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doing at so late an hour. At that moment the light disappeared, and all became as still as death,
“I must have been mistaken," thought Frants, as he again tried to find the door he had at first sought. In spite of himself, a dread of some evil, or of something supernatural, seemed to haunt him, and the image of his old master, who was drowned, appeared before him in that dark workshop where they had spent so many cheerful hours together. At last he found the door, and retired as quickly as possible to his chamber, where his wife and child were both fast asleep. He, too, at length fell asleep, but he was restless in his slumbers, and disturbed by strange dreams. In the course of the night he dreamed that his wife's uncle, Mr. Flok, stood before him, and said, “ Why was I not placed in my coffin ?-why was I not laid in a Christian burying-ground ? Seek and you will find. Destroy the curse before it destroys you also !"
In the morning, when he awoke, he looked so pale and ill that Johanna was quite alarmed; but he did not like to frighten her by telling her his dreams; and, indeed, he was ashamed at the impression they had made upon himself, for notwithstanding all the confidence he had expressed in coming to the house, he could not help feeling nervous and uncomfortable.
Nor did the unpleasant sensation wear off ; his gay spirits vanished, and he was also unhappy because the time was approaching when the purchase-money for the house would become due, and the settlement of the old man's affairs, to which he had looked forward in expectation of obtaining his wife's inheritance, seemed to be as far off as ever. He found it difficult to meet the small daily expenses of his family, and he feared the threatening future. “Seek and you will find !'” he repeated to himself. “Destroy the curse before it destroys you! What curse? I begin to fear that there really is some evil doom connected with this house."
It was also a very unaccountable circumstance, that however often he scratched out the mysterious inscription from the wall, “ The Doomed House," it appeared again next day in characters as fresh and as red as ever. His health began to give way under all his anxiety, and the child also became ill. One evening he had been taking a solitary walk to a spot which had now a kind of morbid fascination for him—the deadhouse for the drowned and when he returned home he found Johanna weeping by the cradle of her suffering infant.
“You were right,” he exclaimed. “ We were happier in our humble garret than in this ill-fated house. Would that we had remained there! Tell me, Johanna, of what are you thinking ? Has the doctor been here? What does he say of our dear little one?"
“ If it should get worse towards night, yonder lies our last hope," she replied, pointing towards the table.
Frants took up the prescription, and gazed on the incomprehensible Latin words as if therein he would have read his fate. The tears stood in his eyes.
“And to-morrow,” said Johanna_" to-morrow will be a day of misery. Have you any means of paying Mr. Stork ?”
“ None whatever! But that is a small evil compared to this,” he answered, as he pointed to the feverish and moaning infant. “ Have you been to the workshop ?" he continued, after a pause; “ the large coffin is finished; perhaps it may be our own last home—it would hold us “ Where didst thou lay my bones ?” said Frants, as if he had become suddenly insane. “Why was I not placed in my coffin? Why did I not enter a Christian burying-ground ?"
“Oh! if that could only be !” exclaimed Johanna, as she threw her arms round him—“could we only all three be removed together to a better world, there would be no more sorrow for us! But the hour of separation is close at hand; to-morrow, if you cannot pay Mr. Stork, you will be cast into prison, and I shall sit alone here with that dying child.”
6 What do you say? Cast into prison! How do you know that? Has that man been here frightening you? He has not hinted a syllable of such a threat to me."
Johanna then related to him how Mr. Stork had latterly often called under pretence of wishing to see Frants, but always when he was out. He had made himself very much at home, and had overwhelmed her with compliments and flattering speeches; he had also declared frequently that he would not trouble Frants for the money he owed him if she would pay the debt in another manner. At first, she said, she did not understand him, and when she did comprehend his meaning she did not like to mention it to Frants for fear of his taking the matter up warmly, and quarrelling with Stork, which would bring ruin on himself. Mr. Stork, however, had become more bold and presuming; and that very evening, on her repelling his advances and desiring him to quit her presence, he had threatened, that if she mentioned a syllable of what had passed to her husband—nay, further, if she were not prepared to change her behaviour towards himself-before another sun had set Frants should be thrown into prison for debt, and might congratulate himself, in that pleasant abode, on the fidelity of his wife.
