Friedrich Gerstäckers nineteenth-century story
Germelshausen is widely credited with being the inspiration for
the 1954 MGM musical Brigadoon. Though the film renames the enchanted
town and relocates it from Germany to the Scottish Highlands, its premise
remains the same. In both versions, a traveler happens upon a mysterious village
that appears only once every hundred years. There he meets and falls in love
with a local beauty, only to discover that remaining with his newfound love
means leaving the modern world behindforever. Not surprisingly, the
wrenching ending of Germelshausen is happily transformed in
Brigadoon with the kind of magic loophole only Hollywood can provide.
The movie stars Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. It was directed
by Vincente Minnelli, written by Alan Jay Lerner, and features music by
Frederick Loewe. The films soundtrack includes such notable songs as
Once in the Highlands, Ill Go Home with Bonnie
Jean, and Almost Like Being in Love.
In the autumn of the year 184 a strapping young fellow,
knapsack on back and stick in hand, was walking with slow and easy stride along
the broad highroad that leads up from Marisfeld to Wichtelhausen.
He was not one of those journeyman artisans who travel about
from place to place, seeking work; anyone could see that at the first glance,
even if the small, neatly made leather portfolio, which he carried strapped on
his knapsack, had not betrayed his calling. There was certainly no denying the
fact that he was an artist.
His black, broad-brimmed hat cocked jauntily on one side, his
long, fair, curly hair, his downy beard, full but youthful
stilleverything announced it, even the somewhat threadbare black velvet
jacket, which seemed a little too warm for him on this bright warm morning.
His heart was at home with his loved ones in the dear little
village among the Taurus Mountains, with his mother and his sisters, and it
almost seemed as if a tear was like to spring to his eye. But his light and
merry heart would not suffer the intrusion of sad and melancholy thought and he
cast glances to right and left to see if he could anywhere discover some
At one point, indeed, a road did branch off to the right, but
it looked to him unpromising, and besides, it would lead him too far out of his
way; so he stuck to his original track a little longer, until he at length came
to a limpid mountain stream, across which he could discern the ruins of an old
Away on the other side ran a grassy path, leading farther into
the valley; so, with no definite purpose in viewfor he was only passing
through the beautiful Werra Valley to enrich his portfoliohe crossed the
brook by leaping from one great stone to another, and so reached the
close-cropped meadow on the other side, where he advanced rapidly on the springy
turf under the shadow of the thick alder bushes.
How wonderfully quiet it is in this valley! To be
sure, on Sundays farmers have nothing to do out-of-doors, and since they have to
walk behind their plow or by their cart the whole week, they dont care
much about going for a walk when Sunday comes; they first of all make up for
their arrears of sleep in church during the morning, and after dinner stretch
their legs under the table in the tavern. Tavern! Hm, a glass of beer
wouldnt be such a bad thing in this heat; but until I can get it this
clear stream will quench my thirst just as well.
And with that he flung off his knapsack and hat, knelt down at
the waterside, and drank to his hearts content.
He had wandered on thus for perhaps an hour or so, and he had
just made up his mind to quicken his steps in order at least not to miss his
dinner in the next village, when before him in the valley, sitting close to the
brook and by an old stone, he caught sight of a peasant girl, who was gazing
down the road along which he came.
As he was hidden by the alders, he had been able to see her
before she saw him; but following the bank of the stream, he had hardly passed
beyond the bushes which had hitherto concealed him from her sight, when she
leaped to her feet and flew toward him with a cry of pleasure.
Arnold, as the young painter was called, stood amazed, for the
beautiful girl of hardly seventeen years, dressed in a peculiar but extremely
pretty peasants costume, was running up to him with outstretched
Arnold saw at once that she had mistaken him for someone else,
and that this joyful greeting was not meant for him; and the girl no sooner
recognized him than she stood stock-still with horror, turned pale at first and
then red all over, and finally said with shy embarrassment: Do not be
offended, stranger! II thought
That it was your sweetheart, my dear child,
didnt you? laughed the young man. And now you are vexed
that a different person, an uninteresting stranger, has met you! Dont be
angry because I am not he.
Ah, how can you say such things? said the girl
in a distressed whisper. Why should I be angry?oh! But if you only
knew how delighted I was!
Then he certainly does not deserve that you should wait
any longer for him, said Arnold, who now for the first time noticed the
truly wonderful charm of the graceful peasant girl. Were I in his place,
you would not have had to wait for me in vain for a single
You do say such strange things, said the girl,
abashed. If he could have come he would certainly be here by now. Perhaps
he is ill, oreven dead, she added slowly and with a sigh that came
from the depths of her heart.
And has he let you have no news of himself all this
No, all this long, long time.
Then his home is perhaps a long way from
A long way? Why, yes; quite a great distance from
here, said the girl. In Bischofsroda.
Bischofsroda? cried Arnold. I spent four
weeks there only recently, and I knew every child in the whole village. What is
HeinrichHeinrich Vollgut, said the girl
shyly; the mayors son in Bischofsroda.
Hm, mused Arnold, I was in and out of the
mayors house, and I never heard the name of Vollgut in the whole
Probably you didnt know all the people
there, argued the girl, and over the sorrowful expression which clouded
her sweet face there stole a soft, roguish smile, which became her as well and
much better than her previous melancholy.
