle, bearing
with him the hope that Gudrun’s heart would turn to him at last. Had he
but known the evil thoughts in Gerlinda’s mind, he would never have
departed. Scarcely was he out of sight, however, when the Queen gave
full vent to her malice. Seeking Gudrun, she said to her: “Since thou
dost scorn the love and favor of a King, forsooth, thou shalt do menial
service and taste beggar’s fare!”

“Alas!” replied Gudrun, “I am at thy mercy and must bear whate’er thou
dost inflict on me. But know this, Queen! that naught shall avail to
shake my loyalty.”

“Then,” continued Gerlinda, “shall thy maidens also serve as drudges for
the sake of thy loyalty: heat the ovens, carry wood, and sweep up dust
and litter. Oh, I will soon bend thy stubborn pride, I promise thee!”

Gudrun was greatly distressed that her maidens, who were all of noble
birth, should be made to suffer for her sake, but she was powerless to
prevent it.

What the Queen had threatened soon came to pass. Gudrun was separated
from her companions and forced to perform the lowest tasks, but when
Gerlinda one day asked her mockingly how her life at the court now
pleased her, she replied simply: “The good God who gave me constancy,
granted me also the strength to bear the undeserved trouble it hath
brought upon me.”

Thus three years went by, and Hartmut returned at last from his
wanderings, rich in fame and honors. Full of hope, he rode joyfully into
the castle; but what was his horror to behold the high-born princess in
the garb of a menial!

“Alas! my mother, what hast thou done?” he cried, and giving his hand to
Gudrun, he said sorrowfully: “Believe me, most noble maiden, ’tis
through no fault of mine that this shame hath befallen thee! Yet wilt
thou but look upon my suit with favor, then all thy sorrow shall be
turned to joy.”

But Gudrun answered: “Already have I made it plain to thee that my heart
is his to whom my vows are plighted. Go! leave me to the misery thine
honor should have spared me!”

Then Hartmut reminded her of his rescue of her from the water at peril
of his life, as proof of his devotion. “And wilt thou leave such love
still unrewarded?” he asked.

“Was it not thou,” replied Gudrun, “that tore me from my home and all I
loved? Didst thou not slay my father? And yet for all these wrongs thou
dost expect my thanks?”

“Have it as thou wilt, then!” he cried angrily, “and abide in thy
misery! ’Twas no act of mine that brought it upon thee, yet it well-nigh
seems thou dost deserve thy shame!”

But it was not long till his love for Gudrun again awoke, and he
determined to make one more effort to win her heart.



                               Chapter X
                                 Ortrun


Hartmut now went to his sister and said: “I pray thee, comfort Gudrun
and be a sister to her, so many bitter griefs hath she been forced to
bear. Seek, too, to turn her heart toward me by kindness. Canst thou but
do this, my sister, then will I owe thee thanks so long as I do live!”

Ortrun wept for joy at these words, and embracing her brother fondly,
replied: “Happy indeed shall I be once more to see thy love. Our mother
forbade me to approach her, and great grief was this to me.”

Then said Hartmut: “Henceforth thou shalt share all thy joys with her,
dear Ortrun. Perchance if we make her happy here with us her heart may
yet be mine.”

Joyfully Ortrun hastened to Gudrun and besought her love and friendship,
telling her the good news that hereafter by Hartmut’s desire they were
to share the same chamber; and the two royal maidens acknowledged they
had missed and longed for one another.

Happier days dawned for Gudrun. She spent all her time with Ortrun,
whose only thought was to cheer her sorrowful companion. When Gudrun
talked of her home and people, she listened with loving interest or
shared her tears. She would gladly have welcomed the Danish princess as
her sister-in-law and lost no opportunity to speak good of Hartmut, whom
she dearly loved. But as time went on, she saw more and more clearly
that her friend’s constancy was unalterable; and it troubled her
greatly, for she foresaw more evil days for Gudrun. So the Winter
passed, and the Summer, and another Winter drew nigh.

Then Gerlinda persuaded her son to ask Gudrun for the last time to share
his throne. So he went to her and besought her once more to be his
Queen. Again she refused; whereat Hartmut asked her if he was not as
worthy of her love as Herwig, but she only said: “Herwig hath my
promise, and I will not break it.”

Hartmut assured her that Herwig must have already broken faith with her,
since for all these years he had allowed his sword to rust in its sheath
and had made no effort to rescue her.

“In truth I know not why this should be,” she answered; “yet even if he
hath forgotten me, still will I be true to him till death.”

So Hartmut went back to Gerlinda and said: “Naught will alter the
maiden’s resolution. I can do no more; wherefore take her and deal with
her as thou wilt.”

Then he warned his knights to be on their guard. “For if the friends and
kindred of Gudrun be as steadfast as she hath proved herself,” he said,
“it yet may chance an army shall invade our land.”



                               Chapter XI
                            Gudrun’s Trials


From that day fresh hardships fell to the lot of the King’s daughter;
yet when the enraged Queen ordered her to return once more to her
drudgery, saying it was only pride that caused her to refuse Hartmut’s
hand, Gudrun answered quietly: “God knows my heart, and if it be His
will that I should suffer thus, it is not for me to rebel, but to do all
thou dost require of me, so that it touch not the faith I have sworn
with Herwig!”

To this the Queen replied: “Then shall it be thy daily task to wash
garments, and take heed that thou art not found idle a single hour from
early morn till nightfall!”

And this the maiden was forced to do, though she knew nothing of such
work; nor did Gerlinda fail to greet her with taunts and jeers whenever
she saw her. But Hartmut went about silently, with never a friendly word
to any man, for his heart was sore within him.

So diligently did Gudrun apply herself to her task, however, that soon
it would have been hard to find a more skilful washerwoman than the
high-born maiden, but her companions’ hearts were well-nigh broken when
they saw the heavy labor their beloved mistress was compelled to
perform. One of them, indeed, named Heregart, proved disloyal to her and
wedded a Norman duke, the King’s cup-bearer, whereby she found favor at
court, and all went well with her, but the rest of the damsels, like
Gudrun, remained true to their own land and to one another through all
their trials and sufferings. One of them, the Princess Hildburg, was so
grieved at Gudrun’s hard lot, and wept and lamented so bitterly over it,
that Gerlinda at last observed it and maliciously said to her: “Since
thou takest Gudrun’s fate so much to heart, go thou and take her place
when she is weary.”

“Gladly would I bear all her burdens, if such might be!” replied
Hildburg. “In God’s name, madame, put not the maiden to such shame!
Remember that her father wore a crown. Yet I, who am also a prince’s
child, would rejoice if I might only share her lot.”

“Now, by my faith, that shalt thou surely do, in payment for thy bold
words, thou malapert!” cried Gerlinda, furiously. “Through the snow
shalt thou go with Gudrun daily to the shore, and I will see to it thou
hast work enough to weary thee, I warrant!”

Gerlinda little knew that instead of inflicting a heavy punishment upon
the loyal maiden, she had made her happier than she had been for many a
day. Scarcely could she wait for evening to come, and when at last she
spied Gudrun wearily returning from her day’s labor, she ran to meet her
and they wept in one another’s arms. Then Hildburg said, “I have
persuaded that monster to let me go with thee to the shore and share thy
toil.”

“May God reward thy loyalty, dear Hildburg!” cried Gudrun, embracing her
once more, “if I but have thee to talk with while I am at my work, the
hours will seem short indeed!”

So the next morning, and thereafter, they went together with their
baskets to the shore, and though the work was hard and painful, their
love for each other sustained them and enabled them to endure their
sufferings patiently.



                              Chapter XII
                           On the Wulpensand


All this time Gudrun’s mother, Queen Hilda, as well as her lover,
brother, and all her friends, supposed that Hartmut had forced her to
become his wife; but none the less were they firmly resolved to avenge
the outrage and bring her home again. With this in view the Queen had
seven large strong vessels built, and two and twenty smaller ships; a
vast store of armor and weapons was also made ready, and at last one day
she summoned old Irolt to the castle and told him it was her wish to
erect a cloister on the Wulpensand in honor of her dead husband, and
after this was done, her loyal subjects should undertake the voyage to
Normandy.

“The day of retribution is in truth at hand, O Queen!” replied Irolt,
“for a brave and stalwart generation hath grown to manhood; methinks
’twere well to summon forthwith thy friends from far and near.”

The Queen was rejoiced and hastened to send messengers first of all to
Herwig of Zealand, who welcomed them gladly, for he surmised their
errand.

“Most noble Herwig,” said they, “the time has come to avenge Queen
Hilda’s wrong, and in this she counts upon thy aid.”

“Nor have I forgotten Gudrun, who was pledged to me in solemn troth and
whom Hartmut, in defiance of all right and custom hath held captive all
these years. Say to thy Queen I will join her speedily with my knights,
and that never yet was war so welcome to my heart.”

Then the messengers bore the news to the Queen’s other friends and
allies, to Horant, Morung, Frute, and Wate, and all promised to be
ready. When Hilda heard this she sent for her son Ortwin, who long had
yearned for this day to come. He was in the forest hawking when the
messengers arrived, and rode eagerly to meet them. They soon made known
to him what had passed, whereupon he snatched the hood from the falcon’s
head and let it go free, for now, thought he, “’tis a question of that
higher game, for which I have longed so often.” Joyfully he hurried to
his mother and sent out word to his followers to assemble with all
haste.

  Swift messengers the tidings bore
    With speed throughout the land;
  Ended were now the sounds of woe,
    Each warrior grasped his brand.
  The battle steeds were panoplied,
    The flags their folds outflung,
  While all along the western shore,
    Forests of masts upsprung.

At last all the preparations were complete, and the heroes sought Queen
Hilda and prayed her for leave to depart on their journey. Invoking
God’s blessing upon them she bade them farewell, and, after a last
tearful embrace of her son, turned to them, saying: “Watch over him
faithfully, my loyal friends! Brave and valiant I well know him to be;
yet he is but young and inexperienced in warfare. Keep ever at his side,
therefore, should he press forward too boldly in the tumult of battle.”

