Gudrun - George Upton

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 wellnigh 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-hearer, 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.