SIDONIA THE SORCERESS
THE SUPPOSED DESTROYER OF THE WHOLE REIGNING DUCAL HOUSE OF POMERANIA.
TRANSLATED BY LADY WILDE
THE AMBER WITCH BY WILLIAM MEINHOLD DOCTOR OF THEOLOGY
IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. II.
SIDONIA THE SORCERESS.
FROM THE RECEPTION OF SIDONIA INTO THE CONVENT AT MARIENFLIESS UP TILL HER EXECUTION, AUGUST 19TH, 1620.
How Dorothea Stettin is talked out of the sub-prioret by Sidonia, and the priest is prohibited from visiting the convent.
How Sidonia wounds Ambrosia von Guntersberg with an axe, because she purposed to marry—And prays the convent porter, Matthias Winterfeld, to death—For these, and other causes, the reverend chaplain refuses to shrive the sorceress, and denounces her publicly from the altar.
Dorothea Stettin falls sick, and how the doctor manages to bleed her—Item, how Sidonia chases the princely commissioners into the oak-forest.
How the assembled Pomeranian princes hold a council over Sidonia, and at length cite her to appear at the ducal court.
Of Sidonia's defence—Item, how she has a quarrel with Joachim Wedel, and bewitches him to death.
How a strange woman (who must assuredly have been Sidonia) incites the lieges of his Grace to great uproar and tumult in Stettin, by reason of the new tax upon beer.
Of the fearful events that take place at Marienfliess—Item, how Dorothea Stettin becomes possessed by the devil.
Of the arrival of Diliana and the death of the convent priest— Item, how the unfortunate corpse is torn by a wolf.
How Jobst Bork has himself carried to Marienfliess in his bed to reclaim his fair young daughter Diliana—Item, how George Putkammer threatens Sidonia with a drawn sword.
How my gracious Lord Bishop Franciscus and the reverend Dr. Joel go to the Jews' school at Old Stettin, in order to steal the Schem Hamphorasch, and how the enterprise finishes with a sound. cudgelling.
How the Duke Francis seeks a virgin at Marienfliess to cite the angel Och for him—Of Sidonia's evil plot thereupon, and the terrible uproar caused thereby in the convent.
Of the death of the abbess, Magdalena von Petersdorfin—Item, how Duke Francis makes Jobst Bork and his daughter, Diliana, come to Camyn, and what happens there.
Jobst Bork takes away his daughter by force from the Duke and Dr. Joel; also is strengthened in his unbelief by Dr. Cramer—Item, how my gracious Prince arrives at Marienfliess, and there vehemently menaces Sidonia.
Of the fearful death of his Highness, Duke Philip II. of Pomerania, and of his melancholy but sumptuous burial.
How Jobst Bork and his little daughter are forced at last into the "Opus Magicum"—Item, how his Highness, Duke Francis, appoints Christian Ludecke, his attorney-general, to be witch-commissioner of Pomerania.
How Christian Ludecke begins the witch-burnings in Marienfliess, and lets the poor dairy-mother die horribly on the rack.
What Sidonia said to these doings—Item, what our Lord God said; and lastly, of the magical experiment performed upon George Putkammer and Diliana, in Old Stettin.
Of the awful and majestic appearance of the sun-angel, Och.
How old Wolde is seized, confronted with Sidonia, and finally burned before her window.
How Diliana Bork and George Putkammer are at length betrothed— Item, how Sidonia is degraded from her conventual dignities and carried to the witches' tower of Saatzig in chains.
Of the execution of Sidonia and the wedding of Diliana.
Mournful destiny of the last princely Pomeranian remains—My visit to the ducal Pomeranian vault in Wolgast, on the 6th May 1840.
THE AMBER WITCH.
How the Imperialists robbed me of all that was left, and likewise broke into the church and stole the Vasa Sacra; also what more befell us.
How our need waxed sorer and sorer, and how I sent old Ilse with another letter to Pudgla, and how heavy a misfortune this brought upon me.
How the old maid-servant humbled me by her faith, and the Lord yet blessed me, His unworthy servant.
How we journeyed to Wolgast, and made good barter there.
How I fed all the congregation—Item, how I journeyed to the horse-fair at Gtzkow, and what befell me there.
What further joy and sorrow befell us-Item, how Wittich Appelmann rode to Damerow to the wolf-hunt, and what he proposed to my daughter.
What more happened during the winter—Item, how in the spring witchcraft began in the village.
How old Seden disappeared all on a sudden—Item, how the great Gustavus Adolphus came to Pomerania, and took the fort at Peenemnde.
Of the arrival of the high and mighty King Gustavus Adolphus, and what befell thereat.
How little Mary Paasch was sorely plagued of the devil, and the whole parish fell off from me.
How my poor child was taken up for a witch, and carried to Pudgla.
Of the first trial, and what came thereof.
How Satan, by the permission of the most righteous God, sought altogether to ruin us, and how we lost all hope.
Of the malice of the Governor and of old Lizzie—Item, of the examination of witnesses.
De confrontations testium.
How the Syndicus Dom. Michelson arrived, and prepared his defence of my poor child.
How my poor child was sentenced to be put to the question.
How in my presence the devil fetched old Lizzie Kolken.
How Satan sifted me like wheat, whereas my daughter withstood him right bravely.
How I received the Holy Sacrament with my daughter and the old maid-servant, and how she was then led for the last time before the court, with the drawn sword and the outcry, to receive sentence.
Of that which befell us by the way—Item, of the fearful death of the sheriff at the mill.
How my daughter was at length saved by the help of the all-merciful, yea, of the all-merciful God.
Of our next great sorrow, and final joy.
BOOK III. Continued.
FROM THE RECEPTION OF SIDONIA INTO THE CONVENT AT MARIENFLIESS UP TILL HER EXECUTION, AUGUST 19TH, 1620.
How Dorothea Stettin is talked out of the sub-prioret by Sidonia, and the priest is prohibited from visiting the convent.
If Sidonia could not be the pastor's wife, she was determined at least to be sub-prioress, and commenced her preparations for this object by knitting a little pair of red hose for her cat. Then she sent for Dorothea Stettin, saying that she was weak and ill, and no one took pity on her.
When the good Dorothea came as she was asked, there lay my serpent on the bed in her nun's robes, groaning and moaning as if her last hour had come; and scarcely had the sub-prioress taken a seat near her, when my cat crept forth from under the bed, in his little red hose, mewing and rubbing himself up against the robe of the sub-prioress, as if praying her to remove this unwonted constraint from him, of the little red hose.
After Dorothea had inquired about her sickness, she looked at the cat, and asked wonderingly, what was the meaning of such a strange dress?
Illa.—"Ah, dear friend, it was dreadful to my feelings to see the little animal going about naked, therefore I knit little hose for him, as you see; indeed, I am often tempted to wonder how the Lord God could permit the poor animals to appear naked before us."
Hc (extending her arms for joy, so that she almost tumbled back off the stool).—"Oh, God be praised and thanked, at last I have found one chaste soul in this wicked world! (sobs, throws up her eyes, falls upon Sidonia's neck, kisses her, and weeps over her:) ah yes, one chaste soul at last, like herself!"
Illa.—"True, Dorothea, there is no virtue so rare in this evil world as chastity. Ah, why has the Lord God placed such things before our eyes? I never can comprehend it, and never will. What a sight for a chaste virgin these naked animals! What did the dear sister think on the matter?"
Hc.—"Ah, she knew not what to think, had asked the priest about it."
Illa.—"And what did he say?"
Hc.—"He laughed at her."
Illa.—"Just like him, the lewd, hypocritical pharisee."
Hc.—"Eh? she was too hard on the good priest. He was a pure and upright servant of God."
Illa.—"Ay, as Judas was. Had not sister Dorothea heard——"
Hc.—"No; for God's sake, what? The dear sister frightened her already."
Illa.—"First, you confess that the priest laughed when you talked about chastity?"
Hc.—"Yes, true, ah, indeed true."
Illa.—"Then you remember that he preached a sermon lately upon adul—upon adul—. No, she never could utter the word—the horrible word. Upon the seventh commandment, to the great scandal of the entire convent?"
Hc.—"Ah yes, ah yes, she was there, and had to stop one ear with her finger, the other with her kerchief, not to hear all the strange and dreadful things he was saying."
Illa.—"And yet this was the man that ran in and out of the cloister daily at his pleasure, sent for or not—a young unmarried man—though the convent rules especially declared an old man. Ah, if she were sub-prioress, this scandal should never be permitted."
Hc.—"What could be done? it was a blessed thing to live in peace. Besides, the priest was such a pious man."
Illa.—"Pious? Heaven defend us from such piety! Why, had she not heard?—the whole convent talked about it."
Hc.—"No, no; for God's sake, what had happened? tell her—she had been making sausages all the morning, and had heard nothing."
Illa.—"Then know, ah God, how it pained her to talk of it—she had heard a great noise in the kitchen in the morning, as if all the pots and pans were tumbled about, and when she ran in to see—there was the priest—oh, her chaste eyes never had seen such a sight—the pious priest making love to her old maid, Wolde."
Hc.—"Impossible, impossible!—to her old maid, Wolde?"
Illa.-"Yea, and he was praying her for kisses, and praising her fat hand, and extolling her white hair. But as to what more she had seen——"
Hc.—"For God's sake, sister, what more?"
