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" His name? How can I recollect his outlandish name? FolVol-" " Voltojo!” cried the painter. Voltojo! yes, that's it. Ha! ha! What a name !'
It is he ! cried Solling, and without another word dashed off full speed along the road he had just come. He kept in the middle of the causeway, straining his eyes to see in the darkness on either side of him, and wondering how it was he had not met the object of his search as he came to the village. He ran on, occasionally taking trees and finger posts for men, and cursing his ill luck when he saw his mistake. The sweat poured down his face in streams, and his knees began to knock together with fatigue. Suddenly he struck his foot against a stone lying in the road, and fell, cutting his forehead severely upon some pebbles. The sharp pain drew a cry from him, and a man who had been lying on the grass at the road side, sprang up and hastened to his assistance. At that moment a flash of summer lightning lit up the road.
* Bernard ! cried the painter, throwing his arms round the stranger's neck. It was his brother.
Bernard started back with a cry of horror.
· Albert!' he exclaimed in a hollow voice, Cannot your spirit rest?-Do you rise from your grave to persecute me!'
• In God's name, my dear brother, what mean you? I am Carl-Carl, your twin brother.'
Carl! No! Albert! I see that horrid wound on your brow. It still bleeds!
The painter grasped his brother's hand. 'I am flesh and blood,' said he, and no spirit. Albert still lives.' · He lives!' exclaimed Bernard, and clasped his brother in his arms.
Explanations followed, and the brothers took the road to Berlin. When the painter had replied to Bernard's questions concerning their family, he in his turn begged his brother to relate his adventures since they parted and above all to give his reasons for remaining so long severed from his friends and home.
Although I fully believed Albert killed by the blow he received,' replied Bernard, it was no fear of punishment for my indirect share in his death, that induced me to fly. But when I saw the father senseless on the ground and the son expiring before my eyes, I felt as if I was accurs. ed, as if the brand of Cain were on my brow, and that it was my fate to roam through the world an isolated and wretched being. When you all ran out of the school to fetch assistance, it seemed to me as though each chair and bench and table in the room received the power of speech, and yelled and bellowed in my ears the fatal number which had been the cause of my misfortunes—Thirteen! Thirteen! Thou art the Thirteenth, the Accursed One!'
I fed and since that day no rest or peace has been mine. Like my shadow has this unholy number clung to me. Wherever I went, in all the many lands I have wandered through, I carried with me the curse of my birth. At every turn it met me aggravating my numerous hardships, embittering my rare moments of joy. If I entered a room where a cheerful party was assembled, all rose and shrunk from me as from one plaguetainted. They were twelve- I was the Thirteenth. If I sat down to a
dinner-table, my neighbor left his chair, and the others would say, 'he fears to sit by you. You are the Thirteenth, or my room would be number Thirteenth, and I was told the former landlord had shot or hung himself in it.
• At length I left Germany, in the vain hope that the spell would not extend beyond the land of my birth. I took the ship Trieste for Venice. Scarcely were we out of port when a violent storm arose and we were driven rapidly toward a dangerous coast. The steersman counted the seamen and passengers, and crossed himself. We were thirteen.
• Lots were drawn who should be sacrificed for the salvation of the others. I drew number thirteen, and they put me ashore on a barren rock where I passed a day and night half dead with cold and drenched with sea water. At length an Illyrian fisherman espied me, and took me off in his boat.
It is unnecessary to relate to you in detail my wanderings during the last eight years, or if I do, it shall be at some future time. My clarinet enables me to live in the same humble manner I have always done. You remember, probably, that I had some skill in it, which I have since much improved. When travelling, my music was generally taken as payment for my bed and supper at the petty hostelriel at which I put up; and when I came to a large town, I remained a few days, and usually gained more than my expenses.
* About a year since, I made some stay at Copenhagen, and at last getting wearied of that city, I put myself on board a ship without enquiring whither it was bound. It took me to Stralsund.
* The day of my arrival, there was a shooting-match in the suburb beyond the Knieper, and I hastened thither with my clarinet. It was a sort of fair, and I wandered from one booth to the other, playing the joyous mountain melodies which I had not once played since my departure from Marienburg. God knows what brought them into my head again, but it did my heart good to play them, and a feeling came over me, that I should like once more to have a home, and to leave the weary rambling life I had so long led.
I had great success that day, and the people thronged to hear the wandering Italian musician. Many were the jugs of beer and glasses of wine offered to me, and my plate was soon full of shillings. As I left off playing, an old gray headed man pressed through the crowd, and gazed earnestly at me. His eyes filled with tears, and was evidently much moved.
