Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

miliarity, and then added, “We must see almost three months, nor my children, about it. What will you give me if I who bloomed at the side of their young supply your loss ?”

mother like two rosebuds near a hardlyAt these words he looked at me as blown rose! I fairly trembled with desharply and strangely as if he expected | light, when I thought that my wife (the me to answer, “ I will make you a present loveliest of her sex) would be in my arms of my soul ;” but as I remained embar- that day. rassed and silent, he plunged his hand into It is true that I had loved before ever his pocket and drew out my pocket-book. I had become acquainted with Fanny. I

“ There, have you your jewel, the four- had once had a Julia, who had been torn teen hundred dollars, and all," said he. from me by the pride of her parents, and

I was beside myself. “ How came wedded to a rich Polish nobleman. It you by it?” cried I, tearing it open, and was our first love; to both bordering on finding all safe.

mutual idolatry and distraction. At the “ I found it yesterday afternoon, about moment of separation we had sworn eterfour o'clock, upon the Moldau Bridge.” nal love, and kisses and tears had sealed

How one may be deceived by a man's the oath. But all the world knows how physiognomy! I was ready to throw my it goes with such things. She became arms round the neck of my man-devil. I the Countess St. and I saw Fanny. said the most obliging things to him. My love for Fanny was holier, riper, more

My joy was now as excessive as my tender. Julia was once the idol of my previous vexation had been. But he imagination, but Fanny was

now the would listen to none of my thanks. I adored of my heart. vowed that as long as I lived I would The clock of our little town struck one never again trust to physiognomical im- as we drove into the sleeping streets. I pressions.

got out at the post-house, and leaving my “ Remember me to your beautiful Fan- servant behind me with my trunk, as I ny. A pleasant journey to you! We intended, in case all were asleep at home, shall see each other again,” said he, and to return and pass the night there, I departed.

walked out to the suburb, where the win

dows of my dear home, under the high RETURN HOME.

nut-trees, glimmered in the moonlight On the way home the strange Mandeville continually arose before my imagination. I could not forget the odd figure with the red coat, the club foot, and the ill-omened AND all slept! O, Fanny, Fanny, had features. I could not help thinking, too, you only been awake, how much grief and of the bushel of black hair which stood | terror you would have saved me! They about his brow.

slept, my wife, my children, the domesIt is true he had brought back my tics; nowhere any light! A dozen times pocket-book ; no man in the world could did I walk round the house ; all was fast ; have acted more honestly. He had read I would not disturb any one. Better the Fanny's letters, and my brother's instruc- rapture of meeting in the morning hour, tions to me, and so, naturally enough, had when one is refreshed by sleep, than in become acquainted with my secrets. But the feverish midnight. -his face-no; nature could not have Fortunately, I found my beautiful new written so illegibly! Had I ever be- summer-house open. I entered. There lieved in the existence of a Mephistoph- stood my Fanny's work-basket on a little iles I should have had no doubt of it now table ; and I saw, by the moonlight, on for a single moment.

the table and seats the drums and whips But enough of this nonsense.

of my children. They had probably spent I had been two days and a night on my the afternoon there. These trifes made way home, and it was getting late on the me feel almost as if I were with my loved second day. In vain did I scold the

I stretched myself upon the sofa, driver, and urge him on with words and and determined to pass the night there. money. It was growing later and darker, | The night was mild and balmy, and the and I was becoming more and more im- fragrance of flowers and garden-plants patient. Ah, I had not seen Fanny for filled my apartment.

HATEFUL VISIT.

ones.

One who has not slept for forty hours and grinned. “But I speak the truth befinds every bed soft. In my weariness I cause you people do not any longer besoon fell asleep. But I had hardly closed lieve it. So long as truth was yet sacred my eyes when the creaking of the summer- among men Satan must needs be the house door awakened me. I sprang up; father of lies. But now the case is reI saw a man enter, and thought it was a versed. We poor devils are always the thief. But imagine my astonishment; it antipodes of mankind." was friend red-coat!

