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THE FATAL CROSS.
* Ay, heaven and earth do cry, Impossible!
In the Alt-stadt, or old town of Dan- deep love for his gentle craft, together zig, there lived many years ago—so long, with no small skill in its ruder branches. indeed, that the name has passed into Some there were who ventured to say oblivion—an artist, whom we shall call that both master and man were equally Jacopo. He inhabited a small, ruinous mad, although the malady displayed house in an obscure street, communicat- itself in a different manner, an assertion ing with somewhat extensive premises which the blazing eyes and wayward at the back, in the same dilapidated con- temper of Jacopo went far to confirm; dition, which he had converted into a while others, judging him in a kinder workshop, and crowded with an assem- spirit
, saw only in these things the natblage of heterogeneous articles, evincing ural consequences of a disappointed amat once the powerful but wayward genius bition preying on itself. of its inmate. It may be that he had In the next house resided one Herr come there full of a thousand high and Vanderhoff, a watchmaker by trade; glad aspirings, which had made bright although he was not above setting and that desolate abode, until gradually its repairing old jewelry, dealt in antiques, gloom settled on his own spirit, as hope and was ready, in fact, for all that came after hope died away, and the too com- in his way; affording, by his robust mon doom of genius darkened around form, and blithe, good-humored coun. him-poverty and neglect! There was tenance, a vivid contrast to his less forno scope in the narrow circle where he tunate neighbor. But then how could dwelt for an intellect burning to distin- the father of Meta Vanderhoff be any guish itself by some mighty work; and thing else but happy and contented ? yet it died not out, but turned with its It seemed as though the sunshine of her wild, vain yearnings, and consumed its fair young face, the music of her glad possessor.
laugh, had power to dispel the darkest Jacopo, at the time our tale com- cloud, and make one care little for outmences, was verging on his twenty- ward things, so they could hope to seventh year; of a tall, gaunt figure, cherish and keep alive this sweet housegenerally but meanly clad, although hold light. with a certain air of nobleness. His At the time of which we write sho cheeks were pale and hollow, his lips was but seventeen, beautiful as a dream, thin, disclosing teeth which glittered and joyous as a fairy, with a heart full from contrast with the dark, neglected to overflowing with love and kindness beard and moustache ; his forehead for every living thing; and yet for all broad and massive, and his eyes like her rare loveliness and sunny spirit, we two burning lights! The sole inhabit. never could see any thing marvellous in ants of the artist's dwelling consisted of the growing attachment which sprang an old woman, half stupid, and wholly up between her and the young artist, deaf, whose office was no sinecure for for was he not neglected and alone in che of her age, and an apprentice, called the world ? gifted, and yet unhappy ?Peter Speyke, an idiot, but harmless spells far more dangerous than wealth and good-natured withal, evincing a cr worldly honors. Few care to follow, TOL. LXIII.
or even lead, amid a crowd of worship- bearance for forgiveness of her own erpers; but who has not yearned to be rors—and who is there that does not the all in all of one lonely heart? And, sometimes offend ?—and on his honor had the choice been given her, she would for her own; and so, while many have infinitely preferred the office of thought that Vanderhoff's heiress might ministering angel to the man she loved have looked higher, the girl herself, in than to have been a queen upon the the recesses of her own pure heart, half throne; and, therefore, we wonder not feared she had been too ambitious, wonat Meta's devotion, although many did, dering what she could have done to be and even her old father just at first; singled out by one so gifted as the and yet he soon came round to her way young artist- for his poverty was forof thinking, moved by the simple argu- gotten in his genius-and seeking only ments which she made use of to work to be worthy of his preference. And upon his honest sympathies.
even where, as in this case, the girl's Father, in the whole world he has own affection creates and deifies its idol, but me; shall I, too, desert him ? ' there is something sacred in such wor
'Now the saints forbid ! and yet-and ship. yet I cannot help feeling that your love The love of Jacopo for this young might have been better bestowed.' and beautiful girl (for who could see
"But where could it be more needed?' her and love her not?) served but to
*They say,' continued the watch- add a deeper intensity to the one allmaker, without attempting to answer engrossing passion of his soul — the this woman's reasoning, that Jacopo's wild yearning after fame which had temper is harsh and violent.'
haunted him from his very boyhood, It was never so to me.'
and failed as yet to realize its own glori* That he earns barely sufficient for ous imaginings. He was proud, too, his own scanty support.'
not of her, but himself, and would 'I know it,' interrupted the girl, with have had his bride the envy of all Dana heightened color ; 'but what happi- zig; and yet he wronged her not by ness to labor for those we love!'
thinking it would add one iota to her "That his health is declining.' pure and gentle affection, but looked
. And therefore, the more need of a rather to the world — that world, the nurse. Is that all, my father?' neglect of which had hitherto con
If it was not, the old man had no demned him to a life of obscurity, for it heart to say more, and Meta felt that was opportunity only that he wanted to she had triumphed.
