Category Archives: Baroness de la Motte Fouque’


Caroline, Baroness de la Motte Fouque’: “The Castle on the Beach”

Excerpt, “German Stories: Being Tales and Traditions Chiefly Selected from the Literature of Germany.” 1855.

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THE CASTLE ON THE BEACH

A Tale

    On the shores of the Baltic, among many other once flourishing, but now deserted villages, there are still seen the remains of one little hamlet, whose mouldering cottages and unweeded gardens, not many years ago, formed a striking contrast to the neatness and beauty of a Castle in the vicinity, which lay close upon the beach.

    No symptoms of neglect or poverty met the eye there; the walls and roofs were well-preserved; the agricultural implements were evidently guided by no sluggard’s hands; the cattle looked clean and well-fed; and the best economy showed itself in the house and in the field.  The ponds full of limpid water were well-stocked with fish; shrubs and ivy bordered the green turf, and a thousand flowers bloomed freshly in the gardens which surrounded the residence of Count P___, who lived in the Castle with his wife and four children.

    The wretched inhabitants of the adjoining village had long comforted themselves with the thought, that their friendly and wealthy neighbor, whose active benevolence they so often experienced, would long remain their liege lord.  But a gradual change of matters took place at the Castle; several of the servants were dismissed, others taken into the establishment; the family gradually retired from public life; and at last they seemed purposely to shun the slightest occasion of intercourse with the world.

    So striking an alteration in the situation and conduct of the family at the Castle could not fail to be made the subject of much conversation, particularly in the house of Samuel, who kept a small tavern in the village, where the wretched peasants would often barter their little harvest for ardent liquor, and seek to drown the miseries of a painful existence in intoxication and riot.

    “Times will change again,” said Natango, an old man of three score and ten years, as he heard the wind howling overhead.  “They will change,” he repeated, observing some of the party shaking their heads.

    “Yes, yes,” replied another, “times will change when there is no longer an aching head amongst us.  Many things change in their world; but few of them for the better.”

    “Now, shame on you,” rejoined the old man, “for a chicken-hearted fellow!”

    “In good truth,” exclaimed a third, “I know not who may in these times keep a good heart!  Will you, my old friend, with all your talking, take staff in hand, and step where the road is broadest?”

    “Why man,” replied Natango, “it will not come to that either!”

    “Not come to that!” exclaimed the other, rising from his seat with the air of one who knows something which he does not choose to communicate. He added nothing more, but leant his back against the wall, and drawing a deep whiff of his pipe, threw out a volume of smoke from his lips, the ascent of which he endeavored to check by a violent motion with his hand.

    Samuel was seated opposite the parties listening eagerly to the conversation which was going forward.  For although he seemed to be taking little or no interest in the matter but sat with outstretched legs, his arms supported on his knees, and his head bent lazily down under his matted red locks, yet he ever and anon raised his pale countenance deeply marked with the small-pox, and fixed his little green ferret eyes on the speakers, with a keenness which bespoke more real interest at heart than he chose to profess.

    “My last penny against your pipe, Michael,” cried a young lad, “but I know what you mean!”

    “Do you?” replied the first, shrugging his shoulders.  “You always hit the nail on the head!”

    “For this time at least,” rejoined the other.  “Did not I see you yesterday as you came down the hill so dejectedly, with a head full of abundant projects for distant voyages doubtless, which the ship then passing had suggested?  You went along the side of the Castle-garden, and you found Olga seated near the wall, under the oak which the count’s grandfather planted.  The poor old body did not at first return your greeting, for her eyes were covered with her apron, and she had not perceived your approach; but when you stopped, and again called, ‘Good evening, Olga!  How are you?  Why thus alone here?’ she only answered you with a nod, and lifted both her hands to heaven, as if she would have said, ‘God above only knows how I am.’”

    “Well,” interrupted Michael impatiently; “and what more?”

    “This more,” replied the other.  “You sat down beside her; and, perhaps, your own heart felt as oppressed at that moment as hers.”

    Here Michael drew a deep sigh, and allowed the clouds of smoke to obscure his sorrowful countenance.

    “At first,” continued the other, “you did not speak, and Olga remained weeping in silence.  At length you inquired gently, ‘Have you had any dispute with your mistress, Olga?’—‘Oh, heaven forbid, heaven forbid!’ answered she sobbing. ‘Seventeen years have I been in the Castle, and during all that time I never had an evil word from old or young! It is just on that account I weep,’ she added with a stifled voice.”

    “And where have you been hidden,” interrupted Michael, peevishly, “that you overheard all this? Who set you to listen to us? Say, who told you?”

    “My stars,” replied the youth, “it was only chance which led me there at the time! You remember it was about the gloaming, and surely there was nothing strange in my stopping, when I heard weeping and lamenting at such an hour, and looking about me to see what was the matter!”

    “What was the matter?” repeated the first.  “Nothing was the matter; and you might have spared yourself the trouble!”

    “But something will be the matter,” added the youth, “and we will all live to see it.  The count is about to leave this place,” he added with some vehemence; “that is the secret, and you can no longer conceal it; for though they are at trouble enough to hide it, it begins to peep out.”

    “God forbid!” interrupted Samuel.  “Leave the country! And what is to become of the Castle?  Is it to be sold by public roup?  Perhaps it is already bought by some one.  Or do they give it up to their creditors?”

    “Their creditors!” exclaimed Natango, clasping his emaciated hands together, “Good God, child, who are they who would dare to chase the worthy nobleman from his paternal inheritance?”

    “Why,” replied Samuel, “when the most honest man that breathes is no longer able to pay his debts, he stands just in the same situation as the most dishonest; his character for honesty is forfeited in the eye of the law, which proceeds to deal with him accordingly.  The creditors keep strictly to the law; and they have a right to do so.”

