SCARCELY had the soldiers performed their task, and thrown down their shovels, when they commenced an altercation. It appeared that this money was to be again the cause of slaughter and bloodshed. Philip and Krantz determined to sail immediately in one of the peroquas, and leave them to settle their disputes as they pleased. He asked permission of the soldiers to take from the provisions and water, of which there was ample supply, a larger proportion than was their share; stating, that he and Krantz had a long voyage and would require it, and pointing out to them that there were plenty of cocoa-nuts for their support. The soldiers, who thought of nothing but their newly-acquired wealth allowed him to do as he pleased; and, having hastily collected as many cocoa-nuts as they could, to add to their stock of provisions, before noon, Philip and Krantz had embarked and made sail in the peroqua, leaving the soldiers with their knives again drawn, and so busy in their angry altercation as to be heedless of their departure.
“There will be the same scene over again, I expect,” observed Krantz, as the vessel parted swiftly from the shore.
“I have little doubt of it; observe, even now they are at blows and stabs.”
“If I were to name that spot, it should be the ‘Accursed Isle.’”
“Would not any other be the same, with so much to inflame the passions of men?”
“Assuredly: what a curse is gold!”
“And what a blessing!” replied Krantz. “I am sorry Pedro is left with them.”
“It is their destiny,” replied Philip; “so let’s think no more of them. Now what do you propose? With this vessel, small as she is, we may sail over these seas in safety, and we have, I imagine, provisions sufficient for more than a month.”
“My idea is, to run into the track of the vessels going to the westward, and obtain a passage to Goa.”
“And if we do not meet with any, we can, at all events, proceed up the Straits, as far as Pulo Penang without risk. There we may safely remain until a vessel passes.”
“I agree with you; it is our best, nay our only, place; unless, indeed, we were to proceed to Cochin, where junks are always leaving for Goa.”
“But that would be out of our way, and the junks cannot well pass us in the Straits, without their being seen by us.”
They had no difficulty in steering their course; the islands by day, and the clear stars by night, were their compass. It is true that they did not follow the more direct track, but they followed the more secure, working up the smooth waters, and gaining to the northward more than to the west. Many times they were chased by the Malay proas which infested the islands, but the swiftness of their little peroqua was their security; indeed, the chase was, generally speaking, abandoned as soon as the smallness of the vessel was made out by the pirates, who expected that little or no booty was to be gained.
That Amine and Philip’s mission was the constant theme of their discourse, may easily be imagined. One morning, as they were sailing between the isles, with less wind than usual, Philip observed:
“Krantz, you said that there were events in your own life, or connected with it, which would corroborate the mysterious tale I confided to you. Will you now tell me to what you referred?”
“Certainly,” replied Krantz; “I’ve often thought of doing so, but one circumstance or another has hitherto prevented me; this is, however, a fitting opportunity. Prepare, therefore, to listen to a strange story, quite as strange, perhaps, as your own:—
“I take it for granted, that you have heard people speak of the Hartz Mountains,” observed Krantz.
“I have never heard people speak of them, that I can recollect,” replied Philip; “but I have read of them in some book, and of the strange things which have occurred there.”
“It is indeed a wild region,” rejoined Krantz, “and many strange tales are told of it; but strange as they are, I have good reason for believing them to be true. I have told you, Philip, that I fully believe in your communion with the other world—that I credit the history of your father, and the lawfulness of your mission; for that we are surrounded, impelled, and worked upon by beings different in their nature from ourselves, I have had full evidence, as you will acknowledge, when I state what has occurred in my own family. Why such malevolent beings as I am about to speak of should be permitted to interfere with us, and punish, I may say, comparatively unoffending mortals, is beyond my comprehension; but that they are so permitted is most certain.”
“The great principle of all evil fulfils his work of evil; why, then, not the other minor spirits of the same class?” inquired Philip. “What matters it to us, whether we are tried by, and have to suffer from, the enmity of our fellow-mortals, or whether we are persecuted by beings more powerful and more malevolent than ourselves? We know that we have to work out our salvation, and that we shall be judged according to our strength; if then there be evil spirits who delight to oppress man, there surely must be, as Amine asserts, good spirits, whose delight is to do him service. Whether, then, we have to struggle against our passions only, or whether we have to struggle not only against our passions, but also the dire influence of unseen enemies we ever struggle with the same odds in our favour, as the good are stronger than the evil which we combat. In either case we are on the ‘vantage ground, whether, as in the first, we fight the good cause single-handed, or as in the second, although opposed, we have the host of Heaven ranged on our side. Thus are the scales of Divine justice evenly balanced, and man is still a free agent, as his own virtuous or vicious propensities must ever decide whether he shall gain or lose the victory.”
