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be disturbed in spirit at this untoward liberty



of yours. Oh, the deceitfulness and wicked-
ness of the female heart! "

Fellsper gave a wicked leer to the girl by his
side, and turned up the white of his eyes as if
he were mourning. Marian sighed, but said
not a word. She was pondering over the situa-
tion, knowing that the safety of her brother
depended entirely on her. To confess the
truth she knew was out of the question, and in
the few moments that elapsed she felt instinc-
tively that her only hope lay in sticking to her
tale. In a few moments another turn of the
covered way brought them to the open space
surrounded by a thick wall and iron doors. As
the group turned into the opening a cold
shiver went through the poor girl, and she
could scarcely prevent herself from falling.
In a corner before a wooden table sat Colonel
Solms, scowling dreadfully at the approaching
party. A flask of wine and a scroll of paper
were on the table; and behind him stood no
one else than old Martin with his bunch of
keys in one hand. The instant his eyes fell
upon the figure of the lame man he started and
changed colour, a fact which did not escape
the attention of the suspicious Fellsper.

" Please your honour," said the latter, lead-
ing the prisoner to the foot of the stair, ' ' we have
somewhat suddenly come upon this stranger,
who was being conducted to the chief building
by Mistress Marian, and remembering your
strict orders, we have brought him hither that
you may see him and do with him according
to your pleasure."

" Who and what ishe?" growled thegovernor,
planting his stick very firmly in the ground,
and looking fixedly at the intruder. "How
now, Mistress Marian, do I find you trespassing
against the rules and conspiring against the
safety of the castle? What is this? Answer me!"

Marian, who in the meantime had regained
her composure, answered with marvellous calm-
ness and seeming indifference, that she knew
nothing whatever of rules and regulations that
prevented her attending to her duty. She had
nearly every morning during the last fortnight
heard my lord the governor grumble at his
breakfast or dinner that the vegetables or the
fruit or the sauces were not properly prepared,
and that she therefore had bethought herself
of one poor fellow who wanted help and who
could procure her what was desired if he only
was shown what was wanted. Her somewhat
independent tone and saucy look, which she
considered the safest thing to assume, un-
happily displeased the governor, who glanced
with an angry eye from Marian to the prisoner,
and asked in a rough voice his name.

"Joseph," answered he in a low voice.

"Joseph Joseph what?" asked Solms.

Joseph shook his head. " Never no other
name that I can remember," said he.

"Oh, you liar!" cried Fellsper; " never was
a person born in this world with one name
only. There, old Martin looks as though he
knew it."

Old Martin shook his head and rattled hi.s
keys, and murmured something about its being

"Martin, you old rogue!" cried Solms,
turning round upon him in great wrath,
" what s the villain's name? You don't know.
Then what does that rascal Fellsper mean by
saying so?"

" Please your honour," said Fellsper, "me-
thought I saw a look of recognizance pass
between them, and I am almost certain they
have seen each other before."

"And they shall see each other again," said
Solms, clapping his hand on his knee with de-
termination. "There are rumours about of
treason, and this fellow looks the traitor from
top to toe. Lead him away to the dark hole
and leave him there to-day ; he may tell us
some more by to-morrow. Away with him."

At these words Marian uttered a suppressed
cry. The hands of the soldiers were already
on the prisoner, whose eyes were fixed with a
hard and steady look upon old Martin, when
the poor girl, to whom the horrors of that dark
cellar were but too well known, sank upon her
knee, and clasping her hands in agony, be-
sought the governor to be merciful on one
whom she had brought to peril. " I would
beseech you, my lord," she urged, "to remem-
ber the severity of the weather and the state
of the cellar. There is more than a foot of
water in it, and this poor man is already suffer-
ing. He has transgressed in nothing, the
sentry permitted him to pass, and I thought
it was pardonable; but if he is to be kept in
confinement, I beseech you, sir, for the love of
Heaven, let him be taken to my little bed-room,
where he will be safely guarded by the sol-
diers, and I can lie down anywhere for the

Old Solms must have been possessed of greater
hardness of heart than he was himself aware
of, if he had been able to resist so touching a
prayer, uttered in such a manner. The quiet,
modest girl had always been a favourite of his,
although his good opinion was always ex-
pressed in grunts, and to hear her now plead-
ing for a man whom she had brought into
trouble, with tears running down her cheeks
and her voice trembling with emotion, was



more than the rough soldier had expected.
He found it even difficult to keep his face from
betraying his feelings, and consequently looked
hopelessly fierce.

