Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Rejection and Flight
By Joseph Viktor von Scheffel (1826–1886)
From ‘Ekkehard’

EKKEHARD remained long sitting in the garden bower; then he rushed out into the darkness. He knew not whither his feet were carrying him.  1
  In the morning he found himself on the top of the Hohenkrähen, which had stood silent and deserted since the forest woman’s departure. The remains of the burnt hut lay in a confused heap. Where the living-room had once been, the Roman stone with the Mithras was still to be seen. Grass and ferns grew over it, and a blindworm was stealthily creeping up on the old weather-beaten idol.  2
  Ekkehard burst into a wild scornful laugh.  3
  “The chapel of St. Hadwig!” he cried, striking his breast with his clenched hand. “Thus it must be!”  4
  He upset the old Roman stone, and then mounted the rocky crest of the hill. There he threw himself down and pressed his forehead against the cool ground, which had once been touched by Frau Hadwig’s foot. There he remained for a long time. When the scorching rays of the midday sun fell upon him, he still lay there, and—slept.  5
  Toward evening he came back to the Hohentwiel, hot and haggard, and with an unsteady gait. Blades of grass clung to the woolen texture of his cowl.  6
  The people of the castle timidly stepped out of his way, as if before one on whose forehead ill-luck had set her seal. In other times they had been wont to come toward him to entreat his blessing.  7
  The duchess had noticed his absence, but made no inquiries about him. He went up to his tower, and seized a parchment, as if he would read. It was Gunzo’s attack upon him. “Willingly I would exhort you to aid him with healing medicine; but I fear, I sadly fear, that his disease is too deeply rooted,” was what he read.  8
  He laughed. The arched ceiling threw back an echo; he leaped to his feet as if he wanted to find out who had laughed at him. Then he went to the window, and looked down into the depths below. It was deep, deep down: a sudden giddiness came over him; he started back.  9
  The small phial which the old Thieto had given him stood near his books. It made him melancholy. He thought of the blind old man! “The service of women is an evil thing for him who wishes to remain good,” he had said when Ekkehard took leave.  10
  He tore the seal off from the phial, and poured the Jordan water over his head and drenched his eyes. It was too late. Whole floods of holy water will not extinguish the inward fire, unless one plunges in never to rise again…. Yet a momentary feeling of quiet came over him.  11
  “I will pray,” said he. “It is a temptation.”  12
  He threw himself on his knees: but soon it seemed to him as if the pigeons were swarming round his head, as they did on the day when he first entered the tower room; but now they had mocking faces, and wore a contemptuous look about their beaks.  13
  He got up and slowly descended the winding staircase to the castle chapel. The altar below had been a witness of earnest devotions on many a happy day. The chapel was, as before, dark and silent. Six ponderous pillars, with square capitals adorned with leaf-work, supported the vault. A faint streak of daylight fell in through the narrow windows. The recesses of the niche where the altar stood were but faintly illuminated; the golden background of the mosaic picture of the Redeemer alone shone with a soft glitter. Greek artists had transplanted the forms of their church ornaments to the German rock. In a white flowing garment, with a gold-red aureole round his head, the Savior’s emaciated figure stood there, with the fingers of the right hand extended in the act of blessing.  14
  Ekkehard bowed before the altar steps; his forehead rested on the stone flags. Thus he remained, wrapt in prayer.  15
  “O Thou who hast taken the sorrows of the world on thyself, send out one ray of thy grace on me unworthy.”  16
  He raised his head and gazed up, as if he expected the earnest figure to step down from the wall and hold out his hand to him.  17
  “I am here at thy feet, like Peter, surrounded by tempest, and the waves will not bear me up! Save me, O Lord! save me as thou didst him when thou didst walk over the raging billows, extending thy hand to him and saying, ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore dost thou doubt?’”  18
  But no sign was given him.  19
  Ekkehard’s brain was giving way.  20