“ Then, in the present case at least, you “Where do you come from?” said I. are not my opponent; for I think just as

" From Prague. In half an hour I you do, my philosophical Mr. Devil." must set out again. I was determined to “Good! then you belong to me already, keep my word, and to see you and your Let a man give me a hold of a single hair, Fanny as I passed through. I heard from and I will have his whole head; and—but: your servant that you had gone on before, it's cool here—my carriage is, I guess, all and I expected to find all awake at your ready ; I must start. So good-by.” house. You do not mean to pass the He went. I accompanied him back to night here in the cold, damp air, and get the post-house, where, indeed, his carsick ?"

riage stood waiting. I went out into the garden with him, “I thought you would come in and and quaked in every limb. In my secret drink a parting glass of punch with me, heart, indeed, I laughed at this supersti- which I ordered before I went after you.” tious fear, and yet I could not rid myself I accepted the invitation. The warm of it. Such is human nature. The hard room was very agreeable. features of my Prague friend appeared by the pale moonlight even more terrible, and

THE TEMPTATION. his eyes glittered even more brightly.

“ You have really frightened me like a The punch was standing on the table ghost,” said I ; " I tremble all over. How when we entered. A stranger was walkcame you to seek me in my summer-ing, moody and tired, up and down the house? You seem to know everything." He was a tall, meager, elderly

He smiled maliciously, and said, “Don't man. Baggage was lying around on the you now know me, and what I want with chairs. I noticed a lady's shawl, bonnet,

and gloves. “I don't know you now any better than As we were drinking together the I did at Prague. But, just for the joke, stranger said to a servant who brought in I will tell you how you appeared to me; some baggage, "Tell my lady when she you will not take it amiss; I thought that comes, that I have gone to bed. We if you were not a wizard, you must be Sa- must start early." tan himself.”

I determined not to return to the cool He grinned again, and replied, “What summer-house, but ordered a bed for the if I were Satan, would you make a bar- night. The stranger retired. The red gain with me?"

gentleman and I chatted together, and “ You will have to offer me much before drank the punch-bowl empty. The branI should give you my hand upon it. For dywarmed and exhilarated me. The truly, Mr. Satan, permit me to call you so red-coat hasted to his carriage, and as I just in joke, my happiness is complete.” helped him in he said, “ We shall see each

“Oho! I shall offer you nothing, give other again.” With this the carriage you nothing. That was the custom in rolled away. old times; but now-a-days the children of When I went back into the room there men are as cheap as dirt.

You come

was a lady there taking away the bonnet to me of your own accord. You have and shawl. As she turned toward me I reason upon your lips, and the might of lost all self-possession. It was Julia ! my a hundred passions in your hearts. The first love, upon an excursion to Italy, as I best among you, corrupted creatures, is afterward learned.

She was he who has the least opportunity to sin." startled than I. " This is talking like the devil indeed,"

“ For heaven's sake, Robert, is it your cried I.

spirit?" "Certainly !" cried the red gentleman, “Julia !” stammered I; and all the rap

room.

you?"

no less

ever.

manner.

me.

But my

ture of first love awoke in me at this un- der forth in the world, a fugitive from expected meeting.

justice. But on the stairs I saw that my I turned respectfully toward her. Her clothes were sprinkled with blood. I eyes were full of tears. I drew her to my trembled at the thought of being seen. heart.

The street-door was locked. As I “ This is not my room,” said she, draw- turned to escape through the yard I heard ing the shawl around her. “Come, Rob- people crying and calling after me from ert, we have much to say to each other." above. I ran across the yard to the barn;

She went; I followed her to her room. I knew that thence I could get out into “ Here we can talk freely," said she, and the gardens and fields outside the town. we sat down upon the sofa. How we But my pursuers were close behind me. talked! Once more I lived again in all I had scarcely reached the barn when the fever-tumult of an old love, which I some one seized me by the coat. With had supposed was long ago extinguished. fearful desperation I tore myself away, Julia, unhappy in her marriage, treated and hurled the burning candle into a large me with all her foriner tenderness. She haystack near by. It suddenly caught was more beautiful, more blooming than fire ; so I hoped to save myself. I suc

ceeded. They let me go, their attention There was a magic, which I cannot de- being diverted by the fire; I escaped into scribe, in Julia's words and in her whole the open country.

