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Title: Told by the Death's Head - A Romantic Tale
Author: Jókai, Mór, 1825-1904
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.

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



[Illustration: "Stay, Constable, I want to see what you put into that
fire pot--open it"]



TOLD BY THE
DEATH'S HEAD

A ROMANTIC TALE
BY
MAURUS JÓKAI

TRANSLATED BY
S. E. BOGGS

_Translator of Prof. Haeckel's "India and Ceylon," Maurus Jokai's
"The Nameless Castle," etc._

ILLUSTRATED


THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
CHICAGO  AKRON, OHIO  NEW YORK
1908

COPYRIGHT, 1902,
BY
THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY

MADE BY
THE WERNER COMPANY
AKRON, OHIO



PREFACE.


In Part II, Vol. 2, of the Rhenish _Antiquarius_, I once came across a
skull that is said--see page 612--to swing, enclosed in a metal
casket, from an iron bar in the foundry of Ehrenbreitstein fortress.
Distinction of this order does not fall to an ordinary mortal. Yon
empty shell of human wisdom once bore the burden of no less than
twenty-one mortal sins--the seven _originalia_ trebled. Each crime is
noted. The criminal confessed to the entire three-times-seven, and yet
the death sentence was not passed upon him because of the twenty-one
crimes. His fate was decided by the transgression of a military
regulation.

What if this skull could speak? What if it could defend
itself?--relate, with all the grim humor of one on the rack, the many
pranks played--the mad follies committed, from the banks of the
Weichsel to the delta of the Ganges!

If my highly esteemed readers will promise to give me their credulous
attention, I will relate what was told to me by the death's head.

THE AUTHOR.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


PREFACE                                              1


PART I

I   THE "FIRE-POT."                                  5
II  THE TRIAL.                                      17


PART II

I   WITH THE ROBBERS--THE PRSJAKA CAVES.            25
II  THE BERDICZOV MONASTERY.                        85


PART III
IN THE SERVICE OF THE DUKE.

I   MALACHI.                                       101
II  PERSIDA.                                       114


PART IV
WITH THE TEMPLARS.

I   IN THE HOLLOW TREE.                            138


PART V
THE HOMICIDE.

I   ON BOARD MYNHEER'S SHIP.                       173
II  THE MOO-CALF.                                  179


PART VI

I   THE FORGERY.--ONE CIPHER.                      204
II  THE LEGACY.                                    207


PART VII

I   PEACEFUL REPOSE.                               215


PART VIII
IN BENGAL.

I   BEGUM SUMRO.                                   232
II  IDOL WORSHIP.                                  242
III MAIMUNA, AND DANESH.                           249


PART IX
ON THE HIGH SEAS.

I   THE PIRATES.                                   267


PART X
UXORICIDE.

I   THE SECUNDOGENITUR.                            279
II  THE QUICKSANDS.                                289


PART XI
IN SATAN'S REALM.

I   THE SATYRS.                                    300
II  WITCH-SABBATH.                                 311


PART XII
THE BREAD OF SHAME.

I   THE MAGIC THALER.                              323
II  THE HUSBAND OF THE WIFE OF ANOTHER MAN.        329


PART XIII
THE EXCHANGE OF BODIES.

I   THE QUACK DOCTOR.                              335


PART XIV

I   THE WHITE DOVE                                 347



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

_By Charles Hope Provost_


"Stay, Constable, I want to see what you put into
that fire pot--open it"                             _Frontispiece_

"I took my lamp, descended to the crypt"                       167

"I could read in her radiant countenance how overjoyed
she was to be with me again; and I was enraptured
to clasp her once more in my arms"                             252

"Thus I managed to propel my body slowly, painfully
toward the stable earth"                                       296



PART I.



CHAPTER I.

THE "FIRE-POT."


The hero of our romantic narrative, or better, narratives, was a
constable. Not one of that useful class appointed, in our day, to
direct the vehicles which pass over the two approaches to the
suspension-bridge in Budapest; rather, he was the chief of a body
whose task it is to provoke disturbance, who win all the more praise
and glory the greater the havoc and destruction they create. In a
word: he was a gunner.

The chronicle of his exploits gives only his Christian name, which was
"Hugo."

In the year 1688, when the French beleaguered Coblentz, Hugo had
charge of the battery in the outermost tower of Ehrenbreitstein
fortress--the "Montalembert Tower."

Coblentz and Ehrenbreitstein are opposite one another on the banks of
the Rhine, as are Pesth and Ofen; and the Blocksberg looks down on us,
as does the citadel of Ehrenbreitstein on Coblentz.

The city, which is strongly fortified on all sides, had become
accustomed to being beleaguered--now by the French, now by the
Prussians; today by the Austrians, tomorrow by the Swedes.

On the occasion of which I write, Coblentz was under a terrible fire
from the French guns, which created great havoc in that portion of the
city known as the "Old Town."

Specially memorable and remarkable was the manner in which the
"fire-balls" seemed to know just where to find the abodes of the duke,
and the commandant of the fortress. It mattered not how often they
changed their quarters, the Frenchmen would always discover them, and
aim accordingly--though it was impossible to see into the city from
outside the walls. There certainly must have been some witch-craft at
work. Hugo's Montalembert tower was on the side of the fortress most
exposed to the assaults of the enemy; its successful defense,
therefore, was all the more worthy of praise.

The management of ordnance in those days was not the comparatively
simple matter it is today, with the Krupp and the Uchatius guns. It
was a real science to fetch from the furnace a white-hot cannon-ball,
ram it into the long, slender culverin, and if, after the discharge,
the ball remained sticking in the throat of the gun, to remove it with
the various forceps, nippers, and tongs; and, after every shot, to
examine with a curious implement resembling Mercury's caducens, the
interior of the culverin to learn whether the discharge had caused a
rupture anywhere.

However, it is not necessary to be a great genius in order to master
all the intricacies and technicalities of a gunner's trade. An
ordinary man might even learn, after some practice, how to handle an
"elephant;" and, if he were intrusted with the quadrant, he might also
manage to discharge the heavier bombs with satisfactory result. It
must be remembered, though, that a gunner needs to possess
considerable skill as well as experience in order to hurl successfully
against the approaching foe a "fire-shield," which discharges
simultaneously from every one of its thirty-five holes as many
bullets; and the "storm-tub" requires even more dexterity. This
implement of warfare runs on two wheels. The axles are spiked with
keen-edged knives, and the wheels are filled with gunpowder, which
ignites and explodes when the machine is set in motion. If the powder
ignites promptly in both wheels at the same instant, the infernal
thing dashes like an infuriated bull into the ranks of the enemy,
burning the eyes of some, scorching the beards of others, and hacking
and slashing everything with which its revolving knives come in
contact. If the powder in only one of the wheels explodes, the machine
spins around on the motionless wheel like a top, and scatters an
entire company; if the second wheel explodes only half a second after
the first, then those who have the management of the demon will do
well to take to their heels with all speed possible.

It is not necessary to explain at length the advantages of the
chain-shot. Anyone will be able to understand its operation if he will
but remember that, when two balls connected by a chain are discharged
toward the enemy, and one of the balls strikes a man, the other ball
will, naturally, circle around the unfortunate until the entire length
of chain is wound tightly about him; the circling ball, meanwhile,
will strike with various results: the head, the nose, the ear, or some
other portion of the bodies of the soldiers within its radius. It is
greatly to be regretted that the use of the "handle-ball" has been
discontinued. This weapon was shaped very much like two pot-ladles,
bound together at the handles by an iron ring. The man who chanced to
be caught between the two ladles might congratulate himself that he
escaped with nothing worse than a choking; while the two soldiers on
his right and left, whose heads had been caught in the bowls of the
ladles, would remember, to the end of their days, the peculiar and
disagreeable sensation experienced. There were two more wonderful
implements of warfare: one a German, the other a French invention. The
former, which was an emanation from Hugo's brain, was called a
"_Bombenjungen-werfer_."[1] It was a huge mortar, the central cavity
capable of holding a bomb of fifty pounds weight; surrounding this
cavity were eight smaller bores, each holding a five-pound bomb. The
same charge hurled every one of the nine bombs in rapid succession
from the mortar; and one can imagine the astonishment of the Frenchman
when, after hearing but one report, the eight "babies" followed, one
after the other, the mother bomb.

[Footnote 1: Anglice: "Hurler of baby-bombs."]

This was a diversion Hugo prepared for the beleaguerers, who in return
invented an amusement for him. It was a "fire-pot," was shaped
exactly like the earthen water-jug the Hungarian reaper carries with
him to the harvest field to preserve his drinking-water fresh and
cool. The machine was made of iron, and filled with a diabolical
mixture. It had four spouts--precisely like our water-jug--from which
the fire would hiss and sputter; it was intended to set fire to
everything combustible where it fell.

The Germans also had what are called "fire-balls," which hiss and
spit, and set fire to everything about them; and other bombs which
explode the moment they touch the earth. The French fire-pot, however,
combined these two properties: it set fire first, and exploded
afterward.

The beleaguered understood very well how to manage a fire-ball. Like
Helene Zrinyi, the heroine who defended the fortress of Munkács, the
Germans had learned, so soon as a fire-ball fell inside the walls, to
cover it with a wet bullock's-hide, which would at once smother the
fire-spitting monster, and render it harmless.

But the fire-pot was not to be treated so summarily. If the Germans
attempted to smother the fire-demon, to prevent the air from reaching
his four noses, he would burst, and woe to him who chanced to be in
the way of the flying splinters! He, at least, would have no further
desire to sport with a fire-pot.

It happened one day that a fire-pot, which had fallen inside the
fortress, did not explode after it had hissed and spit out its fury.
When it became cool enough it was taken to Hugo.

"Now I shall find out what is inside this dangerous missile," remarked
the constable; "then I'll make some like it and send them to our
friends over yonder."

Over the neck of the fire-pot was a sort of hat, shaped like those
covering the necks of the Hungarian wooden bottles (_esutora_). This
hat, of course, could be removed. After this discovery Hugo invited
the commandant, the grand-duke, the governor and mayor of the city,
the syndic, and the duke's alchemist to be present at the opening of
the fire-pot.

Now each one of the invited said to himself: "It will be enough if the
others are there--why should I go? The infernal machine may explode
when they are opening it."

And so they all stopped bravely at home and Hugo alone found out what
was in the fire-pot.

After it was opened, and Hugo had convinced himself of the nature of
the diabolical compound it contained, he proceeded to cast several
fire-pots like the French one; and, in the presence of the commandant
and the grand-duke, shot them into the enemy's camp. The two
distinguished gentlemen, who were peering through their telescopes,
were highly delighted when they saw the bombs, which flew through the
air like dragons with tails of fire, reach the points at which they
had been aimed, ignite everything inflammable, and afterward explode.
Now and again it would happen that one of Hugo's fire-pots would fail
to explode in the Frenchmen's camp, just as theirs would sometimes
fail to do what was expected of them. But Hugo always collected the
enemy's unexploded bombs, and, after opening and refilling them with
fresh explosives, would hurl them back whence they came.

Oh, I tell you war was conducted in those good old days on economical
lines!

As late even as the year 1809 Napoleon had his men collect 28,000 of
the enemy's cannon-balls on the battle-field of Wagram, and shot them
back at the Austrians; and had the fight continued two days longer,
the opposing armies would have ricocheted the same balls back and
forth so long as the cannonading made it necessary.

The grand-duke, as was proper, rewarded the constable for his
discovery by an increase of pay--from sixteen to twenty thalers a
month; and in addition made him a present of a barrel of strong beer,
which gave offence to the commandant, who was obliged to quench his
thirst with a weaker brew.

Hugo had many enviers, but none of them ventured to pick a quarrel
with him. He had the frame of an athlete; his face, with its luxuriant
red-beard, resembled that of a lion. He was always in a good humor; no
one had ever seen Hugo angry, embarrassed, or frightened. There were
no traces of trouble and grief on his countenance. He was perhaps
forty years of age, was somewhat disfigured by small-pox pits, but
wherever there was a pretty girl or woman to be won, Hugo was sure to
attract her. He was fond of good living--liked everything to be of the
best, consequently his money never remained long in his pockets.

The constable's epicurean tastes irritated the mayor, who, as chief of
the city militia, outranked the artillerist. But Hugo managed on all
occasions to out-do his superior officer. Rieke, the trim little
suttler-wife, would slap the militia captain's fingers if he ventured
to give her a chin-chuck, but a hearty hug from the smiling constable
never met with a repulse. In consequence of the siege prices for the
necessaries, as well as for the luxuries of life, had become
exorbitant in both cities. Three thalers was the unheard-of price
asked at market for a fat goose. The mayor's wife haggled for a long
time about the price without success, when along came pretty Rieke.

"How much for your goose?" she asked.

"Three thalers."

"I'll take it."

She paid the money and marched away with the goose.

By some means the mayor learned that Hugo had a baked fat goose for
his dinner.

"Look here, constable," he said next day to the artillerist, "how
comes it that you can afford to feast on fat goose while I, the mayor,
and your superior officer, must content myself with lean herring,
cheese and bread? Your pay is only twenty thalers a month; mine is
three florins a day. Pray tell me how you manage it?"

To which Hugo made answer:

"Well, mayor, if I wanted to deceive you, I should say that the money
for all the good things I enjoy does not come from my pocket; that
Rieke, who is infatuated with me (how I managed _that_ part of the
business I shouldn't tell you), supplies me with whatever I want. But
I'll be honest with you and tell you the truth--but pray don't betray
my secret, for I don't want to have anything to do with the priests.
What I tell you is in strictest confidence and must not go any
farther: I have a magic thaler, one of those coins, vulgarly called a
'breeding-penny,' that always returns to my pocket no matter how often
I may spend it--"

"You don't say so! And how came you by such a coin, constable?"

"I'll tell you that, too, mayor, only be careful not to let the
Capuchins hear of it. I got the thaler in the Hochstatt marshes, from
a _bocksritter_--"[2]

[Footnote 2: Satyr.]

"I hope you didn't bond your soul to him for it?" interrupted the
mayor.

"Not I. I outwitted the devil by giving the ritter an ignorant Jew lad
in my stead."

"You must keep that transaction a secret," cautioned the mayor; then
he hastened to repeat what he had heard to the grand-duke.

"Would to heaven every thaler I possess were a breeding-penny!"
exclaimed the high-born gentleman. "It would make the carrying on a
war an easy matter."

From the day it became known that Constable Hugo possessed that
never-failing treasure, a magic coin, and was in league with the
all-powerful bocksritter, he rose in the esteem of his fellows.

Meanwhile Ehrenbreitstein and Coblentz continued under bombardment
from the Frenchmen. The enemy's fire-pots never failed to find the
grand-duke's quarters, notwithstanding the fact that he changed them
every day. This at last became so annoying that treason began to be
suspected, and the duke offered a reward for the detection of the spy
who gave the information to the enemy. That a spy was at work in the
German camp was beyond question, though the outlets of both cities
were so closely guarded that it would have been impossible for a
living mortal to pass through them. Nor could the treason have been
committed by means of carrier-pigeons, for, whatever of domestic
fowl-kind had been in the cities had long since been devoured by the
hungry citizens. The mayor, ever on the alert for transgressors, had
his suspicions as to who might be the spy. Every man but one in the
beleaguered cities fasted, lamented, prayed, cursed, wept, as the case
might be, save this one man, who remained constantly cheerful,
smiling, well-fed.

When one of the Frenchmen's fiery monsters came hissing and spitting
into the fortress this one man, instead of taking to his heels and
seeking the shelter of a cellar, as did the rest of his comrades,
would coolly wait until the fire-pot fell to the ground, and, if it
failed to burst he would dig it out of the earth into which it had
bored itself and carry it to the foundry.

Surely this was more than foolhardiness!

The constable always opened the enemy's unexploded fire-pots in his
subterranean work-room; refilled them there, then hurled them back
without delay. There was something more than amusement behind this.

One day, when Hugo came up from his subterranean workroom, he
encountered the mayor, who said to him:

"Stay, constable, I want to see what you put into that fire-pot--open
it."

Without a moment's hesitation Hugo unscrewed the lid and revealed the
explosives wrapped in coarse linen; at the same time he explained how
much gunpowder, hazel-wood charcoal, sulphur, resin, pitch,
sal-ammoniac, borax and acetate of lead were necessary to make up the
amount of unquenchable fire required for the bomb.

"Very good," quoth the city functionary, "but what beside these is
there in the bottom of the pot?"

"Under this earthen plate, your honor, is more gunpowder. When the
explosives on top are burnt out this plate, which has become red-hot,
explodes the powder and bursts the bomb--that is the whole secret of
the infernal machine."

"I should like to see what is under the earthen plate."

As the mayor spoke these words the constable gave a sudden glance over
his shoulder. In the glance was expressed all the temerity of the
adventurer, mingled with rage, determination and alarm. But only for
an instant. The mayor's bailiffs surrounded him, closing every avenue
of escape. Then he burst into a loud laugh, shrugged his shoulders,
and said:

"Very well, your honor, see for yourself what is under the earthen
plate."

The mayor forced open with the blade of his pocket-knife the earthen
plate. There was no powder in the bottom of the bomb, only some
ordinary sand; but in it was concealed a folded paper that contained a
minute description of the situation in the German camp.

"Bind him in chains!" exclaimed the mayor in a triumphant voice. "At
last we have the proofs of your treachery, knave! I'll give you a
pretty Rieke! I'll serve up a fat goose for you!"

Hugo continued to laugh while the bailiffs were placing the fetters on
his hands and feet.

As if to complete the evidence against him, there came hissing at that
moment a fire-pot from the French camp. When it was opened and the
earthen plate removed it was found to contain two hundred Albert
thalers!



CHAPTER II.

THE TRIAL.


[Illustration: Pointing Finger]

The hand with the two lines under it signifies, in the court records
(for the sake of brevity), that at this point in the trial, the chief
of the tribunal gave the signal to the executioner for another turn of
the wheel. When this had been done, the notary would take down the
confession until the prisoner on the rack would cry out:

"Have mercy!--compassion!"

The prince was seated at a separate table, on a black-draped
throne-like arm-chair with a canopy.

The mayor occupied the inquisitor's chair.

First question addressed to the accused:

"What is your name?"

"My name, in Podolia, is 'Jaroslav Tergusko;' in Zbarasz it is 'Zdenko
Kohaninsky;' in Odessa it is 'Frater Hilarius;' in Hamburg, 'Elias
Junker;' in Münster it is 'William Stramm;' in Amsterdam, 'Mynheer
Tobias van der Bullen;' in Singapore, 'Maharajah Kong;' on the high
seas, 'Captain Rouge;' in The Hague, it is 'Ritter Malchus;' in Lille,
'Chevalier de Mont Olympe;' in Pfalz, 'Doctor Sarepta;' here, I am
called 'Hugo von Habernik.'

"Have you any more names?" inquired the chair.

At this question everybody began to laugh--the prince, the judges, the
prisoner, even the skull on the table. The chair alone remained grim
and dignified.

"I can't remember any more of my names," was the prisoner's reply.


[Illustration: Pointing Finger]

SECOND QUESTION:

"What is your religion?"

"I was born an Augsburg Confession heretic. When I went to Cracow I
became a Socinian; in the Ukraine I joined the Greek church; afterward
I became an orthodox Catholic; later, a Rosicrucian; then a Quaker. I
have also professed the faith of Brahma; and once I was a member of
the community of Atheists and devil-worshipping Manichees, called also
Cainists."

"A fine array, truly!" commented the chair, as the notary entered the
list in the register.


[Illustration: Pointing Finger]

THIRD QUESTION:

"What is your occupation, prisoner?"

"I have been ensign; prisoner; slave; robber-chief; parasite; ducal
grand-steward; mendicant friar; recruiting sergeant; sacristan;
knight; shell-fish dealer; stock-jobber; ship-captain; viceroy;
pirate; teacher; knacker's assistant; conjuror; bocksritter; hangman;
pikeman; quack-doctor; prophet; constable--"

"Stop! Stop!" interrupted the chair. "The notary cannot keep up with
you."

Again the court-room resounded with laughter; the prisoner on the
rack, as well as the skull on the table, again joined in the
merriment. Everybody seemed in a good humor--that is, everybody but
the mayor. He alone was grave.

After the signal to the executioner the fourth question followed:

"Of what crimes are you guilty?"

(For the purpose of greater perspicuity the chair dictated to the
recording secretary the Latin nomenclature of the crimes confessed.)

Prisoners: "I was a member of a band of robbers and incendiaries."

"_Primo, latrocinium_," dictated the chair.

Prisoner: "I won the affections of my benefactor's wife."

Chair: "_Secundo, adulterium._"

Prisoner: "I robbed a church."

Chair: "_Tertio, sacrilegium._"

Prisoner: "I masqueraded as a nobleman under a false name."

Chair: "_Quarto, larvatus._"

Prisoner: "I committed a forgery."

Chair: "_Quinto, falsorium._"

Prisoner: "I killed my friend in a duel."

Chair: "_Sexto, homicidium ex duello._"

Prisoner: "I cheated my partners in business."

Chair: "_Septimo, stellionatus._"

Prisoner: "I betrayed state secrets confided to me."

Chair: "_Octavo, felonia._"

Prisoner: "I used for my own purpose money belonging to others."

Chair: "_Nono, barattaria._"

Prisoner: "I worshipped idols."

Chair: "_Decimo, idololatria._"

Prisoner: "I married a second wife while the first was still living."

Chair: "_Undecimo, bigamia._"

Prisoner: "I also took a third, fourth, fifth and sixth wife."

Chair: "_Eodem numero trigamia, polygamia._"

Prisoner: "I murdered a king."

Chair: "_Decimo secundo, regicidium._"

Prisoner: "I have been a pirate."

Chair: "_Decimo tertia, pirateria._"

Prisoner: "I killed my first wife."

Chair: "_Decimo quarto, uxoricidium._"

Prisoner: "I practiced conjuring."

Chair: "_Decimo quinto, sorcellaria._"

Prisoner: "I have been in league with Satan."

Chair: "_Decimo sexto, pactum diabolicum implicitum._"

Prisoner: "I have coined base money."

Chair: "_Decimo septimo, adulterator monetarium._"

Prisoner: "I preached a new faith."

Chair: "_Decimo octavo, hæresis schisma._"

Prisoner: "I have been a quack doctor."

Chair: "_Decimo nono, veneficus._"

Prisoner: "I betrayed a fortress intrusted to my guardianship."

Chair: "_Vigesimo, crimen traditorum._"

Prisoner: "I have eaten human flesh."

Chair: "_Vigesimo primo, anthropophagia. Cannibalismus!_" cried the
mayor in a loud tone, bringing his fist with considerable force down
on the pandects lying before him on the table. The perspiration was
rolling in great beads over his forehead.

The prisoner on the rack laughed heartily; but this time no one
laughed with him. The executioner had mistaken the chief's wink for a
signal to turn the wheel, which he did, and the sound which came from
the victim's throat was a strange mixture of merriment and agony--as
if he were being tickled and strangled at the same moment.

What the chief's dictation was really intended to signify was that the
proceedings were concluded for the day; that the accused should be
released from the rack and taken back to his dungeon.

It was a most unusual case--unique in the annals of the criminal
court. Never before had a prisoner acknowledged himself guilty of, or
accessory to, so many crimes. It was the first time such a combination
of misdemeanors had come before the tribunal. The accused would
certainly have to be tried without mercy; no extenuating circumstances
would be allowed to interfere with justice.

The prince was extremely interested in the case. He was curious to
learn the coherence between the individual transgressions, in what
manner one led to the other, and gave orders that the trial should not
be resumed the next day until he should arrive in court.

The prisoner had cause for laughter. Before his confession reached its
conclusion, before he could relate the history of his one-and-twenty
crimes, the Frenchmen would capture Coblentz and release him from
imprisonment and death.

But one may laugh too soon!

What was to be done with this fellow?

That the death penalty was his just desert was unquestionable; but in
what manner should it be imposed? Had he confessed only the crime for
which he was now under arrest--treason--the matter might be settled
easily enough: he would be shot in the back. But with so many
transgressions to complicate the matter it was going to be difficult
exceedingly to pronounce judgment.

For instance: the wheel is the punishment for robbery; the polygamist
must be divided into as many portions as he has wives; the regicide
must be torn asunder by four horses. But how are you going to carry
out the last penalty if the accused has already been carved into six
portions? Also, it is decreed that the right hand of a forger be cut
off; the servitor of Satan must suffer death by fire. But if the
accused has been consumed by flames, how will it be possible to bray
him to pulp in a mortar for having committed uxoricide? or, how carry
out the commands of the law which prescribes death by starvation for
the wretch who is guilty of cannibalism?

After much deliberation the prince, with the wisdom of a Solomon,
decided as follows:

"The prisoner, who is arraigned at the bar for treason, having
confessed to twenty-one other transgressions, shall relate to the
court a detailed account of each individual crime, after which he
shall be sentenced according to the crime or crimes found by the
judges to be the most heinous."

This decision was perfectly satisfactory to the mayor; and the judges
gave it as their opinion that, as the accused would require all his
strength for so prolonged an examination, it would be advisable to
substitute the torture by water for that of the rack, as was first
decided.

"No! no!" objected the prince. "The man who is forced to drink nothing
but water is not in the mood to relate adventures (I know that by
experience!) Let the prisoner be subjected to mental torture. Sentence
him at once to death, and when he is not before the tribunal let him
be shut up in the death-cell. The hours spent in that gloomy hole are
a torture sufficient to bring any criminal, however hardened he may
have become, to repentance. Besides, it will be a saving of expense to
the city. The curious citizens, who like to gape at a condemned
prisoner, will, out of compassion, supply this one also with food and
drink. When he has eaten and drunk his fill, we will have him brought
to the court-room. The man who has had all he wants to eat and drink
is talkative!"

The judges concurred with his highness; but the mayor growled in a
dissatisfied tone:

"This knave, who confesses to having committed twenty-one crimes in
addition to the treachery in which we detected him, will, by the
decision of his highness, fare better than his judges, who have
learned during the siege what it is to hunger and thirst."

To which the syndic responded consolingly:

"Never mind, god-father! Let the poor wretch gormandize between the
rack and the gallows. Remember the old saw: 'Today, I--tomorrow,
you.'"



PART II.



CHAPTER I.

WITH THE ROBBERS--THE PRSJAKA CAVES.


I was ensign in a regiment under command of General Melchior Hatzfeld
of the imperial forces. (Thus Hugo began his confession the next day
when he had been brought to the court-room from the death-cell.) My
conduct at that time was exemplary; I acquired so much skill in
handling fire-arms that, at the siege of Cracow, I was advanced to the
position of chief gunner of a battery.

Cracow at that time was in the hands of George Rákóczy, prince of
Transylvania, who had leagued with Sweden to subdue Poland; and he
would most likely have succeeded had not the imperial army come to the
assistance of the Poles.

I shall not dwell long on the siege of Cracow lest I awake in the
minds of the honorable gentlemen of the court a suspicion that, by
relating incidents not immediately connected with my transgressions, I
am purposely prolonging my recital. I shall therefore speak only of
those occurrences which it will be necessary to mention in order to
explain why I committed the crimes of which I am guilty. While with
the army before Cracow I made the acquaintance of the daughter of a
Polish noble. The young lady, who took a great fancy to me--I wasn't a
bad-looking youth in those days, your honors--was a charming creature
of sixteen years, with the most beautiful black eyes. If I remember
rightly her name was Marinka. She taught me how to speak her
language--and something else, too: how to love--the fatal passion
which has all my life been the cause of much of my trouble.

During the siege my general frequently sent me to reconnoiter among
the Hungarian camps; and as I was a fearless youth, I would venture to
the very gates of the manor-houses in the neighborhood of Cracow. At
one of these houses I met my sweetheart; and after that, you may
guess, honored sirs, that it was not for the general's "yellow boys"
alone I risked my neck night after night. No, my little Marinka's
sparkling eyes were as alluring as the gold pieces; and I knew when I
set out on my nightly tour that my sweetheart would be waiting for me
at the gates of her father's place. But our secret meetings were at
last discovered. There was an old witch of a housekeeper who ferreted
out her young mistress' secret, and informed the old noble. One
moonlight night Marinka was teaching me in her own little cozy chamber
how to say: "_Kocham pana z calego zersa_"--which is "Mistress, I love
you with my whole heart,"--when we heard her father's heavy footsteps
ascending the staircase. I tell you I was frightened and said to
myself, "This is the end of you, my lad!" but Marinka whispered in my
ear:

"_Nebojsa!_ (don't be afraid), go into the corridor, walk boldly
toward my father, and to whatever he may say to you, do you reply 'God
is One.'"

Then she softly opened the door, pushed me into the corridor, closed
and locked the door behind me. The old gentleman was coming up the
stairs very slowly because of a lame leg which he had to drag after
him step by step. He had a square red face which I could see only
indistinctly above the burning lunt he carried in one hand, blowing it
continually to prevent it from going out. In the other hand he held a
musket. The blazing lunt must have blinded him, for he did not see me
until the muzzle of the musket came in contact with my breast. Then he
stopped and cried in a stern voice:

"_Kto tam? Stoj!_" (Who are you? Stand!)

"God is One," I made answer. What else could I have said? The old
gentleman's aggressive mien changed at once. He became quite friendly;
he extinguished the lunt by stamping on it with his foot, tapped my
shoulder in a confidential manner and called me little brother. Then
taking me by the arm he led me down the stairs to a room where a huge
fire was blazing on the hearth. Here he bade me seat myself on a
settee covered with a bear skin and placed before me an English flagon
of spirits. After he had arranged everything for my comfort he fetched
from a secret cupboard a small book--it was so small I could have
hidden it in the leg of my boot--and began to read to me all manner of
heretical phrases such as "There is no need for a Holy Trinity,
because the little which is done on earth in the name of God can
easily be done by One alone."

My hair stood on end as I listened to the sinful words and I found
what a trap I had fallen into. My Marinka's father was a Socinian, a
leader of the heretical sect, and he was trying to make a proselyte of
me.

The doctrines of Blandrata had spread extensively throughout Poland,
but, owing to the persecution of its adherents, they could meet and
work only in secret. The old noble's manor was one of their retreats,
where recent converts were received for instruction. When the old
gentleman believed he had enlightened me sufficiently he produced a
heavy volume, bade me lay my right hand on it and repeat after him the
vows of the society.

You may believe I was in a dilemma!

If I refused to repeat the vows I should have to confess that I had
come to the manor for Marinka's sake, then the old noble would fetch
his musket and send me straightway to paradise. If, on the other hand,
I repeated the vows, then I was sure to journey to hades. Which was I
to choose?

Should I elect to travel by extra-post, direct, without stopping, into
the kingdom of heaven, or should I journey leisurely by a circuitous
route, with frequent halts, to hades?

I was a mere lad; I was sorry for my pretty curly head--I chose the
latter alternative!

From that time I became a daily visitor in the retreat of the
followers of Socinus. Being a neophyte I was permitted to take part in
their meetings only during the singing; when the sermon began I was
sent to the gates to guard against a surprise. This was a welcome
duty; for, once outside the house, all thought of taking up my station
at the gates would leave me and, instead, I would climb the tree which
grew close to my Marinka's window, swing myself by a branch into her
room, in which she was kept a prisoner by her father to prevent our
meeting; and there, while the sages below-stairs expounded the dogma
of the unity of God, we two ignorant young people demonstrated how two
human hearts can become as one.

One day our little community received an unexpected addition to its
membership. There arrived from Cracow a troop of Hungarian soldiers
who announced themselves as followers of Socinus. They received a
hospitable welcome from the old noble, whom they overwhelmed with joy
by telling him the prince of Transylvania had become an adherent of
Socinus; that his highness had averred that, were he the King of
Poland, all persecution of the heretics should cease at once and that
some of the churches should be given over to them for their worship.

When I repeated this piece of news to my general he became so excited
he sprang from his seat--his head almost struck the roof of the
tent--and shouted: "It is perfectly outrageous how those Hungarians
will stoop to base methods in order to win allies! If they succeed in
inveigling the Polish Socinians to their ranks then we may as well
stop trying to get them out of Poland!"

Fortunately, however, there arose dissensions between the Hungarian
and the Polish adherents of Socinus. I must mention here, in order to
explain how I became cognizant of the facts I am about to relate, that
Marinka's father had begun to suspect me. Instead of sending me to
stand guard at the gates when the sermon began, I was permitted to
hear it and take part in the disputations.

The Hungarian troopers maintained that it was the duty of all pious
Socinians to commemorate, at every one of their meetings, the death of
the Savior by drinking wine; and they were so extremely devout that an
entire quarter-cask of their host's best Tokay was emptied at every
celebration. After the meetings, when the old noble would lift and
shake the empty wine-cask, I could read in his countenance signs that
heterodoxy was gradually taking root in him. At first he contented
himself with remonstrating against the frequency of the celebration;
surely it ought to satisfy the most devout member of the sect to
observe the ceremony on Sundays, and holy days. But the troopers met
his arguments with scriptural authority for their practices.

Then the old gentleman, finding his remonstrances of no avail, made an
assault upon the dogma itself. He delivered an impassioned address in
which he sought to disprove the divinity of Jesus. To this blasphemous
assertion the Magyars made reply:

"If what you say be true, then He was the son of an honest man, and a
good man Himself. Therefore, it is meet and right for us to show Him
all honor and respect." And another quarter-cask was brought from the
cellar. The old noble became daily more fanatical in his assaults upon
the tenets to which he had so devoutly adhered before the accession to
his little congregation of the Hungarian troopers; and, at last
declared that Jesus was a Jew; that He deserved to be put to death,
because He had promulgated the unjust law of taxation. But not even
this fearful blasphemy deterred the Hungarians from their frequent
celebrations. They said:

"If the Nazarene is so unworthy, then it is our plain duty to shed His
blood, the symbol of which is wine--"

"Tremendously clever fellows, those Magyars!" here interrupted the
prince.

"They were impious devils!" exclaimed the mayor reprovingly. "Impious
devils!"

"_Habet rectum_," responded his highness. Then to the prisoner:
"Continue, my son."

Hugo resumed his confession:

When the last cask was brought from the cellar the old noble declared
to his congregation that the entire story of the Divine birth was a
myth invented by the priests--

"And you took part in those blasphemous meetings?" sternly interrupted
the mayor.

No, indeed, your honor! That is a crime of which I am guiltless. I
never said one word; and escaped from the meetings whenever I could
manage to do so. I had determined to flee with Marinka from the sinful
community. Our plan was: I was to steal from the meeting on a certain
night, assist my pretty Marinka to descend from her room by means of
the tree outside her window and then set fire to the sheep-stables.
The conflagration would scatter the blasphemers; everybody would run
to the stables to release the horses, and in the general confusion
Marinka would hastily secure as many of the family jewels as could be
packed into a portmanteau. Then she and I would mount two of the freed
horses and gallop straightway to my camp, where I would introduce her
as my wife--

"A pious idea, certainly," commented the prince.

"How can your highness say so!" in a tone of reproof, exclaimed the
mayor. "It was incendiarism pure and simple: _Incendiarii ambitiosi
comburantur_; and further: _raptus decem juvencis puniatur_, and
_rapina palu affigatur_."

"Very well, then," assented his highness. "My son, for the
incendiarism you shall be burned at the stake; for the rape of the
maid you shall pay a fine of ten calves; for the theft of the jewels,
the punishment is impalement. Continue."

Unfortunately, resumed the prisoner, our plans miscarried, through the
intermeddling of the old housekeeper I spoke of. Her suspicions had
been aroused by Marinka's preparations for flight; she informed the
old noble, who set spies to watch me. I was caught in the act of
firing the stables and was flogged with hazel rods until I confessed
that I was a spy from the enemy's camp. The old noble wanted to bind
me to the well-sweep; but one of the Hungarian troopers took
compassion on me and offered to buy me for sixteen Polish groschen.
His offer was accepted; I was sold to him and taken to Cracow. I
should not have had such a hard time as a slave had I not been
compelled to grind all the pepper used in the Hungarian army. I ground
enormous quantities, for the Magyars like all their food strongly
seasoned with the condiment. My eyes were red constantly; my nose was
swollen to the size of a cucumber. The only other complaint I had to
make was that my master compelled me to eat everything that was set
before me. He would say, when he placed before me enough for three
men:

"You shall not be able to say that you hungered while you were my
slave."

When I had eaten until I could not swallow another morsel, my master
would seize me by the shoulders, shake me as one shakes a full bag in
order to get more into it, and he would repeat the operation until the
contents of every dish had been emptied into me. I used to sicken at
the approach of meal-times, and whenever I saw the huge spoon--twice
the size of my mouth--with which the food was ladled into me. Your
honors will hardly believe that there is no greater torture than to be
stuffed with food--

"We have never tried that method," remarked the prince.

"Nor are we likely to test it very soon," supplemented the mayor, with
a grim expression on his countenance.

I yearned to be released from my unpleasant situation, resumed the
prisoner. For the first time I realized the enormity of the
transgression I had committed in joining the Socinian Community. Now
I had no one to intercede for me with the Supreme Ruler of the earth.
Had I become a Mussulman I should have had Mohammed; had I adopted the
Jewish faith I should have been able to call to my aid Abraham, or
some one of the other fathers in Israel. But I had no one. However, my
desire to be released from the tortures of food-stuffing and
pepper-grinding was at last fulfilled; I was captured, together with
the entire Hungarian army, by the Tartars--

"Hold! hold!" interrupted the chair. "You must not tell untruths. You
forget that you were in Poland. The Tartars could not have fallen from
the sky."

I was about to explain how they came to be at Cracow when your honor
interrupted me. It was this way: His Majesty, the Sultan of Turkey,
who had become angry because his vassal, George Rákóczy, prince of
Transylvania, had presumed to aspire to the crown of Poland, had
commanded the khan of Crim-Tartary to attack the Hungarians with
100,000 cavalry. The khan obeyed. He devastated Transylvania in his
march, surrounded the Hungarian army in Poland and captured every man
jack of them--

"The explanation is satisfactory," enunciated the prince. "It was easy
enough for the Tartars to appear at Cracow."

Yes, your highness; but I wish they hadn't, continued the accused. No
one regretted it more bitterly than did I. After the capture of the
Transylvanian army by the Tartars the victors divided the spoils as
follows: The commanding officers took possession of all the valuables;
the under-officers took the prisoners' horses; the captives
themselves were sold to the common soldiers, each of whom bought as
many slaves as he had money to spare.

My former master was sold for five groschen; my broad shoulders
brought a higher price--nine groschen. The same Tartar--an ugly,
filthy little rascal for whom I would not have paid two
groschen--bought my master and me.

The first thing our Tartar master did was to strip us of our good
clothes and put on us his own rags. He couldn't talk to us, as we did
not understand his language; but he managed in a very clever manner to
convey his meaning to us. He examined the material of which our shirts
were made--the Hungarian's was of fine, mine of coarse homespun linen,
and concluded that one of us was a man of means--the other a poor
devil.

Then he took from his purse a gold coin, held it in his open palm
toward the Hungarian, while with the other hand he hung a rope of
horse-hair around his captive's neck. Then he closed his fingers over
the coin, opened them again, at the same time drawing the rope more
tightly about the captive's neck.

This pantomime signified: "How many coins like this gold one will your
friends pay to ransom you?"

The Hungarian closed and opened his fist ten times to indicate "one
hundred."

The Tartar brought his teeth together, which was meant to say, "not
enough."

Then the Hungarian indicated as before, "two hundred," whereupon the
Tartar placed the end of the rope in the captive's hand--he was
satisfied with the ransom. Then came my turn. How much ransom would be
paid for me? I shook my head to indicate "nothing;" but in Tartary, to
shake one's head means consent. The little fellow smiled, and wanted
to know "how much?"

Not knowing how else to express my meaning, I spat in his palm, which
he understood. He put the gold coin back into his purse, took out a
silver one and held it toward me. I treated it as I had the gold coin.
Then he produced a copper coin; but I indicated with such emphasis
that not even so small a sum would be paid for me that he raised his
whip and gave me a sound cut over the shoulders. The Tartars then set
out on their return to Tartary. My former master and I were bound
together and driven on foot in front of our owner.

How forcibly my sainted grandmother's words, "He that reviles his
Savior will be turned into an ass," came home to me when I was given
dried beans to eat--the sort we feed to asses at home. Dried beans
every meal, and my Tartar master did not think it necessary to stuff
into me what I could not eat. What were left at one meal were served
up again the next. Still more forcibly were my grandam's words
impressed on my mind when, the fifth day of our journey, I became a
veritable beast of burden. My Hungarian yoke-fellow declared his feet
were so sore he could go no farther. His was certainly a weighty body
to drag over the rough roads, especially as he had never been
accustomed to travel on foot _per pedes apostolorum_. The little
Tartar became alarmed; he feared he might lose the ransom if he left
his rich captive behind, so he alighted from his horse, examined the
Hungarian's feet and ordered him to get into the saddle. Then my feet
were examined, and I imagined I too was to be given a mount. But I was
mistaken. Before I could guess what he intended the little Tartar was
seated astride my shoulders, with his feet crossed over my breast, and
his hands clutching my hair for reins.

Luckily for me it was a lean little snips, not much heavier than the
soldier's knapsack I was accustomed to carrying. It would have been
worse had the Hungarian been saddled on my shoulders. That gentleman
was greatly amused by the turn affairs had taken, and from his seat on
our master's horse made all manner of fun of me.

He ridiculed my prayers, said they were of no avail where the enemy
was concerned; that a hearty curse would give me more relief. I tell
you he was a master of malediction! There was an imprecation he used
to repeat so often that I remember it to this hour. I will repeat it
for you--it is in that fearful Magyar lingo: "_Tarka kutya tarka
magasra kutyorodott kaeskaringós farka!_"[3]

[Footnote 3: The imprecation is really quite harmless, as are many
other of the dreadful things attributed to the Magyars. It is,
literally: "The spotted dog's straight upright spotted
tail."--Translator's observation.]

"Hold!" commanded the prince. "That sounds like an incantation."

"Like 'abraxas,' or 'ablanathanalba,'" added the mayor, shuddering.
"We must make a note of it; the court astronomer may, with the
assistance of the professors, be able to tell us its portent."

When the notary had taken down the imprecation, his highness, the
prince, said to the prisoner:

"Continue, my son. How long were you compelled to remain in that
deplorable condition of slavery?"

One day, resumed the accused, while I was fervently praying that
heaven, or Satan, would relieve me from my ignominious situation, we
turned into an oak forest. We had hardly got well into it, when, with
a fearful noise, as if heaven and earth were crashing together, the
huge trees came toppling over on us, burying the entire vanguard of
the Tartar horde, together with their captives, under the trunks and
branches.

Every one of the trees in the forest had been sawn clear through the
trunk, but left standing upright, thus forming a horrible trap for the
Tartars. The first tree that toppled over, of course, threw over the
one against which it fell, that one in turn throwing over the next
one, and so on until the entire wood was laid low.

My Tartar rider and I were crushed to the earth by the same tree. It
was fortunate for me that I had him on my back, for he received the
full force of the falling tree; his head was crushed, while mine was
so firmly wedged between his knees I couldn't move. The horrible noise
and confusion robbed me of my senses; I became unconscious. It is,
therefore, impossible for me to tell how I escaped with my life. I
only know that when I came to my senses I found myself in the camp of
the "Haidemaken," a company of thieves and murderers, made up of all
nationalities, the worst of all the robber bands that infested the
country. The members were the outcasts of every land--the flower of
the gallows. When inflamed with wine, they fought each other with
axes; settled all disputes with knife and club. He who had become
notorious for the worst crimes was welcomed to their ranks; the
boldest, the most reckless dare-devil, became their leader. They would
release condemned criminals, often appearing as if sprung from the
earth at the place of execution, bear away the miscreants, who,
naturally, became members of the band.

Was a pretty woman condemned to the stake for violation of the
marriage vow or for witchcraft, the haidemaken would be on hand before
the match was applied to the faggots, and bear away the fair culprit.
In a word, the haidemaken were the hope, the comfort, the providence
of every miscreant that trembled in shackles.

The band claimed no country as fatherland. Every wilderness, every
savage ravine, from the Matra mountains to the Volga, offered them a
secure retreat. They knew no laws save the commands of their leader,
which were obeyed to the letter. None kept for himself his stealings;
all booty was delivered into the hands of the leader, who divided it
equally among the members of the band.

To him who, through special valor, deserved special reward, was given
the prettiest woman rescued from the stake, the dungeon, the rack.

Where the haidemaken set up their camp, the Roman king, the prince of
Transylvania, the Wallachian woiwode, the king of Poland, the hetman
of the Cossacks, ruled only in name. The leader of the robbers alone
was the law-giver; he alone levied taxes, exacted duties.

The trading caravans passing from Turkey to Warsaw, if they were wise,
paid without a murmur the duty levied by the haidemaken, who would
then give the traders safe conduct through all the dangerous forests,
over suspicious mountain passes, so that not a hair of their heads
would be hurt or a coin in their purses touched.

If, on the other hand, the caravan leaders were unwise, they would
employ a military escort. Then, woe to them! The robbers would lure
them into ambush, scatter the soldiers and plunder the caravan. He who
resisted would be put to death.

There was constant war between certain nobles and the robbers. If the
band, however, could be brought to seal a compact of peace with an
individual or a community, it was kept sacred, inviolable, as we shall
see later.

The haidemaken never entered a church unless they desired to secure
the treasures it contained. Yet, they numbered several priests among
their ranks. They were such as had been excommunicated for some
transgression.

The band never set out on a predatory expedition without first
celebrating mass, and receiving a blessing from one of these
renegados. If the expedition proved to be successful, the priest would
share the spoils, and dance with the robbers to celebrate the
victory.

When one of the band took unto himself a wife, a renegado would
perform the marriage ceremony. The haidemaken were as great sticklers
for form as are the members of good society. To abduct a maid, or a
woman, was not considered a crime; but for one member to run away with
the wife of another was strictly prohibited.

They did not erect strongholds, for they knew where to hide in
mountain caverns and in morasses, from which no human power could
drive them.

In their various retreats they had stores of food, enough to stand a
siege for many months. How great was their daring is best illustrated
by the plot which threw me into their power. The prince of
Transylvania had invaded Poland with an army of 20,000 men. This army
was captured by the Tartar khan with his 80,000 men. Four hundred of
the robbers laid in wait for this combined force, and slaughtered the
vanguard of 2,000 men in the oak forest, as I have described.

When I opened my eyes after the catastrophe, I was lying on a bundle
of faggots on the bank of a purling brook. By my side stood a gigantic
fellow, with a hideous red face--compared to him the Herr Mayor,
there, is a very St. Martin!--his beard and eyebrows were also red,
but of a lighter shade. His nose was cleft lengthwise--a sign that he
had had to do with the Russian administration of justice. He had the
muscles of a St. Christopher.

At a little distance apart stood a group of similar figures, but none
was so repulsive in appearance as the giant by my side. He was
leaning on his sword, looking down at me, and when he saw my eyes open
he said, or rather bellowed, for his voice was more like the sound
that comes from the throat of a bull:

"Well, young fellow, are you alive? Can you get up on your knees? If
so, swear that you will join our band, or I'll fling you out yonder
whence I brought you, to perish with the rest of your comrades."

I had heard many fearful tales of the dreaded haidemaken, and knew
them to be capable of any atrocity. Moreover, I was indifferent as to
what became of me, so I said I would join the band if my life were
spared.

"What are you?" then asked the red one, who was the leader of the
band, "peasant or noble?"

I was not lying when I answered that I was as poor a devil as ever
caught flies to satisfy a craving for food.

"That is well," returned the leader, "we have no use for nobles in our
ranks. You shall stand the test at once." He blew a whistle, and two
sturdy ruffians dragged from a cave nearby the loveliest maid I had
ever set eyes on. Her complexion was of milk and roses; every virtue
beamed in her gentle countenance. I can see her now, with her golden
hair falling to her ankles--and she was very tall for a woman.

"Now lad," continued the leader, "we shall see how you stand the test.
You are to cut off this maid's head. She is the daughter of a noble,
whom we stole for a ransom; and, as her people have seen fit to ignore
our demands, she must die. Here, take this sword, and do as you are
bid."

He handed me his sword, which was so heavy I could lift it only by
grasping it with both hands.

The maid knelt in the grass at my feet, bent meekly forward, and
parted her beautiful hair at the back of her snowy neck, so that I
might the more easily strike the fatal blow.

But I didn't do anything of the sort!

Instead, I flung the sword at the feet of the leader and cried:

"Go to perdition, you red devil! You may devour me alive--I won't harm
a hair of this pretty child's head."

"Ho-ho," bellowed the red one, "you have betrayed yourself, my lad!
Were you a peasant you would cut off the girl's head rather than lose
your own. You are a noble--you would rather die yourself than harm a
woman. Very well; so be it! On your knees! The maid will show you how
to cut off a head at one blow. She is my own daughter."

He handed the sword to the maid, who had risen to her feet and was
laughing at me. She took the heavy weapon in one hand and swung it as
lightly as if it had been a hazel rod, several times about her head. I
have always been fortunate enough to be able to command my feelings,
no matter what the situation; no matter how extreme the danger, I
never allow myself to yield to fear.

I looked at the wonderful maid confronting me with mocking eyes, her
white teeth gleaming between her red lips, her beautiful hair shining
like gold.

"Kneel!" she cried, stamping her foot. "Kneel and say your prayers."

A faint-hearted fellow would, most likely, have lost courage; but, as
I said before, I had never made the acquaintance of fear. So I
laughed, and said: "I am not going to kneel; and I am not going to
pray. I don't want to part with my head, I have too much need of it
myself." Then I turned boldly toward her father, and addressed him:
"Captain, I want to marry your daughter," I said. "Let me serve under
you for one year, and, if at the end of that time I have not proved
myself worthy to be your son-in-law, you may cut off my head, and
welcome!"

The robber chief received this daring speech with a grin that was like
the grimace of a hungry wolf preparing to devour a lamb.

"Fellow, do you know what you ask?" he bellowed. "The suitor for the
hand of my daughter is tortured to death by that hand if he fails to
perform the tasks she sets for him."

"All right!" I returned jauntily, "you needn't give yourself any
trouble about me."

He held out his hand; I gave him mine, and the pressure it received in
the powerful grasp was so severe that the blood spurted from under the
finger-nails. But I did not betray by look or sign how badly it hurt
me. Nay, I even gave a playful pinch with the crushed fingers to the
cheek of the golden-haired maid and received from her in return a
sound slap on my hand.

