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Sintram and His Companions
by Friedrich de la Motte Fouque
with foreword by Charlotte M Yonge.
Four tales are, it is said, intended by the Author to be appropriate
to the Four Seasons: the stern, grave "Sintram", to winter; the
tearful, smiling, fresh "Undine", to Spring; the torrid deserts of
the "Two Captains", to summer; and the sunset gold of "Aslauga's
Knight", to autumn. Of these two are before us.
The author of these tales, as well as of many more, was Friedrich,
Baron de la Motte Fouque, one of the foremost of the minstrels or
tale-tellers of the realm of spiritual chivalry--the realm whither
Arthur's knights departed when they "took the Sancgreal's holy
quest,"--whence Spenser's Red Cross knight and his fellows came forth
on their adventures, and in which the Knight of la Mancha believed,
and endeavoured to exist.
La Motte Fouque derived his name and his title from the French
Huguenot ancestry, who had fled on the Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes. His Christian name was taken from his godfather, Frederick
the Great, of whom his father was a faithful friend, without
compromising his religious principles and practice. Friedrich was
born at Brandenburg on February 12, 1777, was educated by good
parents at home, served in the Prussian army through disaster and
success, took an enthusiastic part in the rising of his country
against Napoleon, inditing as many battle-songs as Korner. When
victory was achieved, he dedicated his sword in the church of
Neunhausen where his estate lay. He lived there, with his beloved
wife and his imagination, till his death in 1843.
And all the time life was to him a poet's dream. He lived in a
continual glamour of spiritual romance, bathing everything, from the
old deities of the Valhalla down to the champions of German
liberation, in an ideal glow of purity and nobleness, earnestly
Christian throughout, even in his dealings with Northern mythology,
for he saw Christ unconsciously shown in Baldur, and Satan in Loki.
Thus he lived, felt, and believed what he wrote, and though his
dramas and poems do not rise above fair mediocrity, and the great
number of his prose stories are injured by a certain monotony, the
charm of them is in their elevation of sentiment and the earnest
faith pervading all. His knights might be Sir Galahad--
"My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure."
Evil comes to them as something to be conquered, generally as a form
of magic enchantment, and his "wondrous fair maidens" are worthy of
them. Yet there is adventure enough to afford much pleasure, and
often we have a touch of true genius, which has given actual ideas to
the world, and precious ones.
This genius is especially traceable in his two masterpieces, Sintram
and Undine. Sintram was inspired by Albert Durer's engraving of the
"Knight of Death," of which we give a presentation. It was sent to
Fouque by his friend Edward Hitzig, with a request that he would
compose a ballad on it. The date of the engraving is 1513, and we
quote the description given by the late Rev. R. St. John Tyrwhitt,
showing how differently it may be read.
"Some say it is the end of the strong wicked man, just overtaken by
Death and Sin, whom he has served on earth. It is said that the tuft
on the lance indicates his murderous character, being of such unusual
size. You know the use of that appendage was to prevent blood
running down from the spearhead to the hands. They also think that
the object under the horse's off hind foot is a snare, into which the
old oppressor is to fall instantly. The expression of the faces may
be taken either way: both good men and bad may have hard, regular
features; and both good men and bad would set their teeth grimly on
seeing Death, with the sands of their life nearly run out. Some say
they think the expression of Death gentle, or only admonitory (as the
author of "Sintram"); and I have to thank the authoress of the "Heir
of Redclyffe" for showing me a fine impression of the plate, where
Death certainly had a not ungentle countenance--snakes and all. I
think the shouldered lance, and quiet, firm seat on horseback, with
gentle bearing on the curb-bit, indicate grave resolution in the
rider, and that a robber knight would have his lance in rest; then
there is the leafy crown on the horse's head; and the horse and dog
move on so quietly, that I am inclined to hope the best for the
Musing on the mysterious engraving, Fouque saw in it the life-long
companions of man, Death and Sin, whom he must defy in order to reach
salvation; and out of that contemplation rose his wonderful romance,
not exactly an allegory, where every circumstance can be fitted with
an appropriate meaning, but with the sense of the struggle of life,
with external temptation and hereditary inclination pervading all,
while Grace and Prayer aid the effort. Folko and Gabrielle are
revived from the Magic Ring, that Folko may by example and influence
enhance all higher resolutions; while Gabrielle, in all unconscious
innocence, awakes the passions, and thus makes the conquest the
It is within the bounds of possibility that the similarities of folk-
lore may have brought to Fouque's knowledge the outline of the story
which Scott tells us was the germ of "Guy Mannering"; where a boy,
whose horoscope had been drawn by an astrologer, as likely to
encounter peculiar trials at certain intervals, actually had, in his
twenty-first year, a sort of visible encounter with the Tempter, and
came off conqueror by his strong faith in the Bible. Sir Walter,
between reverence and realism, only took the earlier part of the
story, but Fouque gives us the positive struggle, and carries us
along with the final victory and subsequent peace. His tale has had
a remarkable power over the readers. We cannot but mention two
remarkable instances at either end of the scale. Cardinal Newman, in
his younger days, was so much overcome by it that he hurried out into
the garden to read it alone, and returned with traces of emotion in
his face. And when Charles Lowder read it to his East End boys,
their whole minds seemed engrossed by it, and they even called
certain spots after the places mentioned. Imagine the Rocks of the
Moon in Ratcliff Highway!
May we mention that Miss Christabel Coleridge's "Waynflete" brings
something of the spirit and idea of "Sintram" into modern life?
"Undine" is a story of much lighter fancy, and full of a peculiar
grace, though with a depth of melancholy that endears it. No doubt
it was founded on the universal idea in folk-lore of the nixies or
water-spirits, one of whom, in Norwegian legend, was seen weeping
bitterly because of the want of a soul. Sometimes the nymph is a
wicked siren like the Lorelei; but in many of these tales she weds an
earthly lover, and deserts him after a time, sometimes on finding her
diving cap, or her seal-skin garment, which restores her to her ocean
kindred, sometimes on his intruding on her while she is under a
periodical transformation, as with the fairy Melusine, more rarely if
he becomes unfaithful.
There is a remarkable Cornish tale of a nymph or mermaiden, who thus
vanished, leaving a daughter who loved to linger on the beach rather
than sport with other children. By and by she had a lover, but no
sooner did he show tokens of inconstancy, than the mother came up
from the sea and put him to death, when the daughter pined away and
died. Her name was Selina, which gives the tale a modern aspect, and
makes us wonder if the old tradition can have been modified by some
report of Undine's story.
There was an idea set forth by the Rosicrucians of spirits abiding in
the elements, and as Undine represented the water influences,
Fouque's wife, the Baroness Caroline, wrote a fairly pretty story on
the sylphs of fire. But Undine's freakish playfulness and mischief
as an elemental being, and her sweet patience when her soul is won,
are quite original, and indeed we cannot help sharing, or at least
understanding, Huldbrand's beginning to shrink from the unearthly
creature to something of his own flesh and blood. He is altogether
unworthy, and though in this tale there is far less of spiritual
meaning than in Sintram, we cannot but see that Fouque's thought was
that the grosser human nature is unable to appreciate what is
absolutely pure and unearthly.
C. M. YONGE.
In the high castle of Drontheim many knights sat assembled to hold
council for the weal of the realm; and joyously they caroused
together till midnight around the huge stone table in the vaulted
hall. A rising storm drove the snow wildly against the rattling
windows; all the oak doors groaned, the massive locks shook, the
castle-clock slowly and heavily struck the hour of one. Then a boy,
pale as death, with disordered hair and closed eyes, rushed into the
hall, uttering a wild scream of terror. He stopped beside the richly
carved seat of the mighty Biorn, clung to the glittering knight with
both his hands, and shrieked in a piercing voice, "Knight and father!
father and knight! Death and another are closely pursuing me!"
An awful stillness lay like ice on the whole assembly, save that the
boy screamed ever the fearful words. But one of Biorn's numerous
retainers, an old esquire, known by the name of Rolf the Good,
advanced towards the terrified child, took him in his arms, and half
chanted this prayer: "0 Father, help Thy servant! I believe, and yet
I cannot believe." The boy, as if in a dream, at once loosened his
hold of the knight; and the good Rolf bore him from the hall
unresisting, yet still shedding hot tears and murmuring confused
The lords and knights looked at one another much amazed, until the
mighty Biorn said, wildly and fiercely laughing, "Marvel not at that
strange boy. He is my only son; and has been thus since he was five
years old: he is now twelve. I am therefore accustomed to see him
so; though, at the first, I too was disquieted by it. The attack
comes upon him only once in the year, and always at this same time.
But forgive me for having spent so many words on my poor Sintram, and
let us pass on to some worthier subject for our discourse."
Again there was silence for a while; then whisperingly and doubtfully
single voices strove to renew their broken-off discourse, but without
success. Two of the youngest and most joyous began a roundelay; but
the storm howled and raged so wildly without, that this too was soon
interrupted. And now they all sat silent and motionless in the lofty
hall; the lamp flickered sadly under the vaulted roof; the whole
party of knights looked like pale, lifeless images dressed up in
Then arose the chaplain of the castle of Drontheim, the only priest
among the knightly throng, and said, "Dear Lord Biorn, our eyes and
thoughts have all been directed to you and your son in a wonderful
manner; but so it has been ordered by the providence of God. You
perceive that we cannot withdraw them; and you would do well to tell
us exactly what you know concerning the fearful state of the boy.
Perchance, the solemn tale, which I expect from you, might do good to
this disturbed assembly."
Biorn cast a look of displeasure on the priest, and answered, "Sir
chaplain, you have more share in the history than either you or I
could desire. Excuse me, if I am unwilling to trouble these light-
hearted warriors with so rueful a tale."
But the chaplain approached nearer to the knight, and said, in a firm
yet very mild tone, "Dear lord, hitherto it rested with you alone to
relate, or not to relate it; but now that you have so strangely
hinted at the share which I have had in your son's calamity, I must
positively demand that you will repeat word for word how everything
came to pass. My honour will have it so, and that will weigh with
you as much as with me."
In stern compliance Biorn bowed his haughty head, and began the
following narration. "This time seven years I was keeping the
Christmas feast with my assembled followers. We have many venerable
old customs which have descended to us by inheritance from our great
forefathers; as, for instance, that of placing a gilded boar's head
on the table, and making thereon knightly vows of daring and wondrous
deeds. Our chaplain here, who used then frequently to visit me, was
never a friend to keeping up such traditions of the ancient heathen
world. Such men as he were not much in favour in those olden times."
