THE DOOMED HOUSE.

BY B. S. INGEMANN.

'The house near Christianshavn's canal is again for sale--your worthy uncle's house, Johanna! and now upon very reasonable terms,' said the young joiner and cabinet-maker, Frants, one morning to his pretty wife, as he laid the advertisement sheet of the newspaper upon the cradle, and glanced at his little boy, an infant of about three months old, who was sleeping sweetly, and seemed to be sporting with heavenly cherubs in his innocent dreams.

'Let us on no account think of the dear old house,' replied his wife, taking up the newspaper and placing it on the table, without even looking at the advertisement. 'We have a roof over our heads as long as Mr. Stork will have patience about the rent. If we have bread enough for ourselves, and for yon little angel, who will soon begin to want some, we may well rest contented. Notwithstanding our poverty, we are, perhaps, the happiest married couple in the whole town,' she added gently, and with an affectionate smile, 'and we ought to thank our God that he did not let the wide world separate us from each other, but permitted you to return from your distant journey, healthy and cheerful, and that he has granted us love and strength to bear our little cross with patience.'

'You are ever the same amiable and pious Johanna,' said Frants, embracing the lovely young mother, who reminded him of an exquisite picture of the Madonna he had seen abroad, 'and you have made me better and more patient than I was, either by nature or by habit. But I really cannot remain longer in this miserable garret--I have neither room nor spirits to work here; and if I am to make anything by my handicraft, I must have a proper workshop, and space to breathe in and to move in.

'Your good uncle's house, near the canal, is just the place for me; how many jovial songs my old master and I have sung there together over our joiner's bench! Ah! then I shall feel comfortable and at home. It was there, also, that I first saw you--there, that I used to sit every evening with you in the nice little parlour, with the cheerful green wainscoting, when I came from the workshop with old Mr. Flok. I remember how, on Sundays and on holidays, he used to take his silver goblet from the cupboard in the alcove, and drink with me in such a sociable way. And when my piece of trial-work as a journeyman was finished, and the large, handsome coffin was put out in state in the workshop, do you remember how glad the old man was, and how you sank into my arms when he placed your hand in mine, over the coffin, and said:

'"Take her, Frants, and be worthy of her! My house shall be your home and hers, and everything it contains shall be your property when I am sleeping in this coffin, awaiting a blessed resurrection."'

'Ah! but all that never came to pass,' sighed Johanna; 'the coffin lies empty up in yonder loft, and frightens children in the dark. The dear old house is under the ban of evil report, and no one will buy it, or even hire it, now, so many strange, unfortunate deaths have taken place there.'

'These very circumstances are in our favour, Johanna; on account of this state of things Mr. Stork will sell it at a great bargain, and give a half year's credit for the purchase-money. In the course of six months, surely, the long-protracted settlement of your uncle's affairs will be brought to a close, and we shall, at least, have as much as will pay what we owe. The house will then be our own, and you will see how happy and prosperous we shall be. Surely, it is not the fault of the poor house that three children died there of measles, and two people of old age, in the course of a few months; and none but silly old women can be frightened because the idle children in the street choose to scratch upon the walls, "The Doomed House." The house is, and always will be, liked by me, and if Mr. Stork will accept of my offer for it, without any other security than my own word, that dwelling shall be mine to-day, and we can move into it to-morrow.'

'Oh, my dear Frants, you cannot think how reluctant I am to increase our debt to this Mr. Stork. Believe me, he is not a good man, however friendly and courteous he may seem to be. Even my uncle could not always tolerate him, though it was not in his nature to dislike any of God's creatures. Whenever Mr. Stork came, and began to talk about business and bills--my uncle became silent and gloomy, and always gave me a wink to retire to my chamber.'

'I know very well Mr. Stork was looking after you then,' said Frants, with a smile of self-satisfaction, 'but I was a more fortunate suitor. It was a piece of folly on the part of the old bachelor; all that, however, is forgotten now, and he has transferred the regard he once had for you to me. He never duns me for my rent, he lent me money at the time of the child's baptism, and he shows me more kindness than anyone else does.'