I could see that my behavior won favor in the eyes of the robbers.
But we had little time for merry-making. The main body of the Tartar
army now drew near, and we were face to face with an infuriated enemy
outnumbering our band a hundred to one.

In face of the extreme danger which threatened, our leader remained
calm. At a signal from him, his men with lightning speed set fire in
fifty different places to the fallen trees, among which a considerable
number of the vanguard, who had not been crushed to death, were
hiding.

Of course the poor wretches, Tartars and captives alike, were consumed
in the flames; we could hear their shrieks of agony when we were half
way up the mountain, to which we had made our escape.

The Tartar army not being able to follow us, because of the burning
forest, made our escape easy; and, by the time the trees had been
reduced to ashes, we were far enough away, and in a place of safety.

Instead of giving me weapons to carry, I was compelled to continue in
the role of beast of burden; a heavy bag of treasure was strapped on
my back. We marched until the next morning. The haidemaken travelled
only by night, consequently they were familiar with all roads and
mountain passes.

When day broke we halted to rest and partake of a scanty meal. While
we were eating, the leader asked me my name, and I gave him the first
one that came into my head: "Jaroslaw Terguko," which was the name of
Marinka's father. If I couldn't steal anything else from him I could
at least steal his name?

Late in the afternoon we set out again on our journey, which led us
over rugged paths and through savage gorges where no signs of human
life were to be seen. At last we entered a deep defile between two
mountain spurs. The walls of rock on either side seemed, with their
projections and hollows, as if they might once have been joined
together. They were nearer together at the top than at the base, and
when I looked up at the narrow strip of sky far, far above me, I had a
sensation as if the two walls were coming together. In this almost
inaccessible defile was the chief retreat of the haidemaken. It was a
stronghold that could successfully defy all human assaults.

In the south wall, about twenty yards from the base, yawns the mouth
of a huge cavern.

At that point the wall is so steep, and inclines forward to such a
degree, that access to the cavern cannot be gained by means of a
ladder. The robbers, however, had contrived a clever hoisting
apparatus.

From the top of the opposite wall a mountain brook had once leaped
into the defile, to continue its way over the rocky bed into the
valley.

When the haidemaken first established themselves in the cavern, it
happened frequently that they would be blockaded in their retreat by
the nobles and their followers, who had pursued the predatory band to
the defile.

At such times the robbers suffered greatly from the scarcity of fresh
water, especially if they chanced to be out of wine. Therefore, they
conceived the plan of conducting the brook from the opposing wall into
the cavern through a stout oaken gutter, and the water at the same
time served to turn a series of wheels. Over one of the wheels ran a
stout iron chain, to which were securely attached several large
baskets; and so skillfully was the apparatus manipulated that the
entire band might be hoisted into, or let down from, the cavern in the
short space of two hours. It was a most admirable contrivance for the
robbers, but not so admirable for the dwellers in the valley. The
intercepted brook now flowed into the cave, and, as the water did not
fill the cave, the most natural conclusion was that it found an outlet
through various subterranean fissures.

The turning of the water from its original channel caused Prince
Siniarsky considerable inconvenience, in that all his saw-mills,
flour-mills and leather factory were left without a motor; while the
inhabitants of the surrounding hamlets, who were dependent on their
looms for a livelihood, were compelled to remove to another region,
because they now were unable to bleach the linen.

Still greater was the misfortune which had overtaken Count Potocky. He
was the owner of extensive salt mines on the further side of the
mountain, which contains an illimitable deposit of the saliferous
substance. The haidemaken were unable to drink the water of the
lakelet in the bottom of their cavern, because of its saline
character.

After the course of the brook had been changed, the worthy Count
Potocky discovered one day that innumerable springs of fresh water
were bursting from his side of the mountain, and flooding his most
profitable mines. If he attempted to obstruct the flow of water in
one place it would break out in another.

At last the two magnates discovered the cause of the mischief, and
determined to oust the thievish haidemaken from their retreat by
fumigation. So long as the band confined their depredations to the
trading caravans they might be tolerated; but, when they became
insolent enough to interfere with the comfort and convenience of the
magnates, it was high time to put a stop to their pestiferous conduct!

And so an expedition against the cavern was planned. Before it could
be carried out the war against the Transylvanians and Swedes broke
out, and the noble gentlemen were compelled to march with their
followers toward the invaders; but when hostilities ceased and the
succoring Tartars had returned home, a formal blockade of the robbers
was constituted.

The entrance to their cavern, which is about as large as the door of
the cathedral at Coblentz, was fortified by a double parapet furnished
with loop-holes. The intercepted brook did not pour its waters into
the main entrance, but into a side opening, underneath which was the
hoisting wheel. This wheel also turned the mill-stone, which ground
the rye used by the robbers.

The band included a miller as well as a smith, a shoemaker and a
tailor. As it is dark in the cave, all work was performed by
torchlight. Where all the torches used in the cavern were procured I
learned afterward.

The fore part of the cavern, into which the rays of the blessed sun
penetrate as far as the opposite wall permits, is like a vaulted hall.
In it were stored the weapons: all manner of fire-arms, all patterns
of cutting, thrusting and hurling implements, which had been purloined
from the armories of noble castles. Here, for the first time, I saw an
old-time culverin, rusty with age and for want of care. In this part
of the cavern were stored also the provisions in huge stone
receptacles--enough to feed four hundred men during a long siege.

From the provision chamber a low, narrow passage leads to the
mill-cave, but, as I never entered it, I cannot tell you just what it
contained.

The main cavern is spacious as a church. When the entire band were
assembled in the vast hall they were as lost in it. The arched roof is
so high above the floor it is invisible in the gloom, which not even
the light of many torches can dispel.

From this hall numerous narrow passages and corridors lead to smaller
caves, in which the artisans of the band performed their labors. These
unfortunates certainly must have been captives; for it is hardly
possible that any man would, of his own free will, consent to pass his
life toiling in so gloomy a hole. When we arrived at the cavern the
leader asked me if I had a trade, and, as I could truthfully reply
that the only one I was perfectly familiar with was that of
bombardier, I did so.

"Very good; you shall soon have an opportunity to prove that you
understand your trade as thoroughly as you say," he growled. "It is
not safe to boast here, my lad, and not be able to perform--as you
shall soon learn."

Meanwhile the robbers had hoisted to the cavern the booty taken from
the Tartars. It was stored in one of the smaller chambers, into which
I merely got a glimpse, as they rolled the huge slab of granite from
the entrance, but that fleeting glance was enough to dazzle my eyes.
There were heaps on heaps of costly articles: robes, mantles,
vestments, richly embroidered with gold and precious gems, gold and
silver chalices, shrines, _ciboria_, pastoral staffs, and a host of
valuables too numerous to remember. Had the haidemaken only decided to
disband then, every one of them would have received a fortune as his
share of the plunder.

It is not to be wondered at that such stores of gold and silver had
accumulated. The robbers never had occasion to need money.

The provision chamber was filled with food and drink. Such quantities
of meat and bread were served that every man had all he wanted to eat,
while casks of metheglin were constantly on tap.

The secret of this inexhaustible food supply was known only to the
leader and his daughter. No matter how much was taken from the
provision chamber, no decrease was ever noticeable.

The first evening of our return, the successful expedition was
celebrated by a feast. After the robbers had eaten their fill, they
lighted a huge fire and danced wildly around it; and when they had
drunk all they wanted, they gathered about their leader and his
daughter, who had taken their seats on an estrade draped with purple
cloth.

Then a pale-faced young man was dragged into the hall and placed in
front of the leader.

I saw now that a sort of trial was about to be held, a singular
tribunal, where the judge and the jury first get tipsy!

"Jurko," said the leader to the youth, "you are accused of
cowardice--of having run away at the approach of the enemy; also, of
having neglected to give warning of the coming of the Tartars."

"I am not guilty," responded the youth in defence. "You placed me on
guard to watch for the Tartars. Instead of the Tartars came wolves.
Ten of the beasts attacked me--maybe there were fifty. If I had
allowed the wolves to eat me, how could I have signaled to you? I
didn't run away--I hid in a hollow tree to defend myself--one against
fifty! I call that brave, not cowardly."

"Silly chatter!" bellowed the leader. "No matter what happened, you
should have obeyed the command of your leader. If you are not the
coward you are accused of being, then prove it by standing the test."

"That I will!" cried the youth, striking his breast with his fist.

The leader rose, took his daughter's hand, stepped down from the
estrade, and, bidding his comrades follow, moved with the maid toward
the rear of the cavern, which, until now, had been buried in midnight
gloom.

Here the ground slopes steeply downward, and I could see by the light
of the torches that we were on the verge of an abyss, at the bottom of
which was water.

The leader held a wisp of straw to a torch, then tossed it into the
abyss, which was lighted for a few seconds by the circling wreath of
blazing straw; but it was quite long enough for me to see the terrible
grandeur of the yawning gulf.

After tossing the straw into the abyss, the leader snatched the red
and yellow striped silken kerchief from his daughter's neck, leaving
the lovely snow-white shoulders and bosom uncovered, and flung it also
into the abyss.

"There, Jurko," he cried, "you have often boasted that you are the
bravest of our band, and you have aspired to the hand of my daughter
Madus. If you are what you pretend to be, fetch the bride's kerchief
from the lake down yonder."

The youth stepped boldly enough to the rim of the yawning gulf, and
every one believed he was going to dive into it. But he halted on the
edge, leaned forward and peered down at the water far below. After a
moment's survey, he drew back, rubbed his ear with his fingers and
made a wry face.

"Why don't you jump?" cried his comrades, tauntingly.

Jurko cautiously thrust one leg over the edge, bent forward and took
another look; then he drew back his leg and rose to his feet.

"The devil may jump into this hell for me!" he exclaimed; "there's no
getting out of it again for him who is fool enough to enter it!"

"Ho, coward! coward!" derisively shouted his comrades, rushing upon
him. They disarmed him and dragged him by the hair toward a cleft in
the wall of the cavern, wide enough only to admit the body of a man.
This opening was closed by a block of granite that required the
combined strength of six men to move it. A lighted candle was placed
in the trembling youth's hand; then he was thrust into the rock-tomb,
and the granite door moved back to its place. The wild laughter of his
comrades drowned the shrieks of the victim who had been buried alive.

Then followed the "dance of death," and I never witnessed anything
more terrifying. The lovely Madus feigned death and looked it, too!
and every member had to dance a turn with her. When it came my turn,
the leader said to me:

"Hold, lad, you may not dance with Madus until you have become really
one of us--until you have stood the test. Moreover, you, too, presume
to aspire to the hand of my daughter."

"Yes, I do!" I replied, "and I will do whatever I am bid."

"Very good; the bride's kerchief lies down yonder in the lake; let us
see if you are courageous enough to go after it."

"You surely did not undertake so foolhardy a task?" here interrupted
the prince; and the chair dictated to the notary as follows:

"Sinful tempting of providence, prompted by criminal desire for an
impure female."

"Yes, your highness, I performed the task," continued Hugo, "but I beg
your honors not to register the leap as an additional transgression. I
am not responsible for it. I was compelled to jump or be buried alive
in the wall of the cavern. Besides, I knew the danger was not so great
as it appeared. When a boy, I once visited a salt mine. I had seen by
the light of the blazing straw that the walls of the abyss were formed
of the dark blue strata peculiar to salt mines, and guessed that the
lake was strongly impregnated with salt. I had also noticed on the
further wall of the abyss a flight of steps hewn in the rock, and
concluded that I had nothing to fear from drowning in the buoyant
water, if I reached it in safety. But, before I proceed farther, I
desire to enter a formal protest against the chair's designating my
beloved Madus an 'impure female.' She was pure and innocent--an angel
on earth, a saint in heaven. He that defames her must do battle with
me--my adversary in coat of mail, I in doublet of silk. The weapons:
lances, swords, or maces--whatever he may select; and I positively
refuse to proceed with my confession until his honor, the mayor, has
given me satisfaction, or amended the protocol."

"Well, mayor," said the prince, addressing the chair, "I think the
prisoner is justified in his protest. Either you must amend the
protocol, or fight him."

The former expedient was chosen, and the notary erased the latter
clause of the protocol. It read, when corrected: "Sinful temptation
of providence by chaste affection for a respectable maid."

"Now, my son, you may jump."

Hugo thanked the prince and resumed his confession:

I pressed my ankles together, bent forward, and sprang, head foremost,
into the abyss. As I sped swiftly downward, there was a sound like
swelling thunder in my ears, then I became stone deaf, and the water
closed over me. My eyes and mouth told me it was salt water, and
whatever apprehension I had had vanished. The next moment I was
floating on the surface, my head and shoulders above the water. I soon
found the kerchief, which I tied about my neck, amid the acclamations
and cheers of my comrades, which were multiplied by the echoing walls
to the most infernal roaring. The torches held over the mouth of the
abyss gleamed through the darkness like a blood-red star in the
firmament of hades.

A few vigorous strokes propelled me to the steps leading from the lake
to the upper gallery of the abyss, which is really an abandoned salt
mine.

There are one hundred and eighty steps, but by taking two at a time I
reduced them to ninety; and three minutes after I had taken my leap, I
stood, encrusted from head to foot with salt--like a powdered
imp!--before my blushing Madus.

She received me with a bashful smile when the robbers carried me on
their shoulders to her, and I was about to kiss her, when the leader
seized me by the collar and drew me back.

"Not yet, lad, not yet!" he cried. "You have only been through the
christening ceremony. Confirmation comes next. You must become a
member of our faith before you can become my daughter's husband. Every
man that marries a princess must adopt her belief."

Now, as your honors may have guessed, the question of religion was one
I did not require much time to answer. I consented without a moment's
hesitation to adopt my Madus' faith. The leader then signed to one of
the band to prepare for the ceremony of confirmation. It was one of
the priests of whom I have spoken--I had taken particular notice of
him during the feast, because he ate and drank more than any one else.

"He that becomes a member of our society"--the leader informed
me--"must take a different name from the one he has borne elsewhere. I
am called 'Nyedzviedz,' which signifies either 'the bear,' or 'without
equal.' What name shall we give you?"

Some one suggested that, as I was an expert swimmer, I should be
called "Szczustak" (perch); another thought "Lyabedz" (swan), more
suitable and prettier, but I told them that, as I excelled most in
hurling bombs, "Baran" (ram), would be still more appropriate; and
Baran it was decided I should be called.

In the meantime the robber priest had donned his vestments. On his
plentifully oiled hair rested a tall, gold-embroidered hat; over his
coarse peasant coat he had drawn a richly decorated cassock; his feet
were thrust into a pair of slippers, also handsomely embroidered--relics,
obviously, of some gigantic saint; for the robber priest's feet, from
which he had not removed his boots, were quite hidden in them. In his
hands he held a silver crucifix; and as I looked at him, the thought
came to me that he had, without a doubt, made way with the original
wearer and bearer of the rich vestments, and the crucifix.

He ordered me to kneel before him. I did so, and he began to perform
all sorts of hocus-pocus over me. I couldn't understand a word of it,
for he spoke in Greek, and I had not yet become familiar with that
language. I learned it later.

After mumbling over me for several minutes, he smeared some
ill-smelling ointment on my nose; then he fumigated me with incense
until I was almost suffocated. In concluding, when he bestowed on me
my new name, he gave me such a vigorous box on the ear, that it rang
for several seconds, and I almost fell backward. The blow was not
given with the hand of the priest, but with the sturdy fist of the
robber.

This is carrying the joke too far, I said to myself; and, before the
ruffian could guess what I intended, I was on my feet, and had
delivered a right-hander on the side of his head that sent his gold
hat spinning across the floor, and himself, and his slippers after it.

"_Actus majoris potentiae contra ecclesiasticam personam!_" dictated
the mayor to the notary; while his highness, the prince, held his
stomach, and laughed until the tears ran down his cheeks.

"I should like to have seen that performance!" he exclaimed when he
had got his breath again. "Did the padre excommunicate you?"

Not much, he didn't, your highness! From that moment I became a person
of consequence among the haidemaken. The leader slapped me heartily on
the shoulder, and said approvingly:

"You're the right sort, lad--we need no further proof."

After a bumper all 'round, to celebrate my entrance to the community,
every man wrapped himself in his bear-skin, and lay down on the floor
of the cavern. Although the torches had been extinguished I could see,
by the faint light which penetrated from the entrance, that Madus
ascended a rope ladder to a deep hollow high up in the wall, and drew
the ladder up after her.

In a very few minutes the snores from the four hundred robbers
proclaimed them oblivious to this work-a-day world.

At day-break the watchman's horn brought every man to his feet; at the
same moment the leader appeared from an adjoining chamber, and gave to
each one his task for the day.

After we had breakfasted, Nyedzviedz conducted me, in company with
Madus and several of the band, to the armory.

"Here Baran," he said,--thrusting his foot against the culverin I
mentioned before--"you claim to be a skilled bombardier. Let us see if
you understand how to manage a thing like this. We stole it from
Count Potocky's castle, and brought it here with great difficulty.
Sixteen men would carry it two hundred steps, then other sixteen would
relieve them, and so on. We didn't find out until we had got it up
here that it would be of no use to us. The first time we tried to fire
it off--it lay on the ground as now--four men sat astride of it, as on
a horse, to steady it. I, myself, directed the shot toward the mouth
of the cavern, and three men stood behind me to observe operations.
When I applied the fuse, the infernal thing sprang into the air
flinging the four men astride it to the roof of the cave; while the
ball, instead of going where I had aimed--out of the entrance--imbedded
itself in the wall over yonder, where it still sticks."

I laughed heartily at his amusing description of the gun's behavior;
whereupon he said soberly:

"Oh, you may laugh, but it was no laughing matter I can tell you! I
made a second attempt. I tied a rope around the rascal's neck to
prevent him from kicking again, and fastened the ends securely to two
stout pegs driven into the ground. 'There, sir,' I said, 'now kick if
you want to!' I lighted the fuse--the demon didn't kick this time;
instead he rushed backward dragging both pegs with him; broke the
right leg of one of the men, the left of another, and both legs of the
third; and the ball bored itself into the corner over there. Now let
us see if you can do any better."

"Oh, you stupid bear!" I exclaimed, unable to restrain my mirth, "you
may thank your stars that the rusty old gun didn't burst into flinders
and kill every one of you!--as you deserved! The first thing to be
done with the culverin is to clean and polish it until it shines like
a mirror. Then--who ever heard of laying a cannon on the ground to
fire it off?--it must have a sort of platform on wheels so it can be
moved about."

The leader immediately gave orders to the smith and the wagon-maker of
the band to obey my instructions and complete as quickly as possible
the sort of gun-carriage I should describe to them, and I set about at
once to clean and scour the old culverin which, with the accumulated
rust of years, was no light task.

There was no time to lose, for the Tartars, with their Hungarian
captives, having vacated Poland, the Polish magnates returned to their
castles, and prepared to carry out the plans for punishing the
insolent haidemaken, which had been interrupted by the war. Those
members of the band who were sent on various errands into the regions
adjacent to the Prsjaka Gorge, brought back, instead of booty, bloody
heads, and the startling news that the roads leading to the Gorge were
filled with armed troopers.

The two despoiled magnates had combined their forces, and were
prepared for a regular siege of the plundering haidemaken.

The latter, however, merely laughed at the warlike preparations. They
were not afraid of a siege! Nyedzviedz, on learning of the approach of
the beleaguerers, instead of curtailing our rations, doubled them,
mystifying all of us by the seemingly illimitable supplies in the
provision chamber. We received, every day, double rations of fresh
goats' meat and mutton, and yet there was not in any of the caves even
the sign of a living animal.

Meanwhile the beleaguerers advanced steadily.

There was a stratagem the robbers had frequently resorted to in order
to vanquish a beleaguering foe. They opened an underground sluice
through which the water of the salt lake in the bottom of the abyss
would rush into the defile and drown the enemy. But Prince Siniarsky's
troopers had become familiar with this trick; and one morning, when we
awoke, we found that a stone wall had been built across the gorge
while we slept. An arched opening in the center of the base would give
egress to all the water we might choose to let out of the lake.

This was bad enough, but worse came later.

The wall increased in height every night. I told Nyedzviedz at the
beginning what would be the outcome of such a proceeding; when the top
of the wall should have reached to the height of the wooden gutter
which conveyed the brook into the cavern, Siniarsky's men would fling
a line over it, attach a stout chain to the line, and when they had
drawn it over the gutter it would be easy enough to pull it down.

"In that case we shall die of thirst," growled the leader, "for there
isn't any other water in the cavern fit to drink. But a still greater
danger, of which you know nothing, threatens us."

He did not tell me what it was, but he became so morose and
ill-tempered, that no one but his daughter ventured to speak to him.

The haidemaken made several assaults on the wall, but the troopers
returned the fire with such volleys from the numerous loop-holes in
it, that our men were always forced to retreat.

All hopes were now centered in me, and on the culverin, which I had
polished until it shone like gold. The carriage for it had been
completed, and balls cast under my directions.

The wall grew higher and higher, until at last the top was on a level
with our conduit. Its completion was celebrated in the enemy's camp by
the blaring of trumpets, and beating of drums, and what I had foretold
came to pass; the arquebusier mounted to the top of the wall, adjusted
his arquebuse on its forked rest, and prepared to take aim at our
water conduit.

"Now, watch me!" said I to Nyedzviedz, pointing the culverin's muzzle
toward the cornice of the wall.

Two shots sounded simultaneously, and when the smoke had cleared away,
there was neither arquebuse, nor arquebusier--nor yet the cornice of
the wall, to be seen. All three had vanished.

I took aim a second time--this time at the base of the wall; and at
the sixth shot, the entire structure of solid masonry tumbled down
with a deafening crash, burying under it the musketeers who were at
the loop-holes. Not one of them escaped alive.

The haidemaken, with loud cries of triumph, now hastily descended from
the cavern in their baskets, and flung themselves on the enemy, and
while the combat raged in the defile below me, I wheeled my culverin
to the mouth of the cavern, and hurled shot after shot toward the
troopers who were hurrying to the aid of their comrades.

The enemy was completely routed, and our men returned to the cavern
richly laden with spoils.

So all-powerful is a cannon when its management is thoroughly
understood.

"That will do for today;" at this point observed the prince. "The
confession will be continued tomorrow."


THE VISZPA OGROD.

The next morning Hugo resumed his confession:

When the haidemaken, after having put to flight the troopers returned
with their booty to the cavern, the leader said to me:

"Well, Baran, you certainly earned your name today, by proving
yourself a most effective 'ram.' To your assaults with the culverin we
owe our victory. Here is the treasure we took from the vanquished
foe--take of it what you want, you have the first choice." Gold and
silver galore lay before me, but I answered: "Thank you, Nyedzviedz,
you know very well I have no use for money; instead, I want your
daughter--for her alone I have served you; she is the reward I
desire."

To this reply the leader shook his head irritably, and said: "I am
disappointed in you, Baran. You are, after all, only a tender-hearted
dove that wants to bill and coo. The man who has a wife is only half a
man. The true haidemak embraces his sweetheart, then slays her--or
better: slays her first. Why do you desire to marry? Be wise, lad, and
remain a celibate. If you will think no more of Madus I will make you
my second in command."

"But I can't, and won't think of anything but Madus," I returned,
stubbornly; "and if you don't give her to me, you are not a man of
your word."

"You don't know what you are asking, Baran," again said the leader.
"If you persist in your demand you will compel me to send you the way
all our members have gone who proved themselves to be soft-hearted
doves. The man who wants to bill and coo cannot remain with us. If you
marry Madus you must leave us."

I told him I would manage somehow to endure such a calamity, which
made him laugh heartily.

"I know very well, Baran, my lad, that it would not grieve you to
leave us, if you were allowed to depart with Madus to the outside
world. But that may not be. The man we pronounce a 'dove,' must go a
different route. The youth who refused to leap into the abyss the day
you arrived, was a dove. You saw what became of him. A hundred and
more love-lorn swains, and cowards have gone the same way. You will
find in every crevice the skeletons of the unfortunates. Do you still
desire to join the ghastly company?"

It did not sound very alluring--to celebrate one's nuptials among
cadavers; but when I looked at Madus, who was standing by her father's
side, the glance which met mine from her beaming eyes banished from
my thoughts everything but her beautiful image, and I said:

"It matters not whither I go if my Madus goes with me--be the journey
to hades itself!"

When Madus also declared she had no dread of undertaking the journey
with me, her father summoned a priest--the same bearded rascal that
had performed the ceremony of confirmation over me.

His vestments this time were even more magnificent--('acquired,' I
have not the least doubt, from some wealthy cathedral by my respected
father-in-law and his comrades) and with all manner of unintelligible
mummery he performed the ceremony, which united me and my beloved
Madus in the holy bonds of matrimony.

When the marriage ceremony was concluded, my wife and I each received
from her father a costly, gold ornamented cap, and a richly
embroidered mantle; a bag of provisions, and a jug of wine were also
given to us. Then we were conducted to the same cleft in the wall of
the cavern, in which the unfortunate Jurko had been entombed.

When the heavy rock had been removed from the opening the robbers, one
after the other, shook hands with us. The leader was so deeply
affected he embraced both of us. After a lighted taper had been placed
in my hand, we were thrust into the narrow passage which was
immediately closed behind us.

The noises in the cavern sounded like the low murmur one hears in a
sea-shell held close to the ear. By the faint light from our taper I
could see a smile of encouragement on my Madus' face, and obeyed
without a question when she bade me follow her.

We had forced our way through the narrow passage, which was hardly
wide enough for one person, a considerable distance, when we suddenly
came to a small chamber about the size of a room in a pleasant
cottage. Here, Madus said, we should have to rest and pass the night.

"Night?" I repeated. "We can easily bring the blackness of midnight
upon us in this hole! We have only to extinguish the candle. But we
shall never know when it is morning. Daylight never enters here. No
cheerful cock-crow ever reaches this tomb. Here, no one will come to
rouse us, and say: 'Rise, rise! morning, beauteous morning, is come.'"

"Fie, fie, Baran," chided my Madus. "Do you already regret the step
you have taken? Should you be sorry never again to see daylight--now
that you have me with you?"

"No, no," I answered, promptly, ashamed of my momentary regret. "No,
no," and I set about preparing for our night's rest. We spread our
bear skins on the floor of the cave, sat down on them, and ate our
supper, becoming quite cheerful as the wine sped with pleasurable
warmth through our veins.

Suddenly Madus turned toward me and asked:

"Where do you imagine we are, Baran?"

"In paradise," I made answer, kissing her.

Thereupon she roguishly blew out the light and asked again: "Can you
see me?"

"No," I answered, for I could see nothing at all. "Look again, Baran,
and repeat after me what I say."

I fixed my eyes where I believed her to be, and repeated after her,
word for word, the Lord's Prayer, the _Ave Maria_ and the _Credo_, and
as I did so, it seemed to me as if the dear child's countenance came
into view, gradually growing brighter and brighter, until the gloom
disappeared, and the subterranean grotto became irradiated as with the
sunlight of noon. I did not tell her so, though, for women are so
easily made vain; but from that moment I became convinced that Madus
was my guardian angel.

Never, in all my life, have I been so happy as I was with my beloved
Madus in that underground cave, and I should have been content to stop
there with her until the end of time! I would not have inquired if
ever a morning would dawn again for us, had not Madus roused me from a
sound slumber, and lighted the taper.

"What do you imagine will become of us?" she asked, and I replied:

"I believe the haidemaken are playing a trick on us, and that they
will fetch us away from here after a while."

"No, you are mistaken, Baran, we shall never again return to the
cavern. The haidemaken do not expect to see us again."

"But, surely, Nyedzviedz will not allow his only daughter to perish
miserably in this hole?" I exclaimed.

"Alas, you don't know him, my poor Baran," returned Madus sorrowfully.
"My father's heart is impervious to pity. Those whom he banishes, as
we have been banished, can never return to the cavern."

I now became alarmed in earnest. Until that moment I had entertained a
suspicion that the haidemaken were only trying to frighten me.

I was cursing my folly--mentally of course--for having allowed the
fascinations of a love-dream to lure me to so wretched a fate, when
Madus rose from her bear skin couch, and bade me follow her. I
remembered her radiant countenance of the preceding evening, and my
confidence in her was restored.

We passed onward, through the narrow corridor which traversed numerous
caves, larger and smaller than the one in which we had rested. I kept
glancing furtively, right and left, expecting every moment to see the
helpless skeletons with which Nyedzviedz had tried to intimidate me.

On, on we pressed, occasionally passing the entrance to a cave that
was stored with all manner of plunder. At last I noticed that the
corridor began to widen, and suddenly my soul was rejoiced to
discover, far ahead, a faint gleam of light that became brighter and
brighter as we approached. It was daylight!

"Hurrah!" I shouted aloud, in my ecstacy clasping Madus to my heart.
"We are free! We are free!"

"Free? No, my Baran, far from it!" she returned gently and sadly. "We
are approaching our life-prison. You will soon see it."

The passage was now wide enough for the two of us to walk side by
side. We did not need the taper now, for we had sunlight from the
strip of blue sky we could see overhead. I pressed eagerly forward to
see more of it. I could have drunk in at one long breath the entire
heaven.

At last we arrived at the end of the passage between the two tall
walls of rock, and there below us lay the Viszpa Ogrod, which means:
"Island Garden."

And it is a veritable island; only, instead of water, it is
encompassed by rocks--rocks so high, and so steep, that nothing
wingless can ever hope to escape over them into the world outside.

Heaven-towering walls of basalt, naked cliffs, sheer inaccessible,
dome-shaped, and truncated, ranged one against the other in a compact
mass like the facade of a vast cathedral, environ the Viszpa Ogrod,
which, with its verdant fields, forest, fruit and vegetable gardens,
lies like a gleaming emerald in a setting of rock, at the bottom of
the deep crater.

From the dizzy heights of the cavern wall leaps a stream, that is
transformed to iridescent spray before it reaches the valley, there to
pursue its sinuous course amid the fields, gardens, and tiny white
dwellings upon which we looked down as through a misty veil.

"That is our future home," whispered Madus. "Our life-prison from
which there is no escape. To this island garden is banished all those
haidemaken who prove too tender-hearted for their cruel trade, or tire
of their adventurous life; also those who refuse to desert the women
they love. Here, the banished dwell together and till the ground--they
will never again see any other portion of the globe than this little
valley."

The Viszpa Ogrod revealed the secret of the haidemaken's power to defy
a siege. This island garden made it possible for them to defy all the
troops sent against them, for it contained an inexhaustible supply of
provisions. When the robbers discovered it, it was a wilderness of
stunted fir trees. No living creature could exist in it, for there was
no water until the brook, conducted into the cavern from the opposite
side of the defile, found an outlet into it, thence, through the
ground, into Prince Siniarsky's salt mines.

The water very soon wrought a wonderful change in the aspect of the
valley. A portion of the stunted forest was cleared, and the ground
planted with rye, vegetables, and various shrubs and plants which
throve luxuriantly in this "garden" sheltered from the cold winds by
the wall of rock. The firs left standing put forward new growth, and
became stately trees--everything, even the human beings that came to
dwell here, underwent a complete transformation.

True, those whom the haidemaken sent to the valley had already become
tender-hearted, or, weary of the wild life of the robbers; but, no
matter what the life of a man had been before he became a member of
the little community in the island garden, there he would forget the
entire world, become an entirely new being.

I speak from experience, for I, who have enjoyed a full share of this
world's pleasures--everything that can rejoice the king in his palace,
and the dreams of the prisoner in his dungeon--I never was truly happy
until I went to dwell with my beloved Madus in the Viszpa Ogrod.

A narrow path winds from the outlet of the rock-corridor down into the
valley. Madus, who was perfectly familiar with the path, led the way,
recognizing, while still at a distance from them, each occupant of the
little cottages. The children ran to meet us, and, on hearing from
Madus who I was, seized our hands, and with shouts of joy drew us
toward the village.

A bell was rung to announce our arrival. Later I learned from the
inscription on this bell that it had formerly swung in the tower of
Bicloviez monastery. Like everything else in the valley, it had been
stolen. Everything, even the beautiful cloth and silk garments which
clothed the women--nay the women themselves, were plunder.

Robber and robbed dwelt together amid plunder in harmony, happy as
Adam and Eve in Eden. They ploughed, planted, and gathered the harvest
in perfect contentment. They shared their abundance with the cavern,
and received in return plunder from all parts of the world.

As I have said before, there were no animals in the Viszpa Ogrod when
the robbers discovered it, and as it was impossible to convey
full-grown cattle through the narrow passage from the cavern, calves,
goats, and lambs instead were brought to the valley, which had become
so well stocked with everything necessary to sustain a large army,
that no potentate on earth could have reduced the haidemaken to
starvation, no matter to what length the siege might have been
extended.

The only danger which threatened the cavern was the stoppage of their
water supply. Were that cut off, the luxuriance and fruitfulness of
the valley would vanish, and it would become again an arid wilderness
uninhabitable for man and beast. This was the danger dreaded by
Nyedzviedz when the troopers began to build their wall in the defile.

The dwellers in the Viszpa Ogrod lived together like the family of
Father Abraham in the promised land. The eldest of the men was the
patriarch. He made all the laws; issued all the commands; allotted to
each one his task and share of the harvest, giving to everyone as much
as was required for the needs of himself and his household.

There was no priest in the valley. There was no Sabbath. The pleasant
days were working-days; when it rained everybody rested.

There was no praying, no cursing, no quarreling. There, where every
head of a household had once been a thief, no disputing about mine and
thine was ever heard. There, every woman--and not one of them had been
given an opportunity to vow fidelity to her mate before the altar, but
had been forcibly conveyed to the valley--was so faithful, so modest,
that no stranger could have told what was the color of her eyes.

When Madus and I arrived in the valley, Zoraw, the patriarch, prepared
for us a feast, to which were invited the rest of the community to the
number of eighty. After the feast, Zoraw conducted us to the brook,
where we drank with everyone the pledge of fraternity from a wooden
bottle of fresh water--that being the only beverage in the valley. At
the conclusion of this ceremony, the bottle was broken in pieces, to
symbolize unalterable alliance.

Then Zoraw measured off and assigned to us our plot of ground. The
entire community lent a hand, and in two days our cottage was under
roof, modestly furnished, and ready for occupancy. In the stable stood
a cow and a goat for the housewife. When we were comfortably settled
in our new home I was asked by the patriarch what manner of tools he
should give me; and finding that I should be compelled to
work--something I had never learned at school, or in the field--I
chose the trade of smith, which would at least give me the handling of
iron, without which I never felt contented.

I became accustomed in a very short time to my new mode of life. I
would work at my trade the allotted time every day, then go home to my
wife, who would tell me how the ducklings had got smothered in the
shell, how the milk had turned sour, and such like prattle. And one
day she whispered blushingly in my ear the secret which makes the
husband's heart beat faster with joy and pride. In listening to it, I
forgot everything else in the world. The thought that I was to become
the father of a family, that would grow up to know no other home but
this peaceful valley, filled my soul with joy and content. This
thought became to me what roots are to a tree; it attached me so
securely to my little plot of ground, that I felt as if no power on
earth could tear me away from it. My beloved Madus, and our little
home, became doubly dear to me. Had all the wealth, all the splendor
that came to me later, been offered me then in exchange for my Madus
and the humble little home she filled with her joyous presence, I
should have refused with scorn.


THE KOLTUK-DENGENEGI.

I had become perfectly satisfied with my peaceful and uneventful
existence. My entire world now lay within the rocky rim of the Viszpa
Ogrod. My entire happiness lay in the beaming smile with which my
Madus greeted my home-coming every day. My labors in the smithy were
always over by noon; the afternoons were devoted to work required to
be done at home.

One day I was siting in the hall-way of our cottage busily employed
fashioning, from some crimson willow withes, a pretty basket-cradle,
when a shadow suddenly shut out the sunlight from me. I looked up and
was startled to see Nyedzviedz standing in the door-way.

"You here!" I exclaimed. "Have you, too, been relegated to the Viszpa
Ogrod because of the softened heart? Or have you come here to hide
from an enemy?--Which?"

"Neither, my good Baran," answered the leader. "I am not come to stop
in this happy valley, but to fetch you away from it. We need you in
the cavern. We cannot get on without you. We are planning a most
important expedition, and need your assistance. A rich caravan is on
the road to Mohilow; it is made up of Russian, Turkish and Jew
traders, and is accompanied by a military escort. We propose to
capture this caravan, and take possession of all the treasure and
valuables, after which, we shall proceed to Berdiczov and loot the
monastery. As the monastery is strongly fortified, and garrisoned, we
shall have to batter down the walls; therefore we must take you with
us, as you are the only one who understands how to handle our field
gun. I shall appoint you second in command of the expedition."

Madus had come from the kitchen while her father was speaking. She was
not in the least glad to see him; on the contrary, she greeted him
with a frown, and demanded angrily:

"Why do you try to lure my gentle-hearted Baran away from me? He does
not need your stolen treasure. He has all he wants here in his humble
home. You buried us here--we are dead to you, therefore leave us here
in peace."

To which Nyedzviedz made answer by saying: "Baran, does the father or
the husband control the wife? If you, the husband, don't know how to
control your wife, I, her father, will show you what to do with the
woman who speaks when she is not spoken to."

I well knew what a hasty temper was the leader's, and persuaded Madus
to come with me to the kitchen, where I gently argued away her
opposition to my leaving home. I assured her it would be for our good;
that when I had got together enough money to keep us in comfort I
should return, and find a way to escape with her from the valley to
some large city, where we should be safe from the haidemaken, and
where she might sweep the dusty streets with a long-tailed silk gown,
and be addressed as "gracious lady."

This had the desired effect. She wept bitterly; but she bade me go
with her father. When I turned to cast a last look into the valley,
before we entered the rock-corridor, I could see my poor little wife's
red kerchief still gleaming in the doorway of our cottage. Her
favorite dove had flown after me to the entrance of the corridor;
there it settled down on my shoulder and began to coo into my ear. I
had to fling it away from me quite forcibly in order to frighten it
back to its mistress. My former comrades greeted me with loud cries of
welcome, and celebrated my return by a tremendous drinking-bout.

When, after my long abstention from it, I again tasted wine, I forgot
the Viszpa Ogrod and everything connected with it--as one will, when
awake, forget even the most enchanting dreams.

It is a well-known fact that the wine-drinker who abstains for a long
period from his favorite beverage, then yields again to the
temptation, becomes a more inveterate drunkard than before he resisted
the fascinations of the cup. The haidemaken drank only Tokay; they
made a point of selecting from the cellars of the prelates, and
magnates whom they plundered, only the best vintages.

The following night we set out for Mohilow, a twelve days' journey.

I am almost willing to wager that not a soul, in the region to which
we were going, really believed such a band of robbers as the
haidemaken was in existence--or, if it had ever been heard of, the
tales of its marvelous exploits were looked upon as kindred to the
fables repeated in the nursery.

As I said before, the band always traveled by night. During the day we
rested, hidden in a dense forest, or in an uninhabited valley.

We never entered a village to procure food, but carried with us
rations of dried meat, varying our diet with mushrooms collected on
the way.

On learning definitely from the scouts we had sent to reconnoiter that
the caravan was expected to reach Mohilow on a certain day, we
concealed ourselves in a swampy thicket by the side of the road over
which it would have to pass. Here we were forced to wait two days,
during which our meat gave out, and we had to eat raw frogs and birds'
eggs. The peasant carts passing along the road, with pretzels, smoked
sausages, cheese, mead and wine for the market at Mohilow, were not
molested by the hungry robbers, who would only have needed to stretch
out their hands to secure the good things for which they languished.
But the leader would not allow it.

"We are here to fight, not feast," he said.

Our patience was well nigh at an end, when, one day, the sound of a
trumpet and drum announced the approach of the caravan.

On mules, on horses, camels, and ox-carts, came the
fifteen-hundred-odd human souls, their escort, a valiant company of
soldiers in coats of mail, and helmets, and armed with halberds, and
muskets. It was a motly crowd, outnumbering our band in souls; but
inferior to us in strength.

When, at a preconcerted signal, our men dashed from the thicket, the
entire caravan fell into confusion. The soldiers fired off their
muskets, heedless where they aimed; we, on the other hand, sent our
shots where they would prove most effective.

A frightful tumult ensued--it was: save himself who can; while the
heavily laden carts and vans were left behind.

I must admit that the haidemaken behaved atrociously. Never, in all my
experience on the battlefield, did I witness such a scene of carnage.
It made me ill; I became so faint with horror and disgust I sank
unconscious to the ground.

When I came to my senses, I saw a Turkish merchant hobbling on a
crutch toward me. He was old, and seemed to have been seriously
wounded, for he was covered with blood. He came straight toward me,
and, sinking to the ground by my side, said in a pleading tone: "My
son, I beg you, take my yataghan, and cut off my head."

Your honors may believe that I was startled by so singular a request.

"I shan't do any such thing!" I replied promptly, and with decision.

"Pray do," he urged. "Cut off my head without further parley, and you
shall have this koltuk-dengenegi," which is Turkish for "beggar's
staff."

"No, Baba," I returned, with the same decision as before. "I can't cut
off your head, for I have no grudge against you. I am not an
assassin--though I do belong to the haidemaken; I was forced into
this band, much as Pilate was thrust into the _credo_--against his
will, I'll warrant!"

"Your countenance tells me, my son, that you are better than your
comrades," said the old Turk. "For that reason I ventured to ask a
favor of you. Come, hesitate no longer to perform the deed of mercy
for which you shall be handsomely rewarded. Decapitate this old body;
it will not be assassination; one can murder only a living being--so
says the Koran, the only truthful book on earth--and I cannot strictly
be called a living being. I have a deadly wound in the abdomen, and am
bound to die sooner or later. Besides, I am prepared and desire to
die. I can't flee any farther; and if I fall into the hands of your
cruel comrades I shall be horribly tortured. Therefore, I beg you to
release me from further suffering; cut off my head with this beautiful
yataghan, which shall also be yours."

But, not even then could I bring myself to grant his prayer, and
relieve him of his sufferings and his bald head.

"Leave me, Baba," I exclaimed impatiently. "If you want to get rid of
your head, cut it off yourself with that beautiful yataghan; or else,
hang yourself on one of those beautiful trees over yonder."

To this the old Turk responded with pious mien: "That I dare not do,
my son. The Koran--the only truthful book on earth--says, there are
seven hells: one underneath the other, and each one more terrible than
the one above it. The first hell is for true believers, like myself;
the second is for Christians; the seventh is for the Atheists. The
fourth, Morhut, is for those persons who commit suicide. Were I to
take my own life, I should have to descend to the fourth hell, where,
as well as in every one of the three hells above it, I should be
obliged to remain three-hundred and thirty-three years before I should
be permitted to enter paradise. Whereas, if I should lose my life at
the hands of an unbeliever like yourself, I should--so says the Koran,
the only truthful book on earth--go straightway to paradise."

And still I hesitated; though it seemed but kindness to grant the old
Turk's request, and send him speeding straightway into paradise. But,
I remembered that our Bible (really the only truthful book on earth)
says: "Thou shalt not kill;" and thrust the importunate old fellow
away from me.

But he renewed his pleading with increased urgency: "See, my son, I
will give you this koltuk-dengenegi--" "Of what use would that crutch
be to me?" I interrupted.

"If you will screw off the top you will see that the crutch is filled
with gold pieces," he replied; and to prove that he spoke the truth,
he unscrewed the shoulder rest and shook several gold coins into the
palm of his hand.

The yellow metal dazzled my eyes: "The crutch would hold a good many
coins," I said to myself, to which added the Turk's pleading voice:

"You shall have it all, my son, if you will but grant my prayer."

And still I hesitated.

"I can't do it, Baba," I said. "Even if you gave me the crutch, I
should not be allowed to keep the gold. No member of our band is
allowed to keep for his own use alone any valuables that may come into
his possession. Everything must be placed at once in the common
treasury for the use of the entire band--and woe to the haidemak who
would dare to keep for himself even a single Polish groschen! So, you
see, Baba, your gold would be of no use to me."

"Listen to me, my son," again urged the wounded Turk, who was growing
visibly weaker; "you are young; I can see that this wild life is not
suited to you. If you had my gold, you could escape to Wallachia, buy
an estate--a castle--serfs, and marry. Perhaps you already have a
sweetheart--if so, why shouldn't you live in happiness with her,
instead of skulking about in caves and swamps like a wild animal?"

This suggestion made me thoughtful. It brought back to my mind my dear
good Madus. Ah! if only I might fly with her, far away, to some region
where she might become a respected lady. If I had the Turk's gold! I
could easily keep it secreted in the crutch. Some day, when the
haidemaken were away on an expedition, I could easily stupefy the few
members of the band remaining in the cavern by drugging their mead
with Venice treacle; and when they were sound asleep I could fetch my
Madus from the Viszpa Ogrod and with her escape to a far away land.

This thought impressed itself so deeply on my mind--it became so
alluring that, unconsciously, my hand went out toward the beautiful
yataghan.

"If I thought I could keep the gold hidden!" I said, unconscious that
I had given voice to the thought.

"That will be easy enough; just leave it in the crutch," promptly
responded the Turk. "When you join your comrades make believe to have
taken cold in the swamp yonder, say that the muscles of your leg have
contracted and made you lame. That will not only give you an excuse to
use the crutch, but it will most likely get your discharge; a hobbling
cripple is not a desirable comrade in a band of robbers."

Without waiting to see how I might take his suggestion, the Turk
proceeded at once to show me how to bandage my left leg, so that it
could not be straightened at the knee; how to keep my ankle against
the crutch, and hobble along on the right leg. I thought of Madus, for
whom I would have hobbled on one leg to Jerusalem, and let him show me
how to transform myself to a cripple.

"Now, my son," he said, when he had delivered his instructions, "take
my yataghan, my beautiful yataghan, and cut off my head--only don't
hack it off as a butcher would with a cleaver. Swing the yataghan,
thus, in a half-circle--easily, gracefully, as you would the bow of a
violin. I will kneel here at your feet, bend forward, thus; then do
you strike just here: between these two segments of the vertebræ. Be
sure to keep firm hold on the handle to prevent the blade from
slipping--"

He gave me so many directions, kept on talking so long that Satan, who
is ever at one's elbow, gave my arm a sudden thrust, and, before I
knew what had happened, a body minus a head lay at my feet, while a
head minus a body was rolling down the hill--

"_Homicidium!_" dictated the chair to the notary. To this the prince
appended:

"Under extenuating circumstances. We must not ignore the fact that the
deed was committed at the urgent request of the decapitated--under
approval of the Koran, and instigated, I might say, forced, to the act
by the wicked one at the perpetrator's elbow."

"It was killing a human being, all the same!" said Hugo, "and I had
cause soon afterward to repent most bitterly what I had done. After I
had committed the bloody deed I set out to overtake my comrades. They
had secured much valuable booty which they were carrying on their
backs. When I came up with them, hobbling on one leg and leaning on my
crutch, they broke into loud laughter:

"What the devil is the matter with you?" queried the leader.

"I am all used up!" I groaned. "I killed an old Turk, whose lame leg
prevented him from running away with the rest of them; and before he
gave up the ghost he cursed me and prayed that I might be compelled to
hobble along on a crutch for the rest of my life. He had hardly got
the words out of his throat before my leg became as you see it, and I
can't straighten it."

"That comes of standing in the swamp--cold water will affect
effeminate fellows like you in that way," observed Nyedzviedz. "But
don't worry, we have among us one who understands how to cure such
maladies. Ho, there! Przepiorka, come hither."

I was frightened, I can tell you! If my leg were examined it would be
found to be in a sound and healthy condition. But there was no help
for it--I could not escape an examination. So I drew up the calf of
the leg so tightly against the lower part of the thigh that
Przepiorka, after he had tried several times in vain to straighten it
pronounced it permanently crippled.

On hearing this decision, I forgot my role and would have straightened
the leg to convince myself that it could be done; but, what was my
consternation and alarm to find that I was unable to do it. The
affliction I had pretended had come upon me in earnest! God had
punished me. I was a miserable cripple, unable to take a single step
without the koltuk-dengenegi.

How I cursed him who had left it to me in legacy!



CHAPTER II.

THE BERDICZOV MONASTERY.


"Don't worry," said Nyedzviedz again, when he saw my distress. "Don't
worry! You can still be of great service to us, even if you are lame.
We have long wanted to add to our number just such a cripple."

Then he summoned a sturdy, broad-shouldered robber and bade him take
me on his back and in this fashion I journeyed with the band, the
stronger members taking turns in carrying me.

When we arrived at Oezakover forest, where we halted to rest, the
leader said to me:

"You will leave us here, Baran, and hobble to Berdiczov as best you
can. I want you to spy out the situation there for us and get all the
information you can. Then you will return to the cavern and on the
news you bring will depend our plans of attack; I propose to capture
the monastery."

The extraordinary success of the Mohilow expedition had made our
leader so arrogant that, because he had, with three-hundred men
vanquished two-thousand, half of whom were armed, he now aspired to
nothing of less importance than a garrisoned castle.

And the wedge with which he proposed to force an entrance was my
crippled leg!

From near and far--from distant lands even, all manner of crippled
folk, and invalids afflicted with divers maladies, journeyed to
Berdiczov in search of healing. The indigent limped and hobbled on
crutches to the miracle-working spot; the well-to-do rode on mules;
the peasant was trundled in a barrow by his sturdy spouse; the
tradesman travelled in his two-wheeled ox-cart; and the magnate was
borne in his sedan-chair by his servants.

Berdiczov monastery was the property of the Premonstrant monks. It
stood on an elevation in the center of a charming valley. It was
strongly fortified, and surrounded by thick walls, which were
protected outside by a deep moat and palisades.

A thermal spring at the foot of the hill fed the moat and turned the
wheels of a grist mill. The only entrance to the monastery was over a
narrow drawbridge that spanned the moat at its deepest part. The
multitude of visitors to the healing spring found lodgings in the
little village outside the walls of the monastery; and only one
hundred worshippers at a time were permitted to enter the chapel
inside the gates. If the crowd gathered at the drawbridge at the hour
for services exceeded that number then mass was celebrated all day
long, one hundred of the faithful entering at one door, as the hundred
that had worshipped passed out by the other. Day and night guards
armed to the teeth patrolled the walls and the court-yard; and no
visitor was allowed to enter with weapons of any sort, for enormous
wealth lay heaped within the walls of the monastery. When I saw the
heaps on heaps of valuables in the treasure-chamber, I no longer
wondered that Nyedzviedz desired to possess it. There was a massive
altar of pure silver, the gift of King Stanislaus; golden alms basins,
engraved with the name and history of the donor, Count Leszinsky;
images of saints with mosaics of priceless gems; golden chalices;
shrines glittering with rubies and diamonds; gemmed thuribles; antique
crowns which had once adorned crania twice the size of the heads of
our day; costly reliquaries; and, amid all this splendor, countless
numbers of crutches and staves, the votive offerings of the afflicted
who had found healing in the waters of the spring.

