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rebuking it, so that Sintram could not but shudder and tremble before the dwarf. But he checked himself, and grasping his sword-hilt with both hands, he said, contemptuously: “Thou and Gabrielle! what acquaintance hast thou with Gabrielle?”

“Not much,” was the reply. And the little Master might be seen to quake with fear and rage as he continued: “I cannot well bear the name of thy Helen; do not din it in my ears ten times in a breath. But if the tempest should increase? If the waves should swell, and roll on till they form a foaming ring round the whole coast of Norway? The voyage to Montfaucon must in that case be altogether given up, and thy Helen would remain here, at least through the long, long, dark winter.”

“If! if!” replied Sintram, with scorn. “Is the sea thy bond-slave? Are the storms thy fellow-workmen?”

“They are rebels, accursed rebels,” muttered the little Master in his red beard. “Thou must lend me thy aid, sir knight, if I am to subdue them; but thou hast not the heart for it.”

“Boaster, evil boaster!” answered the youth; “what dost thou ask of me?”

“Not much, sir knight; nothing at all for one who has strength and ardour of soul. Thou needest only look at the sea steadily and keenly for one half-hour, without ever ceasing to wish with all thy might that it should foam and rage and swell, and never again rest till winter has laid its icy hold upon your mountains. Then winter is enough to hinder Duke Menelaus from his voyage to Montfaucon. And now give me a lock of your black hair, which is blowing so wildly about your head, like ravens’ or vultures’ wings.”

The youth drew his sharp dagger, madly cut off a lock of his hair, threw it to the strange being, and now gazed, as he desired, powerfully wishing, on the waves of the sea. And softly, quite softly, did the waters stir themselves, as one whispers in troubled dreams who would gladly rest and cannot. Sintram was on the point of giving up, when in the moonbeams a ship appeared, with white-swelling sails, towards the south. Anguish came over him, that Gabrielle would soon thus quickly sail away; he wished again with all his power, and fixed his eyes intently on the watery abyss. “Sintram,” a voice might have said to him–“ah, Sintram, art thou indeed the same who so lately wert gazing on the moistened heaven of the eyes of Gabrielle?”

And now the waters heaved more mightily, and the howling tempest swept over the ocean; the breakers, white with foam, became visible in the moonlight. Then the little Master threw the lock of Sintram’s hair up towards the clouds, and, as it was blown to and fro by the blast of wind, the storm burst in all its fury, so that sea and sky were covered with one thick cloud, and far off might be heard the cries of distress from many a sinking vessel.

But the crazy pilgrim with the dead men’s bones rose up in the midst of the waves, close to the shore, gigantic, tall, fearfully rocking; the boat in which he stood was hidden from sight, so mightily raged the waves round about it.

“Thou must save him, little Master–thou must certainly save him,” cried Sintram’s voice, angrily entreating, through the roaring of the winds and waves. But the dwarf replied, with a laugh: “Be quite at rest for him; he will be able to save himself. The waves can do him no harm. Seest thou? They are only begging of him, and therefore they jump up so boldly round him; and he gives them bountiful alms– very bountiful, that I can assure thee.”

In fact, as it seemed, the pilgrim threw some bones into the sea, and passed scatheless on his way. Sintram felt his blood run cold with horror, and he rushed wildly towards the castle. His companion had either fled or vanished away.

CHAPTER 13

In the castle, Biorn and Gabrielle and Folko of Montfaucon were sitting round the great stone table, from which, since the arrival of his noble guests, those suits of armour had been removed, formerly the established companions of the lord of the castle, and placed all together in a heap in the adjoining room. At this time, while the storm was beating so furiously against doors and windows, it seemed as if the ancient armour were also stirring in the next room, and Gabrielle several times half rose from her seat in great alarm, fixing her eyes on the small iron door, as though she expected to see an armed spectre issue therefrom, bending with his mighty helmet through the low vaulted doorway.

The knight Biorn smiled grimly, and said, as if he had guessed her thoughts: “Oh, he will never again come out thence; I have put an end to that for ever.”

His guests stared at him doubtingly; and with a strange air of unconcern, as though the storm had awakened all the fierceness of his soul, he began the following history:

“I was once a happy man myself; I could smile, as you do, and I could rejoice in the morning as you do; that was before the hypocritical chaplain had so bewildered the wise mind of my lovely wife with his canting talk, that she went into a cloister, and left me alone with our wild boy. That was not fair usage from the fair Verena. Well, so it was, that in the first days of her dawning beauty, before I knew her, many knights sought her hand, amongst whom was Sir Weigand the Slender; and towards him the gentle maiden showed herself the most favourably inclined. Her parents were well aware that Weigand’s rank and station were little below their own, and that his early fame as a warrior without reproach stood high; so that before long Verena and he were accounted as affianced. It happened one day that they were walking together in the orchard, when a shepherd was driving his flock up the mountain beyond. The maiden saw a little snow-white lamb frolicking gaily, and longed for it. Weigand vaults over the railings, overtakes the shepherd, and offers him two gold bracelets for the lamb. But the shepherd will not part with it, and scarcely listens to the knight, going quietly the while up the mountain-side, with Weigand close upon him. At last Weigand loses patience. He threatens; and the shepherd, sturdy and proud like all of his race in our northern land, threatens in return. Suddenly Weigand’s sword resounds upon his head,–the stroke should have fallen flat, but who can control a fiery horse or a drawn sword? The bleeding shepherd, with a cloven skull, falls down the precipice; his frightened flock bleats on the mountain. Only the little lamb runs in its terror to the orchard, pushes itself through the garden-rails, and lies at Verena’s feet, as if asking for help, all red with its master’s blood. She took it up in her arms, and from that moment never suffered Weigand the Slender to appear again before her face. She continued to cherish the little lamb, and seemed to take pleasure in nothing else in the world, and became pale and turned towards heaven, as the lilies are. She would soon have taken the veil, but just then I came to aid her father in a bloody war, and rescued him from his enemies. The old man represented this to her, and, softly smiling, she gave me her lovely hand. His grief would not suffer the unhappy Weigand to remain in his own country. It drove him forth as a pilgrim to Asia, whence our forefathers came, and there he did wonderful deeds, both of valour and self-abasement. Truly, my heart was strangely weak when I heard him spoken of at that time. After some years he returned, and wished to build a church or monastery on that mountain towards the west, whence the walls of my castle are distinctly seen. It was said that he wished to become a priest there, but it fell out otherwise. For some pirates had sailed from the southern seas, and, hearing of the building of this monastery, their chief thought to find much gold belonging to the lord of the castle and to the master builders, or else, if he surprised and carried them off, to extort from them a mighty ransom. He did not yet know northern courage and northern weapons; but he soon gained that knowledge. Having landed in the creek under the black rocks, he made his way through a by-path up to the building, surrounded it, and thought in himself that the affair was now ended. Ha! then out rushed Weigand and his builders, and fell upon them with swords and hatchets and hammers. The heathens fled away to their ships, with Weigand behind to take vengeance on them. In passing by our castle he caught a sight of Verena on the terrace, and, for the first time during so many years, she bestowed a courteous and kind salutation on the glowing victor. At that moment a dagger, hurled by one of the pirates in the midst of his hasty flight, struck Weigand’s uncovered head, and he fell to the ground bleeding and insensible. We completed the rout of the heathens: then I had the wounded knight brought into the castle; and my pale Verena glowed as lilies in the light of the morning sun, and Weigand opened his eyes with a smile when he was brought near her. He refused to be taken into any room but the small one close to this where the armour is now placed; for he said that he felt as if it were a cell like that which he hoped soon to inhabit in his quiet cloister. All was done after his wish: my sweet Verena nursed him, and he appeared at first to be on the straightest road to recovery; but his head continued weak and liable to be confused by the slightest emotion, his walk was rather a falling than a walking, and his cheeks were colourless. We could not let him go. When we were sitting here together in the evening, he used always to come tottering into the hall through the low doorway; and my heart was sad and wrathful too, when the soft eyes of Verena beamed so sweetly on him, and a glow like that of the evening sky hovered over her lily cheeks. But I bore it, and I could have borne it to the end of our lives,–when, alas! Verena went into a cloister!”

His head fell so heavily on his folded hands, that the stone table seemed to groan beneath it, and he remained a long while motionless as a corpse. When he again raised himself up, his eyes glared fearfully as he looked round the hall, and he said to Folko: “Your beloved Hamburghers, Gotthard Lenz, and Rudlieb his son, they have much to answer for! Who bid them come and be shipwrecked so close to my castle?”

Folko cast a piercing look on him, and a fearful inquiry was on the point of escaping his lips, but another look at the trembling Gabrielle made him silent, at least for the present moment, and the knight Biorn continued his narrative.

“Verena was with her nuns, I was left alone, and my despair had driven me throughout the day through forest and brook and mountain. In the twilight I returned to my deserted castle, and scarcely was I in the hall, when the little door creaked, and Weigand, who had slept through all, crept towards me and asked: ‘Where can Verena be?’ Then I became as mad, and howled to him, ‘She is gone mad, and so am I, and you also, and now we are all mad!’ Merciful Heaven, the wound on his head burst open, and a dark stream flowed over his face–ah! how different from the redness when Verena met him at the castle-gate; and he rushed forth, raving mad, into the wilderness without, and ever since has wandered all around as a crazy pilgrim.”

He was silent, and so were Folko and Gabrielle, all three pale and cold like images of the dead. At length the fearful narrator added in a low voice, and as if he were quite exhausted: “He has visited me since that time, but he will never again come through the little door. Have I not established peace and order in my castle?”

CHAPTER 14

Sintram had not returned home, when those of the castle betook themselves to rest in deep bewilderment. No one thought of him, for every heart was filled with strange forebodings, and with uncertain cares. Even the heroic breast of the Knight of Montfaucon heaved in doubt.

Old Rolf still remained without, weeping in the forest, heedless of the storm which beat on his unprotected head, while he waited for his young master. But he had gone a very different way; and when the morning dawned, he entered the castle from the opposite side.

Gabrielle’s slumbers had been sweet during the whole night. It had seemed to her that angels with golden wings had blown away the wild histories of the evening before, and had wafted to her the bright flowers, the sparkling sea, and the green hills of her own home. She smiled, and drew her breath calmly and softly, whilst the magical tempest raged and howled through the forests, and continued to battle with the troubled sea. But in truth when she awoke in the morning, and heard still the rattling of the windows, and saw the clouds, as if dissolved in mist and steam, still hiding the face of the heavens, she could have wept for anxiety and sadness, especially when she heard from her maidens that Folko had already left their apartment clad in full armour as if prepared for a combat. At the same time she heard the sound of the heavy tread of armed men in the echoing halls, and, on inquiring, found that the Knight of Montfaucon had assembled all his retainers to be in readiness to protect their lady.

