THE HEREDITARY GOBLET.
FROM THE SWEDISH OF UNCLE ADAM.
Has the spiritual world any intercourse with the material world? This
is a question which must always remain undecided, and which only fools
and narrow-minded people definitively answer. It is by analogy alone
that we can acquire any kind of right even to guess on this subject--we
can determine nothing.
The whole creation is a continuation of imperceptible transitions; it
is a close chain, and, in order to arrange it into a system to suit our
ideas, the inquirer into it must parcel it into divisions. In nature
none exist; the chain itself having no interruptions whatsoever.
As the events of one period influence those of another, by bringing
about an uninterrupted series of results, in like manner the powers of
nature produce a constant regeneration--a constant repetition of
themselves in various forms.
Thus, it is only when we arrive at the boundary between life and
eternity, when our conception of forms is no longer applicable, when
we are close upon the transition to a higher state of being, that we
admit that one link of the chain is missing. Despite of analogy, the
want of positive evidence puts it out of our power to prove anything;
but, however, the sages of our days, before whose eyes everything,
except their own weakness, stands clear, may sneer at me, and consider
me superstitious, and a lover of nursery-tales--however the frivolous
may ridicule me, or be provoked at my belief in the possibility of such
an intercourse--my reason does not reject this belief, and my
experience corroborates it.
About twenty years ago I was staying with a lively party in the
country. In our circles there reigned a degree of unaffected and
openhearted hilarity, an almost childish joy, in which all seemed to
participate, and which was not chilled by the highly-polished manners
of those who were thus agreeably assembled. It was a charming September
afternoon, and the country around was most beautiful; we gave ourselves
up to the gaiety and the refreshing enjoyments of a country life. I
felt particularly happy, and deeming myself far removed from all
earthly sorrow, I fancied that I only breathed to sip in joy with every
breath. But I had cause to be joyous, for my sister, who a few years
previously had been married against her inclination, had shortly before
written me that she now felt very happy with her husband, which
hitherto had not been the case. He had altered his conduct, and had
become kind, considerate, and cheerful--he was more affectionate and
sincere, and Emilie had begun to lead a happier life than she had dared
to hope for since the dreadful marriage ceremony had taken place.
This news made me joyful even to extravagance; for I had always loved
Emilie more than myself; she had ever been the first to excuse my
faults, the readiest to forgive injuries, and to forget her own
afflictions; she was my most intimate and most sincere friend, and the
whole world might have gazed freely, with me, into her clear eyes, and
her pure soul. Her husband, Theodore, on the contrary, had never
pleased me; he was one of those reserved, proud beings, who glide like
an enigma through life. His feelings and thoughts were like words
written in a cipher, to which one vainly endeavours to find the key. In
his look there was an inexpressible something, which kept me at a
distance; and with his fawning manners, he always appeared to me to
resemble a magnificent flower, which even in its pomp looks
suspicious--one of Linnĉus's Lucidĉ.
But I had been mistaken--my sister's letters told me so--her
unhappiness had only been occasioned by trifling faults on both sides.
I had, therefore, resolved to make atonement for my past injustice, and
to become Theodore's friend, however repugnant this might be to my own
One evening we were all assembled in a summerhouse in the garden,
chatting, laughing, and singing as merrily as if we had met to
celebrate the funeral ceremony of Sorrow--there was no one who seemed
to have the most distant idea that, even in our gayest moments, Fate,
invisible and icy-cold, always stands amongst us ready to choose her
Suddenly a servant appeared--he inquired for me--he wore Theodore's
livery--a fearful foreboding seized me, I grew pale--a suppressed
murmur ran through the company, and the gloomy silence which followed
made the moment still more dreadful. The servant handed me a letter--I
was forced to sit down to prevent myself from falling; everyone
remained in intense expectation, awaiting to hear what the contents of
the letter might be!
I read it--'She is dead!' I exclaimed, in a low voice to myself--and
'dead!' sounded like an echo through the circle of my friends.
'Emilie!' I cried, and gazed fixedly before me, as if I were reflecting
whether Emilie really could be dead. I sprang up like a madman, but
suddenly stood as still as a frightened child--'My sister is dead!' I
said to those present--'Farewell, my friends.'
I set off in the most terrible state of mind; I had been all at once
hurled from the summit of happiness into the unfathomable depths of
misery, where not even hope can find its way, and from which there is
no other exit, except by death.
I had to travel thirty miles before I could see my Emilie in her
coffin, and I arrived just the day previous to the funeral.
