Part 6 out of 8
faint white clouds of mist rolled out of my window like smoke. All
around outside lay the November fog, gray and moist, and as the
fresh air of the early dawn blew cool on my face I felt my senses
returning to me. I looked down at the night watch man--God bless
him! He was a big, strong, comfortably fat fellow made of real
flesh and blood, and no ghost shape of the night. I looked at the
round tower of the church--how massive and venerable it stood
there, gray in the gray of the morning mists. I looked over at the
market place. There was a light in the baker shop and a farmer
stood before it, tying his horse to a post. Back in my own room
everything was in its usual place. Even the little paper bag with
the sugar lay there on the window sill, and the imprisoned fly
buzzed louder than ever. I knew that I was really awake and that
the day was coming. I sprang back hastily from the window and was
about to jump into bed, when my foot touched something hard and
I stooped to see what it was, felt about on the floor in the half
light, and touched a long, dry, skeleton arm which held a tiny roll
of paper in its bony fingers. I felt about again, and found still
another arm, also holding a roll of paper. Then I began to think
that my reason must be going. What I had seen thus far was only an
unusually vivid dream--a vision of my heated imagination. But I
knew that I was awake now, and yet here lay two-no, three (for
there was still another arm)--hard, undeniable, material proofs
that what I had thought was hallucination, might have been reality.
Trembling in the thought that madness was threatening me, I tore
open the first roll of paper. On it was written the name:
"Solling." I caught at the second and opened it. There stood the
word: "Nansen." I had just strength enough left to catch the third
paper and open it--there was my own name: "Simsen."
Then I sank fainting to the floor.
When I came to myself again, Niels Daae stood beside me with an
empty water bottle, the contents of which were dripping off my
person and off the sofa upon which I was lying. "Here, drink
this," he said in a soothing tone. "It will make you feel better."
I looked about me wildly, as I sipped at the glass of brandy which
put new life into me once more. "What has happened?" I asked
"Oh, nothing of importance," answered Niels. "You were just about
to commit suicide by means of charcoal gas. Those are mighty bad
ventilators on your old stove there. The wind must have blown them
shut, unless you were fool enough to close them yourself before you
went to bed. If you had not opened the window, you would have
already been too far along the path to Paradise to be called back
by a glass of brandy. Take another."
"How did you get up here?" I asked, sitting upright on the sofa.
"Through the door in the usual simple manner," answered Niels Daae.
"I was on watch last night in the hospital; but Mathiesen's punch
is heavy and my watching was more like sleeping, so I thought it
better to come away in the early morning. As I passed your
barracks here, I saw you sitting in the window in your nightshirt
and calling down to the night watchman that some one was murdering
you. I managed to wake up Jansen down below you, and got into the
house through his window. Do you usually sleep on the bare floor?"
"But where did the arms come from?" I asked, still half bewildered.
"Oh, the devil take those arms," cried Niels. "Just see if you can
stand up all right now. Oh, those arms there? Why, those are the
arms I cut off your skeletons. Clever idea, wasn't it? You know
how grumpy Solling gets if anything interferes with his tutoring.
You see, I'd had the geese sent me, and I wanted you to all come
with me to Mathiesen's place. I knew you were going to read the
osteology of the arm, so I went up into Solling's room, opened it
with his own keys and took the arms from his skeleton. I did the
same here while you were downstairs in the reading room. Have you
been stupid enough to take them down off their frames, and take
away their tickets? I had marked them so carefully, that each man
should get his own again."
I dressed hastily and went out with Niels into the fresh, cool
morning air. A few minutes later we separated, and I turned toward
the street where Solling lived. Without heeding the protest of his
old landlady, I entered the room where he still slept the sleep of
the just. The arm, still wrapped in newspaper, lay on his desk. I
took it up, put the mark piece in its place and hastened with all
speed to the churchyard.
How different it looked in the early dawn! The fog had risen and
shining frost pearls hung in the bare twigs of the tall trees where
the sparrows were already twittering their morning song. There was
no one to be seen. The churchyard lay quiet and peaceful. I
stepped over the heaps of bones to where the heavy oaken coffin lay
under a tree. Cautiously I pushed the arm back into its interior,
and hammered the rusty nails into their places again, just as the
first rays of the pale November sun touched a gleam of light from
the metal plate on the cover.--Then the weight was lifted from my
Two gentlemen sat chatting together one evening.