Well, but from Bischofsroda, said the young man,
you can get here over the mountains easily in two hours, at most in
And yet he is not here, said the girl, sighing
deeply again, though he promised so faithfully.
Then hell come, sure enough, Arnold
assured her with hearty conviction; for once anyone has given you a
promise, he must surely have a heart of stone if he went back on his
wordand that I am sure your Heinrich has not got.
No, she answered resolutely; but now I
cannot wait any longer for him, as I have to be home for dinner, or else Father
will scold me.
And where is your home?
Straight down there in the valley. Hark! theres
the bell; they are just coming out of church.
Arnold listened, and at no great distance off he could hear
the slow pealing of a bell, but the sound came to him not deep and full, but
sharp and discordant, and when he turned his eyes toward the spot it seemed to
him almost as if a thick mountain mist lay over that part of the
Your bell is cracked, he laughed; it
doesnt ring true.
Yes, I know that, answered the girl calmly;
it has not a pleasant sound, and we should have had it recast long ago,
but we are always short of money and time, for hereabouts there are no
bellcasters. Yet, what does it matter? We know it all right, and we know what it
means when it ringsso even though it is cracked it serves its
And what is the name of your village?
And can I get to Wichtelhausen from
Quite easily; by the footpath it takes hardly half an
hourperhaps, indeed, not so much, if you put your best foot
Then Ill go with you through the village,
sweetheart, and if you have a good inn in the place Ill have my dinner
The inn is only too good, said the maiden with a
sigh, as she cast a glance backward to see if her expected lover might not yet
Can any inn be too good?
For the farmer, yes, said the girl gravely, as
she walked slowly by his side along the valley. Of an evening after his
work he still has much to do in the house, and this he neglects if he sits in
the public house till late at night.
But I at any rate have nothing more to neglect
Yes, with townfolk it is rather different; they
dont do anything, and consequently havent got much to neglect
either. Yet the farmer has to earn bread for them.
Well, not exactly so, said Arnold with a laugh.
He has to grow it, I grant you, but we have to earn it for ourselves; and
a hard job it is too, for what the farmer does he sees that he is well paid for
But you dont work, anyhow?
Why not, pray?
Your hands dont look like it.
Then I will show you at once how I work and what I work
at, laughed Arnold. Just you sit down on that flat stone under the
old lilac tree
And what am I to do there?
Just sit down, cried the young painter, who
threw off his knapsack and took out his sketchbook and pencil.
But I must go home.
I shall be done in five minutes. I should very much
like to take a reminder of you away into the world with me; even your Heinrich
will have no objection to that!
A reminder of me? What a funny man you
I will take your portrait away with
You are a painter, then?
What a lucky thing! Then you might set to work and
touch up the pictures in Germelshausen Church; they look so very poor and
What is your name? was Arnolds next
question. He had meanwhile opened his portfolio and was rapidly sketching in the
girls charming features.
And what is your father?
The mayor of the village. If you are a painter, you
must not go to the inn either; I will take you straight home with me, and after
dinner you can talk over the whole matter with Father.
Oh, the pictures in the church? said Arnold,
Of course, said the girl gravely; and
then you must stay with us a long, long time untilour day comes again and
the pictures are finished.
Well, well talk about that later,
Gertrud, said the young painter, busily plying his pencil the while;
but wont your Heinrich be angry if I am oftenvery often
with you and if I talk with you a good deal?
Heinrich? said she. Oh, he wont
Not today, no; but perhaps tomorrow.
No, said Gertrud, quite calmly; as he
wasnt there by eleven oclock, he will stay away until our day
Your day? What do you mean by that?
The girl looked at him with wide-open, earnest eyes, but gave
no answer to his question, and her gaze, turning to the clouds floating away
high over their heads, fastened upon them with a peculiar expression of pain and
melancholy. Then she suddenly stood up, and tossing a kerchief over her head to
shield her from the suns rays, she said:
Go I must; the day is short, and they are expecting me
But Arnold had finished his little picture, and indicating
with a few bold strokes the fold of her dress, he held out the sketch to her and
Have I caught your likeness?
It is myself! gasped Gertrud, almost in
Well, who else could it be? laughed
And do you wish to keep the picture and take it away
with you? asked the girl shyly, almost wistfully.
Why, certainly I do, cried the young man,
and then when I am far, far away from here I shall think of you hard, and
But will my father allow that?
Allow me to think of you? Is he capable of forbidding
Nobutto take the picture away with
youout into the world?
He cant hinder me, sweetheart, said
Arnold tenderly; but would you yourself hate to know that it was in my
I? No! was the girls answer after short
reflection; if onlybut I must ask Father about
What a silly child you are! said the young
painter with a laugh; even a princess would have no objection to an
artist securing a sketch of her features for himself. No harm can come from it.
But please dont run off like that, you wild creature; I am coming with
you, you knowor do you want to leave me behind without my dinner? Have
you forgotten about the church pictures?
Oh! yes, the pictures, said the girl, standing
still and waiting for him; but Arnold was by her side in a moment, and they both
continued their way toward the village far quicker than before.
The village, however, was much nearer than Arnold had supposed
from the sound of the cracked bell, for what the young man from afar had taken
for an alder grove proved to be, on their nearer approach, a row of fruit trees
enclosed by a hedge. Closely hidden behind these, yet surrounded on the north
and northeast by broad fields, lay the old village with its low church tower and
its smoke-blackened cottages.
