Friday, November 25, 2022

The Ghostly Visiter; or, The Mysterious Invalid - A Review


On February 27, 1833 a horrific ghost story was published by the title The Ghostly Visiter; or, The Mysterious Invalid. The scary story was printed anonymously in The Penny Story-Teller, a British pulp magazine that came out every Wednesday.


The Penny Story-Teller and others were called "penny dreadfuls" given their cheap price and the frightening tales contained within their pages. In these pages is where horror short stories first took root in the UK. "The Ghostly Visiter" is one of the finest examples of a ghost story to come out of these magazines. Despite its horror, it did not rise to the level of the Top 10 ghost stories from 1800-1849, which are contained in The Best Ghost Stories.


#GhostlyVisiter #BestGhostStories #ClassicGhostStories #VintageGhosts #ScaryShortStories #PennyDreadfuls 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Facts About Lady Eleanor's Mantle by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Nathaniel Hawthorne

 Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was no stranger when it came to telling a scary ghost story. His "Legends of the Province House" was mentioned as being exemplary by H.P. Lovecraft and his 1835 story titled "Graves and Goblins" is quite good. But this post is about Lady Eleanor's Mantle, which is one of the scary ghost stories for the first half of the nineteenth century. Without giving away too much, the horror story contains an insane person and is well worth a read on a moonlit night. It was published just time for the holidays in December 1838.

Lady Eleanor's Mantle by Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Lady Eleanor's Mantle" is a ghostly tale of pestilence and because of that it draws certain parallels to Edgar Allan Poe's "Mask of the Red Death," which is included in my rbook: The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Ghost Anthology. Which came first? Hawthorne beat Poe by 3.5 years. Enjoy.  


#HawthorneStory #LadyEleanorsMantle #HawthorneGhostStory #HawthorneHorror #NathanielHawthorne

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Interview with Andrew Barger on The Best Vampire Stories 1800-1849 Anthology


As Halloween approaches, Andrew answers questions about The Best Vampire Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Vampire Anthology


Interview with Andrew Barger

Q1. Why did you focus on the first half of the 19th century for your first vampire anthology?
A1. I knew the first vampire short story written in the English language was "The Vampyre" by John Polidori. He published it in 1819. There was obviously fresh dirt, so to speak, for this period and I started digging. I wanted to start from the beginning just as I did with The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849,The Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849 and The Best Ghost Stories 1800-1849.

Q2. Did you unearth anything of note in vampire lore?

A2. Yes. I was surprised to find the first vampire short story penned by an American that has remained buried for nearly two centuries. It was published only months after Polidori's tale. It was titled "The Black Vampyre" and was published under a pseudonym by a Columbia University Law School graduate. In the book I demonstrate who the actual author was as background to the story. From my research it is also the first short story to advocate freedom for black slaves and to contain a child vampire.

Q3. That is substantial. So you include background information on each story in the collection?

A3. Also author photos, publication dates and a list of stories read at the end of the book.  In the print version I include annotations like I did with the other books.

Q4. You stated that in your estimation Edgar Allan Poe wrote one third of the best horror stories for the fifty years in question. Did 
Edgar Allan Poe write any vampire stories?
A4. There is much speculation about this. Some assert "Ligeia" and "Berenice" are vampire stories but I dispel this in the Introduction: "With Teeth." In my view Poe did not pen a vampire tale. It is also of note that neither Nathaniel Hawthorne nor Washington Irving wrote a vampire story, either.

Q5. Who are some of the more famous authors in the vampire anthology?

A5. I mentioned John Polidori, Lord Byron's traveling doctor. Alexander Dumas, Joseph le Fanu and Théophile Gautier all have stories in the collection.

Q6. Do you have a favorite?

A6. "Clarimonde" by Gautier is the foremost thing of its kind. Of course Gautier had the advantage of all the great stories that came before his.

Q7. The strangest name has to be "Pepopukin in Corsica." How did you come across it?

A7. It was published in an old magazine in 1826. It is just the third vampire story originally published in the English language. It has not been republished since. The author was not given, only the initials A.Y. I was able to learn that it was Arthur Young who wrote a number of travel books based in France. "Pepopukin in Corsica" is the first vampire story to include poetry.

Q8. Didn't Polidori write "The Vampyre" in response to a bet by Mary Shelley? 

A8. There's a story within a story on that one. Mary Shelley, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori challenged one another to write a ghost story. Mary ultimately wrote Prometheus Unbound (that we know now as Frankenstein) and Lord Byron penned a fragment of a vampire story that he never finished. Polidori used the outline and wrote "The Vampyre." It is little known that Polidori put Lord Byron in "The Vampyre" after they had had a falling out. Lord Byron is the vampire himself. He called him Lord Ruthven in the story. I lay out the many similarities between Lord Byron and Lord Ruthven in the background. It's fascinating stuff.

Q9. Another popular vampire story is "Wake Not the Dead."

A9. It was first published in English in 1823 and miss-attributed to Ludwig Tieck. Ernst Raupach is the true author.

Q10. Did you unearth any misconceptions in doing your research?
A10.  Varney the Vampire, or the Feast of Blood, published in 1847 as a serialized Penny Dreadful was the first vampire novel. Bram Stoker's Dracula was not the first, as many people believe.

#BestVampireStories #ClassicVampires #VintageVampires #ClassicVampireStories #VintageVampireStories #VampireHorror #BestVampireShortStories

 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Did Poe Write a Werewolf Story?

 


Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) wrote scary stories in a number of supernatural genres. He did not invent the horror short story, but he took it to unbelievable heights. Poe penned ghost stories. He was the first to invent a closed room murder mystery (
The Murders in the Rue Morgue of 1841) and a founding father of science fiction short stories. Poe also was the first to take us inside the head of a crazy man in The Tell-Tale Heart of 1843.


Yet, Edgar Allan Poe failed to cover a few crucial genres in his short stories. For instance, he did not write a vampire or monster story. I have blogged on the former in the past. That is unfortunate as I am convinced that no one could have written a vampire story like Poe. What's more, zombie's had not been created in Poe's time.

Unfortunately, Poe also did not write a werewolf story. Below is a list of werewolf stories originally published in the English language during Poe's lifetime, which he may have read. They are found in Transformation: The Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849:

1831 The Man-Wolf by Leitch Ritche (1800-1865)
1846 A Story of a Weir-Wolf by Catherine Crowe (1790-1872)
1828 The Wehr-Wolf: A Legend of the Limousin by Richard Thomson (1794-1865)
1839 The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848)
1838 Hugues the Wer-Wolf: A Kentish Legend of the Middle Ages by Sutherland Menzies [Mrs. Elizabeth Stone] (1806-1883)

#WerewolfStories #BestWerewolfStories #LycanStories #VintageWerewolf #WerewolfTales #VictorianWerewolfStories #PoeWerewolfStory

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Uyea Sound by The Cure - Lyrics by Andrew Barger - Wish 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

 

Uyea Sound by The Cure
Wish 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition https://amzn.to/3TIHOu3

As Europe is enjoying The Cure’s Songs for a Lost World Tour, Robert Smith announced the forthcoming Wish 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition album. It includes 24 previously unreleased tracks. And all of Curedom did a little happy dance. Robert Smith admitted that he had difficulty with the words (poetry), resulting in many of the new tracks being instrumentals. This struck me as unfortunate for someone I believe to be one of the best living poets, of the one I have read. The words of “Lovesong,” from Disintegration are beautiful in their simplicity and immensely compelling. “Plainsong,” from the same album, is a sonnet by Robert Smith to his wife, Mary. Here are my thoughts on “Plainsong.” https://disintegrationnation-cureblog.blogspot.com/...
Wish 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition drops on November 25, 2022. Fortunately, The Cure has released a few songs already. One of which is the highly anticipated instrumental, “Uyea Sound” that is haunting in its soundscapes. Below is a poem (unauthorized) I wrote to accompany the music of “Uyea Sound” by The Cure.