    Natango shook his head, and shaded his white hairs from his eyes already filled with tears.  “The more’s the pity that he who is only unfortunate should so often appear as if he was a cheat.  Where is the man who is always able to do what he wishes or has the heart to do?  I think we all know how difficult that is!  But there are many creditors in the world who act better than Samuel thinks they have a right and ought to do, and who give that indulgence to an honest man which often enables him to weather his misfortunes. Well, well, time is passing onwards, and all may yet grow clearer again!”

    “All are not so hopeful,” interrupted the young lad; “and there are few, indeed, who have such a sense of justice as to take the will for the deed.  Among us country-people that may do sometimes, and a word spoken before witnesses may be as binding as a lawyer’s paper; but I have been in the army, and I have been quartered in towns, and I know everyone there cares only for himself, and trusts as little to another as he can.”

    “Tell me, my good friend,” whispered Samuel, who by this time had edged near to Michael, “is the estate to be sold by public roup? Did you hear any talk of this in the town; and is the day fixed?”

    “Curse on your tongue!” roared Michael.  “If I hear such a word drop from your ugly—Sold by public roup! And are we, think you, all to go into the bargain? Is it so? No, it is not so!  It cannot be!”

    “No! No!” exclaimed several voices at once. “Are not the fields and gardens all flourishing as ever? And does not our lord, the count, look as calm and composed as ever, and not like one whose breast is oppressed by care as by a millstone? The count knows well where to steer his ship!”

    “A prudent helmsman,” resumed Samuel, “never allows his brows to darken, or his eye to flinch, though he may see the vessel running right against the rock; he wears a good heart in his face at least, till all is lost, and neither prudence nor firmness can any longer conceal the worst.  Why, I knew long ago,” added he, with a cunning look, “that it would come to this.  The ground was loose—the building could not stand.  Where there is no foundation, there is no stability.”

    “No foundation!” exclaimed Michael angrily; “You fool, the ground about here affords the best foundation of any along the whole beach. That is not the reason.”

    “You do not understand me,” said Samuel. “The father had got himself involved; the son succeeded to his estate; war, bad times, want of money—in short, if you can count your fingers you may be at little loss to reckon how matters must now stand up yonder.”

     These last words had been addressed to deaf ears. All sat silent and sore grieved at heart for a few minutes, and then slipped out one after another from the tavern. They felt themselves overshadowed by the same black cloud which seemed to darken the count’s fortunes, and many an anxious interrogatory was addressed to Michael, who had not chosen to speak his mind freely before the cunning old man, and now bitterly upbraided the youth for the imprudent exposure he had made of the count’s situation.

     However, most persuaded themselves that all would yet be as they wished it, and others consoled themselves with the hope that the dreaded moment was yet far distant.  Only Michael and Natango continued to cast anxious looks on the blooming gardens and glittering windows of the Castle.  They saw the vines winding richly around their props, and the rose-bushes glittering with fragrancy, but they both felt that all was not right and as they could have wished it.

    “It is impossible,” said the old man, still lingering at the gate of the garden, and casting a melancholy look on the countess and her children, who passed near to him among the bushes.  “It is impossible! They cannot intend to leave all this!”

    “They must—I say they must,” replied Michael, shaking his head, and f moving off to another road.

    Natango felt the painfulness of that little word must. He leant against a willow, and revolved in his mind all the vicissitudes he had experienced himself, and his country’s history had exhibited since the Seven Years’ War.

    At the period of the count’s birth, Natango was a servant in the Castle, and had been sent in great haste with a sledge for the physician who resided in the neighboring village.  He remembered freshly the bustle and anxiety of that night, and the joy which the appearance of a son and heir occasioned in the parents’ hearts.  The young count went abroad in early life, but remained the only child of his father, and his return was anxiously prayed for by the tenantry, who found it difficult to deal with the old count now in his dotage.  Before his return, however, the war had broken out, and its events brought with them serious injury to his paternal inheritance.  At its close, the count, who served in the army, hastened home, and by his industry and good management soon restored his fortunes; at least, he was never heard to complain, and every one believed him happy and contented.

    These and a crowd of associated recollections now passed like a dream through the mind of the old domestic.  “And shall all this,” he cried, “be forgotten as if it had never been?”

    At this moment, the youngest child of the count, a boy of about nine years of age, darted past Natango, like an arrow, upon his little Lithuanian pony.  He wore the dress of a Cossack; his little cap with its long calpack descended on one side over his luxuriant locks; in his hand he couched, as if for the attack, a light lance of elder-wood, fashioned by his own ingenuity; and with a loud hurrah he charged upon his elder brother, who appeared descending the hill with a letter in his hand, with which he hastened towards his parents, now at a little distance.

    Natango knew not what passed betwixt the count and countess, for they spoke in a foreign language; but he saw the countess frequently cast her looks pensively on the ground, and it seemed to him as if she was endeavoring to soothe the agitated feelings of her husband.  A lovely little girl held the skirts of her father’s coat, and sought to engage his attention by her innocent prattle; and at a little distance the eldest daughter, Louisa, walked dejectedly with her beautiful eyes filled with tears, as she ever and anon raised them from the ground, and looked up to the trees and battlements of the Castle.

     The count took the letter, and hastily breaking the seal, exclaimed with emotion, “After tomorrow then!” and stepped aside into an adjoining alley to conceal his feelings.  The countess anxiously repeated the words, “After tomorrow then!” and she then severally embraced her children, who came pressing around her.

Read the rest of this Antique German Story in Translation in its entirety here!

 

Caroline, Baroness de la Motte Fouque’: “The Castle of Scharfenstein” – Epilogue

Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.