Illa (sighing, and covering her face with both hands).—"No, no, that she could never bring her chaste lips to utter. Oh, that such wickedness should be in the world (weeping bitterly). But she would never enter the chapel again, and that priest there; nor receive the rites from him. But this was not all; the dear sister must hear how he revenged himself upon her, because she interrupted his toying with the old hag. It was truth, all truth! She (Sidonia) grew so ill with fright and horror that she was unable to disrobe, and threw herself on the bed just as she was, but growing weaker and weaker hour by hour, sent for the priest at last, to pray with her, and afterwards to offer up general supplication for her restoration, in the chapel with all the sisterhood; but only think, the shameless hypocrite refused to pray with her, because he spied an end of her black robe out of the bed, declaring she was not ill at all, that she was a base liar, all because she had lain down in her convent dress, and finally went his way cursing and swearing, without even saying one prayer, or uttering one word of comfort, as was his duty. And now, alas! she must die without priest or sacrament! To what a Sodom and Gomorrah she had come! But if an old hag like her maid was not safe from the shameless parson, how could she or any of them be safe? What was to be done? unless the dear sister, as sub-prioress, took the matter in her own hands, and brought him to task about it?"
At this proposal the other trembled like an aspen leaf, and seemed more dead than alive. She wept, wrung her hands—for God's sake what could she do? how could she talk on such a matter? Let the abbess see to it, if she chose.
Illa.—"Stuff, the old pussy—the less said of her the better. Why, she was worse than the old maid, Wolde, herself."
Hc.—"The abbess? why, the whole convent, and the whole world too, talked of her piety and virtue."
Illa.—"Very virtuous, truly, to have the priest locked up with her; and when some of the sisters wished to remain, suspecting that all was not right, the priest pushed them out at the door with his own hands, and bolted it after them, as many could testify to her had been done this very day. Oh, what a Sodom and Gomorrah she had been betrayed into! (weeping, sobbing, and falling upon Dorothea's neck.) I pray you, sister, for the sake of our heavenly bridegroom, bring this evil to an end, otherwise fire and brimstone will assuredly and justly be rained down upon our poor cloister."
Still the other maintained, "That the dear sister must err as regarded the abbess. It might be her chaste zeal that blinded her. True enough, probably, what she said of the priest; but the worthy abbess—no, never could she believe that."
Illa.—"Let her have proof then. It was not her custom to weaken innocence; call her maid, Wolde."
Then as Wolde entered, Sidonia made a sign, and bid her tell the sub-prioress all that the shameless priest had done.
Ancilla.—"He had asked her for little kisses, praised her hands and hair, and her beautiful limp, and had sat up close to her on the bench, then run after her into the kitchen, gave her money (shows the money), asked again for kisses, then——"
"Hold your tongue; no more, no more; enough, enough!"
At this story, Dorothea Stettin nearly went into convulsions—she wrung her hands, crying—.
"How is it possible? O heaven, how is it possible?"
Illa.—"There is something more quite possible also; the hag shall tell you what she saw at the room door of the abbess."
Ancilla.-"When the scandalous priest left her, he went straight to the abbess, and there was taken with cramps, as she heard, upon which all the convent ran thither, and she with the rest. And he was lying stretched out on a bench, like one dead, no doubt from shame; but the shame soon went off, and then he got up, and bade them all leave the room. However, good Anna Apenborg did not choose to go, for she suspected evil. Whereupon he seized her by the hand, and put her out along with the others. She saw all this herself, for she was standing in the passage, waiting to speak to sister Anna. When, behold, she was pushed out, to her great surprise, in this way by the priest, and they heard the door bolted inside immediately after."
At this Dorothea Stettin fell upon Sidonia's bed, weeping, sobbing, and ready to die with grief; but Sidonia bade her not take on so; for perhaps, after all, the old hag had not told the truth, at least concerning the dear, worthy abbess; but two witnesses would be sufficient testimony. Whereupon she bid Wolde watch for Anna Apenborg from the window, and beckon to her to come in if she saw her going by.
And scarcely had Wolde stepped to the window, when she laughed and said—
"Truly, there stands Anna chatting with Agnes Kleist's maid at the well. Shall I run and call her?"
"Yes," said Sidonia.
In a little while Wolde returned with sister Anna. The girl looked wildly round at first, stared at the broom-sticks which lay crosswise under the table, and then asked, with a trembling voice, what the good sister wanted with her, while she took a seat on a trunk near the bed.
"My old maid," said Sidonia, "tells me that the reverend chaplain took you by the hand, and put you out of the abbess's room, after which he bolted the door. Is this true or not? Speak the whole truth."
So Anna related the whole story as Wolde had done; but, while talking, the curious damsel lifted up a corner of the quilt to peep under the bed, upon which my cat in his little red hose crept forth again, mewing and rubbing himself against Anna, at which she gave a shriek of horror and sprang out of the room, down the steps and into the courtyard, without ever once venturing to look behind her. And many think that this cat was Sidonia's evil spirit Chim. But Anna Apenborg saw afterwards a pair of terrible fiery eyes glaring at her from Sidonia's window; so others said, that must have been Chim. But we shall hear more of this same cat presently.
Summa.—Sidonia knew well enough what made the girl scream, but she turned to Dorothea, and said—
"Ah, see how this wickedness has shocked the poor young nun! Therefore, dear sister, you must, as sub-prioress, make an end of the scandal, and prohibit this false priest from visiting the convent; for, indeed, they who permitted him such freedom amongst the nuns were more to blame for his sins than he himself."
Poor Dorothea groaned forth in answer—
"Alas, alas! why did I ever accept the sub-prioret? For the couple of sacks of flour and the bit of corn which she got more than the others, it was not worth while to be plagued to death. It was all true about the priest. He must be dismissed. But then she loved peace. How could she right such matters? Oh, that some one would relieve her of this sub-prioret!"
Illa.—"That can be easily done if you will. Suppose you ask Anna Apenborg to take it?"
Hc.—"No, no; Anna had not sense enough for that; but if the dear sister herself would take it, how happy she would feel."
Illa.—"She was too sick, probably going to die; who could tell?"
Hc.—"No, no; she would pray for her. The dear sister could not be spared yet. Let her say yes (falling on her neck and weeping), only let her say yes."
Illa.—"Well, out of love to her she would say yes; and if the Lord raised her up from this sick bed, order and decorum should reign again in the convent."
Hc (again embracing her with gratitude).—"No doubt they would. She knew well that no such pure-minded nun was in the convent as her dear sister Sidonia."
Illa.—"But, good Dorothea, in order to get rid of the priest as soon as possible, we had better send the porter immediately to summon the abbess and the entire sisterhood here, for you to tender your resignation in their presence."
Hc.—"But sister Sidonia must promise not to complain of the priest or the abbess to the Prince."
Illa.—"No, no; I can settle the matter quietly, without laying a complaint before the Prince."
Hc.—"All right, then. Everything, if possible, in peace."
Hereupon Sidonia despatched the porter to the abbess with a request that she and the whole convent would assemble in half-an-hour at the refectory, as she had somewhat to communicate. Meanwhile she instructed Dorothea in what she was to say, so as not to disgrace the poor abbess before the whole convent.
At the end of the half-hour, the abbess and the entire sisterhood appeared, but all with anger and mistrust depicted on their countenances. Sidonia then spake—
"Since ye and your priest refused to pray for me, I have prayed for myself, and the Lord hath heard me in my weakness, and made me strong enough to listen to the request of this good sister, Dorothea, and promise to fulfil it. Speak, sister Dorothea, what was your prayer?"
So Dorothea advanced, weeping and wringing her hands—
"Ah, God! she could no longer be sub-prioress. She loved peace too much. But there were bad doings in the convent—she would say no more—only they must end. Therefore she had earnestly prayed her dear sister Sidonia to relieve her from the duties of office, and become sub-prioress in her stead."
Here she loosed the veil, which differed from the others, by having a key embroidered in gold thereon—the abbess had two keys on her veil—and bound it on Sidonia, who had by this time risen from bed, taking Sidonia's veil for herself. Then leading the fatal sorceress forward, she said—
"Good mother and dear sisters—behold your sub-prioress!"
Thereupon the abbess and the whole convent remained quite mute, so great was their horror.
Then Sidonia asked—
"Have they aught to say against it? If so, let them speak."
But they all remained silent and trembling, till at last the abbess murmured—
"Is this done with your free-will, Dorothea?"
"Ah, yes, yes, truly," she answered. "I told you before with what earnest prayers I besought the dear sister to release me. God be thanked she has consented at last. Who can keep order and decorum so well throughout the convent?"
Then the abbess spoke again—
"Sister Sidonia, I have no opposition to make, as you know full well. So, if the Prince, and the sheriff, our worthy superintendent, consent, you shall be sub-prioress. Yet first you must render an account of your strange doings this past night, for things were seen and heard in your chamber which could not have been accomplished without the help of the great enemy himself."
Hereat Sidonia laughed as if she would die. She would tell them the whole trick. They all knew what a trouble to the convent was this Anna Apenborg from her curiosity—not once or twice, but ten times a day, running in and out with her chat and gossip. She had tried all means to prevent her, but in vain. Even in the middle of her prayers, the said Anna would come in to tell her what one sister was cooking, and another getting, or some follies even quite unfit for chaste ears. And that last night being very sick, she sent for the priest, upon which she heard Anna calling out from the window to the porter, "Will he come? will he come?" Item, she had then crept down to listen at the door. So after the priest went, notwithstanding all her weakness, she (Sidonia) determined to give her a good fright, and thus prevent her from spying and listening any more. Then she called Wolde, and bid her dance, while she muttered some words out of the cookery-book. But here Anna called out, "It is not true; there were three danced. Where is the carl with the deep bass voice? Who could this be at that midnight hour, but the devil bodily himself?"