The crutches and staves were the first objects to attract my eye, and
I said to myself: "How gladly would I add to this collection the old
Turk's koltuk-dengenegi with all its gold, could I but find healing
for my crippled leg."

When the choral began, I can't describe the feeling which took
possession of me as I listened to the beautiful melody. I had no
thought then for the treasures of gold and silver--no glance for
anything but the image of the saint above the altar. I could not
escape from the reproachful eyes it fixed on me. I felt that it was
reading all the wicked thoughts in my breast. But, as I listened to
the beautiful music, all the evil intentions I had brought with me to
the monastery faded from my heart; and when the last sounds died away,
there was not, in all the devout company, a more bitterly repentant
wretch than I. When the service was concluded, the worshippers passed
in front of the prior to receive his benediction. The prior was a
venerable saint with a flowing white beard; his countenance expressed
infinite goodness and benevolence.

We had been told not to offer any gifts to the monks on entering the
monastery; but to leave whatever we might think fit to bestow, on
departing.

The venerable prior dispensed his blessing to all alike. He did not
inquire if the recipient were a believer, or a heretic. Christians,
Jews, Mohammedans, all alike, received the godly man's benediction.

I quitted the chapel wholly repentant. I had completely forgotten the
errand on which I had been sent. Not once did it occur to me that I
was there as a spy, to examine the walls, the mortars, to learn the
strength of the garrison.

I took my place in the procession of cripples, and hobbled along with
them, mumbling the prayers prescribed for us.

When we arrived at the miracle-working spring, I and my
fellow-sufferers were undressed and placed on rafts in the water--rich
and poor alike, no distinction was made between the magnate and the
beggar.

I can't say exactly how long I remained in the water; but when I came
out, the crook had left my leg, it was straight and sound as before I
came into possession of the old Turk's crutch.

"Miraculum! Miraculum!" shouted the entire company; while I wept like
a little child, for joy and gratitude.

With my crutch over my shoulder, instead of under it I returned to the
prior, who received me with a benignant smile.

I knelt at his feet and asked him to receive my confession. I told him
every thing; that I was there at the behest of the haidemaken leader
to spy out the strength of the fortifications and the garrison; that
the band was preparing to assault the monastery, so soon as they
should hear from me; that they intended to bring with them a powerful
field-gun, with which to force a breach in the walls through which the
four-hundred fearless robbers would enter and overpower the soldiery.
When I had concluded, and the prior had given me absolution, he said:

"Now, my son, go back to those who sent you here and tell them what
you have learned. Let them come with their field-gun, and do you come
with them. When you are ordered to bombard the walls, do you obey--"

"What? father;" I interrupted in astonishment. "You advise me to do
that?"

"Yes. On the bombardier depends the effect of the bombardment! It
rests with him to aim well, or ill! Better you at the gun than
another!"

I understood the sagacious reply, and said:

"I shall take good care not to aim well, father."

"On you, my son, will it depend that the relief troops I shall send
for reach here in time to save us from the robbers."

"And you may rest assured, father, that I shall know how to prolong
the siege!"

As a pledge that I would keep faith with him I gave him my crutch,
gratitude also prompting the gift, for, not even a gold-filled crutch
is too great a price to pay for a sound leg!

"I will keep it for you, my son," said the benevolent sage. "If you
succeed in averting the danger which threatens us you shall have the
crutch back, and something in addition--something of more value than
gold: aid to reform. Take this image of the Holy Virgin to your wife
with my blessing."

A changed man at heart, I returned to the cavern, where, however, I
was forced again to tell untruths, in order to deceive the robbers.
But it was for a good cause.

My comrades received me with gratulatory shouts when they saw me
walking on two healthy legs. I told them I had been healed by
magic--by the incantations of a witch, and they believed me! Had I
told the truth, and that I had received the blessing of the prior, it
would have made them suspicious.

We now held a council of war, at which I delivered my report. I knew
from experience that, to gain credence for a lie, one must invest it
with a modicum of truth. Therefore, I described, without deviating one
iota from the truth, the treasures I had seen, and even added to
them--as, for instance: I said there were barrels filled with gold and
silver, which made the robbers' mouths water. Nyedzviedz was full of
ambitious plans. He intended, so soon as he got money enough, to
combine under his leadership all the predatory bands in the Carpathian
region, and with them invade and plunder the wealthy Galician cities,
castles, and monasteries. He felt confident that the common people
would be glad to aid in plundering the prelates and nobles.

I described the fortifications of Berdiczov monastery as almost
impregnable, when the truth was, that I could, with the culverin, have
battered down the walls the first day while the rusty old mortars
would do little damage among the beleaguerers. I ascribed to the prior
the strategic talents of a field-marshall. My description of the moat,
with the formidable palisades concealed under the water, quite
discouraged the robbers from the plan they had made to swim across it,
and storm the walls.

Indeed, I told such astounding tales about the powder mines under the
walls and moat, that their confidence in me became absolute when I
sketched my plan of assault. I proposed to batter the fortifications
in such a manner, that the _debris_ would fall into and fill up the
moat, which would enable us to cross it without injury, and enter
through the breaches I had made in the walls. I won the leader's favor
and approval to such an extent that he committed the entire conduct of
the important expedition into my hands.

At the conclusion of the council, I asked as a special favor to be
allowed to spend a day with my beloved Madus before we set out on the
expedition.

Nyedzviedz at first was unwilling to consent. "I know," he said, "just
how women-folk are. It is best for a soldier to have nothing to do
with them. Their tears are sure to melt a soft heart."

But I persisted in my request, and at last received permission to
visit the Viszpa Ogrod.

It was a beautiful autumn afternoon when I descended the steep path to
the secluded valley. While yet some distance from our little cottage,
I heard my Madus singing sweetly--I can hear her now, and see her as
she came joyfully to meet me.

How happy she was!

The poor child believed I had come to stop, and as I did not want to
cloud her joy, I put off until the moment of my departure, telling her
that I was again to accompany her father on a distant expedition.

One day at least I would spend happily. So, I let my Madus tell me all
that had happened in the valley during my absence; I heard also how
much dried fruit, how many smoked trout, how many cheeses, she had in
store for the winter; how many yards of beautiful linen she had woven
from the flax she had cultivated with her own hands.

Last of all, she exhibited, with blushing cheeks, her little
treasures: cunning little caps, and jackets, at sight of which my
heart leapt for joy in my bosom. She confided to me in a whisper that,
when Christmas should arrive, her Bethlehem crib would have received
its occupant.

Oh, how gladly would I have remained with her! But it could not be. I
had more ambitious plans for her. I was bent on escaping with her to
the great world, where she should--as she deserved--become a fine
lady.

After she had told me everything about herself, she asked me to relate
what I had done while absent. When I told her how successful the
expedition had proved, I found that the Madus who tended her doves
and made cheeses in the Viszpa Ogrod, was vastly different from the
Madus who had once accompanied the haidemaken expeditions. She grew
pale with horror when I described the slaughter of the caravan; and
the occurrence which resulted in my becoming the inheritor of the old
Turk's crutch, and a lame leg. She became more composed, however, when
I told her about the marvelous cure at the healing spring; and quite
recovered her composure when I gave her the image of the Holy Virgin
the prior had sent her. Ah me! that image was her death, as well as
her salvation.

The next morning I told her I had to leave her again. She sought with
tears and caresses to dissuade me from going. She clasped her arms
around my neck, then flung herself at my feet, and clasped my
knees--she seemed unable to control her wild despair.

I have often thought since that the poor child had a presentiment she
would never again behold me in this life.

I sought in vain to comfort her; in vain I assured her that I would
never leave her again after I returned from this expedition, from
which I hoped to secure what would enable me to establish a home for
her in some large city. She was inconsolable.

She accompanied me to the entrance to the rock-corridor, and would
have gone clear to the cavern, had not her father met us just as we
were entering the passage. He frightened her by saying it would be
unsafe to venture among the haidemaken in her condition, as all
robbers entertained the superstitious belief that the fourth finger
from the hand of an unborn babe rendered the possessor invulnerable to
bullet and sword.

Nyedzviedz would not even allow a last embrace, but thrust us roughly
apart; and forced me to precede him into the corridor. I kept looking
back from time to time, so long as the entrance remained in sight. My
Madus stood, looking after me, in the circular opening of the rocky
wall; she seemed like a saint encompassed by a halo of light, and as
the corridor grew darker and more gloomy the radiant image at my back
increased in brilliance until a sudden turn hid the beautiful vision
from my sight.

That same evening we set out for Berdiczov--four-hundred haidemaken,
with the culverin.


CHRISTMAS.

It was early Autumn when we began the siege, which I conducted in so
skillful--from my point of view!--a manner, that December found us
still outside the walls of the monastery. Three times I changed the
position of our assaulting forces; but took good care every time to
select a point far enough from the walls to prevent our shots from
damaging them to any considerable extent.

Nyedzviedz kept urging me to a nearer approach: he said we were so
distant, that the cannon-balls from the fortifications had to roll
over the ground to reach our lines. So, one day, after he had examined
the ground, and discovered what he believed to be a more advantageous
position, I was forced, in order not to rouse his suspicions, to
comply with his request. While superintending the throwing up of
intrenchments the first night I managed to secrete under the
earth-works a keg of powder, and in the morning I told the leader that
extreme caution would be necessary, now that we were so much nearer to
the fortifications, as the monks were having powder-mines laid under
our breast-works. I had heard peculiar noises during the night, I told
him, and, suspecting what was being done, I had scattered a few peas
on the head of a drum standing on the ground. The lively dancing of
the peas had convinced me that my suspicions were correct.

But the leader was incredulous. He decided to take observations for
himself; and would spend the following night in the trenches, when he
could also watch the result of our bombardment. This would make it
impossible for me to carry out my plans for exploding the keg of
powder hidden in the breast-works. But, I was not to be outdone. I
happened to remember an expedient I had once employed with success,
and resorted to it again: I drew the fuse through a long reed, one end
of which I thrust into the keg.

I had to be very cautious; for Nyedzviedz had a nose that could smell
a match cord at long range; but with the fuse inside the reed, I could
prevent the fumes from getting into the range of his olfactor.

The powder exploded at the right moment, just when the leader was
bending eagerly over the breast-work to peer after a bomb. After the
smoke and dust cleared away, I drew him from under the heap of earth,
from which only his legs protruded. He had not been injured in the
least, but all desire to assault the enemy at so close a range had
fled, and I was allowed to return to our former position, on the brow
of a hill, a considerable distance farther from the fortifications.

I consoled the dissatisfied haidemaken with the assurance that, when
the real cold weather of winter should set in, the moat would freeze
over; then it would be an easy matter to storm the walls at close
range. I did not think it necessary to tell them that the warm spring
would prevent the water in the moat from freezing. In the meantime
came Christmas--an anxiously longed-for day in many respects. With the
dawn of Christmas morning came a furious snow-storm, the north wind
flinging down on us such masses of flakes that it was impossible to
see ten steps away.

It was just the sort of weather I had calculated on. The bombardment
had to cease, as the monastery was completely hidden from view behind
the veil of snow. The haidemaken retired to their tents, and amused
themselves, gaming with dice and cards, for what stakes do you
imagine? They had no money, remember! Why, the winner paid, and the
loser received, a box on the ear! I hadn't any fondness for the game
myself; but my comrades seemed to enjoy it hugely.

While gaming, drinking, cursing, were going on in the other tents, I
sat in my own, alone, and silent, pondering over my past years. I
recalled the different anniversaries of the blessed day, beginning
with the first I could remember when, held in my mother's arms, I
removed from the Christmas-tree my first ginger-bread doll, which I
was loath to eat because of its beautiful golden hue.

Then, my thoughts turned to the humble cot in the Viszpa Ogrod; and I
wondered, with a strange trembling in my bosom, if the little
Bethlehem crib, my Madus had prepared for the reception of a precious
occupant, now held its treasure.

The monastery bells were ringing for the Christmas service; on the
bastion a long procession of monks with innumerable lamps was moving
toward the chapel.

The wind was driving the clouds across the sky, and hundreds of
witch-forms rioted above the camp, in the faint light which came from
a mist-veiled moon.

The snow-fall had ceased; only the wind, which was scattering the
storm-clouds, still swept with unabated vigor across the plain,
packing the fine snow more compactly together.

Suddenly, amid the noise of carousing and shouting which came from the
neighboring tents, I heard a sound that made me drop quickly to my
knees, and lay my ear close to the ground. At last! At last! They were
coming! I could hear distinctly the hoof-beats, when they crossed the
rocky road from which the wind had swept the snow. Then, the sound
ceased--they were come to the plain where the snow muffled the noise
of the hoofs. Duke Visznovieczky's dragoons were approaching at a
brisk trot to the assistance of Berdiczov monastery.

I did not wait for them to come up. In the dark all cows are black! I
said to myself: "It will be useless to try to convince the dragoon
who raises his sword against me that I am this one, and not the other
one!" So I wrapped myself in my mantle, slipped from the tent, and ran
fleetly toward the monastery.

When I paused to look back, after the relief troop had begun the
attack on the robber camp, I saw the witch-dance I had seen earlier,
it had descended to the earth, and with it was joined a tumult of
demons; of black forms, and white, darting hither and thither; of
furious sword cuts; frenzied cries; mad flight, and swift pursuit!

The early morning assault was successful. The dragoons routed the
haidemaken without a shot. What became of my comrades I cannot say,
for I continued on my way to the monastery, where I shouted myself
hoarse before the draw-bridge was lowered to admit me.

Early mass had just been concluded. The monks with their tall
candlesticks, chanting a psalm of praise, led the procession returning
from the chapel; the cripples hobbling in the rear, hummed the
antiphony. But, hei! didn't the devout company break ranks quickly
when I appeared before them with the announcement:

"Duke Visznovieczky's dragoons are come, and have attacked the
haidemaken camp!"

The psalm-singing ceased at once; and, instead, everybody was
shouting: "To arms! To arms!"

Even the canopy-bearers left the prior in the middle of the
court-yard, and ran to fetch their arms; while the cripples hopped
about on one leg and brandished their crutches and staves.

By this time we could see that the beleaguerers were fleeing before
the dragoons in every direction. The valiant burgers who, at the
beginning of the siege, had taken refuge in the monastery, could now
no longer repress their heroic feelings. Seizing whatever would serve
as a weapon, the brave fellows dashed across the draw-bridge and sped
toward the field of battle; the reverend fathers followed at a more
dignified pace; the cripples brought up the rear, and assisted the
worthy burgers to complete the work of destruction begun by the
dragoons, by cutting off the feet of those haidemaken who had already
been decapitated.

Whether Nyedzviedz had succeeded in escaping the fate of many of his
comrades, I could not learn then; nor did I care! I was too thankful
that I had been spared from destruction and delivered from the clutch
of the robber-band. Therewith ended my career as a haidemak.

The prisoner here paused in his confession, feeling that he, as well
as the court, needed a rest.

"I am inclined to believe," observed the prince, "that the accused
rehabilitated himself through his valiant act. So much as he sinned,
so much he made good! He was healed by a miracle of God; therefore, it
behooves us earthly judges to consider well before we pass sentence
where the Heavenly Judge granted absolution."

To this the chair, with obvious irritation, made reply: "If your
highness intends to permit this malefactor to extenuate, in a like
manner, all the rest of his misdeeds, when he gets to the end of the
list we shall feel that he deserves canonization instead of
punishment."



PART III.

IN THE SERVICE OF THE DUKE.



CHAPTER I.

MALACHI.


The next day the prisoner continued his confession:

My experience at Berdiczov monastery, my deliverance from destruction,
as well as the miraculous restoration of my crippled limb, decided me
to adopt the faith of the holy brotherhood.

Their solemn ceremonies, their elevating devotions, their piety, made
a deep impression on me; but the most comforting to me of all their
rites was that of the confessional.

It was such a comfort to unbosom myself to one in whom I could trust
implicitly; to confide in him all the secrets that tortured my dreams
by night, and my thoughts by day. And then, to receive absolution--to
get back, as it were, the bond I had given to Satan!

One day was not long enough for all I had to tell. I could have spent
every day of the week in the confessional, pouring into the ear of the
good Father Agapitus the sins which burdened my conscience. And one
day I confessed, too, that I was becoming weary of the life in the
monastery, where there was nothing to do but tend to the sick all day
long; and that I wanted to go back to the world--if not to my former
sinful life.

After I had confessed, I ventured to ask the worthy father to
recommend me to some Polish noble, with whom I should have little work
and much amusement. There were many such places, I said, where the
services of a man of my stamp were required.

"My dear son," returned the worthy father, "I cannot recommend you to
a Christian man of the world, for, although I could tell him that you
are a pious confrater now, I could not say that you have always been
honest. I know just the contrary, and I cannot give false witness. But
I will do what I can for you. Here is the crutch you left with us--the
gold is still in it. Take it, garb yourself in beggar raiment, and
limp to Lemberg, where lives a Master Malachi in the Jewish quarter of
the city. You need only to inquire for him, and you will be directed
to his house. He is a wicked man, in league with Satan. He deserves to
have been sent to the scaffold long ago--and he will get there should
the Inquisition be established. Malachi is the man for your needs.
Tell him what you require, he will understand you--especially if you
tell him what your crutch contains!"

I could understand clearly that a pious man like Father Agapitus could
do nothing for me--so notorious a sinner! He could not give me a
letter of recommendation, with false dates; it was enough if he
directed me where to find an accomplished counterfeiter, who could
supply my wants. So, I kissed his hand in gratitude; bade him
farewell, and, with my crutch under my shoulder, set out for Lemberg,
begging my way so that no one should suspect that I carried in my
crutch the wherewith to pay for food and lodging.

When I arrived in Lemberg I repaired at once to the Jews' quarter,
where the streets are so narrow two wagons cannot pass one another.
Directly I entered the principal thoroughfare, which seemed a
veritable rag-fair from one end to the other, I was surrounded by a
swarm of noisy children.

I took from my pocket a denarius, held it up before them, and said I
would give it to the lad who would conduct me to the house of Malachi,
whereupon the youngsters began to quarrel as to which of them should
become the possessor of the coin. The largest scamp among them, who
succeeded by force of his superior size and strength to vanquish his
fellows, offered himself as guide.

He led me a pretty chase, through numerous byways and alleys, where
there was hardly room for two persons to pass, to a shop in front of
which was sitting an aged dame, with her cap drawn down to her
eyebrows.

Said my guide, after I had placed the denarius in his hand:

"This woman knows where Malachi lives--she will tell you;" and before
I could stop him, the little rascal was off down the street as fast
as his legs could carry him.

I turned to the crone, who kept nodding her old head as if she were
assenting to anything I might say to her, took from my pocket a
_Marien-groschen_, and holding it toward her, said:

"Here, mother, this pretty coin shall be yours if you will direct me
to Malachi's house."

She nodded--as much as to say "very good;" rose from her chair,
shuffled into the shop, where she filled a small vial with red Polish
brandy. This she handed to me with one hand, at the same time
extending the other for the money.

"I don't want brandy--I want to know where Malachi lives?" I shouted
at the top of my voice.

The dame trotted back into the shop and brought a bottle of green
Russian brandy.

The little scamp had left me to deal with a deaf woman! When I bawled
into her ear for the third time the name of Malachi, she fetched from
the shop a packet of insect powder which she offered in exchange for
the _Marien-groschen_.

Then I bethought me of an expedient which is usually successful in
like cases: I took from my pocket a crown and held it toward the dame.
This cure for deafness proved effective.

"Oh, you want to find Malachi?" she said in a cautious whisper,
nodding understandingly. "Follow me."

She closed and locked the shop-door, opened a little gate at the
corner of the house, led me across a vegetable garden hung with
soiled clothes; across a second; thence through a narrow passage,
between two old buildings, into a wood-shed; from there into a cellar;
then over a swinging bridge across an ill-smelling canal; and, lastly,
through a long, seemingly interminable corridor, at the end of which
she knocked with her staff at a wooden door, at the same time
whispering in my ear, and taking the crown from my hand:

"I can't tell you where Malachi lives; but I have brought you to the
thaumaturgus, who knows everything; he will tell you where to find
Malachi."

The door opened, and I saw before me a venerable man with silvery hair
and beard. He was blind. His tall form was enveloped in a black silk
robe girt about the waist by an oriental sash. From his garb, I
concluded that a coin of greater value would be necessary to procure
the information I desired.

"Are you the man who knows everything?" I inquired.

The old gentleman was not in the least chary of words. With great
readiness he declared that he understood the language of the birds of
the air; the speech of the beasts of the field; that he could converse
with dragons; could discover subterranean springs; could tell any man
whether or no he was the son of his father; could even understand the
tongue in which demons spake--

"But," I interrupted, "I don't want to know any of these things. If
you will tell me where Malachi lives, I will pay for the information."

"Ah, my son!" he responded, turning his sightless eyes heavenward;
"that is a difficult question to answer. There are in this world as
many Malachis as there are flowers in the field, and stars in the sky.
There are seventy-seven in this very city; a Malachi Mizraim; a
Malachi Meschugge; a Malachi Choschen; Malachi Pinkas; Malachi
Honnowas--How do I know which Malachi you want?"

"I want the one who is a--counterfeiter," I answered, with some
hesitation.

"Ah, my son!" again ejaculated the venerable sage, shaking his head
sadly, "how sorry I am to hear that you are on such evil ways! All the
Malachis with whom I have to do are honest, God-fearing men."

I saw plainly that I should have to assist the old gentleman's memory;
I pressed a gold coin into his palm. He turned it over and over in his
fingers; tested it in various ways; and, after convincing himself that
it was genuine, he delivered this apothegmatic solution of the riddle:

"My son, he whom you seek, I cannot find. I have never seen him--I am
blind. We will consult the Miracle."

He stepped back into the room, to the table, where he groped about
with his hands among the different objects, until he found a long
steel needle. This he thrust between the leaves of a heavy book lying
on the table, opened it, and placing his forefinger at the point of
the needle, where it rested on the page, said, in a prophetic tone:

"He whom the Miracle designates is Ben Malachi Peixoto, the
Portuguese--not I, but the Miracle says so."

"And where shall I find this Portuguese?" I asked.

"When you go from the door of my dwelling, you will find his directly
opposite. Knock twice, then once, then twice again, and you will be
admitted. And now, my son, go your way in peace!"

A stocky youth, with a candle, conducted me down a dark stairway,
opened the door, and I found myself in the same street from which I
had started on my quest. Malachi's house was the first one on the
corner. I had been led a tramp, for half a day, hither and thither, up
and down, through the entire Ghetto, to reach the first house in it!

I knocked on the door as I had been directed; it was opened by a
quince-colored lad. I cannot say for certain whether it was a lad or a
lass, I think, though, it was a lad. I could not understand the
language he spoke--indeed, I don't believe it was a language at all!
He conducted me up a creaking staircase, into a darkened room, in the
corner of which crouched a human form with its back to the door. He
did not turn at my entrance, but kept his face turned from me all the
time I was in the room.

In front of him was a mirror in which he could see my reflection. The
fleeting glimpse I caught of his face in the glass, told me that the
mysterious creature had no beard; his face was quite smooth, which I
believe is the fashion among Portuguese Jews; it had been embrocated
with orpiment, which eats off the hair of the beard--a Mosaic law
prohibiting the use of metal to remove hair from the face.

"Is Malachi at home?" I inquired.

"Malachi is at home; what do you want of him?"

The man spoke in the third person, so that I could not have sworn that
he to whom I addressed my inquiries was Malachi or not.

"I will tell you my errand as briefly as possible," said I. "I want to
secure a position in the household of Duke Visznovieczky, and require
a patent of nobility to certify to my noble birth. I also want an
academic testimonial; a certificate of baptism and confirmation in the
Roman Catholic Church; and, lastly, I want a letter of recommendation
from some grand duke or other, which testifies to my erudition, and
skill in all the sciences, as well as to my excellent character. Of
course I don't expect you to furnish me with all these documents for
nothing. I am willing to pay your price for them. How much do you
ask?"

The man replied to my reflection in the mirror: "Malachi's answer to
your insolent request is: You have applied to the wrong person.
Malachi does not meddle with such criminal doings. Moreover, Malachi
has nothing whatever to do with ragged beggars like yourself. If you
desire to become such a knight as you describe, and have the money to
pay for the transformation, go to Malachi's cousin, Malchus, the
tailor, who sells gentlemen's clothing. He lives on the corner of
Bethel street, beside the fountain. From him you can buy all manner of
fine raiment. Malchus will transform you to a noble knight--if you
have the money to pay for it. And now be gone from here, and don't
come back again, for Malachi is an honest man whose lips do not utter
falsehoods; his fingers have never been stained with the ink of
forgery."

Firmly believing that he was the Malachi I sought, I departed from his
house with a disappointed heart, and betook myself to Bethel street,
to the house beside the fountain, where I found Malchus the tailor. I
would at least exchange my beggar's garb for the raiment of a
gentleman.

"How glad I am to see your lordship again!" exclaimed the little man,
as I stepped into his door. "May I become as the dust of the street,
if it doesn't seem a hundred years since I saw you last! But, does
your lordship imagine I could fail to recognize the noble knight
Zdenko Kochanovszki, who, in fulfillment of a vow, journeyed on foot,
and garbed as a pilgrim, to Jerusalem and back? Have not I, Malchus
the tailor, eyes to see? I'll wager my head against a button, that
nobody but myself would recognize your lordship in those ragged
garments. Could the beautiful Persida, from whom your lordship
received the magnificent wreath at the tournament, see you now, she
would say: 'Give this ragged beggar a penny, and drive him away.' She
is a duchess now, the wife of the powerful Duke Visznovieczki. But _I_
have not forgotten your lordship; I still have the clothes your
lordship left in pledge with me--also the embroidered leather-belt
with the bag containing the documents. I kept them all, safely
concealed, for I knew your lordship, the brave and noble Zdenko
Kochanovszki, would return from the holy land and redeem his pledge."

I saw at once that I should have to accept the personality thrust upon
me by the loquacious little tailor, and call myself Zdenko
Kochanovszki; and when I found how admirably the puissant knight's
cast-off garments fitted me, I no longer hesitated to take possession
of his name also.

And that is how I became Zdenko Kochanovszki. When I was completely
garbed--and a stately mazar, I looked in the knight's habiliments!--I
asked Malchus what was to pay.

"Why, surely your lordship remembers the sum I advanced on the
clothes? Of course, I did not count in the loan the jeweled clasps
your lordship desired to be sent to the beautiful Persida; so you owe
me only a round hundred ducats--"

"A hundred ducats?" I repeated in consternation. "Why there isn't in
all Poland a waywode who can boast of so costly a suit of clothes."

Malchus smiled slyly: "That is very true, my lord, and there is not in
all Poland a magnate who can boast of more valuable documents than
those in the bag attached to your lordship's leather-belt. When your
lordship left them with me and charged me to care for them as for the
apple of my eye, I knew they must be of great importance. So I have
kept them safely concealed all these years. I don't know what the
papers contain as I can read only what I write with my own hand. I
don't understand Latin, or Greek; and I don't know how to read from
left to right; consequently your lordship may believe me when I say I
have not read the papers. Your lordship will find everything in the
bag just as when it was placed in my hands for safe keeping."

I opened the bag, and, on examining the documents, found to my
surprise and delight that they were just what I wanted. There was a
patent of nobility, with a Turk's head in the crest--(concerning the
Turk's head I might justly have appropriated it for my own escutcheon,
only I had not come into possession of it on the battlefield!) There
was also an academic certificate, from the Rector of Sarbonne, with
the baccalaureate degree; also certificates of baptism and
confirmation, signed by the bishop of Cracow; a testimonial of valor
from the imperial commander-in-chief, Montecucculi; and a pardon from
the patriarch of Jerusalem--such as are bestowed on pilgrims to the
Holy Sepulchre--all of which were the property of Zdenko
Kochanovszki--who I was!

Malchus continued to smile slyly while I was examining the documents,
and when I had read the last one he said:

"Doesn't your lordship think these handsome clothes are worth one
hundred ducats?"

I gave him a hearty slap on the back; then counted out a "round
hundred ducats." The clothes were not worth one-tenth that sum, but I
was quite satisfied with my purchase.

I was now fully equipped for my entrance to the ducal palace; as
Zdenko Kochanovszki I might without hesitation seek admittance
anywhere.

He to whom the name rightly belonged had disappeared eight years
before, and had most likely lost his life in the Holy Land, or in the
battle with the infidels in Hungary. Whoever still remembered the
beardless youth, would not wonder at the great change eight years of
hardship and danger had made in him; and would expect to find the man
a different looking person from the boy. As for my looks--I doubt if
my own mother would have recognized me.

The duke was an old man, of a girth so enormous that he was obliged to
wear a broad surcingle as support to his rotund paunch. His hair and
beard were gray on the right side, but black on the left, which gave
him a very peculiar appearance.

When I presented myself before him, he seized both my hands, and
exclaimed:

"What! Zdenko Kochanovszki back again? The devil! What a man you are
grown! Do you remember what we did at parting?"

I was confused for a moment: how was I to remember what I had never
known? However, I had to reply, so I stammered what I thought the most
probable:

"We drank to each other, your grace."

"By heaven, you are right, lad! That is what we did! But, do you also
remember our wager?"

I ventured another guess, and answered:

"Each wagered he could drink the other under the table."

"Ha, ha, ha! Right--right!" shouted his grace, embracing and kissing
me. "That's what we wagered--and the devil fly away with me if I
don't match you again this very moment! Ho, there, fetch the bratina."

The bratina is a huge golden beaker that holds two quarts. This was
brought to me, filled with Hegyaljaner wine.

Now, I had fasted for many hours, and was both hungry and thirsty, so
that it did not require much of an effort on my part to empty the
bratina at a draught--to the supernaculum!

"The devil fetch me!" roared the jovial duke. "If I had not recognized
you already, I should know you now!"

I had no difficulty drinking his grace under the table; and from that
hour I became an important member of his household.



CHAPTER II.

PERSIDA.


"_Crimen falsi_," dictated the chair to the notary.

"But"--the prince made haste to add--"But, _immediatum_, not
_spontaneum_. The accused was led to the indirect committal of the act
by the instructions of Father Agapitus; the real criminal is a Jew--it
is he who deserves the stake. Therefore, the prisoner's transgression
may be remitted."

"If this continues," grumblingly commented the chair, "the prisoner
will surely talk himself out of every one of his crimes.
Well"--addressing himself to the accused--"I don't know what to call
you, but for the time being Zdenko Kochanovszki, continue."

Under that name, your honor, resumed Hugo, I lived the most memorable
days of my life. I was treated by the duke as a good comrade and
familiar friend. We hunted together for days in the ducal forests
slaying the wild bulls and bears by the hundreds; and when we returned
to the palace the merry-making began. There would be feasting and
drinking; the most enchanting music by a band of Bohemian players; the
court-fools would amuse us with all sorts of buffoonery; and when any
of the jovial company succumbed to the beaker and tumbled under the
table the attendants carried them to bed. Not infrequently it happened
that his grace and myself would be the only two left at the table--we
being able to stand more than the others.

At times, too, I would entertain the company by relating the most
wonderful tales of my pilgrimage, which were listened to with close
attention.

In all this time I had not seen a single woman about the palace.

The grand-duchess was absent on a pilgrimage to Berdiczov, in
fulfillment of a vow. I learned from one of the guests that the duke's
marriage had not been blessed with an heir, and this was why the
duchess had undertaken the devout journey. As she knew she should be
absent several weeks, she took with her all the women servants, as
well as her ladies-in-waiting--from which I guessed the fair Persida
to be a shrewd, as well as a beautiful woman.

I waited her grace's return with no little apprehension, for, with the
exception of the grand duke himself, every one about the palace knew
that Zdenko Kochanovszki had been a devoted admirer of the lady before
her marriage. Indeed, it was said that her marriage to the rich old
duke had sent the youthful Zdenko on his pilgrimage.

That all this was unknown to his grace was certain, else the reception
accorded to me, whom he believed to be his former boon companion,
would not have been so cordial.

There would be some sport when the lady returned home.

Would she, too, see in me her quondam admirer? What would happen to me
if the eyes of a loving woman should prove more keen than those of
her husband? What would be the result if she saw through my
masquerade? If she should say: "Away with this rogue--he is a
deceiver! I know what dwells in the eyes of the true Zdenko, for I
have looked into them. These are not Zdenko's eyes."

And again: what would happen if she should believe me to be her
one-time lover? and question me as her husband had done: "Do you
remember the promise we gave to each other?" And, suppose I should be
as lucky in guessing the reply as before!

       *       *       *       *       *

The duke spoke boastfully of his dragoon's victory over the haidemaken
before the walls of Berdiczov monastery. The robbers had been mowed
down like grain; only the leader and a few of his men had escaped by
the skin of their teeth; their field-gun had been captured and the
gunner hanged on one of the tallest trees--your honors may guess that
I took good care not to deny this statement!

I praised the duke's heroism, and listened attentively to his tales
about the terrible haidemaken, as if I had never heard of them before.

At last, one fine day, the pilgrims returned from Berdiczov; and the
joyous sound of women's voices was heard in the palace. Master and man
hastened to welcome the fair ones. I alone had no one to greet.

I was very curious to see what manner of woman the beautiful Persida
might be--she for whose sake the owner of my name had gone out into
the wide world.

The duke hastened to assist her from the carriage on the arrival of
the caravan. She was very graceful--tall, with a pale face, large,
dark languishing eyes, full red lips, and coal black hair.

When her spouse pressed his moist moustache to her lips, she made a
grimace. He was overjoyed at her return. The duke's guests and
attendants welcomed the returned duchess, each in their own fashion;
the former pressed their lips to her hand; the latter kissed the hem
of her robe. I did not want my first meeting with her grace to take
place in the presence of the entire household; but the duke called me
from the hall, where I had withdrawn, and said:

"See here, my love, who is this? Look at him, and tell me if you
recognize the lad?"

I was afraid to meet the glance which scrutinized my features--I felt
that I should be compelled to blurt out:

"I am Baran, gunner of the haidemaken."

"You don't recognize him, do you?" again said the duke. "I knew you
wouldn't. 'Tis our long absent comrade Zdenko Kochanovszki."

For one single instant I saw into that woman's soul. At mention of my
name, a sudden light leapt into her eyes--a world of passion flamed
for one brief instant.

Her husband had not seen it, only I. Then the beautiful eyes became
cold again, and indifferent, and the queenly head was gravely bent in
recognition of an old acquaintance, the slender fingers were extended
for the formal kiss of greeting.

She did not vouchsafe another glance toward me, but turned toward the
duke, laid her hand on his arm, and said with sudden friendliness:

"_Comment vous portez-vous, mon petit drôle?_"

Although her grace took no further notice of me, I saw my way clear
for the future.

With the return of the duchess the household regulations underwent a
complete change. The noisy tipplers received their _congé_; the
nightly carousals came to an end. Quite a different mode of life had
been prescribed by the prior of the monastery for the ducal pair, if
they wished his blessing to have the desired effect. All fast days
were to be strictly observed; they might eat only sparingly of the
plainest food--only of those dishes which conduce to strength: snails,
frogs, and those vegetables which grow under ground.

This sort of diet, as you may guess, was not suited to the palates of
the duke's guests. One after another took his departure, until none
remained but myself; and I had become indispensable to his grace,
because of my ability to amuse him with adventurous tales.

Every evening the duchess would send for me to read aloud in a
religious book, about saints, until the duke would become sleepy. Her
grace continued to treat me with extreme reserve; she never lifted her
eyes to mine when she spoke to me, but always kept them lowered, as if
she were addressing her remarks to my boots.

She appeared to be extraordinarily pious; she would repeat a long
prayer before and at the end of every meal. She never called me by
name--always "Sir." Indeed, the only time she unbent from her frigid
reserve, was, when she patted her husband's fat, bearded cheek, or
pulled his moustache, to restore him to a good humor; but these
occasions were rare.

Before the duke retired for the night, the duchess prepared with her
own fair hands his slumber draught, the recipe for which she had
received from the prior of Berdiczov monastery. It was composed of all
sorts of costly spices--an enumeration of which I may repeat later,
should I take up the trade of concocting various potations, the
efficacy of which may not be doubted.

The chief ingredient of the duke's sleeping potion was hot, red wine;
and he was wont to smack his lips and exclaim after he had emptied the
glass:

"Ah!--my love, that has quite rejuvenated me." He would spring lightly
as a youth from his arm-chair, take his wife's hand, and gallantly
conduct her to their private chambers, leaving me to the solitary
perusal of the pious volume--to learn what had happened to St.
Genevieve, when Attila's Huns besieged Paris.

One evening we were engaged as usual with our instructive reading. The
duke and his wife were seated in front of the fire-place; I, as
always, occupied a chair at the table on which rested the ponderous
"History of the Saints and Martyrs." I had been reading for an hour
and more, how St. Genevieve had relieved Paris a second time from
famine, when the duke suddenly interrupted to say he was so thirsty he
must beg that his nightly potion be given to him at once. His wife
prepared it for him; but, instead of rising to retire to his own rooms
as usual, after he had emptied the glass, he settled himself back in
his chair, clasped his hands over his paunch, and in a few minutes his
powerful snoring again interrupted the reading.

The duchess looked at him for several moments with an indescribable
expression on her lovely face--a mixture of loathing, rage, and
contempt; then, she sprang to her feet, came swiftly toward the table
where I was sitting, and gave it so vigorous a thrust with her foot
that it toppled over and fell, together with the Saints and Martyrs,
to the floor with a loud noise. His grace did not stir; his snores
continued with unabated vigor.

Before I had recovered from my astonishment at her grace's behavior,
she seated herself on my knee and flung her arms around my neck:

"So you have come back to me, Zdenko? Tell me, do you still love me?"
she asked in a passionate whisper, at the same time making it
impossible for me to reply--

"Stop!" here interrupted the chair: "I don't quite understand how that
could be?"

"I do," promptly, and succinctly interposed the prince. "Continue,
prisoner, what happened next?"

I hardly know how to tell it, your highness. It was like a dream of
paradise! I knew that every kiss I received and returned was deceit,
robbery, sacrilege; I knew I was cheating the house which sheltered
me; the master of the house who fed me; the unknown man whose name I
bore--the woman--God--the devil--all--all. And yet, were you to ask me
what I should do were I to be placed in the same situation again, I
should reply: "Just what I did then--and if it cost me my life!"

"Hardened reprobate!" exclaimed the chair in a tone of reprimand. Then
he dictated to the notary: "_Adulterium cum stellionatum_--"

"But," hastily interposed the prince, "he did not begin it. In this
case, as in that of Father Adam: the woman was to blame. The prisoner
will continue."

I know it was a great crime--I know it very well, and it oppresses my
soul to this day, although I have received absolution for it. In that
moment of oblivion to all things earthly, the lovely Persida whispered
in my ear:

"Zdenko, if you could journey to the Holy Land for love of me you
could also endure a season of purgatory for my sake, could you not?"

Without stopping to consider, I answered:

"Certainly I could!"

"Very well, then, do not confess this sin which is half mine. Do not
confide it to priest, or saint, for no matter to whom you might
confess, misfortune would come to me as well as to you."

I promised not to confess the sin; but I went about with it weighting
my soul, much as a wounded stag roams the forest with a dart in his
vitals.

The old duke at last became so devout that he compelled every member
of his household to repair to the confessional in his private chapel,
every fast day. There was nothing to be seen of the priest who
received the penitents, but his hand, in which he held a long ivory
wand with which he would touch the penitent as a sign that absolution
had been granted.

The duke confessed first; after him the duchess; then I, the
house-friend, and major-domo of the ducal household. When my turn
came, I took my place before the lattice and said to the confessor:
"Father, will you give me your word of honor that you will never tell
what I confess to you?"

"Don't ask such silly questions, my son," he replied. "Don't you know
that the secrets of the confessional are inviolably sacred?"

"But, suppose you should tell them sometime?" I persisted.

"Then I should be burned at the stake."

"Has it never happened that a priest betrayed the secrets confided to
him in the confessional?" I asked again.

"Such a case is not on record, my son. Not even the confession of a
murderer may be revealed, though the priest knows that an innocent man
will be hanged for the crime. He dare not speak to prevent the law
from committing another murder. On the other hand, many a priest has
suffered martyrdom rather than betray the secrets confided to him. An
illustrious example is Saint Nepomuck, of whom I dare say you have
heard?"

"Yes, I have read about John Nepomucene; but are you a saint of that
order?"

"The vows I have taken, my son, are the same he took."

"That is not enough, father; you must swear to me that you will never
reveal what I tell you."

And his reverence had to yield to my importunate request before I
would make my confession to him. After he had solemnly sworn never to
reveal what I should tell him, I made a clean breast of
everything--and a rare list it was I can tell you!

At the last transgression, however, I made a pause. I remembered what
Persida had said to me. And yet, the sin I shared with her was the
very one that most oppressed my soul.

The father noticed my hesitation, and said:

"My son, you are keeping back something. You have not told me
everything. It is not likely that a stately young gentleman like
yourself lives only on caraway-soup! There are many handsome women in
this city; every one of them confesses her foibles--you, surely, are
not the only saint about here! Remember, if you withhold but a single
transgression, your tortures in purgatory will be the same as for
nine-hundred and ninety-nine."

The reverend father continued to threaten me with purgatorial fires,
until at last I confided in him the secret which was only half mine. I
had no sooner done so than I regretted it; I would have given anything
could I have recalled my words--nay, I would willingly have journeyed
straightway to purgatory, as I had told Persida I would, rather than
betray the secret we shared together. But the secrets of a sinful love
have wings--they will escape somehow.

When I bent forward to receive the reverend father's benediction, he
gave me such a thump on the head with his wand that the spot remained
sore to the touch for several days.

"He absolves one with a will, and no mistake!" I said to myself as I
rose to go my way. It occurred to me for an instant, that it would be
exceedingly comical if, instead of a priest, it had been the duke who
received my confession. I turned to look toward his grace's arm-chair,
and was relieved to see that his burly form occupied it, and that he
was wrapped in devout slumber.


THE IRON NECKLACE.

Freed from the burden of my transgressions, I proceeded to do what is
usually done by the prodigal sons who have been relieved of their old
debts--I set about at once to make new ones.

I looked forward with impatience for evening to arrive, for the hour
of instructive reading in the book of Saints and Martyrs.

On this particular evening the duke was even more friendly toward me
than usual; he jested with me, and frequently compelled me to exchange
glasses with him as a sign of his cordial friendship.

When the hour arrived for the duchess to prepare the "rejuvenating
sleeping potion," his grace became actually boisterous; his fat face
grew crimson, his rotund paunch shook like jelly, with his incessant
laughter.

"See here, comrade," he exclaimed, taking from his wife's hand the
goblet in which the hot, spiced wine was steaming, "this is a drink
of paradise! When I have emptied it into my stomach, I fly direct to
paradise--not the one described by our holy men, where all the men are
old, and all the women pious; where there is neither eating nor
drinking and where there are no amusements save harp-playing and psalm
singing--no, I fly straightway to the improved paradise of the
Mohammedans, where there is wine to drink and women to admire. There
an enchanting Greek _Hetäre_ offers you the wine of Cyprus; the Roman
bacchante offers Falernian wine; the Spanish donna serves Maderia; the
Lesbian siren gives you nectar; the Persian bayadere brings Shiraz;
the Wallachian fairy, Tokay; and the negress Abelera dips up sparkling
Bordeaux in the hollow of her dusky palm and holds it to your
lips--each more beautiful than the other, until at last you cannot
decide which of the wines is the most delicious. That is _I_ cannot,
for you have not yet made the journey. But you shall; for are not we
good comrades--you and I? Is it not meet that I should let my heart's
brother enjoy paradisal delights with me? To be sure it is! Very good!
You shall go in my stead this very evening to Mohammed's paradise--but
only this once, mind you! Here, take the glass, empty it to the
dregs!" I was exceedingly embarrassed; I looked questioningly toward
the duchess, who was seated on the arm of her husband's chair. He
could not see her nod her head as if to say, "Do as you are bid."

I took the goblet and emptied it to the dregs. Almost immediately I
was overcome by a languor that seemed to transform my material body
to vapor. I rose from the earth to the clouds which assumed the most
fantastic shapes; on and on the breeze wafted me; over enchanting
regions, amid talking trees and singing fruits; across a sea of
radiant light swept by waves of harmony--amid music, and color, and
perfumes, the quintessence of sweetness, amid gorgeous flames which
became forms of transcendent loveliness: Delilah; Bathsheba; Salome;
Laïs; Aspasia; Cleopatra; Semiramis; Circe; and the dusky Atalanta.
The seductive forms gathered around me; they pressed toward me,
smiling alluringly. They thrust on to every one of my fingers rings
that glittered with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, until my hands became
so heavy I could not lift them. Their embraces strangled me; their
kisses burned on my face and neck like fire; the dusky Atalanta's
coral lips drew the blood from my veins--

"Are you never going to waken from your satanic dream?" impatiently
interrupted the chair.

"Let him dream--it is rather pleasant," interposed the prince; but
Hugo said:

"I am awake. The place in which I found myself, when I opened my eyes,
was not Mohammed's paradise, but an underground dungeon, the walls of
which were dripping with moisture. The flickering light of a small
lamp faintly illumined the narrow cell; and the rings which weighted
my hands were heavy iron chains that creaked and clinked every
movement I made. The kisses which burned on my face and neck were not
from the lips of Delilah, Circe, and the rest; but from those
horrible hundred-legged creatures, scolopendra, which covered my body;
and the dusky Atalanta, who drew the blood from my neck, was nothing
less than a hideous vampyre. The embraces which strangled me were not
from the white arms of enchantresses, but from an iron band two inches
thick and three fingers wide, fastened about my neck, and secured to a
ring in the wall by a chain, that was only long enough to allow me to
reach and convey to my mouth the mouldy bread and jug of water placed
by my side--"

"Served you right, you godless miscreant!" interpolated the chair in a
severe tone. "You got your just deserts at last!"

At first--continued the prisoner--I consoled myself with the foolish
thought that I was still under the influence of the sleeping potion. I
remembered that those persons who eat the flesh of sharks are said to
have such dreams: delightful visions at first, followed by the
tortures of martyrdom.

But the iron neck-band was too painful a reality for me to remain long
in doubt as to whether I was awake, or dreaming. The cold, hard, heavy
ring betrothed me to death!

How long a time I passed in thinking over what had happened I can't
say; there was no night, no day, in that dungeon; nor was I told by
sleep and hunger when it was midnight or noon.

The lamp in my cell was a perpetual one, for the oil did not grow
less; it was there, doubtless, to reveal to me all the horrors of my
surroundings. Reptiles, all manner of creeping and crawling creatures
moved over the stone floor and walls; vampyres hung in rows from the
ceiling, watching me with their garnet eyes, ready to flash down on me
the moment I lost consciousness in sleep.

At last a sound roused me from the stupor into which I had fallen; a
key turned in the lock, the iron door opened, and a tall man, whose
face was hidden by a capuchin, entered, with a jug of water and a loaf
of bread.

"Well, my lad," he exclaimed, on seeing that I had not touched the
bread or the water by my side. "Do you propose to starve yourself?"

His voice sounded strangely familiar; I did not have to trouble my
brain guessing where I had heard it before; he pushed back his
capuchin, and I recognized the haidemaken priest who had performed the
ceremony of confirmation over me in the cavern.

"You are the haidemaken pater?" I whispered hoarsely, not trusting
myself to speak aloud.

"Then you recognize me, do you?" he returned, laughing. "I had an idea
you would deny all knowledge of our former comradeship."

"Are you the gaoler here?" I asked.

"The gaoler?" he repeated, laughing again. "Not by a good deal! I am
the court-confessor!" He sat down on the stone seat to which I was
chained, and continued: "I dare say you are curious to learn how I
come to be here? Well, when the duke's dragoons attacked the
haidemaken at Berdiczov, I hastily donned my chasuble and capuchin,
trusting to the vestments to save my life, which they did; but I was
taken prisoner and brought to the duke. I could not deny that I was a
haidemak, but his grace evidently had use for a person like myself,
for he said to me: "You deserve to be hanged, reverend father, but I
will spare your life on condition that you accept a proposition I
shall offer you: I want you to act the part of court-confessor for a
season, to receive the confessions of those persons I shall send to
you. I suspect my wife of infidelity, but cannot find out who is the
partner of her guilt. They both confess to the court-chaplain I have
no doubt, but he is an honest old saint who would let himself be torn
to pieces rather than betray the secrets confided to him in the
confessional. Now, you are of a different pattern; it will not matter
to you if the fires of purgatory are heated a few degrees hotter for
your purification. If you don't accept my conditions you will have the
opportunity at once of testing the temperature of purgatory; if you
accept you shall have a respite. What do you say? Will you become my
court-confessor?"

"You may believe, lad, that I would have acceded to a much more
difficult proposition in order to save my neck from the gallows; so I
became confessor to the ducal household. When I saw you coming toward
the confessional I recognized you at once, and guessed that you would
have some pretty sins to get rid of. I was not surprised when you told
me of your sinful dalliance with the beautiful young duchess; and
quite envied your good fortune. I said to myself, 'I will not betray
the lad; but make him do penance for the sin,' so I ordered you to put
seven dried peas in each shoe and journey on foot to the shrine of
the Holy Virgin at Berdiczov. Had you been content to do as I bade
you, you would not be here now; but you began to haggle with me about
the peas--you urged me to let you boil them before you put them into
your shoes; and, to win my indulgence, you told me of the good turn
you had done the monks of Berdiczov by betraying the haidemaken into
the hands of the duke's dragoons. Ha! but didn't I want to fly at your
throat when I heard that! I wanted to strangle you, I was so enraged
to hear that it was you who had betrayed us and frustrated our fine
plans to secure the monks' treasure. However, I contented myself with
giving you a sound rap on the head and straightway communicated to his
grace what you had confessed. You have got for your reward the entire
ducal property, for you are chained to it so securely you cannot get
away from it."

The next query I put to the cursed haidemaken priest was: "What has
been done with the duchess?"

