Part 4

The child hath heard the seneschal
Speak to her maidens in the hall,
“The messenger came yesternight,
Right heavy tidings did he bring;
He saith it was a fearful fight,
The Baron is not with the King.”

The women's cheeks grew pale with fear,—
“It is not two days' march from here,
And it was yester eve;”
Still as they spake the child drew near;
Perhaps they did not well believe
That one so young would heed their word,
Or one so slighted could not grieve,
They thought, for that stern lord.

“Pray God the Baron be not slain,”
The old retainer said again;
“He rides not with the Kaiser's train.”
“Or haply he is wounded sore,
And lieth on the battle plain,”
A maiden said, and spake no more,
Because the child's full eye she saw
Fix'd on her face in silent awe.

Then did they whisper; and go out,
Where each might speak her dread and doubt,
Unheard of her, who did not moan,
Nor weep, there being left alone.
Only, to herself she said,
“There's none to help, there's none to bring
One drop of water from the spring,
To cool his burning head.”

The child kneels in the turret tall,
The warder did not pace that day,
For all was terror and dismay
Within the castle wall.
She rose up with a calm, fix'd face,
That neither wept at all, nor smiled,
Only she said, “God give me grace:
There's none to help, there's none to bring
One drop of water from the spring;
I am his only child.”

She took her grey cloth mantle fine,
The pitcher in her small hand fair,
Wherein she mingled with due care
Fresh water and old wine.

Her maidens saw her passing out,
And one did to the other say,
“There will be stragglers from the rout;
The lady should not walk to-day.”—
“Nay, but the poor child's heart is lonely,
She beareth in her hand a boon,
She goeth to the hamlet only,
She will be back ere noon.”

The child is at the Moldau side,
(For she hath seen at break of day
Some weary horsemen ride that way,
And they were from the battle fray.)
Nor needed she another guide
Than that dark stream whereon were borne
Bright broken plumes and banners torn,
Whose flood was purple dyed.

And on through field and open glade,
All through that pleasant vine-dress'd land,
The pitcher in her little hand,
She journey'd on, and never stay'd.

The broad sun told the middle day,
And still she hasten'd on her way;
The broad sun faded in the west,
She did not weary or turn back,
And she had pass'd by many a track
Where foot of horse and man had press'd,
And wounded men had met the maiden,
And plunderers with booty laden:
But never one did her alarm
With word of scorn, or deed of harm.

Because the innocent spirit bears
A charm against the evil power,
And God's good angels every hour
Watch round it unawares.
And never yet, I ween, was ward
Of sentinel, or portal barr'd,
Like those white wings of theirs.

And she as sweetly, soundly slept,
While the night shadows round her crept,
In that deep forest's gloom;
While far away the wolf did howl,
And to and fro the large white owl
Went flitting o'er her head,
As in the quiet turret room,
On her own silken bed.

The child is in the lone greenwood,
She hears the white owl hooting near,
She hears the murmur of the flood,
She kneeleth low on bended knee,
“Good Christ, keep Thou my father dear,
All through this dreadful night,” she saith,
“And save him from the soldier's death,
And make him to love me.”
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