The Elopement by Unknown

On the banks of the rivulet Lockwitz, in Hungary, and upon the borders of Thuringia, where a convent formerly stood, which was destroyed in the time of the Hussites, is situated the Castle of Lauenstein. This church property, in process of time, came under the secular arm, and became the possession of the Count of Orlamunda, who gave this deserted domain as a feu to one of his vassals, who, upon the ruins of the convent, built himself a castle, and either gave his name to the property, or took his from it, for he was called the Baron of Lauenstein.

It soon became manifest that the property of the church does not prosper in the hands of the laity, and that such sacrilege is always punished in one way or another. The bones of the holy nuns, which for ages had reposed in peace in the gloomy caverns of the grave, could not, with indifference, endure this profanation of their sanctuary. These mouldy dead bones rebelled against the violation, rattled and rustled in the silence of night, and raised a fearful clattering and noise in the passage leading to the church, which had not been destroyed. The nuns, with solemn pomp, often made a procession round the castle, wandered through the apartments, opened and dashed to the doors, by which the Baron was disturbed in his sleep, and could not get rest in his bed. They raged in the hall, or in the stables, terrified the maids, twitched and pinched them, sometimes here, sometimes there;—plagued the cattle—the cows were drained of their milk, and the horses pranced and snorted, and beat their stalls to pieces. This mischievous behaviour of the pious sisters, and their incessant tricks, which embittered the life of both man and beast, touk away all spirit from every member of the household, down to the very bull-dog.

The Baron spared no expense, by means of the most renowned exorcists, to bring these tumultuary inmates to peace and silence; but the most powerful exorcisms, before which the whole kingdom of Belial trembled, and the sprinkling brush dipped in holy water, which generally chases away the evil spirits, as a fly-flap chases away the flies from the apartment, for a long time could do nothing against the obstinacy of those spectre Amazons, who so stoutly maintained their right to their former possessions, that the exorcists, with the holy implements of relics, were sometimes obliged to take to flight, and leave them masters of the field. At last, a conjuror, who was travelling about the country for the purpose of spying out witches, catching goblins, and delivering the possessed from the brood of evil spirits, succeeded in bringing the spectral night revellers to obedience, and again shut them up in their gloomy vaults, with permission there to wag their skulls, and rattle and clatter their bones, as much as they pleased.

All was now quiet in the Castle, the nuns again slept the still sleep of death; but, after seven years, one unquiet sister spirit again awoke, and once more made her appearance in the night, and for some time continued her former pranks, until she tired, then rested seven years, and then paid another visit to the upper world, and re-visited the Castle. In time, the family became accustomed to the apparition; only, when the period of her appearance approached, the domestics took care to avoid the passage through which she was to come, and kept close to their apartments.

After the decease of the first possessors, the inheritance fell to the next in descent, and there never had failed a male heir, until the time of the thirty years' war, when the last branch of the Lauensteins flourished: in whose production nature appeared to have exhausted her power. So lavish had she been of the stuff which composed his body, that at the period when it had reached its highest perfection, so enormous was his size, that he weighed nearly as much as the far-famed Franz Finatzie of Presburg, and his corpulence was only a few inches less than that of the well-fed Holstener, known by the name of Paul Butterbread, who formerly exhibited himself as a show to Parisian belles. However, Baron Sieg mund was a very stately man till this period, when his body resembled a tun; he lived well, and though he did not waste the inheritance of his fathers, he spared himself none of the enjoyments of life. No sooner had his progenitors made way for him, and he found himself in possession of Lauenstein, than, after the manner of his fathers, he married, and at the end of a year, he became a father; but, alas! it was of a girl, and as he had no hopes of succeeding children, with this he was forced to be content. The thrifty mother, who at her marriage took charge of the domestic concerns, now commenced the education of her daughter. The more papa's paunch gained the upper hand, the more obtuse became his mind, till at length the Baron took no notice of anything, except what was either roasted or boiled.

