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Title: Arthur O'Leary: His Wanderings And Ponderings In Many Lands
Author: Lever, Charles James
Language: English
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ARTHUR O’LEARY

HIS WANDERINGS AND PONDERINGS IN MANY LANDS


By Charles James Lever

Edited By His Friend, Harry Lorrequer, Illustrated By George Cruikshank.

New Edition.

London: Henry Colburn, Publisher,

Great Marlborough Street.

1845.



CONTENTS


ARTHUR O’LEARY.

CHAPTER I.   THE “ATTWOOD”

CHAPTER II.   THE BOAR’S HEAD AT ROTTERDAM

CHAPTER III.   VAN HOOGENDORP’S TALE

CHAPTER IV.   MEMS. AND MORALIZINGS

CHAPTER V.   ANTWERP--“THE FISCHER’S HAUS.”

CHAPTER VI.   MR. O’KELLY’S TALE

CHAPTER VII.   MR. O’KELLY’S TALE.--CONTINUED

CHAPTER VIII.   MR. O’KELLY’S TALE.--CONCLUDED

CHAPTER IX.   TABLE-TRAITS

CHAPTER X.   A DILEMMA

CHAPTER XI.   A FRAGMENT OF FOREST LIFE

CHAPTER XII.   CHATEAU LIFE

CHAPTER XIII.   THE ABBE’S STORY

CHAPTER XIV.   THE CHASE

CHAPTER XV.   A NARROW ESCAPE

CHAPTER XVI.   A MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE

CHAPTER XVII.   THE BORE--A SOLDIER OF THE EMPIRE

CHAPTER XVIII.   THE RETREAT FROM LEIPSIC

CHAPTER XIX.   THE TOP OF A DILIGENCE

CHAPTER XX.   BONN AND STUDENT LIFE

CHAPTER XXI.   THE STUDENT

CHAPTER XXII.   SPAS AND GRAND DUKEDOMS

CHAPTER XXIII.   THE TRAVELLING PARTY

CHAPTER XXIV.   THE GAMBLING-ROOM

CHAPTER XXV.   A WATERING-PLACE DOCTOR

CHAPTER XXVI.   SIR HARRY WYCHERLEY

CHAPTER XXVII.   THE RECOVERY HOUSE

CHAPTER XXVIII.   THE ‘DREAM OF DEATH’

CHAPTER XXIX.   THE STRANGE GUEST

CHAPTER XXX.   THE PARK

CHAPTER XXXI.   THE BARON’S STORY

CHAPTER XXXII.   THE WARTBURG AND EISENACH

CHAPTER XXXIII.     “ERFURT”

CHAPTER XXXIV.   THE HERR. DIRECTOR KLUG



NOTICE, PRELIMINARY AND EXPLANATORY,

BY THE EDITOR.

When some years ago we took the liberty, in a volume of our so-called
“Confessions,” to introduce to our reader’s acquaintance the gentleman
whose name figures in the title page, we subjoined a brief notice, by
himself, intimating the intention he entertained of one day giving to
the world a farther insight into his life and opinions, under the title
of “Loiterings of Arthur O’Leary.”

It is more than probable that the garbled statement and incorrect
expression of which we ourselves were guilty respecting our friend had
piqued him into this declaration, which, on mature consideration, he
thought fit to abandon. For, from that hour to the present one, nothing
of the kind ever transpired, nor could we ascertain, by the strictest
inquiry, that such a proposition of publication had ever been
entertained in the West-End, or heard of in the “Row.”

The worthy traveller had wandered away to “pastures new,” heaven knows
where! and, notwithstanding repeated little paragraphs in the second
advertizing column of the “Times” newspaper, assuring, “A. O’L. that if
he would inform his friends where a letter would reach, all would be
forgiven,” &c. the mystery of his whereabouts remained unsolved, save by
the chance mention of a north-west passage traveller, who speaks of a
Mr. O’Leary as having presided at a grand bottle-nosed whale dinner in
Behring’s Straits, some time in the autumn of 1840; and an allusion, in
the second volume of the Chevalier de Bertonville’s Discoveries in
Central Africa, to an “Irlandais bien original,” who acted as sponsor to
the son and heir of King Bullanullaboo, in the Chieckhow territory. That
either, or indeed, both, these individuals resolved themselves into our
respected friend, we entertained no doubt whatever; nor did the
information cause us any surprise, far less unquestionably, than had we
heard of his ordering his boots from Hoby, or his coat from Stultz.

Meanwhile time rolled on--and whether Mr. O’Leary had died of the whale
feast, or been eaten himself by his godson, no one could conjecture, and
his name had probably been lost amid the rust of ages, if certain
booksellers, in remote districts, had not chanced upon the announcement
of his volume, and their “country orders” kept dropping in for these
same “Loiterings,” of which the publishers were obliged to confess they
knew nothing whatever.

Now, the season was a dull one; nothing stirring in the literary world;
people had turned from books, to newspapers; a gloomy depression reigned
over the land. The India news was depressing; the China worse; the
French were more insolent than ever; the prices were falling under the
new tariff; pigs looked down, and “Repealers” looked up. The only
interesting news, was the frauds in pork, which turned out to be pickled
negroes and potted squaws. What was to be done? A literary speculation
at such a moment was preposterous; for although in an age of temperance,
nothing prospered but “Punch.”

It occurred to us, “then pondering,” as Lord Brougham would say, that as
these same “Loiterings” had been asked for more than once, and an actual
order for two copies had been seen in the handwriting of a solvent
individual, there was no reason why we should not write them ourselves.
There would be little difficulty in imagining what a man like O’Leary
would say, think, or do, in any-given situation. The peculiarities of
his character might, perhaps, give point to what dramatic people call
“situations,” but yet were not of such a nature as to make their
portraiture a matter of any difficulty.

We confess the thing savoured a good deal of book-making. What of that?
We remember once in a row in Dublin, when the military were called out,
that a sentinel happened to have an altercation with, an old woman of
that class, for which the Irish metropolis used to have a patent, in all
that regards street eloquence and repartee. The soldier, provoked beyond
endurance, declared at last with an oath, “that if she didn’t go away,
he’d drive his bayonet through her.” “Oh, then, the devil thank you for
that same,” responded the hag, “sure, isn’t it your trade?” Make the
application, dear reader, and forgive us for our authorship to order.

Besides, had we not before us the example of Alexandre Dumas, in France,
whose practice it is to amuse the world by certain Souvenirs de
“Voyage,” which he has never made, not even in imagination but which are
only the dressed-up skeletons of other men’s rambles, and which he buys,
exactly as the Jews do old uniforms and court suits, for exportation to
the colonies. And thus while thousands of his readers are sympathizing
with the suffering of the aforesaid Alexandre, in his perilous passage
of the great desert, or his fearful encounter with Norwegian wolves,
little know they that their hero is snugly established in his “entresol”
 of the “Rue d’Alger,” lying full length on a spring-cushioned sofa, with
a Manilla weed on his lip, and George Sand’s last bulletin of
wickedness, half cut before him. These “Souvenirs de Voyage” being
nothing more than the adventures and incidents of Messrs. John Doe and
Richard Doe, paragraphed, witticized, and spiced for public taste, by
Alexandre Dumas, pretty much as cheap taverns give “gravy” and
“ox-tail”--the smallest modicum of meat, to the most high-seasoned and
hot-flavoured condiments.

If, then, we had scruples, here was a precedent to relieve our minds--
here a case perfectly in point, at least so far as the legitimacy of the
practice demanded. But, unhappily, it ended there: for although it may
be, and indeed is, very practicable for Monsieur Dumas, by the
perfection of _his “cuisine,”_ to make the meat itself a secondary part
of the matter; yet do we grievously fear that a tureen full of
“O’Leary,” might not be an acceptable dish, because there was a bone of
“Harry Lorrequer” in the bottom.

With all these _pros_ and _cons_ our vain-glorious boast to write the
work in question stared us suddenly in the face; and, really, we felt as
much shame as can reasonably be supposed to visit a man, whose
countenance has been hawked about the streets, and sold in shilling
numbers. What was to be done? There was the public, too; but, like Tony
Lumpkin, we felt we might disappoint the company at the Three Jolly
Pigeons--but could we disappoint ourselves?

Alas! there were some excellent reasons against such a consummation. So,
respected reader, whatever liberties we might take with you, we had to
look nearer home, and bethink us of ourselves. _After all_--and what a
glorious charge to the jury of one’s conscience is your after all!---
what a plenary indulgence against all your sins of commission and
omission!--what a makepeace to self-accusation, and what a salve to
heartfelt repinings!--after all, we did know a great deal about O’Leary:
his life and opinions, his habits and haunts, his prejudices, pleasures,
and predilections: and although we never performed Boz to his Johnson,
still had we ample knowledge of him for all purposes of book-writing;
and there was no reason why we should not assume his mantle, or rather
his Macintosh, if the weather required it.

Having in some sort allayed our scruples in this fashion, and having
satisfied our conscience by the resolve, that if we were not about to
record the actual _res gesto_ of Mr. O’Leary, neither would we set down
anything which _might not_ have been one of his adventures, nor put into
his mouth any imaginary conversations which _he might not_ have
sustained; so that, in short, should the volume ever come under the eyes
of the respected gentleman himself, considerable mystification would
exist, as to whether he did not say, do, and think, exactly as we made
him, and much doubt lie on his mind that he was not the author himself.

We wish particularly to lay stress on the honesty of these our
intentions--the more, as subsequent events have interfered with their
accomplishment; and we can only assure the world of what we would have
done, had we been permitted. And here let us observe, _en passant_, that
if other literary characters had been actuated by similarly honourable
views, we should have been spared those very absurd speeches which
Sallust attributes to his characters in the Catiline conspiracy; and
another historian, with still greater daring, assumes the Prince of
Orange _ought_ to have spoken, at various epochs in the late Belgian
revolution.

With such prospective hopes, then, did we engage in the mystery of these
same “Loiterings,” and with a pleasure such as only men of the pen can
appreciate, did we watch the bulky pile of MS. that was growing up
before us, while the interest of the work had already taken hold of us;
and whether we moved our puppets to the slow figure of a minuet, or
rattled them along at the slap-dash, hurry-scurry, devil-may-care pace,
for which our critics habitually give us credit, we felt that our foot
beat time responsively to the measure, and that we actually began to
enjoy the performance.

In this position stood matters, when early one morning in December the
post brought us an ominous-looking epistle, which, even as we glanced
our eye on the outside, conveyed an impression of fear and misgiving to
our minds. If there are men in whose countenances, as Pitt remarked,
“villany is so impressed, it were impiety not to believe it,” so are
there certain letters whose very shape and colour, fold, seal, and
superscription have something gloomy and threatening--something of
menace and mischief about them. This was one of these: the paper was a
greenish sickly-white, a kind of dyspeptic foolscap; the very mill that
fabricated it might have had the shaking ague. The seal was of bottle-
wax, the impression, a heavy thumb. The address ran, “To H. L.” The
writing, a species of rustic paling, curiously interwoven and gnarled,
to which the thickness of the ink lent a needless obscurity, giving to
the whole the appearance of something like a child’s effort to draw a
series of beetles and cockroaches with a blunt stick; but what most of
all struck terror to our souls, was an abortive effort at the words
“Arthur O’Leary” scrawled in the corner.

What! had he really then escaped the perils of blubber and black men?
Was he alive, and had he come back to catch us, _in delicto_--in the
very fact of editing him, of raising our exhausted exchequer at his
cost, and replenishing our empty coffers under his credit? Our
suspicions were but too true. We broke the seal and spelled as follows--

“Sir--A lately-arrived traveller in these parts brings me intelligence,
that a work is announced for publication by you, under the title of ‘The
Loiterings of Arthur O’Leary,’ containing his opinions, notions,
dreamings, and doings during several years of his life, and in various
countries. Now this must mean me, and I should like to know what are a
man’s own, if his adventures are not? His ongoings, his ‘begebenheiten,’
as the Germans call them, are they not as much his, as his--what shall I
say; his flannel waistcoat or his tobacco-pipe?

“If I have spent many years, and many pounds (of tobacco) in my
explorings of other lands, is it for you to reap the benefit? If I have
walked, smoked, laughed, and fattened from Trolhatten to Tehran, was it
that you should have the profit? Was I to exhibit in ludicrous
situations and extravagant incidents, with ‘illustrations by Phiz,’
because I happened to be fat, and fond of rambling? Or was it my name
only that you pirated, so that Arthur O’Leary should be a type of
something ludicrous, wherever he appeared in company? Or worse still,
was it an attempt to extort money from me, as I understand you once
before tried, by assuming for one of your heroes the name of a most
respectable gentleman in private life? To which of these counts do you
plead guilty?

“Whatever is your plan, here is mine: I have given instructions to my
man of law to obtain an injunction from the Chancellor, restraining you
or any other from publishing these ‘Loiterings.’ Yes; an order of the
court will soon put an end to this most unwarrantable invasion of
private rights. Let us see then if you’ll dare to persist in this
nefarious scheme.

“The Swan-river for you, and the stocks for your publisher, may,
perhaps, moderate your literary and publishing ardour--eh! Master Harry?
Or do you contemplate adding your own adventures beyond seas to the
volume, and then make something of your ‘Confessions of a Convict,’ I
must conclude at once: in my indignation this half hour, I have been
swallowing all the smoke of my meerschaum, and I feel myself turning
round and round like a smoke-jack. Once for all--stop! recall your
announcement, burn your MS., and prostrate yourself in abject humility
at my feet, and with many sighs, and two pounds of shag (to be had at
No. 8, Francis-street, two doors from the lane), you may haply be
forgiven by yours, in wrath,

“Arthur O’Leary.

“Address a line, if in penitence, to me here, where the lovely scenery,
and the society remind me much of Siberia--

“Edenderry, ‘The Pig and Pot-hooks.’”

Having carefully read and re-read this letter, and having laid it before
those whose interests, like our own, were deeply involved, we really for
a time became thoroughly nonplussed. To disclaim any or all of the
intentions attributed to us in Mr. O’Leary’s letter, would have been
perfectly useless, so long as we held to our project of publishing
anything under his name. Of no avail to assure him that our “Loiterings
of Arthur O’Leary” were not his--that our hero was not himself. To
little purpose should we adduce that our Alter Ego was the hero of a
book by the Prebend of Lichfield, and “Charles Lever” given to the world
as a socialist. He cared for nothing of all this; _tenax propositi_, he
would listen to no explanation--unconditional, absolute, Chinese
submission were his only terms, and with these we were obliged to
comply. And yet how very ridiculous was the power he assumed. Was any
thing more common in practice than to write the lives of distinguished
men, even before their death, and who ever heard of the individual
seeking legal redress against his biographer except for libel? “Come,
come, Arthur,” said we to ourselves, “this threat affrights us not. Here
we begin Chap. XIV.--”

Just then we turned our eyes mechanically towards the pile of manuscript
at our elbow, and could not help admiring the philosophy with which _he_
spoke of condemning to the flames the fruit of _our_ labour. Still it
was evident, that Mr. O’Leary’s was no _brutem fulmen_, but very
respectable and downright thunder; and that in fact we should soon be,
where, however interesting it may make a young lady, it by no means
suits an elderly gentleman to be, viz.--in Chancery.

“What’s to be done?” was the question, which like a tennis-ball we
pitched at each other. “We have it,” said we. “We’ll start at once for
Edenderry, and bring this with us,” pointing to our manuscript. “We’ll
show O’Leary how near immortality he was, and may still be, if not
loaded with obstinacy: We’ll read him a bit of our droll, and some
snatches of our pathetic passages. Well show him how the ‘Immortal
George’ intends to represent him. In a word, we’ll enchant him with the
fascinating position to which we mean to exalt him and before the
evening ends, obtain his special permission to deal with him, as before
now we have done with his betters, and--print him.”

Our mind made up, no time was to be lost. We took our place in the Grand
Canal passage-boat for Edenderry; and wrapping ourselves up in our
virtue, and another thin garment they call a Zephyr, began our journey.

We should have liked well, had our object permitted it, to have made
some brief notes of our own “Loiterings.” But the goal of our
wanderings, as well as of our thoughts, was ever before us, and we spent
the day imagining to ourselves the various modes by which we should make
our advances to the enemy, with most hope of success. Whether the
company themselves did not afford any thing very remarkable, or our own
preoccupation prevented our noticing it, certes, we jogged on, without
any consciousness that we were not perfectly alone, and this for some
twenty miles of the way. At last, however, the cabin became intolerably
hot. Something like twenty-four souls were imprisoned in a space ten
feet by three, which the humanity of the company of directors kindly
limits to forty-eight, a number which no human ingenuity could pack into
it, if living. The majority of the passengers were what by courtesy are
called ‘small farmers,’ namely, individuals weighing from eighteen to
six-and-twenty stone; priests, with backs like the gable of a chapel;
and a sprinkling of elderly ladies from the bog towns along the bank,
who actually resembled turf clamps in their proportions. We made an
effort to reach the door, and having at length succeeded, found to our
sorrow that the rain was falling heavily. Notwithstanding this, we
remained without, as long as we could venture, the oppressive heat
within being far more intolerable than even the rain. At length,
however, wet through and cold, we squeezed ourselves into a small corner
near the door, and sat down. But what a change had our unpropitious
presence evoked. We left our fellow-travellers, a noisy, jolly, semi-
riotous party, disputing over the markets, censuring Sir Robert, abusing
the poor-rates, and discussing various matters of foreign and domestic
policy, from Shah Shoojah to subsoil ploughs. A dirty pack of cards, and
even punch, were adding their fascinations to while away the tedious
hours; but now the company sat in solemn silence. The ladies looked
straight before them, without a muscle of their faces moving; the
farmers had lifted the collars of their frieze coats, and concealed
their hands within their sleeves, so as to be perfectly invisible; and
the reverend fathers, putting on dark and dangerous looks, spoke only in
monosyllables, no longer sipped their liquor in comfort, but rang the
bell from time to time, and ordered “another beverage,” a curious
smoking compound, that to our un-Matthewed senses, savoured suspiciously
of whiskey.

It was a dark night when we reached the “Pig and Pot-hooks,” the
hostelry whence Mr. O’Leary had addressed us; and although not yet eight
o’clock, no appearance of light, nor any stir, announced that the family
were about. After some little delay, our summons was answered by a bare-
legged handmaiden, who, to our question if Mr. O’Leary stopped there,
without further hesitation opened a small door to the left, and
introduced us bodily into his august presence.

Our travelled friend was seated, “_more suo_,” with his legs supported
on two chairs, while he himself in chief occupied a third, his wig being
on the arm of that one on which he reposed; a very imposing tankard,
with a floating toast, smoked on the table, and a large collection of
pipes of every grade, from the haughty hubble bubble, to the humble
dudeen, hung around on the walls.

“Ha!” said he, as we closed the door behind us, and advanced into the
room, “and so you are penitent. Well, Hal, I forgive you. It was a
scurvy trick, though; but I remember it no longer. Here, take a pull at
the pewter, and tell us all the Dublin news.”

It is not our intention, dear reader, to indulge in the same
mystification with you, that we practised on our friend Mr. O’Leary--or,
in other words, to invent for your edification, as we confess to have
done for his, all the events and circumstances which might have, but did
not, take place in Dublin for the preceding month. It is enough to say
that about eleven o’clock Mr. O’Leary was in the seventh heaven of
conversational contentment, and in the ninth flagon of purl.

“Open it--let me see it. Come, Hal, divulge at once,” said he, kicking
the carpet-bag that contained our manuscript. We undid the lock, and
emptied our papers before him. His eyes sparkled as the heavy folds fell
over each other on the table, his mouth twitched with a movement of
convulsive pleasure. “Ring the bell, my lad,” said he; “the string is
beside you. Send the master, Mary,” continued he, as the maiden entered.

Peter Mahoon soon made his appearance, rather startled at being summoned
from his bed, and evidencing in his toilette somewhat more of zeal than
dandyism.

“Is the house insured, Peter?” said Mr. O’Leary.

“No, sir,” rejoined he, with a searching look around the room, and a
sniff of his nose, to discover if he could detect the smell of fire.

“What’s the premises worth, Peter?”

“Sorrow one of me knows right, sir. Maybe a hundred and fifty, or it
might bring two hundred pounds.”

“All right,” said O’Leary briskly, as seizing my manuscript with both
hands he hurled it on the blazing turf fire; and then grasping the
poker, stood guard over it, exclaiming as he did so,--“Touch it, and by
the beard of the Prophet I’ll brain you. Now, there it goes, blazing up
the chimney. Look how it floats up there! I never expected to travel
like that anyhow. Eh, Hal? Your work is a brilliant affair, isn’t it?--
and as well puffed as if you entertained every newspaper editor in the
kingdom? And see,” cried he, as he stamped his foot upon the blaze, “the
whole edition is exhausted already--not a copy to be had for any money.”

We threw ourselves back in our chair, and covered our face with our
hands. The toil of many a long night, of many a bright hour of sun and
wind, was lost to us for ever, and we may be pardoned if our grief was
heavy.

“Cheer up, old fellow,” said he, as the last flicker of the burning
paper expired. “You know the thing was bad: it couldn’t be other. That
d----d fly-away harum-scarum style of yours is no more adapted to a work
of real merit, than a Will-o’-the-wisp would be for a light-house.
Another jug, Peter--bring two. The truth is, Hal, I was not so averse to
the publication of my life as to the infernal mess you’d have made of
it. You have no pathos, no tenderness--damn the bit.”

“Come, come,” said we: “it is enough to burn our manuscript, but,
really, as to playing the critic in this fashion----”

“Then,” continued he, “all that confounded folly you deal in, laughing
at the priests--Lord bless you, man! they have more fun, those fellows,
than you, and a score like you. There’s one Father Dolan here would tell
two stories for your one; ay, better than ever you told.”

“We really have no ambition to enter the lists with your friend.”

“So much the better--you’d get the worst of it; and as to knowledge of
character, see now, Peter Mahoon there would teach you human nature; and
if I liked myself to appear in print--”

“Well,” said we, bursting out into a fit of laughter, “that would
certainly be amusing.”

“And so it would, whether you jest or no. There’s in that drawer there,
the materials of as fine a work as ever appeared since Sir John Carr’s
Travels; and the style is a happy union of Goldsmith and Jean Paul--
simple yet aphoristic--profound and pleasing--sparkling like the can
before me, but pungent and racy in its bitterness. Hand me that oak box,
Hal. Which is the key? At this hour one’s sight becomes always
defective. Ah, here it is look there!”

We obeyed the command, and truly our amazement was great, though
possibly not for the reason that Mr. O’Leary could have desired; for
instead of anything like a regular manuscript, we beheld a mass of small
scraps of paper, backs of letters, newspapers, magazines, fly-leaves of
books, old prints, &c., scrawled on, in the most uncouth fashion; and
purporting from the numbers appended to be a continued narration of one
kind or other.

“What’s all this?” said we.

“These,” said he, “are really ‘The Loiterings of Arthur O’Leary.’ Listen
to this. Here’s a bit of Goldsmith for you--

“‘I was born of poor but respectable parents in the county------.’ What
are you laughing at? Is it because I did’nt open with--‘The sun was
setting, on the 25th of June, in the year 1763, as two travellers were
seen,’ &c., &c,? Eh? That’s your way, not mine. A London fellow told me
that my papers were worth five hundred pounds. Come, that’s what I call
something. Now I’ll go over to the ‘Row.’”

“Stop a bit. Here seems something strange about the King of Holland.”

“You mustn’t read them, though. No, no. That’ll never do--no, Hal; no
plagiarism. But, after all, I have been a little hasty with you, Perhaps
I ought not to have burned that thing; you were not to know it was bad.”

“Eh! how?”

“Why, I say, you might not see how absurd it was; so here’s your health,
Hal: either that tankard has been drugged, or a strange change has come
over my feelings. Harry Lorrequer, I’ll make your fortune, or rather
your son’s, for you are a wasteful creature, and will spend the proceeds
as fast as you get them; but the everlastingly-called-for new editions
will keep him in cash all his life. I’ll give you that box and its
contents; yes, I repeat it, it is yours. I see you are overpowered;
there, taste the pewter and you’ll get better presently. In that you’ll
find--a little irregular and carelessly-written perhaps--the sum of my
experience and knowledge of life--all my correspondence, all my private
notes, my opinions on literature, fine arts, politics, and the drama.”

But we will not follow our friend into the soaring realms of his
imaginative flight, for it was quite evident that the tankard and the
tobacco were alone responsible for the lofty promises of his production.
In plain English, Mr. O’Leary was fuddled, and the only intelligible
part of his discourse was, an assurance that his papers were entirely at
our service; and that, as in some three weeks time, he hoped to be in
Africa, having promised to spend the Christmas with Abd-el-Kader, we
were left his sole literary executor, with full power to edit him in any
shape it might please us, lopping, cutting, omitting--anything, even to
adding, or interpolating.

Such were his last orders, and having given them, Mr. O’Leary refilled
his pipe, closed his eyes, stretched out his legs to their fullest
extent, and although he continued at long intervals to evolve a blue
curl of smoke from the corner of his mouth, it was evident he was lost
in the land of dreams.

In two hours afterwards we were on our way back to Dublin, bearing with
us the oaken box, which, however, it is but justice to ourselves to say,
we felt as a sad exchange for our own carefully-written manuscript. On
reaching home, our first care was to examine these papers, and see if
anything could be made of them, which might prove readable;
unfortunately, however, the mass consisted of brief memoranda, setting
forth how many miles Mr. O’Leary had walked on a certain day in the
November of 1803, and how he had supped on camel’s milk with an amiable
family of Bedouins, who had just robbed a caravan in the desert. His
correspondence, was for the most part an angry one with washerwomen and
hotel-keepers, and some rather curious hieroglyphic replies to dinner
invitations from certain people of rank in the Sandwich Islands.
Occasionally, however, we chanced on little bits of narrative, fragments
of stories, some of which his fellow-travellers had contributed, and
brief sketches of places and people that were rather amusing; but so
disjointed, broken up, and unconnected were they all, it was almost
impossible to give them anything like an arrangement, much less anything
like consecutive interest.

All that lay in our power was to select from the whole, certain
portions, which, from their length, promised more of care than the mere
fragments about them, and present them to our readers with this brief
notice of the mode in which we obtained them--our only excuse for a most
irregular and unprecedented liberty in the practice of literature. With
this apology for the incompleteness and abruptness of “the O’Leary
Papers”--which happily we are enabled to make freely, as our friend
Arthur has taken his departure--we offer them to our readers, only
adding, that in proof of their genuine origin, the manuscript can be
seen by any one so desiring it, on application to our publishers; while,
for all their follies, faults, and inaccuracies, we desire to plead our
irresponsibility, as freely, as we wish to attribute any favour the
world may show them, to their real author: and with this last assurance,
we beg to remain, your ever devoted and obedient servant,



ARTHUR O’LEARY.



CHAPTER I. THE “ATTWOOD.”

Old Woodcock says, that if Providence had not made him a Justice of the
Peace, he’d have been a vagabond himself. No such kind interference
prevailed in my case. I was a vagabond from my cradle. I never could be
sent to school, alone, like other children--they always had to see me
there safe, and fetch me back again. The rambling bump monopolized my
whole head. I’m sure my god-father must have been the wandering Jew, or
a king’s messenger. Here I am again, _en route_, and sorely puzzled to
know whither? There’s the fellow for my trunk.

“What packet, sir?”

“Eh? What packet? The vessel at the Tower stairs?”

“Yes, sir; there are two with the steam up, the Rotterdam and the
Hamburgh.”

“Which goes first?”

“Why, I think the Attwood, sir.”

“Well, then, shove aboard the Attwood. Where is she for?”

“She’s for Rotterdam.----He’s a queer cove too,” said the fellow under
his teeth, as he moved out of the room, “and don’t seem to care where he
goes.”

A capital lesson in life may be learned from the few moments preceding
departure from an inn. The surly waiter that always said “coming” when
he was leaving the room, and never came, now grown smiling and smirking;
the landlord expressing a hope to see you again, while he watches your
upthrown eyebrows at the exorbitancy of his bill: the boots attentively
looking from your feet to your face, and back again; the housemaid
passing and repassing a dozen times, on her way, no where, with a look
half saucy, half shy; the landlord’s son, an abortion of two feet high,
a kind of family chief remembrancer, that sits on a high stool in the
bar, and always detects something you have had, that was not “put down
in the bill”--two shillings for a cab, or a “brandy and water;” a curse
upon them all; this poll-tax upon travellers is utter ruin; your bill,
compared to its dependencies, is but Falstaffs “pennyworth of bread,” to
all the score for sack.

Well, here I am at last. “Take care I say! you’ll upset us. Shove off,
Bill; ship your oar,” splash, splash. “Bear a hand. What a noise, they
make,” bang, crash, buzz; what a crowd of men in pilot coats and caps;
women in plaid shawls and big reticules, band-boxes, bags, and babies,
and what higgling for sixpences with the wherrymen.

All the places round the companion are taken by pale ladies in black
silk, with a thin man in spectacles beside them; the deck is littered
with luggage, and little groups seated thereon; some very strange young
gentlemen with many-coloured waistcoats are going to Greenwich, and one
as far as Margate; a widow and daughters, rather prettyish girls, for
Herne Bay; a thin, bilious-looking man of about fifty, with four outside
coats, and a bearskin round his legs, reading beside the wheel,
occasionally taking a sly look at the new arrivals.--I’ve seen him
before; he is the Secretary of Embassy at Constantinople; and here’s a
jolly-looking, rosy-cheeked fellow, with a fat florid face, and two
dashing-looking girls in black velvet. Eh! who’s this? Sir Peter, the
steward calls him; a London Alderman going up the Rhine for two months--
he’s got his courier, and a strong carriage, with the springs well
corded for the _pavé_;--but they come too fast for counting: so now I’ll
have a look after my berth.

Alas! the cabin has been crowded all the while by some fifty others,
wrangling, scolding, laughing, joking, complaining, and threatening, and
not a berth to be had.

“You’ve put me next the tiller,” said one; “I’m over the boiler,”
 screamed another.

“I have the pleasure of speaking to Sir Willoughby Steward,” said the
captain, to a tall, gray-headed, soldier-like figure, with a closely-
buttoned blue, frock. “Sir Willoughby, your berth is No. 8.”

“Eh! that’s the way they come it,” whispers a Cockney to his friend.
“That ere chap gets a berth before us all.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” says the baronet mildly, “I took mine three
days ago.”

“Oh! I didn’t mean anything,” stammers out the other, and sneaks off.

“Laura-Mariar--where’s Laurar?” calls out a shrill voice from the aft-
cabin.

“Here, Ma,” replies a pretty girl, who is arranging her ringlets at a
glass, much to the satisfaction of a young fellow in a braided frock,
that stands gazing at her in the mirror with something very like a smile
on his lip.

There’s no mistaking that pair of dark-eyed fellows with aquiline noses
and black ill-shaven beards--Hamburgh or Dutch Jews, dealers in smuggled
lace, cigars, and Geneva watches, and occasionally small money-lenders.
How they scan the company, as if calculating the profit they might turn
them to! The very smile they wear seems to say, ‘_Comment c’est doux de
tromper les Chrétiens_.’ But, holloa! there was a splash! we are moving,
and the river is now more amusing than the passengers.

I should like to see the man that ever saw London from the Thames; or
any part of it, save the big dome of St. Paul’s, the top of the
Monument, or the gable of the great black wharf inscribed with “Hodson’s
Pale Ale.” What a devil of a row they do make. I thought we were into
that fellow. See, here’s a wherry actually under our bow; where is she
now? are they all lost already? No! there they go bobbing up and down,
and looking after us, as if asking, why we didn’t sail over them. Ay!
there comes an Indiaman, and that little black slug that ‘s towing her
up against the stream, is one of the Tug Company’s craft; and see how
all the others at anchor keep tossing and pitching about, as we pass by,
like an awkward room full of company, rising at each new arrival.

There’s Greenwich! a fine thing Greenwich. I like the old fellows that
the first lord always makes stand in front, without legs or arms; a
cheery sight: and there’s a hulk, or an hospital ship, or something of
that kind.

“That’s the Hexcellent,” saith a shrill voice behind me.

“Ah! I know her, she’s a revenue cruizer.”

Lord, what liars are the Cockneys! The plot thickens every moment; here
come little bright green and gold things, shooting past, like dragon-
flies skimming the water, steaming down to Gravesend. What a mob of
parasols cover the deck, and what kissing of hands and waving of
handkerchiefs to anonymous acquaintances nowhere. More steamers--here’s
the “Boulogne boat,” followed by the Ostender, and there, rounding the
reach, comes the Ramsgate; and a white funnel, they say, is the Cork
packet; and yonder, with her steam escaping, is the Edinburgh, her deck
crowded with soldiers.

“Port--port it is--steady there--steady.”

“Do you dine, sir!” quoth the steward to the pale gentleman. A faint
“Yes,” “And the ladies too?” A more audible “No.”

“I say, steward,” cries Sir Peter, “what’s the hour for dinner?”

“Four o’clock, sir, after we pass Gravesend.”

“Bring me some brandy and water and a biscuit, then.”

“Lud, Pa!”

“To be sure, dear, we shall be sick in the pool. They say there’s a head
wind.”

How crowded they are on the fore-part of the vessel! six carriages and
eight horses; the latter belong to a Dutch dealer, who, by-the-by, seems
a shrewd fellow, who, well knowing the extreme sympathy between horses
and asses, leaves the care of his, to some Cockneys, who come down every
half hour to look after the tarpaulins, inspect the coverings, see the
knee-caps safe, find ask if they want “‘ay;” and all this, that to some
others on board, they may appear as sporting characters, well versed in
turf affairs, and quite up to stable management.

When the life and animation of the crowded river is passed, how
vexatious it is to hear for the thousandth time the dissertation’s on
English habits, customs, and constitution, delivered by some ill-
informed, underbred fellow or other, to some eager German--a Frenchman
happily is too self-sufficient ever to listen--who greedily swallows the
farrago of absurdity, which, according to the politics of his informant,
represents the nation in a plethora of prosperity, or the last stage of
inevitable ruin. I scarcely know which I detest the more: the insane
toryism of the one, is about as sickening as the rabid radicalism of the
other. The absurd misapprehensions foreigners entertain about us, are,
in nine cases out of ten, communicated by our own people; and in this
way, I have always remarked a far greater degree of ignorance about
England and the English, to prevail among those who have passed some
weeks in the country, than, among such, as had never visited our shores.
With the former the Thames Tunnel is our national boast; raw beef and
boxing our national predilections; the public sale of our wives a
national practice.

“But what’s this? our paddles are backed. Anything wrong, steward?”

“No, sir, only another passenger coming aboard.” “How they pull, and
there’s a stiff sea tunning too. A queer figure that is in the stern
sheets; what a beard he has!”

I had just time for the observation, when a tall, athletic man, wrapped
in a wide blue cloak, sprang on the deck--his eyes were shaded by large
green spectacles and the broad brim of a very projecting hat; a black
beard, a rabbi might have envied, descended from his chin, and hung down
upon his bosom; he chucked a crown-piece to the boatman as he leaned
over the bulwark, and then turning to the steward, called out--“Eh, Jem!
all right?”

“Yes, sir, all right,” said the man, touching his hat respectfully! The
tall figure immediately disappeared down the companion-ladder, leaving
me in the most puzzling state of doubt as to what manner of man he could
possibly be. Had the problem been more easy of solution I should
scarcely have resolved it when he again emerged--but how changed! The
broad beaver had given place to a blue cloth foraging cap with a gold
band around it; the beard had disappeared totally, and left no successor
save a well-rounded chin; the spectacles also had vanished, and a pair
of sharp, intelligent, grey eyes, with a most uncommon degree of
knowingness in their expression, shone forth; and a thin and most
accurately-curled moustache graced his upper lip and gave a character of
Vandykism to his features, which were really handsome. In person he was
some six feet two, gracefully but strongly built; his costume, without
anything approaching conceit, was the perfection of fashionable attire--
even to his gloves there was nothing which D’Orsay could have
criticised; while his walk was the very type of that mode of progression
which is only learned thoroughly by a daily stroll down St. James
Street, and the frequent practice of passing to and from Crockford’s, at
all hours of the day and night.

The expression of his features was something so striking, I cannot help
noting it: there was a jauntiness, an ease, no smirking, half-bred,
self-satisfied look, such as a London linendraper might wear on his trip
to Margate; but a consummate sense of his own personal attractions and
great natural advantages, had given a character to his features which
seemed to say--it’s quite clear there’s no coming up to _me_; don’t try
it--_nascitur non fit_. His very voice implied it. The veriest
commonplace fell from him with a look, a smile, a gesture, a something
or other that made it tell; and men repeated his sayings without
knowing, that his was a liquor, that was lost in decanting. The way he
scanned the passengers, and it was done in a second, was the practised
observance of one, who reads character at a glance. Over the Cockneys,
and they were numerous, his eyes merely passed without bestowing any
portion of attention; while to the lady part of the company his look was
one of triumphant satisfaction, such as Louis XIV. might have bestowed
when he gazed at the thousands in the garden of Versailles, and
exclaimed, “_Oui! ces sont mes sujets_.” Such was the Honourable Jack
Smallbranes, younger son of a peer, ex-captain in the Life Guards,
winner of the Derby, but now the cleared-out man of fashion flying to
the Continent to escape from the Fleet, and cautiously coming aboard in
disguise below Gravesend, to escape the bore of a bailiff, and what he
called the horror of bills “detested.”

We read a great deal about Cincinnatus cultivating his cabbages, and we
hear of Washington’s retirement when the active period of his career had
passed over, and a hundred similar instances are quoted for our
admiration, of men, who could throw themselves at once from all the
whirlwind excitement of great events, and seek, in the humblest and
least obtrusive position, an occupation and an enjoyment. But I doubt
very much if your ex-man of fashion, your _ci-devant_ winner of the
Derby--the adored of Almack’s--the _enfant chéri_ of Crockford’s and the
Clarendon, whose equipage was a model, whose plate was perfection, for
whom life seemed too short for all the fascinations wealth spread around
him, and each day brought the one embarrassment how to enjoy enough. I
repeat it, I doubt much if he, when the hour of his abdication arrives--
and that it will arrive sooner or later not even himself entertains a
doubt--when Holditch protests, and Bevan proceeds; when steeds are sold
at Tattersall’s, and pictures at Christie’s; when the hounds pass over
to the next new victim, and the favourite for the St. Léger, backed with
mighty odds, is now entered under another name; when in lieu of the
bright eyes and honied words that make life a fairy tale, his genii are
black-whiskered bailiffs and auctioneers’ appraisers--if he, when the
tide of fortune sets in so strong against him, can not only sustain
himself for a while against it, and when too powerful at last, can lie
upon the current and float as gaily down, as ever he did joyously, up,
the stream--then, say I, all your ancient and modern instances are far
below him: all your warriors and statesmen are but poor pretenders
compared to him, they have retired like rich shopkeepers, to live on the
interest of their fortune, which is fame; while he, deprived of all the
accessories which gave him rank, place, and power, must seek within his
own resources for all the future springs of his pleasure, and be
satisfied to stand spectator of the game, where he was once the
principal player. A most admirable specimen of this philosophy was
presented by our new passenger, who, as he lounged against the binnacle,
and took a deliberate survey of his fellow-travellers, seemed the very
ideal of unbroken ease and undisturbed enjoyment: he knew he was ruined;
he knew he had neither house in town, or country; neither a steed, nor a
yacht, nor a preserve; he was fully aware, that Storr and Mortimer, who
would have given him a mountain of silver but yesterday, would not trust
him with a mustard-pot today; that even the “legs” would laugh at him if
he offered the odds on the Derby; and yet if you were bound on oath to
select the happiest fellow on board, by the testimony of your eyes, the
choice would not have taken you five minutes. His attitude was ease
itself: his legs slightly crossed, perhaps the better to exhibit a very
well-rounded instep, which shone forth in all the splendour of French
varnish: his travelling cap jauntily thrown on one side, so as to
display to better advantage his perfumed locks, that floated in a
graceful manner somewhat lengthily on his neck; the shawl around his
neck had so much of negligence, as to show that the splendid enamel pin
that fastened it, was a thing of little moment to the wearer: all were
in keeping with the _nonchalant_ ease, and self-satisfaction of his
look, as with half-drooping lids he surveyed the deck, caressing with
his jewelled fingers the silky line of his moustache, and evidently
enjoying in his inmost soul the triumphant scene of conquest his very
appearance excited. Indeed, a less practised observer than himself could
not fail to remark the unequivocal evidences the lady portion of the
community bore to his success: the old ones looked boldly at him with
that fearless intrepidity that characterizes conscious security--their
property was insured, and they cared not how near the fire came to them;
the very young participated in the sentiment from an opposite reason--
theirs was the unconsciousness of danger; but there was a middle term,
what Balzac calls, “_la femme de trente ans_,” and she either looked
over the bulwarks, or at the funnel, or on her book, any where in short
but at our friend, who appeared to watch this studied denial on her
part, with the same kind of enjoyment the captain of a frigate would
contemplate the destruction his broadsides were making on his enemy’s
rigging--and perhaps the latter never deemed his conquest more assured
by the hauling down of he enemy’s colours, than did the “Honourable
Jack,” when a letdown veil convinced him that the lady could bear no
more.