Uyea Sound

Unofficial Lyrics by Andrew Barger



It’s been twenty sunsets

Since you left me,

On the Island Uyea.


Hush now,

Waves are breaking against Uyea

And winds speak its name.


Everyone is set

On changing the world.

I just wanted to change you.


Hush now,

Waves are breaking against Uyea

And winds speak its name.


Take it all in stride, they said.

Yea, Uyea boy, take it all in stride.

It’s in you I confide.


Hush now,

Waves are breaking against Uyea

And winds speak its name.


I return to where you left me

Twenty sunsets ago.

On the island Uyea


Hush now,

Waves are breaking against Uyea

And winds speak its name.



#AndrewBarger #UyeaSound #uyeasoundlyrics #uyeasoundpoem #WishDeluxeSongs #TheCureWish


Saturday, October 1, 2022

Adventure Near Granville Classic Ghost Short Story

 An Adventure Near Granville is one of the best ghost stories you have never read and in my view is one of the Top 40 scary ghost stories for the 50 year period from 1800-1849. It was published in George Soane's (1789-1860) collection of short stories "The Last Ball and Other Stories" in 1843. "An Adventure Near Granville" (more aptly titled "A Horror Near Granville") is a warning for anyone moving into a foreign old house. I hope you enjoy it.

  

When considering scary ghost stories, I am convinced that George Soane is one of the most underrated ghost writers for the first half of the nineteenth century. Who on earth is George Soane? He was the son of the famous English architect, John Soane (1753-1837). George was the black sheep of the family. Much like Edgar Allan Poe, he shunned business and followed the arts. His family disowned him as a result. Yet George turned out to be an excellent short story writer. I picked his "Lucy Ellis" (also called "The Lighthouse") as one of the top dozen horror stories in The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849: A Classic Horror Anthology. Any of his stories in "The Last Ball"' are worth your time.


#AdventureNearGranville #ClassicGhostStory #GhostHorror #BestGhostStoriesBook #GhostStoriesBook #GhostStories #GeorgeSoane

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe - Scary Short Story

Edgar Allan Poe 





Buried Alive!

In the nineteenth century many had a fear of being buried alive. There were reports of people being in a near-death state and being pronounced dead by hack doctors of the day. Atlas Obscura published a nice article about some of the contraptions invented so people could alert those above ground that they were still alive in their coffin.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/users-guide-to-definitive-death








Of course Edgar Allan Poe, being . . . well . . . Edgar  Allan Poe, could not resist playing on these fears. In 1844 he wrote "The Premature Burial" in the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper. Enjoy!


ORIGINAL STORIES.
———————————————
[Written for the Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper.]

THE PREMATURE BURIAL.

