VV. AA - Popular Tales and Romances of the Northern Nations II

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Transcript of VV. AA - Popular Tales and Romances of the Northern Nations II




    Northern Nations,IN THREE VOLUMES.

    VOL. II.




  • . .......... ,,\s^uwTL t'titUoO &T

  • T8I


    7Vtc Spectre Barber 1

    The Magic Dollar 115

    The Collier's Family 147

    The Victim of Priestcraft 177

    Kibitz 305

  • THE


    JMaNY years ago there lived in the goodtown of Bremen, a rich merchant, namedMelchior, who was wont to stroke his chinand smile scornfully whenever he heard the par-son read in the gospel ofthe rich man, whom, incomparison with himself, he regarded as a mere

    pedlar. In those rude times there prevailed aspecies of luxury as well as at present, though

    the people then looked more than their descen-

    dants to things of solid worth, and Melchior wasso wealthy, that he had the floor of his banquet-ting room paved with dollars. Although the fel-

    low citizens and friends of our merchant weremuch displeased at this piece of ambitious dis-play, as they called it, yet it was, in reality,

    meant more as a mercantile speculation, than a

    VOL. II. B


    mere boast. The cunning citizen was wellaware, that those who envied and censured hisapparent vanity would serve to spread reports ofhis wealth, and, by that means, add to his credit.His aim was completely attained ; the idle capi-tal of old dollars, wisely exposed to view in thehall, brought a large interest, by means of thesilent bond for payment which it gave in all themerchant's undertakings. It became, however,at last a rock on which the welfare of the housewas wrecked.

    Old Melchior died suddenly, from swallowing

    too much or too hastily, of some renovatingcordial at a city feast, without being able to

    settle his affairs, and left all his property to hisonly son, in the full bloom of youth, who hadjust attained the age fixed by law for entering'into possession of his inheritance. Francis Mas

    a noble fellow, endowed by nature with ex-cellent qualities. He was well made, strongand robust, with a jovial, happy disposition, as

    if old French wine and hung beef had largelycontributed to call him into existence.

    Health glowed on his cheeks, and content and

    youthful cheerfulness shone in his dark eyes.


    He was like a vigorous plant, which needs onlywater and a poor soil to thrive well, but which,

    in rich land, shoots into wasteful luxuriance

    without bearing fruit. The father's wealth be-came, as often happens, the ruin of the son.

    He had scarcely begun to taste the pleasure ofbeing the sole possessor and master of aprincely fortune, when he did all in his powerto get rid of it, as if it were a heavy burthen.

    He imitated the rich man in the scriptures, to atittle, " and fared sumptuously every day."The feasts of the bishop were far surpassed

    in splendour and luxuries by those he gave;and, as long as the town of Bremen stands, it

    will never again see such a feast as he was ac-

    customed to give yearly. Every citizen re-ceived a large joint of roast beef, and a flask ofSpanish wine; all the people drank the healthof old Melchior's son, and Francis was the heroof the day.

    In this continual intoxication of pleasure, he

    never thought of balancing his accounts, which,in those good old times, was the very vade me-cum of merchants, but which, in the present

    b 2


    day, has got much out of fashion ; and hencethe mercantile scale often tends, as if attracted

    by the loadstone, towards bankruptcy and ruin.0!d Melrhior had, however, left his strong- boxso well filled, that, for some years, our spend-

    thrift felt no diminution in his yearly income.

    The number of his voracious table companions,the army of good fellows, gamesters and idlers,in short, all those who profited by the heedless-ness of this prodigal son, took great care never

    to allow him time for reflection. They led himfrom pleasure to pleasure, and kept him in aneternal round of dissipation, for fear he might,

    in a single sober moment, awake to reason andthe booty escape from their eager grasp.

    But, on a sudden, the fountain of wealth

    ceased to flow. The hidden stores of his father'sstrong box were every one of them exhausted.

