SIDONIA THE SORCERESS
THE SUPPOSED DESTROYER OF THE WHOLE REIGNING DUCAL HOUSE OF POMERANIA
TRANSLATED BY LADY WILDE
THE AMBER WITCH
WILLIAM MEINHOLD DOCTOR OF THEOLOGY
IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. I.
DEDICATION OF THE GERMAN EDITION.
TO THE ILLUSTRIOUS
LADY LUCY DUFF GORDON,
YOUNG AND GIFTED TRANSLATOR
"THE AMBER WITCH,"
THIS WORK IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED.
Amongst all the trials for witchcraft with which we are acquainted, few have attained so great a celebrity as that of the Lady Canoness of Pomerania, Sidonia von Bork. She was accused of having by her sorceries caused sterility in many families, particularly in that of the ancient reigning house of Pomerania, and also of having destroyed the noblest scions of that house by an early and premature death. Notwithstanding the intercessions and entreaties of the Prince of Brandenburg and Saxony, and of the resident Pomeranian nobility, she was publicly executed for these crimes on the 19th of August 1620, on the public scaffold, at Stettin; the only favour granted being, that she was allowed to be beheaded first and then burned.
This terrible example caused such a panic of horror, that contemporary authors scarcely dare to mention her name, and, even then, merely by giving the initials. This forbearance arose partly from respect towards the ancient family of the Von Borks, who then, as now, were amongst the most illustrious and wealthy in the land, and also from the fear of offending the reigning ducal family, as the Sorceress, in her youth, had stood in a very near and tender relation to the young Duke Ernest Louis von Pommern-Wolgast.
These reasons will be sufficiently comprehensible to all who are familiar with the disgust and aversion in which the paramours of the evil one were held in that age, so that even upon the rack these subjects were scarcely touched upon.
The first public, judicial, yet disconnected account of Sidonia's trial, we find in the Pomeranian Library of Daehnert, fourth volume, article 7, July number of the year 1755.
Daehnert here acknowledges, page 241, that the numbers from 302 to 1080, containing the depositions of the witnesses, were not forthcoming up to his time, but that a priest in Pansin, near Stargard, by name Justus Sagebaum, pretended to have them in his hands, and accordingly, in the fifth volume of the above-named journal (article 4, of April 1756), some very important extracts appear from them.
The records, however, again disappeared for nearly a century, until Barthold announced, some short time since, [Footnote: "History of Rugen and Pomerania," vol. iv. p. 486.] that he had at length discovered them in the Berlin Library; but he does not say which, for, according to Schwalenberg, who quotes Daehnert, there existed two or three different copies, namely, the Protocollum Jodoci Neumarks, the so-called Acta Lothmanni, and that of Adami Moesters, contradicting each other in the most important matters. Whether I have drawn the history of my Sidonia from one or other of the above-named sources, or from some entirely new, or, finally, from that alone which is longest known, I shall leave undecided.
Every one who has heard of the animadversions which "The Amber Witch" excited, many asserting that it was only dressed-up history, though I repeatedly assured them it was simple fiction, will pardon me if I do not here distinctly declare whether Sidonia be history or fiction.
The truth of the material, as well as of the formal contents, can be tested by any one by referring to the authorities I have named; and in connection with these, I must just remark, that in order to spare the reader any difficulties which might present themselves to eye and ear, in consequence of the old-fashioned mode of writing, I have modernised the orthography, and amended the grammar and structure of the phrases. And lastly, I trust that all just thinkers of every party will pardon me for having here and there introduced my supernatural views of Christianity. A man's principles, as put forward in his philosophical writings, are in general only read by his own party, and not by that of his adversaries. A Rationalist will fly from a book by a Supernaturalist as rapidly as this latter from one by a Friend of Light. But by introducing my views in the manner I have adopted, in place of publishing them in a distinct volume, I trust that all parties will be induced to peruse them, and that many will find, not only what is worthy their particular attention, but matter for deep and serious reflection.
I must now give an account of those portraits of Sidonia which are extant.
As far as I know, three of these (besides innumerable sketches) exist, one in Stettin, the other in the lower Pomeranian town Plathe, and a third at Stargard, near Regenwalde, in the castle of the Count von Bork. I am acquainted only with the last-named picture, and agree with many in thinking that it is the only original.
Sidonia is here represented in the prime of mature beauty—a gold net is drawn over her almost golden yellow hair, and her neck, arms, and hands are profusely covered with jewels. Her bodice of bright purple is trimmed with costly fur, and the robe is of azure velvet. In her hand she carries a sort of pompadour of brown leather, of the most elegant form and finish. Her eyes and mouth are not pleasing, notwithstanding their great beauty—in the mouth, particularly, one can discover an expression of cold malignity.
The painting is beautifully executed, and is evidently of the school of Louis Kranach.
Immediately behind this form there is another looking over the shoulder of Sidonia, like a terrible spectre (a highly poetical idea), for this spectre is Sidonia herself painted as a Sorceress. It must have been added, after a lapse of many years, to the youthful portrait, which belongs, as I have said, to the school of Kranach, whereas the second figure portrays unmistakably the school of Rubens. It is a fearfully characteristic painting, and no imagination could conceive a contrast more shudderingly awful. The Sorceress is arrayed in her death garments—white with black stripes; and round her thin white locks is bound a narrow band of black velvet spotted with gold. In her hand is a kind of a work-basket, but of the simplest workmanship and form.
Of the other portraits I cannot speak from my own personal inspection; but to judge by the drawings taken from them to which I have had access, they appear to differ completely, not only in costume, but in the character of the countenance, from the one I have described, which there is no doubt must be the original, not only because it bears all the characteristics of that school of painting which approached nearest to the age in which Sidonia lived—namely, from 1540 to 1620—but also by the fact that a sheet of paper bearing an inscription was found behind the painting, betraying evident marks of age in its blackened colour, the form of the letters, and the expressions employed. The inscription is as follows:—
"This Sidonia von Bork was in her youth the most beautiful and the richest of the maidens of Pomerania. She inherited many estates from her parents, and thus was in her own right a possessor almost of a county. So her pride increased, and many noble gentlemen who sought her in marriage were rejected with disdain, as she considered that a count or prince alone could be worthy of her hand. For these reasons she attended the Duke's court frequently, in the hopes of winning over one of the seven young princes to her love. At length she was successful; Duke Ernest Louis von Wolgast, aged about twenty, and the handsomest youth in Pomerania, became her lover, and even promised her his hand in marriage. This promise he would faithfully have kept if the Stettin princes, who were displeased at the prospect of this unequal alliance, had not induced him to abandon Sidonia, by means of the portrait of the Princess Hedwig of Brunswick, the most beautiful princess in all Germany. Sidonia thereupon fell into such despair, that she resolved to renounce marriage for ever, and bury the remainder of her life in the convent of Marienfliess, and thus she did. But the wrong done to her by the Stettin princes lay heavy upon her heart, and the desire for revenge increased with years; besides, in place of reading the Bible, her private hours were passed studying the Amadis, wherein she found many examples of how forsaken maidens have avenged themselves upon their false lovers by means of magic. So she at last yielded to the temptations of Satan, and after some years learned the secrets of witchcraft from an old woman. By means of this unholy knowledge, along with several other evil deeds, she so bewitched the whole princely race that the six young princes, who were each wedded to a young wife, remained childless; but no public notice was taken until Duke Francis succeeded to the duchy in 1618. He was a ruthless enemy to witches; all in the land were sought out with great diligence and burned, and as they unanimously named the Abbess of Marienfliess [Footnote: Sidonia never attained this dignity, though Micraelius and others gave her the title.] upon the rack, she was brought to Stettin by command of the Duke, where she freely confessed all the evil wrought by her sorceries upon the princely race.
"The Duke promised her life and pardon if she would free the other princes from the ban; but her answer was that she had enclosed the spell in a padlock, and flung it into the sea, and having asked the devil if he could restore the padlock again to her, he replied, 'No; that was forbidden to him;' by which every one can perceive that the destiny of God was in the matter.
"And so it was that, notwithstanding the intercession of all the neighbouring courts, Sidonia was brought to the scaffold at Stettin, there beheaded, and afterwards burned.
"Before her death the Prince ordered her portrait to be painted, in her old age and prison garb, behind that which represented her in the prime of youth. After his death, Bogislaff XIV., the last Duke, gave this picture to my grandmother, whose husband had also been killed by the Sorceress. My father received it from her, and I from him, along with the story which is here written down.
"HENRY GUSTAVUS SCHWALENBERG."
[Footnote: The style of this "Inscription" proves it to have been written in the beginning of the preceding century, but it is first noticed by Daehnert. I have had his version compared with the original in Stargord—through the kindness of a friend, who assures me that the transcription is perfectly correct, and yet can he be mistaken? for Horst (Magic Library, vol. ii. p. 246), gives the conclusion thus: "From whom my father received it, and I from him, along with the story precisely as given here by H. G. Schwalenberg." By this reading, which must have escaped my friend, a different sense is given to the passage; by the last reading it would appear that the "I" was a Bork, who had taken the tale from Schwalenberg's history of the Pomeranian Dukes, a work which exists only in manuscript, and to which I have had no access; but if we admit the first reading, then the writer must be a Schwalenberg. Even the "grandmother" will not clear up the matter, for Sidonia, when put to the torture, confessed, at the seventh question, that she had caused the death of Doctor Schwalenberg (he was counsellor in Stettin then), and at the eleventh question, that her brother's son, Otto Bork, had died also by her means. Who then is this "I"? Even Sidonia's picture, we see, utters mysteries.