'But I cannot endure the way in which he looks at me, Frants, and I put no faith either in his friendship or his rectitude. The very house that he is now about to sell he hardly came honestly by, as he gives out--and I cannot understand how he has so large a claim upon the property my uncle left; I never heard my uncle speak of it. God only knows what will remain for us when all these heavy claims that have been brought forward are satisfied; yet my uncle was considered a rich man.'

'The lawyers and the proper court must settle that,' replied Frants; 'I only know this, that I should be a fool if I did not buy the house now.'

'But to say the truth, dear Frants,' urged Johanna, in a supplicating tone, 'I am almost afraid to go back to that house, dear as every corner of it has been to me from my childhood. I cannot reconcile myself to the reality of the painful circumstances said to have attended my poor uncle's death. And whenever I pass over Long Bridge, and near the Dead-house for the drowned, with its low windows, I always feel an irresistible impulse to look in, and see if he is not there still, waiting to be placed in his proper coffin, and decently buried in a churchyard.'

'Ah--your brain is conjuring up a parcel of old nursery tales, my Johanna! We have nothing to fear from your good, kind uncle. If indeed his spirit could be near us, here on earth, it would only bring us blessings and happiness. I am quite easy on that score; he was a pious, God-fearing man, and there was nothing in his life to disturb his repose after death. Report said that he had drowned himself on purpose, but I am quite convinced that was not true. If I had not unluckily been away on my travels as a journeyman, and you with your dying aunt--your mother's sister, we would most likely have had him with us now. How often I have warned him against sailing about alone in Kalleboe Bay! But he would go every Sunday. As long as I was in his employ, I always made a point of accompanying him, and when I went away he promised me never to go without a boatman.'

'Alas! that was an unfortunate Christmas!' sighed Johanna, 'it was not until he had been advertised as missing in the newspapers, and Mr. Stork had recognized his corpse at the Dead-house for the drowned, and had caused him to be secretly buried as a suicide,--it was not until all this was over, that I knew he had not been put into his own coffin, and laid in consecrated ground.'

'Let us not grieve longer, dear Johanna, for what it was not in our power to prevent; but let us rather, in respect to the memory of our kind benefactor, put the house in order which he occupied and where he worked for us, inhabit it cheerfully, and rescue it from mysterious accusations and evil reports. Our welfare was all he thought of, and laboured for.'

'As you will then, dear Frants!' said Johanna, yielding to his arguments. She hastened at the same moment to take up from its cradle the child, who had just awoke, and holding it out to its young father, she added, 'May God protect this innocent infant, and spare it to us!'

Frants kissed the mother and the child, smoothed his brown hair, and taking his hat down from its peg, he hurried off to conclude the purchase on which he had set his heart.

He returned in great spirits, and the next day the little family removed to the house which belonged to Mr. Flok, Frants was rejoiced to see his old master's furniture, which he had bought at an auction, restored to its former place, and he felt almost as if the easy-chair and the bureau, formerly in the immediate use of the old man, must share in his gladness. But the baker's wife at the corner of the street shrugged her shoulders, and pitied the handsome young couple, whom she considered doomed to sickness and misfortune, because five corpses within the last six months had been carried out of that house; and because there was an inscription on its walls, that however often it had been effaced had always reappeared. 'Et Forbandet Haus'--'The Doomed House'--stood there, written in red characters, and all the old crones in the neighbourhood affirmed that the words were written in blood!

'Mark my words,' said the baker's wife at the corner of the street, to her daughter, 'before the year is at an end, we shall have another coffin carried out of that house.'


Frants the joiner had bestirred himself to set all to rights in the long-neglected workshop, and Johanna had put the house in nice order, and arranged everything as it used to be in days gone by. The little parlour, with the green wainscoting and the old fashioned alcove, had its former chairs and tables replaced in it; the bureau occupied its ancient corner, and the easy-chair again stood near the stove, and seemed to await its master's return. Often, as the young couple sat together in the twilight, while the blaze of the fire in the stove cast a cheerful glare through its little grated door on the hearth beneath, they missed the old man, and talked of him with sadness and affection. But Johanna would sometimes glance timidly at the empty leather arm-chair--and when the moon shone in through the small window panes, she would at times even fancy that she saw her uncle sitting there--but pale and bloody, and with dripping wet hair.