"You need not trouble yourself about her highness, my son; the duke is
too shrewd a man of the world to make public the disgrace of his
house. The beautiful Persida does not know that she has been betrayed.
The causes assigned for your incarceration are forgery; the usurpation
of the name of a noble knight; and for being a member of a robber
band--for all of which you deserve death. That you have been condemned
to suffer a hundred deaths for your dalliance with the lovely Persida,
instead of only one for the transgressions assigned, no one will ever
know. As for the duchess: one of these fine days she will, after
eating a peach or a pear, get a severe colic that will result in her
death. The funeral ceremonies in the Vieznovieczky palace will be most
imposing--and that will be the end of her grace. It might come to
pass, however, that the obsequies of his grace might precede those of
the duchess. It depends on which of the ducal pair gets the better of
the other! But, you have only yourself to think of, my son. I am here
to offer you one of two alternatives: Ask to be tried before a court
which will sentence you to immediate death on the wheel--unless the
duke out of compassion for a good comrade orders your head to be cut
off. The other alternative is: Elect to remain in this hole, chained
to the wall, battling with vermin while you live, and becoming food
for them when the breath leaves your body. _Tertium non datur._"

To this I made answer that I preferred to be executed without delay,
even were I to be broiled on a gridiron over a slow fire. I was quite
ready to die.

"Very well, my son, then I will proceed at once to administer to you
the last sacraments--"

"Go to the devil!" I cried furiously, when he approached me with the
wafer he had taken from his pocket. "I won't have any more of your
cursed mummery. You are no better than I am--you too are sure to go to
hell!"

"That is more than likely, my son," responded the accursed priest
composedly. "The only difference between us is in the manner of our
journeying thither. You will travel on foot--I on wheels. So, don't
you think it would be well to let me give you a lift on the way? With
the heavy pack of sins on your back you might hang on to the
tail-board of my wagon!"

I could not help but laugh at the rascal, so I said: "Very well, if
your blessing will help me over the road more quickly, go ahead and
let's have it!--and may the devil fly away with you!"

He thrust the wafer down my throat and I had hardly got it comfortably
swallowed when I fell into a deep sleep. The wafer contained a
powerful narcotic.


THE WHITE DOVE.

In my death-like sleep I still saw the dungeon walls, still felt the
iron fetters on neck, hands and feet. Instead of the tiny lamp flame,
however, which had only dimly lighted the musty cell, a radiant light
now filled it--a light that came from overhead. When, with great
difficulty, I lifted my face toward the ceiling, I beheld an ethereal
form bending above me; her white garments gleamed like snow under
brilliant sunshine; her blue mantle was like the starry sky of
evening. The coronet above her brow was like the crescent moon. The
face was so radiant I could not look at it--my eyes were dazzled as
when I gazed into the noon-day sun. The radiant vision held on her
right arm an infant; the forefinger of its right hand was pressed
against its lips. I believed the Holy Virgin had descended to me; but
when the vision came nearer to me, kissed me, and called me by name,
then I knew that it was my Madus--my poor deserted, forgotten Madus!

I was so ashamed of the fetters which bound me. If she should ask why
I wore them, how could I reply? "I wear them because of the beautiful
woman who caused me to forget you."

But she did not ask any questions; she smiled tenderly, and said in
her gentle tones:

"My poor Baran! How unhappy you seem! Cheer up--we are come to help
you--to release you. My home is now in paradise--I will tell you how I
came to dwell there. On Christmas eve, I was kneeling in front of the
holy image you brought to me from Berdiczov, expecting every minute
the arrival of the little guest for my Bethlehem crib, when I heard a
familiar step outside the cottage. It was my father. I hurriedly
snatched the blessed image from the table to hide it, for I knew the
sight of it would anger him; but I was seized with such a terrible
pain in my heart I had to press the image against it with both hands.
I hardly recognized my father. His face was fearfully cut, and
mutilated; one eye was gone. "Your precious Baran betrayed us," he
gasped, glaring at me with the remaining eye. I opened my lips to
speak for you, but before I could utter a word he said again: "You are
his accomplice, you miserable creature! What are you hiding in your
breast?" I could not lie, so I told him it was the image of the
Blessed Virgin. "A gift from the Berdiczov monks I'll warrant!" he
shrieked, seizing my hair and flinging me on the floor. I heard the
keen blade of his cimeter hiss through the air--then, it seemed as if
the sky fell over me. The next instant I found myself in paradise,
with every pain changed to bliss. I may not reveal to you the secrets
of that blessed realm, my Baran. I may only tell you that our little
child is with me--he was born in heaven. This is he--he is come to
save his father from death."

As she spake these words the child bent toward me and took hold of the
chains which bound my feet and hands. They fell asunder at his touch.
But the iron band around my neck was too wide for his tiny fingers to
clasp; it was impossible for him to break it. But he did what
twenty-four horses could not have done: with one pull he drew from the
wall the iron ring to which the neck-band was secured by a chain.

"My blessed child!" I exclaimed, kissing the little hands. "If your
strength is so great, then seize hold of my hair, and bear me with you
to your home above the clouds."

The little one laid his finger against his lips as a sign that he
could not, or dared not speak; but the mother answered for him:

"No, my good Baran, you cannot come to us. Before that will be
possible you will have to endure many more trials in this world of
shadows. You will have to abide here until you shall have performed a
good deed for which some one will say to you: 'God reward you.' One
single good deed, my Baran, will do more toward winning paradise than
a hundred pilgrimages, or a thousand prayers."

How sinful I am, your honors, is proved by the fact that I am still
alive; and as it is not likely that I shall have an opportunity to
perform the deed, which will call down on me a blessing from heaven, I
shall never again behold my little angel son, and his mother, my
sainted Madus.

After the vision had spoken she beckoned me to follow her. The child
touched the wall of the dungeon with his fingers, the stones parted,
and we passed through the opening. The radiant form of my Madus
illuminated the passage amid the rocks, the long flights of stairs we
ascended. We seemed to thread our way through the catacombs. At last
we emerged from the subterranean region into a dense forest. I saw how
the shining garments of my conductress swept over the moss, giving to
it, to the flowers, the grass, the trees, the same soft radiance that
emanated from her form. Gradually the distance between me and the
lovely vision widened; my feet became leaden; I could hardly move my
limbs. Then the radiant appearance lost its human shape, until at last
it seemed to me that I was looking down a long avenue between the
trees at a faint glimmering light at the further end. The cold air
blew across my face, and I awoke.

I was in the forest of my dream, around me were mammoth trees between
which, a long way off, I could see the glimmering light of the open.
The same beggar raiment I had worn to journey to Lemberg clothed me;
my crutch, emptied of its gold, lay by my side. I made my way toward
the light at the edge of the forest. I could see no signs of human
habitation anywhere. How far I was from the scene of my magnificence
and disgrace I cannot say. When I looked at my beggar's rags, I could
easily have believed my Lemberg experience an evil dream, had not the
iron band about my neck been too convincing a proof of its reality.

"Well," here observed the prince, drawing a long breath, "that is a
most remarkable story!--a miraculous rescue of a transgressor through
the aid of the Almighty Father!"

To this the chair added: "I am inclined to believe that the prisoner's
escape from the dungeon was effected through earthly, rather than
heavenly assistance. It is more likely that the haidemaken priest,
bribed by the duchess, conveyed the prisoner to the forest, and clad
him in the rags which had been procured from the Jew Malchus."

"_I_ believe the story just as the accused told it," asseverated his
highness. "There are a number of similar cases on record--of notorious
bandits having been released from imprisonment by the hands of an
unborn babe."

"And I assure your highness"--Hugo ventured to insist--"that
everything happened just as I related it. From the moment of my waking
in the forest, a white dove nestled on my left shoulder, and
accompanied me wherever I went. If I turned to look at it, when it
would coo into my ear, it would fly to my right shoulder; but it
seemed to prefer sitting on my left."

"Is the white dove sitting on either of your shoulders now?" queried
the chair.

"No, your honor," sadly replied the prisoner; "it is not there now. I
will tell you later how I came to lose it."

The prince announced his decision as follows:

"As the prisoner's release from the dungeon was accomplished through a
miracle from heaven, it would not be seemly for a human judge to
oppose divine favor. This transgression, therefore, may also be erased
from the register."



PART IV.

WITH THE TEMPLARS.



CHAPTER I.

IN THE HOLLOW TREE.


With a ragged mantle on my back, a crutch in my hand, an iron band
about my neck, and the white dove on my shoulder, where could I have
gone?--even had I wished to leave the forest.

The rags and the crutch were fitting equipment for a beggar; but what
should I have replied had anyone asked me why I wore the iron band on
my neck? I was disgusted with the world and its wickedness.

Overwhelmed with remorse for the sins I had committed, I resolved to
become a hermit and do penance--I would remain in the forest and adopt
the rigorous life of an ascetic.

After a brief search I discovered a brook that would supply me with
fresh water; hard by its banks an oak tree, many centuries old, with a
large cavity in the trunk, offered the shelter I should require. I
collected moss and dry leaves for my bed; for nourishment there was a
plentitude of nuts and wild fruits, and edible fungi. Wild bees
furnished me with sweets.

I bound together two dry branches in form of a cross, set it up
between two large stones, and performed my daily devotions in front of
it.

During the day I roamed through the forest collecting stores for the
winter; I laid up a supply of dried fruit, nuts, sow-bread and
honey--the last I found in the upper part of my tree-house, where a
swarm of bees had taken up their quarters.

Of the raspberries which grew plentifully along the brook, I made a
sort of conserve, which I packed into boxes made of the bark of pine
trees. All these provisions I stored in my tree-house, which I had
firmly resolved never to quit.

But one thought disquieted me. If I remained in the forest how could I
perform the good deed Madus had told me was necessary in order to win
paradise? If I passed all my days in the hollow tree beside the brook,
where no human being ever came near me, how was I to benefit my fellow
creatures? How win the "God will reward you"--the open sesame to
paradise? I pondered this over and over until at last an expedient
suggested itself to me, by which I could make known my existence to my
fellow-creatures and still remain in my hermitage. I looked about for
two broad flat stones; these I fastened together at one side with a
cord made of linden bark and hung them on the lower limb of a tree.
With a third stone for a clapper I rang my primitive bell three times
daily--morn, noon and evening--surely, I said to myself, some one will
hear the sound and come to see what is the meaning of it. When the
people in the neighborhood learn that a devout hermit is living in the
forest, they will visit him, and perhaps bestow alms on him.

But, in vain I rang three times every day, no visitors came to my
hollow tree, save the fawns that came to drink at the brook, and the
wild cats that came to prey on them. Many a time I rescued a young
deer from the claws of the feline enemy. It was to be regretted that
the dumb beasts I rescued could not have thanked me for the good deed.
One day I returned later than was my wont from collecting moss and
ferns to protect me from the cold of winter (I had already fashioned a
door of willow withes to keep the snow out of my tree-house). What was
my surprise to find the door open, and all my provisions gone! Not a
trace of the nuts remained but the shells; there was not a vestige of
the dried fruit; the boxes of raspberry conserve were lying about on
the ground, broken and crushed, as if they had been trodden under foot
by the marauders. Even the tent-shaped honey-comb in the upper portion
of my dwelling was gone, the plundered bees were buzzing angrily
around the tree outside.

I could hardly refrain from uttering a malediction on the thief who
had despoiled me of my winter store; but I remembered my pious vows,
and reproached myself instead: "Shame on you, pious anchorite," I
said, "were you so wedded to earthly possessions that the loss of them
rouses your anger? You were too proud of your store. You were going to
play the sovereign in the wilderness. Others had an equal right to
that which you imagined belonged only to yourself. The truly pious
anchorite does not lay up stores for the morrow. He depends on the
Master to supply his needs. He must pay heed to nothing save his
prayers for the wicked, and praises for the Master. You have been
fitly punished for your arrogance." I said further, "Perhaps this has
happened for the best. Who can say but the despoiler prayed that God
might reward the one who had placed the provisions in the hollow tree.
If so be that was the case, it was a fine hunger it took all my store
to appease!"

And again: "Who knows? Perhaps the hungry one is a great prophet--St.
Peter himself, maybe. I have heard that that distinguished saint
occasionally visits a poor man, and eats up a winter's supply of
provisions, only to return it an hundred fold. If so be it was St.
Peter then he will return tomorrow and so fill your tree with viands
and treasure you will never again want for anything--and, maybe, he
will also bestow on you a passport that will admit you to paradise
whenever you choose to go!"

Consoling myself with such thoughts, I sounded the bell as usual for
vespers; then I drank heartily of brook water, lay down on my soft
bed, and dreamed until morning, of flying hams and kindred paradisal
delights. At sunrise, I rang the early matin bell; then hurried away,
in order not to disturb the prophet when he came to prepare the
surprise for me.

I spent the entire day wandering about the forest, guessing what my
benefactor would bestow on me in return for the nuts, fruits and honey
he had taken--would it be the widow's oil-cruse with its
never-failing contents? or, a pair of bread-supplying ravens? or, a
barley loaf from Mount Gilead? or, a swarm of those savory locusts
which had served as fare for John the Baptist?

In my rambling I came across a heap of beech-nuts. I hesitated to
gather them. What need to take the trouble? There would be plenty, and
to spare, in the hollow tree. However, I filled my pockets with the
nuts, then turned my face homeward.

As I was rather late, I rang for vespers, and told my beads (I had
made a beautiful rosary of acorns) before going to my hermitage. A
deep growl came from the hollow tree when I approached it.

"He is here!" I exclaimed joyfully. "He is waiting to see me. That he
is no ordinary person I can tell by his voice!"

I crept on hands and knees toward the tree, and peeped into the
cavity. The next instant I was on my feet, hurling a million
_donnerwetters_ at the shaggy bear, whose monstrous body quite filled
the only apartment of my dwelling.

I forgot that I was an anchorite, and cursed the brute roundly--

"_Votum violatum_," dictated the chair. "Broken vow--blasphemy!
_Capite plectetur._"

"By my faith!" interposed the prince with considerable emphasis. "I
would have sworn too! _Qui bene distinguit, bene docet._ How goes the
paragraph relating to blasphemy? 'He that curses his fellowman'--and
so forth. But, it doesn't say anything about punishment for him who
curses his 'fellow-bear.' You see, therefore, that the _votum ruptum_
does not fit this crime, for it was not the prisoner who broke the vow
of the anchorite, but the bear; consequently bruin is the delinquent."

"Very good," assented the chair. "Then the bear is the guilty party:
_ursus comburatur_! The robbery of the temple follows: I am curious to
hear how the prisoner will clear himself of that! That he will
accomplish it I am willing to wager my head!"

What was I to do? continued Hugo, when the mayor had concluded his
remark. My house was occupied by a tenant who would not let me share
it with him. I had nowhere else to go. I could not find another
hermitage. If I could not be a hermit, I could become a
beggar--begging was also a way to gain a livelihood, and I possessed
the necessary equipment for it.

In Poland, no one who can say: "Give me bread," needs die of hunger.
The iron band on my neck might, after all, be of advantage to me; it
would give me a sort of superiority over other mendicants. If I were
asked how I came by it, I should say that it had been forged on my
neck by the Saracens, who took me captive when I was in the Holy Land,
and because I had made my escape through a miracle, I continued to
wear the band as a penance.

The good people to whom I told this story believed it; it brought me
many a groschen and carried me comfortably across Poland.

I had no sooner crossed into Brandenburg (I was on my way to my
native city, where I intended taking up the trade of my father, an
honest and respectable tanner) than I was surrounded by a crowd of
people--not a charitably disposed crowd, but inquisitive.

They wanted to know where I came from, where was I going, who and what
was I and how I dared to have the impertinence to beg in their city.

I replied that I was a pilgrim from the Holy Land; and that instead of
thinking it an impertinence for me to beg from them, they ought to
consider it a distinction to have in their community a mendicant with
an iron collar around his neck.

But the Brandenburgers are inclined to believe themselves more clever
than the rest of the world. The bailiff seized me, dragged me to the
market place, where he proceeded to question me for the benefit of the
whole city.

"Who are you?" he inquired.

"I am hungry," I said in reply.

"Where do you come from?"

"From Jerusalem."

"Don't you attempt to deceive me, sirrah! I know the way to Jerusalem.
Through what provinces did you journey?"

"Through Marcomannia, and Scythia; through Bess Arabia, and Arabia
Petræa; through Bactria, and Mesopotamia; and now I come direct from
Caramania--"

"Stop, stop! You are saying what is not true," interrupted the
bailiff. "Praise be to God! we Brandenburgers have maps, and know how
to get to foreign countries. The way to Palestine is through
Zingaria, Paflagonia, Cappadocia, and cinnamon-scented India.

"Well," I explained, "I did travel through those countries too, but it
was at night, when I couldn't see to read their names on the
guide-boards."

"And what means that iron band on your neck?"

"That, your honor, was fastened about my neck by the black sultan,
Zagachrist, who held me captive fifty-two years and three days."

"You are not yet thirty years old."

"No, in this part of the world I am not; but in Abyssinia, where the
sun is so hot, the days contract to such an extent, that one of your
years here would be six there."

"What an unconscionable liar you are!" exclaimed the bailiff. "Heat
does not contract. On the contrary, it expands, which accounts for the
days being longer in summer than in winter. We Brandenburgers know
that very well."

He seized me by the collar, to drag me to prison, but I held back, and
said in a loud voice--loud enough for the crowd to hear:

"I tell you I am right; heat does contract. Just you sit on a hot
stove and see if your leather breeches don't shrivel up under you."

The crowd was on my side; but that trial in the market-place might
have resulted disastrously for me, had not a knight just then chanced
to ride that way. He wore on his head a plumed helmet; his body was
protected by a coat of mail. From his shoulders hung a crimson mantle,
on which was embroidered a large white cross. A heart-shaped shield
swung from the pommel of his saddle.

My eyes were at once attracted to this shield, on which were the
ensigns armorial: a mounted knight like himself, and on the same horse
a ragged pilgrim of a like pattern with myself.

"Ho, ho!" here interrupted the chair in triumph. "You may have been
able to hoodwink the Brandenburg bailiff, but you can't do the same
with me! You needn't try to make this court believe you saw anyone
wearing the coat-of-arms of an order that was abolished in the 14th
century."

"I know very well, your honor, that the order of the Templars was
abolished at the time you mention, but a portion of them took refuge
in Brandenburg, where the order exists to this day under the name of
'Dornenritter.'"

Having made this explanation, Hugo continued his confession:

At sight of the Templar a great commotion arose among the people
crowding the market-place; the women pressed toward him to kiss the
hem of his mantle, in their enthusiasm almost dragging him from the
saddle. The knight had red hair, and a long beard of the same fiery
hue.

"There is the red monk," said the bailiff to me. "Do you try to make
him believe you have been in Palestine? He has been there twice--once
by land and once by sea--and he has slaughtered more than two hundred
heathen and liberated thousands of pilgrims from slavery. Talk to
him; he will know how to question you."

I was in a fix, and no mistake. The knight would be sure at once to
detect the errors of my geography.

He rode quite close to me, passed his hand over his long beard and
examined me from head to foot with his keen eyes.

"Can you prove to me that you come from the Holy Land?" he asked in a
voice so stern and deep-toned it made me start and tremble.

But a lucky thought came to me; I had a convincing proof under my
arm--the old Turk's crutch, the shaft of which was closely wound with
brass wire in a fanciful pattern.

"Will you examine this, Sir Knight?" I said in reply--holding the
crutch toward him. "You, who are familiar with the Arabic characters,
will find here a record of my wanderings--the entire history of my
wretched captivity, and miraculous deliverance."

It was the knight's turn to start and tremble. I saw at once from his
countenance, that he knew no more about Arabic than--ah--than your
honor, and that he was afraid I might betray him, and prove to the
multitude that he had never trod the sacred soil of the Holy Land. The
hand he extended for the crutch trembled, but he preserved a bold
front, as he turned the brass-bound shaft around and around in his
fingers, and pretended to decipher the oriental characters. After
several minutes, he returned the crutch to me and said in an
impressive tone:

"This is indeed Arabic--or, rather, Saracenic, the language of
Turcomania. Your crutch, devout pilgrim, testifies to the truth of
everything you have told these good people. Come with me to my castle,
where you will be a welcome and honored guest."

Before he had quite concluded this speech, the bailiff had lost
himself in the crowd--he was nowhere to be seen.

I was hoisted to the shoulders of a pair of sturdy citizens, and,
accompanied by the shouting multitude, borne in triumph to the
Templars' castle, situated on a moat-encircled hill, a little distance
from the city.

Here, I was committed to the care of the guards on duty; they stripped
me of my rags; lifted me into a vat of water, scrubbed me thoroughly,
combed and shaved my head, and then put on me a scarlet habit of
coarse cloth, which, to judge from its ample proportions, must once
have garbed the form of a brother whose conditions of life had been
more fortunate than mine.

Attired thus, I was conducted to the refectory, where the red-bearded
knight and twelve of his companions were assembled.

"_Quadraginta tonitrua_, lad, you please me well!" exclaimed the
red-bearded knight, who seemed to be the leader. "Never, in all my
life, have I ever heard so glib a tongue at lying as yours! You must
stop here with us. The devil has taken our sacristan--that's his habit
you've got on--he died of small-pox yesterday."

You may imagine my feelings when I heard that I was wearing the
garment of a man that had succumbed to so loathsome a disease!

I made bold to say that I had never learned the duties requisite to
the office of a sacristan.

"_Per septem archidiabolos!_" merrily exclaimed the knight. "I believe
you. But, we will instruct you--never fear!"

Here he noticed the iron band on my neck and added: "Ha, _Lucifer te
corripiat_! Why do you wear that curious band around your neck?"

In reply I stammered something about a solemn vow, whereupon the
entire company burst into hearty laughter.

"_Ut Belsebub te submergat in paludes inferni, trifurcifer!_" bawled
the red knight. "Either you wear the band in pursuance of a
vow--solemn or otherwise--or it was forged on your neck in punishment
for a theft. If the former, then continue to wear it to the end of
your days; if the latter, then we have an armorer who will relieve you
of it in short order."

To this I made answer:

"Though I wear the iron band because of a solemn vow, the Sir Knights
may believe it is in punishment for a theft."

The merry company laughed again, and the armorer was summoned at once
to relieve me of the uncomfortable collar.


BAPHOMET.

I now believed I had ultimately attained what I most desired--a
comfortable position in a religious house, where I might pass the
remainder of my days in peace, and free from care. I should have no
further need to trouble about providing for food and drink, and the
where to lay my head. My duties were light; I had to ring the bell for
prayers three times daily; keep clean the church vessels, and take
care of all the vestments. All my time not occupied with these simple
tasks, I was permitted to devote to pious contemplation. I soon won
the confidence of Knight Elias, the red-bearded superior. I was named
Eliezer. It had taken me six months and more to beg my way through
Poland, consequently, Passion week began soon after my arrival at the
Templars' castle. I was apprehensive that I should not be able
adequately to perform the duties requisite for my office during the
solemn season, as I was not yet sufficiently familiar with the Roman
Catholic service, having only lately become a neophite. But, when I
confided my doubts to Knight Elias, he replied encouragingly:

"Don't you worry, Frater Eliezer, every night during the coming week
we shall rehearse scenes from the 'Passion Play,' which will make you
familiar with the services expected of you."

This assurance gave me confidence, and I looked forward with
impatience to Maundy-Thursday, as on the evening of that day the
preparations for the devotional ceremonies were to begin.

Maundy-Thursday arrived. In the evening, after I had closed and locked
the gates after vespers, Knight Elias bade me take a lamp, go to the
chapel, and wait there until the clock struck the hour of midnight,
when I should hear three taps on the door of the crypt. I was to open
the door without delay, receive with becoming respect the guests who
would appear, and obey every order they might give me. I did not
betray the astonishment I felt on receiving this very singular behest.
I never was what may be termed "faint-hearted." I dare say because my
curiosity always was superior to my timidity; and I confess I was most
curious to see what manner of guests would come out of the crypt.

The last stroke of twelve was followed by three raps on the crypt
door. I hastened to open it, and was amazed to find the stairway
leading to the tomb brilliantly lighted, and mounting it were a half
dozen or more female forms, clad in antique costumes--such as are seen
only in the canvases adorning the walls of churches and royal palaces.

All the women were highly rouged and powdered; one had her eyebrows
penciled with black; another with minium, and another had hers tinted
with gold. All carried in their hands gaily colored wax tapers. They
were not in the least like the ghosts I had expected to see; and I was
not in the least frightened of them either!

Young blood coursed through my veins then, and it flowed more swiftly
when my eyes rested on the beautiful visitors--even though they were
denizens of another world!

The ghosts saw at once that it was not the old sacristan who had
admitted them; and believed it necessary to introduce themselves. The
first one said:

"I am Jezebel, wife of King Ahab. Fetch the baptismal basin, I want to
perform my ablutions."

The second announced:

"I am Salome, daughter of Herodias. Bring me the golden ciborium."

The third said:

"I am Bathsheba. Bring the sacred oil, I want some for my hair."

The fourth:

"I am Delilah. Bring a chalice, I want a drink."

The fifth:

"I am Ashtoreth. Bring the censer, I want some perfume."

"I am Tamar," announced the sixth. "Bring a lachrymatory, I want to
fill it with my tears."

There were seven in the company. The seventh had on her head a crown,
and was clad in a robe of gold-brocade with a long train. "I am
Mylitta, Queen of Sheba," she announced in a voice that sounded like a
sweet-toned bell. "Bring me the pyx."

Now, although the rest of the orders had confounded me with their
impiety, I had obeyed them, because I had been commanded to do so.
This last, however, made me hesitate; I could not lay sacrilegious
hands on so holy a vessel.

I shuddered, and looked with horrified eyes at the commanding phantom.
Suddenly, she lifted her arm, and gave me a sound blow on the back, at
the same time screaming:

"Don't you hear me, dolt? I want the pyx." Feeling convinced that
further hesitation to obey this visitant from another world would not
be well for me, I went to the altar, and with a violently trembling
hand lifted the sacred vessel from its accustomed place and brought
it to the lady.

"Now, follow us," she commanded; and the procession from the crypt
passed on, I following in the rear, out of the chapel, up a winding
staircase, to a part of the castle I had not yet been in. We halted in
front of a gilded iron door; it opened in response to three raps, and
I saw into a long, magnificently furnished saloon. There were no
windows in it; a mysterious radiance shone from the niches in the
walk, which were hung with gold-embroidered silk.

As we crossed the threshold, a heavy curtain across the further end of
the saloon parted, and several male figures, garbed in old-time
costumes--Turkish, Roman, Persian, Chaldean and Egyptian--came to meet
the women, who greeted them thus:

"Welcome, Ahasuerus!"

"Baal greets you, Nebuchadnezzar!"

"Osiris, bless you, Pharaoh!" and so on, to Herod, Pilate, Nero,
Sardanapalus--in all of whom I recognized my sir knights. My
red-bearded patron answered to the name of Judas Iscariot. It was a
distinguished company!

The greetings between the knights and the ladies ever, my patron
turned toward me. I was standing near the door--and said:

"Malchus, come hither."

I looked around to see who Malchus might be, but finding no one near
me, guessed that I too had been given a name suitable for the
occasion--that of the chief priests' servant, who lifted his hand
against the Savior.

My patron's next words assured me that I had guessed correctly:

"If your ears have really been cut off, Malchus--which they must have
been, since you can't hear, we must ask Ben Hanotzri to fasten them to
your head again!"

I had not yet learned to whom they alluded when they mentioned that
name.

After his last speech to me, my patron took my hand and led me up to
the knight they called Nebuchadnezzar. He had strings of costly pearls
wound in his beard and hair--as one sees in ancient Persian statues,
and pictures.

"What has Malchus done that he deserves to be admitted to the service
of Baphomet?" he inquired.

My patron answered for me:

"He has been a heretic, an atheist, a thief, a murderer, a
counterfeiter, an adulterer--"

"The very man for us!" interrupted Nebuchadnezzar--and then I
understood why my welcome to the conventual residence had been so
cordial!

I was asked to take off my monk's habit, and given the dress of a
Roman lictor, in which character my first task was to remove the lid
from a sarcophagus that stood in a niche in the wall.

I was horrified when I saw that it contained a wax image of our
Savior, as He descended from the cross, with the five gaping wounds in
His body, and the crown of thorns on His head.

The knights gathered about the sarcophagus, and began a discussion, to
which I listened with fear and trembling. They spoke in Latin, and as
I am quite familiar with the language I understood every word.

One of the knights asserted, that Christ was an eon of the God-father,
Jaldabaoth, who had sent Him to the earth, as the Messiah of the
Pneumatici, and to vanquish his, Jaldabaoth's, arch-enemy,
Ophiomorpho; that Christ, having failed for want of courage to
accomplish the task, Jaldabaoth had allowed Him to be crucified in
punishment; all of which was satisfactorily proved by Valentinus, the
Gnostic. Another of the knights insisted, that Christ was an imposter,
as was verified by Basilides of Alexandria, and Bardesane; and that
His true name was Ben Jonah Hanotzri.

The earth seemed to sink from under my feet as I listened to this
blasphemous disputation. Though I am a wicked sinner, my reverence for
all things holy is boundless. I held my hands over my ears to shut out
the horrible words, but I could not help but hear some of them.

The third knight maintained that the whole story of Jesus Christ was a
myth--He had never been born--had never died. The entire legend was an
emblem, a symbol that, like Brahma, and Isis, had never possessed a
material body; and that all images of Him were idols, like those which
represented Basal, or Dagon.

I imagined that blasphemy could go no further; but the fourth knight
convinced me that even hyperbole may possess a superlative.

The fourth speaker was Nebuchadnezzar; _he_ declared he could prove
from the Scriptures, that Jesus Christ was that Demiurge, who tortures
mankind with laws; renders unhappy and wretched the dwellers on earth;
prohibits all things that are pleasant and agreeable to the senses;
commands man to do what is good for his fellows, though nature's laws
prompt him to do that which is best for himself--be it good or evil
for his neighbor. Consequently, it was the plain duty of every
sentient being to defy this Demiurge, to disobey the laws promulgated
by him; to practice, instead of refrain from: cheating, robbery,
murder, forgery, intemperance, gluttony, debauchery; and that whoever
it was that had imposed on mankind the yoke of bondage, the so-called
virtues--were he eon, Demiurge, Ben Jonah Hanotzri, or Jesus Christ,
deserved persecution, scourging, and crucifixion. "Who then," he
demanded in concluding his sacrilegious harangue, "is the true
Messiah?"

"Baphomet! Baphomet!" shouted the entire company of knights and ladies
as with one voice.

Nebuchadnezzar then beat with his fists on a large tam-tam, upon which
the curtain at the end of the saloon was drawn back, revealing a
platform on which were two statues, life-size. The one on the right
was Baphomet, with the two faces, one masculine, the other feminine. A
huge serpent was wound twelve times about the statue; on each of the
rings thus formed was engraved one of the twelve signs of the zodiac.
One hand held the sun; the other the moon; the feet rested on a
globe, that rested in turn on the back of a crocodile.

The other statue represented Mylitta. She was seated on a wild boar; a
crown of gleaming rubies and carbuncles adorned her brow. The knights
and ladies, one after the other, approached the statues, kissed the
shoulders of Baphomet, then the knees of Mylitta.

After this ceremony, they joined hands, forming a circle around the
images, and began to dance to a song they chanted in a tongue unknown
to me. Before the dance began, I was told to fill all the sacred
vessels with the wine contained in several large jars near the
entrance. This was drank from time to time in toasts to Baphomet and
his companion image.

If my horror was great, my curiosity was greater. I mastered the
former feeling, in order to see what would be the end of the
sacrilegious orgy.

The wine jars were soon emptied, and I was ordered by Iscariot to
refill them in the cellar. On my return to the saloon, I found the
company seated around the table; when I approached the Queen of Sheba
to refill the chalice, from which she was drinking, she said to me:

"Malchus, this crown of mine is so heavy; go down to the chapel and
fetch me the one from the head of the woman of Nazareth."

I went cold from crown to sole at this request.

There was in the chapel a beautiful image of our Lady, with a crown of
pearls and diamonds on her head--the gift of a pious princess. To this
image the devout folk of the surrounding region made pilgrimages on
holy days; and it was covered with all manner of costly gifts from the
grateful believers. And this was the "Woman of Nazareth," whose crown
I was ordered to fetch for the shameless wanton.

"Didn't you hear the lady's order?" bawled my rufous-bearded patron,
thumping the table with his mailed fist. "Go at once to the chapel and
fetch the crown."

If I had refused to obey I should have been killed; but I almost
fainted with horror while performing the errand. When I returned with
the jeweled crown to the hall of the worship of Baphomet, the demon of
licentious revelry had been loosed; the women, as well as the men,
were dancing with wild abandon. The Queen of Sheba snatched the crown
from my hand, adjusted it on her dishevelled locks, then returned to
the Phrygian dance, led by herself and Nebuchadnezzar; her hair stood
almost straight out from her head, as she whirled around and around,
so swiftly, that she and her partner seemed but one form with two
faces--like Baphomet whom they worshipped. After all had indulged in
the frantic revelry until they sank exhausted to the divans scattered
about the hall, I was ordered to collect the sacred vessels and return
them to the chapel, and then to go to my rest.

"He must drink with me before he goes," cried Ashtoreth.

"Here, Malchus!" she unloosed from her girdle a flask, and held it to
my lips. The flask was an exquisite piece of workmanship; it was made
of chased gold and richly set with Turkish fire opals.

"This wine, Malchus," continued the lady, "is the juice of the grape
planted by Noah. The stone jar in which it has been preserved for so
many centuries stands beside the sarcophagus of my grand-mother
Semiramis, in Nineveh--drink, it will do you good."

On my hesitating, she suddenly flung her arm around my neck, drew my
head close to her own, took a good pull from the flask, then pressed
her lips to mine, and forced me to swallow the wine from her mouth.

Never have I tasted a sweeter, a more intoxicating, more stupefying
liquor!

"Now drink," commanded the heathen queen, placing the flask in my
hand. I put it to my lips; but perceived at once that the wine had a
different taste from that I had received from her mouth. It was
bitter, and had a peculiar bouquet. I took only one swallow; but
pretended to send several more after the first one.

"You may keep the flask as a remembrance," said the lady when I handed
it back to her. She flung it among the church vessels I had collected
together in the baptismal basin, the better to carry them back to the
chapel.

I hurried from the saloon with my precious burden; carefully washed
all the vessels through three waters; then restored them to their
proper places in the chapel. When I had reverently placed the crown on
our Lady's head, I knelt at her feet, and penitently kissed the hem of
her robe.

"Now what shall I do with this thing?" I inquired of myself, surveying
the wine-flask in my hand. "Where shall I hide it for safe-keeping?
It is worth a deal of money. It would bring me enough to buy an acre
of ground, or a mill with five wheels. I'll just fasten it securely,
here under my lictor's cuirass for the present." I did so; then,
without heeding where I was, I lay down, and almost immediately fell
into a deep, dreamless sleep.

I don't know how long I slept; I was roused by some one shaking me
vigorously, and crying: "Wake up! wake up!"

"Yes, yes, Iscariot," I muttered sleepily, "I'll get up directly."

"O, Trifurcifer!" exclaimed a familiar voice; "the wretch calls me
Iscariot! Just wait, you drunken rogue! I'll sober you!"

The thorough drenching I received from the large can of water thrown
over me, brought me to my senses.

"Well, my pious Silenus!" growled the knight. "You are a fine fellow
to set on guard, aren't you? I order you to keep watch outside the
door of the crypt until midnight, and find you the next morning lying
inside the cellar door, with your mouth under an open faucet. We were
obliged to carry you up here--not knowing whether you were alive or
dead."

"Where--where is the costly flask Ashtoreth gave me?" I asked, feeling
in vain about my body for the souvenir bestowed on me by the heathen
queen. There was neither flask nor leather cuirass, only the old
coarse habit I had inherited from my predecessor in office.

"Come--come," angrily exclaimed the knight, shaking me again. "Stop
dreaming, and hasten to the chapel; it is time to ring the bell for
mass."

I could hardly bring myself to believe that it was only a dream--it
seemed so real, but I could find no trace of midnight revelry
anywhere--indeed, I could not find the winding staircase, which I had
ascended from the chapel to the hall of the worship of Baphomet. And
yet I doubted.

The chapel was filled at mass with devout worshippers. A solemn scene
was when the knights, garbed in coarse gray habits, and bare-footed,
crept on hands and knees to the stone coffin, in which lay a waxen
image of our Lord. They kissed the marble steps leading to the
platform on which the coffin stood, and when I saw them gather about
the holy image, my dream seemed so real that, in my excitement, I
would have cried in a loud voice to the kneeling congregation:

"People! Christians! rise--rise! do not kneel in the presence of these
blasphemers!" had not the white dove on my shoulder pressed her wings
against my lips.

Then the rich tones of the organ filled the chapel; and the women's
voices chanting the "Miserere" sounded so familiar--exactly like those
I had heard in my dream, singing bacchanalian songs--that I said to
myself: "That is Ashtoreth's voice--that is Delilah's, and that
deep-toned contralto is Jezebel's!" Again I saw the singers emerge
from the crypt and move toward the winding stair-case. Ah! it was a
dream after all! There was no winding staircase. Where I had seen the
open door, which gave egress to it, was a blank wall; and against it
the massive marble monument of the grand master, Arminius, who was
represented by a recumbent knight in full pontificals, with hands
devoutly crossed on his breast.

Yes, it was only a dream!

My heart was relieved of a heavy weight. It was such a relief to feel
certain that I had not taken the jeweled crown from our blessed Lady's
head; and that the Queen of Sheba had not worn it while dancing in
adoration of an idol.

When the services were concluded, and I approached the image of our
Lady, to replenish the oil in the perpetual lamp at her feet, the
doubts as to my having dreamed the scenes of the bacchanalian revelry
came back in full force; some one had been tampering with the jeweled
crown on the head of the sacred image--it had been turned around!

There was a pearl in front of the diadem, and a ruby in the back--both
as large as a hazel-nut. Today, the ruby gleamed like a coal of fire,
where always before the radiance of the pearl had vied with the pure
whiteness of the waxen brow. The crown had been reversed--I had not
dreamed after all!

This day was, as I have mentioned before, Good Friday--the day of
universal fasting. The knights' observance of the day was so rigid
that they would not even administer to a dying novice the medicines
necessary to alleviate his suffering, because they were composed of
manna and hydromel, both of which, containing nutriment, were
considered food. Even I fasted the entire day--of a necessity,
though, for there was nothing served in the refectory!

My elastic conscience would have permitted me to partake--sparingly,
of course!--of food; and I regretted that I had not possessed the
forethought to lay aside from the banquet of the preceding night (if
it really had not been a dream) the legs of a three thousand-year-old
quail!

But, had I done so, they would doubtless have vanished with the pretty
flask given me by the heathen queen. When I made my duty-rounds as
usual on Good Friday evening, I found my red-bearded patron waiting
for me in the sacristy. He said to me:

"This evening, Malchus, you will watch as before at the door of the
crypt--but see that you stop there, and keep awake! Don't let me find
you again in the cellar tomorrow morning."

I said to myself: "I shall be very sure not to go to sleep this time!"

The guests arrived earlier this evening. The clock in the tower had
not yet ceased striking eleven, when the three knocks sounded on the
crypt door.

The ancient beauties did not think it necessary to introduce
themselves as before, but they gave me the same orders for the sacred
vessels.

When I moved toward the altar, in obedience to the Queen of Sheba's
behest, she called after me: "Don't look back, Malchus; if you do
Satan will fly away with you!"

I did not look backward; I had no need. When I held the gold lid of
the chalice in front of me, it served the same purpose as a mirror,
and in it I saw Jezebel walk up to the Arminius monument, lay her hand
against the head of the recumbent statue, and thrust it to one side,
whereupon the entire mass of marble swung noiselessly forward,
revealing an opening in the wall through which I saw a winding
staircase.

Pretending not to have seen anything, or to notice anything unusual in
the opening in the wall, I followed the ladies up the stair with the
articles they bade me bring after them.

The long table in Baphomet's hall was again loaded with all sorts of
eatables: baked meats, pastry, sweets, fruits. "Meats!" I exclaimed to
myself, "meats on Good Friday, when all Christians, even the
Calvinists, fast and read their prayer-books to find consolation for
their souls and forgetfulness for their stomachs!" And what a feast it
was! One might well have believed that hosts and guests had not eaten
anything for two or three thousand years! Had I been endowed with the
hands of an Aegeon I could not have supplied the viands and wine as
rapidly as the hungry and thirsty revelers demanded them of me. I
seemed to be continually running to, or returning from, the
wine-cellar.

Similar scenes to those enacted the preceding night followed the
banquet; only with variations one would hardly believe the human mind
capable of inventing.

The Queen of Sheba was even more reckless and abandoned than before;
she ordered me to bring her the mantle from the shoulders of the
"Woman of Nazareth." I hesitated again to perform the sacrilegious
errand, but a sound blow on my back from Iscariot's fist sent me
hurrying to the chapel.

When I returned with the mantle the queen was in need of it, for she
was not to be distinguished from the nude goddess on the back of the
wild boar. I was so ashamed for her, I could not lift my eyes when I
handed her the mantle. Ashtoreth laughed heartily at me, and
exclaimed:

"Here, Malchus, I will drink to Baphomet from this flask; then you
shall drink to me."

She drank first, then handed the flask to me; it was the same one she
had presented to me the night before.

I had learned something since then! I knew there were trick flasks
with two compartments, which might contain two different kinds of
liquor without becoming mixed. If the neck of the flask were turned to
the right, one of the compartments would be opened; the contents of
the other would flow, were the neck turned to the left.

When the heathen queen placed the flask to her lips I had watched her
closely, and had seen that her wrist turned slightly to the right.
This movement I took good care to copy when I drank, and, as I had
guessed, the wine was deliciously sweet.

I took a good, long pull before removing the flask from my lips.

"Very good wine, isn't it?" observed Ashtoreth.

"A trifle bitter," I replied, making a wry face, upon which she
filliped my nose with her finger, and exclaimed, laughingly:

"You don't know what is good, Malchus! The wine in this flask is some
of that left from the marriage feast at Cana. You may keep this flask,
too; put it with the one I gave you last night."

This remark set the entire blasphemous crew into a roar of merriment.

"You may remove these vessels now," said Nebuchadnezzar, when the
laughter had subsided, "and fetch us some _spiritus vini_."

I removed the unclean church vessels and brought from the cellar a
large stone jug of _spiritus vini_. The simple juice of the grape was
not strong enough for the drunken demons; they wanted the more fiery
brandy.

An idea came into my head as I was going to the cellar. The _spiritus
vini_ was made in Russia; the mouths of the jugs containing it were
sealed so skillfully that only those persons who understood the secret
could remove the cork. I had learned this secret while with the
haidemaken.

I opened the jug in the cellar, poured out some of the brandy, and
filled it up with the drugged wine in the flask intended for me. Then
I sealed up the jug and took it to the banquet hall.

"Did you drink any of it?" demanded the knight whom the rest called
Herod, when I set the jug on the table.

"I swear by Baphomet I did not!" I replied truthfully.

"Then open the jug," commanded Pilate.

I made believe to pull and tug and twist the cork--I could not remove
it from the neck. At last Ahab snatched the jug impatiently from my
hands, and after trying in vain for several moments to accomplish
what I had failed to do, he set it in a silver basin and struck at the
neck with his sword. The jug was broken, of course, and the liquor
filled the basin. Then, Bathsheba and Tamar flung into it figs,
raisins and orange peel; Delilah took a lighted taper from the
candelabra and set fire to the huge dish of crambamboli; at the same
moment all the other lights in the hall were extinguished.

Nebuchadnezzar now began to ladle out the burning liquor into goblets
which he passed to the rest of the company. The flame dispensing king,
with his four horns, the fire-sipping forms around him, their faces
blanched to a death-like pallor by the green-blue light of the burning
brandy, formed a group that excelled in hideousness every illustration
I had yet seen of the _danse macabre_.

I fled in horror and disgust from the infernal orgy, fully convinced
that I was not dreaming this time. I was determined to make my escape
from the abode of demons and idol worshippers.

I said to myself: "If these human beings--that they are not phantoms I
am convinced--came to the castle through the crypt, then I, another
human being, may go out the way they entered."

I took my lamp, descended to the crypt, and discovered that one of the
memorials, which lined the walls, had been shoved to one side. An
examination of this memento to a deceased knight revealed that it was
not a slab of marble, but a sheet of tin painted to imitate the more
solid material. Nor was the niche it covered a tomb, but the outlet
to a narrow stairway that ascended in steep spirals from the crypt,
opposite to the one which descended to it from the chapel.

[Illustration: "I took my lamp, descended to the crypt"]

I mounted seventeen steps, when further progress was barred by a
statue--that of Saint Sebastian. The heroic martyr was represented
bound to a tree, his body filled with arrows, as he had appeared when
being tortured to death by the commands of the godless Diocletian.

I had seen this statue often enough by day in the reception-hall of
the castle; then it stood in its niche face toward the room; here, at
the head of the secret stairway from the crypt, it stood with its face
also toward me. "Surely," said I to myself, "St. Sebastian must know
something about the secret outlet."

And he did.

I began to examine the niche; then the statue. I noticed that three of
the arrows in the breast were brass, and that the one in the middle
was brighter than the other two, as if it had been taken hold of
frequently. I mounted the pedestal, and, with one arm around the saint
to steady myself, I tried to turn the brighter arrow. After a little,
it yielded to the pressure of my hand, and the statue, as well as the
niche, began to turn slowly on an unseen axis, and in a few moments I
saw the starlit sky above me.

Then I turned the arrow in the opposite direction, and found myself
returned to my prison. I had solved the mystery of the phantoms'
appearance in the chapel! I returned to the chapel and examined the
mechanism concealed under the Arminius monument. What would be the
result, I asked myself, if I turned the head of the grand master back
to its proper position?

I did so, and the monument swung back to its place, concealing the
entrance to the hall of Baphomet.

By this time the blasphemers in the hall were sound asleep, and heaven
alone knew when they would waken! And when they did, they would not be
able to get out of their Satan's temple, for it had neither door nor
windows.

No one would know what had become of them--whither they had gone. When
they found a way out of their prison--if ever--I should be far enough
away over mountain and valley!

I sketched a rapid plan of escape: I would go to the Archbishop of
Aix-la-Chapelle and lay information against the knights of Baphomet;
and, in order to gain credence for my story, I would take with me the
desecrated church vessels. No devout Christian should drink again from
the chalice defiled by the lips of Salome and Delilah; should have his
offspring christened from the basin polluted by Nebuchadnezzar; should
receive the holy water from the aspergill, defiled by being used to
stir the infernal mixture concocted by Tamar and Bathsheba; not one of
the vessels should be used again, until they had been thoroughly
cleansed and re-consecrated by the proper authorities.

"A most praiseworthy determination! You proved yourself a true
Christian!" exclaimed the prince, deeply incensed by the impiety of
the _dornenritter_, the mere hearing of whose licentious conduct made
a godly man feel the need of absolution. "You did what any honest and
respectable Christian would have done in your place!"

"Didn't I say so?" in triumph exclaimed the mayor, beating the table
with his staff. "Didn't I say the rascal would talk himself out of the
church robbery? Instead of sentencing him for the crime, he is
commended for it."

Hereupon the prince and the mayor became involved in so animated a
dispute that each sprang from his chair and begun to pound with his
fists on the table with such vigor that the candle-sticks, ink-horn
and sand-box danced quite a lively jig.

The argument continued until his highness suddenly remembered what was
becoming to his dignity; then he rapped the court to order and
announced that the hearing was adjourned until the next day.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following morning Hugo resumed his confession:

I found a stout leather bag in the sacristy, into which I put all the
church vessels of gold and silver which had been defiled in the
bacchanalian orgies. I did not forget the Virgin's diadem, either.

My left shoulder ached dreadfully under the heavy load, but, because
the white dove I told you about was perched on the other shoulder, I
would not shift the bag from side to side, which would have made it
easier to carry. The revolving Saint Sebastian enabled me to escape
from the castle, but I still had a high bastion to scale. I found the
rope ladder by means of which the women had climbed over, and very
soon I was on the high road, travelling as swiftly as I could for the
heavy bag, toward the harbor--

"Hold!" interrupted the chair, "I've caught you at last! If what you
have told us is true, why didn't you go at once with the bag of church
property to the burgomaster of the city, and tell him of your
discovery at the castle? The impious revellers might have been taken
into custody that same night."

"Yes--yes--" the prince made haste to add, "why didn't you do that,
instead of thinking it necessary to escape on a ship?"

"I believe I can explain my action to the satisfaction of the
high-born gentlemen," deferentially responded the prisoner. "You will
understand at once why I wanted to take a ship, when I tell you the
name of the city. It was Stettin. It was in possession, at that time,
of Gustavus Adolphus, whose heretic generals cared very little whether
the Blessed Virgin or Baphomet were worshipped in the Catholic
churches, which had already been desecrated more than once by
themselves. Indeed, the relations between the knights and the heretics
was most friendly, because the former had joined forces with the
Swedes, and had fought bravely against the imperial beleaguerers. They
were loyal comrades in arms with the heretics. That is why I deemed it
wiser to escape from the city--"

"And you were right--quite right!" with unmistakable approval in his
tone, commented the prince. "The Swedish heretics were not the proper
authorities to settle so sacred and important a matter. The _furtum
sacrosanctorum_ may be stricken from the list of indictments."

"As may all that follow!" growled the mayor into his beard. "Now we
shall hear how this innocent criminal disposes of the _homicidium_!"



PART V.

THE HOMICIDE.



CHAPTER I.

ON BOARD MYNHEER'S SHIP.


A convincing proof of my honest and pious intentions is, that
notwithstanding I was in great need of money--I hadn't a penny to my
name!--it never occurred to me to help myself from the alms-box at the
door of the chapel, which, at such seasons like Passion Week, was
always well filled.

I had no "motive" to carry the box with me--it had not been defiled by
sacrilegious hands.

I still wore the dress in which I had masqueraded as a lictor: the
Roman balten, the leathern caliga, the chalizeh sandals with straps,
and the ancient Hebrew pallium. Anywhere else in the civilized world a
man garbed as I was would have been arrested as a vagabond lunatic;
but I was not molested in Stettin.

That city, under Swedish domination, was a free port; the mouth of the
Oder was crowded with vessels of all sorts, from all countries. The
quay swarmed with negroes, Spaniards, Turks, Chinese--all
nationalities, all the costumes of the globe were represented.
Consequently no one, however striking may have been his garb, would
have attracted special attention. Nor did I, as I passed through the
crowd in search of a vessel that was lifting her anchor, preparatory
to sailing at once.

Chance led me to a Dutch ship.