——
BY EDGAR A. POE, ESQ., AUTHOR OF THE POPULAR PRIZE STORY, “THE GOLD-BUG,” &c.
——
There are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing, but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction. These the mere romanticist must eschew, if he do not wish to offend, or to disgust. They are with propriety handled, only when the severity and majesty of Truth sanctify and sustain them. We thrill, for example, with the most intense of “pleasurable pain,” over the accounts of the Passage of the Beresina, of the Earthquake at Lisbon, of the Plague at London, of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, or of the stifling of the hundred and twenty-three prisoners in the Black Hole at Calcutta. But, in these accounts, it is the fact — it is the reality — it is the history which excites. As inventions, we should regard them with simple abhorrence.
I have mentioned some few of the more prominent and august calamities upon record; but, in these, it is the extent, not less than the character of the calamity, which so vividly impresses the fancy. I need not remind the reader that, from the long and wierd [[weird]] catalogue of human miseries, I might have selected many individual instances more replete with essential suffering than any of these vast generalities of disaster. The true wretchedness, indeed — the ultimate woe — is particular, not diffuse. That the ghastly extremes of agony are endured by man the unit, and never by man the mass — for this let us thank a merciful God!
To be buried while alive, is, beyond question, the most terrific of these extremes which has ever fallen to the lot of mere mortality. That it has frequently, very frequently, so fallen, will scarcely be denied by those who think. The boundaries which divide Life from Death, are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins? We know that there are diseases in which occur total cessations of all the apparent functions of vitality, and yet in which these cessations are merely suspensions, properly so called. They are only temporary pauses in the incomprehensible mechanism. A certain period elapses, and some unseen mysterious principle again sets in motion the magic pinions and the wizard wheels. The silver cord was not forever loosed, nor the golden bowl irreparably broken. But where, meantime, was the soul?
Apart, however, from the inevitable conclusion, à priori, that such causes must produce such effects — that the well known occurrence of such cases of suspended animation must naturally give rise, now and then, to premature interments — apart from this consideration, we have the direct testimony of medical and ordinary experience, to prove that a vast number of such interments have actually taken place. I might refer, at once, if necessary, to a hundred well authenticated instances. One of very remarkable character, and of which the circumstances may be fresh in the memory of some of my readers, occurred, not very long ago, in the neighboring city of Baltimore, where it occasioned a painful, intense, and widely extended excitement. The wife of one of the most respectable citizens — a lawyer of eminence and a member of Congress — was seized with a sudden and unaccountable illness, which completely baffled the skill of her physicians. After much suffering she died, or was supposed to die. No one suspected, indeed, or had reason to suspect, that she was not actually dead. She presented all the ordinary appearances of death. The face assumed the usual pinched and sunken outline. The lips were of the usual marble pallor. The eyes were lustreless. There was no warmth. Pulsation had ceased. For three days the body was preserved unburied, during which it had acquired a stony rigidity. The funeral, in short, was hastened, on account of the rapid advance of what was supposed to be decomposition.
The lady was deposited in her family vault, which, for three subsequent years, was undisturbed. At the expiration of this term, it was opened for the reception of a sarcophagus; — but, alas! how fearful a shock awaited the husband, who, personally, threw open the door. As its portals swung outwardly back, some white-apparelled object fell rattling within his arms. It was the skeleton of his wife in her yet unmoulded shroud.
A careful investigation rendered it evident that she had revived within two days after her entombment — that her struggles within the coffin had caused it to fall from a ledge, or shelf, to the floor, where it was so broken as to permit her escape. A lamp which had been accidentally left, full of oil, within the tomb, was found empty; it might have been exhausted, however, by evaporation. On the uppermost of the steps which led down into the dread chamber, was a large fragment of the coffin, with which, it seemed that she had endeavored to arrest attention, by striking the iron door. While thus occupied, she probably swooned, or possibly died, through sheer terror; and, in falling, her shroud became entangled in some iron-work which projected interiorly. Thus she remained, and thus she rotted, erect.
In the year 1810, a case of living inhumation happened in France, attended with circumstances which go far to warrant the assertion that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction. The heroine of the story was a Mademoiselle Victorine Lafourcade, a young girl of illustrious family, of wealth, and of great personal beauty. Among her numerous suitors was Julian Bossuet, a poor litterateur, or journalist, of Paris. His talents, and general amiability, had recommended him to the notice of the heiress, by whom he seems to have been truly beloved; but her pride of birth decided her, finally, to reject him, and to wed a Monsieur Rénelle, a banker, and a diplomatist of some eminence. After marriage, however, this gentleman neglected, and, perhaps, even more positively ill-treated her. Having passed with him some wretched years, she died, — at least her condition so closely resembled death as to deceive every one who saw her. She was buried — not in a vault — but in an ordinary grave in the village of her nativity. Filled with despair, and still inflamed by the memory of a profound attachment, the lover journeys from the capital to the remote province in which the village lies, with the romantic purpose of disinterring the corpse, and possessing himself of its luxuriant tresses. He reaches the grave. At midnight he unearths the coffin, opens it, and is in the act of detaching the hair, when he is arrested by the unclosing of the beloved eyes. In fact, the lady had been buried alive. Vitality had not altogether departed; and she was aroused, by the caresses of her lover, from the lethargy which had been mistaken for death. He bore her frantically to his lodgings in the village. He employed certain powerful restoratives suggested by no little medical learning. In fine, she revived. She recognized her preserver. She remained with him until, by slow degrees, she fully recovered her original health. Her woman’s heart was not adamant, and this last lesson of love sufficed to soften it. She bestowed it upon Bossuet. She returned no more to her husband, but concealing from him her resurrection, fled, with her lover, to America. Twenty years afterwards, the two returned to France, in the persuasion that time had so greatly altered the lady’s appearance, that her friends would be unable to recognize her. They were mistaken, however; for, at the first meeting, Monsieur Rénelle did actually recognize and make claim to his wife. This claim she resisted; and a judicial tribunal sustained her in her resistance; deciding that the peculiar circumstances, with the long lapse of years, had extinguished, not only equitably but legally, the authority of the husband.
The “Chirurgical Journal” of Leipsic — a periodical, of high authority and merit, which some American bookseller would do well to translate and republish — records, in a late number, a very distressing event of the character in question.
An officer of artillery, a man of gigantic stature and of robust health, being thrown from an unmanageable horse, received a very severe contusion upon the head, which rendered him insensible at once; the skull was slightly fractured; but no immediate danger was apprehended. Trepanning was accomplished successfully. He was bled, and many other of the ordinary means of relief were adopted. Gradually, however, he fell into a more and more hopeless state of stupor; and, finally, it was thought that he died.
The weather was warm; and he was buried, with indecent haste, in one of the public cemeteries. His funeral took place on Thursday. On the Sunday following, the grounds of the cemetery were, as usual, much thronged with visiters; and, about noon, an intense excitement was created by the declaration of a peasant that, while sitting upon the grave of the officer, he had distinctly felt a commotion of the earth, as if occasioned by some one struggling beneath. At first little attention was paid to the man’s asseveration; but his evident terror, and the dogged obstinacy with which he persisted in his story, had, at length, their natural effect upon the crowd. Spades were hurriedly procured, and the grave, which was shamefully shallow, was, in a few minutes, so far thrown open that the head of its occupant appeared. He was then, seemingly, dead; but he sat nearly erect within his coffin, the lid of which, in his furious struggles, he had partially uplifted.
He was forthwith conveyed to the nearest Hospital, and there pronounced to be still living, although in an asphytic condition. After some hours he revived, recognized individuals of his acquaintance; and, in broken sentences, spoke of his agonies in the grave.
From what he related, it was clear that he must have been conscious of life for more than an hour, while inhumed, before lapsing into insensibility. The grave was carelessly and loosely filled with an exceedingly porous soil; and thus some air was necessarily admitted. He heard the footsteps of the crowd overhead, and endeavored to make himself heard in turn. It was the tumult within the grounds of the cemetery, he said, which appeared to awaken him from a deep sleep — but no sooner was he awake than he became fully aware of the awful horrors of his position.
This patient, it is recorded, was doing well, and seemed to be in a fair way of ultimate recovery, but fell a victim to the quackeries of medical experiment. The galvanic battery was applied; and he suddenly expired in one of those ecstatic paroxysms which, occasionally, it superinduces.