In my opinion the writer was Schwalenberg, and Horst seems to have taken his version from Paulis's "General History of Pomerania," vol. iv. p. 396, and not from the original of Daehnert.
For the picture at that early period was not in the possession of a Bork, but belonged to the Count von Mellin in Schillersdorf, as passages from many authors can testify. This is confirmed by another paper found along with that containing the tradition, but of much more modern appearance, which states that the picture was removed by successive inheritors, first from Schillersdorf to Stargord, from thence to Heinrichsberg (there are three towns in Pomerania of this name), and finally from Heinrichsberg, in the year 1834, was a second time removed to Stargord by the last inheritor.
This Schillersdorf lies between Gartz and Stettin on the Oder. WILLIAM MEINHOLD.]
LETTER OF DR. THEODORE PLOeNNIES
TO BOGISLAFF THE FOURTEENTH, THE LAST DUKE OF POMERANIA.
MOST EMINENT PRINCE AND GRACIOUS LORD,—Serene Prince, your Highness gave me a commission in past years to travel through all Pomerania, and if I met with any persons who could give me certain "information" respecting the notorious and accursed witch Sidonia von Bork, to set down carefully all they stated, and bring it afterwards into connexum for your Highness. It is well known that Duke Francis, of blessed memory, never would permit the accursed deeds of this woman to be made public, or her confession upon the rack, fearing to bring scandal upon the princely house. But your Serene Highness viewed the subject differently, and said that it was good for every one, but especially princes, to look into the clear mirror of history, and behold there the faults and follies of their race. For this reason may no truth be omitted here.
To such princely commands I have proved myself obedient, collecting all information, whether good or evil, and concealing nothing. But the greater number who related these things to me could scarcely speak for tears, for wherever I travelled throughout Pomerania, as the faithful servant of your Highness, nothing was heard but lamentations from old and young, rich and poor, that this execrable Sorceress, out of Satanic wickedness, had destroyed this illustrious race, who had held their lands from no emperor, in feudal tenure, like other German princes, but in their own right, as absolute lords, since five hundred years, and though for twenty years it seemed to rest upon five goodly princes, yet by permission of the incomprehensible God, it has now melted away until your Highness stands the last of his race, and no prospect is before us that it will ever be restored, but with your Highness (God have mercy upon us!) will be utterly extinguished, and for ever. "Woe to us, how have we sinned!" (Lament, v. 16). [Footnote: Marginal note of Duke Bogislaff XIV.-"In tuas manus commendo spiritum meum, quia tu me redemisti fide deus,"]
I pray therefore the all-merciful God, that He will remove me before your Highness from this vale of tears, that I may not behold the last hour of your Highness or of my poor fatherland. Rather than witness these things, I would a thousand times sooner lie quiet in my grave.
SIDONIA THE SORCERESS.
FROM THE RECEPTION OF SIDONIA AT THE DUCAL COURT OF WOLGAST UNTIL HER BANISHMENT THEREFROM.
Of the education of Sidonia.
Of the bear-hunt at Stramehl, and the strange things that befell there.
How Otto von Bork received the homage of his son-in-law, Vidante von Meseritz—And how the bride and bridegroom proceeded afterwards to the chapel—Item, what strange things happened at the wedding-feast.
How Sidonia came to the court at Wolgast, and of what further happened to her there.
Sidonia knows nothing of God's Word, but seeks to learn it from the young Prince of Wolgast.
How the young Prince prepared a petition to his mother, the Duchess, in favour of Sidonia—Item, of the strange doings of the Laplander with his magic drum.
How Ulrich von Schwerin buries his spouse, and Doctor Gerschovius comforts him out of God's Word.
How Sidonia rides upon the pet stag, and what evil consequences result therefrom.
How Sidonia makes the young Prince break his word—Item, how Clara von Dewitz in vain tries to turn her from her evil ways.
How Sidonia wished to learn the mystery of love-potions, but is hindered by Clara and the young Prince.
How Sidonia repeated the catechism of Dr. Gerschovius, and how she whipped the young Casimir, out of pure evil-mindedness.
Of Appelmann's knavery—Item, how the birthday of her Highness was celebrated, and Sidonia managed to get to the dance, with the uproar caused thereby.
How Sidonia is sent away to Stettin—Item, of the young lord's dangerous illness, and what happened in consequence.
How Duke Barnim of Stettin and Otto Bork accompany Sidonia back to Wolgast.
Of the grand battue, and what the young Duke and Sidonia resolved on there.
How the ghost continued to haunt the castle, and of its daring behaviour—Item, how the young lord regained his strength, and was able to visit Crummyn, with what happened to him there.
Of Ulrich's counsels—Item, how Clara von Dewitz came upon the track of the ghost.
How the horrible wickedness of Sidonia was made apparent; and how in consequence thereof she was banished with ignominy from the ducal court of Wolgast.
FROM THE BANISHMENT OF SIDONIA FROM THE DUCAL COURT OF WOLGAST UP TO HER RECEPTION IN THE CONVENT OF MARIENFLIESS.
Of the quarrel between Otto Bork and the Stargardians, which caused him to demand the dues upon the Jena.
How Otto von Bork demands the Jena dues from the Stargardians, and how the burgomaster Jacob Appelmann takes him prisoner, and locks him up in the Red Sea.
Of Otto Bork's dreadful suicide—Item, how Sidonia and Johann Appelmann were brought before the burgomaster.
How Sidonia meets Claude Uckermann again, and solicits him to wed her—Item, what he answered, and how my gracious Lord of Stettin received her.
How they went on meantime at Wolgast—Item, of the Diet at Wollin, and what happened there.
How Sidonia is again discovered with the groom, Johann Appelmann.
Of the distress in Pomeranian land—Item, how Sidonia and Johann Appelmann determine to join the robbers in the vicinity of Stargard.
How Johann and Sidonia meet an adventure at Alten Damm—Item, of their reception by the robber-band.
How his Highness, Duke Barnim the elder, went a-hawking at Marienfliess—Item, of the shameful robbery at Zachan, and how burgomaster Appelmann remonstrates with his abandoned son.
How the robbers attack Prince Ernest and his bride in the Uckermann forest, and Marcus Bork and Dinnies Kleist come to their rescue.
Of the ambassadors in the tavern of Mutzelburg—Item, how the miller, Konnemann, is discovered, and made by Dinnies Kleist to act as guide to the robber cave, where they find all the women-folk lying apparently dead, through some devil's magic of the gipsy mother.
How the peasants in Marienfliess want to burn a witch, but are hindered by Johann Appelmann and Sidonia, who discover an old acquaintance in the witch, the girl Wolde Albrechts.
Of the adventure with the boundary lads, and how one of them promises to admit Johann Appelmann into the castle of Daber that same night—Item, of what befell amongst the guests at the castle.
How the knave Appelmann seizes his Serene Eminence Duke Johann by the throat, and how his Grace and the whole castle are saved by Marcus Bork and his young bride Clara; also, how Sidonia at last is taken prisoner.
How Sidonia demeans herself at the castle of Saatzig, and how Clara forgets the injunctions of her beloved husband, when he leaves her to attend the Diet at Wollin, on the subject of the courts—Item, how the Serene Prince Duke Johann Frederick beheads his court fool with a sausage.
How Sidonia makes poor Clara appear quite dead, and of the great mourning at Saatzig over her burial, while Sidonia dances on her coffin and sings the 109th psalm—Item, of the sermon, and the anathema pronounced upon a wicked sinner from the altar of the church.
How Sidonia is chased by the wolves to Rehewinkel, and finds Johann Appelmann again in the inn, with whom she goes away a second time by night.
How a new leaf is turned over at Bruchhausen in a very fearful manner—Old Appelmann takes his worthless son prisoner, and admonishes him to repentance—Of Johann's wonderful conversion, and execution next morning in the churchyard, Sidonia being present thereby.
Of Sidonia's disappearance for thirty years—Item, how the young Princess Elizabeth Magdelene was possessed by a devil, and of the sudden death of her father, Ernest Ludovicus of Pomerania.
How Sidonia demeans herself at the Convent of Marienfliess—Item, how their Princely and Electoral Graces of Pomerania, Brandenburg, and Mecklenburg, went on sleighs to Wolgast, and of the divers pastimes of the journey.
How Sidonia meets their Graces upon the ice—Item, how Dinnies Kleist beheads himself, and my gracious lord of Wolgast perishes miserably.
How Barnim the Tenth succeeds to the government, and how Sidonia meets him as she is gathering bilberries—Item, of the unnatural witch-storm at his Grace's funeral, and how Duke Casimir refuses, in consequence, to succeed him.
Duke Bogislaff XIII. accepts the government of the duchy, and gives Sidonia at last the long-desired praebenda—Item, of her arrival at the convent of Marienfliess.
FROM THE RECEPTION OF SIDONIA INTO THE CONVENT AT MARIENFLIESS UP TILL HER EXECUTION, AUGUST 19TH, 1620.
How the sub-prioress, Dorothea Stettin, visits Sidonia and extols her virtue—Item, of Sidonia's quarrel with the dairy-woman, and how she beats the sheriff himself, Eggert Sparling, with a broom-stick.