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THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN

Epilogue

From Felix to Julius

I hasten to prepare you by the first possible opportunity, for an event of which the rumours will soon be afloat, both in town and country, and which will, of course, cause very material changes. Julius, the reigning Duke’s crimes are now frightfully avenged on his own head. I reflect with horror on that web of evil, which he has himself twined so industriously, and which, in the end, is only to supply the means of his own destruction. But you must now judge for yourself.
About eight days ago, the Duke, who since that attack of illness after the masquerade ball, has been always rather in bad health, was sitting in the dusk of the evening, in a small cabinet, at the end of a long suite of apartments. His temper is so variable, that those around him never know what he would like or dislike. Consequently, no one would venture to bring him lighted candles, unless he had rung for that purpose. So that, as chance would have it, the Duke having fallen asleep had forgotten the hour, and all his usual arrangements.
Meanwhile there came into the palace court an old grey-headed man, who ran hastily up the back staircase, and gave the pass-word and signal in such manner, that, in the dark, the guards never discovered that he was a stranger. So that the private door was directly opened, and he went forward to the chamber of our drowsy sovereign. The Duke was instantly roused by the noise his unexpected visitor made on entering the room, started up all in a tremor, and called aloud in a voice of the utmost anxiety and consternation, “Has he escaped? Has he come hither?”
Now the old man being by this time as much affrighted as the Duke, began also to vociferate, till at last, both standing opposite to each other, broke out into a fit of mad laughter. Which, at the same time being accompanied by all the symptoms of deadly fear, inspired the listeners with horror; and the nearest attendants, on looking in, perceived that their visages were abdominably writhen and contracted.
The groom of the chambers had indeed watched the whole transaction from the next room, and was so much agitated that he ran away for the physician, who came immediately, and tried every means in his power to bring the unhappy men to their senses. But it was impossible to make them listen to any third party. The same paroxysms of terror and utter madness were renewed, tall at last they were quite exhausted, and fell into a sleep or stupor so still, that it was like that of death.
As for the mysterious old man who caused all this disturbance, Leonardo the physician recognized in him at once the castellan of Scharfenstein, and being well aware of the circumstances there, he concluded that some fatal blow had been struck against the Duke from that quarter. At the same time, he endeavored to guard against any more outbreakings of such alarming madness. He therefore made the castellan be removed to another room, in hopes that such paroxysms would not recur, unless brought on by some outwardly exciting cause.
But though thus separated, no sooner had the Duke and the old man awoke from their unnatural slumber, than their eyes began to roll, and they seemed anxiously to look for each other. They continued under the influence of raging delirium, till they were again brought together, after which the same mad grimaces and laughter were renewed as before.
Since then their condition has remained equally perplexing and disastrous — notwithstanding all that the physicians have tried against it; so that with deep sorrow they were at last obliged to inform the Duchess that her son was incurably insane. She now sees the kingdom deserted, without any ruler, and yet begs that the ministers will, for some time at least, suspend their choice of a regent.
Meanwhile, the people begin to murmur, rather formidably, that Prince Charles is neither mad nor guilty. Even here, one may trace that inward born apprehension, that anticipation of truth, which, though it can be suppressed for a time, is yet a principle inherent in the human mind. Though they dare not speak freely, yet no one doubts in his heart that the Duke’s malady is an awful judgment against him, for the sufferings that he inflicted on his brother; and it is certain that a ministerial deputation will immediately be sent to Scharfenstein. It may be well, therefore, that you prepare the Prince for this visit, and assure him that the people have placed all their hopes on him.
Julius, dare any one in this world ever decide that he stands at the goal of his allotted course? Everywhere, and at all times, man but gropes in the dark; even when, by self-denial, and the renunciation of hopes which had been fondly cherished, he thinks that he must infallibly secure peace, he is disappointed — there are duties yet to be fulfilled betwixt him and the grave. But I shall not detain the courier for the sake of moralizing!
~~~~~
There remains but little to be added to the preceding letters, but that little dissolves every cloud, and for the rest, all is sunshine. As Felix had anticipated, the Prince found that the voice of Providence called him to the throne; and though the busy world, with all its goings on, was now more than ever disagreeable to him, he did not hesitate to obey the summons. The scene was, indeed, moving, when the old Duchess welcomed at court her son, who had been so long an exile, while the Prince’s dignified figure and quiet demeanor announced to every feeling heart how he had striven against his own passion, and conquered.
As to the Countess Julia, some time elapsed before she could be persuaded to leave her retirement. The veil that Providence had drawn betwixt her and the outward world, was, in her estimation, a token that she should ought never to change her mode of life. But wonderful and inscrutable are the mysteries of the connection between mind and bodily frame, acting and re-acting on each other!
In her excessive grief, her eyes became dim, till, for a time, their sense was wholly lost; but it was found that this evil was not irremediable. Once more she had regained some perception of the daylight. An English physician, who then passed through the capital, was employed, and completed her recovery. It is needless to add, that she remained the only female friend and confidante of the reigning Duke Charles, who, from the mere consciousness of her being near to him, drew inspirations of courage, energy and perseverance in all his undertakings.
As for Julius, he was, in every respect, happy and fortunate. Distinguished for his admirable conduct, both in private life and as a soldier on the battlefield, it came to pass in after years, when his beloved parents were united in death, when also the former Duke rested under a magnificent monument, and the sovereign power merged into another principality, Julius was appointed prime minister, and continued to behave with such spirit and propriety that he was respected even as much as if he had himself been on the throne.