  There was a rustling through the chapel like that of a woman’s garments. He heard nothing.  21
  Frau Hadwig had come down under the impulse of a strange mood. Since she had begun to bear a grudge against the monk, the image of her late husband recurred oftener to her mind. Naturally, as the one receded into the background, the other must come forward again. The later reading of Virgil had also been responsible for this, as there had been said so much about the memory of Sichæus.  22
  The following day was the anniversary of Heir Burkhard’s death. With his lance and shield by his side, the old duke lay buried in the chapel. His tomb at the right of the altar was covered by a rough stone slab. The eternal lamp burned dimly over it. A sarcophagus of gray sandstone stood near it, resting on small clumsy pillars with Ionic capitals; and these again rested on grotesque stone animals. This stone coffin Frau Hadwig had had made for herself. Every year, on the anniversary of the duke’s death, she had it carried up and filled with corn and fruits, which were distributed among the poor,—the means of living coming from the resting-place of the dead. It was a pious ancient custom.  23
  To-day it was her purpose to pray on her husband’s grave. The duskiness of the place concealed Ekkehard’s kneeling figure. She did not see him.  24
  Suddenly she was startled from her devotions. A laugh, subdued yet piercing, struck her ear. She knew the voice. Ekkehard had risen and recited the following words of the Psalms:—
  “Hide me under the shadow of thy wings,
From the wicked that oppress me,
From my deadly enemies who compass me about.
With their mouth they speak proudly.”
  He spoke it in an ominous tone. It was no more the voice of prayer.  26
  Frau Hadwig bent down beside the sarcophagus: she would gladly have placed another on it to hide her from Ekkehard’s view. She no longer cared to be alone with him. Her heart beat calmly now.  27
  He went to the door.  28
  Then suddenly he turned back. The everlasting lamp was softly swinging to and fro over Frau Hadwig’s head. Ekkehard’s eye pierced the twilight…. With one bound,—quicker than that which in later days St. Bernard made through the cathedral at Speier when the Madonna had beckoned to him,—he stood before the duchess. He gave her a long and penetrating look.  29
  She rose to her feet, and seizing the edge of the stone sarcophagus with her right hand, she confronted him. The everlasting lamp over her head still gently swung to and fro on its silken cord.  30
  “Blessed are the dead: prayers are offered for them,” said Ekkehard, interrupting the silence.  31
  Frau Hadwig made no reply.  32
  “Will you pray for me also when I am dead?” continued he. “Oh, you must not pray for me! Have a drinking-cup made out of my skull; and when you take another doorkeeper away from the monastery of St. Gallus, you must offer him the welcoming draught in it,—and give him my greeting! You may put your own lips to it also: it will not crack. But you must then wear the circlet with the rose in it.”  33
  “Ekkehard,” said the duchess, “you are outrageous!”  34
  He put his right hand to his forehead.  35
  “Oh,” said he, in a mournful voice,—“oh, yes! the Rhine is also outrageous. They stopped its course with giant rocks; but it gnawed through them, and now rushes and roars onward in foam and tumult and destruction! Bravo, thou free heart of youth! And God is outrageous also; for he has allowed the Rhine to be, and the Hohentwiel, and the Duchess of Suabia, and the tonsure on my head.”  36
  The duchess began to shiver. Such an outbreak of long-repressed feeling she had not expected. But it was too late: she remained indifferent.  37
  “You are ill,” she said.  38
  “Ill?” asked he: “it is merely a requital. More than a year ago at Whitsuntide, when there was as yet no Hohentwiel for me, I carried the coffin of St. Gallus in solemn procession out of the cloister, and a woman threw herself on the ground before me. ‘Get up,’ cried I; but she remained prostrate in the dust. ‘Walk over me with thy relic, priest, so that I may recover,’ cried she; and my foot stepped over her. That woman was suffering from the heartache. Now it is reversed.”  39
  Tears interrupted his voice. He could not go on. Then he threw himself at Frau Hadwig’s feet, and clasped the hem of her garment. The man was all of a tremble.  40