Wrapped in a cloak of ermine, she stood trembling like a tender flower just sprung up out of the snow, tottering beneath a winter’s storm. Then Sir Folko entered the room, in all his shining armour, and peacefully carrying his golden helmet with the long shadowy plumes in his hand. He saluted Gabrielle with cheerful serenity, and at a sign from him, her attendants retired, while the men-at-arms without were heard quietly dispersing.

“Lady,” said he, as he took his seat beside her, on a couch to which he led her, already re-assured by his presence: “lady, will you forgive your knight for having left you to endure some moments of anxiety; but honour and stern justice called him. Now all is set in order, quietly and peacefully; dismiss your fears and every thought that has troubled you, as things which are no more.”

“But you and Biorn?” asked Gabrielle. “On the word of a knight,” replied he, “all is well there.” And thereupon he began to talk over indifferent subjects with his usual ease and wit; but Gabrielle, bending towards him, said with deep emotion:

“0 Folko, my knight, the flower of my life, my protector and my dearest hope on earth, tell me all, if thou mayst. But if a promise binds thee, it is different. Thou knowest that I am of the race of Portamour, and I would ask nothing from my knight which could cast even a breath of suspicion on his spotless shield.”

Folko thought gravely for one instant; then looking at her with a bright smile, he said: “It is not that, Gabrielle; but canst thou bear what I have to disclose? Wilt thou not sink down under it, as a slender fir gives way under a mass of snow?”

She raised herself somewhat proudly, and said: “I have already reminded thee of the name of my father’s house. Let me now add, that I am the wedded wife of the Baron of Montfaucon.”

“Then so let it be,” replied Folko solemnly; “and if that must come forth openly which should ever have remained hidden in the darkness which belongs to such deeds of wickedness, at least let it come forth less fearfully with a sudden flash. Know then, Gabrielle, that the wicked knight who would have slain my friends Gotthard and Rudlieb is none other than our kinsman and host, Biorn of the Fiery Eyes.”

Gabrielle shuddered and covered her eyes with her fair hands; but at the end of a moment she looked up with a bewildered air, and said: “I have heard wrong surely, although it is true that yesterday evening such a thought struck me. For did not you say awhile ago that all was settled and at peace between you and Biorn? Between the brave baron and such a man after such a crime?”

“You heard aright,” answered Folko, looking with fond delight on the delicate yet high-minded lady. “This morning with the earliest dawn I went to him and challenged him to a mortal combat in the neighbouring valley, if he were the man whose castle had well-nigh become an altar of sacrifice to Gotthard and Rudlieb. He was already completely armed, and merely saying, ‘I am he,’ he followed me to the forest. But when he stood alone at the place of combat, he flung away his shield down a giddy precipice, then his sword was hurled after it, and next with gigantic strength he tore off his coat of mail, and said, ‘Now fall on, thou minister of vengeance; for I am a heavy sinner, and I dare not fight with thee.’ How could I then attack him? A strange truce was agreed on between us. He is half as my vassal, and yet I solemnly forgave him in my own name and in that of my friends. He was contrite, and yet no tear was in his eye, no gentle word on his lips. He is only kept under by the power with which I am endued by having right on my side, and it is on that tenure that Biorn is my vassal. I know not, lady, whether you can bear to see us together on these terms; if not, I will ask for hospitality in some other castle; there are none in Norway which would not receive us joyfully and honourably, and this wild autumnal storm may put off our voyage for many a day. Only this I think, that if we depart directly and in such a manner, the heart of this savage man will break.”

“Where my noble lord remains, there I also remain joyfully under his protection,” replied Gabrielle; and again her heart glowed with rapture at the greatness of her knight.

CHAPTER 15

The noble lady had just unbuckled her knight’s armour with her own fair hands,–on the field of battle alone were pages or esquires bidden handle Montfaucon’s armour,–and now she was throwing over his shoulders his mantle of blue velvet embroidered with gold, when the door opened gently, and Sintram entered the room, humbly greeting them. Gabrielle received him kindly, as she was wont, but suddenly turning pale, she looked away and said:

“0 Sintram, what has happened to you? And how can one single night have so fearfully altered you?”

Sintram stood still, thunderstruck, and feeling as if he himself did not know what had befallen him. Then Folko took him by the hand, led him towards a bright polished shield, and said very earnestly, “Look here at yourself, young knight!”

At the first glance Sintram drew back horrified. He fancied that he saw the little Master before him with that single upright feather sticking out of his cap; but he at length perceived that the mirror was only showing him his own image and none other, and that his own wild dagger had given him this strange and spectre-like aspect, as he could not deny to himself.

“Who has done that to you?” asked Folko, yet more grave and solemn. “And what terror makes your disordered hair stand on end?”

Sintram knew not what to answer. He felt as if a judgment were coming on him, and a shameful degrading from his knightly rank. Suddenly Folko drew him away from the shield, and taking him towards the rattling window, he asked: “Whence comes this tempest?”

Still Sintram kept silence. His limbs began to tremble under him; and Gabrielle, pale and terrified, whispered, “0 Folko, my knight, what has happened? Oh, tell me; are we come into an enchanted castle?”

“The land of our northern ancestors,” replied Folko with solemnity, “is full of mysterious knowledge. But we may not, for all that, call its people enchanters; still this youth has cause to watch himself narrowly; he whom the evil one has touched by so much as one hair of his head. . .”

Sintram heard no more; with a deep groan he staggered out of the room. As he left it, he met old Rolf, still almost benumbed by the cold and storms of the night. Now, in his joy at again seeing his young master, he did not remark his altered appearance; but as he accompanied him to his sleeping-room he said, “Witches and spirits of the tempest must have taken up their abode on the sea-shore. I am certain that such wild storms never arise without some devilish arts.”

Sintram fell into a fainting-fit, from which Rolf could with difficulty recover him sufficiently to appear in the great hall at the mid-day hour. But before he went down, he caused a shield to be brought, saw himself therein, and cut close round, in grief and horror, the rest of his long black hair, so that he made himself look almost like a monk; and thus he joined the others already assembled round the table. They all looked at him with surprise; but old Biorn rose up and said fiercely, “Are you going to betake yourself to the cloister, as well as the fair lady your mother?”

A commanding look from the Baron of Montfaucon checked any further outbreak; and as if in apology, Biorn added, with a forced smile, “I was only thinking if any accident had befallen him, like Absalom’s, and if he had been obliged to save himself from being strangled by parting with all his hair.”

“You should not jest with holy things,” answered the baron severely, and all were silent. No sooner was the repast ended, than Folko and Gabrielle, with a grave and courteous salutation, retired to their apartments.

CHAPTER 16

Life in the castle took from this time quite another form. Those two bright beings, Folko and Gabrielle, spent most part of the day in their apartments, and when they showed themselves, it was with quiet dignity and grave silence, while Biorn and Sintram stood before them in humble fear. Nevertheless, Biorn could not bear the thought of his guests seeking shelter in any other knight’s abode. When Folko once spoke of it, something like a tear stood in the wild man’s eye. His head sank, and he said softly, “As you please; but I feel that if you go, I shall run among the rocks for days.”

And thus they all remained together; for the storm continued to rage with such increasing fury over the sea, that no sea voyage could be thought of, and the oldest man in Norway could not call to mind such an autumn. The priests examined all the runic books, the bards looked through their lays and tales, and yet they could find no record of the like. Biorn and Sintram braved the tempest; but during the few hours in which Folko and Gabrielle showed themselves, the father and son were always in the castle, as if respectfully waiting upon them; the rest of the day–nay, often through whole nights, they rushed through the forests and over the rocks in pursuit of bears. Folko the while called up all the brightness of his fancy, all his courtly grace, in order to make Gabrielle forget that she was living in this wild castle, and that the long, hard northern winter was setting in, which would ice them in for many a month. Sometimes he would relate bright tales; then he would play the liveliest airs to induce Gabrielle to lead a dance with her attendants; then, again, handing his lute to one of the women, he would himself take a part the dance, well knowing to express thereby after some new fashion his devotion to his lady. Another time he would have the spacious halls of the castle prepared for his armed retainers to go through their warlike exercises, and Gabrielle always adjudged the reward to the conqueror. Folko often joined the circle of combatants; so that he only met their attacks, defending himself, but depriving no one of the prize. The Norwegians, who stood around as spectators, used to compare him to the demi-god Baldur, one of the heroes of their old traditions, who was wont to let the darts of his companions be all hurled against him, conscious that he was invulnerable, and of his own indwelling strength.

At the close of one of these martial exercises, old Rolf advanced towards Folko, and beckoning him with an humble look, said softly, “They call you the beautiful mighty Baldur,–and they are right. But even the beautiful mighty Baldur did not escape death. Take heed to yourself. Folko looked at him wondering. “Not that I know of any treachery,” continued the old man; “or that I can even foresee the likelihood of any. God keep a Norwegian from such a fear. But when you stand before me in all the brightness of your glory, the fleetingness of everything earthly weighs down my mind, and I cannot refrain from saying, ‘Take heed, noble baron! oh, take heed! Even the most beautiful glory comes to an end.'”

“Those are wise and pious thoughts,” replied Folko calmly, “and I will treasure them in a pure heart.”

The good Rolf was often with Folko and Gabrielle, and made a connecting link between the two widely differing parties in the castle. For how could he have ever forsaken his own Sintram! Only in the wild hunting expeditions through the howling storms and tempests he no longer was able to follow his young lord.

At length the icy reign of winter began in all its glory. On this account a return to Normandy was impossible, and therefore the magical storm was lulled. The hills and valleys shone brilliantly in their white attire of snow, and Folko used sometimes, with skates on his feet, to draw his lady in a light sledge over the glittering frozen lakes and streams. On the other hand, the bear-hunts of the lord of the castle and his son took a still more desperate and to them joyous course.

About this time,–when Christmas was drawing near, and Sintram was seeking to overpower his dread of the awful dreams by the most daring expeditions,–about this time, Folko and Gabrielle stood together on one of the terraces of the castle. The evening was mild; the snow- clad fields were glowing in the red light of the setting sun; from below there were heard men’s voices singing songs of ancient heroic times, while they worked in the armourer’s forge. At last the songs died away, the beating of hammers ceased, and, without the speakers being seen, or there being any possibility of distinguishing them by their voices, the following discourse arose:–

“Who is the bravest amongst all those whose race derives its origin from our renowned land?”

