Gudrun - George Upton

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, bust 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.