She would then exclaim, 'Let us have lights; the baby seems restless. I must see what is the matter with it.'

One evening there were no candles downstairs. She had to go for them up to the storeroom in the garret. She lighted a small taper that was in the lantern, and went out of the room, while Frants rocked the infant's cradle to lull it to sleep. But she had only been a few minutes gone, when he heard a noise as if of some one having fallen down in the loft above, and he also thought he heard Johanna scream; he quitted the cradle instantly, and rushing upstairs after her, he found her lying in a swoon near the coffin, with the lantern in her hand, though its light was extinguished. Exceedingly alarmed he carried her downstairs, relighted the taper, and used every effort to recover her from her fainting fit. When she was better, and somewhat composed, he asked in much anxiety what had happened. 'Oh! I am as timid as a foolish child,' said Johanna. 'It was only my poor uncle's coffin up yonder that frightened me. I would have begged you to go and fetch the candles, but I was ashamed to own my silly fears, and when the current of air blew out the light in my lantern up there, it seemed to me as if a spectre's death-cold breathing passed over my face, and I fancied I saw amidst the gloom the lid of the coffin rising--so I fainted away in my childish terror.'

'That coffin shall not frighten you again,' said Frants, 'I will advertise it to-morrow for sale.' He did so, but ineffectually, for no one bought it.

One day Mr. Stork made his appearance, bringing with him the contract and deed of sale.

He was a tall, strongly-built man, with a countenance by no means pleasant, though it almost always wore a smile; but the smile, if narrowly scrutinized, had a sinister expression, and seemed to convulse his features. He sported a gaudy waistcoat, and was dressed like an old bachelor, who was going on some matrimonial expedition, and wished to conceal his age. This day he was even more complaisant than usual, praised the beauty of the infant, remarked its likeness to its lovely mother, and offered Frants a loan of money to purchase new furniture, and make any improvements he might wish in the interior of the house. Franks thanked him, but declined the offer, assuring him that he was quite satisfied with the house and furniture as they were, and wished everything about him to wear its former aspect. However, he said, he certainly would like to enlarge the workshop by adding to it the old lumber-room at the back of the house, the entrance to which he found was closed.

Mr. Stork then informed him that there was a door on the opposite side of the lumber-room, which opened into the house he occupied, and that he had lately been using this empty place as a cellar for his firewood; but he readily promised to have it cleared out as speedily as possible, and to have the entrance into his own house stopped up.

'Yet,' he added, in a very gracious manner, 'it is hardly necessary to have any separation between the two houses, when I have such respectable and agreeable neighbours as yourselves.'

'What made you look so crossly at that excellent Mr. Stork, Johanna?' asked her husband, when their visitor was gone. 'I am sure he is kindness itself. He cannot really help that he has that unfortunate contortion of the mouth, which gives a peculiar expression to his countenance.'

'I sincerely wish we had some other person as our neighbour, and had nothing to do with him!' exclaimed Johanna. 'I do not feel safe with such a man near us.'

Frants now worked with equal diligence and patience--and often remained until a late hour in the workshop, especially if he had any order to finish. He preferred cabinet-making to the more common branches of his trade, and was always delighted when he had any pretty piece of furniture to construct from one of the finer sorts of wood. But he was best known as a coffin-maker, and necessity compelled him to undertake more of this gloomy kind of work than he liked. Often when he was finishing a coffin, he would reflect upon all the sorrow, and perhaps calamity which the work, that provided him and his with bread, would bring into the house into which it was destined to enter. And when he met people in high health and spirits, on the public promenades, he frequently sighed to think how soon he might be engaged in nailing together the last earthly resting-places of these animated forms.

