Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The Man-Wolf and Other Tales
Author: Erckmann-Chatrian
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Man-Wolf and Other Tales" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                              THE MAN-WOLF

                             AND OTHER TALES

                 By Emile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian

                                  1876



CONTENTS.


The Man-Wolf:--

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.

CHAPTER III.

CHAPTER IV.

CHAPTER V.

CHAPTER VI.

CHAPTER VII.

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX.

CHAPTER X.

CHAPTER XI.

CHAPTER XII.

CHAPTER XIII.


Myrtle:--

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.


Uncle Christian's Inheritance


The Bear-Baiting


The Scapegoat


A Night In The Woods:--

CHAPTER I.

CHAPTER II.



PRELIMINARY NOTE BY THE TRANSLATOR.

It has often been remarked, with perfect justice, that the eminent French
writers, a translation of one of whose works is here attempted, are
singularly faithful in their adherence to historic truth. Remove the
thread of obvious fiction which is indispensable to make these admirable
productions romances or tales, and what we have left is perfectly
reliable history. It is this feature mainly which gives the indescribable
charm to their historical tales--a charm powerfully realised in the
original, though less appreciable in an imperfect translation.

The same claim to perfect truthfulness in all essential points may be
placed to the credit of the following "Roman Populaire," notwithstanding
the startling supernatural element on which the story is founded.
Erckmann-Chatrian have not thought it right or necessary to depart in
this case from their practice of abstaining from all prefaces or notes in
every edition of their works. Yet perhaps the translator may be forgiven,
and even condoned with thanks, if he ventures upon an explanation tending
to show that the tale of _Hugh the Wolf_ is not entirely founded upon
superstition and the supernatural.

"Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given
unto him!" Such was the sentence pronounced and executed upon him of
Babylon whose pride called for abasement from the Lord. Dr. Mead (_Medica
Sacra_, p. 59) observes that there was known among the ancients a mental
disorder called lycanthropy, the victims of which fancied themselves
wolves, and went about howling and attacking and tearing sheep and young
children (_Aetius, Lib. Med_. vi., _Paul Ægineta_, iii. 16). So, again,
Virgil tells of the daughters of Prætus, who fancied themselves to be
cows, and running wildly about the pastures, "implêrunt falsis mugitibus
agros."--Ecl. vi. 48. This horrible disease appears happily to have been
a rare one, and recoveries from it have taken place, for it is not
destructive of the sufferer's life. It has even been thoroughly cured
after a lapse of many years.

Dr. Pusey (_Notes on Daniel_, p. 425), in a disquisition of great fulness
upon the disease of Nebuchadnezzar, refers to a communication which he
received from Dr. Browne, a Commissioner of the Board of Lunacy for
Scotland, in which he says, "My opinion is that in all mental powers or
conditions the idea of personal identity is but rarely enfeebled, and
that it is never extinguished. The ego and non-ego may be confused; the
ego, however, continues to preserve the personality. All the angels,
devils, dukes, lords, kings, "gods many" that I have had under my care
remained what they were before they became angels, dukes, etc., in a
sense, and even nominally. I have seen a man declaring himself the
Saviour or St. Paul sign himself _James Thomson_, and attend worship as
regularly as if the notion of divinity had never entered into his head."

Esquirol, a very trustworthy writer, has a description of an
extraordinary outbreak of lycanthropy in France (in the Jura, at Dole,
and other places in Eastern France) in the 16th century.

"This terrible affliction began to manifest itself in France in the
15th century, and the name of '_loups-garous_' has been given to the
sufferers. These unhappy beings fly from the society of mankind and live
in the woods, the cemeteries, or old ruins, prowling about the open
country only by night, howling as they go. They let their beard and nails
grow, and then seeing themselves armed with claws and covered with shaggy
hair, they become confirmed in the belief that they are wolves. Impelled
by ferocity or want, they throw themselves upon young children and tear,
kill, and devour them." (Esquiról, _Des Maladies Mentales_, Paris, 1838,
vol i., p. 521.) Those whom the French called _loups-garous_ were in
German termed _werewolves_.

It may be observed on this that when the nails of the fingers and toes
are cut they grow indefinitely; but if they are allowed to grow unchecked
they soon curve over the extremities, form talons or claws, and cease to
grow--answering to the Scriptural account of the effects of the mental
disorder of Nebuchadnezzar.

Of course for every case of real malady many were imputed or charged upon
poor creatures, who were driven to madness by groundless charges of
witchcraft and sorcery, and being _loups-garous_ in secret. Many innocent
people were in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries burnt at the stake
as wolves in human form.

A correspondent has kindly supplied the following information:--"When in
Oude in India, twenty-six years ago, we heard of several instances of
native babies being carried off out of the villages by she-wolves, and
placed with their whelps, and brought up wild there; there was one about
when we were there, partially reclaimed, but retaining much of the savage
nature imbibed with the wolf's milk, and having been accustomed to go on
all-fours--_i.e._, knees and elbows; but I conclude these were not
affected with 'Lycanthropy.'"

With a few touches of his magic pencil the Laureate has drawn a powerful
picture of such a state of things in ancient Britain, of which we can
scarcely deny the literal faithfulness. It is not a poetic conception; it
is historic truth:--

"And ever and anon the wolf would steal
The children and devour; but now and then,
Her own brood lost or dead, lent her fierce teat
To human sucklings; and the children, housed
In her foul den, there at their meat would growl,
And mock their foster-mother on four feet,
Till, straightened, they grew up to wolf-like men,
Worse than the wolves."

_Coming of Arthur_.

The following tale, in which the lycanthropy is far from being altogether
a mere effort of the imagination, appears to be founded upon the belief
in the continued existence of this rare species of madness down to our
own day--or near it--for the story seems to belong to the year 1832.

The English reader will not fail to notice the correspondence between the
title and the well-known designation of the illustrious head of the noble
house of Grosvenor. Whatever connection there may or may not be between
that German Hugh Lupus of a thousand years ago and the truly British Hugh
Lupus of our day, all the base qualities of his supposed progenitor have
disappeared in him who is adorned with all the qualities which make the
English nobility rank as the pride and the flower of our land.

F. A. M.

_The Vicaraqe,
Broughton-in-Furness_.



THE MAN-WOLF.



CHAPTER I.


About Christmas time in the year 18--, as I was lying fast asleep at the
Cygne at Fribourg, my old friend Gideon Sperver broke abruptly into my
room, crying--

"Fritz, I have good news for you; I am going to take you to Nideck, two
leagues from this place. You know Nideck, the finest baronial castle in
the country, a grand monument of the glory of our forefathers?"

Now I had not seen Sperver, who was my foster-father, for sixteen years;
he had grown a full beard in that time, a huge fox-skin cap covered his
head, and he was holding his lantern close under my nose. It was,
therefore, only natural that I should answer--

"In the first place let us do things in order. Tell me who you are."

"Who I am? What! don't you remember Gideon Sperver, the Schwartzwald
huntsman? You would not be so ungrateful, would you? Was it not I who
taught you to set a trap, to lay wait for the foxes along the skirts of
the woods, to start the dogs after the wild birds? Do you remember me
now? Look at my left ear, with a frost-bite."

"Now I know you; that left ear of yours has done it; Shake hands."

Sperver, passing the back of his hand across his eyes, went on--

"You know Nideck?"

"Of course I do--by reputation; what have you to do there?"

"I am the count's chief huntsman."

"And who has sent you?"

"The young Countess Odile."

"Very good. How soon are we to start?"

"This moment. The matter is urgent; the old count is very ill, and his
daughter has begged me not to lose a moment. The horses are quite ready."

"But, Gideon, my dear fellow, just look out at the weather; it has been
snowing three days without cessation."

"Oh, nonsense; we are not going out boar-hunting; put on your thick coat,
buckle on your spurs, and let us prepare to start. I will order something
to eat first." And he went out, first adding, "Be sure to put on your
cape."

I could never refuse old Gideon anything; from my childhood he could do
anything with me with a nod or a sign; so I equipped myself and came into
the coffee-room.

"I knew," he said, "that you would not let me go back without you. Eat
every bit of this slice of ham, and let us drink a stirrup cup, for the
horses are getting impatient. I have had your portmanteau put in."

"My portmanteau! what is that for?"

"Yes, it will be all right; you will have to stay a few days at Nideck,
that is indispensable, and I will tell you why presently."

So we went down into the courtyard.

At that moment two horsemen arrived, evidently tired out with riding,
their horses in a perfect lather of foam. Sperver, who had always been
a great admirer of a fine horse, expressed his surprise and admiration
at these splendid animals.

"What beauties! They are of the Wallachian breed, I can see, as finely
formed as deer, and as swift. Nicholas, throw a cloth over them quickly,
or they will take cold."

The travellers, muffled in Siberian furs, passed close by us just as we
were going to mount. I could only discern the long brown moustache of
one, and his singularly bright and sparkling eyes.

They entered the hotel.

The groom was holding our horses by the bridle. He wished us _bon
voyage_, removed his hand, and we were off.

Sperver rode a pure Mecklemburg. I was mounted on a stout cob bred in the
Ardennes, full of fire; we flew over the snowy ground. In ten minutes we
had left Fribourg behind us.

The sky was beginning to clear up. As far as the eye could reach we could
distinguish neither road, path, nor track. Our only company were the
ravens of the Black Forest spreading their hollow wings wide over the
banks of snow, trying one place after another unsuccessfully for food,
and croaking, "Misery! misery!"

Gideon, with his weather-beaten countenance, his fur cloak and cap,
galloped on ahead, whistling airs from the _Freyschütz_; sometimes as he
turned I could see the sparkling drops of moisture hanging from his long
moustache.

"Well, Fritz, my boy, this is a fine winter's morning."

"So it is, but it is rather severe; don't you think so?"

"I am fond of a clear hard frost," he replied; "it promotes circulation.
If our old minister Tobias had but the courage to start out in weather
like this he would soon put an end to his rheumatic pains."

I smiled, I am afraid, involuntarily.

After an hour of this rapid pace Sperver slackened his speed and let me
come abreast of him.

"Fritz, I shall have to tell you the object of this journey at some time,
I suppose?"

"I was beginning to think I ought to know what I am going about."

"A good many doctors have already been consulted."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, some came from Berlin in great wigs who only asked to see the
patient's tongue. Others from Switzerland examined him another way. The
doctors from Paris stared at their patient through magnifying glasses to
learn something from his physiognomy. But all their learning was wasted,
and they got large fees in reward of their ignorance."

"Is that the way you speak of us medical gentlemen?"

"I am not alluding to you at all. I have too much respect for you, and if
I should happen to break my leg I don't know that there is another that I
should prefer to yourself to treat me as a patient, but you have not
discovered an optical instrument yet to tell what is going on inside of
us."

"How do you know that?"

At this reply the worthy fellow looked at me doubtfully as if he thought
me a quack like the rest, yet he replied--

"Well, Fritz, if you have indeed such a glass it will be wanted now, for
the count's complaint is internal; it is a terrible kind of illness,
something like madness. You know that madness shows itself in either nine
hours, nine days, or nine weeks?"

"So it is said; but not having noticed this myself, I cannot say that it
is so."

"Still you know there are agues which return at periods of either three,
six, or nine years. There are singular works in this machinery of ours.
Whenever this human clockwork is wound up in some particular way, fever,
or indigestion, or toothache returns at the very hour and day."

"Why, Gideon, I am quite aware of that; those periodical complaints are
the greatest trouble we have."

"I am sorry to hear it, for the count's complaint is periodical; it
comes back every year, on the same day, at the same hour; his mouth
runs over with foam, his eyes stand out white and staring, like great
billiard-balls; he shakes from head to foot, and he gnashes with his
teeth."

"Perhaps this man has had serious troubles to go through?"

"No, he has not. If his daughter would but consent to be married he
would be the happiest man alive. He is rich and powerful and full of
honours. He possesses everything that the rest of the world is coveting.
Unfortunately his daughter persists in refusing every offer of marriage.
She consecrates her life to God, and it harasses him to think that the
ancient house of Nideck will become extinct."

"How did his illness come on?" I asked.

"Suddenly, ten years ago," was the reply.

All at once the honest fellow seemed to be recollecting himself. He took
from his pocket a short pipe, filled it, and having lighted it--

"One evening," said he, "I was sitting alone with the count in the
armoury of the castle. It was about Christmas time. We had been hunting
wild boars the whole day in the valleys of the Rhéthal, and had returned
at night bringing home with us two of our boar-hounds ripped open from
head to tail. It was just as cold as it is to-night, with snow and frost.
The count was pacing up and down the room with his chin upon his breast
and his hands crossed behind him, like a man in profound thought. From
time to time he stopped to watch the gathering snow on the high windows,
and I was warming myself in the chimney corner, bewailing my dead hounds,
and bestowing maledictions on all the wild boars that infest the
Schwartzwald. Everybody at Nideck had been asleep a couple of hours,
and not a sound could be heard but the tread and the clank of the
count's heavy spurred boots upon the flags. I remember well that a crow,
no doubt driven by a gust of wind, came flapping its wings against the
window-panes, uttering a discordant shriek, and how the sheets of snow
fell from the windows, and the windows suddenly changed from white to
black--"

"But what has all this to do with your master's illness?" I interrupted.

"Let me go on--you will soon see. At that cry the count suddenly gathered
himself together with a shuddering movement, his eyes became fixed with a
glassy stare, his cheeks were bloodless, and he bent his head forward
just like a hunter catching the sound of his approaching game. I went on
warming myself, and I thought, 'Won't he soon go to bed now?' for, to
tell you the truth, I was overcome with fatigue. All these details,
Fritz, are still present in my memory. Scarcely had the bird of ill omen
croaked its unearthly cry when the old clock struck eleven. At that
moment the count turns on his heel--he listens, his lips tremble, I can
see him staggering like a drunken man. He stretches out his hands, his
jaws are tightly clenched, his eyes staring and white. I cried, 'My lord,
what is the matter?' but he began to laugh discordantly like a madman,
stumbled, and fell upon the stone floor, face downwards. I called for
help; servants came round. Sébalt took the count by the shoulders; we
removed him to a bed near the window; but just as I was loosening the
count's neckerchief--for I was afraid it was apoplexy--the countess came
and flung herself upon the body of her father, uttering such heartrending
cries that the very remembrance of them makes me shudder."

Here Gideon took his pipe from his lips, knocked the ashes out upon the
pommel of his saddle, and pursued his tale in a saddened voice.

"From that day, Fritz, none but evil days have come upon Nideck, and
better times seem to be far off. Every year at the same day and hour the
count has shuddering fits. The malady lasts from a week to a fortnight,
during which he howls and yells so frightfully that it makes a man's
blood run cold to hear him. Then he slowly recovers his usual health. He
is still pale and weak, and moves trembling from one chair to another,
starting at the least noise or movement, and fearful of his own shadow.
The young countess, the sweetest creature in the world, never leaves his
side; but he cannot endure her while the fit is upon him. He roars at
her, 'Go, leave me this moment! I have enough to endure without seeing
you hanging about me!' It is a horrible sight. I am always close at his
heels in the chase, I who sound the horn when he has killed the forest
beasts; I am at the head of all his retainers, and I would give my life
for his sake; yet when he is at his worst I can hardly keep off my hands
from his throat, I am so horrified at the way in which he treats his
beautiful daughter."

Sperver looked dangerously wroth for a moment, clapped both his spurs to
his mount, and we rode on at a hard gallop.

I had fallen into a reverie. The cure of a complaint of this description
appeared to me more than doubtful, even impossible. It was evidently a
mental disorder. To fight against it with any hope of success it would
be needful to trace it back to its origin, and this would, no doubt, be
too remote for successful investigation.

All these reflections perplexed me greatly. The old huntsman's story, far
from strengthening my hopes, only depressed me--not a very favourable
condition to insure success. At about three we came in sight of the
ancient castle of Nideck on the verge of the horizon. In spite of the
great distance we could distinguish the projecting turrets, apparently
suspended from the angles of the edifice. It was but a dim outline barely
distinguishable from the blue sky, but soon the red points of the Vosges
became visible.

At that moment Sperver drew in his bridle and said--

"Fritz, we shall have to get there before night--onward!"

But it was in vain that he spurred and lashed. The horse stood rooted
to the ground, his ears thrown back, his nostrils dilated, his sides
panting, his legs firmly planted in an attitude of resistance.

"What is the matter with the beast?" cried Gideon in astonishment. "Do
you see anything, Fritz? Surely--"

He broke off abruptly, pointing with his whip at a dark form in the snow
fifty yards off, on the slope of the hill.

"The Black Plague!" he exclaimed with a voice of distress which almost
robbed me of my self-possession.

Following the indication of his outstretched whip I discerned with
astonishment an aged woman crouching on the snowy ground, with her arms
clasped about her knees, and so tattered that her red elbows came through
her tattered sleeves. A few ragged locks of grey hung about her long,
scraggy, red, and vulture-like neck.

Strange to say, a bundle of some kind lay upon her knees, and her haggard
eyes were directed upon distant objects in the white landscape.

Spencer drew off to the left, giving the hideous object as wide a berth
as he could, and I had some difficulty in following him.

"Now," I cried, "what is all this for? Are you joking?"

"Joking?--assuredly not! I never joke about such serious matters. I am
not given to superstition, but I confess that I am alarmed at this
meeting!"

Then turning his head, and noticing that the old woman had not moved, and
that her eyes were fixed upon the same one spot, he appeared to gather a
little courage.

"Fritz," he said solemnly, "you are a man of learning--you know many
things of which I know nothing at all. Well, I can tell you this, that a
man is in the wrong who laughs at a thing because he can't understand it.
I have good reasons for calling this woman the Black Plague. She is known
by that name in the whole Black Forest, but here at Nideck she has earned
that title by supreme right."

And the good man pursued his way without further observation.

"Now, Sperver, just explain what you mean," I asked, "for I don't
understand you."

"That woman is the ruin of us all. She is a witch. She is the cause of it
all. It is she who is killing the count by inches."

"How is that possible?" I exclaimed. "How could she exercise such a
baneful influence?"

"I cannot tell how it is. All I know is, that on the very day that the
attack comes on, at the very moment, if you will ascend the beacon tower,
you will see the Black Plague squatting down like a dark speck on the
snow just between the Tiefenbach and the castle of Nideck. She sits there
alone, crouching close to the snow. Every day she comes a little nearer,
and every day the attacks grow worse. You would think he hears her
approach. Sometimes on the first day, when the fits of trembling have
come over him, he has said to me, 'Gideon, I feel her coming.' I hold him
by the arms and restrain the shuddering somewhat, but he still repeats,
stammering and struggling with his agony, and his eyes staring and fixed,
'She is coming--nearer--oh--oh--she comes!' Then I go up Hugh Lupus's
tower; I survey the country. You know I have a keen eye for distant
objects. At last, amidst the grey mists afar off, between sky and earth,
I can just make out a dark speck. The next morning that black spot has
grown larger. The Count of Nideck goes to bed with chattering teeth. The
next day again we can make out the figure of the old hag; the fierce
attacks begin; the count cries out. The day after, the witch is at the
foot of the mountain, and the consequence is that the count's jaws are
set like a vice; his mouth foams; his eyes turn in his head. Vile
creature! Twenty times I have had her within gunshot, and the count has
bid me shed no blood. 'No, Sperver, no; let us have no bloodshed.' Poor
man, he is sparing the life of the wretch who is draining his life from
him, for she is killing him, Fritz; he is reduced to skin and bone."

My good friend Gideon was in too great a rage with the unhappy woman to
make it possible to bring him back to calm reason. Besides, who can draw
the limits around the region of possibility? Every day we see the range
of reality extending more widely. Unseen and unknown influences,
marvellous correspondences, invisible bonds, some kind of mysterious
magnetism, are, on the one hand, proclaimed as undoubted facts, and
denied on the other with irony and scepticism, and yet who can say that
after a while there will not be some astonishing revelations breaking in
in the midst of us all when we least expect it? In the midst of so much
ignorance it seems easy to lay a claim to wisdom and shrewdness.

I therefore only begged Sperver to moderate his anger, and by no means to
fire upon the Black Plague, warning him that such a proceeding would
bring serious misfortune upon him.

"Pooh!" he cried; "at the very worst they could but hang me."

But that, I remarked, was a good deal for an honest man to suffer.

"Not at all," he cried; "it is but one kind of death out of many. You are
suffocated, that is all. I would just as soon die of that as of a hammer
falling on my head, as in apoplexy, or not to be able to sleep, or smoke,
or swallow, or digest my food."

"You, Gideon, with your grey beard, you have learnt a peculiar mode of
reasoning."

"Grey beard or not, that is my way of seeing things. I always keep a ball
in my double-barrelled gun at the witch's service; from time to time I
put in a fresh charge, and if I get the chance--"

He only added an expressive gesture.

"Quite wrong, Sperver, quite wrong. I agree with the Count of Nideck, and
I say no bloodshed. Oceans cannot wipe away blood shed in anger. Think of
that, and discharge that barrel against the first boar you meet."

These words seemed to make some impression upon the old huntsman; he hung
down his head and looked thoughtful.

We were then climbing the wooded steeps which separate the poor village
of Tiefenbach from the Castle of Nideck.

Night had closed in. As it always happens with us after a bright clear
winter's day, snow was again beginning to fall, heavy flakes dropped and
melted upon our horses' manes, who were beginning now to pluck up their
spirits at the near prospect of the comfortable stable.

Now and then Sperver looked over his shoulder with evident uneasiness;
and I myself was not altogether free from a feeling of apprehension in
thinking of the strange account which the huntsman had given me of his
master's complaint.

Besides all this, there is a certain harmony between external nature and
the spirit of a man, and I know of nothing more depressing than a gloomy
forest loaded in every branch with thick snow and hoar frost, and moaning
in the north wind. The gaunt and weird-looking trunks of the tall pines
and the gnarled and massive oaks look mournfully upon you, and fill you
with melancholy thoughts.

As we ascended the rocky eminence the oaks became fewer, and scattered
birches, straight and white as marble pillars, divided the dark green of
the forest pines, when in a moment, as we issued from a thicket, the
ancient stronghold stood before us in a heavy mass, its dark surface
studded with brilliant points of light.

Sperver had pulled up before a deep gateway between two towers, barred in
by an iron grating.

"Here we are," he cried, throwing the reins on the horses' necks.

He laid hold of the deer's-foot bell-handle, and the clear sound of a
bell broke the stillness.

After waiting a few minutes the light of a lantern flickered in the deep
archway, showing us in its semicircular frame of ruddy light the figure
of a humpbacked dwarf, yellow-bearded, broad-shouldered, and wrapped in
furs from head to foot.

You might have thought him, in the deep shadow, some gnome or evil spirit
of earth realised out of the dreams of the Niebelungen Lieder.

He came towards us at a very leisurely pace, and laid his great flat
features close against the massive grating, straining his eyes, and
trying to make us out in the darkness in which we were standing.

"Is that you, Sperver?" he asked in a hoarse voice.

"Open at once, Knapwurst," was the quick reply. "Don't you know how cold
it is?"

"Oh! I know you now," cried the little man; "there's no mistaking you.
You always speak as if you were going to gobble people up."

The door opened, and the dwarf, examining me with his lantern, with an
odd expression in his face, received me with "Willkommen, herr doctor,"
but which seemed to say besides, "Here is another who will have to go
away again as others have done." Then he quietly closed the door, whilst
we alighted, and came to take our horses by the bridle.



CHAPTER II.


Following Sperver, who ascended the staircase with rapid steps, I was
still able to convince myself that the Castle of Nideck had not an
undeserved reputation.

It was a true stronghold, partly cut out of the rock, such as used
formerly to be called a _château d'ambuscade_. Its lofty vaulted arches
re-echoed afar with our steps, and the outside air blowing with sharp
gusts through the loopholes--narrow slits made for the archers of former
days--caused our torches to flare and flicker from space to space over
the faintly-illuminated protruding lines of the arches as they caught the
uncertain light.

Sperver knew every nook and corner of this vast place. He turned now to
the right and now to the left, and I followed him breathless. At last he
stopped on a spacious landing, and said to me--

"Now, Fritz, I will leave you for a minute with the people of the castle
to inform the young Countess Odile of your arrival."

"Do just what you think right."

"Then you will find the head butler, Tobias Offenloch, an old soldier of
the regiment of Nideck. He campaigned in France under the count; and you
will see his wife, a Frenchwoman, Marie Lagoutte, who pretends that she
comes of a high family."

"And why should she not?"

"Of course she might; but, between ourselves, she was nothing but a
_cantinière_ in the Grande Armée. She brought in Tobias Offenloch upon
her cart, with one of his legs gone, and he has married her out of
gratitude. You understand?"

"That will do, but open, for I am numb with cold."

And I was about to push on; but Sperver, as obstinate as any other good
German, was not going to let me off without edifying me upon the history
of the people with whom my lot was going to be cast for awhile, and
holding me by the frogs of my fur coat he went on--

"There's, besides, Sébalt Kraft, the master of the hounds; he is rather
a dismal fellow, but he has not his equal at sounding the horn; and there
will be Karl Trumpf, the butler, and Christian Becker, and everybody,
unless they have all gone to bed."

Thereupon Sperver pushed open the door, and I stood in some surprise on
the threshold of a high, dark hall, the guard room of the old lords of
Nideck.

My eyes fell at first upon the three windows at the farther end, looking
out upon the sheer rocky precipice. On the right stood an old sideboard
in dark oak, and upon it a cask, glasses, and bottles; on the left a
Gothic chimney overhung with its heavy massive mantelpiece, empurpled by
the brilliant roaring fire underneath, and ornamented on both front and
sides with wood-carvings representing scenes from boar-hunts in the
Middle Ages, and along the centre of the apartment a long table, upon
which stood a huge lamp throwing its light upon a dozen pewter tankards.

At one glance I saw all this; but the human portion of the scene
interested me most.

I recognised the major-domo, or head butler, by his wooden leg, of which
I had already heard; he was of low stature, round, fat, and rosy, and his
knees seldom coming within an easy range of his eyesight; a nose red and
bulbous like a ripe raspberry; on his head he wore a huge hemp-coloured
wig, bulging out over his fat poll; a coat of light green plush, with
steel buttons as large as a five-franc piece; velvet breeches, silk
stockings, and shoes garnished with silver buckles. He was just with his
hand upon the top of the cask, with an air of inexpressible satisfaction
beaming upon his ruddy features, and his eyes glowing in profile, from
the reflection of the fire, like a couple of watch-glasses.

His wife, the worthy Marie Lagoutte, her spare figure draped in
voluminous folds, her long and sallow face like a skin of chamois
leather, was playing at cards with two servants who were gravely seated
on straight-backed arm-chairs. Certain small split pegs were seated
astride across the nose of the old woman and that of another player,
whilst the third was significantly and cunningly winking his eye and
seeming to enjoy seeing them victimised upon these new Caudine Forks.

"How many cards?" he was asking.

"Two," answered the old woman.

"And you, Christian?"

"Two."

"Aha! now I have got you, then. Cut the king--now the ace--here's one,
here's another. Another peg, mother! This will teach you once more not
to brag about French games."

"Monsieur Christian, you don't treat the fair sex with proper respect."

"At cards you respect nobody."

"But you see I have no room left!"

"Pooh, on a nose like yours there's always room for more!"

At that moment Sperver cried--

"Mates, here I am!"

"Ha! Gideon, back already?"

Marie Lagoutte shook off her numerous pegs with a jerk of her head. The
big butler drank off his glass. Everybody turned our way.

"Is monseigneur better?"

The butler answered with a doubtful ejaculation.

"Is he just the same?"

"Much about," answered Marie Lagoutte, who never took her eyes off me.

Sperver noticed this.

"Let me introduce to you my foster-son, Doctor Fritz, from the Black
Forest," he answered proudly. "Now we shall see a change, Master Tobie.
Now that Fritz has come the abominable fits will be put an end to. If I
had but been listened to earlier--but better late than never."

Marie Lagoutte was still watching us, and her scrutiny seemed
satisfactory, for, addressing the major-domo, she said--

"Now, Monsieur Offenloch, hand the doctor a chair; move about a little,
do! There you stand with your mouth wide open, just like a fish. Ah, sir,
these Germans!"

And the good man, jumping up as if moved by a spring, came to take off my
cloak.

"Permit me, sir."

"You are very kind, my dear lady."

"Give it to me. What terrible weather! Ah, monsieur, what a dreadful
country this is!"

"So monseigneur is neither better nor worse," said Sperver, shaking the
snow off his cap; "we are not too late, then. Ho, Kasper! Kasper!"

A little man, who had one shoulder higher than the other, and his face
spotted with innumerable freckles, came out of the chimney corner.

"Here I am!"

"Very good; now get ready for this gentleman the bedroom at the end of
the long gallery--Hugh's room; you know which I mean."

"Yes, Sperver, in a minute."

"And you will take with you, as you go, the doctor's knapsack. Knapwurst
will give it you. As for supper--"

"Never you mind. That is my business."

"Very well, then. I will depend upon you."

The little man went out, and Gideon, after taking off his cape, left us
to go and inform the young countess of my arrival.

I was rather overpowered with the attentions of Marie Lagoutte.

"Give up that place of yours, Sébalt," she cried to the kennel-keeper.
"You are roasted enough by this time. Sit near the fire, monsieur le
docteur; you must have very cold feet. Stretch out your legs; that's the
way."

Then, holding out her snuff-box to me--

"Do you take snuff?"

"No, dear madam, with many thanks."

"That is a pity," she answered, filling both nostrils. "It is the most
delightful habit."

She slipped her snuff-box back into her apron pocket, and went on--

"You are come not a bit too soon. Monseigneur had his second attack
yesterday; it was an awful attack, was it not, Monsieur Offenloch?"

"Furious indeed," answered the head butler gravely.

"It is not surprising," she continued, "when a man takes no nourishment.
Fancy, monsieur, that for two days he has never tasted broth!"

"Nor a glass of wine," added the major-domo, crossing his hands over his
portly, well-lined person.

As it seemed expected of me, I expressed my surprise, on which Tobias
Offenloch came to sit at my right hand, and said--

"Doctor, take my advice; order him a bottle a day of Marcobrunner."

"And," chimed in Marie Lagoutte, "a wing of a chicken at every meal. The
poor man is frightfully thin."

"We have got Marcobrunner sixty years in bottle," added the major-domo,
"for it is a mistake of Madame Offenloch's to suppose that the French
drank it all. And you had better order, while you are about it, now and
then, a good bottle of Johannisberg. That is the best wine to set a man
up again."

"Time was," remarked the master of the hounds in a dismal voice--"time
was when monseigneur hunted twice a week; then he was well; when he left
off hunting, then he fell ill."

"Of course it could not be otherwise," observed Marie Lagoutte. "The open
air gives you an appetite. The doctor had better order him to hunt three
times a week to make up for lost time."

"Two would be enough," replied the man of dogs with the same gravity;
"quite enough. The hounds must have their rest. Dogs have just as much
right to rest as we have."

There was a few moments' silence, during which I could hear the wind
beating against the window-panes, and rush, sighing and wailing, through
the loopholes into the towers.

Sébalt sat with legs across, and his elbow resting on his knee, gazing
into the fire with unspeakable dolefulness. Marie Lagoutte, after having
refreshed herself with a fresh pinch, was settling her snuff into shape
in its box, while I sat thinking on the strange habit people indulge in
of pressing their advice upon those who don't want it.

At this moment the major-domo rose.

"Will you have a glass of wine, doctor?" said he, leaning over the back
of my arm-chair.

"Thank you, but I never drink before seeing a patient."

"What! not even one little glass?"

"Not the smallest glass you could offer me."

He opened his eyes wide and looked with astonishment at his wife.

"The doctor is right," she said. "I am quite of his opinion. I prefer
to drink with my meat, and to take a glass of cognac afterwards. That
is what the ladies do in France. Cognac is more fashionable than
kirschwasser!"

Marie Lagoutte had hardly finished with her dissertation when Sperver
opened the door quietly and beckoned me to follow him.

I bowed to the "honourable company," and as I was entering the passage
I could hear that lady saying to her husband--

"That is a nice young man. He would have made a good-looking soldier."

Sperver looked uneasy, but said nothing. I was full of my own thoughts.

A few steps under the darkling vaults of Nideck completely effaced from
my memory the queer figures of Tobias and Marie Lagoutte, poor harmless
creatures, existing like bats under the mighty wing of the vulture.

Soon Gideon brought me into a sumptuous apartment hung with
violet-coloured velvet, relieved with gold. A bronze lamp stood in a
corner, its brightness toned down by a globe of ground crystal; thick
carpets, soft as the turf on the hills, made our steps noiseless. It
seemed a fit abode for silence and meditation.

On entering Sperver lifted the heavy draperies which fell around an ogee
window. I observed him straining his eyes to discover something in the
darkened distance; he was trying to make out whether the witch still lay
there crouching down upon the snow in the midst of the plain; but he
could see nothing, for there was deep darkness over all.

But I had gone on a few steps, and came in sight, by the faint rays of
the lamp, of a pale, delicate figure seated in a Gothic chair not far
from the sick man. It was Odile of Nideck. Her long black silk dress, her
gentle expression of calm self-devotion and complete resignation, the
ideal angel-like cast of her sweet features, recalled to one's mind those
mysterious creations of the pencil in the Middle Ages when painting was
pursued as a true art, but which modern imitators have found themselves
obliged to give up in despair, while at the same time they never can
forget them.

I cannot say what thoughts passed rapidly through my mind at the sight
of this fair creature, but certainly much of devotion mingled with my
sentiments. A sense of music and harmony swept sadly through by soul,
with faint impressions of the old ballads of my childhood--of those pious
songs with which the kind nurses of the Black Forest rock to peaceful
sleep our infant sorrows.

At my approach Odile rose.

"You are very welcome, monsieur le docteur," she said with touching
kindness and simplicity; then, pointing with her finger to a recess where
lay the count, she added, "There is my father."

I bowed respectfully and without answering, for I felt deeply affected,
and drew near to my patient.

Sperver, standing at the head of the bed, held up the lamp with one hand,
holding his far cap in the other. Odile stood at my left hand. The light,
softened by the subdued light of the globe of ground crystal, fell softly
on the face of the count.

At once I was struck with a strangeness in the physiognomy of the Count
of Nideck, and in spite of all the admiration which his lovely daughter
had at once obtained from me, my first conclusion was, "What an old
wolf!"

And such he seemed to be indeed. A grey head, covered with short, close
hair, strangely full behind the ears, and drawn out in the face to a
portentous length, the narrowness of his forehead up to its summit
widening over the eyebrows, which were shaggy and met, pointing downwards
over the bridge of the nose, imperfectly shading with their sable outline
the cold and inexpressive eyes; the short, rough beard, irregularly
spread over the angular and bony outline of the mouth--every feature of
this man's dreadful countenance made me shudder, and strange notions
crossed my mind about the mysterious affinities between man and the lower
creation.

But I resisted my first impressions and took the sick man's hand. It was
dry and wiry, yet small and strong; I found the pulse quick, feverish,
and denoting great irritability.

What was I to do?

I stood considering; on the one side stood the young lady, anxiously
trying to read a little hope in my face; on the other Sperver, equally
anxious and watching my every movement. A painful constraint lay,
therefore, upon me, yet I saw that there was nothing definite that
could be attempted yet.

I dropped the arm and listened to the breathing. From time to time a
convulsive sob heaved the sick man's heart, after which followed a
succession of quick, short respirations. A kind of nightmare was
evidently weighing him down--epilepsy, perhaps, or tetanus. But what
could be the cause or origin?

I turned round full of painful thoughts.

"Is there any hope, sir?" asked the young countess.

"Yesterday's crisis is drawing to its close," I answered; "we must see if
we can prevent its recurrence."

"Is there any possibility of it, sir?"

I was about to answer in general medical terms, not daring to venture any
positive assertions, when the distant sound of the bell at the gate fell
upon our ears.

"Visitors," said Sperver.

There was a moment's silence.

"Go and see who it is," said Odile, whose brow was for a minute shaded
with anxiety. "How can one be hospitable to strangers at such a time? It
is hardly possible!"

But the door opened, and a rosy face, with golden hair, appeared in the
shadow, and said in a whisper--

"It is the Baron of Zimmer-Bluderich, with a servant, and he asks for
shelter in the Nideck. He has lost his way among the mountains."

"Very well, Gretchen," answered the young countess, kindly; "go and tell
the steward to attend to the Baron de Zimmer. Inform him that the count
is very ill, and that this alone prevents him from doing the honours as
he would wish. Wake up some of our people to wait on him, and let
everything be done properly."

Nothing could exceed the sweet and noble simplicity of the young
châtelaine in giving her orders. If an air of distinction seems
hereditary in some families it is surely because the exercise of the
duties conferred by the possession of wealth has a natural tendency to
ennoble the whole character and bearing.

These thoughts passed through my mind whilst admiring the grace and
gentleness in every movement of Odile of Nideck, and that clearness and
purity of outline which is only found marked in the features of the
higher aristocracy, and I could recall nothing to my recollection equal
to this ideal beauty.

"Go now, Gretchen," said the young countess, "and make haste."

The attendant went out, and I stood a few seconds under the influence of
the charm of her manner.

Odile turned round, and addressing me, "You see, sir," said she with a
sad smile, "one may not indulge in grief without a pause; we must divide
ourselves between our affection within and the world without."