At this, Sidonia laughed louder than before. It was her cat—her own cat, who was springing about the room, because for divers reasons she had put little red hose on him. On this she stoops under the bed, seizes my cat by the leg, who howls (that was the deep bass voice), and flings him into the middle of the room, where all the nuns, when they beheld his strange jumps and springs in the little hose, burst out into loud laughter, in which the abbess herself could not refrain from joining. So as there was no evidence against Sidonia, and Anna Apenborg was truly held of all as a most troublesome chatterbox and spy, the inquiry ended. And with somewhat more friendliness, putting the best face on a bad matter, they accepted Sidonia for their sub-prioress.
How Sidonia wounds Ambrosia von Guntersberg with an axe, because she purposed to marry—And prays the convent porter, Matthias Winterfeld, to death—For these, and other causes, the reverend chaplain refuses to shrive the sorceress, and denounces her publicly from the altar.
Sidonia's first act, as may easily be imagined, was to dismiss the priest; and for this purpose she wrote him a letter, saying that he must never more presume to set foot within the cloister, for if old ice-grey mothers were not safe from him, how could she and the other maidens hope to escape? If he disobeyed her orders, she would summon him before the princely consistorium, where strange things might be told of him.
So the reverend David consented right willingly, and never saw the nuns except on Sundays in the chapel, but Sidonia herself never appeared in the nuns' choir. She gave Dorothea many excellent and convincing reasons for her absence. (But in my opinion, it was caused by hate and abhorrence of the sacrament and the holy Word of God; for such are a torment and a torture to the children of the devil, even as the works of the devil are an abomination to the children of God.)
When, however, the report came, that the reverend David was indeed betrothed to Barbara Bamberg, Sidonia presented herself once in the choir, kneeled down, and was heard to murmur, "Wed if thou wilt, that I cannot hinder; but a child thou shalt never hold at the font!" And truly was the evil curse fulfilled.
Meanwhile the fear and the dread of her increased daily in the convent, for besides old Wolde, two other horrible hags were observed frequently going in and out of her apartments—true children of Satan, as one might see by their red, glowing eyes. With these she practised many horrible sorceries, sometimes quarrelled with them, however, and beat them out with the broom-stick; but they always came back again, and were as well received as ever.
Then she had strifes and disputes with every one who approached her, and was notorious through all the courts of justice for her wrangling and fighting, in particular with her brother's son, Otto of Stramehl, for she sued him for an alimentum pension, and also demanded that the rents of her two farm-houses in Zachow should be paid her, according to the sum to which they must have accumulated during the last fifty years. But he answered, she should have no money; why did she not live at her farm-houses? He knew nothing of the rents, the whole matter was past and forgotten, and she had no claim now on him, and so every month she wrangled in the courts about this business. Item, she fought with Preslar of Buslar, because, being a feudal vassal of the Borks', she required him to kiss her hand, which he refused; then her dog having strayed into his house, she accused him of having stolen it. Item, she fought with the maid who acted as cook in the convent kitchen, and said she never got a morsel fit to eat. And the said maid (I forget her name now) having salted the fish too much one day, she ran after her with a broom-stick—once, indeed, beat her so severely, that she was lame her life long after.
But worse than the fish-salting was the white kerchief which the maid wore. For people, she said, might take her at a distance to be one of the honourable convent ladies, therefore she must wear a coloured one. This the maid would not do, so she was soon brought to an untimely end also, along with all others who displeased her.
These things, and many more, came out upon her trial, but for divers reasons I must pass them over. All her notes, messages, and letters, she entrusted to the porter, Matthias Winterfeld, who was often sent, may be five times a week, by her to Stargard. But he dared not remonstrate, or she would have struck him with the broom-stick.
However, all this is nothing in comparison with the way she treated the unfortunate nuns. The younger and prettier they were, so much the more she boxed, beat, and martyred them, even striking them with the broom-stick. And if they ever smiled or seemed happy talking to one another, she abused and reviled them, calling them idle wantons, who thought of nothing but matrimony. None were permitted outside the convent gates, not even to visit their parents: they should not be flying back with their crumbs of gossip about brides and weddings, forsooth, and such-like improper thoughts. Neither should they go to the annual fair. She would go herself and buy everything for them she thought needful, only let them give her the gold.
And out of deadly fear the poor maidens bore this tyranny long while silently; even the abbess feared to complain, so that Sidonia soon usurped the entire government of the convent.
But the powder-mill broke out at last into vivid flames, as I shall narrate here. It was on this wise:—Amongst the novices was one beautiful young maiden, Ambrosia von Guntersberg by name. She was fifth daughter of old Ambrosius of Falkenwald, a little town near Jacobshagen. One day a young nobleman called Ewald von Mellenthin beheld her in her cloister habit. Think you he forgot her? No, he can never forget the maiden! One, two weeks pass over, but she has sunk deeper and deeper into his heart; at last he rose up and went to Falkenwald to her father, Ambrosius, asking her hand in honourable marriage.
Now, the old man was well pleased, for he was poor, and had five daughters; so he bid the young noble write a letter to his daughter Ambrosia, which he would inclose in one from himself to her. But no answer arrived from the maiden (we may guess why, for Sidonia opened and read all the letters that came to the convent, before they were handed to their owners. Those that displeased her she burned; no doubt, therefore, the love-letter was the first in the flames). But the young noble grew impatient for an answer, and resolved to ride to Marienfliess. So he ties his good horse to a cross in the churchyard, walks straight up to the convent, and rings the bell. Immediately the old porter, Matthias, opened to him, with his hands covered with blood (for he was killing a fat ox for the nuns, close by); whereupon the noble lord prayed to speak a few words to the young novice Ambrosia von Guntersberg, at the grating; and in a little time the beautiful maiden appeared, tripping along the convent court (but Sidonia is before her). Ambrosia advanced modestly to the grating, and asked the handsome knight, "What was his pleasure?" who answered, "Since I beheld you in Guntersberg, dearest lady, my heart has been wholly yours; and when I saw how diligently and cheerfully you ruled your father's house during his sickness, I resolved to take you for my wife, if such were possible; for I need a good and prudent spouse at my castle of Lienke, and methinks no better or more beautiful could be found than yourself. Therefore I obtained your father's permission to open the matter to you in writing, and he inclosed my letter in one of his own; but you have neither answered one nor the other. Whereupon, in my impatience, I saddled my good horse, and rode over here to have an answer at once from your own beautiful lips."
When Sidonia heard this, she grew black in the face with rage—"What! in her presence, before her very face, to dare to hold such language to a young maiden—a mere child—who knew nothing at all of what marriage meant. He must pack off this instant, or the devil himself should turn him out of the cloister."
Meanwhile the young maiden took heart (for the handsome knight pleased her), and said, "Gracious Lady Prioress (Sidonia made them all call her Gracious Lady, as if she were a born princess), I am no more a child, as you say, and I know very well what marriage means."
This boldness made the other so wroth that she screamed—"Wait! I will teach you what marriage is;" and she sprang on her to box her. But Ambrosia rushed through the side-door out into the court, Sidonia following; however, not being able to reach her, she seized up the axe with which the porter had been killing the ox, and flung it after her, wounding the poor maiden so in the foot that the red blood poured down over her white stockings, while the young lover, who could not break the grating, screamed and stamped for rage and despair. By the good mercy of God the wound was only slight, still the fair novice fell to the ground; but seeing Sidonia rushing at her again with the large butcher's knife which the porter had been using, she sprang up and ran to the grating, crying out to the noble, "Save me! save me!"
And at her screams all the nuns threw up their windows, right and left, over the courtyard; but finding the young knight could not help her, she ran to the old porter, still screaming, "Save me! save me! she is going to murder me!"
Now the fellow was glad enough to be revenged on Sidonia, for she had sent him running to Stargard for her late the night before, and the moment the ox was to be quartered, he was to be off there again at her command; so he rushed at the vile witch, and seizing her up like a bundle of old rags, pitched her against the wall with all his force, adding a right hearty curse; and there she lay quaking like an old cat, while the handsome young noble laughed loud from the grating.
But she was up again soon, shook her dry, withered fist at the porter, and cried, "Ha! thou insolent churl, I will pray thee to death for this!"
Whereupon she went off to her room, and locked herself up there, while the fair Ambrosia ran to the grating, and stretching out her little hands through the bars, exclaimed, "I am yours, dear knight; oh, take me away from this horrible hell!"
This rejoiced my young noble heartily, and he kissed the little hands and lamented over her foot—"And was it much hurt? She must lift it up, and show him if the wound was deep."
So she raised up the dainty foot a little bit, and then saw that her whole shoe was full of blood; but the old porter, who came by just then, comforted the handsome youth, and told him he would stop the blood directly, for the wound was but a trifle. Whereupon he laid a couple of straws over it, murmured some words, and behold, in a moment, the blood is staunched! Then the fair novice thanked him courteously, and prayed him to unlock the wicket, for she would go and stay a couple of hours with the miller's wife, while this young noble, to whom she had plighted love and troth, returned to her father's for a carriage to bring her home. After what had passed now, never more would she enter the cloister.
