The Thing Which Fell From The Heavens by Gerd Maximovič (Translation: Isabel Cole)

It was on the 25th of April of the year 1502, near Lorsch on the Rhine, that a curious apparition fell from the heavens. Peasants who had been working in the fields told of a strange blue radiance which appeared in the cloudless sky. The peasant Söderlin related that the blue star had seemed to him like the halo of the Virgin Mary on the high alter of Iffezheim. Another peasant said that the radiance had rapidly grown in intensity and magnitude, and that - and this was the only reason they had noticed it - it had been accompanied by a shrill, whistling noise. The statements, which the Mayor of Lorsch noted, also agreed consistently that for a time, as the radiance had still been at a great height, a veil, pale red, as if burning, had hung about it, trailing away behind like that of the star of Bethlehem.

The apparition had fallen to the earth, far from the observers - they had been scattered within a radius of several hours - in a grove which belonged to the possessions of the Castle Herrenhausen. At the moment when the apparition fell, Peter Schmidt, a swineherd, had been with his herd at the edge of the grove, dozing instead of attending to his charges. He was woken by the roaring which hung in the air, then by the din which the thing sent before it; at last, he had fled before the light and the grinding noise of toppling trees. It was some time - for he was extremely excited and out of breath - after his ears had been boxed more than once for the neglect of his duties, before the people in the farmstead where he had fled understood his initially confused story.

Then a troop of serfs and maids armed with scythes and cudgels set forth, promising that, if the swineherd were merely telling a story, as he had done once before, there would not be much left when they were finished with him. The place where the apparition had landed could be seen even from the meadow which ran up to the grove. The trees which, shortly before, had stood on the summit were toppled far in every direction. Through the remaining trunks which raised their naked, black arms into the air, an enormous breach could be seen, a thin black column of smoke rising over it. Even below the summit, there was a smell of burning, and some already knew, as one could later hear in the village inn, that the smell of sulfur had come from the grove. The miller of Brand, known as the bravest serf in the entire region, was the first to enter the grove.

Then a troop of serfs and maids armed with scythes and cudgels set forth, promising that, if the swineherd were merely telling a story, as he had done once before, there would not be much left when they were finished with him. The place where the apparition had landed could be seen even from the meadow which ran up to the grove. The trees which, shortly before, had stood on the summit were toppled far in every direction. Through the remaining trunks which raised their naked, black arms into the air, an enormous breach could be seen, a thin black column of smoke rising over it. Even below the summit, there was a smell of burning, and some already knew, as one could later hear in the village inn, that the smell of sulfur had come from the grove. The miller of Brand, known as the bravest serf in the entire region, was the first to enter the grove.

He made his way with some difficulty, for the trees toppled by the apparition had fallen every which way. As he climbed over the last trunks and stepped out into a wide, bald, black-charred space, he glimpsed, at the center of the hill's summit, a brown damp crater whose inner rim gleamed as if glazed green.

Boldly, now that the rest of the serfs had approached, seeing the miller of Brand before them, he stepped up to the rim of the crater. Here the stench which hung over the hill was so powerful that the bold serf first took the tail of his tunic as a handkerchief. After wiping his eyes, he looked down into the crater, which reached perhaps ten yards into the earth. Its walls were dark green and black and as if made of glass. But it was not this wonder which made the miller of Brand catch his breath. It was the thing which he glimpsed at the bottom of the crater.

At first, the miller of Brand thought what had fallen into the wood was only an intense blue radiance. But then, as he stared down for a while in silence, and the serfs joined him, one after the other, the powerful blue glow began to fade, revealing a brown figure which seemed covered by a milky bell, at first lying completely motionless below, its surface, covered with great cracks and pores, twitching only occasionally. To the miller of Brand, it seemed that the surface of the thing consisted of a kind of leather, like that which one could see in its raw state in the tannery of the nearby town.

Lore, a bold maid, picked up a piece of charred wood from the ground and threw it into the crater at the brown thing. In the same moment, the serfs and maids who stood around the rim of the crater jumped back, for the thing in the hole had begun to move. It seemed that an itch was crossing its leather skin, beginning where its head must have been and ending in back, and making it turn slowly in the hole. At the same time a high, scratchy sound emerged from the hole, so unarticulated, however, that one could not have called it speech.

