dezembro 05, 2012

Northern Lights and other psychic stories by E. D'Espérance 5

Northern Lights and other psychic stories
by E. D'Espérance.

Author of Shadowland

George Redway

Hans Hauptmann's warning

During the last twenty-five years I have resided in various parts of Europe, and very many strange stories and unaccountable occurrences have come under my notice. The following narrative of Hans Hauptmann is one of them. It was told to me by himself one morning last year, while I was staying in a German town, near to his native place. He had heard something of the subject of spiritualism in connection with my name, and travelled from his native town, Rattibor, on tto manu strange facts in the Oder, to ask my opinion as to the probable relationship it might bear to many strange facts in his experience. I give the story in his own words, which were translated verbatim.

"You see, fraulein, this is how it was. I am a peasant, and so were my father and grandfather before me. I was never ashamed or being one; indeed, I felt proud of it. I got a farm with my wife. You see, fraulein, my wife was a bit above me. Her father was a landowner, but thought I was only a peasant, I had saved a good bit o f money, and Gretchen's father thought, may be, as he had half-a-dozen daughters, it would not be a bad plan to get one off his hands to well-to-do peasant. Se he and my father arranged it between them; that's the way such things are managed in Germany. I liked Gretchen well enough, and we got on very well, but, as I said, she was a bit above me, and had got notions that I could not take with. She didn't like farm and dairy work, but I was master, and she had no choice but to work. I had been brought up to work hard all my life and hated to see any one about me with idle hands. Well, Gretchen got weakly and delicate and couldn't go about after the omen, or superintend the dairy-work, and it made me mad to see the waste. You know, fraulein, what servants are when the mistress's eyes are not on them.

"Well, in a few years we had four children-two boys and two girls. As soon as they could toddle they had to do to work. I was determined t bring them up to it from their cradle, for I couldn't tolerate Gretchen's fine lady-ways, and I determined that my children should be either farmers or farmer's wives.

"I was growing quite rich. I had the finest farm in the province and the finest cattle, and I might have ranked with the landowners, but I didn't want to do that. I had little or no education and I had no wish to push myself into company where I would have to take a low seat. As a peasant I stood at the head of my class, and held a dignity of my own among them that I would have lost had I tried to rank as one of the landowners.

"Gretchen wanted to educate the children, and send the boys to college; but I soon put stop to that nonsense, and she knew better than to say much more on that matter; but she went about the house so pale and dispirited, that her very looks were a reproach to me, and I grew to hate her for it. She never reproached me in words, but her looks were sufficient.

"What did it matter to her whether we were rich or poor? A fine talk it would have been for the town if Hans Hauptmann's sons were sent to college; no, they should be farmes as their grandsires had been.

"No, fraulein, you are right, it was not kind of me. I know now, when it is too late. I was a brute to Gretchen and the children, and how bitterly I have repented you shall know.

"The eldest boy was about seventeen, and the next to him was Elia; she would be about sixteen. Gretchen had given them a bit of education, besides what they got at the village school, and they were wonderfully quick children, not like the two younger ones. Both of them came to me one day, when I had made a good sale and was in a good humour, and began pleading to be sent to Leipzig to school. The boy wanted to study medicine. Well, Fraulein, I felt so enraged that, Heaven forgive me, I lifted my hand and struck at the girl. She staggered and fell. The boy Fritz, with his face crimson with passion, raised his hand against me, but it was to his own sorrow, for rage made me incapable of remembering that it was a lad, slender as a girl, that I was dealing with. I beat him without mercy and left them.

"I entered the house, and the sight of Gretchen's face brought in my mind that it was also her wish to send the children to school, and I fancied she had sent them to me. My rage burst out afresh at the thought, and I hurled a heavy drinking-pot at her, felling her to the ground; and then I went to bed. You are shocked, fraulein, and I don't wonder at it. Yes, I was a wretch.

"As well as being a farmer, I used to do something in the weaving; and though I was tolerably rich, I thought a little more of this world's goods would do no harm, so I determined to take up this business more thoroughly and try my luck.

"I had a large outbuilding fitted up with looms, obtained the necessary materials, and arranged all ready for commencing the work. I had engaged some women, and rejoiced at having now found means to occupy Gretchen's attention, and find her plenty to do, without talking of sending the children to college. 

"Everything was ready for work. It was late in the evening, and chuckling to myself at the thought of the profit that would accrue to me from this new branch of labour, I locked the door, mad all secure, and went off to bed, putting the key but the right one could open.

"Next morning, bright and early, came the women to work, and I went to the place to see them commence, but, to my rage and astonishment, I found every thread on each of the twelve looms cut - a week's work wasted by some malicious person. Vexing? Yes, it was vexing, and, God forgive me, I vented my rage on Gretchen and the children.

