Gudrun - George Upton


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.

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."