« السابقةمتابعة »
easily see ip what jostances it has departed from the original. The present tale will be found to describe most powerfully the scenes of horror above mentioned. The term “ Der Freischütz” requires explanation. It implies “ Free” or “ Fatal Bullet”
“ Free Shot,” which signifies a ball, destined by fate, or the devil, to hit a certain object, and which it must do, though discharged from a piece pointed in a direction
diametrically opposite to that object. The following narrative we think it necessary to insert previous to our commencing the
tale, as it gives some account of the popular German superstition, on which it appears the whole story hinges. It is from the pen of Captain L. Forster, an officer in the
Gotha contingent of troops attached to the French army during the sway of Bonaparte. It was in the year 1811, during, if I mistake not, the march from Hamburgh to Stralsund,
with the two officers of my company, the lieutenants B, and C. von W., that we were quartered at an ancient castle, inhabited only by the keeper. We found but a siogle habitable room, which we were obliged to share with our servants; and as we had not only made a long march that day, but were wet through with a soaking rain, we seated ourselves soon after supper, round the fire-place, in which a cheerful fire had been kindled. The conversation turned on a variety of topics, till at length it fixed upon hunting and shooting. Many curious stories were related, many iostances of excellent shots were mentioned, and at last various allusions were made to the secret arts of gamekeepers. These led to a narrative, with which, on account of (I may say) its horrible singularity, I was particularly struck, and which I will endeavour to repeat as nearly as possible in the words of the relater. Ulrick, the servant of lieutenant B., who was born in a woodland village of the duchy of
Gotha, and, as he said, had associated much with gawekeepers from his youth, and been accustomed to shooting, began as follows : 'Yes, captain, you may think as you please about it, bnt gamekeepers are up to things that are really astonishing. With a Mr. C., head forester at Fr--th, there lived an old gamekeeper, who could certainly do more than merely eat bread. He had, to all appearance, an ordinary gun, with which he never used any thing but ball, whether he was firing at hares, birds, or any other sort of game, and he was never known to miss, even at distances exceeding by twice or thrice the osual range of such a piece. But this was not done fairly, for it is certain old Nick had a hand in it.' We laughed. Laugh as you please,' said Ulrick, still it is positively true. You shall hear. One evening we were sitting together; the old man I am speaking of, several young keepers, and Charles, the son of the head forester. We were talking of the 'excellence of the old man's gun; on which he observed that what we had hitherto seen was nothing to what be could do ; adding that he would immediately fre out of the window, if he would first decide in what part of the country he should shoot a piece of game, and what kind of game it should be. This appeared incredible to us; but for fun we mentioned a spot in the forest, about a mile from the house, and desired him to shoot a fox there. He fired out of the window, and we repaired to the spot specified, and there sure enough we found a fox that had been just shot. The son of the head forester, then quite a youth, very curious to know by what meaņs this was done, and the old man promised to teach him the trick, if he had courage to learn it. Charles was desirous of learning, but desisted at the decisive moment, frightened by terrible apparitions. Well,' said I," but Charles, I suppose, told you in what way a person was to set about it?' ' yes. You must strive to gain possession of a bost already consecrated for the holy communion. With this, and a gun loaded with ball, you repair, on the night of Christmas eve, to the forest; nail the host to a tree, go back to a little distance from it, and with a loud voice renounce the belief in the blessed trinity. Hereupon you fire at the host, and this doue, you will find upon it three drops of blood; these you wipe off with a piece of paper, and then make a hole (which may be done at home) in any part of the stock of the gun, put the paper into it, and close it up again. When all these ceremonies have been duly performed, every ball fired from this piece is sure to hit whatever the
owner pleases.' I expressed my surprise that any one could be silly enough to believe such absurd and
stupid staff; bot Ulrick persisted in his assertion, that the thing was nevertheless true. • For, continued he, Charles contrived to procure a host, and went out into the forest with the old man, on the night of Christmas eve. According to his direction, be nailed the host to a tree, and repeated the oath of abjuration ; but when he took aim to shoot, the trees were gone, and he saw our Saviour nailed to the cross, and ionumerable
frightful infernal shapes dancing about him ; on which he threw down hr gun, and
ran away.' The important events of the campaign in Russia, the eleven months which I passed in
Dantzig, during the siege of that city, and many as well cheerful as melancholy hours wbich I bave spent since that evening, were not capable of erasing Ulrick's parrative entirely from my mind. I knew not whether to regard it as a fabrication of Ulrick's or if it were not so, whether Charles might not liave been the dupe of a beated imagination, and fancied he saw things which in reality had no existence. When at length, after the surrender of Dantzig, I joined the battalion to which I belonged,
in Flanders, and assumed the cornmand of a company, I was reminded of Ulrick's story by the name of the serjeant. This serjeant was called Charles C-t, and he was a native of f. I inquired if he was the son of the head forester of that place. He replied in the affirmative ; consequently I could no longer doubt that he was the same person whom Ulrick had mentioned. During the next march, after I had conversed with him a good while, and found him to be a tolerably well informed man, I turned the discourse, as if by accident, to the circumstances related by Ulrick. Charles re.
