Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

to us, perhaps, that the dreadful power, repeat these expressions to any body which clothed itself with darkness, had except one friend, who agreed with not expired, but was only reposing me that the jailer had probably been from its labours, all at once the chief hanged in some recess of the forest, jailer of the city was missing. He which summer veiled with its luxuri. had been in the habit of taking long ant umbrage ; and that Ferdinand, rides in the forest, his present situa- constantly wandering in the forest, had tion being much of a sinecure. It discovered the body : but we both was on the 1st of July that he was acquirted him of having been an acmissed. In riding through the city complice in the murder. gates that morning he had mentioned Mean-time, the marriage between the direction which he meant to pur- Margaret Liebenheim and Maximilian sue ; and the last time he was seen was understood to be drawing near. alive was in one of the forest avenues Yet one thing struck every body with about eight miles from the city, lead, astonishment. As far as the young ing towards the point he had indicated. people were concerned, nobody could This jailer was not a man to be re- doubt that all was arranged ; for never gretted on his own account ; his life was happiness more perfect than that had been a tissue of cruelty and brutal which seemed to unite them. Margaabuse of his powers, in which lic had ret was the impersonation of May. been too much supported by the ma- time and youthful rapture ; even gistrates, partly on the plea that it was Maximilian in her presence seemed to their duty to back their own officers forget his gloom; and the worm which against all complainers, partly, also, gnawed at his heart was charmed from the necessities created by the asleep by the music of her voice, and turbulent times for a more summary the Paradise of her smiles. But, un. exercise of their magisterial authority. til the autumn came, Margaret's grand. No man, therefore, on his own sepa- father had never ceased to frown upon rate account, could more willingly this connexion, and to support the have been spared than this brutal jail. pretensions of Ferdinand. The dis. er; and it was a general remark, that, like, indeed, seemed reciprocal behad the murderous band within our tween him and Maximilian. Each walls swept away this man only, they avoided the other's company; and as would have merited the public gratis to the old man, he went so far as tude as purifiers from a public nuis. to speak sneeringly of Maximilian. ance. But was it certain that the jailer Maximilian despised him too heartily had died by the same hands as had so to speak of him at all. When he could deeply atllicted the peace of our city not avoid meeting him, he treated him during the winter? or, indeed, that with a stern courtesy, which distressed he had been murdered at all? The Margaret as often as she witnessed it. forest was too extensive to be search. She felt that lier grandfather had been ed; and it was possible that he might the aggressor; and she felt, also, that have met with some fatal accident. he did injustice to the merits of her His horse had returned to the city lover. But she had a filial tendergates in the night, and was found there ness for the old man, as the father of in the morning. Nobody, however, her sainted mother, and on his own for months, could give information account, continually making more about his rider; and it seemed pro- claims on her pity, as the decay of his bable that he would not be discovered memory, and a childish fretfulness until the autumn and the winter should growing upon him from day to day, again carry the sportsman into every marked his increasing imbecility. thicket and dingle of this silvan tract. Equally mysterious it seemed, that, One person only seemed to have more about this time, Miss Liebenheim knowledge on this subject than others, began to receive anonymous letters, and that was poor Ferdinand von written in the darkest and most mena. Harrelstein. He was now a mere ruin cing terms. Some of them she showed of what he had once been, both as to to me; I could not guess at their intellect and moral feeling ; and I drift. Evidently they glanced at Maxiobserved him frequently sinile when milian, and bade her beware of a con. the jailer was mentioned. “Wait," nexion with him ; and dreadful things he would say, “ till the leaves begin were insinuated about him. Could to drop ; then you will see what fine these letters be written by Ferdinand ? fruit our forest bears." I did not Written they were not; but could they be dictated by him? Much I feared henceforth, weakness might sleep in that they were ; and the more so for safety, and innocence without anxiety one reason.

Once more we had peace within our All at once, and most inexplicably, walls, and tranquillity by our firesides. Margaret's grandfather showed a total Again the child went to bed in cheer, change of opinion in his views as to fulness, and the old man said his pray. her marriage : instead of favouring ers in serenity. Confidence was reHarrelstein's pretensions, as he had stored; peace was re-established ; and hitherto done, he now threw the feeble once again the sanctity of human life weight of his encouragement into became the rule and the principle for Maximilian's scale ; though, from the all human hands amongst us. Great situation of all the parties, nobody was the joy; the happiness was uniattached any practical importance to versal. the change in Mr Liebenheim's way Oh, heavens! by what a thunderof thinking. Nobody? Is that true? bolt were we awakened from our No; one person did attach the greatest security !On the night of the 27th weight to the change ; poor ruined of December, half an hour, it might Perdinand ;-he, so long as there was be, after twelve o'clock, an alarm was one person to take his part, so long as given that all was not right in the the grandfather of Margaret showed house of Mir Liebenheim. Vast was countenance to himself, had still felt the crowd which soon collected in his situation not utterly desperate. breathless agitation. In two minutes

