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- A Word Only A Word, Volume 1. - 10/10 -


his sleigh.

They were speaking of him and the doctor, and the pupils had just been summoned to bear witness against him. No one had told him so, but he knew it, and was seized with such anxiety about the doctor, that drops of perspiration stood on his brow.

He was clearly aware that he had mingled his teacher's words with the poacher's blasphemous sayings, and also that he had put the latter into the mouth of Ruth's father.

He was a traitor, a liar, a miserable scoundrel!

He wished to go to the abbot and confess all, yet dared not, and so the hours stole away until the time for the evening mass.

While in church he strove to pray, not only for himself but for the doctor, but in vain, he could think of nothing but the trial, and while kneeling with his hands over his eyes, saw the Jew in fetters before him, and he himself at the trial in the town-hall.

At last the mass ended.

Ulrich rose. Just before him hung the large crucifix, and the Saviour on the cross, who with his head bowed on one side, usually gazed so gently and mournfully upon the ground, to-day seemed to look at him with mingled reproach and accusation.

In the dormitory, his companions avoided him as if he had the plague, but he scarcely noticed it.

The moonlight and the reflection from the snow shone brightly through the little window, but Ulrich longed for darkness, and buried his face in the pillows. The clock in the steeple struck ten.

He raised himself and listened to the deep breathing of the sleepers on his right and left, and the gnawing of a mouse under the bed.

His heart throbbed faster and more anxiously, but suddenly seemed to stand still, for a low voice had called his name.

"Ulrich!" it whispered again, and the young count, who lay beside him, rose in bed and bent towards him. Ulrich had told him about the word, and often indulged in wishes with him, as he had formerly done with Ruth. Philipp now whispered:

"They are going to attack the doctor. The abbot and magistrate questioned us, as if it were a matter of life and death. I kept what I know about the word to myself, for I'm sorry for the Jew, but Xaver, spiteful fellow, made it appear as if you really possessed the spell, and just now he came to me and said his father would seize the Jew early to-morrow morning, and then he would be tortured. Whether they will hang or burn him is the question. His life is forfeited, his father said--and the black-visaged rascal rejoiced over it."

"Sileutium, turbatores!" cried the sleepy voice of the monk in charge, and the boys hastily drew back into the feathers and were silent.

The young count soon fell asleep again, but Ulrich buried his head still deeper among the pillows; it seemed as if he saw the mild, thoughtful face of the man, from whom he had received so much affection, gazing reproachfully at him; then the dumb wife appeared before his mind, and he fancied her soft hand was lovingly stroking his cheeks as usual. Ruth also appeared, not in the yellow silk dress, but clad in rags of a beggar, and she wept, hiding her face in her mother's lap.

He groaned aloud. The clock struck eleven. He rose and listened. Nothing stirred, and slipping on his clothes, he took his shoes in his hand and tried to open the window at the head of his bed. It had stood open during the day, but the frost fastened it firmly to the frame. Ulrich braced his foot against the wall and pulled with all his strength, but it resisted one jerk after another; at last it suddenly yielded and flew open, making a slight creaking and rattling, but the monk on guard did not wake, only murmured softly in his sleep.

The boy stood motionless for a time, holding his breath, then swung himself upon the parapet and looked out. The dormitory was in the second story of the monastery, above the rampart, but a huge bank of snow rose beside the wall, and this strengthened his courage.

With hurrying fingers he made the sign of the cross, a low: "Mary, pray for me," rose from his lips, then he shut his eyes and risked the leap.

There was a buzzing, roaring sound in his ears, his mother's image blended in strange distortion with the Jew's, then an icy sea swallowed him, and it seemed as if body and soul were frozen. But this sensation overpowered him only a few minutes, then working his way out of the mass of snow, he drew on his shoes, and dashed as if pursued by a pack of wolves, down the mountain, through the ravine, across the heights, and finally along the river to the city and the Richtberg.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

He was steadfast in everything, even anger


A Word Only A Word, Volume 1. - 10/10

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