But what happened? Scarcely had the good old porter unfastened the grating, and the young knight taken the fair girl in his arms, kissing her and pressing her to his heart (well Sidonia did not see him), when Matthias screamed out, "My God, what ails me?" and fell flat on the ground. At this the young knight left his bride, and flew to raise him up. "What could ail him?" But the poor old man can hardly speak, his eyes are turned in his head, and he gasped, "It was as if a man were sitting inside his breast, and crushing him to death. Oh, he could not breathe—his ribs were breaking!"
The alarmed young noble then helped the poor creature to reach his room, which lay close by the wicket; and having laid him on the bed in care of his wife, and recommended him to the mercy of God, he returned to his own fair bride, to carry her off from this murder-hole, and place her in safety with the miller's wife. I may as well mention here that he and the beautiful Ambrosia were wedded in due time, and lived long in peace and happiness, blessed with many lovely children; for all the evil which Sidonia tried to bring upon them, as we shall hear, came to nought, through the mercy of the great God.
But to return to the porter-on the third day he died; and during that time, day and night, Sidonia prayed, and was never seen but once. This was at the dividing of the salmon, when she threw up her window, and shaking her withered clenched hand at them, and her long white locks, threatened the nuns on their peril to touch the tail-piece-the tail-piece was hers.
A general horror pervaded the convent now, in truth, when the death of the porter was known. Anna Apenborg shut herself up, trembling, in her cell, and even good Dorothea began somewhat to doubt the virtues of the vile sorceress; for the corpse had a strange and unnatural appearance, so that it was horrible to look upon, by which signs it was easy to perceive that he had been prayed to death, as the fearful night-hag had threatened.
I must notify these symptoms, for the corpses of many of Sidonia's victims presented the same appearances; as the corpse of the reverend David—item, Joachim Wedeln of Cremzow—item/, Doctor Schwalenberg of Stargard, and Duke Philip II., and lastly, the abbess, Magdalena von Petersdorf. Whether her brother's son, Otto of Stramehl, whom she was suspected also of having prayed to death, presented the like, I cannot say with certainty. At this same time also his princely Grace Duke Bogislaff XIII. expired, many say bewitched to death; but of this I have no proof, as the body had quite a natural aspect after death. Still he had just arranged to journey to Marienfliess himself, and turn out Sidonia, in consequence of the accusations of Sheriff Sparling and the convent chaplain, so that his sudden death looks suspicious; however, as the medicus, Dr. Nicolaus Schulz, pronounced, "Quod ex ramis ven port Epatis et lienis exporrectis, iste adustus sanguis eo prosiliiset" (for he died by throwing up a black matter like his brothers); and further, as the manikin on the three-legged hare did not appear this time at the castle, I shall not lay the murder on Sidonia, to increase her terrible burden at the last day, though I have my own thoughts upon the matter.
Summa.-My gracious Prince died suddenly. Alas, woe! exactly like all his brothers; he was just sixty-one years old, seven months, and fifteen days, and a more God-fearing prince never sat on a throne. But my grief over the fate of this great Pomeranian house has carried me away from the corpse of the old porter. The appearances were these:—
1. The face brown, green, and yellow, particularly about the musculi frontales et temporales.
2. The musculi pectorales so swelled, and the cartilago ensiformis so singularly raised, that the chest of the corpse touched the mouth.
3. From the patella of the left leg to the malleolus externus of the foot, all brown, green, and yellow, blended together.
And on examination of the said corpse, Dr. Kukuck of Stargard affirmed and was ready to swear, that no one tittle of the signature of Satan was wanting thereupon.
Summa.—The poor carl was buried with great mourning on the following Friday; and the reverend David preached a sermon thereupon, in which he plainly spoke of his strange and unnatural death, so that every one knew well whom he suspected. My hag heard of this instantly, and therefore determined to attend the sacrament on the following Sunday; for this end she despatched Wolde to the priest, bidding her tell him she had a great desire to attend the holy rite, and would go to confession that day after noon. At this horrid blasphemy a cold shudder fell upon the priest (and I trust every Christian man will feel the like as he reads this), for he now saw through her motive clearly, how she wanted to blind the eyes of the people as to the death of the porter, by this mockery of the holiest rites of religion. Besides, amongst the horrible abominations practised by witches, it is well known that having received the sacred bread, they privately take the same again from their mouth and feed their familiar therewith. And one day when the convent was quite still, Anna Apenborg, having crept down to peep through the key-hole of the refectory door, saw enough to confirm this general belief.
No wonder then if the good priest stood long silent from horror; then he spake—"Tell the prioress it is well;" but when Wolde was gone, he threw himself upon his knees in his closet before God, and wrestled long in prayer, with tears and wringing of hands, that He would open to him what was his path of duty.
About noon he became more composed, through the great mercy of the Lord; and bid his wife, Barbara, come to him, with whom he had lived now a year and a half in perfect joy, though without children. To her he disclosed the proposition of the horrible sorceress, and afterwards spake thus:—
"And because, dear Barbara, after earnest prayer to God, I have come to the resolution neither to shrive nor to give the Lord's body to this daughter accursed of hell, do not be surprised if a like death awaits me as happened to the porter, Matthias. When I die, therefore, dear wife, take thee another spouse and bear children. 'For the woman,' says the Scripture, 'shall be blessed through childbearing, so as she continues in faith, and love, and in holiness with sobriety' (I Tim. ii.). Thus thou wilt soon forget me."
But the poor wife wept, and besought him to turn from his resolve, and not incur the vengeance of Sidonia. So he answered, "Weep not, or our parting will be more bitter; this poor flesh and blood is weak enough, still never will I blaspheme the holy rite of our Church, and 'cast pearls before swine' (Matt. vii.). And wherefore weep? At the last day they would meet again, to smile for ever in an eternity of joy. But could he hope for this if he were an unfaithful steward of the mysteries of God? No; but it was written, 'Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory? God be thanked who giveth us the victory through Christ our Lord' (I Cor. xv.). In God therefore he trusted, and in His strength would go now to the confessional."
She must let him go; the sexton would soon ring the bell, and he wished to pray some time alone in the church. Her tears had again disturbed his spirit, and made him weak. But he would use the holy keys of his office, which his Saviour had entrusted to him, to His glory alone, even if this accursed sorceress were to bring him to the grave for it. If the Lord will, He could protect him, but he would still do his duty. Will she not let him go now, that he may pray?
And when she unwound her arms, he took her again in his, kissed her, sobbed, and wept; then tearing himself away, went out into the church by the garden entrance.
Then the poor wife flung herself on a seat, weeping and praying, but in a little while in came Dorothea Stettin, saying, "That she was going to confession, and had no small silver for the offertory. Could she give her change of a dollar?"
Then she asked about the other's grief; and having heard the cause, promised to go to the priest herself, and beseech him not to break the staff "Woe" over Sidonia. She went therefore instantly to the church, and found him on his knees praying behind the altar. Whereupon she entreated him, after her fashion, not to break the blessed peace—peace above all things.
Meanwhile the sexton rung the bell, and Sidonia entered, sweeping the nave of the church to the altar, followed by seven or eight nuns. But when she beheld Dorothea come out at one side, and the priest at the other, and that not another soul had been in the church, she laughed aloud mockingly, and clapped her hands—"Ha! the pious priest, would he tell them now what he and Dorothea were doing behind the altar? The sisters were all witnesses how this shameless parson conducted himself." Though she spoke this quite loud for every one to hear, yet not one of the nuns made answer, but stood trembling like doves who see the falcon ready to pounce upon them. Yea, even as Dorothea came down the altar steps to take her place in the choir, my hag laughed loud again like Satan, and cried, "Ah! the chaste virgin! who meetest the priest behind the altar! Thou shameless wanton, the prioress shall teach thee fitter behaviour soon!"
Poor Dorothea turned quite pale with fright, and began—"Ah! dear sister, only listen!"
But the dragon snapped at her, with—"Dear sister, forsooth! What!—was she to bear this insolence? Let her know that the gracious Lady Prioress was not to be talked to as 'dear sister '!"
Here the organ struck up the confession hymn; and the whole congregation being assembled in the church, Sidonia and the seven nuns ascended the steps of the altar, bowed to the priest, and then took their seats, whereupon the organ ceased playing.
After a brief silence, the poor minister sighed heavily, and then spake—"Sidonia, after all that has been stated concerning you, particularly with regard to the death of the convent porter within these last few days, I cannot, as a faithful servant of God, give you either absolution or the holy rite of the Lord's Supper, until you clear yourself from such imputations before a princely consistorium."
At this my hag laughed loud from the altar, crying, "Eh?—that was a strange story. What had she done to the convent porter?"
Ille.—"Prayed him to death, as every one believed, and his appearance proved."
Hc (still laughing).—"He must have lost his senses. Let him go home and bind asses' milk upon his temples; he would soon be better."
Ille.—"She should remember where and what she spoke. Had she not herself said, she would pray the porter to death?"
Hc (laughing yet louder).—"Oh! in truth, his little bit of mother-wit was quite gone. When and where had it been ever heard that one person could pray another to death? Then they might pray them to life again. Shall she try it with the porter?"
Ille.—"Why then had she threatened it?"
Hc (still laughing).—"Ah! poor man! she saw now he was quite foolish. Why had she threatened? Why, in anger, of course, because the vile churl had flung her against the wall. Had he never heard the poor people say to each other, 'May the devil take you;' but if one happened to die soon after, did people really think the devil had taken him? Why, he was as superstitious as an old spinning-wife."
Ille.—"She had heard his resolve. This was no place to argue with her; therefore she might go her ways, for he would verily not give her absolution."