One night he was so much occupied in finishing a large coffin, that he did not remark how late it had become, until he heard the watchman call out 'Twelve.'

At that moment he fancied he heard a hollow voice behind him say,

'Still hammering! And for whom is that coffin?'

He started--dropped the hammer from his hand--and looked round in terror, but no one was to be seen.

'It is the old gloomy thoughts creeping back into my mind, and affecting my brain, now at this ghastly hour of midnight,' said he; but he put away the hammer and nails, and took up his light to go to his bed-room. Before he reached the door of the workshop, however, the candle which had burned down very low--quite in the socket of the candlestick, suddenly went out. He was left in the dark, and in vain he groped about to find the door--at any other time he would have laughed at the circumstance, but now it rather added to his annoyance that three times he found himself at the door of the lumber-room, instead of getting hold of the one which opened into his house. The third time he came to it, he stopped and listened, for he fancied he heard something moving within the empty room; a light also glimmered through a chink in the door which was fastened, and on listening more attentively he thought he distinctly heard a sound as if buckets of water were being dashed over the floor, and some one scrubbing it with a brush. 'It is an odd time to scour the floor,' he thought, and then knocking at the door, and raising his voice--he called out loudly to ask who was there, and what they were doing at so late an hour. At that moment the light disappeared, and all became as still as death.

'I must have been mistaken,' thought Frants, as he again tried to find the door he had at first sought. In spite of himself, a dread of some evil--or of something supernatural, seemed to haunt him, and the image of his old master--who was drowned--appeared before him in that dark workshop, where they had spent so many cheerful hours together. At last he found the door, and retired as quickly as possible to his chamber, where his wife and child were both fast asleep. He, too, at length fell asleep, but he was restless in his slumbers, and disturbed by strange dreams. In the course of the night he dreamed that his wife's uncle, Mr. Flok, stood before him, and said,

'Why was I not placed in my coffin? Why was I not laid in a Christian burying-ground? Seek, and you will find--destroy the curse, before it destroys you also!'

In the morning when he awoke he looked so pale and ill that Johanna was quite alarmed; but he did not like to frighten her by telling her his dreams, and, indeed, he was ashamed at the impression they had made upon himself, for, notwithstanding all the confidence he had expressed on coming to the house, he could not help feeling nervous and uncomfortable.

Nor did the unpleasant sensation wear off, his gay spirits vanished, and he was also unhappy because the time was approaching when the purchase-money for the house would become due, and the settlement of the old man's affairs, to which he had looked forward in expectation of obtaining his wife's inheritance, seemed to be as far off as ever. He found it difficult to meet the small daily expenses of his family, and he feared the threatening future.

'Seek and you will find!' he repeated to himself; 'destroy the curse before it destroys you! What curse? I begin to fear that there really is some evil doom connected with this house.'

It was also a very unaccountable circumstance that however often he scratched out the mysterious inscription from the wall--'The Doomed House'--it appeared again next day in characters as fresh and red as ever. His health began to give way under all his anxiety, and the child also became ill. One evening he had been taking a solitary walk to a spot which had now a kind of morbid fascination for him--the Dead-house for the drowned--and when he returned home, he found Johanna weeping by the cradle of her suffering infant.

'You were right,' he exclaimed, 'we were happier in our humble garret than in this ill-fated house. Would that we had remained there! Tell me, Johanna, of what are you thinking? Has the doctor been here? What does he say of our dear little one?'

'If it should get worse towards night, there lies our last hope,' she replied, pointing towards the table.

Frants took up the prescription, and gazed on the incomprehensible Latin words, as if therein he would have read his fate. The tears stood in his eyes.

'And to-morrow,' said Johanna, 'to-morrow will be a day of misery. Have you any means of paying Mr. Stork?'

'None whatever! But that is a small evil compared to this,' he answered, as he pointed to the feverish and moaning infant. 'Have you been to the workshop?' he continued, after a pause, 'the large coffin is finished; perhaps it may be our own last home--it would hold us all!'

