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Ther advanced cautiously, that they might not stumble over the stones which lay around; but suddenly they paused, startled by a strange apparition. Before the pillar in which the brazen tablet with the master's name had that morning been inlaid, sat the latter, holding a crucifix in his hand, his eyes fixed stedfastly upon the tablet. From time to time, he looked inquiringly and anxiously around; at last he rose, examined the tablet and its juncture with the stone around, and muttered, in a tone of satisfaction, “ It will hold!”
He then took his seat again, lost in deep thought. The expression of satisfaction gradually left his countenance; it grew dark and gloomy, and he spoke in a low voice, “ But the price is too high! And there is no help!”
Suddenly he clasped the crucifix in both his hands, held it up before him, and sank upon his knees, as if he would pray. His features became enlivened ; an inward struggle was visible in their expression. It seemed as if he were endeavouring, with all his force, to direct his thoughts upon some object, in which, however, he was unsuccessful, for suddenly he dropped the crucifix, placed both hands over his face, and murmured, “In vain! I can no longer!”
The two comrades had watched in silence the master's singular conduct, but they now turned to depart. The master heard their steps, doubtless, for he sprang up; his flashing eyes were directed at the departing companions; he caught up the crucifix, held it outstretched, and, with a thundering voice, repeated various forms of conjuration. The two apprentices, seized with terror, fled with hasty steps, and behind them sounded the master's voice, who, between the words of conjuration, cried, laughing grimly, “Ha! ha! thy labour is in vain; I keep good watch!”
BETWEEN the mountains of the Siebengebirges there runs a valley called Heisterbach. At the extremity of this there stood at that time a hermitage, in which dwelt an old hermit, who was known far and wide for his piety, so that the faithful from all parts of the surrounding country made pilgrimages to him to receive his blessing. Father Aloysius—this was the name of the devout old man—sat one evening before his hermitage, sunk in contemplation of the setting sun, and yielding to the devout thoughts which this spectacle awaked in his bosom.
A man now came slowly up the path, often stopping, as if he was striving with himself whether he should proceed or not. When he was about twenty paces from the hermit, he suddenly walked vigorously forward, sank upon his knees before him, and said in a low voice, “ Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ !”
“For ever and ever, amen!” replied Father Aloysius. “Rise, and tell me who thou art, and what brings thee hither.”
But the other remained upon his knees, and said, “I am the master who is building the new cathedral in the city of Cologne."
The hermit was well pleased to see the far-famed man, and said, “I greet thee in the name of the Lord, thou pious master, who hast devoted thy life to God's service, and hast begun a work which will redound to the glory of the holy Church. But rise, and tell me thy desire."
The master did not rise, but answered, “I am no pious man, as thou callest me, reverend father: a great sinner lies at thy feet; and my desire is that you listen to my confession, and then inform me what I should do in this, my highest need.”.
As the hermit, wondering at these words, desired him to speak, and to disclose to him all the truth, the master related how he had obtained the plan, and then continued : “See, thus grievously have I sinned. When the Archbishop spoke to me of the new building, there darted, as it were, a flash of lightning through my soul, and the image of the cathedral, as it is now building, stood clearly before me. But my thoughts were blinded by wicked vanity, so that I did not set about the work with God's blessing, as was so needful in so hallowed an undertaking, but thought solely of the fame which should accrue to me therefrom. And thus my mind was so clouded by ambition, that I could never grasp the plan distinctly, and in my deep despair thereat, I fell into the snares of the Evil One. But the punishment has overtaken me even in this world, for since that moment I have not known a quiet hour."
And he related further how he had watched by night in the cathedral, and then continued: “I can no longer bear the fearful burden which weighs upon me. I would not confess to the pious fathers in Cologne, | lest it should prove a grief and scandal to them, when they learned that the cathedral in which they so delight was built with Satan's help. Therefore I have come to thee, that thou mayest utter a blessing upon my building, that it may prosper, and tell me if it is not possible that the punishment which I have drawn upon me may be lightened.”
