The Dancers

The Sabbath-day drew to a close in the summer-tide of the year of

grace one thousand and one, and the rustics of Ramersdorf amused

themselves with a dance, as was their wont to do, in the courtyard of

the monastery. It was a privilege that they had enjoyed time

immemorial, and it had never been gainsaid by the abbots who were dead

and gone, but Anselm von Lowenberg, the then superior of the convent,

an austere, ascetic man, who looked with disdain and dislike on all

popular recreations, had long set his face against it, and had,

moreover, tried every means short of actual prohibition to put an end

to the profane amusement. The rustics, however, were not to be

debarred by his displeasure from pursuing, perhaps, their only

pleasure; and though the pious abbot discountenanced their

proceedings, they acquiesced not in his views, and their enjoyment was

not one atom the less.

The day had been very beautiful, and the evening was, if possible,

more so. Gaily garbed maidens of the village and stalwart rustics

filled the courtyard of the convent. A blind fiddler, who had fiddled

three generations off the stage, sat in front of a group of elders of

either sex, who, though too old and too stiff to partake in the active

and exciting amusement, were still young enough to enjoy looking on. A

few shaven crowns peered from the latticed casements which looked out

on to the merry scene. The music struck up, the dance began. Who

approaches? Why are so many anxious glances cast in yonder direction?

It is the Abbot.

"Cease your fooling," he spake to them, in a solemn tone; "profane not

the place nor the day with your idle mirth. Go home, and pray in your

own homes for the grace of the Lord to govern ye, for ye are wicked

and wilful and hard of heart as the stones!"

He waved his hand as if to disperse them, but his words and his action

were equally unheeded by the dancers and the spectators.

"Forth, vile sinners!" he pursued. "Forth from these walls, or I will

curse ye with the curse."

Still they regarded him not to obey his behest, although they so far

noticed his words as to return menacing look for look, and muttered

threats for threat with him. The music played on with the same

liveliness, the dancers danced as merrily as ever, and the spectators

applauded each display of agility.

"Well, then," spake the Abbot, bursting with rage, "an ye cease not,

be my curse on your head--there may ye dance for a year and a day!"

He banned them bitterly; with uplifted hands and eyes he imprecated

the vengeance of Heaven on their disobedience. He prayed to the Lord

to punish them for the slight of his directions. Then he sought his

cell to vent his ire in solitude.

From that hour they continued to dance until a year and a day had

fully expired. Night fell, and they ceased not; day dawned, and they

danced still. In the heat of noon, in the cool of the evening, day

after day there was no rest for them, their saltation was without end.

The seasons rolled over them. Summer gave place to autumn, winter

succeeded summer, and spring decked the fields with early flowers, as

winter slowly disappeared, yet still they danced on, through coursing

time and changing seasons, with unabated strength and unimpaired

energy. Rain nor hail, snow nor storm, sunshine nor shade, seemed to

affect them. Round and round and round they danced, in heat and cold,

in damp and dry, in light and darkness. What were the seasons--what

the times or the hour or the weather to them? In vain did their

neighbours and friends try to arrest them in their wild evolutions; in

vain were attempts made to stop them in their whirling career; in vain

did even the Abbot himself interpose to relieve them from the curse he

had laid on them, and to put a period to the punishment of which he

had been the cause. The strongest man in the vicinity held out his

hand and caught one of them, with the intention of arresting his

rotation, and tearing him from the charmed circle, but his arm was

torn from him in the attempt, and clung to the dancer with the grip of

life till his day was done. The man paid his life as the forfeit of

his temerity. No effort was left untried to relieve the dancers, but

every one failed. The sufferers themselves, however, appeared quite

unconscious of what was passing. They seemed to be in a state of

perfect somnambulism, and to be altogether unaware of the presence of

any persons, as well as insensible to pain or fatigue. When the

expiration of their punishment arrived, they were all found huddled

together in the deep cavity which their increasing gyrations had worn

in the earth beneath them. It was a considerable time before sense and

consciousness returned to them, and indeed they never after could be

said to enjoy them completely, for, though they lived long, they were

little better than idiots during the remainder of their lives.

The Dance For Water Or Rabbit's Triumph The Daughters Of The Star facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail