« AnteriorContinuar »
flash of the exhausted and thinning But be it what it might, I found cloud, darkness had resumed her that it had made us all grave, and I “ leaden sceptre o'er the drowsy proposed calling in the landlord, if he world.” The storm bad been fairly should be still out of bed, to tell us tired out, and the grim coronal of what he knew of the matter. The Durrenstein was distinguishable only little hall was dark as the night itself, by the phosphoric glimmer of the tor- and while I was feeling my way, awkrent still tumbling down the front of wardly enough, along the walls, my the mountain.
foot struck against a heavy human inI was suddenly recalled from my cumbrance towards the end of the view by a general exclamation passage, which a groan and a few exAcross the ceiling, which had hitherto clamations of alarm told me was the looked as black as its pitch-pine raft- valorous Herr Michael. I raised ers could have made it, the procession him up, and convincing him, with of knights and dames was again glit- some difficulty, that I was not among tering, and in the rear of the proces- the spectral visitors of his sins of innsion moved a shape that we all with keeping, I rather carried than led him one voice pronounced to be the Red in to our festal room, which, however, Woman of Durrenstein herself, or had now become as silent as any sepulsomething worse, if our gallantry chre in the Abbey of Molk. The would allow us to conceive it invested Herr was a most reluctant witness, in the female garb. The shape was and nothing but the most persevering covered from head to foot with a cloak cross examination could extort an of the most powerfully sanguine col- idea from his intense solidity of skull. or; but under the hood looked out a He was evidently afraid of the disface, which, whether it was fact, or astrous reputation of keeping a ghostthe heated fancy of gentlemen loving ly house, which would have prohibited their wine “ not wisely but to well,” for ever the sale of the very considercontained all the ingredients of hazard able quantity of damaged Bavarian to hearts and heads. It was exces- beer, that, mixed with Vienna brandy, sively lovely, but with a pair of wild, made his staple. Not a peasant and deep eyes, that gleamed like the would have been guilty of the immovery seats of unhappy mystery. She rality of getting drunk under the roof came glittering in prismatic beauty of a landlord who had dealings with from the darkness, like the kings and ghosts; and the result to the Herr magicians of Rembrandt, and grew upon Michael would, as he pathetically obus until the eye absolutely shrunk served, “ be worse than purgatory, from her concentrated lustre.
inasmuch as masses, though they may The German 'exclaimed, that take a man out of future fire, were “ Frauenhoffer himself would be puz- never yet able to take him out of jail.” zled to make such a magic lantern: At length he acknowledged that sights he would lay ten to one on the point of the kind which had perplexed us, with any man.”
had made his life miserable every year The Italian said, that he had since he had taken this “gasthaus;” seen nothing so bright since the last that an anniversary storm, enough eruption of Vesuvius, nor so beautiful to tear the skies down, had attended since the last illumination of St.Peters.” certain sounds and appearances, of
The Frenchman was unnationally which he dreaded to speak, and of silent, and sat, with his eyes alter- which, indeed, he knew “ little more nately turned on the vision and the than that they generally made him in stranger, who had leaned his head on capable of examining at the time, or the table, and who, but for a broken wishing to examine them at any time word now and then, I should have after, as long as he lived.” supposed to be asleep, in quiet con- The spectre upon the ceiling had tempt of our phantom.
ly showed the outline. But no per- burst into tears. We now altogether suasion could induce the shuddering decided on what must have been the landlord to presume so much as to cause of his illness, and entreated him survey even this diminished majesty to go to rest, or at least lie down on our of terror. He stood leaning his huge cloaks before the fire. But he resistbulk on his hands, his hands on the ed our nursing with almost passionate table, and his eyes invincibly shut. obstinacy, contended that he never Farther inquiry was useless with a was better in his life, sang a popular boor half dead with fright; and we chanson to prove his updiminished unanimously voted his dismissal, gaiety, and, after this display, in a which he accepted with great grati- voice quivering and dissonant with tude, imploring, in the humblest terms, weakness, he began to tell his stories that the subject of the night “ should of the court with laborious vivacity. never be mentioned, as it could be But the charm was at an end ; and mentioned only to his undoing.”