I found everything as usual at the country-house of my sister; the oaks
were still standing, rustling in the alley; the rivulet, on the banks
of which Emilie and I had last sat beside each other, quietly rippled
along--everything was the same; she alone was missing--she had passed
away, and gone to her Heavenly Father.
Theodore came to meet me; he was pale; and looked confused; he embraced
me, and shed a few tears--I remained as cold as a statue.
I could not understand myself; formerly I had so readily sympathized in
the happiness, the sorrow, and the fate of my fellow-creatures--but
now, I could take no interest in my own.
Emilie's portrait hung on the wall; how beautiful, how blooming she
looked, gentleness beamed from those happy eyes, and that smiling mouth
seemed only made to shower blessings on all. 'Thus she was,' I thought;
'thus she always looked upon me;--let me go alone to my sister!' I said
in an irritable tone, turning to Theodore, who stood beside me; 'I wish
to take leave of her undisturbed.'
He seemed to wish to dissuade me from this, but I would not listen to
him, rushed towards the room where the corpse was lying, and drawing
out the key, I shut and locked the door, just as Theodore was about to
Here stood the star-spangled coffin, surrounded by massive
silver-sconces, the candles in which, with their long wicks, threw a
gloomy light upon the black hangings of the apartment.
I fell upon my knees by the side of the coffin and grasped one of my
poor sister's hands--it was clenched!--I shuddered, and let it go
again, it fell heavily back upon the shroud. A veil was thrown over the
face; I wished once more to behold the sweet features; I raised the
veil--a distorted, livid countenance grinned at me, the dim, wide
extended eyes seemed to wish to pierce through me with their gaze. I
grew chill with horror, and dropped the veil. 'Emilie!' I whispered,
seized with unutterable anguish. 'It is thee, nevertheless! This
frightful head is covered with thy beautiful curls! O God! How death
distorts the human face!'
I hurried from the room, it seemed to me as if ghostly spectres stood
in every corner, and gazed at me with their rayless eyes--I hardly knew
how I got out--but I fancied I heard hollow, scornful laughter behind
On the day of the funeral I met old Anna, the companion of my poor
sister during her short worldly career; she had been her nurse, and had
built her modest hopes and the happiness of her life upon Emilie. Now,
she was alone, poor old woman; the object on which all her affections
had been centred was gone, and in the future she saw only darkness and
misery. As she stood there with her recollections, she resembled an
aged tree from times gone by, and which, in a circle of younger and
unknown plants, awaits the last storm.
I considered it would be only an annoyance to my brother-in-law if I
questioned him concerning the last moments of my beloved sister--but
with Anna this would not be the case, I therefore inquired of her.
With the usual garrulity of old age, she now began to describe to me
the life of my sister, from the time that I had last seen her; she
seemed to find consolation in relating all that she had seen, and
had enjoyed, and what she had lost. There often seems nothing which
binds aged people to this life but the pleasure of being able to
complain--why then should not this faithful old woman be allowed to
enjoy this one privilege?
She pictured to me with a sort of enthusiasm how happy Emilie had been,
how kind Theodore had lately shown himself, how grieved he had been
when my sister caught cold and became seriously ill, with what anxiety
he had endeavoured to procure relief for her, how he watched by her
bed-side, counted every respiration, and in what despair he was when
she finally expired in the most frightful convulsions. 'The day after
her decease,' continued the old woman, weeping, 'I saw him prostrate on
his knees by the bed-side of the corpse.'
I had therefore done Theodore injustice, had been cold and reserved to
one who by his conduct had deserved a better return from me. 'Why must
this be?' I thought. 'Why cannot I bear his look? Why do I recoil from
his friendship? He certainly never offended me, and Emilie perceived
her faults, and became happy with him--why, then, should I increase his
Such were the reproaches which I made to myself, and I again
resolved to act like a friend and a brother to him; but it was
impossible--between us there existed such a decided aversion that we
were never at our ease in the company of each other.
My sister was buried in the evening. The ceremony was solemn and
mournful, and the future appeared to me as dark as the church in which
it took place. Notwithstanding the numerous lights, a gloomy obscurity
reigned throughout the sacred edifice, the dusky monotony of which was
uninterrupted, save here and there by escutcheons, distinguishable only
from the columns against which they hung by their glaring colours; the
coffin was lowered into the family vault; I looked down--it was so dark
and sombre in the space below; it seemed to me as if I gazed into
eternity. 'Farewell, Emilie!' I said once more--and she was gone.