    Frank one day commanded a large sum to bepaid, his cashier was not in a condition to

    meet the demand, and returned the bill un-paid. This was a severe blow to the youngprodigal, yet his chief feelings were those of

    displeasure and anger towards the cashier,


    to whom alone, and not to his own extra-vagance, he ascribed the disorder iti his

    finances. He gave himself no further trouble tofind out the cause ; but, after having had

    recourse to the common folly of libertines, andswore a few dozen of oaths, he gave his man,

    who stood near him, shrugging up his shoulders,the laconic command, to "get money."The money-lending jews and usurers were

    immediately applied to. In a short time large

    sums, taken up at exorbitant interest, again filled

    the empty purse. A room paved with dollarswas at that period in the eyes of creditors,

    a better security for repayment than a draft on

    the bank of England at the present day. Fora short time this palliative was of great use, but

    a report soon got abroad, nobody knew how thatthe silver pavement bad been taken up insecresy, and its place supplied with stone. Oathe demand of the creditors, Justice examinedinto the matter, and the report was foundto be true. It was not indeed to be denied,that a pavement of variegated marble likemosaic, was more suitable in a banquetting


    room, than one ofold and worn down dollars; butthe creditors had so little respect for the improv-

    ed taste ofthe owner, that they demanded imme-diate payment of their money. As this could

    not be made, a commission of bankruptcy was

    immediately taken out, and the parental house,with the magazines, gardens, ground, and furni-ture was put up to auction, and their possessor,who had fortified himself as well as he couldby the help of the law, saw himself deprived ofthem all.

    It was now too late to philosophise over his

    thoughtlessness, as the mostjudicious reflectionsand the wisest resolutions could not undo themischief which had been done. According tothe mode of thinking in this civilized age, ourhero might now have made his exit from thescene of life with dignityhe might, as he

    could no longer live in his native city with

    honour, have deserted it for ever, or have put

    an end to his existence in any one of the manyfashionable modes of shooting, hanging- ordrowning. Frank, however, did neither one nor

    the other. The " what will the world say ?"


    which our gallic neighbours seem to have

    invented to bridle some kinds of folly, and

    spur men on to other kinds, had never once

    occurred to the thoughtless wight in his prospe-

    rity, and his feelings were not sufficiently deli-cate to make him ashamed of the consequencesof his extravagance. At first he was like a

    drunkard, just awoke from intoxication, nearlyunconscious of what had happened to him ; andafterwards, like most unfortunate spendthrifts,

    he lived on and felt neither grief nor shame. Hehad luckily saved a few relics of his mother'sjewels from the general wreck of his fortune ;and they kept him for a time from absolute want.He took lodgings in one of the most obscure

    parts of the town, in a narrow street, into

    which the beams of the sun rarely penetrated,but on the very longest days, when theyolanced for a short time over the high roofs.

    Here he found a!' he wanted in his present

    circumscribed situation. The frugal table ofhis landlord satiated his hunger; at the fire-side

    he was protected from the cold ; and the roof

    and walls sheltered him from rain and wind.


    From one enemy, however, ennui, neither theroof nor the walls, neither the fire-side, nor the

    temperate enjoyments of the table, could al-ways protect him. The crowd of worthlessparasites had disappeared with his wealth, andhis former friends knew him no longer. Reading"was not, at that time, a general amusement,

    nor did the people understand how to kill theirhours with those brain-sick creations of the

    fancy, which are usually spun from the shallow-est heads. There were neither sentimental, peda-gogical, psychological, nor comical romances,

    neither popular, moral, nor entertaining tales,

    neither family nor monastic histories, no Rob-insons either new or old, and the whole tribeof tiresome, dreaming novel inditers had notthen begun to spoil good paper, and impose onprinters, the ungrateful task of labouring for

    the grocers and tobacconists. Noble knights, in-deed, even then broke their lances, and joustedin tournaments, Dietrich of Berne, Hildebrand,

    and Siegfried the Homy, Rumbold the Strong,went in search of dragons and other monsters,;nd slew giants and dwarfs, each of whom was


    equal in strength to twelve ordinary men. Thevenerable Theuerdauk, was at that time, thegreat model of German art and skill, and hiswork was the latest production of our country'sintellect but he was only admired by the beauxesprits, poets and philosophers of the age.Frank belonged to neither of these classes, audhad, t