How Sidonia visits the abbess, Magdalena von Petersdorf, and explains her wishes, but is diverted to other objects by a sight of David Ludeck, the chaplain to the convent.
Sidonia tries another way to catch the priest, but fails through a mistake—Item, of her horrible spell, whereby she bewitched the whole princely race of Pomerania, so that, to the grievous sorrow of their fatherland, they remain barren even unto this day.
FROM THE RECEPTION OF SIDONIA AT THE DUCAL COURT OF WOLGAST UNTIL HER BANISHMENT THEREFROM.
SIDONIA THE SORCERESS
Of the education of Sidonia.
The illustrious and high-born prince and lord, Bogislaff, fourteenth Duke of Pomerania, Prince of Cassuben, Wenden, and Rugen, Count of Guezkow, Lord of the lands of Lauenburg and Butow, and my gracious feudal seigneur, having commanded me, Dr. Theodore Ploennies, formerly bailiff at the ducal court, to make search throughout all the land for information respecting the world-famed sorceress, Sidonia von Bork, and write down the same in a book, I set out for Stargard, accompanied by a servant, early one Friday after the Visitationis Mariae, 1629; for, in my opinion, in order to form a just judgment respecting the character of any one, it is necessary to make one's self acquainted with the circumstances of their early life; the future man lies enshrined in the child, and the peculiar development of each individual nature is the result entirely of education. Sidonia's history is a remarkable proof of this. I visited first, therefore, the scenes of her early years; but almost all who had known her were long since in their graves, seeing that ninety years had passed since the time of her birth. However, the old inn-keeper at Stargard, Zabel Wiese, himself very far advanced in years (whom I can recommend to all travellers—he lives in the Pelzerstrasse), told me that the old bachelor, Claude Uckermann of Dalow, an aged man of ninety-two years old, was the only person who could give me the information I desired, as in his youth he had been one of the many followers of Sidonia. His memory was certainly well nigh gone from age, still all that had happened in the early period of his life lay as fresh as the Lord's Prayer upon his tongue. Mine host also related some important circumstances to me myself, which shall appear in their proper place.
I accordingly proceeded to Dalow, a little town half a mile from Stargard, and visited Claude Uckermann. I found him seated by the chimney corner, his hair as white as snow. "What did I want? He was too old to receive strangers; I must go on to his son Wedig's house, and leave him in quiet," &c. &c. But when I said that I brought him a greeting from his Highness, his manner changed, and he pushed the seat over for me beside the fire, and began to chat first about the fine pine-trees, from which he cut his firewood—they were so full of resin; and how his son, a year before, had found an iron pot in the turf moor under a tree, full of bracelets and earrings, which his little grand-daughter now wore.
When he had tired himself out, I communicated what his Highness had so nobly commanded to be done, and prayed him to relate all he knew and could remember of this detestable sorceress, Sidonia von Bork. He sighed deeply, and then went on talking for about two hours, giving me all his recollections just as they started to his memory. I have arranged what he then related, in proper order. It was to the following effect:—
Whenever his father, Philip Uckermann, attended the fair at Stramehl, a town belonging to the Bork family, he was in the habit of visiting Otto von Bork at his castle, who, being very rich, gave free quarters to all the young noblemen of the vicinity, so that from thirty to forty of them were generally assembled at his castle while the fair lasted; but after some time his father discontinued these visits, his conscience not permitting him further intercourse. The reason was this. Otto von Bork, during his residence in Poland, had joined the sect of the enthusiasts, [Footnote: Probably the sect afterwards named Socinians; for we find that Laelius Socinus taught in Poland, even before Melancthon's death (1560).] and had lost his faith there, as a young maiden might her honour. He made no secret of his new opinions, but openly at Martinmas fair, 1560, told the young nobles at dinner that Christ was but a man like other people, and ignorance alone had elevated Him to a God; which notion had been encouraged by the greed and avarice of the clergy. They should therefore not credit what the hypocritical priests chattered to them every Sunday, but believe only what reason and their five senses told them was truth, and that, in fine, if he had his will, he would send every priest to the devil.
All the young nobles remained silent but Claude Zastrow, a feudal retainer of the Borks, who rose up (it was an evil moment to him) and made answer: "Most powerful feudal lord, were the holy apostles then filled with greed and covetousness, who were the first to proclaim that Christ was God, and who left all for His sake? Or the early Christians who, with one accord, sold their possessions, and gave the price to the poor?" Claude had before this displeased the knight, who now grew red with anger at the insolence of his vassal in thus answering him, and replied: "If they were not preachers for gain, they were at least stupid fellows." Hereupon a great murmur arose in the hall, but the aforesaid Zastrow is not silenced, and answered: "It is surprising, then, that the twelve stupid apostles performed more than twelve times twelve Greek or Roman philosophers. The knight might rage until he was black in the face, and strike the table. But he had better hold his tongue and use his understanding; though, after all, the intellect of a man who believed nothing but what he received through his five senses was not worth much; for the brute beasts were his equals, inasmuch as they received no evidence either but from the senses."
Then Otto sprang up raging, and asked him what he meant; to which the other answered: "Nothing more than to express his opinion that man differed from the brute, not through his understanding, but by his faith, for that animals had evidently understanding, but no trace of faith had ever yet been discovered in them." [Footnote: This axiom is certainly opposed to modern ontology, which denies all ideas to the brute creation, and explains each proof of their intellectual activity by the unintelligible word "instinct." The ancients held very different opinions, particularly the new Platonists, one of whom (Porphyry, liber ii. De abstinentia) treats largely of the intellect and language of animals. Since Cartesius, however, who denied not only understanding, but even feeling, to animals, and represented them as mere animated machines (De passionib. Pars i. Artic. iv. et de Methodo, No. 5, page 29, &c.), these views upon the psychology of animals produced the most mischievous results; for they were carried out until if not feeling, at least intellect, was denied to all animals more or less; and modern philosophy at length arrived at denying intelligence even to God, in whom and by whom, as formerly, man no longer attains to consciousness, but it is by man and through man that God arrives to a conscious intelligent existence. Some philosophers of our time, indeed, are condescending enough to ascribe Understanding to animals and Reason to man as the generic difference between the two. But I cannot comprehend these new-fashioned distinctions; for it seems to me absurd to split into the two portions of reason and understanding one and the same spiritual power, according as the object on which it acts is higher or lower; just as if we adopted two names for the same hand that digs up the earth and directs the telescope to heaven, or maintained that the latter was quite a different hand from the former. No. There is but one understanding for man and beasts, as but one common substance for their material forms. The more perfect the form, so much the more perfect is the intellect; and human and animal intellects are only dynamically different in human and animal bodies.
And even if, among animals of the more perfect form, understanding has been discovered, yet in man alone has been found the innate feeling of connection with the supernatural, or Faith. If this, as the generic sign of difference, be called Reason, I have nothing to object, except that the word generally conveys a different meaning. But Faith is, in fact, the pure Reason, and is found in all men, existing alike in the lowest superstitions as well as in the highest natures.]
Otto's rage now knew no bounds, and he drew his dagger, roaring, "What! thou insolent knave, dost thou dare to compare thy feudal lord to a brute?" And before the other had time to draw his poignard to defend himself, or the guests could in any way interfere to prevent him, Otto stabbed him to the heart as he sat there by the table. (It was a blessed death, I think, to die for his Lord Christ.) And so he fell down upon the floor with contorted features, and hands and feet quivering with agony. Every one was struck dumb with horror at such a death; but the knight laughed loudly, and cried, "Ha! thou base-born serf, I shall teach thee how to liken thy feudal lord to a brute," and striding over his quivering limbs, he spat upon his face.
Then the murmuring and whispering increased in the hall, and those nearest the door rushed out and sprang upon their horses; and finally all the guests, even old Uckermann, fled away, no one venturing to take up the quarrel with Otto Bork. After that, he fell into disrepute with the old nobility, for which he cared little, seeing that his riches and magnificence always secured him companions enough, who were willing to listen to his wisdom, and were consoled by his wine.
And when I, Dr. Theodore Ploennies, inquired from the old bachelor if his Serene Highness had not punished the noble for his shameful crime, he replied that his wealth and powerful influence protected him. At least it was whispered that justice had been blinded with gold; and the matter was probably related to the prince in quite a different manner from the truth; for I have heard that a few years after, his Highness even visited this godless knight at his castle in Stramehl.
As to Otto, no one observed any sign of repentance in him. On the contrary, he seemed to glory in his crime, and the neighbouring nobles related that he frequently brought in his little daughter Sidonia, whom he adored for her beauty, to the assembled guests, magnificently attired; and when she was bowing to the company, he would say, "Who art thou, my little daughter?" Then she would cease the salutations which she had learned from her mother, and drawing herself up, proudly exclaim, "I am a noble maiden, dowered with towns and castles!" Then he would ask, if the conversation turned upon his enemies—and half the nobles were so—"Sidonia, how does thy father treat his enemies?" Upon which the child would straighten her finger, and running at her father, strike it into his heart, saying, "Thus he treats them." At which Otto would laugh loudly, and tell her to show him how the knave looked when he was dying. Then Sidonia would fall down, twist her face, and writhe her little hands and feet in horrible contortions. Upon which Otto would lift her up, and kiss her upon the mouth. But it will be seen how the just God punished him for all this, and how the words of the Scriptures were fulfilled: "Err not, God is not mocked; for what a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
The parson of Stramehl, David Dilavius, related also to old Uckermann another fact, which, though it hardly seems credible, the bachelor reported thus to me:—
This Dilavius was a learned man whom Otto had selected as instructor to his young daughter; "but only teach her," he said, "to read and write, and the first article of the Ten Commandments. The other Christian doctrines I can teach her myself; besides, I do not wish the child to learn so many dogmas."
