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THE SPECTRE UNMASKED.
A Tale from the German.
"WE will now begin No. 2," said the professor, as he tied the strings of his portfolio of prints, and looked towards another which was lying by the table: "this will, I think, afford you still more pleasure; but, Madam, you look so frequently at the clock, that I fear
"I only fear," said the counsellor's lady, "that it is growing too late to begin another; and it would be really a pity to hurry over such well-selected works. If your engagements will permit some other time?" "It is not yet very late," her husband replied, as he was lifting a heavy folio on the table; we shall have plenty of time to look over this part, leisurely enough; what makes you in such a hurry to-night ?" "I think it best for every one to be at his own home in the evening," observed the wife of the counsellor; "it is much safer."
"Safer?" asked the counsellor, laughing, "you pay a fine compliment to our police! in what may the danger consist, which you seem to fear so much, now the military, who are generally the greatest destroyers of safety, have left the town?"
"That is the very cause of my fear," rejoined the lady; "they would not have left us, if they had not doubted of their own security; the enemy are, I fear, approaching, and disturbances often arise when they are least expected.
"Oh! if that be your only ground of alarm," said the professor, laughing, "we may proceed with our prints very safely; it will be long enough before the enemy arrive here, and, I think, we are more likely to see our protectors (as they term themselves) again, than our foes, for they are no longer our enemies. In the mean time, your apprehensions are not without foundation; for here in the very first leaves, I shall show you some of these Tartarian tribes, at least in effigy."
"Another time, I beg," replied the anxious lady; "if you knew my uneasiness, you would yourself be glad to have me at home."
"But really," said the counsellor, endeavouring to tranquillize her, you are needlessly alarmed; according to the latest news, a few days may possibly bring about some military events, or send us some strange guests-but I will answer for to-morrow; and as to this evening, there is not the remotest probability of any thing happening."
It was in vain they sought to convince the lady of the groundlessness of her alarm; she became obviously more and more anxious, and finally, not to destroy the pleasure of the party, she proposed that the professor should accompany them home, and that he and her husband might there look over some prints and pictures together, on which discussions had formerly arisen between them. The scheme was acceded to; the professor laughed at her earnest exhortation, while he double-locked his doors; and the party proceeded with many jests and much merriment to the house of the counsellor, where the conversation on the latest works of art soon resumed its former vivacity.
"Would one not believe," observed the counsellor during the absence of his lady, " that my wife had second sight? Her strange solicitude makes me almost anxious myself; it is not customary with her." "Let us come to the discussions which are the order of the day," observed the professor; "you surely cannot believe in such things; we
shall be able to look at your beautiful works of art as perfectly at our ease as if we only knew Cosaks and Bashkirs from the descriptions of travellers."
The counsellor seemed not of this opinion, he became somewhat absent, and the remarks of the professor on the antiquities of Germany, which had been reserved for this evening's discussion, and which he uttered with all the enthusiasm of an antiquary, scarcely gained attention. The professor laughed repeatedly at the belief in forebodings which his friend's anxiety manifested, and adduced many arguments, founded on natural history and experience, to prove its fallacy. "I can object nothing to your reasoning," said the counsellor at last, "except the numerous results of experience, which should seem to confirm the reverse of your doctrine, and which would open to us a temporary view into realms inaccessible to human knowledge. We cannot entirely reject the testimony of men worthy of credit, and who must be acquitted of any attempt to deceive."
Why not," replied the professor, "when the doctrine itself is opposed to all the laws of possibility? Men of the greatest veracity and sincerity, may be deceived themselves; it is, in truth, with these forebodings as with ignes fatui,-many tell you they have heard of them, but not one with whom I have ever spoken has, himself, witnessed them. Till I meet with a ghost-seer, who assures me seriously and on his word that he has experienced the truth of them himself, when wide awake, and in full possession of reason and consciousness-till then, I reject the whole as futile."
"And if such a person were to be found," said the Counsellor, "would you then believe?"
Hum," replied the professor, shrugging his shoulders, "only after a very close investigation. Deception is so easy--it is in all cases only a more apparent or more hidden deception, that cherishes this credulity."
"In all cases!" repeated the other: "I cannot agree with you there, I myself was once a witness of a circumstance of this nature, which, though I have not thought of it for some years, now recurs to my memory, and which was neither a dream nor an illusion. I will narrate it to you. You will believe me when I assure it is not a fictitious adventure; and when you have heard the particulars, you may judge whether I could have been deceived.