~ The End ~

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Caroline de la Motte-Fouque’

Caroline, Baroness de la Motte Fouque’: “The Castle of Scharfenstein” 5b of 6

Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.

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THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN

Chapter V, Part 2 of 2

Just before my departure for England

20th May

F


arewell, farewell, my beloved native land!

You cast me from you, cruelly, it is true. Disguised, and like an abandoned criminal in the darkness of the night, I must quit the walls of this town. No one here will regret my departure, and all will soon forget the poor guilty Julia, as if she had never been.
Guilty, indeed, I am; therefore, oh heart! be steady and unshrinking in thy penance; and Heaven will prove a just and merciful judge. That happiness which, in my levity and presumption, I wished to possess against the will of Providence, has been wholly taken from me. Be it so then; let my resignation, if possible, prove an atonement, and may I be guided henceforth by the pure influence of the Christian faith — by self-denial — voluntary suffering, and submission of spirit.
But my dearest Charles! I hear that they have invented wicked falsehoods to delude you! Truly, you cannot be reproached for believing them, for Heaven alone knows by what snares your life has been environed. I weep only because you cannot weep — because you cherish anger even against your faithful Julia, instead of compassion and forgiveness. If these words could only reach your ears, the truth would be felt in your inmost heart.
Alas, Charles! we shall now look anxiously forward to a far different journey from that which we had planned to India. Our wanderings are like those of the pilgrims, of whom it is said, that they advance two steps, and lose one, on their way to the Holy Land. But let us not be wearied or despondent, though the way be long, for at one time or another we must come to our journey’s end.
Farewell! Farewell!
~~~~~~
Here, Felix, there occur some lines half obliterated, on which I cannot venture; for the tears of heart-felt affliction have imprinted on them the sacred seal of mystery. How could we sport as we have so often done with this life, which, if the curtain be drawn from its concealed truths, is so frightfully tragic? I am, in truth, so disturbed and agitated, that it seems as if I could never more obtain even one hour of rest. What then, is our whole existence in this world, but a ceaseless conflict and alternation of crime and repentance?
~~~~~
Once more my feelings are completely changed; the balm of divine peace and consolation has been poured out profoundly on our heads; but, to understand me, you must hear all that passed last night, though I almost dread to set it on paper, as if it could not be real, and the spell might be broken!
It was late in the evening, when I was summoned to the Prince. I found him no longer confined to his bed, but resting on the sofa, just as he had appeared at our first interview. He seemed, with anxious inquiry, to read on my features the emotion that had been produced by the perusal of the manuscripts.
“Julius,” said he, “It is now my duty to give you an explanation of much which you cannot yet have even guessed; therefore, take your place, and listen quietly to what I have to say.”
The Prince then roused himself from the reclining posture in which I found him, and, with the fire of youth in his eyes, he leant forward and addressed me.
“Even though we should deny the personal existence of malignant demons in the world, yet we cannot doubt the influence of that one omnipotent spirit of evil, who tempts us into crimes — renders the ground, as it were, hollow beneath our feet, and, depriving us of reason and recollection, forces us into the gulf thus prepared for our destruction.
“What, then, would become of us, if it were not for the assistance of Divine Providence, by which our very enemies are sometimes turned into agents for our rescue? My heart was always too warm and too susceptible — the restraints that I laid on myself were feeble and easily broken through, — and alas! that barrier being removed, I did not fall myself alone, but forced along with me an amiable and angelic being into misery.
“Julia’s affection, indeed, was of such a character, that it ought to have shielded me against all the poisonous calumny of the world. But the belief in another’s innocence — such is our deprived nature — is an impression very easily disturbed. Could you have supposed that Julia’s devotion to me, and the unshrinking confidence with which she had received my addresses, formed the means by which our infernal adversary led me on to discontent and suspicion?
“It would have been long, indeed, before the Duke, with all his agents, could have brought me to this. Gabrielle had been constantly endeavouring to fan the fires of jealousy into flame, but in vain. My mother, too, deceived and misled by every one, accused Julia of blamable levity; for she thought, that before my arrival, the innocent girl, if she had not encouraged, yet, in consequence, perhaps of her timidity and inexperience, had submitted to receive attentions from the Duke, even that an understanding and mutual confidence still subsisted betwixt them.
“At last, my brother ventured one day, in a strain of bitter irony, to laugh at my romantic passion. He heaped insult upon insult, till at last he boasted, though with an air of contempt and indifference, that Julia had granted him many private interviews. I had never, in my life, been subject to anger; therefore was by no means on my guard against an attack of this passion. I knew not how its raging waves collect unobserved, till at once they break over our heads, and now, therefore, I fell an unresisting victim.
“Quite frantic with rage, forgetting all considerations, so that I thought not of revenge, but only of destruction to myself and all others, I rushed sword in hand against my brother. He parried my attack with a wave of his arm. He stood quietly and scornfully, and his looks of just reproach moved me in such manner that a complete revolution took place in my mind, and I threw myself at his feet.
“For a long while, indeed, I knew not what I did, nor what passed around me; and, on recovering my senses, I found myself in a chamber, of which the door was locked. Even then, I scarcely knew what had happened, nor could form any distinct thoughts or wishes. But late in the night I heard, under the floor, the noise of a carriage driving into the castle court. Soon afterwards, an officer, rather advanced in years, whom I had till now never seen, entered my room. He showed me the Duke’s written command, that I should go with him to Scharfenstein — to which I made not the slightest objection, for, in my despair, all circumstances were to me become indifferent.
