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threw up green bile (no wonder!), that I got somewhat better. About this time Pastor Benzensis came to my bedside, and told me how distractedly I had borne myself, but so comforted me from the word of God, that I was once more able to pray from my heart. May the merciful God reward my dear gossip, therefore, at the day of judgment! For prayer is almost as brave a comforter as the Holy Ghost himself, from whom it comes; and I shall ever consider that so long as a man can still pray, his misfortunes are not unbearable, even though in all else “his flesh and his heart faileth” (Ps. lxxiii.).
How Satan sifted me like wheat, whereas my daughter withstood him right bravely.
ON Monday I left my bed betimes, and as I felt in passable good case, I went up to the castle to see whether I might peradventure get to my daughter, but I could not find either constable, albeit I had brought a few groats with me to give them as beermoney; neither would the folks that I met tell me where they were; item, the impudent constable his wife, who was in the kitchen making brimstone matches. And when I asked her when her husband would come back, she said not before to-morrow morning early; item, that the other constable would not be here any sooner. Hereupon I begged her to lead me to my daughter herself, at the same time showing her the two groats; but she answered that she had not the keys, and knew not how to get at them: moreover she said she did not know where my child was now shut up, seeing that I would have spoken to her through the door; item, the cook, the huntsman, and whomsoever else I met in my sorrow, said they knew not in what hole the witch might lie. Hereupon I went all round about the castle, and laid my ear against every little window that looked as though it might be her window, and cried, “Mary, my child, where art thou?” Item, at every grating I found I kneeled down, bowed my head, and called in like manner into the vault below. But all in vain; I got no answer anywhere. The Sheriff at length saw what I was about, and came down out of the castle to me with a very gracious air, and taking me by the hand, he asked me what I sought? But when I answered him that I had not seen my only child since last Thursday, and prayed him to show pity upon me, and let me be led to her, he said that could not be, but that I was to come up into his chamber, and talk further of the matter. By the way he said, “Well, so the old witch told you fine things about me, but you see how Almighty God has sent his righteous judgment upon her. She has long been ripe for the fire; but my great long-suffering, wherein a good magistrate should ever strive to be like unto the Lord, has made me overlook it till datum, and in return for my goodness she raises this outcry against me.” And when I replied, “How does your lordship know that the witch raised such an outcry against you?” he first began to stammer, and then said, “Why you yourself charged me thereon before the judge. But I bear you no anger therefore, and God knows that I pity you, who are a poor weak old man, and would gladly help you if I were able.” Meanwhile he led me up four or five flights of stairs, so that I, old man that I am, could follow him no further, and stood still gasping for breath. But he took me by the hand and said, “Come, I must first show you how matters really stand, or I fear you will not accept my help, but will plunge yourself into destruction.” Hereupon we stepped out upon a terrace at the top of the castle, which looked toward the water; and the villain went on to say, “Reverend Abraham, can you see well afar off?” and when I answered that I once could see very well, but that the many tears I had shed had now peradventure dimmed my eyes, he pointed to the Streckelberg, and said, “Do you then see nothing there?” Ego. “Nought save a black speck, which I cannot make out.” Ille. “Know then that that is the pile whereon your daughter is to burn at ten o’clock to-morrow morning, and which the constables are now raising.” When this hell-hound had thus spoken, I gave a loud cry and swounded. Oh, blessed Lord! I know not how I lived through such distress; thou alone didst strengthen me beyond nature, in order, “after so much weeping and wailing, to heap joys and blessings upon me;” without thee I never could have lived through such misery: “therefore to thy name ever be all honour and glory, oh thou God of Israel !”* When I came again to myself I lay on a bed in a fine room, and perceived a taste in my mouth like wine. But as I saw none near me save the Sheriff, who held a pitcher in his hand, I shuddered and closed mine eyes, considering what I should say or do. This he presently observed, and said, “Do not shudder thus; I
