W. W. GIBBINGS 18 BURY ST., LONDON, W.C. 1892
UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME.
"These dainty little books."—STANDARD.
FOLK-LORE AND LEGENDS.
1. GERMAN. 2. ORIENTAL. 3. SCOTLAND. 4. IRELAND.
1. ENGLAND. 2. SCANDINAVIAN. 3. RUSSIAN. 4. NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN.
"They transport us into a romantic world."—TIMES.
It is proposed that this shall be the first of a series of little volumes in which shall be presented in a handy form selections from the Folk-lore and legends of various countries. It has been well said that "the legendary history of a nation is the recital of the elements that formed the character of that nation; it contains the first rude attempts to explain natural phenomena, the traditions of its early history, and the moral principles popularly adopted as the rules for reward and punishment; and generally the legends of a people may be regarded as embodying the popular habits of thought and popular motives of action." The following legends of Germany cannot, we think, fail to interest those who read them. Some of the stories are invested with a charming simplicity of thought which cannot but excite admiration. Others are of a weird, fantastic character fitted to a land of romantic natural features, of broad river, mountain, and deep forest. The humorous, the pathetic, the terrible, all find place in the German folk-tales, and it would be difficult to rise from their perusal without having received both amusement and instruction. The general lesson they convey is the sure punishment of vice and the reward of virtue; some way or another the villain always meets with his desert. In future volumes we shall deal with the legends of other countries, hoping that the public will bear us company in our excursions.
Gaffer Death, 1
The Legend of Paracelsus, 6
Hans in Luck, 9
The Grey Mare in the Garret, 17
The Water Spirit, 21
Peter Klaus, 31
The Legend of Rheineck, 36
The Cellar of the Old Knights in the Kyffhauser, 48
The Fisherman and his Wife, 53
The Mouse Tower, 62
The Dancers, 66
The Little Shroud, 70
The Arch Rogue, 72
Brother Merry, 82
The Jew in the Bush, 104
The Elves, 110
The Conclave of Corpses, 114
Legends of Rubezahl, or Number-Nip, 120
The Hunter Hackelnberg and the Tut-Osel, 131
The Alraun, 136
The Goose-Girl, 140
Hans Jagenteufel, 149
The Waits of Bremen, 152
The Flaming Castle, 158
The Monks at the Ferry, 161
Doctor All-Wise, 168
The White Maiden, 172
The Sturgeon, 176
St. Andrew's Night, 183
The value of national stories and legends has in late years become very widely recognised. Folk-lore has recently received a large amount of attention, and the thought and labour bestowed upon the subject have been rewarded by results which prove that its investigators have entered upon no unfruitful, however long neglected, field.
This book, and its successors in the series which it is proposed to issue, may come into the hands of some who, having little opportunity afforded them to consider how the legends and tales it contains may be of the value we claim for them, may be glad to have the "case" for legends and national stories presented to them in a few words.
The peasant's tale, the story preserved through centuries on the lips of old wives, the narrative which has come down to us having done duty as a source of amusement in the fireside groups of preceding generations, may seem to some to afford slight matter for reflection, and may even appear so grotesque in its incidents as to be fitted only to excite a smile of wonder at the simplicity of those among whom such stories could obtain reception, and surprise at the fantastic imagination in which such tales could find their origin. Modern thought has, however, been busy asking itself what is the meaning of these stories, and it has done much to supply itself with an answer. This, at least, it has done: it has discovered that these legends and tales, which so many have been inclined to cast aside as worthless, are of a singular value, as throwing a light which little else can afford upon the mind of primitive man. At first the collection of national stories was undertaken merely for the purpose of affording amusement. Folk-tales were diverting, so they found their way into print, and were issued as curious literary matter fitted to supply diversion for a vacant hour. Many of the tales are very beautiful, and their mere literary merit sufficed to make them sought for. But legendary lore was soon observed to possess much more value than could attach to its merely amusing features. It was obvious that in these legends were preserved the fragments of the beliefs of the ancient folk. "The mythology of one period," remarked Sir Walter Scott, "would appear to pass into the romance of the next century, and that into the nursery tale of the subsequent ages." "Fiction," said Sir John Malcolm, "resolves itself into its primitive elements, as, by the slow and unceasing action of the wind and rain, the solid granite is crumbled into sand. The creations embodied by the vivid imagination of man in the childhood of his race incorporate themselves in his fond and mistaken faith. Sanctity is given to his daydreams by the altar of the idol. Then, perhaps, they acquire a deceitful truth from the genius of the bard. Blended with the mortal hero, the aspect of the god glances through the visor of the helmet, or adds a holy dignity to the royal crown. Poetry borrows its ornaments from the lessons of the priests. The ancient god of strength of the Teutons, throned in his chariot of the stars, the Northern Wain, invested the Emperor of the Franks and the paladins who surrounded him with superhuman might. And the same constellation, darting down its rays upon the head of the long-lost Arthur, has given to the monarch of the Britons the veneration which once belonged to the son of 'Uthry Bendragon,' 'Thunder, the supreme leader,' and 'Eygyr, the generating power.' Time rolls on; faith lessens; the flocks are led to graze within the rocky circle of the giants, even the bones of the warriors moulder into dust; the lay is no longer heard; and the fable, reduced again to its original simplicity and nudity, becomes the fitting source of pastime to the untutored peasant and the listening child. Hence we may yet trace no small proportion of mystic and romantic lore in the tales which gladden the cottage fireside, or, century after century, soothe the infant to its slumbers." The works of the brothers Grimm, the appearance of the Kinder- und Haus-Maehrchen, in 1812, and of the Deutsche Mythologie, in 1835, threw a new light on the importance of national tales, and awoke the spirit of scientific comparison which has made the study of Folk-lore productive of such valuable results.
With regard to the diffusion of national stories, it is remarkable that we find substantially identical narratives flourishing in the most widely separated countries, and this fact has given rise to several explanatory theories, none of which seems perfectly satisfactory. The philological discovery of the original unity of all the Aryan races may account for the possession by the Aryan peoples of similar stories. It may be, as Sir George Cox suggests, a common inheritance of such tales as were current when the Aryans "still lived as a single people." We find, however, that these tales are also current among people whom, accepting this theory, we should least expect to find possessing them, and so the wide diffusion of the stories yet remains unsatisfactorily accounted for. Identity of imagination, inheritance, transmission, may each have played its part.
As to the origin of the tales much debate has arisen. It is obvious from the nature of the incidents of many of them that they could only have originated in a most primitive state of man. "Early man," says Sir George Cox, "had life, and therefore all things must have life also. The sun, the moon, the stars, the ground on which he trod, the clouds, storms, lightnings were all living beings; could he help thinking that, like himself, they were all conscious beings also?" Such, according to this authority, was the origin of primary myths, secondary and tertiary myths arising in the course of time from the gradual misunderstanding of phrases applied by primitive man to personified objects. According to Professor Max Mueller, animism, or the investing all things with life, springs not in the first place from man's thought, but from the language in which he clothes it. Man, he says, found himself speaking of all things in words having "a termination expressive of gender, and this naturally produced in the mind the corresponding idea of sex." He thus came to invest all objects with "something of an individual, active, sexual, and at last personal character." However hard it may be to discover the reason for the origin of the tendency to animism, the fact is certain that the tendency is to be found generally existing among savage peoples, and it would seem that we must accept the national stories which have come down to us embodying this tendency in grotesque incidents as relics handed down from the savage days of the people with whom the tales originated, as the expression of portions of their thought when they had as yet only attained to such a degree of civilisation as exists among savages of the present day.
Strange and grotesque as some of the national stories are, they may be regarded as embodying the fragments of some of man's most primitive beliefs; and recognising this, it will be impossible to dismiss the folk-tale as unworthy of careful consideration, nor may it be regarded as unfitted to afford us, if studied aright, very much more than merely such amusement as may be derived from its quaint incident and grotesque plot.
C. J. T.
There was once a poor man who had twelve children, and he was obliged to labour day and night that he might earn food for them. When at length, as it so happened, a thirteenth came into the world, the poor man did not know how to help himself, so he ran out into the highway, determined to ask the first person he met to be godfather to the boy.
There came stalking up to him Death, who said—
"Take me for a godfather."
"Who are you?" asked the father.
"I am Death, who makes all equal," replied the stranger.
Then said the man—
"You are one of the right sort: you seize on rich and poor without distinction; you shall be the child's godfather."
"I will make the boy rich and renowned throughout the world, for he who has me for a friend can want nothing."
Said the man—
"Next Sunday will he be christened, mind and come at the right time."
Death accordingly appeared as he had promised, and stood godfather to the child.