'Oh! if that could only be!' exclaimed Johanna, as she threw her arms round him. 'Could we only all three be removed together to a better world, there would be no more sorrow for us! But the hour of separation is close at hand; to-morrow, if you cannot pay Mr. Stork, you will be cast into prison, and I shall sit alone here with that dying child!'

'What do you say? Cast into prison! How do you know that? Has that man been here frightening you? He has not hinted a syllable of such a threat to me.'

Johanna then related to him how Mr. Stork had latterly often called, under pretence of wishing to see Frants, but always when he was out. He had made himself very much at home, and had overwhelmed her with compliments and flattering speeches; he had also declared frequently that he would not trouble Frants for the money he owed him, if she would pay the debt in another manner. At first, she said, she did not understand him, and when she did comprehend his meaning, she did not like to mention it to Frants, for fear of his taking the matter up warmly, and quarrelling with Stork, which would bring ruin on himself. Mr. Stork, however, had become more bold and presuming, and that very evening, on her repelling his advances and desiring him to quit her presence, he had threatened that if she mentioned a syllable of what had passed to her husband, nay, farther, if she were not prepared to change her behaviour towards himself before another sun had set, Frants should be thrown into prison for debt, and might congratulate himself in that pleasant abode on the fidelity of his wife.

'Well,' said Frants, with forced composure, 'he has got me in his toils--but his pitiful baseness shall not crush me. I have, indeed, been blind not to detect the villany that lay behind that satanic smile, and improvident to let myself be deluded by his pretended friendship. But if the Almighty will only spare and protect you, and that dear child, I shall not lose courage. Be comforted, my Johanna!'

It was now growing late--the child awoke from the restless sleep of fever--it seemed worse, and Frants ran to an apothecary with the prescription. 'The last hope!' he sighed, as he hurried along; 'and if it should fail--who will console poor Johanna to-morrow evening, when I am in a prison, and she has to clad the child in its grave clothes! Oh, how we shall miss you--sweet little angel! Was this the happiness I dreamt of in the old house? Yes--people are right--it is accursed!'

The apothecary's shop was closed, but the prescription had been taken in through a little aperture in the door, and Frants sat down on the stone steps to wait until the medicine was ready. It was a clear, starry December night, but the sorrowing father sat shivering in the cold, and gazing gloomily on the frozen pavement--he was not thinking of the stars or of the skies. The watchman passed and bade him 'good morning.'

'It will be a good morning, indeed, for me,' thought poor Frants. 'A morning fraught with despair.'

At that moment the clock of a neighbouring church struck one, and the watchman sang, in a full, bass voice, these simple words:

'Help us, O Jesus dear!
Our earthly cross to bear;
Oh! grant us patience here,
And be our Saviour there!'

Frants heard the pious song, and a change seemed to come over his spirit--he raised his saddened eye to the magnificent heavens above--gazed at the calm stars which studded the deep blue vault--clasped his hands and joined in the watchman's concluding words--

'Redeemer, grant Thy blessed help
To make our burden light.'

A small phial with the medicine was just then handed out to him, through the little sliding window; he paid his last coin for it, and, full of hope that his burden might be lightened, hastened to his home.

'Did you hear what the watchman was singing, Johanna?' asked Frants, when he entered the little green parlour, where the young mother was watching by her child.

'Hush, hush,' she whispered, 'he has fallen into an easy and quiet sleep. God will have pity upon us--our child will do well now.'

'Why, Johanna, you look as happy as if an angel from heaven had been with you, telling you blessed truths.'

'Yes, blessed truths have, as it were, been communicated to me from heaven!' replied Johanna, pointing to an old Bible which lay open upon the table. 'Look! this is my good uncle's family Bible--that I have not seen since he died, and God forgive me--I have thought too little lately of my Bible. I found this one to-night far back on the highest shelf of the alcove--and its holy words have given me strength and comfort. Read this passage, Frants, about putting our whole trust in the Lord, whatever may befall us.'