From the accumulation of family affairs, Fraulein Emily was, for the most part, left to the care of mother Nature, and thereby found herself never the worse. This secret artist, who does not like to put her reputation at stake, and generally makes up by a master-stroke, for any error she commits, had better proportioned the body and talents of the daughter than those of the father—she was beautiful, clever, and witty. As the charms of the young Fraulein expanded, the views of the mother increased, and she resolved, that through her the splendour of their expiring race should again be restored. The lady possessed a secret pride which was not remarked in the common occurrences of life, except in regard to her pedigree, which she considered the most glorious ornament of their house; and so high were her pretensions, that, except the family of the Counts of Reiuss, there was no race in Hungary sufficiently ancient and noble, into which she would choose to transplant the last blossom of the Lauenstein stem. And much as the young gentlemen in the neighbourhood wished to secure the rich prize, the crafty mother always contrived to frustrate their intentions. She watched the heart of the Fraulein with as much care as a customhouse officer does the harbour, lest any contraband goods should slip through; overturned every speculation of match-making aunts and cousins; and had such high expectations for her daughter, that no young man ventured to approach her. As long as the heart of a maiden listens to advice, it resembles a boat upon the calm unruffled sea, which sails wherever the rudder directs it; but when the winds and waves arise and rock the light bark, it no longer obeys the helm, but follows the current of the stream.

So it was with the tractable Emily, who willingly allowed herself to be led on in the path of pride by the maternal leading-strings, for her still unsophisticated heart was susceptible of every impression. She at least expected a Prince or Count to do homage to her charms; and any less high born paladins who paid their court to her, were repulsed with cold disdain. But before a suitable adorer could be found for the Lauenstein Grace, a circumstance occurred which disappointed all the matrimonial schemes of the mother; and such were its effects, that, had all the princes and counts of the Roman and German empire sued for the heart and hand of the fair Fraulein, they would have found themselves too late.

In the troubled times of the thirty years' war, the army of the braye Wallenstein came into Hungary for winter quarters, and Baron Siegmund received many uninvited guests into the castle, who did more mischief than the former hobgoblins; for, although they had even less right to the property than the former, no sorcerer could exorcise them away. The proprietor saw himself forced to put a good face on this wicked game, for the purpose of keeping these commanding gentlemen in good humour, and so induce them to keep up proper discipline in the castle. Banquets and balls succeeded each other without intermission; at the first the lady presided, at the latter the daughter. And whenever the military band began to play the accompanying favourite waltz, it was the signal for the gallant Fritz to lead the fair Emily to the dance These splendid feasts made the rough warriors more pliant: they respected the house which had so hospitably entertained them, and guests and host were satisfied with each other.

Among these warriors there were many young heroes, who might even have tempted limping Vulcan's beautiful helpmate to become unfaithful. But there was one in particular who eclipsed them all. A young officer, called the handsome Fritz, had the appearance of a helmed god of love. To an elegant figure, this young Apollo joined the most engaging manners; he was gentle, modest, agreeable, of a lively disposition and, above all, a charming dancer. Until this moment no one had made the slightest impression on the heart of Emily, but this youth raised in her innocent bosom a new sensation, which filled her soul with inexpressible delight.

But the wonder was, that this enchanting Adonis was neither called the handsome Count, nor the handsome Prince, but neither more nor less than the handsome Fritz. She interrogated his brother officers, one after another, about the young man's name and descent, but no one could enlighten her upon the subject. All praised the handsome Fritz as a brave man, and a good officer, and who possessed the most amiable character, but at the same time it appeared that all was not right in regard to his pedigree. There were as many reports of his birth as of that of the well known and enigmatical Count Cagliostro, who was sometimes said to be the descendant of the Grand Master of Malta, and by the maternal side, nephew to the Grand Seignior; sometimes the son of a Neapolitan coachman, then a full brother of Zannowichs, pretended Prince of Albania, and by profession a worker of miracles; and then it was rumoured that he was a wig-maker. All these reports arose from the handsome Fritz having raised himself from the pike to the sash, and all agreed, that, should fortune again favour him, he would reach the highest situations in the army. The secret inquiries of the inquisitive Emily were not long concealed from the object of them. His companions thought to flatter him with the intelligence, and generally accompanied it with all sorts of favourable conjectures. His modesty attributed her advances to jest and mockery; nevertheless, the inquiries of the young damsel pleased him well, for the first look had inspired him with an ecstasy, which is the usual harbinger of love.

No language possesses such energy, and is likewise so well understood, as the sweet feeling of sympathy; through the operation of which, a first acquaintance sooner rises into love than one can rise from the pike to the sash.