“Most true,” replied Krantz, “and now to my history:—
“My father was not born, or originally a resident, in the Hartz Mountains; he was the serf of an Hungarian nobleman, of great possessions, in Transylvania; but, although a serf, he was not by any means a poor or illiterate man. In fact, he was rich and his intelligence and respectability were such, that he had been raised by his lord to the stewardship; but, whoever may happen to be born a serf, a serf must he remain, even though he become a wealthy man: and such was the condition of my father. My father had been married for about five years; and by his marriage had three children—my eldest brother Cæsar, myself (Hermann), and a sister named Marcella. You know, Philip, that Latin is still the language spoken in that country; and that will account for our high-sounding names. My mother was a very beautiful woman, unfortunately more beautiful than virtuous: she was seen and admired by the lord of the soil; my father was sent away upon some mission; and, during his absence, my mother, flattered by the attentions, and won by the assiduities, of this nobleman yielded to his wishes. It so happened that my father returned very unexpectedly, and discovered the intrigue. The evidence of my mother’s shame was positive; he surprised her in the company of her seducer! Carried away by the impetuosity of his feelings, he watched the opportunity of a meeting taking place between them, and murdered both his wife and her seducer. Conscious that, as a serf, not even the provocation which he had received would be allowed as a justification of his conduct he hastily collected together what money he could lay his hands upon, and, as we were then in the depth of winter, he put his horses to the sleigh, and taking his children with him, he set off in the middle of the night, and was far away before the tragical circumstance had transpired. Aware that he would be pursued, and that he had no chance of escape if he remained in any portion of his native country (in which the authorities could lay hold of him), he continued his flight without intermission until he had buried himself in the intricacies and seclusion of the Hartz Mountains. Of course, all that I have now told you I learned afterwards. My oldest recollections are knit to a rude, yet comfortable cottage, in which I lived with my father, brother, and sister. It was on the confines of one of those vast forests which cover the northern part of Germany; around it were a few acres of ground, which, during the summer months, my father cultivated, and which, though they yielded a doubtful harvest, were sufficient for our support. In the winter we remained much in doors, for, as my father followed the chase, we were left alone, and the wolves, during that season, incessantly prowled about. My father had purchased the cottage, and land about it of one of the rude foresters, who gain their livelihood partly by hunting, and partly by burning charcoal, for the purpose of smelting the ore from the neighbouring mines; it was distant about two miles from any other habitation. I can call to mind the whole landscape now: the tall pines which rose up on the mountain above us, and the wide expanse of forest beneath, on the topmost boughs and heads of whose trees we looked down from our cottage, as the mountain below us rapidly descended into the distant valley. In summer-time the prospect was beautiful: but during the severe winter, a more desolate scene could not well be imagined.
“I said that, in the winter, my father occupied himself with the chase; every day he left us, and often would he lock the door, that we might not leave the cottage. He had no one to assist him, or to take care of us—indeed, it was not easy to find a female servant who would live in such a solitude; but could he have found one, my father would not have received her, for he had imbibed a horror of the sex, as the difference of his conduct towards us, his two boys, and my poor little sister, Marcella evidently proved. You may suppose we were sadly neglected; indeed, we suffered much, for my father, fearful that we might come to some harm, would not allow us fuel, when he left the cottage; and we were obliged, therefore, to creep under the heaps of bears’ skins, and there to keep ourselves as warm as we could until he returned in the evening, when a blazing fire was our delight. That my father chose this restless sort of life may appear strange, but the fact was, that he could not remain quiet; whether from the remorse for having committed murder, or from the misery consequent on his change of situation, or from both combined, he was never happy unless he was in a state of activity. Children, however, when left much to themselves, acquire a thoughtfulness not common to their age. So it was with us; and during the short cold days of winter, we would sit silent, longing for the happy hours when the snow would melt and the leaves would burst out, and the birds begin their songs, and when we should again be set at liberty.
“Such was our peculiar and savage sort of life until my brother Cæsar was nine, myself seven, and my sister five years old, when the circumstances occurred on which is based the extraordinary narrative which I am about to relate.
“One evening my father returned home rather later than usual; he had been unsuccessful, and, as the weather was very severe, and many feet of snow were upon the ground, he was not only very cold, but in a very bad humour. He had brought in wood, and we were all three gladly assisting each other in blowing on the embers to create the blaze, when he caught poor little Marcella by the arm and threw her aside; the child fell, struck her mouth, and bled very much. My brother ran to raise her up. Accustomed to ill-usage and afraid of my father, she did not dare to cry, but looked up in his face very piteously. My father drew his stool nearer to the hearth, muttered something in abuse of women, and busied himself with the fire, which both my brother and I had deserted when my sister was so unkindly treated. A cheerful blaze was soon the result of his exertions; but we did not, as usual, crowd round it. Marcella, still bleeding, retired to a corner, and my brother and I took our seats beside her, while my father hung over the fire gloomily and alone. Such had been our position for about half an hour, when the howl of a wolf, close under the window of the cottage, fell on our ears. My father started up, and seized his gun: the howl was repeated, he examined the priming, and then hastily left the cottage, shutting the door after him. We all waited (anxiously listening), for we thought that if he succeeded in shooting the wolf, he would return in a better humour; and, although he was harsh to all of us, and particularly so to our little sister, still we loved our father, and loved to see him cheerful and happy, for what else had we to look up to? And I may here observe, that perhaps there never were three children who were fonder of each other; we did not, like other children, fight and dispute together; and if, by chance, any disagreement did arise between my elder brother and me, little Marcella would run to us, and kissing us both, seal, through her entreaties, the peace between us. Marcella was a lovely, amiable child; I can recall her beautiful features even now—Alas! poor little Marcella.”
“She is dead, then?” observed Philip.
“Dead! yes, dead!—but how did she die?—But I must not anticipate, Philip; let me tell my story.
“We waited or some time, but the report of the gun did not reach us, and my elder brother then said, ‘Our father has followed the wolf, and will not be back for some time. Marcella, let us wash the blood from your mouth, and then we will leave this corner, and go to the fire and warm ourselves.’
