Anne of Geierstein, by Walter Scott

Chapter 20

Macbeth. — How now, ye secret, black, and midnight hags,

What is’t ye do?

Witches — A deed without a name.


We have said in the conclusion of the last chapter, that, after a day of unwonted fatigue and extraordinary excitation, the merchant, Philipson, naturally expected to forget so many agitating passages in that deep and profound repose, which is at once the consequence and the cure of extreme exhaustion. But he was no sooner laid on his lowly pallet, than he felt that the bodily machine, over-labored by so much exercise, was little disposed to the charms of sleep. The mind bad been too much excited, the body was far too feverish, to suffer him to partake of needful rest. His anxiety about the safety of his son, his conjectures concerning the issue of his mission to the Duke of Burgundy, and a thousand other thoughts which recalled past events, or speculated on those which were to come, rushed upon his mind like the waves of a perturbed sea, and prevented all tendency to repose. He had been in bed about an hour, and sleep had not yet approached his couch, when he felt that the pallet on which he lay was sinking below him, and that he was in the act of descending along with it he knew not whither The sound of ropes and pulleys was also indistinctly heard, though every caution had been taken to make them run smooth; and the traveller, by feeling around him, became sensible that he and the bed on which he lay had been spread upon a large trap-door which was capable of being let down into the vaults, or apartments beneath.

Philipson felt fear in circumstances so well qualified to produce it; for how could he hope, a safe termination to an adventure which had begun so strangely? But his apprehensions were those of a brave, ready-witted man, who, even in the extremity of danger, which appeared to surround him, preserved his presence of mind. His descent seemed to be cautiously managed, and he held himself in readiness to start to his feet and defend himself, as soon as he should be once more upon firm ground. Although somewhat advanced in years, he was a man of great personal vigor and activity, and unless taken at advantage, which no doubt was at present much to be apprehended, he was likely to make a formidable defence. His plan of resistance, however, had been anticipated. He no sooner reached the bottom of the vault, down to which he was lowered, than two men, who had been waiting there till the operation was completed, laid hands on him from either side, and forcibly preventing him from starting up as he intended, cast a rope over his arms, and made him a prisoner as effectually as when he was in the dungeons of La Ferette. He was obliged, therefore, to remain passive and unresisting, and await the termination of this formidable adventure. Secured as he was, he could only turn his head from, one side to the other, and it was with joy that be at length saw lights twinkle, but they appeared at a great distance from him.

From the irregular manner in which these scattered lights advanced, sometimes keeping a straight line, sometimes mixing and crossing each other, it might be inferred that the subterranean vault in which they appeared was of very considerable extent. Their number also increased; and as they collected more together, Philipson could perceive that the lights proceeded from many torches, borne by men muffled in black cloaks, like mourners at a funeral, or the Black Friars of Saint Francis’s Order, wearing their cowls drawn over their heads so as to conceal their features. They appeared anxiously engaged in measuring off a portion of the apartment, and while occupied in that employment they sang, in the ancient German language, rhymes more rude than Philipson could well understand, but which may be imitated thus

Measurers of good and evil,

Bring the square, the line, the level, —

Rear the altar, dig the trench,

Blood both stone and ditch shall drench.

Cubits six, from end to end,

Must the fatal bench extend, —

Cubits six, from side to side,

Judge and culprit must divide.

On the east the Court assembles,

On the west the Accused trembles

Answer, brethren, all and one,

Is the ritual rightly done?

A deep chorus seemed to reply to the question. Many voices joined in it, as well of persons already in the subterranean vault, as of others who as yet remained without in various galleries and passages which communicated with it, and whom Philipson now presumed to be very numerous. The answer chanted ran as follows —

On life and soul, on blood and bone,

One for all, and all for one,

We warrant this is rightly done.

The original strain was then renewed in the same manner as before —

How wears the night? —

Doth morning shine

In early radiance on the Rhine?

What music floats upon his tide?

Do birds the tardy morning chide?

Brethren, look out from hill and height,

And answer true, how wears the night?

The answer was returned, though less loud than at first, and it seemed that those by whom the reply was given were at a much greater distance than before —; yet the words were distinctly heard.

The night is old; on Rhine's broad breast

Glance drowsy stars which long to rest.

No beams are twinkling in the east.

There is a voice upon the flood,

The stern still call of blood for blood;

’Tis time we listen the behest.