The owner of the craft, Mynheer Ruissen, paid no attention to me until
after we were out of the harbor, and were scudding before a favorable
wind. Then, as he was passing along the deck, his eyes fell on me,
where I was sitting near the rail, with my bag by my side.

He stopped in front of me, thrust his hands into the pockets of his
coat, and, after a moment's close scrutiny, addressed me in a language
I had never heard before. He tried several different tongues--oriental
by their sound--with the same result. I could only indicate by shaking
my head that I did not understand him. At last he became impatient,
and exclaimed in Flemish:

"Potztausend-wetter! What language does this fellow speak, I wonder?"

I understood him then, and told him I could speak Dutch, and that I
was not a heathen from the Orient, but a native of Europe, and a
Christian like himself.

"And where are you going, may I ask?"

"Wherever your ship will take me," I answered.

"Have you the money to pay for your passage?"

"Not a solitary batz."

"Have you anything of value?"

"I have a beautiful golden flask set with precious gems, which I will
give you as a pledge, or in payment--as you prefer."

"Did you come by it honestly?"

"I will take my oath that I did not steal it. A beautiful woman gave
it to me as a souvenir. May I sink with this ship to the bottom of the
sea, if every word I tell you is not true!"

"Na, Na,! you needn't mind swearing in that way," hastily interposed
Mynheer. "I don't want my ship to go to the bottom of the sea! Is the
flask worth enough to pay for your passage to Hamburg?"

"It would fetch more than your whole ship!"

He paused a moment, then asked again:

"What have you got in that bag?"

"Gold and silver vessels, and jewels."

"Are they souvenirs too? There, there, you needn't mind swearing
again! I won't arrest you--it's no concern of mine how you came by
them."

I told him then that if he would take me to his private cabin, I would
tell him how I came to have the valuables in my possession.

He led me to his cabin, where he bade me place the leather bag in the
corner. Then he ordered one mug of beer to be brought; filled a
porcelain pipe--about the size of a thimble--with tobacco, thrust the
stem between his lips, but did not light it--I dare say, because he
feared it might burn out before he had emptied the beer mug, from
which he took an occasional sip while I was telling him my story.

When I had told him of the scandalous scenes in the castle, and of my
escape with the denied vessels, which I had decided to take to the
archbishop, Mynheer removed the pipe from his lips, deliberately
knocked the tobacco into the palm of his hand and emptied it into the
tobacco-pouch. Then he drained the last sip of beer from the mug,
thrust his hands into his pockets and said:

"Well, my son, you have acted cleverly, and stupidly at the same time.
To fetch the things away with you, was clever--very! But, to decide
that you--by yourself--a poor unknown devil, would be believed by the
archbishop, when you accused so powerful an order as the
_Dornenritter_ of blasphemy and sacrilege, was stupid in the extreme.
Nobody will believe your story; you will be ridiculed, and told that
you dreamed all these things."

"But," I interposed, "how could I have dreamed things, no living being
ever saw with his eyes, or heard with his ears? How could I have
dreamed the Baphomet worship? How could I have dreamed names like
Jaldabaoth and Ophiomorpho, and that disquisition around the
sarcophagus?"

"Why, you stupid lad! Don't you see they will say you have been
reading the secret pamphlet which was published by the opponents of
the Ancient Order of Templars? But, what was permitted to King Philip
will not be tolerated in you; you will not be allowed to tell stories
about Baphomet idolatry, and serpent worship. And, suppose you are
allowed to tell what you 'saw with your eyes and heard with your
ears'--you have no witness to prove that what you say is true."

"Oh, haven't I?" I cried, triumphantly producing from the leather bag
the pyx with its contents. "Here is my witness: this sacred wafer,
defiled by the idol-worshippers. See! here in the center of it, is the
print of Ashtoreth's slipper heel, where she trod it under foot. You
see, it is directly over the banner of the _Agnus Dei_?"

Mynheer deliberately adjusted his large spectacles on the bridge of
his nose, and scrutinized the wafer.

"_Donnerwetter_!" he growled, "you are right, lad, this is the symbol
of Baphomet: a half-moon, a double-headed serpent curved to form the
figure 8. Hm, hm--you have acted in a praiseworthy manner after all!
By bringing this wafer with you, you have saved the souls of many
devout Christians from eternal damnation, in that you have hindered
them from kneeling in adoration today at mass before this symbol of
Baphomet! Indeed, half Stettin will owe thanks to you if, instead of
damnation, it wins salvation! Your brave and valiant deed will save
from the flames of hell at least twelve thousand souls! Therein lies
the wisdom of your action; the unwisdom will come to the fore when you
ask yourself: 'What shall I do with these desecrated vessels?'

"You thought to arraign an entire order--nay, two, for those wanton
females must belong to an order of some sort. To accuse a religious
body is always extremely dangerous--specially so, if the order be
composed of women. I am afraid it will result in your ruin; you will
most likely be arrested for stealing church property--the punishment
for which is death at the stake. What will your word be worth against
the denials of the knights? Do you imagine that any trace of their
scandalous revelry will be found? Not by a good deal! You will be
pronounced a wicked calumniator; unless you want them to cut off your
tongue, you will keep it silent between your teeth!"

"Then what shall I do with these things?" I asked in perplexity,
giving the bag a thrust with my foot. "Shall I take them back to the
castle?--"

"That"--interrupted Mynheer--"would be the stupidest thing you could
do. The sir knights would, beyond a doubt, have you walled into some
corner of the castle, where you might await the resurrection with what
patience you could summon!"

"Then, what would you advise me to do?" I asked again.

"Well, my son, _I_ say, that what you have in your possession belongs
to you; accept it as the gift of heaven--though you acquired it from
Satan. When we get to Hamburg I will direct you where to find an
honest man whose business it is to relieve pious folk of any treasure
they may have taken from Satan--or, found where it was not lost. I am
acquainted with a Christian of that sort; you need not be afraid to
trust him--he is honest as a Quaker, and would not cheat anyone--on
Sunday! I think I may trust you to dispose of your treasure as
cleverly as you--appropriated it, which, after all, is the chief
secret of trade!"



CHAPTER II.

THE MOO-CALF.


I dare say your highness, and gentlemen of the court, have heard a
good many stories about the moo-calf? I shall abstain from expressing
just here an opinion of the mysterious creature as, by so doing, I
should anticipate the denouement of one of my most remarkable
adventures. I think almost every dweller in Coblentz has heard of the
moo-calf's strange doings; for there are numerous records in the
chronicles of the city, of its mysterious appearance and behavior.

The moo-calf ordinarily appears in those cities where the Jews have
multiplied excessively, and attained to power.

It is a well-known fact that a calf is the meekest, the most innocent
of animals, that it has never been known to assault anyone, that it
would be the least likely of all the animal kingdom to wield a
boundless tyranny over an entire community. Therefore, I do not
believe _all_ the terrifying tales I have heard about the moo-calf. Do
any of the gentlemen here believe them?

Several members of the court admitted that they believed the tales;
some thought a portion might be true, others were non-committal. So
much time was given to the discussion, that the chair was at last
obliged to interfere. He said to the prisoner--after rapping
impatiently for order:

"You are not here to ask questions, but to be questioned. Now let us
hear what _you_ have to say about the moo-calf?"

Hugo bowed and resumed his confession:

When we arrived at Hamburg, Mynheer so managed matters, that it was
evening when he and I went ashore. With the bag of valuables on my
back, I tramped after him to the suburb of St. Paul, to seek in the
winding, and zig-zag streets of the "Hamberger Berg," the house of the
honest Christian, who would relieve my back, and incidentally my mind,
of the load of treasure.

We pushed our way with whole skins through a confusion of menagerie
booths, puppet-shows, jugglery and rope-dancing exhibitions, which
their proprietors importuned us to patronize, avoided with some
difficulty the crowds of tipsy sailors, and at last arrived in front
of the house we were seeking.

The name of the owner was Meyer--a by no means rare cognomen in
Germany!

He was a Lutheran, as eleven-twelfths of the residents of Hamburg are.
They alone possess the rights of citizenship.

Mynheer Ruissen took Herr Meyer to one side, and communicated to him
what business had brought me to Hamburg, whereupon Herr Meyer without
further ceremony invited me to sup with him.

"I hope"--here impatiently interrupted the chair--"you don't intend to
waste more of our time by an enumeration and description of the
various dishes you partook of?"

"No, your honor, though it would not take long to tell what we had for
supper. Herr Meyer placed before me nothing but bread, cheese and
water. He could not say enough in praise of the bread and cheese, and
he boasted that the water, which he said was from the Elias fountain,
possessed the most remarkable properties. While I ate, he examined in
turn each of the vessels I had taken from the bag and placed on the
table, exclaiming over every piece, and making a peculiar noise with
his tongue against the inside of his upper teeth:

"A baptismal basin! Tse-tse-tse! How could you dare to take this? A
censer! tse-tse-tse! Young man, did it never occur to you that you
were defying Satan when you put this into your bag? A communion-cup!
tse-tse-tse! I should think your soul would be oppressed with its
weight of sin! And--actually!--the Holy Virgin's diadem! Woe-woe-woe,
to you, miserable sinner!" I could listen no longer to his lugubrious
comments:

"Oh, hush, Master Meyer," I interrupted, "what use to talk like that?
You needn't think to frighten me with your lamentations. I am a
Lutheran like yourself--rather let us talk about the value of these
things: What will you give for the whole lot? But, before we talk
business, bring me something more palatable to eat and drink. Your
bread and cheese and water are not to my taste."

"Very good, you shall have something else," with sudden alacrity
responded Master Meyer, whose opinion of me was evidently improving.
He hurried to the kitchen, and soon returned with some salt fish, and
a jug of good cider, which he placed before me.

Then he proceeded to appraise the church vessels, and the diadem,
telling me the while that I ought to be thankful his dear old friend
Mynheer Ruissen had led me to him. How easily I might have fallen into
the hands of the papists, who would certainly have imprisoned me--and
perhaps put me to death; or into those of the Jews, who had swarmed
from Spain into Hamburg, and were ruining all honest tradesmen. The
rascally Hebrews would offer only ridiculously low prices for articles
they suspected had been acquired by means not altogether legitimate,
and would give in payment for them counterfeit money. And, wasn't the
cod-fish I was eating most appetizing?

After he had examined my treasures two or three times, he said he
would give me six hundred thalers for the lot--and that I might drink
all of the cider into the bargain.

"See here, Master Meyer," I replied, "your fish is so salty it makes
one want to drink continually, and your cider is so sour, I would
rather not eat your fish than to have to quench my thirst with the
cider. And, moreover, I will take my treasures to the Jews' quarter,
where I shall no doubt find some one who will give more than a paltry
six hundred thalers to a poor shipwrecked traveller for a lot of
articles that are worth at least twenty times the sum you offer."

At these words my worthy host beat his hands together above his head,
and exclaimed:

"My dear son! how will you find your way to the Jews' quarter at this
late hour? It would be very unwise--nay, dangerous, for you to attempt
it. Don't you know that the moo-calf makes its appearance about this
time?"

I shrugged my shoulders to indicate that I was not afraid of a
moo-calf.

"But, my dear son, you don't know what a terrible creature the
moo-calf is. It has become even more terrible and ferocious since the
Jews have multiplied to such numbers in Hamburg. These Spanish Jews
understand all sorts of witch-craft. It was they who discovered that
if a young calf is fed on human blood instead of milk, it will become
savage as a lion. This is the sort of moo-calf they have turned loose
in the Hamberger Berg. It roams through the streets at night,
terrifying to death every person it meets, and scatters the watchmen
in all directions. It tears the bells from the house doors; it has
teeth so sharp that it can snap off the pole of a halberd as easily as
if it were a pipe-stem; and its tongue is rough as a cloth-shearer's
brush. It roars like a lion, bellows like a wild bull, snorts like a
whole herd of wild horses; clatters through the streets like a luggage
van, clappers like a fulling-mill, and crows like a cock that is
possessed. It takes special delight in pursuing honest men and fathers
of families, who suspect their wives and daughters of adventure, and
if it chances to catch one of them, _he_ will not very soon forget the
moo-calf--that is if he escapes with his head to remember it! Another
favorite trick with the calf is: to steal upon a pair of lovers, and
roar at them with such a terrible voice that they die of fright--"

"And what sort of looking beast is this moo-calf?" I interrupted.

"Why, no one can tell what it looks like, my son. Those who have been
unfortunate enough to encounter it on the street have had a stream of
fire blown into their eyes from the beast's nostrils, and they were
not able to see for weeks afterward. The man who is brave enough to
thrust his head out the window when he hears the moo-calf bellow, will
be sure to regret his curiosity, for his head will swell to such a
size that he will not be able for several days to get it back through
the window. That is why no one is able to tell what the monster is
like. I only know that it has the power to stretch its neck to such a
length that it can look into the upper windows of a house. Oh, I can
assure you, it is a most horrible creature!"

I had had ample time, while he was descanting on the moo-calf's
terrible doings, to replace my treasures in the bag.

"Then there really is such a monster?" I observed, shouldering my
load.

He swore by all he held dear, that the moo-calf not only existed, but
that it roamed the streets of Hamburg almost every night.

"Have you any desire to make a bet with me?" I asked.

"A bet?--on what?"

"That I can eat a whole calf at a sitting--especially when I have a
ravenous appetite as now. Fetch me your moo-calf and I'll devour him,
hoofs, hide and tail!"

I dropped the bag from my shoulder to the table, drew forth the short
Roman sword, which was part of my lictor's costume, and sharpened it
on the steel.

"Now, fetch on your moo-calf," I repeated, again shouldering the bag
and making as if I were going to quit the house.

"And you really are not afraid of the moo-calf?" exclaimed Master
Meyer, placing himself in front of me, believing I intended to pursue
my way. "I see you are a headstrong lad, but, as I have taken a fancy
to you, I don't want you to run any risks. Come, make up your mind to
stop here until morning. We will agree on a price for your treasures;
and then have supper together."

"No, thanks," I returned, my face still toward the street door. "I
don't want any more dried codfish. The season of fasting is
over--besides, I am no priest, and if I were I shouldn't object to
wine."

"You shall have whatever you want, my son. Put down your bag, and make
yourself at home." And he hurried into the kitchen to give his orders.

After several minutes he returned, clad in an entire suit of new
clothes; on his arm he carried another handsome suit, which he begged
me to accept as a present from him, adding that I would find in the
pocket of the coat in a purse the sum he was willing to pay for my
treasures, and with which he knew I would be quite satisfied.

When I opened the purse I found in it fifty doubloons, and a slip of
paper.

"What is this?" I inquired, holding the paper toward him.

"A promissory note for two-thousand thalers, payable in three months."

I knew very well that a note of hand was as good as money, and was
quite satisfied with the trade--only, the time of payment was too long
distant to suit me.

"It is a Hamburg custom, my son," replied Master Meyer when I
mentioned my objections. "The money must have time to mature."

I was obliged to be satisfied, besides, fifty doubloons would be quite
enough to keep me in food and raiment for three months.

The supper Master Meyer now placed before me was of a sort I would not
have believed his larder capable of supplying--judging from the fare
he had offered me first. There were pasties of all sorts, game,
confections and a choice selection of wines. Of the last I took
special care not to imbibe too freely. Master Meyer's family joined us
at the repast; there were three daughters, comely, and of marriageable
age; and a son. The latter, I was informed, was a student at the
university. I thought him rather advanced in years for a student!

There was not the least resemblance between the three young women; no
one would have taken them to be sisters. They were merry creatures,
sang and played on the harp and the guitar.

One of them, a blonde, was very pretty. I noticed that she stole
frequent glances toward me, and when her eyes met mine she would blush
and smile enchantingly.

I was still young, and not at all averse to a flirtation. Moreover, I
was a widower. I had had enough experience with the fairer sex,
however, to teach me that it would be well to be on my guard.

Master Meyer had introduced me to his family as "Junker Hermann." The
blonde daughter's name was Agnes. She was a sentimental and romantic
maid. I sat by her side at supper, and was so flustered by the glances
from her blue eyes, I could think of nothing more sensible to say to
her than: "that when the dear Lord should bestow on me a family, I
would have just such spoons as her father's"--with which we were
eating the chocolate cream--and that my own and my wife's crests
should be engraved on the handles. This remark led me to observe
further that I thought the initial letters of Hermann and Agnes would
form a pretty monogram. My fair neighbor could not see just how the
letters might be arranged. I told her it was very simple: the A need
only be inserted between the two uprights of the H to make the union
perfect.

I wanted the Meyers to believe that I was a genuine cavalier, so I
said to the father--after I had emptied my third glass of wine:

"That ring on your finger pleases me very much. I should like to buy
it."

"Well, you see, Junker Hermann," he returned slowly, turning the ring
on his finger, "this is a costly piece of jewelry. The carbuncle alone
is worth fifty thalers; besides, the ring is an heirloom. I wouldn't
sell it for seventy thalers."

"Would you sell it for eighty?"

"I wouldn't let anyone but you, Junker Hermann, have it at any price!
As you seem to have taken such a fancy to it, then take it, in God's
name, for eighty thalers."

"All right," said I. "Just keep the eighty thalers out of the
two-thousand you owe me."

At mention of the two-thousand thalers Agnes helped me to a second
dish of chocolate cream.

"I will draw up a note for the amount," said her father. "We are only
human, and no one can tell what may happen to me."

"Write whatever you like and I'll scrawl my signature to it," I
replied disdainfully.

When he had quitted the room, Agnes whispered to me:

"I am very sorry father sold his ring. It is a talisman in our family,
and was given to my mother as a wedding-present."

"And suppose"--I whispered back to her--"my buying it does not take it
out of the family?"

"I don't quite understand you," she replied, casting down her eyes,
and blushing.

"I shall make my meaning clearer when I may speak to you alone."

"That can be arranged very easily, Junker Hermann; when the family
have gone to their rooms for the night, we can meet in the bow-window
chamber--then you can tell me what you have to say."

The father now returned with the note to the dining-room. It was for
one-hundred thalers, that being the sum--principal and interest--I
should owe Master Meyer at the expiration of three months.

I did not think it worth while to waste words over the usurious
interest charged; but signed my name with cavalier _sangfroid_, and
the ring was transferred from Master Meyer's hand to my own. As my
hand was considerably larger than his, which was exceedingly thin and
bony, I could only get the ring on the second joint of my little
finger.

Just at that moment Rupert, the elderly student, must have made a
teasing remark to his sister; for the three at once set upon him, and
began to belabor him with their fists, and cry out that he should not
have any more wine that evening.

"Very well," he exclaimed, laughing, "then I'll go to the tavern and
get some."

He invited me to accompany him; saying that we should find at the
tavern some good company and bad wine. I excused myself on the plea
that I was very tired, and wanted to rest. He departed alone, and we
heard him singing, and knocking against the doors with his stick, as
he staggered down the street.

Good-nights were now exchanged, and each one went to his or her room.
I waited with considerable impatience until the house had become
quiet; then I stole on tip-toe to the bow-window chamber. This
apartment is in the top story of the house, and projects several feet
over the street. A bright moon illumined the cozy chamber, so that a
lamp was not necessary.

I had not long to wait; the soft rustle of feminine garments very soon
announced the coming of my charming Agnes.

I met her at the door, took her hand in mine, and drew her into the
bow-window. She asked me without further ceremony, to explain how the
ring I had bought from her father could remain in their family now
that I was the owner of it.

"Nothing easier in the world! my dear Agnes," I made answer. "I need
only to slip it on your finger as an engagement ring."

She understood my explanation, and allowed me to place on the third
finger of her left hand the ring for which I owed one-hundred thalers.
After this ceremony I asked--as was natural--if I might seal the
bargain with a kiss--

"Ha! I knew that was coming!" interrupted the chair; "we don't care to
hear that sort of evidence."

"Why," pacifically interposed the prince, "Why, a kiss is nothing out
of the way."

"_One_ kiss would not be; but it would not stop at one; a second and a
third--and heaven only knows how many more would follow, and--

"Pray allow me to contradict your honor," respectfully interrupted the
prisoner. "There was only one. I will admit that I was about to help
myself to more, but I was hindered--"

"By the white dove on your shoulder, of course!" interrupted the
mayor's ironical tones.

"No, your honor, not the white dove. Just at the moment I was going to
take the second kiss, there came from the street directly underneath
the bow-window, the most unearthly sounds--as if a herd of angry
elephants were bellowing for their supper. I never heard so hideous a
noise. It was a mixture of the squealing of a wild boar; the neighing
of a horse; the blare of a trumpet, and the clattering of a heavy
wagon over cobbles."

"Jesu Maria! the moo-calf!" shrieked my terror-stricken betrothed,
tearing herself from my arms. The next instant she had vanished, with
my hundred-thaler ring.

Furious with rage, and not a little fear, I sprang to the window,
flung back the sash, and thrust out my head--never once thinking of
the dire result which would follow such action: my head swollen to the
size of a barrel.

However, that did not happen to me; but enough pepper was blown into
my eyes to prevent me, most effectually, from seeing anything on the
earth, or in the heaven! I howled with pain and rage--compared to the
sounds which came from my throat, the moo-calf's bellowing was the
weakly puling of an infant.

But, such was the fear of my host and his daughters, of the fiendish
brute, that not one of them ventured to come to my assistance. I was
obliged to grope my way unaided to my room, and to wash the pepper
from my blinded eyes as best I could.

While I was thus engaged Rupert returned home, and joined his howls to
mine; he said the moo-calf had attacked him, and almost done for him.
His face and clothes were proof of a rough and tumble encounter with
something: the former was scratched and bleeding, and his garments
looked as though he had had a scuffle with an enraged eagle. His bed
and mine were in the same room, and neither of us slept very much that
night. The student was frightfully ill; he kept muttering constantly
something about the moo-calf; while I sat by the basin until daylight,
mopping my eyes with water.

The cursed moo-calf! Why didn't he bellow before I gave my costly ring
into Agnes' keeping? It was not at all likely that I should soon have
another opportunity to be alone with her!

The next morning Master Meyer gave me to understand that the duties of
hospitality would not be extended beyond one day; and that I would
better seek a lodging more suitable to the station of a young man of
quality. He would be glad to have me visit him frequently; and if I
wanted to be amused Rupert, who was perfectly familiar with all the
ways of the city, would be delighted to be my guide.

I did not see the lovely Agnes again alone; so I made up my mind to
write, and tell her how much I thought of her. I question now, whether
any of the numerous letters I sent her through Rupert, ever reached
her hands.

From that day, there was no end to amusements. Rupert was the very lad
to make me acquainted in the shortest time with all the resorts of
entertainment, and many companions of questionable reputation. I was
introduced to a Spanish hidalgo; a Scotch laird; a Brazilian planter;
a Wallachian boyar--that their patents of nobility grew on the same
genealogical tree with my own I suspected from the very first. They
were, individually and collectively, hearty drinkers, reckless
gamblers, and fearless fighters. That the money they squandered with
lavish hand was not obtained through honest means I was confident, and
I was equally confident that the entire crew looked on me as their own
special prey.

But, I taught them a thing or two before very long!

At our drinking-bouts, I always left them under the table. While with
the Templars I learned a valuable secret: how to drink all the wine
you wanted without becoming intoxicated. I shall not reveal this most
valuable secret here. I have an idea, that when the court sentences
me, I may win its clemency by revealing what I learned from the
_dornenritter_--the secret which would be of incalculable value to all
mankind--

"We shall see about it--if the time ever comes when sentence shall be
passed on you!" observed the chair.

To out-drink me, resumed the prisoner, after this digression, was
impossible, though they tried their best to do so. Had they succeeded
in stupefying me with wine, I am quite certain they would have robbed
me of the note for two-thousand thalers, which I always carried with
me. I suspected that the series of drinking-bouts had been arranged to
enable Rupert to steal the note; had he succeeded, Master Meyer would
have been relieved of paying what he owed me. But my secret enabled me
to frustrate their plans.

Nor did they succeed in getting hold of any of my doubloons. The first
time we engaged in a game of dice, I detected their scheme to cheat
me; the dice were loaded. As I had played that sort of game before, I
astonished and discomfited my companions by the frequency with which
the sixes always came on top when I threw. They, and not I, lost
money. If they attempted to quarrel with me about my good fortune,
they found that, skilled though they were in the pugilistic art, I
could take care of myself. I learned some wrestling tricks while I was
with the haidemaken, and they served me well in my bouts with those
notorious fighting-cocks. I was not the one to get worsted. But, no
matter how angry I might be, I always took good care not to injure any
of them seriously; had I done so, they would very soon have had me
behind prison bars.

I was also extremely careful in my intercourse with the women I met.
My white dove accompanied me wherever I went, but I never spoke of her
to anyone. I would tell my companions, after they had dragged me from
one den to another without succeeding in attaching me to any of the
alluring nymphs, that I had no eyes for any woman but my charming
betrothed, to whom I had vowed eternal fidelity; and that I was
obliged to adhere all the more rigidly to my vow, because Rupert,
being the brother of my sweetheart, might betray me to her were he to
see me paying attention to another girl.

Then the student would swear that a "whole ditch full of devils" might
fetch him (a favorite oath in Hamberger Berg polite society) if he so
much as mentioned my name to his sister. I might flirt with whomsoever
I chose, he would not betray me. But, I persisted in turning a deaf
ear to the fascinating damsels I continued to meet night after night
in the various drinking shops we frequented. I knew very well that a
tidy wench would be more apt to get hold of my carefully guarded note
of hand than would any of my brawling comrades.

I wasn't going to let anyone steal it; I had decided that I would take
the money home to my poor old parents. The two-thousand thalers would
make of them real gentle folk; father could buy a little fruit farm;
and a fur coat for himself; and the old mother might promenade to
church in a silk mantle, bought with the money her son had given her--

"And which he obtained by selling stolen church property,"
sarcastically interjected the chair.

"The end justified the means," quickly, but with due respect, retorted
the prisoner, whereupon the prince laughed heartily.

The mayor's face became crimson; he said in a tone of reprimand: "That
phrase was not devised by the pious Jesuits to excuse the man who
steals church property, and sells it to obtain money for his family.
The prisoner will continue his confession."

In this manner I passed three months. The day before the one on which
my note fell due, I spent in my lodgings sleeping quietly. That night
I accompanied my friends, as usual, on a round of the different
taverns we were wont to frequent. We scattered the night patrol;
smeared the windows of several professors' houses with wagon grease;
sang rollicking ditties in front of the houses in which we knew there
were pretty girls; belabored all the Jews we found abroad at that
hour, and kept the entire "Berg" in a state of excitement, until long
after midnight. We marched arm in arm, forming a line across the
street that reached from house to house, to the "Three Apples"--a
famous tavern at that time--where, for a wager, we drank all the
liquid medicines in the store of an itinerant quack doctor, who had
stopped there for the night.

It is just possible it was the medicaments that confused my
brain--though I am convinced they were perfectly innocent of any
intoxicants. Rupert became so helpless, he lay like a log on the
tap-room floor; the innkeeper ordered the rest of us out of the house.

As it was too early to go home, the Scotchman suggested that, as
Rupert was not with us, we should go around to Master Meyer's, where
he and the rest would keep watch in the street, while I made a
"window-call" on my betrothed.

"That's a bright idea of yours!" I exclaimed. "How am I to get up to
my pretty Agnes' window? Her room is in the top story, in the gable. I
am not a moo-calf that can stretch its neck to the luthern."

"Why are we your friends?" chivalrously demanded the Spanish hidalgo.
"Are not we here to help you? We will form a pyramid: three of us will
support two others on their shoulders, and you will form the apex.
You can then rap at your lady-love's window, and we will remain
immovable, while you exchange kisses with her."

The quack's medicaments had, as I said before, confused my brain; I
agreed to the silly plan suggested by the hidalgo, and we turned our
unsteady steps toward the Meyer residence.

When we arrived in front of the house, the first thing we did was
break the lantern which swung from a rope stretched across the street,
in order that the darkness might screen us from the sight of
passers-by.

The acrobatic feat of building a human pyramid was easily
accomplished; and I was very soon standing on the shoulders of two
comrades whose feet in turn rested on the shoulders of the three
forming the base.

I had no difficulty in reaching to the sill of the bow-window; that
room, I knew, opened into Agnes' sleeping-chamber. I had rapped once
on the glass--cautiously, for I did not want to rouse any one in the
lower rooms; and was about to repeat the knock, when the fiendish
bellowing I had heard once before made the blood run cold in my veins.

My comrades under me cried out in terror:

"The moo-calf is coming!"--and the next instant I was hanging by my
fingers to the sill of the bow-window, with my legs wriggling like
those of a frog caught on a hook. I could hear my valiant comrades
scampering for their lives down the street. I did not want to call for
help; for, if old Meyer saw me dangling in front of his window, he
would believe me to be a burglar, and shoot me without ceremony. I
could not swing myself up to the window-sill, for the sash was
closed; so, I hung there, and tried in vain to find a projection below
me, on which to rest my toes.

Meanwhile, the bellowing monster came nearer; I could already hear it
snorting under me. I hung motionless as an executed criminal on the
gallows, hoping the calf might not notice me.

It was a vain hope! The brute came directly toward me, and when I
looked down, I saw the hideous horned head stretch upward--nearer,
nearer. I could feel the rough tongue lick the soles of my shoes--then
my ankles. I drew up my knees, and lifted myself as high as I could;
but the elastic neck stretched out longer--the horrible tongue licked
higher. I felt as if my trousers were being brushed with a curry-comb,
and I thought to myself every moment: "Now the devil will seize me!"

I wriggled and kicked in vain--nearer, and nearer, came the long horns
which threatened to spit me on their sharp points. Fiendish laughter
seemed to come from the red throat, as the tongue licked higher and
higher. It reached my thighs--then my waist, and before I could guess
what might happen, the little bag hanging from my belt, in which I
carried the note for two-thousand thalers, was snapped from its chain,
and disappeared down the brute's gullet.

My fear vanished with the note. Not even Satan himself should take it
without a struggle!

Heedless of the moo-calf, as well as of the danger to my legs, I let
go my hold on the window-sill and dropped. Fortunately my mantle
carried me like a parachute through the air, so that I was not even
shaken by a too sudden contact with the pavement.

I now stood face to face with the dreaded moo-calf. It was not a
creation of the imagination, but a veritable monster, and a most
hideous and frightful one too, at that! It had four huge legs and feet
like an elephant; a neck two fathoms long, at the end of it an
enormous head with horns; the long red tongue hanging from the open
jaws was covered with scales shaped like saw teeth.

"You may be the devil himself," I cried, drawing my sword, and
stepping up to the monster, "but you must give me back my purse."

Quick as thought, the long neck was drawn in, and the head thrust at
me with a force that sent me staggering backward several feet. A
faint-hearted man would most likely have taken to his heels, but I was
too enraged at my loss to think of seeking safety in flight.

What! had I purloined the _dornenritter_ treasures for this?

_They_ were now in Master Meyer's possession, and the two-thousand
thalers were in the stomach of this moo-calf! All this passed like
lightning through my brain, as I picked myself up from the pavement,
where the brute had flung me, and again approached him.

"Either you take me with you to hell," I exclaimed hoarsely, "or I'll
tear my purse from your entrails!"

Again the monster drew in his neck, spread his legs apart as if to
brace himself, and gave utterance to another marrow-freezing roar. I
remembered the dose of pepper I had received from him, and held the
corner of my mantle in front of my face; this shielded me also from
the sparks of fire he blew from his nostrils.

I was prepared for the second assault, and when the brute again shot
out his head toward me, I dropped nimbly to the pavement, and the head
swept over me into the empty air. Before it could be drawn back, I was
on my feet, and buried my sword to the hilt in the creature's breast.

What was my surprise and horror to hear a despairing moan--not from
the moo-calf's throat, from its belly--an unmistakably human voice.

"I am killed--murdered!" cried the voice, as the moo-calf fell in a
heap to the pavement; and from the shapeless leather envelope
staggered a human form--my comrade, Rupert, the student.

The blood was spurting from a wound in his breast--my sword had
pierced clean through him!

"So, you are the moo-calf?" I exclaimed in amazement, surveying the
wounded man leaning, gasping for breath, against the door of his
father's house.

"The devil take you," he groaned. "Why didn't I kill you at once, when
you were hanging from the window, instead of fooling with you? Now,
the old man may play the moo-calf himself, and scare customers from
the Jews' quarter! It's all up with me! Ho, Agnes! Mettze! Come quick!
Summon the patrol! Sound an alarm!"

I saw a female form appear in the bow-window. It was Agnes. When she
recognized Rupert's voice, she began to shriek "Murder! murder!"

I turned to fly, but Rupert, who had sunk to the pavement, weak from
the loss of blood, seized hold of my leg--even in death he thought
only of revenge! I jerked my leg from his grasp with such force, that
he fell backward, striking his head against the door-post.

He did not stir again.

I did not stop to search in the skin of the moo-calf for the
promissory note; I took only time enough to catch up a handful of mud
from the street, and fling it into the face of the girl, who was
leaning from the window shrieking "Murder!" into the night.

It silenced her for a few moments, and I fled down the street with
strides that soon took me a considerable distance from the scene of
the tragedy.

In my terror I imagined that a multitude was pursuing me, crying:
"Catch him!" "Hold him!" "There goes the assassin!"

I fled through unfamiliar streets and by-ways, across bridges, to the
outskirts of the city. There I saw, in an underground den, lights and
moving forms; and heard dance-music and riotous shouting. I tore open
the entrance-door, dashed down the steps, and fell into the arms of an
overgrown rascal, who was clad in the uniform of the Munster guards.
The fellow locked his arms about me, and said laughingly:

"You are welcome, comrade! You have come to the proper refuge. You
must have been close pressed, I declare! You are puffing like a
porpoise! But, have no further fear--you are safe now. Come, sit and
have something to drink."

He pressed a goblet of wine into my hand, thrust his arm through mine,
and drank _smollis_ with me, by exchanging his bear-skin hat for my
cloth barret-cap.

"There, my son, now you are one of us. You have drank our wine, and
are now under the command of our worthy captain."

I had stumbled upon a body of recruits for a partisan corps. The
company was made up of desperate characters, who were glad enough of
this chance to escape prison, or the gallows.

As for myself, I was forced to put a good face on a bad business! Only
twelve hours before, I had been a distinguished cavalier, was called
Junker Hermann; and had a promissory note for two-thousand thalers in
my pocket. Now, I had neither station nor money, and as I had good
cause for not wanting to keep the name by which I was known in
Hamburg, I gave the recruiting sergeant my own true patronymic.

After I had been properly registered, I asked the sergeant:

"What is the name of our captain?"

"Meyer."

"There are a good many Meyers in the world. Is the captain related to
the Berg-Meyers?"

"You've guessed it the first time, my son! The captain's father lives
in the Hamberger Berg, and is a well-known receiver of stolen goods.
Rupert, the captain's brother, is a pander."

I dare say many a man in my place would have been frightened at this
discovery; but _I_ congratulated myself! If I were pursued--I
argued--the officers of justice would seek for me everywhere else but
in the company commanded by the brother of the murdered man; and if
Captain Meyer ever discovered that it was I who had relieved him of
the brother with whom he would have been obliged to share his
inheritance, _he_ certainly would not reproach me for it!

This, honored and high-born gentlemen, added Hugo in conclusion, is
the true history of the homicide for which I am arraigned. I have not
added to, or taken from it; but have related the events exactly as
they occurred.

"_Qui bene distinguit, bene docet!_" observed the prince thoughtfully.
"We call it murder, when the person committing the deed strikes what
he knows to be a human being. But, if the man encounters a ferocious
monster that he believes to be a moo-calf, and kills it as such, and
it turns out to be a human being, 'murder' is certainly not the term
to apply to the deed. Moreover, the person who is so devoid of sense
and dignity, as to conceal his human form in the hide of an irrational
beast, is himself responsible for whatever may happen to him!
Therefore, this indictment may also be stricken from the register."

"Perhaps, your highness," observed the chair with a covert sneer,
"would like to suggest a reward for the prisoner, for delivering the
city of Hamburg from the terrorism of the moo-calf?"

The prince's reply made it obvious that he had not noticed the chair's
sarcasm:

"I-think-not," he returned slowly. "As the prisoner is likely to be
condemned to death for one or more of the other crimes, it would be
useless to bestow on him a certainly deserved reward."

A further hearing was postponed until the next morning.



PART VI.



CHAPTER I.

THE FORGERY.--ONE CIPHER.


I passed an entire year under the command of Captain Meyer, during
which time I may say I committed no more--nor less, evil than my
comrades. I do not hold it necessary to mention the seven mortal sins,
of which all soldiers are guilty when in the enemy's country--those
sins become virtues then.

Were I to enumerate the pillaging, homicides, conflagrations, in which
I took active part, it would be rather a _captatis benevolentiæ_ than
an enforced confession. This much, however, I will confess: The
regions visited by Captain Meyer's corps never expressed a desire for
our return. A whole year of such a life was quite enough for me; and,
as I had enlisted for only a twelve-month, at the expiration of that
time I asked for my discharge.

The captain expressed regret at my wanting to leave him; but made no
objection when I gave him my reason for quitting the service; I was
home-sick, and wanted to see my poor old mother and father. The old
folks lived in Andernach, near which we were quartered. I had not
seen them for full ten years; and I decided that I would spend the
rest of my days with them.

The gold and silver I had once counted on taking to them, to solace
their old age, was not now in my possession: Satan, through whose aid
I had obtained it, had taken it away from me again.

But, if I could not give my parents curse-laden wealth, I was able to
offer them two strong and willing arms which, after so many years of
sinful struggling, longed for the honest toil that would call down a
blessing from heaven.

I would adopt my father's trade; become a pious believer, and try to
be of some use to my fellow-creatures.

Before I could do this, however, I should be obliged to commit a
forgery--as the world would call it.

The burgomaster of Andernach, and the manager of the tannery in that
place, were so very scrupulous, that they wanted to know all about my
antecedents, before they would consent to receive me as a citizen, and
journeyman.

Not for the world would I have forged an entire testimonial for
honesty, and respectability; but I did not think, that to add a single
cipher to the honorable discharge I had received from Captain Meyer
was anything out of the way. A tiny, innocent, worth-nothing,
insignificant cipher, that could harm no one, take nothing from
anyone! And I did not place it in front of the figure 1 either--thus
giving it the precedence over the more valuable numeral. If the
honorable, and high-born gentlemen will but look at it from a
different point of view from that usually taken, I feel confident they
will not think my transgression so heinous after all. Heaven knows!
_Ten_ years' service under Captain Meyer contained sufficient torture
to purge the most hardened criminal, and make him fit for citizenship
in any respectable community!

This, your highness, and honorable gentlemen, is the forgery to which
I plead guilty.

"Humph!" ejaculated his highness. "It is not worth mentioning! Who
would take the trouble to notice such a trifle? Proceed to the
indictment next on the list--"

"On which there is still another crime less!" grumbled the chair
impatiently.



CHAPTER II.

THE LEGACY.


Discharged soldiers travel on foot. It is the more expeditious way if
the roads are bad, for a wagon is heavier than a man. The man has only
two feet to draw from the mud; while the wagon has four wheels.
Besides to travel on foot is cheaper.

When I arrived in Andernach I had, remaining from the money I had
saved during my year's campaigning, only one thaler; but my heart was
so light, the lightness of my pocket did not trouble me.

How glad I was when I caught sight of the familiar towers of the
palace, and the ruins on the Templeberg. How often, when a lad, I had
clambered among those ruins, in search of hawks' nests, and Roman
coins. If I had only broken my neck on one of those innocent quests.
Everything was so familiar; the large mill-stone factory; the cranes
on the quay; the rafts on the river; the long avenues--yes, even the
old receivers of customs at the Coblentz gate! I recognized the old
fellows at once; but they did not remember me. I might stray through
the entire town without hearing a single voice call to me: "Welcome,
welcome! Why that is Hugo!" I was so changed in appearance!

But I remembered everybody and everything! I did not need to ask my
way through the narrow streets to the tanneries on the banks of the
river. I remembered the names of all the families that lived in those
narrow streets.

At last I came in sight of the house in which dwelt my parents--the
dear, familiar home of my boyhood! There it stood; and beside it, the
same tall mulberry tree with its branches shading the street.

Perched among those branches, I had learned to decline the classical
formula: "_Hic gallus cantans in arbore sedens, kukuriku dicens!_" At
the moment of my arrival, however, instead of a _gallus cantans_ on
the tree, an auctioneer's assistant was standing under it, and
vigorously beating a cracked drum.

"What is going on here?" I asked of the man, in whom I recognized an
acquaintance of my boyhood.

"There's going to be an auction, Master Soldier."

"What is to be sold?"

"Everything that belonged to the old tanner. You may take a look
inside if you like," he added, nodding toward the house. "It won't
cost you anything."

"But why are you selling the old man's property?" I asked again.

"To get money, naturally!"

"For whom?"

"For the numerous Jebucees, Sadducees, and publicans, to whom the old
man was indebted. If they sell everything--to the brood of sparrows
under the eaves!--there will not be enough money, by a good deal, to
pay all he owes."

"Why," said I, "the old man was a good manager; and his wife an
industrious and thrifty house-wife, when I knew them."

"And so they were! The old man was all right, until he took to
drinking."

"Took to drinking? Why did he do that?"

"Well--you see, he had a worthless son, who ran away from home about
ten years ago. The scamp joined a band of robbers; and when he left
them, he gave out that he was a Polish count; played all manner of
tricks; broke out of prison; robbed churches. Every year the news
which came to the old man about his Hugo grew worse; until at last he
was afraid to venture on the street, for the whole town was talking
about his worthless son. So he took to drink--had it fetched to the
house, and drank harder and harder--especially after his wife died--"

"Dead?" I interrupted. "Is the old dame dead?" my heart almost burst
because I had to keep back the words "my mother."

"Yes, Master Soldier, she is dead, and it is a mercy the good old soul
did not live to see this sorrowful day! But, you must excuse me. I
have got to beat this drum, so that a good lot of people will come to
the sale."

A dozen or more purchasers came in response to the summons. I took up
my station by the open window, and looked into the familiar room,
where the buyers were higgling over the various articles to be sold.
My mother's Sunday mantle was just then under the hammer--the pretty
silk mantle with the silver fastening at the neck. How I wished I were
able to put an end to the disgusting higgling, by shouting in the
window:

"I'll take the whole lot for a thousand thalers!"

But, alas! there was only a single, miserable thaler in my pocket.

The mantle at last became the property of an old-clothes dealer: he
flung it around his shoulders, and made believe to promenade to
church. It was a revolting sight! The entire higgling crew laughed
uproariously, and clapped their hands. I could endure it no longer, my
heart was bursting.

I stepped back to the drummer, and asked:

"Is it long since the old dame died?"

"Not so long but you may find her grave if you care to see it. She is
buried in the cemetery on the Templeberg."

"And where is her husband?"

"Well"--and he scratched his ear--"that is a question I am unable to
answer: what was immortal about him, is in heaven, or hell, or
purgatory--who can say? Flesh, bones and skin, are about to be buried
in the earth--just where though, I can't tell you."

"Buried now?" I repeated. "Why, there's no bell tolling for the
funeral?"

"No, Master Soldier, the death bell doesn't ring for such corpses. The
poor old man hung himself--just here, on this limb above us!"

"Hung himself?" I repeated in horror.

"Yes, Master Soldier--he hung himself on that limb! You see he
couldn't stand it when, after he had been told that his property would
have to be sold to pay his debts, he heard that the burgomaster had
received from Hamburg a warrant to arrest Hugo, his vagabond son, who
had murdered a comrade of his in that city."

You may imagine my feeling when I heard these words! They banished
from my mind all thought of making myself known as the long-lost Hugo,
and the determination to keep my identity a strict secret was
strengthened by the drummer who, at every beat he inflicted on the
cracked calf-skin, exclaimed: "The rascal!" "The vagabond!" "The
gallows-bird!" and similar titles of honor!

I deemed it wise to join him in execrating the reprobate, whose evil
conduct had forced the honest old tanner to end his life on the green
branch over our heads.

The bloody deed I had committed in Hamburg had driven my poor father
to a suicide's grave. I could listen no longer to the monotonous
drum-beats, and the call which came from the house: "Who bids higher?"

I stole away from the house to which I had brought disgrace and death.
I stole away to that city of the silent multitude, where there is no
higgling, no outbidding, no "who bids higher?"

Here, the wooden cross at the head of the grass-grown mound of earth,
serves the same purpose, and serves it as well as the majestic marble
monument. After a long search among many familiar, and some unfamiliar
names, I found, on one of the wooden crosses, the name to which I had
a claim.

Underneath that mound, bare of green sod, with no mourning wreath of
never-fading flowers adorning the cross, rested the woman who had left
behind her on earth nothing but a drunken husband, who drank to forget
his shame; and a worthless son, whose name was a public disgrace in
every city in the land.

I flung myself beside the mound. I dared not give vent to my sorrow in
moans and tears, for fear a grave-digger, or some passer-by might hear
me, and suspect me to be the son of the woman in the grave.

The Hamburg magistrates had offered one hundred thalers for my arrest;
consequently it behooved me to be very cautious. I pretended I had
chosen that spot to rest; and lay very still; for, just then, a good
many people--chattering old women, noisy lads, and all sorts of shabby
folk--were passing through the cemetery, toward the further wall.

The crowd seemed to be expecting something--an imposing funeral, I
said to myself. I soon found out why they were so eager to get to the
boundary wall of the cemetery: In the strip of earth just outside the
wall was the suicide's grave.

He is not to rest among the respectable Christians; but in the strip
of unconsecrated ground outside the sacred inclosure. No priest leads
his funeral train; his body comes to its last resting place in the
knacker's cart, on a bier made of four rough deals. The coffin is
unpainted; there is no name-plate on the lid.

The bell on the neck of the knacker's old steed tolls him to the
grave. Instead of a solemn funeral dirge, there is the noisy chatter
of the curious mob; and in lieu of funeral oration are the knacker's
stupid and offensive jokes, which he cracks while he prepares to lower
the coffin into the grave. Before he does this, he takes a knife from
his pocket, and whittles a few chips from the coffin; and over these
the gaping crowd--especially the old women--quarrel and higgle, gladly
giving their last pence for the relics. And these people never suspect
that the man who leans heavily against the broken cross, hard-by the
new-made grave, might rush suddenly upon them, and with the stump of
the broken cross crack the skulls of those whom he chanced to strike!

At last the knacker took note of me:

"Well, Master Soldier," he called, "and how goes it with you? Don't
you want to exchange a few pence for a chip from the coffin of the man
who hung himself? There is great virtue in such a bit of wood! It will
preserve you from lightning, and--"

"I would rather have a nail out of the coffin," I interrupted, "for
iron will attract lightning, which is what I most desire."

The fellow was ready enough to comply with my request, but he said the
nail would be worth a thaler. I gave him the thaler, the last money I
possessed in the world! and received the nail--my legacy from my
father!

Later, I had a ring made of the coffin-nail, and I still wear it on
the fore-finger of my right hand.

"Well," enunciated his highness, drawing his handkerchief from his
pocket; "you certainly were punished for your misdeeds, my son. Your
sufferings must have been greater than if you had been tortured on the
wheel."

The chair's comments were inaudible amid the sounds of emotion, which
came from behind the prince's handkerchief.



PART VII.



CHAPTER I.

PEACEFUL REPOSE.


I was now without a heller in my pocket; and yet I did not feel poor.
I thought to myself: I am a man, born this day--nothing, and nobody. I
am so much better off than the new-born babe, in that I shall not have
to be taught how to walk and talk, need no one to feed me, and rock me
to sleep.

I determined I would not remain longer on German soil. If I remained,
only one of two alternatives was left to me: If I desired to associate
with respectable folk, I should have to allow them, when they
discovered who I was, to cut off my head; and if I went back to my old
life, or into the army, I should have to cut off the heads of my
fellow-creatures. I had no desire to do either.

After my varied, and troublous experiences, I yearned for peace and
quiet. My plans were soon formed. There was considerable trade in
lumber, between Andernach and Holland. Innumerable rafts, composed of
huge tree-trunks for masts, and piles for dams, were floated down the
Rhine; and to the owner of one of these rafts I hired myself as rower.

The wage was fair: thirty pfenings a day, with bread, cheese, dried
fish, and a jug of beer. I never drank my portion of beer, but sold it
for three pfenings, to one of my comrades on the raft, who got thirsty
twice daily. I drank only water.

When my fellow rowers would curse and swear, because a strong wind, or
the current, drove the raft against the rocks, I would remonstrate
mildly with them; and assure them that such speech in the mouths of
Christian men was displeasing to God; and when, to pass the time, they
would sit down to a game of dice, I would withdraw to the further end
of the raft. If they urged me to join the game, I would reply:

"Thou shalt not covet what belongs to thy neighbor."

After awhile the jeers of my comrades attracted the attention of the
owner of the raft.

"Hello, lad; what's the matter with you? You don't drink, don't
gamble, and don't swear--you are damnably pious, it seems to me! But,
you are a first-rate worker; and I shall sell you in Nimeguen for at
least three times as much as any of those lazy louts."

"You are going to sell me and my comrades in Nimeguen?" I exclaimed in
amazement.

"Why, certainly! What the devil else should I do with you? You can
float down stream on the raft; but I couldn't float you
up-stream!--and I couldn't carry you on my back, could I? But, don't
you worry. I'll find good places for the lot of you. There will be
plenty of buyers for the rowers, as well as for the raft, and the
price every fellow brings will be equally divided between me and
himself!"

"What becomes of the men--usually?" I ventured to inquire.

"Well, I don't believe _all_ are chopped into sausage-meat! The
Hollander likes to be a sailor--but only a captain, or a pilot. He
likes also to be a soldier, but again he prefers to be a captain, or
the commandant of a fortress. Therefore, common seamen and private
soldiers are in demand; and for this the ignorant stranger is good.
Consequently, you need only say which you prefer: to become a sailor,
or a land-lubber--and take your choice."

I deliberated a moment, then I said to him:

"I will tell you the truth, Captain, because I have vowed never again
to let a lie pass my lips. I am tired of soldiering. I have shed so
much blood on the battlefield, that the remembrance of it oppresses my
soul. I don't want to be a soldier; I would rather go to sea, and be
rocked by the waves."

"Well, you are an ignorant dunce!" he exclaimed. "Don't you know that,
if you go to sea, you will get right into the thick of battle? The
Dutch fight all their real battles at sea. They keep an army on shore,
only that they may have troops to capitulate when a fortress is
starved out by the enemy! The soldiers never get any actual fighting.
Punctuality, sobriety, irreproachable conduct--these are the Dutch
soldier's strong points--and, the devil fly away with me, if you
don't rise to be a corporal in less than a twelve-month, if you join
the army! What were you before?"