“We did so, and remained there until near midnight, every minute wondering, as it grew later, why our father did not return. We had no idea that he was in any danger, but we thought that he must have chased the wolf for a very long time. ‘I will look out and see if father is coming,’ said my brother Cæsar, going to the door. ‘Take care,’ said Marcella, ‘the wolves must be about now, and we cannot kill them, brother.’ My brother opened the door very cautiously, and but a few inches: he peeped out.—‘I see nothing,’ said he, after a time, and once more he joined us at the fire. ‘We have had no supper,’ said I, for my father usually cooked the meat as soon as he came home; and during his absence we had nothing but the fragments of the preceding day.
“‘And if our father comes home after his hunt, Cæsar,’ said Marcella, ‘he will be pleased to have some supper; let us cook it for him and for ourselves.’ Cæsar climbed upon the stool, and reached down some meat—I forget now whether it was venison or bear’s meat; but we cut off the usual quantity, and proceeded to dress it, as we used to do under our father’s superintendence. We were all busy putting it into the platters before the fire, to await his coming, when we heard the sound of a horn. We listened—there was a noise outside, and a minute afterwards my father entered, ushering in a young female, and a large dark man in a hunter’s dress.
“Perhaps I had better now relate what was only known to me many years afterwards. When my father had left the cottage, he perceived a large white wolf about thirty yards from him; as soon as the animal saw my father, it retreated slowly growling and snarling. My father followed; the animal did not run, but always kept at some distance; and my father did not like to fire until he was pretty certain that his ball would take effect; thus they went on for some time, the wolf now leaving my father far behind, and then stopping and snarling defiance at him, and then, again, on his approach, setting off at speed.
“Anxious to shoot the animal (for the white wolf is very rare) my father continued the pursuit for several hours, during which he continually ascended the mountain.
“You must know, Philip, that there are peculiar spots on those mountains which are supposed, and, as my story will prove, truly supposed, to be inhabited by the evil influences: they are well known to the huntsmen, who invariably avoid them. Now, one of these spots, an open space in the pine forests above us, had been pointed out to my father as dangerous on that account. But, whether he disbelieved these wild stories or whether, in his eager pursuit of the chase, he disregarded them, I know not; certain, however, it is, that he was decoyed by the white wolf to this open space, when the animal appeared to slacken her speed. My father approached, came close up to her, raised his gun to his shoulder, and was about to fire, when the wolf suddenly disappeared. He thought that the snow on the ground must have dazzled his sight, and he let down his gun to look for the beast—but she was gone; how she could have escaped over the clearance, without his seeing her, was beyond his comprehension. Mortified at the ill success of his chase, he was about to retrace his steps, when he heard the distant sound of a horn. Astonishment at such a sound—at such an hour—in such a wilderness, made him forget for the moment his disappointment, and he remained riveted to the spot. In a minute the horn was blown a second time, and at no great distance; my father stood still, and listened: a third time it was blown. I forget the term used to express it, but it was the signal which, my father well knew, implied that the party was lost in the woods. In a few minutes more my father beheld a man on horseback, with a female seated on the crupper, enter the cleared space, and ride up to him. At first, my father called to mind the strange stories which he had heard of the supernatural beings who were said to frequent these mountains; but the nearer approach of the parties satisfied him that they were mortals like himself. As soon as they came up to him, the man who guided the horse accosted him. ‘Friend Hunter, you are out late, the better fortune for us; we have ridden far, and are in fear of our lives which are eagerly sought after. These mountains have enabled us to elude our pursuers; but if we find not shelter and refreshment, that will avail us little, as we must perish from hunger and the inclemency of the night. My daughter, who rides behind me, is now more dead than alive—say, can you assist us in our difficulty?’
“‘My cottage is some few miles distant,’ replied my father, ‘but I have little to offer you besides a shelter from the weather; to the little I have you are welcome. May I ask whence you come?’
“‘Yes, friend, it is no secret now; we have escaped from Transylvania, where my daughter’s honour and my life were equally in jeopardy!’
“This information was quite enough to raise an interest in my father’s heart, he remembered his own escape; he remembered the loss of his wife’s honour, and the tragedy by which it was wound up. He immediately, and warmly, offered all the assistance which he could afford them.
“‘There is no time to be lost then, good sir,’ observed the horseman; ‘my daughter is chilled with the frost, and cannot hold out much longer against the severity of the weather.’
“‘Follow me,’ replied my father, leading the way towards his home.
“‘I was lured away in pursuit of a large white wolf,’ observed my father; ‘it came to the very window of my hut, or I should not have been out at this time of night.’
“‘The creature passed by us just as we came out of the wood,’ said the female, in a silvery tone.
“‘I was nearly discharging my piece at it,’ observed the hunter; ‘but since it did us such good service, I am glad I allowed it to escape.’
“In about an hour and a half, during which my father walked at a rapid pace, the party arrived at the cottage, and, as I said before, came in.
“‘We are in good time, apparently,’ observed the dark hunter, catching the smell of the roasted meat, as he walked to the fire and surveyed my brother and sister, and myself. ‘You have young cooks here, Meinheer.’ ‘I am glad that we shall not have to wait,’ replied my father. ‘Come, mistress, seat yourself by the fire; you require warmth after your cold ride.’ ‘And where can I put up my horse, Meinheer?’ observed the huntsman. ‘I will take care of him,’ replied my father, going out of the cottage door.
