E. (Eugenie) Marlitt.

The princess of the Moor, (das Haideprinzesschen) online

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Author of "Countess Gisela," "In the Counselor's House," "In the

Schilling scourt," "Gold Elsie," "Lady with the Rubies"

"Old Mam'seUe's Secret," "The Second Wife," etc.





THE tiny stream as it flows through the silent moor
how like is it to a solitary traveler! Its rippling wavei
know nothing of the fierce joy with which more stormy
waters rush toward a valley, but dance gayly over the
smooth stones and pebbles, which offer no resistance, be-
tween low banks of never-ending alder trees and willows.
On either side the boughs have met and intertwined, till
even the sky above can scarcely penetrate and discover
this little stream, which like a vein courses with exuberant;
life throughout this despised country. Even so, on a
larger scale, has many a false tongue misrepresented in
the world at large these extensive plains of Northern

Friends, be persuaded just for once to pay a summer
visit to the haide.*

It does not indeed rear its tall form toward the sky; the
glowing diadem of the Alps or a crown of rhododendrons
you will seek in vain ; no crest of stone, as in the Nieder-
gebirges, or broad sparkling stream circling her bosom
like a cold steel chain will you find there; but the heather
blooms, and with its bell-shaped blossoms of lilac and red
casts a royal mantle of brilliant hues studded with myriads
of golden bees over the soft undulations of the land.

Far in the distance extends the sandy plain from which
the haide vegetation draws the scanty nourishment it re-
quires; and the long dark line standing out against the
horizon, in which the plain suddenly terminates, is a
forest, a dense majestic mass of foliage such as you will
rarely see equaled. A traveler might pass whole hours vvan-




dering amid these stately columns which rear their heads
to heaven; far above, in the blue ether, larks and thrushes
tune their merry lay,while the timid deer gaze shyly from
the neighboring thicket; and when the wanderer at last
should reach the boundaries of the forest and emerge into
the tamer groves of fir, his foot would linger, all reluctant
to crush beneath it the wild berries thickly strewn on
every side and adorning the sloping ground with rich
hues of blue, black, and scarlet. In the valley opposite
soft green meadows and golden corn-fields would meet
his view; he would see the little village nestling in the
midst, its old-fashioned dwellings clustered around the
tiled church-tower; and when he listened to the sounds
of life and activity and heard the lowing of the splendid
cattle echoing through the air, the recollection of the
"bleak, God-forgotten waste of sand [desert]" described
by the guide-books would doubtless bring a smile to his

I do not mean to deny that the little stream with
whose description my story commences winds its quiet
way for many a mile through barren desert soil, running
parallel indeed with the forest boundary, but long before
it takes a turn in its direction. Throughout its gentle
course, however, it washes the soft banks away, and in
one spot has succeeded in forming a miniature lake
wherein to rest and in whose clear waters it is hard to
tell where the sky and that which mirrors it begin and
end, so transparent are its depths, so white the pebbles,
and so motionless lie the foxtails yonder. The little circle
has forced asunder the alders, and a birch struggling to
the light has made a step forward and stands like an
innocent legendary child from whose locks the summer air
keeps incessantly showering down silver coins.

It was the latter end of June.

In the very center of this basin stood two bare, brown
feet, belonging to a maiden who was carefully holding up
her black woolen petticoat with two brown hands to
match the feet, while she stood bending forward with a
look of eager curiosity. Small, a white kerchief covering
her shoulders, and a young sunburnt face the reflection
the water threw up was minute and insignificant enough.
Utterly indifferent, however, was it to the eyes gazing so
earnestly downward as to whether the owner's face be-


longed to the Grecian or Teutonic type. Here, in the
loneliest quarter of the moor, no standard of female
beauty existed and no comparisons were instituted; but
the great charm of the water-mirror lay in the fact that
on its pure surface all things, howeve^ common, under-
went a metamorphosis, a fairy transformation. In the
upper world the soft haide wind was playing merrily amid
the girl's short locks and blowing them about her neck
and forehead; but here below, in those cool depths, they
assumed the aspect of raven's wings, the little necklace of
red beads looking like dark drops of blood, while the
coarse white handkerchief was transformed into a silken
texture and looked just like r, snow-white water-lily float-
ing on the tiny lake. It was all exactly like one of the
loveliest of old-fashioned fairy tales.