When the boy grew up his godfather came to him one day, and took him into a wood, and said—
"Now shall you have your godfather's present. I will make a most famous physician of you. Whenever you are called to a sick person, I will take care and show myself to you. If I stand at the foot of the bed, say boldly, 'I will soon restore you to health,' and give the patient a little herb that I will point out to you, and he will soon be well. If, however, I stand at the head of the sick person, he is mine; then say, 'All help is useless; he must soon die.'"
Then Death showed him the little herb, and said—
"Take heed that you never use it in opposition to my will."
It was not long before the young fellow was the most celebrated physician in the whole world.
"The moment he sees a person," said every one, "he knows whether or not he'll recover."
Accordingly he was soon in great request. People came from far and near to consult him, and they gave him whatever he required, so that he made an immense fortune. Now, it so happened that the king was taken ill, and the physician was called upon to say whether he must die. As he went up to the bed he saw Death standing at the sick man's head, so that there was no chance of his recovery. The physician thought, however, that if he outwitted Death, he would not, perhaps, be much offended, seeing that he was his godfather, so he caught hold of the king and turned him round, so that by that means Death was standing at his feet. Then he gave him some of the herb, and the king recovered, and was once more well. Death came up to the physician with a very angry and gloomy countenance, and said—
"I will forgive you this time what you have done, because I am your godfather, but if you ever venture to betray me again, you must take the consequences."
Soon after this the king's daughter fell sick, and nobody could cure her. The old king wept night and day, until his eyes were blinded, and at last he proclaimed that whosoever rescued her from Death should be rewarded by marrying her and inheriting his throne. The physician came, but Death was standing at the head of the princess. When the physician saw the beauty of the king's daughter, and thought of the promises that the king had made, he forgot all the warnings he had received, and, although Death frowned heavily all the while, he turned the patient so that Death stood at her feet, and gave her some of the herb, so that he once more put life into her veins.
When Death saw that he was a second time cheated out of his property, he stepped up to the physician, and said—
"Now, follow me."
He laid hold of him with his icy cold hand, and led him into a subterranean cave, in which there were thousands and thousands of burning candles, ranged in innumerable rows. Some were whole, some half burnt out, some nearly consumed. Every instant some went out, and fresh ones were lighted, so that the little flames seemed perpetually hopping about.
"Behold," said Death, "the life-candles of mankind. The large ones belong to children, those half consumed to middle-aged people, the little ones to the aged. Yet children and young people have oftentimes but a little candle, and when that is burnt out, their life is at an end, and they are mine."
The physician said—
"Show me my candle."
Then Death pointed out a very little candle-end, which was glimmering in the socket, and said—
Then the physician said—
"O dearest godfather, light me up a new one, that I may first enjoy my life, be king, and husband of the beautiful princess."
"I cannot do so," said Death; "one must burn out before I can light up another."
"Place the old one then upon a new one, that that may burn on when this is at an end," said the physician.
Death pretended that he would comply with this wish, and reached a large candle, but to revenge himself, purposely failed in putting it up, and the little piece fell and was extinguished. The physician sank with it, so he himself fell into the hands of Death.
THE LEGEND OF PARACELSUS.
It once happened that Paracelsus was walking through a forest, when he heard a voice calling to him by name. He looked around, and at length discovered that it proceeded from a fir-tree, in the trunk of which there was a spirit enclosed by a small stopper, sealed with three crosses.
The spirit begged of Paracelsus to set him free. This he readily promised, on condition that the spirit should bestow upon him a medicine capable of healing all diseases, and a tincture which would turn everything it touched to gold. The spirit acceded to his request, whereupon Paracelsus took his penknife, and succeeded, after some trouble, in getting out the stopper. A loathsome black spider crept forth, which ran down the trunk of the tree. Scarcely had it reached the ground before it was changed, and became, as if rising from the earth, a tall haggard man, with squinting red eyes, wrapped in a scarlet mantle.
He led Paracelsus to a high, overhanging, craggy mount, and with a hazel twig, which he had broken off by the way, he smote the rock, which, splitting with a crash at the blow, divided itself in twain, and the spirit disappeared within it. He, however, soon returned with two small phials, which he handed to Paracelsus—a yellow one, containing the tincture which turned all it touched to gold, and a white one, holding the medicine which healed all diseases. He then smote the rock a second time, and thereupon it instantly closed again.
Both now set forth on their return, the spirit directing his course towards Innsprueck, to seize upon the magician who had banished him from that city. Now Paracelsus trembled for the consequences which his releasing the Evil One would entail upon him who had conjured him into the tree, and bethought how he might rescue him. When they arrived once more at the fir-tree, he asked the spirit if he could possibly transform himself again into a spider, and let him see him creep into the hole. The spirit said that it was not only possible, but that he would be most happy to make such a display of his art for the gratification of his deliverer.
Accordingly he once more assumed the form of a spider, and crept again into the well-known crevice. When he had done so, Paracelsus, who had kept the stopper all ready in his hand for the purpose, clapped it as quick as lightning into the hole, hammered it in firmly with a stone, and with his knife made three fresh crosses upon it. The spirit, mad with rage, shook the fir-tree as though with a whirlwind, that he might drive out the stopper which Paracelsus had thrust in, but his fury was of no avail. It held fast, and left him there with little hope of escape, for, on account of the great drifts of snow from the mountains, the forest will never be cut down, and, although he should call night and day, nobody in that neighbourhood ever ventures near the spot.
Paracelsus, however, found that the phials were such as he had demanded, and it was by their means that he afterwards became such a celebrated and distinguished man.
HANS IN LUCK.
Hans had served his master seven years, and at last said to him—
"Master, my time is up; I should like to go home and see my mother, so give me my wages."
And the master said—
"You have been a faithful and good servant, so your pay shall be handsome."
Then he gave him a piece of silver that was as big as his head. Hans took out his pocket-handkerchief, put the piece of silver into it, threw it over his shoulder, and jogged off homewards. As he went lazily on, dragging one foot after another, a man came in sight, trotting along gaily on a capital horse.
"Ah!" said Hans aloud, "what a fine thing it is to ride on horseback! There he sits as if he were at home in his chair. He trips against no stones, spares his shoes, and yet gets on he hardly knows how."
The horseman heard this, and said—
"Well, Hans, why do you go on foot, then?"
"Ah!" said he, "I have this load to carry; to be sure, it is silver, but it is so heavy that I can't hold up my head, and it hurts my shoulder sadly."
"What do you say to changing?" said the horseman. "I will give you my horse, and you shall give me the silver."
"With all my heart," said Hans, "but I tell you one thing: you will have a weary task to drag it along."
The horseman got off, took the silver, helped Hans up, gave him the bridle into his hand, and said—
"When you want to go very fast, you must smack your lips loud and cry, 'Jip.'"
Hans was delighted as he sat on the horse, and rode merrily on. After a time he thought he should like to go a little faster, so he smacked his lips and cried "Jip." Away went the horse full gallop, and before Hans knew what he was about, he was thrown off, and lay in a ditch by the wayside, and his horse would have run off if a shepherd, who was coming by driving a cow, had not stopped it. Hans soon came to himself, and got upon his legs again. He was sadly vexed, and said to the shepherd—
"This riding is no joke when a man gets on a beast like this, that stumbles and flings him off as if he would break his neck. However, I'm off now once for all. I like your cow a great deal better; one can walk along at one's leisure behind her, and have milk, butter, and cheese every day into the bargain. What would I give to have such a cow!"
"Well," said the shepherd, "if you are so fond of her I will change my cow for your horse."
"Done!" said Hans merrily.
The shepherd jumped upon the horse and away he rode. Hans drove off his cow quietly, and thought his bargain a very lucky one.
"If I have only a piece of bread (and I certainly shall be able to get that), I can, whenever I like, eat my butter and cheese with it, and when I am thirsty I can milk my cow and drink the milk. What can I wish for more?" said he.
When he came to an inn he halted, ate up all his bread, and gave away his last penny for a glass of beer. Then he drove his cow towards his mother's village. The heat grew greater as noon came on, till at last he found himself on a wide heath that it would take him more than an hour to cross, and he began to be so hot and parched that his tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth.
"I can find a cure for this," thought he; "now will I milk my cow and quench my thirst." So he tied her to the stump of a tree, and held his leathern cap to milk into, but not a drop was to be had.
While he was trying his luck, and managing the matter very clumsily, the uneasy beast gave him a kick on the head that knocked him down, and there he lay a long while senseless. Luckily a butcher came by driving a pig in a wheelbarrow.
"What is the matter with you?" said the butcher, as he helped him up.
Hans told him what had happened, and the butcher gave him a flask, saying—
"There, drink and refresh yourself. Your cow will give you no milk; she is an old beast, good for nothing but the slaughter-house."