"My excellent predecessors," interrupted the chaplain, "belonged more
to God than to the world, and with Him they were in favour. Thus
they converted your ancestors; and if I can in like manner be of
service to you, even your jeering will not vex me."
With looks yet darker, and a somewhat angry shudder, the knight
resumed: "Yes, yes; I know all your promises and threats of an
invisible Power, and how they are meant persuade us to part more
readily with whatever of this world's goods we may possess. Once,
ah, truly, once I too had such! Strange!--Sometimes it seems to me
as though ages had passed over since then, and as if I were alone the
survivor, so fearfully has everything changed. But now I bethink me,
that the greater part of this noble company knew me in my happiness,
and have seen my wife, my lovely Verena."
He pressed his hands on his eyes, and it seemed as though he wept.
The storm had ceased; the soft light of the moon shone through the
windows, and her beams played on his wild features. Suddenly he
started up, so that his heavy armour rattled with a fearful sound,
and he cried out in a thundering voice, "Shall I turn monk, as she
has become a nun? No, crafty priest; your webs are too thin to catch
flies of my sort."
"I have nothing to do with webs," said the chaplain. "In all
openness and sincerity have I put heaven and hell before you during
the space of six years; and you gave full consent to the step which
the holy Verena took. But what all that has to do with your son's
sufferings I know not, and I wait for your narration."
"You may wait long enough," said Biorn, with a sneer. "Sooner
"Swear not!" said the chaplain in a loud commanding tone, and his
eyes flashed almost fearfully.
"Hurra!" cried Biorn, in wild affright; "hurra! Death and his
companion are loose!" and he dashed madly out of the chamber and down
the steps. The rough and fearful notes of his horn were heard
summoning his retainers; and presently afterwards the clatter of
horses' feet on the frozen court-yard gave token of their departure.
The knights retired, silent and shuddering; while the chaplain
remained alone at the huge stone table, praying.
After some time the good Rolf returned with slow and soft steps, and
started with surprise at finding the hall deserted. The chamber
where he had been occupied in quieting and soothing the unhappy child
was in so distant a part of the castle that he had heard nothing of
the knight's hasty departure. The chaplain related to him all that
had passed, and then said, "But, my good Rolf, I much wish to ask you
concerning those strange words with which you seemed to lull poor
Sintram to rest. They sounded like sacred words, and no doubt they
are; but I could not understand them. 'I believe, and yet I cannot
"Reverend sir," answered Rolf, "I remember that from my earliest
years no history in the Gospels has taken such hold of me as that of
the child possessed with a devil, which the disciples were not able
to cast out; but when our Saviour came down from the mountain where
He had been transfigured, He broke the bonds wherewith the evil
spirit had held the miserable child bound. I always felt as if I
must have known and loved that boy, and been his play-fellow in his
happy days; and when I grew older, then the distress of the father on
account of his lunatic son lay heavy at my heart. It must surely
have all been a foreboding of our poor young Lord Sintram, whom I
love as if he were my own child; and now the words of the weeping
father in the Gospel often come into my mind,--'Lord, I believe; help
Thou my unbelief;' and something similar I may very likely have
repeated to-day as a chant or a prayer. Reverend father, when I
consider how one dreadful imprecation of the father has kept its
withering hold on the son, all seems dark before me; but, God be
praised! my faith and my hope remain above."
"Good Rolf," said the priest, "I cannot clearly understand what you
say about the unhappy Sintram; for I do not know when and how this
affliction came upon him. If no oath or solemn promise bind you to
secrecy, will you make known to me all that is connected with it?"
"Most willingly," replied Rolf. "I have long desired to have an
opportunity of so doing; but you have been almost always separated
from us. I dare not now leave the sleeping boy any longer alone; and
to-morrow, at the earliest dawn, I must take him to his father. Will
you come with me, dear sir, to our poor Sintram?"
The chaplain at once took up the small lamp which Rolf had brought
with him, and they set off together through the long vaulted
passages. In the small distant chamber they found the poor boy fast
asleep. The light of the lamp fell strangely on his very pale face.
The chaplain stood gazing at him for some time, and at length said:
"Certainly from his birth his features were always sharp and strongly
marked, but now they are almost fearfully so for such a child; and
yet no one can help having a kindly feeling towards him, whether he
will or not."
"Most true, dear sir," answered Rolf. And it was evident how his
whole heart rejoiced at any word which betokened affection for his
beloved young lord. Thereupon he placed the lamp where its light
could not disturb the boy, and seating himself close by the priest,
he began to speak in the following terms:--"During that Christmas
feast of which my lord was talking to you, he and his followers
discoursed much concerning the German merchants, and the best means
of keeping down the increasing pride and power of the trading-towns.
At length Biorn laid his impious hand on the golden boar's head, and
swore to put to death without mercy every German trader whom fate, in
what way soever, might bring alive into his power. The gentle Verena
turned pale, and would have interposed--but it was too late, the
bloody word was uttered. And immediately afterwards, as though the
great enemy of souls were determined at once to secure with fresh
bonds the vassal thus devoted to him, a warder came into the hall to
announce that two citizens of a trading-town in Germany, an old man
and his son, had been shipwrecked on this coast, and were now within
the gates, asking hospitality of the lord of the castle. The knight
could not refrain from shuddering; but he thought himself bound by
his rash vow and by that accursed heathenish golden boar. We, his
retainers, were commanded to assemble in the castle-yard, armed with
sharp spears, which were to be hurled at the defenceless strangers at
the first signal made to us. For the first, and I trust the last
time in my life, I said 'No' to the commands of my lord; and that I
said in a loud voice, and with the heartiest determination. The
Almighty, who alone knows whom He will accept and whom He will
reject, armed me with resolution and strength. And Biorn might
perceive whence the refusal of his faithful old servant arose, and
that it was worthy of respect. He said to me, half in anger and half
in scorn: 'Go up to my wife's apartments; her attendants are running
to and fro, perhaps she is ill. Go up, Rolf the Good, I say to thee,
and so women shall be with women.' I thought to myself, 'Jeer on,
then;' and I went silently the way that he had pointed out to me.
On the stairs there met me two strange and right fearful beings, whom
I had never seen before; and I know not how they got into the castle.
One of them was a great tall man, frightfully pallid and thin; the
other was a dwarf-like man, with a most hideous countenance and
features. Indeed, when I collected my thoughts and looked carefully
at him, it appeared to me--"
Low moanings and convulsive movements of the boy here interrupted the
narrative. Rolf and his chaplain hastened to his bedside, and
perceived that his countenance wore an expression of fearful agony,
and that he was struggling in vain to open his eyes. The priest made
the Sign of the Cross over him, and immediately peace seemed to be
restored, and his sleep again became quiet: they both returned softly
to their seats.
"You see," said Rolf, "that it will not do to describe more closely
those two awful beings. Suffice it to say, that they went down into
the court-yard, and that I proceeded to my lady's apartments. I
found the gentle Verena almost fainting with terror and overwhelming
anxiety, and I hastened to restore her with some of those remedies
which I was able to apply by my skill, through God's gift and the
healing virtues of herbs and minerals. But scarcely had she
recovered her senses, when, with that calm holy power which, as you
know, is hers, she desired me to conduct her down to the court-yard,
saying that she must either put a stop to the fearful doings of this
night, or herself fall a sacrifice. Our way took us by the little
bed of the sleeping Sintram. Alas! hot tears fell from my eyes to
see how evenly his gentle breath then came and went, and how sweetly
he smiled in his peaceful slumbers."
The old man put his hands to his eyes, and wept bitterly; but soon he
resumed his sad story. "As we approached the lowest window of the
staircase, we could hear distinctly the voice of the elder merchant;
and on looking out, the light of the torches showed me his noble
features, as well as the bright youthful countenance of his son.
'I take Almighty God to witness,' cried he, 'that I had no evil
thought against this house! But surely I must have fallen unawares
amongst heathens; it cannot be that I am in a Christian knight's
castle; and if you are indeed heathens, then kill us at once. And
thou, my beloved son, be patient and of good courage; in heaven we
shall learn wherefore it could not be otherwise.' I thought I could
see those two fearful ones amidst the throng of retainers. The pale
one had a huge curved sword in his hand, the little one held a spear
notched in a strange fashion. Verena tore open the window, and cried
in silvery tones through the wild night, 'My dearest lord and
husband, for the sake of your only child, have pity on those harmless
men! Save them from death, and resist the temptation of the evil
spirit.' The knight answered in his fierce wrath--but I cannot
repeat his words. He staked his child on the desperate cast; he
called Death and the Devil to see that he kept his word:--but hush!
the boy is again moaning. Let me bring the dark tale quickly to a
close. Biorn commanded his followers to strike, casting on them
those fierce looks which have gained him the title of Biorn of the
Fiery Eyes; while at the same time the two frightful strangers
bestirred themselves very busily. Then Verena called out, with
piercing anguish, 'Help, 0 God, my Saviour!' Those two dreadful
figures disappeared; and the knight and his retainers, as if seized
with blindness, rushed wildly one against the other, but without
doing injury to themselves, or yet being able to strike the
merchants, who ran so close a risk. They bowed reverently towards
Verena, and with calm thanksgivings departed through the castle-
gates, which at that moment had been burst open by a violent gust of
wind, and now gave a free passage to any who would go forth. The
lady and I were yet standing bewildered on the stairs, when I fancied
I saw the two fearful forms glide close by me, but mist-like and
unreal. Verena called to me: 'Rolf, did you see a tall pale man, and
a little hideous one with him, pass just now up the staircase?' I
flew after them; and found, alas, the poor boy in the same state in
which you saw him a few hours ago. Ever since, the attack has come
on him regularly at this time, and he is in all respects fearfully
changed. The lady of the castle did not fail to discern the avenging
hand of Heaven in this calamity; and as the knight, her husband,
instead of repenting, ever became more truly Biorn of the Fiery Eyes,
she resolved, in the walls of a cloister, by unremitting prayer, to
obtain mercy in time and eternity for herself and her unhappy child."
Rolf was silent; and the chaplain, after some thought, said: "I now
understand why, six years ago, Biorn confessed his guilt to me in
general words, and consented that his wife should take the veil.
Some faint compunction must then have stirred within him, and perhaps
may stir him yet. At any rate it was impossible that so tender a
flower as Verena could remain longer in so rough keeping. But who is
there now to watch over and protect our poor Sintram?"
