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Anne of Geierstein; Or, The Maiden of the Mist. Volume 2 (of 2), Page 2

Walter Scott


  _Macbeth._ How now, ye secret, black, and midnight hags, What is't ye do?

  _Witches._ A deed without a name. _Macbeth._

  We have said in the conclusion of the last chapter, that, after a dayof unwonted fatigue and extraordinary excitation, the merchant,Philipson, naturally expected to forget so many agitating passages inthat deep and profound repose which is at once the consequence and thecure of extreme exhaustion. But he was no sooner laid on his lowlypallet than he felt that the bodily machine, over-laboured by so muchexercise, was little disposed to the charms of sleep. The mind hadbeen too much excited, the body was far too feverish, to suffer him topartake of needful rest. His anxiety about the safety of his son, hisconjectures concerning the issue of his mission to the Duke ofBurgundy, and a thousand other thoughts which recalled past events, orspeculated on those which were to come, rushed upon his mind like thewaves of a perturbed sea, and prevented all tendency to repose. He hadbeen in bed about an hour, and sleep had not yet approached his couch,when he felt that the pallet on which he lay was sinking below him,and that he was in the act of descending along with it he knew notwhither. The sound of ropes and pulleys was also indistinctly heard,though every caution had been taken to make them run smooth; and thetraveller, by feeling around him, became sensible that he and the bedon which he lay had been spread upon a large trap-door, which wascapable of being let down into the vaults, or apartments beneath.

  Philipson felt fear in circumstances so well qualified to produce it;for how could he hope a safe termination to an adventure which hadbegun so strangely? But his apprehensions were those of a brave,ready-witted man, who, even in the extremity of danger, which appearedto surround him, preserved his presence of mind. His descent seemed tobe cautiously managed, and he held himself in readiness to start tohis feet and defend himself, as soon as he should be once more uponfirm ground. Although somewhat advanced in years, he was a man ofgreat personal vigour and activity, and unless taken at advantage,which no doubt was at present much to be apprehended, he was likely tomake a formidable defence. His plan of resistance, however, had beenanticipated. He no sooner reached the bottom of the vault, down towhich he was lowered, than two men, who had been waiting there tillthe operation was completed, laid hands on him from either side, andforcibly preventing him from starting up as he intended, cast a ropeover his arms, and made him a prisoner as effectually as when he wasin the dungeons of La Ferette. He was obliged, therefore, to remainpassive and unresisting, and await the termination of this formidableadventure. Secured as he was, he could only turn his head from oneside to the other; and it was with joy that he at length saw lightstwinkle, but they appeared at a great distance from him.

  From the irregular manner in which these scattered lights advanced,sometimes keeping a straight line, sometimes mixing and crossing eachother, it might be inferred that the subterranean vault in which theyappeared was of very considerable extent. Their number also increased;and as they collected more together, Philipson could perceive that thelights proceeded from many torches, borne by men muffled in blackcloaks, like mourners at a funeral, or the Black Friars of St.Francis's Order, wearing their cowls drawn over their heads, so as toconceal their features. They appeared anxiously engaged in measuringoff a portion of the apartment; and, while occupied in thatemployment, they sang, in the ancient German language, rhymes morerude than Philipson could well understand, but which may be imitatedthus:--

  Measurers of good and evil, Bring the square, the line, the level,-- Rear the altar, dig the trench, Blood both stone and ditch shall drench. Cubits six, from end to end, Must the fatal bench extend,-- Cubits six, from side to side, Judge and culprit must divide. On the east the Court assembles, On the west the Accused trembles-- Answer, brethren, all and one, Is the ritual rightly done?

  A deep chorus seemed to reply to the question. Many voices joined init, as well of persons already in the subterranean vault as of otherswho as yet remained without in various galleries and passages whichcommunicated with it, and whom Philipson now presumed to be verynumerous. The answer chanted ran as follows:--

  On life and soul, on blood and bone, One for all, and all for one, We warrant this is rightly done.

