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Thus sung, or would, or could, or should have sung,
If not like Orpheus quite, when Greece was young,
Of others' feeling ·
DOWNFAL OF HOLY CHURCH.
From "Points of Humour."
IN the year of 1460, Revel was governed by a general, whose name was John of Mengden; a worthy old man who loved his glass of wine, and had the gout; for wine and the gout are sister's children. It was his custom to ride out occasionally on a black horse down to the shores of the Baltic, whence he continued his way to a convent of nuns consecrated to St Bridget. This nunnery, which was called Marianthal, was situated about a mile from the town, and its ruins are inhabited by owls and ravens.
On one of these excursions he was accompanied by the Lord Marshal, Gothard of Plettenberg.
As they approached the convent wall, the marshal's horse became suddenly restive. "Have you heard," said he, "the strange stories of the subterraneous passage, and that it winds in intricate mazes round the cloister ?"—" No;" replied John of Mengden, "but I should like to hear them over a bottle; you shall relate them to me in the evening." "It may be done now, and in a few words," rejoined the other; "for we stand exactly before the subterraneous passage, or mouth of the cavern; but for fifty years not a human foot has advanced beyond the bottom of the steps-there the torches are always blown out."
The burgomaster of Revel, who was then with them, made a cross on his breast, and confirmed the statement. "Sometimes," continued Gothard," are heard during the night, the sounds of soft music, arising slowly and melodiously from the cave, like the sweet tones of musical glasses, with an accompaniment of the songs of angels. The holy sisters of the convent are frequent listeners to this divine harmony, though none of the words can be understood." "Let the venerable Lady Abbess come down to me," said the general, as he alighted from his horse, and placed his glove in his sword-belt. The abbess now appeared, veiled. She modestly curtsied to the knight, and presented him with a cup of Spanish wine. The old general laid himself down on the grass, and asked the sainted lady if she could give him any information relative to the subterraneous passage? The abbess replied in the affirmative, adding a number of particulars concerning what she and her pious sisters had seen, and fancied they had seen-heard, and fancied they had heard.
* Vide the volume itself. Our excerpt wants its chief Point-the admirable design by George Cruickshank which illustrates it.
"So God and St Vitus help me!" exclaimed the governor; " I will myself make an attempt to descend into the cavern; give me a lighted consecrated torch."
The burgomaster crossed himself all over. A cold shivering seized him; the only vault into which he had been accustomed to descend, was the town-cellar, which was haunted by none but choice spirits, with which he was familiar.
The Lady Abbess entreated the old man not to undertake so rash an enterprize; and assured him, that the spirits of former times, unlike those of the present day, would not allow themselves to be sported with. But in arguing with the brave old general, they talked to the wind which blew over the Baltic. The consecrated torches were brought, the corpulent general repeated an Ave-Maria, recommended himself to St Vitus, his protecting Saint, and courageously entered the mysterious passage. The sound of his feet was still heard on the steps; his breathing was still audible, and the glimmer of his torch played on the damp walls. On a sudden all was silent, and the light disappeared. The listeners above were on the stretch of attention. Gothard was stationed on the upper step; the burgomaster a few paces farther back; and behind him stood the abbess, her rosary running through her fingers. They listened, but all was still: Holloa there, John of Mengden!-how fare you?" thundered the voice of Gothard; yet all was silent as the grave. The listeners were alarmed; they inclined their ears; they stood lightly on tiptoe; they restrained their breathnot a sound ascended. The cavern yawned before them, and all was silent below. "Holy St Bridget! what can have happened? Let the priests be summoned, and mass be said to appease the spirits.
The Lady Abbess hastened to the convent, rang the chapel-bell, when all the pious sisterhood hurried from their cells, fell upon their bare knees, chastising themselves, and praying to Heaven for mercy towards the old general. The burgomaster threw himself upon his horse, and trotted back to the town to impart the terrible news to his wife, children, and domestics. Gothard, who was a courageous knight, alone remained, absorbed in gloomy reflection, leaning against the wall, with his eyes fixed on the darkness beneath. Thus he continued during two At last he thought he heard on the steps some one breathing and struggling." John of Mengden!" he vociferated, "are you alive or dead?" "I am alive!" replied the general, half breathless, as he stumbled up the steps. "Thanks to God and St Bridget !-we have been in agony on your account. Where have you been? What have you heard or seen "The general then related that he had quietly descended with the consecrated taper in his hand; that his heart beat a little as he advanced; that a cold shiver had begun to seize him; but that he took courage, as his taper burnt always clear and bright; that at length he stood on the bottom step, and looked down an endless passage, doubtful whether, under the protection of St Bridget, he should move forward or backward; that suddenly he was surrounded by a lukewarm breeze, mild and fragrant, as if wafted over a bed of flowers, which in a moment extinguished his taper, and so clouded his
senses that he sunk like a dead man on the steps, and then lay a considerable time in a sort of trance; that at last he awoke again, and it appeared to him as if he were gently moved by a warm hand, though he knew not where it was, nor what had happened to him; that he stretched out his hands, and felt nothing but the cold stone; but that, as a little daylight glimmered upon him from above, he composed his spirits, and began to creep with difficulty up the steps; that when on them he was perfectly recovered, feeling only a slight oppression in the head, similar to the effect of intoxication. "Well, brother,' "said he to the lord marshal, "will not you also make the attempt, and try whether it will not succeed better with you."