"A gunner."

"Well, you can be a gunner in the Dutch army."

"But, what have the gunners in the Dutch artillery to do if there is
no enemy to shoot at?" I asked.

"Oh, they find enough to occupy their time. On Saturday evenings they
have the management of the fire-works, which are set off in the park;
and on the other days of the week they prepare the rockets, and other
things, for the Saturday evening's display."

That is why I became a gunner in the artillery, in the goodly city of
Nimeguen. Sixty dollars was the price paid for me, the half of which I
received.

I was now in a community that exactly suited me. Here was no mighty
uproar, no rioting, no drinking. Here, no vain braggart youths
molested the wives of the staid burghers. Here were no conflicts
between the military and the citizens. All were at peace with one
another.

On Sunday mornings the armed, and the unarmed residents went together
to church; and in the evening all drank their pints together amicably
in the beer-houses. The soldiers were allowed, when not on guard duty,
or otherwise engaged in the fortress, to work for the citizens; the
money thus earned belonged to themselves. And there were many chances
to secure employment. The entire city of Nimeguen was a huge
flower-garden, in which was grown that most important article of
commerce: the tulip bulb.

It is a well-known fact that not only entire Europe but all the lands
under the dominion of the Turkish sultan, would suffer a greater
financial loss, were the Dutch tulip-bulbs to remain out of the
markets for a year, than if all other crops were to fail for the same
length of time.

By saying this, I do not mean that the carnation is not also a
necessary luxury--if I may so term it; but the tulip is, and will
remain, the most important article of commerce in the lands I have
mentioned. One tulip-bulb is worth as much as a peck of wheat. But it
is of different values--according to the color. There are tulips which
only kings and sultans can afford to have bloom in their gardens.

I was fortunate enough to secure employment for my leisure hours, as
gardener's assistant, on the estate of a widow who was "tulip-wealthy."

The lady would visit her tulip beds early every morning, to see them
in bud; and again late in the afternoon, to see the full-blown
flowers. At such times I never got a glimpse of her face; for she
always wore a huge cap, from which only the tip of her nose protruded.

But I decided, after I had been on the estate a week, that the fair
owner must be young, for when she addressed a remark to me, which she
did occasionally, her voice was so low--as if she feared I might hear
what she said.

To judge by the enormous quantities of bulbs she sent to market, the
widow must have been very rich; but the bulbs were not her only
treasures. She possessed a collection of shells, fresh, and
salt-water, that represented a very tidy sum of money.

In Holland, as well as in England, and France, the shell had also a
commercial value; and wealthy collectors vied with one another to
secure the finest examples of the _spordilus regius_; the "sun-ray"
mussel; the rainbow-hued "venus-ear"; the "queen's cap"; the "tower of
Babylon"; and "Pharaoh's turban," and would pay as high as two hundred
dollars for a perfect specimen of the shell they wanted. I have known
a perfect _scalaria preciosa_ to bring one hundred zequins. This shell
is more valuable than the pearl; and my fair employer possessed a
whole drawerful of them. Her sainted husband had collected them; and
they would have sold for more than would a three-master loaded with
grain.

More than one nabob had offered fabulous sums for the collection; and
it was said that a British peer, who was devoted to the study of
conchology, had even gone so far as to offer his hand and title to the
widow, in order to gain possession of the much coveted treasure.

The widow who hesitates loses a title; while the lady was considering
the peer's offer, there was a sudden fall in the price of shells, and
my lord sailed away to England.

What caused this depression in the shell-market you ask?

Well, as your highness, and the honorable gentlemen, must know, every
sea-creature like the _scalaria_ builds its house with the volutions
turning to the left.

One day a sailor, whose home was in Nimeguen, returned from a voyage
to Sumatra, and brought with him a large number of _scalaria_ with the
shells turned in just the opposite direction--from left to right. Now,
a shell of this order was a decided _lusus naturæ_, and the price for
the ordinary pattern at once depreciated. The bankers and nabobs, who
had formerly vied with one another in their quest for the _scalaria
preciosa_, were now so inflamed with the desire to possess a _scalaria
retrotorsa_, that they willingly paid from two to three thousand
thalers for a single specimen. On the other hand, the ordinary
_scalaria_, which had sold readily for one hundred ducats, could now
be bought for ten, and fifteen thalers.

This was a heavy blow for my widowed employer, and she soon found that
she had not the strength to bear it alone.

When I heard of her loss, I summoned enough courage to say to her:

"If this unlucky business about the shells is all that troubles you,
my dear lady, I think I can help you. I have a scheme that will in a
very short time produce shells which turn to the right--and in such
quantities, that you can supply all the shell-markets in the country."

The widow reflected several moments, then replied:

"But, I couldn't think of allowing you to employ witch-craft to secure
such shells for me. I do not approve of magic. I have always held
aloof from sorcery, charms, conjuring, and all such infernal
practices; and, as I hope some time to be united with my beloved
husband, who is with the saints, I could not bind my soul to the
wicked one, by countenancing any sort of magic, or idolatry."

"There is neither magic nor idolatry connected with my scheme to
benefit you, gracious lady," I assured her. "What I have in mind is a
purely scientific experiment. It is fully described in a large book
written by the learned Professor Wagner, who was a very pious man, as
well as a very clever scholar."

"The book I allude to, gracious lady, treats of the sympathy and
antipathy of plants, and cold-blooded animals; and is all about
creatures made by our Heavenly Father. It is a noteworthy fact, that
the bean vine always twines from left to right around the stake which
supports it; while the hop as invariably winds from right to
left--neither of them ever makes a mistake. If, however, the bean and
the hop be planted close together, then, the two plants being
antipathetic one to the other, the bean will twine to the left, and
the hop to the right."

"_Quid fuit probatum._"

"From such experiments the learned professor was led to experiment
with living creatures. He found that, when an acaleph which forms its
shell from right to left in the flower-beds at the bottom of the
ocean, chances to lie in close proximity to a _nautilus pompilius_,
which belongs to the cephalopods, and builds from left to right, the
two, because of their antipathy for each other, will reverse the order
of their volutions."

"From this it is clear that those conchologists, who have created a
veritable social revolution with their _scalaria retrotorsa_, and have
shaken the foundations of prosperity in the Dutch low countries, have
accidentally come upon such shells which, in consequence of an
antipathetic propinquity, have reversed their order of building--and
by so doing, my dear lady, have caused you great loss and sorrow. But,
you need sorrow no longer, if you will graciously assent to my
proposition. It will, I feel confident, bring you a fortune so
enormous that even the queen regent will envy you!"

"But, what is your proposition?" queried the pious soul, and for the
first time, half of her face emerged from the depths of her cap.

"It is this, gracious lady: Order your agents to bring from the ocean
living _scalaria_, and _nautili_, which are to be secured with least
trouble during the mating season. We will prepare for them here a
large basin of sea-water, with sand from the bottom of the ocean. In
this we will plant sea-weeds, place our living shells among them, and
feed them with star-fish, holothures, and other soft-bodied marine
creatures. After a season our shell-fish will spawn; the eggs of the
_scalaria_ cling together--like a string of pearls; those of the
_nautili_ adhere to one another by sixes, in shape of a star.

"When we shall have secured a number of broods, we will fasten
together the ends of a _scalaria_ string, forming a circle, in the
center of which we will place a star of _nautilus_ spawn; and you will
see, when the tiny creatures escape from the eggs, that they will
build their houses in a reversed order from the parent shell."

My plan was quite clear to the fair widow; she gave her orders at once
to her agents, for the _scalaria_, and _nautili_, and from that
moment treated me with great respect and affability.

Meanwhile, I continued to perform my duties: I polished my guns
mornings; inspected the soldiers' coats, to see if any of the buttons
had been sewed on wrong side up--the lower part of the state's coat of
arms uppermost--and reported to the captain that everything was in
order. Saturday evenings I attended to setting off the fire-works; and
every week-day afternoon I worked in the widow's garden.

What I earned I laid by. I never touched pipe, nor glass--not even
when they were offered to me; and to whomsoever I addressed a remark,
I gave the title belonging to him. Thus, I gained the respect of all
my fellow-citizens. I had become what I had long desired: a
respectable God-fearing man--

"Now, look out for a special bit of rascality;" _sotto voce_,
interjected the chair.

I admit it was to win promotion that I conducted myself with such
propriety, continued the prisoner. I was extremely desirous of
attaining a lieutenancy.

When the living _scalaria_, and _nautili_, arrived together with the
creatures which were to serve as food for them, they were placed in
the large basin with a wall about it, I had prepared for them in the
lower portion of the tulip garden; and in due time the spawn was ready
for further operation.

My gracious employer was greatly surprised to learn that the eggs of
the shell-fish have a peculiarity which distinguishes them from the
eggs of birds and insects. With the development of the embryonic fish,
its envelope also extends; one such egg, which at first is hardly as
large as a lentil, increases to the size of a hazel-nut. In this
condition its outer covering is very thin--merely a transparent
membrane, through which the now quickened animal may be seen revolving
with the celerity of a spinning top. One may even detect the
pulsations of its heart.

"The fellow has actually taken it upon himself to deliver a lecture on
malacology!" irritably interposed the chair. "I am sorry to prolong
the hearing, your honor," deferentially returned the prisoner, "but, I
beg you will allow me to finish what I have to say on this subject, in
order that I may explain why I was accused of conjuring. I desire to
prove that what I did was not accomplished by aid of any infernal
power; but through my own intelligence, in discovering, and making use
of one of Nature's secrets."

As I mentioned before, one may perceive, in the embryonic mollusk, the
incessant rotary movement from left to right. In order to keep the two
antipathetic broods constantly in the close juxtaposition necessary to
influence their development, I was obliged to handle them frequently,
as the eggs would move about--

"Stop!" interrupted the chair, "mollusks have no eyes; how then were
those you hatched able to see their antipathetic neighbors, and move
away from them?"

Their antipathetic sensations informed them. Though mollusks have no
eyes, they are endowed with other remarkable organs--such as are not
found in warm-blooded animals. However, to cut my story short, the
quickened _scalaria_, and _nautili_, immediately began to form their
shells in the reversed order I had expected, and the secret of
fabulous enrichment was solved.

During the mysterious process of nature--while the shell-fish were
industriously rearing their priceless houses--my patroness daily spent
a half hour or more beside the sea-water basin; and would even, now
and then, assist me to restore the creatures to their proper
positions.

At first she would push her sleeves only an inch or two above the
wrists; but, after awhile, they were tucked above the elbows, and I
could admire as much as I wanted the beautiful white arms--a favor no
modest woman will allow anyone but her own husband.

As the work had to be done, and as we did not want a third party to
have cognizance of our experiment, the fair widow was obliged to
assist me, and the natural result of the bared arms was: I became her
legal husband. Therefore, it was neither through magic, nor
witch-craft, nor yet through seductive arts employed by myself, that I
became the legal protector of the richest, and handsomest young widow
in Nimeguen.

("The truth of the matter is: the modest Dutch widow bewitched the
valiant gunner, and compelled him to marry her!" was the chair's
sarcastic interpolation.)

Well, be that as it may, the lady was amply rewarded for marrying me.
The _scalaria retrotorsa_ resulting from my experiment, brought her
enormous wealth. We did not know, at last, what to do with all the
money that kept pouring into our coffers; but, the larger portion of
her reward by far, she found in the conjugal fidelity I vowed to her.
I would not have believed that I possessed so many of the attributes
necessary to the making of a pattern husband, and my wife would have
been entirely satisfied with me, had I been a captain like her first
spouse.

But I was only a gunner!

My predecessor had been a captain, it is true, but he had never seen a
battle; and when, on _Corpus Christi_, he commanded the city militia,
and gave orders to fire the salute, he always pressed his hands
against his ears to shut out the noise.

Still, his title gave his wife the right to call herself "Frau
Hauptmannin;" while, as my wife she was merely "Constablerinn"--a
degradation intolerable to any proud-spirited woman.

I tried to purchase at least a lieutenant's commission; but there were
fifty-six applicants for the position ahead of me; and there was no
telling how many years I should have to wait for my turn.

My wife at last became so sensitive that, in order to escape being
addressed by the inferior title, she ceased to go out of the house;
and when she had occasion to make mention of me to any one, she always
spoke, or wrote, in this wise: "The husband of the widow of Captain
Tobias van der Bullen." That honorable and high-born gentlemen, is how
I came to be called--through no fault of mine!--by my twelfth false
name: "Tobias van der Bullen."

I must confess, it was an extremely dull life. Of what use to us were
the hoards of gold in the treasure-chests? We did not know how to
spend them. I did not drink wine; I was not allowed to smoke at home,
because it was an unclean habit. And I was always at home, when not at
the barracks, because I had nowhere else to go.

At the merchants' casino, of which I might have become a member had I
so elected, all the conversation was about matters I could not endure.
The men were so grave and sedate, there was no fun in trying to play
tricks on them; and the women were virtuous to such a degree, that not
one of them would have allowed a barn-yard cock to scratch worms for
more than one hen.

As all married men know, women are peculiar creatures. There are times
when they become impressed with a desire to possess certain things
that--so say the sagacious doctors--it is unwise, nay dangerous, to
refuse to gratify the request. I have heard said, that a woman has
been known to long for a dish of shoemaker's paste; another believed
she would collapse if she did not get a frog to devour; still another,
vowed she could not survive, if her husband did not rise from his bed
at midnight, and hasten to the nearest grocery for a box of superfine
wagon grease!

Now, my wife was seized with a longing to possess a sheet of
parchment--a desire, you will say, that might easily have been
gratified. But, the sort of parchment she wanted did not grow on every
bush! A document, engrossed with the words which certified that her
husband was a captain, was what she craved. But, where was I to
procure it?

Chance one day brought me face to face with an old acquaintance,
Mynheer Ruissen. He recognized me at once. It would have been useless
to deny my identity; moreover, there had been established between us a
certain good-fellowship that justified me in believing I might safely
take him into my confidence.

He told me how zealously the officers of the law were searching
throughout Germany for the fugitive, who had substituted tin
church-vessels for the gold and silver ones used in the Templars'
castle; and for having caused the wonderful metamorphosis of the
Hamburg moo-calf.

("Fine phrases for robbery, and assassination!" commented the chair).

It was fortunate for me that I was known in Holland only under the
name of my wife's deceased husband; had the worthy Dutchmen known who
I was, the German authorities would not have remained long in
ignorance as to the whereabouts of the fugitive criminal they were
seeking.

I confided to Mynheer Ruissen my desire to obtain the title of captain
in order to prevent my wife from grieving herself to death.

"Well, my son," he observed after a moment's deliberation, "it isn't
such an easy matter to get to be a captain--on shore. There is no war
now. These Hollanders prefer to look on fighting at a distance. If you
want to become a captain, come with me to sea. I am on my way to East
India, with small arms and cannons for the nabob Nujuf Khan, of
Bengal. There's a general in his army, who is a countryman of yours--a
Reinhard Walter. He was an adventurer like yourself when he went to
India; and now he is a distinguished man. He changed his name to
'Sommer,' and the natives out yonder call him 'Sumro.' He is in need
of soldiers, especially skilled gunners. If you will come with me--who
can tell?--you may become not only a captain, but a prince within a
twelve-month."

The tales Mynheer Ruissen related of General Sommer's success in
Bengal were so marvelous, they inflamed me with the desire to try my
fortune in that distant land; besides, the wearisome dullness of my
monotonous existence in Nimeguen was driving me to madness. I decided
to accompany the Mynheer, whom I introduced to my wife. She was almost
beside herself with delight, when he told her he knew of a land in
which there grew a tree, called the banyan, with a thousand branches,
every one bearing a hundred figs, in every one of which might be found
a captain's commission. And these wonderful figs might be had for the
plucking, by any one who would take the trouble to journey to that
distant land.

"You must start at once, my dear," said my wife in urgent tones--as if
she feared there might not be any of the figs left for me, if I
delayed going immediately. "At once! You must on no account miss the
ship!"

With her own hands she packed everything I should need for the
journey--not forgetting soap and tooth-brushes! And she did not weep
at parting with me. You see, the women of Holland become accustomed to
having their husbands go away on long journeys, to be absent for
years. I confess I was not sorry to go; for, I knew that, if I stopped
at home, when the third member of the family arrived, it would be my
task to rock the cradle. I preferred to be rocked myself by the waves
on a good ship!

Two days later I bade farewell for a time to Europe, and set sail with
Mynheer Ruissen for India. A favorable wind sent us skimming out of
the harbor; my wife waved a farewell with her handkerchief from the
shore.

"Did you commit any crimes on the high seas?" This query from the
chair interrupted the voyage for a few moments.

"Nothing worth mentioning, your honor."

"Then, just skip over the entire ocean, and don't waste our time with
descriptions of flying-fish, and chanting mermaids. Debark without
further delay in Bengal, and let us hear what rascalities you
perpetrated there?"



PART VIII.

IN BENGAL.



CHAPTER I.

BEGUM SUMRO.


The next morning Hugo resumed his confession:

I hope the honorable gentlemen of the court will pardon me, and not
imagine I wish to prolong this hearing, if I mention what may seem
trifling details. They are absolutely necessary to render intelligible
the recital of my most serious transgressions: idolatry, polygamy, and
regicide--

"All of which you will prove to have been so many praiseworthy acts!"
interpolated the chair.

To begin with--continued the prisoner, paying no heed to the chair's
interpolation--from one of the upper windows of a tall tower that
stands on the left bank of the Ganges, in the neighborhood of Benares,
projects a bamboo pole as thick as a man's waist; and from it depends,
by an iron chain, a large iron cage. A man is confined in this cage.
His food is conveyed to him from the window of the tower, through a
long hollow pipe of bamboo. The cage hangs over a large pool of water
that is fed by an arm of the river, and swarms with voracious
crocodiles.

It is a horrible sight, in the late afternoon, to see these ferocious
brutes lift their heads from the water, and grin at the man in the
cage. If he should break the iron bars which confine him in his airy
prison, and attempt to escape by leaping into the pool, the hungry
monsters would devour him skin and hair.

"Who is the man?" queried the chair.

"No less a personage than his royal highness, Shah Alum, the heir to
the throne of the great Mogul."

"Why is he confined in the cage?"

"Because he extended the hospitalities of his roof to his highness,
Mir Cossim, the nabob of Bengal, whom the English banished from his
territory, after the battle of Patna. Later, after the battle at
Buxar, Shah Alum himself fell into the power of the English; and Mir
Cossim was obliged to flee to the protection of the nabob of Andh,
whose commander-in-chief was the General Sommer, of whom Mynheer
Ruissen had told me. The English demanded of the nabob of Andh, that
he deliver to them Mir Cossim and Sommer: whom they wanted to cage,
and hang beside Shah Alum, to keep him from getting lonely! But the
nabob of Andh allowed Sommer to escape; and he fled across the Jumna,
where he organized another army. He was again defeated by the English,
and fled to Joodpoor, where he placed himself under the protection of
Prince Radspoota. Here he organized troops after the manner of those
in Europe, and vanquished the rajahs of Chitore, and Abeil. Again he
was compelled by the English to flee--but not by the force of arms
this time; his enemies intimidated the prince, his protector; and, in
order not to cause his highness any inconvenience, Sommer went to
Delhi, the chief city in India, where he sought the protection of
Najuf Khan. The full name of this ruler is: 'Mirza Nujuf Khan Zülfikar
al Dowlah, commander-in-chief to the Great Mogul.' From him Sommer
received a hearty welcome."

"This Sommer," observed the chair, "seems to have been a vagrant like
yourself."

"I consider that a great compliment, your honor, and thank you for
it!" returned the prisoner. Then he resumed his confession: Sommer had
an opportunity the very first day to prove his gratitude for the
friendly reception accorded him by Najuf Khan. The mutinous Mahrattas
made a sudden attack that night on the residence of the Khan, and
would have assassinated him, had not Sommer hastened with the loyal
Mahrattas to the rescue, and vanquished the mutineers. And they were
fine fellows--devilish fine fellows, too--those mutinous Mahrattas!
The crack troop of the imperial army! They had once compelled a former
commander-in-chief, who had failed, for some reason or other, to pay
the troops, to sit, bound hand and foot, and with bare head in the
scorching sun, until he gave orders to have them paid.

("I think it will be well to keep that episode from the ears of our
troops," observed the prince with a meaning smile.)

In gratitude for his rescue, Najuf Khan charged Sommer with the
organization of his army; and in a short time he, Sommer, got together
a force of natives, and Europeans, sufficient to conquer a neighboring
province, the chief city of which is Agra; he also captured the
so-called impregnable citadel of Drig, in which rock-fortress he
imprisoned nabob Nevil Szig.

In reward for this victorious campaign, the emperor of Delhi appointed
Sommer king of the conquered province of Sardhana. Thus, the son of a
grocer in Treves became the sovereign of an East Indian province.

I trust the honorable gentlemen of the court have received this
somewhat prolix preface with favor. I believed it necessary, in order
to familiarize you with the marvelous changes, which are worked by a
mysterious fate in that tropical clime, where alone such changes are
possible.

If I could but delineate approximately the peculiarities of that
region, of the atmosphere I breathed, the ground I trod, I believe the
honorable gentlemen would say: "Arise, and go your way in peace. You
are not to blame for what you have done. Your transgressions are but
the fruits of the soil which produces also the boa and the upas tree."

The province of Sardhana is ten times as large as the grand-duchy of
Treves; and the revenue of its sovereign four times that of the grand
duke.

It is a very fruitful country, rich in grain, wool, and tobacco.
Sommer built a fort near his residence; and with the aid of his troops
kept the neighboring provinces under subjection. He forced a passage
through the forests of Mevas, into which, until then, none of the
foreign conquerors had been able to penetrate; which had formed an
impassable barrier for the great Alexander on his triumphal march;
baffled the hordes of Djingis Khan, whose inhabitants sallied forth
only when they desired to levy tribute on a neighboring tribe.

After vanquishing these savages, Sommer directed his attention toward
the inhuman Balluken, who offered the blood of young girls in
sacrifice to their gods, and in a very short time succeeded in
dislodging them from their rocky retreat. Ultimately, he undertook to
subdue the royal Pertaub Singh, which he accomplished--but not through
the force of arms: by his powers of persuasion, which he possessed to
a marvelous degree.

Sommer's patron, as was natural, wished to bestow on his successful
commander-in-chief a new reward for all these conquests. There was a
beautiful young girl, named Zeib Alnissa (the Hindoo for "ornament of
her sex"), the daughter of one of the most influential princely
families in Delhi, and this girl the emperor sought in marriage for
his favorite.

Sommer informed his patron that he would espouse the beautiful Zeib
Alnissa if she would adopt the Christian faith.

"Why," exclaimed the emperor, "can't you love a woman who worships
Brahma?"

"Oh, yes, your imperial highness," responded Sommer; "it is because I
should love her very much, that I want her to belong to my faith. I am
not a young man any more, and I have a profligate son whom I have
been forced to disown. If I should die, my wife, according to the
Brahminical custom, would be burned alive with my body. If she becomes
a Christian, she will not have to ascend the funeral pyre, but my
throne, where she will reign as Begum, and prevent my kingdom from
falling into the hands of my worthless son."

The emperor conceded that Sommer's argument was just; and permitted
the foreign missionaries to convert the lovely young princess to the
Christian faith. This was a concession never before granted to a
European in India.

Zeib Alnissa adored her husband. She accompanied him on every
expedition he undertook; watched over him; guarded him from the secret
enemies and treachery which encompass every East Indian sovereign. The
successful commander-in-chief had many enemies and rivals. The English
company had long ranked among his opponents. Not infrequently he was
rescued as by a miracle from great danger by the watchful care of his
devoted wife.

Ultimately, however, his enemies succeeded in their attempts on his
life; and the brave commander-in-chief succumbed to the poison
secretly administered to him. He died in the arms of the faithful Zeib
Alnissa, just about the time I arrived in Sardhana, to take command of
his artillery.

His widow, under the title of Sumro Begum, ascended the throne, thus
preventing, as her husband had desired, her step-son from inheriting
it.

This son was a truly immoral and wicked fellow. I saw him for a few
minutes after the Begum's accession to the crown, and after she had
confirmed my appointment as commander of the fort. He actually had the
effrontery to try to bribe me to betray the Begum into his power; and,
on finding that his efforts were useless, he threatened to revenge
himself on me when he should come into possession of the throne.

"Very well," I retorted. "When that time comes I shall become a
regicide."

How little I dreamed then, that my words were prophetic!

Meanwhile, Sumro Begum grasped with a firm hand the reins of
government. She increased her army, and added several pieces of
ordnance to the artillery.

Seated on a spirited battle-horse, or elephant, she inspected the
manoeuvers in person.

Her neighbors in the adjacent provinces very soon learned to fear and
respect her; even the emperor gave her credit for great prudence and
wisdom. Indeed, so great was the influence she wielded, that her voice
frequently decided the issue in the discussions at court.

Those East Indian dignitaries are a jealous folk. When Gholam Kadir
found that his influence at the imperial court was secondary to that
of Sumro Begum, he marched with his troops on the capital, and began
to bombard the palace. Sumro Begum, however, heard the thunder of the
cannonading, and hastily summoning her troops, joined her forces to
those of Prince Ivan Buk, and drove the jealous Gholam Kadir back to
his province.

The revolt in the interior of his empire concluded, the emperor was
at liberty to turn his attention to the foreign invader. Kuli Khan had
captured the fortress of Ghokal Gur. This valuable stronghold had to
be recaptured; and troops were not lacking, but leaders were. Sommer's
loss was most keenly felt; but Sumro Begum was still to the fore, and
she was worth a dozen ordinary generals.

The imperial troops had been trying for three weeks to recapture the
fortress of Ghokal Gur. They had become tired of the continued
ill-success of their undertaking, and had abandoned themselves to
feasting and carousing. One night, after all tipsy heads had been laid
to rest, Kuli Khan, with his Mongolian cavalry, surprised the imperial
camp, and began to slaughter the stupefied troops. The enemy in the
fortress could see by the light of the burning tents the horrible
butchery going on outside the walls, and decided to take a hand in it.
The emperor's tent was riddled with bullets; two of his palanquin
bearers were killed, and he was obliged to seek flight on his own
feet. But, whither to turn he knew not, as he was in the center of a
furious cross-fire.

It is quite certain that he would have been destroyed, together with
his entire army, had not Sumro Begum hastened to the rescue, with her
admirably disciplined troops, officered by Europeans.

On hearing of the emperor's danger the heroic Begum summoned her
body-guard--hardly one hundred men--entered her palanquin, and
hastened, with the battery under my command, toward the thickest of
the fight.

When she saw that the enemy from the fortress was taking part in the
massacre of the half-sober imperial troops, she called to me:

"Follow my example!"

Then, she sprang from her palanquin, mounted a horse, and at the head
of her body-guard, charged upon the enemy.

I knew very well what was expected of me! I placed my battery in such
a position that the guns would clear a way for the Begum.

In a very short time the valiant enemy, who had sallied forth from the
fortress to take a hand in slaughtering their beleaguerers, were in a
wild retreat toward it. Sumro Begum met them at the draw-bridge, took
the commander prisoner, and, with him in chains at her side, entered
the fort, of which she took possession in the name of the emperor. She
left all but ten of her men to guard the fort, and returned to the
assistance of the emperor, whose troops, taking courage from the
example of the brave Begum, plucked up heart, turned upon their
butchers, and after a severe struggle gained the mastery.

The rising sun witnessed the annihilation of the enemy.

The fort was again in the possession of the emperor, who, in face of
his entire army, embraced Sumro Begum, and called her his "dear
daughter." He did not hesitate to declare, in the presence of his
commanding officers, that he owed his life, the lives of six imperial
princes, his empire, and the rescue of his army, to the brave woman.

To this the Begum, with a modest blush, made reply: "Not to me alone
is due all this praise, your imperial highness. The greater portion
belongs to my commander of artillery. This is he"--she drew me forward
and presented me to the emperor. "To him must be given a fitting
reward for the great service he has done your imperial highness."

The answer to this was:

"Let yourself be the brave man's reward!"

With his own imperial hand he placed the lady's hand in my own, and
betrothed her to me with a ring from his own finger. At the same time
he appointed me co-regent of Sardhana, under the name of Maharajah
Kong. Thus, I became--not a captain, but a maharajah.

"And all this really happened?" inquired the chair.

"Yes, your honor, and more too--as you may read in the court
chronicles at Delhi."

"We will hear the rest tomorrow," observed the prince. "It is enough
for one day to have heard how the son of an Andernach tanner became
assistant sovereign of a province in India."



CHAPTER II.

IDOL WORSHIP.


The next day the prisoner resumed his confession:

I was now ruler of a province, with a revenue of twenty lacs of
rupees. I had a remarkably handsome and clever wife, with eyes than
which no gem was brighter.

But, there was a thought that troubled me night and day:

What was to become of my wife in Holland?

My religion forbade two wives. This thought so troubled me, that at
last I confided it to Sumro Begum.

"I don't see why you considered that necessary," interrupted the
chair. "You had already told so many lies, another one would certainly
have found room beside the rest!"

I beg your honor to remember that I vowed at the grave of my poor
father to lead a God-fearing life, and to let nothing but the truth
pass my lips. The ring made of the coffin-nail, which I wore on my
thumb, constantly reminded me of my vow. Therefore, I considered it my
duty to tell Sumro Begum that I had a legal wife in Holland; and that,
were I to go back to her, I should find my child on her bosom.

The Begum was not in the least offended when I made my confession; on
the contrary, she commended me for telling the truth. "He who proves
himself faithful to the absent one, will certainly remain loyal to the
one at hand," she quoted. Only a religion stood between her and me;
and that might easily be changed.

"If we remain Catholics, of course two wives are out of the question,"
decided the Begum, "because that would be bigamy. If we go over to the
Brahmans, their sacred books forbid the wife to occupy the throne with
her husband, and the widow from marrying again. But, there is the
faith of Siva; it permits a man to have more than one wife; it
acknowledges no difference of rank between man and man--as do the
Brahman and the Christian religions--nor does it consider a woman a
soulless animal, men and women are alike human beings. An adherent of
the Siva faith may even take a foreigner to wife; he may eat at the
same table with his wife, or wives, after the grace before food,
prescribed by the Prophet Bazawa, has been repeated. We will adopt
this faith, then you may keep your other wife, and I will share with
her your love and respect."

I thought over this suggestion for several days, for the fate of an
entire province depended on my decision.

On the one hand a people whose prosperity depended on how I would
settle the question; a yearly income of several million thalers, a
beautiful and clever wife with a heart filled with love for me, with
all the delights of paradise on her lips--on the other: the Roman
pope, with St. Peter's keys in his possession!

In my position, your highness, and honorable gentlemen, how would you
have decided?

"Get along with you, _perversus nebulo_!" exclaimed his highness,
smiling. "You want us to commit ourselves, do you? I'll warrant you
suspect what would have been our decision! I don't in the least doubt
but even the mayor here, would elect to kiss a beautiful woman rather
than the pope's slipper--especially if the choice were submitted to
him in the province of Sardhana! It is enough: you became an idol
worshipper--forced to it by circumstances. It is your own affair, and
one which you will have to settle with a higher tribunal than this
one. This indictment may be erased from the record."

Not even the mayor objected to this decision. At first, though, he
wrinkled his brows and looked serious; but in the end he smiled with
the rest; and dictated to the notary, that the transgression last
confessed might be recorded as condoned by the court.

Most worthy and honorable gentlemen, resumed the prisoner, I must now
tell you something about the customs and manners of that land whither
I had been led by the hand of destiny. Even the sky over there is
unlike ours. Why, the sun of Holland would not do for a moon in India!
Yon flaming heavens heat the blood and brain to boiling; the humid
atmosphere creates phenomena which are like the phantasmagoria of
delirium; triple suns, and wreaths of flame appear in the sky; when
frequently the mysterious _Fata Morgana_ portrays inverted landscapes,
and cities; the vivid coloring of the clouds causes the most brilliant
hues on the earth below to appear faded and insignificant.

Forests, fields, houses, human beings, at times take on an ocherous
hue, as if the world were dead; and when a rain falls, it is a deluge
of fire from a sky of brass. And sometimes, the cloud-burst will be
like a rain of blood, and the whole earth will glow with the most
brilliant crimson hue.

On very, very hot days, when the native farmers trudge along the
high-road (the high caste native never travels on foot, nor appears in
public at midday) the dust rising from their feet looks like a fiery
mist, and makes one think he is looking on the damned in hades walking
amid the flames!

And there too the soil is so different from ours. There the plants we
grow in pots in our hot houses thrive and luxuriate under the open
sky, and form a wilderness, the lurking place of tigers and lions, in
which the fragrance of the very air is intoxicating as wine.

The hundred different varieties of fruits, which ripen in succession
throughout the year, explain sufficiently how a people that outnumbers
the entire population of Europe are able to subsist on vegetable diet
alone, without the nourishment of meats, which their religion
prohibits.

The borasses palm supplies them with honey, oil, wine, and sugar;
another palm yields flour, butter, and milk; and they have a tree on
which grow loaves of bread the size of a human head; raw, this
vegetable bread is a sweet fruit; baked, it is as palatable as a
bakers' loaf and--

"Stop! stop!" cried the chair, rapping on the table with his stick.
"That is going too far! Of all the lies you have told us, this one
about loaves of bread growing on a tree is the most outrageously
incredible."

"I am very sorry that your honor refuses to believe there is such a
tree. The proof that I am not lying may easily be obtained, if your
honor will send a deputation to India, to make inquiries concerning
the truth of my statements, if it turns out that a single one of them
is lacking in truth, then your honor may disbelieve all the rest."

"Oho!" sneered the chair, "you would like to postpone this trial for a
year or more, while a searching commission travelled to the end of the
world and back--wouldn't you? We prefer to believe that living
creatures also hang on trees like fruits."

"And so they do!" responded the prisoner. "There is a sort of large
squirrel, or small dog, that has wings and flies, and at night hangs
by its hind legs to the limbs of trees, and looks like a gourd."

"Didn't I say so?" again interrupted the chair with a choleric laugh.
"Flying dogs that sleep hanging by their feet! Go on with your fables,
you reprobate!--this honorable court is sitting for the sole purpose
of believing every lie you choose to tell. I am curious to hear how
your bread growing on trees, and your flying dogs are going to clear
you of the crimes of bigamy and regicide."

I am coming to that, your honor. The entire world which environs the
human being in that distant land, works an irresistible influence on
his nature, and the native inhabitant compels, with his peculiar
religion, customs, his deeply-rooted prejudices, the foreigner
resident to adopt a mode of life antipodal to that he led at home.

The majority of the natives wear no clothing at all; while the rest
bend under a costly burden of greatest splendor.

The Indian is a mixture of the ideally perfect, and the grotesquely
hideous, heroic at one moment, cowardly the next, free as a bird, and
restricted as an anchorite. He is to be envied for his paradisal
simplicity, and admired for his gigantic creations. His cities surpass
in magnificence and grandeur those of Europe. His churches are
mountains, enormous edifices hewn by artist hands from a single rock;
with thousands of majestic columns, and armies of idols; while his
huts are more abjectly wretched than the dwellings of our beavers. The
Indian, with his thousand gods, to all of whom he renders service and
sacrifices--and of whom not one possesses the power to help him--is so
gentle-hearted, that he will not take the life of an animal; allows
himself to be devoured by lions and tigers; crushed under foot by the
rhinoceros; bitten by serpents; and stung by venomous insects--and
yet, he considers it no sin to exterminate an entire neighboring folk.

Oh, that is a strange country: where the aristocrat, if touched by a
member of another caste, considers himself defiled, and possesses the
right to cut off the hand, or arm that touched him, and the mutilated
pariah accepts the punishment as his due. Where the wife is burned
alive on the funeral pyre of her husband; where the invalid is placed
on the banks of a river, and declared to be already dead, so that,
should he recover, he may not return to the living, but seek the
"community of the dead," which is made up of one-time invalids,
recovered like himself.

Dwelling amid such a people, every idea the European entertains when
he lands on that shore very soon fades away; for, there, they have
different virtues and different sins.

"This lengthy dissertation I take it," interrupted the chair, "is for
the purpose of acquainting the court that bigamy and regicide are
permissable crimes among that wonderful people?"

Bigamy is permissable, your honor, on conditions: if the first wife
consents, her husband may marry a second. But, before the consent of
the first wife is secured, he may not kiss and embrace his second.



CHAPTER III.

MAIMUNA, AND DANESH.


My beautiful Zeib Alnissa was a wonderful woman. On the day of our
wedding, which was celebrated with truly Asiatic splendor, when
meal-time came, and I took my seat at the head of the table, she could
not be induced to sit by my side; but seated herself at the extreme
lower end of the board. This custom, she said, we should have to
observe, until we received my first wife's consent to our marriage,
which would give my second the right to repeat the Bazawa grace before
food. Until my new wife was entitled to perform this ceremony we were
not allowed to drink from the same cup; were not permitted to clasp
hands, or look into each other's eyes. I might not have respected all
these rigid laws, which kept me separated from my beautiful bride, had
not Zeib Alnissa herself understood how to compel me to respect them.

The Siva religion prohibits the use of wine, which is to be regretted;
for, in that tropic zone, grow hundreds and hundreds of different
sorts of fruits, which would yield nectarious beverages, the taste of
which would cause one to forget all about wine, and disgust one with
beer. Tons of deliciously sweet and aromatic sap flow from the pierced
palm, and the agave, and its effect on the human senses is nothing
like the stupor which results from drinking our liquors; it is rather
a state of exaltation.

My charming bride understood well how to entertain me with tales of
her native palm forests. She related the history of Prince Kamir
Essaman, and the Princess Bedur. She told me how the prince, who lived
in India, and the princess, whose home was in Persia, were brought
together while they slept, by the two friendly genii, Maimuna and
Danesh, who bore the sleeping lovers on their pinions to the place of
meeting, and then back to their homes again. It was an interesting
tale, but I grew very sleepy while listening to it. I am convinced
that the spicy potion Zeib Alnissa prepared for me caused the
drowsiness, and I only remember that, as I sank back on my pillow, she
placed the prohibitory unsheathed sword between herself and me.

The moment I closed my eyes in sleep I quitted this earth. I could
hear the rustle of wings as I was borne swiftly through the clouds,
which parted with a sound like thunder--as when they are rent by
lightning. By the light of the stars I could see that I was lying on
the wings of the Jinnee, Danesh.

He was of gigantic form; his wings, like those of a bat stretched from
horizon to horizon; his hair looked like bamboo rods, and his beard
like palm leaves.

So swift was our flight that the moon changed from full to last
quarter above us. A meteor raced to overtake us, but, when it came
abreast with Danesh, he thrust out his foot, and gave it a kick that
burst it, and sent myriads of sparks flying in all directions.
Looking downward, I saw China, which I recognized by its porcelain
towers, and long canals. Then Thibet, with the snow-clad summits of
the Himalayan range, and the great Mongolian plain.

At last we arrived over Mount Ararat. I knew where I was, by the
tongues of flame which encircled the mount like a wreath. They were
the altars of the fire-worshipping Parsees--the source of Baku's
eternal fires; and Danesh was one of the great spirits of the
flame-adoring heathen. On the summit of Mount Ararat was a magnificent
palace--to describe its splendors is impossible to the human tongue!
Its walls were covered with the names of those persons who have been
happy, and have thanked God therefor. The letters in which the names
are written are so radiant, they make night as light as day.

Here, in a sumptuous apartment, with silken hangings, and glittering
with gems, Danesh laid me gently down on a divan; and immediately
began to laugh in a tone that sounded like thunder.

In answer to his laughter, there came a sound from the air, as if the
balmy south wind were murmuring a complaint.

"You are the one-hundred-thousandth part of a minute late," called
Danesh.

"And you are three-hundred-thousand eons ahead of time," replied the
second Voice; and the next instant Maimuna descended from the sky.

This Jinnee was also of giant stature, but of feminine form. Her
ringlets were of sea-coral, her wings of gleaming mother-of-pearl,
and on them she bore a woman whom she laid by my side on the divan.

Then the two genii suddenly changed to vapor; one blue, the other
yellow; and while I was staring at them the two columns of smoke sank
into two large crystal decanters, which stood on the table among the
costly viands and wines.

Then I turned to look at the woman by my side--it was my own wife, the
one I had left in Nimeguen, only that she was more beautiful, and
garbed more elegantly than I had ever seen her.

Her voice too was sweeter, her caresses more endearing; she seemed
more like a celestial being than a woman of flesh and blood. We
showered kisses on each other; I could read in her radiant countenance
how overjoyed she was to be with me again; and I was enraptured to
clasp her once more in my arms.

[Illustration: "I could read in her radiant countenance how overjoyed
she was to be with me again; and I was enraptured to clasp her once
more in my arms"]

We committed a thousand foolish acts; laughed, teased each other like
children. We seated ourselves at the bountifully spread board; I
shared every bite she took; drank out of her glass; we sat on the same
chair, drank of every bottle, and found each one sweeter, more
delicious than the last.

"Let us taste what is in those bottles too," suggested my wife,
pointing toward the two decanters--one blue, the other yellow.

"Yes, let us," I assented, and I drew out the glass stoppers. But,
instead of wine, two columns of vapor rose from the decanters, one
blue, the other yellow, and filled the room. The vapor took shape,
first the blue then the yellow, and one became Danesh, the other
Maimuna, and we knew that our bliss was at an end--that we should have
to part.

We added our names to those gleaming on the walls, to certify that we
also had been happy there.

After I had written my name, it occurred to me that I had something
important to tell my wife; so I said to her: "My love, I must tell you
that I have become a king; and that I have taken a second wife. I want
to ask a favor of you; will you consent to let me kiss and embrace her
as I do you?"

The woman replied: "I do consent."

That I might have proof of our having spent a blissful hour together,
and that she had given me the desired permission to take a second
wife, she pressed my hand so tightly in her own, that the wedding ring
on my finger--the one with which I had espoused her--burst asunder.
And that she also might possess evidence of our meeting, I gave her
the "lingam"--the symbol of the Siva faith--I wore on my arm attached
to a gold bracelet. I also tore from the canopy over our divan a small
piece of the material of which it was made--crimson silk woven with
dragons in gold thread.

Then the two genii took us again on their wings, and soon I was
speeding again amid the clouds, with the glittering stars above me.

The icy summits of the Himalayas were already gleaming with the rosy
hues of dawn, on noting which Danesh increased his speed. I heard the
sea murmuring below--a ray of sunlight from the eastern mountains
pierced through Danesh like an arrow, he dropped me and I fell to the
earth. Fortunately I had not far to fall--only from my bed, in the
palace of Sardhana, to the floor!

"Was it necessary to tell us what you dreamed?" angrily demanded the
chair.

"Well, your honor, if the court at Nimeguen accepted my dream as
evidence, and based its decision on it, I think it may also be
recorded here. Moreover, the vision I have related is an important
factor in this case."

I was so deeply impressed by my dream, that I related it to Zeib
Alnissa as an actual occurrence. I assured her I had really been with
my other wife, in proof of which I showed her the broken ring on my
finger.

"It is a most wonderful occurrence!" was Zeib Alnissa's comment, when
I concluded my recital. "Write out the whole vision, exactly as you
related it to me, and we will send it to your wife in Holland. One of
my captains shall hasten with the document after the messenger you
have sent to her with the letter asking her to consent to our
marriage."

I acted in accordance with the suggestion, and wrote on a long strip
of Chinese palm-paper, which is tough as leather, a full account of my
vision. The Begum then sent for seven bonzes, who were skilled
writers, that they might, by signing their names to the account,
certify that what I had written had really occurred; that Maimuna and
Danesh were a well known pair of genii, who maintained direct
communication between India and other portions of the globe, and that
there was on Mount Ararat a magnificent palace for the use of lovers
who came from distant parts of the world to meet there. All of which
was to prove indubitably that I and my wife from Holland had been
together in the palace.

This document dispatched, I believed the question of the prohibitory
sword between me and Zeib Alnissa settled; but I was mistaken; she did
not repeat Bazawa's grace at supper.

"On what are you waiting now?" I asked. "Haven't I asked my other wife
for her consent? Haven't I been with her, and given her my lingam?"

"Yes, but she has not yet given you anything. Until I have her written
consent in my hands, I dare not repeat Bazawa's blessing," was Zeib
Alnissa's smiling reply.

"And I shall have to wait at the gates of paradise, content myself
with inhaling the perfume of the flowers within the walls, until our
messenger has twice traversed the ocean between India and Holland?"

"He will need to cross only once. I ordered him to take with him
several doves, the species with green feathers known as bridegroom's
doves. When your wife has written her consent, the messenger will bind
it under the wing of a dove, and it will fly from Holland to us here
in two days. So, you need reckon only the outward voyage."

But that would take considerable time too! I began to wonder how I
should have comforted myself had I, instead of becoming an adherent of
Siva, adopted the faith of Brahma, or Vishnu, or any other of the
many-handed, many-footed deities.

"Knave, what about Jehovah?" interposed the chair with just
indignation.

"Jehovah, your honor, does not forbid polygamy. The patriarch Jacob
had two wives; David had four; Solomon the wise had one thousand four
hundred. But, it would be a pity to waste precious time over dogmatic
discussion. Besides, my wondering resulted in nothing. One hundred and
ten days and nights I passed in the society of my charming bride; we
ate at the same table; slept under the same canopy; but not once did I
clasp her hand, or kiss her lovely lips."

"I am curious to know how you managed not to do either," observed the
prince.

"Does your highness desire me to relate what happened on every one of
the one-hundred and ten days and nights?"

"Not by any means!" hastily interrupted the chair. "We want only a
summary of your doings out yonder."

The prisoner bowed, and resumed his confession:

I determined that I would not again drink the sort of sleeping potion
which had sent me speeding among the clouds on Danesh's back, and
communicated my decision to Zeib Alnissa.

"Very well," said she, "then I will prepare a drink for you that will
keep you awake all night."

That would suit me.

In India the preparation of elixirs of all sorts has reached a high
grade. There is a drug which, if taken by a man of mild disposition,
will make him warlike and fierce; it is called "bangue."

By administering to the peaceable elephants a decoction of the
"thauverd," they can be made quarrelsome and ferocious for the combats
arranged for the Shah's guests. "Therat" will give one the
inspirations of a poet; after taking it, the most unimaginative person
will become a romancer, and composer of verses. The "Nazzarani" tax
can be collected from the natives only when they have become docile
and tractable from having eaten "mhoval" flowers--a species of manna.

Zeib Alnissa gave me some "panzopari" to chew; it possesses a singular
property; it will make even the noisiest tippler so sober and sedate
that his brain becomes the seat of all wisdom. Then she began to speak
of her plans for the future government of our province, and other
equally important matters; continuing to talk to me until morning. And
during the whole time I remained quiet, and listened attentively; but
I saw what I had not yet noticed: that my incomparable bride had a
mole in the middle of her left cheek, and I also discovered that she
might be alarmingly loquacious if she chose. I could hardly wait until
the sun rose. Nothing will so effectually sober a man as advice from
his wife; and the remedy is frequently made use of in India as well as
in Europe.

A true Indian Singh--that is what a nobleman is called out
there--undertakes nothing without first consulting his wife. Indeed,
there are some who never give an answer to a question until they have
asked their wives what they shall reply. For instance you ask: "What
sort of weather are we going to have this afternoon, Gholem Singh?"

"I will consult my wife and tell you," he answers.

In the afternoon he will say to you--and no matter if a deluge of rain
begins to fall while he is speaking:

"We shall have fine weather this afternoon."

The following day my bride and I set out on a tour of our kingdom--a
ceremony necessary to my installation as rajah.

An entire brigade on horses, elephants, and camels, accompanied us as
escort. The Begum and I rode on separate elephants, as Indian
etiquette does not permit man and wife to occupy the same
"sovari"--that is what the sedan with a canopy on the back of an
elephant is called.

The Begum travelled with the vanguard; I brought up the rear with a
good cannon bound to the back of my beast. A cannon, by the way, is a
very convenient travelling appendage to a journey in India, as one is
frequently called on to give a warm reception to the legions of
predatory bands which infest the highways and byways.

My bride and I met only when our elephants chanced to come alongside
each other at the resting places. We took part in all sorts of
festivities. We bore with patience the wearisome ceremonies attendant
upon the adoration of the serpent, and Taku-worship; we even waded to
our knees in the sacred waters of the Ganges, at the Moharam
pilgrimage; and permitted the frantic Gusseins and fakirs at the
Holiza feast to shower over us the red dust of the highway. At the
Ganeza festival we distributed with our own hands the "muzzer," and
received in return the "khilla"--each word means gifts; the former is
bestowed by the sovereigns on their subjects; the latter are given by
the subjects to their rulers. Without this exchange of presents, the
sovereignty of the rulers would not be recognized by the people. We
visited in their turn all the principal towns and cities; the
god-burdened temples and pagodas, which are half church, half
tomb--the Jaina animal hospital, where the Hindoo takes care of
invalid dogs, cats, oxen, as well as crows, ravens, and turkeys. We
also honored with our presence the bayadere communities, where only
women dwell. These bayaderes are privileged characters, you must know;
they are allowed entry to the emperor's presence, to dance and sing
before him and his ministers.

"Not a bad custom, by jove!" muttered the prince; aloud he asked: "Are
the bayaderes pretty?"

"Enchantingly beautiful, your highness. Their garments are of silk and
cashmere, embroidered with real gold and pearls; their fingers and
toes are loaded with rings set with precious gems. Their gowns show a
lack of material as do those worn by our women, with this difference:
the shoulders and bosoms of our women are left bare; while the
bayaderes expose the lower extremities, sometimes even to the--"

"Stop! stop!" irritably called the chair. "We don't want a full
description of heathen toilets!"

We also arranged, for the entertainment of our subjects, a number of
gorgeous spectacles, and tournaments, resumed the prisoner, dropping
the subject of bayadere fashions. There were combats between
elephants, and combats between elephants and men. (The former are
called "Mufti;" the latter "Satmari.") There were also combats between
lions and boars, and between tapirs.

In return for all these festivities, my bride's relatives entertained
us with a feast of lanterns; and games of chess, which were played
with living chess-men. We also visited the most remote corners of our
kingdom, where dwelt the Thugs, a community whose faith permits them
to strangle all foreigners; the Bheels, who worship epidemics instead
of gods; the colony of the Quadrumans, whose king is called "Dengue,"
and his subjects "apes."