Dilavius, who was a worthy, matter-of-fact, good, simple character, did as he was ordered, and gave himself no further trouble until he came to ask the child to recite the first article of the creed out of the catechism for him. There was nothing wrong in that; but when he came to the second article, he crossed himself, not because it concerned the Lord Christ, but her own father, Otto von Bork, and ran somewhat thus:—
"And I believe in my earthly father, Otto von Bork, a distinguished son of God, born of Anna von Kleist, who sitteth in his castle at Stramehl, from whence he will come to help his children and friends, but to slay his enemies and tread them in the dust."
The third article was much in the same style, but he had partly forgotten it, neither could he remember if Dilavius had called the father to any account for his profanity, or taught the daughter some better Christian doctrine. In fine, this was all the old bachelor could tell me of Sidonia's education. Yes—he remembered one anecdote more. Her father had asked her one day, when she was about ten or twelve years old, "What kind of a husband she would like?" and she replied, "One of equal birth." Ille: [Footnote: In dialogue the author makes use of the Latin pronouns, Ille, he; Illa, she, to denote the different characters taking part in it; and sometimes Hic and Haec, for the same purposes. Summa he employs in the sense of "to sum up," or "in short."] "Who is her equal in the whole of Pomerania?" Illa: "Only the Duke of Pomerania, or the Count von Ebersburg." Ille: "Right! therefore she must never marry any other but one of these."
It happened soon after, old Philip Uckermann, his father, riding one day through the fields near Stramehl, saw a country girl seated by the roadside, weeping bitterly. "Why do you weep?" he asked. "Has any one injured you?" "Sidonia has injured me," she replied. "What could she have done? Come dry your tears, and tell me." Whereupon the little girl related that Sidonia, who was then about fourteen, had besought her to tell her what marriage was, because her father was always talking to her about it. The girl had told her to the best of her ability; but the young lady beat her, and said it was not so, that long Dorothy had told her quite differently about marriage, and there she went on tormenting her for several days; but upon this evening Sidonia, with long Dorothy, and some of the milkmaids of the neighbourhood, had taken away one of the fine geese which the peasants had given her in payment of her labour. They picked it alive, all except the head and neck, then built up a large fire in a circle, and put the goose and a vessel of water in the centre. So the fat dripped down from the poor creature alive, and was fried in a pan as it fell, just as the girls eat it on their bread for supper. And the goose, having no means of escape, still went on drinking the water as the fat dripped down, whilst they kept cooling its head and heart with a sponge dipped in cold water, fastened to a stick, until at last the goose fell down when quite roasted, though it still screamed, and then Sidonia and her companions cut it up for their amusement, living as it was, and ate it for their supper, in proof of which, the girl showed him the bones and the remains of the fire, and the drops of fat still lying on the grass.
Then she wept afresh, for Sidonia had promised to take away a goose every day, and destroy it as she had done the first. So my father consoled her by giving her a piece of gold, and said, "If she does so again, run by night and cloud, and come to Dalow by Stargard, where I will make thee keeper of my geese." But she never came to him, and he never heard more of the maiden and her geese.
So far old Uckermann related to me the first evening, promising to tell me of many more strange doings upon the following morning, which he would try to think over during the night.
Of the bear-hunt at Stramehl, and the strange things that befell there.
The following morning, by seven o'clock, the old man summoned me to him, and on entering I found him seated at breakfast by the fire. He invited me to join him, and pushed a seat over for me with his crutch, for walking was now difficult to him. He was very friendly, and the eyes of the old man burned as clear as those of a white dove. He had slept little during the night, for Sidonia's form kept floating before his eyes, just as she had looked in the days when he paid court to her. Alas! he had once loved her deeply, like all the other young nobles who approached her, from the time she was of an age to marry. In her youth she had been beautiful; and old and young declared that for figure, eyes, bosom, walk, and enchanting smile, there never had been seen her equal in all Pomerania.
"Nothing shall be concealed from you," he said, "of all that concerns my foolish infatuation, that you and your children may learn how the all-wise God deals best with His servants when He uses the rod and denies that for which they clamour as silly children for a glittering knife." Here he folded his withered hands, murmured a short prayer, and proceeded with his story.
"You must know that I was once a proud and stately youth, upon whom a maiden's glance in no wise rested indifferently, trained in all knightly exercise, and only two years older than Sidonia. It happened in the September of 1566, that I was invited by Caspar Roden to see his eel-nets, as my father intended laying down some also at Krampehl [Footnote: A little river near Dalow] and along the coast. When we returned home weary enough in the evening, a letter arrived from Otto von Bork, inviting him the following day to a bear-hunt; as he intended, in honour of the nuptials of his eldest daughter Clara, to lay bears' heads and bears' paws before his guests, which even in Pomerania would have been a rarity, and desiring him to bring as many good huntsmen with him as he pleased. So I accompanied Caspar Roden, who told me on the way that Count Otto had at first looked very high for his daughter Clara, and scorned many a good suitor, but that she was now getting rather old, and ready, like a ripe burr, to hang on the first that came by. Her bridegroom was Vidante von Meseritz, a feudal vassal of her father's, upon whom, ten years before, she would not have looked at from a window. Not that she was as proud as her young sister Sidonia. However, their mother was to blame for much of this; but she was dead now, poor lady, let her rest in peace.
So in good time we reached the castle of Stramehl, where thirty huntsmen were already assembled, all noblemen, and we joined them in the grand state hall, where the morning meal was laid out. Count Otto sat at the head of the table, like a prince of Pomerania, upon a throne whereon his family arms were both carved and embroidered. He wore a doublet of elk-skin, and a cap with a heron's plume upon his head. He did not rise as we entered, but called to us to be seated and join the feast, as the party must move off soon. Costly wines were sent round; and I observed that on each of the glasses the family arms were cut. They were also painted upon the window of the great hall, and along the walls, under the horns of all the different wild animals killed by Otto in the chase—bucks, deers, harts, roes, stags, and elks—which were arranged in fantastical groups.
After a little while his two daughters, Clara and Sidonia, entered. They wore green hunting-dresses, trimmed with beaver-skin, and each had a gold net thrown over her hair. They bowed, and bid the knights welcome. But we all remained breathless gazing upon Sidonia, as she lifted her beautiful eyes first on one, and then on another, inviting us to eat and drink; and she even filled a small wine-glass herself, and prayed us to pledge her. As for me, unfortunate youth, from the moment I beheld her I breathed no more through my lungs, but through my eyes alone, and, springing up, gave her health publicly. A storm of loud, animated, passionate voices soon responded to my words with loud vivas. The guests then rose, for the ladies were impatient for the hunt, and found the time hang heavily.
So we set off with all our implements and our dogs, and a hundred beaters went before us. It happened that my host, Caspar Roden, and I found an excellent sheltered position for a shot near a quarry, and we had not long been there (the beaters had not even yet begun their work) when I spied a large bear coming down to drink at a small stream not twenty paces from me. I fired; but she retired quickly behind an oak, and, growling fiercely, disappeared amongst the bushes. Not long after, I heard the cries of women almost close to us; and running as fast as possible in the direction from whence they came, I perceived an old bear trying to climb up to the platform where Clara and Sidonia stood. There was a ruined chapel here—which, in the time of papacy, had contained a holy image—and a scaffolding had been erected round it, adorned with wreaths of evergreen and flowers, from which the ladies could obtain an excellent view of the hunt, as it commanded a prospect of almost the entire wood, and even part of the sea. Attached to this scaffolding was a ladder, up which Bruin was anxiously trying to ascend, in order to visit the young ladies, who were now assailed by two dangers—the bear from below, and a swarm of bees above, for myriads of these insects were tormenting them, trying to settle upon their golden hair-nets; and the young ladies, screaming as if the last day had come, were vainly trying to beat them off with their girdles, or trample them under their feet. A huntsman who stood near fired, indeed, at Bruin, but without effect, and the bees assailing his hands and face at the same time, he took to flight and hid himself, groaning, in the quarry.