I should like to have watched the proceedings on deck, where, although
no acquaintance had yet been formed, the indications of such were
clearly visible: the Alderman’s daughters evincing a decided preference
for walking on that side where Jack was standing, he studiously
performing some small act of courtesy from time to time as they passed,
removing a seat, kicking any small fragment of rope, &c.; but the motion
of the packet began to advertize me that note-taking was at an end, and
the best thing I could do would be to compose myself.

“What’s the number, sir?” said the steward, as I staggered down the
companion.

“I have got no berth,” said I mournfully.

“A dark horse, not placed,” said the Honourable Jack, smiling pleasantly
as he looked after me, while I threw myself on a sofa, and cursed the
sea.



CHAPTER II. THE BOAR’S HEAD AT ROTTERDAM.

If the noise and bustle which attend a wedding, like trumpets in a
battle, are intended as provisions against reflection, so firmly do I
feel, the tortures of sea-sickness, are meant as antagonists to all the
terrors of drowning, and all the horrors of shipwreck.

Let him who has felt the agonies of that internal earthquake which the
“pitch and toss” motion of a ship communicates--who knows what it is, to
have his diaphragm vibrating between his ribs and the back of his
throat, confess, how little to him was all the confusion which he
listened to, over head! how poor the interest he took in the welfare of
the craft wherein he was “only a lodger,” and how narrowed were all his
sympathies within the small circle of bottled porter, and brandy and
water, the steward’s infallibles in suffering.

I lay in my narrow crib, moody pondering over these things, now
wondering within myself, what charms of travel could recompense such
agonies as these; now muttering a curse, “not loud, but deep,” on the
heavy gentleman, whose ponderous tread on the quarter-deck seemed to
promenade up and down the surface of my own pericranium: the greasy
steward, the jolly captain, the brown-faced, black-whiskered king’s
messenger, who snored away on the sofa, all came in for a share of my
maledictions, and took out my cares, in curses upon the whole party.
Meanwhile I could distinguish, amid the other sounds, the elastic tread
of certain light feet that pattered upon the quarter-deck; and I could
not mistake the assured footstep which accompanied them, nor did I need
the happy roar of laughter that mixed with the noise, to satisfy myself
that the “Honourable Jack” was then cultivating the Alderman’s
daughters, discoursing most eloquently upon the fascinations of those
exclusive circles wherein he was wont to move, and explaining, on the
clearest principles, what a frightful chasm his absence must create in
the London world--how deplorably flat would the season go off, where he
was no actor--and wondering, who, among the aspirants of high ambition,
would venture to assume his line of character, and supply his place,
either on the turf, or at the table.

But at length the stage of semi-stupor came over me; the noises became
commixed in my head, and I lost all consciousness so completely, that,
whether from brandy or sickness, I fancied I saw the steward flirting
with the ladies, and the “Honourable Jack” skipping about with a white
apron, uncorking porter bottles, and changing sixpences.

***** *****

The same effect which the announcement of dinner produces on the stiff
party in the drawing-room, is caused by the information of being
alongside the quay, to the passengers of a packet. It is true the
procession is not so formal in the latter as in the former case: the
turbaned dowagers that take the lead in one, would, more than probably,
be last in the other: but what is lost in decorum, is more than made up
in hilarity. What hunting for carpet-bags! what opening and shutting of
lockers! what researches into portmanteaus, to extricate certain
seizable commodities, and stow them away upon the person of the owner,
till at last he becomes an impersonation of smuggling, with lace in his
boots, silk stockings in his hat, brandy under his waistcoat, and
jewelry in the folds of his cravat. There is not an item in the tariff
that might not be demonstrated in his anatomy: from his shoes to his
night-cap, he is a living sarcasm upon the revenue. And, after all, what
is the searching scrutiny of your Quarterly Reviewer, to the all-
penetrating eye of an excise officer? He seems to look into the whole
contents, of your wardrobe before you have unlocked the trunk “warranted
solid leather,” and with a glance appears to distinguish the true man
from the knave, knowing, as if by intuition, the precise number of
cambric handkerchiefs that befits your condition in life, and whether
you have transgressed the bounds of your station, by a single bottle.

What admirable training for a novelist would a year or two spent in such
duties afford; what singular views of life; what strange people must he
see; how much of narrative would even the narrow limits of a hat-box
present to him; and how naturally would a story spring from the rosy-
cheeked old gentleman, paying his duty upon a “_pâté de fois-gras_” to
his pretty daughter, endeavouring, by a smile, to diminish the tariff on
her French bonnet, and actually captivate a custom-house officer by the
charms of her “_robe a la Victorine_.”

The French “_douaniers_,” are droll fellows, and are the only ones I
have ever met who descend from the important gravity of their
profession, and venture upon a joke. I shall never forget entering
Valenciennes late one night, with a large “Diligence” party, among which
was a corpulent countryman of my own, making his first continental tour.
It was in those days when a passport presented a written portrait of the
bearer; when the shape of your nose, the colour of your hair, the cut of
your beard, and the angle of incidence of your eyebrow, were all noted
down and commented on, and a general summing up of the expression of
your features, collectively, appended to the whole; and you went forth
to the-world with an air “mild,” or “military;” “feeble,” “fascinating,”
 or “ferocious,” exactly as the foreign office deemed it. It was in those
days, I say, when, on entering the fortress of Valenciennes, the door of
the “Diligence” was rudely thrown open, and, by the dim nicker of a
lamp, we beheld a moustached, stern-looking fellow, who rudely demanded
our passports. My fat companion, suddenly awakened from his sleep,
searched his various pockets with all the trepidation of a new
traveller, and at length, produced his credentials, which he handed,
with a polite bow, to the official. Whatever the nature of the
description I cannot say, but it certainly produced the most striking
effect on the passport officers, who laughed loud and long as they read
it over.

“_Descendez, Monsieur_” said the chief of the party, in a tone of stern
command.

“What does he say?” said the traveller, in a very decided western
accent.

“You must get out, sir” said he.

“Tare-an-ages,” said Mr. Moriarty, “what’s wrong?”

After considerable squeezing, for he weighed about twenty stone, he
disengaged himself from the body of the “Diligence,” and stood erect
upon the ground. A second lantern was now produced, and while one of the
officers stood on either side of him, with a light beside his face, a
third read out the clauses of the passport, and compared the description
with the original. Happily, Mr. Moriarty’s ignorance of French saved him
from the penalty of listening to the comments which were passed upon his
“_nez retroussé_” “_bouche ouverte_” &c.; but what was his surprise
when, producing some yards of tape, they proceeded to measure him round
the body, comparing the number of inches his circumference made, with
the passport.


“_Quatre-vingt-dix pouces_,” said the measurer, looking at the document,
“_Il en a plus_,” added he, rudely.

“What is he saying, sir, if I might be so bowld?” said Mr. Moriarty to
me, imploringly.

“You measure more than is set down in your passport,” said I,
endeavouring to suppress my laughter.

“Oh, murther! that dish of boiled beef and beet-root will be the ruin of
me. Tell them, sir, I was like a greyhound before supper.”

As he said this, he held in his breath, and endeavoured, with all his
might, to diminish his size; while the Frenchmen, as if anxious to
strain a point in his favour, tightened the cord round him, till he
almost became black in the face.

“_C’est ça_” said one of the officers, smiling blandly as he took off
his hat; “_Monsieur peut continuer sa route_.”

“All right,” said I, “you may come in, Mr. Moriarty.”

“‘Tis civil people I always heard they wor,” said he; “but it’s a
sthrange country where it’s against the laws to grow fatter.”

I like Holland;--it is the antipodes of France. No one is ever in a
hurry here. Life moves on in a slow majestic stream, a little muddy and
stagnant, perhaps, like one of their own canals, but you see no waves,
no breakers--not an eddy, nor even a froth-bubble breaks the surface.
Even a Dutch child, as he steals along to school, smoking his short
pipe, has a mock air of thought about him. The great fat horses, that
wag along, trailing behind them some petty, insignificant truck, loaded
with a little cask, not bigger than a life-guardsman’s helmet, look as
though Erasmus was performing duty as a quadruped, and walking about his
own native city in harness. It must be a glorious country to be born in.
No one is ever in a passion; and as to honesty, who has energy enough to
turn robber? The eloquence, which in other lands might wind a man from
his allegiance, would be tried in vain here. Ten minutes’ talking would
set any audience asleep, from Zetland to Antwerp. Smoking, beer-
drinking, stupifying, and domino-playing, go on, in summer, before, in
winter, within, the _cafés_, and every broad flat face that you look
upon, with its watery eyes and muddy complexion, seems like a coloured
chart of the country that gave it birth.

How all the industry, that has enriched them, is ever performed--how all
the cleanliness, for which their houses are conspicuous, is ever
effected, no one can tell. Who ever saw a Dutchman labour? Every thing
in Holland seems typified by one of their own drawbridges, which rises
as a boat approaches, by invisible agency, and then remains patiently
aloft, till a sufficiency of passengers arrives to restore it to its
place, and Dutch gravity seems the grand centre of all prosperity.

When, therefore, my fellow-passengers stormed and swore because they
were not permitted to land their luggage; when they heard that until
nine o’clock the following morning, no one would be astir to examine it;
and that the Rhine steamer sailed at eight, and would not sail again for
three days more, and cursed the louder thereat; I chuckled to myself
that I was going no where, that I cared not how long I waited, nor
where, and began to believe that something of very exalted philosophy
must have been infused into my nature without my ever being aware of it.

For twenty minutes and more, Sir Peter abused the Dutch; he called them
hard names in English, and some very strong epithets in bad French.
Meanwhile, his courier busied himself in preparations for departure, and
the “Honourable Jack” undertook to shawl the young ladies, a performance
which, whether from the darkness of the night, or the intricacy of the
muffling, took a most unmerciful time to accomplish.

“We shall never find the hotel at this hour,” said Sir Peter, angrily.

“The house will certainly be closed,” chimed in the young ladies.

“Take your five to two on the double event,” replied Jack, slapping the
Alderman on the shoulder, and preparing to book the wager.

I did not wait to see it accepted, but stepped over the side, and
trudged along the “Boomjes,” that long quay, with its tall elm trees,
under whose shade many a burgomaster has strolled at eve, musing over
the profits which his last venture from Batavia was to realize; and
then, having crossed the narrow bridge at the end, I traversed the
Erasmus Plata, and rang boldly, as an old acquaintance has a right to
do, at the closed door of the “Schwein Kopf.” My summons was not long
unanswered, and following the many-petticoated handmaiden along the
well-sanded passage, I asked, “Is the Holbein chamber unoccupied?” while
I drew forth a florin from my purse.

“Ah, Mynheer knows it then,” said she, smiling. “It is at your service.
We have had no travellers for some days past, and you are aware, that,
except greatly crowded, we never open it.”

This I knew well, and having assured her that I was an _habitué_ of the
Schwein Kopf, in times long past, I persuaded her to fetch some dry wood
and make me a cheerful fire, which, with a “krug of schiedam” and some
“canastre,” made me as happy as a king.

The “Holbeiner Kammer” owes its name, and any repute that it enjoys, to
a strange, quaint portrait, of that master seated at a fire, with a fair
headed, handsome child, sitting cross-legged on the hearth before him. A
certain half resemblance seems to run through both faces, although the
age and colouring are so different. But the same contemplative
expression, the deep-set eye, the massive forehead and pointed chin, are
to be seen in the child, as in the man.

This was Holbein and his nephew, Franz von Holbein, who in after years
served with distinction in the army of Louis Quatorze. The background of
the picture represents a room exactly like the chamber--a few highly-
carved oak chairs, the Utrecht velvet-backs glowing with their scarlet
brilliancy, an old-fashioned Flemish bed, with groups of angels,
neptunes, bacchanals, and dolphins, all mixed up confusedly in quaint
carving; and a massive frame to a very small looking-glass, which hung
in a leaning attitude over the fire-place, and made me think, as I gazed
at it, that the plane of the room was on an angle of sixty-five, and
that the least shove would send me clean into the stove.

“Mynheer wants nothing?” said the _Vrow_ with a courtsy.

“Nothing,” said I, with my most polite bow.

“Good night, then,” said she; “_schlaf wohl_, and don’t mind the ghost.”

“Ah, I know him of old,” replied I, striking the table three times with
my cane. The woman, whose voice the moment before was in a tone of jest,
suddenly grew pale, and, as she crossed herself devoutly, muttered--
“_Nein! Nein!_ don’t do that;” and shutting the door, hurried down
stairs with all the speed she could muster.

I was in no hurry to bed, however. The “krug” was racy, the “canastre”
 excellent: so, placing the light where it should fall with good effect
on the Holbein, I stretched out my legs to the blaze; and, as I looked
upon the canvas, began to muse over the story with which it was
associated, and which I may as well jot down here, for memory’s sake.

Frank Holbein, having more ambition and less industry than the rest of
his family, resolved to seek his fortune; and early in the September of
the year 1681, he found himself wandering in the streets of Paris,
without a _liard_ in his pocket, or any prospects of earning one. He was
a fine-looking, handsome youth, of some eighteen or twenty years, with a
sharp, piercing look, and that Spanish cast of face for which so many
Dutch families are remarkable. He sat down, weary and hungry, on one of
the benches of the Pont de la Cité, and looked about him wistfully, to
see what piece of fortune might come to his succour. A loud shout, and
the noise of people flying in every direction, attracted him. He jumped
up, and saw persons running hither and thither to escape from a calèche,
which a pair of runaway horses were tearing along at a frightful rate.
Frank blessed himself, threw off his cloak, pressed his cap firmly upon
his brow, and dashed forward. The affrighted animals slackened their
speed as he stood before them, and endeavoured to pass by; but he sprang
to their heads, and with one vigorous plunge, grasped the bridle; but
though he held on manfully, they continued their way; and,
notwithstanding his every effort, their mad speed scarcely felt his
weight, as he was dragged along beside them. With one tremendous effort,
however, he wrested the near horse’s head from the pole, and, thus
compelling him to cross his fore-legs, the animal tripped, and came
headlong to the ground with a smash, that sent poor Frank spinning some
twenty yards before them. Frank soon got up again; and though his
forehead was bleeding, and his hand severely cut, his greatest grief
was, his torn doublet, which, threadbare before, now hung around him in
ribbons.

“It was you who stopped them?--are you hurt?” said a tall, handsome man,
plainly but well dressed, and in whose face the trace of agitation was
clearly marked.

“Yes, sir,” said Frank, bowing respectfully. “I did it; and see how my
poor doublet has suffered!”

“Nothing worse than that?” said the other, smiling blandly. “Well, well,
that is not of so much moment. Take this,” said he, handing him his
purse; “buy yourself a new doublet, and wait on me to-morrow by eleven.”

With these words the stranger disappeared in a calèche, which seemed to
arrive at the moment, leaving Frank in a state of wonderment at the
whole adventure.

“How droll he should never have told me where he lives!” said he, aloud,
as the bystanders crowded about him, and showered questions upon him.

“It is Monsieur le Ministre, man--M. de Louvois himself, whose life
you’ve saved. Your fortune is made for ever.”

The speech was a true one. Before three months from that eventful day,
M. de Louvois, who had observed and noted down certain traits of
acuteness in Frank’s character, sent for him to his _bureau_.

“Holbein,” said he, “I have seldom been deceived in my opinion of men--
you can be secret, I think.”

Frank placed his hand upon his breast, and bowed in silence.

“Take the dress you will find on that chair: a carriage is now ready,
waiting in the court-yard--get into it, and set out for Bâle. On your
arrival there, which will be--mark me well--about eight o’clock on the
morning of Thursday, you’ll leave the carriage, and send it into the
town, while you must station yourself on the bridge over the Rhine, and
take an exact note of everything that occurs, and every one that passes,
till the cathedral clock strikes three. Then, the calèche will be in
readiness for your return; and lose not a moment in repairing to Paris.”

It was an hour beyond midnight, in the early part of the following week,
that a calèche, travel-stained and dirty, drove into the court of the
minister’s hotel, and five minutes after, Frank, wearied and exhausted,
was ushered into M. de Louvois’ presence.

“Well, Monsieur,” said he impatiently, “what have you seen?”

“This, may it please your Excellency,” said Frank, trembling, “is a note
of it; but I am ashamed that so trivial an account----”

“Let us see--let us see,” said the minister.

“In good truth, I dare scarcely venture to read such a puerile detail.”

“Read it at once, Monsieur,” was the stern command.

Frank’s face became deep-red with shame, as he began thus:--

“Nine o’clock.--I see an ass coming along, with a child leading him. The
ass is blind of one eye.--A fat German sits on the balcony, and is
spitting into the Rhine----”

“Ten.--A livery servant from Bâle rides by, with a basket. An old
peasant in a yellow doublet----”

“Ah, what of him?

“Nothing remarkable, save that he leans over the rails, and strikes
three blows with his stick upon them.

“Enough, enough,” said M. de Louvois, gaily. “I must awake the king at
once.”

The minister disappeared, leaving Frank in a state of bewilderment. In
less than a quarter of an hour he entered the chamber, his face covered
with smiles.

“Monsieur,” said he, “you have rendered his majesty good service. Here
is your brevet of colonel.--The king has this instant signed it.”

In eight days after, was the news known in Paris, that Strasburg, then
invested by the French army, had capitulated, and been reunited to the
kingdom. The three strokes of the cane being the signal, which announced
the success of the secret negotiation between the ministers of Louis
XIV., and the magistrates of Strasburg.

This, was the Franz Holbein of the picture, and if the three _coups de
bâton_ are not attributable to his ghost, I can only say, I am totally
at a loss to say where they should be charged; for my own part, I ought
to add, I never heard them, conduct which I take it was the more
ungracious on the ghost’s part, as I finished the schiedam, and passed
my night on the hearth rug, leaving the feather-bed with its down
coverlet quite at master Frank’s disposal.

Although the “Schwein Kopf” stands in one of the most prominent squares
of Rotterdam, and nearly opposite the statue of Erasmus, it is
comparatively little known to English travellers. The fashionable hotels
which are near the quay of landing, anticipate the claims of this more
primitive house; and yet, to any one desirous of observing the ordinary
routine of a Dutch family, it is well worth a visit. The buxsom Vrows
who trudge about with short but voluminous petticoats, their heads
ornamented by those gold or silver circlets, which no Dutch peasant
seems ever to want, are exactly the very types of what you see in an
Ostade or a Teniers. The very host himself, old Hoogendorp, is a study;
scarcely five feet in height, he might measure nearly nine, in
circumference, and in case of emergency could be used as a sluicegate,
should any thing happen to the dykes. He was never to be seen before one
o’clock in the day, but exactly as the clock tolled that hour, the
massive soup-tureen, announcing the commencement of the _table d’hôte_,
was borne in state before him, while with “solemn step and slow,” ladle
in hand, and napkin round his neck, he followed after. His conduct at
table was a fine specimen of Dutch independence of character--he never
thought of bestowing those petty attentions which might cultivate the
good-will of his guests; he spoke little, he smiled never; a short nod
of recognition bestowed upon a townsman, was about the extent of royal
favour he was ever known to confer; or occasionally, when any remark
made near him seemed to excite his approbation, a significant grunt of
approval ratified the wisdom of the speech, and made a Solon of the
speaker. His spoon descended into the soup, and emerged therefrom with
the ponderous regularity of a crane into the hold of a ship. Every
function of the table was performed with an unbroken monotony, and
never, in the course of his forty years’ sovereignty, was he known to
distribute an undue quantity of fat, or an unseemly proportion of beet-
root sauce, to any one guest in preference to another.

The _table d’hôte_, which began at one, concluded a little before three,
during which time our host, when not helping others, was busily occupied
in helping himself, and it was truly amazing to witness the steady
perseverance with which he waded through every dish, making himself
master in all its details of every portion of the dinner, from the
greasy soup, to that _acmé_ of Dutch epicurism--Utrecht cheese. About a
quarter before three, the long dinner drew to its conclusion. Many of
the guests, indeed, had disappeared long before that time, and were deep
in all their wonted occupations of timber, tobacco, and train-oil. A
few, however, lingered on to the last. A burly major of infantry, who,
unbuttoning his undress frock, towards the close of the feast, would sit
smoking, and sipping his coffee, as if unwilling to desert the field; a
grave, long-haired professor; and, perhaps, an officer of the excise,
waiting for the re-opening of the custom-house, would be the extent of
the company. But even these dropped off at last, and, with a deep bow to
mine host, passed away to their homes, or their haunts. Meanwhile, the
waiters hurried hither and thither, the cloth was removed, in its place
a fresh one was spread, and all the preliminaries for a new dinner were
set about with the same activity as before. The napkins inclosed in
their little horn cases, the decanters of beer, the small dishes of
preserved fruit, without which no Dutchman dines, were all set forth,
and the host, without stirring from his seat, sat watching the
preparations with calm complacency. Were you to note him narrowly, you
could perceive that his eyes alternately opened and shut, as if
relieving guard, save which, he gave no other sign of life, nor even at
last, when the mighty stroke of three rang out from the cathedral, and
the hurrying sound of many feet proclaimed the arrival of the guests of
the second table, did he ever exhibit the slightest show or mark of
attention, but sat calm, and still, and motionless.

For the next two hours, it was merely a repetition of the performance
which preceded it, in which the host’s part was played with untiring
energy, and all the items of soup, fish, _bouilli_, fowl, pork, and
vegetables, had not to complain of any inattention to their merits, or
any undue preference for their predecessors, of an hour before. If the
traveller was astonished at his appetite during the first table, what
would he say to his feats at the second? As for myself, I honestly
confess I thought that some harlequin trick was concerned, and that mine
host of the “Schwein Kopf” was not a real man, but some mechanical
contrivance by which, with a trapdoor below him, a certain portion of
the dinner was conveyed to the apartments beneath. I lived, however, to
discover my error; and after four visits to Rotterdam, was at length so
far distinguished as actually to receive an invitation to pass an
evening with “Mynheer” in his own private den, which, I need scarcely
say, I gladly accepted.

I have a note of that evening some where--ay, here it is--“Mynheer is
waiting supper,” said a waiter to me, as I sat smoking my cigar, one
calm evening in autumn, in the porch of the “Schwein Kopf.” I followed
the man through a long passage, which, leading to the kitchen, emerged
on the opposite side, and conducted us through a little garden to a
small summer-house. The building, which was of wood, was painted in
gaudy stripes of red, blue, and yellow, and made in some sort to
resemble those Chinese pagodas, we see upon a saucer. Its situation was
conceived in the most perfect Dutch taste--one side, flanked by the
little garden of which I have spoken, displayed a rich bed of tulips and
ranunculuses, in all the gorgeous luxuriance of perfect culture--it was
a mass of blended beauty, and perfume, superior to any thing I have ever
witnessed. On the other flank, lay the sluggish, green-coated surface,
of a Dutch canal, from which rose the noxious vapours of a hot evening,
and the harsh croakings of ten thousand frogs, “fat, gorbellied knaves,”
 the very burgomasters of their race, who squatted along the banks, and
who, except for the want of pipes, might have been mistaken for small
Dutchmen enjoying an evening’s promenade. This building was denominated
“Lust und Rust,” which, in letters of gold, was displayed on something
resembling a sign-board, above the door, and intimated to the traveller,
that the temple was dedicated to pleasure, and contentment. To a
Dutchman, however, the sight of the portly figure, who sat smoking at
the open window, was a far more intelligible illustration of the objects
of the building, than any lettered inscription. Mynheer Hoogendorp, with
his long Dutch pipe, and tall flagon, with its shining brass lid, looked
the concentrated essence of a Hollander, and might have been hung out,
as a sign of the country, from the steeple of Haarlem.

The interior was in perfect keeping with the designation of the
building: every appliance that could suggest ease, if not sleep, was
there; the chairs were deep, plethoric-looking, Dutch chairs, that
seemed as if they had led a sedentary life, and throve upon it; the
table was a short, thick-legged one, of dark oak, whose polished surface
reflected the tall brass cups, and the ample features of Mynheer, and
seemed to hob-nob with him when he lifted the capacious vessel to his
lips; the walls were decorated with quaint pipes, whose large porcelain
bowls bespoke them of home origin; and here and there a sea-fight, with
a Dutch three-decker hurling destruction on the enemy. But the genius of
the place was its owner, who, in a low fur cap and slippers, whose shape
and size might have drawn tears of envy from the Ballast Board, sat
gazing upon the canal in a state of Dutch rapture, very like apoplexy.
He motioned me to a chair without speaking--he directed me to a pipe, by
a long whiff of smoke from his own--he grunted out a welcome, and then,
as if overcome by such unaccustomed exertion, he lay back in his chair,
and sighed deeply.

We smoked till the sun went down, and a thicker haze, rising from the
stagnant ditch, joined with the tobacco vapour, made an atmosphere, like
mud reduced to gas. Through the mist, I saw a vision of soup tureens,
hot meat, and smoking vegetables. I beheld as though Mynheer moved among
the condiments, and I have a faint dreamy recollection of his performing
some feat before me; but whether it was carving, or the sword exercise,
I won’t be positive.

Now, though the schiedam was strong, a spell was upon me, and I could
not speak; the great green eyes that glared on me through the haze,
seemed to chill my very soul; and I drank, out of desperation, the
deeper.

As the evening wore on, I waxed bolder: I had looked upon the Dutchman
so long, that my awe of him began to subside, and I at last grew bold
enough to address him.

I remember well, it was pretty much with that kind of energy, that semi-
desperation, with which a man nerves himself to accost a spectre, that I
ventured on addressing him: how or in what terms I did it, heaven knows!
Some trite every-day observation about his great knowledge of life--his
wonderful experience of the world, was all I could muster; and when I
had made it, the sound of my own voice terrified me so much, that I
finished the can at a draught, to reanimate my courage.

“Ja! Ja!” said Van Hoogendorp, in a cadence as solemn as the bell of the
cathedral; “I have seen many strange things; I remember what few men
living can remember: I mind well the time when the ‘Hollandische Vrow’
made her first voyage from Batavia, and brought back a paroquet for the
burgomaster’s wife; the great trees upon the Boomjes were but saplings
when I was a boy; they were not thicker than my waist;” here he looked
down upon himself with as much complacency as though he were a sylph.
“Ach Gott! they were brave times, schiedam cost only half a guilder the
krug.”

I waited in hopes he would continue, but the glorious retrospect he had
evoked, seemed to occupy all his thoughts, and he smoked away without
ceasing.

“You remember the Austrians, then?” said I, by way of drawing him on.

“They were dogs!” said he, spitting out.

“Ah!” said I, “the French were better then?”

“Wolves!” ejaculated he, after glowing on me fearfully.

There was a long pause after this; I perceived that I had taken a wrong
path to lead him into conversation, and he was too deeply overcome with
indignation to speak. During this time, however, his anger took a
thirsty form, and he swigged away at the schiedam most manfully.

The effect of his libations became at last evident, his great green
stagnant eyes flashed and flared, his wide nostrils swelled and
contracted, and his breathing became short and thick, like the
convulsive sobs of a steam-engine when they open and shut the valves
alternately; I watched these indications for some time, wondering what
they might portend, when at length he withdrew his pipe from his mouth,
and with such a tone of voice as he might have used, if confessing a
bloody and atrocious murder, he said--

“I will tell you a story.”

Had the great stone figure of Erasmus beckoned to me across the
marketplace, and asked me the news “on change,” I could not have been
more amazed; and not venturing on the slightest interruption, I refilled
my pipe, and nodded sententiously across the table, while he thus began.



CHAPTER III. VAN HOOGENDORP’S TALE.

It was in the winter of the year 1806, the first week of December, the
frost was setting in, and I resolved to pay a visit to my brother, whom
I hadn’t seen for forty years; he was burgomaster of Antwerp. It is a
long voyage and a perilous one, but with the protection of Providence,
our provisions held out, and on the fourth night after we sailed, a
violent shock shook the vessel from stem to stern, and we found
ourselves against the quay of Antwerp.

When I reached my brother’s house I found him in bed, sick; the doctors
said it was a dropsy, I don’t know how that might be, for he drank more
gin than any man in Holland, and hated water all his life. We were
twins, but no one would have thought so, I looked so thin and meagre
beside him.

Well, since I was there, I resolved to see the sights of the town; and
the next morning, after breakfast, I set out by myself, and wandered
about till evening. Now there were many things to be seen--very strange
things too; the noise, and the din, and the bustle, addled and confused
me; the people were running here and there, shouting as if they were
mad, and there were great flags hanging out of the windows, and drums
beating, and, stranger than all, I saw little soldiers with red breeches
and red shoulder-knots, running about like monkeys.

“What is all this?” said I to a man near me.

“Methinks,” said he, “the burgomaster himself might well know what it
is.”

“I am not the burgomaster,” quoth I, “I am his brother, and only came
from Rotterdam yesterday.”

“Ah! then,” said another, with a strange grin, “you didn’t know these
preparations were meant to welcome your arrival.”

“No,” said I; “but they are very fine, and if there were not so much
noise, I would like them well.”

And so, I sauntered on till I came to the great Platz, opposite the
cathedral--that was a fine place--and there was a large man carved in
cheese over one door, very wonderful to see; and there was a big fish,
all gilt, where they sold herrings; but, in the town-hall there seemed
something more than usual going on, for great crowds were there, and
dragoons were galloping in and galloping out, and all was confusion.

“What’s this?” said I. “Are the dykes open?”

But not one would mind me; and then suddenly I heard some one call out
my name.

“Where is Van Hoogendorp?” said one; and then another cried, “Where is
Van Hoogendorp?”

“Here am I,” said I; and the same moment two officers, covered with gold
lace, came through the crowd, and took me by the arms.

“Come along with us, Monsieur de Hoogendorp,” said they, in French;
“there is not a moment to lose; we have been looking for you every
where.”

Now, though I understand that tongue, I cannot speak it myself, so I
only said “Ja, Ja,” and followed them.

They led me up an oak stair, and through three or four large rooms,
crowded with officers in fine uniforms, who all bowed as I passed, and
some one went before us, calling out in a loud voice, “Monsieur de
Hoogendorp!”

“This is too much honour,” said I, “far too much;” but as I spoke in
Dutch, no one minded me. Suddenly, however, the wide folding-doors were
flung open, and we were ushered into a large hall, where, although above
a hundred people were assembled, you might have heard a pin drop; the
few who spoke at all, did so, only in whispers.

“Monsieur de Hoogendorp!” shouted the man again.

“For shame,” said I; “don’t disturb the company;” and I thought some of
them laughed, but he only bawled the louder, “Monsieur de Hoogendorp!”

“Let him approach,” said a quick, sharp voice, from the fireplace.

“Ah!” thought I, “they are going to read me an address. I trust it may
be in Dutch.”

They led me along in silence to the fire, before which, with his back
turned towards it, stood a short man, with a sallow, stern countenance,
and a great, broad forehead, his hair combed straight over it. He wore a
green coat with white facings, and over that a grey surtout with fur. I
am particular about all this, because this little man was a person of
consequence.

“You are late, Monsieur de Hoogendorp,” said he, in French; “it is half-
past four;” and so saying, he pulled out his watch, and held it up
before me.

“Ja!” said I, taking out my own, “we are just the same time.”

At this he stamped upon the ground, and said something I thought was a
curse.

“Where are the _Echevins_, monsieur?” said he.

“God knows,” said I; “most probably at dinner.”

“_Ventrebleu!_----”

“Don’t swear,” said I. “If I had you in Rotterdam, I’d fine you two
guilders.”

“What does he say?” while his eyes flashed fire. “Tell _La grande
morue_, to speak French.”

“Tell him I am not a cod fish,” said I.

“Who speaks Dutch here?” said he. “General de Ritter, ask him where are
the _Echevins_, or, is the man a fool?”

“I have heard,” said the General, bowing obsequiously--“I have heard,
your Majesty, that he is little better.”

“_Tonnerre de Dieu!_” said he; “and this is their chief magistrate!
Maret, you must look to this to-morrow; and as it grows late now, let us
see the citadel at once; he can show us the way thither, I suppose”; and
with this he moved forward, followed by the rest, among whom I found
myself hurried along, no one any longer paying me the slightest respect,
or attention.

“To the citadel,” said one.

“To the citadel,” cried another.

“Come, Hoogendorp, lead the way,” cried several together; and so they
pushed me to the front, and, notwithstanding all I said, that I did not
know the citadel, from the Dome Church, they would listen to nothing,
but only called the louder, “Step out, old ‘_Grande culotte_,’” and
hurried me down the street, at the pace of a boar-hunt.

“Lead on,” cried one. “To the front,” said another. “Step out,” roared
three or four together; and I found myself at the head of the
procession, without the power to explain or confess my ignorance.

“As sure as my name is Peter van Hoogendorp, I’ll give you all a devil’s
dance,” said I to myself; and with that, I grasped my staff, and set out
as fast as I was able. Down, one narrow street we went, and up, another;
sometimes we got into a _cul de sac_, where there was no exit, and had
to turn back again; another time, we would ascend a huge flight of
steps, and come plump into a tanner’s yard, or a place where they were
curing fish, and so, we blundered on, till there wasn’t a blind alley,
nor crooked lane, of Antwerp, that we didn’t wade through, and I was
becoming foot-sore, and tired myself, with the exertion.

All this time the Emperor--for it was Napoleon--took no note of where we
were going; he was too busy conversing with old General de Ritter, to
mind anything else. At last, after traversing a long narrow street, we
came down upon an arm of the Scheldt, and so overcome was I then, that I
resolved I would go no further without a smoke, and I sat myself down on
a butter firkin, and took out my pipe, and proceeded to strike a light
with my flint. A titter of laughter from the officers now attracted the
Emperor’s attention, and he stopped short, and stared at me as if I had
been some wonderful beast.

“What is this?” said he. “Why don’t you move forward?”

“It ‘s impossible,” replied I, “I never walked so far, since I was
born.”

“Where is the citadel?” cried he in a passion.

“In the devil’s keeping,” said I, “or we should have seen it long ago.”

“That must be it yonder,” said an aide-de-camp, pointing to a green,
grassy eminence, at the other side of the Scheldt.

The Emperor took the telescope from his hand, and looked through it
steadily for a couple of minutes.

“Yes,” said he, “that’s it: but why have we come all this round, the
road lay yonder.”

“Ja!” said I, “so it did.”

“_Ventre bleu!_” roared he, while he stamped his foot upon the ground,
“_ce gaillard se moque de nous_.”

“Ja!” said I again, without well knowing why.

“The citadel is there! It is yonder!” cried he, pointing with his
finger.

“Ja!” said I once more.

“_En avant!_ then,” shouted he, as he motioned me to descend the flight
of steps which led down to the Scheldt; “if this be the road you take,
_par Saint Denis _! you shall go first.”

Now the frost, as I have said, had only set in a few days before, and
the ice on the Scheldt would scarcely have borne the weight of a
drummer-boy; so I remonstrated at once, at first in Dutch, and then in
French, as well as I was able, but nobody would mind me. I then
endeavoured’ to show the danger his Majesty himself would incur; but
they only laughed at this, and cried--

“_En avant, en avant toujours_,” and before I had time for another word,
there was a corporal’s guard behind me, with fixed bayonets; the word
“march” was given, and out I stepped.

I tried to say a prayer, but I could think of nothing but curses upon
the fiends, whose shouts of laughter behind put all my piety to flight.
When I came to the bottom step I turned round, and, putting my hand to
my sides, endeavoured by signs to move their pity; but they only
screamed the louder at this, and at a signal from an officer, a fellow
touched me with a bayonet.

“That was an awful moment,” said old Hoogendorp, stopping short in his
narrative, and seizing the can, which for half an hour he had not
tasted. “I think I see the river before me still, with its flakes of
ice, some thick and some thin, riding on each other; some whirling along
in the rapid current of the stream; some lying like islands where the
water was sluggish. I turned round, and I clenched my fist, and I shook
it in the Emperor’s face, and I swore by the bones of the Stadtholder,
that if I had but one grasp of his hand, I’d not perform that dance
without a partner. Here I stood,” quoth he, “and the Scheldt might be,
as it were, there. I lifted my foot thus, and came down upon a large
piece of floating ice, which, the moment I touched it, slipped away, and
shot out into the stream.”


At this moment Mynheer, who had been dramatizing this portion of his
adventure, came down upon the waxed floor, with a plump, that shook the
pagoda to its centre, while I, who had during the narrative been working
double tides at the schiedam, was so interested at the catastrophe, that
I thought he was really in the Scheldt, in the situation he was
describing. The instincts of humanity were, I am proud to say, stronger
in me than those of reason. I kicked off my shoes, threw away my coat,
and plunged boldly after him. I remember well, catching him by the
throat, and I remember too, feeling, what a dreadful thing was the grip
of a drowning man; for both his hands were on my neck, and he squeezed
me fearfully. Of what happened after, the waiters, or the Humane Society
may know something: I only can tell, that I kept my bed, for four days,
and when I next descended to the _table d’hôte_, I saw a large patch of
black sticking-plaster across the bridge of old Hoogendorp’s nose--and I
never was a guest in “Lust und Rust” afterwards.

The loud clanking of the _table d’hôte_ bell aroused me, as I lay
dreaming of Frank Holbein and the yellow doublet. I dressed hastily and
descended to the _saal_; everything was exactly as I left it ten years
before; even to the cherry-wood pipe-stick that projected from Mynheer’s
breeches-pocket, nothing was changed. The clatter of post-horses, and
the heavy rattle of wheels drew me to the window, in time to see the
Alderman’s carriage with four posters, roll past; a kiss of the hand was
thrown me from the rumble. It was the “Honourable Jack” himself, who
somehow, had won their favour, and was already installed, their
travelling companion.

“It is odd enough,” thought I, as I arranged my napkin across my knee,
“what success lies in a well-curled whisker--particularly if the wearer
be a fool.”



CHAPTER IV. MEMS. AND MORALIZINGS.

He who expects to find these “Loiterings” of mine of any service as a
“Guide Book” to the Continent, or a “Voyager’s Manual,” will be sorely
disappointed; as well might he endeavour to devise a suit of clothes
from the patches of cloth scattered about a tailor’s shop, there might
be, indeed, wherewithal to repair an old garment, or make a pen-wiper,
but no more.

My fragments, too, of every shape and colour--sometimes showy and
flaunting, sometimes a piece of hodden-grey or linsey-wolsey--are all I
have to present to my friends; whatever they be in shade or texture,
whether fine or homespun, rich in Tyrian dye, or stained with russet
brown, I can only say for them, they are all my own--I have never
“cabbaged from any man’s cloth.” And now to abjure decimals, and talk
like a unit of humanity: if you would know the exact distance between
any two towns abroad--the best mode of reaching your destination--the
most comfortable hotel to stop at, when you have got there--who built
the cathedral--who painted the altar-piece--who demolished the town in
the year fifteen hundred and--fiddlestick--then take into your
confidence the immortal John Murray, he can tell you all these, and much
more; how many kreutzers make a groschen, how many groschen make a
gulden, reconciling you to all the difficulties of travel by historic
associations, memoirs of people who lived before the flood, and learned
dissertations on the etymology of the name of the town, which all your
ingenuity can’t teach you how to pronounce.

Well, it’s a fine thing, to be sure, when your carriage breaks down in a
_chaussée_, with holes large enough to bury a dog--it’s a great
satisfaction to know, that some ten thousand years previous, this place,
that seems for all the world like a mountain torrent, was a Roman way.
If the inn you sleep in, be infested with every annoyance to which inns
are liable--all that long catalogue of evils, from boors to bugs--never
mind, there’s sure to be some delightful story of a bloody murder
connected with its annals, which will amply repay you for all your
suffering.

And now, in sober seriousness, what literary fame equals John Murray’s?
What portmanteau, with two shirts and a night-cap, hasn’t got one “Hand-
book?” What Englishman issues forth at morn, without one beneath his
arm? How naturally, does he compare the voluble statement of his _valet-
de-place_, with the testimony of the book. Does he not carry it with him
to church, where, if the sermon be slow, he can read a description of
the building? Is it not his guide at _table-d’hôte_, teaching him, when
to eat, and where to abstain? Does he look upon a building, a statue, a
picture, an old cabinet, or a manuscript, with whose eyes does he see
it? With John Murray’s to be sure! Let John tell him, this town is
famous for its mushrooms, why he’ll eat them, till he becomes half a
fungus himself; let him hear that it is celebrated for its lace
manufactory, or its iron work--its painting on glass, or its wigs;
straightway he buys up all he can find, only to discover, on reaching
home, that a London shopkeeper can undersell him in the same articles,
by about fifty per cent.