Here, too, it was that the pair first struck a firm, well-laid
street, planted on either side with fruit trees. But over the village lowered a
thick mist which Arnold had already perceived from afar, and it dimmed the
bright sunshine, which fell upon the gray, old, weather-beaten roofs with a
weird yellowish light.
But Arnold scarcely had eyes for this. Gertrud, stepping out
by his side, had meekly slipped her hand in his as they came to the first
houses, and clasping it in her own she turned with him into the next
A strange feeling thrilled the lusty youth at the touch of her
warm hand, and almost involuntarily his eyes sought to meet those of the young
maiden. But Gertrud did not look in his direction; with eyes fixed modestly on
the ground, she conducted her guest to her fathers house, and
Arnolds attention, too, was at length taken up with the villagers she
met, who all passed him by in silence and without a word of greeting.
He could not help noticing this at first, for in all the
neighboring villages it would have been deemed a crime not to offer a stranger
at least a Good day or God bless you. Arnold, to
whom this silence at last became oppressive, said to his companion: Do
you observe Sunday in your village so strictly that people when they meet one
another havent even a word of greeting to utter? If one didnt hear
a dog barking now and then or a cock crowing, one might really think the whole
place dumb and dead.
It is dinnertime, said Gertrud quietly,
and people are not inclined to talk then; this evening you will find them
Thank heaven! exclaimed Arnold, there are
at least some children yonder playing in the street. I had begun to feel quite
uncanny; I can tell you they spend Sunday quite differently in
Theres my fathers house, said
Gertrud in a low voice.
But I cant thrust myself in upon him thus
unexpectedly at dinnertime. I might be an unwelcome intruder, and I like to have
friendly faces around me at meals.
So show me rather where the inn is, my child, or let me
find it myself, for probably Germelshausen is no exception to the rule of other
villages. Generally the public house is quite close to the church, and if you
take the church tower to guide you, you cant go far
There you are right; that is exactly the case with
us, said Gertrud quietly; but they expect us already at home, and
you need have no fear of getting an unfriendly reception.
Expect us? Ah, you mean yourself and your
Heinrich? Yes, Gertrud, if you would take me today in his place, then I would
stay with youuntiluntil you yourself should tell me to go away
He had spoken these last words in such feeling tones, almost
against his will, the while gently pressing the hand which still held his, that
Gertrud suddenly stopped, looked at him out of her big, grave eyes, and
Would you really wish that?
A thousand times yes, cried the young painter,
utterly carried away by the young girls wonderful beauty. But Gertrud
made no further answer, and pursuing her way as if she was pondering over the
words of her companion, she at length came to a halt in front of a tall house,
which was approached by a flight of broad, stone steps, protected by iron
railings. Speaking in her former shy and timid manner she resumed:
This is where I live, kind sir, and if it would please
you, come in with me to my father, who will no doubt be proud to see you at his
Before Arnold could return any answer to this invitation, the
mayor himself appeared in the doorway at the top of the steps, and a window was
thrown open, revealing the kindly face of an old lady, who looked out and nodded
Why, Gertrud, exclaimed the farmer, what
a long time you have stayed out today, and look what a smart young fellow she
has brought back with her!
My dear sir!
Please, no ceremony on the steps! The dumplings are
ready; come in, or theyll get hard and cold.
But thats not Heinrich, cried the old
lady from the window. Now, didnt I always say that he would never
come back again?
All right, mother, all right, said the mayor,
this one will do very well instead; and holding out his hand to
the stranger, he went on: A hearty welcome to Germelshausen, young
gentleman, wherever the lass may have picked you up. And now come in to dinner
and fall to to your hearts content; anything else we can talk of
He left the young painter no chance to make any excuses, but
vigorously shaking his hand, which Gertrud had released as soon as he had set
foot on the stone steps, he took his arm with familiar kindness and conducted
him into the spacious living room.
Although he was well acquainted with the habits of the German
farmer, who shuts himself off from every breath of fresh air in his room, and
not infrequently even in summer keeps a fire so as to produce the broiling heat
he so delights in, yet what was most noticeable to Arnold at once was the musty,
earthy atmosphere which pervaded the house.
The narrow entrance hall was likewise far from inviting. The
plaster had fallen from the walls and appeared to have just been hastily swept
to one side. The single dim window at the back of the hall hardly admitted the
meager light, and the stairs which led to the upper story looked old and out of
Little time, however, was given him to observe all this, for
in the very next moment his hospitable host threw open the door of the parlor,
and Arnold saw himself in a low but broad and spacious room, which was airy and
fresh, with white sand sprinkled over the floor, and which with its large table
in the center spread with a snow-white cloth contrasted pleasantly with the rest
of the rather dilapidated arrangements of the house.
Besides the old lady, who now had shut the window and moved
her chair up to the table, there were a few red-cheeked children; and a buxom
peasant woman, who also was wearing a costume utterly different from that of the
neighboring villages, was just opening the door to admit the maid, who came in
with a large dish.
And now the dumplings were smoking on the board and everyone
made for the chairs; but no one sat down, and the children, as it seemed to
Arnold, cast almost anxious eyes on their father.