"The prayer of his mother," answered Rolf. "Reverend sir, when the
first dawn of day appears, as it does now, and when the morning
breeze whispers through the glancing window, they ever bring to my
mind the soft beaming eyes of my lady, and I again seem to hear the
sweet tones of her voice. The holy Verena is, next to God, our chief
"And let us add our devout supplications to the Lord," said the
chaplain; and he and Rolf knelt in silent and earnest prayer by the
bed of the pale sufferer, who began to smile in his dreams.
The rays of the sun shining brightly into the room awoke Sintram, and
raising himself up, he looked angrily at the chaplain, and said, "So
there is a priest in the castle! And yet that accursed dream
continues to torment me even in his very presence. Pretty priest he
"My child," answered the chaplain in the mildest tone, "I have prayed
for thee most fervently, and I shall never cease doing so--but God
alone is Almighty."
"You speak very boldly to the son of the knight Biorn," cried
Sintram. "'My child!' If those horrible dreams had not been again
haunting me, you would make me laugh heartily."
"Young Lord Sintram," said the chaplain, "I am by no means surprised
that you do not know me again; for in truth, neither do I know you
again." And his eyes filled with tears as he spoke.
The good Rolf looked sorrowfully in the boy's face, saying, "Ah, my
dear young master, you are so much better than you would make people
believe. Why do you that? Your memory is so good, that you must
surely recollect your kind old friend the chaplain, who used formerly
to be constantly at the castle, and to bring you so many gifts--
bright pictures of saints, and beautiful songs?"
"I know all that very well," replied Sintram thoughtfully. "My
sainted mother was alive in those days."
"Our gracious lady is still living, God be praised," said the good
"But she does not live for us, poor sick creatures that we are!"
cried Sintram. "And why will you not call her sainted? Surely she
knows nothing about my dreams?"
"Yes, she does know of them," said the chaplain; "and she prays to
God for you. But take heed, and restrain that wild, haughty temper
of yours. It might, indeed, come to pass that she would know nothing
about your dreams, and that would be if your soul were separated from
your body; and then the holy angels also would cease to know anything
Sintram fell back on his bed as if thunderstruck; and Rolf said, with
a gentle sigh, "You should not speak so severely to my poor sick
child, reverend sir."
The boy sat up, and with tearful eyes he turned caressingly towards
the chaplain: "Let him do as he pleases, you good, tender-hearted
Rolf; he knows very well what he is about. Would you reprove him if
I were slipping down a snow-cleft, and he caught me up roughly by the
hair of my head?"
The priest looked tenderly at him, and would have spoken his holy
thoughts, when Sintram suddenly sprang off the bed and asked after
his father. As soon as he heard of the knight's departure, he would
not remain another hour in the castle; and put aside the fears of the
chaplain and the old esquire, lest a rapid journey should injure his
hardly restored health, by saying to them, "Believe me, reverend sir,
and dear old Rolf, if I were not subject to these hideous dreams,
there would not be a bolder youth in the whole world; and even as it
is, I am not so far behind the very best. Besides, till another year
has passed, my dreams are at an end."
On his somewhat imperious sign Rolf brought out the horses. The boy
threw himself boldly into the saddle, and taking a courteous leave of
the chaplain, he dashed along the frozen valley that lay between the
snow-clad mountains. He had not ridden far, in company with his old
attendant, when he heard a strange indistinct sound proceeding from a
neighbouring cleft in the rock; it was partly like the clapper of a
small mill, but mingled with that were hollow groans and other tones
of distress. Thither they turned their horses, and a wonderful sight
showed itself to them.
A tall man, deadly pale, in a pilgrim's garb, was striving with
violent though unsuccessful efforts, to work his way out of the snow
and to climb up the mountain; and thereby a quantity of bones, which
were hanging loosely all about his garments, rattled one against the
other, and caused the mysterious sound already mentioned. Rolf, much
terrified, crossed himself, while the bold Sintram called out to the
stranger, "What art thou doing there? Give an account of thy
"I live in death," replied that other one with a fearful grin.
"Whose are those bones on thy clothes?"
"They are relics, young sir."
"Art thou a pilgrim?"
"Restless, quietless, I wander up and down."
"Thou must not perish here in the snow before my eyes."
"That I will not."
"Thou must come up and sit on my horse."
"That I will." And all at once he started up out of the snow with
surprising strength and agility, and sat on the horse behind Sintram,
clasping him tight in his long arms. The horse, startled by the
rattling of the bones, and as if seized with madness, rushed away
through the most trackless passes. The boy soon found himself alone
with his strange companion; for Rolf, breathless with fear, spurred
on his horse in vain, and remained far behind them. From a snowy
precipice the horse slid, without falling, into a narrow gorge,
somewhat indeed exhausted, yet continuing to snort and foam as
before, and still unmastered by the boy. Yet his headlong course
being now changed into a rough irregular trot, Sintram was able to
breathe more freely, and to begin the following discourse with his
"Draw thy garment closer around thee, thou pale man, so the bones
will not rattle, and I shall be able to curb my horse."
"It would be of no avail, boy; it would be of no avail. The bones
"Do not clasp me so tight with thy long arms, they are so cold."
"It cannot be helped, boy; it cannot be helped. Be content. For my
long cold arms are not pressing yet on thy heart."
"Do not breathe on me so with thy icy breath. All my strength is
"I must breathe, boy; I must breathe. But do not complain. I am not
blowing thee away."
The strange dialogue here came to an end; for to Sintram's surprise
he found himself on an open plain, over which the sun was shining
brightly, and at no great distance before him he saw his father's
castle. While he was thinking whether he might invite the unearthly
pilgrim to rest there, this one put an end to his doubts by throwing
himself suddenly off the horse, whose wild course was checked by the
shock. Raising his forefinger, he said to the boy, "I know old Biorn
of the Fiery Eyes well; perhaps but too well. Commend me to him. It
will not need to tell him my name; he will recognize me at the
description." So saying, the ghastly stranger turned aside into a
thick fir-wood, and disappeared rattling amongst the tangled
Slowly and thoughtfully Sintram rode on towards his father's castle,
his horse now again quiet and altogether exhausted. He scarcely knew
how much he ought to relate of his wonderful journey, and he also
felt oppressed with anxiety for the good Rolf, who had remained so
far behind. He found himself at the castle-gate sooner than he had
expected; the drawbridge was lowered, the doors were thrown open; an
attendant led the youth into the great hall, where Biorn was sitting
all alone at a huge table, with many flagons and glasses before him,
and suits of armour ranged on either side of him. It was his daily
custom, by way of company, to have the armour of his ancestors, with
closed visors, placed all round the table at which he sat. The
father and son began conversing as follows:
"Where is Rolf?"
"I do not know, father; he left me in the mountains."
"I will have Rolf shot if he cannot take better care than that of my
"Then, father, you will have your only child shot at the same time,
for without Rolf I cannot live; and if even one single dart is aimed
at him, I will be there to receive it, and to shield his true and
"So!--Then Rolf shall not be shot, but he shall be driven from the
"In that case, father, you will see me go away also; and I will give
myself up to serve him in forests, in mountains, in caves."
"So'--Well, then, Rolf must remain here."
"That is just what I think, father."
"Were you riding quite alone?"
"No, father; but with a strange pilgrim. He said that he knew you
very well--perhaps too well." And thereupon Sintram began to relate
and to describe all that had passed with the pale man.
"I know him also very well," said Biorn. "He is half crazed and half
wise, as we sometimes are astonished at seeing that people can be.
But do thou, my boy, go to rest after thy wild journey. I give you
my word that Rolf shall be kindly received if he arrive here; and
that if he do not come soon, he shall be sought for in the
"I trust to your word, father," said Sintram, half humble, half
proud; and he did after the command of the grim lord of the castle.
Towards evening Sintram awoke. He saw the good Rolf sitting at his
bedside, and looked up in the old man's kind face with a smile of
unusually innocent brightness. But soon again his dark brows were
knit, and he asked, "How did my father receive you, Rolf? Did he say
a harsh word to you?"
"No, my dear young lord, he did not; indeed he did not speak to me at
all. At first he looked very wrathful; but he checked himself, and
ordered a servant to bring me food and wine to refresh me, and
afterwards to take me to your room."
"He might have kept his word better. But he is my father, and I must
not judge him too hardly. I will now go down to the evening meal."
So saying, he sprang up and threw on his furred mantle.
But Rolf stopped him, and said, entreatingly: "My dear young master,
you would do better to take your meal to-day alone here in your own
apartment; for there is a guest with your father, in whose company I
should be very sorry to see you. If you will remain here, I will
entertain you with pleasant tales and songs."
"There is nothing in the world which I should like better, dear
Rolf," answered Sintram; "but it does not befit me to shun any man.
Tell me, whom should I find with my father?"
"Alas!" said the old man, "you have already found him in the
mountain. Formerly, when I used to ride about the country with
Biorn, we often met with him, but I was forbidden to tell you
anything about him; and this is the first time that he has ever come
to the castle."
"The crazy pilgrim!" replied Sintram; and he stood awhile in deep
thought, as if considering the matter. At last, rousing himself, he
said, "Dear old friend, I would most willingly stay here this evening
all alone with you and your stories and songs, and all the pilgrims
in the world should not entice me from this quiet room. But one
thing must be considered. I feel a kind of dread of that pale, tall
man; and by such fears no knight's son can ever suffer himself to be
overcome. So be not angry, dear Rolf, if I determine to go and look
that strange palmer in the face." And he shut the door of the
chamber behind him, and with firm and echoing steps proceeded to the
The pilgrim and the knight were sitting opposite to each other at the
great table, on which many lights were burning; and it was fearful,
amongst all the lifeless armour, to see those two tall grim men move,
and eat, and drink.
As the pilgrim looked up on the boy's entrance, Biorn said: "You know
him already: he is my only child, and fellow-traveller this morning."
The palmer fixed an earnest look on Sintram, and answered, shaking
his head, "I know not what you mean."
Then the boy burst forth, impatiently, "It must be confessed that you
deal very unfairly by us! You say that you know my father but too
much, and now it seems that you know me altogether too little. Look
me in the face: who allowed you to ride on his horse, and in return
had his good steed driven almost wild? Speak, if you can!"
Biorn smiled, shaking his head, but well pleased, as was his wont,
with his son's wild behaviour; while the pilgrim shuddered as if
terrified and overcome by some fearful irresistible power. At
length, with a trembling voice, he said these words: "Yes, yes, my
dear young lord, you are surely quite right; you are perfectly right
in everything which you may please to assert."