In all this, however, John Murray is not to blame; on the contrary, it
only shows his headlong popularity, and the implicit trust, with which
is received, every statement he makes. I cannot conceive anything more
frightful than the sudden appearance of a work which should contradict
everything in the “Hand-book,” and convince English people that John
Murray was wrong. National bankruptcy, a defeat at sea, the loss of the
colonies, might all be borne up against; but if we awoke one morning to
hear that the “Continent” was no longer the Continent we have been
accustomed to believe it, what a terrific shock it would prove. Like the
worthy alderman of London, who, hearing that Robinson Crusoe was only a
fiction, confessed he had lost one of the greatest pleasures of his
existence; so, should we discover that we have been robbed of an
innocent and delightful illusion, for which no reality of cheating
waiters and cursing Frenchmen, would ever repay us.

Of the implicit faith with which John and his “Manual” are received, I
remember well, witnessing a pleasant instance a few years back on the
Rhine.

On the deck of the steamer, amid that strange commingled mass of
Cockneys and Dutchmen, Flemish boors, German barons, bankers and
blacklegs, money-changers, cheese-mongers, quacks, and consuls, sat an
elderly couple, who, as far apart from the rest of the company as
circumstances would admit, were industriously occupied in comparing the
Continent with the “Hand-book,” or, in other words, were endeavouring to
see, if nature had dared to dissent from the true type, they held in
their hands.

“‘Andernach, formerly. Andemachium,’” read the old lady aloud. “Do you
see it, my dear?”

“Yes,” said the old gentleman, jumping up on the bench, and adjusting
his pocket telescope--“yes,” said he, “go on. I have it.”

“‘Andernach,’” resumed she, “‘is an ancient Roman town, and has twelve
towers----’”

“How many did you say?”

“Twelve, my dear--”

“Wait a bit, wait a bit,” said the old gentleman; while, with
outstretched finger, he began to count them, one, two, three, four, and
so on till he reached eleven, when he came to a dead stop, and then
dropping his voice to a tone of tremulous anxiety, he whispered,
“There’s one a-missing.”

“You don’t say so!” said the lady, “dearee me, try it again.”

The old gentleman shook his head, frowned ominously, and recommenced the
score.

“You missed the little one near the lime-kiln,” interrupted the lady.

“No!” said he abruptly, “that’s six, there’s seven--eight--nine--ten--
eleven--and see, not another.”

Upon this, the old lady mounted beside him, and the enumeration began in
duet fashion, but try it how they would, let them take them up hill, or
down hill, along the Rhine first, or commence inland, it was no use,
they could not make the dozen of them.

“It is shameful!” said the gentleman.

“Very disgraceful, indeed!” echoed the lady, as she closed the book, and
crossed her hands before her; while her partner’s indignation took a
warmer turn, and he paced the deck in a state of violent agitation.

It was clear that no idea of questioning John Murray’s accuracy had ever
crossed their minds. Far from it--the “Handbook” had told them honestly
what they were to have at Ander-nach--“twelve towers built by the
Romans,” was part of the bill of fare; and some rascally Duke of Hesse
something, had evidently absconded with a stray castle; they were
cheated, “bamboozled, and bit,” inveigled out of their mother-country
under false pretences, and they “wouldn’t stand it for no one,” and so
they went about complaining to every passenger, and endeavouring, with
all their eloquence, to make a national thing of it, and, determined to
represent the case to the minister, the moment they reached Frankfort.
And now, as the _a propos_ reminds me, what a devil of a life an English
minister has, in any part of the Continent, frequented by his
countrymen.

Let John Bull, from his ignorance of the country, or its language,
involve himself in a scrape with the authorities--let him lose his
passport or his purse--let him forget his penknife or his portmanteau;
straightway he repairs to the ambassador, who, in his eyes, is a cross
between Lord Aberdeen and a Bow-street officer. The minister’s functions
are indeed multifarious--now, investigating the advantages of an
international treaty; now, detecting the whereabouts of a missing cotton
umbrella; now, assigning the limits of a territory; now, giving
instructions on the ceremony of presentation to court; now, estimating
the fiscal relations of the navigation of a river; now, appraising the
price of the bridge of a waiter’s nose; as these pleasant and harmless
pursuits, so popular in London, of breaking lamps, wrenching off
knockers, and thrashing the police, when practised abroad, require
explanation at the hands of the minister, who hesitates not to account
for them as national predilections, like the taste for strong ale and
underdone beef.

He is a proud man, indeed, who puts his foot upon the Continent with
that Aladdin’s lamp--a letter to the ambassador. The credit of his
banker is, in his eyes, very inferior to that all-powerful document,
which opens to his excited imagination the salons of royalty, the dinner
table of the embassy, a private box at the opera, and the attentions of
the whole fashionable world; and he revels in the expectation of
crosses, cordons, stars, and decorations--private interviews with
royalty, ministerial audiences, and all the thousand and one flatteries,
which are heaped upon the highest of the land. If he is single, he
doesn’t know but he may marry a princess; if he be married, he may have
a daughter for some German archduke, with three hussars for an army, and
three acres of barren mountain for a territory--whose subjects are not
so numerous as the hairs of his moustache, but whose quarterings go back
to Noah; and an ark on a “field azure” figures in his escutcheon. Well,
well! of all the expectations of mankind these are about the vainest.
These foreign-office documents are but Bellerophon letters,--born to
betray. Let not their possession dissuade you from making a weekly score
with your hotel-keeper, under the pleasant delusion that you are to dine
out, four days, out of the seven. Alas and alack! the ambassador doesn’t
keep open-house for his rapparee countrymen: his hôtel is no shelter for
females, destitute of any correct idea as to where they are going, and
why; and however strange it may seem, he actually seems to think his
dwelling as much his own, as though it stood in Belgrave-square, or
Piccadilly.

Now, John Bull has no notion of this--he pays for these people--they
figure in the budget, and for a good round sum, too--and what do they do
for it? John knows little of the daily work of diplomacy. A treaty, a
tariff, a question of war, he can understand; but the red-tapery of
office, he can make nothing of. Court gossip, royal marriages--how his
Majesty smiled at the French envoy, and only grinned at the Austrian
_chargé d’affaires_--how the queen spoke three minutes to the Danish
minister’s wife, and only said “_Bon jour, madame_,” to the
Neapolitan’s--how plum-pudding figured at the royal table, thus showing
that English policy was in the ascendant;---all these signs of the
times, are a Chaldee MS. to him. But that the ambassador should invite
him and Mrs. Simpkins, and the three Misses and Master Gregory Simpkins,
to take a bit of dinner in the family-way--should bully the landlord at
the “Aigle,” and make a hard bargain with the “Lohn-Kutcher” for him at
the “Sechwan”--should take care that he saw the sights, and wasn’t more
laughed at than was absolutely necessary;--all that, is comprehensible,
and John expects it, as naturally as though it was set forth in his
passport, and sworn to by the foreign secretary, before he left London.

Of all the strange anomalies of English character, I don’t know one so
thoroughly inexplicable as the mystery by which so really independent a
fellow as John Bull ought to be--and as he, in nineteen cases out of
twenty, is, should be a tuft hunter. The man who would scorn any
pecuniary obligation, who would travel a hundred miles back, on his
journey, to acquit a forgotten debt--who has not a thought that is not
high-souled, lofty, and honourable, will stoop to any thing, to be where
he has no pretension to be--to figure in a society, where he is any
thing but at his ease--unnoticed, save by ridicule. Any one who has much
experience of the Continent, must have been struck by this. There is no
trouble too great, no expense too lavish, no intrigue too difficult, to
obtain an invitation to court, or an embassy _soirée_.

These embassy _soirées_, too, are good things in their way--a kind of
terrestrial _inferno_, where all ranks and conditions of men enter--
stately Prussians, wily Frenchmen, roguish-looking Austrians, stupid
Danes, haughty English, swarthy, mean-looking Spaniards, and here and
there some “eternal swaggerer” from the States, with his hair “_en
Kentuck_,” and “a very pretty considerable damned loud smell” of tobacco
about him. Then there are the “_grandes dames_,” glittering in diamonds,
and sitting in divan, and the ministers’ ladies of every gradation, from
plenipos’ wives to _chargé d’àfaires_, with their _cordons_ of whiskered
_attachés_ about them--maids of honour, _aides-de-camp du roi_, Poles,
_savans_, newspaper editors, and a Turk. Every rank has its place in the
attention of the host: and he poises his civilities, as though a ray the
more, one shade the less, would upset the balance of nations, and
compromise the peace of Europe. In that respect, nothing ever surpassed
the old Dutch embassy, at Dresden, where the _maître d’hôtel_ had strict
orders to serve coffee, to the ministers, _eau sucrée_, to the
secretaries, and, nothing, to the _attachés_. No plea of heat, fatigue,
or exhaustion, was ever suffered to infringe a rule, founded on the
broadest views of diplomatic rank. A cup of coffee thus became, like a
cordon or a star, an honourable and a proud distinction; and the
enviable possessor sipped his Mocha, and coquetted with the spoon, with
a sense of dignity, ordinary men know nothing of in such circumstances;
while the secretary’s _eau sucrée_ became a goal to the young aspirant
in the career; which must have stirred his early ambition, and
stimulated his ardour for success.

If, as some folk say, human intellect is never more conspicuous, than
where a high order of mind can descend to some paltry, insignificant
circumstance, and bring to its consideration all the force it possesses;
certes diplomatic people must be of a no mean order of capacity.

From the question of a disputed frontier, to that of a place at dinner,
there is but one spring from the course of a river towards the sea, and
a procession to table, the practised mind bounds as naturally, as though
it were a hop, and a step. A case in point occurred some short time
since at Frankfort.

The etiquette in this city gives the president of the diet precedence of
the different members of the _corps diplomatique_, who, however, all
take rank before the rest of the diet.

The Austrian minister, who occupied the post of president, being absent,
the Prussian envoy held the office _ad interim_, and believed that, with
the duties, its privileges became his.

M. Anstett, the Russian envoy, having invited his colleagues to dinner,
the grave question arose who was to go first? On one hand the dowager,
was the Minister of France, who always preceded the others; on the other
was the Prussian, a _pro tempore_ president, and who showed no
disposition to concede his pretensions.

The important moment arrived--the door was flung wide; and an imposing
voice proclaimed--“_Madame la Baronne est servie_.” Scarce were the
words spoken, when the Prussian sprang forward, and, offering his arm
gallantly to Madame d’Anstett, led the way, before the Frenchman had
time to look around him.

When the party were seated at table, M. d’Anstett looked about him in a
state of embarrassment and uneasiness: then, suddenly rallying, he
called out in a voice audible throughout the whole room--“Serve the soup
to the Minister of France first!” The order was obeyed, and the French
minister had lifted his third spoonful to his lips before the humbled
Prussian had tasted his.

The next day saw couriers flying, extra post through all Europe,
conveying the important intelligence; that when all other precedence
failed, soup, might be resorted to, to test rank and supremacy.

And now enough for the present of ministers ordinary and extraordinary,
envoys and plenipos; though I intend to come back to them at another
opportunity.



CHAPTER V. ANTWERP--“THE FISCHER’S HAUS.”

It was through no veneration for the memory of Van Hoogen-dorp’s
adventure, that I found myself one morning at Antwerp. I like the old
town: I like its quaint, irregular streets, its glorious cathedral, the
old “Place,” with its alleys of trees; I like the Flemish women, and
their long-eared caps; and I like the _table d’hôte_ at the “St.
Antoine”--among other reasons, because, being at one o’clock, it affords
a capital argument for a hot supper, at nine.

I do not know how other people may feel, but to me, I must confess, much
of the pleasure the Continent affords me, is destroyed by the jargon of
the “_Commissionnaires_,” and the cant of guidebooks. Why is not a man
permitted to sit down before that great picture, “The Descent from the
Cross,” and “gaze his fill” on it? Why may he not look till the whole
scene becomes, as it were, acting before him, and all those faces of
grief, of care, of horror, and despair, are graven in his memory, never
to be erased again? Why, I say, may he not study this in tranquillity
and peace, without some coarse, tobacco-reeking fellow, at his elbow, in
a dirty blouse and wooden shoes, explaining, in _patois_ French, the
merits of a work, which he is as well fitted to paint, as to appreciate.

But I must not myself commit the very error I am reprobating. I will not
attempt any description of a picture, which, to those who have seen it,
could realize not one of the impressions the work itself afforded, and
to those who have not, would convey nothing at all. I will not bore my
reader with the tiresome cant of “effect.” “expression,” “force,”
 “depth,” and “relief,” but, instead of all this, will tell him a short
story about the painting, which, if it has no other merit, has at least
that of authenticity.

Rubens--who, among his other tastes, was a great florist--was very
desirous to enlarge his garden, by adding to it a patch of ground
adjoining. It chanced unfortunately, that this piece of land did not
belong to an individual who could be tempted by a large price, but to a
society or club called the “Arquebussiers,” one of those old Flemish
guilds, which date their origin several centuries back. Insensible to
every temptation of money, they resisted all the painter’s offers, and
at length only consented to relinquish the land on condition that he
would paint a picture for them, representing their patron saint, St.
Christopher. To this, Rubens readily acceded, his only difficulty being
to find out some incident in the good saint’s life, which might serve as
a subject. What St. Christopher had to do with cross-bows or sharp-
shooters, no one could tell him; and for many a long day he puzzled his
mind, without ever being able to hit upon a solution of the difficulty.
At last, in despair, the etymology of the word suggested a plan; and
“christopheros,” or cross-bearer, afforded the hint on which he began
his great picture of “The Descent.” For months long, he worked
industriously at the painting, taking an interest in its details, such
as he confesses never to have felt in any of his previous works. He knew
it to be his _chef-d’oeuvre_, and looked forward, with a natural
eagerness, to the moment when he should display it before its future
possessors, and receive their congratulations on his success.

The day came; the “Arquebuss” men assembled, and repaired in a body to
Rubens’ house; the large folding shutters which concealed the painting
were opened, and the triumph of the painter’s genius was displayed
before them: but not a word was spoken; no exclamation of admiration, or
wonder, broke from the assembled throng; not a murmur of pleasure, or
even surprise was there: on the contrary, the artist beheld nothing but
faces expressive of disappointment, and dissatisfaction; and at length,
after a considerable-pause, one question burst from every lip--“Where is
St. Christopher?”

It was to no purpose he explained the object of his work: in vain he
assured them, that the picture was the greatest he had ever painted, and
far superior to what he had contracted to give them. They stood
obdurate, and motionless: it was St. Christopher they wished for; it was
for him they bargained, and him, they would have.

The altercation continued long, and earnest. Some of them, more
moderate, hoping to conciliate both parties, suggested that, as there
was a small space unemployed in the left of the painting, St.
Christopher could be introduced, there, by making him somewhat
diminutive. Rubens rejected the proposal with disgust: his great work
was not to be destroyed by such an anomaly as this: and so, breaking off
the negotiation at once, he dismissed the “Arquebuss” men, and
relinquished all pretension to the “promised land.”

Matters remained for some months thus, when the burgomaster, who was an
ardent admirer of Rubens’ genius, came to hear the entire transaction;
and, waiting on the painter, suggested an expedient by which every
difficulty might be avoided, and both parties rest content. “Why not,”
 said he, “make a St. Christopher on the outside of the shutter? You have
surely space enough there, and can make him of any size you like.” The
artist caught at the proposal, seized his chalk, and in a few minutes
sketched out, a gigantic saint, which the burgomaster at once pronounced
suited to the occasion.

The “Arquebuss” men were again introduced; and, immediately on beholding
their patron, professed themselves perfectly satisfied. The bargain was
concluded, the land ceded, and the picture hung up in the great
cathedral of Antwerp, where, with the exception of the short period that
French spoliation carried it to the Louvre, it has remained ever since,
a monument of the artist’s genius, the greatest and most finished of all
his works. And now that I have done my story, I’ll try and find out that
little quaint hotel they call the “Fischer’s Haus.”

Fifteen years ago, I remember losing my way one night in the streets of
Antwerp. I couldn’t speak a word of Flemish: the few people I met
couldn’t understand a word of French. I wandered about, for full two
hours, and heard the old cathedral clock play a psalm tune, and the St.
Joseph tried its hand on another. A watchman cried the hour through a
cow’s horn, and set all the dogs a-barking; and then all was still
again, and I plodded along, without the faintest idea of the points of
the compass.

In this moody frame of mind I was, when the heavy clank of a pair of
sabots, behind, apprised me that some one was following. I turned
sharply about, and accosted him in French.

“English?” said he, in a thick, guttural tone.

“Yes, thank heaven” said I, “do you speak English?”

“Ja, Mynheer,” answered he. Though this reply didn’t promise very
favourably, I immediately asked him to guide me to my hotel, upon which
he shook his head gravely, and said nothing.

“Don’t you speak English?” said I.

“Ja!” said he once more.

“I’ve lost my way,” cried I; “I am a stranger.”

He looked at me doggedly for a minute or two, and then, with a stern
gravity of manner, and a phlegm, I cannot attempt to convey, he said--

“D----n _my_ eyes!”

“What!” said I, “do you mean?”

“Ja!” was the only reply.

“If you know English, why won’t you speak it?”

“D----n _his_ eyes!” said he with a deep solemn tone.

“Is that all you know of the language?” cried I, stamping with
impatience. “Can you say no more than that?”

“D----n _your_ eyes!” ejaculated he, with as much composure, as though
he were maintaining an earnest conversation.

When I had sufficiently recovered from the hearty fit of laughter this
colloquy occasioned me, I began by signs, such as melodramatic people
make to express sleep, placing my head in the hollow of my hand, snoring
and yawning, to represent, that I stood in need of a bed.

“Ja!” cried my companion with more energy than before, and led the way
down one narrow street and up another, traversing lanes, where two men
could scarcely go abreast, until at length we reached a branch of the
Scheldt, along which, we continued for above twenty minutes. Suddenly
the sound of voices shouting a species of Dutch tune---for so its
unspeakable words, and wooden turns, bespoke it--apprised me, that we
were near a house where the people were yet astir.

“Ha!” said I, “this a hotel then.”

Another “Ja!”

“What do they call it?”

A shake of the head.

“That will do, good night,” said I, as I saw the bright lights gleaming
from the small diamond panes of an old Flemish window; “I am much
obliged to you.”

“D----n _your_ eyes!” said my friend, taking off his hat politely, and
making me a low bow, while he added something in Flemish, which I
sincerely trust was of a more polite and complimentary import, than his
parting benediction in English.

As I turned from the Fleming, I entered a narrow hall, which led by a
low-arched door into a large room, along which, a number of tables were
placed, each, crowded by its own party who clinked their cans and
vociferated a chorus, which, from constant repetition, rings still in my
memory--


“Wenn die wein ist in die maun, Der weisdheid den iut in die kan.”

or in the vernacular--


“When the wine is in the man, Then is the wisdom in the can.”

A sentiment, which a very brief observation of their faces, induced me
perfectly to concur in. Over the chimney-piece, an inscription was
painted in letters of about a foot long, “Hier verkoopt man Bier,”
 implying, what a very cursory observation might have conveyed to any
one, even on the evidence of his nose,--that beer was a very attainable
fluid in the establishment. The floor was sanded, and the walls white-
washed, save where some pictorial illustrations of Flemish habits were
displayed in black chalk, or the smoke of a candle.

As I stood, uncertain whether to advance or retreat, a large portly
Fleming, with a great waistcoat, made of the skin of some beast, eyed me
steadfastly from head to foot, and then, as if divining my
embarrassment, beckoned me to approach, and pointed to a seat on the
bench beside him. I was not long in availing myself of his politeness,
and before a half an hour elapsed, found myself with a brass can of
beer, about eighteen inches in height, before me; while I was smoking
away as though I had been born within the “dykes,” and never knew the
luxury of dry land.

Around the table sat some seven or eight others, whose phlegmatic look
and sententious aspect, convinced me, they were Flemings. At the far
end, however, was one, whose dark eyes, flashing beneath heavy shaggy
eyebrows, huge whiskers, and bronzed complexion, distinguished him
sufficiently from the rest. He appeared, too, to have something of
respect paid him, inasmuch as the others invariably nodded to him,
whenever they lifted their cans to their mouths. He wore a low fur cap
on his head, and his dark blue frock was trimmed also with fur, and
slashed with a species of braiding, like an undress uniform.

Unlike the rest, he spoke a great deal, not only to his own party, but
maintaining a conversation with various others through the room--
sometimes speaking French, then Dutch, and occasionally changing to
German, or Italian, with all which tongues he appeared so familiar, that
I was fairly puzzled to what country to attribute him.

I could mark at times that he stole a sly glance over, towards where I
was sitting, and, more than once, I thought I observed him watching what
effect his voluble powers as a linguist, was producing upon me. At last
our eyes met, he smiled politely, and taking up the can before him, he
bowed, saying, “A votre santé, monsieur.”

I acknowledged the compliment at once, and seizing the opportunity,
begged to know, of what land so accomplished a linguist was a native.
His face brightened up at once, a certain smile of self-satisfied
triumph passed over his features, he smacked his lips, and then poured
out a torrent of strange sounds, which, from their accent, I guessed to
be Russian.

“Do you speak Sclavonic?” said he in French; and as I nodded a negative,
he added--“Spanish,--Portuguese?”

“Neither,” said I.

“Where do you come from then?” asked he, retorting my question.

“Ireland, if you may have heard of such a place.”

“Hurroo!” cried he, with a yell that made the room start with amazement.
“By the powers! I thought so; come up my hearty, and give me a shake of
your hand.”

If I were astonished before, need I say how I felt now.

“And are you really a countryman of mine?” said I, as I took my seat
beside him.

“Faith, I believe so. Con O’Kelly, does not sound very like Italian, and
that’s my name, any how; but wait a bit, they’re calling on me for a
Dutch song, and when I’ve done, we’ll have a chat together.”

A very uproarious clattering of brass and pewter cans on the tables,
announced that the company was becoming impatient for Mynheer O’Kelly’s
performance, which he immediately began; but of either the words or air,
I can render no possible account, I only know, there was a kind of
_refrain_ or chorus, in which, all, round each table, took hands, and
danced a “grand round,” making the most diabolical clatter with wooden
shoes, I ever listened to.

After which, the song seemed to subside into a low droning sound,
implying sleep. The singer nodded his head, the company followed the
example, and a long heavy note, like snoring, was heard through the
room, when suddenly, with a hiccup, he awoke, the others also, and then
the song broke out once more, in all its vigour, to end as before, in
another dance, an exercise in which I certainly fared worse than my
neighbours, who tramped on my corns without mercy, leaving it a very
questionable fact how far his “pious, glorious, and immortal memory” was
to be respected, who had despoiled my country of “wooden shoes” when
walking off with its brass money.

The melody over, Mr. O’Kelly proceeded to question me somewhat minutely,
as to how I had chanced upon this house, which was not known to many,
even of the residents of Antwerp.

I briefly explained to him the circumstances which led me to my present
asylum, at which he laughed heartily.

“You don’t know, then, where you are?” said he, looking at me, with a
droll half-suspicious smile.

“No; it’s a Schenk Haus, I suppose,” replied I.

“Yes, to be sure, it is a Schenk Haus, but it’s the resort only of
smugglers, and those connected with their traffic. Every man about you,
and there are, as you see, some seventy or eighty, are all, either sea-
faring folks, or landsmen associated with them, in contraband trade.”

“But how is this done so openly? the house is surely known to the
police.”

“Of course, and they are well paid for taking no notice of it.”

“And you?”

“Me! Well, _I_ do a little that way too, though it’s only a branch of my
business. I’m only Dirk Hatteraik, when I come down to the coast: then
you know a man doesn’t like to be idle; so that when I’m here, or on the
Bretagny shore, I generally mount the red cap, and buckle on the
cutlass, just to keep moving; as when I go inland, I take an occasional
turn with the gypsy folk in Bohemia, or their brethren, in the Basque
provinces. There’s nothing like being up to every thing--that’s _my_
way.”

I confess I was a good deal surprised at my companion’s account of
himself, and not over impressed with the rigour of his principles; but
my curiosity to know more of him, became so much the stronger.

“Well,” said I, “you seem to have a jolly life of it; and, certainly a
healthful one.”

“Aye, that it is,” replied he quickly. “I’ve more than once thought of
going back to Kerry, and living quietly for the rest of my days, for I
could afford it well enough; but, somehow, the thought of staying in one
place, talking always to the same set of people, seeing every day the
same sights, and hearing the same eternal little gossip about little
things, and little folk, was too much for me, and so I stuck to the old
trade, which I suppose I’ll not give up now as long as I live.”

“And what may that be?” asked I, curious to know how he filled up
moments snatched from the agreeable pursuits he had already mentioned.

He eyed me with a shrewd, suspicious look, for above a minute, and then,
laying his hand on my arm, said--

“Where do you put up at, here in Antwerp?”

“The St. Antoine.’”

“Well, I’ll come over for you to-morrow evening about nine o’clock;
you’re not engaged, are you?”

“No, I’ve no acquaintance here.”

“At nine, then, be ready, and you’ll come and take a bit of supper with
me; and, in exchange for your news of the old country, I’ll tell you
something of my career.”

I readily assented to a proposal which promised to make me better
acquainted with one evidently a character; and after half an hour’s
chatting, I arose.

“You’re not going away, are you?” said he. “Well, I can’t leave this
yet; so I’ll just send a boy, to show you the way to the ‘St. Antoine.’”

With that, he beckoned to a lad at one of the tables, and addressing a
few words in Flemish to him, he shook me warmly by the hand: the whole
room rose respectfully as I took my leave, and I could see, that “Mr.
O’Kelly’s friend,” stood in no small estimation with the company.

The day was just breaking when I reached my hotel; but I knew I could
poach on the daylight for what the dark had robbed me; and, besides, my
new acquaintance promised to repay the loss of a night’s sleep, should
it even come to that.

Punctual to his appointment, my newly-made friend knocked at my door
exactly as the cathedral was chiming for nine o’clock.

His dress was considerably smarter than on the preceding evening, and
his whole air and bearing bespoke a degree of quiet decorum and reserve,
very different from his free-and-easy carriage in the “Fischer’s Haus.”
 As I accompanied him through the _parte-cochère_, we passed the
landlord, who saluted us with much politeness, shaking my companion, by
the hand, like an old friend.

“You are acquainted here, I see,” said I.

“There are few landlords from Lubeck to Leghorn I don’t know by this
time,” was the reply, and he smiled as he spoke.

A calèche with one horse, was waiting for us without, and into this we
stepped. The driver had got his directions, and plying his whip briskly,
we rattled over the paved streets, and passing through a considerable
part of the town, arrived at last at one of the gates. Slowly crossing
the draw-bridge at a walk, we set out again at a trot, and soon I could
perceive, through the half light, that we had traversed the suburbs, and
were entering the open country.

“We’ve not far to go now,” said my companion, who seemed to suspect that
I was meditating over the length of the way; “where you see the lights
yonder--that’s our ground.”

The noise of the wheels over the _pavé_ soon after ceased, and I found
we were passing across a grassy lawn in front of a large house, which,
even by the twilight, I could detect was built in the old Flemish taste.
A square tower flanked one extremity, and from the upper part of this,
the light gleamed, to which my companion pointed.

We descended from the carriage, at the foot of a long terrace, which,
though dilapidated and neglected, bore still some token of its ancient
splendour. A stray statue here and there, remained, to mark its former
beauty, while, close by, the hissing splash of water told that a _jet
d’eau_ was playing away, unconscious that its river gods, dolphins, and
tritons, had long since departed.

“A fine old place once,” said my new friend; “the old chateau of
Overghem--one of the richest seignories of Flanders in its day--sadly
changed now; but come, follow me.”

So saying, he led the way into the hall, where detaching a rude lantern
that was hung against the wall, he ascended the broad oak stairs.

I could trace, by the fitful gleam of the light, that the walls had been
painted in fresco, the architraves of the windows and doors being richly
carved, in all the grotesque extravagance of old Flemish art; a gallery,
which traversed the building, was hung with old pictures, apparently
family portraits, but they were all either destroyed by damp or rotting
with neglect; at the extremity of this, a narrow stair conducted us by a
winding ascent to the upper story of the tower, where, for the first
time, my companion had recourse to a key; with this, he opened a low,
pointed door, and ushered me into an apartment, at which, I could
scarcely help expressing my surprise, aloud, as I entered.

The room was of small dimensions, but seemed actually, the boudoir of a
palace. Rich cabinets in buhl, graced the walls, brilliant in all the
splendid costliness of tortoise-shell and silver inlaying; bronzes of
the rarest kind; pictures; vases; curtains of gorgeous damask covered
the windows; and a chimney-piece of carved black oak, representing a
pilgrimage, presented a depth of perspective, and a beauty of design,
beyond any thing I had ever witnessed. The floor was covered with an old
tapestry of Ouden-arde, spread over a heavy Persian rug, into which the
feet sank at every step, while a silver lamp, of antique mould, threw a
soft, mellow light, around, revolving on an axis, whose machinery played
a slow but soothing melody, delightfully in harmony with all about.

“You like this kind of thing,” said my companion, who watched, with
evident satisfaction, the astonishment and admiration, with which I
regarded every object around me. “That’s a pretty bit of carving there--
that was done by Van Zoost, from a design of Schneider’s; see how the
lobsters are crawling over the tangled sea-weed there, and look how the
leaves seem to fall heavy and flaccid, as if wet with spray. This is
good, too; it was painted by Gherard Dow: it is a portrait of himself;
he is making a study of that little boy who stands there on the table;
see how he has disposed the light, so as to fall on the little fellow’s
side, tipping him from the yellow curls of his round bullet head, to the
angle of his white sabot.

“Yes, you’re right, that is by Van Dyck; only a sketch to be sure, but
has all his manner. I like the Velasquez yonder better, but they both
possess the same excellence. _They_, could represent _birth_. Just see
that dark fellow there, he’s no beauty you’ll say, but regard him
closely, and tell me, if he’s one to take a liberty with; look at his
thin, clenched lip, and that long thin, pointed chin, with its straight
stiff beard--can there be a doubt he was a gentleman? Take care, gently,
your elbow grazed it. That, is a specimen of the old Japan china--a lost
art now, they cannot produce the blue colour, you see there, running
into green. See, the flowers are laid on after the cup is baked, and the
birds are a separate thing after all; but come, this is, perhaps,
tiresome work to you, follow me.”

Notwithstanding my earnest entreaty to remain, he took me by the arm,
and opening a small door, covered by a mirror, led me into another room,
the walls and ceiling of which were in dark oak wainscot; a single
picture occupied the space above the chimney, to which, however, I gave
little attention, my eyes being fixed upon a most appetizing supper,
which figured on a small table in the middle of the room. Not even the
savoury odour of the good dishes, or my host’s entreaty to begin, could
turn me from the contemplation of the antique silver covers, carved in
the richest fashion. The handles of the knives were fashioned into
representations of saints and angels, and the costly ruby glasses, of
Venetian origin, were surrounded with cases of gold filagree, of the
most delicate and beautiful character.

“We must be our own attendants,” said the host. “What have you there?
Here are some Ostende oysters, _en matelot;_ that is a small capon
_truffé_; and, here are some cutlets _aux points d’asperge_, But let us
begin, and explore as we proceed; a glass of Chablis, with your oysters;
what a pity these Burgundy wines are inaccessible to you in England!
Chablis, scarcely bears the sea, of half a dozen bottles, one, is
drinkable; the same of the red wines; and what is there so generous? not
that we are to despise our old friend, Champagne; and now that you’ve
helped yourself to _paté_, let’s us have a bumper. By-the-bye, have they
abandoned that absurd notion they used to have in England about
Champagne? when I was there, they never served it during the first
course. Now Champagne should come, immediately after your soup--your
glass of Sherry or Madeira, is a holocaust offered up to bad cookery;
for if the soup were safe, Chablis or Sauterne is your fluid. How is the
capon? good, I’m glad of it. These countries excel in their
_poulardes_.”

In this fashion my companion ran on, accompanying each plate with some
commentary on its history, or concoction; a kind of dissertation, I must
confess, I have no manner of objection to, especially, when delivered by
a host who illustrates his theorem, not by “plates” but “dishes.”

Supper over, we wheeled the table to the wall; and drawing forward
another, on which the wine and desert were already laid out, prepared to
pass a pleasant and happy evening, in all form.

“Worse countries than Holland, Mr. O’Leary,” said my companion, as he
sipped his Burgundy, and looked with ecstasy at the rich colour of the
wine through the candle.

“When seen thus,” said I, “I don’t know its equal.”

“Why, perhaps this is rather a favourable specimen of a smuggler’s
cave,” replied he, laughing. “Better than old Dirk’s, eh? By-the-bye, do
you know, Scott?”

“No; I am sorry to say that I am not acquainted with him.”

“What the devil could have led him into such a blunder as to make
Hatteraik, a regular Dutchman, sing a German song? Why, ‘Ich Bin
liederlich’ is good Hoch-Deutsch, and Saxon to boot. A Hollander, might
just as well have chanted modern Greek, or Coptic. I’ll wager you that
Rubens there, over the chimney, against a crown-piece, you’ll not find a
Dutchman, from Dort to Nimegen, could repeat the lines, that he has made
a regular national song of; and again, in Quentin Durward, he has made
all the Liege folk speak German, That, was even, a worse mistake. Some
of them speak French; but the nation, the people, are Walloons, and have
as much idea of German as a Hottentot has, of the queen of hearts. Never
mind, he’s a glorious fellow for all that, and here’s his health. When
will Ireland have his equal, to chronicle her feats of field and flood,
and make her land as classic, as Scott has done his own!”

While we rambled on, chatting of all that came uppermost, the wine
passed freely across the narrow table, and the evening wore on. My
curiosity to know more of one, who, on whatever he talked, seemed
thoroughly informed, grew gradually more and more; and at last I
ventured to remind him, that he had half promised me the previous
evening, to let me hear something of his own history.

“No, no,” said he laughing; “story telling is poor work for the teller
and the listener too; and when a man’s tale has not even brought a moral
to himself, it’s scarcely likely, to be more generous towards his
neighbour.”

“Of course,” said I, “I have no claim, as a stranger----”

“Oh, as to that,” interrupted he, “somehow I feel as though we were
longer acquainted. I’ve seen much of the world, and know by this time
that some men begin to know each other from the starting post--others
never do, though they travel a life long together;--so that on that
score, no modesty. If you care for my story, fill your glass, and let’s
open another flask, and here it’s for you, though I warn you beforehand
the narrative is somewhat of the longest.”



CHAPTER VI. MR. O’KELLY’S TALE

“I can tell you but little about my family,” said my host, stretching
out his legs to the fire, and crossing his arms easily before him. “My
grandfather was in the Austrian service, and killed in some old battle
with the Turks. My father, Peter O’Kelly, was shot in a duel by an
attorney from Youghal. Something about nailing his ear to the pump, I’ve
heard tell was the cause of the row; for he came down to my father’s,
with a writ, or a process, or something of the kind. No matter--the
thief had pluck in him; and when Peter--my father that was--told him,
he’d make a gentleman of him, and fight him, if he’d give up the bill of
costs; why the temptation was too strong to resist; he pitched the
papers into the fire, went out the same morning, and faith he put in his
bullet, as fair, as if he was used to the performance. I was only a
child then, ten or eleven years old, and so I remember nothing of the
particulars; but I was packed off the next day to an old aunt’s, a
sister of my father’s, who resided in the town of Tralee.

“Well, to be sure, it was a great change for me, young as I was, from
Castle O’Kelly to Aunt Judy’s. At home, there was a stable full of
horses, a big house, generally full of company, and the company as fall
of fun; we had a pack of harriers, went out twice or thrice a week,
plenty of snipe-shooting, and a beautiful race-course was made round the
lawn: and though I wasn’t quite of an age to join in these pleasures
myself, I had a lively taste for them all, and relished the free-and-
easy style of my father’s house, without any unhappy forebodings, that
the amusements there practised would end in leaving me a beggar.

“Now, my Aunt Judy lived in what might be called, a state of painfully
elegant poverty. Her habitation was somewhat more capacious than a house
in a toy-shop; but then it had all the usual attributes of a house.
There was a hall-door, and two windows, and a chimney, and a brass
knocker, and, I believe, a scraper; and within, there were three little
rooms, about the dimensions of a mail-coach, each. I think I see the
little parlour before me, now this minute; there was a miniature of my
father in a red coat over the chimney, and two screens painted by my
aunt--landscapes, I am told, they were once; but time and damp had made
them look something like the moon seen through a bit of smoked glass;
and there were fire-irons as bright as day, for they never performed any
other duty than standing on guard beside the grate,--a kind of royal
beef-eaters, kept for show; and there was a little table covered with
shells and minerals, bits of coral, conchs, and cheap curiosities of
that nature, and over them, again, was a stuffed macaw. Oh, dear! I see
it all before me, and the little tea-service, that if the beverage had
been vitriol, a cup full couldn’t have harmed you. There were four
chairs;--human ingenuity couldn’t smuggle in a fifth. There was one for
Father Donnellan, another for Mrs. Brown, the post mistress, another for
the barrack-master, Captain Dwyer, the fourth for my aunt herself; but
then no more were wanted. Nothing but real gentility, the ‘ould Irish
blood,’ would be received by Miss Judy; and if the post-mistress wasn’t
fourteenth cousin to somebody, who was aunt to Phelim O’Brien, who was
hanged for some humane practice towards the English in former times, the
devil a cup of bohea she’d have tasted there! The priest was _ex
officio_, but Captain Dwyer was a gentleman, born and bred. His great-
grandfather had an estate; the last three generations had lived on the
very reputation of its once being in the family: ‘_they_ weren’t
upstarts, no, sorrow bit of it;’ when they had it they spent it,’ and so
on, were the current expressions concerning them. Faith I will say, that
in my time, in Ireland--I don’t know how it may be now--the aroma of a
good property stood to the descendants long after the substance had left
them; and if they only stuck fast to the place where the family had once
been great, it took at least a couple of generations before they need
think of looking out for a livelihood.

“Aunt Judy’s revenue was something like eighty pounds a year; but in
Tralee she was not measured by the rule of the ‘income tax.’ ‘Wasn’t she
own sister to Peter O’Kelly of the Castle; didn’t Brien O’Kelly call at
the house when he was canvassing for the member, and leave his card;’
and wasn’t the card displayed on the little mahogany table every
evening, and wiped and put by, every morning, for fifteen years; and
sure the O’Kellys had their own burial ground, the ‘O’Kelly’s pound,’ as
it was called, being a square spot inclosed within a wall and employed
for all ‘trespassers’ of the family, within death’s domain. Here was
gentility enough in all conscience, even had the reputation of her
evening parties not been the talk of the town. These were certainly
exclusive enough, and consisted as I have told you.

“Aunt Judy loved her rubber, and so did her friends; and eight o’clock
every evening saw the little party assembled at a game of ‘longs,’ for
penny points. It was no small compliment to the eyesight of the players,
that they could distinguish the cards; for with long use they had become
dimmed and indistinct. The queens, had contracted a very tatterdemalion
look, and the knaves, had got a most vagabond expression for want of
their noses, not to speak of other difficulties in dealing, which
certainly required an expert hand, all the corners having long
disappeared, leaving the operation something like playing at quoits.

“The discipline of such an establishment, I need scarcely say, was very
distasteful to me. I was seldom suffered to go beyond the door, more
rarely still, alone: my whole amusement consisted in hearing about the
ancient grandeur of the O’Kellys, and listening to a very prosy history,
of certain martyrs, not one of whom I didn’t envy in my heart; while in
the evening I slept beneath the whist-table, being too much afraid of
ghosts to venture up stairs to bed.

“It was on one of those evenings, when the party were assembled as
usual; some freak of mine--I fear I was a rebellious subject--was being
discussed between the deals, it chanced that by some accident I was
awake, and heard the colloquy.

“‘’Tis truth I’m telling you, ma’am,’ quoth my aunt, ‘you’d think he was
mild as milk, and there isn’t a name for the wickedness in him.’

“‘When I was in the Buffs there was a fellow of the name of Clancy----’

“‘Play a spade, captain,’ said the priest, who had no common horror of
the story, he had heard every evening for twenty years.

“‘And did he really put the kitten into the oven?’ inquired Mrs. Brown.

“‘Worse than that--he brought in Healy’s buck goat yesterday, and set
him opposite the looking-glass, and the beast, thinking he saw another,
opposite him, bolted straightforward, and, my dear, he stuck his horns
through the middle of it. There isn’t a piece as big as the ace of
diamonds.’”

“‘When I was in the Buffs----

“‘’Tis at _say_ he ought to be--don’t you think so, captain?’ said the
priest----‘them’s trumps.’

“‘I beg your pardon, Father Donellan, let me look at the trick. Well I’m
sure I pity you, Miss O’Kelly.’

“‘And why wouldn’t you! his mother had a bad drop in her, ‘tis easy
seen. Sure Peter, that’s gone, rest his soul in peace, he never harmed
man nor beast; but that child there, has notions of wickedness, that
would surprise you. My elegant cornelian necklace he’s taken the stones
out of, till it nearly chokes me to put it on.’

