The tale or myth of the Knight of the Swan who came to the succour of the youthful Duchess of Brabant is based upon motives more or less common in folklore--the enchantment of human beings into swans, and the taboo whereby, as in the case of Cupid and Psyche, the husband forbids the wife to question him as to his identity or to look upon him. The myth has been treated by both French and German romancers, but the latter attached it loosely to the Grail legend, thus turning it to mystical use.
As a purely German story it is found at the conclusion of Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival, 1 from which the following version is drawn. The name of the hero as written by Wolfram (Loherangrîn) may possibly be traced to Garin le Loherin or Garin of Lorraine. Wagner's version is taken from the same source, but the mighty master of melody altered many of the details for dramatic and other reasons.
The principal French versions of the romance are Le Chevalier au Cygne and Helyas, and there are medieval English forms of these. 2
In a dungeon in the castle of Cleves lay Elsa of Brabant, languishing in captivity. Her father, the Duke of Brabant, had ere he died appointed his most powerful
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THE CASTLE OF CLEVES
LOUIS WEIRTER, R.B.A.
Facing page 92.
vassal, one Frederick of Telramund, to be her guardian; but he, seeking only the advancement of his own ends, shamefully abused the confidence of his lord. Using his authority as Elsa's guardian, he sought to compel her to become his wife, and threw her into prison to await the wedding-day, knowing well that none would dare to dispute his action.
An appeal was made on Elsa's behalf to the Emperor, Henry I, who decreed that she should choose a champion, so that the matter might be settled by combat. But, alas! there was not a knight who would venture to match his skill against that of Frederick, who was a giant in stature and an expert in sword-play. In accordance with the Emperor's decree Telramund sent out a herald at stated times to proclaim his readiness to do battle with any who would champion the cause of Elsa.
Time passed, yet the challenge was not accepted, and at length the day was fixed for the bridal. Behind her prison bars the lady wept ceaselessly, and called upon the Virgin to save her from the threatened fate. In her despair she beat her breast with her chaplet, whereon was hung a tiny silver bell. Now this little bell was possessed of magic properties, for when it was rung the sound, small at first as the tinkling of a fairy lure, grew in volume the further it travelled till it resembled the swelling of a mighty chorus. Rarely was its tone heard, and never save when its owner was in dire straits, as on the present occasion. When Elsa beat her breast with it, therefore, its magical qualities responded to her distress, and its faint, sweet tinkle fell on her ear.
Far away over hill and dale went the sound of the bell, growing ever richer and louder, till at length it reached the temple where Parsifal and his knights guarded the
[paragraph continues] Holy Grail. To them it seemed that the swelling notes contained an appeal for help directed to the Holy Vessel over which they kept vigil. While they debated thereon a loud and mysterious voice was heard bidding Parsifal send his son Lohengrin to the rescue of Elsa of Brabant, whom he must take for his wife, yet without revealing to her his identity.
The awed knights recognized the voice as that of the Holy Grail, and Lohengrin at once set out, bound he knew not whither. When he reached the shores of the Rhine he found awaiting him a boat drawn by a stately swan. Taking it as a sign from Heaven, he stepped into the little boat and was carried up the Rhine, to the sound of the most exquisite music.
It was the day on which Elsa was to be wedded to her tyrant. She had spent the night in tears and bitter lamentations, and now, weary and distraught, too hopeless even for tears, she looked out from the bars of her prison with dull, despairing eyes. Suddenly she heard the melodious strains and a moment later saw the approach of a swan-drawn boat, wherein lay a sleeping knight. Hope leapt within her, for she remembered the prophecy of an old nun, long since dead, that a sleeping knight would rescue her from grave peril. Directly he stepped ashore the youth made his way to the place of her confinement and, espying her face at the heavily barred window, knelt before her and begged that she would take him for her champion.
At that moment the blast of a trumpet was heard, followed by the voice of the herald as, for the last time, he challenged any knight to take up arms on behalf of Elsa of Brabant. Lohengrin boldly accepted the challenge, and Telramund, when the news reached him of the
unexpected opposition, on the very day he had appointed for his wedding, was surprised and enraged beyond measure, yet he dared not refuse to do battle with the stranger knight, because of the Emperor's decree. So it was arranged that the combat should take place immediately. News of it reached the people of Cleves, and a great concourse gathered to witness the spectacle, all of them secretly in sympathy with the persecuted maiden, though these feelings were carefully concealed from the ruthless Telramund.
Fierce indeed was the combat, for Lohengrin, though less powerfully built than his gigantic opponent, was nevertheless tall and strong, and well versed in the arts of war. At length he laid his enemy in the dust with a well-aimed sword-stroke, and the crowd broke into cheers. The combat was over, and Elsa was free!
Heeding not the acclamations of the people, Lohengrin strode toward Elsa and again knelt at her feet. The blushing maiden bade him name his reward, whereupon the knight begged her hand in marriage, confessing, however, that he might only remain with her so long as she did not question him with regard to his identity. It seemed a small condition to Elsa, who willingly promised to restrain any curiosity she might feel concerning his name and place of abode. The cheers of the populace were redoubled when they learned that Elsa was to bestow her hand on the Swan Knight.
In a few weeks the couple were married, and henceforth for a good many years they lived together very happily. Three sons were born to them, who grew in time to be handsome and chivalrous lads, of noble bearing and knightly disposition. Then it was that Elsa, who had hitherto faithfully kept her promise to her husband, began
to fancy that she and her sons had a grievance in that the latter were not permitted to bear their father's name.
For a time she brooded in silence over her grievance, but at length it was fanned into open rebellion by a breath of outside suspicion. Some of the people looked askance at the knight whose name no one knew. So Elsa openly reproached her husband with his secrecy, and begged that for the benefit of their sons he would reveal his name and station. Even the children of humble parents, the children of the peasants, of their own retainers, had a right to their father's name, and why not her sons also?
Lohengrin paled at her foolish words, for to him they were the sign that he must leave his wife and family and betake himself once more to the temple of the Holy Grail.
"Oh, Elsa," he said sorrowfully, "thou knowest not what thou hast done. Thy promise is broken, and to-day I must leave thee for ever." And with that he blew a blast on his silver horn.
Elsa had already repented her rash words, and right earnestly she besought him to remain by her side. But, alas! her tears and pleadings were in vain, for, even as her entreaties were uttered, she heard the exquisite strains of music which had first heralded her lover's approach, while from the window of the castle she espied the swan-boat rapidly drawing toward the shore.
With grave tenderness Lohengrin bade farewell to his wife and family, first, however, revealing to them his identity, and commending them to the care of some of his trusty followers.
Tradition tells that Elsa did not long survive the loss of her beloved husband, but her sons became brave knights, well worthy of the proud name they bore.
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Lohengrin overcomes Telramund
A legend of Liége! and is not Liége itself now almost legendary? Its venerable church, its world-famous library replete with the priceless treasures of the past, "with records stored of deeds long since forgot," where are they?--but crumbling clusters of ruins fired by the barbarian torch whose glow, we were told, was to enlighten an ignorant and uncultured Europe! But one gem remains: the wonderful Hôtel de Ville, type of the Renaissance spirit in Flanders. Liége may be laid in ruins, but the memory of what it was can never die:
and the same may be said of those splendours in stone, those wonders of medieval architecture, even the blackened walls of which possess a dignity and beauty which will ever assist the imagination to re-create the picture of what has been.
Liége is a city of the Middle Ages. Time was when the place boasted but a single forge; and though bucklers were heaped beside the anvil, and swords and spears lay waiting for repair, the blacksmith leant against his door-post, gazing idly up the hill-side. Gradually he was aware of a figure, which seemed to have grown into shape from a furze-bush, or to have risen from behind a stone; and as it descended the slope he eyed curiously the grimy face, long beard, and squat form of what he was half unwilling to recognize as a human being. Hobbling awkwardly, and shrugging his shoulders as though cold, the man came in time to the smithy door.
"What! Jacques Perron--idle when work is to be done?
[paragraph continues] Idle smith! idle smith! The horse lacks the bit, and the rider the spur.
[paragraph continues] Idle smith! idle smith!"
"Idle enough," quoth Jacques. "I'm as idle as you are ugly; but I can't get charcoal any more than you can get beauty, so I must stand still, and you be content with your face, though I'd fain earn a loaf and a cup full enough for both of us this winter morning."
Though the strange man must have known he was horribly ugly--that is, if he ever bent to drink of the clear bright waters of the lovely Meuse, which reflected in those days every lily-bell and every grass-blade which grew upon its banks, and gave a faithful portraiture in its cool waters of every creature that leant over them--though he was certainly the most frightful creature that had ever met the blacksmith's sight, it was evident enough that he did not like being called Ugly-face. But when the honest, good-natured smith spoke of earning a draught for his new acquaintance as well as himself, he smacked his ugly lips and twisted out a sort of smile which made him still more hideous.
"Ah, ah!" said he, "wine's good in winter weather, wine's good in winter weather. Listen, listen! Jacques Perron! listen, listen! Go you up the hill-side--yonder, yonder!" and he pointed with a yellow finger, which seemed to stretch out longer and longer as the smith strained his eyes up the slope, until the digit looked quite as long as the tallest chimney that smoked over Liége. "Listen, listen!" and he sang in a voice like the breath of a huge bellows:
"Mind my cup of wine--mind my cup of wine!" As he ended this rude chant Jacques saw the long finger run back into the shrivelled hand, as a telescope slips back into its case, and then the hand was wrapped up in the dingy garment, and with a dreadful shiver, and a chattering of teeth as loud as the noise of the anvils now heard on the same spot, the ugly man was wafted away round the corner of the building like a thick gust of smoke from a newly fed furnace.