The mention of the galvanic battery, nevertheless, recalls to my memory a well known and very extraordinary case in point, where its action proved the means of restoring to animation a young attorney of London who had been interred for two days. This occurred in 1821, and created, at the time, a very profound sensation wherever it was made the subject of converse.
The patient, Mr. Edward Stapleton, had died, apparently, of typhus fever, accompanied with some anomalous symptoms which had excited the curiosity of his medical attendants. Upon his seeming decease, his friends were requested to sanction a post mortem examination, but declined to permit it. As often happens when such refusals are made, the practitioners resolved to disinter the body and dissect it at leisure, in private. Arrangements were easily effected with some of the numerous corps of body-snatchers with which London abounds; and, upon the third night after the funeral, the supposed corpse was unearthed from a grave eight feet deep, and deposited in the operating chamber of one of the private hospitals.
An incision of some extent had been actually made in the abdomen, when the fresh and undecayed appearance of the subject suggested an application of the battery. One experiment succeeded another, and the customary effects supervened, with nothing to characterize them in any respect, except, upon one or two occasions, a more than ordinary degree of life-likeness in the convulsive action.
It grew late. The day was about to dawn; and it was thought expedient, at length, to proceed at once to the dissection. A student, however, was especially desirous of testing a theory of his own, and insisted upon applying the battery to one of the pectoral muscles. A rough gash was made, and a wire hastily brought in contact; when the patient, with a hurried but quite unconvulsive movement, arose from the table, stepped into the middle of the floor, gazed about him uneasily for a few seconds, and then — spoke. What he said was unintelligible; but words were uttered; the syllabification was distinct. Having spoken, he fell heavily to the floor.
For some moments all were paralyzed with awe — but the urgency of the case soon restored them their presence of mind. It was seen that Mr. Stapleton was alive, although in a swoon. Upon exhibition of ether he revived and was rapidly restored to health, and to the society of his friends — from whom, however, all knowledge of his resuscitation was withheld, until a relapse was no longer to be apprehended. Their wonder — their rapturous astonishment — may be conceived.
The most thrilling peculiarity of this incident, nevertheless, is involved in what Mr. S. himself asserts. He declares that at no period was he altogether insensible — that, dully and confusedly, he was aware of every thing which happened to him, from the moment in which he was pronounced dead by his physicians, to that in which he fell swooning to the floor of the Hospital. “I am alive” were the uncomprehended words which, upon recognizing the locality of the dissecting-room, he had endeavored, in his extremity, to utter.
It were an easy matter to multiply such histories as these — but I forbear — for, indeed, we have no need of such to establish the fact that premature interments occur. When we reflect how very rarely, from the nature of the case, we have it in our power to detect them, we must admit that they may frequently occur without our cognizance. Scarcely, in truth, is a graveyard ever encroached upon, for any purpose, to any great extent, that skeletons are not found in postures which suggest the most fearful of suspicions.
Fearful indeed the suspicion — but more fearful the doom! It may be asserted, without hesitation, that no event is so terribly well adapted to inspire the supremeness of bodily and of mental distress, as is burial before death. The unendurable oppression of the lungs — the stifling fumes from the damp earth — the clinging of the death garments — the rigid embrace of the narrow house — the blackness of the absolute Night — the silence like a sea that overwhelms — the unseen but palpable presence of the Conqueror Worm — these things, with thoughts of the air and grass above, with memory of dear friends who would fly to save us if but informed of our fate, and with consciousness that of this fate they can never be informed — that our hopeless portion is that of the really dead — these considerations, I say, carry into the heart, which still palpitates, a degree of appalling and intolerable horror from which the most daring imagination must recoil. We know of nothing so agonizing upon Earth — we can dream of nothing half so hideous in the realms of the nethermost Hell. And thus all narratives upon this topic have an interest profound; an interest, nevertheless, which, through the sacred awe of the topic itself, very properly and very peculiarly depends upon our conviction of the truthof the matter narrated. What I have now to tell, is of my own actual knowledge — of my own positive and personal experience.
For several years I had been subject to attacks of the singular disorder which physicians have agreed to term catalepsy, in default of a more definitive title. Although both the immediate and the predisposing causes, and even the actual diagnosis, of this disease, are still mysteries, its obvious and apparent character is sufficiently well understood. Its variations seem to be chiefly of degree. Sometimes the patient lies, for a day only, or even for a shorter period, in a species of exaggerated lethargy. He is senseless and externally motionless; but the pulsation of the heart is still faintly perceptible; some traces of warmth remain; a slight color lingers within the centre of the cheek; and, upon application of a mirror to the lips, we can detect a torpid, unequal, and vacillating action of the lungs. Then again the duration of the trance is for weeks — even for months; while the closest scrutiny, and the most rigorous medical tests, fail to establish any material distinction between the state of the sufferer and what we conceive of absolute death. Very usually, he is saved from premature interment solely by the knowledge of his friends that he has been previously subject to catalepsy, by the consequent suspicion excited, and, above all, by the non-appearance of decay. The advances of the malady are, luckily, gradual. The first manifestations, although marked, are unequivocal. The fits grow successively more and more distinctive, and endure each for a longer term than the preceding. In this lies the principal security from inhumation. The unfortunate whose first attack should be of the extreme character which is occasionally seen, would almost inevitably be consigned alive to the tomb.
My own case differed in no important particular from those mentioned in medical books. Sometimes, without any apparent cause, I sank, little by little, into a condition of hemi-syncope, or half swoon; and, in this condition, without pain, without ability to stir, or, strictly speaking, to think, but with a dull lethargic consciousness of life and of the presence of those who surrounded my bed, I remained, until the crisis of the disease restored me, suddenly, to perfect sensation. At other times I was quickly and impetuously smitten. I grew sick, and numb, and chilly, and dizzy, and so fell prostrate at once. Then, for weeks, all was void, and black, and silent, and Nothing became the universe. Total annihilation could be no more. From these latter attacks I awoke, however, with a gradation slow in proportion to the suddenness of the seizure. Just as the day dawns to the friendless and houseless beggar who roams the streets throughout the long desolate winter night — just so tardily — just so wearily — just so cheerily came back the light of the Soul to me.
Apart from the tendency to trance, however, my general health appeared to be good; nor could I perceive that it was at all affected by the one prevalent malady — unless, indeed, an idiosyncrasy in my ordinary sleep may be looked upon as superinduced. Upon awaking from slumber, I could never gain, at once, thorough possession of my senses, and always remained, for many minutes, in much bewilderment and perplexity; — the mental faculties in general, but the memory in especial, being in a condition of absolute abeyance.
In all that I endured there was no physical suffering, but of moral distress an infinitude. My fancy grew charnel. I talked “of worms, of tombs and epitaphs.” I was lost in reveries of death, and the idea of premature burial held continual possession of my brain. The ghastly Danger to which I was subjected, haunted me day and night. In the former, the torture of meditation was excessive — in the latter, supreme. When the grim Darkness overspread the Earth, then, with very [[every]] horror of thought, I shook — shook like the quivering plumes upon the hearse. When Nature could endure wakefulness no longer, it was with a struggle that I consented to sleep — for I shuddered to reflect that, upon awaking, I might find myself the tenant of a grave. And when, finally, I sank into slumber, it was only to rush at once into a world of phantasms, above which, with vast, sable, overshadowing wing, hovered, predominant, the one sepulchral Idea.
From the innumerable images of gloom which thus oppressed me in dreams, I select for record but a solitary vision. Methought I was immersed in a cataleptic trance of more than usual duration and profundity. Suddenly there came an icy hand upon my forehead, and an impatient, gibbering voice whispered the word “Arise!” within my ear.
I sat erect. The darkness was total. I could not see the figure of him who had aroused me. I could call to mind neither the period at which I had fallen into the trance, nor the locality in which I then lay. While I remained motionless, and busied in endeavors to collect my thoughts, the cold hand grasped me fiercely by the wrist, shaking it petulantly, while the gibbering voice said again:
“Arise! did I not bid thee arise?”
“And who,” I demanded, “art thou?”
“I am called Shadow in the regions which I inhabit,” replied the voice mournfully; “I was mortal, but am fiend. I was merciless, but am pitiful. Thou dost feel that I shudder. My teeth chatter as I speak, yet it is not with the chilliness of the night — of the night without end. But this hideousness is insufferable. How canst thou tranquilly sleep? I cannot rest for the cry of these great agonies. These sights are more than I can bear. Get thee up! Come with me into the outer Night, and let me unfold to thee the graves. Is not this a spectacle of woe? — Behold!”
