Part 6 out of 8
which I have here in my pocket. It is somewhat crumpled, for I have
read it several times. But no matter. I will read it to you now, if
you will pardon my awkward translating of the French original.
"Here it is:
"Many thanks for your letter. Here is the book. I have to thank you
also that you did not lay my behavior of your last days in Paris up
against me. It must have seemed strange to you. I will try to explain
"I have been nervous from childhood. The fact that most of my books
have treated of fantastic subjects,--somewhat in the manner of Edgar
Allan Poe--has made me more susceptible for all that world which lies
beyond and about the world of every-day life. I have sought
after,--and yet feared--the mystical; cool and lucid as I can be at
times, I have always had an inclination for the enigmatical, the
"But the first thing that ever happened in my life that I could not
explain or understand was the affair of the manuscript. You remember
the day I stood in your room? I must have looked the picture of
misery. The affair had played more havoc with my nerves than you can
very well understand. Your mockery hurt me, and yet under all I felt
ashamed of my own thoughts concerning this foolish occurrence. I could
not explain the phenomenon, and I shivered at the things that it
suggested to me. In this condition, which lasted several weeks, I
could not bear to see you or anyone else, and I was impolite enough
even to leave your letter unanswered.
"The book appeared and made a hit, since that sort of thing was the
center of interest just then. But almost a month passed before I could
arouse myself from that condition of fear and--I had almost said,
softening of the brain--which prevented my enjoyment of my success.
"Then the explanation came. Thanks to this occurrence I know now that
I shall never again be in danger of being 'haunted.'
"And I know now that Chance can bring about stranger happenings than
can any fancied visitations from the spirit world. Here you have the
story of this 'mystic' occurrence, which came near endangering my
sanity, and which turns out to be a chance combination of a gust of
wind, a sudden downpour of rain, and the strange elements in the
character of our little friend Adolphe the printer's boy.
"You remember that funny little chap with the crafty eye, his talent
for gambling, and his admiration for the girl of 'La Prunelle'? A
queer little mixture this child who has himself alone to look to for
livelihood and care, the typical race of the Paris streets, the
modified gamin from 'Les Miserables.'
"About a month after the appearance of my book I lay on the divan one
day,--your favorite place, you remember?--and lost myself in idle
reasonings on the same old subject that never left my mind day or
night, when the bell rang and Adolphe appeared, to call for the essay
on 'Le Boulevarde.' There was an unusually nervous gleam in his eyes
that day. I gave him an anisette and tried to find out what his
trouble was. I did find it out, and I found out a good deal more
"Thanks to his good fortune as a gambler, Virginie came to look upon
him with favor. Pierre was quite out of the race and Adolphe's
affection was reciprocated as much as his heart could desire. But with
his good fortune in love came all the suffering, all the torture, the
suspicions that tear the hearts of us men when we set our hopes upon a
woman's truth. Young as he was he went through them all, and now he
was torturing himself with the thought that she did not really love
him and was only pretending, while she gave her heart to another.
Perhaps he was right--why not?
"I talked to Adolphe as man to man, and managed to bring back a gleam
of his usual jollity and sly humor. He took another glass of anisette,
and said suddenly:
"'M. Lucien--I did something----'
"'Did what?' I asked.
"'Something I should have told you long ago--it was wrong, and you've
always been so nice to me----'
"You remember the day, two months ago, when we had such a sudden wind
and rain storm, a regular cloud-burst? I was down here in this
neighborhood fetching manuscripts from M. Labouchere and M. Laroy. I
was to have come up here for copy from you, too. But then--you'll
understand after all I've been telling you,--I came around past 'La
Prunelle' and Virginie stood in the doorway, and she'd promised to go
out with me that evening. So I ran up to speak to her. And then when I
went on again, I saw a sheet with your writing lying in the street.
You know I know all the gentlemen's writing, whose copy I fetch. Then
I was frightened. I thought to myself, 'The devil,' I thought, 'here
I've lost M. Lucien's manuscript.' I couldn't remember calling for it,
but I thought I must have done so before I got M. Laroy's. I can't
remember much except Virginie these days. I took up the sheet and saw
three others a little further on. And I saw a lot more shining just
behind the railing of the Luxembourg Garden. You know how hard it
rained. The water held the paper down, so the wind couldn't carry it
any further. I ran into the Garden and picked up all the sheets,
thirty-two of them. All of them, except the first four I found in the
street, had blown in behind the railing. And I can tell you I was
precious glad that I had them all together. I ran back to the office,
told them I had dropped the manuscript in the street, but asked them
not to say anything to you about it. But the sheets were all
there,--you always number them so clearly, and 'handsome August,' the
compositor, promised he wouldn't tell on me. I knew if the foreman
heard of it, he'd put me out, for he had a grudge against me. So
nobody knew anything about it. But I thought I ought to tell you,
'cause you've been so nice to me. Maybe you'll understand how one gets
queer at times, when a girl like Virginie tells you she likes you
better than Pierre, and yet you think she might deceive you for his
sake--that big, stupid animal--But now I'll be going. Much obliged for
your kindness, M. Lucien, and for the anisette--' And he left me.
"There you have the explanation, the very simple and natural
explanation of the phenomenon that almost drove me crazy.
"The entire 'supernatural' occurrence was caused by a careless boy's
love affairs, by a gust of southwest wind, by a sudden heavy rain, and
by the chance that I had used English ink, the kind that water cannot
blur. All these simple natural things made me act so foolishly toward
a good friend, the sort of friend I have always known you to be. Let
me hear from you, and tell me what you people up North think of my
book. I give you my word that the 'Unknown Powers' shall never again
make me foolish enough to risk losing your friendship!
"So this is my story. Yes, 'there are more things in heaven and
earth--' But the workings of Chance are the strangest of all. And this
whisky is really very good. Here's to you."
BERNHARD SEVERIN INGEMANN
_THE SEALED ROOM_
For many years there stood in a side street in Kiel an unpretentious
old frame house which had a forbidding, almost sinister appearance,
with its old-fashioned balcony and its overhanging upper stories. For
the last twenty years the house had been occupied by a greatly
respected widow, Madame Wolff, to whom the dwelling had come by
inheritance. She lived there quietly with her one daughter, in
somewhat straitened circumstances.
What gave the house a mysterious notoriety, augmenting the sinister
quality in its appearance, was the fact that one of its rooms, a
corner room on the main floor, had not been opened for generations.
The door was firmly fastened and sealed with plaster, as well as the
window looking out upon the street. Above the door was an old
inscription, dated 1603, which threatened sudden death and eternal
damnation to any human being who dared to open the door or efface the
inscription. Neither door nor window had been opened in the two
hundred years that had passed since the inscription was put up. But
for a generation back or more, the partition wall and the sealed door
had been covered with wall paper, and the inscription had been almost
The room adjoining the sealed chamber was a large hall, utilized only
for rare important events. Such an occasion arose with the wedding of
the only daughter of the house. For that evening the great hall, as it
was called, was brilliantly decorated and illuminated for a ball. The
building had deep cellars and the old floors were elastic. Madame
Wolff had in vain endeavored to avoid using the great hall at all, for
the foolish old legend of the sealed chamber aroused a certain
superstitious dread in her heart, and she rarely if ever entered the
hall herself. But merry Miss Elizabeth, her pretty young daughter, was
passionately fond of dancing, and her mother had promised that she
should have a ball on her wedding day. Her betrothed, Secretary
Winther, was also a good dancer, and the two young people combated the
mother's prejudice against the hall and laughed at her fear of the
sealed room. They thought it would be wiser to appear to ignore the
stupid legend altogether, and thus to force the world to forget it. In
spite of secret misgivings Madame Wolff yielded to their arguments.
And for the first time in many years the merry strains of dance music
were heard in the great hall that lay next the mysterious sealed
The bridal couple, as well as the wedding guests, were in the gayest
mood, and the ball was an undoubted success. The dancing was
interrupted for an hour while supper was served in an adjoining room.
After the repast the guests returned to the hall, and it was several
hours more before the last dance was called. The season was early
autumn and the weather still balmy. The windows had been opened to
freshen the air. But the walls retained their dampness and suddenly
the dancers noticed that the old wall paper which covered the
partition wall between the hall and the sealed chamber had been
loosened through the jarring of the building, and had fallen away from
the sealed door with its mysterious inscription.
The story of the sealed chamber had been almost forgotten by most of
those present, forgotten with many other old legends heard in
childhood. The inscription thus suddenly revealed naturally aroused
great interest, and there was a general curiosity to know what the
mysterious closed room might hide. Conjectures flew from mouth to
mouth. Some insisted that the closed door must hide the traces of a
hideous murder, or some other equally terrible crime. Others suggested
that perhaps the room had been used as a hiding place for garments and
other articles belonging to some person who had died of a pestilence,
and that the room had been sealed for fear of spreading the disease.
Still others thought that in the sealed chamber there might be found a
secret entrance from the cellars, which had made the room available as
a hiding place for robbers or smugglers. The guests had quite
forgotten their dancing in the interest awakened by the sight of the
"For mercy's sake, don't let's go too near it!" exclaimed some of the
young ladies. But the majority thought it would be great fun to see
what was hidden there. Most of the men said that they considered it
foolish not to have opened the door long ago, and examined the room.
The young bridegroom did not join in this opinion, however. He upheld
the decision of his mother-in-law not to allow any attempt to effect
an entrance into the room. He knew that there was a clause in the
title deeds to the house which made the express stipulation that no
owner should ever permit the corner room to be opened. There was
discussion among the guests as to whether such a clause in a title
deed could be binding for several hundred years, and many doubted its
validity at any time. But most of them understood why Madame Wolff did
not wish any investigation, even should any of those present have
sufficient courage to dare the curse and break open the door.
"Nonsense! What great courage is necessary for that?" exclaimed
Lieutenant Flemming Wolff, a cousin of the bride of the evening. This
gentleman had a reputation that was not of the best. He was known to
live mostly on debt and pawn tickets, and was of a most quarrelsome
disposition. As a duelist he was feared because of his specialty. This
was the ability, and the inclination, through a trick in the use of
the foils, to disfigure his opponent's face badly, without at all
endangering his life. In this manner he had already sadly mutilated
several brave officers and students, who had had the bad luck to stand
up against him. He himself was anything but pleasant to look upon, his
natural plainness having been rendering repellent by a life of low
debauchery. He cherished a secret grudge against the bridegroom and
bitter feelings toward the bride, because the latter had so plainly
shown her aversion for him when he had ventured to pay suit to her.