"What a likeness !' he exclaimed. “He is the very picture of my Amadeus. I could fancy he had risen out of the sea. The same feature, the same voice and manner.'
'He came up to me and took my hand. 'If you do not fear a high staircase,' said he with a smile, 'come and visit me. I live on the tower of St. Nicholas's Church. Your clarinet will sound well in the free fresh air, and you will find those there who will gladly listen.' So saying, he left me.
• The old man's name was Elias Kranhelm, better known in Stralsund as the old Swede; he was the town musician, and had the care of the bells of St. Nicholas. The next day was Sunday and I hastened to visit him. His kind manner had touched me, unaccustomed as I was to kindness, or sympathy from the strangers among whom I always lived. When I was half way up the stairs leading to the tower, the organ began to play below me, and I recognized a psalm tune which we used often to sing for our old schoolmaster at Marienberg, I stopped a moment to listen, and thoughts of rest and home again came over me.'
"I was met at the tower door by old Kranhelm, in his Sunday suit of black; large silver buckles at his knees and shoes, and a round black velvet cap over his long white hair. His clear gray eyes smiled so kindly upon me, his voice was so mild, and his greeting so cordial, that I thought I had never seen a more pleasing old man. He welcomed me as though I had been an old friend, and without further preface, asked me if I should like to become his substitute, and perform the duties for which his great age had begun to unfit him. His only son, on whom he had reckoned to take his place, had left him sometime previously to become a sailor on board a Norwegian ship, and had been drowned in his very first voyage. It was my extraordinary likeness to his son that had made him notice me; and the good, simple hearted old man, seemed to think that resemblance a sufficient guaranty against any risk in admitting a perfect stranger into his house and intimacy.
My post is a profitable one,' said he; 'and, in consideration of my long services, the worshipful burgomaster has given me leave to seek an assistant, now that I am getting too old for my office. Consider then, my son, if the offer suits you. You please me and I mean you well. But here comes my Elizabeth, who will soon learn to like it if you are a good lad.'
As he spoke, a youthful girl entered the room, with a psalm-book in her hand, and attired in an old fashioned dress, which was not able, however, to conceal the elegance of her figure, and the charms of her blooming countenance.
How think you, Elizabeth!' said the father. • Is he not like our poor Amadeus as one egg is to another?'
I do not see the likeness, my dear father,' replied Elizabeth, looking timidly at me, and then casting down her eyes, and blushing.
I accepted the old man's offer with joy, and took up my dwelling in the other turret of the church tower. My occupation was to keep the clock wound up, to play the evening hymn on the balcony of the tower, and to strike the hours upon the great bell with a heavy hammer.
"I soon felt the good effect of repose, and of the happy, tranquil life I now led; my spirits improved and I began to forget the curse which hung
-to forget, in short, that I was the unlucky thirteenth. Old Kranhelm's liking for me increased rapidly, and in less than three months, I was Elizabeth's accepted lover. Time flew on; the wedding day was fixed, and the bridal chamber prepared.
It was Friday evening, exactly eight days ago, that I went out with Elizabeth, and walked down to the port to look at a large Swedish ship that had arrived. The passengers were landing, and one among them immediately attracted our attention.
“This was a tall, lean, raw-boned woman, apparently about forty years of age, who held in her hand a long, smooth staff, which she waved about her, nodding her head, and muttering, as she went in some strange, unintelligible dialect. Her dress consisted of a huge black fur cloak, and a cape of the same color fringed with red. Her whole manner and appear
ance were so strange, that a whole crowd assembled round her as soon as she set foot on shore.
Hallo! comrade,' cried one of the sailors of the vessel that had brought her, to a boatman who passed; ‘hallo! comrade, do you want a job?Here's a witch to take to Hiddensee.'
We asked the sailor what he meant; and he told us that this strange woman was a Lapland witch, who every year, in the dog days, made a journey to the island of Hiddensee, to gather an herb which only grew there, and was essential in her incantations.
Meantime the witch was calling for a boat, but no one understood her language, or else they did not choose to come. My unfortunate propensity to all that is supernatural or fantastic impelled me, with irresistible force, toward her. In vain Elizabeth held me back. I pushed my way through the crowd, until we found ourselves close to the Lapland woman, who measured us from head to foot with her bright and glittering eyes.Slipping a florin into her hand, I gave her to understand, as well as I could, that we wished to have our fortunes told. She took my hand, and, after examining it, made a sign that she either could or would tell me nothing.She then took the hand of Elizabeth who hung upon my arm, trembling like an aspen leaf, and gazing intently upon it, muttered a few words in broken Swedish. I did not understand them, but Elizabeth did, and starting back, drew me hastily out of the crowd.