Again, the thing in the crater moved, this time, as it seemed, upward. Now they could clearly see how it floundered in its hole, which left it little room to maneuver, could see it move back and forth as its skin twitched, and, as it clung to the walls of the crater and grew longer and longer, the last of the blue radiance which had just surrounded it faded. Again, the onlookers, grown uneasy, heard the shrill sound which rose into the still, silent forest. Although it was a fair, warm April day, some now seemed to shiver.

The swineherd was the first to leave the crater, saying that the pigs were now scattered far and wide and that if he did not see to them soon, they would begin to ravage others' land. Striezel, visiting from Saxony, retreated, shaking his head and remarking that there was nothing of this kind in his homeland. A maid declared under her breath that the Devil had fallen from the sky and that he could only be gotten the better off with holy water, which she would fetch from the village church when she warned the pastor. At last a servant from the castle, Jörg Ratgeb, withdrew with the remark that this was a matter for the squire. In the end, the miller of Brand was left alone with his courage and the thing.

At Castle Herrenhausen the servant was met with curses and kicks. Hardly had he stepped through the gate into the inner courtyard, where two lounging knights began to thrash him, when the lord of the castle, Squire Tobias, alerted by a commotion unusual at this hour, appeared at the window of the great banqueting-hall, his face flushed with wine, and looked down at the scene which was playing itself out for the edification of the menials gathered around Ratgeb.

What was going on, the squire called down into the courtyard in a loud voice, and in the windows alongside him appeared several gentlemen with whom he had been holding the midday meal. How did he come to leave his work; to bring Jörg Ratgeb, whose name he knew as that of one of the most refractory servants, back to work he would have to loose the dogs upon him, which indeed, circling Ratgeb with growls and whimpers, had to be restrained by one of the knights.

It was some time before Jörg Ratgeb could make himself understood to the drunken servants. At first, he reaped mockery and further kicks, but as he continued to insist on his story so stubbornly, the squire, who had helped himself to the wine-jug more than once, grew thoughtful.

And from the side windows came the voices of several gentlemen, saying that they had had enough fun with Jörg Ratgeb now, and that, as he was unwilling to yield, there might become truth in his story. The squire said: "If you're lying, I'll have you beaten to a jelly!"

At the prompting of drink and mood the knights galloped straight across the fields, trampled the first sprouting seeds and were unable to compose themselves until they saw the wood before them, where the trees reared up like spears. At the edge of the grove, beneath the hill, they dismounted from their horses and climbed over the fallen trunks.

In the meantime, a crowd of people had gathered on the meadow beneath the hill, and the wildest rumors as to what had happened on the hill spread among them, and in the entire region. And the apparition in the sky, which had been visible far and wide, had brought many people from the entire district streaming to the grove and the hill.

The first thing which the lord of the castle and his servants saw when they entered the clearing was the miller of Brand, lying on his side next to the crater, writhing as if in convulsions. Next to him, the brown thing which Ratgeb had spoken of was visible. As could be seen at first glance, it had crept up out of the crater and lay calmly on its side. It seemed to be touching the miller of Brand with a feeler which it reached from its front. Seen from the edge of the clearing, it was a brown heap, the cracks on its surface gleaming in the sunlight. Above the feelers with which it groped out swaying into the wind, a wreath of gleaming black, button-like eyes could be seen.

When they saw the thing begin to move sluggishly, now creeping across the miller of Brand, who lay utterly still, Squire Tobias and his servants came no closer. Their behavior was also justified by the fact that the aforementioned stench was spreading through the entire clearing like a heavy stinking cloud as if the thing was in a state of decay. Nothing more was to be seen of the thin column of smoke spoken of by the serfs and maids who had been first on the scene.

Now the preacher, Karl Weitling, a righteous, god-fearing man, had arrived at the scene as well. He had brought a pot of holy water with him from the vicarage and, feeling all eyes upon him, stepped out into the clearing, murmuring the Lord's Prayer, and, with reluctant steps, came close enough to the brown thing to sprinkle his holy water over the miller of Brand, who moved no more, and over the thing, across whose skin feverish ripples kept spreading.