" Ah," he said slowly, "a foot of water in
the cellar! is that true, Martin? Why did you
not tell me that before? I don't want to drown
the villain for a villain he is of that I am
convinced but to put him in your daughter's
bed-room is absurd. Fellsper, you who seem
so eager to drag the fellow along with you, I
shall order you to have him taken to the
armoury, and have him securely guarded until
we can find time to see to him ; but do him no
injury, for those of the city beyond are mightily
stirred when one of their lean and hungry
brood is robbed of a stiver. Tie his hands,
for with his legs he seems of but little use."
So saying the colonel made a motion with his
hand, which his followers understood and dared
not disobey. Marian held her peace, hoping
that at some fortunate moment she might assist
her brother, who was now being led away up
the old stair to the armoury, where prisoners
or soldiers under arrest were generally con-

It is scarcely necessary to say that when
Marian, with trembling heart, reached the
room where her mother awaited her, she
scarcely had enough strength left to fall on
Dame Reyder's bosom and sob an incoherent
relation of what had happened. Presently too
old Martin came in with a large store of rage
bottled up for his daughter. The interview
between them was anything but pacifying or
soothing. The old man, who had not the re-
motest expectation of this visit, was divided
between wrathful astonishment at the unheard
of audacity and astonished indignation that
his daughter could undertake any such plan
without asking him, while he trembled at the
idea that the governor should suspect him of
being a party to the vile conspiracy. He
desired to know what the rascal wanted inside
the fortress, for nobody would be so simple as
to believe his story about coining to ask for-

"We may be devoutly thankful," he cried,
" if at the further examination of him they do
not discover that he is our son God help us
and then I do not know what will be done
with us. But look you, Marian, you have
been a good girl hitherto, and an obedient.
If you ever exchange a word or as much as a
glance with that fellow again, I'll renounce
you as I have renounced him. Do you hear?"

" I hear, father," said poor Marian in a low

"Very good; then see to it," said Reyder,
shaking his keys and going towards the guard-
house to pick up what information he could.
Marian remained behind, in a mood far from
pleasant. She was an obstinate little thing,
and what she once conceived to be her duty
she would do in spite of everybody, even her
father. She conceived that by her fault Joseph
had been led into this scrape, and notwith-
standing the command, of which the echo had
scarce died away, she resolved if possible to
rescue her brother. The task which she had
set herself was not easy, but she felt that she
alone could execute it, and that she must not
even acquaint her mother with her plan. She
watched all day with great anxiety for the re-
turn of the governor to his apartments, for
upon his mood depended whether there was
any hope left or not. When late in the after-
noon Colonel Solms arrived from his inspection
he was so tired and hungry that he would have
arrested any man who dared to remind him of
the prisoner. Marian knew that no inquiry
would take place before the morning, and she
breathed more freely. There was not a person
in the citadel or out of it who was more inti-
mately acquainted with every nook and corner
of the building than she, and the moment
Solms had named the armoury as Joseph's pri-
son, she had thought of one expedient at least.
W T hen the evening darkness had sufficiently
advanced she tripped unobserved to the harness-
room, which formed part of the large stables,
and noiselessly crept up a stair which was never
used, and all but forgotten.

Joseph was sitting on a hard wooden form,
surrounded by all sorts of harnesses, helmets,
breastplates, firelocks, spears, and a multi-
tude of other engines of war; his narrow eye-
brows were drooping over his eyes in close
thought concerning his situation; the sentry,
who had scarcely left him, finding the evening
getting cold, and Joseph as quiet as a mouse,
had locked the door and was pacing up and
down outside in the next room, where some
of his comrades had lit a fire. Suddenly Joseph
was startled by a whisper, which seemed to
proceed from one of the armours. He pricked
up his ears.

"Can you listen, Joseph?" said the voice.
" I can see your head against the window, and
if you nod you need not speak." Joseph
nodded. " Are your hands and feet both tied?"

"Only my hands," whispered Joseph; "if
you can cut the cord I shall be free."

