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Title: Mistrust, or Blanche and Osbright
Author: Matthew Gregory Lewis
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0605971.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
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Mistrust, or Blanche and Osbright
Matthew Gregory Lewis

A Feudal Romance




CHAPTER I


--"The bird is dead.

That we have made so much on! I had rather
Have skipped from sixteen years of age to sixty.
To have turned my leaping time into a crutch.
Than have seen this!"
CYMBELINE.

Peace was concluded, and the waters of the Rhine again flowed through
plains unpolluted with blood. The Palatine 1 saw his enemies at his
feet; it rested in his own pleasure to trample or to raise them, and
the use which he made of the victory proved how well he merited to be
victorious. His valor had subdued his enemies; his clemency converted
those enemies into friends. The Duke of Saxony,2 the hereditary foe of
his family, had been made his prisoner in the last engagement; he
restored him to liberty without ransom or conditions; and he could
have framed none so binding as those, which this fearless generosity
imposed on the Duke's gratitude.

Henry of Saxony became from that moment his firmest ally; and the
Palatine found in his powerful friendship more real strength than if
he had surrounded his whole dominions with a triple wall of brass.

The Saxons departed to their own country; the Palatine dismissed his
feudatory troops; and their chiefs led back their vassals, loaded with
the presents of their liege-lord, and proud of the wounds which they
had received in his service. Among these warriors few had displayed
more valor than the youthful Osbright of Frankheim; but no sooner was
the war concluded than none panted with more impatience for the
permission to depart. It was given, and the next hour saw him spring
upon his courser; he committed the care of his vassals to a gray-
headed knight, in whose prudence he could confide; and then, while his
heart swelled high with joy and expectation, he gave his horse the
spur, and sped toward his native towers.

But it was not the recollection of those native towers, nor of any one
whom his castle-walls contained, which now made his cheeks glow and
his eyes blaze with such impatient fire. It was not to embrace his
beloved and loving mother; nor to kneel at the feet of his respected
father, who held his two sons precious as the two apples of his eyes;
nor yet to behold once more his little darling, the young Joscelyn,
who looked upon his elder brother as the masterpiece of creation; none
of these was the motive, which now hurried Osbright onward: none of
these, while the mountains, woods, and wilds were left behind him with
inconceivable rapidity, made him wonder at the unaccustomed
sluggishness of his courser. No! It was the hope of once more 1 A
ruler (count) of the Palatinate, one of two districts in Southwest
Germany.

2 Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony (in Northwest Germany) and Bavaria,
died in 1195...beholding the avowed enemy of himself and of his whole
house, that being to whom he was an object of the wildest alarm, and
by whom his very name was held in abhorrence; this was the hope, which
made the young warrior's heart swell with eagerness almost to
bursting.

There was not a fleeter steed in the whole Palatinate than Osbright's;
his speed was stretched to the utmost, but in vain. Night was at hand,
and he had not yet arrived at the wished-for goal. The knight
abandoned the fruitless attempt to reach it, checked his courser, and
stopped for a few moments to gaze upon the hostile towers of
Orrenberg, as they rose proudly in the distance, all golden and
glittering with the splendors of the setting sun.

"Oh! yes!" he sighed to himself, "the day must at length arrive when I
need no longer gaze at distance on yonder walls, and envy every
pilgrim who dares approach the portals with the prayer of hospitality!
The day shall surely come when my name, now never mentioned but with
curses, or at least with alarm within the precincts of yonder castle,
shall call down blessings only inferior to those given to its lord's;
when the sound of my courser's tramp on the drawbridge shall seem to
the hearer sweet as the merry bells which announce a victory; and when
to proclaim that Osbright of Frankheim draws near shall be to announce
a holiday throughout Orrenberg. Till then, peace dwell in all your
hearts, my beloved enemies! With every bead that he tells, with every
orison that he breathes, Osbright of Frankheim shall call down
blessings on the heads of those, who now call down curses on his!"

Again he set forward, but now suffered his horse to choose what pace
he pleased. The wearied animal gladly profited by the permission.
Osbright, plunged in melancholy but not unpleasing thought, observed
not the moderate rate, at which he was now performing his journey;
till the moon, emerging from behind a cloud, suddenly poured her
radiance full upon his sight, and the unexpected light startled him
from his reverie. He looked up, and saw the place before him, to reach
which had been the object of his proceeding with such unwearied
expedition. But it was already night, and the spell, which had drawn
him thither so forcibly, had ceased to operate.

Still, though he knew well that the search must be fruitless, he could
not refuse himself the satisfaction of revisiting that place, whose
remembrance was so dear to his imagination, so consecrated by his
heart. He bound his steed to the branch of a shattered oak, and
entered a narrow path, which wound among the mountains. He soon
reached an open space, nearly square in its form, surrounded on three
sides with flowering shrubs and branches, and presenting on the fourth
the entrance to a grotto, whose mouth was thickly overgrown with ivy,
woodbines, and a variety of tangling weeds. Osbright heard the well-
known murmur of the waterfall; his heart beat quicker as he listened
to the sound, and his eyes sparkled in the moonbeams with tears of
melancholy pleasure.

He entered the cavern; as he expected and feared, it was vacant; but
the moonshine, penetrating through an opening in the rocky roof, and
converting the cataract into a flood of silver light, enabled him to
see a wreath of flowers still fresh, which was lying on a stone seat
at no great distance from the water. With an exclamation of joy he
seized the wreath, and pressed it to his lips. The cave then had been
visited that very day! Alt! if he had but reached it before sunset...

But the sun was not set forever; tomorrow it would rise again, and he
now doubted no longer that it would rise a sun of joy to him. He
kissed off the dew-drops, with which the flowers were heavy, and which
he could not help flattering himself were tears of sorrow for his
absence. He then hung the garland round his neck, and having deposited
his well-known scarf in place of the flowers, he quitted the cavern
with a lightened heart, and with hopes increased by the certainty that
in his absence he had not been forsaken..And now this first and chief
anxiety dispelled, he was at liberty to bestow his thoughts on those
friends who were the next dearest objects of his affection, and on
that home where his unexpected arrival was certain to diffuse such
joy. Again he spurred his horse forward; but the animal needed no
inducement to make him exert all his speed, while retracing a road
whose goal was so well known to him. He darted forward with the
rapidity of an arrow and would not have paused till his arrival at the
castle of Frankheim had not Osbright checked him when within half a
mile of his paternal towers. The sound of a bell tolling heavily
attracted his attention and gave his imagination the alarm; from the
quarter whence it sounded, he guessed that it must proceed from St.
John's chapel, a building raised by the piety of one of his ancestors
long deceased, and whose vaults were appropriated to the sole purpose
of receiving the reliques of those who expired within the walls of
Frankheim. Vespers must have long been past; it was not yet midnight;
nor indeed was it usual to celebrate religious rites within that
chapel except on particular festivals or occasions of extraordinary
solemnity. His heart beat high, while he paused to listen. The bell
continued to toll, so slow, so solemn, as to permit his doubting no
longer that it was sounding for the departure of some enfranchised
spirit. Was there a death then in his family? Had he to lament the
loss of a relation, of a friend, of a parent? Anxiety to have this
question answered without delay, would not permit him to pursue his
destined course. Hastily he turned the bridle of his horse and darted
into the grove of cypress, whose intervening shades hid the chapel
from his observation.

It was situated in the bosom of this grove, and a few minutes were
sufficient to bring him to the place whence the sound proceeded. But
the bell had already ceased to toll, and in its place, after a
momentary silence, a strain of solemn choral music and the full swell
of the organ burst upon the ear of Osbright. He knew well those sad
melodious sounds: it was the "De Profundis" chanted by the nuns and
monks of the two neighboring monasteries, St. Hildegarde and St. John.

The chapel was brilliantly illuminated; the painted windows poured a
flood of light upon the surrounding trees and stained their leaves
with a thousand glowing colors; it was evident that a burial was
performing and that the deceased must be a person of no mean
consideration.

Osbright sprang from his horse, and without allowing himself time to
secure the animal from escape, he rushed into the chapel, while
anxiety almost deprived him of the powers of respiration.

The chapel was crowded; and as he had lowered the visor of his
casque,3 no one was disposed to make way for him; but within a few
paces of the principal entrance there was a low door conducting to a
gallery, the access to which was prohibited to all, except the members
of the noble family of Frankheim. Too impatient to ask questions,
which he dreaded to hear answered, Osbright without a moment's delay
hastened toward the private door. It was not without difficulty that
he forced his way to it; but all present were too much engaged by the
mournful business which they had come thither to witness to permit
their attending to his motions, and he reached the gallery
unquestioned and unobserved.

Alas! It was empty! With every moment the conviction acquired new
force that the funeral bell had knelled for some one of his family.
His whole frame shook with alarm as he cast his eyes upon the aisle
beneath. It was hung with black throughout; but the blaze of
innumerable torches dispelled the double gloom of night and of the
sable hangings. The sweet sad requiem still rose from the choir, where
the nuns of St. Hildegarde were stationed. The avenues to the aisle
were thronged with the vassals of Frankheim; but the middle of the
aisles was left free, for there stood the chief actors in this
mournful ceremony, and the crowd kept a respectful distance. By the
side 3 Helmet..of an open grave, which occupied the center of the
aisle, stood the Abbot of St. John's, the venerable Sylvester. His
arms were extended over the grave, as if bestowing on the already
consecrated earth an additional benediction. An awe-inspiring air of
sanctity pervaded his tall thin figure; his eyes seemed to shine with
a mild celestial brightness when he raised them with all the rapture
of enthusiasm toward Heaven; but their fires were quenched by tears of
pity when he cast a glance of benevolence toward a stately tomb of
white marble which rose upon his left hand. Against that tomb (which
was raised in honor of Ladislaus the first Count of Frankheim, and
which was exactly opposite to Osbright's retreat) reclined the two
chief mourners: a warrior and a lady; and the youth's heart felt
itself relieved from a weight almost intolerable, when he recognized
the beloved authors of his being.

Now then he no longer trembled for the life of one of those parents,
whose undeviating affection through the whole course of his existence
had made them so justly dear to him. But for whom then were they
mourning? The loss must needs touch Osbright nearly, which could
occasion such extreme affliction to his parents; and that their
affliction was extreme, it was not permitted him to cherish even a
doubt. The noble Magdalena stood with her hands clasped, her eyes
raised to Heaven, while unconscious tears coursed each other down her
cheeks; motionless as a statue; pale as the marble tomb, against which
she was leaning; the very image of unutterable despair.

Widely different was the expression produced by anguish upon the noble
and strongly-marked features of Count Rudiger. His heart was the seat
of agony; a thousand scorpions seemed every moment to pierce it with
their poisonous stings; but not one tear forced itself into his blood-
shot eyeballs; not the slightest convulsion of his gigantic limbs
betrayed the silent tortures of his bosom. A gloom settled and
profound reigned upon his dark and high-arched eyebrows. He bent his
gaze immutably upon a bier, which stood between himself and Magdalena,
and which supported a coffin richly adorned with the escutcheons of
the house of Frankheim. He rested one hand on the coffin; his other
hand grasped firmly the jeweled handle of his dagger. His glaring eyes
were stretched widely, as if their strings were on the point of
breaking, and the flames which blazed in them were red and lurid.
Disdain seemed to curl his lips and expand his nostrils; an expression
of restrained fury pervaded his whole deportment; and his resolute
attitude, and something almost like a sullen smile which marked itself
round his mouth, gave the prophetic assurance of revenge dreadfully
satisfied. His long sable mantle was wrapped round his right arm; it
had fallen from his left shoulder, and hung round him in loose
drapery; while its folds rustled wildly in the night wind, in whose
blast the tapers were flaring, and whose murmurs seemed to sigh for
the deceased, when the nuns pausing in their mournful melody permitted
its hollow voice to be heard. With every fresh gust the white plumes,
which decorated the four corners of the bier, waved themselves
backward and forward with a melancholy motion; and then did the tears
stream faster from Magdalena's eyes to think that now nothing of
motion remained to the being whom she had ever loved so fondly, except
the waving plumes with which his hearse was decorated.

And now the moment was come for depositing the coffin in the earth.
The music ceased; a profound and awful silence reigned in the chapel,
only interrupted by the loud sobbing of a young page, who had thrown
himself on his knees and who, by enveloping his head in his cloak, had
endeavored without success to prevent his grief from becoming audible.
Though his face was thus concealed, his light and graceful form, the
long tresses of his dark golden hair which streamed in the night wind,
and still more the enthusiastic extravagance of his sorrow, left
Osbright no doubt who was the mourner. It was the young Eugene, Count
Rudiger's beloved but unacknowledged offspring.

Four of the friars had now approached the bier; they raised the coffin
in silence and bore it toward the open grave. The heavy sound of their
departing footsteps roused Magdalena; she extended her arms toward the
coffin and started forward a few paces, as if she wished to detain the
bearers. But a moment's recollection was sufficient to make her feel
the inutility of delay; and folding her arms across upon her bosom,
she bowed her head in humble resignation. Her lord still remained
without motion.

The coffin was lowered gently into the grave; it disappeared, and the
attendants were on the point of covering it with the appointed marble,
when Eugene uttered a loud shriek.

"Oh! Not yet! Not yet!" he cried, while he started from the ground,
and rushing forward, he arrested the arm of one of the friars, who
held the monumental stone. His eyes were swollen with weeping, his
gestures were wild as a maniac's, and his voice was the very accent of
despair.---"Oh! not yet!" he exclaimed. "He was the only being in the
world that ever really loved me! The slightest drop of blood in his
veins was dearer to me than those which warm my own heart! I cannot
endure to part with him for ever! Oh! not yet, father! good father,
not yet!"

The youth was now kneeling on the verge of the grave, and he bent down
his head and bathed the friar's feet with his tears in all the
humility of supplication. As yet Magdalena had borne her sorrow like a
heroine; but the unexpected shriek of Eugene, the heart-piercing
hopeless tone in which he pronounced the words of "for ever!" was more
than her fortitude could bear. She uttered a deep sigh, and sank
insensible into the arms of her attendants; while Rudiger (whom the
page's cry of agony had also roused from his gloomy meditations)
sprang forward with a furious look, and plunged into the grave.

With involuntary horror the friars started back, and then as if
changed to stone by a Gorgon's head, they remained gazing upon the
dreadful countenance, which presented itself before them.

Count Rudiger's stature was colossal; the grave in which he stood,
scarcely rose above his knees.

His eyes blazed; his mouth foamed; his coal-black hair stood erect, in
which he twisted his hands, and tearing out whole handsful by the
roots, he strewed them on the coffin, which stood beside his feet.

"Right! right!" he cried, while his thundering voice shook the vaults
above him, and while he stamped upon the hallowed earth with impotent
fury. "Right, Eugene! Not yet shall the earth cover the innocent
victim of avarice! Not yet shall the lips of holiness pronounce the
last long farewell! Not till I have sworn upon his coffin never to
know rest, till his death is avenged most amply; not till I have
devoted to the demons of darkness the murderer and his accursed
offspring!"

"Yes, yes! Not he alone, but his whole serpent-brood shall pay the
penalty of his crime, his wife, his children, his servants, all! all!
His vassals shall be hunted through the woods like wolves, slaughtered
wherever found; his towers shall be wrapped by my hand in flames, and
its shrieking inmates hurled back into the burning ruins! You hear me,
friends! You see the agony which tortures my heart, and yet do I curse
alone? And yet does no voice join mine in the vow of revenge?--Nay
then, look here!--Observe this pallid face! Observe this mangled
bosom! Look on these, look on these, and join with me in one dreadful
irrevocable curse."

 "Vengeance! Everlasting vengeance on the bloody house of Orrenberg."

As he said this, he violently forced open the coffin, tore from the
shroud a lifeless body, and held it up to the gaze of the shuddering
multitude around him. It was the corpse of a child apparently not more
than nine years old; a large wound disfigured the ivory bosom; yet
even in death the countenance was that of a sleeping angel. His eyes
were closed; as Rudiger held it forth at his arm's length, the
profusion of its light flaxen hair fell over the pale lovely features
of the child; but Osbright had already seen enough to confirm his
worst suspicions. His brain whirled round, his sight grew dim, and he
sank lifeless upon a bench which stood behind him. Yet as his eyes
dosed, and before his senses quite forsook him, he could hear the
exasperated multitude answer his father's demand by a general shout
of--"Vengeance! Everlasting vengeance on the bloody house of
Orrenberg."



CHAPTER II



--"Suspicion's lurking frown and prying eye."--
R. P. Knight's, "Landscape."

The visor of Osbright's helmet was dosed, and the exclusion of air
necessarily prolonged his insensibility. When he recovered himself,
the chapel was vacant, and the lamps and torches all extinguished. The
total darkness, which surrounded him, added to the confusion of his
ideas; and a considerable time elapsed, before he could recollect
himself sufficiently to arrange in their proper order the dreadful
circumstances which had just occurred. The image of his murdered
brother haunted his imagination, and resisted all his efforts to chase
it away. Though his own education had been received principally at the
court of the Bishop of Eamberg, and therefore he had seen but little
of the young Joscelyn, that little was sufficient to make him feel an
affection most truly fraternal for the amiable child. Deeply therefore
did he regret his loss; but yet he regretted the circumstances which
attended it even more than the loss itself. His father's horrible
curse still rang in his ears; the sentence of death pronounced upon
himself would have sounded to him less dreadful, than that general
shout of the incensed vassals--"Vengeance on the house of Orrenberg!"

Bewildered, irresolute, daring scarcely to admit the possibility of
his father's solemn assertion being unfounded, and heaving many a sigh
of anguish over the probable ruin of all has schemes of happiness, did
Osbright quit the gallery and pursue his way to the great entrance of
the chapel.

The darkness was profound, and he reached the gates with some
difficulty; but here he found his intention of departure completely
frustrated. During his swoon the doors had been carefully locked and
barred, and though his strength was great, it was still insufficient
to enable him to force them open.

Exhausted with his fruitless efforts, he abandoned the attempt, and
had made up his mind to return to the matted gallery and remain there
quietly till morning should enable him to regain his liberty; when he
recollected, that at the further extremity of the aisle there existed
a cell, which generally was tenanted by one of the Brethren of St.
John, whose office it was to keep the chapel in order, and by whose
care in all probability the doors had been so carefully secured.
Thither he bent his way, hoping to obtain his freedom by the friar's
assistance, and at least certain of finding a less damp and
unwholesome shelter for the night.

Feeling his way from pillar to pillar he proceeded slowly and
cautiously. It was not long, before a ray of light at some distance
guided his steps, and a low murmuring voice assured him that the cell
was inhabited. He pushed the door gently open. A lamp, which was
placed in the nook of a narrow Gothic window, threw its light full
upon the pale face and gray locks of the friar, who was kneeling
before a crucifix, with an immense rosary in his hand, and his eyes
fixed devoutly upon the Redeemer's countenance. Osbright was both too
unwell and too impatient to wait for the conclusion of his prayer; he
stepped into the cell, and the sound of his heavy spurs, which
clattered as he trod, roused the monk from his devotions. He started
up and looked round, amazed at so unusual an intrusion. But no sooner
did he cast his eye upon his visitor than he fell prostrate upon the
earth before him, loaded him with benedictions, and poured forth a
profusion of thanks to Heaven, which had thought the meanest of its
servants worthy of so unusual and distinguished an honor. Osbright had
raised his visor for the benefit of air; and the singular beauty of
his features, the noble expression of his countenance, the symmetry of
his form, and the dazzling brilliance of his armor, made the pious
brother conclude that he was honored by a celestial vision, and that
the form who stood before him was no other than the Archangel Michael.
He was so convinced of this that he was on the very point of asking
news of the Dragon when the knight hastened to dissipate his
illusion.4 "Rise, good father!" said he; "I am a mortal like yourself,
and what is more, am a mortal who greatly needs your assistance.
During the late mournful ceremony, a sudden illness overpowered me. I
became insensible; no one observed me, and I found myself on my
recovery alone, in darkness, and inclosed within the chapel.
Doubtless, you possess the means of opening the gate, and can restore
me to liberty."

"Truly can I, my son," answered the monk; "and it is but just that I
should be the person to let you out, as I was the person who locked
you in so carefully. Mercy on me, poor old man! I little thought, that
I was locking in anything better than the dead, and myself, and my old
raven Jojo."

"But oh! all ye blessed spirits! You must have been ill indeed, sir
knight; for the poor child that Count Rudiger tore out of its shroud
did not look paler than you do at this moment. Nay, in truth, it was
your paleness, which made me be so sure of your being a spirit when I
first looked on you; for I thought, that no living thing could have
had a countenance so bloodless. But how I stand here talking when I
ought to be doing somewhat to assist you!--Here, sir knight!" he
continued, at the same time hastening to a small walnut-tree cupboard,
and spreading his whole store of provisions before the stranger; "here
is some refreshment--here is bread--and fruit--and hard eggs--and here
is even some venison for you; for alas, the day! I am old and weak,
and our Abbot has forbidden my fasting and keeping the spare holy
diet, which I used, and which I ought to keep. Alt! I shall never have
the good fortune to be a saint, nor even a martyr, Heaven help me! But
I will not murmur at Providence, sinner that I am for saying so! Now,
good sir knight, eat, and refresh yourself, for it makes my heart
bleed to see you look so pale. And see! I protest, I had like to have
forgotten the best of all. Here is a small bottle of a most rare
cordial; it was given me by Sister Radigonda, the fat portress of St.
Hildegarde's, and she assured me that its virtue was sovereign. Now
taste it, good son, I beseech you! I am sure it will do you service;
not that I ever tried its good qualities myself; but Sister Radigonda
has, and she's a devouted person, who (I warrant you) knows what's
good. Now taste it, dear sir knight! In the name of St. Ursula and the
eleven thousand virgins 5 (rest their souls, though nobody was ever
lucky enough to find their blessed bodies!) I beseech you, now, taste
it!"

The benevolent manner of the old man was irresistible. Osbright
partook of the cordial, and the warmth which immediately diffused
itself through his chilled veins, and the glow which it produced upon
his cheeks, sufficiently testified that Sister Radigonda had not said
too much in favor of her present. Brother Peter now pressed the youth
to partake of the viands placed before him; and Osbright, finding that
his person was totally unknown to the monk, thought that by engaging
him in conversation he might most easily and expeditiously learn the
meaning of the 4 St. Michael, prince of angels, was commonly depicted
in art as a dragon-slayer.

5 A legendary Cornish princess, supposedly slain by the Huns along
with the 11,000 virgins that she was escorting in eleven galleys to
France..melancholy transactions, which he had just witnessed in the
chapel. Accordingly, he took some of the refreshments, which his host
presented to him, and found no difficulty in leading the conversation
to the funeral and its cause; while on the other hand Father Peter,
believing his discourse to be directed to a stranger, whom curiosity
alone had led to the chapel, and who had no personal interest in the
transaction, felt no hesitation in answering the questions put to him
without disguise and in their fullest extent.