At the first drops the thing cried out in a thin, high little voice, and a gray cloud of smoke rose from its skin, causing many of the onlookers and even several of the lords from the castle to cross themselves. Weitling surprised by the success of his efforts, and at the same time certain that his faith would aid him, sprinkled a few more drops and said the Lord's Prayer over the thing, which lay there trembling and piteous, and over the miller of Brand.

In the meantime, sundry people, craftsmen, and journeymen who had come running from their work arrived from Lorsch, and, gaping at the thing in astonishment, they spread the news that a prodigy had been born in Lorsch, precisely at the noonday hour. Gesine, who had given life to seven healthy children, had borne a child with two heads, a child incapable of survival, and now lay in the last agony herself.

This news galvanized the crowd, which had overcome its fear of the motionless being, like a sting. "Kill it! Burn the thing! To the knackery with it!" they cried, and several stones which lay loose on the ground, as well as charred pieces of wood and other material which lay on the summit of the hill, were flung at the thing, which shuddered under the hail which rained down upon it and began to creep back slowly, as if to seek shelter in the hole from which it had climbed.

But that only provoked the rage of the crowd. Serfs and maids who had hung back before now grasped their cudgels firmly and tried to thrash the life out of them - as they said - godless thing, which they immediately maintained was also to blame for the bad harvests of the past two years.

Once the crowd had shouldered him aside, the pastor Karl Weitling had a violent struggle to wage in his breast. God-fearing, he had always preached that God loves all his creatures on earth and that even the lowliest worm has its place near God. He thought of this as several of the men - some of the most illfamed, whom the preacher had never seen at confession - gave free rein to their fury.

But the matter was first settled in another fashion. For as the thing lay there, no longer able to creep backward, and as a bright fluid, which they, at any rate, took for blood, flowed out of many openings in its armor, Squire Tobias, whom the peasants of the surrounding area knew for his unpredictability and cruelty, stepped forward and held back the serfs and journeymen with a motion of his hand, making them drop their cudgels and stones.

"I say!" the squire cried far and wide, jamming both thumbs into his belt. “Can’t you see, before us lies the archenemy of humanity? It's Satan personified. He is as Bosch portrayed him in his pictures. Now behold him, the Devil, who has finally revealed himself in-person to bring misfortune and disaster in a measure never known before. Is it not so," he cried, as the crowd listened, "that he has earned death thousand times over?" "Yes, yes," the people cried, "he should be hanged on the gallows if there were anywhere to put the noose!"

Removing his thumbs from his belt, the squire lifted his hands in a gesture of aversion. "Has he not," he went on in a loud voice, "ruined our harvest three times in the last five years!" "That is true!" they cried, "those who lost loved ones through hunger know that best of all!" "And is it not so," the squire cried, "that many good women have lost their life in childbed because of him!" And again, the answer came, according to which each knew at least one woman who had not survived her wedding day by a single year. "And is it not so, "the squire cried finally, "that he has scourged us with wars year after year so that the best fall and their wives and children must tarry alone?

"And does he then," cried the squire, the veins standing out on his neck and brow, "deserve to die a thousand times over? What think you? Should we grant him a thousand-fold death?" Then the crowd cried: "Yes, Squire Tobias, yes, he should die a thousand times!" "If it is so," said the squire at last, "lay aside your cudgels and help us to bring him back to Herrenhausen!"

The return to the castle was like a triumphal procession. A cart drawn by four oxen had been sent for, which, as if cursed by Him himself, first stuck in the mud and then, when the thing was driven onto the cart with blazing torches over an improvised ramp, nearly collapsed under the weight, although it was made to carry stones and other heavy loads.

The eyes of the oxen, which lowered their heads, had been blindfolded, and yet strange unrest and fear seemed to germinate in the corners of their bloodshot eyes. Driven by heavy blows of the stick, they went quite calmly, and yet it sometimes seemed as if they were trying to break away, or to fall into a faster pace.

