Imágenes de páginas

Years have passed on-long years and yet
At midnight's hour, through calm and storm,
The same mysterious watch is set

By that restless phantom form.

Years have passed on, but vengeance never
Hath fallen upon the murderer's head,
Save the gnawing of that worm which ever
Upon the guilty heart is fed.

An aged man on his couch is laid,

Life's closing hour has come at length;
To him avails no mortal aid,

And failing fast is his wonted strength.
No words of holy faith can calm

The tumult of his anguished mind;
Religion's ever-soothing balm

He dares not seek, nor hopes to find.
Death's dews are on his changing brow-
Convulsive shiverings shake his frame,
As with deep groans he utters now
A long unspoken, bygone name.
Dark hints his broken words reveal
Of perjured vows, and fouler wrong;
For conscience can no more conceal
The fearful secret borne so long.

He mutters of the cliff, the cave—
His victim's tryste-her piercing cry,
That o'er the hoarsely dashing wave
Arose in wild despair on high.

Who shrinks not at thine icy grasp,

Oh Death? For terrible art thou!
But when thou com'st pale guilt to clasp,
What tenfold horrors cloud thy brow!
The murderer's gone to meet his doom,
And the "Lady of the Beach" no more
At midnight leaves her occan tomb

To wander on the fatal shore !*

*The above little poem was suggested by a ghost story current in a small town on the south-west coast of England. The author never having herself encountered the "Lady of the Beach" in her nightly peregrinations, cannot vouch for the reality of her appearance. But that a female was murdered about fifty years ago on that shore is a fact; and it is also a fact that the supposed murderer evinced, on his deathbed, all the horrors of a guilty conscience, and in his delirious ravings almost betrayed the terrible secret which he had kept so long.

[ocr errors][merged small]




Ir is now more than a thousand years since the old knight Zdenko of Brawda lived in his Castle Brawda, in the then duchy of Saatz. The mighty sword which in his younger days hehad wielded in honour of Boleslaus, on many a battle-field, was now hanging rusting in the armoury, by the side of the maces of his ancestors, their helmets, and proschiwanicze, and the only object which now occupied his mind was the education of his son Veit. After twenty years of unfruitful marriage his wife had presented him with this son, but his birth cost her her life. The worthy chaplain of the castle instructed the fine handsome boy, his father himself taught him the management of a horse, and it was very pleasant to see how, even as a little fellow, Veit would go through, in the highest glee, his chivalrous exercises, or, though not without some difficulty, read portions of the Bible, and repeat by heart sundry Latin verses.

Veit was so steady and sensible that his father could, without uneasiness, allow him to make little excursions beyond the limits of the castle unattended.

Once it happened to be on Saint Peter and Saint Paul's daythe youth, now twelve years old, descended from the elevated castle down to the valley beneath, through whose green meadows the river Egra flowed in graceful windings like a shining silver band. But on this occasion he was not alone. A splendid large dog, which his father had presented to him, bounded joyously now in front of him, now by his side, now behind him, then it would stretch itself at his feet right in his way, just as if the animal wished to prevent his young master from going further; but he jumped gaily past, laughing with all his heart when he beheld the dog bound in the air, and recommence as before. When, however, Hercules-that was the animal's name-found that his efforts were vain, he laid himself sorrowfully down upon the banks of the river, and fixed his eyes upon his youthful master. Veit went on amusing himself in various ways at the water's edge, either cautiously pitching small stones along the glassy surface, enchanted when in leaps, ever diminishing in distance, they reached the opposite bank; or cutting branches from the willow

* Proschiwanicze, a weapon used by the ancient Bohemians.

[ocr errors]

trees and forming them into flutes, from which he drew many a plaintive tone, or he would plait the fresh leaves into wreaths, and cast them into the river, watching them as they floated away, until they entirely disappeared from his sight.

Thus the happy boy played for a couple of hours, when he perceived three charming snow-white lilies upon a narrow strip of land which ran out into the river. He stepped nearer to pick them, but the prettiest of them was bent so deep down towards the water, that it was impossible for him to reach it with his hand. This provoked him, and he reflected how he could manage to get it; on looking round him he observed that not far from the banks of the river the relay an alder-tree which had been blown down. It occurred to him that his aged tutor had told him that the Egyptians in the earliest times made use of such logs of wood instead of boats, he instantly ran to the prostrated trunk, and by exerting his strength to the utmost he succeeded in detaching a part of the tree, and in dragging it along with him.

Hercules, who had hitherto been lying quiet on the grass, sprang up barking, and flung himself as before in the pathway of his eagerly-occupied master, who in anger scolded the good creature, threatening to push the block against him if he did not get out of his way. So Hercules slunk sadly away from his enraged master, and followed him with downcast head to the water's edge. Here the venturesome boy jumped upon the trunk of the tree to paddle with his hands and feet out to the extremity of the promontory; but he had scarcely got upon his simple boat before it capsized, and the water closed above his head.

