He had learned from Walter Scott's romances that this was the proper way to address inferiors, and he prided himself not a little on his jaunty condescension. Imagine then his surprise when the "old crone" suddenly turned on him with an angry scowl and said:
"If thou canst not keep a civil tongue in thy head, I'll bring a thousand plagues upon thee, thou umnannerly boy."
By this threat Wolf-in-the-Temple's courage was sadly shaken. He
knew Martha's reputation as a witch, and had no desire to test in his own person whether rumor belied her.
"Please, mum, I beg of you," he said, with a sudden change of tone; "my friend Hakon Vang is bleeding to death; won't you please help him?"
"Thy friend Hakon Vang!" cried Martha, to whom that name was very familiar; "bring him in, as quick as thou canst, and I'll do what I can for him."
Wolf-in- the-Temple put two fingers into his mouth and gave a loud shrill whistle, which was answered from the woods, and presently the small procession moved up to the door, carrying their wounded comrade between them. The poor Skull-Splitter was now as white as a sheet, and the drowsiness of his eyes and the laxness of his features showed that help came none too early. Martha, in hot haste, grabbed a bag of herbs, thrust it into a pot of warm water, and clapped it on the wound. Then she began to wag her head slowly to and fro, and crooned, to a soft and plaintive tune, words which sounded to the ears of the boys shudderingly strange:
"I conjure in water, I conjure in lead, I conjure with herbs that grew o'er the dead; I conjure with flowers that I plucked, without shoon, When the ghosts were abroad, in the wane of the moon. I conjure with spirits of earth and air That make the wind sigh and cry in despair; I conjure by him within sevenfold rings That sits and broods at the roots of things. I conjure by him who healeth strife, Who plants and waters the germs of life. I conjure, I conjure, I bid thee be still, Thou ruddy stream, thou hast flowed thy fill! Return to thy channel and nurture his life Till his destined measure of years be rife."