" But then you cannot walk."

Joseph gave a short laugh, and looked round
involuntarily. "That is Marian, is it not?



Are you sure no one hears us? Well, then,
look here."

And getting up cautiously he stretched him-
self to his full height, made a few steps on
tip-toe with so much strength and vigour that
the lameness seemed to have disappeared as by

"You have deceived me," whispered Marian.

"And you have deceived me," answered her
brother, instantly resuming his position of
helplessness. " I trusted blindly to your pro-
mise. But have you come to help me or

" I have, but I scarcely know how."

"Oh, I know that," said he; "now, answer
me quickly, what is the strength of the gar-

"Three hundred, all told."

" And how many sentries are out at night?"

"Thirty, changing every two hours with
another thirty. "

Continuing thus rapidly to ask and receive
answers which Marian imagined her brother
wanted for his escape, he was in the course of
a few minutes thoroughly acquainted with the
internal arrangements, the strong parts and
unguarded points of the citadel.

"That will do," he whispered cheerfully,
"you are a good sister, Marian, and I promise
when the hour comes you shall not be forgotten.
Now tell me one thing more. Yonder window
has a water-pipe underneath strong enough to
hold me. If so, where does it lead to?"

" To the flat roof of the hay-lofts, and from
thence you can jump on to the dung-heap, not
more than twelve or fourteen feet, and little
climbing will bring you to the same place
where you saw Solms this morning. Here is
a little clasp-knife which I shall throw you,
pick it up quickly and cut yourself loose.
Make your way out, for I fear you would get
but little mercy here. Father is furious, and
will hear nothing of you. I should like to
embrace you for once, and beg you to be good
in future, but I must not. Good-by, and may
we meet in a better and happier place."

With silent steps Marian retreated from the
little aperture in the wainscoting and left the
prisoner to himself. For several hours he sat
quietly, occasionally muttering "Little fool,"
until the midnight hour had struck. Then he
opened the little knife, cut the cord, rose, and
looked round him.

It was found next morning that the prisoner
had escaped. How, nobody knew, and nobody
ever discovered. The strong cord by which his
hands had been tied was found by the side of

his crutches under the form on which the sentry
saw him apparently asleep. But the window
was open, and the water-pipe showed traces of
his flight. The rest was a mystery. Suspi-
cions of course at once fell upon poor Marian,
whose pale looks and red eyes next morning
might indeed have confirmed them. But her
answers were so calm, and her account of her-
self so reasonable, that even the sergeant Fell-
sper, pitying her in his heart, found no reason
to think evil of her, and after a few days the
theory that the fellow after all was a harmless
wretch who had sought to earn an honest living
gained ground amongst the garrison.

Not so with Marian. The roses did not re-
turn to her cheeks, and her eye lost the merry
though modest look that had rendered it so at-
tractive. There was a pensive and at the same
time startled expression in her face that pro-
ceeded from inward restlessness. And indeed
she was restless. The words, "When the hour
comes you shall not be forgotten," haunted her.
She felt now unmistakably that Joseph had
cruelly deceived her. His poverty, his repent-
ance, his lameness, were all deception, and she
sometimes glowed with indignation when she
thought how much of the castle's secrets she
had revealed to him. What hour was coming?
and how could she not be forgotten? She
burned to tell her mother, but her mother,
frightened by the issue of the momentary de-
ception to which she had given her consent,
had given her daughter a severe lecture, and
professed her determination to tell everything
to her husband which she might hereafter get
to know. Thus driven within herself poor
Marian lingered on in anxious suspense, tremb-
ling at every rumour of treason or rebellion
that came to her from outside.