Some time elapsed before the lovers came to a verbal explanation, but they were aware of each other's sentiments, their looks met half-way, and said what timid love dared not disclose. From the uproar in the house, the negligent mother had, at a very wrong season, removed the watch over the heart of her beloved daughter; and seeing this important post unoccupied, the crafty smuggler, Love, seized his opportunity, and secretly stole in. No sooner had he obtained possession, than he taught the Fraulein quite a different lesson from mamma. The sworn enemy of all ceremony, he immediately removed the prejudices of his obedient scholar, and soon taught her to think, that birth and rank were not to be put in competition with all-conquering Love, and that lovers should not be classed, like beetles and worms, in a collection of insects.

The frosty pride of ancestry melted as quickly in her soul as the figures upon a frozen window dissolve when the rays of the sun begin to warm the atmosphere; till at length Emily cared not whether her lover had pedigree or not, and she even carried her political heresy so far as to maintain, that the prerogatives of high birth, in comparison with love, were the most insufferable yoke with which the freedom of mankind had ever been burthened.

The handsome Fritz, who adored the Fraulein, with joy perceived that his fortune in love was as propitious as his fortune in war. He seized the first opportunity which offered of disclosing the situation of his heart. She received his declaration with blushes, but with inward delight, and the lovers exchanged vows of inviolable fidelity. They enjoyed the present moment, but shuddered at the future. The return of spring again called the army into tents, and the sorrowful moment approached which was to separate the lovers. They now held a serious consultation on ratifying their vows of love, so as that nothing but death could part them. The Fraulein acquainted her lover with the sentiments of her mother on the subject of marriage; and that it was not to be expected that the proud lady would deviate one hair's-breadth from her darling system, to sanction a union of affection.

A hundred plans were adopted and rejected, for with each there was always some difficulty in the way which rendered its success doubtful. Meanwhile the young hero found his betrothed determined to take any course which would accomplish their wishes; upon which he proposed an elopement, as the surest way which love had yet thought of, which has succeeded innumerable times, and which will succeed in destroying the plans of parents, and in vanquishing their obstinacy. Emily considered for a little, and then consented; one thing was still to be considered, how she would escape from the walls and bulwarks of the castle, to throw herself into the arms of the welcome robber; for well she knew the moment that the Wallenstein garrison marched out of the castle, the vigilant mother would again take possession of her post, and her steps would be so watched she would never be allowed to go out of her sight. But inventive Love conquers every difficulty. It was well known to the Fraulein, that, according to tradition, on All-soul's Day, in the approaching autumn, the Spectre Nun, after a lapse of seven years, would again revisit the castle. The terror of the inmates at the expectation of her appearance was also well known to her; she therefore determined upon the bold freak of playing the nun's part. Accordingly she secretly prepared a nun's dress, and under this disguise resolved to elope.

The handsome Fritz was delighted with this invention, and although the time of the thirty years' war was too early for freethinking, yet the young officer was enough of a philosopher to doubt the existence of spirits, or at least to trouble himself very little about the matter.

Their plans being thus arranged, Fritz threw himself into his saddle, and, commending himself to the protection of Love, departed at the head of his squadron. It appeared that Love had heard his prayer, for, although he exposed himself to all dangers, the campaign terminated most prosperously, and he escaped unhurt. Meanwhile Emily lived between hope and fear; she trembled for the life of her faithful Amadis—she sought diligently to obtain intelligence how it went with them in the field. Every new rumour of a skirmish put her in terror and anxiety, which her mother took for the sign of a feeling heart, without its creating any suspicion. The hero let no opportunity slip of privately corresponding with his beloved, and through the channel of a trusty waiting-maid, he from time to time gave her intelligence of his fate, and through the same messenger received accounts from her. As soon as the campaign was ended, he prepared every thing for his secret expedition, bought four steeds and a travelling carriage, and looked carefully in the Calendar for the day on which he was to be at the appointed place of meeting, in the little grove, not far from the castle. On All-soul's Day, Emily, with the assistance of her attendant, prepared to carry her plan into execution. As had been agreed upon, she feigned herself a little indisposed, and retired early to her apartment, where she immediately transformed herself into the prettiest hobgoblin that had ever haunted the earth. The evening hours, by Emily's calculation, seemed to have doubled themselves, and, as she thought of the work she had in hand, every moment increased her wish to accomplish her adventure. Meanwhile the pale Luna, the secret friend of lovers, with her soft glimmer, shone on the castle of Lauenstein, in which the tumult of the busy day was by degrees lost in the solemn stillness of the night. None were awake in the castle but the housekeeper, who sat late in the night calculating the expenses of the kitchen—the capon-stuffer, who was plucking for the breakfast of the household a score of larks—the porter, who had also the office of watchman, and called out the hours, and Hector, the vigilant house-dog, who with his howls bayed the rising moon.