What did she say!' inquired I, as soon as we were clear of the throng.
Elizabeth seemed much agitated, and had evidently to make a strong effort before she could reply.
Nothing,' answered she, at least; 'nothing, at least, worth repeating. And yet 'tis strange; it tallies exactly with a prediction made to my mother when I was an infant, that I should one day be in peril from the number Thirteen. This strange woman cautioned me against the same number, and bade me beware of you, for that you were the Thirteenth!'
Had the earth opened under my feet, or the lightning from heaven fallen on my head, I could not have felt a greater shock than was communicated to me by these words. I know not what I said in reply, or how I got home. Elizabeth, doubtless, observed my agitation, but she made no remark on it. I felt her arm tremble upon mine as we walked along, and by a furtive glance at her face saw that she was pale as death. Not a word passed between us during our walk back to the tower, on reaching which she shut herself up in her room. I pleaded a severe healache and wish to lie down; and begging the old man to strike the hours for me, retired to my chamber.
It would be impossible to give an idea of the agony of mind I suffered during that evening. I thought at times I was going mad, and there were moments when I felt disposed to put an end to my existence by a leap from the tower window. Again then, this curse that hung over me was in full force. Again had that fatal number raised itself before me like an iron wall, interposed between me and all earthly happiness. Wearied out at length by the storm within me, I fell asleep.
As may be supposed I was followed in my troubled slumber by the recollection of my misery. When midnight came, and the hammer clanked upon the great bell, a strange fancy took possession of my mind that it would this night strike Thirteen, and that at the thirteenth stroke the clock, the tower, the city, and the whole world, would crumble into atoms. Again I fell asleep and dreamt. I thought my head was changed into a mighty bronze bell, and that I hung into the tower and heard the clock beside me strike Thirteen. Then came the old schoolmaster, who yet, at the same time, had the features of Elizabeth's father; and, as he drew near me, I saw that the hammer that he held in his hand was no hammer, but a large silver bound Bible. In my despair I made frightful efforts to cry out and tell him that I was no bell, but a man, and that he should not strike me, but my voice refused its service and my tongue clove to my palate. The gray-haired old man came up to me, and struck thirteen times on my forehead, till my brains gushed out at my eyes.
By daybreak the next morning I was two leagues from Stralsund, having left a few hurried ill-written lines in my room, pleading I know not what urgent family affairs, and a dislike to leave-taking, as excuse for my sudden departure. Over field and meadow, through rivers and forests, on I went, as though hell were at my heels, flying from my destiny. But the farther I got from Stralsund the more did I regret all I left there—my beautiful and affectionate mistress, her kind hearted father, the peaceful happy life I led on the top of the old tower. The vows I had made to fly from the haunts of men, and seek in some desert the repose which my evil fate denied me among my fellows, that vow became daily more difficult to keep. And yet I went on, dreading to depart from my determination, lest I should encounter some of those bitter deceptions and cruel disappointments that had hitherto been my lot in life. Shame, too, at the manner in which I had left the tower, withheld me, or else I think I should already be on my road to Stralsund. But now I have met you, brother and that my mind is relieved by the knowledge that I have not, even indirectly, Albert's death to reproach myself with, I must hasten to my Elizabeth to relieve her anxiety, and dry the tears which I am well assured each moment of my absence causes her to shed. Come with me dearest Carl, and you shall see her, my beautiful Elizabeth, and her good old father, and the tower and the bell. Ho! the bell, the jolly old bell!!
The painter looked kindly but anxiously in his brother's face. There was a mildness in his manner that startled him, accustomed as he had been to his eccentricities when a boy.
" are tired, brother,' said he. 'You need repose after the emotions and fatigues of the last week. I, too, shall not be sorry to sleep. Let us to bed for a few hours, and then we will have post horses and be off to Stralsund.'
'I have no need of rest,' replied Bernard, and each moment seems to me an eternity until I can again clasp my Elizabeth to my heart. delay, then, as little as possible.'
As he spoke they entered the gates of Berlin. The sun was risen, and the hotels and taverns were beginning to open their doors. Seeing Bernard's anxiety to depart, the painter abandoned his intention of taking some repose, and after a hasty breakfast, the post chaise was brought to the door, and the brothers stepping in, they were whirled off on their road northward.
The sun was about to set when the travellers came in sight of the spires of Stralsund, among which the church of St. Nicholas, reared its double headed tower. Bernard had enlivened the journey by his wild sallies and