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ULTIMATE LIBRARY – danse macabre, ex libris, grimm & co, fairy tales, art of reading, tales of mystery & imagination, sherlock holmes theatre, erotic poetry, ideal women

· Wilhelm Hauff: An Emilie (Gedicht) · Ludwig Bechstein: Siebenschön (Märchen) · Juliana Horatia Ewing: Ah! Would I Could Forget · Jean-Louis Cabanès et Pierre Dufief biographie: Les Frères Goncourt · Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin: Charles Perrault · Margot Dijkgraaf: Zij namen het woord. Rebelse schrijfsters in de Franse letteren · Claude McKay: The Lynching · The Mourner by Mary Shelley · Ludwig Bechstein: Der Mann ohne Herz (Märchen) · Ludwig Bechstein: Die schöne junge Braut (Märchen) · Ludwig Bechstein: Der weiße Wolf (Märchen) · Transformation by Mary Shelley

»» there is more...

Wilhelm Hauff: An Emilie (Gedicht)

 

An Emilie

Zum Garten ging ich früh hinaus,
Ob ich vielleicht ein Sträußchen finde?
Nach manchem Blümchen schaut’ ich aus,
Ich wollt’s für dich zum Angebinde;
Umsonst hatt’ ich mich hinbemüht,
Vergebens war mein freudig Hoffen;
Das Veilchen war schon abgeblüht,
Von andern Blümchen keines offen.

Und trauernd späht’ ich her und hin,
Da tönte zu mir leise, leise
Ein Flüstern aus der Zweige Grün,
Gesang nach sel’ger Geister Weise;
Und lieblich, wie des Morgens Licht
Des Tales Nebelhüllen scheidet,
Ein Röschen aus der Knospe bricht,
Das seine Blätter schnell verbreitet.

»Du suchst ein Blümchen?« spricht’s zu mir,
»So nimm mich hin mit meinen Zweigen,
Bring mich zum Angebinde ihr!
Ich bin der wahren Freude Zeichen.
Ob auch mein Glanz vergänglich sei,
Es treibt aus ihrem treuen Schoße
Die Erde meine Knospen neu,
Drum unvergänglich ist die Rose.

Und wie mein Leben ewig quillt
Und Knosp’ um Knospe sich erschließet,
Wenn mich die Sonne sanft und mild
Mit ihrem Feuerkuß begrüßet,
So deine Freundin ewig blüht,
Beseelt vom Geiste ihrer Lieben,
Denn ob der Rose Schmelz verglüht —
Der Rose Leben ist geblieben.«

Wilhelm Hauff
(1802 – 1827)
An Emilie, Gedicht

• fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: Archive G-H, Hauff, Hauff, Wilhelm, Tales of Mystery & Imagination


Ludwig Bechstein: Siebenschön (Märchen)

Siebenschön

Es waren einmal in einem Dorfe ein paar arme Leute, die hatten ein kleines Häuschen und nur eine einzige Tochter, die war wunderschön und gut über alle Maßen. Sie arbeitete, fegte, wusch, spann und nähte für sieben, und war so schön wie sieben zusammen, darum ward sie Siebenschön geheißen. Aber weil sie ob ihrer Schönheit immer von den Leuten angestaunt wurde, schämte sie sich, und nahm sonntags, wenn sie in die Kirche ging – denn Siebenschön war auch frömmer wie sieben andre, und das war ihre größte Schönheit – einen Schleier vor ihr Gesicht.

So sah sie einstens der Königssohn, und hatte seine Freude über ihre edle Gestalt, ihren herrlichen Wuchs, so schlank wie eine junge Tanne, aber es war ihm leid, daß er vor dem Schleier nicht auch ihr Gesicht sah, und fragte seiner Diener einen: »Wie kommt es, daß wir Siebenschöns Gesicht nicht sehen?« – »Das kommt daher« – antwortete der Diener: »weil Siebenschön so sittsam ist.« Darauf sagte der Königssohn: »Ist Siebenschön so sittsam zu ihrer Schönheit, so will ich sie lieben mein lebenlang und will sie heiraten. Gehe du hin und bringe ihr diesen goldnen Ring von mir und sage ihr, ich habe mit ihr zu reden, sie solle abends zu der großen Eiche kommen.« Der Diener tat wie ihm befohlen war, und Siebenschön glaubte, der Königssohn wolle ein Stück Arbeit bei ihr bestellen, ging daher zur großen Eiche und da sagte ihr der Prinz, daß er sie lieb habe um ihrer großen Sittsamkeit und Tugend willen, und sie zur Frau nehmen wolle; Siebenschön aber sagte: »Ich bin ein armes Mädchen und du bist ein reicher Prinz, dein Vater würde sehr böse werden, wenn du mich wolltest zur Frau nehmen.

« Der Prinz drang aber noch mehr in sie, und da sagte sie endlich, sie wolle sich’s bedenken, er solle ihr ein paar Tage Bedenkzeit gönnen. Der Königssohn konnte aber unmöglich ein paar Tage warten, er schickte schon am folgenden Tage Siebenschön ein Paar silberne Schuhe und ließ sie bitten, noch einmal unter die große Eiche zu kommen. Da sie nun kam, so fragte er schon, ob sie sich besonnen habe? sie aber sagte, sie habe noch keine Zeit gehabt sich zu besinnen, es gebe im Haushalt gar viel zu tun, und sie sei ja doch ein armes Mädchen und er ein reicher Prinz, und sein Vater werde sehr böse werden, wenn er, der Prinz, sie zur Frau nehmen wolle. Aber der Prinz bat von neuem und immermehr, bis Siebenschön versprach, sich gewiß zu bedenken und ihren Eltern zu sagen, was der Prinz im Willen habe. Als der folgende Tag kam, da schickte der Königssohn ihr ein Kleid, das war ganz von Goldstoff, und ließ sie abermals zu der Eiche bitten.

Aber als nun Siebenschön dahin kam, und der Prinz wieder fragte, da mußte sie wieder sagen und klagen, daß sie abermals gar zu viel und den ganzen Tag zu tun gehabt, und keine Zeit zum Bedenken, und daß sie mit ihren Eltern von dieser Sache auch noch nicht habe reden können, und wiederholte auch noch einmal, was sie dem Prinzen schon zweimal gesagt hatte, daß sie arm, er aber reich sei, und daß er seinen Vater nur erzürnen werde. Aber der Prinz sagte ihr, das alles habe nichts auf sich, sie solle nur seine Frau werden, so werde sie später auch Königin, und da sie sah, wie aufrichtig der Prinz es mit ihr meinte, so sagte sie endlich ja, und kam nun jeden Abend zu der Eiche und zu dem Königssohne – auch sollte der König noch nichts davon erfahren. Aber da war am Hofe eine alte häßliche Hofmeisterin, die lauerte dem Königssohn auf, kam hinter sein Geheimnis und sagte es dem Könige an. Der König ergrimmte, sandte Diener aus und ließ das Häuschen, worin Siebenschöns Eltern wohnten, in Brand stecken, damit sie darin anbrenne. Sie tat dies aber nicht, sie sprang als sie das Feuer merkte heraus und alsbald in einen leeren Brunnen hinein, ihre Eltern aber, die armen alten Leute verbrannten in dem Häuschen.

Da saß nun Siebenschön drunten im Brunnen und grämte sich und weinte sehr, konnt’s aber zuletzt doch nicht auf die Länge drunten im Brunnen aushalten, krabbelte herauf, fand im Schutt des Häuschens noch etwas Brauchbares, machte es zu Geld und kaufte dafür Mannskleider, ging als ein frischer Bub an des Königs Hof und bot sich zu einem Bedienten an. Der König fragte den jungen Diener nach dem Namen, da erhielt er die Antwort: »Unglück!« und dem König gefiel der junge Diener also wohl, daß er ihn gleich annahm, und auch bald vor allen andern Dienern gut leiden konnte.

Als der Königssohn erfuhr, daß Siebenschöns Häuschen verSiebenschönbrannt war, wurde er sehr traurig, glaubte nicht anders, als Siebenschön sei mit verbrannt, und der König glaubte[180] das auch, und wollte haben, daß sein Sohn nun endlich eine Prinzessin heirate, und mußte dieser nun eines benachbarten Königs Tochter freien. Da mußte auch der ganze Hof und die ganze Dienerschaft mir zur Hochzeit ziehen, und für Unglück war das am traurigsten, es lag ihm wie ein Stein auf dem Herzen. Er ritt auch mit hintennach der Letzte im Zuge, und sang wehklagend mit klarer Stimme:

»Siebenschön war ich genannt,
Unglück ist mir jetzt bekannt.«

Das hörte der Prinz von weitem, und fiel ihm auf und hielt und fragte: »Ei wer singt doch da so schön?« – »Es wird wohl mein Bedienter, der Unglück sein«, antwortete der König, »den ich zum Diener angenommen habe.« Da hörten sie noch einmal den Gesang:

»Siebenschön war ich genannt,
Unglück ist mir jetzt bekannt.«

Da fragte der Prinz noch einmal, ob das wirklich niemand anders sei, als des Königs Diener? und der König sagte er wisse es nicht anders.

Als nun der Zug ganz nahe an das Schloß der neuen Braut kam, erklang noch einmal die schöne klare Stimme:

»Siebenschon war ich genannt,
Unglück ist mir jetzt bekannt.«

Jetzt wartete der Prinz keinen Augenblick länger, er spornte sein Pferd und ritt wie ein Offizier längs des ganzen Zugs in gestrecktem Galopp hin, bis er an Unglück kam, und Siebenschön erkannte. Da nickte er ihr freundlich zu und jagte wieder an die Spitze des Zuges, und zog in das Schloß ein. Da nun alle Gäste und alles Gefolge im großen Saal versammelt war und die Verlobung vor sich gehen sollte, so sagte der Prinz zu seinem künftigen Schwiegervater: »Herr König, ehe ich mit Eurer Prinzessin Tochter mich feierlich verlobe, wollet mir erst ein kleines Rätsel lösen. Ich besitze einen schönen Schrank, dazu verlor ich vor einiger Zeit den Schlüssel, kaufte mir also einen neuen; bald darauf fand ich den alten wieder, jetzt saget mir Herr König, wessen Schlüssel ich mich bedienen soll?« – »Ei natürlich des alten wieder!« antwortete der König, »das Alte soll man in Ehren halten, und es über Neuem nicht hintansetzen.« – »Ganz wohl Herr König«, antwortete nun der Prinz, »so zürnt mir nicht, wenn ich Eure Prinzessin Tochter nicht freien kann, sie ist der neue Schlüssel, und dort steht der alte.« Und nahm Siebenschön an der Hand und führte sie zu seinem Vater, indem er sagte: »Siehe Vater, das ist meine Braut.« Aber der alte König rief ganz erstaunt und erschrocken aus: »Ach lieber Sohn, das ist ja Unglück, mein Diener!« – Und viele Hofleute schrieen: »Herr Gott, das ist ja ein Unglück!« – »Nein!« sagte der Königssohn, »hier ist gar kein Unglück, sondern hier ist Siebenschön, meine liebe Braut.« Und nahm Urlaub von der Versammlung und führte Siebenschön als Herrin und Frau auf sein schönstes Schloß.

Ludwig Bechstein
(1801 – 1860)
Siebenschön
Sämtliche Märchen

• fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: Archive A-B, Bechstein, Bechstein, Ludwig, Tales of Mystery & Imagination


Juliana Horatia Ewing: Ah! Would I Could Forget

Ah! Would I Could Forget

The whispering water rocks the reeds,
And, murmuring softly, laps the weeds;
And nurses there the falsest bloom
That ever wrought a lover’s doom.
Forget me not! Forget me not!
Ah! would I could forget!
But, crying still, “Forget me not,”
Her image haunts me yet.

We wander’d by the river’s brim,
The day grew dusk, the pathway dim;
Her eyes like stars dispell’d the gloom,
Her gleaming fingers pluck’d the bloom.
Forget me not! Forget me not!
Ah! would I could forget!
But, crying still, “Forget me not,”
Her image haunts me yet.

The pale moon lit her paler face,
And coldly watch’d our last embrace,
And chill’d her tresses’ sunny hue,
And stole that flower’s turquoise blue.
Forget me not! Forget me not!
Ah! would I could forget!
But, crying still, “Forget me not,”
Her image haunts me yet.

The fateful flower droop’d to death,
The fair, false maid forswore her faith;
But I obey a broken vow,
And keep those wither’d blossoms now!
Forget me not! Forget me not!
Ah! would I could forget!
But, crying still, “Forget me not,”
Her image haunts me yet.

Sweet lips that pray’d–“Forget me not!”
Sweet eyes that will not be forgot!
Recall your prayer, forego your power,
Which binds me by the fatal flower.
Forget me not! Forget me not!
Ah! would I could forget!
But, crying still, “Forget me not,”
Her image haunts me yet.

Juliana Horatia Ewing
(1841–1885)
Poem
Ah! Would I Could Forget

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More in: Archive E-F, Archive E-F, Juliana Horatia Ewing, Tales of Mystery & Imagination


Jean-Louis Cabanès et Pierre Dufief biographie: Les Frères Goncourt

Les Goncourt furent à la fois acteurs et mordants spectateurs d’un demi-siècle de vie littéraire et artistique. Écrivains, critiques, collectionneurs, ils marquèrent profondément leur temps. Cette biographie, rédigée par les deux plus grands spécialistes des Goncourt et appelée à faire date, renoue les fils de cette intense vie à deux.

Le nom de Goncourt connaît la célébrité grâce au plus fameux des prix littéraires, mais il mérite aussi de survivre car il fut porté par deux frères, hommes de lettres novateurs, irremplaçables témoins de leur temps.

Leur double biographie ressuscite un demi-siècle de vie littéraire et artistique, où l’on croise Gautier et Flaubert, où l’on côtoie Renan, Taine, Berthelot, Daudet, Zola. Collectionneurs impénitents, esthètes dolents et élitistes, Jules et Edmond de Goncourt ont transformé leur vie et celle de leurs proches en pages d’écriture. Leur Journal, leurs romans, qui ont initié le naturalisme et la littérature fin de siècle, la création de l’académie des Goncourt, tout témoigne de leur aspiration à la survie littéraire. Leurs engagements avant-gardistes s’associent paradoxalement à un conservatisme politique qui n’exclut ni la misogynie ni l’antisémitisme.