“On my arrival here, I fell into a kind of melancholy stupefaction, that blunted my senses almost against every impression. The crime into which my ungovernable rage had betrayed me made me feel a kind of contempt even for all mankind. Above all, however, I detested myself, and that Julia whom I had so fondly loved. Even these impulses were feeble and imperfect. At that period I could scarcely be said to live. I had only faint glimmerings of thought, and these I wished to avoid rather than encourage. Years passed away in this mood, to which another succeeded that was far more insupportable.
“This was the consciousness of reviving strength, and the decrease of my dark melancholy, followed by intense paroxysms of hatred and revenge. I thought of wreaking vengeance on Julia, and escaping from the horrid bondage in which I now suffered. At length nature seemed to give way under this struggle, and I became very ill, of which news probably were sent to the capital, for the Duke’s physicians came to visit me. I had a great distrust of his remedies, and steadfastly refused to follow his prescriptions. The fear of poison was then never absent from my mind, and the love of life increased, as the hope, by degrees awoke, that my situation might yet be completely changed.
“In one respect, the change indeed came. I recovered, and, with returning health, came back the energies of my mind, and I acquired a victory over those passions by which I had been tormented. With regard to my own conduct at the last meeting with my brother, I reflected on it with deep humiliation, for I was more than ever conscious that I had been in the wrong. As to Julia, my emotions were now more of sorrow than of anger; yet, on this point, I was forced to acknowledge myself still as a mere ordinary mortal. When I thought of her, I could not be tranquil, and therefore sought repose by endeavouring, however, vainly, to avoid the recollection of her altogether.
“Yet, as if even this might not be, the parrot was then brought hither. I knew not from whence he came, but accepted the bird willingly as an amusement in my solitude. No sooner was he seated in his ring, that he screamed aloud, “Pardon — oh pardon!’ and ‘Farewell — farewell!” These words came from her, said I; but, alas! at that time I was far from giving to them a proper interpretation. I thought they were the expressions of a guilty, faithless woman, while it was she who had been injured, and who thus nobly forgave me!
“And yet, strange to tell, the tones moved me almost as much as if I had indeed heard her own voice; for Julius, there is a universal presence in recollection. I felt it in every whispering of the air through the window. Now and then I thought of my flute, on which, in better days, I had so often played in Julia’s presence. I longed for it, and requested that it might be brought to me, which was agreed to; and, with the flute was sent almost every thing that had been left in my cabinet in town — so that I found myself established here as if I had been at home. At last came my favourite dog. I could not help bursting into tears; when, recognizing me, he barked aloud for joy — put up his paws on my shoulders, and laid his head on my bosom.
“So unconquerable,” said I, “are the impressions of attachment, even in irrational creatures, — it is principle that God has implanted in all beings — but for the human race alone, it is reserved to be faithless.” At that moment, it seemed as if the voice of some invisible monitor said to me, “Love may be injured, but it is an amaranthine flower; it is immortal; preserve it, then, like a sacred relic in thy soul, and it will be restored to its first perfection in Heaven!”
“Henceforth, not only could I bear to think steadfastly of Julia, but her image constantly hovered around me, like a glorified visitant from the habilitations of the blest. Her faults and errors belonged only to this earth; but the Julia whom I loved was mine for eternity. These thoughts, for the future, were to me like the rainbow’s arch of forgiveness, hope and promise, succeeding a dark tempest in the sky. I have been better both in mind and frame; have been little disturbed by temporal cares, and my affections were indeed fixed on another world.
“But then, Julius, you made your appearance. The general whose name you mentioned as your father was Julia’s guardian. This circumstance, and even the sound of your name, of course, broke in greatly upon my repose — for a thousand questions occurred to me, which I would have wished to ask. But fearful that the truth would not bear investigation, I timidly repressed them all. It was the will of Providence, however, that, by your means, the veil of mystery should one day be withdrawn; and now I may ask of you, do you know, or can you guess whether the unhappy Julia yet lives? Or – but I cannot help faltering when I speak of this — how her heart was reconciled to her sad destiny and mine? Conceal nothing, my dear friend, however agonizing the truth may be. I can bear it better than suspense.”
I was on the point of making the Prince acquainted with my own dim recollections — of the letters which my mother used to receive, from an unfortunate sister resident in England, and all the rest, which has been already described to you. When the physician, who had not been here for several days, made his appearance. There was somewhat reserved in his looks and demeanor, which immediately struck me; and he in his turn was visibly surprised by the improved looks of the Prince. “What miracle has wrought this change?” said he. “I find his Highness’ pulse beating like that of a healthy young man, and there is not the slightest symptom of fever. “
“It will be well,” said the Prince, “when you have thus restored me to the strength of youth, if you can protect me also from its mental delusions and disquietude.” The physician, after some other questions, finding that his advice was no longer required here, rose to take his leave, and seeming in great haste, refused the Prince’s invitation to remain all night, as his business called him hence. He had been appointed by a lady, who was now very ill, for a visit at that hour, and he could not keep her waiting any longer. “You are perhaps going farther by the same road,” said the Prince, “and may return by our castle?”
“Your Highness will excuse me,” said the physician, “my visit thus far was to you alone, but why should I conceal that there is a patient whom I am now to see on my homeward route whose recovery altogether depended on that of your Highness.”
“You speak in riddles,” said the Prince.
“In short,” replied the physician. “there resides in this neighbourhood a very beautiful, though blind lady, who lives, as she says, altogether by the notes of your flute, which fall cheeringly as that sunlight which she can never more behold, into the darkness of her world, and change her wearisome night into bright morning.”
At these words the Prince turned pale, and looked anxiously at the doctor.