“It is Folko of Montfaucon.”

“Rightly said; but tell me, is there anything from which even this bold baron draws back?”

“In truth there is one thing,–and we who have never left Norway face it quite willingly and joyfully.”

“And that is–?”

“A bear-hunt in winter, over trackless plains of snow, down frightful ice-covered precipices.”

“Truly thou answerest aright, my comrade. He who knows not how to fasten our skates on his feet, how to turn in them to the right or left at a moment’s warning, he may be a valiant knight in other respects, but he had better keep away from our hunting parties, and remain with his timid wife in her apartments.” At which the speakers were heard to laugh well pleased, and then to betake themselves again to their armourer’s work.

Folko stood long buried in thought. A glow beyond that of the evening sky reddened his cheek. Gabrielle also remained silent, considering she knew not what. At last she took courage, and embracing her beloved, she said: “To-morrow thou wilt go forth to hunt the bear, wilt thou not? and thou wilt bring the spoils of the chase to thy lady?”

The knight gave a joyful sign of assent; and the rest of the evening was spent in dances and music.

CHAPTER 17

See, my noble lord,” said Sintram the next morning, when Folko had expressed his wish of going out with him, “these skates of ours give such wings to our course, that we go down the mountain-side swiftly as the wind; and even in going up again we are too quick for any one to be able to pursue us, and on the plains no horse can keep up with us; and yet they can only be worn with safety by those who are well practised. It seems as though some strange spirit dwelt in them, which is fearfully dangerous to any that have not learnt the management of them in their childhood.

Folko answered somewhat proudly: “Do you suppose that this is the first time that I have been amongst your mountains? Years ago I have joined in this sport, and, thank Heaven, there is no knightly exercise which does not speedily become familiar to me.”

Sintram did not venture to make any further objections, and still less did old Biorn. They both felt relieved when they saw with what skill and ease Folko buckled the skates on his feet, without suffering any one to assist him. This day they hunted up the mountain in pursuit of a fierce bear which had often before escaped from them. Before long it was necessary that they should separate, and Sintram offered himself as companion to Folko, who, touched by the humble manner of the youth, and his devotion to him, forgot all that had latterly seemed mysterious in the pale altered being before him, and agreed heartily. As now they continued to climb higher and higher up the mountain, and saw from many a giddy height the rocks and crags below them looking like a vast expanse of sea suddenly turned into ice whilst tossed by a violent tempest, the noble Montfaucon drew his breath more freely. He poured forth war-songs and love-longs in the clear mountain air, and the startled echoes repeated from rock to rock the lays of his Frankish home. He sprang lightly from one precipice to another, using strongly and safely his staff for support, and turning now to the right, now to the left, as the fancy seized him; so that Sintram was fain to exchange his former anxiety for a wondering admiration, and the hunters, whose eyes had never been taken off the baron, burst forth with loud applause, proclaiming far and wide fresh glory of their guest.

The good fortune which usually accompanied Folko’s deeds of arms seemed still unwilling to leave him. After a short search, he and Sintram found distinct traces of the savage animal, and with beating hearts they followed the track so swiftly that even a winged enemy would have been unable to escape from them. But the creature whom they sought did not attempt a flight–he lay sulkily in a cavern near the top of a steep precipitous rock, infuriated by the shouts of the hunters, and only waiting in his lazy fury for some one to be bold enough to climb up to his retreat, that he might tear him to pieces. Folko and Sintram had now reached the foot of this rock, the rest of the hunters being dispersed over the far-extending plain. The track led the two companions up the rock, and they set about climbing on the opposite sides of it, that they might be the more sure of not missing their prey. Folko reached the lonely topmost point first, and cast his eyes around. A wide, boundless tract of country, covered with untrodden snow, was spread before him, melting in the distance into the lowering clouds of the gloomy evening sky. He almost thought that he must have missed the traces of the fearful beast; when close beside him from a cleft in the rock issued a long growl, and a huge black bear appeared on the snow, standing on its hind legs, and with glaring eyes it advanced towards the baron. Sintram the while was struggling in vain to make his way up the rock against the masses of snow continually slipping down.

Joyful at a combat so long untried as almost to be new, Folko of Montfaucon levelled his hunting spear, and awaited the attack of the wild beast. He suffered it to approach so near that its fearful claws were almost upon him; then he made a thrust, and the spear-head was buried deep in the bear’s breast. But the furious beast still pressed on with a fierce growl, kept up on its hind legs by the cross-iron of the spear, and the knight was forced to plant his feet deep in the earth to resist the savage assault; and ever close before him the grim and bloody face of the bear, and close in his ear its deep savage growl, wrung forth partly by the agony of death, partly by thirst for blood. At length the bear’s resistance grew weaker, and the dark blood streamed freely upon the snow; he tottered; and one powerful thrust hurled him backwards over the edge of the precipice. At the same instant Sintram stood by the Baron of Montfaucon. Folko said, drawing a deep breath: “But I have not yet the prize in my hands, and have it I must, since fortune has given me a claim to it. Look, one of my skates seems to be out of order. Thinkest thou, Sintram, that it holds enough to slide down to the foot of the precipice?”

“Let me go instead,” said Sintram. “I will bring you the head and the claws of the bear.”

“A true knight,” replied Folko, with some displeasure, “never does a knightly deed by halves. What I ask is, whether my skate will still hold?”

As Sintram bent down to look, and was on the point of saying “No!” he suddenly heard a voice close to him, saying, “Why, yes, to be sure; there is no doubt about it.”

Folko thought that Sintram had spoken, and slid down with the swiftness of an arrow, whilst his companion looked up in great surprise. The hated form of the little Master met his eyes. As he was going to address him with angry words, he heard the sound of the baron’s fearful fall, and he stood still in silent horror. There was a breathless silence also in the abyss below.

“Now, why dost thou delay?” said the little Master, after a pause. “He is dashed to pieces. Go back to the castle, and take the fair Helen to thyself.”

Sintram shuddered. Then his hateful companion began to praise Gabrielle’s charms in so glowing, deceiving words, that the heart of the youth swelled with emotions he had never before known. He only thought of him who was now lying at the foot of the rock as of an obstacle removed between him and heaven: he turned towards the castle.

But a cry was heard below: “Help! help! my comrade! I am yet alive, but I am sorely wounded.”

Sintram’s will was changed, and he called to the baron, “I am coming.”

But the little Master said, “Nothing can be done to help Duke Menelaus; and the fair Helen knows it already. She is only waiting for knight Paris to comfort her.” And with detestable craft he wove in that tale with what was actually happening, bringing in the most highly wrought praises of the lovely Gabrielle; and alas! the dazzled youth yielded to him, and fled! Again he heard far off the baron’s voice calling to him, “Knight Sintram, knight Sintram, thou on whom I bestowed the holy order, haste to me and help me! The she-bear and her whelps will be upon me, and I cannot use my right arm! Knight Sintram, knight Sintram, haste to help me!”

His cries were overpowered by the furious speed with which the two were carried along on their skates, and by the evil words of the little Master, who was mocking at the late proud bearing of Duke Menelaus towards the poor Sintram. At last he shouted, “Good luck to you, she-bear! good luck to your whelps! There is a glorious meal for you! Now you will feed upon the fear of Heathendom, him at whose name the Moorish brides weep, the mighty Baron of Montfaucon. Never again, 0 dainty knight, will you shout at the head of your troops, ‘Mountjoy St. Denys!'” But scarce had this holy name passed the lips of the little Master, than he set up a howl of anguish, writhing himself with horrible contortions, and wringing his hands, and ended by disappearing in a storm of snow which then arose.

Sintram planted his staff firmly in the ground, and stopped. How strangely did the wide expanse of snow, the distant mountains rising above it, and the dark green fir-woods–how strangely did they all look at him in cold reproachful silence! He felt as if he must sink under the weight of his sorrow and his guilt. The bell of a distant hermitage came floating sadly over the plain. With a burst of tears he exclaimed, as the darkness grew thicker round him, “My mother! my mother! I had once a beloved tender mother, and she said I was a good child!” A ray of comfort came to him as if brought on an angel’s wing; perhaps Montfaucon was not yet dead! and he flew like lightning along the path, back to the steep rock. When he got to the fearful place, he stooped and looked anxiously down the precipice. The moon, just risen in full majesty, helped him. The Knight of Montfaucon, pale and bleeding, was half kneeling against the rock; his right arm, crushed in his fall, hung powerless at his side; it was plain that he could not draw his good sword out of the scabbard. But nevertheless he was keeping the bear and her young ones at bay by his bold threatening looks, so that they only crept round him, growling angrily; every moment ready for a fierce attack, but as often driven back affrighted at the majestic air by which he conquered even when defenceless.

“Oh! what a hero would there have perished!” groaned Sintram, “and through whose guilt?” In an instant his spear flew with so true an aim that the bear fell weltering in her blood; the young ones ran away howling.

The baron looked up with surprise. His countenance beamed as the light of the moon fell upon it, grave and stern, yet mild, like some angelic vision. “Come down!” he beckoned; and Sintram slid down the side of the precipice, full of anxious haste. He was going to attend to the wounded man, but Folko said, “First cut off the head and claws of the bear which I slew. I promised to bring the spoils of the chase to my lovely Gabrielle. Then come to me, and bind up my wounds. My right arm is broken.” Sintram obeyed the baron’s commands. When the tokens of victory had been secured, and the broken arm bound up, Folko desired the youth to help him back to the castle.

“0 Heavens!” said Sintram in a low voice, “if I dared to look in your face! or only knew how to come near you!”

“Thou wert indeed going on in an evil course,” said Montfaucon, gravely; “but how could we, any of us, stand before God, did not repentance help us? At any rate, thou hast now saved my life, and let that thought cheer thy heart.”

The youth with tenderness and strength supported the baron’s left arm, and they both went their way silently in the moonlight.

CHAPTER 18

Sounds of wailing were heard from the castle as they approached; the chapel was solemnly lighted up; within it knelt Gabrielle, lamenting for the death of the Knight of Montfaucon.

