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HOME > Classical Novels > Otto of the Silver Hand > IX. How One-eyed Hans came to Trutz-Drachen.
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IX. How One-eyed Hans came to Trutz-Drachen.
 Fritz, the swineherd, sat eating his late supper of porridge out of a great, coarse, wooden bowl; wife Katherine sat at the other end of the table, and the half-naked little children played upon the earthen floor. A shaggy dog lay curled up in front of the fire, and a grunting pig scratched against a leg of the rude table close beside where the woman sat.  
“Yes, yes,” said Katherine, speaking of the matter of which they had already been talking. “It is all very true that the Drachenhausens are a bad lot, and I for one am of no mind to say no to that; all the same it is a sad thing that a simple-witted little child like the young Baron should be so treated as the boy has been; and now that our Lord Baron has served him so that he, at least, will never be able to do us ‘harm, I for one say that he should not be left there to die alone in that black cell.”
Fritz, the swineherd, gave a grunt at this without raising his eyes from the bowl.
“Yes, good,” said Katherine, “I know what thou meanest, Fritz, and that it is none of my business to be thrusting my finger into the Baron’s dish. But to hear the way that dear little child spoke when she was here this morn—it would have moved a heart of stone to hear her tell of all his pretty talk. Thou wilt try to let the red-beard know that that poor boy, his son, is sick to death in the black cell; wilt thou not, Fritz?”
The swineherd dropped his wooden spoon into the bowl with a clatter. “Potstausand!” he cried; “art thou gone out of thy head to let thy wits run upon such things as this of which thou talkest to me? If it should come to our Lord Baron’s ears he would cut the tongue from out thy head and my head from off my shoulders for it. Dost thou think I am going to meddle in such a matter as this? Listen! these proud Baron folk, with their masterful ways, drive our sort hither and thither; they beat us, they drive us, they kill us as they choose. Our lives are not as much to them as one of my black swine. Why should I trouble my head if they choose to lop and trim one another? The fewer there are of them the better for us, say I. We poor folk have a hard enough life of it without thrusting our heads into the noose to help them out of their troubles. What thinkest thou would happen to us if Baron Henry should hear of our betraying his affairs to the Red-beard?”
“Nay,” said Katherine, “thou hast naught to do in the matter but to tell the Red-beard in what part of the castle the little Baron lies.”
“And what good would that do?” said Fritz, the swineherd.
“I know not,” said Katherine, “but I have promised the little one that thou wouldst find the Baron Conrad and tell him that much.”
“Thou hast promised a mare’s egg,” said her husband, angrily. “How shall I find the Baron Conrad to bear a message to him, when our Baron has been looking for him in vain for two days past?”
“Thou has found him once and thou mayst find him again,” said Katherine, “for it is not likely that he will keep far away from here whilst his boy is in such sore need of help.”
“I will have nothing to do with it!” said Fritz, and he got up from the wooden block whereon he was sitting and stumped out of the house. But, then, Katherine had heard him talk in that way before, and knew, in spite of his saying “no,” that, sooner or later, he would do as she wished.
Two days later a very stout little one-eyed man, clad in a leathern jerkin and wearing a round leathern cap upon his head, came toiling up the path to the postern door of Trutz-Drachen, his back bowed under the burthen of a great peddler’s pack. It was our old friend the one-eyed Hans, though even his brother would hardly have known him in his present guise, for, besides having turned peddler, he had grown of a sudden surprisingly fat.
Rap-tap-tap! He knocked at the door with a knotted end of the crooked thorned staff upon which he leaned. He waited for a while and then knocked again—rap-tap-tap!
Presently, with a click, a little square wicket that pierced the door was opened, and a woman’s face peered out through the iron bars.
The one-eyed Hans whipped off his leathern cap.
“Good day, pretty one,” said he, “and hast thou any need of glass beads, ribbons, combs, or trinkets? Here I am come all the way from Gruenstadt, with a pack full of such gay things as thou never laid eyes on before. Here be rings and bracelets and necklaces that might be of pure silver and set with diamonds and rubies, for anything that thy dear one could tell if he saw thee decked in them. And all are so cheap that thou hast only to say, ‘I want them,’ and they are thine.”
The frightened face at the window looked from right to left and from left to right. “Hush,” said the girl, and laid her finger upon her lips. “There! thou hadst best get away from here, poor soul, as fast as thy legs can carry thee, for if the Lord Baron should find thee here talking secretly at the postern door, he would loose the wolf-hounds upon thee.”
“Prut,” said one-eyed Hans, with a grin, “the Baron is too big a fly to see such a little gnat as I; but wolf-hounds or no wolf-hounds, I can never go hence without showing thee the pretty things that I have brought from the town, even though my stay be at the danger of my own hide.”
He flung the pack from off his shoulders as he spoke and fell to unstrapping it, while the round face of the lass (her eyes big with curiosity) peered down at him through the grated iron bars.
Hans held up a necklace of blue and white beads t............
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