"It must be now nearly ten years since I was appointed a counsellor in the chamber at M- I was then unmarried, and was fond of travelling; while my elder comrades, on the contrary, loved their ease, and I often undertook to transact business for them at a distance from home. Once when I was preparing for one of these expeditions, which would cause me to pass near the convent at Wallbach, one of the older counsellors requested me to take that opportunity of viewing the place. for him. It had been for a long time changed into an Amthaus, and the officer who held the situation had often petitioned for a repair of the old building; but when the chamber agreed to the request, the then Amtman found the new building unnecessary, and stated that he would content himself with the habitable part of it, if, in recompense, some other conveniences were allowed him. In short, I was commissioned to survey the place narrowly, and report on the expediency of repairing the old, or of building altogether a new Amthaus.
"On my journey to my ultimate destination, I contented myself with viewing the cloister in passing, and I was well pleased with the Amtman that he was not willing, merely for the sake of a new house, to destroy the fine old Gothic pile, which looked so venerable in the plain from the surrounding hills. I rejoiced in my approaching acquaintance with him, and his curious antique neighbourhood. On my return, I arrived rather late at Wallbach; the setting moon, occasionally obscured by heavy thunderclouds, partially illumined the old towers and dark grey walls, which seemed to me to bear their age tolerably well. The Amtman's lady, an elderly but still an active woman, welcomed me, and apologized for the absence of her husband on a professional journey, from which he was not expected back till the following day. She seemed much embarrassed, and I was obliged repeatedly to assure her that I could not be surprised at the absence of her husband, as my visit was totally unexpected by him, and that it would be quite time enough on the morrow to transact the business I was commissioned upon. As I soon found that my presence disturbed the family, I requested to be shown to my chamber, and a dunce of a servant conducted me through many cross and winding passages, to an antique room with Gothic windows and ornaments, and there left me, humbly wishing me a good night. Fatigue from my journey, and ennui, induced me to go to bed, and I soon fell asleep. I was awakened I know not how in a few hours, and, while endeavouring to compose myself again, I heard most remarkable sounds, as if caused by slow, heavy, gigantic footsteps: the longer I listened, the more I was alarmed at this noise. The steps seemed to indicate the presence of some supernatural being, and occasionally the very floor trembled under them. Although the noise itself was not very loud, and appeared to proceed from a distance, I could not help shuddering, though I endeavoured to banish my apprehension; but it was in vain I attempted to sleep. The noise at last ceased, to my great joy, but ere long I heard a rustling at my door, and thought I could distinguish a slight knocking: I sat up in my bed, and looked earnestly towards it, but it remained fast; I had hardly laid myself down again when the rustling and knocking were repeated; and when I again looked towards the door, I clearly saw that it was moved
"Fancy!" cried the professor, "nothing but fancy, delusion of an excited imagination."
"No such thing," resumed the narrator, "you shall hear more. I saw the door move, and I cried out, 'Who is there?' All was again still for a short time, then again something knocked louder and stronger, and the door opened
"No! are you serious?" interrupted the professor.
Perfectly-this was too much for me, I sprang out of bed towards the door, and there I saw distinctly a slender white female figure in a faint gleam of light that instantly glided away. It seemed to beckon to me. I seized my light, my fear giving way to an almost wild courage. The figure glided through some dark passages; I hastened after, but could not overtake it; on a sudden it vanished, but when I reached the spot where I saw it last, I discovered a staircase; I thought I could still descry at the bottom of it something of the pale light, and therefore hastily descended, but there was no one to be seen. A doorway
was before me, I stepped out through it, and found myself in the open air. A multitude of similar adventures crowded into my mind. While I was looking round for my mysterious conductor, I was startled by a fearful crash, the earth shook under me, and a cloud of dust veiled every object from my sight. I distinguished only a loud and confused cry; people hastened from all sides to the spot; and it was presently clear to me that the whole part of the building in which I had slept had fallen to the ground. A quarter of an hour later and I should have been buried in the ruins; had not this singular vision led me from my chamber, I should have shared the fate of my bed, which was found shattered to pieces under the rubbish. I hastened to quit the fatal place where this accident now rendered my presence unnecesBefore I went, however, I made inquiries if any thing supernatural had ever before been remarked in the building, but nobody, that I could learn, had ever perceived any thing: I therefore carefully refrained from mentioning my adventure to any one, and had myself nearly forgotten it; but the anxiety of my wife this evening, and subsequently, as she quitted the room, a certain resemblance to the warning spectre, in my mind recalled it to my recollection."