“Well!” said Frants," with forced composure," he has got me in his toils, but his pitiful baseness shall not crush me. I have indeed been blind not to detect the villany that lay behind that satanic smile, and improvident to let myself be deluded by his pretended friendship. But if the Almighty will only spare and protect you and that dear child, I shall not lose courage. Be comforted, my Johanna!"
It was now growing late—the child awoke from the restless sleep of fever-it seemed worse, and Frants ran to an apothecary's with the prescription. « The last hope !" sighed he, as he hurried along; "and if it should fail, who will console poor Johanna to-morrow evening, when I am in a prison, and she has to clad her child in its grave-clothes! Oh! how we shall miss you, sweet little angel! Was this the happiness I dreamt of in the old house? Yes, people are right-it is accursed !" The apothecary's shop was closed, but the prescription had been taken in through a little aperture in the door, and Frants sat down on the stone steps to wait until the medicine was ready. It was a clear, starry, December night, but the sorrowing father sat shivering in the cold, and gazing gloomily on the frozen pavement—he was not thinking of the stars or the skies. The watchman passed, and bade him good morning.
" It will be a good morning indeed for me,” thought poor Frants—“a morning fraught with despair.” At that moment the clock of a neigh
bouring church struck one, and the watchman sang in a full bass voice these simple words:
“Help us, oh Jesus dear!
And be our Saviour there !" Frants heard the pious song, and a change seemed to come over his spirit; he raised his saddened eye to the magnificent heavens above, gazed at the calm stars which studded the deep blue vault, clasped his hands, and joined in the watchman's concluding words:
“ Redeemer, grant thy blessed help
To make our burden light !" A small phial with the medicine was just then handed out to him through the little sliding window; he paid his last coin for it, and full of hope that his burden would be lightened, hastened to his home.
“Did you hear what the watchman was singing, Johanna ?" asked Frants, when he entered the little green parlour, where the young mother was watching by her child.
“Hush, hush !" she whispered; "he has fallen into an easy and quiet sleep. God will have pity upon us—our child will do well now.”
6 Why, Johanna, you look as happy as if an angel from Heaven had been with you telling you blessed truths.”
“ Yes, blessed truths have been communicated to me from Heaven !" replied Johanna, pointing to an old Bible which lay open upon the table. “ Look! this is my good uncle's Bible, that I have not seen since he died; and, God forgive me! I have thought too little lately about any Bible. I found this one to-night far back on the highest shelf of the alcove, and its holy words have given me strength and comfort. Read this passage, Frants, about putting our whole trust in the Lord, whatever evils may befal us."
Frants read the portion pointed out to him, and then began to turn over the leaves of the well-worn, silver-clasped book. He found a number of pieces of paper here and there, but as he saw at a glance that they were only accounts and receipts, he did not care to examine them; but his attention was suddenly caught by a paper which appeared to be part of a journal kept by the old man the last year of his life. He looked through it eagerly, and Johanna observed with surprise that his countenance was darkening. At length he started up, and exclaimed:
“ It is horrible-horrible, Johanna! Some one must have sought to take your uncle's life. See, here it is in his own handwriting-listen!" And he read aloud:
“ God grant that my enemy's wicked plot may not succeed !-Why did I let my gold get into such iniquitous hands, and place my life at the mercy of one more ferocious than a wild beast ? He has cunningly plundered me of my wealth—he has bound my tongue by an oath-and now he seeks to take my life in secret. But my money will not prosper in his unworthy hands; and accursed be the house over whose threshold his foot passes. There are human beings who can ruin others in all worldly matters ; but mortal man has no power over the spirit when death sets it free.”
“ What can this mean?” cried Frants, almost wild with excitement. “ Who is the mortal enemy to whom he alludes, but whom he does not name? Who has got possession of his house and means ? The same person, no doubt, who bound him by an oath to silence, and threatened his life in secret—who proclaimed to the world that he had drowned himself, and caused him to be buried like a suicide. Why was no other acquaintance called to recognise the body? We have no certainty that the drowned man was he. Perhaps his bones lie nearer to us than we imagine. Ha! old master, in my dream I heard you say, Seek, and you shall find. Why was I not put into consecrated ground ?' Johanna, what do you think about that old lumber-room? There have been some mysterious doings there at midnight; there are some still. That floor is washed while we are sleeping. Before to-morrow's sun can rise, I shall have searched that den of murder from one end to the other.”