"True, madam," I replied; "souls of the highest order are for the common
property and advantage of the unhappy--the lost wayfarer, the sick, the
hungry poor--each has his claim for a share, for God has made them like
the stars of heaven to give light and pleasure to all."

The deep-fringed eyelids veiled the blue eyes for a moment, while Sperver
pressed my hand.

Presently she pursued--

"Ah, if you could but restore my father's health!"

"As I have had the pleasure to inform you, madam, the crisis is past; the
return must be anticipated, if possible."

"Do you hope that it may?"

"With God's help, madam, it is not impossible; I will think carefully
over it."

Odile, much moved, came with me to the door. Sperver and I crossed the
ante-room, where a few servants were waiting for the orders of their
mistress. We had just entered the corridor when Gideon, who was walking
first, turned quickly round, and, placing both his hands on my shoulders,
said--

"Come, Fritz; I am to be depended upon for keeping a secret; what is your
opinion?"

"I think there is no cause of apprehension for to-night."

"I know that--so you told the countess--but how about to-morrow?"

"To-morrow?"

"Yes; don't turn round. I suppose you cannot prevent the return of the
complaint; do you think, Fritz, he will die of it?"

"It is possible, but hardly probable."

"Well done!" cried the good man, springing from the ground with joy; "if
you don't think so, that means that you are sure."

And taking my arm, he drew me into the gallery. We had just reached it
when the Baron of Zimmer-Bluderich and his groom appeared there also,
marshalled by Sébalt with a lighted torch in his hand. They were on their
way to their chambers, and those two figures, with their cloaks flung
over their shoulders, their loose Hungarian boots up to the knees, the
body closely girt with long dark-green laced and frogged tunics, and the
bear-skin cap closely and warmly covering the head, were very picturesque
objects by the flickering light of the pine-torch.

"There," whispered Sperver, "if I am not very much mistaken, those are
our Fribourg friends; they have followed very close upon our heels."

"You are quite right: they are the men; I recognise the younger by his
tall, slender figure, his aquiline nose, and his long, drooping
moustache."

They disappeared through a side passage.

Gideon took a torch from the wall, and guided me through quite a maze of
corridors, aisles, narrow and wide passages, under high vaulted roofs and
under low-built arches; who could remember? There seemed no end.

"Here is the hall of the margraves," said he; "here is the
portrait-gallery, and this is the chapel, where no mass has been
said since Louis the Bold became a Protestant."

All these particulars had very little interest for me.

After reaching the end we had again to go down steps; at last we happily
came to the end of our journey before a low massive door. Sperver took a
huge key out of his pocket, and handing me the torch, said--

"Mind the light--look out!"

At the same time he pushed open the door, and the cold outside air rushed
into the narrow passage. The torch flared and sent out a volley of sparks
in all directions. I thought I saw a dark abyss before me, and recoiled
with fear.

"Ha, ha, ha!" cried the huntsman, opening his mouth from ear to ear, "you
are surely not afraid, Fritz? Come on; don't be frightened! We are upon
the parapet between the castle and the old tower."

And my friend advanced to set me the example.

The narrow granite-walled platform was deep in snow, swept in swirling
banks by the angry winds. Any one who had seen our flaring torch from
below would have asked, "What are they doing up there in the clouds? what
can they want at this time of the night?"

Perhaps, I thought within myself, the witch is looking up at us, and that
idea gave me a fit of shuddering. I drew closer together the folds of my
horseman's cloak, and with my hand upon my hat, I set off after Sperver
at a run; he was raising the light above his head to show me the road,
and was moving forward rapidly.

We rushed into the tower and then into Hugh Lupus's chamber. A bright
fire saluted us here with its cheerful rays; how delightful to be once
more sheltered by thick walls!

I had stopped while Sperver closed the door, and contemplating this
ancient abode, I cried--

"Thank God! we shall rest now!"

"With a well-furnished table before us," added Gideon. "Don't stand there
with your nose in the air, but rather consider what is before you--a leg
of a kid, a couple of roast fowls, a pike fresh caught, with parsley
sauce; cold meats and hot wines, that's what I like. Kasper has attended
to my orders like a real good fellow."

Gideon spoke the truth. The meats were cold and the wines were warm, for
in front of the fire stood a row of small bottles under the gentle
influence of the heat.

At the sight of these good things my appetite rose in me wonderfully. But
Sperver, who understood what is comfortable, stopped me.

"Fritz," said he, "don't let us be in too great a hurry; we have plenty
of time; the fowls won't fly away. Your boots must hurt you. After eight
hours on horseback it is pleasant to take off one's boots, that's my
principle. Now sit down, put your boot between my knees; there goes one
off, now the other, that's the way; now put your feet into these
slippers, take off your cloak and throw this lighter coat over your
shoulders. Now we are ready."

And with his cheery summons I sat down with him to work, one on each side
of the table, remembering the German proverb--"Thirst comes from the evil
one, but good wine from the Powers above."



CHAPTER III.


We ate with the vigorous appetite which ten hours in the snows of the
Black Forest would be sure to provoke.

Sperver making indiscriminate attacks upon the kid, the fowls, and the
fish, murmured with his mouth full--

"The woods, the lakes and rivers, and the heathery hills are full of good
things!"

Then he leaned over the back of his chair, and laying his hand on the
first bottle that came to hand, he added--

"And we have hills green in spring, purple in autumn when the grapes
ripen. Your health, Fritz!"

"Yours, Gideon!"

We were a wonder to behold. We reciprocally admired each other.

The fire crackled, the forks rattled, teeth were in full activity,
bottles gurgled, glasses jingled, while outside the wintry blast, the
high moaning mountain winds, were mournfully chanting the dirge of the
year, that strange wailing hymn with which they accompany the shock of
the tempest and the swift rush of the grey clouds charged with snow and
hail, while the pale moon lights up the grim and ghastly battle scene.

But we were snug under cover, and our appetite was fading away into
history. Sperver had filled the "wieder komm," the "come again," with old
wine of Brumberg; the sparkling froth fringed its ample borders; he
presented it to me, saying--

"Drink the health of Yeri-Hans, lord of Nideck. Drink to the last drop,
and show them that you mean it!"

Which was done.

Then he filled it again, and repeating with a voice that re-echoed among
the old walls, "To the recovery of my noble master, the high and mighty
lord of Nideck," he drained it also.

Then a feeling of satisfied repletion stole gently over us, and we felt
pleased with everything.

I fell back in my chair, with my face directed to the ceiling, and my
arms hanging lazily down. I began dreamily to consider what sort of a
place I had got into.

It was a low vaulted ceiling cut out of the live rock, almost
oven-shaped, and hardly twelve feet high at the highest point. At the
farther end I saw a sort of deep recess where lay my bed on the ground,
and consisting, as I thought I could see, of a huge bear-skin above, and
I could not tell what below, and within this yet another smaller niche
with a figure of the Virgin Mary carved out of the same granite, and
crowned with a bunch of withered grass.

"You are looking over your room," said Spencer. "_Parbleu!_ it is none of
the biggest or grandest, not quite like the rooms in the castle. We are
now in Hugh Lupus's tower, a place as old as the mountain itself, going
as far back as the days of Charlemagne. In those days, as you see, people
had not yet learned to build arches high, round, or pointed. They worked
right into the rock."

"Well, for all that, you have put me in strange lodgings."

"Don't be mistaken, Fritz; it is the place of honour. It is here that the
count put all his most distinguished friends. Mind that: Hugh Lupus's
tower is the most honourable accommodation we have."

"And who was Hugh Lupus?"

"Why, Hugh the Wolf, to be sure. He was the head of the family of Nideck,
a rough-and-ready warrior, I can tell you. He came to settle up here with
a score of horsemen and halberdiers of his following. They climbed up
this rock--the highest rock amongst these mountains. You will see this
to-morrow. They constructed this tower, and proclaimed, 'Now we are the
masters! Woe befall the miserable wretches who shall pass without paying
toll to us! We will tear the wool off their backs, and their hide too, if
need be. From this watch-tower we shall command a view of the far
distance all round. The passes of the Rhéthal, of Steinbach, Koche Plate,
and of the whole line of the Black Forest are under our eye. Let the Jew
pedlars and the dealers beware!' And the noble fellows did what they
promised. Hugh the Wolf was at their head. Knapwurst told me all about it
sitting up one night."

"Who is Knapwurst?"

"That little humpback who opened the gate for us. He is an odd fellow,
Fritz, and almost lives in the library."

"So you have a man of learning at Nideck?"

"Yes, we have, the rascal! Instead of confining himself to the porter's
lodge, his proper place, all the day over he is amongst the dusty books
and parchments belonging to the family. He comes and goes along the
shelves of the library just like a big cat. Knapwurst knows our story
better than we know it ourselves. He would tell you the longest tales,
Fritz, if you would only let him. He calls them chronicles--ha, ha!"

And Sperver, with the wine mounting a little into his head, began to
laugh, he could hardly say why.

"So then, Gideon, you call this tower, Hugh's tower the Hugh Lupus
tower?"

"Haven't I told you so already? What are you so astonished at?"

"Nothing particular."

"But you are. I can see it in your face. You are thinking of something
strange. What is it?"

"Oh, never mind! It is not the name of the tower which surprises me. What
I am wondering at is, how it is that you, an old poacher, who had never
lived anywhere since you were a boy but amongst the fir forests, between
the snowy summits of the Wald Horn and the passes of the Rhéthal--you
who, during all your prime of life, thought it the finest of fun to laugh
at the count's gamekeepers, and to scour the mountain paths of the
Schwartzwald, and boat the bushes there, and breathe the free air, and
bask in the bright sunshine amongst the hills and valleys--here I find
you, at the end of sixteen years of such a life, shut up in this red
granite hole. That is what surprises me and what I cannot understand.
Come, Sperver, light your pipe, and tell me all about it."

The old poacher took out of his leathern jacket a bit of a blackened
pipe; he filled it at his leisure, gathered up in the hollow of his hand
a live ember, which he placed upon the bowl of his pipe; then with his
eyes dreamily cast up to the ceiling he answered meditatively--

"Old falcons, gerfalcons, and hawks, when they have long swept the
plains, end their lives in a hole in a rock. Sure enough I am fond of the
wide expanse of sky and land. I always was fond of it; but instead of
perching by night upon a high branch of a tall tree, rocked by the wind,
I now prefer to return to my cavern, to drink a glass, to pick a bone of
venison, and dry my plumage before a warm fire. The Count of Nideck does
not disdain Sperver, the old hawk, the true man of the woods. One
evening, meeting me by moonlight, he frankly said to me, 'Old comrade,
you hunt only by night. Come and hunt by day with me. You have a sharp
beak and strong claws. Well, hunt away, if such is your nature; but hunt
by my licence, for I am the eagle upon these mountains, and my name is
Nideck!'"

Sperver was silent a few minutes; then he resumed--

"That was just what suited me, and now I hunt as I used to do, and I
quietly drink along with a friend my bottle of Affenthal or--"

At that moment there was a shock that made the door vibrate; Sperver
stopped and listened.

"It is a gust of wind," I said.

"No, it is something else. Don't you hear the scratching of claws?
It is a dog that has escaped. Open, Lieverlé, open, Blitzen!" cried
the huntsman, rising; but he had not gone a couple of steps when a
formidable-looking hound of the Danish breed broke into the tower, and
ran to lay his heavy paws on his master's shoulders, licking his beard
and his cheeks with his long rose-coloured tongue, uttering all the while
short barks and yelps expressive of his joy.

Sperver had passed his arm round the dog's neck, and, turning to me,
said--

"Fritz, what man could love me as this dog does? Do look at this head,
these eyes, these teeth!"

He uncovered the animal's teeth, displaying a set of fangs that would
have pulled down and rent a buffalo. Then repelling him with difficulty,
for the dog was re-doubling his caresses--

"Down, Lieverlé. I know you love me. If you did not, who would?"

Never had I seen so tremendous a dog as this Lieverlé. His height
attained two feet and a half. He would have been a most formidable
creature in an attack. His forehead was broad, flat, and covered with
fine soft hair; his eye was keen, his paws of great length, his sides
and legs a woven mass of muscles and nerves, broad over the back and
shoulders, slender and tapering towards the hind legs. But he had no
scent. If such monstrous and powerful hounds were endowed with the scent
of the terrier there would soon be an end of game.

Sperver had returned to his seat, and was passing his hand over
Lieverlé's massive head with pride, and enumerating to me his excellent
qualities.

Lieverlé seemed to understand him.

"See, Fritz, that dog will throttle a wolf with one snap of his jaws. For
courage and strength, he is perfection. He is not five years old, but he
is in his prime. I need not tell you that he is trained to hunt the boar.
Every time we come across a herd of them I tremble for Lieverlé; his
attack is too straightforward, he flies on the game as straight as an
arrow. That is why I am afraid of the brutes' tusks. Lie down, Lieverlé,
lie on your back!"

The dog obeyed, and presented to view his flesh-coloured sides.

"Look, Fritz, at that long white seam without any hair upon it from under
the thigh right up to the chest. A boar did that. Poor creature! he was
holding him fast by the ear and would not let go; we tracked the two by
the blood. I was the first up with them. Seeing my Lieverlé I gave a
shout, I jumped off my horse, I caught him between my arms, flung him
into my cloak, and brought him home. I was almost beside myself. Happily
the vital parts had not been wounded. I sewed up his belly in spite of
his howling and yelling, for he suffered fearfully; but in three days he
was already licking his wound, and a dog who licks himself is already
saved. You remember that, Lieverlé, hey! and aren't we fonder of each
other now than ever?"

I was quite moved with the affection of the man for that dog, and of the
dog for his master; they seemed to look into the very depths of each
other's souls. The dog wagged his tail, and the man had tears in his
eyes.

Sperver went on--

"What amazing strength! Do you see, Fritz, he has burst his cord to get
to me--a rope of six strands; he found out my track and here he is! Here,
Lieverlé, catch!"

And he threw to him the remains of the leg of kid. The jaws opened wide
and closed again with a terrible crash, and Sperver, looking at me
significantly, said--

"Fritz, if he were to grip you by your breeches you would not get away so
easily!"

"Nor any one else, I suppose."

The dog went to stretch himself at his ease full length under the
mantelshelf with the leg fast between his mighty paws. He began to tear
it into pieces. Sperver looked at him out of the corner of his eye with
great satisfaction. The bone was fast falling into small fragments in the
powerful mill that was crashing it. Lieverlé was partial to marrow!

"Aha! Fritz, if you were requested to fetch that bone away from him, what
would you say?"

"I should think it a mission requiring extraordinary delicacy and tact."

Then we broke out into a hearty laugh, and Sperver, seated in his
leathern easy chair, with his left arm thrown back over his head, one of
his manly legs over a stool, and the other in front of a huge log, which
was dripping at its end with the oozing sap, and darted volumes of light
grey smoke to the roof.

I was still contemplating the dog, when, suddenly recollecting our broken
conversation, I went on--

"Now, Sperver, you have not told me everything. When you left the mountain
for the castle was it not on account of the death of Gertrude, your good,
excellent wife?"

Gideon frowned, and a tear dimmed his eye; he drew himself up, and
shaking out the ashes of his pipe upon his thumbnail, he said--

"True, my wife is dead. That drove me from the woods. I could not look
upon the valley of Roche Creuse without pain. I turned my flight in this
direction: I hunt less in the woods, and I can see it all from higher up,
and if by chance the pack tails off in that direction I let them go. I
turn back and try to think of something else."

Sperver had grown taciturn. With his head drooped upon his breast, his
eyes fixed on the stone floor, he sat silent. I felt sorry to have awoke
these melancholy recollections in him. Then, my thoughts once more
returning to the Black Plague grovelling in the snow, I felt a shivering
of horror.

How strange! just one word had sent us into a train of unhappy thoughts.
A whole world of remembrances was called up by a chance.

I know not how long this silence lasted, when a growl, deep, long, and
terrible, like distant thunder, made us start.

We looked at the dog. The half-gnawed bone was still between his
forepaws, but with head raised high, ears cocked up, and flashing eye,
he was listening intently--listening to the silence as it were, and an
angry quivering ran down the length of his back.

Sperver and I fixed on each other anxious eyes; yet there was not a
sound, not a breath outside, for the wind had gone down; nothing could be
heard but the deep protracted growl which came from deep down the chest
of the noble hound.

Suddenly he sprang up and bounded impetuously against the wall with a
hoarse, rough bark of fearful loudness. The walls re-echoed just as if
a clap of thunder had rattled the casements.

Lieverlé, with his head low down, seemed to want to see through the
granite, and his lips drawn back from his teeth discovered them to the
very gums, displaying two close rows of fangs white as ivory. Still he
growled. For a moment he would stop abruptly with his nose snuffing close
to the wall, next the floor, with strong respirations; then he would rise
again in a fresh rage, and with his forepaws seemed as if he would break
through the granite.

We watched in silence without being able to understand what caused his
excitement.

Another yell of rage more terrible than the first made us spring from our
seats.

"Lieverlé! what possesses you? Are you going mad?"

He seized a log and began to sound the wall, which only returned the
dead, hard sound of a wall of solid rock. There was no hollow in it; yet
the dog stood in the posture of attack.

"Decidedly you must have been dreaming bad dreams," said the huntsman.
"Come, lie down, and don't worry us any more with your nonsense."

At that moment a noise outside reached our ears. The door opened, and the
fat honest countenance of Tobias Offenloch with his lantern in one hand
and his stick in the other, his three-cornered hat on his head, appeared,
smiling and jovial, in the opening.

"_Salut! l'honorable compagnie!_" he cried as he entered; "what are you
doing here?"

"It was that rascal Lieverlé who made all that row. Just fancy--he set
himself up against that wall as if he smelt a thief. What could he mean?"

"Why _parbleu_! he heard the dot, dot of my wooden leg, to be sure,
stumping up the tower-stairs," answered the jolly fellow, laughing.

Then setting his lantern on the table--

"That will teach you, friend Gideon, to tie up your dogs. You are
foolishly weak over your dogs--very foolishly. Those beasts of yours
won't be satisfied till they have put us all out of doors. Just this
minute I met Blitzen in the long gallery: he sprang at my leg--see there
are the marks of his teeth in proof of what I say; and it is quite a new
leg--a brute of a hound!"

"Tie up my dogs! That's rather a new idea," said the huntsman. "Dogs tied
up are good for nothing at all; they grow too wild. Besides, was not
Lieverlé tied up, after all? See his broken cord."

"What I tell you is not on my own account. When they come near me I
always hold up my stick and put my wooden leg foremost--that is my
discipline. I say, dogs in their kennels, cats on the roof, and the
people in the castle."

Tobias sat down after thus delivering himself of his sentiments, and with
both elbows on the table, his eyes expanding with delight, he confided to
us that just now he was a bachelor.

"You don't mean that!"

"Yes, Marie Anne is sitting up with Gertrude in monseigneur's ante-room."

"Then you are in no hurry to go away?"

"No, none at all. I should like to stay in your company."

"How unfortunate that you should have come in so late!" remarked Sperver;
"all the bottles are empty."

The disappointment of the discomfited major-domo excited my compassion.
The poor man would so gladly have enjoyed his widowhood. But in spite of
my endeavours to repress it a long yawn extended wide my mouth.

"Well, another time," said he, rising. "What is only put off is not given
up."

And he took his lantern.

"Good night, gentlemen."

"Stop--wait for me," cried Gideon. "I can see Fritz is sleepy; we will go
down together."

"Very gladly, Sperver; on our way we will have a word with Trumpf, the
butler. He is downstairs with the rest, and Knapwurst is telling them
tales."

"All right. Good night, Fritz."

"Good night, Gideon. Don't forget to send for me if the count is taken
worse."

"I will do as you wish. Lieverlé, come."

They went out, and as they were crossing the platform I could hear the
Nideck clock strike eleven. I was tired out and soon fell asleep.



CHAPTER IV.


Daylight was beginning to tinge with bluish grey the only window in my
dungeon tower when I was roused out of my niche in the granite by the
prolonged distant notes of a hunting horn.

There is nothing more sad and melancholy than the wail of this instrument
when the day begins to struggle with the night--when not a sigh nor a
sound besides comes to molest the solitary reign of silence; it is
especially the last long note which spreads in widening waves over the
immensity of the plain beneath, awaking the distant, far-off echoes
amongst the mountains, that has in it a poetic element that stirs up the
depths of the soul.

Leaning upon my elbow in my bear-skin I lay listening to the plaintive
sound, which suggested something of the feudal ages. The contemplation of
my chamber, the ancient den of the Wolf of Nideck, with its low, dark
arch, threatening almost to come down to crush the occupant; and further
on that small leaden window, just touching the ceiling, more wide than
high, and deeply recessed in the wall, added to the reality of the
impression.

I arose quickly and ran to open the window wide.

Then presented itself to my astonished eyes such a wondrous spectacle as
no mortal tongue, no pen of man, can describe--the wide prospect that the
eagle, the denizen of the high Alps, sweeps with his far reaching ken
every morning at the rising of the deep purple veil that overhung the
horizon by night mountains farther off! mountains far away! and yet again
in the blue distance--mountains still, blending with the grey mists of
the morning in the shadowy horizon!--motionless billows that sink into
peace and stillness in the blue distance of the plains of Lorraine. Such
is a faint idea of the mighty scenery of the Vosges, boundless forests,
silver lakes, dazzling crests, ridges, and peaks projecting their clear
outlines upon the steel-blue of the valleys clothed in snow. Beyond this,
infinite space!

Could any enthusiasm of poet or skill of painter attain the sublime
elevation of such a scene as that?

I stood mute with admiration. At every moment the details stood out
more clearly in the advancing light of morning; hamlets, farm-houses,
villages, seemed to rise and peep out of every undulation of the land. A
little more attention brought more and more numerous objects into view.

I had leaned out of my window rapt in contemplation for more than a
quarter of an hour when a hand was laid lightly upon my shoulder; I
turned round startled, when the calm figure and quiet smile of Gideon
saluted me with--

"Guten Tag, Fritz! Good morning!"

Then he also rested his arms on the window, smoking his short pipe. He
extended his hand and said--

"Look, Fritz, and admire! You are a son of the Black Forest, and you must
admire all that. Look there below; there is Roche Creuse. Do you see it?
Don't you remember Gertrude? How far off those times seem now!"

Sperver brushed away a tear. What could I say?

We sat long contemplating and meditating over this grand spectacle. From
time to time the old poacher, noticing me with my eyes fixed upon some
distant object, would explain--

"That is the Wald Horn; this is the Tiefenthal; there's the fall of the
Steinbach; it has stopped running now; it is hanging down in great
fringed sheets, like the curtains over the shoulder of the Harberg--a
cold winter's cloak! Down there is a path that leads to Fribourg; in a
fortnight's time it will be difficult to trace it."

Thus our time passed away.

I could not tear myself away from so beautiful a prospect. A few birds
of prey, with wings hollowed into a graceful curve sharp-pointed at each
end, the fan-shaped tail spread out, were silently sweeping round the
rock-hewn tower; herons flew unscathed above them, owing their safety
from the grasp of the sharp claws and the tearing beak to the elevation
of their flight.

Not a cloud marred the beauty of the blue sky; all the snow had fallen to
earth; once more the huntsman's horn awoke the echoes.

"That is my friend Sébalt lamenting down there," said Sperver. "He knows
everything about horses and dogs, and he sounds the hunter's horn better
than any man in Germany. Listen, Fritz, how soft and mellow the notes
are! Poor Sébalt! he is pining away over monseigneur's illness; he cannot
hunt as he used to do. His only comfort is to get up every morning at
sunrise on to the Altenberg and play the count's favourite airs. He
thinks he shall be able to cure him that way!"

Sperver, with the good taste of a man who appreciates beautiful scenery,
had offered no interruption to my contemplations; but when, my eyes
dazzled and swimming with so much light, I turned round to the darkness
of the tower, he said to me--

"Fritz, it's all right; the count has had no fresh attack."

These words brought me back to a sense of the realities of life.

"Ah, I am very glad!"

"It is all owing to you, Fritz."

"What do you mean? I have not prescribed yet."

"What signifies? You were there; that was enough."

"You are only joking, Gideon! What is the use of my being present if
I don't prescribe?"

"Why, you bring him good luck!"

I looked straight at him, but he was not even smiling!

"Yes, Fritz, you are just a messenger of good; the last two years the
lord had another attack the next day after the first, then a third and
a fourth. You have put an end to that. What can be clearer?"

"Well, to me it is not so very clear; on the contrary, it is very
obscure."

"We are never too old to learn," the good man went on. "Fritz, there are
messengers of evil and there are messengers of good. Now that rascal
Knapwurst, he is a sure messenger of ill. If ever I meet him as I am
going out hunting I am sure of some misadventure; my gun misses fire, or
I sprain my ankle, or a dog gets ripped up!--all sorts of mischief come.
So, being quite aware of this, I always try and set off at early
daybreak, before that author of mischief, who sleeps like a dormouse, has
opened his eyes; or else I slip out by a back way by the postern gate.
Don't you see?"

"I understand you very well, but your ideas seem to me very strange,
Gideon."

"You, Fritz," he went on, without noticing my interruption, "you are
a most excellent lad; Heaven has covered your head with innumerable
blessings; just one glance at your jolly countenance, your frank, clear
eyes, your good-natured smile, is enough to make any one happy. You
positively bring good luck with you. I have always said so, and now would
you like to have a proof?"

"Yes, indeed I should. It would be worth while to know how much there is
in me without my having any knowledge of it."

"Well," said he, grasping my wrist, "look down there!"

He pointed to a hillock at a couple of gunshots from the castle.

"Do you see there a rock half-buried in the snow, with a ragged bush by
its side?"

"Quite well."

"Do you see anything near?"

"No."

"Well, there is a reason for that. You have driven away the Black Plague!
Every year at the second attack there she was holding her feet between
her hands. By night she lighted a fire; she warmed herself and boiled
roots. She bore a curse with her. This morning the very first thing which
I did was to get up here. I climbed up the beacon tower; I looked well
all round; the old hag was nowhere to be seen. I shaded my eyes with my
hand. I looked up and down, right and left, and everywhere; not a sign of
the creature anywhere. She had scented you evidently."

And the good fellow, in a fit of enthusiasm, shook me warmly by the hand,
crying with unchecked emotion--

"Ah, Fritz, how glad I am that I brought you here! The witch _will_ be
sold, eh?"

Well, I confess I felt a little ashamed that I had been all my life
such a very well-deserving young man without knowing anything of the
circumstance myself.

"So, Sperver," I said, "the count has spent a good night?"

"A very good one."

"Then I am very well pleased. Let us go down."

We again traversed the high parapet, and I was now better able to examine
this way of access, the ramparts of which arose from a prodigious depth;
and they were extended along the sharp narrow ridge of the rock down to
the very bottom of the valley. It was a long flight of jagged precipitous
steps descending from the wolf's den, or rather eagle's nest, down to the
deep valley below.

Gazing down I felt giddy, and recoiling in alarm to the middle of the
platform, I hastily descended down the path which led to the main
building.

We had already traversed several great corridors when a great open door
stood before us. I looked in, and descried, at the top of a double
ladder, the little gnome Knapwurst, whose strange appearance had
struck me the night before.

The hall itself attracted my attention by its imposing aspect. It was
the receptacle of the archives of the house of Nideck, a high, dark,
dusty apartment, with long Gothic windows, reaching from the angle of
the ceiling to within a couple of yards from the floor.

There were collected along spacious shelves, by the care of the old
abbots, not only all the documents, title-deeds, and family genealogies
of the house of Nideck, establishing their rights and their alliances,
and connections with all the great historic families of Germany, but
besides these there were all the chronicles of the Black Forest, the
collected works of the old Minnesinger, and great folio volumes from the
presses of Gutenberg and Faust, entitled to equal veneration on account
of their remarkable history and of the enduring solidity of their
binding. The deep shadows of the groined vaults, their arches divided by
massive ribs, and descending partly down the cold grey walls, reminded
one of the gloomy cloisters of the Middle Ages. And amidst these
characteristic surroundings sat an ugly dwarf on the top of his ladder,
with a red-edged volume upon his bony knees, his head half-buried in a
rough fur cap, small grey eyes, wide misshapen mouth, humps on back and
shoulders, a most uninviting object, the familiar spirit--the rat,
as Sperver would have it--of this last refuge of all the learning
belonging to the princely race of Nideck.

But a truly historical importance belonged to this chamber in the long
series of family portraits, filling almost entirely one side of the
ancient library. All were there, men and women; from Hugh the Wolf to
Yeri-Hans, the present owner; from the first rough daub of barbarous
times to the perfect work of the best modern painters.

My attention was naturally drawn in that direction.

Hugh I., a bald-headed figure, seemed to glare upon you like a wolf
stealing upon you round the corner of a wood. His grey bloodshot eyes,
his red beard, and his large hairy ears gave him a fearful and ferocious
aspect.

Next to him, like the lamb next to the wolf, was the portrait of a lady
of youthful years, with gentle blue eyes, hands crossed on the breast
over a book of devotions, and tresses of fair long silky hair encircling
her sweet countenance with a glorious golden aureola. This picture struck
me by its wonderful resemblance to Odile of Nideck.

I have never seen anything more lovely and more charming than this old
painting on wood, which was stiff enough indeed in its outline, but
delightfully refreshing and ingenuous.

I had examined this picture attentively for some minutes when another
female portrait, hanging at its side, drew my attention reluctantly away.
Here was a woman of the true Visigoth type, with a wide low forehead,
yellowish eyes, prominent cheek-bones, red hair, and a nose hooked like
an eagle's beak.

That woman must have been an excellent match for Hugh, thought I, and
I began to consider the costume, which answered perfectly to the energy
displayed in the head, for the right hand rested upon a sword, and an
iron breastplate inclosed the figure.

I should have some difficulty in expressing the thoughts which passed
through my mind in the examination of these three portraits. My eye
passed from the one to the other with singular curiosity.

Sperver, standing at the library door, had aroused the attention of
Knapwurst with a sharp whistle, which made that worthy send a glance in
his direction, though it did not succeed in fetching him down from his
elevation.

"Is it me that you are whistling to like a dog?" said the dwarf.

"I am, you vermin! It is an honour you don't deserve."

"Just listen to me, Sperver," replied the little man with sublime scorn;
"you cannot spit so high as my shoe!" which he contemptuously held out.

"Suppose I were to come up?"

"If you come up a single step I'll squash you flat with this volume!"

Gideon laughed, and replied--

"Don't get angry, friend; I don't mean to do you any harm; on the
contrary, I greatly respect you for your learning; but what I want to
know is what you are doing here so early in the morning, by lamplight?
You look as if you had spent the night here."

"So I have; I have been reading all night."

"Are not the days long enough for you to read in?"

"No; I am following out an important inquiry, and I don't mean to sleep
until I am satisfied."

"Indeed; and what may this very important question be?"

"I have to ascertain under what circumstances Ludwig of Nideck discovered
my ancestor, Otto the Dwarf, in the forests of Thuringia. You know,
Sperver, that my ancestor Otto was only a cubit high--that is, a foot and
a-half. He delighted the world with his wisdom, and made an honourable
figure at the coronation of Duke Rudolphe. Count Ludwig had him inclosed
in a cold roast peacock, served up in all his plumage. It was at that
time one of the greatest delicacies, served up garnished all round with
sucking pigs, gilded and silvered. During the banquet Otto kept spreading
the peacock's tail, and all the lords, courtiers, and ladies of high
birth were astonished and delighted at this wonderful piece of mechanism.
At last he came out, sword in hand, and shouted with a loud voice--"Long
live Duke Rudolphe!" and the cry was repeated with acclamations by the
whole table. Bernard Herzog makes mention of this event, but he has
neglected to inform us where this dwarf came from, whether he was of
lofty lineage or of base extraction, which latter, however, is very
improbable, for the lower sort of people have not so much sense as that."

I was astounded at so much pride in so diminutive a being, yet my
curiosity prevented me from showing too much of my feelings, for he alone
could supply me with information upon the portraits that accompanied that
of Hugh Lupus.

"Monsieur Knapwurst," I began very respectfully, "would you oblige me by
enlightening me upon certain historic doubts?"

"Speak, sir, without any constraint; on the subject of family history and
chronicles I am entirely at your service. Other matters don't interest
me."

"I desire to learn some particulars respecting the two portraits on each
side of the founder of this race."

"Aha!" cried Knapwurst with a glow of satisfaction lighting up his
hideous features; "you mean Hedwige and Huldine, the two wives of Hugh
Lupus."

And laying down his volume he descended from his ladder to speak more at
his ease. His eyes glistened, and the delight of gratified vanity beamed
from them as he displayed his vast erudition.

When he had arrived at my side he bowed to me with ceremonious gravity.
Sperver stood behind us, very well satisfied that I was admiring the
dwarf of Nideck. In spite of the ill luck which, in his opinion,
accompanied the little monster's appearance, he respected and boasted
of his superior knowledge.

"Sir," said Knapwurst, pointing with his yellow hand to the portraits,
"Hugh of Nideck, the first of his illustrious race, married, in 832,
Hedwige of Lutzelbourg, who brought to him in dowry the counties of
Giromani and Haut Barr, the castles of Geroldseck, Teufelshorn, and
others. Hugh Lupus had no issue by his first wife, who died young, in the
year of our Lord 837. Then Hugh, having become lord and owner of the
dowry, refused to give it up, and there were terrible battles between
himself and his brothers-in-law. But his second wife, Huldine, whom you
see there in a steel breastplate, aided him by her sage counsel. It is
unknown whence or of what family she came, but for all that she saved
Hugh's life, who had been made prisoner by Frantz of Lutzelbourg. He was
to have been hanged that very day, and a gibbet had already been set up
on the ramparts, when Huldine, at the head of her husband's vassals, whom
she had armed and inspired with her own courage, bravely broke in,
released Hugh, and hung Frantz in his place. Hugh had married his wife
in 842, and had three children by her."

"So," I resumed pensively, "the first of these wives was called Hedwige,
and the descendants of Nideck are not related to her?"

"Not at all."

"Are you quite sure?"

"I can show you our genealogical tree; Hedwige had no children; Huldine,
the second wife, had three."

"That is surprising to me."

"Why so?"

"I thought I traced a resemblance."

"Oho! resemblance! Rubbish!" cried Knapwurst with a discordant laugh.
"See--look at this wooden snuff-box; in it you see a portrait of my
great-grandfather, Hanswurst. His nose is as long and as pointed as an
extinguisher, and his jaws like nutcrackers. How does that affect his
being the grandfather of me--of a man with finely-formed features and an
agreeable mouth?"

"Oh no!--of course not."

"Well, so it is with the Nidecks. They may some of them be like Hedwige,
but for all that Huldine is the head of their ancestry. See the
genealogical tree. Now, sir, are you satisfied?"

Then we separated--Knapwurst and I--excellent friends.



CHAPTER V.


"Nevertheless," thought I, "there is the likeness. It is not chance. What
is chance? There is no such thing; it is nonsense to talk of chance. It
must be something higher!"

I was following my friend Sperver, deep in thought, who had now resumed
his walk down the corridor. The portrait of Hedwige, in all its artless
simplicity, mingled in my mind with the face of Odile.

Suddenly Gideon stopped, and, raising my eyes, I saw that we were
standing before the count's door.

"Come in, Fritz," he said, "and I will give the dogs a feed. When the
master's away the servants neglect their duty; I will come for you
by-and-by."

I entered, more desirous of seeing the young lady than the count her
father; I was blaming myself for my remissness, but there is no
controlling one's interest and affections. I was much surprised to
see in the half-light of the alcove the reclining figure of the count
leaning upon his elbow and observing me with profound attention. I was
so little prepared for this examination that I stood rather dispossessed
of self-command.

"Come nearer, monsieur le docteur," he said in a weak but firm voice,
holding out his hand. "My faithful Sperver has often mentioned your name
to me; and I was anxious to make your acquaintance."

"Let us hope, my lord, that it will be continued under more favourable
circumstances. A little patience, and we shall avert this attack."

"I think not," he replied. "I feel my time drawing near."

"You are mistaken, my lord."

"No; Nature grants us, as a last favour, to have a presentiment of our
approaching end."

"How often I have seen such presentiments falsified!" I said with a
smile.

He fixed his eyes searchingly upon me, as is usual with patients
expressing anxiety about their prospects. It is a difficult moment for
the doctor. The moral strength of his patient depends upon the expression
of the firmness of his convictions; the eye of the sufferer penetrates
into the innermost soul of his consciousness; if he believes that he can
discover any hint or shade of doubt, his fate is sealed; depression sets
in; the secret springs that maintain the elasticity of the spirit give
way, and the disorder has it all its own way.

I stood my examination firmly and successfully, and the count seemed to
regain confidence; he again pressed my hand, and resigned himself calmly
and confidently to my treatment.

Not until then did I perceive Mademoiselle Odile and an old lady, no
doubt her governess, seated by her bedside at the other end of the
alcove.

They silently saluted me, and suddenly the picture in the library
reappeared before me.

"It is she," I said, "Hugh's first wife. There is the fair and noble
brow, there are the long lashes, and that sad, unfathomable smile. Oh,
how much past telling lies in a woman's smile! Seek not, then, for
unmixed joy and pleasure! Her smile serves but to veil untold sorrows,
anxiety for the future, even heartrending cares. The maid, the wife, the
mother, smile and smile, even when the heart is breaking and the abyss is
opening. O woman! this is thy part in the mortal struggle of human life!"

I was pursuing these reflections when the lord of Nideck began to speak--

"If my dear child Odile would but consult my wishes I believe my health
would return."

