Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

BOOK THE FIRST.

CHAPTER I.

THE HERO.

In John Lyly's “ Endymion,” Sir Topas is friends. He could no longer live alone, where made to say: “ Dost thou know what a poet is? he had lived with her. He went abroad, that Why, fool, a poet is as much as one should say, the sea might be between him and the grave. - a poet!” And thou, reader, dost thou know Alas! between him and his sorrow there could what a hero is ? Why, a hero is as much as be no sea, but that of time. one should say,

a hero!

Some romance- He had already passed many months in writers, however, say much more than this. lonely wandering, and was now pursuing his Nay, the old Lombard, Matteo Maria Bojardo, way along the Rhine, to the South of Gerset all the church-bells in Scandiano ringing, many. He had journeyed the same way bemerely because he had found a name for one fore, in brighter days and a brighter season of his heroes. Here, also, shall church-bells be of the year, in the May of life and in the rung, but more solemnly.

month of May. He knew the beautiful river The setting of a great hope is like the set- all by heart, - every rock and ruin, every ting of the sun. The brightness of our life echo, every legend. The ancient castles, grim is gone. Shadows of evening fall around us, and hoar, that had taken root as it were on the and the world seems but a dim reflection, cliffs, — they were all his ; for his thoughts itself a broader shadow. We look forward dwelt in them, and the wind told him tales. into the coming lonely night. The soul with- He had passed a sleepless night at Rolanddraws into itself. Then stars arise, and the seck, and had risen before daybreak. He night is holy.

opened the window of the balcony to hear the Paul Flemming had experienced this, though rushing of the Rhine. It was a damp Decemstill

young. The friend of his youth was dead. ber morning; and clouds were passing over the The bough had broken “under the burden of sky, — thin, vapory clouds, whose snow-white the unripe fruit." And when, after a season, skirts were often spotted with golden tears, he looked up again from the blindness of his which men call stars.” The day dawned sorrow, all things seemed unreal. Like the slowly; and, in the mingling of daylight and man whose sight had been restored by mira- starlight, the island and cloister of Nonnencle, he beheld men, as trees, walking. His werth made together but one broad, dark household gods were broken. He had no shadow on the silver breast of the river. Behome. His sympathies cried aloud from his yond, rose the summits of the Siebengebirg. desolate soul, and there came no answer from Solemn and dark, like a monk, stood the Drathe busy, turbulent world around him. He did chenfels, in his hood of mist; and rearward not willingly give way to grief. He struggled extended the curtain of mountains, back to the to be cheerful, - to be strong. But he could Wolkenburg, — the Castle of Clouds. no longer look into the familiar faces of his But Flemming thought not of the scene be

(1129)

142

fore him. Sorrow unspeakable was upon his spirit in that lonely hour; and, hiding his face in his hands, he exclaimed aloud :

“Spirit of the past ! look not so mournfully at me with thy great tearful eyes! Touch me not with thy cold hand! Breathe not upon me with the icy breath of the grave! Chant no more that dirge of sorrow, through the long and silent watches of the night!”

Mournful voices from afar seemed to answer, “Treuenfels!” and he remembered how others had suffered, and his heart grew still.

Slowly the landscape brightened. Down the rushing stream came a boat, with its white wings spread, and darted like a swallow through the narrow pass of God's-Help. The boatmen were singing, but not the song of Roland the Brave, which was heard of old by the weeping Hildegund, as she sat within the walls of that cloister which now looked forth in the pale morning from amid the leafless lin

den-trees. The dim traditions of those gray old times rose in the traveller's memory; for the ruined tower of Rolandseck was still looking down upon the Kloster Nonnenwerth, as if the sound of the funeral bell had changed the faithful paladin to stone and he were watching still to see the form of his beloved one come forth, not from her cloister, but from her grave.

. Thus the brazen clasps of the book of legends were opened, and, on the page illuminated by the misty rays of the rising sun, he read again the tales of Liba, and the mournful bride of Argenfels, and Siegfried, the mighty slayer of the dragon. Meanwhile the mists had risen from the Rhine, and the whole air was filled with golden vapor, through which he beheld the sun, hanging in heaven like a drop of blood. Even thus shone the sun within him, amid the wintry vapors uprising from the valley of the shadow of death, through which flowed the stream of his life, -sighing, sighing!

CHAPTER II.

THE CHRIST OF ANDERNACH.