"You shall hear all that I know, sir knight," said the old man; "and I
believe, I know more of the matter than most people Indeed, you'll
marvel perhaps, how I came to know so much; but did you remark a young
page at the funeral who sobbed so piteously that one heard him in
spite of the organ? His name is Eugene; he is the Countess's page, and
(between ourselves) they do say that he is more nearly related to the
Count, than law and religion allow of; but the Count wishes this to be
kept a secret, and so I shall not say a syllable upon the subject.
Well! this Eugene is an excellent pious youth, and often comes to the
chapel, and prays upon his knees for whole hours together before the
Virgin's image, and employs all the money he can procure in purchasing
masses in hopes of removing the soul of his poor sinful mother out of
purgatory--and so he used often to bring the poor little murdered
Joscelyn to visit me in my cell, and he told me the whole matter
exactly, as I now tell it you. You must know, sir knight, that some
twenty years ago, there was an old Count of Frankheim, by name
Jeronymus, who bequeathed his large domains..."

"Nay, pry'thee, my good Father," interrupted Osbright impatiently,
"proceed to the murder at once, and leave out the bequest of Count
Jeronymus!"

"Leave out the bequest?" cried Brother Peter. "Heaven help us! you
might as well bid me tell the story of the Fall of Man, and leave out
the Apple! Why, that bequest has made the whole mischief; and into the
bargain, sir knight, I must tell my own story my own way, or I shall
never be able to tell it at all.--Well! as I was saying, this Count
Jeronymus had but one child, a daughter; and as his ruling passion was
family pride (of which, however, the present Count has a hogshead,
where the old one had but a drop), he resolved to bestow her hand and
his large domains upon the next heir. Unluckily, before his intentions
were made known to him, the next heir was already affianced to
another. Rudiger of West Frankheim and his cousin Gustavus of
Orrenberg, equally needy and equally related to Jeronymus (only
Rudiger was the eldest branch) were both suitors to Magdalena, the
rich heiress of Helmstadt, who at this very moment chose to make her
election in favor of the former. Now who was puzzled but the old
Count? What should he do? Family pride forbade his alienating the
patrimony of Frankheim from the man who at his death would be the
reigning Count; and yet paternal affection would not suffer him to
leave his unoffending daughter quite destitute. To reconcile these two
jarring passions, he bequeathed the whole hereditary estates to Count
Rudiger, and gave his daughter the Lady Ulrica his whole personal
property, besides several purchased estates of considerable value,
together with permission to bestow them and her hand according to her
own free choice. That choice fell on Gustavus of Orrenberg, who was
too greedy of wealth to refuse so advantageous a match; though he
never forgave the Lady Magdalena's rejection of him; but cherished a
secret spite in his heart against her and his successful rival."

"Indeed? Is that quite certain?"

"Oh! quite, quite! Why, Count Rudiger always said so himself! Though
to be sure Gustavus carried himself artfully enough toward him, and
would fain have been on friendly terms at Frankheim. But Rudiger was
too prudent to be deceived, and guessed that all these fair speeches
and mild looks were intended to lull him into a dangerous security,
till an opportunity should offer of doing him an injury without
danger."

"And did Gustavus ever betray any such intention by his actions?"

"Oh! Blessed Virgin! No, to be sure not! My lord was too much on his
guard to give him an opportunity! It's true, the families still kept
up an appearance of being on decent terms, and even visited; but my
lord never went to the castle of Orrenberg but well armed and
attended, and kept an eye of suspicion on everything that was passing
around him; and when Gustavus returned the visit, he must easily have
seen by my lord's looks and manner that he was aware of his being come
for no good; and so he never ventured to put his evil designs in
execution.--But how my old head rambles! I forget to tell you that
there was a worse cause of enmity than their joint-suit to Magdalena!
You must know that when Count Jeronymus found his daughter's choice to
have fallen upon Gustavus (who, after Rudiger, would inherit the
titles of Frankheim), he bethought himself of a way to render the
union of that beloved name and his large possessions more durable than
ever. Accordingly in a clause to his will he enacted, that in case
either Gustavus or Rudiger should die without heirs, the property,
which he had bequeathed to the one, should descend to the other
undiminished. Neither of them had children at the time of the old
Count's decease; but within a twelvemonth after it, Rudiger fell
dangerously ill. He lay for two days insensible; the physicians
believed him to be dead. The report spread over the whole country; and
oh! in what haste was Gustavus to take possession of the castle and
its domains! He came galloping over in all joy, when lo and behold! he
found our good lord still in the land of the living, and was obliged
to return home quite chapfallen! If the plague had broken out among
them, it could not have produced more sorrow in the castle of
Orrenberg than the tidings of this recovery!"

"Indeed! Who told you that, Father?"

"Oh! I remember that it was the common report throughout Frankheim; I
never heard anyone say otherwise. Well! sir knight, Gustavus had
scarcely got the better of this disappointment when he met with
another. The Lady Magdalena proved with child, and was safely
delivered of a fine boy, who was christened Osbright. When Gustavus
heard this, he turned as white as a corpse!"

"How know you that? Did you see him?"

"I? St. Chrysostom 6 forbid! I never saw the hypocritical assassin
(Heaven pardon me for calling him so, who am myself so hardened a
sinner!). I say, I never saw him in my whole life, not I! I would as
soon look on Beelzebub in person! No, no! I might indeed have seen him
once; but I cast down my eyes, crossed myself, and passed on. Well,
the house of Orrenberg comforted itself with thinking that Rudiger had
but one son, while the Lady Ulrica had borne four, besides a daughter.
It's true, Count Rudiger's prudence had made him send the young
Osbright out of the reach of their enmity; but still he might be taken
off by a thousand natural accidents. This hope also received its
death-blow about nine years ago by the birth of a second son to
Rudiger, this very little luckless Joscelyn. The two boys increased in
bloom and strength, as they increased in years; while the Orrenberg
children were all weak sickly creatures. One after another, the three
eldest sank into the grave; but when about six months ago the fourth
boy expired and left them with only a daughter and without hopes of
further progeny, Gustavus's spite and avarice could no longer contain
itself within bounds. He resolved to remove the objects of his
aversion, cost what it might; and you saw in the mangled body of
Joscelyn the effects of this diabolical resolution! Heaven pardon him
and me, and all sinners, Amen!"

6 St. John Chrysostom (345-407), Greek churchman, Bishop of
Constantinople..

"Aye, that murder, Father! That murder... that is what I would fain
hear! Oh! Proceed, proceed, for pity's sake! Let me know every cruel
circumstance... even though to hear it should break my heart!"

"Ah! and that would be a thousand pities, for it must needs be a kind
heart to take on so grievously at hearing a story in which you have no
concern.--Well then! You must know, that one morning the Count set
forth to hunt the hart, and his young son pleaded so earnestly to
accompany him, that the father could not resist his entreaties. The
sport was excellent; and in the eagerness of pursuit everyone forgot
to look after Joscelyn. At length the animal was taken; the hunters
found themselves at a considerable distance from home; by degrees they
all assembled, all except Joscelyn. Now then a hue and cry commenced;
the Count was half frantic with apprehensions, and his alarm was
increased tenfold, when he discovered that the chase had beguiled them
into the woods of Orrenberg. Away rode the hunters, some one way, some
another; four of the most trusty followed Rudiger, and while he made
the forests ring again with the name of Joscelyn, the hand of
Providence, in order that the murderer might be punished, guided him
to the place where the poor child had already breathed his last; it
was near a small river; the ground was stained with blood, and a huge
wound stood gaping upon his ivory bosom."

"Search was made for the assassin, who (it was evident) could not have
gone far, for the body was not yet cold! And a man, whose garments
were still crimsoned with blood, and whose countenance pronounced him
capable of committing any mischief, was found concealed in a thicket
at no great distance."

"And what reason had he for..."

"Oh! sir knight, every one guessed at the reason as soon as Martin
(the Count's squire) exclaimed that he knew the assassin, and that he
was one of the Count of Orrenberg's domestics."

"The villain too knew in whose presence he was, and addressing Count
Rudiger by his name, he fell on his knees, and entreated him not to
hurt him; a sure proof of his being conscious of some crime, else why
should he have been apprehensive of receiving hurt, sir knight? Well!
He could not deny his belonging to Gustavus, but for a long time he
persisted in swearing that he had found the child already insensible
in the wood, and that the blood had stained his clothes while
čonveying him to the rivulet, in hopes that by bathing his face with
water he might restore him to his senses. Truly, the fellow was artful
enough, and made out a good plausible story; but Rudiger was not
easily to be deceived. He had the villain conveyed to the castle of
Frankheim, and there proper means were taken for extorting from him a
confession of the truth."

"And what was that confession?"

"Exactly what everyone expected; that he had been commanded to murder
the child by his master, Gustavus of Orrenberg."

"He confessed it?--Almighty powers! Are you sure, that he confessed
it?"

"Sure of it? Why, alas-the-day! I heard him say it with my own ears.
He was asked by the Count who set him on to commit the murder, and I
heard him answer as plain as I now hear you--'Gustavus of Orrenberg.'
"

"Is it possible!" exclaimed Osbright in agony. His last lingering hope
was now destroyed, and with all his anxiety to believe Gustavus
innocent, he found himself unable to exclude the irresistible
conviction of his guilt.

"Ah! It is but too certain!" resumed the friar with a deep sigh. "One
would willingly disbelieve the existence of such villainy, but I heard
the assassin own it myself; and a hardened sinner he was! In spite of
all my pious exhortations to repentance, not a word would he confess,
though I begged him with tears in my eyes; for wicked as he was, it
almost broke my heart to see the tortures which he endured, and all
out of his own obstinacy! Since the very moment that he made the
desired confession, my lord ordered him to be taken from the rack,
though it was then but to little purpose."

"The rack?" exclaimed Osbright, seizing the old man's hand with a
convulsive grasp. "Was it then only on the rack, that he made this
confession?"

"No truly; till Count Rudiger had recourse to torture, not a syllable
would he utter, but assertions of his own and his master's innocence.
Nay, even when he was actually on the rack, he persisted in his
obstinate falsehood. He had already remained there so long that he was
scarcely unbound, before he breathed his last, poor sinful wretch!
Heaven pardon him and take him to its mercy!"

Now then the heart of Osbright again beat freely. It is true, the
death of his brother made that heart the abode of deep sorrow; but to
banish from it the belief that Gustavus was the boy's assassin was to
relieve it from a burden of insupportable agony. That belief grew
weaker with every question which he put to Brother Peter; he found
that while in possession of his strength and faculties the supposed
culprit had most strenuously denied all knowledge of the crime; that
the excess of torture alone had forced from him the declaration that
Gustavus of Orrenberg had any concern in it; that the name of Gustavus
had been suggested by the prejudices of the suspicious and already
exasperated father; and that the whole confession was comprised in the
mere pronouncing that name when the speaker was seduced into uttering
it by the certainty of immediate release from tortures the most
excruciating. Osbright had been educated at a distance from his
family, and his mind therefore had not imbibed the prejudices which
made the Count of Orrenberg be considered as an incarnate fiend
throughout the domains of Frankheim. His liberal nature inclined him
to wish all hearts to be as pure and as benevolent as his own; and his
judgment was both too candid and too keen to mistake assertions for
proofs or to be deluded by the artful coloring in which prejudice ever
paints the actions of a detested object. In defiance therefore of all
his father's endeavors, he had resolved to suspend his opinion of
Gustavus, even while his character was a matter of indifference to
him; but now that the dearest of all interests made him wish to find
him worthy, to have found him so deeply culpable would have wrung with
excess of torture the most susceptible fibers of his heart.

On reflection, he found that his plans must be delayed till the
innocence of Gustavus in this bloody business could be fully cleared
to the satisfaction of Count Rudiger and of all Germany; and he
silently vowed never to know rest till he had proved that innocence,
and ascertained, beyond the power of doubting, the real name of the
monster whose dagger had sent the blooming Joscelyn to an untimely
grave.

But how was he to commence his inquiries? Brother Peter was so fully
convinced of the guilt of Gustavus that his answers to Osbright's
questions only served to mislead his search, instead of furnishing the
unraveling clue to this mystery of iniquity. The youth anxiously
desired to talk over the business with some unprejudiced person; and
for this purpose he resolved to depart immediately for the castle of
Sir Lennard of Kleeborn. This worthy knight was, in spite of their
alienation, considered equally as a friend by the two families of
Frankheim and Orrenberg; Osbright had seen enough of his character,
during his last visit at his father's, to feel for him the highest
sentiments of esteem and reverence; and he resolved to lay his
difficulties, his hopes, and his fears before this excellent man
without disguise, and entreat his assistance in forwarding the one and
removing the others.

The moon shone bright; in defiance of the friar's entreaties he
resolved not to wait for morning, since grief and anxiety would have
prevented sleep from visiting his couch. However, being anxious to
avoid the presence of Count Rudiger till the first emotions of grief
for the loss of his child, and of passion against the house of
Orrenberg, should have subsided, he requested the monk to allow him to
find hospitality within his cell on the succeeding night, when (as he
said) his affairs would necessitate his being again in the chapel's
neighborhood. His request being readily granted, he charged the old
man to conceal his visit from everyone; and then having enforced his
charge, by a considerable present to be appropriated to the use of
Brother Peter's patron saint, Osbright vaulted upon his courser, whom
fidelity had detained near the chapel, and whose frequent neighing had
already announced his impatience at the absence of his lord.



CHAPTER III



"Alas! the spring-time's pleasant hours returning
Serve but to waken me to sharper pain.
Recalling scenes of agony and mourning.
Of baffled hopes, and prayers preferred in vain!
Thus was the sun his vernal beams displaying.
Thus did the woods in early foliage wave.
While dire disease on all I loved was preying.
And flowers seemed rising, but to strew his grave."
--Charlotte Smith.

While the castle of Frankheim resounded with cries of agony and
threats of vengeance, the spirit of tranquil sorrow reigned on every
brow and in every heart throughout the domains of Orrenberg. Seven
months had elapsed since the death of the heir of those domains, the
young and amiable Philip; the wound was skinned over, but the pain was
still felt; tears had ceased to trickle, but the heart had not yet
ceased to bleed.

Gustavus stood at an oriel-window, and contemplated the fertile
fields, which he hoped on his deathbed to have bequeathed to his
darling. The Lady Ulrica was employed at her tapestry-frame; but her
work was often suspended, while she cast a look of anxious tenderness
on the lovely Blanche (who was at work beside her), and while she
breathed a mental prayer that Heaven in mercy to an almost broken
heart would preserve to her this, her loveliest, her dearest, her only
remaining child.

The silence was interrupted by the entrance of an old female domestic,
who informed Blanche that she had at length found the canvas bag which
had been so long missing, and which she now presented to her. Blanche
hastily quitted the tapestry-frame, while her cheek alternately
colored with anger, and grew pale with apprehension.

"Oh! Rachel!" she exclaimed in a tone of reproach, "how thoughtless to
bring it hither! alt! and see! My dear mother has recognized it but
too surely, for her eyes are already filled with tears!"--And she
threw her arms affectionately round the waist of Ulrica, and entreated
her pardon for being the occasion of suggesting such painful
recollections.

"What is the matter?" demanded her father, advancing from the window.
"What distresses you, Ulrica?" Then glancing his eye on the canvas
bag, which Blanche had suffered to fall upon the ground, "Ah!" he
continued, "I need no answer! Those are the playthings of my poor dead
boy! What would you do with them, Blanche?"

"I meant to give them to the gardener's children; they were Philip's
playfellows and friends, and they have not forgotten yet, how dearly
he loved them. It was only yesterday that as I passed toward St.
Hildegarde's grotto, I met the poor children going to adorn Philip's
grave with their choicest flowers; and their father tells me, that
they mention him every night in their prayers, and never pass a day
without visiting his monument--and so I fancied that by giving these
playthings... But I wish that I had never thought at all about them,
since the sight of them has distressed you so much, dear mother! Nay
now, pry'thee, weep no more! You know, my father says that 'tis sinful
to murmur at the dispensations of Providence, and that it gives him
pain whenever he sees our tears!"

"And should not that reflection check your own, my Blanche?" inquired
Gustavus. "Why are your cheeks so wet? Fie! fie, my child!"

"Alt! Dear father, I cannot prevent their flowing, do all that I can!
When anyone seems happy, I cannot help smiling; and when anyone dies,
surely I needs must weep. But at least I obey you better than my
mother; indeed neither of us talk of Philip, but then she always
thinks of him and is always melancholy. Now I am always gay, and
endeavor not to think of him; except when something brings him
suddenly before me, and then I cannot choose but weep, or else my
heart would break in two;--for instance, when I look at these
playthings, it seems to me as if Philip were present. I think I see
him arranging his troops so busily on the ground; I think I hear him
entreating me to leave my tiresome tapestry and observe how bravely he
will fight the battle."

"'The blue,' he used to say, 'are the vassals of--Orrenberg, and the
red are the vassals of Frankheim; and now..."

"Of Frankheim, Blanche?" interrupted Gustavus, "no, no; that was not
what Philip called them. 'The red,' he used to say, 'are our enemies.'
"

"Yes, yes; our enemies, the vassals of Frankheim."

"You misunderstood him, Blanche; why should Philip call the vassals of
Frankheim our enemies?"

"Nay, dear father, are they not so? Everyone in the castle thinks and
says it."

"They, who say so, had better not say it in my hearing. The Count of
Frankheim is my nearest relation, a man of singular military prowess
and distinguished by many noble qualities. It is true, the
dissimilarity of our manners and habits, together with various other
impediments, has prevented so cordial an intimacy between the families
as should exist between such near connections; but still I entertain a
high respect for the character of the owners of Frankheim, and shall
not hear without displeasure those persons called my enemies, whom I
would willingly boast of as my friends."

"Your friends? Oh! Father! Would you call those your friends who have
poisoned your only remaining son, who have deprived me of an only
remaining brother? Ah! Should I not call these cruel people our
enemies, our worst of enemies?"

"Poisoned my son? Poisoned Philip?"

"Nay, it is the common talk of the whole castle! Every child on the
domains knows it, as well as I do, and trembles at the name of
Rudiger, the ruthless child-murderer! Nay; has not my mother openly
acknowledged that..."

"Blanche!" interrupted Ulrica hastily, "you go too far. You
misrepresent the fact. What have I ever openly acknowledged? I merely,
in confidential conversation, let fall a hint, a sort of suspicion...
that it was just possible... that to judge from appearances... that I
was almost tempted to imagine..."

"Aye, Ulrica," replied her husband, "I feared from the very first that
you were the original cause of this ill-founded report. Is there no
hope then that my entreaties and advice will ever eradicate from your
mind the only dark speck which deforms it? Of all the defects of the
human heart, there is none more encroaching, more insidious, more
dangerous than mistrust; viewed through her distorted optics, there is
no action so innocent, no everyday occurrence so insignificant, that
does not assume the appearance of offense. Words are misconstrued;
looks are interpreted! Thoughts are guessed at and acted upon, as if
thoughts were facts; the supposed fault is retaliated by a real one;
that one gives birth to more; injury succeeds injury, and crime treads
upon the heels of crime, till the web of mischief and misery is
complete; and the suspector starts in surprise and horror to find both
himself and his adversary equally involved in that guilt which but for
his suspicions would probably have been the lot of neither."

"Nay, Gustavus, why thus severe? What have I done? I assert nothing; I
accuse no one. I merely hinted at the possibility... and that, while I
have life and conscience, I must maintain---to die so suddenly! today
in all the bloom of health, and tomorrow in his coffin! Oh! That fatal
inheritance! To that shall I ever ascribe the loss of my child!--And
then the livid spots, which broke out upon my poor boy's corpse... and
the agonies which he suffered... the burning heat, and the insatiable
thirst which tormented him... and above all the rapid putrefaction...
Yes! yes! the moment that I beheld that, I exclaimed--'such a death
cannot be natural.' A dreadful light broke in upon me, and..."

"--And at that light you have kindled a torch, capable of burning to
the very ground the house of your unsuspecting neighbor, of your
nearest relation! You have inflamed the imaginations of the giddy
unthinking multitude, whose rage if once let loose and countenanced by
their superiors..."

"I inflamed them? Oh! You injure me, my husband! It is true, their
rage, their hatred against the Count of Frankheim is at this moment
extreme; but I have done my utmost to prevent their breaking out into
violence. I dread Count Rudiger; but I hate him not, for I will not
hate any one; and though your former love for Magdalena once made me
fear her influence over your heart, your uniform kindness during many
long years has totally erased all such apprehensions from my bosom. Do
not then suspect me of stirring up our people to vengeance upon the
Frankheimers."

"Alas! It needed no instigation of mine to make them understand a tale
so clear, a fact so evident that the murder circulated from lip to
lip, ere I had time to impose silence on the deathbed attendants; and
every man's own consciousness suggested to him the murderer's name."

"A tale so dear, Ulrica? Before your father's fatal bequest had raised
suspicions of each other between the families, you attended
Magdalena's lying-in--the child lived but a few hours, and expired in
your arms. Had Magdalena been as mistrustful as yourself, how well
would the tale have been told that, jealous of my former attachment to
the mother, you had privately, while pretending to kiss it, confined
the windpipe of the child, or pressed its skull together, or else. .
."

"Oh! spare me, my husband! Yes, such a tale might have been told...
Oh! horror! might perhaps have been believed. I will say nothing more;
I will accuse no one in future; I will bury all my suspicions in
oblivion; I will forgive all... if they will but leave me this one
blessing, this one darling, this my last, my only existing child!"

As she said this, Ulrica threw her arms round her kneeling daughter;
and she was still weeping upon her neck; when a domestic entered, and
announced a herald from the castle of Frankheim.

As all intimacy between the families had ceased, and they now only met
on great festivals, or at tournaments, or on some solemn occasion, it
was concluded that the herald's business related to some public
occurrence, some imperial edict, or some regulations for the welfare
of the Palatinate. The women, therefore, thought proper to withdraw.
Ulrica, greatly agitated by the conversation which had just taken
place, retired to indulge the agony of maternal regret in her own
solitary apartment; and Blanche...? The war was concluded; the troops
were dismissed; the knights were returning home.

"Perhaps!" said Blanche, and with a light step and heart full of hope,
she fled through the secret passage toward the cave among the rocks.



CHAPTER IV



--"Oh! my soul come not thou into their counsels; unto their assembly.
mine honor, be not thou united; for in their anger they slew a man,
and in their self-will they digged a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it
was fierce, and their wrath, for it was cruel."--GENESIS.

And the hopes of Blanche were not quite disappointed. It is true, the
cave was vacant: but he had been there; but he had left a token that
she was not forgotten by him. Tomorrow according to their mutual
agreement she might depend upon seeing once more the youth whose image
gratitude had engraved upon her heart in characters never to be
effaced; and then might she claim his promise of revealing to her his
real name and clearing up the mystery in which he had hitherto
enveloped all that related to him, except his adoration of herself.
Satisfied of that most material point, she had hitherto been content
to leave every other in obscurity; but now she should know everything;
now her lover would disclose himself, and authorize her disclosing
their attachment to her parents; and precious as they held her, she
still feared not their opposing her union with a man whom she loved so
tenderly and by whom she was so tenderly beloved.