make him great. The young and asIt has been beautifully said, that there piring always reason thus. Many pine is nothing so dear to woman as a sense away and die, waiting for it to come to of dependence, but few understand the pass. Some suffer it to escape when sentiment in its nobleness and simplici- thrust into their very grasp, and it never ty; and hence we often hear a woman comes again; while a few, seizing the pitied for having married one beneath propitious hour, climb at once to the her, and so sacrificed, as it seems to very pinnacle of fame. Even now it them, every claim to this sweet feeling; was beginning to dawn for Jacopo, alforgetting in the worldly view which though as yet he saw it not. they take of the subject, that all women Two strangers paused before his dwellwho love are equally dependent, let the ing, where a few articles, exquisitely object of that attachment be who or carved in wood, attested at once the what he may. Dependent on his affec- calling and genius of its inmate. They tion for the kind word and look which were of a higher order than was usually makes up her dream of happiness, on seen in the neighborhood, and had evihis faith for its continuance, on his for- dently mistaken their way, and stumbling upon the artist's domicile by acci- fused to disclose, and shutting himself dent, were struck by these specimens of up in his workshop, pondered over its his skill; but presently passed on with conception day and night; nor could out entering, thinking little of it at the even the caresses of Meta, who feared time, although the recollection after- for his health, draw him away from the wards occurred to them, and stamped contemplation of his great task. The the future destiny of Jacopo. On such artist felt that the hour was come at last slight incidents hang our happiness or when he must carve out his own fame misery, our elevation or despair.
or sink back for ever into obscurity But it is time that some brief mention and neglect, and conscious of his own should be made of one who was fated strength, gloried with a wild foretaste to play a conspicuous part in this our of triumphant genius in the coming melancholy history of the past — Peter trial. What! if there were to be many. Speyke. He was tall and well formed, competitors ? Still he would, he must with a countenance of almost womanly succeed ; and their defeat might serve beauty, and wore his hair long, and to enhance his glory! Now was the hanging in natural curls upon his shoul- time to show his native city, the world, ders, while the expression of meek help- ay, and posterity itself, what the art of lessness stamped upon his pale face won one man could plan and execute! And for him universal sympathy. Although thus dreaming, the aspiring enthusiast generally silent and almost sad, the pre- closed his dazzled eyes, and fainted sence, even the voice of Meta Vander- away through weariness and exhaushoff, was sufficient at all times to arouse tion. him from his lethargy. And he had When he again recovered, his head been known to arise at daybreak and rested upon the bosom of the terrified walk miles and miles into the country to Meta, who in her fear of losing him, procure for her only a simple flower, cared not who saw how much she loved which she had expressed an idle wish him, her mingled tears and kisses fallto possess; while for months his lei- ing upon his brow like rain. A little sure hours were employed in the manu- apart stood the idiot, with a bewidered facture of a small ivory cross, and more air, looking less upon the prostrate form than repaid by the smiles with which of his master than that fair face which the girl received it, and fastening his bent over him like a ministering angel; gift to the black riband which she al- while the kind-hearted watchmaker, in ways wore, placed it in her bosom. The bis anxiety to be of use, got into every truth was that Meta, at this period of one's way, and did more harm than her life, was so happy in herself, that good. her joyous spirit could not rest without • Jacopo,' said Meta gently, as those communicating something of its own strangely glittering eyes unclosed at light to those around; and loving Ja- length, and were riveted upon hers with copo as she did, even the idiot appren- a searching wildness, "are you better, tice whom he had fostered came in for dearest?' a share of that affection so lavishly be- Better stowed on all pertaining to her idol. “Yes, you have been ill, so ill! Peter
And now a change came over the found you extended on the floor of your whole life of the artist, and it rested workshop, insensible from very weari. only with bimself to realize the haunt- ness. Indeed, you must not study thus.' ing visions of his restless and aspiring *Ah! pity that the body should be so spirit. He had an order given him to much weaker than the spirit! But I execute for one of the principal churches have frightened you, my little Meta ?' of Danzig; although what it was, he re- No, no; it is past now - now that
jou are yourself again.' And the poor should all be again when this great girl, trying to smile, bowed down her work was completed; and even if Jasweet head and wept.
copo was not successful, which seemed It was evening, and as they sat thus, scarcely possible, how she would strive the lingering rays of a bright autumn to woo him by her tenderness into forsunset penetrated the apartment, and getfulness of his disappointment. falling upon the pale, gentle countenance And now for many weeks Jacopo was of the idiot as he leant silently against but seldom seen, even by his betrothed; the window-frame, lighted it up, toge- but toiled alone at his mysterious task, ther with the long, bright curls by having expressly forbidden her to intrude which it was shaded, into an almost upon him. And when he came forth for divine beauty. Even Herr Vanderhoff, a few hours in the evening, she was who, if the truth must be told, had shocked to see the fearful change which but little taste for the picturesque, was had taken place in so short a time in struck with its radiance, and bending her lover. His face was deadly pale, towards his intended son-in-law, asked his eyes heavy and bloodshot, and his in a whisper if it did not resemble that very voice, which died away when it of our Saviour in the painting which he would have spoken in low mutterings, had that morning shown him, and which seemed altered. Even Peter Speyke did had been sent for the watchmaker to re. not make his appearance as usual to vive.
look out in the early morning for the Jacopo looked up languidly, but gra- smile which he had said made his sundually his glance brightened to a strange light; or the kind 'Good-night,' which and unearthly brilliancy.
was as good as a blessing. And on ' It will do !' exclaimed the artist, Meta's inquiring after him,' she was care. with a wild, exulting laugh, and was lessly told that he had gone home. again insensible.