The family had not desired any open break with this disagreeable
relative, and had therefore sent him an invitation to the wedding.
They had taken it for granted that, under the circumstances, he would
prefer to stay away. But he had appeared at the ball, and, perhaps to
conceal his resentment, he had been the most indefatigable dancer of
the evening. At supper he had partaken freely of the strongest wines,
and was plainly showing the effect of them by this time. His eyes
rolled wildly, and those who knew him took care not to contradict him,
or to have anything to say to him at all.
With a boastful laugh he repeated his assertion that it didn't take
much courage to open a sealed door, especially when there might be a
fortune concealed behind it. In his opinion it was cowardly to let
oneself be frightened by a century-old legend. _He_ wouldn't let that
bother him if _he_ had influence enough in the family to win the
daughter and induce the mother to give a ball in the haunted hall.
With this last hit he hoped to arouse the young husband's ire. But the
latter merely shrugged his shoulders and turned away with a smile of
Lieutenant Wolff fired up at this, and demanded to know whether the
other intended to call his, the lieutenant's, courage into question by
"Not in the slightest, when it is a matter of obtaining a loan, or of
mutilating an adversary with a trick at fencing," answered the
bridegroom angrily, taking care, however, that neither the bride nor
any of the other ladies should hear his words. Then he continued in a
whisper: "But I don't believe you'd have the courage to remain here
alone and in darkness, before this closed door, for a single hour. If
you wish to challenge me for this doubt, I am at your disposal as soon
as you have proven me in the wrong. But I choose the weapons."
"They must be chosen by lot, sir cousin," replied the lieutenant, his
cheek pale and his jaws set. "I will expect you to breakfast to-morrow
morning at eight o'clock."
The bridegroom nodded, and took the other's cold dry hand for an
instant. The men who had overheard the short conversation looked upon
it as a meaningless incident, the memory of which would disappear from
the lieutenant's brain with the vanishing wine fumes.
The ball was now over. The bride left the hall with her husband and
several of the guests who were to accompany the young couple to their
new home. The lights went out in the old house. The door of the
dancing hall had been locked from the outside. Lieutenant Flemming
Wolff remained alone in the room, having hidden himself in a dark
corner where he had not been seen by the servants, who had
extinguished the lights and locked the door. The night watchman had
just called out two o'clock when the solitary guest found himself,
still giddy from the heavy wine, alone in the great dark hall in front
of the mysterious door.
The windows were at only a slight elevation from the street, and a
spring would take him to safety should his desire to remain there, or
to solve the mystery of the sealed room, vanish. But next morning all
the windows in the great hall were found closed, just as the servants
had left them the night before. The night watchman reported that he
had heard a hollow-sounding crash in that unoccupied part of the house
during the night. But that was nothing unusual, as there was a general
belief in the neighborhood that the house was haunted.
For hollow noises were often heard there, and sounds as of money
falling on the floor, and rattling and clinking as of a factory
machine. Enlightened people, it is true, explained these sounds as
echoes of the stamping and other natural noises from a large stable
just behind the old house. But in spite of these explanations and
their eminent feasibility, the dread of the unoccupied portion of the
house was so great that not even the most reckless man servant could
be persuaded to enter it alone after nightfall.
Next morning at eight o'clock Winther appeared at his mother-in-law's
door, saying that he had forgotten something of importance in the
great hall the night before. Madame Wolff had not yet arisen, but the
maid who let in the early visitor noticed with surprise that he had a
large pistol sticking out of one of his pockets.
Winther had been to his cousin's apartment and found it locked. He now
entered the great hall, and at first glance thought it empty. To his
alarm and astonishment, however, he saw that the sealed door had been
broken open. He approached it with anxiety, and found his wife's
cousin, the doughty duelist, lying pale and lifeless on the threshold.
Beside him lay a large stone which had struck his head in falling and
must have killed him at once. Over the door was a hole in the wall,
just the size of the stone. The latter had evidently rested on the
upper edge of the door, and must certainly have fallen on its opening.
The unfortunate man lay half in the mysterious chamber and half in the
hall, just as he must have fallen when the stone struck him.
The formal investigation of the closed room was made in the presence
of the police authorities. It contained nothing but a small safe which
was built into the wall. When the safe had been opened by force, an
inner chamber, which had to be broken open by itself, was found to
contain a number of rolls of gold pieces, many jewels and numerous
notes and I.O.U.'s. The treasure was covered by an old document. From
this latter it was learned that the owner of the house two hundred
years ago had been a silk weaver by the name of Flemming Ambrosius
Wolff. He was said to have lent money on security for many years, but
had died apparently a poor man, because he had so carefully hidden his
riches that little of it was found after his death.
With a niggardliness that bordered on madness, he had believed that he
could hide his treasure forever by shutting it up in the sealed room.
The curse over the door was to frighten away any venturesome mortal,
and further security was given by the clause in the title deed.
The universally disliked Lieutenant Flamming Wolff must have had many
characteristics in common with this disagreeable old ancestor, to
whose treasure he would have fallen heir had he not lost his life in
the discovering of it. The old miser had not hidden his wealth for all
eternity, as he had hoped, but had only brought about the inheriting
of it by Madame Wolff, the owner of the house, and the next of kin.
The first use to which this lady put the money was to tear down the
uncanny old building and to erect in its stead a beautiful new home
for her daughter and son-in-law.
STEEN STEENSEN BLICHER
_THE RECTOR OF VEILBYE_
These extracts from the diary of Erik Sorensen, District Judge,
followed by two written statements by the rector of Aalsoe, give a
complete picture of the terrible events that took place in the parish
of Veilbye during Judge Sorensen's first year of office. Should anyone
be inclined to doubt the authenticity of these documents let him at
least have no doubt about the story, which is, alas! only too sadly
true. The memory of these events is still fresh in the district, and
the events themselves have been the direct cause of a change in the
method of criminal trials. A suspected murderer is now tried through
all the courts before his conviction can be determined. Readers versed
in the history of law will doubtless know by this during what epoch
the story is laid.
[_From the Diary of District Judge Erik Soerensen_.]
Now am I, unworthy one, by the grace of God made judge over this
district. May the Great Judge above give me wisdom and uprightness
that I may fulfill my difficult task in all humility! From the Lord
alone cometh judgment.
It is not good that man should live alone. Now that I am able to
support a wife I will look about me for a help-meet. I hear much good
said about the daughter of the Rector of Veilbye. Since her mother's
death she has been a wise and economical keeper of her father's house.
And as she and her brother the student are the only children, she will
inherit a tidy sum when the old man dies.
Morten Bruus of Ingvorstrup was here to-day and wanted to make me a
present of a fat calf. But I answered him in the words of Moses,
"Cursed be he who taketh gifts." He is of a very quarrelsome nature, a
sharp bargainer, and a boastful talker. I do not want to have any
dealings with him, except through my office as judge.
I have prayed to God for wisdom and I have consulted with my own
heart, and I believe that Mistress Mette Quist is the only woman with
whom I could live and die. But I will watch her for a time in secret.
Beauty is deceptive and charm is a dangerous thing. But I must say
that she is the most beautiful woman I have yet seen.
I think that Morten Bruus a very disagreeable person--I scarcely know
why myself. But whenever I see him something comes over me, something
that is like the memory of an evil dream. And yet it is so vague and
so faint, that I could not say whether I had really ever seen the man
in my dreams or not. It may be a sort of presentiment of evil; who
He was here again and offered me a pair of horses--beautiful
animals--at a ridiculously low price. It looked queer to me. I know
that he paid seventy thalers for them, and he wanted to let me have
them for the same price. They are at the least worth one hundred
thalers, if not more. Was it intended for a bribe? He may have another
lawsuit pending. I do not want his horses.
I paid a visit to the Rector of Veilbye to-day. He is a fine,
God-fearing man, but somewhat quick-tempered and dictatorial. And he
is close with his money, too, as I could see. Just as I arrived a
peasant was with him trying to be let off the payment of part of his
tithe. The man is surely a rogue, for the sum is not large. But the
rector talked to him as I wouldn't have talked to a dog, and the more
he talked the more violent he became.
Well, we all have our faults. The rector meant well in spite of his
violence, for later on he told his daughter to give the man a sandwich
and a good glass of beer. She is certainly a charming and sensible
girl. She greeted me in a modest and friendly manner, and my heart
beat so that I could scarcely say a word in reply. My head farm hand
served in the rectory three years. I will question him,--one often
hears a straight and true statement from servants.
A surprise! My farm hand Rasmus tells me that Morten Bruus came
a-wooing to the rectory at Veilbye some years back, but was sent away
with a refusal. The rector seemed to be pleased with him, for the man
is rich. But his daughter would not hear to it at all. Pastor Soeren
may have tried hard to persuade her to consent at first. But when he
saw how much she disliked the man he let her do as she would. It was
not pride on her part, Rasmus said, for she is as simple and modest as
she is good and beautiful. And she knows that her own father is
peasant-born as well as Bruus.
Now I know what the Ingvorstrup horses were intended for. They were to
blind the judge and to lead him aside from the narrow path of
righteousness. The rich Morten Bruus covets poor Ole Andersen's peat
moor and pasture land. It would have been a good bargain for Morten
even at seventy thalers. But no indeed, my good fellow, you don't know
Rector Soeren Quist of Veilbye came to see me this morning. He has a
new coachman, Niels Bruus, brother to the owner of Ingvorstrup. Niels
is lazy and impertinent. The rector wanted him arrested, but he had no
witnesses to back up his complaint. I advised him to get rid of the
man somehow, or else to get along with him the best he could until the
latter's time was up. The rector was somewhat hasty at first, but
later on he listened calmly and thanked me for my good advice. He is
inclined to be violent at times, but can always be brought to listen
to reason. We parted good friends.
I spent a charming day in Veilbye yesterday. The rector was not at
home, but Mistress Mette received me with great friendliness. She sat
by the door spinning when I arrived, and it seemed to me that she
blushed. It was hardly polite for me to wait so long before speaking.