“Oh, dearest Frants, how wildly you talk! You make me tremble.”
But as Frants was determined to go, she sat down by the cradle to watch her sleeping child, while he took a light and proceeded to the workshop. There he seized a hatchet and crowbar, and thus provided with implements he approached the door of the locked chamber. “ The room belongs to me,” said he to himself ; "who has a right to prevent me from entering it ?” To force the door by the aid of the iron crowbar was the work of an instant, and without the slightest hesitation he went in, though it must be confessed he felt a momentary panic. But that wore off immediately, and he began at once to examine the place. Nothing appeared, however, to excite suspicion ; there were some sacks of wood in a corner, and he emptied these, almost expecting to see one of them filled with the bones of dead men. But there was no appearance of anything of the kind. The floor appeared to have been recently washed, for it was yet scarcely dry. He then began to take up the boards.
At that moment he heard the handle of the door which led into the neighbouring house turning; holding the hatchet in one hand, and the light high above his head in the other, he put himself in an attitude of defence, while he called out, “Has any one a desire to assist me ?"
Presently all was still. Frants put down his light and began hammering at the boards ; almost unconsciously he also began to hum aloud an air which his old master used always to sing when he was engaged in finishing any piece of work. But he had not hammered or hummed long before the handle of the door was again turned. This time the door opened, and a tall white figure slowly entered, with an expression of countenance as hellish as if its owner had just come from the abode of evil spirits.
“What, at it again, old man ? Will you go on hammering and nailing till doomsday ? Must that song be heard to all eternity ?” said a hollow but well-known voice; and Frants recognised with horror the ghastly pale and wild-looking sleep-walker, who, with eyes open, but fixed and glazed, and hair standing on end, had come in his nightgear from his sleeping-chamber.
“ Your bones are safe enough,” replied the pallid, terrible-looking dreamer. “No one will harm them under my pear-tree.”
“But whom didst thou bury under my name, when, as a selfmurderer, thou didst fasten on me the stain of guilt in death ?” asked Frants, astonished and frightened at the sound of his own voice, for it seemed to him as if a spirit from the other world were speaking through his lips.
“ It was the beggar," replied the wretched somnambulist, with a frightful contortion of his fiendish face, a sort of triumphant grin. “It was only the foreign beggar, to whom you gave your old grey cloak but whom I- 1- drove from my door that Christmas-eve."
“Where he lies, shalt thou rot—by his side shalt thou meet me on the great day of doom !" cried Frants, who hardly knew what he was saying. He had scarcely uttered these words when he heard a fearful sound something between a shriek and a groan--and he stood alone with his light and his hatchet, for the howling figure had disappeared.
“ Was it a dream ?” gasped Frants, “ or am I mad ? Away, away from this scene of murder! But I know now where I shall find that which I seek.”
He returned to Johanna, who was sitting quietly by the still sleeping child, and was reading the Holy Scriptures. Frants did not tell her what had taken place, and she was afraid to ask ; he persuaded her to retire to rest, while he himself sat up all night to examine farther the papers in the old Bible. The next day he carried them to a magistrate, and the whole case was brought before a court of justice for legal inquiry and judgment.
“ Was I not right when I said that a coffin would come out of that house before the end of the year ?" exclaimed the baker's wife at the corner of the street to her daughter, when, some time after, a richlyornamented coffin was borne out of Frants' house. The funeral procession, headed by Frants himself, was composed of all the joiners and most respectable artisans in the town, dressed in black.
" It is the coffin of old Mr. Flok," said the baker's daughter ; " he is now going to be really buried, they say. I wonder if it be true that his bones were found under a tree in Mr. Stork's garden ?”
“Quite true," responded a fishwoman, setting down her creel while she looked at the funeral procession. “Young Mr. Frants had everything proved before the judge, and that avaricious old Stork will have to give up his ill-gotten goods.”
* Ay, and his ill-conducted life too, perhaps," said the man who kept the little tavern near, “if all be true that folks say-he murdered the worthy Mr. Flok.”
“I always thought that fellow would be hanged some day or other; he tried to cheat me whenever he could,” added the baker's wife.
“But they must catch him first,” said another; “nothing has been seen of him these last three or four days.”