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First book (taken from: Caroline de la Motte Fouque/ Die Frau des Falkensteins/ first published in 1810)
Come, I beg you, called Mathilde, holding up a veiled basket. Did you know - Luise flew down the lime walk, in the shade of which her beloved mother, held by an ailing incapacity, was anxiously awaiting her. The wind played through the branches and lifted the shawl before Luise could even grasp that mysterious basket. A rich headband flashed out of it like a thousand love glances. Presents from Julius, she called out, and sank in surprise at the feet of her mother, who let the light-coloured stones play comfortably between her daughter's brown curls. Luise kissed the beautiful hands, which so often touched her lips in impatience. The dwindling life in Mathilden's features, her near death and the bridal jewellery that so visibly pointed to the coming celebration, all the joys of her young life and the serious change of it, all the wonderful fabric of the future seemed to be reflected in the stones, which she quickly concealed again by pleadingly saying: not yet, best mother, not yet! and as if she had pressed the golden ribbon, she stroked the curls from her forehead and let the grazing air cool her gracefully. How strange! said the mother, looking at her restlessly, "You don't even ask how the rich gifts come to you, and whether they are not accompanied by some beloved word? So, Luise, absent-mindedly, remembered: did he write? Yes, read it, you naughty child, Mathilde replied by handing her an open page. Luise was suddenly gathered at the sight of the firm, sure handwriting, which so clearly expressed the serious man's meaning, and hardly noticing an inner anxiety, she gladly gave herself over to the gratitude and emotion that the following words aroused in her.
"May her hand, dear mother, adorn my Luise with the most beautiful things I could find for her. I was always delighted to see how the motherly eye was enlivened by the radiance of the blossoming child, and how every feeling is heightened by this holy love. That is why also today I place all my wishes and hopes solely in your heart, and I ask you to make it appear more joyful before Luise.
Dear Mother, I am so often tormented by the thought that I am not able to please a woman anywhere, least of all a woman who has opened up in the most delicate breath of love.
The ponderous seriousness of our forefathers, which rests on me and my gloomy surroundings, and which the embers of my Italian mother only break through inwardly, like a twitching flame, leaves me so wordless, so gruff, where I want to press people to my breast with love and cry out the deepest innermost life! It is often the feeling of this extreme rigidity that paralyses my tongue and drives me out in wild displeasure about the world and myself. And just as I look at myself and the ancient seat of my ancestors so lonely here in the dark Harz Forest, and I pause to think that so little fashionable power could give old Falkenstein a cheerful appearance, and that years of travelling and a mobile life under a strange sky would leave me unchanged, so I think timidly of the laughing Luise and the strange will of fate that united us both.
As you can see, the strange boy is still looking everywhere, who once spurned music and candlelight, quietly sleeping in the nearby monastery church, under the stone picture of his ancestress, until you and the colourful crowd of guests awakened him there. But now everything is to change. I'll hurry to your place and bring you and Luisen here. Of course, I can't miss you a moment longer. You alone always understood me. Your mild kindness reconciled me to myself first and opened the happiest future for me. - I'm scared as I write that word. - Who knows its hidden depths! and to whom has she not lied with teasing magic arts! Do not scold me for the eternally recurring gloom. I feel as melancholy as I feel when I part from you. Already yesterday I left the leaf unfinished, and ran out into the forest to forget myself and my reveries. I met the monk here by chance, whom I had met several times before, without ever talking to him. This time he greeted me in a fine, sitting way. His voice has a softness that melts the sharpest tones and lends our language something strange, infinitely graceful. I gladly joined him. We soon spoke more confidentially, and my heart, which seldom closes, lay open before him in the secret, silent summer night. He spoke with affectionate earnest about the dull sinking of youthful minds, and warned me of that timid idleness that so often undermines the best powers. It is true, he added with a smile, that this is a cliff on which only a few fail, since most people confuse their lives by impertinent intervention. Everywhere a great knowledge of the world spoke from his words, whose memory may often move him melancholy. We finally parted with the promise to meet more often, which promises me a new increase of joys.
My old Georg urges me to close, he wants to bring you these lines and the jewellery himself. Farewell then, my gracious, dear mother. In a few days I will be with you to finally experience a more joyful existence at Luisen's side. It is with deep emotion that I close you both to my heart.
Julius von Falkenstein."