"Mind my cup of wine--mind my cup of wine!" rang again in the ears of the startled Jacques, and after running several times round his house in vain pursuit of the voice, he sat down on the cold anvil to scratch his head and think. It was quite certain he had work to do, and it was as certain as half a score searches could make it that he had not a single coin in his pouch to buy charcoal to do it with. He was reflecting that the old man was a very strange creature--he was more than half afraid to think who he might be--when in the midst of his cogitation he heard his three children calling out for their morning meal. Not a loaf had Jacques in store, and twisting his hide apron round his loins, he muttered, "Demon or no demon, I'll go," and strode out of the smithy and up the hill-side as fast as though he feared that if he went slowly his courage would not carry him as far up as the heather-bush which the long yellow finger had pointed out.
When the young wife of Jacques came to look for her husband, she saw him returning with his apron full of black morsels of shining stone. She smiled at him; but when he threw them on the furnace and went to get a brand to set them alight, she looked solemn enough, for she thought he had left his wits on the hill-top. Great was her surprise when she saw the stones burn! But her joy was greater than her surprise when she heard her husband's hammer ring merrily, and found the wage of the smith all spared for home use, instead of being set aside for the charcoal-burner. That night Jacques had two full wine-cups and, setting them on the anvil, had scarcely said to himself, "I wonder whether He'll come!" when in walked the Old Man and, nodding familiarly, seated himself on the head of the big hammer. Jacques was a bold and grateful as well as a good-natured fellow, and in a few minutes he and his visitor were on excellent terms. No more shivering or chattering of teeth was seen or heard in the smithy that night. The black stones burned away merrily on the hearth, and the bright flames shone on the honest face of the smith as he hobnobbed with his companion, and looked as though he really thought the stranger as handsome as he certainly had been useful. He sang his best songs and told his best stories, and when the wine had melted his soul he told his new friend how dearly he loved his wife and what charming, dear creatures his children were. "Demon or no demon," he swore the stranger was a good fellow, and though the visitor spoke but little, he seemed to enjoy his company very much. He laughed at the jokes, smiled at the songs, and once rather startled Jacques by letting out again his long telescope arm to pat him on his shoulder when, with a mouth full of praises of his wife, a tear
sparkled in his eye as he told over again how dearly he loved his little ones.
Day broke before the wine was exhausted or their hearts flagged, and when the voice of the early cock woke the swan that tended her callow brood amongst the sedges of the Meuse the Old Man departed. Jacques never saw him again, although he often looked in all directions when he went to the hill for a supply of fuel; but from that day Liége grew up in industry, riches, and power. Jacques had found coal, and thus became the benefactor of his native country, and the hero of this favourite Legend of the Liégeois.
In Solingen, where the forges rang to the making of sword-blades, many smiths had essayed to imitate the falchions of Damascus, their trenchant keenness and their wondrous golden inlaying. But numerous as were the attempts made to recapture the ancient secret of the East, they all signally failed, and brought about the ruin of many masters of the sword-slipper's art.
Among these was old Ruthard, a smith grown grey in the practice of his trade. He had laid aside sufficient savings to permit himself a year's experiment in the manufacture of Damascus blades, but to no purpose. As the months wore on he saw his hard-earned gold melting steadily away. The wrinkles deepened on his brow, and his only daughter, Martha, watched the change coming over him in sorrowful silence.
One evening--the evening of all evenings, the holy Christmas eve--Martha entered the forge and saw the old man still hard at work. She gently remonstrated with him, asking him why he toiled on such an occasion.
"You work, my father, as if you feared that to-morrow we might not have bread," she said. "Why toil on this holy evening? Have you not sufficient for the future? You must have laid by enough for your old age. Then why fatigue yourself when others are spending the time by their own hearths in cheerful converse?"
The old smith's only reply was to shake his head in a melancholy manner, take some pieces of broken food in his hands, and leave the house. At that moment Wilhelm, the smith's head apprentice, entered the room. He seemed pale and disturbed, and related to Martha, to whom he was betrothed, that he had asked Ruthard for her hand. The old man had firmly told him that he could not consent to their union until he had discovered the secret of making Damascus blades. This he felt was hopeless to expect, and he had come to say "good-bye" ere he set out on a quest from which he might never return. At the news Martha was greatly perturbed. She rose and clung to the young man, her wild grief venting itself in heartrending sobs. She begged him not to depart. But his mind was fully made up, and, notwithstanding her tears and caresses, he tore himself away and quitted the house and the town.
For nearly a fortnight the youth tramped over hill and valley with little in his pouch and without much hope that the slender means of which he was possessed would bring him to the land of the Saracens, where alone he could hope to learn the great art of tempering the blades of Damascus. One evening he entered the solitary mountain country of Spessart and, unacquainted with the labyrinths of the road, lost himself in an adjoining forest. By this time night had fallen, and he cast about for a place in which to lay his head. But the inhospitable forest showed
no sign of human habitation. After wandering on, however, stumbling and falling in the darkness, he at length saw a light burning brightly at a distance. Quickly he made for it and found that it came from the window of a cottage, at the door of which he knocked loudly. He had not long to wait for an answer, for an old woman speedily opened and inquired what he wanted at so late an hour. He told her that he desired food and lodging, for which he could pay, and he was at once admitted. She told him, however, that she expected another visitor. Whilst she cooked his supper Wilhelm detailed to her the circumstances of his journey. After he had eaten he retired to rest, but, tired as he was, he could not sleep. Later a dreadful storm arose, through the din of which he heard a loud noise, as if someone had entered the house by way of the chimney. Peering through the keyhole into the next room, he perceived a man seated at the table opposite his hostess whose appearance filled him with misgiving. He had not much leisure for a detailed examination of this person, however, for the witch--for such she was--came to the door of his room, entered, and bade him come and be introduced to a stranger from the East who could tell him the secret of forging Damascus blades. Wilhelm followed the old woman into the other room and beheld there a swarthy man seated, wrapped in a flame-coloured mantle. For a long time the stranger regarded him steadily, then demanded what he wanted from him. Wilhelm told him the circumstances of his quest, and when he had finished the story the man laughed and, drawing from his pocket a document, requested the youth to sign it. Wilhelm perceived that it was of the nature of a pact with Satan, by which he was to surrender his soul in return for the coveted secret. Nevertheless, he
set his signature to the manuscript and returned to his couch--but not to sleep. The consequences of his terrible act haunted him, and when morning came he set off on his homeward journey with a fearful heart, carefully guarding a well-sealed letter which the mysterious stranger had put into his hand.
Without further adventure he reached Solingen, and having acquainted Ruthard with what had transpired, he handed him the letter. But the good old man refused to unseal it.
"You must keep this until your own son and my grandson can open it," he said to Wilhelm, "for over his infant soul the enemy can have no power."
And so it happened. Wilhelm married Martha, and in the course of a few years a little son was born to them, who in due time found the letter, opened it, and mastered the Satanic secret, and from that time the blades of Solingen have had a world-wide renown.
Travellers on the Rhine usually make a halt at Cologne to see the cathedral, and many inquire the name of its creator. Was the plan the work of a single architect? they ask; or did the cathedral, like many another in Europe, acquire its present form by slow degrees, being augmented and duly embellished in divers successive ages? These questions are perfectly reasonable and natural, yet, strange to relate, are invariably answered in evasive fashion, the truth being that the name of the artist in stone who planned Cologne Cathedral is unknown. The legend concerning him, however, is of world-wide celebrity, for the tale associated with the founding of the famous edifice is replete with that grisly element which
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LOUIS WEIRTER, R.B.A.
Facing page 104.
has always delighted the Germans, and figures largely in their medieval literature, and more especially in the works of their early painters--for example, Dürer, Lucas Cranach, and Albrecht Altdörfer.
It was about the time of the last-named master that a Bishop of Cologne, Conrad von Hochsteden, formed the resolve of increasing the pecuniary value of his diocese. He was already rich, but other neighbouring bishops were richer, each of them being blest with just what Conrad lacked--a shrine sufficiently famous to attract large numbers of wealthy pilgrims able to make generous offerings. The result of his jealous musing was that the crafty bishop vowed he would build a cathedral whose like had not been seen in all Germany. By this means, he thought, he would surely contrive to bring rich men to his diocese. His first thought was to summon an architect from Italy, in those days the country where beautiful building was chiefly carried on; but he found that this would cost a far larger sum than he was capable of raising; so, hearing that a gifted young German architect had lately taken up his abode at Cologne itself, Conrad sent for him and offered him a rich reward should he accomplish the work satisfactorily. The young man was overjoyed, for as yet he had received no commissions of great importance, and he set to work at once. He made drawing after drawing, but, being in a state of feverish excitement, found that his hand had lost its cunning. None of his designs pleased him in the least; the bishop, he felt, would be equally disappointed; and thinking that a walk in the fresh air might clear his brain, he threw his drawing-board aside and repaired to the banks of the Rhine. Yet even here peace did not come to him; he was tormented by endless visions of groined arches,
pediments, pilasters, and the like, and having a stick in his hand, he made an effort to trace some on the sand. But this new effort pleased him no better than any of its predecessors. Fame and fortune were within his reach, yet he was incapable of grasping them; and he groaned aloud, cursing the day he was born.
As the young man uttered his fierce malediction he was surprised to hear a loud "Amen" pronounced; he looked round, wondering from whom this insolence came, and beheld an individual whose approach he had not noticed. He, too, was engaged in drawing on the sand, and deeming that the person, whoever he was, intended to mock his attempts at a plan for the projected cathedral, the architect strode up to him with an angry expression on his face. He stopped short, however, on nearing the rival draughtsman; for he was repelled by his sinister aspect, while at the same time he was thunderstruck by the excellence of his drawing. It was indeed a thaumaturgic design, just such a one as the architect himself had dreamt of, but had been unable to execute; and while he gazed at it eagerly the stranger hailed him in an ugly, rasping voice. "A cunning device, this of mine," he said sharply; and the architect was bound to agree, despite the jealousy he felt. Surely, he thought, only the Evil One could draw in this wise. Scarcely had the thought crossed his mind ere his suspicion was confirmed, for now he marked the stranger's tail, artfully concealed hitherto. Yet he was incapable of withholding his gaze from the plan drawn so wondrously on the sand, and the foul fiend, seeing that the moment for his triumph was come, declared his identity without shame, and added that, would the architect but agree to renounce all hopes of salvation in the next world, the peerless design would be his to do with as he pleased.