“The female must, however, be particularly described. She was young, and apparently twenty years of age. She was dressed in a travelling-dress, deeply bordered with white fur, and wore a cap of white ermine on her head. Her features were very beautiful, at least I thought so, and so my father has since declared. Her hair was flaxen, glossy, and shining, and bright as a mirror; and her mouth, although somewhat large when it was open, showed the most brilliant teeth I have ever beheld. But there was something about her eyes, bright as they were, which made us children afraid; they were so restless, so furtive; I could not at that time tell why, but I felt as if there was cruelty in her eye; and when she beckoned us to come to her, we approached her with fear and trembling. Still she was beautiful, very beautiful. She spoke kindly to my brother and myself, patted our heads and caressed us; but Marcella would not come near her; on the contrary, she slunk away, and hid herself in the bed, and would not wait for the supper, which half an hour before she had been so anxious for.
“My father, having put the horse into a close shed, soon returned, and supper was placed upon the table. When it was over, my father requested that the young lady would take possession of his bed, and he would remain at the fire, and sit up with her father. After some hesitation on her part, this arrangement was agreed to, and I and my brother crept into the other bed with Marcella, for we had as yet always slept together.
“But we could not sleep; there was something so unusual, not only in seeing strange people, but in having those people sleep at the cottage, that we were bewildered. As for poor little Marcella, she was quiet, but I perceived that she trembled during the whole night, and sometimes I thought that she was checking a sob. My father had brought out some spirits, which he rarely used, and he and the strange hunter remained drinking and talking before the fire. Our ears were ready to catch the slightest whisper—so much was our curiosity excited.
“‘You said you came from Transylvania?’ observed my father.
“‘Even so, Meinheer,’ replied the hunter. ‘I was a serf to the noble house of—-; my master would insist upon my surrendering up my fair girl to his wishes: it ended in my giving him a few inches of my hunting-knife.’
“‘We are countrymen, and brothers in misfortune,’ replied my father, taking the huntsman’s hand, and pressing it warmly.
“‘Indeed! Are you then from that country?’
“‘Yes; and I too have fled for my life. But mine is a melancholy tale.’
“‘Your name?’ inquired the hunter.
“‘What! Krantz of—-? I have heard your tale; you need not renew your grief by repeating it now. Welcome, most welcome, Meinheer, and, I may say, my worthy kinsman. I am your second cousin, Wilfred of Barnsdorf,’ cried the hunter, rising up and embracing my father.
“They filled their horn-mugs to the brim, and drank to one another after the German fashion. The conversation was then carried on in a low tone; all that we could collect from it was that our new relative and his daughter were to take up their abode in our cottage, at least for the present. In about an hour they both fell back in their chairs and appeared to sleep.
“‘Marcella, dear, did you hear?’ said my brother, in a low tone.
“‘Yes,’ replied Marcella in a whisper, ‘I heard all. Oh! brother, I cannot bear to look upon that woman—I feel so frightened.’
“My brother made no reply, and shortly afterwards we were all three fast asleep.
“When we awoke the next morning, we found that the hunter’s daughter had risen before us. I thought she looked more beautiful than ever. She came up to little Marcella and caressed her: the child burst into tears, and sobbed as if her heart would break.
“But, not to detain you with too long a story, the huntsman and his daughter were accommodated in the cottage. My father and he went out hunting daily, leaving Christina with us. She performed all the household duties; was very kind to us children; and, gradually, the dislike even of little Marcella wore away. But a great change took place in my father; he appeared to have conquered his aversion to the sex, and was most attentive to Christina. Often, after her father and we were in bed would he sit up with her, conversing in a low tone by the fire. I ought to have mentioned that my father and the huntsman Wilfred, slept in another portion of the cottage, and that the bed which he formerly occupied, and which was in the same room as ours, had been given up to the use of Christina. These visitors had been about three weeks at the cottage, when, one night, after we children had been sent to bed, a consultation was held. My father had asked Christina in marriage, and had obtained both her own consent and that of Wilfred; after this, a conversation took place, which was, as nearly as I can recollect, as follows.
“‘You may take my child, Meinheer Krantz, and my blessing with her, and I shall then leave you and seek some other habitation—it matters little where.’
“‘Why not remain here, Wilfred?’
“‘No, no, I am called elsewhere; let that suffice, and ask no more questions. You have my child.’
“‘I thank you for her, and will duly value her; but there is one difficulty.’
“‘I know what you would say; there is no priest here in this wild country: true; neither is there any law to bind; still must some ceremony pass between you, to satisfy a father. Will you consent to marry her after my fashion? if so, I will marry you directly.’
“‘I will,’ replied my father.
“‘Then take her by the hand. Now, Meinheer, swear.’
“‘I swear,’ repeated my father.
“‘By all the spirits of the Hartz mountains—’
“‘Nay, why not by Heaven?’ interrupted my father.
“‘Because it is not my humour,’ rejoined Wilfred; ‘if I prefer that oath, less binding perhaps, than another, surely you will not thwart me.’
“‘Well be it so then; have your humour. Will you make me swear by that in which I do not believe?’
“‘Yet many do so, who in outward appearance are Christians,’ rejoined Wilfred; ‘say, will you be married, or shall I take my daughter away with me?’
“‘Proceed,’ replied my father, impatiently.
“‘I swear by all the spirits of the Hartz mountains, by all their power for good or for evil, that I take Christina for my wedded wife; that I will ever protect her, cherish her, and love her; that my hand shall never be raised against her to harm her.’
“My father repeated the words after Wilfred.