  The original strain was then renewed in the same manner as before--

  How wears the night?--Doth morning shine In early radiance on the Rhine? What music floats upon his tide? Do birds the tardy morning chide? Brethren, look out from hill and height, And answer true, how wears the night?

  The answer was returned, though less loud than at first, and it seemedthat those by whom the reply was given were at a much greater distancethan before; yet the words were distinctly heard.

  The night is old; on Rhine's broad breast Glance drowsy stars which long to rest. No beams are twinkling in the east. There is a voice upon the flood, The stern still call of blood for blood; 'Tis time we listen the behest.

  The chorus replied, with many additional voices--

  Up, then, up! When day's at rest, 'Tis time that such as we are watchers; Rise to judgment, brethren, rise! Vengeance knows not sleepy eyes, He and night are matchers.

  The nature of the verses soon led Philipson to comprehend that he wasin presence of the Initiated, or the Wise Men; names which wereapplied to the celebrated Judges of the Secret Tribunal, whichcontinued at that period to subsist in Suabia, Franconia, and otherdistricts of the east of Germany, which was called, perhaps from thefrightful and frequent occurrence of executions by command of thoseinvisible judges, the Red Land. Philipson had often heard that theseat of a Free Count, or chief of the Secret Tribunal, was secretlyinstituted even on the left bank of the Rhine, and that it maintaineditself in Alsace, with the usual tenacity of those secret societies,though Duke Charles of Burgundy had expressed a desire to discover anddiscourage its influence so far as was possible, without exposinghimself to danger from the thousands of poniards which that mysterioustribunal could put in activity against his own life;--an awful meansof defence, which for a long time rendered it extremely hazardous forthe sovereigns of Germany, and even the Emperors themselves, to putdown by authority those singular associations.

  So soon as this explanation flashed on the mind of Philipson, it gavesome clue to the character and condition of the Black Priest of St.Paul's. Supposing him to be a president, or chief official of thesecret association, there was little wonder that he should confide somuch in the inviolability of his terrible office as to proposevindicating the execution of De Hagenbach; that his presence shouldsurprise Bartholomew, whom he had power to have judged and executedupon the spot; and that his mere appearance at supper on the precedingevening should have appalled the guests; for though everything aboutthe institution, its proceedings and its officers, was preserved in asmuch obscurity as is now practised in free-masonry, yet the secret wasnot so absolutely well kept as to prevent certain individuals frombeing guessed or hinted at as men initiated and intrusted with highauthority by the Vehme-gericht, or tribunal of the bounds. When suchsuspicion attached to an individual, his secret power, and supposedacquaintance with all guilt, however secret, which was committedwithin the society in which he was conversant, made him at once thedread and hatred of every one who looked on him; and he enjoyed a highdegree of personal respect, on the same terms on which it would havebeen yielded to a powerful enchanter, or a dreaded genie. Inconversing with such a person, it was especially necessary to abstainfrom all questions alluding, however remotely, to the office which hebore in the Secret Tribunal; and, indeed, to testify the leastcuriosity upon a subject so solemn and mysterious was sure to occasionsome misfortune to the inquisitive person.

  All these things rushed at once upon the mind of the Englishman, whofelt that he had fallen into the hands of an unsparing tribunal, whoseproceedings were so much dreaded by those who
resided within thecircle of their power, that the friendless stranger must stand a poorchance of receiving justice at their hands, whatever might be hisconsciousness of innocence. While Philipson made this melancholyreflection, he resolved, at the same time, not to forsake his owncause, but defend himself as he best might; conscious as he was thatthese terrible and irresponsible judges were nevertheless governed bycertain rules of right and wrong, which formed a check on the rigoursof their extraordinary code.

  THE SECRET TRIBUNAL. Drawn and Etched by R. de los Rios.]