I looked; and the unseen figure, which still grasped me by the wrist, had caused to be thrown open the graves of all mankind; and from each issued the faint phosphoric radiance of decay, so that I could see into the innermost recesses, and there view the shrouded bodies in their sad and solemn slumbers with the worm. But, alas! the real sleepers were fewer, by many millions, than those who slumbered not at all; and there was a feeble struggling; and there was a general sad unrest; and, from out the depths of the countless pits, there came a melancholy rustling from the garments of the buried. And, of those who seemed tranquilly to repose, I saw that a vast number had changed, in a greater or less degree, the rigid and uneasy position in which they had originally been entombed. And the voice again said to me, as I gazed:
“Is it not — oh! is it not a pitiful sight?” but, before I could find words to reply, the figure had ceased to grasp my wrist, the phosphoric lights expired, and the graves were closed with a sudden violence, while from out them arose a tumult of despairing cries, saying again — “Is it not — oh, God! is it not a very pitiful sight?”
Phantasies such as these, presenting themselves at night, extended their terrific influence far into my waking hours. My nerves became thoroughly unstrung, and I fell a prey to perpetual Horror. I hesitated to ride, or to walk, or to indulge in any exercise that would carry me from home. In fact, I no longer dared trust myself out of the immediate presence of those who were aware of my proneness to catalepsy, lest, falling into one of my usual fits, I should be buried before my real condition could be ascertained. I doubted the care, the fidelity of my dearest friends. I dreaded that, in some trance of more than customary duration, they might be prevailed upon to regard me as irrecoverable. I even went so far as to fear that, as I occasioned much trouble, they might be glad to consider any very protracted attack as sufficient excuse for getting rid of me altogether. It was in vain they endeavored to reassure me by the most solemn promises. I exacted the most sacred oaths that under no circumstances they would bury me until decomposition had so materially advanced as to render further preservation impossible. And, even then, my mortal terrors would listen to no reason — would accept no consolation. I entered into a series of elaborate precautions. Among other things, I had the family vault so remodelled as to admit of being readily opened from within. The slightest pressure upon a long lever that extended far into the tomb would cause the iron portals to fly back. There were arrangements also for the free admission of air and light, and convenient receptacles for food and water, within immediate reach of the coffin intended for my reception. This coffin was warmly and softly padded, and was provided with a lid, fashioned upon the principle of the vault-door, with the addition of springs so contrived that the feeblest movement of the body would be sufficient to set it at liberty. Besides all this, there was suspended from the roof of the tomb, a large bell, the rope of which, it was designed, should extend through a hole in the coffin, and so be fastened to one of the hands of the corpse. But, alas! what avails the vigilance against the Destiny of man? Not even these well contrived securities suffice to save from the uttermost agonies of living inhumation, a wretch to these agonies foredoomed!
There arrived an epoch — as often before there had arrived — in which I found myself emerging from total unconsciousness into the first feeble and indefinite sense of existence. Slowly — with a tortoise gradation — approached the faint gray dawn of the psychal day. A torpid uneasiness. An apathetic endurance of dull pain. No care — no hope — no effort. Then, after a long interval, a ringing in the ears; then, after a lapse still longer, a pricking or tingling sensation in the extremities; then a seemingly eternal period of pleasurable acquiescence, during which the awakening feelings are struggling into thought; then a brief re-sinking into non-entity; then a sudden recovery. At length, the slight quivering of an eyelid, and, immediately thereupon, an electric shock of a terror, deadly and indefinite, which sends the blood in torrents from the temples to the heart. And now the first positive effort to think. And now the first endeavor to remember. And now a partial and evanescent success. And now the memory has so far regained its dominion that, in some measure, I am cognizant of my state. I feel that I am not awaking from ordinary sleep. I recollect that I have been subject to catalepsy. And now, at last, as if by the rush of an ocean, my shuddering spirit is overwhelmed by the one grim Danger — by the one spectral and ever-prevalent Idea.
For some minutes after this fancy possessed me, I remained without motion. And why? I could not summon courage to move. I dared not make the effort which was to satisfy me of my fate — and yet there was something at my heart which whispered me it was sure. Despair — such as no other species of wretchedness ever calls into being — despair alone urged me, after long irresolution, to uplift the heavy lids of my eyes. I uplifted them. It was dark — all dark. I knew that the fit was over. I knew that the crisis of my disorder had long passed. I knew that I had now fully recovered the use of my visual faculties — and yet it was dark — all dark — the intense and utter raylessness of the Night that endureth for evermore.
I endeavored to shriek; and my lips and my parched tongue moved convulsively together in the attempt — but no voice issued from the cavernous lungs, which, oppressed as if by the weight of some incumbent mountain, gasped and palpitated, with the heart, at every elaborate and struggling inspiration.
The movement of the jaws, in this effort to cry aloud, showed me that they were bound up, as is usual with the dead. I felt, too, that I lay upon some hard substance; and by something similar my sides were, also, closely compressed. So far, I had not ventured to stir any of my limbs — but now I violently threw up my arms, which had been lying at length, with the wrists crossed. They struck a solid wooden substance, which extended above my person at an elevation of not more than six inches from my face. I could no longer doubt that I reposed within a coffin at last.
And now, amid all my infinite miseries, came sweetly the cherub Hope — for I thought of my precautions. I writhed, and made spasmodic exertions to force open the lid: it would not move. I felt my wrists for the bell-rope: it was not to be found. And now the Comforter fled forever, and a still sterner Despair reigned triumphant; for I could not help perceiving the absence of the paddings which I had so carefully prepared — and then, too, there came suddenly to my nostrils the strong peculiar odor of moist earth. The conclusion was irresistible. I was not within the vault. I had fallen into a trance while absent from home — while among strangers — when, or how, I could not remember — and it was they who had buried me as a dog — nailed up in some common coffin — and thrust, deep, deep, and forever, into some ordinary and nameless grave.
As this awful conviction forced itself, thus, into the innermost chambers of my soul, I once again struggled to cry aloud. And in this second endeavor I succeeded. A long, wild, and continuous shriek, or yell, of agony, resounded through the realms of the subterrene Night.
“Hillo! hillo, there!” said a gruff voice in reply.
“What the devil’s the matter now?” said a second.
“Get out o’ that!” said a third.
“What do you mean by yawling in that ere kind of style, like a cattymount?” said a fourth; and hereupon I was seized and shaken without ceremony, for several minutes, by a junto of very rough-looking individuals. They did not arouse me from my slumber — for I was wide awake when I screamed — but they restored me to the full possession of my memory.
This adventure occurred near Richmond, in Virginia. Accompanied by a friend, I had proceeded, upon a gunning expedition, some miles down the banks of the James River. Night approached, and we were overtaken by a storm. The cabin of a small sloop lying at anchor in the stream, and laden with garden mould, afforded us the only available shelter. We made the best of it, and passed the night on board. I slept in one of the only two berths in the vessel — and the berths of a sloop of sixty or seventy tons, need scarcely be described. That which I occupied had no bedding of any kind. Its extreme width was eighteen inches. The distance of its bottom from the deck overhead, was precisely the same. I found it a matter of exceeding difficulty to squeeze myself in. Nevertheless, I slept soundly; and the whole of my vision — for it was no dream, and no nightmare — arose naturally from the circumstances of my position — from my ordinary bias of thought — and from the difficulty, to which I have alluded, of collecting my senses, and especially of regaining my memory, for a long time after awaking from slumber. The men who shook me were the crew of the sloop, and some laborers engaged to unload it. From the load itself came the earthly smell. The bandage about the jaws was a silk handkerchief in which I had bound up my head, in default of my customary nightcap.
The tortures endured, however, were indubitably quite equal, for the time, to those of actual sepulture. They were fearfully — they were inconceivably hideous; but out of Evil proceeded Good; for their very excess wrought in my spirit an inevitable revulsion. My soul acquired tone — acquired temper. I went abroad. I took vigorous exercise. I breathed the free air of Heaven. I thought upon other subjects than Death. I discarded my medical books. “Buchan” I burned. I read no “Night Thoughts” — no fustian about church-yards — no bugaboo tales — such as this. In short I became a new man, and lived a man’s life. From that memorable night, I dismissed forever my charnel apprehensions, and with them vanished the cataleptic disorder, of which, perhaps, they had been less the consequence than the cause.
There are moments when, even to the sober eye of Reason, the world of our sad Humanity may assume the semblance of a Hell — but the intellect of man is no Carathis, to explore with impunity its every cavern. Alas! the grim legion of sepulchral terrors cannot be regarded as altogether fanciful — but, like the Demons in whose company Afrasiab made his voyage down the Oxus, they must sleep, or they will devour us — they must be suffered to slumber, or we perish.