"Then I can easily believe," said the professor, laughing, "that you followed the fair spectre courageously enough, if that be the case; she probably promised a more romantic adventure than the tumbling down of an old building."
"Jesting apart," replied the counsellor, "setting aside the supernatural, the figure would have been captivating enough;-but to return to the purpose, if you persist in supposing the appearance to have been imaginary, the result only of my fancy; how can you account for the singular coincidence of my actual preservation by it from an apparently inevitable danger? Either it must have been some tutelary spirit, or a foreboding power in my own mind; give me, if you can, another explanation of the phenomenon.
The professor sought for a third, in vain; he mentioned many forced explanations, of which it was easy for the counsellor to show the fallacy. The dispute was still continued, when a distant noise in the street attracted the attention of the counsellor. The disturbance increased and drew nearer; they all went to the window; the patrole were running backwards and forwards, the doors of the houses were thronged with the curious; presently the police officers appeared; the Cosaks were near-the Cosaks, the Cosaks, re-echoed from the streets, and a loud and wild "hurrah!" instantly followed.
The professor's mind ran, in an instant, through all the intermediate degrees from incredulity to the fullest conviction; he looked for his hat, and would willingly have returned home, but the multitudes that thronged the streets rendered it impossible. The new visitors had, in the mean time, effected the objects of their casual visit; after some inquiries, they withdrew in perfect order, leaving the town to rest again. The people, nevertheless, still continued to roam through the streets in crowds, and the counsellor, who had been repeatedly required during the event, was glad he happened to be at home so opportunely.
"There," said he as they were assembled together again at his house discussing the circumstance, " there we have another proof of the power of foreboding, and one indeed which we have experienced our
selves, not heard by tradition: what will now become of your incredulity?"
"I am totally vanquished," said the professor, wringing his hands comically: "Your lady, counsellor, has quite converted me; henceforth I will believe in forebodings, ghosts, spectres, warnings, and whatever you would have me believe in."
"At least," said the lady smiling, "you will have some respect for the secret powers of my mind, and if you do not wish to forget them, you will fulfil my prophecy, which is that you will remain our guest during the present evening."
The professor bowed acquiescence, and requested that he might exhibit the casket containing the antiquities which he had been about to show to the company, when the fears of the counsellor's lady had deprived him of their society. A messenger was despatched to his house, and in a short time returned with it. "Behold," said the antiquary, after he had shown many rare and curious things, "behold my greatest treasure! this beautiful old vase, which, as I shall prove to you, has most probably been an ancient relic of a cloister, and is unquestionably of inestimable worth. The form is almost Grecian; and I think nothing more beautiful, and at the same time more simple, can be imagined unfortunately one of the handles is injured; but this injury has enabled me to come to a most important conclusion concerning it. I believe it unique in its kind. Under the broken handle an inscription is yet visible, that coincides remarkably with the place where this vase was found. It had been walled up in an ancient convent most carefully. This convent formerly possessed many relics, and these were discovered some years ago on the destruction of the pile; among them was this vase; and its existence was probably unknown, latterly, even to the monks themselves, for it was hid in a niche of the wall. Now you must know that this is neither more nor less than an ancient model of the holy and celebrated Graal* of our Lord. You can see the inscription still quite legible: AV: Sm: Graal : DJD : IT: Ad Sanctissimum Graalem Domini Jesus deliniatus Jussu Thesaurarii; that is, ladies, in the vernacular tongue, 'modelled after the most holy graal of our Lord, by the command of the treasurer.' On this account it was so carefully preserved; and you may remark that this palpable vase-like form overturns the opinion of some writers, who have maintained that the graal was in the form of a patera, and it was, as you see, clearly of this cup-like shape."
The counsellor's wife had repeatedly, during this harangue, held her handkerchief to her mouth, but when it was over she burst into
laughter. At last she exclaimed, Pray do not henceforth accuse any one of credulity who believes in political or spiritual forebodings, since you are so gratuitous with your conviction, and take an earthen pipkin for a monastic relic."
May I request you," said the professor rather indignantly, "to look at this vessel again? and when you take all the circumstances into consideration, you will no longer doubt the genuineness of it for a
The vessel out of which the last Passover was eaten,-See the romance of Sir Lancelot du Lac for his adventures in search of it.