The Literary Magnet/Series 1/Volume 4/The Elopement

For other versions of this work, see The Elopement (Musäus/N. N.).
For other English-language translations of this work, see The Elopement.
4153155The Literary Magnet, Series 1, Volume 4 — The Elopement1825Johann Karl August Musäus



On the banks of a small river, called Lokwitz, in Nogtland, is situated the Castle of Lauenstein, which was formerly a nunnery, and which, having been vacated in the thirty years’ war, passed again as an abandoned property into the hands of the laity, and was let by the Count of Orlamunda, (the former lord of the manor,) to one of his vassals, who built a castle on the ruins of the nunnery, to which he gave his own name of Lauenstein. For some time he was the happiest of mortals; but the event soon proved to him, that church property seldom prospers in the hands of laymen! and that sacrilege, however clandestinely committed, generally meets with severe retribution!

Scarcely had the family taken possession of the Castle, when processions of nuns, with flaming images, were seen passing to and fro; noises of the most terrific kinds were heard after night-fall; and at length the terror and dismay, which these disturbances produced on the minds of the domestics, was so great, that they refused to obey the commands of their master, excepting in pairs, lest they should encounter something still more horrible. Nor was the Count himself proof against the intrusion of this host of spirits; when he was inclined to enjoy society, his revelry was checked by the laugh which he alone heard re-echoing his own; and when he wished to devote himself to solitude, he was disturbed by the mournful wailings of his tormentors.

Things could not long continue in this state, the Count Lauenstein sought to obtain, by means of exorcisms, a cessation of these annoyances. Many were the powerful enchantments which were resorted to, to compel these turbulent spirits to return to their resting places; but it was reserved for a travelling magician to reduce them to obedience; and the wandering seer Gessner succeeded in finally laying ghosts which had proved too powerful for the holy water and relics of any former exorcist.

Tranquillity was at length restored throughout the Castle; the nuns again slept the sleep of death; and for the period of seven years, nothing occurred to disturb the repose of its inhabitants. But at the end of that time strange noises were again heard in the apartments occupied by the family, which after enduring some weeks subsided, but not as it seemed for ever. Seven years afterwards they again returned. At length, however, the inmates of the Castle became, in some measure, habituated to these disturbances, which invariably returned at stated periods.

From the death of the first possessor of the Castle, the inheritance descended by a regular succession into the hands of the male heir, which did not fail till near the end of the thirty years’ war, when the last branch of the Lauenstein family flourished. In the formation of this person Nature had bestowed her gifts with a sparing hand; and the young Lord Seigmund was remarkable for nothing but an extreme rusticity of manners, and an inordinate share of pride.

Immediately after his succeeding to the estate, following the example of his ancestors, he determined on taking a wife, and no sooner was his intention accomplished than he began to look forward with anxiety to the prospect of an heir to his possessions. In this expectation, however, he was disappointed, for the wished-for child was a daughter; and the frustration of his hopes was so great, that his character at once underwent a complete transformation; and, instead of the parsimony which had formerly marked his disposition, he became at once a prodigal and spendthrift, and acted as if he were determined that his unfortunate daughter should inherit as few of the good things of this world as possible.

In the meantime, the infantine beauty of Emily was fast expanding into the graces of womanhood. Her education had been left solely to the care of her mother, who observed with delight, that her daughter was likely to prove a wit as well as a beauty; and she calculated not a little on the splendid alliance, which such advantages were likely to procure for her child.

No family in all Nogtland, except the Prince of ——, was, in her opinion, of sufficient antiquity and noble birth to be allied to the last branch of the Lauensteins. When, therefore, the cavaliers of the neighbourhood manifested their desire to pay their respects to the young lady, whose affections they wished to gain, the wary mother gave them such a reception as effectually put a stop to any further intercourse.

Before a suitable match could be found for the fair Emily, a circumstance occurred to frustrate the views of the Countess, and distract her attention from the subject of a matrimonial alliance of any kind. During the disturbances of the war, the army of the brave Wallenstein took up its winter quarters in Nogtland, and the Count Seigmund was obliged to receive many unwelcome guests, who committed more outrages in the Castle than even the refractory nuns, nor were they to be expelled by the same means; and the owner found himself compelled to attend to the comfort of his guests, in order to induce them to preserve discipline among their followers.

Entertainments and balls succeeded each other without intermission; the former were superintended by the Countess, and the arrangements of the latter were left to Emily. The officers were pleased with the hospitality with which they were treated, and their host with the good temper and respect with which they returned it.

Among the visitors were many distinguished warriors, whom Emily could not but regard with veneration and respect; but a young and handsome soldier more especially attracted her attention. To a fine form he united the most insinuating manners; he was gentle, agreeable, lively, and, to crown all, a most charming dancer. Her heart became susceptible of feelings to which it was before a stranger; they filled her soul with intense delight, and the only thing that surprized her was, that such attractions should have been found combined in any individual who was neither a prince nor a count!