“‘And if I fail in this my vow, may all the vengeance of the spirits fall upon me and upon my children; may they perish by the vulture, by the wolf, or other beasts of the forest; may their flesh be torn from their limbs, and their bones blanch in the wilderness: all this I swear.’
“My father hesitated, as he repeated the last words; little Marcella could not restrain herself, and as my father repeated the last sentence, she burst into tears. This sudden interruption appeared to discompose the party, particularly my father; he spoke harshly to the child, who controlled her sobs, burying her face under the bed-clothes.
“Such was the second marriage of my father. The next morning, the hunter Wilfred mounted his horse, and rode away.
“My father resumed his bed, which was in the same room as ours; and things went on much as before the marriage, except that our new mother-in-law did not show any kindness towards us; indeed during my father’s absence, she would often beat us, particularly little Marcella, and her eyes would flash fire, as she looked eagerly upon the fair and lovely child.
“One night, my sister awoke me and my brother.
“‘What is the matter?’ said Cæsar.
“‘She has gone out,’ whispered Marcella.
“‘Yes, gone out at the door, in her night-clothes,’ replied the child; ‘I saw her get out of bed, look at my father to see if he slept, and then she went out at the door.’
“What could induce her to leave her bed, and all undressed to go out, in such bitter wintry weather, with the snow deep on the ground was to us incomprehensible; we lay awake, and in about an hour we heard the growl of a wolf, close under the window.
“‘There is a wolf,’ said Cæsar. ‘She will be torn to pieces.’
“‘Oh no!’ cried Marcella.
“In a few minutes afterwards our mother-in-law appeared; she was in her night-dress, as Marcella had stated. She let down the latch of the door, so as to make no noise, went to a pail of water, and washed her face and hands, and then slipped into the bed where my father lay.
“We all three trembled—we hardly knew why; but we resolved to watch the next night: we did so; and not only on the ensuing night, but on many others, and always at about the same hour, would our mother-in-law rise from her bed and leave the cottage; and after she was gone we invariably heard the growl of a wolf under our window, and always saw her, on her return, wash herself before she retired to bed. We observed also that she seldom sat down to meals, and that when she did she appeared to eat with dislike; but when the meat was taken down to be prepared for dinner, she would often furtively put a raw piece into her mouth.
“My brother Cæsar was a courageous boy; he did not like to speak to my father until he knew more. He resolved that he would follow her out, and ascertain what she did. Marcella and I endeavoured to dissuade him from this project; but he would not be controlled; and the very next night he lay down in his clothes, and as soon as our mother-in-law had left the cottage he jumped up, took down my father’s gun, and followed her.
“You may imagine in what a state of suspense Marcella and I remained during his absence. After a few minutes we heard the report of a gun. It did not awaken my father; and we lay trembling with anxiety. In a minute afterwards we saw our mother-in-law enter the cottage—her dress was bloody. I put my hand to Marcella’s mouth to prevent her crying out, although I was myself in great alarm. Our mother-in-law approached my father’s bed, looked to see if he was asleep, and then went to the chimney and blew up the embers into a blaze.
“‘Who is there?’ said my father, waking up.
“‘Lie still, dearest,’ replied my mother-in-law; ‘it is only me; I have lighted the fire to warm some water; I am not quite well.’
“My father turned round, and was soon asleep; but we hatched our mother-in-law. She changed her linen, and threw the garments she had worn into the fire; and we then perceived that her right leg was bleeding profusely, as if from a gun-shot wound. She bandaged it up, and then dressing herself, remained before the fire until the break of day.
“Poor little Marcella, her heart beat quick as she pressed me to her side—so indeed did mine. Where was our brother Cæsar? How did my mother-in-law receive the wound unless from his gun? At last my father rose, and then for the first time I spoke, saying, ‘Father, where is my brother Cæsar?’
“‘Your brother!’ exclaimed he; ‘why, where can he be?’
“‘Merciful Heaven! I thought, as lay very restless last night,’ observed our mother-in-law, ‘that I heard somebody open the latch of the door; and, dear me, husband, what has become of your gun?’
“My father cast his eyes up above the chimney, and perceived that his gun was missing. For a moment he looked perplexed; then, seizing a broad axe, he went out of the cottage without saying another word.
“He did not remain away from us long; in a few minutes he returned, bearing in his arms the mangled body of my poor brother; he laid it down, and covered up his face.
“My mother-in-law rose up, and looked at the body, while Marcella and I threw ourselves by its side, wailing and sobbing bitterly.
“‘Go to bed again, children,’ said she, sharply. ‘Husband,’ continued she, ‘your boy must have taken the gun down, to shoot a wolf, and the animal has been too powerful for him. Poor boy! he has paid dearly for his rashness.’
“My father made no reply. I wished to speak—to tell all—but Marcella who perceived my intention, held me by the arm, and looked at me so imploringly, that I desisted.
“My father, therefore, was left in his error; but Marcella and I, although we could not comprehend it, were conscious that our mother-in-law was in some way connected with my brother’s death.
“That day my father went out and dug a grave; and when he hid the body in the earth, he piled up stones over it so that the wolves should not be able to dig it up. The shock of this catastrophe was to my poor father very severe; for several days he never went to the chase, although at times he would utter bitter anathemas and vengeance against the wolves.
“But during this time of mourning on his part, my mother-in-law’s nocturnal wanderings continued with the same regularity as before.
“At last my father took down his gun to repair to the forest; but he soon returned, and appeared much annoyed.
“‘Would you believe it, Christina, that the wolves—perdition to the whole race—have actually contrived to dig up the body of my poor boy, and now there is nothing left of him but his bones?’