The latter advanced to his chair, and leaning his arm upon it,
stared dumbly, silently, even gloomily upon the ground. Was he praying? Arnold
saw that he kept his lips firmly pressed while his right hand hung down clenched
by his side. In his features was no sign of prayer, only an obstinate yet
Let us eat, growled the man, its
of no use, I fear; and pushing his chair aside, nodded to his guest,
dropped into his seat, and, seizing the huge ladle, served out helpings all
To Arnold the mans whole behavior was almost uncanny,
nor could he feel comfortable amid the depression shown by the others. But the
mayor was not the man to eat his dinner to the accompaniment of melancholy
thoughts. In answer to his rap on the table the maid came in again, bearing
bottles and glasses, and with the rich old wine which he now poured out, a very
different and more cheerful state of mind soon prevailed among the company round
The glorious beverage ran through Arnolds veins like
liquid fire; never in his life had he tasted anything like it. Gertrud drank
some too, and so did the old lady, who later seated herself at her spinning
wheel in the corner and in a low voice sang a little song of the merry life in
Germelshausen. The mayor himself seemed a different being.
He now became as cheerful and jovial as he had earlier been
morose and silent, and Arnold himself could not escape the influence of the rich
He could not precisely tell how it came about, but the mayor
had taken a violin in his hand and was playing a merry dance, and Arnold with
his arm about fair Gertruds waist whirled her round the room so madly
that he upset the spinning wheel and the chair, bumped into the maid, who was
trying to carry away the dinner things, and cut all sorts of merry capers, so
that the others almost died of laughter to see him.
Suddenly there was complete silence in the room, and as Arnold
looked round at the magistrate in astonishment, the latter pointed with his
violin bow out the window and then laid the instrument back again in the wooden
case from which he had taken it. And Arnold perceived that outside in the street
a coffin was being carried by.
Six men dressed in white shirts were bearing it upon their
shoulders and behind them, quite alone, walked an old man, leading a little
fair-haired girl by the hand.
The old man walked along the street as one crushed with grief,
but the little girl, who could hardly have been four years old, and probably had
no idea who was lying in that black coffin, kept gaily nodding her head wherever
she saw a face she knew, and laughed shrilly when two or three dogs scampered by
and one of them ran up against the steps of the mayors house and rolled
over and over.
But the silence endured only as long as the coffin was in
sight, and Gertrud drew up to the young man and said:
Now rest a little while; otherwise, the heavy wine will
get into your head more and more. Come, take your hat and let us go for a little
walk together. By the time we get back it will be time to go to the inn, for
there is a dance this evening.
A dance? Thats splendid, exclaimed
Arnold, delighted; Ive come just at the right time. Youll
give me the first dance, I hope, Gertrud?
Certainly, if you wish.
Arnold had already seized his hat and sketchbook.
What do you want with the book? asked the
He sketches, Father, said Gertrud, and he
has already drawn me. Just have a look at the pictures.
Arnold opened the sketchbook and held out the picture to her
The farmer looked at it quietly for a while, without
And do you want to take that home with you, he
asked at length, and perhaps frame it and hang it up in your
Why not, pray?
May he, Father? asked Gertrud.
If he does not stay with us, laughed the mayor,
I have no objectionbut theres something wanting in the
Why, the funeral procession that passed a moment ago.
Draw that on the paper and you may take the picture with you.
What! the funeral procession with
Theres room enough, said the mayor
obstinately; you must put it in the sketch, or else I will not permit you
to take away with you my lassies portrait all by itself. In such solemn
company no one can possibly think evil of it.
At this strange proposal to give the pretty maiden a funeral
party as a guard of honor, Arnold laughingly shook his head. But the old man
seemed to have made up his mind, and so, to humor him, he did as he wished.
Later on he could quite easily rub out the dismal additional feature.
The whole family crowded round him as he worked, and watched
with evident astonishment the rapid completion of the drawing.
There, have I been successful? cried Arnold at
length, jumping up from his chair and holding out the picture at arms
Splendidly! nodded the mayor; I should
never have thought you could finish it so quickly. Now, that will do; out you go
with the lassie and have a look at the village; it may be a long while before
you have a chance of seeing it again. Be back here by five oclock
sharpwe are having high jinks tonight and you must be there.
The musty room and the wine which had mounted to his head had
begun to make Arnold feel heavy and oppressed. He longed to be out-of-doors, and
a few minutes later he was striding along the street which led through the
village, with fair Gertrud by his side.
Is the moor or forest on fire hereabouts? he
asked the girl. This sort of smoke does not hang over any other village
and cannot come from the chimneys.
It is earth vapor, said Gertrud quietly;
but have you never heard of Germelshausen?
That is strange, and yet the village is old, oh! so
The houses look like it, at any rate, and the people
too have such a curious way with them, and their speech sounds quite different
from that of places near at hand. You go very little outside your own village, I
Very little, said Gertrud curtly.
And not a single swallow is left. They cant
surely have flown away yet?
Oh, a long time ago, answered the girl
apathetically; in Germelshausen they never come now to build their nests.
Perhaps they cant stand the earth vapor.
But surely you dont have that
Then that is the reason why your fruit trees bear no
fruit, and yet in Marisfeld this year they had to prop up the branches, so
fruitful has the season been.
Gertrud said not a word in answer, and walked on in silence by
his side straight through the village until they came to the extreme limit. On
the way she gave a kindly nod to a child here and there or spoke a low word or
two with one of the young girlsmaybe about the evenings dance and
the dresses they were to wear.