In the meantime I had reached the chapel, and Sidonia stretched forth her beautiful little hands, crying, along with her sister, "Help! help! He will eat us. Will you not kill him?" But the bear, as if already aware of my intention, began now to descend the ladder. However, I stepped before him, and as he descended, I ascended. Luckily for me, the interval between each step was very small, to accommodate the ladies' little feet, so that when Bruin tried to thrust his snout between them to get at me, he found it rather difficult work to make it pass. I had my dagger ready; and though the bees which he brought with him in his fur flew on my hands, I heeded them not, but watching my opportunity, plunged it deep into his side, so that he tumbled right down off the ladder; and though he raised himself up once and growled horribly, yet in a few seconds he lay dead before our eyes. How the ladies now tripped down the ladder, not two or three, but four or five steps at a time! and what thanks poured forth from their lips! I rushed first to Sidonia, who laid her little head upon my breast, while I endeavoured to remove the bees which had got entangled in her hair-net. The other lady went to call the huntsman, who was hiding in the quarry, and we were left alone. Heavens! how my heart burned, more than my inflamed hands all stung by the bees, as she asked, how could she repay my service. I prayed her for one kiss, which she granted. She had escaped with but one sting from the bees, who could not manage to get through her long, thick, beautiful hair, and she advanced joyfully to meet her father and the hunting-train, who had heard the cries of the ladies. When Count Otto heard what had happened, and saw the dead bear, he thanked me heartily, praying me to attend his daughter Clara's wedding, which was to be celebrated next week at the castle, and to remain as his guest until then. There was nothing in the world I could have desired beyond this, and I gratefully accepted his offer. Alas! I suffered for it after, as the cat from poisoned dainties.
But to return to our hunt. No other bear was killed that day, but plenty of other game, as harts, stags, roes, boars—more than enough. And now we discovered what an old hunter had conjectured, that the dead bear was the father, who had been alarmed by the growls of his partner, at whom I had fired whilst he was endeavouring to carry off the honey from a nest of wild bees in a neighbouring tree. For looking around us, we saw, at the distance of about twenty paces, a tall oak-tree, about which clouds of bees were still flying, in which he had been following his occupation. No one dared to approach it, to bring away the honeycombs which still lay beneath, by reason of the bees, and, moreover, swarms of ants, by which they were covered. At length Otto Bork ordered the huntsman to sound the return; and after supper I obtained another little kiss from Sidonia, which burned so like fire through my veins that I could not sleep the whole night. I resolved to ask her hand in marriage from her father.
Stupid youth as I was, I then believed that she looked upon me with equal love; and although I knew all about the mode in which she had been brought up, and many other things beside, which have now slipped from my memory, yet I looked on them but as idle stories, and was fully persuaded that Sidonia was sister to the angels in beauty, goodness, and perfection. In a few days, however, I had reason to change my opinion.
Next day the two young ladies were in the kitchen, overseeing the cooking of the bear's head, and, as I passed by and looked in, they began to titter, which I took for a good omen, and asked, might I not be allowed to enter. They said, "Yes, I might come in, and help them to cleave the head." So I entered, and they both began to give me instructions, with much laughter and merry jesting. First, the bear's head had to be burned with hot irons; and when I said to Sidonia that thus she burned my heart, she nearly died of laughter. Then I cut some flesh off the mouth, broke the nose, and handed it all over to the maidens, who set it on the fire with water, wine, and vinegar. As I now played the part of kitchen-boy, they sent me to the castle garden for thyme, sage, and rosemary, which I brought, and begged them for a taste of the head; but they said it was not fit to eat yet—must be cooled in brine first; so in place of it I asked one little kiss from each of the maidens, which Sidonia granted, but her sister refused. However, I was not in the least displeased at her refusal, seeing it was only the little sister I cared for.
But judge of my rage and jealousy, that same day a cousin arrived at the castle, and I observed that Sidonia allowed him to kiss her every moment. She never even appeared to offer any resistance, but looked over at me languishingly every time to see what I would say. What could I say? I became pale with jealousy, but said nothing. At last I rushed from the hall, mute with despair, when I observed him finally draw her on his knee. I only heard the peal of laughter that followed my exit, and I was just near leaving the whole wedding-feast, and Stramehl for ever, when Sidonia called after me from the castle gates to return. This so melted my heart, that the tears came into my eyes, thinking that now indeed I had a proof of her love. Then she took my hand, and said, "I ought not to be so unkind. That was her manner with all the young nobles. Why should she refuse a kiss when she was asked? Her little mouth would grow neither larger nor smaller for it." But I stood still and wept, and looked on the ground. "Why should I weep?" she asked. Her cousin Clas had a bride of his own already, and only took a little pastime with her, and so she must cure me now with another little kiss.
I was now again a happy man, thinking she loved me; and the heavens seemed so propitious, that I determined to ask her hand. But I had not sufficient courage as yet, and resolved to wait until after her sister's marriage, which was to take place next day. What preparations were made for this event it would be impossible adequately to describe. All the country round the castle seemed like a royal camp. Six hundred horses were led into the stables next day to be fed, for the Duke himself arrived with a princely retinue. Then came all the feudal vassals to offer homage for their fiefs to Lord Otto. But as the description is well worth hearing, I shall defer it for another chapter.
How Otto von Bork received the homage of his son-in-law, Vidante von Meseritz—And how the bride and bridegroom proceeded afterwards to the chapel—Item, what strange things happened at the wedding-feast.
Next morning the stir began in the castle before break of day, and by ten o'clock all the nobles, with their wives and daughters, had assembled in the great hall. Then the bride entered, wearing her myrtle wreath, and Sidonia followed, glittering with diamonds and other costly jewels. She wore a robe of crimson silk with a cape of ermine, falling from her shoulders, and looked so beautiful that I could have died for love, as she passed and greeted me with her graceful laugh. But Otto Bork, the lord of the castle, was sore displeased because his Serene Highness the Prince was late coming, and the company had been waiting an hour for his presence. A platform had been erected at the upper end of the hall covered with bearskin; on this was placed a throne, beneath a canopy of yellow velvet, and here Otto was seated dressed in a crimson doublet, and wearing a hat half red and half black, from which depended plumes of red and black feathers that hung down nearly to his beard, which was as venerable as a Jew's. Every instant he despatched messengers to the tower to see if the prince were at hand, and as the time hung heavy, he began to discourse his guests. "See how this turner's apprentice [Footnote: So this prince was called from his love of turning and carving dolls.] must have stopped on the road to carve a puppet. God keep us from such dukes!" For the prince passed all his leisure hours in turning and carving, particularly while travelling, and when the carriage came to bad ground, where the horses had to move slowly, he was delighted, and went on merrily with his work; but when the horses galloped, he grew ill-tempered and threw down his tools.
At length the warder announced from the tower that the duke's six carriages were in sight, and the knight spoke from his throne: "I shall remain here, as befits me, but Clara and Sidonia, go ye forth and receive his Highness; and when he has entered, the kinsman [Footnote: This was the feudal term for the next relation of a deceased vassal, upon whom it devolved to do homage for the lands to the feudal lord.] in full armour shall ride into the hall upon his war-horse, bearing the banner of his house in his hand, and all my retainers shall follow on horses, each bearing his banner also, and shall range themselves by the great window of the hall; and let the windows be open, that the wind may play through the banners and make the spectacle yet grander."
Then all rushed out to meet the Duke, and I, too, went, for truly the courtyard presented a gorgeous sight—all decorated as it was, and the pride and magnificence of Lord Otto were here fully displayed; for from the upper storey of the castle floated the banner of the Emperor, and just beneath it that of Lord Otto (two crowned wolves with golden collars on a field or for the shield), and the crest, a crowned red-deer springing. Beneath this banner, but much inferior to it in size and execution, waved that of the Dukes of Pomerania; and lowest of all, hung the banner of Otto's feudal vassals—but they themselves were not visible. Neither did the kinsman appear to receive and greet his Highness. Otto knew well, it seems, that he could defy the Duke (however, I think if my gracious Lord of Wolgast had been there, he would not have suffered such insults, but would have taken Otto's banner and flung it in the mud). [Footnote: Marginal note of Duke Bogislaff, "And so would I."] Be this as it may, Duke Barnim never appeared to notice anything except Otto's two daughters. He was a little man with a long grey beard, and as he stepped slowly out of the carriage held a little puppet by the arm, which he had been carving to represent Adam. It was intended for a present to the convent at Kobatz. His superintendens generalis, Fabianus Timaeus (a dignified-looking personage), accompanied him in the carriage, for his Highness was going on the same day to attend the diet at Treptow, and only meant to pay a passing visit here. But Lord Otto concealed this fact, as it hurt his pride. The other carriages contained the equerries and pages of his Highness, and then followed the heavy waggons with the cooks, valets, and stewards.
When the Prince entered the state hall, Lord Otto rose from his throne and said: "Your Highness is welcome, and I trust will pardon me for not having gone forth with my greetings; but those of a couple of young damsels were probably more agreeable than the compliments of an old knight like myself, who besides, as your Grace perceives, is engaged here in the exercise of his duty. And now, I pray your Highness to take this seat at my right hand." Whereupon he pointed to a plain chair, not in the least raised from the ground, and altogether as common a seat as there was to be found in the hall; but his Highness sat down quietly (at which every one wondered in silence) and took the little puppet in his lap, only exclaiming in low German, "What the devil, Otto! you make more of yourself, man, than I do;" to which the knight replied, "Not more than is necessary."
"And now," continued the old man, "the ceremony of offering homage commenced, which is as fresh in my memory as if all had happened but yesterday, and so I shall describe it that you may know what were the usages of our fathers, for the customs of chivalry are, alas! fast passing away from amongst us.
