Vampire Tales: The Big Collection (80+ stories in one volume: The Viy, The Fate of Madame Cabanel, The Parasite, Good Lady Ducayne, Count Magnus, For the Blood Is the Life, Dracula’s Guest, The Broken Fang, Blood Lust, Four Wooden Stakes...)

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The "Vampire Tales" is the biggest, hungriest, undeadliest collection of vampire stories ever assembled. Dark, stormy, and delicious, once it sinks its teeth into you there's no escape.
Vampires! Whether imagined by Bram Stoker or Anne Rice, they are part of the human lexicon and as old as blood itself. They are your neighbors, your friends, and they are always lurking. Now we have compiled the darkest, the scariest, and by far the most evil collection of vampire stories ever, with over 80 stories, including the works of M. R. James and H. G. Wells, alongside E. F. Benson and Algernon Blackwood, not to mention Walter De La Mare and Robert E. Howard. The "Vampire Tales" will drive a stake through the heart of any other collection out there.
Other contributors include Arthur Conan Doyle, Richard Marsh, Ambrose Bierce, H. P. Lovecraft, John William Polidori, Clark Ashton Smith, Nikolai Gogol, and D. H. Lawrence.

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Date de parution 17 mai 2018
Nombre de visites sur la page 24
EAN13 9789892084602
Langue English

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VAMPIRE TALES: THE BIG
COLLECTIONTable of Contents



THE BLOOD-DRINKING CORPSE
PU SONGLING
WAKE NOT THE DEAD
JOHANN LUDWIG TIECK
THE VAMPIRE
JOHN WILLIAM POLIDORI
THE VIY
NIKOLAI GOGOL
MORELLA
EDGAR ALLAN POE
BERENICE
EDGAR ALLAN POE
THE CURSE OF THE VOURDALAK
ALEXEI TOLSTOY
GLÁMR
SABINE BARING-GOULD
THE LAST LORDS OF GARDONAL
WILLIAM GILBERT
VAMPIRE
JAN NERUDA
THE VAMPIRE CAT OF NABÉSHIMA
A. B. MITFORD
THE FATE OF MADAME CABANEL
ELIZA LYNN LINTON
THE MAN-EATING TREE
PHIL ROBINSON
JOHN BARRINGTON COWLES
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
MANOR
KARL HEINRICH ULRICHS
OLALLA
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
THE HORLA
GUY DE MAUPASSANT
KEN’S MYSTERY
JULIAN HAWTHORNE
LET LOOSE
MARY CHOLMONDELEYA MYSTERY OF THE CAMPAGNA
ANNE CRAWFORD
THE DEATH OF HALPIN FRAYSER
AMBROSE BIERCE
THE MASK
RICHARD MARSH
THE LAST OF THE VAMPIRES
PHIL ROBINSON
THE PARASITE
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
THE FLOWERING OF THE STRANGE ORCHID
H. G. WELLS
THE SAD STORY OF A VAMPIRE
ERIC STENBOCK
GOOD LADY DUCAYNE
MARY E. BRADDON
A DEAD FINGER
SABINE BARING-GOULD
THE PURPLE TERROR
FRED M. WHITE
THE STORY OF BAELBROW
HESKETH V. PRITCHARD
WILL
VINCENT O’SULLIVAN
THE STONE CHAMBER
H. B. MARRIOTT-WATSON
THE DEAD SMILE
F. MARION CRAWFORD
MARSYAS IN FLANDRES
VERNON LEE
THE VAMPIRE MAID
HUME NISBET
THE TOMB OF SARAH
F. G. LORING
THE VAMPIRE OF CROGLIN GRANGE
AUGUSTUS HARE
THE OLD PORTRAIT
HUME NISBET
LUELLA MILLER
MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN
GRETTIR AT THORHALL-STEAD
FRANK NORRISAN UNSCIENTIFIC STORY
LOUISE J. STRONG
COUNT MAGNUS
M. R. JAMES
FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE
F. MARION CRAWFORD
A VAMPIRE
LUIGI CAPUANA
LAZARUS
LEONID ANDREYEV
CLARIMONDE
THÉOPHILE GAULTIER
THE SINGULAR DEATH OF MORTON
ALGERNON BLACKWOOD
ACROSS THE MOORS
W. F. HARVEY
THE SCREAMING SKULL
F. MARION CRAWFORD
THE TRANSFER
ALGERNON BLACKWOOD
THE ROCKERY
E. G. SWAIN
THE ROOM IN THE TOWER
E. F. BENSON
THE HAUNTED HOUSE
EDITH NESBIT
AN EPISODE OF CATHEDRAL HISTORY
M. R. JAMES
DRACULA’S GUEST
BRAM STOKER
AYLMER VANCE AND THE VAMPIRE
ALICE AND CLAUDE ASKEW
THE SPIDER
HANNS HEINZ EWERS
THE FEATHER PILLOW
HORACIO QUIROGA
THE SUMACH
ULRIC DAUBENY
THE BROKEN FANG
UEL KEY
SEATON’S AUNT
WALTER DE LA MAREMRS. AMWORTH
E. F. BENSON
NEGOTIUM PERAMBULANS
E. F. BENSON
THE ADVENTURE OF THE SUSSEX VAMPIRE
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
THE HOUND
H. P. LOVECRAFT
FOUR WOODEN STAKES
VICTOR ROMAN
BLOOD LUST
DION FORTUNE
BEWITCHED
EDITH WHARTON
WAILING WELL
M. R. JAMES
THE CANAL
EVERIL WORRELL
THE LOVELY LADY
D. H. LAWRENCE
THE HILLS OF THE DEAD
ROBERT E. HOWARD
THE END OF THE STORY
CLARK ASHTON SMITH
A RENDEZVOUS IN AVEROIGNE
CLARK ASHTON SMITH
GOD GRANTE THAT SHE LYE STILLE
CYNTHIA ASQUITH
REVELATIONS IN BLACK
CARL JACOBI
MRS. LUNT
HUGH WALPOLE
I, THE VAMPIRE
HENRY KUTTNER
THE DEATH OF ILALOTHA
CLARK ASHTON SMITH
THE THING ON THE DOORSTEP
H. P. LOVECRAFT
The Blood-Drinking Corpse
Pu Songling
(1740)



Night was slowly falling in the narrow valley. On the winding path cut in the side of the hill
about twenty mules were following each other, bending under their heavy load; the muleteers,
being tired, did not cease to hurry forward their animals, abusing them with coarse voices.
Comfortably seated on mules with large pack-saddles, three men were going along at the
same pace as the caravan of which they were the masters. Their thick dresses, their fur
boots, and their red woolen hoods protected them from the cold wind of the mountain.
In the darkness, rendered thicker by a slight fog, the lights of a village were shining, and
soon the mules, hurrying all together, jostling their loads, crowded before the only inn of the
place.
The three travelers, happy to be able to rest, got down from their saddles when the
innkeeper came out on the step of his door and excused himself, saying all his rooms were
taken.
“I have still, it is true, a large hall the other side of the street, but it is only a barn, badly
shut. I will show it to you.”
The merchants, disappointed, consulted each other with a look; but it was too late to
continue their way; they followed their landlord.
The hall that was shown to them was big enough and closed at the end by a curtain.
Their luggage was brought; the bed-clothes rolled on the pack-saddles were spread out, as
usual, on planks and trestles.
The meal was served in the general sitting-room, in the midst of noise, laughing, and
movement — smoking rice, vegetables preserved in vinegar, and lukewarm wine served in
small cups. Then everyone went to bed; the lights were put out and profound silence prevailed
in the sleeping village.
However, towards the hour of the Rat, a sensation of cold and uneasiness awoke one of
the three travelers named Wang Fou, Happiness-of-the-kings. He turned in his bed, but the
snoring of his two companions annoyed him; he could not get to sleep. Again, seeing that his
rest was finished, he got up, relit the lamp which was out, took a book from his baggage, and
stretched himself out again. But if he could not sleep, it was just as impossible to read. In
spite of himself, his eyes quitted the columns of letters laid out in lines and searched into the
darkness that the feeble light did not contrive to break through.
A growing terror froze him. He would have liked to awaken his companions, but the fear
of being made fun of prevented him.
By dint of looking, he at last saw a slight movement shake the big curtain which closed
the room. There came from behind a crackling of wood being broken. Then a long, painful
threatening silence began again.
The merchant felt his flesh thrill; he was filled with horror, in spite of his efforts to be
reasonable.
He had put aside his book, and, the coverlet drawn up to his nose, he fixed his enlarged
eyes on the shadowy corners at the end of the room.
The side of the curtain was lifted; a pale hand held the folds. The stuff, thus raised,
permitted a being to pass, whose form, hardly distinct, seemed penetrated by the shadow.
Happiness-of-kings would have liked to scream; his contracted throat allowed no sound
to escape. Motionless and speechless, he followed with his horrified look the slow movement
of the apparition which approached.He, little by little, recognized the silhouette of a female, seen by her short-quilted dress
and her long narrow jacket. Behind the body he perceived the curtain again moving.
The specter, in the meantime bending over the bed of one of the sleeping travelers,
appeared to give him a long kiss.
Then it went towards the couch of the second merchant. Happiness-of-kings distinctly
saw the pale figure, the eyes, from which a red flame was shining, and sharp teeth,
halfexposed in a ferocious smile, which opened and shut by turns on the throat of the sleeper.
A start disturbed the body under the cover, then all stopped: the specter was drinking in
long draughts.
Happiness-of-kings, seeing that his turn was coming, had just strength enough to pull the
coverlet over his head. He heard grumblings; a freezing breath penetrated through the
wadded material.
The paroxysm of terror gave the merchant full possession of his strength; with a
convulsive movement he threw his coverlet on the apparition, jumped out of his bed, and,
yelling like a wild beast, he ran as far as the door and flew away in the night.
Still running, he felt the freezing breath in his back, he heard the furious growlings of the
specter.
The prolonged howling of the unhappy man filled the narrow street and awoke all the
sleepers in their beds, but none of them moved; they hid themselves farther and farther under
their coverlets. These inhuman cries meant nothing good for those who should have been
bold enough to go outside.
The bewildered fugitive crossed the village, going faster and faster. Arriving at the last
houses, he was only a few feet in advance and felt himself fainting.
The road at the extremity of the village was bordered with narrow fields shaded with big
trees. The instinct of a hunted animal drove on the distracted merchant; he made a brisk turn
to the right, then to the left, and threw himself behind the knotted trunk of a huge
chestnuttree. The freezing hand already touched his shoulder; he felt senseless.

***

In the morning, in broad daylight, two men who came to plough in this same field were
surprised to perceive against the tree a white form, and, on the ground, a man stretched out.
This fact coming after the howling in the night appeared strange to them; they turned back
and went to find the Chief of the Elders. When they returned, the greater part of the
inhabitants of the village followed them.
They approached and found that the form against the tree was the corpse of a young
woman, her nails buried in the bark; from her mouth a stream of blood had flowed and stained
her white silk jacket. A shudder of horror shook the lookers-on: the Chief of the Elders
recognized his daughter dead for the last six months whose coffin was placed in a barn,
waiting for the burial, a favorable day to be fixed by the astrologers.
The innkeeper recognized one of his guests in the man stretched on the ground, whom
no care could revive.
They returned in haste to find out in what condition the coffin was: the door of the barn
was still open. They went in; a coverlet was thrown on the ground near the entrance; on two
beds the great sun lit up the hollow and greenish aspect of the corpses whose blood had been
emptied.
Behind the drawn curtain the coffin was found open. The corpse of the young woman
evidently had not lost its inferior soul, the vital breath. Like all beings deprived of conscience
and reason, her ferocity was eager for blood.
Wake Not the Dead
Johann Ludwig Tieck
(1800)



