Gudrun - George Upton

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 Ile 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 Betel 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.