Children ran alongside the cart, touching the wooden plank bed again and again, and giving the impression that, curious and bold, they wanted to stroke the back of the monster, which lay quite calmly - only now and then did they hear a rattle from it. The wounds on its back had closed, and once the cart began to sway with violent movements of the being, and indeed, just as the procession was passing Ahr Pond, the side plank broke, the thing slid and plunged over the edge, pulling the cart with it down the slope to plunge into the pond behind it as the shaft snapped off.

When the thing emerged in the water, the pond, clear and still and partly covered with creepers, harboring many different kinds of fish, began to steam. It seemed as if a very hot mass, a kind of lava, had entered the pond. The thing first sank into the depths like a stone, but then, as the shoals of fish scattered in the wink of an eye, seeking shelter in the reeds and near the shore, great bubbles rose from the vicinity of its head, and it rose sluggishly to float just below the surface, still pouring out smoke, which looked like a bloody flag in the water.

Now the matter was thorny. The people, so bold just now, gathered above the pond, and in their coarse faces the realization that the thing was incalculable, and had extraordinary powers, seemed to dawn. "The Devil it is," someone said, "and woe is me, what misfortune that he had to come to earth in our land, of all places. Couldn't he have come to earth in Flanders or among the Italians or in some other godless place! No, he had to rise out of Hell in our midst, of all things, and now we must see how we may cope with him!"

It was already evening by the time the serfs, with the help of pikes and long poles, managed to drive the thing, which had already capsized two or three boats and dragged a strong lad under water, out of the water and up the slope to another conveyance brought in the greatest of haste, and the oxen, which, in the end, had refused to draw the cart, were also changed.

In the meantime, the squire, a cowardly man in his heart of hearts, had begun to wonder whether, given the circumstances and his own character, he should have embarked on this game in the first place. On the other hand, he wanted to be thought brave, and feared losing the respect, not only of his servants, who mattered nothing to him, but above all the respect of his companions, especially as Herr Weiprecht, to whom he was distantly related, had remarked pointedly that the best way to ward off the unpredictable consequences of the hellish beast would be to relegate it to an uncertain future in the swamp.

At any rate, the number of people accompanying the procession to Castle Herrenhausen in the light of the torches had diminished markedly, and before departing several righteous peasants, hoping to finish their day's work before dusk, murmured that it was wrong to yield to the power of fate in this way, and that God's wisdom had surely foreseen a plan in this case as well; after all, itwas a firmly established order which God had left on earth, and thus, barring all trials, an answer would be also found in the case of the Devil come to earthen the flesh; but not all thought this way.

Thus, of the few people who accompanied the procession - as it grew cold and the people warmed themselves at the torches, while above, from the castle hill, the mild yellow lights of Castle Herrenhausen were already shining through the darkness - there were only a very few who believed, though of this they were unsure, that they heard the thing speaking. The Devil, of course, could be credited with anything. One maid, Anna, thought she heard the thing hiss something about "godlessness". A serf, Franz, insisted that he had distinctly heard the thing murmur something about "a seven-headed she-goat". And once one accused the other of having accosted him with base remarks.

Rüppel was an uncouth fellow who, in the castle, was only good for the worst of jests; now he sat in the seat of the wagon and swung the whip, not only at the oxen but - even though the hairs rose on the back of his neck now and then - also striking out, in rising fury mixed with his wavering fears, at the thing which huddled in the wagon slippery and slimy and still dripping from the pond. He would have been the first to know if the thing were also speaking to him from behind.

Indeed, if we could have looked into his heart, we would have found that something alien was closing in upon him. It was as if he were being poisoned in all his veins, as if a peculiarly devious poison were being breathed into him, nearly paralyzing him for a moment from time to time; then it seemed to him as if he were addressed within by a voice whose origin he could not determine, a voice which spoke to him, threatening and awful, though he could not have said what it really wanted from him.

It was also interesting to watch the dogs which belonged to the squire's retinue. Great, heckling animals whose mouths dripped with foam, and which the squire liked to use to intimidate his peasants, but also his own kind when they knocked on the castle door, they had grown quite still as the retinue approached the castle hill; and they tucked their tails between their legs or even uttered yowling noises as if they were confronted with an enemy who was beyond their reach; the thing on the plank bed, however, was calm, as if it had accepted its fate.