Besides, her father was sinking into the vale of years; the family
required some younger and more active champion to defend them against
the nefarious designs of their mortal foe, the cruel and insidious
Count of Frankheim; and where could they find a fitter protector than
this unknown knight who had already proved the strength of his arm and
valor of his heart so successfully when he rescued her from the
banditti? Oh! When once his bride, she should no longer tremble at the
dreadful name of Rudiger! All then would be peace, security, and
happiness! And while she made these reflections, she pressed the well-
known scarf to her lips a thousand and a thousand times.

The sun was setting, and it was time for her to return home. She threw
herself on her knees before the crucifix which she had herself placed
on the rough-hewn altar; she poured forth a prayer of fervent
gratitude to St. Hildegarde, traced a cross upon her forehead and
bosom with the same holy water which had formerly quenched the thirst
of that virgin martyr, and then bidding a tender adieu to the cavern
in which she had passed so many happy moments, she sped back toward
the castle, the scarf fluttering in the evening breeze as she retraced
the secret passages.

She was proceeding toward her own apartment, when in crossing a
gallery which was connected with the great hall, she was alarmed at
seeing several of the domestics hurrying backward and forward in
confusion; she stopped, and listened; she heard her father's name
frequently repeated, and at length caught some words, as if some
accident had happened to him.

Now then everything else was forgotten in the apprehension of his
being in danger. She flew toward his apartment, which was on the other
side of the castle; but in crossing the great hall, she was detained
by the young Baron of Hartfeld..."Heaven be thanked, that I have found
you, lady!" said he, taking her hand affectionately. "The Countess
charged me to seek you, and prevent your being suddenly alarmed. Nay,
look not so terrified! On my knightly word there is no danger, and a
few hours will restore your father to that fortitude, of which the too
great sensibility of his nature has at present deprived him."

"Oh! what has happened? What has overcome his fortitude? Something
dreadful surely! Is he ill, Sir Ottokar? Oh! Assure me at least, that
he is not ill!"

"His illness is merely temporary; by this time no doubt it is quite
past. It is true, his senses forsook him for a time; he fainted,
and..."

"He fainted? Oh! Heavens! Let me hasten to him this moment..."

"You must not, till you are more calm. Your present agitation would
affect him and probably occasion a relapse. Suffer me to lead you into
a less public apartment; there you shall hear all that has happened,
and when your spirits are composed, you shall then carry peace and
consolation to the wounded feelings of your father."

But the emotions of Blanche could admit of no delay; she still hurried
onward; and as in fact Sir Ottokar had only wished to detain her, in
order that he might enjoy her society for a few minutes without
restraint, all that he had to communicate was told, before they
reached the Count's chamber-door.

Interlarding his discourse with many compliments to his auditress and
insinuations of the tender interest which he felt for her, the Baron
now related that the business of the Count of Frankheim's herald was
to accuse Gustavus of the assassination of the Count's youngest--son,
and to proclaim open and inveterate feuds between the families of
Frankheim and Orrenberg.

This the herald had not only announced to Gustavus in the most
disrespectful manner, but had thought proper to repeat the purport of
his mission publicly in the courtyard; at the same time accompanying
his speech with such insulting remarks upon their master and his whole
family, that the indignation of the vassals became outrageous, and
threatened the insolent herald with consequences the most dangerous.
The Count of Orrenberg was alarmed at the tumult and hastened to the
courtyard to appease his incensed people, whose affection for them was
unbounded. Gustavus was but lately recovered from a perilous malady,
occasioned by grief for the loss of his last male heir; he was still
in a state of lamentable weakness, and the shock of being so
unexpectedly accused of assassination had greatly increased the
irritability of his nerves, which naturally was excessive; yet still
he exerted himself most strenuously in endeavoring to quell the
confusion. But in vain did he command his vassals to be silent and
temperate; in vain did he conjure the herald to be gone, if he valued
his own safety. The insolent emissary persisted in heaping taunt upon
taunt, and slander upon slander. The people grew more incensed with
every word that he uttered; and at length overcome with agitation,
heat, fatigue, and weakness, Gustavus sank into the arms of his
attendants, and was conveyed to his apartment in a state of
insensibility. However, he was already nearly recovered when Ulrica
requested Sir Ottokar to seek her daughter and relate what had
happened, lest she should be unnecessarily alarmed.

But Blanche loved her father too dearly to believe that he was quite
out of danger till her own eyes had convinced her of his health and
safety. She found him very pale and feeble, and his recollection was
yet scarcely clear enough to permit his perfectly understanding the
events which had taken place. Blanche sank on her knees by the couch,
on which he was reposing, and threw her white arms round his neck
affectionately.

"You have heard it all, my child?" said Gustavus. "You know, of how
dreadful a crime your father is accused? But surely you will not
believe me capable of..."

"Nor she nor anyone can believe it," interrupted Ulrica, "except those
who are interested in working the destruction of you and all your
house. Nay more; everyone, except yourself, knew well, that sooner or
later the rancor and avarice of Count Rudiger must end in open war;
but I little thought that he would have advanced so gross a falsehood
as an excuse for commencing hostilities! They to accuse you of
murdering a child! They, who themselves but seven months ago deprived
us..."

"Peace! Peace! Ulrica; no more of that!--But tell me... my ideas are
still so wandering...Is it then true, that Rudiger's son is murdered?"

"It is but too certain. He was found dead in one of our forests, and
what makes the fact mor'e distressing is that one of our domestics was
the assassin. He confessed his crime on the rack, and died in a few
minutes afterward; died (horrible to tell!) with a lie still warm upon
his lips. For oh! my husband, in his last moments he declared that he
had been bribed by you to assassinate the poor child!"

"By me?" exclaimed Gustavus, and started from his couch. "Confessed
it? No, this is not to be endured! Under such an imputation there is
no living. Bring my armor; saddle my steed! I will hasten this moment
to Frankheim; I will assert my innocence with all the irresistible
energy of truth; I will demand to be tried by every ordeal, by fire,
by water... Nay, nay, detain me not, I must to Rudiger this instant,
and either convince him that I am guiltless, or perish by his hand."

He was rushing toward the door, but all present hastened to impede his
passage.

"Count, this is insanity!" exclaimed Sir Ottokar. "You are rushing on
inevitable destruction! Rudiger is not to be convinced. He has vowed
your destruction with the most solemn and terrible adjurations; nor
your destruction only; his vengeance includes all who are related to
you, all who love you! Your wife, your daughter, your very
domestics..."

"My daughter?" repeated Gustavus, clasping his hands in an agony of
horror, "my innocent Blanche?"

"All! All are involved in Count Rudiger's plan of vengeance! He has
sworn to give your castle a prey to the flames, and to feed them with
its wretched inmates. No man, no woman, no child, no, not the very dog
that now licks your hand, shall be suffered to escape! This did I
myself hear the Count of Frankheim swear last night at the burial of
his murdered child; and his friends, his servants, his vassals, all
made St. John's vaults echo, while with one voice they repeated the
bloody, the diabolical oath. My friendship for you, my lord, and my
alarm for the safety of the Lady Blanche, made me hasten homeward to
summon the assistance of my followers; they are mounted to the number
of forty, well-armed and accoutered, and I have conducted them hither
prepared to spill the last drop of their blood in vindication of your
innocence, and in defense of the Countess and your lovely daughter."

"I thank you, Sir Ottokar, and should there be no means of avoiding
this unnatural war, I shall profit with gratitude by your kind and
ready friendship. But still I indulge the hopes of peace. I have no
real fault toward Rudiger; and could I but contrive a personal
interview with him...could I but explain the injustice of his
suspicions... at least I will make the attempt; and perhaps... Ha!
well remembered! Kurt," he continued, addressing himself to a gray-
headed domestic, who was standing near the door, "is the herald yet
gone?"

"Gone?" repeated the old man, shaking his head with a smile of
satisfaction. "No, truly, nor likely to go, the villain!"

"Then call him hither instantly. He shall bear my request for an
interview with Rudiger, and...How is this, Kurt? Why do you still
linger here? I would have the herald come to me; bring him this
moment!"

"Bring him? Why, aye, to be sure I could easily do that; but as to his
coming, he'd find that a difficult matter... unless he can walk
without his head. Nay, my lord, it is even so, and now all's out--the
people's rage was not to be bridled; when they saw you fall, they
thought that the herald had stabbed you; they fell upon him, men,
women, and children, like so many mad people, and before one could say
'Aye' his head was off his shoulders, and nailed over the gateway
between the two great kites."

"Ulrica! Ottokar!" stammered the Count, and seemed, as if he had been
struck by a thunderbolt. "Is this true? Has my castle indeed been
polluted by so horrible an outrage?---Almighty powers! the murder of a
herald... a character, ever held sacred even among the most barbarous
nations... murdered in my own castle... almost in my own sight. Now
then indeed the mischief is irremediable. From the imputation of this
guilt never shall I be able to clear myself in Rudiger's eyes!"

"Nay, my dear lord," replied Sir Ottokar, "let not this misfortune
affect you so deeply. The insolent menial merited well such a fate; a
fate which (I can witness, as I arrived in the heat of the tumult) you
did your utmost to avert. But to save him was not within the power of
a mortal.

"His calumnies... his threats against your whole family... Your
people's hatred of Rudiger. . .their consciousness, that he had
deprived you of your son Philip by poison..."

"Aye, aye!" exclaimed Gustavus, "hear you that, Ulrica? Now then you
see the fatal effects of your mistrust! Now then you enjoy the bloody
fruits of those ungrounded suspicions, which you so lightly infused
into the minds of the rash and wanton multitude! Oh! my wife, I fear
greatly, that at the day of judgment when this murder is cited, your
hands will not appear quite bloodless! God forgive you!"

The Countess shuddered, but only answered by a flood of tears.

"Spare your lady, my noble friend," said Ottokar, taking the Count's
hand. "Even if your reproaches are deserved, they now come too late,
and the present difficulties demand our attention too much to admit of
reflections on the past. The Frankheimers are powerful and inveterate.
Rudiger has sworn the extirpation of your whole family; Osbright is
returned from the wars to assist his father's plans of vengeance;
these human wolves thirst for your blood, and...earth and heavens! can
it be possible? It is... it must be the same! Pardon me, Lady Blanche;
by what strange accident do I see that scarf in your possession?"

"This scarf? You know it, sir knight?--I came by it... that is... I
found it...as I was passing through the secret passages, which
lead..."

"The secret passages? Osbright of Frankheim lurking in the secret
passages of Orrenberg Castle?"

"Osbright?" exclaimed Ulrica in the greatest alarm. "And--you
traversed those passages alone?--Oh! my child, from what a danger have
you escaped! No doubt, his purpose there..."

"Must needs have been hostile to the inmates of this castle!"
interrupted Ottokar eagerly.

"Perhaps... perhaps, he was aware that the lovely Blanche frequented
those secret passages and hoped that his dagger might unobserved
revenge..."

"Oh! no, sir knight," exclaimed the affrighted Blanche, "you
misunderstood me! No one was lurking in the secret paths! It was not
there that I found the scarf, it was in the cavern of St.
Hildegarde... and perhaps you mistake about the scarf, too! Perhaps,
it is not Osbright's! Oh! no, no, no! Heavenly mercy forbid that it
should be!"

"Indeed?" said Ottokar, while jealousy whispered a thousand suspicions
to his mind, "nay, of that there is no doubt. It is the work of the
Lady Magdalena, and too remarkable to be mistaken."

"Besides, in saving the Palatine's life in battle, Osbright's bosom
was slightly wounded; his scarf was stained with blood, and I heard
him swear that the blood shed in his sovereign's defense was the
noblest ornament of his scarf, and should never be effaced--look,
lady, look! Osbright has kept his oath."

Blanche looked on the bloody marks; the scarf fell from her hands, and
she clasped them in an agony of despair. With every moment did Sir
Ottokar's jealous fears grow more strong, and his desire to impress
Blanche with an idea of Osbright's animosity more keen and anxious.

"But one thing more!" said Blanche with difficulty, while she almost
gasped for breath--"that horrible curse, which you spoke of... which
Rudiger... which his vassals pronounced...was it pronounced by
Osbright? Was Osbright in the chapel, when it was pronounced?"

"He was, lady! He was!" replied Ottokar, eagerly and peremptorily. "I
was near the chapel door, and saw him rush into the chapel with a
maniac's look, his eyes burning with vengeance, his lips pale with
passion, his whole frame trembling with eagerness, and with fear lest
he should be too late to join in the horrible execration. I heard
Count Rudiger devote to destruction your father, your mother, your
innocent self! I saw Osbright rush furiously forward to join his
father; and instantly every voice except my own re-echoed the dreadful
words--'vengeance! everlasting vengeance on the bloody house of
Orrenberg!'"

"And did not one kind voice," said Blanche faintly, "did no suggestion
of pity...ah! did no one utter one word to plead for the poor
Blanche?"

"No one, lady! No one, as I have a soul to save!"

"Oh! I am very faint, my mother!" murmured Blanche, and bursting into
tears she sank upon the bosom of Ulrica.

Her pale looks and trembling frame greatly alarmed her parents; but
believing her agitation to be solely produced by apprehension and by
horror at the dreadful threats pronounced against her life by the
Frankheimers, they advised her to retire to rest and compose herself.
Blanche willingly accepted the permission of departing, and hastened
to meditate in the solitude of her chamber on the fatal discovery,
which accident had just made.



CHAPTER V



"Let no one say, that there is need
Of time for love to grow;
Oh! no; the love, which kills indeed.
Dispatches at a blow.
"Love all at once should from the earth
Start up full-grown and tall;
If not an Adam at his birth.
He is no love at all."
Lord Holland from Lope de Vega.

While these transactions were passing at Orrenberg, Osbright was
anxiously employed in finding means to remove all existing prejudices,
and establish a close and lasting amity between the rival kinsmen. He
found Sir Lennard of Kleeborn willing to assist his design, and
scrupled not to lay before him the dearest secret of his bosom.

So great had been his father's apprehensions of treachery on the part
of Orrenberg, that Osbright was seldom suffered to visit his paternal
mansion. Year after year, however, having passed away without any
fatal effects arising from the supposed avaricious views of Gustavus,
and the youth being now of an age to take his own part, Count Rudiger
about nine months before had gratified himself and his fondly anxious
consort by the recall of his first-born son. The breaking out of
hostilities compelled Osbright to leave the Castle of Frankheim a
second time; but previous to his departure it had been his fortune to
rescue the lovely Blanche from the hands of ruffians, and at the same
moment to receive and impart a passion the most ardent and
irradicable.

Blanche declared her name to her deliverer and earnestly entreated him
to accompany her to the castle of Orrenberg, where her parents would
receive their child's deliverer with all the warmth of heartfelt
gratitude; but Osbright's prudence forbade his taking so dangerous a
step, especially when the discourse of his mistress convinced him how
deeply engraved, and how odious in their nature, were the prejudices
attached to the name of Frankheim in the minds of the inmates of
Orrenberg. Educated himself at the court of Bamberg, his heart was
untainted by the gloomy mistrust which (with the solitary exception of
Magdalena) he found prevailing throughout his father's domains; and
the knowledge of Blanche's family name instantly suggested to his
fancy the pleasing hope that their union might be the means of
extinguishing the animosity which prevailed between two families so
nearly related; but he found that the mind of Blanche was very
differently modeled. The Lady Ulrica was naturally of a temper timid
and suspicious. Jealousy of her lord's early attachment to Magdalena
had originally disposed her to consider the actions of the
Frankheimers in no favorable point of view; her father's unfortunate
bequest made her regard them as persons whose interest must
necessarily lead them to wish for the extinction of her family; a
variety of trifling circumstances, which her jaundiced imagination
made her see in false colors, strengthened her in this persuasion; and
the successive deaths of four sons thoroughly persuaded her that she
had not evil wishes alone to fear on the part of those who would
benefit so greatly by depriving her of her children. All these ideas
had been imbibed by her only remaining offspring. Blanche from her
infancy had been accustomed to pray, that the Virgin would preserve
her from Satan and the Frankheimers; at the mention of Rudiger's name
she never failed to cross herself; and while she was thanking Osbright
for her rescue from the ruffians, he could scarcely help smiling at
the positiveness, with which she assured him of their having been
emissaries either of his wicked father or of his bloodthirsty self!

Till these prejudices so deeply-rooted could be effaced, Osbright
thought it absolutely necessary to conceal his name and to refuse
Blanche's invitation to visit the castle of Orrenberg.

At the drawbridge he respectfully took his leave, and in return for
his service, he only requested her word of honor, that she would not
mention her adventure to any human being. Though surprised at the
entreaty, Blanche could not refuse to give this promise; not to
mention that she was herself apprehensive that if the danger which she
had run should be made public, her mother's anxious care would never
again suffer her to pass the walls of Orrenberg. This promise
therefore she gave readily; but she hesitated a little when the
unknown youth expressed an ardent hope that he should in future be
permitted to thank the Lady Blanche for her compliance. To permit such
interviews unknown to her parents, and when even herself was ignorant
of his name and quality, she felt, would be highly imprudent; but he
implored so earnestly, yet with such diffidence; be had treated her
with such respectful delicacy, while she was in his power unpro-
tected; his manners were so noble; her obligations to him were so
recent; and above all, her own inclination to see him again was so
strong, that before she was herself aware of her intention, she hinted
that she generally visited the Grotto of St. Hildegarde about two
hours before sunset. The youth pressed her hand to his lips with
respectful gratitude, breathed a fervent prayer for her welfare, and
she then hastened into the castle, her cheeks glowing with blushes and
her heart beating high with hope.

To one interview another still succeeded, and still did the unknown
knight acquire a greater influence over the heart of the innocent
Blanche. That influence he chiefly exerted in efforts to eradicate her
antipathy to everything belonging to Frankheim; but he found it a less
easy task to destroy her ill opinion of his relations than to inspire
her with a favorable one of himself.

However, his own interest in her heart appeared to be so firmly
established that he no longer dreaded lest the knowledge of his
connections should make him the object of Blanche's aversion; and when
the Palatine's summons compelled him to lead his retainers to
Heidelberg, he gave his mistress at parting a solemn promise that when
next they met, he would disclose to her his real name and situation; a
secret which she was most anxious to know, and to arrive at which, she
had exhausted all the little arts of which she was mistress, though
all were exhausted in vain.

However, he had assured her of his rank being equal to her own; and
the splendor of his dress, at once simple and magnificent, and (still
more) the variety of his accomplishments and dignified frankness of
his manners, convinced her that the sphere in which he moved must
needs be elevated.

Such was the present situation of the lovers which Osbright now laid
before the good Sir Lennard. His host heard him with evident
satisfaction; and his excellent heart exulted in the prospect of a
reconciliation between two families, the chiefs of which had both been
his earliest friends, and with whom (in despite of their disunion) he
was still upon the most amicable terms.

He therefore said everything in his power to confirm Osbright in his
attachment. He exclaimed loudly against the injustice of supposing
Gustavus to be concerned in the death of Joscelyn; he described him as
the most humane of mortals, a man whose fault was rather to push
compassion and benevolence beyond the limits of reason and prudence
than to be seduced into the commission of a crime so atrocious as the
murder of an unoffending child; and as to the tempta-tion which was
supposed to have influenced Gustavus in this transaction, he quoted a
thousand acts of disinterestedness and generosity, each strong enough
to convince even the most prejudiced, that the man who performed them
must possess a mind totally free from the pollution of avarice. In
conclusion Sir Lennard promised the youth his best offices; and as he
judged it most advisable to make the whole business known to Gustavus
as soon as possible, he engaged to visit the castle of Orrenberg the
next day, where he was certain that Osbright's proposals would be
received with eagerness. The great point, however, was to remove from
Rudiger's mind the persuasion that Gustavus had caused his younger son
to be assassinated, and he advised Osbright to spare no pains to
discover the real murderers; that mystery once cleared up, all other
difficulties he looked upon as trifles. Osbright received Sir
Lennard's advice with gratitude, promised to obey it implicitly, and
having passed the night at his friend's castle, he returned with
renovated hopes to the Chapel of St. John.

Father Peter gave him the most cordial welcome, though still ignorant
that his humble cell was honored by affording a refuge to the heir of
Frankheim. Osbright made him repeat the story of the murder
circumstantially, and among other things the old man mentioned that
the little finger of Joscelyn's left hand was missing when his corpse
was found, and that it had been repeatedly sought on the fatal spot,
but without success. This circumstance struck Osbright as very
singular, and he thought it not impossible but that it might furnish a
due to unravel the whole mystery. But with much more sanguine
expectations did he learn from Father Peter that the assassin had left
a wife, for whom (even while enduring the agony of the rack) he
expressed the most ardent affec-tion.

Was it not probable then that this beloved wife was in her husband's
confidence and could explain the motive which tempted him to commit
the crime? Osbright resolved-to examine her himself; but he found that
she had gone to visit a relation at some distance, where she was said
to be inconsolable for the loss of her ill-fated husband. To depart
without seeing Blanche was too much to be expected; he therefore
determined to pass the day in Father Peter's cell, to visit St.

Hildegarde's Grotto in the evening, and after assuring himself that
the heart of Blanche was still his own, to set forward on his
expedition without suffering a moment's longer delay.

Evening approached; and Osbright was crossing the aisle which led
toward the principal gate of the chapel when his attention was
arrested by the murmuring of a voice, proceeding from a small oratory
dedicated to the Virgin. The door was open, and he cast a passing
glance within. A youth was kneeling at the shrine in fervent prayer,
and a second glance assured Osbright that the youth was the page,
Eugene.

Enthusiasm seemed to have marked Eugene for her own, even from his
earliest infancy; and succeeding events had given to that enthusiasm a
universal cast of tender melancholy. Rudiger esteemed and admired the
Lady Magdalena; but a visit to the Convent of St. Hildegarde several
years after his marriage convinced him that he had never loved till
then. He there saw a sister of the order who made upon his heart the
most forcible impression; and though Rudiger possessed many noble
qualities, the mastery of his passions was not numbered among them.
The personal attractions which had gained for him the heart of
Magdalena were equally triumphant over the principles of the Sister
Agatha; she eloped with him from the convent, and became the mother of
Eugene.

But all the blandishments of her--seducer, whose love survived the
gratification of his desires, could not stifle in her bosom the cries
of remorse. She saw herself the disgrace of her noble family, and the
violator of the sacred marriage-bed; the dread of discovery constantly
tormented her; her perjury to Heaven made her look upon herself as a
mark for divine vengeance; she trembled every moment with apprehension
of punishment in this world, and she despaired of obtaining pardon in
the next. At length her mental sufferings became too exquisite for
endurance; she resolved to break the disgraceful chains which united
her to Rudiger and endeavor to atone for her past errors by the
penitence of her future life. She made by letter a full confession to
the Lady Magdalena; entreated pardon for herself and protection for
her helpless infant; and then hastened to conceal her ignominy in a
retreat, to discover which baffled all the inquiries of her forsaken
seducer.