Then the lord of the castle laughed aloud, and said: "Why, thou
strange pilgrim, what is become of all thy wonderfully fine speeches
and warnings now? Has the boy all at once struck thee dumb and
powerless? Beware, thou prophet-messenger, beware!"
But the palmer cast a fearful look on Biorn, which seemed to quench
the light of his fiery eyes, and said solemnly, in a thundering
voice, "Between me and thee, old man, the case stands quite
otherwise. We have nothing to reproach each other with. And now
suffer me to sing a song to you on the lute." He stretched out his
hand, and took down from the wall a forgotten and half-strung lute,
which was hanging there; and, with surprising skill and rapidity,
having put it in a state fit for use, he struck some chords, and
raised this song to the low melancholy tones of the instrument:
"The flow'ret was mine own, mine own,
But I have lost its fragrance rare,
And knightly name and freedom fair,
Through sin, through sin alone.
The flow'ret was thine own, thine own,
Why cast away what thou didst win?
Thou knight no more, but slave of sin,
Thou'rt fearfully alone!"
"Have a care!" shouted he at the close in a pealing voice, as he
pulled the strings so mightily that they all broke with a clanging
wail, and a cloud of dust rose from the old lute, which spread round
him like a mist.
Sintram had been watching him narrowly whilst he was singing, and
more and more did he feel convinced that it was impossible that this
man and his fellow-traveller of the morning could be one and the
same. Nay, the doubt rose to certainty, when the stranger again
looked round at him with the same timid, anxious air, and with many
excuses and low reverences hung the lute in its old place, and then
ran out of the hall as if bewildered with terror, in strange contrast
with the proud and stately bearing which he had shown to Biorn.
The eyes of the boy were now directed to his father, and he saw that
he had sunk back senseless in his seat, as if struck by a blow.
Sintram's cries called Rolf and other attendants into the hall; and
only by great labour did their united efforts awake the lord of the
castle. His looks were still wild and disordered; but he allowed
himself to be taken to rest, quiet and yielding.
An illness followed this sudden attack; and during the course of it
the stout old knight, in the midst of his delirious ravings, did not
cease to affirm confidently that he must and should recover. He
laughed proudly when his fever-fits came on, and rebuked them for
daring to attack him so needlessly. Then he murmured to himself,
"That was not the right one yet; there must still be another one out
in the cold mountains."
Always at such words Sintram involuntarily shuddered; they seemed to
strengthen his notion that he who had ridden with him, and he who had
sat at table in the castle, were two quite distinct persons; and he
knew not why, but this thought was inexpressibly awful to him. Biorn
recovered, and appeared to have entirely forgotten his adventure with
the palmer. He hunted in the mountains; he carried on his usual wild
warfare with his neighbours; and Sintram, as he grew up, became his
almost constant companion; whereby each year a fearful strength of
body and spirit was unfolded in the youth. Every one trembled at the
sight of his sharp pallid features, his dark rolling eyes, his tall,
muscular, and somewhat lean form; and yet no one hated him--not even
those whom he distressed or injured in his wildest humours. This
might arise in part out of regard to old Rolf, who seldom left him
for long, and who always held a softening influence over him; but
also many of those who had known the Lady Verena while she still
lived in the world affirmed that a faint reflection of her heavenly
expression floated over the very unlike features of her son, and that
by this their hearts were won.
Once, just at the beginning of spring, Biorn and his son were hunting
in the neighbourhood of the sea-coast, over a tract of country which
did not belong to them; drawn thither less by the love of sport than
by the wish of bidding defiance to a chieftain whom they detested,
and thus exciting a feud. At that season of the year, when his
winter dreams had just passed off, Sintram was always unusually
fierce and disposed for warlike adventures. And this day he was
enraged at the chieftain for not coming in arms from his castle to
hinder their hunting; and he cursed, in the wildest words, his tame
patience and love of peace. Just then one of his wild young
companions rushed towards him, shouting joyfully: "Be content my dear
young lord! I will wager that all is coming about as we and you
wish; for as I was pursuing a wounded deer down to the sea-shore, I
saw a sail and a vessel filled with armed men making for the shore.
Doubtless your enemy purposes to fall upon you from the coast."
Joyfully and secretly Sintram called all his followers together,
being resolved this time to take the combat on himself alone, and
then to rejoin his father, and astonish him with the sight of
captured foes and other tokens of victory.
The hunters, thoroughly acquainted with every cliff and rock on the
coast, hid themselves round the landing-place; and soon the strange
vessel hove nearer with swelling sails, till at length it came to
anchor, and its crew began to disembark in unsuspicious security.
At the head of them appeared a knight of high degree, in blue steel
armour richly inlaid with gold. His head was bare, for he carried
his costly golden helmet hanging on his left arm. He looked royally
around him; and his countenance, which dark brown locks shaded, was
pleasant to behold; and a well-trimmed moustache fringed his mouth,
from which, as he smiled, gleamed forth two rows of pearl-white
A feeling came across Sintram that he must already have seen this
knight somewhere; and he stood motionless for a few moments. But
suddenly he raised his hand, to make the agreed signal of attack.
In vain did the good Rolf, who had just succeeded in getting up to
him, whisper in his ear that these could not be the foes whom he had
taken them for, but that they were unknown, and certainly high and
"Let them be who they may," replied the wild youth, "they have
enticed me here to wait, and they shall pay the penalty of thus
fooling me. Say not another word, if you value your life." And
immediately he gave the signal, a thick shower of javelins followed
from all sides, and the Norwegian warriors rushed forth with flashing
swords. They found their foes as brave, or somewhat braver, than
they could have desired. More fell on the side of those who made
than of those who received the assault; and the strangers appeared to
understand surprisingly the Norwegian manner of fighting. The knight
in steel armour had not in his haste put on his helmet; but it seemed
as if he in no wise needed such protection, for his good sword
afforded him sufficient defence even against the spears and darts
which were incessantly hurled at him, as with rapid skill he received
them on the shining blade, and dashed them far away, shivered into
Sintram could not at the first onset penetrate to where this shining
hero was standing, as all his followers, eager after such a noble
prey, thronged closely round him; but now the way was cleared enough
for him to spring towards the brave stranger, shouting a war-cry, and
brandishing his sword above his head.
"Gabrielle!" cried the knight, as he dexterously parried the heavy
blow which was descending, and with one powerful sword-thrust he laid
the youth prostrate on the ground; then placing his knee on Sintram's
breast, he drew forth a flashing dagger, and held it before his eyes
as he lay astonished. All at once the men-at-arms stood round like
walls. Sintram felt that no hope remained for him. He determined to
die as it became a bold warrior; and without giving one sign of
emotion, he looked on the fatal weapon with a steady gaze.
As he lay with his eyes cast upwards, he fancied that there appeared
suddenly from heaven a wondrously beautiful female form in a bright
attire of blue and gold. "Our ancestors told truly of the Valkyrias,"
murmured he. "Strike, then, thou unknown conqueror."
But with this the knight did not comply, neither was it a Valkyria
who had so suddenly appeared, but the beautiful wife of the stranger,
who, having advanced to the high edge of the vessel, had thus met the
upraised look of Sintram.
"Folko," cried she, in the softest tone, "thou knight without
reproach! I know that thou sparest the vanquished."
The knight sprang up, and with courtly grace stretched out his hand
to the conquered youth, saying, "Thank the noble lady of Montfaucon
for your life and liberty. But if you are so totally devoid of all
goodness as to wish to resume the combat, here am I; let it be yours
Sintram sank, deeply ashamed, on his knees, and wept; for he had
often heard speak of the high renown of the French knight Folko of
Montfaucon, who was related to his father's house, and of the grace
and beauty of his gentle lady Gabrielle.
The Lord of Montfaucon looked with astonishment at his strange foe;
and as he gazed on him more and more, recollections arose in his mind
of that northern race from whom he was descended, and with whom he
had always maintained friendly relations. A golden bear's claw, with
which Sintram's cloak was fastened, at length made all clear to him.
"Have you not," said he, "a valiant and far-famed kinsman, called the
Sea-king Arinbiorn, who carries on his helmet golden vulture-wings?
And is not your father the knight Biorn? For surely the bear's claw
on your mantle must be the cognisance of your house."
Sintram assented to all this, in deep and humble shame.
The Knight of Montfaucon raised him from the ground, and said
gravely, yet gently, "We are, then, of kin the one to the other; but
I could never have believed that any one of our noble house would
attack a peaceful man without provocation, and that, too, without
"Slay me at once," answered Sintram, "if indeed I am worthy to die by
so noble hands. I can no longer endure the light of day."
"Because you have been overcome?" asked Montfaucon. Sintram shook
"Or is it, rather, because you have committed an unknightly action?"
The glow of shame that overspread the youth's countenance said yes to
"But you should not on that account wish to die," continued
Montfaucon. "You should rather wish to live, that you may prove your
repentance, and make your name illustrious by many noble deeds; for
you are endowed with a bold spirit and with strength of limb, and
also with the eagle-glance of a chieftain. I should have made you a
knight this very hour, if you had borne yourself as bravely in a good
cause as you have just now in a bad. See to it, that I may do it
soon. You may yet become a vessel of high honour."
A joyous sound of shawms and silver rebecks interrupted his
discourse. The lady Gabrielle, bright as the morning, had now come
down from the ship, surrounded by her maidens; and, instructed in a
few words by Folko who was his late foe, she took the combat as some
mere trial of arms, saying, "You must not be cast down, noble youth,
because my wedded lord has won the prize; for be it known to you,
that in the whole world there is but one knight who can boast of not
having been overcome by the Baron of Montfaucon. And who can say,"
continued she, sportively, "whether even that would have happened,
had he not set himself to win back the magic ring from me, his lady-
love, destined to him, as well by the choice of my own heart as by
the will of Heaven!"
Folko, smiling, bent his head over the snow-white hand of his lady;
and then bade the youth conduct them to his father's castle.
Rolf took upon himself to see to the disembarking of the horses and
valuables of the strangers, filled with joy at the thought that an
angel in woman's form had appeared to soften his beloved young
master, and perhaps even to free him from that early curse.
