The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade

Chapter 16

Martin Wittenhaagen, standing at the foot of the stairs with his arrow drawn nearly to the head and his knife behind him, was struck with amazement to see the men come back without Gerard: he lowered his bow and looked open-mouthed at them. They, for their part, were equally puzzled at the attitude they had caught him in.

“Why, mates, was the old fellow making ready to shoot at us?”

“Stuff!” said Martin, recovering his stolid composure; “I was but trying my new string. There! I’ll unstring my bow, if you think that.”

“Humph!” said Dierich suspiciously, “there is something more in you than I understand: put a log on, and let us dry our hides a bit ere we go.”

A blazing fire was soon made, and the men gathered round it, and their clothes and long hair were soon smoking from the cheerful blaze. Then it was that the shrieks were heard in Margaret’s room. They all started up, and one of them seized the candle and ran up the steps that led to the bedrooms.

Martin rose hastily too, and being confused by these sudden screams, and apprehending danger from the man’s curiosity, tried to prevent him from going there.

At this Dierich threw his arms round him from behind, and called on the others to keep him. The man that had the candle got clear away, and all the rest fell upon Martin, and after a long and fierce struggle, in the course of which they were more than once all rolling on the floor, with Martin in the middle, they succeeded in mastering the old Samson, and binding him hand and foot with a rope they had brought for Gerard.

Martin groaned aloud. He saw the man had made his way to Margaret’s room during the struggle, and here was he powerless.

“Ay, grind your teeth, you old rogue,” said Dierich, panting with the struggle. “You shan’t use them.”

“It is my belief, mates, that our lives were scarce safe while this old fellow’s bones were free.”

“He makes me think this Gerard is not far off,” put in another.

“No such luck,” replied Dierich. “Hallo, mates. Jorian Ketel is a long time in that girl’s bedroom. Best go and see after him, some of us.”

The rude laugh caused by this remark had hardly subsided, when hasty footsteps were heard running along over head.

“Oh, here he comes, at last. Well, Jorian, what is to do now up there?”

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33