  He lay, therefore, devising the best means of obviating the presentdanger, while the persons whom he beheld glimmered before him, lesslike distinct and individual forms than like the phantomsof a fever, or the phantasmagoria with which a disease of the opticnerves has been known to people a sick man's chamber. At length theyassembled in the centre of the apartment where they had firstappeared, and seemed to arrange themselves into form and order. Agreat number of black torches were successively lighted, and the scenebecame distinctly visible. In the centre of the hall, Philipson couldnow perceive one of the altars which are sometimes to be found inancient subterranean chapels. But we must pause, in order briefly todescribe, not the appearance only, but the nature and constitution, ofthis terrible court.

  Behind the altar, which seemed to be the central point, on which alleyes were bent, there were placed in parallel lines two benchescovered with black cloth. Each was occupied by a number of persons,who seemed assembled as judges; but those who held the foremost benchwere fewer, and appeared of a rank superior to those who crowded theseat most remote from the altar. The first seemed to be all men ofsome consequence, priests high in their order, knights, or noblemen;and notwithstanding an appearance of equality which seemed to pervadethis singular institution, much more weight was laid upon theiropinion, or testimonies. They were called Free Knights, Counts, orwhatever title they might bear, while the inferior class of the judgeswere only termed Free and worthy Burghers. For it must be observed,that the Vehmique Institution,[1] which was the name that it commonlybore, although its power consisted in a wide system of espionage, andthe tyrannical application of force which acted upon it, was yet (sorude were the ideas of enforcing public law) accounted to confer aprivilege on the country in which it was received, and only freemenwere allowed to experience its influence. Serfs and peasants could nothave a place among the Free Judges, their assessors, or assistants;for there was in this assembly even some idea of trying the culprit byhis peers.

  Besides the dignitaries who occupied the benches, there were otherswho stood around, and seemed to guard the various entrances to thehall of judgment, or, standing behind the seats on which theirsuperiors were ranged, looked prepared to execute their commands.These were members of the order, though not of the highest ranks.Schoeppen is the name generally assigned to them, signifying officials,or sergeants of the Vehmique court, whose doom they stood sworn toenforce, through good report and bad report, against their own nearestand most beloved, as well as in cases of ordinary malefactors.

  The Schoeppen, or Scabini, as they were termed in Latin, had anotherhorrible duty to perform--that, namely, of denouncing to the tribunalwhatever came under their observation, that might be construed as anoffence falling under its cognisance; or, in their language, a crimeagainst the Vehme. This duty extended to the judges as well as to theassistants, and was to be discharged without respect of persons; sothat, to know, and wilfully conceal, the guilt of a mother or brother,inferred, on the part of the unfaithful official, the same penalty asif he himself had committed the crime which his silence screened frompunishment. Such an institution could only prevail at a time whenordinary means of justice were excluded by the hand of power, andwhen, in order to bring the guilty to punishment, it required all theinfluence and authority of such a confederacy. In no other countrythan one exposed to every species of feudal tyranny, and deprived ofevery ordinary mode of obtaining justice or redress, could such asystem have taken root and flourished.

  We must now return to the brave Englishman, who, though feeling allthe danger he encountered from so tremendous a tribunal, maintainednevertheless a dignified and unaltered composure.

  The meeting being assembled, a coil of ropes, and a naked sword, thewell-known signals and emblems of Vehmique authority, were depositedon the altar; where the sword, from its being usually straight, with across handle, was considered as representing the blessed emblem ofChristian Redemption, and the cord as indicating the right of criminaljurisdiction, and capital punishment. Then the President of themeeting, who occupied the centre seat on the foremost bench, arose,and laying his hand on the symbols, pronounced aloud the formulaexpressive of the duty of the tribunal, which all the inferior judgesand assistants repeated after him, in deep and hollow murmurs.