“‘When I was in the Buffs, Miss O’Kelly, there was----’

“‘Pay fourpence,’ said the priest pettishly, and cut the cards. As I was
saying, I’d send him to say, and if the stories be thrue, I hear, he’s
not ill fitted for it; he does be the most of his time up there at the
caves of Ballybunnion, with the smugglers.’

“My aunt crimsoned a little at this, as I could see from my place on the
hearth rug: for it was only the day before, I had brought in a package
of green tea, obtained from the quarter alluded to.

“‘I’d send him to Banagher to-morrow,’ said he, resolutely; ‘I’d send
him to school.’

“‘There was one Clancy, I was saying, a great devil he was--’

“‘And faix ould Martin will flog his tricks out of him, if birch will do
it,’ said the priest.

“‘’Tis only a fortnight since he put hot cinders in the letterbox, and
burned half the Dublin bag,’ said Mrs. Brown. ‘The town will be well rid
of him.’

“This was exactly the notion I was coming to myself, though differing
widely as to the destination by which I was to manage my exchange out of
it. The kind wishes of the party towards me, too, had another effect--it
nerved me with a courage I never felt before--and when I took the first
opportunity of a squabble at the whist-table, to make my escape from the
room, I had so little fear of ghosts and goblins, that I opened the
street door, and, although the way led under the wall of the church-
yard, set out on my travels, in a direction which was to influence all
my after life.

“I had not proceeded far, when I overtook some cars on their way to
Tarbert, on one of which I succeeded in obtaining a seat; and, by
daybreak, arrived at the Shannon, the object of my desires, and the goal
of all my wishes.

“The worthy priest had not calumniated me, in saying, that my associates
were smugglers. Indeed, for weeks past, I never missed any opportunity
of my aunt leaving the house, without setting ont to meet a party who
frequented a small public-house, about three miles from Tralee, and with
whom I made more than one excursion to the caves of Ballybunnion. It was
owing to an accidental piece of information I afforded them--that the
revenue force was on their track--that I first learned to know these
fellows; and from that moment, I was a sworn friend of every man among
them. To be sure they were a motley crew. The craft belonged to
Flushing, and the skipper himself was a Fleming; the others were Kinsale
fishermen, Ostenders, men from the coast of Bretagny, a Norwegian pilot,
and a negro, who acted as cook. Their jovial style of life, the apparent
good humour and good fellowship that subsisted among them, a dash of
reckless devil-may-care spirit, resembling a school-boy’s love of fun--
all captivated me; and when I found myself on board the ‘Dart,’ as she
lay at anchor under the shadow of the tall cliffs, and saw the crew
burnishing up pistols and cutlasses, and making ready for a cruise, I
had a proud heart when they told me, I might join, and be one among
them, I suppose every boy has something in his nature that inclines him
to adventure; it was strong enough in me, certainly.

“The hardy, weather-beaten faces of my companions--their strong muscular
frames--their coarse uniform of striped Jersey wear, with black belts
crossing on the chest--all attracted my admiration: and from the red
bunting that floated at our gaff, to the brass swivels that peeped from
our bows, the whole craft delighted me. I was not long in acquiring the
rough habits and manners of my associates, and speedily became a
favourite with every one on board. All the eccentricities of my
venerable aunt, all the peculiarities of Father Donellan, were dished up
by me for their amusement, and they never got tired laughing at the
description of the whist-table. Besides, I was able to afford them much
valuable information about the neighbouring gentry, all of whom I knew,
either personally, or by name. I was at once, therefore, employed as a
kind of diplomatic envoy to ascertain if Mr. Blennerhassett wouldn’t
like a hogshead of brandy, or the Knight of Glynn a pipe of claret, in
addition to many minor embassies among the shebeen houses of the
country, concerning nigger-heads of tobacco, packages of tea, smuggled
lace, and silk handkerchiefs.

“Thus was my education begun; and an apter scholar, in all the art and
mystery of smuggling, could scarcely have been found. I had a taste for
picking up languages; and, before my first cruise was over, had got a
very tolerable smattering of French, Dutch, and Norwegian, and some
intimacy with the fashionable dialect used on the banks of the Niger.
Other accomplishments followed these. I was a capital pistol-shot--no
bad hand with the small swords--could reef and steer, and had not my
equal on board in detecting a revenue officer, no matter how artfully
disguised. Such were my professional--my social qualifications far
exceeded these. I could play a little on the violin, and the guitar, and
was able to throw into rude verse any striking incident of our wild
career, and adapt an air to it, for the amusement of my companions.
These I usually noted down in a book, accompanying them with pen
illustrations and notes; and I assure you, however little literary
reputation this volume might have acquired, ‘O’Kelly’s Log,’ as it was
called, formed the great delight, of ‘Saturday night at sea.’ These
things were all too local and personal in their interest to amuse any
one who didn’t know the parties; but mayhap one day or other I’ll give
you a sight of the ‘log,’ and let you hear some of our songs.

“I won’t stop to detail any of the adventures of my sea-faring life;
strange and wild enough they were in all conscience: one night,
staggering under close-reefed canvas beneath a lee-shore; another,
carousing with a jolly set in a ‘Schenk Hans’ at Rotterdam, or Ostende--
now, hiding in the dark caves of Ballybunnion, while the craft stood out
to sea--now, disguised, taking a run up to Paris, and dining in the
‘Café de L’Empire,’ in all the voluptuous extravagance of the day.
Adventure fast succeeding on adventure, escape upon escape, had given my
life a character of wild excitement, which made me feel a single day’s
repose, a period of _ennui_ and monotony.

“Smuggling, too, became only a part of my occupation. My knowledge of
French, and my power of disguising my appearance, enabled me to mix in
Parisian society, of a certain class, without any fear of detection. In
this way I obtained, from time to time, information of the greatest
consequence to our government; and once brought some documents from the
war department of Napoleon, which obtained for me the honour of an
interview with Mr. Pitt himself. This part of my career, however, would
take me too far away from my story, were I to detail any of the many
striking adventures which marked it; so I’ll pass on, at once, to one of
those eventful epochs of my life, two or three of which have changed,
for the time, the current of my destiny.

“I was about eighteen: the war had just broke out with France, and the
assembled camp at Boulogne threatened the invasion of England. The
morning we left the French coast, the preparations for the embarkation
of the troops, were in great forwardness, and certain particulars had
reached us, which convinced me that Napoleon really intended an attempt,
which many were disposed to believe, was a mere menace. In fact, an
officer of the staff had given me such information as explained the mode
of the descent, and the entire plan of the expedition. Before I could
avail myself of this, however, we should land our cargo, an unusually
rich one, on the west coast of Ireland, for my companions knew nothing
all this time of the system of ‘spionage’ I had established, and little
suspected that one of their crew was in relation with the Prime Minister
of England.

“I have said I was about eighteen. My wild life, if it had made me feel
older than my years, had given a hardihood and enterprise to my
character, which heightened for me the enjoyment of every bold
adventure, and made me feel a kind of ecstasy in every emergency, where
danger and difficulty were present. I longed to be the skipper of my own
craft, sweeping the seas at my own will; a bold buccaneer, caring less
for gain than glory, until my name should win for itself its own meed of
fame, and my feats be spoken of in awe and astonishment.

“Van Brock, our captain, was a hardy Fleming, but all his energy of
character, all his daring, were directed to the one object--gain. For
this, there was nothing he wouldn’t attempt, nothing he wouldn’t risk.
Now, our present voyage was one in which he had embarked all his
capital; the outbreak of a war warned him that his trade must speedily
be abandoned--he could no longer hope to escape the cruisers of every
country, that already filled the channel. This one voyage, however, if
successful, would give him an ample competence for life, and he
determined to hazard everything upon it.

“It was a dark and stormy night in November, when we made the first
light on the west coast of Ireland. Part of our cargo was destined for
Ballybunnion; the remainder, and most valuable portion, was to be landed
in the Bay of Galway. It blew a whole gale from the southward and
westward, and the sea ran mountains high, not the short jobble of a
land-locked channel, but the heavy roll of the great Atlantic,--dark and
frowning, swelling to an enormous height, and thundering away on the
iron-bound coast to leeward, with a crash, that made our hearts quiver.
The ‘Dart’ was a good sea-boat, but the waves swept her from stem to
stern, and though nothing but a close-reefed topsail was bent, we went
spinning through the water, at twelve knots. The hatchways were battened
down, and every preparation made for a rough night, for as the darkness
increased, so did the gale.

“The smuggler’s fate is a dark and gloomy one. Let the breeze fall, let
the blue sky and fleecy clouds lie mirrored on the glassy deep, and
straight a boat is seen, sweeping along with sixteen oars, springing
with every jerk of the strong arms, to his capture. And when the white
waves rise like mountains, and the lowering storm descends, sending tons
of water across his decks, and wetting his highest rigging with the
fleecy drift he dares not cry for help; the signal that would speak of
his distress, would be the knell, to toll his ruin. We knew this well.
We felt that come what would, from others, there was nothing to be
hoped. It was then, with agonizing suspense we watched the little craft,
as she worked in the stormy sea; we saw that with every tack, we were
losing. The strong land current that set in shore, told upon us, at
every reach; and when we went about, the dark and beetling cliffs seemed
actually toppling over us, and the wild cries of the sea-fowl, rang,
like a dirge in our ears. The small storm-jib we were obliged to set,
sunk us by the head, and at every pitch the little vessel seemed
threatening to go down, bow foremost.

“Our great endeavour was to round the headland, which forms the southern
shore of the Shannon’s mouth. There is a small sound there, between this
point and the rocks, they call the ‘Blasquets,’ and for this we were
making with all our might. Thus passed our night, and when day broke, a
cheer of joy burst from our little crew, as we beheld the Blasquets on
our weather bow, and saw that the sound lay straight before us. Scarce
had the shout died away, when a man in the rigging cried out--

“‘A sail to windward:’ and the instant after added--‘a man-of-war brig.’

“The skipper sprang on the bulwark, and setting his glass in the
shrouds, examined the object, which, to the naked eye, was barely a haze
in the horizon.

“‘She carries eighteen guns,’ said he slowly, ‘and is steering our
course. I say, O’Kelly, there’s no use in running in shore, to be
pinioned,--what’s to be done?’

“The thought of the information I was in possession of, flashed across
me. Life was never so dear before, but I could not speak. I knew the old
man’s all, was on the venture, I knew, too, if we were attacked, his
resolve was to fight her to the last spar that floated.

“‘Come,’ said he again, ‘there’s a point more south’ard in the wind; we
might haul her close, and make for Galway Bay. Two hours would land the
cargo, at least enough of it, and if the craft must go--’

“A heavy squall struck us as he spoke; the vessel reeled over, till she
laid her channels in the sea. A snap like the report of a shot was
heard, and the topmast came tumbling down upon the deck, the topsail
falling to leeward, and hanging by the bolt-ropes over our gunwale. The
little craft immediately fell off from the wind, and plunged deeper than
ever in the boiling surf; at the same instant a booming sound swept
across the water, and a shot striking the sea near, ricochetted over the
bowsprit, and passed on, dipping and bounding, towards the shore.

“‘She’s one of their newly-built ones,’ said the second-mate, an
Irishman, who chewed his quid of tobacco as he gazed at her, as coolly,
as if he was in a dock-yard. ‘I know the ring of her brass guns.’

“A second and a third flash, followed by two reports, came almost
together, but this time they fell short of us, and passed away in our
wake.

“We cut away the fallen rigging, and seeing nothing for it, now, but to
look to our own safety, we resolved to run the vessel up the bay, and
try if we could not manage to conceal some portions of the cargo, before
the man-o’-war could overtake us. The caves along the shore were all
well known to us, every one of them had served either as a store, or a
place of concealment. The wind, however, freshened every minute; the
storm jib was all we could carry, and this, instead of aiding, dipped us
heavily by the head, while the large ship gained momentarily on us, and
now, her tall masts and white sails lowered close in our wake.

“‘Shall we stave these puncheons?’ said the mate in a whisper to the
skipper; ‘she’ll be aboard of us in no time.’

“The old man made no reply, but his eyes turned from the man-o’-war to
shore, and back again, and his mouth quivered slightly.

“‘They’d better get the hatches open, and heave over that tobacco,’ said
the mate, endeavouring to obtain an answer.

“‘She’s hauled down her signal for us to lie to,’ observed the skipper,
‘and see there, her bow ports are open--here it comes.’

“A bright flash burst out as he spoke, and one blended report was heard,
as the shots skimmed the sea beside us.

“‘Run that long gun aft,’ cried the old fellow, as his eyes flashed and
his colour mounted. ‘I’ll rake their after-deek for them, or I’m
mistaken.

“For the first time the command was not obeyed at once. The men looked
at each other in hesitation, and as if not determined what part to take.

“‘What do you stare at there,’ cried he in a voice of passion, ‘O’Kelly,
up with the old bunting, and let them see who they’ve got to deal with.’

“A brown flag, with a Dutch lion in the centre, was run up the signal-
halliards, and the next minute floated out bravely from our gaff.

“A cheer burst from the man-of-war’s crew, as they beheld the signal of
defiance. Its answer was a smashing discharge from our long swivel, that
tore along their decks, cutting the standing rigging, and wounding
several as it went. The triumph was short-lived for us. Shot after shot
poured in from the brig, which, already to windward, swept our entire
decks; while an incessant: roll of small arms, showed that our challenge
was accepted to the death.

“‘Down, helm,’ said the old man in a whisper to the sailor at the wheel-
-’down, helm;’ while already the spitting waves that danced half a mile
ahead, betokened a reef of rocks, over which at low water a row boat
could not float.

“‘I know it, I know it well,’ was the skippers reply to the muttered
answer of the helmsman.

“By this, time the brig was slackening sail, and still his fire was
maintained as hotly as ever. The distance between us increased at each
moment, and, had we sea-room, it was possible for us yet to escape.

“Our long gun was worked without ceasing, and we could see from time to
time, that a bustle on the deck, denoted the destruction it was dealing;
when suddenly a wild shout burst from one of our men--‘the man-of-war’s
aground, her topsails are aback,’ A mad cheer--the frantic cry of rage
and desperation--broke from us; when, at the instant, a reeling shock
shook us from stem to stern. The little vessel trembled like a living
thing; and then, with a crash like thunder, the hatchways sprang from
their fastenings, and the white sea leaped up, and swept along the deck.
One drowning cry, one last mad yell burst forth.

“‘Three cheers, my boys!’ cried the skipper, raising his cap above his
head.

“Already, she was settling in the sea--the death notes rang out high
over the storm; a wave swept me overboard at the minute, and my latest
consciousness was seeing the old skipper clinging to the bow-sprit,
while his long grey hair was floating wildly behind: but the swooping
sea rolled over and over me. A kind of despairing energy nerved me, and
after being above an hour in the water, I was taken up, still swimming,
by one of the shore boats, which, as the storm abated, had ventured out
to the assistance of the sloop; and thus was I shipwrecked, within a few
hundred yards of the spot, where first I had ventured on the sea--the
only one saved of all the crew. Of the ‘Dart,’ not a spar reached shore;
the breaking sea tore her to atoms.

“The ‘Hornet’ scarcely fared better. She landed eight of her crew, badly
wounded; one man was killed, and she herself was floated only after
months of labour, and never, I believe, went to sea afterwards.

“The sympathy which in Ireland is never refused to misfortune, no matter
how incurred, stood me in stead now; for although every effort was made
by the authorities to discover if any of the smuggler’s crew had reached
shore alive, and large rewards were offered, no one would betray me; and
I lay as safely concealed beneath the thatch of an humble cabin, as
though the proud walls of a baronial castle afforded me their
protection.

“From day to day I used to hear of the hot and eager inquiry going
forward to trace out, by any means, something of the wrecked vessel;
and, at last, news reached me, that a celebrated thief-taker from Dublin
had arrived in the neighbourhood, to assist in the search.

“There was no time to be lost now. Discovery would not only have
perilled my own life, but also have involved those of my kind
protectors. How to leave the village was, however, the difficulty,
Revenue and man-of-war boats, abounded on the Shannon, since the day of
the wreck; the Ennis road was beset by police, who scrutinized every
traveller that passed on the west coast. The alarm was sounded, and no
chance of escape presented itself in that quarter. In this dilemma,
fortune, which so often stood my friend, did not desert me. It chanced
that a strolling company of actors, who had been performing for some
weeks past in Kilrush, were about to set of to Ennistymon, where they
were to give several representations. Nothing could be easier than to
avoid detection in such company; and I soon managed to be included in
the corps, by accepting an engagement as a ‘walking gentleman,’ at a low
salary, and on the next morning found myself seated on the ‘van,’ among
a very motley crew of associates, in whose ways and habits I very soon
contrived to familiarize myself, becoming, before we had gone many
miles, somewhat of a favourite in the party.

“I will not weary you with any account of my strolling life. Every one
knows something of the difficulties which beset the humble drama; and
ours was of the humblest. Joe Hume himself could not have questioned one
solitary item in our budget: and I defy the veriest quibbler on a grand
jury to ‘traverse,’ a spangle on a pair of our theatrical smallclothes.

“Our scenes were two in number: one represented a cottage interior--
pots, kettles, a dresser, and a large fire, being depicted in smoke-
coloured traits thereon--this, with two chairs and a table, was
convertible into a parlour in a private house; and again, by a red-
covered arm-chair, and an old banner, became a baronial hall, or the
saloon in a palace: the second, represented two houses on the flat, with
an open country between them, a mill, a mountain, a stream, and a rustic
bridge inclusive. This, then, was either a Street in a town, a wood, a
garden, or any other out-of-door place of resort, for light comedy
people, lovers, passionate fathers, waiting-maids, robbers, or chorus
singers.

“The chiefs of our corps were Mr. and Mrs. M’Elwain, who, as their names
bespoke, came from the north of Ireland, somewhere near Coleraine, I
fancy, but cannot pretend to accuracy; but I know it was on the borders
of ‘Darry.’

“How, or what, had ever induced a pair of as common-place, matter-of-
fact folk, as ever lived, to take to the Thespian art, heaven can tell.
Had Mr. Mac been a bailiff, and madam a green-groceress, nature would
seem to have dealt fairly with them; he, being a stout, red-faced,
black-bearded tyke, with a thatch of straight black hair, cut in
semicircles over his ears, so as to permit character wigs without
inconvenience, heavy in step, and plodding in gait. She, a tall, raw-
boned woman, of some five-and-forty, with piercing grey eyes, and a
shrill harsh voice, that would have shamed the veriest whistle that ever
piped through a key-hole. Such were the Macbeth and the Lady Macbeth--
the Romeo and Juliet--the Hamlet and Ophelia of the company; but their
appearance was a trifle to the manner and deportment of their style.
Imagine Juliet with a tattered Leghorn bonnet, a Scotch shawl, and a
pair of brown boots, declaiming somewhat in this guise--


“’ Come, _gantle_ night, come loving black-browed night, _Gie_ me my
_Romo!_ and when he shall _dee_, _Tak_ him, and cut him into _leetle_
stars, And he will _mak’_ the face of heaven _sae_ fine, That _a’_ the
_warld_ will be in _lo’e_ with him.’

“With these people I was not destined long to continue. The splendid
delusion of success was soon dispelled; and the golden harvest I was to
reap, settled down into something like four shillings a week, out of
which came stoppages of so many kinds and shapes, that my salary might
have been refused at any moment, under the plea, that there was no coin
of the realm, in which to pay it.

“One by one, every article of my wardrobe went to supply the wants of my
stomach; and I remember well my great coat, preserved with the tenacity
with which a shipwrecked-mariner hoards up his last biscuit, was
converted into mutton, to regale Messrs. Iago, Mercutio, and Cassius,
with Mesdames Ophelia, Jessica, Desdemona, and Co. It would make the
fortune of an artist, could he only have witnessed the preparations for
our entertainment.

“The festival was in honour, of what, the manager was pleased by a
singular figure of speech to call, my ‘benefit;’ the only profit
accruing to me from the aforesaid benefit, being, any satisfaction I
might feel in seeing my name in capitals, and the pleasure of waiting on
the enlightened inhabitants of Kilrush, to solicit their patronage.

“There was something to me of indescribable melancholy in that morning’s
perambulation, for independent of the fact, that I was threatened by one
with the stocks, as a vagabond, another, set a policeman to dog me, as a
suspicious character, and a third, mistook me for, a rat-catcher; the
butcher, with whom I negotiated for the quarter of mutton, came gravely
up, and examined the texture of my raiment, calling in a jury of his
friends to decide, if he wasn’t making a bad bargain.

“Night came, and I saw myself dressed for Petrucio, the character in
which I was to bring down thunders of applause, and fill the treasury to
overflowing. What a conflict of feelings was mine--now rating Catherine
in good round phrase, before the audience--now slipping behind the flats
to witness the progress of the ‘cuisine,’ for which I longed, with the
appetite of starvation,--how the potatoes split their jackets with
laughing, as they bubbled up and down, in the helmet of Coriolanus, for
such I grieve to say was the vessel used on the occasion; the roasting
mutton was presided over by ‘a gentleman of Padua,’ and Christopher Sly
was employed in concocting some punch, which, true to his name, he
tasted so frequently, it was impossible to awake him, towards the last
act.

“It was in the first scene of the fourth act, in which, with the
feelings of a famished wolf, I was obliged to assist at a mock supper on
the stage, with wooden beef, parchment fowls, wax pomegranates, and gilt
goblets, in which only the air prevented a vacuum. Just as I came to the
passage--


‘Come, Kate, sit down--I know you have a stomach, Will you give thanks,
sweet Kate, or else shall I? What is this--mutton?

“At that very moment, as I flung the ‘pine-saddle,’ from one end of the
stage to the other, a savoury odour reached my nose; the clatter of
knives, the crash of plates, the sounds of laughter and merriment, fell
upon my ears--the wretches were at supper! Even the ‘first servant,’ who
should have responded to my wrath, bolted from the stage like a shot,
leaving his place without a moment’s warning; and ‘Catherine, the
sweetest Kate in Christendom, my dainty Kate,’ assured me with her mouth
full, ‘the meat was well, if I were so contented.’ Determined to satisfy
myself on the point--regardless of every thing but my hunger, I rushed
off the stage, and descended like a vulture, in the midst of the supper
party; threats, denunciations, entreaties, were of no use, I wouldn’t go
back; and let the house storm and rage, I had helped myself to a slice
of the joint, and cared for nobody. It was in vain they told me, that
the revenue officer and his family were outrageous with passion; and as
to the apothecary in the stage box, he had paid for six tickets in
‘senna mixture;’ but heaven knows, I wasn’t a case for such a regimen.

“All persuasions failing, Mr. M’Elwain, armed all in proof, rushed at me
with a tin scimitar, while Madame, more violent still, capsized the
helmet and its scalding contents over my person, and nearly flayed me
alive. With frantic energy I seized the joint, and, fighting my way
through the whole company, rushed from the spot.


‘Romans,’ ‘countrymen,’ and ‘lovers,’ ‘Dukes,’ ‘duennas,’ ‘demigods,’
and ‘dancers,’ with a loud yell, joined in the pursuit. Across the stage
we went, amid an uproar, that would have done credit to Pandemonium. I
was ‘nimblest of foot,’ however, and having forced my way through an
‘impracticable’ door, I jumped clean through the wood, and having
tripped up an ‘angel’ that was close on my heels, I seized a candle,
‘thirty-six to the pound,’ and applying it to the edge of the kitchen
aforementioned, bounded madly on, leaving the whole concern wrapped in
flames. Down the street I went, as if bloodhounds were behind me, and
never stopped my wild career until I reached a little eminence at the
end of the town; then I drew my breath, and turned one last look upon
the ‘Theatre Royal.’ It was a glorious spectacle to a revengeful spirit-
-amid the volumes of flame and smoke that rose to heaven, (for the
entire building was now enveloped,) might be seen the discordant mass of
actors and audience, mixed up madly together--Turks, tailors, tumblers,
and tidewaiters, grandees and grocers, imps and innkeepers; there they
were all screaming, in concert, while the light material of the
‘property-room’ was ascending in myriads of sparks. Castles and forests,
baronial halls and robbers’ caves, were mounting to mid-heaven, amid the
flash of blue lights, and the report of stage combustibles.

“You may be sure, that however gratifying to my feelings this last scene
of the drama was, I did not permit myself much leisure to contemplate
its a very palpable conviction staring me full in the face, that such a
spectacle might not exactly redound to my ‘benefit,’ I, therefore,
addressed myself to the road, moralizing as I went, somewhat in this
fashion: I have lost a respectable, but homely suit of apparel; and
instead, I have acquired a green doublet, leathern hose, jack boots, a
douched hat and a feather. Had I played out my part, by this time I
should have been strewing the stage with a mock supper. Now, I was
consoling my feelings with real mutton, which, however, wanting its
ordinary accompaniments, was a delicacy of no common order to me. I had
not it is true, the vociferous applause of a delighted audience to aid
my digestion as Petrucio. But the pleasant whisper of a good conscience,
was a more flattering reward to Con O’Kelly. This balanced the account
in my favour; and I stepped out with that light heart, which is so
unequivocal an evidence of an innocent and happy disposition.

“Towards day-break, I had advanced some miles on the road to Killaloe;
when before me I perceived a drove of horses, coupled together with all
manner of strange tackle, halters, and hay ropes. Two or three country
lads were mounted among them, endeavouring as well as they were able, to
keep them quiet; while a thick, short, red-faced fellow, in dirty
‘tops,’ and a faded green frock led the way, and seemed to preside over
the procession. As I drew near, my appearance caused no common
commotion; the drivers fixing their eyes on me, could mind nothing else;
the cattle, participating in the sentiments, started, capered, plunged,
and neighed fearfully. While the leader of the corps, furious at the
disorder he witnessed, swore like a trooper, as with a tremendous
cutting whip he dashed here and there through the crowd, slashing men
and horses, with a most praiseworthy impartiality. At last, his eyes
fell upon me, and for a moment, I was full sure my fate was sealed; as
he gripped his saddle closer, tightened his curb-rein, and grasped his
powerful whip with redoubled energy.

“The instincts of an art are very powerful; for seeing the attitude of
the man, and beholding the savage expression of his features, I threw
myself into a stage position, slapped down my beaver with one hand, and
drawing my sword with the other, called out in a rich melodramatic howl-
-’Come on, Macduff!’ my look, my gesture, my costume, and above all my
voice, convinced my antagonist that I was insane; and, as quickly the
hard unfeeling character of his face relaxed, and an expression of rude
pity passed across it.

“‘’Tis Billy Muldoon, sir, I’m sure,’ cried one of the boys, as with
difficulty he sat the plunging beast under him.

“‘No, sir,’ shouted another, ‘he’s bigger nor Billy, but he has a look
of Hogan about the eyes.’

“‘Hould your prate,’ cried the master. ‘Sure Hogan was hanged at the
summer assizes.’

“‘I know he was, sir,’ was the answer, given as coolly, as though no
contradiction arose on that score.

“‘Who are you,’ cried the leader? ‘where do you come from?’

“‘From Ephesus, my lord,’ said I, bowing with stage solemnity, and
replacing my sword within my scabbard.

“‘Where?’ shouted he, with his hand to his ear.

“‘From Kilrush, most potent,’ replied I, approaching near enough to
converse without being overheard by the others: while in a few words I
explained, that my costume and appearance were only professional
symbols, which a hasty departure from my friends prevented my changing.

“‘And where are you going now?’ was the next query.

“‘May I ask you the same,’ said I.

“‘Me, why I’m for Killaloe--for the fair tomorrow.’

“‘That’s exactly my destination,’ said I.

“‘And how do you mean to go?’ retorted he, ‘It’s forty miles from here.’

“‘I have a notion,’ replied I, ‘that the dark chesnut there, with the
white fetlock, will have the honour of conveying me.’

“A very peculiar grin, which I did not half admire, was the reply to
this speech.

“‘There’s many a one I wouldn’t take under five shillings from, for the
day,’ said I; ‘but the times are bad, and somehow I like the look of
you. Is it a bargain?’

“‘Faix, I’m half inclined to let you try the same horse,’ said he. ‘It
would be teaching you something, any how. Did ye ever hear of the
Playboy?’

“‘To be sure I did. Is that he?’

“He nodded.

“‘And you’re Dan Moone,’ said I.

“‘The same,’ cried he, in astonishment.

“‘Come, Dan, turn about is fair play. I’ll ride the horse for you to-
morrow--where you like, and over, what you like--and in reward, you’ll
let me mount one of the others as far as Killaloe: we’ll dine together
at the cross roads.’--Here I slipped the mutton from under the tail of
my coat.--‘Do you say done?’

“‘Get upon the gray pony,’ was the short rejoinder; and the next moment
I was seated on the back of as likely a cob as I ever bestrode.

“My first care was to make myself master of my companion’s character,
which I did in a very short time, while affecting to disclose my own,
watching, with a sharp eye, how each portion of my history told upon
him. I saw that he appreciated, with a true horse-dealer’s ‘onction,’
any thing that smacked of trick or stratagem; in fact, he looked upon
all mankind as so many ‘screws,’ he being the cleverest fellow who could
detect their imperfections, and unveil their unsoundness. In proportion
as I recounted to him the pranks and rogueries of my boyish life, his
esteem for me rose higher and higher; and, before the day was over, I
had won so much of his confidence, that he told me the peculiar vice and
iniquity of every horse he had, describing with great satisfaction the
class of purchasers, he had determined to meet with.

“‘There is little Paul there,’ said he, ‘that brown cob, with the
cropped ears, there isn’t such a trotter in Ireland; but somehow, though
you can see his knees from the saddle when he’s moving, he’ll come slap
down with you, as if he was shot, the moment you touch his flank with
the spur, and then there’s no getting him up again, till you brush his
ear with the whip--the least thing does it--he’s on his legs in a
minute, and not a bit the worse of his performance.’

“Among all the narratives he told, this made the deepest impression on
me. That the animal had been taught the accomplishment, there could be
no doubt; and I began to puzzle my brain in what way it might best be
turned to advantage. It was of great consequence to me to impress my
friend at once with a high notion of my powers; and here was an
admirable occasion for their exercise, if I only could hit on a plan.

“The conversation turned on various subjects, and at last, as we neared
Killaloe, my companion began to ponder over the most probable mode I
could be of service to him, on the following day. It was at last agreed
upon, that, on reaching town, I should exchange my Petrucio costume for
that of a ‘squireen,’ or half gentleman; and repair to the ordinary at
the ‘Green-man,’ where nearly all the buyers put up, and all the talk on
sporting matters went forward. This suited me perfectly, I was delighted
to perform a new part, particularly when the filling up was left to my
own discretion. Before an hour elapsed after our arrival, I saw myself
attired in a very imposing suit--blue coat, cords and tops, that would
have fitted me for a very high range of character in my late profession.
O’Kelly was a name, as Pistol says, ‘of good report,’ and there was no
need to change it; so I took my place at the supper-table, among some
forty others, comprising a very fair average of the raffs and raps, of
the county. The mysteries of horse-flesh, were, of course, the only
subject of conversation; and before the punch made its appearance, I
astonished the company by the extent of my information, and the
acuteness of my remarks.

“I improvised steeple-chases over impossible countries, invented
pedigrees for horses yet unfoaled, and threw out such a fund of anecdote
about the ‘turf’ and the ‘chace,’ that I silenced the old established
authorities of the place, and a general buzz went round the table of,
‘Who can he be, at all--where did he come from?’

“As the evening wore apace, my eloquence grew warm--I described my stud
and my kennel, told some very curious instances of my hunting
experience, and when at last a member of the party, piqued at my
monopoly of the conversation, endeavoured to turn my flank by an
allusion to grouse-shooting, I stopped him at once, by asserting with
vehemence, that no man deserved the name of sportsman who shot over
dogs--a sudden silence pervaded the company, while the last speaker
turning towards me with a malicious grin, begged to know how I bagged my
game, for that, in _his_ county, they were ignorant enough to follow the
old method.

“‘With a pony of course,’ said I, finishing my glass.

“‘A pony!’ cried one after the other--how do you mean?’

“‘Why,’ resumed I, ‘that I have a pony sets every species of game, as
true as the best pointer that ever ‘stopped.’

“A hearty roar of laughing followed this declaration, and a less
courageous spirit than mine would have feared that all his acquired
popularity was in danger.

“‘You have him with you, I suppose,’ said a sly old fellow from the end
of the table.

“‘Yes,’ said I carelessly--‘I brought him over here to take a couple of
days’ shooting, if there is any to be had.

“‘You would have no objection,’ said another insinuatingly, ‘to let us
look at the beast?’

“‘Not the least,’ said I.

“‘Maybe you’d take a bet on it,’ said a third.

“‘I fear I couldn’t,’ said I,--‘the thing is too sure--the wager would
be an unfair one.’

“‘Oh! as to that,’ cried three or four together, ‘we’ll take our chance,
for even if we were to lose, it’s well worth paying for.’

“The more I expressed my dislike to bet, the more warmly they pressed
me, and I could perceive that a general impression was spreading that my
pony was about as apocryphal as many of my previous stories.

“‘Ten pounds with you, he doesn’t do it,’ said an old hard-featured
squire.

“‘The same from me,’ cried another.

“‘Two to one in fifties,’ shouted a third, until every man at table had
proffered his wager, and I gravely called for pen, ink, and paper, and
booked them, with all due form.

“‘Now, when is it to come off?’ was the question of some half dozen.

“‘Now, if you like it--the night seems fine.’

“‘No, no,’ said they, laughing, ‘there’s no such hurry as that; to-
morrow we are going to draw Westenra’s cover--what do you say if you
meet us there, by eight o’clock--and we’ll decide the bet.’

“‘Agreed,’ said I; and shaking hands with the whole party, I folded up
my paper, placed it in my pocket, and wished them good night.

“Sleep was, however, the last thing in my thoughts; repairing to the
little public-house where I left my friend Dan, I asked him if he knew
any one well acquainted with the country, and who could tell, at a
moment, where a hare, or a covey was to be found. “‘To be sure,’ said he
at once; ‘there’s a boy below knows every puss and every bird in the
country. Tim Daly would bring you, dark as the night is, to the very
spot where you’d find one.’

“In a few minutes I had made Mr. Tim’s acquaintance, and arranged with
him to meet me at the cover on the following morning, a code of signals
being established between us, by which, he was to convey to me the
information of where a hare was lying, or a covey to be sprung.

“A little before eight I was standing beside ‘Paul’ on the appointed
spot, the centre of an admiring circle, who, whatever their misgivings
as to his boasted skill, had only one opinion about his shapes and
qualities.

“‘Splendid forehand’--‘what legs’--‘look at his quarters’--‘and so deep
in the heart’--were the exclamations heard on every side--till a rosy-
cheeked fat little fellow growing impatient at the delay, cried out--

“‘Come, Mr. O’Kelly, mount if you please, and come along.’

“I tightened my girth--sprang into the saddle--my only care being, to
keep my toes in as straight a line as I could, with my feet. Before we
proceeded half a mile, I saw Tim seated on a stile, scratching his head
in a very knowing manner; upon which, I rode out from the party, and
looking intently at the furze cover in front, called out--

“‘Keep back the dogs there--call them off--hush, not a word.’

“The hounds were called in, the party reined back their horses, and all
sat silent spectators of my movements.

“When suddenly I touched ‘Paul’ in both flanks, down he dropped, like a
parish clerk, stiff and motionless as a statue.

“‘What’s that?’ cried two or three behind.

“‘He’s setting, said I, in a whisper.

“‘What is it, though?’ said one.

“‘A hare!’ said I, and at the same instant I shouted to lay on the dogs,
and tipping Paul’s ears, forward I went. Out bolted puss, and away we
started across the country, I leading, and taking all before me.

“We killed in half an hour, and found ourselves not far from the first
cover; my friend Tim, being as before in advance, making the same signal
as at first. The same performance was now repeated. ‘Paul’ went through
his part to perfection; and notwithstanding the losses, a general cheer
saluted us as we sprung to our legs, and dashed after the dogs.

“Of course I didn’t spare him: everything now depended on my sustaining
our united fame; and there was nothing too high or too wide for me, that
morning.

“‘What will you take for him, Mr. O’Kelly?’ was the question of each
man, as he came up to the last field.

“‘Would you like any further proof?’ said I. ‘Is any gentleman
dissatisfied?’

“A general ‘No’ was the answer; and again the offers were received from
every quarter, while they produced the bank-notes, and settled their
bets. It was no part of my game, however, to sell him; the trick might
be discovered before I left the country, and if so, there wouldn’t be a
whole bone remaining in my skin.

“My refusal evidently heightened both _my_ value and _his_, and I
sincerely believe there was no story I could tell, on our ride back to
town, which would not have met credence that morning; and, indeed, to do
myself justice, I tried my popularity to its utmost.

“By way of a short cut back, as the fair was to begin at noon, we took a
different route, which led across some grass fields, and a small river.
In traversing this, I unfortunately was in the middle of some miraculous
anecdote, and entirely forgot my pony and his acquirements; and as he
stopped to drink, without thinking of what I was doing, with the common
instinct of a rider, I touched him with the spur. Scarcely had the rowel
reached his side, when down he fell, sending me head foremost over his
neck into the water. For a second or two the strength of the current
carried me along, and it was only after a devil of a scramble I gained
my legs, and reached the bank wet through, and heartily ashamed of
myself.

“‘Eh, O’Kelly, what the deuce was that?’ cried one of the party, as a
roar of laughter broke from amongst them.

“‘Ah!’ said I, mournfully,’ I wasn’t quick enough/

“‘Quick enough!’ cried they. ‘Egad, I never saw anything like it. Why,
man, you were shot off like an arrow.’

“‘Leaped off, if you please,’ said I, with an air of an offended
dignity--‘leaped off--didn’t you see it?’

“‘See what?’

“‘The salmon, to be sure. A twelve-pounder, as sure as my name’s
O’Kelly. He “set” it.’

“‘Set a salmon!’ shouted twenty voices in a breath. ‘The thing’s
impossible.’

“‘Would you like a bet on it?’ asked I drily.

“‘No, no--damn it; no more bets; but surely----’

“‘Too provoking, after all,’ muttered I, ‘to have lost so fine a fish,
and get such a ducking’; and with that I mounted my barb, and, waving my
hand, wished them a good-bye, and galloped into Killaloe.

“This story I have only related, because, insignificant as it was, it
became in a manner the pivot of my then fate in life. The jockey at once
made me an offer of partnership in his traffic, displaying before me the
numerous advantages of such a proposal. I was a disengaged man--my
prospects not peculiarly brilliant--the state of my exchequer by no
means encouraging the favourite nostrum of a return to cash payments,
and so I acceded, and entered at once upon my new profession with all
the enthusiasm I was always able to command, no matter what line of life
solicited my adoption.

“But it’s near one o’clock, and so now, Mr. O’Leary, if you’ve no
objection, we’ll have a grill and a glass of Madeira, and then, if you
can keep awake an hour or so longer, I’ll try and finish my adventures.”



CHAPTER VII. O’KELLY’S TALE.--CONTINUED.

“I left off at that flattering portion of my history where I became a
horse-dealer; in this capacity I travelled over a considerable portion
of Ireland, now larking it in the West--jollifying in the South--and
occasionally suffering a penance for both enjoyments, by a stray trip to
Ulster. In these rambles I contrived to make acquaintance with most of
the resident gentry, who, by the special freemasonry that attends my
calling, scrupled not to treat me on terms of half equality, and even
invite me to their houses--a piece of condescension on their part, which
they well knew was paid for, in more solid advantages.

“In a word, Mr. O’Leary, I became a kind of moral amphibia, with powers
to sustain life in two distinct and opposite elements--now brushing my
way among frieze-coated farmers, trainers, dealers, sharpers, and
stablemen; now floating on the surface of a politer world, where the
topics of conversation took a different range, and were couched in a
very different vocabulary.

“My knowledge of French, and my acquaintance with Parisian life, at
least as seen in that class in which I used to mix, added to a kind of
natural tact, made me, as far as manners and ‘usage’ were concerned,
fully the equal of those with whom I associated; and I managed matters
so well, that the circumstance of my being seen in the morning with
cords and tops of jockey cut, showing off a ‘screw,’ or extolling the
symmetry of a spavined hackney, never interfered with the pretensions I
put forward at night, when, arranged in suit of accurate black, I turned
over the last new opera, or delivered a very scientific criticism on the
new ‘ballet’ in London, or the latest fashion imported from the
Continent.