Frants read the portion pointed out to him, and then began to turn over the leaves of the well-worn, silver-clasped book. He found a number of pieces of paper here and there, but as he saw at a glance that they were only accounts and receipts, he did not care to examine them, but his attention was suddenly caught by a paper which appeared to be part of a journal kept by the old man, the last year of his life. He looked through it eagerly, Johanna observed with surprise how his countenance was darkening. At length he started up and exclaimed,

'It is horrible!--horrible--Johanna! Some one must have sought to take your uncle's life. See, here it is in his own handwriting--listen!' and he read aloud:

'God grant that my enemy's wicked plot may not succeed! Why did I let my gold get into such iniquitous hands, and place my life at the mercy of one more ferocious than a wild beast? He has, cunningly plundered me of my wealth--he has bound my tongue by an oath--and now he seeks to take my life in secret. But my money will not prosper in his unworthy hands--and accursed be the house over whose threshold his feet pass. There are human beings who can ruin others in all worldly matters, but mortal man has no power over the spirit when death sets it free.'

'What can this mean?' cried Frants, almost wild with excitement. Who is the mortal enemy to whom he alludes, but whom he does not name? Who has got possession of his house and his means? The same person, no doubt, who bound him by an oath to silence, and threatened his life in secret; who proclaimed to the world that he had drowned himself, and caused him to be buried like a suicide? Why was no other acquaintance called to recognize the body? We have no certainty that the drowned man was he. Perhaps his bones lie nearer to us than we imagine. Ha! old master, in my dream I heard you say, "Seek, and you shall find--why was I not put into consecrated ground?" Johanna! what do you think about that old lumber-room? There have been some mysterious doings there at midnight--there are some still--that floor is washed while we are sleeping. Before to-morrow's sun can rise I shall have searched that den of murder, from one end to the other.'

'Oh, dearest Frants, how wildly you talk; you make me tremble.'

But as Frants was determined to go, she sat down by the cradle to watch her sleeping child, while he took a light and proceeded to the workshop. There he seized a hatchet and crow bar, and thus provided with implements, he approached the door of the locked chamber.

'The room belongs to me,' said he to himself, 'who has a right to prevent me from entering it?'

To force the door by the aid of the iron crowbar, was the work of an instant, and without the slightest hesitation he went in, though it must be confessed he felt a momentary panic. But that wore off immediately, and he began at once to examine the place. Nothing appeared, however, to excite suspicion. There were some sacks of wood in a corner, and he emptied these, almost expecting to see one of them filled with the bones of dead men, but there was no vestige of anything of the kind. The floor seemed to be recently washed, for it was yet scarcely dry. He then began to take up the boards. At that moment he heard the handle of the door which led into the neighbouring house turning; holding the hatchet in one hand, and the light, high above his head, in the other, he put himself in an attitude of defence, while he called out:

'Has anyone a desire to assist me?'

Presently all was still. Frants put down his light, and began again hammering at the boards; almost unconsciously he also began to hum aloud an air which his old master used always to sing when he was engaged in finishing any piece of work. But he had not hammered or hummed long before the handle of the door was again turned. This time the door opened, and a tall, white figure slowly entered, with an expression of countenance as hellish as if its owner had just come from the abode of evil spirits.

'What, at it again, old man? Will you go on hammering and nailing till Doomsday? Must that song be heard to all eternity?' said a hollow but well-known voice--and Frants recognized with horror the ghastly-pale and wild-looking sleep-walker, who, with eyes open--but fixed and glazed--and hair standing on end, had come in his night-gear from his sleeping-chamber.

'Where didst thou lay my bones?' said Frants, as if he had become suddenly insane. 'Why was I not placed in my coffin?--why did I not enter a Christian burying-ground?'

'Your bones are safe enough,' replied the pallid terrible-looking dreamer, 'no one will harm them under my pear-tree.'

'But whom didst thou bury under my name--as a self-murderer, when thou didst fasten on me the stain of guilt in death?' asked Frants, astonished and frightened at the sound of his own voice, for it seemed to him as if a spirit from the other world were speaking through his lips.