The heroes boarded the ships, already laden with their arms and stores,
while a great throng of people gathered on the shore to watch their
departure. The anchors were weighed, the white sails shaken out, and,
aided by a favoring gale, the fleet put out to sea. Women waved
farewells to their departing husbands; from the ships arose the sound of
trumpet and drum, while the heroes lustily chanted a war song as out
they sailed farther and farther into the shining sea. Wate took the lead
and steered the fleet for the Wulpensand. After a voyage of several days
the green island appeared before them; but before they could reach it a
great storm arose. Mountainous waves came rushing down upon them, the
ribs of the ships creaked and groaned, and the tall masts bent under the
fury of the gale. Dark as night it grew, while red lightning flashes
darted from the inky clouds and seemed to strike the water.

“Hark!” cried Horant. “Dost hear that sound of wailing? Methinks King
Hetel finds no rest in his unconsecrated grave.”

These words fired Ortwin with desire to carry peace to his father’s
soul, and tearing a cross from the mast he leaped with it into the
boiling flood which closed angrily over him. His comrades gave him up
for lost, but soon, by the glare of the lightning, they saw him rise to
the surface, and parting the waves with strong arms, he succeeded, by
God’s mercy, in gaining the shore of the Wulpensand. There he planted
the cross upon the mound that marked the warrior’s place of burial, and
knelt in prayer beside it. As the vivid flashes revealed the noble form
of the beautiful youth to those upon the ship, he seemed like a heavenly
vision, bathed in the fiery glow. The sight restored the sinking courage
of many a knight, and with new strength they bent to the work of
battling with the waves. Soon the thunder lessened, the wind died away,
and, as the golden sunlight broke again from out the clouds, their
vessels reached the shore in safety.

For many days the heroes remained on the island praying for the souls of
the departed, for few were there in all the host who had not some kin or
friend to mourn among the slain. The thought of these served to steel
their courage, and as Siegfried, who had been reminded of his oath, had
by this time joined them with a large number of ships and men, the whole
fleet put out again to sea.



                              Chapter XIII
                   The Tale of Hagen and the Griffin


The way was far to Normandy, and time often hung heavily on the hands of
the heroes, who were longing for action. Sometimes, when the wind
failed, a number of them would assemble on the deck, while gray-bearded
warriors related many an adventure of their own or their forefathers’.
Thus it chanced one day that several of the younger knights gathered
about Frute and besought him to tell them the tale of Hagen and the
Griffin. Frute agreed, and, seating himself upon a pile of armor, leaned
back against the mast while his hearers formed a circle about him on the
deck. The sun was setting and its ruddy gleams were reflected from the
mirror-like surface of the water upon the face of the aged hero, as he
began:

“Once upon a time there ruled in Ireland a King called Sigeband, whose
wife bore him a son. He was named Hagen, and while yet a child all who
saw him marvelled at his strength. By the time he had reached his
seventh year he refused to remain any longer in the women’s care, but
desired only to be with men and learn to wield arms. Sigeband encouraged
his son’s wishes, and the boy soon became so skilled in the use of spear
and sword that even the oldest warriors were amazed and declared that
never before had such a child been seen. Now it chanced that the Queen
one day was sitting upon the battlements of the castle gazing
sorrowfully out before her, when the King appeared and asked the cause
of her sadness.

“‘Dear lord!’ she replied, ‘rich indeed are we in lands and subjects, as
also in fame and honor, yet one thing do we lack that oft doth grieve me
much. At my dear father’s court many knights of great renown came and
went, and there were daily feastings and tourneys, the fame of which
spread throughout all lands. But here, alas! we heap up vast stores of
gold and jewels in our treasure chests, and forswear those pleasures
which might well serve in time of need to provide us with blood and
treasure.’

“‘Thou speakest truth, my wife,’ said the King, ‘and henceforth I will
do even as other princes. To-morrow messengers shall summon hither all
our friends from far and near, and we will prepare a great feast for
them.’

“At this Queen Ute was rejoiced and cried joyfully: ‘Then I will search
my chests and bring forth rich garments with gold and jewels also, that
we may fittingly reward the victors in the games.’

“Spring came and with it the time fixed for the festivities. The fields
were gay with blossoms, and wood and grove were filled with the songs of
birds. On every road were seen fluttering pennons as bands of knights in
shining armor approached from all directions. The huge castle with its
sixty towers was soon filled to overflowing, and sumptuous tents were
erected without the walls, while the King and Queen took good care that
their guests were well provided for in every way. Sounds of mirth and
rejoicing filled the air, and many a lance was splintered in the lists.
Thus nine days went joyously by, but on the tenth a terrible calamity
befell the royal host.

“In the hall a wandering minstrel had just struck his harp and begun his
heroic lay. King Sigeband and his Queen were seated on the throne, with
knights and ladies grouped about them in a circle. The little prince was
in the garden with his attendants who, attracted by the minstrel’s song,
had gathered about the door, forgetting the child; and he ran gayly
hither and thither, rejoicing in his freedom. Suddenly there was a great
crashing among the branches of the trees, and a griffin swooped down,
seized the boy in its claws and bore him off with mighty strokes of its
huge wings. His screams penetrated to the hall, and all rushed forth in
alarm; but rescue was then impossible, for already the griffin had
mounted to the clouds and soon vanished in the distance with its prey.
There was an end of all the festivities, and naught but lamentations and
cries of woe were heard throughout the castle, where but now had echoed
the sound of joyous laughter. The royal parents were well-nigh
broken-hearted.

“The boy still lived, however, and gazed, terror-stricken, into the
depths beneath him. Faster than the storm-wind flew the griffin and soon
the sea was beneath them. Full a hundred miles from home had he been
borne, when looking down Hagen perceived a dark chain of rugged
mountains rising from an island. Here the griffin alighted on a rocky
peak, flung the boy into its nest and flew away again. The young
griffins stretched their necks eagerly for the prey, the flapping of
their wings sounding like the breakers on the shore, but each tried to
seize the prize for himself and began to fight, clawing fiercely at one
another with harsh cries. One of the monsters, profiting by this
opportunity, seized the boy and flew with him to the top of a tree, but
as it alighted the branch broke beneath the creature’s weight, and
Hagen, slipping from its clutches, dropped safe to the ground and
hastily concealed himself in a cleft of rock thickly overgrown with
bushes.

“When the young hero had recovered somewhat from his fright he looked
about him and, seeing no sign of the griffin, was creeping cautiously
along through the bushes, when suddenly there stood before him three
beautiful damsels. They too had been stolen in their childhood by the
griffin; but how they had contrived to escape the monster is no part of
my tale. When they saw the noble boy in his rich garments coming toward
them they were terrified, and quickly disappeared in a rocky cave near
by, thinking that a dwarf who dwelt in the heart of the mountains had
come forth into the light of day. But no sooner did Hagen spy the
maidens than he sprang eagerly after them.

“‘Whence comest thou?’ they cried. ‘Get thee hence and do us no evil,
for enough have we to bear already!’

“‘Nay, dear maidens, send me not away, I pray,’ replied Hagen, ‘but give
me something to eat, for I am well-nigh famished. A fierce griffin
brought me hither. Only help me and I will tell you whence I came.’

“When they saw that it was really a human child before them, they were
overjoyed and caressed the boy fondly, after which they brought him food
and drink and made him welcome to their cave. There he abode with them
many days and years, and grew strong and brave under their loving care.

“One day a band of pilgrims chanced to approach the island in their
ships, and Hagen and the maidens gazed joyfully at them, for they
thought the hour of their deliverance had come. But suddenly a great
storm arose; lightning flashed from the inky clouds, and loud rolled the
thunder. The ships were tossed hither and thither among the raging
billows. One after another was dashed to pieces on the rocks in spite of
all the efforts of the unfortunate pilgrims; and when the storm subsided
no soul was left alive of all the band. The next morning the shore was
strewn with corpses, and the griffin bore many of them to its nest to
feed its young.

“Hagen spied the body of a knight among them who had been dashed against
a rock by the force of the waves. Watching his chance, the youth
hurriedly seized the knight’s mail and helm and sword and bow and
quiver. Scarcely had he completed his task when he heard a whiffling
among the rocks and saw the griffin approaching; but now he was well
armed and had no thought of fear. With steady hand he launched an arrow
at the creature, but it rebounded from the thick hide and fell harmless
to the ground. Therewith the furious monster rushed upon him; but
already the sword flashed above Hagen’s head, and springing aside he
shore off one of the huge wings. Then it struck fiercely at him with its
claw, but this too he severed at a blow, and soon his foe lay dead
before him. A cry of joy issued from the cave; but scarcely was it
uttered when a fresh terror seized the maidens, for now a whole swarm of
griffins came swooping down from the rocks. But Hagen’s courage had
grown with victory, and the sword gleamed like lightning in his hands.
Fierce indeed was the struggle and many a hero would have succumbed, but
the youth held his ground bravely and succeeded at last in slaying all
the monsters.

“Then he cried: ‘Come forth, dear maidens! Now for the first time you
may enjoy the sun and air in freedom, without fear!’

“Joyously they ran to greet the gallant youth—nor could they
sufficiently thank him for slaying the terrible griffins.

“A new life began for Hagen. From that hour he had no thought save for
the use of his new-found weapons; nor was it long till he could bring
down birds upon the wing with his arrows. Even fishes in the water could
not escape his skill. He would spend whole days roaming about through
the forest; learned to run swiftly as the flying stag, and, to the
amazement and terror of the maidens, would leap streams and chasms with
the strength and agility of the panther.

“Once a fierce dragon sprang at him from a dark cleft of rock; but Hagen
clove its skull with his sharp sword, and it fell, writhing horribly in
the death agony. When it was dead he tasted the blood of the creature,
and immediately felt new strength come to him; whereupon he drank of it
till he had gained the strength of twelve men. The skin he bore with him
to the cave as a trophy of his victory.