"In another week the looms were in readiness. Again I made all fast, but this time I locked Gretchen and the children in their rooms, for I suspected them, in spite of their protestations. Again the woven came to work, and a second time the threads were found to be cut. What was I to think? I went mad. I know my wife and children had nothing to do with it this time, but I dared not vent my rage on any one else, so they had to suffer.

"A third time I tried the looms, and a third time with the same result.

"I used to drink sometimes, and now I drank deep enough - deeper than ever. I turned Gretchen and the children out of the house, and they went to a neighbour's for shelter.

"I drank and drank until, in stooping to unfasten my boots, I reeled and fell to the ground. Though my brain seemed clear enough, my limbs failed me, and I was incapable of rising. While lying on the ground, like a beast, I saw an old man beside me. I growled out an inquiry as to his business - coming into a man's house uninvited. I tried to kick him, but my feet refused to do my will. The man's face seemed to be familiar to me, but for some time I could not remember where I had seen him. As last it jumped into my mind - it was Gretchen's father; but then at the same moment I remembered he had been dead ten years. That recollection paralysed me, and I could only lie still and stare at the old man. At length he said, 'Take care, Hans Hauptmann; take care! I have watched you for a long while. You are driving my Gretchen to her grave by your miserable greed. Take care how you treat her and her children, or woe be to you!

"Well, fraulein, how I passed that night I cannot tell, but the next day I cursed myself and the spirits I had imbibed, and attributed the old man's visit to the effects of the drink.

"Gretchen and the children came home, and without any provocation on their part I ill-used them. The boy, Fritz, tried to take his mother's part against me, but, infuriated, I put him and Elia to the door bade them never enter it again. You may well be shocked, fraulein, yet it is all true - every word; to my own shame I say it. After this my cattle sickened and died, two or three in a day sometimes; a plague seemed to have broken out among them. I tried to sell them, but no one would buy, and so they died.

"One night - this time I was not drunk - that old man came again. This time I raved at him - swore at him - and told him it was he who had brought all these disasters upon me, and if they were not stopped, I would murder his daughter and the children to spite him; but he only said, 'Take care! Hans Hauptmann! A second time I warm you - take care!' I would not take this warming, and my losses only made me worse.

"Again the old man came. This time it was after I had beaten Gretchen until she lay insensible. Then, and only then, did my mad passion cool. I received the old man's warming, as before, with oaths and curses, but woe is me! two days latter all my cattle, of which I had been so proud, were dead, and I retired to rest no better for the knowledge. My wife and children had grown to fear my step and hated my presence in the house. It was only two nights since the old man's last warming. I had scoffed and sworn at him, and now I lay dreaming of his features. I must have been in a deep sleep; I was aroused by some one pulling me from my bed and throwing water upon me. It was Gretchen. Stupid and half-blind I staggered from my bed, demanding what was the matter. 'Come! com! the house is on fire! For the God's sake save yourself!' cried Gretchen. I did save myself. Gretchen also saved, but my two younger children - my poor girl and boy - they were gone - burned - dead! 'Why did you not let me burn?' I asked of Gretchen, when I remembered how she must have crossed the burning floor to reach me. 'You are my husband and my children's father,' she answered with a sob; 'I could do no less.'

"I had been rich before, but now I had nothing - nothing but the bare land. My well-filled barns were destroyed - my cattle dead - my house and my two poor children burned. Surely no man on earth was so poor as I, nor any who had such a terrible burden to bear. How I made my peace with Gretchen I can not tell; I know I felt I was too low for forgiveness; but she is an angel, fraulein, if ever there was one on this earth. She forgave me, and she loved me in spite of all, and it is to her kindness and help I owe all the good which has come to me since that terrible time.

"Fritz and Elia came back to us. I worked hard for them night and day, and now Fritz is a doctor in Münich, and is called a clever and learned man, whose kindnesss goes a long way toward curing his patients. And Elia, my dear Elia, she writes books - such stories that, when I read them and know that they came out of her pretty head, I think to myself, 'That's the girl I put out on the road that bitter winter's night.' But she has forgiven me all that, though I have not forgiven myself.

"Now, you see, fraulein, I heard the doctor talk of spiritualism and the strange things the spirits do, and I thought maybe you would be le to  tell me if it really was Gretchen's father that came to me, or whether it was my imagination. It could no be my imagination; I never imagined anything like that in my life before; indeed, never anything, unless it were some new machine or other to do more work; but even in that my imagination would no hold out.

"I do not know what I should have been by this time, for I was night mad with love of money in those days. It's near upon fifteen years since them, and I am getting to be an old man now. And Gretchen, my wife, is very dear to me. When I think of all the misspent years I have lived, and the terrible life I led her, I feel very loth to believe that the old man was only an image I had conjured up, because, you see, fraulein, if it were the old man, I can hope that I, too, may live in another world and see my poor children again, and beg their pardon, and make some amends to them and Gretchen for the misery I inflicted upon them."


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