Their daily business was to occupy themselves with literature. At
the present moment they were engaged in drinking whisky,--an
occupation both agreeable and useful,--and in chatting about books,
the theater, women and many other things. Finally they came around
to that inexhaustible subject for conversation, the mysterious life
of the soul, the hidden things, the Unknown, that theme for which
Shakespeare has given us an oft-quoted and oft-abused device, which
one of the men, Mr. X., now used to point his remarks. Raising his
glass, he looked at himself meditatively in a mirror opposite, and,
in a good imitation of the manner of his favorite actor, he quoted:
"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in
thy philosophy, Horatio."
Mr. Y. arranged a fresh glass for himself, and answered:
"I believe it. I believe also that it is given but to a few chosen
ones to see these things. It never fell to my lot, I know.
Fortunately for me, perhaps. For,--at least so it appears to me,--
these chosen ones appear on closer investigation to be individuals
of an abnormal condition of brain. As far as I personally am
concerned, I know of nothing more strange than the usual logical
and natural sequence of events on our globe. I confess things do
sometimes happen outside of this orderly sequence; but for the
cold-blooded and thoughtful person the Strange, the apparently
Inexplicable, usually turns out to be a sum of Chance, that Chance
we will never be quite clever enough to fully take into our
"As an instance I would like to tell you the story of what happened
several years back to a friend of mine, a young French writer. He
had a good, sincere mind, but he had also a strong leaning toward
which was just then in danger of becoming as much of a fashion in
France as it is here now. The event of which I am about to tell
you threw him into what was almost a delirium, which came near to
robbing him of his normal intelligence, and therefore came near to
robbing French readers of a few excellent books.
"This was the way it happened:
"It was about ten years back, and I was spending the spring and
summer in Paris. I had a room with the family of a concierge on
the left bank, rue de Vaugirard, near the Luxembourg Gardens.
"A few steps from my modest domicile lived my friend Lucien F. We
had become acquainted through a chain of circumstances which do not
belong to this story, but these circumstances had made firm friends
of us, a friendship which was a source of great pleasure and also
of assistance to me in my study of Paris conditions. This
friendship also enabled me to enjoy better and cheaper whisky than
one can usually meet with in the city by the Seine, a real good
"Lucien F. had already published several books which had aroused
attention through the oddity of their themes, and their gratifying
success had made it possible for him to establish himself in a
comfortably furnished bachelor apartment on the corner of the rue
de Vaugirard and the rue de Conde.
"The apartment had a corridor and three rooms; a dining room, a
bedroom and a charming study with an inclosed balcony, the three
windows of which,--a large one in the center and two smaller ones
at the side,--sent a flood of light in over the great writing table
which filled nearly the entire balcony. Inside the room, near the
balcony, stood a divan covered with a bearskin rug. Upon this
divan I spent many of my hours in Paris, occupied in the smoking of
my friend's excellent cigars, and the sampling of his superlatively
good whisky. At the same time I could lie staring up at the tops
of the trees in the Luxembourg Gardens, while Lucien worked at his
desk. For, unlike most writers, he could work best when he was not
"If I remained away several days, he would invariably ring my bell
early some morning, and drag me out of bed with the remark: 'The
whisky is ready. I can't write if you are not there.'
"During the particular days of which I shall tell you, he was
engaged in the writing of a fantastic novelette, 'The Force of the
Wind,' a work which interested him greatly, and which he would
interrupt unwillingly at intervals to furnish copy for the well-
known newspaper that numbered him among the members of its staff.
His books were printed by the same house that did the printing for
"Often, as I lay in my favorite position on the divan, the bell
would ring and we would he honored by a visit from the printer's
boy Adolphe, a little fellow in a blue blouse, the true type of
Paris gamin. Adolphe rejoiced in a broken nose, a pair of crafty
eyes, and had his fists always full of manuscripts which he treated
with a carelessness that would have driven a literary novice to
despair. The long rolls of yellow paper would hang out of his
trousers pockets as if ready to fall apart at his next movement.
And the disrespectful manner in which he crammed my friend Lucien's
scarcely dried essay into the breast of his blouse would have
certainly called forth remarks from a journalist of more self-
"But his eyes were so full of sly cunning, and there was such an
atmosphere of Paris about the stocky little fourteen-year-old chap,
that we would often keep him longer with us, and treat him to a
glass of anisette to hear his opinion of the writers whose work he
handled. He was an amusing cross between a tricky little Paris
gamin and a real child, and he hit off the characteristics of the
various writers with as keen a touch of actuality as he could put
into his stories of how many centimes he had won that morning at
'craps' from his friend Pierre. Pierre was another employee of the
printing house, Adolphe's comrade in his study of the mysteries of
Paris streets, and now his rival. They were both in love with the
same girl, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the keeper of 'La
Prunelle' Cafe, and her favor was often the prize of the morning's
"Now and then this rivalry between the two young Parisians would
drop into a hand-to-hand fight. I myself was witness to such a
skirmish one day, in front of 'La Prunelle.' The rivals pulled
each other's hair mightily while the manuscripts flew about over
the pavement, and Virginie, in her short skirts, stood at the door
of the cafe and laughed until she seemed about to shake to pieces.