His faithful companion on seeing his master so suddenly disappear, ran howling up and down the shore, then dashed into the water, and swam backwards and forwards until he all at once seemed to get a trace of the lost one. He dived down, and a few seconds afterwards drew the insensible boy up by the skirt of his clothes, and gently laid him upon the strip of land beneath the lilies. He licked his hands and dripping locks, and at last stretched himself exhausted by his side on feeling his warm breath again, and fancying that the lovely boy was sleeping. But Veit lay beneath the sweet flowers like one who has charming dreams, and does not wish to wake. A rapturous smile spread over his cheeks and played round his half open rosy mouth; his eyes opened now and then as if seeking an object, but quickly closed again, and the dark eyelashes were the more firmly pressed together, as if what he beheld around him was not near so beautiful as that which presented itself to his mental vision.

As the evening advanced, and the sun, no bigger than a half moon, was lingering upon the western mountains, the old steward of the castle, who had ascertained the road the little lord had

taken out of the wood, came to accompany him home. Hercules, perceiving him, jumped up, barking loudly, and "Stay, stay, thou lovely child!" the sleeping boy exclaimed, just as the old man approached and gently stirred him. With wide open eyes Veit peered around as if searching for something, and he cried angrily, rising from his reclining position,

"You wicked Kuno, why did you frighten away the pretty child from me? Which way has she gone?"

"You have only been dreaming, my dear young master," replied Kuno. "I saw, and see nothing else but your faithful companion who is dripping with water. Your clothes are also wet. What has happened to you?"

"I will tell you," answered Veit. "I fell into the river when I was trying to pick a lily; and I imagine that Hercules drew me out of the water. But scarcely had I reached the bank again, when I felt myself lulled into a gentle slumber by a charming perfume, and perceived that the lilies bent down over me, wafting their sweet fragrance towards me. And the flower which had appeared most beautiful to me, seemed so glorious, that nothing I had ever beheld before could be compared with it. I could not turn my eyes from it. Presently the leaves began to move, the goldstreaked petals fell into the loveliest fair tresses, encircling a lilywhite face, delicately tinged with red by the rays of the evening sun; the broad leaves enveloped the tall stem, and flowed like a garment of snow round the most bewitching form of a little girl, who, sweet as an angel, glided towards me.'

"Yes, to be sure," replied Kuno, "angels play with sleeping children."

"No, dear Kuno," Veit eagerly continued, "I was not dreaming; I was lying merely in a sort of pleasant stupor, and was aware that I could open my eyes when I pleased; but I felt that this enchanting being was standing by my side, bending over me, playing with my wet hair, and affectionately calling me by endearing names. She gazed tenderly into my eyes, and her rosy lips had already nearly approached my mouth-when that horrid Hercules barked, and the sweet child hurriedly exclaiming "Farewell!" disappeared from my sight. I immediately opened my eyes-and it was you who had frightened her away. No, dear Kuno, I assure you I have not dreamed all this."

When Veit had finished his recital, it recurred to Kuno that, when approaching the river, though still at some distance, he had seen something white fluttering among the foliage. He shook his head seriously, thinking to himself that it might perhaps have been a mermaid, who had been enticed from her crystal palace by the handsome boy's blooming countenance, or even a fairy, pleased with the youth's amiable, intelligent disposition, who,

perhaps, intended to grant him her protection through future life. Kuno did not fail to tell his young lord on their way home a great deal about the maidens of Egra, who often in the summer evenings rose to the surface of the cool river, and while the sun was setting sported upon the banks, and many other stories which, in those days, were told of spectres who haunted old castles, witches, and spirits of the woods.

As the valley through which the river Egra ran was one or two miles from the castle of Brawda, and our wanderers, absorbed in their conversation, walked slowly homewards, which, moreover, was over the hills, the sun had, of course, long since set behind the mountains, and the clouds of night had drawn together from every quarter of the sky, like a thick veil, ere Veit and Kuno, with faithful Hercules, entered the castle gates.

As a pleasing dream long lingers in the mind, so it was with Veit; he was ever thinking of the beautiful little creature whom he had seen by degrees transformed from a lily into a child, and had so affectionately stroked his hair. A hundred times she appeared before him, caressed him tenderly, and vanished. Every day he traversed the long road on the bank of the Egra; every evening he laid upon the slope, where, in St. Paul's and St. Peter's day, he had been happier than he had ever been beforeall in vain. The lovely child did not present herself to him again.

At first, when his son and Kuno related to him the adventure on the shores of the Egra, old Zdenko had shaken his head, opining that probably a fairy was striving to gain an influence over the boy, and would, perhaps, lead him astray by her beauty. But as months passed on, and she still did not show herself to Veit again, he firmly believed that a pleasing dream had made an impression upon the mind of the sensitive lad. However, Veit remained grave and thoughtful, and treasured the remembrance of his sweet lily-angel of his boyhood even into the riper years of youth.

Thus two summers rolled on, and the second autumn was peeping forth in the yellow oak-leaves, when, from the battlements of the castle, the owls uttered their harsh low wail in such ominous sounds, all the inmates of the castle were filled with terror; and when the leaves had fallen from the trees, the chill north wind whistled among the mountains, and the Egra had already begun to flow less rapidly, then accents of sorrow and mourning were echoed through the spacious halls.

Equipped in his splendid armour, the aged knight, Zdenko, was borne, on a bier covered with black, to the grave, where his ancestors reposed. With tottering steps Veit followed the honoured corpse, mournful hymns rose dolefully towards the heavens, heavy

« AnteriorContinuar »