The deep blue sky formed a canopy over the breach in
the copse, giving a cold steel-like hue to the water below
and a background to the girl's reflection. Suddenly glow-
ing shadows began to steal over the smooth lake, and ex-
traordinary as it seemed, they certainly came from the
hanging locks of the curly head ; they chased each other
hither and thither, their color ever deepening in intensity
till it seemed as if the whole world were bathed in purple
light. The deep shadows nestling amid the brushwood
alone seemed to grow black as midnight, and the solitary
twigs which projected from them looked like black stalac-
tites reflected in a sea of fire another turn of the magi-
cian's wand in our fairy tale. But this caused a terrible
shock. The girl's own shadow assumed as she bent for-
ward the aspect of another, which from the depths beneath
looked up with two large awful eyes at her.

The brown feet belonged to no heroine, and with one
wild scream she sprang up the bank. "What an absurd
fright! The evening sky was one sheet of crimson and
gold. A bright fleecy cloud floating over the lake was
the cause of the ghostly apparition and the eyes? was
such a coward ever before seen, such a baby to be fright-
ened at one's own eyes?

I was ashamed even of myself, but still more at the
presence of my two best friends, who had been silent

My pretty heifer was not much disconcerted. She was
the least intelligent of the two the bonniest black cow


that had ever ranged the haide plains. There she stood
browsing beneath the birch trees and luxuriating in a
little patch of juicv grass which the moisture of the river
banks had sweetened. She raised her small pretty head,
gazed at me for a moment in mute surprise, and then
returned to her occupation with un mistakable relish.

Spitz, on the contrary, who had settled himself for a
doze under the bushes, took the matter seriously. He
gave a wild bound into the air, and attacking the unof-
fending water, barked furiously, as though some frightful
enemy were at my heels.

It was too ridiculous, and laughing heartily I jumped
back into the water and seconded his efforts by shivering
the deceitful mirror to a thousand atoms. There was,
however, a third witness to this affair, whom neither
Spitz nor I had remarked.

"What is my little princess doing here?" he inquired
in that kind of muffled, indistinct tone of voice indicative
of inseparable companionship with a pipe in the speaker's

"Oh, it's you, Heinz."

I am not ashamed of him, because he is well known to
be afraid of his own shadow, difficult as it is to credit the
fact when looking at his stalwart form.

There he stood, Heinz the bee-keeper, shod in such gear
that it seemed as if the earth might sink beneath his
tread, his tall form towering toward the sky, while its
breadth formed a barrier like a granite wall between me
and the view across the haide.

Yet at the first white object that meets him in the
dusky twilight this giant will take to his heels, and his
cowardice supplies me with endless amusement. I tell
him long stones of horrors till I grow quite frightened
myself and am afraid of every dark corner.

"I am treading down a pair of eyes, Heinz," I ex-
claimed, giving another stamp, so that the water splashed
all over his faded old coat. "Look, am I not right?"

"Not at all not in daylight."

"Nonsense! What difference does it make to the
water-sprite whether it is day or night if she is angry?"
I watched the half-nervous, half-incredulous glance he
cast at the water with veritable delight. "Wliat! you
don't believe it, Heinz? I only wish she had given you
inch a look, so dreadful."


This fairy conquered him. Taking the pipe from his
month and pointing it playfully at me, he said, with a
smile of mingled triumph and distrust:

"Didn't I always tell you so, eh? But I won't do it
again, not a bit of me heaps of the things may lie there,
but I won't touch one of them, not I."

So here I had raised a nice piece of business with my
' love of jesting.

The little stream, the tiny traveler which wandered
through the haide, was richer far than many a proud river
which flows past palaces and amid the busy haunts of men.
Pearls lay hidden within its recesses, few indeed in quan-
tity and not brilliant enough for a king's diadem, but
what did I know of all that? I liked the small round
shining things which lay so bright and pretty in the palm
of my hand. Many a time had I spent whole hours wad-
ing through the water seeking for oysters, and then I had
always brought them to Heinz, who understood the art of
opening them a secret he would confide to no one else.
Now he was going to renounce the service utterly and con-
clusively, because he was firmly convinced that the water-
sprite would take the law of us as thieves!