“In direct terms,” added the latter, “I must explain to your Highness, this unfortunate lady says that all the pleasantest remembrances of her youth are awoke by your music — that these form now the only solace that she has left to support existence. That in listening to you she beholds every scene or image, once more in the most vivid hues, as if all had been restored. But now, since the flute has been for several nights neglected, she has fallen into a state which one might well call a living death. All this was revealed to me by an old nurse who attends her, and who begged me to say whether the beloved music would be heard again, or was indeed silent forever?
“I now hasten to her with the information, that since your Highness is quite recovered, your evening amusements will doubtless be resumed.”
“Who is the lady?” said the Prince in a faltering voice.
“She is an English emigree,” said the physician, “who came many years ago to reside in this forest, having purchased an old ruinous castle, of which she has since been a constant inmate. It is said that early affliction and constant weeping deprived her thus untimely of her sight.”
“It is she — it is Julia!” cried the Prince, bursting into tears, and throwing himself into my arms.
“For Heaven’s sake,” said I to the physician, “let me go with you on your visit! A thousand cherished recollections crowd upon my mind, and hopes that may yet be realized. I must see the lady.”
“You can see her indeed, without leaving this room,” said the physician, leading me to the window. “Mark yonder in the moonlight. Her form is distinguishable on the wild rocky cliff, where she never fails to watch at this hour, in hopes that the music will be heard once more — and bring back youth and sunlight to her imagination.”
The Prince had now opened the lattice. He knelt down with the flute in his hands, and tried to wake its wonted notes, but could not — sobbed aloud — bent down his head for some moments in silent prayer. Then, as if supernaturally tranquilized, resumed the instrument, and without once faltering, poured forth such an exquisite stream of sorrowful modulation, that the effect was unearthly. It was like the voice of a beneficent spirit, lamenting over the misfortunes and errors of mankind.
I could not remain any longer within the doors. I ran down stairs and across the court. The draw bridge fell at my signal. I rushed forth, and never halted in my breathless course till I had reached the summit of the rock and stood beside her. I cannot describe what follows; the impressions of all that passed are remembered like those of a dream. The first words that she uttered, proved to me that my hopes have been well-founded. She fell fainting into my arms and, scarcely aware of what I did, but acting by mere impulse, I bore her down the cliff. I know not how the distance was got over; but I never relaxed in my efforts, nor awoke to self-possession and consciousness, till I had brought her into the Prince’s apartments.
Felix, what a moment was that when they met again, though they could not mutually behold each other!
“It is morning,” said the Countess, when she first recovered from her swoon, and breathed once more on the bosom of her beloved.
~~~~~
The clear light of day has indeed broken out around us — and as you, Felix, may doubtless have anticipated, it is proved that I am the offspring of this ill-fated and yet now happy marriage. Oh dearest mother, how sincerely my heart now feels your affection, and how grateful I am for the counsels that you afforded me! No longer am I at any loss to explain the mysterious voice that of yore spoke to me in solitude, or the unconquerable yearnings of my spirit, even in childhood, after that rank in life, and that domestic happiness of which it seemed that I was debarred forever.
How deeply moving was her appearance now! Her head from long habit declined in melancholy — her dark eyes shrouded by their impenetrable veil! The Prince looked at her with emotion to which no words could give adequate utterance. “Oh, my beloved Julia,” said he. “How much has my attachment cost you? Those beautiful eloquent eyes?” With those words, he kissed them gently.
“My dearest Charles,” answered she. “Heaven has yet allowed us to retain all the freshness of our youthful feelings. Though I have spent many years in darkness, and you have been shut up within prison walls. The malignant influence of the world has not destroyed those emotions, and I was almost happy, when I knew that you were so near to me and could reckon you still mine.”
“You should be informed, Felix, that at the period when she appeared to me as a traveling dealer in Nüremberg toys, she had just then ventured back to her native country, and saw me for the first time since the month of my birth. “So then” said she to herself, “I have a son, and he is a stranger among strangers. Who knows whether he will ever find his way back to his father’s capital — and to his proper sphere in life?” Soon afterwards, she entrusted me to her old friend Madame Nägelin, who had accompanied her to England, and who brought me to my mother’s guardian. He was at that time traveling with his wife, being sent as a diplomatist to a distance country, where he remained for several years. The Count received me very willingly, and after his return, I passed, without exciting any suspicion, for his own son.
So, then, Felix — such are the intricate ways of Providence. I have been here appointed as my father’s watcher. I have been to him at last like a peace messenger from Heaven, inspiring him with new hope. Indeed, with a tranquility and confidence. Who can measure or appreciate the deep inscrutable plans of Supreme Power?
You will ask me, perhaps, what is to happen farther; but I have nothing more to relate. We are all of us at peace, and contented with our lot. The Prince is a state prisoner, and the Countess Julia remains, or seems to remain, a female hermit as before. It is requisite to keep up appearances, and no other course was under existing circumstances at our command. Yet, in those two hearts, how deep and placid is now the feeling of boundless unanimity and confidence! To them, henceforth, what is all the world, with its anxieties, tumults and intrigues? They know not even that it exists.
Felix, it is needless to attempt a delineation in words of that which is quite indescribable. But I would wish to feel as much of all this, as it is possible for a looker-on to feel by sympathy.
However, that the sky might not remain at present altogether free from clouds, the crafty castellan has contrived to make his escape from Scharfenstein. Whither has he directed his flight? What new misfortune will he contrive to raise up against us? It cannot, however, be quite overpowering, and, whatever may happen, I am prepared and resolute. At the worst, I shall betake myself as a dernier resort to the old Duchess, in whose presence possibly the whole truth may be brought to light.
Perhaps I alone must do penance for the short interval of cheerfulness which I was the means of affording to these two sufferers. But I must confess, my feelings as to present and actual experiences have been such, that, for some time past, I have had little room left in my mind for speculations on the future.
To be continued…