  Frau Hadwig was touched,—touched against her will; as if from the hem of her garment, a feeling of unutterable woe thrilled up to her heart.  41
  “Stand up,” said she, “and think of other things. You still owe us a story. Overcome it!”  42
  Then Ekkehard laughed through his tears.  43
  “A story!” cried he; “oh, a story! But not told. Come, let us act the story! From the height of yonder tower one can see so far into the distance, and so deep into the valley below,—so sweet and deep and tempting. What right has the ducal castle to hold us back? No one who wishes to get down into the depth below need count more than three, and we flutter and glide softly into the arms of death there. Then I should be no longer a monk; and I might wind my arms around you.”  44
  He struck Herr Burkhard’s tombstone with his clenched hand.  45
  “And he who sleeps here shall not prevent me! If he—the old man—comes, I will not let you go. And we will float up to the tower again, and sit where we sat before; and we will read Virgil to the end; and you must wear the rose in your circlet, as if nothing whatever had happened. We will keep the gate well locked against the duke, and we will laugh at all evil tongues; and folks will say, as they sit at their fireplaces of a winter’s evening: ‘That is a pretty tale of the faithful Ekkehard, who slew the Emperor Ermanrich for hanging the Harlungen brothers, and who afterwards sat for many hundred years before Frau Venus’s mountain, with his white staff in his hands, and meant to sit there until the Day of Judgment to warn off all pilgrims coming to the mountain. But at last he grew tired of this, and ran away, and became a monk at St. Gall; and he fell down an abyss and was killed; and he is sitting now beside a proud, pale woman, reading Virgil to her. And at midnight may be heard the words ringing through the Hegau: “Thou commandest, O Queen, to renew the unspeakable sorrow.” And then she will have to kiss him, whether she will or not; for death makes up for what life denies.’”  46
  He had spoken with a wild, wandering look; and now his voice failed with low weeping. Frau Hadwig had stood immovably all this time. It was as if a gleam of pity shone in her cold eyes; she bent down her head.  47
  “Ekkehard,” said she, “you must not speak of death. This is madness. We live, you and I!”  48
  He did not stir. Then she lightly laid her hand on his burning forehead. A wild thrill flashed through his brain. He sprang up.  49
  “You are right!” cried he. “We live—you and I!”  50
  A dizzy darkness clouded his eyes; he stepped forward, and winding his arms round her proud form, he fiercely pressed her to his heart; his kiss burned on her lips. Her protest died away unheard.  51
  He raised her high up toward the altar, as if she were an offering he was about to make.  52
  “Why dost thou hold out thy gold glittering fingers so quietly, instead of blessing us?” he cried out to the dark and solemn picture.  53
  The duchess had started like a wounded deer. One moment, and all the passion of her hurt pride revolted within her. She pushed the frenzied man back with a strong hand, and tore herself out of his embrace.  54
  He had one arm still round her waist, when the church door was suddenly opened, and a flaring streak of daylight broke through the darkness; they were no longer alone. Rudimann the cellarer, from Reichenau, stepped over the threshold; other figures became visible in the background of the court-yard.  55
  The duchess had grown pale with shame and anger. A tress of her long dark hair had become loosened and was streaming down her back.  56
  “I beg your pardon,” said the man from the Reichenau, with grinning politeness. “My eyes have beheld nothing.”  57
  Then Frau Hadwig tore herself entirely free from Ekkehard’s hold and cried out:—  58
  “Yes, I say! Yes, yes, you have seen a madman, who has forgotten himself and God. I should be sorry for your eyes if they had beheld nothing, for I would have had them torn out!”  59
  It was with an indescribably cold dignity that she pronounced these words.  60
  Then Rudimann began to understand the strange scene.  61
  “I had forgotten,” said he scornfully, “that he who stands there is one of those to whom wise men have applied the words of St. Hieronymus, when he says: ‘Their manners are more befitting dandies and bridegrooms than the elect of the Lord.’”  62
  Ekkehard stood leaning against a pillar, with arms stretched out in the air, like Odysseus when he wanted to embrace his mother’s shade. Rudimann’s words roused him from his dreams.  63
