The Ramapo Salamander





A curious tale of the Rosicrucians runs to the effect that more than two

centuries ago a band of German colonists entered the Ramapo valley and

put up houses of stone, like those they had left in the Hartz Mountains,

and when the Indians saw how they made knives and other wonderful things

out of metal, which they extracted from the rocks by fire, they believed

them to be manitous and went away, not wishing to resist their possession

of the land. There was treasure here, for High Tor, or Torn Mountain, had

been the home of Amasis, youngest of the magi who had followed the star

of Bethlehem. He had found his way, through Asia and Alaska, to this

country, had taken to wife a native woman, by whom he had a child, and

here on the summit he had built a temple. Having refused the sun worship,

when the Indians demanded that he should take their faith, he was set

upon, and would have been killed had not an earthquake torn the ground at

his feet, opening a new channel for the Hudson and precipitating into it

every one but the magus and his daughter. To him had been revealed in

magic vision the secrets of wealth in the rocks.



The leader in the German colony, one Hugo, was a man of noble origin, who

had a wife and two children: a boy, named after himself; a girl,--Mary.

Though it had been the custom in the other country to let out the forge

fires once in seven years, Hugo opposed that practice in the forge he had

built as needless. But his men murmured and talked of the salamander that

once in seven years attains its growth in unquenched flame and goes forth

doing mischief. On the day when that period was ended the master entered

his works and saw the men gazing into the furnace at a pale form that

seemed made from flame, that was nodding and turning in the fire,

occasionally darting its tongue at them or allowing its tail to fall out

and lie along the stone floor. As he came to the door he, too, was

transfixed, and the fire seemed burning his vitals, until he felt water

sprinkled on his face, and saw that his wife, whom he had left at home

too ill to move, stood behind him and was casting holy water into the

furnace, speaking an incantation as she did so. At that moment a storm

arose, and a rain fell that put out the fire; but as the last glow faded

the lady fell dead.



When her children were to be consecrated, seven years later, those who

stood outside of the church during the ceremony saw a vivid flash, and

the nurse turned from the boy in her fright. She took her hands from her

eyes. The child was gone. Twice seven years had passed and the daughter

remained unspotted by the world, for, on the night when her father had

led her to the top of High Torn Mountain and shown her what Amasis had

seen,--the earth spirits in their caves heaping jewels and offering to

give them if Hugo would speak the word that binds the free to the earth

forces and bars his future for a thousand years,--it was her prayer that

brought him to his senses and made the scene below grow dim, though the

baleful light of the salamander clinging to the rocks at the bottom of

the cave sent a glow into the sky.



Many nights after that the glow was seen on the height and Hugo was

missing from his home, but for lack of a pure soul to stand as

interpreter he failed to read the words that burned in the triangle on

the salamander's back, and returned in rage and jealousy. A knightly man

had of late appeared in the settlement, and between him and Mary a tender

feeling had arisen, that, however, was unexpressed until, after saving

her from the attack of a panther, he had allowed her to fall into his

arms. She would willingly then have declared her love for him, but he

placed her gently and regretfully from him and said, When you slept I

came to you and put a crown of gems on your head: that was because I was

in the power of the earth spirit. Then I had power only over the element

of fire, that either consumes or hardens to stone; but now water and life

are mine. Behold! Wear these, for thou art worthy. And touching the

tears that had fallen from her eyes, they turned into lilies in his

hands, and he put them on her brow.



Shall we meet again? asked the girl.



I do not know, said he. I tread the darkness of the universe alone,

and I peril my redemption by yielding to this love of earth. Thou art

redeemed already, but I must make my way back to God through obedience

tested in trial. Know that I am one of those that left heaven for love of

man. We were of that subtle element which is flame, burning and glowing

with love,--and when thy mother came to me with the power of purity to

cast me out of the furnace, I lost my shape of fire and took that of a

human being,--a child. I have been with thee often, and was rushing to

annihilation, because I could not withstand the ordeal of the senses. Had

I yielded, or found thee other than thou art, I should have become again

an earth spirit. I have been led away by wish for power, such as I have

in my grasp, and forgot the mission to the suffering. I became a wanderer

over the earth until I reached this land, the land that you call new.

Here was to be my last trial and here I am to pass the gate of fire.



As he spoke voices arose from the settlement.



They are coming, said he. The stout form of Hugo was in advance. With a

fierce oath he sprang on the young man. He has ruined my household, he

cried. Fling him into the furnace! The young man stood waiting, but his

brow was serene. He was seized, and in a few moments had disappeared

through the mouth of the burning pit. But Mary, looking up, saw a shape

in robes of silvery light, and it drifted upward until it vanished in the

darkness. The look of horror on her face died away, and a peace came to

it that endured until the end.





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