“Not long after this he met a lion in the forest, but at the sound of
his mighty hunting call the beast turned and fled. Hagen pursued and
captured it alive and, after binding up its jaws and claws with ropes of
fibre, bore his prize to the maidens on his shoulders. Before this they
had been unable to make fires and were forced to eat raw meat, but now
Hagen could strike sparks from the rocks, and this proved of great help
to the maidens. The food they were now able to prepare was more
wholesome and palatable, and day by day their beauty grew to greater
fulness.

“One day Hagen said: ‘Let us follow the shore of the island; perchance
elsewhere we may discover a ship that will take us to our homes.’

“They set out upon their quest without delay, the maidens clad in
garments they had skilfully wrought from fibre, and after twenty-five
days of wandering they descried a vessel. Hagen’s voice was louder than
the roaring of the waves, and his shouts were soon heard by those on the
ship; but when they beheld the strangely clad damsels, they took them
for water-nixies and dared not row a boat to land. Then Hagen called on
them for help in God’s name; whereupon the count who commanded the
vessel entered a boat with twelve knights and came ashore. He was struck
with the wondrous beauty of the maidens, but they were ashamed of their
rude attire and hastily concealed themselves. Some of the knights rowed
back to the ship and fetched some women’s apparel, which the girls
hastily donned in the shelter of a thicket, after which the count took
them with Hagen on his vessel. The ship’s folk greeted the maidens
kindly when they found they were not tricksy sprites but fair mortals;
and after they had refreshed themselves with food and drink, the count
asked what evil fate had brought them to the island.

“They were loath to make their misfortunes known to a stranger, yet
could not well refuse the request. Accordingly, the eldest replied: ‘My
father wore the crown of farthest India, when the griffin snatched me
from him. Alas! I shall nevermore behold my home!’

“‘I too am from a distant land,’ said the second maiden. ‘My noble
father—plunged in deepest sorrow by my loss, I fear—was King of
Portugal, and many princes did homage to him.’

“Lastly, the youngest spoke: ‘My home is in Iceland, whence the griffin
bore me hither. So dear am I unto my father that well I know he gladly
would bestow his crown on him who may restore me to him.’

“‘’Twas by God’s will that ye were carried to the island,’ said the
count, ‘and surely He hath wrought your deliverance. Trust yourselves
therefore to His care!’

“Then he turned to Hagen, saying: ‘Thy companions have made known to me
their rank and history; now would I gladly learn thine own, bold youth,
and how thou camest to the island.’

“‘My fate was even as theirs, Sir Knight,’ replied Hagen; ‘like them I
was borne hither by the griffin. As for my father, he is King of
Ireland, Sigeband by name.’

“Then the count asked whether the monster yet lived. Hagen’s eyes
flashed and he grasped his sword firmly as he answered: ‘Nay, I slew the
creature and therewith all its young.’

“All eyes were fixed in amazement upon the young hero as he spoke these
words, and some of the knights praised him, saying: ‘Truly, thy deed is
worthy all men’s praise; indeed ’twere doubtful whether any of us would
have succeeded in slaying the griffin.’

“But Hagen observed how they talked with one another apart and
endeavored secretly to remove his weapons. This roused his anger, and he
warned them against any misdeed; whereupon the count whispered to his
followers: ‘We must accomplish our ends by force!’ Then approaching
Hagen, he said harshly: ‘Of a truth, thou hast fallen into my hands in
good time. Much injury have I suffered from thy father’s
warriors—wherefore I will hold thee captive till such time as he shall
have made me full amends.’

“‘Whatsoever evil may have befallen thee at the hands of Ireland’s
heroes, that surely is no fault of mine,’ replied Hagen. ‘Yet do thou
but fetch me to my home and all shall be well, I promise thee.’

“‘Better security is it for me to hold thee prisoner,’ said the count.
‘As for the maidens, I will bestow them upon my courtiers.’

“At these words Hagen flew into a passion. ‘Now, by my faith,’ he
shouted, ‘I will not be thy captive, nor shalt thou touch one hair upon
the maidens’ heads!’ Then turning to the ship’s people, he cried—‘Richly
will I reward you, good mariners, if ye will hearken to my bidding and
bear me to my home. Heed well my words, for if ye do fail me, good cause
shall ye have to rue it.’

“But the count sternly ordered them to seize Hagen, whereupon the youth
snatched his sword from its sheath, and a furious fight began upon the
ship. Heads rolled from the deck into the sea, and Hagen thrust the
bodies after them with his foot. None could stand against him, and at
last all those who were not slain fled to the farthest corner of the
ship’s hold. Then he rushed upon the count, who would surely have been
slain had not the maidens besought Hagen to have mercy. At their
prayers, the hero sheathed his sword and ordered the ship to be steered
according to his will. None dared now to oppose him, and thus the
homeward voyage to Ireland was begun. Nor did the ship’s folk need word
or deed from this time forth to urge them to industry, for they already
feared his very glance.

“On the seventeenth day they came in sight of the castle where Hagen’s
parents dwelt, and the mariners were in great fear lest Sigeband should
slay them; but when Hagen saw this he reassured them, saying: ‘Fear not!
My father will forgive all when he learns ’twas ye that did save me from
the island. Some of you shall bear a message to my parents to tell them
I still do live, and surely no evil will befall those who bring such
tidings.’

“Choosing twelve men, therefore, he said to them: ‘Go ye to the court
and ask the King if he would behold his son. He will not credit your
words, perchance. Seek then my mother and ask her if she doth bear in
mind the golden cross her son was used to wear upon his breast. She will
surely follow you to the ship.’

“The men did as they were bidden; but when they entered the royal hall,
the King at once recognized them by their garments as his foes and
angrily demanded how they had dared come thither. Whereupon one of them
replied: ‘My Lord, thy son Hagen hath sent us. Soon shalt thou behold
him, for he is close at hand.’

“‘Thy words are false!’ cried Sigeband, ‘for who that knoweth how my
dear son was torn from me may believe he still doth live? ’Tis many
years now I have mourned his death.’

“Then turning to the Queen, the messengers asked her whether she would
still know the cross she had given to her son; whereat a great flood of
joy swept over her, and she cried eagerly, ‘Let us hasten to the shore
that I may see the cross!’

“The King ordered horses to be brought at once, and rode forth with the
Queen from the gates of the castle, followed by a stately train. Hagen
meanwhile had come on shore with the knights and the maidens, and when
he beheld his beloved parents once again his heart swelled with joy,
while tears overflowed his eyes. Crowds of people had gathered to gaze
upon him, for he had grown to be a mighty hero. The King made him
welcome, saying: ‘If thou art he whom thou declarest thyself to be, then
shall my declining years be made glad indeed!’

“As his mother approached, the youth drew the golden cross from his
breast and held it out to her, whereupon with a cry of joy she clasped
him to her heart and wept aloud for happiness, while his father, too,
embraced him, with streaming eyes.

“Hagen now interceded for the count, and Sigeband, who could refuse
nothing to his new-found son, clasped hands with his enemy in token of
peace, and promised to make amends for any wrongs the count might have
received at his hands.

“Joyously they all took their way back to the castle. The Queen welcomed
the maidens as if they had been her own daughters, and clothed them in
the costliest apparel. Hagen soon after chose the maiden from India,
Hilda by name, as his wife. On the death of his parents he mounted the
throne and became one of the mightiest princes that ever reigned. His
wife presented him with a daughter, also called Hilda, who afterwards
became Queen of our land and whose wrongs we are now going forth to
avenge. God grant her child Gudrun be yet alive!”

Night had fallen as the old knight closed his tale. The full moon rode
high in the heavens and the pale stars looked down kindly upon the band
of warriors.



                              Chapter XIV
                          The Welcome Message


One day Gudrun stood with Hildburg on the shore watching the sun sink
like a fiery ball into the shining sea, when suddenly something rose
above the crimson surface of the water that looked like a white swan.
But when it came nearer, Gudrun saw that it was a beautiful mermaid; and
as both the damsels gazed in wonder at this apparition, it spoke to them
and said: “If ye seek for comfort, then ask of me what ye would know!”

So Gudrun asked first of all if her mother yet lived and if all was well
with her.

The mermaid answered: “Gladly will I tell thee what ’twill rejoice thy
heart to hear. Queen Hilda lives and ever hopes to see thy safe return.
To that end hath she made ready such a mighty fleet as seldom hath
sailed the waves.”

Again Gudrun asked: “How fares it with my brother Ortwin? and tell me, O
gentle spirit, is Herwig, my betrothed, alive?”

[Illustration: _Gudrun on the Strand_]

In silvery tones the mermaid replied: “Well are they both, and now upon
the sea. Soon shalt thou have proof that thou art not forgotten.”

Then Gudrun’s face shone, and tears of joy glistened in her eyes.
“Truly,” she said, “these are joyous tidings thou dost bring me. Yet
tell me further if thou canst—do Irolt and Morung come hither also?”

“Soon shall many a Norman helm be shattered by their swords!” answered
the maiden, and so saying she disappeared beneath the crimson flood.

Then the maidens lamented that they could question her no further, and
Gudrun said: “Come forth to us once more, sweet messenger!” whereat the
water parted and again the mermaid arose.

“Ask what thou wouldst know!” she said, and Gudrun continued eagerly:
“Hartmut and Ludwig are well armed and have many a valiant knight to aid
them, wherefore I would know if Horant too is with my kin. ’Twould
grieve me much did we lack his sword in battle!”

“He is among the heroes on the fleet,” the mermaid answered; “when they
shall engage in battle to deliver thee and avenge the death of the King
and his followers, ’tis Horant that will bear thy mother’s banner in the
fight.”

Once more Gudrun asked: “And Frute and Wate—are they too with our
knights?”

“In truth,” replied the mermaid, “thou hast no truer friends than those
same heroes. Frute is on that ship whose helm Count Wate’s mighty arm
directs.”

Again she was about to vanish, but Gudrun cried beseechingly: “Tell me,
I pray thee, when shall the first messenger from my mother appear to
me?”