"Pierre was the strongest, and Adolphe came off with a bloody nose.
He gathered up his manuscripts in grim silence and left the
battlefield and the still laughing Virginie with an expression of
deep anger on his wounded face.
"The following day, when I teased him a little because of his
defeat, he smiled a sly smile and remarked:
"'Yes, but I won a franc from him, the big stupid animal. And so
it was I, after all, who took Virginie out that evening. We went
to the Cafe "Neant," where I let them put me in the coffin and
pretend to be decaying, to amuse her. She thought it was lots of
"One morning Lucien had come for me as usual, put me on the divan,
and seated himself at his writing table. He was just putting the
last words to his novel, and the table was entirely covered with
the scattered leaves, closely written. I could just see his neck
as he sat there, a thin-sinewed, expressive neck. He bent over his
work, blind and deaf for anything else. I lay there and gazed out
over the tops of the trees in the park up into the blue summer sky.
The window on the left side of the desk stood wide open, for it was
a warm and sultry day. I sipped my whisky slowly. The air was
heavy, and thunder threatened in the distance. After a little
while the clouds gathered together, heavy, low-hanging, copper-
hued, real thunder clouds, and the trees in the park rustled
softly. The air was stifling, and lay heavy as lead on my breast.
"Lucien did not hear or see anything, his pen flew over the paper.
"I fell hack lazily on my divan.
"Then, suddenly, there was a mighty tumult. A strong gust of wind
swept through the street, bending the trees in the gardens quite
out of my horizon. With a crash the right-hand window in the
balcony flew wide open, and like a cyclone, the wind swept through,
clearing the table in an instant of all the loose sheets of paper
that had lain scattered about it.
"'The devil! Why don't you shut the window!' I cried, springing up
from the sofa.
"'Spare your energy, it's too late,' said Lucien with a gentle
mockery in his soft voice. 'Look there!'--he pointed out into the
street, where his sheets of paper went swirling about in the heavy
air like white doves.
"A second later came the rain, a veritable cloud-burst. We shut
the windows and gave ourselves up to melancholy thoughts about the
lost manuscript, the recovery of which now seemed utterly hopeless.
"'That's one thousand francs, at least, that the wind has robbed me
of,' sighed Lucien. 'Well, enfin, that doesn't matter so much.
But do you know anything more tiresome than to work over the same
subject a second time? I can't think of doing it. It would fairly
make me sick to try it.'
"We were in a sad mood that morning. When we went out to breakfast
at about two o'clock, we looked about for some traces of the lost
"There was nothing to be seen. It had vanished completely, whirled
off to all four corners of the earth probably, this manuscript from
which Lucien had expected so much. Truly it was 'The Force of the
. . . . .
"Now comes the strange part of the story. One morning, two weeks
later, Lucien stood in the door of my little room, pale as a ghost.
He had a bundle of printer's proofs in his hand, and held them out
to me without a word.
"I looked at it and read:
"'"The Force of the Wind," by Lucien F.'
"It was a good bundle of proofs, the entire first proofs of
Lucien's novel, that novel the manuscript of which we had seen
blown out of the balcony window and whirled away by the winds.
"'My dear man,' I exclaimed, as I handed him back the proofs. 'You
HAVE been industrious indeed, to write your entire novel over again
in so short a time--and to have proofs already--'
"Lucien did not answer. He stood silent, staring at me with a
weird look in his otherwise so sensible eyes. After a moment he
"'I did not write the novel over again. I have not touched a pen
since the day the manuscript blew out of the window.'
"'Are you a sleep-walker, Lucien?'
"'Why do you ask?'
"'Why, that would be the only natural explanation. They say we can
do a great many things in sleep, of which we know nothing when we
wake. I've heard queer stories of that. Men have committed
murders in their sleep. It happens quite often that sleep-walkers
write letters in a handwriting they do not recognize when awake.'
"'I have never been a sleep-walker,' answered Lucien.
"'Oh, you never can tell,' I remarked. 'Would you rather explain
it as magic? Or as the work of fairies? Or do you believe in
ghosts? Your muse has fascinated you, you mystic!' And I laughed
and trilled a line from 'The Mascot,' which we had seen the evening
before at the Lyric.