When I sit in judgement I never lack for words, but in the presence of
this innocent maiden I am as stupid as the veriest simpleton of a
chicken thief. But I finally found my voice and the time passed
quickly until the rector's return. Then Mistress Mette left us and did
not return until she brought in our supper.
Just as she stepped through the doorway the rector was saying to me,
"Isn't it about time that you should think of entering into the holy
estate of matrimony?" (We had just been speaking of a recent very fine
wedding in the neighborhood.) Mistress Mette heard the words and
flushed a deep red. Her father laughed and said to her, "I can see, my
dear daughter, that you have been standing before the fire."
I shall take the good man's advice and will very soon try my fate with
her. For I think I may take the rector's words to be a secret hint
that he would not object to me as a son-in-law. And the daughter? Was
her blush a favorable sign?
Poor Ole Anderson keeps his peat moor and his pasture land, but rich
Morten Bruus is angry at me because of it. When he heard the decision
he closed his eyes and set his lips tight, and his face was as pale as
a whitewashed wall. But he controlled himself and as he went out he
called back to his adversary, "Wish you joy of the bargain Ole
Anderson. The peat bog won't beggar me, and the cattle at Ingvorstrup
have all the hay they can eat." I could hear his loud laughter outside
and the cracking of his whip. It is not easy to have to sit in
judgment. Every decision makes but one enemy the more.
Yesterday was the happiest day of my life. We celebrated our betrothal
in the Rectory of Veilbye. My future father-in-law spoke to the text,
"I gave my handmaid into thy bosom" (Genesis xvi, 5). His words
touched my heart. I had not believed that this serious and sometimes
brusque man could talk so sweetly. When the solemnity was over, I
received the first kiss from my sweet betrothed, and the assurance of
her great love for me.
At supper and later on we were very merry. Many of the dead mother's
kin were present. The rector's family were too far away. After supper
we danced until day-break and there was no expense spared in the food
and wine. My future father-in-law was the strongest man present, and
could easily drink all the others under the table. The wedding is to
take place in six weeks. God grant us rich blessings.
It is not good that my future father-in-law should have this Niels
Bruus in his service. He is a defiant fellow, a worthy brother of him
of Ingvorstrup. If it were I, he should have his wages and be turned
off, the sooner the better. But the good rector is stubborn and
insists that Niels shall serve out his time. The other day he gave the
fellow a box on the ear, at which Niels cried out that he would make
him pay for it. The rector told me of this himself, for no one else
had been present. I talked to Niels, but he would scarcely answer me.
I fear he has a stubborn and evil nature. My sweet betrothed also
entreats her father to send the fellow away, but the rector will not
listen to reason. I do not know what the old man will do when his
daughter leaves his home for mine. She saves him much worry and knows
how to make all things smooth and easy. She will be a sweet wife for
As I thought, it turned out badly. But there is one good thing about
it, Niels has now run off of himself. The rector is greatly angered,
but I rejoice in secret that he is rid of that dangerous man. Bruus
will probably seek retaliation, but we have law and justice in the
land to order such matters.
This was the way of it: The rector had ordered Niels to dig up a bit
of soil in the garden. After a time when he went out himself to look
at the work, he found Niels leaning on his spade eating nuts. He had
not even begun to dig. The rector scolded him, but the fellow answered
that he had not taken service as a gardener. He received a good box on
the ear for that. At this he threw away his spade and swore valiantly
at his master. The old rector lost his temper entirely, seized the
spade and struck at the man several times. He should not have done
this, for a spade is a dangerous weapon, especially in the hands of a
man as strong as is the pastor in spite of his years. Niels fell to
the ground as if dead. But when the pastor bent over him in alarm, he
sprang up suddenly, jumped the hedge and ran away to the woods.
This is the story of the unfortunate affair as my father-in-law tells
it to me. My beloved Mette is much worried about it. She fears the man
may do harm to the cattle, or set fire to the house, or in some such
way take his revenge. But I tell her there is little fear of that.
Three weeks more and my beloved leaves her father's house for mine.
She has been here and has gone over the house and the farm. She is
much pleased with everything and praises our orderliness. She is an
angel, and all who know her say that I am indeed a fortunate man. To
God be the praise!
Strange, where that fellow Niels went to! Could he have left the
country altogether? It is an unpleasant affair in any case, and there
are murmurings and secret gossip among the peasants. The talk has
doubtless started in Ingvorstrup. It would not be well to have the
rector hear it. He had better have taken my advice, but it is not my
province to school a servant of God, and a man so much older than I.
The idle gossip may blow over ere long. I will go to Veilbye to-morrow
and find out if he has heard anything.
The bracelet the goldsmith has made for me is very beautiful. I am
sure it will please my sweet Mette.
My honored father-in-law is much distressed and down-hearted.
Malicious tongues have repeated to him the stupid gossip that is going
about in the district. Morten Bruus is reported to have said that "he
would force the rector to bring back his brother, if he had to dig him
out of the earth." The fellow may be in hiding somewhere, possibly at
Ingvorstrup. He has certainly disappeared completely, and no one seems
to know where he is. My poor betrothed is much grieved and worried.
She is alarmed by bad dreams and by presentiments of evil to come.
God have mercy on us all! I am so overcome by shock and horror that I
can scarcely hold the pen. It has all come in one terrible moment,
like a clap of thunder. I take no account of time, night and morning
are the same to me and the day is but a sudden flash of lightning
destroying the proud castle of my hopes and desires. A venerable man
of God--the father of my betrothed--is in prison! And as a suspected
murderer! There is still hope that he may be innocent. But this hope
is but as a straw to a drowning man. A terrible suspicion rests upon
him----And I, unhappy man that I am, must be his judge. And his
daughter is my betrothed bride! May the Saviour have pity on us!
It was yesterday that this horrible thing came. About half an hour
before sunrise Morten Bruus came to my house and had with him the
cotter Jens Larsen of Veilbye, and the widow and daughter of the
shepherd of that parish. Morten Bruus said to me that he had the
Rector of Veilbye under suspicion of having killed his brother Niels.
I answered that I had heard some such talk but had regarded it as idle
and malicious gossip, for the rector himself had assured me that the
fellow had run away. "If that was so," said Morten, "if Niels had
really intended to run away, he would surely at first come to me to
tell me of it. But it is not so, as these good people can prove to
you, and I demand that you shall hear them as an officer of the law."
"Think well of what you are doing," I said. "Think it over well,
Morten Bruus, and you, my good people. You are bringing a terrible
accusation against a respected and unspotted priest and man of God. If
you can prove nothing, as I strongly suspect, your accusations may
cost you dear."
"Priest or no priest," cried Bruus, "it is written, 'thou shalt not
kill!' And also is it written, that the authorities bear the sword of
justice for all men. We have law and order in the land, and the
murderer shall not escape his punishment, even if he have the district
judge for a son-in-law."
I pretended not to notice his thrust and began, "It shall be as you
say. Kirsten Mads' daughter, what is it that you know of this matter
in which Morten Bruus accuses your rector? Tell the truth, and the
truth only, as you would tell it before the judgment seat of the
Almighty. The law will demand from you that you shall later repeat
your testimony under oath."
The woman told the following story: The day on which Niels Bruus was
said to have run away from the rectory, she and her daughter were
passing along the road near the rectory garden a little after the noon
hour. She heard some one calling and saw that it was Niels Bruus
looking out through the garden hedge. He asked the daughter if she did
not want some nuts and told the women that the rector had ordered him
to dig in the garden, but that he did not take the command very
seriously and would much rather eat nuts. At that moment they heard a
door open in the house and Niels said, "Now I'm in for a scolding." He
dropped back behind the hedge and the women heard a quarrel in the
garden. They could hear the words distinctly but they could see
nothing, as the hedge was too high. They heard the rector cry, "I'll
punish you, you dog. I'll strike you dead at my feet!" Then they heard
several sounding slaps, and they heard Niels curse back at the rector
and call him evil names. The rector did not answer this, but the women
heard two dull blows and saw the head of a spade and part of the
handle rise and fall twice over the hedge. Then it was very quiet in
the garden, and the widow and her daughter were frightened and hurried
on to their cattle in the field. The daughter gave the same testimony,
word for word. I asked them if they had not seen Niels Bruus coming
out of the garden. But they said they had not, although they had
turned back several times to look.
This accorded perfectly with what the rector had told me. It was not
strange that the women had not seen the man run out of the garden, for
he had gone toward the wood which is on the opposite side of the
garden from the highroad. I told Morten Bruus that this testimony was
no proof of the supposed murder, especially as the rector himself had
narrated the entire occurrence to me exactly as the women had
described it. But he smiled bitterly and asked me to examine the third
witness, which I proceeded to do.
Jens Larsen testified that he was returning late one evening from
Tolstrup (as he remembered, it was not the evening of Niels Bruus's
disappearance, but the evening of the following day), and was passing
the rectory garden on the easterly side by the usual footpath. From
the garden he heard a noise as of some one digging in the earth. He
was frightened at first for it was very late, but the moon shone
brightly and he thought he would see who it was that was at work in
the garden at that hour. He put off his wooden shoes and pushed aside
the twigs of the hedge until he had made a peep hole. In the garden he
saw the rector in his usual house coat, a white woolen nightcap on his
head. He was busily smoothing down the earth with the flat of his
spade. There was nothing else to be seen. Just then the rector had
started and partly turned toward the hedge, and the witness, fearing
he might be discovered, slipped down and ran home hastily.
Although I was rather surprised that the rector should be working in
his garden at so late an hour, I still saw nothing in this statement
that could arouse suspicion of murder. I gave the complainant a solemn
warning and advised him not only to let fall his accusation, but to
put an end to the talk in the parish. He replied, "Not until I see
what it is that the rector buried in his garden."
"That will be too late," I said. "You are playing a dangerous game.
Dangerous to your own honor and welfare."
"I owe it to my brother," he replied, "and I demand that the
authorities shall not refuse me assistance."
My office compelled me to accede to his demands. Accompanied by the
accuser and his witnesses I took my way to Veilbye. My heart was very
heavy, not so much because of any fear that we might find the missing
man buried in the garden, but because of the surprise and distress I
must cause the rector and my beloved. As we went on our way I thought
over how severely the law would allow me to punish the calumniators.