Thus were things situated, when in a man who had gone round by the November, all the leaves daily blowing back of the house was heard unbarring off from the woods, and leaving bare Mr Liebenheim's door : he was incathe most secret haunts of the thickets, pable of uttering a word ; but his ges. the body of the jailer was left exposed tures, as he threw the door open and in the forest; but not, as I and my beckoned to the crowd, were quite friend had conjectured, hanged; no; enough. In the hall, at the further exhe had died, apparently, by a more tremity, and as if arrested in the act horrid death-by that of crucifixion. of making for the back, lay the bodies The tree, a remarkable one, bore of old Mr Liebenheim and one of his upon a part of its trunk this brief but sisters, an aged widow ; on the stair savage inscription : T. H., jailer lay another sister, younger, and unat ; Crucificd, July 1, 1816." married, but upwards of sixty. The

A great dealof talk went on through- hall and lower flight of stairs were out the city upon this discovery ; no- floating with blood. Where, then, was body uttered one word of regret on Miss Liebenheim, the grand-daughaccount of the wretched jailer ; on the ter? That was the universal cry, for contrary, the voice of vengeance, rising she was beloved as generally as she up in many a cottage, reached my was admired. Had the infernal murears in every direction as I walked derers been devilish enough to break abroad. The hatred in itself seemed into that temple of innocent and happy horrid and unchristian, and still more life ?- Every one asked the question, so after the man's death ; but, though and every one held his breath to horrid and fiendish for itself, it was listen ; but for a few moments no one much more impressive, considered as dared to advance ; for the silence of the measure and exponent of the dam the house was ominous. At length nable oppression which must have ex. some one cried out, that Miss Lie. isted to produce it.

benheim had that day gone upon a At first, when the absence of the visit to a friend, whose house was forty jailer was a recent occurrence, and miles distant in the forest. “Ay," rethe presence of the murderers amongst plied another, “she had settled to go; us was, in consequence, revived to our but I heard that something had stopped anxious thoughts, it was an event her." The suspense was now at its which few alluded to without fear. height, and the crowd passed from But matters were changed now; the room to room, but found no traces of jailer had been dead for months, and Miss Liebenheim. At length they asthis interval, during which the mur. cended the stair, and in the very first derer's hand had slept, encouraged room, a small closet or boudoir, lay every body to hope that the storm had Margaret, with her dress soiled hidepassed over our city ; that peace had ously with blood. The first impression returned to our hearths ; and that was that she also had been murdered : but, on a nearer approach, she appeared thought it any point of prudence or to be unwounded, and was manifestly necessity to secure the hand of Maralive. Life had not departed, for her garet Liebenheim by a private mar. breath sent a haze over a mirror, but riage, against the final opposition of it was suspended, and she was labour- her grandfather, nobody who knew ing in some kind of fit. The first act the parties, who knew the perfect love of the crowd was to carry her into the which possessed Miss Liebenheim, the house of a friend on the opposite side growing imbecility of her grandfather, of the street, by which time medical or the utter contempt with which assistance had crowded to the spot. Maximilian regarded him, could for a

Their attentions to Miss Liebenheim moment believe. Altogether, the mathad naturally deranged the condition ter was one of profound mystery. of things in the little room, but not be- Mean time, it rejoiced me that poor fore many people found time to re- Margaret's name had been thus resmark that one of the murderers must cued from the fangs of the scandal. have carried her with his bloody hands mongers: these harpies bad their prey to the sofa on which she lay, for water torn from them at the very moment had been sprinkled profusely over her when they were sitting down to the face and throat, and water was even unhallowed banquet. For this I re. placed ready to her hand, when she joiced, but else there was little sub. might happen to recover, upon a low ject for rejoicing in any thing which footstool by the side of the sofa. concerned poor Margaret. Long