And as they talked, the girls cast sympathetic glances at the
young painter, so that his heart warmed and saddenedhe did not quite know
whyand for all that he did not dare to ask Gertrud why it should be
They had now at length reached the last houses. The gardens
looked as if they had not been walked in for years and years; grass was growing
in the pathways, and it seemed especially noticeable to the young stranger that
not a single fruit tree bore a single bit of fruit.
Arnold tried to cheer up his companion, who seemed to him so
very serious, by telling her about other places where he had been and what the
great outer world was like. She had never seen a railway, never even heard of
one, and listened with attention and astonishment to his explanations.
Nor had she any knowledge of the electric telegraph, and she
knew just as little about all the other more modern inventions; so that the
young artist could not understand how it was possible that there should be still
living in Germany human beings so secluded, so absolutely cut off from the rest
of the world and without the slightest connection with it.
Conversing thus, they reached the cemetery, and here the young
stranger was immediately struck by the old-world appearance of the stones and
Here is an old, old stone, he said, bending down
to the nearest one and with difficulty deciphering the scrollwork upon it.
Anna Maria Bethold, maiden name Stieglitz, born 16th December, 1188, died
2nd December, 1224.
That is my mother, said Gertrud solemnly, and
crystal tears filled her eyes and slowly trickled down on to her
Your mother, dear child? said Arnold in
astonishment; your great-great-grandmother perhaps it might have
No, said Gertrud, my own mother. Father
married again, and the one at home is my stepmother.
But surely it says died 1224?
What does the year matter? said Gertrud
mournfully. It is sad enough to be thus parted from ones mother,
and yet, she added sorrowfully under her breath, perhaps it was
well, very well that she was suffered to go to God beforehand.
Arnold bent down over the stone, shaking his head, and made a
closer examination of the inscription, in case the first 2 in the
date might be an 8. For in the old-time writing such a thing was
not impossible, but the second 2 was exactly the same as the
first, and it was as yet too soon to write 1884. Perhaps it was the stonemason
who made the mistake, and the girl was so deep in her memories of the departed
that he did not like to trouble her any further with questions that were perhaps
displeasing to her.
He therefore left her by the gravestone before which she had
sunk to her knees and was silently praying, and proceeded to examine some other
monuments, but all of them without exception bore dates of many hundred years
back, even as far back as A.D. 930 and 900. No more recent gravestone could be
discovered, and yet the dead were even now laid to rest in this place, as the
latest fresh grave betokened.
Then from the village came the sound of the old cracked bell
again, and Gertrud, quickly rising from her knees and dashing the tears from her
eyes, gently beckoned to the young man to follow her.
Now we must sorrow no more, she said with a
smile; the church bell is ringing the end of the service, and now for the
dance. Up to the present you have no doubt imagined that the people of
Germelshausen are nothing but kill-joys, but tonight you will think the
But yonder is the church door, said Arnold,
and I can see nobody coming out.
That is perfectly natural, laughed the girl,
for no one ever goes in, not even the priest. Only the old verger allows
himself no rest, and still rings the service in and out.
And do none of your people ever go to
No, neither to Mass nor to confession, said the
girl quietly. We have quarreled with the Pope, who lives among
foreigners, and has forbidden it until we return to obedience.
Why, Ive never heard of such a thing in all my
Yes. It is a long time ago, said the girl
And how has this all come about? asked Arnold,
who was amazed not so much at the facts he had heard as at the girls
Its a long story, Gertrud said,
and the priest has written it all down in a big, thick book. If you are
interested, and if you understand Latin, you may read all about it
But, she added by way of warning,
dont speak of it when Father is by, for he doesnt like it.
Look, here come the boys and girls out-of-doors already; I must hurry off home
now and dress, for I should not like to be the last.
And the first dance, Gertrud?
I dance it with you; you have my
The two walked quickly back to the village, which was now all
astir with life. Laughing groups of young people were standing about on all
sides; the girls were all dressed up for the festival, and the young fellows too
were in their best clothes, while on the face of the inn, as they sped past,
festoons of leaves were hanging from window to window, and formed a broad
triumphal arch over the door.
Seeing that everyone was tricked out most resplendently,
Arnold was unwilling to mingle with the merrymakers dressed in his traveling
garb; so he unbuckled his knapsack in the mayors house, took out of it
his smart suit, and had just completed his toilet when Gertrud knocked at the
door and called him.
And what a picture of loveliness the girl looked now in her
simple yet rich gown, and how cordially she asked him to escort her, saying that
her father and mother would not follow on till later!
Yearning after her Heinrich cannot be depressing her
spirits to any particular extent, was the youths uppermost thought
as he drew her arm through his and passed with her to the ballroom through the
gathering dusk. But he refrained from giving utterance to such thoughts, and his
own heart throbbed violently as he felt the girls heart beating against
To think that tomorrow I must depart, he sighed
softly to himself. Although he had not intended it, his words reached the ears
of his companion, and she said with a smile:
Dont trouble about that; we shall be together
longerlonger perhaps than you like.
And would you be glad, Gertrud, if I stayed with
you? asked Arnold, and as he spoke he felt the blood surging over
forehead and temples.
Of course I should, said the young girl simply:
You are nice and kind, and Father likes you too, of that Im sure,
andHeinrich hasnt come, you know, she added in an undertone
and somewhat angrily.