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Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Field of Terror - a Fantasy Short Story by Baron Friedrich Heinrich Karl De la Motte Fouquâe

Baron Friedrich Heinrich Karl De la Motte Fouquâe (1777-1843)


In 1827, German author Baron Friedrich la Motte Fouquâe published a fantasy story called "The Goblin of the Field" or "The Field of Terror." The trope explores the idea of evil being able to take on a physical location. It is an excellent horror story for the first half of the nineteenth century, but failed to reach the level of the tales I picked for 6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1850. Enjoy!

1827

IN A FERTILE district of Silesia [European region located primarily in Poland] situated at the foot of the Ogre mountains, [Eiger Mountain of Bernese Alps] a party of relations were collected together, a short time before the peace of Westphalia, [Series of German peace treaties that ended the Thirty Year War in 1648] for the purpose of dividing the property of a wealthy farmer, who had died without children, and whose large estates lay scattered about in the neighboring country. In furtherance of this object, the several claimants were assembled in the principal inn of the village, and the adjustment of their respective shares would soon have been brought to a conclusion, but for a small estate, which common report had endowed with singular qualities, and which was called the “Field of Terror.”
It lay amid the surrounding fields, covered with flowers, and an abundance of rank and luxuriant shrubs, which, while they bore ample testimony to the vigour and fertility of the soil, were equally indicative of the neglect, and desolation, to which it was abandoned. For a long series of years, no ploughshare had penetrated its surface, no seed had been cast on its furrows; or, if at intervals the attempt was made, the cattle had been invariably seized with phrenzy, had wildly broken from the yoke and the plough-men and hinds, had rushed from the spot in fright and alarm, affirming, that it was haunted by the most terrific phantoms, who followed the laborer in his duties with a kind of awful familiarity, looking over his shoulders in a manner which no human understanding could bear, and which nothing could prevent from producing delirium and madness.
The question now in dispute was, who should receive this more than suspicious field, as a part of his inheritance. Every man seemed to think, as is the common course of the world, that this self-same spot, which would be useless and of no possible value in his own care, might be extremely applicable, and even advantageous, to his neighbor; and thus the contest, for its right appropriation continued till a late hour of the evening. At length, one of the party proposed a remedy, which, though not directly benefitting any one present, seemed to promise a settlement of the dispute.
“By a codicil in the will,” he said, “we are enjoined to show some mark of kindness, to a poor relation of the testator, who lives hard by in the village. It is true, the girl is very distantly related to us; and there can be no doubt that portionless as she is, she will yet procure a warm man for her husband, for she is a clever, frugal lass, and the people call her the pretty Sabina. Suppose, we give up this Field of Terror to her. We will at once get rid of the testator’s injunction; and to say the truth, it is no inconsiderable gift, provided she gets a husband who knows how to go the right way to work with it.”
The others immediately consented to this proposal, and one of the relatives was dispatched to announce the gracious benefaction.
In the meantime, as the twilight began to descend, somebody had knocked at Sabina’s door, and to her question of “Who’s there?” a reply was given, which had the instant effect of withdrawing the bolt of her little bedroom window. It was a voice long and anxiously sighed for, the voice ofher faithful Constantine; who, poor as herself, had two years before joined a regiment on foreign service, in the hope of facilitating a union with his beloved Sabina, whose heart filled with the purest affection, was entirely devoted to him.
It was a beautiful sight to see the joy which lighted up the lovely countenance of Sabina, as her eyes diffused in tears, her face covered with smiles, appeared through the winding branches of columbine which grew before her cottage, and, as the erect and youthful soldier gazed upon her in modest silent bliss, and extended towards her his faithful hand.
“Oh! Constantine,” she exclaimed, in a low and bashful tone of voice, “heaven be praised, that it has sent you once more home again, and living. This has been the burden of all my evening and morning prayers, even when you may not have succeeded in obtaining the hoped for fortune.”
“As for fortune,” replied Constantine, as he shook his head and smiled, “that indeed wears but a very indifferent aspect. Still, it is better than when I went away, and if you but feel courage enough for the undertaking, I fancy we may yet be married, and manage to get through the world in tolerable decency.”
“Faithful Constantine!” ejaculated Sabina, “thus to connect your happiness, with the fortunes of a poor deserted orphan!”
“Come!” my love, said the ardent soldier, “if you can but trust me, say so. Give me at once your consent to our union. I assure you, things will not run so badly with us; we shall be happy in each other, and, with such a foundation, we may yet live like princes.”
“And have you obtained your discharge? Are you really no longer a soldier? Is the war at an end?”
“Why as for that,” rejoined her lover, “the matter, at present, is hardly decided in either way. The peace is not in fact concluded, but then, the war is quite at a stand; and on this account, my colonel has thought it right to disband his regiment.”
Sabina now extended her hand to her eager lover, in all the joy of youthful, ardent affection, and permitted her future bridegroom to enter the cottage. The youthful pair were speedily seated, and Constantine informed his mistress, that he had obtained his small stock of wealth from an Italian prisoner, whom he had captured on the field of battle, and who had paid this, as the price of his liberty and his life. Sabina, as she turned her wheel, listened with deep attention to her lover’s recital, bestowing, from time to time, a smile of fond approbation upon his conduct; and inwardly rejoicing, that no reproach could hereafter be thrown upon their slender means, thus honorably acquired.
Their conversation was now interrupted by the appearance of the messenger, dispatched by Sabina’s relations. Covered with blushes, and in a faltering voice, the modest girl presented her destined bridegroom to the stranger; and the latter replied:
“Why then, it would seem, as if I had been sent most opportunely; for if your betrothed lover has brought no very considerable share of wealth with him from the wars, the addition which I am commissioned to offer, in the name of the collected heirs to your relation’s property, cannot but be a welcome gift; and it was indeed enjoined us, by the testator’s will, that we should remember you in a handsome way.”
There was something too much of arrogance in the manner in which this piece of good fortune was tendered, to please the lofty spirit of Constantine. But the humble Sabina, wholly ignorant of the mode in which her relatives had evinced their generosity, received the communication as a special interposition of Providence, and could only hold down her head, while her face was covered with a smile of heartfelt, grateful joy. But, as soon as she heard that the Field of Terror was the promised boon, with which her claim was to be liquidated, the base injustice of her relations pressed to her heart, with a painful sickening coldness; and she felt it impossible to restrain the overflowing tears of disappointed hope. Her relation, with a smile of half-suppressed contempt, expressed his regret, that she should have allowed herself to expect more than her friends had thought right to allot her.
“And indeed,” he observed, “this is a much larger proportion of the inheritance, than you could fairly hope to receive.”
With this speech, he was about to retire, but Constantine threw himself in his way; and with that intrepid coolness, which so frequently attends a mind conscious of its own superiority, he said: “Sir! I perceive, that you and your fellows, have been pleased to convert the benevolent intentions of the deceased, into mere derision and mockery; and that it is your joint resolve to withhold a single shilling of his property, from the worthy girl who is now my bride elect. We will still accept your proffered boon, in the full confidence, that, under the guidance of Heaven, this dreaded Field of Terror, may be productive of more advantages in the hands of an honest soldier, than can enter the imaginations of such a groveling, selfish set of poltroons.”
The messenger, who felt rather uneasy at the tone and manner assumed by the young soldier, did not hazard a reply; and with an altered countenance, hurried out of the cottage.
Constantine now kissed away the tears from Sabina’s cheeks, and hastened on the wings of joy, to fix with the curate, an early day of marriage.
