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of Königsberg, he had attended the lectures on ethics and moral philosophy of a certain professor there, a very superior man, but who, although an ecclesiastic, was suspected of peculiar opinions on religious subjects. In effect, when, during his course, the professor touched on the doctrine of a future state, his language betrayed so visible an embarrassment that the count, his curiosity excited, ventured privately to broach the subject to his teacher, entreating him to say whether he had held back any thing that dwelt on his mind.
The reply of the professor was embodied in the following strange story.
THE IRON STOVE.
"The hesitation which you noticed," said he, "resulted from the conflict which takes place within me when I am attempting to convey my ideas on a subject where my understanding is at variance with the testimony of my senses. I am, equally from reason and reflection, disposed to consider with incredulity and contempt the existence of apparitions. But an appearance which I have witnessed with my own eyes, as far as they or any of the perceptions can be confided in, and which has even received a sort of subsequent confirmation from other circumstances connected with the original facts, leaves me in that state of skepticism and suspense which pervaded my discourse. I will communicate to you its
"Having been brought up to the profession of the Church, I was presented by Frederick William the First, late King of Prussia, to a small benefice, situated in the interior of the country, at a considerable distance south of Königsberg. I repaired thither in order to take possession of my living, and found a neat parsonage-house, where I passed the night in a bed-chamber which had been occupied by my predecessor.
NARRATIVE VOUCHED FOR
"It was in the longest days of summer; and on the following morning, which was Sunday, while lying awake, the curtains of the bed being undrawn, and it being broad daylight, I beheld the figure of a man, habited in a loose gown, standing at a sort of readingdesk, on which lay a large book, the leaves of which he seemed to turn over at intervals. On each side of him stood a little boy, in whose face he looked earnestly from time to time; and, as he looked, he seemed always to heave a deep sigh. His countenance, pale and disconsolate, indicated some distress of mind. I had the most perfect view of these objects; but, being impressed with too much terror and apprehension to rise or to address myself to the appearances before me, I remained for some minutes a breathless and silent spectator, without uttering a word or altering my position. At length the man closed the book, and then, taking the two children, one in each hand, he led them slowly across the room. My eyes eagerly followed him till the three figures gradually disappeared, or were lost, behind an iron stove which stood at the farthest corner of the apartment.
"However deeply and awfully I was affected by the sight which I had witnessed, and however incapable I was of explaining it to my own satisfaction, yet I recovered sufficiently the possession of my mind to get up; and, having hastily dressed myself, I left the house. The sun was long risen; and, directing my steps to the church, I found that it was open, though the sexton had quitted it. On entering the chancel, my mind and imagination were so strongly impressed by the scene which had recently passed, that I endeavored to dissipate the recollection by considering the objects around me. In almost all Lutheran churches of the Prussian dominions it is the custom to hang up against the walls, or some part of the building, the portraits of the successive pas
BY SIR NATHANIEL WRAXALL.
tors or clergymen who have held the living. A number of these paintings, rudely performed, were suspended in one of the aisles. But I had no sooner fixed my eyes on the last in the range, which was the portrait of my immediate predecessor, than they became riveted on the object; for I instantly recognized the same face which I had beheld in my bed-chamber, though not clouded by the same deep impression of melancholy and distress.
The sexton entered as I was still contemplating this interesting head, and I immediately began a conversation with him on the subject of the persons who had preceded me in the living. He remembered several incumbents, concerning whom, respectively, I made various inquiries, till I concluded by the last, relative to whose history I was particularly inquisitive. We considered him,' said the sexton, 'as one of the most learned and amiable men who have ever resided among us. His character and benevolence endeared him to all his parishioners, who will long lament his loss. But he was carried off in the middle of his days by a lingering illness, the cause of which has given rise to many unpleasant reports among us, and which still form matter of conjecture. It is, however, commonly believed that he died of a broken heart.'
"My curiosity being still more warmly excited by the mention of this circumstance, I eagerly pressed him to disclose to me all he knew, or had heard, on the subject. 'Nothing respecting it,' answered he, 'is absolutely known; but scandal has propagated a story of his having formed a criminal connection with a young woman of the neighborhood, by whom, it was even asserted, he had two sons. As confirmation of the report, I know that there certainly were two children who have been seen at the parsonage,-boys, of about four or five years old; but they suddenly disappeared some time before the decease of their supposed father;
THE CONTENTS OF THE STOVE.
though to what place they were sent, or what is become of them, we are wholly ignorant. It is equally certain that the surmises and unfavorable opinions formed respecting this mysterious business, which must necessarily have reached him, precipitated, if they did not produce, the disorder of which our late pastor died: but he is gone to his account, and we are bound to think charitably of the departed.'
"It is unnecessary to say with what emotion I listened to this relation, which recalled to my imagination, and seemed to give proof of the existence of, all that I had seen. Yet, unwilling to suffer my mind to become enslaved by phantoms which might have been the effect of error or deception, I neither communicated to the sexton the circumstances which I had witnessed, nor even permitted myself to quit the chamber where it had taken place. I continued to lodge there, without ever witnessing any similar appearance; and the recollection itself began to wear away as the autumn advanced.
"When the approach of winter made it necessary to light fires throughout the house, I ordered the iron. stove which stood in the room, and behind which the figure which I had beheld, together with the two boys, seemed to disappear, to be heated, for the purpose of warming the apartment. Some difficulty was experienced in making the attempt, the stove not only smoking intolerably, but emitting an offensive smell. Having, therefore, sent for a blacksmith to inspect and repair it, he discovered, in the inside, at the farthest extremity, the bones of two small human bodies, corresponding in size with the description given me by the sexton of the two boys who had been seen at the parsonage.
"This last circumstance completed my astonishment, and appeared to confer a sort of reality on an appearance which might otherwise have been considered
as a delusion of the senses.
I resigned the living,
quitted the place, and retired to Königsberg; but it has produced on my mind the deepest impression, and has, in its effect, given rise to that uncertainty and contradiction of sentiment which you remarked in my late discourse."*
Wraxall adds, "Such was Count Felkesheim's story, which, from its singularity, appeared to me deserving of commemoration, in whatever contempt we may hold similar anecdotes."
If this narrative, and the intimations it conveys, may be trusted to, what a glimpse do these display of a species of future punishment speedy and inevitable!-inevitable so long as wickedness inheres in wicked deeds, unless conscience dies with the body. But conscience is an attribute of the immortal spirit, not of the perishable frame. And if, in very truth, from the world beyond it drags down the evil-doer to the earthly scene of his misdeeds, how false is our phrase, when, in speaking of a murderer who has eluded justice, we say he has escaped punishment! His deed dies not. Even if no vengeful arm of an offended Deity requite the wrong, the wrong may requite itself. Even in the case of some hardened criminal, when the soul, dulled to dogged carelessness during its connection with an obtuse and degraded physical organization, remains impervious, while life lasts, to the stings of conscience, death, removing the hard shell, may expose to sensitiveness and to suffering the disengaged spirit.
There are intimations, however, somewhat similar in general character to the above, which seem to teach us that even in the next world repentance, by its regene
* "Historical Memoirs of my Own Time," by Sir N. William Wraxall, Bart.. London, 1815, pp. 218 to 226.