lated the story to me in nearly the same words. I was now quite at a loss what to think ; for though I shall never be so weak as to believe
such things to be possible, still, as every impartial person must admit, the coincidence of circumstances was extremely striking. Of the two cases which I had previously assumed as probable, of course one (nan that Ulrick had inveuted the story) fell to the ground, and the other (that Charles had been the dupe of an overheated imagination) lost more and more of its plausibility, for I found him to be nothing of a visionary or one who wishes to pass off his inventions for truth. Admitting, however, that all This were otherwise, whence the perfect accordance between the accounts of Charles and Ulrick (who had not seen each other in the intermediate time), concerning the old gamekeepeer's gun, and his shooting the fox ? Leaving each of my readers to form his own opinion of this matter, I can solemnly assure
them that it eame to my knowledge in the mauner above related; for though, in the lapse of time, my memory may err in regard to some unimportant collateral circum. stances, still they may rely opon its fidelity in regard to the principal facts, as they inderested me too deeply to be forgotten or incorrectly retained.
“ LISTEN, dame," said Bertram, the Anne: for better than two hundred old forester of Linden to his wife, "once years has this farm in the forest of Linfor all, listen : it's not many things that den come down from father to child in I would deny to thy asking; but for my family. Hadst thou brought me a this notion, Anne, drive it out of thy son, well and good; the farm would head-root and branch, the sooner the have gone to him; and the lass might better ; and never encourage the lass to have married whom she would. But, think about it. · When she knows as the case stands,-no, I
say. It's the worst, she submits; and all goes not altogether Robert that I care about. right. I see no good that comes of I don't stand upon trifles ; and, if the standing shilly shally, and letting the man is not to your or the girl's, why girl nurse herself with hopes of what not look out any other active huntsman must not be."
office betimes, and “ But, Bertram, dear Bertram," re- give us a comfortable fire-side in our plied old Anne, “why not? could not old-age : Robert, or not Robert, so that our Kate live as happily with the bai- it be a lad of the forest. lift's clerk' as with the hunter Robert ? For the clerk's sake old Anne would Ah! you don't know what a fine lad have ventured to wheedle her husband William is; so good, so kind-hearted—” a little longer : but the forester, who
“ Like enough,” interrupted Ber- | knew by experience the efficacy of fetram; “ kind-hearted, I dare say, but male eloquence, was resolved not to wo hunter for all that. Now look here, expose his own firmness of purpose to
any further assaults or trials; and tak- unskilled in hunting; for at one time I ing down his gun from the wall, he
was apprenticed to my uncle Finsterwalked out into the forest.
busch, the forester-general; and it was Scarcely had he turned the corner of only to gratify my god-father, the baithe house, when a rosy, light-haired liff, that I exchanged the gun for the face looked in at the door. It was Ka- writing-desk. What care l for the retharine : , smiling and blushing, she version of the bailiff's piace, unless I stopped for a moment in agitation, might take my Kate into the bailiff's and said, “ Have you succeeded, mo- house as mistress? If you can be ther was it 'yes, dear mother - content to look no higher than your * Then, bounding into the room, she fell mother did, and Will the forester is not 'on her mother's neck for an answer, less dear to you than Will the bailiff,
." Ah, Kate, be not too confident then let me die if I won't quit my when thou shouldst be prepared for the clerkship in an instant." worst. Thy father is a good man, as Oh! thou dear kind lad," said Kagood as ever stepped, but he has his tharine, whilst the clouds dispersed fancies; and he is resolved to give thee from her fair forehead, and her eyes to none but a hunter : he has set his swam in a shower of glittering tears, heart upon it; and he'll not go from his “ if thou wilt do this for my sake, then word; I know him too well.”