  “Who comes between her and me?” he cried threateningly.  64
  But Rudimann, patting him on the shoulder with an insolent familiarity, said:—  65
  “Calm yourself, my good friend: we have only come to deliver a note into your hands. St. Gallus can no longer allow the wisest of all his disciples to remain out in the capricious, malicious world. You are summoned home!—And don’t forget the stick with which you are wont to ill-treat your confraters who like to snatch a kiss at vintage-time, you chaste moralist,” he added in a low whisper.  66
  Ekkehard stepped back. Wild longings, the pang of separation, burning passionate love, and the added insults,—all these stormed up in him. He hastily advanced toward Frau Hadwig; but the chapel was already filling.  67
  The abbot of Reichenau himself had come to have the pleasure of witnessing Ekkehard’s departure. “It will be a difficult task to get him away,” he had said to the cellarer. It was easy enough now. Monks and lay brothers came in after him.  68
  “Sacrilege!” Rudimann called out to them. “He has laid his wanton hand on his mistress even before the altar!”  69
  Then Ekkehard boiled over. To have the most sacred secret of his heart profaned by insolent coarseness, a pearl thrown before swine! He tore down the everlasting lamp, and swung the heavy vessel like a sling.  70
  The light went out; a hollow groan was heard,—the cellarer lay with bleeding head on the stone flags. The lamp fell clattering beside him. A blow, fierce struggle, wild confusion—all was at an end with Ekkehard.  71
  They had overpowered him; tearing off the girdle of his cowl, they bound him.  72
  There he stood, the handsome youthful figure, now the very picture of woe, like the broken-winged eagle. He gave one mournful, troubled, appealing look at the duchess. She turned away.  73
  “Do what you think right,” she said to the abbot, and swept through the throng….  74
  IT was a dreary, depressing evening. The duchess had locked herself up in her bow-windowed room, and refused admittance to every one.  75
  Ekkehard had been hurried away into a dungeon by the abbot’s men. In the same tower, in the airy upper story of which his chamber was situated, there was a damp, dark vault; fragments of old tombstones—deposited there long before when the castle chamber had been renovated—were scattered about in unsightly heaps. A bundle of straw had been thrown in for him, and a monk was sitting outside to guard the entrance.  76
  Burkhard, the monastery pupil, ran up and down, wailing and wringing his hands. He could not understand the fate which had befallen his uncle. The servants were all putting their heads together, eagerly whispering and gossiping, as if the hundred-tongued Rumor had been sitting on the roof of the castle, spreading her falsehoods about.  77
  “He tried to murder the duchess,” said one.  78
  “He has been practicing the Devil’s own arts with that big book of his,” said another. “To-day is St. John’s day, when the Devil has no power, and so he could not help him.”  79
  At the well in the court-yard stood Rudimann the cellarer, letting the clear water flow over his head. Ekkehard had given him a sharp cut; the blood obstinately and angrily trickled down into the water.  80
  Praxedis came down looking pale and sad. She was the only soul who felt sincere pity for the prisoner. On seeing the cellarer, she ran into the garden, tore up a blue corn-flower with the roots, and brought it to him.  81
  “Take that,” said she, “and hold it in your right hand till it gets warm: that will stop the bleeding. Or shall I fetch you some linen to bind up the wound?”  82
  He shook his head.  83
  “It will stop of itself when the time comes,” said he. “’Tis not the first time that I have been bled. Keep your corn-flowers for yourself.”  84
  But Praxedis was anxious to conciliate Ekkehard’s enemy. She brought some linen: he allowed his wound to be dressed. Not a word of thanks did he proffer.  85
  “Are you not going to let Ekkehard out to-day?” she asked.  86
  “To-day!” Rudimann repeated sneeringly. “Do you feel inclined to weave a garland for the standard-bearer of Antichrist,—the leading horse of Satan’s car, whom you have petted and spoiled up here as if he were the darling son Benjamin? To-day! In a month ask again over there!”  87
  He pointed toward the Helvetian mountains.  88