When Otto Bork gave the sign with his hand, six trumpets sounded without, whereupon the doors of the hall were thrown wide open as far as they could go, and the kinsman Vidante von Meseritz entered on a black charger, and dressed in complete armour, but without his sword. He carried the banner of his house (a pale gules with two foxes running), and riding straight up to Lord Otto, lowered it before him. Otto then demanded, "Who art thou, and what is thy request?" to which he answered, "Mighty feudal Lord, I am kinsman of Dinnies von Meseritz, and pray you for the fief." "And who are these on horseback who follow thee?" "They are the feudal vassals of my Lord, even as my father was." And Otto said, "Ride up, my men, and do as your fathers have done." Then Frederick Ubeske rode up, lowered his banner (charged with a sun and peacock's tail) before the knight, then passed on up to the great windows of the hall, where he took his place and drew his sword, while the wind played through the folds of his standard.
Next came Walter von Locksted—lowered his banner (bearing a springing unicorn), rode up to the window, and drew his sword. After him, Claud Drosedow, waving his black eagle upon a white and red shield, rode up to the window and drew his sword; then Jacob Pretz, on his white charger, bearing two spears transverse through a fallen tree on his flag; and Dieterich Mallin, whose banner fell in folds over his hand, so that the device was not visible; and Lorenz Prechel, carrying a leopard gules upon a silver shield; and Jacob Knut, with a golden becker upon an azure field, and three plumes on the crest; and Tesmar von Kettler, whose spurs caught in the robe of a young maiden as he passed, and merry laughter resounded through the hall, many saying it was a good omen, which, indeed, was the truth, for that evening they were betrothed; and finally came Johann Zastrow, bearing two buffaloes' horns on his banner, and a green five-leaved bush, rode up to the window after the others, and drew his sword.
There stood the nine, like the muses at the nuptials of Peleus, [Footnote: The nine muses were present at the marriage of Peleus and Thetis.—See Pindar, pyth.. 3, 160] and the wind played through their banners. Then Lord Otto spoke—
"True, these are my leal vassals. And now, kinsman of Meseritz, dismount and pay homage, as did thy father, ere thou canst ride up and join them." So the young man dismounted, threw the reins of his horse to a squire, and ascended the platform. Then Otto, holding up a sword, spoke again—
"Behold, kinsman, this is the sword of thy father; touch it with me, and pronounce the feudal oath." Here all the vassals rode up from the window, and held their swords crosswise over the kinsman's head, while he spake thus—
"I, Vidante von Meseritz, declare, vow, and swear to the most powerful, noble, and brave Otto von Bork, lord of the lands and castles of Labes, Pansin, Stramehl, Regenwalde, and others, and my most powerful feudal lord, and to his lawful heirs, a right loyal fealty, to serve him with all duty and obedience, to warn him of all evil, and defend him from all injury, to the best of my ability and power."
Then he kissed the knight's hand, who girded his father's sword on him, and said—
"Thus I acknowledge thee for my vassal, as my father did thy father."
Then turning to his attendants he cried, "Bring hither the camp furniture." Hereupon the circle of spectators parted in two, and the pages led up, first, Vidante's horse, upon which he sprung; then others followed, bearing rich garments and his father's signet, and laid them down before him, saying, "Kinsman, the garments and the seal of thy father." A third and a fourth bore a large couch with a white coverlet, set it down before him, and said, "Kinsman, a couch for thee and thy wife." Then came a great crowd, bearing plates and dishes, and napkins, and table-covers, besides eleven tin cans, a fish-kettle, and a pair of iron pot-hooks; in short, a complete camp furniture; all of which they set down before the young man, and then disappeared.
During this entire time no one noticed his Highness the Duke, though he was indeed the feudal head of all. Even when the trumpets sounded again, and the vassals passed out in procession, they lowered their standards only before Otto, as if no princely personage were present. But I think this proud Lord Otto must have commanded them so to do, for such an omission or breach of respect was never before seen in Pomerania. Even his Highness seemed, at last, to feel displeasure, for he drew forth his knife, and began to cut away at the little wooden Adam, without taking further notice of the ceremony.
At length when the vassals had departed, and many of the guests also, who wished to follow them, had left the hall, the Duke looked up with his little glittering eyes, scratched the back of his head with the knife, and asked his Chancellor, Jacob Kleist, who had evidently been long raging with anger, "Jacob, what dost thou think of this spectaculo?" who replied, "Gracious lord, I esteem it a silly thing for an inferior to play the part of a prince, or for a prince to be compelled to play the part of an inferior." Such a speech offended Otto mightily, who drew himself up and retorted scornfully, "Particularly a poor inferior who, as you see, is obliged to draw the plough by turns with his serfs." Hereupon the Chancellor would have flung back the scorn, but his Highness motioned with the hand that he should keep silence, saying, "Remember, good Jacob, that we are here as guests; however, order the carriages, for I think it is time that we proceed on our journey."
When Otto heard this, he was confounded, and, descending from his throne, uttered so many flattering things, that his Highness at length was prevailed upon to remain (I would not have consented, to save my soul, had I been the Prince—no, not even if I had to pass the night with the bears and wolves in the forest before I could reach Treptow); so the good old Prince followed him into another hall, where breakfast was prepared, and all the lords and ladies stood there in glittering groups round the table, particularly admiring the bear's head, which seemed to please his Highness mightily also. Then each one drained a large goblet of wine, and even the ladies sipped from their little wine-glasses, to drink themselves into good spirits for the dance.
Otto now related all about the hunt, and presented me to his Grace, who gave me his hand to kiss, saying, "Well done, young man—I like this bravery. Were it not for you, in place of a wedding, and a bear's head in the dish, Lord Otto might have had a funeral and two human heads in a coffin." His Grace then pledged me in a silver becker of wine; and afterwards the bride and bridegroom, who had sat till then kissing and making love in a corner; but they now came forward and kissed the hand of the Duke with much respect. The bridegroom had on a crimson doublet, which became him well; but his father's jack-boots, which he wore according to custom, were much too wide, and shook about his legs. The bride was arrayed in a scarlet velvet robe, and bodice furred with ermine. Sidonia carried a little balsam flask, depending from a gold chain which she wore round her neck. (She soon needed the balsam, for that day she suffered a foretaste of the fate which was to be the punishment for her after evil deeds.) And now, as we set forward to the church, a group of noble maidens distributed wreaths to the guests; but the bride presented one to the Duke, and Sidonia (that her hand might have been withered) handed one to me, poor love-stricken youth.
It was the custom then, as now, in Pomerania, for all the bride-maidens, crowned with beautiful wreaths, to precede the bride and bridegroom to church. The crowd of lords, and ladies, and young knights pouring out of the castle gates, in order to see them, separated Sidonia from this group, and she was left alone weeping. Now the whole population of the little town were running from every street leading to the church; and it happened that a courser [Footnote: A man who courses greyhounds.] of Otto Bork's came right against Sidonia with such violence, that, with a blow of his head, he knocked her down into the puddle (she was to lie there really in after-life). Her little balsam-flask was of no use here. She had to go back, dripping, to the castle, and appeared no more at her sister's nuptials, but consoled herself, however, by listening to the bellowing of the huntsman, whom they were beating black and blue by her orders beneath her window.
I would willingly have returned with her, but was ashamed so to do, and therefore followed the others to church. All the common people that crowded the streets were allowed to enter. Then the bridegroom and his party, of whom the Duke was chief, advanced up to the right of the altar, and the bride and her party, of which Fabianus Timaeus was the most distinguished, arrayed themselves on the left.
I had now an opportunity of hearing the learned and excellent parson Dilavius myself; for he represented his patron (who was not present at the feast, but apologised for his absence by alleging that he must remain at the castle to look after the preparations) almost as an angel, and the young ladies, especially the bride, came in for even a larger share of his flattery; but he was so modest before these illustrious personages, that I observed, whenever he looked up from the book, he had one eye upon the Duke and another on Fabianus.
When we returned to the castle, Sidonia met the bridemaidens again with joyous smiles. She now wore a white silk robe, laced with gold, and dancing-slippers with white silk hose. The diamonds still remained on her head, neck, and arms. She looked beautiful thus; and I could not withdraw my eyes from her. We all now entered the bridechamber, as the custom is, and there stood an immense bridal couch, with coverlet and draperies as white as snow; and all the bridemaids and the guests threw their wreaths upon it. Then the Prince, taking the bridegroom by the hand, led him up to it, and repeated an old German rhyme concerning the duties of the holy state upon which he had entered.
When his Highness ceased, Fabianus took the bride by the hand, who blushed as red as a rose, and led her up in the same manner to the nuptial couch, where he uttered a long admonition on her duties to her husband, at which all wept, but particularly the bride-maidens. After this we proceeded to the state hall, where Otto was seated on his throne waiting to receive them, and when his children had kissed his hand the dancing commenced. Otto invited the Prince to sit near him, and all the young knights and maidens who intended to dance ranged themselves on costly carpets that were laid upon the floor all round by the walls. The trumpets and violins now struck up, and a band was stationed at each end of the hall, so that while the dancers were at the top one played, and when at the lower end the other.
I hastened to Sidonia, as she reclined upon the carpet, and bending low before her, said, "Beautiful maiden! will you not dance?" [Footnote: It will interest my fair readers to know that this was, word for word, the established form employed in those days for an invitation to dance.] Upon which she smilingly gave me her little hand, and I raised her up, and led her away.