Poor, good man, Luise said, folding the letter thoughtfully. "Is the old castle really as dull and gloomy as it seems to him? It looks strange and very sublime from a lost time, said Mathilde, and with its mighty walls and vaults seems to mock the childish tinsel that Julius Mutter spread in an attempt to forget the giant design of the past. She could never quite get along with the friendly silence of this area, least of all with her home and its surroundings. What was it with her? asked Luise, I remember seeing her in a light-coloured dress and many flowers. She told Julius and me about the strange little Moravians, in which there was something of a salamander, and her big, dark eyes shone so brightly that I couldn't turn my own away could. Since then I never saw her again, but the picture has remained with me for my whole life. She died soon afterwards, Mathilde said, frightened by a strange idea of her own, which drew her into the grave. I have never been able to get a clear idea of such an unequal temperament as hers, for my life has always been very simple and clouded only by strange storms; still less could I unite the fantastic, almost wild cheerfulness with the gloom that at times dwelt on her like a strange spirit and lent her being a uniformity that tired everyone. And yet we were still separated from each other as a country and a language by our customs and emotions, and we were bound together in the distance by an unfortunate relationship that struck my heart with the first wound. Here Mathilde was silent and left in Luisen the most vivid desire to learn more about an event that had emerged very darkly from the earliest memories. The memory of the beautiful Viola, as her mother usually called her with emotion, had always cast its own spell over her, and even though she only heard of her in fleeting hints, the childish mind still put together an image that lived on in her imagination in a very charming way. I know, she said, in the hope of learning more, Countess Falkenstein used to wear the veil, which she soon afterwards willingly tore to follow the Count to Germany, but the actual context of the whole thing has remained alien to me. Dear child, lifted the mother after a while, one should never intentionally reveal the past. What you shoos hide, let it rest until, in the course of time, the young That involuntarily refers back to its earlier origin. What is hidden thus gradually comes to light uncalled, and in the context of the whole, loses the foreign, which often dizzyingly repels the daring look back into the depths. Just as Julius Brief strikes strings in me that have long since faded away, so too the sound passes into your soul and could confuse you if I did not brazenly leave to seek the pure chord again. But let us go down to the lake, the sun is so high and glorious in the tide! See how the resin in its bluish hull stands solemnly, as if it wanted to say a long goodbye to her. It is probably beautiful that so often in the evening the excited nature soothes itself! everything becomes quieter, the draughts of air blow like long, holy sighs, and at last the mists break and shine in a thousand melancholy tears on earth! They sat down on the shore, their eyes turned towards the Harz mountains, Mathilde continued: "The dark mountain range that rises before us like a cloud, seems to me at this moment to embrace the whole world, just as it really embraces all the images of my life, all of which disappear like a point in the nightfall. Many things flow into each other that I no longer recognize clearly; only the fresh scent of an unclouded youth permeates me now as before and lets me look with melancholy at the disturbances that will come later.
I must have told you earlier about a beloved brother who was drawn into foreign service, far away to Italy, by the lust for arms. It was a few days after I became engaged to your father, when fate decided on him. For the first time my young soul was fighting against my brother's own wishes and desires, who had always possessed my whole heart and who alone replaced me for the loss of an early mournful mother, because my father, lost in business, paid little attention to me. However, I did not have the courage to express my grief, because Edward's loud joy overshadowed every other feeling. So I walked next to him, frightened and locked up, until at last the evening before our separation, when we stood alone in his tidy room and the barren walls made his name, which he called out with a laugh, sounded dull, his heart broke, and he sank into my arms crying. It was as if the future was touching him with a warning, he looked around hesitantly and repeated several times: "Dear, dear Mathilde, I do not lose yourself, you remain assured to me, your faithful love accompanies me under a foreign sky and finds unchanged a German heart in my breast! I could not speak. His tears irresistibly dispelled the long lasting pain, I thought I would perish in his arms. Soon afterwards he tore himself away from me and hurried towards his destiny. Your father led me here with gentle kindness. I alone could not enjoy anything until after several months I finally received a letter from Naples. At first I thought I was reading the words of a strange world. Edward was swaying in the fresh stream of a new life. The rich nature rushed whirling through his inner being. All the words sounded like torn sounds that trembled in a blazing heat, evoking Viola's name. He had seen her and won her favour without her parents knowing. The enticing spell of a dismal bliss tore him away, he lost himself in the most luxuriant stupor. For a long time I could not get rid of the impression of those words that involuntarily shook my mind and cast a gloomy light on the simple design of my surroundings. I looked up sadly to the cloudy sky of our fatherland and measured the long, monotonous course of a colourless