"Alas, alas!" said Hans, "who would have thought it? If I kill her, what will she be good for? I hate cow-beef; it is not tender enough for me. If it were a pig, now, one could do something with it; it would at any rate make some sausages."
"Well," said the butcher, "to please you I'll change and give you the pig for the cow."
"Heaven reward you for your kindness!" said Hans, as he gave the butcher the cow and took the pig off the wheelbarrow and drove it off, holding it by a string tied to its leg.
So on he jogged, and all seemed now to go right with him. He had met with some misfortunes, to be sure, but he was now well repaid for all. The next person he met was a countryman carrying a fine white goose under his arm. The countryman stopped to ask what was the hour, and Hans told him all his luck, and how he had made so many good bargains. The countryman said he was going to take the goose to a christening.
"Feel," said he, "how heavy it is, and yet it is only eight weeks old. Whoever roasts and eats it may cut plenty of fat off, it has lived so well."
"You're right," said Hans, as he weighed it in his hand; "but my pig is no trifle."
Meantime the countryman began to look grave, and shook his head.
"Hark ye," said he, "my good friend. Your pig may get you into a scrape. In the village I have just come from the squire has had a pig stolen out of his sty. I was dreadfully afraid when I saw you that you had got the squire's pig. It will be a bad job if they catch you, for the least they'll do will be to throw you into the horse-pond."
Poor Hans was sadly frightened.
"Good man," cried he, "pray get me out of this scrape. You know this country better than I; take my pig and give me the goose."
"I ought to have something into the bargain," said the countryman; "however, I'll not bear hard upon you, as you are in trouble."
Then he took the string in his hand and drove off the pig by a side path, while Hans went on his way homeward free from care.
"After all," thought he, "I have the best of the bargain. First there will be a capital roast, then the fat will find me in goose-grease for six months, and then there are all the beautiful white feathers. I will put them into my pillow, and then I am sure I shall sleep soundly without rocking. How happy my mother will be!"
As he came to the last village he saw a scissors-grinder, with his wheel, working away and singing—
"O'er hill and o'er dale so happy I roam, Work light and live well, all the world is my home; Who so blythe, so merry as I?"
Hans stood looking for a while, and at last said—
"You must be well off, master grinder, you seem so happy at your work."
"Yes," said the other, "mine is a golden trade. A good grinder never puts his hand in his pocket without finding money in it—but where did you get that beautiful goose?"
"I did not buy it, but changed a pig for it."
"And where did you get the pig?"
"I gave a cow for it."
"And the cow?"
"I gave a horse for it."
"And the horse?"
"I gave a piece of silver as big as my head for that."
"And the silver?"
"Oh! I worked hard for that seven long years."
"You have thriven well in the world hitherto," said the grinder, "now if you could find money in your pocket whenever you put your hand into it your fortune would be made."
"Very true, but how is that to be managed?"
"You must turn grinder like me," said the other. "You only want a grindstone, the rest will come of itself. Here is one that is only a little the worse for wear. I would not ask more than the value of your goose for it. Will you buy it?"
"How can you ask such a question?" said Hans. "I should be the happiest man in the world if I could have money whenever I put my hand in my pocket. What could I want more? There's the goose."
"Now," said the grinder, as he gave him a common rough stone that lay by his side, "this is a most capital stone. Do but manage it cleverly and you can make an old nail cut with it."
Hans took the stone, and went off with a light heart. His eyes sparkled with joy, and he said to himself—
"I must have been born in a lucky hour. Everything I want or wish comes to me of itself."
Meantime he began to be tired, for he had been travelling ever since daybreak. He was hungry too, for he had given away his last penny in his joy at getting the cow. At last he could go no further, and the stone tired him terribly, so he dragged himself to the side of the pond that he might drink some water and rest a while. He laid the stone carefully by his side on the bank, but as he stooped down to drink he forgot it, pushed it a little, and down it went, plump into the pond. For a while he watched it sinking in the deep, clear water, then, sprang up for joy, and again fell upon his knees and thanked Heaven with tears in his eyes for its kindness in taking away his only plague, the ugly, heavy stone.
"How happy am I!" cried he; "no mortal was ever so lucky as I am."
Then he got up with a light and merry heart, and walked on, free from all his troubles, till he reached his mother's house.
THE GREY MARE IN THE GARRET.
In the portal of the Church of the Apostles, near the new market in Cologne, hung a picture, the portraits of a certain Frau Richmodis von Aducht and her two children, of whom the following singular story is related. The picture was covered with a curtain which she worked with her own hands.
Her husband, Richmuth von Aducht, was, in the year of grace 1400, a rich burgomaster of Cologne, and lived at the sign of the Parroquet in the New Marckt. In that year a fearful plague desolated all quarters of the city. She fell sick of the pest, and, to all appearance, died. After the usual period had elapsed she was buried in the vaults of the Apostles' Church. She was buried, as the custom then was, with her jewelled rings on her fingers, and most of her rich ornaments on her person. These tempted the cupidity of the sexton of the church. He argued with himself that they were no use to the corpse, and he determined to possess them. Accordingly he proceeded in the dead of night to the vault where she lay interred, and commenced the work of sacrilegious spoliation. He first unscrewed the coffin lid. He then removed it altogether, and proceeded to tear away the shroud which interposed between him and his prey. But what was his horror to perceive the corpse clasp her hands slowly together, then rise, and finally sit erect in the coffin. He was rooted to the earth. The corpse made as though it would step from its narrow bed, and the sexton fled, shrieking, through the vaults. The corpse followed, its long white shroud floating like a meteor in the dim light of the lamp, which, in his haste, he had forgotten. It was not until he reached his own door that he had sufficient courage to look behind him, and then, when he perceived no trace of his pursuer, the excitement which had sustained him so far subsided, and he sank senseless to the earth.
In the meantime Richmuth von Aducht, who had slept scarcely a moment since the death of his dear wife, was surprised by the voice of his old manservant, who rapped loudly at his chamber door, and told him to awake and come forth, for his mistress had arisen from the dead, and was then at the gate of the courtyard.
"Bah!" said he, rather pettishly, "go thy ways, Hans; you dream, or are mad, or drunk. What you see is quite impossible. I should as soon believe my old grey mare had got into the garret as that my wife was at the courtyard gate."
Trot, trot, trot, trot, suddenly resounded high over his head.
"What's that?" asked he of his servant.
"I know not," replied the man, "an' it be not your old grey mare in the garret."
They descended in haste to the courtyard, and looked up to the window of the attic. Lo and behold! there was indeed the grey mare with her head poked out of the window, gazing down with her great eyes on her master and his man, and seeming to enjoy very much her exalted station, and their surprise at it.
Knock, knock, knock went the rapper of the street gate.
"It is my wife!" "It is my mistress!" exclaimed master and man in the same breath.
The door was quickly unfastened, and there, truly, stood the mistress of the mansion, enveloped in her shroud.
"Are you alive or dead?" exclaimed the astonished husband.
"Alive, my dear, but very cold," she murmured faintly, her teeth chattering the while, as those of one in a fever chill; "help me to my chamber."
He caught her in his arms and covered her with kisses. Then he bore her to her chamber, and called up the whole house to welcome and assist her. She suffered a little from fatigue and fright, but in a few days was very much recovered.
The thing became the talk of the town, and hundreds flocked daily to see, not alone the lady that was rescued from the grave in so remarkable a manner, but also the grey mare which had so strangely contrived to get into the garret.
The excellent lady lived long and happily with her husband, and at her death was laid once more in her old resting-place. The grey mare, after resting in the garret three days, was got down by means of scaffolding, safe and sound. She survived her mistress for some time, and was a general favourite in the city, and when she died her skin was stuffed, and placed in the arsenal as a curiosity. The sexton went mad with the fright he had sustained, and in a short time entered that bourn whence he had so unintentionally recovered the burgomaster's wife.
Not only was this memorable circumstance commemorated in the Church of the Apostles, but it was also celebrated in bassi relievi figures on the walls of the burgomaster's residence—the sign of the Parroquet in the New Marckt. The searcher after antiquities will, however, look in vain for either. They are not now to be found. Modern taste has defaced the porch where stood the one, and erected a shapeless structure on the site of the other.
THE WATER SPIRIT.
About the middle of the sixteenth century, when Zuendorf was no larger than it is at present, there lived at the end of the village, hard by the church, one of that useful class of women termed midwives. She was an honest, industrious creature, and what with ushering the new-born into life, and then assisting in making garments for them, she contrived to creep through the world in comfort, if not in complete happiness.