  Praxedis was frightened. “What are you going to do with him?”  89
  “What is right,” replied Rudimann with a dark look. “Wantonness, deeds of violence, disobedience, haughtiness, sacrilege, blasphemy—there are scarcely names enough for all his nefarious acts; but thank God, there are yet means for their expiation!” He made a gesture with his hand like that of flogging. “Ah, yes, plenty of means of expiation, gentle mistress! We will write the catalogue of his sins on his skin.”  90
  “Have pity!” said Praxedis: “he is a sick man.”  91
  “For that very reason we are going to cure him. When he has been tied to the pillar, and half a dozen rods have been flogged to pieces on his bent back, then all his spleen and his devilries will vanish!”  92
  “For God’s sake!” exclaimed the Greek girl.  93
  “Calm yourself: there are better things yet. A stray lamb must be delivered up to the fold it belongs to. There he will find good shepherds who will look after the rest. Sheep-shearing, little girl, sheep-shearing! There they will cut off his hair, which will make his head cooler; and if you feel inclined to make a pilgrimage to St. Gall a year hence, you will see on Sundays and holidays some one standing barefooted before the church door, and his head will be as bare as a stubble-field, and the penitential garb will become him very nicely. What do you think? The heathenish practices with Virgil are at an end now.”  94
  “He is innocent!” said Praxedis.  95
  “Oh,” said the cellarer sneeringly, “we shall never harm a single hair of innocence! He need only prove himself so by God’s ordeal. If he takes the gold ring out of the kettle of boiling water with unburnt arm, our abbot himself will give him the blessing; and I will say that it was all a delusion of the Devil’s own making when my eyes beheld his Holiness, Brother Ekkehard, clasping your mistress in his arms.”  96
  Praxedis wept….  97
  “Cellarmaster, you are a wicked man!” she cried; and turned her back on him….  98
  “Have you any further commands?” she asked, once more looking back.  99
  “Yes, thou Greek insect! A jug of vinegar, if you please. I want to lay my rods in it: the writing is clearer then, and does not fade away so soon. Never before have I flogged an interpreter of Virgil. He deserves particular attention.”  100
  Burkhard, the monastery pupil, was sitting under the linden-tree, still sobbing. Praxedis, as she passed, gave him a kiss. It was done to spite the cellarer.  101
  She went up to the duchess, intending to prostrate herself and intercede for Ekkehard; but the door remained locked against her. Frau Hadwig was deeply irritated. If the monks of the Reichenau had not come in upon them, she might have pardoned Ekkehard’s audacity, for she herself had indeed sowed the seeds of all that had grown to such portentous results; but now it had become a public scandal, it demanded punishment. The fear of evil tongues influences many an action.  102
  The abbot had caused to be put into her hands the summons from St. Gall. St. Benedict’s rules, said the letter, exacted not only the outward forms of a monastic life, but also the actual conformity of body and soul to its discipline. Ekkehard was to return. Passages from Gunzo’s diatribe were quoted against him.  103
  It was all the same to her. What his fate would be in the hands of his antagonists, she knew quite well. Yet she was determined to do nothing for him.  104
  Praxedis knocked at her door a second time, but it was not opened.  105
  “O thou poor moth,” said she sadly.  106
  Ekkehard lay in his dungeon like one who had dreamt some wild dream. Four bare walls surrounded him; above there was a faint gleam of light. Often he trembled as if shivering with cold. After a while a melancholy smile of resignation began to hover round his lips, but it did not settle there; now and again he would clench his fists in a fit of fierce anger.  107
  It is the same with the human mind as with the sea: though the tempest may have blown over for a long time, the billowing surge is even stronger and more impetuous than before; and some mighty chaotic breaker dashes wildly up and drives the sea-gulls away from the rocks.  108
  But Ekkehard’s heart was not yet broken. It was still too young for that. He began to reflect on his position. The view into the future was not very cheering. He knew the rules of his order, and monastic customs, and he knew that the men from Reichenau were his enemies.  109