The chorus replied with many additional voices

Up, then, up! When day’s at rest,

’Tis time that such as we are watchers;

Rise to judgment, brethren, rise!

Vengeance knows not sleepy eyes,

He and night are matchers.

The nature of the verses soon led Philipson to comprehend that he was in presence of the Initiated, or the Wise Men; names which were applied to the celebrated Judges of the Secret Tribunal, which continued at that period to subsist in Swabia, Franconia, and other districts of the east of Germany, which was called perhaps, from the frightful and frequent occurrence of executions by command of those invisible Judges, the Red Land. Philipson had often heard that the seat of a free Count, or Chief of the Secret Tribunal, was secretly instituted even on the left bank of the Rhine, and that it maintained itself in Alsace, with the usual tenacity of those secret societies, though Duke Charles of Burgundy had expressed a desire to discover and discourage its influence so far as was possible, without exposing himself to danger from the thousands of poniards which that mysterious tribunal could put in activity against his own life; — an awful means of defence, which for a long time rendered it extremely hazardous for the sovereigns of Germany, and even the Emperors themselves, to put down by authority those singular associations.

So soon as this explanation flashed on the mind of Philipson, it gave some clew to the character and condition of the Black Priest of St. Paul’s. Supposing him to be a president, or chief official of the secret association, there was little wonder that he should confide so much in the inviolability of his terrible office, as to propose vindicating the execution of De Hagenbach; that his presence should surprise Bartholomew, whom he had power to have judged and executed upon the spot; and that his mere appearance at supper on the preceding evening would have appalled the guests; for though everything about the institution, its proceedings and its officers, was preserved in as much obscurity as is now practised in free-masonry, yet the secret was not so absolutely well kept as to prevent certain individuals from being guessed or hinted at as men initiated and intrusted with high authority by the Vehme-gericht, or tribunal of the bounds. When such suspicion attached to an individual, his secret power, and supposed acquaintance with all guilt, however secret, which was committed within the society in which he was conversant, made him at once the dread and hatred of every one who looked on him; and he enjoyed a high degree of personal respect, on the same terms on which it would have been yielded to a powerful enchanter, or a dreaded genie. In conversing with such a person, it was especially necessary to abstain from all questions alluding, however remotely, to the office which he bore in the Secret Tribunal; and, indeed to testify the least curiosity upon a subject so solemn and mysterious was sure to occasion some misfortune to the inquisitive person.

All these things rushed at once upon the mind of the Englishman, who felt that he had fallen into the hands of an unsparing tribunal, whose proceedings were so much dreaded by those who resided within the circle of tleir power, that the friendless stranger must stand a poor chance of receivmg justice at their hands, whatever might be his consciousness of innocence. While Philipson made this melancholy reflection, he resolved, at the same time, not to forsake his own cause, but defend himself as he best might; conscious as he was that these terrible and irresponsible judges were nevertheless governed by certain rules of right and wrong, which formed a check on the rigors of their extraordinary code.

He lay, therefore, devising the best means of obviating the present danger, while the persons whom he beheld glimmered before him, less like distinct and individual forms than like the phantoms of a fever, or the phantasmagona with which a disease of the optic nerves has been known to people a sick man’s chamber. At length they assembled in the centre of the apartment where they had first appeared, and seemed to arrange themselves into form and order. A great number of black torches were successively lighted, and the scene became distinctly visible. In the centre of the hall, Philipson could now perceive one of the altars which are sometimes to be found in ancient subterranean chapels. But we must pause, in order briefly to describe, not the appearance only, but the nature and Constitution, of this temble court.

Behind the attar, which seemed to be the central point, on which all eyes were bent, there were placed in parallel lines two benches covered with black cloth. Each was occupied by a number of persons, who seemed assembled as judges; but those who held the foremost bench were fewer, and appeared of a rank superior to those who crowded the seat most remote from the altar. The first seemed to be all men of some consequence, priests high in their order, knights or noblemen; and, notwithstanding an appearance of equality which seemed to pervade their singular institution, much more weight was laid upon their opinion, or testimonies They were called Free Knights, Counts, or whatever title they might bear, while the inferior class of the judges were only termed Free and worthy Burghers. For it must be observed, that the Vehmique Institution, 14 which was the name that it commonly bore, although, its power consisted in a wide system of espionage, and the tyrannical application of force which acted upon it was yet (so rude were the ideas of enforcing public law) accounted to confer a privilege on the country in which is was received, and only freemen were allowed to experience its influence. Serfs and peasants could neither have a place among the Free Judges, their assessors, or assistants; for there was in this assembly even some idea of trying the culprit by his peers.