But how quickly was all changed, when the noble baron, pale indeed, and bleeding, yet having escaped all mortal danger, stood smiling at the entrance of the holy building, and said, in a low, gentle voice, “Look up, Gabrielle, and be not affrighted; for, by the honour of my race, thy knight still lives.” Oh! with what joy did Gabrielle’s eyes sparkle, as she turned to her knight, and then raised them again to heaven, still streaming, but from the deep source of thankful joy! With the help of two pages, Folko knelt down beside her, and they both sanctified their happiness with a silent prayer.

When they left the chapel, the wounded knight being tenderly supported by his lady, Sintram was standing without in the darkness, himself as gloomy as the night, and, like a bird of the night, shunning the sight of men. Yet he came trembling forward into the torch-light, laid the bear’s head and claws at the feet of Gabrielle, and said, “The noble Folko of Montfaucon presents the spoils of to- day’s chase to his lady.”

The Norwegians burst forth with shouts of joyful surprise at the stranger knight, who in the very first hunting expedition had slain the most fearful and dangerous beast of their mountains.

Then Folko looked around with a smile as he said, “And now none of you must jeer at me, if I stay at home for a short time with my timid wife.”

Those who the day before had talked together in the armourer’s forge came out from the crowd, and bowing low, they replied, “Noble baron, who could have thought that there was no knightly exercise in the whole world in the which you would not show yourself far above all other men?”

“The pupil of old Sir Hugh may be somewhat trusted,” answered Folko kindly. “But now, you bold northern warriors, bestow some praises also on my deliverer, who saved me from the claws of the she-bear, when I was leaning against the rock wounded by my fall.”

He pointed to Sintram, and the general shout was again raised; and old Rolf, with tears of joy in his eyes, bent his head over his foster-son’s hand. But Sintram drew back shuddering.

“Did you but know,” said he, “whom you see before you, all your spears would be aimed at my heart; and perhaps that would be the best thing for me. But I spare the honour of my father and of his race, and for this time I will not confess. Only this much must you know, noble warriors–“

“Young man,” interrupted Folko with a reproving look, “already again so wild and fierce? I desire that thou wilt hold thy peace about thy dreaming fancies.”

Sintram was silenced for a moment; but hardly had Folko begun smilingly to move towards the steps of the castle, than he cried out, “Oh, no, no, noble wounded knight, stay yet awhile; I will serve thee in everything that thy heart can desire; but herein I cannot serve thee. Brave warriors, you must and shall know so much as this; I am no longer worthy to live under the same roof with the noble Baron of Montfaucon and his angelic wife Gabrielle. And you, my aged father, good-night; long not for me. I intend to live in the stone fortress on the Rocks of the Moon, till a change of some kind come over me.”

There was that in his way of speaking against which no one dared to set himself, not even Folko.

The wild Biorn bowed his head humbly, and said, “Do according to thy pleasure, my poor son; for I fear that thou art right.”

Then Sintram walked solemnly and silently through the castle-gate, followed by the good Rolf. Gabrielle led her exhausted lord up to their apartments.

CHAPTER 19

That was a mournful journey on which the youth and his aged foster- father went towards the Rocks of the Moon, through the wild tangled paths of the snow-clad valleys. Rolf from time to time sang some verses of hymns, in which comfort and peace were promised to the penitent sinner, and Sintram thanked him for them with looks of grateful sadness. Neither of them spoke a word else.

At length, when the dawn of day was approaching, Sintram broke silence by saying, “Who are those two sitting yonder by the frozen stream–a tall man and a little one? Their own wild hearts must have driven them also forth into the wilderness. Rolf, dost thou know them? The sight of them makes me shudder.”

“Sir,” answered the old man, “your disturbed mind deceives you. There stands a lofty fir-tree, and the old weather-beaten stump of an oak, half-covered with snow, which gives them a somewhat strange appearance. There are no men sitting yonder.”

“But, Rolf, look there! look again carefully! Now they move, they whisper together.”

“Sir, the morning breeze moves the branches, and whistles in the sharp pine-leaves and in the yellow oak-leaves, and rustles the crisp snow.”

“Rolf, now they are both coming towards us. Now they are standing before us, quite close.”

“Sir, it is we who get nearer to them as we walk on, and the setting moon throws such long giant-like shadows over the plain.”

“Good-evening!” said a hollow voice; and Sintram knew it was the crazy pilgrim, near to whom stood the malignant little Master, looking more hideous than ever.

“You are right, sir knight,” whispered Rolf, as he drew back behind Sintram, and made the Sign of the Cross on his breast and his forehead.

The bewildered youth, however, advanced towards the two figures, and said, “You have always taken wonderful pleasure in being my companions. What do you expect will come of it? And do you choose to go now with me to the stone fortress? There I will tend thee, poor pale pilgrim; and as to thee, frightful Master, most evil dwarf, I will make thee shorter by the head, to reward thee for thy deeds yesterday.”

“That would be a fine thing,” sneered the little Master; “and perhaps thou imaginest that thou wouldst be doing a great service to the whole world? And, indeed, who knows? Something might be gained by it! Only, poor wretch, thou canst not do it.”

The pilgrim meantime was waving his pale head to and fro thoughtfully, saying, “I believe truly that thou wouldst willingly have me, and I would go to thee willingly, but I may not yet. Have patience awhile; thou wilt yet surely see me come, but at a distant time; and first we must again visit thy father together, and then also thou wilt learn to call me by my right name, my poor friend.”

“Beware of disappointing me again!” said the little Master to the pilgrim in a threatening voice; but he, pointing with his long, shrivelled hand towards the sun, which was just now rising, said, “Stop either that sun or me, if thou canst!”

Then the first rays fell on the snow, and the little Master ran, muttering, down a precipice; but the pilgrim walked on in the bright beams, calmly and with great solemnity, towards a neighbouring castle on the mountain. It was not long before its chapel-bell was heard tolling for the dead.

“For Heaven’s sake,” whispered the good Rolf to his knight–“for Heaven’s sake, Sir Sintram, what kind of companions have you here? One of them cannot bear the light of God’s blessed sun, and the other has no sooner set foot in a dwelling than tidings of death wail after his track. Could he have been a murderer?”

“I do not think that,” said Sintram. “He seemed to me the best of the two. But it is a strange wilfulness of his not to come with me. Did I not invite him kindly? I believe that he can sing well, and he should have sung to me some gentle lullaby. Since my mother has lived in a cloister, no one sings lullabies to me any more.”

At this tender recollection his eyes were bedewed with tears. But he did not himself know what he had said besides, for there was wildness and confusion in his spirit. They arrived at the Rocks of the Moon, and mounted up to the stone fortress. The castellan, an old, gloomy man, the more devoted to the young knight from his dark melancholy and wild deeds, hastened to lower the drawbridge. Greetings were exchanged in silence, and in silence did Sintram enter, and those joyless gates closed with a crash behind the future recluse.

CHAPTER 20

Yes truly, a recluse, or at least something like it, did poor Sintram now become! For towards the time of the approaching Christmas festival his fearful dreams came over him, and seized him so fiercely, that all the esquires and servants fled with shrieks out of the castle, and would never venture back again. No one remained with him except Rolf and the old castellan. After a while, indeed, Sintram became calm, but he went about looking so pallid and still that he might have been taken for a wandering corpse. No comforting of the good Rolf, no devout soothing lays, were of any avail; and the castellan, with his fierce, scarred features, his head almost entirely bald from a huge sword-cut, his stubborn silence, seemed like a yet darker shadow of the miserable knight. Rolf often thought of going to summon the holy chaplain of Drontheim; but how could he have left his lord alone with the gloomy castellan, a man who at all times raised in him a secret horror? Biorn had long had this wild strange warrior in his service, and honoured him on account of his unshaken fidelity and his fearless courage, though neither the knight nor any one else knew whence the castellan came, nor, indeed, exactly who he was. Very few people knew by what name to call him; but that was the more needless, since he never entered into discourse with any one. He was the castellan of the stone fortress on the Rocks of the Moon, and nothing more.

Rolf committed his deep heartfelt cares to the merciful God, trusting that he would soon come to his aid; and the merciful God did not fail him. For on Christmas eve the bell at the drawbridge sounded, and Rolf, looking over the battlements, saw the chaplain of Drontheim standing there, with a companion indeed that surprised him,–for close beside him appeared the crazy pilgrim, and the dead men’s bones on his dark mantle shone very strangely in the glimmering starlight: but the sight of the chaplain filled the good Rolf too full of joy to leave room for any doubt in his mind; for, thought he, whoever comes with him cannot but be welcome! And so he let them both in with respectful haste, and ushered them up to the hall, where Sintram, pale and with a fixed look, was sitting under the light of one flickering lamp. Rolf was obliged to support and assist the crazy pilgrim up the stairs, for he was quite benumbed with cold.

“I bring you a greeting from your mother,” said the chaplain as he came in; and immediately a sweet smile passed over the young knight’s countenance, and its deadly pallidness gave place to a bright soft glow.

“0 Heaven!” murmured he, “does then my mother yet live, and does she care to know anything about me?”

“She is endowed with a wonderful presentiment of the future,” replied the chaplain; “and all that you ought either to do or to leave undone is faithfully mirrored in various ways in her mind, during a half- waking trance. Now she knows of your deep sorrow, and she sends me, the father-confessor of her convent, to comfort you, but at the same time to warn you; for, as she affirms, and as I am also inclined to think, many strange and heavy trials lie before you.”

Sintram bowed himself towards the chaplain with his arms crossed over his breast, and said, with a gentle smile, “Much have I been favoured–more, a thousand times more, than I could have dared to hope in my best hours–by this greeting from my mother, and your visit, reverend sir; and all after falling more fearfully low than I had ever fallen before. The mercy of the Lord is great; and how heavy soever may be the weight and punishment which He may send, I trust, with His grace, to be able to bear it.”

Just then the door opened, and the castellan came in with a torch in his hand, the red glare of which made his face look the colour of blood. He cast a terrified glance at the crazy pilgrim, who had just sunk back in a swoon, and was supported on his seat and tended by Rolf; then he stared with astonishment at the chaplain, and at last murmured, “A strange meeting! I believe that the hour for confession and reconciliation is now arrived.”

“I believe so too,” replied the priest, who had heard his low whisper; “this seems to be truly a day rich in grace and peace. That poor man yonder, whom I found half-frozen by the way, would make a full confession to me at once, before he followed me to a place of shelter. Do as he has done, my dark-browed warrior, and delay not your good purpose for one instant.”

Thereupon he left the room with the willing castellan, but he turned back to say, “Sir Knight and your esquire! take good care the while of my sick charge.”