But alas, Merciful Heavens! What a terrible discovery was in store for
I had wished to have a moment alone with the rector to prepare him for
what was coming. But as I drove through the gate Morten Bruus spurred
his horse past me and galloped up to the very door of the house just
as the rector opened it. Bruus cried out in his very face, "People say
that you have killed my brother and buried him in your garden. I am
come with the district judge to seek for him."
The poor rector was so shocked and astounded that he could not find a
word to answer. I sprang from my wagon and addressed him: "You have
now heard the accusation. I am forced by my office to fulfill this
man's demands. But your own honor demands that the truth shall be
known and the mouth of slander silenced."
"It is hard enough," began the rector finally, "for a man in my
position to have to clear himself from such a suspicion. But come with
me. My garden and my entire house are open to you."
We went through the house to the garden. On the way we met my
betrothed, who was startled at seeing Bruus. I managed to whisper
hastily to her, "Do not be alarmed, dear heart. Your enemies are going
to their own destruction." Morten Bruus led the way to the eastern
side of the garden near the hedge. We others followed with the
rector's farm hands, whom he himself had ordered to join us with
The accuser stood and looked about him until we approached. Then he
pointed to one spot. "This looks as if the earth had been disturbed
lately. Let us begin here."
"Go to work at once," commanded the rector angrily.
The men set to work, but they were not eager enough to suit Bruus, who
seized a spade himself to fire them on. A few strokes only sufficed to
show that the firm earth of this particular spot had not been touched
for many years. We all rejoiced--except Bruus--and the rector was very
happy. He triumphed openly over his accuser, and laughed at him,
"Can't you find anything, you libeler?"
Bruus did not answer. He pondered for a few moments, then called out,
"Jens Larsen, where was it you saw the rector digging?"
Jens Larsen had been standing to one side with his hands folded,
watching the work. At Bruus's words he aroused himself as if from a
dream, looked around him and pointed to a corner of the garden several
yards from where we stood. "I think it was over there."
"What's that, Jens!" cried the rector angrily. "When did I dig here?"
Paying no heed to his, Morten Bruus called the men to the corner in
question. The earth here was covered by some withered cabbage stalks,
broken twigs, and other brush which he pushed aside hurriedly. The
work began anew.
I stood by the rector talking calmly with him about the punishment we
could mete out to the dastardly accuser, when one of the men suddenly
cried out with an oath. We looked toward them; there lay a hat half
buried in the loose earth. "We have found him," cried Bruus. "That is
Niels's hat; I would know it anywhere."
My blood seemed turned to ice. All my hopes dashed to the ground.
"Dig! Dig!" cried the bloodthirsty accuser, working himself with all
his might. I looked at the rector. He was ghastly pale, staring with
wide-open eyes at the horrible spot.
Another shot! A hand was stretched up through the earth as if to greet
the workers. "See there!" screamed Bruus. "He is holding out his hand
to me. Wait a little, Brother Niels! You will soon be avenged!"
The entire corpse was soon uncovered. It was the missing man. His face
was not recognizable, as decomposition had begun, and the nose was
broken and laid flat by a blow. But all the garments, even to the
shirt with his name woven into it, were known to those who stood
there. In one ear was a leaden ring, which, as we all knew, Niels
Bruus had worn for many years.
"Now, priest," cried Morten Bruus, "come and lay your hand on this
dead man if you dare to!"
"Almighty God!" sighed the rector, looking up to heaven, "Thou art my
witness that I am innocent. I struck him, that I confess, and I am
bitterly sorry for it. But he ran away. God Almighty alone knows who
buried him here."
"Jens Larsen knows also," cried Bruus, "and I may find more witnesses.
Judge! You will come with me to examine his servants. But first of all
I demand that you shall arrest this wolf in sheep's clothing."
Merciful God, how could I doubt any longer? The truth was clear to all
of us. But I was ready to sink into the earth in my shock and horror.
I was about to say to the rector that he must prepare to follow me,
when he himself spoke to me, pale and trembling like an aspen leaf.
"Appearances are against me," he said, "but this is the work of the
devil and his angels. There is One above who will bring my innocence
to light. Come, judge, I will await my fate in fetters. Comfort my
daughter. Remember that she is your betrothed bride."
He had scarcely uttered the words when I heard a scream and a fall
behind us. It was my beloved who lay unconscious on the ground. I
thought at first that she was dead, and God knows I wished that I
could lie there dead beside her. I raised her in my arms, but her
father took her from me and carried her into the house. I was called
to examine the wound on the dead man's head. The cut was not deep, but
it had evidently fractured the skull, and had plainly been made by a
blow from a spade or some similar blunt instrument.
Then we all entered the house. My beloved had revived again. She fell
on my neck and implored me, in the name of God, to help her father in
his terrible need. She begged me by the memory of our mutual love to
let her follow him to prison, to which I consented. I myself
accompanied him to Grenaa, but with a mournful heart. None of us spoke
a word on the sad journey. I parted from them in deep distress. The
corpse was laid in a coffin and will be buried decently to-morrow in
To-morrow I must give a formal hearing to the witnesses. God be
merciful to me, unfortunate man!
Would that I had never obtained this position for which I--fool that I
am--strove so hard.
As the venerable man of God was brought before me, fettered hand and
foot, I felt as Pilate must have felt as they brought Christ before
him. It was to me as if my beloved--God grant her comfort, she lies
ill in Grenaa--had whispered to me, "Do nothing against that good
Oh, if he only were innocent, but I see no hope!
The three first witnesses repeated their testimony under oath, word
for word. Then came statements by the rector's two farm hands and the
dairy maid. The men had been in the kitchen on the fatal day, and as
the windows were open they had heard the quarrel between the rector
and Niels. As the widow had stated, these men had also heard the
rector say, "I will strike you dead at my feet!" They further
testified that the rector was very quick-tempered, and that when
angered he did not hesitate to strike out with whatever came into his
hand. He had struck a former hand once with a heavy maul.
The girl testified that on the night Jens Larsen claimed to have seen
the rector in the garden, she had lain awake and heard the creaking of
the garden door. When she looked out of the window she had seen the
rector in his dressing gown and nightcap go into the garden. She could
not see what he was doing there. But she heard the door creak again
about an hour later.
When the witnesses had been heard, I asked the unfortunate man whether
he would make a confession, or else, if he had anything to say in his
own defense. He crossed his hands over his breast and said, "So help
me God, I will tell the truth. I have nothing more to say than what I
have said already. I struck the dead man with my spade. He fell down,
but jumped up in a moment and ran away from the garden out into the
woods. What may have happened to him there, or how he came to be
buried in my garden, this I do not know. When Jens Larsen and my
servant testify that they saw me at night in the garden, either they
are lying, or Satan has blinded them. I can see this--unhappy man that
I am--that I have no one to turn to for help here on earth. Will He
who is in heaven be silent also, then must I bow to His inscrutable
will." He bowed his head with a deep sigh.
Some of those present began to weep, and a murmur arose that he might
possibly be innocent. But this was only the effect of the momentary
sympathy called out by his attitude. My own heart indeed spoke for
him. But the judge's heart may not dare to dictate to his brain or to
his conscience. My conviction forced me to declare that the rector had
killed Niels Bruus, but certainly without any premeditation or
intention to do so. It is true that Niels Bruus had often been heard
to declare that he would "get even with the rector when the latter
least expected it." But it is not known that he had fulfilled his
threat in any way. Every man clings to life and honor as long as he
can. Therefore the rector persists in his denial. My poor, dear Mette!
She is lost to me for this life at least, just as I had learned to
love her so dearly.
I have had a hard fight to fight to-day. As I sat alone, pondering
over this terrible affair in which it is my sad lot to have to give
judgment, the door opened and the rector's daughter--I may no longer
call her my betrothed--rushed in and threw herself at my feet. I
raised her up, clasped her in my arms and we wept together in silence.
I was first to control myself. "I know what you would say, dear heart.
You want me to save your father. Alas, God help us poor mortals, I
cannot do it! Tell me, dearest one, tell me truly, do you yourself
believe your father to be innocent?"
She crossed her hands on her heart and sobbed, "I do not know!" Then
she burst into tears again. "But he did not bury him in the garden,"
she continued after a few moments. "The man may have died in the wood
from the blow. That may have happened----"
"But, dearest heart," I said, "Jen Larsen and the girl saw your father
in the garden that night."
She shook her head slowly and answered, "The evil one blinded their
eyes." She wept bitterly again.
"Tell me, beloved," she began again, after a while, "tell me frankly
this much. If God sends us no further enlightenment in this
unfortunate affair, what sentence must you give?"
She gazed anxiously at me, her lips trembling.
"If I did not believe," I began slowly, "that anyone else in my place
would be more severe than I, then I would gladly give up my position
at once and refuse to speak the verdict. But I dare not conceal from
you that the mildest sentence that God, our king, and our laws demand
is, a life for a life."
She sank to her knees, then sprang up again, fell back several steps
as if afraid of me, and cried out: "Would you murder my father? Would
you murder your betrothed bride? See here! See this!" She came nearer
and held up her hand with my ring on it before my eyes. "Do you see
this betrothal ring? What was it my father said when you put this ring
upon my finger? 'I have given my maid unto thy bosom!' But you, you
thrust the steel deep into my bosom!"
Alas, every one of her words cut deep into my own heart. "Dearest
love," I cried, "do not speak so. You thrust burning irons into my
heart. What would you have me do? Acquit him, when the laws of God and
She was silent, sobbing desperately.
"One thing I can do," I continued. "If it be wrong may God forgive me.
If the trial goes on to an end his life is forfeited, there is no hope
except in flight. If you can arrange an escape I will close my eyes. I
will not see or hear anything. As soon as your father was imprisoned,
I wrote to your brother in Copenhagen. He can arrive any moment now.
Talk to him, make friends with the jailer. If you lack money, all I
have is yours."
When I had finished her face flushed with joy, and she threw her arms
about my neck. "God bless you for these words. Were my brother but
here, he will know what to do. But where shall we go?" her tone
changed suddenly and her arms dropped. "Even should we find a refuge
in a foreign country I could never see you again!" Her tone was so sad
that my heart was near to breaking.
"Beloved," I exclaimed, "I will find you wherever you may hide
yourself! Should our money not be sufficient to support us I can work
for us all. I have learned to use the ax and the hoe."