though I, as the entertainer, kept my As he was blindly turning away, seat, my guests gave palpable symppiloting himself by his hands, he rath- toms of a wish to consult their piler abruptly touched the stranger, who lows. started on his feet with an angry in- But the German, who led the way terjection, and gazed round for the in those natural though ungracious offender. But whatever might be his signs of weariness, which have cut surprise, it could not have been supe- short the periods of many an orator, rior to ours. Never did I see such a had scarcely accomplished his prochange in the human countenance in foundest yawn, when our invalid, so short a period. Ten minutes be- starting from his chair, begged that he fore, when he laid his head on the ta- might be permitted to caution « that ble, he was one of the handsomest gentleman, or any of us, who should men that I had seen in Germany ; in be imprudent enough to think of sleepthe vigor of life, with a peculiarly ing before day, against the hazards of bright eye, a high-colored cheek, eve- that night of all nights in the year.'' ry feature full of health ; the whole Here was something for our curiosipbysiognomy like that of a gallant and ty, and we waited for the disclosure animated soldier, bronzed by cam- with undissembled impatience. paigning. Yet, but for his sitting in “You saw me, Sir, I believe,” adthe same seat, I could not possibly dressing himself to me, as the host, have known the man who now sent “ under rather singular circumstances his ghastly glare upon us. His fine this evening, of which you can probaItalian eyes were hollow and dim; his bly give a much better account than I color was leaden; his cheek hollow can, for the whole passed before me and wrinkled ; and when, in answer rather like a dream than any thing to the general inquiry, “ whether he else. I am in the military service of was ill ?” which might have naturally the King of Bavaria ; and, during the occurred from his drenching in the summer furlough of my regiment, of torrent, he attempted to make some which I am colonel, finding the heat acknowledgment, the tremor and al- of the lower country oppressive, I most idiotic difficulty of his utterance have been a great deal in the habit of were painful to the ear. Fifty years shooting among the mountains. Last had passed over him in these fifteen year, a little later in the season, I minutes.
happened to be in this neighborhood, He tried to laugh off his embar- which I found in great confusion, in rassment ; but it would not do. His consequence of some strange appearlaugh was even more painful than his ances, on this 29th of September, speech; and, after an effort equally which were followed by not less violent and abortive to recover his strange results upon a hunting party ground, he sank back on his seat, and of nobles, who had treated the popu
lar belief on the subject with a too that I had promised to meet and hold ostentatious contempt. Insanity was, at defiance. How I felt at the moin some instances, the unquestionable ment, I have no power to explain. I result. In others, a succession of ec- hope that, on all suitable occasions, I centric notions of having lost valuable should not want nerve ; but the sensaproperty, of having seen extraordina- tion was less like any thing that I could ry displays of juggling, of having call alarm, than a feeling of complete drank some medicated liquors, which helplessness. In the perfect posseslong bewildered them and so forth. sion of my senses and my understand In short, the peasantry were, as usual, ing, I yet found that the physical full of histories of the preternatural powers were extinguished-perfectly vengeance taken on the scorners, and paralyzed ; as if flesh and blood were fuller than ever of the marvellous not made to abide the presence of power of the Red Woman of Dur- such a being. I sat gazing on her as renstein.
she advanced. I could not bave spo“ Hating superstition of all kinds, ken, nor moved a muscle, for the I was wise enough to attempt bringing crown of Austria. Her words were the peasantry to reason; but as argu- brief, and in a tone of singular mildment was soon hopeless, I pledged ness, yet which penetrated me like a myself to be upon the spot of en- cold weapon. She reproved me · for chantment, the very centre of the the haughty presumption which had witch's kingdom, on the next 29th doubted of her power, and declared, day of September, and there in per- as a sign of her displeasure, that, when son to sbow the absurdity of the whole next I saw her, I should know that story.