No words are so forcible or intelligent as the looks which excite the sympathy of a sincere attachment. A verbal explanation did not take place for some time; but each party could divine the other’s thoughts; and the affection of Frederick Wiemar and Emily Seigmund was as well understood, as though the most ardent professions of love had been exchanged.

As their intimacy increased, Emily could not but feel desirous of knowing something of her lover’s family and prospects; but she had too much delicacy to refer to a subject on which he was silent, and she listened with attention to the conversation of his brother officers, in the hope that something might transpire on this subject; but in this particular her wishes were not gratified; every one praised him as a brave officer and amiable man, but his history seemed to be known to no one.

The Countess was at this time so immersed in the care of providing amusements for her numerous guests, that she had not leisure to devote much attention to her daughter, or the state of her child’s heart could not have been concealed from her watchful eye. Entertainment followed entertainment; and in this round of pleasure our lover soon found an opportunity of declaring his passion to his mistress, and had the happiness of receiving her vows in return. But in the midst of the delirium of early affection, they could not help sometimes shuddering at their future prospects. The return of spring they knew would recall the army to the field, and the period of their separation was therefore quickly approaching.

Consultations were held by the lovers, as to the best means of keeping up an intercourse by correspondence. Emily informed Wiemar of her mother’s sentiments as to the choice of a husband for her, and mentioned the improbability that her pride would yield in a single point to her maternal affection.

A hundred various schemes were alternately fixed upon and rejected, as the difficulties of each preponderated in their minds; and the dread of losing Emily for ever, induced her lover to urge an elopement with him. To this proposition she returned a decided negative; but when the period of parting arrived, and she felt that she might be sacrificing herself to a life of misery and despair, she promised that, should no fortunate circumstance occur to induce her mother to sacrifice her love of rank to her daughter’s happiness, she would finally consent to leave her father’s roof for the protection of a husband’s arms. This was the utmost which Frederick could extort from his mistress, and the only subject for consideration which now remained, was the method of escape from the strongly guarded Castle, and the scrutinizing vigilance of the Countess, which they well knew would be redoubled upon the departure of Wallenstein’s army.

But the ingenuity of love surmounts every obstacle. Emily was well acquainted with the periodical visits of the spirits; and that on All Saints Day, at the ensuing autumn, when seven years would have elapsed since their last appearance, they would in all probability be renewed. The terror of the inhabitants of the Castle she knew to be so great, that she had sanguine hopes of being enabled to make her escape as one of the ghosts. With this impression she proposed to have a nun’s dress in readiness, and under this disguise to leave her paternal roof.

A few days from the period that these arrangements were decided upon, the army received orders to commence operations against the enemy. Frederick mounted his horse, and committing himself to the protection of fortune, put himself at the head of his squadron. In the meantime Emily busied herself in devising means of gaining information of the success of the army, and had occasionally the happiness of hearing of the welfare of her lover from the travellers, whom the well known hospitality of the Count induced to visit the Castle. Once or twice she received communications direct from Frederick himself, who urged her, with all the warmth of the most devoted passion, to be punctual to her appointment on the night of All Saints Day.

At length the important hour arrived, and Emily, with the assistance of her maid, prepared herself for putting her scheme into execution. She retired to her chamber at an early hour, and speedily converted herself into one of the handsomest nuns, whose spirit had ever appeared.

In the meantime the moon, the common friend of lovers, threw her pale light over the Castle, where the bustle of the busy day had given way to awful stillness.

No one was awake but the housekeeper, who was summing up the domestic expenses of the family by the dim light of a single candle; the porter, who also served as watchman, and the dog Hector, who was deeply baying the rising moon.

When the midnight hour arrived, the undaunted Emily sallied forth provided with a large bunch of keys, which unlocked the doors, and glided gently down the stairs into the hall. Descrying here, unexpectedly, a light, she rattled the large keys with all her might, threw down a chimney board with violence, opened the Castle door, and entered the outer porch.

As soon as the three watchmen heard this rattling, they thought of the horrid figures that were wont to haunt the Castle on that night, and immediately took refuge in the lodge of the porter; and even the dog, as if smitten with the same fear, fled whining into his kennel. The way was now open for our heroine; she hastened forward to the wood, and fancied she already saw in the distance, the carriage which was to bear her away from the home of her childhood. She proceeded with hurried steps; but what was her amazement when she discovered that what had appeared to her an equipage, was merely the shade of a forest oak! For some moments she thought that she must have mistaken the place of rendezvous, and traversed, therefore, every part of the wood, but all her explorations terminated in the most grievous disappointment; her knight and his carriage were nowhere to be found.