Besides the dignitaries who occupied the benches, there were others who stood around, and seemed to guard the various entrances to the hall of judgment, or, standing behind the seats on which their superiors were ranged, looked prepared to execute their commands. These were members of the order, though not of the highest ranks. Schoppen is the name generally assigned to them, signifying officials, or sergeants of the Vehmique Court, whose doom they stood sworn to enforce, through good report and bad report, against their own nearest and most beloved, as well as in cases of ordinary malefactors.

The Schoppen, or Scabini, as they were termed in Latin, had another horrible duty to perform — that, namely, of denouncing to the tribunal whatever came under their observation, that might be construed as an offence falling under its cognizance; or, in their language, a crime against the Vehme This duty extended to the judges as well as the assistants, and was to be discharged without respect of persons; so that, to know, and wilfully conceal, the guilt of a mother or brother, inferred, on the part of the unfaithful official, the same penalty as if he himself had committed the crime which his silence screened from punishment. Such an institution could only prevail at a time when ordinary means of justice were excluded by the hand of power, and when, in order to bring the guilty to punishment, it required all the influence and authority of such a confederacy. In no other country than one exposed to every species of feudal tyranny, and deprived of every ordinary mode of obtaining justice or redress, could such a system have taken root and flourished.

We must now return to the brave Englishman, who, though feeling all the danger he encountered from so tremendous a tribunal, maintained nevertheless: a dignified and unaltered composure.

The meeting being assembled, a coil of ropes, and a naked sword, the well-known signals and emblems of Vehmique authority, were deposited on the altar; where the sword, from its being usually straight, with a cross handle, was considered as representing the blessed emblem of Christian Redemption, and the cord as indicating the right of criminal jurisdiction, and capital punishment. Then the President of the meeting, who occupied the centre seat on the foremost bench, arose, and laying his hand on the symbols, pronounced aloud the formula expressive of the duty of the tribunal, which all the inferior judges and assistants repeated after him, in deep and hollow murmurs.

“I swear by the Holy Trinity, to aid and co-operate, without relaxation, in the things belonging to the Holy Vehme, to defend its doctrines and institutions against father and mother, brother and sister, wife and children; against fire, water, earth and air; against all that the sun enlightens; against all that the dew inoistens; against all created things of heaven and earth, or the waters under the earth; and I swear to give information to this holy judicature, of all that I know to be true, or hear repeated by credible testimony which, by the rules of the Holy Vehme, is deserving of animadversion or punishment; and that I will not cloak, cover, or conceal, such my knowledge, neither for love, friendship, or family affection, nor for gold, silver, or precious stones; neither wilt I associate with such as are under the sentence of this Sacred Tribunal, by hinting to a culprit his danger, or advising him to escape, or aiding and supplying him with counsel, or means to that effect; neither will I relieve such culprit with fire, clothes, food, or shelter, though my father should require from me a cup of water in the heat of summer noon, or my brother should request to sit by my fire in the bitterest cold night of winter: And further, I vow and promise to honor this holy association, and do its behests speedily, faithfully, and firmly, in preference to those of any other tribunal whatsoever — so help me God, and his holy Evangelists.”

When this oath of office had been taken, the President addressing the assembly, as men who judge in secret, and punish in secret like the Deity, desired them to say, why this “child of the cord” 15 lay before them bound and helpless? An individual rose from the more remote bench, and in a voice which, though altered and agitated, Philipson conceived that he recognized, declared himself the accuser, as bound by his oath, of the child of the cord, or prisoner, who lay before them.

“Bring forward the prisoner,” said the President, “duly secured, as is the order of our secret law but not with such severity as may interrupt his attention to the proceedings of the tribunal, or limit his power of hearing and replying.”

Six of the assistants immediately dragged forward the pallet and platform of boards on which Philipson lay, and advanced it towards the foot of the altar. This done, each unsheathed his dagger, while two of them unloosed the cords by which the merchant’s hands were secured, and admonished him in a whisper, that the slightest attempt to resist or escape, would be the signal to stab him dead.