The summer had been one of unusual drought, and the winter, of a necessity, one of uncommon scarcity, so that when the spring arrived the good woman had less to do than at any period in the preceding seven years. In fact she was totally unemployed. As she mused one night, lying abed, on the matter, she was startled by a sharp, quick knock at the door of her cottage. She hesitated for a moment to answer the call, but the knocking was repeated with more violence than before. This caused her to spring out of bed without more delay, and hasten to ascertain the wish of her impatient visitor. She opened the door in the twinkling of an eye, and a man, tall of stature, enveloped in a large dark cloak, stood before her.
"My wife is in need of thee," he said to her abruptly; "her time is come. Follow me."
"Nay, but the night is dark, sir," replied she. "Whither do you desire me to follow?"
"Close at hand," he answered, as abruptly as before. "Be ye quick and follow me."
"I will but light my lamp and place it in the lantern," said the woman. "It will not cost me more than a moment's delay."
"It needs not, it needs not," repeated the stranger; "the spot is close by. I know every foot of ground. Follow, follow!"
There was something so imperative, and at the same time so irresistible, in the manner of the man that she said not another word, but drawing her warm cloak about her head followed him at once. Ere she was aware of the course he had taken, so dark was the night, and so wrapt up was she in the cloak and in her meditations, she found herself on the bank of the Rhine, just opposite to the low fertile islet which bears the same name as the village, and lies at a little distance from the shore.
"How is this, good sir?" she exclaimed, in a tone of surprise and alarm. "You have missed the way—you have left your road. Here is no further path."
"Silence, and follow," were the only words he spoke in reply; but they were uttered in such a manner as to show her at once that her best course was obedience.
They were now at the edge of the mighty stream; the rushing waters washed their feet. The poor woman would fain have drawn back, but she could not, such was the preternatural power exercised over her by her companion.
"Fear not; follow!" he spoke again, in a kinder tone, as the current kissed the hem of her garments.
He took the lead of her. The waters opened to receive him. A wall of crystal seemed built up on either side of the vista. He plunged into its depths; she followed. The wild wave gurgled over them, and they were walking over the shiny pebbles and glittering sands which strewed the bed of the river.
And now a change came over her indeed. She had left all on earth in the thick darkness of a starless spring night, yet all around her was lighted up like a mellow harvest eve, when the sun shines refulgent through masses of golden clouds on the smiling pastures and emerald meadows of the west. She looked up, but she could see no cause for this illumination. She looked down, and her search was equally unsuccessful. She seemed to herself to traverse a great hall of surpassing transparency, lighted up by a light resembling that given out by a huge globe of ground glass. Her conductor still preceded her. They approached a little door. The chamber within it contained the object of their solicitude. On a couch of mother-of-pearl, surrounded by sleeping fishes and drowsy syrens, who could evidently afford her no assistance, lay the sick lady.
"Here is my wife," spake the stranger, as they entered this chamber. "Take her in hand at once, and hark ye, mother, heed that she has no injury through thee, or——"
With these words he waved his hand, and, preceded by the obedient inhabitants of the river, who had until then occupied the chamber, left the apartment.
The midwife approached her patient with fear and trembling; she knew not what to anticipate. What was her surprise to perceive that the stranger was like any other lady. The business in hand was soon finished, and midwife and patient began to talk together, as women will when an opportunity is afforded them.
"It surprises me much," quoth the former, "to see such a handsome young lady as you are buried down here in the bottom of the river. Do you never visit the land? What a loss it is to you!"
"Hush, hush!" interposed the Triton's lady, placing her forefinger significantly on her lips; "you peril your life by talking thus without guard. Go to the door; look out, that you may see if there be any listeners, then I will tell something to surprise you."
The midwife did as she was directed. There was no living being within earshot.
"Now, listen," said the lady.
The midwife was all ear.
"I am a woman; a Christian woman like yourself," she continued, "though I am here now in the home of my husband, who is the spirit of these mighty waters."
"God be praised!" ejaculated her auditor.
"My father was the lord of the hamlet of Rheidt, a little above Luelsdorf, and I lived there in peace and happiness during my girlish days. I had nothing to desire, as every wish was gratified by him as soon as it was formed. However, as I grew to womanhood I felt that my happiness had departed. I knew not whither it had gone, or why, but gone it was. I felt restless, melancholy, wretched. I wanted, in short, something to love, but that I found out since. Well, one day a merry-making took place in the village, and every one was present at it. We danced on the green sward which stretches to the margin of the river; for that day I forgot my secret grief, and was among the gayest of the gay. They made me the queen of the feast, and I had the homage of all. As the sun was going down in glory in the far west, melting the masses of clouds into liquid gold, a stranger of a noble mien appeared in the midst of our merry circle. He was garbed in green from head to heel, and seemed to have crossed the river, for the hem of his rich riding-cloak was dripping with wet. No one knew him, no one cared to inquire who he was, and his presence rather awed than rejoiced us. He was, however, a stranger, and he was welcome. When I tell you that stranger is my husband, you may imagine the rest. When the dance then on foot was ended, he asked my hand. I could not refuse it if I would, but I would not if I could. He was irresistible. We danced and danced until the earth seemed to reel around us. I could perceive, however, even in the whirl of tumultuous delight which forced me onward, that we neared the water's edge in every successive figure. We stood at length on the verge of the stream. The current caught my dress, the villagers shrieked aloud, and rushed to rescue me from the river.
"'Follow!' said my partner, plunging as he spoke into the foaming flood.
"I followed. Since then I have lived with him here. It is now a century since, but he has communicated to me a portion of his own immortality, and I know not age, neither do I dread death any longer. He is good and kind to me, though fearful to others. The only cause of complaint I have is his invariable custom of destroying every babe to which I give birth on the third day after my delivery. He says it is for my sake, and for their sakes, that he does so, and he knows best."
She sighed heavily as she said this.
"And now," resumed the lady, "I must give you one piece of advice, which, if you would keep your life, you must implicitly adopt. My husband will return. Be on your guard, I bid you. He will offer you gold, he will pour out the countless treasures he possesses before you, he will proffer you diamonds and pearls and priceless gems, but—heed well what I say to you—take nothing more from him than you would from any other person. Take the exact sum you are wont to receive on earth, and take not a kreutzer more, or your life is not worth a moment's purchase. It is forfeit."
"He must be a cruel being, indeed," ejaculated the midwife. "God deliver me from this dread and great danger."
"See you yon sealed vessels?" spake the lady, without seeming to heed her fright, or hear her ejaculations.
The midwife looked, and saw ranged on an upper shelf of the apartment about a dozen small pots, like pipkins, all fast sealed, and labelled in unknown characters.
"These pots," pursued she, "contain the souls of those who have been, like you, my attendants in childbirth, but who, for slighting the advice I gave them, as I now give you, and permitting a spirit of unjust gain to take possession of their hearts, were deprived of life by my husband. Heed well what I say. He comes. Be silent and discreet."
As she spake the water spirit entered. He first asked his wife how she did, and his tones were like the rushing sound of a current heard far off. Learning from her own lips that all was well with her, he turned to the midwife and thanked her most graciously.
"Now, come with me," he said, "I must pay thee for thy services."
She followed him from the sick-chamber to the treasury of the palace. It was a spacious crystal vault, lighted up, like the rest of the palace, from without, but within it was resplendent with treasures of all kinds. He led her to a huge heap of shining gold which ran the whole length of the chamber.
"Here," said he, "take what you will. I put no stint upon you."
The trembling woman picked up a single piece of the smallest coin she could find upon the heap.
"This is my fee," she spake. "I ask no more than a fair remuneration for my labour."
The water spirit's brow blackened like a tempestuous night, and he showed his green teeth for a moment as if in great ire, but the feeling, whatever it was, appeared to pass away as quickly as it came, and he led her to a huge heap of pearls.
"Here," he said, "take what you will. Perhaps you like these better? They are all pearls of great price, or may be you would wish for some memento of me. Take what you will."
But she still declined to take anything more, although he tempted her with all his treasures. She had not forgotten the advice of her patient.
"I desire nothing more from you, great prince as you are, than I receive from one of my own condition." This was her uniform answer to his entreaties—
"I thank you, but I may not take aught beside my due."
"If," said he, after a short pause, "you had taken more than your due, you would have perished at my hands. And now," proceeded the spirit, "you shall home, but first take this. Fear not."
As he spake he dipped his hand in the heap of gold and poured forth a handful into her lap.
"Use that," he continued, "use it without fear. It is my gift. No evil will come of it; I give you my royal word."
He beckoned her onward without waiting for her reply, and they were walking once again through the corridors of the palace.
"Adieu!" he said, waving his hand to her, "adieu!"
Darkness fell around her in a moment. In a moment more she awoke, as from a dream, in her warm bed.