Magdalena forgave her husband's faults, pitied his sufferings, and
became the benevolent protectress of his child. It was thought highly
advisable for the sake of his own respectability that Rudiger should
be supposed to have no concern in this business, and that the
disgraceful circumstances attending the child's birth should be
suppressed as much as possible. Accordingly, Eugene was educated as a
foundling, whose helpless situation had attracted Magdalena's notice
and compassion; but this fortunate delusion was not suffered to last.
The wretched mother felt that her end was approaching and could not
resist her desire to see and bless her child, though she prudently
resolved to keep her relation to him still unknown.

Remorse, and self-enforced penance the most cruel, had worn her to the
very bone. Oppressed with long travel, her feet bleeding, fainting,
dying, she arrived at the castle of Frankheim. She sought out her boy;
she saw him; and in an agony of tenderness and grief the mother's
heart betrayed her secret. The boy's character had ever appeared
singular. He entered into no childish sports; he would listen for
hours to stories of murders, or robbers, but above all he delighted in
the narrative of religious miracles and the sufferings of martyrs. His
favorite walk was in the churchyard, where he passed whole evenings,
learning by heart the rhymes engraved upon the tombstones. He was
seldom moved to laughter; even in his smile there was something
melancholy; nor had he any way of expressing joy or gratitude, except
by tears. Every word, look, and gesture already betrayed the
enthusiast; and from his fondness for all church ceremonies and his
continually chanting religious hymns, he had obtained among the
domestics of Frankheim the name of the Little Abbot.

Such was the boy, who at ten years old saw himself unexpectedly
clasped in the arms of an expiring mother, whom he had long numbered
among the dead. The sudden recognition; her wild and emaciated
appearance; her tattered garments, her bleeding feet; the passion of
her kisses, the agony of her tears; the description of her faults, of
her remorse, of her terrors of the future, of her dreadful and
unexampled penance; all these united were too much for Eugene's
sensibility to endure! When in spite of all Magdalena's efforts to
prolong her existence, the wretched mother breathed her last, the son
was forcibly torn from the corpse delirious.

No sooner had the report reached the Countess that a dying beggar had
declared herself to be Eugene's mother than she hastened to assist the
sufferer and rescue the feeling child from a scene so terrible. But
she arrived too late; a few moments terminated the nun's existence,
and Eugene had already received a shock, which during a twelvemonth
set the physician's skill at defiance.

His senses at length returned; but his heart never seemed to recover
from the wound, which had agonized it so exquisitely. Pale, drooping,
absorbed in thought, nothing seemed capable of affording him pleasure.
He declined all amusements; he neglected all attainments, both
literary and warlike: and when chided by the chaplain for inattention
to his lessons, and when mocked by the military vassals for
effeminacy, he listened to their reproofs and taunts with indifference
and answered both with silence. His time was passed in listless
indolence; he would stand hour after hour dropping pebbles in the
river and gazing upon the circles as they formed themselves and then
vanished into nothing. Vain were the exertions of Magdalena and her
husband to awaken him from this torpor of the mind; though compelled
to endure their kindness, he evidently felt it a burden, and
sedulously avoided it. Agatha's sad story occupied his whole soul; he
could not but consider Magdalena as filling the place which his mother
should have occupied; he could not but consider Rudiger as the author
of his mother's sufferings; and though the Count almost doted upon the
boy with a truly paternal tenderness, the most that he could obtain
from him was im-plicit submission and cold respect.

Eugene only saw in himself a forlorn being, whose odious birth had
branded his mother with infamy, and whose existence was given under
circumstances too disgraceful to permit his being avowed by his
surviving parent. Magdalena's kindness was the offspring of mere
compassion; the memory of his mother's wrongs was inseparably
connected with the sight of his father: he felt that he had no claim
to the love of anyone, nor did he see anyone toward whom his heart
felt love, till accident made him the preserver of the little
Joscelyn. The child had strayed from its careless nurse, and fell into
the river. No one but Eugene saw its danger, who having obstinately
refused to practice all manly exercises was totally ignorant of the
art of swimming. The river was deep, the stream was strong; to attempt
to save Joscelyn was to expose himself to equal danger; yet without a
moment's hesitation did the effeminate Eugene plunge into the river,
grasp the child's garments with one hand and the bough of a neighbor.
ing willow with the other; and thus did he sustain his already
insensible burden, till his frantic cries attracted the notice of the
domestics. They hastened to the place, and arriving at the very moment
when the bough giving way menaced the child and his preserver with
inevitable destruction.

From that moment Joscelyn became the object of Eugene's whole
solicitude and affection. He was his brother, was a being who had no
faults in his eyes, and was one who but for him would have been
numbered with the dead. Attachment to Joscelyn now divided his heart
with grief for the earthly sufferings of his mother and with religious
terrors for her eternal salvation. However, as he increased in years,
it was suspected in the castle, that other passions would ere long
possess no inconsiderable influence over his bosom. Though he still
shunned society, it was remarked that he only shunned that of men; in
the company of women, his habitual gloom seemed to melt into a
voluptuous languor. The Countess's damsels perceived that when they
addressed him in the language of kindness, his large eyes swam in
tears and sparkled with fire, and the rush of blood spread a hectic
crimson over his pale fair cheeks. Moreover it was observed that,
though his devotions were performed with unabated ardor, after he
reached the age of fifteen Eugene prayed to no saints but female ones.

Even now it was to the Virgin that he was kneeling when Osbright
discovered him in the oratory. During his short visits at Frankheim,
the knight's attention had been engaged by the singularity of the
page's demeanor; and though respect for his own character had induced
Rudiger to conceal the relationship between himself and Eugene from
his son's knowledge, still Osbright, prompted by his own feelings, had
neglected no means of showing the boy that he bore him much good-will.
But his advances were all rejected with the most obstinate coldness;
Eugene only looked upon him as the possessor of that place which, if
his own mother had filled Magdalena's, he should himself have
occupied; he could not help envying Count Rudiger's fortunate heir and
avowed offspring; and when he reflected that but for this odious elder
brother his darling Joscelyn would one day be lord of the extensive
domains of Frankheim, a sentiment mingled itself with his envy and
repugnance, which nothing but his religious principles prevented from
becoming hatred. As a Christian, he would not hate anyone; but as a
human being, he felt that it was impossible for him to love Count
Rudiger's eldest son and Joscelyn's elder brother.

Finding his attentions so ill repaid, Osbright bestowed no further
thought on the wayward lad; and the interest with which he at this
moment surveyed him arose from the recollection of Eugene's ardent
attachment to the murdered child. He listened in mournful silence
while the page poured forth his lamentations in a strain of devotion
the most ardent; with a thousand touching expressions, with enthusiasm
almost delirious, he described his favorite's perfections, and
bewailed his own irreparable loss; but what was the knight's
astonishment to hear the page conclude his orisons by imploring the
blessed spirit of Joscelyn to protect from every danger and watch with
celestial care the precious life of Blanche of Orrenberg!

An exclamation of surprise burst from Osbright's lips, and warned
Eugene of his being overheard. The page started from the ground, and
in his confusion a rosary formed of ebony and coral escaped from his
hands. Osbright sprang forward, and seized it, for he knew that rosary
well; and had he doubted its identity, the name of Blanche engraved
upon the golden crucifix would have removed all hesitation on the
subject; in an instant a thousand jealous fears rushed before his
fancy. The lad was singularly beautiful; his figure, light and
exquisitely formed, might have served the statuary as a model for a
zephyr;7 confusion had spread over his cheeks an unusual glow, and his
bright and flowing hair glittered in the sunbeams like dark, gold.
Osbright eyed him with displeasure and asked him haughtily how that
rosary came into his hands.

"Noble sir," replied Eugene, trembling and embarrassed; "I... I found
it.--I found it near the caves of St. Hildegarde."

"And of course you know not its owner, or I should not find it still
in your possession?"---(Eugene was silent.)

7 In classical mythology, the west wind, son of Aeolus and
Aurora.."Well! the workmanship pleases me; there is a diamond of
price; take it, Eugene, and let the rosary be mine."

He drew a ring from his finger, and presented it to the page; but it
was not accepted.

"Oh! Sir Osbright," exclaimed Eugene, and sank upon his knee; "take my
life from me; it is at your disposal; but while I live, do not deprive
me of that rosary. It is my only remembrance of an event so dear to
me... Of the day in which I first found existence valuable!--Three
months are passed, since while following my lord, your father, to the
chase, my horse became ungovernable and bore me to the brink of a
precipice. My efforts to restrain him were in vain. I at length sprang
from his back, but too late to save myself. I rolled down the
declivity and was dashed to the bottom of the precipice. I lost my
senses, but projecting shrubs doubtless broke my descent and preserved
me from destruction. On opening my eyes, I believed that my fall had
killed me and that I was in Heaven already; for near me knelt a form
so angelic, with looks so benevolent, with eyes so expressive of
compassion! And she questioned me about my safety in so sweet a
voice!"

"And she related with an air of such interest, how in returning from
St. Hildegarde's Grotto she had observed my fall; how she had trembled
for my life, and had brought water from the cave to wash off the
blood, and had torn her veil to bind up my wounded head! And then, she
bade me so tenderly be of good cheer, for that the danger was passed,
and that she hoped I should soon be quite well! Oh! How valuable did
my life then become in my own eyes when I found that it had some worth
in hers!"

"And you knew not her name?"

"Oh! no, my lord, not then; but alas! her terror too soon made me
guess it; for no sooner did I mention the castle of Frankheim as my
abode, then she uttered a loud shriek, started from the ground with
every mark of horror and alarm, and fled from me with the rapidity of
an arrow."

"Then did my foreboding heart tell me too truly that she, in whom the
bare mention of Frankheim could excite such aversion, must needs
belong to the hostile family of Orrenberg. That suspicion was
confirmed when I observed lying near me this rosary, which she had
forgotten in her haste, and whose crucifix bears the dear, dear name
of Blanche!--a name, which from that moment I blessed in every prayer!
A name, which has ever since been held in my fancy sacred as that of
my patron saint!"

"And you saw her no more? And you spoke to her no more? Nay, answer me
with frankness, boy, or I swear..."

"Oh! be patient, good my lord; I mean not to deceive you. Yes; once
more, only once I addressed her; I would have restored her rosary; I
wished to thank her for her timely succor; but the moment that she
beheld me, her former terrors returned. She shrieked out 'a
Frankheimer!' and hastened away, as if flying from an assassin.
Thenceforward I accosted her no more. I found that the sight of me
alarmed her, and I forbode to intrude upon her, whom my whole soul
adores, a presence so hateful! You now know all; noble knight, restore
my rosary."

The frankness of this narration dissipated entirely Osbright's jealous
terrors. The impassioned yet respectful manner, in which Blanche was
mentioned, and the height of admiration which the sight of her had
inspired, both pleased and softened him; and he could not help feeling
himself strongly influenced in favor of the young enthusiast, whose
heart beat so perfectly in unison with his own. Yet he judged it
prudent to conceal that favorable impression and accompany the
surrender of the rosary with a lecture on the folly of his nourishing
so hopeless a passion.

"There is your rosary," said he, assuming a severity of tone and
manner very foreign to his feelings; "though I know not, whether in
restoring it I do you any kindness. Imprudent youth, for whom do you
feel this excess of adoration? For the daughter of your patron's most
inveterate enemy; of a man accused of the murder of your dearest
friend; of one against whom scarce forty hours ago you vowed in this
very chapel..."

"Oh! No, no, no!" exclaimed the page with a look of horror. "I vowed
nothing; I took no oath; I heard, but joined not in the blasphemy; and
when all around me cursed the devoted family of Orrenberg, I prayed,
for the angel Blanche!"

"For the daughter of Joscelyn's supposed assassin? Joscelyn, whom you
professed to love so truly, that your life..."

"Oh! and I did love Joscelyn, truly, dearly! But I feel that I love
Blanche even better than Joscelyn, a thousand, oh! and a thousand
times!"

"Love her indeed? Alas, poor youth! Love whom? The only child of the
rich and noble Count of Orrenberg; after me, the heiress of all those
domains, on which you have been educated through my father's charity.
Blanche, Countess of Orrenberg, and the orphan page, Eugene, a
foundling, without family, without friend; how ill do these names
sound together! My good lad, I mean not to wound your feelings, but
observe, how hopeless is your present pursuit; rouse yourself from
your romantic dream, and erase from your heart this frantic passion!"

During this speech, the glow faded from the cheeks of Eugene; the fire
of enthusiasm no longer blazed in his eyes; the deepest gloom of
melancholy overspread his countenance. His head sank upon his bosom,
and his eyes were filled with tears.

"True! true! sir knight," said he after a short pause. "I know it
well! I am an orphan boy, without family, without friends! God help
me!"

He pressed the crucifix to his trembling lips, bowed his head to
Osbright with humility, and turned to leave the chapel.

Osbright was deeply affected, and he suffered him to pass him in
silence; but soon recollecting himself. "Stay, Eugene," said he,
calling after him, and the page stopped. "I would not have my parents
know that I am in their neighborhood; should you reveal that I am
here, my displeasure..."

"I reveal?" interrupted Eugene proudly. "I am no tale-bearer, sir
knight!"--and he quitted the chapel, his passion for Blanche inflamed
by the opposition made to it, and his antipathy to Osbright
strengthened by resentment at his being the person who opposed it.



CHAPTER VI



--"My life! my soul! my all that Heaven can give!
Death's life with thee, without thee death to live!"
Dryden.

While Osbright was employed in smoothing the real obstacles to their
union, his mistress was the victim of imaginary terror. She had
discovered in her unknown lover the son of her father's most
inveterate enemy; a man too, whom from her cradle she had been taught
to consider with horror, and who (according to Sir Ottokar's account)
had taken a most solemn and irrevocable oath to exterminate herself
and her whole family. She now believed that Osbright's protestations
were all false and only calculated to beguile her to destruction; or
else that he was ignorant of her origin, when he pretended affection;
or that, even if in spite of her bearing the detested name of
Orrenberg, he had still formerly felt a real love for her, she doubted
not that grief for his brother's murder and thirst of vengeance had
converted that love into hatred, and that he would seize the first
opportunity of fulfilling his horrible vow by plunging his dagger in
her bosom..But she prudently resolved to afford him no such
opportunity. The image of her loved preserver no longer beckoned her
to the grotto; she only saw there him whom her prejudiced fancy had
delighted to load with every vice, and who thirsted to sign in her
blood his claim to the rich inheritance of her parents. No! To St.
Hildegarde's Grotto she would venture no more; that was a point
determined! And it remained determined for a whole long day and night;
but when the second morning arrived, her resolution faltered; and when
the evening was at hand, her prudence totally failed. Yet another
hour, and the knight would be waiting for her in the cave; and for
what purpose he waited now appeared to her but of little consequence.
He might murder her, it's true; but to see him no more, she felt, was
but to perish by a more painful though more lingering death, and she
determined to ascertain the worst immediately. Her mother was occupied
by household arrangements. Gustavus was in close conference with Sir
Lennard of Kleeborn, who was just arrived; no one observed her
movements, and she employed her liberty in hastening to the Grotto of
St. Hildegarde.

No one was there; and now a new terror seized her, lest Osbright
should not mean to come. She seated herself on a broken stone which
had rolled from the rock above, and was lost in melancholy reflections
when someone took her hand gently. She looked up; Osbright stood
before her; but in the moment of surprise she only saw in him the
dreaded assassin, and uttering a cry of terror, her first movement was
to fly from the place. The knight started back in astonishment. But
she soon recollected herself, and returned.

"Is it you then?" she said, endeavoring to assume a tranquil look, and
extending her hand with a smile, equally expressive of tenderness and
melancholy; "I feared... I thought..."

"What did you think? What could your innocence have to fear?" And he
gently drew her back to the seat which she had quitted and took his
place by her side.

"I feared... that some enemy... that some assassin... that some
emissary of the Count of Frankheim..."

"Ah! Blanche! Still this aversion? To belong to Frankheim is
sufficient to become the object of your hate."

"All who belong to Frankheim hate me."

"Not all, Blanche, certainly."

"The Count at least."

"Dearest Blanche! did you but know the pain which I feel when you
calumniate the Count...! He is stern and passionate I confess, but he
has ever been an honorable man. Shall I own to you the truth, my
Blanche? The Count is my friend, is my best friend! His affection is
my proudest boast; his commands I have never disobeyed..."

"Indeed?--and never will?"

"Never; at least, I hope not! His commands from my earliest infancy
have ever been to me as a law, and... my love! why thus pale? What
alarms you? What distresses you?"

"'Tis nothing! It will soon be past! I am not quite well, and..."

"You speak still more faintly! Stay one moment! I will bring water for
you from the grotto."

"Oh! no, no, no!" she exclaimed, and detained him by his arm. He
stopped, surprised at the eagerness with which she spoke. "Yet 'tis no
matter!" she continued; "bring it, if you will; I will drink it."

"I will return instantly!" said he, and hastened to the waterfall.
Blanche started wildly from her seat; she sank upon her knees, covered
her face with her hands, and prayed for a few moments fervently and
silently.."Now then," she said in a firm voice, while she rose from
the ground; "now then I am prepared for everything. Let him bring me
what he will, be it water or be it poison, from his hands will I
receive it without hesitation, and die, if he will have it so, without
a murmur."

A consecrated goblet ever stood upon the rustic altar of St.
Hildegarde; it was supposed to be that, which had once pressed the
blessed lips of the saint, and even the starving robber respected its
sanctity. Osbright hastily filled it, and returning to his mistress,
urged her to taste the water which it contained.

Blanche received the cup with a trembling hand, and fixing her eyes
upon his countenance.

"Will it not chill me too suddenly?" she asked.

"You need not drink much of it; a few drops will be sufficient to
produce the effect desired."

"Indeed? Is it so powerful then? Nay, it is all the better. See, sir
knight, you are obeyed; from your hands even this is welcome!" And she
placed the goblet to her lips, nor doubted that she drank a farewell
to the world. "Look!" she resumed restoring the cup; "have I swallowed
enough? Are you satisfied?"

"Blanche!" exclaimed the youth, his surprise at her demeanor
increasing with every moment; "what is the matter? What means this
mysterious conduct? You seem to me so much altered..."

"Already? Does it then work so speedily? Nay, then I must be sudden,
and here all disguise shall end. You promised, when I saw you last,
that at our next meeting you would disclose your name. I know it
already, Osbright of Frankheim; know the hatred which you bear to me
and mine; know the dreadful oath which was taken last night in the
chapel of St. John, and know also that you have now made one step
toward fulfilling it. Osbright, when I raised yonder goblet to my
lips, I was not ignorant that it contained poison ..."

"Poison?" interrupted Osbright. "What! you believe then... you
suspect... yet believe it still! Yes, Blanche, yes! Let this convince
you that the cup which you have tasted, Osbright will raise to his
lips with joy, even though that cup be poisoned!"--and he seized the
goblet, and drank its contents with eagerness.

"Osbright! My own Osbright!" exclaimed Blanche, and sank upon her
lover's bosom. "Oh! that it were indeed poison, and that I might die
with you in this moment, for to live with you I feel myself unworthy!
Shame upon me! How could I for one instant belie your generous nature
so grossly! Never, no, never more will I suspect..."

"Nor me, nor any one, my Blanche, I hope, without some better reason.
Oh! banish from your bosom the gloomy fiend, Mistrust; so pure a
shrine should never be polluted by an inmate so odious! Away with the
prejudices, which have been so carefully instilled into your youthful
mind; see no more with the eyes of parents; see with your own, my
Blanche, and judge by your own good heart of the feelings of others.
Then will the world again become lovely in your sight, for you will
see it the abode of truth, of virtue, of affection; then will this
host of imagined enemies be converted into a band of real friends;
then will your mind be freed from these visionary terrors, so
injurious to others, so painful to yourself, which now fill your
waking thoughts with anxiety and your nightly dreams with gloomy
recollections. You have told me yourself, that you have frequently
started from sleep exclaiming that Count Rudiger of Frankheim was at
hand; and yet this Count Rudiger is Osbright's father! You have
mistaken me; you are mistaken in him, and...?"

"In the Count? Oh! no, no, no, Osbright! Impossible! Indeed, indeed
the Count is a very fierce, a very cruel man! ah! your partiality
blinds you; but if you knew as well as I do... but I was forbidden to
mention it...?"

"And have you still secrets from me, Blanche? From this moment I have
none to you."

"Nay, look not so sad; you shall know all; and you should have known
it before, but that you ever spoke so warmly in favor of the Count
that I was unwilling to grieve you. Well then, Osbright; it is certain
(quite certain!) that the Count of Frankheim caused my poor brother
Philip to be poisoned."

"Indeed? Quite certain? And do you know, Blanche, that it is equally
certain, nay, much more certain, that the Count of Orrenberg caused my
brother to be assassinated in Burnholm wood?"

"Oh! most atrocious calumny! Oh! Falsehood most incredible! What! My
father, whose actions..."

"My father never did an unworthy action, either, Blanche."

"Nay, but I saw with my own eyes the livid spots with which Philip's
neck--I too saw with mine the deep wound which gaped on poor
Joscelyn's bosom."

"The attendants, the physician, all have told me themselves..."

"Every inmate of Frankheim Castle heard the confession..."

"That your father had bribed Philip's nurse, who left us about a week
before his illness..."

"That assassins were bribed by your father to murder Joscelyn while
hunting."

"Nay, what is more strong, my mother herself assured me..."

"But what is still stronger than that is that your father's crime was
actually confessed by the very assassins themselves."

"Well, Osbright, your surely cannot expect me to see everything with
your eyes..."

"Should I see everything with yours, Blanche?"

"Nor to believe my dear good father, whose heart I know so well,
guilty of a crime so base and so atrocious!"

"Does not the argument hold equally good for me, Blanche? Your father
may be innocent of Joscelyn's death, but so is mine of Philip's; you
love your father well, but not better than I love mine. Each thinks
the other's father to be guilty; why may not each be wrong? Both
believe their own father to be innocent, and why should not both be
right?"

"Oh! that it were so! How gladly should I banish from my bosom these
gloomy terrors which now torture it so cruelly. No, Osbright; the
heart may feel, but the tongue can never utter, how painful it is for
me to hate one who is so much beloved by you!"

Osbright thanked her by a kiss, the purest and the warmest that ever
was sealed upon the lip of woman; and he now proceeded to unfold to
her his intentions of seeking the widow of the assassin, and
endeavoring to learn from her the real motives of her husband for
murdering the innocent Joscelyn. She approved of his design, and then
urged his immediate departure, as the evening was already closing
round them and Osbright's road lay through a forest rendered dangerous
in several parts by pit-falls and not entirely free from wild beasts.
Osbright obeyed; but he first advised her to visit St. Hildegarde's
Grotto no more till his return, of which he could easily apprise her
by means of Sir Lennard of Kleeborn.