It was already near morning, and the first red rays of the sun had poured over the Rhine valley, when they finally shut the thing up in the castle dungeon, in the hindmost corner, where the dungeon tapered to a point, robbing the unfortunate victim of his last freedom of movement.

They forged it to the wall with great heavy chains, and it must be said that it was much to the credit of the smith, who had been fetched from the village solely for this reason, that he fearlessly laid the chains around the thing's protrusions and feelers or whatever they were; the thing, which now seemed exhausted, bright water flowing from its skin again, suffered this treatment noticeably more apathetically, without offering resistance.

It goes without saying that, the more they felt safe from the thing, the more at ease the gentlemen felt, foremost among them Squire Tobias, and the more their spirits rose. Not only did they play their ugly jests with some of the female servants; of course they had called for one jug of wine after another, and with the increasing degree of their drunkenness their courage swelled again, and they began to brag about what they would do with the thing; and so, early in the morning, when the sun hung full in the sky and illuminated the clouds from below with a yellow light, they sent horsemen to the neighboring squires and lords to summon them to a feast set for the coming weekend, where they meant to give proof of their valor in the face of the Devil.

But when they slept strange dreams haunted them. The squire, a wench in his arms, dreamed of a great spider that crept over the fields, squirting poison from its gonads and destroying the seeds. Once, when he woke from his dreams with a cry and looked at the wench with terrified eyes, it seemed to him as if, behind her yellow, wrinkled back, he could already see the first strands with which the spider wove her web around the castle.

Asgard, a page, had a strange vision in his sleep. With an open mouth, rattling throat, snorting, he stared into the sky. It seemed to him that the stars came closer. He saw the earth turning beneath him. At this, he grew so dizzy that he vomited into the sack of straw which he had spread over him. When he woke he had roared in his ears, and when he stood up, for a while he was only able to stagger about as if he had lost his equilibrium, and thus he was hard put to find the privy above the moat, where he was able to relieve himself at last.

Yet one more dream must be mentioned, that of Lore, whom they had made a whore by taking her away from her betrothed, an honest peasant. It seemed to her that she was striding across a golden field, the ears of grain gleaming as if in yellow light. When she looked about her, hardly believing her eyes, she saw a number of merry folks. Then it seemed to her that a tall comely man took her into his arms and - like Squire Tobias, she said with lowered eyes and trembling voice - made love to her in a golden haystack. Then she was interrupted by the rough, insolent laughter of the listeners and had to go to all ends to regain Tobias' favor.

It was around ten o'clock in the morning, the dogs circled the squire's bed, whimpering, as a great commotion broke out in the courtyard. The squire, with red eyes and a white, puffy face, pushed aside the slut under the pillows at his side, who, fearing his wrath, pulled a blanket over her, and sprang out of bed and, now with a flushed face, bellowed down into the courtyard below, where horses' shoes rung against the paving stones and rude voices asked for Lord Tobias - who were they, and what could they want from him at this ungodly hour?

Then he recognized Lord Leutner, the steward and secretary of Lord Rainaldvon Dassel, the Archbishop of Mainz and Elector, who, his doublet flung open, his hand on the hilt of his flashing sword, stood in the courtyard accompanied by three knights, without dismounting, while several of the larger dogs growled about him wildly. Now, one must know that the squire, although an insignificant figure in comparison with the Elector, was engaged in a kind of feud with that clerical gentleman; they had fought over the tolls and the rights of navigation on the Rhine, and several of their lackeys had nearly come to blows with one another.

This man, then, as the squire appeared above, called in the voice of one who knows that power is on his side, "Lord Tobias, my master has sent me because he has heard reports that you have conspired with the powers of Hell! I demand," he continued, "an explanation of this as well as the surrender of the Devil harbored in your dungeon!"

The squire, who was sobered by these words, and who, though he was a godless fellow, liked to keep himself covered, and also secretly feared that he would not get into Heaven, if it existed, although he had never told anyone of these fears, slammed the window shut, and, hurling aside the wench who tried to cling to him, hurried down the stairs, now followed by three knights, noblemen roused by the commotion at such an unusual hour.