she was come for vengeance.' “I have now been in the moun- “ She vanished even while my eyes tains a week; the peasantry had gene- were fixed on her—the solid wall of ral notice of my determination to rock received her, and she was gone. outface the Lady of the Rock. Ma- What was scarcely less surprising to ny an entreaty was made to me to re- me, was the sudden recovery of my linquish the unhallowed hazard, and limbs. Their past feebleness seemed many a prayer followed me, when, in to be made up for by supernatural the sight of the population of a dozen strength : at all events, whether in the villages, I set out this morning. The strength of frenzy or terror, I darted true time to reach the Durrenstein is from the cavern, sprang the precipice, midnight ; but the storm drove me out and swam the torrent-to any one of of my covert to find shelter where which no bribe of earth could have best I could. Turning the base of tempted me half an hour before. I the hill, I saw this wirthhaus ; but here found the hospitality to which I the difficulties between rendered all acknowledge myself so deeply indebthope of reaching it totally idle. Ied; and I began to hope that the visat down under a projection of the sion had been merely one of those fanrock, to linger until the storm should tasies that play on the mind, exhaustbe past. While I was amusing the ed by the considerable fatigue that I time by sketching the veins in a re- had undergone since morning, and markably fine slab of colored marble, shaping the absurdities of superstition out of the solid rock moved a figure into reality. I know how severe a tax this must “But the glare upon the wall of this lay on belief; but I can only tell chamber, seconded by a certain indeswhat I saw. There stood before me, cribable sensation as if danger were as clearly and fully defined-in fact, near—such a sensation as a blind man as substantial as the figure of any may experience who knows that he is gentleman round this table—that per- treading on the edge of a gulph, sonage which, whether from heaven without knowing on which side of him above, or from earth below, was the one it lieg-told me that the time of the visitation was come. The figure that we all listened with profound depassed over the ceiling decided the ference, and promised. question. It was, in every feature, 'At the door, a sudden thought the one that I had seen come forth flashed across him, and he stopfrom the solid block of marble, which ped again. " Gentlemen,” said he, opened and closed, as if it had been “there is one thing that, in my cona curtain shaken by the wind."- fusion, I had forgot. I heard among He paused, and his wandering eye the peasantry, that the only hope of seemed involuntarily searching for the escaping the wrath of this fatal being phenomenon. Then, with an effort to was remaining sleepless, at least until smile, he resumed:
17 ATHENEUM, VOL. 1, 3d series.
day-break. I leave you now only “ If I have exhibited any perturba- because I feel myself unfit for society : tion, I trust that it was not unmanly, but I shall try to resist sleep, unless nor beyond the natural embarrass- that too be a part of the infliction. ment of finding one's-self in so pecu- May I make it a solemn request, perliar a position. You will forgive me, haps a dying one, that you will remain I know, for my talking no more on together till morning, or, if you should this painful subject. I perhaps have go to your chambers, that you will not already said more than I ought, when suffer yourselves to be overtaken by the very presence of this extraordinary sleep.". being may be visible the next mo- He waved his hand with a graceful ment.”
and sad farewell, and, led by me,tottered His voice sank, and he sat in an at- to the lowly recess, which was all the titude of the deepest dejection ; his receptacle that the wirthhaus afforded countenance grew yet more depressed on occasions of superfluous tenantry. than when it first shocked us, and I Grave discussion of the whole story insisted on his trying to rest. We was occupying my guests when I reactually feared for the life of this in- turned. In the spirit of master of the teresting and unfortunate man, whe- board, I proposed a round of toasts to ther the victim of his own heated the better health of the Bavarian: fancy, of fever, or of fact, still alike the proposal was honored, but we unfortunate and in danger.
