Imágenes de páginas




In the course of the day the prisoner was officially informed that he would have the whole of the morrow to prepare for his trial, which would take place before a military commission summoned for the following day.

It was also intimated that, as nothing else would be required for his condemnation than the proof, already fully prepared, of his having been taken with arms in his hand, in an act of rebellion, he ought to make up bis mind to be shot the instant the trial was over.

The solemnity of his meditation, after receiving this intelligence, was greatly disturbed by the various visits described in the last chapter. There seemed to be something so mysterious in the persons and circumstance surrounding him, that he sometimes inquired with a start, whether all were not a dream ? There was old Moritz, who but the night before had buried three or four servants of the government in a living grave, not only at large in the morning, but evidently trusted by the authorities. The same individual allowed himself to be made the tool of Schinderhannes, whose banditti had only been prevented from attempting to sack the mill by the intervention of the gendarmes, and

whom he had intended, not a great many hours before, to punish, for what he termed ingratitude, by a violent death. As for Ishmael, he was at one and the same moment a witness for the police, and an agent of the robbers ; and in both characters, had laid aside instantaneously every quality of his mind which had made Carl grieve and wonder that he was a Jew; appearing, without even an attempt at disguise, a treacherous, ungrateful, cold-hearted villain. Could he come to any other conclusion than that Moritz- the bold, the sturdy, the hospitable-was bought by the bandit's gold; that Magdalene, the beautiful and devoted, on reaching a safe harbour, had forgotten him who had saved her in the tempest; and that Ishmael, the brave, haughty, and high-minded, was at bottom nothing else than-a Jew? Whether young or old, however, fair or foul, good or bad, all were alike at the command of this strange Schinderhannes; whose influence seemed to pervade the whole country, and poison the very atmosphere.

The day passed on in these reflections; and every moment he sickened the more at the aspect presented by human nature. In vain, however, he endeavoured to raise his thoughts to a purer, higher world-- his spirit clung shrieking to the earth.

I will not die!” he exclaimed—“I cannot die yet ! Let me see her once more, were it but for an instantlet me tell her, were it only in a glance, that I never ceased to love her – that in dying, I lose not my life, but her!”

The night set in-shutting upon the world like a prison door; and Carl threw himself upon his straw mattress, less from any hope of rest, than from the mechanical operation of the mind which associates going to bed with darkness. He lay till the middle watch, plunged in the same reflections that had filled his day-light hours. Sometimes he determined to reveal himself to his judges ; since the space by tbat time would have been quite long enough to have enabled Schinderhannes to reach his stronghold. But this idea was speedily abandoned. What purpose could the resolution serve ? He had not, it is true, resisted the police by force of arms till they had fired upon him : but where were his witnesses to prove the fact ? Magdalene had given up her very soul to Ishmael ; and Moritz was leagued with his enemies against him.

“ To struggle,' concluded he, “ would be vain; and being so it would compromise my dignity. The commission would shoot me—however plain a story I might tell—on a much weaker chance of my being in reality the dreaded outlaw; and I, however slight may be the probability of saving Ida by my death, will consent to perish on the chance. Be it so. Hunted into the toils, and sentenced to the death of a wild beast, I will die, like the wolf, in silence !"

This resolution taken, his mind was at rest; such rest as that of the black waters of the ocean when the tempest is over, with dead men sinking into their depths, and shipwrecked navies floating on their bosom. Still it was rest. His eyes grew heavy; the stir caused by relieving guard outside his door, which was done every half-hour, became more indistinct ; and at length he fell asleep.

In his dreams he imagined that he heard the cry of Help! help!” shrieked in his ears without intermission. Sometimes the voice was Ida’s; sometimes it grumbled, thunder-like, in the accents of Peter the Black; and sometimes it arose from the depths of the

[ocr errors]

vault, and from the lips of the captive gaoler. It was strange that Carl should have remembered in his sleep what he had utterly forgotten for the greater part of an entire day. The gaoler, whom it had been his intention to have immediately liberated, since neither his keys nor cord could be of any use, was still in durance. The hours of day-light that had not been taken up with visiters, had been crowded with the reflections which these gave rise to; and it seemed as he had not had time to think of this prisoner of a prisoner till he fell asleep.

The block of stone which covered the hole was so thick, and so nicely adjusted, and heaped round with earth, that it was no wonder a human voice had not been able before to make itself heard from the deep abyss. The floor, in fact the walls, the door, and every thing connected with the apartment, were on so massive a scale, that even the noise of changing guard on the landing-place could only be recognised by one unaccustomed to the sounds.

Carl was sorry for the poor man even in his sleep, and made haste to awake that he might relieve him. The sound, however, changed as he raised himself up, and the supplication took another form.

“ Carl Benzel ! ” was now the cry.

The first idea which crossed the mind of the sleeper awakened was of surprise that the gaoler should know his name; but this was banished the next moment by a conviction that the voice came from above rather than below; and turning up his head, he saw, with solemn wonder, a human head looking in through the bars of his prison window.

Carl remembered the loftiness of the tower, and the perpendicular descent of the rock; and he knew that,

even supposing the existence of some natural inequalities in the one, and some breaches of time or war in the other, there was only one man living (as he firmly believed) who possessed the skill and nerve to scale such a height on so insecure a footing. If this midnight visiter was a living being—but of this he doubted— he was-he must be

6 Wolfenstein!” cried Carl, his thoughts breaking into speech as he approached the window.

“ The same," said the baron; and the voice flashed a strange conviction on the mind of his friend. Wolfenstein was the Stranger, and therefore the friend and emissary of Ida-Wolfenstein, who had always professed a much deeper attachment to Liese than that affected by mere gallantry, was also the sleeping guest of Kunz Weiner.

“ I have risked my life to get speech of you,” said the baron ; “ and now, as I said on a former occasion, listen without reply!

“ You have saved the Dallheimer family, and done good service to Schinderhannes in an important crisis. The force that was closing in upon him from all the surrounding districts is already dissipated; and those who know the distracted state of the times will not readily imagine that it can be soon reassembled. He is willing in turn to save you ; but in your present predicament this is no easy matter. One life he would not mind sacrificing; it is no more than you have forfeited for him, although from a selfish motive : but it is scarcely possible to conceive how your deliverance can be effected otherwise than by force of arms. The balance, therefore, would be against you; for in open combat he must calculate on losing much valuable blood.”

« AnteriorContinuar »