future with anxiety. Gradually, however, I reconciled myself with my loose ends, which gradually became friendlier to me in the quiet efficacy of an active life. Eduard now wrote more rarely. His happiness was often clouded by extreme disturbances. Viola was to accept the hand of a rich German, whom he did not name, according to the will of her parents. Her steadfast refusal aroused suspicion and exposed her to severe persecution. After a long, frightening silence, he finally reported to me from Venice that everything had been discovered, that Viola had taken off the veil, and that he was wandering, persecuted, half senseless with pain, around, not knowing where to direct his steps. I begged him urgently to return to me; only my letters remained unanswered, as all research later proved fruitless. With increasing fear, with every repeated attempt to collect news of him, I looked forward to the certainty of his death, and I finally sank into that dull despondency from which all the joys of life pass by unnoticed. One evening I was sitting lonely in my room, overlooking my joyless existence, when the door opened and Your father entered with a veiled lady, followed by a man of high standing and excellent clothing. The Count and Countess Falkenstein, he said, with obvious joy, who had recently returned from Italy. From Italy! I shouted, shaken by a thousand punishments, and hurried to meet the Countess. She threw back the veil, and as she leaned towards me with much grace, a fleeting blush covered her somewhat pale face, whose moving features did not allow a lasting impression. From Italy! I repeated with trepidation, you have - - The Count came to me here, and excused in a subtle way his unexpected appearance with the unchanged attachment to my husband, for whose childhood friend he declared himself to be, and from whom, as he bindingly added, only reluctantly a longstanding legation could have removed him. I saw myself involved in an indifferent conversation, while the most urgent question hovered on my lips. The Countess measured me with her large, expressive eyes, and afterwards, in broken German, with the sweetest voice, said a flattering word. Thus both held me captive, and I almost despaired of knowing anything more, since the Count's wordy courtesy pushed me more and more back into myself, when he added that he had not hoped to make a friend of his viola so soon, since he had only known of his friend's marriage for a few hours. This assumption overrode any other consideration. I beg you, if I called, interrupting him, did you know a viola in Naples which took the veil, which my brother Eduard von Mansfeld - Viola was already lying at my feet, pressing my knees to her chest and crying loudly: I - I - poor Viola. - I looked at her and at the Count with mute amazement, who, concealing a small embarrassment, turned away from me, but soon afterwards said with unprecedented calm: "If I could have known how close this event was to you, I would have prepared you infallibly, for I certainly hate nothing more than shocks that upset the educated man's sense of propriety. Now, however, the discovery has been made, and I have no doubt that we will all soon regain the composure we owe to extreme decency. The Countess was crushed to the ground, and seemed to pay no attention to anything. Again I drove like lightning through the calm course of his speech, urgently asking for my brother. Forgive me, he replied kindly if I did not answer earlier, I thought you would be better informed. Mr von Mansfeld is well, and at this very moment on a ship which was sailing for Constantinople. To put a quick end to any hurtful explanation, he went on to say that Viola had to choose between me and the veil, that a short stay in the monastery, at the beginning of the probationary year, divided her forever with such a gloomy future that was not in keeping with her temperament, and she preferred a foreign flower to shine in German woods than to languish between high walls. - Let us now, he added with a smile, let the small cloud pass by, believe me, the serene Italian sky breaks through these foggy strips easily! I glanced at the beautiful woman, whom I could be all the less hostile to, since she had lost all influence on my brother's future fate through her unlawful behaviour. This certainty and the joy of seeing him hurrying well and vigorously towards new ventures soon put me beyond the immediate disturbance. I turned reconciled to Viola, who willingly sat up on me and let me lead her into another room. I soon succeeded (by addressing her in French) in gaining her trust without any support. She accused herself with devastating remorse and wept in her dark future for all the lost joys of love. Alone, as the most fervent imagination swept her further and further away, she created for herself the best reasons for consolation, and ended up casting a comfortable light on a life in which, as in her walk of ideas, one thing seemed to emerge quite naturally from the other. I knew little of the skill of deducing cause and effect so skilfully that everything stands straight and level, while the real reason for the action is buried in the inner depths of the mind. Therefore I remained trapped in the artificial net, and kept silent, as I often did afterwards, without being able to get rid of an inner uneasiness. With irresistible grace, she nestled herself against my chest and asked me not to leave her on the lonely path that the cold heart of the count now showed her. I was never able to resist the magic of her words and expressions, and just as her captivating memories balanced the inequality of our minds, so the most brilliant colours of a fervently feminine nature kept me bound to her. I assured her of a friendship that remained unshaken for many years. When we returned to the gentlemen soon afterwards, we found her absorbed in conversation about