“Wilt thou forever sleep? Wilt thou never more awake, my beloved, but henceforth
repose forever from thy short pilgrimage on earth? O yet once again return! and bring back
with thee the vivifying dawn of hope to one whose existence hath, since thy departure, been
obscured by the dunnest shades. What! dumb? forever dumb? Thy friend lamenteth, and thou
heedest him not? He sheds bitter, scalding tears, and thou reposest unregarding his affliction?
He is in despair, and thou no longer openest thy arms to him as an asylum from his grief? Say
then, doth the paly shroud become thee better than the bridal veil? Is the chamber of the
grave a warmer bed than the couch of love? Is the specter death more welcome to thy arms
than thy enamored consort? Oh! return, my beloved, return once again to this anxious
disconsolate bosom.”
Such were the lamentations which Walter poured forth for his Brunhilda, the partner of
his youthful passionate love; thus did he bewail over her grave at the midnight hour, what time
the spirit that presides in the troublous atmosphere, sends his legions of monsters through
mid-air; so that their shadows, as they flit beneath the moon and across the earth, dart as
wild, agitating thoughts that chase each other o’er the sinner’s bosom: — thus did he lament
under the tall linden trees by her grave, while his head reclined on the cold stone.
Walter was a powerful lord in Burgundy, who, in his earliest youth, had been smitten with
the charms of the fair Brunhilda, a beauty far surpassing in loveliness all her rivals; for her
tresses, dark as the raven face of night, streaming over her shoulders, set off to the utmost
advantage the beaming luster of her slender form, and the rich dye of a cheek whose tint was
deep and brilliant as that of the western heaven; her eyes did not resemble those burning orbs
whose pale glow gems the vault of night, and whose immeasurable distance fills the soul with
deep thoughts of eternity, but rather as the sober beams which cheer this nether world, and
which, while they enlighten, kindle the sons of earth to joy and love. Brunhilda became the
wife of Walter, and both being equally enamored and devoted, they abandoned themselves to
the enjoyment of a passion that rendered them reckless of aught besides, while it lulled them
in a fascinating dream. Their sole apprehension was lest aught should awaken them from a
delirium which they prayed might continue forever. Yet how vain is the wish that would arrest
the decrees of destiny! as well might it seek to divert the circling planets from their eternal
course. Short was the duration of this phrenzied passion; not that it gradually decayed and
subsided into apathy, but death snatched away his blooming victim, and left Walter to a
widowed couch. Impetuous, however, as was his first burst of grief, he was not inconsolable,
for ere long another bride became the partner of the youthful nobleman.
Swanhilda also was beautiful; although nature had formed her charms on a very different
model from those of Brunhilda. Her golden locks waved bright as the beams of morn: only
when excited by some emotion of her soul did a rosy hue tinge the lily paleness of her cheek:
her limbs were proportioned in the nicest symmetry, yet did they not possess that luxuriant
fullness of animal life: her eye beamed eloquently, but it was with the milder radiance of a
star, tranquillizing to tenderness rather than exciting to warmth. Thus formed, it was not
possible that she should steep him in his former delirium, although she rendered happy his
waking hours — tranquil and serious, yet cheerful, studying in all things her husband’s
pleasure, she restored order and comfort in his family, where her presence shed a general
influence all around. Her mild benevolence tended to restrain the fiery, impetuous disposition
of Walter: while at the same time her prudence recalled him in some degree from his vain,turbulent wishes, and his aspirings after unattainable enjoyments, to the duties and pleasures
of actual life. Swanhilda bore her husband two children, a son and a daughter; the latter was
mild and patient as her mother, well contented with her solitary sports, and even in these
recreations displayed the serious turn of her character. The boy possessed his father’s fiery,
restless disposition, tempered, however, with the solidity of his mother. Attached by his
offspring more tenderly towards their mother, Walter now lived for several years very happily:
his thoughts would frequently, indeed, recur to Brunhilda, but without their former violence,
merely as we dwell upon the memory of a friend of our earlier days, borne from us on the
rapid current of time to a region where we know that he is happy.
But clouds dissolve into air, flowers fade, the sands of the hourglass run imperceptibly
away, and even so, do human feelings dissolve, fade, and pass away, and with them too,
human happiness. Walter’s inconstant breast again sighed for the ecstatic dreams of those
days which he had spent with his equally romantic, enamored Brunhilda — again did she
present herself to his ardent fancy in all the glow of her bridal charms, and he began to draw a
parallel between the past and the present; nor did imagination, as it is wont, fail to array the
former in her brightest hues, while it proportionably obscured the latter; so that he pictured to
himself, the one much more rich in enjoyment, and the other, much less so than they really
were. This change in her husband did not escape Swanhilda; whereupon, redoubling her
attentions towards him, and her cares towards their children, she expected, by this means, to
reunite the knot that was slackened; yet the more she endeavored to regain his affections, the
colder did he grow, — the more intolerable did her caresses seem, and the more continually
did the image of Brunhilda haunt his thoughts. The children, whose endearments were now
become indispensable to him, alone stood between the parents as genii eager to affect a
reconciliation; and, beloved by them both, formed a uniting link between them. Yet, as evil can
be plucked from the heart of man, only ere its root has yet struck deep, its fangs being
afterwards too firm to be eradicated; so was Walter’s diseased fancy too far affected to have
its disorder stopped, for, in a short time, it completely tyrannized over him. Frequently of a
night, instead of retiring to his consort’s chamber, he repaired to Brunhilda’s grave, where he
murmured forth his discontent, saying: “Wilt thou sleep forever?”
One night as he was reclining on the turf, indulging in his wonted sorrow, a sorcerer from
the neighboring mountains, entered into this field of death for the purpose of gathering, for his
mystic spells, such herbs as grow only from the earth wherein the dead repose, and which, as
if the last production of mortality, are gifted with a powerful and supernatural influence. The
sorcerer perceived the mourner, and approached the spot where he was lying.
“Wherefore, fond wretch, dost thou grieve thus, for what is now a hideous mass of
mortality — mere bones, and nerves, and veins? Nations have fallen unlamented; even worlds
themselves, long ere this globe of ours was created, have moldered into nothing; nor hath any
one wept over them; why then should’st thou indulge this vain affliction for a child of the dust
— a being as frail as thyself, and like thee the creature but of a moment?”
Walter raised himself up: — “Let yon worlds that shine in the firmament” replied he,
“lament for each other as they perish. It is true, that I who am myself clay, lament for my
fellow-clay: yet is this clay impregnated with a fire, — with an essence, that none of the
elements of creation possess — with love: and this divine passion, I felt for her who now
sleepeth beneath this sod.”
“Will thy complaints awaken her: or could they do so, would she not soon upbraid thee
for having disturbed that repose in which she is now hushed?”
“Avaunt, cold-hearted being: thou knowest not what is love. Oh! that my tears could
wash away the earthy covering that conceals her from these eyes; — that my groan of
anguish could rouse her from her slumber of death! — No, she would not again seek her
earthy couch.”
“Insensate that thou art, and couldst thou endure to gaze without shuddering on onedisgorged from the jaws of the grave? Art thou too thyself the same from whom she parted;
or hath time passed o’er thy brow and left no traces there? Would not thy love rather be
converted into hate and disgust?”
“Say rather that the stars would leave yon firmament, that the sun will henceforth refuse
to shed his beams through the heavens. Oh! that she stood once more before me; — that
once again she reposed on this bosom! — how quickly should we then forget that death or
time had ever stepped between us.”
“Delusion! mere delusion of the brain, from heated blood, like to that which arises from
the fumes of wine. It is not my wish to tempt thee; — to restore to thee thy dead; else wouldst
thou soon feel that I have spoken truth.”
“How! restore her to me,” exclaimed Walter casting himself at the sorcerer’s feet. “Oh! if
thou art indeed able to effect that, grant it to my earnest supplication; if one throb of human
feeling vibrates in thy bosom, let my tears prevail with thee; restore to me my beloved; so
shalt thou hereafter bless the deed, and see that it was a good work.”
“A good work! a blessed deed!” — returned the sorcerer with a smile of scorn; “for me
there exists nor good nor evil; since my will is always the same. Ye alone know evil, who will
that which ye would not. It is indeed in my power to restore her to thee: yet, bethink thee well,
whether it will prove thy weal. Consider too, how deep the abyss between life and death;
across this, my power can build a bridge, but it can never fill up the frightful chasm.”
Walter would have spoken, and have sought to prevail on this powerful being by fresh
entreaties, but the latter prevented him, saying: “Peace! bethink thee well! and return hither to
me tomorrow at midnight. Yet once more do I warn thee, ‘Wake not the dead.’”
Having uttered these words, the mysterious being disappeared. Intoxicated with fresh
hope, Walter found no sleep on his couch; for fancy, prodigal of her richest stores, expanded
before him the glittering web of futurity; and his eye, moistened with the dew of rapture,
glanced from one vision of happiness to another. During the next day he wandered through
the woods, lest wonted objects by recalling the memory of later and less happier times, might
disturb the blissful idea. that he should again behold her — again fold her in his arms, gaze on
her beaming brow by day, repose on her bosom at night: and, as this sole idea filled his
imagination, how was it possible that the least doubt should arise; or that the warning of the
mysterious old man should recur to his thoughts?
No sooner did the midnight hour approach, than he hastened before the grave-field
where the sorcerer was already standing by that of Brunhilda. “Hast thou maturely
considered?” inquired he.
“Oh! restore to me the object of my ardent passion,” exclaimed Walter with impetuous
eagerness. “Delay not thy generous action, lest I die even this night, consumed with
disappointed desire; and behold her face no more.”
“Well then,” answered the old man, “return hither again tomorrow at the same hour. But
once more do I give thee this friendly warning, ‘Wake not the dead.’”
All in the despair of impatience, Walter would have prostrated himself at his feet, and
supplicated him to fulfil at once a desire now increased to agony; but the sorcerer had already
disappeared. Pouring forth his lamentations more wildly and impetuously than ever, he lay
upon the grave of his adored one, until the grey dawn streaked the east. During the day,
which seemed to him longer than any he had ever experienced, he wandered to and fro,
restless and impatient, seemingly without any object, and deeply buried in his own reflections,
inquest as the murderer who meditates his first deed of blood: and the stars of evening found
him once more at the appointed spot. At midnight the sorcerer was there also.
“Hast thou yet maturely deliberated?” inquired he, “as on the preceding night?”
“Oh what should I deliberate?” returned Walter impatiently. “I need not to deliberate;
what I demand of thee, is that which thou hast promised me — that which will prove my bliss.
Or dost thou but mock me? if so, hence from my sight, lest I be tempted to lay my hand onthee.”
“Once more do I warn thee.” answered the old man with undisturbed composure, “‘Wake
not the dead’ — let her rest.”
“Aye, but not in the cold grave: she shall rather rest on this bosom which burns with
eagerness to clasp her.”
“Reflect, thou mayst not quit her until death, even though aversion and horror should
seize thy heart. There would then remain only one horrible means.”
“Dotard!” cried Walter, interrupting him, “how may I hate that which I love with such
intensity of passion? how should I abhor that for which my every drop of blood is boiling?”
“Then be it even as thou wishest,” answered the sorcerer; “step back.”
The old man now drew a circle round the grave, all the while muttering words of
enchantment. Immediately the storm began to howl among the tops of the trees; owls flapped
their wings, and uttered their low voice of omen; the stars hid their mild, beaming aspect, that
they might not behold so unholy and impious a spectacle; the stone then rolled from the grave
with a hollow sound, leaving a free passage for the inhabitant of that dreadful tenement. The
sorcerer scattered into the yawning earth, roots and herbs of most magic power, and of most
penetrating odor, so that the worms crawling forth from the earth congregated together, and
raised themselves in a fiery column over the grave: while rushing wind burst from the earth,
scattering the mold before it, until at length the coffin lay uncovered. The moonbeams fell on
it, and the lid burst open with a tremendous sound. Upon this the sorcerer poured upon it
some blood from out of a human skull, exclaiming at the same time, “Drink, sleeper, of this
warm stream, that thy heart may again beat within thy bosom.” And, after a short pause,
shedding on her some other mystic liquid, he cried aloud with the voice of one inspired: “Yes,
thy heart beats once more with the flood of life: thine eye is again opened to sight. Arise,
therefore, from the tomb.”
As an island suddenly springs forth from the dark waves of the ocean, raised upwards
from the deep by the force of subterraneous fires, so did Brunhilda start from her earthy
couch, borne forward by some invisible power. Taking her by the hand, the sorcerer led her
towards Walter, who stood at some little distance, rooted to the ground with amazement.
“Receive again,” said he, “the object of thy passionate sighs: mayest thou never more
require my aid; should that, however, happen, so wilt thou find me, during the full of the moon,
upon the mountains in that spot and where the three roads meet.”
Instantly did Walter recognize in the form that stood before him, her whom he so
ardently loved; and a sudden glow shot through his frame at finding her thus restored to him:
yet the night-frost had chilled his limbs and palsied his tongue. For a while he gazed upon her
without either motion or speech, and during this pause, all was again become hushed and
serene; and the stars shone brightly in the clear heavens.
“Walter!” exclaimed the figure; and at once the well-known sound, thrilling to his heart,
broke the spell by which he was bound.
“Is it reality? Is it truth?” cried he, “or a cheating delusion?”
“No, it is no imposture; I am really living: — conduct me quickly to thy castle in the
mountains.”
Walter looked around: the old man had disappeared, but he perceived close by his side,
a coal-black steed of fiery eye, ready equipped to conduct him thence; and on his back lay all
proper attire for Brunhilda, who lost no time in arraying herself. This being done, she cried;
“Haste, let us away ere the dawn breaks, for my eye is yet too weak to endure the light of
day.” Fully recovered from his stupor, Walter leaped into his saddle, and catching up, with a
mingled feeling of delight and awe, the beloved being thus mysteriously restored from the
power of the grave, he spurred on across the wild, towards the mountains, as furiously as if
pursued by the shadows of the dead, hastening to recover from him their sister.
The castle to which Walter conducted his Brunhilda, was situated on a rock betweenother rocks rising up above it. Here they arrived, unseen by any save one aged domestic, on
whom Walter imposed secrecy by the severest threats.
“Here will we tarry,” said Brunhilda, “until I can endure the light, and until thou canst look
upon me without trembling as if struck with a cold chill.” They accordingly continued to make
that place their abode: yet no one knew that Brunhilda existed, save only that aged attendant,
who provided their meals. During seven entire days they had no light except that of tapers:
during the next seven, the light was admitted through the lofty casements only while the rising
or setting-sun faintly illumined the mountain-tops, the valley being still enveloped in shade.
Seldom did Walter quit Brunhilda’s side: a nameless spell seemed to attach him to her;
even the shudder which he felt in her presence, and which would not permit him to touch her,
was not unmixed with pleasure, like that thrilling awful emotion felt when strains of sacred
music float under the vault of some temple; he rather sought, therefore, than avoided this
feeling. Often too as he had indulged in calling to mind the beauties of Brunhilda, she had
never appeared so fair, so fascinating, so admirable when depicted by his imagination, as
when now beheld in reality. Never till now had her voice sounded with such tones of
sweetness; never before did her language possess such eloquence as it now did, when she
conversed with him on the subject of the past. And this was the magic fairy-land towards
which her words constantly conducted him. Ever did she dwell upon the days of their first love,
those hours of delight which they had participated together when the one derived all
enjoyment from the other: and so rapturous, so enchanting, so full of life did she recall to his
imagination that blissful season, that he even doubted whether he had ever experienced with
her so much felicity, or had been so truly happy. And, while she thus vividly portrayed their
hours of past delight, she delineated in still more glowing, more enchanting colors, those
hours of approaching bliss which now awaited them, richer in enjoyment than any preceding
ones. In this manner did she charm her attentive auditor with enrapturing hopes for the future,
and lull him into dreams of more than mortal ecstasy; so that while he listened to her siren
strain, he entirely forgot how little blissful was the latter period of their union, when he had
often sighed at her imperiousness, and at her harshness both to himself and all his household.
Yet even had he recalled this to mind would it have disturbed him in his present delirious
trance? Had she not now left behind in the grave all the frailty of mortality? Was not her whole
being refined and purified by that long sleep in which neither passion nor sin had approached
her even in dreams? How different now was the subject of her discourse! Only when speaking
of her affection for him, did she betray anything of earthly feeling: at other times, she
uniformly dwelt upon themes relating to the invisible and future world; when in descanting and
declaring the mysteries of eternity, a stream of prophetic eloquence would burst from her lips.
In this manner had twice seven days elapsed, and, for the first time, Walter beheld the
being now dearer to him than ever, in the full light of day. Every trace of the grave had
disappeared from her countenance; a roseate tinge like the ruddy streaks of dawn again
beamed on her pallid cheek; the faint, moldering taint of the grave was changed into a
delightful violet scent; the only sign of earth that never disappeared. He no longer felt either
apprehension or awe, as he gazed upon her in the sunny light of day: it was not until now, that
he seemed to have recovered her completely; and, glowing with all his former passion towards
her, he would have pressed her to his bosom, but she gently repulsed him, saying: — “Not yet
— spare your caresses until the moon has again filled her horn.”
Spite of his impatience, Walter was obliged to await the lapse of another period of seven
days: but, on the night when the moon was arrived at the full, he hastened to Brunhilda, whom
he found more lovely than she had ever appeared before. Fearing no obstacles to his
transports, he embraced with all the fervor of a deeply enamored and successful lover.
Brunhilda, however, still refused to yield to his passion. “What!” exclaimed she, “is it fitting that
I who have been purified by death from the frailty of mortality, should become thy concubine,
while a mere daughter of the earth bears the title of thy wife: never shall it be. No, it must bewithin the walls of thy palace, within that chamber where I once reigned as queen, that thou
obtainest the end of thy wishes, — and of mine also,” added she, imprinting a glowing kiss on
the lips, and immediately disappeared.
Heated with passion, and determined to sacrifice everything to the accomplishment of his
desires, Walter hastily quitted the apartment, and shortly after the castle itself. He travelled
over mountain and across heath, with the rapidity of a storm, so that the turf was flung up by
his horse’s hoofs; nor once stopped until he arrived home.
Here, however, neither the affectionate caresses of Swanhilda, or those of his children
could touch his heart, or induce him to restrain his furious desires. Alas! is the impetuous
torrent to be checked in its devastating course by the beauteous flowers over which it rushes,
when they exclaim: — “Destroyer, commiserate our helpless innocence and beauty, nor lay us
waste?” — the stream sweeps over them unregarding, and a single moment annihilates the
pride of a whole summer.
Shortly afterwards did Walter begin to hint to Swanhilda that they were ill-suited to each
other; that he was anxious to taste that wild, tumultuous life, so well according with the spirit
of his sex, while she, on the contrary, was satisfied with the monotonous circle of household
enjoyments: — that he was eager for whatever promised novelty, while she felt most attached
to what was familiarized to her by habit: and lastly, that her cold disposition, bordering upon
indifference, but ill assorted with his ardent temperament: it was therefore more prudent that
they should seek apart from each other that happiness which they could not find together. A
sigh, and a brief acquiescence in his wishes was all the reply that Swanhilda made: and, on
the following morning, upon his presenting her with a paper of separation, informing her that
she was at liberty to return home to her father, she received it most submissively: yet, ere she
departed, she gave him the following warning: “Too well do I conjecture to whom I am
indebted for this our separation. Often have I seen thee at Brunhilda’s grave, and beheld thee
there even on that night when the face of the heavens was suddenly enveloped in a veil of
clouds. Hast thou rashly dared to tear aside the awful veil that separates the mortality that
dreams, from that which dreameth not? Oh! then woe to thee, thou wretched man, for thou
hast attached to thyself that which will prove thy destruction.”
She ceased: nor did Walter attempt any reply, for the similar admonition uttered by the
sorcerer flashed upon his mind, all obscured as it was by passion, just as the lightning glares
momentarily through the gloom of night without dispersing the obscurity.
Swanhilda then departed, in order to pronounce to her children, a bitter farewell, for they,
according to national custom, belonged to the father; and, having bathed them in her tears,
and consecrated them with the holy water of maternal love, she quitted her husband’s
residence, and departed to the home of her father’s.
Thus was the kind and benevolent Swanhilda driven an exile from those halls where she
had presided with grace; — from halls which were now newly decorated to receive another
mistress. The day at length arrived on which Walter, for the second time, conducted Brunhilda
home as a newly made bride. And he caused it to be reported among his domestics that his
new consort had gained his affections by her extraordinary likeness to Brunhilda, their former
mistress. How ineffably happy did he deem himself as he conducted his beloved once more
into the chamber which had often witnessed their former joys, and which was now newly
gilded and adorned in a most costly style: among the other decorations were figures of angels
scattering roses, which served to support the purple draperies whose ample folds
o’ershadowed the nuptial couch. With what impatience did he await the hour that was to put
him in possession of those beauties for which he had already paid so high a price, but, whose
enjoyment was to cost him most dearly yet! Unfortunate Walter! reveling in bliss, thou
beholdest not the abyss that yawns beneath thy feet, intoxicated with the luscious perfume of
the flower thou hast plucked, thou little deemest how deadly is the venom with which it is
fraught, although, for a short season, its potent fragrance bestows new energy on all thyfeelings.
Happy, however, as Walter was now, his household were far from being equally so. The
strange resemblance between their new lady and the deceased Brunhilda filled them with a
secret dismay, — an undefinable horror; for there was not a single difference of feature, of
tone of voice, or of gesture. To add too to these mysterious circumstances, her female
attendants discovered a particular mark on her back, exactly like one which Brunhilda had. A
report was now soon circulated, that their lady was no other than Brunhilda herself, who had
been recalled to life by the power of necromancy. How truly horrible was the idea of living
under the same roof with one who had been an inhabitant of the tomb, and of being obliged to
attend upon her, and acknowledge her as mistress! There was also in Brunhilda much to
increase this aversion, and favor their superstition: no ornaments of gold ever decked her
person; all that others were wont to wear of this metal, she had formed of silver: no richly
colored and sparkling jewels glittered upon her; pearls alone, lent their pale luster to adorn her
bosom. Most carefully did she always avoid the cheerful light of the sun, and was wont to
spend the brightest days in the most retired and gloomy apartments: only during the twilight of
the commencing or declining day did she ever walk abroad, but her favorite hour was when
the phantom light of the moon bestowed on all objects a shadowy appearance and a somber
hue; always too at the crowing of the cock an involuntary shudder was observed to seize her
limbs. Imperious as before her death, she quickly imposed her iron yoke on everyone around
her, while she seemed even far more terrible than ever, since a dread of some supernatural
power attached to her, appalled all who approached her. A malignant withering glance seemed
to shoot from her eye on the unhappy object of her wrath, as if it would annihilate its victim. In
short, those halls which, in the time of Swanhilda were the residence of cheerfulness and
mirth, now resembled an extensive desert tomb. With fear imprinted on their pale
countenances, the domestics glided through the apartments of the castle; and in this abode of
terror, the crowing of the cock caused the living to tremble, as if they were the spirits of the
departed; for the sound always reminded them of their mysterious mistress. There was no
one but who shuddered at meeting her in a lonely place, in the dusk of evening, or by the light
of the moon, a circumstance that was deemed to be ominous of some evil: so great was the
apprehension of her female attendants, they pined in continual disquietude, and, by degrees,
all quitted her. In the course of time even others of the domestics fled, for an insupportable
horror had seized them.
The art of the sorcerer had indeed bestowed upon Brunhilda an artificial life, and due
nourishment had continued to support the restored body: yet this body was not able of itself to
keep up the genial glow of vitality, and to nourish the flame whence springs all the affections
and passions, whether of love or hate; for death had forever destroyed and withered it: all that
Brunhilda now possessed was a chilled existence, colder than that of the snake. It was
nevertheless necessary that she should love, and return with equal ardor the warm caresses
of her spell-enthralled husband, to whose passion alone she was indebted for her renewed
existence. It was necessary that a magic draught should animate the dull current in her veins
and awaken her to the glow of life and the flame of love — a potion of abomination — one not
even to be named without a curse — human blood, imbibed whilst yet warm, from the veins of
youth. This was the hellish drink for which she thirsted: possessing no sympathy with the
purer feelings of humanity; deriving no enjoyment from aught that interests in life and
occupies its varied hours; her existence was a mere blank, unless when in the arms of her
paramour husband, and therefore was it that she craved incessantly after the horrible
draught. It was even with the utmost effort that she could forbear sucking even the blood of
Walter himself, reclined beside her. Whenever she beheld some innocent child whose lovely
face denoted the exuberance of infantine health and vigor, she would entice it by soothing
words and fond caresses into her most secret apartment, where, lulling it to sleep in her arms,
she would suck form its bosom the war, purple tide of life. Nor were youths of either sex safefrom her horrid attack: having first breathed upon her unhappy victim, who never failed
immediately to sink into a lengthened sleep, she would then in a similar manner drain his veins
of the vital juice. Thus children, youths, and maidens quickly faded away, as flowers gnawn by
the cankering worm: the fullness of their limbs disappeared; a sallow line succeeded to the
rosy freshness of their cheeks, the liquid luster of the eye was deadened, even as the
sparkling stream when arrested by the touch of frost; and their locks became thin and grey,
as if already ravaged by the storm of life. Parents beheld with horror this desolating pestilence
devouring their offspring; nor could simple or charm, potion or amulet avail aught against it.
The grave swallowed up one after the other; or did the miserable victim survive, he became
cadaverous and wrinkled even in the very morn of existence. Parents observed with horror
this devastating pestilence snatch away their offspring — a pestilence which, nor herb
however potent, nor charm, nor holy taper, nor exorcism could avert. They either beheld their
children sink one after the other into the grave, or their youthful forms, withered by the unholy,
vampire embrace of Brunhilda, assume the decrepitude of sudden age.
At length strange surmises and reports began to prevail; it was whispered that Brunhilda
herself was the cause of all these horrors; although no one could pretend to tell in what
manner she destroyed her victims, since no marks of violence were discernible. Yet when
young children confessed that she had frequently lulled them asleep in her arms, and elder
ones said that a sudden slumber had come upon them whenever she began to converse with
them, suspicion became converted into certainty, and those whose offspring had hitherto
escaped unharmed, quitted their hearths and home — all their little possessions — the
dwellings of their fathers and the inheritance of their children, in order to rescue from so
horrible a fate those who were dearer to their simple affections than aught else the world
could give.
Thus daily did the castle assume a more desolate appearance; daily did its environs
become more deserted; none but a few aged decrepit old women and grey-headed menials
were to be seen remaining of the once numerous retinue. Such will in the latter days of the
earth be the last generation of mortals, when childbearing shall have ceased, when youth shall
no more be seen, nor any arise to replace those who shall await their fate in silence.
Walter alone noticed not, or heeded not, the desolation around him; he apprehended not
death, lapped as he was in a glowing elysium of love. Far more happy than formerly did he
now seem in the possession of Brunhilda. All those caprices and frowns which had been wont
to overcloud their former union had now entirely disappeared. She even seemed to doat on
him with a warmth of passion that she had never exhibited even during the happy season of
bridal love; for the flame of that youthful blood, of which she drained the veins of others, rioted
in her own. At night, as soon as he closed his eyes, she would breathe on him till he sank into
delicious dreams, from which he awoke only to experience more rapturous enjoyments. By
day she would continually discourse with him on the bliss experienced by happy spirits beyond
the grave, assuring him that, as his affection had recalled her from the tomb, they were now
irrevocably united. Thus fascinated by a continual spell, it was not possible that he should
perceive what was taking place around him. Brunhilda, however, foresaw with savage grief
that the source of her youthful ardor was daily decreasing, for, in a short time, there remained
nothing gifted with youth, save Walter and his children, and these latter she resolved should
be her next victims.
On her first return to the castle, she had felt an aversion towards the offspring of
another, and therefore abandoned them entirely to the attendants appointed by Swanhilda.
Now, however, she began to pay considerable attention to them, and caused them to be
frequently admitted into her presence. The aged nurses were filled with dread at perceiving
these marks of regard from her towards their young charges, yet dared they not to oppose
the will of their terrible and imperious mistress. Soon did Brunhilda gain the affection of the
children, who were too unsuspecting of guile to apprehend any danger from her; on thecontrary, her caresses won them completely to her. Instead of ever checking their mirthful
gambols, she would rather instruct them in new sports: often too did she recite to them tales
of such strange and wild interest as to exceed all the stories of their nurses. Were they
wearied either with play or with listening to her narratives, she would take them on her knees
and lull them to slumber. Then did visions of the most surpassing magnificence attend their
dreams: they would fancy themselves in some garden where flowers of every hue rose in
rows one above the other, from the humble violet to the tall sunflower, forming a parti-colored
broidery of every hue, sloping upwards towards the golden clouds where little angels whose
wings sparkled with azure and gold descended to bring them delicious cakes or splendid
jewels; or sung to them soothing melodious hymns. So delightful did these dream in short time
become to the children that they longered for nothing so eagerly as to slumber on Brunhilda’s
lap, for never did they else enjoy such visions of heavenly forms. They were they most
anxious for that which was to prove their destruction: — yet do we not all aspire after that
which conducts us to the grave — after the enjoyment of life? These innocents stretched out
their arms to approaching death because it assumed the mask of pleasure; for, which they
were lapped in these ecstatic slumbers, Brunhilda sucked the life-stream from their bosoms.
On waking, indeed, they felt themselves faint and exhausted, yet did no pain nor any mark
betray the cause. Shortly, however, did their strength entirely fail, even as the summer brook
is gradually dried up: their sports became less and less noisy; their loud, frolicsome laughter
was converted into a faint smile; the full tones of their voices died away into a mere whisper.
Their attendants were filled with horror and despair; too well did they conjecture the horrible
truth, yet dared not to impart their suspicions to Walter, who was so devotedly attached to his
horrible partner. Death had already smote his prey: the children were but the mere shadows
of their former selves, and even this shadow quickly disappeared.
The anguished father deeply bemoaned their loss, for, notwithstanding his apparent
neglect, he was strongly attached to them, nor until he had experienced their loss was he
aware that his love was so great. His affliction could not fail to excite the displeasure of
Brunhilda: “Why dost thou lament so fondly,” said she, “for these little ones? What satisfaction
could such unformed beings yield to thee unless thou wert still attached to their mother? Thy
heart then is still hers? Or dost thou now regret her and them because thou art satiated with
my fondness and weary of my endearments? Had these young ones grown up, would they not
have attached thee, thy spirit and thy affections more closely to this earth of clay — to this
dust and have alienated thee from that sphere to which I, who have already passed the grave,
endeavor to raise thee? Say is thy spirit so heavy, or thy love so weak, or thy faith so hollow,
that the hope of being mine forever is unable to touch thee?” Thus did Brunhilda express her
indignation at her consort’s grief, and forbade him her presence. The fear of offending her
beyond forgiveness and his anxiety to appease her soon dried up his tears; and he again
abandoned himself to his fatal passion, until approaching destruction at length awakened him
from his delusion.
Neither maiden, nor youth, was any longer to be seen, either within the dreary walls of
the castle, or the adjoining territory: — all had disappeared; for those whom the grave had not
swallowed up had fled from the region of death. Who, therefore, now remained to quench the
horrible thirst of the female vampire save Walter himself? and his death she dared to
contemplate unmoved; for that divine sentiment that unites two beings in one joy and one
sorrow was unknown to her bosom. Was he in his tomb, so was she free to search out other
victims and glut herself with destruction, until she herself should, at the last day, be consumed
with the earth itself, such is the fatal law to which the dead are subject when awoke by the
arts of necromancy from the sleep of the grave.
She now began to fix her blood-thirsty lips on Walter’s breast, when cast into a profound
sleep by the odor of her violet breath he reclined beside her quite unconscious of his
impending fate: yet soon did his vital powers begin to decay; and many a grey hair peepedthrough his raven locks. With his strength, his passion also declined; and he now frequently
left her in order to pass the whole day in the sports of the chase, hoping thereby to regain his
wonted vigor. As he was reposing one day in a wood beneath the shade of an oak, he
perceived, on the summit of a tree, a bird of strange appearance, and quite unknown to him;
but, before he could take aim at it with his bow, it flew away into the clouds; at the same time
letting fall a rose-colored root which dropped at Walter’s feet, who immediately took it up and,
although he was well acquainted with almost every plant, he could not remember to have seen
any at all resembling this. Its delightfully odoriferous scent induced him to try its flavor, but ten
times more bitter than wormwood it was even as gall in his mouth; upon which, impatient of
the disappointment, he flung it away with violence. Had he, however, been aware of its
miraculous quality and that it acted as a counter charm against the opiate perfume of
Brunhilda’s breath, he would have blessed it in spite of its bitterness: thus do mortals often
blindly cast away in displeasure the unsavory remedy that would otherwise work their weal.
When Walter returned home in the evening and laid him down to repose as usual by
Brunhilda’s side, the magic power of her breath produced no effect upon him; and for the first
time during many months did he close his eyes in a natural slumber. Yet hardly had he fallen
asleep, ere a pungent smarting pain disturbed him from his dreams; and. opening his eyes, he
discerned, by the gloomy rays of a lamp, that glimmered in the apartment what for some
moments transfixed him quite aghast, for it was Brunhilda, drawing with her lips, the warm
blood from his bosom. The wild cry of horror which at length escaped him, terrified Brunhilda,
whose mouth was besmeared with the warm blood. “Monster!” exclaimed he, springing from
the couch, “is it thus that you love me?”
“Aye, even as the dead love,” replied she, with a malignant coldness.
“Creature of blood!” continued Walter, “the delusion which has so long blinded me is at
an end: thou are the fiend who hast destroyed my children — who hast murdered the
offspring of my vassels.” Raising herself upwards and, at the same time, casting on him a
glance that froze him to the spot with dread, she replied. “It is not I who have murdered them;
— I was obliged to pamper myself with warm youthful blood, in order that I might satisfy thy
furious desires — thou art the murderer!” — These dreadful words summoned, before
Walter’s terrified conscience, the threatening shades of all those who had thus perished; while
despair choked his voice.
“Why,” continued she, in a tone that increased his horror, “why dost thou make mouths
at me like a puppet? Thou who hadst the courage to love the dead — to take into thy bed,
one who had been sleeping in the grave, the bed-fellow of the worm — who hast clasped in
thy lustful arms, the corruption of the tomb — dost thou, unhallowed as thou art, now raise
this hideous cry for the sacrifice of a few lives? — They are but leaves swept from their
branches by a storm. — Come, chase these idiot fancies, and taste the bliss thou hast so
dearly purchased.” So saying, she extended her arms towards him; but this motion served
only to increase his terror, and exclaiming: “Accursed Being,” — he rushed out of the
apartment.
All the horrors of a guilty, upbraiding conscience became his companions, now that he
was awakened from the delirium of his unholy pleasures. Frequently did he curse his own
obstinate blindness, for having given no heed to the hints and admonitions of his children’s
nurses, but treating them as vile calumnies. But his sorrow was now too late, for, although
repentance may gain pardon for the sinner, it cannot alter the immutable decrees of fate — it
cannot recall the murdered from the tomb. No sooner did the first break of dawn appear, than
he set out for his lonely castle in the mountains, determined no longer to abide under the
same roof with so terrific a being; yet vain was his flight, for, on waking the following morning,
he perceived himself in Brunhilda’s arms, and quite entangled in her long raven tresses, which
seemed to involve him, and bind him in the fetters of his fate; the powerful fascination of her
breath held him still more captivated, so that, forgetting all that had passed, he returned hercaresses, until awakening as if from a dream he recoiled in unmixed horror from her embrace.
During the day he wandered through the solitary wilds of the mountains, as a culprit seeking
an asylum from his pursuers; and, at night, retired to the shelter of a cave; fearing less to
couch himself within such a dreary place, than to expose himself to the horror of again
meeting Brunhilda; but alas! it was in vain that he endeavored to flee her. Again, when he
awoke, he found her the partner of his miserable bed. Nay, had he sought the center of the
earth as his hiding place; had he even imbedded himself beneath rocks, or formed his
chamber in the recesses of the ocean, still had he found her his constant companion; for, by
calling her again into existence, he had rendered himself inseparably hers; so fatal were the
links that united them.
Struggling with the madness that was beginning to seize him, and brooding incessantly
on the ghastly visions that presented themselves to his horror-stricken mind, he lay
motionless in the gloomiest recesses of the woods, even from the rise of sun till the shades of
eve. But, no sooner was the light of day extinguished in the west, and the woods buried in
impenetrable darkness, than the apprehension of resigning himself to sleep drove him forth
among the mountains. The storm played wildly with the fantastic clouds, and with the rattling
leaves, as they were caught up into the air, as if some dread spirit was sporting with these
images of transitoriness and decay: it roared among the summits of the oaks as if uttering a
voice of fury, while its hollow sound rebounding among the distant hills, seemed as the moans
of a departing sinner, or as the faint cry of some wretch expiring under the murderer’s hand:
the owl too, uttered its ghastly cry as if foreboding the wreck of nature. Walter’s hair flew
disorderly in the wind, like black snakes wreathing around his temples and shoulders; while
each sense was awake to catch fresh horror. In the clouds he seemed to behold the forms of
the murdered; in the howling wind to hear their laments and groans; in the chilling blast itself
he felt the dire kiss of Brunhilda; in the cry of the screeching bird he heard her voice; in the
moldering leaves he scented the charnel-bed out of which he had awakened her. “Murderer of
thy own offspring,” exclaimed he in a voice making night, and the conflict of the element still
more hideous, “paramour of a blood-thirsty vampire, reveler with the corruption of the tomb!”
while in his despair he rent the wild locks from his head. Just then the full moon darted from
beneath the bursting clouds; and the sight recalled to his remembrance the advice of the
sorcerer, when he trembled at the first apparition of Brunhilda rising from her sleep of death;
— namely, to seek him at the season of the full moon in the mountains, where three roads
met. Scarcely had this gleam of hope broke in on his bewildered mind than he flew to the
appointed spot.
On his arrival, Walter found the old man seated there upon a stone as calmly as though
it had been a bright sunny day and completely regardless of the uproar around. “Art thou
come then?” exclaimed he to the breathless wretch, who, flinging himself at his feet, cried in a
tone of anguish: — “Oh save me — succor me — rescue me from the monster that scattereth
death and desolation around her.
“Wherefore a mysterious warning? why didst thou not rather disclose to me at once all
the horrors that awaited my sacrilegious profanation of the grave?”
“And wherefore a mysterious warning? why didst thou not perceivest how wholesome
was the advice — ‘Wake not the dead.’
“Wert thou able to listen to another voice than that of thy impetuous passions? Did not
thy eager impatience shut my mouth at the very moment I would have cautioned thee?”
“True, true: — thy reproof is just: but what does it avail now; — I need the promptest
aid.”
“Well,” replied the old man, “there remains even yet a means of rescuing thyself, but it is
fraught with horror and demands all thy resolution.”
“Utter it then, utter it; for what can be more appalling, more hideous than the misery I
now endure?”“Know then,” continued the sorcerer, “that only on the night of the new moon does she
sleep the sleep of mortals; and then all the supernatural power which she inherits from the
grave totally fails her. ‘Tis then that thou must murder her.”
“How! murder her!” echoed Walter.
“Aye,” returned the old man calmly, “pierce her bosom with a sharpened dagger, which I
will furnish thee with; at the same time renounce her memory forever, swearing never to think
of her intentionally, and that, if thou dost involuntarily, thou wilt repeat the curse.”
“Most horrible! yet what can be more horrible than she herself is? — I’ll do it.”
“Keep then this resolution until the next new moon.”
“What, must I wait until then?” cried Walter, “alas ere then, either her savage thirst for
blood will have forced me into the night of the tomb, or horror will have driven me into the
night of madness.”
“Nay,” replied the sorcerer, “that I can prevent;” and, so saying, he conducted him to a
cavern further among the mountains. “Abide here twice seven days,” said he; “so long can I
protect thee against her deadly caresses. Here wilt thou find all due provision for thy wants;
but take heed that nothing tempt thee to quit this place. Farewell, when the moon renews
itself, then do I repair hither again.” So saying, the sorcerer drew a magic circle around the
cave, and then immediately disappeared.
Twice seven days did Walter continue in this solitude, where his companions were his
own terrifying thoughts, and his bitter repentance. The present was all desolation and dread;
the future presented the image of a horrible deed which he must perforce commit; while the
past was empoisoned by the memory of his guilt. Did he think on his former happy union with
Brunhilda, her horrible image presented itself to his imagination with her lips defiled with
dropping blood: or, did he call to mind the peaceful days he had passed with Swanhilda, he
beheld her sorrowful spirit with the shadows of her murdered children. Such were the horrors
that attended him by day: those of night were still more dreadful, for then he beheld Brunhilda
herself, who, wandering round the magic circle which she could not pass, called upon his
name till the cavern reechoed the horrible sound. “Walter, my beloved,” cried she, “wherefore
dost thou avoid me? art thou not mine? forever mine — mine here, and mine hereafter? And
dost thou seek to murder me? — ah! commit not a deed which hurls us both to perdition —
thyself as well as me.” In this manner did the horrible visitant torment him each night, and,
even when she departed, robbed him of all repose.
The night of the new moon at length arrived, dark as the deed it was doomed to bring
forth. The sorcerer entered the cavern; “Come,” said he to Walter, “let us depart hence, the
hour is now arrived:” and he forthwith conducted him in silence from the cave to a coal-black
steed, the sight of which recalled to Walter’s remembrance the fatal night. He then related to
the old man Brunhilda’s nocturnal visits and anxiously inquired whether her apprehensions of
eternal perdition would be fulfilled or not. “Mortal eye,” exclaimed the sorcerer, “may not
pierce the dark secrets of another world, or penetrate the deep abyss that separates earth
from heaven.” Walter hesitated to mount the steed. “Be resolute,” exclaimed his companion,
“but this once is it granted to thee to make the trial, and, should thou fail now, nought can
rescue thee from her power.”
“What can be more horrible than she herself? — I am determined:” and he leaped on the
horse, the sorcerer mounting also behind him.
Carried with a rapidity equal to that of the storm that sweeps across the plain they in
brief space arrived at Walter’s castle. All the doors flew open at the bidding of his companion,
and they speedily reached Brunhilda’s chamber, and stood beside her couch. Reclining in a
tranquil slumber; she reposed in all her native loveliness, every trace of horror had
disappeared from her countenance; she looked so pure, meek and innocent that all the sweet
hours of their endearments rushed to Walter’s memory, like interceding angels pleading in her
behalf. His unnerved hand could not take the dagger which the sorcerer presented to him.“The blow must be struck even now:” said the latter, “shouldst thou delay but an hour, she will
lie at daybreak on thy bosom, sucking the warm life drops from thy heart.”
“Horrible! most horrible!” faltered the trembling Walter, and turning away his face, he
thrust the dagger into her bosom, exclaiming — “I curse thee forever! — and the cold blood
gushed upon his hand. Opening her eyes once more, she cast a look of ghastly horror on her
husband, and, in a hollow dying accent said — “Thou too art doomed to perdition.”
“Lay now thy hand upon her corpse,” said the sorcerer, “and swear the oath.” — Walter
did as commanded, saying, “Never will I think of her with love, never recall her to mind
intentionally, and, should her image recur to my mind involuntarily, so will I exclaim to it: be
thou accursed.”
“Thou hast now done everything,” returned the sorcerer; — “restore her therefore to the
earth, from which thou didst so foolishly recall her; and be sure to recollect thy oath: for,
shouldst thou forget it but once, she would return, and thou wouldst be inevitably lost. Adieu
— we see each other no more.” Having uttered these words he quitted the apartment, and
Walter also fled from this abode of horror, having first given direction that the corpse should
be speedily interred.
Again did the terrific Brunhilda repose within her grave; but her image continually haunted
Walter’s imagination, so that his existence was one continued martyrdom, in which he
continually struggled, to dismiss from his recollection the hideous phantoms of the past; yet,
the stronger his effort to banish them, so much the more frequently and the more vividly did
they return; as the night-wanderer, who is enticed by a fire-wisp into quagmire or bog, sinks
the deeper into his damp grave the more he struggles to escape. His imagination seemed
incapable of admitting any other image than that of Brunhilda: now he fancied he beheld her
expiring, the blood streaming from her beautiful bosom: at others he saw the lovely bride of
his youth, who reproached him with having disturbed the slumbers of the tomb; and to both he
was compelled to utter the dreadful words, “I curse thee forever.” The terrible imprecation was
constantly passing his lips; yet was he in incessant terror lest he should forget it, or dream of
her without being able to repeat it, and then, on awaking, find himself in her arms. Else would
he recall her expiring words, and, appalled at their terrific import, imagine that the doom of his
perdition was irrecoverably passed. Whence should he fly from himself? or how erase from his
brain these images and forms of horror? In the din of combat, in the tumult of war and its
incessant pour of victory to defeat; from the cry of anguish to the exultation of victory — in
these he hoped to find at least the relief of distraction: but here too he was disappointed. The
giant fang of apprehension now seized him who had never before known fear; each drop of
blood that sprayed upon him seemed the cold blood that had gushed from Brunhilda’s wound;
each dying wretch that fell beside him looked like her, when expiring, she exclaimed, — “Thou
too art doomed to perdition”; so that the aspect of death seemed more full of dread to him
than aught beside, and this unconquerable terror compelled him to abandon the battle-field. At
length, after many a weary and fruitless wandering, he returned to his castle. Here all was
deserted and silent, as if the sword, or a still more deadly pestilence had laid everything
waste: for the few inhabitants that still remained, and even those servants who had once
shewn themselves the most attached, now fled from him, as though he had been branded
with the mark of Cain. With horror he perceived that, by uniting himself as he had done with
the dead, he had cut himself off from the living, who refused to hold any intercourse with him.
Often, when he stood on the battlements of his castle, and looked down upon desolate fields,
he compared their present solitude with the lively activity they were wont to exhibit, under the
strict but benevolent discipline of Swanhilda. He now felt that she alone could reconcile him to
life, but durst he hope that one, whom he so deeply aggrieved, could pardon him, and receive
him again? Impatience at length got the better of fear; he sought Swanhilda, and, with the
deepest contrition, acknowledged his complicated guilt; embracing her knees as he
beseeched her to pardon him, and to return to his desolate castle, in order that it might againbecome the abode of contentment and peace. The pale form which she beheld at her feet,
the shadow of the lately blooming youth, touched Swanhilda. “The folly,” said she gently,
“though it has caused me much sorrow, has never excited my resentment or my anger. But
say, where are my children?” To this dreadful interrogation the agonized father could for a
while frame no reply: at length he was obliged to confess the dreadful truth. “Then we are
sundered forever,” returned Swanhilda; nor could all his tears or supplications prevail upon her
to revoke the sentence she had given.
Stripped of his last earthly hope, bereft of his last consolation, and thereby rendered as
poor as mortal can possibly be on this side of the grave. Walter returned homewards; when,
as he was riding through the forest in the neighborhood of his castle, absorbed in his gloomy
meditations, the sudden sound of a horn roused him from his reverie. Shortly after he saw
appear a female figure clad in black, and mounted on a steed of the same color: her attire
was like that of a huntress, but, instead of a falcon, she bore a raven in her hand; and she
was attended by a gay troop of cavaliers and dames. The first salutations bring passed, he
found that she was proceeding the same road as himself; and, when she found that Walter’s
castle was close at hand, she requested that he would lodge her for that night, the evening
being far advanced. Most willingly did he comply with this request, since the appearance of
the beautiful stranger had struck him greatly; so wonderfully did she resemble Swanhilda,
except that her locks were brown, and her eye dark and full of fire. With a sumptous banquet
did he entertain his guests, whose mirth and songs enlivened the lately silent halls. Three
days did this revelry continue, and so exhilarating did it prove to Walter that he seemed to
have forgotten his sorrows and his fears; nor could he prevail upon himself to dismiss his
visitors, dreading lest, on their departure, the castle would seem a hundred times more
desolate than beforehand his grief be proportionally increased. At his earnest request, the
stranger consented to stay seven, and again another seven days. Without being requested,
she took upon herself the superintendence of the household, which she regulated as
discreetly and cheerfully as Swanhilda had been wont to do, so that the castle, which had so
lately been the abode of melancholy and horror, became the residence of pleasure and
festivity, and Walter’s grief disappeared altogether in the midst of so much gaiety. Daily did his
attachment to the fair unknown increase; he even made her his confidant; and, one evening
as they were walking together apart from any of her train, he related to her his melancholy
and frightful history. “My dear friend,” returned she, as soon as he had finished his tale, “it ill
beseems a man of thy discretion to afflict thyself on account of all this. Thou hast awakened
the dead from the sleep of the grave and afterwards found,” — “what might have been
anticipated, that the dead possess no sympathy with life. What then? thou wilt not commit this
error a second time.”
“Thou hast however murdered the being whom thou hadst thus recalled again to
existence — but it was only in appearance, for thou couldst not deprive that of life which
properly had none. Thou hast, too, lost a wife and two children: but at thy years such a loss is
most easily repaired. There are beauties who will gladly share thy couch, and make thee again
a father. But thou dreadst the reckoning of hereafter: — go, open the graves and ask the
sleepers there whether that hereafter disturbs them.” In such manner would she frequently
exhort and cheer him, so that, in a short time, his melancholy entirely disappeared. He now
ventured to declare to the unknown the passion with which she had inspired him, nor did she
refuse him her hand. Within seven days afterwards the nuptials were celebrated, and the very
foundations of the castle seemed to rock from the wild tumultuous uproar of unrestrained riot.
The wine streamed in abundance; the goblets circled incessantly; intemperance reached its
utmost bounds, while shouts of laughter almost resembling madness burst from the numerous
train belonging to the unknown. At length Walter, heated with wine and love, conducted his
bride into the nuptial chamber: but, oh! horror! scarcely had he clasped her in his arms ere
she transformed herself into a monstrous serpent, which entwining him in its horrid folds,crushed him to death. Flames crackled on every side of the apartment; in a few minutes after,
the whole castle was enveloped in a blaze that consumed it entirely: while, as the walls fell in
with a tremendous crash, a voice exclaimed aloud — “Wake not the dead!”
The Vampire
John William Polidori
(1819)