Suppose he came tomorrow?
Tomorrow? said Gertrud, looking at him gravely
out of her great dark eyes; between now and tomorrow lies a long, long
night. Tomorrow! You will understand tomorrow what that word means. But today,
let us not speak of it, she said abruptly, yet pleasantly; today
is a holiday, to which we have looked forward for so long, oh! so long, and do
not let us spoil it by gloomy thoughts.
Here we are at the place; the boys will stare a good
deal when they see me bringing a new partner.
Gertrud led him into the center of the hall, where a bevy of
young peasant girls stood chatting together, and not till then did she leave him
to himself so that, until the real business of the dance began, he might look
about him a little and make the acquaintance of the other young men.
At the first moment Arnold felt ill at ease among these many
strangers; moreover, their strange costume and their strange speech repelled
him, and though the harsh, unwonted accents came sweetly from Gertruds
lips, yet they grated on his ear when pronounced by others. The young fellows
were all friendly disposed toward him, however, and one of them approached him,
took him by the hand, and said:
You have done wisely, sir, in choosing to bide with us.
We lead a merry life, and the interval passes quickly enough.
What do you mean by the interval?
asked Arnold, astonished not so much at the expression as because the youth
pronounced so firmly his conviction that he had chosen to make the village his
home. Do you mean that I shall come back here?
But do you wish to go away? asked the young
Tomorrow, yes, or the day after tomorrow; but
Ill come back.
Tomorrow; oh! laughed the youth; then
thats all right. Well, well talk more about it tomorrow. But now
come, and Ill show you how we enjoy ourselves, for if you really want to
go away tomorrow, you might not after all get a chance of seeing the
The others looked at each other and laughed knowingly, while
the young peasant took Arnold by the hand and conducted him all over the house,
which was now packed full of a crowd of merrymakers. All of the sudden a
flourish from the band, which up to now had been playing away merrily, gave the
signal for the dance to commence, and Gertrud stood at Arnolds side and
took his arm.
Come, we must not be the last, said the lovely
girl, for as the mayors daughter it is for me to open the
But what strange tune is that? said Arnold;
I cant catch the time at all.
Oh, you soon will, smiled Gertrud;
youll catch the time in the first five minutes, and Ill
tell you how.
With jubilant shouts the whole company crowded into the
ballroom, and Arnold was soon oblivious of everything else in the first blissful
feeling of holding the wondrously beautiful maiden in his arms.
Again and again he danced with Gertrud, and no one else seemed
to want to claim his partner from him, although the other girls often threw
teasing remarks at him as they flew by.
One thing only struck him and alarmed him. Close by the inn
stood the ancient church, and the shrill, discordant clack of the cracked bell
could be distinctly heard in the ballroom. At the first stroke of the bell it
was as if a magicians wand had smitten the dancers.
The music stopped playing in the middle of a beat, the merry
surging crowd stood still and motionless, as if spellbound, and everyone
silently counted the slow strokes one by one.
But as soon as the last sound died away, the animation and
merriment broke out afresh. This was repeated at eight, at nine, at ten
oclock, and when Arnold would fain inquire what was the reason for such a
strange proceeding, Gertrud laid her finger on her lips and at the same time
looked so solemn and sad that he would not have troubled her further for all the
At ten oclock there was a pause in the dancing, and the
musicians, who must have had lungs of iron, headed the procession of young
people down to the supper room.
There were merry doings there. The wine ran in streams, and
Arnold, who could not be behindhand among all the others, reckoned up in his own
mind what sort of hole this expensive evening would make in his modest
But Gertrud was sitting by his side, drinking with him out of
the same glass, and how could he give way to any such misgivings? Even though
her Heinrich should come tomorrow. The first stroke of eleven oclock rang
out. Again the loud merriment of the revelers was silenced, again the same
breathless listening to the long-drawn strokes.
A peculiar horror overcame him; he could not tell why; and the
thought of his mother at home smote through his heart. He slowly raised his
glass and drained it in a toast to his absent dear ones.
Who was it you drank your last toast to? asked
Gertrud, as she laid her arm again in his.
Arnold hesitated before replying. Maybe Gertrud would only
laugh at him if he told her. But no; she herself had prayed so fervently on that
very afternoon by her own mothers graveand so he said in a low
voice: My mother.
Gertrud answered never a word but walked in silence by his
side up the stairs. Her laughter had ceased also, and before they took their
places for the dance again she asked him: Do you love your mother so
More than life itself.
And does she love you?
Does not a mother love her child?
And what if you never went back home to
Poor Mother! said Arnold, her heart would
The dance is just starting again, cried Gertrud
quickly; come along, we mustnt miss a moment
So wilder than ever the dance began. The young men, fired by
the strong wine, shouted and hurrahed, and shrieked, and such a din arose as
threatened to drown the music.
Arnold did not now feel so happy in all this uproar, and
Gertrud too had become serious and silent. But with all the others the merriment
seemed only to increase, and during a pause the mayor came up to them, gave the
young man a hearty slap on the shoulder, and said, laughing:
Thats right, Mr. Painter, shake a merry leg
tonight; we shall have plenty of time to have a good long rest. Nay, then,
Gertie, why pull such a solemn face? Does that fit in with the dance this day?
Merrys the wordthere, theyre off again! And with a
huzzah he plunged through the crowd of revelers.