“Were I to trace back this part of my career, I might perhaps amuse you
more by the incidents it contained, than by any other portion of my
life; nothing indeed is so suggestive of adventure, as that anomaly
which the French denominate so significantly--‘a false position,’ The
man who--come, come, don’t be afraid, though that sounds very like
Joseph Surface, I’m not going to moralize--the man, I say, who
endeavours to sustain two distinct lines in life, is very likely to fail
in both, and so I felt it, for while my advantages all inclined to one
side, my taste and predilections leaned to the other; I could never
adopt knavery as a profession--as an amateur I gloried in it: roguery,
without risk, was a poor pettifogging policy that I spurned; but a
practical joke that involved life or limb, a hearty laugh, or a heavy
reckoning, was a temptation I never could resist. The more I mixed in
society, the greater my intimacy with persons of education and
refinement, the stronger became my repugnance to my actual condition,
and the line of life I had adopted. While my position in society was
apparently more fixed, I became in reality more nervously anxious for
its stability. The fascinations which in the better walks of life are
thrown around the man of humble condition, but high aspirings, are
strong and sore temptations, while he measures and finds himself not
inferior to others, to whom the race is open, and the course is free,
and yet feels in his own heart, that there is a bar upon his escutcheon
which excludes him from the lists. I began now to experience this in all
its poignancy. Among the acquaintances I had formed, one of my most
intimate was a young baronet, who had just succeeded to a large estate
in the county Kilkenny. Sir Harvey Blundell was an Anglo-Irishman in
more than one sense: from his English father he had inherited certain
staid and quiet notions of propriety, certain conventional ideas
regarding the observance of etiquette, which are less valued in Ireland;
while, from his mother, he succeeded to an appreciation of native fun
and drollery, of all the whims and oddities of Irish life, which,
strange enough, are as well understood by the Anglo-Irishman, as by one
‘to the manner born.’

“I met Sir Harvey at a supper party in College. Some song I had sung of
my own composing, or some story of my inventing, I forget which, tickled
his fancy: he begged to be introduced to me, drew his chair over to my
side of the table, and ended by giving an invitation to his house for
the partridge-shooting, which was to begin in a few days; I readily
assented--it was a season in which I had nothing to do, my friend Dan
had gone over to the Highlands to make a purchase of some ponies; I was
rather flush of cash, and consequently in good spirits. It was arranged,
then, that I should drive him down in my drag, a turn-out with four
spanking greys, of whose match and colour, shape and action, I was not a
little vain.

“We posted to Carlow, to which place I had sent on my horses, and
arrived the same evening at Sir Harvey’s house, in time for dinner. This
was the first acquaintance I had made, independent of my profession. Sir
Harvey knew me, as Mr. O’Kelly whom he met at an old friend’s chambers
in College; and he introduced me thus to his company, adding to his
intimates in a whisper I could overhear--‘devilish fast fellow, up to
every thing--knows life at home, and abroad, and has such a team!’ Here
were requisites enough, in all conscience, to win favour among any set
of young country-gentlemen, and I soon found myself surrounded by a
circle, who listened to my opinions on every subject, and recorded my
judgments, with the most implicit faith in their wisdom, no matter on
what I talked, women, wine, the drama, play, sporting, debts, duns, or
duels, my word was law.

“Two circumstances considerably aided me in my present supremacy: first,
Sir Harvey’s friends were all young men from Oxford, who knew little of
the world, and less of that part of it called Ireland; and secondly,
they were all strangers to me, and consequently my liberty of speech was
untrammelled by any unpleasant reminiscences of dealing, in fairs or
auctions.

“The establishment was presided over by Sir Harvey’s sister, at least,
nominally so--her presence being a reason for having ladies at his
parties; and although she was only nineteen, she gave a tone and
character to the habits of the house, which, without her, it never could
have possessed. Miss Blundell was a very charming person, combining in
herself two qualities which, added to beauty, made a very irresistible
_ensemble_: she had the greatest flow of spirits, with a retiring and
almost timidly bashful disposition: courage for any thing, and a
delicacy that shrunk abashed from all that bordered on display, or bore
the slightest semblance of effrontery. I shall say no more, than that
before I was a week in the house, I was over head and ears in love with
her; my whole thoughts centred in her; my whole endeavour, to show
myself in such a light as might win her favour.

“Every accomplishment I possessed--every art and power of amusing, urged
to the utmost by the desire to succeed, I exerted in her service; and at
last perceived, that she was not indifferent to me. Then, and then for
the first time, came the thought--who was I, that dared to do this--what
had I of station, rank, or wealth, to entitle me to sue--perhaps to
gain, the affections, of one placed like her? The whole duplicity of my
conduct started up before me, and I saw for the first time, how the mere
ardour of pursuit had led me on and on--how the daring to surmount a
difficulty, had stirred my heart, at first to win, and then to worship
her: and the bitterness of my self-reproach at that moment became a
punishment, which, even now, I remember with a shudder. It is too true!
The great misfortunes of life form more endurable subjects for memory in
old age, than the instances, however trivial, where we have acted amiss,
and where conscience rebukes us. I have had my share of calamity, one
way or other--my life has been more than once in peril--and in such
peril as might well shake the nerve of the boldest: but I can think on
all these, and do think on them, often, without fear or heart-failing;
but never can I face the hours, when my own immediate self-love and
vanity brought their own penalty on me, without a sense of self-
abasement, as vivid as the moment I first experienced it. But I must
hasten over this. I had been now about six weeks in Sir Harvey’s house,
day after day determining on my departure, and invariably yielding when
the time came, to some new request to stay for something or other--now,
a day’s fishing on the Nore--now, another morning at the partridge--
then, there was--a boat-race, or a music-party, or a pic-nic, in fact
each day led on to another, and I found myself lingering on, unable to
tear myself from where, I felt, my remaining was ruin.

“At last I made up my mind, and determined, come what would, to take my
leave, never to return. I mentioned to Sir Harvey in the morning that
some matter of importance required my presence in town, and, by a half
promise to spend my Christmas with him, obtained his consent to my
departure.

“We were returning from an evening walk--Miss Blundell was leaning on my
arm--we were the last of the party who, by some chance or other, had
gone forward, leaving us to follow alone. For some time neither of us
spoke: what were her thoughts, I cannot guess: mine were, I acknowledge,
entirely fixed upon the hour I was to see her for the last time, while I
balanced whether I should speak of my approaching departure, or leave
her without even a ‘good-bye.’

“I did not know at the time so well as I now do, how much of the
interest I had excited in her heart depended on the mystery of my life.
The stray hints I now and then dropped--the stories into which I was
occasionally led--the wild scenes and wilder adventures, in which I bore
my part--had done more than stimulate her curiosity concerning me. This,
I repeat, I knew not at the the time, and the secret of my career
weighed like a crime upon my conscience. I hesitated long whether I
should not disclose every circumstance of my life, and, by the avowal of
my utter un-worthiness, repair, as far as might be, the injury I had
done her. Then came that fatal ‘_amour-propre_’ that involved me
originally in the pursuit, and I was silent. We had not been many
minutes thus, when a servant came from the house to inform Miss Blundell
that her cousin, Captain Douglas, had arrived. As she nodded her head in
reply, I perceived the colour mounted to her cheek, and an expression of
agitation passed over her features.

“‘Who is Captain Douglas?’ said I, without, however, venturing to look
more fully at her.

“‘Oh! a cousin, a second or third cousin, I believe; but a great friend
of Harvey’s.’

“‘And of his sister’s too, if I might presume so far?’

“‘Quite wrong for once,’ said she, with an effort to seem at ease: ‘he’s
not the least a favourite of mine, although----’

“‘_You_ are of his!’ I added quickly. ‘Well, well, I really beg pardon
for this boldness of mine.’ How I was about to continue, I know not,
when her brother’s voice, calling her aloud, broke off all further
conversation.

“‘Come, Fanny,’ said he, ‘here’s Harry Douglas, just come with all the
London gossip--he’s been to Windsor too, and has been dining with the
Prince. O’Kelly, you must know Douglas, you are just the men to suit
each other.--He’s got a heavy book on the Derby, and will be delighted
to have a chat with you about the turf.

“As I followed Miss Blundell into the drawing-room, my heart was heavy
and depressed.

“Few of the misfortunes in life come on us without foreboding. The
clouds that usher in the storm, cast their shadows on the earth before
they break; and so it is with our fate. A gloomy sense of coming evil,
presages the blow about to fall, and he who would not be stunned by the
stroke, must not neglect the warning.

“The room was full of people--the ordinary buzz and chit-chat of an
evening-party was going forward, and an hundred pleasant projects were
forming for the next day’s amusement, among which, I heard my name
bandied about, on every side.

“‘O’Kelly will arrange this,’ cried one--‘leave it all to O’Kelly--he
must decide it;’ and so on, when suddenly Blundell called out--

“‘O’Kelly, come up here,’ and then taking me by the arm, he led me to
the end of the room, where with his back turned towards us, a tall
fashionable-looking man was talking to his sister.

“‘Harry,’ cried the host, as he touched his elbow, ‘let me introduce a
very particular friend of mine--Mr. O’Kelly.’

“Captain Douglas wheeled sharply round, and, fixing on me a pair of dark
eyes, overshadowed with heavy beetling brows, looked at me sternly
without speaking. A cold thrill ran through me from head to foot as I
met his gaze; the last time we had seen each other was in a square of
the Royal Barracks, where _he_, was purchasing a remount for his troop,
and _I_, was the horse-dealer.

“‘_Your_ friend, Mr. O’Kelly!’ said he, as he fixed his glass in his
eye, and a most insulting curl, half smile, half sneer, played about his
mouth.

“‘How very absurd you are, Harry,’ said Miss Blundell, endeavouring by
an allusion to something they were speaking of, to relieve the excessive
awkwardness of the moment.

“‘Yes, to be sure, _my_ friend,’ chimed in Sir Harvey, ‘and a devilish
good fellow too, and the best judge of horse-flesh.’

“‘I havn’t a doubt of it,’ was the dry remark of the Captain; ‘but how
did he get here?’

“‘Sir,’ said I, in a voice scarce audible with passion, ‘whatever, or
whoever I am, by birth at least I am fully your equal.’

“‘D----n your pedigree,’ said he coolly.

“‘Why, Harry, interrupted Blundell: ‘what are you thinking of? Mr.
O’Kelly is----’

“‘A jockey--a horse-dealer, if you will, and the best hand at passing
off a screw, I’ve met for some time. I say, sir,’ continued he in a
louder tone, ‘that roan charger hasn’t answered his warranty--he stands
at Dycer’s for you.’

“Had a thunderbolt fallen in the midst of us, the consternation could
not have been greater--as for me, everything around bore a look of
mockery and scorn: derision and contempt sat on every feature, and a
wild uncertainty of purpose, like coming insanity, flitted through my
brain: what I said, or how I quitted the spot, I am unable to say; my
last remembrance of that accursed moment was the burst of horrid
laughter that filled my ears, as I rushed out. I almost think that I
hear it still, like the yell of the furies; its very cadence was
torture. I ran from the house--I crossed the fields without a thought of
whither I was going--escape, concealment, my only object. I sought to
hide myself for ever from the eyes of those who had looked upon me with
such withering contempt; and I would have been thankful to him who would
have given me refuge, beneath the dank grass of the churchyard.

“Never did a guilty man fly from the scene of his crime with more
precipitate haste, than did I from the spot which had witnessed my
shame, and degradation. At every step, I thought of the cruel speeches,
the harsh railings, and the bitter irony, of all, before whom, but one
hour ago, I stood chief and pre-eminent; and although I vowed to myself
never to meet any of them again, I could not pluck from my heart the
innate sense of my despicable condition, and how low I must now stand in
the estimation of the very lowest, I had so late looked down upon. And
here let me passingly remark, that while we often hold lightly the
praise of those, upon whose powers of judgment and reach of information
we place little value, by some strange contrariety we feel most bitterly
the censure of these very people, whenever any trivial circumstance, any
small or petty observance with which they are acquainted, gives them,
for the time, the power of an opinion. The mere fact of our contempt for
them adds a poignancy to their condemnation, and I question much if we
do not bear up better against the censure of the wise, than the scoff of
the ignorant.

“On I went, and on, never even turning my head; for though I had left
all the little wealth I possessed in the world, I would gladly have
given it, ten times told, to have blotted out even a particle of the
shame that rested on my character. Scarcely had I reached the high road,
when I heard the quick tramp of horses, and the rattle of wheels behind
me; and, so strong were the instincts of my fear, that I scarcely dared
to look back; at length I did so, and beheld the mail-coach coming
towards me at a rapid pace. As it neared, I hailed the coachman, and
without an inquiry as to where it was going, I sprung up to a place on
the roof, thankful that ere long I should leave miles between me, and my
torturers.

“The same evening we arrived in Cork; during the journey I made
acquaintance with a sergeant of a light dragoon regiment, who was
proceeding in charge of three recruits, to the depot at Cove. With the
quick eye of his calling, the fellow saw something in my dispirited
state that promised success to his wishes; and he immediately began the
thousand-times-told tale of the happiness of a soldier’s life. I stopped
him short at once, for my mind was already made up, and before the day
broke, I had enlisted in his Majesty’s Twelfth Light Dragoons, at that
time serving in America.

“If I have spared you the recital of many passages in my life, whose
painful memory would hurt me to call up, I shall also pass over this
portion of my career, which, though not marked by any distinct feature
of calamity, was, perhaps, the most painful I ever knew. He who thinks
that in joining the ranks or an army, his only trials will be the
severity of an unaccustomed discipline, and the common hardship of a
soldier’s life, takes but a very shallow view of what is before him.
Coarse and vulgar associates--depraved tastes and brutal habits--the
ribald jest of the barrack-room--the comrade spirit of a class, the very
lowest and meanest--these are the trials, the almost insupportable
trials, of him who has known better days.

“As hour by hour, he finds himself yielding to the gradual pressure of
his fate, and feels his mind assuming, one by one, the prejudices of
those about him, his self-esteem falls with his condition, and he sees
that the time is not distant, when all inequality between him and his
fellows shall cease, and every trait of his former self be washed away,
for ever.

“After four months of such endurance as I dare not even now suffer
myself to dwell upon, orders arrived at Cove for the recruits of the
different regiments at once to proceed to Chatham, whence they were to
be forwarded to their respective corps. I believe in my heart, had this
order not come, I should have deserted; so unendurable had my life
become. The thought of active service, the prospect of advancement,
however remote, cheered my spirits, and, for the first time since I
joined, my heart was light on the morning when the old ‘Northumberland’
transport anchored in the harbour, and the signal for embarking the
troops floated from the mast-head. A motley crew we were--frieze-coated,
red-coated, and no-coated; some, ruddy-cheeked farmer’s boys, sturdy
good-humoured fellows, with the bloom of country life upon their faces;
some, the pale, sickly, inhabitants of towns, whose sharpened features
and quick penetrating eyes, betokened how much their wits had
contributed to their maintenance. A few there were, like myself, drawn
from a better class, but already scarce distinguishable amid the herd.
We were nearly five hundred in number, one feature of equality pervading
all--none of us had any arms. Some instances of revolt and mutiny that
had occurred, a short time previous, on board troop-ships, had induced
the Horse Guards to adopt this resolution, and a general order was
issued, that the recruits should not receive arms before their arrival
at Chatham. At last we weighed anchor, and, with a light easy wind stood
out to sea; it was the first time I had been afloat for many a long day,
and as I leaned over the bulwark, and heard the light rustle of the
waves as they broke on the cut-water, and watched the white foam as it
rippled past, I thought on the old days of my smuggling life, when I
trod the plank of my little craft, with a step as light and a heart as
free, as ever did the proudest admiral on the poop-deck of his three-
decker; and as I remembered what I then had been, and thought of what I
now was, a growing melancholy settled on me, and I sat apart and spoke
to none.

“On the third night after we sailed, the breeze, which had set in at
sunset, increased considerably, and a heavy sea rolled in from the
westward. Now, although the weather was not such as to endanger the
safety of a good ship with an able crew, yet was it by no means a matter
of indifference in an old rotten craft like the ‘Northumberland,’
condemned half a dozen years before, and barely able to make her voyage
in light winds and fine weather. Our skipper knew this well, and I could
see by the agitation of his features, and the altered tones of his
voice, how little he liked the freshening gale, and the low moaning
sound that swept along the sea, and threatened a storm. The pumps had
been at work for some hours, and it was clear that the most we could do,
was to keep the water from gaining on us. A chance observation of mine
had attracted the skipper’s attention, and after a few minutes’
conversation he saw that I was a seaman, not only better informed, but
more habituated to danger than himself; he was, therefore, glad to take
counsel from me, and at my suggestion a spare sail was bent, and passed
under the ship’s bottom, which soon succeeded in arresting the progress
of the leak, and, at the same time, assisted the vessel’s sailing.
Meanwhile the storm was increasing, and it now blew what the sailors
call ‘great guns.’

“We were staggering along under light canvas, when the lookout-a-head
announced a light on the weather-bow; it was evidently coming towards
us, and scarce half a mile distant; we had no more than time to hang out
a lantern in the tops and put up the helm, when a large ship, whose
sides rose several feet above our own, swept by us, and so close, that
her yard-arms actually touched our rigging as she yawed over in the sea.
A muttered thanksgiving for our escape, for such it was, broke from
every lip; and hardly was it uttered, when again a voice cried out,
‘here she comes to leeward,’ and sure enough the dark shadow of the
large mass moving at a speed far greater than ours, passed under our
lee, while a harsh summons was shouted out to know who we were, and
whither bound. ‘The Northumberland,’ with troops, was the answer; and
before the words were well out, a banging noise was heard--the ports of
the stranger ship were flung open, a bright flash, like a line of flame,
ran her entire length, and a raking broadside was poured into us. The
old transport reeled over and trembled like a thing of life,--her
shattered sides and torn bulwarks let in the water as she heeled to the
shock, and for an instant, as she bent beneath the storm, I thought she
was settling, to go down by the head. I had little time, however, for
thought: one wild cheer broke from the attacking ship--its answer was
the faint, sad cry, of the wounded and dying on our deck. The next
moment the grapples were thrown into us, and the vessel was boarded from
stem to stern. The noise of the cannonade, and the voices on deck,
brought all our men from below, who came tumbling up the hatches,
believing we had struck.

“Then began a scene, such as all I have ever witnessed of carnage and
slaughter cannot equal. The Frenchmen, for such they were, rushed down
upon us as we stood defenceless, and unarmed; a deadly roll of musketry
swept our thick and trembling masses. The cutlass and the boarding-pike
made fearful havoc among us, and an unresisted slaughter tore along our
deck, till the heaps of dead and dying made the only barrier for the few
remaining.

“A chance word in French, and a sign of masonry, rescued me from the
fate of my comrades, and my only injury was a slight sabre-wound in the
fore-arm, which I received in warding off a cut intended for my head.
The carnage lasted scarce fifteen minutes; but in that time, of all the
crew that manned our craft--what between those who leaped overboard in
wild despair, and those who fell beneath fire and steel--scarce twenty
remained, appalled and trembling, the only ones rescued from this
horrible slaughter.

“A sudden cry of ‘she’s sinking!’ burst from the strange ship, and in a
moment the Frenchmen clambered up their bulwarks, the grapples were cast
off, the dark mass darted onwards on her course, and we, drifted away to
leeward--a moving sepulchre!

“As the clouds flew past, the moon shone out and threw a pale sickly
light on the scene of slaughter, where the dead and dying lay in
indiscriminate heaps together--so frightful a spectacle never did eye
rest upon! The few who, like myself, survived, stood trembling, half
stunned by the shock, not daring to assist the wretched men at they
writhed in agony before us. I was the first to recover from this stupor,
and turning to the others, I made signs to clear the decks of the dead
bodies--speak I could not. It was some time before they could be made to
understand me; unhappily, not a single sailor had escaped the carnage; a
few raw recruits were the only survivors of that dreadful night.

“After a little they rallied so far as to obey me, and I, taking the
wheel, assumed the command of the vessel, and endeavoured to steer a
course for any port on the west coast of England.

“Day broke at length, but a wide waste of waters lay around us: the wind
had abated considerably, but still the sea ran high; and although our
foresail and trysail remained bent, as before the attack, we laboured
heavily, and made little way through the water. Our decks were quite
covered with the dying, whose heart-rending cries, mingled with the
wilder shouts of madness, were too horrible to bear. But I cannot dwell
on such a picture. Of the little party who survived, scarcely three were
serviceable: some sat cold and speechless from terror, and seemed
insensible to every threat or entreaty; some sternly refused to obey my
orders, and prowled about between decks in search of spirits; and one,
maddened by the horrors he beheld, sprang with a scream into the sea,
and never was seen more.

“Towards evening we heard a hail, and on looking put saw a pilot-boat
making for us, and in a short time we were boarded by a pilot, who, with
some of his crew, took the vessel into their hands, and before sunset we
anchored in Milford.

“Immediately on landing, I was sent up to London under a strong escort,
to give an account of the whole affair to the Admiralty. For eight days
my examination was continued during several hours every day, and at last
I was dismissed, with promotion to the rank of sergeant, for my conduct
in saving the ship, and appointed to the fortieth foot, then under
orders for Quebec.

“Once more at sea and in good spirits, I sailed for Quebec on a fine
morning in April, on board the ‘Abercrombie.’ Nothing could be more
delightful than the voyage: the weather was clear, with a fair fresh
breeze and a smooth sea; and at the third week we dropped our lead on
the green bank of Newfoundland, and brought up again a cod fish, every
time we heaved it. We now entered the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and began
anxiously to look for land.

“On the third morning after we made the ‘Gulf,’ a heavy snow-storm came
on, which prevented our seeing a cable’s length ahead of us. It was so
cold too, that few remained on deck; for although the first of May, it
was about as severe a day as I remember. Anxious to see something of the
country, I remained with the lookout-a-head, straining my eyes to catch
a glimpse of the land through the dense snow-drift. All I could
distinguish, however, was the dim outline of distant mountains,
apparently covered with snow; but, as the day wore on, we came in sight
of the long low island of Anticosti, which, though considerably more
than a hundred miles in length, is not, in any part, more than fifteen
feet above the level of the water.

“Towards evening the land became much clearer to view; and now I could
perceive tall, peaked mountains some thousand feet in height, their
bases clad with stunted pine-trees--their white summits stretching away
into the clouds. As I looked, my astonishment was great, to find that
the vast gulf, which at day-break was some sixty miles in width, seemed
now diminished to about eight or ten, and continued to narrow rapidly,
as we proceeded on our course.

“The skipper, who had only made the voyage once before, seemed himself
confused, and endeavoured to explain our apparent vicinity to the land,
as some mere optical delusion--now, attributing it to something in the
refraction of the light; now, the snow: but although he spoke with all
the assurance of knowledge, it was evident to me, that he was by no
means satisfied in his own mind, of the facts he presented to ours.

“As the snow-storm abated, we could see that the mountains which lay on
either side of us, met each other in front, forming a vast amphitheatre
without any exit.

“This surely is not the Gulf of St. Lawrence?’ said I to an old sailor
who sat leisurely chewing tobacco with his back to the capstern.

“‘No, that it ain’t,’ said he coolly; ‘it’s Gaspé Bay, and I shouldn’t
wish to be in a worse place.’

“What could have brought us here then? the skipper surely doesn’t know
where we are?’

“I’ll tell you what has brought us here. There’s a current from the Gulf
stream sets in to this bay, at seven, or eight knots the hour, and
brings in all the floating ice along with it--There, am I right? do you
hear that?’

“As he spoke, a tremendous crash, almost as loud as thunder, was heard
at our bow; and as I rushed to the bulwark and looked over, I beheld
vast fragments of ice more than a foot thick, encrusted with frozen
snow, flying past us in circling eddies; while further on, the large
flakes were mounting, one above the other, clattering, and crashing, as
the waves broke among them. Heaven knows how much farther our mulish
Cumberland skipper would have pursued his voyage of discovery, had not
the soundings proclaimed but five fathom water. Our sails were now
backed; but as the current continued to bear us along, a boat was got
out, and an anchor put in readiness to warp us astern; but by an unhappy
accident the anchor slipped in lowering over the side, stove in the
boat, and of the four poor fellows who were under it, one was carried
under the ice, and never seen again. This was a sad beginning, and
matters now appeared each moment more threatening. As we still continued
to drift with the current, a bower-anchor was dropped where we were, and
the vessel afterwards swung round, head to wind, while the ice came
crashing upon the cut-water, and on the sides, with a noise that made
all else inaudible. It was found by this time that the water was
shoaling, and this gave new cause for fear; for if the ship were to
touch the ground; it was clear, all chance of saving her was at an end.

“After a number of different opinions given and canvassed, it was
determined that four men should be sent ashore in the yawl, to find out
some one who knew the pilotage of the bay; for we could descry several
log-huts along the shore, at short distances from each other. With my
officer’s permission, I obtained leave to make one of this party, and I
soon found myself tugging away at the bow-oar through a heavy surf,
whose difficulty was tenfold increased by the fragments of ice that
floated past. After rowing about an hour, the twilight began to fall,
and we could but faintly perceive the outline of the ship, while the
log-huts on shore seemed scarcely nearer than at the moment when we
quitted the vessel. By this time, large fields of ice were about us on
every side; rowing was no longer possible, and we groped along with our
boat-hooks, finding a channel, where we could avoid the floating masses.

“The peril of this proceeding grew with every moment; sometimes our
frail boat would be struck with such force as threatened to stave in
every plank; sometimes was she driven high upon a piece of ice, which
took all our efforts to extricate her from, while, as we advanced, no
passage presented itself before us, but flake upon flake of frozen
matter, among which were fragments of wrecks, and branches of trees,
mixed up together. The sailors, who had undertaken the enterprise
against their will, now resolved they would venture no further, but make
their way back to the ship while it was yet possible. I alone opposed
this plan--to return, without at least having reached the shore, I told
them, would be a disgrace, the safety of all on board was in a manner
committed to our efforts; and I endeavoured by every argument to induce
them to proceed. To no purpose did I tell them this; of no use was it
that I pointed out the lights on shore, which we could now see moving
from place to place, as though we had been perceived, and that some
preparations were making for our rescue. I was outvoted, however: back
they would go; and one of them as he pushed the boat’s head round,
jeeringly said to me--

“‘Why, with such jolly good foot-way, don’t you go yourself? you’ll have
all the honour, you know.’

“The taunt stung me to the quick, the more as it called forth a laugh
from the rest. I made no answer, but seizing a boat-hook, sprang over
the side upon a large mass of ice. The action drove the boat from me. I
heard them call to me to come back; but come what would, my mind was
made up. I never turned my head, but with my eyes fixed on the shore-
lights, I dashed on, glad to find that with every stroke of the sea the
ice was borne onwards towards the land. At length the sound of the
breakers ahead, made me fearful of venturing farther; for as the
darkness fell, I had to trust entirely to my hearing as my guide. I
stood then rooted to the spot, and as the wind whistled past, and the
snow-drift was borne in eddying currents by me, I drove my boat-hook
into the ice, and held on firmly by it. Suddenly, through the gloom a
bright flash flared out, and then I could see it flitting along, and at
last, I thought I could mark it, directing its course towards the ship;
I strained my eyes to their utmost, and in an ecstasy of joy I shouted
aloud, as I beheld a canoe manned by Indians, with a pine torch blazing
in the prow. The red light of the burning wood lit up their wild figures
as they came along--now carrying their light bark over the fields of
ice; now launching it into the boiling surf, and thus, alternately
walking, and sailing, they came at a speed almost inconceivable. They
soon heard my shouts, and directed their course to where I stood; but
the excitement of my danger, the dreadful alternations of hope and fear
thus suddenly ceasing, so stunned me that I could not speak, as they
took me in their arms and placed me in the bottom of the canoe. Of our
course back to shore I remember little: the intense cold, added to the
stupefaction of my mind, brought on a state resembling sleep; and even
when they lifted me on land, the drowsy lethargy clung to me; and only
when I found myself beside the blaze of a wood-fire, did my faculties
begin to revive, and, like a seal under the rays of the sun, did I warm
into life, once more. The first thing I did, when morning broke, was to
spring from my resting-place beside the fire, and rush out, to look for
the ship. The sun was shining brilliantly--the bay lay calm as a mirror
before me, reflecting the tall mountains and the taper pines: but the
ship was gone, not a sail appeared in sight; and I now learned, that
when the tide began to make, and she was enabled to float, a land breeze
sprung up which carried her gently out to sea, and that she was in all
likelihood, by that time, some thirty miles in her course up the St.
Lawrence. For a moment, my joy at the deliverance of my companions was
unchecked by any thought of my own desolate condition; the next minute,
I remembered myself, and sat down upon a stone, and gazed out upon the
wide waters with a sad and sinking heart.”



CHAPTER VIII. MR. O’KELLY’S TALE.--CONCLUDED

“Life had presented too many vicissitudes before me, to make much
difference in my temperament, whatever came uppermost. Like the gambler,
who if he lose to-day, goes off consoling himself, that he may be a
winner to-morrow, I had learned never to feel very acutely any
misfortune, provided only that I could see some prospect of its not
being permanent:--and how many are there who go through the world in
this fashion, getting the credit all the while of being such true
philosophers, so much elevated above the chances and changes of fortune,
and who, after all, only apply to the game of life the same rule of
action they practise at the ‘_rouge et noir_’ table.

“The worthy folks among whom my lot was now cast, were a tribe of red
men, called the Gaspé Indians, who, among other pastimes peculiar to
themselves, followed the respectable and ancient trade, of wreckers, in
which occupation the months of October and November usually supplied
them with as much as they could do--after that, the ice closed in, on
the bay and no vessel could pass up or down the St. Lawrence, before the
following spring.

“It was for some time to me a puzzle, how people so completely barbarous
as they were, possessed such comfortable and well-appointed dwellings,
for not only had they log-huts well jointed, and carefully put together,
but many of the comforts of civilized life were to be seen in the
internal decorations. The reason I at length learned, from the chief, in
whose house I dwelt, and with whom I had already succeeded in
establishing a sworn friendship. About fifteen years previous, this bay
was selected by a party of emigrants, as the _locale_ of a settlement.
They had been wrecked on the island of Anticosti themselves, and made
their escape to Gaspé, with such remnants of their effects as they could
rescue from the wreck. There, they built houses for themselves, made
clearings in the forest, and established a little colony, with rules and
regulations for its government. Happily for them, they possessed within
their number almost every description of artificer requisite for such an
undertaking, their original intention being to found a settlement in
Canada, and thus carpenters, shoe-makers, weavers, tailors, mill-
wrights, being all ready to contribute their aid and assistance to each
other, the colony made rapid progress, and soon assumed the appearance
of a thriving and prosperous place. The forest abounded in wild deer and
bears, the bay not less rich in fish, while the ground, which they sowed
with potatoes and Indian-corn, yielded most successful crops, and as the
creek was never visited by sickness, nothing could surpass the success
that waited on their labours.

“Thus they lived, till in the fall of the year, a detachment of the
Gaspé Indians, who came down every autumn for the herring-fishery,
discovered that their territory was occupied, and that an invading force
were in possession of their hunting-grounds. The result could not be
doubted; the red men returned home to their friends with the news, and
speedily came back again with reinforcements of the whole tribe, and
made an attack on the settlement. The colonists, though not prepared,
soon assembled, and being better armed, for their fire-arms and
cutlasses had all been saved, repelled the assailants, and having killed
and wounded several of them, drove them back into the forest. The
victory, however complete, was the first day of their misfortunes; from
that hour they were never safe; sometimes a marauding party of red men
would dash into the village at nightfall, and carry away some of the
children before their cries could warn their parents. Instead of
venturing as before into the ‘bush’ whenever they pleased, and in small
numbers, they were now obliged to go with the greatest circumspection
and caution, stationing scouts here and there, and, above all, leaving a
strong garrison to protect the settlement against attack in their
absence. Fear and distrust prevailed everywhere, and instead of the
peace and prosperity that attended the first year of their labours, the
land now remained but half tilled; the hunting yielded scarcely any
benefit; and all their efforts were directed to their safety, and their
time consumed in erecting outworks and forts to protect the village.

“While matters were in this state, a large timber ship, bound for
England, struck on a reef of rocks at the entrance of the bay. The sea
ran high, and a storm of wind from the north-west soon rent her in
fragments. The colonists, who knew every portion of the bay well, put
out, the first moment they could venture, to the wreck, not, however, to
save the lives and rescue the poor fellows who yet clung to the rigging,
but to pillage the ship ere she went to pieces. The expedition succeeded
far beyond their most ardent hopes, and a rich harvest of plunder
resulted from this venture, casks of powder, flour, pork, and rum, were
landed by every tide at their doors, and once more, the sounds of
merriment and rejoicing, were heard in the village. But how different
from before was it! Then, they were happy and contented settlers, living
like one united family in brotherly affection and kind good-will; now,
it was but the bond of crime that bound, and the wild madness of
intoxication, that excited them. Their hunting grounds were no longer
cared for; the fields, with so much labour rescued from the forest, were
neglected; the fishing was abandoned; and a life given up to the most
intemperate abandonment, succeeded to days of peaceful labour and
content. Not satisfied with mere defence, they now carried the war into
the Indian settlements, and cruelties the most frightful ensued in their
savage reprisals.

“In this dangerous coast a winter never passed without several wrecks
occurring, and as they now practised every device, by false signals and
fires, to lure vessels to their ruin, their infamous traffic succeeded
perfectly, and wrecking became a mode of subsistence, far more plentiful
than their former habits of quiet industry.

“One long reef of rocks that ran from the most southerly point of the
bay, and called by the Indians ‘the Teeth,’ was the most fatal spot of
the whole coast, for while these rocks stretched for above a mile, to
sea, and were only covered at high water, a strong land current drew
vessels towards them, which, with the wind on shore, it was impossible
to resist.

“To this fatal spot, each eye was turned at day-break, to see if some
ill-starred vessel had not struck during the night. This, was the last
point each look was bent on, as the darkness was falling; and when the
wind howled, and the sea ran mountains high, and dashed its white foam
over their little huts, then, was every one astir in the village. Many
an anxious gaze pierced through the mist, hoping some white sail might
gleam through the storm, or some bending spar show where a perishing
crew yet cried for help. The little shore would then present a busy
scene, boats were got out, coils of rope, and oars strewed on every
side, lanterns flitted rapidly from place to place. With what energy and
earnestness they moved, how their eyes gleamed with excitement, and how
their voices rung out, in accents of hoarse command. Oh! how horrible to
think that the same features of a manly nature--the bold and daring
courage that fears not the rushing wave, nor the sweeping storm, the
heroic daring that can breast the wild breakers as they splash on the
dark rocks, can arise from impulses so opposite; and that humanity the
fairest, and crime the blackest, have but the same machinery to work
with.

“It was on a dark November night--the heavy sough of a coming storm sent
large and sullen waves on shore, where they broke with that low hollow
cadence, that seamen recognise as boding ill. A dense, thick fog,
obscured all objects sea-ward, and though many scouts were out upon the
hills, they could detect nothing; still, as the night grew more and more
threatening, the wreckers felt assured a gale was coming, and already
their preparation was made for the approaching time. Hour after hour
passed by, but though the gale increased, and blew with violence on the
shore, nothing could be seen. Towards midnight, however, a scout came in
to say, that he thought he could detect at intervals, through the dense
mist, and spray, a gleaming light in the direction of ‘the Teeth.’ The
drift was too great to make it clearly perceptible, but still, he
persisted he had seen something.

“A party was soon assembled on the beach, their eyes turned towards the
fatal rocks, which at low water rose some twelve or fifteen feet above
the surface. They gazed long and anxiously, but nothing could they make
out, till, as they were turning away, one cried out, ‘Ay, see there--
there it is now;’ and as he spoke, a red-forked flame shot up through
the drifting spray, and threw a lurid flash upon the dark sea. It died
away almost as quickly, and though seen at intervals again, it seemed
ever to wax fainter, and fainter. ‘She’s on fire,’ cried one. ‘No, no;
it’s a distress signal,’ said another. ‘One thing is certain,’ cried a
third, ‘the craft that’s on the “Teeth” on such a night as this, won’t
get off very readily; and so, lads, be alive and run out the boats.’

“The little colony was soon astir. It was a race of avarice too; for,
latterly, the settlement had been broken up by feuds and jealousies,
into different factions; and each strove to overreach the other. In less
than half an hour, eight boats were out, and breasting the white
breakers, headed out to sea. All, save the old and decrepit, the women,
and children, were away, and even they, stood watching on the shore,
following with their eyes the boats in which they felt most interested.

“At last they disappeared in the gloom--not a trace could be seen of
them, nor did the wind carry back their voices, over which the raging
storm was now howling. A few still remained straining their eye-balls
towards the spot where the light was seen, the others had returned
towards the village; when all of a sudden a frightful yell, a long
sustained and terrible cry arose from the huts, and the same instant a
blaze burst forth, and rose into a red column towards the sky. The
Indians were upon them. The war shout--that dreadful sound they knew too
well--resounded on every side. Then began a massacre, which nothing in
description can convey. The dreadful rage of the vengeful savage--long
pent up--long provoked--had now its time for vengeance. The tomahawk and
the scalping knife ran red with blood, as women and infants rushed madly
hither and thither in the flight. Old men lay weltering in their gore
beside their daughters, and grandchildren; while the wild red men,
unsated with slaughter, tore the mangled corpses as they lay, and bathed
themselves in blood. But not there did it end. The flame that gleamed
from the ‘Teeth’ rocks, was but an Indian device, to draw the wreckers
out to sea. A pine-wood fire had been lighted on the tallest cliff at
low water, to attract their attention, by some savages in canoes, and
left to burn away slowly during the night.

“Deceived and baffled, the wreckers made towards shore, to which already
their eyes were turned in terror, for the red blaze of the burning huts
was seen, miles off, in the bay. Scarcely had the first boat neared the
shore, when a volley of fire-arms poured in upon her--while the war-cry
that rose above it, told them their hour was come. The Indians were
several hundred in number, armed to the teeth; the others few, and
without a single weapon. Contest, it was none. The slaughter scarce
lasted many minutes, for ere the flame from the distant rock subsided,
the last white man lay a corpse on the bloody strand. Such was the
terrible retribution that followed on crime, and at the very moment too,
when their cruel hearts were bent on its perpetration.

“This tale, which was told me in a broken jargon, between Canadian-
French and English, concluded with words, which were not to me, at the
time, the least shocking part of the story; as the narrator, with
glistening eyes, and in a voice whose guttural tones seemed almost too
thick for utterance said, ‘It was I, that planned it!’

“You will ask me, by what chance did I escape with life among such a
tribe. An accident--the merest accident--saved me. When a smuggler, as I
have already told you I was, I once, when becalmed in the Bay of Biscay,
got one of the sailors to tattoo my arm with gunpowder, a very common
practice at sea. The operator had been in the North American trade, and
had passed ten years as a prisoner among the Indians, and brought away
with him innumerable recollections of their habits and customs. Among
others, their strange idols had made a great impression on his mind;
and, as I gave him a discretionary power as to the frescos he was to
adorn me with, he painted a most American-looking savage with two faces
on his head--his body all stuck over with arrows and spear-points, while
he, apparently unmoved by such visitors, was skipping about, in
something that might be a war-dance.

“This, with all its appropriate colours--for as the heraldry folk say,
‘It was proper’--was a very conspicuous object on my arm, and no sooner
seen by the chief, than he immediately knelt down beside me, dressed my
wounds and tended me; while the rest of the tribe, recognising me as one
whose existence was charmed, showed me every manner of respect, and even
devotion. Indeed, I soon felt my popularity to be my greatest
difficulty; for whatever great event was going forward among the tribe,
it became the etiquette to consult me on it, as a species of soothsayer,
and never was a prophet more sorely tested. Sometimes, it was a question
of the whale-fishery--whether ‘bottle noses,’ or ‘sulphur bottoms,’ were
coming up the bay, and whether, in the then season, it was safe, or not,
to strike the ‘calf whales’ first. Now, it was a disputed point as to
the condition of bears; or worse than either, a little marauding party
would be undertaken into a neighbour’s premises, where I was expected to
perform a very leading part, which, not having the same strong
convictions of my invulnerable nature, as my worthy associates, I
undertook with as few feelings of satisfaction as you may imagine. But
these were not all; offers of marriage from many noble families pressed
me on every side; and though polygamy to any extent was permissible, I
never could persuade myself, to make my fortune in this manner. The
ladies too, I am bound to say, were not so seductive as to endanger my
principles: flattened heads, bent-down noses and lip stones, are very
strong antidotes to the tender passion. And I was obliged to declare,
that I was compelled, by a vow, not to marry for three moons. I dared
not venture on a longer period of amnesty, lest I should excite
suspicion of any insult to them, on a point where their vengeance never
forgives; and I hoped, ere that time elapsed, that I should be able to
make my escape--though how, or when, or where to, were points I could
not possibly guess at.

“Before the half of my probation had expired, we were visited by an old
Indian of a distant tribe--a strange old fellow he was, clothed in
goats’ skins, and wearing strong leather boots and rackets (snow shoes),
a felt hat, and a kind of leather sack strapped on his back, and secured
by a lock. This singular-looking fellow was, ‘the post.’ He travelled
once a year from a small settlement near Miramichi, to Quebec, and back,
carrying the letters to and from these places, a distance of something
like seven hundred miles, which he accomplished entirely on foot, great
part of it through dense forests and over wild uninhabited prairies,
passing through the hunting-grounds of several hostile tribes, fording
rivers and climbing mountains, and all, for the moderate payment of ten
pounds a year, half of which he spent in rum before he left Quebec, and
while waiting for the return mail; and strangest of all, though for
forty years he had continued to perform this journey, not only no
accident had ever occurred to the letters, but he himself was never
known to be behind his appointed time at his destination.