It happened that in the midst of the dissipations attendant upon a London winter, there
appeared at the various parties of the leaders of the ton a nobleman, more remarkable for his
singularities, than his rank. He gazed upon the mirth around him, as if he could not participate
therein. Apparently, the light laughter of the fair only attracted his attention, that he might by a
look quell it, and throw fear into those breasts where thoughtlessness reigned. Those who felt
this sensation of awe, could not explain whence it arose: some attributed it to the dead grey
eye, which, fixing upon the object’s face, did not seem to penetrate, and at one glance to
pierce through to the inward workings of the heart; but fell upon the cheek with a leaden ray
that weighed upon the skin it could not pass. His peculiarities caused him to be invited to
every house; all wished to see him, and those who had been accustomed to violent
excitement, and now felt the weight of ennui, were pleased at having something in their
presence capable of engaging their attention. In spite of the deadly hue of his face, which
never gained a warmer tint, either from the blush of modesty, or from the strong emotion of
passion, though its form and outline were beautiful, many of the female hunters after notoriety
attempted to win his attentions, and gain, at least, some marks of what they might term
affection: Lady Mercer, who had been the mockery of every monster shewn in drawing-rooms
since her marriage, threw herself in his way, and did all but put on the dress of a mountebank,
to attract his notice: — though in vain: — when she stood before him, though his eyes were
apparently fixed upon hers, still it seemed as if they were unperceived; — even her unappalled
impudence was baffled, and she left, the field. But though the common adulteress could not
influence even the guidance of his eyes, it was not that the female sex was indifferent to him:
yet such was the apparent caution with which he spoke to the virtuous wife and innocent
daughter, that few knew he ever addressed himself to females. He had, however, the
reputation of a winning tongue; and whether it was that it even overcame the dread of his
singular character, or that they were moved by his apparent hatred of vice, he was as often
among those females who form the boast of their sex from their domestic virtues, as among
those who sully it by their vices.
About the same time, there came to London a young gentleman of the name of Aubrey:
he was an orphan left with an only sister in the possession of great wealth, by parent» who
died while he was yet in childhood. Left also to himself by guardians, who thought it their duty
merely to take care of his fortune, while they relinquished the more important charge of his
mind to the care of mercenary subalterns, he cultivated more his imagination than his
judgment. He had, hence, that high romantic feeling of honor and candor, which daily ruins so
many milliners’ apprentices. He believed all to sympathize with virtue, and thought that vice
was thrown in by Providence merely for the picturesque effect of the scene, as we see in
romances: he thought that the misery of a cottage merely consisted in the vesting of clothes,
which were as warm, but which were better adapted to the painter’s eye by their irregular folds
and various colored patches. Me thought, in fine, that the dreams of poets were the realities
of life. He was handsome, frank, and rich: for these reasons, upon his entering into the gay
circles, many mothers surrounded him, striving which should describe with least truth their
languishing or romping favorites: the daughters at the same time, by their brightening
countenances when he approached, and by their sparkling eyes, when he opened his lips,
soon led him into false notions of his talents and his merit. Attached as lie was to the romance
of his solitary hours, he was startled at finding, that, except in the tallow and wax candles thatflickered, not from the presence of a ghost, but from want of snuffing, there was no
foundation in real life for any of that congeries of pleasing pictures and descriptions contained
in those volumes, from which he had formed his study. Finding, however, some compensation
in his gratified vanity, he was about to relinquish his dreams, when the extraordinary being we
have above described, crossed him in his career.
He watched him; and the very impossibility of forming an idea of the character of a man
entirely absorbed in himself, who gave few other signs of his observation of external objects,
than the tacit assent to their existence, implied by the avoidance of their contact: allowing his
imagination to picture everything that flattered its propensity to extravagant ideas, he soon
formed this object into the hero of a romance, and determined to observe the offspring of his
fancy, rather than the person before him. He became acquainted with him, paid him
attentions, and so far advanced upon his notice, that his presence was always recognized. He
gradually learnt that Lord Ruthven’s affairs were embarrassed, and soon found, from the
notes of preparation in —— Street, that he was about to travel. Desirous of gaining some
information respecting this singular character, who, till now, had only whetted his curiosity, he
hinted to his guardians, that it was time for him to perform the tour, which for many
generations has been thought necessary to enable the young to take some rapid steps in the
career of vice towards putting themselves upon an equality with the aged, and not allowing
them to appear as if fallen from the skies, whenever scandalous intrigues are mentioned as
the subjects of pleasantry or of praise, according to the degree of skill shewn in carrying them
on. They consented: and Aubrey immediately mentioning his intentions to Lord Ruthven, was
surprised to receive from him a proposal to join him. Flattered by such a mark of esteem from
him, who, apparently, had nothing in common with other men, he gladly accepted it, and in a
few days they hail passed the circling waters.
Hitherto, Aubrey had had no opportunity of studying Lord Ruthven’s character, and now
he found, that, though many more of his actions were exposed to his view, the results offered
different conclusions from (lie apparent motives to his conduct. His companion was profuse in
his liberality; — the idle, the vagabond, and the beggar, received from his hand more than
enough to relieve their immediate wants. But Aubrey could not avoid remarking, that it was not
upon the virtuous, reduced to indigence by the misfortunes attendant even upon virtue, that
he bestowed his alms; — these were sent from the door with hardly suppressed sneers; but
when the profligate came to ask something, not to relieve his wants, but to allow him to wallow
in his lust, or to sink him still deeper in his iniquity, he was sent away with rich charity. This
was, however, attributed by him to the greater importunity of the vicious, which generally
prevails over the retiring bashfulness of the virtuous indigent. There was one circumstance
about the charity of his Lordship, which was still more impressed upon his mind: all those
upon whom it was bestowed, inevitably found that there was a curse upon it, for they were all
either led to the scaffold, or sunk to the lowest and the most abject misery. At Brussels and
other towns through which they passed, Aubrey was surprised at the apparent eagerness with
which his companion sought for the centers of all fashionable vice; there he entered into all
the spirit of the faro table: he betted, and always gambled with success, except where the
known sharper was his antagonist, and then he lost even more than he gained; but it was
always with the same unchanging face, with which he generally watched the society around: it
was not, however, so when he encountered the rash youthful novice, or the luckless father of
a numerous family; then his very wish seemed fortune’s law — this apparent abstractedness
of mind was laid aside, and his eyes sparkled with more fire than that of the cat whilst dallying
with lire half-dead mouse. In every town, he left the formerly affluent youth, torn from the
circle he adorned, cursing, in the solitude of a dungeon, the fate that had drawn him within the
reach of this fiend; whilst many a father sat frantic, amidst the speaking looks of mute hungry
children, without a single farthing of his late immense wealth, wherewith to buy even sufficient
to satisfy their present craving. Yet he took no money from the gambling table; butimmediately lost, to the ruiner of many, the last gilder he had just snatched from the
convulsive grasp of the innocent: this might but be the result of a certain degree of
knowledge, which was not, however, capable of combating the cunning of the more
experienced. Aubrey often wished to represent this to his friend, and beg him to resign that
charity and pleasure which proved the ruin of all, and did not tend to his own profit; — but he
delayed it — for each day ho hoped his friend would give him some opportunity of speaking
frankly and openly to him; however, this never occurred. Lord Ruthven in his carriage, and
amidst the various wild and rich scenes of nature, was always the same: his eye spoke less
than his lip; and though Aubrey was near the object of his curiosity, he obtained no greater
gratification from it than the constant excitement of vainly wishing to break that mystery, which
to his exalted imagination began to assume the appearance of something supernatural.
They soon arrived at Rome, and Aubrey for a time lost sight of his companion; he left
him in daily attendance upon the morning circle of an Italian countess, whilst he went in
search of the memorials of another almost deserted city. Whilst he was thus engaged, letters
arrived from England, which he opened with eager impatience; the first was from his sister,
breathing nothing but affection; the others were from his guardians, the latter astonished him;
if it had before entered into his imagination that there was an evil power resident in his
companion, these seemed to give him sufficient reason for the belief. His guardians insisted
upon his immediately leaving his friend, and urged, that his character was dreadfully vicious,
for that the possession of irresistible powers of seduction, rendered his licentious habits more
dangerous to society. It had been discovered, that his contempt for the adulteress had not
originated in hatred of her character; but that he had required, to enhance his gratification,
that his victim, the partner of his guilt, should be hurled from the pinnacle of unsullied virtue,
down to the lowest abyss of infamy and degradation: in fine, that all those females whom he
had sought, apparently on account of their virtue, had, since his departure, thrown even the
mask aside, and had not scrupled to expose the whole deformity of their vices to the public
gaze.
Aubrey determined upon leaving one, whose character had not yet shown a single bright
point on which to rest the eye. He resolved to invent some plausible pretext for abandoning
him altogether, purposing, in the meanwhile, to watch him more closely, and to let no slight
circumstances pass by unnoticed. He entered into the same circle, and soon perceived, that
his Lordship was endeavoring to work upon the inexperience of the daughter of the lady
whose house he chiefly frequented. In Italy, it is seldom that an unmarried female is met with
in society; he was therefore obliged to carry on his plans in secret; but Aubrey’s eye followed
him in all his windings, and soon discovered that an assignation had been appointed, which
would most likely end in the ruin of an innocent, though thoughtless girl. Losing no time, he
entered the apartment of Lord Ruthven, and abruptly asked him his intentions with respect to
the lady, informing him at the same time that he was aware of his being about to meet her
that very night. Lord Ruthven answered, that his intentions were such as he supposed all
would have upon such an occasion; and upon being pressed whether he intended to marry
her, merely laughed. Aubrey retired; and, immediately writing a note, to say, that from that
moment he must decline accompanying his Lordship in the remainder of their proposed tour,
ho ordered his servant to seek other apartments, and calling upon the mother of the lady,
informed her of all he knew, not only with regard to her daughter, but also concerning the
character of his Lordship. The assignation was prevented. Lord Ruthven next day merely sent
his servant to notify his complete assent to a separation; but did not hint any suspicion of his
plans having been foiled by Aubrey’s interposition.
Having left Rome, Aubrey directed his steps towards Greece, and crossing the
Peninsula, soon found himself at Athens. He then fixed his residence in the house of a Greek;
and soon occupied himself in tracing the faded records of ancient glory upon monuments that
apparently, ashamed of chronicling the deeds of freemen only before slaves, had hiddenthemselves beneath the sheltering soil or many-colored lichen. Under the same roof as
himself, existed a being, so beautiful and delicate, that she might have formed the model for a
painter, wishing; to portray oil canvass the promised hope of the faithful in Mahomet’s
paradise, save that her eyes spoke too much mind for anyone to think she could belong to
those who had no souls. As she danced upon the plain, or tripped along the mountain’s side,
one would have thought the gazelle a poor type of her beauties; for who would have
exchanged her eye, apparently the eye of animated nature, for that sleepy luxurious look of
the animal suited but to the taste of an epicure. The light step of Ianthe often accompanied
Aubrey in his search after antiquities, and often would the unconscious girl, engaged in the
pursuit of a Cashmere butterfly, show the whole beauty of her form, floating as it were upon
the wind, to the eager gaze of him, who forgot the letters he had just deciphered upon an
almost effaced tablet, in the contemplation of her sylph-like figure. Often would her tresses
falling, as she flitted around, exhibit in the sun’s ray such delicately brilliant and swiftly fading
hues, its might well excuse the forgetfulness of the antiquary, who let escape from his mind
the very object he had before thought of vital importance to the proper interpretation of a
passage in Pausanias. But why attempt to describe charms which all feel, but none can
appreciate? — It was innocence, youth, and beauty, unaffected by crowded drawing-rooms
and stifling — balls. Whilst he drew those remains of which lie wished to preserve a memorial
for his future hours, she would stand by, and watch the magic effects of his pencil, in tracing
the scenes of her native place; she would then describe to him the circling dance upon the
open plain, would paint, to him in all the glowing colors of youthful memory, the marriage
pomp she remembered viewing in her infancy; and then, turning to subjects that had evidently
made a greater impression upon her mind, would tell him all the supernatural tales of her
nurse. Her earnestness and apparent belief of what she narrated, excited the interest even of
Aubrey; and often as she told him the tale of the living vampire, who had passed years amidst
his friends, and dearest ties, forced every year, by feeding upon the life of a lovely female to
prolong his existence for the ensuing months, his blood would run cold, whilst he attempted to
laugh her out of such idle and horrible fantasies; > but lathe cited to him the names of old
men, who had at last detected one living among themselves, after several of their near
relatives and children had been found marked with the stamp of the fiend’s appetite,; and
when she found him so incredulous, she begged of him to believe her, for it had been,
remarked, that those who had dared to question their existence, always had some proof
given, which obliged them, with grief and heartbreaking, to confess it was true. She detailed to
him the traditional appearance of these monsters, and his horror was increased, by hearing a
pretty accurate description of Lord Ruthven; he, however, still persisted in persuading her,
that there could be no truth in her fears, though at the same time he wondered at the many
coincidences which had all tended to excite a belief in the supernatural power of Lord
Ruthven.
Aubrey began to attach himself more and more to Ianthe; her innocence, so contrasted
with all the affected virtues of the women among whom he had sought for his vision of
romance, won his heart; and while he ridiculed the idea of a young man of English habits,
marrying an uneducated Greek girl, still he found himself more and more attached to the
almost fairy form before him. He would tear himself at times from her, and, forming a plan for
some antiquarian research, he would depart, determined not to return until his object was
attained; but he always found it impossible to fix his attention upon the ruins around him,
whilst in his mind he retained an image that seemed alone the rightful possessor of his
thoughts. Ianthe was unconscious of his love, and was ever the same frank infantile being he
had find: known. She always seemed to part from him with reluctance; but it was because she
had no longer any one with whom she could visit her favorite haunts, whilst her guardian was
occupied in sketching or uncovering some fragment which had yet escaped the destructive
hand of time. She had appealed to her parents on the subject of Vampires, and they both,with several present, affirmed their existence, pale with horror at the very name. Soon after,
Aubrey determined to proceed upon one of his excursions, which was to detain him for a few
hours; when they heard the name of the place, they all at once begged of him not to return at
night, as he must necessarily pass through a wood, where no Greek would ever remain, after
the day had closed, upon any consideration. They described it as the resort of the vampires in
their nocturnal orgies, and denounced the most heavy evils as impending upon him who dared
to cross their path. Aubrey made light of their representations, and tried to laugh them out of
the idea; but when he saw them shudder at his daring thus to mock a superior, infernal power,
the very name of which apparently made their blood freeze, he was silent.
Next morning Aubrey set off upon his excursion unattended; he was surprised to observe
the melancholy face of his host, and was concerned to find that his words, mocking the belief
of those horrible fiends, had inspired them with such terror. When he was about to depart,
Ianthe came to the side of his horse, and earnestly begged of him to return, ore night allowed
the power of these beings to be put in action; — he promised. He was, however, so occupied
in his research, that lie did not perceive that day-light would soon end, and that in the horizon
there was one of those specks which, in the warmer climates, so rapidly gather into a
tremendous mass, and pour all their rage upon the devoted country. — He at last, however,
mounted his horse, determined to make up by speed for his delay: but it was too late. Twilight,
in these southern climates, is almost unknown; immediately the sun sets, night begins: and
ere he had advanced far, the power of the storm was above — its echoing thunders had
scarcely an interval of rest — its thick heavy rain forced its way through the canopying foliage,
whilst the blue forked lightning seemed to fall and radiate at his very feet. Suddenly his horse
took fright, and he was carried with dreadful rapidity through the entangled forest. The animal
at last, through fatigue, stopped, and he found, by the glare of lightning, that he was in the
neighborhood of a hovel that hardly lifted itself up from the masses of dead leaves and
brushwood which surrounded it. Dismounting, he approached, hoping to find someone to
guide him to the town, or at least trusting to obtain shelter from the pelting of the storm. As he
approached, the thunders, for a moment silent, allowed him to hear the dreadful shrieks of a
woman mingling with the stifled, exultant mockery of a laugh, continued in one almost
unbroken sound; — he was startled: but, roused by the thunder which again rolled over his
head, he, with a sudden effort, forced open the door of the hut. He found himself in utter
darkness: the sound, however, guided him. He was apparently unperceived; for, though he
called, still the sounds continued, and no notice was taken of him. He found himself in contact
with someone, whom he immediately seized; when a voice cried, “Again baffled!” to which a
loud laugh succeeded; and he felt himself grappled by one whose strength seemed
superhuman: determined to sell his life as dearly as he could, he struggled; but it was in vain:
he was lifted from his feet and hurled with enormous force against the ground: — his enemy
threw himself upon him, and kneeling upon his breast, had placed his hands upon his throat
— when the glare of many torches penetrating through the hole that gave light in the day,
disturbed him; — he instantly rose, and, leaving his prey, rushed through the door, and in a
moment the crashing of the brandies, as he broke through the wood, was no longer heard.
The storm was now still; and Aubrey, incapable of moving, was soon heard by those without.
They entered; the light of their torches fell upon the mud walls, and the thatch loaded on every
individual straw with heavy flakes of soot. At the desire of Aubrey they searched for her who
had attracted him by her cries; he was again left in darkness; but what was his horror, when
the light of the torches once more burs; upon him, to perceive the airy form of his fair
conductress brought in a lifeless corse. He shut his eyes, hoping that it was but a vision
arising from his disturbed imagination; but he again saw the same form, when he unclosed
them, stretched by his side. There was no color upon her cheek, not even upon her lip; yet
there was a stillness about her face that seemed almost as attaching as the life that once
dwelt there: — upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks ofteeth having opened the vein: — to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with
horror, “A Vampire! a Vampire!” A litter was quickly formed, and Aubrey was laid by the side
of her who had lately been to him the object of so many bright and fairy visions, now fallen
with the flower of life that had died within her. He knew not what his thoughts were — his mind
was benumbed and seemed to shun reflection, and take refuge in vacancy — he held almost
unconsciously in his hand a naked dagger of a particular construction, which had been found
in the hut. They were soon met by different parties who had been engaged in the search of
her whom a mother had missed. Their lamentable cries, as they approached the city,
forewarned the parents of some dreadful catastrophe. — To describe their grief would be
impossible; but when they ascertained the cause of their child’s death, they looked at Aubrey,
and pointed to the corse. They were inconsolable; both died broken-hearted.
Aubrey being put to bed was seized with a most violent fever, and was often delirious; in
these intervals he would call upon Lord Ruthven and upon Ianthe — by some unaccountable
combination he seemed to beg of his former companion to spare the being he loved. At other
times he would imprecate maledictions upon his head, and curse him as her destroyer. Lord
Ruthven, chanced at this time to arrive at Athens, and, from whatever motive, upon hearing of
the state of Aubrey, immediately placed himself in the same house, and became his constant
attendant. When the latter recovered from his delirium, he was horrified and startled at the
sight of him whose image he had now combined with that of a Vampire; but Lord Ruthven, by
his kind words, implying almost repentance for the fault that had caused their separation, and
still more by the attention, anxiety, and care which he showed, soon reconciled him to his
presence. His lordship seemed quite changed; he no longer appeared that apathetic being
who had so astonished Aubrey; but as soon as his convalescence began to be rapid, he again
gradually retired into the same state of mind, and Aubrey perceived no difference from the
former man, except that at times he was surprised to meet his gaze fixed intently upon him,
with a smile of malicious exultation playing upon his lips: he knew not why, but this smile
haunted him. During the last stage of the invalid’s recovery, Lord Ruthven was apparently
engaged in watching the tideless waves raised by the cooling breeze, or in marking the
progress of those orbs, circling, like our world, the moveless sun; — indeed, he appeared to
wish to avoid the eyes of all.
Aubrey’s mind, by this shock, was much weakened, and that elasticity of spirit which had
once so distinguished him now seemed to have fled forever. He was now as much a lover of
solitude and silence as Lord Ruthven; but much as he wished for solitude, his mind could not
find it in the neighborhood of Athens; if he sought it amidst the ruins he had formerly
frequented, Ianthe’s form stood by his side — if he sought it in the woods, her light step would
appear wandering amidst the underwood, in quest of the modest violet; then suddenly turning
round, would show, to his wild imagination, her pale face and wounded throat, with a meek
smile upon her lips. He determined to fly scenes, every feature of which created such bitter
associations in his mind. He proposed to Lord Ruthven, to whom he held himself bound by the
tender care he-had taken of him during his illness, that they should visit those parts of Greece
neither had yet seen. They travelled in every direction, and sought every spot to which a
recollection could be attached: but though they thus hastened from place to place, yet they
seemed not to heed what they gazed upon. They heard much of robbers, but they gradually
began to slight these reports, which they imagined were only the invention of individuals,
whose interest it was to excite the generosity of those whom they defended from pretended
dangers. In consequence of thus neglecting the advice of the inhabitants, on one occasion
they travelled with only a few guards, more to serve as guides than as a defense. Upon
entering, however, a narrow defile, at the bottom of which was the bed of a torrent, with large
masses of rock brought down from the neighboring precipices, they had reason to repent their
negligence; for scarcely were the whole of the party engaged in the narrow pass, when they
were startled by the whistling of bullets close to their heads, and by the echoed report ofseveral guns. In an instant their guards had left them, and, placing themselves behind rocks,
had begun to fire in the direction whence the report came. Lord Ruthven and Aubrey, imitating
their example, retired for a moment behind the sheltering turn of the defile: but ashamed of
being thus detained by a foe, who with insulting shouts bade them advance, and being
exposed to unresisting slaughter, if any of the robbers should climb above and take them in
the rear, they determined at once to rush forward in search of the enemy. Hardly had they
lost the shelter of the rock, when Lord Ruthven received a shot in the shoulder, which brought
him to the ground. Aubrey hastened to his assistance; and, no longer heeding the contest or
his own peril, was soon surprised by seeing the robbers’ faces around him — his guards
having, upon Lord Ruthven’s being wounded, immediately thrown up their arms and
surrendered.
By promises of great reward, Aubrey soon induced them to convey his wounded friend to
a neighboring cabin; and having agreed upon a ransom, he was no more disturbed by their
presence — they being content merely to guard the entrance till their comrade should return
with the promised sum, for which he had an order. Lord Ruthven’s strength rapidly decreased;
in two days mortification ensued, and death seemed advancing with hasty steps. His conduct
and appearance had not changed; he seemed as unconscious of pain as he had been of the
objects about him: but towards the close of the last evening, his mind became apparently
uneasy, and his eye often fixed upon Aubrey, who was induced to offer his assistance with
more than usual earnestness — “Assist me! you may save me — you may do more than that
— I mean not my life, I heed the death of my existence as little as that of the passing day; but
you may save my honor, your friend’s honor.” — “How? tell me how? I would do anything,”
replied Aubrey. — “I need but little — my life ebbs apace — I cannot explain the whole — but
if you would conceal all you know of me, my honor were free from stain in the world’s mouth
— and if my death were unknown for some time in England — I — I — but life.” — “It shall not
be known.” — “Swear!” cried the dying man, raising himself with exultant violence, “Swear by
all your soul reveres, by all your nature fears, swear that, for a year and a day you will not
impart your knowledge of my crimes or death to any living being in any way, whatever may
happen, or whatever you may see.” — His eyes seemed bursting from their sockets: “I
swear!” said Aubrey; he sunk laughing upon his pillow, and breathed no more.
Aubrey retired to rest, but did not sleep; the many circumstances attending his
acquaintance with this man rose upon his mind, and he knew not why; when he remembered
his oath a cold shivering came over him, as if from the presentiment of something horrible
awaiting him. Rising early in the morning, he was about to enter the hovel in which he had left
the corpse, when a robber met him, and informed him that it was no longer there, having been
conveyed by himself and comrades, upon his retiring, to the pinnacle of a neighboring mount,
according to a promise they had given his lordship, that it should be exposed to the first cold
ray of the moon that rose after his death. Aubrey astonished, and taking several of the men,
determined to go and bury it upon the spot where it lay. But, when he had mounted to the
summit he found no trace of either the corpse or the clothes, though the robbers swore they
pointed out the identical rock: on which they had laid the body. For a time his mind was
bewildered in conjectures, but he at last returned, convinced that they had buried the corpse
for the sake of the clothes.
Weary of a country in which he had met with such terrible misfortunes, and in which all
apparently conspired to heighten that superstitious melancholy that had seized upon his mind,
he resolved to leave it, and soon arrived at Smyrna. While waiting for a vessel to convey him
to Otranto, or to Naples, he occupied himself in arranging those effects be had with him
belonging to Lord Ruthven. Amongst other things there was a case containing several
weapons of offence, more or less adapted to ensure the death of the victim. There were
several daggers and ataghans. Whilst turning them over, and examining their curious forms,
what was his surprise at finding a sheath apparently ornamented in the same style as thedagger discovered in the fatal hut — he shuddered — hastening to gain further proof, he
found the weapon, and his horror may be imagined when he discovered that it fitted, though
peculiarly shaped, the sheath he held in his hand. His eyes seemed to need no further
certainty — they seemed gazing to be bound to the dagger; yet still he wished to disbelieve;
but the particular form, the same varying tints upon the haft and sheath were alike in splendor
on both, and left no room for doubt; there were also drops of blood on each.
He left Smyrna, and on his way home, at Rome, his first inquiries were concerning the
lady he had attempted to snatch from Lord Ruthven’s seductive arts. Her parents were in
distress, their fortune ruined, and she had not been heard of since the departure of his
lordship. Aubrey’s mind became almost broken under so many repeated horrors; he was
afraid that this lady had fallen a victim to the destroyer of Ianthe. He became morose and
silent; and his only occupation consisted in urging the speed of the postilions, as if he were
going to save the life of someone he held dear. He arrived at Calais; a breeze, which seemed
obedient to his will, soon wafted him to the English shores; and he hastened to the mansion of
his fathers, and there, for a moment, appeared to lose, in the embraces and caresses of his
sister, all memory of the past. If she before, by her infantine caresses, had gained his
affection, now that the woman began to appear, she was still more attaching as a companion.
Miss Aubrey had not that winning grace which gains the gaze and applause of the
drawing-room assemblies. There was none of that light brilliancy which only exists in the
heated atmosphere of a crowded apartment. Her blue eye was never lit up by the levity of the
mind beneath. There was a melancholy charm about it which did not seem to arise from
misfortune, but from some feeling within, that appeared to indicate a soul conscious of a
brighter realm. Her step was not that light footing, which strays where’er a butterfly or a color
may attract — it was sedate and pensive. When alone, her face was never brightened by the
smile of joy; but when her brother breathed to her his affection, and would in her presence
forget those griefs she knew destroyed his rest, who would have exchanged her smile for that
of the voluptuary? It seemed as if those eyes, — that face were then playing in the light of
their own native sphere. She was yet only eighteen, and had not been presented to the world,
it having been thought by her guardians more fit that her presentation should be delayed until
her brother’s return from the continent, when he might be her protector. It was now, therefore,
resolved that the next drawing-room, which was fast approaching, should be the epoch of her
entry into the “busy scene.” Aubrey would rather have remained in the mansion of his fathers,
and fed upon the melancholy which overpowered him. He could not fed interest about the
frivolities of fashionable strangers, when his mind had been so torn by the events he had
witnessed; but he determined to sacrifice his own comfort to the protection of his sister. They
soon arrived in town, and prepared for the next day, which had been announced as a
drawingroom.
The crowd was excessive — a drawing-room had not been held for a long time, and all
who were anxious to bask in the smile of royalty, hastened thither. Aubrey was there with his
sister. While he was standing in a corner by himself, heedless of all around him, engaged in
the remembrance that the first time he had seen Lord Ruthven was in that very place — he
felt himself suddenly seized by the arm, and a voice he recognized too well, sounded in his
ear — “Remember your oath.” He had hardly courage to turn, fearful of seeing a specter that
would blast him, when he perceived, at a little distance, the same figure which had attracted
his notice on this spot upon his first entry into society. He gazed till his limbs almost refusing
to bear their weight, he was obliged to take the arm of a friend, and forcing a passage through
the crowd, he threw himself into his carriage, and was driven home. He paced the room with
hurried steps, and fixed his hands upon his head, as if he were afraid his thoughts were
bursting from his brain. Lord Ruthven again before him — circumstances started up in
dreadful array — the dagger — his oath. — He roused himself, he could not believe it possible
— the dead rise again! — He thought his imagination had conjured up the image, his mindwas resting upon. It was impossible that it could be real — he determined, therefore, to go
again into society; for though he attempted to ask concerning Lord Ruthven, the name hung
upon his lips, and he could not succeed in gaining information. He went a few nights after with
lib sister to the assembly of a near relation. Leaving her under the protection of a matron, who
retired into a recess, and there gave himself up to his own devouring thoughts. Perceiving, at
last, that many were leaving, he roused himself, and entering another room, found his sister
surrounded by several, apparently in earnest conversation; he attempted to pass and get near
her, when one, whom he requested to move, turned round, and revealed to him those
features he most abhorred. He sprang forward, seized his sister’s arm, and, with hurried step,
forced her towards the street: at the door he found himself impeded by the crowd of servants
who were waiting for their lords; and while he was engaged in passing them, he again heard
that voice whisper close to him — “Remember your oath!” — He did not dare to turn, but,
hurrying his sister, soon reached home.
Aubrey became almost distracted. If before his mind had been absorbed by one subject,
how much more completely was it engrossed, now that the certainty of the monster’s living
again pressed upon his thoughts. His sister’s attentions were now unheeded, and it was in
vain that she intreated him to explain to her what had caused his abrupt conduct. He only
uttered a few words, and those terrified her. The more he thought, the more he was
bewildered. His oath startled him; — was he then to allow this monster to roam, bearing ruin
upon his breath, amidst all he held dear, and not avert its progress? His very sister might
have been touched by him. But even if he were to break his oath, and disclose his suspicions,
who would believe him? He thought of employing his own hand to free the world from such a
wretch; but death, he remembered, had been already mocked. For days he remained in this
state; shut up in his room, he saw no one, and eat only when his sister came, who, with eyes
streaming with tears, besought him, for her sake, to support nature. At last, no longer capable
of bearing stillness and solitude, he left his house, roamed from street to street, anxious to fly
that image which haunted him. His dress became neglected, and he wandered, as often
exposed to the noon-day sun as to the midnight damps. He was no longer to be recognized;
at first he returned with the evening to the house; but at last he laid him down to rest
wherever fatigue overtook him. His sister, anxious for his safety, employed people to follow
him; but they were soon distanced by him who fled from a pursuer swifter than any — from
thought. His conduct, however, suddenly changed. Struck with the idea that he left by his
absence the whole of his friends, with a fiend amongst them, of whose presence they were
unconscious, he determined to enter again into society, and watch him closely, anxious to
forewarn, in spite of his oath, all whom Lord Ruthven approached with intimacy. But when he
entered into a room, his haggard and suspicious looks were so striking, his inward
shudderings so visible, that his sister was at last obliged to beg of him to abstain from
seeking, for her sake, a society which affected him so strongly. When, however,
remonstrance proved unavailing, the guardians thought proper to interpose, and, fearing that
his mind was becoming alienated, they thought it high time to resume again that trust which
had been before imposed upon them by Aubrey’s parents.
Desirous of saving him from the injuries and sufferings he had daily encountered in his
wanderings, and of preventing him from exposing to the general eye those marks of what they
considered folly, they engaged a physician to reside in the house, and take constant care of
him. He hardly appeared to notice it, so completely was his mind absorbed by one terrible
subject. His incoherence became at last so great, that he was confined to his chamber. There
he would often lie for days, incapable of being roused. He had become emaciated, his eyes
had attained a glassy luster; — the only sign of affection and recollection remaining displayed
itself upon the entry of his sister; then he would sometimes start, and, seizing her hands, with
looks that severely afflicted her, he would desire her not to touch him. “Oh, do not touch him
— if your love for me is aught, do not go near him!” When, however, she inquired to whom hereferred, his only answer was, “True! true!” and again he sank into a state, whence not even
she could rouse him. This lasted many months: gradually, however, as the year was passing,
his incoherencies became less frequent, and his mind threw off a portion of its gloom, whilst
his guardians observed, that several times in the day he would count upon his fingers a
definite number, and then smile.
The time had nearly elapsed, when, upon the last day of the year, one of his guardians
entering his room, began to converse with his physician upon the melancholy circumstance of
Aubrey’s being in so awful a situation, when his sister was going next day to be married.
Instantly Aubrey’s attention was attracted; he asked anxiously to whom. Glad of this mark of
returning intellect, of which they feared he had been deprived, they mentioned the name of
the Earl of Marsden. Thinking this was a young Earl whom he had met with in society, Aubrey
seemed pleased, and astonished them still more by his expressing his intention to be present
tit the nuptials, and desiring to see his sister. They answered not, but in a few minutes his
sister was with him. He was apparently again capable of being affected by the influence of her
lovely smile; for he pressed her to his breast, and kissed her check, wet with tears, flowing at
the thought of her brother’s being once more alive to the feelings of affection. He began to
speak with all his wonted warmth, and to congratulate her upon her marriage with a person so
distinguished for rank and every accomplishment; when he suddenly perceived a locket upon
her breast; opening it, what was his surprise at beholding the features of the monster who had
so long influenced his life. He seized the portrait in a paroxysm of rage, and trampled it under
foot. Upon her asking him why he thus destroyed the resemblance of her future husband, he
looked as if he did not understand her — then seizing her hands, and gazing on her with a
frantic expression of countenance, he bade her swear that she would never wed this monster,
for he — But he could not advance — it seemed as if that voice again bade him remember his
oath — he turned suddenly round, thinking Lord Ruthven was near him but saw no one. In the
meantime the guardians and physician, who had heard the whole, and thought this was but a
return of his disorder, entered, and forcing him from Miss Aubrey, desired her to leave him.
He fell upon his knees to them, he implored, he begged of them to delay but for one day.
They, attributing this to the insanity they imagined had taken possession of his mind,
endeavored to pacify him, and retired.
Lord Ruthven had called the morning after the drawing-room, and had been refused with
everyone else. When he heard of Aubrey’s ill health, he readily understood himself to be the
cause of it; but when he learned that he was deemed insane, his exultation and pleasure
could hardly be concealed from those among whom he had gained this information. He
hastened to the house of his former companion, and, by constant attendance, and the
pretense of great affection for the brother and interest in his fate, he gradually won the car of
Miss Aubrey. Who could resist his power? His tongue had dangers and toils to recount —
could speak of himself as of an individual having no sympathy with any being on the crowded
earth, save with her to whom he addressed himself; — could tell how, since he knew her, his
existence, had begun to seem worthy of preservation, if it were merely that he might listen to
her soothing accents; — in fine, he knew so well how to use the serpent’s art, or such was the
will of fate, that he gained her affections. The title of the elder branch falling at length to him,
lie obtained an important embassy, which served as an excuse for hastening the marriage, (in
spite of her brother’s deranged state,) which was to take place the very day before his
departure for the continent.
Aubrey, when he was left by the physician and his guardians, attempted to bribe the
servants, but in vain. He asked for pen and paper; it was given him; be wrote a letter to his
sister, conjuring her, as she valued her own happiness, her own honor, and the honor of those
now in the grave, who once held her in their arms as their hope and the hope of their house,
to delay but for a few hours that marriage, on which he denounced the most heavy curses.
The servants promised they would deliver it; but giving it to the physician, he thought it betternot to harass any more the mind of Miss Aubrey by, what he considered, the ravings of a
maniac. Night passed on without rest to the busy inmates of the house; and Aubrey heard,
with a horror that may more easily be conceived than described, the notes of busy
preparation. Morning came, and the sound of carriages broke upon his ear. Aubrey grew
almost frantic. The curiosity of the servants at last overcame their vigilance, they gradually
stole away, leaving him in the custody of an helpless old woman. He seized the opportunity,
with one bound was out of the room, and in a moment found himself in the apartment where
all were nearly assembled. Lord Ruthven was the first to perceive him: lie immediately
approached, and, taking his arm by force, hurried him from the room, speechless with rage.
When on the staircase, Lord Ruthven whispered in his ear — “Remember your oath, and
know, if not my bride today, your sister is dishonored. Women are frail!” So saying, he pushed
him towards his attendants, who, roused by the old woman, had come in search of him.
Aubrey could no longer support himself; his rage not finding vent, had broken a blood-vessel,
and he was conveyed to bed. This was not mentioned to his sister, who was not present when
he entered, as the physician was afraid of agitating her. The marriage was solemnized, and
the bride and bridegroom left London.
Aubrey’s weakness increased; the effusion of blood produced symptoms of the near
approach of death. He desired his sister’s guardians might be called, and when the midnight
hour had struck, he related composedly what the reader has perused — he died immediately
after.
The guardians hastened to protect Miss Aubrey; but when they arrived, it was too late.
Lord Ruthven had disappeared, and Aubrey’s sister had glutted the thirst of a VAMPIRE!
The Viy
Nikolai Gogol
(1835)

Chapter 1



As soon as the clear seminary bell began sounding in Kieff in the morning, the pupils
would come flocking from all parts of the town. The students of grammar, rhetoric, philosophy,
and theology hastened with their books under their arms over the streets.
The “grammarians” were still mere boys. On the way they pushed against each other
and quarreled with shrill voices. Nearly all of them wore torn or dirty clothes, and their pockets
were always crammed with all kinds of things — push-bones, pipes made out of pens,
remains of confectionery, and sometimes even young sparrows. The latter would sometimes
begin to chirp in the midst of deep silence in the school, and bring down on their possessors
severe canings and thrashings.
The “rhetoricians” walked in a more orderly way. Their clothes were generally untorn, but
on the other hand their faces were often strangely decorated; one had a black eye, and the
lips of another resembled a single blister, etc. These spoke to each other in tenor voices.
The “philosophers” talked in a tone an octave lower; in their pockets they only had
fragments of tobacco, never whole cakes of it; for what they could get hold of, they used at
once. They smelt so strongly of tobacco and brandy, that a workman passing by them would
often remain standing and sniffing with his nose in the air, like a hound.
About this time of day the market-place was generally full of bustle, and the market
women, selling rolls, cakes, and honey-tarts, plucked the sleeves of those who wore coats of
fine cloth or cotton.
“Young sir! Young sir! Here! Here!” they cried from all sides. “Bolls and cakes and tasty
tarts, very delicious! I have baked them myself!”
Another drew something long and crooked out of her basket and cried, “Here is a
sausage, young sir! Buy a sausage!”
“Don’t buy anything from her!” cried a rival. “See how greasy she is, and what a dirty
nose and hands she has!”
But the market women carefully avoided appealing to the philosophers and theologians,
for these only took handfuls of eatables merely to taste them.
Arrived at the seminary, the whole crowd of students dispersed into the low, large
classrooms with small windows, broad doors, and blackened benches. Suddenly they were filled
with a many-toned murmur. The teachers heard the pupils’ lessons repeated, some in shrill
and others in deep voices which sounded like a distant booming. While the lessons were being
said, the teachers kept a sharp eye open to see whether pieces of cake or other dainties were
protruding from their pupils’ pockets; if so, they were promptly confiscated.
When this learned crowd arrived somewhat earlier than usual, or when it was known that
the teachers would come somewhat late, a battle would ensue, as though planned by general
agreement. In this battle all had to take part, even the monitors who were appointed to look
after the order and morality of the whole school. Two theologians generally arranged the
conditions of the battle: whether each class should split into two sides, or whether all the
pupils should divide themselves into two halves.
In each case the grammarians began the battle. and after the rhetoricians had joined in,
the former retired and stood on the benches, in order to watch the fortunes of the fray. Then
came the philosophers with long black moustaches, and finally the thick-necked theologians.
The battle generally ended in a victory for the latter, and the philosophers retired to the
different class-rooms rubbing their aching limbs, and throwing themselves on the benches to
take breath.
When the teacher, who in his own time had taken part in such contests, entered the
class-room he saw by the heated faces of his pupils that the battle had been very severe, andwhile he caned the hands of the rhetoricians, in another room another teacher did the same
for the philosophers.
On Sundays and Festival Days the seminarists took puppet — theatres to the citizens’
houses. Sometimes they acted a comedy, and in that case it was always a theologian who
took the part of the hero or heroine — Potiphar or Herodias, etc. As a reward for their
exertions, they received a piece of linen, a sack of maize, half a roast goose, or something
similar. All the students, lay and clerical, were very poorly provided with means for procuring
themselves necessary subsistence, but at the same time very fond of eating; so that, however
much food was given to them, they were never satisfied, and the gifts bestowed by rich
landowners were never adequate for their needs.
Therefore the Commissariat Committee, consisting of philosophers and theologians,
sometimes dispatched the grammarians and rhetoricians under the leadership of a
philosopher — themselves sometimes joining in the expedition — with sacks on their
shoulders, into the town, in order to levy a contribution on the fleshpots of the citizens, and
then there was a feast in the seminary.
The most important event in the seminary year was the arrival of the holidays; these
began in July, and then generally all the students went home. At that time all the roads were
thronged with grammarians, rhetoricians, philosophers, and theologians. He who had no home
of his own t would take up his quarters with some fellow-student’s family; the philosophers and
theologians looked out for tutors’ posts, taught the children of rich farmers, and received for
doing so a pair of new boots and sometimes also a new coat,
A whole troop of them would go off in close ranks like a regiment; they cooked their
porridge in common, and encamped under the open sky. Each had a bag with him containing
a shirt and a pair of socks. The theologians were especially economical; in order not to wear
out their boots too quickly, they took them off and carried them on a stick over their
shoulders, especially when the road was very muddy. Then they tucked up their breeches
over their knees and waded bravely through the pools and puddles. Whenever they spied a
village near the highway, they at once left it, approached the house which seemed the most
considerable, and began with loud voices to sing a psalm. The master of the house, an old
Cossack engaged in agriculture, would listen for a long time with his head propped in his
hands, then with tears on his cheeks say to his wife, “What the students are singing sounds
very devout; bring out some lard and anything else of the kind we have in the house.”
After thus replenishing their stores, the students would continue their way. The farther
they went, the smaller grew their numbers, as they dispersed to their various houses, and left
those whose homes were still farther on.
On one occasion, during such a march, three students left the main road in order to get
provisions in some village, since their stock had long been exhausted. This party consisted of
the theologian Khalava, the philosopher Thomas Brutus, and the rhetorician Tiberius
Gorobetz.
The first was a tall youth with broad shoulders and of a peculiar character; everything
which came within reach of his fingers he felt obliged to appropriate. Moreover, he was of a
very melancholy disposition, and when he had got intoxicated he hid himself in the most
tangled thickets so that the seminary officials had the greatest trouble in finding him.
The philosopher Thomas Brutus was a more cheerful character. He liked to lie for a long
time on the same spot and smoke his pipe; and when he was merry with wine, he hired a
fiddler and danced the “tropak.” Often he got a whole quantity of “beans”, i.e. thrashings; but
these he endured with complete philosophic calm, saying that a man cannot escape his
destiny.
The rhetorician Tiberius Gorobetz had not yet the right to wear a moustache, to drink
brandy, or to smoke tobacco. He only wore a small crop of hair, as though his character was
at present too little developed. To judge by the great bumps on his forehead, with which heoften appeared in the class-room, it might be expected that someday he would be a valiant
fighter. Khalava and Thomas often pulled his hair as a mark of their special favor, and sent
him on their errands.
Evening had already come when they left the high-road; the sun had just gone down, and
the air was still heavy with the heat of the day. The theologian and the philosopher strolled
along, smoking in silence, while the rhetorician struck off the heads of the thistles by the
wayside with his stick. The way wound on through thick woods of oak and walnut; green hills
alternated here and there with meadows. Twice already they had seen cornfields, from which
they concluded that they were near some village; but an hour had already passed, and no
human habitation appeared. The sky was already quite dark, and only a red gleam lingered on
the western horizon.
“The deuce!” said the philosopher Thomas Brutus. “I was almost certain we would soon
reach a village.”
The theologian still remained silent, looked round him, then put his pipe again between
his teeth, and all three continued their way.
“Good heavens!” exclaimed the philosopher, and stood still. “Now the road itself is
disappearing.”
“Perhaps we shall find a farm farther on,” answered the theologian, without taking his
pipe out of his mouth.
Meanwhile the night had descended; clouds increased the darkness, and according to all
appearance there was no chance of moon or stars appearing. The seminarists found that they
had lost the way altogether.
After the philosopher had vainly sought for a footpath, he exclaimed, “Where have we
got to?”
The theologian thought for a while, and said, “Yes, it is really dark.”
The rhetorician went on one side, lay on the ground, and groped for a path; but his
hands encountered only fox-holes. All around lay a huge steppe over which no one seemed to
have passed. The wanderers made several efforts to get forward, but the landscape grew
wilder and more inhospitable.
The philosopher tried to shout, but his voice was lost in vacancy, no one answered; only,
some moments later, they heard a faint groaning sound, like the whimpering of a wolf.
“Curse it all! What shall we do?” said the philosopher.
“Why, just stop here, and spend the night in the open air,” answered the theologian. So
saying, he felt in his pocket, brought out his timber and steel, and lit his pipe.
But the philosopher could not agree with this proposal; he was not accustomed to sleep
till he had first eaten five pounds of bread and five of dripping, and so he now felt an
intolerable emptiness in his stomach. Besides, in spite of his cheerful temperament, he was a
little afraid of the wolves.
“No, Khalava,” he said, “that won’t do. To lie down like a dog and without any supper! Let
us try once more; perhaps we shall find a house, and the consolation of having a glass of
brandy to drink before going to sleep.”
At the word “brandy,” the theologian spat on one side and said, “Yes, of course, we
cannot remain all night in the open air.”
The students went on and on, and to their great joy they heard the barking of dogs in the
distance. After listening a while to see from which direction the barking came, they went on
their way with new courage, and soon espied a light.
“A village, by heavens, a village!” exclaimed the philosopher.
His supposition proved correct; they soon saw two or three houses built round a
courtyard. Lights glimmered in the windows, and before the fence stood a number of trees.
The students looked through the crevices of the gates and saw a courtyard in which stood a
large number of roving tradesmen’s carts. In the sky there were now fewer clouds, and hereand there a star was visible.
“See, brother!” one of them said, “we must now cry ‘halt!’ Cost what it may, we must find
entrance and a night’s lodging.”
The three students knocked together at the gate, and cried “Open!”
The door of one of the houses creaked on its hinges, and an old woman wrapped in a
sheepskin appeared. “Who is there?” she exclaimed, coughing loudly.
“Let us spend the night here, mother; we have lost our way, our stomachs are empty,
and we do not want to spend the night out of doors.”
“But what sort of people are you?”
“Quite harmless people; the theologian Khalava, the philosopher Brutus, and the
rhetorician Gorobetz.”
“It is impossible,” answered the old woman. “The whole house is full of people, and every
corner occupied. Where can I put you up? You are big and heavy enough to break the house
down. I know these philosophers and theologians; when once one takes them in, they eat one
out of house and home. Go farther on! There is no room here for you!”
“Have pity on us, mother! How can you be so heartless? Don’t let Christians perish. Put
us up where you like, and if we eat up your provisions, or do any other damage, may our
hands wither up, and all the punishment of heaven light on us!”
The old woman seemed a little touched. “Well,” she said after a few moments’
consideration, “I will let you in; but I must put you in different rooms, for I should have no quiet
if you were all together at night.”
“Do just as you like; we won’t say any more about it,” answered the students.
The gates moved heavily on their hinges, and they entered the courtyard.
“Well now, mother,” said the philosopher, following the old woman, “if you had a little
scrap of something! By heavens! my stomach is as empty as a drum. I have not had a bit of
bread in my mouth since early this morning!”
“Didn’t I say so?” replied the old woman. “There you go begging at once. But I have no
food in the house, nor any fire.”
“But we will pay for everything,” continued the philosopher.
“We will pay early tomorrow in cash.”
“Go on and be content with what you get. You are fine fellows whom the devil has
brought here!”
Her reply greatly depressed the philosopher Thomas; but suddenly his nose caught the
odor of dried fish; he looked at the breeches of the theologian, who walked by his side, and
saw a huge fish’s tail sticking out of his pocket. The latter had already seized the opportunity
to steal a whole fish from one of the carts standing in the courtyard. He had not done this
from hunger so much as from the force of habit. He had quite forgotten the fish, and was
looking about to see whether he could not find something else to appropriate. Then the
philosopher put his hand in the theologian’s pocket as though it were his own, and laid hold of
his prize.
The old woman found a special resting-place for each student; the rhetorician she put in
a shed, the theologian in an empty store-room, and the philosopher in a sheep’s stall.
As soon as the philosopher was alone, he devoured the fish in a twinkling, examined the
fence which enclosed the stall, kicked away a pig from a neighboring stall, which had
inquiringly inserted its nose through a crevice, and lay down on his right side to sleep like a
corpse.
Then the low door opened, and the old woman came crouching into the stall.
“Well, mother, what do you want here?” asked the philosopher.
She made no answer, but came with out-stretched arms towards him.
The philosopher shrank back; but she still approached, as though she wished to lay hold
of him. A terrible fright seized him, for he saw the old hag’s eyes sparkle in an extraordinaryway. “Away with you, old witch, away with you!” he shouted. But she still stretched her hands
after him.
He jumped up in order to rush out, but she placed herself before the door, fixed her
glowing eyes upon him, and again approached him. The philosopher tried to push her away
with his hands, but to his astonishment he found that he could neither lift his hands nor move
his legs, nor utter an audible word. He only heard his heart beating, and saw the old woman
approach him, place his hands crosswise on his breast, and bend his head down. Then with
the agility of a cat she sprang on his shoulders, struck him on the side with a broom, and he
began to run like a race-horse, carrying her on his shoulders.
All this happened with such swiftness, that the philosopher could scarcely collect his
thoughts. He laid hold of his knees with both hands in order to stop his legs from running; but
to his great astonishment they kept moving forward against his will, making rapid springs like a
Caucasian horse.
Not till the house had been left behind them and a wide plain stretched before them,
bordered on one side by a black gloomy wood, did he say to himself, “Ah! it is a witch!”
The half — moon shone pale and high in the sky. Its mild light, still more subdued by
intervening clouds, fell like a transparent veil on the earth. Woods, meadows, hills, and valleys
— all seemed to be sleeping with open eyes; nowhere was a breath of air stirring. The
atmosphere was moist and warm; the shadows of the trees and bushes fell sharply defined on
the sloping plain. Such was the night through which the philosopher Thomas Brutus sped with
his strange rider.
A strange, oppressive, and yet sweet sensation took possession of his heart. He looked
down and saw how the grass beneath his feet seemed to be quite deep and far away; over it
there flowed a flood of crystal-clear water, and the grassy plain looked like the bottom of a
transparent sea. He saw his own image, and that of the old woman whom he carried on his
back, clearly reflected in it. Then he beheld how, instead of the moon, a strange sun shone
there; he heard the deep tones of bells, and saw them swinging. He saw a water-nixie rise
from a bed of tall reeds; she turned to him, and her face was clearly visible, and she sang a
song which penetrated his soul; then she approached him and nearly reached the surface of
the water, on which she burst into laughter and again disappeared.
Did he see it or did he not see it? Was he dreaming or was he awake? But what was that
below — wind or music? It sounded and drew nearer, and penetrated his soul like a song that
rose and fell. “What is it?” he thought as he gazed into the depths, and still sped rapidly along.
The perspiration flowed from him in streams; he experienced simultaneously a strange
feeling of oppression and delight in all his being. Often he felt as though he had no longer a
heart, and pressed his hand on his breast with alarm.
Weary to death, he began to repeat all the prayers which he knew, and all the formulas
of exorcism against evil spirits. Suddenly he experienced a certain relief. He felt that his pace
was slackening; the witch weighed less heavily on his shoulders, and the thick herbage of the
plain was again beneath his feet, with nothing especial to remark about it.
“Splendid!” thought the philosopher Thomas, and began to repeat his exorcisms in a still
louder voice.
Then suddenly he wrenched himself away from under the witch, and sprang on her back
in his turn. She began to run, with short, trembling steps indeed, but so rapidly that he could
hardly breathe. So swiftly did she run that she hardly seemed to touch the ground. They were
still on the plain, but owing to the rapidity of their flight everything seemed indistinct and
confused before his eyes. He seized a stick that was lying on the ground, and began to
belabor the hag with all his might. She uttered a wild cry, which at first sounded raging and
threatening; then it became gradually weaker and more gentle, till at last it sounded quite low
like the pleasant tones of a silver bell, so that it penetrated his innermost soul. Involuntarily the
thought passed through his mind:“Is she really an old woman?”
“Ah! I can go no farther,” she said in a faint voice, and sank to the earth.
He knelt beside her, and looked in her eyes. The dawn was red in the sky, and in the
distance glimmered the gilt domes of the churches of Kieff. Before him lay a beautiful maiden
with thick, disheveled hair and long eyelashes. Unconsciously she had stretched out her white,
bare arms, and her tear-filled eyes gazed at the sky.
Thomas trembled like an aspen-leaf. Sympathy, and a strange feeling of excitement, and
a hitherto unknown fear overpowered him. He began to run with all his might. His heart beat
violently, and he could not explain to himself what a strange, new feeling had seized him. He
did not wish to return to the village, but hastened towards Kieff, thinking all the way as he
went of his weird, unaccountable adventure.
There were hardly any students left in the town; they were all scattered about the
country, and had either taken tutors’ posts or simply lived without occupation; for at the farms
in Little Russia one can live comfortably and at ease without paying a farthing. The great half
— decayed building in which the seminary was established was completely empty; and
however much the philosopher searched in all its corners for a piece of lard and bread, he
could not find even one of the hard biscuits which the seminarists were in the habit of hiding.
But the philosopher found a means of extricating himself from his difficulties by making
friends with a certain young widow in the market-place who sold ribbons, etc. The same
evening he found himself being stuffed with cakes and fowl; in fact it is impossible to say how
many things were placed before him on a little table in an arbor shaded by cherry-trees.
Later, on the same evening the philosopher was to be seen in an ale-house. He lay on a
bench, smoked his pipe in his usual way, and threw the Jewish publican a gold piece. He had
a jug of ale standing before him, looked on all who went in and out in a cold-blooded,
selfsatisfied way, and thought no more of his strange adventure.
About this time a report spread about that the daughter of a rich colonel, whose estate
lay about fifty versts distant from Kieff, had returned home one day from a walk in a quite
broken-down condition. She had scarcely enough strength to reach her father’s house; now
she lay dying, and had expressed a wish that for three days after her death the prayers for
the dead should be recited by a Kieff seminarist named Thomas Brutus.
This fact was communicated to the philosopher by the rector of the seminary himself,
who sent for him to his room and told him that he must start at once, as a rich colonel had
sent his servants and a kibitka for him. The philosopher trembled, and was seized by an
uncomfortable feeling which he could not define. He had a gloomy foreboding that some evil
was about to befall him. Without knowing why, he declared that he did not wish to go.
“Listen, Thomas,” said the rector, who under certain circumstances spoke very politely to
his pupils; “I have no idea of asking you whether you wish to go or not. I only tell you that if
you think of disobeying, I will have you so soundly flogged on the back with young birch-rods,
that you need not think of having a bath for a long time.”
The philosopher scratched the back of his head, and went out silently, intending to make
himself scarce at the first opportunity. Lost in thought, he descended the steep flight of steps
which led to the court-yard, thickly planted with poplars; there he remained standing for a
moment, and heard quite distinctly the rector giving orders in a loud voice to his steward, and
to another person, probably one of the messengers sent by the colonel.
“Thank your master for the peeled barley and the eggs,” said the rector; “and tell him
that as soon as the books which he mentions in his note are ready, I will send them. I have
already given them to a clerk to be copied. And don’t forget to remind your master that he has
some excellent fish, especially prime sturgeon, in his ponds; he might send me some when he
has the opportunity, as here in the market the fish are bad and dear. And you, Jantukh, give
the colonel’s man a glass of brandy. And mind you tie up the philosopher, or he will show you
a clean pair of heels.”“Listen to the scoundrel!” thought the philosopher. “He has smelt a rat, the long-legged
stork!”
He descended into the court-yard and beheld there a kibitka, which he at first took for a
barn on wheels. It was, in fact, as roomy as a kiln, so that bricks might have been made
inside it. It was one of those remarkable Cracow vehicles in which Jews travelled from town to
town in scores, wherever they thought they would find a market. Six stout, strong, though
somewhat elderly Cossacks were standing by it. Their gold-braided coats of fine cloth showed
that their master was rich and of some importance; and certain little scars testified to their
valor on the battle-field.
“What can I do?” thought the philosopher. “There is no escaping one’s destiny!” So he
stepped up to the Cossacks and said “Good day, comrades.”
“Welcome, Mr. Philosopher!” some of them answered.
“Well, I am to travel with you! It is a magnificent vehicle,” he continued as he got into it.
“If there were only musicians present, one might dance in it.”
“Yes, it is a roomy carriage,” said one of the Cossacks, taking his seat by the coachman.
The latter had tied a cloth round his head, as he had already found an opportunity of pawning
his cap in the ale-house. The other five, with the philosopher, got into the capacious kibitka,
and sat upon sacks which were filled with all sorts of articles purchased in the city.
“I should like to know,” said the philosopher, “if this equipage were laden with salt or iron,
how many horses would be required to draw it?”
“Yes,” said the Cossack who sat by the coachman, after thinking a short time, “it would
require a good many horses.”
After giving this satisfactory answer, the Cossack considered himself entitled to remain
silent for the whole of the rest of the journey.
The philosopher would gladly have found out who the colonel was, and what sort of a
character he had. He was also curious to know about his daughter, who had returned home in
such a strange way and now lay dying, and whose destiny seemed to be mingled with his
own; and wanted to know the sort of life that was lived in the colonel’s house. But the
Cossacks were probably philosophers like himself, for in answer to his inquiries they only blew
clouds of tobacco and settled themselves more comfortably on their sacks.
Meanwhile, one of them addressed to the coachman on the box a brief command: “Keep
your eyes open, Overko, you old sleepy-head, and when you come to the ale-house on the
road to Tchukrailoff, don’t forget to pull up and wake me and the other fellows if we are
asleep.” Then he began to snore pretty loud. But in any case his admonition was quite
superfluous; for scarcely had the enormous equipage begun to approach the aforesaid
alehouse, than they all cried with one mouth “Halt! Halt!” Besides this, Overko’s horse was
accustomed to stop outside every inn of its own accord.
In spite of the intense July heat, they all got out and entered a low, dirty room where a
Jewish innkeeper received them in a friendly way as old acquaintances. He brought in the skirt
of his long coat some sausages, and laid them on the table, where, though forbidden by the
Talmud, they looked very seductive. All sat down at table, and it was not long before each of
the guests had an earthenware jug standing in front of him. The philosopher Thomas had to
take part in the feast, and as the Little Russians when they are intoxicated always begin to
kiss each other or to weep, the whole room soon began to echo with demonstrations of
affection.
“Come here, come here, Spirid, let me embrace thee!”
“Come here, Dorosch, let me press you to my heart!”
One Cossack, with a grey moustache, the eldest of them all, leant his head on his hand
and began to weep bitterly because he was an orphan and alone in God’s wide world. Another
tall, loquacious man did his best to comfort him, saying, “Don’t weep, for God’s sake, don’t
weep! For over there — God knows best.”The Cossack who had been addressed as Dorosch was full of curiosity, and addressed
many questions to the philosopher Thomas. “I should like to know,” he said, “what you learn in
your seminary; do you learn the same things as the deacon reads to us in church, or
something else?”
“Don’t ask,” said the consoler; “let them learn what they like. God knows what is to
happen; God knows everything.”
“No, I will know,” answered Dorosch, “I will know what is written in their books; perhaps it
is something quite different from that in the deacon’s book.”
“Good heavens!” said the other, “why all this talk? It is God’s will, and one cannot change
God’s arrangements.”
“But I will know everything that is written; I will enter the seminary too, by heaven I will!
Do you think perhaps I could not learn? I will learn everything, everything.”
“Oh, heavens!” exclaimed the consoler, and let his head sink on the table, for he could
no longer hold it upright.
The other Cossacks talked about the nobility, and why there was a moon in the sky.
When the philosopher Thomas saw the state they were in, he determined to profit by it,
and to make his escape. In the first place he turned to the grey-headed Cossack, who was
lamenting the loss of his parents. “But, little uncle,” he said to him, “why do you weep so? I
too am an orphan! Let me go, children; why do you want me?”
“Let him go!” said some of them, “he is an orphan, let him go where he likes.”
They were about to take him outside themselves, when the one who had displayed a
special thirst for knowledge, stopped them, saying, “No, I want to talk with him about the
seminary; I am going to the seminary myself.”
Moreover, it was not yet certain whether the philosopher could have executed his project
of flight, for when he tried to rise from his chair, he felt as though his feet were made of wood,
and he began to see such a number of doors leading out of the room that it would have been
difficult for him to have found the right one.
It was not till evening that the company remembered that they must continue their
journey. They crowded into the kibitka, whipped up the horses, and struck up a song, the
words and sense of which were hard to understand. During a great part of the night, they
wandered about, having lost the road which they ought to have been able to find blindfolded.
At last they drove down a steep descent into a valley, and the philosopher noticed, by the
sides of the road, hedges, behind which he caught glimpses of small trees and house-roofs.
All these belonged to the colonel’s estate.
It was already long past midnight. The sky was dark, though little stars glimmered here
and there; no light was to be seen in any of the houses. They drove into a large court-yard,
while the dogs barked. On all sides were barns and cottages with thatched roofs. Just
opposite the gateway was a house, which was larger than the others, and seemed to be the
colonel’s dwelling. The kibitka stopped before a small barn, and the travelers hastened into it
and laid themselves down to sleep. The philosopher however attempted to look at the exterior
of the house, but, rub his eyes as he might, he could distinguish nothing; the house seemed
to turn into a bear, and the chimney into the rector of the seminary. Then he gave it up and
lay down to sleep.
When he woke up the next morning, the whole house was in commotion; the young lady
had died during the night. The servants ran hither and thither in a distracted state; the old
women wept and lamented; and a number of curious people gazed through the enclosure into
the court-yard, as though there were something special to be seen. The philosopher began
now to inspect the locality and the buildings, which he had not been able to do during the
night.
The colonel’s house was one of those low, small buildings, such as used formerly to be
constructed in Russia. It was thatched with straw; a small, high-peaked gable, with a windowshaped like an eye, was painted all over with blue and yellow flowers and red crescent-moons;
it rested on little oaken pillars, which were round above the middle, hexagonal below, and
whose capitals were adorned with quaint carvings. Under this gable was a small staircase with
seats at the foot of it on either side.
The walls of the house were supported by similar pillars. Before the house stood a large
pear-tree of pyramidal shape, whose leaves incessantly trembled. A double row of buildings
formed a broad street leading up to the colonel’s house. Behind the barns near the
entrancegate stood two three-cornered wine-houses, also thatched with straw; each of the stone walls
had a door in it, and was covered with all kinds of paintings. On one was represented a
Cossack sitting on a barrel and swinging a large pitcher over his head; it bore the inscription “I
will drink all that!” Elsewhere were painted large and small bottles, a beautiful girl, a running
horse, a pipe, and a drum bearing the words “Wine is the Cossack’s joy.”
In the loft of one of the barns one saw through a huge round window a drum and some
trumpets. At the gate there stood two cannons. All this showed that the colonel loved a
cheerful life, and the whole place often rang with sounds of merriment. Before the gate were
two windmills, and behind the house gardens sloped away; through the tree-tops the dark
chimneys of the peasants’ houses were visible. The whole village lay on a broad, even
plateau, in the middle of a mountain-slope which culminated in a steep summit on the north
side. When seen from below, it looked still steeper. Here and there on the top the irregular
stems of the thick steppe-brooms showed in dark relief against the blue sky. The bare clay
soil made a melancholy impression, worn as it was into deep furrows by rain-water. On the
same slope there stood two cottages, and over one of them a huge apple-tree spread its
branches; the roots were supported by small props, whose interstices were filled with mold.
The apples, which were blown off by the wind, rolled down to the court-yard below. A road
wound round the mountain to the village.
When the philosopher looked at this steep slope, and remembered his journey of the
night before, he came to the conclusion that either the colonel’s horses were very sagacious,
or that the Cossacks must have very strong heads, as they ventured, even when the worse
for drink, on such a road with the huge kibitka.
When the philosopher turned and looked in the opposite direction, he saw quite another
picture. The village reached down to the plain; meadows stretched away to an immense
distance, their bright green growing gradually dark; far away, about twenty versts off, many
other villages were visible. To the right of these meadows were chains of hills, and in the
remote distance one saw the Dnieper shimmer and sparkle like a mirror of steel.
“What a splendid country!” said the philosopher to himself. “It must be fine to live here!
One could catch fish in the Dnieper, and in the ponds, and shoot and snare partridges and
bustards; there must be quantities here. Much fruit might be dried here and sold in the town,
or, better still, brandy might be distilled from it, for fruit-brandy is the best of all. But what
prevents me thinking of my escape after all?”
Behind the hedge he saw a little path which was almost entirely concealed by the high
grass of the steppe. The philosopher approached it mechanically, meaning at first to walk a
little along it unobserved, and then quite quietly to gain the open country behind the peasants’
houses. Suddenly he felt the pressure of a fairly heavy hand on his shoulder.
Behind him stood the same old Cossack who yesterday had so bitterly lamented the
death of his father and mother, and his own loneliness. “You are giving yourself useless
trouble, Mr. Philosopher, if you think you can escape from us,” he said. “One cannot run away
here; and besides, the roads are too bad for walkers. Come to the colonel; he has been
waiting for you for some time in his room.”
“Yes, of course! What are you talking about? I will come with the greatest pleasure,” said
the philosopher, and followed the Cossack.
The colonel was an elderly man; his moustache was grey, and his face wore the signs ofdeep sadness. He sat in his room by a table, with his head propped on both hands. He
seemed about five-and-fifty, but his attitude of utter despair, and the pallor on his face,
showed that his heart had been suddenly broken, and that all his former cheerfulness had for
ever disappeared.
When Thomas entered with the Cossack, he answered their deep bows with a slight
inclination of the head.
“Who are you, whence do you come, and what is your profession, my good man?” asked
the colonel in an even voice, neither friendly nor austere.
“lama student of philosophy; my name is Thomas Brutus.”
“And who was your father?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“And your mother?”
“I don’t know either; I know that I must have had a mother, but who she was, and where
she lived, by heavens, I do not know.”
The colonel was silent, and seemed for a moment lost in thought. “Where did you come
to know my daughter?”
“I do not know her, gracious sir; I declare I do not know her.”
“Why then has she chosen you, and no one else, to offer up prayers for her?”
The philosopher shrugged his shoulders. “God only knows. It is a well-known fact that
grand people often demand things which the most learned man cannot comprehend; and
does not the proverb say, ‘Dance, devil, as the Lord commands!’”
“Aren’t you talking nonsense, Mr. Philosopher?”
“May the lightning strike me on the spot if I lie.”
“If she had only lived a moment longer,” said the colonel sadly, “then I had certainly
found out everything. She said, ‘Let no one offer up prayers for me, but send, father, at once
to the seminary in Kieff for the student Thomas Brutus; he shall pray three nights running for
my sinful soul — he knows.’ But what he really knows she never said. The poor dove could
speak no more, and died. Good man, you are probably well known for your sanctity and
devout life, and she has perhaps heard of you.”
“What? Of me?” said the philosopher, and took a step backward in amazement. “I and
sanctity!” he exclaimed, and stared at the colonel. “God help us, gracious sir! What are you
saying? It was only last Holy Thursday that I paid a visit to the tart-shop.”
“Well, she must at any rate have had some reason for making the arrangement, and you
must begin your duties today.”
“I should like to remark to your honor — naturally everyone who knows the Holy
Scripture at all can in his measure — but I believe it would be better on this occasion to send
for a deacon or subdeacon. They are learned people, and they know exactly what is to be
done. I have not got a good voice, nor any official standing. You may say what you like, but I
shall carry out all my dove’s wishes. If you read the prayers for her three nights through in the
proper way, I will reward you; and if not — I advise the devil himself not to oppose me!”
The colonel spoke the last words in such an emphatic way that the philosopher quite
understood them.
“Follow me!” said the colonel.
They went into the hall. The colonel opened a door which was opposite his own. The
philosopher remained for a few minutes in the hall in order to look about him; then he stepped
over the threshold with a certain nervousness.
The whole floor of the room was covered with red cloth. In a corner under the icons of
the saints, on a table covered with a gold-bordered, velvet cloth, lay the body of the girl. Tall
candles, round which were wound branches of the “calina,” stood at her head and feet, and
burned dimly in the broad daylight. The face of the dead was not to be seen, as the
inconsolable father sat before his daughter, with his back turned to the philosopher. Thewords which the latter overheard filled him with a certain fear:
“I do not mourn, my daughter, that in the flower of your age you have prematurely left
the earth, to my grief; but I mourn, my dove, that I do not know my deadly enemy who caused
your death. Had I only known that anyone could even conceive the idea of insulting you, or of
speaking a disrespectful word to you, I swear by heaven he would never have seen his
children again, if he had been as old as myself; nor his father and mother, if he had been
young. And I would have thrown his corpse to the birds of the air, and the wild beasts of the
steppe. But woe is me, my flower, my dove, my light! I will spend the remainder of my life
without joy, and wipe the bitter tears which flow out of my old eyes, while my enemy will
rejoice and laugh in secret over the helpless old man!”
He paused, overpowered by grief, and streams of tears flowed down his cheeks.
The philosopher was deeply affected by the sight of such inconsolable sorrow. He
coughed gently in order to clear his throat. The colonel turned and signed to him to take his
place at the head of the dead girl, before a little prayer-desk on which some books lay.
“I can manage to hold out for three nights,” thought the philosopher; “and then the
colonel will fill both my pockets with ducats.”
He approached the dead girl, and after coughing once more, began to read, without
paying attention to anything else, and firmly resolved not to look at her face.
Soon there was deep silence, and he saw that the colonel had left the room. Slowly he
turned his head in order to look at the corpse. A violent shudder thrilled through him; before
him lay a form of such beauty as is seldom seen upon earth. It seemed to him that never in a
single face had so much intensity of expression and harmony of feature been united. Her
brow, soft as snow and pure as silver, seemed to be thinking; the fine, regular eyebrows
shadowed proudly the closed eyes, whose lashes gently rested on her cheeks, which seemed
to glow with secret longing; her lips still appeared to smile. But at the same time he saw
something in these features which appalled him; a terrible depression seized his heart, as
when in the midst of dance and song someone begins to chant a dirge. He felt as though
those ruby lips were colored with his own heart’s blood. Moreover, her face seemed dreadfully
familiar.
The witch!” he cried out in a voice which sounded strange to himself; then he turned
away and began to read the prayers with white cheeks. It was the witch whom he had killed.
Chapter 2