Fondée sur des archives familiales, sur des correspondances largement inédites et sur le dépouillement de la presse de la seconde moitié du xixe siècle, cette biographie magistrale s’attache à l’œuvre littéraire et historique aujourd’hui méconnue, elle renoue les fils d’une intense vie à deux, en pénétrant dans l’intimité affective d’une gémellité fusionnelle.

Jean-Louis Cabanès, professeur émérite à l’université de Paris-Nanterre, spécialiste du roman au xixe siècle et des rapports qu’entretiennent écrits littéraires et textes médicaux, est l’auteur de nombreux ouvrages. Il dirige un collectif chargé d’établir une édition critique du Journal des Goncourt.

Pierre Dufief, professeur émérite à l’université de Paris-Nanterre, a travaillé sur le roman (1850-1914) ainsi que sur les écritures personnelles (Les Écritures de l’intime, Bréal, 2001). Président de la Société des amis des frères Goncourt, il édite la correspondance des deux frères.

Les Frères Goncourt
Jean-Louis Cabanès et Pierre Dufief
Parution: 11/03/2020
Pages: 800
Format: 155 x 235 mm
Collection: Histoire Fayard
EAN: 9782213685960
Prix: € 35.00

Les Frères Goncourt de Jean-Louis Cabanès et Pierre Dufief a reçu la Mention spéciale du Prix Goncourt de la biographie.

# new books
Les Frères Goncourt
Jean-Louis Cabanès & Pierre Dufief

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More in: #Biography Archives, - Book News, Archive G-H, Archive G-H, Awards & Prizes, Histoire de France, Jules et Edmond de Goncourt, Libraries in Literature


Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin: Charles Perrault

Dans un bel essai biographique, Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin redonne vie à l’auteur de Peau d’âne et du Conte de ma mère l’Oye, en replaçant l’homme au coeur d’un milieu et d’un environnement de relations personnelles.

Il était une fois cinq frères liés comme les doigts d’une main… Le benjamin, Charles, les mène sur le chemin de la gloire. Et pourtant, après avoir été la cheville ouvrière de l’ambitieuse politique artistique de Louis XIV pendant vingt ans, il est brutalement évincé du pouvoir. L’académicien et écrivain polémiste, blessé, néanmoins toujours joueur, riposte et oppose des rêves fastueux à la réalité. Champion des Modernes contre les Anciens, il laisse paraître, au terme d’une vie bien remplie, ses contes – toujours aussi célèbres aujourd’hui – mais étrangement sous le seul nom de son fils.

Dans une biographie pleine d’allant et riche en inédits, Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin révèle un homme complexe et fantasque. Son destin héroïque et tragique, façonné dans le miroir ardent de ses métamorphoses, s’apparente à celui d’un Petit Poucet devenu tour à tour Chat botté, prince charmant et Barbe bleue.

Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin a publié biographies, essais et romans. Ses travaux sur André Le Nôtre et sa biographie parue chez Fayard ont reçu de nombreux prix en Europe et aux États-Unis parmi lesquels, en France, le prix Hugues Capet 2013 et en 2014 le prix d’Académie de l’Académie française.

Charles Perrault
par Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin
2018
Pages: 360
Format: 135 x 215 mm
Collection: Histoire
FAYARD
EAN: 9782213705644
€ 21.90

# new books
Charles Perrault
par Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin

• fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: #Biography Archives, - Book News, Archive A-B, Archive O-P, Grimm, Andersen e.o.: Fables, Fairy Tales & Stories, Histoire de France, Perrault


Margot Dijkgraaf: Zij namen het woord. Rebelse schrijfsters in de Franse letteren

In ‘Zij namen het woord’ schetst Margot Dijkgraaf de portretten van uitzonderlijke, schrijvende Franse vrouwen uit de 17e tot de 21e eeuw.

Ze schrijven, ze spreken, ze gaan de barricaden op, ze doorbreken taboes, ze verleggen grenzen. En ze bieden inspiratie – door hun boeken, hun denkbeelden, hun daden of hun karakter.

De vrouwen in dit boek heten Colette of Françoise Sagan, George Sand of Simone de Beauvoir, Madame de Staël of Maryse Condé.

De een is grondlegger van de Europese literatuur, de volgende vecht voor de positie van de vrouw als schrijfster, weer een ander richt haar pijlen op onrechtvaardigheid en ongelijkheid of eist voor de niet-westerse stem een plek op in de literatuur.

Allemaal zijn ze Franstalig, rebels, tegendraads. Schrijven is gevaarlijk.

Margot Dijkgraaf
Zij namen het woord
Pagina’s: 240
Paperback / softback
Gepubliceerd: februari 2020
ISBN 9789045040998
Uitg. Atlas-Contact
€ 19,99

# new books
Margot Dijkgraaf
Zij namen het woord

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More in: - Book News, - Book Stories, - Bookstores, Archive C-D, Art & Literature News, NONFICTION: ESSAYS & STORIES, The Ideal Woman


Claude McKay: The Lynching

 

The Lynching

His spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the crudest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again;
The awful sin remained still unforgiven.
All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate’s wild whim)
Hung pitifully o’er the swinging char.
Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun:
The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee.

Festus Claudius “Claude” McKay
(1889 – 1948)
The Lynching (Poem)

• fleursdumal.nl magazine

More in: #Editors Choice Archiv, Archive M-N, Archive M-N, Danse Macabre


The Mourner by Mary Shelley

“One fatal remembrance, one sorrow that throws
Its bleak shade alike o’er our joys and our woes,
To which life nothing darker or brighter can bring,
For which joy has no balm, and affliction no sting!”
—Moore.

A gorgeous scene of kingly pride is the prospect now before us!—the offspring of art, the nursling of nature—where can the eye rest on a landscape more deliciously lovely than the fair expanse of Virginia Water, now an open mirror to the sky, now shaded by umbrageous banks, which wind into dark recesses, or are rounded into soft promontories?

Looking down on it, now that the sun is low in the west, the eye is dazzled, the soul oppressed, by excess of beauty. Earth, water, air drink to overflowing the radiance that streams from yonder well of light; the foliage of the trees seems dripping with the golden flood; while the lake, filled with no earthly dew, appears but an imbasining of the sun-tinctured atmosphere; and trees and gay pavilion float in its depth, more dear, more distinct than their twins in the upper air. Nor is the scene silent: strains more sweet than those that lull Venus to her balmy rest, more inspiring than the song of Tiresias which awoke Alexander to the deed of ruin, more solemn than the chantings of St. Cecilia, float along the waves and mingle with the lagging breeze, which ruffles not the lake. Strange, that a few dark scores should be the key to this fountain of sound; the unconscious link between unregarded noise and harmonies which unclose paradise to our entranced senses!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MaryShelley105-1.jpegThe sun touches the extreme boundary, and a softer, milder light mingles a roseate tinge with the fiery glow. Our boat has floated long on the broad expanse; now let it approach the umbrageous bank. The green tresses of the graceful willow dip into the waters, which are checked by them into a ripple. The startled teal dart from their recess, skimming the waves with splashing wing. The stately swans float onward; while innumerable waterfowl cluster together out of the way of the oars. The twilight is blotted by no dark shades; it is one subdued, equal receding of the great tide of day. We may disembark, and wander yet amid the glades, long before the thickening shadows speak of night. The plantations are formed of every English tree, with an old oak or two standing out in the walks. There the glancing foliage obscures heaven, as the silken texture of a veil a woman’s lovely features. Beneath such fretwork we may indulge in light-hearted thoughts; or, if sadder meditations lead us to seek darker shades, we may pass the cascade towards the large groves of pine, with their vast undergrowth of laurel, reaching up to the Belvidere; or, on the opposite side of the water, sit under the shadow of the silver-stemmed birch, or beneath the leafy pavilions of those fine old beeches, whose high fantastic roots seem formed in nature’s sport; and the near jungle of sweet-smelling myrica leaves no sense unvisited by pleasant ministration.

Now this splendid scene is reserved for the royal possessor; but in past years; while the lodge was called the Regent’s Cottage, or before, when the under-ranger inhabited it, the mazy paths of Chapel Wood were open, and the iron gates enclosing the plantations and Virginia Water were guarded by no Cerebus untamable by sops. It was here, on a summer’s evening, that Horace Neville and his two fair cousins floated idly on the placid lake,

“In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.”

Neville had been eloquent in praise of English scenery. “In distant climes,” he said, “we may find landscapes grand in barbaric wildness, or rich in the luxuriant vegetation of the south, or sublime in Alpine magnificence. We may lament, though it is ungrateful to say so on such a night as this, the want of a more genial sky; but where find scenery to be compared to the verdant, well-wooded, well-watered groves of our native land; the clustering cottages, shadowed by fine old elms; each garden blooming with early flowers, each lattice gay with geraniums and roses; the blue-eyed child devouring his white bread, while he drives a cow to graze; the hedge redolent with summer blooms; the enclosed cornfields, seas of golden grain, weltering in the breeze; the stile, the track across the meadow, leading through the copse, under which the path winds, and the meeting branches overhead, which give, by their dimming tracery, a cathedral-like solemnity to the scene; the river, winding ‘with sweet inland murmur;’ and, as additional graces, spots like these—oases of taste—gardens of Eden—the works of wealth, which evince at once the greatest power and the greatest will to create beauty?

“And yet,” continued Neville, “it was with difficulty that I persuaded myself to reap the best fruits of my uncle’s will, and to inhabit this spot, familiar to my boyhood, associated with unavailing regrets and recollected pain.”

Horace Neville was a man of birth—of wealth; but he could hardly be termed a man of the world. There was in his nature a gentleness, a sweetness, a winning sensibility, allied to talent and personal distinction, that gave weight to his simplest expressions, and excited sympathy for all his emotions. His younger cousin, his junior by several years, was attached to him by the tenderest sentiments—secret long—but they were now betrothed to each other—a lovely, happy pair. She looked inquiringly, but he turned away. “No more of this,” he said, and, giving a swifter impulse to their boat, they speedily reached the shore, landed, and walked through the long extent of Chapel Wood. It was dark night before they met their carriage at Bishopsgate.

A week or two after, Horace received letters to call him to a distant part of the country. A few days before his departure, he requested his cousin to walk with him. They bent their steps across several meadows to Old Windsor Churchyard. At first he did not deviate from the usual path; and as they went they talked cheerfully—gaily. The beauteous sunny day might well exhilarate them; the dancing waves sped onwards at their feet; the country church lifted its rustic spire into the bright pure sky. There was nothing in their conversation that could induce his cousin to think that Neville had led her hither for any saddening purpose; but when they were about to quit the churchyard, Horace, as if he had suddenly recollected himself, turned from the path, crossed the greensward, and paused beside a grave near the river. No stone was there to commemorate the being who reposed beneath—it was thickly grown with grass, starred by a luxuriant growth of humble daisies: a few dead leaves, a broken bramble twig, defaced its neatness. Neville removed these, and then said, “Juliet, I commit this sacred spot to your keeping while I am away.”

“There is no monument,” he continued; “for her commands were implicitly obeyed by the two beings to whom she addressed them. One day another may lie near, and his name will be her epitaph. I do not mean myself,” he said, half-smiling at the terror his cousin’s countenance expressed; “but promise me, Juliet, to preserve this grave from every violation. I do not wish to sadden you by the story; yet, if I have excited your interest, I will satisfy it; but not now—not here.”

It was not till the following day, when, in company with her sister, they again visited Virginia Water, that, seated under the shadow of its pines, whose melodious swinging in the wind breathed unearthly harmony, Neville, unasked, commenced his story.

“I was sent to Eton at eleven years of age. I will not dwell upon my sufferings there; I would hardly refer to them, did they not make a part of my present narration. I was a fag to a hard taskmaster; every labour he could invent—and the youthful tyrant was ingenious—he devised for my annoyance; early and late, I was forced to be in attendance, to the neglect of my school duties, so incurring punishment. There were worse things to bear than these: it was his delight to put me to shame, and, finding that I had too much of my mother in my blood,—to endeavour to compel me to acts of cruelty from which my nature revolted,—I refused to obey. Speak of West Indian slavery! I hope things may be better now; in my days, the tender years of aristocratic childhood were yielded up to a capricious, unrelenting, cruel bondage, far beyond the measured despotism of Jamaica.

“One day—I had been two years at school, and was nearly thirteen—my tyrant, I will give him no other name, issued a command, in the wantonness of power, for me to destroy a poor little bullfinch I had tamed and caged. In a hapless hour he found it in my room, and was indignant that I should dare to appropriate a single pleasure. I refused, stubbornly, dauntlessly, though the consequence of my disobedience was immediate and terrible. At this moment a message came from my tormentor’s tutor—his father had arrived. ‘Well, old lad,’ he cried, ‘I shall pay you off some day!’ Seizing my pet at the same time, he wrung its neck, threw it at my feet, and, with a laugh of derision, quitted the room.

“Never before—never may I again feel the same swelling, boiling fury in my bursting heart;—the sight of my nursling expiring at my feet—my desire of vengeance—my impotence, created a Vesuvius within me, that no tears flowed to quench. Could I have uttered—acted—my passion, it would have been less torturous: it was so when I burst into a torrent of abuse and imprecation. My vocabulary—it must have been a choice collection—was supplied by him against whom it was levelled. But words were air. I desired to give more substantial proof of my resentment—I destroyed everything in the room belonging to him; I tore them to pieces, I stamped on them, crushed them with more than childish strength. My last act was to seize a timepiece, on which my tyrant infinitely prided himself, and to dash it to the ground. The sight of this, as it lay shattered at my feet, recalled me to my senses, and something like an emotion of fear allayed the tumult in my heart. I began to meditate an escape: I got out of the house, ran down a lane, and across some meadows, far out of bounds, above Eton. I was seen by an elder boy, a friend of my tormentor. He called to me, thinking at first that I was performing some errand for him; but seeing that I shirked, he repeated his ‘Come up!’ in an authoritative voice. It put wings to my heels; he did not deem it necessary to pursue. But I grow tedious, my dear Juliet; enough that fears the most intense, of punishment both from my masters and the upper boys, made me resolve to run away. I reached the banks of the Thames, tied my clothes over my head, swam across, and, traversing several fields, entered Windsor Forest, with a vague childish feeling of being able to hide myself for ever in the unexplored obscurity of its immeasurable wilds. It was early autumn; the weather was mild, even warm; the forest oaks yet showed no sign of winter change, though the fern beneath wore a yellowy tinge. I got within Chapel Wood; I fed upon chestnuts and beechnuts; I continued to hide myself from the gamekeepers and woodmen. I lived thus two days.

“But chestnuts and beechnuts were sorry fare to a growing lad of thirteen years old. A day’s rain occurred, and I began to think myself the most unfortunate boy on record. I had a distant, obscure idea of starvation: I thought of the Children in the Wood, of their leafy shroud, gift of the pious robin; this brought my poor bullfinch to my mind, and tears streamed in torrents down my cheeks. I thought of my father and mother; of you, then my little baby cousin and playmate; and I cried with renewed fervour, till, quite exhausted, I curled myself up under a huge oak among some dry leaves, the relics of a hundred summers, and fell asleep.

“I ramble on in my narration as if I had a story to tell; yet I have little except a portrait—a sketch—to present, for your amusement or interest. When I awoke, the first object that met my opening eyes was a little foot, delicately clad in silk and soft kid. I looked up in dismay, expecting to behold some gaily dressed appendage to this indication of high-bred elegance; but I saw a girl, perhaps seventeen, simply clad in a dark cotton dress, her face shaded by a large, very coarse straw hat; she was pale even to marmoreal whiteness; her chestnut-coloured hair was parted in plain tresses across a brow which wore traces of extreme suffering; her eyes were blue, full, large, melancholy, often even suffused with tears; but her mouth had an infantine sweetness and innocence in its expression, that softened the otherwise sad expression of her countenance.

“She spoke to me. I was too hungry, too exhausted, too unhappy, to resist her kindness, and gladly permitted her to lead me to her home. We passed out of the wood by some broken palings on to Bishopsgate Heath, and after no long walk arrived at her habitation. It was a solitary, dreary-looking cottage; the palings were in disrepair, the garden waste, the lattices unadorned by flowers or creepers; within, all was neat, but sombre, and even mean. The diminutiveness of a cottage requires an appearance of cheerfulness and elegance to make it pleasing; the bare floor,—clean, it is true,—the rush chairs, deal table, checked curtains of this cot, were beneath even a peasant’s rusticity; yet it was the dwelling of my lovely guide, whose little white hand, delicately gloved, contrasted with her unadorned attire, as did her gentle self with the clumsy appurtenances of her too humble dwelling.

“Poor child! she had meant entirely to hide her origin, to degrade herself to a peasant’s state, and little thought that she for ever betrayed herself by the strangest incongruities. Thus, the arrangements of her table were mean, her fare meagre for a hermit; but the linen was matchlessly fine, and wax lights stood in candlesticks which a beggar would almost have disdained to own. But I talk of circumstances I observed afterwards; then I was chiefly aware of the plentiful breakfast she caused her single attendant, a young girl, to place before me, and of the sweet soothing voice of my hostess, which spoke a kindness with which lately I had been little conversant. When my hunger was appeased, she drew my story from me, encouraged me to write to my father, and kept me at her abode till, after a few days, I returned to school pardoned. No long time elapsed before I got into the upper forms, and my woful slavery ended.

“Whenever I was able, I visited my disguised nymph. I no longer associated with my schoolfellows; their diversions, their pursuits appeared vulgar and stupid to me; I had but one object in view—to accomplish my lessons, and to steal to the cottage of Ellen Burnet.

“Do not look grave, love! true, others as young as I then was have loved, and I might also; but not Ellen. Her profound, her intense melancholy, sister to despair—her serious, sad discourse—her mind, estranged from all worldly concerns, forbade that; but there was an enchantment in her sorrow, a fascination in her converse, that lifted me above commonplace existence; she created a magic circle, which I entered as holy ground: it was not akin to heaven, for grief was the presiding spirit; but there was an exaltation of sentiment, an enthusiasm, a view beyond the grave, which made it unearthly, singular, wild, enthralling. You have often observed that I strangely differ from all other men; I mingle with them, make one in their occupations and diversions, but I have a portion of my being sacred from them:—a living well, sealed up from their contamination, lies deep in my heart—it is of little use, but there it is; Ellen opened the spring, and it has flowed ever since.

“Of what did she talk? She recited no past adventures, alluded to no past intercourse with friend or relative; she spoke of the various woes that wait on humanity, on the intricate mazes of life, on the miseries of passion, of love, remorse, and death, and that which we may hope or fear beyond the tomb; she spoke of the sensation of wretchedness alive in her own broken heart, and then she grew fearfully eloquent, till, suddenly pausing, she reproached herself for making me familiar with such wordless misery. ‘I do you harm,’ she often said; ‘I unfit you for society; I have tried, seeing you thrown upon yonder distorted miniature of a bad world, to estrange you from its evil contagion; I fear that I shall be the cause of greater harm to you than could spring from association with your fellow-creatures in the ordinary course of things. This is not well—avoid the stricken deer.’

“There were darker shades in the picture than those which I have already developed. Ellen was more miserable than the imagination of one like you, dear girl, unacquainted with woe, can portray. Sometimes she gave words to her despair—it was so great as to confuse the boundary between physical and mental sensation—and every pulsation of her heart was a throb of pain. She has suddenly broken off in talking of her sorrows, with a cry of agony—bidding me leave her—hiding her face on her arms, shivering with the anguish some thought awoke. The idea that chiefly haunted her, though she earnestly endeavoured to put it aside, was self-destruction—to snap the silver cord that bound together so much grace, wisdom, and sweetness—to rob the world of a creation made to be its ornament. Sometimes her piety checked her; oftener a sense of unendurable suffering made her brood with pleasure over the dread resolve. She spoke of it to me as being wicked; yet I often fancied this was done rather to prevent her example from being of ill effect to me, than from any conviction that the Father of all would regard angrily the last act of His miserable child. Once she had prepared the mortal beverage; it was on the table before her when I entered; she did not deny its nature, she did not attempt to justify herself; she only besought me not to hate her, and to soothe by my kindness her last moments.—‘I cannot live!’ was all her explanation, all her excuse; and it was spoken with such fervent wretchedness that it seemed wrong to attempt to persuade her to prolong the sense of pain. I did not act like a boy; I wonder I did not; I made one simple request, to which she instantly acceded, that she should walk with me to this Belvidere. It was a glorious sunset; beauty and the spirit of love breathed in the wind, and hovered over the softened hues of the landscape. ‘Look, Ellen,’ I cried, ‘if only such loveliness of nature existed, it were worth living for!’

“‘True, if a latent feeling did not blot this glorious scene with murky shadows. Beauty is as we see it—my eyes view all things deformed and evil.’ She closed them as she said this; but, young and sensitive, the visitings of the soft breeze already began to minister consolation. ‘Dearest Ellen,’ I continued, ‘what do I not owe to you? I am your boy, your pupil; I might have gone on blindly as others do, but you opened my eyes; you have given me a sense of the just, the good, the beautiful—and have you done this merely for my misfortune? If you leave me, what can become of me?’ The last words came from my heart, and tears gushed from my eyes. ‘Do not leave me, Ellen,’ I said; ‘I cannot live without you—and I cannot die, for I have a mother—a father.’ She turned quickly round, saying, ‘You are blessed sufficiently.’ Her voice struck me as unnatural; she grew deadly pale as she spoke, and was obliged to sit down. Still I clung to her, prayed, cried; till she—I had never seen her shed a tear before—burst into passionate weeping. After this she seemed to forget her resolve. We returned by moonlight, and our talk was even more calm and cheerful than usual. When in her cottage, I poured away the fatal draught. Her ‘good-night’ bore with it no traces of her late agitation; and the next day she said, ‘I have thoughtlessly, even wickedly, created a new duty to myself, even at a time when I had forsworn all; but I will be true to it. Pardon me for making you familiar with emotions and scenes so dire; I will behave better—I will preserve myself if I can, till the link between us is loosened, or broken, and I am free again.’

“One little incident alone occurred during our intercourse that appeared at all to connect her with the world. Sometimes I brought her a newspaper, for those were stirring times; and though, before I knew her, she had forgotten all except the world her own heart enclosed, yet, to please me, she would talk of Napoleon—Russia, from whence the emperor now returned overthrown—and the prospect of his final defeat. The paper lay one day on her table; some words caught her eye; she bent eagerly down to read them, and her bosom heaved with violent palpitation; but she subdued herself, and after a few moments told me to take the paper away. Then, indeed, I did feel an emotion of even impertinent inquisitiveness; I found nothing to satisfy it—though afterwards I became aware that it contained a singular advertisement, saying, ‘If these lines meet the eye of any one of the passengers who were on board the St. Mary, bound for Liverpool from Barbadoes, which sailed on the third of May last, and was destroyed by fire in the high seas, a part of the crew only having been saved by his Majesty’s frigate the Bellerophon, they are entreated to communicate with the advertiser; and if any one be acquainted with the particulars of the Hon. Miss Eversham’s fate and present abode, they are earnestly requested to disclose them, directing to L. E., Stratton Street, Park Lane.’

“It was after this event, as winter came on, that symptoms of decided ill-health declared themselves in the delicate frame of my poor Ellen. I have often suspected that, without positively attempting her life, she did many things that tended to abridge it and to produce mortal disease. Now, when really ill, she refused all medical attendance; but she got better again, and I thought her nearly well when I saw her for the last time, before going home for the Christmas holidays. Her manner was full of affection: she relied, she said, on the continuation of my friendship; she made me promise never to forget her, though she refused to write to me, and forbade any letters from me.

“Even now I see her standing at her humble doorway. If an appearance of illness and suffering can ever he termed lovely, it was in her. Still she was to be viewed as the wreck of beauty. What must she not have been in happier days, with her angel expression of face, her nymph-like figure, her voice, whose tones were music? ‘So young—so lost!’ was the sentiment that burst even from me, a young lad, as I waved my hand to her as a last adieu. She hardly looked more than fifteen, but none could doubt that her very soul was impressed by the sad lines of sorrow that rested so unceasingly on her fair brow. Away from her, her figure for ever floated before my eyes;—I put my hands before them, still she was there: my day, my night dreams were filled by my recollections of her.

“During the winter holidays, on a fine soft day, I went out to hunt: you, dear Juliet, will remember the sad catastrophe; I fell and broke my leg. The only person who saw me fall was a young man who rode one of the most beautiful horses I ever saw, and I believe it was by watching him as he took a leap, that I incurred my disaster: he dismounted, and was at my side in a minute. My own animal had fled; he called his; it obeyed his voice; with ease he lifted my light figure on to the saddle, contriving to support my leg, and so conducted me a short distance to a lodge situated in the woody recesses of Elmore Park, the seat of the Earl of D——, whose second son my preserver was. He was my sole nurse for a day or two, and during the whole of my illness passed many hours of each day by my bedside. As I lay gazing on him, while he read to me, or talked, narrating a thousand stranger adventures which had occurred during his service in the Peninsula, I thought—is it for ever to be my fate to fall in with the highly gifted and excessively unhappy?

“The immediate neighbour of Lewis’ family was Lord Eversham. He had married in very early youth, and became a widower young. After this misfortune, which passed like a deadly blight over his prospects and possessions, leaving the gay view utterly sterile and bare, he left his surviving infant daughter under the care of Lewis’ mother, and travelled for many years in far distant lands. He returned when Clarice was about ten, a lovely sweet child, the pride and delight of all connected with her. Lord Eversham, on his return—he was then hardly more than thirty—devoted himself to her education. They were never separate: he was a good musician, and she became a proficient under his tutoring. They rode—walked—read together. When a father is all that a father may be, the sentiments of filial piety, entire dependence, and perfect confidence being united, the love of a daughter is one of the deepest and strongest, as it is the purest passion of which our natures are capable. Clarice worshipped her parent, who came, during the transition from mere childhood to the period when reflection and observation awaken, to adorn a commonplace existence with all the brilliant adjuncts which enlightened and devoted affection can bestow. He appeared to her like an especial gift of Providence, a guardian angel—but far dearer, as being akin to her own nature. She grew, under his eye, in loveliness and refinement both of intellect and heart. These feelings were not divided—almost strengthened, by the engagement that had taken place between her and Lewis:—Lewis was destined for the army, and, after a few years’ service, they were to be united.

“It is hard, when all is fair and tranquil, when the world, opening before the ardent gaze of youth, looks like a well-kept demesne, unencumbered by let or hindrance for the annoyance of the young traveller, that we should voluntarily stray into desert wilds and tempest-visited districts. Lewis Elmore was ordered to Spain; and, at the same time, Lord Eversham found it necessary to visit some estates he possessed in Barbadoes. He was not sorry to revisit a scene, which had dwelt in his memory as an earthly paradise, nor to show to his daughter a new and strange world, so to form her understanding and enlarge her mind. They were to return in three months, and departed as on a summer tour. Clarice was glad that, while her lover gathered experience and knowledge in a distant land, she should not remain in idleness; she was glad that there would be some diversion for her anxiety during his perilous absence; and in every way she enjoyed the idea of travelling with her beloved father, who would fill every hour, and adorn every new scene, with pleasure and delight. They sailed. Clarice wrote home, with enthusiastic expressions of rapture and delight, from Madeira:—yet, without her father, she said, the fair scene had been blank to her. More than half her letter was filled by the expressions of her gratitude and affection for her adored and revered parent. While he, in his, with fewer words, perhaps, but with no less energy, spoke of his satisfaction in her improvement, his pride in her beauty, and his grateful sense of her love and kindness.

“Such were they, a matchless example of happiness in the dearest connection in life, as resulting from the exercise of their reciprocal duties and affections. A father and daughter; the one all care, gentleness, and sympathy, consecrating his life for her happiness; the other fond, duteous, grateful:—such had they been,—and where were they now,—the noble, kind, respected parent, and the beloved and loving child! They had departed from England as on a pleasure voyage down an inland stream; but the ruthless car of destiny had overtaken them on their unsuspecting way, crushing them under its heavy wheels—scattering love, hope, and joy as the bellowing avalanche overwhelms and grinds to mere spray the streamlet of the valley. They were gone; but whither? Mystery hung over the fate of the most helpless victim; and my friend’s anxiety was, to penetrate the clouds that hid poor Clarice from his sight.

“After an absence of a few months, they had written, fixing their departure in the St. Mary, to sail from Barbadoes in a few days. Lewis, at the same time, returned from Spain: he was invalided, in his very first action, by a bad wound in his side. He arrived, and each day expected to hear of the landing of his friends, when that common messenger, the newspaper, brought him tidings to fill him with more than anxiety—with fear and agonizing doubt. The St. Mary had caught fire, and had burned in the open sea. A frigate, the Bellerophon, had saved a part of the crew. In spite of illness and a physician’s commands, Lewis set out the same day for London to ascertain as speedily as possible the fate of her he loved. There he heard that the frigate was expected in the Downs. Without alighting from his travelling chaise, he posted thither, arriving in a burning fever. He went on board, saw the commander, and spoke with the crew. They could give him few particulars as to whom they had saved; they had touched at Liverpool, and left there most of the persons, including all the passengers rescued from the St. Mary. Physical suffering for awhile disabled Mr. Elmore; he was confined by his wound and consequent fever, and only recovered to give himself up to his exertions to discover the fate of his friends;—they did not appear nor write; and all Lewis’ inquiries only tended to confirm his worst fears; yet still he hoped, and still continued indefatigable in his perquisitions. He visited Liverpool and Ireland, whither some of the passengers had gone, and learnt only scattered, incongruous details of the fearful tragedy, that told nothing of Miss Eversham’s present abode, though much that confirmed his suspicion that she still lived.

“The fire on board the St. Mary had raged long and fearfully before the Bellerophon hove in sight, and boats came off for the rescue of the crew. The women were to be first embarked; but Clarice clung to her father, and refused to go till he should accompany her. Some fearful presentiment that, if she were saved, he would remain and die, gave such energy to her resolve, that not the entreaties of her father, nor the angry expostulations of the captain, could shake it. Lewis saw this man, after the lapse of two or three months, and he threw most light on the dark scene. He well remembered that, transported with anger by her obstinacy, he had said to her, ‘You will cause your father’s death—and be as much a parricide as if you put poison into his cup; you are not the first girl who has murdered her father in her wilful mood.’ Still Clarice passionately refused to go—there was no time for long parley—the point was yielded, and she remained pale, but firm, near her parent, whose arm was around her, supporting her during the awful interval. It was no period for regular action and calm order; a tempest was rising, the scorching waves blew this way and that, making a fearful day of the night which veiled all except the burning ship. The boats returned with difficulty, and one only could contrive to approach; it was nearly full; Lord Eversham and his daughter advanced to the deck’s edge to get in. ‘We can only take one of you,’ vociferated the sailors; ‘keep back on your life! throw the girl to us—we will come back for you if we can.’ Lord Eversham cast with a strong arm his daughter, who had now entirely lost her self-possession, into the boat; she was alive again in a minute; she called to her father, held out her arms to him, and would have thrown herself into the sea, but was held back by the sailors. Meanwhile Lord Eversham, feeling that no boat could again approach the lost vessel, contrived to heave a spar overboard, and threw himself into the sea, clinging to it. The boat, tossed by the huge waves, with difficulty made its way to the frigate; and as it rose from the trough of the sea, Clarice saw her father struggling with his fate—battling with the death that at last became the victor; the spar floated by, his arms had fallen from it; were those his pallid features? She neither wept nor fainted, but her limbs grew rigid, her face colourless, and she was lifted as a log on to the deck of the frigate.

“The captain allowed that on her homeward voyage the people had rather a horror of her, as having caused her father’s death; her own servants had perished, few people remembered who she was; but they talked together with no careful voices as they passed her, and a hundred times she must have heard herself accused of having destroyed her parent. She spoke to no one, or only in brief reply when addressed; to avoid the rough remonstrances of those around, she appeared at table, ate as well as she could; but there was a settled wretchedness in her face that never changed. When they landed at Liverpool, the captain conducted her to an hotel; he left her, meaning to return, but an opportunity of sailing that night for the Downs occurred, of which he availed himself, without again visiting her. He knew, he said, and truly, that she was in her native country, where she had but to write a letter to gather crowds of friends about her; and where can greater civility be found than at an English hotel, if it is known that you are perfectly able to pay your bill?

“This was all that Mr. Elmore could learn, and it took many months to gather together these few particulars. He went to the hotel at Liverpool. It seemed that as soon as there appeared some hope of rescue from the frigate, Lord Eversham had given his pocket-book to his daughter’s care, containing bills on a banking-house at Liverpool to the amount of a few hundred pounds. On the second day after Clarice’s arrival there, she had sent for the master of the hotel, and showed him these. He got the cash for her; and the next day she quitted Liverpool in a little coasting vessel. In vain Lewis endeavoured to trace her. Apparently she had crossed to Ireland; but whatever she had done, wherever she had gone, she had taken infinite pains to conceal herself, and all due was speedily lost.

“Lewis had not yet despaired; he was even now perpetually making journeys, sending emissaries, employing every possible means for her discovery. From the moment he told me this story, we talked of nothing else. I became deeply interested, and we ceaselessly discussed the probabilities of the case, and where she might be concealed. That she did not meditate suicide was evident from her having possessed herself of money; yet, unused to the world, young, lovely, and inexperienced, what could be her plan? What might not have been her fate?

“Meanwhile I continued for nearly three months confined by the fracture of my limb; before the lapse of that time, I had begun to crawl about the ground, and now I considered myself as nearly recovered. It had been settled that I should not return to Eton, but be entered at Oxford; and this leap from boyhood to man’s estate elated me considerably. Yet still I thought of my poor Ellen, and was angry at her obstinate silence. Once or twice I had, disobeying her command, written to her, mentioning my accident, and the kind attentions of Mr. Elmore. Still she wrote not; and I began to fear that her illness might have had a fatal termination. She had made me vow so solemnly never to mention her name, never to inquire about her during my absence, that, considering obedience the first duty of a young inexperienced boy to one older than himself, I resisted each suggestion of my affection or my fears to transgress her orders.

“And now spring came, with its gift of opening buds, odoriferous flowers, and sunny genial days. I returned home, and found my family on the eve of their departure for London; my long confinement had weakened me; it was deemed inadvisable for me to encounter the bad air and fatigues of the metropolis, and I remained to rusticate. I rode and hunted, and thought of Ellen; missing the excitement of her conversation, and feeling a vacancy in my heart which she had filled. I began to think of riding across the country from Shropshire to Berks for the purpose of seeing her. The whole landscape haunted my imagination—the fields round Eton—the silver Thames—the majestic forest—this lovely scene of Virginia Water—the heath and her desolate cottage—she herself pale, slightly bending from weakness of health, awakening from dark abstraction to bestow on me a kind smile of welcome. It grew into a passionate desire of my heart to behold her, to cheer her as I might by my affectionate attentions, to hear her, and to hang upon her accents of inconsolable despair as if it had been celestial harmony. As I meditated on these things, a voice seemed for ever to repeat, Now go, or it will be too late; while another yet more mournful tone responded, You can never see her more!

“I was occupied by these thoughts, as, on a summer moonlight night, I loitered in the shrubbery, unable to quit a scene of entrancing beauty, when I was startled at hearing myself called by Mr. Elmore. He came on his way to the coast; he had received a letter from Ireland, which made him think that Miss Eversham was residing near Enniscorthy,—a strange place for her to select, but as concealment was evidently her object, not an improbable one. Yet his hopes were not high; on the contrary, he performed this journey more from the resolve to leave nothing undone, than in expectation of a happy result. He asked me if I would accompany him; I was delighted with the offer, and we departed together on the following morning.

“We arrived at Milford Haven, where we were to take our passage. The packet was to sail early in the morning—we walked on the beach, and beguiled the time by talk. I had never mentioned Ellen to Lewis; I felt now strongly inclined to break my vow, and to relate my whole adventure with her; but restrained myself, and we spoke only of the unhappy Clarice—of the despair that must have been hers, of her remorse and unavailing regret.

“We retired to rest; and early in the morning I was called to prepare for going on board. I got ready, and then knocked at Lewis’ door; he admitted me, for he was dressed, though a few of his things were still unpacked, and scattered about the room. The morocco case of a miniature was on his table; I took it up. ‘Did I never show you that?’ said Elmore; ‘poor dear Clarice! she was very happy when that was painted!’

“I opened it;—rich, luxuriant curls clustered on her brow and the snow-white throat; there was a light zephyr appearance in the figure; an expression of unalloyed exuberant happiness in the countenance; but those large dove’s eyes, the innocence that dwelt on her mouth, could not be mistaken, and the name of Ellen Burnet burst from my lips.

“There was no doubt: why had I ever doubted? the thing was so plain! Who but the survivor of such a parent, and she the apparent cause of his death, could be so miserable as Ellen? A torrent of explanation followed, and a thousand minute circumstances, forgotten before, now assured us that my sad hermitess was the beloved of Elmore. No more sea voyage—not a second of delay—our chaise, the horses’ heads tamed to the east, rolled on with lightning rapidity, yet far too slowly to satisfy our impatience. It was not until we arrived at Worcester that the tide of expectation, flowing all one way, ebbed. Suddenly, even while I was telling Elmore some anecdote to prove that, in spite of all, she would be accessible to consolation, I remembered her ill-health and my fears. Lewis saw the change my countenance underwent; for some time I could not command my voice; and when at last I spoke, my gloomy anticipations passed like an electric shock into my friend’s soul.

“When we arrived at Oxford we halted for an hour or two, unable to proceed; yet we did not converse on the subject so near our hearts, nor until we arrived in sight of Windsor did a word pass between us; then Elmore said, ‘To-morrow morning, dear Neville, you shall visit Clarice; we must not be too precipitate.’

“The morrow came. I arose with that intolerable weight at my breast, which it is grief’s worst heritage to feel. A sunny day it was; yet the atmosphere looked black to me; my heart was dead within me. We sat at the breakfast-table, but neither ate, and after some restless indecision, we left our inn, and (to protract the interval) walked to Bishopsgate. Our conversation belied our feelings: we spoke as if we expected all to be well; we felt that there was no hope. We crossed the heath along the accustomed path. On one side was the luxuriant foliage of the forest, on the other the widespread moor; her cottage was situated at one extremity, and could hardly be distinguished, until we should arrive close to it. When we drew near, Lewis bade me go on alone; he would wait my return. I obeyed, and reluctantly approached the confirmation of my fears. At length it stood before me, the lonely cot and desolate garden; the unfastened wicket swung in the breeze; every shutter was closed.

“To stand motionless and gaze on these symbols of my worst forebodings was all that I could do. My heart seemed to me to call aloud for Ellen,—for such was she to me,—her other name might be a fiction—but silent as her own life-deserted lips were mine. Lewis grew impatient, and advanced. My stay had occasioned a transient ray of hope to enter his mind; it vanished when he saw me and her deserted dwelling. Slowly we turned away, and were directing our steps back again, when my name was called by a child. A little girl came running across some fields towards us, whom at last I recognised as having seen before with Ellen. ‘Mr. Neville, there is a letter for you!’ cried the child. ‘A letter; where?—who?’ ‘The lady left a letter for you. You must go to Old Windsor, to Mr. Cooke’s; he has got it for you.’

“She had left a letter: was she then departed on an earthly journey? ‘I will go for it immediately. Mr. Cooke! Old Windsor! where shall I find him? who is he?’

“‘Oh, sir, everybody knows him,’ said the child; ‘he lives close to the churchyard; he is the sexton. After the burial, Nancy gave him the letter to take care of.’

“Had we hoped? had we for a moment indulged the expectation of ever again seeing our miserable friend? Never! O never! Our hearts had told us that the sufferer was at peace—the unhappy orphan with her father in the abode of spirits! Why, then, were we here? Why had a smile dwelt on our lips, now wreathed into the expression of anguish? Our full hearts demanded one consolation—to weep upon her grave; her sole link now with us, her mourners. There at last my boy’s grief found vent in tears, in lamentation. You saw the spot; the grassy mound rests lightly on the bosom of fair Clarice, of my own poor Ellen. Stretched upon this, kissing the scarcely springing turf; for many hours no thought visited me but the wretched one, that she had lived, and was lost to me for ever!

“If Lewis had ever doubted the identity of my friend with her he loved, the letter put into our hands undeceived him; the handwriting was Miss Eversham’s, it was directed to me, and contained words like these:—

“‘April 11. “‘I have vowed never to mention certain beloved names, never to communicate with beings who cherished me once, to whom my deepest gratitude is due; and, as well as poor bankrupt can, is paid. Perhaps it is a mere prevarication to write to you, dear Horace, concerning them; but Heaven pardon me! my disrobed spirit would not repose, I fear, if I did not thus imperfectly bid them a last farewell.

“‘You know him, Neville; and know that he for ever laments her whom he has lost. Describe your poor Ellen to him, and he will speedily see that she died on the waves of the murderous Atlantic. Ellen had nothing in common with her, save love for, and interest in him. Tell him it had been well for him, perhaps, to have united himself to the child of prosperity, the nursling of deep love; but it had been destruction, even could he have meditated such an act, to wed the parrici—.

“‘I will not write that word. Sickness and near death have taken the sting from my despair. The agony of woe which you witnessed is melted into tender affliction and pious hope. I am not miserable now. Now! When you read these words, the hand that writes, the eye that sees, will be a little dust, becoming one with the earth around it. You, perhaps he, will visit my quiet retreat, bestow a few tears on my fate, but let them be secret; they may make green my grave, but do not let a misplaced feeling adorn it with any other tribute. It is my last request; let no stone, no name, mark that spot.

“‘Farewell, dear Horace! Farewell to one other whom I may not name. May the God to whom I am about to resign my spirit in confidence and hope, bless your earthly career! Blindly, perhaps, you will regret me for your own sakes; but for mine, you will be grateful to the Providence which has snapt the heavy chain binding me to unutterable sorrow, and which permits me from my lowly grass-grown tomb to say to you, I am at peace.

‘The Mourner’ was published in Tales and Stories by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (1891)

Mary Shelley
(1797 – 1851)
The Mourner

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Ludwig Bechstein: Der Mann ohne Herz (Märchen)

Der Mann ohne Herz

Es sind einmal sieben Brüder gewesen, waren arme Waisen, hatten keine Schwester, mußten alles im Hause selbst tun, das gefiel ihnen nicht, wurden Rates untereinander, sie wollten heiraten. Nun gab es aber da, wo sie wohnten keine Bräute für sie, da sagten die älteren, sie wollten in die Fremde ziehen, sich Bräute suchen und ihr Jüngster sollte das Haus hüten, und dem wollten sie eine recht schöne Braut mitbringen.

Das war der Jüngste gar wohl zufrieden und die sechse machten sich fröhlich und wohlgemut auf den Weg. Unterwegs kamen sie an ein kleines Häuschen, das stand ganz einsam in einem Walde, und vor dem Häuschen stand ein alter alter Mann, der rief die Brüder an und fragte: »Heda! Ihr jungen Gieke in die Welt! Wohin denn so lustig und so geschwind?« – »Ei, wir wollen uns jeder eine hübsche Braut holen, und unsern jüngsten Bruder daheim auch eine!« antworteten die Brüder.

»O liebe Jungen!« sprach da der Alte: »ich lebe hier so mutterseelensternallein, bringt mir doch auch eine Braut mit, aber eine junge hübsche muß es sein!«

Die Brüder gingen von dannen und dachten: Hm, was will so ein alter eisgrauer Hozelmann mit einer jungen hübschen Braut anfangen? –

Da nun die Brüder in eine Stadt gekommen waren, so fanden sie dort sieben Schwestern, so jung und so hübsch als sie sie nur wünschen konnten, die nahmen sie und die jüngste nahmen sie für ihren Bruder mit. Der Weg führte sie wieder durch den Wald, und der Alte stand wieder vor seinem Häuschen, als wartete er auf sie, und sagte: »Ei ihr braven Jungen! Das lob ich, daß ihr mir so eine junge hübsche Braut mitgebracht habt!« – »Nein!« sagten die Brüder, »die ist nicht für dich, die ist für unsern Bruder zu Hause, den haben wir sie versprochen!« –

»So?« sagte der Alte: »versprochen? Ei daß dich! ich will euch auch versprechen!« und nahm ein weißes Stäbchen und murmelte ein paar Zauberworte, und rührte die Brüder und die Bräute mit dem Stäbchen an – bis auf die jüngste – da wurden sie alle in graue Steine verwandelt. Die jüngste aber von den Schwestern führte der Mann in das Haus, und das mußte sie nun beschicken und in Ordnung halten, tat das auch gern, aber sie hatte immer Angst, der Alte könne bald sterben, und dann werde sie in dem einsamen Häuschen im wilden öden Walde auch so mutterseelensternallein sein, wie der Alte zuvor gewesen war. Das sagte sie ihm und er antwortete: »Hab kein Bangen, fürchte nicht und hoffe nicht, daß ich sterbe. Sieh, ich habe kein Herz in der Brust! stürbe ich aber dennoch, so findest du über der Türe mein weißes Zauberstäbchen, und rührst damit an die grauen Steine, so sind deine Schwestern und ihre Freier befreit und du hast Gesellschaft genug.«

»Wo aber in aller Welt hast du denn dein Herz, wenn du es nicht in der Brust hast?« fragte die junge Braut. »Mußt du alles wissen?« fragte der Alte. »Nun wenn du es denn wissen mußt, in der Bettdecke steckt mein Herz.«

Da nähte und stickte die junge Braut, wenn der Alte fort und seinen Geschäften nachging, in ihrer Einsamkeit gar schöne Blumen auf seine Bettdecke, damit sein Herz eine Freude haben sollte. Der Alte aber lächelte darüber und sagte: »Du gutes Kind, es war ja nur mein Scherz;mein Herz das steckt – das steckt –« »Nun wo steckt es denn lieber Vater?« – »Das steckt in der – Stubentür!« –

Da hat die junge Frau am andern Tage, als der Alte fort war, die Stubentüre gar schön geschmückt mit bunten Federn und frischen Blumen und hat Kränze daran gehangen. Fragte der Alte, als er heimkam, was das bedeuten solle? sagte sie: »Das tat ich, deinem Herzen was zu Liebe zu tun.« Da lächelte wieder der Alte, und sagte: »Gutes Kind, ganz wo anders, als in der Stubentüre, ist mein Herz.« Da wurde die junge Braut sehr betrübt, und sprach: »Ach Vater, so hast du doch ein Herz, und kannst sterben und ich werde dann so allein sein.« Da wiederholte der Alte alles, was er ihr schon zweimal gesagt, und sie drang aufs neue in ihn, ihr zu sagen, wo doch eigentlich sein Herz sei? Da sprach der Alte: »Weit weit von hier liegt in tiefer Einsamkeit eine große uralte Kirche, die ist fest verwahrt mit eisernen Türen, um sie ist ein tiefer Wallgraben gezogen, über den führt keine Brücke, und in der Kirche da fliegt ein Vogel wohl ab und auf, der ißt nicht und trinkt nicht und stirbt nicht, und niemand vermag ihn zu fangen und so lange der Vogel lebt, so lange lebe auch ich, denn in dem Vogel ist mein Herz.«

Da wurde die Braut traurig, daß sie dem Herzen ihres Alten nichts zu Liebe tun konnte, und die Zeit wurde ihr lang, wenn sie so allein saß, denn der Alte war fast den ganzen Tag auswärts.

Da kam einmal ein junger Wandergesell am Häuschen vorüber, der grüßte sie und sie grüßte ihn und sie gefiel ihm, und er kam näher und sie fragte ihn, wohin er reise, woher er komme? – »Ach!« seufzte der junge Gesell: »Ich bin gar traurig. Ich hatte noch sechs Brüder, die sind von dannen gezogen sich Bräute zu holen und mir, dem Jüngsten, wollten sie auch eine mitbringen, sind aber nimmer wieder gekommen, und da bin ich nun auch fort vom Hause, und will meine Brüder suchen.«

»Ach lieber Gesell!« rief die Braut: »da brauchst du nicht weiter zu gehen! Erst setze dich und iß und trinke etwas, und dann laß dir erzählen!« Und gab ihm zu essen und zu trinken, und erzählte ihm, wie seine Brüder in die Stadt gekommen, und wie sie ihre Schwestern und sie selbst als Bräute mit sich nach Hause hätten führen wollen, und daß sie für ihn, ihren Gast, bestimmt gewesen, und wie der Alte sie bei sich behalten, und die andern in graue Steine verwandelt habe. Das alles erzählte sie ihm aufrichtig und weinte dazu, und auch daß der Alte kein Herz in der Brust habe und daß es weit weit weg sei in einer festen Kirche und in einem unsterblichen Vogel. Da sagte der Bräutigam: »Ich will fort, ich will den Vogel suchen, vielleicht hilft mir Gott, daß ich ihn fange.« – »Ja das tue, daran wirst du wohl tun, dann werden deine Brüder und meine Schwestern wieder Menschen werden!« und versteckte den Bräutigam, denn es wurde schon Abend, und als am andern Morgen der Alte wieder fort war, da packte sie dem Wandergesellen viel zu essen und zu trinken ein, und gab es ihm mit, und wünschte ihm alles Glück und Gottes Segen auf seine Fahrt.

Als nun der Gesell eine tüchtige Strecke gegangen war, deuchte ihm, es sei wohl Zeit zu frühstücken, packte seine Reisetasche aus, freute sich der vielen Gaben und rief: »Holla! nun wollen wir schmausen! herbei, wer mein Gast sein will!«

Da rief es hinter dem Gesellen: »Muh!« und wie er sich umsah, stand ein großer roter Ochse da und sprach: »Du hast eingeladen, ich möchte wohl dein Gast sein!« – »Sei willkommen und lange zu, so gut ich’s habe!« Da legte sich der Ochse gemächlich an den Boden, und ließ sich’s schmecken, und leckte sich dann mit der Zunge sein Maul recht schön ab, und als er satt war, sagte er: »Habe du großen Dank und wenn du einmal jemand brauchst, dir in Not und Gefahr zu helfen, so rufe nur in Gedanken nach mir, deinem Gast.« Und erhob sich und verschwand im Gebüsch. Der Gesell packte seine Tafelreste zusammen und pilgerte weiter; wieder eine tüchtige Strecke, da deuchte ihm nach dem kurzen Schatten den er warf, es müsse Mittag sein, und seinem Magen deuchte das nämliche. Da setzte er sich an den Boden hin, breitete sein Tafeltuch aus, setzte seine Speisen und Getränke darauf, und rief: »Wohlan! Mittagmahlzeit! Jetzt melde sich, was mittafeln will!« Da rauschte es ganz stark in den Büschen, und es brach ein wildes Schwein heraus, das grunzte: »Qui oui oui«, und sagte: »Es hat hier jemand zum Essen gerufen! Ich weiß nicht ob du es warst, und ob ich gemeint bin?«

»Immerhin, lange nur zu, was da ist!« sprach der Wandersmann und da aßen sie beide wohlgemut miteinander und schmeckte beiden gut. Darauf erhob sich das wilde Schwein und sagte: »Habe Dank, bedarfst du mein so rufe dem Schwein!« und damit trollte es in die Büsche. Nun wanderte der Gesell gar eine lange Strecke, und war schon gar weit gewandert, da wurde es gegen Abend, und er fühlte wieder Hunger und hatte auch noch Vorrat, und da dachte er: wie wär es mit dem Vespern? Zeit wär es dächt ich; und breitete wieder sein Tuch aus und legte seine Speisen darauf, hatte auch noch etwas zu trinken, und rief: »Wer Lust hat mit zu essen, der soll eingeladen sein. Es ist nicht, als wenn nichts da wäre!« Da rauschte über ihm ein schwerer Flügelschlag und wurde dunkel auf dem Boden, wie vom Schatten einer Wolke, und es ließ sich ein großer Vogel Greif sehen, der rief: »Ich hörte jemand hier unten zur Tafel einladen! Für mich wird wohl nichts abfallen?«

»Warum denn nicht? Lasse dich nieder und nimm vorlieb, viel wird’s nicht mehr sein!« rief der Jüngling, und da ließ sich der Vogel Greif nieder und aß zur Genüge und dann sagte er: »Brauchst du mich, so rufe mich!« hob sich in die Lüfte und verschwand. Ei, dachte der Geselle: der hat’s recht eilig; er hätte mir wohl den Weg nach der Kirche zeigen können, denn so finde ich sie wohl nimmer und raffte seine Sachen zusammen, und wollte vor dem Schlafengehen noch ein Stückchen wandern. Und wie er gar nicht lange gegangen war, so sah er mit einem Male die Kirche vor sich liegen und war bald bei ihr, das heißt, am breiten und tiefen Graben, der sie rings ohne Brücke umzog. Da suchte er sich ein hübsches Ruheplätzchen, denn er war müde von dem weiten Weg und schlief, und am andern Morgen da wünschte er sich über den Graben und dachte: Schau, wenn der rote Ochse da wär und hätte rechten Durst, so könnte der den Graben aussaufen und ich käme trocken hinüber. Kaum war dieser Wunsch getan, so stand der Ochse schon da und begann den Graben auszusaufen. Nun stand der Gesell an der Kirchenmauer, die war gar dick und die Türme waren von Eisen, da dachte er so in seinen Gedanken: ach, wer doch einen Mauerbrecher hätte! Das starke wilde Schwein könnte vielleicht hier eher etwas ausrichten, als ich. Und siehe, gleich kam das wilde Schwein daher gerannt und stieß heftig an die Mauer und wühlte mit seinen Hauern einen Stein los, und wie erst einer los war, so wühlte es immer mehr und immer mehr Steine aus der Mauer, bis ein großes tiefes Loch gewühlt war, durch das man in die Kirche einsteigen konnte. Da stieg nun der Jüngling hinein, und sah den Vogel darin herumfliegen, vermochte aber nicht ihn zu ergreifen. Da sprach er: »Wenn jetzt der Vogel Greif da wäre, der würde dich schon greifen, dafür ist er ja der Vogel Greif!« Und gleich war der Greif da und gleich griff er den Vogel, in dem des alten Mannes Herz war, und der junge Gesell verwahrte selbigen Vogel sehr gut, der Vogel Greif aber flog davon.

Nun eilte der Jüngling so sehr er konnte zur jungen Braut, kam noch vor Abends an und erzählte ihr alles, und sie gab ihm wieder zu essen und zu trinken und hieß ihn unter die Bettstelle kriechen mitsamt seinem Vogel, damit ihn der Alte nicht sähe. Dies tat er alsbald, nachdem er gegessen und getrunken hatte; der Alte kam nach Hause und klagte, daß er sich krank fühle, daß es nicht mehr mit ihm fortwolle – das mache, weil sein Herzvogel gefangen war. Das hörte der Bräutigam unter dem Bette und dachte, der Alte hat dir zwar nichts Böses getan, aber er hat deine Brüder und ihre Bräute verzaubert, und deine Braut hat er für sich behalten, das ist des Bösen nicht zu wenig, und da kneipte er den Vogel, und da wimmerte der Alte: »Ach, es kneipt mich! Ach, der Tod kneipt mich, Kind – ich sterbe!« Und fiel vom Stuhl und war ohnmächtig, und ehe sich’s der Jüngling versah, hatte er den Vogel totgekneipt, und da war es aus mit dem Alten. Nun kroch er hervor, und die Braut nahm den weißen Stab, wie ihr der Alte gelehrt hatte, und schlug damit an die zwölf grauen Steine, siehe, da wurden sie wieder die sechs Brüder und die sechs Schwestern, das war eine Freude und ein Umarmen und Herzen und Küssen, und der alte Mann war tot und blieb tot, konnt ihn keine Meisterwurz wieder lebendig machen, wenn sie ihn auch hätten wieder lebendig haben wollen. Da zogen sie alle miteinander fort, und hielten Hochzeit miteinander und lebten gut und glücklich miteinander lange Jahre.

Ludwig Bechstein
(1801 – 1860)
Der Mann ohne Herz
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Ludwig Bechstein: Die schöne junge Braut (Märchen)

Die schöne junge Braut

Es ging einmal ein hübsches Landmädchen in den Wald, um Futter für ihre Kuh zu holen; wie sie nun in Gottes Namen grasete und an gar nichts Arges dachte, so kamen auf einmal vier Räuber, umringten sie und führten sie mit sich fort, ohne Gnad und Barmherzigkeit, sie mochte schreien und zappeln, bitten und betteln so viel sie wollte. Weit ab von des Mädchens Heimat in einem finstern Walde hatten die Räuber ein Haus, worin sie sich aufhielten, wenigstens blieben immer einige daheim, wenn die andern auf Raub auszogen. Dem Mädchen taten aber die Räuber weiter nichts zu Leide, als daß sie sie eben aus ihrer Heimat fortführten, und sie in dem Hause gleichsam gefangen hielten; sie mußte den Haushalt besorgen, kochen, backen und waschen, sonst hatte sie es gut, wurde aber immer scharf bewacht. Dabei hatten ihr die Räuber den Namen gegeben: Schöne junge Braut.

So war nun das Mädchen schon einige Jahre in der Räuberherberge, als es sich einmal traf, daß ein Hauptraub ausgeführt werden sollte, an dem, wenn er gelingen sollte, die ganze helle Bande teilnehmen mußte.

Da das Mädchen sich an das Leben in der Räuberhöhle gewöhnt zu haben schien, auch noch keinen Versuch zu entfliehen gemacht hatte, und auch schwerlich durch den wilden Wald die Wege finden würde – so dachte der Hauptmann – so blieb sie diesesmal allein und unbewacht im Waldhause zurück. Aber die Räuber waren kaum fort, so sann die schöne Braut darauf, wie sie unerkannt entfliehen könne. Sie machte geschwind eine Gestalt von Stroh, zog derselben ihre Kleider an, setzte ihr ihre Haube auf, sich selbst aber bestrich sie von Kopf bis zu den Füßen mit Honig, wälzte sich darauf über und über in Federn, so daß sie ganz unkennbar wurde, und aussah, wie ein seltsamer Vogel. Die Gestalt in ihren Kleidern lehnte sie an ein Fenster über der Haustür, und ließ sie hinaussehen, doch mit verdecktem Gesicht, und dann eilte sie von dannen.

Mochte es aber nun sein, daß dem Hauptmann eine Ahnung von des Mädchens beabsichtigter Flucht kam, oder daß etwas vergessen worden war, genug, er sandte einige seiner Räuber nach dem Hause zurück, und gerade mußte es sich treffen, daß ihnen auf ihrem Wege das fiedrige Käuzlein aufstieß. Sie dachten aber es wäre einer ihrer Kumpane, der sich unkenntlich gemacht hätte, und riefen die Gestalt lachend und fragend an:

»Wohin, wohin, Herr Federsack?
Was macht die schöne junge Braut?«

Diese, die es selbst war, war zwar sehr erschrocken, doch faßte sie sich ein Herz und antwortete mit verstellter Stimme:

»Sie fegt und säubert unser Haus
Und schaut wohl auch zum Fenster heraus!«

Damit machte sie, daß sie den Räubern aus dem Gesichte kam, kam auch glücklich aus dem Walde, erreichte ein Dorf, kaufte sich Kleider, badete sich und erlangte glücklich und wohlbehalten, obschon nach langer Wanderung, ihre Heimat wieder, und da sie nicht gerade das Beste in der Räuberherberge zurückgelassen hatte, sondern für ihren Jahrlohn mitgehen heißen, so hatte sie auch wohl zu leben und heiratete einen wackern Burschen.

Jene Räuber, wie die nun des Hauses ansichtig wurden, sahen die Gestalt der schönen jungen Braut am Fenster und grüßten schon von weitem, indem sie riefen:

»Grüß Gott, o schöne junge Braut,
Die freundlich uns entgegenschaut.«

Da aber der Gruß unerwidert blieb, so verwunderten sich die Räuber, und als sie näher kamen, vermeinten sie, die schöne junge Braut sei eingeschlafen. Vergebens riefen sie, sie ermunterte sich nicht; vergebens geboten sie ihr, zu öffnen, alle ihr Pochen und Schreien, Rufen und Schelten war erfolglos, und wütend traten sie zuletzt die Türe in Trümmern, stürmten die Treppe hinauf und faßten die Gestalt der schönen jungen Braut hart an, da fiel ihnen die Strohpuppe in die Arme. Da riefen die Räuber:

»Fahr wohl, du schöne junge Braut!
Ein Tor ist, wer auf Weiber baut!«

Ludwig Bechstein
(1801 – 1860)
Die schöne junge Braut
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Ludwig Bechstein: Der weiße Wolf (Märchen)

Der weiße Wolf

Ein König ritt jagen in einem großen Walde, darinnen er sich verirrte, und mußte manchen Tag wandern und manche Nacht, fand immer nicht den rechten Weg und mußte Hunger und Durst leiden. Endlich begegnete ihm ein kleines schwarzes Männlein, das fragte der König nach dem rechten Weg. »Ich will dich wohl führen und geleiten«, sagte das Männlein, »aber du mußt mir auch etwas dafür geben, du mußt mir das geben, was dir aus deinem Hause zuerst entgegen kommt.« Der König war froh und sprach unterwegs: »Du bist recht brav, Männchen; wahrlich und wenn mein bester Hund mir entgegenlief, so wollt ich dir ihn doch gern zum Lohne geben.« Das Männlein aber erwiderte: »Deinen besten Hund, den mag ich nicht, mir ist was andres lieb.« Wie sie nun beim Schlosse ankamen, so sah des Königs jüngste Tochter durchs Fenster ihren Vater geritten kommen und sprang ihm fröhlich entgegen. Da sie ihn aber in ihre Arme schloß, sprach er: »Ei wollt ich doch, daß lieber mein bester Hund mir entgegen gekommen wäre!« Über diese Rede erschrak die Königstochter gar sehr, und weinte und rief: »Wie das, mein Vater? Ist dir dein Hund lieber denn ich, und sollte er dich froher willkommen heißen?« aber der König tröstete sie und sagte: »O liebe Tochter, so war es ja nicht gemeint!« und erzählte ihr alles. Sie aber blieb ganz standhaft und sagte: »Es ist besser so, als daß mein lieber Vater umgekommen wäre im wilden Walde«, und das Männchen sagte: »Nach acht Tagen hole ich dich.«

Und nach acht Tagen richtig, da kam ein weißer Wolf in das Königsschloß, und die Königstochter mußte sich auf seinen Rücken setzen, und heisa, da ging’s durch dick und dünn, bergauf und ab, und die Königstochter konnte das Reiten auf dem Wolf nicht aushalten, und fragte: »Ist’s noch weit?« – »Schweig! Weit weit ist’s noch zum gläsernen Berge – schweigst du nicht, so werf ich dich herunter!« Nun ging es wieder so fort, bis die arme Königstochter wieder zagte und klagte und fragte, ob es noch weit sei? Und da sagte ihr der Wolf die nämlichen drohenden Worte, und rannte immer fort, immer weiter, bis sie zum drittenmale die Frage wagte, da warf er sie auf der Stelle von seinen Rücken herunter und rannte davon.

Nun war die arme Prinzessin ganz allein in dem finstern Walde, und ging und ging und dachte, endlich werde ich doch einmal zu Leuten kommen. Und endlich kam sie an eine Hütte, da brannte ein Feuerchen und da saß ein altes Waldmütterchen, das hatte ein Töpfchen am Feuer. Und da fragte die Königstochter: »Mütterchen, hast du den weißen Wolf nicht gesehen?« – »Nein, da mußt du den Wind fragen, der fragt überall herum, aber bleibe erst noch ein wenig hier, und iß mit mir. Ich koche hier ein Hühnersüppchen.« Das tat die Prinzessin, und als sie gegessen hatten, sagte die Alte: »Nimm die Hühnerknöchelchen mit dir, du wirst sie gut gebrauchen können.« Dann zeigte ihr die Alte den rechten Weg nach dem Winde.

Als die Königstochter bei dem Winde ankam, fand sie ihn auch am Feuer sitzen und sich eine Hühnersuppe kochen, aber auf ihre Frage nach dem weißen Wolf antwortete er ihr: »Liebes Kind, ich habe ihn nicht gesehen, ich bin heute einmal nicht gegangen, und wollte mich einmal hübsch ausruhen. Frage die Sonne, die geht alle Tage auf und unter, aber erst mache es wie ich, ruhe dich aus, und iß mit mir, kannst hernach auch alle die Hühnerknöchlein mit dir nehmen, wirst sie wohl gut brauchen können.«

Als dies geschehen war, ging die Kleine nach der Sonne zu, und es ging da gerade wieder wie beim Winde, die Sonne kochte sich gerade eine Hühnersuppe an sich selbst, daher es damit sehr geschwind ging, hatte auch den weißen Wolf nicht gesehen, und lud die Prinzessin zum Mitessen ein. »Du mußt den Mond fragen, denn wahrscheinlich läuft der weiße Wolf nur des Nachts, und da sieht der Mond alles.« Als nun die Königstochter mit der Sonne gegessen und die Knöchlein aufgesammelt hatte, ging sie weiter und fragte den Mond. Auch er kochte Hühnersuppe und sagte: »Es ist fatal, ich habe letzt nicht geschienen, oder bin zu spät aufgegangen, ich weiß gar nichts von dem weißen Wolf.« Da weinte das Mädchen und rief: »O Himmel, wen soll ich nun fragen?« – »Nun nur Geduld mein Kind«, sagte der Mond. – »Vor Essen, wird kein Tanz, setze dich und iß erst die Hühnersuppe mit mir und nimm auch die Knöchelchen mit, du wirst sie wohl brauchen. Etwas Neues weiß ich doch; im gläsernen Berge das schwarze Männchen – das hält heute Hochzeit, der Mann im Mond ist auch dazu eingeladen.« – »Ach der gläserne Berg, der gläserne Berg! dahin wollte ich ja eben, dahin hat mich ja der weiße Wolf tragen sollen!« rief die Königstochter. »Nun bis dorthin kann ich dir schon leuchten und den Weg zeigen«, sagte der Mond, »sonst könntest du dich leichtlich irren, denn ich zum Beispiel bestehe ganz und gar aus lauter gläsernen Bergen. Nimm immer deine Knöchlein hübsch alle mit.« Das tat die Prinzessin, aber in der Eile vergaß sie doch ein Knöchlein.

Bald stand sie an dem gläsernen Berge, aber der war ganz glatt und glitschig, da war nicht hinauf zu kommen, aber da nahm die Königstochter alle Hühnerknöchlein von der alten Waldmutter, von dem Wind, von der Sonne und von dem Monde, und machte sich daraus eine Leiter, die wurde sehr lang, aber o weh, zuletzt fehlte noch eine einzige Sprosse, noch ein Glied. Da schnitt sich die Prinzessin das oberste Gelenk von ihrem kleinen Finger ab, und so tat es gut, und sie konnte nun rasch zum Gipfel des gläsernen Berges klimmen. Oben war eine große Öffnung, da führte eine schöne Treppe hinunter, und war alles voll Glanz und Pracht, und war ein Saal da voll Hochzeitgäste und viele Musikanten und reichbesetzte Tafeln. Und da saß das schwarze Männlein und an seiner Seite saß eine Dame, die war seine Braut, das schwarze Männlein aber schien traurig. Und der Königstochter tat es auch so weh, so weh, daß sie nun zu spät kam, und daß das schwarze Männlein so traurig war, und dachte bei sich, ich will ein Lied vom weißen Wolf singen, vielleicht kennt er mich dann – denn er hatte sie noch gar nicht angesehen, folglich auch nicht wieder erkannt. Und da stand eine Harfe an der Wand, welche die Prinzessin gut spielte, die nahm sie nun und sang

»Deinen besten Hund, den mag ich nicht,
Mir ist was andres lieb!
Die jüngste Königstochter.
Der weiße Wolf, der lief davon,
Sie weiß nicht, wo er blieb;
Die jüngste Königstochter.«

Da horchte das schwarze Männlein hoch auf,
aber die Prinzessin fuhr fort zu spielen und zu singen.

»Sie ist dem Wolfe nachgereist,
Schnitt ab ihr Fingerglied,
Die jüngste Königstochter.
Nun ist sie da – du kennst sie nicht,
Traurig singt dir dies Lied
Die jüngste Königstochter.«

Da sprang das schwarze Männlein von seinem Sitze auf und war plötzlich ein ganz schöner junger Prinz und eilte auf sie zu, und schloß sie in seine Arme.

Alles war Zauber gewesen. Der Prinz war in das alte Männlein und in den weißen Wolf und in den gläsernen Berg hinein verzaubert so lange bis eine Prinzessin, um zu ihm zu gelangen, sich’s ein Glied von ihrem kleinen Finger kosten lassen würde, wenn das aber bis zu einer gewissen Zeit nicht geschähe, so müsse er eine andre freien und ein schwarzes Männlein bleiben all sein Leben lang. Nun war der Zauber gelöst, die andre Braut verschwand, der entzauberte Prinz heiratete die Königstochter, reiste darauf mit ihr zu ihrem Vater, der sich herzlich freute, sie wieder zu sehen, und lebten alle glücklich miteinander bis an ihr Ende. Sollte dieses aber nicht erfolgt sein, so ist es einigermaßen wahrscheinlich, daß sie noch heute leben.

Ludwig Bechstein
(1801 – 1860)
Der weiße Wolf
Sämtliche Märchen

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More in: Archive A-B, Bechstein, Bechstein, Ludwig


Transformation by Mary Shelley

Forthwith this frame of mine was wrench’d
With a woful agony,
Which forced me to begin my tale,
And then it set me free.

Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns;
And till my ghastly tale is told
This heart within me burns.

—Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.

 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is MaryShelley105-2.jpegI have heard it said, that, when any strange, supernatural, and necromantic adventure has occurred to a human being, that being, however desirous he may be to conceal the same, feels at certain periods torn up as it were by an intellectual earthquake, and is forced to bare the inner depths of his spirit to another. I am a witness of the truth of this. I have dearly sworn to myself never to reveal to human ears the horrors to which I once, in excess of fiendly pride, delivered myself over. The holy man who heard my confession, and reconciled me to the Church, is dead. None knows that once—

Why should it not be thus? Why tell a tale of impious tempting of Providence, and soul-subduing humiliation? Why? answer me, ye who are wise in the secrets of human nature! I only know that so it is; and in spite of strong resolve,—of a pride that too much masters me—of shame, and even of fear, so to render myself odious to my species,—I must speak.

Genoa! my birthplace—proud city! looking upon the blue Mediterranean—dost thou remember me in my boyhood, when thy cliffs and promontories, thy bright sky and gay vineyards, were my world? Happy time! when to the young heart the narrow-bounded universe, which leaves, by its very limitation, free scope to the imagination, enchains our physical energies, and, sole period in our lives, innocence and enjoyment are united. Yet, who can look back to childhood, and not remember its sorrows and its harrowing fears? I was born with the most imperious, haughty, tameless spirit. I quailed before my father only; and he, generous and noble, but capricious and tyrannical, at once fostered and checked the wild impetuosity of my character, making obedience necessary, but inspiring no respect for the motives which guided his commands. To be a man, free, independent; or, in better words, insolent and domineering, was the hope and prayer of my rebel heart.

My father had one friend, a wealthy Genoese noble, who in a political tumult was suddenly sentenced to banishment, and his property confiscated. The Marchese Torella went into exile alone. Like my father, he was a widower: he had one child, the almost infant Juliet, who was left under my father’s guardianship. I should certainly have been unkind to the lovely girl, but that I was forced by my position to become her protector. A variety of childish incidents all tended to one point,—to make Juliet see in me a rock of defence; I in her, one who must perish through the soft sensibility of her nature too rudely visited, but for my guardian care. We grew up together. The opening rose in May was not more sweet than this dear girl. An irradiation of beauty was spread over her face. Her form, her step, her voice—my heart weeps even now, to think of all of relying, gentle, loving, and pure, that she enshrined. When I was eleven and Juliet eight years of age, a cousin of mine, much older than either—he seemed to us a man—took great notice of my playmate; he called her his bride, and asked her to marry him. She refused, and he insisted, drawing her unwillingly towards him. With the countenance and emotions of a maniac I threw myself on him—I strove to draw his sword—I clung to his neck with the ferocious resolve to strangle him: he was obliged to call for assistance to disengage himself from me. On that night I led Juliet to the chapel of our house: I made her touch the sacred relics—I harrowed her child’s heart, and profaned her child’s lips with an oath, that she would be mine, and mine only.