All the past rose vividly before I rushed blindly forward, over hedges Our first acquaintance at her sister's and hillocks. The idea of seeing my wedding; the emotions which filled us Fanny, and Augustus, and Leopold, was then; our meeting again in the garden of no more to be thought of. The instinct the ducal castle ; then the excursion upon of self-preservation took precedence of the water with our parents; then-but everything else. When I thought of my enough

return home yesterday, and of my expecSuddenly the door opened. The tall, tations of the coming morning, I could not lank man entered, with the question, believe what had happened. " Who is this with you, Julia ?”

bloody and clotted clothes, and the cool We sprang up, terrified. The count morning air, which chilled me through, stood for a moment speechless, and pale convinced me only too truly of the reality. as a corpse. Then, with three steps, he I ran almost breathless, until I could run strode toward Julia, wound her long chest- no longer. Had I had any weapon of nut locks around his hand, hurled her death about me, or had a stream been near, shrieking to the floor, and dragged her I should have ceased to live. about, exclaiming, “Faithless woman! Dripping with sweat, and utterly exfalse wretch !”

hausted, with trembling knees, I conI rushed to her aid. He pushed me tinued my flight at a slower pace. I was away with such force that I tumbled back obliged at times to stop to recover myself. upon the floor. As I rose to my feet Several times I was on the point of faintagain he let go the unhappy Julia, and ing quite away. cried out to me,

“ You I'll throttle!" In Thus I succeeded in reaching the next my desperation I caught up a knife from village. While I stood hesitating whether the table, and threatened to plunge it into to go round it or go boldly through it, for him if he did not keep still. But the it was bright moonlight, and the sun had frantic man threw himself upon me, and not yet risen, the village bells began to seized me by the throat. I lost my breath, ring, and soon I heard bells from more and brandished the knife in all directions. distant quarters. There was a general I thrust it repeatedly at him. Suddenly alarm. the unhappy man fell. The knife was in Every stroke harrowed me. I looked his heart.

round. Behind me appeared a dark-red.

glow; a huge pillar of flame licked the CONSUMMATION OF HORROR.

The whole town was on As I rushed down the steps I resolved to fire. 1-I was the incendiary! O, my hasten to my house, awaken my wife and Fanny ! 0, my children! what a horrible children, press them once more to my awakening has your father prepared for heart, and then, like a second Cain, wan- you!

very clouds!

Then it seemed to me as if I were listed he should furnish ine with clothes, so I up by the hair, and my feet were light as might disguise myself for a while. I feathers. I ran, leaping furiously, round might hide myself in the woods by day, the village to a pine wood. The flames and continue my flight by night. But of my home shone like the day, and the where get food ? where money ?" And moaning alarm-bells rang with heart-rend- now I recollected that I had left my ing tones through my distracted soul. pocket-book in my coat, which I had

As soon as I had reached the depth of thrown away, and so deprived myself of the wood, and had got so far in that I all my cash. could no longer see the light of the con I stood for a moment undetermined. I flagration, which had hitherto caused my thought of turning back to seek my pocketshadow to dance before me like a ghost, book. But—the blood of the count! I I could go no further. I threw myself on could not have looked upon that again had the earth, and cried like a child. I beat a million of dollars been to be got by it. my head against the ground, and tore up And to go back to have continually before the grass and roots in my phrensy. I would my eyes the light of the conflagration gladly have died, but knew not how. flickering through the pine-trees !

In the meantime the alarm-bells boomed No; the flames of an open hell rather! most fearfully, and frightened me to my So I wandered on. feet again. I rejoiced that it was not yet I heard the rattling of a vehicle ; perday. I could still hope to get a good haps a fire-engine and peasants running to start without being known. The horrible give their aid. Instantly I threw myself red-coat now occurred to me more vividly into the bushes, whence I could look out. than ever, with his strange speeches. I trembled like an aspen leaf. A handNow-why should I deny it?—now would some open traveling carriage, drawn by I have given my soul were he really the two horses, and loaded with baggage, appersonage whom he had pretended in jest proached. A man sat in it, driving. He to be, that he might save me, take from stopped just before me, got out, and went me all memory of the past, and give me back a little way to pick up something he my wife and children, in some corner of had dropped. the earth where we might spend our days “ It would help me mightily to get off," undiscovered.

thought I, “ were I only in that carriage! But the alarm-bells sounded still louder. My legs are giving out; they will drag I discerned the gray of the morning. I me no further. Clothes, money, swift sprang from the ground, and continued my flight, all now within reach. Heaven fight through the bushes, and came upon certainly means to favor me. I'll take the highway.

the hint. I'll jump in!"