  With big strides he paced up and down the narrow room.  110
  “Great God, whom we may invoke in the hour of affliction, how will all this end?”  111
  He shut his eyes and threw himself on the bundle of straw. Confused visions passed before his soul, and he saw with his inward eye of the spirit how they would drag him out in the early morning. The abbot would be sitting on his high stone chair, holding the crosier as a sign that it was a court of judgment; and then they would read out a long bill of complaints against him. All this in the same court-yard in which he had once sprung out of the litter with such a jubilant heart, and in which he had preached his sermon against the Huns on that solemn Good Friday; and the men of the court would be gnashing their teeth against him!  112
  “What shall I do?” thought he. “With my hand on my heart and my eyes raised toward heaven, I shall say, ‘Ekkehard is not guilty!’ But the judges will say, ‘Prove it!’ The big copper kettle will be brought; the fire lighted beneath; the water will hiss and bubble up. The abbot draws off the golden ring from his finger. They push up the right sleeve of his habit; solemn penitential psalms resound. ‘I conjure thee, spirit of the water, that the Devil quit thee, and that thou serve the Lord to make known the truth, like to the fiery furnace of the King of Babylon when he had the three men thrown into it!’—Thus the abbot addresses the boiling water; and ‘Dip thy arm and fetch forth the ring,’ says he to the accused.—Righteous God, what judgment will thy ordeal give?”  113
  Wild doubts beset Ekkehard’s soul. He believed in himself and his good cause, but his faith was less strong in the dreadful means by which priestcraft and church laws sought to arrive at God’s decision.  114
  In the library of his monastery there was a little book bearing the title, ‘Against the Inveterate Error of the Belief that through Fire, Water, or Single Combat, the Truth of God’s Judgment can be Revealed.’  115
  This book he had once read; and he remembered it well. It was to prove that with these ordeals, which were an inheritance from the ancient heathen time, it was as the excellent Gottfried of Strassburg has expressed it in later days:—
              “Der heilig Christ
Windschaffen wie ein Ärmel ist.” 1
  “And if no miracle is performed?”  117
  His thoughts were inclined to despondency and despair.  118
  “With burnt arm and proclaimed guilty, condemned to be flogged,—while she perhaps would stand on the balcony looking on, as if it were done to an entire stranger!—Lord of heaven and earth, send down thy lightning!”  119
  Yet hope does not entirely forsake even the most miserable.  120
  Then again he imagined how, through all this shame and misery, a piercing “Stop!” would be heard: she comes rushing down with disheveled locks and in her rustling ducal mantle, and drives his tormentors away, as the Savior drove out the usurers from the temple. And she presents him her hand and lips for the kiss of reconciliation.  121
  Long and ardently his fantasy dwelt on that beautiful possibility; a breath of consolation came to him; he spoke in the words of the Preacher: “‘As gold is purified from dross in the fire, so the heart of man is purified by sorrow.’ We will wait and see what will happen.”  122
  He heard a slight noise in the antechamber of his dungeon. A stone jug was put down.  123
  “You are to drink like a man,” said a voice to the lay brother on guard; “for on St. John’s night all sorts of unearthly visitors people the air and pass over our castle. So you must take care to keep your courage up. There’s another jug for you too.”  124
  It was Praxedis who had brought the wine.  125
  Ekkehard did not understand what she wanted. “Then she also is false,” thought he. “God protect me!”  126
  He closed his eyes and fell asleep. After a good while he was awakened. The wine had evidently been to the lay brother’s taste: he was singing a song in praise of the four goldsmiths who once on a time had refused to make heathenish idols at Rome, and suffered martyrdom. With his heavy sandal-clad foot he was beating time on the stone flags. Ekkehard heard another jug of wine brought to the man. The singing became loud and uproarious. Then he held a soliloquy, in which he had much to say about Italy and good fare, and “Santa Agnese fuori le mura.” Then he ceased talking. The prisoner could distinctly hear his snoring through the stone walls.  127