She rejoiced again and kissed me many times. We prayed to God to bless
our undertaking and parted with glad hearts. I also hoped for the
best. Doubts assail me, but God will find for us some light in this
Two more new witnesses. They bring nothing good, I fear, for Bruus
announced them with an expression I did not like. He has a heart of
stone, which can feel nothing but malice and bitterness. I give them a
hearing to-morrow. I feel as if they had come to bear witness against
me myself. May God strengthen my heart.
All is over. He has confessed.
The court was in session and the prisoner had been brought in to hear
the testimony of the new witnesses. These men stated as follows: On
the night in question they were walking along the path that led
between the woods and the rectory garden. A man with a large sack on
his back came out of the woods and walked ahead of them toward the
garden. They could not see his face, but in the bright moonlight his
figure was clearly visible, and they could see that he wore a loose
green garment, like a dressing gown, and a white nightcap. The man
disappeared through an opening in the rectory garden fence.
Scarcely had the first witness ended his statement when the rector
turned ghastly pale, and gasped, in a voice that could scarcely be
heard, "I am ill." They gave him a chair.
Bruus turned to his neighbor and exclaimed audibly, "That helped the
The prisoner did not hear the words, but motioned to me and said,
"Lead me back to my prison. I will talk to you there." They did as he
We set out at once for Grenaa. The rector was in the wagon with the
jailer and the gendarme, and I rode beside them.
When the door of the cell was opened my beloved was making up her
father's bed, and over a chair by the bedside hung the fatal green
dressing gown. My dear betrothed greeted me with a cry of joy, as she
believed that I was come to set her father free. She hung about the
old man's neck, kissing away the tears that rolled unhindered down his
cheeks. I had not the heart to undeceive her, and I sent her out into
the town to buy some things for us.
"Sit down, dear friend," said the rector, when we were alone. He
seated himself on the bed, staring at the ground with eyes that did
not see. Finally he turned toward me where I sat trembling, as if it
were my own sentence I was to hear, as in a manner it was. "I am a
great sinner," he sighed, "God only knows how great. His punishment
crushes me here that I may enter into His mercy hereafter."
He grew gradually calmer and began:
"Since my childhood I have been hot-tempered and violent. I could
never endure contradiction, and was always ready to give a blow. But I
have seldom let the sun go down upon my wrath, and I have never borne
hatred toward any man. As a half-grown boy I killed our good, kind
watchdog in one of my fits of rage for some trifling offense, and I
have never ceased to regret it. Later, as a student in Leipzig, I let
myself be carried away sufficiently to wound seriously my adversary in
one of our fencing bouts. A merciful fate alone saved me from becoming
a murderer then. It is for these earlier sins that I am now being
punished, but the punishment falls doubly hard, now that I am an old
man, a priest, a servant of the Lord of Peace, and a father! Ah, that
is the deepest wound!" He sprang up and wrung his hands in deep
despair. I would have said something to comfort him, but I could find
no words for such sorrow.
When he had controlled himself somewhat he sat down again and
continued: "To you, once my friend and now my judge, I will confess
this crime, which it seems beyond a doubt that I have committed,
although I am not conscious cf having done so." (I was startled at
this, as I had expected a remorseful confession.) "Listen well to what
I shall now tell you. That I struck the unfortunate man with the
spade, that he fell down and then ran away, this is all that I know
with full consciousness.... What followed then? Four witnesses have
seen that I fetched the body and buried it in my garden--and now at
last I am forced to believe that it must be true. These are my reasons
for the belief. Three or four times in my life I have walked in my
sleep. The last time--it may have been nine or ten years ago--I was to
have held a funeral service on the following day, over the body of a
man who had died a sudden and terrible death. I could not find a
suitable text, until suddenly there came to me the words of an old
Greek philosopher, 'Call no man fortunate until his death.' It was in
my mind that the same idea was expressed in different words in the
Holy Scriptures. I sought and sought, but could not find it. At last I
went to bed much fatigued, and slept soundly. Next morning, when I sat
down at my desk, to my great astonishment I saw there a piece of
paper, on which was written, 'Call no man happy until his end hath
come' (Sirach xi. 34), and following it was a funeral sermon, short,
but as good in construction as any I have ever written. And all this
was in my own handwriting. It was quite out of the question that
anyone could have entered the room during the night, as I had locked
it myself, and it had not been opened until I entered next day. I knew
what had happened, as I could remember one or two such occurrences in
my life before.
"Therefore, dear friend, when the last witnesses gave their testimony
to-day, I suddenly remembered my sleep-walking exploits, and I also
remembered, what had slipped my mind before, that on the morning after
the night the body was buried I had found my dressing gown in the hall
outside of my bedroom. This had surprised me, as I always hung it over
a chair near my bed. The unfortunate victim of my violence must have
died in the woods from his wound, and in my dream consciousness I must
have seen this and gone to fetch the body. It must be so. I know no
other explanation. God have mercy on my sinful soul." He was silent
again, covering his face with his hands and weeping bitterly.
I was stuck dumb with astonishment and uncertainty. I had always
suspected that the victim had died on the spot where he was buried,
although I could not quite understand how the rector had managed to
bury the body by day without being seen. But I thought that he might
have covered it lightly with earth and twigs and finished his work at
night. He was a man of sufficient strength of mind to have done this.
When the latest witnesses were telling their story, I noted the
possible contradiction, and hoped it might prove a loophole of escape.
But, alas, it was all only too true, and the guilt of the rector
proven beyond a doubt. It was not at all impossible for a man to do
such things in his sleep. Just as it was quite possible that a man
with a fractured skull could run some distance before he fell to die.
The rector's story bore the stamp of truth, although the doubt _will_
come that he desired thus to save a shred of honor for his name.
The prisoner walked up and down the room several times, then stopping
before me he said gravely: "You have now heard my confession, here in
my prison walls. It is your mouth that must speak my sentence. But
what says your heart?"
I could scarcely utter the words, "My heart suffers beyond expression.
I would willingly see it break if I could but save you from a shameful
death." (I dared not mention to him my last hope of escape in flight.)
"That is impossible," he answered. "My life is forfeited. My death is
just, and shall serve as a warning to others. But promise me that you
will not desert my poor daughter. I had thought to lay her in your
arms"--tears choked his voice--"but, alas, that fond hope is vanished.
You cannot marry the daughter of a sentenced murderer. But promise me
that you will watch over her as her second father." In deep sorrow and
in tears I held his hand in mine. "Have you any news from my son?" he
began again. "I hope it will be possible to keep him in ignorance of
this terrible affair until--until it is all over. I could not bear to
see him now. And now, dear friend, let us part, not to meet again
except in the hall of justice. Grant me of your friendship one last
service, let it end soon. I long for death. Go now, my kind,
sympathetic judge. Send for me to-morrow to speak my sentence, and
send to-day for my brother in God, the pastor in Aalsoe. He shall
prepare me for death. God be with you."
He gave me his hand with his eyes averted. I staggered from the
prison, hardly conscious of what I was doing. I would have ridden home
without seeing his daughter had she not met me by the prison door. She
must have seen the truth in my face, for she paled and caught at my
arm. She gazed at me with her soul in her eyes, but could not speak.
"Flee! Save your father in flight!" was all I could say.
I set spurs to my horse and rode home somehow.
The sentence is spoken.
The accused was calmer than the judge. All those present, except his
bitter enemy, were affected almost to tears. Some whispered that the
punishment was too severe.
May God be a milder judge to me than I, poor sinner, am forced to be
to my fellow men.
She has been here. She found me ill in bed. There is no escape
possible. He will not flee. Everything was arranged and the jailer was
ready to help. But he refuses, he longs for death. God be merciful to
the poor girl. How will she survive the terrible day? I am ill in body
and soul, I can neither aid nor comfort her. There is no word from the
I feel that I am near death myself, as near perhaps as he is, whom I
sent to his doom. Farewell, my own beloved bride.... What will she do?
she is so strangely calm--the calm of wordless despair. Her brother
has not yet come, and to-morrow--on the Ravenshill----!
Here the diary of Erik Soerensen stopped suddenly. What followed can be
learned from the written and witnessed statements of the pastor of
Aalsoe, the neighboring parish to Veilbye.
It was during the seventeenth year of my term of office that the
terrible event happened in the neighborhood which filled all who heard
of it with shock and horror, and brought shame and disgrace upon our
holy calling. The venerable Soeren Quist, Rector of Veilbye, killed his
servant in a fit of rage and buried the body in his garden.
He was found guilty at the official trial, through the testimony of
many witnesses, as well as through his own confession. He was
condemned to death, and the sentence was carried out in the presence
of several thousand people on the little hill known as Ravenshill,
here in the field of Aalsoe.
The condemned man had asked that I might visit him in his prison. I
must state that I have never given the holy sacrament to a better
prepared or more truly repentant Christian. He was calm to the last,
full of remorse for his great sin. On the field of death he spoke to
the people in words of great wisdom and power, preaching to the text
from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, chap. ii., verse 6: "He hath
despised the priest in the indignation of his anger." He spoke of his
violence and of its terrible results, and of his deep remorse. He
exhorted his hearers to let his sin and his fate be an example to
them, and a warning not to give way to anger. Then he commended his
soul to the Lord, removed his upper garments, bound up his eyes with
his own hand, then folded his hands in prayer. When I had spoken the
words, "Brother, be of good cheer. This day shalt thou be with thy
Saviour in Paradise," his head fell by the ax.
The one thing that made death bitter for him was the thought of his
children. The son had been sent for from Copenhagen, but as we
afterwards learned, he had been absent from the city, and therefore
did not arrive until shortly after his father had paid the penalty for
I took the daughter into my home, where she was brought, half
fainting, after they had led her father from the prison. She had been
tending him lovingly all the days of his trial. What made even greater
sorrow for the poor girl, and for the district judge who spoke the
sentence, was that these two young people had solemnly plighted their
troth but a few short weeks before, in the rectory of Veilbye. The son
arrived just as the body of the executed criminal was brought into my
house. It had been permitted to us to bury the body with Christian
rites, if we could do it in secret. The young man threw himself over
the lifeless body. Then, clasping his sister in his arms, the two wept
together in silence for some while. At midnight we held a quiet
service over the remains of the Rector of Veilbye, and the body was
buried near the door of Aalsoe church. A simple stone, upon which I
have carved a cross, still stands to remind the passer-by of the sin
of a most unfortunate man.