The master was silent, and bowed his forehead in the dust.
But after long reflection, the pious hermit said, “ Thou hast sinned grievously, my son. But the All-mighty is also the All-merciful; he will behold thy deep and bitter repentance, and the heavy punishment which thou hast already suffered from the tormenting consciousness of thy guilt. And if thou shalt persevere in thy purpose of reformation, and dost exercise repentance until thy life's close, the Lord will look down graciously upon thee, and will not eternally condemn thee; for truly he sent his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to save and redeem mankind, and thou also wilt share in this redemption. But that thy penitence may be complete, go hence, and let the brazen tablet with thy name engraven upon it be taken out of the pillar in the church. For as thou hast sinned from foolish vanity, it shall be thy punishment that thy name be forgotten among men, and never more be uttered upon earth. And because thou didst not set about thy work with God's help, it will never be completed, for that at which the Lord is not present will never prosper.”
At these words the master rose, and bitter woe was visible in his countenance. His whole life had been bound up in the building of his cathedral, and now his life was lost.
But the pious hermit continued to comfort him, so that he at last became more consoled, and resolved to do as was told him, that he might regain his peace of mind. Father Aloysius gave him his blessing, and he returned to Cologne with a lighter heart.
VARIOUS strange things were whispered in the city of Cologne. The people heard with great astonishment that the master had caused the brazen tablet with his name to be taken from the pillar, and the opening to be walled up again. And they told each other that since that time the master had been completely changed. Although each one had formerly avoided him on account of his singular demeanour, his dark and stedfast gaze, yet now each looked upon him with compassion; for deep grief was visible in his pallid face, and still the heavy gloom upon his brow had become much milder.
But the people wondered still more that the master no longer was ever present at the building as heretofore, but went often to the churches, and came more and more seldom, until at last he was almost entirely forgotten. And one day they heard in the city that the master was dead, and buried in all stillness. He had requested on his death-bed that this should be so, that no one should attend his body to the tomb, and no one know the place of his burial.
And it happened as Father Aloysius had said. Soon, repeated hindrances interrupted the progress of the building, mostly arising from the feuds of the city with the Archbishops, so that it could easily be seen that they came from an evil source. And after the year 1499 the building of the cathedral entirely ceased, so that it remains at this day unfinished.
But the master's name was forgotten. And when any one now stands before the gigantic edifice, and admires the boldness, the grandeur of the undertaking,—wonderful, even uncompleted, and asks after the name of the master-builder, there is no one who can name him. It is to be found in no book, the memory of no man has preserved it, it has not passed from generation to generation—it is forgotten!
So, quoth Robin Hood, I'll to Scarborough go,
It seems a very fine day:
Adown by the waters grey." The widow looked at her lodger, and, seeing him personable and promising, inquired who he was, and what was his trade. “I am a poor fisherman," replied Robin, with a downcast look, “and in my own country I am called Simon of the Lee.”
“Simon, she said, if thou 'lt be my man,
Round wages I 'll give thee;
As any that sails the sea.” Robin entered at once into the service of the buxom widow, and, joining his new comrades, they plucked up the anchor, and, sailing till old England grew dim in the distance, cast their baited hooks into the sea, and began to catch fish ; but, alas for Robin! he was ignorant of the whole mystery of fishing, and when others dropped their baited hooks into the water, he dropped in a naked hook and a bare line. This was not unobserved :
“ It will be long, said the master then,
Ere this lubber thrive at sea;
For in faith he's not worthy.
And the day that I came here;
Chasing the fallow-deer.
And a lubber they me call;
I would put scorn on them all.” The moment for Robin to assert his superiority, even on the sea, was at hand: if he failed to arm his lines and bait his hooks, and caught nothing, while his companions laughed at his ignorance, his looks brightened as he saw a French rover bearing down upon them, for he had not forgotten to bring his bow and arrows: as Robin's face brightened, the master's countenance sank:
“O woe is me, said the master then,
And the day that I was born;
There is every fin forlorn.