Sintram and Rolf did according to the chaplain’s desire: and when at length their cordials made the pilgrim open his eyes once again, the young knight said to him, with a friendly smile, “Seest thou? thou art come to visit me after all. Why didst thou refuse me when, a few nights ago, I asked thee so earnestly to come? Perhaps I may have spoken wildly and hastily. Did that scare thee away?”

A sudden expression of fear came over the pilgrim’s countenance; but soon he again looked up at Sintram with an air of gentle humility, saying, “0 my dear, dear lord, I am most entirely devoted to you– only never speak to me of former passages between you and me. I am terrified whenever you do it. For, my lord, either I am mad and have forgotten all that is past, or that Being has met you in the wood, whom I look upon as my very powerful twin brother.”

Sintram laid his hand gently on the pilgrim’s mouth, as he answered, “Say nothing more about that matter: I most willingly promise to be silent.”

Neither he nor old Rolf could understand what appeared to them so awful in the whole matter; but both shuddered.

After a short pause the pilgrim said, “I would rather sing you a song–a soft, comforting song. Have you not a lute here?”

Rolf fetched one; and the pilgrim, half-raising himself on the couch, sang the following words:

“When death is coming near,
When thy heart shrinks in fear And thy limbs fail,
Then raise thy hands and pray To Him who smooths thy way
Through the dark vale.

Seest thou the eastern dawn, Hearst thou in the red morn
The angel’s song?
Oh, lift thy drooping head, Thou who in gloom and dread
Hast lain so long.

Death comes to set thee free; Oh, meet him cheerily
As thy true friend,
And all thy fears shall cease, And in eternal peace
Thy penance end.”

“Amen,” said Sintram and Rolf, folding their hands; and whilst the last chords of the lute still resounded, the chaplain and the castellan came slowly and gently into the room. “I bring a precious Christmas gift,” said the priest. “After many sad years, hope of reconciliation and peace of conscience are returning to a noble, disturbed mind. This concerns thee, beloved pilgrim; and do thou, my Sintram, with a joyful trust in God, take encouragement and example from it.”

“More than twenty years ago,” began the castellan, at a sign from the chaplain–“more than twenty years ago I was a bold shepherd, driving my flock up the mountains. A young knight followed me, whom they called Weigand the Slender. He wanted to buy of me my favourite little lamb for his fair bride, and offered me much red gold for it. I sturdily refused. Over-bold youth boiled up in us both. A stroke of his sword hurled me senseless down the precipice.

“Not killed?” asked the pilgrim in a scarce audible voice.

“I am no ghost,” replied the castellan, somewhat morosely; and then, after an earnest look from the priest, he continued, more humbly: “I recovered slowly and in solitude, with the help of remedies which were easily found by me, a shepherd, in our productive valleys. When I came back into the world, no man knew me, with my scarred face, and my now bald head. I heard a report going through the country, that on account of this deed of his, Sir Weigand the Slender had been rejected by his fair betrothed Verena, and how he had pined away, and she had wished to retire into a convent, but her father had persuaded her to marry the great knight Biorn. Then there came a fearful thirst for vengeance into my heart, and I disowned my name, and my kindred, and my home, and entered the service of the mighty Biorn, as a strange wild man, in order that Weigand the Slender should always remain a murderer, and that I might feed on his anguish. So have I fed upon it for all these long years; I have fed frightfully upon his self-imposed banishment, upon his cheerless return home, upon his madness. But to-day–” and hot tears gushed from his eyes–“but to- day God has broken the hardness of my heart; and, dear Sir Weigand, look upon yourself no more as a murderer, and say that you will forgive me, and pray for him who has done you so fearful an injury, and–“

Sobs choked his words. He fell at the feet of the pilgrim, who with tears of joy pressed him to his heart, in token of forgiveness.

CHAPTER 21

The joy of this hour passed from its first overpowering brightness to the calm, thoughtful aspect of daily life; and Weigand, now restored to health, laid aside the mantle with dead men’s bones, saying: “I had chosen for my penance to carry these fearful remains about with me, with the thought that some of them might have belonged to him whom I have murdered. Therefore I sought for them round about, in the deep beds of the mountain-torrents, and in the high nests of the eagles and vultures. And while I was searching, I sometimes–could it have been only an illusion?–seemed to meet a being who was very like myself, but far, far more powerful, and yet still paler and more haggard.”

An imploring look from Sintram stopped the flow of his words. With a gentle smile, Weigand bowed towards him, and said: “You know now all the deep, unutterably deep, sorrow which preyed upon me. My fear of you, and my yearning love for you, are no longer an enigma to your kind heart. For, dear youth, though you may be like your fearful father, you have also the kind, gentle heart of your mother; and its reflection brightens your pallid, stern features, like the glow of a morning sky, which lights up ice-covered mountains and snowy valleys with the soft radiance of joy. But, alas! how long you have lived alone amidst your fellow-creatures! and how long since you have seen your mother, my dearly-loved Sintram!”

“I feel, too, as though a spring were gushing up in the barren wilderness,” replied the youth; “and I should perchance be altogether restored, could I but keep you long with me, and weep with you, dear lord. But I have that within me which says that you will very soon be taken from me.”

“I believe, indeed,” said the pilgrim, “that my late song was very nearly my last, and that it contained a prediction full soon to be accomplished in me. But, as the soul of man is always like the thirsty ground, the more blessings God has bestowed on us, the more earnestly do we look out for new ones; so would I crave for one more before, as I hope, my blessed end. Yet, indeed, it cannot be granted me,” added he, with a faltering voice; “for I feel myself too utterly unworthy of so high a gift.”

“But it will be granted!” said the chaplain, joyfully. “‘He that humbleth himself shall be exalted;’ and I fear not to take one purified from murder to receive a farewell from the holy and forgiving countenance of Verena.”

The pilgrim stretched both his hands up towards heaven and an unspoken thanksgiving poured from his beaming eyes, and brightened the smile that played on his lips.

Sintram looked sorrowfully on the ground, and sighed gently to himself: “Alas! who would dare accompany?”

“My poor, good Sintram,” said the chaplain, in a tone of the softest kindness, “I understand thee well; but the time is not yet come. The powers of evil will again raise up their wrathful heads within thee, and Verena must check both her own and thy longing desires, until all is pure in thy spirit as in hers. Comfort thyself with the thought that God looks mercifully upon thee, and that the joy so earnestly sought for will come–if not here, most assuredly beyond the grave.”

But the pilgrim, as though awaking out of a trance, rose mightily from his seat, and said: “Do you please to come forth with me, reverend chaplain? Before the sun appears in the heavens, we could reach the convent-gates, and I should not be far from heaven.”

In vain did the chaplain and Rolf remind him of his weakness: he smiled, and said that there could be no words about it; and he girded himself, and tuned the lute which he had asked leave to take with him. His decided manner overcame all opposition, almost without words; and the chaplain had already prepared himself for the journey, when the pilgrim looked with much emotion at Sintram, who, oppressed with a strange weariness, had sunk, half-asleep, on a couch, and said: “Wait a moment. I know that he wants me to give him a soft lullaby.” The pleased smile of the youth seemed to say, Yes; and the pilgrim, touching the strings with a light hand, sang these words:

“Sleep peacefully, dear boy; Thy mother sends the song
That whispers round thy couch, To lull thee all night long.
In silence and afar
For thee she ever prays, And longs once more in fondness Upon thy face to gaze.

And when thy waking cometh, Then in thy every deed,
In all that may betide thee, Unto her words give heed.
Oh, listen for her voice, If it be yea or nay;
And though temptation meet thee, Thou shalt not miss the way.

If thou canst listen rightly, And nobly onward go,
Then pure and gentle breezes Around thy cheek shall blow.
Then on thy peaceful journey Her blessing thou shalt feel, And though from thee divided,
Her presence o’er thee steal.

0 safest, sweetest comfort! 0 blest and living light!
That, strong in Heaven’s power, All terrors put to flight!
Rest quietly, sweet child, And may the gentle numbers
Thy mother sends to thee
Waft peace unto thy slumbers.”

Sintram fell into a deep sleep, smiling, and breathing softly. Rolf and the castellan remained by his bed, whilst the two travellers pursued their way in the quiet starlight.

CHAPTER 22

The dawn had almost appeared, when Rolf, who had been asleep, was awakened by low singing; and as he looked round, he perceived, with surprise, that the sounds came from the lips of the castellan, who said, as if in explanation, “So does Sir Weigand sing at the convent- gates, and they are kindly opened to him.” Upon which, old Rolf fell asleep again, uncertain whether what had passed had been a dream or a reality. After a while the bright sunshine awoke him again; and when he rose up, he saw the countenance of the castellan wonderfully illuminated by the red morning rays; and altogether those features, once so fearful, were shining with a soft, nay almost child-like mildness. The mysterious man seemed to be the while listening to the motionless air, as if he were hearing a most pleasant discourse or lofty music; and as Rolf was about to speak, he made him a sign of entreaty to remain quiet, and continued in his eager listening attitude.

At length he sank slowly and contentedly back in his seat, whispering, “God be praised! She has granted his last prayer; he will be laid in the burial-ground of the convent, and now he has forgiven me in the depths of his heart. I can assure you that he finds a peaceful end.”

Rolf did not dare ask a question, or awake his lord; he felt as if one already departed had spoken to him.

The castellan long remained still, always smiling brightly. At last he raised himself a little, again listened, and said, “It is over. The sound of the bells is very sweet. We have overcome. Oh, how soft and easy does the good God make it to us!” And so it came to pass. He stretched himself back as if weary, and his soul was freed from his care-worn body.

Rolf now gently awoke his young knight, and pointed to the smiling dead. And Sintram smiled too; he and his good esquire fell on their knees, and prayed to God for the departed spirit. Then they rose up, and bore the cold body to the vaulted hall, and watched by it with holy candles until the return of the chaplain. That the pilgrim would not come back again, they very well knew.

Accordingly towards mid-day the chaplain returned alone. He could scarcely do more than confirm what was already known to them. He only added a comforting and hopeful greeting from Sintram’s mother to her son, and told that the blissful Weigand had fallen asleep like a tired child, whilst Verena, with calm tenderness, held a crucifix before him.

“And in eternal peace our penance end!”

sang Sintram, gently to himself: and they prepared a last resting place for the now peaceful castellan, and laid him therein with all the due solemn rites.

The chaplain was obliged soon afterwards to depart; but bidding Sintram farewell, he again said kindly to him, “Thy dear mother assuredly knows how gentle and calm and good thou art now!”