I looked towards the young countess; she fixed her eyes on the floor, and
seemed to be praying silently.

"Yes," the sick man went on, "I should then return to life; the prospect
of seeing myself surrounded by a young family, and of pressing
grandchildren to my heart, and beholding the succession to my house,
would revive me."

At the mild and gentle tone of entreaty in which this was said I felt
deeply moved with compassion; but the young lady made no reply.

In a minute or two the count, who kept his watchful eyes upon her, went
on--

"Odile, you refuse to make your father a happy man? I only ask for a
faint hope. I fix no time. I won't limit your choice. We will go to
court. There you will have a hundred opportunities of marrying with
distinction and with honour. Who would not be proud to win my daughter's
hand? You shall be perfectly free to decide for yourself."

He paused.

There is nothing more painful to a stranger than these family quarrels.
There are such contending interests, so many private motives, at work,
that mere modesty should make it our duty to place ourselves out of
hearing of such discussions. I felt pained, and would gladly have
retired. But the circumstances of the case forbade this.

"My dear father," said Odile, as if to evade any further discussion, "you
will get better. Heaven will not take you from those who love you. If you
but knew the fervour with which I pray for you!"

"That is not an answer," said the count drily. "What objection can you
make to my proposal? Is it not fair and natural? Am I to be deprived of
the consolations vouchsafed to the neediest and most wretched? You know
I have acted towards you openly and frankly."

"You have, my father."

"Then give me your reason for your refusal."

"My resolution is formed--I have consecrated myself to God."

So much firmness in so frail a being made me tremble. She stood like the
sculptured Madonna in Hugh's tower, calm and immovable, however weak in
appearance.

The eyes of the count kindled with an ominous fire. I tried to make the
young countess understand by signs how gladly I would hear her give the
least hope, and calm his rising passion; but she seemed not to see me.

"So," he cried in a smothered tone, as if he were strangling--"so you
will look on and see your father perish? A word would restore him to
life, and you refuse to speak that one word?"

"Life is not in the hand of man, for it is God's gift; my word can be
of no avail."

"Those are nothing but pious maxims," answered the count scornfully, "to
release you from your plain duty. But has not God said, 'Honour thy
father and thy mother?'"

"I do honour you," she replied gently. "But it is my duty not to marry."

I could hear the grinding and gnashing of the man's teeth. He lay
apparently calm, but presently turned abruptly and cried--

"Leave me; the sight of you is offensive to me!"

And addressing me as I stood by agitated with conflicting feelings--

"Doctor," he cried with a savage grin, "have you any violent malignant
poison about you to give me--something that will destroy me like a
thunderbolt? It would be a mercy to poison me like a dog, rather than
let me suffer as I am doing."

His features writhed convulsively, his colour became livid.

Odile rose and advanced to the door.

"Stay!" he howled furiously--"stay till I have cursed you!"

So far I had stood by without speaking, not venturing to interfere
between Father and Daughter, but now I could refrain no longer.

"Monseigneur," I cried, "for the sake of your own health, for the sake
of mere justice and fairness, do calm yourself; your life is at stake."

"What matters my life? what matters the future? Is there a knife here to
put an end to me? Let me die!"

His excitement rose every minute. I seemed to dread lest in some frenzied
moment he should spring from the bed and destroy his child's life. But
she, calm though deadly pale, knelt at the door, which was standing open,
and outside I could see Sperver, whose features betrayed the deepest
anxiety. He drew near without noise, and bending towards Odile--

"Oh, mademoiselle!" he whispered--"mademoiselle, the count is such a
worthy, good man. If you would but just say only, 'Perhaps--by-and-by--we
will see.'"

She made no reply, and did not change her attitude.

At this moment I persuaded the Lord of Nideck to take a few drops of
Laudanum; he sank back with a sigh, and soon his panting and irregular
breathing became more measured under the influence of a deep and heavy
slumber.

Odile arose, and her aged friend, who had not opened her lips, went out
with her. Sperver and I watched their slowly retreating figures. There
was a calm grandeur in the step of the young countess which seemed to
express a consciousness of duty fulfilled.

When she had disappeared down the long corridor Gideon turned towards me.

"Well, Fritz," he said gravely, "what is your opinion?"

I bent my head down without answering. This girl's incredible firmness
astonished and bewildered me.



CHAPTER VI.


Sperver's indignation was mounting.

"There's the happiness and felicity of the rich! What is the good of
being master of Nideck, with castles, forests, lakes, and all the best
parts of the Black Forest, when an innocent looking damsel comes and
says to you in her sweet soft voice, 'Is that your will? Well, it is not
mine. Do you say I must? Well, I say no, I won't.' Is it not awful? Would
it not be better to be a woodcutter's son and live quietly upon the wages
of your day's work? Come on, Fritz; let us be off. I am suffocating here;
I want to get into the open air."

And the good fellow, seizing my arm, dragged me down the corridor.

It was now about nine. The sky had been fair when we got up, but now the
clouds had again covered the dreary earth, the north wind was raising the
snow in ghostly eddies against the window-panes, and I could scarcely
distinguish the summits of the neighbouring mountains.

We were going down the stairs which led into the hall, when, at a turn in
the corridor, we found ourselves face to face with Tobias Offenloch, the
worthy major-domo, in a great state of palpitation.

"Halloo!" he cried, closing our way with his stick right across the
passage; "where are you off to in such a hurry? What about our
breakfast?"

"Breakfast! which breakfast do you mean?" asked Sperver.

"What do you mean by pretending to forget what breakfast? Are not you and
I to breakfast this very morning with Doctor Fritz?"

"Aha! so we are! I had forgotten all about it."

And Offenloch burst into a great laugh which divided his jolly face from
ear to ear.

"Ha, ha! this is rather beyond a joke. And I was afraid of being too
late! Come, let us be moving. Kasper is upstairs waiting. I ordered
him to lay the breakfast in your room; I thought we should be more
comfortable there. Good-bye for the present, doctor."

"Are you not coming up with us?" asked Sperver.

"No, I am going to tell the countess that the Baron de Zimmer-Bluderich
begs the honour to thank her in person before he leaves the castle."

"The Baron de Zimmer?"

"Yes, that stranger who came yesterday in the middle of the night."

"Well, you must make haste."

"Yes, I shall not be long. Before you have done uncorking the bottles
I shall be with you again."

And he hobbled away as fast as he could.

The mention of breakfast had given a different turn to Sperver's
thoughts.

"Exactly so," he observed, turning back; "the best way to drown all
your cares is to drink a draught of good wine. I am very glad we are
going to breakfast in my room. Under those great high vaults in the
fencing-school, sitting round a small table, you feel just like
mice nibbling a nut in a corner of a big church. Here we are, Fritz.
Just listen to the wind whistling through the arrow-slits. In
half-an-hour there will be a storm."

He pushed the door open; and Kasper, who was only drumming with his
fingers upon the window-panes, seemed very glad to see us. That little
man had flaxen hair and a snub nose. Sperver had made him his factotum;
it was he who took to pieces and cleaned his guns, mended the
riding-horses' harness, fed the dogs in his absence, and superintended in
the kitchen the preparation of his favourite dishes. On grand occasions
he was outrider. He now stood with a napkin over his arm, and was gravely
uncorking the long-necked bottle of Rhenish.

"Kasper," said his master, as soon as he had surveyed this satisfactory
state of things--"Kasper, I was very well pleased with you yesterday;
everything was excellent; the roast kid, the chicken, and the fish. I
like fair-play, and when a man has done his duty I like to tell him so.
To-day I am quite as well satisfied. The boar's head looks excellent with
its white-wine sauce; so does the crayfish soup. Isn't it your opinion
too, Fritz?"

I assented.

"Well," said Sperver, "since it is so, you shall have the honour of
filling our glasses. I mean to raise you step by step, for you are a very
deserving fellow."

Kasper looked down bashfully and blushed; he seemed to enjoy his master's
praises.

We took our places, and I was wondering at this quondam poacher, who in
years gone by was content to cook his own potatoes in his cottage, now
assuming all the airs of a great seigneur. Had he been born Lord of
Nideck he could not have put on a more noble and dignified attitude at
table. A single glance brought Kasper to his side, made him bring such
and such a bottle, or bring the dish he required.

We were just going to attack the boar's head when Master Tobias
appeared in person, followed by no less a personage than the Baron of
Zimmer-Bluderich, attended by his groom.

We rose from our seats. The young baron advanced to meet us with head
uncovered. It was a noble-looking head, pale and haughty, with a
surrounding of fine dark hair. He stopped before Sperver.

"Monsieur," said he in that pure Saxon accent which no other dialect can
approach, "I am come to ask you for information as to this locality.
Madame la Comtesse de Nideck tells me that no one knows these mountains
so well as yourself."

"That is quite true, monseigneur, and I am quite at your service."

"Circumstances of great urgency oblige me to start in the midst of the
storm," replied the baron, pointing to the window-panes thickly covered
with flakes of snow. "I must reach Wald Horn, six leagues from this
place!"

"That will be a hard matter, my lord, for all the roads are blocked up
with snow."

"I am aware of that, but necessity obliges."

"You must have a guide, then. I will go, if you will allow me, to Sébalt
Kraft, the head huntsman at Nideck. He knows the mountains almost as well
as I do."

"I am much obliged to you for your kind offers, and I am very grateful,
but still I cannot accept them. Your instructions will be quite
sufficient."

Sperver bowed, then advancing to a window, he opened it wide. A furious
blast of wind rushed in, driving the whirling snow as far as the
corridor, and slammed the door with a crash.

I remained by my chair, leaning on its back. Kasper slunk into a corner.
Sperver and the baron, with his groom, stood at the open window.

"Gentlemen," said Sperver with a loud voice to make himself heard above
the howling winds, and with arm extended, "you see the country mapped out
before you. If the weather was fair I would take you up into the tower,
and then we could see the whole of the Black Forest at our feet, but it
is no use now. Here you can see the peak of the Altenberg. Farther on
behind that white ridge you may see the Wald Horn, beaten by a furious
storm. You must make straight for the Wald Horn. From the summit of the
rock, which seems formed like a mitre, and is called Roche Fendue, you
will see three peaks, the Behrenkopp, the Geierstein, and the Trielfels.
It is by this last one at the right that you must proceed. There is a
torrent across the valley of the Rhéthal, but it must be frozen now. In
any case, if you can get no farther, you will find on your left, on
following the bank, a cavern half-way up the hill, called Roche Creuse.
You can spend the night there, and to-morrow very likely, if the wind
falls, you will see the Wald Horn before you. If you are lucky enough to
meet with a charcoal-burner, he might, perhaps, show you where there is a
ford over the stream; but I doubt whether one will be found anywhere on
such a day as this. There are none from our neighbourhood. Only be
careful to go right round the base of the Behrenkopp, for you could not
get down the other side. It is a precipice."

During these observations I was watching Sperver, whose clear, energetic
tones indicated the different points in the road with the greatest
precision, and I watched, too, the young baron, who was listening with
the closest attention. No obstacle seemed to alarm him. The old groom
seemed not less bent upon the enterprise.

Just as they were leaving the window a momentary light broke through the
grey snow-clouds--just one of those moments when the eddying wind lays
hold of the falling clouds of snow and flings them back again like
floating garments of white. Then for a moment there was a glimpse of the
distance. The three peaks stood out behind the Altenberg. The description
which Sperver had given of invisible objects became visible for a few
moments; then the air again was veiled in ghostly clouds of flying snow.

"Thank you," said the baron. "Now I have seen the point I am to make for;
and, thanks to your explanations, I hope to reach it."

Sperver bowed without answering. The young man and his servant, having
saluted us, retired slowly and gravely.

Gideon shut the window, and addressing Master Tobias and me, said--

"The deuce must be in the man to start off in such horrible weather as
this. I could hardly turn out a wolf on such a day as this. However, it
is their business, not mine. I seem to remember that young man's face,
and his servant's too. Now let us drink! Maître Tobie, your health!"

I had gone to the window, and as the Baron Zimmer and his groom mounted
on horseback in the middle of the courtyard, in spite of the snow which
was filling the air, I saw at the left in a turret, pierced with long
Gothic windows, the pale countenance of Odile directed long and anxiously
towards the young man.

"Halloo, Fritz! what are you doing?"

"I am only looking at those strangers' horses."

"Oh, the Wallachians! I saw them this morning in the stable. They are
splendid animals."

The horsemen galloped away at full speed, and the curtain in the
turret-window dropped.



CHAPTER VII.


Several uneventful days followed. My life at Nideck was becoming dull
and monotonous. Every morning there was the doleful bugle-call of the
huntsman, whose occupation was gone; then came a visit to the count;
after that breakfast, with Sperver's interminable speculations upon the
Black Plague, the incessant gossiping and chattering of Marie Lagoutte,
Maître Tobias, and all that pack of idle servants, who had nothing to do
but eat and drink, smoke, and go to sleep. The only man who had any kind
of individual existence was Knapwurst, who sat buried up to the tip of
his red nose in old chronicles all the day long, careless of the cold so
long as there was anything left to find out in his curious researches.

My weariness of all this may easily be imagined. Ten times had Sperver
taken me over the stables and the kennels; the dogs were beginning to
know me. I knew by heart all the coarse pleasantries of the major-domo
over his bottles and Marie Lagoutte's invariable replies. Sébalt's
melancholy was infecting me; I would gladly have blown a little on his
horn to tell the mountains of my _ennui_, and my eyes were incessantly
directed towards Fribourg.

Still the disorder of Yeri-Hans, lord of Nideck, was taking its usual
course, and this gave my only occupation any serious interest. All the
particulars which Sperver had made me acquainted with appeared clearly
before me; sometimes the count, waking up with a start, would half rise,
and supported on his elbow, with neck outstretched and haggard eyes,
would mutter, "She is coming, she is coming!"

Then Gideon would shake his head and ascend the signal-tower, but neither
right nor left could the Black Plague be discovered.

After long reflection upon this strange malady I had come to the
conclusion that the sufferer was insane. The strange influence that the
old hag exercised over him, his alternate phases of madness and lucidity,
all confirmed me in this view.

Medical men who have given especial attention to the subject of mental
aberrations are well aware that periodical madness is of not unfrequent
occurrence. In some cases the illness appears several times in the year,
in others at only particular seasons of the year. I know at Fribourg an
old lady who for thirty years past has regularly presented herself at the
door of the asylum. At her own request they place her in confinement;
then the unhappy woman every night passes through the terrible scenes of
the French Revolution, of which she was a witness in her youth. She
trembles in the hands of the executioner; she fancies herself drenched
with the blood of the victims; she weeps and cries aloud incessantly. In
the course of a few weeks the mind returns to its wonted seat, and she is
restored to liberty with the full expectation that she will return again
in a year.

"The Count of Nideck is suffering from a similar attack," I said;
"unknown chains unite his fate with that of the Black Plague. Who can
tell?" thought I; "that woman once was young, perhaps beautiful!"

And my imagination, once launched, carried me into the interesting
regions of romance; but I was careful to tell no one what I thought. If I
had opened out those conjectures to Sperver he would never have forgiven
me for imagining that there could have been any intimacy between his
master and the Black Plague; and as for Mademoiselle Odile, I dared not
suggest insanity to her.

The poor young lady was evidently most unhappy. Her refusal to marry had
so embittered the count against her that he could scarcely endure to have
her in his presence. He bitterly reproached her with her ingratitude and
disobedience, and expatiated upon the cruelty of ungrateful children.
Sometimes even violent curses followed his daughter's visits. Things at
last were so bad that I thought myself obliged to interfere. I therefore
waited one evening on the countess in the antechamber and entreated her
to relinquish her personal attendance upon her father. But here arose,
contrary to all expectations, quite an unforeseen obstacle. In spite of
all my entreaties she steadily insisted on watching by her father and
nursing him as she had done hitherto.

"It is my duty," she repeated, "and no arguments will shake my purpose,"
she said firmly.

"Madam," I replied as a last effort, "the medical profession, too, has
its duties, and an honourable man must fulfil them even to harshness and
cruelty; your presence is killing your father."

I shall remember all my life the sudden change in the expression of the
face of Odile.

My solemn words of warning seemed to cause the blood to flow back to the
heart; her face became white as marble, and her large blue eyes, fixed
steadily upon mine, seemed to read into the most secret recesses of my
soul.

"Is that possible, sir?" she stammered; "upon your honour, do you declare
this? Tell me truly!"

"Yes, madam, upon my honour."

There was a long and painful silence, only broken at last by these words
in a low voice:--

"Let God's will be done!"

And with downcast eyes she withdrew.

The day after this scene, about eight in the morning, I was pacing up and
down in Hugh Lupus's tower, thinking of the count's illness, of which I
could not foretell the issue--and I was thinking too of my patients at
Fribourg, whom I might lose by too prolonged an absence--when three
discreet taps upon my door turned my thoughts into another channel.

"Come in!"

The door opened, and Marie Lagoutte stood within, dropping me a low
curtsey.

This old dame's visit put me out, and I was going to beg her to postpone
her visit, when something mysterious in her countenance caught my
attention. She had thrown over her shoulders a red-and-green shawl;
she was biting her lips, with her head down, and as soon as she had
closed the door she opened it again, and peeped out, to make sure that
no one had followed her.

"What does she want with me?" I thought; "what is the meaning of all
these precautions?"

And I was quite puzzled.

"Monsieur le Docteur," said the worthy lady, advancing towards me, "I beg
your pardon for disturbing you so early in the morning, but I have a very
serious thing to tell you."

"Pray tell me all about it, then."

"It is the count."

"Indeed!"

"Yes, sir; you know that I sat up with him last night."

"I know. Pray sit down."

She sat before me in a great arm-chair, and I could not help noticing the
energetic character of her head, which on the evening of my arrival at
the castle had only seemed to me grotesque.

"Doctor," she resumed after a short pause and with her dark eyes upon me,
"you know I am not timid or easily frightened. I have seen so many
dreadful things in the course of my life that I am astonished at nothing
now. When you have seen Marengo, Austerlitz, and Moscow, there is nothing
left that can put you out."

"I am sure of that, ma'am."

"I don't want to boast; that is not my reason for telling you this; but
it is to show you that I am not an escaped lunatic, and that you may
believe me when I tell you what I say I have seen."

This was becoming interesting.

"Well," the good woman resumed, "last night, between nine and ten, just
as I was going to bed, Offenloch came in and said to me, 'Marie, you will
have to sit up with the count to-night.' At first I felt surprised.
'What! is not mademoiselle going to sit up?' 'No, mademoiselle is poorly,
and you will have to take her place.' Poor girl, she is ill; I knew that
would be the end of it, I told her so a hundred times; but it is always
so. Young people won't believe those who are older; and then, it is her
Father. So I took my knitting, said good night to Tobias, and went into
monseigneur's room. Sperver was there waiting for me, and went to bed; so
there I was, all alone."

Here the good woman stopped a moment, indulged in a pinch of snuff, and
tried to arrange her thoughts. I listened with eager attention for what
was coming.

"About half-past ten," she went on, "I was sitting near the bed, and from
time to time drew the curtain to see what the count was doing; he made no
movement; he was sleeping as quietly as a child. It was all right until
eleven o'clock, then I began to feel tired. An old woman, sir, cannot
help herself--she must drop off to sleep in spite of everything. I did
not think anything was going to happen, and I said to myself, 'He is sure
to sleep till daylight.' About twelve the wind went down; the big windows
had been rattling, but now they were quiet. I got up to see if anything
was stirring outside. It was all as black as ink; so I came back to my
arm-chair. I took another look at the patient; I saw that he had not
stirred an inch, and I took up my knitting; but in a few minutes more I
began nodding, nodding, and I dropped right off to sleep. I could not
help it, the arm-chair was so soft and the room was so warm, who could
have helped it? I had been asleep an hour, I suppose, when a sharp
current of wind woke me up. I opened my eyes, and what do you think I
saw? The tall middle window was wide open, the curtains were drawn, and
there in the opening stood the count in his white night-dress, right on
the window-sill."

"The count?"

"Yes."

"Nay, it is impossible; he cannot move!"

"So I thought too; but that is just how I saw him. He was standing with
a torch in his hand; the night was so dark and the air so still that the
flame stood up quite straight."

I gazed upon Marie Anne with astonishment.

"First of all," she said, after a moment's silence, "to see that long,
thin man standing there with his bare legs, I can assure you it had such
an effect upon me! I wanted to scream; but then I thought, 'Perhaps he is
walking in his sleep; if I shout he will wake up, he will jump down, and
then--' So I did not say a word, but I stared and stared till I saw him
lift up his torch in the air over his head, then he lowered it, then up
again and down again, and he did this three times, just like a man making
signals; then he threw it down upon the ramparts, shut the window, drew
the curtains, passed before me without speaking, and got into bed
muttering some words I could not make out."

"Are you sure you saw all that, ma'am?"

"Quite sure."

"Well, it is strange."

"I know it is; but it is true. Ah! it did astonish me at first, and then
when I saw him get into bed again and cross his hands over his breast
just as if nothing had happened, I said to myself, 'Marie Anne, you have
had a bad dream; it cannot be true;' and so I went to the window, and
there I saw the torch still burning; it had fallen into a bush near the
third gate, and there it was shining just like a spark of fire. There was
no denying it."

Marie Lagoutte looked at me a few moments without speaking.

"You may be sure, doctor, that after that I had no more sleep; I sat
watching and ready for anything. Every moment I fancied I could hear
something behind the arm-chair. I was not afraid--it was not that--but
I was uneasy and restless. When morning came, very early I ran and woke
Offenloch and sent him to the count. Passing down the corridor I noticed
that there was no torch in the first ring, and I came down and found it
near the narrow path to the Schwartzwald; there it is!"

And the good woman took from under her apron the end of a torch, which
she threw upon the table.

I was confounded.

How had that man, whom I had seen the night before feeble and exhausted,
been able to rise, walk, lift up and close down that heavy window? What
was the meaning of that signal by night? I seemed to myself to witness
this strange, mysterious scene, and my thoughts went off at once to the
Black Plague. When I aroused myself from this contemplation of my own
thoughts, I saw Marie Lagoutte rising and preparing to go.

"You have done quite right," I said as I took her to the door, "to tell
me of these things, and I am much obliged to you. Have you told any one
else of this adventure?"

"No one, sir; such things are only to be told to the priest and the
doctor."

"Come, I see you are a very wise, sensible woman."

These words were exchanged at the door of my tower. At this moment
Sperver appeared at the end of the gallery, followed by his friend
Sébalt.

"Fritz!" he shouted, "I have got news to tell you."

"Oh, come!" thought I, "more news! This is a strange condition of
things."

Marie Lagoutte had disappeared, and the huntsman and his friend entered
the tower.



CHAPTER VIII.


On the countenance of Sperver was an expression of suppressed wrath, on
that of his companion bitter irony. This worthy sportsman, whose woeful
physiognomy had struck me on my first arrival at Nideck, was as thin and
dry as a lath. His hunting-jacket was girded tightly about him by his
belt, from which hung a hunting-knife with a horn handle; long leathern
gaiters came above his knees; the horn went over his shoulder from
right to left, the wide-expanded opening under his arm; on his head a
wide-brimmed hat, with a heron's plume in the buckle. His profile, coming
to a point in a reddish tuft, looked not unlike a goat's.

"Yes," cried Sperver, "I have got strange things to tell you."

He threw himself in a chair, seizing his head between his clenched hands,
while dismal Sébalt calmly drew his horn over his head and laid it on the
table.

"Now, Sébalt," cried Gideon, "speak out."

"The witch is hanging about the castle."

This piece of intelligence would have failed to interest me before seeing
Marie Lagoutte, but now it struck more forcibly. There certainly was some
mysterious connection between the lord of Nideck and that old woman. I
knew nothing of the nature of this connection, and I felt that, at
whatever cost, I must know it.

"Just wait a moment, friends," said I to Sperver and his comrade. "I want
to know, first of all, where does this Black Pest come from?"

Sperver stared at me with astonishment.

"Come from? Who can tell that?"

"Very well, you can't. But when does she come within sight of Nideck?"

"As I told you, ten days before Christmas, at the same time every year."

"And how long does she stay?"

"A fortnight or three weeks."

"Is she ever seen before? Not even on her way? Nor after?"

"No."

"Then we shall have to catch her, seize upon her," I cried. "This is
contrary to nature. We must find out where she comes from, what she wants
here, what she is."

"Lay hold of her!" exclaimed Sperver; "seize her! Do you mean it?" and he
shook his head. "Fritz, your advice is good enough in its way, but it is
easier said than done. I could very easily send a bullet after her,
almost at any time; but the count won't consent to that measure; and as
for catching in any other way than by powder and shot, why, you had
better go first and catch a squirrel by the tail! Listen to Sébalt's
story, and you shall judge for yourself."

The master of the hounds, sitting on the table with his long legs
crossed, fixed his eyes mournfully upon me, and began his tale.

"This morning, as I was coming down from the Altenberg, I followed the
hollow road to Nideck. The snow filled it up entirely. I was going on my
way, thinking of nothing particular, when I noticed a foot-track; it was
deep down, and went across the road. The person had come down the bank
and gone up on the other side. It was not a soft hare's foot, which
hardly leaves an impression, it was not forked like a wild boar's track,
it was not like a cloven hoof, such as the wolf's--it was a deep hole. I
stopped and stooped down, and cleared away the loose snow that fell
round, and came upon the very track of the Black Pest!"

"Are you sure it was that?"

"Of course I am. I know the old woman by her foot better than by her
figure, for I always go, sir, with my eyes on the ground. I know
everybody by their tracks; and as for this one, a child might know it."

"What, then, distinguishes this foot so particularly?"

"It is so small that you could cover it with your hand; it is finely
shaped, the heel is rather long, the outline clean, the great toe lies
close to the other toes, and they are all as fine as if they were in a
lady's slipper. It is a lovely foot. Twenty years ago I should have
fallen in love with a foot like that. Whenever I come across it, it has
such an effect upon me! No one would believe that such a foot could
belong to the Black Plague."

And the poor fellow, joining his hands together, contemplated the stone
floor with doleful eyes.

"Well, Sébalt, what next?" asked Sperver impatiently.

"Ah, yes, to be sure! Well, I recognised that track and started off in
pursuit. I was hoping to catch the creature in her lair, but I will tell
you the way she took me. I climbed up the bank by the roadside, only two
gunshots from Nideck. I go along the hill, keeping the track on my right;
it led along the side of the wood in the Rhéthal. All at once it jumps
over the ditch into the wood. I stuck to it, but, happening to look a
little to my left, I saw another track which had, been following the
Black Plague. I stopped short: was it Sperver's? or Kasper Trumpfs? or
whose? I came to it, and you may fancy how astounded I was when I saw
that it was nobody from our place! I know every foot in the Schwartzwald
from Fribourg to Nideck. That foot was like none of ours. It must have
come from a distance. The boot--for it was a kind of well-made, soft
gentleman's boot, with spurs, which leave a little print behind them--the
boot was not round at the toes, but square. The sole was thin, and bent
with every step, and it had no nails in it. The walk was rapid, and the
short steps were like those of a young man of twenty to five-and-twenty.
I noticed the stitches in the side leather at once, and I think I never
saw finer."

"Who can this be?" Sperver exclaimed.

Sébalt raised his shoulders and extended his hands, but said nothing.

"Who can have any object in following the old woman?" I asked Sperver.

"No one on earth can tell," was the reply.

And so we sat a few minutes meditating over what we had heard.

At last he went on again with his narrative:--

"I kept following the track; it went up the next ridge through the
pine-forest. When it doubled round the Koche Fendue I said to myself,
'Ah, you accursed plague! If there was much game of your sort there would
not be much sport; it would be preferable to work like a nigger!' So we
all three arrive--the two tracks and I--at the top of the Schnéeberg.
There the wind had been blowing hard; the snow was knee-deep--but no
matter! I must get on! I got to the edge of the torrent of the Steinbach,
and there I lost the track. I halted, and I saw that, after trying up and
down in several directions, the gentleman's boots had gone down the
Tiefenbach. That was a bad sign. I looked along the other side of the
torrent, but there was no appearance of a track there--none at all! The
old hag had paddled up and down the stream to throw any one off the scent
who should try to follow her. Where was I to go to?--right, or left, or
straight on? Not knowing, I came back to Nideck."

"You haven't told us about her breakfast," said Sperver.

"No, I was forgetting. At the foot of Roche Fendue I saw there had been a
fire; there was a black place; I laid my hand upon it, thinking it might
be warm, which would have proved that the Black Plague had not gone far;
but it was as cold as ice. Close by I saw a wire trap in the bushes. It
seems the creature knows how to snare game. A hare had been caught in it;
the print of its body was still plain, lying flat in the snow. The witch
had lighted the fire to cook it; she had had a good breakfast, I'll be
bound."

At this Sperver cried indignantly--

"Just fancy that old witch living on meat while so many honest folks in
our villages have nothing better than potatoes to eat! That's what upsets
me, Fritz! Ah! if I had but--"

But his thoughts remained untold; he turned deadly pale, and all three of
us, in a moment, stood rigid and motionless, staring with horror at each
other's ghastly countenances.

A yell--the howling cry of the wolf in the long, cold days of winter--the
cry which none can imagine who has not heard the most fearful and
harrowing of all bestial sounds--that fearful cry was echoing through the
castle not far from us! It rose up the spiral staircase, it filled the
massive building as if the hungry, savage beast was at our door!

Travellers speak of the deep roar of the lion troubling the silence of
the night amidst the rocky deserts of Africa; but while the tropical
regions, sultry and baked, resound with the vibrations of the mighty
voice of the savage monarch of the desert, making the air tremble with
the distant thunder of his awful cry, the vast snowy deserts of the North
too have their characteristic cry--a strange, lamentable yell that seems
to suit the character of the dreary winter scene. That voice of the
Northern desert is the howl of the wolf!

The instant after this awful sound had broken upon the silence followed
another formidable body of discordant sounds--the baying and yelling of
sixty hounds--answering from the ramparts of Nideck. The whole pack gave
voice at the same moment--the deep bay of the bloodhound, the sharp cry
of the pointer, the plaintive yelpings of the spaniels, and the
melancholy howl of the mastiffs, all mingling in confusion with the
rattling of dog-chains, the shaking of the kennels under the struggles
of the hounds to get loose; and, dominating over all, the long, dismal,
prolonged note of the wolf's monotonous howl; his was the leading part
in this horrible canine concert!

Sperver sprang from his seat and ran out upon the platform to see if a
wolf had dropped into the moat. But no--the howling came from neither.
Then turning to us he cried--

"Fritz! Sébalt!--come, come quickly!"

We flew down the steps four at a time and rushed into the fencing-school.
Here we heard the cry of the wolf alone, prolonged beneath the echoing
arches the distant barking and yelling of the pack became almost
inaudible in the distance; the dogs were hoarse with rage and excitement,
their chains were getting entangled together. Perhaps they were
strangling each other.

Sperver drew the keen blade of his hunting-knife. Sébalt did the same;
they preceded me down the gallery.

Then the fearful sounds became our guide to the sick man's room. Sperver
spoke no more; he hurried forward. Sébalt stretched his long legs. I felt
a shuddering horror creep through my whole frame--a horrible presentiment
of something shocking and abominable came over us.

As we approached the apartments of the count we met the whole household
afoot--the gamekeepers, the huntsmen, the kennel-keepers, the scullions
were all mingled and jostling each other, asking--

"What is the matter? Where are those cries coming from?"

Without stopping we ran into the passage which led into the count's
bedroom, where we met poor Marie Lagoutte, who alone had had the courage
to penetrate thither before us. She was holding in her arms the young
countess, who had fainted, her head falling back, her hair flowing down
behind her; she was carrying her away as fast as she could.

We passed her so rapidly that we scarcely had time to witness this sad
sight. But it has since returned to my memory, and the pale face of Odile
lying on the ample shoulders of the good servant still makes a vivid
impression upon my memory, resembling the poor lamb presenting its throat
to the knife without a complaint, dying with fear before the stroke
falls.

At last we had reached the count's chamber.

The howling came from behind his door.

We stole fearful glances at one another without attempting to account for
the hideous noise, or explaining the presence of such a wild guest in the
house. Indeed, we had no time; our ideas were in dire and utter
confusion.

Sperver hastily pushed the door open, and, knife in hand, was darting
into the room; but he stood arrested on the threshold motionless as a
stone.

Never have I seen such a picture of horror as he displayed standing
rooted there, with his eyes starting from his head, and his mouth wide
open and gasping for breath.

I gazed over his shoulder, and the sight that met my eyes made the blood
run chill as snow in my veins.

The lord of Nideck, crouching on all fours upon his bed, with his arms
bending forward, his head carried low, his eyes glaring with fierce
fires, was uttering loud, protracted howlings!

He was the wolf!

That low receding forehead, that sharp-pointed face, that foxy-looking
beard, bristling off both cheeks; the long meagre figure, the sinewy
limbs, the face, the cry. The attitude, declared the presence of the wild
beast half-hidden, half-revealed under a human mask!

At times he would stop for a second and listen attentively with head
awry, and then the crimson hangings would tremble with the quivering of
his limbs, like foliage shaken by the wind; then the melancholy wail
would open afresh.

Sperver, Sébalt, and I stood nailed to the floor; we held our breath,
petrified with fear.

Suddenly the count stopped. As a wild beast scents the wind, he lifted
his head and listened again.

There, there, far away, down among the thick fir forests, whitened with
dense patches of snow, a cry was heard in reply--weak at first; then the
sound rose and swelled in a long protracted howl, drowning the feebler
efforts of the hounds: it was the she-wolf answering the wolf!

Sperver, turning round awe-stricken, his countenance pale as ashes,
pointed to the mountain, and murmured low--

"Listen--there's the witch!"

And the count still crouching motionless, but with his head now raised
in the attitude of attention, his neck outstretched, his eyes burning,
seemed to understand the meaning of that distant voice, lost amidst the
passes and peaks of the Schwartzwald, and a kind of fearful joy gleamed
in his savage features.

At this moment, Sperver, unable or unwilling to restrain himself any
longer, cried in a voice broken with emotion--

"Count of Nideck--what are you doing?"

The count fell back thunderstruck. We rushed into the room to his help.
It was time. The third attack had commenced, and it was terrible to
witness!



CHAPTER IX.


The lord of Nideck was in a dying state.

What can science do in presence of the great mortal strife between
Death and Life? At the supreme hour, when the invisible wrestlers are
writhed together body to body and limb to limb, panting, each in turn
overthrowing and overthrown, what avails the healing art? One can but
watch, and tremble, and listen!

At times the struggle seems suspended--a truce has sounded; Life has
retired into her hold. She is resting; she is collecting the courage of
despair. But the relentless enemy beats at the gates; he bursts in; then
Life springs to the rescue, and again grapples with her adversary. The
strife is renewed with fresh fuel added to the fire of mortal energy as
the fatal issue draws closer and nearer.

And the exhausted patient, himself the field of battle, weltering in the
cold sweat of death, the eye set and the arm powerless, can do nothing
for himself. His breathing, sometimes short, broken, and distressing,
sometimes long, deep, laboured, and heavy, indicates the varying phases
of this dreadful struggle.

The bystanders watch each other's faces, and they think, "The day will
come when we in our turns shall be the field of the same strife, and
victorious Death will bear us away into the grave, his den, as the spider
carries away the fly." But the true life, the only life, the soul,
spreading her immortal wings, will speed her flight to another world,
with the exulting cry, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished my
course. I have kept the faith!" And Death, disappointed of its prey, will
look up at the emancipated being, unable to follow, and holding in its
clutches only a cold and decaying corpse, soon to be a handful of dust.
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" O best and
only consolation, the hope and belief in the final triumph of justice,
the certainty of immortal life through Jesus Christ the Saviour! Cruel
indeed is he who would rob man of the chief brightness and glory of life!

Towards midnight the Count of Nideck seemed almost gone; the agony of
death was at hand; the broken, weakened pulse indicated the sinking of
the vital powers; then, it might return to a more active state; but there
seemed no hope.

My only duty left was to stay and see this unhappy man die.

I was exhausted with fatigue and anxiety; whatever art could do I had
tried.

I told Sperver to sit up, and close his master's eyes in death. The poor
faithful fellow was in the utmost distress; he reproached himself with
his involuntary cry--"Count of Nideck--what are you doing?" and tore his
hair in bitter repentance.

I went away alone to Hugh Lupus's tower, having had scarcely any time to
take food, but I did not feel the want of it.

There was a bright fire on the hearth; I threw myself dressed upon the
bed, and sleep soon came to relieve my weight of apprehension--that heavy
sleep broken by the consciousness that you may any minute be awoke by
tears and lamentations.

I was sleeping thus, with my face turned towards the fire, and as it
often happens, the flame fitfully rising, and falling threw a fluttering,
flickering light like those of ruddy flapping wings against the walls,
and wearied still more my dropping eyelids.

Lost in a dreamy slumber, I was half opening my eyes to see the cause of
these alternate lights and shadows, but the strangest sight surprised me.

Close by the hearth, hardly revealed by the feeble light of a few dying
embers, I recognised with dismay the dark profile of the Black Plague!

She sat upon a low stool, and was evidently warming herself.

At first I thought myself deceived by my senses, which would have been
natural enough after the exciting scenes of the last few days; I raised
myself upon my elbow, gazing with my eyes starting with fear and horror.

