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
'"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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
'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
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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
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.'