  The castle was silent. It was about midnight. Ekkehard lay in a doze, when it seemed to him as if the bolts were softly drawn. He remained lying on his straw. A figure came in; a soft hand was laid on the slumberer’s forehead. He jumped up.  128
  “Hush!” whispered his visitor.  129
  When all had gone to rest, Praxedis had kept awake. “The wicked cellarer shall not have the satisfaction of punishing our poor melancholy teacher,” was her thought; and woman’s cunning always finds ways and means to accomplish her schemes. Wrapping herself up in a gray cloak, she had stolen down. No special artifices were necessary: the lay brother was sleeping the sleep of the just. If he had been awake, the Greek girl would have frightened him by some ghost trickery. That was her plan.  130
  “You must escape!” said she to Ekkehard. “They mean to do their worst to you.”  131
  “I know it,” he replied sadly.  132
  “Come, then.”  133
  He shook his head. “I prefer to endure it,” said he.  134
  “Don’t be a fool,” whispered Praxedis. “First you built your castle on the glittering rainbow; and now that it has all tumbled down, you will allow them to ill-treat you into the bargain? As if they had a right to flog you and drag you away! And you will let them have the pleasure of witnessing your humiliation? It would be a nice spectacle they would make of you! ‘One does not see an honest man put to death every day,’ said a man to me once in Constantinople, when I asked him why he was in such a hurry.”  135
  “Where should I go to?” asked Ekkehard.  136
  “Neither to the Reichenau nor to your monastery,” said Praxedis. “There is many a hiding-place left in the world.”  137
  She was getting impatient; and seizing Ekkehard by the hand, she dragged him on. “Come!” whispered she. He allowed himself to be led by her.  138
  They glided past the sleeping watchman: now they stood in the court-yard; the fountain was splashing merrily. Ekkehard bent over the spout, and took a long draught of the cool water.  139
  “All is over,” said he. “And now away.”  140
  It was a stormy night. “You cannot go out by the doorway,—the bridge is drawn up,” said Praxedis; “but you can get down between the rocks on the eastern side. Our shepherd boy has tried that path before.”  141
  They entered the little garden. A gust of wind went roaring through the branches of the maple-tree. Ekkehard scarcely knew what was happening to him.  142
  He mounted the battlement. Steep and rugged fell the klinkstone precipices; a dark abyss yawned before him; black clouds were chasing each other across the dusky sky,—weird, uncouth shapes, as if two bears were pursuing a winged dragon. Soon the fantastic forms melted together; the wind whipped them onward toward the Bodensee, that glittered faintly in the distance. Indistinctly outlined lay the landscape.  143
  “Blessings on your way!” said Praxedis.  144
  Ekkehard sat motionless on the battlement; he still held the Greek girl’s hand clasped in his. A mingled feeling of gratitude and melancholy surged through his storm-tossed brain. Then her cheek pressed against his, and a kiss trembled on his lips; he felt a pearly tear. Gently Praxedis drew away her hand.  145
  “Don’t forget,” said she, “that you still owe us a story. May God lead your steps back again to this place some day, so that we may hear it from your own lips.”  146
  Ekkehard now let himself down. He waved his hand once more, then disappeared from her sight. The stillness of night was interrupted by a rattling and clattering down the cliff. The Greek girl peered down into the depths. A piece of rock had become loosened, and fell noisily down into the valley. Another followed somewhat slower; and on this Ekkehard was sitting, guiding it as a rider does his horse. So he went down the steep precipice into the blackness of the night.  147
  Farewell!  148
  She crossed herself and went back, smiling in spite of all her sadness. The lay brother was still fast asleep. As she crossed the court-yard, Praxedis spied a basket filled with ashes, which she seized; and softly stealing back into Ekkehard’s dungeon, she poured out its contents in the middle of the room, as if this were all that was left of the prisoner’s earthly remains.  149
  “Why dost thou snore so heavily, most reverend brother?” she asked; and hurried away.  150
Note 1. “The good Lord is as much the sport of the wind as a sleeve.” [back]

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