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Chapter 34


How They Cast Out The Dead.

The lordings sate them down for weariness. Folker and Hagen came forth from the hall; upon their shields the haughty warriors leaned. Wise words were spoken by the twain. Then Knight Giselher of Burgundy spake: "Forsooth, dear friends, ye may not ease you yet; ye must bear the dead from out the hall. I'll tell you, of a truth, we shall be attacked again. They must no longer lie here beneath our feet. Ere the Huns vanquish us by storm, we'll yet how wounds, which shall ease my heart. For this," quoth Giselher, "I have a steadfast mind."

"Well is me of such a lord," spake then Hagen. "This rede which my young master hath given us to-day would befit no one but a knight. At this, Burgundians, ye may all stand glad."

Then they followed the rede, and to the door they bare seven thousand dead, the which they cast outside. Down they fell before the stairway to the hall, and from their kinsmen rose a full piteous wall. Some there were with such slight wounds that, had they been more gently treated, they would have waxed well again; but from the lofty fall, they must needs lie dead. Their friends bewailed this, and forsooth they had good cause.

Then spake Folker, the fiddler, a lusty knight: "Now I mark the truth of this, as hath been told me. The Huns be cravens, like women they wail; they should rather nurse these sorely wounded men."

A margrave weened, he spake through kindness. Seeing one of his kinsmen lying in the blood, he clasped him in his arms and would have borne him hence, when the bold minstrel shot him above the dead to death. The flight began as the others saw this deed, and all fell to cursing this selfsame minstrel. He snatched javelin, sharp and hard, the which had been hurled at him by a Hun, and cast it with might across the court, far over the folk. Thus he forced Etzel's warriors to take lodgement further from the hall. On every side the people feared his mighty prowess.

Many thousand men now stood before the hall. Folker and Hagen gan speak to Etzel all their mind, wherefrom these heroes bold and good came thereafter into danger. Quoth Hagen: "'Twould well beseem the people's hope, if the lords would fight in the foremost ranks, as doth each of my lordings here. They hew through the helmets, so that the blood doth follow the sword."

Etzel was brave; he seized his shield. "Now fare warily," spake Lady Kriemhild, "and offer the warriors gold upon your shield. If Hagen doth but reach you there, ye'll be hand in hand with death."

The king was so bold he would not turn him back, the which doth now seldom hap from so mighty a lord. By his shield-thong they had to draw him hence. Once again grim Hagen began to mock him. "It is a distant kinship," quoth Hagen, the knight, "that bindeth Etzel and Siegfried. He loved Kriemhild, or ever she laid eyes on thee. Most evil king, why dost thou plot against me?"

Kriemhild, the wife of the noble king, heard this speech; angry she grew that he durst thus revile her before King Etzel's liegemen. Therefore she again began to plot against the strangers. She spake: "For him that slayeth me Hagen of Troneg and bringeth me his head, I will fill King Etzel's shield with ruddy gold, thereto will I give him as guerdon many goodly lands and castles."

"Now I know not for what they wait," spake the minstrel. "Never have I seen heroes stand so much like cowards, when one heard proffered such goodly wage. Forsooth King Etzel should never be their friend again. Many of those who so basely eat the lording's bread, and now desert him in the greatest need, do I see stand here as cravens, and yet would pass for brave. May shame ever be their lot!"