Italian wines, and the possibility of propagating similar varieties on our cold soil. Once again I was amazed at the Count's measured attitude, which did not give way to Viola's ease in entering into any subject of conversation. I was embarrassed to think that the whole incident was a dream, because even the slightest memory of it seemed to have been blurred, and there was never again any public discussion of whether we remained almost inseparably connected from then on. I spent most of the time after that day towards the Falkenstein, where the Countess soon spread a new life that almost mockingly passed by the old spirit of these walls. The Count basked in the splendour of his house, and liked it that Viola was helped by the rough influences of the climate, such as the colourless monotony of social entertainment, whereby art and custom always received her on the path of decency. Alone and without regard to these ever renewed stimuli, she was instantly submerged in a tension and discomfort that often dissolved with tearing intensity into bitter tears. It often seemed to me as if something was resting in her breast that was pressing her without wanting to make it known: which is why I never penetrated her. In addition to these internal disturbances there was also the complete ignorance in which we lived about Edward's fate. I had turned in vain to the envoy in Constantinople, and the count, who perhaps alone could be of help to us, frightened away all such trust. Under such conflicting influences, Julius was born. Viola had wanted a daughter, and was more touched than pleased by the child's existence. Often I saw her painful glances at his resting place and memories of a time when happiness and love went hand in hand. A few years later, after I had been childless for a long time, when You were given to me from heaven, the Countess immediately decided to end your union. This thought occupied her pleasantly and made her feel the loss of her own bliss less. As she attracted everything she wanted to win, so you too clung to her with such love that you could never be lured away from her arm, and that moment, which still lives in your memory, was one of the many moments when she captivated your attention through song and storytelling, although no firm image could yet cling to you. And so the time passed in hope and faith in a bright future for our children, when I noticed the Countess's gloomy thoughts, which she often took away from everything outside. She locked herself in her cabinet for hours and went to mass in the neighbouring monastery more often than usual. Once her husband and I accompanied her there. On the way we talked about the strange location of the building, which stands desolate in a swampy ground, surrounded by cliffs, quite contrary to the habit of monasteries. The Count said that the history of my house is completely clear about this, and even if the dull faith of my ancestor added some wonderful things, there is a reliable truth to it. We urged him to tell us the details. Women, he replied with a smile, love everything that draws them out of the monotonous course of their destiny, and marvel with open senses at what stimulates these mobile senses in an unusual way.
Several hundred years ago, a woman from Falkenstein ruled over this region, who, as the legend tells, was in secret communication with the spirits of the forest. Through them she knew that her sons would try to kill each other and bring misfortune upon her family. So she decided to sacrifice one in favour of the other soon after his birth, and had him abandoned between these cliffs, which were then crossed by a torrential stream. The older one now grew up undisturbed, became brave and pious, which is why he also undertook a journey to the holy land. The mother was managing the business during this time, and impatiently awaited his return; but after two long years his companions returned without him and reported his death. The Lady of the Falcon's Stone saw all her expectations thwarted, she was at odds with the world and its spirits, and decided not to set foot out of her castle, so that little by little sand and stones covered the entrances. Once a beggar entered her courtyard, and asked her urgently for permission to remove the rubble from her to be allowed to remove the threshold. She allowed this without worrying about the cause of such a strange request. Not long afterwards the beggar came to her, full of joy, and showed her a broad, beautiful sword which he had found under the rubble, and which he declared to be his own. Now a small, grey man on a whitish horse, which he had shod, had recently arrived. While he was working, he gave him a gold signet ring and said that he should search carefully under rubble and stones of old vests for the corresponding sword, which had a similar sign on the button, and that he should also wander around as a beggar for years; both belong to his father, and will bring him great honor. The happy mother immediately recognized the weapons of her husband, and the beggar for the once freely sacrificed son, whom she thought was under the special protection of the spirits and placed him in his dignity with increased faith. She immediately decided to build a chapel here at the edge of the stream, and often went with her son to watch the work. Then one day the same little man, following a black knight, came up to her, teasingly saying that now was the time to use the found Schwerdt, whereupon he quickly lost himself again between the cliffs. The black knight, however, shouted to the frightened woman why she tolerated a stranger ruling his property and whether this was how she intended to celebrate his return. Without expecting an explanation, the brothers attacked each other in fierce fury and fell down dying soon after. The stream faltered for a moment, only the earth remained wet from the blood of the slain.