It was she indeed! I lay horrified, for there she sat calm and immovable,
with her hands clasped over her skinny knees, just as I had seen her in
the snow, with her long scraggy neck outstretched, her hooked nose, her
compressed lips.

How had the Black Pest got here? How had she found her way into this high
tower crowning the dangerous precipices? Everything that Sperver had told
me of this mysterious being seemed to be coming true! And now the
unaccountable behaviour of Lieverlé, growling so fiercely against the
wall, seemed clear as the daylight. I huddled myself close up into the
alcove, hardly daring to breathe, and staring upon this motionless
profile just as a mouse out of its hole fixes its paralysed stare upon
the cat that is watching for it.

The old woman stirred no more than the rock-hewn pillars on each side of
the hearthstone, and her lips were mumbling inarticulate sounds.

My heart was palpitating, my fears increased momentarily during the long
silence, made more startling by the motionless supernatural figure that
sat there before me.

This had lasted a quarter of an hour when, the fire catching a splinter
of fir-wood, a flash of light broke out, the shaving twisted and flamed,
and a few rays of light flared to the end of the room.

That luminous jet was sufficient to show me that the creature was clothed
in an old dress of rich purple silk as stiff as cardboard, with a violet
pattern; there was a massive bracelet upon her left wrist, and a gold
arrow stuck through her thick grey hair twisted over the back of her
head. It was like an apparition out of the ages past.

Still the Plague could have had no hostile intentions towards me, or
she might easily have taken advantage of my sleep to have put them in
execution.

That thought was beginning to give me some confidence, when suddenly she
rose from her seat and with slow steps approached my bed, holding in her
hand a torch which she had just lighted. I then observed that her eyes
were fixed and haggard.

I made an effort to rise and cry aloud, but not a muscle of my body would
obey my wishes, not a breath came to my lips; and the old woman, bending
over me between the curtains, fixed her stony stare upon me with a
strange unearthly smile. I wanted to call for help, I wanted to drive her
from me, but her petrifying stare seemed to fascinate and paralyse me,
just as that of the serpent fixes the little bird motionless before it.

During this speechless contemplation minutes seemed like hours. What was
she about to do? I was ready for any event.

Suddenly she turned her head, went round upon her heel, listened, strode
across the room, and opened the door.

At last I recovered a little courage; an effort of the will brought me to
my feet as if I were acted on by a spring; I darted after her footsteps;
she with one hand was holding her torch on high, and with the other kept
the door open.

I was about to seize her by the hair, when at the end of the long
gallery, under the Gothic archway of the castle leading to the ramparts,
I saw--a tall figure.

It was the Count of Nideck!

The Count of Nideck, whom I had thought a dying man, clad in a huge
wolf-skin thrown with its upper jaw projecting grimly over his eyes like
a visor, the formidable claws hanging over each shoulder, and the tail
dragging behind him along the flags.

He wore stout heavy shoes, a silver clasp gathered the wolf-skin round
his neck, and his whole aspect, but for the ice-cold deathly expression
of his face, proclaimed the man born for command--the master!

In the presence of such an imposing personage my ideas became vague and
confused. Flight was no longer possible, yet I had the presence of mind
to throw myself into the embrasure of the window.

The count entered my room with his eyes fixed on the old woman and his
features unrelaxed. They spoke to one another in hoarse whispers, so low
that I could not distinguish a word. But there was no mistaking their
gestures. The woman was pointing to the bed.

They approached the fireplace on tiptoe. There in the dark shadow of the
recess at its side the Black Plague, with a horrible smile, unrolled a
large bag.

As soon as the count saw the bag he made a bound towards the bed and
kneeled upon it with one knee; there was a shaking of the curtains, his
body disappeared beneath their folds, and I could only see one leg still
resting on the floor, and the wolf's tail undulating irregularly from
side to side.

They seemed to be acting a murder in ghastly pantomime. No real scene,
however frightful, could have agitated me more than this mute
representation of some horrible deed.

Then the old woman ran to his assistance, carrying the bag with her.
Again the curtains shook and the shadows crossed the walls; but the most
horrible of all was that I fancied I saw a pool of blood creeping across
the floor and slowly reaching the hearth. But it was only the snow that
had clung to the count's boots, and was melting in the heat.

I was still gazing upon this dark stream, feeling my dry tongue cleave to
the roof of my mouth, when there was a great movement; the old woman and
the count were stuffing the sheets of the bed into the sack, they were
thrusting and stamping them in with just the same haste as a dog
scratching at a hole, then the lord of Nideck flung this unshapely bundle
over his shoulder and made for the door; a sheet was dragging behind him,
and the old woman followed him torch in hand. They went across the court.

My knees were almost giving way under me; they knocked together for fear.
I prayed for strength.

In a couple of minutes I was on their footsteps, dragged forward by a
sudden irresistible impulse.

I crossed the court at a run, and was just going to enter the door of the
tower when I perceived a deep but narrow pit at my feet, down which went
a winding staircase, and there far below I could see the torch describing
a spiral course around the stone rail like a little star; at last it was
lost in the distance.

Now I also descended the first steps of this newly-discovered staircase,
directing my course after this distant light; suddenly it vanished. The
old woman and the count had reached the bottom of the precipice.
Supported by the stone rail I continued my descent, safe to be able to
mount again if I found my further progress stopped.

Soon I came to the last step; I looked around me, and discovered on my
left hand a narrow streak of moonlight shining under a low door, through
the nettles and brambles; I kicked a way through these obstacles,
clearing the snow away with my feet, and then found that I was at the
very foot of the keep--Hugh's donjon tower.

Who would have supposed that such a hole would have led up into the
castle? Who had shown it to the old woman? I did not stay to satisfy
myself on these points.

The vast plain lay spread before me bathed in a light almost equal to
that of day. On the right lay extended wide the dark line of the Black
Forest with its craggy rocks, its gullies, its passes stretching away as
far as the sight could reach.

The night air was keen and sharp, but perfectly calm, and I felt myself
awakened to the highest degree, almost as if my senses were volatilised
by the still and ice-cold air.

My first examination of the horizon was for the figures of the count
and his strange companion. I soon distinguished their tall dark forms
standing out sharply against the star-spangled purple heavens. I nearly
overtook them at the bottom of the ravine.

The count was moving with deliberate steps, the imaginary winding-sheet
dragging slowly after him. There was an automatic precision in the
movements of both.

I kept six or eight yards behind them down the hollow road to the
Altenberg, now in the shade, now in the full light, for the moon was
shining with astonishing brilliancy. A few clouds floated idly across the
zenith, seeming to want to clasp her in their long arms, but she ever
eluded their grasp, and her rays, keen as a blade of steel, cut me to the
marrow of my bones.

I could have wished to turn back, but some invisible power impelled me
onwards to follow this funeral procession in pantomime. Even to this day
I fancy still I can see the rough mountain path through the Black Forest,
I can hear the crisp snow crackling under foot, and the dead leaves
rustling in the light north wind; I can see myself following those two
silent beings, but I cannot understand what mysterious power drew me in
their footsteps.

At last we reach the forest, and advance amongst the tall bare-branched,
beeches; the dark shadows of their higher boughs intersect the lower
branches, and fall broken upon the snow-encumbered road. Sometimes I
fancy I can hear steps behind me; I turn sharply round, but can see no
one.

We had just reached the long rocky ridge that forms the crest of the
Altenberg; behind it flows the torrent of the Schnéeberg, but in winter
no current is visible; scarcely does a mere thread of its blue waters
trickle under the thick crust of ice. Here the deep solitude is broken by
no murmuring brooks, no warblings of birds, no thunder of the waterfall.
In the vast unbroken solitudes the awful silence is terrible.

The Count of Nideck and the old woman found a gap in the face of the
rock, up which they mounted straight with marvellous celerity, whilst I
had to pull myself up by the help of the bushes.

Hardly had they reached the ridge of the crags, which came almost to a
point, when I was within three yards of them, and I beheld beyond a
dreadful precipice of which I could not see the bottom. At the left hung
in the air like a vast sheet the fall of the Schnéeberg, a mass of ice.
That resemblance to an immense wave taking the precipice at one bound,
bearing trees on its breast, fringed with the bushes, and winding out the
long ivy sprays, which exhibit in their delicate tracery the form of the
rigid glassy billow; that mere semblance of movement amidst the stillness
and immovableness of death, and the presence of those two speechless
creatures pursuing their ghastly work with automatic precision, added to
the terror with which I already trembled.

Nature herself seemed to shrink with horror.

The count had laid down his burden; the old woman and he took it up
together, swung it for a moment over the edge of the precipice, then the
long shroud floated over the abyss, and the imaginary murderers in
silence bent forward to see it fall.

That long white sheet floating in the air is still present before my
eyes. It descends, it falls like a wild swan shot in the clouds,
spreading its wide wings, the long neck thrown back, whirling down to
earth to die.

The white burden disappeared in the dark depths of the precipice.

At last the cloud which I had long seen threatening to cover the moon's
bright disc veiled her in its steel-blue folds, and her rays ceased to
shine.

The old woman, holding the count by the hand and dragging him forward
with hurried steps, came for a moment into view.

The cloud had overshadowed the moon, and I could not move out of their
way without danger of falling over the precipice.

After a few minutes, during which I lay as close as I could, there was a
rift in the cloud. I looked out again. I stood alone on the point of the
peak with the snow up to my knees.

Full of horror and apprehension, I descended from my perilous position,
and ran to the castle in as much consternation as if I had been guilty of
some great crime.

As for the lord of Nideck and his companion, I lost sight of them.



CHAPTER X.

I wandered around the castle of Nideck unable to find the exit from
which I had commenced my melancholy journey.

So much anxiety and uneasiness were beginning to tell upon my mind; I
staggered on, wondering if I was not mad, unable to believe in what I had
seen, and yet alarmed at the clearness of my own perceptions.

My mind in confusion passed in review that strange man waving his torch
overhead in the darkness, howling like a wolf, coldly and accurately
going through all the details of an imaginary murder without the omission
of one ghastly detail or circumstance, then escaping and committing to
the furious torrent the secret of his crime; these things all harassed my
mind, hurried confusedly past my eyes, and made me feel as if I were
labouring under a nightmare.

Lost in the snow, I ran to and fro panting and alarmed, and unable to
judge which way to direct my steps.

As day drew near the cold became sharper; I shivered, I execrated Sperver
for having brought me from Fribourg to bear a part in this hideous
adventure.

At last, exhausted, my beard a mass of ice, my ears nearly frostbitten, I
discovered the gate and rang the bell with all my might.

It was then about four in the morning. Knapwurst made me wait a terribly
long time. His little lodge, cut in the rock, remained silent; I thought
the little humpbacked wretch would never have done dressing; for of
course I supposed he would be in bed and asleep.

I rang again.

This time his grotesque figure appeared abruptly, and he cried to me from
the door in a fury--

"Who are you?"

"I?--Doctor Fritz."

"Oh, that alters the case," and he went back into his lodge for a
lantern, crossed the outer court where the snow came up to his middle,
and staring at me through the grating, he exclaimed--

"I beg your pardon, Doctor Fritz; I thought you would be asleep up there
in Hugh Lupus's tower. Were _you_ ringing? Now that explains why Sperver
came to me about midnight to ask if anybody had gone out. I said no,
which was quite true, for I never saw you going out."

"But pray, Monsieur Knapwurst, do for pity's sake let me in, and I will
tell you all about that by-and-by."

"Come, come, sir, a little patience."

And the hunchback, with the slowest deliberation, undid the padlock and
slipped the bars, whilst my teeth were chattering, and I stood shivering
from head to foot.

"You are very cold, doctor," said the diminutive man, "and you cannot get
into the castle. Sperver has fastened the inside door, I don't know why;
he does not usually do so; the outer gate is enough. Come in here and get
warm. You won't find my little hole very inviting, though. It is nothing
but a sty, but when a man is as cold as you are he is not apt to be
particular."

Without replying to his chatter I followed him in as quickly as I could.

We went into the hut, and in spite of my complete state of numbness, I
could not help admiring the state of picturesque disorder in which I
found the place. The slate roof leaning against the rock, and resting by
its other side on a wall not more than six feet high, showed the smoky,
blackened rafters from end to end.

The whole edifice consisted of but one apartment, furnished with a very
uninviting bed, which the dwarf did not often take the trouble to make,
and two small windows with hexagonal panes, weather-stained with the
rainbow tints of mother-of-pearl. A large square table filled up the
middle, and it would be difficult to account for that massive oak slab
being got in unless by supposing it to have been there before the hut was
built.

On shelves against the wall were rolls of parchment, and old books great
and small. Wide open on the table lay a fine black-letter volume, with
illuminations, bound in vellum, clasped and cornered with silver,
apparently a collection of old chronicles. Besides there was nothing but
two leathern arm-chairs, bearing on them the unmistakable impression of
the misshapen figure of this learned gentleman.

I need not stay to do more than mention the pens, the jar of tobacco,
five or six pipes lying here and there, and in a corner a small cast-iron
stove, with its low, open door wide open, and throwing out now and then a
volley of bright sparks; and to complete the picture, the cat arching her
back, and spitting threateningly at me with her armed paw uplifted.

All this scene was tinted with that deep rich amber light in which the
old Flemish painters delighted, and of which they alone possessed the
secret, and never left it to the generations after them.

"So you went out last night, doctor?" inquired my host, after we had both
installed ourselves, and while I had my hands in a warm place upon the
stove.

"Yes, pretty early," I answered. "I had to look after a patient."

This brief explanation seemed to satisfy the little hunchback, and he
lighted his blackened boxwood pipe, which was hanging over his chin.

"You don't smoke, doctor?"

"I beg your pardon, I do."

"Well, fill any one of these pipes. I was here," he said, spreading his
yellow hand over the open volume. "I was reading the chronicles of
Hertzog when you came."

"Ah, that accounts for the time I had to wait! Of course you stayed to
finish the chapter?" I said, smiling.

He owned it, grinning, and we both laughed together.

"But if I had known it was you," he said, "I should have finished the
chapter another time."

There was a short silence, during which I was observing the very peculiar
physiognomy of this misshapen being--those long deep wrinkles that moated
in his wide mouth, his small eyes with the crow's feet at the outer
corners, that contorted nose, bulbous at its end, and especially that
huge double-storied forehead of his. The whole figure reminded me not a
little of the received pictures of Socrates, and while warming myself and
listening to the crackling of the fire, I went off into contemplations on
the very diversified fortunes of mankind.

"Here is this dwarf," I thought, "an ill-shaped, stunted caricature,
banished into a corner of Nideck, and living just like the cricket that
chirps beneath the hearthstone. Here is this little Knapwurst, who in the
midst of excitement, grand hunts, gallant trains of horsemen coming and
going, the barking of the hounds, the trampling of the horses, and the
shouts of the hunters, is living quietly all alone, buried in his books,
and thinking of nothing but the times long gone by, whilst joy or sorrow,
songs or tears, fill the world around him, while spring and summer,
autumn and winter, come and look in through his dim windows, by turns
brightening, warming, and benumbing the face of nature outside. Whilst
men in the outer world are subject to the gentle influences of love, or
the sterner impulses of ambition or avarice, hoping, coveting, longing,
and desiring, he neither hopes, nor desires, nor covets anything. As long
as he is smoking his pipe, with his eyes feasting on a musty parchment,
he lives in the enjoyment of dreams, and he goes into raptures over
things long, long ago gone by, or which have never existed at all; it is
all one to him. 'Hertzog says so and so, somebody else tells the tale a
different way,' and he is perfectly happy! His leathery face gets more
and more deeply wrinkled, his broken angular back bends into sharper
angles and corners, his pointed elbows dig beds for themselves in the oak
table, his skinny fingers bury themselves in his cheeks, his piggish grey
eyes get redder over manuscripts, Latin, Greek, or mediaeval. He falls
into raptures, he smacks his lips, he licks his chops like a cat over a
dainty dish, and then he throws himself upon that dirty litter, with his
knees up to his chin, and he thinks he has had a delightful day! Oh,
Providence of God, is a man's duty best done, are his responsibilities
best discharged, at the top or at the bottom of the scale of human life?"

But the snow was melting away from my legs, the balmy warmth of the stove
was shedding a pleasant influence over my feelings, and I felt myself
reviving in this mixed atmosphere of tobacco-smoke and burning pine-wood.

Knapwurst gravely laid his pipe on the table, and reverently spreading
his hand upon the folio, said in a voice that seemed to issue from the
bottom of his consciousness; or, if you like it better, from the bottom
of a twenty-gallon cask--

"Doctor Fritz, here is the law and the prophets!"

"How so? what do you mean?"

"Parchment--old parchment--that is what I love! These old yellow, rusty,
worm-eaten leaves are all that is left to us of the past, from the days
of Charlemagne until this day. The oldest families disappear, the old
parchments remain. Where would be the glory of the Hohenstauffens, the
Leiningens, the Nidecks, and of so many other families of renown? Where
would be the fame of their titles, their deeds of arms, their magnificent
armour, their expeditions to the Holy Land, their alliances, their claims
to remote antiquity, their conquests once complete, now long ago
annulled? Where would be all those grand claims to historic fame without
these parchments? Nowhere at all. Those high and mighty barons, those
great dukes and princes, would be as if they had never been--they and
everything that related to them far and near. Their strong castles,
their palaces, their fortresses fall and moulder away into masses of
ruin, vague remembrancers! Of all that greatness one monument alone
remains--the chronicles, the songs of bards and minnesingers. Parchment
alone remains!"

He sat silent for a moment, and then pursued his reflections.

"And in those distant times, while knights and squires rode out to war,
and fought and conquered or fought and fell over the possession of a nook
in a forest, or a title, or a smaller matter still, with what scorn and
contempt did they not look down upon the wretched little scribbler, the
man of mere letters and jargon, half-clothed in untanned hides, his only
weapon an inkhorn at his belt, his pennon the feather of a goosequill!
How they laughed at him, calling him an atom or a flea, good for nothing!
'He does nothing, he cannot even collect our taxes, or look after our
estates, whilst we bold riders, armed to the teeth, sword in hand and
lance on thigh, we fight, and we are the finest fellows in the land!' So
they said when they saw the poor devil dragging himself on foot after
their horses' heels, shivering in winter and sweating in summer, rusting
and decaying in old age. Well, what has happened? That flea, that vermin,
has kept them in the memory of men longer than their castles stood, long
after their arms and their armour had rusted in the ground. I love those
old parchments. I respect and revere them. Like ivy, they clothe the
ruins and keep the ancient walls from crumbling into dust and perishing
in oblivion!"

Having thus delivered himself, a solemn expression stole over his
features, and his own eloquence made the tears of moved affection to
steal down his furrowed cheeks.

The poor hunchback evidently loved those who had borne with and protected
his unwarlike but clever ancestors. And after all he spoke truly, and
there was profound good sense in his words.

I was surprised, and said, "Monsieur Knapwurst, do you know Latin?"

"Yes, sir," he answered, but without conceit, "both Latin and Greek. I
taught myself. Old grammars were quite enough; there were some old books
of the count's, thrown by as rubbish; they fell into my hands, and I
devoured them. A little while after the count, hearing me drop a Latin
quotation, was quite astonished, and said, 'When did you learn Latin,
Knapwurst?' 'I taught myself, monseigneur.' He asked me a few questions,
to which I gave pretty good answers. '_Parbleu!_' he cried, 'Knapwurst
knows more than I do; he shall keep my records.' So he gave me the keys
of the archives; that was thirty years ago. Since that time I have read
every word. Sometimes, when the count sees me mounted upon my ladder, he
says, 'What are you doing now, Knapwurst?' 'I am reading the family
archives, monseigneur.' 'Aha! is that what you enjoy?' 'Yes, very much.'
'Come, come, I am glad to hear it, Knapwurst; but for you, who would
know anything about the glory of the house of Nideck?' And off he goes
laughing. I do just as I please."

"So he is a very good master, is he?"

"Oh, Doctor Fritz, he is the kindest-hearted master! he is so frank and
so pleasant!" cried the dwarf, with hands clasped. "He has but one
fault."

"And what may that be?"

"He has no ambition."

"How do you prove that?"

"Why, he might have been anything he pleased. Think of a Nideck, one of
the very noblest families in Germany! He had but to ask to be made a
minister or a field-marshal. Well! he desired nothing of the sort. When
he was no longer a young man he retired from political life. Except that
he was in the campaign in France at the head of a regiment he raised at
his own expense, he has always lived far away from noise and battle;
plain and simple, and almost unknown, he seemed to think of nothing but
his hunting."

These details were deeply interesting to me. The conversation was of its
own accord taking just the turn I wished it to take, and I resolved to
get my advantage out of it.

"So the count has never had any exciting deeds in hand?"

"None, Doctor Fritz, none whatever; and that is the pity. A noble
excitement is the glory of great families. It is a misfortune for a noble
race when a member of it is devoid of ambition; he allows his family to
sink below its level. I could give you many examples. That which would be
very fortunate in a trader's family is the greatest misfortune in a
nobleman's."

I was astonished; for all my theories upon the count's past life were
falling to the earth.

"Still, Monsieur Knapwurst, the lord of Nideck has had great sorrows, had
he not?"

"Such as what?"

"The loss of his wife."

"Yes, you are right there; his wife was an angel; he married her for
love. She was a Zaân, one of the oldest and best nobility of Alsace, but
a family ruined by the Revolution. The Countess Odile was the delight of
her husband. She died of a decline which carried her off after five
years' illness. Every plan was tried to save her life. They travelled in
Italy together but she returned worse than she went, and died a few weeks
after their return. The count was almost broken-hearted, and for two
years he shut himself up and would see no one. He neglected his hounds
and his horses. Time at last calmed his grief, but there is always a
remainder of grief," said the hunchback, pointing with his finger to his
heart; "you understand very well, there is still a bleeding wound. Old
wounds you know, make themselves felt in change of weather--and old
sorrows too--in spring when the flowers bloom again, and in autumn when
the dead leaves cover the soil. But the count would not marry again; all
his love is given to his daughter."

"So the marriage was a happy one throughout?"

"Happy! why it was a blessing for everybody."

I said no more. It was plain that the count had not committed, and could
not have committed, a crime. I was obliged to yield to evidence. But,
then, what was the meaning of that scene at night, that strange
connection with the Black Pest, that fearful acting, that remorse in
a dream, which impelled the guilty to betray their past atrocities?

I lost myself in vain conjectures.

Knapwurst relighted his pipe, and handed me one, which I accepted.

By that time the icy numbness which had laid hold of me had nearly passed
away, and I was enjoying that pleasant sense of relief which follows
great fatigue when by the chimney-corner in a comfortable easy-chair,
veiled in wreaths of tobacco-smoke, you yield to the luxury of repose,
and listen idly to the duet between the chirping of a cricket on the
hearth and the hissing of the burning log.

So we sat for a quarter of an hour.

At last I ventured to remark--

"But sometimes the count gets angry with his daughter?"

Knapwurst started, and fixing a sinister, almost a fierce and hostile eye
upon me, answered--

"I know, I know!"

I watched him narrowly, thinking I might learn something now in support
of my theory, but he simply added ironically--

"The towers of Nideck are high, and slander flies too low to reach their
elevation!"

"No doubt; but still it is a fact, is it not?"

"Oh yes, so it is; but after all it is only a craze, an effect of his
complaint. As soon as the crisis is past all his love for mademoiselle
comes back. I assure you, sir, that a lover of twenty could not be more
devoted, more affectionate, than he is. That young girl is his pride and
his joy. A dozen times have I seen him riding away to get a dress, or
flowers, or what not, for her. He went off alone, and brought back the
articles in triumph, blowing his horn. He would have entrusted so
delicate a commission to no one, not even to Sperver, whom he is so fond
of. Mademoiselle never dares express a wish in his hearing lest he should
start off and fulfil it at once. The lord of Nideck is the worthiest
master, the tenderest father, and the kindest and most upright of men.
Those poachers who are for ever infesting our woods, the old Count Ludwig
would have strung them up without mercy; our count winks at them; he even
turns them into gamekeepers. Look at Sperver! why, if Count Ludwig was
alive, Sperver's bones would long ago have been rattling in chains;
instead of which he is head huntsman at the castle."

All my theories were now in a state of disorganisation. I laid my head
between my hands and thought a long while.

Knapwurst, supposing that I was asleep, had turned to his folio again.

The grey dawn was now peeping in, and the lamp turning pale. Indistinct
voices were audible in the castle.

Suddenly there was a noise of hurried steps outside. I saw some one pass
before the window, the door opened abruptly, and Gideon appeared at the
threshold.



CHAPTER XI.


Sperver's pale face and glowing eyes announced that events were on their
way. Yet he was calm, and did not seem surprised at my presence in
Knapwurst's room.

"Fritz," he said briefly, "I am come to fetch you." I rose without
answering and followed him. Scarcely were we out of the hut when he took
me by the arm and drew me on to the castle.

"Mademoiselle Odile wants to see you," he whispered.

"What! is she ill?"

"No, she is much better, but something or other that is strange is going
on. This morning about one o'clock, thinking that the count was nearly
breathing his last, I went to wake the countess; with my hand on the bell
my heart failed me. 'Why should I break her heart?' I said to myself,
'She will learn her misfortune only too soon; and then to wake her up in
the middle of the night, weak and frail as she is, after such shocks,
might kill her at a stroke.' I took a few minutes to consider, and then I
resolved I would take it all on myself. I returned to the count's room. I
looked in--not a soul was there! Impossible! the man was in the last
agonies of death. I ran into the corridor like a madman. No one was
there! Into the long gallery--no one! Then I lost my presence of mind,
and rushing again into the young countess's room, I rang again. This time
she appeared, crying out--'Is my father dead?' 'No.' 'Has he
disappeared?' 'Yes, madam. I had gone out for a minute--when I came in
again--' 'And Doctor Fritz, where is he?' 'In Hugh Lupus's tower.' 'In
_that_ tower?' She started. She threw a dressing-gown around her, took
her lamp, and went out. I stayed behind. A quarter of an hour after she
came back, her feet covered with snow, and so pale and so cold! She set
her lamp upon the chimney-piece, and looking at me fixedly, said--'Was it
you who put the doctor into that tower?' 'Yes, madam.' 'Unhappy man! you
will never know the extent of the harm you have done.' I was about to
answer, but she interrupted me--'No more; go and fasten every door and
lie down. I will sit up. To-morrow morning you will find Doctor Fritz at
Knapwurst's, and bring him to me. Make no noise, and mind, you have seen
nothing and know nothing!'"

"Is that all, Sperver?" I asked.

He nodded gravely.

"And about the count?"

"He is in again. He is better."

We had got to the antechamber. Gideon knocked at the door gently, then he
opened it, announcing--"Doctor Fritz."

I took a pace forward, and stood in the presence of Odile. Sperver had
retired, closing the door.

A strange impression crossed my mind at the sight of the young countess
standing pale and still, leaning upon the back of an arm-chair, her eyes
of feverish brightness, and robed in a long dress of rich black velvet.
But she stood calm and firm.

"Doctor," she said, motioning me to a chair, "pray sit down; I have a
very serious matter to speak to you about."

I obeyed in silence.

In her turn she sat down and seemed to be collecting her thoughts.

"Providence or an evil destiny, I know not which, has made you witness of
a mystery in which lies involved the honour of my family."

So she knew it all!

I sat confounded and astonished.

"Madam, believe me, it was but by chance--"

"It is useless," she interrupted; "I know it all, and it is frightful!"

Then, in a heartrending appealing voice, she cried--

"My father is not a guilty man!"

I shuddered, and with hands outstretched cried--

"Madam, I know it; I know that the life of your father has been one of
the noblest and loveliest."

Odile had half-risen from her seat, as if to protest, by anticipation,
against any supposition that might be injurious to her father. Hearing me
myself taking up his defence, she sank back again, and covering her face
with her hands, the tears began to flow.

"God bless you, sir!" she exclaimed. "I should have died with the very
thought that a breath of suspicion was harboured against him."

"Ah! madam, who could possibly attach any reality to the action of a
somnambulist?"

"That is quite true, sir; I had had that thought myself, but
appearances--pardon me--yet I feared--still I knew Doctor Fritz was a man
of honour."

"Pray, madam, be calm."

"No," she cried, "let me weep on. It is such a relief; for ten years I
have suffered in secret. Oh, how I suffered! That secret, so long shut up
in my breast, was killing me. I should soon have died, like my dear
mother. God has had pity upon me, and has sent you, and made you share it
with me. Let me tell you all, sir, do let me!"

She could speak no more. Sobs and tears broke her voice. So it always
is with proud and lofty natures. After having conquered grief, and
imprisoned it, buried, and, as it were, crushed down in the secret depths
of the mind, they seem happy, or, at any rate, indifferent to the eyes of
the uninformed around, and the eye of the most watchful observer might be
mistaken; but let a sudden shock break the seal, an unexpected rending of
a portion of the veil, then, as with the crash of a thunderstorm, the
tower in which the sufferer hid his sorrow falls in ruins to the ground.
The conquered foe rises more fierce than before his defeat and captivity;
he shakes with fury the prison doors, the frame trembles with long
shudderings, sobs and sighs heave the breast, the tears, too long
contained within bounds, overflow their swollen banks, bounding and
rushing as if after the heavy rain of a thunderstorm.

Such was Odile.

At length she lifted her beautiful head; she wiped her tear-stained
cheeks, and with her arm on the elbow of her chair, her cheek resting
on her hand, and her eyes tenderly fixed on a picture on the wall, she
resumed in slow and melancholy tones:--

"When I go back into the past, sir, when I return to my first
impressions, my mother's is the picture before me. She was a tall, pale,
and silent woman. She was still young at the period to which I am
referring. She was scarcely thirty, and yet you would have thought her
fifty. Her brow was silvered round with hair white as snow; her thin,
hollow cheeks, her sharp, clear profile--her lips ever closed together
with an expression of pain--gave to her features a strange character in
which pride and pain seemed to contend for the mastery. There was nothing
left of the elasticity of youth in that aged woman of thirty--nothing
but her tall, upright figure, her brilliant eyes, and her voice, which
was always as gentle and as sweet as a dream of childhood. She often
walked up and down for hours in this very room, with her head hanging
down, and I, an unthinking child, ran happily along by her side, never
aware that my mother was sad, never understanding the meaning of the deep
melancholy revealed by those furrows that traversed her fair brow. I knew
nothing of the past, to me the present was joy and happiness, and oh! the
future!--the dark, miserable future!--there was none! My only future was
to-morrow's play!"

Odile smiled bitterly and went on:--

"Sometimes I would happen, in my noisy play, to disturb my mother in her
silent walk; then she would stop, look down, and, seeing me at her feet,
would slowly bend, kiss me with an absent smile, and then again resume
her interrupted walk and her sad gait. Since then, sir, whenever I have
desired to search back in my memory for remembrances of my early days
that tall, pale woman has risen before me, the image of melancholy. There
she is," pointing to a picture on the wall--"there she is!--not such as
illness made her as my father supposes, but that fatal and terrible
secret. See!"

I turned round, and as my eye dwelt upon the portrait the lady pointed
to, I shuddered.

It was a long, pale, thin face, cold and rigid as death, and only luridly
lighted up by two dark, deep-set eyes, fixed, burning, and of a terrible
intensity.

There was a moment's silence.

"How much that woman must have suffered!" I said to myself with a pain
striking at my heart.

"I know not how my mother made that terrible discovery," added Odile,
"but she became aware of the mysterious attraction of the Black Pest and
their meetings in Hugh Lupus's tower; she knew it all--all! She never
suspected my father--ah no!--but she perished away by slow degrees under
this consuming influence! and I myself am dying."

I bowed my head into my hands and wept in silence.

"One night," she went on, "one night--I was only ten--and my mother, with
the remains of her superhuman energy, for she was near her end that
night, came to me when I lay asleep. It was in winter; a stony cold hand
caught me by the wrist. I looked up. Before me stood a tall woman; in one
hand she held a flaming torch, with the other she held me by the arm.
Her robe was sprinkled with snow. There was a convulsive movement in all
her limbs and her eyes were fired with a gloomy light through the long
locks of white hair which hung in disorder round her face. It was my
mother; and she said, 'Odile, my child, get up and dress! You must know
it all!' Then taking me to Hugh Lupus's tower she showed me the open
subterranean passage. 'Your father will come out that way,' she said,
pointing to the tower; 'he will come out with the she-wolf; don't be
frightened, he won't see you.' And presently my father, bearing his
funereal burden, came out with the old woman. My mother took me in her
arms and followed; she showed me the dismal scene on the Altenberg of
which you know. 'Look, my child,' she said; 'you must for I--am going to
die soon. You will have to keep that secret. You  alone are to sit up
with your father,' she said impressively--'you alone. The honour of your
family depends upon you!' And so we returned. A fortnight after my mother
died, leaving me her will to accomplish and her example to follow. I have
scrupulously obeyed her injunctions as a sacred command, but oh, at what
a sacrifice! You have seen it all. I have been obliged to disobey my
father and to rend his heart. If I had married I should have brought a
stranger into the house and betrayed the secret of our race. I resisted.
No one in this castle knows of the somnambulism of my father, and but for
yesterday's crisis, which broke down my strength completely and prevented
me from sitting up with my father, I should still have been its sole
depositary. God has decreed otherwise, and has placed the honour and
reputation of my family in your keeping. I might demand of you, sir, a
solemn promise never to reveal what you have seen to-night. I should
have a right to do so."

"Madam," I said, rising, "I am ready."

"No, sir," she replied with much dignity, "I will not put such an affront
upon you. Oaths fail to bind base men, and honour alone is a sufficient
guarantee for the upright. You will keep that secret, sir, I know you
will keep it, because it is your duty to do so. But I expect more than
this of you, much more, and this is why I consider myself obliged to tell
you all!"

She rose slowly from her seat.

"Doctor Fritz," she resumed in a voice which made every nerve within me
quiver with deep emotion, "my strength is unequal to my burden; I bend
beneath it. I need a helper, a friend. Will you be that friend?"

"Madam," I replied, rising from my seat, "I gratefully accept your offer
of friendship. I cannot tell you how proud I am of your confidence; but
still, allow me to unite with it one condition."

"Pray speak, sir."

"I mean that I will accept that title of friend with all the duties and
obligations which it shall impose upon me."

"What duties do you mean?"

"There is a mystery overhanging your family; that mystery must be
discovered and solved at any cost. That Black Pest must be apprehended.
We must find out where she comes from, what she is, and what she wants!"

"Oh, but that is impossible!" she said with a movement of despair.

"Who can tell that, madam? Perhaps Divine Providence may have had a
design connected with me in sending Sperver to fetch me here."

"You are right, sir. God never acts without consummate wisdom. Do
whatever you think right. I give my approval in advance."

I raised to my lips the hand which she tremblingly placed in mine, and
went out full of admiration for this frail and feeble woman, who was,
nevertheless, so strong in the time of trial. Is anything grander than
duty nobly accomplished?



CHAPTER XII.


An hour after the conversation with Odile, Sperver and I were riding
hard, and leaving Nideck rapidly behind us.

The huntsman, bending forward over his horse's neck, encouraged him with
voice and action.

He rode so fast that his tall Mecklemburger, her mane flying, tail
outstretched, and legs extended wide, seemed almost motionless, so
swiftly did she cleave the air. As for my little Ardenne pony, I think he
was running right away with his rider. Lieverlé accompanied us, flying
alongside of us like an arrow from the bow. A whirlwind seemed to sweep
us in our headlong way.

The towers of Nideck were far away, and Sperver was keeping ahead as
usual when I shouted--

"Halloo, comrade, pull up! Halt! Before we go any farther let us know
what we are about."

He faced round.

"Only just tell me, Fritz, is it right or is it left?"

"No; that won't do. It is of the first importance that you should know
the object of our journey. In short, we are going to catch the hag."

A flush of pleasure brightened up the long sallow face of the old
poacher, and his eyes sparkled.

"Ha, ha!" he cried, "I knew we should come to that at last!"

And he slipped his rifle round from his shoulder into his hand.

This significant action roused me.

"Wait, Sperver; we are not going to kill the Black Pest, but to take her
alive!"

"Alive?"

"No doubt, and it will spare you a good deal of remorse perhaps if I
declare to you that the life of this old woman is bound up with that of
your master. The ball that hits her hits your lord."

Sperver gazed at me in astonishment.

"Is this really true, Fritz?"

"Positively true."

There was a long silence; our mounts, Fox and Rappel, tossed their heads
at each other as if in the act of saluting one another, scraping up the
snow with their hoofs in congratulation upon so pleasant an expedition.
Lieverlé opened wide his red mouth, gaping with impatience, extending and
bending his long meagre body like a snake, and Sperver sat motionless,
his hand still upon his gun.

"Well, let us try and catch her alive. We will put on gloves if we have
to touch her, but it is not so easy as you think, Fritz."

And pointing out with extended hand the panorama of mountains which lay
unrolled about us like a vast amphitheatre, he added--

"Look! there's the Altenberg, the Schnéeberg, the Oxenhorn, the Rhéthal,
the Behrenkopf, and if we only got up a little higher we should see fifty
more mountain-tops far away, right into the Palatinate. There are rocks
and ravines, passes and valleys, torrents and waterfalls, forests, and
more mountains; here beeches, there firs, then oaks, and the old woman
has got all that for her camping-ground. She tramps everywhere, and lives
in a hole wherever she pleases. She has a sure foot, a keen eye, and can
scent you a couple of miles off. How are you going to catch her, then?"

"If it was an easy matter where would be the merit? I should not then
have chosen you to take a part in it."

