Mareschal Saxe And The Haunted Castle





The following very remarkable adventure, which befel the Mareschal de

Saxe, whilst returning to his country-seat, near Dresden, in Saxony, has

often been related by him to his friends and acquaintance; and, as the

Mareschal was not less famed for his love of truth, than for his heroic

courage as a warrior, none of them ever doubted the truth of his

relation.



"Returning," says the Mareschal, "from the fatigues of a very active

campaign to my country-seat, in order to seek, in retirement, some

relaxation during the remainder of the winter, I arrived on the third

day at a small village, on the verge of an extensive forest. At about

half a league from this village, stood an ancient castle, in which some

of the country-people were usually wont to take up their abode, and from

which they had of late been driven, according to their account, by the

nightly appearance of a most terrific spectre, whose visit was announced

by the most hideous groans. On conversing with some of the villagers,"

observes the Mareschal, "I found that an universal terror pervaded the

whole neighbourhood; many of them declaring they had actually seen the

dreadful ghost; whilst others, taking their declaration for granted,

promulgated the story, according as their imaginations were more or less

affected by their fears.



"Willing, if possible, to comfort these poor people, and to convince

them that their senses were deceived, I told them they were wrong to

suffer their fears to get the better of their reason; and that, if any

of them had the courage to examine more closely into the affair, they

would find the whole was nothing more than some imposture, or the

effusion of a superstitious brain, or, at most, a trick played upon them

by some wicked people on purpose to amuse themselves by sporting with

their feelings. But I was much disappointed to find that my arguments

had but little effect. I therefore determined, if possible, to trace the

affair to the bottom before I departed, in order to dispel their fears,

and do away the unfavourable impression they had so generally

entertained of the castle being haunted.



"I now told them, I would pass a night in one of the apartments of the

castle, provided I were furnished with a bed, and other necessaries

requisite for such an undertaking. 'Moreover,' said I, 'if this ghostly

personage should honour me with a visit, I shall not fail to propose

articles of accommodation between you.' To this they readily assented,

and seemed much pleased with my proposition.



"In the evening, my bed, fire, and other requisites, being ready, I was

conducted to my new abode; on entering which, I proposed to some of my

conductors to pass the night with me, which they, one and all, declined,

under various pretences. 'Well then, my good people,' said I, rallying

their want of courage, 'the day is now closing apace, I would have you

return immediately, lest this nightly intruder should intercept you in

your retreat.' Whereupon my companions took leave, and hastened with all

speed from the castle.



"Being now alone, I thought it prudent to examine the castle with the

most minute circumspection. After various researches to discover all the

private avenues of the place, I returned to the apartment I proposed

sleeping in, at the further end of which I perceived a door that till

now I had not discovered. I essayed to open it, but in vain, as it was

fastened on the other side. This naturally excited my suspicion. I again

made the attempt, and again was unsuccessful. I then prepared to guard

myself against a surprise; I therefore charged my pistols, and laid them

together with my sword in a convenient place to seize them on the least

alarm. I then took a slight repast, of such provisions as had been

prepared for me; after which I amused myself, until my usual hour of

going to rest, with examining the Gothic decorations of my apartment,

and then laid me down on the bed, and, being rather overcome with the

fatigue of the day, I soon sunk into a profound sleep. How long I

continued in this state, I cannot exactly say; but I conjectured it to

be about midnight, when I was alarmed with the most unaccountable noise

I had ever heard. I listened a few seconds, to ascertain from whence the

sound came, and soon found it proceeded from without the door I had

fruitlessly attempted to open. I instantly jumped from the bed, seized

my arms, and was in the act of advancing towards it, determined to find

out the cause of this disturbance, let what would be the consequence;

when, suddenly the door flew open, with the most tremendous crash. A

hollow groan issued from the vaults below; and a tall figure of gigantic

appearance, clad in complete armour, rose to my view. The figure's

appearance was so sudden and terrific, that I could not in a moment

collect myself sufficiently to call out and speak to it; but, a moment

after, my courage returned, and, calling to mind, that I could only find

safety in my own courageous efforts, and not doubting but the intruder

was a mortal like myself, I instantly levelled one of my pistols, and

fired. The ball struck the breast-plate of the figure, glided quickly

off, and lodged in the wall. I levelled again, fired, and with the same

effect. I then drew my sword, at the same time exclaiming, 'Know that I

am the Mareschal de Saxe; that I am a stranger to fear, and that this

sword shall quickly prove whether thou art mortal or not!' 'Be thou the

Mareschal de Saxe, or the devil,' replied the figure; 'thy courage here

can avail thee nought. I have the means to destroy thee, or an hundred

such, in an instant. But, follow me; thy obedience only can insure thy

safety.' I now saw that resistance would be vain, as several figures

clad in armour like the first, and well armed, appeared at each door.

'Well then,' said I, 'since it is so, lead the way; but remember, that

the first who dares touch me dies, if my own life is the immediate

forfeiture.'