do so, and speak to my father without Katharine wept, and avowed her de-delay—before he can make any promise termination to die sooner than to part to Robert.”. from her William. Her mother com- “Stay, Kate; I'll go after him this forted and scolded her by turns, and at moment. He's gone to the forest in · length ended by joining her tears to her search of the venison, that is to be dedaughter's. She was promising to make livered to-morrow into the office. Give one more assault on the old forester's me a gun and a pouch : I'll meet him heart, when a knock was heard at the with a jolly salutation—and offer my door—and in stepped William.— “Ah, services to him as his hunting-boy." William !" exclaimed Katharine, with The mother and the daughter fell streaming eyes" we must part: seek upon his neck; helped to equip him to some other sweetheart : me you must the best of their skill; and looked after never marry; father is resolved to give him, as he disappeared in the forest, me to Robert, because he is a huntsman. with hope, but yet with some anxiety, But, if I am to part from you, to my
« This William's a fine fellow!" exdying day, dear William, I will remain claimed the forester, as he returned home
from the chase : who would have lookThe bursts of wounded feeling were ed for such a good shot in the flourisher softened in the report of the mother : of a crow-quill? Well : to-morrow I she exclaimed to the bewildered Wil- shall speak with the bailiff myself: for liam, who knew not what to make of it would be a sad pity if he were not to Katharine's ejaculations, that Bertram pursue the noble profession of hunting. had no objections to him personally; Why, he'll make a second Kuno. You but that, simply, with a view to the know who Kuno was, I suppose :” said reversionary interest in his place as fo- he, turning to William. rester, he insisted on having a son-in- William acknowledged that he did law who understood hunting.
not. “ Is that all ?”, said William, reco- “ Not know who Kuno was ! bless vering his composure, and at the same my soul ! to think that I should never time he caught the sobbing girl to his have told you that ? Why, Kuno,
, om.--" Is that all ? Then be of you're to understand. was my great
heer, dearest Kate. I am not great grand-father's father; and was the
faithful to you."
very first man that ever occupied and he promised him the reward in case he cultivated this farm. He began the hit; but did not repeat his threat in case world no better, I'll assure you, than'a he missed. Kuno took his gun; cockpoor riding boy; and lived servant with ed it in God's name; and, commending the young knight of Wippach. Well,
Well, the ball with a pious prayer to the once it happened that this young guidance of good angels, spent no time gentleman of Wippach was present
in taking aim, but fired, with a cheerful with many other knights and nobles faith, right into the midst of the thicket; at a great hunt held by the duke. And the same moment out rushed the hart, in this hunt the dogs turned up a stag, staggered, and fell ; the man was unupon which a man was seated wringing wounded, except that his hands and his hands and crying piteously: for, in face were somewhat scratched by the those days, there was a tyrannical cus
bushes. tom among the great lords, that, when “ The noble duke kept his word, a poor man had committed any slight and
gave Kuno, as his reward the farm matter of tresspass against the forest- of the forest to himself and his heirs for laws, they would take and bind him on ever. But, lord bless us ! good fortune the back of a stag, so that he was
never wanted envy; and the favour of bruised and gored to death by the herd : Providence, as Kuno soon learned, is or, if he escaped dying that way, he followed by the jealousy of man. Many perished of hunger and thirst. Well, a man there was, in those days, who when the duke saw this—oh lord ! but would gladly have had Kuno's reward; he was angry; and gave command to and what did they do but persuaded the stop the hunting; and then and there duke that Kuno's shot had hit the mark he promised a high reward to any man through witchcraft and black arts : that would undertake to hit the stag ; , . For, says he, • Kuno never took any but threatened him with the severest | aim, but fired at random-a devil's displeasure in case he wounded the man; shot ; and a devil's shot, you are to unfor he was resolved, if possible, to take derstand, never fails of hitting the mark, him alive, that he might learn who it for needs must that the devil drives.' was that had been bold enough to break So hereupon a regulation was made, his law. Now, amongst all the nobility, and from this the custom came, that not a man could be found that would every descendant of Kuno must nndergo undertake the job on these terms: they a trial, and fire what they call his
proliked the reward, mind you, but not bational shot, before he is admitted, the risk. So, at last, who should step tenant, forward but Kuno, my own great grand
William, who had listened to this father's father-the very man that you
story with lively interest, rose from his see painted in that picture. He spoke seat when it was ended, pressed the old boldly to the duke, and said, “ My no- man's hand, and promised, under his ble liege, if it is your pleasure, with tuition, to make himself a huntsman God's blessing, I will run the hazard : such as even old father Kuno should if I miss, my life is at your grace's have had no cause to blush for. Wil-, disposal, and must pay the forfeit; for liam had scarcely lived a whole fortriches and worldly goods I have none night in his capacity of huntsman, when to ransom it; but I pity the poor man, old Bertram, who liked him better every and, without fee or reward, I would day, gave a formal consent to his marhave exposed my life to the same ha- riage with Katharine. This promise, zard, if I had seen him in the hands of however, was to be kept secret until robbers.”