When I returned to my own room, I placed myself at the window, and
looked out upon the fields. The church in which my sister rested lay in
the background, illuminated by the silver rays which the pale moon cast
upon it. I stood and thought of her life in another world, of our
reunion there, and I gazed up towards the heavens, as if I expected to
behold her glorified spirit floating in the moonlight. Suddenly it
seemed to me as if I heard a movement behind me; I turned round,
but saw nothing, for at this moment the moon disappeared behind a
cloud--the noise continued--I thought I heard the door of a corner
cupboard open--something fell jingling upon the ground and rolled
towards me, the moon now shone forth again, and I grew chill with
horror--there stood Emilie wrapped in her shroud, gazing at me
earnestly with her hollow eyes! She pointed to that which lay on the
ground. A moment later and the spectre had disappeared, and my almost
broken heart recommenced beating, and warmth returned again to my
stiffened limbs. Was it imagination--only a phantom of my excited
fancy? No matter; I had distinctly seen her, and something glittering
lay at my feet. It was a silver goblet, and no other than that which
Emilie had received from her mother as a wedding gift. It was of an
antique form, and had been handed down to the females of my mother's
family as an heir-loom. There was an old legend attached to it, which
prophesied that it should cause the last possessor to obtain speedy
happiness. I had not before thought of this; but now it struck me, for
I remembered that Emilie was the last possessor, since she had no
daughter to whom to bequeath it I lighted a candle, and examined the
old family relic more attentively; it was ornamented with flowers and
inscriptions, written in hieroglyphics, or some unknown character--I
did not understand it. Inside the goblet was thickly gilded, but I soon
remarked that from the bottom to about the middle the gold had become
of a silvery white, and that also a streak of the same colour extended
on one side up to the rim.
It appeared as if some fluid had worn away the gold and laid bare the
silver. 'Strange!' I thought 'Nothing can dissolve gold--what can this
be?' I determined I would ask some clever man about it, and could not
rest until I found an opportunity on the following day, under some
pretence or other, to repair to the neighbouring town.
I went to the doctor, a venerable old man, and showed him the goblet,
without telling him how it had come into my possession; and I asked him
what it could have been that had produced the white appearance.
The old man answered smiling, 'It only shows that the possessor is no
chemist, but the goblet is not injured, and you have only to let a
goldsmith heat it thoroughly.'
'What has made it so?' I inquired.
'That I cannot exactly tell,' he answered, 'but probably something of
quicksilver, which has adhered to the gold--perhaps a solution of
'Is not corrosive-sublimate poison?' I asked, horror-struck.
'Yes, certainly it is poisonous--why so?' demanded the old man,
surprised at my warmth.
'Nothing!' I replied, trying to regain my composure, 'but tell me, my
dear sir! how do people die who have taken this poison?'
He cast a searching glance at me.
'They die,' he said, at last, shrugging his shoulders. 'They die in the
most dreadful torments--death is preceded by tremor, and burning in the
stomach, and finally by fearful convulsions, which distort the
features, and the corpse soon goes to decay.'
Now, all at once a terrible secret was clearly disclosed to me, and
almost staggering, I left the worthy old man, who, astonished at my
unusual behaviour, seemed to doubt whether I were in my right senses.
And he was right, if he did so, for at this moment I was hovering on
the brink of insanity. I thank God that I did not really become insane.
Like a spirit of vengeance I flew back to Theodore; I found him sitting
on the sofa, and occupied in reading. He rose and came to meet me, with
his usual smiling manner. With terrible calmness, and an inward joy,
such as a fiend might experience when he is about to crush his victim,
I drew forth the goblet, and fixing a look upon Theodore, as if I could
annihilate him, I demanded of him with suppressed anger,
'Do you know this?'
He turned pale.
'Confess!' I continued; 'confess, Demon! that my sister received her
death by means of this goblet!'
Theodore's usual self-possession entirely forsook him, and he stood
there, as if he had fallen from a cloud, and 'Yes!' the only word
audible to my excited nerves, convinced me of his crime.
'God!' I cried, shaking the trembling sinner--'Do you know that there
is a God? He, not I, will punish you!'
I left him and became as tranquil again as if nothing had happened.
As I drove past the church, on my journey home, I cast a sad glance
through the lattice window, into the family vault; I could distinguish
the coffin of my sister; 'Emilie, I have revenged you!' I cried, as if
the deceased could hear me, and in almost a happy state of mind I
continued my journey.
Not long after this, Theodore put an end to his existence, in a fit of
gloomy despair. May God be merciful to his soul!
The family goblet could never more be found. Probably Theodore had
destroyed that mute witness of his crime. Thus the last possessor had,
in fulfilment of the prophecy, received speedy happiness from it--and
that happiness was--Death!