And the mermaid answered as she slowly sank beneath the waves:
“To-morrow morn two messengers will come to thee—warriors are they both,
on whom thou mayst rely.”

Gudrun and Hildburg were now so full of joy and hope that they only half
completed their allotted tasks, and they talked of nothing but the
beloved friends they were so soon to see. On their return in the evening
they were received by the wicked Gerlinda with bitter abuse because they
had accomplished so little work.

Hildburg pleaded: “Be patient with us, madam, for indeed we work as much
as we are able. Were it not for the biting winds that blow upon the
shore we could do better.”

But the Queen replied harshly: “What care I for the cold winds! See to
it ye are at your work betimes upon the morrow, for there is much to be
made ready for the feast, and if all be not finished by nightfall, in
truth ye shall suffer for it more dearly than ever did servants of a
King!”

After their scanty meal of bread and water, they sought the chamber
where two hard benches without pillows of any sort served them as beds;
but little sleep was there for them, so eagerly they watched for the
first glimmer of dawn. At last a faint ray of light penetrated the
chamber, and Hildburg arose and looked out of the window.

“Alas!” she cried, “what shall we do? Snow has fallen in the night. If
we are forced to wash to-day in those piercing winds, by sunset they
will surely find us dead upon the shore!”

Gudrun, too, shuddered at the thought, but she reminded Hildburg it was
there they were to see the messengers, and this gave them courage. Also
she said to her: “Go thou to the Queen and beseech her to give us shoes
to wear to-day. If I ask it she will certainly refuse, so great is her
hatred for me.”

So Hildburg sought the Queen, who still lay in her luxurious bed, but
the maiden dared not awaken her and returned sadly to her companion.
Gerlinda soon appeared, however, and berated them roughly for not being
already at their work.

“Snow has fallen, O Queen,” said Hildburg; “give us shoes to wear, we
pray thee, else shall we surely freeze!”

But Gerlinda only laughed, and cried scornfully: “Let your pride keep
you warm, forsooth! No shoes shall you have from me. And beware if your
work be not finished by nightfall! What would your deaths matter to me,
fool?”

Weeping bitterly, Gudrun exclaimed: “It may be God’s will that I shall
one day remind thee of this!” And in their bare feet the poor maidens
made their way through the March snows to the seashore and began their
painful task.



                               Chapter XV
                            The Two Knights


Beyond the royal castle the coast was thickly wooded for a long
distance, and there the fleet from Hegelingen had lain concealed for two
days, having reached Normandy at last after their long and tedious
voyage. The horses were led ashore to stretch their stiffened limbs, and
all was made ready for the approaching struggle. Wate charged his men to
see that the fastenings of helm and hauberk were well secured, adding:
“If there be any whose shirt of mail too loosely sits upon him, he may
choose another, for Queen Hilda has provided five hundred fresh suits of
armor and each good knight may claim one as his due.”

The heroes then held a council and Ortwin said: “Frute hath seen seven
castles from the tree on yonder hill; but which of them is Ludwig’s and
Hartmut’s stronghold? We first assail that, and before the battle we
must also learn where Gudrun and the other maidens abide.”

“Spies must be sent out,” declared Frute.

Whereupon Ortwin announced that he would be a spy and go in quest of
what they wished to learn. All protested against this plan, but the
young hero said firmly, “Mine is the task of right, since Gudrun is my
sister.”

“’Tis true she is thy sister, brother Ortwin,” said Herwig, “but also is
she my betrothed. Therefore I will go with thee.”

This did not please Wate, and finding they were not to be moved from
their purpose, he grew very wroth. “This is but childish folly!” he
cried, “and never will I agree to it. ’Twould be bad enough were one of
our knights to be seized by Hartmut’s people, but how would it fare with
you, did such befall?”

“We must shrink from no danger when Gudrun’s rescue is at stake,”
replied Herwig; “nor would any in all the army be so zealous in her
cause as we ourselves. Wherefore gainsay us not, good Wate, for thou
canst not alter our determination.”

Then, summoning the foremost of their comrades, they charged them to
fulfil faithfully the oaths they had sworn. “Mark well my words, bold
warriors!” said Ortwin; “should we be captured and held for ransom, sell
all your lands and goods, if need be, to secure our freedom. But if they
slay us, then avenge our death as befitteth true comrades; and above
all, I charge you, spare no effort to deliver Gudrun and those other
unhappy maidens.”

To this they all pledged themselves and gave the princes their hands
upon the promise, vowing never to rest till Gudrun was restored to her
home. Then Ortwin and Herwig took leave of their comrades, stepped into
a boat and pushed off, followed by many an anxious glance. Keeping close
to the shore, they had rowed almost to the nearest castle when, rounding
a wooded point, they beheld two maidens on the strand. At the sight of
the approaching knights Gudrun was seized with mingled joy and fear.

“These must be the warriors of whom we were told!” she said. “Yet how
can I endure the shame of it, should any messenger from my friends find
me in this wretched plight? Tell me, I pray thee, dear Hildburg, what I
shall do,—remain here at my shameful task, or seek refuge in flight?”

“Surely thou knowest best what is befitting,” replied Hildburg. “Choose
therefore quickly, and I will do as thou sayst.” And with that, Gudrun
turned and fled.

When the heroes saw the maidens disappearing they hastily leaped ashore,
for they had hoped to gain some information from them. “Why do ye flee
from us, fair maids?” they cried; “surely we mean you no harm. Come
back! or ye shall lose all the costly garments that lie here upon the
shore!”

But the maidens paid no heed. Then Herwig shouted: “I charge you in the
name of woman’s honor to reply to us!”

At this the tears started to Gudrun’s eyes. “Alas!” she cried, “have we
ever forgotten aught that is due to woman’s honor? No longer will I seek
to flee!” and therewith she returned to the shore followed by Hildburg.
The knights gazed at them in astonishment; for in spite of their long
and arduous labors they still retained their proud and lofty bearing,
though so scantily clad that they shivered in the chill March snow
falling about them.

“Fear not,” said Ortwin. “May God chastise any that would deal evilly by
you! But methinks ye are more fit to wear crowns than thus to toil
beside the shore. Hath your master other washer-maidens so fair as ye?”

“In yonder castle are many maidens more beautiful than we,” replied
Gudrun. “Yet, I pray thee, sir, permit us to return to our task, for
should our mistress see us idle it would fare ill with us.”

Then Ortwin offered them four golden rings, saying: “Nay, be not angry
at our words, but take these rings. They shall be yours if ye will but
answer truthfully the questions we would ask.”

Gudrun shook her head. “We may take no gifts from ye, fair sirs,” she
answered, “yet put your questions quickly, for we must not stay. If it
were known at the castle that we had talked with you, we should pay
dearly for it.”

“First tell us, then,” said Herwig, “to whom may all these rich lands
and castles belong?”

“King Ludwig is lord of this land, and in yonder castle holds his
court,” replied Gudrun.

Herwig asked if Hartmut was then at home, and Gudrun answered: “He is
even now within the castle, and with him full four thousand of his
knights.”

The maidens would fain have departed, yet they were loath to leave the
strangers, whose speech reminded them so much of home.

“We would learn further,” said Ortwin, “wherefore Hartmut hath so many
knights assembled at the castle. Is he perchance at feud with some
neighboring country and seeking to guard himself against attack?”

“Of that I know naught,” replied Gudrun; but after a pause she added:
“Yet there is one, a far distant land whose power Hartmut well might
fear. It is called Hegelingen.” As the name of the fatherland passed her
lips tears streamed down the maiden’s cheeks and she turned away to hide
them.

When the heroes saw how the damsels shook with cold they hastily offered
their cloaks, but Gudrun refused them, saying: “May God reward your
kindness, gentle sirs, but none shall ever see me in man’s attire.”

Thereupon Herwig looked more closely at her, and a sigh escaped him as
he seemed to see a likeness to the fair betrothed whom he supposed to
have been forced to become Hartmut’s wife, little thinking that she now
stood before him.

Again Ortwin questioned her: “Were not some noble damsels once brought
hither from a distant land? One of them was called Gudrun.”

“Alas, ’tis true!” she answered. “Well do I know her whom thou namest.
She came as Hartmut’s captive, and much hath the poor maid been forced
to bear.”

At this the heroes cried with one voice: “Tell us quickly, damsel, where
we may find her!”

“If indeed it be she ye seek, then never shall ye find her more on
earth,” said Gudrun. “Of grief and suffering is she dead and lieth deep
beneath the flowery sod.”

Herwig covered his eyes with his hand, while Ortwin turned away and
leaned upon his sword, shaking his head sorrowfully.

Then Gudrun cried: “Why are ye so moved by this news, sir knights? Your
breasts heave as they would burst your mail asunder! ’Twould almost seem
that ye were kin to that poor maid.”

Herwig could no longer contain his grief, but wrung his hands and cried
aloud: “Alas, noble damsels, she was more than life to me! My bride,
betrothed to me by solemn vows when Hartmut treacherously did steal her
from her home!”

“Thy words are false!” cried Gudrun. “Thou art not Herwig! He would long
since have sought to deliver her; or were she no more, then at the least
her unhappy women, one of whom am I!”

“Nay, by my faith, ’tis truth I speak!” said Herwig. “If thou indeed art
one of Gudrun’s maidens, then wilt thou know this ring upon my finger,
for ’twas a gift from her, who once did wear it.”

Then Gudrun’s eyes shone like stars and her cheeks flushed. “Well do I
know both gold and jewel,” she said, “for it was I that wore the ring!”
And raising her own hand, she added: “Perchance thou knowst this also;
’twas Herwig placed it on my finger!”

Now at last brother and sister, bridegroom and bride, knew one another
and wept together in mingled joy and sorrow. Still supposing her to be
Hartmut’s wife, Ortwin at length asked Gudrun how she, a Queen, chanced
to be in such wretched plight and forced to perform such menial tasks.

Weeping she answered: “How couldst thou think, my brother, that I would
wed King Hartmut? Ever have I remained true to my plighted troth and
therefore am I forced to bear much evil.”

