Gudrun - George Upton

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!"