Without any definite destination in view, he set out, nor did he pay much attention to the country that lay before him. After he had trotted along several days on his horse, he suddenly lost his way in a maze of rocks, from which he was unable to discover any egress. Finally he met an old peasant who showed him a way out, leading past a water-fall. He started to give him a few coins by way of thanks, but the peasant refused them.
“What can it mean?” he said to himself. “I could easily imagine that that man was no other than Walther.” He looked back once more—it was indeed no one else but Walther!
Eckbert spurred on his horse as fast as it could run—through meadows and forests, until, completely exhausted, it collapsed beneath him. Unconcerned, he continued his journey on foot.
Dreamily he ascended a hill. There he seemed to hear a dog barking cheerily close by—birch trees rustled about him—he heard the notes of a wonderful song:
Of lonely wood,
Thou chiefest good,
Where thou dost brood
Is joy renewed,
Now it was all up with Eckbert’s consciousness and his senses; he could not solve the mystery whether he was now dreaming or had formerly dreamt of a woman Bertha. The most marvelous was confused with the most ordinary—the world around him was bewitched—no thought, no memory was under his control.
An old crook-backed woman with a cane came creeping up the hill, coughing.
“Are you bringing my bird, my pearls, my dog?” she cried out to him. “Look—wrong punishes itself. I and no other was your friend Walther, your Hugo.”
“God in Heaven!” said Eckbert softly to himself. “In what terrible solitude I have spent my life.”
“And Bertha was your sister.”
Eckbert fell to the ground.
“Why did she desert me so deceitfully? Otherwise everything would have ended beautifully—her probation-time was already over. She was the daughter of a knight, who had a shepherd bring her up—the daughter of your father.”
“Why have I always had a presentiment of these facts?” cried Eckbert.
“Because in your early youth you heard your father tell of them. On his wife’s account he could not bring up this daughter himself, for she was the child of another woman.”
Eckbert was delirious as he breathed his last; dazed and confused he heard the old woman talking, the dog barking, and the bird repeating its song.
By LUDWIG TIECK
“Where is our little Mary?” asked the father.
“She is playing out upon the green there, with our neighbor’s boy,” replied the mother.
“I wish they may not run away and lose themselves,” said he; “they are so heedless.”