When the sun had sunk below the horizon, the corpse was carried into the church. The
philosopher supported one corner of the black-draped coffin upon his shoulder, and felt an
ice-cold shiver run through his body. The colonel walked in front of him, with his right hand
resting on the edge of the coffin.
The wooden church, black with age and overgrown with green lichen, stood quite at the
end of the village in gloomy solitude; it was adorned with three round cupolas. One saw at the
first glance that it had not been used for divine worship for a long time.
Lighted candles were standing before almost every icon. The coffin was set down before
the altar. The old colonel kissed his dead daughter once more, and then left the church,
together with the bearers of the bier, after he had ordered his servants to look after the
philosopher and to take him back to the church after supper.
The coffin-bearers, when they returned to the house, all laid their hands on the stove.
This custom is always observed in Little Russia by those who have seen a corpse.
The hunger which the philosopher now began to feel caused him for a while to forget the
dead girl altogether. Gradually all the domestics of the house assembled in the kitchen; it was
really a kind of club, where they were accustomed to gather. Even the dogs came to the door,
wagging their tails in order to have bones and offal thrown to them.
If a servant was sent on an errand, he always found his way into the kitchen to rest there
for a while, and to smoke a pipe. All the Cossacks of the establishment lay here during the
whole day on and under the benches — in fact, wherever a place could be found to lie down
in. Moreover, everyone was always leaving something behind in the kitchen — his cap, or his
whip, or something of the sort. But the numbers of the club were not complete till the evening,
when the groom came in after tying up his horses in the stable, the cowherd had shut up his
cows in their stalls, and others collected there who were not usually seen in the day-time.
During supper-time even the tongues of the laziest were set in motion. They talked of all and
everything — of the new pair of breeches which someone had ordered for himself, of what
might be in the center of the earth, and of the wolf which someone had seen. There were a
number of wits in the company — a class which is always represented in Little Russia.
The philosopher took his place with the rest in the great circle which sat round the
kitchen door in the open-air. Soon an old woman with a red cap issued from it, bearing with
both hands a large vessel full of hot “galuchkis,” which she distributed among them. Each
drew out of his pocket a wooden spoon, or a one-pronged wooden fork. As soon as their jaws
began to move a little more slowly, and their wolfish hunger was somewhat appeased, they
began to talk. The conversation, as might be expected, turned on the dead girl.
“Is it true,” said a young shepherd, “is it true — though I cannot understand it — that our
young mistress had traffic with evil spirits?”
“Who, the young lady?” answered Dorosch, whose acquaintance the philosopher had
already made in the kibitka. “Yes, she was a regular witch! I can swear that she was a witch!”
“Hold your tongue, Dorosch!” exclaimed another — the one who, during the journey, had
played the part of a consoler. “We have nothing to do with that. May God be merciful to her!
One ought not to talk of such things.”
But Dorosch was not at all inclined to be silent; he had just visited the wine-cellar with the
steward on important business, and having stooped two or three times over one or two casks,
he had returned in a very cheerful and loquacious mood.
“Why do you ask me to be silent?” he answered. “She has ridden on my own shoulders, I
swear she has.”
“Say, uncle,” asked the young shepherd, “are there signs by which to recognize asorceress?”
“No, there are not,” answered Dorosch; “even if you knew the Psalter by heart, you could
not recognize one.”
“Yes, Dorosch, it is possible; don’t talk such nonsense,” retorted the former consoler. “It
is not for nothing that God has given each some special peculiarity; the learned maintain that
every witch has a little tail.”
“Every old woman is a witch,” said a grey-headed Cossack quite seriously.
“Yes, you are a fine lot,” retorted the old woman who entered at that moment with a
vessel full of fresh “galuchkis.” “You are great fat pigs!”
A self-satisfied smile played round the lips of the old Cossack whose name was Javtuch,
when he found that his remark had touched the old woman on a tender point. The shepherd
burst into such a deep and loud explosion of laughter as if two oxen were lowing together.
This conversation excited in the philosopher a great curiosity, and a wish to obtain more
exact information regarding the colonel’s daughter. In order to lead the talk back to the
subject, he turned to his next neighbor and said, “I should like to know why all the people here
think that the young lady was a witch. Has she done harm to anyone, or killed them by
witchcraft?”
“Yes, there are reports of that kind,” answered a man, whose face was as flat as a
shovel. “Who does not remember the huntsman Mikita, or the —”
“What has the huntsman Mikita got to do with it?” asked the philosopher.
“Stop; I will tell you the story of Mikita,” interrupted Dorosch.
“No, I will tell it,” said the groom, “for he was my godfather.”
“I will tell the story of Mikita,” said Spirid.
“Yes, yes, Spirid shall tell it,” exclaimed the whole company; and Spirid began.
“You, Mr. Philosopher Thomas, did not know Mikita. Ah! he was an extraordinary man.
He knew every dog as though he were his own father. The present huntsman, Mikola, who
sits three places away from me, is not fit to hold a candle to him, though good enough in his
way; but compared to Mikita, he is a mere milksop.”
“You tell the tale splendidly,” exclaimed Dorosch, and nodded as a sign of approval.
Spirid continued.
“He saw a hare in the field quicker than you can take a pinch of snuff. He only needed to
whistle ‘Come here, Easboy! Come here, Bosdraja!’ and flew away on his horse like the wind,
so that you could not say whether he went quicker than the dog or the dog than he. He could
empty a quart pot of brandy in the twinkling of an eye. Ah! he was a splendid huntsman, only
for some time he always had his eyes fixed on the young lady. Either he had fallen in love with
her or she had bewitched him — in short, he went to the dogs. He became a regular old
woman; yes, he became the devil knows what — it is not fitting to relate it.”
“Very good,” remarked Dorosch.
“If the young lady only looked at him, he let the reins slip out of his hands, called Bravko
instead of Easboy, stumbled, and made all kinds of mistakes. One day when he was
currycombing a horse, the young lady came to him in the stable. ‘Listen, Mikita,’ she said. ‘I
should like for once to set my foot on you.’ And he, the booby, was quite delighted, and
answered, ‘Don’t only set your foot there, but sit on me altogether.’ The young lady lifted her
white little foot, and as soon as he saw it, his delight robbed him of his senses. He bowed his
neck, the idiot, took her feet in both hands, and began to trot about like a horse all over the
place. Whither they went he could not say; he returned more dead than alive, and from that
time he wasted away and became as dry as a chip of wood. At last someone coming into the
stable one day found instead of him only a handful of ashes and an empty jug; he had burned
completely out. But it must be said he was a huntsman such as the world cannot match.”
When Spirid had ended his tale, they all began to vie with one another in praising the
deceased huntsman.“And have you heard the story of Cheptchicha?” asked Dorosch, turning to Thomas.
“No.”
“Ha! Ha! One sees they don’t teach you much in your seminary. Well, listen. We have
here in our village a Cossack called Cheptoun, a fine fellow. Sometimes indeed he amuses
himself by stealing and lying without any reason; but he is a fine fellow for all that. His house is
not far away from here. One evening, just about this time, Cheptoun and his wife went to bed
after they had finished their day’s work. Since it was fine weather, Cheptchicha went to sleep
in the court-yard, and Cheptoun in the house — no! I mean Cheptchicha went to sleep in the
house on a bench and Cheptoun outside.”
“No, Cheptchicha didn’t go to sleep on a bench, but on the ground,” interrupted the old
woman who stood at the door.
Dorosch looked at her, then at the ground, then again at her, and said after a pause, “If I
tore your dress off your back before all these people, it wouldn’t look pretty.”
The rebuke was effectual. The old woman was silent, and did not interrupt again.
Dorosch continued.
“In the cradle which hung in the middle of the room lay a one-year-old child. I do not
know whether it was a boy or a girl. Cheptchicha had lain down, and heard on the other side
of the door a dog scratching and howling loud enough to frighten anyone. She was afraid, for
women are such simple folk that if one puts out one’s tongue at them behind the door in the
dark, their hearts sink into their boots. ‘But,’ she thought to herself, ‘I must give this cursed
dog one on the snout to stop his howling!’ So she seized the poker and opened the door. But
hardly had she done so than the dog rushed between her legs straight to the cradle. Then
Cheptchicha saw that it was not a dog but the young lady; and if it had only been the young
lady as she knew her it wouldn’t have mattered, but she looked quite blue, and her eyes
sparkled like fiery coals. She seized the child, bit its throat, and began to suck its blood.
Cheptchicha shrieked, ‘Ah! my darling child!’ and rushed out of the room. Then she saw that
the house-door was shut and rushed up to the attic and sat there, the stupid woman,
trembling all over. Then the young lady came after her and bit her too, poor fool! The next
morning Cheptoun carried his wife, all bitten and wounded, down from the attic, and the next
day she died. Such strange things happen in the world. One may wear fine clothes, but that
does not matter; a witch is and remains a witch.”
After telling his story, Dorosch looked around him with a complacent air, and cleaned out
his pipe with his little finger in order to fill it again. The story of the witch had made a deep
impression on all, and each of them had something to say about her. One had seen her come
to the door of his house in the form of a hayrick; from others she had stolen their caps or their
pipes; she had cut off the hair-plaits of many girls in the village, and drunk whole pints of the
blood of others.
At last the whole company observed that they had gossiped over their time, for it was
already night. All looked for a sleeping place — some in the kitchen and others in the barn or
the court-yard.
“Now, Mr. Thomas, it is time that we go to the dead,” said the grey-headed Cossack,
turning to the philosopher. All four — Spirid, Dorosch, the old Cossack, and the philosopher —
betook themselves to the church, keeping off with their whips the wild dogs who roamed about
the roads in great numbers and bit the sticks of passers-by in sheer malice.
Although the philosopher had seized the opportunity of fortifying himself beforehand with
a stiff glass of brandy, yet he felt a certain secret fear which increased as he approached the
church, which was lit up within. The strange tales he had heard had made a deep impression
on his imagination. They had passed the thick hedges and trees, and the country became
more open. At last they reached the small enclosure round the church; behind it there were no
more trees, but a huge, empty plain dimly visible in the darkness. The three Cossacks
ascended the steep steps with Thomas, and entered the church. Here they left thephilosopher, expressing their hope that he would successfully accomplish his duties, and
locked him in as their master had ordered.
He was left alone. At first he yawned, then he stretched himself, blew on both hands, and
finally looked round him. In the middle of the church stood the black bier; before the dark
pictures of saints burned the candles, whose light only illuminated the icons, and cast a faint
glimmer into the body of the church; all the corners were in complete darkness. The lofty
icons seemed to be of considerable age; only a little of the original gilt remained on their
broken traceries; the faces of the saints had become quite black and looked uncanny.
Once more the philosopher cast a glance around him. “Bother it!” said he to himself.
“What is there to be afraid about? No living creature can get in, and as for the dead and those
who come from the ‘other side,’ I can protect myself with such effectual prayers that they
cannot touch me with the tips of their fingers. There is nothing to fear,” he repeated, swinging
his arms. “Let us begin the prayers!”
As he approached one of the side-aisles, he noticed two packets of candles which had
been placed there.
“That is fine,” he thought. “I must illuminate the whole church, till it is as bright as day.
What a pity that one cannot smoke in it.”
He began to light the candles on all the wall-brackets and all the candelabra, as well as
those already burning before the holy pictures; soon the whole church was brilliantly lit up.
Only the darkness in the roof above seemed still denser by contrast, and the faces of the
saints peering out of the frames looked as unearthly as before. He approached the bier,
looked nervously at the face of the dead girl, could not help shuddering slightly, and
involuntarily closed his eyes. What terrible and extraordinary beauty!
He turned away and tried to go to one side, but the strange curiosity and peculiar
fascination which men feel in moments of fear, compelled him to look again and again, though
with a similar shudder. And in truth there was something terrible about the beauty of the dead
girl. Perhaps she would not have inspired so much fear had she been less beautiful; but there
was nothing ghastly or deathlike in the face, which wore rather an expression of life, and it
seemed to the philosopher as though she were watching him from under her closed eyelids.
He even thought he saw a tear roll from under the eyelash of her right eye, but when it was
half-way down her cheek, he saw that it was a drop of blood.
He quickly went into one of the stalls, opened his book, and began to read the prayers in
a very loud voice in order to keep up his courage. His deep voice sounded strange to himself
in the grave-like silence; it aroused no echo in the silent and desolate wooden walls of the
church.
“What is there to be afraid of?” he thought to himself. “She will not rise from her bier,
since she fears God’s word. She will remain quietly resting. Yes, and what sort of a Cossack
should I be, if I were afraid? The fact is, I have drunk a little too much — that is why I feel so
queer. Let me take a pinch of snuff. It is really excellent — first-rate!”
At the same time he cast a furtive glance over the pages of the prayer-book towards the
bier, and involuntarily he said to himself, “There! See! She is getting up! Her head is already
above the edge of the coffin!”
But a death-like silence prevailed; the coffin was motionless, and all the candles shone
steadily. It was an awe-inspiring sight, this church lit up at midnight, with the corpse in the
midst, and no living soul near but one. The philosopher began to sing in various keys in order
to stifle his fears, but every moment he glanced across at the coffin, and involuntarily the
question came to his lips, “Suppose she rose up after all?”
But the coffin did not move. Nowhere was there the slightest sound nor stir. Not even did
a cricket chirp in any corner. There was nothing audible but the slight sputtering of some
distant candle, or the faint fall of a drop of wax.
“Suppose she rose up after all?”He raised his head. Then he looked round him wildly and rubbed his eyes. Yes, she was
no longer lying in the coffin, but sitting upright. He turned away his eyes, but at once looked
again, terrified, at the coffin. She stood up; then she walked with closed eyes through the
church, stretching out her arms as though she wanted to seize someone.
She now came straight towards him. Full of alarm, he traced with his finger a circle round
himself; then in a loud voice he began to recite the prayers and formulas of exorcism which he
had learnt from a monk who had often seen witches and evil spirits.
She had almost reached the edge of the circle which he had traced; but it was evident
that she had not the power to enter it. Her face wore a bluish tint like that of one who has
been several days dead.
Thomas had not the courage to look at her, so terrible was her appearance; her teeth
chattered and she opened her dead eyes, but as in her rage she saw nothing, she turned in
another direction and felt with outstretched arms among the pillars and corners of the church
in the hope of seizing him.
At last she stood still, made a threatening gesture, and then lay down again in the coffin.
The philosopher could not recover his self-possession, and kept on gazing anxiously at it.
Suddenly it rose from its place and began hurtling about the church with a whizzing sound. At
one time it was almost directly over his head; but the philosopher observed that it could not
pass over the area of his charmed circle, so he kept on repeating his formulas of exorcism.
The coffin now fell with a crash in the middle of the church, and remained lying there
motionless. The corpse rose again; it had now a greenish-blue color, but at the same moment
the distant crowing of a cock was audible, and it lay down again.
The philosopher’s heart beat violently, and the perspiration poured in streams from his
face; but heartened by the crowing of the cock, he rapidly repeated the prayers.
As the first light of dawn looked through the windows, there came a deacon and the
grey-haired Javtuk, who acted as sacristan, in order to release him. When he had reached the
house, he could not sleep for a long time; but at last weariness overpowered him, and he slept
till noon. When he awoke, his experiences of the night appeared to him like a dream. He was
given a quart of brandy to strengthen him.;
At table he was again talkative and ate a fairly large sucking pig almost without
assistance. But none the less he resolved to say nothing of what he had seen, and to all
curious questions only returned the answer, “Yes, some wonderful things happened.”
The philosopher was one of those men who, when they have had a good meal, are
uncommonly amiable. He lay down on a bench, with his pipe in his mouth, looked blandly at
all, and expectorated every minute.
But as the evening approached, he became more and more pensive. About suppertime
nearly the whole company had assembled in order to play “krapli.” This is a kind of game of
skittles, in which, instead of bowls, long staves are used, and the winner has the right to ride
on the back of his opponent. It provided the spectators with much amusement; sometimes the
groom, a huge man, would clamber on the back of the swineherd, who was slim and short and
shrunken; another time the groom would present his own back, while Dorosch sprang on it
shouting, “What a regular ox!” Those of the company who were more staid sat by the
threshold of the kitchen. They looked uncommonly serious, smoked their pipes, and did not
even smile when the younger ones went into fits of laughter over some joke of the groom or
Spirid.
Thomas vainly attempted to take part in the game; a gloomy thought was firmly fixed like
a nail in his head. In spite of his desperate efforts to appear cheerful after supper, fear had
over-mastered his whole being, and it increased with the growing darkness.
“Now it is time for us to go, Mr. Student!” said the grey-haired Cossack, and stood up
with Dorosch. “Let us betake ourselves to our work.”
Thomas was conducted to the church in the same way as on the previous evening; againhe was left alone, and the door was bolted behind him.
As soon as he found himself alone, he began to feel in the grip of his fears. He again
saw the dark pictures of the saints in their gilt frames, and the black coffin, which stood
menacing and silent in the middle of the church.
“Never mind!” he said to himself. “I am over the first shock. The first time I was
frightened, but I am not so at all now — no, not at all!”
He quickly went into a stall, drew a circle round him with his finger, uttered some prayers
and formulas for exorcism, and then began to read the prayers for the dead in a loud voice
and with the fixed resolution not to look up from the book nor take notice of anything.
He did so for an hour, and began to grow a little tired; he cleared his throat and drew his
snuff-box out of his pocket, but before he had taken a pinch he looked nervously towards the
coffin.
A sudden chill shot through him. The witch was already standing before him on the edge
of the circle, and had fastened her green eyes upon him. He shuddered, looked down at the
book, and began to read his prayers and exorcisms aloud. Yet all the while he was aware how
her teeth chattered, and how she stretched out her arms to seize him. But when he cast a
hasty glance towards her, he saw that she was not looking in his direction, and it was clear
that she could not see him.
Then she began to murmur in an undertone, and terrible words escaped her lips —
words that sounded like the bubbling of boiling pitch. The philosopher did not know their
meaning, but he knew that they signified something terrible, and were intended to counteract
his exorcisms.
After she had spoken, a stormy wind arose in the church, and there was a noise like the
rushing of many birds. He heard the noise of their wings and claws as they flapped against
and scratched at the iron bars of the church windows. There were also violent blows on the
church door, as if someone were trying to break it in pieces.
The philosopher’s heart beat violently; he did not dare to look up, but continued to read
the prayers without a pause. At last there was heard in the distance the shrill sound of a
cock’s crow. The exhausted philosopher stopped and gave a great sigh of relief.
Those who came to release him found him more dead than alive; he had leant his back
against the wall, and stood motionless, regarding them without any expression in his eyes.
They were obliged almost to carry him to the house; he then shook himself, asked for and
drank a quart of brandy. He passed his hand through his hair and said, “There are all sorts of
horrors in the world, and such dreadful things happen that —” Here he made a gesture as
though to ward off something. All who heard him bent their heads forward in curiosity. Even a
small boy, who ran on everyone’s errands, stood by with his mouth wide open.
Just then a young woman in a close-fitting dress passed by. She was the old cook’s
assistant, and very coquettish; she always stuck something in her bodice by way of ornament,
a ribbon or a flower, or even a piece of paper if she could find nothing else.
“Good day, Thomas,” she said, as she saw the philosopher. “Dear me! what has
happened to you?” she exclaimed, striking her hands together.
“Well, what is it, you silly creature?”
“Good heavens! You have grown quite grey!”
“Yes, so he has!” said Spirid, regarding him more closely. “You have grown as grey as
our old Javtuk.”
When the philosopher heard that, he hastened into the kitchen, where he had noticed on
the wall a dirty, three-cornered piece of looking-glass. In front of it hung some forget-me-nots,
ever-greens, and a small garland — a proof that it was the toilette-glass of the young
coquette. With alarm he saw that it actually was as they had said — his hair was quite
grizzled.
He sank into a reverie; at last he said to himself, “I will go to the colonel, tell him all, anddeclare that I will read no more prayers. He must send me back at once to Kieff.” With this
intention he turned towards the door-steps of the colonel’s house.
The colonel was sitting motionless in his room; his face displayed the same hopeless
grief which Thomas had observed on it on his first arrival, only the hollows in his cheeks had
deepened. It was obvious that he took very little or no food. A strange paleness made him
look almost as though made of marble.
“Good day,” he said as he observed Thomas standing, cap in hand, at the door. “Well,
how are you getting on? All right?”
“Yes, sir, all right! Such hellish things are going on, that one would like to rush away as
far as one’s feet can carry one.”
“How so?”
“Your daughter, sir... When one considers the matter, she is, of course, of noble descent
— no one can dispute that; but don’t be angry, and may God grant her eternal rest!”
“Very well! What about her?”
“She is in league with the devil. She inspires one with such dread that all prayers are
useless.”
“Pray! Pray! It was not for nothing that she sent for you. My dove was troubled about her
salvation, and wished to expel all evil influences by means of prayer.”
“I swear, gracious sir, it is beyond my power.”
“Pray! Pray!” continued the colonel in the same persuasive tone. “There is only one night
more; you are doing a Christian work, and I will reward you richly.”
“However great your rewards may be, I will not read the prayers any more, sir,” said
Thomas in a tone of decision.
“Listen, philosopher!” said the colonel with a menacing air. “I will not allow any objections.
In your seminary you may act as you like, but here it won’t do. If I have you knouted, it will be
somewhat different to the rector’s canings. Do you know what a strong ‘kantchuk’ is?”
“Of course I do,” said the philosopher in a low voice; “a number of them together are
insupportable.”
“Yes, I think so too. But you don’t know yet how hot my fellows can make it,” replied the
colonel threateningly. He sprang up, and his face assumed a fierce, despotic expression,
betraying the savagery of his nature, which had been only temporarily modified by grief.
“After the first flogging they pour on brandy and then repeat it. Go away and finish your
work. If you don’t obey, you won’t be able to stand again, and if you do, you will get a
thousand ducats.”
“That is a devil of a fellow,” thought the philosopher to himself, and went out. “One can’t
trifle with him. But wait a little, my friend; I will escape you so cleverly, that even your hounds
can’t find me!”
He determined, under any circumstances, to run away, and only waited till the hour after
dinner arrived, when all the servants were accustomed to take a nap on the hay in the barn,
and to snore and puff so loudly that it sounded as if machinery had been set up there. At last
the time came. Even Javtuch stretched himself out in the sun and closed his eyes.
Tremblingly, and on tiptoe, the philosopher stole softly into the garden, whence he thought he
could escape more easily into the open country. This garden was generally so choked up with
weeds that it seemed admirably adapted for such an attempt. With the exception of a single
path used by the people of the house, the whole of it was covered with cherry-trees,
elderbushes, and tall heath-thistles with fibrous red buds. All these trees and bushes had been
thickly overgrown with ivy, which formed a kind of roof. Its tendrils reached to the hedge and
fell down on the other side in snake-like curves among the small, wild field-flowers. Behind the
hedge which bordered the garden was a dense mass of wild heather, in which it did not seem
probable that anyone would care to venture himself, and the strong, stubborn stems of which
seemed likely to baffle any attempt to cut them.As the philosopher was about to climb over the Hedge, his teeth chattered, and his Heart
beat 60 violently that he felt frightened at it. The skirts of his long cloak seemed to cling to the
ground as though they had been fastened to it by pegs. When he had actually got over the
Hedge He seemed to hear a shrill voice crying behind him “Whither? Whither?”
He jumped into the heather and began to run, stumbling over old roots and treading on
unfortunate moles. When He had emerged from the heather he saw that He still had a wide
field to cross, behind which was a thick, thorny underwood. This, according to his calculation,
must stretch as far as the road leading to Kieff, and if he reached it He would He safe.
Accordingly He ran over the field and plunged into the thorny copse. Every sharp thorn he
encountered tore 8 fragment from His coat. Then He reached a small open space; in the
center of it stood a willow, whose branches hung down to the earth, and close by flowed a
clear spring bright as silver. The first thing the philosopher did was to lie down and drink
eagerly, for he was intolerably thirsty.
“Splendid water!” he said, wiping his mouth. “This is a good place to rest in.”
“No, better run farther; perhaps we are being followed,” said a voice immediately behind
him.
Thomas started and turned; before him stood Javtuch.
“This devil of a Javtuch!” he thought. “I should like to seize him by the feet and smash his
hang-dog face against the trunk of a tree.”
“Why did you go round such a long way?” continued Javtuch. “You had much better have
chosen the path by which I came; it leads directly by the stable. Besides, it is a pity about your
coat. Such splendid cloth! How much did it cost an ell? Well, we have had a long enough walk;
it is time to go home.”
The philosopher followed Javtuch in a very depressed state.
“Now the accursed witch will attack me in earnest,” he thought. “But what have I really to
fear? Am I not a Cossack? I have read the prayers for two nights already; with God’s help I
will get through the third night also. It is plain that the witch must have a terrible load of guilt
upon her, else the evil one would not help her so much.”
Feeling somewhat encouraged by these reflections, he returned to the court-yard and
asked Dorosch, who sometimes, by the steward’s permission, had access to the wine-cellar,
to fetch! him a small bottle of brandy. The two friends sat down before a barn and drank a
pretty large one. Suddenly the philosopher jumped up and said, “I want musicians! Bring some
musicians!”
But without waiting for them he began to dance the “tropak” in the court-yard. He danced
till tea-time, and the servants, who, as is usual in such cases, had formed a small circle round
him, grew at last tired of watching him, and went away saying, “By heavens, the man can
dance!”
Finally the philosopher lay down in the place where he had been dancing, and fell asleep.
It was necessary to pour a bucket of cold water on his head to wake him up for supper. At the
meal he enlarged on the topic of what a Cossack ought to be, and how he should not be
afraid of anything in the world.
“It is time,” said Javtuch; “let us go.”
“I wish I could put a lighted match to your tongue,” thought the philosopher; then he
stood up and said, “Let us go.”
On their way to the church, the philosopher kept looking round him on all sides, and tried
to start a conversation with his companions; but both Javtuch and Dorosch remained silent. It
was a weird night. In the distance wolves howled continually, and even the barking of the dogs
had something unearthly about it.
“That doesn’t sound like wolves howling, but something else,” remarked Dorosch.
Javtuch still kept silence, and the philosopher did not know what answer to make.
They reached the church and walked over the old wooden planks, whose rotten conditionshowed how little the lord of the manor cared about God and his soul. Javtuch and Dorosch
left the philosopher alone, as on the previous evenings.
There was still the same atmosphere of menacing silence in the church, in the center of
which stood the coffin with the terrible witch inside it.
“I am not afraid, by heavens, I am not afraid!” he said; and after drawing a circle round
himself as before, he began to read the prayers and exorcisms.
An oppressive silence prevailed; the flickering candles filled the church with their clear
light. The philosopher turned one page after another, and noticed that he was not reading
what was in the book. Full of alarm, he crossed himself and began to sing a hymn. This
calmed him somewhat, and he resumed his reading, turning the pages rapidly as he did so.
Suddenly in the midst of the sepulchral silence the iron lid of the coffin sprang open with
a jarring noise, and the dead witch stood up. She was this time still more terrible in aspect
than at first. Her teeth chattered loudly and her lips, through which poured a stream of
dreadful curses, moved convulsively. A whirlwind arose in the church; the icons of the saints
fell on the ground, together with the broken window-panes. The door was wrenched from its
hinges, and a huge mass of monstrous creatures rushed into the church, which became filled
with the noise of beating wings and scratching claws. All these creatures flew and crept about,
seeking for the philosopher, from whose brain the last fumes of intoxication had vanished. He
crossed himself ceaselessly and uttered prayer after prayer, hearing all the time the whole
unclean swarm rustling about him, and brushing him with the tips of their wings. He had not
the courage to look at them; he only saw one uncouth monster standing by the wall, with long,
shaggy hair and two flaming eyes. Over him something hung in the air which looked like a
gigantic bladder covered with countless crabs’ claws and scorpions’ stings, and with black
clods of earth hanging from it. All these monsters stared about seeking him, but they could
not find him, since he was protected by his sacred circle.
“Bring the Viy! Bring the Viy!” cried the witch.
A sudden silence followed; the howling of wolves was heard in the distance, and soon
heavy footsteps resounded through the church. Thomas looked up furtively and saw that an
ungainly human figure with crooked legs was being led into the church. He was quite covered
with black soil, and his hands and feet resembled knotted roots. He trod heavily and stumbled
at every step. His eyelids were of enormous length. With terror, Thomas saw that his face
was of iron. They led him in by the arms and placed him near Thomas’s circle.
“Raise my eyelids! I can’t see anything!” said the Viy in a dull, hollow voice, and they all
hastened to help in doing so.
“Don’t look!” an inner voice warned the philosopher; but he could not restrain from
looking.
“There he is!” exclaimed the Viy, pointing an iron finger at him, and all the monsters
rushed on him at once.
Struck dumb with terror, he sank to the ground and died.
At that moment there sounded a cock’s crow for the second time; the earth-spirits had
not heard the first one. In alarm they hurried to the windows and the door to get out as quickly
as possible. But it was too late; they all remained hanging as though fastened to the door and
the windows.
When the priest came he stood amazed at such a desecration of God’s house, and did
not venture to read prayers there. The church remained standing as it was, with the monsters
hanging on the windows and the door. Gradually it became overgrown with creepers, bushes,
and wild heather, and no one can discover it now.
When the report of this event reached Kieff, and the theologian Khalava heard what a
fate had overtaken the philosopher Thomas, he sank for a whole hour into deep reflection. He
had greatly altered of late; after finishing his studies he had become bell-ringer of one of the
chief churches in the city, and he always appeared with a bruised nose, because the belfrystaircase was in a ruinous condition.
“Have you heard what has happened to Thomas?” said Tiberius Gorobetz, who had
become a philosopher and now wore a moustache.
“Yes; God had appointed it so,” answered the bell-ringer. “Let us go to the ale-house; we
will drink a glass to his memory.”
The young philosopher, who, with the enthusiasm of a novice, had made such full use of
his privileges as a student that his breeches and coat and even his cap reeked of brandy and
tobacco, agreed readily to the proposal.
“He was a fine fellow, Thomas,” said the bell-ringer as the limping innkeeper set the third
jug of beer before him. “A splendid fellow! And lost his life for nothing!”
“I know why he perished,” said Gorobetz; “because he was afraid. If he had not feared
her, the witch could have done nothing to him. One ought to cross oneself incessantly and spit
exactly on her tail, and then not the least harm can happen. I know all about it, for here, in
Kieff, all the old women in the market-place are witches.”
The bell-ringer nodded assent. But being aware that he could not say any more, he got
up cautiously and went out, swaying to the right and left in order to find a hiding-place in the
thick steppe grass outside the town. At the same time, in accordance with his old habits, he
did not forget to steal an old boot-sole which lay on the ale-house bench.
Morella
Edgar Allan Poe
(1835)