Amazed at this circumstance, she was for some time incapable of thinking or acting. Not to attend to engagements of this kind, is allowed by all lovers to be a crime; but in the present case, the neglect was quite unpardonable. The affair was inexplicable. She waited an hour in a state of the most cruel anxiety, during which her heart was torn with the conflicting passions of grief, shame, and vexation; when at length she had overcome the effect of those feelings, she determined on calling to her aid her long-lost family pride. She was ashamed of her condescension in having made choice of a man of unknown family. The extasy of passion had now subsided—her reason had gained the ascendancy, and she resolved to retrace the false step she had taken, return immediately to the Castle, and forget her lover altogether. The former part of this decision she achieved without any trouble, by using the same means to deceive the watchmen that she had practised the hour before; but the latter she found more difficult than she had anticipated.

Her lover was not however so culpable as the incensed Emily imagined. He had not failed to attend some hours before the appointed time, in order to be in perfect readiness to meet his fair bride; and while waiting with anxious impatience to receive her, the form of a veiled nun presented itself; he sprang from the place of concealment, clasped her in his arms, and in an instant was seated by her side; and having ordered the driver to use the utmost dispatch in conveying them to church, he again and again thanked his companion, with all the ardour of the most devoted affection, for the mark of confidence with which she was now blessing him. The postillion was not backward in obeying the orders of his master; and an hour’s ride found them at the entrance of the sanctuary, at whose altar they were to be united for ever. Frederick alighted, and was preparing to assist his fair companion, but no sooner had her foot pressed the consecrated ground, than she vanished from before him, and left him in a state of amazement and agony, which it were vain to attempt to describe.

As soon as he could collect his scattered thoughts, he determined to return to the woods, but the shock which he had received was so violent that he sank to the earth, unable to endure the conflicting emotions by which he was haunted; and when he recovered, he found himself in his own room, attended by his faithful servant.

Night was fast approaching, and desirous of being left alone to meditate on the events of the day, he dismissed his attendant; but the agony of his mind prevented sleep from visiting his eyelids. What, however, was his horror on observing the door open and the form of a nun approach his couch! she remained fixing her cold death-like eye on him for an hour, and then vanished as before. In this manner was the unfortunate lover tormented every night;—the figure presenting itself always at the hour which was appointed for the meeting of the lovers. At length the annoyance became so distressing, that he obtained leave of absence, and determined on visiting Eichsfeld: even here he was destined to be subjected to the same unwelcome intrusion; and the circumstance at length preyed on his spirits to a degree, which rendered his melancholy a subject of observation to his brother officers, who, however, were wholly ignorant of its cause. At length he determined to relate the circumstance to one confidential friend, an old lieutenant, who was reputed to be extremely expert in laying spirits. He no sooner came to this determination, than he sought the residence of his friend, who, after hearing his story, promised that he should be freed from such annoyances, if he would call on him on the following day. Frederick Wiemar did not fail to keep his appointment; and upon entering the room of the lieutenant he observed many magical preparations and characters marked on the floor, and immediately, at his invocation, the midnight spirit appeared in a dark room, lighted by the dull glimmer of a magic lamp. He spoke to the ghost, and appointed a willow tree, on a lonely glen, as the place of its abode. The figure vanished, but in the same instant a storm and whirlwind arose, but was dispelled by a procession of twelve pious men in the town, who rode on horseback, singing a penitential psalm, according to their usual custom.[1] After which the nun was never more seen.

When our lover found himself released from this distressing visitation, his spirits soon recovered their natural tone, and he again joined the army of Wallenstein, where he fought many successful campaigns, in which he distinguished himself so nobly, that on his return to Bohemia he was honoured with the command of a regiment. He took his journey through Nogtland, and when he came in sight of the Castle of Lauenstein his heart beat with doubt, whether his Emily had been faithful or not. He called as an old friend at the Castle, and received from Count Seigmund a reception suitable to his present rank. The agitation of Emily, when her apparently faithless Frederick stood before her, can better be imagined than described. But when she saw him looking as when last they parted, a mixture of joy and sorrow overwhelmed her. She could not resolve to receive him with cordiality, and yet the restraint which she imposed on her feelings was most painful. She had been reasoning herself for three years out of a passion, bestowed, as she tried to believe, on an unworthy object; but still she could never completely erase her lover from her thoughts. In this state of mind was the fair Emily when Frederick Wiemar again addressed her. She allowed him an opportunity of entering into an explanation; and narrated, in her turn, her suspicions and resentment. The joy and affection of the lovers redoubled upon these mutual disclosures. They agreed to extend their confidence a little further, and include the Countess in it.

The good lady was struck as much with the courage of her daughter in carrying on the intrigue, as in the circumstance of her elopement in so extraordinary a manner. She, however, thought it just, that an affection, which had experienced so severe a trial, should be rewarded by an union of the parties. And though this idea militated against the prospects which she had formed for her daughter; yet, since no prince or count was in view, she gave her consent to the match without much unwillingness, and neither bride nor bridegroom was ever again troubled by the ghostly nun.

N. N.

  1. This cavalcade continues even to this day in the above-mentioned place.

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Public domainPublic domainfalsefalse