So Sidonia rose up raging from the confessional, clenched her hand, and screamed out in the still church, so that all the people shuddered with horror—"Ye are all my witnesses that this worthless priest has denied me absolution, because, forsooth, he says I killed the convent porter. Ha! ha! ha! Where is it said in your Scriptures that one man can pray another to death? But the licentiousness of the vile priest has turned his brain, and he wallows in all most senseless superstitions. Did he not run after my old hag of a servant, as I myself saw; and this was not enough, but he must take Dorothea Stettin (the hypocritical wanton) behind the altar alone; and because I and these seven maidens discovered his iniquity, he refuses me the rites, and must have me before a princely consistorium to revenge himself. But wait, priest, I will drag the sheep's clothing from thee. Wait, thou shalt yet repent this bitterly!"
After the horrible sorceress had so blasphemed, she departed as quickly as possible from the church, muttering to herself. The congregation remained silent from fear and terror; and the poor priest, who seemed more dead than alive, prayed the sexton to fetch him a cup of water, which he drank; and then being in some degree recovered, he stepped forth, and addressed the congregation thus:—
"Dear brethren and friends, after what ye have just heard, ye will not wonder if I am unable to receive confessions this day, or to administer the holy communion. Ye all know Dorothea Stettin, neither is my character unknown to you; therefore remember the words of St. Peter, 'The devil goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.' But we will resist him, steadfast in the faith. Meet me, then, tomorrow here at the altar, and ye shall hear my justification. After which, I will shrive those who desire to be partakers of the holy sacrament."
And on the following morning, the holy minister of God preached from Matthew v. 11—"Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil falsely against you, for My sake; be glad and comforted, for ye shall be well recompensed in heaven." And in this powerful sermon he drew a picture of Sidonia from her youth up; so that many trembled for him when they remembered her power, though they glorified God for the mighty zeal and courage that burned in his words. But when Sidonia heard of this sermon, she became almost frantic from rage.
Dorothea Stettin falls sick, and how the doctor manages to bleed her—Item, how Sidonia chases the princely commissioners into the oak-forest.
Such a public humiliation the good virgin Dorothea Stettin found it impossible to bear. She fell sick, and repented with bitter tears of the trust and confidence she had reposed in Sidonia; finally, the abbess sent off a message to Stargard for the medicus, Dr. Schwalenberg.
This doctor was an excellent little man, rather past middle age though still unmarried, upright and honest, but rough as bean-straw. When he stood by Dorothea's bed and had heard all particulars of her illness, he bid her put out her hand, that he might feel her pulse. "No, no;" she answered, "that could she never do; never in her life had a male creature felt her pulse." At this my doctor laughed right merrily, and all the nuns who stood round, and Sidonia's old maid, Wolde, laughed likewise; but at last he persuaded Dorothea to stretch out her hand.
"I must bleed her," said the doctor. "This is febris putrida; therefore was her thirst so great: she must strip her arm till he bleed her." But no one can persuade her to this—strip her arm! no, never could she do it; she would die first: if the doctor could do nothing else, he may go his ways.
Now the doctor grew angry. Such a cursed fool of a woman he had never come across in his life; if she did not strip her arm instantly, he would do it by force. But Dorothea is inflexible; say what he would, she would strip her arm for no man!
Even the abbess and the sisterhood tried to persuade her.
"Would she not do it for her health's sake; or, at least, for the sake of peace?"
They were all here standing round her, but all in vain. At last the doctor, half-laughing, half-cursing, said—
"He would bleed her in the foot. Would that do?"
"Yes, she would consent to that; but the doctor must leave the room while she was getting ready."
So my doctor went out, but on entering again found her sitting on the bed, dressed in her full convent robes, her head upon Anna Apenborg's shoulder, and her foot upon a stool. As the foot, however, was covered with a stocking, the doctor began to scold.
"What was the stocking for? Let him take off the stocking. Was she making a fool of him? He advised her not to try it."
"No," Dorothea answered, "never would she strip her foot for him. Die she would if die she must, but that she could never do! If he could not bleed her through the stocking, he may go his ways."
Summa.—As neither prayers nor threatening were of any avail, the doctor, in truth, had to bleed her through the stocking; and scarcely had he finished, when Sidonia sent, saying.
"That she, too, was ill, and wished to be bled."
And there lay my hag alone, in bed, as the doctor entered. She was right friendly.
"And was it indeed true, that absurd fool Dorothea did not choose to be bled? Now he saw himself what a set of simpletons she had to deal with in the convent. No wonder that they all blackened her and belied her. She was sick from very disgust at such malice and absurdity. Ah, she regretted now not having married when she had the opportunity; it would have been better, and she had many offers. But she always feared she was too poor. However, her fortune was now excellent, for her sister had died without children, and left her everything—a very large inheritance, as she heard. But the dear doctor must taste her beer; she had tapped some of the best, and there was a fresh can of it on the table."
But my doctor was too cunning not to see what she was driving at; besides, he had heard of her beer-brewing, so he answered—
"He never drank beer; but what ailed her?"
"Ah, she didn't know herself, but she had a trembling in all her limbs. Would he not take a glass of mead, or even water? Her old servant should bring it to him."
"No. Let her just put out her hand for him to feel her pulse."
Instantly she stretched forth, not her hand alone, but her whole naked, dry, and yellow arm from the bed. Whereupon the doctor spoke—
"Eh? What should I bleed you for? The pulse is all right. In fact, old people never should be bled without serious cause; for at seventy or so, mind ye, every drop is worth a groschen."
"What!" exclaimed Sidonia, starting up; "what the devil, do ye think I am seventy? Why, I am hardly fifty yet."
"Seventy or fifty," answered the doctor, "it is all much the same with you women-folk."
"To the devil with you, rude churl!" screamed Sidonia. "If you will not bleed me, I'll find another who will. Seventy indeed! So rude a knave is not in the land!"
But my doctor goes away laughing; and as the ducal commissioners had arrived to try Sidonia's case, with the convent chaplain, he went down to meet them at Sheriff Sparling's, and these were the commissioners:—
1. Christian Ludeck, state prosecutor; a brother of the priest's.
2. Johann Wedel of Cremzow.
3. Eggert Sparling, sheriff of Marienfliess.
4. Jobst Bork, governor of Saatzig.
This Jobst was son to that upright Marcus whose wife, Clara von Dewitz, Sidonia had so miserably destroyed. For his good father's sake, long since dead, their Graces of Stettin had continued him in the government of Saatzig, for he walked in his father's steps, only he was slow of speech; but he had a lovely daughter, yet more praiseworthy than her grandmother, Clara of blessed memory, of whom we shall hear more anon.
Summa.—The doctor found all the commissioners assembled in the sheriff's parlour. Item, Anna Apenborg and the abbess as witnesses, who deposed to all the circumstances which I have heretofore related; also, the abbess set forth the prayer of the sick Dorothea Stettin, that she might be restored to the sub-prioret out of which the false Sidonia had wickedly talked her, and now for thanks gave her insolent contempt and mocking sneers.
Anna Apenborg further deposed, that, looking through the key-hole of the refectory door one day, she spied the wicked witch boring a hole in the wall; in this she placed a tun-dish, and immediately after, a rich stream of cow's milk flowed down into a basin which Sidonia held beneath, and that same day the best cow in the convent stopped giving milk, and had never given one drop since. And because the dairymaid, Trina Pantels, said openly this was witchcraft, and accused Sidonia and the old hag Wolde of being evil witches—for she was not a girl to hold her tongue, not she—her knee swelled up to the size of a man's head, and day and night she screamed for agony, until another old witch that visited Sidonia, Lena of Uchtenhagen, for six pounds of wool, gave her a plaster of honey and meal to put on the knee, and what should be drawn out of the swelling, but quantities of pins and needles; and how could this have been, but by Sidonia's witchcraft? [Footnote: However improbable such accusations may seem, numbers of the like, some even still more extraordinary, may be found in the witch trials of that age, by any one who takes the trouble of referring to them.]
Many witnesses could prove this fact; for Tewes Barth, Dinnies Koch, and old Fritz were by, when the plaster was taken off.
Then Sheriff Sparling deposed, that having smothered his bees lately, he sent a pot of pure honey to each of the nuns, as was his custom; but Sidonia scolded, and said her pot was not large enough, and abused him in a cruel manner about his stinginess in not sending her more. So, some days after, as he was riding quietly home to his house, across the convent court, suddenly the whole ground before him became covered with the shadows of bee-hives, and little shadows like bees went in and out, and wheeled about just as real bees do. Whereupon, he looked in every direction for the hives, for no shadows can be without a body, but not a hive nor a bee was in the whole place round; but he heard a peal of mocking laughter, and, on looking up, there was the wicked witch looking out at him from a window, and she called out—
"Ho! sir sheriff, when you smother bees again, send me more honey. A couple of pounds of the best—good weight!"
And this he did to have peace for the future.
Now the commissioners noted all this down diligently; but the state prosecutor shook his head, and asked the abbess—
"Wherefore she had not long ago brought this vile witch before the princely court?"
To which she answered, sighing—.
"What would that help? She had already tasted the vengeance of the wicked sorceress, and feared to taste it again. Well, night and day had she cried to God to free the convent from this she-devil, and often resolved to unfold the whole Satan's work to his Highness, though her own life would be perilled surely by so doing. But she was ready, as a faithful mother of the convent, to lay it down for her children, if, indeed, that could save them. But how would her death help these poor young virgins? For assuredly the moment Sidonia had brought her to a cruel end, she would make herself abbess by force, and this was such a dread to the sorrowing virgins, that they themselves entreated her to keep silence and be patient, waiting for the mercy of God to help them. For truly the power of this accursed sorceress was as great as her wickedness."