Caroline, Baroness de la Motte Fouque’: “The Castle of Scharfenstein” 5a

Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.

scharfensteina

THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN

Chapter V, Part 1 of 2

Recollections of the Julia de__

20th December, 17_

O

h, Heaven! The days of peace, joy, and delightful illusions are now past!Aye, this is indeed that love, of which the mere reflection, as it is described in romances and poems, has so often agitated my heart.And how fearful is this reality!Amid the dreadful conflict of feelings by which I am assailed, I know not whither to turn for support and consolation.If I dared speak to the Duchess!But no – that is impossible – she is far too elevated in rank to be made a confidante, and the Countess is unfortunately very ill.Either of them might assist me; but as to Madame Nägelin, though good and kind-hearted, yet, in the affairs of this world, she is helpless as a child.
That unfortunate hunting party at Scharfenstein!
From the very onset, I was afraid of its consequences; and yet, the day was so beautiful, our drive thither, and our amusements there so inviting! Alas! Why must joy and sorrow so often travel together? By how many people in the town must our brilliant appearance have been envied! Every window was crowded with admiring spectators, all watching our grand sledges, our fine prancing and richly caparisoned horses, hung with bells, which sounded so delightfully in the still morning air.
And, as to myself, did I not forget all the past, and every thing else in the world, so totally was I engrossed by this new pleasure? Did not my heart heave with rapture, when I flew, swift as an arrow, along the smooth glittering road, and the Prince sitting behind me, guided our course so adroitly and securely. The town soon lay far behind us, and we came always deeper and deeper into the dark regions of the pine forests, where, how strange was the contrast presented by the silent loneliness of all nature and the lively ringing of our horses’ accoutrements!
What I then heard or said, truly I could not repeat; the time passed away like a fairy dream. Only, I well remember that when we were mounting the steep ascent to Scharfenstein, the Duke, who was driving his mother also in a sledge, came up with us, and shouted wildly that we might keep out of his way. Then, for the first time, my dream was broken, and my heart was again awoke to fearful and gloomy apprehensions.
The party assembled in the castle at a sumptuous dejeune a la fourchette. Here, it happened that the Duchess was forcibly reminded of the pleasant days that she had spent in early life with her late husband at Scharfenstein. She pointed out his portrait and her own, and then asked the Duke whether he had no thoughts of ever bringing home a princess to share in his prosperity?
His dark brows immediately contracted, and he threw back his head with an air of disdain. “Where is there any woman,” said he, “by whom this heart could be understood? As well might you expect to use the fires of Hecla in the narrow chamber of a cottage, as to confine me with the trammels of domestic life!”
His mother looked at him mournfully, and meanwhile the young prince’s eyes were anxiously searching for mine. I answered him kindly in the same manner; and though I could have controlled my words, yet my looks unavoidably betrayed that I was glad to cling to him as a friend. The Duke’s expression was indeed so strange and ill-timed, that the whole party seemed perplexed, and lost in my mysterious apprehensions.
Soon after this, however, the bugle-horns were heard from the castle court, and the hunt was immediately to begin. Our breakfast party dispersed, in a short time we reassembled at the outward gate, where the Duchess and all the other ladies mounted courageously on horseback. At that time Prince Charles came to me and said in a low voice, “Will Julia, then, fulfill the promise which her looks already made to her too happy lover?” Heaven forgive me, I spoke sincerely and answered him “Yes.”
But how fearful are the consequences that this word may bring on him and on me! In a few minutes afterwards, the Duke came up at a hard trot, forced himself betwixt us, — took hold of my horse’s bridle, and forced me to ride away with him into a wild thicket. There he broke out into such passionate vehemence of language, accompanied with such tones and gestures, that I might have fallen senseless at my tormentor’s feet, had it not been that the whole party came right after us, and the sport then properly began.
I cannot tell what happened through the rest of the day. It was not till late in the evening that I recollected myself, when I was seated in a carriage with the Duchess; and I knew that a wearisome life of suffering and conflict was before me. Oh happy days of youth and hope — how soon your illusions have passed away — and an inward voice almost warns me that it is forever!
30th February, 17__ (in the following year)
When I now read over the preceding pages, it seems as if many years had elapsed since I wrote them. What bitter tears have fallen to efface their traces! That Julia who wrote them is no longer the same. Her once childish and smiling countenance is become gloomy and pale; her tearful eyes look dimly on the glimmering twilight of the past. Tormented both by her own emotions and the passions of others, she is an unhappy being; held constantly in suspense between the respectful homage of an ardent lover, and the persecution of insolent tyranny. Which of these two is indeed to prevail, and how can all this end?
Under a mask of icy coldness, the Duke’s whole existence labours under the frenzy of passion which threatens every moment to break out. As for his mother’s conduct, it is guided alternately by compassionate sympathy, and the mere pompous formality of high rank. She has sent me warning messages by the Countess, and has threatened me with being deposed and exiled from court. In return, as far was I from expressing my regret on that account, that I only begged permission to go for a few months into voluntary retirement.
My request would be taken into consideration was the answer, for she cannot venture to provoke the Duke by any decisive measures. Even this woman, firm and exalted as she seems, trembles in the presence of her eldest son. How or where, then, shall a poor helpless girl, such as I am, hope to be secure against his anger? As for thee, my only beloved Charles, least of all must thou know the cause of my terror; and Heaven grant that no apprehension of the truth may find its way to thy mind!
1st May 17__
How have I strength to carry through that which I deemed utterly impossible? Am I awake, or has it not all been but a dream? If I can believe my senses, we were privately betrothed in the church of St. Mary. The good Madame Nägelin was a witness to the ceremony, and in few days we are to set sail for India. In his arms, after this long interval of doubts and fears, I shall greet a new world. I shall behold him ever with me, and no human power shall…
2d May