Well, those days passed away. Torella returned in a few years, and became wealthier and more prosperous than ever. When I was seventeen, my father died; he had been magnificent to prodigality; Torella rejoiced that my minority would afford an opportunity for repairing my fortunes. Juliet and I had been affianced beside my father’s deathbed—Torella was to be a second parent to me.

I desired to see the world, and I was indulged. I went to Florence, to Rome, to Naples; thence I passed to Toulon, and at length reached what had long been the bourne of my wishes, Paris. There was wild work in Paris then. The poor king, Charles the Sixth, now sane, now mad, now a monarch, now an abject slave, was the very mockery of humanity. The queen, the dauphin, the Duke of Burgundy, alternately friends and foes,—now meeting in prodigal feasts, now shedding blood in rivalry,—were blind to the miserable state of their country, and the dangers that impended over it, and gave themselves wholly up to dissolute enjoyment or savage strife. My character still followed me. I was arrogant and self-willed; I loved display, and above all, I threw off all control. My young friends were eager to foster passions which furnished them with pleasures. I was deemed handsome—I was master of every knightly accomplishment. I was disconnected with any political party. I grew a favourite with all: my presumption and arrogance was pardoned in one so young: I became a spoiled child. Who could control me? not the letters and advice of Torella—only strong necessity visiting me in the abhorred shape of an empty purse. But there were means to refill this void. Acre after acre, estate after estate, I sold. My dress, my jewels, my horses and their caparisons, were almost unrivalled in gorgeous Paris, while the lands of my inheritance passed into possession of others.

The Duke of Orleans was waylaid and murdered by the Duke of Burgundy. Fear and terror possessed all Paris. The dauphin and the queen shut themselves up; every pleasure was suspended. I grew weary of this state of things, and my heart yearned for my boyhood’s haunts. I was nearly a beggar, yet still I would go there, claim my bride, and rebuild my fortunes. A few happy ventures as a merchant would make me rich again. Nevertheless, I would not return in humble guise. My last act was to dispose of my remaining estate near Albaro for half its worth, for ready money. Then I despatched all kinds of artificers, arras, furniture of regal splendour, to fit up the last relic of my inheritance, my palace in Genoa. I lingered a little longer yet, ashamed at the part of the prodigal returned, which I feared I should play. I sent my horses. One matchless Spanish jennet I despatched to my promised bride: its caparisons flamed with jewels and cloth of gold. In every part I caused to be entwined the initials of Juliet and her Guido. My present found favour in hers and in her father’s eyes.

Still to return a proclaimed spendthrift, the mark of impertinent wonder, perhaps of scorn, and to encounter singly the reproaches or taunts of my fellow-citizens, was no alluring prospect. As a shield between me and censure, I invited some few of the most reckless of my comrades to accompany me: thus I went armed against the world, hiding a rankling feeling, half fear and half penitence, by bravado.

I arrived in Genoa. I trod the pavement of my ancestral palace. My proud step was no interpreter of my heart, for I deeply felt that, though surrounded by every luxury, I was a beggar. The first step I took in claiming Juliet must widely declare me such. I read contempt or pity in the looks of all. I fancied that rich and poor, young and old, all regarded me with derision. Torella came not near me. No wonder that my second father should expect a son’s deference from me in waiting first on him. But, galled and stung by a sense of my follies and demerit, I strove to throw the blame on others. We kept nightly orgies in Palazzo Carega. To sleepless, riotous nights followed listless, supine mornings. At the Ave Maria we showed our dainty persons in the streets, scoffing at the sober citizens, casting insolent glances on the shrinking women. Juliet was not among them—no, no; if she had been there, shame would have driven me away, if love had not brought me to her feet.

I grew tired of this. Suddenly I paid the Marchese a visit. He was at his villa, one among the many which deck the suburb of San Pietro d’Arena. It was the month of May, the blossoms of the fruit-trees were fading among thick, green foliage; the vines were shooting forth; the ground strewed with the fallen olive blooms; the firefly was in the myrtle hedge; heaven and earth wore a mantle of surpassing beauty. Torella welcomed me kindly, though seriously; and even his shade of displeasure soon wore away. Some resemblance to my father—some look and tone of youthful ingenuousness, softened the good old man’s heart. He sent for his daughter—he presented me to her as her betrothed. The chamber became hallowed by a holy light as she entered. Hers was that cherub look, those large, soft eyes, full dimpled cheeks, and mouth of infantine sweetness, that expresses the rare union of happiness and love. Admiration first possessed me; she is mine! was the second proud emotion, and my lips curled with haughty triumph. I had not been the enfant gâté of the beauties of France not to have learnt the art of pleasing the soft heart of woman. If towards men I was overbearing, the deference I paid to them was the more in contrast. I commenced my courtship by the display of a thousand gallantries to Juliet, who, vowed to me from infancy, had never admitted the devotion of others; and who, though accustomed to expressions of admiration, was uninitiated in the language of lovers.

For a few days all went well. Torella never alluded to my extravagance; he treated me as a favourite son. But the time came, as we discussed the preliminaries to my union with his daughter, when this fair face of things should be overcast. A contract had been drawn up in my father’s lifetime. I had rendered this, in fact, void by having squandered the whole of the wealth which was to have been shared by Juliet and myself. Torella, in consequence, chose to consider this bond as cancelled, and proposed another, in which, though the wealth he bestowed was immeasurably increased, there were so many restrictions as to the mode of spending it, that I, who saw independence only in free career being given to my own imperious will, taunted him as taking advantage of my situation, and refused utterly to subscribe to his conditions. The old man mildly strove to recall me to reason. Roused pride became the tyrant of my thought: I listened with indignation—I repelled him with disdain.

“Juliet, thou art mine! Did we not interchange vows in our innocent childhood? Are we not one in the sight of God? and shall thy cold-hearted, cold-blooded father divide us? Be generous, my love, be just; take not away a gift, last treasure of thy Guido—retract not thy vows—let us defy the world, and, setting at nought the calculations of age, find in our mutual affection a refuge from every ill.”

Fiend I must have been with such sophistry to endeavour to poison that sanctuary of holy thought and tender love. Juliet shrank from me affrighted. Her father was the best and kindest of men, and she strove to show me how, in obeying him, every good would follow. He would receive my tardy submission with warm affection, and generous pardon would follow my repentance;—profitless words for a young and gentle daughter to use to a man accustomed to make his will law, and to feel in his own heart a despot so terrible and stern that he could yield obedience to nought save his own imperious desires! My resentment grew with resistance; my wild companions were ready to add fuel to the flame. We laid a plan to carry off Juliet. At first it appeared to be crowned with success. Midway, on our return, we were overtaken by the agonized father and his attendants. A conflict ensued. Before the city guard came to decide the victory in favour of our antagonists, two of Torella’s servitors were dangerously wounded.

This portion of my history weighs most heavily with me. Changed man as I am, I abhor myself in the recollection. May none who hear this tale ever have felt as I. A horse driven to fury by a rider armed with barbed spurs was not more a slave than I to the violent tyranny of my temper. A fiend possessed my soul, irritating it to madness. I felt the voice of conscience within me; but if I yielded to it for a brief interval, it was only to be a moment after torn, as by a whirlwind, away—borne along on the stream of desperate rage—the plaything of the storms engendered by pride. I was imprisoned, and, at the instance of Torella, set free. Again I returned to carry off both him and his child to France, which hapless country, then preyed on by freebooters and gangs of lawless soldiery, offered a grateful refuge to a criminal like me. Our plots were discovered. I was sentenced to banishment; and, as my debts were already enormous, my remaining property was put in the hands of commissioners for their payment. Torella again offered his mediation, requiring only my promise not to renew my abortive attempts on himself and his daughter. I spurned his offers, and fancied that I triumphed when I was thrust out from Genoa, a solitary and penniless exile. My companions were gone: they had been dismissed the city some weeks before, and were already in France. I was alone—friendless, with neither sword at my side, nor ducat in my purse.

I wandered along the sea-shore, a whirlwind of passion possessing and tearing my soul. It was as if a live coal had been set burning in my breast. At first I meditated on what I should do. I would join a band of freebooters. Revenge!—the word seemed balm to me; I hugged it, caressed it, till, like a serpent, it stung me. Then again I would abjure and despise Genoa, that little corner of the world. I would return to Paris, where so many of my friends swarmed; where my services would be eagerly accepted; where I would carve out fortune with my sword, and make my paltry birthplace and the false Torella rue the day when they drove me, a new Coriolanus, from her walls. I would return to Paris—thus on foot—a beggar—and present myself in my poverty to those I had formerly entertained sumptuously? There was gall in the mere thought of it.

The reality of things began to dawn upon my mind, bringing despair in its train. For several months I had been a prisoner: the evils of my dungeon had whipped my soul to madness, but they had subdued my corporeal frame. I was weak and wan. Torella had used a thousand artifices to administer to my comfort; I had detected and scorned them all, and I reaped the harvest of my obduracy. What was to be done? Should I crouch before my foe, and sue for forgiveness?—Die rather ten thousand deaths!—Never should they obtain that victory! Hate—I swore eternal hate! Hate from whom?—to whom?—From a wandering outcast—to a mighty noble! I and my feelings were nothing to them: already had they forgotten one so unworthy. And Juliet!—her angel face and sylph-like form gleamed among the clouds of my despair with vain beauty; for I had lost her—the glory and flower of the world! Another will call her his!—that smile of paradise will bless another!

Even now my heart fails within me when I recur to this rout of grim-visaged ideas. Now subdued almost to tears, now raving in my agony, still I wandered along the rocky shore, which grew at each step wilder and more desolate. Hanging rocks and hoar precipices overlooked the tideless ocean; black caverns yawned; and for ever, among the seaworn recesses, murmured and dashed the unfruitful waters. Now my way was almost barred by an abrupt promontory, now rendered nearly impracticable by fragments fallen from the cliff. Evening was at hand, when, seaward, arose, as if on the waving of a wizard’s wand, a murky web of clouds, blotting the late azure sky, and darkening and disturbing the till now placid deep. The clouds had strange, fantastic shapes, and they changed and mingled and seemed to be driven about by a mighty spell. The waves raised their white crests; the thunder first muttered, then roared from across the waste of waters, which took a deep purple dye, flecked with foam. The spot where I stood looked, on one side, to the widespread ocean; on the other, it was barred by a rugged promontory. Round this cape suddenly came, driven by the wind, a vessel. In vain the mariners tried to force a path for her to the open sea—the gale drove her on the rocks. It will perish!—all on board will perish! Would I were among them! And to my young heart the idea of death came for the first time blended with that of joy. It was an awful sight to behold that vessel struggling with her fate. Hardly could I discern the sailors, but I heard them. It was soon all over! A rock, just covered by the tossing waves, and so unperceived, lay in wait for its prey. A crash of thunder broke over my head at the moment that, with a frightful shock, the vessel dashed upon her unseen enemy. In a brief space of time she went to pieces. There I stood in safety; and there were my fellow-creatures battling, how hopelessly, with annihilation. Me thought I saw them struggling—too truly did I hear their shrieks, conquering the barking surges in their shrill agony. The dark breakers threw hither and thither the fragments of the wreck: soon it disappeared. I had been fascinated to gaze till the end: at last I sank on my knees—I covered my face with my hands. I again looked up; something was floating on the billows towards the shore. It neared and neared. Was that a human form? It grew more and more distinct; and at last a mighty wave, lifting the whole freight, lodged it upon a rock. A human being bestriding a sea-chest!—a human being! Yet was it one? Surely never such had existed before—a misshapen dwarf, with squinting eyes, distorted features, and body deformed, till it became a horror to behold. My blood, lately warming towards a fellow-being so snatched from a watery tomb, froze in my heart. The dwarf got off his chest; he tossed his straight, struggling hair from his odious visage.

“By St. Beelzebub!” he exclaimed, “I have been well bested.” He looked round and saw me. “Oh, by the fiend! here is another ally of the mighty One. To what saint did you offer prayers, friend—if not to mine? Yet I remember you not on board.”

I shrank from the monster and his blasphemy. Again he questioned me, and I muttered some inaudible reply. He continued:—

“Your voice is drowned by this dissonant roar. What a noise the big ocean makes! Schoolboys bursting from their prison are not louder than these waves set free to play. They disturb me. I will no more of their ill-timed brawling. Silence, hoary One!—Winds, avaunt!—to your homes!—Clouds, fly to the antipodes, and leave our heaven clear!”

As he spoke, he stretched out his two long, lank arms, that looked like spider’s claws, and seemed to embrace with them the expanse before him. Was it a miracle? The clouds became broken and fled; the azure sky first peeped out, and then was spread a calm field of blue above us; the stormy gale was exchanged to the softly breathing west; the sea grew calm; the waves dwindled to riplets.

“I like obedience even in these stupid elements,” said the dwarf. “How much more in the tameless mind of man! It was a well-got-up storm, you must allow—and all of my own making.”

It was tempting Providence to interchange talk with this magician. But Power, in all its shapes, is respected by man. Awe, curiosity, a clinging fascination, drew me towards him.

“Come, don’t be frightened, friend,” said the wretch: “I am good-humoured when pleased; and something does please me in your well-proportioned body and handsome face, though you look a little woe-begone. You have suffered a land—I, a sea wreck. Perhaps I can allay the tempest of your fortunes as I did my own. Shall we be friends?”—And he held out his hand; I could not touch it. “Well, then, companions—that will do as well. And now, while I rest after the buffeting I underwent just now, tell me why, young and gallant as you seem, you wander thus alone and downcast on this wild sea-shore.”

The voice of the wretch was screeching and horrid, and his contortions as he spoke were frightful to behold. Yet he did gain a kind of influence over me, which I could not master, and I told him my tale. When it was ended, he laughed long and loud: the rocks echoed back the sound: hell seemed yelling around me.