No sooner thought than done. Not a CAIN.

moment was to be lost in consideration. Here I took breath. All that happened Every man is his own nearest neighbor, was so horrible, so sudden, I could not be- and saves himself first when he can. lieve it. I looked around me; the reflec- Despair and necessity have no law. A tion of the conflagration glowed through leap, and I was out of the bushes into the the pine-trees. I felt that my clothes road, from the road into the carriage; I and my fingers were all wet with the blood seized the reins, and turned the horses of the count.

round, away from my burning home. “ This will betray me to the first that The man sprang at the horses, and just meets me,” thought I; and I tore off my as I let them feel the whip he tried spotted clothes, and hid them in the thick to seize them by the bit. He stood right bushes, and washed my hands in the dew before them. I plied the whip more vigon the grass. Thus, half clad, I ran out orously. It was now or never with me. on the highway.

The horses reared and sprang forward. “What am I now?" said I to myself; The owner fell and lay under the horses' " whoever sees me will pursue me. Only feet. I drove over him. He cried for crazy people or murderers run through help. His voice pierced me to the very the woods half naked; or I must pretend soul. It was a well-known voice, a bethat I have been robbed. Could I only loved voice. I could not believe my ears. meet a peasant whom I could overpower, I stopped, and leaned out of the carriage

to look at the unfortunate man. I saw could I save myself this time. For I him! But – I shudder to relate it-I never was a complete villain, although the saw my brother, who must unexpectedly most thoughtless. So thought I to myhave finished his business at Prague, or self, forgetting all my resolutions, and alfor some other reason was on his way ready in imagination I was in a remote home.

solitude, where, under a strange name, unI sat there as if struck by lightning, known to the world, I could live with my disabled, paralyzed. My poor brother lay wife and children. Occupied with these moaning under the wheel. Such a thing thoughts, I had still gone forward. As the I had never dreamed of. I dragged my- road opened I saw right before me horses self slowly from the carriage. I sank standing, a carriage upset with a broken down beside him. The heavy wheel had wheel, and, to my horror, or to my delight, gone over his breast. With a low, trem- standing near, the well-known red-coat. ulous voice I called him by name. He When he saw me he grinned after his heard me no more; he recognized me no usual fashion. “Welcome here!” said more. It was all over with him. I was he. “Did I not tell you that we should the accursed one who had robbed him of find each other again? I have been waita life as dear to me as my own. Horri- ing all night; my coachman has gone ble! two murders in the same night! both, back to the town for help, and has not reindeed, involuntary, both committed in turned.” despair. But they were still committed, “ His help is wanted more there than and the consequences of the first crime, here,” said I; “ the whole town is on which I might have avoided.

fire.” My eyes were wet, but not with tears “I thought so," returned he, “ for I saw of grief over the beloved dead, but tears the light in the sky. But what do you of frantic rage against my fate, against want in the woods ? What are you seekHeaven. Never in my life had I stained ing here? Why are you not helping to myself with an atrocious crime. I had extinguish the fire ?" been alive to all that was beautiful, good, " I have quite other fires to extinguish,” great, and true. I had had no sweeter said I. joy than to make others happy. And I thought so; didn't I tell you so ?" now, a cursed thoughtlessness, a single “0, save me! I have become a wretchunhappy moment of self-forgetfulness, and ed criminal, a faithless husband, a mur. then this guilty play of accident or neces- derer, an incendiary, a highway robber, sity had made me the most miserable and a fratricide—all since the moment you wretch under heaven. O, let no one boast left me—all within three hours. And yet of his virtue, his strength, or his circum- I am not a wicked man." spection! It needs only a minute for a The red-coat stamped on the ground man to thrust aside a little his firmest with his club foot as I said this, apparprinciples, only a minute, and the pure ently in high displeasure. But his featangel is capable of the greatest crimes. ures remained hard and stern. He made Well for him is it, if fate, more favorable me no answer. I then related to him the to him than to me, throws no brother in unprecedented history of the night. He his way to be run over like mine!

kept quiet. But let the moral go. For him who “Do you not now know who I am, and has not found it out of himself there is no what I want of you

?" moral. I will hasten to the end of my My soul! my soul!" shrieked I; for unhappy story, than which no poet ever now, indeed, I begin to believe that you invented anything more horrible.

are the person whom in jest I took you to be in Prague.”

" And that person was--" THE TEMPTER AGAIN.

“ Satan.” I soon heard the neighing of horses be “ Then fall down and worship me!" fore me. I was startled ; the love of life bellowed he, in a horrible voice. awoke in me anew. I thought of fleeing I fell upon my knees before him like a back into the wood. I had been very crazy man, raised my clasped hands, and wicked; I was a criminal of the worst cried,“ Save me! Save my wife and my kind; but I might hope still to be happy children from destruction! They are in

« VorigeDoorgaan »