"We then quitted the apartment, by the secret door already mentioned;

and, descending by a circuitous flight of stairs, soon arrived at

another door, which flew open on our approach. No sooner were we

entered, than my guide gave a signal to those who followed, and the door

was instantly shut. A number of Vulcan-like creatures now appeared,

bearing lighted torches, and leading the way through a winding

subterraneous passage. We soon came to a spacious arched vault, in which

I beheld upwards of fifty persons very actively engaged in the various

processes of coining. The whole mystery was now developed; and I

discovered that, for the first time in my life, I had fallen into the

hands of a most desperate gang of coiners. Escape was now utterly

impossible; nor could I entertain the most distant hope of succour from

without the castle, as my sudden disappearance would rather operate to

confirm the terror of the villagers, than stimulate them to search after

me.



"The man in armour now turned to me, and addressed me in nearly the

following words--'You now see for what purpose we are here arrived. I am

the chief of this band; and it is principally to me you may attribute

your preservation. We have but recently taken up our abode in this

castle; and the plan we have fallen upon to terrify the villagers and

country round, and thereby keep them from pursuing us, has hitherto

succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations; nor was it likely we

should have been disturbed for years to come, had you not visited these

parts. Of your resolute intention to sleep in the haunted apartment we

were informed by our friends without; your name also was made known to

us; upon which an universal consternation ensued. Many wished to fly, in

order to avoid, what they conceived, inevitable destruction: others were

of opinion, it would be better to suffer you to enter the castle

quietly; and as, most likely you would be attended with but few persons,

to dispatch you all in the night, and hide your bodies among the ruins

in one of the vaults. This last proposition had the majority; as it was

considered, that our own safety would not only be secured for the

present by this act, but it would in all probability prevent others from

making the like attempt hereafter. But this proceeding was happily

over-ruled by me and a few others--I say, happily; for though we are

considered, in the eye of the law, as co-brothers with assassins and

midnight robbers, yet God forbid that we should add to our crimes by

staining our hands with the blood of the innocent. To be brief, I

promised that, with the aid of a few of my companions, I would drive you

from the castle by the same stratagem I have before made use of to

others, or, if that did not succeed, to secure and conduct you by force.

Thus have I explained the cause of your present detention. The

regaining your liberty must entirely depend on your acquiescence with

our proposals; and there is a way I can point out, by which you may

secure both your own safety and our's.' 'Name it not then,' said I,

interrupting him, 'if it be dishonourable; for I had rather perish here

by your hands, than owe my liberty to any connivance at your iniquities,

or be the instrument of your future security!' 'Use your own pleasure,'

continued he, in a determined tone of voice; 'but you certainly must not

depart this place until you have bound yourself by your honour not to

divulge a secret, on which depend the lives of so many persons. That

word, once pledged by the Mareschal de Saxe, will be a sufficient

guarantee of our future safety. I could have wished our request had been

more congenial to your feelings; but our situation is desperate, and

consequently impels us to enforce, what we would, under all other

circumstances, have solicited as the least of favours--your word of

honour.



"I paused for several minutes: a confused murmur now run throughout the

whole place, and an universal disapprobation at the chief's forbearance

began now to manifest itself. Add to which, I saw the utter

impracticability of escape without complying with their demand; and I

knew that their prepossession in my favour was but partial, and of

course might soon give way to their former plan of assassinating me for

their safety. If I continued inflexible, I perceived my death was

inevitable. Therefore, as the majority were favourably inclined, I made

a virtue of necessity, and gave them my word to keep the secret of the

whole affair locked within my own breast. 'You are now at liberty,' said

the chief, 'to return to your apartment, where you may rely on being

perfectly safe until break of day, when you had better depart.'

Whereupon the doors flew open, and I was conducted back to my old

lodging, where I sat ruminating on the strangeness of the adventure.



"Day now appearing, I quitted the castle, and hied me to the village,

where I found most of the inhabitants already in waiting, eager to hear

how I made out with the ghost. Numberless were their interrogatories,

which I only answered by telling them I was not at liberty to disclose

what I had seen and heard. Their old opinions were now more fully

confirmed than ever; and, I believe, from that moment none have had

courage to venture near the castle after dark; and it is probable that,

to this day, the whole mystery has never been truly explained to their

satisfaction. Shortly after, I set out on my journey, and soon arrived

in safety at my own domain.



"About four years after this, a person rode up to my gate, leading a

couple of beautiful chargers, which he delivered, with a letter

addressed to me, into the hands of my domestics; and, having so done, he

clapped spurs to his horse, and disappeared in an instant. On opening

the letter, I found it contained nearly the following words--



'From the pretended Ghost of the Haunted Castle, to the Mareschal de

Saxe.



'Brave Mareschal--You are now at liberty to divulge the secret of our

affair in the haunted castle. Our fortunes are now made; and, ere you

receive this, we shall be far from hence. But remember, that whatever

the world may say as to the propriety of keeping your word with men like

us, know, that the honour of a prince[A], once pledged, should be kept

inviolate, even though given in a bad cause. My companions desired me to

beg your acceptance of the horses you will receive herewith, as a mark

of their most grateful acknowledgments. Adieu! May you live long, and be

happy.'--"





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