“Well indeed have we succeeded in our task!” cried Herwig. “Come let us
hasten to the boat and thy maiden with thee. Our fleet is close at hand
and we will guide thee thither. Now of a truth are all thy sorrows
ended!”

“This may not be,” replied Ortwin, “dear as my sister is to me. Aye, had
I an hundred sisters like to Gudrun I would lose them every one, rather
than steal them thus away like any thief!”

“Yet bethink thee how Gudrun’s danger will increase when our presence
here is known,” remonstrated Herwig. “Perchance we shall never find her
then!”

“Have no fear, Herwig!” answered Ortwin. “Though my sister be buried in
their deepest dungeon—thou still shalt see her on the morrow. Yet even
should it be otherwise, I would be hacked to pieces with her on this
spot ere she should with my consent be taken away in secret!”

Gudrun said reproachfully: “What evil have I done to thee, my brother,
that thou wouldst leave me longer in servitude? Didst thou know what I
am forced to bear, thou wouldst take me hence this very hour!”

“Think not, dear sister,” replied Ortwin, “that I fail in love for thee.
But to do thus, believe me, were no knightly deed.”

Reluctantly Herwig agreed with Ortwin in this, and they accordingly took
leave of the maidens and returned to their boat. Gudrun wept bitterly,
crying: “Alas! are my troubles never to cease? For years have I waited
and longed for this, only to be once more forsaken when I scarce have
looked upon your faces?”

“’Tis but for a brief space that we leave thee, dearest maid,” cried
Herwig from the boat, “that we may bear thee homeward in all honor.
To-morrow morn at sunrise we shall be before the castle with a host. Be
of good cheer and let no one know that thou hast seen us. God will be
our aid!”

So saying, they seized their oars, and soon the boat was lost to sight
behind the bend in the shore.



                              Chapter XVI
                          Danger and Stratagem


Now it chanced that Heregart, the damsel who was wedded to Hartmut’s
cup-bearer, had spied the two knights with Gudrun and Hildburg on the
shore, and supposing them to be fishermen, she told the Queen how Gudrun
had kissed and embraced them. Hastening to the window, Gerlinda saw the
maidens standing idle and seeming by their motions to be talking eagerly
together. So indeed they were, for they could think of nothing but their
happiness and the good fortune that was in store for them the next day.

“Two great and noble Kings have this day held me in their arms,” said
Gudrun, “and no longer will I degrade myself with these shameful tasks
Gerlinda hath imposed on me.”

But Hildburg replied: “Methinks ’twere better we did finish what was
given us, for that wicked wretch will make us suffer yet more cruelly if
she find it left undone.”

“Nay, let come what will,” cried Gudrun, proudly, “for me, I care not!”
and therewith she flung all the garments into the sea. For a time they
floated on the surface, then sank, and were seen no more. By this time
it was growing dark, and the maidens took their way back to the castle,
where the Queen met them with angry abuse.

“Wherefore tarriest thou so late?” she cried to Gudrun. “The love of
mighty Kings thou dost despise forsooth, yet thou stoopest to bandy
words, aye, and kisses, too, with low knaves upon the shore. Deny it
not, for Heregart with her own eyes hath seen it! Methinks thy boasted
pride should keep thee from such deeds as this!”

Gudrun raised her head, and her cheeks flamed, as she retorted: “’Tis
shameful falsehood thou dost speak! Never have I held speech with any
man in all this land save he were of my friends or kindred!”

“Ha!” cried Gerlinda, choking with rage, “thou darest to give me the
lie! Dearly shalt thou atone for this, thou spiteful jade!”

“Take heed how thou dost do me further wrong!” said Gudrun. “Of nobler
blood am I than thou; and thy whole house and thou may one day have to
reckon for your sins!”

Suddenly Gerlinda discovered the empty baskets and asked where the
garments were. “At the bottom of the sea!” replied Gudrun, “where they
may remain, for aught of me!”

“Now shall it fare ill with you for this!” shrieked the Queen, and
trembling with passion she ordered thorns to be brought with which to
scourge Gudrun’s back, and bade two of her retainers bind the maiden to
a post with hempen cords. At this a great weeping and wailing arose
among the women; but Gudrun in her extremity resorted to an artifice.

“Gerlinda,” she said, “thou hast been greatly deceived. Yet bethink
thee—how can it be that I should ever wear the crown of Normandy, if I
have once been bound and scourged by knaves here in thy land?”

In speechless astonishment the Queen gazed at Gudrun as if she had not
heard her words aright. But the maiden continued: “It is even as I say.
If it be still his wish I will consent to wed thy son and be Queen of
Normandy.”

Forthwith some knights who heard these words hastened to Hartmut with
the news, hoping for a reward. That hero was seated in his chamber with
his comrades, listening to the tale of some aged warrior’s heroic deeds,
when the door flew open and a knight burst in exclaiming: “Good news,
good news, most noble King! The lady Gudrun’s heart hath softened, and
she consents to be thy wife!”

“Nay, surely thou art mad!” said Hartmut. “How can it be, when all these
years she hath remained deaf to my entreaties? Yet, by my faith, an thy
words prove true thou shalt have three castles with all the lands
thereto, aye, and sixty rings of gold moreover, for thy news. Ah, then
indeed would my life be blest!”

Therewith came a second knight and said: “The Queen desires thy
presence, my lord, for Gudrun agrees to accept thee as her husband.”

Then Hartmut sprang up joyfully and hastened to Gudrun, whom he found
still in her dripping garments. The tears started to her eyes at sight
of him, for although necessity had forced her to this stratagem, it
grieved her sorely that she must deceive him. He was about to clasp her
to his heart, but she stepped back, saying: “Nay, my lord Hartmut, that
may not be as yet. Ill would it become a mighty King to stoop to a lowly
serving maid as I am now; but when I stand before thee crowned and clad
in royal robes, then mayst thou embrace me before all thy knights.”

“Most noble maiden,” replied Hartmut, “since thou art now to be my wife,
gladly will I do thy will in all things.”

“If this be true and I may here indeed command,” said Gudrun, “then do I
desire a bath to be prepared at once, and let my damsels be restored to
me.”

“Thy wishes shall be obeyed forthwith,” replied Hartmut, and he ordered
the maidens to be summoned thither from their labors. Soon they
appeared, clad in soiled and ragged garments, their hair hanging in
disorder about their faces.

“Behold, O King, the plight of these poor maids!” said Gudrun, pointing
to them. “Methinks ’tis little to thy honor they should meet with such
mistreatment.”

“All shall be changed now, I promise thee, fair maid,” replied the King.

“See then that those who have been made to suffer for me be provided
with such apparel as befits their rank, for all are of noble birth,”
demanded Gudrun.

After Hartmut had issued these commands he left the hall; and the
tirewomen, hoping thereby to win Gudrun’s favor, performed their tasks
with such zeal and despatch that soon the maidens blossomed out fair and
beautiful once more in their costly attire. But before Gudrun they all
paled as do the stars before the sun.

Then Hartmut had rich viands laid before them, with wine and mead; and
sending for his sister Ortrun, he made known to her that what they so
long had prayed for at last had come to pass. Ortrun hastened at once to
Gudrun and the two maidens wept in each other’s arms. Once more they sat
joyfully side by side, yet each had a different cause for happiness;
Ortrun rejoicing that she was to have Gudrun as a sister, while Gudrun’s
thoughts were of her friends and the deliverance that was to come to her
through them.

“Already had it been agreed,” said Ortrun, “that I should wear the crown
of the kingdom; for since thou didst scorn Hartmut, he would always have
remained unwedded. But to thee, dear Gudrun, I gladly yield both crown
and royal honors.”

Her loving words brought tears to Gudrun’s eyes, and she replied softly:
“Never hast thou shown me aught but kindness. May God reward thee for
it! Nor will I forget how oft my sufferings have caused thee grief.”

Then turning to Hartmut, she said: “Do thou send messengers to all thy
friends and summon them to court without delay. Not till these have
shown themselves loyal to me may I wear the crown of thy kingdom in
peace and safety.”

So Hartmut went forthwith and chose an hundred knights to ride forth
with messages that very night—much to Gudrun’s secret joy, for she knew
these warriors would be far from the battlefield by the next morning.

Then she begged to be left alone with her damsels after their long
separation, and Gerlinda and Hartmut yielded willingly to her desire.
Ortrun, too, kissed her friend and departed, while Hartmut sent
cup-bearers and servers, who once more loaded the tables with food and
drink.

One of the maidens cried woefully: “My heart is like to break, for now
we shall see home no more, but ever abide here with those who brought us
hither to our sorrow.” And she began to weep as did all the rest.

Gudrun dared not speak now of the news which had brought her such
comfort, but her joy was so great that she laughed aloud. Word of this
was brought to Gerlinda, who told Ludwig of it and then sought Hartmut.

“My son,” she said, “believe me, some dire evil threatens us! Gudrun,
whose lips have never smiled in all these years, hath just laughed
aloud, so that the sound of it was heard in the hall without. Some
secret message must have reached her with good news. Be on thy guard, I
say, and see that thy comrades are well armed!”

But Hartmut was too full of joy to harbor any thought of ill.

“Begrudge not her happiness to the maid!” was his reply. “Her friends
are much too far away ever to come hither to seek her!”

After their repast, Gudrun asked the servitors if beds had been prepared
for her and her women; whereupon, taking lights, they led them to a hall
in which stood thirty beds, with pillows of gayly colored Arabian
stuffs, and decked with coverlets of silk cunningly interwoven with
threads of gold which gleamed like fire. Gudrun dismissed them, saying:
“We would fain seek rest such as has long been denied us; wherefore
depart and leave us to ourselves.”

When they were alone, the doors were made fast and all seated themselves
to partake of the rare wines that had been placed upon the table. Then
Gudrun said in a low voice: “At last, dear maidens, I may make known
what cause we have for rejoicing. All have remained true to me and to
the fatherland save one, Heregart, who will sorely rue her infidelity, I
fear. This very day my brother Ortwin, and Herwig, my betrothed, came to
me bringing good tidings. To-morrow you yourselves shall see them before
the castle with all their host. Hearken now and mark my words! She who
with morning’s light shall first discover the banners of our friends and
tell me of it will have rich reward.”

