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HOME > Classical Novels > Otto of the Silver Hand > VIII. In the House of the Dragon Scorner.
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VIII. In the House of the Dragon Scorner.
 Tall, narrow, gloomy room; no furniture but a rude bench a bare stone floor, cold stone walls and a gloomy ceiling of arched stone over head; a long, narrow slit of a window high above in the wall, through the iron bars of which Otto could see a small patch of blue sky and now and then a darting swallow, for an instant seen, the next instant gone. Such was the little baron’s prison in Trutz-Drachen. Fastened to a bolt and hanging against the walls, hung a pair of heavy chains with gaping fetters at the ends. They were thick with rust, and the red stain of the rust streaked the wall below where they hung like a smear of blood. Little Otto shuddered as he looked at them; can those be meant for me, he thought.  
Nothing was to be seen but that one patch of blue sky far up in the wall. No sound from without was to be heard in that gloomy cell of stone, for the window pierced the outer wall, and the earth and its noises lay far below.
Suddenly a door crashed without, and the footsteps of men were heard coming along the corridor. They stopped in front of Otto’s cell; he heard the jingle of keys, and then a loud rattle of one thrust into the lock of the heavy oaken door. The rusty bolt was shot back with a screech, the door opened, and there stood Baron Henry, no longer in his armor, but clad in a long black robe that reached nearly to his feet, a broad leather belt was girdled about his waist, and from it dangled a short, heavy hunting sword.
Another man was with the Baron, a heavy-faced fellow clad in a leathern jerkin over which was drawn a short coat of linked mail.
The two stood for a moment looking into the room, and Otto, his pale face glimmering in the gloom, sat upon the edge of the heavy wooden bench or bed, looking back at them out of his great blue eyes. Then the two entered and closed the door behind them.
“Dost thou know why thou art here?” said the Baron, in his deep, harsh voice.
“Nay,” said Otto, “I know not.”
“So?” said the Baron. “Then I will tell thee. Three years ago the good Baron Frederick, my uncle, kneeled in the dust and besought mercy at thy father’s hands; the mercy he received was the coward blow that slew him. Thou knowest the story?”
“Aye,” said Otto, tremblingly, “I know it.”
“Then dost thou not know why I am here?” said the Baron.
“Nay, dear Lord Baron, I know not,” said poor little Otto, and began to weep.
The Baron stood for a moment or two looking gloomily upon him, as the little boy sat there with the tears running down his white face.
“I will tell thee,” said he, at last; “I swore an oath that the red cock should crow on Drachenhausen, and I have given it to the dames. I swore an oath that no Vuelph that ever left my hands should be able to strike such a blow as thy father gave to Baron Frederick, and now I will fulfil that too. Catch the boy, Casper, and hold him.”
As the man in the mail shirt stepped toward little Otto, the boy leaped up from where he sat and caught the Baron about the knees. “Oh! dear Lord Baron,” he cried, “do not harm me; I am only a little child, I have never done harm to thee; do not harm me.”
“Take him away,” said the Baron, harshly.
The fellow stooped, and loosening Otto’s hold, in spite of his struggles and cries, carried him to the bench, against which he held him, whilst the Baron stood above him.
Baron Henry and the other came forth from the cell, carefully closing the wooden door behind them. At the end of the corridor the Baron turned, “Let the leech be sent to the boy,” said he. And then he turned and walked away.
Otto lay upon the hard couch in his cell, covered with a shaggy bear skin. His face was paler and thinner than ever, and dark rings encircled his blue eyes. He was looking toward the door, for there was a noise of someone fumbling with the lock without.
Since that dreadful day when Baron Henry had come to his cell, only two souls had visited Otto. One was the fellow who had come with the Baron that time; his name, Otto found, was Casper. He brought the boy his rude meals of bread and meat and water. The other visitor was the leech or doctor, a thin, weasand little man, with a kindly, wrinkled face and a gossiping tongue, who, besides binding wounds, bleeding, and leeching, and administering his simple remedies to those who were taken sick in the castle, acted as the Baron’s barber.
The Baron had left the key in the lock of the door, so that these two might enter when they chose, but Otto knew that it was neither the one nor the other whom he now heard at the door, working uncertainly with the key, striving to turn it in the rusty, cumbersome lock. At last the bolts grated back, there was a pause, and then the door opened a little way, and Otto thought that he could see someone peeping in from without. By and by the door opened further, there was another pause, and then a slender, elfish-looking little girl, with straight black hair and shining black eyes, crept noiselessly into the room.
She stood close by the door with her finger in her mouth, staring at the boy where he lay upon his couch, and Otto upon his part lay, full of wonder, gazing back upon the little elfin creature.
She, seeing that he made no sign or motion, stepped a little nearer, and then, after a moment’s pause, a little nearer still, until, at last, she stood within a few feet of where he lay.
“Art thou the Baron Otto?” said she.
“Yes,” answered Otto.
“Prut!” said she, “and is that so! Why, I thought that thou wert a great tall fellow at least, and here thou art a little boy no older than Carl Max, the gooseherd.” Then, after a little pause—“My name is Pauline, and my father is the Baron. I heard him tell my mother all about thee, and so I wanted to come here and see thee myself: Art thou sick?”
“Yes,” said Otto, “I am sick.”
“And did my father hurt thee?”
“Aye,” said Otto, and his eyes filled with tears, until one sparkling drop trickled slow............
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