With a feeling of deep yet most singular affection I regarded my friend Morella. Thrown
by accident into her society many years ago, my soul from our first meeting, burned with fires
it had never before known; but the fires were not of Eros, and bitter and tormenting to my
spirit was the gradual conviction that I could in no manner define their unusual meaning or
regulate their vague intensity. Yet we met; and fate bound us together at the altar, and I never
spoke of passion nor thought of love. She, however, shunned society, and, attaching herself
to me alone rendered me happy. It is a happiness to wonder; it is a happiness to dream.
Morella’s erudition was profound. As I hope to live, her talents were of no common order
— her powers of mind were gigantic. I felt this, and, in many matters, became her pupil. I
soon, however, found that, perhaps on account of her Presburg education, she placed before
me a number of those mystical writings which are usually considered the mere dross of the
early German literature. These, for what reason I could not imagine, were her favorite and
constant study — and that in process of time they became my own, should be attributed to
the simple but effectual influence of habit and example.
In all this, if I err not, my reason had little to do. My convictions, or I forget myself, were
in no manner acted upon by the ideal, nor was any tincture of the mysticism which I read to
be discovered, unless I am greatly mistaken, either in my deeds or in my thoughts. Persuaded
of this, I abandoned myself implicitly to the guidance of my wife, and entered with an
unflinching heart into the intricacies of her studies. And then — then, when poring over
forbidden pages, I felt a forbidden spirit enkindling within me — would Morella place her cold
hand upon my own, and rake up from the ashes of a dead philosophy some low, singular
words, whose strange meaning burned themselves in upon my memory. And then, hour after
hour, would I linger by her side, and dwell upon the music of her voice, until at length its
melody was tainted with terror, and there fell a shadow upon my soul, and I grew pale, and
shuddered inwardly at those too unearthly tones. And thus, joy suddenly faded into horror,
and the most beautiful became the most hideous, as Hinnon became Ge-Henna.
It is unnecessary to state the exact character of those disquisitions which, growing out of
the volumes I have mentioned, formed, for so long a time, almost the sole conversation of
Morella and myself. By the learned in what might be termed theological morality they will be
readily conceived, and by the unlearned they would, at all events, be little understood. The
wild Pantheism of Fichte; the modified Paliggenedia of the Pythagoreans; and, above all, the
doctrines of Identity as urged by Schelling, were generally the points of discussion presenting
the most of beauty to the imaginative Morella. That identity which is termed personal, Mr.
Locke, I think, truly defines to consist in the saneness of rational being. And since by person
we understand an intelligent essence having reason, and since there is a consciousness which
always accompanies thinking, it is this which makes us all to be that which we call ourselves,
thereby distinguishing us from other beings that think, and giving us our personal identity. But
the principium individuationis, the notion of that identity which at death is or is not lost forever,
was to me, at all times, a consideration of intense interest; not more from the perplexing and
exciting nature of its consequences, than from the marked and agitated manner in which
Morella mentioned them.
But, indeed, the time had now arrived when the mystery of my wife’s manner oppressed
me as a spell. I could no longer bear the touch of her wan fingers, nor the low tone of her
musical language, nor the luster of her melancholy eyes. And she knew all this, but did notupbraid; she seemed conscious of my weakness or my folly, and, smiling, called it fate. She
seemed also conscious of a cause, to me unknown, for the gradual alienation of my regard;
but she gave me no hint or token of its nature. Yet was she woman, and pined away daily. In
time the crimson spot settled steadily upon the cheek, and the blue veins upon the pale
forehead became prominent; and one instant my nature melted into pity, but in, next I met the
glance of her meaning eyes, and then my soul sickened and became giddy with the giddiness
of one who gazes downward into some dreary and unfathomable abyss.
Shall I then say that I longed with an earnest and consuming desire for the moment of
Morella’s decease? I did; but the fragile spirit clung to its tenement of clay for many days, for
many weeks and irksome months, until my tortured nerves obtained the mastery over my
mind, and I grew furious through delay, and, with the heart of a fiend, cursed the days and the
hours and the bitter moments, which seemed to lengthen and lengthen as her gentle life
declined, like shadows in the dying of the day.
But one autumnal evening, when the winds lay still in heaven, Morella called me to her
bedside. There was a dim mist over all the earth, and a warm glow upon the waters, and amid
the rich October leaves of the forest, a rainbow from the firmament had surely fallen.
“It is a day of days,” she said, as I approached; “a day of all days either to live or die. It is
a fair day for the sons of earth and life — ah, more fair for the daughters of heaven and
death!”
I kissed her forehead, and she continued:
“I am dying, yet shall I live.”
“Morella!”
“The days have never been when thou couldst love me — but her whom in life thou didst
abhor, in death thou shalt adore.”
“Morella!”
“I repeat I am dying. But within me is a pledge of that affection — ah, how little! — which
thou didst feel for me, Morella. And when my spirit departs shall the child live — thy child and
mine, Morella’s. But thy days shall be days of sorrow — that sorrow which is the most lasting
of impressions, as the cypress is the most enduring of trees. For the hours of thy happiness
are over and joy is not gathered twice in a life, as the roses of Paestum twice in a year. Thou
shalt no longer, then, play the Teian with time, but, being ignorant of the myrtle and the vine,
thou shalt bear about with thee thy shroud on the earth, as do the Moslemin at Mecca.”
“Morella!” I cried, “Morella! how knowest thou this?” but she turned away her face upon
the pillow and a slight tremor coming over her limbs, she thus died, and I heard her voice no
more.
Yet, as she had foretold, her child, to which in dying she had given birth, which breathed
not until the mother breathed no more, her child, a daughter, lived. And she grew strangely in
stature and intellect, and was the perfect resemblance of her who had departed, and I loved
her with a love more fervent than I had believed it possible to feel for any denizen of earth.
But, ere long the heaven of this pure affection became darkened, and gloom, and horror,
and grief swept over it in clouds. I said the child grew strangely in stature and intelligence.
Strange, indeed, was her rapid increase in bodily size, but terrible, oh! terrible were the
tumultuous thoughts which crowded upon me while watching the development of her mental
being. Could it be otherwise, when I daily discovered in the conceptions of the child the adult
powers and faculties of the woman? when the lessons of experience fell from the lips of
infancy? and when the wisdom or the passions of maturity I found hourly gleaming from its full
and speculative eye? When, I say, all this became evident to my appalled senses, when I
could no longer hide it from my soul, nor throw it off from those perceptions which trembled to
receive it, is it to be wondered at that suspicions, of a nature fearful and exciting, crept in
upon my spirit, or that my thoughts fell back aghast upon the wild tales and thrilling theories of
the entombed Morella? I snatched from the scrutiny of the world a being whom destinycompelled me to adore, and in the rigorous seclusion of my home, watched with an agonizing
anxiety over all which concerned the beloved.
And as years rolled away, and I gazed day after day upon her holy, and mild, and
eloquent face, and poured over her maturing form, day after day did I discover new points of
resemblance in the child to her mother, the melancholy and the dead. And hourly grew darker
these shadows of similitude, and more full, and more definite, and more perplexing, and more
hideously terrible in their aspect. For that her smile was like her mother’s I could bear; but
then I shuddered at its too perfect identity, that her eyes were like Morella’s I could endure;
but then they, too, often looked down into the depths of my soul with Morella’s own intense
and bewildering meaning. And in the contour of the high forehead, and in the ringlets of the
silken hair, and in the wan fingers which buried themselves therein, and in the sad musical
tones of her speech, and above all — oh, above all, in the phrases and expressions of the
dead on the lips of the loved and the living, I found food for consuming thought and horror, for
a worm that would not die.
Thus passed away two lustra of her life, and as yet my daughter remained nameless
upon the earth. “My child,” and “my love,” were the designations usually prompted by a
father’s affection, and the rigid seclusion of her days precluded all other intercourse. Morella’s
name died with her at her death. Of the mother I had never spoken to the daughter, it was
impossible to speak. Indeed, during the brief period of her existence, the latter had received
no impressions from the outward world, save such as might have been afforded by the narrow
limits of her privacy. But at length the ceremony of baptism presented to my mind, in its
unnerved and agitated condition, a present deliverance from the terrors of my destiny. And at
the baptismal font I hesitated for a name. And many titles of the wise and beautiful, of old and
modern times, of my own and foreign lands, came thronging to my lips, with many, many fair
titles of the gentle, and the happy, and the good. What prompted me then to disturb the
memory of the buried dead? What demon urged me to breathe that sound, which in its very
recollection was wont to make ebb the purple blood in torrents from the temples to the heart?
What fiend spoke from the recesses of my soul, when amid those dim aisles, and in the
silence of the night, I whispered within the ears of the holy man the syllables — Morella? What
more than fiend convulsed the features of my child, and overspread them with hues of death,
as starting at that scarcely audible sound, she turned her glassy eyes from the earth to
heaven, and falling prostrate on the black slabs of our ancestral vault, responded — “I am
here!”
Distinct, coldly, calmly distinct, fell those few simple sounds within my ear, and thence
like molten lead rolled hissingly into my brain. Years — years may pass away, but the memory
of that epoch never. Nor was I indeed ignorant of the flowers and the vine — but the hemlock
and the cypress overshadowed me night and day. And I kept no reckoning of time or place,
and the stars of my fate faded from heaven, and therefore the earth grew dark, and its figures
passed by me like flitting shadows, and among them all I beheld only — Morella. The winds of
the firmament breathed but one sound within my ears, and the ripples upon the sea
murmured evermore — Morella. But she died; and with my own hands I bore her to the tomb;
and I laughed with a long and bitter laugh as I found no traces of the first in the channel where
I laid the second. — Morella.
Berenice
Edgar Allan Poe
(1835)



Misery is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform. Overreaching the wide
horizon as the rainbow, its hues are as various as the hues of that arch, — as distinct too, yet
as intimately blended. Overreaching the wide horizon as the rainbow! How is it that from
beauty I have derived a type of unloveliness? — from the covenant of peace a simile of
sorrow? But as, in ethics, evil is a consequence of good, so, in fact, out of joy is sorrow born.
Either the memory of past bliss is the anguish of to-day, or the agonies which are have their
origin in the ecstasies which might have been.
My baptismal name is Egeus; that of my family I will not mention. Yet there are no
towers in the land more time-honored than my gloomy, gray, hereditary halls. Our line has
been called a race of visionaries; and in many striking particulars — in the character of the
family mansion — in the frescos of the chief saloon — in the tapestries of the dormitories — in
the chiseling of some buttresses in the armory — but more especially in the gallery of antique
paintings — in the fashion of the library chamber — and, lastly, in the very peculiar nature of
the library’s contents, there is more than sufficient evidence to warrant the belief.
The recollections of my earliest years are connected with that chamber, and with its
volumes — of which latter I will say no more. Here died my mother. Herein was I born. But it
is mere idleness to say that I had not lived before — that the soul has no previous existence.
You deny it? — let us not argue the matter. Convinced myself, I seek not to convince. There
is, however, a remembrance of aerial forms — of spiritual and meaning eyes — of sounds,
musical yet sad — a remembrance which will not be excluded; a memory like a shadow,
vague, variable, indefinite, unsteady; and like a shadow, too, in the impossibility of my getting
rid of it while the sunlight of my reason shall exist.
In that chamber was I born. Thus awaking from the long night of what seemed, but was
not, nonentity, at once into the very regions of fairy-land — into a palace of imagination — into
the wild dominions of monastic thought and erudition — it is not singular that I gazed around
me with a startled and ardent eye — that I loitered away my boyhood in books, and dissipated
my youth in reverie; but it is singular that as years rolled away, and the noon of manhood
found me still in the mansion of my fathers — it is wonderful what stagnation there fell upon
the springs of my life — wonderful how total an inversion took place in the character of my
commonest thought. The realities of the world affected me as visions, and as visions only,
while the wild ideas of the land of dreams became, in turn, — not the material of my
everyday existence-but in very deed that existence utterly and solely in itself.
Berenice and I were cousins, and we grew up together in my paternal halls. Yet
differently we grew — I ill of health, and buried in gloom — she agile, graceful, and
overflowing with energy; hers the ramble on the hill-side — mine the studies of the cloister — I
living within my own heart, and addicted body and soul to the most intense and painful
meditation — she roaming carelessly through life with no thought of the shadows in her path,
or the silent flight of the raven-winged hours. Berenice! — I call upon her name — Berenice!
— and from the gray ruins of memory a thousand tumultuous recollections are startled at the
sound! Ah! vividly is her image before me now, as in the early days of her light-heartedness
and joy! Oh! gorgeous yet fantastic beauty! Oh! sylph amid the shrubberies of Arnheim! —
Oh! Naiad among its fountains! — and then — then all is mystery and terror, and a tale which
should not be told. Disease — a fatal disease — fell like the simoom upon her frame, and,
even while I gazed upon her, the spirit of change swept, over her, pervading her mind, herhabits, and her character, and, in a manner the most subtle and terrible, disturbing even the
identity of her person! Alas! the destroyer came and went, and the victim — where was she, I
knew her not — or knew her no longer as Berenice.
Among the numerous train of maladies superinduced by that fatal and primary one which
effected a revolution of so horrible a kind in the moral and physical being of my cousin, may
be mentioned as the most distressing and obstinate in its nature, a species of epilepsy not
unfrequently terminating in trance itself — trance very nearly resembling positive dissolution,
and from which her manner of recovery was in most instances, startlingly abrupt. In the
meantime my own disease — for I have been told that I should call it by no other appellation
— my own disease, then, grew rapidly upon me, and assumed finally a monomaniac
character of a novel and extraordinary form — hourly and momently gaining vigor — and at
length obtaining over me the most incomprehensible ascendancy. This monomania, if I must
so term it, consisted in a morbid irritability of those properties of the mind in metaphysical
science termed the attentive. It is more than probable that I am not understood; but I fear,
indeed, that it is in no manner possible to convey to the mind of the merely general reader, an
adequate idea of that nervous intensity of interest with which, in my case, the powers of
meditation (not to speak technically) busied and buried themselves, in the contemplation of
even the most ordinary objects of the universe.
To muse for long unwearied hours with my attention riveted to some frivolous device on
the margin, or in the topography of a book; to become absorbed for the better part of a
summer’s day, in a quaint shadow falling aslant upon the tapestry, or upon the door; to lose
myself for an entire night in watching the steady flame of a lamp, or the embers of a fire; to
dream away whole days over the perfume of a flower; to repeat monotonously some common
word, until the sound, by dint of frequent repetition, ceased to convey any idea whatever to
the mind; to lose all sense of motion or physical existence, by means of absolute bodily
quiescence long and obstinately persevered in; — such were a few of the most common and
least pernicious vagaries induced by a condition of the mental faculties, not, indeed, altogether
unparalleled, but certainly bidding defiance to anything like analysis or explanation.
Yet let me not be misapprehended. — The undue, earnest, and morbid attention thus
excited by objects in their own nature frivolous, must not be confounded in character with that
ruminating propensity common to all mankind, and more especially indulged in by persons of
ardent imagination. It was not even, as might be at first supposed, an extreme condition or
exaggeration of such propensity, but primarily and essentially distinct and different. In the one
instance, the dreamer, or enthusiast, being interested by an object usually not frivolous,
imperceptibly loses sight of this object in a wilderness of deductions and suggestions issuing
therefrom, until, at the conclusion of a day dream often replete with luxury, he finds the
incitamentum or first cause of his musings entirely vanished and forgotten. In my case the
primary object was invariably frivolous, although assuming, through the medium of my
distempered vision, a refracted and unreal importance. Few deductions, if any, were made;
and those few pertinaciously returning in upon the original object as a center. The meditations
were never pleasurable; and, at the termination of the reverie, the first cause, so far from
being out of sight, had attained that supernaturally exaggerated interest which was the
prevailing feature of the disease. In a word, the powers of mind more particularly exercised
were, with me, as I have said before, the attentive, and are, with the day-dreamer, the
speculative.
My books, at this epoch, if they did not actually serve to irritate the disorder, partook, it
will be perceived, largely, in their imaginative and inconsequential nature, of the characteristic
qualities of the disorder itself. I well remember, among others, the treatise of the noble Italian
Coelius Secundus Curio “de Amplitudine Beati Regni dei”; St. Austin’s great work, the “City of
God”; and Tertullian “de Carne Christi,” in which the paradoxical sentence “Mortuus est Dei
filius; credible est quia ineptum est: et sepultus resurrexit; certum est quia impossibile est”occupied my undivided time, for many weeks of laborious and fruitless investigation.
Thus it will appear that, shaken from its balance only by trivial things, my reason bore
resemblance to that ocean-crag spoken of by Ptolemy Hephestion, which steadily resisting the
attacks of human violence, and the fiercer fury of the waters and the winds, trembled only to
the touch of the flower called Asphodel. And although, to a careless thinker, it might appear a
matter beyond doubt, that the alteration produced by her unhappy malady, in the moral
condition of Berenice, would afford me many objects for the exercise of that intense and
abnormal meditation whose nature I have been at some trouble in explaining, yet such was
not in any degree the case. In the lucid intervals of my infirmity, her calamity, indeed, gave me
pain, and, taking deeply to heart that total wreck of her fair and gentle life, I did not fall to
ponder frequently and bitterly upon the wonder-working means by which so strange a
revolution had been so suddenly brought to pass. But these reflections partook not of the
idiosyncrasy of my disease, and were such as would have occurred, under similar
circumstances, to the ordinary mass of mankind. True to its own character, my disorder
reveled in the less important but more startling changes wrought in the physical frame of
Berenice — in the singular and most appalling distortion of her personal identity.
During the brightest days of her unparalleled beauty, most surely I had never loved her.
In the strange anomaly of my existence, feelings with me, had never been of the heart, and
my passions always were of the mind. Through the gray of the early morning — among the
trellised shadows of the forest at noonday — and in the silence of my library at night, she had
flitted by my eyes, and I had seen her — not as the living and breathing Berenice, but as the
Berenice of a dream — not as a being of the earth, earthy, but as the abstraction of such a
being-not as a thing to admire, but to analyze — not as an object of love, but as the theme of
the most abstruse although desultory speculation. And now — now I shuddered in her
presence, and grew pale at her approach; yet bitterly lamenting her fallen and desolate
condition, I called to mind that she had loved me long, and, in an evil moment, I spoke to her
of marriage.
And at length the period of our nuptials was approaching, when, upon an afternoon in the
winter of the year, — one of those unseasonably warm, calm, and misty days which are the
nurse of the beautiful Halcyon, — I sat, (and sat, as I thought, alone,) in the inner apartment
of the library. But uplifting my eyes I saw that Berenice stood before me.
Was it my own excited imagination — or the misty influence of the atmosphere — or the
uncertain twilight of the chamber — or the gray draperies which fell around her figure — that
caused in it so vacillating and indistinct an outline? I could not tell. She spoke no word, I— not
for worlds could I have uttered a syllable. An icy chill ran through my frame; a sense of
insufferable anxiety oppressed me; a consuming curiosity pervaded my soul; and sinking back
upon the chair, I remained for some time breathless and motionless, with my eyes riveted
upon her person. Alas! its emaciation was excessive, and not one vestige of the former being,
lurked in any single line of the contour. My burning glances at length fell upon the face.
The forehead was high, and very pale, and singularly placid; and the once jetty hair fell
partially over it, and overshadowed the hollow temples with innumerable ringlets now of a vivid
yellow, and Jarring discordantly, in their fantastic character, with the reigning melancholy of
the countenance. The eyes were lifeless, and lusterless, and seemingly pupil-less, and I
shrank involuntarily from their glassy stare to the contemplation of the thin and shrunken lips.
They parted; and in a smile of peculiar meaning, the teeth of the changed Berenice disclosed
themselves slowly to my view. Would to God that I had never beheld them, or that, having
done so, I had died!
The shutting of a door disturbed me, and, looking up, I found that my cousin had
departed from the chamber. But from the disordered chamber of my brain, had not, alas!
departed, and would not be driven away, the white and ghastly spectrum of the teeth. Not a
speck on their surface — not a shade on their enamel — not an indenture in their edges —but what that period of her smile had sufficed to brand in upon my memory. I saw them now
even more unequivocally than I beheld them then. The teeth! — the teeth! — they were here,
and there, and everywhere, and visibly and palpably before me; long, narrow, and excessively
white, with the pale lips writhing about them, as in the very moment of their first terrible
development. Then came the full fury of my monomania, and I struggled in vain against its
strange and irresistible influence. In the multiplied objects of the external world I had no
thoughts but for the teeth. For these I longed with a phrenzied desire. All other matters and all
different interests became absorbed in their single contemplation. They — they alone were
present to the mental eye, and they, in their sole individuality, became the essence of my
mental life. I held them in every light. I turned them in every attitude. I surveyed their
characteristics. I dwelt upon their peculiarities. I pondered upon their conformation. I mused
upon the alteration in their nature. I shuddered as I assigned to them in imagination a
sensitive and sentient power, and even when unassisted by the lips, a capability of moral
expression. Of Mad’selle Salle it has been well said, “que tous ses pas étaient des
sentiments,” and of Berenice I more seriously believed que toutes ses dents étaient des
idées. Des idées! — ah here was the idiotic thought that destroyed me! Des idées! — ah
therefore it was that I coveted them so madly! I felt that their possession could alone ever
restore me to peace, in giving me back to reason.
And the evening closed in upon me thus-and then the darkness came, and tarried, and
went — and the day again dawned — and the mists of a second night were now gathering
around — and still I sat motionless in that solitary room; and still I sat buried in meditation,
and still the phantasma of the teeth maintained its terrible ascendancy as, with the most vivid
hideous distinctness, it floated about amid the changing lights and shadows of the chamber.
At length there broke in upon my dreams a cry as of horror and dismay; and thereunto, after
a pause, succeeded the sound of troubled voices, intermingled with many low moanings of
sorrow, or of pain. I arose from my seat and, throwing open one of the doors of the library,
saw standing out in the antechamber a servant maiden, all in tears, who told me that Berenice
was — no more. She had been seized with epilepsy in the early morning, and now, at the
closing of the night, the grave was ready for its tenant, and all the preparations for the burial
were completed.
I found myself sitting in the library, and again sitting there alone. It seemed that I had
newly awakened from a confused and exciting dream. I knew that it was now midnight, and I
was well aware that since the setting of the sun Berenice had been interred. But of that dreary
period which intervened I had no positive — at least no definite comprehension. Yet its
memory was replete with horror — horror more horrible from being vague, and terror more
terrible from ambiguity. It was a fearful page in the record my existence, written all over with
dim, and hideous, and unintelligible recollections. I strived to decipher them, but in vain; while
ever and anon, like the spirit of a departed sound, the shrill and piercing shriek of a female
voice seemed to be ringing in my ears. I had done a deed — what was it? I asked myself the
question aloud, and the whispering echoes of the chamber answered me, “what was it?”
On the table beside me burned a lamp, and near it lay a little box. It was of no
remarkable character, and I had seen it frequently before, for it was the property of the family
physician; but how came it there, upon my table, and why did I shudder in regarding it? These
things were in no manner to be accounted for, and my eyes at length dropped to the open
pages of a book, and to a sentence underscored therein. The words were the singular but
simple ones of the poet Ebn Zaiat, “Dicebant mihi sodales si sepulchrum amicae visitarem,
curas meas aliquantulum fore levatas.” Why then, as I perused them, did the hairs of my head
erect themselves on end, and the blood of my body become congealed within my veins?
There came a light tap at the library door, and pale as the tenant of a tomb, a menial
entered upon tiptoe. His looks were wild with terror, and he spoke to me in a voice tremulous,
husky, and very low. What said he? — some broken sentences I heard. He told of a wild crydisturbing the silence of the night — of the gathering together of the household-of a search in
the direction of the sound; — and then his tones grew thrillingly distinct as he whispered me of
a violated grave — of a disfigured body enshrouded, yet still breathing, still palpitating, still
alive!
He pointed to garments; they were muddy and clotted with gore. I spoke not, and he
took me gently by the hand; — it was indented with the impress of human nails. He directed
my attention to some object against the wall; — I looked at it for some minutes; — it was a
spade. With a shriek I bounded to the table, and grasped the box that lay upon it. But I could
not force it open; and in my tremor it slipped from my hands, and fell heavily, and burst into
pieces; and from it, with a rattling sound, there rolled out some instruments of dental surgery,
intermingled with thirty-two small, white and ivory-looking substances that were scattered to
and fro about the floor.
The Curse of the Vourdalak
Alexei Tolstoy
(1839)