Here answered Dr Schwalenberg—
"This power can soon be broken; he knew many receipts out of Albertus Magnus, Raimundus Lallus, Theophrastus, Paracelsus, &c., against sorcery and evil witches."
This was a glad hearing to the state prosecutor, and he answered with a joyful mien and voice—
"Marry, doctor, if you know how to get hold of this evil hag, do it at once; we shall then bind her arms, so that she can make no signs to hurt us, and clap a pitch-plaster on her mouth, to stop the said mouth from calling the devil to her help; after which, I can easily bring her with me to Stettin, and answer for all proceedings to his Grace. Probably she is a-bed still; go back, and pretend that, upon reflection, you think it will be better to bleed her. Then, when you have hold of her arm, call in the fellows, whom the sheriff will, I am sure, allow to accompany you."
"Yes, yes," cried the sheriff, "take twenty of my men with you, my good doctor, if you will."
"Well, then," resumed the state prosecutor, "let them rush in, bind the dragon, clap the pitch-plaster on her mouth, and she is ours in spite of all the devils."
"Right, all right," cried the doctor; "never fear but I'll pay her for her matrimonial designs upon me."
And he began to prepare the plaster with some pitch he got from a cobbler, when suddenly the state prosecutor screamed out—
"Merciful God! see there! Look at the shadow of a toad creeping over my paper, whereon I move my hand!"
He springs up—wipes, wipes, wipes, but in vain; the unclean shadow is there still, and crawls over the paper, though never a toad is to be seen.
What a commotion of horror this Satan's work caused amongst the bystanders, can be easily imagined. All stood up and looked at the toad-shadow, when the abbess screamed out, "Merciful God! look there! look there! The whole floor is covered with toad-shadows!" Hereupon all the women-folk ran screaming from the room, but screamed yet louder when they reached the door, and met there Sidonia and her cat face to face. Round they all wheeled again, rushed to the back-door, out into the yard, over the pond, and into the oak-wood, without daring once to look behind them. But the men remained, for the doctor said bravely, "Wait now, good friends, patience, she can do us no harm;" and he murmured some words.
But just as they all made the sign of the cross, and silently put up a prayer to God, and gathered up their legs on the benches, so that the unclean shadows might not crawl upon their boots, the horrible hag appeared at the window, and her cat in his little red hose clambered up on the sill, mewing and crying (and I think myself that this cat was her spirit Chim, whom she had sent first to the sheriff's house to hear what was going on; for how could she have known it?).
Summa.—She laid one hand upon the window, the better to look in, and clenching the other, shook it at them, crying out, "Wait, ye accursed peasant boors, I, too, will judge ye for your sins!" But seeing her cousin, Jobst Bork, present, she screamed yet louder—"Eh! thou thick ploughman, hath the devil brought thee here too? Art thou not ashamed to accuse thy own kinswoman? Wait, I will give thee something to make thee remember our relationship!"
And as she began to murmur some words, and spat out before them all, the state prosecutor jumped up and rushed out after the women, and Sheriff Sparling rushed out after him, and they never stopped or stayed till both reached the oak-wood.
But Jobst said calmly, "Cousin, be reasonable; it is my duty!" My doctor, however, wanted to pay her off for the marriage business, so he seized a whip with which Sheriff Sparling had been thrashing a boor, and hurrying out, cried, "I will make her reasonable! Thou old hag of hell! here is the fit marriage for thee!" and so whack, whack upon her thin, withered shoulders.
Truly the witch cried out now in earnest, but began to spit at the same time, so that the doctor had given but four strokes when the whip fell from his hand, and he tottered hither and thither, crying, "O Lord! O Lord!" At this the sorceress laughed scornfully, and mocking his movements, cried out likewise, "O Lord! O Lord!" and when the poor doctor fell down flat upon the earth like the old porter and others, she began to dance, chanting her infernal psalm:—
"Also kleien und also kratzen, Meine Hunde und meine Katzen"
And the cat in his little red hose danced beside her. After which, she returned laughing to the convent to pray him to death, while the poor fellow lay groaning and gasping upon the pavement. None were there to help him, for the state prosecutor and Wedeln had made off to Stargard as quick as they could go, and Sheriff Sparling was still hiding in the bush. However, Jobst and the old dairy-woman helped him up as best he could, and asked what ailed him? to which he groaned in answer, "There seemed to be some one sitting inside his breast, and breaking the cartilago ensiformis horribly asunder. Ah, God! ah, God! he was weak indeed! his hour was come; let them lay him in a coach, and carry him directly to Stargard."
This was done as soon as the sheriff could be found; but my doctor's screams never ceased for three days, after which he gave up the ghost, and the corpse had the same appearance as that of the convent porter, which I have already noticed. Thus it happened with the wise!
But Johann Wedeln fared little better, as we shall see; for after the doctor's strange death, he said openly everywhere, he would never rest till the accursed witch was burned. Anna Apenborg repeated this in the convent, and to Sidonia's maid, upon which the witch sent for Anna, and asked was the report true? And when the other did not deny it, she exclaimed, "Now for this shall the knave be contracted all his life long, and twist his mouth thus." Whereupon she mimicked how his shoulders would be drawn up to his ears, and twisted her mouth in horrible contortions, so that it was a shame and sin to look at her. And truly this misfortune fell upon him from that hour. And afterwards when he heard of her wickedness, from Anna Apenborg and others, and brought her to an account for her sorcery in Stettin, she made him bite the dust and lie in his coffin ere long, out of malice and terrible revenge, as we shall hear further on.
How the assembled Pomeranian princes hold a council over Sidonia [Footnote: Note of Bogislaff XIV.—I was not present at this council, for I was holding my espousals at the time. (The Duke married the Princess Elizabeth von Schleswig Holstein in 1615, but left no heirs.)] and at length cite her to appear at the ducal court.
When the state prosecutor, Christian Ludeck, reached Stettin with his appalling news, the Duke was seriously troubled in mind as to how he could best save the holy sisterhood, and indeed the whole land, from the terrible Satanic power and murderous malice of this cruel sorceress. So he summoned all the princes of his family to a convocation on a certain day, at Old Stettin; but when they arrived, his Grace was absent, for he had gone to Coblentz on some business, and here was the matter.
His steward, Jeremias Schroter, was an unworthy agent, as his Grace heard; and when the time came for the poor people to get their oats or corn, he sent round and made them all give their receipts first, saying "They should have their corn after;" but when they went to bring it home, he beat them, and asked what they meant—he had their receipts: they were cheats, and should get no more corn from him.
Now, a poor parson's widow came up all the way to Stettin, to complain of the steward to his Highness, who was shocked at such knavery, and determined to go down himself to Coblentz and make inquiries; for the steward swore that the people were liars, and had defamed him.
The Duke therefore bid the chancellor, Martin Chemnitz, entertain his princely brothers until his return, which would not be before evening, and to show them his painting and sculpture galleries, and whatever else in the castle might please them. And now to show the good heart of his Grace, I must mention that, seeing the poor widow was tired with her six miles' walk, he bid her get up beside the coachman on the box of his carriage, and he would drive her himself to her own place.
Meanwhile the young princes arrived, and the court marshal, the chancellor, the aforesaid state prosecutor, and other high officials, received them on behalf of his Highness. Doctor Cramer, vice-superintendens, my esteemed father-in-law, was also present—item, Doctor Constantius Oesler.
They were first led into the picture-gallery by the chancellor (although Duke George cared little about such matters), where there was a costly collection of paintings by Perugino, Raphael, Titian, Bellini, &c.—item, statues, vases, coins, and medals, all of which his Grace had brought lately from Italy. Here also there was a large book, covered with crimson velvet, lying open, in which his Grace the Duke had written down many extracts from the sermons of Doctor Cramer and Mag. Reutzio, with marginal Latin notes of his own; for the Duke had a table in his oratory or closet in St. Mary's Church, that he might write down what pleased him, and a Greek and Latin Bible laid thereon. This book was, therefore, a right pleasing sight to Doctor Cramer, who stood and read his own sermons over again with great relish, while the others examined the paintings.
When they grew weary, the chancellor conducted them to the library, which contained ten thousand books. But Duke Ulrich said, "Marry, dear brothers, what the devil is there to see here? Let us rather go down to the stables, and examine my new Danish horses; then come up to my quarters (for his Grace lived with his brother, Duke Philip), and have a good Pomeranian carouse to pass away the time; for as to these fooleries, which have cost our good brother such a mint of money, I would not give a dollar for them all."
So they ran down the steps leading to the stables; but first he brought them into the hunting-hall, belonging to his quarter, which was decorated, and covered all along the walls with hunting-horns, rifles, cross-bows, and hunting-knives and pouches, with the horns of all sorts of animals killed in the chase. Whereupon Duke George said, "He was content to remain here—the horses he could see on the morrow."
So he sat down by the wine-flask, which lay there already upon the table; and while Duke Ulrich was trying to persuade him to come to the stables, saying he could have the wine-flask after, the door opened, and his Highness Duke Philip unexpectedly entered the apartment.