Now the joy of the maidens knew no bounds; but Gudrun, fearing there
were listeners without the door, bade them repress all expression
thereof that might betray them.



                              Chapter XVII
                              The Morning


When Ortwin and Herwig returned from their quest, the other heroes
hastened joyfully to meet them and asked what news they brought.
“Quickly summon all our comrades and then ye shall learn all,” replied
Ortwin. When the warriors had gathered about him in a circle he began:
“Fain would I leave unsaid that which I have to tell, good comrades. I
have seen my sister Gudrun and her companion Hildburg.”

Here one of the knights interrupted him, saying: “Make no mock of us,
Sir Prince! How could that have been? Gudrun, if indeed she yet doth
live, would surely be kept safe within the castle.”

“Ill would it become me to make sport of gallant knights,” replied
Ortwin. “If you doubt my words, ask Herwig then, for he did also see
her; yet, alas! ’twas in such a plight that deeply must we sorrow for
her fate. We found her with Hildburg, who doth share her lot, as a
washer-maiden on the shore!”

At this the heroes shed tears of grief and rage, but old Wate shouted:
“Now, by the mass, this is no time for tears. Rather let us go forthwith
and dye those garments crimson that Gudrun hath washed white for Hartmut
and his knights!”

A council was now held to determine the best plan for attacking the
castle both by land and sea. “Let me but have them once within my
reach,” said Wate, “and I will thank them well for what they have done
to Gudrun! Hearken now to my counsel. One part of our forces must
approach the castle walls by land before the dawn; this I myself will
lead. The moon shines bright, and ere ’tis day we shall have the castle
surrounded on every side, while in the early morning ye shall bring the
rest of our warriors with the fleet to aid us from the sea.”

This plan was at once agreed upon and all busied themselves with
preparations for departure. Long before daybreak Wate with his force had
completely surrounded the castle on the landward side. A wood concealed
the horsemen, who stretched themselves out with their heads upon their
shields to enjoy a brief repose. Wate had enjoined them, however, to be
early astir, and linger not after the first sign of dawn. At the first
sound of his hunting horn all were to seize their arms, at the second
seek their steeds, and at the third they were to swing themselves into
their saddles and follow the banner of the Queen, which was to be borne
before them.

Herwig, Ortwin, and the other heroes meanwhile had embarked with their
followers and were waiting for the dawn. Quickly the night hours passed,
and the morning sun rose in splendor from the sea.

  From helm and harness, spear and shield
  Shot forth in dazzling ray—
  A sea of fire which seemed to spring
  From wood and plain and bay,
  And rolling in swift circling course
  About the castle lay.

  Gay banners in the morning glow,
  Soon waved on every height;
  In majesty, like giant swans,
  Upon the waters bright,
  Glided the ships with sails outspread—
  In truth a noble sight.

One of the damsels approached Gudrun’s bed, and cried, “Awaken, lady,
for our knights are near!”

Quickly she sprang up and hastened to the window; but when she saw the
banners fluttering in the morning breeze and looked down on the
thousands who were joyously pressing on to battle, she burst into tears
at the thought of how many gallant heroes must fall in death that day.

Suddenly the tower warden raised his mighty voice. “Up—up! bold
knights,” he shouted, “up and to arms! Already have the Norman heroes
slept too long!”

Gerlinda heard his cry and, springing from her bed, mounted to the
battlements of the castle and gazed down tremblingly on the host. Then
she hurried down to arouse King Ludwig who as yet had heard nothing of
the alarm.

“Awake! awake! O King,” she cried in shrill tones. “Our castle is
surrounded by a mighty army, and dearly shall we have to pay this day
for Gudrun’s laughter!”

Ludwig bade her be silent, declaring he must see this army with his own
eyes. “Yet, come what will,” he said, “I am ready to meet it!” Then
going to the window and looking down at the advancing host, he added:
“Perchance they are but pilgrims coming hither bent on sale and barter.
Call our son Hartmut, he will know.”

Hartmut was already awake. He allowed his men to sleep on, however, and
mounted to the battlements with Ludwig. Meanwhile the sun had lit the
depths below, and when Hartmut beheld the serried ranks, he said: “These
are no pilgrims, surely; they press upon us far too closely.”

“Look at the banners, my son,” said Ludwig, “mine eyes cannot
distinguish the devices.”

After a moment, Hartmut spoke: “I see one yonder that hath the look of
an enemy’s; aye, ’tis the banner of Karade—on a brown field waves a head
of ruddy gold. These are no welcome guests, for ere that standard sinks
full many a stalwart hero will have suffered death. Siegfried, who leads
them, once did also woo Gudrun. The white one with the golden bars that
flies beside it Wate hath unfurled. Queen Hilda gave it to him. The aged
hero to the right is Frute, brother-in-arms to Wate. Yonder is Horant,
who doth sing such beauteous lays. Now shall he chant for us a slumber
song when we have slain the foe and would gain rest from warfare. That
one with the red bars and silver swordpoints is borne by Ortwin, whose
father thou didst slay upon the Wulpensand; and seest thou yon banneret
of sky blue silk whereon green seaweeds are emblazoned? That is the
device of Herwig, King of Zealand. He thinks to win back his bride, poor
fool! ’Tis not his love but death he shall embrace ere-long, forsooth!
Many are there yet that I do see, but now they make ready to attack the
castle. Let us also arm for the fray.”

So saying Hartmut descended to the hall where his knights still slept,
and shouted: “Awake, ye heroes! for the foe is at our gates! Up and arm
yourselves. We surely would not show them such discourtesy as to make
them wait for us before the walls!”

Quickly the news spread through the castle, and arms were donned with
joyous speed. No sooner did Gerlinda learn that her son was preparing to
go out and meet the foe than she hastened to him and cried reprovingly:
“Surely thou wilt not open the gates and put thyself in peril without
reason? Have we not food for a year within the castle, so that we may
endure a siege? Let the enemy dash their heads to pieces against the
walls, if they will!”

Hartmut was displeased at this, and said: “It is not meet, my mother,
for thee to counsel warriors in such matters. Go teach thy women to
embroider silk with gold and precious stones, which more befitteth thee.
Or send Gudrun to the shore again to wash thy garments. Thou seest now
she still hath friends to avenge her wrongs!”

But Gerlinda only redoubled her entreaties. “Nay—if thou wilt but be
guided by my words, my son, then shall the foe be brought to naught
before the castle and never win back her we hold captive here.”

Seeing that Hartmut remained unmoved, she turned to his knights and
cried: “Throw not away your lives so foolishly, but stay within and
fling down stones and beams upon the enemy, or slay them with bolts from
your arblasts.”

Hartmut sprang up angrily: “Peace, I say! nor longer seek to counsel
those who know better than thou what were best to do. Shame enough was
it to me that I once did flee before them on the Wulpensand, and this
stain will I to-day wipe out that my honor may once more shine as bright
as gold. Aye, on the field of battle will I meet them, come what may,
for rather would I there be slain than live pent up within these walls.”

Gerlinda dared not gainsay him further, but turned weeping to the
knights: “I beseech you, sirs, to guard my gallant son with all your
power. If you but equal him in valor then surely will a splendid victory
be ours!”

“Now thou hast spoken well, my mother,” said Hartmut, “and all who
loyally stand by me to-day against the foe, shall share, I promise on my
honor, in the spoils.”



                             Chapter XVIII
                 Hartmut Fights with Ortwin and Horant


Soon the gates of the huge castle were thrown open, and Hartmut rode
forth followed by three thousand of his knights, leaving the rest to
guard the gates and walls of the castle. Proudly waved their banners,
and helm and armor glittered in the morning sun. Wate’s hunting-horn
sounded for the third time, so mighty a blast that it almost seemed to
shake the walls and cause great forest trees to tremble. The old hero
bade Horant lead the van and bear Queen Hilda’s banner, while he rode
hither and thither disposing his men in battle array. At a turret window
Gudrun stood, waving a white kerchief.

As the Norman knights appeared, Ortwin asked: “Who may yon hero be who
leads the band? His armor gleams like lightning in the sun, and nobly
doth he bear him. Methinks an emperor would scarcely ride more proudly.”

“That, my lord, is Hartmut,” replied one of the knights; “he who did
steal away thy sister.”

“Ha! is it so?” cried Ortwin; “now had the wicked Gerlinda best aid him
to find his way back in safety to the castle!” And he lowered his spear
and plunged the spurs into the flanks of his snow-white charger so that
it bounded high in the air.

But Hartmut had now discovered Ortwin also, and made ready to attack
him. On they rushed, and came together with such force that both horses
were overthrown. Out flashed the long swords from their golden sheaths
and played like lightning about the helms of the two heroes. It was
indeed a mighty combat. But ere-long they were forced apart by the rush
of warriors eager for the fray, and the conflict became general. On all
sides arose the din of battle. Siegfried was attacked by a band of
Hartmut’s knights, but he laid about him so stoutly that his assailants
soon succumbed to the fury of his blows.

Herwig, who was fighting for his bride, dashed joyously into the battle
with colors flying, and Gudrun soon recognized him by his noble form and
shining armor. Ludwig led his followers against the Danes who fought
under Hilda’s banner. Notwithstanding his years, the old King still had
the strength of a bear, and many a stout helm was shattered by his
sword-strokes as he cut his way deep into the ranks of the enemy. But
Frute with his Holsteins and Frisians rode against him and slew many of
his followers, while Morung and Irolt strewed the earth with dead. Once
more the tide of battle brought Ortwin and Hartmut face to face, and
again shield and helm reëchoed with their sounding blows. Each was
determined his foe should not this time escape him, and at last, though
Ortwin fought bravely, Hartmut succeeded in piercing his helm with a
sword-stroke. When the Danes saw their young chief’s armor streaked with
blood they pressed on furiously, but many a good knight was slain ere
they reached the princes and snatched Ortwin from death.