On the following morning, Maxi- she lay in deep insensibility, taking milian, who had been upon a hunting- no notice of any thing, rarely opening party in the forest, returned to the her eyes, and apparently unconscious city, and immediately learned the of the revolutions, as they succeeded, news. I did not see him for some of morning or evening, light or darkhours after, but he then appeared to ness, yesterday or to-day. Great was me thoroughly agitated, for the first the agitation which convulsed the heart time I had known him to be so. In the of Maximilian during this period ; he evening another perplexing piece of walked up and down in the Cathedral intelligence transpired with regard to nearly all day long, and the ravages Miss Liebenheim, which at first afflicts which anxiety was working in his ed every friend of that young lady. It physical system might be read in his was, that she had been seized with the face. People felt it an intrusion upon pains of childbirth, and delivered of a the sanctity of his grief to look at him son, who, however, being born pre. too narrowly, and the whole town maturely, did not live many hours. sympathised with his situation. Scandal, however, was not allowed At length a change took place in long to batten upon this imaginary Margaret, but one which the medical triuinph, for within two hours after men announced to Maximilian as bod. the circulation of this first rumour, ing ill for her recovery. The wan. followed a second, authenticated, an derings of her mind did not depart, nouncing that Maximilian had appear, but they altered their character. She ed with the confessor of the Liebenbeim became more agitated, she would start family, at the residence of the chief up suddenly, and strain her eyesight magistrate, and there produced satis. after some figure which she seemed factory proofs of his marriage with to sce; then she would apostrophise Miss Liebenheim, which had been duly some person in the most piteous terms, celebrated, though with great secrecy, beseeching him, with streaming tears, nearly eight months before. In our to spare her old grandfather. “ Look, city, as in all the cities of our country, look," she would cry out, “ look at clandestine marriages, witnessed, per. his grey hairs; oh, sir! he is but a haps, by two friends only of the child ; he does not know what he says; parties, besides the officiating priest, and he will soon be out of the way and are exceedingly common. In the in his grave; and very soon, sir, he mere fact, therefore, taken separately, will give you no more trouble.” Then, there was nothing to surprise us, but, again, she would mutter indistinctly taken in connexion with the general for hours together; sometimes, she position of the parties, it did surprise would cry out frantically, and say things us all ; nor could we conjecture the which terrified the bystanders, and reason for a step apparently so need. which the physicians would solemnly less. For, that Maximilian could have caution them how they repeated ; then

she would weep, and invoke Maximi. besides, a fury in his eye. A motion lian to come and aid her. But seldom, of his hand waved them off like sumindeed, did that name pass her lips mer fiies; he entered the room, and that she did not again begin to strain once again, for the last time, he was in her eyeballs, and start up in bed to company with his beloved. watch some phantom of her poor fever. What passed, who could pretend to ed heart, as if it seemed vanishing into guess? Something more than two some mighty distance.

hours had elapsed, during which MarAfter nearly seven weeks passed in garet had been able to talk occasionthis agitating state, suddenly, on one ally, which was known, because at morning, the earliest and the love. times the attendants heard the sound liest of dawning spring, a change was of Maximilian's voice evidently in tones announced to us all as having taken of reply to something which she had place in Margaret; but it was a change, said. At the end of that time, a little alas! that ushered in the last great bell, placed near the bedside, was rung change of all. The conflict, which hastily ; a fainting fit had seized Mar. had for so long a period raged within garet, but she recovered almost before her, and overthrown her reason, was her women applied the usual remedies. at an end ; the strife was over; and They lingered, however, a little, look, nature was settling into an everlast- ing at the youthful couple with an in. ing rest. In the course of the night terest which no restraints availed to she had recovered her senses; when check. Their hands were locked tothe morning light penetrated through gether, and in Margaret's eyes there her curtain, she recognised her at gleamed a farewell light of love, which tendants, made enquiries as to the settled upon Maximilian, and seemed to inonth and the day of the month, and indicate that she was becoming speechthen, sensible that she could not less. Just at this moment she made a outlive the day, she requested that feeble effort to draw Maximilian toher confessor might be summoned. wards her; he bent forward and kissed