'It was the beggar,' replied the wretched somnambulist, with a frightful contortion of his fiendish face, a sort of triumphant grin. 'It was only the foreign beggar to whom you gave your old grey cloak ... but whom I drove from my door that Christmas-eve.'

'Where he lies shalt thou rot--by his side shalt thou meet me on the great day of doom!' cried Frants, who hardly knew what he was saying. He had scarcely uttered these words when he heard a fearful sound, something between a shriek and a groan--and he stood alone with his light and his hatchet--for the howling figure had disappeared.

'Was it a dream,' gasped Frants, 'or am I mad? Away, away from this scene of murder--but I know now where I shall find that which I seek.'

He returned to Johanna, who was sitting quietly by the still sleeping child, and was reading the holy Scriptures.

Frants did not tell her what had taken place, and she was afraid to ask; he persuaded her to retire to rest, while he himself sat up all night to examine further the papers in the old Bible. The next day he carried them to a magistrate, and the whole case was brought before a court of justice for legal inquiry and judgment.


'Was I not right when I said that a coffin would come out of that house before the end of the year?' exclaimed the baker's wife at the corner of the street, to her daughter, when, some time after, a richly-ornamented coffin was borne out of Frants's house. The funeral procession, headed by Frants himself, was composed of all the joiners and most respectable artisans in the town, dressed in black.

'It is the coffin of old Mr. Flok,' said the baker's daughter, 'he is now going to be really buried, they say; I wonder if it be true that his bones were found under a tree in Mr. Stork's garden.'

'Quite true,' responded a fishwoman, setting down her creel, while she looked at the funeral procession.

'Young Mr. Frants had everything proved before the judge--and that avaricious old Stork will have to give up his ill-gotten goods.'

'Ay--and his ill-conducted life too, perhaps,' said the man who kept the little tavern near; 'if all be true that folks say, he murdered the worthy Mr. Flok.'

'I always thought that fellow would be hanged some day or other--he tried to cheat me whenever he could,' added the baker's wife.

'But they must catch him first,' said another; 'nothing has been seen of him these last three or four days.'


On Christmas-eve there sat a cheerful family in the late Mr. Flok's house near the canal. The child had quite recovered, and Frants, filling the old silver goblet with wine, drank many happy returns of the season to his dear Johanna.

'How little we expected a short time ago to be so comfortable now!' he exclaimed. 'Here we are, in our own house, which was intended for us by your kind uncle. I am no longer compelled to nail away alone at coffins until midnight, but can undertake more pleasant work, and keep apprentices and journeymen to assist me. My good old master's name is freed from reproach, and his remains now rest in consecrated ground, awaiting a blessed and joyful resurrection.'

The lumber-room with its fearful recollections was shut up. The outside of the house was painted anew--and the mysterious inscription on the wall, thus obliterated, never reappeared.

Frants had occasion one day, shortly after this favourable turn in their affairs, to cross the long bridge; and as he passed near the Dead-house for the drowned, he went up to the little window, saying to himself--'Now I can look in without any superstitious fears, for I know that my old master never drowned himself,--THAT foul stain is no longer attached to his memory; and his remains have at length obtained Christian burial.'

But when he glanced through the window he started back in horror, for the discoloured and swollen features of a dead man met his view, and in the dreadful-looking countenance before him, he recognized that of the murderer--Stork--who had been missing some time.

'Miserable being!' he exclaimed, 'and you have ended your guilty career by the same crime with which you charged an innocent man! None will miss you in this world except the executioner, whose office you have taken on yourself. I know that you had planned my death, but enemy as you were, I shall have you laid decently in the grave, and may the Almighty have mercy on your soul!'

Prosperity continued to attend the young couple--but the lessons of the past had taught them how unstable is all earthly good; the old family Bible--now a frequent and favourite study--became the guide of their conduct; and when their happiness was clouded by any misfortune, as all the happiness of this passing life must sometimes be, they resigned themselves without a murmur to the will of Providence, reminding each other of the watchman's song on that memorable night when all hope seemed to have abandoned them:

'Redeemer, grant Thy blessed help
To make our burden light.'