Horant dashed up to learn who had smitten his dear lord so sorely.
Ortwin told him, and Hartmut, who was not far distant, laughed
scornfully; whereat Horant, giving Hilda’s banner into the hands of a
knight, rushed fiercely upon the Norman King. But many men stood
between, and Horant’s sword dealt such slaughter among them that Hartmut
cried: “Yon knight hath wrought enough of evil to us; soon shall he
strike his last blow!” and forcing his way to Horant, he attacked him so
fiercely that he was borne to the ground and would surely have been
slain had not his comrades hastened to his rescue and carried him from
out the press. Such was Hartmut’s strength and valor that many began to
doubt whether they should succeed in taking the castle.

But as soon as the wounds of Ortwin and Horant had been bound up, those
heroes returned to the battle with unabated courage, while Wate
meanwhile had wrought terrible havoc among the Normans. Yet fast as they
fell, others pressed on to avenge the death of their brethren, and ever
hotter and fiercer waged the conflict.



                              Chapter XIX
                       Ludwig Fights with Herwig


In the tumult, Herwig encountered Ludwig; and when he beheld the old
King, whose blade dripped with the blood of heroes, he asked: “Who is
the aged warrior that so fiercely wields his reeking sword?”

Ludwig heard the words and shouted in reply: “My name is Ludwig, and of
this land I am the King. Doth any seek combat with me, let him step
forth!”

“If thou be he,” answered Herwig, “then well hast thou earned my hatred.
Upon the Wulpensand thou didst slay King Hetel and many a comrade dear.
Also didst thou rob me of my fair betrothed. Wherefore now over thy body
will I win her back to me again.”

“Boy, ’twere little need for thee to avow thyself,” said Ludwig,
scornfully. “But dearly shalt thou atone for that threat of thine!”

Therewith the two Kings rushed at each other amid the shouts of their
followers. Herwig in his fury was like the raging sea; Ludwig, a great
gray rock against which the foaming billows dash in vain. The struggle
had lasted for some moments when Ludwig’s sword descended with such
force on the head of his adversary that Herwig tottered and sank upon
his knee. Again the mighty blade fell and he would have been slain had
not one of his knights sprung forward and received the blow upon his own
body. The hero paid for his devotion with his life, but Herwig was borne
away by his friends and soon revived. Looking up at the turret, he
cried: “Shame were it to my knighthood that Gudrun should see me sink
upon my knee before yon hoary chief! Now will I hasten after him to
redeem my honor.” And away he dashed, his men following with flying
banners.

Hearing these shouts, Ludwig turned about, and great was his amazement
to behold the young hero whom he had supposed slain. Once more they
fought till their shields grew hot from the shower of blows, but now as
Ludwig flung his sword aloft to deal the death-stroke to his royal foe,
Herwig thrust his own blade deep into the old King’s breast. Down he
fell, and again Herwig smote; whereupon the head of the fierce Norman
monarch rolled in the sand, staining it crimson.

This was the death signal for Ludwig’s band. Like a hurricane tearing
its way through the forest, on swept Herwig’s knights against the foe,
and few indeed were those who survived that terrible onslaught.



                               Chapter XX
                        Hartmut Fights with Wate


When the warden on the tower made known the fall of King Ludwig, loud
shrieks and cries of woe arose within the castle. These Hartmut heard,
and asking their cause, was told his father had been slain. Then looking
about him and seeing how they were beset on all sides, he said to his
followers: “Honor enough have we won to-day. Let us withdraw into the
castle and await a more favorable opportunity for a fresh attack.”

His knights followed him gladly, for they were weary with much strife;
but when they sought to turn back they found the way was barred. Wate
with his men was already fighting before the great gates. Beams and
stones were being flung upon them from the walls, and bolts fell thick
as hailstones from the clouds, but Wate heeded them not; his thoughts
were bent only upon victory. Between him and the Normans the dead lay
piled by hundreds, and Hartmut said:

“By my faith, ’tis a mighty foe we have to deal with, and well are they
wreaking vengeance for their ancient wrongs. If we would reach the gates
once more, we must encounter heavy odds, for look! the enemy is there
before us on every hand. Yonder wave Siegfried’s colors, yet our
warriors press him hard. At the other gate, ’tis plain by the
swordpoints on his banner that Ortwin fights, and many shall fall ere he
sheathes his sword. On that side is Herwig with his followers. None can
deny ’tis in true knightly fashion he doth battle for his bride. In
truth, we have tarried too long on the field, and I know not which way
to turn. Long will they wait for us within the castle, much I fear, for
neither by craft nor yet by secret passage may we pass its walls. Naught
remains to us save to dismount and cleave a way for ourselves with our
swords.”

Accordingly they all sprang from their horses, which they turned loose,
and therewith began their perilous attempt.

Hartmut sought out Wate, thinking if he could but slay that mighty
champion they might succeed in gaining entrance to the castle. No sooner
did Wate see Hartmut approaching than he sprang to meet him. High in the
air rose the dust from the feet of the heroes, and they smote one
another so fiercely that the clang of sword-strokes on shield and helm
was like the sound of hammers in a forge.



                              Chapter XXI
                           Gudrun and Ortrun


Hartmut and Wate were fighting close beneath the walls of the castle,
and Hartmut could hear his mother making promises of rich reward to any
who would slay Gudrun and her women. One base wretch, tempted by her
offers, burst into the hall upon the maidens, who fled shrieking to the
windows; whereupon Hartmut, divining what had happened, lowered his
sword and stepped back a pace. Seeing their danger, and also how his
sister Ortrun in the fury of despair had forced the murderer to the
balcony, he shouted in thundering tones: “Vile miscreant! what dost thou
there amid the maidens? Touch not a hair of their heads, or, by my
faith, thou shalt pay dearly for it, thou and all thy kin!”

The terrified murderer slunk away, and once more the fight went on. But
now both Danes and Normans joined in the strife, and the two heroes were
forced asunder in spite of all their efforts. When Ortrun from the
window saw how fast her brother’s followers were falling, she hastened
to Gudrun and sank at her feet, wringing her hands and crying: “Have
mercy, I pray thee, noble princess! Bethink thee how thou didst suffer
when they slew thy father, and to-day hath mine fallen by the swords of
thy friends. Our bravest knights are slaughtered, and even now my
brother Hartmut is in peril of his life before Count Wate!”

Gudrun embraced the kneeling maiden and said kindly: “Never hast thou
done me wrong, and gladly would I aid thee in thy need. But how may I
part them? Were I a knight and could bear arms, then would I hasten down
and save thy brother. But I will do what I can.” Going to the window she
waved her white kerchief. Well for Hartmut was it that Herwig chanced to
be so close at hand, for when he saw Gudrun’s signal, he sprang to the
walls.

“If thou dost love me, noble Herwig, then save King Hartmut from Count
Wate’s fury!” she cried.

“Gladly will I serve thee, dearest maid,” replied Herwig, and turning to
his knights, he shouted: “On with our banner to Count Wate’s side, my
comrades!”

But it was not easy to reach Wate through the press, and Herwig cried to
him from afar, “Gudrun beseeches thee, brave Wate, to forbear thy
strife. She offers peace to Hartmut!”

But filled with the fury of battle, Wate answered: “Am I to be led by
women’s words, forsooth? Nay, that were shame! Never will I spare the
foe till Hartmut hath atoned for his misdeed.”

And as Herwig sprang forward to part the combatants the infuriated
champion dealt him a blow that stretched him on the earth. But therewith
Herwig’s men pressed hotly on and Hartmut and Wate were forced apart.
Hartmut and a great number of his knights were made prisoners, disarmed,
and taken to the ships.



                              Chapter XXII
                              Retribution


A general assault was now begun on the castle. The knights whom Hartmut
had left behind defended it bravely, sending down showers of bolts and
flinging huge beams and stones upon the besiegers, but Wate was not to
be driven back. With their battle-axes his men hewed the massive bolts
from the walls, and the gates at last fell crashing inward. At the same
time Horant with the Queen’s banner forced the walls in another place
and Ortwin had also gained them by means of a siege ladder. The conflict
soon spread to the courtyard and thence to the halls and passages, till
the whole castle was filled with the din of battle. Chests and presses
were broken open in the search for the treasures Ludwig had once carried
off from Hegelingen, and enough gold and silver, silks and fine linens,
were gathered together to fill two ships.

Ortrun took refuge in Gudrun’s chamber. “Alas! dear friend,” she cried,
“thy people are slaying all they meet within the castle. In pity protect
me, or I too must die.”

Gudrun took her by the hand, saying tenderly: “Never shalt thou lack aid
from me, dear Ortrun. Indeed, from my heart I wish thee peace and
happiness. Remain here with my maidens.”

Soon Gerlinda came flying in. Forgetful of her pride and arrogance she
fell on her knees before Gudrun, crying: “Mercy, mercy, most noble
Queen! Save me from Wate and his warriors, I implore thee!”

Gudrun answered sternly: “How dost thou ask me to protect thee? Didst
thou ever listen to my prayers for mercy? Methinks ’tis little cause I
have to show thee favor!”

Therewith Wate himself burst into the hall, blood streaming from his
great beard and staining his armor. Much as Gudrun was attached to the
old hero, it displeased her that he should force his way into the
women’s apartments like a raging wild boar; yet she approached and
greeted him, while the maidens shrank back, terror-stricken.

Wate bowed before her, saying: “Tell me who are these women here with
thee?”

“This is my friend Ortrun,” replied Gudrun, “good and kind hath she ever
been to me, and with her are her maids. The rest are those poor damsels
who were stolen with me from Hegelingen.”

As Wate was about to approach them to seek for Gerlinda, she cried:
“Nay—look how thou dost drip with blood! Surely ’tis not thus that thou
shouldst appear before fair dames!” Whereat Wate turned away angry and
went back to his comrades who were still fighting in the hall.