"For I must confess," he added, "though I am certain, that nothing
could induce my father to act ill deliberately, yet his passions are
so violent, and so frequently overcome his better judgment, that I
know not what extremes he might be hurried in a momentary ebullition
of fury. My brother's death (I understand) has almost driven him
frantic; he breathes vengeance against the whole family of Orrenberg;
it is rumored also that the herald whom he dispatched to signify to
your father..."

"Alas! It is but too true! The wild cruel people murdered the poor
man; but my father did his utmost to prevent the crime; indeed,
indeed, Osbright, my father was not in fault!"

"Heaven grant that it may be found so; but at present appearances are
greatly against Count Gustavus, and this unlucky event will make my
father's resentment burn with ten-fold fury. He is noble, generous,
benevolent, friendly... But in his rage he is terrible, and he
cherishes in his heart with unjustifiable fondness the thirst for
vengeance. Some officious vassal may observe your visits hither, and
unprotected as you are, may easily purchase his lord's favor by
delivering you into his power. Dearest Blanche, enraged as he is at
this moment, I would not even answer that your life..."

"Mine? One, who never offended him by word or deed? One, who for your
sake would so willingly love him? And you really think... Ah!
Osbright, say what you will, I fear that your father is a very wicked
man!"

"He has his faults, but they are greatly overbalanced by his virtues.
Yet I confess... there have been moments when... But let us drop this
unpleasant subject. Time presses; I must be gone. Give me your promise
not to visit this spot during my absence, one sweet kiss to confirm
that promise, and then farewell, my Blanche."

The promise was given; the kiss was taken; the farewell was said; and
then Osbright, having conducted his mistress in safety to the spot
which concealed the private entrance to Orrenberg Castle (and which
was within a very short distance of the cave) returned to the place,
where he had fastened his courser, and giving him the spur, was soon
concealed within the shades of the neighboring forest.

But scarcely had he quitted her, when Blanche recollected that the
consecrated goblet was left on the outside of the cave. To replace
this, her reverence for the saint made her think absolutely necessary;
yet the close of her conversation with Osbright made her feel no small
degree of repugnance to revisiting the grotto by herself. However, it
was so near that she could not suppose it possible for her to meet
with any danger during the few minutes which it would take her to
perform this duty, and therefore after some little hesitation she
retraced her steps.

Trembling as she ran, she traversed the space which divided her from
the cave, threaded the rocky passages, and soon reached the mouth of
the cave. The goblet was replaced; an Ave was murmured before the
altar in all haste, and she now hurried back again; when as she rushed
out of the grotto--"Stay!"--exclaimed a voice, and springing from the
rock above, a man stood before her. She shrieked and started back; the
moon, which was now risen, showed her what seemed rather to be a
specter than any mortal being. His tall thin form (viewed through the
medium of her fears and seen but indistinctly among the shadows of the
surrounding rocks) dilated to a height which appeared gigantic, his
tresses fluttering wildly in the evening blast, his limbs trembling
with agitation, his face colorless as the face of a corpse, his large
eyes almost starting from their sockets and glaring with all the fires
of delirium, his hands filled with locks of bright hair torn from his
own head, and stained with blood which had flowed from his own self-
mangled bosom, such was the stranger; such was the wretched Eugene.

The terror which the sight of him evidently caused in Blanche had
prevented the page from obtruding his presence upon her any more; but
he could not prevail upon himself to abstain from the delight of
gazing upon that beauty which had made so forcible an impression upon
his youthful heart. He watched her and observed that regularly every
evening she visited the cave of St. Hildegarde; and regularly every
evening did Eugene climb the rocks among which it was situated, and
feed his hopeless passion by gazing for whole hours upon the lovely
form of Blanche. He admired the celestial expression of her
countenance, as she knelt in prayer before the shrine; he listened in
silent ecstasy, when, seated before the grotto's mouth and weaving
into garlands the wildflowers which sprouted among the rocks, she
chanted some sweet though simple ballad; he smiled, when he saw her
smile at the dexterity with which her flowery work had been completed;
and when some melancholy thought glanced across her mind, he echoed
back the sigh which escaped from her bosom. He knew not that the
wreaths were woven to deck the seat which had been hallowed by
sustaining a rival; he knew not that the sigh proceeded from grief for
that rival's absence.

And thus had whole months rolled away; and with every day did the
charms of Blanche inflame his heart with more glowing passion and
exalt his imagination to a higher pitch of enthusiasm. At length came
the fatal blow which at once destroyed this solitary source of ideal
happiness; he found not only that he had a beloved rival, but that
this rival was the man who possessed that place in his father's
affections which he would so gladly have possessed in them himself;
was Count Rudiger's avowed offspring, while he was rejected and
pointed out to the world as nothing better than an orphan and an
outcast; was the heir of the rich domains of Frankheim, while he was
condemned to a life of servitude and obscurity; in short, was the very
man toward whom of all existing beings he cherished, and had cherished
from his childhood, the most inveterate and uncontrollable antipathy.

Breathless with agitation, and fixing his nails in his bosom in order
to distract the sense of mental agony by the infliction of bodily
pain, he had witnessed from the rock above them the interview between
the lovers. He heard not their words; but he saw, as they sat, the arm
of Osbright tenderly encircling the waist of Blanche, and witnessed
the kiss which he pressed upon her lips at parting. They were gone;
yet the boy still lay extended upon the rock, stupefied by a blow so
unexpected. A few minutes restored him to sensation, but not to
himself. Horror at Josedyn's death had shaken his nerves most cruelly;
since that event grief had scarcely permitted his tasting food; that
constitutional infirmity which the knowledge of his mother's sad story
had inflamed into delirium now exerted itself with dreadful violence
upon his enfeebled frame and exalted imagination; his brain was unable
to support the shock, and he now stood a maniac before the affrighted
Blanche.

"It is she indeed!" he exclaimed. "She here again? Here, and alone!
Oh! Then it was no illusion! The night-wind murmured in my ear--
'death!'--And the screech-owl shrieked in my ear--'death!'--And the
wind and the screech-owl told me true, for you are returned on
purpose! Yes, yes; I feel it well, angel; you are here, and the hour
is come!"

"What hour? I know you not. You terrify me."

She attempted to pass him, but he grasped her by the wrist.
"Terrified? Are you not a blessed spirit, and what can you fear? I
must away to the skies, and there will I kneel and implore for you and
pray that you may speedily follow me thither! You will soon be made a
saint in Heaven, but I must prepare the way for you; take this sword,
and plunge it... Nay, nay! Why should you dread to use it? Have you
not plunged a dagger in my heart already? You have, you have! And oh!
That wound was a wound so painful... Take it, I say; take it; here is
my naked bosom!"

And as he said this, he tore open his doublet with one hand, while
with frantic eagerness he endeavored to force her to take the sword
with the other; when summoning up all her strength Blanche rushed
swiftly past him, and with loud shrieks fled through the rocky
passage. The frantic youth pursued her, in vain imploring her to stay;
with fruitless efforts did Blanche exert her speed; the maniac gained
upon her; and overcome by terror she fell breathless at his feet, at
the moment when guided by her shrieks Baron Ottokar arrived to her
assistance. He heard her scream for help; he saw her pursued by one
who held an unsheathed sword; he beheld her sink upon the earth and
doubted not that she had perished by the blow of an assassin.."Inhuman
ruffian!" exclaimed the knight, and instantly his sword struck the
supposed murderer to the earth. Then raising the trembling Blanche in
his arms, he hastened toward the castle to procure surgical assistance
for his lovely burden.

During Blanche's absence, Sir Lennard of Kleeborn was employed in the
performance of his promise to Osbright. He requested an audience of
the Count of Orrenberg, which was readily granted; but Gustavus added
that as what Sir Lennard had to state was announced to be of
importance, he begged that Baron Ottokar might share the
communication; the nature of his engagements to that young nobleman
being such that they possessed a common interest in everything. Sir
Lennard foreboded from this declaration an obstacle to his
negotiation; however, he immediately commenced it, disclosed to the
astonished Count the mutual attachment between Osbright and his
daughter, and concluded by advising him most strenuously to seize so
favorable an opportunity of putting a final close to the disputes
which had so long separated the kindred houses of Orrenberg and
Frankheim.

While Gustavus listened to this narrative, a variety of emotions
expressed themselves by turns on his countenance. Sir Lennard had
finished. The Count passed a few minutes in silence; but at length
taking his resolution decisively, he assured Sir Lennard, that most
earnestly did he desire to see amity established between the two
families; that there was no personal sacrifice which he would not
joyfully make to accomplish an event so desirable; but that
unfortunately, he had already contracted such engagements as formed an
insuperable obstacle to the union of Blanche and Osbright.

"No, my lord," hastily interrupted Ottokar; "you have contracted none,
at least if you allude to those which you have contracted with me. It
is true, last night I received your knightly word that the hand of
Blanche should be mine; and had you promised me the Imperial crown, I
should have thought the boon less valuable. But when the object is, to
prevent the effusion of kindred blood, to establish peace between the
two noblest families in the whole Palatinate, nay more, to procure the
happiness of Blanche herself, shall I suffer my own selfish wishes to
interfere? Shall I hesitate for one moment to sacrifice them to the
general welfare? No, my lord, read the heart of Ottokar more justly.
Were the affections of your daughter the prize, I would dispute it
against Osbright, against the world, and would never resign my claim
but with the last sigh of my bosom; but the possession of her hand
alone could only make me wretched. The heart of Blanche is Osbright's;
Blanche can only be happy in being his, and unless she is happy, I
must be miserable myself. Count of Orrenberg, I restore your promise;
I resume my own; let this wished-for union take place. Heaven itself
surely lighted up this flame in the bosoms of the lovers; and the hour
which gives Blanche to the envied Osbright will doubtless bury in
eternal oblivion all past offenses, all existing prejudices, all
future mistrust. It is true, my heart will bleed; but the applause of
my conscience will repay me for every selfish pang most amply. Still
consider me as your warmest friend, Gustavus; but for the sake of
Blanche, I must now refuse to be your son."

In vain did Gustavus combat this generous resignation. Ottokar was
firm, and at length the Count honestly confessed to Sir Lennard the
joy which he should feel at the accomplishment of the union in
question. The difficulty now was how to convince Rudiger of the
injustice of his suspicions respecting Joscelyn's murder, and to bring
him to view Osbright's attachment in the same favorable light. In this
also Ottokar proffered his assistance. As nephew to the Lady
Magdalena, though he was no favorite with her lord, he had ready
access to the castle of Frankheim; that lady was well aware of the
strength of his attachment to Blanche, and the generosity of her own
nature rendered her fully capable of appreciating the sacrifice which
he made in surrendering his claims in favor of Osbright's. He knew
also that the feuds between the families had long been to her a source
of mental uneasiness the most acute; that she had ever vindicated the
conduct of Gustavus, as far as Rudiger's violence would permit her
prudence to give such an opinion; and he was certain, that she would
seize with joy an opportunity of terminating disputes so odious. He
therefore proposed his immediate departure for the castle of
Frankheim, where he would make a confidential communication of the
whole business to the Countess, and discuss with her the most likely
means of gaining over to their side the inclinations of her stormy
husband. This plan was universally approved of; and without an hour's
delay Ottokar set out for Frankheim Castle, accompanied by the warmest
gratitude of Gustavus, and the highest admiration of Sir Lennard.

It was on his progress to Frankheim that the shrieks of the alarmed
Blanche had summoned him to her assistance. On his arrival with her at
the castle, immediately all was anxiety and confusion; but it was soon
ascertained that she had received no wound, though some time elapsed
before she could recollect herself sufficiently to give an account of
what had happened.

Even then, her narrative was greatly confused; alarm and anxiety to
escape had prevented her from hearing much of what the maniac
addressed to her. She could only relate, that a youth (whom she
remembered to have seen twice before, and who had confessed himself to
be a Frankheimer) had surprised her among the rocks; had accosted her
with much violence and passion, frequently mentioning the word--
"death"--and (as she believed) had told her that her hour was come.
She was however quite certain that he accused her of having attempted
"to plunge a dagger in his heart," had threatened "to make her a saint
in Heaven," and had drawn his sword to put his threats in execution;
at which she had fled, still pursued by him, till her strength failed
her, and she sank on the earth before him. Having given this imperfect
account, Blanche was committed to the care of her female attendants
and advised by the physician to retire to rest, and endeavor to
compose her ruffled spirits; advice, which she readily adopted, and
immediately withdrew to her own apartment.

Gustavus had listened to her narrative with surprise, Ulrica with
horror; and when Ottokar confirmed the assertion of Blanche that the
supposed assassin was in the service of the Count of Frankheim
(adding, that he had seen him occasionally in attendance upon
Magdalena, and that he rather believed his name to be Eugene), the
Countess darted a triumphant glance upon her husband. The latter
ordered some domestics to go in quest of the assassin and convey him
to the castle.

"Perhaps," said he, "his wound may not be mortal, and we may induce
him to explain this mysterious business. I confess, that at present it
wears a most hideous aspect; yet I cannot believe that the noble and
brave Count Rudiger would descend to so base an action as to instigate
a menial to take away the life of an innocent girl by assassination.
If indeed, he should really be guilty of an action so atrocious..."

"If?" interrupted his wife impatiently. "And is it possible any longer
to doubt his guilt? Is not everything confirmed? Does not this agree
with my suspicions respecting Philip? Suspicions, did I say? 'Twas
certainty! 'Twas fact, supported by proofs too clear to be mistaken by
any eyes, but by those of wilful blindness! Nay, I could tell you
more..."

"Indeed?" said Gustavus with a look of incredulity.

"Yes, Gustavus, yes! You remember well the fever which about two years
ago brought you to the very gates of the sepulcher? You were
recovering; you were pronounced out of danger; when a present of
sweetmeats arrived for you from the Lady Magdalena."

"And what inference..."

"Be patient; I come to the point. I warned you not to taste them, and
presented you with some conserves prepared by my own hand. You were
obstinate; you first ridiculed my fears, then chided me for
entertaining such unjust suspicions. What was the result? You ate
freely of Magdalena's present, and the very next day your fever
returned with such violence as made the physician for several days
despair of your recovery."

"It was very singular! You are perfectly correct, Ulrica; and
certainly... But stay! I think I recollect one little circumstance,
which... Exactly so! Our dispute took place in the honeysuckle bower
on the south-side of the garden, and out of patience at (what you
termed) my obstinacy, you left me in displeasure. Scarcely were you
gone, when old Grim the wolf-dog came bounding to caress me, and
springing upon me unexpectedly, Magdalena's present fell from my
hands, and the vessel broke into a thousand pieces. This accident made
me have recourse to your conserves, which were still standing on the
table; and what is something singular, old Grim (who had appropriated
the fallen sweetmeats to himself without hesitation) suffered not the
least inconvenience; while I had scarcely tasted those prepared by
your own hand, before my fever returned with violence, and I was
declared to be in danger of my life."

"Why, certainly," said Ulrica, hesitating and embarrassed, "there are
two ways of telling everything. Appearances seemed strong... I argued
to the best of my knowledge...Everybody is liable to be mistaken..."

"Are they so? Then, good Ulrica, since you find yourself mistaken in
one instance, allow the possibility of your having been mistaken in
another. In short, I insist upon it, and will not be disobeyed, that
you are henceforth silent on the subject of Philip's malady. Were he
poisoned or were he not, it is my pleasure that he should be mentioned
only as dead, and nothing further."

"Nay, Ulrica! Not a syllable more, I entreat you!--My friends," he
continued, turning to Ottokar and Sir Lennard, "advise me what to do.
This new adventure, I own, wears a very embarrassing appearance; and
yet appearances are no less strong against myself respecting the
herald's death, and still more respecting the murder of young
Joscelyn. One of my own people was found near the corpse; he declared
upon the rack with his last breath that I had instigated him to commit
the crime; and yet God sees the heart and knows that I am innocent.
Rudiger may be equally guiltless of this attack upon my child; if
fortunately, there should still be life in the assassin, and he could
be brought to confess..."

"Nay," exclaimed Ottokar, "he must confess; he shall confess! If he
refuses, the rack shall force from him..."

"And if he then declares that Rudiger set him on..."

"Then the business is ended! Then Rudiger's guilt is clear, and..."

"Indeed? Then it is also clear that I am Joscelyn's murderer. Is not
that equally well proved, Sir Ottokar, and by means exactly the same?"

The youth colored, and hung his head in confusion; nor did any one
break the silence, till a domestic entering informed the Count, that
the assassin had been removed from the place where Sir Ottokar left
him. On inquiry he had learned from some peasants that they had found
the youth bleeding profusely, but that his wound appeared not to be
dangerous; that they were preparing to convey him to the castle, when
a party of Frankheimers accidently passed that way, and, recognizing a
favorite domestic of their liege-lord, had forced him from them and
hastened to convey him out of the domains of Orrenberg.

All hopes of Eugene's clearing up this mystery being thus removed, it
was thought best that Ottokar should resume his intended visit to the
Lady Magdalena, should inform her of all that had happened, should
entreat her to account for the highly culpable conduct of the page,
and ascertain whether Rudiger was disposed to bury all mutual injuries
in oblivion; a measure which for his own part Gustavus professed
himself still perfectly ready to adopt in spite of the suspicious
transactions of that eventful evening. Ottokar immediately set forth;
but Sir Lennard remained at the castle of Orrenberg to wait the issue
of the young warrior's negotiation.



CHAPTER VII



--"The image of a wicked heinous fault lives in his eye;
that close aspect of his doth show the mood of a much troubled
bosom."--
King John.

The arrival of Ottokar at Frankheim Castle appeared to create no
trifling astonishment and embarrassment in the domestics. Suspicion
and ill-humor were expressed on every countenance; and Wilfred, the
seneschal,8 only answered the youth's inquiries for the Lady Magdalena
by a dry and sullen--"this way, sir knight!" The Countess was alone;
his appearance seemed to excite in her almost as much surprise as it
had produced on her attendants, and her reception of him was
studiously cold. But the frankness and impetuosity of Ottokar's nature
soon banished this constraint; he opened his embassy without loss of
time; and as she listened, the countenance of his auditress gradually
brightened.

The mutual attachment of Osbright and Blanche equally surprised and
pleased her; she bestowed the highest encomia on that generosity of
sentiment which had prompted Ottokar to sacrifice his own passion to
the general welfare; she declared her thorough persuasion of the
merits of the fair Blanche, and her anxiety to see these odious feuds
terminated in an amicable manner. She was also willing to give credit
to Ottokar's solemn protestations, that Gustavus was innocent of
Joscelyn's death; but she greatly feared that it would be difficult to
inspire her husband with the same confidence; especially at the
present moment when his persuasion of Gustavus's animosity had gained
additional strength from several late occurrences. The account of the
herald's murder, she said, had inspired Rudiger with a degree of
indignation, which (often as she had witnessed the strength of his
emotions) had far surpassed anything, of which she had before believed
him capable.

Ottokar hastened to clear up this transaction, at which he was
present; and his account perfectly exculpated Gustavus in Magdalena's
eyes, though (conscious of Rudiger's innate obstinacy) she was
doubtful of its being equally successful with her husband. Ottokar,
whose chief virtue was by no means that of patience, took fire at
this; and it escaped him to say that it ill became a person to be so
difficult in believing the innocence of another, who lay himself under
such strong suspicions of having instigated an assassin to commit the
very same crime. The Countess eagerly demanded an explanation and
heard with surprise and resentment which increased with every word
that in the course of that very evening a domestic of Count Rudiger
had attempted to stab the Lady Blanche and would have succeeded in his
diabolical attempt had not Ottokar arrived in time to fell the
assassin to the ground.

Ottokar was still expatiating with all the warmth of a lover on the
atrocity of the attempt; the Countess was still listening to this
dreadful charge in such horror as deprived her of all power to
interrupt her nephew; when the door was thrown open with violence, and
Count Rudiger rushed into the room.

8 A major-domo for a medieval lord, generally his steward..

"Have you heard it, Magdalena?" he exclaimed in a thundering voice,
while he stamped upon the floor with passion; "have you heard--at that
moment his eyes rested upon Ottokar, and instantly they appeared to
flash out fire. He started back; all the blood in his body seemed at
once to rush into his face; for some moments he gazed upon the youth
in terrific silence, as if he would have devoured him with his eyes.
At length--So!" he exclaimed in a satisfied tone; "here! He is here!--
What hoa! Wilfred!"--And he rushed again from the apartment, as
abruptly as he had entered.

"What can this mean?" said the amazed and trembling Magdalena; "those
looks... that well-known terrible expression... Oh! This very moment I
must be satisfied."--She hastened to a window which overlooked the
principal court, and summoned the old porter, who was then crossing
it. He soon entered the apartment, and the Countess hastily inquired
whether within the last hour any strangers had arrived at the castle
and whether her lord had seen them.

"No, lady, no strangers!" replied the old man, "but truly Martin and
his son Hans, the farmers of Helmstadt, are arrived, and sad news they
bring to be sure. By your inquiry, lady, I suppose, that you have not
yet heard what has happened at Orrenberg? Ah! the hard hearts! Ah! the
barbarians! How could they be so cruel as to hurt the poor harmless
innocent lad! One so gentle, that... the Lord have mercy! It is you,
Sir Ottokar? Why, surely you must be distracted to show your face
within these walls, after committing an act so barbarous!"

Ottokar declared his ignorance of the old man's meaning.

"Indeed? Nay, then perhaps the story is not true; Martin and Hans may
have mistaken the name, and Heaven grant it may prove so! But to be
plain, sir knight, Martin told me himself that on his road hither he
found the young page Eugene bleeding and fainting; that the peasants
who stood near him had assured him that the lad was stabbed by no hand
but yours, and that you had perpetrated this barbarous action by the
command of the Lady Blanche, under whose very eyes it was committed.
Finding that Eugene still lived, and knowing how much my lord and
yourself, noble lady, value him, Martin and his companions rescued him
from the hands of the Orrenbergers, and endeavored to bring him home
to the castle. But his wound being dangerous, they thought it safest
to stop with him at the Convent of St. John, where they left him under
the care of the good fathers, and then hastened hither to inform my
lord of what had happened. But, bless my heart! I quite forget, lady;
the Count ordered me to summon Wilfred immediately to his chamber, and
I doubt, even this little delay will bring me into anger. Your pardon,
lady; I must away this instant!"--And he hurried out of the apartment.

"Eugene?" repeated Magdalena; "Eugene wounded? And wounded by your
hand, Ottokar? A boy, a poor harmless boy? Oh! impossible! This is
some egregious mistake, and..."

"No, lady; there is no mistake in this; the peasants told the truth.
It was my hand, which struck Eugene to the ground; for Eugene was the
wretch who (as I before mentioned to you) attempted this evening the
precious life of Blanche."

"You rave, Sir Ottokar! Eugene, an assassin? The assassin of a female,
too? He, who bears to the very name of woman a love, a reverence
almost idolatrous? He, the gentlest, tenderest..."