The young man shuddered on receiving the momentous offer, but continued to gaze fixedly at the cunning workmanship, and again the Evil One addressed him, bidding him repair that very night to a certain place on a blasted heath, where, if he would sign a document consigning his soul to everlasting damnation, he would be presented with the plan duly drawn on parchment. The architect still wavered, now eager to accept the offer, and now vowing that the stipulated price was too frightful. In the end he was given time wherein to come to a decision, and he hurried from the place at hot speed as the tempter vanished from his sight.
On reaching his dwelling the architect flung himself upon his bed and burst into a paroxysm of weeping. The good woman who tended him observed this with great surprise, for he was not given to showing his emotions thus; and wondering what terrible sorrow had come to him, she proceeded to make kindly inquiries. At first these were met with silence, but, feeling a need for sympathy, the architect eventually confessed the truth; and the good dame, horrified at what she heard, hurried off to impart the story to her father-confessor. He, too, was shocked, but he was as anxious as Bishop Conrad that the proposed cathedral should be duly built, and he came quickly to the architect's presence. "Here," he told him, "is a piece of our Lord's cross. This will preserve you. Go, therefore, as the fiend directed you, take the drawing from him, and brandish the sacred relic in his accursed face the moment you have received it."
When evening drew near the architect hurried to the rendezvous, where he found the Devil waiting impatiently. But a leer soon spread over his visage, and he was evidently overjoyed at the prospect of wrecking a soul.
[paragraph continues] He quickly produced a weird document, commanding his victim to affix his signature at a certain place. "But the beautiful plan," whispered the young man; "I must see it first; I must be assured that the drawing on the sand has been faithfully copied." "Fear nothing." The Devil handed over the precious piece of vellum; and glancing at it swiftly, and finding it in order, the architect whipped it under his doublet. "Aha! you cannot outwit me," shrieked the fiend; but as he was laying hands upon the architect the young man brought forth the talisman he carried. "A priest has told you of this, for no one else would have thought of it," cried the Devil, breathing flame from his nostrils. But his wrath availed him naught; he was forced to retreat before the sacred relic, yet as he stepped backward he uttered a deadly curse. "You have deceived me," he hissed; "but know that fame will never come to you; your name will be forgotten for evermore."
And behold, the fiend's prophecy was fulfilled. The cathedral was scarcely completed ere the young architect's name became irrevocably forgotten, and now this grisly tale is all that is known concerning his identity.
There are several other tales to account for the belief prevalent at one time that Cologne Cathedral would never be completed. The following legend attributes the unfinished state of the edifice to the curse of a jealous architect. At the time the building was commenced a rival architect was engaged in planning an aqueduct to convey to the city a supply of water purer than that of the Rhine. He was in this difficulty, however: he had been unable to discover the exact position of the spring from which the
water was to be drawn. Tidings of the proposed structure reached the ears of the builder of the cathedral, a man of strong passions and jealous disposition, and in time the other architect asked his opinion of the plans for the aqueduct.
Now it so happened that the architect of the cathedral alone had known the situation of the spring, and he had communicated it to his wife, but to no other living creature; so he replied boastfully:
"Speak not to me of your aqueduct. My cathedral, mighty as it will be, shall be completed before your little aqueduct." And he clinched his vainglorious assertion with an oath.
Indeed, it seemed as though his boast would be justified, for the building of the sacred edifice proceeded apace, while the aqueduct was not even begun, because of the difficulty of finding the spring. The second architect was in despair, for of a certainty his professional reputation was destroyed, his hopes of fame for ever dashed, were he unable to finish the task he had undertaken.
His faithful wife strove to lighten his despondency, and at last, setting her woman's wit to work, hit on a plan whereby the threatened calamity might be averted. She set out to visit the wife of the rival architect, with whom she was intimate. The hostess greeted her effusively, and the ladies had a long chat over bygone times. More and more confidential did they become under the influence of old memories and cherry wine. Skilfully the guest led the conversation round to the subject of the hidden spring, and her friend, after exacting a promise of the strictest secrecy, told her its exact situation. It lay under the great tower of the cathedral, covered by the massive stone known as the 'Devil's Stone.'
[paragraph continues] Let me have your assurance again," said the anxious lady, "that you will never tell anyone, not even your husband. For I do not know what would become of me if my husband learnt that I had told it to you."
The other renewed her promises of secrecy and took her leave. On her return home she promptly told her husband all that had passed, and he as promptly set to work, sunk a well at the spot indicated, and found the spring. The foundations of the aqueduct were laid and the structure itself soon sprang up. The architect of the cathedral saw with dismay that his secret was discovered. As the building of the aqueduct progressed he lost all interest in his own work; envy and anger filled his thoughts and at last overcame him. It is said that he died of a broken heart, cursing with his latest breath the cathedral which he had planned.
An alternative story is that of the Devil's wager with the architect of the cathedral. The Evil One was much irritated at the good progress made in the erection of the building and resolved, by means of a cunning artifice, to stop that progress. To this end he paid a visit to the architect, travelling incognito to avoid unpleasant attentions.
The architect was a man of wit and good sense, as courteous as he was clever; but he had one outstanding failing--a love of wagering. Satan, who ever loves to find the joints in an opponent's armour, chose this one weak spot as a point of attack. His host offered him meat and drink, which the Devil declined as not being sufficiently high-seasoned for his taste.
"I have come on a matter of business," said he briskly.
[paragraph continues] "I have heard of you as a sporting fellow, a man who loves his wager. Is that correct?"
The architect indicated that it was, and was all eagerness and attention in a moment.
"Well," said the other, "I have come, in a word, to make a bet with you concerning the cathedral."
"And what is your wager?"
"Why, I'll wager that I bring a stream from Treves to Cologne before you finish the cathedral, and I'll work single-handed, too."
"Done!" said the delighted architect. "But what's the wager?"
"If I win, your soul passes into my possession; if you win, you may have anything you choose." And with that he was gone.
Next day the architect procured the services of all the builders that were to be had on such short notice, and set them to work in real earnest. Very soon the whole town was in a state of excitement because of the unusual bustle. The architect took to dreaming of the wealth, or the fame, or the honour he should ask as his due when the stakes were won. Employing his imagination thus, he one day climbed to the top of the highest tower, which by this time was completed, and as he feasted his eyes on the beautiful landscape spread before him he happened to turn toward the town of Treves, and lo! a shining stream was threading its way to Cologne. In a very short time it would reach the latter city.
The Devil had won!
With a laugh of defiance the architect cast himself from the high tower and was instantly killed. Satan, in the form of a black hound, sprang upon him, but was too late to find him alive.
But his death stopped for many years the progress of the cathedral; it long stood at the same stage of completion as when the brook first flowed from Treves to Cologne.
In one of the grand towers of Cologne Cathedral hangs a massive bell, some 25,000 lb. in weight. No mellow call to prayer issues from its brazen throat, no joyous chimes peal forth on gala-days; only in times of disaster, of storm and stress and fire, it flings out a warning in tones so loud and clamorous, so full of dire threatenings, that the stoutest hearts quail beneath the sound. Because its awful note is only to be heard in time of terror it is known as the Fire-bell, and a weird tradition relates the story of its founding and the reason for its unearthly sound.
Long ago, when bell-founding was looked upon as an art of the highest importance, and especially so among the Germans, the civic authorities of Cologne made it known that the cathedral was in need of a new bell. There was no lack of aspirants for the honour of casting the bell, and more than one exponent of the art imagined his handiwork swinging in the grand tower of the cathedral, a lasting and melodious monument to its creator's skill.
Among those whose ambitious souls were stirred by the statement of the city fathers was one, a bell-founder named Wolf, a man of evil passions and overbearing disposition, whose heart was firmly set on achieving success. In those days, let it be said, the casting of a bell was a solemn, and even a religious, performance, attended by elaborate ceremonies and benedictions. On the day which Wolf had appointed for the operation it seemed as though the entire populace had turned out to witness the spectacle. Wolf, having prepared the mould, made ready to pour into it the
molten metal. The silence was almost oppressive, and on it fell distinctly the solemn words of the bell-founder, as in God's name he released the metal. The bright stream gushed into the mould, and a cheer broke from the waiting crowd, who, indeed, could scarce be restrained till the bell had cooled, such was their curiosity to see the result. At last the earthy mould was removed, they surged round eagerly, and lo! from crown to rim of the mighty bell stretched a gaping crack!
Expressions of disappointment burst from the lips of the people, and to Wolf himself the failure was indeed galling. But his ambitious spirit was not yet completely crushed.
"I am not beaten yet," he said boastfully. "I shall make another, and success shall yet be mine."
Another mould was made, once more the people came forth to see the casting of the bell, once more the solemn invocation of God's name fell on awed ears. The glowing metal filled the mould, cooled, and was withdrawn from its earthy prison. Once more cries of disappointment were heard from the crowd; again the massive bell was completely riven!
Wolf was beside himself. His eyes glowed with fury, and he thrust aside the consolations of his friends.
"If God will not aid me," he said fiercely, "then the Devil will!"
The crowd shrank back from the impious words; nevertheless on the third occasion they attended in even greater numbers than before.
Again was all made ready for the casting of the huge bell. The mould was fashioned as carefully as on the previous occasions, the metal was heated in the great furnace, and Wolf, pale and sullen, stood ready to release it. But when he spoke a murmur of astonishment, of horror, ran
through the crowd. For the familiar words "In the name of God!" he had substituted "In the name of the Devil!" With fascinated eyes the people watched the bright, rushing metal, and, later, the removal of the mould.
And behold! the bell was flawless, perfect in shape and form, and beautiful to look upon!
Wolf, having achieved the summit of his ambition, cared little for the means by which he had ascended. From among a host of competitors he was chosen as the most successful. His bell was to hang in the belfry of Cologne Cathedral, for the envy of other bell-founders and the admiration of future generations.