  "I swear by the Holy Trinity, to aid and co-operate, withoutrelaxation, in the things belonging to the Holy Vehme, to defend itsdoctrines and institutions against father and mother, brother andsister, wife and children; against fire, water, earth, and air;against all that the sun enlightens; against all that the dewmoistens; against all created things of heaven and earth, or thewaters under the earth; and I swear to give information to this holyjudicature, of all that I know to be true, or hear repeated bycredible testimony, which, by the rules of the Holy Vehme, isdeserving of animadversion or punishment; and that I will not cloak,cover, or conceal, such my knowledge, neither for love, friendship, orfamily affection, nor for gold, silver, or precious stones; neitherwill I associate with such as are under the sentence of this SacredTribunal, by hinting to a culprit his danger, or advising him toescape, or aiding and supplying him with counsel, or means to thateffect; neither will I relieve such culprit with fire, clothes, food,or shelter, though my father should require from me a cup of water inthe heat of summer noon, or my brother should request to sit by myfire in the bitterest cold night of winter: And further, I vow andpromise to honour this holy association, and do its behests speedily,faithfully, and firmly, in preference to those of any other tribunalwhatsoever--so help me God, and His holy Evangelists."

  When this oath of office had been taken, the President addressing theassembly, as men who judge in secret and punish in secret, like theDeity, desired them to say, why this "child of the cord"[2] lay beforethem, bound and helpless. An individual rose from the more remotebench, and in a voice which, though altered and agitated, Philipsonconceived that he recognised, declared himself the accuser, as boundby his oath, of the child of the cord, or prisoner, who lay beforethem.

  "Bring forward the prisoner," said the President, "duly secured, as isthe order of our secret law; but not with such severity as mayinterrupt his attention to the proceedings of the tribunal, or limithis power of hearing and replying."

  Six of the assistants immediately dragged forward the pallet andplatform of boards on which Philipson lay, and advanced it towards thefoot of the altar. This done, each unsheathed his dagger, while two ofthem unloosed the cords by which the merchant's hands were secured,and admonished him in a whisper, that the slightest attempt to resistor escape would be the signal to stab him dead.

  "Arise!" said the President; "listen to the charge to be preferredagainst you, and believe you shall in us find judges equally just andinflexible."

  Philipson, carefully avoiding any gesture which might indicate adesire to escape, raised his body on the lower part of the couch, andremained seated, clothed as he was in his under-vest and _calecons_,or drawers, so as exactly to face the muffled President of theterrible court. Even in these agitating circumstances, the mind of theundaunted Englishman remained unshaken, and his eyelid did not quiver,nor his heart beat quicker, though he seemed, according to theexpression of Scripture, to be a pilgrim in the Valley of the Shadowof Death, beset by numerous snares, and encompassed by totaldarkness, where light was most necessary for safety.

  The President demanded his name, country, and occupation.

  "John Philipson," was the reply; "by birth an Englishman, byprofessio
n a merchant."

  "Have you ever borne any other name and profession?" demanded theJudge.

  "I have been a soldier, and, like most others, had then a name bywhich I was known in war."

  "What was that name?"

  "I laid it aside when I resigned my sword, and I do not desire againto be known by it. Moreover, I never bore it where your institutionshave weight and authority," answered the Englishman.

  "Know you before whom you stand?" continued the Judge.

  "I may at least guess," replied the merchant.

  "Tell your guess, then," continued the interrogator. "Say who we are,and wherefore are you before us?"

  "I believe that I am before the Unknown, or Secret Tribunal, which iscalled Vehme-gericht."

  "Then are you aware," answered the Judge, "that you would be safer ifyou were suspended by the hair over the Abyss of Schaffhausen, or ifyou lay below an axe, which a thread of silk alone kept back from thefall. What have you done to deserve such a fate?"

  "Let those reply by whom I am subjected to it," answered Philipson,with the same composure as before.

  "Speak, accuser!" said the President, "to the four quarters ofheaven!--To the ears of the free judges of this tribunal, and thefaithful executors of their doom!--And to the face of the child ofthe cord, who denies or conceals his guilt, make good the substance ofthine accusation!"