*Well, I am glad of that,' said the For several days after this, Meta and girl, 'for I remember one day, when I the old deaf woman tended him unceas- was asking Peter about his kindred, he ingly; while, conscious how much he told me he had no home but heaven! required strength for the accomplish- And so I fancied from that you were his ment of his task, Jacopo remained pas- only friend. He has not looked well of sive in their hands, taking all that was late, and the change may do him good. prescribed for him, and swallowing food But he will come back again, Jacopo, and medicine with the same mechanical will he not?' avidity, but rarely remembering to be Now heaven forbid !' said the artist, grateful for the gentle care which ad- with a shudder. ministered them. He was in general "What! you have not quarrelled, moody and silent, answering when surely, with poor Peter Speyke?' addressed somewhat incoherently, as “No matter, you will see him no though his thoughts were far away, more!' and quickly relapsing into his usual *Well I am sorry,' replied Meta, with gloomy reserve. But Meta never suf- tearful eyes. fered a murmur to escape her lips, seek- Beware!' said her companion, sterning rather to make excuse for his way. ly, 'lest you lead me to suspect that you wardness to others, and declaring that love this idiot better than me.' she ought to think herself a happy girl The girl looked up wonderingly into who had no other rival in the breast of his dark, averted face. her lover but his art; and when he re- Jacopo,' said she, gently, you are covered at length, went back to her quiet not in earnest ?' household duties, and beguiled the time “No, no, silly child! But let me hear by thinking how glad and joyous they no more of this madman.' And, pressing his lips to her fair brow, he went tive command, that she was never, on back to his task.
pain of his displeasure, to venture to inAbout this time there arose a report trude, or seek in any way to penetrate in the neighborhood that the artist's through the veil of secrecy in which he dwelling was haunted; strange sounds thought fit to shroud his great underbeing said to be heard by those in the taking, she flung her mantle around her, immediate vicinity issuing from thence, and, passing from the house unobserved, not only at night but even in the broad entered that of the artist-for bolts and noon-day, which were likened by the bars were things unknown at the time listener to nothing human, but rather of which we write. At that moment resembling the agonizing cry of a spirit Meta never thought of the fearful tales in torture, mingled with shouts of wild, so current in the neighborhood; nor unnatural laughter. Even Meta and her would she have turned back even if she father, more than once, either heard, or had, the equal danger of him she loved fancied that they could distinguish these giving her courage to proceed. supernatural sounds; and it served to Afraid to venture into his presence, render the girl more than ever anxious she only purposed, in her devotion, to for the safety of her wayward lover; so remain within call, in case he should be that the next time they met she pleaded, taken ill; and, seating herself softly on with tears, for permission to share his the sill of the work-shop door, leant her lonely vigils; to sit at his feet, and nei- head against it, and felt quite happy ther speak nor breathe, but only be near again in her proximity to her lover, unhim, and know that he was safe ; but til startled on a sudden by a low, faint she was refused, with a sternness which wail, so full of human agony, that it made her fear to renew the subject again, struck upon her heart like an ice-bolt! but did not serve to allay her fears on And yet there was something familiar his behalf.
even in its wildness; and then the artIt was night, and, in spite of their ist's voice was heard, as if in exultaproximity to the haunted dwelling of the tion : artist, the quiet household of Vanderhoff "Ah! one moment. There, I have it had long sunk into slumber; all but now; the very expression. Admirable! Meta, who could not rest. And as she I shall triumph yet!' sat by the casement, looking out into Moved by an irresistible impulse of the dark street beneath, or the heavens curiosity, the girl knelt softly down, above, which not a star lent its feeble and, applying her eye to the keyhole, light to illuminate, she thought of her uttered a shriek so long and wild, that Jacopo, and a like gloom fell upon her the wailing within was hushed all of a own heart. She fancied him, with an sudden. And, dashing out the lamp by aching brow and trembling hand, sitting which he worked, the artist sprang up at his lone and midnight employment, with a savage cry; and, fastening the too absorbed to heed the lapse of time, door behind hiin, lifted Meta from the or even the calls of hunger; or, weary ground and bore her into the outer and exhausted, sinking ever and anon room; where, placing his insensible burinto temporary insensibility; and then den upon a rude couch, he proceeded to recovering, only to bend once more over mix some ingredients in a goblet of wathat mysterious work which was fast ter, with which to revive or send her to destroying him; or, worse still, passing sleep for ever! Heaven only knows away, perhaps, in one of those long which, for the convulsive workings of death-like swoons forever ! And so his white and livid features were fearful powerfully did these thoughts press to look upon, while his eyes blazed out upon her imagination, that, forgetting from their deep sockets like two burnher lover's caution, or, rather, his posi- ing coals. Presently the girl began to