The bell was borne in triumph through the streets and fixed high in the tower. Wolf requested that he might be the first to try its tone, and his request was granted. He ascended into the tower and took the rope in his hands; the mighty bell swung forth, but ah! what a sound was that! The people pressed their hands over their ears and shuddered; those in the streets hurried to their homes; all were filled with deadly fear as the diabolical bell flung its awful tones over the startled city. This, then, was the result of Wolf's invocation of the Devil.
Wolf himself, high in the cathedral tower, was overcome with the brazen horror of the sound, and, driven mad with remorse and terror, flung himself from the tower and fell, a crushed and shapeless mass, on the ground below.
Henceforth the bell was used only to convey warning in times of danger, to carry a message of terror far and wide across the city, and to remind the wicked at all times of the danger of trafficking with the Evil One.
In 957 Cologne was constituted an imperial free city, having as its nominal prince the archbishop of the see, but possessing the right to govern its own affairs. The good bishop of that time acquiesced in the arrangement, but his successors were not content to be princes in name only, and strove hard to obtain a real influence over the citizens. Being for the most part men of unscrupulous disposition, they did not hesitate to rouse commonalty and aristocracy against each other, hoping to step in and reap the benefits of such internecine warfare as might ensue. And, indeed, the continual strife was not conducive to the prosperity of the burghers, but rather tended to sap their independence, and one by one their civil liberties were surrendered. Thus the scheming archbishops increased their power and influence in the city of Cologne. There came a time, however, in the civic history when the limit was overstepped. In the thirteenth century Archbishop Engelbert, more daring and ambitious than any of his predecessors, demanded that the municipal treasure should be given up to him. Not content with taking away the privileges of the burghers, he wished to lay his hands on the public purse as well. This was indeed the last straw, and the sluggish blood of the burghers was at length roused to revolt.
At this time the Burgomaster of Cologne, Hermann Grein by name, was an honest, far-seeing, and diplomatic citizen, who had seen with dismay the ancient liberties of his beloved city destroyed by the cunning of the Archbishop. The latter's bold attempt at further encroachments gave him the opportunity he sought, and with the skill of a born leader Hermann Grein united nobles and commons in
the determination to resist their mutual enemy. Feuds were for the time being forgotten, and with a gallant effort the galling yoke of the Archbishop-prince was thrown off, and the people of Cologne were once more free.
Grein performed his civic duties so firmly, albeit so smoothly and gently, that he won the love and respect of all sections of the populace. Old and young hailed him in their hearts as the deliverer of their city from ecclesiastical tyranny. Only Engelbert hated him with a deadly hatred, and swore to be revenged; nor was his resolve weakened when a later attempt to subdue the city was frustrated by the foresight of Grein. It became obvious to the Archbishop that force was unavailing, for the majority of all classes were on the side of liberty, and were likely to remain so while Hermann Grein was at their head. So he made up his mind to accomplish by means of strategy the death of the good old man.
Now there were in the monastery close by Cologne two canons who shared Engelbert's hatred of Grein, and who were only too willing to share in his revenge. And the plan was indeed a cunning one. Belonging to a small collection of animals attached to the monastery was a fierce lion, which had more than once proved a convenient mode of removing the Church's enemies. So it was arranged that the Burgomaster should be asked to meet the Archbishop there. The latter sent a suave message to his enemy saying that he desired to treat with him on matters connected with the civic privileges, which he was disposed to restore to the city, with a few small exceptions. This being the case, would the Burgomaster consent to dine with him at the monastery on a certain date?
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The Burgomaster and the Lion 116
The Burgomaster consented heartily, for he was a man to whom treachery was entirely foreign, and therefore not prone to suspect that vice in others; nevertheless he took the simple precautions of arming himself and making his destination known to his friends before he set out. When he arrived at the monastery resplendent in the rich garments countenanced by the fashion of the time, he was told that the Archbishop was in the garden.
"Will you walk in our humble garden with his Highness?" the canons asked the Burgomaster, and he, a lover of nature, bade them lead the way.
The garden was truly a lovely spot, gay with all manner of flowers and fruit; but Grein looked in vain for his host. "His Highness," said the wily canons, "is in the private garden, where only the heads of the Church and their most honoured guests are admitted. Ah, here we are! Enter, noble Burgomaster; we may go no farther."
With that they stopped before a strong iron-bound door, opened it, and thrust the old man inside. In a moment the heavy door had swung to with a crash, and Grein found himself in a narrow, paved court, with high, unscalable walls on every side. And from a dark corner there bounded forth to meet him a huge lion! With a pious prayer for help the Burgomaster drew his sword, wrapped his rich Spanish mantle round his left arm, and prepared to defend himself against his adversary. With a roar the lion was upon him, but with wonderful agility the old man leapt to one side. Again the great beast sprang, endeavouring to get the man's head between its jaws. Again and again Grein thrust valiantly, and in one of these efforts his weapon reached the lion's heart and it rolled over, dead. Weak and exhausted from loss of blood, the Burgomaster lost consciousness.
Ere long he was roused from his swoon by the awe-inspiring tones of the alarm-bell and the sound of a multitude of voices. A moment later he recalled his terrible struggle with the lion, and uttered a devout thanksgiving for his escape from death.
Meanwhile the people, growing anxious at his prolonged absence, and fearing that some ill had befallen him, had hastened to the monastery. The two canons, seeing the approaching crowd, ran out to meet them, wringing their hands and exclaiming that the Burgomaster had strayed into the lion's den and there met his death. The angry crowd, in nowise deceived by their pretences, demanded to be shown the lion's den. Arrived there, they broke down the door and, to their great joy, found Grein alive, though wounded and much shaken. They bore him triumphantly through the town, first crowning his hastily improvised litter with flowers and laurels.
As for the monks, their priestly garb could not protect their persons from the wrath of the mob, and they were hanged at the gate of the monastery, which thereafter became known as the 'Priests' Gate.'
The year 1440 was a memorable one throughout Germany, for the great plague raged with fearful violence, leaving blanks in many families hitherto unvisited by death. Among the victims was Richmodis, the beloved wife of Sir Aducht of Cologne, who deeply mourned her loss.
The lady was buried with a valuable ring--her husband's gift--upon her finger; this excited the cupidity of the sextons, who, resolved to obtain possession of it, opened the tomb in the night and wrenched off the coffin-lid. Their difficulties, however, were not at an end, for when
they tried to possess themselves of the ring it resolutely adhered to the finger of the corpse.
Suddenly, to their horror, the dead body gently raised itself, with a deep sigh, as though the soul of Richmodis regarded this symbol of wifely duty as sacred, and would resist the efforts of the thieves to take it from her.
The dark and hollow eyes opened and met those of the desecrators, and a threatening light seemed to come from them. At this ghastly sight the terrified sextons fled in abject panic.
Richmodis recovered by degrees, and gradually realizing where she was, she concluded that she must have been buried while alive. In her terror she cried aloud for help. But nobody could hear her; it was the lone hour of midnight, when all nature reposes.
Summoning strength, she resolved to make an effort to go to the husband who had placed the ring upon her finger, and getting out of the coffin, she made her way shivering toward their home.
The wind moaned dismally through the trees, and their foliage cast dark, spectral shadows that swayed fitfully to and fro in the weird light of the waning moon as Richmodis staggered along feebly, absorbed in the melancholy thoughts which her terrible experience suggested.
Not a sound, save the soughing of the wind, was heard within God's peaceful acre, for over the wrecks of Time Silence lay motionless in the arms of Death.
The moon's pale rays illumined the buildings when Richmodis arrived at her house in the New Market. She knocked repeatedly, but at first received no response to her summons. After a time Sir Aducht opened the window and looked out, annoyed at the disturbance at such an hour.
He was about to speak angrily when the apparition looked up at him with a tender regard of love and asked him to descend quickly and open the door to receive his wife, nearly exhausted by cold and terror. The bereaved husband refused to believe that the wife whom he had just buried had come back to him, and he declared that he would as soon expect his horses to climb upstairs as believe that his dead wife could return to him alive.
He had hardly uttered the words when the trampling of his two horses on the staircase was distinctly heard. A moment or two later he looked from the casement and saw the steeds at an upper window, and he could doubt no longer. Rushing to the door, he received his shivering wife into his arms. The ring she still wore would have removed all doubts had there been room for such.
Husband and wife spent many years together in domestic happiness, and in memory of that remarkable night Sir Aducht fixed wooden effigies of two horses' heads to the outside of the window, where they still remain for all to see.
Another interesting tale of Cologne deals with the famous magician and alchemist, Albertus Magnus, who at one time dwelt in the convent of the Dominicans, not far from that city. It is recorded that on one occasion, in the depth of winter, Albertus invited William of Holland to a feast which was to be held in the convent garden. The recipients of the curious invitation, William and his courtiers, were naturally much amazed at the terms thereof, but decided not to lose the opportunity of attending such a novel banquet.
In due course they arrived at the monastery, where all
was in readiness for the feast, the tables being laid amid the snow. The guests had fortified themselves against the severe weather by wearing their warmest clothing and furs. No sooner had they taken their seats, however, than Albertus, exercising the magic powers he possessed, turned the wintry garden into a scene of summer bloom and loveliness. The heavy furs were laid aside, and the guests were glad to seek the shade of the spreading foliage. Iced drinks were brought to allay their thirst, and a sumptuous banquet was provided by their hosts; thus the hours passed unheeded, till the Ave Maria was rung by the convent-bell. Immediately the spell was broken, and once more snow and ice dominated the scene. The courtiers, who had rid themselves of as much of their clothing as court etiquette would permit, shivered in the bitter blast, and looked the very picture of blank amazement--so much so that William forgot his own suffering and laughed heartily at the discomfiture of his train.