The next morning his two children had disappeared. They have never
been heard of since. God knows to what far-away corner of the world
they have fled, to hide their shame and their sorrow. The district
judge is very ill, and it is not believed that he will recover.
May God deal with us all after His wisdom and His mercy!
O Lord, inscrutable are thy ways!
In the thirty-eighth year of my service, and twenty-one years after my
unfortunate brother in office, the Rector of Veilbye had been beheaded
for the murder of his servant, it happened one day that a beggar came
to my door. He was an elderly man, with gray hair, and walked with a
crutch. He looked sad and needy. None of the servants were about, so I
myself went into the kitchen and gave him a piece of bread. I asked
him where he came from. He sighed and answered:
"From nowhere in particular."
Then I asked him his name. He sighed still deeper, looked about him as
if in fear, and said, "They once called me Niels Bruus."
I was startled, and said, "God have mercy on us! That is a bad name.
That is the name of a man who was killed many years back."
Whereat the man sighed still deeper and replied: "It would have been
better for me had I died then. It has gone ill with me since I left
At this the hair rose on my head, and I trembled in every limb. For it
seemed to me that I could recognize him, and also it seemed to me that
I saw Morten Bruus before me in the flesh, and yet I had laid the
earth over him three years before. I stepped back and made the sign of
the cross, for verily I thought it was a ghost I saw before me.
But the man sat down in the chimney corner and continued to speak.
"Reverend father, they tell me my brother Morten is dead. I have been
to Ingvorstrup, but the new owner chased me away. Is my old master,
the Rector of Veilbye, still alive?" Then it was that the scales fell
from my eyes and I saw into the very truth of this whole terrible
affair. But the shock stunned me so that I could not speak. The man
bit into his bread greedily and went on. "Yes, that was all Brother
Morten's fault. Did the old rector have much trouble about it?"
"Niels! Niels!" I cried from out the horror of my soul, "you have a
monstrous black sin upon your conscience! For your sake that
unfortunate man fell by the ax of the executioner!"
The bread and the crutch fell from his hand, and he himself was near
to falling into the fire. "May God forgive you, Morten!" he groaned.
"God knows I didn't mean anything like that. May my sin be forgiven
me! But surely you only mean to frighten me! I come from far away, and
have heard nothing. No one but you, reverend father, has recognized
me. I have told my name to no one. When I asked them in Veilbye if the
rector was still there, they said that he was."
"That is the new rector," I replied. "Not he whom you and your sinful
brother have slain."
He wrung his hands and cried aloud, and then I knew that he had been
but a tool in the hands of that devil, Morten. Therefore I set to work
to comfort him, and took him into my study that he might calm himself
sufficiently to tell me the detail of this Satan's work.
This was the story as he tells it: His brother Morten--truly a son of
Belial--cherished a deadly hatred toward pastor Soeren Quist since the
day the latter had refused him the hand of his daughter. As soon as he
heard that the pastor's coachman had left him, he persuaded Niels to
take the place.
"Watch your chance well," he had said, "we'll play the black coat a
trick some day, and you will be no loser by it."
Niels, who was rough and defiant by nature, soon came to a quarrel
with his master, and when he had received his first chastisement, he
ran at once to Ingvorstrup to report it. "Let him strike you just once
again," said Morten. "Then come to me, and we will pay him for it."
Then came the quarrel in the garden, and Niels ran off to Ingvorstrup.
He met his brother in the woods and told him what had occurred.
"Did anyone see you on the way here?" asked Morten.
Niels thought not. "Good," said Morten; "now we'll give him a fright
that he will not forget for a week or so."
He led Niels carefully to the house, and kept him hidden there the
rest of the day. When all the household else had gone to sleep the two
brothers crept out, and went to a field where several days before they
had buried the body of a man of about Niels' age, size, and general
appearance. (He had hanged himself, some said because of ill-treatment
from Morten, in whose service he was. Others said it was because of
unhappy love.) They dug up the corpse, although Niels did not like the
work, and protested. But Morten was the stronger, and Niels had to do
as he was ordered. They carried the body back with them into the
Then Niels was ordered to take off all his clothes, piece by piece,
even to his shirt, and dress the dead man in them. Even his leaden
earring, which he had worn for many years, was put in the ear of the
corpse. After this was done, Morten took a spade and gave the head of
the corpse two crashing blows, one over the nose, the other on the
temple. The body was hidden in a sack and kept in the house during the
next day. At night the day following, they carried it out to the wood
Several times Niels had asked of his brother what all this preparation
boded. But Morten answered only, "That is my affair. Do as I tell you,
and don't ask questions."
When they neared the edge of the wood by Veilbye, Morten said, "Now
fetch me one of the coats the pastor wears most. If you can, get the
green dressing gown I have often seen him wear mornings."
"I don't dare," said Niels, "he keeps it in his bed chamber."
"Well, then, I'll dare it myself," said Morten. "And now, go your way,
and never show yourself here again. Here is a bag with one hundred
thalers. They will last you until you can take service somewhere in
another country. Go where no one has ever seen you, and take another
name. Never come back to Denmark again. Travel by night, and hide in
the woods by day until you are well away from here. Here are
provisions enough to last you for several days. And remember, never
show yourself here again, as you value your life."
Niels obeyed, and has never seen his brother since that day. He had
had much trouble, had been a soldier and lost his health in the war,
and finally, after great trials and sufferings, had managed to get
back to the land of his birth. This was the story as told me by the
miserable man, and I could not doubt its truth.
It was now only too clear to me that my unfortunate brother in the
Lord had fallen a victim to the hatred of his fiendish enemy, to the
delusion of his judge and the witnesses, and to his own credulous
Oh, what is man that he shall dare to sit in judgment over his
fellows! God alone is the Judge. He who gives life may alone give
I did not feel it my duty to give official information against this
crushed and broken sinner, particularly as the district judge is still
alive, and it would have been cruelty to let him know of his terrible
Instead, I gave what comfort my office permitted to the poor man, and
recommended him not to reveal his name or tell his story to anyone in
the district. On these conditions I would give him a home until I
could arrange for a permanent refuge for him in my brother's house, a
good distance from these parts.
The day following was a Sunday. When I returned from evening service
at my branch parish, the beggar had disappeared. But by the evening of
the next day the story was known throughout the neighborhood.
Goaded by the pangs of conscience, Niels had gone to Rosmer and made
himself known to the judge as the true Niels Bruus. Upon the hearing
of the terrible truth, the judge was taken with a stroke and died
before the week was out. But on Tuesday morning they found Niels Bruus
dead on the grave of the late rector Soeren Quist of Veilbye, by the
door of Aalsoe church.
_HUNGARIAN MYSTERY STORIES_
_THE LIVING DEATH_
There is a very serious reason, my dear sisters, why at last, after an
absence of twenty years in America, I am confiding to you this strange
secret in the life of our beloved and lamented father, and of the old
house where we were children together. The truth is, if I read rightly
the countenances of my physicians as they whisper to each other by the
window of the chamber in which I am lying, that only a few days of
this life remain to me.
It is not right that this secret should die with me, my dear sisters.
Though it will seem terrible to you, as it has to me, it will enable
you to better understand our blessed father, help you to account for
what must have seemed to you to be strange inconsistencies in his
character. That this secret was revealed to me was due to my indolence
and childish curiosity.
For the first, and the last, time in my life I listened at a keyhole.
With shame and a hotly chiding conscience I yielded to that insatiable
curiosity--and when you have read these lines you will understand why
I do not regret that inexcusable, furtive act.
I was only a lad when we went to live in that odd little house. You
remember it stood in the outskirts of Rakos, near the new cemetery. It
stood on a deep lot, and was roughly boarded on the side which looked
on the highway. You remember that on the first floor, next the street,
were the room of our father, the dining room, and the children's room.
In the rear of the house was the sculpture studio. There we had the
large white hall with big windows, where white-clothed laborers
worked. They mixed the plaster, made forms, chiseled, scratched, and
sawed. Here in this large hall had our father worked for thirty years.
When I arrived, in the holidays, I noted a change in our father's
countenance. His beard was white, even when he did not work with the
plaster. Through his strong spectacles his eyes glittered peculiarly.
He was less calm than formerly. And he did not speak much, but all the
more did he read.
Why, we all knew that after the passing away of our mother he became a
bookworm, reading very often by candlelight until morning.
Then did it happen, about the fourth day after my arrival. I spent my
leisure hours in the studio; I carved little figures, formed little
pillar heads from the white plaster. In the corner a big barrel stood
filled with water. It was noon; the laborers went to lunch.
I sat down close to the barrel and carved a Corinthian pillar. Father
came into the studio and did not notice me. He carried in his hands
two plates of soup. When he came into the studio he closed the door
behind him and looked around in the shop, as though to make sure he
was not observed. As I have said, he did not notice me. I was
astonished. Holding my breath, I listened. Father went through the
large hall, and then opened a small door, of which I knew only so much
that it led into a chamber three steps lower than the studio.
I was full of expectation. I listened. I did not hear a word of
conversation. Presently father came back with the empty plates in his
hand. Somebody bolted the chamber's door behind him.
Father went out of the studio, and I, much embarrassed, crept from
behind the barrel.
I knew that the chamber had a window, which looked back toward the
plowed fields. I ran out of the studio and around the house. Much to
my astonishment, the chamber's window was curtained inside. A large
yellow plaid curtain hid everything from view. But I had to go,
anyway, for I heard Irma's voice calling from the yard:
"Antal, to lunch!"
I sat down to the table with you, my sisters, and looked at father. He
was sitting at the head of the table, and ate without saying a word.
Day after day I troubled my head about this mystery in the chamber,
but said not a word to anybody. I went into the studio, as usual, but
I did not notice anything peculiar. Not a sound came from the chamber,
and when our father worked in the shop with his ten laborers he passed
by the small door as if beyond it there was nothing out of the
On Thursday I had to go back to Germany. On Tuesday night curiosity
seized me again. Suddenly I felt that perhaps never would I know what
was going on in my father's house. That night, when the working people
were gone, I went into the studio. For a long time I was lost in my
thoughts. All kinds of romantic ideas passed through my head, while my
gaze rested on that small mysterious chamber door.