“Arise!” said the President; “listen to the charge to be preferred against you, and believe you shall in us find judges equally just and inflexible.”

Philipson, carefully avoiding any gesture which might indicate a desire to escape, raised his body on the lower part of the couch, and remained seated, clothed as he was in his under-vest and calefons, or drawers, so as exactly to face the muffled President of the terrible court. Even in these agitating circumstances, the mind of the undaunted Englishman remained unshaken, and his eyelid did not quiver, nor his heart beat quicker, though he seemed, according to the expression of Scripture, to be a pilgrim in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, beset by numerous snares, and encompassed by total darkness, where light was most necessary for safety.

The President demanded his name, country, and occupation.

“John Philipson,” was the reply; “by birth an Englishman, by profession a merchant.”

“Have you ever borne any other name and profession?” demanded the Judge.

“I have been a soldier, and, like most others, had then a name by which I was known in war.”

“What was that name?”

“I laid it aside when I resigned my sword, and I do not desire again to be known by it. Moreover, I never bore it where your institutions have weight and authority,” answered the Englishman.

“Know you before whom you stand?” continued the Judge.

“I may at least guess,” replied the merchant.

“Tell your guess, then,” continued the interrogator. “Say who we are, and wherefore are you before us?”

“I believe that I am before the Unknown, or Secret Tribunal, which is called Vehme-gericht.”

“Then you are aware,” answered the Judge, “that you would be safer if you were suspended by the hair over the Abyss of Schaffhausen, or if you lay below an axe, which a thread of silk alone kept back from the fall. What have you done to deserve such a fate?”

“Let those reply by whom I am subjected to it,” answered Philipson, with the same composure as before.

“Speak, accuser,” said the President, “to the four quarters of Heaven! — To the ears of the free judges of this tribunal, and the faithful executors of their doom! — And to the face of the child of the cord, who denies or conceals his guilt, make good the substance of thine accusation!”

“Most dreaded,” answered the accuser, addressing the President, “this man hath entered the Sacred Territory, which is called the Red Land, — a stranger under a disguised name and profession. When he was yet on the eastern side of the Alps, at Turin, in Lombardy, and elsewhere, he at various times spoke of the Holy Tribunal in terms of hatred and contempt, and declared that were he Duke of Burgundy, he would not permit it to extend itself from Westphalia, or Swabia, into his dominions. Also, I charge him, that, nourishing this malevalent intention against the Holy Tribunal, he who now appears before the bench as child of the cord, has intimated his intention to wait upon the court of the Duke of Burgundy, and use his influence with him, which he boasts will prove effectual, to stir him up to prohibit the meetings of the Holy Vehme in his dominions, and to inflict on their officers, and the executors of their mandates, the punishment due to robbers and assassins.”

“This is a heavy charge, brother!” said the President of the assembly, when the accuser ceased speaking — “How do you purpose to make it good?”

“According to the tenor of those secret statutes, the perusal of which is prohibited to all but the initiated,” answered the accuser.

“It is well,” said the President; “but I ask thee once mole, What are those means of proof? — You speak to holy and to initiated ears.”

“I will prove my charge,” said the accuser, “by the confession of the party himself, and by my own oath upon the holy emblems of the Secret Judgment — that is, the steel and the cord.”

“It is a legitimate offer of proof,” said a member of the aristocratic bench of the assembly; “and it much concerns the safety of the system to which we are bound by such deep oaths a system handed down to us from the most Christian and holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, for the conversion of the heathen Saracens, and punishing such of them as revolted again to their Pagan practices, that such criminals should be looked to. This Duke Charles of Burgundy hath already crowded his army with foreigners, whom he can easily employ against this Sacred Court, more especially with English, a fierce insular people, wedded to their own usages, and hating those of every other nation. It is not unknown to us, that the Duke bath already encouraged opposition to the officials of the Tribunal in more than one part of his German dominions; and that, in consequence, instead of submitting to their doom with reverent resignation, children of the cord have been found bold enough to resist the executioners of the Vehme, striking, wounding, and even slaying those who have received commission to put them to death. This contumacy must be put an end to; and if the accused shall be proved to be one of those by whom such doctrines are harbored and inculcated, I say let the steel and cord do their work on him.”