After a few weeks, Constantine and Sabina were married; and entered upon their humble mode of house-keeping. The money brought from the wars was chiefly expended in the purchase of a fine yoke of oxen; part of the remainder was invested in seed and necessary articles of household furniture; and the rest reserved for daily expenditure to be doled out in the most economical manner, till the harvest of the succeeding year should replenish their stores. But, as Constantine drove his cattle and plough to the field of labour, he looked back on Sabina with a smiling countenance, and assured her, he was now going to sow the real seed of gold, which another year would restore with two-fold bounty. Sabina could only follow him with her anxious looks, and wish, in her heart, that he were once safely returned from the detested Field of Terror.
It is true, he returned home, and that long before the vesper-bell [Bell rang by Catholic priests to summon the congregation to church for prayers in the early evening] had sounded; but far from being so joyful, as in the native confidence of his heart, he had promised himself in the morning. He dragged laboriously after him the fragments of his shattered plough; before him paced with difficulty, one of his oxen sorely maimed; and marks of blood were seen on his own head and shoulder. But he bore up under his numerous misfortunes, with a sound and even cheerful heart; and consoled with undiminished spirit, the grief of his weeping Sabina.
“Come,” he said, with a smile, “get your pickling tubs in order; for the goblin who reigns in the Field of Terror, has made us a present of a large quantity of beef. The beast I brought home with me has so injured himself in his phrenzy, that he will never more be fit for labour; and, as for the other, he darted off into the mountains, where I had the joy of seeing him cast himself into the torrent, from whence he will never again make his appearance.”
“Oh, my relations! My wicked relatives,” sobbed the disconsolate Sabina. “They have not only deprived you, by their pernicious donation of the little property for which you so sorely travailed; but they have also covered you with wounds, and crippled your strength.”
“That is an affair of but little consequence,” rejoined the intrepid Constantine. “The beasts managed to get me between them, just as their fury had reached its summit; and I was determined not to relinquish my hold. But, Heaven be praised! Things might have gone a great deal worse with me; and in the morning, I will be in the field again.”
Sabina used every means in her power, to dissuade her husband from his resolution; but he only replied, by saying; that so long as he could move an arm or a leg, the field should not lie idle.
“If we cannot plough it, we will dig it; and I am no timid beast of labor, but a tried and dauntless soldier, over whom a goblin can have no power.” He now slaughtered the wounded ox; cut it in pieces; and, on the following morning, while Sabina was busied in preparing it for pickle, pursued his road of the previous day, scarcely less alert and cheerful than then, though now obliged to handle the hoe and spade, instead of guiding his oxen, and well mounted plough.
This time, he returned rather late in the evening, rather pale and exhausted; but full of spirits, and soon capable of tranquilizing his agitated wife.
This kind of labour makes one weary,” he said, with a smile; “for there is a sort of goblin fellow who stands constantly beside me; sometimes in one form and sometimes in another, and mocks me both with word and deed; but he seems to feel no little surprise, that I give no heed to his pranks; and, it is this which fills me with fresh courage. Besides, these kind of creatures have no power over an honest man, who is laboring in his vocation.”
This continued for many days together. The persevering Constantine, pursued, without interruption, his daily labour of digging, sowing, and eradicating the weeds and useless plants which had overspread the field. It is true, the slow process of the spade, only enabled him to cultivate a small portion of the estate; but this served to make him the more zealous and industrious in his occupation; and he, at length, saw a crop spring up, which promised, and eventually produced, a sufficient, if not an abundant harvest. Even the toil of reaping, and transporting it from the field to the barn, was thrown entirely upon his own shoulders; for the laborers in the vicinity would not have engaged, for any consideration, in spending a day upon the dreaded Field of Terror; and he would, on no account, permit Sabina to lend her assistance, since her advanced state of pregnancy, led him to hope for that increase of his family, with which she shortly presented him.
The child was born, and in three years an addition was made of two more, without any change in the worldly circumstances of Constantine. By perseverance and undiminished zeal, he continued to force from the fearful Field of Terror an annual extension of produce, and thus redeemed his pledge to Sabina of bringing her through all her difficulties like an honest man.
One evening in autumn, as the shade of night began to set in, and Constantine was still busied with his spade, a tall robust man, of unusual size of limb, black and sooty as a charcoalburner, and holding a furnace poker in his hand, appeared suddenly before him, and said: “Are there no cattle to be had in this part of the country that you labor away with your two hands? One would suppose, by the extent of your landmarks, that you were a wealthy farmer.”
Constantine was perfectly aware of the stranger’s character, and treated him in the same cool way with which he usually received the goblin of the field. He remained silent, endeavoured to withdraw his attention from the figure before him to his work, and labored on with double application.
But the swarthy visitor, instead of disappearing as was the usual practice of the goblin to present himself again in a more frightful and alarming form, remained where he stood, and in a friendly tone continued: “My good fellow, you are doing both yourself and me injustice by this line of conduct. Give me an honest and candid answer. Perhaps I may know of a remedy for your ills.”
“Well then,” rejoined Constantine, “in Heaven’s name be it so. If you should but cajole me with these friendly words, the fault will be at your door and not at mine.”
With this he began to relate the whole story of his adventures since he had taken possession of the field. He gave an undisguised recital of his first distress, a faithful representation of his just and honest indignation against the goblin who haunted his property, and detailed the difficulty he found under such continual interruption and provocation, of supporting his family by the mere application of his hoe and spade.
The stranger gave an attentive ear to the narrative, seemed lost in thought for a few minutes, and then broke forth in the following address:
“I see, my good fellow, that you know who I am; and I look upon it as a proof of your frank and manly disposition, that you have made no concealment, that you have spoken out boldly of the displeasure you entertain towards me. To say the truth, you certainly have had sufficient cause; but in thus putting your mettle to the test, I will make a proposal which may indemnify you for a good deal of the past. It sometimes happens that, when I have fairly exhausted myself in wild and fantastic tricks, through wood, and field, and mountain, I begin to fancy I should like to attach myself to some quiet family, that I may live for half a year or so, a peaceful orderly life. What do you say to taking me for six months as your servant?”
“It is not right, from people of your sort,” said Constantine, “to pass your jokes on an honest man, who reposes confidence in you.”
“No! No!” replied the other, “there is no joke in it. It is my serious intention. You will find in me a sturdy, active servant; and, as long as I live with you, not a single spirit or spectre will venture to show himself on the Field of Terror, so that you may admit whole herds of cattle to brouse on it.”
“I should like the thing well enough,” rejoined Constantine, “if I were but sure that you would keep your word; and above all, that I were doing right in making the engagement.”
“That must be your own affair,” said the stranger; “but I have never broken my word since these Ogre mountains have stood, and a mere creature of evil and malice I certainly am not. A little merry and wild and mischievous sometimes I own—but that is all!”
“Why I almost believe,” said Constantine, “that you are the celebrated Number-nip.” [Spirit of the Eiger Mountain in Silesia]
“Harkee!” cried the stranger, with a frown, “if that be your opinion, I would also have you to know, that the mighty spirit of the mountains cannot endure that name; and that he calls himself the Lord of the Hills.”
“That would be an odd sort of a servant whom I must call my Lord of the Hills;” said Constantine, in a tone of raillery.
“You may call me Forester then,” rejoined his companion. Constantine looked awhile on the earth, pondering on the course he should adopt, and at length exclaimed:
“Well! Agreed! I can hardly do amiss in accepting your services. I have often seen a poor senseless brute drilled into domestic use, by carrying parcels, turning spits and other household duties—why not a goblin?”
His new servant burst into a hearty laugh at this observation, and said: “I must acknowledge such an estimate was never before made of one of my family. But I am not the less pleased with it, so give me your hand my honoured master.”
Constantine made a further condition, that his new servant was, on no account, to inform Sabina or the children of his connexion with the Field of Terror, or rather of his descent from the caverns and shafts of the Ogre mountains; nor was he, on any occasion, to exhibit any of his fearful goblin tricks about the house or courtyard; and, as Forester promised all that was required of him with every token of good faith, the bargain was soon at an end, and they now proceeded home.
