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The Nightingale Valley at Honnef

     Honnef is one of the most lovely little spots on the earth, nestling sweetly at the foot of the old Drachenfels. The mountain protects it from the icy winds of the north, and the breezes blow gently in the valley, which may be called the German Nice.

     When the setting sun reminds the wanderer on the Drachenfels of coming darkness, and he strolls down through the valley of Honnef, the songs of numerous nightingales sound in his ears. This has been the meeting-place of these songsters for many a long year, and there is an old legend which gives us the reason.

     There was a time when they used to sing in the forest round the old Abbey Himmerode, as they now do in the valley of Honnef.

     The pious monks, walking about in the cloister gardens in holy contemplation heard their seductive songs: the penitents in their cells, mortifying the flesh heard them also. Their alluring warble mingled itself with their murmured prayers; and in the heart of many a monk, who had long since renounced the world and its pleasures, the remembrance of them was gently awakened, and sweet sinful things were whispered into the holy brothers' ears.

     Then one day it happened that St. Bernhard came to the Abbey Himmerode, to examine the brothers' hearts. He was greatly distressed to find that many a holy soul had turned from the path of peace, and the cause of this also became known to him. In a violent passion the holy man strode out into the forest surrounding the cloister, and raising his hand angrily towards the seductive singers, he cried.

     "Go from here! Ye are a curse to us." St. Bernhard had spoken threateningly, and lo! with a great stir in the branches, a throng of numberless nightingales rose from the bushes, filled the forest once more with their glorious song, and fled with a great flapping of wings.

     They settled down in the valley of Honnef, and no excommunication has driven them from there. Those who wander there are not averse to the pleasures of the world like St. Bernhard, and every one after his own manner reads a different meaning in their song.

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