“‘Indeed!’ replied my mother-in-law. Marcella looked at me; and I saw in her intelligent eye all she would have uttered.
“‘A wolf growls under our window every night, father,’ said I.
“‘Ay, indeed! Why did you not tell me, boy? Wake me the next time you hear it.’
“I saw my mother-in-law turn away; her eyes flashed fire, and she gnashed her teeth.
“My father went out again, and covered up with a larger pile of stones the little remnants of my poor brother which the wolves had spared. Such was the first act of the tragedy.
“The spring now came on; the snow disappeared, and we were permitted to leave the cottage; but never would I quit for one moment my dear little sister, to whom since the death of my brother, I was more ardently attached than ever; indeed, I was afraid to leave her alone with my mother-in-law, who appeared to have a particular pleasure in ill-treating the child. My father was now employed upon his little farm, and I was able to render him some assistance.
“Marcella used to sit by us while we were at work, leaving my mother-in-law alone in the cottage. I ought to observe that, as the spring advanced, so did my mother-in-law decrease her nocturnal rambles, and that we never heard the growl of the wolf under the window after I had spoken of it to my father.
“One day, when my father and I were in the field, Marcella being with us, my mother-in-law came out, saying that she was going into the forest to collect some herbs my father wanted, and that Marcella must go to the cottage and watch the dinner. Marcella went; and my mother-in-law soon disappeared in the forest, taking a direction quite contrary to that in which the cottage stood, and leaving my father and I, as it were, between her and Marcella.
“About an hour afterwards we were startled by shrieks from the cottage—evidently the shrieks of little Marcella. ‘Marcella has burnt herself, father,’ said I, throwing down my spade. My father threw down his, and we both hastened to the cottage. Before we could gain the door, out darted a large white wolf, which fled with the utmost celerity. My father had no weapon; he rushed into the cottage, and there saw poor little Marcella expiring. Her body was dreadfully mangled, and the blood pouring from it had formed a large pool on the cottage floor. My father’s first intention had been to seize his gun and pursue; but he was checked by this horrid spectacle; he knelt down by his dying child, and burst into tears. Marcella could just look kindly on us for a few seconds, and then her eyes were closed in death.
“My father and I were still hanging over my poor sister’s body, when my mother-in-law came in. At the dreadful sight she expressed much concern; but she did not appear to recoil from the sight of blood, as most women do.
“‘Poor child!’ said she, ‘it must have been that great white wolf which passed me just now, and frightened me so. She’s quite dead, Krantz.’
“‘I know it—I know it!’ cried my father, in agony.
“I thought my father would never recover from the effects of this second tragedy; he mourned bitterly over the body of his sweet child, and for several days would not consign it to its grave, although frequently requested by my mother-in-law to do so. At last he yielded, and dug a grave for her close by that of my poor brother, and took every precaution that the wolves should not violate her remains.
“I was now really miserable, as I lay alone in the bed which I had formerly shared with my brother and sister. I could not help thinking that my mother-in-law was implicated in both their deaths, although I could not account for the manner; but I no longer felt afraid of her; my little heart was full of hatred and revenge.
“The night after my sister had been buried, as I lay awake, I perceived my mother-in-law get up and go out of the cottage. I waited some time, then dressed myself, and looked out through the door, which I half opened. The moon shone bright and I could see the spot where my brother and my sister had been buried; and what was my horror when I perceived my mother-in-law busily removing the stones from Marcella’s grave!
“She was in her white night-dress and the moon shone full upon her. She was digging with her hands, and throwing away the stones behind her with all the ferocity of a wild beast. It was some time before I could collect my senses, and decide what I should do. At last I perceived that she had arrived at the body, and raised it up to the side of the grave. I could bear it no longer, I ran to my father and awoke him.
“‘Father, father!’ cried I, ‘dress yourself, and get your gun.’
“‘What!’ cried my father, ‘the wolves are there, are they?’
“He jumped out of bed, threw on his clothes, and, in his anxiety, did not appear to perceive the absence of his wife. As soon as he was ready I opened the door; he went out, and I followed him.
“Imagine his horror, when (unprepared as he was for such a sight) he beheld, as he advanced towards the grave not a wolf, but his wife, in her night-dress, on her hands and knees, crouching by the body of my sister, and tearing off large pieces of the flesh, and devouring them with all the avidity of a wolf. She was too busy to be aware of our approach. My father dropped his gun; his hair stood on end, so did mine; he breathed heavily, and then his breath for a time stopped. I picked up the gun and put it into his hand. Suddenly he appeared as if concentrated rage had restored him to double vigour; he levelled his piece, fired, and with a loud shriek down fell the wretch whom he had fostered in his bosom.
“‘God of Heaven!’ cried my father, sinking down upon the earth in a swoon, as soon as he had discharged his gun.
“I remained some time by his side before he recovered. ‘Where am I?’ said he, ‘what has happened? Oh!—yes, yes! I recollect now. Heaven forgive me!’
“He rose and we walked up to the grave; what again was our astonishment and horror to find that, instead of the dead body of my mother-in-law, as we expected, there was lying over the remains of my poor sister, a large white she-wolf.
“‘The white wolf!’ exclaimed my father, ‘the white wolf which decoyed me into the forest—I see it all now—I have dealt with the spirits of the Hartz Mountains.’