This story has a quaint sequel. To show his approval of the magic feat William granted to the convent a piece of land of considerable extent in the neighbourhood of Cologne, and sent some of his courtiers to present the deed of gift. The hospitable prior, anxious that the members of the deputation should be suitably entertained, drew from the well-furnished cellars of the monastery some choice Rhenish, which so pleased the palates of the courtiers that they drank and drank and did not seem to know when to stop. At length the prior, beholding with dismay the disappearance of his finest vintage, privately begged the magician to put a stop to this drain on the resources of his cellar. Albertus consented, and once more the wine-cups were replenished. Imagine the horror of the courtiers when each beheld ghastly flames
issuing from his cup! In their dismay they seized hold of one another and would not let go.
Only when the phenomenon had disappeared did they discover that each held his neighbour by the nose! and such was their chagrin at being seen in this unconventional pose that they quitted the monastery without a word, and never entered it again.
At a place called Truenfels, near the Oelberg, and not very far from Cologne, there lived at one time in the Middle Ages a knight named Sir Balther. His schloss was known as The Mount, and there dwelt with him here his only daughter, Liba, whose great beauty had won for her a vast entourage of suitors. Each was equally importunate, but only one was in any way favoured, Sir Sibert Ulenthal, and at the time the story opens this Sir Sibert had lately become affianced to Sir Balther's daughter.
Now Sir Balther felt an ardent aversion to one of his neighbours, the Bishop of Cologne, and his hatred of this prelate was shared abundantly by various other knights and nobles of the district. One evening it chanced a body of these were gathered together at The Mount; and after Rhenish had circulated freely among them and loosened their tongues, one and all began to vent wrath on the ill-starred Churchman, talking volubly of his avarice and misdeeds in general. But why, cried one of them, should they be content with so tame a thing as scurrilous speech? Were not men of the sword more doughty than men of the robe? he added; and thereupon a wild shout was raised by the revellers, and they swore that they would sally forth instantly and slay him whom they all loathed so passionately.
It happened that, even as they set out, the bishop was returning from a visit to a remote part of his diocese; and being wholly unprepared to cope with a gang of desperadoes like these, he fell an easy prey to their attack. But the Church in medieval days did not take acts of this sort passively, and the matter being investigated, and it transpiring that The Mount had been the rallying ground of the murderers, a band of troops was sent to raze Sir Balther's castle and slay its inmates. The news, meanwhile, reached the fair Liba's fiancé, Sir Sibert, and knowing well that, in the event of The Mount being stormed by the avenging party, death or an equally terrible fate might befall his betrothed, the lover felt sad indeed. He hastened to the King and implored his intervention; on this being refused, he proposed that he himself should join the besiegers, at the same time carrying with him a royal pardon for Liba, for what concern had she with her father's crimes? His Majesty was persuaded to give the requisite document to Sir Sibert, who then hied him at full speed to The Mount, there to find the siege going forward. The walls of the castle were strong, and as yet the inmates were showing a good fight; but as day after day went past their strength and resources began to wane, and anon it seemed as though they could not possibly hold out longer. Accordingly the soldiers redoubled their efforts to effect a breach, which being compassed ultimately, they rushed upon the little garrison; and now picture the consternation of Liba when she found that her own lover was among the assailants of her home! Amid the din of battle he called to her loudly, once and again, telling her that he carried a royal pardon for her, and that all she had to do was to forsake her father and follow her betrothed instead. But in the din of battle she did not
hear, or mistook the tenor of his words; and ere he could make himself understood the garrison of the castle began to yield, and a moment later the building was in flames. Many of the besieged were burnt to death, but Liba and her father hastened to a little chamber at the base of the schloss, and thence they won to a subterranean passage which was known only to themselves, and which led to a distant place in the surrounding wilds.
Gazing at the blackened ruins, Sir Sibert felt as though henceforth the world held for him no joy whatsoever. He refused to be comforted, so convinced was he that Liba had perished in the terrible fray; but one stormy evening, wandering in the neighbourhood of the castle, he perceived two figures who seemed to him familiar. True, both were haggard and tattered, but as he drew near to them the knight's pulses quickened of a sudden, for he knew that his beloved stood before him. Would she listen to him now? he wondered; or would she still imagine him perfidious, and scorn the aid which he offered? While he was debating with himself the storm increased, and the great peals of thunder sounding overhead made the lover's heart beat faster. He drew the all-important document from within his doublet and approached the pair. "Heart of my heart" . . . the words faltered to Sir Sibert's lips, but he got no further; a great flash of lightning descended from on high, and lo! Sir Balther and Liba lay stricken in death.
The broken-hearted lover built a chapel on the spot where his betrothed had fallen, and here he dwelt till the end of his days. It would seem, nevertheless, that those pious exercises wherewith hermits chiefly occupy themselves were not his only occupation; for long after the chapel itself had become a ruin its sight was marked by a great
stone which bore an inscription in rude characters--the single word "Liba." Doubtless Sir Sibert had hewn this epitaph with his own hands.
The castle of Rolandseck stands opposite Drachenfels. Below them, on an island in the Rhine, is the convent of Nonnenwerth.
Roland, Charlemagne's nephew, whose fame had spread throughout the world, while riding one day on the banks of the Rhine, sought the hospitality of the Lord of Drachenfels.
Honoured at receiving such a distinguished guest, the lord of the castle hastened to welcome him.
The ladies gave the brave knight as cordial a reception as their lord, whose charming daughter seemed deeply impressed by the visitor's knightly deportment. Roland's admiring glances lingered lovingly on the fair maid, who blushed in sweet confusion, and whose tender looks alone betrayed the presence of Cupid, who but waited for an opportunity to manifest his power.
At his host's bidding Roland put off his armour, but even in his own room a vision of maidenly beauty haunted him, thereby showing how subtly the young girl's charms had wound themselves around the knight's heart.
Roland remained for some time with the Lord of Drachenfels, fascinated more and more by the grace and beauty of his winsome daughter. Besides being beautiful, she was a clever needlewoman, and he admired the dexterity with which she embroidered ornamental designs on damask.
Only when asked by her to relate some deeds of daring, or describe the wondrous countries through which he had
travelled, would Roland become eloquent. Then he grew enthusiastic, his cheeks glowed, his eyes sparkled, and the enamoured maid would regard her hero with admiration. She evinced a lively interest in his exploits, their eyes would meet, then with a throbbing breast she would resume her work by his side. From this blissful dream Roland was summoned to the wars again.
The brave soldier prepared to depart, but he realized the joys he must renounce. Once more he visited the favourite haunts where they had spent such happy moments. The sound of someone weeping aroused him from his reverie, and he beheld his lady-love seated in an arbour, sobbing bitterly. Each knew the grief which separation must bring. Roland consoled the maiden by promising to return soon, nevermore to part. Only her tears betrayed how deeply the arrow of the winged god had sunk into her heart.
A few days later they were betrothed, after which Roland departed in quest of glory. Many victories were gained by him, and soon the enemy was vanquished. Rejoicings were held to celebrate the event.
But at Drachenfels Castle sad faces and tearful eyes told a tale of sorrow, for it had been announced that Roland was dead. The maid's rosy cheeks grew pale with grief; nothing could console her; for was not her hero departed from her for ever?
In the intensity of her anguish she sought relief in prayer and found a refuge in religion. She entered the convent at Nonnenwerth, resolved to dedicate her life to Heaven, since the joys of earth had fled.
Her afflicted parents reluctantly acquiesced in this proposal. Daily they beheld their daughter waving her hand to them as she entered the chapel.
Suddenly there appeared before the gates of Drachenfels a troop of cavaliers, whose armour shone brilliantly in the sun. Roland had returned home from the wars, crowned with glory, to claim his bride. But when he heard that she had taken the veil his buoyant spirits sank. The Lord of Drachenfels told him that they had believed the report of his death to be true.
A cry of despair broke from the hero of a hundred fights. He crossed the Rhine to the castle of Rolandseck, where he remained for many weeks, abandoned to grief.
Frequently he looked toward the convent which held his beloved. One evening he heard the bells tolling and saw a funeral procession of nuns carrying a coffin to the chapel. His page told him that his love was dead, but Roland had already divined that she who had mourned his supposed death had died through grief for him who was still alive to mourn her death.
Time rolled on and Roland went again to the wars and achieved greater conquests, but at length he fell fighting against the Moors at Roncevaux, dying on the battlefield as he had wished. His valorous deeds and his glorious death were sung by minstrels throughout all Christendom, and his fame will never die.
Aix-la-Chapelle was the ancient seat of the Empire of Charlemagne, and many legends cluster around it, several of which have already been noticed in connexion with its great founder. The following legends, however, deal with the town itself, and not with any circumstance connected with the mighty Karl.
In Aix-la-Chapelle dwelt two hunchbacked musicians. Friedel was a lively fellow with a pleasant face and an engaging manner. Heinz had red hair, green eyes, and a malevolent expression. Friedel was a better player than Heinz; that, combined with his agreeable looks, made him a general favourite.
Friedel loved Agathe, the daughter of a rich wine-merchant. The lovers' prospects were not encouraging, for Agathe's father sought a son-in-law from higher circles. The poor musician's plight was rendered desperate by the wine-merchant compelling his daughter to accept a rich but dissipated young man. When the hunchback approached the merchant to declare his feelings toward the maiden, he was met with derision and insult. Full of bitterness, he wandered about, till midnight found him in the fish-market, where the Witches' Sabbath was about to take place. A weird light was cast over everything, and a crowd of female figures quickly gathered. A lady who seemed to be at the head of the party offered the hunchback refreshment, and others handed him a violin, desiring him to play for them. Friedel played, and the witches danced; faster and faster, for the violin was bewitched. At last the violinist fell exhausted, and the dancing ceased. The lady now commanded him to kneel and receive the thanks of the company for his beautiful playing. Then she muttered strange words over the kneeling hunchback.
When Friedel arose his hump was gone.
Just then the clock struck one, everything vanished, and the musician found himself alone in the market-place. Next morning his looking-glass showed him that he had
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LOUIS WEIRTER, R.B.A.
Facing page 128
not been dreaming, and in his pocket he found a large sum of money, which made him the equal of the richest in the town. Overjoyed at the transformation, he lost no time in seeking Agathe's house. The sight of his gold turned the scale in his favour, and the wine-merchant consented to his suit.