Peter Klaus, a goatherd of Sittendorf, who tended herds on the Kyffhauser mountain, used to let them rest of an evening in a spot surrounded by an old wall, where he always counted them to see if they were all right. For some days he noticed that one of his finest goats, as they came to this spot, vanished, and never returned to the herd till late. He watched him more closely, and at length saw him slip through a rent in the wall. He followed him, and caught him in a cave, feeding sumptuously upon the grains of oats which fell one by one from the roof. He looked up, shook his head at the shower of oats, but, with all his care, could discover nothing further. At length he heard overhead the neighing and stamping of some mettlesome horses, and concluded that the oats must have fallen from their mangers.
While the goatherd stood there, wondering about these horses in a totally uninhabited mountain, a lad came and made signs to him to follow him silently. Peter ascended some steps, and, crossing a walled court, came to a glade surrounded by rocky cliffs, into which a sort of twilight made its way through the thick-leaved branches. Here he found twelve grave old knights playing at skittles, at a well-levelled and fresh plot of grass. Peter was silently appointed to set up the ninepins for them.
At first his knees knocked together as he did this, while he marked, with half-stolen glances, the long beards and goodly paunches of the noble knights. By degrees, however, he grew more confident, and looked at everything about him with a steady gaze—nay, at last, he ventured so far as to take a draught from a pitcher which stood near him, the fragrance of which appeared to him delightful. He felt quite revived by the draught, and as often as he felt at all tired, received new strength from application to the inexhaustible pitcher. But at length sleep overcame him.
When he awoke, he found himself once more in the enclosed green space, where he was accustomed to leave his goats. He rubbed his eyes, but could discover neither dog nor goats, and stared with surprise at the height to which the grass had grown, and at the bushes and trees, which he never remembered to have noticed. Shaking his head, he proceeded along the roads and paths which he was accustomed to traverse daily with his herd, but could nowhere see any traces of his goats. Below him he saw Sittendorf; and at last he descended with quickened step, there to make inquiries after his herd.
The people whom he met at his entrance to the town were unknown to him, and dressed and spoke differently from those whom he had known there. Moreover, they all stared at him when he inquired about his goats, and began stroking their chins. At last, almost involuntarily, he did the same, and found to his great astonishment that his beard had grown to be a foot long. He began now to think himself and the world altogether bewitched, and yet he felt sure that the mountain from which he had descended was the Kyffhauser; and the houses here, with their fore-courts, were all familiar to him. Moreover, several lads whom he heard telling the name of the place to a traveller called it Sittendorf.
Shaking his head, he proceeded into the town straight to his own house. He found it sadly fallen to decay. Before it lay a strange herd-boy in tattered garments, and near him an old worn-out dog, which growled and showed his teeth at Peter when he called him. He entered by the opening, which had formerly been closed by a door, but found all within so desolate and empty that he staggered out again like a drunkard, and called his wife and children. No one heard; no voice answered him.
Women and children now began to surround the strange old man, with the long hoary beard, and to contend with one another in inquiring of him what he wanted. He thought it so ridiculous to make inquiries of strangers, before his own house, after his wife and children, and still more so, after himself, that he mentioned the first neighbour whose name occurred to him, Kirt Stiffen. All were silent, and looked at one another, till an old woman said—
"He has left here these twelve years. He lives at Sachsenberg; you'll hardly get there to-day."
"God help him!" said an old crone leaning on a crutch. "He has been confined these fifteen years in the house, which he'll never leave again."
He recognised, as he thought, his suddenly aged neighbour; but he had lost all desire of asking any more questions. At last a brisk young woman, with a boy of a twelvemonth old in her arms, and with a little girl holding her hand, made her way through the gaping crowd, and they looked for all the world like his wife and children.
"What is your name?" said Peter, astonished.
"And your father?"
"God have mercy on him, Peter Klaus. It is twenty years since we sought him day and night on the Kyffhauser, when his goats came home without him. I was only seven years old when it happened."
The goatherd could no longer contain himself.
"I am Peter Klaus," he cried, "and no other," and he took the babe from his daughter's arms.
All stood like statues for a minute, till one and then another began to cry—
"Here's Peter Klaus come back again! Welcome, neighbour, welcome, after twenty years; welcome, Peter Klaus!"
THE LEGEND OF RHEINECK.
Graf Ulric Von Rheineck was a very wild youth. Recklessly and without consideration did he plunge into every excess. Dissipation grew to be the habit of his life, and no sensual indulgence did he deny himself which could be procured by any means whatever. Amply provided for as he was, the revenues of his wide possessions, which comprehended Thal Rheineck, and the adjacent country, to the shore of the Rhine, and as far as the mouth of the Aar, were soon discovered to be insufficient for all his absorbing necessities. One by one his broad lands were alienated from him, piece after piece of that noble possession fell from his house, until finally he found himself without a single inch of ground which he could call his own, save the small and unproductive spot on which Rheineck stood. This he had no power to transfer, or perhaps it would have gone with the remainder. The castle had fallen sadly into disrepair, through his protracted absence from home, and his continual neglect of it,—indeed there was scarcely a habitable room within its precincts, and he now had no means to make it the fitting abode of any one, still less of a nobleman of his rank and consequence. All without, as well as all within it, was desolate and dreary to the last degree. The splendid garden, previously the pride of his ancestors, was overrun with weeds, and tangled with parasites and creepers. The stately trees, which once afforded shelter and shade, as well as fruits of the finest quality and rarest kinds, were all dying or withered, or had their growth obstructed by destroying plants. The outer walls were in a ruinous condition, the fortifications were everywhere fallen into decay, and the alcoves and summer-houses had dropped down, or were roofless, and exposed to the weather. It was a cheerless prospect to contemplate, but he could not now help himself, even if he had the will to do so. Day after day the same scene of desolation presented itself to his eyes, night after night did the same cheerless chamber present itself to his view. It was his own doing. That he could not deny, and bitterly he rued it. To crown his helplessness and misery, his vassals and domestic servants abandoned him by degrees, one after another, and at last he was left entirely alone in the house of his fathers—a hermit in that most dismal of all solitudes, the desolate scene of one's childish, one's happiest recollections.
One evening about twilight, as he sat at the outer gate, looking sadly on the broad, bright river which flowed calmly beneath, he became aware of the presence of a stranger, who seemed to toil wearily up the steep acclivity on the summit of which the castle is situated. The stranger—an unusual sight within those walls then—soon reached the spot where Ulric sat, and, greeting the youth in the fashion of the times, prayed him for shelter during the night, and refreshment after his most painful journey.
"I am," quoth the stranger, "a poor pilgrim on my way to Cologne, where, by the merits of the three wise kings—to whose shrine I am bound—I hope to succeed in the object of my journey."
Graf Ulric von Rheineck at once accorded him the hospitality he required, for though he had but scant cheer for himself, and nought of comfort to bestow, he had still some of the feeling of a gentleman left in him.
"I am alone here now," said he to the pilgrim, with a deep sigh. "I am myself as poor as Job. Would it were not so! My menials have left me to provide for themselves, as I can no longer provide for them. 'Twas ever the way of the world, and I blame them not for it. The last departed yesterday. He was an old favourite of my father's, and he once thought that he would not leave my service but with his life. We must now look to ourselves, however,—at least so he said. But that has nothing to do with the matter, so enter, my friend."
They entered. By their joint exertions a simple evening meal was soon made ready, and speedily spread forth on a half-rotten plank, their only table.
"I have no better to offer you," observed the young Count, "but I offer you what I have with right goodwill. Eat, if you can, and be merry."
They ate in silence, neither speaking during the meal.
"Surely," said the pilgrim, when it was over,—"surely it may not be that the extensive cellars of this great castle contain not a single cup of wine for the weary wayfarer."
The Count was at once struck by the idea. It seemed to him as if he had never thought of it before, though in reality he had ransacked every corner of the cellars more than once.
"Come, let us go together and try," continued the pilgrim; "it will go hard with us if we find nought to wash down our homely fare."
Accompanied by his persuasive guest, the Count descended to the vaults, where the wines of Rheineck had been stored for ages. Dark and dreary did they seem to him. A chill fell on his soul as he strode over the mouldy floor.
"Here," said the pilgrim, with great glee,—"here, here! Look ye, my master, look ye! See! I have found a cup of the best."
The Count passed into a narrow cellar whither the pilgrim had preceded him. There stood his companion beside a full butt of burgundy, holding in his hand a massive silver cup, foaming over with the generous beverage, and with the other he pointed exultingly to his prize. The scene seemed like a dream to Ulric. The place was wholly unknown to him. The circumstances were most extraordinary. He mused a moment, but he knew not what to do in the emergency.
"We will enjoy ourselves here," said the pilgrim. "Here, on this very spot, shall we make us merry! Ay, here, beside this noble butt of burgundy. See, 'tis the best vintage! Let us be of good cheer!"