"Get away, Heinz,'* I said in a melancholy tone. "It
was only a stupid joke; don't believe such nonsense."
And bending over the water, which had nearly settled
again, I said: "Look here for yourself. What is looking
at you? Nothing, nothing whatever but my own two
dreadful eyes. Why are they so unnaturally large, Heinz?
Neither Fraulein Streit's eyes nor yet Use's would have
looked half so terrible."

"No, Use's eyes wouldn't either," replied Heinz, "but
her eyes are sharp, princess, very sharp."

On his first joining me he had laid his huge hand upon
my shoulder quite good-naturedly (for Heinz could not be
angry), but after giving utterance to the above sage re-
mark he ran it through his wisp of hair, which stood up
like thin yellow stubble about his temples. It absolutely
bristled in the warm evening sunshine.

After that he blew forth a cloud of tobacco-smoke,
which speedily dispersed a swarm of midges playing round.
At home, Use "of the sharp eyes" always maintained that
tobacco was a disgusting weed. I alone endured it, and
should I live to be a hundred, the evil-reputed smell will


always send me back in memory to the warm nook in the
chimney corner, where, curled up on the wooden bench
by Heinz' side, I enjoyed the delicious sense of his pro-
tecting care, while without the snow-storm raged over the
plains and hail came pelting like stones hurled against the

Just as Mieke came up to pluck the blades of grass
which Heinz had trodden under foot I sprang up the

"Ei," said he, laughing, "how grand she looks!"

"Oh, no laughing at that, if you please," I replied in a
dignified manner.

Mieke was indeed splendidly adorned. Between her
horns hung a garland of birch leaves and marigolds, which
became her as though she had been born with it; a chain
made of the thick hollow stalks of the dandelion hung
round her neck, and to the very end of her tail was at-
tached a bouquet of the haide flowers, which looked so
comical when Mieke lashed it about to brush off the gnats.

"She has quite a festive air, hasn't she?" said I; "but
you don't know the reason! Now, just think a moment,
Heinz, and try to guess. Mieke is dressed up and a cake
is baking at the Dierkhof, so now what is it all about?"

But I had just hit on Heinz' weak point; guessing was
not his forte, and he stood before me as helpless as a child
of two years old.

"Ah, you cunning fellow," I continued, laughing, "you
only want to escape congratulating me; but that won't
succeed. Dear old Heinz, this is my birthday."

An expression of joy and emotion passed over the broad,
kind face at this discovery, and stretching out his disen-
gaged hand, in which I laid mine lovingly, he inauired :

"And how old is my little princess?" thus avoiding the
expected congratulations.

I laughed and said: "You don't know that either.
Well, listen: what comes after sixteen?"

"Sixteen what seventeen? It can't be true ! Such a
little thing! No, it can't be true," he protested, holding
up his hands.

This incredulity irritated me; but, after all, my old
friend was not far astray. He who had all his life long
watched how the pines stretched upward to heaven had
Been me for the last three years get no higher than just


to where I could hear his strong heart beat; not one inch
had I increased all that time. It was too true, I was and
I must remain all my days a mere child in appearance,
and that, according to Heinz' opinion, would prevent my
ever growing older! For all that I gave him a good scold-
ing, but this time he warded it off, in quite a politic man-
ner changing the subject. Instead of giving me any
answer, he pointed with his thumb over his shoulder and

"There's an extra birthday celebration going on up
there, princess they are digging up the old king.'*

At one bound I was on my feet.

The crimson glow of the evening sky was so dazzlingly
brilliant that I was forced to shade my eyes with my hand.
Yonder, behind the line of the forest, the rays were, as it
were, playing through thin mists and vapors, while nearer
the ancient giants of the past formed a girdle round the
wide-stretching moor, their tall spear-like summits stand-
ing out against the sky.