Now Heinz was inflamed with jealousy, and tried to calumniate his companion by spreading evil stories. Friedel's strange adventure leaked abroad, and Heinz determined to try his fortune likewise. So at the next witch-meeting he hastened to the fish-market, where at the outset everything happened in exactly the same manner. Heinz was requested to play, but his avaricious gaze was fixed on the golden vessels on the table, and his thoughts were with the large reward he would ask. Consequently his playing became so discordant that the indignant dancers made him cease.
Kneeling down to receive his reward, he demanded the valuable drinking-cups, whereupon with scornful and mocking words the lady who was the leader of the band fixed on his breast the hump she had taken from Friedel. Immediately the clock struck one, and all disappeared. The poor man's rage was boundless, for he found himself now saddled with two humps. He became an object of ridicule to the townsfolk, but Friedel pitied him, and maintained him ever after.
In former times the zealous and devout inhabitants of Aix-la-Chapelle determined to build a cathedral. For six months the clang of the hammer and axe resounded with wonderful activity, but, alas! the money which had been supplied by pious Christians for this holy work became
exhausted, the wages of the masons were perforce suspended, and with them their desire to hew and hammer, for, after all, men must have money wherewith to feed their families.
Thus the cathedral stood, half finished, resembling a falling ruin. Moss, grass, and wild parsley flourished in the cracks of the walls, screech-owls already discovered convenient places for their nests, and amorous sparrows hopped lovingly about where holy priests should have been teaching lessons of chastity.
The builders were confounded. They endeavoured to borrow here and there, but no rich man could be induced to advance the large sum required. The collections from house to house produced little, so that instead of the much-wished-for golden coins nothing was found in the boxes but copper. When the magistracy received this report they were out of humour, and looked with desponding countenances toward the cathedral walls, as fathers look upon the remains of favourite children.
At this moment a stranger of commanding figure and something of pride in his voice and bearing entered the council chamber and exclaimed: "Bon Dieu! it is said that you are out of spirits. Hem! if nothing but money is wanting, you may console yourselves, gentlemen. I possess mines of gold and silver, and both can and will most willingly supply you with a ton of them."
The astounded magistrates sat like a row of pillars, measuring the stranger from head to foot. The Burgomaster first found his tongue. "Who are you, noble lord," said he, "that thus, entirely unknown, speak of tons of gold as though they were sacks of beans? Tell us your name, your rank in this world, and whether you are sent from the regions above to assist us."
"I have not the honour to reside there," replied the stranger, "and, between ourselves, I beg most particularly to be no longer troubled with questions concerning who and what I am. Suffice it to say I have gold plentiful as summer hay!" Then, drawing forth a leathern pouch, he proceeded: "This little purse contains the tenth of what I'll give. The rest shall soon be forthcoming. Now listen, my masters," continued he, clinking the coin; "all this trumpery is and shall remain yours if you promise to give me the first little soul that enters the door of the new temple when it is consecrated."
The astonished magistrates sprang from their seats as if they had been shot up by an earthquake and rushed pell-mell into the farthest corner of the room, where they rolled and clung to each other like lambs frightened at flashes of lightning. Only one of the party had not entirely lost his wits, and he collected his remaining senses and, drawing his head out of the heap, uttered boldly: "Avaunt, thou wicked spirit!"
But the stranger, who was no less a person than Master Urian, laughed at them. "What's all this outcry about?" said he at length. "Is my offence so heinous that you are all become like children? It is I that may suffer from this business, not you. With my hundreds and thousands I have not far to run to buy a score of souls. Of you I ask but one in exchange for all my money. What are you picking at straws for? One may plainly see you are a mere set of humbugs! For the good of the commonwealth (which high-sounding name is often borrowed for all sorts of purposes) many a prince would instantly conduct a whole army to be butchered, and you refuse one single man for that purpose! Fie! I am ashamed, O overwise counsellors, to hear you reason thus absurdly
and citizen-like. What, do you think to deprive yourselves of the kernel of your people by granting my wish? Oh, no; there your wisdom is quite at fault, for, depend on it, hypocrites are always the earliest church birds."
By degrees, as the cunning fiend thus spoke, the magistrates took courage and whispered in each other's ears: "What is the use of our resisting? The grim lion will only show his teeth once. If we don't assent, we shall infallibly be packed off ourselves. It is better, therefore, to quiet him directly."
Scarcely had they given effect to this new disposition and concluded the bargain when a swarm of purses flew into the room through doors and windows. Urian now took leave, but he stopped at the door and called out with a grim leer: "Count it over again for fear I may have cheated you."
The hellish gold was piously expended in finishing the cathedral, but nevertheless, when the building was completed, splendid though it was, the whole town was filled with fear and alarm at the sight of it. The fact was that, although the magistrates had promised by bond and oath not to trust the secret to anybody, one had prated to his wife, and she had made it a market-place tale, so that one and all declared they would never set foot within the walls. The terrified council now consulted the clergy, but the good priests hung their heads. At last a monk cried out: "A thought strikes me. The wolf which has so long ravaged the neighbourhood of our town was this morning caught alive. This will be a well-merited punishment for the destroyer of our flocks; let him be cast to the devil in the fiery gulf. ’Tis possible the arch hell-hound may not relish this breakfast, yet, nolens volens, he must swallow it.
[paragraph continues] You promised him certainly a soul, but whose was not decidedly specified."
The monk's plan was plausible, and the magistrates determined to put the cunning trick into execution. The day of consecration arrived. Orders were given to bring the wolf to the principal entrance of the cathedral, and just as the bells began to ring, the trap-door of the cage was opened and the savage beast darted out into the nave of the empty church. Master Urian from his lurking-place beheld this consecration-offering with the utmost fury; burning with choler at being thus deceived, he raged like a tempest, and finally rushed forth, slamming the brass gate so violently after him that the ring cracked in twain.
This fissure commemorates the priest's victory over the devices of the Devil, and is still exhibited to travellers who visit the cathedral.
The city of Bonn is one of the most beautiful of all those situated on the banks of the Rhine, and being the birthplace of no less celebrated a composer than Beethoven, it naturally attracts a goodly number of pilgrims every year, these coming from many distant lands to do homage at the shrine of genius. But Bonn and its neighbourhood have older associations than this--associations which carry the mind of the traveller far into the Middle Ages--for hard by the town is Rolandseck; while a feature of the district is the Siebengebirge (Seven Mountains), a fine serried range of peaks which present a very imposing appearance when viewed from any of the heights overlooking Bonn itself, and which recall a justly famous legend.
This story tells that in the thirteenth century there lived
at a castle in the heart of these mountains a nobleman called Wolfram Herzog von Bergendorf; and being no freebooter like most of the other German barons of the time, but a man of very pious disposition, he was moved during the prime of his life to forsake his home and join a body of crusaders. Reaching Palestine after a protracted journey, these remained there for a long time, Wolfram fighting gallantly in every fray and making his name a terror to the Saracens. But the brave crusader was wounded eventually, and now he set out for Germany, thirsting all the way for a sight of his beloved Siebengebirge, and dreaming of the wind-swept schloss which was his home. As he drew nearer to it he pictured the welcome which his fond Herzogin would give him, but scarcely had the drawbridge been lowered to admit him to his castle ere a fell piece of news was imparted to him. In short, it transpired that his wife Elise had been unfaithful to him during his absence and, on hearing that he was returning, had fled precipitately with her infant son. It was rumoured that she had found refuge in a convent, but Wolfram was quite unable to ascertain his wife's whereabouts, the doors of all nunneries being impassable to men; while even the joy of revenge was denied him, for, try as he might, he could not find out the name of the person who had wronged him. So the Herzog was broken-hearted, and he vowed that henceforth he would live a solitary life within his castle, spending his time in prayer and seeing only his own retainers.
For many years this vow was piously observed, and Wolfram never stirred abroad. In course of time, however, he began to chafe at the restraint, feeling it the more acutely because he was an old soldier and had known the
Click to enlarge
THE KREUZBERG, BONN
LOUIS WEIRTER, R.B.A.
Facing page 134.
excitement of warfare; and so it came about that he revoked his decision and began to travel about the country as of old. It seemed also, to some of his henchmen, that he was gradually becoming more like his former self, and they sometimes said among themselves that he would marry again and had quite forgotten his wrongs. But the very reverse was the truth, and if Wolfram was growing more cheerful, it was because new hopes of retribution were springing up in his heart. The chance would come, he often told himself; surely the fates would one day confront him with his wife's lover! And one day, as he rode through the village of Gudesburg, these revengeful thoughts were uppermost in his mind. They engrossed him wholly, and he took little heed of the passers-by; but an unexpected stumble on the part of his horse caused him to look up, and of a sudden his eyes blazed like live coals. Here, walking only a few yards away from him, was a youth who bore an unmistakable resemblance to the unfaithful Elise; and dismounting instantly, the Herzog strode up to the stranger, hailed him loudly, and proceeded to question him concerning his identity. The youth was surprised at the anger expressed on the elder man's countenance; and being overawed, he answered all questions without hesitation, unfolding the little he knew about his parentage. Nor had Wolfram's instincts deceived him; the tale he heard confirmed his suspicions, and drawing his sword, he slew the youth in cold blood, denying him even a moment in which to repeat a paternoster.
A rude iron cross, still standing by the road at Gudesburg, is said to mark the place where the ill-starred and unoffending young man met his doom. Possibly this cross was erected by Wolfram himself because he experienced
remorse, and felt that he had been unduly hasty in taking life; but be that as it may, the story concludes by asserting that the Herzog once more vowed that he would spend the rest of his days in solitude and prayer, and that henceforth to the end his vow remained unbroken.