About an hour and a half the con her with an anguish that made the most fessor remained alone with her. At callous weer, and then he whispered the end of that time he came out, something into her ear, upon which and hastily summoned the attendants, the attendants retired, taking this as a for Margaret, he said, was sinking proof that their presence was a hinderinto a fainting fit. The confessor, ance to a free communication. But himself, miglit have passed through they heard no more talking, and in many a fit, so much was he changed less than ten minutes they returned. by the results of this interview. I Maximilian and Margaret still retained crossed him coming out of the house. their former position. Their hands I spoke to bim-I called to him; were fast locked together; the same but he heard me not-he saw me not. parting ray of affection, the same fareHe saw nobody. Onwards he strode well light of love, was in the eye of to the Cathedral, where Maximilian Margaret, and still it settled upon was sure to be found, pacing about Maximilian. But her eyes were beupon the graves. Him he seized by ginning to grow dim ; mists were the arm, whispered something into his rapidly stealing over them. Maximi. ear, and then both retired into one of lian, who sat stupified and like one the many sequestered chapels in which not in his right mind, now, at the lights are continually burning. There gentle request of the women, resigned they had some conversation, but not his seat, for the hand which had clasped very long, for within five minutes his had already relaxed its hold; the Maximilian strode away to the house in farewell gleam of love had departed ; which his young wife was dying. One one of the women closed her eyelids; step seemed to carry him up-stairs; and there fell asleep for ever the lovethe attendants, according to the di. liest flower that our city had reared rections they had received from the for generations. physicians, mustered at the head of the The funeral took place on the stairs to oppose him. But that was fourth day after her death. In the idle : before the rights which he held as morning of that day, from strong afa lover and a husband, before the still fection-having known her from an more sacred rights of grief, which he infant- I begged permission to see carried in his countenance, all opposi- the corpse. She was in her coffin ; tion filed like a dream. There was, snow.drops and crocuses were laid upon her innocent bosom, and roses of also some change stealing over his that sort which the season allowed, features as if from some subtle poison over her person. These and other beginning to work upon his frame, lovely symbols of youth, of spring- awe struck I consented to listen, and time, and of resurrection, caught my sate still. “ It is well that you do so, eye for the first moment; but in the for my time is short. Here is my next it fell upon her face. Mighty will, legally drawn up, and you will God! what a change! what a trausti. see that I have committed an immense guration ! Still, indeed, there was property to your discretion. Here, the same innocent sweetness ; still again, is a paper still more important there was something of the same love. in my eyes; it is also testamentary, and liness ; the expression still remained; binds you to duties which may not be but for the features-all trace of flesh so easy to execute as the disposal of seemed to have vanished ; mere out my property. But now listen to someline of bony structure remained ; mere thing else which concerns neither of pencillings and shadowings of what these papers. Promise me, in the first sho once had been. This is indeed, I place, solemnly, that whenever I die exclaimed, “ dust to dust - ashes to you will see me buried in the same ashes !"

grave as my wife, from whose funeral Maximilian, to the astonishment of we are just returned. Promise." I every body, attended the funeral. It promised. “ Swear." I swore. was celebrated in the Cathedral. All « Finally, promise me that, when you made way for him, and at times he read this second paper which I have seemed collected ; at times, he reeled put into your hands, whatsoever you like one who was drunk. He heard may think of it, you will say nothing as one who hears not; he saw as one - publish nothing to the world, until in a dream. The whole ceremony three years shall have passed.” I prowent on by torch-light, and towards mised. “And now farewell for three the close he stood like a pillar, mo. hours ; come to me again about ten tionless, torpid, frozen. But the great o'clock and take a glass of wine in burst of the choir, and the mighty memory of old times.” This he said blare ascending from our vast organ at laughingly; but even then a dark spasm the closing of the grave, recalled him crossed his face. Yet, thinking that to himself, and he strode rapidly home. this might be the mere working of wards. Half-an-hour after I returned, inental anguish within him, I complied I was summoned to his bed-room. with his desire, and retired. Feeling, He was in bed, calm and collect. however, but little at ease, I devised an ed. What he said to me I remem. excuse for looking in upon him about ber as if it had been yesterday, and one hour and a half after I had left the very tone with which he said it, him. I knocked gently at his door; although more than twenty years have there was no answer. I knocked passed since then. He began thus: louder; still no answer. I went in. “I have not long to live ;' and when The light of day was gone, and I could he saw me start, suddenly awakened see nothing. But I was alarmed by into a consciousness that perhaps he the utter stillness of the room. I lishad taken poison, and meant to inti. tened earnestly, but not a breath could mate as much, he continued," You be heard. I rushed back hastily into fancy I have taken poison ;-no matter the hall for a lamp ; I returned; I whether I have or not; if I have, the looked in upon this marvel of manly poison is such that no antidotes will now beauty, and the first glance informed avail; or, if they would, you well know me; that he and all his splendid endowthat some griefs are of a kind which ments had departed for ever. He had leave no opening to any hope. What died, probably, soon after I left him, difference, therefore, can it make whe- and had dismissed me from some growther I leave this carth to-day, to-mor- ing instinct which informed him that row, or the next day? Be assured of his last agonies were at hand. this-that whatever I have determined I took up his two testamentary to do is past all power of being affected documents; both were addressed in by a human opposition. Occupy your the shape of letters to myself. The self not with any fruitless attempts, first was a rapid, though distinct, apbut calmly listen to me, else I know propriation of his enormous property. what to do." Seeing a suppressed fury General rules were laid down upon in his eye, notwithstanding that I saw which the property was to be distri

« AnteriorContinuar »