Maitre Bernard Hertzog had slept a couple of hours, and the boiling of the water in the millrace alone competed with the noise of his loud snoring, when suddenly a guttural voice, arising in the midst of the deep silence, cried—
“Droeckteufel! Droeckteufel! have you forgotten everything?”
The voice was so piercing that Maitre Bernard, waking with a sudden start, felt his hair creeping with horror. He raised himself upon his elbow and listened again with eyes starting with astonishment. The hut was as dark as a cellar; he listened, but not a breath, not a sound, came; only far away, far beyond the ruins, a dull, distant roar was heard among the mountains.
Bernard, with neck outstretched, heaved a deep sigh; in a minute he began to stammer out—
“Who is there? What do you want?”
But no answer came.
“It was a dream,” he said, falling back upon his heather couch. “I must have been lying upon my back. There is nothing at all in dreams and nightmares—nothing! nothing!”
But in the midst of the restored silence the same doleful cry was again repeated—
And as Maitre Bernard, fairly beside himself, was preparing for instant flight, but with his face to the wall, and unable to move from his couch, the voice, in a dissonant chant, with pauses and strange accents, went on—
“The Queen Faileube, espoused to our king, Chilperic—Queen Faileube, learning that Septimanie, the governess of the young princes, had conspired against the king’s life—Queen Faileube said to the lord, ’My lord, the viper waits until you are asleep to give you a mortal wound. She has conspired with Sinnegisile and Gallomagus against your life! She has poisoned her husband, your faithful Jovius, to live with Droeckteufel. Let your anger come down upon her like lightning, and your vengeance with a bloody sword!’ And Chilperic, assembling all his council in the castle of Nideck, said, ’We have cherished a viper; she has plotted our death. Let her be cut into three pieces. Let Droeckteufel, Sinnegisile, and Gallomagus perish with her! Let the ravens rejoice!’ And the vassals cried, ’So let it be! The wrath of Chilperic is an abyss into which his enemies fall and perish!’ Then Septimanie was brought to be put to the torture and examined; a ring of iron was bound around her temples; it was tightened; her eyes started; her blood-dropping mouth murmured, ’Lord king, I have offended. Droeckteufel, Gallomagus, and Sinnegisile have also conspired!’ And the following night a festoon of corpses dangled and swung from the towers of Nideck! The foul birds of prey rejoiced over the rich spoil. Droeckteufel, what would I not have done for thee? I would have had thee King of Austrasia, and thou hast forgotten me!”
The guttural voice sank down, and my uncle Bernard, more dead than alive, breathing a sigh of terror, murmured—