The Count and his boon companion sat down on two empty casks, and a third served them for a table. They plied the brimming beakers with right goodwill; they drank with all their might and main. The Count became communicative, and talked about his private affairs, as men in liquor will. The pilgrim, however, preserved a very discreet silence, only interrupting by an occasional interjection of delight, or an opportune word of encouragement to his garrulous friend.
"I'll tell you what," began the pilgrim, when the Count had concluded his tale,—"I'll tell you what. Listen: I know a way to get you out of your difficulties, to rid you of all your embarrassments."
The Count looked at him incredulously for a moment; his eye could not keep itself steady for a longer space of time. There was something in the pilgrim's glance as it met his that greatly dissipated his unbelief, and he inquired of him how these things could be brought about.
"But, mayhap," continued the pilgrim, apparently disregarding the manifest change in his companion's impressions regarding him,—"mayhap you would be too faint-hearted to follow my advice if I gave it you."
The Count sprang on his feet in a trice, and half-unsheathed his sword to avenge this taunt on his manhood, but the pilgrim looked so unconcerned, and evinced so little emotion at this burst of anger, that the action and its result were merely momentary. Ulric resumed his seat, and the pilgrim proceeded—
"You tell me that you once heard from your father, who had it from his father, that your great-grandfather, in the time when this castle was beleaguered by the Emperor Conrad, buried a vast treasure in some part of it, but which part his sudden death prevented him from communicating to his successor?"
The Count nodded acquiescence.
"It is even so," he said.
"In Eastern lands have I learned to discover where concealed treasures are hidden," pursued the pilgrim; "and——"
The Count grasped him by the hand.
"Find them," he cried,—"find them for me, and a full half is thine! Oh, there is gold, and there are diamonds and precious stones of all kinds. They are there in abundance. My father said so! 'Tis true, 'tis true! Find them, find them, and then shall this old hall ring once more with the voice of merriment. Then shall we live! ay, we shall live! that we shall."
The pilgrim did not attempt to interrupt his ecstasies, or to interpose between him and the excess of his glee, but let him excite himself to the highest pitch with pictures of the pleasing future, until they had acquired almost the complexion of fact and the truth of reality for his distracted imagination. When he had exhausted himself, the wily tempter resumed—
"Oh yes, I know it all. I know where the treasure is. I can put your finger on it if I like. I was present when the old man buried it in the——"
"You present!" exclaimed Ulric, his hair standing on end with horror, for he had no doubts of the truth of the mysterious stranger's statements,—"you present!"
"Yes," resumed the pilgrim; "I was present."
"But he is full a hundred years dead and buried," continued the Count.
"No matter for that, no matter for that," replied the guest abruptly; "many and many a time have we drunk and feasted and revelled together in this vault—ay, in this very vault."
The Count knew not what to think, still less what to reply to this information. He could not fail to perceive its improbability, drunk as he was, but still he could not, for the life of him, discredit it.
"But," added the pilgrim, "trouble not yourself with that at present which you have not the power to comprehend, and speculate not on my proceedings, but listen to my words, and follow my advice, if you will that I should serve you in the matter."
The Count was silent when the stranger proceeded.
"This is Walpurgis night," he said. "All the spirits of earth and sea and sky are now abroad on their way to the Brocken. Hell is broke loose, you know, for its annual orgies on that mountain. When the castle clock tolls twelve go you into the chapel, and proceed to the graves of your grandfather, your great-grandfather, and your great-great-grandfather; take from their coffins the bones of their skeletons—take them all, mind ye. One by one you must then remove them into the moonlight, outside the walls of the building, and there lay them softly on the bit of green sward which faces to the south. This done, you must next place them in the order in which they lay in their last resting-place. When you have completed that task, you must return to the chapel, and in their coffins you will find the treasures of your forefathers. No one has power over an atom of them, until the bones of those who in spirit keep watch and ward over them shall have been removed from their guardianship. So long as they rest on them, or oversee them, to the dead they belong. It is a glorious prize. 'Twill be the making of you, man, for ever!"
Ulric was shocked at the proposal. To desecrate the graves of his fathers was a deed which made him shudder, and, bad as he was, the thought filled him with the greatest horror, but the temptation was irresistible.
At the solemn hour of midnight he proceeded to the chapel, accompanied by the pilgrim. He entered the holy place with trembling, for his heart misgave him. The pilgrim stayed without, apparently anxious and uneasy as to the result of the experiment about to be made. To all the solicitations of the Count for assistance in his task he turned a deaf ear; nothing that he could say could induce him to set foot within the chapel walls.
Ulric opened the graves in the order in which they were situated, beginning with the one first from the door of the chapel. He proceeded to remove the rotting remains from their mouldering coffins. One by one did he bear their bleached bones into the open air, as he had been instructed, and placed them as they had lain in their narrow beds, under the pale moonbeams, on the plot of green sward facing the south, outside the chapel walls. The coffins were all cleared of their tenants, except one which stood next to the altar, at the upper end of the aisle. Ulric approached this also to perform the wretched task he had set himself, the thoughts of the treasure he should become possessed of but faintly sustaining his sinking soul in the fearful operation. Removing the lid of this last resting-place of mortality, his heart failed him at the sight he beheld. There lay extended, as if in deep sleep, the corpse of a fair child, fresh and comely, as if it still felt and breathed and had lusty being. The weakness Ulric felt was but momentary. His companion called aloud to him to finish his task quickly, or the hour would have passed when his labour would avail him. As he touched the corpse of the infant the body stirred as if it had sensation. He shrank back in horror as the fair boy rose gently in his coffin, and at length stood upright within it.
"Bring back yon bones," said the phantom babe,—"bring back yon bones; let them rest in peace in the last home of their fathers. The curse of the dead will be on you otherwise. Back! back! bring them back ere it be too late."
The corpse sank down in the coffin again as it uttered these words, and Ulric saw a skeleton lying in its place. Shuddering, he averted his gaze, and turned it towards the chapel door, where he had left his companion. But, horror upon horror! as he looked he saw the long, loose, dark outer garment fall from the limbs of the pilgrim. He saw his form dilate and expand in height and in breadth, until his head seemed to touch the pale crescent moon, and his bulk shut out from view all beyond itself. He saw his eyes firing and flaming like globes of lurid light, and he saw his hair and beard converted into one mass of living flame. The fiend stood revealed in all his hideous deformity.
His hands were stretched forth to fasten on the hapless Count, who, with vacillating step, like the bird under the eye of the basilisk, involuntarily, though with a perfect consciousness of his awful situation, and the fearful fate which awaited him, every moment drew nearer and nearer to him. The victim reached the chapel door—he felt all the power of that diabolical fascination—another step and he would be in the grasp of the fiend who grinned to clutch him. But the fair boy who spoke from the grave suddenly appeared once more, and, flinging himself between the wretched Count and the door, obstructed his further progress.
"Avaunt, foul fiend!" spake the child, and his voice was like a trumpet-note; "avaunt to hell! He is no longer thine. Thou hast no power over him. Your hellish plot has failed. He is free, and shall live and repent."
As he said this he threw his arms around Ulric, and the Count became, as it were, at once surrounded by a beatific halo, which lighted up the chapel like day. The fiend fled howling like a wild beast disappointed of its prey.
The remains of his ancestors were again replaced in their coffins by the Count, long ere the morning broke, and on their desecrated graves he poured forth a flood of repentant tears. With the dawn of day he quitted the castle of Rheineck. It is said that he traversed the land in the garb of a lowly mendicant, subsisting on the alms of the charitable, and it is likewise told that he did penance at every holy shrine from Cologne to Rome, whither he was bound to obtain absolution for his sins. Years afterwards he was found dead at the foot of the ancient altar in the ruined chapel. The castle went to ruin, and for centuries nought ever dwelt within its walls save the night-birds and the beasts of prey.
Of the original structure the ruins of one old tower are all that now remain. It is still firmly believed by the peasants of the neighbourhood, that in the first and the last quarter of the moon the spirit of Ulric, the last of the old lords of Rheineck, still sweeps around the ruin at the hour of midnight, and is occasionally visible to belated wanderers.
THE CELLAR OF THE OLD KNIGHTS IN THE KYFFHAUSER.
There was a poor, but worthy, and withal very merry, fellow at Tilleda, who was once put to the expense of a christening, and, as luck would have it, it was the eighth. According to the custom of the time, he was obliged to give a plain feast to the child's sponsors. The wine of the country which he put before his guests was soon exhausted, and they began to call for more.
"Go," said the merry father of the newly baptized child to his eldest daughter, a handsome girl of sixteen,—"go, and get us better wine than this out of the cellar."
"Out of what cellar?"
"Why, out of the great wine-cellar of the old Knights in the Kyffhauser, to be sure," said her father jokingly.