A general murmur seemed to approve what the speaker had said; for all were conscious that the power of the Tribunal depended much more on the opinion of its being deeply and firmly rooted in tbe general system, than upon any regard or esteem for an institution, of which all felt the severity. It followed, that those of the members who enjoyed consequence by means of their station in the ranks of the Vehme, saw the necessity of supporting its terrors by occasional examples of severe punishment; and none could be more readily sacrificed, than an unknown and wandering foreigner. All this rushed upon Philipson’s mind, but did not prevent his making a steady reply to the accusation.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “good citizens, burgesses, or by whatever other name you please to be addressed, know that in my former days I have stood in as great peril as now, and have never turned my heel to save my life. Cords and daggers are not calculated to strike terror into those who have seen swords and lances. My answer to the accusation is, that I am an Englishman, one of a nation accustomed to yield and to receive open-handed and equal justice dealt forth in the broad light of day. I am, however, a traveller, who knows that he has no right to oppose the rules and laws of other nations, because they do not resemble those of his own. But this caution can only be called for in lands where the system about which we converse is in full force and operation. If we speak of the institutions of Germany, being at the time in France or Spain, we may, without offence to the country in which they are current, dispute concerning them, as students debate upon a logical thesis in a university. The accuser objects to me, that at Turin, or elsewhere in the north of Italy, I spoke with censure of the institution under which I am now judged. I will not deny that I remember something of the kind; but it was in consequence of the question being in a manner forced upon me by two guests, with whom I chanced to find myself at table. I was much and earnestly solicited for an opinion ere I gave one.”

“And was that opinion,” said the presiding Judge, “favorable or otherwise to the Holy and Secret Vehme-gericht? Let truth rule your tongue remember, life is short, judgment is eternal!”

“I would not save my life at the expense of a falsehood. My opinion was unfavorable; and I expressed myself thus:— No laws or judicial proceedings can be just or commendable, which exist and operate by means of a secret combination. I said, that justice could only live and exist in the open air, and that when she ceased to be public, she degenerated into revenge and hatred. I said that a system, of which your own jurists have said, non frater a fratre, non hospes a hospite, tutus, was too much adverse to the laws of nature, to be connected with or regulated by those of religion.”

These words were scarcely uttered, when there burst a murmur from the Judges highly unfavorable to the prisoner, — “He blasphemes the Holy Vehme — Let his mouth be closed forever!”

“Hear me,” said the Englishman, “as you will one day wish to be yourselves heard! I say such were my sentiments, and so I expressed them — I say also, I had a right to express these opinions, whether sound or erroneous, in a neutral country, where this Tribunal neither did, nor could, claim any jurisdiction. My sentiments are still the same. I would avow them if that sword were at my bosom, or that cord around my throat. But I deny that I have ever spoken against the institutions of your Vehme, in a country where it had its course as a national mode of justice. Far more strongly, if possible, do I denounce the absurdity of the falsehood, which represents me, a wandering foreigner, as commissioned to traffic with the Duke of Burgundy about such high matters, or to form a conspiracy for the destruction of a system, to which so many seem warmly attached. I never said such a thing, and I never thought it.”

“Accuser,” said the presiding Judge, “thou hast heard the accused — What is thy reply?”

“The first part of the charge,” said the accuser, “he hath confessed in this high presence, namely, that his foul tongue hath basely slandered our holy mysteries; for which he deserves that it should be torn out of his throat. I myself, on my oath of office, will aver, as use and law is, that the rest of the accusation, namely, that which taxes him as having entered into machinations for the destruction of the Vehmique institutions, is as true as those which he has found himself unable to deny.”

“In justice,” said the Englishman, “the accusation, if not made good by satisfactory proof, ought to be left to the oath of the party accused, instead of permitting the accuser to establish by his own deposition the defects in his own charge.”

“Stranger,” replied the presiding Judge, “we permit to thy ignorance a longer and more full defence than consists with our usual forms. Know that the right of sitting among these venerable judges confers on the person of him who enjoys it a sacredness of character which ordinary men cannot attain to. The oath of one of the initiated must counterbalance the most solemn asseveration of every one that is not acquainted with our holy secrets. In the Vehmique court all must be Vehmique. The averment of the Emperor, he being uninitiated, would not have so much weight in our counsels as that of one of the meanest of these officials. Tbe affirmation of the accuser can only be rebutted by the oath of a member of the same Tribunal, being of superior rank.”