In the studio it was dark already, and from under the small door in a
thin border a yellow radiance poured out. Suddenly I regained my
courage. I went to the door and listened. Somebody was speaking. It
was a man's voice, but I did not understand what he was saying. I was
putting my ear close to the door, when I heard steps at the front of
the studio. Father came.
I quickly withdrew myself behind the barrel. Father walked through the
hall and knocked on the door softly. The bolt clicked and the door
opened. Father went into the chamber and closed the door immediately
and locked it.
Now all discretion and sense of honor in me came to an end. Curiosity
mastered me. I knew that last year one part of this small room had
been partitioned off and was used as a woodhouse. And I knew that
there was a possibility of going into the woodhouse through the yard.
I went out, therefore, but found the woodhouse was closed. Driven by
trembling curiosity, I ran into the house, took the key of the
woodhouse from its nail, and in a minute, through the crevice between
two planks, I was looking into that mysterious little room.
There was a table in the middle of the room, and beside the wall were
two straw mattresses. On the table a lighted candle stood. A bottle of
wine was beside it, and around the table were sitting father and two
strangers. Both the strangers were all in black. Something in their
appearance froze me with terror.
I fled in a panic of unreasoning fear, but returned soon, devoured by
You, my sister Irma, must remember how I found you there, gazing with
starting eyeballs on the same mysteriously terrifying scene--and how I
drew you away with a laugh and a trifling explanation, so that I might
return and resume my ghastly vigil alone.
One of the strangers wore a frock coat and had a sunburned, brown
face. He was not old yet, not more than forty-five or forty-eight. He
seemed to be a tradesman in his Sunday clothes. That did not interest
I looked at the other old man, and then a shiver of cold went through
me. He was a famous physician, a professor, Mr. H----. I desire to lay
stress upon it that he it was, for I had read two weeks before in the
papers that he had died and was buried!
And now he was sitting, in evening dress, in the chamber of a poor
plaster sculptor, in the chamber of my father behind a bolted door!
I was aware of the fact that the physician knew father. Why, you can
recall that when father had asthma he consulted Mr. H----. Moreover,
the professor visited us very frequently. The papers said he was dead,
yet here he was!
With beating heart and in terror, I looked and listened.
The professor put some shining little thing on the table.
"Here is my diamond shirt stud," he said to my father, "It is yours."
Father pushed the jewel aside, refusing the gift.
"Why, you are spending money on me," said the professor.
"It makes no difference," replied father; "I shan't take the diamond."
Then they were silent for a long while. At length the professor smiled
"The pair of cuff buttons which I had from Prince Eugene I presented
to the watchman in the cemetery. They are worth a thousand guldens."
And he showed his cuffs, from which the buttons were missing. Then he
turned to the sunburned man:
"What did you give him, General Gardener?"
The tall, strong man unbuttoned his frock coat.
"Everything I had--my gold chain, my scarf pin, and my ring."
I did not understand all that. What was it? Where did they come from?
A horrible presentiment arose in me. They came from the cemetery! They
wore the very clothes in which they were buried!
What had happened to them? Were they only apparently dead? Did they
awake? Did they rise from the dead? What are they seeking here?
They had a very low-voiced conversation with father. I listened in
vain. Only later on, when they got warmed with their subject and spoke
more audibly, did I understand them.
"There is no other way," said the professor. "Put it in your will that
the coroner shall pierce your heart through with a knife."
Do you remember, my sisters, the last will of our father, which was
Father did not say a word. Then the professor went on, saying:
"That would be a splendid invention. Had I been living till now I
would have published a book about it. Nobody takes the Indian fakir
seriously here in Europe. But, despite this, the buried fakirs, who
are two months under ground and then come back into life, are very
serious men. Perhaps they are more serious than ourselves, with all
our scientific knowledge. There are strange, new, dreadful things for
which we are not yet matured enough.
"I died upon their methods; I can state that now. The mental state
which they reach systematically I reached accidentally. The solitude,
the absorbedness, the lying in a bed month by month, the gazing upon a
fixed point hour by hour--these are all self-evident facts with me, a
"I died as the Indian fakirs do, and were I not a descendant of an old
noble family, who have a tomb in this country, I would have died
"God knows how it happened. I don't think there is any use of worrying
ourselves about it. I have still four days. Then we go for good and
all. But not back, no, no, not back to life!"
He pointed with his hand toward the city. His face was burning from
fever, and he knitted his brows. His countenance was horrible at this
moment. Then he looked at the man with the sunburned face.
"The case of Mr. Gardener is quite different. This is an ordinary
physician's error. But he has less than four days. He will be gone
to-morrow or positively day after to-morrow."
He grasped the pulse of the sunburned man.
"At this minute his pulse beats a hundred and twelve. You have a day
left, Mr. Gardener. But not back. We don't go back. Never!"
Father said nothing. He looked at the professor with seriousness, and
fondly. The professor drank a glass of wine, and then turned toward
"Go to bed. You have to get up early; you still live; you have
children. We shall sleep if we can do so. It is very likely that
General Gardener won't see another morning. You must not witness
Now father began to speak, slowly, reverently.
"If you, professor, have to send word--or perhaps Mr.
Gardener--somebody we must take care of--a command, if you have--"
The professor looked at him sternly, saying but one word:
Father was still waiting.
"Absolutely nothing," repeated the professor. "I have died, but I have
four days yet. I live those here, my dear old friend, with you. But I
don't go back any more. I don't even turn my face backward. I don't
want to know where the others live. I don't want life, old man. It is
not honorable to go back. Go, my friend--go to bed."
Father shook hands with them and disappeared. General Gardener sat
stiffly on his chair. The professor gazed into the air.
I began to be aware of all that had happened here. These two
apparently dead men had come back from the cemetery, but how, in what
manner, by what means? I don't understand it perfectly even now.
There, in the small room, near to the cemetery, they were living their
few remaining days. They did not want to go back again into life.
I shuddered. During these few minutes I seemed to have learned the
meaning of life and of death. Now I myself felt that the life of the
city was at a vast distance. I had a feeling that the professor was
right. It was not worth while. I, too, felt tired, tired of life, like
the professor, the feverish, clever, serious old man who came from the
coffin and was sitting there in his grave clothes waiting for the
They did not speak a word to each other. They were simply waiting. I
did not have power to move away from the crack in the wall through
which I saw them.
And now there happened the awful thing that drove me away from our
home, never to return.
It was about half-past one when someone tapped on the window. The
professor took alarm and looked at Mr. Gardener a warning to take no
notice. But the tapping grew louder. The professor got up and went to
He lifted the yellow curtain and looked out into the night. Quickly he
returned and spoke to General Gardener, and then both went to the
window and spoke with the person who had knocked. After a long
conversation they lifted the man through the window.
On this terrible day nothing could happen that would surprise me. I
was benumbed. The man who was lifted through the window was clad in
white linen to his feet. He was a Hebrew, a poor, thin, weak, pale
Hebrew. He wore his white funeral dress. He shivered from cold,
trembled, seemed almost unconscious. The professor gave him some wine.
The Hebrew stammered:
"Terrible! Oh, horrible!"
I learned from his broken language that he had not been buried yet,
like the professor. He had not yet known the smell of the earth. He
had come from his bier.
"I was laid out a corpse," he whimpered. "My God, they would have
buried me by to-morrow!"
The professor gave him wine again.
"I saw a light here," he went on. "I beg you will give me some
clothes--some soup, if you please--and I am going back again." Then he
said in German:
"Meine gute, theure Frau! Meine Kinder!" (My good wife, my children.)
He began to weep. The professor's countenance changed to a devilish
expression when he heard this lament. He despised the lamenting
"You are going back?" he thundered. "But you won't go back! Don't
The Hebrew gazed at him stupidly.
"I live in Rottenbiller Street," he stammered. "My name is Joseph
He bit his nails in his nervous agitation. Tears filled his eyes. "Ich
muss zu meine Kinder," he said in German again. (I must go to my
"No!" exclaimed the professor. "You'll never go back!"
"I will not permit it!"
The Hebrew looked around. He felt that something was wrong here. His
startled manner seemed to ask: "Am I in a lunatic asylum?" He dropped
his head and said to the professor simply:
"I am tired."
The professor pointed to the straw mattress.
"Go to sleep. We will speak further in the morning."
Fever blazed in the professor's face. On the other straw mattress
General Gardener now slept with his face to the wall.
The Hebrew staggered to the straw mattress, threw himself down, and
wept. The weeping shook him terribly. The professor sat at the table
Finally the Hebrew fell asleep. Hours passed in silence. I stood
motionless looking at the professor, who gazed into the candlelight.
There was not much left of it. Presently he sighed and blew it out.
For a little while there was dark, and then I saw the dawn penetrating
the yellow curtain at the window. The professor leaned back in his
chair, stretched out his feet, and closed his eyes.
All at once the Hebrew got up silently and went to the window. He
believed the professor was asleep. He opened the window carefully and
started to creep out. The professor leaped from his chair, shouting:
He caught the Hebrew by his shroud and held him back. There was a long
knife in his hand. Without another word, the professor pierced the
Hebrew through the heart.
He put the limp body on the straw mattress, then went out of the
chamber toward the studio. In a few minutes he came back with father.
Father was pale and did not speak. They covered the dead Hebrew with a
rug, and then, one after the other, crept out through the window,
lifted the corpse out, and carried it away. In a quarter of an hour
they came back. They exchanged a few words, from which I learned that
they had succeeded in putting the dead Hebrew back on his bier without
having been observed.
They shut the window. The professor drank a glass of wine and again
stretched out his legs on the chair.
"It is impossible to go back," he said. "It is not allowed."
Father went away. I did not see him any more. I staggered up to my
room, went to bed, and slept immediately. The next day I got up at ten
o'clock. I left the city at noon.
Since that time, my dear sisters, you have not seen me. I don't know
anything more. At this minute I say to myself that what I know, what I
have set down here, is not true. Maybe it never happened, maybe I have
dreamed it all. I am not clear in my mind. I have a fever.
But I am not afraid of death. Here, on my hospital bed, I see the
professor's feverish but calm and wise face. When he grasped the
Hebrew by the throat he looked like a lover of Death, like one who has
a secret relation with the passing of life, who advocates the claims
of Death, and who punishes him who would cheat Death.
Now Death urges his claim upon me. I have no desire to cheat him--I am
so tired, so very tired.