“‘Tahata,’ for such was his name, was, however, a character of great
interest; even to the barbarous tribes through whose territories he
passed. He was a species of savage newspaper, recounting various details
respecting the hunting and fishing seasons,--the price of skins at
Quebec or Montreal,--what was the peltry most in request, and how it
would bring its best price. Cautiously abstaining from the local
politics of these small states, his information only bore on such topics
as are generally useful and interesting, and never for a moment partook
of any partisan character; besides, he had ever some petty commission or
other, from the squaws, to discharge at Quebec. There was an amber bead,
or a tin ornament, a bit of red ribbon or a glass button, or some such
valuable, everywhere he went; and his coming was an event as much longed
and looked for, as any other that marked their monotonous existence.

“He rested for a few days at our village, when I learned these few
particulars of his life, and at once resolved, come what might, to make
my escape with him, and, if possible, reach Quebec. An opportunity,
fortunately, soon offered for my doing so with facility. The day of the
courier’s departure was fixed for a great fishing excursion, on which
the tribe were to be absent for several days. Affecting illness, I
remained on shore, and never stirred from the wigwam till the last canoe
had disappeared from sight: then I slowly sauntered out, and telling the
squaws that I would stroll about, for an hour or so, to breathe the air,
I followed the track which was pointed out to me by the courier, who had
departed early on the same morning. Before sunset I came up with my
friend, and with a heart overflowing with delight, sat down to partake
of the little supper he had provided for our first day’s journey; after
that, each day was to take care of itself.

“Then began a series of adventures, to which all I have hitherto told
you, are, as nothing. It was the wild life of the prairies in
companionship with one, who felt as much at home in the recesses of a
pine forest, as ever I did in the snug corner of mine inn. Now, it was a
night spent under the starry sky, beside some clear river’s bank, where
the fish lay motionless beneath the red glare of our watch-fire; now, we
bivouacked in a gloomy forest, planting stockades around to keep off the
wild beasts; then, we would chance upon some small Indian settlement,
where we were regaled with hospitality, and spent half the night
listening to the low chant of a red man’s song, as he deplored the
downfall of his nation, and the loss of their hunting-grounds. Through
all, my guide preserved the steady equability of one who was travelling
a well-worn path--some notched tree, some small stone heap, some
fissured rock, being his guide through wastes, where, it seemed to me,
no human foot had ever trod. He lightened the road with many a song and
many a story, the latter always displaying some curious trait of his
people, whose high sense of truth and unswerving fidelity to their word,
once pledged, appeared to be an invariable feature in every narrative;
and though he could well account for the feeling that makes a man more
attached to his own nation, he more than once half expressed his
surprise, how, having lived among the simple-minded children of the
forest, I could ever return to the haunts of the plotting, and designing
white men.

“This story of mine,” continued Mr. O’Kelly, “has somehow spun itself
out far more than I intended. My desire was, to show you briefly, in
what strange and dissimilar situations I have been thrown in life--how,
I have lived among every rank, and class, at home and abroad, in
comparative affluence--in narrow poverty; how, I have looked on, at the
world, in all its gala dress of wealth, and rank, and beauty--of power,
of station, and command of intellect; and how I have seen it poor, and
mean, and naked--the companion of gloomy solitudes, and the denizen of
pathless forests; and yet found the same human passions, the same love,
and hate, the same jealousy, and fear, courage, and daring--the same
desire for power, and the same wish to govern, in the red Indian of the
prairie, as in the starred noble of Europe. The proudest rank of
civilized life has no higher boast, than in the practice of such virtues
as I have seen rife among the wild dwellers in the dark forest. Long
habit of moving thus among my fellow men, has worn off much of that
conventional reverence for class, which forms the standing point of all
our education at home. The tarred and weather-beaten sailor, if he be
but a pleasant fellow, and has seen life, is to me as agreeable a
companion as the greatest admiral that ever trod a quarter-deck. My
delight has been thus, for many a year back, to ramble through the
world, and look on its game, like one who sits before the curtain, and
has no concern with the actors, save, in so far as they amuse him.

“There is no cynicism in this. No one enjoys life more than I do. Music
is a passion with me--in painting, I take the greatest delight, and
beauty, has still her charm for me. Society, never was a greater
pleasure. Scenery, can give me a sense of happiness, which none but
solitary men ever feel--yet, it is less as one identified with these,
than as a mere spectator. All this is selfish, and egotistical, you will
say--and so it is. But then, think what chance has one like me of any
other pleasure! To how many annoyances should I expose myself, if I
adopted a different career: think of the thousand inquiries, of,--who is
he? what is his family? where did he come from? what are his means? and
all such queries, which would beset me, were I the respectable denizen
of one of your cities. Without some position, some rank, some settled
place in society, you give a man nothing--he can neither have friend,
nor home. Now, I am a wanderer--my choice of life, happily took an
humble turn. I have placed myself in a good situation for seeing the
game--and I am not too fastidious, if I get somewhat crushed by the
company about me. But now, to finish this long story, for I see the day
is breaking, and I must leave Antwerp by ten o’clock.

“At last, then, we reached Quebec. It was on a bright, clear, frosty day
in December, when all the world was astir--sledges flying here and
there--men slipping along in rackets--women, wrapped up in furs, sitting
snugly in chairs, and pushed along the ice some ten or twelve miles the
hour--all gay, all lively, and all merry-looking--while I and my Indian
friend bustled our way through the crowd towards the post-office. He was
a well-known character, and many a friendly nod, and a knowing shake of
the head welcomed him as he passed along. I, however, was an object of
no common astonishment, even in a town where every variety of costume,
from full dress to almost nakedness, was to be met with daily. Still,
something remained as a novelty, and it would seem I had hit on it.
Imagine, then, an old and ill-used foraging-cap, drawn down over a red
night-cap, from beneath which my hair descended straight, somewhere
about a foot in length--beard and moustaches to match--a red uniform
coat, patched with brown seal-skin, and surmounted by a kind of blanket
of buffalo hide--a pair of wampum shorts, decorated with tin and copper,
after the manner of a marquetrie table--gray stockings, gartered with
fish skin--and moccasins made after the fashion of high-lows, an
invention of my own, which I trust are still known as ‘O’Kellies,’ among
my friends the red men.

“That I was not an Indian, was sufficiently apparent--if by nothing
else, the gingerly delicacy with which I trod the pavement, after a
promenade of seven hundred miles, would have shown it; and yet there was
an evident reluctance on all sides to acknowledge me as one of
themselves. The crowd that tracked our steps had by this time attracted
the attention of some officers, who stopped to see what was going
forward, when I recognised the major of my own regiment among the
number. I saw, however, that he did not remember me, and hesitated with
myself whether I should return to my old servitude. The thought that no
mode of subsistence was open to me--that I was not exactly prepossessing
enough to make my way in the world by artificial advantages, decided the
question, and I accosted him at once.

“I will not stop to paint the astonishment of the officer, nor shall I
dwell on the few events which followed the recognition--suffice it to
say, that, the same evening I received my appointment, not as a
sergeant, but as regimental interpreter between our people and the
Indians, with whom we were then in alliance against the Yankees. The
regiment soon left Quebec for Trois Rivières, where my ambassadorial
functions were immediately called into play--not, I am bound to confess,
under such weighty and onerous reponsibilities as I had been led to
suspect would ensue between two powerful nations--but, on matters of
less moment, and fully as much difficulty, viz., the barter of old
regimental coats and caps for bows and arrows; the exchange of rum and
gunpowder for moccasins, and wampum ornaments--in a word, the regulation
of an Anglo-Indian tariff, which accurately defined the value of
everything, from a black fox skin to a pair of old gaiters--from an
Indian tomahawk to a tooth-pick.

“In addition to these fiscal regulations, I drew up a criminal code--
which, in simplicity at least, might vie with any known system of
legislation--by which it was clearly laid down, that any unknown
quantity of Indians were only equal to the slightest inconvenience
incurred, or discomfort endured by an English officer; that the
condescension of any intercourse with them, was a circumstance of the
greatest possible value--and its withdrawal the highest punishment. A
few other axioms of the like nature, greatly facilitated all bargains,
and promoted universal good feeling. Occasionally, a knotty point would
arise, which somewhat puzzled me to determine. Now and then, some Indian
prejudice, some superstition of the tribe would oppose a barrier to the
summary process of my cheap justice; but then, a little adroitness and
dexterity could soon reconcile matters--and as I had no fear that my
decisions were to be assumed as precedents, and still less dread of
their being rescinded by a higher court, I cut boldly, and generally
severed the difficulty at a blow.

“My life was now a pleasant one enough--for our officers treated me on
terms of familiarity, which gradually grew into intimacy, as our
quarters were in remote stations, and as they perceived that I possessed
a certain amount of education--which, it is no flattery to say, exceeded
their own. My old qualities of convivialism, also, gave me considerable
aid; and as I had neither forgotten to compose a song, nor sing it
afterwards, I was rather a piece of good fortune in this solitary and
monotonous state of life. Etiquette prevented my being asked to the
mess, but, most generously, nothing interfered with their coming over to
my wigwam almost every evening, and taking share of a bowl of sangaree,
and a pipe--kindnesses I did my uttermost to repay, by putting in
requisition all the amusing talents I possessed: and certainly, never
did a man endeavour more for great success in life, nor give himself
greater toil, than did I, to make time pass over pleasantly to some
half-dozen silly subalterns, a bloated captain or two, and a plethoric,
old snuff-taking major, that dreamed of nothing but rappee, punch and
promotion. Still, like all men in an ambiguous, or a false position, I
felt flattered by the companionship of people, whom, in my heart, I
thoroughly despised and looked down upon; and felt myself honoured by
the society of the most thick-headed set of noodles ever a man sat down
with--Aye! and laughed at their flat witticisms, and their old stale
jokes--and often threw out hints for _bon mots_, which, if they caught,
I immediately applauded, and went about, saying, did you hear ‘Jones’s
last?’--‘do you know what the major said this morning?’ bless my heart!
what a time it was. Truth will out--the old tuft-hunting leaven was
strong in me, even yet--hardship and roughing had not effaced it from my
disposition--one more lesson was wanting, and I got it.

“Among my visitors was an old captain of the rough school of military
habit, with all the dry jokes of the recruiting service, and all the
coarseness which a life spent for the most part in remote stations, and
small detachments, is sure to impart. This old fellow, Mat Hubbart, a
well known name in the Glengarries, had the greatest partiality for
practical jokes--and could calculate to a nicety, the precise amount of
a liberty which any man’s rank in the service permitted, without the
risk of being called to account: and the same scale of equivalents, by
which he established the nomenclature for female rank in the army, was
regarded by him as the test for those licences he permitted himself to
take with any man beneath him: and as he spoke of the colonel’s ‘lady,’
the major’s ‘wife,’ the captain’s ‘woman,’ the lieutenant’s ‘thing’--so
did he graduate his conduct to the husbands--never transgressing for a
moment on the grade, by any undue familiarity, or any unwonted freedom.
With me, of course, his powers were discretionary--or rather, had no
discretion whatever. I was a kind of military outlaw, that any man might
shoot at--and certainly, he spared not his powder in my behalf.

“Among the few reliques of my Indian life, was a bear-skin cap and hood,
which I prised highly. It was a present from my old guide--his parting
gift--when I put into his hands the last few pieces of silver I
possessed in the world. This was then to me a thing, which, as I had met
with not many kindnesses in the world, I valued at something far beyond
its mere price; and would rather have parted with any, or everything I
possessed, than lose it. Well, one day on my return from a fishing
excursion, as I was passing the door of the mess-room, what should I see
but a poor idiot that frequented the barrack, dressed in my bear-skin.

“‘Holloa! Rokey,’ said I, ‘where did you get that?’ scarce able to
restrain my temper.

“‘The captain gave it me,’ said the fellow, touching his cap, with a
grateful look towards the mess-room window, where I saw Captain Hubbart
standing, convulsed with laughter.

“‘Impossible!’ said I--yet half-fearing the truth of his assertion. ‘The
Captain couldn’t give away what’s mine, and not his.’

“‘Yes, but he did though,’ said the fool, ‘and told me, too, he’d make
me the “talk man” with the Indians, if you didn’t behave better in
future.’

“I felt my blood boil up as I heard these words. I saw at once that the
joke was intended to insult and offend me; and he probably meant as, a
lesson, for my presumption, a few evenings before, since I had the
folly, in a moment of open-hearted gaiety, to speak of my family, and
perhaps to boast of my having been a gentleman: I hung my head in shame,
and all my presence of mind was too little to allow me to feign a look
of carelessness as I walked by the window: from whence the coarse
laughter of the captain was now heard peal after peal. I shall not tell
you how I suffered when I reached my hut, and what I felt at every
portion of this transaction. One thing forcibly impressed itself on my
mind, that the part I was playing must be an unworthy one, or I had
never incurred such a penalty; that if these men associated with me, it
was on terms which permitted all from them--nothing, in return; and for
a while, I deemed no vengeance enough to satisfy my wounded pride.
Happily for me, my thoughts took another turn, and I saw that the
position in which I had placed myself, invited the insolence it met
with; and that if any man stoop to be kicked in this world, he’ll always
find some kind friend ready to oblige him with the compliment. Had an
equal so treated me, my course had presented no difficulty whatever Now,
what could I do?

“While I pondered over these things, a corporal came up to say, that a
party of the officers were about to pay me a visit after evening parade,
and hoped I’d have something for supper for them. Such was the general
tone of their invitations, and I had received in my time above a hundred
similar messages, without any other feeling than one of pride, at my
being in a position to have so many distinguished guests. Now, on the
contrary, the announcement was a downright insult: my long sleeping
pride suddenly awakened, I felt all the contumely of my condition; and:
my spirit, sunk for many a day in the slavish observance of a miserable
vanity, rebelled against farther outrage. I muttered a hasty ‘all
right,’ to the soldier, and turned away to meditate on some scheme of
vengeance.

“Having given directions to my Indian follower, a half-breed fellow of
the most cunning description, to have all ready in the wigwam; I
wandered into the woods. To no use was it that I thought over my
grievance, nothing presented itself in any shape as a vindication of my
wounded feelings--nor could I see how anything short of ridicule could
ensue, from all mention of the transaction. The clanking sound of an
Indian drum broke on my musings, and told me that the party were
assembled; and on my entering the wigwam, I found them all waiting for
me. There were full a dozen; many who had never done me the honour of a
visit previously, came on this occasion to enjoy the laugh at my
expense, the captain’s joke was sure to excite. Husbanding their
resources, they talked only about indifferent matters--the gossip and
chit-chat of the day--but still with such a secret air of something to
come, that even an ignorant observer could notice, that there was in
reserve somewhat that must abide its time for development. By mere
accident, I overheard the captain whisper in reply to a question of one
of the subalterns--‘No! no!--not now--wait, till we have the punch up.’
I guessed at once that such was the period they proposed to discuss the
joke played off at my cost, and I was right; for no sooner had the large
wooden bowl of sangaree made its appearance, than Hubbart filling his
glass; proposed a bumper to our new ally, Rokey; a cheer drowned half
his speech, which ended in a roar of laughter, as the individual, so
complimented, stood at the door of the wigwam, dressed out in full
costume with my bear-skin.

“I had just time to whisper a command to my Indian imp, concluding with
an order for another bowl of sangaree, before the burst of merriment had
subsided--a hail-storm of jokes, many, poor enough, but still cause for
laughter, now pelted me on every side. My generosity was lauded, my good
taste extolled, and as many impertinences as could well be offered up to
a man at his own table, went the round of the party. No allusion was
spared either to my humble position as interpreter to the force, or my
former life among the Indians, to furnish food for joke; even my family-
-of whom, as I have mentioned, I foolishly spoke to them lately--they
introduced into their tirade of attack and ridicule, which nothing but a
sense of coming vengeance could hove enabled me to endure.

“‘Come, come,’ said one, ‘the bowl is empty. I say, O’Kelly, if you wish
us to be agreeable, as I’m certain you find us, will you order a fresh
supply?’

“‘Most willingly,’ said I, ‘but there is just enough left in the old
bowl to drink the health of Captain Hubbart, to whom we are certainly
indebted for most of the amusement of the evening. Now, therefore, if
you please, with all the honours, gentlemen--for let me say, in no one
quality has he his superior in the regiment. His wit we can all
appreciate; his ingenuity I can speak to; his generosity--you have
lauded ‘mine’--but think of ‘his.’ As I spoke I pointed to the door,
where my ferocious-looking Indian stood, in all his war-paint, wearing
on his head the full-dress cocked-hat of the captain, while over his
shoulders was thrown his large blue military-cloak, over which, he had
skilfully contrived to make a hasty decoration of brass ornaments, and
wild-birds’ feathers.

“‘Look there!’ said I, exultingly, as the fellow nodded his plumed-hat
and turned majestically round, to be fully admired.

“‘Have you dared, sir?’--roared he, frothing with passion and clenching
his fist towards me--but a perfect cheer of laughter overpowered his
words. Many rolled off their seats and lay panting and puffing on the
ground; some, turned away half-suffocated with their struggles, while a
few, more timid than the rest, endeavoured to conceal their feelings,
and seemed half-alarmed at the consequences of my impertinence. When the
mirth had a little subsided, it was remarked, that Hubbart was gone--no
one had seen how or when--but he was no longer among us.

“‘Come, gentlemen, said I, ‘the new bowl is ready for you, and your
toast is not yet drunk. All going so early? Why, it’s not eleven yet.’

“But so it was--the impulse of merriment over--the _esprit du corps_
came back in all its force, and the man, whose feelings they had not
scrupled to outrage and insult, they turned on, the very moment he had
the courage to assert his honour. One by one passed out--some, with a
cool nod--others, a mere look--many, never even noticed me at all; and
one, the last, I believe, dropping a little behind, whispered as he
went, ‘Sorry for you, faith, but all your own doing, though.’

“‘My own doing,’ said I in bitterness, as I sat me down at the door of
the wigwam. ‘My own doing!’ and the words ate into my very heart’s core.
Heaven knows, had any one of them who left me, but turned his head, and
looked at me then, as I sat--my head buried in my hands, my frame
trembling with strong passion---he had formed a most false estimate of
my feelings. In all likelihood, he would have regarded me as a man
sorrowing over a lost position in society--grieved at the mistaken
vanity that made him presume upon those who associated with him by grace
especial, and never, on terms of equality. Nothing in the world was then
farther from my heart: no, my humiliation had another source--my
sorrowing penetrated into a deeper soil. I awoke to the conviction that
my position was such, that even the temporary countenance they gave me
by their society, was to be deemed my greatest honour, as its withdrawal
should be my deepest disgrace--that these poor heartless brainless fools
for whom I taxed my time, my intellect, and my means, were in the light
of patrons to me. Let any man who has felt what it is to live among
those on whose capacity he has looked down, while he has been obliged to
pay homage to their rank--whose society he has frequented, not for
pleasure nor enjoyment--not for the charm of social intercourse, or the
interchange of friendly feeling, but for the mere vulgar object that he
might seem to others to be in a position to which he had no claim--to be
intimate, when he was only endured--to be on terms of ease, when he was
barely admitted; let him sympathise with me. Now, I awoke to the full
knowledge of my state, and saw myself at last in a true light. ‘My own
doing!’ repeated I to myself. Would it had been so many a day since, ere
I lost self-respect--ere I had felt the humiliation I now feel.”

“‘You are under arrest, sir,’ said the sergeant, as with a party of
soldiers he stood prepared to accompany me to the quarters. “‘Under
arrest! By whose orders?’

“‘The colonel’s orders,’ said the man briefly, and in a voice that
showed I was to expect little compassion from one of a class who had
long regarded me as an upstart, giving himself airs unbecoming his
condition.

“My imprisonment, of which I dared not ask the reason, gave me time to
meditate on my fortunes, and think over the vicisicitudes of my life,--
to reflect on the errors which had rendered abortive every chance of
success in whatever career I adopted; but, more than all, to consider
how poor were all my hopes of happiness in the road I had chosen, while
I dedicated to the amusement of others, the qualities which, if
cultivated for myself, might be made sources of contentment and
pleasure. If I seem prolix in all this--if I dwell on these memories, it
is, first, because few men may not reap a lesson from considering them;
and again, because on them hinged my whole future life.

“There, do you see that little drawing yonder? it is a sketch, a mere
sketch I made from recollection, of the room I was confined in. That’s
the St. Lawrence flowing beneath the window, and there, far in the
distance, you see the tall cedars of the opposite bank. On that little
table I laid my head the whole night long; I slept too, and soundly, and
when I awoke the next day I was a changed man.

“‘You are relieved from arrest,’ said the same sergeant who conducted me
to prison, ‘and the colonel desires to see you on parade.’

“As I entered the square, the regiment was formed in line, and the
officers, as usual, stood in a group chatting together in the centre. A
half smile, quickly subdued as I came near, ran along the party.

“‘O’Kelly,’ said the colonel, ‘I have sent for you to hear a reprimand
which it is fitting you should receive at the head of the regiment, and
which, from my knowledge of you, I have supposed would be the most
effectual punishment I could inflict for your late disrespectful conduct
to Captain Hubbart.’

“‘May I ask, colonel, have you heard of the provocation which induced my
offence?’

“‘I hope, sir,’ replied he, with a look of stern dignity, ‘you are aware
of the difference of your relative rank and station, and that, in
condescending to associate with you, Captain Hubbart conferred an honour
which doubly compensated for any liberty he was pleased to take. Read
the general order, Lieutenant Wood.’

“A confused murmur of something, from which I could collect nothing,
reached me; a vague feeling of weight seemed to press my head, and a
giddiness that made me reel, was on me; and I only knew the ceremony was
over, as I heard the order to march given, and saw the troops begin to
move off the ground.

“‘A moment, colonel,’ said, I, in a voice that made him start and drew
on me the look of all the others. ‘I have too much respect for you, and
I hope also for myself, to attempt any explanation of a mere jest, where
the consequences have taken a serious turn; besides, I feel conscious of
one fault, far too grave a one, to venture on an excuse for any other I
have been guilty of. I wish to resign my post. I here leave the badge of
the only servitude I ever did, or ever intend to submit to; and now, as
a free man once more, and a gentleman, too, if you’ll permit me, I beg
to wish you adieu: and as for you, captain, I have only to add, that
whenever you feel disposed for a practical joke, or any other
interchange of politeness, Con O’Kelly will be always delighted to meet
your views--the more so as he feels, though you may not believe it,
something still in your debt.’

“With that I turned on my heel, and left the barrack-yard, not a word
being spoken by any of the others, nor any evidence of their being so
much amused as they seemed to expect from my exposure.

“Did it never strike you as a strange thing, that while none but the
very poorest and humblest people can bear to confess to present poverty,
very few men decline to speak of the narrow circumstances they have
struggled through--nay, rather take a kind of pleasure in relating what
difficulties once beset their path--what obstacles were opposed to their
success? The reason perhaps is, there is a reflective merit in thus
surmounting opposition.

“The acknowledgment implies a sense of triumph. It seams to say--‘Here
am I, such as you see me now, and yet time was, when I was houseless and
friendless--when the clouds darkened around my path, and I saw not even
the faintest glimmer of hope to light up the future; yet with a stout
heart and strong courage, with the will came the way; and I conquered.’
I do confess, I could dwell, and with great pleasure too, on those
portions of my life when I was poorest and most forsaken, in preference
to the days of my prosperity, and the hours of my greatest wealth: like
the traveller who, after a long journey through some dark winter’s day,
finds himself at the approach of night, seated by the corner of a cheery
fire in his inn; every rushing gust of wind that shakes the building,
every plash of the beating rain against the glass, but adds to this
sense of comfort, and makes him hug himself with satisfaction to think
how he is no longer exposed to such a storm--that his journey is
accomplished--his goal is reached--and as he draws his chair closer to
the blaze, it is the remembrance of the past, gives all the enjoyment to
the present. In the same way, the pleasantest memories of old age are of
those periods in youth when we have been successful over difficulty, and
have won our way through every opposing obstacle. ‘Joy’s memory is
indeed no longer joy.’ Few can look back on happy hours without thinking
of those with whom they spent them, and then comes the sad question,
Where are they now? What man reaches even the middle term of life with a
tithe of the friends he started with in youth; and as they drop off, one
by one around him, comes the sad reflection, that the period is passed
when such ties can be formed anew--The book of the heart once closed,
opens no more. But why these reflections? I must close them, and with
them my story at once.

“The few pounds I possessed in the world enabled me to reach Quebec, and
take my passage in a timber vessel bound for Cork. Why I returned to
Ireland, and with what intentions, I should be sorely puzzled, were you
to ask of me. Some vague, indistinct feeling of home, connected with my
birthplace had, perhaps, its influence over me. So it was--I did so.


[Editor’s Note: Another edition of this book (Downey and Co., 1897) was
scannned for the middle part of this etext as large portions of the
original 1845 edition were defective. The reader will note that the two
editions initiate a quoted passages in different ways: the 1845 edition
with a double quote and the 1897 edition with a single quotation mark.]

‘After a good voyage of some five weeks, we anchored in Cove, where I
landed, and proceeded on foot to Tralee. It was night when I arrived. A
few faint glimmering lights could be seen here and there from an upper
window; but all the rest was in darkness. Instinctively I wandered on,
till I came to the little street where my aunt had lived. I knew every
stone in it. There was not a house I passed but I was familiar with all
its history. There was Mark Cassidy’s provision store, as he proudly
called a long dark room, the ceiling thickly studded with hams and
bacon, coils of rope, candles, flakes of glue, and loaves of sugar;
while a narrow pathway was eked out below between a sugar-hogshead, some
sacks of flour and potatoes, hemp-seed, tar, and treacle, interspersed
with scythe-blades, reaping-hooks, and sweeping-brushes--a great coffee-
roaster adorning the wall, and forming a conspicuous object for the
wonderment of the country-people, who never could satisfy themselves
whether it was a new-fashioned clock or a weather-glass, or a little
thrashing-machine or a money-box. Next door was Maurice Fitzgerald’s,
the apothecary, a cosy little cell of eight feet by six, where there was
just space left for a long-practised individual to grind with a pestle
without putting his right elbow through a blue-glass bottle that figured
in the front window, or his left into active intercourse with a regiment
of tinctures that stood up, brown and muddy and fetid, on a shelf hard
by. Then came Joe M’Evoy’s, “licensed for spirits and enthertainment,”
 where I had often stood as a boy to listen to the pleasant sounds of
Larry Branaghan’s pipes, or to the agreeable ditties of “Adieu, ye
shinin’ daisies, I loved you well and long,” as sung by him, with an
accompaniment. Then there was Misther Moriarty’s, the attorney, a great
man in the petty sessions, a bitter pill for all the country gentlemen;
he was always raking up knotty cases of their decisions, and reporting
them to the _Limerick Vindicator_ under the cognomen of “Brutus” or
“Coriolanus.” I could just see by the faint light that his house had
been raised a storey higher, and little iron balconies, like railings,
stuck to the drawing-room windows.

‘Next came my aunt’s. There it was: my foot was on the door where I
stood as a child, my little heart wavering between fears of the unknown
world without and hopes of doing something--Heaven knows what!--which
would make me a name hereafter. And there I was now, after years of toil
and peril of every kind, enough to have won me distinction, success
enough to have made me rich, had either been but well directed; and yet
I was poor and humble, as the very hour I quitted that home. I sat down
on the steps, my heart heavy and sad, my limbs tired, and before many
minutes fell fast asleep, and never awoke till the bright sun was
shining gaily on one side of the little street, and already the
preparations for the coming day were going on about me. I started up,
afraid and ashamed of being seen, and turned into the little ale-house
close by, to get my breakfast. Joe himself was not forthcoming; but a
fat, pleasant-looking, yellow-haired fellow, his very image, only some
dozen years younger, was there, bustling about among some pewter quarts
and tin measures, arranging tobacco-pipes, and making up little
pennyworths of tobacco.

‘“Is your name M’Evoy?” said I.

‘“The same, at your service,” said he, scarce raising his eyes from his
occupation.

‘“Not Joe M’Evoy?”

‘“No, sir, Ned M’Evoy; the old man’s name was Joe.”

‘“He ‘s dead, then, I suppose?”

‘“Ay, sir; these eight years come Micklemass. Is it a pint or a naggin
of sperits?”

‘“Neither; it’s some breakfast, a rasher and a few potatoes, I want
most. I’ll take it here, or in the little room.”

‘“Faix, ye seem to know the ways of the place,” said he, smiling, as he
saw me deliberately push open a small door, and enter a little parlour
once reserved for favourite visitors.

‘“It’s many years since I was here before,” said I to the host, as he
stood opposite to me, watching the progress I was making with my
breakfast--“so many that I can scarce remember more than the names of
the people I knew very-well. Is there a Miss O’Kelly living in the town?
It was somewhere near this, her house.”

‘“Yes, above Mr. Moriarty’s, that’s where she lived; but sure she’s dead
and gone, many a day ago. I mind Father Donnellan, the priest that was
here before Mr. Nolan, saying Masses for her sowl, when I was a slip of
a boy.”

‘“Dead and gone,” repeated I to myself sadly--for, though I scarcely
expected to meet my poor old relative again, I cherished a kind of half
hope that she might still be living. “And the priest, Father Donnellan,
is he dead too?”

‘“Yes, sir; he died of the fever, that was so bad four years ago.”

‘“And Mrs. Brown that kept the post-office?”

‘“She went away to Ennis when her daughter was married there; I never
heard tell of her since.”

‘“So that, in fact, there are none of the old inhabitants of the town
remaining. All have died off?”

“Every one, except the ould captain; he’s the only one left”

‘“Who is he?”

‘“Captain Dwyer; maybe you knew him?”

‘“Yes, I knew him well; and he’s alive? He must be very old by this
time.”

‘“He ‘s something about eighty-six or seven; but he doesn’t let on to
more nor sixty, I believe; but, sure, talk of----- God preserve us, here
he is!”

‘As he spoke, a thin, withered-looking old man, bent double with age,
and walking with great difficulty, came to the door, and, in a cracked
voice, called out--

‘“Ned M’Evoy; here’s the paper for you; plenty of news in it, too, about
Mister O’Connell and the meetings in Dublin. If Cavanagh takes any fish,
buy a sole or a whiting for me, and send me the paper back.”

‘“There’s a gentleman, inside here, was just asking for you, sir,” said
the host.

‘“Who is he? Is it Mr. Creagh? At your service, sir,” said the old man,
sitting down on a chair near me, and looking at me from under the shadow
of his hand spread over his brow. “You ‘re Mr. Studdart, I ‘m thinking?”

‘“No, sir; I do not suspect you know me; and, indeed, I merely mentioned
your name as one I had heard of many years ago when I was here, but not
as being personally known to you.”

‘“Oh, troth, and so you might, for I ‘m well known in these parts--eh,
Ned?” said he, with a chuckling cackle, that sounded very like hopeless
dotage. “I was in the army--in the ‘Buffs’; maybe you knew one Clancy
who was in them?”

‘“No, sir; I have not many military acquaintances. I came here this
morning on my way to Dublin, and thought I would just ask a few
questions about some people I knew a little about. Miss O’Kelly----”

‘“Ah, dear! Poor Miss Judy--she’s gone these two or three years.”

‘“Ay, these fifteen,” interposed Ned.

‘“No, it isn’t though,” said the captain crossly, “it isn’t more than
three at most--cut off in her prime too. She was the last of an old
stock--I knew them all well. There was Dick--blazing Dick O’Kelly, as
they called him--that threw the sheriff into the mill-race at Kilmacud,
and had to go to France afterwards; and there was Peter--Peter got the
property, but he was shot in a duel. Peter had a son--a nice devil he
was too; he was drowned at sea; and except the little girl that has the
school up there, Sally O’Kelly--she is one of them--there’s none to the
fore.”

‘“And who was she, sir?”

‘“Sally was--what’s this? Ay, Sally is daughter to a son Dick left in
France. He died in the war in Germany, and left this creature; and Miss
Judy heard of her, and got her over here, just the week she departed
herself. She’s the last of them now--the best family in Kerry--and
keeping a child’s school! Ay, ay, so it is; and there’s property too
coming to her, if they could only prove that chap’s death, Con O’Kelly.
But sure no one knows anything where it happened. Sam Fitzsimon
advertised him in all the papers, but to no use.”

‘I did not wait for more of the old captain’s reminiscences, but
snatching up my hat I hurried down the street, and in less than an hour
was closeted with Mr. Samuel Fitzsimon, attorney-at-law, and gravely
discussing the steps necessary to be taken for the assumption of my
right to a small property, the remains of my Aunt Judy’s--a few hundred
pounds, renewal fines of lands, that had dropped since my father’s
death. My next visit was to the little school, which was held in the
parlour where poor Aunt Judy used to have her little card parties. The
old stuffed macaw--now from dirt and smoke he might have passed for a
raven--was still over the fireplace, and there was the old miniature of
my father, and on the other side was one which I had not seen before, of
Father Donnellan in full robes. All the little old conchologies were
there too; and except the black plethoric-looking cat that sat staring
fixedly at the fire as if she was grieving over the price of coals, I
missed nothing. Miss Sally was a nice modest-looking woman, with an air
of better class about her than her humble occupation would seem to
imply. I made known my relationship in a few words, and having told her
that I had made all arrangements for settling whatever property I
possessed upon her, and informed her that Mr. Fitzsimon would act as her
guardian, I wished her good-bye and departed. I saw that my life must be
passed in occupation of one kind or other--idleness would never do; and
with the only fifty I reserved to myself of my little fortune, I started
for Paris. What I was to do I had no idea whatever; but I well knew that
you have only to lay the bridle on Fortune’s neck, and you ‘ll seldom be
disappointed in adventures.

‘For some weeks I strolled about Paris, enjoying myself as thoughtlessly
as though I had no need of any effort to replenish my failing exchequer.
The mere human tide that flowed along the Boulevards and through the gay
gardens of the Tuileries would have been amusement enough for me. Then
there were theatres and cafés and restaurants of every class--from the
costly style of the “Rocher” down to the dinner beside the fountain Des
Innocents, where you feast for four sous, and where the lowest and
poorest class of the capital resorted. Well, well, I might tell you some
strange scenes of those days, but I must hurry on.

‘In my rambles through Paris, visiting strange and out-of-the-way
places, dining here and supping there, watching life under every aspect
I could behold it, I strolled one evening across the Pont Neuf into the
Ile St. Louis, that quaint old quarter, with its narrow straggling
streets, and its tall gloomy houses, barricaded like fortresses. The old
_portes cochères_ studded with nails and barred with iron, and having
each a small window to peer through at the stranger without, spoke of
days when outrage and attack were rife, and it behoved every man to
fortify his stronghold as best he could. There were now to be found the
most abandoned and desperate of the whole Parisian world; the assassin,
the murderer, the housebreaker, the coiner, found a refuge in this
confused wilderness of gloomy alleys and dark dismal passages. When
night falls, no lantern throws a friendly gleam along the streets; all
is left in perfect darkness, save when the red light of some cabaret
lamp streams across the pavement. In one of these dismal streets I found
myself when night set in, and although I walked on and on, somehow I
never could extricate myself, but continually kept moving in some narrow
circle--so I guessed at least, for I never wandered far from the deep-
toned bell of Notre Dame, that went on chanting its melancholy peal
through the stillness of the night air. I often stopped to listen. Now
it seemed before, now behind me; the rich solemn sound floating through
those cavernous streets had something awfully impressive. The voice that
called to prayer, heard in that gloomy haunt of crime, was indeed a
strange and appalling thing. At last it ceased, and all was still. For
some time I was uncertain how to act. I feared to knock at a door and
ask my way; the very confession of my loneliness would have been an
invitation to outrage, if not murder. No one passed me; the streets
seemed actually deserted.

‘Fatigued with walking, I sat down on a door-sill and began to consider
what was best to be done, when I heard the sound of heavy feet moving
along towards me, the clattering of sabots on the rough pavement, and
shortly after a man came up, who, I could just distinguish, seemed to be
a labourer. I suffered him to pass me a few paces, and then called out--

‘“Halloa, friend! can you tell me the shortest way to the Pont Neuf?”

‘He replied by some words in a patois so strange I could make nothing of
it. I repeated my question, and endeavoured by signs to express my wish.
By this time he was standing close beside me, and I could mark was
evidently paying full attention to all I said. He looked about him once
or twice, as if in search of some one, and then turning to me said, in a
thick guttural voice--

‘“Halte-là, I’ll come”; and with that he moved down in the direction he
originally came from, and I could hear the clatter of his heavy shoes
till the sounds were lost in the winding alleys.

‘A sudden thought struck me that I had done wrong. The fellow had
evidently some dark intention by his going back, and I repented bitterly
having allowed him to leave me. But then, what were easier for him than
to lead me where he pleased, had I retained him! and so I reflected,
when the noise of many voices speaking in a half-subdued accent came up
the street. I heard the sound, too, of a great many feet. My heart
sickened as the idea of murder, so associated with the place, flashed
across me; and I had just time to squeeze myself within the shelter of
the doorway, when the party came up.

‘“Somewhere hereabouts, you said, wasn’t it?” said one in a good accent
and a deep clear voice.

‘“Oui-da!” said the man I had spoken to, while he felt with his hands
upon the walls and doorway of the opposite house. “Halloa there!” he
shouted.

‘“Be still, you fool! don’t you think that he suspects something by this
time? Did the others go down the Rue des Loups?”

‘“Yes, yes,” said a voice close to where I stood.

‘“Then all’s safe; he can’t escape that way. Strike a light, Pierre.”

‘A tall figure, wrapped up in a cloak, produced a tinder-box, and began
to clink deliberately with a steel and flint. Every flash showed me some
savage-looking face, where crime and famine struggled for mastery; while
I could mark that many had large clubs of wood, and one or two were
armed with swords. I drew my breath with short efforts, and was
preparing myself for the struggle, in which, though I saw death before
me, I resolved to sell life dearly, when a hand was passed across the
pillar of the door, and rested on my leg. For a second it never stirred;
then slowly moved up to my knee, where it stopped again. My heart seemed
to cease its beating; I felt like one around whose body some snake is
coiling, fold after fold, his slimy grasp. The hand was gently
withdrawn, and before I could recover from my surprise I was seized by
the throat and hurled out into the street. A savage laugh rang through
the crowd, and a lantern, just lighted, was held up to my face, while he
who spoke first called out--

‘“You didn’t dream of escaping us, _bête_, did you?” ‘At the same moment
hands were thrust into my various pockets; the few silver pieces I
possessed were taken, my watch torn off, my hat examined, and the lining
of my coat ripped open--and all so speedily, that I saw at once I had
fallen into experienced hands.

‘“Where do you live in Paris?” said the first speaker, still holding the
light to my face, and staring fixedly at me.

‘“I am a stranger and alone,” said I, for the thought struck me that in
such a circumstance frankness was as good policy as any other. “I came
here to-night to see the cathedral, and lost my way in returning.”

‘“But where do you live--in what quarter of Paris?” ‘“The Rue d’Alger;
No. 12; the second storey.” ‘“What effects have you there in money?”
 ‘“One English bank-note for five pounds; nothing more.”

‘“Any jewels, or valuables of any kind?”

‘“None; I am as poor as any man in Paris.”

‘“Does the porter know your name, in the house?”

‘“No; I am only known as the Englishman of No. 12.”

‘“What are your hours--irregular, are they not?”

‘“Yes, I often come home very late.”

‘“That’s all right. You speak French well. Can you write it?”

‘“Yes, sufficiently so for any common purpose.”

‘“Here, then,” said he, opening a large pocket-book, “write an order,
which I’ll tell you, to the _concierge_ of the house. Take this pen.”

‘With a trembling hand I took the pen, and waited for his direction.

‘“Is it a woman keeps the door of your hotel?”

‘“Yes,” said I.

‘“Well, then, begin:--”

‘“Madame La Concierge, let the bearer of this note have the key of my
apartment----”

‘As I followed with my hand the words, I could mark that one of the
party was whispering in the ear of the speaker, and then moved slowly
round to my back.

‘“Hush! what’s that?” cried the chief speaker. “Be still there!” and as
we listened, the chorus of a number of voices singing in parts was heard
at some little distance off.

‘“That infernal nest of fellows must be rooted out of this, one day or
other,” said the chief; “and if I end my days on the Place de Grève,
I’ll try and do it. Hush there! be still! they’re passing on.”