  "Most dreaded," answered the accuser, addressing the President, "thisman hath entered the Sacred Territory, which is called the RedLand,--a stranger under a disguised name and profession. When he wasyet on the eastern side of the Alps, at Turin, in Lombardy, andelsewhere, he at various times spoke of the Holy Tribunal in terms ofhatred and contempt, and declared that were he Duke of Burgundy hewould not permit it to extend itself from Westphalia, or Suabia, intohis dominions. Also I charge him, that, nourishing this malevolentintention against the Holy Tribunal, he who now appears before thebench as child of the cord has intimated his intention to wait uponthe court of the Duke of Burgundy, and use his influence with him,which he boasts will prove effectual to stir him up to prohibit themeetings of the Holy Vehme in his dominions, and to inflict on theirofficers, and the executors of their mandates, the punishment due torobbers and assassins."

  "This is a heavy charge, brother!" said the President of the assembly,when the accuser ceased speaking. "How do you purpose to make itgood?"

  "According to the tenor of those secret statutes the perusal of whichis prohibited to all but the initiated," answered the accuser.

  "It is well," said the President; "but I ask thee once more, What arethose means of proof? You speak to holy and to initiated ears."

  "I will prove my charge," said the accuser, "by the confession of theparty himself, and by my own oath upon the holy emblems of the SecretJudgment--that is, the steel and the cord."

  "It is a legitimate offer of proof," said a member of the aristocraticbench of the assembly; "and it much concerns the safety of the systemto which we are bound by such deep oaths--a system handed down to usfrom the most Christian and holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, for theconversion of the heathen Saracens, and punishing such of them asrevolted again to their Pagan practices, that such criminals should belooked to. This Duke Charles of Burgundy hath already crowded his armywith foreigners, whom he can easily employ against this Sacred Court,more especially with English, a fierce, insular people, wedded totheir own usages, and hating those of every other nation. It is notunknown to us, that the Duke hath already encouraged opposition to theofficials of the Tribunal in more than one part of his Germandominions; and that in consequence, instead of submitting to theirdoom with reverent resignation, children of the cord have been foundbold enough to resist the executioners of the Vehme, striking,wounding, and even slaying those who have received commission to putthem to death. This contumacy must be put an end to; and if theaccused shall be proved to be one of those by whom such doctrines areharboured and inculcated, I say let the steel and cord do their workon him."

  A general murmur seemed to approve what the speaker had said; for allwere conscious that the power of the Tribunal depended much more onthe opinion of its being deeply and firmly rooted in the generalsystem, than upon any regard or esteem for an institution of whichall felt the severity. It followed, that those of the members whoenjoyed consequence by means of their station in the ranks of theVehme saw the necessity of supporting its terrors by occasionalexamples of severe punishment; and none could be more readilysacrificed than an unknown and wandering foreigner. All this rushedupon Philipson's mind, but did not prevent his making a steady replyto the accusation.

  "Gentlemen," he said, "good citizens, burgesses, or by whatever othername you please to be addressed, know, that in my former days I havestood in as great peril as now, and have never turned my heel to savemy life. Cords and daggers are not calculated to strike terror intothose who have seen swords and lances. My answer to the accusation is,that I am an Englishman, one of a nation accustomed to yield and toreceive open-handed and equal justice dealt forth in the broad lightof day. I am, however, a traveller, who knows that he has no right tooppose the rules and laws of other nations because they do notresemble those of his own. But this caution can only be called for inlands where the system about which we converse is in full force andoperation. If we speak of the institutions of Germany, being at thetime in France or Spain, we may, without offence to the country inwhich they are current, dispute concerning them, as students debateupon a logical thesis in a university. The accuser objects to me, thatat Turin, or elsewhere in the north of Italy, I spoke with censure ofthe institution under which I am now judged. I will not deny that Iremember something of the kind; but it was in consequence of thequestion being in a manner forced upon me by two guests with whom Ichanced to find myself at table. I was much and earnestly solicitedfor an opinion ere I gave one."