As the midnight hour sounded, the intrepid Emily set out upon her way. She had provided herself with a master-key which opened all the doors. Softly and secretly she descended the steps that led through the cloister, in crossing which she observed there was still a light in the kitchen. Upon this she rattled her bunch of keys with all her might, dashed to the doors with a deafening noise, and boldly opened the house-door and the wicket without accident. As soon as the four waking inmates of the castle heard this unusual noise, they looked for the appearance of the roving Nun. The capon-stuffer, terrified, fled into a closet; the housekeeper into bed; the watchdog into his kennel; and the porter into the straw beside his wife. The Fraulein soon arrived in the open field, and hastened to the grove, where she thought she saw at a distance the carriage and fleet horses waiting her appearance. But on a nearer approach she discovered it was only the deceitful shadow of a tree. From this she concluded she had mistaken the place of appointment. She crossed and recrossed the shrubbery from one end to another, but her knight, with his equipage, was nowhere to be found. Astonished at this circumstance, she knew not what to think.

After an appointed rendezvous, not to appear, is considered among lovers a high misdemeanour, but in the present case to fail, was little less than high treason against Love; the thing was to her incomprehensible. After having waited, but in vain, for an hour long, and her heart trembling from anxiety and cold, she began to wail and weep. "Ah! the perfidious one," she exclaimed, "he lies in the arms of some coquette, from whom he cannot tear himself away; he mocks me, and has forgot my true-love."

This thought suddenly brought the long-forgotten pedigree to her recollection, and she felt ashamed of having so far demeaned herself as to love a man without a name, or noble feeling. In this moment when the intoxication of passion had somewhat subsided, and reason had resumed her sway, this faithful counsellor advised her to re deem this false step, by immediately returning to the castle, and trying to forget the false perjurer. The first she did, without delay; and, to the great surprise of her faithful confidant, to whom she revealed every thing, she reached her chamber safe and sound; but the second point she resolved to reflect upon at leisure.

Nevertheless, the man without a name, was not so much to blame as the enraged Emily supposed. He had not failed to be punctual at the place of meeting. With a heart full of rapture, he waited with impatience for the moment which was to put him in possession of his lovely treasure. As the midnight hour approached, he secretly hastened to the castle, and listened when the little gate would open. Sooner than he supposed possible, the beloved figure of the nun stepped out. He immediately rushed from his concealment towards her, seized her in his arms, exclaiming, "I have thee—I hold thee. Never shall I leave thee. Dear love, thou art mine—I am thine, with body and soul." Joyfully he bore his lovely burden to the carriage, and soon they rattled over stocks and stones, up hills and down vallies. The horses plunged and snorted, shook their manes, and became so wild and unmanageable, that they would no longer obey the reins. A wheel flew off, and the sudden shock precipitated the coachmen to the ground; and carriage and horses, and man and mouse, all rolled over a steep abyss into a gulf below. The fond lover knew not what had happened; his body was bruised, his head was crushed, and, from the severity of the fall, he lost all recollection; but when he came to himself, he missed his beloved companion. After spending the rest of the night in this helpless situation, he was found by some peasants in the morning, who carried him to the nearest village.

The carriage was dashed to pieces, the four horses had broken their necks. This loss, however, grieved him little; but the fate of the beautiful Emily plunged him in the greatest distress. He despatched people in every direction to try and gain some tidings of her; but they all returned as they went, nothing was to be heard of the runaway. The midnight hour was the first thing which cleared up this mystery. As the clock struck twelve, the door opened, and his lost travelling companion stepped into the apartment, not however in the form of the beautiful Emily, but of the Spectre Nun, a hideous skeleton. The handsome Fritz, with horror, perceived that he himself had made this dreadful mistake. Death-cold perspirations burst over him; he began to cross and bless himself, and ejaculate every prayer he could think of.