Sintram sent messengers in all directions to seek for his father, and
to announce to him the arrival of his noble guests. They therefore
found the old knight in his castle, with everything prepared for
their reception. Gabrielle could not enter the vast dark-looking
building without a slight shudder, which was increased when she saw
the rolling fiery eyes of its lord; even the pale, dark-haired
Sintram seemed to her very fearful; and she sighed to herself, "Oh!
what an awful abode have you brought me to visit, my knight! Would
that we were once again in my sunny Gascony, or in your knightly
But the grave yet courteous reception, the deep respect paid to her
grace and beauty, and to the high fame of Folko, helped to re-assure
her; and soon her bird-like pleasure in novelties was awakened
through the strange significant appearance of this new world. And
besides, it could only be for a passing moment that any womanly fears
found a place in her breast when her lord was near at hand, for well
did she know what effectual protection that brave Baron was ever
ready to afford to all those who were dear to him, or committed to
Soon afterwards Rolf passed through the great hall in which Biorn and
his guests were seated, conducting their attendants, who had charge
of the baggage, to their rooms. Gabrielle caught sight of her
favourite lute, and desired a page to bring it to her, that she might
see if the precious instrument had been injured by the sea-voyage.
As she bent over it with earnest attention, and her taper fingers ran
up and down the strings, a smile, like the dawn of spring, passed
over the dark countenances of Biorn and his son; and both said, with
an involuntary sigh, "Ah! if you would but play on that lute, and
sing to it! It would be but too beautiful!" The lady looked up at
them, well pleased, and smiling her assent, she began this song:--
"Songs and flowers are returning,
And radiant skies of May,
Earth her choicest gifts is yielding,
But one is past away.
The spring that clothes with tend'rest green
Each grove and sunny plain,
Shines not for my forsaken heart,
Brings not my joys again.
Warble not so, thou nightingale,
Upon thy blooming spray,
Thy sweetness now will burst my heart,
I cannot bear thy lay.
For flowers and birds are come again,
And breezes mild of May,
But treasured hopes and golden hours
Are lost to me for aye!"
The two Norwegians sat plunged in melancholy thought; but especially
Sintram's eyes began to brighten with a milder expression, his cheeks
glowed, every feature softened, till those who looked at him could
have fancied they saw a glorified spirit. The good Rolf, who had
stood listening to the song, rejoiced thereat from his heart, and
devoutly raised his hands in pious gratitude to heaven. But
Gabrielle's astonishment suffered her not to take her eyes from
Sintram. At last she said to him, "I should much like to know what
has so struck you in that little song. It is merely a simple lay of
the spring, full of the images which that sweet season never fails to
call up in the minds of my countrymen."
"But is your home really so lovely, so wondrously rich in song?"
cried the enraptured Sintram. "Then I am no longer surprised at your
heavenly beauty, at the power which you exercise over my hard,
wayward heart! For a paradise of song must surely send such angelic
messengers through the ruder parts of the world." And so saying, he
fell on his knees before the lady in an attitude of deep humility.
Folko looked on all the while with an approving smile, whilst
Gabrielle, in much embarrassment, seemed hardly to know how to treat
the half-wild, half-tamed young stranger. After some hesitation,
however, she held out her fair hand to him, and said as she gently
raised him: "Surely one who listens with such delight to music must
himself know how to awaken its strains. Take my lute, and let us
hear a graceful inspired song."
But Sintram drew back, and would not take the instrument; and he
said, "Heaven forbid that my rough untutored hand should touch those
delicate strings! For even were I to begin with some soft strains,
yet before long the wild spirit which dwells in me would break out,
and there would be an end of the form and sound of the beautiful
instrument. No, no; suffer me rather to fetch my own huge harp,
strung with bears' sinews set in brass, for in truth I do feel myself
inspired to play and sing."
Gabrielle murmured a half-frightened assent; and Sintram having
quickly brought his harp, began to strike it loudly, and to sing
these words with a voice no less powerful:
"Sir knight, sir knight, oh! whither away
With thy snow-white sail on the foaming spray?"
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
"Too long have I trod upon ice and snow;
I seek the bowers where roses blow."
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
He steer'd on his course by night and day
Till he cast his anchor in Naples Bay.
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
There wander'd a lady upon the strand,
Her fair hair bound with a golden band.
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
"Hail to thee! hail to thee! lady bright,
Mine own shalt thou be ere morning light."
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers '
"Not so, sir knight," the lady replied,
"For you speak to the margrave's chosen bride."
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
"Your lover may come with his shield and spear,
And the victor shall win thee, lady dear!"
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
"Nay, seek for another bride, I pray;
Most fair are the maidens of Naples Bay."
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
"No, lady; for thee my heart doth burn,
And the world cannot now my purpose turn."
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
Then came the young margrave, bold and brave;
But low was he laid in a grassy grave.
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
And then the fierce Northman joyously cried,
"Now shall I possess lands, castle, and bride!"
Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers!
Sintram's song was ended, but his eyes glared wildly, and the
vibrations of the harp-strings still resounded in a marvellous
manner. Biorn's attitude was again erect; he stroked his long beard
and rattled his sword, as if in great delight at what he had just
heard. Much shuddered Gabrielle before the wild song and these
strange forms, but only till she cast a glance on the Lord of
Montfaucon, sat there smiling in all his hero strength, unmoved, the
rough uproar passed by him like an autumnal storm.
Some weeks after this, in the twilight of evening, Sintram, very
disturbed, came down to the castle-garden. Although the presence of
Gabrielle never failed to soothe and calm him, yet if she left the
apartment for even a few instants, the fearful wildness of his spirit
seemed to return with renewed strength. So even now, after having
long and kindly read legends of the olden times to his father Biorn,
she had retired to her chamber. The tones of her lute could be
distinctly heard in the garden below; but the sounds only drove the
bewildered youth more impetuously through the shades of the ancient
elms. Stooping suddenly to avoid some overhanging branches, he
unexpectedly came upon something against which he had almost struck,
and which, at first sight, he took for a small bear standing on its
hind legs, with a long and strangely crooked horn on its head. He
drew back in surprise and fear. It addressed him in a grating man's
voice: "Well, my brave young knight, whence come you? whither go you?
wherefore so terrified?" And then first he saw that he had before
him a little old man so wrapped up in a rough garment of fur, that
scarcely one of his features was visible, and wearing in his cap a
strange-looking long feather.
"But whence come YOU and whither go YOU?" returned the angry Sintram.
"For of you such questions should be asked. What have you to do in
our domains, you hideous little being?"
"Well, well," sneered the other one, "I am thinking that I am quite
big enough as I am--one cannot always be a giant. And as to the
rest, why should you find fault that I go here hunting for snails?
Surely snails do not belong to the game which your high mightinesses
consider that you alone have a right to follow! Now, on the other
hand, I know how to prepare from them an excellent high-flavoured
drink; and I have taken enough for to-day: marvellous fat little
beasts, with wise faces like a man's, and long twisted horns on their
heads. Would you like to see them? Look here!"
And then he began to unfasten and fumble about his fur garment; but
Sintram, filled with disgust and horror, said, "Psha! I detest such
animals! Be quiet, and tell me at once who and what you yourself
"Are you so bent upon knowing my name?" replied the little man.
"Let it content you that I am master of all secret knowledge, and
well versed in the most intricate depths of ancient history. Ah! my
young sir, if you would only hear them! But you are afraid of me."
"Afraid of you!" cried Sintram, with a wild laugh.
"Many a better man than you has been so before now," muttered the
little Master; "but they did not like being told of it any more than
"To prove that you are mistaken," said Sintram, "I will remain here
with you till the moon stands high in the heavens. But you must tell
me one of your stories the while."
The little man, much pleased, nodded his head; and as they paced
together up and down a retired elm-walk, he began discoursing as
"Many hundred years ago a young knight, called Paris of Troy, lived
in that sunny land of the south where are found the sweetest songs,
the brightest flowers, and the most beautiful ladies. You know a
song that tells of that fair land, do you not, young sir? 'Sing
heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers.'" Sintram bowed his head
in assent, and sighed deeply. "Now," resumed the little Master, "it
happened that Paris led that kind of life which is not uncommon in
those countries, and of which their poets often sing--he would pass
whole months together in the garb of a peasant, piping in the woods
and mountains and pasturing his flocks. Here one day three beautiful
sorceresses appeared to him, disputing about a golden apple; and from
him they sought to know which of them was the most beautiful, since
to her the golden fruit was to be awarded. The first knew how to
give thrones, and sceptres, and crowns; the second could give wisdom
and knowledge; and the third could prepare philtres and love-charms
which could not fail of securing the affections of the fairest of
women. Each one in turn proffered her choicest gifts to the young
shepherd, in order that, tempted by them, he might adjudge the apple
to her. But as fair women charmed him more than anything else in the
world, he said that the third was the most beautiful--her name was
Venus. The two others departed in great displeasure; but Venus bid
him put on his knightly armour and his helmet adorned with waving
feathers, and then she led him to a famous city called Sparta, where
ruled the noble Duke Menelaus. His young Duchess Helen was the
loveliest woman on earth, and the sorceress offered her to Paris in
return for the golden apple. He was most ready to have her and
wished for nothing better; but he asked how he was to gain possession
"Paris must have been a sorry knight," interrupted Sintram. "Such
things are easily settled. The husband is challenged to a single
combat, and he that is victorious carries off the wife."
"But Duke Menelaus was the host of the young knight," said the
"Listen to me, little Master," cried Sintram; "he might have asked
the sorceress for some other beautiful woman, and then have mounted
his horse, or weighed anchor, and departed."
"Yes, yes; it is very easy to say so," replied the old man. "But if
you only knew how bewitchingly lovely this Duchess Helen was, no room
was left for change." And then he began a glowing description of the
charms of this wondrously beautiful woman, but likening the image to
Gabrielle so closely, feature for feature, that Sintram, tottering,
was forced to lean against a tree. The little Master stood opposite
to him grinning, and asked, "Well now, could you have advised that
poor knight Paris to fly from her?"
"Tell me at once what happened next," stammered Sintram.
"The sorceress acted honourably towards Paris," continued the old
man. "She declared to him that if he would carry away the lovely
duchess to his own city Troy, he might do so, and thus cause the ruin
of his whole house and of his country; but that during ten years he
would be able to defend himself in Troy, and rejoice in the sweet
love of Helen."
"And he accepted those terms, or he was a fool!" cried the youth.
"To be sure he accepted them," whispered the little Master. "I would
have done so in his place! And do you know, young sir, the look of
things then was just as they are happening to-day. The newly-risen
moon, partly veiled by clouds, was shining dimly through the thick
branches of the trees in the silence of evening. Leaning against an
old tree, as you now are doing, stood the young enamoured knight
Paris, and at his side the enchantress Venus, but so disguised and
transformed, that she did not look much more beautiful than I do.