[ocr errors]

PAUL FLEMMING resumed his solitary journey. The morning was still misty, but not cold. Across the Rhine the sun came wading through the reddish vapors; and soft and silver-white outspread the broad river, without a ripple upon its surface, or visible motion of the ever-moving current. A little vessel, with one loose sail, was riding at anchor, keel to keel with another that lay beneath it, its own apparition - and all was silent, and calm, and beautiful.

The road was for the most part solitary; for there are few travellers upon the Rhine in winter. Peasant-women were at work in the vineyards, climbing up the slippery hillsides, like beasts of burden, with large baskets upon their backs. And once during the morning a band of apprentices, with knapsacks, passed by, singing, “ The Rhine! the Rhine! a blessing on the Rhine!"

Oh, the pride of the German heart in this noble river! And right it is ; for, of all the rivers of this beautiful earth, there is none

so beautiful as this. There is hardly a league of its whole course, from its cradle in the snowy Alps to its grave in the sands of Holland, which boasts not its peculiar charms. By heavens! If I were a German, I would be proud of it too ; and of the clustering grapes that hang about its temples, as it reels onward through vineyards in a triumphal march, like Bacchus crowned and drunken.

But I will not attempt to describe the Rhine; it would make this chapter much too long. And to do it well, one should write like a god; and his language flow onward royally with breaks and dashes, like the waters of that royal river, and antique, quaint, and Gothic times be reflected in it. Alas ! this evening mine flows not at all. Flow, then, into this smoke-colored goblet, thou blood of the Rhine! out of thy prison-house, – out of thy long-necked, tapering flask, in shape not unlike a church-spire among thy native hills ; and from the crystal belfry loud ring the merry tinkling bells, while I drink a health to

my hero, in whose heart is sadness, and in whose ears the bells of Andernach are ringing

noon.

Woman.

blessed man,

לל

He is threading his way alone through a narrow alley, and now up a flight of stone steps, and along the city wall, towards that old round tower built by the Archbishop Frederick of Cologne in the twelfth century. It has a romantic interest in his eyes; for he has still in his mind and heart that beautiful sketch of Carové, in which is described a day on the tower of Andernach. He finds the old keeper and his wife still there; and the old keeper closes the door behind him slowly, as of yore, lest he should jam too hard the poor souls in purgatory, whose fate it is to suffer in the cracks of doors and hinges. But, alas! alas! the daughter, the maiden with long, dark eyelashes ! she is asleep in her little grave, under the linden-trees of Feldkirche, with rosemary in her folded hands!

Flemming returned to the hotel disappointed. As he passed along the narrow streets, he was dreaming of many things; but mostly of the keeper's daughter, asleep in the churchyard of Feldkirche. Suddenly, on turning the corner of an ancient, gloomy church, his attention was arrested by a little chapel in an angle of the wall. It was only a small thatched roof, like a bird's nest; under which stood a rude wooden image of the Saviour on the cross. A real crown of thorns was upon his head, which was bowed downward, as if in the death agony; and drops of blood were falling down his cheeks, and from his hands and feet and side. The face was haggard and ghastly beyond expression, and wore a look of unutterable bodily anguish. The rude sculptor had given it this, but his art could go no further. The sublimity of death in a dying Saviour, the expiring Godlikeness of Jesus of Nazareth, was not there. The artist had caught no heavenly inspiration from his theme. All was coarse, harsh, and revolting to a sensitive mind; and Flemming turned away with a shudder, as he saw this fearful image gazing at him with its fixed and

sat knitting by the window of the dining-room, in a high-backed, old-fashioned arm-chair. I believe she was the inn-keeper's grandmother. At all events, she was old enough to be so. She took off her owl-eyed spectacles, and, as she wiped the glasses with her handkerchief, said :

" Thou dear Heaven! Is it possible? Did you never hear of the Christ of Andernach ? "

Flemming answered in the negative.
“ Thou dear Heaven!” continued the old

“ It is a very wonderful story; and a true one, as every good Christian in Andernach will tell you. And it all happened before the death of my

four

years ago ; let me see, — yes, four years ago, come Christmas.”

Here the old woman stopped speaking, but went on with her knitting. Other thoughts seemed to occupy her mind. She was thinking, no doubt, of her blessed man, as German widows call their dead husbands. But Flemming having expressed an ardent wish to hear the wonderful story, she told it, in nearly the following words.