Although on the stairs he had already decided to surrender the Devil, secretly rubbing his hands, before they admitted Leutner into the castle dungeon there were some heated exchanges in which the squire attempted to get some advantages out of it for himself and his people, while the secretary refused him in a cold voice, speaking of his salvation and the possibility that he could be excommunicated, as well as the fact that the Devil, if it were indeed him in persona, belonged before a court of all the world and God, so that he could be condemned in Mainz in due form.

We have already shown what pains were taken to transport the being into the cellar of the castle, and it will easily be understood that it was not easy to heave it onto a ladder-wagon the next day, in an iron cage which was usually used to submerge master bakers in the Main when they measured their bread with the wrong ell; and that it took more than curses and maledictions, or the stones and blows which rained down upon the thing, to achieve this end.

Mention must be made of the bestial stench which reigned in the squire's dungeon once the thing was removed, so that this could be seen as a special punishment for the enemies of the squire, should they happen to fall into his hands; but also the fact that the squire went forth from the castle with two great dogs, where the strange procession, flagged with pennants bearing the insignia of the Elector, carried away the black being under a great veiling cloth along the Rhine valley, while wherever peasants and others met it along the way the people knelt down and crossed themselves and cast each other furtive glances, or, as the squire thought he saw, froze in fear.

But he let broad curses and maledictions resound, passing water over the moat, and laughed a terrible laughter because he was rid of the thing, until he discovered that, wherever they had come from, deep cracks showed in the castle walls, at their foot, where surely the peasants had done shoddy work that summer, the good-for-nothings; under one tower there was an opening as thick as a fist, and on the south side, which was especially strongly reinforced, cracks ran through the walls like spider fingers.

In Mainz, the thing was lifted down from the ladder-wagon to the shouting and whistling of an excited crowd. It was shut into a dried-up well which had once been constructed in the event that the city should be cut off from its water supply; there it lay for three days, and at night, when the executioner tried out his instruments on it, at great inconvenience, its whimpering could be heard, not falling silent until the approach of dawn. And, following the example of Anna, who had tended the thing at Herrenhausen, they threw it fish and stinking pieces of meat, so that it would not be too feeble when the trial began; and, as they could see, it consumed infernal herbs greedily, sucked the red out of the bones, it seemed to give it pleasure to regale itself with blood, and it was also curious, as all those who lived near the well reported, that all vermin, spiders, beetles, rats, even dogs, and cats had vanished suddenly.

The trial was held in the presence of Lord von Dassel, while the thing, the watery liquid still dripping from it, went on lying at the bottom of the good shaft. The judges, two clerics and the mayor of Mainz, Jakob Pfeiffer, soon reached a verdict. Without even appealing to all the scriptural passages which could have been brought in for the purpose, they declared the thing, in which they saw the incarnation of evil, guilty of sundry crimes, among them none more insignificant than the comet which had been seen on Midsummer's Eve a year before, and which had devastated the fields, meadows, and forests and had been followed by terrible, long-smoldering forest fires.

For the creature's execution, a pyre was erected on the marketplace, one such as the city had never witnessed before. It was on a Sunday, after the church-going, when all the bells in the city were rung and one could have thought that the sky itself, which glowed in red conflagrations, meant to give a sign. Among the crowd which milled on the marketplace there was a large number of strangers who did not want to miss the spectacle, and there were some who maintained that a similar kobold had been burned in Bordeaux, almost exactly five years ago, crumbling to blue ash which, when strewn in the Garonne, had brought ruin to the entire district for a long time thereafter.

The crowd fell silent, and it seemed that the thing, lying in its cage, regarded the Archbishop for a long time from its great, button-shaped eyes. The Archbishop, sitting in the place of honor in the box of the stands which had been erected for this procedure, grew pale. It seemed to the Lord of Dassel that the marrow vanished from his bones under this gaze; or that the circulation of his blood was stopped momentarily.