mean well by you, and only wish to put a question to you, which you must answer me on your conscience as a priest. Say, reverend Abraham, which is the greater sin, to commit whoredom, or to take the lives of two persons?” and when I answered him, “To take the lives of two persons,” he went on, “Well, then, is not that what your stubborn child is about to do? Rather than give herself up to me, who have ever desired to save her, and who can even yet save her, albeit her pile is now being raised, she will take away her own life and that of her wretched father, for I scarcely think that you, poor man, will outlive this sorrow. Wherefore do you, for God his sake, persuade her to think better of it while I am yet able to save her. For know that about ten miles from hence I have a small house in the midst of the forest, where no human being ever goes; thither will I send her this very night, and you may dwell there with her all the days of your life, if so it please you. You shall live as well as you can possibly desire, and to-morrow morning I will spread a report betimes that the witch and her father have run away together during the night, and that nobody knows whither they are gone.” Thus spake the serpent to me, as whilom to our mother Eve; and, wretched sinner that I am, the tree of death which he showed me seemed to me also to be a tree of life, so pleasant was it to the eye. Nevertheless I answered, “My child will never save her miserable life by doing aught to peril the salvation of her soul.” But now too the serpent was more cunning than all the beasts of the field (especially such an old fool as I), and spake thus: “Why, who would have her peril the salvation of her soul? Reverend Abraham, must I teach you Scripture? Did not our Lord Christ pardon Mary Magdalene, who lived in open whoredom? and did he not speak forgiveness to the poor adulteress who had committed a still greater crimen? nay more, doth not St. Paul expressly say that the harlot Rahab was saved, Hebrews xi. ? item, St. James ii. says the same. But where have ye read that any one was saved who had wantonly taken her own life and that of her father? Wherefore, for the love of God, persuade your child not to give herself up, body and soul, to the devil, by her stubbornness, but to suffer herself to be saved while it is yet time. You can abide with her, and pray away all the sins she may commit, and likewise aid me with your prayers, who freely own that I am a miserable sinner, and have done you much evil, though not so much evil by far, reverend Abraham, as David did to Uriah, and he was saved, notwithstanding he put the man to a shameful death, and afterwards lay with his wife. Wherefore I, poor man, likewise hope to be saved, seeing that my desire for your daughter is still greater than that which this David felt for Bathsheba; and I will gladly make it all up to you twofold as soon as we are in my cottage.” When the tempter had thus spoken, methought his words were sweeter than honey, and I answered, “Alas, my lord, I am ashamed to appear before her face with such a proposal.” Whereupon he straightway said, “Then do you write it to her; come, here is pen, ink, and paper.” And now, like Eve, I took the fruit and ate, and gave it to my child that she might eat also ; that is to say, that I recapitulated on paper all that Satan had prompted, but in the Latin tongue, for I was ashamed to write it in mine own; and lastly I conjured her not to take away her own life and mine, but to submit to the wondrous will of God. Neither were mine eyes opened when I had eaten (that is written), nor did I perceive that the ink was gall instead of honey, and I translated my letter to the Sheriff (seeing that he understood no Latin), smiling like a drunken man the while; whereupon he clapped me on the shoulder, and after I had made fast the letter with his signet, he called his huntsman, and gave it to him to carry to my daughter; item, he sent her pen, ink, and paper, together with his signet, in order that she might answer it forthwith. Meanwhile he talked with me right graciously, praising my child and me, and made me drink to him many times from his great pitcher, wherein was most goodly wine; moreover he went to a cupboard and brought out cakes for me to eat, saying that I should now have such every day. But when the huntsman came back in about half an hour, with her answer, and I had read the same, then, first, were mine eyes opened, and I knew good and evil; had I had a fig-leaf, I should have covered them therewith for shame; but as it was, I held my hand over them and wept so bitterly that the Sheriff waxed very wroth, and cursing bade me tell him what she had written. Thereupon I interpreted the letter to him, the which I likewise place here, in order that all