The simple-minded girl did as he told her, and taking a small pitcher in her hand went to the mountain. In the middle of the mountain she found an aged housekeeper, dressed in a very old-fashioned style, with a large bundle of keys at her girdle, sitting at the ruined entrance of an immense cellar. The girl was struck dumb with amazement, but the old woman said very kindly—
"Of a surety you want to draw wine out of the Knights' cellar?"
"Yes," said the girl timidly, "but I have no money."
"Never mind that," said the old woman; "come with me, and you shall have wine for nothing, and better wine too than your father ever tasted."
So the two went together through the half-blocked-up entrance, and as they went along the old woman made the girl tell her how affairs were going on at that time in Tilleda.
"For once," said she, "when I was young, and good-looking as you are, the Knights stole me away in the night-time, and brought me through a hole in the ground from the very house in Tilleda which now belongs to your father. Shortly before that they had carried away by force from Kelbra, in broad daylight, the four beautiful damsels who occasionally still ride about here on horses richly caparisoned, and then disappear again. As for me, as soon as I grew old, they made me their butler, and I have been so ever since."
They had now reached the cellar door, which the old woman opened. It was a very large roomy cellar, with barrels ranged along both sides. The old woman rapped against the barrels—some were quite full, some were only half full. She took the little pitcher, drew it full of wine, and said—
"There, take that to your father, and as often as you have a feast in your house you may come here again; but, mind, tell nobody but your father where you get the wine from. Mind, too, you must never sell any of it—it costs nothing, and for nothing you must give it away. Let any one but come here for wine to make a profit off it and his last bread is baked."
The girl took the wine to her father, whose guests were highly delighted with it, and sadly puzzled to think where it came from, and ever afterwards, when there was a little merry-making in the house, would the girl fetch wine from the Kyffhauser in her little pitcher. But this state of things did not continue long. The neighbours wondered where so poor a man contrived to get such delicious wine that there was none like it in the whole country round. The father said not a word to any one, and neither did his daughter.
Opposite to them, however, lived the publican who sold adulterated wine. He had once tasted the Old Knights' wine, and thought to himself that one might mix it with ten times the quantity of water and sell it for a good price after all. Accordingly, when the girl went for the fourth time with her little pitcher to the Kyffhauser, he crept after her, and concealed himself among the bushes, where he watched until he saw her come out of the entrance which led to the cellar, with her pitcher filled with wine.
On the following evening he himself went to the mountain, pushing before him in a wheelbarrow the largest empty barrel he could procure. This he thought of filling with the choicest wine in the cellar, and in the night rolling it down the mountain, and in this way he intended to come every day, as long as there was any wine left in the cellar.
When, however, he came to the place where he had the day before seen the entrance to the cellar, it grew all of a sudden totally dark. The wind began to howl fearfully, and a monster threw him, his barrow, and empty butt, from one ridge of rocks to another, and he kept falling lower and lower, until at last he fell into a cemetery.
There he saw before him a coffin covered with black, and his wife and four of her gossips, whom he knew well by their dress and figures, were following a bier. His fright was so great that he swooned away.
After some hours he came to himself again, and saw, to his horror, that he was still in the dimly lighted vaults, and heard just above his head the well-known town clock of Tilleda strike twelve, and thereby he knew that it was midnight, and that he was then under the church, in the burying-place of the town. He was more dead than alive, and scarcely dared to breathe.
Presently there came a monk, who led him up a long, long flight of steps, opened a door, placed, without speaking, a piece of gold in his hand, and deposited him at the foot of the mountain. It was a cold frosty night. By degrees the publican recovered himself, and crept, without barrel or wine, back to his own home. The clock struck one as he reached the door. He immediately took to his bed, and in three days was a dead man, and the piece of gold which the wizard monk had given him was expended on his funeral.
THE FISHERMAN AND HIS WIFE.
There was once a fisherman who lived with his wife in a ditch close by the seaside. The fisherman used to go out all day long a-fishing, and one day as he sat on the shore with his rod, looking at the shining water and watching his line, all of sudden his float was dragged away deep under the sea. In drawing it up he pulled a great fish out of the water. The fish said to him—
"Pray let me live. I am not a real fish. I am an enchanted prince. Put me in the water again and let me go."
"Oh!" said the man, "you need not make so many words about the matter. I wish to have nothing to do with a fish that can talk, so swim away as soon as you please."
Then he put him back into the water, and the fish darted straight down to the bottom, and left a long streak of blood behind him.
When the fisherman went home to his wife in the ditch, he told her how he had caught a great fish, and how it had told him it was an enchanted prince, and that on hearing it speak he had let it go again.
"Did you not ask it for anything?" said the wife.
"No," said the man; "what should I ask it for?"
"Ah!" said the wife, "we live very wretchedly here in this nasty miserable ditch, do go back and tell the fish we want a little cottage."
The fisherman did not much like the business; however, he went to the sea, and when he came there the water looked all yellow and green. He sat at the water's edge and said—
"O man of the sea, Come listen to me, For Alice my wife, The plague of my life, Hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!"
Then the fish came swimming to him and said—
"Well, what does she want?"
"Ah!" answered the fisherman, "my wife says that when I had caught you, I ought to have asked you for something before I let you go again. She does not like living any longer in the ditch, and wants a little cottage."
"Go home, then," said the fish; "she is in the cottage already."
So the man went home, and saw his wife standing at the door of a cottage.
"Come in, come in," said she. "Is not this much better than the ditch?"
There was a parlour, a bedchamber, and a kitchen; and behind the cottage there was a little garden with all sorts of flowers and fruits, and a courtyard full of ducks and chickens.
"Ah," said the fisherman, "how happily we shall live!"
"We will try to do so, at least," said his wife.
Everything went right for a week or two, and then Dame Alice said—
"Husband, there is not room enough in this cottage, the courtyard and garden are a great deal too small. I should like to have a large stone castle to live in, so go to the fish again and tell him to give us a castle."
"Wife," said the fisherman, "I don't like to go to him again, for perhaps he will be angry. We ought to be content with the cottage."
"Nonsense!" said the wife, "he will do it very willingly. Go along and try."
The fisherman went, but his heart was very heavy, and when he came to the sea it looked blue and gloomy, though it was quite calm. He went close to it, and said—
"O man of the sea, Come listen to me, For Alice my wife, The plague of my life, Hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!"
"Well, what does she want now?" said the fish.
"Ah!" said the man very sorrowfully, "my wife wants to live in a stone castle."
"Go home, then," said the fish; "she is standing at the door of it already."
Away went the fisherman, and found his wife standing before a great castle.
"See," said she, "is not this grand?"
With that they went into the house together, and found a great many servants there, the rooms all richly furnished, and full of golden chairs and tables; and behind the castle was a garden, and a wood half a mile long, full of sheep, goats, hares, and deer; and in the courtyard were stables and cow-houses.
"Well," said the man, "now will we live contented and happy for the rest of our lives."
"Perhaps we may," said the wife, "but let us consider and sleep upon it before we make up our minds;" so they went to bed.
The next morning when Dame Alice awoke it was broad daylight, and she jogged the fisherman with her elbow, and said—
"Get up, husband, and bestir yourself, for we must be king of all the land."
"Wife, wife," said the man, "why should we wish to be king? I will not be king."
"Then I will," said Alice.
"But, wife," answered the fisherman, "how can you be king? The fish cannot make you king."
"Husband," said she, "say no more about it, but go and try. I will be king."
So the man went away quite sorrowful, to think that his wife should want to be king. The sea looked a dark grey colour, and was covered with foam, as he called the fish to come and help him.
"Well, what would she have now?" asked the fish.
"Alas!" said the man, "my wife wants to be king."
"Go home," said the fish, "she is king already."
Then the fisherman went home, and as he came close to the palace he saw a troop of soldiers, and heard the sound of drums and trumpets; and when he entered, he saw his wife sitting on a high throne of gold and diamonds, with a golden crown upon her head, and on each side of her stood six beautiful maidens.
"Well, wife," said the fisherman, "are you king?"
"Yes," said she, "I am king."
When he had looked at her for a long time, he said—
"Ah! wife, what a fine thing it is to be king! now we shall never have anything more to wish for."
"I don't know how that may be," said she. "Never is a long time. I am king, 'tis true; but I begin to be tired of it, and I think I should like to be emperor."
"Alas! wife, why should you wish to be emperor?" said the fisherman.
"Husband," said she, "go to the fish. I say I will be emperor."
"Ah! wife," replied the fisherman, "the fish cannot make an emperor; and I should not like to ask for such a thing."
"I am king," said Alice; "and you are my slave, so go directly."
So the fisherman was obliged to go, and he muttered as he went along—
"This will come to no good. It is too much to ask. The fish will be tired at last, and then we shall repent of what we have done."