Shall part us, I would have written; but I was interrupted by a summons to attend the Duchess. I found her in tears, and she could hardly tranquilize herself so as to speak with me. “Julia,” said she at last, “It is you alone who can restore to me my lost peace of mind. You have indeed been the cause of discord in the family of your benefactress — but I well know that this is not the result of any design on your part. You have been misled by the too great susceptibility of your own heart, which is yet young and inexperienced. But it is your duty to recall it from wandering.
“Promise me to exert your utmost skill and ingenuity in order that Prince Charles may get the better of his present mad passion. For, believe me, Julia, the feelings by which he is actuated are not justifiable. It is but a base and selfish attachment that can thus contend against the dictates of reason; for he knows well that his rank forbids him to marry the daughter of a subject. If he really loved you, he would fly from your presence.
“Therefore, my dear child, you must prove that you are too pure and too proud to encourage in him these dishonourable and unworthy purposes. I placed the utmost confidence in your virtue, and I now beseech you, let me not be disappointed. Say, Julia, shall the Duchess have thrown herself on your generosity and implored you in vain?”
I now fell at her feet, and clung to her garments. I was on the point of disclosing to her the whole truth, but a single thought of the consequences that this might bring on Charles, closed my lips and my heart. I wept, without making any answer, kissed her hand, and retired from her presence like a condemned sinner.
Incapable of telling a direct falsehood, I have yet deceived her, for, by her looks I read plainly that she considered my excessive affliction as a proof that I had determined for the future to avoid those errors which had thus rendered both her and myself so unhappy. Such, alas! are the evils — the curse, I may say – which follows duplicity and concealment. One act of necessity leads to another.
7th May
What I have experienced and suffered today no language could even faintly express. Oh merciful Heaven! How has this fate come at once like a thunder-cloud over us! Prince Charles has been arrested by order of the Duke, and dragged away from the capital.
Lately an obscure rumour spread that the former had, under the influence of a temporary fit of madness, drawn his sword again his brother. Alas! poor unsuspecting Charles! Couldst thou but have known that the wicked Duke has, for a long time, had no object nearer to his heart than that of accomplishing thy destruction!
Those who wish to bring about a reconciliation between the brothers, say that Charles is mad, and is only to be pitied for what he has done. All this I have learned from Madame Nägelin, who is the only one with whom I now can speak in confidence, and who goes out from time to time to bring me intelligence. Madness, indeed!
Alas, how deep and acute feelings, — how the noblest attributes of the human heart are misunderstood and calumniated in this world! — But the world adds more in the present instance. People insist that a wildness and inconsistency have for a long time been visible in his demeanour. My beloved Charles! They have discovered that thou art insane, because thou art not like others, cold-hearted, insensible, and a hypocrite! But why should their words disturb him or me? Could he but regain his liberty, and were I but once more in his presence all might yet be well!
~~~~~
Madame Nägelin has again gone to visit one of her acquaintance, and till she returns I feel so terrified that I cannot for a moment compose myself. I sit here as if in prison, like a proscribed and condemned criminal. No one comes to inquire for me; the chambers of the Duchess are closed against me, and my guardian has been for some time absent on diplomatic business. How shall I support this unexampled suspense and misery?
~~~~~
Oh, Heaven! That was, indeed, too much!
The Duke here in my apartments! How could he bear to look at me, or I at him? Before I had time to reflect, unexpectedly, and sudden as fate, he stood before me. “Julia,” said he, “my visit is, no doubt, as unwelcome as it is unceremonious, and, perhaps, you have already cursed me in your heart?”
I was so terrified that I could not express my indignation. I trembled in every limb, and even held up my hands imploringly, but could not speak.
“Unhappy girl,” said he. “Your presence has at length rendered us all miserable. Our domestic peace is undermined and ruined. But do not think worse of me than I deserve. I can yet forgive, if you will prove that you repent of what you have done.”
I turned from him with a kind of horror.
“Reflect,” added he, after a little time. “Reflect, that Charles must, from henceforth, be dead to this world. You are unavoidably and forever separated from him. The court — your family — even people of middling rank will look on you with distrust and aversion. Wither, now, can you turn for refuge?”
“Banish us both then!” cried I, throwing myself at his feet. “Grant us but the favour that we may leave this country, and never more hold any intercourse with its inhabitants!”
The Duke laughed scornfully. “So, then,” said he, “the melancholy brain-sick fool has infected you with his own absurd fancies, and their influence has become thus deeply rooted in your heart? Go – go!” added he scornfully, quitting my hand, which he had taken to raise me up. “You are too childish to love, or to be loved by any man. It is only good for nothing fantastic coxcombs that you can encourage.”
Wounded to the heart by such expressions in contempt of my betrothed husband, I felt, at that moment, not only the conscious rectitude of Charles, but was even inspired with a share of his pride. The Duke had, indeed, said every thing that was possible, in order to degrade himself in my estimation. He had just now uttered a more insulting falsehood, and it seemed to me as if my whole frame were clad in iron armour.
I despised him too much to care for his menaces. He was already at the door on his retreat, and I covered my face with both hands, that I might now see him; when, suddenly, he turned back, and ran to me with great impetuosity.
“Julia,” cried he, “without my aid, you are utterly lost. Do not deceive and betray yourself … for if you had but the courage to be happy, and would follow good counsel, all might yet be retrieved.”
I shuddered at these words. I was unwilling to allow my thoughts to dwell on his meaning, which was but too evident. In this contention I was quite confused, and know not what I answered. I heard, for a while, the Duke’s vehement thundering voice. It tormented me, though I did not attend to the sense of what he uttered. But, at length, all was silent; he had taken his departure, and I was left quite alone.
Yet, no! I should not have said this! Heavenly Father, thou are with me still, and also with Charles. Oh! May thy merciful support and guidance never forsake us!
Madame Nägelin is arrived, and has come without news, for Martin, the Prince’s valet, was not to be found. In a short time, however, my guardian is to return home. I depend much on his counsel. What will his decision be? What can I do now?
To be continued…
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