This is a picturesque tale of the consequences of wealth attained by the aid of the supernatural which hangs about the ancient village of Endenich, near Bonn, where at the end of the seventeenth century there dwelt a certain sheriff and his son, Konrad, who was a locksmith by trade. They were poor and had lost everything in the recent wars, which had also ruined Heribert, another sheriff, who with his daughter, the beautiful Gretchen, eked out a frugal but peaceful existence in the same neighbourhood. The two young people fell in love with each other, but Gretchen's father, becoming suddenly and mysteriously very rich and arrogant withal, desired a wealthy or highly placed official as his son-in-law and not a poor lad with no expectations such as Konrad, the locksmith. The lovers were therefore compelled to meet in secret, and it was on one of these occasions that Heribert, surprising them together, attacked Konrad and felled him to the ground in his rage that he should dare to approach his daughter.
Spurred by his love and knowing that he could never hope to win Gretchen without wealth, the unhappy youth decided to barter for gold the only possession left to him--his soul.
Now there lived in the churchyard a Lapp wizard who made such bargains; so in the dead of night Konrad took his way to this dreadful and unfrequented spot and
exhorted the sorcerer to come forth. At the third cry a terrible apparition appeared and demanded to know his wishes, to which the terrified Konrad could only reply: "Gold." Thereupon the sorcerer led the way deep into a forest and, pointing mysteriously to a certain spot, disappeared. At this spot Konrad found a chest full of gold and silver coins, and returning to Bonn, he bought a house the splendour of which surpassed that of Heribert, who could no longer refuse his daughter to so wealthy a suitor.
The young wife tried all her arts to solve the mystery of her husband's wealth, and he was at length about to reveal it to her when he was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison. Here he was put to torture by the authorities, who suspected him of robbery, and at length he confessed that he had found a treasure, while to his wife he confided the gruesome details, all of which were overheard by his jailers.
He was released, but almost immediately re-arrested on the suspicion that he had killed a Jew named Abraham, who had amassed great sums during the wars as a spy. Tortured again, in his extremity he confessed to the murder and named Heribert as his accomplice, whereupon both men were sentenced to be hanged. Just as this doom was about to be carried out a Jew who had arrived from a far country hurriedly forced his way through the crowd. It was Abraham, who had returned in time to save the innocent.
But his sin did not pass unpunished, for Konrad died childless; he bequeathed his wealth to the Church and charities, in expiation of his sin of having attained wealth by the aid of an evil spirit.
Udorf is a little village on the left bank of the Rhine, not far from the town of Bonn, and at no great distance from it stands a lonely mill, to which attaches the following story of a woman's courage and resourcefulness.
Hännchen was the miller's servant-maid, a buxom young woman who had been in his service for a number of years, and of whose faithfulness both he and his wife were assured.
One Sunday morning the miller and his wife had gone with their elder children to attend mass at the neighbouring village of Hersel, leaving Hännchen at the mill in charge of the youngest child, a boy of about five years of age.
On the departure of the family for church Hännchen busied herself in preparing dinner, but had scarcely commenced her task ere a visitor entered the kitchen. This was no other than her sweetheart, Heinrich, whom she had not seen for some time. Indeed, he had earned so bad a reputation as a loafer and an idle good-for-nothing that the miller, as much on Hännchen's account as on his own, had forbidden him the house. Hännchen, however, received her lover with undisguised pleasure, straightway set food before him, and sat down beside him for a chat, judging that the miller's dinner was of small consequence compared with her ill-used Heinrich! The latter ate heartily, and toward the end of the meal dropped his knife, as though by accident.
"Pick that up, my girl," said he.
Hännchen protested good-humouredly, but obeyed none the less. As she stooped to the floor Heinrich seized her by the neck and held another knife to her throat.
"Now, girl, show me where your master keeps his money," he growled hoarsely. "If you value your life, make haste."
"Let me go and I'll tell you," gasped Hännchen; and when he had loosened his grip on her throat she looked at him calmly.
"Don't make such a fuss about it, Heinrich," she said pleasantly. "If you take my master's money, you must take me too, for this will be no place for me. Will you take me with you, Heinrich?"
The hulking fellow was taken completely off his guard by her apparent acquiescence, and touched by her desire to accompany him, which he attributed, with the conceit of his kind, to his own personal attractions.
"If I find the money, you shall come with me, Hännchen," he conceded graciously. "But if you play me false------" The sentence ended with an expressive motion of his knife.
"Very well, then," said the maid. "The money is in master's room. Come and I will show you where it is concealed."
She led him to the miller's room, showed him the massive coffer in which lay her master's wealth, and gave him a piece of iron wherewith to prise it open.
"I will go to my own room," she said, "and get my little savings, and then we shall be ready to go."
So she slipped away, and her erstwhile sweetheart set to work on the miller's coffer.
"The villain!" said Hännchen to herself when she was outside the room. "Now I know that master was right when he said that Heinrich was no fit suitor to come courting me."
With that she slammed the door to and turned the key, shutting the thief in a room as secure as any prison-cell. He threatened and implored her, but Hännchen was
deaf to oaths and entreaties alike. Outside she found the miller's son playing happily, and called him to her. "Go to father as quickly as you can," she said, putting him on the road to Hersel. "You will meet him down there. Tell him there is a thief in the mill."
The child ran as fast as his little legs would carry him, but ere he had gone many yards a shrill whistle sounded from the barred window behind which Heinrich was imprisoned.
"Diether," shouted the robber to an accomplice in hiding, "catch the child and come and stop this wench's mouth." Hännchen looked around for the person thus addressed, but no one was in sight. A moment later, however, Diether sprang up from a ditch, seized the frightened boy, and ran back toward the mill. The girl had but little time in which to decide on a course of action. If she barricaded herself in the mill, might not the ruffian slay the child? On the other hand, if she waited to meet him, she had no assurance that he would not kill them both. So she retired to the mill, locked the door, and awaited what fate had in store for her. In vain the robber threatened to kill the child and burn the mill over her head if she would not open to him at once. Seeing that his threats had no effect, he cast about for some means of entering the mill. His quick eye noted one unprotected point, an opening in the wall connected with the big mill-wheel, a by no means easy mode of ingress. But, finding no other way, he threw the frightened child on the grass and slipped through the aperture.
Meanwhile Hännchen, who from the position of her upper window could not see what was going on, was pondering how she could attract the attention of the miller or any of their neighbours. At last she hit upon a plan.
[paragraph continues] It was Sunday and the mill was at rest. If she were to set the machinery in motion, the unusual sight of a mill at work on the day of rest would surely point to some untoward happening. Hardly had the idea entered her head ere the huge sails were revolving. At that very moment Diether had reached the interior of the great drum-wheel, and his surprise and horror were unbounded when it commenced to rotate. It was useless to attempt to stop the machinery; useless, also, to appeal to Hännchen. Round and round he went, till at last he fell unconscious on the bottom of the engine, and still he went on rotating. As Hännchen had anticipated, the miller and his family were vastly astonished to see the mill in motion, and hastened home from church to learn the reason for this departure from custom. Some of their neighbours accompanied them. In a few words Hännchen told them all that had occurred; then her courage forsook her and she fainted in the arms of the miller's eldest son, who had long been in love with her, and whom she afterward married.
The robbers were taken in chains to Bonn, where for their many crimes they suffered the extreme penalty of the law.
The quiet and peaceful valley of Hammerstein is one of the most beautiful in all Rhineland, yet, like many another lovely stretch of country, this valley harbours some gruesome tales, and among such there is one, its scene the village of Rosebach, which is of particular interest, as it is typical of the Middle Ages, and casts a light on the manner of life and thought common in those days. For many centuries there stood at this village of Rosebach a monastery, which no longer exists, and it was
probably one of its early abbots who first wrote down the legend, for it is concerned primarily with the strange events which led to the founding and endowment of this religious house, and its whole tenor suggests the pen of a medieval cleric.
In a remote and shadowy time there lived at Schloss Rosebach a certain Otto, Count of Reuss-Marlinberg of Hammerstein; and this Count's evil deeds had made him notorious far and near, while equally ill-famed was his favourite henchman, Riguenbach by name, a man who had borne arms in the Crusades and had long since renounced all belief in religion. This ruffian was constantly in attendance on his master, Otto; and one day, when the pair were riding along the high-road together, they chanced to espy a bewitching maiden who was making her way from a neighbouring village to the convent of Walsdorf, being minded to enter the novitiate there and eventually take the veil. The Count doffed his hat to the prospective nun, less because he wished to be courteous than because it was his habit to salute every wayfarer he encountered on his domain; and Riguenbach, much amused by Otto's civility to one of low degree, burst into a loud laugh of derision and called after the maiden, telling her to come back. She obeyed his behest, and thereupon the two horsemen drew rein and asked the damsel whither she was bound. "To Walsdorf," she replied; and though Otto himself would have let her go forward as she pleased, the crafty Riguenbach was not so minded. "There are many dangers in the way," he said to the girl; "if you push on now that evening is drawing near you may fall a prey to robbers or wolves, so you had better come to the castle with us, spend the night there, and continue your journey on the morrow." Pleased
by the apparently friendly offer, and never dreaming of the fate in store for her, the girl willingly accepted the invitation. That night the people around Schloss Rosebach heard piercing screams and wondered what new villainy was on foot. But the massive stone walls kept their secret, and the luckless maiden never again emerged from the castle.
For a time the Count's crime went unpunished, and about a year later he commenced paying his addresses to Eldegarda, a lady of noble birth. In due course the nuptials of the pair were celebrated. The bride had little idea what manner of man she had espoused, but she was destined to learn this shortly; for on the very night of their marriage an apparition rose between the two.
"Otto," cried the ghost in weird, sepulchral tones, "I alone am thy lawful spouse; through thee I lost all hopes of Heaven, and now I am come to reward thee for thy evil deeds." The Count turned livid with fear, and the blush on Eldegarda's cheek faded to an ashen hue; but the spectre remained with them throughout the night. And night after night she came to them thus, till at last Otto grew desperate and summoned to his aid a Churchman who happened to be in the neighbourhood, the Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux.