He soon arrived at the sea, and the water was quite black and muddy, and a mighty whirlwind blew over it; but he went to the shore, and repeated the words he had used before.
"What would she have now?" inquired the fish.
"She wants to be emperor," replied the fisherman.
"Go home," said the fish, "she is emperor already."
So he went home again, and as he came near, he saw his wife sitting on a very lofty throne made of solid gold, with a crown on her head, full two yards high; and on each side of her stood her guards and attendants in a row, ranged according to height, from the tallest giant to a little dwarf, no bigger than one's finger. And before her stood princes, and dukes, and earls; and the fisherman went up to her, and said—
"Wife, are you emperor?"
"Yes," said she, "I am emperor."
"Ah!" said the man, as he gazed on her, "what a fine thing it is to be emperor!"
"Husband," said she, "why should we stay at being emperor? We will be pope next."
"O wife, wife!" said he. "How can you be pope? There is but one pope at a time in Christendom."
"Husband," said she, "I will be pope this very day."
"But," replied the husband, "the fish cannot make you pope."
"What nonsense!" said she. "If he can make an emperor, he can make a pope; go and try him."
So the fisherman went; but when he came to the shore the wind was raging, the sea was tossed up and down like boiling water, and the ships were in the greatest distress and danced upon the waves most fearfully. In the middle of the sky there was a little blue; but towards the south it was all red, as if a dreadful storm was rising. The fisherman repeated the words, and the fish appeared before him.
"What does she want now?" asked the fish.
"My wife wants to be pope," said the fisherman.
"Go home," said the fish; "she is pope already."
Then the fisherman went home, and found his wife sitting on a throne, with three crowns on her head, while around stood all the pomp and power of the Church. On each side were two rows of burning lights of all sizes; the greatest as large as a tower, and the smallest no larger than a rushlight.
"Well, wife," said the fisherman, as he looked at all this grandeur, "are you pope?"
"Yes," said she; "I am pope."
"Well," replied he, "it is a grand thing to be pope; and now you must be content, for you can be nothing greater."
"I will consider about that," replied the wife.
Then they went to bed; but Dame Alice could not sleep all night for thinking what she should be next. At last morning came, and the sun rose.
"Ha!" thought she, as she looked at it through the window, "cannot I prevent the sun rising?"
At this she was very angry, and wakened her husband, and said—
"Husband, go to the fish, and tell him I want to be lord of the sun and moon."
The fisherman was half asleep; but the thought frightened him so much that he started and fell out of bed.
"Alas! wife," said he, "cannot you be content to be pope?"
"No," said she, "I am very uneasy, and cannot bear to see the sun and moon rise without my leave. Go to the fish directly."
Then the man went trembling for fear. As he was going down to the shore a dreadful storm arose, so that the trees and the rocks shook, the heavens became black, the lightning played, the thunder rolled, and the sea was covered with black waves like mountains, with a white crown of foam upon them. The fisherman came to the shore, and said—
"O man of the sea, Come listen to me, For Alice, my wife, The plague of my life, Hath sent me to beg a boon of thee!"
"What does she want now?" asked the fish.
"Ah!" said he, "she wants to be lord of the sun and moon."
"Go home," replied the fish, "to your ditch again."
And there they live to this very day.
THE MOUSE TOWER.
To the traveller who has traversed the delightful environs of the Rhine, from the city of Mentz as far as Coblentz, or from the clear waves of this old Germanic stream gazed upon the grand creations of Nature, all upon so magnificent a scale, the appearance of the old decayed tower which forms the subject of the ensuing tradition forms no uninteresting object. It rises before him as he mounts the Rhine from the little island below Bingen, toward the left shore. He listens to the old shipmaster as he relates with earnest tone the wonderful story of the tower, and, shuddering at the description of the frightful punishment of priestly pride and cruelty, exclaims in strong emotion—
"The Lord be with us!"
For, as the saying runs, it was about the year of Our Lord 968, when Hatto II., Duke of the Ostro-franks, surnamed Bonosus, Abbot of Fulda, a man of singular skill and great spiritual endowments, was elected Archbishop of Mentz. He was also a harsh man, and being extremely avaricious, heaped up treasure which he guarded with the utmost care.
It so happened, under his spiritual sway, that a cruel famine began to prevail in the city of Mentz and its adjacent parts, insomuch that in a short time numbers of the poorer people fell victims to utter want. Crowds of wretches were to be seen assembled before the Archbishop's palace in the act of beseeching with cries and prayers for some mitigation of their heavy lot.
But their harsh lord refused to afford relief out of his own substance, reproaching them at the same time as the authors of their own calamity by their indolence and want of economy. But the poor souls were mad for food, and in frightful and threatening accents cried out—
Fearing the result, Bishop Hatto ordered a vast number of hungry souls to range themselves in order in one of his empty barns under the pretence of supplying them with provisions. Then, having closed the doors, he commanded his minions to fire the place, in which all fell victims to the flames. When he heard the death shouts and shrieks of the unhappy poor, turning towards the menial parasites who abetted his crime he said—
"Hark you! how the mice squeak!"
But Heaven that witnessed the deed did not permit its vengeance to sleep. A strange and unheard of death was preparing to loose its terrors upon the sacrilegious prelate. For behold, there arose out of the yet warm ashes of the dead an innumerable throng of mice which were seen to approach the Bishop, and to follow him whithersoever he went. At length he flew into one of his steepest and highest towers, but the mice climbed over the walls. He closed every door and window, yet after him they came, piercing their way through the smallest nooks and crannies of the building. They poured in upon him, and covered him from head to foot, in numberless heaps. They bit, they scratched, they tortured his flesh, till they nearly devoured him. So great was the throng that the more his domestics sought to beat them off, the more keen and savagely, with increased numbers, did they return to the charge. Even where his name was found placed upon the walls and tapestries they gnawed it in their rage away.
In this frightful predicament the Bishop, finding that he could obtain no help on land, bethought of taking himself to the water. A tower was hastily erected upon the Rhine. He took ship and shut himself up there. Enclosed within double walls, and surrounded by water, he flattered himself that the rushing stream would effectually check the rage of his enemies. Here too, however, the vengeance of offended Heaven gave them entrance. Myriads of mice took to the stream, and swam and swam, and though myriads of them were swept away, an innumerable throng still reached the spot. Again they climbed and clattered up the walls. The Bishop heard their approach. It was his last retreat. They rushed in upon him with more irresistible fury than before, and, amidst stifled cries of protracted suffering, Bishop Hatto at length rendered up his cruel and avaricious soul.
The Sabbath-day drew to a close in the summer-tide of the year of grace one thousand and one, and the rustics of Ramersdorf amused themselves with a dance, as was their wont to do, in the courtyard of the monastery. It was a privilege that they had enjoyed time immemorial, and it had never been gainsaid by the abbots who were dead and gone, but Anselm von Lowenberg, the then superior of the convent, an austere, ascetic man, who looked with disdain and dislike on all popular recreations, had long set his face against it, and had, moreover, tried every means short of actual prohibition to put an end to the profane amusement. The rustics, however, were not to be debarred by his displeasure from pursuing, perhaps, their only pleasure; and though the pious abbot discountenanced their proceedings, they acquiesced not in his views, and their enjoyment was not one atom the less.
The day had been very beautiful, and the evening was, if possible, more so. Gaily garbed maidens of the village and stalwart rustics filled the courtyard of the convent. A blind fiddler, who had fiddled three generations off the stage, sat in front of a group of elders of either sex, who, though too old and too stiff to partake in the active and exciting amusement, were still young enough to enjoy looking on. A few shaven crowns peered from the latticed casements which looked out on to the merry scene. The music struck up, the dance began. Who approaches? Why are so many anxious glances cast in yonder direction? It is the Abbot.
"Cease your fooling," he spake to them, in a solemn tone; "profane not the place nor the day with your idle mirth. Go home, and pray in your own homes for the grace of the Lord to govern ye, for ye are wicked and wilful and hard of heart as the stones!"
He waved his hand as if to disperse them, but his words and his action were equally unheeded by the dancers and the spectators.
"Forth, vile sinners!" he pursued. "Forth from these walls, or I will curse ye with the curse."
Still they regarded him not to obey his behest, although they so far noticed his words as to return menacing look for look, and muttered threats for threat with him. The music played on with the same liveliness, the dancers danced as merrily as ever, and the spectators applauded each display of agility.
"Well, then," spake the Abbot, bursting with rage, "an ye cease not, be my curse on your head—there may ye dance for a year and a day!"
He banned them bitterly; with uplifted hands and eyes he imprecated the vengeance of Heaven on their disobedience. He prayed to the Lord to punish them for the slight of his directions. Then he sought his cell to vent his ire in solitude.