“Oh, thou cousin of Lucifer!” said he; “so thou too hast fallen through thy pride; and, though bright as the son of Morning, thou art ready to give up thy good looks, thy bride, and thy well-being, rather than submit thee to the tyranny of good. I honour thy choice, by my soul!—So thou hast fled, and yield the day; and mean to starve on these rocks, and to let the birds peck out thy dead eyes, while thy enemy and thy betrothed rejoice in thy ruin. Thy pride is strangely akin to humility, methinks.”

As he spoke, a thousand fanged thoughts stung me to the heart.

“What would you that I should do?” I cried.

“I!—Oh, nothing, but lie down and say your prayers before you die. But, were I you, I know the deed that should be done.”

I drew near him. His supernatural powers made him an oracle in my eyes; yet a strange unearthly thrill quivered through my frame as I said, “Speak!—teach me—what act do you advise?”

“Revenge thyself, man!—humble thy enemies!—set thy foot on the old man’s neck, and possess thyself of his daughter!”

“To the east and west I turn,” cried I, “and see no means! Had I gold, much could I achieve; but, poor and single, I am powerless.”

The dwarf had been seated on his chest as he listened to my story. Now he got off; he touched a spring; it flew open! What a mine of wealth—of blazing jewels, beaming gold, and pale silver—was displayed therein. A mad desire to possess this treasure was born within me.

“Doubtless,” I said, “one so powerful as you could do all things.”

“Nay,” said the monster humbly, “I am less omnipotent than I seem. Some things I possess which you may covet; but I would give them all for a small share, or even for a loan of what is yours.”

“My possessions are at your service,” I replied bitterly—“my poverty, my exile, my disgrace—I make a free gift of them all.”

“Good! I thank you. Add one other thing to your gift, and my treasure is yours.”

“As nothing is my sole inheritance, what besides nothing would you have?”

“Your comely face and well-made limbs.”

I shivered. Would this all-powerful monster murder me? I had no dagger. I forgot to pray—but I grew pale.

“I ask for a loan, not a gift,” said the frightful thing: “lend me your body for three days—you shall have mine to cage your soul the while, and, in payment, my chest. What say you to the bargain?—Three short days.”

We are told that it is dangerous to hold unlawful talk; and well do I prove the same. Tamely written down, it may seem incredible that I should lend any ear to this proposition; but, in spite of his unnatural ugliness, there was something fascinating in a being whose voice could govern earth, air, and sea. I felt a keen desire to comply; for with that chest I could command the worlds. My only hesitation resulted from a fear that he would not be true to his bargain. Then, I thought, I shall soon die here on these lonely sands, and the limbs he covets will be mine no more:—it is worth the chance. And, besides, I knew that, by all the rules of art-magic, there were formula and oaths which none of its practisers dared break. I hesitated to reply; and he went on, now displaying his wealth, now speaking of the petty price he demanded, till it seemed madness to refuse. Thus is it;—place our bark in the current of the stream, and down, over fall and cataract it is hurried; give up our conduct to the wild torrent of passion, and we are away, we know not whither.

He swore many an oath, and I adjured him by many a sacred name; till I saw this wonder of power, this ruler of the elements, shiver like an autumn leaf before my words; and as if the spirit spake unwillingly and perforce within him, at last, he, with broken voice, revealed the spell whereby he might be obliged, did he wish to play me false, to render up the unlawful spoil. Our warm life-blood must mingle to make and to mar the charm.

Enough of this unholy theme. I was persuaded—the thing was done. The morrow dawned upon me as I lay upon the shingles, and I knew not my own shadow as it fell from me. I felt myself changed to a shape of horror, and cursed my easy faith and blind credulity. The chest was there—there the gold and precious stones for which I had sold the frame of flesh which nature had given me. The sight a little stilled my emotions: three days would soon be gone.

They did pass. The dwarf had supplied me with a plenteous store of food. At first I could hardly walk, so strange and out of joint were all my limbs; and my voice—it was that of the fiend. But I kept silent, and turned my face to the sun, that I might not see my shadow, and counted the hours, and ruminated on my future conduct. To bring Torella to my feet—to possess my Juliet in spite of him—all this my wealth could easily achieve. During dark night I slept, and dreamt of the accomplishment of my desires. Two suns had set—the third dawned. I was agitated, fearful. Oh expectation, what a frightful thing art thou, when kindled more by fear than hope! How dost thou twist thyself round the heart, torturing its pulsations! How dost thou dart unknown pangs all through our feeble mechanism, now seeming to shiver us like broken glass, to nothingness—now giving us a fresh strength, which can do nothing, and so torments us by a sensation, such as the strong man must feel who cannot break his fetters, though they bend in his grasp. Slowly paced the bright, bright orb up the eastern sky; long it lingered in the zenith, and still more slowly wandered down the west: it touched the horizon’s verge—it was lost! Its glories were on the summits of the cliff—they grew dun and grey. The evening star shone bright. He will soon be here.

He came not!—By the living heavens, he came not!—and night dragged out its weary length, and, in its decaying age, “day began to grizzle its dark hair;” and the sun rose again on the most miserable wretch that ever upbraided its light. Three days thus I passed. The jewels and the gold—oh, how I abhorred them!

Well, well—I will not blacken these pages with demoniac ravings. All too terrible were the thoughts, the raging tumult of ideas that filled my soul. At the end of that time I slept; I had not before since the third sunset; and I dreamt that I was at Juliet’s feet, and she smiled, and then she shrieked—for she saw my transformation—and again she smiled, for still her beautiful lover knelt before her. But it was not I—it was he, the fiend, arrayed in my limbs, speaking with my voice, winning her with my looks of love. I strove to warn her, but my tongue refused its office; I strove to tear him from her, but I was rooted to the ground—I awoke with the agony. There were the solitary hoar precipices—there the plashing sea, the quiet strand, and the blue sky over all. What did it mean? was my dream but a mirror of the truth? was he wooing and winning my betrothed? I would on the instant back to Genoa—but I was banished. I laughed—the dwarf’s yell burst from my lips—I banished! Oh no! they had not exiled the foul limbs I wore; I might with these enter, without fear of incurring the threatened penalty of death, my own, my native city.

I began to walk towards Genoa. I was somewhat accustomed to my distorted limbs; none were ever so ill-adapted for a straightforward movement; it was with infinite difficulty that I proceeded. Then, too, I desired to avoid all the hamlets strewed here and there on the sea-beach, for I was unwilling to make a display of my hideousness. I was not quite sure that, if seen, the mere boys would not stone me to death as I passed, for a monster; some ungentle salutations I did receive from the few peasants or fishermen I chanced to meet. But it was dark night before I approached Genoa. The weather was so balmy and sweet that it struck me that the Marchese and his daughter would very probably have quitted the city for their country retreat. It was from Villa Torella that I had attempted to carry off Juliet; I had spent many an hour reconnoitring the spot, and knew each inch of ground in its vicinity. It was beautifully situated, embosomed in trees, on the margin of a stream. As I drew near, it became evident that my conjecture was right; nay, moreover, that the hours were being then devoted to feasting and merriment. For the house was lighted up; strains of soft and gay music were wafted towards me by the breeze. My heart sank within me. Such was the generous kindness of Torella’s heart that I felt sure that he would not have indulged in public manifestations of rejoicing just after my unfortunate banishment, but for a cause I dared not dwell upon.

The country people were all alive and flocking about; it became necessary that I should conceal myself; and yet I longed to address some one, or to hear others discourse, or in any way to gain intelligence of what was really going on. At length, entering the walks that were in immediate vicinity to the mansion, I found one dark enough to veil my excessive frightfulness; and yet others as well as I were loitering in its shade. I soon gathered all I wanted to know—all that first made my very heart die with horror, and then boil with indignation. To-morrow Juliet was to be given to the penitent, reformed, beloved Guido—to-morrow my bride was to pledge her vows to a fiend from hell! And I did this!—my accursed pride—my demoniac violence and wicked self-idolatry had caused this act. For if I had acted as the wretch who had stolen my form had acted—if, with a mien at once yielding and dignified, I had presented myself to Torella, saying, I have done wrong, forgive me; I am unworthy of your angel-child, but permit me to claim her hereafter, when my altered conduct shall manifest that I abjure my vices, and endeavour to become in some sort worthy of her. I go to serve against the infidels; and when my zeal for religion and my true penitence for the past shall appear to you to cancel my crimes, permit me again to call myself your son. Thus had he spoken; and the penitent was welcomed even as the prodigal son of Scripture: the fatted calf was killed for him; and he, still pursuing the same path, displayed such open-hearted regret for his follies, so humble a concession of all his rights, and so ardent a resolve to reacquire them by a life of contrition and virtue, that he quickly conquered the kind old man; and full pardon, and the gift of his lovely child, followed in swift succession.

Oh, had an angel from Paradise whispered to me to act thus! But now, what would be the innocent Juliet’s fate? Would God permit the foul union—or, some prodigy destroying it, link the dishonoured name of Carega with the worst of crimes? To-morrow at dawn they were to be married: there was but one way to prevent this—to meet mine enemy, and to enforce the ratification of our agreement. I felt that this could only be done by a mortal struggle. I had no sword—if indeed my distorted arms could wield a soldier’s weapon—but I had a dagger, and in that lay my hope. There was no time for pondering or balancing nicely the question: I might die in the attempt; but besides the burning jealousy and despair of my own heart, honour, mere humanity, demanded that I should fall rather than not destroy the machinations of the fiend.

The guests departed—the lights began to disappear; it was evident that the inhabitants of the villa were seeking repose. I hid myself among the trees—the garden grew desert—the gates were closed—I wandered round and came under a window—ah! well did I know the same!—a soft twilight glimmered in the room—the curtains were half withdrawn. It was the temple of innocence and beauty. Its magnificence was tempered, as it were, by the slight disarrangements occasioned by its being dwelt in, and all the objects scattered around displayed the taste of her who hallowed it by her presence. I saw her enter with a quick light step—I saw her approach the window—she drew back the curtain yet further, and looked out into the night. Its breezy freshness played among her ringlets, and wafted them from the transparent marble of her brow. She clasped her hands, she raised her eyes to heaven. I heard her voice. Guido! she softly murmured—mine own Guido! and then, as if overcome by the fulness of her own heart, she sank on her knees;—her upraised eyes—her graceful attitude—the beaming thankfulness that lighted up her face—oh, these are tame words! Heart of mine, thou imagest ever, though thou canst not portray, the celestial beauty of that child of light and love.

I heard a step—a quick firm step along the shady avenue. Soon I saw a cavalier, richly dressed, young and, methought, graceful to look on, advance. I hid myself yet closer. The youth approached; he paused beneath the window. She arose, and again looking out she saw him, and said—I cannot, no, at this distant time I cannot record her terms of soft silver tenderness; to me they were spoken, but they were replied to by him.

“I will not go,” he cried: “here where you have been, where your memory glides like some heaven-visiting ghost, I will pass the long hours till we meet, never, my Juliet, again, day or night, to part. But do thou, my love, retire; the cold morn and fitful breeze will make thy cheek pale, and fill with languor thy love-lighted eyes. Ah, sweetest! could I press one kiss upon them, I could, methinks, repose.”

And then he approached still nearer, and methought he was about to clamber into her chamber. I had hesitated, not to terrify her; now I was no longer master of myself. I rushed forward—I threw myself on him—I tore him away—I cried, “O loathsome and foul-shaped wretch!”

I need not repeat epithets, all tending, as it appeared, to rail at a person I at present feel some partiality for. A shriek rose from Juliet’s lips. I neither heard nor saw—I felt only mine enemy, whose throat I grasped, and my dagger’s hilt; he struggled, but could not escape. At length hoarsely he breathed these words: “Do!—strike home! destroy this body—you will still live: may your life be long and merry!”

The descending dagger was arrested at the word, and he, feeling my hold relax, extricated himself and drew his sword, while the uproar in the house, and flying of torches from one room to the other, showed that soon we should be separated. In the midst of my frenzy there was much calculation:—fall I might, and so that he did not survive, I cared not for the death-blow I might deal against myself. While still, therefore, he thought I paused, and while I saw the villanous resolve to take advantage of my hesitation, in the sudden thrust he made at me, I threw myself on his sword, and at the same moment plunged my dagger, with a true, desperate aim, in his side. We fell together, rolling over each other, and the tide of blood that flowed from the gaping wound of each mingled on the grass. More I know not—I fainted.

Again I return to life: weak almost to death, I found myself stretched upon a bed—Juliet was kneeling beside it. Strange! my first broken request was for a mirror. I was so wan and ghastly, that my poor girl hesitated, as she told me afterwards; but, by the mass! I thought myself a right proper youth when I saw the dear reflection of my own well-known features. I confess it is a weakness, but I avow it, I do entertain a considerable affection for the countenance and limbs I behold, whenever I look at a glass; and have more mirrors in my house, and consult them oftener, than any beauty in Genoa. Before you too much condemn me, permit me to say that no one better knows than I the value of his own body; no one, probably, except myself, ever having had it stolen from him.

Incoherently I at first talked of the dwarf and his crimes, and reproached Juliet for her too easy admission of his love. She thought me raving, as well she might; and yet it was some time before I could prevail on myself to admit that the Guido whose penitence had won her back for me was myself; and while I cursed bitterly the monstrous dwarf, and blest the well-directed blow that had deprived him of life, I suddenly checked myself when I heard her say, Amen! knowing that him whom she reviled was my very self. A little reflection taught me silence—a little practice enabled me to speak of that frightful night without any very excessive blunder. The wound I had given myself was no mockery of one—it was long before I recovered—and as the benevolent and generous Torella sat beside me, talking such wisdom as might win friends to repentance, and mine own dear Juliet hovered near me, administering to my wants, and cheering me by her smiles, the work of my bodily cure and mental reform went on together. I have never, indeed, wholly recovered my strength—my cheek is paler since—my person a little bent. Juliet sometimes ventures to allude bitterly to the malice that caused this change, but I kiss her on the moment, and tell her all is for the best. I am a fonder and more faithful husband, and true is this—but for that wound, never had I called her mine.

I did not revisit the sea-shore, nor seek for the fiend’s treasure; yet, while I ponder on the past, I often think, and my confessor was not backward in favouring the idea, that it might be a good rather than an evil spirit, sent by my guardian angel, to show me the folly and misery of pride. So well at least did I learn this lesson, roughly taught as I was, that I am known now by all my friends and fellow-citizens by the name of Guido il Cortese.

Shelley’s Transformation was first published in The Keepsake in 1831. “Before you too much condemn me, permit me to say that no one better knows than I the value of his own body; no one, probably, except myself, ever having had it stolen from him.”

Mary Shelley
(1797 – 1851)
Transformation

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