Now this Bernard enjoyed no small fame as a worker of miracles, but when Otto unfolded his case to him the Abbot declared straightway that no miracle would be justifiable in the present instance, and that only by repentance and by complete renunciation of the world might the Count be released from his nightly menace. Otto hung his head on hearing this verdict, and as he stood hesitating, pondering whether it were possible for him to forgo all earthly joys, his old henchman, Riguenbach,
chanced to enter, and learning his master's quandary, he laughed loudly and advised the Count to eject Bernard forcibly. The Abbot met the retainer's mirth with a look of great severity, and on Riguenbach showing that he was still bent on insolence, the Churchman cried to him: "Get thee behind me, Satan"; whereupon a flame of lightning darted suddenly across the chamber, and the man who had long aided and abetted the Count's wickedness was consumed to ashes.
For a moment Otto stood aghast at the awful fate of his retainer; and now, beholding how terrible a thing is divine vengeance, he began at last to feel truly repentant. He consented to have his marriage annulled without delay, and even declared that he himself would become a monk. At the same time he counselled his wife to take the veil, and they parted, thinking never to see each other again. But one night, ere either of them had taken the irrevocable vows, the Virgin Mary appeared to Abbot Bernard and told him he had acted unwisely in parting the bride and bridegroom in this wise, for was not Eldegarda wholly innocent? The Churchman instantly returned to Otto's presence, and on the following day the Count and his wife were duly remarried. The newly found piety of the penitent found expression in the building and endowment of a religious edifice upon his domains.
So it was, then, that the Abbey of Rosebach was founded, and though the ruthless hand of time has levelled its walls, the strange events to which they owed their being long ago are still remembered and recited in the lovely vale of Hammerstein; for, though all human things must needs perish, a good story long outlives them all.
At Ramersdorf every Sunday afternoon the lads and lasses of the hamlet gathered on the village green and danced gaily through the sunny hours. But wild prophecies of the coming end of the world, when the year 1000 should break, were spreading throughout the countryside, and the spirit of fear haunted the people, so that music died away from their hearts and there was no more dancing on the village green. Instead they spent the hours praying in the church for divine mercy, and the Abbot of Löwenburg was well pleased.
The dreaded year came and went, yet the world had not ceased; the sun still rose and set, life went on just the same. So fear passed from the hearts of the people, and because they were happy again the young folk once more assembled to dance the Sundays away on the village green. But the abbot was wroth at this. When the music began he appeared among the villagers, commanding them to cease from their revels and bethink themselves of the House of God. But the lads and lasses laughed, and the music went on as they footed it gaily. Then the abbot was angered; he raised his hands to heaven and cursed the thoughtless crowd, condemning the villagers to dance there unceasingly for a year and a day.
As they heard the dreadful words the young folk tried to stop, but their feet must needs go on to the endless music. Faster and faster in giddy round they went, day and night, rain and shine, throughout the changing seasons, until the last hours of the extra day, when they fell in a senseless heap in the hollow worn by their unresting feet. When they awoke to consciousness all reason had passed from them. To the day of their death they remained helpless
idiots. Henceforth the village green was deserted; no more were seen the lads and lasses dancing there on the Sabbath day.
Tradition asserts that on the summit of this mountain once stood a castle, of which, however, not the slightest trace can be found at the present day. There is also a story of the lord who dwelt there, Hermann von Heinsberg, with whom, for his sins, the direct line of the family became extinct.
Graf Hermann was possessed by one overmastering passion, that of the chase. The greater part of his life was spent in the dense forests which clothed the valleys and mountains about his castle. Every other interest must, perforce, stand aside. The cornfields, vineyards, and gardens of his vassals were oftentimes devastated in his sport, to the utter ruin of many. If any dared complain he laughed at or reviled them; but if he were in angry mood he set his hounds on them and hunted his vassals as quarry, either killing them outright or leaving them terribly injured. Needless to say, he was well hated by these people, also by his own class, for his character was too fierce and overbearing even for their tolerance. To crown his unpopularity, he was under the ban of the all-powerful Church, for saints' days and Lord's Day alike he hunted to his heart's content, and once, on receiving a remonstrance, had threatened to hunt the Abbot of Heisterbach himself. So he lived, isolated, except for his troop of jägers, from the rest of mankind. The forest was his world, his only friends the hounds.
Once, on the eve of a holy festival, Hermann set out to
hunt in the ancient forest about the base of the Löwenburg. In the excitement of the chase he outstripped his followers, his quarry disappeared, and, overtaken by night, his surroundings, in the dim light, took on such an unfamiliar aspect that he completely lost all sense of direction. Up and down he paced in unrestrained yet impotent anger, feeling that he was under some evil spell. Maddened by this idea, he endeavoured to hack his way through the thick undergrowth, but the matted boughs and dense foliage were as effectual as prison bars. He was trapped, he told himself, in some enchanted forest, for the place seemed more and more unfamiliar. He strove to bring back some recollection of the spot, which surely he must have passed a thousand times. But no--he could not distinguish any feature that seemed familiar. His spirits sank lower and lower, his strength seemed on the point of failing, his brain seemed to be on fire. Round and round he went like some trapped animal; then he threw himself madly upon a mass of tangled underwood and succeeded in breaking through to a more open space. This also seemed unfamiliar, and in the dim light of the stars the tall trees shut him in as if with towers of impenetrable shadow; silence seemed to lay everything under a spell of terror, ominous of coming evil.
Wearied in body and mind, Hermann flung himself down on the sward and quickly fell asleep. But suddenly a plunging in the brushwood aroused him, and with the instinct of the huntsman he sprang up instantly, seizing his spear and whistling to his dogs, which, however, crouched nearer to the earth, their hair bristling and eyes red with fear. Again their master called, but they refused to stir, whining, with eyes strained and fixed on the undergrowth. Then Graf Hermann went forward alone to the
spot whence proceeded the ominous sound, his spear poised, ready to strike.
He was about to penetrate into the brushwood when suddenly there emerged from it a majestic-looking man, who seemed as if hotly pursued. He was dressed in ancient garb, carrying a large crossbow in his right hand. A curved hunting-horn hung at his side, and an old-fashioned hunting-knife was stuck in his girdle.
With a stately motion of the hand he waved Hermann aside, then he raised the horn to his lips and blew upon it a terrible blast so unearthly in sound that the forest and mountains sent back echoes like the cry of the lost, to which the hounds gave tongue with a howl of fear. As if in answer to the echoes, there suddenly appeared hundreds of skeleton stags, of enormous size, each bestridden by a skeleton hunter. With one accord the ghostly riders spurred on their steeds, which with lowered antlers advanced upon the stranger, who, with a scream for mercy, sought frenziedly for some means of evading his grisly pursuers.
For the space of an hour the dreadful chase went on, Graf Hermann rooted to the spot with horror, overcome by a sense of helplessness. There in the centre he stood, the pivot round which circled the infernal hunt, unable to stay the relentless riders as with bony hands rattling against their skeleton steeds they encouraged them to charge, gore, and trample the hapless stranger, whose cries of agony were drowned by shrieks of fiendish glee and the incessant cracking of whips. Overcome at last by terror, the count fell senseless, his eyes dazed by the still whirling spectres and their flying quarry.
When at last he slowly awaked from his swoon he looked around, fearing to see again the hideous spectacle. All
but the stranger, however, had vanished. Graf Hermann shuddered as he looked upon him, and only with difficulty could he summon sufficient courage to address him. Indeed, it was only after the unwonted action of crossing himself that he could speak.
"Who and what are you?" he asked in a hushed tone. But the stranger made no reply, except to sigh mournfully. Again the count asked the question, and again received but a sigh for answer.
"Then in the name of the Most High God I conjure you, speak!" he said the third time.
The stranger turned to him, as if suddenly released from bonds.
"By the power of God's holy name the spell is broken at last. Listen now to me!"
He beckoned Hermann to his side and in strange, stern tones he related the following:
"I am your ancestor. Like you, I loved the chase beyond everything in life--beyond our holy faith or the welfare of any human being, man, woman, or child. To all that stood in my path I showed no mercy. There came a time when famine visited the land. The harvest was destroyed by blight and the people starved. In their extremity they broke into my forests; famished with hunger, they destroyed and carried off the game. Beside myself with rage, I swore that they should suffer for it--that for every head of game destroyed I would exact a human life. I kept my oath. Arming my retainers, servants, and huntsmen, I seized my presumptuous vassals in the dead of night, and dragging them to the castle, I flung them into the deepest dungeons. There for three days I let them starve--for three days also I kept my hounds without food. Meantime my huntsmen had caught a great number
of the largest and strongest deer in the forests. At the end of three days the unfortunate wretches were brought out, diminished now by a full hundred. My ready retainers bound them naked to the stags. My best steeds were saddled. Then the kennels were thrown open and the famished hounds rushed forth like a host of demons. Off went the deer like the wind, each with his human burden, the dogs following, and then the horsemen, shouting with glee at the new sport. By nightfall not a stag or his rider was left alive. The hounds in their fury worried and tore at both man and beast, and the last unfortunate wretch met a hideous death on this spot where we now stand."
He paused as if overcome by the memory of his crime.
"God avenged that dreadful deed. That night I died, and I am now suffering the tortures of the damned. Every night I am hunted by my victims, as you have seen. I am now the quarry, hunted from the castle court, on through the forest, to this hidden and haunted spot. Thousands and thousands of times I have suffered this: I endure all the agonies I made them suffer. I am doomed to undergo this to the last day, when I shall be hunted over the wastes of hell by legions of demons."
Again he paused, his eyes terrible with the anguish of a lost soul. He resumed in a sterner tone:
"Take warning by my fate. Providence, kinder to you than to me, has guided you hither to-night that you might learn of my punishment. While you still have time repent of your crimes and endeavour to make amends for the suffering you have inflicted. Remember--the wages of sin is death. Remember me--and my fate!"
The next moment the phantom had faded from view.
[paragraph continues] Only the hounds were crouching near the count, panting fearfully. All else was silent gloom and night. After a terrible vigil the morning came, and Graf Hermann, now a changed man, returned to his castle in silence, and henceforth endeavoured to profit by the warning and follow the advice of his unhappy ancestor.