Every day of our journey brought something new and interesting. After
our visit to the "City of the Seven Sages" we went to the "City of the
King's Tombs," where are four magnificent temples, under each of which
rest the remains of a king. There are no other inhabitants in this
city.

Then followed the pilgrimage to Buddha's tree; for, although we were
adherents of the Sivan faith, we were obliged, in order to win the
favor of the majority of our subjects, to pay deference to their
deity.

Then we journeyed to the "Fountain of Wisdom." There the temple is
guarded by bayaderes, who are not permitted to dance anywhere else but
in the sacred edifice in adoration of the gods.

"A respectable temple, I must say!" ironically commented the chair, to
which the prince appended his good-humored observation:

"Their liturgy can't be very tedious!"

During all this time, I saw my bride only when she was seated on a
throne, on an elephant, or in a palanquin. The opportunities for an
exchange of words were rare. On the one hundred and tenth day we set
out on our return home. On the morning of that day, Zeib Alnissa sent
me a letter in which she gave me the welcome news that what might be
called our "St. Joseph's marriage" would soon come to a conclusion.
The carrier dove had returned from Holland with the longed-for consent
from my first wife.

Before leaving our capital, we had arranged for a fitting reception to
greet our return. When our cavalcade should approach the city gates,
all the most distinguished residents, the raos, the singhs, the sages,
bonzes and holy men were to meet us at the head of a gorgeous pageant
and greet me as "Rajah," to which title our tour would have given me
the right.

Then would follow a splendid feast, that would conclude with the
"utterpan" ceremony, in which every guest receives from the rajah's
own hands a handkerchief perfumed with rose-water.

The rajah receives the utterpan from his wife, of whom he may demand
that the rose-water perfuming be performed in the zenana.

The zenana is that portion of the palace which only the rajah and his
wives may enter.

I am ashamed to confess it, honorable gentlemen of the court, but I
was so rejoiced, so proud of my success, my extraordinary good fortune
filled my soul to such a degree, that I never once thought to offer a
prayer to the god Siva, who had bestowed all the good gifts on me, or
to Jehovah, who could take them all from me.

The fakir, who, in his religious enthusiasm, carries on his head a pot
of earth until the orange seed planted in it sprouts, grows to a tree,
blooms and bears fruit; who binds himself to a post, that he may sleep
standing so as not to lose his balance and drop the pot from his
head--that fakir does not suffer half as much as did I those one
hundred and ten days and nights, when I was forced to refrain from
saying to the most beautiful of women: "O, thou my sweetest one!"

But the last day of such restraint and torture was at hand. Before us
lay the capital; the gilded roofs of its palaces gleamed through the
humid atmosphere.

Already I could see rising from the market-place the "baoli," under
which the three-legged stone cow waited (as all believers know) for
the hour of midnight to hobble to her pasture outside the walls.
Already I saw the multitude in gala attire press forth from the
elaborately carved gates, on horses, on camels, on foot--a mingling of
gold, gems, beauty, flowers, with rags, filth and unsightly scars.

Zeib Alnissa, as usual, rode at the head of the cavalcade, and I at
the end, separated from her by a cannon shot range.

When the multitude from the city met the head of our cavalcade, there
ensued a tumult of shouts and cries, but I was too far away to
distinguish what was occurring. I could see, though, that Zeib Alnissa
had risen to her feet in the sovari, and was gesticulating excitedly.

I was deliberating whether I should ride forward or remain where I
was, when a fakir forced his way to my side. He was the most hideous
specimen of his class I had yet seen; his appearance indicated that he
had vowed not to cut his hair nor his finger nails for a decade.

"What do you want?" I called down to him.

"I want you to let me come up there and sit beside you in the sovari,"
he made answer.

One is obliged to comply with any demand these holy men may see fit to
make--especially in face of such a multitude. I leaned over the side
of my beast, seized the fakir by the hair, and drew him into the
sovari.

"Lucky for you that you granted my request," he said, when he was
seated by my side. "You have saved your life by so doing. Know that a
revolt broke out in the city during your absence. The conspirators
declared that the Begum forfeited the throne by marrying you, and have
proclaimed the valiant Singh Rais, the son of her first husband, Sumro
Shah, rajah of Sardhana. He has taken possession of the city and
bribed the army to support him. He has already executed the subjects
who remained loyal to you and the Begum, and the same fate awaits
you--if he captures you."

Though loath to believe the fanatic's ill tidings, I was forced to
credit my eyes, which at that moment saw rude hands lay hold of my
beloved Zeib Alnissa, tear her from the sovari, bind her hands, and,
amid the taunts and sneers of the shameless nautchnees, compel her to
walk to the gates, while a man, wearing the pearl-decorated hat of a
sovereign, climbed to the vacated seat in the sovari.

It was the infamous profligate who, by reason of the honors to which
his father had attained, was a prince, but who was, by birth, merely a
German nobody, like myself.

He had deposed the Begum as he had threatened, had laid chains on
her--the heroic deliverer of her people--and this he had been able to
accomplish because he had become an adherent of the religion of
Buddha, and because the Begum had become a worshipper of Siva--

"The like of that never could have happened in Europe," interpolated
the prince.

My rage and fury were boundless. In one brief moment to lose my
kingdom and my bride; to be robbed of power and love; to be forced to
look on helpless while a cowardly knave stole my treasures, chief of
which was my beautiful Zeib Alnissa!

It was more than Christian patience and Siva humility could endure.

I unstrapped the cannon at the back of the sovari. The new rajah was
haranguing the crowd gathered about his elephant, and gesticulating
rapidly with his hands, as he gave his orders.

I took aim at his majesty--Boom! The next instant there was no head on
the rajah's shoulders, but his arms continued to move convulsively.

Then I turned my elephant's head in the opposite direction, and urged
him to the swiftest gait he was able to go.

A troop of horsemen followed me, but I dashed into the jungle, and
soon distanced my pursuers. My life was saved, but only my miserable
life. I had nothing, was nothing--

"Oh, yes," interrupted the chair, "you were a good deal: the husband
of two wives, and murderer of one king--"

"_Minorem nego, majorem non concedo_," interposed the prince. "As the
prisoner's second marriage was--as he aptly described it: a St.
Joseph's union--merely one of form, he cannot be said to have
committed bigamy. And concerning the killing of the rajah--_qui bene
distinguit, bene docet!_--we would understand thereby that a crime had
been committed by a subject against a crowned head. But, if one king
kills another one, it cannot be called regicide, but ordinary
homicide, which, in the prisoner's case, was justifiable
manslaughter--"

"I knew it!" exclaimed the chair. "I knew the rascal would talk
himself out of the three capital crimes: idolatry, bigamy, regicide,
and prove himself as innocent as St. Susanna!"

But, continued the prisoner, even had I not been robbed of my wealth,
of what use would it have been to me? I had come to India to win the
rank of captain--not to become a rajah. It is a deal better to be a
pensioned captain than a deposed king. The new rajah of Sardhana set a
large price on my head; had I fled the accursed country then, I should
have spared myself the terrible misfortunes which overtook me later.

I joined the Bandasaris, who have no fixed residence, but rove
continuously between the Ganges and the Indus. They are a race like
our gypsies. I believed I might organize them into an army and win
back my kingdom, and liberate my beautiful Zeib Alnissa, but the
blessing of God did not rest on my undertaking.

When I had got my army ready to march to Sardhana, the chief of the
tribe changed his mind about letting me use his people to win back my
throne, and, instead, sold me to the English company, which
corporation had also offered a price for my head. Thus my unfortunate
cranium became the property of the powerful East India Company, and
there, if nowhere else, a man learns how to pray.



PART IX.

ON THE HIGH SEAS.



CHAPTER I.

THE PIRATES.


The English did not think me of sufficient consequence to suspend me
in an iron cage over the crocodile pool. This honor was reserved for
the native shahs and rajahs.

I was transported, with scant ceremony, to Bombay, from which city I
was shipped to sea, together with fifty other prisoners, who, like
myself, had come to India to seek their fortunes, and whose chief
crime was their nationality. They were natives of France, Holland,
Germany and Spain, and the East India Company believed it had a right
to arrest them and ship them in a body to New Caledonia.

Now, honorable gentlemen of the court, I beg you to tell me which was
the pirate?--I, in the unseaworthy cutter, bound with chains to a
Spaniard, perspiring over my oars, sailing to New Zealand instead of
to New Caledonia, where the captain had been ordered to take us;
having nothing to eat and drink but dried fish and stale water, the
captain having again disobeyed orders, for the East India Company had
shipped honest biscuit, smoked meat and brandy for the prisoner's
food--which of us, I ask, was the pirate? the captain, who plundered
the helpless prisoners in his power and broke the maritime
laws--which, I ask, was the pirate; Captain Morder or I?

"I say Captain Morder was the pirate--" and the prince emphasized his
reply by thumping the floor with his cane.

Many thanks, your highness; I wanted the question decided, for,
against unauthorized force, self-defence is always justifiable. When
we poor exiles became aware that our vessel was going farther and
farther south, which we were able to judge from the stars; when, in
consequence of the wretched food, the scurvy broke out among us; and
when at last we also got a taste of the scourge, if we made any
complaint, we conspired together to release ourselves from our chains;
and to take possession of the cutter.

My hidalgo comrade was an expert in such matters. He showed us how to
get rid of our manacles as easily as if they had been gloves or boots.
It is a very pretty trick, but I don't think I could show you how it
is done unless I received something in return--

"We don't want to learn the trick," interrupted the chair. "We have no
use for it."

Well, after we had removed our fetters, we bound the sleeping crew,
and, without shedding one drop of blood, made ourselves masters of the
"Alcyona."

Now, honorable gentlemen of the court, I ask you: Can what we did be
called mutiny? We were not the slaves of the East India Company; we
were not prisoners of war; nor were we criminals. The captain had no
right to chain us to the oars; we had done nothing to deserve
deportation to a savage country.

On Captain Morder, however, rested most of the blame. He treated us
free men like negro slaves; he gave us nothing to eat for a whole week
but dried fish, though not all of us were papists; and to be more
disagreeably contrary, he gave us smoked meat on Fridays because the
majority of our crowd were Catholics.

"That rascally captain deserved to be hanged to the tallest mast on
his ship!" exclaimed the justly indignant prince.

Yes, your highness, he did, but we didn't hang him, because we
couldn't get hold of him. While we were securing the crew, he fled
discreetly to the powder-room, and threatened to blow up the ship when
we went to take him. We had to treat with him for terms. We assured
him we did not want to injure him; we only wanted to leave his ship.
To this he replied that we might go to the devil for all he cared.

Then followed a twenty-four hour truce, and our first business was--

"To eat your fill," interposed the chair.

Yes, your honor, to eat and drink all we wanted. Then we lowered the
large boat, supplied it with mast and sails; loaded it with all the
chests of biscuit, and casks of brandy it would hold, also a small
cannon. Then we cut into bits the rigging of the cutter; threw
overboard all the weapons we could find, in order that the captain
could do us no injury in case he took it into his head to pursue us;
took possession of his charts, compass, and telescope, and sailed away
one beautiful moonlight night without saying goodbye to any one. How
did Captain Morder reach home with the "Alcyona?" I really forget
whether I ever heard.

There were fifty of us in the boat--five different nationalities. As I
was the only one who could speak the five different languages, I was
elected ship's patron, an office which differs from that of captain in
that the latter commands every one on board a vessel, while the former
carries out what his companions decide.

"I see plainly to what this subtle distinction will lead," dryly
observed the chair. "Some one else will have to bear the blame for
whatever misdeeds the 'ship's-patron' committed."

I am compelled to admire the honorable gentleman's keen perceptions,
returned the prisoner in his most deferential manner. In this case,
however, they are at fault; neither the ship's company nor its patron
did anything which deserved yard-arm punishment.

Our intention, when we left the ship was to land in Florida, or the
Philippines, and there found a new republic. But more than one
unlooked-for hindrance prevented us from carrying out the plan. Hardly
had the "Alcyona" disappeared from view, when a dead calm settled down
on us; it was so still the sails hung in heavy folds from the yards;
we could make progress, and that only very slowly, when we employed
the oars.

The calm continued for two days, during which not a breath of air
wrinkled the surface of the ocean.

"Didn't you say you had taken all the provisions on the ship?"
inquired the chair.

"Yes, your honor, but 'all' was only the one-half of 'many,' and
exactly the one-tenth of 'enough.' Even had there been 'many,' we had
'more' hungry mouths, and to take plus from minus is not permissable
in Algorithm."

"And it can't be done," authoritatively interposed the prince. "You
can't take eight from seven unless you borrow. From whom did you
borrow, prisoner?"

"From a crab-fisher we met, your highness. During a calm, the large
sea-crabs are more easily taken than at other times."

The honorable gentlemen of the court will have learned from natural
history the peculiar characteristics of the sea-crab, which is of all
living creatures--the human being not excepted--the most timorous.
When a crab hears thunder or cannonading, he immediately flings off
one of his huge claws, in order that he may escape more quickly.

Crab-fishers know this, and have made a compact with all warships, by
which the latter have agreed to refrain from firing off cannon when in
sight of a crabbing vessel. This is the reason all such vessels have a
large red crab painted on their sails. The compact also obliges the
fishers to deliver half of their catch to any warship they may meet on
the high seas.

Consequently when we came in sight of the crabber we signalled for our
share of his catch. We had eaten all our dried fish, and were on
half-rations of biscuit.

"Oho!" called the fisher when he came near enough to distinguish the
character of our craft. "How can you demand crabs of me? You aren't a
warship."

"But we are hungry, and have a cannon on board. You know the result of
a cannon-shot during a calm!"

This threat brought the argument to a conclusion; the crabber,
according to seaman's custom, shared his catch with us.

"If," interposed the prince in a thoughtful manner; "If it was
according to seaman's custom it cannot be termed 'piracy.'"

"No, certainly not!" ironically appended the chair. "It cannot be
termed piracy--only an act of playfulness--a bit of frolic! But, let
us hear what other pranks the band of fifty played with their cannon?
I will spread the map here on the table, so that I may follow the
course of your boat. I fancy I shall be able to tell from that whether
you and your fellows comported yourselves as honest seamen or thievish
pirates."

There was an almost imperceptible twitch of the prisoner's left eyelid
when the mayor concluded his remark, and spread the map on the table
in front of him.

In the neighborhood of the Marquesas Islands, honorable gentlemen, we
fell in with a Spanish ship loaded with coffee. The captain, in
response to our petition, supplied us with coffee, chocolate, and
honey. This enabled us to continue our journey; we sailed toward the
Aleutians, and met on our way a Russian merchantman, the owner of
which took pity on us, and gave us several barrels of good brandy and
salted fish.

When we were near the island of Yucatan our provisions again gave out,
and we were compelled to borrow from an Italian trader some sago-palm,
flour and several boxes of sultanas.

"What need had you of sultanas?" inquired the chair.

Sultanas are not women, your honor, but dried grapes, which are packed
in boxes. When a man is starving he will eat anything! In the
neighborhood of Barbados a Turkish vessel very kindly gave us a supply
of pickled pork; and the captain of a Chinese junk we fell in with
near the Canary Islands, was friendly enough to share his wine with
us.

When off Madagascar, a Greek captain loaded our boat so generously
with _rahut rakum_, it almost foundered under the weight; and when
near Terre del Fuego we--

"Hold! stop!" screamed the chair thumping with both fists on the map.
"If I wanted to make an accurate diagram of your course, I should have
to tie a thread to the leg of a grasshopper and let him loose on a
blank sheet of paper! A courier on horseback could not have made such
twists and turns!"

"We did travel in a sort of zig-zag fashion," admitted the prisoner
deprecatingly; "but, you see, none of us understood navigation.
Besides, our charts were not accurate, and our compass full of whims."

"Must have been a feminine compass!" jocosely remarked his highness.

"To tell the truth, honorable gentlemen, I am not quite certain if
the names I have given you are the ones properly belonging to the
portions of the globe we visited. The excellent custom which obtains
in all civilized regions, of posting the names of places at the
street-corners, had not yet reached those remote corners. I can assure
you, however, that we really met all the ships I have mentioned, as we
were forced to beg our way over the limitless ocean."

"Beg your way!" sarcastically interrupted the chair. "It seems to me
that fifty determined men, with small arms and a cannon, and a boat as
swift as yours might have overtaken almost any other craft afloat."

"We did overtake a good many, your honor, and all of them very
willingly shared their provisions with us when they saw we were in
distress."

"Do you remember meeting a merchantman from Bremen?"

"Don't I? Don't I remember the generous gentleman! We met him near the
Cape of Good Hope. That point of land hasn't got its name for nothing!
It brought 'good hope' back to us! We were in tatters; the stormy
weather; long voyage; and many hardships had reduced our frames to
skeletons, our clothing to rags. When the brave man--blessed be his
memory!--came up with us, and saw our nakedness, he took off his own
coat and gave it to me--may heaven's blessings rest on him wherever he
may be!"

"He tells quite a different story," responded the chair. "On his
return home, he complained to the Hansa League that a boat load of
pirates was sailing the high-seas, plundering, and levying
contributions, from all vessels it met. He also related how the
pirates had taken all his, as well as his crew's clothing. This must
be true; for no Bremen trader has ever been known willingly to give
coat of his to anyone. Bremen is not far away. We can summon the
complainant--whose name, I believe, is Schulze--and let him tell his
story here--"

"May I beg that your honor"--quickly interposed the prisoner--"will at
the same time summon the witnesses who will testify for me? They are,
the Spanish merchant Don Rodriguez di Saldayeni, from Badajos; the
Russian captain, Bello Bratanow Zwonimir Tschinowink, from
Kamtschatka; the Italian, Signor Sparafucile Odoards, from Palermo;
the Turk, Ali Baba Ben Didimi Effendi, from Brusa; the Chinese
mandarin, Chien-Tsen-Triping-Van, from Shanghai; the Greek, Heros
Leonidas Karaiskakis, from Tricala; the--"

"Enough! enough!" roared the mayor clapping his hands to his ears. "I
don't want to hear another name. Rather will I believe every word you
say! You were sea-beggars, impoverished voyagers--anything but
pirates! Will your highness permit us to erase also this indictment
from the register?" The prince assenting, his honor added: "Now we
will hear how the crime of cannibalism will be disposed of."

"I will first take the liberty to remind the honorable gentlemen of
the court, that anthropophagy is not at all times considered a capital
crime. The inhabitants of the Fiji Islands look upon it as the only
proper method to dispose of a captured foe. The eating of human flesh
is a part of the religious cult of the Mexicans; and during the
Tartar invasion of Hungary, the people--as Rogerius proves--who had
been robbed of the necessaries of life, were forced to eat each other.
To such a condition of starvation we were also reduced, a fearful
hurricane having compelled us, while on the Pacific ocean, to throw
overboard all our stores in order to prevent the boat from sinking--"

"Now you are telling another story," thundered the chair. "You say you
were on the Pacific ocean. If it is a _pacific_ ocean how is it
possible that such a storm as you describe raged there? You shall be
bound to the wheel, if you don't confess at once that hurricanes never
rage on the Pacific Ocean."

Your honor is right--my memory served me ill--there are no such storms
on the Pacific Ocean. But there are sharks. The voracious beasts
surrounded our boat in such numbers that, in order to prevent them
from eating us, we gave them all our provisions, hoping to fall in
with a kind-hearted captain who would replenish our larder. But we
didn't meet a single ship. For two whole weeks we managed to keep
alive by eating our boots, and not until the last pair had been
devoured, did we decide to resort to the "sailor's lunch," and cast
lots which of us should be served up as such.

My name was drawn, and I made up my mind to die calmly--_pro bono
publico_. But, when I began to remove my clothes, the Spaniard to whom
I had been chained on the "Alcyona," and for whom I entertained the
affection of a brother, stepped forward and said:

"You shall not die, brave rajah. You have a wife--nay, two of them,
to whom your life is valuable. Here am I--your brother, who will
consider it a privilege, an honor--as did the brave Curtius when he
galloped into the abyss to save the republic--to fling myself into
these hungry throats!"

With these words the noble fellow drew his sword, severed his head
from his body and laid it before us.

"Did you eat any of him?"

"I was starving, your honor."

"That establishes your crime. The punishment for eating a body endowed
with a human soul is death at the stake, you--"

"Hold," interposed the prince. "What portion of the Spaniard's body
did you consume, prisoner?"

"His foot, your highness."

"Has the human foot a soul?"

"Why, certainly," answered the chair. "How frequently do we hear: 'His
sense or his courage are in his knees'--sense and courage cannot exist
without a soul. And, don't we say: 'Honest from his crown to his
toes'--whereby we establish that even the toes possess a soul.'"

"These are merely phrases--maxims," returned the prince. "If the soul
extends to the extremities, then the man who has a foot amputated
loses a portion of his soul also; and it might happen, that
one-quarter of a human soul would go to paradise, and the other
three-quarters to hades--which it is absurd to suppose could be the
case. To my thinking this is so important a question, that only the
faculty of theology is capable of deciding it. Until those learned
gentlemen have delivered an opinion on the subject, we cannot go on
with this case. Therefore, the prisoner is remanded to his cell until
such decision shall arrive."

A week was the time required by the learned faculty to discuss the
questions: "Does the soul extend to the extremities of the human
body?"

If not, just where does it terminate?

The decision was as follows:

"The soul extends to the knees--for this reason man is required to
kneel when he prays. Consequently, that portion of the human frame
below the knees is a soulless appendage."

"Then," decided the prince, when this decision was read to him, "the
indictment for cannibalism may also be stricken from the register."



PART X.

UXORICIDE.



CHAPTER I.

THE SECUNDOGENITUR.


Although my crime has been most generously condoned by your highness,
I have not escaped punishment for it. I have suffered severely. After
partaking of the unnatural food, all in the boat were seized with
frightful convulsions, similar to those exhibited by a dog afflicted
with rabies.

The smallest particle of the accursed food is sufficient to make a man
experience all the tortures of purgatory. I dare say the reason my
sufferings were not so severe as those of my comrades, I ate only the
foot. They foamed at the lips; their eyeballs burst from the sockets;
they bit each other, and rent and tore their own flesh. They bellowed,
roared, and whined, as dogs do at the moon. Many of them sprang at
once into the water and were devoured by sharks.

When my worst torture passed, my limbs became cold and rigid as stone;
it was the marasmus. I could see, and hear, but I could neither feel
nor move. The fierce sun beating on my face threatened to burn out my
eyes, but I could not lift my hands to cover them. To seize the
horizon and draw it up to the zenith would have been an easier task
than to close my eyelids over the burning eyeballs.

Yet, amid all this horrible pain, I had the feeling as if a faint
zephyr from fluttering wings were sweeping across my cheek. It was the
white dove perched on my shoulder, my beautiful white dove, who was
come to me again in my hour of direst need! She tried with her
outstretched wings to shield my face from the scorching sun, and the
blessed shadow brought such relief that I was at last able to close my
eyes in sleep.

How long and whither the dismasted and rudderless boat drifted;
whether it touched any shore--I cannot remember. I don't know what
happened during my madness.

My comrades in misfortune were lost; some drowned themselves to end
their agony; some died a horrible death in the boat. I alone was saved
by a heavenly providence for further trials. The drifting boat was
found by an Indian merchantman bound for Antwerp, and the noble
Christians aboard of her, believing life not yet extinct in my
miserable body, worked over me until they brought back the soul to its
earthly tenement.

I forgive every enemy I have in the world; but my benefactor on that
Indian merchantman, who brought me back to life, I never can forgive.
Had he cast me into the waves instead of resuscitating me, I should
now be ambergris, for, as the honorable gentlemen know, that valuable
substance develops in the stomach of a shark, and I should have been
devoured by one of those voracious beasts. Instead of a wretched
criminal on trial for his many misdeeds, I should now, had I been
allowed to become ambergris, be swinging in a censer perfuming the
altar of a church. The care I received on board the Indiaman fully
restored my strength, and when we arrived in the harbor in Holland
there was no trace about me of the many hardships I had endured.

I could hardly wait until I got back to Nimeguen to see my dear wife
and child. The child would be running about now--perhaps the mother
had taught it to call me by name!

How happy I should be to be home again!--no captain, no rajah, but a
father.

Not the consort of a Begum, but the husband of my wife. I blessed the
fate which had delivered me from the land of lions, tigers and
serpents. Had not I a tulip garden worth all the wealth of India?

I turned night to day in order to reach home as quickly as possible,
and sent mounted estafets in advance to announce my coming. My wife,
who had increased in weight fully twenty-five pounds, had a splendid
repast prepared for me; and flung her arms around my neck when I
alighted from the carriage.

After our first transports of joy were over, my first words were:

"Now, where is my child?"

"There they come," replied my wife, pointing, with a beaming
countenance, toward two nurse-maids who were descending the
staircase. One of the maids led by the hand a little toddling lad; the
other carried an infant in long clothes on her arm.

"What--what does that mean?" I stammered, pointing toward the smaller
child.

"That is your second born, you silly fellow!" replied my wife, smiling
affectionately.

"My second born?" I exclaimed in amazement. "Why, I have been absent
for nearly three years."

"Have you forgotten Maimuna and Danesh?" she whispered, hiding her
blushing face on my breast. "Have you forgotten our meeting in the
palace on Ararat?"

"Maimuna and Danesh?--_Himmelkreuzelement!_" I exclaimed, unable to
suppress the forcible expletive.

My wife, however, was roused to anger by it. Did I presume to doubt
her fidelity? she demanded in no gentle accents. Had she not in her
possession ample proof that she was true to me? Had she not my own
letter, in which I related at length the circumstances of our meeting
on Ararat, whither we had been taken by the two genii? Was a better
proof required than the lingam I had given her at that meeting--also
the fragment of stuff with gold dragons woven in it? And, if it was
true that I was a king at the time of our meeting on the mountain,
then the infant on the maid's arm must be a prince!

"Woman," I returned in a severe tone, "this is not a matter for jest.
Visions are not real. That I dreamed a delightful dream I admit; but
this squalling brat is no dream! On the contrary, he is a very
disagreeable reality! I'll go at once to the burgomaster! I'll
denounce you to the arch-bishop! I'll summon the consistory! I will
not allow myself to be made a fool of!"

"Very well," retorted my wife, "go to the burgomaster--go to the
arch-bishop--summon the consistory, make a tremendous ado, and you
will prove yourself a greater fool than I believed you!"

I carried out my threat and rushed to the burgomaster's residence. He
was still asleep, but I dragged him out of bed, and told him the
French were coming to attack the town. That drove slumber from his
eyes; and I proceeded to lay my complaint before him. He kept yawning
the while so dreadfully that I feared he might swallow me before I got
through with my story.

When I concluded, he deliberated several minutes, then said I should
come again the next day--he would have to think over the matter.

I was forced to go back to my wife. I couldn't help myself, for I
hadn't a groschen to my name, and the Nimeguen inns will not receive a
guest unless he pays in advance for his entertainment.

To my shame therefore I was compelled to go home, and now it was my
wife who raged and scolded. She said I might complain as much, and to
whomsoever I wanted, it would benefit me nothing. If I did not accept
the situation with a good humor, mine would be the loss--and so on.

I bore her taunts, and revilings, in silence, for I felt great need of
supper and rest; but I said to myself: "There is a tomorrow--I'll have
my revenge then!"

The next day I went again to the burgomaster; he was able to keep
awake this time.

He asked me if he should speak to me as to a Nimeguen gunner, or an
East Indian sovereign?

"As to an Indian rajah," I replied.

"Very good!--also: Sublime Maharajah, nabob, or Shah--whichever is the
proper title--be seated." My title permitted me to put on my hat,
while respect for it obliged the burgomaster to remove his office cap.
He continued: "Be kind enough to answer the following questions: How
many wives does the law permit an Indian sovereign to marry? How many
elephants, camels, rhinoceroses, male and female genii, and other
draught cattle, is he allowed to employ in his service?"

I saw what would be the result if I answered these questions, so I
said instead:

"I beg pardon, your honor, but, on second thought, I believe I would
rather have you speak to me as to a gunner of Nimeguen--according to
European custom."

"Very good again--also. You gunner-fellow, take off your hat this
instant!" he commanded, at the same time placing the cap on his head.
"As it is contrary to our Christian laws to take a second wife while
the first is still alive, I shall pronounce you guilty of bigamy, the
punishment for which is the pillory first, and the galleys afterward."

This did not suit me either, so I interrupted:

"May I beg that you will speak to me as to an Indian sovereign?"

I put on my hat, but the burgomaster did not again remove his cap. He
said:

"You had command of a province, and a pair of flying genii; therefore,
it is quite within the bounds of possibility that you and your first
wife were borne through the air to the meeting-place on the mountain
you mention. That being settled, what else do you complain of? Have
you lost anything?"

"No, your honor, quite the contrary; I have found something; a son I
did not expect."

"Is the child living?"

"He is."

"Well--if he is living he is alive. That which is, cannot be
denied--it is a fact, and that which is a fact cannot be termed
fiction--"

This ridiculous un-reasoning angered me, and I interrupted him,
whereupon there ensued a war of words that raged furiously until it
culminated in an exchange of blows.

The case was not one for a mere burgomaster to decide; I would submit
it to the consistory. I did not know then what I had undertaken!

All Nimeguen is related; its citizens are cousins or brothers-in-law,
and withal exceedingly moral. If it so happens that any one of them
commits an indiscretion, all the rest take great pains to conceal the
misdeed. I don't mean that it is never mentioned in private; but there
is not a court of law in the land that could summon a witness who
would admit that he, or she, knew anything about the matter. In my
case, servants, neighbors, citizens, all averred that my wife was the
pattern of fidelity; that she had not been known to leave her house,
only when she went to confession and to church; that she had not even
bought a new cap during my entire absence.

Consequently, my accusations were ridiculous, and wholly without
foundation.

Her defense had a powerful base to rest on. There was the letter
written by my own hand on Chinese palm-paper, describing our meeting
in the palace on Mount Ararat, and attested by the bonzes, who, as
everybody knows, are learned men, and as worthy of trust as any member
of our chapter-house.

Consequently, there must be such fairies as Maimuna and Danesh, else
the bonzes would not have testified to their existence. If there were
no such creatures in Europe, it was because the climate was too
severe. There are no elephants in Holland, yet no one would deny their
existence elsewhere--not even the man who had never seen one, would
deny that they roamed the jungles of India! Moreover, is there not
mention made in the Holy Scriptures of a chariot of fire journeying
with a passenger through the air? And did not Jonah make a voyage on
the ocean, in the stomach of a whale?

If holy men could make such journeys, why should anyone deny that the
genii Maimuna and Danesh had carried a man and his wife to the palace
on Mount Ararat?--especially as both man and wife had desired the
meeting, whereas Jonah had never expressed the least desire to enter
the whale's belly.

Added to this evidence, my wife possessed in the lingam absolute proof
of my having been with her on Ararat--also the fragment of
dragon-cloth, the like of which was not to be found in all Europe--all
irrefragable proofs!

You may guess that the consistory did not hesitate long to deliver an
opinion.

Although it was almost impossible to believe that so remarkable a
journey could have been accomplished a respectable and pious lady had
really travelled from Nimeguen on the wings of an East Indian Jinnee,
at night, to Mount Ararat, and back in the morning.

Also: It was not at all likely that the said respectable and pious
lady, the former widow of a captain, wife of a gunner, and consort of
an Indian rajah, would demean her respectable station, and inflict a
stain on her wedded fidelity. Therefore, the woman accused of adultery
was guiltless; and the father of the _surculi masculi_ found at home
by the returned gunner, was no other than he, the _nuptiæ
demonstrant_. And with this decision I was forced to be satisfied,
also with my wife and the infant.

Here, the prince laughed so heartily that he burst a button from his
collar.

"An amusing story, by my word!" he exclaimed. "I would not have missed
it for a riding-horse! Ha, ha--to decide that a vision really happened
because the dreamer wrote an account of it--ha, ha, ha!"

"And did everything really happen as you related it?" inquired the
chair.

Everything--I give my word of honor--what am I saying? Not by my
honor, but by the rope around my neck, I swear that everything
happened just as I told you. You may apply to the authorities of
Nimeguen, who will substantiate my account. Because of its remarkable
character, the case is recorded in the chronicles of the city. This
will explain the deed I was forced to commit afterward.

"We will hear you confess it tomorrow," said the prince.



CHAPTER II.

THE QUICKSANDS.


My case had been decided by the consistory. I was not the first man
who had had such an experience; and I was philosophical enough to
conclude that if other men had survived their disgrace, I might also.

So, I made up my mind to forgive my wife, and live amicably with her.
I acted as if nothing had happened to mar the relations between us,
and all would have been well, had not my neighbors tormented me beyond
endurance.

I became furious every time I went into the street. Everybody saluted
me as "your majesty." They would inquire how I was getting on with my
crowns--as if I had a dozen! One man would ask me if I had seen a
Maimuna lately; another would tell me he had seen a stork with a baby
in its bill fly through the air. I received scurrilous letters through
the post, and bands of singers would stop under my window and chant my
shameful history from beginning to end. In short, everything those
Nimeguen citizens could invent to annoy me was done. I boiled with
rage, for I was unable to defend myself.

In any other community I could have defended myself from such
persecution. I should have challenged the first one who insulted me,
and run him through with my sword. That is an effective way to
silence scurrilous tongues. In Nimeguen, however, it would have been
impossible to find a second to deliver a challenge; and if I had sent
it by a messenger the challenged person would have hastened at once to
the burgomaster to complain that I had threatened to murder him.

If I had tweaked the nose of a fellow for refusing to give me
satisfaction, he would have sued me; and I would have been sentenced
to pay three marks for a nose-tweak, and six for a slap on the mouth.
This would have resulted in my spending nearly all my time in the
burgomaster's office, because of the numerous summons to answer the
charge of assault and battery, and my wife would have been kept busy
paying the fines.

At last, I could endure it no longer. I told my wife I should have to
go away, and she decided that we would go together to Vliessingen,
where she would drink the medicinal waters.

I was glad enough to accompany her. I would have gone anywhere to be
rid of my tormenters. But I was mistaken in believing I should be rid
of them at Vliessingen. I received anonymous letters by every post;
but I paid no heed to them until one day I received the following:

"What a stupid fellow you are! Your wife does not need a jinnee to
carry her where she wants to go. You are her Maimuna; and Vliessingen
is the Ararat whither Danesh has transported her lover. He has sent
her a red velvet cap trimmed with gold braid and white lace, and
every time she wears it, she signals to him that you will be away from
home that day. Oh, stupid dolt that you are!"

This was more than enough.

My wife had received just such a cap as was described in the letter;
and when she put it on, it always seemed to me that she looked
happier.

I began to find fault with the cap. I begged her not to wear it, or at
least not to go out doors when she had it on. But she persisted in
wearing it, and ridiculed my anger, until I got to hate the sight of
the red cap.

One day I was obliged to go to Antwerp on business. My wife insisted
on accompanying me part of the way, as I should have to walk a
considerable distance from the baths to take a conveyance.

Something--my white dove mayhap--whispered in my ear not to let her go
with me; that it would be better for both of us if she remained at
home.

But she had set her head on going, and nothing could prevent it. And
she put on the red cap!

I remonstrated with her about wearing it, but she laughed at me and
said:

"You silly fellow! Of whom are you jealous, here in this sandy desert?
Of the gulls, perhaps?--or the moles?"

Are the honorable gentlemen of the court familiar with that region?
No?

Then it will be necessary to describe it, in order that what I relate
may appear clear to you.

The entire country thereabout is an arid waste, a seemingly
illimitable stretch of sand dunes, and brackish pools, partly grown
with brown reeds, broom and heath, but so stunted that the horns of
the cattle grazing there are plainly seen. The herders are obliged to
wear long stilts. This uninhabited territory is separated by a dike
several feet in height from the downs, which is a fearful region.

There, earth and water are combined against man and beast; the two
life-dispensing elements have become agents of death. The sand blown
from the shore of the sea settles on the deep pools and dries. No
plants grow there, and woe to the man or beast that strays on to the
downs from the dike, or the heath beyond. The sand will sink beneath
the feet of the incautious wanderer; if he draws up one foot, the
other will sink yet deeper. At first, the instability of the earth
amuses him; he fancies that, when he shall tire of the amusement, it
will be easy enough to leave the place.

But the sand into which he is slowly but surely sinking is bottomless.
Inch by inch the unfortunate victim is swallowed--as is the dove in
the jaws of the serpent. Not until he has sunk to his waist, does
despair seize him, and he realizes that escape is impossible. Every
effort to extricate himself is futile--he only sinks the deeper into
the treacherous sand.

In vain he shouts for help. No help will come to him, for, he that
hears despairing cries from the downs, will flee in the opposite
direction to get beyond reach of the sound, knowing well that were he
to attempt to rescue the sinking wretch he too would be engulfed in
the quicksand.

When the victim's head has vanished beneath the surface, only a
funnel-shaped depression marks the spot where a living creature has
met death, and this sign will be obliterated by the first wind that
blows across the sands.

As I have mentioned before, a dike, with a road along its summit,
divides the treacherous quicksands and the grazing cattle.

It was along this dike-road that my wife and I walked arm in arm the
morning I started for Antwerp.

"You see, my love," I said to her, "how happy we are together when
there is no one to disturb us. I should want for nothing else on earth
if you would but promise not to wear that red cap again."

"And I," she returned, "need only to wear this red cap in order to
make me perfectly contented and happy."

"Very well, then wear it--wear three red caps, one over the other,
only don't wear this one while I am away from you."

"Well--I won't wear it while you are away."

"Swear that you won't?"

"No, I will not swear not to wear it, for if I should forget my oath,
and put the cap on, then I should perjure myself--and no cap is worth
that!"

"Then the cap is dearer to you than I am?" I asked.

"Do you hate the cap so much that you hate me because I wear it?" she
inquired in turn.

"I have just cause to hate this cap, and I don't want to hate you for
the same reason. Promise not to wear it while I am away."

"No, I will not promise--you must not be so quarrelsome."

"I will show you why you ought not wear it. Here, read this letter I
received from Nimeguen."

I took the letter from my pocket, and gave it to her. Her face took on
the hue of her cap as she read, and when she had finished, she stamped
her foot, tore the letter into bits and flung them over the downs,
exclaiming:

"Now, I shall wear the cap for spite."

"No, you shall not wear it," I cried, beside myself with rage.

I tore the cap from her head and flung it after the letter. What
followed, the honorable gentlemen of the court will be able to
conjecture after I have described my wife's figure and disposition.

In Holland, as well as in some other portions of the globe, married
people occasionally disagree; but I believe that only in Holland is it
the husband who goes to a justice of the peace with a blackened eye to
substantiate a complaint against his wife.

My spouse was no exception to her fellow-countrywomen. Taller by half
a head than I, broad-shouldered and with a powerful chest, she could
hold at arm's length a small child seated on her hand--and it was a
hand, too, that would render superfluous a _visam repertum_, if it
came in contact with a human face!

And from this amazon I had dared to snatch a favorite cap, and toss it
on the quicksands. As I flung the cap away, the woman threw herself
against me like an enraged elephant, and sent me staggering backward
to the edge of the embankment, where I turned a somersault down into
one of the bitter, natron-impregnated pools on the heath, in which not
even a leech can exist.

I had fallen with my head in the water; it sank to the chin in the
slimy mud at the bottom, and had it not been for my presence of mind,
I should have drowned; for the most expert swimmer will forget his
skill if he finds his eyes, nose, mouth and ears filled with mire--and
mire, too, that burns and stings like nettles.

I managed with great difficulty to wriggle out of the pool, but I
could see neither sky nor earth for several minutes. It took
considerable time to cleanse the mire from my mouth, nose, eyes and
ears; and it was hours before I could hear again.

I felt like one resuscitated from drowning; my entire body burned as
if I were covered from crown to sole with a vesicatory. Then I began
to think of what might have happened while I was sitting on the heath
ridding myself of the mire.

I could not see my wife anywhere on the embankment. What had become of
her?

I was compelled to wade through the pools a considerable distance, in
order to get back to the dike-road, for the embankment where I had
fallen over was too steep to be climbed.

Therefore, a half hour or more passed before I stood again on the
dike-road looking about for my wife. She was nowhere in sight on the
road. Then I turned toward the sands, and what I saw there caused the
blood to curdle in my veins--the foolish woman had gone after her cap!

She had it on her head, which, with her two arms, was all that was
visible of her body above the sands. It was a horrible sight. Her
staring eyes were fixed on me in accusation, her hands battled vainly
with the empty air, her lips were open, but no sound issued forth. She
was still alive, but entombed.

I thought of nothing but saving her. I sprang down the embankment, but
when the sinking woman saw me coming toward her, she began to beat the
sand furiously with her hands, as if she were trying to prevent my
approach. I could not have saved her. I had made but fifty steps
toward her when I too began to sink. Recognizing the futility of
further effort on my part, I flung myself face down on the sand, that
my entire weight might not rest on my feet, and thus I managed to
propel my body slowly, painfully, toward the stable earth.

[Illustration: "Thus I managed to propel my body slowly, painfully
toward the stable earth"]

A seemingly endless time elapsed before I reached the foot of the
embankment, and all the while there was a sound in my ears as of waves
dashing against rocks, each wave crying hoarsely: "Curse you!" "Curse
you!"

When at last, dripping with ice-cold perspiration and quivering with
horror, I reached the top of the dike, I could see only the red
velvet cap on the sands; and as I looked, a sudden gust of wind
sweeping up from the sea, seized it and bore it toward me.

Overcome by terror I turned and fled like a madman down the road. All
day long I continued my flight over pathless wastes; through withered
copses, which had been destroyed by frequent inundations; across
marshes filled with croaking frogs, and nesting storm-petrels; the
lurking place of weasels and others, and from every corner I heard
voices calling after me: "Murder!" "Murder!" The frogs croaked it from
the water, the birds piped it from the air. The withered trees moaned
it, and stretched their branches threateningly toward me; and the
briars trailing along the ground caught at my feet and cried: "Stop,
stop! let me bind you, murderer!"

All things animate and inanimate joined in accusing me; and at last a
wall rose before me to hinder further flight.

It was only a broken dike; but to me it seemed a prison. Foot-sore and
weary, I lay down amid the stones fallen from the wall. They were
covered with thick moss, and it was a relief to stretch my tired limbs
among them.

I began to collect my scattered senses, to think calmly over what had
happened, and after awhile I began to excuse myself to the frogs and
the petrels, the moles and the sparse-branched withered trees that
stood around me staring at me as if they would say:

"Come, murderer, decide which of us will best suit you."

I defended myself: "I am not a murderer; I am not going to hang
myself. I did not lay a finger on the woman--it was she who thrust me
over the dike into a pool where I nearly drowned. She was foolish
enough to go where certain death awaited her--she alone is to blame!"

"But, why did you throw her cap on the sands?" questioned the frogs,
the storm-birds, and the moles. "Had not I a right to do it? Hadn't I
a right to prevent her from wearing the cap which disgraced her and
me? Had not she brought dishonor on me once before? Was I to permit it
a second time? By throwing the cap away I was only defending my honor
and her virtue. I did not kill her--she alone is to blame for her
death!"

"Ha, ha, ha!" sneered every animate creature. "Ha, ha, ha!" scoffed
the breeze sweeping over the moor. No one--nothing in the wide world
took sides with me. The elements were against me; every human being on
the globe--large, small, white, black, olive-hued--all were against
me. Cities, towns, villages; houses palaces, huts--all were my
enemies; I must flee from every human habitation.

And yet, I am not guilty. All the world will say that I am. My wife
will be missed; she was seen going away in my company; her cap will be
found beside the dike. It will be said that I murdered her, and thrust
her body into the quicksands.

I am not my wife's murderer. Did no one see her thrust me over the
dike? Will no one testify for me?

A fluttering wing brushed my cheek:

"Ah, my white dove! Are you there? You will speak for me. You will
tell all the world that I am innocent--that I did not murder my wife?"

Filled with hope and joy, I turned my eyes toward my shoulder. The
white dove was not perched there, but a coal black raven, and he
croaked:

"Thou didst it!"

"At last," exclaimed the mayor as he shook the ink from the pen with
which he had authenticated the protocol. "At last we have a confession
that cannot be rendered invalid by a pharasaical _referrata mentalis_!
At last the executioner will get something to do! _Uxoricidium
aequale_: quartering, _praecedente_: the right hand to be severed from
the wrist."

"I don't agree with your honor," interposed the prince. "There is a
law that was promulgated by _Sanctus Ladislaus rex_--he was a
Hungarian king, to be sure, but he is a saint for all that; and
because he was canonized his law is held sacred by all christendom; it
reads something like this: 'If a man finds his wife guilty of
infidelity, and takes her life, he is answerable to God alone for the
deed--'"

"Of course!" angrily exclaimed the chair, "I'll warrant the knave
never dreamed that _Sanctus Ladislaus rex_ would drag him by the hair
of his head out of limbo!--Let it be added to the rest of the miracles
performed by Saint Ladislas!"



PART XI.

IN SATAN'S REALM.



CHAPTER I.

THE SATYRS.


Not until the shadows of night had settled around me did I learn into
what an accursed region I had strayed. It was the notorious
"_kempenei_"--the rendezvous of witches and all evil spirits.

When it became quite dark, the jack-o'-lanterns began to flit over the
moor--as if the witches were dancing a minuet; and suddenly I heard a
tumult of shrieks and yells, and looking upward I beheld the most
repulsive lot of females it has ever been the lot of man to see.

They had hairy chins; and huge warts on their noses. They came rushing
through the air, seated on the shoulders of pallid-faced male forms.
Each hag hung her mount by the bridle around his neck to a limb of one
of the dead trees, and clapped her heels three times together before
she descended to the ground. Then the witches held a council, and each
one detailed the evil she had perpetrated the past twenty-four hours.
I heard one say boastfully:

"I sent an angry woman running after her cap, which her husband had
thrown on the quicksands, and I let her sink to her death. The man
escaped--"

Here her sister-witches fell on her and beat her with switches,
because she had allowed a man to escape from her.

"Let me alone! Let me alone!" she shrieked. "I'll find him yet--he
won't get away from me a second time!"

Terror seized me anew. I shuddered, and pressed as closely as possible
into my mossy bed.

Then the hags began to arrange their plans for the next day. They
would send the "Bocksritter" to attack a caravan that was coming to
Antwerp.

I had heard a good deal about the Bocksritter, a mounted band of
ferocious robbers, who looked like satyrs, and were in league with
Satan. They were even more to be dreaded than the Haidemaken. When the
satyrs committed an extensive robbery, they took good care not to let
a single one of their victims escape alive--not even the infant in its
cradle. They left no one to witness against them; and, as they fled at
once to another country, it was impossible to learn anything about
them. Where they committed their depredations and the officers of the
law failed to find trace of them, it was concluded, and naturally,
that the Bocksritter were a myth, and the story of their depredations
an idle fable.

When the witches had decided their plans for the next day, the most
hideous of the hideous crew began to peer about her, and sniff the
air.

"I smell something!" she exclaimed; "something that doesn't belong
here."

"It smells like a human being," said a second, also sniffing around
her.

"Ha, if only it were the fellow who escaped me this morning!" with a
snort exclaimed a third. "It wouldn't take me long to prepare him for
a bridle"--she glanced as she concluded toward the pallid creatures
hanging on the trees.

I pressed still further into the moss and ferns; but the raven on my
shoulder began to flutter his wings, as if to attract the witches'
attention.

"Some one is hiding over yonder!" they cried as with one voice. "Come
on, sisters, let's tickle him!"

I heard them approach my hiding place, and in my despair I cried out:

"If God be with me, who can be against me!"

Hardly had the words left my lips when I received a blow on the ear
from the raven's wing that made it tingle, but the witches had
scattered in all directions, uttering frightful yells. When I lifted
my head to look after them, the wind sweeping over the moor was
driving before it the glimmering jack-o'-lanterns, which looked like a
fleeing troop of torch-bearing soldiers.

Just then the moon rose above the horizon. It was in the last quarter,
by which I knew it must be an hour after midnight.

I rose quickly, and prepared to set about performing the good deed I
had determined on; I would hasten to meet the caravan travelling to
Antwerp, and tell the leaders of the danger which threatened them from
the Bocksritter.

I cast from me every fear that prompted me to avoid my
fellow-creatures, and rejoiced that it was in my power to serve them a
good turn.

Only after I had proceeded a considerable distance on my errand of
mercy did it occur to me that I was unarmed, that I had nothing to
defend myself from the wolves which infest that region, but a knife
which I carried in a sheath at my side.

On my way, I came upon a slender yew tree--a straight beautiful stem,
and hard as iron. I cut it down with my knife, and soon had a cudgel
that would serve me well in an emergency. I could brain any wolf that
might take a fancy to satisfy his appetite with my carcass.

I found my own hunger growing wolfish toward dawn, and when I came to
the highway I looked about for an inn. I saw smoke rising from a
chimney not far distant, and made my way toward the house, which
proved to be one of entertainment for man and beast.

The inn-keeper, from whom I ordered some bread and cheese, was busy
preparing in a large kettle a savory stew of meat and cabbage. I asked
him to give me a dish of it, but he said he could not let me have any,
as it was for a crowd of people who were coming with a large caravan
that morning.

It was true then! I had really seen and heard the witches on the moor.
It was not a dream.

I had not long to wait. A tinkling of bells announced the approach of
the caravan while I was eating my breakfast.

There were vans and vehicles of all sorts, and all manner of traders;
lace merchants, carpet dealers, weavers, goldsmiths, on their way to
the fair at Antwerp. They had an escort of soldiers, with red and
yellow jackets, and armed with muskets and halberds; also several
dragoons with buff waistcoats.

Even the traders were armed with pistols and carbines. All were in
high good humor when they entered the inn. The leader of the caravan,
a pot-bellied thread dealer, ordered everything that was to be had
from kitchen and cellar, and produced from his knapsack a large ham
which he shared with some of his companions. Toward the close of the
meal, he noticed me, and kindly offered me the gnawed ham-bone.

"Thank you," said I. "In return for this bare bone I will do you a
kindness: Take my advice, and don't go any further today; or, if you
cannot delay until tomorrow, send a strongly armed troop in advance of
your caravan, and let one guard it in the rear, for you are in danger
of an attack from the Bocksritter, who will leave your bones as bare
as you have left this one you offer me!"

Then I repeated to the entire company what I had heard the witches
say. But, a curse rested on me! No one believed me; they laughed at
me, ridiculed my "witch-story," said I had dreamed it; and the
inn-keeper threatened to cast me out of his house for trying to bring
disrepute on it.

