Countess Gisela (Classic Reprint)
Excerpt from Countess GiselaIt was still early in the evening. The little bell of the Neuenfeld steeple dutifully raised its voice, and struck six times - it sounded like a half-stifled moan; for the gale whistled through the belfry windows, and scattered the thin sounds in every direction. At the same time, the impenetrable darkness of a starless December night settled upon the earth. - That high up, above the clouds, the sparkling constellations were gradually coming forth in changeless lustre upon the dark background, that they shone and glittered there, undisturbed, as on a cloudless night of the fragrant May - who thought of this when looking at the threatening cloud-wall in rapid motion that separated earth from heaven? And the mild light of the moon, and the silvery lustre of the night-born heavenly wanderers - who thought of these, when within the mighty walls that stood forth in the gloom like a gigantic obelisk, and against whose corners the tempest was vainly beating its wings - within these walls all shone and glittered with that threatening brilliancy peculiar to a fiery stream when tamed and guided by human hands. The Neuenfeld foundry was in full blast.A dazzling, blood-red glare streamed from the fiery crater of the furnace, illuminating the naked stones of the walls and the sooty faces of the perspiring workmen. The ore that boiled and rose like a soothing tide, and dropped pliant like, glowing tears from the casting-spoons, had lain thousands of years cold and immovable under the mailed coat of the earth, and now, in a single terrible moment of pulsing life, had lost its identity, to relapse, after a brief period of liquid existence, into its old rigidity, but with such new form as the whims or caprices of man should assign to it.The windows of the immense building, as seen from without, appeared but dimly lighted; but from the lofty chimney there arose a fiery pillar, now and then ejecting a sheaf of sparks, as if a presumptuous giant were trying to fling a handful of stars towards heaven; they vanished harmless in the darkness, like human thoughts assailing the seven seals of the great mystery above us.As the clock struck six, the door of the overseer's house, which was quite near the foundry, was slowly opened. The little door-bell, that usually kept up an incessant and annoying tinkling, was silent, evidently restrained by a careful hand, and a woman stepped over the threshold."Why, winter has really come! Here we have all at once a magnificent Christmas snow!" cried she. In this exclamation there was a joyous surprise, a tone like that with which we greet the unexpected appearance of an old and dear friend. The voice was almost too deep and strong for that of a woman; but the parishioners of Neuenfeld cared little for its masculine key; whatever was uttered by their pastor's wife, was to them as sacred and true as the gospel.The lady carefully descended the stone steps. The long, pale-red track of light, cast by her lantern on the ground, gleamed for a moment undisturbed; but now a sudden gust blew round the corner, throwing the large cape of the clergyman's wife over her head, and scattering into atoms the light, soft snow through which she was about to pass.She threw back the cape, pushed the loosened comb more firmly into the luxuriant tresses behind with her left hand, and then drew over her forehead the kerchief that protected her ears. Like the wife of a viking of yore, the tall, firmly-knit form stood amid the blinding and whirling snow; while the light of the lantern illuminated features full of strength and vigor - one of those energetic faces, over which the storms of an ever-changing life pass without leaving more traces than the strong, cold breath of winter."Now I will tell you something, my dear overseer," said she, turning to the man who had accompanied her, and was still standing on the threshold. 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