Oneafternoon, about afortnight after Joseph's
escape, while she was bargaining with the ordi-
nary purveyor, he put into her hand with a
very knowing look a small piece of paper tightly
folded. Marian grasped it involuntarily, and
took it to her room to read it. It contained
these words : " To-night at twelve, at the
eastern outwork, be ready for us, for none of
the others shall escape, Joseph." The dread-
ful dream had at last come true. Through
her instrumentality an attack was to be made
on the point which she remembered to have in-
dicated as being somewhat remote and guarded
by but one sentry. In such supreme moments
the female mind argues but little. All her
suffering and repentance for the foolish step
she had committed, mingled with a still linger-
ing love for her unfortunate brother, a desire
to save her friends inside and him outside from



a horrible encounter, made her take a sudden
resolution. Without mentioning her object to
her mother, she obtained permission to visit
her aunt in the city that night. She had
speedily clothed herself as thickly as possible,
and wrote a short note to the governor, in
which she told him in guarded terms what he
had to fear. This note she handed to the
colonel's private servant, and hastily left the

The rest is but imperfectly known. It is cer-
tain that a party of conspirators had gathered
outside the citadel to the number of 500,
headed by three daring Spanish noblemen,
and Joseph as guide. That in the midst of
their silent march they were stopped by a young
girl, who warned them not to proceed, as every-
thing inside the citadel was ready to beat them
off. That she besought the guide Joseph to
fly for safety as she had betrayed his plan, a
story which he would not listen to. At last,
when she found that arguments and beseeching
were of no avail, she had cried in an excited
manner that through her the citadel should
not be taken by the enemies of her country,
and drawing a pistol from her pocket had fired
it in the air. A tremendous volley from the
walls of the lunette, and a well- organized rush
from the garrison, was the answer. A fearful
fight ensued, in which both parties paid heavily
with their blood. Among the dead next day
there was found the body of poor Marian, with
a calm smile of contentment upon her pale
lips. Half the garrison wept as she was buried,
and the simple cross that was erected on her
grave for they would have her buried within
the walls was bought by the hard-earned
pence of the rough fellows who had found in
her the only link to a life of more gentleness
and purity than they ever knew before or after-


A little low-ceiled room. Four walls
Whose blank shut out all else of life,

And crowded close within their bound
A world of pain, and toil, and strife.

Her world. Scarce furthermore she knew
Of God's great globe, that wondrously

Outrolls a glory of green earth,
And frames it with the restless sea.

Four closer walls of common pine;

And therein lying, cold and still,
The weary flesh that long hath borne

Its patient mystery of ill.

Regardless now of work to do,
No queen more careless in her state,

Hands crossed in an unbroken calm ;
For other hands the work may wait.

Put by her implements of toil ;

Put by each coarse, intrusive sign ;
She made a Sabbath when she died,

And round her breathes a rest divine.

Put by at last, beneath the lid,

The exempted hands, the tranquil face ;
Uplift her in her dreamless sleep,

And bear her gently from the place.

Oft she hath gazed, with wistful eyes,
Oft from that threshold, on the night;

The narrow bourne she crosseth now;
She standeth in the Eternal light.

Oft she hath pressed, with aching feet,
Those broken steps that reach the door;

Henceforth, with angels, she shall tread
Heaven's golden stair for evermore !




During the tumults in Russia, when the
Princess Sophia's intrigues to avail herself of
Iwan's imbecility were defeated by Peter the
Great, several ancient Boyars withdrew to their
country-houses in disgust or fear. Mierenhoff,
one of this number, had a mansion about
twelve versts from the metropolis, and resided in
very strict retirement, with his only daughter
Feodorowna. But this beautiful young Mus-
covite had accompanied her father with more
reluctance than he suspected, and contrived to
solace her solitude by frequent visits from her
affianced husband, Count Biron, one of the
Czar's body-guard. Though her lover laid
claim to a title so sacred, his attachment to
the imperial court, and the kind of favouritism
he enjoyed there, had created a jealousy not
far from rancour in Mierenhoff. Mixing pri-
vate feuds with political secrets, he devised a
pretext to dismiss the young captain of the
guard from all pretension to his daughter; but
the young couple revenged themselves by clan-
destine disobedience.

On one of the nights dedicated to their
meetings, the Boyar chose to visit his daugh-
ter's apartment with an affectation of kindness.
She, apprised of his intention only a few
moments before, conveyed her lover into a large
chest, or press, in the corner of her room, and



closing the lid, covered it with her mantle,
that he might obtain air by lifting it occa-
sionally. But the Boyar unhappily chose to
take his seat upon it ; and after a long stay,
which cost his daughter inexpressible agonies,
departed without intimating any suspicion.