  "And was that opinion," said the presiding Judge, "favourable orotherwise to the Holy and Secret Vehme-gericht? Let truth rule yourtongue--remember, life is short, judgment is eternal!"

  "I would not save my life at the expense of a falsehood. My opinionwas unfavourable; and I expressed myself thus:--No laws or judicialproceedings can be just or commendable which exist and operate bymeans of a secret combination. I said, that justice could only liveand exist in the open air, and that when she ceased to be public shedegenerated into revenge and hatred. I said, that a system of whichyour own jurists have said, _non frater a fratre, non hospes ahospite, tutus_, was too much adverse to the laws of nature to beconnected with or regulated by those of religion."

  These words were scarcely uttered, when there burst a murmur from theJudges highly unfavourable to the prisoner,--"He blasphemes the HolyVehme--Let his mouth be closed for ever!"

  "Hear me," said the Englishman, "as you will one day wish to beyourselves heard! I say such were my sentiments, and so I expressedthem--I say also, I had a right to express these opinions, whethersound or erroneous, in a neutral country, where this Tribunal neitherdid, nor could, claim any jurisdiction. My sentiments are still thesame. I would avow them if that sword were at my bosom, or that cordaround my throat. But I deny that I have ever spoken against theinstitutions of your Vehme, in a country where it had its course as anational mode of justice. Far more strongly, if possible, do Idenounce the absurdity of the falsehood, which represents me, awandering foreigner, as commissioned to traffic with the Duke ofBurgundy about such high matters, or to form a conspiracy for thedestruction of a system to which so many seem warmly attached. I neversaid such a thing, and I never thought it."

  "Accuser," said the presiding Judge, "thou hast heard theaccused--What is thy reply?"

  "The first part of the charge," said the accuser, "he hath confessedin this high presence--namely, that his foul tongue hath baselyslandered our holy mysteries; for which he deserves that it should betorn out of his throat. I myself, on my oath of office, will aver, asuse and law is, that the rest of the accusation--namely, that whichtaxes him as having entered into machinations
for the destruction ofthe Vehmique institutions--is as true as those which he has foundhimself unable to deny."

  "In justice," said the Englishman, "the accusation, if not made goodby satisfactory proof, ought to be left to the oath of the partyaccused, instead of permitting the accuser to establish by his owndeposition the defects in his own charge."

  "Stranger," replied the presiding Judge, "we permit to thy ignorance alonger and more full defence than consists with our usual forms. Know,that the right of sitting among these venerable judges confers on theperson of him who enjoys it a sacredness of character which ordinarymen cannot attain to. The oath of one of the initiated mustcounterbalance the most solemn asseveration of every one that is notacquainted with our holy secrets. In the Vehmique court all must beVehmique. The averment of the Emperor, he being uninitiated, would nothave so much weight in our counsels as that of one of the meanest ofthese officials. The affirmation of the accuser can only be rebuttedby the oath of a member of the same Tribunal, being of superior rank."

  "Then, God be gracious to me, for I have no trust save in Heaven!"said the Englishman, in solemn accents. "Yet I will not fall withoutan effort. I call upon thee thyself, dark spirit, who presidest inthis most deadly assembly--I call upon thyself, to declare on thyfaith and honour, whether thou holdest me guilty of what is thusboldly averred by this false calumniator--I call upon thee by thysacred character--by the name of"----

  "Hold!" replied the presiding Judge. "The name by which we are knownin open air must not be pronounced in this subterraneanjudgment-seat."

