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The solitudes of the Harz forest in Germany, but especially the mountains called Blockberg, or lather Brockenberg, are the chosen scene for tales of witches, demons, and apparitions. The occupation of the inhabitants, who are either miners or foresters, is of a kind that renders them peculiarly prone to superstition, and the natural phenomena which they witness in pursuit of their solitary or subterraneous profession, are often set down by them to the interference of goblins or the power of magic. Among the various legends current in that wild country, there is a favourite one, which supposes the Harz to be haunted by a sort of tutelar demon, in the shape of a wild man, of huge stature, his head wreathed with oak leaves, and his middle cinctured with the same, bearing in his hand a pine torn up by the roots. It is certain that many persons profess to have seen such a form traversing, with hugestrides, in a line parallel to theirown course, the opposite ridge of a mountain, when divided from it by a narrow glen; and indeed the fact of the apparition is so generally admitted, that modern scepticism has only found refuge by ascribing it to optical deception.t
In elder times, the intercourse of the demon with the inhabitants was more familiar, and, according to the traditions of the Harz, he was wont, with the caprice usually ascribed to these earth-born powers, to interfere with the affairs of mortals, sometimes for their weal, sometimes for their woe. But it was observed, that even his gifts often turned out, in the long run, fatal to those on whom they were bestowed, and it was no uncommon thing for the pastors, in their care of their flocks, to compose long sermons, the burden whereof was a warning against having any intercourse, direct or indirect, with the Harz demon. The fortunes of Martin Waldeck have been often quoted by the aged to their giddy children, when they were heard to scoff at a danger which appeared visionary.
A travelling capuchin had possessed himself of the pulpit of the thatched church at a little hamlet called Morgenbrodt, lying in the Harz district, from which he declaimed against the wickedness of the inhabitants, their communication with fiends, witches, and fairies, and, in particular, with the woodland goblin of the Harz. The doc
*From ' The Antiquary.' 'The outline of this story,' says Sir Walter Scott, in his Notes to the new edition of his Novels, 'is taken from the German, though the author is at present unable to say in which of the various collections of the popular legend? in that language, the original is to he found.'
f The shadow of the person who sees the phantom, being reflected upon a cloud of mist, like the image of the magic lantern upon a white sheet, is sup. posed to have formed the apparition. IV. 2 G
trines of Luther had already begun to spread among the peasantry, for the incident is placed under the reign of Charles V., and they laughed to scorn the zeal with which the venerable man insisted upon his topic. At length, as his vehemence increased with opposition, so their opposition rose in proportion to his vehemence. The inhabitants did not like to hear an accustomed quiet demon, who had inhabited the Rrockenberg for so many ages, summarily confounded with Ba&Lpeor, Ashtaroth, and Beelzebub himself, and condemned without reprieve to the bottomless Tophet The apprehensions that the spirit might avenge himself on them for listening to such an illiberal sentence, added to their national interest in his behalf. A travelling friar, they said, that is here to-day and away to-morrow, may say what he pleases: but it is we, the ancient and constant inhabitants of the country, that are left at the mercy of the insulted demon, and must, of course, pay for all. Under the irritation occasioned by these reflections, the peasants from injurious language betook themselves to stones, and having pebbled the priest pretty handsomely, they drove him out of the parish to preach against demons elsewhere.
Three young men, who had been present and assisting on this occasion, were upon their return to the hut where they carried on the laborious and mean occupation of preparing charcoal for the smelting furnaces. On the way, their conversation naturally turned upon the demon of the Harz and the doctrine of the capuchin. Max and George Waldeck, the two elder brothers, although they allowed the language of the capuchin to have been indiscreet and worthy of censure, as presuming to determine upon the precise character and abode of the spirit, yet contended it was dangerous, in the highest degree, to accept of his gifts, or hold any communication with him. He was powerful they allowed, but wayward and capricious, and those who had intercourse with him seldom came to a good end. Did he not give the brave knight, Ecbert of Rabenwald, that famous black steed, by means of which he vanquished all the champions at the great tournament at Bremen? and did not the same steed afterwards precipitate itself with its rider into an abyss so steep and fearful, that neither horse nor man were ever seen more? Had he not given to Dame Gertrude Trodden a curious spell for making butter come? and was she not burnt for a witch by the grand criminal judge of the Electorate, because she availed herself of his gift? But these, and many other instances which they quoted, of mischance and ill-luck ultimately attending on the apparent benefits conferred by the Harz spirit, failed to make any impression upon Martin Waldeck, the youngest of the brothers.
Martin was youthful, rash, and impetuous; excelling in all the exercises which distinguish a mountaineer, and brave and undaunted from his familiar intercourse with the dangers that attended them. He laughed at the timidity of his brothers. "Tell me not of such folly," he said; " the demon is a good demon—he lives among us as if he were a peasant like ourselves—haunts the lonely crags and recesses of the mountains like a huntsman or goatherd—and he who loves the Harz forest and its wild scenes, cannot be indifferent to the fete ot the hardy children of the soil. But if the demon were as malicious as you would make him, how should he derive power over mortals' who barely avail themselves of his gifts, without binding themselves to submit to his pleasure? When you carry your charcoal to the furnace, is not the money as good that is paid you by blaspheming Blaize, the old reprobate overseer, as if you got it from the pastor himself? It is not the goblin's gifts which can endanger you then, but it is the use you shall make of them that you must account for. And were the demon to appear to me at this moment and indicate to me a gold or silver mine, I would begin to dig away even before his back were turned, and I would consider myself as under the protection of a much Greater than he, while I made a good use of the wealth he pointed out to me.
To this the elder brother replied, that wealth ill won was seldom well spent; while Martin presumptuously declared, that the possession of all the treasures of the Harz would not make the slightest alteration on his habits, morals, or character.