He embraced all his dear brothers, and then, turning to Duke Francis, the bishop, said, "Tell me, dear Fra (so he always called him, for his Grace spoke Italian and Latin like German), is there any hope of a christening at thy castle? Oh, say yes, and I will give thee a duchy for my godchild."
But Bishop Francis answered mournfully, "No!" Then Duke Philip turned to another—"How say you, brother—mayhap there is hope of an heir to Wolgast?"
"None, alas!" was the answer.
"No, no!" exclaimed the Duke, "and there is no hope for me either—none!" Then he walked up and down the hall in great agitation, at last stopped, and lifting up his hands to heaven, cried, "Merciful God, a child, a child! Is my whole ancient race to perish? Wilt Thou slay us, as Thou didst the first-born of Egypt? Oh! a child, a child!"
Here Doctor Cramerus advanced humbly, and said, "Your Highness should have faith. Remember what St. Paul says (Rom. iv.) concerning the faith of Abraham and Sarah; and Abraham was a hundred years old, whereas your Highness is scarce forty, therefore why despair of the mercy of God? Besides, many of his brothers were still unwed."
Hereat his Grace stood silent, and looked round at his dear brothers; but Duke George exclaimed, "You need not look at me, dear brother, for I mean never to marry" (which, indeed, was the truth, for he died some short time after at Buckow, whether through Sidonia's witchcraft I know not, at the age of thirty-five years, and unmarried. One thing, however, is certain, that his death was as strange as the others; for in seven days he was well, sick, dead, buried). [Footnote: There was formerly a Cistercian monastery at Buckow, in the chapel of which still hangs a picture of this Prince. Like most of his race, the face is in the highest degree unmeaning; indeed, nothing more can be said of him than that he was born and died.]
Summa.—His Highness first excused himself to his illustrious brothers for his absence, and related the cause, how his knave of a steward had been oppressing the poor, whereupon he determined to go himself and avenge their injuries; for a prince should be the father of his people, and it was a blessed work, the Scripture said, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction (James i. 27). So he hid himself in a little closet, where he could hear everything in the widow's house, and then bid her send for the steward; and when he came, the widow asked for her corn, as usual, but he said, "She must give him the receipt first, and then she might have it;" upon which she gave him the receipt, and he went away. Then the Duke bid the widow send a peasant and his cart for the corn; however, the old answer came back—"She was a cheat—what did she mean? He had her receipt in his hand."
Upon this the Duke drove himself to the knave, and made him, in his presence, pay down all the arrears of corn to the widow; then he beat him black and blue, for a little parting remembrance, and dismissed him ignominiously from his service. After this he had thoughts of driving round to visit Prechln of Buslar, for the rumour was afloat that Sidonia had bewitched his little son Bartel, scarcely yet a year old, and made him grow a beard on his chin like an old carl's, that reached down to his little stomach. But as his dear brothers were waiting for him, his Grace had given up this journey, particularly as he wished to hear their opinions without delay as to what could be done to free the land from this evil sorceress Sidonia. Hereupon he bade Christian Ludeck, the state prosecutor, to read the proceedings at Marienfliess from his notes.
As he proceeded to read the Acta, the listeners crossed and blessed themselves; at last Duke Francis, the bishop, spake—"Did I not say well, when years ago, in Oderkrug, I prayed our father of blessed memory to burn this vile limb of Satan for a terrible example? But my good brother Philip sided against me with my father, and he was deemed the wiser. Who is the wiser now, I wonder—eh?"
Then Duke Philip asked Dr. Cramer, "What he thought of the matter as theologus?" who answered, "Your Grace must spare me; I will accuse no one, not even Sidonia, for though such things appear verily to be done by the help of the devil, yet had they no proof, seeing that no medicus had hitherto dissected any one of the cadavera which it was avowed Sidonia had bewitched to death."
Hereupon Dr. Constantius spake that he had already, by legal permission, dissected the body of his colleague, Dr. Schwalenberg, and delivered over the visum repertum to his Grace's chancellor. Then he described the appearances, which were truly singular, particularly that of the cartilago ensiformis. Item, concerning the valvulae tricuspidales, through which the blood falls into the heart. They were so powerfully contracted that the blood was forced to take another course, for which reason, probably, the corpse seemed so dreadfully discoloured. Item, the vena pulmonalis had burst, from which cause the doctor had spit blood to the last. And lastly, the glandulae sublinguales were so swollen that the tongue could not remain in the mouth. Such a death was not natural; that he averred. But whether Sidonia's sorcery had caused it, or it were sent as a peculiar punishment by God, that he would not say; he agreed with the excellent Dr. Cramer, and thought it better to accuse no one.
"Now by the cross!" cried Duke Francis, "what else is it but devil's work? But the lords were very lukewarm, and resolved not to peril themselves; that he saw. However, if his brother, Duke Philip, permitted the whole princely race to be thus bewitched to death, he would have to answer for it at the day of judgment. He prayed him, therefore, for the love of God, to send for the hag instantly, and drag her to the scaffold."
Hereat Duke Philip sank his head upon his arm, and was silent a long space. But the state prosecutor gave answer—"Marry! will your Episcopal Highness then take the trouble to tell us, who is to seize the hag? I will do it not, and who else will? for, methinks, whoever touches her must needs be sore tired of life."
"If no one else will," returned the bishop, "my Camyn executioner, Master Radeck, will surely do it, for he never feared a witch; besides, he knows all their arcana."
Meanwhile, as Duke Philip still sat in deep thought, and played with a quill, the door opened, and a lacquey entered with a message from the noble Prechln of Buslar, requesting an audienza of his Grace. He had an infant in his arms which a wicked witch had prayed to death, and the child had a beard on it like an old man, so that all in the castle were terrified at the sight.
His Grace Duke Philip instantly started up. "Merciful God! is it true?" waved his hand to the lacquey, who withdrew, and then walked up and down, exclaiming still, "Merciful God! what can be done?"
"Torture! burn! kill!" cried Duke Francis, the bishop "and to-morrow, if it be possible. I shall send this night for my executioner! trust to him. He will soon screw the soul out of the vile hag; take my word for it."
"Ay! torture! burn! kill!" cried also the state prosecutor, "and the sooner the better, gracious master. For God's sake, no mercy more!"
Here the door opened, and Prechln of Buslar entered, pale as the infant corpse that lay upon his arms. This corpse was dressed in white with black ribbons, and a wreath of rosemary encircled the little head; but, what was strange and horrible, a long black beard depended from the infant's chin, which the wind, as the door opened, blew backward and forward in the sorrowing father's face. After him came his wife, wringing her hands wildly from grief, and an old serving-maid.
Truly the whole convocation shuddered at the sight, but Bishop Francis was the first to speak—
"And this is no devil's work?" he exclaimed. "Now, by my faith, ye and your wise doctors are fools if ye deny this evidence. Come nearer, poor fellow; set the corpse of your child down, and tell us how it came to pass. We had heard of your strange affliction, and just spoke thereon as you entered. Ha! the sorceress cannot escape us now, methinks."
Now, when the mourning father began to tell the story, his wife set up such a weeping and lamentation, and the old nurse followed her example after such a lugubrious fashion, that their lordships could not hear a word. Whereupon his Grace Duke Philip was obliged earnestly to request that the women should keep silence whilst Prechln of Buslar spoke.
I have already mentioned what grudge Sidonia had against him, because he refused to acknowledge himself her feudal vassal by kissing her hand; also, how she accused him afterward of stealing her dog. This the poor knight related now at length, and with many tears, and continued—
"During the strife between them, she one day spat upon both his little sons, and the eldest, Dinnies, a fine fellow of seven years old, who was playing with a slipper at the time under the table, died first. But the accursed witch had stepped over to the cradle where his little Bartholomew lay sleeping, while this old nurse, Barbara Kadows, rocked him, and murmuring some words, spat upon him, and then went away, cursing, from the house. So the spell was put upon both children that same day, and Dinnies took sick directly, and in three days was a corpse; but on his little Memi first grew this great black beard which their lordships all saw, and then he likewise died, after crying three days and three nights in horrible torture." The old nurse confirmed all this, and said—
"That when the horrible hag knelt down by the cradle to blow upon the child, she turned up her eyes, so that nothing but the whites could be seen. Ah! what a wicked old hag that could not spare a child like that, and could put such an old man's beard on its little face."
Then Duke Philip asked the knight if he had accused Sidonia of the witchcraft, and what had she answered?
"Ah yes, he had done so, but by letter, for he feared to go to Marienfliess, lest it might happen to him as to others who met her face to face, and his messenger brought back a letter in answer, by which their lordships could see how her arrogance equalled her wickedness," and he drew forth her letter from his bosom, and handed the same to his Highness. Now Bishop Francis would have prevented his brother touching the letter, but Duke Philip had a brave heart, and taking it boldly, read aloud as follows:—
"SIDONIA, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, PRIORESS OF THE NOBLE CONVENT OF MARIENPLIESS, LADY AND HEIRESS OP THE LANDS AND CASTLE OF STRAMEHL, LABES, REGENWALD, WANGERIN, AND OTHERS—GREETING."
"GOOD FRIEND AND VASSAL,"
"Touching your foul accusation respecting your two brats, and my bewitching them to death, I shall only say you must be mad. I have long thought that pride would turn your brain: now I see it has been done. If Bartel has got a beard, send for soap and shave him. As to yourself, I counsel you to come to Marienfliess to old Kathe, she knows how to turn the brain right again with a wooden bowl. Pour hot water therein, three times boiled, set the bowl on your head, and over the bowl an inverted pot; then, as the water is drawn up into the empty pot, so will the madness be drawn up out of your brain into the wooden bowl, and all will be right again. It is a good receipt; I counsel you to try it. She only desires you to kiss her hand in return. Such is the advice of your feudal lady and seigneuress,
His Highness had hardly finished reading the letter, when Bishop Francis cried out—
"What the devil, brother, hast thou made the murderous dragon a prioress?"