"That is all very fine, Fritz. If we only had one end of her trail, who
knows but with courage and perseverance--"

"As for her trail, don't trouble about that; that's my business."

"Yours?"

"Yes, mine."

"What do you know about following up a trail?"

"Why should not I?"

"Oh, if you are so sure of it, and you know more about it than I do, of
course march on, and I'll follow!"

It was easy to see that the old hunter was vexed that I should presume to
trespass upon his special province; therefore, only laughing inwardly, I
required no repetition of the request to lead on, and I turned sharply to
the left, sure of coming across the old woman's trail, who, after having
left the count at the postern gate, must have crossed the plain to reach
the mountain. Sperver rode behind me now, whistling rather
contemptuously, and I could hear him now and then grumbling--

"What is the use of looking for the track of the she-wolf in the plain?
Of course she went along the forest side just as usual. But it seems she
has altered her habits, and now walks about with her hands in her
pockets, like a respectable Fribourg tradesman out for a walk."

I turned a deaf ear to his hints, but in a moment I heard him utter an
exclamation of surprise; then, fixing a keen eye upon me, he said--

"Fritz, you know more than you choose to tell."

"How so, Gideon?"

"The track that I should have been a week finding, you have got it at
once. Come, that's not all right!"

"Where do you see it, then?"

"Oh, don't pretend to be looking at your feet."

And pointing out to me at some distance a scarcely perceptible white
streak in the snow--

"There she is!"

Immediately he galloped up to it; I followed in a couple of minutes; we
had dismounted, and were examining the track of the Black Pest.

"I should like to know," cried Sperver, "how that track came here?"

"Don't let that trouble you," I replied.

"You are right, Fritz; don't mind what I say; sometimes I do speak rather
at random. What we want now is to know where that track will lead us to."

And now the huntsman knelt on the ground.

I was all ears; he was closely examining.

"It is a fresh track," he pronounced, "last night's. It is a strange
thing, Fritz, during the count's last attack that old witch was hanging
about the castle."

Then examining with greater care--

"She passed here between three and four o'clock this morning."

"How can you tell that?"

"It is quite a fresh track; there is sleet all round it. Last night,
about twelve, I came out to shut the doors; there was sleet falling then,
there is none upon the footsteps, therefore she has passed since."

"That is true enough, Sperver, but it may have been made much later; for
instance, at eight or nine."

"No, look, there is frost upon it! The fog that freezes on the snow only
comes at daybreak. The creature passed here after the sleet and before
the fog--that is, about three or four this morning."

I was astonished at Sperver's exactitude.

He rose from his knee, clapping his hands together to get rid of the
snow, and looking at me thoughtfully, as if speaking to himself, said--

"It is twelve, is it not, Fritz?"

"A quarter to twelve."

"Very well; then the old woman has got seven hours' start of us. We must
follow upon her trail step by step; on horseback we can do it in half the
time, and, if she is still going, about seven or eight to-night we have
got her, Fritz. Now then, we're off."

And we started afresh upon the track. It led us straight to the
mountains.

Galloping away, Sperver said--

"If good luck only would have it that she had rested an hour or two in a
hole in a rock, we might be up with her before the daylight is gone."

"Let us hope so, Gideon."

"Oh, don't think of it. The old she-wolf is always moving; she never
tires; she tramps along all the hollows in the Black Forest. We must not
flatter ourselves with vain hopes. If, perhaps, she has stopped on her
journey, so much the better for us; and if she still keeps going, we
won't let that discourage us. Come on at a gallop."

It is a very strange feeling to be hunting down a fellow-creature; for,
after all, that unhappy woman was of our own kind and nature; endowed
like ourselves with an immortal soul to be saved, she felt, and thought,
and reflected like ourselves. It is true that a strange perversion
of human nature had brought her near to the nature of the wolf, and that
some great mystery overshadowed her being. No doubt a wandering life had
obliterated the moral sense in her, and even almost effaced the human
character; but still nothing in the world can give one man a right to
exercise over another the dominion of the man over the brute.

And yet a burning ardour hurried us on in pursuit; my blood was at fever
heat; I was determined to stand at no obstacle in laying hold of this
extraordinary being. A wolf-hunt or a boar-hunt would not have excited me
near so much.

The snow was flying in our rear; sometimes splinters of ice, bitten off
by the horse-shoes, like shavings of iron from machinery, whizzed past
our ears.

Sperver, sometimes with his nose in the air and his red moustache
floating in the wind, sometimes with his grey eyes intently following
the track, reminded me of those famous Cossacks that I had seen pass
through Germany when I was a boy; and his tall, lanky horse, muscular and
full-maned, its body as slender as a greyhound's, completed the illusion.

Lieverlé, in a high state of enthusiasm and excitement, took bounds
sometimes as high as our horses' backs, and I could not but tremble at
the thought that when we came up at last with the Pest he might tear her
in pieces before we could prevent him.

But the old woman gave us all the trouble she could; on every hill she
doubled, at every hillock there was a false track.

"After all, it is easy here," cried Sperver, "to what it will be in the
wood. We shall have to keep our eyes open there! Do you see the accursed
beast? Here she has confused the track! There she has been amusing
herself sweeping the trail, and then from that height which is exposed to
the wind she has slipped down to the stream, and has crept along through
the cresses to get to the underwood. But for those two footsteps she
would have sold us completely."

We had just reached the edge of a pine-forest. In woods of this
description the snow never reaches the ground except in the open spaces
between the trees, the dense foliage intercepting it in its fall. This
was a difficult part of our enterprise. Sperver dismounted to see our way
better, and placed me on his left so as not to be hindered by my shadow.

Here were large spaces covered with dead leaves and the needles and cones
of the fir-trees, which retain no footprint. It was, therefore, only in
the open patches where the snow had fallen on the ground that Sperver
found the track again.

It took us an hour to get through this thicket. The old poacher bit his
moustache with excitement and vexation, and his long nose visibly bent
into a hook. When I was only opening my mouth to speak, he would
impatiently say--

"Don't speak--it bothers me!"

At last we descended a valley to the left and Gideon pointing to the
track of the she-wolf outside the edge of the brushwood, triumphantly
remarked--

"There is no feint in this sortie, for once. We may follow this track
confidently."

"Why so?"

"Because the Pest has a habit every time she doubles of going three paces
to the right; then she retraces her steps four, five, or six in the other
direction, and jumps away into a clear place. But when she thinks she has
sufficiently disguised her trail she breaks out without troubling herself
to make any feints. There now! What did I say? Now she is burrowing
beneath the brushwood like a wild boar, and it won't be so difficult to
follow her up."

"Well, let us put the track between us and smoke a pipe."

We halted, and the honest fellow, whose countenance was beginning to
brighten up, looking up at me with enthusiasm, cried--

"Fritz, if we have luck this will be one of the finest days in my life.
If we catch the old hag I will strap her across my horse behind me like a
bundle of old rags. There is only one thing troubles me."

"And what is that?"

"That I forgot my bugle. I should have liked to have sounded the return
on getting near the castle! Ha, ha, ha!"

He lighted his stump of a pipe and we galloped off again.

The track of the she-wolf now passed on to the heights of the forest by
so steep an ascent that several times we had to dismount and lead our
horses by the bridle.

"There she is, turning to the right," said Sperver. "In this direction
the mountains are craggy; perhaps one of us will have to lead both horses
while the other climbs to look after the trail. But don't you think the
light is going?"

The landscape now was assuming an aspect of grandeur and magnificence.
Vast grey rocks, sparkling with long icicles, raised here and there their
sharp peaks like breakers amidst a snowy sea.

There is nothing more sadly impressive than the aspect of winter in a
mountainous region. The jagged crests of the precipices, the deep, dark
ravines, the woods sparkling with boar-frost like diamonds, all form a
picture of desertion, desolation, and unspeakable melancholy. The silence
is so profound that you hear a dead leaf rustling on the snow, or the
needle of the fir dropping to the ground. Such a silence is oppressive as
the tomb; it urges on the mind the idea of man's nothingness in the
vastness of creation.

How frail a being is man! Two winters together, without a summer between,
would sweep him off the earth!

At times we felt it a necessity to be saying something if only to show
that we were keeping up our spirits.

"Ah, we are getting on! How fearfully cold! Lieverlé, what is the matter?
what have you found now?"

Unfortunately Fox and Rappel were beginning to tire; they sank deeper in
the snow and no longer neighed joyfully.

And added to this the endless mazes of the Black Forest wearied us too.
The old woman affected this solitary region greatly; here she had trotted
round a deserted charcoal-burner's hut; farther on she had torn out the
roots that projected from a moss-grown rock; there she had sat at the
foot of a tree, and that very recently--not more than two hours since,
for the track was quite fresh--and our hope and our ardour rose together.
But the daylight was slowly fading away!

Very strangely, ever since our departure from Nideck we had met neither
wood-cutters, nor charcoal-burners, nor timber-carriers. At this season
the silence and solitude of the Black Forest is as deep as that of the
North-American steppes.

At five o'clock it was almost dark. Sperver halted and said--

"Fritz, my lad, we have started a couple of hours too late. The she-wolf
has had too long a start. In ten minutes it will be as dark as a dungeon.
The best way would be to reach Roche Creuse, which is twenty minutes'
ride from here, light a good fire, and eat our provisions and empty our
flasks. When the moon is up we will follow the trail again, and unless
the old hag is the foul fiend himself, ten to one we shall find her dead
and stiff with cold against the foot of a tree, for nothing can live
after such a tremendous tramp in weather like this. Sébalt is the best
walker in the Black Forest, and he would not have stood it. Come, Fritz,
what is your opinion?"

"I am not so mad as to think differently. Besides, I am perishing with
hunger!"

"Well, let us start again."

He took the lead and passed into a close and narrow glen between two
precipitous faces of rock. The fir-trees met over our heads; under our
feet ran a mere thread of the stream, and from time to time some ray from
above was dimly reflected in the depths below and glinted with a dull
leaden light.

The darkness was now such that I thought it prudent to drop my bridle on
Rappel's neck. The steps of our horses on the slippery gravel awoke
strange discordant sounds like the screaming of monkeys at play. The
echoes from rock to rock caught up and repeated every sound, and in the
distance a tiny space of deep blue widened as we advanced; it was the
issue from the glen.

"Fritz," said Sperver, "we are in the bed of the Tunkelbach. This is the
wildest spot in the Black Forest. The end is a pit called La Marmite du
Grand Gueulard, the muckle-mouthed giant's kettle. In the spring, when
the snow is melting, the Tunkelbach hurls all its waters into it, a depth
of two hundred feet. There is an awful uproar; the waters dash down and
then splash up again and fall in spray on all the hills around. Sometimes
it even fills the Roche Creuse, but just now it must be as dry as a
powder-flask."

Whilst I was listening to Gideon's explanations I was at the same time
meditating upon this dark and fearful glen, and I reflected that the
instinct which attracts the brutes into such retreats as these, far from
the light of heaven, away from everything bright and cheerful, must
partake of the nature of remorse. Those animals which love the open
sunshine--the goat aloft upon a high conspicuous peak, the horse flying
across the wide plain, the dog capering round his master, the bird bathed
in sunlight--all breathe joy and happiness; they bask, and sing, and
rejoice in dancing and delight. The kid nibbling the tender grass under
the shade of the great trees is as poetic an object as the shelter that
it loves; the fierce boar is as rough as the tangled brakes through which
he loves to run his huge bristly back; the eagle is as proud and lofty as
the sky-piercing crags on which he perches as his home; the lion is as
majestic as the arching vaults of the caves where he makes his den; but
the wolf, the fox, and the ferret seek the darkness that conforms to
their ugly deeds; fear and remorse dog their steps.

I was still dreamily pursuing these thoughts, and I was beginning to feel
the keen air moving upon my face, for we were approaching the outlet of
the gorge, when all at once a red light struck the rock a hundred feet
above us, purpling the dark green of the fir-trees and lighting up the
wreaths of snow.

"Ha!" cried Sperver, "we have got her at last!"

My heart leaped; we stood, closely pressed, the one against the other.

The dog growled low and deep.

"Cannot she escape?" I asked in a whisper.

"No; she is caught like a rat in a trap. There is no way out of La
Marmite du Grand Gueulard but this, and everywhere all round the rocks
are two hundred feet high. Now, vile hag, I hold you!"

He alighted in the ice-cold stream, handing me his bridle. I caught in
the silence the click of the lock of his gun, and that slight noise threw
me into a tremor of apprehension.

"Sperver, what are you about?"

"Don't be alarmed; it is only to frighten her."

"Very well, then, but no blood. Remember what I told you--the ball which
strikes the Pest slays the count!"

"Don't trouble yourself," was the answer.

He went away without further parley. I could hear the splash of his feet
in the water; then I saw his tall figure emerge at the opening of the
dark glen, black against a purple background. He stood five minutes
motionless. Attentive, bending forward, I looked and listened, still
moving onward. As he returned I was but a few yards from him.

"Hark!" he whispered mysteriously. "Look there!"

At the end of the hollow, scooped out perpendicularly like a quarry in
the mountain side, I saw a bright fire unrolling its golden spires
beneath the vault of a cave, and before the fire sat a man with his hands
clasped about his knees, whom I recognised by his dress as the Baron de
Zimmer-Bluderich.

He sat motionless, his forehead resting between his hands. Behind him lay
a dark gaunt form extended on the ground. Farther on, his horse, half
lost in the shade, reared his neck, gazed on us with eyes fixed, ears
erect, and nostrils distended.

I stood rooted to the ground.

How did the Baron de Zimmer happen to be in that lonely wilderness at
such a time? What did he want here? Had he lost his way?

The most contradictory conjectures were passing in confusion through my
excited brain, and I could not tell what conclusion to arrive at, when
the baron's horse began to neigh, and the master raised his head.

"Well, Donner, what is the matter now?" said he.

Then he, too, directed his gaze our way, straining his eyes through the
darkness.

That pale face, with its strongly-marked features, thin lips, and thick
black eyebrows meeting together, and forming a deep hollow on the brow in
the form of a long vertical wrinkle, would have struck me with admiration
at any other time; while now an inexplicable anxiety laid hold of me, and
I was filled with vague apprehensions.

Suddenly the young man exclaimed--

"Who goes there?"

"I, monseigneur," answered Sperver, coming forward--"Sperver, chief
huntsman to the lord of Nideck."

A flash shot from the baron's quick eye; not a muscle of his countenance
quailed. He rose to his feet, gathering his pelisse over his shoulders. I
drew towards me the horses and the dog, and this animal suddenly began
howling fearfully.

Is not every one, more or less, subject to superstitious fears? At these
dismal sounds I trembled, and a cold shudder crept through my whole body.

Sperver and the baron stood at a distance of fifty yards from each other;
the first immovable in the midst of the deep glen, his gun unslung from
his shoulder, the other erect upon the level platform outside of the
cave, carrying his head high, fixing on us a haughty eye and a proud look
of superiority.

"What do you want here?" he asked aggressively.

"We are looking for a woman," replied the old poacher--"a woman who comes
every year prowling about Nideck, and our orders are to take her."

"Has she stolen anything?"

"No."

"Has she committed murder?"

"No, monseigneur."

"Then what do you want with her? What right have you to pursue her?"

"And you--what right have you over her?" answered Sperver with an
ironical smile. "See, there she is. I can see her at the bottom of the
cave. What right have you to meddle with our affairs? Don't you know that
we are here in the domains of Nideck, and that we administer justice and
execute our own decrees?"

The young man changed colour, and said coldly--

"I have no account to render to you."

"Beware," replied Sperver. "I am come with proposals of peace and
conciliation. I am here on behalf of the lord Yeri-Hans. I am in the
execution of my duty, and you are putting yourself in the wrong."

"Your duty!" cried the young man bitterly. "If you talk about your duty
you will oblige me to do mine!"

"Well, do it!" cried the huntsman, whose features were becoming disturbed
with anger.

"No," replied the baron, "I am not responsible to you, and you shall not
come here!"

"That's what we shall soon see!" said Sperver, drawing nearer to the
cave.

The young man drew his hunting-knife. Perceiving this menacing action, I
was about to dart between them, but happily the hound which I was holding
by his collar slipped from me with a violent shock and threw me on the
ground. I thought the baron would be lost, but at that instant a wild
shriek rose from the dark bottom of the cavern, and as I rose to my feet
I saw the old woman standing erect before the fire, her tattered garments
hanging loosely about her, her grey and tangled locks floating wildly in
the wind; she flung her bony arms in the air and uttered prolonged
piercing howls like the cry of agony of the hungry wolf in the long cold
nights of winter when famine is gnawing his entrails.

Never in my life have I seen a more fearful apparition. Sperver,
motionless, his eyes riveted on the fearful object before him, and his
mouth open with astonishment, stood as if rooted to the earth. But the
powerful dog, surprised himself at this unexpected sight, stood still for
a moment; then with a bend of his bristling back in preparation for a
mighty leap, he made a rush with a deep, impatient growl which made me
tremble. The platform before the cave was about eight or nine feet from
the level where we stood, or he would have reached it at a single bound.
I can yet hear him clearing a way through the snowy brambles, the baron
flinging himself before the woman with a piercing cry, "My mother!" then
the dog taking another spring, and Sperver, quick as lightning, raising
his gun, and bringing down the poor animal dead at the young man's feet.

This was but the work of a second. The gulf had been illuminated with a
momentary flash, and the wild echoes were vibrating with the explosion
from rock to rock, till it died in the far distance. Then silence again
settled on the gloomy scene, as darkness after the lightning.

When the smoke of the explosion had cleared away I saw Lieverlé lying
outstretched at the foot of the rock, and the woman fainting in the arms
of the young man. Sperver, pale with concentrated rage and excitement,
and eyeing the young baron darkly, dropped the butt of his gun to the
ground, his features discomposed, and his eyes half-hid in his gloomy
frown.

"Seigneur de Bluderich," he cried, with his hand extended, "I have killed
my best friend to save the life of that unhappy woman, your mother! Thank
God that her life is bound up with that of the Count of Nideck! Take her
away! take her hence, and never let her return here again; if you do I
cannot answer for what old Sperver may be driven to do!"

Then, with a glance at the poor dog--

"Oh! Lieverlé, Lieverlé!" he cried, "was it to end thus? Come, Fritz, let
us go. I cannot stay here. I might do something that I should have to
repent of!"

And, laying hold of Fox by the mane, he was going to throw himself into
the saddle, but suddenly his feelings of distress overcame all restraint,
and bowing his head upon his horse's neck, he burst into sobs and tears,
and wept like a child.



CHAPTER XIII.


Sperver had gone, bearing the body of poor Lieverlé in his cloak. I had
declined to follow; my sense of duty kept me by this unhappy woman, and I
could not leave her without violence to my own feelings.

Besides, I must confess I was curious to see a little more closely
this strange mysterious being, and therefore as soon as Sperver had
disappeared in the darkness of the glen I began to climb up to reach the
cavern.

There I beheld a strange sight.

Extended upon a large cloak of white fur lay the aged woman in a long and
ragged robe of purple, her fingers clutching her breast, a golden arrow
through her grey hair.

Never shall I forget the figure of this strange woman; her vulture-like
features distorted with the last agonies of death, her eyes set, her
gasping mouth, were fearful to look upon. Such might have been the
terrible Queen Frédégonde.

The baron, on his knees at her side, was trying to restore her to
animation; but I saw at a glance that the wretched creature was dying,
and it was not without a profound sense of pity that I took her by the
arm.

"Leave madame alone--don't touch her," cried the young man with
irritation.

"I am a surgeon, monseigneur."

He looked in silence at me for a moment, then rising, said--

"Pardon me, sir; pray forgive my hasty language."

He trembled with excitement, scarcely yet subdued, and presently he went
on--

"What is your opinion, sir?"

"It is over--she is dead!"

Then, without speaking another word, he sat upon a large stone, with his
forehead resting upon his hand and his elbow on his knee, his eyes
motionless, as still as a statue.

I sat near the fire, watching the flames rising to the vaulted roof of
the cave, and casting lurid reflections upon the rigid features of the
corpse.

We had sat there an hour as motionless as statues, each deep in thought,
when, suddenly lifting his head, the baron said--

"Sir, all this utterly confounds me. Here is my mother--for twenty-six
years I thought I knew her--and now an abyss of horrible mysteries opens
before me. You are a doctor; tell me, did you ever know anything so
dreadful?"

"Monseigneur," I replied, "the Count of Nideck is afflicted with a
complaint strikingly similar to that from which your mother appears to
have suffered. If you feel enough confidence in me to communicate to me
the facts which you have yourself observed, I will gladly tell you what I
know myself; for perhaps this exchange of our experiences might supply me
with the means to save my patient."

"Willingly, sir," he replied, and without any further prelude he informed
me that the Baroness de Bluderich, a member of one of the noblest
families in Saxony, took, every year towards autumn, a journey into
Italy, with no attendant besides an old man-servant, who possessed her
entire confidence; that that man, being at the point of death, had
desired a private interview with the son of his old master, and that at
that last hour, prompted, no doubt, by the pangs of remorse, he had told
the young man that his mother's visit to Italy was only a pretence to
enable her to make, you observed, a certain excursion into the Black
Forest, the object of which was unknown to himself, but which must have
had something fearful in its character, since the baroness returned
always in a state of physical prostration, ragged, half dead, and that
weeks of rest alone could restore her after the hideous labours of those
few days.

This was the purport of the old servant's disclosures to the young baron,
who believed that in so doing he was only fulfilling his duty.

The son, anxious at any sacrifice to know the truth of this account, had,
that very year, ascertained it, first by following his mother to Baden,
and then by penetrating on her track into the gorges of the Black Forest.
The footsteps which Sébalt had tracked in the woods were his.

When the baron had thus imparted his knowledge to me, I thought I ought
not to conceal from him the mysterious influence which the appearance of
the old woman in the neighbourhood of the castle exercised over the
count, nor the other circumstances of this unaccountable series of
events.

We were both amazed at the extraordinary coincidence between the facts
narrated, the mysterious attraction which these beings unconsciously
exercised the one over the other, the tragic drama which they performed
in union, the familiarity which the old woman had shown with the castle,
and its most secret passages, without any previous examination of them;
the costume which she had discovered in which to carry out this secret
act, and which could only have been rummaged out of some mysterious
retreat revealed to her by the strange instinct of insanity. Finally,
we were agreed that there are unknown, unfathomed depths in our being,
and that the mystery of death is not the only secret which God has veiled
from our eyes, although it may seem to us the most important.

But the darkness of night was beginning to yield to the pale tints of
early dawn. A bat was sounding the departure of the hours of darkness
with a singular note resembling the gurgling of liquid from a narrow
bottle-neck. A neighing of horses was heard far up the defile; then, with
the first rays of dawn, we distinguished a sledge driven by the baron's
servant; its bottom was littered with straw; on this the body was laid.

I mounted my horse, who seemed not sorry to use his limbs again, which
had been numbed by standing upon ice and snow the whole night through. I
rode after the sledge to the exit from the defile, when, after a grave
salutation--the usual token of courtesy between the nobility and the
people--they drove off in the direction of Hirschland and I rode towards
the towers of Nideck.

At nine I was in the presence of Mademoiselle Odile, to whom I gave a
faithful narrative of all that had taken place.

Then repairing to the count's apartments, I found him in a very
satisfactory state of improvement. He felt very weak, as was to be
expected after the terrible shocks of such crises as he had gone through,
but had returned to the full possession of his clear faculties, and
the fever had left him the evening before. There was, therefore, every
prospect of a speedy cure.

A few days later, seeing the old lord in a state of convalescence, I
expressed a desire to return to Fribourg, but he entreated me so
earnestly to stay altogether at Nideck, and offered me terms so
honourable and advantageous, that I felt myself unable to refuse
compliance with his wishes.

I shall long remember the first boar-hunt in which I had the honour to
join with the count, and especially the magnificent return home in a
torchlight procession after having sat in the saddle for twelve hours
together.

I had just had supper, and was going up into Hugh Lupus's tower
completely knocked up, when, passing Sperver's room, whose door was half
open, shouts and cries of joy reached my ears. I stopped, when the most
jovial spectacle burst upon me. Around the massive oaken table beamed
twenty square rosy faces, bright and ruddy with health and fun.

The hob and nobbing of the glasses gave out an incessant tinkling and
clattering. There was sitting Sperver with his bossy forehead, his
moustaches bedewed with Rhenish wine, his eyes sparkling, and his grey
hair rather disordered; at his right was Marie Lagoutte, on his left
Knapwurst. He was raising aloft the ancient silver-gilt and chased goblet
dimmed with age, and on his manly chest glittered the silver plate of
his shoulder-belt, for, according to his custom on a hunting day, he was
still wearing the uniform of his office.

The colour of Marie Lagoutte's cheeks, rather redder even than usual,
told of an evening of jollity, and her broad cap-frills seemed as if they
were wanting to fly all abroad; she sat laughing, now with one, then with
another.

Knapwurst, squatting in his arm-chair, with his head on a level with
Sperver's elbow, looked like a big pumpkin. Then came Tobias Offenloch,
so red that you would have thought he had bathed his face in the red
wine, leaning back with his wig upon the chair-back and his wooden leg
extended under the table. Farther on loomed the melancholy long face of
Sébalt, who was peeping with a sickly smile into the bottom of his
wine-glass.

Besides these worthies there were present the waiting-people, men and
women servants, comprising all that little community which springs up
around the board of the great people of the land and belongs to them as
the ivy, and the moss, and the wild convolvulus belong to the monarch of
the forests.

Upon the groaning board lay a vast ham, displaying its concentric circles
of pink and white. Then among the gaily-patterned plates and dishes came
the long-necked bottles containing the produce of the vineyards that
border the broad and flowing Rhine--long German pipes with little silver
chains, and long shining blades of steel.

The light of the lamp shed over the whole scene its amber-coloured hue
and left in the shade the old grey and time-stained walls, where hung in
ample numbers the brazen convolutions of the hunting-horns and bugles.

What an original picture! The vaulted roof was ringing with the joyous
shouts of laughter.

Sperver, as I have already told, was lifting high the full bumper and
singing the song of Black Hatto, the Burgrave,

"I am king on these mountains of mine,"

while the rosy dew of Affénthal hung trembling from his long moustaches.
As soon as he caught sight of me he stopped, and holding out his hand--

"Fritz," said he, "we only wanted you. It is a long time since I felt so
comfortable as I do to-night. You are welcome, old boy!"

As I gazed upon him with surprise--for since the death of Lieverlé I had
never seen him smile--he added more seriously--

"We are celebrating the return of monseigneur to his health, and
Knapwurst is telling us stories."

All the guests turned my way, and I was saluted with kindly welcomes on
all sides.

I was dragged in by Sébalt, seated near Marie Lagoutte, and found a large
glass of Bohemian wine in my hand before I could quite understand the
meaning of it all.

The old hall was echoing with merry peals of laughter, and Sperver,
throwing his arm round my neck, holding his cup high, and with an attempt
at gravity which showed plainly that the wine was up in his head, he
shouted--

"Here is my son! He and I--I and he--until death! Here's the health of
Doctor Fritz!"

Knapwurst, standing as high as he was able upon the seat of his arm-chair,
not unlike a turnip half divided in two, leaned towards me and held me
out his glass. Marie Lagoutte shook out the long streamers of her cap,
and Sébalt, upright before his chair, as gaunt and lean as the shade of
the wild jäger amongst the heather, repeated, "Your health, Doctor
Fritz!" whilst the flakes of silvery foam ran down his cup and floated
gently down upon the stone-flagged floor.

Then there was a moment's silence. Every guest drank. Then, with a single
clash, every glass was set vigorously down upon the table.

"Bravo!" cried Sperver.

Then turning to me--

"Fritz, we have already drunk to the health of the count and of
Mademoiselle Odile; you will do the same."

Twice had I to drain the cup before the vigilant eyes of the whole table.
Then I too began to look grave. Could it have been drunken gravity? A
luminous radiance seemed shed on every object; faces stood out brightly
from the darkness, and looked more nearly upon me; in truth, there were
youthful faces and aged, pretty and ugly, but all alike beamed upon me
kindly, and lovingly, and tenderly; but it was the youngest, at the other
end of the table, whose bright eyes attracted me, and we exchanged long
and wistful glances, full of affection and sympathy!

Sperver kept on humming and laughing. Suddenly putting his hand upon the
dwarf's misshapen back, he cried--

"Silence! Here is Knapwurst, our historian and chronicler! He is
preparing to speak. This hump holds all the history of the house of
Nideck from the beginning of time!"

The little hunchback, not at all indignant at so ambiguous a compliment,
directed his benevolent eyes upon the face of the huntsman, and replied--

"You, Sperver, you are one of the _reiters_ whose story I have been
telling you. You have the arm, and the courage, and the whiskers of a
_reiter_ of old! If that window opened wide, and a _reiter_ was to hold
out his hand at the end of his long arm to you, what would you say to
him?"

"I would say, 'You are welcome, comrade; sit down and drink. You will
find the wine just as good and the girls just as pretty as they were in
the days of old Hugh Lupus.' Look!"

And he pointed with his glass at the jolly young faces that brightened
the farther end of the table.

Certainly the damsels of Nideck were lovely. Some were blushing with
pleasure to hear their own praises; others half-veiled their rosy cheeks
with their long drooping eyelashes, while one or two seemed rather to
prefer to display their, sweet blue eyes by raising them to the smoky
ceiling. I wondered at my own insensibility that I had never before
noticed these fair roses blooming in the towers of the ancient manor.

"Silence!" cried Sperver for the second time. "Our friend Knapwurst is
going to tell us again the legend he related to us just now."

"Won't you have another instead?" asked the hunchback.

"No. I like this best."

"I know better ones than that."

"Knapwurst," insisted the huntsman, raising his finger impressively, "I
have reasons for wishing to hear the same again and no other. Cut it
shorter if you like. There is a great deal in it. Now, Fritz, listen!"

The dwarf, rather under the influence of the sparkling wine he had taken,
rested his elbows on the table, and with his cheeks clutched in his bony
fingers, and his eyes starting from his head with his concentrated
efforts to speak with becoming seriousness, he cried as if he were
publishing a proclamation--

"Bernard Hertzog relates that the burgrave Hugh, surnamed Lupus, or the
Wolf, when he was old, used to wear a cowl, which was a kind of knitted
cap that covered in the crest of the knight's helmet when engaged in
fighting. When the helmet tired him he would take it off and put on the
knitted cowl, and its long cape fell around his shoulders.

"Up to his eighty-second year Hugh still wore his armour, though he could
hardly breathe in it.

"Then he sent for Otto of Burlach, his chaplain, his eldest son Hugh, his
second son Berthold, and his daughter the red-haired Bertha, wife of a
Saxon chief named Bluderich, and said to them--

"'Your mother the she-wolf has bequeathed you her claws; her blood flows,
mingled with mine, in your veins. In you the wolf's blood will flow from
generation to generation; it shall weep and howl among the snows of the
Black Forest. Some will say, "Hark! The wind howls!" others, "No, it is
the owl hooting!" But not so; it is your blood, mine and the blood of the
she-wolf who drove me to murder Hedwige, my wife before God and the
Church. She died under my bloody hands! Cursed be the she-wolf! for it is
written, "I will visit the sins of the fathers upon the children." The
crime of the father shall be visited upon the children until justice
shall have been satisfied!'

"Then old Hugh the Wolf died.

"From that dreary day the north wind has howled across the wilds, and the
owl has hooted in the dark, and travellers by night know not that it is
the blood of the she-wolf weeping for the day of vengeance that will
come, whose blood will be renewed from generation to generation--so says
Hertzog--until the day when the first wife of Hugh, Hedwige the Fair,
shall reappear at Nideck under the form of an angel to comfort and to
forgive!"

Then Sperver, rising from his seat, took a lamp and demanded of Knapwurst
the keys of the library, and beckoned to me to follow him.

We rapidly traversed the long dark gallery, then the armoury, and soon
the archive-chamber appeared at the end of the great corridor.

All noises had died away in the distance. The place seemed quite
deserted.

Once or twice I turned round, and could then see with a creeping feeling
of dread our two long fantastic shadows in ghostly fashion writhing in
strange distortions upon the high tapestry.

Sperver quickly opened the old oak door, and with torch uplifted, his
hair all bristling in disorder, and excited features, walked in the
first. Standing before the portrait of Hedwige, whose likeness to the
young countess had struck me at our first visit to the library, he
addressed me in these solemn words:--

"Here is she who was to return to comfort and pity me! She has returned!
At this moment she is downstairs with the old count. Look well, Fritz; do
you recognise her? Is it not Odile?"

Then turning to the picture of Hugh's second wife--

"There," he said, "is Huldine, the she-wolf. For a thousand years she has
wept in the deep gorges amongst the pine forests of the Schwartzwald; she
was the cause of the death of poor Lieverlé; but henceforward the lords
of Nideck may rest securely, for justice is done, and the good angel of
this lordly house has returned!"



MYRTLE.



CHAPTER I.


Just at the end of the village of Dosenheim,  in Alsace, about fifty
yards from the gravelly road that leads into the wood, is a pretty
cottage surrounded with an orchard, the flat roof loaded with
boulder-stones, the gable-end looking down the valley.

Flights of pigeons wheel around it, hens are scratching and picking up
what they can under the fences, the cock takes his stand majestically on
the low garden wall, and sounds the _réveillée_, or the retreat, for the
echoes of Falberg to repeat; an outside staircase, with its wooden
banisters, the linen of the little household hanging over it, leads to
the first story, and a vine climbs up the front, and spreads its leafy
branches from side to side.

If you will only go up these steps you will see at the end of the narrow
entry the kitchen, with its dresser and its pewter plates and dishes, its
soup-tureens puffing out like balloons; open the door to the right and
you are in the parlour with its dark oak furniture, a ceiling crossed by
brown smoke-stained rafters, and its old Nuremberg clock click-clacking
monotonously.

Here sits a woman of five-and-thirty, spinning and dreaming, her waist
encircled with a long black taffety bodice, and her head covered with a
velvet headdress, with long ribbons.

A man in broad-skirted velveteen coat, with breeches of the same, and
with a fine open brow, looking calm and thoughtful, is dandling on his
knee a fine stout boy, whistling the call to "boot and saddle."

There lies the quiet village at the end of the valley, framed, as you
sit, in the little cottage window; the river is leaping over the mill-dam
and crossing the winding street; the old houses, with their deep and
gloomy eaves, their barns, their gabled windows, their nets drying in the
sun; the young girls, kneeling by the river-side on the stones, washing
linen; the cattle lazily lounging down to drink, and gravely lowing
amidst the willows; the young herdsmen cracking their whips; the mountain
summit, jagged like a saw by the pointed fir-tree tops--all these rural
objects lie reflected in the flowing blue stream, only broken by the
fleets of ducks sailing down or the occasional passage of an old tree
rooted up on the mountain-side.

Looking quietly on these things, you are impressed with a sense of the
ease and comfort of which they speak, and you are moved with gratitude to
the Giver of all good.

Well, my dear friends and neighbours, such was the cottage of the Brémers
in 1820, such were Brémer himself, his wife Catherine, and their son,
little Fritz.

To my own mind they come back exactly as I have described them to you.

Christian Brémer had served in the chasseurs of the Imperial Guard. After
1815 he had married Catherine, his old sweetheart, grown a little older,
but quite fresh and fair, and full of grace. With his own little
property, his house, and his four or five acres of vineyard, and
Catherine's added to it, Brémer had become one of the most substantial
bourgeois of Dosenheim; he might have been mayor, or adjoint, or
municipal councillor, but these honours had no attractions for him; and
what pleased him best was, after work was over, to take down his old gun,
whistle for Friedland, and take him a turn in the woods.

Now it fell out one day that this worthy man, coming home after a day's
shooting, brought in his bag a little gipsy girl two or three years old,
as lively as a squirrel, and as brown as a hazel-nut. He had found her in
the bundle of an unhappy gipsy woman who had died of fatigue or hunger,
or both, at the foot of a tree.

You may well imagine what an outcry Catherine raised against this new
uninvited member of her family. But as Brémer was master in his own
house, he simply announced to his wife that the child should be
christened by the name of Susanna Frederica Myrtle, and that she should
be brought up with little Fritz.

As a matter of course, all the women in the place, old and young, came
to pass their observations upon the little gipsy, whose serious and
thoughtful expression of countenance surprised them.

"This is not a child like others," said they; "she is a heathen--quite a
heathen! You may see by her eyes that she understands every word! She is
listening now! Mind what I say, Maître Christian! Gipsies have claws at
the ends of their fingers. If you will rear young ferrets and weasels you
must not expect your poultry to be safe. They will have the run of all
the farm-yard!"

"Go and mind your own business!" shouted Brémer. "I have seen Russians
and Spaniards, I have seen Italians, and Germans, and Jews; some were
brown, and some were black, some white, and others red; some had long
noses, and others had turned-down noses, but I found good fellows amongst
them all."

"Very likely," said the ladies, "but those people lived in houses, and
gipsies live in the open air."

He vouchsafed no reply to this argument, but with all possible politeness
he put them out by the shoulders.

"Go away," he cried; "I don't want your advice. It is time to air the
rooms, and then I have to go and attend to the stables."

But, after all, the rejected counsels were not so bad, as the event
unhappily showed a dozen or fourteen years afterwards.

Fritz was always delighted to feed the cattle, and take the horses to the
pond, and follow his father and learn to plough and sow, to reap and mow,
to tie up the sheaves and bring them home. But Myrtle had no wish to milk
the cows, churn the butter, shell peas, or peel potatoes.