And by the silvery light of the moon, the form of the beautiful
beloved one was seen sweeping by alone amidst the whispering boughs."
He was silent, and like as in the mirror of his deluding words,
Gabrielle just then actually herself appeared, musing as she walked
alone down the alley of elms.
"Man,--fearful Master,--by what name shall I call you? To what would
you drive me?" muttered the trembling Sintram.
"Thou knowest thy father's strong stone castle on the Moon-rocks?"
replied the old man. "The castellan and the garrison are true and
devoted to thee. It could stand a ten years' siege; and the little
gate which leads to the hills is open, as was that of the citadel of
Sparta for Paris."
And, in fact, the youth saw through a gate, left open he knew not
how, the dim, distant mountains glittering in the moonlight. "And if
he did not accept, he was a fool," said the little Master, with a
grin, echoing Sintram's former words.
At that moment Gabrielle stood close by him. She was within reach of
his grasp, had he made the least movement; and a moonbeam, suddenly
breaking forth, transfigured, as it were, her heavenly beauty. The
youth had already bent forward--
"My Lord and God, I pray,
Turn from his heart away
This world's turmoil;
And call him to Thy light,
Be it through sorrow's night,
Through pain or toil."
These words were sung by old Rolf at that very time, as he lingered
on the still margin of the castle fish-pond, where he prayed alone to
Heaven, full of foreboding care. They reached Sintram's ear; he
stood as if spellbound and made the Sign of the Cross. Immediately
the little master fled away, jumping uncouthly on one leg, through
the gates and shutting them after him with a yell.
Gabrielle shuddered, terrified at the wild noise. Sintram approached
her softly, and said, offering his arm to her: "Suffer me to lead you
back to the castle. The night in these northern regions is often
wild and fearful."
They found the two knights drinking wine within. Folko was relating
stories in his usual mild and cheerful manner, and Biorn was
listening with a moody air, but yet as if, against his will, the dark
cloud might pass away before that bright and gentle courtesy.
Gabrielle saluted the baron with a smile, and signed to him to
continue his discourse, as she took her place near the knight Biorn,
full of watchful kindness. Sintram stood by the hearth, abstracted
and melancholy; and the embers, as he stirred them, cast a strange
glow over his pallid features.
"And of all the German trading-towns," continued Montfaucon, "the
largest and richest is Hamburgh. In Normandy we willingly see their
merchants land on our coasts, and those excellent people never fail
to prove themselves our friends when we seek their advice and
assistance. When I first visited Hamburgh, every honour and respect
was paid to me. I found its inhabitants engaged in a war with a
neighbouring count, and immediately I used my sword for them,
vigorously and successfully."
"Your sword! your knightly sword!" interrupted Biorn; and the old
wonted fire flashed from his eyes. "Against a knight, and for
"Sir knight," replied Folko, calmly, "the barons of Montfaucon have
ever used their swords as they chose, without the interference of
another; and as I have received this good custom, so do I wish to
hand it on. If you agree not to this, so speak it freely out. But I
forbid every rude word against the men of Hamburgh, since I have
declared them to be my friends."
Biorn cast down his haughty eyes, and their fire faded away. In a low
voice he said, "Proceed, noble baron. You are right, and I am
Then Folko stretched out his hand to him across the table, and
resumed his narration: "Amongst all my beloved Hamburghers the
dearest to me are two men of marvellous experience--a father and son.
What have they not seen and done in the remotest corners of the
earth, and instituted in their native town! Praise be to God, my
life cannot be called unfruitful; but, compared with the wise
Gotthard Lenz and his stout-hearted son Rudlieb, I look upon myself
as an esquire who has perhaps been some few times to tourneys, and,
besides that, has never hunted out his own forests. They have
converted, subdued, gladdened, dark men whom I know not how to name;
and the wealth which they have brought back with them has all been
devoted to the common weal, as if fit for no other purpose. On their
return from their long and perilous sea-voyages, they hasten to an
hospital which has been founded by them, and where they undertake the
part of overseers, and of careful and patient nurses. Then they
proceed to select the most fitting spots whereon to erect new towers
and fortresses for the defence of their beloved country. Next they
repair to the houses where strangers and travellers receive
hospitality at their cost; and at last they return to their own
abode, to entertain their guests, rich and noble like kings, and
simple and unconstrained like shepherds. Many a tale of their
wondrous adventures serves to enliven these sumptuous feasts.
Amongst others, I remember to have heard my friends relate one at
which my hair stood on end. Possibly I may gain some more complete
information on the subject from you. It appears that several years
ago, just about the time of the Christmas festival, Gotthard and
Rudlieb were shipwrecked on the coast of Norway, during a violent
winter tempest. They could never exactly ascertain the situation of
the rocks on which their vessel stranded; but so much is certain,
that very near the sea-shore stood a huge castle, to which the father
and son betook themselves, seeking for that assistance and shelter
which Christian people are ever willing to afford each other in case
of need. They went alone, leaving their followers to watch the
injured ship. The castle-gates were thrown open, and they thought
all was well. But on a sudden the court-yard was filled with armed
men, who with one accord aimed their sharp iron-pointed spears at the
defenceless strangers, whose dignified remonstrances and mild
entreaties were only heard in sullen silence or with scornful
jeerings. After a while a knight came down the stairs, with fire-
flashing eyes. They hardly knew whether to think they saw a spectre,
or a wild heathen; he gave a signal, and the fatal spears closed
around them. At that instant the soft tones of a woman's voice fell
on their ear, calling on the Saviour's holy name for aid; at the
sound, the spectres in the court-yard rushed madly one against the
other, the gates burst open, and Gotthard and Rudlieb fled away,
catching a glimpse as they went of an angelic woman who appeared at
one of the windows of the castle. They made every exertion to get
their ship again afloat, choosing to trust themselves to the sea
rather than to that barbarous coast; and at last, after manifold
dangers, they landed at Denmark. They say that some heathen must
have owned the cruel castle; but I hold it to be some ruined
fortress, deserted by men, in which hellish spectres were wont to
hold their nightly meetings. What heathen could be found so demon-
like as to offer death to shipwrecked strangers, instead of
refreshment and shelter?"
Biorn gazed fixedly on the ground, as though he were turned into
stone but Sintram came towards the table, and said, "Father, let us
seek out this godless abode, and lay it level with the dust. I
cannot tell how, but somehow I feel quite sure that the accursed deed
of which we have just heard is alone the cause of my frightful
Enraged at his son, Biorn rose up, and would perhaps again have
uttered some dreadful words; but Heaven decreed otherwise, for just
at that moment the pealing notes a trumpet were heard, which drowned
the angry tones his voice, the great doors opened slowly, and a
herald entered the hall. He bowed reverently, and then said, "I am
sent by Jarl Eric the Aged. He returned two days ago from his
expedition to the Grecian seas. His wish had been to take vengeance
on the island which is called Chios, where fifty years ago his father
was slain by the soldiers of the Emperor. But your kinsman, the sea-
king Arinbiorn, who was lying there at anchor, tried to pacify him.
To this Jarl Eric would not listen; so the sea-king said next that he
would never suffer Chios to be laid waste, because it was an island
where the lays of an old Greek bard, called Homer, were excellently
sung, and where more-over a very choice wine was made. Words proving
of no avail, a combat ensued; in which Arinbiorn had so much the
advantage that Jarl Eric lost two of his ships, and only with
difficulty escaped in one which had already sustained great damage.
Eric the Aged has now resolved to take revenge on some of the sea-
king's race, since Arinbiorn himself is seldom on the spot. Will
you, Biorn of the Fiery Eyes, at once pay as large a penalty in
cattle, and money, and goods, as it may please the Jarl to demand?
Or will you prepare to meet him with an armed force at Niflung's
Heath seven days hence?"
Biorn bowed his head quietly, and replied in a mild tone, "Seven days
hence at Niflung's Heath." He then offered to the herald a golden
goblet full of rich wine, and added, "Drink that, and then carry off
with thee the cup which thou hast emptied."
"The Baron of Montfaucon likewise sends greeting to thy chieftain,
Jarl Eric," interposed Folko; "and engages to be also at Niflung's
Heath, as the hereditary friend of the sea-king, and also as the
kinsman and guest of Biorn of the Fiery Eyes."
The herald was seen to tremble at the name of Montfaucon; he bowed
very low, cast an anxious, reverential look at the baron, and left
Gabrielle looked on her knight, smiling lovingly and securely, for
she well knew his victorious prowess; and she only asked, "Where
shall I remain, whilst you go forth to battle, Folko?"
"I had hoped," answered Biorn, "that you would be well contented to
stay in this castle, lovely lady; I leave my son to guard you and
attend on you."
Gabrielle hesitated an instant; and Sintram, who had resumed his
position near the fire, muttered to himself as he fixed his eyes on
the bright flames which were flashing up, "Yes, yes, so it will
probably happen. I can fancy that Duke Menelaus had just left Sparta
on some warlike expedition, when the young knight Paris met the
lovely Helen that evening in the garden."
But Gabrielle, shuddering although she knew not why, said quickly,
"Without you, Folko? And must I forego the joy of seeing you fight?
or the honour of tending you, should you chance to receive a wound?"
Folko bowed, gracefully thanking his lady, and replied, "Come with
your knight, since such is your pleasure, and be to him a bright
guiding star. It is a good old northern custom that ladies should be
present at knightly combats, and no true warrior of the north will
fail to respect the place whence beams the light of their eyes.
Unless, indeed," continued he with an inquiring look at Biorn,
"unless Jarl Eric is not worthy of his forefather?"
"A man of honour" said Biorn confidently.
"Then array yourself, my fairest love," said the delighted Folko;
"array yourself and come forth with us to the battle-field to behold
and judge our deeds."
"Come forth with us to the battle," echoed Sintram in a sudden
transport of joy.
And they all dispersed in calm cheerfulness; Sintram betaking himself
again to the wood, while the others retired to rest.
It was a wild dreary tract of country that, which bore the name of
Niflung's Heath. According to tradition, the young Niflung, son of
Hogni, the last of his race, had there ended darkly a sad and
unsuccessful life. Many ancient grave-stones were still standing
round about; and in the few oak-trees scattered here and there over
the plain, huge eagles had built their nests. The beating of their
heavy wings as they fought together, and their wild screams, were
heard far off in more thickly-peopled regions; and at the sound
children would tremble in their cradles, and old men quake with fear
as they slumbered over the blazing hearth.