  He then proceeded to address the prisoner and the assembly.--"I, beingcalled on in evidence, declare that the charge against thee is so fartrue as it is acknowledged by thyself--namely, that thou hast in otherlands than the Red Soil[3] spoken lightly of this holy institution ofjustice. But I believe in my soul, and will bear witness on my honour,that the rest of the accusation is incredible and false. And this Iswear, holding my hand on the dagger and the cord.--What is yourjudgment, my brethren, upon the case which you have investigated?"

  A member of the first-seated and highest class amongst the judges,muffled like the rest, but the tone of whose voice and the stoop ofwhose person announced him to be more advanced in years than the othertwo who had before spoken, arose with difficulty, and said with atrembling voice,--

  "The child of the cord who is before us has been convicted of follyand rashness in slandering our holy institution. But he spoke hisfolly to ears which had never heard our sacred laws--He has,therefore, been acquitted, by irrefragable testimony, of combining forthe impotent purpose of undermining our power, or stirring up princesagainst our holy association, for which death were too light apunishment--He hath been foolish, then, but not criminal; and as theholy laws of the Vehme bear no penalty save that of death, I proposefor judgment that the child of the cord be restored without injury tosociety, and to the upper world, having been first duly admonished ofhis errors."

  "Child of the cord," said the presiding Judge, "thou hast heard thysentence of acquittal. But, as thou desirest to sleep in an unbloodygrave, let me warn thee, that the secrets of this night shall remainwith thee, as a secret not to be communicated to father nor mother, tospouse, son, or daughter; neither to be spoken aloud nor whispered; tobe told in words or written in characters; to be carved or to bepainted, or to be otherwise communicated, either directly or byparable and emblem. Obey this behest, and thy life is in surety. Letthy heart then rejoice within thee, but let it rejoice with trembling.Never more let thy vanity persuade thee that thou art secure from theservants and Judges of the Holy Vehme. Though a thousand leagues liebetween thee and the Red Land, and thou speakest in that where ourpower is not known; though thou shouldst be sheltered by thy nativeisland, and defended by thy kindred ocean, yet, even there, I warnthee to cross thyself when thou dost so much as think of the Holy andInvisible Tribunal, and to retain thy thoughts within thine own bosom;for the Avenger may be beside thee, and thou mayst die in thy folly.Go hence, be wise, and let the fear of the Holy Vehme never pass frombefore thine eyes."

  At the concluding words, all the lights were at once extinguished witha hissing noise. Philipson felt once more the grasp of the hands ofthe officials, to which he resigned himself as the safest course. Hewas gently prostrated on his pallet-bed, and transported back to theplace from which he had been advanced to the foot of the altar. Thecordage was again applied to the platform, and Philipson was sensiblethat his couch rose with him for a few moments, until a slight shockapprised him that he was again brought to a level with the floor ofthe chamber in which he had been lodged on the preceding night, orrather morning. He pondered over the events that had passed, in whichhe was sensible that he owed Heaven thanks for a great deliverance.Fatigue at length prevailed over anxiety, and he fell into a deep andprofound sleep, from which he was only awakened by returning light.He resolved on an instant departure from so dangerous a spot, and,without seeing any one of the household but the old ostler, pursuedhis journey to Strasburg, and reached that city without furtheraccident.


  [1] The word Wehme, pronounced Vehme, is of uncertain derivation, butwas always used to intimate this inquisitorial and secret Court. Themembers were termed Wissenden, or Initiated, answering to the modernphrase of Illuminati. Mr. Palgrave seems inclined to derive the word_Vehme_ from _Ehme_, _i.e._ _Law_, and he is probably right.

  [2] The term _Strick-kind_, or child of the cord, was applied to theperson accused before these awful assemblies.

  [3] The parts of Germany subjected to the operation of the SecretTribunal were called, from the blood which it spilt, or from someother reason (Mr. Palgrave suggests the ground tincture of the ancientbanner of the district), the Red Soil. Westphalia, as the limits ofthat country were understood in the Middle Ages, which areconsiderably different from the present boundaries, was the principaltheatre of the Vehme.