I have said that I was a proficient in all knightly exercises, so that every one approached to see us dance. When Sidonia was tired I led her back, and threw myself beside her on the carpet. But in a little while three other young nobles came and seated themselves around her, and began to jest, and toy, and pay court to her. One played with her left hand and her rings, another with the gold net of her hair, while I held her right hand and pressed it. She coquettishly repelled them all—sometimes with her feet, sometimes with her hands. And when Hans von Damitz extolled her hair, she gave him such a blow on the nose with her head that it began to bleed, and he was obliged to withdraw. Still one could see that all these blows, right and left, were not meant in earnest. This continued for some time until an Italian dance began, which she declined to join, and as I was left alone with her upon the carpet, "Now," thought I, "there can be no better time to decide my fate;" for she had pressed my hand frequently, both in the dance and since I had lain reclining beside her.
"Beautiful Sidonia!" I said, "you know not how you have wounded my heart. I can neither eat nor sleep since I beheld you, and those five little kisses which you gave me burn through my frame like arrows."
To which she answered, laughing, "It was your pastime, youth. It was your own wish to take those little kisses."
"Ah, yes!" I said, "it was my will; but give me more now and make me well."
"What!" she exclaimed, "you desire more kisses? Then will your pain become greater, if, as you say, with every kiss an arrow enters your heart, so at last they would cause your death."
"Ah, yes!" I answered, "unless you take pity on me, and promise to become my wife, they will indeed cause my death." As I said this, she sprang up, tore her hand away from me, and cried with mocking laughter, "What does the knave mean? Ha! ha! the poor, miserable varlet!"
I remained some moments stupefied with rage, then sprung to my feet without another word, left the hall, took my steed from the stable, and turned my back on the castle for ever. You may imagine how her ingratitude added to the bitterness of my feelings, when I considered that it was to me she owed her life. She afterwards offered herself to me for a wife, but she was then dishonoured, and I spat out at her in disgust. I never beheld her again till she was carried past my door to the scaffold.
All this the old man related with many sighs; but his after-meeting with her shall be related more in extenso in its proper place. I shall now set down what further he communicated about the wedding-feast.
You may imagine, he said, that I was curious to know all that happened after I left the castle, and my friend, Bogislaff von Suckow of Pegelow, told me as follows.
After my departure, the young lords grew still more free and daring in their manner to Sidonia, so that when not dancing she had sufficient exercise in keeping them off with her hands and feet, until my friend Bogislaff attracted her whole attention by telling her that he had just returned from Wolgast, where the ducal widow was much comforted by the presence of her son, Prince Ernest Ludovick, whom she had not seen since he went to the university. He was the handsomest youth in all Pomerania, and played the lute so divinely that at court he was compared to the god Apollo.
Sidonia upon this fell into deep thought. In the meanwhile, it was evident that his Highness old Duke Barnim was greatly struck by her beauty, and wished to get near her upon the carpet; for his Grace was well known to be a great follower of the sex, and many stories are whispered about a harem of young girls he kept at St. Mary's—but these things are allowable in persons of his rank.
However, Fabianus Timaeus, who sat by him, wished to prevent him approaching Sidonia, and made signs, and nudged him with his elbow; and finally they put their heads together and had a long argument.
At last the Prince started up, and stepping to Otto, asked him, Would he not dance? "Yes," he replied, "if your Grace will dance likewise." "Good," said the Prince, "that can be soon arranged," and therewith he solicited Sidonia's hand. At this Fabianus was so scandalised that he left the hall, and appeared no more until supper. After the dance, his Highness advanced to Otto, who was reseated on his throne, and said, "Why, Otto, you have a beautiful daughter in Sidonia. She must come to my court, and when she appears amongst the other ladies, I swear she will make a better fortune than by staying shut up here in your old castle."
On which Otto replied, sarcastically smiling, "Ay, my gracious Prince, she would be a dainty morsel for your Highness, no doubt; but there is no lack of noble visitors at my castle, I am proud to say." Jacob Kleist, the Chancellor, was now so humbled at the Duke's behaviour that he, too, left the hall and followed Fabianus. Even the Duke changed colour; but before he had time to speak, Sidonia sprang forward, and having heard the whole conversation, entreated her father to accept the Duke's offer, and allow her either to visit the court at Wolgast or at Old Stettin. What was she to do here? When the wedding-feast was over, no one would come to the castle but huntsmen and such like.
So Otto at last consented that she might visit Wolgast, but on no account the court at Stettin.
Then the young Sidonia began to coax and caress the old Duke, stroking his long beard, which reached to his girdle, with her little white hands, and prayed that he would place her with the princely Lady of Wolgast, for she longed to go there. People said that it was such a beautiful place, and the sea was not far off, which she had never been at in all her life. And so the Duke was pleased with her caresses, and promised that he would request his dear cousin, the ducal widow of Wolgast, to receive her as one of her maids of honour. Sidonia then further entreated that there might be no delay, and he answered that he would send a note to his cousin from the Diet at Treptow, by the Grand Chamberlain of Wolgast, Ulrich von Schwerin, and that she would not have to wait long. But she must go by Old Stettin, and stop at his palace for a while, and then he would bring her on himself to Wolgast, if he had time to spare.
While Sidonia clapped her hands and danced about for joy, Otto looked grave, and said, "But, gracious Lord, the nearest way to Wolgast is by Cammin. Sidonia must make a circuit if she goes by Old Stettin."
The conversation was now interrupted by the lacqueys, who came to announce that dinner was served.
Otto requested the Duke to take a place beside him at table, and treated him with somewhat more distinction than he had done in the morning; but a hot dispute soon arose, and this was the cause. As Otto drank deep in the wine-cup, he grew more reckless and daring, and began to display his heretical doctrines as openly as he had hitherto exhibited his pomp and magnificence, so that every one might learn that pride and ungodliness are twin brothers. May God keep us from both!
And one of the guests having said, in confirmation of some fact, "The Lord Jesus knows I speak the truth!" the godless knight laughed scornfully, exclaiming, "The Lord Jesus knows as little about the matter as my old grandfather, lying there in his vault, of our wedding-feast to-day."
There was a dead silence instantly, and the Prince, who had just lifted up some of the bear's paw to his lips, with mustard sauce and pastry all round it, dropped it again upon his plate, and opened his eyes as wide as they could go; then, hastily wiping his mouth with the salvet, exclaimed in low German, "What the devil, Otto! art thou a freethinker?" who replied, "A true nobleman may, in all things, be a freethinker, and neither do all that a prince commands nor believe all that a pope teaches." To which the Duke answered, "What concerns me I pardon, for I do not believe that you will ever forget your duty to your Prince. The times are gone by when a noble would openly offer violence to his sovereign; but for what concerns the honour of our Lord Christ, I must leave you in the hands of Fabianus to receive proper chastisement."
Now Fabianus, seeing that all eyes were fixed on him, grew red and cleared his throat, and set himself in a position to argue the point with Lord Otto, beginning—"So you believe that Christ the Lord remained in the grave, and is not living and reigning for all eternity?"
Ille.—"Yes; that is my opinion."
Hic.—"What do you believe, then? or do you believe in anything?"
Ille.—"Yes; I believe firmly in an all-powerful and omniscient God."
Hic.—"How do you know He exists?"
Ille.—"Because my reason tells me so."
Hic.—"Your reason does not tell you so, good sir. It merely tells you that something supermundane exists, but cannot tell you whether it be one God or two Gods, or a hundred Gods, or of what nature are these Gods—whether spirits, or stars, or trees, or animals, or, in fine, any object you can name, for paganism has imagined a Deity in everything, which proves what I assert. You only believe in one God, because you sucked in the doctrine with your mother's milk." [Footnote: The history of all philosophy shows that this is psychologically true. Even Lucian satirises the philosophers of his age who see God or Gods in numbers, dogs, geese, trees, and other things. But monotheistic Christianity has preserved us for nearly 2000 years from these aberrations of philosophy. However, as the authority of Christianity declined, the pagan tendency again became visible; until at length, in the Hegelian school, we have fallen back helplessly into the same pantheism which we left 2000 years ago. In short, what Kant asserts is perfectly true: that the existence of God cannot be proved from reason. For the highest objects of all cognition—God, Freedom, and Immortality—can as little be evolved from the new philosophy as beauty from the disgusting process of decomposition. And yet more impossible is it to imagine that this feeble Hegelian pantheism should ever become the crown and summit of all human thought, and final resting-place for all human minds. Reason, whether from an indwelling instinct, or from an innate causality-law, may assert that something supermundane exists, but can know nothing more and nothing further. So we see the absurdity of chattering in our journals and periodicals of the progress of reason. The advance has been only formal, not essential. The formal advance has been in printing, railroads, and such like, in which direction we may easily suppose progression will yet further continue. But there has been no essential advance whatever. We know as little now of our own being, of the being of God, or even of that of the smallest infusoria, as in the days of Thales and Anaximander. In short, when life begins, begins also our feebleness; "Therefore," says Paul, "we walk by faith, not by sight." Yet these would-be philosophers of our day will only walk by sight, not by faith, although they cannot see into anything—not even into themselves.]
Ille.—"How did it happen, then, that Abraham arrived at the knowledge of the one God, and called on the name of the Lord?"
Hic.—"Do you compare yourself with Abraham? Have you ever studied Hebrew?"
Ille.—"A little. In my youth I read through the book of Genesis."
Hic.—"Good! then you know that the Hebrew word for name is Shem?"
Ille.-"Yes; I know that."