God be with you, my dear sisters.
_THIRTEEN AT TABLE_
We are far amidst the snow-clad mountains of Transylvania.
The scenery is magnificent. In clear weather, the plains of Hungary as
far as the Rez promontory may be seen from the summit of the
mountains. Groups of hills rise one above the other, covered with
thick forest, which, at the period when our tale commences, had just
begun to assume the first light green of spring.
Toward sunset, a slight purple mist overspread the farther pinnacles,
leaving their ridges still tinged with gold. On the side of one of
these hills the white turrets of an ancient family mansion gleamed
from amid the trees.
Its situation was peculiarly romantic. A steep rock descended on one
side, on whose pinnacle rose a simple cross. In the depth of the
valley beneath lay a scattered village, whose evening bells
melodiously broke the stillness of nature.
Farther off, some broken roofs arose among the trees, from whence the
sound of the mill, and the yellow-tinted stream, betrayed the miners'
Through the meadows in the valley beneath a serpentine rivulet wound
its silvery way, interrupted by numerous falls and huge blocks of
stone, which had been carried down in bygone ages from the mountains
during the melting of the snows.
A little path, cut in the side of the rock, ascended to the castle;
while higher up, a broad road, somewhat broken by the mountain
streams, conducted across the hills to more distant regions.
The castle itself was an old family mansion, which had received many
additions at different periods, as the wealth or necessities of the
It was surrounded by groups of ancient chestnut trees, and the terrace
before the court was laid out in gardens, which were now filled with
anemones, hyacinths, and other early flowers. Now and then the head of
a joyous child appeared at the windows, which were opened to admit the
evening breeze; while various members of the household retinue were
seen hastening through the corridors, or standing at the doors in
their embroidered liveries.
The castle was completely surrounded by a strong railwork of iron, the
stone pillars were overgrown by the evergreen leaves of the gobea and
It was the early spring of 1848.
A party, consisting of thirteen persons, had assembled in the
dining-room. They were all members of one family, and all bore the
name of Bardy.
At the head of the board sat the grandmother, an old lady of eighty
years of age, whose snow-white hair was dressed according to the
fashion of her times beneath her high white cap. Her face was pale and
much wrinkled, and the eyes turned constantly upwards, as is the case
with persons who have lost their sight. Her hand and voice trembled
with age, and there was something peculiarly striking in the thick
On her right hand sat her eldest son, Thomas Bardy, a man of between
fifty and sixty. With a haughty and commanding countenance,
penetrating glance, lofty figure, and noble mien, he was a true type
of that ancient aristocracy which is now beginning to die out.
Opposite to him, at the old lady's left hand, sat the darling of the
family--a lovely girl of about fifteen. Her golden hair fell in
luxuriant tresses round a countenance of singular beauty and
sweetness. The large and lustrous deep-blue eyes were shaded by long
dark lashes, and her complexion was pale as the lily, excepting when
she smiled or spoke, and a slight flush like the dawn of morning
overspread her cheeks.
Jolanka was the orphan child of a distant relative, whom the Bardys
had adopted. They could not allow one who bore their name to suffer
want; and it seemed as if each member of the family had united to heap
affection and endearment on the orphan girl, and thus prevented her
from feeling herself a stranger among them.
There were still two other female members of the family: Katalin, the
old lady's daughter, who had been for many years a widow; and the wife
of one of her sons, a pretty young woman, who was trying to teach a
little prattler at her side to use the golden spoon which she had
placed in his small, fat hand, while he laughed and crowed, and the
family did their best to guess what he said, or what he most
Opposite to them there sat two gentlemen. One of them was the husband
of the young mother, Jozsef Bardy--a handsome man of about
thirty-five, with regular features, and black hair and beard; a
constant smile beamed on his gay countenance, while he playfully
addressed his little son and gentle wife across the table. The other
was his brother, Barnabas--a man of herculean form and strength. His
face was marked by smallpox; he wore neither beard or mustache, and
his hair was combed smoothly back, like a peasant's. His disposition
was melancholy and taciturn; but he seemed constantly striving to
atone, by the amiability of his manners, for an unprepossessing
Next to him sat a little cripple, whose pale countenance bore that
expression of suffering sweetness so peculiar to the deformed, while
his lank hair, bony hands, and misshapen shoulders awakened the
beholder's pity. He, too, was an orphan--a grandchild of the old
lady's; his parents had died some years before.
Two little boys of about five years old sat opposite to him. They were
dressed alike, and the resemblance between them was so striking that
they were constantly mistaken. They were twin-children of the young
At the lower end of the table sat Imre Bardy, a young man of twenty,
whose handsome countenance was full of life and intelligence, his
figure manly and graceful, and his manner courteous and agreeable. A
slight moustache was beginning to shade his upper lip, and his dark
hair fell in natural ringlets around his head. He was the only son of
the _majoresco_, Tamas Bardy, and resembled him much in form and
Beside him sat an old gentleman, with white hair and ruddy complexion.
This was Simon Bardy, an ancient relative, who had grown old with the
grandmother of the family.
The same peculiarity characterized every countenance in the Bardy
family--namely the lofty forehead and marked brows, and the large
deep-blue eyes, shaded by their heavy dark lashes.
"How singular!" exclaimed one of the party; "we are thirteen at table
"One of us will surely die," said the old lady; and there was a
mournful conviction in the faint, trembling tones.
"Oh, no, grandmother, we are only twelve and a half!" exclaimed the
young mother, taking the little one on her knee.
"This little fellow only counts half on the railroad."
All the party laughed at this remark, even the little cripple's
countenance relaxed into a sickly smile.
"Ay, ay," continued the old lady, "the trees are now putting forth
their verdure, but at the fall of the leaf who knows if all of us, or
any of us, may still be sitting here?"
* * * * *
Several months had passed since this slight incident.
In one of the apartments of the castle, the eldest Bardy and his son
were engaged in earnest conversation.
The father paced hastily up and down the apartment, now and then
stopping short to address his son, who stood in the embrasure of one
of the windows. The latter wore the dress of the Matyas Hussars--a
gray dolmany, with crimson cord; he held a crimson csako, with a
tricolored cockade, in his hand.
"Go," said the father, speaking in broken accents; "the sooner the
better; let me not see you! Do not think I speak in anger, but I
cannot bear to look at you, and think where you are going. You are my
only son, and you know how I have loved you--how all my hopes have
been concentrated in you. But do not think that these tears, which you
see me shed for the first time, are on your account; for if I knew I
should lose you,--if your blood were to flow at the next battle,--I
should only bow my head in dust and say, 'The Lord gave, and the Lord
takes away, blessed be His holy name!' Yes, if I heard that you and
your infatuated companions were cut to pieces, I could stifle the
burning tears; but to know that your blood, when it flows, will be a
curse upon the earth, and your death will be the death of two
"They may die now; but they will regenerate----"
"This is not true; you only deceive yourselves with the idea that you
can build up a new edifice when you have overthrown the old one. Great
God, what sacrilege! Who had intrusted you with the fate of our
country, to tempt the Almighty? Who authorized you to lose all there
is for the hope of what may be? For centuries past have so many
honorable men fought in vain to uphold the old tottering constitution,
as you call it? Or were they not true patriots and heroes? Your
companions have hissed their persecuted countrymen in the Diet; but do
they love their country better than we do, who have shed our blood and
sacrificed our interests for her from generation to generation, and
even suffered disgrace, if necessary, to keep her in life?--for though
that life has been gradually weakened, still it is life. You promise
her glory; but the name of glory is death!"
"It may be so, father; we may lose our country as regards ourselves,
but we give one instead of ten millions, who were hitherto our own
people, and yet strangers in their native land."
"Chimera! The people will not understand you. They never even dreamt
of what you wish to give them. The true way to seek the people's
welfare is to give them what they need.
"Ask my dependents! Is there one among them whom I have allowed to
suffer want or ruin, whom I have not assisted in times of need?--or
have I ever treated them unjustly? You will not hear a murmur. Tell
them that I am unjust notwithstanding, because I do not call the
peasant from his plow to give his opinions on forming the laws, and
constitution,--and what will be the consequence? They will stare at
you in astonishment; and yet, in their mistaken wrath, they will come
down some night and burn this house over my head."
"That is the unnatural state of the times. It is all the fault of the
past bad management, if the people have no better idea. But let the
peasant once be free, let him be a man, and he will understand all
that is now strange to him."
"But that freedom will cost the lives of thousands!"
"I do not deny it. Indeed, I believe that neither I nor any of the
present generation will reap the fruits of this movement. I think it
probable that in a few years not one of those whose names we now hear
spoken of may still be living; and what is more, disgrace and curses
may be heaped upon their dust. But a time will come when the great
institutions of which they have laid the foundation will arise and
render justice to the memory of those who sacrificed themselves for
the happiness of future generations. To die for our country is a
glorious death, but to carry with us the curses of thousands, to die
despised and hated for the salvation of future millions, oh! that is
sublime--it is Messiah-like!"
"My son--my only son!" cried his father, throwing himself passionately
on the young man's neck and sobbing bitterly. "Do you see these
"For the first time in my life I see them, father--I see you weep; my
heart can scarcely bear the weight of these tears--and yet I go! You
have reason to weep, for I bring neither joy nor glory on your
head--and yet I go! A feeling stronger than the desire of glory,
stronger than the love of my country, inspires my soul; and it is a
proof of the strength of my faith that I see your tears, my
father--and yet I go!"
"Go!" murmured his father, in a voice of despair. "You may never
return again, or, when you do, you may find neither your father's
house nor the grave in which he is laid! But know, even then, in the
hour of your death, or in the hour of mine, I do not curse you--and
now, leave me." With these words he turned away and motioned to his
son to depart.
Imre silently left the apartment, and as soon as he had closed the
door the tears streamed from his eyes; but before his sword had struck
the last step his countenance had regained its former determination,
and the fire of enthusiasm had kindled in his eye.
He then went to take leave of his Uncle Jozsef, whom he found
surrounded by his family. The twins were sitting at his feet, while
his wife was playing bo-peep with the little one, who laughed and
shouted, while his mother hid herself behind his father's armchair.
Imre's entrance interrupted the general mirth. The little boy ran over
to examine the sword and golden tassels, while the little one began to
cry in alarm at the sight of the strange dress.