‘True enough, the sound began to wax fainter, and my heart sank heavily,
as I thought the last hope was leaving me. Suddenly a thought dashed
through my mind--“Death in one shape is as bad as another. I’ll do it!”
 I stooped down as if to continue my writing, and then collecting my
strength for the effort, and taking a deep breath, I struck the man in
front a blow with all my might that felled him to the ground, and
clearing him with a spring, I bounded down the street. My old Indian
teaching had done me good service here; few white men could have caught
me in an open plain, with space and sight to guide me, and I gained at
every stride. But, alas! I dared not stop to listen whence the sounds
proceeded, and could only dash straight forward, not knowing where it
might lead me. Down a steep, rugged street, that grew narrower as I
went, I plunged, when--horror of horrors!--I heard the Seine plashing at
the end; the rapid current of the river surged against the heavy timbers
that defended the banks, with a sound like a death-wail. A solitary,
trembling light lay afar off in the river from some barge that was at
anchor there; I fixed my eye upon it, and was preparing for a plunge,
when, with a half-suppressed cry, my pursuers sprang up from a low wharf
I had not seen, below the quay, and stood in front of me. In an instant
they were upon me; a shower of blows fell upon my head and shoulders,
and one, armed with desperate resolution, struck me on the forehead and
felled me on the spot.

‘“Be quick now, be quick!” said a voice I well knew; “into the river
with him--the filets de St. Cloud will catch him by daybreak--into the
river with him!”

‘They tore off my coat and shoes, and dragged me along towards the
wharf. My senses were clear, though the blow had deprived me of all the
power to resist, and I could calculate the little chance still left me
when once I had reached the river, when a loud yell and a whistle was
heard afar off--another, louder, followed; the fellows around me sprang
to their legs, and with a muttered curse and a cry of terror darted off
in different directions. I could hear now several pistol-shots following
quickly on one another, and the noise of a scuffle with swords; in an
instant it was over, and a cheer burst forth like a cry of triumph.

‘“Any one wounded there?” shouted a deep manly voice, from the end of
the street. I endeavoured to call out, but my voice failed me. “Halloa,
there! any one wounded?” said the voice again, when a window was opened
over my head, and a man held a candle out, and looked into the street.

‘“This way, this way!” said he, as he caught sight of my shadow where I
lay.

‘“Ay, I guessed they went down here,” said the same voice I heard first,
as he came along, followed by several others. “Well, friend, are you
much hurt? any blood lost?”

‘“No, only stunned,” said I, “and almost well already.”

‘“Have you any friends here? Were you quite alone?”

‘“Yes; quite alone.”

‘“Of course you were; why should I ask? That murderous gang never dared
to face two men yet. Come, are you able to walk? Oh, you’re a stout
fellow, I see; come along with us. Come, Ludwig, put a hand under him,
and we ‘ll soon bring him up.”

‘When they lifted me up, the sudden motion caused a weakness so complete
that I fainted, and knew little more of their proceedings till I found
myself lying on a sofa in a large room, where some forty persons were
seated at a long table, most of them smoking from huge pipes of regular
German proportions.

‘“Where am I?” was my question, as I looked about, and perceived that
the party wore a kind of blue uniform, with fur on the collar and cuffs,
and a greyhound worked in gold on the arm.

‘“Why, you’re safe, my good friend,” said a friendly voice beside me;
“that’s quite enough to know at present, isn’t it?”

‘“I begin to agree with you,” said I coolly; and so, turning round on my
side, I closed my eyes, and fell into as pleasant a sleep as ever I
remember in my life.

‘They were, indeed, a very singular class of restoratives which my kind
friends thought proper to administer to me; nor am I quite sure that a
_bavaroise_ of chocolate dashed with rum, and friction over the face
with hot Eau de Cologne are sufficiently appreciated by the “faculty”;
but this I do know, that I felt very much revived by the application
without and within; and with a face somewhat the colour of a copper
preserving-pan, and far too hot to put anything on, I sat up and looked
about me. A merrier set of gentlemen not even my experience had ever
beheld. They were mostly middle-aged, grizzly-looking fellows, with very
profuse beards and moustaches; their conversation was partly French,
partly German, while here and there a stray Italian diminutive crept in;
and to season the whole, like cayenne in a ragoût, there was an odd
curse in English. Their strange dress, their free-and-easy manner, their
intimacy with one another, and, above all, the _locale_ they had chosen
for their festivities, made me, I own, a little suspicious about their
spotless morality, and I began conjecturing to what possible calling
they might belong--now guessing them smugglers, now police of some kind
or other, now highwaymen outright, but without ever being able to come
to any conclusion that even approached satisfaction. The more I
listened, the more did my puzzle grow on me. That they were either the
most distinguished and exalted individuals or the most confounded story-
tellers was certain. Here was a fat, greasy little fellow, with a beard
like an Armenian, who was talking of a trip he made to Greece with the
Duke of Saxe-Weimar; apparently they were on the best of terms together,
and had a most jolly time of it. There was a large handsome man, with a
short black moustache, describing a night attack made by wolves on the
caravan he was in, during a journey to Siberia. I listened with intense
interest to his narrative; the scenery, the danger, the preparation for
defence, had all those little traits that bespeak truth, when, confound
him! he destroyed the whole as he said, “At that moment the Archduke
Nicholas said to _me_----” The Archduke Nicholas, indeed! very good
that! he’s just as great a liar as the other.

‘“Come,” thought I, “there’s a respectable-looking old fellow with a
bald head--let us hear him; there’s no boasting of the great people he
ever met with from that one, I’m sure.”

‘“We were now coming near to Vienna,” continued he, “the night was dark
as pitch, when a vedette came up to say that a party of brigands, well
known thereabouts, were seen hovering about the post station the entire
evening. We were well armed, but still by no means numerous, and it
became a grave question what we were to do. I got down immediately, and
examined the loading and priming of the carbines; they were all right,
nothing had been stirred. ‘What’s the matter?’ said the duke.” (“Oh,”
 thought I, “then there’s a duke here also!”) “‘What’s the matter?’ said
the Duke of Wellington.”

‘“Oh, by Jove! that beats all!” cried I, jumping up on the sofa, and
opening both my hands with astonishment. “I ‘d have wagered a trifle on
that little fellow, and hang me if he isn’t the worst of the whole set!”

‘“What ‘s the matter; what’s happened?” said they all, turning round in
amazement at my sudden exclamation. “Is the man mad?”

‘“It’s hard to say,” replied I; “but if I ‘m not, you must be--unless I
have the honour, which is perfectly possible, to be at this moment in
company with the Holy Alliance; for, so help me, since I’ve sat here and
listened to you, there is not a crowned head in Europe, not a queen, not
an archduke, ambassador, and general-in-chief, whom some of you have not
been intimate with; and the small man with a red beard has just let slip
something about the Shah of Persia.”

‘The torrent of laughter that shook the table never ceased for a full
quarter of an hour. Old and young, smooth and grizzly, they laughed till
their faces were seamed with rivulets like a mountain in winter; and
when they would endeavour to address me, they’d burst out again, as
fresh as ever.

‘“Come over and join us, worthy friend,” said he who sat at the head of
the board--“you seem well equal to it; and perhaps our character as men
of truth may improve on acquaintance.”

‘“What, in Heaven’s name, are you?” said I.

‘Another burst of merriment was the only reply they made me. I never
found much difficulty in making my way in certain classes of society
where the tone was a familiar one. Where a _bon mot_ was good currency
and a joke passed well, there I was at home, and to assume the features
of the party was with me a kind of instinct which I could not avoid; it
cost me neither effort nor strain; I caught up the spirit as a child
catches up an accent, and went the pace as pleasantly as though I had
been bred among them. I was therefore but a short time at table when by
way of matriculation I deemed it necessary to relate a story; and
certainly if they had astounded me by the circumstances of their high
and mighty acquaintances, I did not spare them in my narrative--in which
the Emperor of Japan figured as a very commonplace individual, and the
King of Candia came in, just incidentally, as a rather dubious
acquaintance might do. For a time they listened, like people who are
well accustomed to give and take these kinds of miracle; but when I
mentioned something about a game of leap-frog on the wall of China with
the Celestial himself, a perfect shout of incredulous laughter
interrupted me.

‘“Well,” said I, “don’t believe me, if you don’t like; but here have I
been the whole evening listening to you, and if I ‘ve not bolted as much
as that, my name’s not Con O’Kelly.”

‘But it is not necessary to tell you how, step by step, they led me to
credit all they were saying, but actually to tell my own real story to
them--which I did from beginning to end, down to the very moment I sat
down there, with a large glass of hot claret before me, as happy as
might be.

‘“And you really are so low in purse?” said one. ‘“And have no prospect
of any occupation, nor any idea of a livelihood?” cried another.

‘“Just as much as I expect promotion from my friend the Emperor of
China,” said I.

‘“You speak French and German well enough, though?” ‘“And a smattering
of Italian,” said I. ‘“Come, you ‘ll do admirably; be one of us.”
 ‘“Might I make bold enough to ask what trade that is?” ‘“You don’t know-
-you can’t guess even?” ‘“Not even guess,” said I, “except you report
for the papers, and come here to make up the news.”

‘“Something better than that, I hope,” said the man at the head of the
table. “What think you of a life that leads a man about the world from
Norway to Jerusalem; that shows him every land the sun shines on, and
every nation of the globe, travelling with every luxury that can make a
journey easy and a road pleasant; that enables him to visit whatever is
remarkable in every city of the universe--to hear Pasta at St.
Petersburg in the winter, and before the year’s end to see an Indian
war-dance among the red men of the Rocky Mountains; to sit beneath the
shadow of the Pyramids as it were to-day, and ere two months be over to
stand in the spray of Trolhattan, and join a wolf-chase through the
pine-forests of the north. And not only this, but to have opportunities
of seeing life on terms the most intimate, so that society should be
unveiled to an extent that few men of any station can pretend to; to
converse with the greatest and the wisest, the most distinguished in
rank--ay! and better than all, with the most beautiful women of every
land in Europe, who depend on your word, rely on your information, and
permit a degree of intimacy which in their own rank is unattainable; to
improve your mind by knowledge of languages, acquaintance with works of
art, scenery, and more still by habits of intelligence which travelling
bestows.”

‘“And to do this,” said I, burning with impatience at a picture that
realised all I wished for, “to do this----”

‘“Be a courier!” said thirty voices in a cheer. “Vive la Grande Route!”
 and with the word each man drained his glass to the bottom.

‘“Vive la Grande Route!” exclaimed I, louder than the rest; “and here I
join you.”

‘From that hour I entered on a career that each day I follow is becoming
dearer to me. It is true that I sit in the rumble of the carriage, while
_monseigneur_, or my lord, reclines within; but would I exchange his
ennui and depression for my own light-heartedness and jollity? Would I
give up the happy independence of all the intrigue and plotting of the
world I enjoy, for all his rank and station? Does not Mont Blanc look as
grand in his hoary panoply to me as to him; are not the Danube and the
Rhine as fair? If I wander through the gallery of Dresden, have I not
the sweet smile of the great Raphael’s Madonna bent on me, as blandly as
it is on him? Is not mine host, with less of ceremony, far more cordial
to me than to him? Is not mine a rank known and acknowledged in every
town, in every village? Have I not a greeting wherever I pass? Should
sickness overtake me, where have I not a home? Where am I among
strangers? Then, what care I for the bill--mine is a royal route where I
never pay. And, lastly, how often is the _soubrette_ of the rumble as
agreeable a companion as the pale and care-worn lady within?

‘Such is my life. Many would scoff, and call it menial. Let them, if
they will. I never _felt_ it so; and once more I say, “Vive la Grande
Route!”’

‘But your friends of the “Fischer’s Haus”?’

‘A jolly set of smugglers, with whom for a month or two in summer I take
a cruise, less for profit than pleasure. The blue water is a necessary
of life to the man that has been some years at sea. My little collection
has been made in my wanderings; and if ever you come to Naples, you must
visit a cottage I have at Castella Mare, where you ‘ll see something
better worth your looking at. And now, though it does not seem very
hospitable, I must say adieu.’

With these words Mr. O’Kelly opened a drawer, and drew forth a blue
jacket lined with rich dark fur and slashed with black braiding; a
greyhound was embroidered in gold twist on the arm, and a similar
decoration ornamented the front of his blue-cloth cap. I start for Genoa
in half an hour. We’ll meet again, and often, I hope.’

‘Good-bye,’ said I, ‘and a hundred thanks for a pleasant evening, and
one of the strangest stories I ever heard. I half wish I were a younger
man, and I think I ‘d mount the blue jacket too.’

‘It would show you some strange scenes,’ said Mr. O’Kelly, while he
continued to equip himself for the road. ‘All I have told is little
compared to what I might tell, were I only to give a few leaves of my
life _en courier_; but, as I said before, we ‘ll live to meet again. Do
you know who my party is this morning?’

‘I can’t guess.’

‘My old flame, Miss Blundell; she’s married now and has a daughter, so
like what I remember herself once. Well, well, it’s a strange world!
Good-bye.’

With that we shook hands for the last time, and parted; and I wandered
back to Antwerp when the sun was rising, to get into a bed and sleep for
the next eight hours.



CHAPTER IX. TABLE-TRAITS

Morgan O’Dogherty was wrong--and, sooth to say, he was not often so--
when he pronounced a Mess to be ‘the perfection of dinner society.’ In
the first place, there can be no perfection anywhere or in anything, it
is evident, where ladies are not. Secondly, a number of persons so
purely professional, and therefore so very much alike in their habits,
tone of thinking, and expression, can scarcely be expected to make up
that complex amalgam so indispensable to pleasant society. Lastly, the
very fact of meeting the same people each day, looking the very same way
too, is a sad damper to that flow of spirits which for their free
current demand all the chances and vicissitudes of a fresh audience. In
a word, in the one case a man becomes like a Dutch canal, standing
stagnant and slow between its trim banks; in the other, he is a bounding
rivulet, careering pleasantly through grassy meadows and smiling fields-
-now basking in the gay sunshine, now lingering in the cool shade; at
one moment hurrying along between rocks and moss-grown pebbles,
brawling, breaking, and foaming; at the next, expanding into some little
lake, calm and deep and mirrorlike.

It is the very chances and changes of conversation, its ups and downs,
its lights and shadows--so like those of life itself--that make its
great charm; and for this, generally, a mixed party gives the only
security. Now, a Mess has very little indeed of this requisite; on the
contrary, its great stronghold is the fact that it offers an easy
tableland for all capacities. It has its little, dry, stale jokes, as
flat and as dull as the orderly book--the regular quiz about Jones’s
whiskers, or Tobin’s horse; the hackneyed stories about Simpson of Ours,
or Nokes of Yours--of which the major is never tired, and the newly-
joined sub is enraptured. Bless their honest hearts! very little fun
goes far in the army; like the regimental allowance of wine, it will
never intoxicate, and no man is expected to call for a fresh supply.

I have dined at more Messes than any red-coat of them all, at home and
abroad--cavalry, artillery, and infantry, ‘horse, foot, and dragoons,’
as Grattan has it. In gala parties, with a general and his staff for
guests; after sweltering field-days, where all the claret could not
clear your throat of pipe-clay and contract-powder; in the colonies,
where flannel-jackets were substituted for regulation coats, and land-
crabs and pepper-pot for saddles and sirloins; in Connemara, Calcutta,
or Corfu--it was all the same: _caelum non animum_, etc. Not but that
they had all their little peculiarities among themselves-- so much so,
indeed, that I offer a fifty, that, if you set me down blindfolded at
any Mess in the service, I will tell you what corps they belong to
before the cheese appears; and before the bottle goes half around, I’ll
engage to distinguish the hussars from the heavies, the fusiliers from
the light-bobs; and when the president is ringing for more claret, it
will go hard with me if I don’t make a shrewd guess at the number of the
regiment.

The great charm of the Mess is to those young, ardent spirits fresh from
Sandhurst or Eton, sick of mathematics and bored with false quantities.
To them the change is indeed a glorious one, and I’d ask nothing better
than to be sixteen, and enjoy it all; but for the old stagers, it is
slow work indeed. A man curls his whiskers at forty with far less
satisfaction than he surveys their growth and development at eighteen;
he tightens his waist, too, at that period, with a very different sense
of enjoyment. His first trip to Jamaica is little more than a ‘lark’;
his fourth or fifth, with a wife and four brats, is scarcely a party of
pleasure--and all these things react on the Mess. Besides, it is against
human nature itself to like the people who rival us; and who could enjoy
the jokes of a man who stands between him and a majority?

Yet, taking them all in all, the military ‘cut up’ better than any other
professionals. The doctors might be agreeable; they know a vast deal of
life, and in a way too that other people never see it; but meet them _en
masse_, they are little better than body-snatchers. There is not a
malady too dreadful, nor an operation too bloody, to tell you over your
soup; every slice of the turkey suggests an amputation, and they sever a
wing with the anatomical precision they would extirpate a thigh bone.
Life to them has no interest except where it verges on death; and from
habit and hardening, they forget that human suffering has any other
phase than a source of wealth to the medical profession.

The lawyers are even worse. To listen to them, you would suppose that
the highest order of intellect was a skill in chicanery; that trick and
stratagem were the foremost walks of talent; that to browbeat a poor man
and to confound a simple one were great triumphs of genius; and that the
fairest gift of the human mind was that which enabled a man to feign
every emotion of charity, benevolence, pity, anger, grief, and joy, for
the sum of twenty pounds sterling, wrung from abject poverty and briefed
by an ‘honest attorney.’

As to the parsons, I must acquit them honestly of any portion of this
charge. It has been my fortune to ‘assist’ at more than one visitation
dinner, and I can safely aver that never by any accident did the
conversation become professional, nor did I hear a word of piety during
the entertainment.

Country gentlemen are scarcely professional, however the similarity of
their tastes and occupations might seem to warrant the classification--
fox-hunting, grouse-shooting, game-preserving, road-jobbing, rent-
extracting, land-tilling, being propensities in common. They are the
slowest of all; and the odds are long against any one keeping awake
after the conversation has taken its steady turn into shorthorns,
Swedish turnips, subsoiling, and southdowns.

Artists are occasionally well enough, if only for their vanity and self-
conceit.

Authors are better still, for ditto and ditto.

Actors are most amusing from the innocent delusion they labour under
that all that goes on in life is unreal, except what takes place in
Covent Garden or Drury Lane.

In a word, professional cliques are usually detestable, the individuals
who compose them being frequently admirable ingredients, but intolerable
when unmixed; and society, like a _macédoine_, is never so good as when
its details are a little incongruous.

For my own part, I knew few things better than a table d’hôte, that
pleasant reunion of all nations, from Stockholm to Stamboul; of every
rank, from the grand-duke to the bagman; men and women, or, if you like
the phrase better, ladies and gentlemen--some travelling for pleasure,
some for profit; some on wedding tours, some in the grief of widowhood;
some rattling along the road of life in all the freshness of youth,
health, and well-stored purses, others creeping by the wayside
cautiously and quietly; sedate and sententious English, lively Italians,
plodding Germans, witty Frenchmen, wily Russians, and stupid Belgians--
all pell-mell, seated side by side, and actually shuffled into momentary
intimacy by soup, fish, fowl, and entremets. The very fact that you are
_en route_ gives a frankness and a freedom to all you say. Your passport
is signed, your carriage packed; to-morrow you will be a hundred miles
away. What matter, then, if the old baron with the white moustache has
smiled at your German, or if the thin-faced lady in the Dunstable bonnet
has frowned at your morality?--you ‘ll never, in all likelihood, meet
either again. You do your best to be agreeable--it is the only
distinction recognised; here are no places of honour, no favoured
guests--each starts fair in the race, and a pleasant course I have
always deemed it.

Now, let no one, while condemning the vulgarity of this taste of mine--
for such I anticipate as the ready objection, though the dissentient
should be a tailor from Bond Street or a schoolmistress from Brighton--
for a moment suppose that I mean to include all tables d’hôte in this
sweeping laudation; far, very far from it. I, Arthur O’Leary, have
travelled some hundreds of thousands of miles in every quarter and
region of the globe, and yet would have considerable difficulty in
enumerating even six such as fairly to warrant the praise I have
pronounced.

In the first place, the table d’hôte, to possess all the requisites I
desire, should not have its _locale_ in any first-rate city, like Paris,
London, or St. Petersburg; no, it should rather be in Brussels, Dresden,
Munich, Berne, or Florence. Again, it should not be in the great
overgrown mammoth-hotel of the town, with three hundred daily devourers,
and a steam-engine to slice the _bouilli_. It should, and will usually,
be found in some retired and quiet spot--frequently within a small
court, with orange-trees round the walls, and a tiny modest _jet d’eau_
in the middle; a glass-door entering from a flight of low steps into a
neat ante-chamber, where an attentive but unobtrusive waiter is ready to
take your hat and cane, and, instinctively divining your dinner
intentions, ushers you respectfully into the salon, and leans down your
chair beside the place you select.

The few guests already arrived have the air of _habitués_; they are
chatting together when you enter, but they conceive it necessary to do
the honours of the place to the stranger, and at once include you in the
conversation; a word or two suffices, and you see that they are not
chance folk, whom hunger has overtaken at the door, but daily visitors,
who know the house and appreciate it. The table itself is far from
large--at most sixteen persons could sit down at it; the usual number is
about twelve or fourteen. There is, if it be summer, a delicious bouquet
in the midst; and the snowy whiteness of the cloth and the clear lustre
of the water strike you instantly. The covers are as bright as when they
left the hands of the silversmith, and the temperature of the room at
once shows that nothing has been neglected that can contribute to the
comfort of the guests. The very plash of the fountain is a grateful
sound, and the long necks of the hock-bottles, reposing in the little
basin, have an air of luxury far from unpleasing. While the champagne
indulges its more southern character in the ice-pails in the shade, a
sweet, faint odour of pineapples and nectarines is diffused about; nor
am I disposed to quarrel with the chance view I catch, between the
orange-trees, of a window where asparagus, game, oranges, and melons are
grouped confusedly together, yet with a harmony of colour and effect
Schneider would have gloried in. There is a noiseless activity about, a
certain air of preparation--not such as by bustle can interfere with the
placid enjoyment you feel, but something which denotes care and skill.
You feel, in fact, that impatience on your part would only militate
against your own interest, and that when the moment arrives for serving,
the potage has then received the last finishing touch of the artist. By
this time the company are assembled; the majority are men, but there are
four or five ladies. They are _en chapeau_ too; but it is a toilette
that shows taste and elegance, and the freshness--that delightful
characteristic of foreign dress--of their light muslin dresses is in
keeping with all about. Then follows that little pleasant bustle of
meeting; the interchange of a number of small courtesies, which cost
little but are very delightful; the news of the theatre for the night;
some soiree, well known, or some promenade, forms the whole--and we are
at table.

The destiny that made me a traveller has blessed me with either the
contentment of the most simple or the perfect enjoyment of the most
cultivated cuisine; and if I have eaten _tripe de rocher_ with Parry at
the Pole, I have never lost thereby the acme of my relish for truffles
at the ‘Frères.’ Therefore, trust me that in my mention of a table
d’hôte I have not forgotten the most essential of its features--for
this, the smallness and consequent selectness of the party is always a
guarantee.

Thus, then, you are at table; your napkin is spread, but you see no
soup. The reason is at once evident, and you accept with gratefulness
the little plate of Ostend oysters, each somewhat smaller than a five-
franc piece, that are before you. Who would seek for pearls without when
such treasures are to be found within the shell--cool and juicy and
succulent; suggestive of delights to come, and so suited to the limpid
glass of Chablis. What preparatives for the potage, which already I
perceive to be a _printanière_.

But why dwell on all this? These memoranda of mine were intended rather
to form a humble companion to some of John Murray’s inestimable
treatises on the road; some stray recollection of what in my rambles had
struck me as worth mention; something that might serve to lighten a
half-hour here or an evening there; some hint for the wanderer of a
hotel or a church or a view or an actor or a poet, a picture or a
_pâte_, for which his halting-place is remarkable, but of whose
existence he knew not. And to come back once more, such a picture as I
have presented is but a weak and imperfect sketch of the Hôtel de France
in Brussels--at least, of what I once remember it.

Poor Biennais, he was an _artiste!_ He commenced his career under
Chicaud, and rose to the dignity of _rôtisseur_ under Napoleon. With
what enthusiasm he used to speak of his successes during the Empire,
when Bonaparte gave him carte-blanche to compose a dinner for a ‘party
of kings!’ Napoleon himself was but an inferior gastronome. With him,
the great requisite was to serve anywhere and at any moment; and though
the bill of fare was a modest one, it was sometimes a matter of
difficulty to prepare it in the depths of the Black Forest or on the
sandy plains of Prussia, amid the mud-covered fields of Poland or the
snows of Muscovy. A poulet, a cutlet, and a cup of coffee was the whole
affair; but it should be ready as if by magic. Among his followers were
several distinguished gourmets. Cambacérès was well known; Murat also,
and Decrès, the Minister of Marine, kept admirable tables. Of these,
Biennais spoke with ecstasy; he remembered their various tastes, and
would ever remark, when placing some masterpiece of skill before you,
how the King of Naples loved or the arch-chancellor praised it. To him
the overthrow of the empire was but the downfall of the cuisine; and he
saw nothing more affecting in the last days of Fontainebleau than that
the Emperor had left untouched a _fondue_ he had always eaten of with
delight. ‘After that,’ said Biennais, ‘I saw the game was up.’ With the
Hundred Days he was ‘restored,’ like his master; but, alas! the empire
of casseroles was departed; the thunder of the cannon foundries, and the
roar of the shot furnaces were more congenial sounds than the simmering
of sauces and the gentle murmur of a stew-pan. No wonder, thought he,
there should come a Waterloo, when the spirit of the nation had thus
degenerated. Napoleon spent his last days in exile; Biennais took his
departure for Belgium. The park was his Longwood; and, indeed, he
himself saw invariable points of resemblance in the two destinies.
Happily for those who frequented the Hôtel de France, he did not occupy
his remaining years in dictating his memoirs to some Las Casas of the
kitchen, but persevered to the last in the practice of his great art,
and died, so to speak, ladle in hand.

To me the Hôtel de France has many charms. I remember it, I shall not
say how many years--its cool, delightful salon, looking out upon that
beautiful little park whose shady alleys are such a resource in the
evenings of summer; its lime-trees, beneath which you may sit and sip
your coffee, as you watch the groups that pass and repass before you,
weaving stories to yourself which become thicker and thicker as the
shade deepens, and the flitting shapes are barely seen as they glide
along the silent alleys, while a distant sound of music--some air of the
Fatherland--is all that breaks the stillness, and you forget in the
dreamy silence that you are in the midst of a great city.

The Hôtel de France has other memories than these, too. I ‘m not sure
that I shall not make a confession, yet somehow I half shrink from it.
You might call it a love adventure, and I should not like that; besides,
there is scarcely a moral in it--though who knows?



CHAPTER X. A DILEMMA

It was in the month of May--I won’t confess to the year--that I found
myself, after trying various hotels in the Place Royale, at last
deposited at the door of the Hôtel de France. It seemed to me, in my
then ignorance, like a _pis aller_, when the postillion said, ‘Let us
try the “France,”’ and little prepared me for the handsome, but somewhat
small, hotel before me. It was nearly five o’clock when I arrived, and I
had only time to make some slight change in my dress when the bell
sounded for table d’hôte.

The guests were already seated when I entered, but a place had been
reserved for me, which completed the table. I was a young--perhaps after
reading a little farther you’ll say a _very young_--traveller at the
time, but was soon struck by the quiet and decorous style in which the
dinner was conducted. The servants were prompt, silent, and observant;
the guests, easy and affable; the equipage of the table was even
elegant; and the cookery, Biennais! I was the only Englishman present,
the party being made up of Germans and French; but all spoke together
like acquaintances, and before the dinner had proceeded far were polite
enough to include me in the conversation.

At the head of the table sat a large and strikingly handsome man, of
about eight-and-thirty or forty years of age--his dress a dark frock,
richly braided, and ornamented by the decorations of several foreign
orders; his forehead high and narrow, the temples strongly indented; his
nose arched and thin, and his upper lip covered by a short black
moustache raised at either extremity and slightly curled, as we see
occasionally in a Van Dyck picture; indeed, his dark-brown features,
somewhat sad in their expression, his rich hazel eyes and long waving
hair, gave him all the character that great artist loved to perpetuate
on his canvas. He spoke seldom, but when he did there was something
indescribably pleasing in the low, mellow tones of his voice; a slight
smile too lit up his features at these times, and his manner had in it--
I know not what; some strange power it seemed, that made whoever he
addressed feel pleased and flattered by his notice of them, just as we
see a few words spoken by a sovereign caught up and dwelt upon by those
around.

At his side sat a lady, of whom when I first came into the room I took
little notice; her features seemed pleasing, but no more. But gradually,
as I watched her I was struck by the singular delicacy of traits that
rarely make their impression at first sight. She was about twenty-five,
perhaps twenty-six, but of a character of looks that preserves something
almost childish in their beauty. She was pale, and with brown hair--that
light sunny brown that varies in its hue with every degree of light upon
it; her face was oval and inclined to plumpness; her eyes were large,
full, and lustrous, with an expression of softness and candour that won
on you wonderfully the longer you looked at them; her nose was short,
perhaps faultily so, but beautifully chiselled, and fine as a Greek
statue; her mouth, rather large, displayed, however, two rows of teeth
beautifully regular and of snowy whiteness; while her chin, rounded and
dimpled, glided by an easy transition into a throat large and most
gracefully formed. Her figure, as well as I could judge, was below the
middle size, and inclined to embonpoint; and her dress, denoting some
national peculiarity of which I was ignorant, was a velvet bodice laced
in front and ornamented with small silver buttons, which terminated in a
white muslin skirt; a small cap, something like what Mary Queen of Scots
is usually represented in, sat on the back of her head and fell in deep
lace folds on her shoulders. Lastly, her hands were small, white, and
dimpled, and displayed on her taper and rounded fingers several rings of
apparently great value.

I have been somewhat lengthy in my description of these two persons, and
can scarcely ask my reader to accompany me round the circle; however, it
is with them principally I have to do. The others at table were
remarkable enough. There was a leading member of the Chamber of
Deputies--an ex-minister--a tall, dark-browed, ill-favoured man, with a
retiring forehead and coal-black eyes; he was a man of great cleverness,
spoke eloquently and well, and was singularly open and frank in giving
his opinion on the politics of the time. There was a German or two, from
the grand-duchy of something--somewhat proud, reserved personages, as
all the Germans of petty states are; they talked little, and were
evidently impressed with the power they possessed of tantalising the
company by not divulging the intention of the Gross Herzog of Hoch
Donnerstadt regarding the present prospects of Europe. There were three
Frenchmen and two French ladies, all pleasant, easy, and affable people;
there was a doctor from Louvain, a shrewd, intelligent man; a Prussian
major and his wife--well-bred, quiet people, and, like all Prussians,
polite without inviting acquaintance. An Austrian secretary of legation,
a wine-merchant from Bordeaux, and a celebrated pianist completed the
party.

I have now put my readers in possession of information which I only
obtained after some days myself; for though one or other of these
personages was occasionally absent from table d’hôte, I soon perceived
that they were all frequenters of the house, and well known there.

If the guests were seated at table wherever chance or accident might
place them, I could perceive that a tone of deference was always used to
the tall man, who invariably maintained his place at the head; and an
air of even greater courtesy was assumed towards the lady beside him,
who was his wife. He was always addressed as Monsieur le Comte, and her
title of Countess was never forgotten in speaking to her. During dinner,
whatever little chit-chat or gossip was the talk of the day was
specially offered up to her. The younger guests occasionally ventured to
present a bouquet, and even the rugged minister himself accomplished a
more polite bow in accosting her than he could have summoned up for his
presentation to royalty. To all these little attentions she returned a
smile or a look or a word, or a gesture with her white hand, never
exciting jealousy by any undue degree of favour, and distributing her
honours with the practised equanimity of one accustomed to it.

Dinner over and coffee, a handsome britzka, drawn by two splendid dark-
bay horses, would drive up, and Madame la Comtesse, conducted to the
carriage by her husband, would receive the homage of the whole party, as
they stood to let her pass. The count would then linger some twenty
minutes or so, and take his leave to wander for an hour about the park,
and afterwards to the theatre, where I used to see him in a private box
with his wife.

Such was the little party at the ‘France’ when I took up my residence
there in the month of May, and gradually one dropped off after another
as the summer wore on. The Germans went back to sauer kraut and kreutzer
whist; the secretary of legation was on leave; the wine-merchant was off
to St. Petersburg; the pianist was in the bureau he once directed--and
so on, leaving our party reduced to the count and madame, a stray
traveller, a deaf abbé, and myself.

The dog-days in a Continental city are, every one knows, stupid and
tiresome enough. Every one has taken his departure either to his
château, if he has one, or to the watering-places; the theatre has no
attraction, even if the heat permitted one to visit it; the streets are
empty, parched, and grass-grown; and except the arrival and departure of
that incessant locomotive, John Bull, there is no bustle or stir
anywhere. Hapless, indeed, is the condition then of the man who is
condemned from any accident to toil through this dreary season; to
wander about in solitude the places he has seen filled by pleasant
company; to behold the park and promenades given up to Flemish _bonnes_
or Norman nurses, where he was wont to glad his eye with the sight of
bright eyes and trim shapes, flitting past in all the tasty elegance of
Parisian toilette; to see the lazy _frotteur_ sleeping away his hours at
the _porte cochere_, which a month before thundered with the deep roll
of equipage coming and going. All this is very sad, and disposes one to
be dull and discontented too.

For what reason I was detained at Brussels it is unnecessary to inquire.
Some delay in remittances, if I remember aright, had its share in the
cause. Who ever travelled without having cursed his banker or his agent
or his uncle or his guardian, or somebody, in short, who had a deal of
money belonging to him in his hands, and would not send it forward? In
all my long experience of travelling and travellers, I don’t remember
meeting with one person, who, if it were not for such mischances, would
not have been amply supplied with cash. Some with a knowing wink throw
the blame on the ‘Governor’; others, more openly indignant, confound
Coutts and Drummond; a stray Irishman will now and then damn the
‘tenantry that haven’t paid up the last November’; but none, no matter
how much their condition bespeaks that out-at-elbows habit which a ways-
and-means style of life contracts, will ever confess to the fact that
their expectations are as blank as their banker’s book, and that the
only land they are ever to pretend to is a post-obit right in some six-
feet-by-two in a churchyard. And yet the world is full of such people--
well-informed, pleasant, good-looking folk, who inhabit first-rate
hotels; drink, dine, and dress well; frequent theatres and promenades;
spend their winters at Paris or Florence or Rome, their summers at Baden
or Ems or Interlachen; have a strange half-intimacy with men in the
higher circles, and occasionally dine with them; are never heard of in
any dubious or unsafe affair; are reputed safe fellows to talk to; know
every one, from the horse-dealer who will give credit to the Jew who
will advance cash; and notwithstanding that they neither gamble nor bet
nor speculate, yet contrive to live--ay, and well, too--without any
known resources whatever. If English (and they are for the most part
so), they usually are called by some well-known name of aristocratic
reputation in England: they are thus Villiers or Paget or Seymour or
Percy, which on the Continent is already a kind of half-nobility at
once; and the question which seemingly needs no reply, ‘Ah, vous êtes
parent de milord!’ is a receipt in full rank anywhere.

These men--and who that knows anything of the Continent has not met such
everywhere--are the great riddles of our century; and I ‘d rather give a
reward for their secret than all the discoveries about perpetual motion,
or longitude, or North-west Passages, that ever were heard of. And
strange it is, too, no one has ever blabbed. Some have emerged from this
misty state to inherit large fortunes and live in the best style; yet I
have never heard of a single man having turned king’s evidence on his
fellows. And yet what a talent theirs must be, let any man confess who
has waited three posts for a remittance without any tidings of its
arrival! Think of the hundred-and-one petty annoyances and ironies to
which he is subject! He fancies that the very waiters know he is _à
sec_; that the landlord looks sour, and the landlady austere; the very
clerk in the post-office appears to say, ‘No letter for you, sir,’ with
a jibing and impertinent tone. From that moment, too, a dozen expensive
tastes that he never dreamed of before enter his head: he wants to
purchase a hack or give a dinner-party or bet at a racecourse,
principally because he has not got a sou in his pocket, and he is afraid
it may be guessed by others--such is the fatal tendency to strive or
pretend to something which has no other value in our eyes than the
effect it may have on our acquaintances, regardless of what sacrifices
it may demand.

Forgive, I pray, this long digression, which although I hope not without
its advantages would scarcely have been entered into were it not _à
propos_ to myself. And to go back--I began to feel excessively
uncomfortable at the delay of my money. My first care every morning was
to repair to the post-office; sometimes I arrived before it was open,
and had to promenade up and down the gloomy Rue de l’Evecque till the
clock struck; sometimes the mail would be late (a foreign mail is
generally late when the weather is peculiarly fine and the roads good!);
but always the same answer came, ‘Rien pour vous, Monsieur O’Leary’; and
at last I imagined from the way the fellow spoke that he had set the
response to a tune, and sang it.

Béranger has celebrated in one of his very prettiest lyrics ‘how happy
one is at twenty in a garret.’ I have no doubt, for my part, that the
vicinity of the slates and the poverty of the apartment would have much
contributed to my peace of mind at the time I speak of. The fact of a
magnificently furnished salon, a splendid dinner every day, champagne
and Seltzer promiscuously, cab fares and theatre tickets innumerable
being all scored against me were sad dampers to my happiness; and from
being one of the cheeriest and most light-hearted of fellows, I sank
into a state of fidgety and restless impatience, the nearest thing I
ever remember to low spirits.

Such was I one day when the post, which I had been watching anxiously
from mid-day, had not arrived at five o’clock. Leaving word with the
commissionaire to wait and report to me at the hotel, I turned back to
the table d’hôte. By accident, the only guests were the count and
madame. There they were, as accurately dressed as ever; so handsome and
so happy-looking; so attached, too, in their manner towards each other--
that nice balance between affection and courtesy which before the world
is so captivating. Disturbed as were my thoughts, I could not help
feeling struck by their bright and pleasant looks.

‘Ah, a family party!’ said the count gaily, as I entered, while madame
bestowed on me one of her very sweetest smiles.

The restraint of strangers removed, they spoke as if I had been an old
friend--chatting away about everything and everybody, in a tone of frank
and easy confidence perfectly delightful; occasionally deigning to ask
if I did not agree with them in their opinions, and seeming to enjoy the
little I ventured to say, with a pleasure I felt to be most flattering.
The count’s quiet and refined manner, the easy flow of his conversation,
replete as it was with information and amusement, formed a most happy
contrast with the brilliant sparkle of madame’s lively sallies; for she
seemed rather disposed to indulge a vein of slight satire, but so
tempered with good feeling and kindliness withal that you would not for
the world forego the pleasure it afforded. Long, long before the dessert
appeared I ceased to think of my letter or my money, and did not
remember that such things as bankers, agents, or stockbrokers were in
the universe. Apparently they had been great travellers: had seen every
city in Europe, and visited every court; knew all the most distinguished
people, and many of the sovereigns intimately; and little stories of
Metternich, _bons mots_ of Talleyrand, anecdotes of Goethe and
Chateaubriand, seasoned the conversation with an interest which to a
young man like myself was all-engrossing.

Suddenly the door opened, and the commissionaire called out, ‘No letter
for Monsieur O’Leary!’ I immediately became pale and faint; and though
the count was too well bred to take any direct notice of what he saw was
caused by my disappointment, he contrived adroitly to direct some
observation to madame, which relieved me from any burden of the
conversation.

‘What hour did you order the carriage, Duischka?’ said he.

‘At half-past six. The forest is so cool that I like to go slowly
through it.’

‘That will give us ample time for a walk, too,’ said he; ‘and if
Monsieur O’Leary will join us, the pleasure will be all the greater.’

I hesitated, and stammered out an apology about a headache, or something
of the sort.

‘The drive will be the best thing in the world for you,’ said madame;
‘and the strawberries and cream of Boitsfort will complete the cure.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said the count, as I shook my head half sadly, ‘La comtesse
is infallible as a doctor.’

‘And, like all the faculty, very angry when her skill is called in
question,’ said she.

‘Go, then, and find your shawl, madame,’ said he, ‘and, meanwhile,
monsieur and I will discuss our liqueur, and be ready for you.’

Madame smiled gaily, as if having carried her point, and left the room.

The door was scarcely closed when the count drew his chair closer to
mine, and, with a look of kindliness and good-nature I cannot convey,
said, ‘I am going, Monsieur O’Leary, to take a liberty--a very great
liberty indeed--with you, and perhaps you may not forgive it.’ He paused
for a minute or two, as if waiting some intimation on my part. I merely
muttered something intended to express my willingness to accept of what
he hinted, and he resumed: ‘You are a very young man; I not a very old,
but a very experienced one. There are occasions in life in which such
knowledge as I possess of the world and its ways may be of great
service. Now, without for an instant obtruding myself on your
confidence, or inquiring into affairs which are strictly your own, I
wish to say that my advice and counsel, if you need either, are
completely at your service. A few minutes ago I perceived that you were
distressed at hearing there was no letter for you----’

‘I know not how to thank you,’ said I, ‘for such kindness as this; and
the best proof of my sincerity is to tell you the position in which I am
placed.’