Feodorowna sprang to raise the lid of her
coffer, and saw Biron entirely lifeless. What
a spectacle for an affianced wife! but she had
also the feelings of an erring daughter, con-
scious that detection must be her ruin. She
had strength of mind enough to attempt every
possible means of restoring life; und when all
failed, to consider what might best conceal the
terrible circumstances of his death. She could
trust no one in her father's household except
his porter, an old half-savage Tartar, to whom
he had given the name of Usbeck, in allusion
to his tribe. But this man had taught her to
ride, reared her favourite wolf-dog, and shown
other traits of diligent affection which invited
trust. Feodorowna descended from the lofty
window of her room by the ladder Biron had
left there : and creeping to the porter's hut,
awakened him to crave his help. It was a
fearful hazard, even to a Russian female, little
acquainted with the delicacies of more polished
society; but the instinct of uncorrupted nature
is itself delicate, and the Tartar manifested it by
listening to his distressed mistress with an air
of humble respect. He followed to her chamber,
removed the dead body from its untimely bier,
and departed with it on his shoulder. In an
hour he returned, but gave no answer to her
questions, except that "All was safe." She
put a ring containing a rich emerald on his
finger, forgetting the hazard and unfitness of
the gift. His eye flashed fire; and making a
hasty step nearer, he seemed disposed to offer
some reply; but as suddenly turning his back,
and showing only half his tiger-like profile
over his shoulder, he left Feodorowna in silence,
and with a smile in which she imagined strange

The absence of the captain of the imperial
guard could not be undiscovered long, and it
was not difficult for his family to trace his
nightly visits to his bride. But there all clue
ceased; and after some mysterious hints at the
secret animosity of her father, the search seemed
to die away. An extraordinary circumstance
renewed it. Biron's body was found near the
imperial city, with a small poignard buried in
it, bearing this label round the hilt " The
vengeance of a Strelitz. " The sanguinary sacri-
fice of the Strelitz regiment by Peter's orders,
for their adherence to his sister Sophia, ap-
peared to explain this inscription; and the

friends of Count Biron instantly ascribed his
fate to the scattered banditti formed by the
survivors of this proscribed regiment. Feodor-
owna, though not the least surprised at the
incident, was the only one who rejoiced, as she
felt the security it gave to her secret. Her
father preserved an entire silence and impene-
trable indifference on thesubject. Theemperor,
notwithstanding the eccentric zeal of his at-
tachments, chose to leave his favourite's fate
in an obscurity he thought useful to his politics
and scandalous to his enemies.

Six months passed in secret mourning on
Feodorowna's part ; and her father usually
spent his evenings alone after his return from
hunting. One night, as he sat half-dreaming
over his solitary flagon, he saw a man standing
near his hearth in a dark red cloak, with a fur
cap bordered with jewels, and a black velvet
mask over his face. The Boyar had as much
good sense as any Russian nobleman of that
age, and as much courage as any man alone,
or with only his flask by his side, can reason-
ably show. And probably he owed to his flask
the firmness of his voice, when he asked this
extraordinary visitor whence he came. The
stranger familiarly replied, that he could not
answer the question.

" Have you no name?"

"None, Boyar, fitting you to know ! -You
have a daughter: I desire a wife; and you have
only to name the price you claim for her."

The Muscovite blood of Mierenhoff rose at
this insolent appeal, and he snatched up the
silver whistle by which he usually summoned
his attendants.

" Sound it, if you will," said the strange
visitor, "your servants will have no ears, and
mine have more than an equal number of
hands. Mierenhoff! recollect this badge"
and as he spoke he raised his sleeve, and dis-
covered the form of a poignard indented in his

At the sight of this brand, which he well
knew to be the symbol of the Strelitz con-
federacy, Mierenhoff bowed his head in terror
and silence. The unknown repeated his pro-
posal for a wife, demanding an instant answer.
The Bovar, full of astonishment and dismay,
endeavoured to evade the demand, by alleging
the impossibility of answering so promptly for
his daughter."

"I understand your fears, Mierenhoff: your
daughter herself shall determine, if I am
allowed to speak with her alone one quarter of
an hour." Some more conversation passed,
which determined Mierenhoff's compliance.
The Strelitz, for such he now considered his


Online LibraryUnknownThe library of choice literature : poetry and prose selected from the most admired authors (Volume 4) → online text (page 60 of 75)