Anne of Geierstein (2)

(…) Here he was interrupted by the door of the chapel suddenly opening, when an ecclesiastic appeared on the threshold. Philipson instantly knew the Priest of Saint Paul’s, whom he had seen that morning at La Ferette. Bartholomew also knew him, as it would seem; for his officious hypocritical eloquence failed him in an instant, and he stood before the priest with his arms folded on his breast, like a man who waits for the sentence of condemnation.

“Villain,” said the ecclesiastic, regarding the guide with a severe countenance, “dost thou lead a stranger into the houses of the Holy Saints, that thou mayst slay him, and possess thyself of his spoils? But Heaven will no longer bear with thy perfidy. Back, thou wretch, to meet thy brother miscreants, who are hastening hitherward. Tell them thy arts were unavailing, and that the innocent stranger is under MY protection — under my protection, which those who presume to violate will meet with the reward of Archibald de Hagenbach?”

The guide stood quite motionless, while addressed by the priest in a manner equally menacing and authoritative; and no sooner did the latter cease speaking, than, without offering a word either in justification or reply, Bartholomew turned round, and retreated at a hasty pace by the same road which had conducted the traveller to the chapel.

“And do you, worthy Englishman,” continued the priest, “enter into this chapel and perform in safety those devotions, by means of which yonder hypocrite designed to detain you until his brethren in iniquity came up. But first, wherefore are you alone? I trust naught evil hath befallen your young companion?”

“My son,” said Philipson, “crosses the Rhine at yonder ferry, as we had important business to transact on the other side.”

As he spoke thus, a light boat, about which two or three peasants had been for sonic time busy, was seen to push from the shore, and shoot into the stream, to which it was partly compelled to give way, until a sail stretched along the slender yard, and supporting the bark against the current, enabled her to stand obliquely across the river.

“Now, praise be to God!” said Philipson, who was aware that the bark he looked upon must be in the act of carrying his son beyond the reach of the dangers by which he was himself surrounded.

“Amen!” answered the priest, echoing the pious ejaculation of the traveller. “Great reason have you to return thanks to Heaven.”

“Of that I am convinced,” replied Philipson; “but yet from you I hope to learn the special cause of danger from which I have escaped?”

“This is neither time nor place for such an investigation,” answered the priest of Saint Paul’s. “it is enough to say, that yonder fellow, well known for his hypocrisy and his crimes, was present when the young Switzer, Sigismund, reclaimed from the executioner the treasure of which you were robbed by Hagenbach. Thus Bartholomew’s avarice was awakened. He under-took to be your guide to Strassburg, with the criminal intent of detaining you by the way till a party came up, against whose numbers resistance would have been in vain. But his purpose has been anticipated. — And now, ere giving vent to other worldly thoughts, whether of hope or fear, — to the chapel, sir, and join in orisons to Him who hath been your aid, and to those who have interceded with Him in your behalf.”

Philipson entered the chapel with his guide, and joined in returning thanks to Heaven and the tutelary power of the spot, for the escape which had been vouchsafed to him.
Here a novice appeared from the vestiary of the chapel at his call, and received commands to inquire at the hamlet whether Philipson’s bales, with the horse which transported them, had been left there, or ferried over along with his son.

The novice, being absent a few minutes, presently returned with the baggage-horse, which, with its burden, Arthur, from regard to his father’s accommodation, had left on the western side of the river. The priest looked on attentively, while the elder Philipson, mounting his own horse, and taking the rein of the other in his hand, bade the Black Priest adieu in these words, — “And now, father, farewell! I must pass on with my hales, since there is little wisdom in travelling with them after nightfall, else would I gladly suit my pace, with your permission, so as to share the way with you.”

“If it is your obliging purpose to do so, as indeed I was about to propose,” said the priest, “know I will be no stay to your journey. I have here a good horse; and Melchior, who must otherwise have gone on foot, may ride upon your sumptor-horse. I rather propose this course, as it will be rash for you to travel by night. I can conduct you to an hostelry about five miles off, which we may reach with sufficient daylight, and where you will be lodged safely for your reckoning.” (…)

(aus: Walter Scott – Anne of Geierstein, or The Maiden of the Mist, Kapitel 18, Edinburgh 1829)


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