“For some time my father remained in silence and deep thought. He then carefully lifted up the body of my sister, replaced it in the grave, an covered it over as before, having struck the head of the dead animal with the heel of his boot, and raving like a madman. He walked back to the cottage, shut the door, and threw himself on the bed; I did the same, for I was in a stupor of amazement.
“Early in the morning we were both roused by a loud knocking at the door, and in rushed the hunter Wilfred.
“‘My daughter—man—my daughter!—where is my daughter?’ cried he in a rage.
“‘Where the wretch, the fiend, should be, I trust,’ replied my father, starting up, and displaying equal choler; ‘where she should be—in hell! Leave this cottage, or you may fare worse.’
“‘Ha—ha!’ replied the hunter, ‘would you harm a potent spirit of the Hartz Mountains. Poor mortal, who must needs wed a were wolf.’
“‘Out, demon! I defy thee and thy power.’
“‘Yet shall you feel it; remember your oath—your solemn oath—never to raise your hand against her to harm her.’
“‘I made no compact with evil spirits.’
“‘You did, and if you failed in your vow, you were to meet the vengeance of the spirits. Your children were to perish by the vulture, the wolf—’
“‘Out, out, demon!’
“‘And their bones blanch in the wilderness. Ha!—ha!’
“My father, frantic with rage, seized his axe, and raised it over Wilfred’s head to strike.
“‘All this I swear,’ continued the huntsman, mockingly.
“The axe descended; but it passed through the form of the hunter, and my father lost his balance, and tell heavily on the floor.
“‘Mortal!’ said the hunter, striding over my father’s body, ‘we have power over those only who have committed murder. You have been guilty of a double murder: you shall pay the penalty attached to your marriage vow. Two of your children are gone, the third is yet to follow—and follow them he will, for your oath is registered. Go—it were kindness to kill thee—your punishment is, that you live!’
“With these words the spirit disappeared. My father rose from the floor, embraced me tenderly, and knelt down in prayer.
“The next morning he quitted the cottage for ever. He took me with him, and bent his steps to Holland, where we safely arrived. He had some little money with him; but he had not been many days in Amsterdam before he was seized with a brain fever, and died raving mad. I was put into the asylum, and afterwards was sent to sea before the mast. You now know all my history. The question is, whether I am to pay the penalty of my father’s oath? I am myself perfectly convinced that, in some way or another, I shall.”
On the twenty-second day the high land of the south of Sumatra was in view: as there were no vessels in sight, they resolved to keep their course through the Straits, and run for Pulo Penang, which they expected, as their vessel lay so close to the wind, to reach in seven or eight days. By constant exposure Philip and Krantz were now so bronzed that with their long beards and Mussulman dresses, they might easily have passed off for natives. They had steered the whole of the days exposed to a burning sun; they had lain down and slept in the dew of the night; but their health had not suffered. But for several days, since he had confided the history of his family to Philip, Krantz had become silent and melancholy: his usual flow of spirits had vanished and Philip had often questioned him as to the cause. As they entered the Straits, Philip talked of what they should do upon their arrival at Goa; when Krantz gravely replied, “For some days, Philip, I have had a presentiment that I shall never see that city.”
“You are out of health, Krantz,” replied Philip.
“No, I am in sound health, body and mind. I have endeavoured to shake off the presentiment, but in vain; there is a warning voice that continually tells me that I shall not be long with you. Philip, will you oblige me by making me content on one point? I have gold about my person which may be useful to you; oblige me by taking it, and securing it on your own.”
“What nonsense, Krantz.”
“It is no nonsense, Philip. Have you not had your warnings? Why should I not have mine? You know that I have little fear in my composition, and that I care not about death; but I feel the presentiment which I speak of more strongly every hour. It is some kind spirit who would warn me to prepare for another world. Be it so. I have lived long enough in this world to leave it without regret; although to part with you and Amine, the only two now dear to me, is painful, I acknowledge.”
“May not this arise from over-exertion and fatigue, Krantz? Consider how much excitement you have laboured under within these last four months. Is not that enough to create a corresponding depression? Depend upon it, my dear friend, such is the fact.”
“I wish it were; but I feel otherwise, and there is a feeling of gladness connected with the idea that I am to leave this world arising from another presentiment, which equally occupies my mind.”
“I hardly can tell you—but Amine and you are connected with it. In my dreams I have seen you meet again; but it has appeared to me as if a portion of your trial was purposely shut from my sight in dark clouds; and I have asked, ‘May not I see what is there concealed?’—and an invisible has answered, ‘No! ’twould make you wretched. Before these trials take place, you will be summoned away:’ and then I have thanked Heaven, and felt resigned.”
“These are the imaginings of a disturbed brain, Krantz; that I am destined to suffering may be true; but why Amine should suffer, or why you, young, in full health and vigour should not pass your days in peace, and live to a good old age, there is no cause for believing. You will be better tomorrow.”
“Perhaps so,” replied Krantz; “but still you must yield to my whim, and take the gold; If I am wrong, and we do arrive safe, you know, Philip, you can let me have it back,” observed Krantz, with a faint smile—“but you forget, our water is nearly out, and we must look out for a rill on the coast to obtain a fresh supply.”
“I was thinking of that when you commenced this unwelcome topic. We had better look out for the water before dark, and as soon as we have replenished our jars, we will make sail again.”