CHAPTER 23

In the castle of Sir Biorn of the Fiery Eyes, Christmas-eve had not passed so brightly and happily; but yet, there too all had gone visibly according to God’s will.

Folko, at the entreaty of the lord of the castle, had allowed Gabrielle to support him into the hall; and the three now sat at the round stone table, whereon a sumptuous meal was laid. On either side there were long tables, at which sat the retainers of both knights in full armour, according to the custom of the North. Torches and lamps lighted the lofty hall with an almost dazzling brightness.

Midnight had now begun its solemn reign, and Gabrielle softly reminded her wounded knight to withdraw. Biorn heard her, and said: “You are right, fair lady; our knight needs rest. Only let us first keep up one more old honourable custom.”

And at his sign four attendants brought in with pomp a great boar’s head, which looked as if cut out of solid gold, and placed it in the middle of the stone table. Biorn’s retainers rose with reverence, and took off their helmets; Biorn himself did the same.

“What means this?” asked Folko very gravely.

“What thy forefathers and mine have done on every Yule feast,” answered Biorn. “We are going to make vows on the boar’s head, and then pass the goblet round to their fulfilment.”

“We no longer keep what our ancestors called the Yule feast,” said Folko; “we are good Christians, and we keep holy Christmas-tide.”

“To do the one, and not to leave the other undone,” answered Biorn. “I hold my ancestors too dear to forget their knightly customs. Those who think otherwise may act according to their wisdom, but that shall not hinder me. I swear by the golden boar’s head–” And he stretched out his hand, to lay it solemnly upon it.

But Folko called out, “In the name of our holy Saviour, forbear. Where I am, and still have breath and will, none shall celebrate undisturbed the rites of the wild heathens.”

Biorn of the Fiery Eyes glared angrily at him. The men of the two barons separated from each other, with a hollow sound of rattling armour, and ranged themselves in two bodies on either side of the hall, each behind its leader. Already here and there helmets were fastened and visors closed.

“Bethink thee yet what thou art doing,” said Biorn. “I was about to vow an eternal union with the house of Montfaucon, nay, even to bind myself to do it grateful homage; but if thou disturb me in the customs which have come to me from my forefathers, look to thy safety and the safety of all that is dear to thee. My wrath no longer knows any bounds.”

Folko made a sign to the pale Gabrielle to retire behind his followers, saying to her, “Be of good cheer, my noble wife, weaker Christians have braved, for the sake of God and of His holy Church, greater dangers than now seem to threaten us. Believe me, the Lord of Montfaucon is not so easily ensnared.”

Gabrielle obeyed, something comforted by Folko’s fearless smile, but this smile inflamed yet more the fury of Biorn. He again stretched out his hand towards the boar’s head, as if about to make some dreadful vow, when Folko snatched a gauntlet of Biorn’s off the table, with which he, with his unwounded left arm, struck so powerful a blow on the gilt idol, that it fell crashing to the ground, shivered to pieces. Biorn and his followers stood as if turned to stone. But soon swords were grasped by armed hands, shields were taken down from the walls, and an angry, threatening murmur sounded through the hall.

At a sign from Folko, a battle-axe was brought him by one of his faithful retainers; he swung it high in air with his powerful left hand, and stood looking like an avenging angel as he spoke these words through the tumult with awful calmness: “What seek ye, 0 deluded Northman? What wouldst thou, sinful lord? Ye are indeed become heathens; and I hope to show you, by my readiness for battle, that it is not in my right arm alone that God has put strength for victory. But if ye can yet hear, listen to my words. Biorn, on this same accursed, and now, by God’s help, shivered boar’s head, thou didst lay thy hand when thou didst swear to sacrifice any inhabitants of the German towns that should fall into thy power. And Gotthard Lenz came, and Rudlieb came, driven on these shores by the storm. What didst thou then do, 0 savage Biorn? What did ye do at his bidding, ye who were keeping the Yule feast with him? Try your fortune on me. The Lord will be with me, as He was with those holy men. To arms, and–” (he turned to his warriors) “let our battle-cry be Gotthard and Rudlieb!”

Then Biorn let drop his drawn sword, then his followers paused, and none among the Norwegians dared lift his eyes from the ground. By degrees, they one by one began to disappear from the hall; and at last Biorn stood quite alone opposite to the baron and his followers. He seemed hardly aware that he had been deserted, but he fell on his knees, stretched out his shining sword, pointed to the broken boar’s head, and said, “Do with me as you have done with that; I deserve no better. I ask but one favour, only one; do not disgrace me, noble baron, by seeking shelter in another castle of Norway.”

“I fear you not,” answered Folko, after some thought; “and, as far as may be, I freely forgive you.” Then he drew the sign of the cross over the wild form of Biorn, and left the hall with Gabrielle. The retainers of the house of Montfaucon followed him proudly and silently.

The hard spirit of the fierce lord of the castle was now quite broken, and he watched with increased humility every look of Folko and Gabrielle. But they withdrew more and more into the happy solitude of their own apartments, where they enjoyed, in the midst of the sharp winter, a bright spring-tide of happiness. The wounded condition of Folko did not hinder the evening delights of songs and music and poetry–but rather a new charm was added to them when the tall, handsome knight leant on the arm of his delicate lady, and they thus, changing as it were their deportment and duties, walked slowly through the torch-lit halls, scattering their kindly greetings like flowers among the crowds of men and women.

All this time little or nothing was heard of poor Sintram. The last wild outbreak of his father had increased the terror with which Gabrielle remembered the self-accusations of the youth; and the more resolutely Folko kept silence, the more did she bode some dreadful mystery. Indeed, a secret shudder came over the knight when he thought on the pale, dark-haired youth. Sintram’s repentance had bordered on settled despair; no one knew even what he was doing in the fortress of evil report on the Rocks of the Moon. Strange rumours were brought by the retainers who had fled from it, that the evil spirit had obtained complete power over Sintram, that no man could stay with him, and that the fidelity of the dark mysterious castellan had cost him his life.

Folko could hardly drive away the fearful suspicion that the lonely young knight was become a wicked magician.

And perhaps, indeed, evil spirits did flit about the banished Sintram, but it was without his calling them up. In his dreams he often saw the wicked enchantress Venus, in her golden chariot drawn by winged cats, pass over the battlements of the stone fortress, and heard her say, mocking him, ‘Foolish Sintram, foolish Sintram! hadst thou but obeyed the little Master! Thou wouldst now be in Helen’s arms, and the Rocks of the Moon would be called the Rocks of Love, and the stone fortress would be the garden of roses. Thou wouldst have lost thy pale face and dark hair,–for thou art only enchanted, dear youth,–and thine eyes would have beamed more softly, and thy cheeks bloomed more freshly, and thy hair would have been more golden than was that of Prince Paris when men wondered at his beauty. Oh, how Helen would have loved thee!” Then she showed him in a mirror, how, as a marvellously beautiful knight, he knelt before Gabrielle, who sank into his arms blushing as the morning. When he awoke from such dreams, he would seize eagerly the sword and scarf given him by his lady,–as a shipwrecked man seizes the plank which is to save him; and while the hot tears fell on them, he would murmur to himself, “There was, indeed, one hour in my sad life when I was worthy and happy.”

Once he sprang up at midnight after one of these dreams, but this time with more thrilling horror; for it had seemed to him that the features of the enchantress Venus had changed towards the end of her speech, as she looked down upon him with marvellous scorn, and she appeared to him as the hideous little Master. The youth had no better means of calming his distracted mind than to throw the sword and scarf of Gabrielle over his shoulders, and to hasten forth under the solemn starry canopy of the wintry sky. He walked in deep thought backwards and forwards under the leafless oaks and the snow- laden firs which grew on the high ramparts.

Then he heard a sorrowful cry of distress sound from the moat; it was as if some one were attempting to sing, but was stopped by inward grief. Sintram exclaimed, “Who’s there?” and all was still. When he was silent, and again began his walk, the frightful groanings and moanings were heard afresh, as if they came from a dying person. Sintram overcame the horror which seemed to hold him back, and began in silence to climb down into the deep dry moat which was cut in the rock. He was soon so low down that he could no longer see the stars shining; beneath him moved a shrouded form; and sliding with involuntary haste down the steep descent, he stood near the groaning figure; it ceased its lamentations, and began to laugh like a maniac from beneath its long, folded, female garments.

“Oh ho, my comrade! oh ho, my comrade! wert thou going a little too fast? Well, well, it is all right; and see now, thou standest no higher than I, my pious, valiant youth! Take it patiently,–take it patiently!”

“What dost thou want with me? Why dost thou laugh? why dost thou weep?” asked Sintram impatiently.

“I might ask thee the same questions,” answered the dark figure, “and thou wouldst be less able to answer me than I to answer thee. Why dost thou laugh? why dost thou weep?–Poor creature! But I will show thee a remarkable thing in thy fortress, of which thou knowest nothing. Give heed!”

And the shrouded figure began to scratch and scrape at the stones till a little iron door opened, and showed a long passage which led into the deep darkness.

“Wilt thou come with me?” whispered the strange being; “it is the shortest way to thy father’s castle. In half-an-hour we shall come out of this passage, and we shall be in thy beauteous lady’s apartment. Duke Menelaus shall lie in a magic sleep,–leave that to me,–and then thou wilt take the slight, delicate form in thine arms, and bring her to the Rocks of the Moon; so thou wilt win back all that seemed lost by thy former wavering.”

Sintram trembled visibly, fearfully shaken to and fro by the fever of passion and the stings of conscience. But at last, pressing the sword and scarf to his heart, he cried out, “Oh! that fairest, most glorious hour of my life! If I lose all other joys, I will hold fast that brightest hour!”

“A bright, glorious hour!” said the figure from under its veil, like an evil echo. “Dost thou know whom thou then conqueredst? A good old friend, who only showed himself so sturdy to give thee the glory of overcoming him. Wilt thou convince thyself? Wilt thou look?”

The dark garments of the little figure flew open, and the dwarf warrior in strange armour, the gold horns on his helmet, and the curved spear in his hand, the very same whom Sintram thought he had slain on Niflung’s Heath, now stood before him and laughed: “Thou seest, my youth, everything in the wide world is but dreams and froth; wherefore hold fast the dream which delights thee, and sip up the froth which refreshes thee! Hasten to that underground passage, it leads up to thy angel Helen. Or wouldst thou first know thy friend yet better?”

His visor opened, and the hateful face of the little Master glared upon the knight. Sintram asked, as if in a dream, “Art thou also that wicked enchantress Venus?”