“ There was once a poor old woman in Andernach whose name was Frau Martha, and she lived all alone in a house by herself, and loved all the Saints and the Blessed Virgin, and was as good as an angel, and sold tarts down by the Rheinkrahn. But her house was very old, and the roof-tiles were broken, and she was too poor to get new ones, and the rain kept coming in, and no Christian soul in Andernach would help her. But the Frau Martha was a good woman, and never did anybody any harm, but went to mass every morning, and sold tarts down by the Rheinkrahn. Now one dark windy night, when all the good Christians in Andernach were asleep in the feathers, Frau Martha, who lay under the roof, heard a great noise over her head, and in her chamber, drip! drip! drip! as if the rain were dropping down through the broken tiles. Dear soul! and, sure enough, it was.

And then there was

a pounding and hammering overhead, as if somebody were at work on the roof; and she thought it was Pelz-Nickel tearing the tiles off, because she had not been to confession often enough. So she began to pray; and the

half-shut eyes.

He soon reached the hotel, but that face of agony still haunted him. He could not refrain from speaking of it to a very old woman, who

а

faster she said her Pater-noster and her AveMaria, the faster Pelz - Nickel pounded and pulled; and drip! drip! drip ! it went all round her in the dark chamber, till the poor woman was frightened out of her wits, and ran to the window to call for help. Then in a moment all was still, — death-still. But she saw light streaming through the mist and rain, and a great shadow on the house opposite. And then somebody came down from the top of her house by a ladder, and had a lantern in his hand; and he took the ladder on his shoulder and passed down the street. But she could not see clearly, because the window was streaked with rain. And in the morning the old broken tiles were found scattered about the street, and there were new ones on the roof, and the old house has never leaked to this blessed day. “ As soon as

mass was over, Frau Martha told the priest what had happened, and he said it was not Pelz-Nickel, but, without doubt, St. Castor or St. Florian. Then she went to the market and told Frau Bridget all about it; and Frau Bridget said, that, two nights before, Hans Claus, the cooper, had heard a great pounding in his shop, and in the morning found new hoops on all his hogsheads; and that a man with a lantern and a ladder had been seen riding out of town at midnight on a donkey; and that the same night the old windmill, at Kloster St. Thomas, had been mended, and the old gate of the churchyard at Feldkirche made as good as new, though nobody knew how the man got across the river. Then Frau Martha went down to the Rheinkrahn and told all these stories over again ; and the old ferryman of Fahr said he could tell something about it; for, the very night that the churchyard-gate was mended, he was lying awake in his bed, because he could not sleep, and he heard a loud knocking at the door, and somebody calling to him to get up and set him over the river. And when he got up, he saw a man down by the river with a lantern and a ladder; but as he was going down to him, the man blew out the light, and it was so dark he could not see who he was; and his boat was old and leaky, and he was afraid to set him over in the dark; but the man said he must be in Ander

nach that night; and so he set him over. And after they had crossed the river, he watched the man, till he came to an image of the Holy Virgin, and saw him put the ladder against the wall, and go up and light his lamp, and then walk along the street. And in the morning he found his old boat all caulked and tight, and painted red, and he could not for his blessed life tell who did it, unless

were the man with the lantern. Dear soul! how strange it was!

• And so it went on for some time; and whenever the man with the lantern had been seen walking through the street at night, so sure as the morning came, some work had been done for the sake of some good soul; and everybody knew he did it; and yet nobody could find out who he was, nor where he lived; for, whenever anybody came near him, he blew out his light, turned down another street, and suddenly disappeared, nobody could tell how. And some said it was Rübezahl ; and some, Pelz - Nickel; and some, St. Anthony-on-theHeath.

“ Now one stormy night a poor sinful creature was wandering about the streets, with her babe in her arms, and she was hungry, and cold, and no soul in Andernach would take her in. And when she came to the church, where the great crucifix stands, she saw no light in the little chapel at the corner; but she sat down on a stone at the foot of the cross and began to pray, and prayed till she fell asleep, with her poor little babe on her bosom. But she did not sleep long; for a bright light shone full in her face; and when she opened her eyes, she saw a pale man, with a lantern, standing right before her. He was almost naked ; and there was blood upon his hands and body, and great tears in his beautiful eyes, and his face was like the face of the Saviour on the cross. Not a single word did he say to the poor woman ; but looked at her compassionately, and gave her a loaf of bread, and took the little babe in his arms, and kissed it. Then the mother looked up to the great crucifix, but there was no image there ; and she shrieked and fell down as if she were dead. And there she was found with her child ; and a few days after they both died, and were buried together

« AnteriorContinuar »