He had never seen such a gaze. Accustomed to all kinds of atrocities, these in part under the greatest seal of silence, hard in his heart, feared by his lackeys, believing, on the grounds of his position, that God was well-disposed toward him, to all appearances devoted to the Pope, he was seized with fear. The others sensed the tension which rose within him; saw how he faltered on his elevated chair; how his mind went black.

One should not say that there are any human beings without a conscience. All of us survive only because we were given a minimum of motherly love. This establishes the basis for social behavior, so that we can understand the others, the suffering creatures as well, no matter how hard our hearts; this was also true of the Elector, enveloped by blue veils; it seemed to him as if the thing were pouring pitch into his soul with its gaze; in reality he was challenged fora few seconds, at this crucial moment, to look a great truth in the eye.

It seemed that a light wind rose, that the banners which rose from the flagpoles fluttered more rapidly. The men girded themselves more tightly as the wind blew through their doublets. The women began to hold tightly to their veils and pointed hats. If one had looked around the marketplace one would not have found a single cat or dog; even the birds, it seemed, circled high in the sky, as if they wanted to put a distance between themselves and the earth.

Then the executioner, a rough man whom the sudden mood had escaped, thrust the torch deep into the pyre. In the blink of an eye the wood had caught fire, the flames had spread across the pitch, fed by the wind. It seemed now as if the thing had become larger. Now they saw long black arms, which none had known of before, grow out of its sides and, already agitated, reached for the faggots. Then a gust of wind came from the sky, the fire was one great blaze in which the monster burned still and mute.

Pastor Karl Weitling had already begun to wonder why Anna, who was usually among the most pious, had let four weeks pass before coming to confession again one Sunday. At first, in the confessional, after he had made the sign of the cross over her, she was unable to find the right words, and so he thought, searching for a beginning himself, that both of them, inexplicably to him, were sick at heart, that something significant had happened to both of them.

"Reverend Father," she began at last, "you must think no evil of me. It's rather, I'm unskilled with words, one cannot compare this with the things which learned gentlemen say. Well, it's like this," said Anna, "the fear still lingers in my bones. You know, reverend Father, that the squire chose me to give the thing enough food and drink so that we could keep it at any rate until the planned feast and revelry."

"Go on, my child," said the priest as Anna hesitated.

"Yes," she picked up the thread again, "I don't know how I should describe it. There were others as well who saw it, and one never knows what powers the Devil really has. You know, Father, that some say he spoke to them. He spoke, even though it came from that dark hole, our language.

"Once, when I tried raw fish for his nourishment, of which I knew nothing, he said: 'Your name is Anna, then. You need not take fright. It has taken me a while to learn your language, although I fear it will help me but little.' Reverend Father, I dropped the bowl with the fish and other things, for which Lord Tobias beat me."

Another time he said: 'Anna, I must speak with some creature. It is so dark here in this dungeon. The place from which I come is so full of light that I just wish that my torments will not last forever in these circumstances.' You know, Father, that people were already afraid even to enter the dungeon. And then there was the stench which the monster had spread. I fainted. "

When I came to myself again, I saw and felt that a long black thing, one such as we saw at the burning, touched my arm; it was pulled back at once; I fled from the cellar; from then on I was unable to feed the thing anymore, and the Squire, seeing the state I was in, ceased insisting. Only one more thing," she said at the end, "when I think of the thing, in my dreams, sometimes I think of a silver, shimmering form, something like our church steeple, only covered with glass in which the rays of the sun reflected. Forgive me, Father, for pouring out my heart to you, but sometimes I think it was a great injustice to burn the thing.

"Twenty years after the thing had come to earth, the great Peasant's War began, in the course of which Herrenhausen, too, was ravaged and Squire Tobias, as well as many of his knights, was slain; the castle was razed to its foundations. All the records in the electoral archives were destroyed in the storming of the peasant uprisings. Peasants who ventured into the crater a short time after the burning told of a silver, melted hull later kept in a storage room of the church which burned down in the great fire of 1580. Weitling and Anna, after he had given her the absolution, were clever enough to hold their tongues about everything they had spoken of. What had burned in Bordeaux was a hunchbacked manikin who had begged for a little love at the wrong time.