His brother entreated Martin to talk less wildly upon this subject, and with some ^difficulty contrived to withdraw his attention, by calling it to the consideration of the approaching boar-chase. This talk brought them to their hut, a wretched wigwam, situated upon one side of a wild, narrow, and romantic dell, in the recesses of the Brockenberg. They released their sister from attending upon the operation of charring the wood, which requires constant attention, and divided among themselves the duty of watching it by night, according to their custom, one always waking while his brothers slept.
Max Waldeck, the eldest, watched during the two first hours of the night, and was considerably alarmed, by observing, upon the opposite bank of the glen, or valley, a huge fire surrounded by some figures that appeared to wheel around it with antic gestures. Max at first bethought him of calling up his brothers; but recollecting the daring character of the youngest, and finding it impossible to wake the elder without also disturbing Martin—conceiving also what he saw to be an illusion of the demon, sent perhaps in consequence of the venturous expressions used by Martin on the preceding evening, he thought it best to betake himself to the safe-guard of such prayers as he could murmur over, and to watch in great terror and annoyance this strange and alarming apparition. After blazing for some time, the fire faded gradually away into darkness, and the rest of Max's watch was only disturbed .by the remembrance of its terrors.
George now occupied the place of Max, who had retired to rest. The phenomenon of a huge blazing fire, upon the opposite bank of the glen, again presented itself to the eye of the watchman. It was surrounded as before by figures, which, distinguished by their opaque forms, being between the spectator and the red glaring light, moved and fluctuated around it as if engaged in some mystical ceremony. George, though equally cautious, was of a bolder character than his elder brother. He resolved to examine more nearly the object of his wonder; and, accordingly, after crossing the rivulet which divided the glen, he climbed up the opposite bank, and approached within an arrow's flight of the fire, which blazed apparently with the same fury as when he first witnessed it.
The appearance of the assistants who surrounded it, resembled those phantoms which are seen in a troubled dream, and at once confirmed the idea he had entertained from the first, that they did not belong to the human world. Amongst these strange unearthly forms, George Waldeck distinguished that of a giant overgrown with hair, holding an uprooted fir in his hand, with which, from time to time, he seemed to stir the blazing fire, and having no other clothing than a wreath of oak leaves around his forehead and loins. George's heart sunk within him at recognizing the well-known apparition of the Harz demon, as he had been often described to him by the ancient shepherds and huntsmen who had seen his form traversing the mountains. He turned, and was about to fly; but, upon second thoughts, blaming his own cowardice, he recited mentally the verse of the Psalmist, " All good angels, praise the Lord!" which is in that country supposed powerful as an exorcism, and turned himself once more towards the place where he had seen the fire. But it was no longer visible.
The pale moon alone enlightened the side of the valley; and when George, with trembling steps, a moist brow, and hair bristling upright under his collier's cap, came to the spot on which the fire had been su lately visible, marked as it was by a scathed oak-tree, there appeared not on the heath the slightest vestiges of what he had seen. The moss and wild flowers were unscorched, and the branches of the oak-tree, which had so lately appeared enveloped in wreaths of flame and smoke, were moist with the dews of midnight.
George returned to his hut with trembling steps, and, arguing like his elder brother, resolved to say nothing of what he had seen, lest he should awake in Martin that daring curiosity which he almost deemed to be allied with impiety.
11 was now Martin's turn to watch. The household cock had given his first summons, and the night was well nigh spent. Unn" «~TMiVing the state of the furnace in which the wood was deposited in order to its being coked or charred, he was surprised to find that the fire had not been sufficiently maintained; for in his excursion and its consequences, George had forgot the principal object of his watch. Martin's first thought was to call up the slumberers; but, observing that both his brothers slept unwontedly deep and heavily, he respected their repose, and set himself to supply the furnace with fuel without requiring their aid. What he heaped upon it was apparently damp and unfit for the purpose, for the fire seemed rather to decay than revive. Martin next went to collect some boughs from a stack which had been carefully cut and dried for this purpose; but, when he returned, he found the fire totally extinguished. This was a serious evil, and threatened them with loss of their trade for more than one day. The vexed and mortified watchman set about to strike a light in order to re-kindle the fire, but the tinder was moist, and his labour proved in this respect also ineffectual. He was now about to call up his brothers, for circumstances seemed to be pressing, when flashes of light glimmered not only through the window, but through every crevice of the rudely-built hut, and summoned him to behold the same apparition which had before alarmed the successive watches of his brethren. His first idea was, that the Muhllerhaussers, their rivals in trade, and with whom they had had many quarrels, might have encroached upon their bounds for the purpose of pirating their wood, and he resolved to awake his brothers, and be revenged on them for their audacity. But a short reflection and observation on the gestures and manner of those who seemed to " work in the fire," induced him to dismiss this belief, and, although rather sceptical in such matters, to conclude that what he saw was a supernatural phenomenon, "But be they men or fiends," said the undaunted forester, " that busy themselves j onder with such fantastical rites and gestures, I will go and demand a light to rekindle our furnace." He relinquished, at the same time, the idea of awaking his brethren. There was a belief that such adventures as he was about to undertake were accessible only to one person at a time; he feared also that his brothers, in their scrupulous timidity, might interfere to prevent his pursuing the investigation he had resolved to commence; and, therefore, snatching his boar-spear from the wall, the undaunted Martin Waldeck set forth on the adventure alone.
With the same success as his brother George, but with courage far superior, Martin crossed the brook, ascended the hill, and approached so near the ghostly assembly, that he could recognise, in the presiding figure, the attributes of the Harz demon. A cold shuddering assailed him for the first time in his life ; but the recollection that he had at a distance dared and even courted the inter