The heath was not yet in blossom, and the ground pre-
sented one broad sheet of green-brown vegetation, flat as
a table save where in one peculiar spot it swelled suddenly
into five gigantic mounds, one enormous one and four
smaller. The popular tradition was that these mounds
contained the remains of giants who in the days of their
flesh had made the earth quake beneath their tread and
played at marbles with huge blocks of stone. Juniper
trees grew on the top of the highest hill, and on its side
the golden broom blossomed. Whether some human hand
had planted the solitary old fir tree or a bird carried the
seed thither, none could tell. At all events, there it
stood sideways, on the edge of the hill, thinly clad, tossed
by the wild wind and stunted in its growth by the weight
of winter snows; yet standing erect, proud and defiant,
the one solitary tree in the midst of the vast plain, bat-
tling for its existence against every storm that blew.

Many a time I had said to Heinz as we sat on the hill
together in my childhood :

"The old king must be buried here, for there is a tree
on this hill and yellow blossoms, and there are none on
the others."

I was convinced that where the old tree stood there lay
the king's powerful head, with its golden band round the


forehead and the long, long white beard that fell over the
purple mantle covering his limbs. This buried secret was
Hidden in the deepest solitude, but the birds that came
from the adjacent wood to rest amid the brushwood and
flutter through the broom and heather, the blue butterflies
and humming bees these all shared it. Many a time
did I lie, with my hands under my head, scarcely daring
jto draw breath, watching the ants as they ran in and out
/of their holes. They doubtless were wiser than we were and
knew all about it; they had perhaps run over the purple
mantle. How I envied them and longed to discover those
hidden marvels.

Up to this moment the great mound had been my gar-
den, my wood, my own undisputed property. My home,
the Dierkhof, stood quite alone upon the moor. An
infrequented road, which connected it with the outer
world, lay through the wood, but far away from the fairy
hillocks never, that I could remember, had a stranger
set foot within their kingdom and now all of a sudden
yonder stood a group of unknown people digging up huge
clods of earth from these self-same mounds. I watched
the ax as it swung high in the air, and so often as it fell
with unerring aim did it seem to me as though it hewed
the living flesh from some beloved form.

Without pausing to reflect I ran across the field, filled
with sympathy and burning with curiosity to know what
would come to light. Spitz ran nimbly beside me, and
when I reached the spot, breathless with my exertions, I
found Heinz had overtaken me with a few gigantic strides.

Not until then did I begin to feel shy and to experience
that childish terror which the sight of a strange face
always brings over me. I drew back and caught hold of
Heinz' coat, which at least afforded me some sense of
security and protection.


THREE gentlemen were standing on the top of the hill
in a state of breathless expectation, while several work-
men were employed digging and shoveling away. At the
uproar Spitz made the strangers turned round and looked


at us for a moment. The youngest of the party lifted his
stick and shook it at the animal on his attempting to
advance nearer. Then, coldly surveying Heinz and me
for a moment, he turned his back on us. They were dig-
ging near the old pine. The broom which grew round it
was torn up and lay scattered here and there, while the
gap which they had left exposed to view the great thick
roots of my poor fir tree amid a mingled mass of yellow
loam and sand: their white flesh was visible; the ax had
hewed into them remorselessly.

"They have come upon the stone," said one of the gen-
tlemen as the men's axes sounded against something
sharply, and when the last shovelful of earth was finally
cleared away an enormous unhewn block of stone waa
disclosed to view.

The gentlemen moved to one side while the workmen
prepared to roll away the stone, but Heinz moved eagerly
forward, evidently dissatisfied with the manner of carry-
ing on the work. With one foot in advance he began
swaying his great hand to and fro, keeping time with the
workers, and his pipe, the while, had no holiday of it.
Very soon, indeed, I could only distinguish the strangers
through a blue cloud. If only Use had been there to
witness the effect! The young gentleman, behind whom
Heinz was standing, looked round as if he had received a
blow. He measured the unfortunate smoker with a long
contemptuous stare, then waved his silk pocket handker-
chief with an air of disgust, as if to disperse the noisome

Heinz silently took the corpus delicti out of his mouth
and threw it aside. He was struck dumb, for his pipe
had never before produced such an impression. The
stranger's conduct had, however, frightened and intimi-
dated me to the last degree. I was quite ashamed and
had already made one step toward retreating, when the
stone all at once gave way and rolled a few steps forward
with a rumbling sound. That chained me again to the

I was at first unable to see anything, because the gentle-
men all pressed round the chasm, but suddenly I ceased to
wish to do so and covered my eyes with my hands, fancy-
ing some tremendous discovery was now about to take


"Potztausend! was that it?" cried Heinz in a voice of
undisguised astonishment.