This speech pleased the the day of the probationary shot. Meanduke ; it pleased him right well; and time the bridegroom elect passed his be bade Kuno try his luck; and again time in rapturous elevation of spirits,
and forgot himself and all the world in of his skill
. At ten paces distance he the paradise of youthful love.—The levelled at a buck; twice his gun flashfact, however, was, that, from that very ed in the pan; the third time the deer day, William had met with an unac- darted off unhurt through the bushes. countable run of ill-luck in hunting. Cursing his fate, the unhappy hunter Sometimes his gun would miss fire ; threw himself despondingly beneath a at other times, instead of a deer, he tree; at that moment a rastling was would hit the trunk of a tree. His heard in the bushes, and out limped an hunting-bag contained, instead of par- old soldier with a wooden leg. tridges, daws and crows, and instead of “Good morning to you, comrade," a hare, perhaps a dead cat. At last the said the soldier, “why so gloomy, why forester began to reproach him in good so gloomy? Is it body or purse that's carnest for his heedlessness; and Kate ailing, health or wealth is it that you're herself became anxious for the event of sighing for?
Or has somebody put a his examination.
charm upon your gun? Come, give William redoubled his attention and us a bit of tobacco; and let's have a diligence; but, the nearer the day of little chat together.” trial advanced, so much the more was With a surly air William gave
him he persecuted by his bad luck. Nearly what he asked for, and the soldier threw every shot missed ; and at length he himself by his side on the grass. The grew almost afraid of pulling a trigger, conversation fell on hunting, and Wilfor fear of doing some mischief; for he liam related his own bad luck. had already hit a cow at pasture, and “Let me see your gun," said the narrowly escaped wounding the herds- soldier. “ Ah, I thought so : this gun man.
has been charmed, and you'll never get “ I stick to my own opinion,” said a true aim with it again : and more than the huntsman one night, somebody that, let me tell you, if the charm was has cast a spell over William ; for in the laid according to the rules of art, you'll regular course of nature such things have no better luck with any other gun could never happen; and the spell he
you take in hand.” must undo before he'll have any luck." William shuddered, and would have
“ Take my word for it, William," urged some objection against witchsaid Rudolph, “it is just what I tell craft; but the stranger offered to bring you. Go some Friday at midnight to a the question to a simple test. " To old Cross-road, and make a circle round soldiers, the like of me,” said he, about you with a ramrod or a bloody | “ here's nothing at all surprising in it
. sword; bless it three times in the same Bless your soul; I could tell you stories words the priest uses, but in the name stranger by half, from this time till of Samiel"
mid-night. Now, here, for instance, is “ Hush !” interrupted the forester a ball that cannot fail to go true, because angrily : “ dost know what that name it's a gifted ball, and is proof against all is he's one of Satan's host. God keep the arts of darkness. Just try it now: thee and all christians out of his power!" just give it a trial. I'll answer for it."
William crossed himself, and would William loaded his piece, and looked hear no more ; Rudolph persisted in his about for an aim. At a great height opinion. All night long he continued above the forest, like a moving speck, to clean his gun, to examine the screws, was hovering a large bird of prey. the spring, and every part of the lock “ There! that old devil, there, shoot and barrel; and at break of day, he him.” William laughed, for the bird sallied forth to try his luck once more. was floating in a region so elevated as But all in vain: the deer Aocked round to be scarcely discernible to the naked
Imost, as it seemed in mockery eye. “ Nay, never doubt,” repeated