He averred that robbers were unknown in that neighborhood--there were
no such disreputable characters anywhere but in Brabant and Spain,
where they lurked in subterranean caverns like the marmots. Moreover,
who was afraid of robbers? Not he!

The caravan's valiant escort were delighted with the prospect of a
skirmish with the notorious Bocksritter--let them begin their attack!
Everyone of the rascals would soon find himself spitted on an honest
bayonet! There was so much boasting about the escort's prowess that at
last I concluded the safest way for me to get to Antwerp would be to
join the caravan; which I did.

All went well with us until late in the afternoon, when, as we were
passing through a pine forest, the robbers suddenly fell upon us.

They appeared so suddenly that one might almost believe they sprang
from the earth. They were masked; their clothing was of black buffalo
skin, laced with crimson cord. A black cock's feather adorned every
hat.

The first salvo from their muskets laid low at least half of our
company; then the villains fell on us with their swords and began a
frightful butchery. The leader of the caravan tumbled from his steed
before he received an injury, and had I not been in such haste to save
my skin, I should have stopped to say to him:

"Why don't you laugh at me now, Mynheer Potbelly?"

But it was no time for jesting. I ran swiftly toward the road, on the
further side of which was a dense growth of young firs, and beyond
them a stretch of undulating moorland, where, I imagined, I might
effect my escape. The long yew staff I carried served me well; by its
aid I could jump from hillock to hillock, and thus make swifter
progress than had I been on horseback.

"Let him run!" cried the robber captain, who was distinguished from
the rest by the crimson ostrich plume on his hat. "Let him go; we will
after him when we have finished here. He won't go very far."

I soon found he was right. I had not gone more than a hundred paces,
when I came to a mound from which there was neither retreat, nor
advance. It was made up of pebbles, sand and the gravelly soil of the
highway, from which a narrow path led to the mound. On all sides were
deep ditches filled with stagnant water, rank vines and noxious weeds;
so that no one could cross them without risk to life or limb.

I was caught!

Out on the highway, my companions of the caravan were being
exterminated to a man. None were allowed to escape.

When the work of carnage was completed there, the butchers turned
their attention to me.

I was alone, and defenseless on my islet. The demons came toward me,
laughing brutally, and in my despair I laughed too.

I said to myself: "I too will have some fun before I die!"

I loosed the leather belt from my waist, and made a sling of it.
Pebbles lay at my feet in plenty for my David's battle with Goliath.

The robbers soon found they had to do with a skilled bombardier; my
shots struck them and their horses with a force and regularity that
began to tell on their ranks. Many were thrown from their saddles with
skulls and ribs crushed.

The fun was not all on their side. Finding at last that I was not to
be taken alive, they concluded to use me as a target for their
muskets. One of them dismounted, lifted the musket from his shoulder,
thrust the bayonet into the ground, and rested the gun on it. After he
had arranged the priming in the pan, he called to me:

"Surrender, fellow, or I'll shoot you!"

"Try it," I called back, whirling the sling around my head. "Afterward
I'll have a shot at you."

"Do you throw first," he called again.

"No, thank you--you are the challenger; do you shoot first."

He fired, and missed me.

Then I hurled my stone; it struck him on the jaw, and broke off his
teeth.

Then a second, and a third, had a try at me without effect, but
everyone of my shots inflicted serious injury.

I was not an expert gunner for nothing; I knew that when one is the
target for a gunshot, one has but to watch closely when the match is
applied to the priming; if two flashes are seen, then the aim will be
faulty, the ball will fly wide of the mark, and it will not be
necessary to dodge. If but one flash is seen, then it will be well to
step to one side.

I had the advantage of the robbers; for, while they were preparing
their muskets to fire, I could hurl five or six stones, and not one of
them missed its mark. I hoped that one of the bullets whistling past
my ears might hit the raven on my shoulders; but he was too shrewd a
bird; he rose in the air, and I could hear the fluttering of his wings
above my head.

At last the robbers were obliged to acknowledge that I had the better
of them. Only one of them at a time could approach my islet over the
narrow path; or wade up to his horse's neck through the weed-entangled
morass, and that one would fall an easy prey to my sling.

"Stop!" now cried the wearer of the crimson plume. "This valiant
fellow's life must be spared. He will be a valuable addition to our
band. Let no one molest him--I will talk with him myself," saying
which, he got off his horse, and came toward me unarmed. "Have no
fear," he called to me. "You are a brave lad, and just the sort we
need. We kill only cowards. If you will join us you shall not rue it."

What could I do? I was a fugitive, excluded from all honest and
respectable society. I knew not where to turn. If I refused to join
the robbers, I should have to flee from country to country; I might as
well fly in company with others. The desire for revenge also prompted
me to accept the leader's offer. I would punish the people who had
ridiculed me, and condemned me because of a dream.

"Who are you?" I asked. "Are you Satan? I will not enter into a league
with him."

"No, I am not Satan; I am the leader of the Bocksritter. If you will
join us, you shall be corporal, and in time you may become the
leader."

"Thank you," said I, "but I think I should prefer to remain simply a
private. I have heard that the man who leagues himself with the
'satyrs,' binds his body to pain and death; and that he who becomes
their leader must bond his soul to the devil--and that I will never
do."

"Very well," he growled in response; "I regret to hear so brave a lad
decide thus. Then bind yourself only to pain and death."

Our compact was sealed, and I was given the horse and outfit of one of
the robbers I had killed in defending myself, and when the black mask
had been adjusted over my face, I felt that I had ceased to belong to
this world. I had no name--was nobody. I was a satyr, a foe to
society. Whatever I might do thenceforth, whatever crime I might
commit, no one would hear of it. The mask did not speak! The
Bocksritter committed their horrible deeds of pillage and murder in
the Netherlands; in Wurtemberg; along the Rhine; in Alsace and
Lorraine. In which of them, or in how many, I took part--who can say?
The mask does not speak!

Where we roved, what we did, who can say? Not I. Whether the satyrs
robbed churches, whether they destroyed caravans, burned cities,
desecrated convents and routed their inmates, plundered mines,
devastated estates--who can say?

Whether I assisted at all the crimes they committed, or at only
one--or whether I took part in none--who can say?

Was I the satyr that flung back into his burning house the usurious
Jew who had escaped from it? or was I the one that rescued a babe from
the flames and bore it on his saddle to the mother's arms?

Was I the satyr who placed the mine under the convent and exploded it?
or was I the one who warned the nuns in time for them to escape--who
can say? The mask does not speak.

"Well," observed the prince, "if you don't know; and the mask won't
tell, then this entire chapter of your confession must be eliminated
from the index."

Then he added further, in order to propitiate the chair: "Why, don't
you see, that the prisoner did not become a satyr of his own free
will? That he was forced to join the band under pain of death? If,
while he was with the robbers, he committed good deeds, or evil,
who--as he says himself--can say?"

"Aye, who indeed?" satirically responded the chair. "The mystery of
the whole affair is so clear that no one will be able to say whether
this valiant and pious Christian ought to be hanged, or this
conscienceless reprobate ought to be canonized!"



CHAPTER II.

WITCH-SABBATH.


The satyrs did not ask my name when I joined their band; but bestowed
one on me with the mask. They did not select their names from the
calendar, but chose the appellations of distinguished satanic
personages--as, for instance, there was a Belial; a Semiazaz; a
Lucifer; Mephistopholes; Belzebub; Azazel; Samiel; Dromo; Asmodens,
Dopziher, Flibbertigibbet, and so on.

The leader was Astaroth; me they called Belphegor, and my
"blood-comrade" Behoric.

The way a blood-comradeship was formed was this: The two men slashed
their right arms, and each drank of the blood gushing from the arm of
the other. This was an alliance of the first degree. A second
comradeship was formed by two men pricking their names into each
other's arms. Both ceremonies were performed only on witch-sabbath.

Great privileges were associated with blood-comradeship. The comrades
shared everything; they belonged to each other. Mine is thine, and
thine mine.

If one of them said: I want this, or that; the other had to give it to
him.

Whatever one commanded the other had to obey; and if one comrade
wanted to exchange bodies with the other, the latter was obliged to
consent and--

"But that is impossible," here interrupted the prince.

"No it isn't," spoke up the chair with like decision, "Johann Magus
proves conclusively that such exchanges have been known to take
place."

"Well, if it is possible," returned his highness, "I should like, if
your honor and I were 'blood-comrades,' to see how we would manage
such an exchange! There's room enough in my hide for three like you;
but how I could get into yours puzzles me!"

The prisoner proceeded to explain how it might be accomplished:

The entire body undergoes a change; the larger becomes smaller, and
_vice versa_; so that an exchange is easily effected. It needs only
the consent of both parties. All sorts of complications may arise from
such an exchange, though. Suppose I were a bridegroom, and my
blood-comrade should suggest an exchange of bodies; or, if I were on
my way to the gallows, and I should ask to exchange?

One day the leader of the band said to me:

"Belphegor, you must marry. You will not be a genuine satyr until you
are mated with a female member of our band."

"But where are the ladies? I have not yet seen any of them," I asked.

"I have a bride ready for you, my youngest sister Lilith. You shall
see her very soon."

I knew that a Lilith had tempted Father Adam to be untrue to Mother
Eve; if she and the captain's sister were one and the same, then she
must be considerably older than I. So I said:

"Does she wear a mask?"

"Certainly."

"Then I'll marry her!"

And so it was settled that I should become the leader's
brother-in-law.

In a subterranean cavern in the Black Forest our wedding was
celebrated. The entire company of satyrs were assembled to witness the
ceremony, and when the numerous torches were lighted, the cavern
looked like an immensely large church with this difference: everything
was inverted. The images of the saints stood on their heads; even the
crucifix in the chancel was upside down. The organ's base was against
the ceiling; the winged cherubs hovered overhead feet upward; the
bells swung with the clappers standing upright, and the choir chanted
the psalm backward. The priest who performed the ceremony had the most
peculiar legs; one was at least a foot shorter than the other; and
when an acolyte removed the mitre, the father's head came off with it.
Asafoetida instead of incense was burned in the censer.

My bride, whom I saw now for the first time, was robed in garments far
more costly and magnificent than any I had ever seen on my regal wife,
Sumro Begum. The fine clothes and gew-gaws concealed the contours of
her form, and a heavy gold-embroidered veil completely hid her face.
The priest made us repeat the marriage service backward; and when he
bade us inscribe our names in the register I took good care to look
closely at my wife's hands. They were encased in gloves, but I could
see that the finger nails were long and sharp--which did not augur
favorably for me should there arise any domestic differences between
us.

Her voice was youthful enough; she did not pronounce P like M, from
which I concluded that she still had teeth.

We left the church to the music of the organ. I led my bride on my arm
to the wagon waiting for us at the entrance to the cavern. It was a
large, heavy vehicle, roomy enough for a dozen persons, and harnessed
to it were six stag-beetles.

"How in the devil's name are these beetles going to drag such a heavy
vehicle?" I cried angrily. "Six horses couldn't move it."

"No, of course they couldn't!" assented my wife. "The axles need
greasing. Here, rub some of this ointment on them."

I obeyed, and greased the axles with the contents of an agate box
Lilith held in her hand. The entire wedding company now sprang on the
wagon, leaving only the driver's seat for me and my bride. Lilith took
the reins; the six beetles spread their wings, and off we went--the
heavy wagon with its heavier load flying as swiftly and lightly
through the air as thistle-down before a gale.

I thought it an excellent chance to get a sight of my bride's face
while both her hands were occupied with the reins, and quickly flung
back her veil.

Horror! the blood froze in my veins. They were the repulsive features
of the witch I had heard boast on the _kempenei_, that she would catch
me yet, and prepare me for the bridle.

Beyond a doubt she was Father Adam's temptress, for there were
wrinkles enough on her hideous face to represent the many centuries
which had passed since her little affair with the first man; while,
for the development of such a moustache from the delicate peach-down,
which makes a woman's lips so kissable, would require many a cycle of
time!

"I will jump from the wagon!" I cried in terror.

"Better put your arms around me to keep from falling out!" laughed my
terrible bride, and then I noticed for the first time that we were at
least five hundred feet above the earth.

To force me to adopt her suggestion, Lilith guided the beetles toward
the spire of the Cologne Cathedral, against which we struck with such
violence that to save myself from tumbling from my seat I had to fling
my arm around Lilith's waist, at which the entire company laughed
uproariously.

At last, to my great relief, we descended to the earth, and alighted
in a lonely forest, at another of the witches' meeting places, where
we were greeted by a weird company that assembled from all quarters of
the globe. They came through the air, riding on brooms, on chairs, on
benches--

"I don't believe a single word of the ridiculous story!" here
emphatically exclaimed the prince.

"I do," with equal emphasis affirmed the chair. "Johannes de Kembach
has described witches' journeys in almost the same language; and the
learned Majolus testifies to the flying wagon, which a servant in
mistake greased with witch ointment instead of axle grease. Moreover,
a similar tale is related by Torquemada, in his Hexameron--a
recognized authority on such matters."

The prisoner continued his confession:

The witches, as I said, came through the air accompanied by their
gallants; the demons rose, with their attendants, from the ground.
Among the latter were several of the celebrities from whom the satyrs
had borrowed the name they bore.

Semiazaz is the jester of the demon-crew, also the musician; and when
he plays, all the rest have to dance. His nose is a clarionet; he
plays it with his ears instead of his fingers with which he thrums on
the skeleton ribs of a cow, as on a harp; and he beats the drum with
his tail.

Behoric, my blood-comrade's god-father, is a huge fellow with an
elephant's trunk, with which he signs his name. That is why N. P.
(_nasu propria_) instead of M. P. (_manu propria_) is always appended
to this demon's signature. Behoric is also an elegant cavalier. He
wears his tail jauntily over one shoulder, and fans himself, when he
gets too warm, with the brush at the tip.

All of the demons, with a single exception, had wings like a bat. My
namesake alone differed in this respect from his fellows. His wings
were formed from the quills which have been used on earth to sign and
write documents worthy of the infernal regions.

There was the quill used by Pilate to sign the accusation against
Jesus Christ, and the release of Barabbas; the quill with which
Aretino indited his sonnets; the quill used by Queen Elizabeth to sign
Mary Stuart's death sentence; the quill with which Catharine de Medici
ordered the horrors of St. Bartholomew's night; the quill with which
Pope Leo X. wrote indulgences for money; the quill with which Pope
Innocent wrote the words: "_Sint ut sunt aut non sint_;" the quill
with which a distinguished Archbishop wrote his ambiguous answer:
"_Reginam occidere nolite timere bonum est_;" the quill that wrote at
Shylock's order the contract for a pound of human flesh; the quill
used by the mortal foe of the Foscari to write in his book "_La
Pagata_;" the quill with which King Philip signed the death warrant of
his son; the quill with which Tetzel scrawled his pamphlet attacking
Luther--and all the rest of the quills which have been used for such
like infamous deeds, were to be found in Belphegor's wings.

They were gigantic wings, too, much longer than those of roc; and
whenever Behoric needed a pen he would pluck from them the quill which
best suited the document he wanted to sign. After all the demons and
witches were assembled they began to plan evil deeds; and my bride
being the heroine of the hour, she had the right to offer the first
suggestion:

"There is an inn near the '_kempenei_,'" she began, "whose owner is in
league with the commandant of Bilsen to counterfeit money, and waylay
travellers. The counterfeit money is started into circulation by the
inn-keeper, who gives it to the caravans which stop at his house for
refreshment, in exchange for the genuine money they leave with him.
This publican has become repentant, and wants to atone for his
misdeeds. He confessed his criminal practices in a letter to the
governor, and told where the commandant fabricated the false coin.
This letter I managed to have conveyed to the commandant instead of to
the governor, and tonight, the former with his troops is going to pay
a visit to the inn. What say you, friends: how many souls shall we
send to hell?"

"All of them! All of them!" yelled the witches. "We will have some fun
this night! Ho, Lucifer! We await you!"

A terrific noise and rumbling was heard, and the ground opened, as
when an earthquake cleaves the crust of the globe. From the abyss rose
his infernal majesty, the king of evil, before whom the entire company
knelt--or rather squatted on their heels--

"What was he like?" queried the prince.

I cannot answer that question, your highness--and for a very good
reason, as will be learned further on. When Lucifer appeared all the
witches disrobed--

"Not to the buff?" again interrupted the prince.

Yes, your highness, and further. They took off their skins, too; and
when their hideous, wrinkled, warty hides were stripped off, they
were the most beautiful and fascinating fairies.

My Lilith was more transcendently lovely than any image of a goddess I
ever saw--she was perfect beauty idealized! Your highness will
understand now why I had no eyes for the prince of darkness. I had
lost command of my head--for one kiss from Lilith's ravishing lips I
would have bonded my soul to the devil.

Behoric, the real demon, for whom my blood-comrade was called, now
took a black book from his knapsack, and bade his namesake step
forward to be stigmatized. This was accomplished as follows: Behoric
plucked a quill from Belphegor's wings, and with the nib made tiny
punctures in my comrade's arm, thus forming letters. After making a
puncture in the flesh he would make a dot with the bloody quill-point
on a page in the black book. When his task was finished, the name
"Behoric" gleamed in red letters on my comrade's arm; and in letters
of flame on the page in the black book.

The demon then presented to his namesake a thaler, as christening
gift; after which, he turned to me, and said I should also receive a
thaler if I would allow him to register my name among those of the
chosen ones of hell.

Not for a dozen thalers would I have consented; but, for one kiss from
my fascinating Lilith, I would have done anything asked of me.

I extended my arm for the stigma; but my blood-comrade stepped up to
me and said:

"Comrade, do you see this thaler which I got in exchange for my soul?
I want you to give me your bride for it."

As I have told you, a blood-comrade dare not refuse the request made
by his fellow. I pocketed the thaler, placed Lilith's beautiful hand
in Behoric's palm, and saw them move away to join the dancers.

Behoric and Belphegor now seized my collar, and importuned me to have
my name recorded in the black book; but, with the loss of my bride,
all desire to join the demon ranks vanished.

In vain I made all sorts of excuses; they would not release me. At
last, I cried with simulated anger: "To the devil with you! Not a
single member of my family ever was known to sign a contract when
sober! I will eat and drink, then I'll talk business with you!"

Hardly had the last word crossed my lips, when before me stood a table
loaded with delicious viands, and rare wines. The wedding guests
seated themselves around the table, and proceeded to enjoy the repast,
but to my extreme disappointment both wines and food were without
taste. There was no substance to the former, no savor to the latter.

I began to quarrel with the demons:

"I can't eat this food," I exclaimed irritably. "I can't eat meat
without salt."

"Salt?" repeated one of them. "Where should we get salt? There is no
ocean in hell."

"But,"--I persisted--"I must have some salt--and if you have to fetch
me Lot's wife--"

"Don't scold so, little man," jestingly interrupted Lilith, pulling my
mustache. "Here--taste what is on my lips."

"I don't want honey--I want salt," I yelled, pushing her away.
"_Donner und Blitz!_ Give me salt, or I'll skin Lucifer!"

Now, a curse has the same effect on a demon that a prayer has on an
angel.

The younger devils rushed with all speed possible to Lucifer's palace
to fetch the only salt-cellar in the infernal regions; it is for the
sole use of the king of evil. This salt-cellar is a large mussel-shell
and looks like a christening bowl; it is filled with salt collected
from the tears shed by penitent sinners who delayed their repentance
until it was too late.

Two active little imps dragged the salt-cellar to my side.

"Here's salt at last--God be praised!" I exclaimed in a loud voice.

The next instant the table with its viands disappeared amid an
unearthly din, and rumbling as of thunder. The demons sank cursing
into the earth; the witches flew yelling into the air, and I fell
backward to the ground unconscious.

When I came to my senses, I was lying in a peat bog one hundred and
twenty miles from the Black Forest, in which I had celebrated my
marriage the night before with the beautiful Lilith.

"Either you are a madman, or you dreamed all this nonsense," in a
stern tone observed the prince, at the conclusion of Hugo's recital.
"I don't believe a single word of it."

"Well," commented the chair with less emphasis; "one thing is clear:
Among the many lies the rascal has entertained us with for weeks, this
last tale is the only one to bear a semblance to the truth. Similar
occurrences are related by Majolus, and Ghirlandinus; also by the
world-renowned Boccaccio, whose statements no one would think of
doubting. I say that, for once, the accused has adhered strictly to
the truth."

"Very good," decisively responded the prince. "Then, as he did not
sign the compact with Satan, he cannot be charged with _pactum
diabolicum implicitum_. Consequently, this indictment may also be
expunged from the record."



PART XII.

THE BREAD OF SHAME.



CHAPTER I.

THE MAGIC THALER.


The most convincing proof that everything occurred as I related it,
said the prisoner, continuing his confession the next day, was the
thaler I found in my pocket, when I came to my senses in the peat bog
near the "_kempenei_"--the thaler my blood-comrade gave me in exchange
for Lilith. I remembered what I had heard the witches say about the
commandant's visit to the inn-keeper and though I had suffered
terribly because I had tried once to perform a good deed at his house,
I decided to warn him of the danger which threatened him that night.

It was very late in the evening when I drew near the inn; but light
still gleamed from the windows, and sounds of merriment came from the
open door.

The inn-keeper, who was celebrating his marriage with his fifth wife,
recognized me at once. He was not in the least rejoiced to see me
again; quite the contrary:

"See!" he called to his friends inside the house, "this is the fellow
I told you about--the one who predicted what would happen to the
Antwerp caravan. Every word he said came true! He shall not come into
my house again. I dare say," he added, speaking to me from the
door-way, "I dare say you have another witch-story to tell? Don't you
dare to utter one word of your evil prophecies, you bird of evil
omen!"

The entire company seized cudgels and chairs and threatened to brain
me if I opened my lips.

"Just keep your temper, good people," I returned coolly, "I don't
intend to tell you what would be of great benefit to you--your
treatment of me is so unfriendly, I shall not say one word--I want
nothing from you but some bread and cheese, and a mug of beer: and a
bundle of straw in a corner where I may pass the night."

"Have you money to pay for all this?" demanded the inn-keeper.

"Certainly I have;" and I handed him my thaler.

"Ho-ho, fellow, this is a counterfeit," he sneered, tossing the coin
to the ceiling and letting it fall on the stone table.

The clear ringing sound was unmistakable--the thaler was genuine.
Angered by the insolence of the inn-keeper, I said in a tone, the
meaning of which he could not mistake:

"Look here, beer-seller; I want you to understand that _I_ am not a
circulator of counterfeit money!"

"What!" he roared in a fury; "do you dare to insinuate that _I_
circulate counterfeit money? For your impudence I shall keep this
thaler, and have it tested in the city tomorrow; and that you may not
run away in the meantime, I shall pen you in my hen-coop."

The entire company helped him to thrust me into the coop, which was so
small I could neither stand upright nor lie down in it.

And there I crouched, hungry and thirsty as I had come from the
witch-wedding.

Suddenly the early morning quiet was broken by a fanfare in front of
the inn. I heard horses' hoofs stamping the earth; loud shouts and
curses; and the clank of weapons--the commandant of Bilsen had arrived
with his troops.

In a trice the doors were broken open; the startled wedding guests
could neither escape nor defend themselves. The soldiers cut down all
that came in their way: men, women, old and young. From my hen-coop I
witnessed the slaughter, which I cannot describe, for I grow faint
with horror if I but think of it.

Not even a dog was left alive about the inn. When the work of butchery
was completed one of the soldiers took it into his head to peep into
the hen-coop. He saw me, broke the lock with his hatchet, and dragged
me out by the hair.

"Don't kill me, comrade," I begged, "I am only a poor soldier like
yourself. The inn people took all my money, and penned me in the
coop--you can see for yourself that I am not one of them, but a
foot-sore wanderer."

"Did they take all your money?" asked the trooper.

"I had only a thaler; the inn-keeper said it was counterfeit, and kept
it."

"Let's see if you're telling the truth," said the fellow, beginning to
search about my clothes.

"Ha! What's this?" he exclaimed suddenly, holding up the thaler he had
found in one of my pockets. "I thought you were lying, you rascal," he
added, giving me a blow with his fist, and thrusting my thaler into
his pocket.

At that moment another trooper approached, and said something to the
first, about not making 'way with me--that the French recruiting
officers would give ten thalers for such a sturdy chap. Then he too
inquired if I had any money.

I swore I had none; but he was as incredulous as his comrade, and also
searched my pockets. In one of them he found the thaler which had
returned to my possession; and he too gave me a blow for telling him a
lie.

Then came a third trooper with the same inquiry: "Have you money?"

I had not yet got used to having the thaler return to me, so I said:

"No, my friend, I haven't another penny"--and he didn't find anything
in my pockets; but when, at his command, I drew off my boots, the
thaler fell out of one of them.

From this trooper also I received a vigorous blow for lying. When the
fourth, fifth, and sixth troopers followed with the same demand for
money, I replied:

"Yes, friend, I think I have a thaler somewhere about my clothes--just
search me and maybe you'll find it."

And every one of them found the thaler--once it was found tucked under
the collar of my coat; another time in the lining; a third time in my
neck-ruff.

My fun came afterward, when the troopers discovered they were minus
the thaler they had taken from me. They accused one another of
stealing, which led to a scuffle and blows.

I was sold for ten thalers to the Frenchmen, who, when they stripped
me to put me into uniform, also searched my clothes. They found
nothing; but when they were shearing my hair the thaler suddenly
dropped to the floor.

The sergeant pounced on it, exclaiming:

"A thaler profit, comrades!--we'll have a drink at once!"

Beer was ordered from the inn, in which they were quartered; and while
they were drinking, the sergeant turned to me and said:

"Are you thirsty lad? You are? Very well, then, go into the yard, lift
your face to the clouds, and open your mouth wide--it's raining
heavily! When you have quenched your thirst from the clouds, stand
guard at the gate."

I had to obey, and stand guard; but I did not quench my thirst with
rain water.

After a while I heard loud voices in the bar-room. The inn-keeper's
wife was accusing the soldiers of stealing the thaler given to her by
the sergeant for the beer. She said it had been taken from the drawer,
while she was attending to her work in the kitchen.

"Which of you fellows stole the thaler?" angrily demanded the
sergeant.

No one answered; whereupon the sergeant proceeded to flog the men, one
after the other, with a bunch of hazel-switches. But the thaler was
not found.

Then the five soldiers seized the sergeant, and paid back what he had
loaned them; as each had received six blows, the number delivered to
him in payment amounted to thirty.

"Fine discipline!" I said to myself. "Fine discipline, where the
sergeant flogs his men, and the men flog the sergeant in turn! It's a
fine service I've got into, I must say."

I thrust my hands into the pockets of my wide trunk-hose, and what do
you suppose I found in one of them? The dangerous thaler! It had not
occurred to the Frenchmen to search me!

"I don't see how such a thing could happen," in a puzzled tone,
observed the prince.

"There is no mystery about it," returned the chair. "The coin was a
'breeding-thaler'--as it is called. A breeding-thaler will return to
the pocket of its owner, no matter how often he may spend it. If,
however, he bestows it as a gift on any one, it will not return to
him; but to the person to whom he has given it."

"Ah, had I only known that sooner!" in a tone of deep regret, murmured
the delinquent.



CHAPTER II.

THE HUSBAND OF THE WIFE OF ANOTHER MAN.


The breeding-thaler was not of much use to me, for I was in a region
where there was nothing I cared to purchase.

I was with the French camp in front of the city of Lille, where I had
been assigned to the artillery, because I had admitted that I knew
something about the management of cannon.

It was a miserable existence: crouched day and night in the trenches;
or, on the lookout for the grenades, which were hurled into our camp
from the city we were besieging.

But I could have endured all the hardships if I had had enough to eat.
The French general would not allow any vivandières with spiritous
liquors to enter the battery; the gunners, he said, must remain sober;
and that they might not want to drink, they were given very little to
eat, as eating promotes thirst. If I sent a sapper with a jug to the
canteen for beer, he would invariably return with the empty jug, and
swear he had lost the thaler I had given him on the way--which was
true; for, no matter how often I tried it, the coin would be back in
my pocket before the messenger had been gone five minutes. The
consequence was I was in a continual state of hunger and thirst.

The officers, on the contrary, had plenty to eat and drink. They were
always feasting and making merry in their tents.

My captain had in camp with him a companion of the gentler sex, who
was not his wife, nor was she his sister, daughter, or mother--nor yet
his grand-mother. This lady would sometimes accompany him on his tours
of inspection, riding by his side, in a long silk habit, with a plumed
cap on her head. She was a beautiful creature.

One day the general, who had got tired seeing so many women about,
gave orders that every one not having a legal husband among his troops
should leave the camp within twenty-four hours. That day my captain
came to me, and after making believe he was come on business about the
guns, said: "By the way, gunner, you look to me like a chap who was
used to something better than loading cannon and sleeping on the
ground--"

"And gnawing dry bread," I ventured to append.

He laughed, and said again:

"I've half a mind to appoint you my adjutant--how would that suit
you?"

"I shouldn't object."

"Will you do me a small favor in return?"

"Whatever I can, sir."

"I should want you to keep a well-supplied table, and invite me to
dine and sup. I, of course, will pay all expenses."

"That doesn't sound like a very hard task, sir," I replied.

"It isn't--only there's a condition goes with it. In order to
entertain properly an officer of my rank, there will have to be a lady
to do the honors of the table."

"But, where can I get the lady, sir?"

"I'll find one for you--the lady you have seen riding with me. She has
long possessed my deepest respect."

I scratched my head back of the right ear:

"If you respect the lady so much, sir, why don't you marry her?"

"Stupid fellow!--because I already have a wife."

"Look here, sir," I said after a moment's deliberation, "I have eaten
all sorts of ammunition bread during my experience as a soldier; I
have cheated and stolen; but I have never occupied a position so low
as the one you want me to accept."

"But, my lad, consider the advantages: Plenty to eat, and drink, and
nothing to do--that is one alternative; the other: in the trenches
night and day, bread and water! I will give you half an hour to think
it over; if you refuse I shall offer the position to some one
else--some one who is not so squeamish as you."

That was a long half hour!

I thought over what I had to lose if I accepted the position: Honor? I
had very little left; but, if I had squandered it I had done so with
my sword and musket, idled it away in a hundred ways--though never in
the despicable manner suggested to me by my captain.

But I had been persecuted and cursed for trying to do good--what use
to try again? Besides, I hadn't anything to lose: I might as well eat
and drink away the little self-respect and honor I still possessed.

At the end of the half hour, the captain came for my decision. I said:

"I accept your offer, sir--here's my hand on it!"

I held out my hand, and so did he; but, before they came together,
each of us drew back--each prompted by the same thought: "This
fellow's hand is more soiled than mine--I cannot take it!"

But, I married the donna that afternoon, bestowing on her one of my
numerous names; and after the chaplain of the regiment had performed
the ceremony, this thought involuntarily suggested itself to me:
"Hugo, my lad, you are not the only one cheated in this business."

From that hour it went well with my body--and luckily one's stomach
does not possess a conscience! In addition to a well-filled larder and
cellar, I had a title--I was called "adjutant."

I saw my bride only at table; how frequently the captain visited my
quarters I cannot say. When he was obliged to absent himself on duty
connected with the campaign, he would always try to surprise her by an
unexpected return.

One day she was more than surprised when her lover was brought back to
camp minus his head; he had had the misfortune to get within range of
a cannon shot from the enemy's lines.

My situation now became anything but agreeable. I ceased to be an
adjutant, but I was still the husband of my wife--a rôle I found it
exceedingly difficult to continue. The woman had been accustomed to
every luxury; but, as money does not fall from the sky, I found great
difficulty in providing her with the bare necessities of life. One
after another of the costly ornaments she had received from the
captain were disposed of to supply her numerous demands, until all
were gone. Then she began to quarrel with me and accused me with
trying to starve her.

I bethought me of the magic coin I had carried in my pocket all this
time, merely as a souvenir of the demon-assembly in the Black Forest.
I said to it: "Now, thaler, show what you can do!" and gave it to the
woman to buy what was necessary.

I did not know then that if a breeding-thaler were given away it would
not return; and when I placed it in the woman's hand I believed, of
course, I should find it again in a few minutes in my pocket.

But I never saw the thaler again!

When, at the expiration of several hours, it did not return to me, I
consoled myself with thinking it must be in the woman's pocket. But it
had not returned to her--she had given it to an ensign who had been an
admirer of hers for a long time. So, the magic thaler was gone for
good, and I had nothing but the woman I had married to please my
captain--and he was dead!

What was to be done? Should I run away from my wife, and my
flag?--become a two-fold deserter? I pondered over this question for
three days; for three long days I endured the taunts of my wife, and
the ridicule of my comrades, and on the third I fled--

"I should have run away the first day!" emphatically exclaimed the
prince, giving the table a thump with his fist.

The mayor's eye twinkled as he added:

"Consequently, desertion may also be stricken from the register!"

(_Quod dixi dixi._)



PART XIII.

THE EXCHANGE OF BODIES.



CHAPTER I.

THE QUACK DOCTOR.


"Well, you godless reprobate," began the mayor, addressing the
prisoner, when the court was assembled the next day for a further
hearing of the remarkable case, "you have come to the last of your
crimes; you have illustrated how the seven mortal sins may be trebled,
and how the perpetrator may clear himself of the entire twenty-one, if
he possesses a fluent tongue. With your entertaining fables you have
understood how to extend the time of your trial five months and two
weeks, believing, no doubt, that the Frenchmen would in the meantime
seize the fortress and save you from the gallows. But that has not
come to pass. Only one more indictment remains on your list--Treason.
I don't believe you will be able to talk yourself out of that! But we
will now hear you make the attempt."

The prisoner bowed and summoned to his aid the muse, by whose help he
had wrested from death one day after another, to assist him win yet
another twenty-four hours in God's beautiful world.

As the honorable gentlemen of the court are aware, I entered into
service here, after I deserted from the French camp at Lille--and I
have tried to do my duty faithfully, as becomes a good soldier--

"I must say"--interrupted the prince with considerable stress--"you
were the best gunner in my artillery."

After he had thanked his highness for the compliment, the prisoner
resumed:

One day, while I was deeply absorbed in my technical studies, a quack
doctor was brought to my quarters. He had announced that he was my
messenger to the camp of the enemy, and that he had returned with some
important information for me.

He was an imposter; I had not employed any one to perform such errands
for me. I ordered the fellow to be brought before me. He was of low,
but vigorous stature, with a crafty countenance, and cunning leer. He
had with him an entire apothecary's outfit: a chest filled with all
sorts of oils, extracts, unguents, and pills.

The fellow laughed in my face and said in an impudent tone:

"Well, comrade, don't you know me?".

"No; I have never before seen your ugly phiz," I replied, a trifle
angrily.

"Nor have I _seen_ yours; but I know you for all that--Belphegor."

I was startled. "You are Behoric?" I exclaimed. I sent the orderly
from the room, then asked:

"How did you manage to find me? You never saw me without a mask."

"I will tell you: I have two magic rings; one I wear on the little
finger of my right hand; the other on the little finger of my left
hand, both with the setting turned inward. If I say to the rings: 'I
want to find my blood-comrade, Belphegor,' one of them turns around on
my finger and the setting shows me the way I must go. If I arrive at a
point where two roads meet, the other ring shows me which to take.
That is how I came here."

The explanation did not altogether satisfy me--the fellow's face made
me doubt the truth of it; but I could not deny that I was his
blood-comrade. Besides, I entertained a sort of affection for him; we
had been good comrades, and had not drank each other's blood for
nothing.

"Well," said I, after deliberating a moment, "what brings you
here?--here, where nothing is to be got but fiery bullets."

"I came to ask you to exchange bodies."

"Why do you wish to exchange?"

"The leader has ordered it."

"Do you still belong to the satyrs?"

"Yes--and so do you. It is not a disease from which one can recover;
nor an office one may resign. It is not a garment one may cast aside;
nor a wife one may divorce. In a word, once a satyr, always a satyr."

"I pledged only my body, not my soul," I interrupted.

"And it isn't your soul I want, comrade; only your body. You may carry
your soul in my body, and go whithersoever it may please you to
wander."

"But, what shall I do while in your body?"

"You will do what I should do: sell theriac and arsenic; _lapis
nephriticus_, _nostra paracelsi_, apoponax, and salamander
ointment--for all of which you will receive good, hard coin from the
credulous fools who will be your customers. It is the easiest life in
the world!"

"But I don't know the least thing about your medicaments, and couldn't
tell what any of them would heal or cure."

"Oh, you need not trouble your head about that! Just take a look into
this chest. See--here in the different compartments are arranged
various bottles, vials and boxes, with the names of their contents
above them. These tiny letters under each one, which cannot be read
without the aid of a magnifying glass, are the names of the diseases
for which the contents of the bottles, vials, and boxes are infallible
remedies. When a patient applies to you, listen what he has to say;
then, diagnose the disease, consult your microscopic directions, and
dose him according to his ability to pay."

"And how long will I have to wear your hideous form and let you occupy
my stately proportions?" I asked.

"Until we both desire to exchange again. I will give you one of my
magic rings and I'll keep the other. If you turn the ring on your
finger at the same moment I turn mine, then the exchange will be
effected, no matter how far apart our bodies may be. Now, take this
ring, and summon your orderly. Bid him escort me to the gate, and give
me a glass of brandy before he lets me depart."

I obeyed these directions and, after a few minutes, the burning in my
throat convinced me that I was in Behoric's squat body; that he
occupied my taller shell I found very shortly.

Hardly had the exchange taken place, when a bombardier came to
announce that the second cannon in the third battery had burst,
whereupon Behoric in my body answered:

"Boil some glue, and stick the pieces together; then wind some stout
twine around the cannon to prevent it from bursting again."

At these directions the bombardier and the orderly exchanged glances
and snickered.

"This won't do at all," I said to myself, so I whispered to my figure:
"Behoric, just change back again for a second, will you?"

Each turned the ring on his finger, and I was again I.

"Take the broken cannon to the arsenal," I said to the grinning
bombardier, "and put in its place one of the bronze pieces from
chamber number IV. Why do you laugh, idiot?"

Then Behoric and I exchanged again, and I found myself trudging in his
body down the hill from the fortress, with the medicine chest on my
back. I was obliged to pass through the beleaguerer's camp, and,
naturally, was commanded to halt. When they spoke to me I could not
understand them--I, who am perfectly familiar with French, Latin,
English, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Indian, Dutch--I, with Behoric's
untutored ears, and with his inability to converse in any language but
the German, could not understand a word the Frenchmen said to me. The
colonel was obliged to send for an interpreter.

"Have you been inside the fortress?" I was asked.

"I have."

"Did you deliver to the chief gunner what I sent with you?"

"I did."

"Will he do what I ask?"

"He will."

Here, to my great surprise--for I had done nothing to earn it--the
colonel pressed fifty thalers into my palm, and motioned me to pass on
my way.

I wandered out into the world, trudged from city to city, selling the
contents of my chest, until I came to Madgeburg, where, having
accumulated a considerable sum of money, I bought a horse and wagon. I
could now travel about with greater convenience and speed than when
forced to carry the heavy medicine-chest on my back. I also hired an
assistant to blow a trumpet when I wanted to collect a crowd around my
wagon.

I became so well satisfied with the pleasant life I now led, no
thought of changing back to my own body ever occurred to me. My
blood-comrade might keep it, and continue to fire cannon from
Ehrenbreitstein--I was quite content with my quack-doctoring, and with
his anatomy.

And a wonderfully shrewd and sensible little anatomy it was! My own
did not contain a tenth part the sense that was in his. Therefore, I
considered it my duty to bestow the best of care on it. I fattened it
with the same attention to details I would have observed had it been
my own and I was amply able to supply it with everything that was
necessary to increase its bulk.

I had all the money I wanted. The regular doctors became impoverished;
for, to me alone would the people apply for help--and I must say the
remedies I sold accomplished wonders.

One day, however, a misfortune occurred to me. I was selling my
miracle-cures in the market place in Madgeburg as fast as I and my
assistant could hand them out, when some one--a wretch hired by the
envious doctors, no doubt--thrust a piece of burning sponge into the
ear of my horse. You may guess the result.

The horse ran away, the wagon was upset, and my medicaments scattered
in all directions.

My neck was not broken, but what happened was almost as bad. When I
came to replace the medicaments in the chest, I found that I could not
remember just where each bottle, vial, and box properly belonged.
However, I made a guess of it, and put them back where I thought they
ought to be. I made a good many mistakes, though, judging by some of
the very peculiar effects the remedies produced after the accident.

The syndic, whose right leg was shorter than the left, sent for me to
remedy the defect. I was a little fuddled from having emptied a bottle
of good French wine just before I quitted my lodgings; and, instead of
rubbing the elongating ointment on the shorter limb, I applied it to
the longer one; the consequence of which was: the longer leg increased
to such a length that the worthy syndic, when he wanted to sit down,
had to perch himself on the buffet, and would bump his head against
the ceiling every step he took. He threatened to shoot me.

A second mischance occurred when I was called to attend the president
of the Board of Trade. He had the gout in both feet and could not move
without crutches. I had a certain remedy for that fell disease, a
remedy so powerful that only a very small portion, about the size of a
pea, was required to embrocate an afflicted member. Thinking to hasten
the cure, I applied half the contents of a box to each foot, which
made the old gentleman so active and nimble, he was forced, for a
time, to take the position of runner for the Elector of Brandenburg,
because he could not keep his feet still; nor could he sit anywhere
but at a loom, where he might stamp his feet continually; and at
night, when he wanted to go to sleep he had to be bound to a
tread-mill.

Two other wonderfully efficacious remedies were: a wash to force a
luxuriant crop of curling hair to grow on a bald head; the other, if
applied to toothless jaws, would cause new teeth to appear.

The result of getting these two remedies misplaced was: the tooth-wash
was used on the bald head of a man; and the hair-restorative on the
toothless jaws of a woman. Instead of hair, two beautiful horns
appeared on the man's head; while the woman grew a mustache that would
have roused the envy of a drum-major.

But these cases were nothing compared to what happened to the wife of
the chief justice. She was afflicted with severe paroxysms of
hiccoughing, and I was summoned to relieve her. There was in my chest
a remedy for such an attack; but, having been misplaced, I got hold of
the wrong box, and administered to the sufferer a dose of pills
intended to force obstinate hens to produce eggs. In less than six
weeks that unfortunate lady gave birth to seven living children--

"I don't believe it! I don't believe a single word of it!" interrupted
the prince, who had almost burst his belt with laughing. "You are
asking too much if you expect us to credit such outrageous fables."

Here the chair remarked with great seriousness: "Beg pardon, your
highness: but there are authentic records of similar cases. In
Hungary, the wife of a Count Miczbanus gave birth at one time to
seven living sons, all of whom lived to grow up."

"She certainly took some of the prisoner's hen pills," laughingly
responded his highness.

The prisoner continued:

Naturally mistakes of this sort roused the animosity of the patients;
but, none were so enraged as was the burgomaster. His case, indeed,
capped the climax! I had two miraculous cures: one would cause to
disappear from the human nose pimples, warts and all other disfiguring
excrescences; the other would transform silver into gold.

The burgomaster possessed a large silver snuff-box and an exceedingly
prominent and highly-colored nose which was covered with unsightly
pimples. He sent for me in secret and bade me test the efficacy of the
two miracle-cures on his snuff-box and on his nose.

Like some of the other remedies, these two had also changed places, in
consequence of which, the burgomaster's nose turned to gold, while the
snuff-box vanished as if from the face of the earth.

This cure so amused the prince he could hardly gasp:

"Enough--enough!--no more today! We will hear the rest tomorrow--I am
faint with laughing."

The court adjourned until the following day, when the prisoner resumed
his confession:

As might be expected, this last mistake of mine caused a dispute to
arise. The burgomaster, however, was not so angry because his nose had
changed to gold; but nothing would console him for the loss of his
snuff-box. He actually accused me of stealing it!

Had the worthy man been versed in the science of chemistry, he would
have known that there are substances which absorb, and consume, each
other. For instance: _argentum vivum_ will dissipate _aurum_; and
_aqua fortis_ will consume silver as will a starving cow barley. This
is called _occulta qualitas_.

The citizens of Madgeburg, however, are not clever enough to
comprehend matters so transcendental in character. I was summoned to
appear before the mayor, who, being father-in-law to a doctor,
sentenced me, out of spite, to be flogged in public.

This did not suit me at all, so I said to myself: "Now, friend
Behoric, I have been content to occupy your carcass without murmuring,
so long as nothing more was required of me than to stuff it with
liver-pasties and oysters; but, when it comes to having the hide
tickled with a cat-o'-nine tails, then you had better come back into
it!"

I was already bound to the pillory and the executioner had bared my
back, revealing the marks of former scourging--of which I could
remember nothing as they were on Behoric's body.

When the executioner saw that the whip would not be new to my
blood-comrade's hide, he sent for a heavier scourge, the ends of which
terminated with barbed nails.

"Now, Behoric," I said, "you must take this flogging yourself."

My hands being bound together, I had no difficulty turning the ring on
my little finger. I had given it but one turn, when, to my great joy,
I found myself in my own body, in my casemate in Ehrenbreitstein
fortress; and before me stood his honor, here, with an empty fire-ball
in one hand; in the other, what he called the "proofs of my treason."

I guessed at once what my blood-comrade had been doing, what crime he
had committed while occupying my body.

The Frenchmen, who are leagued with the Bocksritter, had sent Behoric
to the fortress, to take my place, and inform them what was going on
in here. When he found that his crime had been discovered by his
honor, the mayor, he said to himself: "It is time for Belphegor to
return to his body;" and, as it happened, he turned his ring at the
same moment I turned the one on my finger.

I can imagine his consternation when he found himself in the pillory
in Madgeburg, with his back bared for the scourge; and I have to laugh
every time I think of the grimaces he must have made when the barbed
nails cut into his scarred hide!

This, your highness, and honorable gentlemen of the court, is the
strictly veracious history of my last capital crime.



PART XIV.

THE WHITE DOVE.


The decision of the court at the conclusion of the long trial was as
follows:

"Whereas: After hearing all the evidence, it has been found impossible
to establish fully the exact nature of twenty-one of the twenty-two
crimes, for which the prisoner has been indicted, the court has
decided to pronounce him guilty of only the twenty-second and last on
the register--'Treason.'

"But, as the prisoner avers that this transgression was committed by
his blood-comrade, who occupied his, the prisoner's, body at the time
the crime was committed; and that his, the prisoner's, _mind_ was not
cognizant of the blood-comrade's intentions when the exchange of
bodies was effected, the court has decided to acquit the prisoner's
mind and commend it to the mercy of God; and, that it may serve as a
lesson to all miscreants who contemplate a similar crime, to sentence
the body to death by a merciful shot in the back of the head."

The prisoner thanked the court for its clemency and assured the
honorable gentlemen that he had no desire to postpone the execution of
the just sentence.

When he was brought to the place of execution he removed his coat and
hat, then requested, as a last favor, that his hands might be left
free, and not bound behind his back, as he wished to clasp them on his
breast in prayer.

The request was granted. He knelt, and in an audible tone repeated the
Lord's Prayer. Then he turned toward the musketeers, who were waiting
matches in readiness above the priming-pans, and said earnestly:

"Comrades, I beg you, when you shoot me, try also to kill the raven
which is fluttering on my shoulder"--he glanced furtively toward his
shoulder and added joyfully: "No! No! it is not the raven--it is my
white dove--my precious white dove! She has come to bear my soul to
the land wherein she now dwells! My good angel!--My Madus--my only
love!"

Twelve musket shots rang out on the silent air, and the white dove
soared away with the released soul.



FINIS.)



Transcriber's Note: The original edition did not contain a table of
contents. A table of contents has been created for this electronic
edition.

The use of quotation marks in the original text was irregular and not
always consistent. Some words, especially proper names, were also
spelled inconsistently. Except as noted below, spelling and
punctuation have been left as they originally appeared.

On the title page, "MAURUS JOKÁI" was changed to "MAURUS JÓKAI".

In Part I, Chapter I, a single-quote (') was changed to a double-quote
(") after "It would make the carrying on a war an easy matter."

In Part I, Chapter II, "Prisoners: I was a member of a band of
robbers" was changed to "Prisoner: I was a member of a band of
robbers", and a missing quotation mark was added after "diabolicum
implicitum".

In Part II, Chapter I, quotation marks were added after "Kto tam?
Stoj!" and "not a man of your word", "you shall have this koltuk-denigenegi"
was changed to "you shall have this koltuk-dengenegi", and "Incendarii
ambitiosi comburantur" was changed to "Incendiarii ambitiosi
comburantur".

In Part II, Chapter II, "cities, castles, and monastaries" was changed
to "cities, castles, and monasteries", and a quotation mark was added
after "not the other one!"

In Part III, Chapter I, a quotation mark was added after "what your
crutch contains!", "I don't wan't brandy" was changed to "I don't want
brandy", and a quotation mark after "the tongue in which demons
spake--" was removed.

In Part IV, Chapter I, a quotation mark was added before "This wine,
Malchus", a quotation mark was added after "homicidium", "Qui bene
distinquet" was changed to "Qui bene distinguit", and "deeply incensed
by the impiety of the donnenritter" was changed to "deeply incensed by
the impiety of the dornenritter".

In Part V, Chapter II, "Que bene distinguit" was changed to "Qui bene
distinguit", a period and quotation mark were added after "the
two-thousand you owe me", quotation marks were removed after "seal the
bargain with a kiss" and "bought with the money her son had given
her", and "the same geneological tree" was changed to "the same
genealogical tree".

In Part VI, Chapter I, "worth-nothing, insignificent cipher" was
changed to "worth-nothing, insignificant cipher", and a missing period
was added after "in every city in the land".

In Part VII, Chapter I, a quotation mark was removed after
"respectable God-fearing man".

In Part VIII, Chapter III, "mantained direct communication" was
changed to "maintained direct communication".

In Part IX, Chapter I, a quotation mark before "During a calm" was
removed, and "how is it posible that such a storm" was changed to "how
is it possible that such a storm".

In Part X, Chapter II, "all were against, me" was changed to "all were
against me".

In Part XI, Chapter I, "cast from me every fear" was changed to "I
cast from me every fear", and "David's battle with Goliah" was changed
to "David's battle with Goliath".

In Part XI, Chapter II, "Sint ut sunt aut nou sint" was changed to
"Sint ut sunt aut non sint".

In Part XIII, Chapter I, a single quote (') was changed to a double
quote (") before "Why do you wish to exchange?" and "Do you still
belong to the satyrs?", and a quotation mark was added before "The
leader has ordered it" and after "such outrageous fables".





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