Arnold was embracing Gertrud once more for a fresh dance when
the latter suddenly broke away from him, gripped his arm, and whispered softly:
Arnold had no time to ask her whither, for she slipped from
his grasp and sped away toward the door.
Whither away, Gertie? some of her playmates
called out to them.
Coming back in a moment, came the sound of her
curt answer, and a few seconds later she was standing with Arnold outside before
the house in the sharp night air.
Where do you propose to go, Gertrud?
Again she caught his arm and led him through the village, past
her fathers house, into which she dashed and presently emerged with a
What is the meaning of this? asked Arnold in
Come! was the only word she said in answer, and
past the houses she strode with him until they left the outermost wall of the
village behind them. So far they had followed the broad, firm, hard-trodden
highway; now Gertrud turned off the road to the left and mounted a little low
hill, from the top of which could be seen the brilliantly lighted windows and
doors of the inn.
Here she came to a halt, held out her hand to Arnold, and said
My greetings to your mother; farewell!
Gertrud, cried Arnold, astonished, aghast,
do you wish to send me away from you thus, now, in the middle of the
night? Has any word of mine offended you?
No, Arnold, said the girl, calling him by his
Christian name for the first time. Just...just because I love you, you
must go away.
But I cannot let you go away from me back to the
village like this, all alone and in the dark, pleaded Arnold. You
dont know how much I love you, how utterly and entirely you have won my
heart in these few hours. You know not...
Say no more, she interrupted him quickly,
we will not say good-bye. When the clock has struck twelveit can
hardly want ten minutes yetreturn to the inn door; there I shall be
And until then...!
Stay just where you are. Promise me not to take one
step to right or left till the clock has struck the last stroke of
I promise, Gertrud; but then...
Then come, she said, holding out her hand in
farewell, and would have left him.
Gertrud! cried Arnold, in a
pleading anguished voice.
Gertrud stood a moment as if in hesitation, then suddenly she
turned toward him, threw her arms around his neck; and Arnold felt the icy lips
of the lovely maiden pressed on his. It was but for a moment; in the next
instant she had torn herself away and was flying toward the village. And Arnold
in amazement at her strange behavior, yet mindful of his promise, remained
standing just where she had left him.
Now for the first time he saw how the weather had changed in
these few hours. The wind was howling through the trees, the sky was overcast
with heavy racing clouds, and one or two large drops of rain proclaimed the
approach of a storm.
Through the darkness of the night the lights glowed bright
from the inn, and when the wind came roaring across he could hear in broken
waves of sound the riotous blare of the instrumentsbut not for long. Only
for a few moments had he been standing in his place when the clock in the old
church tower began to strike. In that same instant the music ceased or was
drowned in the howling storm, which raged so violently over the hill slope that
Arnold was obliged to stoop down to the ground in order not to lose his
Before him on the ground he felt the bundle which Gertrud had
fetched out of the househis own knapsack and sketchbookand
affrighted, he stood upright again. The clock had finished striking, the
hurricane roared past his head, but nowhere in the village was there any longer
a light to be seen. The dogs which but a short while ago had been barking and
howling were silent, and a thick, damp mist was rising up from the
The time is up, muttered Arnold to himself,
hoisting his knapsack on his back, and I must see Gertrud once again; I
cannot part from her like this. The dance is over; the dancers will now be going
home, and if the mayor will not put me up for the night I can stay at the inn.
Besides, in the darkness I shouldnt find my way through the
He cautiously went down the gentle slope which he and Gertrud
had ascended together, in order to strike the broad white road which would bring
him to the village, but in vain did he grope about for it among the bushes
The ground was soft and swampy, and in his thin boots he sank
in up to the ankles; there was everywhere a tangle of alder bushes growing just
where he had imagined the road to be. He could not possibly have crossed it in
the dark; he could not have failed to feel it the moment he stepped on it; and
besides, he knew that the village wall ran right across itthis at any
rate he could not miss.
But it was in vain that with anguished haste he sought for it;
the undergrowth became thicker and everywhere beset with thorns, which tore his
clothes and scratched his hands till they bled.
Had he wandered off to the right or to the left and beyond the
village? He feared lest he should lose his bearings still more completely, and
came to a halt on a fairly dry spot, determined to wait there until the old
clock should strike one.
But it did not strike, not a dog barked, no sound of human
voice reached him, and with great difficulty, wet to the skin and shivering with
cold, he toiled back again to the higher ground of the hill slope where Gertrud
had left him.
From this spot he tried, indeed, a few more times to penetrate
the thicket and find the village, but in vain. Tired to death, and a prey to a
peculiar horror, he at last avoided the low, dark, weird hollow and sought the
shelter of a tree, there to spend the night.
And how slowly for him did the hours pass by! For shivering as
he was with cold, he was not able to steal from that long night even one
moments sleep. And he was forever straining his ears into the darkness,
as again and again he thought he heard the rasping sound of the bell, only to
find again and again that he had been mistaken.
At last the first glow of light began to dawn out of the far
east. The clouds had dispersed, the sky was once more clear and bright with
stars, and the awakening birds twittered softly in the gloomy trees. Already he
could clearly discern the treetops round about him; but it was in vain that his
eye sought the view of the old brown church tower and the weather-worn roofs.