"Lady, I saw him myself; I heard the shrieks of Blanche with my own
ears! I saw her sink at his feet in terror; I saw Eugene with his
sword drawn on the very point of plunging it in her bosom..."

"Nay, nay! Let us not waste our time in disputing about Eugene. Be he
innocent, or be he guilty, your hands are stained with his blood, and
here you are no longer in safety. So dear as Eugene is to my
husband..."

"Surely, Countess, surely, he will be no longer dear to him, when
Rudiger learns his guilt; or if he still protects him, that protection
will prove, that Rudiger himself cannot be innocent. Criminal as
Eugene is, if he can still inspire his master with any sentiment, but
indignation, but hatred..."

"Hatred? His master? Oh! Ottokar, you know not... there is a mystery
about that boy...there is a secret reason... Rudiger hate Eugene?
Eugene, who is his own... I mean... I would say... Eugene, whom
Rudiger loves as dearly, as if he were his own son!"

The eagerness with which she endeavored to recall her words; the
hesitation with which she pronounced the correcting phrase; the color
which crimsoned her cheeks at having so nearly divulged her husband's
secret; all these immediately dispelled the cloud which overhung the
birth of Eugene. Ottokar instantly comprehended how dear an interest
Rudiger took in the page's welfare, and how odious the man must appear
in his eyes who had plunged his sword in the boy's bosom. He
hesitated, what course to pursue; Magdalena advised his leaving her to
reconcile the mind of her husband to what had happened, and not to
repeat his visit at the castle, till she should inform him, that his
present offense was forgotten and forgiven; and the knight was on the
point of following her counsels when the door was again thrown open,
and the Count of Frankheim re-entered the room.

The Countess shuddered, as she cast an anxious glance upon his
countenance. His face was of a deadly paleness; the deepest gloom sat
upon his frowning brows; his burning eyes glared with terrible
expression: yet a smile of forced urbanity played round his bloodless
lips, and on his entrance he bowed his proud head toward Ottokar with
an air of unusual condescension.

"You are welcome, sir knight!" said he. "This visit affords me a
satisfaction totally unexpected. Magdalena, your nephew will need some
refreshment; will you not see that it is prepared?"

The tone in which this question was asked converted it into a command;
she was obliged to obey, and could only whisper to Ottokar in
passing--"Be on your guard, for God's sake!"

"Be seated, Sir Ottokar," resumed the Count. "Nay, no ceremony! And
now may I inquire, what lucky circumstance brings you hither? It is
not often, that Frankheim Castle is honored by your presence. You
come, I understand, from Orrenberg; you are a friend of Gustavus, and
a suitor of his daughter; is it not so? A fair lady and an excellent
choice; I am told that her influence over you is unbounded; that what
she desires, be it right, or be it wrong, you perform with all the
ardor of a true lover; and in truth, it is fitting that you should.
But as I said before, you come straight from Orrenberg; perhaps, you
bring some message from your friend Gustavus? Some conciliatory
proposal... some explanation of past circumstances... or perhaps, he
has sent me a defiance in return for mine, and your friendship for him
induces you to appear before me in the sacred character of his herald.
Am I right, Sir Ottokar?"

"As the herald of Gustavus? No, Count Rudiger: I come here as your
friend, if you will permit me to be so; as your guest, unless you have
forsworn the rights of hospitality."

"My guest? Oh! undoubtedly! You do me but too much honor! But... am I
to understand, then, that you bring no commission from Orrenberg?"

"Yes; one which I trust will convince you that I am not more the
friend of Orrenberg than of Frankheim. Count, Gustavus wishes to hold
with you a personal conference."

"A conference? With me?"

"You may well be surprised; I was so myself when he first mentioned
it; but he asserts with such solemn adjurations his innocence..."

"His innocence? Indeed?"

"He declares himself so certain of proving to your complete
satisfaction that he had no hand in Joscelyn's murder, and he is so
anxious of laying before you a plan for putting an end to all feuds in
a manner equally beneficial and agreeable to both families, that if
you will but listen to him."

"Listen to him? Oh! by all means. When you see him again, pray, assure
him that an interview with him will give me the highest satisfaction."

"When I see him? Dear Count, since you charge me with so welcome a
commission, I will hasten back to Orrenberg without a moment's delay.
Oh! From what a weight shall I relieve his mind, and how wisely do you
act in showing this readiness to conciliation! Rudiger, may the right
hand, which I thus stretch toward Heaven, wither and rot away if I am
perjured in swearing that I believe Gustavus to be innocent. Now then,
farewell! Yet hold! there are two points...two unlucky accidents,
which have lately happened... and which while unexplained... must have
produced a disadvantageous impression upon your mind, and may be the
source of future dissension. Permit me therefore to mention, that
Eugene..."

"I know it; I have heard it already. Eugene has been mortally wounded
in the neighborhood of Orrenberg Castle. You need say no more about
it."

"Not mortally, Count. I am assured, that his wounds are not mortal; I
trust that he will recover."

"Not mortal, you say? Nay, just as you please!"

"Count Rudiger!"

"Anything more? You mentioned two accidents, I think, and..."

"Before I enter upon the second, permit me to explain that if there
was any fault in the first, it proceeded entirely from the conduct of
Eugene himself. He attempted to assassinate the Lady Blanche this
evening, and..."

"Oh! to be sure! Extremely probable, and extremely wrong; the boy
deserved his fate! And I make no doubt that Gustavus supposes him to
have been instigated by me to commit this crime? Nay, I confess, that
seems highly probable too!"

"No, Rudiger, you wrong him. It is true, everyone else at Orrenberg
accuses you, but Gustavus himself loudly asserts his conviction of
your innocence."

"Fiend! fiend! Oh! artful devil... ten thousand pardons, Baron! A
sudden pain... but 'tis gone; I am quite myself again. Now then; the
second little accident...?"

"The herald whom you sent to Orrenberg two days ago was knocked on the
head; they told me so before; but of course, Gustavus had no hand in
the affair!"

"He had none, indeed. I was present myself and witnessed his exertions
to calm the fury of the mob; till unluckily, exhausted with fatigue,
and overcome with apprehension, he fainted, and while he was
insensible..."

"He fainted? That was unlucky indeed!"

"This misfortune has distressed Gustavus beyond measure; he has
commissioned me to say that any reparation which you can demand in
honor..."

"Reparation for such a trifle? Oh! absurd! The thing is really not
worth talking of."

"Count of Frankheim!"

"For after all, the man was but a herald; and what is a herald, you
know!"

"What is he? Permit me to say..."

"How is this, Sir Ottokar? You espouse the cause of heralds so warmly
that one would think you were a herald yourself; and in fact you are
so! You bring the Count of Orrenberg's messages; you make the Count of
Orrenberg's conciliatory proposals; and therefore to all intents and
purposes you are the Count of Orrenberg's herald. Is it not so, sir
knight?"

"Rudiger, I repeat it, I am here only as your friend, and as the Lady
Magdalena's near kinsman--and even should the laws of chivalry not
induce you to respect the herald, the rights of hospitality must
surely make you consider the person of your guest as sacred."

"Sacred? My guest? Oh! Undoubtedly! Nothing can be better said, or
more certain--the person of my guest must always be considered as
sacred by me; only... there is one trilling point, of which it may be
as well to make you aware.--I also am very subject to fainting."

"Indeed?" exclaimed Ottokar, starting; then fixing his eyes on those
of Rudiger, he read in them an expression which almost froze the
marrow in his bones--"Farewell, Count Rudiger!" said he, and hastily
quitted the room.

The Count remained in his seat, reclining his head upon his hand,
silent, motionless, and gloomy. Some minutes elapsed, and still he
moved not.

"Save him! Save him!" shrieked Magdalena, as she rushed into the
chamber, pale as death; "hasten to his rescue, Rudiger! For God's
sake, hasten! Look! Look"--and she threw open the window which
commanded the courtyard, and from whence the light of the full moon
and the blaze of numerous torches permitted her to observe distinctly
what was passing below. "He is surrounded... Ottokar... the people,
the whole crowd of them, with swords, with clubs...fly, fly, Rudiger,
and rescue him!--Merciful Heaven! They drag him from his horse... they
throw him on the earth... they will kill him! They will murder him!--
Nay, look yourself!"

"Come to the window; speak to the wild rabble, or their fury... Ha! he
forces himself out of their clutches! He draws his sword... he
fights... he drives them back... now, now, my lord! Now they can hear
you! Seize this interval of fear, and command them... Alas! alas! Now
they all rush upon him at once, like madmen; he defends himself still,
but their numbers..."

"Rudiger! Rudiger! For mercy's sake, for God's sake, call to them from
the window... speak one word, speak but one word, and... Ah! his
head... a blow... he staggers... and now another... and another...
it's done! it's done!--He falls! He is dead!--Oh! Blessed Mary,
receive his soul to mercy!"

She sank upon her knees, pressed to her lips the golden cross, which
hung at her bosom, and passed some minutes in fervent supplication for
the sins of her unhappy nephew. As she prayed, the excess of horror
gradually abated; religion already poured balm into her still bleeding
wounds; the thought of eternal happiness hereafter, enabled her to
sustain the weight of her present afflictions; the agony of grief was
softened into melancholy tenderness; she found, that she could again
breathe freely; and a torrent of grateful tears rushed into her
burning eyes and relieved the burden of her overcharged bosom.

She rose from her knees; she turned toward her husband, who still sat
motionless in his chair.

"Rudiger!" she said, "your guest, your kinsman has been murdered in
your castle, almost before your eyes; it would have cost you but one
word, but one look, nay, the very sight of their lord's countenance,
his mere presence would have been sufficient to recall the rabble to
their duty, and terrify them from accomplishing their barbarous
purpose! I told you what would happen; I called you; I implored you;
and still you were deaf to my cries; and still you moved not! Oh! what
cruel insensibility! Oh! what inhuman obstinacy! Now God grant that in
that bitter hour when you most want his help, he may not be as slow to
afford it as you have been to the wretched Ottokar!"

The Count replied not. The door opened, and Wilfred entered.

"Noble lord!" said he, "your orders are obeyed."

"Obeyed? His orders?" repeated Magdalena with a shriek of surprise and
horror. She fixed her eyes upon the countenance of her husband with a
look of dreadful inquiry. Every muscle in his gigantic form seemed
convulsed by some horrible sensation; the deepest gloom darkened every
feature; the wind from the unclosed window agitated his raven locks,
and every hair appeared to writhe itself. His eyeballs glared; his
teeth chattered; his lips trembled; and yet a smile of satisfied
vengeance played horribly round them. His complexion appeared suddenly
to be changed to the dark tincture of an African; the expression of
his countenance was dreadful, was diabolical. Magdalena, as she gazed
upon his face, thought that she gazed upon the face of a demon.

"Obeyed?" After a long pause she repeated once more, "Rudiger!
Obeyed!"--He raised his eyes to hers, but he could not support their
gaze. He turned hastily away, and concealed his countenance with his
robe.

"Now then," she resumed, "the whole is clear! Fool that I was! And I
called you to the innocent youth's rescue! Fye, oh! fye!--This is not
the action of a warrior, of a man! This is so odious, so despicable,
that I, your wife, your fond, your humble, your much-injured, your
ever-enduring wife, even I pronounce it odious and despicable, and
dare to proclaim aloud my hatred and my contempt. Oh! shame! shame!--
How the man sits there, and must endure to hear the just reproaches of
one whom he knows so inferior in all things but virtue; of a woman,
weak in mind, weak in body, but strong in conscious innocence, and
therefore stronger than himself! Heaven can witness with what truth,
with what fondness, with what adoration, I have ever loved you,
Rudiger; but the feeling of what is right is superior to all other
feelings; but the voice of justice will be heard; and not even the
husband of my heart, not even the father of my children is to me a
character so sacred as to stifle the sentence of my reason, of my
conscience, which cries to me aloud 'The husband of your heart, the
father of your children, is a murderer!' Your caprice, your pride,
your wayward humors, your infidelities, I have borne them all, and
loved you still; but when I see your hands stained with the blood of
your kinsman, of your guest, of a man who came hither solely for your
service, who had sacrificed to your welfare all his heart's dearest
wishes; when I see your hands stained with his blood, with his
innocent blood... Oh! Rudiger! Rudiger! is it possible that I should
ever love you more!"

Her heart agonized, her brain almost distracted, she fled from her
husband's presence, and inclosing herself within her oratory, passed
the night in prayer equally for the souls of the murdered one and of
his unhappy murderer!



CHAPTER VIII



--"Semina, floresque, et succos incoquit acres;
Addit et exceptas lund pernocte pruinas.
Et strigis in fames ipsis cum carnibus alas.
Vivacisque jecur cervi; quibus insuper addit
Ora caputque novem cornicis sacula passę."--
Ovid.

--"Here boil'd she many a seed, and herb, and flower.
And dews in moonshine culled at midnight hour.
Bat's wings, a stag's still-panting heart, and last
A raven's head, o'er which nine hundred years had past."--

While his father was thus plunging himself in an abyss of real guilt,
Osbright was hastening in eager pursuit of means to elucidate the
imaginary crime of Gustavus. The forest was thick; the way was long,
and difficult to find without a guide. Osbright had obtained ample
instructions respecting the course which he was to hold, and he
believed it impossible to make a mistake; but his mind occupied with
canvassing the obstacles, which impeded his union with Blanche and the
reconciliation of the families, and in weighing the arguments for and
against success in his present pursuit, he suffered himself to fall
into a reverie, during which his steed directed his course entirely at
his own pleasure. At length the animal thought proper to stop. The
cessation of motion recalled Osbright to himself; he looked around and
found himself in the deepest part of the wood and where no beaten path
was discernible.

Which way to guide his horse he had not the most distant idea. Highly
incensed at his own negligence, he urged his courser on at random,
being only able to decide that to remain where he was then was the
worst thing that he could do; whereas by proceeding he might possibly
either regain the proper road, or might find some peasant to direct
him how to find it. He therefore continued to hasten onward, till his
horse put his foot into a pit-fall, and entangled himself too
completely to be extricated by any efforts of his rider.

Osbright was now at a complete loss, what to do. The groans of the
animal announced that he had received some injury, though the
thickness of the boughs excluding all assistance from the moon, the
knight was unable to ascertain the nature of his hurt. A sound, like
distant thunder, seemed to foretell a coming storm, and to remind him
that it was probable in a short time that his situation would become
still more disagreeable; while his meditations on the means of
extricating himself from his present embarrassment received very
unpleasant interruptions from the howling of wolves and other wild
beasts by whom the forest was infested. Suddenly Osbright fancied that
he saw something glimmer among the trees. He hastily hewed away with
his sword some of the intervening branches, which impeded his view,
and was delighted to perceive the light of a fire, which evidently
shed its rays through the casement of a cottage-window at no great
distance. Thither he resolved to hasten, and request its owners to
assist him in recovering his horse.

He arrived at the spot, whence the light proceeded. Here stood a low
and wretched-looking hut, rudely constructed, and covered with fern
and withered boughs. Before he gave notice of his presence, the youth
judged it prudent to ascertain the nature of the inhabitants.
Accordingly he approached the small window without noise, whence he
had a perfect view into the hut's interior..A young girl, who seemed
to be about fifteen, and whose patched garments declared her to be the
child of poverty, sat upon a low stool by the hearth. Sometimes she
fed the fire with dry sticks, and at others she cast different
materials into an iron kettle, which was boiling before her.

She frequently stirred its contents and seemed extremely intent upon
her occupation. Osbright doubted not that she was preparing the repast
of her parents, or perhaps of her master, and he was on the point of
lifting the latch of the door, when he heard the girl speak, as if
addressing someone in an adjoining room.

"Yes! yes!" said she; "I hear you; all is going on well!" And then
turning again to the cauldron, "Now then," she continued; "once again!
First for father.

"Peace to his bones! May they sleep in the cell, Ne'er mingled for
mischief in poison, nor spell!"

"Rest in the coffin! All ghastly and pale, By night may his ghost
never wander and wail!"

"Joy to the soul! May he rise without fears, When the trumpet, to
sinners so dreadful, he hears."

"Now for my grandmother.

"Feuds with the Fiends! May the Hag's evil eye Ne'er cause..."

"Barbara! Barbara!" screamed a cracked voice, from the inner room.
"Idle hussy, what are you thinking about? I'm sure, you're not
repeating the three wishes!"

"Sure, are you? Nay, for certain, if the saints are half as deaf as
you are, I repeat them to little purpose. Set your heart at rest, I
tell you; I warrant you, all goes right.

"Joy to the soul! May he rise..."

"No, no! I said that; where was I? Stay! Oh! Aye, now I remember."

"Feuds with the Fiends! May the Hag's evil eye Ne'er cause our cow
Brindle to droop and to die!"

"Mercy to man! May her limbs cease to ache, Which the ague now forces
to shiver and shake!"

Safety with Saints! Let not Satan succeed In laming her tongue, when
she's saying her creed!"

"And now for myself!"

"Holy and sweet! May the knot soon be tied By the priest, which shall
make me some honest man's bride!"

"Sorrow and Joy! When in childbirth I lie, Light be my labor, and..."
Here her eye fell upon Osbright, who, having lifted up the latch of
the door softly, had entered, and was now standing beside her. "Oh!
preserve me, all blessed saints and angels!" cried the girl with a
loud shriek, and sprang from her seat. "Mercy upon me, sir knight; who
are you, and what brings you here?"

"Be not alarmed, my pretty lass!" answered Osbright. "My horse has
fallen into a pit-fall, and I need assistance to draw him out. Are
there any men belonging to this cottage, who..."

"Oh! no, sir knight; there is no one here, but myself and my old
grandmother, who is confined to her bed with a terrible ague-fit! But
to the right, you will find a narrow path which leads to the village
of Orrenberg; there you may procure assistance in plenty; it is not
above a mile off; and now, good sir knight, be gone, I entreat you!"--
And she turned again to the hearth.

"To the right, I think, you said?" inquired the youth. "My good girl,
leave your cookery to itself for a few minutes, and just point out the
path of which you spoke, and an ample reward. . ."

"Oh! no, no, no! I could not stir a step out of this room for the
universe, sir knight! So, pry'thee, interrupt me no longer, or you'll
certainly... look you there now!" she exclaimed, running to the
cauldron, and beginning to stir it again with great eagerness. "I
thought what would come of talking to me! The brewage was just going
to boil over, and then all the charm would have been to do over
again!"

"The charm?"

"No, no! Not a charm! I did not mean to say charm... . I don't know
what I meant to say; but I know, I wish, that you would not interrupt
me any longer. Now do go away, there's a good young knight; now go!"--
And she began again to mutter her rhymes.

"Barbara!" called again the cracked voice from the inner room. "For
Heaven's love, don't forget the ague!"

"No, no!" replied Barbara, "nor the cow either."

"Did I tell you," resumed the voice, "did I tell you, that the snail-
shells must be whole? If they are cracked in the least part, the broth
will be spoiled, and then the child's finger will have no power or
virtue."

"A child's finger?" Osbright started, and his heart beat violently at
the sound. He recollected that Father Peter had mentioned the loss of
Joscelyn's little finger of the right hand.

Should this prove to be the same, here was a clue furnished which
might lead to the most important discoveries! While he made this
reflection, Barbara answered her grandmother that she had observed her
caution respecting the shells, and bade her make herself quite easy.

"Good! good!" said again the old woman. "Only be sure that you put in
cobwebs enough, for that is a prime ingredient."--And now Barbara
resumed her entreaties that the stranger would leave the cottage.

"By no means!" answered he resolutely, "there seems to be something
improper going on here. A child's finger is boiling in that cauldron,
and I must know for what purpose you procured it, and in what manner
you came by it, before I stir one step from this apartment."

"Now indeed, sir knight!" cried the girl evidently alarmed, "the
purpose for which it is intended is a very harmless one. A child's
finger is boiling yonder, I must confess; but it is only to make a
spell of great virtue, though so innocent that the Virgin herself need
not have scrupled to make use of it. The kettle contains the broth of
good-luck, and whatever wishes I pronounce, while it is making, sooner
or later will all come to pass. And then when it is done, the child's
finger being passed nine times through a wedding-ring, it affords an
infallible cure for the ague and the earache; and being wrapped in the
skin of a dormouse with a sprig of St. John's wort, and laid under the
threshold of the door, it is better than an old horseshoe, and neither
witch nor devil will venture to put their noses over it; and being
dipped in bat's blood, and well rubbed in...but mercy on me, what am I
about? I ought to be alone while the broth is brewing, for my
grandmother herself must not set her foot in the room, because she's
not a virgin. Now, dear, good young knight, go along, for if any
impure person is present, the charm is quite spoiled."

"Very possibly," observed Osbright; "but though an impure person may
do so much mischief, the presence of another pure person ought to make
the work go on still better."

"Indeed? Why, as to that point, my grandmother gave no instructions,
and it may very well be, as you say, sir knight! Stay a moment, and
I'll ask her."

"By no means!" resumed Osbright, detaining her with a look of feigned
severity. "It would be quite superfluous, as I am determined not only
to remain where I am, but to know by what means the child's finger
came into your possession."

"Oh! Gracious! Sir knight! My grandmother charged me not to say a word
about the finger to any soul breathing. She said that it might bring
us into much trouble, in spite of our innocence."

"It will bring you into much more trouble, if you do not obey me
without a moment's hesitation; for I shall hasten to the next village
and depose that I found you in the very act of composing an unlawful
potion. Both yourself and your grandmother will be seized as witches,
and..."

"Oh! all ye blessed saints protect us!" cried the girl trembling in
every limb. "That is exactly what we are afraid of; that is it which
has obliged us to take refuge in this wild forest out of the reach of
every human eye. Indeed, sir knight, we are honest creatures; but my
grandmother is a wise woman and knows a power of strange secrets and
all the hidden virtues of herbs and plants; and so some ignorant evil-
minded person accused her of dealing in sorcery, and if she had not
escaped in time, the poor innocent woman would most probably have been
burnt for a witch, only because she knew a little more than her
neighbors. Now, good sir knight, do not depose against us; only
promise to keep our secret, and you shall know every syllable of the
matter as faithfully, as if I was kneeling at confession before the
Father-Abbot of St. John's himself!"

Osbright gave the required promise--and now he listened with interest,
which almost deprived him of the power of breathing, while the girl
related that a fortnight had scarcely elapsed, since she found in the
wood a young boy, apparently not above nine years old, and at the
point of death. She endeavored to save his life but in vain; he had
only time to tell her that while separated from his friends during the
chase, he had been seized by a wolf; that he had drawn his little
dagger and had defended himself so successfully, that though in the
contest he gave himself several wounds with his own weapon, he
achieved the death of the ferocious animal; but before he could
accomplish this, his bosom was dreadfully lacerated, and he had lost
so much blood before the girl's arrival, that in spite of-all her
efforts to succor him, he soon breathed his last.