In the year 1815 all the great heads of Europe were gathered in Vienna: the continent’s
brightest minds and most brilliant diplomats. Our tale begins towards the conclusion of this
historic Congress.
The royalist emigres were preparing to return to their chateaus, and the Russian warriors
to return to their forsaken homes. A few disgruntled Poles hoped to shelter their desire for
freedom under the dubious independence granted to Krakow by Prince Metternich, Prince
Hardenberg and Count Nesselrode.
It was like the waning hours of a lively ball. The once vibrant crowds that filled the streets
and establishments of the city had dwindled to a small number of people still seeking
diversion, still fascinated by the charms of the Austrian ladies, reluctant to pack up and go
their separate ways.
This pleasant company, of which I was part, would meet twice a week in the castle of the
Dowager Princess of Schwarzenberg, a few miles from the city, beyond a small village named
Hitzing. Our hostess’ aristocratic manner, her gracious kindness, and the nobility of her spirit
and of her intellect, made our sojourns to her castle quite agreeable indeed.
Our mornings were spent on pleasant rambles; in the afternoon we dined together in the
castle or within its environs. In the evenings, sitting by a good fire, we amused ourselves in
conversation and story-telling. Discussion of politics was strictly forbidden — everyone had
had enough. The stories we told were borrowed from the legends of our respective countries,
or from our own memories.
One evening everyone had been telling ghost stories, and our minds were in a restless,
uneasy state that was increased by the evening’s darkness and silence. The Marquis d’Urfé,
an old emigre whom we all loved for his youthful gaiety, and for the colorful stories he told of
his adventures and various changes of fortune, took advantage of a moment of silence and
spoke:
“Your stories, gentlemen,” he said, “are no doubt amazing, but in my opinion they lack an
essential quality — I mean that of authenticity. I don’t think that any of you have seen with his
own eyes the wonderful things that you narrate, nor can you attest to their truth with your
word as gentlemen.”
This we were obliged to admit, and the old man continued, straightening his cravat:
“As for me, gentlemen, I have had but a single adventure of this kind; but it is so strange,
so horrible, and — yes — true, that it will strike terror in even the most incredulous among
you. I was unfortunately both witness and actor, and I though I normally don’t like to
remember it, I would be happy to tell you the story, if it pleases the ladies to allow me.”
The approval was unanimous. A few of us glanced nervously around at the moonlit tiles
of the parquet floor, and our circle drew closer to listen to the Marquis’ tale. M. d’Urfé took a
pinch of snuff, sniffed and slowly began with these words:
“First of all, mesdames, I beg your pardon if I mention the affairs of my heart more often
in my story than a man my age should, but the romance is an essential part of the narrative.
Besides, old age has its moments of forgetfulness — and it’s your fault, mesdames, that you
are all so beautiful that I forget that I’m no longer a young man. So let me begin.
“In 1759, I was madly in love with the beautiful Duchess de Gramont. This passion, which
seemed so deep and enduring at the time, gave me no rest day or night, and the way that the
Duchess played the coquette — as many beautiful women do — only added to my torment.Finally, in a moment of despair, I sought out and obtained a diplomatic mission to the
Gospodar Lord of Moldavia, who was in negotiations with Versailles over business that it
would bore you to hear about. On the eve of my departure, I presented myself to the
Duchess. She received me less teasingly than usual, and said to me, with some emotion:
“‘D’Urfé, you are committing a great folly. But I know you and I know you’ll never change
your mind. So I ask you only one thing: please accept this small cross as a token of my
friendship, and carry it with you until you return. It’s a family relic that we value highly.’
“With a gallantry that was perhaps misplaced at such a moment, I kissed not the relic,
but the charming hand that she gave me, and I passed the cross around my neck, and have
worn it ever since.
“I won’t bore you, mesdames, with the details of my trip, or with my observations of the
Hungarians and Serbs, those poor but brave and honest people. Even enslaved by the Turks,
they never forgot their dignity or their former independence. Suffice it to say that having
learned a little Polish during a visit I made to Warsaw, I was also able to acquire a bit of
Serbian, as these two languages (and Russian and Bohemian as well) are, as you probably
know, so many branches of a single language called Slavonic.
“And so I knew enough of the language to make myself understood, when one day I
arrived in a village whose name will not interest you much. I arrived on a Sunday, a day which
the Serbian people generally devote to amusements like dancing, sharpshooting, wrestling,
and so on. So you can imagine my surprise when I reached the house where I planned to
stay, and found the inhabitants in an extremely anxious state. Guessing that the situation was
due to some recent misfortune, I started to withdraw from the house when a man of about
thirty, a tall and imposing figure, approached me and took me by the hand.
“Enter, stranger, please, come in,” he said. “Don’t be alarmed at our sorrow; you’ll
understand when you know the cause.”
“He then told me that, on rising one morning several days before, his elderly father,
Gorcha, a restless and stubborn man, had taken from the wall a long Turkish musket.
“‘Children,’ he said to his two sons, one named Dorde, the other Petar, ‘I’m going up to
the mountains to join the brave men who are chasing this dog Alibek (this was a Turkish
robber who had been ravaging the countryside for some time). Wait for me for ten days, and
if I don’t return by the tenth, have a Mass said for my soul, because I’ll be dead.’
“Then old Gorcha added, in a deadly serious tone, ‘But if — God forbid — I come back
after ten days, for your own sakes do not let me in. If this happens, I command you to forget
that I was your father, no matter what I say or do, and to impale my heart with an aspen
stake, because I will be a cursed Vourdalak returning to suck your blood.’
“I should explain to you, mesdames, that vourdalaks, as the Slavic peoples call vampires,
are believed in those countries to be dead bodies that come out of their graves to suck the
blood of the living. Their habits are similar to those of all vampires, from any country, but they
have one characteristic that makes them even more dreadful. The vourdalaks, mesdames,
prefer to suck the blood of their closest relatives and dearest friends who, once dead, become
vampires in turn. They claim that in Bosnia and Hungary entire villages have become
vourdalaks. Father Augustin Calmet, in his curious book on ghosts and apparitions, cites
many frightening examples. Several times, the Emperors of Germany have appointed
commissions to investigate outbreaks of vampirism. The commissioners tell of exhuming
bodies engorged with blood, which they stake in the heart and then burn in the village
squares. The magistrates who were present at these executions attest — with oaths and
signed statements — that they heard the dead howl at the moment that the stake was
plunged into their hearts.
“Knowing this, it will be easy to understand, mesdames, the effect that old Gorcha’s
words had on his sons. They both threw themselves at his feet and begged him to let them go
in his place. In reply, he turned his back and left, humming the refrain of an old war song. Theday I arrived in the village was precisely the end of the ten days, which of course explained his
family’s concern.
“They were a good and honest family. Dorde, the eldest son of the two, seemed a
serious and resolute man. He was married with two children. His brother Petar, a handsome
young man of eighteen years, had a face full of gentleness and courage, and was evidently
the favorite of their younger sister, Sdenka, a classic Slavic beauty. I was struck not only by
Sdenka’s undeniable loveliness, but also by a certain resemblance she had to the Duchess de
Gramont. They both had a delicate line on their foreheads, a characteristic that I’ve only ever
noticed on these two women. This feature may not seem very appealing at first, but the more
you noticed it, the more irresistible it became.
“Perhaps it was because I was so young then, but this resemblance, combined with
Sdenka’s charming and naive air, was truly irresistible. I had only known Sdenka for two
minutes, but already I felt a sympathy for her that threatened to become a more tender
emotion if I lingered too long in the village.
“We were all gathered in front of the house, around a table topped with cheese and
bowls of milk. Sdenka spun, her sister-in-law was preparing supper, the children were playing
in the sand. Petar whistled nonchalantly as he cleaned his yatagan, or Turkish longknife.
Dorde sat silently with his elbows on the table and his head in his hands. His eyes devoured
the highway.
“I felt overcome by the general melancholy, and could only watch sadly as the evening
clouds framed the golden background of the sky and the silhouette of a monastery half hidden
by the black pine forest.
“This monastery, as I learned later, had once been famous for a miraculous image of the
Virgin, which according to legend, was brought by angels and placed on an oak. But when the
Turks invaded the country at the beginning of the last century, they slaughtered the monks
and ransacked the monastery. All that was left were the walls, and a chapel served by a
mysterious hermit. He gave tours of the ruins to the curious, and sheltered pilgrims who, as
they traveled on foot from one holy site to another, liked to stop at the Shrine of Our Lady of
the Oak. As I said, I learned this all much later; that night I had other things on my mind
besides Serbian archeology. As often happens when you let your mind wander, I thought back
to times past, to my childhood, to the beautiful France that I had left behind for this remote,
wild country.
“I thought of the Duchess de Gramont, and — why not admit it? — I also thought of
other ladies, contemporaries of your grandmothers, whose images, without my knowledge,
had crept into my heart, following the image of the lovely Duchess.
“Soon I had forgotten my hosts and their worries.
“Suddenly Dorde broke the silence.
“‘Woman,’ he asked his wife, ‘what time did the old man leave?’
“‘At eight o’clock,’ his wife answered. ‘I heard the monastery bell.’
“‘Good,’ said Dorde, ‘it can’t be later than half past seven.’ And he fell silent, fixing his
eyes again on the highway which disappeared into the forest.
“I forgot to tell you, mesdames, that when the Serbs suspect someone of vampirism,
they avoid calling him by name or referring to him directly, for fear it will summon him from the
grave. So for some time, when speaking of his father, Dorde had only called him the old man.
“A few moments of silence passed. Suddenly one of the children tugged on Sdenka’s
apron.
“‘Auntie, when is Grandpa coming home?’
“A blow from Dorde was the answer to this untimely question.
“The child began to cry, but his brother said, with an expression of surprise and fear:
“‘Father, why can’t we ask about Grandpa?’
“Another blow silenced the child. The two children began to bawl, and the rest of thefamily crossed themselves.
“At this point, I heard the monastery clock begin slowly to strike eight. Hardly had the first
chime sounded in our ears than we saw a human form emerge from the woods and advance
towards us.
“‘That’s him! God be praised!’ cried Sdenka, Petar, and their sister-in-law at once.
“‘God keep us!’ Dorde said solemnly. ‘How do we know if the ten days have passed or
not?’
“Everyone looked at him fearfully. Still the figure advanced towards us. He was a tall old
man with a silver mustache, and a pale, stern face, limping painfully along with a stick. As he
approached, Dorde’s face became darker. When the newcomer was near us, he stopped and
surveyed his family with eyes that seemed to look right through them, they were so dull and
sunken in their sockets.
“‘Well,’ he said in a hollow voice, ‘no one stands up to greet me? What is this silence?
Don’t you see that I’m hurt?’
“I then noticed that the old man’s left side was bloodied.
“‘Help your father,’ I said to Dorde, ‘and you Sdenka, bring him some spirits, he’s about
to faint!’
“Father,’ Dorde said, as he approached Gorcha, ‘show me your injury, I will try to help
you…’
“He tried to open Gorcha’s coat, but the old man pushed Dorde away roughly, holding
both hands over his side.
“‘Clumsy oaf,’ he said, ‘you’re hurting me!’
“‘You’ve been wounded near the heart!’ cried Dorde, his face pale. ‘Take off your coat,
now, you must, I tell you!’
“The old man stood up straight and stiff.
“‘Watch yourself,’ he said in a low voice. ‘If you touch me, you’ll regret it!’
“Petar got between Dorde and his father.
“‘Let him be,’ he said. ‘Can’t you see he’s in pain?’
“‘Don’t defy him,’ said Dorde’s wife. ‘You know he won’t tolerate that!’
“At that moment we saw a cloud of dust: it was the herd returning home from their
grazing. Perhaps the dog that accompanied them didn’t recognize her old master, or maybe
she was agitated for other reasons, but as soon as she saw Gorcha she stopped, hair
bristling, and began to growl as if she saw something uncanny.
“‘What is wrong with that dog?’ said the old man, looking more and more annoyed. ‘What
does all this mean? Have I become a stranger in my own home? Have ten days in the
mountains changed me so much that my own dogs don’t recognize me?’
“‘Do you hear?’ Dorde said to his wife.
“‘What?’
“‘He admits that the ten days have passed!’
“‘But didn’t he return at the appointed time?’
“‘Yes, well, I know what has to be done.’
“The damned dog is still barking! Kill it!’ cried Gorcha. ‘Well, did you hear me?’
“Dorde did not move, but Petar stood up with tears in his eyes, and seizing the musket
from his father, he shot the dog, who fell, rolling in the dust.
“‘She was my favorite dog,’ Petar whispered. ‘I don’t know why Father wanted her killed!
“‘Because that’s what she deserved.’ said Gorcha. ‘It’s getting cold, I want to go inside!’
“While this was going on outside, Sdenka had prepared for the old man a drink made
from pears, honey and raisins, but her father refused it in disgust. He showed the same
aversion to a mutton rice dish that Dorde offered him, and went to sit by the hearth, muttering
between his teeth unintelligibly.
“A pine fire crackled in the fireplace, casting its flickering light on the figure of the oldman, who was so pale that without the fire’s glow, he could have been taken for dead. Sdenka
sat down beside him.
“‘Father,’ she said, ‘you don’t want anything to eat, and you don’t want to rest. Perhaps
you can tell us your adventures in the mountains?’
“The girl knew that she could get on his good side by asking that, because the old man
liked to talk about his battles and exploits. A kind of smile appeared on his colorless lips,
though without reaching his eyes. He ran his hand through her beautiful blond hair.
“‘Yes, my daughter, yes, Sdenka. I will tell you what happened to me in the mountains,
but some other time, because I’m tired today. But I will tell you that Alibek is no more and that
it was by my hand he perished. If anyone doubts this,’ continued the old man, looking around
at his family, ‘here is the proof!’
“He opened a bag that hung behind the two of them, and pulled out a head, pale and
bloody — though not quite as pale as his own. We turned away in horror, but Gorcha handed
it to Petar.
“‘Here,’ he said, ‘hang it over the door, so that everyone who passes will know that Alibek
is dead and the roads are purged of robbers — except of course, the Sultan’s Janissaries!’
“Petar obeyed, picking up the head with revulsion.
“‘Now I understand,’ he said. ‘The poor dog that I killed was upset because she smelled
dead flesh!’
“‘Yes, she smelled dead flesh.’ replied Dorde gloomily. He had slipped away without
anyone noticing, and now he entered the house, holding in his hand an object that he placed
in a corner and which looked to me like a stake.
“Dorde,’ his wife said in a low voice, ‘you don’t intend, I hope…’
“‘My brother,’ said his sister, ‘what are you planning to do? But no, you won’t do
anything, will you?’
“‘Let me be,’ said Dorde, ‘I know what I have to do, and I won’t do anything that isn’t
necessary.’
“When night fell, the family went to bed. The part of the house where they slept was
separated from my room by a very thin wall. I confess that what I’d observed that evening had
affected my imagination. With the lights out, the full moon shone into the room through a
small low window close to my bed, casting a pale glow on the floor and walls — much as it
does now, mesdames, in this room where we sit. I tried to sleep, but couldn’t. I attributed my
insomnia to the moonlight, and I looked for something to serve as a curtain over the window,
but I found nothing. Then, hearing muffled voices behind the wall, I began to listen.
“‘Go to bed, woman,’ said Dorde. ‘And Petar and Sdenka, you too. Don’t worry about
anything, I’ll keep watch.”
“‘No, Dorde,’ said his wife. ‘I should watch; you worked until late last night, and you must
be tired. Besides, I have to watch our oldest. You know he’s been ill since yesterday!’
“‘Be quiet and go to bed,’ said Dorde. ‘I’ll keep watch for both of us!’
“‘But brother,’ said, Sdenka in her softest voice. ‘There’s no need to watch. Father is
already asleep — see how calm and peaceful he looks!’
“‘You don’t know what you’re talking about, either of you,’ Dorde said in a tone that
brooked no argument. ‘I told you to go to bed and let me watch!’
“There fell a profound silence. Soon I felt my eyelids droop and sleep overcame me.
“I thought I saw my door open slowly, and old Gorcha appear on the threshold. It was
very dark in that corner of the room; I couldn’t really see him, but only suspected that the
figure was his. His eyes followed the movement of my breath, and seemed to be trying to
guess my thoughts. Cautiously, he crept towards me, on tiptoe. Suddenly he loomed above
me, at the side of my bed. I felt an inexpressible fear, but some invisible force held me there,
immobile. The old man leaned over me, his livid face so close to mine that I thought I could
feel his cadaverous breath. With a supreme effort, I forced myself awake, bathed in sweat.There was no one in my room; but glancing out the window, I clearly beheld old Gorcha with
his face against the pane, staring at me with dreadful eyes.
I had the strength to suppress a scream, and the presence of mind to lie calmly, as if I
had not seen anything. However, it seemed the old man only wanted to make sure that I was
asleep, because he made no attempt to get in, but walked away from the window after
scrutinizing me. I heard footsteps in the next room. Dorde was asleep, snoring to shake the
walls. The child coughed at that moment and I could make out Gorcha’s voice.
“‘You’re not sleeping, little one?’ he said.
“‘No, Grandpa,’ said the child, ‘and I want to talk to you!’
“‘And what shall we talk about?’
“‘‘I want you to tell me how you fought the Turks. I want to go fight the Turks, too!’
“‘Yes, I thought so, child, and I brought you a little yatagan that I’ll give you tomorrow.’
“‘Oh, Grandpa, give it to me now!’
“‘But why, my little one, did you not talk to me when it was daylight?’
“‘Because Father wouldn’t let me!’
“‘He’s cautious, your father. So you want to have your little yatagan?’
“‘Oh yes, I would! But not here, in case father wakes up.’
“‘But where then?’
“‘If we go outside, I promise to be careful and not make any noise!’
“I seemed to hear Gorcha chuckle, as the child got out of bed. I did not believe in
vampires, but my nightmare had frayed my nerves; wanting nothing to reproach myself for
later, I got up and slammed my fist against the wall between myself and the room where the
others were.
The noise should have been enough to wake the Seven Sleepers, but I heard no
response. I rushed for the door, determined to save the child, but I discovered that it was
closed and locked, and would not yield to my efforts to open it. As I tried in vain to escape, I
could see the old man through my window, leaving with the boy in his arms.
“‘Get up, get up!’ I shouted with all my strength, pounding the wall, which shook with the
force of my blows. Only then did Dorde wake up.
“‘Where’s the old man?’ he called.
“‘Quickly!’ I shouted at him, ‘he just took your son!’
“With a kick Dorde burst open the front door, which, like mine, had been barred from the
outside, and ran in the direction of the woods. I finally managed to wake up Petar and
Sdenka. We gathered in front of the house, and after a few minutes’ wait, we saw Dorde
return, carrying his son. He’d found the boy unconscious by the side of the road. The child
soon recovered, and seemed no worse for the experience. To our questions, he said that his
grandfather had done him no harm; they had gone outside together to be more at ease. Once
outside, he had lost consciousness, without remembering how. As for Gorcha, he was gone.
“The rest of the night, as you might imagine, passed without sleep.
“The next day I learned that the Danube, which cut the main road a mile from the village,
had begun to freeze over, which always happens in that region in the late fall and early spring.
This prevented travel for a few days, and I had to delay my planned departure. Yet, even if I
could have left, curiosity, combined with a more powerful attraction, would have kept me
there. The more I saw Sdenka, the more I loved her. I am not one of those romantics,
mesdames, who believe in the sudden and irresistible passion that we read about in novels,
but I think there are cases where love blossoms more quickly than usual. Sdenka so
remarkably reminded me of the Duchess de Gramont, with that faint line traced on her
forehead— the same line that, in France, had made me suicidal with longing. I’d fled Paris to
escape her, and yet here she was again, in picturesque costume and speaking a harmonious
foreign tongue. It was this resemblance, together with the strangeness of my situation and the
mysteries that surrounded me, that kindled in me a desire that, in other circumstances, wouldhave been vague and fleeting.
“In the course of the day I overheard Sdenka talking to her younger brother.
“‘What do you think of all this?’ she asked him. ‘Do you also suspect our father?’
“‘I dare not suspect him,’ replied Petar, ‘especially since the boy said that he wasn’t hurt.
As for Father’s disappearance, you know that he never tells us of his comings and goings.’
“‘I know,’ Sdenka said, ‘but something must be done, because you know Dorde…’
“‘Yes, I know. It would be useless to try and talk him out of it, but if we hide the stake, he
can’t get another one, because there’s not a single aspen on this side of the mountains!’
“‘Yes, let’s hide the stake, but don’t tell the children because they might tell Dorde!’
“‘We’ll keep it to ourselves,’ said Petar. And they parted.
“Night came; still no news of old Gorcha. I lay awake, sprawled out on my bed, watching
the moon shining brightly into my room. As sleep began to blur my thoughts, I suddenly felt,
as if by instinct, the old man’s approach. I opened my eyes and saw his ghastly face pressed
against my window.
“This time I tried to get up, but it was impossible. It seemed as if all my limbs were
paralyzed. After watching me carefully, the old man slipped away. I heard him go around the
house and gently tap at the window of the room where Dorde and his wife slept. The child
rolled over in his bed and moaned in his sleep. A few minutes of silence passed, then again I
heard a knock at the window. The child moaned again and woke up...
“‘Is that you, Grandpa?’ he asked.
“‘It’s me’, a low voice replied. ‘I’ve brought your little yatagan.’
“‘But I daren’t go out; Father’s forbidden me to!’
“‘You needn’t go out, just open the window so you can come kiss me!’
“‘The child got up and I heard him open the window. Calling upon all my energy to break
my paralysis, I jumped out of bed and pounded on the wall. In a minute Dorde was awake. I
heard him swear; his wife shrieked. Soon the whole house was gathered around the
unconscious child. Gorcha had disappeared again. Our ministrations managed to revive the
child, but he was weak and could hardly breathe. The poor boy did not know why he had
fainted. His mother and Sdenka blamed it on the fear of being caught talking to his
grandfather. I said nothing. After the child grew quiet, everyone except Dorde went back to
bed.
“Toward dawn I heard him wake his wife; the two talked quietly. Sdenka joined them and
I heard the two women sobbing.
“The child was dead.
“I needn’t speak of the family’s despair. No one yet attributed the death to old Gorcha. At
least, no one spoke of it openly.
“Dorde was silent, but his still, dark expression had taken on a terrible quality. For two
days, the old man did not reappear. On the night after the third day (the day of the child’s
funeral) I thought I heard footsteps around the house, and a voice of an old man who called
out to the deceased boy’s younger brother. For a moment, I seemed to see Gorcha’s figure
outlined against my window, but I could not tell if it was reality or my imagination, because that
night, the moon was covered by clouds. In any case, I thought it my duty to tell Dorde. He
asked the boy, who replied that, yes, he had heard his grandfather calling him, and had seen
him looking through the window. Dorde sternly ordered his son to wake him if the old man
appeared again.
“‘Even all these circumstances did not stop my love for Sdenka from growing even more.
“In the day, I couldn’t speak with her without the others overhearing. When night came,
the thought of my imminent departure pierced my heart. Sdenka’s room was separated from
mine by a passage that overlooked the street on one side and the courtyard on the other.
“One evening, as the household retired for the evening, I decided to take a walk in the
countryside to distract myself before sleeping. As I passed through the passage from myroom, I saw that Sdenka’s door was ajar.
“I stopped involuntarily. The familiar rustling of her dress made my heart pound. I heard
words sung in a whisper. It was the song of a Serbian king about to leave for battle, bidding
his beloved farewell.

‘Oh, my young poplar,’ said the old king,
‘I’m off to war and you will forget me!’
‘Your waist is more lissom than the slender young trees
‘That grow at the foot of the mountain.
‘Your lips are redder than rowan-berries.
‘And I, I’m like an old oak stripped of leaves;
‘My beard is whiter than the foam of the Danube!
‘You will forget me, O my soul, and I shall die of grief,
For the enemy will not dare to kill the old king!’
And the beautiful maid replied:
‘I swear to be faithful to you and to never forget you.
‘And if I break my oath, may you wake from the dead
‘To suck all the blood from my heart!’
And the old King said: ‘So be it!’
And he went to war. And how soon his lover forgot him!...