“Something like her,” answered the little Master, laughing, “or rather she is something like me. And if thou wilt only get disenchanted, and recover the beauty of Prince of Paris,–then, 0 Prince Paris,” and his voice changed to an alluring song, “then, 0 Prince Paris, I shall be fair like thee!”

At this moment the good Rolf appeared above on the rampart; a consecrated taper in his lantern shone down into the moat, as he sought for the missing young knight. “In God’s name, Sir Sintram,” he called out, “what has the spectre of whom you slew on Niflung’s Heath, and whom I never could bury, to do with you?”

“Seest thou well? hearest thou well?” whispered the little Master, and drew back into the darkness of the underground passage. “The wise man up there knows me well. There was nothing in thy heroic feat. Come, take the joys of life while thou mayst.”

But Sintram sprang back, with a strong effort, into the circle of light made by the shining of the taper from above, and cried out, “Depart from me, unquiet spirit! I know well that I bear a name on me in which thou canst have no part.”

Little Master rushed in fear and rage into the passage, and, yelling, shut the iron door behind him. It seemed as if he could still be heard groaning and roaring.

Sintram climbed up the wall of the moat, and made a sign to his foster-father not to speak to him: he only said, “One of my best joys, yes, the very best, has been taken from me; but, by God’s help, I am not yet lost.”

In the earliest light of the following morning, he and Rolf stopped up the entrance to the perilous passage with huge blocks of stone.

CHAPTER 24

The long northern winter was at last ended, the fresh green leaves rustled merrily in the woods, patches of soft moss twinkled amongst the rocks, the valleys grew green, the brooks sparkled, the snow melted from all but the highest mountain-tops, and the bark which was ready to carry away Folko and Gabrielle danced on the sunny waves of the sea. The baron, now quite recovered, and strong and fresh as though his health had sustained no injury, stood one morning on the shore with his fair lady; and, full of glee at the prospect of returning to their home, the noble pair looked on well pleased at their attendants who were busied in lading the ship.

Then said one of them in the midst of a confused sound of talking: “But what has appeared to me the most fearful and the most strange thing in this northern land is the stone fortress on the Rocks of the Moon: I have never, indeed, been inside it, but when I used to see it in our huntings, towering above the tall fir-trees, there came a tightness over my breast, as if something unearthly were dwelling in it. And a few weeks ago, when the snow was yet lying hard in the valleys, I came unawares quite close upon the strange building. The young knight Sintram was walking alone on the ramparts as twilight came on, like the spirit of a departed knight, and he drew from the lute which he carried such soft, melancholy tones, and he sighed so deeply and sorrowfully. . . .”

The voice of the speaker was drowned in the noise of the crowd, and as he also just then reached the ship with his package hastily fastened up, Folko and Gabrielle could not hear the rest of his speech. But the fair lady looked on her knight with eyes dim with tears, and sighed: “Is it not behind those mountains that the Rocks of the Moon lie? The unhappy Sintram makes me sad at heart.”

“I understand thee, sweet gracious lady, and the pure compassion of thy heart,” replied Folko; instantly ordering his swift-footed steed to be brought. He placed his noble lady under the charge of his retainers, and leaping into the saddle, he hastened, followed by the grateful smiles of Gabrielle, along the valley towards the stone fortress.

Sintram was seated near the drawbridge, touching the strings of the lute, and shedding some tears on the golden chords, almost as Montfaucon’s esquire had described him. Suddenly a cloudy shadow passed over him, and he looked up, expecting to see a flight of cranes in the air; but the sky was clear and blue. While the young knight was still wondering, a long bright spear fell at his feet from a battlement of the armoury turret.

“Take it up,–make good use of it! thy foe is near at hand! Near also is the downfall of thy dearest happiness.” Thus he heard it distinctly whispered in his ear; and it seemed to him that he saw the shadow of the little Master glide close by him to a neighbouring cleft in the rock. But at the same time also, a tall, gigantic, haggard figure passed along the valley, in some measure like the departed pilgrim, only much, very much, larger, and he raised his long bony arm fearfully threatening, then disappeared in an ancient tomb.

At the very same instant Sir Folko of Montfaucon came swiftly as the wind up the Rocks of the Moon, and he must have seen something of those strange apparitions, for as he stopped close behind Sintram, he looked rather pale, and asked low and earnestly: “Sir knight, who are those two with whom you were just now holding converse here?”

“The good God knows,” answered Sintram; ” I know them not.”

“If the good God does but know!” cried Montfaucon: “but I fear me that He knows very little more of you or your deeds.”

“You speak strangely harsh words,” said Sintram. “Yet ever since that evening of misery,–alas! and even long before,–I must bear with all that comes from you. Dear sir, you may believe me, I know not those fearful companions; I call them not, and I know not what terrible curse binds them to my footsteps. The merciful God, as I would hope, is mindful of me the while,–as a faithful shepherd does not forget even the worst and most widely-straying of his flock, but calls after it with an anxious voice in the gloomy wilderness.”

Then the anger of the baron was quite melted. Two bright tears stood in his eyes, and he said: “No, assuredly, God has not forgotten thee; only do thou not forget thy gracious God. I did not come to rebuke thee–I came to bless thee in Gabrielle’s name and in my own. The Lord preserve thee, the Lord guide thee, the Lord lift thee up! And, Sintram, on the far-off shores of Normandy I shall bear thee in mind, and I shall hear how thou strugglest against the curse which weighs down thy unhappy life; and if thou ever shake it off, and stand as a noble conqueror over Sin and Death, then thou shalt receive from me a token of love and reward, more precious then either thou or I can understand at this moment.”

The words flowed prophetically from the baron’s lips; he himself was only half-conscious of what he said. With a kind salutation he turned his noble steed, and again flew down the valley towards the sea-shore.

“Fool, fool! thrice a fool!” whispered the angry voice of the little Master in Sintram’s ear. But old Rolf was singing his morning hymn in clear tones within the castle, and the last lines were these:-

“Whom worldlings scorn,
Who lives forlorn,
On God’s own word doth rest; With heavenly light
His path is bright,
His lot among the blest.”

Then a holy joy took possession of Sintram’s heart, and he looked around him yet more gladly than in the hour when Gabrielle gave him the scarf and sword, and Folko dubbed him knight.

CHAPTER 25

The baron and his lovely lady were sailing across the broad sea with favouring gales of spring, nay the coast of Normandy had already appeared above the waves; but still was Biorn of the Fiery Eye sitting gloomy and speechless in his castle. He had taken no leave of his guests. There was more of proud fear of Montfaucon than of reverential love for him in his soul, especially since the adventure with the boar’s head; and the thought was bitter to his haughty spirit, that the great baron, the flower and glory of their whole race, should have come in peace to visit him, and should now be departing in displeasure, in stern reproachful displeasure. He had it constantly before his mind, and it never failed to bring fresh pangs, the remembrance of how all had come to pass, and how all might have gone otherwise; and he was always fancying he could hear the songs in which after generations would recount this voyage of the great Folko, and the worthlessness of the savage Biorn. At length, full of fierce anger, he cast away the fetters of his troubled spirit, he burst out of the castle with all his horsemen, and began to carry on a warfare more fearful and more lawless than any in which he had yet been engaged.

Sintram heard the sound of his father’s war-horn; and committing the stone fortress to old Rolf, he sprang forth ready armed for the combat. But the flames of the cottages and farms on the mountains rose up before him, and showed him, written as if in characters of fire, what kind of war his father was waging. Yet he went on towards the spot where the army was mustered, but only to offer his mediation, affirming that he would not lay his hand on his good sword in so abhorred a service, even though the stone fortress, and his father’s castle besides, should fall before the vengeance of their enemies. Biorn hurled the spear which he held in his hand against his son with mad fury. The deadly weapon whizzed past him: Sintram remained standing with his visor raised, he did not move one limb in his defence, when he said: “Father, do what you will; but I join not in your godless warfare.”

Biorn of the Fiery Eyes laughed scornfully: “It seems I am always to have a spy over me here; my son succeeds to the dainty French knight!” But nevertheless he came to himself, accepted Sintram’s mediation, made amends for the injuries he had done, and returned gloomily to his castle. Sintram went back to the Rocks of the Moon.

Such occurrences were frequent after that time. It went so far that Sintram came to be looked upon as the protector of all those whom his father pursued with relentless fury; but nevertheless sometimes his own wildness would carry the young knight away to accompany his fierce father in his fearful deeds. Then Biorn used to laugh with horrible pleasure, and to say: “See there, my son, how the flames we have lighted blaze up from the villages, as the blood spouts up from the wounds our swords have made! It is plain to me, however much thou mayst pretend to the contrary, that thou art, and wilt ever remain, my true and beloved heir!”

After thus fearfully erring, Sintram could find no comfort but in hastening to the chaplain of Drontheim, and confessing to him his misery and his sins. The chaplain would freely absolve him, after due penance and repentance, and again raise up the broken-hearted youth; but would often say: “Oh, how nearly hadst thou reached thy last trial, and gained the victory, and looked on Verena’s countenance, and atoned for all! Now thou hast thrown thyself back for years. Think, my son, on the shortness of man’s life; if thou art always falling back anew, how wilt thou ever gain the summit on this side the grave?”

Years came and went, and Biorn’s hair was white as snow, and the youth Sintram had reached the middle age. Old Rolf was now scarcely able to leave the stone fortress; and sometimes he said: “I feel it a burden that my life should yet be prolonged; but also there is much comfort in it, for I still think the good God has in store for me here below some great happiness; and it must be something in which you are concerned, my beloved Sir Sintram, for what else in the whole world could rejoice me?”

But all remained as it was, and Sintram’s fearful dreams at Christmas-time each year rather increased than diminished in horror. Again the holy season was drawing near, and the mind of the sorely afflicted knight was more troubled than ever before. Sometimes, if he had been reckoning up the nights till it should come, a cold sweat would stand on his forehead, while he said, “Mark my words, dear old foster-father, this time something most awfully decisive lies before me.”

One evening he felt an overwhelming anxiety about his father. It seemed to him that the Prince of Darkness was going up to Biorn’s castle; and in vain did Rolf remind him that the snow was lying deep in the valleys, in vain did he suggest that the knight might be overtaken by his frightful dreams in the lonely mountains during the night-time. “Nothing can be worse to me than remaining here would be,” replied Sintram.