The nun little heeded this; she stepped up to the bed, stroked his burning cheeks with her withered ice-cold hand, and said, "Fritz, Fritz, be resigned to it I am thine—thou art mine, with body and soul" She thus continued to torture him with her presence for an hour, and then vanished. This game she acted every night, and she even followed him into the place where his regiment was quartered. He had neither peace nor repose from the love of this hobgoblin, which so grieved and fretted him, that he lost all spirit; so much so, that his companions began to remark his deep melancholy; and these gallant officers truly sympathized with his distress. They could not imagine what had happened to their former lively associate, for he carefully shunned the horrible secret, which he divulged to no one.

Among his companions, Fritz had one very intimate friend, whom rumour reported master of all magical arts, and who possessed the lost art of making himself invulnerable, could call up spirits, and had every day a free shot. This experienced warrior, with affectionate impatience, urged his friend to disclose the secret grief which so evidently oppressed him. This martyr of love, who was sick of his existence, at length, under the seal of secrecy, was prevailed on to divulge it. "Brother, is this all?" said the exorcist, with a smile; "I shall soon release you from this torment.—Follow me into my quarters." He began by making secret preparations, drew several circles and characters upon the floor, and, at the summons of the exorcist, in a dark chamber which was lighted only by a magician's lamp, the midnight guest for this time appeared at the mid-day hour. He scolded her very much, and banished her and her mischievous pranks to a hollow willow in a lonely valley, with strict commands at that very hour to set out to this Patmos.

The spectre vanished, but at the same moment there arose such a storm and whirlwind, as set the whole town in commotion. It was an old pious custom when a high wind blew, that twelve deputed citizens should instantly take horse, and make a solemn pilgrimage through the streets, chanting a song of repentance to sing the wind away. As soon as the twelve booted and well-mounted apostles had rode out, the howling voice of the hurricane ceased, and the spirit never again appeared. * Fritz now perceived that this devilish ape's play was intended to entrap his poor soul, and was rejoiced that the tormenting spirit had left him. He again prepared to join the formidable Wallenstein in Pomerania, where he finished three campaigns without hearing anything of the lovely Emily, and behaved with such bravery, that on his return to Bohemia, he commanded a regiment of horse. He took his way through Hungary, and when he came in sight of the Castle of Lauenstein, his heart began to beat with anxiety and doubt lest, in his absence, his beloved had been forgetful of him. He merely announced himself as a friend of the family, and, according to the rites of hospitality, gates and doors were soon thrown open to him. We may mention here, that it is still the custom in this town for this wind-laying cavalcade to perambulate the streets during a storm.

Ah! how astonished was the lovely Emily, when her supposed faithless lover, the handsome Fritz, stepped into the apartment! Joy and anger by turns assailed her soul. She could not resolve to vouchsafe him one friendly look, and yet this league with her beautiful eyes cost her the greatest difficulty.

For three long years she had debated with herself whether she would forget, or not, her nameless, and, as she believed, faithless lover, and therefore he was never one moment from her thoughts. His image floated continually before her; and, besides, it appeared that the God of Dreams was his patron, for the innumerable dreams that the Fraulein had of him ever since his absence, either excused or defended him. The stately Colonel, whose high rank the harsh survey of the mother somewhat softened, soon found an opportunity to try the apparent coldness of his beloved. He related to her the horrible adventure of the Elopement, and she frankly acknowledged to him the pain the thoughts of his faithlessness had given her. The lovers now agreed to reveal their secret to mamma, and endeavour to prevail with her to favour their attachment.

The good lady was as much astonished at the secret attachment of the cunning Emily, as at the communication of the species facti of the Elopement. She thought it just that love, which had stood so severe a trial, should be rewarded. It was only the man without a name that was offensive to her; and as the Fraulein observed, that it was incomparably more sensible to marry a man without a name, than a name without a man, against this argument she had nothing to reply.

They were married, and as the secret treaty had already prospered, and no Count lay at the bottom of her heart, the good dame gave her maternal consent to it. The handsome Fritz embraced his lovely bride, and quietly and happily accomplished his marriage, without the slightest interruption on the part of the Spectre Nun.