As the seventh night, the last before the day of combat, was just
beginning, two large armies were seen descending from the hills in
opposite directions; that which came from the west was commanded by
Eric the Aged, that from the east by Biorn of the Fiery Eyes. They
appeared thus early in compliance with the custom which required that
adversaries should always present themselves at the appointed field
of battle before the time named, in order to prove that they rather
sought than dreaded the fight. Folko forthwith pitched on the most
convenient spot the tent of blue samite fringed with gold, which he
carried with him to shelter his gentle lady; whilst Sintram, in the
character of herald, rode over to Jarl Eric to announce to him that
the beauteous Gabrielle of Montfaucon was present in the army of the
knight Biorn, and would the next morning be present as a judge of the
Jarl Eric bowed low on receiving this pleasing message; and ordered
his bards to strike up a lay, the words of which ran as follows:--
"Warriors bold of Eric's band,
Gird your glittering armour on,
Stand beneath to-morrow's sun,
In your might.
Fairest dame that ever gladden'd
Our wild shores with beauty's vision,
May thy bright eyes o'er our combat,
Judge the right!
Tidings of yon noble stranger
Long ago have reach'd our ears,
Wafted upon southern breezes,
O'er the wave.
Now midst yonder hostile ranks,
In his warlike pride he meets us,
Folko comes! Fight, men of Eric,
True and brave!"
These wondrous tones floated over the plain, and reached the tent of
Gabrielle. It was no new thing to her to hear her knight's fame
celebrated on all sides; but now that she listened to his praises
bursting forth in the stillness of night from the mouth of his
enemies, she could scarce refrain from kneeling at the feet of the
mighty chieftain. But he with courteous tenderness held her up, and
pressing his lips fervently on her soft hand, he said, "My deeds, 0
lovely lady, belong to thee, and not to me!"
Now the night had passed away, and the east was glowing; and on
Niflung's Heath there was waving, and resounding, and glowing too.
Knights put on their rattling armour, war-horses began to neigh, the
morning draught went round in gold and silver goblets, while war-
songs and the clang of harps resounded in the midst. A joyous march
was heard in Biorn's camp, as Montfaucon, with his troops and
retainers, clad in bright steel armour, conducted their lady up to a
neighbouring hill, where she would be safe from the spears which
would soon be flying in all directions, and whence she could look
freely over the battle-field. The morning sun, as it were in homage,
played over her beauty; and as she came in view of the camp of Jarl
Eric, his soldiers lowered their weapons, whilst the chieftains bent
low the crests of their huge helmets. Two of Montfaucon's pages
remained in attendance on Gabrielle; for so noble a service not
unwillingly bridling their love of fighting. Both armies passed in
front of her, saluting her and singing as they went; they then placed
themselves in array, and the fight began.
The spears flew from the hands of the stout northern warriors,
rattling against the broad shields under which they sheltered
themselves, or sometimes clattering as they met in the air; at
intervals, on one side or the other, a man was struck, and fell
silent in his blood. Then the Knight of Montfaucon advanced with his
troop of Norman horsemen--even as he dashed past, he did not fail to
lower his shining sword to salute Gabrielle; and then with an
exulting war-cry, which burst from many a voice, they charged the
left wing of the enemy. Eric's foot-soldiers, kneeling firmly,
received them with fixed javelins--many a noble horse fell wounded to
death, and in falling brought his rider with him to the ground;
others again crushed their foes under them in their death-fall.
Folko rushed through--he and his war-steed unwounded--followed by a
troop of chosen knights. Already were they falling into disorder--
already were Biorn's warriors giving shouts of victory--when a troop
of horse, headed by Jarl Eric himself, advanced against the valiant
baron; and whilst his Normans, hastily assembled, assisted him in
repelling this new attack, the enemy's infantry were gradually
forming themselves into a thick mass, which rolled on and on. All
these movements seemed caused by a warrior whose loud piercing shout
was in the midst. And scarcely were the troops formed into this
strange array, when suddenly they spread themselves out on all sides,
carrying everything before them with the irresistible force of the
burning torrent from Hecla.
Biorn's soldiers, who had thought to enclose their enemies, lost
courage and gave way before this wondrous onset. The knight himself
in vain attempted to stem the tide of fugitives, and with difficulty
escaped being carried away by it.
Sintram stood looking on this scene of confusion with mute
indignation; friends and foes passed by him, all equally avoiding
him, and dreading to come in contact with one whose aspect was so
fearful, nay, almost unearthly, in his motionless rage. He aimed no
blow either to right or left; his powerful battle-axe rested in his
hand; but his eyes flashed fire, and seemed to be piercing the
enemy's ranks through and through, as if he would find out who it was
that had conjured up this sudden warlike spirit. He succeeded. A
small man clothed in strange-looking armour, with large golden horns
on his helmet, and a long visor advancing in front of it, was leaning
on a two-edged curved spear, and seemed to be looking with derision
at the flight of Biorn's troops as they were pursued by their
victorious foes. "That is he," cried Sintram; "he who will drive us
from the field before the eyes of Gabrielle!" And with the swiftness
of an arrow he flew towards him with a wild shout. The combat was
fierce, but not of long duration. To the wondrous dexterity of his
adversary, Sintram opposed his far superior size; and he dealt so
fearful a blow on the horned helmet, that a stream of blood rushed
forth, the small man fell as if stunned, and after some frightful
convulsive movements, his limbs appeared to stiffen in death.
His fall gave the signal for that of all Eric's army. Even those who
had not seen him fall, suddenly lost their courage and eagerness for
the battle, and retreated with uncertain steps, or ran in wild
affright on the spears of their enemies. At the same time Montfaucon
was dispersing Jarl Eric's cavalry, after a desperate conflict--had
hurled their chief from the saddle, and taken him prisoner with his
own hand. Biorn of the Fiery Eyes stood victorious in the middle of
the field of battle. The day was won.
In sight of both armies, with glowing cheeks and looks of modest
humility, Sintram was conducted by the brave baron up the hill where
Gabrielle stood in all the lustre of her beauty. Both warriors bent
the knee before her, and Folko said, solemnly, "Lady, this valiant
youth of a noble race has deserved the reward of this day's victory.
I pray you let him receive it from your fair hand."
Gabrielle bowed courteously, took off her scarf of blue and gold, and
fastened it to a bright sword, which a page brought to her on a
cushion of cloth of silver. She then, with a smile, presented the
noble gift to Sintram, who was bending forward to receive it, when
suddenly Gabrielle drew back, and turning to Folko, said, "Noble
baron, should not he on whom I bestow a scarf and sword be first
admitted into the order of knighthood?" Light as a feather, Folko
sprang up, and bowing low before his lady, gave the youth the
accolade with solemn earnestness. Then Gabrielle buckled on his
sword, saying, "For the honour of God and the service of virtuous
ladies, young knight. I saw you fight, I saw you conquer, and my
earnest prayers followed you. Fight and conquer often again, as you
have done this day, that the beams of your renown may shine over my
far-distant country." And at a sign from Folko, she offered her
tender lips for the new knight to kiss. Thrilling all over, and full
of a holy joy, Sintram arose in deep silence, and hot tears streamed
down his softened countenance, whilst the shout and the trumpets of
the assembled troops greeted the youth with stunning applause. Old
Rolf stood silently on one side, and as he looked in the mild beaming
eyes of his foster-child, he calmly and piously returned thanks:
"The strife at length hath found its end,
Rich blessings now shall heaven send!
The evil foe is slain!"
Biorn and Jarl Eric had the while been talking together eagerly, but
not unkindly. The conqueror now led his vanquished enemy up the hill
and presented him to the baron and Gabrielle, saying, "Instead of two
enemies you now see two sworn allies; and I request you, my beloved
guests and kinsfolk, to receive him graciously as one who
henceforward belongs to us."
"He was so always," added Eric, smiling; "I sought, indeed, revenge;
but I have now had enough of defeats both by sea and land. Yet I
thank Heaven that neither in the Grecian seas, to the sea-king, nor
in Niflung's Heath, to you, have I yielded ingloriously."
The Lord of Montfaucon assented cordially, and heartily and solemnly
was reconciliation made. Then Jarl Eric addressed Gabrielle with so
noble a grace, that with a smile of wonder she gazed on the gigantic
grey hero, and gave him her beautiful hand to kiss.
Meanwhile Sintram was speaking earnestly to his good Rolf; and at
length he was heard to say, "But before all, be sure that you bury
that wonderfully brave knight whom my battle-axe smote. Choose out
the greenest hill for his resting-place, and the loftiest oak to
shade his grave. Also, I wish you to open his visor, and to examine
his countenance carefully, that so, though mortally smitten, we may
not bury him alive; and moreover, that you may be able to describe to
me him to whom I owe the noblest prize of victory."
Rolf bowed readily, and went.
"Our young knight is speaking there of one amongst the slain of whom
I should like to hear more," said Folko, turning to Jarl Eric. "Who,
dear Jarl, was that wonderful chieftain who led on your troops so
skilfully, and who at last fell under Sintram's powerful battle-axe?"
"You ask me more than I know how to answer," replied Jarl Eric.
"About three nights ago this stranger made his appearance amongst us.
I was sitting with my chieftains and warriors round the hearth,
forging our armour, and singing the while. Suddenly, above the din
of our hammering and our singing, we heard so loud a noise that it
silenced us in a moment, and we sat motionless as if we had been
turned into stone. Before long the sound was repeated; and at last
we made out that it must be caused by some person blowing a huge horn
outside the castle, seeking for admittance. I went down myself to
the gate, and as I passed through the court-yard all my dogs were so
terrified by the extraordinary noise, as to be howling and crouching
in their kennels instead of barking. I chid them, and called to
them, but even the fiercest would not follow me. Then, thought I,
I must show you the way to set to work; so I grasped my sword firmly,
I set my torch on the ground close beside me, and I let the gates fly
open without further delay. For I well knew that it would be no easy
matter for any one to come in against my will. A loud laugh greeted
me, and I heard these words, 'Well, well, what mighty preparations
are these before one small man can find the shelter he seeks!' And
in truth I did feel myself redden with shame when I saw the small
stranger standing opposite to me quite alone. I called to him to
come in at once, and offered my hand to him; but he still showed some
displeasure, and would not give me his in return. As he went up,
however, he became more friendly--he showed me the golden horn on
which he sounded that blast, and which he carried screwed on his
helmet, as well as another exactly like it. When he was sitting with
us in the hall, he behaved in a very strange manner--sometimes he was
merry, sometimes cross; by turns courteous and rude in his demeanour,
without any one being able to see a motive for such constant changes.