But his Highness knew nothing of it, and wondered much likewise. Whereupon the state prosecutor told them how it came about, and that poor Dorothea Stettin had been talked out of her situation by the dragon, as was all here to be seen set down in full in the indictment; but, as the case was not now under discussion, he would pass it over, although great quarrels and scandal prevailed in the convent in consequence, and poor Dorothea lay sick, earnestly desiring to be restored to her prioret.
Bishop Francis now grew yet more angry—
"Give the witch a prioret in hell," he cried. "What would his dear brother do, now that the proofs were in his hands?"
To which Duke Philip answered mildly—
"Dear Fra, think on my symbol, C. & R." (that is, Christo et Reipublicae, for Christ and the State). "Let us not be over-hasty. Suppose that Dr. Constantinus should first dissect this poor infant, and see what really caused its death."
Thereat the doctor plunged his hand in his pocket, to draw forth his case of instruments, but the mother screamed out, and ran to tear the child from him—"No, no; they should never cut up her little Memi!" Item, the maid screamed out, "No, no; she would lose her life first!" Item, the father stood still and trembled, but said never a word.
What was to be done now? His Grace repented of his hastiness, and at last said—
"Well, then, friends, let the doctor examine the infant externally, look into its mouth, &c."
And when the parents consented to this, his Grace prayed them gently to withdraw with him into another apartment while the examination was made, as such a sight might give them pain. To this also they consented, and his Grace led the way to another hall (giving a sign privately to the doctor to do his business properly), where a splendid collation was served. After which, just to detain them longer, his Grace brought them to visit the picture-gallery.
Summa.—When they returned, the dissection had been accomplished, at which sight the parents and the maid screamed; but his Grace confuted them, saying—
"That the ends of justice required it. He would now take the case into his own hands, and they might return quietly to their own castle and bury their infant, who would sleep as well dissected as entire."
Having at last calmed them somewhat, they kissed his hand and took their leave.
Meanwhile the two young Dukes, Ulrich and George, finding the time hang heavy, had slipped away from the council-board, and gone down to the ducal stables.
When his Highness noticed their absence, he sent a page bidding them return and give their opinion in council as to what should be done next. But they sent back an answer—"Let the lords do what they pleased; as for them they were off to the chase, seeing it was pleasanter to hunt a hare than a witch."
Now Bishop Francis stormed in earnest.
"Marry, some folk would not believe in witchcraft, till they stood with their heels turned toward heaven; and here these idle younkers must needs ride off to the chase when the life and death of our race hangs in the balance. I say again, brother, torture, burn, kill, and as soon as may be."
But Duke Philip still answered mildly—
"Dear Fra, the medicus hath just pronounced that the corpse of the poor child presents no unnatural appearances; and as to the beard, this may just as well be a miraculum Dei as a miraculum damonis, therefore I esteem it better to cite Sidonia to our court, and admonish her strenuously to all good."
This course had little favour from Bishop Francis; but when the state prosecutor agreed with his Highness, and Dr. Cramerus praised so Christian and merciful a resolve, he was at last content, particularly as some one said (I forget who, but I rather think it was the chancellor, Martinus Chemnitz), that Mag. Joel of Grypswald gave it as his opinion that it would be a matter of trouble and danger to seize the witch, seeing that her familiar, the spirit Chim, was a mighty and strong spirit, and capable of taking great revenge on any who laid hand upon her; but that he, Mag. Joel, would do for him easily if he came in his way.
This intelligence gave the bishop great comfort, and he instantly despatched a letter to Mag. Joel, bidding him come forthwith to Stettin, whilst the chancellor prepared a Citationem realem sive personalem for Sidonia, which contained the following:—
"WE, PHILIP, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, &c.,
"Command thee, Sidonia von Bork, conventual and not prioress of the noble convent of Marienfliess, to appear before us, at our court of Stettin, on the 15th day of July, at three of the clock, to answer for the evil deeds whereof thou art accused, under punishment of banishment, forfeiture, and great danger to thy body and life. Against such, therefore, take thou heed.
"Signatum, Old Stettin, 10th July 1616.
"PHILIPPUS, manu sua."
Of Sidonia's defence—Item, how she has a quarrel with Joachim Wedel, and bewitches him to death.
At three of the clock on the appointed day, the grand Rittersaal (knights' hall) of the stately castle of Old Stettin was crowded with ministers, councillors, and officials, who had met there by command of their illustrious mightinesses, Duke Philip, Prince and Lord of Stettin, and Francis, Bishop of Camyn. Amongst the nobles assembled were Albert, Count of Eberstein, Lord of Neugarten and Massow; Eustache Flemming, hereditary Grand Marshal; Christoph von Mildenitz, privy councillor and dean of the honourable chapter of Camyn; Caspar von Stogentin, captain at Friedrichswald; Christoph von Plate, master of the ceremonies; Martin Chemnitz, Chancellor of Pomerania; Dr. Cramer, my worthy lord father-in-law, vice-superintendens; Dr. Constantius Oesler, medicus; Christian Ludeck, attorney-general; Mag. Joel of Grypswald, and many others. These all stood in two long rows, waiting for their princely Graces. For it was rumoured that Sidonia had already arrived with the fish-sellers from Grabow, which, indeed, was the case; and she had, moreover, packed seven hogsheads of her best beer on the waggon along with her, purposing to sell it to profit in the town; but the devil truly got his profit out of the said beer, for by it not only our good town of Stettin, but likewise the whole land, was nearly brought to ruin and utter destruction, as we shall hear further on.
Summa.—When all the afore-named were ranged in rank and order, the great doors of the hall were flung wide open, and Duke Philip entered first. Every one knows that he was small, delicate, almost thin in person, pale of face, with a moustache On his upper lip, and his hair combed la Nazarena. [Footnote: Divided in the centre, and falling down straight at each side, as in the pictures of our Saviour.] He wore a yellow doublet with silver-coloured satin sleeves, scarlet hose trimmed with gold lace, white silk stockings, and white boots, with gold spurs; round his neck was a Spanish ruff of white point lace, and by his side a jewel-hilted sword; his breast and girdle were also profusely decorated with diamonds. So his Highness advanced up the hall, wearing his grey beaver hat, from which drooped a stately plume of black herons' feathers, fastened with an aigrette of diamonds. This he did not remove, as was customary, until all present had made their obeisance and deferentially kissed his hand. Duke Francis followed in his episcopal robes, with a mitre upon his head, and a bishop's crook of ivory in his hand. The other young dukes, Ulrich, George, and Bogislaus, remained cautiously away. [Footnote: Note of Bogislaff XIV.—Yes; but not out of fear. I was celebrating my espousals, as I have said.]
And the blood-standard waved from the towers, and the princely soldatesca, with all the officers, lined the castle court, so that nothing was left undone that could impress this terrible sorceress with due fear and respect for their illustrious Graces.
And when the order was given for Sidonia to be admitted, the two Princes leaned proudly on a table at the upper end of the hall, while the assembled nobles formed two long lines at each side. Three rolls of the drum announced the approach of the prisoner. But when she entered, accompanied by the lord provost, in her nun's robes and white veil, on which the key of her office was embroidered in gold, a visible shudder passed over her frame; collecting herself, however, quickly, she advanced to kiss their Graces' hands, but Bishop Francis, after he had drawn his symbolum with chalk before him on the table, namely, H, H, H, that is, "Help, helper, help," cried out, "Back, Satan! stir not from thy place; and know that if thou shouldst attempt any of thy diabolical sorceries upon my dear lord and brother here (as for me, this honourable, consecrated, and priestly robe saves me from thy power) thou shalt be torn limb from limb, and thy members flung to feed the dogs, while thou art yet living to behold it, accursed, thrice-accursed witch!"
And his Grace, in his great rage against her, struck the table with his ivory crook, so that he broke a bottle filled with red ink which stood thereon, and the said ink (alas! what an evil omen) poured down upon Duke Philip's white silk stockings, and stained them red like blood.
Meanwhile Sidonia exclaimed, "What! is there no leech here to feel the pulse of his Serene Highness? Surely the dog-days, that we are in the middle of, have turned his brain completely. Any little bit of mother-wit he might have had is clean gone. What! she had scarcely entered—knew not yet of what she was accused, and she was 'Satan!' 'a thrice-accursed witch!' who was to be cut up into little bits to feed dogs! Had any man ever heard the like? Would the nobles of Pomerania, whom she saw around her, suffer one of their own rank—a lady of castles and lands—to be thus handled? She called upon them all as witnesses, and after the audienza a notary should be summoned to note all down, for she would assuredly appeal to the states of the kingdom, and bring her cause before the Emperor."
Hereupon Duke Philip interposed—"Lady, our dear brother is of a hasty temperament; yet you can scarce wonder at his speech, or take it ill, when you consider the terrible evils which you have brought upon our ancient and illustrious race. However, as an upright and good prince must judge the cause of his subjects before his own, I shall first inquire what caused the sudden illness of the sheriff, Eggert Sparling, and of the abbess, Magdalena, that time they brought my father's letter to you?—that letter which you said was a forgery, and flung into the fire."