Gothard of Plettenberg demurred; notwithstanding he never feared, in former times, a knight of flesh and bone, as long as he was able to wield his sword; yet, with respect to ghosts, a very just exception was allowed; and a knight might tremble in the dark like an old woman, without any stain upon his honour, or impeachment of his valour. Now-a-days, the matter is quite altered, and a man may fear any thing but ghosts.
"By my sword," said the governor, as he was returning home, "I will investigate the causes of this mystery. I must know from whose mouth proceeded the gentle breath, that smelt fragrant as the plants of the east, and yet had force enough to extinguish the flame of the consecrated taper, and even to confuse my head as though I had been drunk."
He instantly sent for Henry of Uxkull, bishop of Revel, and the abbot of Pardis. Being arrived, they were entertained at a large oak table, and quaffed wine from the family goblet. They listened to the fearful story of their bost, with their fat hands folded upon their huge bellies, and shook their heads with significant silence.
Having well weighed the matter, knitted their brows, and assumed an air of importance, they finally agreed that they knew not what to think of it. Each then waddled to his home, and thought no more of the mysterious cavern.
But it was not so with the general. He could not rest. His fancy was on the rack, to account for the mystery. On the next morning, he dispatched letters to the archbishop of Riga, to a learned canon, and two pious deans of the holy church of Riga, stating, "that a surprising incident had obliged him to have recourse to their piety and wisdom, and entreating they would be at Revel on St Egidius's day, to discuss in christian humility this weighty affair."
They came on the appointed day: for they were aware that the cellar of the governor contained excellent wine, and that his was no niggard hospitality. The archbishop of Revel, and the abbot of Pardis, were likewise invited to assist, who failed not at the proper hour, to present themselves at the castle. An elegant repast had been prepared for them, bumpers went cheerily round to the prosperity of the holy church, and to the perpetual bloom of the German order of religion.
When their spiritual stomachs were sufficiently gorged, the general thus addressed them: "Reverend and pious fathers! thus and thus it
happened to me and my friend here, Gothard of Plettenberg," recounting his history. "What is to be done to liberate the spirits who wander and grieve in the subterraneous passage ?"
"They must be driven out by force," replied the archbishop of Riga, "and the power to do this, was given to the bishops from above."
"A wisp of hay should be steept in holy water," added the canon, "with which the steep dark passage should be sprinked."
One of the deans advised that "the little chest with the Egyptian hieroglyphics, which was kept as a relic in the convent of St Bridget, should be taken to the cavern."
The other dean was of opinion that the spirits should be allowed to continue without molestation, so long as they only wandered and breathed.
The archbishop of Revel was also of the same sentiment, but the abbot of Pardis applauded the idea of the Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Last of all, the old general proposed that they should immediately ride to the beach, and employ the arms of the church against the inhabitants of the subterraneous passage. The wine had imparted its spirit to the holy fathers; and they now felt courage to engage, if necessary, even with the fiends of hell.
Within half an hour they were at the convent gate!
Three times were the consecrated torches borne round by the archbishop, who, muttering between his teeth, dipped the wisp into a large ewer of holy water, and plentifully besprinkled all present. Thus spiritually armed, they silently and cautiously approached the entrance of the cavern. Here a question arose," who would go down first ?" Those who were at home were unwilling to robe the strangers of the honour of precedence. The deans drew back as being merely subalterns in the church, out of respect to their bishop. The archbishop bowed to the right learned canon, and he bowed to the rest. The general became impatient, and forced the archbishop down the steps. The rest followed with beating hearts and tottering knees.
Each carried in his hand a consecrated taper; and with a rosary hanging at his elbow, sprinkled the walls with drops of holy water. The last of the procession was the abbot of Pardis, who, grown unwieldy by the luxurious diet of the church, could scarcely drag his short puffed legs after his fat and bulky paunch. The steps too were not only small, but damp and slippery; whence it happened, that on the second step the abbot lost his footing, and falling with his whole weight upon Henry of Uxkull, they both fell upon the last dean; all three on the first dean; all four on the canon; all five upon the archbishop of Riga; when the whole troop rolled helter skelter down the steps, and plumped to the bottom like so many sacks, there remaining senseless! The consecrated tapers were extinguished, and the venerable group were veiled by a sort of Egyptian darkness. The general, who remained above, heard the tremendous rumbling, to which succeeded a dead silence. For two hours he listened, called on each by name, and waited in vain for a reply. His voice alone was returned to him in a dull and hollow echo. The only sound which met his eager listening, was that of the