Sabina, after a time, wondered at the increasing prosperity of their domestic economy; and was not wholly free from feelings of secret dread at their swarthy gigantic assistant. At first the children never ventured outside the door, when they perceived him at work in the yard or garden; but, by degrees, his friendly industrious habits gained upon them all; and when he occasionally indulged in a fit of fantastic merriment, by chasing the dog or the poultry round the house, it was considered more amusing than surprising; and a single look from Constantine was, at any time, sufficient to bring him within the proper limits of order.
In full reliance on the promises of the mountain spirit, Constantine applied the slender savings of many years to the purchase of a fresh yoke of oxen; and with his newly amended plough drove to the field in the highest glee. Sabina looked after him with an anxious sorrowful countenance, and with an equally anxious mind awaited his return in the evening, fearing a renewal of the same disaster, the same disappointed hopes, or that his personal injuries, this time, might be more dangerous and alarming than before. But with the sound of the vesper-bell, Constantine came singing through the village, driving his sleek well fed yoke before him, kissed his wife and children in the fulness of his joy, and shook his servant cordially by the hand.
Forester now frequently went to the field alone, while Constantine remained behind working in the yard or garden. A considerable piece of the Field of Terror was cleared for cultivation; and, to the great astonishment of the village neighbors, and the equal discontent and envy of Sabina’s selfish relations, everything assumed an air of prosperity and comfort. It is true, Constantine, when alone, often reflected that all this could be but of short duration, “and Heaven knows” he exclaimed, “how I will manage with the harvest; for Forester’s time will then be out, and the goblin of the field may choose to appear with replenished spirits.”
But he considered that the gathering in of the crop was a labor which, of itself, gave additional vigour to the workman’s arm and heart; and it was possible that Forester, for old acquaintance sake, might keep the land free from guests; as in fact, at times of cheerful relaxation, the latter seemed to imply.
In the course of time, the needful labors of the field were completed. Winter arrived, and Constantine daily drove to the forest for a stock of fuel and wood. On one of these days it so chanced that Sabina was entreated to visit a poor widow in the village, who lay dangerously ill; and whom, as far as their increasing means admitted, Constantine and his wife, had been accustomed to relieve. She was at a loss at what to do with the children during her absence, but Forester offering his services, with whose stories the children were always delighted, and with whom they were ever pleased to remain, she proceeded on her charitable purpose without further hesitation.
About an hour after her departure, Constantine returned from the forest; and having disposed of his waggon in the barn, and prepared the stall for his cattle; he proceeded towards the house to revive his numbed and frozen limbs by the blaze of a cheerful fire. On approaching the door, his ear was saluted by a cry of painful distress from his children. He darted into the house, and, on entering the sitting-room, found the children hidding behind the stove, and crying out for help, while Forester was wildly jumping about the room with shouts of violent laughter, making the most hideous and disgusting faces, and with a crown of sparks and fiery rays playing about his head.
“What is all this?” Constantine said, in a tone of indignant anger, and the supernatural decorations of Forester’s head disappeared; his fantastic merriment instantly ceased, and he began to excuse himself with great humility for thus trying to amuse the children. But the children ran towards their father, complaining that Forester had first of all told them a number of horrific stories, and then he assumed a variety of frightful disguises, sometimes appearing with the head of a ram, sometimes with that of a dog.
“Enough! Enough!” exclaimed Constantine. “Away, sir. Ah! You and I no longer remain under the same roof.” With this he seized Forester by the arm, and shoved him violently out of the house, desiring the children to remain quietly in the room, and to dismiss their fears.
Forester suffered all this without uttering a single word of expostulation; but, as soon as he found himself alone with Constantine in the open court, he said with a smiling countenance: “I hope, master, we will make the matter up. I know I have done a very foolish thing, but I assure you it will never happen again. Somehow or other the old mad fit came on me and I forgot myself.”
“For that very reason, because you can forget yourself,” rejoined Constantine, “we part. You might terrify my children into a frenzy, and, as I have said, our contract here terminates.”
“My time is not up,” said Forester, in a dogged tone. “I will go into the house.”
“Not a step further—at your peril!” cried Constantine. “You have broken the agreement by your cursed goblin tricks, and all that I can do is to pay you your full wages. Here, take it and pack yourself off.”
“My full wages?” said the mountain-spirit, with a sneer of bitter contempt. Have you never seen my stores of gold in the caverns of yonder hills?”
“I do this more on my own account than yours,” said Constantine. “No man will call me his debtor.” And so saying, he forced the money into his servant’s pocket.
“And what is to be done with the Field of Terror?” enquired Forester, in a solemn but almost ireful tone.
“That which it may please God,” rejoined Constantine. “Twenty fields of terror are of no importance to me in comparison with the safety of a single hair of my poor children’s heads. Take yourself away, or I will give you that, you will long have cause to remember!”
“Gently!” cried the mountain-spirit. “Gently! My friend. When any of my family condescend to assume a human form, they choose one of rather stern materials. You might chance to get an under birth in this same fray, and in that case Heaven be merciful unto you!”
“That it has ever been,” said Constantine, “and has also given me a frame of no slender power. Away to your mountains, disgusting monster! I now warn you for the last time.”
Excited by this reproach to a pitch of violent fury, Forester sprang on Constantine, and an obstinate fight ensued. They struggled about the yard for a considerable time, each using every means in his power to overthrow his adversary, without victory declaring herself upon either side; till at length Constantine, by his superior skill in wrestling, managed to bring his opponent to the earth, and having placed his knee on the chest of his fallen foe, began to pummel him most furiously, exclaiming: “I’ll teach you to attack your master, my precious Lord of the Hills.”
The Lord of the Hills, however, laughed so heartily at this address, that Constantine, conceiving his manly efforts to be the subject of derision, only laid on with redoubled vigour, till at length the former exclaimed: “For God’s sake, hold! I am not laughing at you, I am laughing at myself and I humbly beg your pardon!”
“That is another sort of affair,” said Constantine, as he rose up and assisted his conquered adversary to regain his legs.
“I have now learned what human life is, from the very foundation upwards,” said the latter, still continuing his noisy laughter. “I doubt if any of my kindred have ever pursued the study so profoundly. But harkee! My good fellow, you must admit that I carried on the war in an honorable way. For as you will see yourself, I might with ease have called in half a dozen mountain-spirits to my assistance, though amidst all this laughter, I know not how I should have set about it.”
Constantine with a serious air, now looked at the still laughing Number-nip, and said: “It is clear you must entertain a grudge against me, and this will not only be repaid me at the Field of Terror, but in many an evil chance elsewhere; still I cannot repent of what I have done. I have only exercised a paternal duty on behalf of my children, and were the thing to do over again, I should, on mature reflection, repeat it.”
“No, no!” said Number-nip laughingly, don’t make yourself uneasy. I have had quite enough for once. Cultivate the Field of Terror from year to year, at your own will and pleasure. I here pass my word that no fearful phantom will be seen on it from this day forwards, as long as the Ogre mountains stand. And so fare ye well, my honest, but rigid master!”
With this he gave a friendly nod of adieu, and disappeared; nor was he ever more seen by Constantine. But Number-nip kept his word, and even more. An unusual degree of prosperity attended all the labours of his former employer, and Constantine soon became the richest farmer in the village. And when his children were permitted to play in the “Field of Terror”—a spot which both they and Sabina now visited without the slightest dread, they sometimes related in the evening that Forester had come to see them, and told them some of his former amusing stories. On such occasions they generally found their pockets filled with either comfits, [Sugar-coated nuts and seeds] toys, or pieces of shiny money.


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