Assured that he was quite dead, she left the fatal spot but took with
her the dead wolf, whose skin, she knew, would be an acceptable
winter-gift to her grandmother. The old woman, however, on hearing the
story, informed her that she had left something behind much more
valuable than the skins of all the wolves in the forest. This was the
little finger of the child's left hand, which, being boiled with
certain mystical ingredients, possessed a thousand important and
beneficial properties. Barbara greatly regretted her not having been
aware of its virtue; especially as she had taken notice, that in
struggling with the wolf the boy had broken that identical finger, and
as it seemed only to hang by the skin, nothing would have been more
easy for her than to make herself mistress of it. However, it might
possibly not be too late, and she hurried back to the scene of death.
The corpse was still lying there; no one observed her, and she secured
the finger; but in one minute more she would have been too late. She
heard footsteps approaching, and had scarcely time to conceal herself
behind a bush, when a man arrived at the place whom she well knew to
be a domestic of the Count of Orrenberg, having frequently seen him at
the castle, when she occasionally ventured thither to dispose of the
eggs of her poultry and the milk of the aforesaid cow Brindle. The
man, she said, seemed to be greatly distressed and shocked at finding
the poor child weltering in his blood; he lifted him in his arms, and
she watched him to the river's side, where she left him bathing the
child's forehead, washing the blood from the wounds, and using all
those efforts to recover him, which, experience had already assured
her, must be ineffectual. However, she judged it unwise to tell him
so, lest seeing her clothes stained with the blood which had trickled
from the dead wolf, and perhaps missing the little finger from the
child's hand, he might be induced to suspect her of having been
accessory to his death. She thereupon left him still engaged in his
charitable endeavors, and returned to her grandmother with her
important prize; the use of which, however, had been deferred till the
present evening, on account of the difficulty of collecting the other
ingredients of the charm.

Such was Barbara's narrative, and Osbright heard with rapture the
confirmation of Gustavus's innocence. He asked the girl why she had
not disclosed these circumstances when inquiry was made respecting the
child's supposed murder; but no such inquiry had reached this secluded
hut, whose existence was unknown even at Orrenberg, though so near,
and whose inhabitants had no intercourse with the rest of the world,
except when necessity compelled Barbara to venture with fear and
trembling, either to the castle to dispose of her ware or to the
village to purchase those few articles of life which were
indispensable.

Osbright rewarded the girl's information liberally, and then having
received certain instructions for reaching the neighboring village, he
set forward to request assistance for his embarrassed horse. His plans
were now changed; and instead of prosecuting his journey, he
determined to hasten to Sir Lennard of Kleeborn with the explanation
of those circumstances which (as the warrior had assured him) formed
the principal objection to his union with Blanche and to a
reconciliation between the hostile kinsmen.



CHAPTER IX



"To you my soul's affections move.
Devoutly, warmly true;
My life has been a task of love.
One long, long thought of you."
T. Moore.

Osbright found the castle of Kleeborn in all the hurry of warlike
preparation. The courtyard was strewn with swords and lances; on every
side vassals were seen employed in furbishing up their shields and
breastplates, and from every quarter resounded the noise of the busy
armorers. The youth was too eager to impart the purport of his visit
to Sir Lennard to allow himself time for inquiring the cause of all
this bustle. He hastened to his friend's apartment, and started back
in surprise and disappointment at the marked coldness with which he
was received.

With all the frankness and impetuosity of his age, he demanded the
reason of this altered treatment; and he now learned, with equal grief
and horror the crime with which his father had burdened his soul, and
the effect which it had produced at Oirenberg. Sir Ottokar had always
been particularly acceptable to Gustavus and his wife; his deference
to their opinions, and the partial interest which he had ever taken in
their concerns, had not only flattered their pride, but had even been
of essential benefit on many most important occasions. His wealth, his
power, his high birth and military talents rendered his friendship and
support a treasure to those on whom it was conferred; his evident
adoration of Blanche had made them for some time past consider him as
their future son; and the generosity, with which in their last
interview he had sacrificed his own pretensions to the wishes of
Blanche and the welfare of her family, had exalted their esteem to a
pitch of the highest admiration; a sentiment which was shared by Sir
Lennard, whose heart Ottokar's disinterested conduct had completely
won. When, therefore, the news of his murder reached Orrenberg, the
consternation, the astonishment, the grief, the thirst for revenge,
and the bursts of frantic anger, which it excited, exceeded all powers
of description. Ulrica poured forth without restraint the effusions of
all that jealousy and mistrust which she had so long stifled within
her bosom against the house of Frankheim. The gentle Blanche wept
floods of tears, alternately pitying the kind youth, who from her
childhood had been to her as a brother, and bewailing this fresh
obstacle to a reconciliation with her lover's family; while Gustavus
now mourned the loss of his friend, whom he considered as having
fallen a victim to the warmth with which he had espoused the interests
of Orrenberg, now expatiated on his numerous merits and his own
extensive obligations to him, and now vowed to enact a dreadful
vengeance for his death on the barbarous bloody Rudiger. Sir Lennard,
inspired with similar indignation, agreed that no vengeance could be
exacted too severe for such a crime; he promised to assist Gustavus in
obtaining it with his whole power; and having sworn to renounce all
intercourse with the house of Frankheim, he hastened to his own castle
to arm his vassals, and lead them to the assistance of Gustavus.

Osbright listened in the utmost consternation, while the above
circumstances were narrated by his host; but the vehemence with which
he reprobated Ottokar's murder and the agony which he evidently felt
at hearing the guilt of his father were such as speedily to remove
from Sir Lennard's mind every unfavorable impression respecting the
youth himself. The good knight, therefore, gave him his hand with his
accustomed cordiality, and assured him of his undiminished anxiety for
his welfare. Heartily did he wish his future happiness; but he added
that after his solemn promise to Gustavus, he must confine himself to
merely wishing it. Osbright must now prosecute his love-suit entirely
by his own address; if he could obtain the lady, no one would feel
more joy at his success than Sir Lennard. But never more should the
name of Osbright be pronounced by him at the castle of Orrenberg; he
had sworn it, and nothing could induce him to violate his oath.

Entreaties, that he would change this resolution, proved unavailing,
and Osbright departed with a heavy heart. Yet a hint which had fallen
from Sir Lennard had not been wasted in the air.

Could Blanche be induced to fly with him and unite her fate to his,
the Castle of Kleeborn would afford them a secure refuge during the
first storm of paternal indignation. He was himself innocent of any
offense, and doubtless Gustavus would soon forbear to confound the son
with the father. The irrevocable knot once tied, the two families must
needs reconcile themselves to a measure which could no longer be
avoided. Time, the great healer of wounds, might even obliterate the
remembrance of this atrocious act from the minds of the different
parties; and their respective interests being inseparably blended by
this marriage, Mistrust (that odious and malignant monster, which for
so long had blasted the happiness of the hostile kinsmen) must needs
perish for want of aliment. That Blanche could be persuaded to abandon
those parents, whom she loved so passionately, Osbright with justice
greatly doubted; but he resolved that at least the attempt should be
made. An interview with her must be immediately procured; then if she
refused to share his fate, he determined to bid an eternal adieu both
to Blanche and to Germany, to join the Crusaders who were on the point
of departing on their holy mission, and to lose on the ensanguined
plains of Palestine at once his sorrows, his affection, and his life.

But how was he to obtain this interview? Blanche was not to visit the
grotto till informed of his return by Sir Lennard, and Sir Lennard had
positively refused to interfere any further in the business. He in
vain looked round for some other friend to render him this service;
and after much deliberation, be determined that under pretense of
disposing of her ware at the castle, the young Barbara might easily
deliver a letter to Blanche. He, therefore, hastened once more to the
cottage in the wood. His liberality soon induced the girl to undertake
the commission. Writing materials were procured at the next village;
and Barbara soon departed with a most pressing letter, for the answer
to which he determined to wait at the cottage.

But Blanche was no longer mistress of her actions. In the height of
their indignation at Ottokar's murder, her parents had insisted upon
her renouncing all thoughts of a union with Osbright of Frankheim. Her
heart would not allow her to make this renunciation. She protested
against the injustice of implicating the son in the father's guilt and
avowed the impossibility of withdrawing her affection. Ulrica, whose
passions were violent and whose understanding was not strong, was
highly indignant at her daughter's disobedience, declared that she
would see her no more till she was awakened to a proper sense of duty,
and order her to be confined to her own apartment; as to Gustavus,
though he disapproved in his heart of such compulsory measures, yet
having entirely given up the management of Blanche to his wife
hitherto, he forbore on this occasion also to interfere with her
orders.

Willingly would the poor Blanche have complied with her lover's
request for a last parting interview, to which he had confined himself
in his letter; thinking the plan of elopement more likely to be
adopted by her if presented without allowing her time for
consideration; but how was that compliance to be effected? She was a
captive, and could not even leave her own apartment, much less the
castle. In this dilemma she resolved to appeal to her nurse, the only
person who had access to her, and one who had ever showed toward her
the affection of a mother.

The good woman at first remonstrated loudly against the impropriety of
her lady's quitting her father's home clandestinely, and insisted upon
the danger of her being encountered by the emissaries of the Count of
Frankheim, from whose bloody designs she had so lately and so narrowly
escaped. But the prayers and tears of Blanche conquered all
resistance; and on her promising to be absent but a single hour and to
wear such a disguise as must effectually prevent her being recognized
either by friend or foe, Margaret consented to assist her temporary
evasion.

Her son, a young peasant, was at that time on a visit to her and
resident in the castle. His stature was nearly the same as that of
Blanche; it was accordingly agreed, that Margaret should procure
permission for him to take leave of his young mistress, who was also
his foster sister, previous to his quitting the castle; that Blanche
arrayed in a suit of his clothes might easily elude the vigilance of
her guards, while he remained concealed in her apartment till her
return; for which his being supposed to have remembered something of
importance to say to his mother would afford a plausible reason; and
that, as the late occurrences had occasioned the private passage to be
shut up, Barbara should wait near the drawbridge to conduct Blanche to
the grotto by a path through the woods, by which means she would be
less exposed to observation and discovery than if obliged to traverse
the usual and beaten road. Blanche adopted this plan with eagerness,
and rewarded her kind nurse for her invention with a thousand
benedictions and caresses; but as this discussion had lasted till the
approach of night, it was agreed to defer the interview till the
succeeding evening..This being arranged, Barbara hastened back to the
cottage with a letter whose assurances of undiminished affection
filled the heart of Osbright with hope, joy, and gratitude. To prevent
by his presence even the possibility of danger, he engaged to meet
Barbara near the drawbridge at the appointed hour; and he now sought
the villager, to whose care he had intrusted his wounded horse, and
from whom he had borrowed a sorry beast for his excursion to the
Castle of Kleeborn.

He found his courser perfectly recovered, rewarded the villager for
his attention, and he now resolved to return to Frankheim; where his
plans made it necessary for him to furnish himself with gold and
jewels for the expenses of his journey in case of his departure for
the Holy Land, or for the sustenance of his wife in case he should be
so fortunate as to prevail on Blanche to accompany him in his proposed
flight. His course was again directed to St. John's Chapel; where the
intelligence communicated by Brother Peter, respecting Ottokar's
murder, Eugene's illness, and the state of Castle Frankheim, confirmed
him in the prudence of his determinations. He found that under the
present circumstances there was no hope of getting his father to
countenance his affection for the daughter of Gustavus; but his
knowledge of Magdalena's character and of the warm undeviating
affection she had ever borne him convinced him that he ran no danger
of her betraying him should he venture to confess to her his love and
his designs; and that if they were once made known to her, she would
assist his wishes to the very utmost of her power. Accordingly, he
requested Brother Peter to convey a letter to the Countess, which must
be delivered with the greatest secrecy into her own hands; in this, he
disclosed to her his irrevocable vows to Blanche, entreated her to use
every means to soften his father's heart toward the family of
Orrenberg, and finally requested her to transmit to him by the bearer
a casket containing gold and some jewels of value, which she would
find in a particular part of his bed chamber.

The good friar, though still ignorant of the name of his young guest,
already was too much fascinated by his manners and conversation to
refuse him any honest service; accordingly, without requiring to have
his curiosity gratified by an explanation of its nature, he readily
accepted the commission, and departed with the letter for the Castle
of Frankheim.



CHAPTER X



"Horror and doubt distract
His troubled thoughts, and in his bosom stir
The hell within him--Now conscience wakes despair
Which slumbered; wakes the better memory
Of what he was, what is, and what must be.
Worse; of worse deeds, worse sufferings must ensue."
MILTON.

Anger had satiated itself with blood; the tempest was past; the voice
of conscience now could be heard again, and dreadful was its sound in
the ears of the guilty Rudiger. Blinded by passion, he had persuaded
himself that in putting Ottokar to death he had exercised a just
retaliation for the murder of his herald; but now that the illusion
was dissipated, he shuddered at perceiving that the two actions wore a
very different complexion. Gustavus at least had given no positive
orders for the one; but no such excuse could be alleged for the other:
the one at least was sudden, and might have occurred through accident;
the other was premeditated, and could only have happened through
design; again, the herald was the partisan of a foe, and was indeed a
foe himself; but Ottokar was a friend, was a kinsman, was a guest who
had trusted to the laws of knightly hospitality and knightly honor--
laws which had been found insufficient to preserve his life Conscience
and his wife's reproaches had awakened Rudiger to a full sense of his
guilt; but instead of being beneficial, fatally dreadful were the
effect which this conviction produced upon his character. He was not a
villain; on the contrary, crimes filled his soul with horror and
indignation; nay, he possessed a thousand noble, generous, and heroic
feelings; but he was the slave of tempestuous passions, and even in
the most laudable movements of his nature, he might rather be said to
detest vice than to love virtue.

Now then, when he saw himself on a sudden the object of his own
abhorrence, of that abhorrence which he had formerly expressed so
loudly and so warmly against others; when he heard the bitter
reproaches of Magdalena, and felt in all the agony of his soul, that
her reproaches were deserved; he sank at once into the deepest gloom
of despondency, into all the horrors of self-loathing, and all the
bitterness of mental misery. He indulged no wish of reparation; he
formed no plan of repentance; he sought no excuse for his crime; he
rather exaggerated its atrocity. What he now felt toward Gustavus was
no longer suspicion, or jealousy, or ill-will!

No--it was the deepest, deadliest hatred; it was a burning thirst for
vengeance, which the blood of the whole family of Orrenberg seemed
scarcely enough to quench. He was guilty, he was the most execrable of
mortals, he was odious in his own eyes; and what punishment could be
inflicted too severe on the man, who had made him so? That man was
Gustavus; on Gustavus he swore to be revenged with the most dreadful
imprecations; the magnitude of this one crime made him consider all
future ones as but of little account, and he became the more a villain
from his very abhorrence of vice.

When the first emotions of grief and horror had subsided, and
Magdalena's heart no longer prevented her better judgment from
exercising its influence, she regretted bitterly her having exposed
her feelings so plainly before her lord. She was well aware that with
his temper reproaches could only serve to exasperate his passions, and
unqualified opposition to confirm him in a course of error. With the
dawn of morning, therefore, she hastened to his chamber, determined to
remove as much as possible the impression which she had left on his
mind at their last parting. She wished to soothe the agonies of his
bleeding conscience, to convince him gently and gradually that all
these mischiefs arose from the long-subsisting and unnatural enmity of
the two houses, and (if possible) by using the gentlest persuasion to
win from him a consent that the occurrence of similar disasters should
be prevented by the union of Blanche and Osbright, and consequently of
the dearest interests of the two families. But her good intentions
were frustrated; she was refused admittance to Rudiger, who passed the
next four-and twenty hours in the solitude of his chamber, alternately
execrating himself and others, and passing by turns from the depth of
the blackest gloom to the extreme of the wildest fury.

No one but Wilfred was suffered to approach him; nor would he quit his
chamber, till informed of the arrival of Eugene, whom (though his
wound was not mortal) it had been at first judged imprudent to remove
from the monastery of St. John. Though he had hitherto endeavored to
conceal it even from himself, partly through prudence, partly through
pride, it was in truth this unacknowledged boy who possessed the whole
paternal love of Rudiger. The difference of his sensations toward him
and Osbright partook of those which he had felt toward their
respective mothers. His esteem, his admiration were bestowed in the
highest degree on Magdalena; but his heart had never melted with love
but for the unhappy Agatha. Osbright was his heir, was a hero; he was
fond of him, but on Eugene he doted. In the one, he prized the
transmitter of his name, which was so precious to his vanity; but he
cherished Eugene for his own sake. It is true, if he had been asked--
"which of the youths should perish"--he would have sacrificed Eugene
without a moment's hesitation; for, in the bosom of Rudiger pride ever
bore a sway far superior to that of tenderness; but had he been
asked--"which of them he could consent never to see again"--he would
have felt as little doubt in answering--"Osbright"--nor perhaps would
have felt very deeply the deprivation, though the being his heir was
the strongest claim to his attention. Still the reflection, that he
must be his heir, made Rudiger entertain some little jealousy toward
him; and in the presence of Osbright, the father's self-love felt
painfully wounded by being sensible, that the perfection of his son
made the defects of his own character appear in a more glaring light.
On the other hand he saw in Eugene a poor defenseless being, whom he
had brought into a world of sorrow, where his lot was hard, and
against whose difficulties he was ill calculated to struggle. He
pitied him for his destitute situation, and he loved him for his
likeness to his wretched mother. In short, Eugene was dearer to him
than Osbright; but the pride of blood was a thousand times dearer to
him than either: he would have sacrificed his own life to preserve
Eugene's; but he would have sacrificed Eugene's as well as his own to
preserve in Osbright "the future Count of Frankheim."

No sooner was he informed of the youth's arrival, than he hastened to
visit him; but he had scarcely passed the threshold of his chamber,
when Magdalena stood before him. He started back, and a deep gloom
darkened all his features. In vain did she address him in the most
soothing language, and endeavor to extenuate the atrocity of Ottokar's
murder; he listened in silence, and only replied by a look of scornful
incredulity. In vain did she recant the too hasty declaration of her
sentiments toward him, and assure him of her undiminished affection;
the bending of his head with constrained politeness and a smile of the
bitterest irony was the only manner in which he expressed his
gratitude. His coldness hurt, and his sullenness alarmed her.

Her eyes filled with tears; she motioned to take his hand and press it
to her lips; but he drew it back, haughtily and gloomily, and passing
her without uttering a word, proceeded to the chamber of Eugene.

But no comfort awaited him there. He found the wretched youth tortured
by one of his most violent paroxysms. He raved incessantly of his
mother and of the murdered Joscelyn; of the lovely cruel Blanche, and
the happy hated Osbright. Every word which fell from his lips either
tore open a scarcely healed wound in his father's bosom or inflicted
upon it a new one. Rudiger listened with horror and remorse to the
recapitulation of the poor Agatha's injuries and sufferings; the
mention of Joscelyn's murder re-kindled in his heart the flames of
vengeance against Gustavus; but when he collected from Eugene's
ravings that the child of that very Gustavus was likely to become his
daughter-in-law; that she, whose fatal beauty had robbed his darling
son of his reason, and almost of his life, had also fascinated the
affections of his heir; and that the proud name of Frankheim was
destined to be perpetuated through a descendant of the detested race
of Orrenberg; no sooner was this discovery made to him, than his
surprise, his alarm, his indignation were extreme, extravagant,
ungovernable. He rushed from Eugene's apartment, hastened to that of
Magdalena, and entering abruptly, assailed her at once with such a
storm of passion, of threats, of vows of vengeance against Blanche,
against Osbright, against herself if he should find her privy to her
son's attachment, that it was long before the Countess could discover
the origin of his frantic behavior.

But when she did discover it, she found all efforts to appease his
fury totally unavailing. On the contrary, the attempt to soothe him,
and the bare suggestion of the advantages likely to result from
Osbright's attachment only served to increase his passion; and after
loading his wife with the bitterest reproaches, he was rushing from
the chamber, when his eye rested on a letter, which in her agitation
had fallen from her bosom unobserved. At the same moment with her
lord, she also had perceived the paper; with a cry of terror she
hastily caught it from the ground; but Rudiger had recognized his
son's handwriting, and Magdalena's evident alarm convincing him that
it contained some mystery and that a mystery of no slight importance,
be rudely forced the letter from her. One half, however, remained in
the hand of the Countess, and she hastened to conceal its contents
from discovery by throwing it into a brazier which was burning on the
hearth.

It was Osbright's letter, which Brother Peter had delivered not an
hour before. Pale and trembling with passion, Rudiger read the avowal
of his son's love for Blanche expressed in the most glowing terms, his
urgent entreaties that Magdalena would prevail on his father to
consent to their union, and his confession that for several days he
had remained in concealment at the cell of Brother Peter. He also
mentioned that he was to have an interview with Blanche that
evening...--and here the letter broke off. The object of that
interview, the place of rendezvous, the precise time of meeting, these
points were contained in the burned half of the letter; and on these
points the alarmed Magdalena resolutely refused to give any
information. Threats and entreaties were employed in vain; and having
placed guards at her chamber door, lest she should make Osbright aware
that his incensed father was apprised of the intended meeting, Rudiger
left her to meditate on the most certain means of getting the
defenseless Blanche into his power.

Wilfred was summoned to his counsels; but the seneschal refused his
assistance, till assured that his lord's designs aimed at the liberty,
but not at the life of Blanche; though perhaps had he reasoned justly,
he would have known that with a man like Rudiger, whose passions were
so impetuous, and who was ever swayed by the impulse of the moment,
her liberty once lost, her life could not for one instant be secure.
However, at present Rudiger's object was, by getting Blanche into his
hands, to prevent the possibility of her marriage with Osbright, and
to inflict the bitterest agony on Gustavus by making him tremble with
every minute for the life of his darling daughter. He also fancied
that her presence might be of great efficacy in restoring Eugene to
his senses; but he swore with dreadful imprecations that if she failed
to produce that beneficial effect, she should be the lunatic's only
nurse and continual attendant and should pass the remainder of her
existence in witnessing the frantic transports of the wretch whom her
fatal charms had ruined. Such being his avowed objects, Wilfred made
no longer any scruple of giving his advice. It was accordingly agreed
that St. John's Chapel should be watched; that Osbright should be
followed to the place of rendezvous; and that Rudiger should hasten
thither with a small body of chosen men to seize and convey Blanche to
the castle of Frankheim. But Wilfred (who dreaded the resentment of
his young lord, should he be known to have had any hand in this
business, and in whose power he should be left entirely after
Rudiger's decease) stipulated that every possible means should be used
to surprise the lady, either previous to her meeting with Osbright or
after she had parted from him, but not when the lovers were together.

By taking this precaution, he trusted that Osbright would be kept in
ignorance of the persons by whom his mistress had been carried off;
all resistance on his part would also be precluded, which otherwise
was likely to be very desperate and dangerous to the assailants; and
it might even be possible to conceal from him that the scene of his
mistress' captivity was the castle of his own father.

To these stipulations Rudiger readily consented; and everything being
now arranged, he waited with the utmost impatience for the information
that Osbright had set forward from the Chapel of St. John.