Here the count laughed out loud at my frightened appearance, for I was really involuntarily driving together as we walked over the wet slippery ground. He went on to say that it is true that two brothers killed themselves here, and that the mother had the monastery built on the same spot, which is why her stone image is still kept in it. Jesus! cried Viola, and I saw her sink pale and trembling at the count's breast. - My mind was so moved by the impressions I had just received that I saw similar horrors everywhere and cried out in despair: she is dying, she is dying! The Count, not shaken by anything, carried Viola to a hill which opened up a clear view of the field from which the air wafted towards us, pure and refreshing. Here the Countess recovered soon enough to smile at a coincidence which, as she said, could easily have led one to believe that this Moravian legend could have such a power over her. I was not a moment in error about this, replied the Count; only our friend, who takes everything too seriously and important for real life, saw you already captured by the hostile spirits of the Falkensteins. Soon we all joked about the incident, and when we met visitors from the neighborhood on our return, Viola left herself to the very first whim, which grew more and more intense, and in the end swept everything away like a frenzy. I was therefore very surprised when she came to my bed during the night, seriously and with visible effort. Don't be frightened, dear Mathilde, she said softly, I have to talk to you, and you must be calm to listen to me. She then lit several lights, and distributed them so that the whole room was brightly lit, then she sat down next to me, and, hiding her head firmly in my pillows, she said: "I have been stubborn enough to want to drown out a restlessness that has been gnawing at me for a long time, and which was stung yesterday. It is in vain, I am exhausted and can no longer resist the most embarrassing ideas, which are now coming at me with double force. She remained silent for a moment and left me to an indefinite, almost shy desire to learn more. Several months ago, after a while, I lifted her up, while I, bent over her, looked at her with a tense expression, several months ago I dreamed that I was listening to the mass in the monastery church, and now I wanted to go back. It was as if the count was with me, for I repeatedly looked around for someone who belonged to me and stayed behind in the church, which is why I missed the right exit. I descended several steps and walked around for a long time in the dark corridors, terribly afraid of falling. At last I returned to the church. There was no one in it any more, the candles were extinguished and all entrances were closed. In the bitter distress I screamed loudly for help; then the large stone image of the ancestress moved and walked towards me. I wanted to flee; only she caught me, and when I had to look carefully I saw two beautiful boys on her hand, one of whom, as if he had just been shot, was bleeding heavily on the right side. At that moment the gate opened, I felt as if I heard a familiar voice, and I rushed out with the bleeding boy. The dream left an impression that the certainty of becoming a new mother sharpened with each passing day. Now you can understand how the count's story, which first gave me the right information, must have shaken me. Dear Viola, I said, almost as moved as she was, your condition naturally brings with it heavy dreams and gloomy ideas. That shouldn't continue to alienate you, just don't let her rule over you so unrestrainedly, you will surely look at all this more easily in a short while, and be the first to laugh about it. Viola remained silent and pensive. From then on she could not disperse anything, and I don't know whether it is fortunate that she died of a nervous fever before her birth, destroyed and worn out by inner torments.
Here, certainly, certainly, Luise was quick to remember, because something like that, which constantly presses and gnaws inside, is tenfold death. You can hardly know that from experience, said the mother. No, Luise replied; the mere thought of it is so embarrassing for me that I don't want to hold on to it for long.
When Mathilde noticed it was getting cold, she let herself be led home. Here old George greeted her with the warmth of his heart, which he felt for everything that was dear to his master. Luise was glad to see someone who had known Viola and had lived on the Falkenstein for a long time, as her imagination could not capture any other image and wandered incessantly in those circles. Only Georg remained very monosyllabic about this. The Countess had never fitted into his simple manner and he found many a nuisance that was foreign to the customs of his country. Luise scolded the good old man callously, and called himself up every interesting moment of Mathilden's tale.
So she died, she said to her mother that evening, without seeing Edward again? Didn't he still fill her whole soul in the last moments? I told you, replied Mathilde, that in the end the countess had only one thought that suffocated all memories. My brother had long since been lost to her, as he was to me, since we could no longer doubt his death, since the Count had once spoken of him without being asked, and he assured me that he had not spared any inquiries, without nevertheless having experienced something reassuring. The waves had probably buried him in the past and quenched all the embers of his sick heart!
As she spoke, Mathilde opened an ivory box that had always been locked on her desk and had always attracted Luisen's attention. She had turned the fine lock with a needle a thousand times, expecting it to pop open and show her the hidden glory. Today, what she had wished for so long happened of its own accord: the lid popped open and Mathilde pulled out under a packet of papers.