Nothing but a wilderness of alder bushes, dotted here and there with a few
stunted willows, stretched out before him. No road was to be seen leading to the
right or to the left, no sign of human habitation in the vicinity.
He must, he thought, have lost his way in the dark, without
knowing it, while he was seeking for the place, and had got too far away. He was
now firmly determined to find it again.
At length he came to the stone near which he had drawn
Gertruds picture. This spot he would have recognized again out of
thousands, for the old lilac tree with its stiff branches indicated it only too
He now knew exactly from what direction he had come and where
Germelshausen must lie; so he paced rapidly back along the valley, keeping
closely to the same track which he and Gertrud had followed yesterday. Over
there also he recognized the bend in the slope over which had hung the murky
fog, and only the alder bushes still separated him from the nearest
Now he had reached it; he pressed on andfound himself
once more in the very same swampy morass in which he had waded the night
Completely at a loss and not trusting his own sense, he was
forcing a way through at this point, but the filthy swamp ooze at length
compelled him to make for dry ground again and there he wandered helplessly
backward and forward.
The village had disappeared, and that was the end of
Several hours had perhaps been consumed in this fruitless
search, and his weary limbs at last refused to serve him any longer. He could go
no farther; before anything else he must rest. What had been the use of his vain
quest? At the first village he came across he could easily find a guide to
conduct him to Germelshausen, and then he could not miss the road
Dead tired, he flung himself down under a tree. He produced
his sketchbook and out of it he took Gertruds portrait. With bitter pain
his eyes fastened on the dear, sweet features of the maiden, who, as he realized
to his great alarm, had already taken too firm a hold upon his heart.
Then he heard behind him a rustling among the leavesa
dog began to bark; and quickly springing to his feet, he was aware of an old
woodsman standing not far away from him and curiously observing the strange
figure who was so decently dressed and yet presented such a wild
Greetings! exclaimed Arnold, heartily pleased to
meet a human being, and quickly thrusting the picture back into the portfolio.
You could not have been more welcome if I had invited you here, Herr
Forester, for I think I have lost my way.
Hm, said the old man, if you have been
lying here in the bush all night, I should think so too, and over yonder to
Dillstedt and a good inn. Heavens! what a sight you are, for all the world as if
you had been dragged neck and crop out of thorns and mud!
Are you quite familiar with the forest here?
asked Arnold, who before all things wanted to know where he really
I should think I was, laughed the woodsman as he
stuck a light and lighted his pipe again.
What is the name of the nearest
Dillstedtstraight over there. When you get to
that little hill yonder, you can easily see it lying below you.
And how far is it from here to
To where? cried the woodsman, removing his pipe
in horror from his lips.
God help me! said the old man, casting a scared
look about him; the forest I know well enough, but how many fathoms deep
down below the earth the cursed village lies, God alone
knowsnor is it any business of ours.
The cursed village? cried Arnold
Germelshausenyes, said the woodsman.
Just there in the swamp, where now grow the old willows and alders, it is
said to have stood hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Later on it sank away, no
man knows why or whither; and the story goes that every hundred years on a
certain day it is raised up again to the light of heaven, but I should not wish
any Christian man to chance to be there then.
But, man alive! camping out in the bush last night does
not seem to have agreed with you. You look as white as a ghost. There now, just
you have a sip out of this flask; it will do you goodnow have a good
Tut, tut, that wasnt half enoughtake a
proper, first-class pull at it. Thats right; thats the real stuff
to take. And now make haste and get across to the inn, and into a warm
Why, of course: theres none
What about Germelshausen?
Be good enough not to mention the place again,
especially here on the spot where we are standing. Let the dead rest, and above
all those who do not even enjoy rest, but keep on rising again unexpectedly
But only yesterday the village was still standing
here, cried Arnold, who had almost lost his trust in his own senses.
I was inside iteating and drinking and dancing
The woodsman calmly looked the young man up and down, and then
said with a smile:
But it went by some other name, didnt it?
Probably you have come straight over from Dillstedt. There was a dance there
yesterday evening, and its not everybody can stand the strong beer that
the landlord brews at present.
By the way of answer Arnold opened his portfolio and drew out
Do you know this village?
No, said the woodsman, shaking his head;
theres not such a flat tower as that in the whole
That is Germelshausen, cried Arnold; and
do the peasant girls in this neighborhood dress as this girl does
Umno! and whats that queer-looking
funeral procession you have put in the picture?
Arnold returned no answer. He thrust the sheets back into the
portfolio, and a strange feeling of pain thrilled through him.
You cant miss the road to Dillstedt, said
the woodsman good-naturedly, for a dark suspicion occurred to him now that the
stranger might perhaps not be quite right in the head. But if you would
like, I will accompany you till we come to where we can see the place; that
wont take me much out of my way.
Arnold declined with many thanks. Ill find my
way over there all right. And so it is only once in every hundred years that
they say the village comes up again?
So people say, answered the woodsman, but
who can say if it is true?
Arnold had taken up his knapsack again.
God be wi you! he said, holding out his
hand to the woodsman.
Many thanks, answered he; where are you
Thats rightwhen you get over the slope
youll come to the broad highroad again.
Arnold turned away, and slowly proceeded on his way. Only when
he had reached the top of the slope which commanded a view over the whole of the
valley did he pause once again and look back.
Farewell, Gertrud! he murmured softly, and as he
walked over the hill, tears were streaming from his eyes.