I longed to know where he came from; but how could I ask my guest
such a question? He told us as much as this, that he was starved
with cold in our country, and that his own was much warmer. Also he
appeared well acquainted with the city of Constantinople, and related
fearful stories of how brothers, uncles, nephews, nay, even fathers
and sons, thrust each other from the throne, blinded, cut out
tongues, and murdered. At length he said his own name--it sounded
harmonious, like a Greek name, but none of us could remember it.
Before long he displayed his skill as an armourer. He understood
marvellously well how to handle the red-hot iron, and how to form it
into more murderous weapons than any I had ever before seen. I would
not suffer him to go on making them, for I was resolved to meet you
in the field with equal arms, and such as we are all used to in our
northern countries. Then he laughed, and said he thought it would be
quite possible to be victorious without them, by skilful movements
and the like if only I would entrust the command of my infantry to
him, I was sure of victory. Then I thought that he who makes arms
well must also wield them well--yet I required some proof of his
powers. Ye lords, he came off victorious in trials of strength such
as you can hardly imagine; and although the fame of young Sintram, as
a bold and brave warrior, is spread far and wide, yet I can scarce
believe that he could slay such an one as my Greek ally."
He would have continued speaking, but the good Rolf came hastily back
with a few followers, the whole party so ghastly pale, that all eyes
were involuntarily fixed on them, and looked anxiously to hear what
tidings they had brought. Rolf stood still, silent and trembling.
"Take courage, my old friend!" cried Sintram. "Whatever thou mayest
have to tell is truth and light from thy faithful mouth."
"My dear master," began the old man, "be not angry, but as to burying
that strange warrior whom you slew, it is a thing impossible. Would
that we had never opened that wide hideous visor! For so horrible a
countenance grinned at us from underneath it, so distorted by death,
and with so hellish an expression, that we hardly kept our senses.
We could not by any possibility have touched him. I would rather be
sent to kill wolves and bears in the desert, and look on whilst
fierce birds of prey feast on their carcases."
All present shuddered, and were silent for a time, till Sintram
nerved himself to say, "Dear, good old man, why use such wild words
as I never till now heard thee utter? But tell me, Jarl Eric, did
your ally appear altogether so awful while he was yet alive?"
"Not as far as I know," answered Jarl Eric, looking inquiringly at
his companions, who were standing around. They said the same thing;
but on farther questioning, it appeared that neither the chieftain,
nor the knights, nor the soldiers, could say exactly what the
stranger was like.
"We must then find it out for ourselves, and bury the corpse," said
Sintram; and he signed to the assembled party to follow him. All did
so except the Lord of Montfaucon, whom the whispered entreaty of
Gabrielle kept at her side. He lost nothing thereby. For though
Niflung's Heath was searched from one end to the other many times,
yet the body of the unknown warrior was no longer to be found.
The joyful calm which came over Sintram on this day appeared to be
more than a passing gleam. If too, at times, a thought of the knight
Paris and Helen would inflame his heart with bolder and wilder
wishes, it needed but one look at his scarf and sword, and the stream
of his inner life glided again clear as a mirror, and serene within.
"What can any man wish for more than has been already bestowed on
me?" would he say to himself at such times in still delight. And
thus it went on for a long while.
The beautiful northern autumn had already begun to redden the leaves
of the oaks and elms round the castle, when one day it chanced that
Sintram was sitting in company with Folko and Gabrielle in almost the
very same spot in the garden where he had before met that mysterious
being whom, without knowing why, he had named the little Master. But
on this day how different did everything appear! The sun was sinking
slowly over the sea, the mist of an autumnal evening was rising from
the fields and meadows around, towards the hill on which stood the
huge castle. Gabrielle, placing her lute in Sintram's hands, said to
him, "Dear friend, so mild and gentle as you now are, I may well dare
to entrust to you my tender little darling. Let me again hear you
sing that lay of the land of flowers; for I am sure that it will now
sound much sweeter than when you accompanied it with the vibrations
of your fearful harp."
The young knight bowed as he prepared to obey the lady's commands.
With a grace and softness hitherto unwonted, the tones resounded from
his lips, and the wild song appeared to transform itself, and to
bloom into a garden of the blessed. Tears stood in Gabrielle's eyes;
and Sintram, as he gazed on the pearly brightness, poured forth tones
of yet richer sweetness. When the last notes were sounded,
Gabrielle's angelic voice was heard to echo them; and as she repeated
"Sing heigh, sing ho, for that land of flowers,"
Sintram put down the lute, and sighed with a thankful glance towards
the stars, now rising in the heavens. Then Gabrielle, turning
towards her lord, murmured these words: "Oh, how long have we been
far away from our own shining castles and bright gardens! Oh, for
that land of the sweetest flowers!"
Sintram could scarce believe that he heard aright, so suddenly did he
feel himself as if shut out from paradise. But his last hope
vanished before the courteous assurances of Folko that he would
endeavour to fulfil his lady's wishes the very next week, and that
their ship was lying off the shore ready to put to sea. She thanked
him with a kiss imprinted softly on his forehead; and leaning on his
arm, she bent her steps, singing and smiling, towards the castle.
Sintram, troubled in mind, as though turned into stone, remained
behind forgotten. At length, when night was now in the sky, he
started up wildly, ran up and down the garden, as if all his former
madness had again taken possession of him; and then rushed out and
wandered upon the wild moonlit hills. There he dashed his sword
against the trees and bushes, so that on all sides was heard a sound
of crashing and falling. The birds of night flew about him
screeching in wild alarm; and the deer, startled by the noise, sprang
away and took refuge in the thickest coverts.
On a sudden old Rolf appeared, returning home from a visit to the
chaplain of Drontheim, to whom he had been relating, with tears of
joy, how Sintram was softened by the presence of the angel Gabrielle,
yea, almost healed, and how he dared to hope that the evil dreams had
yielded. And now the sword, as it whizzed round the furious youth,
had well-nigh wounded the good old man. He stopped short, and
clasping his hand, he said, with a deep sigh, "Alas, Sintram! my
foster-child, darling of my heart, what has come over thee, thus
fearfully stirring thee to rage?"
The youth stood awhile as if spell-bound; he looked in his old
friend's face with a fixed and melancholy gaze, and his eyes became
dim, like expiring watch-fires seen through a thick cloud of mist.
At length he sighed forth these words, almost inaudibly: "Good Rolf,
good Rolf, depart from me! thy garden of heaven is no home for me;
and if sometimes a light breeze blow open its golden gates, so that I
can look in and see the flowery meadow-land where the dear angels
dwell, then straightway between them and me come the cold north wind
and the icy storm, and the sounding doors fly together, and I remain
without, lonely, in endless winter."
"Beloved young knight, oh, listen to me--listen to the good angel
within you! Do you not bear in your hand that very sword with which
the pure lady girded you? does not her scarf wave over your raging
breast? Do you not recollect how you used to say, that no man could
wish for more than had fallen to you?"
"Yes, Rolf, I have said that," replied Sintram, sinking on the mossy
turf, bitterly weeping. Tears also ran over the old man's white
beard. Before long the youth stood again erect, his tears ceased to
flow, his looks were fearful, cold, and grim; and he said, "You see,
Rolf, I have passed blessed peaceful days, and I thought that the
powers of evil would never again have dominion over me. So,
perchance, it might have been, as day would ever be did the Sun ever
stand in the sky. But ask the poor benighted Earth, wherefore she
looks so dark! Bid her again smile as she was wont to do! Old man,
she cannot smile; and now that the gentle compassionate Moon has
disappeared behind the clouds with her only funeral veil, she cannot
even weep. And in this hour of darkness all that is wild and mad
wakes up. So, stop me not, I tell thee, stop me not! Hurra, behind,
behind the pale Moon!" His voice changed to a hoarse murmur at these
last words, storm-like. He tore away from the trembling old man, and
rushed through the forest. Rolf knelt down and prayed, and wept
Where the sea-beach was wildest, and the cliffs most steep and
rugged, and close by the remains of three shattered oaks, haply
marking where, in heathen times, human victims had been sacrificed,
now stood Sintram, leaning, as if exhausted, on his drawn sword, and
gazing intently on the dancing waves. The moon had again shone
forth; and as her pale beams fell on his motionless figure through
the quivering branches of the trees, he might have been taken for
some fearful idol-image. Suddenly some one on the left half raised
himself out of the high withered grass, uttered a faint groan, and
again lay down. Then between the two companions began this strange
"Thou that movest thyself so strangely in the grass, dost thou belong
to the living or to the dead?"
"As one may take it. I am dead to heaven and joy--I live for hell
"Methinks that I have heard thee before."
"Art thou a troubled spirit? and was thy life-blood poured out here
of old in sacrifice to idols?"
"I am a troubled spirit; but no man ever has, or ever can, shed my
blood. I have been cast down--oh, into a frightful abyss!"
"And didst thou break there thy neck?"
"I live,--and shall live longer than thou."
"Almost thou seemest to me the crazy pilgrim with the dead men's
"I am not he, though often we are companions,--ay, walk together
right near and friendly. But to you be it said, he thinks me mad.
If sometimes I urge him, and say to him, 'Take!' then he hesitates
and points upwards towards the stars. And again, if I say, 'Take
not!' then, to a certainty, he seizes on it in some awkward manner,
and so he spoils my best joys and pleasures. But, in spite of this,
we remain in some measure brothers in arms, and, indeed, all but
"Give me hold of thy hand, and let me help thee to get up."
"Ho, ho! my active young sir, that might bring you no good. Yet, in
fact, you have already helped to raise me. Give heed awhile."
Wilder and ever wilder were the strugglings on the ground; thick
clouds hurried over the moon and the stars, on a long unknown wild
journey; and Sintram's thoughts grew no less wild and stormy, while
far and near an awful howling could be heard amidst the trees and the
grass. At length the mysterious being arose from the ground. As if
with a fearful curiosity, the moon, through a rent in the clouds,
cast a beam upon Sintram's companion, and made clear to the
shuddering youth that the little Master stood, by him.
"Avaunt!" cried he, "I will listen no more to thy evil stories about
the knight Paris: they would end by driving me quite mad."
"My stories about Paris are not needed for that!" grinned the little
Master. "It is enough that the Helen of thy heart should be
journeying towards Montfaucon. Believe me, madness has thee already,
head and heart. Or wouldest thou that she should remain? For that,
however, thou must be more courteous to me than thou art now."
Therewith he raised his voice towards the sea, as if fiercely