"But my merriment did not seem to strike an answering note in
Lucien. He turned from me in silence, and with an offended
expression took his hat and his proofs, and--humorist and skeptic
as he was ordinarily, he parted from me with the words, uttered in
a theatrical tone:
"'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in
"He turned on his heel and left the room.
"To be candid, I was unpleasantly affected by the little scene. I
could not for an instant doubt Lucien's honesty,--he was so pale,
so frightened almost--so touching in the alarm and excitement of
his soul. Of course the only explanation that I could see was that
he had written his novel in a sleep-walking state.
"For certainly no printer could set up type from a manuscript that
did not exist,--to say nothing of printing it and sending out
"Several days passed, but Lucien did not come near me. I went to
his place once or twice, but the door was locked. Had the devil
carried him off bodily? Or had this strange and inexplicable
occurrence robbed him of his sanity, and robbed me of his
friendship and his excellent whisky?
"After three useless attempts to find him at home, and after
writing him a letter which he did not answer, I gave up Lucien
without any further attempt to understand his enigmatical behavior.
A short time after, I left for my home without having seen or heard
anything more of him.
. . . . .
"Months passed. I remained at home, and one evening when, during
the course of a gay party, the conversation came around to the
subject of mysticism and occult occurrences, I dished up my story
of the enigmatical manuscript. The Unknown, the Occult, was the
rage just then, and my story was received with great applause and
called forth numerous quotations as to 'more things in heaven and
earth.' I came to think so much of it myself that I wrote it out
and sent it to Professor Flammarion, who was just then making a
study of the Unknown, which he preserved in his later book
"The occupying myself with the story brought my mind around again
to memories of Lucien. One day, I saw a notice in Le Figaro to the
effect that his book, 'The Force of the Wind,' had appeared in a
second large edition, and had aroused much attention, particularly
in spiritualistic circles. I seemed to see him again before me,
with his long nervous neck, which was so expressive. The vision of
this neck rose up before me whenever I drank the same sort of
whisky that I had drunk so often with him, and the longing to hear
something more of my lost friend came over me. I sat down one
evening when in a sentimental mood, and wrote to him, asking him to
tell me something of himself and to send me his book.
"A week later I received the little book and the following letter
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
"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 it.
"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 Unknown.
"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
"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
"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 besides.
"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 compositer, 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
"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 forgotten.
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 mysterious door.
"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 rendered 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 contempt.
Lieutenant Wolff fired up at this, and demanded to know whether the
other intended to call his, the lieutenant's, courage into question
by his behavior.
"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
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
The universally disliked Lieutenant Flemming 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 Aalso, 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 Sorensen.]
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 helpmeet. 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 knows?
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
Soren 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 Bruns covets poor Ole Anderson'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 Erik Sorensen!
Rector Soren Quist of Veilbye came to see me this morning. He has
a new coachman, Niels Bruus, brother to the owner of Ingvorstrup.
Neils 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 judgment 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
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 daybreak 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 en-treats 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 me.
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 downhearted.
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 Marten 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
"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 me!
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." Marten 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
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
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 about 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
Paying no heed to this, 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 shout! 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
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 Marten 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
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
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 Veilbye churchyard.
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 man!"
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, "Jens 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
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 man condemn?"
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 darkness.
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 rector's memory."
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 demanded.
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
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
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 of 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 sleepwalking 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 struck 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 Aalso. 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
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 brother.
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
Here the diary of Erik Sorensen stopped suddenly. What followed
can be learned from the written and witnessed statements of the
pastor of Aalso, 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 Soren Quist, Rector of
Veilbye, killed his servant in a fit of rage and buried the body in
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 Aalso.
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
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 his crime.
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 Aalso church. A simple stone, upon which I have carved a
cross, still stands to remind the passer-by of the sin of a most
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
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
"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 the country."
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
"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
This was the story as he tells it: His brother Morten--truly a son
of Belial--cherished a deadly hatred toward pastor Soren 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 he 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 Marten. "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
"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 Niel's 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 house.
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 near Veilbye.
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
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
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
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
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 Soren Quist
of Veilbye, by the door of Aalso church.
Hungarian Mystery Stories
The Living Death
Here 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
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
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 ordinary.
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
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 me much.
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
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
Then they were silent for a long while. At length the professor
smiled and said:
"The pair of cuff buttons which I had from Prince Eugene I
presented to the watchman in the cemetery. They are worth a
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
They had a very low-voiced conversation with father. I listened in