Scarcely had he departed when the unfaithful Heregart rushed in with
pallid cheeks and streaming hair, and falling at Gudrun’s feet begged
for mercy. But Gudrun said sharply: “Get thee from my sight, thou false
one! What troubles didst thou ever share with me? Rather hast thou added
to them!”

Still Heregart pleaded so piteously that at last she said: “Conceal
thyself then among Ortrun’s damsels, if thou wilt; no longer art thou
worthy of a place with those thou hast so faithlessly abandoned.”

Wate meanwhile was searching everywhere for Queen Gerlinda and presently
came once more to the hall, shouting wrathfully: “Lady Gudrun, deliver
up to me that infamous woman who did force thee to wash her garments,
whose vile deeds have caused thee so much woe!”

Gerlinda was hidden behind the maidens, but Gudrun would not betray her.
“She is not here,” was her only reply.

This only added to the hero’s fury. “Then will I slay every woman here!”
he shouted, “so that she shall not escape me.”

Whereupon Gudrun’s women turning pale with fright drew apart and exposed
the fugitive.

“Ha!” he cried, dragging the trembling Queen forth by the hand, “hast
thou aught else to be washed by the daughter of my Queen?”

Therewith he seized his victim by the hair and struck off her head. The
maidens shrieked aloud at this sight, but Wate turned to them once more
and said: “Now would I fain see her who was false to you, for she too
must die!”

Gudrun was silent, but a glance from her eyes showed him which was the
guilty one. Heregart prostrated herself before him and besought him to
spare her life, but he cried: “Well do I know how to deal with women.
’Tis for that I am chamberlain!” And so saying, he swung his sword, and
the head of the unfaithful maiden rolled upon the floor.

[Illustration: _Gudrun’s Deliverance_]

The fighting was now over; and soon Herwig and Ortwin entered the hall,
followed by their comrades. The two Kings had laid aside their
blood-stained armor, and Gudrun greeted them tenderly, embracing them
with tears of joy. Then she gave her hand to her companions, saying:
“Never will I be unmindful of your devotion, so long as I do live!” And
all felt how true were her words.

Wate, whose fury had not yet subsided, wished to fire the castle, but
Frute opposed it, saying: “What, then, would the women do for shelter
till the time of our return? Moreover, the castle doth afford us safe
and ample lodgment. But let us make way with the dead who lie about the
halls and passages, and cleanse the walls from blood, that our dear
lady’s eyes be not offended with the sight thereof.”

So the bodies were all borne to the shore and, with their armor, cast
into the sea. Hartmut was taken to the ships in chains. Gudrun had saved
his life, but she had not been able to obtain further concession from
her brother and betrothed. Ortrun, however, was allowed to remain with
her. Some of the knights with their followers went farther into the
kingdom and stormed twenty-six castles, returning to Gudrun laden with
treasure and bringing many captives.

After a joyous meeting, Ortwin cried: “Well hath our journey ended.
Beyond our dearest hopes have we succeeded; and never will I forget, my
gallant comrades, how loyally you have striven in our cause.”

“Time passes,” said Wate, “let us hasten to restore Queen Hilda’s
daughter to her.”

Preparations for departure were soon made. The booty was placed on the
ships, and all hearts beat high with joy at the thought of home. Ortrun
followed Gudrun, weeping bitterly, but Hartmut was taken on another
vessel with five hundred of his knights. He offered to pledge his life
in token of loyalty if they would leave him in the land of his fathers.
But Wate answered: “’Tis thyself we would have. In truth, I know not why
Ortwin bears with him to his own land one who even yet would gladly have
his life; yet so it is. Were it for me to say, forsooth, thou shouldst
have speedy deliverance from all thy troubles.”



                             Chapter XXIII
                            The Home Coming


For a whole year Queen Hilda heard no news from the fleet that had
sailed away to rescue Gudrun. Each day she ascended the battlements of
her castle Matalan to watch for some sign of the returning ships. One
bright May morning, when the green meadows were gay with flowers and the
sea was as blue as the sky above it, as she stood thus gazing out over
the smooth water, suddenly a snow-white sail appeared on the far
horizon,—then another, and yet another, till a whole fleet came into
view. Hastily descending from the tower, she betook herself with her
women to the shore, which was soon thronged with eager men and women and
children, and joyous shouts arose as they recognized the devices on the
sails. Nearer and nearer came the ships. Brightly shone the sun on helm
and armor; banners fluttered in the breeze; drums, trumpets, flutes, and
cymbals made exultant music.

Wate’s ship was first to reach the land, and the hero sprang ashore,
Irolt and Frute following. Reverently they approached and bowed before
the Queen, who greeted them and asked for her children.

“God hath aided thee,” said Wate. “On yonder ship that now doth approach
the shore are Gudrun and Ortwin; also Herwig, thy daughter’s brave
betrothed!”

Then the Queen raised her hands to Heaven, tears of joy streaming down
her cheeks as her dear ones stepped once more upon their native shore,
followed by all the knights and maidens. Ortwin and Herwig placed Gudrun
in her mother’s arms, who clasped her child to her as if she could never
let her go. So great was the joy of both at this reunion that even stern
warriors were forced to shed tears at the sight thereof. After Hilda had
exchanged greetings with her son and Herwig, Gudrun led forth a tall
noble damsel from the group of women. “Take her also to thy heart, my
mother,” she cried, “for a good friend hath she been to me.”

“Nay,” said the Queen, “I embrace no damsel who is unknown to me.”

But Gudrun whispered: “Thou must greet her, mother. ’Tis King Ludwig’s
orphan child.”

“How!” cried Hilda, sharply. “She the daughter of the Norman King? Oh,
what evil hath been dealt me by her house!” And turning angrily to
Ortrun, who stood silent before her, she pointed to the site of the
castle, which still lay in ruins.

“Behold the work of thy kin!” she said. “Yet there are still dungeons
beneath yon pile that shall well serve for thee!”

Gudrun burst into tears at this; but Ortwin said reprovingly: “Nay, dear
mother, thou shouldst not speak thus to Ortrun. She meriteth not such
anger in her grief.”

And Gudrun added: “Truly, had it not been for her, I never again should
have held thee in my arms!”

Then Hilda’s wrath melted, and giving her hand to Ortrun, she kissed
her, saying: “If this be true, thy kindness shall meet with rich reward
from us.”

Then Gudrun led Hildburg to her mother. “Thou must thank this maiden
also,” she said, “for she hath been a loyal friend to me and shared in
all my troubles.”

“Truly, my child,” replied the Queen, “she shall not lack the reward of
the faithful.”

After all the other heroes had been welcomed, she led the way back to
the castle, where a sumptuous repast was prepared. Hartmut was left to
languish in his chains, however, and Gudrun bethought her how she might
bring all to a happy issue, for she greatly desired that a lasting peace
should be established between the two countries. Accordingly, the next
day, after all in the castle had risen from the board, she said to
Ortwin:

“Hearken, dear brother, to the counsel I would give thee, for great
advantage shalt thou reap thereby. I would have thee take Ludwig’s
daughter Ortrun as thy wife. Truly never wilt thou find a truer heart on
earth!”

“Indeed, most good and noble she doth seem to me,” replied Ortwin, “but
we have slain her father and her mother; methinks at my side she would
know but little joy!”

“Nay, let thy love teach her to forget her sorrows,” cried Gudrun.

When Ortwin had agreed to her plan, she sent for Herwig and told him
what was purposed; whereat he was greatly pleased, and said: “Aye, let
us make it our care that there shall evermore be peace betwixt the
Normans and ourselves.”

Then Gudrun went to the Queen and besought Hartmut’s freedom. Hilda at
first refused to grant it, but Gudrun pleaded with her mother, till at
last she agreed that he should have his liberty so that he remained
unarmed. Soon Hartmut entered the hall, bearing himself with his wonted
pride and with undaunted courage, though he knew not whether life or
death was to be his portion. But every one who saw him admired the brave
hero.

“Let me speak with him apart,” said Gudrun; and leading him into the
embrasure of a window she began: “If thou wilt follow the counsel I
would give thee, noble Hartmut, ’twill make an end of all thy troubles.”

“Well do I know thy virtue, fairest princess,” replied Hartmut, “and
that thou wouldst counsel naught but what is right or in accordance with
my honor.”

“Then help us to establish peace between our houses for all time,”
continued Gudrun. “My brother Ortwin will wed Ortrun, and do thou take
the Lady Hildburg for thy Queen. No nobler maid is there in all the
land; and if thou dost make her thy wife, she will be ever true and
loyal to thee, even as she was to me in my hours of sorrow.”

“So be it,” replied Hartmut; “if thou seest fit that thy brother should
take my sister as his wife, then will I wed the noble Lady Hildburg.”

Overjoyed, Gudrun hastened to make the good news known to Hildburg and
Ortrun, whose hearts she already knew were well disposed to the heroes.
In the presence of Queen Hilda and all the court the two happy pairs
plighted their troth, and there was great rejoicing among the knights.
Even old Wate laid aside his enmity and gave his hand to Hartmut and
Ortrun.

Soon thereafter the nuptials were celebrated and peace was sealed
between the two countries by solemn oaths. The reconciliation thus
brought about by Gudrun proved of lasting benefit to the people. Her
name was always spoken by them with reverence. Her courage and constancy
and virtues were extolled by them, and in after days her fame was as
radiant as the stars in the heavens.


                     LIFE STORIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

                     _Translated from the German by
                            GEORGE P. UPTON_

                             12 Vols. Ready

  Beethoven
  Mozart
  Bach
  Maid of Orleans
  William Tell
  The Little Dauphin
  Frederick the Great
  Maria Theresa
  Barbarossa
  William of Orange
  Gudrun
  The Nibelungs

                    _Illustrated, each 60 cents net_
                      A. C. McCLURG & CO., Chicago



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original—this e-text is public
  domain in the country of publication.

--In the text versions, delimited italics text in _underscores_ (the
  HTML version reproduces the font form of the printed book.)

--Silently corrected palpable typos; left non-standard spellings and
  dialect unchanged.





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