He took his horse from the stable and rode forth in the gathering darkness. The noble steed slipped and stumbled and fell in the trackless way, but his rider always raised him up, and urged him only more swiftly and eagerly towards the object which he longed and yet dreaded to reach. Nevertheless he might never have arrived at it had not his faithful hound Skovmark kept with him. The dog sought out the lost track for his beloved master, and invited him into it with joyous barkings, and warned him by his howls against precipices and treacherous ice under the snow. Thus they arrived about midnight at Biorn’s castle. The windows of the hall shone opposite to them with a brilliant light, as though some great feast were kept there, and confused sounds, as of singing, met their ears. Sintram gave his horse hastily to some retainers in the court-yard, and ran up the steps, whilst Skovmark stayed by the well-known horse.

A good esquire came towards Sintram within the castle and said, “God be praised, my dear master, that you are come; for surely nothing good is going on above. But take heed to yourself also, and be not deluded. Your father has a guest with him,–and, as I think–a hateful one.”

Sintram shuddered as he threw open the doors. A little man in the dress of a miner was sitting with his back towards him. The armour had been for some time past again ranged round the stone table, so that only two places were left empty. The seat opposite the door had been taken by Biorn of the Fiery Eyes; and the dazzling light of the torches fell upon his features with so red a flare, that he perfectly enacted that fearful surname.

“Father, whom have you here with you?” cried Sintram; and his suspicions rose to certainty as the miner turned round, and the detestable face of the little Master grinned from under his dark hood.

“Yes, just see, my fair son,” said the wild Biorn; “thou hast not been here for a long while,–and so to-night this jolly comrade has paid me a visit, and thy place has been taken. But throw one of the suits of armour out of the way, and put a seat for thyself instead of it,–and come and drink with us, and be merry.”

“Yes, do so, Sir Sintram,” said the little Master, with a laugh. “Nothing worse could come of it than that the broken pieces of armour might clatter somewhat strangely together, or at most that the disturbed spirit of him to whom the suit belonged might look over your shoulder; but he would not drink up any of our wine–ghosts have nothing to do with that. So now fall to!”

Biorn joined in the laughter of the hideous stranger with wild mirth; and while Sintram was mustering up his whole strength not to lose his senses at so terrible words, and was fixing a calm, steady look on the little Master’s face, the old man cried out, “Why dost thou look at him so? Does it seem as though thou sawest thyself in a mirror? Now that you are together, I do not see it so much; but a while ago I thought that you were like enough to each other to be mistaken.”

“God forbid!” said Sintram, walking up close to the fearful apparition: “I command thee, detestable stranger, to depart from this castle, in right of my authority as my father’s heir,–as a consecrated knight and as a spirit!”

Biorn seemed as if he wished to oppose himself to this command with all his savage might. The little Master muttered to himself, “Thou art not by any means the master in this house, pious knight; thou hast never lighted a fire on this hearth.” Then Sintram drew the sword which Gabrielle had given him, held the cross of the hilt before the eyes of his evil guest, and said, calmly, but with a powerful voice, “Worship or fly!” And he fled, the frightful stranger,–he fled with such lightning speed, that it could scarcely be seen whether he had sprung through the window or the door. But in going he overthrew some of the armour, the tapers went out, and it seemed that the pale blue flame which lighted up the whole in a marvellous manner gave a fulfilment to the little Master’s former words: and that the spirits of those to whom the armour had belonged were leaning over the table, grinning fearfully.

Both the father and the son were filled with horror; but each chose an opposite way to save himself. Biorn wished to have his hateful guest back again; and the power of his will was seen when the little Master’s step resounded anew on the stairs, and his brown shrivelled hand shook the lock of the door. On the other hand, Sintram ceased not to say within himself, “We are lost, if he come back! We are lost to all eternity, if he come back!” And he fell on his knees, and prayed fervently from his troubled heart to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Then the little Master left the door, and again Biorn willed him to return, and again Sintram’s prayers drove him away. So went on this strife of wills throughout the long night; and howling whirlwinds raged the while around the castle, till all the household thought the end of the world was come.

At length the dawn of morning appeared through the windows of the hall,–the fury of the storm was lulled,–Biorn sank back powerless in slumber on his seat,–peace and hope came to the inmates of the castle,–and Sintram, pale and exhausted, went out to breathe the dewy air of the mild winter’s morning before the castle-gates.

CHAPTER 26

The faithful Skovmark followed his master, caressing him; and when Sintram fell asleep on a stone seat in the wall, he lay at his feet, keeping watchful guard. Suddenly he pricked up his ears, looked round with delight, and bounded joyfully down the mountain. Just afterwards the chaplain of Drontheim appeared amongst the rocks, and the good beast went up to him as if to greet him, and then again ran back to the knight to announce the welcome visitor.

Sintram opened his eyes, as a child whose Christmas gifts have been placed at his bedside. For the chaplain smiled at him as he had never yet seen him smile. There was in it a token of victory and blessing, or at least of the near approach of both. “Thou hast done much yesterday, very much,” said the holy priest; and his hands were joined, and his eyes full of bright tears. “I praise God for thee, my noble knight. Verena knows all, and she too praises God for thee. I do indeed now dare hope that the time will soon come when thou mayst appear before her. But Sintram, Sir Sintram, there is need of haste; for the old man above requires speedy air, and thou hast still a heavy–as I hope the last–yet a most heavy trial to undergo for his sake. Arm thyself, my knight, arm thyself even with bodily weapons. In truth, this time only spiritual armour is needed, but it always befits a knight, as well as a monk, to wear in decisive moments the entire solemn garb of his station. If it so please thee, we will go directly to Drontheim together. Thou must return thence to-night. Such is a part of the hidden decree, which has been dimly unfolded to Verena’s foresight. Here there is yet much that is wild and distracting, and thou hast great need to-day of calm preparation.”

With humble joy Sintram bowed his assent, and called for his horse and for a suit of armour. “Only,” added he, “let not any of that armour be brought which was last night overthrown in the hall!”

His orders were quickly obeyed. The arms which were fetched, adorned with fine engraved work, the simple helmet, formed rather like that of an esquire than a knight, the lance of almost gigantic size, which belonged to the suit–on all these the chaplain gazed in deep thought and with melancholy emotion. At last, when Sintram, with the help of his esquires, was well-nigh equipped, the holy priest spoke:

“Wonderful providence of God! See, dear Sintram, this armour and this spear were formerly those of Sir Weigand the Slender, and with them he did many mighty deeds. When he was tended by your mother in the castle, and when even your father still showed himself kind towards him, he asked, as a favour, that his armour and his lance should be allowed to hang in Biorn’s armoury–Weigand himself, as you well know, intended to build a cloister and to live there as a monk– and he put his old esquire’s helmet with it, instead of another, because he was yet wearing that one when he first saw the fair Verena’s angelic face. How wondrously does it now come to pass, that these very arms, which have so long been laid aside, should be brought to you for the decisive hour of your life! To me, as far as my short-sighted human wisdom can tell,–to me it seems truly a very solemn token, but one full of high and glorious promise.”

Sintram stood now in complete array, composed and stately, and, from his tall slender figure, might have been taken for a youth, had not the deep lines of care which furrowed his countenance shown him to be advanced in years.

“Who has placed boughs on the head of my war-horse?” asked Sintram of the esquires, with displeasure. “I am not a conqueror, nor a wedding-guest. And besides, there are no boughs now but those red and yellow crackling oak-leaves, dull and dead like the season itself.”

“Sir Knight, I know not myself,” answered an esquire; “but it seemed to me that it must be so.”

“Let it be,” said the chaplain. “I feel that this also comes as a token full of meaning from the right source.”

Then the knight threw himself into his saddle; the priest went beside him; and they both rode slowly and silently towards Drontheim. The faithful dog followed his master. When the lofty castle of Drontheim appeared in sight, a gentle smile spread itself over Sintram’s countenance, like sunshine over a wintry valley. “God has done great things for me,” said he. “I once rushed from here, a fearfully wild boy; I now come back a penitent man. I trust that it will yet go well with my poor troubled life.”

The chaplain assented kindly, and soon afterwards the travellers passed under the echoing vaulted gateway into the castle-yard. At a sign from the priest, the retainers approached with respectful haste, and took charge of the horse; then he and Sintram went through long winding passages and up many steps to the remote chamber which the chaplain had chosen for himself; far away from the noise of men, and near to the clouds and the stars. There the two passed a quiet day in devout prayer, and earnest reading of Holy Scripture.

When the evening began to close in, the chaplain arose and said: “And now, my knight, get ready thy horse, and mount and ride back again to thy father’s castle. A toilsome way lies before thee, and I dare not go with you. But I can and will call upon the Lord for you all through the long fearful night. 0 beloved instrument of the Most High, thou wilt yet not be lost!”

Thrilling with strange forebodings, but nevertheless strong and vigorous in spirit, Sintram did according to the holy man’s desire. The sun set as the knight approached a long valley, strangely shut in by rocks, through which lay the road to his father’s castle.

CHAPTER 27

Before entering the rocky pass, the knight, with a prayer and thanksgiving, looked back once more at the castle of Drontheim. There it was, so vast and quiet and peaceful; the bright windows of the chaplain’s high chamber yet lighted up by the last gleam of the sun, which had already disappeared. In front of Sintram was the gloomy valley, as if his grave. Then there came towards him some one riding on a small horse; and Skovmark, who had gone up to the stranger as if to find out who he was, now ran back with his tail between his legs and his ears put back, howling and whining, and crept, terrified, under his master’s war-horse. But even the noble steed appeared to have forgotten his once so fearless and warlike ardour. He trembled violently, and when the knight would have turned him towards the stranger, he reared and snorted and plunged, and began to throw himself backwards. It was only with difficulty that Sintram’s strength and horsemanship got the better of him; and he was all white with foam when Sintram came up to the unknown traveller.

“You have cowardly beasts with you,” said the latter, in a low, smothered voice.

Sintram was unable, in the ever-increasing darkness, rightly to distinguish what kind of being he saw before him; only a very pallid face, which at first he had thought was covered with freshly fallen snow, met his eyes from amidst the long hanging garments. It seemed that the stranger carried a small box wrapped up; his little horse, as if wearied out, bent his head down towards the ground, whereby a bell, which hung from the wretched torn bridle under his neck, was made to give a strange sound. After a short silence, Sintram replied: “Noble steeds avoid those of a worse race, because they are ashamed of them; and the boldest dogs are attacked by a secret terror at sight of forms to which they are not accustomed. I have no cowardly beasts with me.”

“Good, sir knight; then ride with me through the valley.”

“I am going through the valley, but I want no companions.”