I took one glance, and for a moment the moor with its
lights and shadows had disappeared, the shining butter-
flies seemed to have folded tneir wings and sunk to rest,
even the tall spears against the far-off horizon whither
had they all vanished? The setting sun alone remained,
and beneath the hill lay no gray-headed king with flowing
beard and gigantic limbs concealed beneath the purple
coverlet nothing but a deep dark abyss yawned at my

To the strangers this seemed to be the natural result.
One of them, who wore spectacles and had a large tin box
slung across his shoulders, jumped into the nole, fol-
lowed by the young man; while the third, a tall, thin
individual, examined the inner surface of the block of
granite just dug up.

"This stone has been cut," he remarked, passing his
hand lightly over the surface.

"And so have the others," called a voice from the
chasm. "Just look what a magnificent stone roof we
have over us a really superb block!"

Just then the young man reappeared at the opening.
He had to stoop so low that his hat fell off. Up to that
moment I had seen but few specimens of manhood ; with
the exception of Heinz, the old clergyman of the nearest
parish (some ten miles distant), and a few steady-going
coarse-looking farmers, none, save an occasional dirty
young broom maker, had ever crossed my path. But a
portrait of Charles the Great hung on the wall at the
Dierkhof, and I could not help thinking of it as I looked
at the uncovered head as it appeared at the mouth of the
great dark cavern. The forehead shone like a broad white
spotless shield under the masses of auburn hair, which he
threw back with an energetic toss of his head.

The young man held a large earthen vessel in his hand;
it was of a grayish-yellowish color.

"Take care, Herr Claudius," said the gentleman in
spectacles in a warning voice, himself carrying several
strange utensils. "These urns are very brittle at first,
but quickly harden in the air."

It never reached that safety point, however, for just as
it was set on the granite block it broke. A cloud of ashes


rose, and human bones, nearly burned to cinders, were
strewn about.

The wearer of the spectacles set up a loud lament. He
seized one of the fragments, and pusning up his spectacles
began examining the lump of clay where it was freshly
broken very eagerly.

"Bah!" exclaimed the young man, "the damage is not
great, professor. At least six similar pieces still remain,
and they are all as like one another as two peas."

"Yes, yes," he replied sharply, "that sounds very well
just like an amateur."

The other laughed a fascinating laugh ; it had a light
and mocking sound, yet did one good to hear. He seemed
to repent it, for he suddenly became grave.

"I am indeed but an amateur,'" he apologized, "if an
enthusiastic one, and you must therefore substitute mercy
for truth when the novice, forgetting the strong curb of
science, takes the bit in his mouth and sets off in a wrong
direction. To me the chief interest lay in discovering
the interior structure of these sepulchers, and ah, how
beautiful," he exclaimed, suddenly interrupting himself
and taking up one of the rare specimens which the pro-
fessor had ranged in the center of the stone.

The learned man to all appearance never heard the
young gentleman's apology. Buried in deep, one might
almost say painful thought, he was occupied in the exam-
ination of these objects, sometimes holding one up to the
light, then again shading it with his hand.

"Hum!" muttered he to himself; "a kind of silver

"Silver in a prehistoric German tomb, professor?" in-
quired the young man in a somewhat mocking tone.
"Look at this exquisite piece in bronze!" It was a kind
of knife or dagger, and he made several passes with it in
the air at some imaginary foe, then balanced it playfully
on the tips of his fingers. "Certes, no German hand ever
used this elegant article," he remarked; "it would have
been shattered at the first grasp. And just as little did
they ever produce that delicate silver ornament you have
in your hand, professor. In the end, it will turn out that
Dr. von Sassen is right when he maintains that these so-
called Hun graves are the tombs of Phenician pioneers."

Dr. von Sassen! How the name went through me! I


even thought the speaker pointed at me as he uttered it,
and I expected all eyes would be turned on my poor,
frightened little person directly. How I longed for the
earth to open and swallow me up! But it was all non-

Online LibraryE. (Eugenie) MarlittThe princess of the Moor, (das Haideprinzesschen) → online text (page 1 of 31)