were not the merrier. At last the As I assisted him to the door, he German, with a yawn deep as the turned, and said, almost in a tone of North Sea, declared that he must go despair, “ If you should find me by to bed, though fifty witches were to-morrow, gentlemen, under the cir- waiting to carry him on their broomcumstances to which I have alluded, sticks over every bill in the empire. deprived of my faculties, or even be- I combated the motion; but sleep yond all the sufferings that can de- was in my eyes, contradicting my elopress the human heart, do me the jus- quence; and my resistance only intice to believe that I deeply thank spirited the Italian to let out a lityou for your forbearance with my tle of his secret soul, and scorn alike strange malady; and do me the far the wonders of earth, air, and friars. ther justice to believe that I fell a The Frenchman was asleep during the victim to a desire of doing public last hall-hour, but, on being roused by service.—To you, Sir," said he to me, the bitter sneer of the Italian, declar“ I leave the painful but friendly task ed that the witch had very handsome of acquainting my relatives in Bavaria eyes, the better in his estimation for with the event, though I wish that as being un peu malins ; and that a visit few particulars of this unhappy night would be quite an adventure after his may be given as possible. Would own heart. The hint of danger, in that I had died as a soldier, in the fact, made it an obligation on us to service of my good and gallant king, take our chance. The question was and of my loved and honored coun- put and carried by a general yawn; try!"
our last laugh was given to the non
sense of being kept out of our beds have stirred, from the singular dizziby the whims of an unlucky Bava- ness of my brain, and the feebleness rian, shaking in mind and body of my limbs. At length a confused with the ague ; the simple sight of our sound, and a broad burst of light beds was a resistless spell; and, to completely roused me. I thought judge by the universal snore that that the catastrophe was come, wheechoed from cell to cell in the first ther it was to be insanity or extincfive minutes, my whole company were tion; and bracing up iny lost fortiof the most ghost-defying description. tude, determined, if I must perish, to
But the snore began to sound more leave behind no ground for suspicion distant in my ears. I was anxious to that I had perished like a craven. keep awake, if for no other reason On throwing open my shutters, I was than to assist the invalid during the rejoiced to find that the glare was night. But nature said otherwise. I from the sun, then not far from his tossed and turned-walked about my “meridian tour.” The sounds were chamber-broke my shins against bed- still to be accounted for, and they posts, chairs, and the crazy table-sat grew more unaccountable every indown to think what I should do next stant, a chaos of exclamations, rage, to rub the poppies from my sensorium imprecations, and laughter. I heard
-and, in the act of discovering an in- tables rolled about, chairs dashed fallible contrivance for keeping awake against the wall, the old windows for ever, dropped back on my pillow, crashing in all quarters. I was beand was, as the bards of the almanacks ginning to doubt whether the witch's say, instantly lulled in the feathery vengeance bad not already fallen on arms of Morpheus.
the sleepers, or whether the frenzy My sleep was, like that of every was my own. I at length opened my man who finishes his day in the jovial door—the passage was full of broken style of mine, crowded with dreams, furniture, in the midst of which stood and every dream was, of course, a the Italian in violent fits of laughter. new version of the tale of the day. The German was forcing his heavy The Red Woman was flying about frame across a bar that held one-half me, over me, with me, frowning, howl- of his door fast, the other half he had ing, fixing her flame-colored fangs in contrived to tear down. The Frenchmy throat, and drying up my circula- man was still barred in his dungeon, tion with her intense eyes. At last which he was belaboring on all sides the struggle broke my sleep. The with a poker; and venting his fury in Red Woman herself was standing be- screams, roars, and imprecations, on fore me !-I never remember to have the hand that had thus encroached on been so thoroughly overpowered-I his natural liberty. could not breathe.-My pulses were The Italian's laughter was contadead; my limbs were stiffened into gious, and I joined him by the strength stone. The sight had paralyzed me of sympathy, to the increased displeaas it had the unfortunate colonel. The sure, as I was sorry to see, of the honest phantom stalked slowly through the German, who grumbled something chamber. I saw her lay her hand on about “a couple of fools.” But as I the table, which returned a pale gleam. appeared to pay more attention to the She approached the pillow, and leaned remark than under the circumstances over me. I was looking full at her. it perhaps deserved, my bulky friend She started back; waved her hand in recovered his temper, and with the solemn adjuration; and with a low face of a Diogenes, in jest, asked me and ominous moan walked through the “What o'clock it was ?” I felt for stone wall.
my repeater. It was gone." I must Whether I continued awake after have left it in my chamber.”—It was this, or fell into a doze, I cannot tell not there. My repeater was not the to this day. But I still could not only absentee.—My purse, my pistols,