When the maidens of Dosenheim, going out to wash clothes in the morning
at the river, called her the _heathen_, she mirrored herself complacently
in the fountain, and when she had admired her own long dark tresses, her
violet lips, her white teeth, her necklace of red berries, she would
smile and murmur to herself--

"Ah! they only call me a heathen because I am prettier than they are,"
and she would dip the tip of her little foot in the fountain and laugh.

But Catherine could not approve of such conduct, and said--

"Myrtle is not the least good to us. She won't do a single thing that is
useful. It is no use for me to preach, and advise, and scold, she does
everything the wrong way. The other day, when we were stowing away apples
in the closet, she took bites out of the best to see if they were ripe!
She has no pleasure but in gobbling up the best of everything."

Brémer himself could not help admitting that there was a very heathenish
spirit in her when he heard his wife crying from morning till night,
"Myrtle, Myrtle! where are you now? Ah, naughty, bad girl! she has run
away into the woods again to gather blackberries." But still he laughed
to himself, and pitied poor Catherine, whom he compared to a hen with a
brood of ducklings.

Every year after harvest-time Fritz and Myrtle spent whole days far away
from the farm, pasturing the cattle, singing, and whistling, and baking
potatoes under the ashes, and coming down the rocky hill in the evening
blowing the shepherd's horn.

These were some of Myrtle's happiest days. Seated before the burning
hemp-stalks, with her pretty brown face between her hands, she lost
herself in endless reveries.

The long strings of wild ducks and geese which traverse, about the end of
autumn, the boundless heavens spread from the mountains on the east to
the western hills, seemed to have a depressing effect upon her mind. She
used to follow them with longing eyes, straining them as if to overtake
the wild birds in the immeasurable distance; and suddenly she would rise,
spread out her arms, and cry--

"I must go! I must go! I can't stay!"

Then she would weep with her head bowed down, and Fritz, seeing her in
tears, would cry too, asking--

"Why do you cry, Myrtle? Has anybody hurt you? Is it any of the boys in
the village?--Kasper, Wilhelm, Heinrich? Only tell me, and I will knock
him down at once! Do tell!"

"No; it is not that."

"Well, why are you crying?"

"I don't know."

"Do you want to run as far as the Falberg?"

"No; that is not far enough."

"Where do you want to go?"

"Down there! down there! ever so far! where the birds are going."

This made Fritz open his eyes and his mouth very wide.

One day in September, when they were idling along by the woods, about
noon, the heat was so great and the air so still that the smoke of their
little fire, instead of rising straight into the air, fell like water and
crept among the briars. The grasshopper had ceased its dull monotonous
chirp, not the buzzing of a fly was to be heard, nor the warbling of a
bird. The oxen and the cows, with sleepy eyes half-closed, their knees
bent under them, were resting together under a spreading oak in the
meadow, now and then lowing in a slow, protracted way as if in idle
protest against such hot weather.

Fritz had begun by plaiting the strands of his whip, but he soon lay down
in the long grass with his hat over his eyes, and Friedland came to lie
near him, gaping from ear to ear.

Myrtle alone suffered no inconvenience from the overwhelming heat;
sitting on the ground near the fire, with her arms wreathed around her
knees, full in the sun, her large dark eyes slowly surveyed the dark
arches formed by the branches of the forest.

Time passed on slowly. The distant village clock had struck twelve, then
one, and two, and the young gipsy never stirred. In the woods and jagged
mountain-tops, the crags, the forests, descending into the valleys, she
heard some mysterious call. They spoke to her in a language not unknown
to her.

"Yes," she said to herself, "yes; I have seen all that before--long
ago--a long time ago."

Then with a quick, sharp glance at Fritz, who was in a deep sleep, she
rose to her feet and began to fly. Her light footsteps scarcely bent the
grass beneath her; she ran on and on, up the hill; Friedland turned his
head round with a careless glance, then stretched out once more his
languid limbs, and composed himself to sleep.

Myrtle disappeared in the midst of the brambles which border the common
wood. At one bound she cleared the muddy ditch where a single frog was
croaking amongst the rushes, and twenty minutes after she reached the top
of the Roche Creuse, whence you may have a wide prospect of Alsace and
the blue summits of the Vosges.

Then she turned to see if anybody was following her. She could still
distinguish Fritz asleep in the green meadow with his hat over his eyes,
and Friedland and the sleeping cattle under their tree.

Farther on she could see the village, the river, the roof of the
farm-house, with its flights of pigeons eddying round; the long, crooked
street and red-petticoated women walking leisurely up and down; the
little ivy-covered church where the good _curé_ Niclausse had baptised
her into the Christian faith and afterwards confirmed her.

And when she had sufficiently contemplated these objects, turning her
face the other way towards the mountain, she was filled with delight to
mark how the densely-crowded firs covered the hill-sides, up to their
highest ridge, close as the grass of the fields.

At the sight of all this grandeur the young gipsy felt her heart beating
and expanding with unknown delight, and again running on she darted
through a rift between the rocks, lined with mosses and ferns, to reach
the beaten track through the woods.

Her whole soul--that wild, untrained soul of hers--was rushing with her
and impelling her onwards, kindling her countenance with a new ardour.
With her hands she clung to the ivy, with her naked feet she clung to the
projections and the crevices to push on her way.

Soon she was on the other slope, running, tripping, leaping, sometimes
stopping short to gaze upon surrounding objects--a large tree, a ravine,
a lonely sheet of water, or a pond full of flowers and sweet-smelling
water-plants.

Although she could not remember ever having seen those copses, those
clearings, those heaths, at every turn in the path she would say to
herself, "There, I knew it was so! I knew that tree would be there! I
was sure of that rock! And there's the waterfall just below!" Although
a thousand strange remembrances passed with momentary flashes, like
sudden visions, through her mind, she could not understand it all and
could explain nothing. She had not yet been able to say to herself, "What
Fritz and the rest of them want to make them happy is the village, and
the meadow, and the farm-house, and the fruit-trees, and the orchard, and
the milk-cows, and the laying hens; plenty in the cellar, plenty in the
granary, and a nice warm fire on the hearth in winter. But what have I to
do with all these things? Wasn't I born a heathen, quite a heathen? I was
born in the woods, just as the squirrel was born in an oak, just as a
hawk was hatched on the crag and the thrush in the fir-tree!"

It is true she had never thought of these things, but she was guided by
instinct; and this mysterious force drew her unconsciously about sunset
to the bare heaths of the Kohle Platz, where the gangs of gipsies that
wander between Alsace and Lorraine are accustomed to stay the night, and
hang up their kettles among the dry heath.

Here Myrtle sat down at the foot of an old oak-tree, tired, footsore, and
ragged; and here she long sat motionless, gazing into vacant space,
listening to the rustling of the wind amongst the tall fir-trees, happy,
and feeling herself quite alone in the wide solitude.

Night came. The stars broke out by thousands in the purple depths of the
autumn sky. The moon rose and silvered with soft light the white stems of
the birch-trees, which hung in graceful groups along the mountain sides.

The young gipsy was beginning to yield to sleep when cries in the
distance roused her into an impulse to fly.

Hark! She knows the voices! They are those of Brémer, Fritz, and all the
people of the farm searching for her!

Then, without a moment's hesitation, Myrtle flew, light as a roe, farther
into the forest, stopping only at long intervals to listen attentively
and anxiously.

The cries died away in the distance, and soon the only sound she could
hear was the loud beating of her own heart, and she went on her way at a
less rapid pace.

Very late, when the moon's rays became less brilliant, unable to stand
out against her fatigue any longer, she sank down on the heath and fell
fast asleep.

She was four leagues from Dosenheim, near the source of the Zinzel.
Brémer was not likely to come so far to look for her.



CHAPTER II.


It was broad daylight when Myrtle awoke amidst the deep solitudes of the
Schlossberg, beneath an old fir-tree overgrown with moss and lichen. A
thrush was whistling overhead; another was answering in the distance far
down the valley. The morning breeze was fanning the rustling foliage; but
the air, already warm, was loaded with the sweet perfumes of the
ground-ivy, the honeysuckle, the woodruff, and the sweetbriars.

The young gipsy opened her eyes with astonishment remembering, with
surprise and delight, that the voice of Catherine would no more trouble
her, calling, "Myrtle! Myrtle! where are you, you idle child?" she
smiled, and listened to what gave her pleasure, the note of the thrush
singing among the trees.

Near at hand a spring was bubbling out of a cleft; the girl had but to
look round to see the living stream running, sparkling and clear, amidst
the long grass. From the rock high overhead hung an arbutus loaded with
its gorgeous freight of scarlet berries.

Though Myrtle was thirsty she felt too idle to move amongst all this
beauty and all this harmony, and she dropped her pretty brown face,
smiling and admiring the daylight through her long dark lashes.

"This is how I am always going to be," she said. "How can I help it? I am
an idle girl. I was made so."

Dreaming in this lazy way, the picture rose up in her mind of the
farm-yard with the proud cock strutting among his hens, and then she
remembered the eggs, how they used to find them in the straw in some
corner of the barn.

"If I had a couple of hard-boiled eggs," she thought, "just like those
Fritz had yesterday in his bag, with a crust of bread and a little salt,
I should like it very well. But what signifies? When you can't get eggs
you have blackberries and whinberries."

A scent of whinberries made her little nostrils dilate with expectation.

"There are some here," she said; "I can smell them."

She was right. The wood was full of them.

In another minute, not hearing the thrush, she raised herself on her
elbow and noticed the bird picking at the arbutus-berries.

Then she went to the brook and took a little clear water in her hollow
hand, and observed that there was plenty of watercress.

Then she remembered what she had never taken the trouble to think of
before, some words of the _curé_, Niclausse about the birds of the air
that God provided for, and the lilies of the field that were more
beautiful than the glory of Solomon, and she remembered the lesson about
not being anxious for food and clothing, and thought that that would just
suit her, for she did not think of any of the teaching of the same great
Teacher about industry, and frugality, and living honestly, and so she
came to the satisfying conclusion that the true heathens were Catherine
and all her people, who were so foolish and wicked as to plough, and sow,
and reap, while she was the good Christian, because she was as idle as
the day was long.

She was still dwelling on these satisfactory deductions when there was a
sudden rustling among the dead leaves and a noise of footsteps.

She was going to run away when a gipsy lad of eighteen or twenty appeared
before her--a tall, lithe, dark fellow with thick woolly hair, shining
black eyes, and thick parted lips.

His eyes glittered as he cried--

"Almâni!"

"Almâni!" replied Myrtle, moved with much interest.

"Ha, ha!" cried the lad, "what gang do you go with?"

"I don't know--I am looking for it."

And without any concealment she told him how Brémer had found her and
brought her up, and how she had escaped yesterday from his house.

The young gipsy grinned, and showed a long double row of white teeth.

"I am going to Hazlach," he cried. "To-morrow there's a _fête_ there; our
band will all be there--Pfiffer Karl, Melchior, Blue-Titmouse, Fritz the
clarionet, Coucou-Peter, and Magpie. The women are going fortune-telling,
and we play the music. If you like, you may go with me."

"I will," said Myrtle, looking down.

Then he kissed her, laid his bag upon her back, and grasping his stick in
both his hands, he cried--

"Now you are my wife! You will carry the bag for me, and I will keep you.
Forward!"

And now Myrtle, lazy as she had always been at the farm, started off with
all possible willingness.

He followed her, singing, and tumbling over on his hands and feet to
express his joy!

From that day Myrtle has never been heard of.

Fritz almost died of grief when he found that she did not return; but a
few years later he found comfort in marrying Gredel Dich, the miller's
daughter, a fine, stout, active girl, who made him an excellent wife; and
Catherine, his mother, was quite pleased, for Gredel Dich was quite an
heiress!

Only Brémer could not be comforted; he was as fond of Myrtle as if she
had been his own child, and he drooped visibly from day to day.

One winter's day when he had got up, and was looking out of the window,
he saw a ragged but pretty gipsy girl passing through the village covered
with snow, and with a heavy bag upon her shoulders, and sat down again
with a deep sigh.

"What is the matter, Brémer?" asked his wife.

There was no answer. She came close. His eyes were closing. There he lay
dead.



UNCLE CHRISTIAN'S INHERITANCE



When my excellent uncle Christian Hâas, burgomaster of Lauterbach, died,
I had a good situation as maître de chapelle, or precentor, under the
Grand Duke Yeri Peter, with a salary of fifteen hundred florins,
notwithstanding which I was a poor man still.

Uncle Christian knew exactly how I was situated, and yet had never sent
me a kreutzer. So when I learned that he had left me owner of two hundred
acres of rich land in orchards and vineyards, a good bit of woodland, and
his large house at Lauterbach, I could not help shedding tears of
gratitude.

"My dear uncle," I cried, "now I can appreciate the depth of your wisdom,
and I thank you most sincerely for your judicious illiberality. Where
would now the money be, supposing you had sent me anything? In the hands
of the Philistines, no doubt; whereas by your prudent delays you have
saved the country, like another Fabius Cunctator--

"'Qui cunctando restituit rem--'

I honour your memory, Uncle Christian! I do indeed!"

Having delivered myself of these deep feelings, and many more which I
cannot enter into now, I got on horseback and rode off to Lauterbach.

Strange, is it not, how the Spirit of Avarice, hitherto quite a stranger
to me, came to make my acquaintance?

"Caspar!" he whispered, "now you are a rich man! Hitherto vain shadows
have filled your mind. A man must be a fool to follow glory. There is
nothing solid but acres, and buildings, and crown-pieces, put out in
safe mortgages. Fling aside all your vain delusions! Enlarge your
boundaries, round off your estate, heap up money, and then you will be
honoured and respected! You will be a burgomaster as your uncle was
before you, and the country folks, when they see you coming a mile off,
will pull off their hats, and say--'Here is Monsieur Caspar Hâas, the
richest man and the biggest _herr_ in the country.'"

These notions kept passing and repassing in my mind like the figures in a
magic-lantern, with grave and measured step. The whole thing seemed to me
perfectly reasonable.

It was the middle of July. The lark was warbling in the sky. The crops
were waving in the plain, the gentle breezes carried on them the soft cry
of the quail and the partridge amongst the standing wheat; the foliage
was glancing in the sunshine, and the Lauter ran its course beneath the
willows; but what was all that to me, the great burgomaster? I puffed up
my cheeks and rounded off my figure in anticipation of the portly
appearance I was to present, and repeated to myself those delightful
observations--

"This is Monsieur Caspar Hâas; he is a very rich man! He is the first
_herr_ in the country! Get on, Blitz!"

And the nag trotted forward.

I was anxious to try on my uncle's three-cornered hat and scarlet
waistcoat. "If they fit me," I said, "what is the use of buying?"

About four in the afternoon the village of Lauterbach appeared at the end
of the valley, and very proud I felt as I surveyed the tall and handsome
house of the late Christian Hâas, my future abode, the centre of my
property, real and speculative. I admired its situation by the long dusty
road, its vast roof of grey shingle, the sheds and barns covering with
their broad expanse the wagons, the carts, and the crops; behind, the
poultry-yard, then the little garden, the orchard, the vineyards up the
hill, the green meadows farther off.

I chuckled with delight over all these comforts and luxuries.

As I went down the principal street the old women with nose and chin
nearly meeting at the extremity, the bare-pated children with ragged
hair, the men in their otter-skin caps, and silver-chained pipes in their
mouths, all gaze upon me, and respectfully salute me--

"Good day, Monsieur Caspar! How do you do, Monsieur Hâas?"

And all the small windows were filled with wondering faces. I am at home
now; I seem as if I had always been a great landowner at Lauterbach, and
a notable. My kapellmeister's life seems a dream, a thing of the past, my
enthusiastic fondness for music a youthful folly! How money does modify
men's views of things!

And now I draw bridle before the house of the village notary, Monsieur
Becker. He has my title-deeds under his care, and is to hand them over to
me. I fasten my horse to the ring at the door, I run up the steps, and
the ancient scribe, with his bald head very respectfully uncovered, and
his long spare figure clad in a green dressing-gown with full skirts,
advances alone to receive me.

"Monsieur Caspar Hâas, I have the honour to salute you."

"Your servant, Monsieur Becker."

"Pray walk in, Monsieur Hâas."

"After you, sir, after you."

We cross the vestibule, and I find at the end of a small, neat, and
well-aired room a table nicely and comfortably laid, and sitting by it
a young maiden rosy and fresh-coloured, the very picture of modesty and
propriety.

The venerable notary announced me--

"Monsieur Caspar Hâas!"

I bowed.

"My daughter Lothe!" added the good man.

And whilst I felt in myself a reviving taste for the beautiful, and was
admiring Mademoiselle Lothe's pretty little chubby nose, the rosy lips,
and the large blue eyes, her dainty little figure, and her dimpled hands,
Maître Becker invited me to sit down at the table, informing me that he
had been expecting me, and that before entering on matters of business it
would be well to take a little refreshment, a glass of Bordeaux, etc., an
invitation of which I fully recognised the propriety, and which I
accepted very willingly.

And so we sit down. We talk first of the beautiful country. And I form
opinions about the old gentleman, and wonder what a notary is likely to
make at Lauterbach!

"Mademoiselle, will you take a wing?"

"Monsieur, you are very kind; thank you, I will."

Lothe looks down bashfully. I fill her glass, in which she dips her rosy
lips. Papa is in good spirits; he tells me about hunting and fishing.

"Of course Monsieur Hâas will live as we do in the country. We have
excellent rabbit-warrens. The rivers abound in trout. The shooting in the
forests is let out. People mostly spend their evenings at the inn.
Monsieur the inspector of woods and forests is a delightful young man.
The _juge-de-paìx_ is a capital whist-player," and so on, and so on.

I listen, and think all this quiet life must be delightful. Mademoiselle
Lothe pleases me a good deal. She does not talk much, but she smiles and
looks so agreeable! How loving and amiable she must be!

At last the coffee came, then the kirschwasser. Mademoiselle Lothe
retires, and the old lawyer gradually passes to business. He explains to
me the nature of my uncle's property, and I listen attentively. There was
no part of the will in dispute; there were no legacies, no mortgages.
Everything is clear and straightforward. Happy Caspar! Happy man!

Then we went into the office to look over the deeds. The close air of
this place of dry, hard business, those long rows of boxes, the files of
bills--all these together put weak notions of love out of my head. I sat
down in an arm-chair while Monsieur Becker, collecting his thoughts, puts
his horn spectacles in their place upon his long, sharp nose.

"These deeds relate to your meadow-land at Eichmatt. There, Monsieur
Hâas, you have a hundred acres of excellent land, the finest and
best-watered in the commune; two and even three crops a year are got off
that land. It brings in four thousand francs a year. Here are the deeds
belonging to your vine-growing land at Sonnenthâl, thirty-five acres in
all. One year with another you may get from this two hundred hectolitres
(4,400 gals.) of light wine, sold on the ground at twelve or fifteen
francs the hectolitre. Good years make up for the bad. This, Monsieur
Hâas, is your title to the forest of Romelstein, containing fifty or
sixty hectares (a hectare is 2-1/2 acres) of excellent timber. This is
your property at Hacmatt; this your pasture-land at Tiefenthal. This is
your farm at Grüneswald, and here is the deed belonging to your house at
Lauterbach; it is the largest house in the place, and was built in the
sixteenth century."

"Indeed, Monsieur Becker! but is that saying much in its favour?"

"Certainly, certainly. It was built by Jean Burckhardt, Count of Barth,
for a hunting-box. Many generations have lived in it since then, but it
has never been neglected, and it is now in excellent repair."

I thanked Monsieur Becker for the information he had given me, and having
secured all my title-deeds in a large portfolio which he was good enough
to lend me, I took my leave, more full than ever of my vast importance!

Arriving before my house, I enjoyed introducing the key into the lock of
the door, and bringing down my foot firmly and proudly on the first step.

"This is all mine!" I cried enthusiastically.

I enter the hall--"Mine!" I open the wardrobes--"Mine!" Mine--all that
linen piled up to the top! I pace majestically up the broad staircase,
repeating like a fool, "This is mine, and that is mine! Here I am, owner
of all this! No more uneasiness about the future! Not an anxious thought
for the morrow! Now I am going to make a figure in the world!--not on the
weak ground of merit--not for anything that fashion can alter. I am a
great man because I hold really and effectually that which the world
covets.

"Ye poets and artists! what are you in comparison with the rich
proprietor who has everything he wants, and who feeds your inspiration
with the crumbs that fall from his table? What are you but ornamental
portions of his feasts and banquets, just to fill up a weary interval?
You are no more than the sparrow that warbles in his hedges, or the
statue that figures in his garden-walk. It is by him and for him that you
exist. What need has he to envy you the incense of pride and vanity--he
who possesses the only solid good this world has to offer?"

At that moment of inflated conceit if the poor Kapellmeister Hâas had
appeared before me I might very likely have turned and looked at him over
my shoulder and asked, "What fool is that? What business has he with me?"

I threw a window open; evening was closing in. The setting sun gilded my
orchards and my vines as far as I could see. On the declivity of the hill
a few white patches indicated the cemetery.

I turned round. A great Gothic hall, with rich mouldings decorating the
ceiling, pleased my taste exceedingly. This was the Seigneur Burckhardt's
hunting-saloon.

An old spinet stood between two windows; I ran my fingers absently over
the keys, and the loose strings jingled with the disagreeable squeaking
of a toothless old woman trying to sing like a young damsel.

At the end of this long apartment was an arched alcove closed in by deep
red curtains, and containing a lofty four-post bedstead with a kind of
grand baldacchino covering it in. The sight of this reminded me that I
had been six hours on horseback, and undressing with a self-satisfied
smirk on my face all the time--

"It is the first time," I said, "that I shall sleep in a bed of my own."

And laying myself comfortably down, with my eyes dreamily wandering over
the distant plains on which the shadows of evening were settling down, I
felt my eyelids gently yielding to the sweet influence of sleep. Not a
leaf was stirring; the village noises ceased one by one, the last golden
rays of the sun had disappeared, and I dropped into the unconsciousness
of welcome sleep.

Dark night fell on the face of the earth, and then the moon was rising in
all her splendour, when I awoke, I cannot tell why. The wandering scents
of summer air reached me through the open window, fragrant with the sweet
perfume of the new-mown hay. I gazed with surprise, then I made an effort
to rise and open the window, but some obstacle prevented me. To my
astonishment, though my head was perfectly free to move in any direction,
my body was buried in a deep sleep like a lump of lead. Not a single
muscle obeyed my repeated efforts to raise my body; I was conscious of my
arms lying extended near me, and my legs being stretched out straight and
immovable; but my head was swaying helplessly to and fro. My breathing,
deep and regular--the breathing of my body went on all the same, and
frightened me dreadfully. My head, exhausted with its vain efforts to
obtain obedience from the limbs, fell back in despair, and I said, "What!
Is it paralysis?"

My eyes closed. I was reflecting with a feeling of horror upon this
strange phenomenon, and my ears were listening intently to the agitated
beating of my heart, over whose hurried flow of blood the mind had no
power.

"What, what is this?" I thought presently. "Do my own body and limbs
refuse to obey my will? Cannot Caspar Hâas, the undisputed lord of so
many rich vineyards and fat pastures, move this wretched clod of earth
which most certainly belongs to him? Oh, what does it all mean?"

As I was thus wondering and meditating I heard a slight noise. The door
of my alcove opened, and a man clothed in some stiff material resembling
felt, such as is worn by the monks in the chapel of St. Werburgh at
Mayence, with a broad-brimmed hat and feather pushed off from the left
ear, his hands buried up to the elbows in gauntlets of strong untanned
leather, entered the room. This gentleman's huge jack-boots came over the
knees, and were folded down again. A heavy chain of gold, with
decorations suspended to it, hung from his shoulders. His tanned and
angular countenance, his sallow complexion, his hollow eyes, bore an
expression of bitterness and melancholy.

This dismal personage traversed the hall with a hard and sounding step as
measured as the ticking of a clock, and placing his skinny hand upon the
hilt of an immense long rapier, and stamping with his heel on the floor,
he uttered in a horribly disagreeable creaking voice resembling the
grating of an engine these words, which dropped in a dry mechanical
fashion from his ashy lips:--

"This is mine--mine--Hans Burckhardt, Count of Barth!"

I felt a creeping sensation coming all over me.

At the same instant the door opposite flew open wide, and the Count of
Barth disappeared in the next apartment; and I could hear his hard, dry
automatic tread upon the stairs descending the steps, one by one, for
a long time; there seemed no end to it, until at last the awful sounds
died in the remote distance as if they had descended into the bowels of
the earth.

But as I was still listening, and hearing nothing further, all in a
moment the vast hall filled as if by magic with a numerous company; the
spinet began to jingle; there was music and singing of love, and
pleasure, and wine.

I gazed and saw by the bluish-grey moonlight ladies in the bloom of youth
negligently floating over the floor, and chiefly about the old spinet;
elegant cavaliers attired, as in the olden time, in innumerable dangling
ribbons, and the very perfection of lace collars and ruffles, seated
cross-legged upon gold-fringed stools, affectedly inclining sidelong,
shaking their perfumed locks, making little bows, studying all kinds of
graceful attitudes, and paying their court to the ladies, all so
elegantly, and with such an air of gallantry, that it reminded me of the
old mezzotint engravings of the graceful school of Lorraine in the
sixteenth century.

And the stiff little fingers of an ancient dowager, with a parrot bill,
were rattling the keys of the old spinet; bursts of thin laughter set
discordant echoes flying, and ended in little squeaks with such a sharp
discordant rattle of constrained laughter as made my hair stand on end.

All this silly little world--all this quintessence of fashion and
elegance, long out of date, all exhaled the acrid odour of rose-water and
essence of mignonette turned into vinegar.

I made new and superhuman exertions to get rid of this disagreeable
nightmare, but it was all in vain. But at that instant a lady of the
highest fashion cried aloud--

"Lords, you are at home here in all this domain--"

But she was cut short in her compliments; a silence like death fell on
the whole assembly. They faded away. I looked, and the whole picture had
vanished from my sight.

Then the sound of a trumpet fell on my listening ears. Horses were pawing
the ground outside, dogs were barking, while the moon, calm, clear,
inviting to meditation, still poured her soft light into my alcove.

The door opened as if by a blast of wind, and fifty huntsmen, followed by
a company of young ladies attired as they were two centuries ago, in long
trains, defiled with majestic pace out of one chamber into the other.
Four serving-men passed amongst them, bearing on their brawny shoulders
on a stout litter of oak boughs the bloody carcass of a monstrous wild
boar, with dim and faded eye, and with the foam yet lying white on his
formidable tusks and grisly jaws.

Then I heard the flourishes of the brazen trumpets redoubled in loudness
and energy; but silence fell, and the pomp and dignity, passed away with
a sigh like the last moans of a storm in the woods; then--nothing at
all--nothing to hear--nothing to see!

As I lay dreaming over this strange vision, and my eyes wandering vaguely
over the empty space in the silent darkness, I observed with astonishment
the blank space becoming silently occupied by one of the old Protestant
families of former days, calm, solemn, and dignified in their bearing and
conversation.

There sat the white-haired patriarch with the big Bible upon his knees;
the aged mother, tall and pale, spinning the flax grown by themselves,
sitting as straight and immovable as her own distaff, her ruff up to her
ears, her long waist compressed in a stiff black bodice; then there sat
the fat and rosy children, with serious countenances and thoughtful blue
eyes, leaning in silence with their elbows on the table; the dog lay
stretched by the great hearth apparently listening to the reading; the
old clock stood in the corner ticking seconds; farther on in the shadow
were girls' faces and young men, talking seriously to them about Jacob
and Rachel by way of love-making.

And this good family seemed penetrated with the truth of the sacred
story; the old man in broken accents was reading aloud the edifying
history of the settlement of the children of Israel in the Land of
Canaan--

"This is the Land of Promise--the land promised to Abraham and Isaac and
Jacob your fathers--that you may be multiplied in it as the stars of
heaven for multitude, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And
none shall disturb you, for ye are the chosen people."

The moon, which had veiled her light for a few minutes, reappeared, and
hearing no more sounds of voices, I looked round, and her clear cold rays
fell in the great empty hall. Not a figure, not a shade, was left. The
moonlight poured its silver flood upon the floor, and in the distance the
forms of a few trees stood out against the dark purple sky.

But now suddenly the high walls appeared lined with books, the old spinet
gave way to the _secrétaire_ of some man of learning, whose full-bottomed
wig was peering above the back of a red-leather arm-chair. I could hear
the quill coursing over the paper. The learned man, buried in thought,
never moved; the silence was oppressive.

But fancy my astonishment when, slowly turning, the great scholar faced
me, and I recognised the portrait of the famous lawyer Gregorius, marked
No. 253 in the portrait-gallery at Darmstadt.

How on earth had this personage walked out of his grave?

I was asking myself this question when, in a hollow sepulchral voice, he
pronounced these words:--

"_Dominorum, ex jurè Quintio, est jus utendi et abutendi quatenus
naturalis ratio patitur_."

As this sapient precept dropped oracularly from his lips, a word at a
time, his figure faded and turned pale. With the last word he had passed
out of existence.

What more shall I tell you, my dear friends? For hours, twenty
generations came defiling past me in Hans Burckhardt's ancient
mansion--Christians and Jews, nobles and commoners, fools and wise men
of high art, and men of mere prose. Every one proclaimed his indefeasible
right to the property; every one firmly believed himself sole lord and
master of all he surveyed. Alas! Death breathed upon one after another,
and they were all carried out, each as his turn came!

I was beginning to be familiar with this strange phantasmagoria. Each
time that any of these honest folks turned round and declared to me,
"This is mine!" I laughed and said, "Wait a bit, my fine fellow!--you
will melt away just like the rest!"

At last I began to feel tired of it, when far away--very far--the cock
crowed, announcing the dawn of day. His piercing call began to rouse the
sleeper. The leaves rustled with the morning air; a slight shiver shook
my frame; I felt my limbs gradually regaining their freedom, and, resting
upon my elbow, I gazed with rapture upon the silent wide-spread land. But
what I saw presently did not tend to exalt my spirits.

Along the little winding path to the cemetery were moving, in solemn
procession, all the ghosts that had visited me in the night. Step by step
they approached the decaying moss-grown door of the sacred inclosure;
that silent, mournful march of spectres under the dim grey light of early
morning was a gaunt and fearful sight.

And as I lay, more dead than alive, with gaping mouth and my face wet
with cold perspiration, the head of the dismal line melted and
disappeared among the weeping willows.

There were not many spectres, left, and I was beginning to feel a little
more composed, when the very last, my uncle Christian himself, turned
round to me under the mossy gate and beckoned me to follow! A distant
faint ironical voice said--

"Caspar! Caspar! come! Six feet of this ground belong to you!"

Then he too disappeared.

A streak of crimson and purple stretched across the eastern sky announced
the coming day.

I need not tell you that I did not accept my uncle Christian's
invitation, though I am quite aware that a similar call will one day
arrive from One who must be obeyed. The remembrance of my brief abode at
Burckhardt's fort has wonderfully brought down the great opinion I had
once formed of my own importance, for the vision of that night taught me
that though orchards and meadows may not pass away their owners do, and
this fact compels to serious reflection upon the nature of our duties and
responsibilities.

I therefore wisely resolved not to risk the loss of manly energy and of
the best prizes of life by tarrying at that Capua, but to betake myself,
without further loss of time, to the pursuit of music as a science, and
I hope to produce next year, at the Royal Theatre of Berlin, an opera
which, I hope, will disarm all criticism at once.

I have come to the final conclusion that glory and renown, which
speculative people speak of as if they were mere smoke, is, after all,
the most enduring good. Life and a noble reputation do not depart
together; on the contrary, death confirms well-deserved glory and adds
to it a brighter lustre.

Suppose, for instance, that Homer returned to life, no one would dispute
with him his claim to be the author of the _Iliad_, and each would vie
with the rest to do honour to the father of epic poetry. But if
peradventure some rich landowner of that day came back to assert a claim
to the fields, the woods, the pastures of which he used to be so proud,
ten to one he would be received like a thief and perhaps die a miserable
death.



THE BEAR-BAITING.



"If any one thing distresses my dear aunt," said Caspar, "more than my
fondness for Sébaldus Dick's tavern, it is that there is an artist in the
family!

"Dame Catherine would have been glad to see me an advocate, a priest, or
a councillor. If I had become a councillor, like Monsieur Andreas Van
Berghem; if I had snuffled out long and weary sentences, caressing my
lace bands with dainty finger-tips, with what esteem and veneration would
not that worthy woman have regarded monsieur her nephew! She would have
greeted Monsieur le Conseiller Caspar with profound respect; she would
have set before me her best preserves, she would have poured out for me,
in the midst of her circle of gossips, just a drop of Muscadel of the
year XI. with--

"Pray take this, monsieur le conseiller; I have but two bottles left!"

Anything that monsieur my nephew Caspar, conseiller at the court of
justice, could do would certainly have been perfectly right and suitable,
and quite perfect in its way.

Alas for the vanity of human wishes! the poor woman's ambition was never
to be gratified. Her nephew is plain Caspar--Caspar Diderich; he has no
title, no wand of office, no big wig--he is just an artist! and Dame
Catherine has running in her head the old proverb, "Beggarly as an
artist," which distresses her more than she can tell.

At first I used to try to make her understand that a true artist is
worthy of great respect, that his works sometimes endure for ages, and
are admired by many successive generations, and that, in point of fact,
a good artist is quite as good as a councillor. Unhappily, I failed to
convince her; she merely shrugged her shoulders, clasped her hands in
despair, and vouchsafed no answer.

I would have done anything to convert my aunt Catherine to my
views--anything; but I would rather die than sacrifice art and an
artist's life, music, painting, and Sébaldus's tavern!

Sébaldus's tavern is delightful. It is the corner house between the
narrow Rue des Hallebardes and the little square De la Cigogne. As soon
as you are through the archway you find within a spacious square court,
with old carved wooden galleries all round it, and a wooden staircase to
reach it; everywhere are scattered in disorder small windows of last
century with leaden sashes, skylights, and air-holes; old wooden posts
are nearly yielding under the weight of a roof that threatens to sink in.
The barn, the rows of casks piled up in a corner, the cellar door at the
left, a pigeon-cote forming the point of the gable end; then, again,
beneath the galleries, other darkened windows in the same style, where
you can see swillers and topers in three-cornered hats, distinguished by
noses red, purple, or crimson; little women of Hundsruck, in velvet caps
with long fluttering ribbons, some grave, some laughing, others queer and
grotesque-looking; the hay-loft high up under the roof; stables,
pigsties, cowsheds, all in picturesque confusion attract and confound
your attention. It is a strange sight!

For fifty years not a hammer has been lifted against this venerable ruin.
You would think it was left for the special accommodation of rats! And
when the glowing autumn sun, red as fire, showers golden rain upon the
decaying walls and timbers; when, as daylight fades into evening, the
angular projections stand out more boldly, and the shadows deepen; when
all the tavern rings with songs, and shouts, and roars of laughter; when
fat Sébaldus, in leathern apron, runs to and from the cellar with the big
jug in his hand; when his wife Gredel throws up the kitchen window, and
with her long knife, well hacked along the edge, cleans the fish, or cuts
the necks of hens, ducks, or geese which struggle and gurgle in their own
blood; when pretty Fridoline, with her rosy little mouth and her long
fair hair, leans out of her window to tend the honeysuckle, and over her
head the neighbour's tabby cat is gently swaying her tail and watching,
with her cunning green eyes, the swallow circling in the deepening
purple--I do assure you that a man must be utterly devoid of taste for
the picturesque not to stop and contemplate in ecstasy and listen to the
murmuring sounds, or the louder din, or the falling whispers, and observe
with an artist's eye the trembling lights, the flying shadows, and
whisper to himself, "Is not this beautiful?"

But you should see Maître Sébaldus's tavern on a great occasion, when all
the jovial folks of Bergzabern crowd into the immense public room--some
day when a cock-fight is going on, or a dog-fight, or a magic-lantern.

Last autumn, on a Saturday--and it was Michaelmas Day--we were all
sitting round the oaken table, between one and two o'clock in the
afternoon; old Doctor Melchior, Eisenloffel the blacksmith, and his old
wife, old Berbel Rasimus, Johannes the capuchin monk, Borves Fritz the
clarionet-player at the Pied de Boeuf, and half a hundred more, laughing,
singing, drinking, playing at _youker_, draining jugs and glasses, eating
puddings and _andouilles_.

Mother Gredel was coming and going; the pretty maid-servants, Heinrichen
and Lotté, were flying up and down the kitchen stairs like squirrels, and
outside, under the broad archway, was the booming, and banging, and
jingling of the big drum and the cymbals, while the exciting proclamation
was being made: "Ho! ho! hi! Great battle to come off! The Asturian bear,
Beppo, and Baptist, the Savoyard bear, against all dogs that may come.
Boom! boom! Walk in, ladies! Walk in, gentlemen! Here's the buffalo from
Calabria, and the onagra of the desert! Walk in, walk in! Don't be
frightened! All walk in!"

And they did come in, in crowds.

Sébaldus, barring the passage with his burly form, as Horatius guarded
the bridge in the brave days of old, shouted to all--

"Your five kreutzers, friends and neighbours! Five kreutzers for
admittance! Pay, or I'll throttle you!"