“Then, God be gracious to me, for I have no trust save in Heaven!” said the Englishman in solemn accents. “Yet I will not fall without an effort. I call upon thee, thyself, dark spirit, who presidest in this most deadly assembly — I call upon thyself, to declare on thy faith and honor, whether thou holdest me guilty of what is thus boldly averred by this false calumniator — I call upon thee by thy sacred character — by the name of — ”

“Hold!” replied the presiding Judge. “The name by which we are known in open air must not be pronounced in this subterranean judgment-seat.”

He then proceeded to address the prisoner and the assembly, — “I, being called on in evidence, declare that the charge against thee is so far true as it is acknowledged by thyself, namely, that thou hast in other lands than the Red Soil, 16 spoken lightly of this holy institution of justice. But I believe in my soul, and will bear witness on my honor, that the rest of the accusation is incredible and false. And this I swear holding my hand on the dagger and the cord. — What is your judgment, my brethren, upon the case which you have in vestigated?”

A member of the first-seated and highest class amongst the judges, muffled like the rest, but the tone of whose voice, and the stoop of whose person, announced him to be more advanced in years than the other two who had before spoken, arose with difficulty, and said with a trembling voice, —

“The child of the cord, who is before us, has been convicted of folly and rashness in slandering our holy institution. But he spoke his folly to ears which had never heard our sacred laws — He has, therefore, been acquitted by irrefragable testimony, of combining for the impotent purpose of undermining our power, or stirring up princes against our holy association, for which death were too light a punishment — He hath been foolish, then, but not criminal; and as the holy laws of the Vehme bear no penalty save that of death, I propose for judgment that the child of the cord be restored without injury to society, and to the upper world, having been first duly admonished of his errors.”

“Child of the cord,” said the presiding Judge,” thou hast heard thy sentence of acquittal. But as thou desirest to sleep in an unbloody grave, let me warn thee, that the secrets of this night shall remain with thee, as a secret not to be communicated to father nor mother, to spouse, son, or daughter; neither to be spoken aloud nor whispered; to be told in words or written in characters; to be carved or to be painted, or to be otherwise communicated, either directly or by parable and emblem. Obey this behest, and thy life is in surety. Let thy heart then rejoice within thee, but let it rejoice with trembling. Never more let thy vanity persuade thee that thou art secure from the servants and Judges of the Holy Vehrne. Though a thousand leagues lie between thee and the Red Land, and thou speakest in that where our power is not known; though thou shouldst be sheltered by thy native island, and defended by thy kindred ocean, yet, even there, I warn thee to cross thyself when thou dost so much as think of the Holy and Invisible Tribunal, and to retain thy thoughts within thine own bosom; for the Avenger may be beside thee, and thou mayst die in thy folly. Go hence, be wise, and let the fear of the Holy Vehme never pass from thine eyes.”

At the concluding words, all the lights were at once extinguished with a hissing noise. Philipson felt once more the grasp of the hands of the officials, to which he resigned himself as the safest course. He was gently prostrated on his pallet-bed, and transported back to the place from which he had been advanced to the foot of the altar. The cordage was again applied to the platform, and Philipson was sensible that his couch rose with him for a few moments, until a slight shock apprised him that he was again brought to a level with the floor of the chamber in which he had been lodged on the preceding night, or rather morning. He pondered over the events that had passed, in which he was sensible that he owed Heaven thanks for a great deliverance. Fatigue at length prevailed over anxiety, and he fell into a deep and profound sleep, from which he was only awakened by returning light. He resolved on an instant departure from so dangerous a spot, and without seeing any one of the household but the old ostler, pursued his journey to Strassburg, and reached that city without further accident.

14 The word Wehme, pronounced Vehmey, is of uncertain derivation, but was always used to intimate this inquisitorial and secret Court. The members were termed Wissenden, or initiated, answering to the modern prase of Illuminati. Mr. Palgrave seems inclined to derive the word Vehme from Ehme, i.e. Law, and he is probably right.

15 The term Strick-kind, or child of the cord, was applied to the person accused before these awful assemblies.

16 The parts of Germany subjected to the operation of the Secret Tribunal were called, from the blood which it spilt, or from some other reason (Mr. Palgrave suggests the ground tincture of the ancient banner of the district) the Red Soil. Westphalia, as the limits of that country were understood in the middle ages, which are considerably different from the present boundaries, was the principal theatre of the Vehme.

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29