CHAPTER XI



"Why does she stop, and look often around.
As she glides down the secret stair;
And why does she pat the shaggy bloodhound.
As he rouses him up from his lair;
And though she passes the postern alone.
Why is not the watchman's bugle blown?"
W. Scott's "Lay of the Last Minstrel."

The time was arrived at which Osbright had engaged to meet Barbara
near the drawbridge; but some suspicious circumstances had alarmed
Brother Peter and made him intimate to his guest that spies were
certainly watching near the chapel gate. There was no other outlet.
Osbright, however unwillingly, thought it advisable to protract his
departure for a short time; after which Brother Peter was sent out to
examine whether the persons whose appearance had excited his
suspicions were still loitering near the place. The old man soon
returned with the report that all seemed quiet and that in his belief
his guest might now set forward without danger of a discovery. But as
much time had been lost by this hesitation, the youth doubted not that
Blanche and her companion must have long since quitted the castle of
Orrenberg and probably had already sheltered themselves within the
cave.

Thither he therefore hastened with all possible expedition, and found
his conjectures verified.

Blanche and Barbara were safe within St. Hildegarde's Grotto and
extremely uneasy at his not arriving. In two hours the drawbridge of
Orrenberg Castle would be raised, and Blanche's return prevented;
while on the other hand Barbara was uneasy at being so long absent
from her decrepit grandmother, and yet could not think of leaving
Blanche in the cavern without a companion. The arrival of Osbright at
once dispelled their uneasiness. Blanche received him with mingled joy
and sorrow; and Barbara, having congratulated the lovers on their
meeting, stated her own presence to be now superfluous and entreated
permission to return to her grandmother, who (she was certain) must be
extremely uneasy at her absence. The permission was readily granted,
and she lost no time in profiting by it.

And now did Osbright employ every resource of his eloquence to
persuade Blanche that the hour was come when they must either part
forever or must part no more. Blanche heard the assurance with agony;
but the proposal of flight, of marriage unauthorized by her parents,
was rejected by her, not merely with firmness, but even with
abhorrence. She owned that to see Osbright no more was the bitterest
of all earthly misfortunes, except to live under the consciousness of
having merited paternal displeasure. She said that in truth her
parting with him would break her heart, but her flight with him would
break the hearts of her parents; and she prayed that the vengeance of
offended Heaven might fall heavy on her head if she ever planted a
single painful feeling in those bosoms, which from the first moment of
her birth had only palpitated with love and with anxiety for her.

In answer to this, Osbright said everything that despairing passion
could suggest. In vain did Blanche assure him that no persuasion could
induce her to act in contradiction to her sense of duty. The youth
persisted in pointing out all the advantages likely to result from so
slight and so temporary a deviation from the path of strict propriety;
and he was still urging his hopeless suit, when a stone fell through
the chasm in the grotto's roof, which was at some little distance from
the rocky bank on which the lovers were seated. Osbright turned round;
a second stone fell, and was followed by a third, accompanied by a low
murmuring noise. He listened and fancied that he could distinguish his
own name. He rose, and advanced to the chasm.

"Is any one above?" said he aloud; "did any one call" "Hush! hush! sir
knight!" interrupted a voice, still whispering. "Speak softly for
Heaven's sake; I am Barbara! Oh! Sir knight, I fear that we are all
undone, or at least that the Lady Blanche has got into the saddest
hole that ever poor lady put her head into. Would you think it, sir
knight? I had scarcely set my foot on the outside of the narrow
passage... I was going along gaily, singing to myself, and (the Lord
knows) thinking of no harm... all on a sudden--'Seize her,' cries a
voice like thunder, and in an instant I found myself surrounded by
armed men. I fell on my knees, and begged for my life, and with good
reason; for one tall terrible knight had got his dagger drawn as if
ready to stab me, only his companion caught him by the arm, and bade
him remember his oath. 'Right,' said the fierce-one, 'then away with
her to the castle! Confine her in the dungeons of the south tower!'--
When I heard the word 'dungeon,' I thought, that I should have died
outright; so I fell to crying and entreating more than ever, and as
luck would have it, the moon just then happened to come from behind a
doud. 'Ha!' cried the quiet one, as soon as he saw my face, 'this
cannot be the Lady Blanche?' 'Oh! no, no, no!' said I, before I gave
myself time to think; 'I am not the Lady Blanche indeed. She is yonder
in the cave with Sir Osbright, disguised in boy's clothes, and..."

"You told them so? Imprudent girl! You have undone us all!"

"Alas the day! Sir knight! I was in such a flutter that I scarcely
knew what I did or what I said; but as soon as they knew who I really
was, they released me and bade me go my ways. I would fain have
returned to tell you what had happened; but they would not suffer me,
and I was obliged to set forward as if going to my own home. Yet I
could not bear to leave you in ignorance of their evil designs; so
after a little while I stole back again without noise, and by help of
the shrubs and bushes I crept behind the two who appeared to be the
chief of the party, so that I could overhear their whole design."

"And that design is... ."--"To seize the Lady Blanche on her leaving
the grotto and convey her to the castle of Frankheim, where she is to
be shut up in a dungeon, till she consents to marry some young madman
who (it seems) has lost his wits for love of her. The fierce one was
for going to the grotto and dragging her away this moment; but his
companion reminded him of his promise of seizing hei if possible after
she had parted with Sir Osbright. 'But suppose,' says the fierce one,
'he should not part with her till she is safe within the walls of
Orrenberg?' At last it was agreed between them that they should still
wait an hour to see whether Blanche would come out alone; but if that
time should elapse without your quitting the cave, sir knight, then
the fierce one swore with a thousand dreadful oaths that he would tear
her from you with his own hands--'And if he resists,' continued he in
a dreadful voice, and he clenched his hands, and I could hear him
gnash his teeth, 'if he resists, I will either plunge my sword in the
hated girl's heart, or he shall bury his in his father's."

"Your father, Osbright? Your dreadful father?" exclaimed Blanche,
wringing her hands. "Now you see, in what danger even this trifling
breach of duty has involved me! Oh! My parents, my dear, good parents!
How severely am I punished for having clandestinely left for one hour
the shelter of your protecting arms!"

"No! no!" said Barbara eagerly, while Osbright vainly endeavored to
calm the terrors of his mistress, though his own alarm was scarcely
less, "all is not lost yet, dear lady; calm yourself, and listen to
me; for as soon as I knew the designs of these villains, I bethought
me of a means to save you, and it was for this purpose, that I
hazarded to climb the rock and steal hither unobserved to give you
this intelligence. It seems that Sir Osbright is in no danger; they
will let him pass forth without hindrance, and will rejoice in getting
rid of him, in order that they may bear you away to their horrible
dungeons without resistance. Now mark what you must do; throw off that
long cloak in which Dame Margaret wrapped you up so carefully; array
yourself instead in Sir Osbright's armor, and then march forth with a
stout heart, his shield on your arm, and his helmet on your head. The
shadows of night will doubtless prevent the strangers from observing
any difference in your height; the clattering of the armor will
confirm them in their mistake; and though to be sure the moon shines
brightly just at present, that is a circumstance in your favor; for I
heard one of the villains tell the other, that though you were in
boy's clothes, there could be no mistaking you for Sir Osbright, who
would be known by the device of his shield, and by the scarlet and
white plumes on his helmet. Come, come, make haste, lady; for I
warrant you, there is but little time to spare."

Osbright had already divested himself of his breastplate and his
glittering casque, and he now hastened to adorn with them the delicate
form of Blanche. Confused and terrified in the extreme, she yielded to
his entreaties, but frequently compelled both him and Barbara to
repeat their assurances that he ran no danger in remaining in the
grotto. At length her disguise was complete, and with a beating heart
and trembling limbs, she set forward on her dangerous expedition.

No sooner had the lady left the cave than Barbara resumed her
discourse. "And now, sir knight," said she, "it will be necessary for
you also to play a part. I warrant you, the lady will be no sooner out
of hearing than the strangers will hurry hither to secure their prize;
and should they discover her flight immediately, they may still be in
time to prevent her escape. Therefore wrap yourself up in her scarlet
mantle, and conceal your face under the large slouched hat which she
has left behind her; they are aware that she is in male apparel, and
by disguising your voice a little, you may easily persuade them that
you are the person whom they seek till she is safe at Orrenberg.
That's right! Now then the hat!--Hark! I hear the noise of armor. Keep
up the deception as long as you can; you know, they can but carry you
to your own castle; and as it seems that the chief of these strangers
is your own father, at worst you have only to discover... they are
here! Hush!"

Barbara was correct. Count Rudiger and his attendants had suffered the
trembling Blanche to pass unmolested through their ambuscade; they
only marked the clank of her arms and the waving of her parti-colored
plumes; while the faintness of her step, and that she tottered under
the weight of the ponderous shield, passed entirely unobserved. Yet as
she drew near the outlet of the rocky path, she once heard a voice
whisper from among some bushes--"Now then! Now!"--and the sound
appeared to her the sentence of death. Her pulse ceased to beat; she
staggered, and caught at a projection of the rock; but presently
another voice whispered eagerly in reply--"No! No! Be silent, fool!
'Tis Sir Osbright! I know him by that casque" ;--and she felt her
hopes and her spirits revive. She rushed forward with renewed vigor,
and in a few minutes found herself in the great road leading to
Orrenberg.

"Now praised be the Virgin!" she exclaimed in a rapture of gratitude,
"I am safe!"--when at that moment she found herself seized with
violence; her lance was wrested from her hand, and on looking round
she perceived herself surrounded by armed men. A shout of exultation
immediately followed her capture.

"What is the matter?" exclaimed a warrior, at whose approach the crowd
gave way, and in whose voice Blanche recognized with shame and terror
the voice of her father. But the visor of her casque was closed, and
he little guessed that the warrior who stood before him was the
daughter whom he believed secure in the castle of Orrenberg.."The
business is half done, my lord!" was the answer. "I should know that
helmet and shield among a thousand; and I here present you (without
the capture costing you a single blow) with that redoubtable warrior,
Osbright of Frankheim."

"Sir Osbright?" cried Gustavus. "Maurice, are you certain of what you
assert?--Nay then, this is indeed a prize! But time permits not... .
Fear nothing, sir knight; your treatment shall be noble, but for the
present you must remain my prisoner. Let six of you convey him to the
castle, and confine him in the state-chamber, adjoining to the great
hail. Guard him honorably, but closely, and see that no one has access
to him. Now then for Rudiger! Away!" Gustavus said, and hastened
toward the grotto; and now Blanche found herself compelled to visit
the castle of her parents, as an enemy and a captive. However, her
plan was already arranged. She determined to keep her secret till safe
within the walls of Orrenberg. Once arrived there, she meant to
request an interview with her mother, confess to her the whole of her
imprudence, and entreat her assistance in repairing it. She doubted
not that the strength of maternal tenderness would soon conquer the
first emotions of resentment; that Ulrica would find some means of
enabling her to regain her own chamber undiscovered; and that as the
disappearance of the supposed Osbright might easily be accounted for
by his having effected his escape by bribing his guards, or any other
artifice, her fault and her danger on this adventurous night might
effectually be kept from the knowledge of her father. Such were the
designs of Blanche; and having thus arranged them to her satisfaction,
she prosecuted her journey to Orrenberg with a less heavy heart.



CHAPTER XII



--"Even-handed Justice
Commends the ingredients of the poisoned chalice
To our own lips."--
MACBETH.

A domestic, whom Count Rudiger had chastised for some trivial fault
with unjustifiable severity, in revenge had fled to the castle of
Orrenberg and informed its lord that both Osbright and his father were
in St. Hildegarde's Grotto, slightly attended, and might easily be
surprised. Gustavus failed not to employ so fortunate and unhoped-for
an opportunity of getting his chief enemies into his power. He
immediately set forward with all the forces which he could muster--and
so great was the superiority of his numbers, that in spite of
Rudiger's resistance (who exposed his life on this occasion with all
the inconsiderate fury of a madman and performed prodigies of valor
almost incredible) the small body of Frankheimers were soon put to
flight, and their chief was conveyed a prisoner to the castle of
Orrenberg.

Now then it was in the power of Gustavus to take a full revenge on his
furious kinsman and secure to himself, by the deaths of Rudiger and
his son, the entire possessions of the haughty house of Frankheim; but
to profit by this opportunity was not in the noble and forgiving
nature of Gustavus; he meditated a more honorable vengeance. His own
injuries were already forgotten; the death of Ottokar was still
remembered, but remembered with grief, not rage. His enemies were
totally in his power; that consideration was sufficient to make him
view them no longer as enemies; and he seized with eagerness this
opportunity of evincing the disinterestedness of his wishes and the
sincerity of his professions of good will by a proof so dear and
striking as should effectually banish all future mistrust, even from
the suspicious bosom of Rudiger. He communicated his intentions to Sir
Lennard, who on that evening had arrived with his promised succors at
Orrenberg. The worthy knight sanctioned the plan with his warmest
approbation, and Gustavus now hastened, with a heart glowing with
delight at the thought of doing a great and generous act, to explain
himself to his indignant prisoner.

The great hall was the scene of this interview between the hostile
kinsmen. His guards had caused Rudiger's wounds to be carefully
dressed, but had thought it proper to restrain him by chains from
committing acts of violence. Gustavus, however, no sooner observed
this precaution, than he ordered the fetters to be removed; but the
sullen captive neither thanked the servants for their care of his
wounds nor the master for the restoration of his liberty. He looked on
all around him with an air of haughty indifference; but while he
listened to Gustavus's professions of good will and proposals for a
mutual oblivion of past injuries, the expression of gratified malice
glared terribly in his burning eyeballs.

"In short," said Gustavus in conclusion, "I am convinced that the
numerous causes which have occasioned the mutual alienation of our
hearts and families arose entirely from misinterpretation of
accidental circumstances, and not from any Intention of offense, or
desire to inflict a premeditated injury. Your suspicions are easily
excited; those of my wife are not more difficult to rouse; every
trifle was exaggerated, every fact was misrepresented, and
suppositions were counted as facts. It is my most earnest wish to root
out all misunderstanding forever, and I know of no more certain means
than a union of our children, the union of Osbright and Blanche."

"Blanche?" repeated Rudiger "Blanche? Nay, 'tis a most fortunate idea!
I only doubt the facility of..."

"Nothing can be effected more easily!" interrupted Gustavus, rejoiced
to find his proposal so favorably received. "They love each other...
have loved each other long, and..."

"True! I have heard so! Osbright loves your daughter fondly; and no
doubt you love her fondly, too?"

"Fondly? Passionately! She is the joy of my existence, the being on
whom alone I depend for the whole happiness of my future life!"

"Indeed? That is still better--I rejoice to hear it--there is a youth
at home... His name is Eugene... He too loves her passionately...
madly, indeed, I might say... But she, you think, loves Osbright?"

"Think it? I know it! It was but this morning that she assured me so
ardently that her heart burned for him with such true affection..."

"Nay, it may be so; you must know best; and yet I cannot help
suspecting, that her heart feels colder toward him now than it did
this morning."

"Your suspicions are unjust, Count Rudiger. Blanche is no
capricious... But you shall hear her own lips declare her sentiments.
She shall be called hither instantly, and..."

"By no means," cried Rudiger hastily, while he detained his host. "By
no means! She is probably retired to rest; I do not wish her to be
disturbed; I do not even wish to see her... till Osbright shall
present her to me as his bride."

"That may be done this instant; you are not yet aware, Count Rudiger
that you are not the only captive of rank whom this night's adventure
has thrown into my power. Your son inhabits yonder chamber."

Instantly the expression of Rudiger's countenance changed. He turned
pale, and starting from his chair grasped the arm of his seneschal,
who had been captured with him in the cave and had accompanied him to
Orrenberg.

"My son here?" he exclaimed. "Here! in your power!"

A similar dismay seemed to have taken possession of the seneschal.."I
warned you," he replied in broken accents; "I told you... I charged
you..."

"Peace, babbler!" interrupted his lord passionately; while Gustavus
thus resumed his discourse.

"Yes; Osbright, on leaving the cave, was seized by my followers, and
conveyed hither; but calm this agitation, Count, which doubtless is
caused by your unjust suspicions respecting the death of your younger
son. Your elder, your only one, is now in my hands, and with a single
word could I annihilate your whole race. But fear nothing; I would
rather perish myself than pronounce that word. Osbright's liberty
shall prove to you that I am innocent of the death of Joscelyn; he
shall be immediately restored to you, and I only ask in return your
consent to his union with my sole heiress, with my darling child."

"I consent!" cried Rudiger eagerly. "I consent to that, to everything!
Only give me back my son; suffer us to depart this instant, and to-
morrow name your own conditions."

"You shall be obeyed," answered Gustavus, and ordered the doors of the
captive's chamber to be thrown open, and himself conducted to their
presence. "But," he continued, addressing himself to Rudiger, "surely
you will not depart immediately. 'Tis late; the espousals may take
place to-morrow; a messenger may be dispatched to inform the Lady
Magdalena of the cause which detains you; then tarry here this night,
and..."

"This night?" exclaimed Rudiger wildly; "no, no! Not an hour! Not an
instant! Count of Orrenberg, would you extort my consent to this
union? Would you believe this reconciliation to be sincere, if made
with your captives? No! Be generous! Give me back my son without
conditions; restore us to liberty; then send your herald to the castle
of Frankheim tomorrow and receive my answer, free and uncontrolled."

"Be it so!" said Gustavus; and at the same moment the captive knight
entered the hall. The Count of Frankheim, in spite of his agitation
(which increased with every moment), recognized the well-known shield
and helmet; and before Gustavus had time to explain what had happened,
he hastily commanded the youth to follow him. But the youth obeyed not
the command. Again it was repeated, and still he remained motionless.
Rudiger, whose impatience by this time amounted almost to frenzy,
rushed forward to grasp his son's hand, and draw him by force from the
apartment. The youth started back with a cry of terror, and retreating
nearer to the Count of Orrenberg, seemed to implore his protection
against his incensed father. Gustavus endeavored to reassure him.

"Fear nothing, noble youth!" said he. "Your father knows your
attachment and approves it. We are no longer enemies; your union with
my daughter is settled, and you will only leave this castle tonight
that you may return to it tomorrow as the acknowledged bridegroom of
your Blanche."

"Indeed?" exclaimed the young knight in joyful surprise. "Oh! Happy
tidings! Now then I need nothing more to complete my happiness...
nothing but my father's pardon--then pardon me, my father," he
continued, at the same time throwing off his ponderous casque, and
falling at the feet of Gustavus. "Oh! Pardon your penitent, your
imprudent child!"

"Amazement!" exclaimed the Count of Orrenberg. "'Tis Blanche!"

"Blanche?" cried Rudiger, "Blanche in Osbright's armor? Oh! Wilfred,
Wilfred! Whom then...? Speak, girl, speak! Explain... oh! Lose not a
moment... you know not the fears the agonies... speak, oh! Speak!"

Agitated by hope, blushing at her imprudence, confused by the rapidity
and violence with which Rudiger questioned her, it was with difficulty
that Blanche related the adventures of the cave to her astonished
auditors; but Rudiger soon heard enough to guess the rest. He
understood that the lovers had been aware of his approach; that they
had changed habits; that disguised as Blanche, Osbright had remained
in the cavern; he required to know no more! A shriek of horror
interrupted the narrative; his countenance expressed all the agonies
of despair; he seemed to be some fiend rather than a human being.

"The blow is struck!" he exclaimed; "'tis past! All is over!--Agony!--
Madness!--Yet 'tis possible... To the cave! To the cave! To save him,
or to die!" he said, and rushed out of the hall.

"Oh! follow him!" cried Wilfred, wringing his hands; "drag him from
the cavern! Nay, nay! Detain me not! His brain will turn... his heart
will break... He promised so solemnly... but his violence ... . his
passions ... a sudden burst of fury... let me be gone! For the love of
Heaven, oh! Let me depart this moment."

And breaking from Gustavus, who wished him to explain the cause of
this excessive agitation, the seneschal followed his master, who had
already crossed the drawbridge with the rapidity of an eagle.

After a few words to tranquilize his affrighted daughter, the Count of
Orrenberg judged it best to pursue the fugitives and learn the cause
of their alarm; but before he could leave the hall, a fresh incident
obstructed his progress. A young girl, bathed in tears, pale as a
specter, and her garments spotted with blood, rushed wildly into the
room, and threw herself sobbing at the feet of Blanche. It was
Barbara.

"He is gone!" she exclaimed, wringing her hands. "Oh! Lady, lady; he
is gone! From the rock above I heard the clank of the assassin's armor
as he rushed into the cavern. 'Blanche! Blanche!' he cried; 'Blanche
of Orrenberg!' 'Here I am!' answered the poor victim, 'what would you
with Blanche?' 'Ha! sorceress!' cried again the terrible voice; 'take
this! 'Tis Eugene who sends it you!'--and then... oh! then I saw the
weapon gleam... I heard a dreadful shriek... I heard no more!--I lost
my senses. When they returned, all was hushed--I ventured down from
the rock... I stole into the cave... I dragged him into the light...
he was bloody... he was cold... he was dead!"

"Whom? Whom?" exclaimed Blanche, almost frantic with alarm.

"Oh! Osbright! Osbright!" answered the sobbing girl; and Blanche fell
lifeless at the feet of her father.

At the door of St. Hildegarde's cave stood the wretched Rudiger;
before him lay a corpse, on which he gazed for a few moments in silent
agony. At length with desperate resolution he drew away the large hat
which overshadowed the face of the dead person, and the moonbeams
shone full upon his features. Rudiger knew those features well! He
tore off the scarlet robe in which the body was enveloped; he saw a
large wound on the breast; he saw his own dagger in the wound; he
snatched it forth, plunged it in his heart, and then murmuring the
name of Osbright, the slave of passion sank upon his victim's body,
and sank to rise no more!

Blanche was restored to life, but her happiness was fled forever. She
languished through a few mournful years, and then sought the grave,
whither her broken-hearted father soon followed his darling. Then
fatal inheritance passed into another family, and the proud race of
Frankheim closed its illustrious line forever.

At the expiration of some years, Eugene was unhappy enough to recover
his senses sufficiently to know that Blanche was already numbered
among the dead. He visited her tomb, wept, and prayed there; then
fixed the Cross upon his bosom, and wandered in pilgrim's weeds to the
Holy Land. He was never heard of more; but with a frame so delicate,
intellect so shattered, and a heart so wounded, doubtless his
sufferings could not be long.

Magdalena and Ulrica, these sisters in calamity, retired to the
convent of St. Hildegarde, where they soon after assumed the veil, and
in whose chapel they caused a stately tomb to be erected over the
ashes of their departed children. Here every day they met to indulge
their common sorrows; here every night they joined in prayer for the
eternal happiness of those dear ones; here during many years of
unavailing anguish they bathed with tears the marble tablet on which
stood engraved these words, so mournful, so fatal, and so true, "Here
rest the Victims of Mistrust."



THE END



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