It was an awful confusion; people climbed over each other's backs to get
in faster, until Bridget Kéra lost a stocking and Anna Seiler half her
petticoat.

About two, the bear-leader, a tall, rough-looking fellow, with red ragged
hair and beard, and mounting a high sugar-loafed hat, pushed the door
ajar, and cried, looking in--

"Just going to begin the fight!"

In an instant all the tables were emptied, many an untasted glass being
left upon it. I ran to the hay-loft, climbed up the ladder four steps at a
time, and drew it up after me. There, seated all alone upon a bundle of
hay, just inside the little skylight, I had a capital view.

What a throng! The old galleries were bending under their weight, the
roofs were visibly swaying. I shuddered to think of what might happen.
It seemed inevitable that they would all come down together like grapes
in the wine-press, heaped up in a sea of heads.

They were hanging in clusters on the wooden pillars; yet higher in the
gutters along the roof; yet higher about the pigeon-cote; higher still
over the skylights in the roof of the _mairie_; yet higher in the spire
of St. Christopher's; and all this multitude were howling and shouting--

"The bears! the bears!"

When I had sufficiently admired and wondered at the immense crowd,
looking down I saw in the middle of the court a poor, wretched,
depressed-looking donkey, lean and ragged, his sleepy eyes half-closed,
his ears hanging down. This dreadful object was to open the sports.

"What fools some people are!" I thought.

Minutes were passing away, the tumult increased, impatience was waxing
into anger, when the great red scoundrel, with his immense sugar-loaf
hat, advanced carelessly into the middle of the open space, and cried
solemnly, with his fist upon his hips--

"The onagra of the desert against any dog in the town!"

There was a silence of astonishment. Daniel, the butcher, with staring
eyes and gaping mouth, asks--

"Where is the onagra?"

"There she stands!"

"That! why, it's an ass!"

"It's an onagra."

"Well, let us see what it is," cried the butcher, laughing.

He whistled his dog to come, and, pointing to the ass, cried--

"Foux, catch him!"

But, strange to say, as soon as the ass saw the dog running to the
attack, he turned nimbly round, and launched out with the whole length
of his leg--so well aimed a kick that the dog fell back as if struck by
lightning, with his jaw fractured!

Loud laughter rang all round, while the poor dog fled with a piteous yell
of pain.

The bear-leader smiled at the butcher, and asked--

"Well, what's your opinion? Is my onagra an ass?"

"No," said Daniel, rather ashamed, "it is an onagra."

"All right! all right! any more dogs coming to fight my desert-born,
desert-bred onagra? Come on, the onagra is ready!"

But no one came forward; and the bear-leader shouted in vain in his
shrill tones--

"Gentlemen! ladies! are you all afraid? afraid of the onagra? The dogs of
your town ought to be ashamed of themselves. Come on! courage, gentlemen!
courage, ladies!"

But no one was inclined to risk his dog's life or limbs against so
dangerous an animal, and the cries for the bears were beginning again.

"The bears! the bears! bring out the bears!"

After waiting a quarter of an hour the fellow saw that his onagra was not
likely to get any more customers, so, putting the beast up in the stable,
he approached the pigsty, opened it, and drew out by his chain Baptiste,
the Savoy bear, an old brute with a brown mangy-looking coat, as sulky
and ashamed as a sweep coming down a chimney. For all he was not handsome
the shouts of applause rang out, and the fighting dogs themselves, shut
into the tavern porch, smelling a wild beast, set up a tragic howl that
made your hair stand on end. The miserable bear was led quietly enough to
a stake firmly driven in the ground, to which he was chained, all the
time slowly surveying the excited crowd with a melancholy eye.

"Poor old traveller!" I cried to myself, "would anybody have told you ten
years ago, when grave, terrible, and solitary you were traversing from
side to side the high glaciers in Switzerland, in the gloomy glens of the
Unterwald, and your deep growls made the old oaks tremble in every
leaf--who could have told you that the day would come when, sad and
resigned, with an iron collar round your throat, you would be tied to a
post and devoured by dogs to amuse a mob at Bergzabern? Alas! _Sic
transit gloria mundi_!"

As these meditations were occupying my thoughts, noticing that everybody
was bending forward to see, I did like the rest, and I soon saw the
possibility of warm work.

A pair of boar-hounds, belonging to old Heinrich, were being led to
the other end of the court. Struggling in the chain, these ferocious
creatures were foaming with rage. One was of the large Danish breed,
white, with large black spots, supple of limb, with muscles like steel
springs, jaws opening wide like an alligator's; the other a huge hound
from the Tannewald, never disabled in one leg according to law, ribs
barely covered, the backbone hard and knotted like a bamboo cane. They
did not bark, but they were straining against the chain with all their
might, and there stood old Heinrich with his grey broad head flung back,
his ruddy moustache bristling, his thin razorbacked nose hooked over his
lips, and his long leather-gaitered legs firmly planted against the
stones in his strenuous efforts to restrain with both hands the eager
appetite of his dogs for the fight, while he opposed to their attempts to
bound forward the whole weight of his body.

"Back! back!" he shouted to the bear-leader, and the ruffian ran back to
the shelter of a faggot-stack.

Then every face bending over the galleries grew red and hot with the
excitement of the horrid fray, and starting eyes glanced from every nook
and corner.

The bear sat on his haunches gathered together ready for action, his huge
paws uplifted. I could see how he quivered in his rough skin, and his
muzzle seemed to annoy him terribly. All at once the chain was slipped;
at a single leap the hounds cleared the intervening space, and their
sharp fangs were in a moment fixed in both poor Baptiste's ears, whose
heavy paws and long sharp claws hugged each bitter enemy around the neck,
slowly digging into their straining bodies till the blood spurted out in
streams. But he, too, was bleeding, for his ears were suffering cruel
lacerations; the dogs held on, and his tawny eyes were raised to the sky
with a pitiable look of appeal. Not a cry, not a sigh or a groan escaped
from a single combatant; the three animals formed a group as motionless
as if they had been carved in wood.

I could feel the perspiration running down my face.

This went on for five minutes.

At length the Tannenthaler seemed to be relaxing slightly; the bear
weighed more heavily on him with his heavy paw, his eye kindling with a
gleam of hope; then there was another brief pause. There was a horrid
groan, a cracking; the hound's backbone was broken, and he fell back upon
the stones, his jaws reeking with blood.

Then Baptiste, with a tremor of delight, threw both paws round the Dane,
who had not yet let go his hold, but his teeth were slipping from the
torn and bloody ear. Suddenly he shook himself and sprang backward; the
bear made a rush at his flying foe, but the chain held him back. The dog
fled, red with blood, and only stopped when he had got safe behind his
master, who gave him a favourable reception, while casting a glance at
his other dog, which lay motionless.

And here Baptiste placed his mighty paw upon the victim of his fury and
his valour; carrying his head high, he snuffed the carnage with distended
nostrils and panting sides; the veteran warrior was himself again.
Frantic applause rose from the galleries to the church spire. The bear
seemed to understand. I have never seen a more proud and resolute
bearing.

After this fight all the spectators were taking breath; the capuchin
friar Johannes, seated upon the banister facing the field of battle,
shook his stick, smiling with satisfaction in his long brown beard.
People wanted a little relief; pinches of snuff were offered and
accepted, and the voice of Doctor Melchior, discussing and explaining the
different phases of the conflict, was heard over the noise of many
talkers. But he had no time to finish his speech, for in a moment the
barn-door flew open, and more than five-and-twenty dogs, great and small,
the very vagrants and scum of the town, offered up as a sacrifice to do
honour to the occasion, wallowed in a heap into the yard, howling and
yelling, barking, snapping, and snarling; then, as if second thoughts had
rather modified their ideas about valour, they all retreated into a safe
corner of the yard, the farthest from the bear, where they contented
themselves with angry protests, making short runs at the enemy and quick
retreats, making a very sorry pretence of war.

"Oh, those cowardly curs! the miserable little brutes!" cried the
valorous occupants in the gallery.

And the much wiser and discreeter dogs looked up in answer, and seemed to
say--

"Go yourselves!"

Still the bear was standing well on the defensive when, to the general
astonishment, Heinrich reappeared, holding his Danish hound by the chain.

I have since been informed that he had wagered fifty florins with Joseph
Kilian, the gamekeeper, that the boar-hound would renew the attack. He
advanced slowly, patting the dog with his hand, and saying persuasively--

"Good dog, Blitz! good dog!"

And the noble animal, in spite of his bleeding wounds, rushed in; then
the whole pack of mongrels, curs, puppies, lurchers, and turnspits ran in
too in a long string, till poor Baptiste was covered with the vile rabble
rout; he did what he could, he rolled over and over as far as his chain
would let him, growling and grunting, crushing one, sending another away
with a bite, struggling furiously. The brave Dane still showed the
greatest intrepidity; he had caught the bear between the ears, and rolled
over with him, his fore-legs in the air, whilst the rest were biting,
some his legs, and some his torn and bleeding ears. There seemed no end
to this plague of dogs.

"Enough! enough!" was the cry in every direction.

Yet still some were not satisfied, and kept crying on the dogs.

Heinrich at that moment darted across the yard like a flash of lightning;
he seized his clog by the ear, and pulling it away with all his strength,
cried--

"Blitz, Blitz, let go!"

But this was of no use. At last the man succeeded in making him loose his
hold by a tremendous cut with his whip across his body, and, dragging the
animal away, they both disappeared under the archway.

The mongrels had not waited for this event to give up the battle; four or
five only still hung upon Bruin's side; the rest, scared, limping,
yelping, were trying to find a way out. Suddenly one of those heroes, a
cur belonging to Rasimus, caught sight of the kitchen window, and, fired
by a noble enthusiasm for his safety, he crashed through glass and all.
All the rest of the yelling crew, struck by the ingenuity of this plan,
followed in the same road without a moment's hesitation. Plates and
dishes, glasses and bottles, saucepans and kettles were all heard making
a fearful clatter, while Mother Gredel rent the air with her piercing
cries of "Help, help!"

This was the best joke of the day. Roars of laughter hailed the
propitious escape of the dogs, even at the cost of so much good crockery.
They laughed till the tears came into their eyes, and rolled down their
red faces, and they panted for breath.

In a quarter of an hour there came a lull; then people began to think it
was time for the terrible bear from Asturias to make his appearance.

"The Asturian bear! the Spanish bear!" was the cry.

The bear-leader made signs to the people to be quiet, as he had something
to say to them. It was impossible! The cries and the uproar redoubled.

"The bear of Asturias! the bear of Asturias!"

Then the fellow muttered a few unintelligible words, unfastened the brown
bear, and took it back into its den; then with every appearance of
precaution he loosened the door of the pigsty and took the end of a chain
which was lying on the ground. A formidable growling was heard inside.
The man quickly passed the chain through a ring in the wall and fled,
crying--

"Now, you there, let the dogs go!"

Immediately a black bear, low, and almost stunted in its stature, with a
low forehead, ears wide apart, eyes red as fire, and glowing with a
fierce sullen passion, hurled himself out into the open, and finding the
chain fast in the wall, howled furiously. Evidently this was a bear of
the most deplorably low moral character! Moreover, he had been roused to
madness by the noise of the preceding combats, and his master had good
reason for not trusting himself much to him.

"Let go the dogs!" cried the bear-leader, putting his head out of the
granary skylight; "let them loose!"

Then he added--

"If you are not satisfied this time it won't be my fault. There will be a
battle now!"

At that moment Ludwig Karl's big mastiff and Fischer de Heischland's pair
of wolf-hounds, with tails low, hair straight and smooth, heads advanced
and ears erect, came into the court together.

The heavy-headed mastiff calmly yawned as he stretched his sinewy legs
and caved in his long back. But after a long and leisurely yawn he slowly
turned round, and catching sight of the bear he stood immovable as if
stupefied. The bear, too, fixed his vicious glowing eyes upon him with
ears expanded and his huge claws indenting the ground under them.

The wolf-hounds drew up as reserves in the rear of the mastiff.

Then such silence fell upon all that excited multitude that a dead leaf
might have been heard rustling to the ground; but there followed a deep,
low, fierce growl, like a coming thunderstorm, which sent a shudder
through the crowd.

Suddenly the mastiff sprang forward, the two others followed, and then
for several seconds nothing was seen but a confused mass rolling round
the chain, then blood and entrails mingled flowing over the stones, then
the bear rising on his haunches hugging the mastiff between his terrible
claws, swaying to and fro his heavy head, for a moment and gaping wide
with his crimson jaws, for the muzzle was gone; in the struggle it had
fallen off!

Then a low but rising cry of fear passed over the crowd in the galleries.
No applause now, only a well-grounded alarm! The mastiff was in the
agonies of death, with a rattling in his throat; the wolf-hounds lay torn
and dead on the bloodstained earth; in the stables all round the court
long agitated roaring and bellowing betrayed the terror of the cattle,
whose kicking and plunging made the walls shake; but the bear never
stirred: he seemed to be enjoying the universal alarm.

But lo! in this predicament was heard a slight but unmistakable cracking
like timber giving way, then more cracks; the old rotten galleries were
beginning to yield under the heavy pressure of the crowd; and there was
in this noise, just heard in the midst of the dead silence of suspense,
something so dreadful that I, in my place of safety, felt a cold shiver
pass over me. Taking a rapid survey of the galleries before me, I saw
every face changed in colour, pale with a bluish, ashy paleness; some
open-mouthed, others with bristling hair, listening intently, holding
their breath. The capuchin friar Johannes seated on the banister had
turned from crimson to a greenish hue, and the big red nose of Doctor
Melchior had turned from red to sallow the first time for twenty years;
the poor little women trembled without stirring from their places,
knowing that the least agitation would bring down the whole place.

I could have wished to fly too. I fancied I could see the thick oaken
pillars of the gallery bowing to the ground. I cannot tell whether this
was illusion or not, but in a moment the principal beam gave a loud crack
and became depressed by three inches at the least. Then, my friends, it
was horrible to behold--the deep silence of a minute before was succeeded
by tumult, cries, screams, and ravings. That mass of human beings heaped
up in the galleries, one above another, were some clutching the walls,
the pillars, the banisters; others were fighting with fury, and even
biting, to get away faster, and from the midst of this frightful
confusion arose the plaintive voices of the suffering women. I shudder at
the remembrance. Oh, may I never see such a sight as this again!

But, most terrible circumstance of all, the bear was chained close by the
staircase that leads up to the galleries!

If I were to live a thousand years never should I forget the horror of
Friar Johannes, who had cleared a way for himself with his long staff,
and was placing his foot on the last step when he discovered, just before
the bottom of the staircase, Beppo seated calmly on his tail, his chain
tightened, his eye expressive of joy, ready to snap him up first!

None can tell the muscular power which Maître Johannes was obliged to put
forth to stem the force that was driving him in from behind. Convulsively
grasping the banister with both hands, his broad shoulders formed a
mighty buttress against the pressing flood. Like Atlas, I do believe he
would have borne the earth upon his back to save his precious skin.

In the midst of this confusion and tumult, and when there seemed no
way to avert the threatening catastrophe, suddenly the door of the
cattle-shed opened violently, and the redoubtable Horni, Maître
Sébaldus's magnificent bull, rushed into the arena, his massive dewlap
shaking loosely like an apron, his tail extended straight, his mouth and
nostrils white with fleecy foam.

It was an inspiration of the master's. He had resolved to risk his bull
to save human life. At the same moment the fat, round, rosy face of our
landlord appeared through the skylight of the stable, crying to the crowd
not to be alarmed, for that he would open the inner door which abuts into
the old synagogue, and let out the crowd by the Jews' street, which was
done in two or three minutes, to the immense relief and comfort of the
public.

But now listen to the end of my story.

Scarcely had the bear caught sight of the bull when he made an ugly rush
upon this new adversary with so terrible a shock that the chain burst.
The bull retired, facing his foe, to a corner of the court near the
pigeon-cote, and there, head well down between his short legs and horns
presented, he awaited the shock of war.

The bear made several feints, slipping along by the wall from right
to left; but the bull, with his forehead almost touching the ground,
followed the enemy's movements with marvellous coolness.

In five minutes the galleries had been cleared; the noise of the crowd
taking refuge down the Jews' street was becoming more remote, and this
manoeuvring of the two huge brutes seemed as if they were meditating
a drawn battle, when suddenly the bull, losing patience, threw himself
upon the bear with the whole momentum of his monstrous bulk. The unhappy
brute, pressed so closely, took refuge under the wood-shed, but the head
and horns of his foe pursued him thither, and there no doubt he nailed
his adversary to the wall, for although I could only see the bull's
hind-quarters, I could hear a dreadful shriek, followed by a crunching of
bones, and presently a pool of blood was flowing over the pavement.

I could only see the bull's hind-quarters and his tail waving aloft like
a battle-flag. You would have thought he wanted to bring the walls down
by the furious and violent pounding of his hind-feet. That silent scene
in shadow was fearful. I did not wait to see the end. I came carefully
down my ladder, and slipped out of the court like a thief. You may
imagine with what pleasure I inhaled the pure open air; and passing
through the crowd collected round the door where the bear-leader was
tearing his hair in his wild despair, I ran off to my aunt's house.

I was just going round under the arcades when I was stopped by my old
drawing-master, Conrad Schmidt.

"Caspar!" he cried, "where are you going in such a hurry?"

"I am going to paint the great bear-fight!" I answered enthusiastically.

"Another tavern scene, I suppose," he remarked with a shrug.

"Why not, Master Conrad? Is not a tavern scene as good as one in the
forum?"

I would have said a good deal, but we were standing at his door.

"Good night, Maître Conrad," I cried, pressing his hand. "Don't bear a
grudge against me for not going to study in Italy."

"Grudge! No," replied the old master, smiling. "You know that privately
I am of your opinion. If I tell you now and then to go to Italy, it is to
satisfy Dame Catherine. But follow out your own idea, Caspar. Men who
only follow other men's ideas never do any good."



THE SCAPEGOAT.

Note

This story, allowing for the exercise of fancy in its construction, is
only too faithful a picture of German student life and habits, with its
ignorance or disregard of the Christianity taught us in the Gospel, its
only half-concealed leaning towards the ancient systems of religion
properly known as heathen, and its careless indifference to human life.
The translator has ventured to deviate slightly from the original in one
or two places in order to avoid giving an unnecessary shock to the
susceptibilities of readers trained and educated in principles widely
differing from these.--_Transl_.



THE SCAPEGOAT.


Doesn't everybody at Tubingen know the lamentable history of the quarrel
between the Seigneur Kaspar Evig and the young Jew Elias Hirsch? Kaspar
Evig was courting Mademoiselle Eva Salomon, the daughter of the old
picture-dealer in the Rue de Jericho. One day he found my friend Elias
In the broker's shop, and, on what pretext I know not, he boxed his ears
soundly three or four times.

Elias Hirsch, who had begun his medical studies only about five months
before, was called upon by a council of the students to challenge the
Seigneur Kaspar to fight, a step which he took with the greatest
repugnance, for it was quite to be expected that a seigneur should be
a perfect swordsman.

For all that Elias put himself well on the defensive, and, watching his
opportunity, inserted his finely-pointed sword so neatly between the ribs
of the above-mentioned seigneur as considerably to affect his breathing,
the consequence of which was that he was dead in ten minutes.

The Rector Diemer, being informed of this transaction by credible
witnesses, listened coldly and remarked briefly--

"I understand you, gentlemen. He is dead, is he? Very well, then; bury
him."

Elias was carried about in triumph, like another Mattathias; but, far
from accepting the proffered glory, he drooped under a profound
melancholy.

He lost flesh, he sighed, he groaned; his nose, already a pretty long
one, seemed to gain in prominence what it lost in solidity, and often in
the evening, as he was passing down the Rue des Trois Fontaines, he might
be heard murmuring--

"Kaspar Evig, forgive me; I did not mean to take your life. Oh, unhappy
Eva! what have you done? By your thoughtless flirting you made two brave
men quarrel, and now the shade of the Seigneur Kaspar pursues me
everywhere, even in my sleep. Oh, Eva! wretched Eva! why did you behave
so?"

So poor Elias moaned in his misery; and he was the more to be pitied
because the sons of Israel are not bloodthirsty, and they know it is
written in their law, "Whosoever sheddeth man's blood by man shall his
blood be shed."

Now one fine day in July, while I was drinking at the Faucon, in walks
Elias Hirsch, just as miserable as ever, with hollow cheeks, hair hanging
in disorder about his face, and downcast eyes. He laid his hand upon my
shoulder, and said--

"Dear Christian, will you do me a pleasure?"

"Of course I will, Elias; only say what."

"Let us go for a walk together in the country; I want to consult you
about my grief. You know many things human and divine; perhaps you can
point me out a remedy for so much trouble of mind. I can trust in you,
Christian, entirely."

As I had already had five or six pints of beer and two or three glasses
of schnapps, there was nothing more to detain me, and I consented to go
with him. Besides, I felt flattered with his confidence in my wisdom.

So we came through the town, and in twenty minutes we were walking along
the little violet-bordered path which winds up to the ancient ruins of
Triefels.

Then, feeling alone, passing between hedges balmy with honeysuckle and
musical with the song of birds, and slowly climbing up to the lofty pines
which crown the Rothalp, Elias breathed more freely; he raised his eyes
and cried--

"In all your theological studies, Christian, have you met with a way in
which great crimes may be expiated? I know that you have studied this
question a good deal. Tell me. Whatever you recommend to put to flight
the avenging shade of Kaspar Evig, I will do it."

Hirsch's question made me thoughtful. We walked together, with heads
bowed down in thought, in deep silence. He watched me, I could see, out
of the corner of his eye, whilst I was endeavouring to collect my
thoughts upon this delicate question, but at last I made answer--

"Now, if we were inhabitants of India, Elias, I should tell you to go
and bathe in the Ganges, for the waters of that river wash away the
pollutions of both body and soul--so, at least, the people of that
country think; and they kill, and burn, and steal without fear under
the protection of that marvellous river. It is a great comfort for
scoundrels! It is a matter of great regret that we have no such river!
If we were living in the days of Jason, I should prescribe to you the
salt-cakes of Queen Circe, which had the remarkable property of whitening
blackened consciences and saving people the trouble of repenting.
Finally, if you had the happiness to belong to our holy religion,
I would order you to have masses said, and to give up your goods to the
Church. But in your state as to locality, time, and belief, I know of
only one way to relieve you."

"What is it?" cried Hirsch, already kindling with hope.

We had now reached the Rothalp, and were standing in a lonely place
called the Holderloch. It is a deep dark gorge, encircled with gloomy
firs; a level rock crowns the abyss, whence fall the dark waters of the
Marg with roaring deep and loud.

Our path had brought us there. I sat down upon the mossy turf to breathe
the moist air which rises from the gulf, and at that very moment I espied
below me a magnificent goat, reaching up to crop the wild cresses that
grow on the edge of the cliff.

Let it be remembered that the rocks of the Holderloch rise in the form of
successive terraces, each terrace ten feet high perhaps, but not more
than a foot wide, and upon these little narrow ledges grow a thousand
sweet-smelling plants--thyme and honeysuckle, ivy and convolvulus, and
the wild vine, perpetually bedewed with the spray from the falling
torrent, and falling over in the loveliest clusters of bloom and foliage.

Now my goat--an animal with a broad brow, garnished with heavy knotted
curling horns, with eyes gleaming like a pair of gold buttons, a reddish
beard, exhibiting a proud, defiant bearing under those festoons of
verdure, and a countenance as bold as that of a prowling satyr--my goat
was making a progress upwards towards the very highest of these narrow
ledges, and was enjoying a sweet repast of dainty herbs.

"Elias!" I cried, "I feel an inspiration! Just as I was thinking of a
scapegoat, there is one! I see it! Look!--behold! There he is! Is not
your course plain now? Lay your crime upon that goat, and then forget all
about it."

Elias looked at me in stupid ignorance.

"I should like to do that, Christian, but how am I to lay my remorse upon
that goat?"

"Nothing can be plainer. What did the Romans do to get rid of their
criminals, polluted with every crime? Why they flung them off the
Tarpeian rock, to be sure. Well, having laid your imprecations upon that
goat, fling him down the Holderloch, and there will be an end of it all."

"But"--replied Elias.

"I know your objections beforehand," I replied. "You are going to say
that you see no connection between Kaspar Evig, whose shade follows you,
and that goat. But beware! be careful! Where was the connection between
the waters of the Ganges, Circe's salt-cakes, and the scapegoat with the
crimes to be expiated? None at all. Well, for all that, the expiation
was held to be good; therefore lay your curses and imprecations upon that
goat, and throw him over! I order you to do that! I feel it my duty to
see this thing done. I can see a connection between that goat and your
fault, but I cannot explain it because the light of my vast information
dazzles me just now!"

Elias did not move a step. I even thought I detected a smile upon his
countenance, which irritated me.

"How!" said I; "here am I pointing out to you an infallible method to
get rid of the just punishment of your crime, and you doubt--you
hesitate--you even smile!"

"No," said he, "but I am not accustomed to walk on the edges of
precipices, and I am afraid I should fall into the Holderloch along
with the goat."

"Ah, you are a coward! I can see it all. You have just once displayed a
little courage to get exemption for the rest of your days. Well, sir, if
you refuse to carry out my advice, I will do it myself."

And I rose.

"Christian! Christian!" cried my friend, "don't trust yourself too far.
Your foot is not steady--just now."

"My foot not steady! Do you dare to insinuate that I am drunk because
I have just had ten or a dozen glasses of beer and three glasses of
schnapps this morning? Away with you! Back! back, son of Belial!"

And advancing a few feet above the goat, with my head raised and hands
extended, I cried solemnly--

"Azazel! goat destined for misery and expiation, I lay upon your hairy
back the remorse of my friend Elias Hirsch, and I send you down to the
spirits of darkness!"

Then, passing round the ledge on which we stood, I descended to the next
below to catch the goat and throw him over.

A sacred rage and fury seemed to possess me. I took no notice of the
abyss. I stepped along the edge of the precipice like a cat.

The goat, perceiving my approach, eyed me suspiciously, and stepped back
a little way.

"Ha!" I cried, "you may flee from me, but you shall not escape from me,
accursed beast! I have got you!"

"Oh, Christian, Christian!" Elias kept repeating in a heartrending voice,
"do come back. You are risking your life!"

"Silence, unbeliever!" I cried. "You are unworthy of the great sacrifice
which I am making for your happiness! But your friend Christian never
draws back. Azazel must perish!"

A little farther on the ledge narrowed and ended in a point.

The goat, having a second time examined me with a curious eye, drew back
a little farther, but not without some hesitation.

"Aha!" I exclaimed, "you are beginning to understand what is going to
happen. Yes, let me get you into that corner, and your doom is sealed!"

And undoubtedly, when he had got to the spot where the ledge came to
an end, Azazel seemed puzzled to know what to do next. I edged up to
him closer and closer, full of a noble excitement, and laughing in
anticipation at the coming descent and the splash in the torrent below.

I now beheld him at four paces from me, and I was grasping tightly a root
of holly that was growing out of a rock to launch out a kick at the
devoted beast.

"Look, Elias, see the accursed!" I cried.

When, all in a moment, I felt in my stomach a most awful blow, a butt
which would have sent _me_ into the Holderloch had I not kept hold of
that blessed root of holly. The fact was that that miserable goat, seeing
himself driven into a corner, had himself commenced the attack.

Oh, what was my astonishment! Before I knew where I was or what had
happened, there was the brute standing up again on his hind-legs, and his
horns digging into my stomach and my sides with a hollow sound.

What a position to be in! It is impossible to be more astounded than I
was at that moment! It was the world upside down. It was a bad dream--a
nightmare! The precipice with all its jagged peaks seemed to dance around
me, and so did the trees and sky above. At the same moment I heard
piercing cries from Elias of "Help! help!" while Azazel's horns were
ploughing up my sides.

Then I lost all presence of mind. The goat with his long beard and his
hard, sharp horns pounding me, now in my chest, now in my stomach, and
then in my shaking limbs, produced a most diabolical effect upon me. My
hold on the root slowly relaxed, and I let go. But happily something kept
me from falling, something which I could not understand at first. But it
was the shepherd Yeri, of the Holderloch, who from the next platform
above had caught me by the coat-collar with his crook.

Thanks to his assistance, instead of falling down into the chasm I lay
full length along the ledge, and that awful goat walked over my body to
get away about his business.

"Come, take firm hold of my crook," cried the shepherd to Elias; "now I
will go down for him. Don't let go!"

"You may rely upon me," answered Elias.

I heard all that as if it were a nightmare. I had almost lost
consciousness.

When I opened my eyes I saw standing before me that gigantic shepherd,
with his grey eyes sunk underneath his bushy eyebrows, his yellow beard,
a sheepskin thrown over his shoulders, and I thought I had awoke in the
age of Oedipus, which made me wonder a good deal.

"Well," cried the shepherd, in a harsh guttural, "this will teach you not
to curse my goat any more!"

Then I saw Azazel rubbing himself comfortably against his master's
colossal legs, and looking slily, and I thought ironically, at me; and
then I saw Elias standing behind me, and making the greatest efforts
not to laugh.

My scattered senses were beginning to return. I sat myself down with pain
and difficulty, for Azazel had bruised me all over, and I felt fearfully
stiff and sore.

"Was it you who saved me?" I asked the shepherd.

"Yes, my boy, it was."

"Well, you are a good fellow, and I am much obliged to you. I withdraw
the curse I laid upon your goat. Here, take this."

I handed him my purse with sixteen florins in it.

"Thank you, sir," said he, "and now you can begin again if you like on
even ground. Down there it was not fair; the goat had all the advantage."

"Thank you very much! But I have had quite enough. Shake hands, old
fellow; I'll never forget you. Let us go now."

My comrade and I, arm-in-arm, then descended the hill.

The shepherd, leaning on his crook, watched us till we disappeared. The
goat had resumed his walk and his supper on the very edge of the crags.
The sky was lovely, the air balmy with a thousand sweet mountain perfumes
carried on it with the distant sounds of the shepherd's horn and the
booming of the torrent.

We returned to Tubingen with our hearts full.

Since that time my friend Elias has found some comfort for slaying the
Seigneur Kaspar, but in an original fashion.

Scarcely had he taken his doctor's degree when he married Mademoiselle
Eva Salomon, with the hope of having a numerous family to make up for the
loss of that individual who had met with an untimely end at his hand.

Four years ago I was at his wedding as best man, and already there are
two fat babies making the pretty little house in Crispin street to
rejoice.

This was a promising commencement!

Don't let me be misunderstood. I don't pretend to say that the method
I prescribed for making expiation for taking away a life is better than
that taught in our holy religion, which, according to the Catholic
Church, consists in masses and in giving away your goods to the Church.
But I do think it better than the Hindoo practice, and I think the theory
of the famous scapegoat is not to be compared with that which is taught
us by pure religion.



A NIGHT IN THE WOODS.



CHAPTER I.


My worthy uncle, Bernard Hertzog, the historian and antiquary, surmounted
with his grand three-cornered hat and wig, and with a long iron-shod
mountain-pole firmly grasped in his hand, was coming down one evening by
the Luppersberg, hailing every turn in the landscape with enthusiastic
exclamations.

Years had never quenched in him the love of knowledge. At sixty he was
still at work upon his _History of Alsacian Antiquities_, and never
allowed himself to write a complete account of a ruined and defaced
monument, or any relic of former days, until he had examined it a hundred
times from every point of view.

"No man," said he, "who has had the happy privilege of being born in the
Vosges, between Haut Bar, Nideck, and Geierstein has any business to
think of travelling. Where are there nobler forests, older fir and beech
trees, more lovely smiling valleys, wilder rocks? Where is the country
with richer possessions in memorable story? Here, in olden times, used
the high and powerful lords of Lutzelstein, Dagsberg, Leiningen, and
Fénétrange, to fight clad in mail from head to foot. Here the eldest son
of the Church and the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire exchanged blows in
the Middle Ages with swords two yards long. What are our wars compared
with those terrible battles where warriors fought hand to hand, where
they hammered upon each other's skulls with huge battle-axes, and drove
the dagger between the bars of the closed visor? Were not those heroic
feats of arms? was not that a courage worthy to be chronicled to all
posterity? But our young people want to see new things; they are not
satisfied with their own native land: they must wander through Germany,
make tours in France. Worse still, they abandon science and its noble
fields for trade, arts, industry, as if there had not been in the former
glorious days much more curious industrial arts and pursuits than in our
own day! Witness the Hanseatic League, the maritime enterprise of Venice,
Genoa, and the Levant, Flemish manufactures, Florentine art, the triumphs
in art of Rome and Antwerp! No! all that is laid aside; people now-a-days
pride themselves upon their ignorance of those glorious days; above all,
they neglect our dear old Alsace. Now, candidly, Theodore, don't all
those tourists remind you of husbands leaving their fair sweet lawful
wives to run after ugly coquettes?"

And Bernard Hertzog shook his learned head, his eyes rounded with wonder
and excitement, just as if he had been standing before the ruins of
Babylon.

His partiality to the usages and customs of old times accounted for his
having, for forty years past, worn the full-skirted plush coat, the
velvet breeches, the black silk stockings, and the silver shoe-buckles of
our grandfathers. He would have thought himself disgraced had he put on
trousers; and to cut off his pigtail would have been a profane deed.

So the worthy chronicler was going to Haslach on the 3rd of July, 1835,
to examine with his own eyes a little bronze Mercury recently unearthed
in the old cloister of the Augustins.

He trotted on with a tolerably elastic stop under a burning sun.
Mountains succeeded mountains, valleys sank into other valleys, the
footpath went up, then went down again, turned, now to the right, now to
the left, until Maître Hertzog began to wonder how it was that he had not
caught sight of the village spire an hour ago.

The fact was that after leaving Saverne he had inclined to the right, and
was now penetrating into the Dagsberg woods with juvenile energy. At the
rate he was going, in five or six hours he would have reached Phramond,
eight leagues from his destination. But night was coming on apace, and
the path was now becoming fainter, and under the tall trees only an
indistinct track appeared.

The approach of night among the mountains is a melancholy sight; the
shadows lengthen in the valleys, the sun withdraws, one by one, his rays
from the darkening foliage, the silence deepens every minute. You look
behind you; the groups and clumps of trees assume colossal proportions;
a blackbird at the summit of a tree bids farewell to the parting day,
then silence covers all like a funeral pall. You can only hear now the
last year's dead leaves crisping under foot, and far, far, away a
waterfall filling the valley with its monotonous hum. Bernard Hertzog
began to pant a little; his clothes adhered to his skin with the running
perspiration. His legs were beginning to give hints of surrendering.

"Confound that foolish Mercury!" he cried. "At this moment I ought to
have been quiet at home in my own arm-chair, and Berbel, according to her
praiseworthy custom, ought to be bringing me up upon a tray a cup of
smoking hot coffee, while I am winding up my chapter upon the ancient
armoury at Nideck. Instead of which, here I am floundering in holes,
stumbling everywhere, and suppose I lost my way altogether and then broke
my neck! There!--I said so! Was that a tree I knocked against? A hundred
thousand bans and maledictions fall upon Mercury and Haas, the architect,
who sent for me to look at it! and the scoundrels, too, who dug it up!
I'll lay any wager that the boasted Mercury is nothing but some defaced
and corroded bit of stone, without either nose or legs--some shapeless
deformity like that little Hesus last year at Marienthal. Oh, you
architects! you architects!--you are always finding antiquities
everywhere. Luckily I had not my spectacles on, or I should have smashed
them against that tree; but now I shall be obliged to find a bed
somewhere among the bushes. What a road this is!--nothing but ruts, and
holes, and pits, and loose rocks and boulders!"

In one of those moments when the good man, getting exhausted, was
stopping for breath, he thought he could hear the grating of a saw far
down the valley. What was his joy when he became certain that it was
that!

"Heaven be praised!" he cried, plucking up his spirits; "now to push on
with halting steps. Now I shall get a little rest. What a lesson this
will be for me! Providence had compassion upon my rheumatism. What an
old fool to go and expose myself to have to lie out in the woods at my
time of life, to ruin my health and undermine my constitution! I shall
remember this! Never shall I forget this warning!"

In a quarter of an hour the noise of falling water became more distinct;
then a faint light broke through the trees. Maître Bernard then found
himself at the top of the wood; he observed below the heath a stream
running down the winding valley as far as he could see, and just before
him the saw-mill, with its long dark posts and beams crossing and
recrossing in the gloom like a huge spider.

He crossed the high-arched bridge over the rushing dam, and looked
through the little window into the woodman's hut.

It was a low, dark shed leaning against a hollow in the rock. At the
farther end of the natural cavity was a small pile of smouldering
sawdust. In the front the boarded roof, weighted with heavy stones,
descended to within three feet of the ground; in a corner at the right,
a kind of box, full of dried heather; a few logs of oak, an axe, a
massive bench, and other implements of toil, were lost in the shade.
A resinous odour of pine-wood impregnated the air, and the ruddy smoke
eddied through a fissure in the rock.

Whilst the good man was observing these objects, the woodman, coming out
from the mill, saw him, and cried--

"Halloo!--who is that?"

"I beg your pardon; pray pardon me," said my worthy uncle, rather
startled. "I am a traveller who has lost his way."

"Hey!" cried the other man; "good guide us! Is not that Maître Bernard,
of Saverne? You are very welcome indeed, Maître Bernard. Don't you know
me?"

"No, indeed! How should I in this dark night?"

"_Parbleu!_--of course not! But I am Christian; I bring you your
contraband snuff every fortnight. But come in, come in! We will soon get
a light."

They passed stooping under the little low door, and the woodman, having
lighted a pine-torch, stuck it into a split iron rod to serve as a
candlestick, and a bright light, clear and white as moonshine, filled the
hut, lighting up every corner of it.

Christian, standing in shirt-sleeves, his broad chest uncovered, and
with a pair of canvas trousers hitched up about his hips, looked a
good-natured fellow enough; his tawny beard came down in a point to his
waist; his huge bull head was covered with bristling brown hair; his
small grey eyes inspired confidence.

"Take a seat, master," he said, rolling a log of wood before the fire.
"Are you hungry?"

"Why, you know, my lad, your mountain air does excite one's appetite."

"Very well; you are just in time. I have got some very good potatoes
quite at your service."

At the mention of potatoes Uncle Bernard could not help grimacing; he
remembered, with the longing of affection, old Berbel's good suppers, and
had a difficulty in coming down to the humble realities before him.

Christian seemed to take no notice; he took five or six potatoes out of
a sack, and put them into the embers, taking care to cover them entirely;
then, sitting down on the hearthstone, he lighted his pipe.

"But just tell me, master, how is it that you are here to-night, at six
leagues' distance from Saverne, in the gorge of Nideck?"

"The gorge of Nideck!" cried my uncle Bernard, springing from his seat in
great surprise.

"To be sure! You may see the ruins from here, about two gunshots
distant."

Master Bernard looked out, and really did recognise the ruins of Nideck,
just as he had described them in the twenty-fourth chapter of his
_History of Alsacian Antiquities_, with their high towers crumbling away
at the foot, and dominating over the abyss into which the torrent falls.

"But I thought I was near Haslach!" he cried with amazement.

The woodcutter burst out laughing.

"Haslach!--you are two leagues away from it! I see how it is. You went
wrong at the old oak-tree. You took the right instead of the left path.
When you are in the woods you must look well about you. A few yards wrong
at starting come to leagues at the end!"

Bernard Hertzog at this discovery was in consternation.

"Six leagues from Saverne," he murmured, "and all mountains!--and if I
have to go two more to-morrow, that will be eight!"

"Oh, don't mind that! I will guide you to the road down the valley. And
don't forget. You are very fortunate."

"Fortunate? You are joking with me, Christian."

"Yes, you are lucky. You might have had to spend the night in the woods.
There is a thunderstorm coming on from Schnéeberg; if that had overtaken
you you might have had some reason to complain, with the rain at your
back and thunder and lightning all round. But now you shall sleep in a
good bed," pointing to the box in the corner; "you will sleep there like
a log, and to-morrow, when the sun is up, we will start; you will be
rested, and you will get there in very good time."

"You are very kind, Christian," said Uncle Bernard with tears in his
eyes. "Give me a potato, and then I will go to bed. I am more tired than
anything else. I am not hungry. One hot potato will be quite enough for
me."

"Here is a couple as mealy as chestnuts. Taste that, master; take a small
glass of kirschwasser, and then lie down. I have to set to work again. I
have got to saw fifteen more planks before I can go to bed."

Christian rose, set the bottle of kirschwasser on the window-sill, and
went out. The alternate movement of the saw, which had for a time ceased,
now recommenced amidst the rushing of the stream.

Maître Hertzog, astonished as he was to find himself in those remote
solitudes between Dagsberg and the ruins of Nideck, sat long meditating
what he must do to rejoin his household gods; then, gliding down the
stream of his usual meditations, he went over the fabulous, heroic, or
barbarous legends and chronicles of the former lords of that land. He
went back to the Tribocci, that German nation settled about Strasbourg,
remembering Clovis, Chilperic, Theodoric, Dagobert, the furious struggle
between Brunehaut, Queen of Austrasia, and Frédégonde, queen of Chilperic
of France, and many heroes and heroines besides. All these fierce
personages passed in review before his eyes. The vague murmuring of the
trees, the inky blackness of the rocks, favoured this strange invocation.
All the distinguished personages of his chronicle were there, and the
boar, and the wolf, and the bear were among them.

At last, unable to hold out any longer, the good man hung his
three-cornered hat upon a peg in the wall and lay down upon the heath.
The cricket sang its monotonous song upon the hearth, a few surviving
sparks were running hither and thither in the smouldering fire, his
eyelids dropped, and he slept a deep, sound sleep.



CHAPTER II.


Maître Bernard Hertzog had slept a couple of hours, and the boiling of
the water in the millrace alone competed with the noise of his loud
snoring, when suddenly a guttural voice, arising in the midst of the deep
silence, cried--

"Dröckteufel! Dröckteufel! have you forgotten everything?"

The voice was so piercing that Maître Bernard, waking with a sudden
start, felt his hair creeping with horror. He raised himself upon his
elbow and listened again with eyes starting with astonishment. The hut
was as dark as a cellar; he listened, but not a breath, not a sound,
came; only far away, far beyond the ruins, a dull, distant roar was heard
among the mountains.

Bernard, with neck outstretched, heaved a deep sigh; in a minute he began
to stammer out--

"Who is there? What do you want?"

But no answer came.

"It was a dream," he said, falling back upon his heather couch. "I must
have been lying upon my back. There is nothing at all in dreams and
nightmares--nothing! nothing!"

But in the midst of the restored silence the same doleful cry was again
repeated--

"Dröckteufel! Dröckteufel!"

And as Maître Bernard, fairly beside himself, was preparing for instant
flight, but with his face to the wall, and unable to move from his couch,
the voice, in a dissonant chant, with pauses and strange accents, went
on--

"The Queen Faileube, espoused to our king, Chilperic--Queen Faileube,
learning that Septimanie, the governess of the young princes, had
conspired against the king's life--Queen Faileube said to the lord, 'My
lord, the viper waits until you are asleep to give you a mortal wound.
She has conspired with Sinnégisile and Gallomagus against your life! She
has poisoned her husband, your faithful Jovius, to live with Dröckteufel.
Let your anger come down upon her like lightning, and your vengeance with
a bloody sword!' And Chilperic, assembling all his council in the castle
of Nideck, said, 'We have cherished a viper; she has plotted our death.
Let her be cut into three pieces. Let Dröckteufel, Sinnégisile, and
Gallomagus perish with her! Let the ravens rejoice!' And the vassals
cried, 'So let it be! The wrath of Chilperic is an abyss into which his
enemies fall and perish!' Then Septimanie was brought to be put to the
torture and examined; a ring of iron was bound around her temples; it was
tightened; her eyes started; her blood-dropping mouth murmured, 'Lord
king, I have offended. Dröckteufel, Gallomagus, and Sinnégisile have also
conspired!' And the following night a festoon of corpses dangled and
swung from the towers of Nideck! The foul birds of prey rejoiced over the
rich spoil. Dröckteufel, what would I not have done for thee? I would
have had thee King of Austrasia, and thou hast forgotten me!"

The guttural voice sank down, and my uncle Bernard, more dead than alive,
breathing a sigh of terror, murmured--

"Oh, I have never done anybody any wrong! I am only a poor old
chronicler! Let me not die without absolution, far from the succour
of the Church!"

The great wooden box full of heather seemed at every effort to escape to
sink deeper and deeper. The poor man thought he was going down into a
gulf, when, happily, Christian reappeared, crying--

"Well, Maître Bernard, what did I say? here is the storm."

And now the hut was for an instant full of dazzling light, and my worthy
uncle, who was lying facing the door, could see the whole valley lighted
up, with its innumerable fir-trees crowded along the slopes down the
valley as close as the grass of the fields, its rocks piled up on the
banks of the river, which was rolling its sulphurous blue waves over the
rounded boulders of the ravine, and the towers of Nideck rising proudly
in the air fifteen hundred feet above.

Then the darkness covered all up again. That was the first flash.

But in that instant of time he caught sight of a strange figure crouching
at the end of the hut without being able to make out what it really was.

Great drops were beginning to patter on the roof. Christian lighted a
rush, and seeing Maître Bernard with his hands convulsively clutching the
edge of his box of heather, and his face covered with beads of cold
sweat, he cried--

"Why! Master Bernard! what is the matter with you?"

But, without answering, he merely pointed to the figure huddled up in the
corner; it was an old woman, so very advanced in extreme old age, so
yellow and wrinkled, with such a hooked nose, fingers so skinny, and
lips so lean, that she looked like an old owl with all its feathers gone.
There were only a few hairs left on the back of her head; the rest of her
skull was as bare of covering as an egg. A threadbare ragged linen gown
covered her poor skeleton figure. She was sightless, and the expression
of her face was one of constant reverie.

Christian, noticing my uncle's inquiring look, turned his head and said
quietly--

"It's old Irmengarde, the old teller of legends. She is waiting to die
till the old tower falls into the torrent."

Uncle Bernard, stupefied, looked at the woodman; he did not seem inclined
to joke; on the contrary, he looked serious.

"Come, Christian," said the good man, "you mean to have your joke."

"Joke! no indeed, old and feeble as you see her, that old woman knows
everything; the spirit of the ruins is in her. She was living when the
old lords of the castle lived."

Now my old uncle was very nearly falling backwards at this astounding
disclosure.

"But what do you mean?" he cried; "the castle of Nideck has been down
these thousand years!"

"What if it was two thousand years?" said the woodman, making the sign of
the cross as a new flash lighted up the valley; "what does that prove?
The spirit of the ruins lives in her. A hundred and eight years
Irmengarde has lived with this spirit in her. Before her it was in old
Edith of Haslach; before Edith in some other--"

"Do you believe that?"

"Do I believe it! It is as sure, Master Bernard, as that the sun will be
back in three hours' time. Death is night, life is day. After night comes
day, then night again, and so on without end. The sun is the soul of the
sky, the great spirit that is in us all, and the souls of the saints are
like the stars which shine in the night, and which will never cease to
return."

Bernard Hertzog replied not another word, but having risen, he began
suspiciously to consider the aspect of that aged woman, who sat still in
a niche carved out of the rock. He noticed above the niche some rough
carving on the stone representing three trees with their branches
touching, and forming a sort of crown; lower down were three toads cut in
the granite. Three trees are the arms of the Tribocci (_dreien büchen_),
three toads are the arms of the Merovingian kings.

What was the surprise of the old chronicler! Covetousness now took the
place of alarm.

"Here," thought he, "is the oldest monument of the Frankish race in Gaul.
That old woman reminds me of some fallen queen, left here a relic of ages
long gone by. But how am I to carry the niche away?"

He began to consider.

Then was heard far away in the woods the trampling of the hoofs of
many cattle and deep bellowing. The rain fell faster; the flashes of
lightning, like flights of frightened birds in the dark, touched each
other by the tips of their wings; one never waited for another to be
gone, and the rolling of the thunder became incessant and terrible.

Soon the storm reached the very gorge of Nideck and hung over it closely,
and swooped down with implacable fury; the explosions succeeded each
other without intermission. It seemed as if the very mountains were
falling.

At every fresh crash Uncle Bernard shrank, feeling as if the lightning
were coming down his back.

"The first Triboceus who built a hut to cover his head was no fool,"
thought he. "He was a sensible man, with some experience of atmospheric
changes. What would have become of us in this emergency had we not a roof
over our heads? We should be greatly to be pitied. The invention of that
Triboccus was quite as useful as that of the steam-engine; what a pity
his name is not known!"

The worthy man had scarcely concluded his reflections when a young maiden
of sixteen, wearing a very wide-brimmed straw hat, her white skirts
dripping with rain and her little bare feet covered with sand, advanced
to the doorstep, and said--

"The Lord bless you!"

"Amen," answered Christian solemnly.

This young girl was of the purest Scandinavian type, with cheeks of rose
pink upon a face of pure whiteness, and long waving tresses, so fair and
so silky that the finest wheat straw would hardly bear comparison with
it. Her figure was tall and slender, and her blue eyes beamed with
inexpressible sweetness.

Maître Bernard stood a few moments in rapt admiration, and the woodman,
kindly addressing the young girl, said--

"I am glad to see you, Fuldrade. Irmengarde is still asleep. What a storm
it is! Is it coming to an end yet?"

"Yes, the wind is driving it down to the plain. It will be over before
daylight."

Then, without looking at Maître Bernard, she went to sit before the old
woman, who now seemed to revive.

"Fuldrade," she murmured, "is the great tower yet standing?"

"Yes."

The aged woman bowed her head, and her lips moved.

After the last thunderclaps the rain fell in torrents. All down the
valley was heard an incessant loud beating of falling sheets of rain,
and the rushing of the swollen stream, then, at intervals, after a brief
cessation of rain, again the heavier dashing of repeated and more violent
showers.

Between the heavy showers the tinkling which Uncle Bernard had
distinguished in the distance when he awoke gradually became more
distinct, and at last arrived under the window of the hut, and almost
immediately five long-horned head of beautiful cows, spotted equally with
white and black, appeared at the door.

"Why! here's Waldine!" cried Christian, laughing; "she is looking for
you, Fuldrade."

The gentle creature calmly and quietly came straight in, and seemed to
examine old Irmengarde.

"Go away!" cried Fuldrade; "go along with the others!"

And the obedient heifer turned back to the cabin door.

But the falling floods seemed to give her matter for reflection, for she
stood quietly there, contemplating the deluge, and slowly swinging her
beautiful head, lowing in a deep, subdued tone.

The fresh air was now penetrating the hut and bringing with it the sweet
perfumes of honeysuckle and wild roses, excited by the freshening rain.
All the birds in the woods--redbreasts, thrushes, and blackbirds--formed
a concert under the trees; the air was filled with the little love-tales
of the happy birds and the fluttering of their eager wings.

Then Maître Bernard, recovering from his reverie, took a few paces
outside, raised his eyes, and contemplated the white and fleecy clouds
hastily crossing the still troubled sky. On the hill opposite he could
see the whole herd of cattle, all lying sheltered beneath the overhanging
rocks, some lazily extended, their knees bent beneath them, with sleepy
eyes; others, with neck outstretched, lowing solemnly. A few young
animals were gazing at the hanging festoons of honeysuckle, and seemed
to enjoy the balmy air that wafted from them.

All these diverse forms and attitudes stood clearly out upon the reddish
background of the rock; and the immense expanded vault of the cavern,
with its setting of oak and pine whose twisted roots appeared where they
had pierced through the rock, gave a majestic air of grandeur to the
spectacle.

"Well, Maître Bernard," cried Christian, "it is broad daylight; had we
not better start?"

Then, speaking to Fuldrade, who seemed buried in thought--

"Fuldrade, this old gentleman cannot drink our kirschwasser, yet I cannot
offer him water. Have you anything better?"

Fuldrade took up a milk-pail, and, with an intelligent glance at
Christian, went out.

"Wait a moment," she said; "I shall be here directly."

She rapidly tripped over the wet meadow; the drops of rain, collecting in
the large leaves, poured about her feet in little crystal streams. At her
approach to the cave the finest cows arose up as if to greet their young
mistress. She patted them all, and, having seated herself, began to milk
one, a fine white cow, which, standing motionless, with eyes half-closed,
seemed grateful for the preference.

When her pail was full Fuldrade made haste back, and, presenting it to
Bernard, said, smiling--

"Drink as much as you like; that is the way we drink milk warm from the
cow in the country."

Which was done at once, the good man thanking her many times, and
praising the excellence of this frothy milk, flavoured, as it were, with
the wild aromatic plants of the Schnéeberg, Fuldrade seemed pleased with
his eulogiums, and Christian, who had slipped on his blouse, standing
behind them, staff in hand, waited for the end of these compliments
before he cried--

"Now, master, en route! We have plenty of water now to turn the mill for
six weeks without stopping, and I must be back by nine o'clock."

And they started, following the gravelly road under the hill.

"Adieu!" said Maître Bernard to the young girl, who gently bowed her head
without speaking; "farewell! and may God make you always happy!"

The next day, about six in the evening, Bernard Hertzog, having returned
to Saverne, was seated before his writing-desk, and describing in his
chapter upon the antiquities of the Dagsberg, his discovery of the
Merovingian arms in the woodman's hut in the Nideck. Then he went on to
prove that the name of Tribocci, or Triboques, was derived from the
German _drei büchen_--that is, three beeches. As a convincing proof, he
referred to the three trees and the three toads of Nideck, which latter
our kings have converted into three _fleurs-de-lis_.

All the antiquaries of Alsace envied him this admirable and interesting
discovery. On both banks of the Rhine he was known as doctor,
doctissimus, eruditus Bernardus, under which triumphal titles he dilated
with honest pride, while he tried to bear his honours with becoming
gravity.

And now, my dear friends, if you are curious to know what became
of old Irmengarde, refer to the second volume of Bernard Hertzog's
_Archeological Annals_, where under date July 16,1836, you will find
the following statement:--

"The old teller of legends, Irmengarde, surnamed '_The Soul of the
Ruins_,' died last night in the hut of the woodman Christian. Wonderful
to relate, in the very same hour, almost the same minute, the principal
tower of Nideck fell, and was washed away by the waterfall below.

"Such is the end of the most ancient monument known of Merovingian
architecture, of which Schlosser, the historian, says," etc., etc.



THE QUEEN OF THE BEES.



"As you go from Motiers-Navers to Boudry, on your way to Neufchatel," said
the young professor of botany, "you follow a road between two walls of
rocks of immense height; they reach a perpendicular elevation of five or
six hundred feet, and are hung with wild plants, the mountain basil
(thymus alpinus), ferus (polypodium), the whortleberry (vitis idoea),
ground ivy, and other climbing plants producing a wonderful effect.

"The road winds along this defile; it rises, falls, turns, sometimes
tolerably level, sometimes broken and abrupt, according to the thousand
irregularities of the ground. Grey rocks almost meet in an arch overhead,
others stand wide apart, leaving the distant blue visible, and
discovering sombre and melancholy-looking depths, and rows of firs
as far as the eye could reach.

"The Reuss flows along the bottom, sometimes leaping along in waterfalls,
then creeping through thickets, or steaming, foaming, and thundering over
precipices, while the echoes prolong the tumult and roar of its torrents
in one immense endless hum. Since I left Tubingen the weather had
continued fine; but when I reached the summit of this gigantic staircase,
about two leagues distant from the little hamlet of Novisaigne, I
suddenly noticed great grey clouds begin passing overhead, which soon
filled up the defile entirely; this vapour was so dense that it soon
penetrated my clothes as a heavy dew would have done.

"Although it was only two in the afternoon, the sky became clouded over
as if darkness was coming on; and I foresaw a heavy storm was about to
break over my head.

"I consequently began looking about for shelter, and I saw through one
of those wide openings which afford you a perspective view of the Alps,
about two or three hundred yards distant on the slope leading down to
the lake, an ancient-looking grey châlet, moss-covered, with its small
round windows and sloping roof loaded with large stones, its stairs
outside the house, with a carved rail, and its basket-shaped balcony,
on which the Swiss maidens generally hang their snowy linen and
scarlet petticoats to dry.

"Precisely as I was looking down, a tall woman in a black cap was folding
and collecting the linen which was blowing about in the wind.

"To the left of this building a very large apiary supported on beams,
arranged like a balcony, formed a projection above the valley.

"You may easily believe that without the loss of a moment I set off
bounding through the heather to seek for shelter from the coming storm,
and well it was I lost no time, for I had hardly laid my hand on the
handle of the door before the hurricane burst furiously overhead; every
gust of wind seemed about to carry the cottage bodily away; but its
foundations were strong, and the security of the good people within,
by the warmth of their reception, completely reassured me about the
probability of any accident.

"The cottage was inhabited by Walter Young, his wife Catherine, and
little Raesel, their only daughter.

"I remained three days with them; for the wind, which went down about
midnight, had so filled the valley of Neufchatel with mist, that the
mountain where I had taken refuge was completely enveloped in it; it was
impossible to walk twenty yards from the door without experiencing great
difficulty in finding it again.

"Every morning these good people would say, when they saw me buckle on my
knapsack--

"'What are you about, Mr. Hennetius? You cannot mean to go yet; you will
never arrive anywhere. In the name of Heaven stay here a little longer!'

"And Young would open the door and exclaim--

"'Look there, sir; you must be tired of your life to risk it among these
rocks. Why, the dove itself would be troubled to find the ark again in
such a mist as this.'

"One glance at the mountain side was enough for me to make up my mind to
put my stick back again in the corner.

"Walter Young was a man of the old times. He was nearly sixty; his grand
head wore a calm and benevolent expression--a real Apostle's head. His
wife, who always wore a black silk cap, pale and thoughtful, resembled
him much in disposition. Their two profiles, as I looked at them defined
sharply against the little panes of glass in the chalet's windows,
recalled to my mind those drawings of Albert Durer the sight of which
carried me back to the age of faith and the patriarchal manners of the
fifteenth century. The long brown rafters of the ceiling, the deal table,
the ashen chairs with the carved backs, the tin drinking-cups, the
sideboard with its old-fashioned painted plates and dishes, the crucifix
with the Saviour carved in box on an ebony cross, and the worm-eaten
clock-case with its many weights and its porcelain dial, completed the
illusion.

"But the face of their little daughter Raesel was still more touching.
I think I can see her now, with her flat horsehair cap and watered black
silk ribbons, her trim bodice and broad blue sash down to her knees,
her little white hands crossed in the attitude of a dreamer, her long
fair curls--all that was graceful, slender, and ethereal in nature. Yes,
I can see Raesel now, sitting in a large leathern arm-chair, close to the
blue curtain of the recess at the end of the room, smiling as she
listened and meditated.

"Her sweet face had charmed me from the first moment I saw her and I was
continually on the point of inquiring why she wore such an habitually
melancholy air, why did she hold her pale face down so invariably, and
why did she never raise her eyes when spoken to?

"Alas! the poor child had been blind from her birth.

"She had never seen the lake's vast expanse, nor its blue sheet
blending so harmoniously with the sky, the fishermen's boats which
ploughed its surface, the wooded heights which crowned it and cast
their quivering reflection on its waters, the rocks covered with moss,
the green Alpine plants in their vivid and brilliant colouring; nor had
she ever watched the sun set behind the glaciers, nor the long shades of
evening draw across the valleys, nor the golden broom, nor the endless
heather--nothing. None of these things had she ever seen; nothing of what
we saw every day from the windows of the chalet.

"'What an ironical commentary on the gifts of Fortune!' thought I, as I
sat looking out of the window at the mist, in expectation of the sun's
appearing once more, 'to be blind in this place! here in presence of
Nature in its sublimest form, of such limitless grandeur! To be blind!
Oh, Almighty God, who shall dare to dispute Thy impenetrable decrees, or
who shall venture to murmur at the severity of Thy justice, even when its
weight falls on an innocent child? But to be thus blind in the presence
of Thy grandest creations, of creations which ceaselessly renew our
enthusiasm, our love, and our adoration for Thy genius, Thy power, and
Thy goodness; of what crime can this poor child have been guilty thus
to deserve Thy chastisement?'

"And my reflections continually reverted to this topic.

"I asked myself, too, what compensation Divine pity could make its
creature for the deprival of its greatest blessing, and, finding none, I
began to doubt its power.

"'Man, in his presumption,' said the royal poet, 'dares to glorify
himself in his knowledge, and judge the Eternal. But his wisdom is but
folly, and his light darkness.'

"Oh that day one of Nature's great mysteries was revealed to me,
doubtless with the purpose of humbling my vanity, and of teaching me
that nothing is impossible to God, and that it is in His power only
to multiply our senses, and by so doing gratify those who please Him."

Here the young professor took a pinch from his tortoiseshell snuff-box,
raised his eyes to the ceiling with a contemplative air, and then, after
a short pause, continued in these terms:--

"Does it not often happen to you, ladies, when you are in the country in
fine weather in summer, especially after a brief storm, when the air is
warm, and the exhalations from the ground filling it with the perfume of
thousands of plants, and their sweet scent penetrates and warms you; when
the foliage from the trees in the solitary avenues, as well as from the
bushes, seems to lean over you as if it sought to take you in its arms
and embrace you; when the minutest flowers, the humble daisy, the blue
forget-me-not, the convolvulus in the hedgerows raise their heads and
follow you with a longing look--does it not happen to you to experience
an inexpressible sensation of languor, to sigh for no apparent reason,
and even to feel inclined to shed tears, and to ask yourselves, 'Why does
this feeling of love oppress me? why do my knees bend under me? whence
these tears?'

"Whence indeed, ladies? Why from life, and the thousands of living things
which surround you, lean to you, and call to you to stay with them, while
they gently murmur, 'We love you; love us, and do not leave us.'

"You can easily imagine, then, the deep enthusiastic feeling and the
religious sentiment of a person always in a similar state of ecstasy.
Even if blind, abandoned by his friends, do you think there is nothing to
envy in his lot? or that his destiny is not infinitely happier than our
own? For my own part I have not the slightest doubt of it.

"But you will, doubtless, say such a condition is impossible--the mind
of man would break down under such a load of happiness. And, moreover,
whence could such happiness be derived? What organs could transmit,
and where could it find, such a sensation of universal life?

"This, ladies, is a question to which I can give you no answer; but I ask
you to listen and then judge.

"The very day I arrived at the chalet I had made a singular remark--the
blind girl was especially uneasy about the bees.

"While the wind was roaring without Raesel sat with her head on her hands
listening attentively.

"'Father,' said she, 'I think at the end of the apiary the third hive on
the right is still open. Go and see. The wind blows from the north; all
the bees are home; you can shut the hive.'

"And her father having gone out by a side door, when he returned he
said--

"'It is all right, my child; I have closed the hive.'

"Half an hour afterwards the girl, rousing herself once more from her
reverie, murmured--

"'There are no more bees about, but under the roof of the apiary there
are some waiting; they are in the sixth hive near the door; please go and
let them in, father.'

"The old man left the house at once. He was away more than a quarter of
an hour; then he came back and told his daughter that everything was as
she wished it--the bees had just gone into their hive.

"The child nodded, and replied--

"'Thank you, father.'

"Then she seemed to doze again.

"I was standing by the stove, lost in a labyrinth of reflections; how
could that poor blind girl know that from such or such a hive there were
still some bees absent, or that such a hive had been left open? This
seemed inexplicable to me; but having been in the house hardly one hour,
I did not feel justified in asking my hosts any questions with regard to
their daughter, for it is sometimes painful to talk to people on subjects
which interest them very nearly. I concluded that Young gave way to his
daughter's fancies in order to induce her to believe she was of some
service in the family, and that her forethought protected the bees from
several accidents. That seemed the simplest explanation I could imagine,
and I thought no more about it.

"About seven we supped on milk and cheese, and when it was time to retire
Young led me into a goodsized room on the first floor, with a bed and a
few chairs in it, panelled in fir, as is generally the case in the
greater number of Swiss châlets. You are only separated from your
neighbours by a deal partition, and you can hear every footstep and
nearly every word.

"That night I was lulled to sleep by the whistling of the wind and the
sound of the rain beating against the window-panes. The next day the wind
had gone down and we were enveloped in mist. When I awoke I found my
windows quite white, quite padded with mist. When I opened my window the
valley looked like an immense stove; the tops of a few fir-trees alone
showed their outlines against the sky; below, the clouds were in regular
layers down to the surface of the lake; everything was calm, motionless,
and silent.

"When I went down to the sitting-room I found my hosts seated at table,
about to begin breakfast.

"'We have been waiting for you,' cried Young gaily.

"'You must excuse us,' said the mother; 'this is our regular breakfast
hour.'

"'Of course, of course; I am obliged to you for not noticing my
laziness.'

"Raesel was much more lively than the preceding evening; she had a fresh
colour in her cheeks.

"'The wind has gone down,' said she; 'the storm has passed away without
doing any harm.'

"'Shall I open the apiary?' asked Young.

"'No, not yet; the bees would lose themselves in this mist. Besides,
everything is drenched with rain; the brambles and mosses are full of
water; the least puff of wind would drown many of them. We must wait a
little while. I know what is the matter: they feel dull, they want to
work; they are tormented at the idea of devouring their honey instead
of making it. But I cannot afford to lose them. Many of the hives are
weak--they would starve in winter. We will see what the weather is like
to-morrow.'

"The two old people sat and listened without making any observations.

"About nine the blind girl proposed to go and visit her bees; Young and
Catherine followed her, and I did the same, from a very natural feeling
of curiosity.

"We passed through the kitchen by a door which opened on to a terrace.
Above us was the roof of the apiary; it was of thatch, and from its ledge
honeysuckle and wild grapes hung in magnificent festoons. The hives were
arranged on three shelves.

"Raesel went from one to the other, patting them, and murmuring--

"'Have a little patience; there is too much mist this morning. Ah! the
greedy ones, how they grumble!'

"And we could hear a vague humming inside the hive, which increased in
intensity until she had passed.

"That awoke all my curiosity once more. I felt there was some strange
mystery which I could not fathom, but what was my surprise, when, as I
went into the sitting-room, I heard the blind girl say in a melancholy
tone of voice--

"'No, father, I would rather not see at all to-day than lose my eyes. I
will sing, I will do something or other to pass the time, never mind
what; but I will not let the bees out.'

"While she was speaking in this strange manner I looked at Walter Young,
who glanced out of the window and then quietly replied--

"'You are right, child; I think you are right. Besides, there is nothing
to see; the valley is quite white. It is not worth looking at.'

"And while I sat astounded at what I heard, the child continued--

"'What lovely weather we had the day before yesterday! Who would have
thought that a storm on the lake would have caused all this mist? Now one
must fold up its wings and crawl about like a wretched caterpillar.'

"Then again, after a few moments' silence--

"'How I enjoyed myself under the lofty pines on the Grinderwald! How the
honey-dew dropped from the sky! It fell from every branch. What a harvest
we made, and how sweet the air was on the shores of the lake, and in the
rich Tannemath pastures--the green moss, and the sweet-smelling herbs! I
sang, I laughed, and we filled our cells with wax and honey. How
delightful to be everywhere, see everything, to fly humming about the
woods, the mountains, and the valleys!'

"There was a fresh silence, while I sat, with mouth and eyes open,
listening with the greatest attention, not knowing what to think or what
to say.

"'And when the shower came,' she went on, 'how frightened we were! A
great humble-bee, sheltered under the same fern as myself, shut his eyes
at every flash; a grasshopper had sheltered itself under its great green
branches, and some poor little crickets had scrambled up a poppy to save
themselves from drowning. But what was most frightful was a nest of
warblers quite close to us in a bush. The mother hovered round about us,
and the little ones opened their beaks, yellow as far as their windpipes.
How frightened we were! Good Lord, we were frightened indeed! Thanks be
to Heaven, a puff of wind carried us off to the mountain side; and now
the vintage is over we must not expect to get out again so soon.'

"On hearing these descriptions of Nature so true, at this worship of day
and light, I could no longer entertain the least doubt on the subject.

"'The blind girl sees,' said I to myself; 'she sees through thousands of
eyes; the apiary is her life, her soul. Every bee carries a part of her
away into space, and then returns drawn to her by thousands of invisible
threads. The blind girl penetrates the flowers and the mosses; she revels
in their perfume; when the sun shines she is everywhere; in the mountain
side, in the valleys, in the forests, as far as her sphere of attraction
extends.'

"I sat confounded at this strange magnetic influence, and felt tempted to
exclaim--

"'Honour, glory, honour to the power, the wisdom, and the infinite
goodness of the Eternal God! For Him nothing is impossible. Every day,
every instant of our lives reveals to us His magnificence.'

"While I was lost in these enthusiastic reflections, Raesel addressed me
with a quiet smile.

"'Sir,' said she.

"'What, my child?'

"'You are very much surprised at me, and you are not the first person who
has been so. The rector Hegel, of Neufchatel, and other travellers have
been here on purpose to see me: they thought I was blind. You thought so
too, did you not?'

"'I did indeed, my dear child, and I thank the Lord that I was mistaken.'

"'Yes,' said she, 'I know you are a good man--I can tell it by your
voice. When the sun shines I shall open my eyes to look at you, and when
you leave here I will accompany you to the foot of the mountain.'

"Then she began to laugh most artlessly.

"'Yes,' said she, 'you shall have music in your ears, and I will seat
myself on your cheek; but you must take care--take care. You must not
touch me, or I should sting you. You must promise not to be angry.'

"'I promise you, Raesel, I promise you I will not,' I said with tears in
my eyes, 'and, moreover, I promise you never to kill a bee or any other
insect except those which do harm.'

"'They are the eyes of the Lord,' she murmured. 'I can only see by my own
poor bees, but He has every hive, every ant's nest, every leaf, every
blade of grass. He lives, He feels, He loves, He suffers, He does good
by means of all these. Oh, Monsieur Hennetius, you are right not to pain
the Lord, who loves us so much!'

"Never in my life had I been so moved and affected, and it was a full
minute before I could ask her--

"'So, my dear child, you see by your bees; will you explain to me how
that is?'

"'I cannot tell, Monsieur Hennetius; it may be because I am so fond of
them. When I was quite a little child they adopted me, and they have
never once hurt me. At first I liked to sit for hours in the apiary all
alone and listen to their humming for hours together. I could see nothing
then, everything was dark to me; but insensibly light came upon me. At
first I could see the sun a little, when it was very hot, then a little
more, with the wild vine and the honeysuckle like a shade over me, then
the full light of day. I began to emerge from myself; my spirit went
forth with the bees. I could see the mountains, the rocks, the lake, the
flowers and mosses, and in the evening, when quite alone, I reflected on
these things. I thought how beautiful they were, and when people talked
of this and that, of whortleberries, and mulberries, and heaths, I said
to myself, "I know what all these things are like--they are black, or
brown, or green." I could see them in my mind, and every day I became
better acquainted with them, thanks to my dear bees; and therefore I love
them dearly, Monsieur Hennetius. If you knew how it grieves me when the
time comes for robbing them of their wax and their honey!'

"'I believe you, my child--I believe it does.'

"My delight at this wonderful discovery was boundless.

"Two days longer Raesel entertained me with a description of her
impressions. She was acquainted with every flower, every Alpine plant,
and gave me an account of a great number which have as yet received
no botanical names, and which are probably only to be found in
inaccessible situations.

"The poor girl was often much affected when she spoke of her dear
friends, some little flowers.

"'Often and often,' said she, 'I have talked for hours with the golden
broom or the tender blue-eyed forget-me-not, and shared in their
troubles. They all wished to quit the earth and fly about; they all
complained of their being condemned to dry up in the ground, and of being
exposed to wait for days and weeks ere a drop of dew came to refresh
them.'

"And so Raesel used to repeat to me endless conversations of this sort.
It was marvellous! If you only heard her you would be capable of falling
in love with a dogrose, or of feeling a lively sympathy and a profound
sentiment of compassion for a violet, its misfortunes and its silent
sufferings.

"What more can I tell you, ladies? It is painful to leave a subject where
the soul has so many mysterious emanations; there is such a field for
conjecture; but as everything in this world must have an end, so must
even the pleasantest dreams.

"Early in the morning of the third day of my stay a gentle breeze began
to roll away the mist from off the lake. I could see its folds become
larger every second as the wind drove them along, leaving one blue corner
in the sky, and then another; then the tower of a village church, some
green pinnacles on the tops of the mountains, then a row of firs, a
valley, all the time the immense mass of vapour slowly floated past us;
by ten it had left us behind it, and the great cloud on the dry peaks of
the Chasseron still wore a threatening aspect; but a last effort of the
wind gave it a different direction, and it disappeared at last in the
gorges of Saint-Croix.

"Then the mighty nature of the Alps seemed to me to have grown young
again; the heather, the tall pines, the old chestnut-trees dripping with
dew, shone with vigorous health; there was something in the view of them
joyous, smiling, and serious all at once. One felt the hand of God was in
it all--His eternity.

"I went downstairs lost in thought; Raesel was already in the apiary.
Young opened the door and pointed her out to me sitting in the shade of
the wild vine, with her forehead resting on her hands, as if in a doze.

"'Be careful,' said he to me, 'not to awake her; her mind is elsewhere;
she sleeps; she is wandering about; she is happy.'

"The bees were swarming about by thousands, like a flood of gold over a
precipice.

"I looked on at this wonderful sight for some seconds, praying the Lord
would continue His love for the poor child.

"Then turning round--

"'Master Young,' said I, 'it is time to go.'

"He buckled my knapsack on for me himself, and put my stick into my hand.

"Mistress Catherine looked on kindly, and they both accompanied me to the
threshold of the châlet.

"'Farewell!' said Walter, grasping my hand; 'a pleasant journey; and
think of us sometimes!'

"'I can never forget you,' I replied, quite melancholy; 'may your bees
flourish, and may Heaven grant you are as happy as you deserve to be!'

"'So be it, M. Hennetius,' said good Dame Catherine; 'amen; a happy
journey, and good health to you.'

"I moved off.

"They remained on the terrace until I reached the road.

"Thrice I turned round and waved my cap, and they responded by waving
their hands.

"Good people; why cannot we meet with such every day?'

"Little Raesel accompanied me to the foot of the mountain, as she had
promised. For a long time her musical hum lightened the fatigue of my
journey; I seemed to recognise her in every bee which came buzzing about
my ears, and I fancied I could hear her say in a small shrill tone of
voice--

"'Courage, M. Hennetius, courage; it is very hot, is it not? Come, let me
give you a kiss; don't be afraid; you know we are very good friends.'

"It was only at the end of the valley that she took leave of me, when the
sound of the lake drowned her gentle voice; but her idea followed me all
through my journey, nor do I think it will ever leave me."





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Man-Wolf and Other Tales" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home