Hic.—"Then you know that from the time of Enos the name [Footnote: In order to understand the argument, the reader must remember that the name here is taken in the sense of the Greek logos, and is considered as referring especially to Christ.] was preached (Genesis iv. 26), showing that the pure doctrine was known from the beginning. This doctrine was darkened and obscured by wise people like you, so that it was almost lost at the time of Abraham, who again preached the name of the Lord to unbelievers."
Ille.—"What did this primitive doctrine contain?"
Hic.—"Undoubtedly not only a testimony of the one living God of heaven and earth, but also clearly of Christ the Messiah, as He who was promised to our fallen parents in paradise (Genesis iii. 15)."
Ille.—"Can you prove that Abraham had the witness of Christ?"
Hic.—"Yes; from Christ's own words (John viii. 56):—'Abraham, your father, rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.' Item: Moses and all the Prophets have witnessed of Him, of whom you say that He lies dead in the grave."
Ille.—"Oh, that is just what the priests say."
Hic.—"And Christ Himself, Luke xxvi. 25 and 27. Do you not see, young man, that you mock the Prince of Life, whom God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began—Titus i. 2—ay, even more than you mocked your temporal Prince this day? Poor sinner, what does it help you to believe in one God?"
"Even the devils believe and tremble," added Jacob Kleist the Chancellor. "No, there is no other name given under heaven by which you can be saved; and will you be more wise than Abraham, and the Prophets, and the Apostles, and all holy Christian Churches up to this day? Shame on you, and remember what St. Paul says: 'Thinking themselves wise, they became fools.' And in 1st Cor. xv. 17: 'If Christ be not risen, than is your faith vain, and our preaching also vain. Ye are yet in your sins, and they who sleep in Christ are lost.'" [Footnote: This proof of Christ's divinity from the Old Testament was considered of the highest importance in the time of the Apostles; but Schleiermacher, in his strange system, which may be called a mystic Rationalism, endeavours to shake the authority of the Old Testament in a most unpardonable and incomprehensible manner. This appears to me as if a man were to tear down a building from the sure foundation on which it had rested for 1000 years, and imagine it could rest in true stability only on the mere breath of his words.]
So Otto was silenced and coughed, for he had nothing to answer, and all the guests laughed; but, fortunately, just then the offering-plate was handed round, and the Duke laid down two ducats, at which Otto smiled scornfully, and flung in seven rix-dollars, but laughed outright when Fabianus put down only four groschen.
This seemed to affront his Highness, for he whispered to his Chancellor to order the carriages, and rose up from table with his attendants. Then, offering his hand to Otto, said, "Take care, Otto, or the devil will have you one day in hell, like the rich man in Scripture." To which Otto replied, bowing low, "Gracious Lord, I hope at least to meet good company there. Farewell, and pardon me for not attending you to the castle gates, but I may not leave my guests."
Then all the nobles rose up, and the young knights accompanied his Highness, as did also Sidonia, who now further entreated his Grace to remove her from her father's castle, since he saw himself how lightly God's Word was held there. Fabianus was infinitely pleased to hear her speak in this manner, and promised to use all his influence towards having her removed from this Egypt.
Here ended all that old Uckermann could relate of Sidonia's youth; so I determined to ride on to Stramehl, and learn there further particulars if possible.
Accordingly, next day I took leave of the good old man, praying God to give him a peaceful death, and arrived at Stramehl with my servant. Here, however, I could obtain no information; for even the Bork family pretended to know nothing, just as if they never had heard of Sidonia (they were ashamed, I think, to acknowledge her), and the townspeople who had known her were all dead. The girl, indeed, was still living whose goose Sidonia had killed, but she was now an old woman in second childhood, and fancied that I was myself Sidonia, who had come to take away another goose from her. So I rode on to Freienwald, where I heard much that shall appear in its proper place; then to Old Stettin; and, after waiting three days for a fair wind, set sail for Wolgast, expecting to obtain much information there.
How Sidonia came to the court at Wolgast, and of what further happened to her there.
In Wolgast I met with many persons whose fathers had known Sidonia, and what they related to me concerning her I have summed up into connection for your Highness as follows.
When Duke Barnim reached the Diet at Treptow, he immediately made known Sidonia's request to the Grand Chamberlain of Wolgast, Ulrich von Schwerin, who was also guardian to the five young princes. But he grumbled, and said—"The ducal widow had maids of honour enough to dam up the river with if she chose; and he wished for no more pet doves to be brought to court, particularly not Sidonia; for he knew her father was ambitious, and longed to be called 'your Grace.'"
Even Fabianus could not prevail in Sidonia's favour. So the Duke and he returned home to Stettin; but scarcely had they arrived there, when a letter came from the ducal widow of Wolgast, saying, that on no account would she receive Sidonia at her court. The Duke might therefore keep her at his own if he chose.
So the Duke took no further trouble. But Sidonia was not so easily satisfied; and taking the matter in her own hands she left her father's castle without waiting his permission, and set off for Stettin.
On arriving, she prayed the Duke to bring her to Wolgast without delay, as she knew there was an honourable, noble lady there who would watch over her, as indeed she felt would be necessary at a court. And Fabianus supported her petition; for he was much edified with her expressed desire to crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts.
Ah! could he have known her!
So the kind-hearted Duke embarked with her immediately, without telling any one; and having a fair wind, sailed up directly to the little water-gate, and anchored close beneath the Castle of Wolgast.
Here they landed; the Duke having Sidonia under one arm, and a little wooden puppet under the other. It was an Eve, for whom Sidonia had served as the model; and truly she was an Eve in sin, and brought as much evil upon the land of Pomerania as our first mother upon the whole world. Sidonia was enveloped in a black mantle, and wore a hood lined with fur covering her face. The Duke also had on a large wrapping cloak, and a cap of yellow leather upon his head.
So they entered the private gate, and on through the first and second courts of the castle, without her Grace hearing a word of their arrival. And they proceeded on through the gallery, until they reached the private apartments of the princess, from whence resounded a psalm which her Grace was singing with her ladies while they spun, and which psalm was played by a little musical box placed within the Duchess's own spinning-wheel. Duke Barnim had made it himself for her Grace, and it was right pleasant to hear.
After listening some time, the Duke knocked, and a maid of honour opened the door. When they entered, her Grace was so confounded that she dropped her thread and exclaimed, "Dear uncle! is this maiden, then, Sidonia?" examining her from head to foot while she spoke. The Duke excused himself by saying that he had promised her father to bring her here; but her Grace cut short his apologies with "Dear uncle, Dr. Martin Luther told me on my wedding-day that he never allowed himself to be interrupted at his prayers, because it betokened the presence of something evil. And you have now broken in on our devotions; therefore sit down with the maiden and join our psalm, if you know it." Then her Grace took up the reel again, and having set the clock-work going with her foot, struck up the psalm once more, in a clear, loud voice, joined by all her ladies. But Sidonia sat still, and kept her eyes upon the ground.
When they had ended, her Grace, having first crossed herself, advanced to Sidonia, and said, "Since you arrived at my court, you may remain; but take care that you never lift your eyes upon the young men. Such wantons are hateful to my sight; for, as the Scripture says, 'A fair woman without discretion is like a circlet of gold upon a swine's head.'"
Sidonia changed colour at this; but the Duke, who held quite a different opinion about such women, entreated her Grace not to be always so gloomy and melancholy—that it was time now for her to forget her late spouse, and think of gayer subjects. To which she answered, "Dear uncle, I cannot forget my Philip, particularly as my fate was foreshadowed at my bridal by a most ominous occurrence."
Now, the Duke had heard this story of the bridal a hundred times; yet to please her he asked, "And what was it, dear cousin?"
"Listen," she replied. "When Dr. Martin Luther exchanged our rings, mine fell from his hand to the ground; at which he was evidently troubled, and taking it up, he blew on it; then turning round, exclaimed—'Away with thee, Satan! away with thee, Satan! Meddle not in this matter!' And so my dear lord was taken from me in his forty-fifth year, and I was left a desolate widow." Here she sobbed and put her kerchief to her eyes.
"But, cousin," said the Duke, "remember you have a great blessing from God in your five fine sons. And that reminds me—where are they all now?"
This restored her Grace, and she began to discourse of her children, telling how handsome was the young Prince Ernest, and that he and the little Casimir were only with her now.
Here Sidonia, as the other ladies remarked, moved restlessly on her chair, and her eyes flashed like torches, so that it was evident some plan had struck her, for she was strengthening day by day in wickedness.
"Ay, cousin," cried the Duke, "it is no wonder a handsome mother should have handsome sons. And now what think you of giving us a jolly wedding? It is time for you to think of a second husband, methinks, after having wept ten years for your Philip. The best doctor, they say, for a young widow, is a handsome lover. What think you of myself, for instance?" And he pulled off his leather cap, and put his white head and beard up close to her Grace.
Now, though her Grace could not help laughing at his position and words, yet she grew as sour as vinegar again immediately; for all the ladies tittered, and, as to Sidonia, she laughed outright.
"Fie! uncle," said her Grace, "a truce to such folly; do you not know what St. Paul says—'Let the widows abide even as I'?"
"Ay, true, dear cousin; but, then, does he not say, too, 'I will that the younger widows marry'?"
"Ah, but, dear uncle, I am no longer young."
"Why, you are as young and active as a girl; and I engage, cousin, if any stranger came in here to look for the widow, he would find it difficult to make her out amongst the young maidens; don't you think so, Sidonia?"