At the time that this conversation took place, they were on the eastern side of the strait, about forty miles to the northward. The interior of the coast was rocky and mountainous; but it slowly descended to low land of alternate forest and jungles, which continued to the beach: the country appeared to be uninhabited. Keeping close in to the shore, they discovered, after two hours’ run, a fresh stream which burst in a cascade from the mountains, and swept its devious course through the jungle, until it poured its tribute into the waters of the strait.
They ran close in to the mouth of the stream, lowered the sails, and pulled the peroqua against the current, until they had advanced far enough to assure them that the water was quite fresh. The jars were soon filled, and they were again thinking of pushing off; when, enticed by the beauty of the spot, the coolness of the fresh water, and wearied with their long confinement on board of the peroqua, they proposed to bathe—a luxury hardly to be appreciated by those who have not been in a similar situation. They threw off their Mussulman dresses, and plunged into the stream, where they remained for some time. Krantz was the first to get out: he complained of feeling chilled, and he walked on to the banks where their clothes had been laid. Philip also approached nearer to the beach intending to follow him.
“And now, Philip,” said Krantz, “this will be a good opportunity for me to give you the money. I will open my sash and pour it out, and you can put it into your own before you put it on.”
Philip was standing in the water, which was about level with his waist.
“Well, Krantz,” said he, “I suppose if it must be so, it must—but it appears to me an idea so ridiculous—however, you shall have your own way.”
Philip quitted the run, and sat down by Krantz, who was already busy in shaking the doubloons out of the folds of his sash. At last he said—
“I believe, Philip, you have got them all now?—I feel satisfied.”
“What danger there can be to you, which I am not equally exposed to, I cannot conceive,” replied Philip; “however—“
Hardly had he said these words, when there was a tremendous roar—a rush like a mighty wind through the air—a blow which threw him on his back—a loud cry—and a contention. Philip recovered himself, and perceived the naked form of Krantz carried off with the speed of an arrow by an enormous tiger through the jungle. He watched with distended eyeballs; in a few seconds the animal and Krantz had disappeared!
“God of Heaven! would that thou hadst spared me this,” cried Philip, throwing himself down in agony on his face. “Oh! Krantz, my friend—my brother—too sure was your presentiment. Merciful God! have pity—but thy will be done;” and Philip burst into a flood of tears.
For more than an hour did he remain fixed upon the spot, careless and indifferent to the danger by which he was surrounded. At last, somewhat recovered, he rose, dressed himself, and then again sat down—his eyes fixed upon the clothes of Krantz, and the gold which a on the sand.
“He would give me that gold. He foretold his doom. Yes! yes! it was his destiny, and it has been fulfilled. His bones will bleach in the wilderness, and the spirit-hunter and his wolfish daughter are avenged.”
The shades of evening now set in, and the low growling of the beasts of the forest recalled Philip to a sense of his own danger. He thought of Amine; and hastily making the clothes of Krantz and the doubloons into a package, he stepped into the peroqua, with difficulty shoved it off, and with a melancholy heart, and in silence, hoisted the sail, and pursued his course.
“Yes, Amine,” thought Philip, as he watched the stars twinkling and coruscating; “yes, you are right, when you assert that the destinies of men are foreknown, and may by some be read. My destiny is, alas! that I should be severed from all I value upon earth? and die friendless and alone. Then welcome death, if such is to be the case; welcome—a thousand welcomes! what a relief wilt thou be to me! what joy to find myself summoned to where the weary are at rest! I have my task to fulfil. God grant that it may soon be accomplished, and let not my life be embittered by any more trials such as this.”
Again did Philip weep, for Krantz had been his long-tried, valued friend? his partner in all his dangers and privations, from the period that they had met when the Dutch fleet attempted the passage round Cape Horn.
After seven days of painful watching and brooding over bitter thoughts, Philip arrived at Pulo Penang, where he found a vessel about to sail for the city to which he was destined. He ran his peroqua alongside of her, and found that she was a brig under the Portuguese flag, having, however, but two Portuguese on board, the rest of the crew being natives. Representing himself as am Englishman in the Portuguese service, who had been wrecked, and offering to pay for his passage, he was willingly received, and in a few days the vessel sailed.
Their voyage was prosperous; in six weeks they anchored in the roads of Goa; the next day they went up the river. The Portuguese captain informed Philip where he might obtain lodging; and passing him off as one of his crew, there was no difficulty raised as to his landing. Having located himself at his new lodging, Philip commenced some inquiries of his host relative to Amine, designating her merely as a young woman who had arrived there in a vessel some weeks before but he could obtain no information concerning her. “Signor,” said the host, “to-morrow is the grand auto-da-fe; we can do nothing until that is over; afterwards, I will put you in the way to find out what you wish. In the mean time, you can walk about the town; to-morrow I will take you to where you can behold the grand procession, and then we will try what we can do to assist you in your search.”
Philip went out, procured a suit of clothes, removed his beard, and then walked about the town, looking up at every window to see if he could perceive Amine. At a corner of one of the streets, he thought he recognised Father Mathias, and ran up to him; but the monk had drawn his cowl over his head, and when addressed by that name, made no reply.
“I was deceived,” thought Philip; “but I really thought it was him.” And Philip was right; it was Father Mathias, who thus screened himself from Philip’s recognition.
Tired, at last he returned to his hotel, just before it was dark. The company there were numerous; everybody for miles distant had come to Goa to witness the auto-da-fe,—and everybody was discussing the ceremony.
“I will see this grand procession,” said Philip to himself, as he threw himself on his bed. “It will drive thought from me for a time; and God knows how painful my thoughts have now become. Amine, dear Amine, may angels guard thee!”