Here Sdenka stopped, as if she were afraid to finish the song. I couldn’t contain myself
any longer. Her voice, so sweet, so expressive, was the voice of the Duchess de Gramont...
Impulsively, I pushed open the door and entered. Sdenka had removed her overblouse; she
wore nothing but a chemise embroidered in gold and red silk that clung to her waist, and a
simple checkered skirt. Her beautiful blonde tresses were unbraided, and her undress made
her appear even more ravishing. Instead of being irritated at my sudden entrance, she
seemed confused and blushed slightly.
“‘What are you doing here? What will they think if they catch us?’
“‘Sdenka, my soul,’ I said, ‘don’t worry, everyone is asleep, only the crickets in the grass
and the beetles in the air can hear us.’
“‘Oh, my friend, fly, fly! If my brother catches us, I’m lost!’
“‘Sdenka, I’ll go when you promise to love me forever, like the beautiful maiden promised
her king in the ballad. I’m leaving soon, Sdenka, who knows when we shall meet again! I love
you more than my soul, more than my salvation... my life and my blood are yours... can’t you
give me one hour in exchange?’
“‘Many things can happen in an hour,’ Sdenka said, thoughtfully, but she left her hand in
mine. ‘You don’t know my brother,’ she continued with a shudder, ‘I have a feeling he’ll find
us.’
“‘Calm yourself, my Sdenka,’ I told her. ‘Your brother is tired from his day’s work, he sits
drowsing to the sound of the wind playing in the trees; his sleep is deep, the night is long, and
I only ask you for a single hour! And then, farewell... perhaps forever!’
“‘Oh, no, not forever!’ Sdenka cried, then recoiled as if afraid of her own voice.
“‘Oh, Sdenka,’ I cried, ‘when I see you, when I hear you, I can’t control myself — I obey
a superior force. Forgive me, Sdenka!’ And like a fool I pressed her to my heart.
“‘Oh, you’re not my friend!’ she said, breaking free of my arms and escaping deeper into
her room. I don’t know how I replied to her, because I was confused by my audacity — not
that sometimes, on similar occasions, it hasn’t worked for me — but despite my passion, I still
had a sincere respect for Sdenka’s innocence.
“‘In fact, I started to regale her with those dashing phrases that had always worked so
well for me with beautiful ladies, but then, ashamed of myself, I stopped. The girl’s simplicitykept her from understanding what I hinted at, though all of you ladies, as I see by your smiles,
have easily guessed.
“So I stood there before her, unsure what to say, when suddenly I saw her flinch and
stare at the window with a look of terror. I followed the direction of her eyes and distinctly saw
the motionless figure of Gorcha, watching us from outside.
“At that moment, I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. I turned. It was Dorde.
“‘What are you doing here?’ he asked.
“Rattled by his brusque question, I pointed to his father peering in at us through the
window. Gorcha disappeared as soon as Dorde saw him.
“‘I heard the old man and I came to warn your sister,’ I said.
“Dorde’s stare bored through me as if he were reading the depths of my soul. He took
me by the arm and led me to my room, then left without a word.
“The next day, the family was gathered in front of the house around a table laden with
milk and cheese.
“‘Where is the boy?’ asked Dorde.
“‘In the courtyard, said his mother. ‘Playing his favorite game of fighting the Turks.’
“Hardly had she uttered these words when to our great surprise we saw Gorcha’s
imposing form, coming from the bottom of the woods and walking slowly towards us. He sat
down at the table as he had done on the day that I arrived.
“‘Father, welcome,’ murmured his daughter-in-law in a barely audible voice.
“‘Welcome, father,’ repeated Sdenka and Petar quietly.
“‘Father,” Dorde said in a firm voice, though his face had lost its color, ‘we’d like you to
say grace.’
“The old man turned away, frowning.
“‘Say grace this instant!’ repeated Dorde, ‘and make the Sign of the Cross, or by St.
George…’
“Sdenka and her sister-in-law leaned toward the old man and begged him to say the
prayers.
“‘No, no, no!’ said the old man. ‘He has no right to order me around, and if he insists,
then I curse him!’
“Dorde got up and ran into the house. Soon he returned with fury in his eyes.
“‘Where is the stake?’ he cried, ‘where did you hide the stake?’
“Sdenka and Petar exchanged glances.
“‘‘You dead thing!’ Dorde said to the old man, ‘What have you done with my eldest boy?
Why did you kill my child? Give me back my son, you corpse!’
“And as he spoke, he became increasingly pale, and his eyes blazed. The old man glared
at him, motionless.
“‘The stake, where is the stake!’ cried Dorde. ‘May all our misfortune fall on the head of
whoever hid it!’
“At that moment we heard the merry laughter of the youngest child and we saw him
come towards us, riding the big stake like a horse and raising his little voice in the battle cry of
the Serbs.
“Dorde’s eyes lit up. He snatched the stake from the child and rushed towards his father.
The creature screamed and ran in the direction of the wood with a speed practically
supernatural for his age.
“Dorde chased him through the fields and we soon lost sight of them.
“The sun had set by the time Dorde came home, deathly pale, with his hair disheveled.
As he sat by the fire, I seemed to hear his teeth chattering. Nobody dared question him. By
the hour when the family was accustomed to retire for the evening, he seemed to recover his
energy. Taking me aside, he said in the most natural way:
“‘My dear sir, I have just seen the river. The ice has cleared, there is nothing to preventyour departure. There’s no need,’ he added, glancing at Sdenka, ‘to say goodbye to my
family. On their behalf I wish you all the happiness in the world, and I hope that you also
remember us fondly. Tomorrow, at daybreak, you will find your horse saddled and ready to
follow your lead. Farewell, remember your host sometimes, and forgive him if your stay here
has not been as trouble-free as he would have liked.’
“‘At that moment, the hard lines of Dorde’s face took on an almost cordial expression. He
escorted me to my room and shook my hand one last time. Then he shivered, and his teeth
chattered as if from the cold.
“Left alone, I was too preoccupied to sleep, as you can imagine. I had loved many
women in my life. I had experienced tenderness, and spite, and jealousy; but never, not even
when leaving the Duchess de Gramont, had I felt the intense sadness that tore my heart at
that moment. Before the sun had appeared, I put on my traveling clothes, hoping for one last
conversation with Sdenka. But Dorde was waiting for me in the hallway. Any chance to say
farewell to her was gone.
“I jumped on my horse and rode away, promising myself that I would return to the village
on my way back from Jassy. My anticipation for the future — as distant as it was — gradually
drove away my worries. I imagined my return with satisfaction, picturing all the details of a
future meeting with Sdenka. Suddenly my horse started, almost throwing me out of the
saddle. The beast stopped short, its forelegs braced, and snorted in alarm, as if danger were
nearby. Looking around, I saw a wolf about a hundred paces in front of me, digging in the
earth. Hearing me, it fled. Spurring my horse forward to the spot that the wolf had abandoned,
I saw a fresh grave. I thought I could distinguish the tip of a stake, protruding a few inches
above the earth that the wolf had disturbed. I didn’t stay to make sure, but quickly rode away.”
Here, the Marquis paused, and took a pinch of snuff.
“Is that all?” asked the ladies.
“Unfortunately, no!” replied M. d’Urfe. “The rest of the story is a painful memory for me;
one I would give much to be free of.”
“The business that brought me to Jassy kept me there longer than I had expected: a full
six months. What can I say? It is a sad truth to admit— but a truth nonetheless — that there
are few lasting emotions on this Earth. The success of my negotiations, the encouragement I
received from the cabinet of Versailles — in a word, all the unpleasant politics that have
annoyed us so much of late — in all of this my memory of Sdenka soon began to fade. And
then there was the wife of the Gospodar, a very beautiful woman who speaks our language
perfectly, and who had honored me on my arrival by singling me out from all the other young
foreigners who were staying in Jassy. As steeped as I am in the principles of French gallantry,
my Gallic blood would have revolted at the idea of repaying the kindness she showed me with
ingratitude. So I responded obligingly to her advances, and — to put myself in a position to
advance the interests and rights of France — I devoted myself to her as attentively as if I
were the Gospodar himself.
“When I was recalled to France, I took the same route back that had led me to Jassy.
“I was not thinking of Sdenka or her family when one night, riding through the
countryside, I heard a church bell strike eight. The sound seemed familiar, and my guide told
me there was a monastery nearby. I asked him the name, and he told me that it was The
Virgin of the Oak. I urged my horse on, and soon we were knocking at the door of the
monastery. The hermit opened the door and led us to the guest house. It was so full of
pilgrims that I had no urge to spend the night there, so I asked if I could find a house in the
village.
“‘You can find more than one,’ the hermit replied with a deep sigh. ‘Thanks to that infidel
Gorcha there is no shortage of empty houses!’
“‘What does that mean?’ I demanded of him. ‘Is Gorcha still alive?’
“‘Oh, no; he’s well and truly buried, with a stake through his heart! But he sucked theblood of Dorde’s son. The child came back one night, crying at the door, saying he was cold
and wanted to come in. His foolish mother, although she had seen him buried with her own
eyes, didn’t have the courage to send him back to the cemetery, and opened the door. The
boy threw himself on her and drained her blood until she died. They buried her as well, but
she returned to suck the blood of her younger son, and then her husband, and then that of his
brother. All are dead.’
“‘And Sdenka?’ I said.
“‘She went mad with grief, poor child. Let’s not speak of her!”
“The hermit’s answer was not encouraging and I didn’t have the courage to repeat my
question.
“‘Vampirism is contagious,’ continued the hermit, crossing himself. ‘Many families in the
village have been affected, many families have been completely killed off, and if you want my
advice, you’ll stay the night in the monastery. For though in the village you may not be
devoured by vourdalaks, the dread will be enough to turn your hair white before I finish ringing
the call to the Morning Mass.
“‘I’m just a poor hermit,’ he continued, ‘but the generosity of travelers has enabled me to
provide for their needs. I have exquisite cheeses, raisins that will make your mouth water just
to look at them, and a few bottles of Tokay as fine as the wine of His Holiness the Patriarch!’
“It seemed to me at this point that the hermit had turned into an innkeeper. I suspected
that he was purposely telling me fairy tales to convince me to stay, and to make myself
agreeable to heaven by imitating the generosity of those travelers who enabled the holy man
to meet their needs.
“But the word ‘fear’ has always affected me like a bugle affects a warhorse. I would have
been ashamed of myself if I had not left for the village immediately. My guide, trembling,
asked permission to stay at the monastery, which I willingly granted.
“It took me about half an hour to reach the village. I found it deserted. Not a light shone
in any of the windows, not a sound or a song could be heard. I passed in silence before all
these houses, most of which I recognized, and finally arrived at Dorde’s home. Whether from
sentimental memory or from the recklessness of youth, I decided to spend the night there.
“I dismounted and knocked at the gate. Nobody answered. I pushed on the gate; it
opened, creaking on its hinges. I entered the yard.
“I tied my horse, still saddled, in a shed, where I found a sufficient supply of oats for one
night, then I walked resolutely towards the house.
“All the doors were open, yet all the rooms seemed uninhabited. Sdenka’s room looked
as if it had been abandoned only the day before. Some of her clothes were still lying on the
bed. On a table, I saw some jewelry that I had given her, shining in the moonlight. I
recognized a small enamel cross that I had bought in Budapest. I could not deny to myself,
though my heart sank at the thought, that my love for her was a thing of the past. Still, I
wrapped myself in my coat and lay on her bed. Soon sleep overcame me.
“I don’t remember the details of my dream, but I know that I saw Sdenka, as beautiful,
innocent, and loving as before. I blamed myself for my selfishness and fickleness. I wondered
how I could have abandoned this poor child who loved me, how I could have forgotten her. In
my dream, her image merged with the Duchess de Gramont until I saw the two of them as
one and the same person. I threw myself at her feet and begged her forgiveness. All of my
being, all of my soul, was filled with an ineffable feeling, a mixture of melancholy and
happiness.
“I was deep in my dream, when I was half-awakened by a melodious sound, like the
rustling of a wheat field in the breeze. The rustling wheat seemed to mingle with birdsong, with
a rolling waterfall, with whispering trees. Then all these confused sounds resolved themselves
into the rustle of a woman’s skirt and, as that thought came to me, I awoke. I opened my eyes
and saw Sdenka near my bed. The moon shone so brightly that I could see every detail:adorable traits that were once so dear to me, and which in my dream I had prized even more.
Sdenka seemed more beautiful and alluring than I remembered. She wore the same attire as
before: the simple chemise embroidered with gold and silk thread, and a skirt that wrapped
tightly around her hips.
“‘Sdenka!’ I said, as I sat up in the bed, ‘is it really you, Sdenka?’
“‘Yes, it’s me,’ she replied in a soft, sad voice. ‘It’s your Sdenka whom you had forgotten.
Oh, why didn’t you come sooner? It’s too late now, you must go, a moment longer and you’re
lost! Farewell, my friend, goodbye forever!’
“‘Sdenka,’ I said, ‘so much has happened, I’ve been told of your tragedies. Come, let’s
talk together; let me comfort you.’
“‘Oh, my friend,’ she said, ‘don’t believe everything they say about us, but go, go as
quickly as possible, because if you stay here, your doom is certain.’
“‘But Sdenka, what danger threatens me? Can’t you give me an hour, just one hour, to
spend with me?’
“‘Sdenka started, and a strange change came over her features.
“‘Yes,’ she said, ‘an hour, an hour, just like when I sang the ballad of the old king and you
walked into this room! Is that what you mean? Oh yes, I will give you an hour! But no —’ she
said, recovering himself, ‘go, go away! Go, why don’t you? — I tell you, run away!... flee while
you can!’
“A wild energy animated her features.
“I didn’t understand the reason for her words to me, but she was so beautiful that I
decided to stay in spite of what she said. Finally, yielding to my entreaties, she sat down next
to me, recalling old times, and blushingly telling me that she had loved me from the day that I
arrived. Gradually, though, I noticed a change in her. Her former reserve had given way to a
strange recklessness. Her eyes, once so shy, were now rather bold. At last, I realized with
surprise that her manner towards me was far from the ladylike modesty of the past.
“Is it possible, I thought, that Sdenka was not the pure and innocent young girl she
seemed to be six months ago? Had she only worn that guise because she was afraid of her
brother? Could I have been so grossly deceived? But then why did she beg me to go? Was
this just a more subtle form of coquetry? I wondered, but it didn’t matter. If Sdenka wasn’t the
Diana that I thought she was, well, I would compare her to another goddess, one no less
charming, thank God! And I preferred the role of Adonis to Acteon.
“If these classical references seem old-fashioned, mesdames, please remember that
what I have the honor to tell you happened in the year of Our Lord 1758. Mythology was then
all the rage, and I prided myself on being with the times. Things have changed since then, and
it was not so long ago that the Revolution overthrew the relics of paganism, along with the
Christian religion, putting the Goddess of Reason in their place. This goddess, mesdames,
was never my mistress when I found myself in your presence, and at the time of which I
speak, I was even less inclined to offer her sacrifices. I surrendered without hesitation to my
desire for Sdenka and went joyously into her arms.
“Some time had passed in sweet intimacy when, amusing myself by adorning Sdenka
with all her jewelry, I tried to put the small enamel cross that I had given her around her neck.
When I moved to do so, Sdenka recoiled with a shudder.
“‘Enough of that childishness, my friend,’ she said. ‘Let those trinkets alone and tell me
about what has been happening with you.’
“Her reaction started me thinking. Looking at her more carefully, I realized that she no
longer wore around her neck, as she had in the past, the numerous little icons, relics, and
sachets of incense that the Serbs wear from childhood to the grave.
“‘Sdenka,’ I said, ‘where are the icons around your neck?’
“‘I’ve lost them,’ she replied impatiently, and immediately changed the subject.
“A vague foreboding, of I knew not what, dawned on me. I wanted to leave, but Sdenkastopped me.
“‘What is this?’ she demanded. ‘You asked me for an hour, and now you’re leaving after
only a few minutes!
“‘Sdenka,’ I said, ‘you were right to ask me to leave. I thought I heard a noise, and I’m
afraid that someone will catch us!’
“‘Don’t worry, my friend, everyone is sleeping; only the crickets in the grass and the
beetles in the air can hear us!’
“‘No, Sdenka, I must leave...!’
“‘Stop, stop,’ Sdenka said. ‘I love you more than my soul, more than my salvation, you
told me that your life and your blood were mine!’
“‘But your brother, your brother, Sdenka! What if he catches us?’
“‘Calm yourself, my soul; my brother is drowsing to the sound of the wind playing in the
trees. His sleep is deep, the night is long and I only ask you for an hour!’
“As she said that, Sdenka looked so beautiful that the vague terror that had been
agitating me began to give way to my desire to stay with her. A mixture of fear and
indescribable pleasure filled my whole being. As I faltered, Sdenka’s manner became even
more tender; I gave in, promising myself all the while to be on my guard. But as I said earlier,
I’ve never been good at doing things by halves, and when Sdenka, noticing my reserve,
suggested that we chase away the chill of the evening with a few generous glasses of wine
that she told me she had gotten from the good hermit, I accepted her offer with an eagerness
that made her smile. The wine had its effect. By the second glass, the bad feeling I had over
the cross and the missing icons had vanished completely. Sdenka, half-dressed, with her hair
unbraided and her jewelry glittering in the moonlight, seemed irresistible. Unable to contain
myself, I took her into my arms.
“And then, mesdames, there occurred one of those mysterious miracles that I cannot
explain, but whose existence my experiences have forced me to believe in, as much as I hate
to admit it.
“The force with which I’d embraced Sdenka drove the point of the cross I was wearing —
the one that the Duchess de Gramont had given me — into my chest. The sharp pain went
through me like a bolt of lightning. I looked at Sdenka and saw that her features, though still
beautiful, were as stiff as death, that her eyes seemed not to see me, and that her smile was
convulsed like the grin of a corpse. At the same time, I noticed in the room a nauseating
stench, like that of a poorly sealed crypt. The awful truth stood before me in all its ugliness,
and I remembered too late the hermit’s warnings.
“I realized, too, how precarious my position was; everything depended on my courage
and composure. I turned away from Sdenka to conceal the horror on my face. My eyes fell on
the window, and I saw the infamous Gorcha, leaning on a bloodied stake and staring at me
with the eyes of a hyena. At the other window I saw Dorde’s pale face, bearing at that
moment a frightening resemblance to his father. Both of them were watching my movements
and I had no doubt that they would attack me if I made the slightest attempt to escape. I
pretended not to see them, and making a violent effort, I continued — yes, mesdames — I
continued to caress Sdenka just as I had been before my terrible discovery. Meanwhile, I
anxiously planned my escape. I noticed that Gorcha and Dorde exchanged impatient glances
with Sdenka. From outside, I heard the voice of a woman and the cries of children, frightful
howls like those of wildcats.
“‘It’s time to go,’ I thought, ‘and the sooner the better!’
“I said to Sdenka, in a voice loud enough for her hideous kin to hear:
“‘I’m quite tired, my child. I’d like to lie down and sleep for a few hours, but first I should
make sure that my horse has been fed. Stay here and wait for me.’
“I kissed her cold pale lips and went out. In the shed, I found my horse agitated and
covered with foam. He had not touched his oats, but his neighing as he saw me coming mademe afraid that he might give my away. Luckily the vampires had heard my conversation with
Sdenka, and weren’t alarmed. I checked that the gate was open, sprang into the saddle, and
dug my spurs into the flanks of my horse.
“As I passed out the gate, I had time to see the large band gathered around the house
with their faces pressed against the windows. The suddenness of my exit must have kept
them from noticing right away, because for some time all I could hear in the silence of the
night was the steady gallop of my horse. I was congratulating myself on my escape when I
heard a sound behind me, like a storm beating against the mountains. A thousand confused
voices shouted, screamed and seemed to argue with each other. Then everything fell silent all
at once, and I heard a trampling behind me like a troop of infantry approaching at a run.
“I urged my mount on, my spurs tearing into his flanks. My heart beat, and I burned as if
with fever, desperately trying to keep my presence of mind. Behind me, I heard a voice calling
out:
“‘Stop, stop, my friend! I love you more than my soul, I love you more than my salvation!
Stop, stop, your blood is mine!’
“At the same time, a cold breath brushed my ear and I felt Sdenka throw herself onto my
horse, behind me.
“‘My heart, my soul!’ she said to me, ‘When I see you, when I hear you, I can’t control
myself. I obey a superior force. Forgive me, my friend, forgive me!’
“And wrapping her arms around me, she tried to pull me to her and bite me in the throat.
A terrible struggle ensued between us. Finally I managed to grab Sdenka by her braids in one
hand, with my other arm around her waist. Bracing myself on my stirrups, I threw her down!
“Immediately my strength left me and delirium seized me. A thousand insane, terrible,
grimacing images pursued me. First Dorde and his brother Petar skimmed the road and tried
to bar my way. They failed, and rejoicing, I turned and saw old Gorcha, hurtling down the
road, using his stake like the Tyrolean mountaineers use poles to propel themselves across
chasms. Him, too, I left in the dust.
“Then his daughter-in-law, who dragged her children after her, threw one of her boys
onto the point of his stake. Using the stake as a throwing-stick, Gorcha flung the child at me
with all his strength. I avoided getting hit, but with truly bulldog-like instinct, the little toad
clamped his jaws onto the neck of my horse; I pulled him off with difficulty. The other boy was
hurled at me the same way, but he fell beyond the horse and was crushed under its hooves. I
don’t remember anything else, or how I survived; but when I came to, it was broad daylight
and I found myself lying on the road next to my dying steed.
“And so ended, mesdames, a love affair that should have cured me forever of the desire
for romance. Some of the contemporaries of your grandmothers could tell you whether I was
any wiser in the future.
“I still shudder to think that if I had succumbed to my enemies, I would have become a
vampire as well. But heaven did not allow that to happen, and far from thirsting for your blood,
mesdames, I ask nothing better than that, old as I am, I should still shed mine in your
defense!”
Glámr
Sabine Baring-Gould
(1863)



The following story is found in the Gretla, an Icelandic Saga, composed in the thirteenth
century, or that comes to us in the form then given to it; but it is a redaction of a Saga of
much earlier date. Most of it is thoroughly historical, and its statements are corroborated by
other Sagas. The following incident was introduced to account for the fact that the outlaw
Grettir would run any risk rather than spend the long winter nights alone in the dark.

At the beginning of the eleventh century there stood, a little way up the Valley of
Shadows in the north of Iceland, a small farm, occupied by a worthy bonder, named Thorhall,
and his wife. The farmer was not exactly a chieftain, but he was well enough connected to be
considered respectable; to back up his gentility he possessed numerous flocks of sheep and a
goodly drove of oxen. Thorhall would have been a happy man but for one circumstance — his
sheepwalks were haunted.
Not a herdsman would remain with him; he bribed, he threatened, entreated, all to no
purpose; one shepherd after another left his service, and things came to such a pass that he
determined on asking advice at the next annual council. Thorhall saddled his horses, adjusted
his packs, provided himself with hobbles, cracked his long Icelandic whip, and cantered along
the road, and in due time reached Thingvellir.
Skapti Thorodd’s son was lawgiver at that time, and as everyone considered him a man
of the utmost prudence and able to give the best advice, our friend from the Vale of Shadows
made straight for his booth.
“An awkward predicament, certainly — to have large droves of sheep and no one to look
after them,” said Skapti, nibbling the nail of his thumb, and shaking his wise head — a head
as stuffed with law as a ptarmigan’s crop is stuffed with blueberries. “Now I’ll tell you what —
as you have asked my advice, I will help you to a shepherd; a character in his way, a man of
dull intellect, to be sure but strong as a bull.”
“I do not care about his wits so long as he can look after sheep,” answered Thorhall.
“You may rely on his being able to do that,” said Skapti. “He is a stout, plucky fellow; a
Swede from Sylgsdale, if you know where that is.”
Towards the break-up of the council — “Thing” they call it in Iceland — two greyish-white
horses belonging to Thorhall slipped their hobbles and strayed; so the good man had to hunt
after them himself, which shows how short of servants he was. He crossed Sletha-asi, thence
he bent his way to Armann’s-fell, and just by the Priest’s Wood he met a strange-looking man
driving before him a horse laden with faggots. The fellow was tall and stalwart; his face
involuntarily attracted Thorhall’s attention, for the eyes, of an ashen grey, were large and
staring, the powerful jaw was furnished with very white protruding teeth, and around the low
forehead hung bunches of coarse wolf-grey hair.
“Pray, what is your name, my man?” asked the farmer pulling up.
“Glámr, an please you,” replied the wood-cutter.
Thorhall stared; then, with a preliminary cough, he asked how Glámr liked faggot-picking.
“Not much,” was the answer; “I prefer shepherd life.”
“Will you come with me?” asked Thorhall; “Skapti has handed you over to me, and I want
a shepherd this winter uncommonly.”
“If I serve you, it is on the understanding that I come or go as it pleases me. I tell you I
am a bit truculent if things do not go just to my thinking.”“I shall not object to this,” answered the bonder. “So I may count on your services?”
“Wait a moment! You have not told me whether there be any drawback.”
“I must acknowledge that there is one,” said Thorhall; “in fact, the sheepwalks have got a
bad name for bogies.”
“Pshaw! I’m not the man to be scared at shadows,” laughed Glámr; “so here’s my hand
to it; I’ll be with you at the beginning of the winter night.”
Well, after this they parted, and presently the farmer found his ponies. Having thanked
Skapti for his advice and assistance, he got his horses together and trotted home.
Summer, and then autumn passed, but not a word about the new shepherd reached the
Valley of Shadows. The winter storms began to bluster up the glen, driving the flying
snowflakes and massing the white drifts at every winding of the vale. Ice formed in the shallows of
the river; and the streams, which in summer trickled down the ribbed scarps, were now
transmuted into icicles.
One gusty night a violent blow at the door startled all in the farm. In another moment
Glámr, tall as a troll, stood in the hall glowering out of his wild eyes, his grey hair matted with
frost, his teeth rattling and snapping with cold, his face blood-red in the glare of the fire which
smoldered in the center of the hall. Thorhall jumped up and greeted him warmly, but the
housewife was too frightened to be very cordial.
Weeks passed, and the new shepherd was daily on the moors with his flock; his loud and
deep-toned voice was often borne down on the blast as he shouted to the sheep driving them
into fold. His presence in the house always produced gloom, and if he spoke it sent a thrill
through the women, who openly proclaimed their aversion for him.
There was a church near the byre, but Glámr never crossed the threshold; he hated
psalmody; apparently he was an indifferent Christian. On the vigil of the Nativity Glámr rose
early and shouted for meat.
“Meat!” exclaimed the housewife; “no man calling himself a Christian touches flesh
today. To-morrow is the holy Christmas Day, and this is a fast.”
“All superstition!” roared Glámr. “As far as I can see, men are no better now than they
were in the bonny heathen time. Bring me meat, and make no more ado about it.”
“You may be quite certain,” protested the good wife, “if Church rule be not kept, ill-luck
will follow.”
Glámr ground his teeth and clenched his hands. “Meat! I will have meat, or ——” In fear
and trembling the poor woman obeyed.
The day was raw and windy; masses of grey vapor rolled up from the Arctic Ocean, and
hung in piles about the mountain-tops. Now and then a scud of frozen fog, composed of
minute particles of ice, swept along the glen, covering bar and beam with feathery hoar-frost.
As the day declined, snow began to fall in large flakes like the down of the eider-duck. One
moment there was a lull in the wind, and then the deep-toned shout of Glámr, high up the
moor slopes, was heard distinctly by the congregation assembling for the first vespers of
Christmas Day. Darkness came on, deep as that in the rayless abysses of the caverns under
the lava, and still the snow fell thicker. The lights from the church windows sent a yellow haze
far out into the night, and every flake burned golden as it swept within the ray. The bell in the
lych-gate clanged for evensong, and the wind puffed the sound far up the glen; perhaps it
reached the herdsman’s ear. Hark! Someone caught a distant sound or shriek, which it was
he could not tell, for the wind muttered and mumbled about the church eaves, and then with a
fierce whistle scudded over the graveyard fence. Glámr had not returned when the service
was over. Thorhall suggested a search, but no man would accompany him; and no wonder! it
was not a night for a dog to be out in; besides, the tracks were a foot deep in snow. The
family sat up all night, waiting, listening, trembling; but no Glámr came home. Dawn broke at
last, wan and blear in the south. The clouds hung down like great sheets, full of snow, almost
to bursting.A party was soon formed to search for the missing man. A sharp scramble brought them
to high land, and the ridge between the two rivers which join in Vatnsdalr was thoroughly
examined. Here and there were found the scattered sheep, shuddering under an icicled rock,
or half buried in a snow-drift. No trace yet of the keeper. A dead ewe lay at the bottom of a
crag; it had staggered over in the gloom, and had been dashed to pieces.
Presently the whole party were called together about a trampled spot in the heath, where
evidently a death-struggle had taken place, for earth and stone were tossed about, and the
snow was blotched with large splashes of blood. A gory track led up the mountain, and the
farm-servants were following it, when a cry, almost of agony, from one of the lads, made
them turn. In looking behind a rock, the boy had come upon the corpse of the shepherd; it
was livid and swollen to the size of a bullock. It lay on its back with the arms extended. The
snow had been scrabbled up by the puffed hands in the death-agony, and the staring glassy
eyes gazed out of the ashen-grey, upturned face into the vaporous canopy overhead. From
the purple lips lolled the tongue, which in the last throes had been bitten through by the white
fangs, and a discolored stream which had flowed from it was now an icicle.
With trouble the dead man was raised on a litter, and carried to a gill-edge, but beyond
this he could not be borne; his weight waxed more and more, the bearers toiled beneath their
burden, their foreheads became beaded with sweat; though strong men they were crushed to
the ground. Consequently, the corpse was left at the ravine-head, and the men returned to
the farm. Next day their efforts to lift Glámr’s bloated carcass, and remove it to consecrated
ground, were unavailing. On the third day a priest accompanied them, but the body was
nowhere to be found. Another expedition without the priest was made, and on this occasion
the corpse was discovered; so a cairn was raised over the spot.
Two nights after this one of the thralls who had gone after the cows burst into the hall
with a face blank and scared; he staggered to a seat and fainted. On recovering his senses, in
a broken voice he assured all who crowded about him that he had seen Glámr walking past
him as he left the door of the stable. On the following evening a houseboy was found in a fit
under the farmyard wall, and he remained an idiot to his dying day. Some of the women next
saw a face which, though blown out and discolored, they recognized as that of Glámr, looking
in upon them through a window of the dairy. In the twilight, Thorhall himself met the dead
man, who stood and glowered at him, but made no attempt to injure his master. The haunting
did not end there. Nightly a heavy tread was heard around the house, and a hand feeling
along the walls, sometimes thrust in at the windows, at others clutching the woodwork, and
breaking it to splinters. However, when the spring came round the disturbances lessened, and
as the sun obtained full power, ceased altogether.
That summer a vessel from Norway dropped anchor in the nearest bay. Thorhall visited
it, and found on board a man named Thorgaut, who was in search of work.
“What do you say to being my shepherd?” asked the bonder.
“I should very much like the office,” answered Thorgaut. “I am as strong as two ordinary
men, and a handy fellow to boot.”
“I will not engage you without forewarning you of the terrible things you may have to
encounter during the winter night.”
“Pray, what may they be?”
“Ghosts and hobgoblins,” answered the farmer; “a fine dance they lead me, I can
promise you.”
“I fear them not,” answered Thorgaut; “I shall be with you at cattle-slaughtering time.”
At the appointed season the man came, and soon established himself as a favorite in the
house; he romped with the children, chucked the maidens under the chin, helped his
fellowservants, gratified the housewife by admiring her curd, and was just as much liked as his
predecessor had been detested. He was a devil-may-care fellow, too, and made no bones of
his contempt for the ghost, expressing hopes of meeting him face to face, which made hismaster look grave, and his mistress shudderingly cross herself. As the winter came on,
strange sights and sounds began to alarm the folk, but these never frightened Thorgaut; he
slept too soundly at night to hear the tread of feet about the door, and was too short-sighted
to catch glimpses of a grizzly monster striding up and down, in the twilight, before its cairn.
At last Christmas Eve came round, and Thorgaut went out as usual with his sheep.
“Have a care, man,” urged the bonder; “go not near to the gill-head, where Glámr lies.”
“Tut, tut! fear not for me. I shall be back by vespers.”
“God grant it,” sighed the housewife; “but ‘tis not a day for risks, to be sure.”
Twilight came on: a feeble light hung over the south, one white streak above the heath
land to the south. Far off in southern lands it was still day, but here the darkness gathered in
apace, and men came from Vatnsdalr for evensong, to herald in the night when Christ was
born. Christmas Eve! How different in Saxon England! There the great ashen faggot is rolled
along the hall with torch and taper; the mummers dance with their merry jingling bells; the
boar’s head, with gilded tusks, “bedecked with holly and rosemary,” is brought in by the
steward to a flourish of trumpets.
How different, too, where the Varanger cluster round the imperial throne in the mighty
church of the Eternal Wisdom at this very hour. Outside, the air is soft from breathing over the
Bosphorus, which flashes tremulously beneath the stars. The orange and laurel leaves in the
palace gardens are still exhaling fragrance in the hush of the Christmas night.
But it is different here. The wind is piercing as a two-edged sword; blocks of ice crash
and grind along the coast, and the lake waters are congealed to stone. Aloft, the Aurora
flames crimson, flinging long streamers to the zenith, and then suddenly dissolving into a sea
of pale green light. The natives are waiting round the church-door, but no Thorgaut has
returned.
They find him next morning, lying across Glámr’s cairn, with his spine, his leg, and
armbones shattered. He is conveyed to the churchyard, and a cross is set up at his head. He
sleeps peacefully. Not so Glámr; he becomes more furious than ever. No one will remain with
Thorhall now, except an old cowherd who has always served the family, and who had long ago
dandled his present master on his knee.
“All the cattle will be lost if I leave,” said the carle; “it shall never be told of me that I
deserted Thorhall from fear of a specter.”
Matters grew rapidly worse. Outbuildings were broken into of a night, and their woodwork
was rent and shattered; the house door was violently shaken, and great pieces of it were torn
away; the gables of the house were also pulled furiously to and fro.
One morning before dawn, the old man went to the stable. An hour later, his mistress
arose, and taking her milking pails, followed him. As she reached the door of the stable, a
terrible sound from within — the bellowing of the cattle, mingled with the deep notes of an
unearthly voice — sent her back shrieking to the house. Thorhall leaped out of bed, caught up
a weapon, and hastened to the cow-house. On opening the door, he found the cattle goring
each other. Slung across the stone that separated the stalls was something. Thorhall stepped
up to it, felt it, looked close; it was the cowherd, perfectly dead, his feet on one side of the
slab, his head on the other, and his spine snapped in twain. The bonder now moved with his
family to Tunga, another farm owned by him lower down the valley; it was too venturesome
living during the mid-winter night at the haunted farm; and it was not till the sun had returned
as a bridegroom out of his chamber, and had dispelled night with its phantoms, that he went
back to the Vale of Shadows. In the meantime, his little girl’s health had given way under the
repeated alarms of the winter; she became paler every day; with the autumn flowers she
faded, and was laid beneath the mold of the churchyard in time for the first snows to spread a
virgin pall over her small grave.
At this time Grettir — a hero of great fame, and a native of the north of the island — was
in Iceland, and as the hauntings of this vale were matters of gossip throughout the district, heinquired about them, and resolved on visiting the scene. So Grettir busked himself for a cold
ride, mounted his horse, and in due course of time drew rein at the door of Thorhall’s farm
with the request that he might be accommodated there for the night.
“Ahem!” coughed the bonder; “perhaps you are not aware ——”
“I am perfectly aware of all. I want to catch sight of the troll.”
“But your horse is sure to be killed.”
“I will risk it. Glámr I must meet, so there’s an end of it.”
“I am delighted to see you,” spoke the bonder; “at the same time, should mischief befall
you, don’t lay the blame at my door.”
“Never fear, man.”
So they shook hands; the horse was put into the strongest stable, Thorhall made Grettir
as good cheer as he was able, and then, as the visitor was sleepy, all retired to rest.
The night passed quietly, and no sounds indicated the presence of a restless spirit. The
horse, moreover, was found next morning in good condition, enjoying his hay.
“This is unexpected!” exclaimed the bonder, gleefully. “Now, where’s the saddle? We’ll
clap it on, and then good-bye, and a merry journey to you.”
“Good-bye!” echoed Grettir; “I am going to stay here another night.”
“You had best be advised,” urged Thorhall; “if misfortune should overtake you, I know
that all your kinsmen would visit it on my head.”
“I have made up my mind to stay,” said Grettir, and he looked so dogged that Thorhall
opposed him no more.
All was quiet next night; not a sound roused Grettir from his slumber. Next morning he
went with the farmer to the stable. The strong wooden door was shivered and driven in. They
stepped across it; Grettir called to his horse, but there was no responsive whinny.
“I am afraid ——” began Thorhall. Grettir leaped in, and found the poor brute dead, and
with its neck broken.
“Now,” said Thorhall quickly, “I’ve got a capital horse — a skewbald — down by Tunga, I
shall not be many hours in fetching it; your saddle is here, I think, and then you will just have
time to reach ——”
“I stay here another night,” interrupted Grettir.
“I implore you to depart,” said Thorhall.
“My horse is slain!”
“But I will provide you with another.”
“Friend,” answered Grettir, turning so sharply round that the farmer jumped back, half
frightened, “no man ever did me an injury without rueing it. Now, your demon herdsman has
been the death of my horse. He must be taught a lesson.”
“Would that he were!” groaned Thorhall; “but mortal must not face him. Go in peace and
receive compensation from me for what has happened.”
“I must revenge my horse.”
“An obstinate man will have his own way! But if you run your head against a stone wall,
don’t be angry because you get a broken pate.”
Night came on; Grettir ate a hearty supper and was right jovial; not so Thorhall, who had
his misgivings. At bedtime the latter crept into his crib, which, in the manner of old Icelandic
beds, opened out of the hall, as berths do out of a cabin. Grettir, however, determined on
remaining up; so he flung himself on a bench with his feet against the posts of the high seat,
and his back against Thorhall’s crib; then he wrapped one lappet of his fur coat round his feet,
the other about his head, keeping the neck-opening in front of his face, so that he could look
through into the hall.
There was a fire burning on the hearth, a smoldering heap of red embers; every now and
then a twig flared up and crackled, giving Grettir glimpses of the rafters, as he lay with his
eyes wandering among the mysteries of the smoke-blackened roof. The wind whistled softlyoverhead. The clerestory windows, covered with the amnion of sheep, admitted now and then
a sickly yellow glare from the full moon, which, however, shot a beam of pure silver through
the smoke-hole in the roof. A dog without began to howl; the cat, which had long been sitting
demurely watching the fire, stood up with raised back and bristling tail, then darted behind
some chests in a corner. The hall door was in a sad plight. It had been so riven by the specter
that it was made firm by wattles only, and the moon glinted athwart the crevices. Soothingly
the river, not yet frozen over, prattled over its shingly bed as it swept round the knoll on which
stood the farm. Grettir heard the breathing of the sleeping women in the adjoining chamber,
and the sigh of the housewife as she turned in her bed.
Click! click! — It is only the frozen turf on the roof cracking with the cold. The wind lulls
completely. The night is very still without. Hark! a heavy tread, beneath which the snow yields.
Every footfall goes straight to Grettir’s heart. A crash on the turf overhead! By all the saints in
paradise! The monster is treading on the roof. For one moment the chimney-gap is completely
darkened: Glámr is looking down it; the flash of the red ash is reflected in the two lusterless
eyes. Then the moon glances sweetly in once more, and the heavy tramp of Glámr is audibly
moving towards the farther end of the hall. A thud — he has leaped down. Grettir feels the
board at his back quivering, for Thorhall is awake and is trembling in his bed. The steps pass
round to the back of the house, and then the snapping of the wood shows that the creature is
destroying some of the outhouse doors. He tires of this apparently, for his footfall comes clear
towards the main entrance to the hall. The moon is veiled behind a watery cloud, and by the
uncertain glimmer Grettir fancies that he sees two dark hands thrust in above the door. His
apprehensions are verified, for, with a loud snap, a long strip of panel breaks, and light is
admitted. Snap — snap! another portion gives way, and the gap becomes larger. Then the
wattles slip from their places, and a dark arm rips them out in bunches, and flings them away.
There is a cross-beam to the door, holding a bolt which slides into a stone groove. Against the
grey light, Grettir sees a huge black figure heaving itself over the bar. Crack! that has given
way, and the rest of the door falls in shivers to the earth.
“Oh, heavens above!” exclaims the bonder.
Stealthily the dead man creeps on, feeling at the beams as he comes; then he stands in
the hall, with the firelight on him. A fearful sight; the tall figure distended with the corruption of
the grave, the nose fallen off, the wandering, vacant eyes, with the glaze of death on them,
the sallow flesh patched with green masses of decay; the wolf-grey hair and beard have
grown in the tomb, and hang matted about the shoulders and breast; the nails, too, they have
grown. It is a sickening sight — a thing to shudder at, not to see.
Motionless, with no nerve quivering now, Thorhall and Grettir held their breath.
Glámr’s lifeless glance strayed round the chamber; it rested on the shaggy bundle by the
high seat. Cautiously he stepped towards it. Grettir felt him groping about the lower lappet and
pulling at it. The cloak did not give way. Another jerk; Grettir kept his feet firmly pressed
against the posts, so that the rug was not pulled off. The vampire seemed puzzled, he
plucked at the upper flap and tugged. Grettir held to the bench and bed-board, so that he was
not moved, but the cloak was rent in twain, and the corpse staggered back, holding half in its
hands, and gazing wonderingly at it. Before it had done examining the shred, Grettir started to
his feet, bowed his body, flung his arms about the carcass, and, driving his head into the
chest, strove to bend it backward and snap the spine. A vain attempt! The cold hands came
down on Grettir’s arms with diabolical force, riving them from their hold. Grettir clasped them
about the body again; then the arms closed round him, and began dragging him along. The
brave man clung by his feet to benches and posts, but the strength of the vampire was the
greater; posts gave way, benches were heaved from their places, and the wrestlers at each
moment neared the door. Sharply writhing loose, Grettir flung his hands round a roof-beam.
He was dragged from his feet; the numbing arms clenched him round the waist, and tore at
him; every tendon in his breast was strained; the strain under his shoulders became