‘One word, first,’ added he, laying his hand gently on my arm--‘one
word. Do you promise to accept of my advice and assistance when you have
revealed the circumstances you allude to? If not, I beg I may not hear
it.’

‘Your advice I am most anxious for,’ said I hastily.

‘The other was an awkward word, and I see that your delicacy has taken
the alarm. But come, it is spoken now, and can’t be recalled. I must
have my way; so go on.’

I seized his hand with enthusiasm, and shook it heartily. ‘Yes,’ said I,
‘you shall have your way. I have neither shame nor concealment before
you.’ And then, in as few words as I could explain such tangled and
knotted webs as envelop all matters where legacies and lawyers and
settlements and securities and mortgages enter, I put him in possession
of the fact that I had come abroad with the assurance from my man of
business of a handsome yearly income, to be increased after a time to
something very considerable; that I was now two months in expectation of
remittances, which certain forms in Chancery had delayed and deferred;
and that I watched the post each day with an anxious heart for means to
relieve me from certain trifling debts I had incurred, and enable me to
proceed on my journey.

The count listened with the most patient attention to my story, only
interfering once or twice when some difficulty demanded explanation, and
then suffering me to proceed to the end. Then leisurely withdrawing a
pocket-book from the breast of his frock, he opened it slowly.

‘My dear young friend,’ said he, in a measured and almost solemn tone,
‘every hour that a man is in debt is a year spent in slavery. Your
creditor is your master; it matters not whether a kind or a severe one,
the sense of obligation you incur saps the feeling of manly independence
which is the first charm of youth--and, believe me, it is always through
the rents in moral feeling that our happiness oozes out quickest. Here
are five thousand francs; take as much as you want. With a friend, and I
insist upon you believing me to be such, these things have no character
of obligation: I accommodate you to-day; you do the same for me to-
morrow. And now put these notes in your pocket; I see madame is waiting
for us.’

For a second or two I felt so overpowered I could not speak. The
generous confidence and friendly interest of one so thoroughly a
stranger were too much for my astonished and gratified mind. At last I
recovered myself enough to reply, and assuring my worthy friend that
when I spoke of my debts they were in reality merely trifling ones; that
I had still ample funds in my banker’s hands for all necessary outlay,
and that by the next post, perhaps, my long-wished-for letter might
arrive.

‘And if it should not?’ interposed he, smiling.

‘Why then the next day----’

‘And if not then?’ continued he, with a half-quizzing look at my
embarrassment.

‘Then your five thousand francs shall tremble for it.’

‘That’s a hearty fellow!’ cried he, grasping my hand in both of his;
‘and now I feel I was not deceived in you. My first meeting with
Metternich was very like this. I was at Presburg in the year 1804, just
before the campaign of Austerlitz opened--’

‘You are indeed most gallant, messieurs,’ said the countess, opening the
door, and peeping in. ‘Am I to suppose that cigars and maraschino are
better company than mine?’

We rose at once to make our excuses; and thus I lost the story of Prince
Metternich, in which I already felt an uncommon interest from the
similarity of the adventure to my own, though whether I was to represent
the prince or the count I could not even guess.

I was soon seated beside the countess in the luxurious britzka; the
count took his place on the box, and away we rattled over the stones
through the Porte de Namur, and along the pretty suburbs of Etterbech,
where we left the highroad, and entered the Bois de Cambre by that long
and beautiful _allée_ which runs on for miles, like some vast aisle in a
Gothic cathedral--the branches above bending into an arched roof, and
the tall beech-stems standing like the pillars.

The pleasant odour of the forest, the tempered light, the noiseless roll
of the carriage, gave a sense of luxury to the drive I can remember
vividly to this hour. Not that my enjoyment of these things was my only
one; far from it. The pretty countess talked away about everything that
came uppermost, in that strain of spirited and lively chit-chat which
needs not the sweetest voice and the most fascinating look to make it
most captivating. I felt like one in a dream; the whole thing was fairy-
land; and whether I looked into the depths of the leafy wood, where some
horsemen might now and then be seen to pass at a gallop, or my eyes fell
upon that small and faultless foot that rested on the velvet cushion in
the carriage, I could not trust the reality of the scene, and could only
mutter to myself, ‘What hast thou ever done, Arthur O’Leary, or thy
father before thee, to deserve happiness like this?’

Dear and kind reader, it may be your fortune to visit Brussels; and
although not exactly under such circumstances as I have mentioned here,
let me advise you, even without a beautiful Polonaise for your
companion, to make a trip to Boitsfort, a small village in the wood of
Soignies. Of course your nationality will lead you to Waterloo; and
equally of course, if you have any tact (which far be it from me not to
suppose you gifted with), you’ll not dine there, the little miserable
cabarets that are called restaurants being wretched beyond description;
you may have a glass of wine--and if so, take champagne, for they cannot
adulterate it--but don’t venture on a dinner, if you hope to enjoy one
again for a week after. Well, then, ‘having done your Waterloo,’ as the
Cockneys say, seen Sergeant Cotton and the church, La Haye Sainte,
Hougomont, and Lord Anglesey’s boot--take your road back, not by that
eternal and noisy _chaussée_ you have come by, but turn off to the
right, as if going to Wavre, and enter the forest by an earth road,
where you’ll neither meet waggons nor postillions nor even a ‘’pike.’
Your coachman will say, ‘Where to?’ Reply, ‘Boitsfort’--which, for
safety, pronounce ‘Boshfort’--and lie back and enjoy yourself. About six
miles of a delightful drive, all through forest, will bring you to a
small village beside a little lake surrounded by hills, not mountains,
but still waving and broken in outline, and shaded with wood. The red-
tiled roofs, the pointed gables, the green jalousies, and the background
of dark foliage will all remind you of one of Berghem’s pictures; and if
a lazy Fleming or so are seen lounging over the little parapet next the
water, they ‘ll not injure the effect. Passing over the little bridge,
you arrive in front of a long, low, two-storeyed house, perforated by an
arched doorway leading into the court; over the door is an inscription,
which at once denotes the object of the establishment, and you read,
‘Monsieur Dubos fait noces et festins.’ Not that the worthy individual
officiates in any capacity resembling the famed Vulcan of the North: as
far be it from him to invade the prerogative of others as for any to
rival him in his own peculiar walk. No; Monsieur D.’s functions are
limited to those delicate devices which are deemed the suitable diet of
newly-married couples--those _petits plats_ which are, like the orange-
flower, only to be employed on great occasions. And as such he is
unrivalled; for notwithstanding the simple and unpretending exterior,
this little rural tavern can boast the most perfect cook and the best-
stored cellar. Here may be found the earliest turkey of the year, with a
dowry of truffles; here, the first peas of spring, the newest
strawberries and the richest cream, iced champagne and grapy Hermitage,
Steinberger and Johannisberg, are all at your orders. You may dine in
the long salon, _en cabinet_; in the garden, or in the summer-house over
the lake, where the carp is flapping his tail in the clear water, the
twin-brother of him at table. The garden beneath sends up its delicious
odours from beds of every brilliant hue; the sheep are moving homeward
along the distant hills to the tinkle of the faint bell; the plash of an
oar disturbs the calm water as the fisherman skims along the lake, and
the subdued murmurs of the little village all come floating in the air--
pleasant sounds, and full of home thoughts. Well, well! to be sure I am
a bachelor, and know nothing of such matters; but it strikes me I should
like to be married now and then, and go eat my wedding-dinners at
Boitsfort! And now once more let me come back to my narrative--for
leaving which I should ask your pardon, were it not that the digression
is the best part of the whole, and I should never forgive myself if I
had not told you not to stop at Brussels without dining at Boitsfort.

When we reached Boitsfort, a waiter conducted us at once to a little
table in the garden where the strawberries and the iced champagne were
in waiting. Here and there, at some distance, were parties of the
Brussels bourgeoisie enjoying themselves at their coffee, or with ice;
while a large salon that occupied one wing of the building was given up
to some English travellers, whose loud speech and boisterous merriment
bespoke them of that class one is always ashamed to meet with out of
England.

‘Your countrymen are very merry yonder,’ said the countess, as a more
uproarious burst than ever broke from the party.

‘Yes,’ said the count, perceiving that I felt uncomfortable at the
allusion, ‘Englishmen always carry London about with them wherever they
go. Meet them in the Caucasus, and you’ll find that they’ll have some
imitation of a Blackwall dinner or a Greenwich party.’

‘How comes it,’ said I, amazed at the observation, ‘that you know these
places you mention?’

‘Oh, my dear sir, I have been very much about the world in my time, and
have always made it my business to see each people in their own peculiar
haunts. If at Vienna, I dine not at the “Wilde Man,” but at the “Puchs”
 in the Leopoldstadt. If in Dresden, I spend my evening in the Grün-
Garten, beyond the Elbe. The bourgeoisie alone of any nation preserve
traits marked enough for a stranger’s appreciation; the higher classes
are pretty much alike everywhere, and the nationality of the peasant
takes a narrow range, and offers little to amuse.’

‘The count is a quick observer,’ remarked madame, with a look of
pleasure sparkling in her eyes.

‘I flatter myself,’ rejoined he, ‘I seldom err in my guesses. I knew my
friend here tolerably accurately without an introduction.’

There was something so kind in the tone he spoke in that I could have no
doubt of his desire to compliment me.

‘Independently, too, of speaking most of the languages of Europe, I
possess a kind of knack for learning a patois,’ continued he. ‘At this
instant, I’ll wager a cigar with you that I ‘ll join that little knot of
sober Belgians yonder, and by the magic of a few words of genuine
Brussels French, I’ll pass muster as a Boss.’

The countess laughed heartily at the thought, and I joined in her mirth
most readily.

‘I take the wager,’ cried I--‘and hope sincerely to lose it.’

‘Done!’ said he, springing up and putting on his hat, while he made a
short circuit in the garden, and soon afterwards appeared at the table
with the Flemings, asking permission, as it seemed, to light a cigar
from a lantern attached to the tree under which they sat.

If we were to judge from the merriment of the little group, his success
was perfect, and we soon saw him seated amongst them, busily occupied in
concocting a bowl of flaming _ponche_, of which it was clear by his
manner he had invited the party to partake.

‘Now Gustav is in his delight,’ said the countess, in a tone of almost
pique; ‘he is a strange creature, and never satisfied if not doing
something other people never think of. In half an hour he’ll be back
here, with the whole history of Mynheer van Houdendrochen and his wife
and their fourteen “mannikins”; all their little absurdities and
prejudices he ‘ll catch up, and for a week to come we shall hear nothing
but Flemish French, and the habitudes of the Montagne de la Cour.’

For a few seconds I was vastly uncomfortable; a thought glanced across
me, what if it were for some absurd feature in me, in my manner or my
conversation, that he had deigned to make my acquaintance. Then came the
recollection of his generous proposal, and I saw at once that I was
putting a somewhat high price on my originality, if I valued it at five
thousand francs.

‘What ails you?’ said the countess, in a low, soft voice, as she lifted
her eyes and let them fall upon me with a most bewitching expression of
interest. ‘I fear you are ill, or in low spirits.’ I endeavoured to
rally and reply, when she went on--

‘We must see you oftener. Gustav is so pleasant and so gay, he will be
of great use to you. When he really takes a liking, he is delightful;
and he has in your case, I assure you.’

I knew not what to say, nor how to look my gratitude for such a speech,
and could only accomplish some few and broken words of thanks.

‘Besides, you are about to be a traveller,’ continued she; ‘and who can
give you such valuable information of every country and people as the
count? Do you intend to make a long absence from England?’

‘Yes, at least some years. I wish to visit the East.’ ‘You ‘ll go into
Poland?’ said she quickly, without noticing my reply.

‘Yes, I trust so; Hungary and Poland have both great interest for me.’

‘You know that we are Poles, don’t you?’

‘Yes.’

‘We are both from beyond Varsovie. Gustav was there ten years ago. I
have never seen my native country since I was a child.

At the last words her voice dropped to a whisper, and she leaned her
head upon her hand, and seemed lost in thought. I did not dare to break
in upon the current of recollections I saw were crowding upon her, and
was silent. She looked up at length, and by the faint light of the moon,
just risen, I saw that her eyes were tearful and her cheeks still wet.

‘What,’ said I to myself, ‘and has sorrow come even here--here, where I
imagined if ever the sunny path of life existed, it was to be found?’

‘Would you like to hear a sad story?’ said she, smiling faintly, with a
look of indefinable sweetness.

‘If it were yours, it would make my heart ache,’ said I, carried away by
my feelings at the instant.

‘I ‘ll tell it to you one of these days, then: not now! not now,
though!--I could not here; and there comes Gustav. How he laughs!’

And true enough, the merry sounds of his voice were heard through the
garden as he approached; and strangely, too, they seemed to grate and
jar upon my ear, with a very different impression from what before they
brought to me.

Our way back to Brussels led again through the forest, which now was
wrapped in the shade, save where the moon came peeping down through the
leafy branches, and fell in bright patches on the road beneath. The
countess spoke a little at first, but gradually relapsed into perfect
silence. The stillness and calm about seemed only the more striking from
the hollow tramp of the horses, as they moved along the even turf; the
air was mild and sweet, and loaded with that peculiar fragrance which a
wood exhales after nightfall; and all the influences of the time and
place were of that soothing, lulling kind that wraps the mind in a state
of dreamy reverie. But one thought dwelt within me: it was of her who
sat beside me, her head cast down, and her arms folded. She was unhappy;
some secret sorrow was preying upon that fair bosom, some eating care
corroding her very heart. A vague, shadowy suspicion shot through me
that her husband might have treated her cruelly and ill. But why suspect
this? Was not everything I witnessed the very reverse of such a fact?
What could surpass the mutual kindliness and good feeling that I saw
between them! And yet their dispositions were not at all alike: she
seemed to hint as much. The very waywardness of his temperament; the
incessant demand of his spirit for change, excitement, and occupation--
how could it harmonise with her gentle and more constant nature? From
such thoughts I was awakened by her saying, in a low faint voice--

‘You must forget what I said to-night. There are moments when some
strong impulse will force the heart to declare the long-buried thoughts
of years. Perhaps some secret instinct tells us that we are near to
those who can sympathise and feel for us; perhaps these are the
overflowings of grief, without which the heart would grow full to
bursting. Whatever they be, they seem to calm and soothe us, though
afterwards we may sorrow for having indulged in them. You will forget it
all, won’t you?’

‘I will do my best,’ said I timidly, ‘to do all you wish; but I cannot
promise you what may be out of my power. The few words you spoke have
never left my mind since; nor can I say when I shall cease to remember
them.’

‘What do you think, Duischka?’ said the count, as he flung away the
fragment of his cigar, and turned round on the box--’ what do you think
of an invitation to dinner I have accepted for Tuesday next?’

‘Where, pray?’ said she, with an effort to seem interested.

‘I am to dine with my worthy friend Van Houdicamp, Rue de Lacken, No.
28. A very high mark, let me tell you; his father was burgomaster at
Alost, and he himself has a great sugar bakery, or salt _raffinerie_, or
something equivalent, at Scharbeck.’

‘How can you find any pleasure in such society, Gustav?’

‘Pleasure you call it!--delight is the word. I shall hear all the gossip
of the Basse Ville--quite as amusing, I ‘m certain, as of the Place and
the Boulevards. Besides, there are to be some half-dozen _échevins_,
with wives and daughters, and we shall have a round game for the most
patriarchal stakes. I have also obtained permission to bring a friend;
so you see, Monsieur O’Leary----’

‘I ‘m certain,’ interposed madame, ‘he has much better taste than to
avail himself of your offer.’

‘I ‘ll bet my life on it he ‘ll not refuse.’

‘I say he will,’ said the lady.

‘I ‘ll wager that pearl ring at Mertan’s that if you leave him to
himself he says “Yes.”’

‘Agreed,’ said madame; ‘I accept the bet. We Poles are as great gamblers
as yourselves, you see,’ added she, turning to me. ‘Now, monsieur,
decide the question. Will you dine with Van Hottentot on Tuesday next--
or with me?’

The last three words were spoken in so low a tone as made me actually
suspect that my imagination alone had conceived them.

‘Well,’ cried the count, ‘what say you?’

‘I pronounce for the--Hôtel de. France,’ said I, fearing in what words
to accept the invitation of the lady.

‘Then I have lost my bet,’ said the count, laughing; ‘and, worse still,
have found myself mistaken in my opinion.’

‘And I,’ said madame, in a faint whisper, ‘have won mine, and found my
impressions more correct.’

Nothing more occurred worth mentioning on our way back; when we reached
the hotel in safety, we separated with many promises to meet early next
day.

From that hour my intimacy took a form of almost friendship. I visited
the count, or the countess if he was out, every morning; chatted over
the news of the day; made our plans for the evening, either for
Boitsfort or Lacken, or occasionally the _allée verte_ or the theatre,
and sometimes arranged little excursions to Antwerp, Louvain, or Ghent.

It is indeed a strange thing to think of what slight materials happiness
is made up. The nest that incloses our greatest pleasure is a thing of
straws and feathers, gathered at random or carried towards us by the
winds of fortune. If you were to ask me now what I deemed the most
delightful period of my whole life, I don’t hesitate to say I should
name this. In the first place, I possessed the great requisite of
happiness--every moment of my whole day was occupied; each hour was
chained to its fellow by some slight but invisible link; and whether I
was hammering away at my Polish grammar, or sitting beside the
pianoforte while the countess sang some of her country’s ballads, or
listening to legends of Poland in its times of greatness, or galloping
along at her side through the forest of Soignies, my mind was ever full;
no sense of weariness or ennui ever invaded me, while a consciousness of
a change in myself--I knew not what it was--suggested a feeling of
pleasure and delight I cannot account for or convey. And this, I take
it--though speaking in ignorance and merely from surmise--this, I
suspect, is something like what people in love experience, and what
gives them the ecstasy of the passion. There is sufficient concentration
in the admiration of the loved object to give the mind a decided and
firm purpose, and enough of change in the various devices to win her
praise to impart the charm of novelty.

Now, for all this, my reader, fair or false as she or he may be, must
not suspect that anything bordering on love was concerned in the present
case. To begin--the countess was married, and I was brought up at an
excellent school at Bangor, where the catechism, Welsh and English, was
flogged into me until every commandment had a separate welt of its own
on my back. No; I had taken the royal road to happiness. I was delighted
without stopping to know why, and enjoyed myself without ever thinking
to inquire wherefore. New sources of information and knowledge were
opened to me by those who possessed vast stores of acquirement; and I
learned how the conversation of gifted and accomplished persons may be
made a great agent in training and forming the mind, if not to the
higher walks of knowledge, at least to those paths in which the greater
part of life is spent, and where it imports each to make the road
agreeable to his fellows. I have said to you I was not in love--how
could I be, under the circumstances?--but still I own that the regular
verbs of the Polish grammar had been but dry work, if it had not been
for certain irregular glances at my pretty mistress; nor could I ever
have seen my way through the difficulties of the declensions if the
light of her eyes had not lit up the page, and her taper finger pointed
out the place.

And thus two months flew past, during which she never even alluded most
distantly to our conversation in the garden at Boitsfort, nor did I
learn any one particular more of my friends than on the first day of our
meeting. Meanwhile, all ideas of travelling had completely left me; and
although I had now abundant resources in my banker’s hands for all the
purposes of the road, I never once dreamed of leaving a place where I
felt so thoroughly happy.

Such, then, was our life, when I began to remark a slight change in the
count’s manner--an appearance of gloom and preoccupation, which seemed
to increase each day, and against which he strove, but in vain. It was
clear something had gone wrong with him; but I did not dare to allude
to, much less ask him on the subject. At last, one evening, just as I
was preparing for bed, he entered my dressing-room, and closing the door
cautiously behind him, sat down. I saw that he was dressed as if for the
road, and looking paler and more agitated than usual.

‘O’Leary,’ said he, in a tremulous voice, ‘I am come to place in your
hands the highest trust a man can repose in another. Am I certain of
your friendship?’ I shook his hand in silence, and he went on. ‘I must
leave Brussels to-night, secretly. A political affair, in which the
peace of Europe is involved, has just come to my knowledge; the
Government here will do their best to detain me; orders are already
given to delay me at the frontier, perhaps send me back to the capital;
in consequence, I must cross the boundary on horseback, and reach Aix-
la-Chapelle by to-morrow evening. Of course, the countess cannot
accompany me.’ He paused for a second. ‘You must be her protector. A
hundred rumours will be afloat the moment they find I have escaped, and
as many reasons for my departure announced in the papers. However, I’m
content if they amuse the public and occupy the police; and meanwhile I
shall obtain time to pass through Prussia unmolested. Before I reach St.
Petersburg, the countess will receive letters from me, and know where to
proceed to; and I count on your friendship to remain here until that
time--a fortnight, three weeks at farthest. If money is any object to
you----’

‘Not in the least; I have far more than I want.’ ‘Well, then, may I
conclude that you consent?’ ‘Of course you may,’ said I, overpowered by
a rush of sensations I must leave to my reader to feel, if it has ever
been his lot to be placed in such circumstances, or to imagine if he has
not.

‘The countess,’ I said, ‘is of course aware----’

‘Of everything,’ interrupted he, ‘and bears it all admirably. Much,
however, is attributable to the arrangement with you, which I promised
her was completed even before I asked your consent--such was my
confidence in your friendship.’

‘You have not deceived yourself,’ was my reply, while I puzzled my brain
to think how I could repay such proofs of his trust. ‘Is there, then,
anything more,’ said I--‘can you think of nothing else in which I may be
of service?’

‘Nothing, dear friend, nothing,’ said he. ‘Probably we shall meet at St.
Petersburg.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said I; ‘that is my firm intention.’

‘That’s all I could wish for,’ rejoined he. ‘The grand-duke will be
delighted to acknowledge the assistance your friendship has rendered us,
and Potoski’s house will be your own.’ So saying, he embraced me most
affectionately, and departed; while I sat to muse over the singularity
of my position, and to wonder if any other man was ever similarly
situated.

When I proceeded to pay my respects to the countess the next morning, I
prepared myself to witness a state of great sorrow and depression. How
pleasantly was I disappointed at finding her gay--perhaps gayer than
ever--and evidently enjoying the success of the count’s scheme!

‘Gustav is at St. Tron by this,’ said she, looking at the map; ‘he ‘ll
reach Liege two hours before the post; fresh horses will then bring him
rapidly to Battiste. Oh, here are the papers; let us see the way his
departure is announced.’ She turned over one journal after another
without finding the wished-for paragraph, until at last, in the corner
of the _Handelsblad_, she came upon the following:--

‘Yesterday morning an express reached the minister for the home affairs
that the celebrated _escroc_, the Chevalier Duguet, whose famous forgery
on the Neapolitan bank may be in the memory of our readers, was actually
practising his art under a feigned name in Brussels, where, having
obtained his _entrée_ among some respectable families of the lower town,
he has succeeded in obtaining large sums of money under various
pretences. His skill at play is, they say, the least of his many
accomplishments.’

She threw down the paper in a fit of laughter at these words, and called
out, ‘Is it not too absurd? That’s Gustav’s doing; anything for a quiz,
no matter what. He once got himself and Prince Carl of Prussia brought
up before the police for hooting the king.’

‘But Duguet,’ said I--‘what has he to do with Duguet?’

‘Don’t you see that’s a feigned name,’ replied she--‘assumed by him as
if he had half-a-dozen such? Read on, and you’ll learn it all.’

I took the paper, and continued where she ceased reading--

‘This Duguet is then, it would appear, identical with a very well-known
Polish Count Czaroviski, who with his lady had been passing some weeks
at the Hôtel de France. The police have, however, received his
_signalement_, and are on his track.’

‘But why, in Heaven’s name, should he spread such an odious calumny on
himself?’ said I.

‘Dear me, how very simple you are! I thought he had told you all. As a
mere _escroc_, money will always bribe the authorities to let him pass;
as a political offender, and as such the importance of his mission would
proclaim him, nothing would induce the officials to further his escape--
their own heads would pay for it. Once over the frontier, the ruse will
be discovered, the editors obliged to eat their words and be laughed at,
and Gustav receive the Black Eagle for his services. But see, here’s
another.’

‘Among the victims at play of the well-known Chevalier Duguet--or, as he
is better known here, the Count Czaroviski--is a simple Englishman,
resident at the Hôtel de France, and from whom it seems he has won every
louis-d’or he possessed in the world. This miserable dupe, whose name is
O’Learie, or O’Leary----’

At these words the countess leaned back on the sofa and laughed
immoderately.

‘Have you, then, suffered so deeply?’ said she, wiping her eyes; ‘has
Gustav really won all your louis-d’ors?’

‘This is too bad, far too bad,’ said I; ‘and I really cannot comprehend
how any intrigue could induce him so far to asperse his character in
this manner. I, for my part, can be no party to it.’

As I said this, my eyes fell on the latter part of the paragraph, which
ran thus:--

‘This poor boy--for we understand he is no more--has been lured to his
ruin by the beauty and attraction of Madame Czaroviski.’

I crushed the odious paper without venturing to see more, and tore it in
a thousand pieces; and, not waiting an instant, hurried to my room and
seized a pen. Burning with indignation and rage, I wrote a short note to
the editor, in which I not only contradicted the assertions of his
correspondent, but offered a reward of a hundred louis for the name of
the person who had invented the infamous calumny.

It was some time before I recovered my composure sufficiently to return
to the countess, whom I now found greatly excited and alarmed at my
sudden departure. She insisted with such eagerness on knowing what I had
done that I was obliged to confess everything, and show her a copy of
the letter I had already despatched to the editor. She grew pale as
death as she read it, flushed deeply, and then became pale again, while
she sank faint and sick into a chair.

‘This is very noble conduct of yours,’ said she, in a low, hollow voice;
‘but I see where it will lead to. Czaroviski has great and powerful
enemies; they will become yours also.’

‘Be it so,’ said I, interrupting her. ‘They have little power to injure
me; let them do their worst.’

‘You forget, apparently,’ said she, with a most bewitching smile, ‘that
you are no longer free to dispose of your liberty: that as _my_
protector you cannot brave dangers and difficulties which may terminate
in a prison.’ ‘What, then, would you have me do?’ ‘Hasten to the editor
at once; erase so much of your letter as refers to the proposed reward.
The information could be of no service to you if obtained--some
_misérable_, perhaps some spy of the police, the slanderer. What could
you gain by his punishment, save publicity? A mere denial of the facts
alleged is quite sufficient; and even that,’ continued she, smiling,
‘how superfluous is it after all! A week--ten days at farthest--and the
whole mystery is unveiled. Not that I would dissuade you from a course I
see your heart is bent upon, and which, after all, is a purely personal
consideration.’

‘Yes,’ said I, after a pause, ‘I’ll take your advice; the letter shall
be inserted without the concluding paragraph.’ The calumnious reports on
the count prevented madame dining that day at the table d’hôte; and I
remarked, as I took my place at table, a certain air of constraint and
reserve among the guests, as though my presence had interdicted the
discussion of a topic which occupied all Brussels. Dinner over, I walked
into the park to meditate on the course I should pursue under present
circumstances, and deliberate with myself how far the habits of my
former intimacy with the countess might or might not be admissible
during her husband’s absence. The question was solved for me sooner than
I anticipated, for a waiter overtook me with a short note, written with
a pencil; it ran thus:--

‘They play the _Zauberflotte_ to-night at the Opera. I shall go at
eight: perhaps you would like a seat in the carriage? Duischka.’

‘Whatever doubts I might have conceived about my conduct, the manner of
the countess at once dispelled them. A tone of perfect ease, and almost
sisterly confidence marked her whole bearing; and while I felt delighted
and fascinated by the freedom of our intercourse, I could not help
thinking how impossible such a line of acting would have been in my own
more rigid country, and to what cruel calumnies and aspersions it would
have subjected her. ‘Truly,’ thought I, ‘if they manage these things--as
Sterne says they do--“better in France,” they also far excel in them in
Poland.’ And so my Polish grammar and the canzonettes and the drives to
Boitsfort all went on as usual, and my dream of happiness, interrupted
for a moment, flowed on again in its former channel with increased
force.

A fortnight had now elapsed without any letter from the count, save a
few hurried lines written from Magdeburg; and I remarked that the
countess betrayed at times a degree of anxiety and agitation I had not
observed in her before. At last the secret cause came out. We were
sitting together in the park, eating ice after dinner, when she suddenly
rose and prepared to leave the place.

‘Has anything happened to annoy you?’ said I hurriedly. ‘Why are you
going?’

‘I can bear it no longer!’ cried she, as she drew her veil down and
hastened forward, and without speaking another word, continued her way
towards the hotel. On reaching her apartments, she burst into a torrent
of tears, and sobbed most violently.

‘What is it?’ said I, having followed her, maddened by the sight of such
sorrow. ‘For heaven’s sake tell me! Has any one dared----’

‘No, no,’ replied she, wiping the tears away with her handkerchief,
‘nothing of the kind. It is the state of doubt, of trying, harassing
uncertainty I am reduced to here, which is breaking my heart. Don’t you
see that whenever I appear in public, by the air of insufferable
impudence of the men, and the still more insulting looks of the women,
how they dare to think of me? I have borne it as well as I was able
hitherto; I can do so no longer.’

‘What!’ cried I impetuously, ‘and shall one dare to----’

‘The world will always dare what may be dared in safety,’ interrupted
she, laying her hand on my arm. ‘They know that you could not make a
quarrel on my account without compromising my honour; and such an
occasion to trample on a poor weak woman could not be lost. Well, well;
Gustav may write to-morrow or next day. A little more patience; and it
is the only cure for these evils.’

There was a tone of angelic sweetness in her voice as she spoke these
words of resignation, and never did she seem more lovely in my eyes.

‘Now, then, as I shall not go to the opera, what shall we do to pass the
time? You are tired--I know you are--of Polish melodies and German
ballads. Well, well; then I am. I have told you that we Poles are as
great gamblers as yourselves. What say you to a game at piquet?’

‘By all means,’ said I, delighted at the prospect of anything to while
away the hours of her sorrowing.

‘Then you must teach me,’ rejoined she, laughing, ‘for I don’t know it.
I’m wretchedly stupid about all these things, and never could learn any
game but _écarté_.’

‘Then écarté be it,’ said I; and in a few minutes more I had arranged
the little table, and down we sat to our party.

‘There,’ said she, laughing, and throwing her purse on the table, ‘I can
only afford to lose so much; but you may win all that if you’re
fortunate.’ A rouleau of louis escaped at the instant, and fell about
the table.

‘Agreed,’ said I, indulging the quiz. ‘I am an inveterate gambler, and
always play high. What shall be our stakes?’

‘Fifty, I suppose,’ said she, still laughing: ‘we can increase our bets
afterwards.’

After some little badinage, we each placed a double louis-d’or on the
board, and began. For a while the game employed our attention; but
gradually we fell into conversation, the cards gradually dropped
listlessly from our hands, the tricks remained unclaimed, and we could
never decide whose turn it was to deal.

‘This wearies you, I see,’ said she; ‘perhaps you’d like to stop?’

‘By no means,’ said I. ‘I like the game, of all things.’ This I said
rather because I was a considerable winner at the time than from any
other motive; and so we played on till eleven o’clock, at which hour I
usually took my leave, and by which time my gains had increased to some
seventy louis.

‘Is it not fortunate,’ said she, laughing, ‘that eleven has struck? You
‘d certainly have won all my gold; and now you must leave off in the
midst of your good fortune--and so, _bonsoir, et à revanche_.’

Each evening now saw our little party at écarté usurp the place of the
drive and the opera; and though our successes ran occasionally high at
either side, yet on the whole neither was a winner; and we jested about
the impartiality with which fortune treated us both. At last, one
evening, eleven struck when I was a greater winner than ever, and I
thought I saw a little pique in her manner at the enormous run of luck I
had experienced throughout.

‘Come,’ said she, laughing, ‘you have really wounded a national feeling
in a Polish heart--you have asserted a superiority at a game of skill. I
must beat you;’ and with that she placed five louis on the table. She
lost. Again the same stake followed, and again the same fortune,
notwithstanding that I did all in my power to avoid winning--of course
without exciting her suspicions.

‘And so,’ said she, as she dealt the cards, ‘Ireland is really so
picturesque as you say?’

‘Beautifully so,’ replied I, as, warmed up by a favourite topic, I
launched forth into a description of the mountain scenery of the south
and west. The rich emerald green of the valleys, the wild fantastic
character of the mountains, the changeful skies, were all brought up to
make a picture for her admiration; and she did indeed seem to enjoy it
with the highest zest, only interrupting me in my harangue by the words,
‘Je marque le Roi,’ to which circumstance she directed my attention by a
sweet smile, and a gesture of her taper finger. And thus hour followed
hour; and already the grey dawn was breaking, while I was just beginning
an eloquent description of the Killeries, and the countess suddenly
looking at her watch, cried out--

‘How very dreadful! only think of three o’clock!’

True enough, it was that hour; and I started up to say good-night,
shocked at myself for so far transgressing, and yet secretly flattered
that my conversational powers had made time slip by uncounted.

‘And the Irish are really so clever, so gifted as you say?’ said she, as
she held out her hand to wish me good-night.

‘The most astonishing quickness is theirs,’ replied I, half reluctant to
depart; ‘nothing can equal their intelligence and shrewdness.’

‘How charming! Bonsoir,’ said she, and I closed the door.

What dreams were mine that night! What delightful visions of lake
scenery and Polish countesses, of mountain gorges and blue eyes, of deep
ravines and lovely forms! I thought we were sailing up Lough Corrib; the
moon was up, spangling and flecking the rippling lake; the night was
still and calm, not a sound save the cuckoo being heard to break the
silence. As I listened I started, for I thought, instead of her wonted
note, her cry was ever, ‘Je marque le Roi.’

Morning came at last; but I could not awake, and endeavoured to sink
back into the pleasant realm of dreams, from which daylight disturbed
me. It was noon when at length I succeeded in awaking perfectly.

‘A note for monsieur,’ said a waiter, as he stood beside the bed.

I took it eagerly. It was from the countess; its contents were these:--


‘My dear Sir,--A hasty summons from Count Czaroviski has compelled me to
leave Brussels without wishing you good-bye, and thanking you for all
your polite attentions. Pray accept these hurried acknowledgments, and
my regret that circumstances do not enable me to visit Ireland, in
which, from your description, I must ever feel the deepest interest.

‘The count sends his most affectionate greetings.--Yours ever sincerely,

‘Duischka Czaroviski née Gutzaff.’

‘And is she gone?’ said I, starting up in a state of frenzy.

‘Yes, sir; she started at ten o’clock.’

‘By what road?’ cried I, determined to follow her on the instant.

‘Louvain was the first stage.’

In an instant I was up, and dressed; in ten minutes more I was rattling
over the stones to my banker’s.

‘I want three hundred napoleons at once,’ said I to the clerk.

‘Examine Mr. O’Leary’s account,’ was the dry reply of the functionary.

‘Overdrawn by fifteen hundred francs,’ said the other.

‘Overdrawn? Impossible!’ cried I, thunderstruck. ‘I had a credit for six
hundred pounds.’

‘Which you drew out by cheque this morning,’ said the clerk. ‘Is not
that your handwriting?’

‘It is,’ said I faintly, as I recognised my own scrawl, dated the
evening before.

I had lost above seven hundred, and had not a sou left to pay post-
horses.

I sauntered back sadly to the ‘France,’ a sadder man than ever in my
life before. A thousand tormenting thoughts were in my brain; and a
feeling of contempt for myself, somehow, occupied a very prominent
place. Well, well; it’s all past and gone now, and I must not awaken
buried griefs.

I never saw the count and countess again; and though I have since that
been in St. Petersburg, the grand-duke seems to have forgotten my
services, and a very pompous-looking porter in a bear-skin did not look
exactly the kind of person to whom I should wish to communicate my
impression about ‘Count Potoski’s house being my own.’



CHAPTER XI, A FRAGMENT OF FOREST LIFE

I am half sorry already that I have told that little story of myself.
Somehow the recollection is painful. And now I would rather hasten away
from Brussels, and wander on to other scenes; and yet there are many
things I fain would speak of, and some people, too, worth a mention in
passing. I should like to have taken you a moonlight walk through the
Grande Place, and after tracing against the clear sky the delicate
outline of the beautiful spire, whose gilded point seemed stretching
away towards the bright star above it, to have shown you the interior of
a Flemish club in the old Salle de Loyauté. Primitive, quaint fellows
they are, these Flemings; consequential, sedate, self-satisfied, simple
creatures; credulous to any extent of their own importance, but kindly
withal; not hospitable themselves, but admirers of the virtue in others;
easily pleased, when the amusement costs little; and, in a word, a
people admirably adapted by nature to become a kind of territorial
coinage alternately paid over by one great State to another, as the
balance of Europe inclines to this side or that; with industry enough
always to be worth robbing, and with a territory perfectly suitable to
pitched battles--two admirable reasons for Belgium being a species of
Houns-low Heath or Wormwood Scrubs, as the nations of the Continent feel
disposed for theft or fighting. It was a cruel joke, however, to make
them into a nation. One gets tired of laughing at them at last; and even
Sancho’s Island of Barataria had become a nuisance, were it long-lived.

Well, I must hasten away now. I can’t go back to the ‘France’ yet
awhile, so I’ll even take to the road. But what road? that’s the
question. What a luxury it would be, to be sure, to have some person of
exquisite taste, who could order dinner every day in the year, arranging
the carte by a physiognomical study of your countenance, and plan out
your route by some innate sense of your desires. Arthur O’Leary has none
such, however, his whole philosophy in life being to throw the reins on
the hack Fortune’s neck, and let the jade take her own way. Not that he
has had any reason to regret his mode of travel. No: his nag has carried
him pleasantly on through life, now cantering softly over the even turf,
now picking her way more cautiously among bad ground and broken pebbles;
and if here and there an occasional side leap or a start has put him out
of saddle, it has scarcely put him out of temper; for one great secret
has he at least learned--and, after all, it’s one worth remembering--
very few of the happiest events and pleasantest circumstances in our
lives have not their origin in some incident, which, had we been able,
we had prevented happening. So then, while taking your mare Chance over
a stiff country, be advised by me: give her plenty of head, sit close,
and when you come to a ‘rasper,’ let her take her own way over it. So
convinced am I of the truth of this axiom, that I should not die easy if
I had not told it. And now, if anything should prevent these Fragments
being printed, I leave a clause in my will to provide for three O’Leary
treatises, to establish this fact being written, for which my executors
are empowered to pay five pounds sterling for each. Why, were it not for
this, I had been married, say at the least some fourteen times, in
various quarters of the globe, and might have had a family of children,
black and white, sufficient to make a set of chessmen among then.
There’s no saying what might have happened to me. It would seem like
boasting, if I said that the Emperor of Austria had some notions of
getting rid of Metternich to give me the ‘Foreign Affairs,’ and that I
narrowly escaped once commanding the Russian fleet in the Baltic. But of
these at another time. I only wish to keep the principle at present in
view, that Fortune will always do better for us than we could do for
ourselves; but to this end there must be no tampering or meddling on our
part. The goddess is not a West-End physician, who, provided you are
ever prepared with your fee, blandly permits you all the little excesses
you are bent on. No: she is of the Abernethy school, somewhat rough
occasionally, but always honest; never suffering any interference from
the patient, but exacting implicit faith and perfect obedience. As for
me, I follow the regimen prescribed for me, without a thought of
opposition; and wherever I find myself in this world, be it China or the
Caucasus, Ghuznee, Genoa, or Glasnevin, I feel for the time that’s my
fitting place, and endeavour to make the best of it.

The pedestrian alone, of all travellers, is thus taken by the hand by
Fortune. Your extra post, with a courier on the box, interferes sadly
with the current of all those little incidents of the road which are
ever happening to him who takes to the ‘byways’ of the world. The odds
are about one hundred to one against you that, when seated in your
carriage, the postillion in his saddle and the fat courier outside, the
words _en route_ being given, you arrive at your destination that
evening, without any accident or adventure whatever of more consequence
than a lost shoe from the near leader, a snapped spring, or a heartburn
from the glass of bad brandy you took at the third stage. A blue post
with white stripes on it tells you that you are in Prussia; or a yellow-
and-brown pole, that the Grand-Duke of Nassau is giving you the
hospitality of his territory--save which you have no other evidence of
change. The village inn, and its little circle of celebrities, opens not
to _you_ those peeps at humble life so indicative of national character:
_you_ stop not at the wayside chapel in the sultry heat of noon to charm
away your peaceful hour of reflection, now turning from the lovely
Madonna above the altar to the peasant girl who kneels in supplication
beneath, now contrasting the stern features of some painted martyr with
the wrinkled front and weather-beaten traits of some white-haired
beggar, now musing over the quiet existence of the humble figure whose
heavy sabots wake the echoes of the vaulted aisle, or watching, perhaps,
that venerable priest who glides about before the altar in his white
robes, and disappears by some unseen door, seeming like a phantom of the
place. The little relics of village devotion, so touching in their
poverty, awake no thought within _you_ of the pious souls in yonder
hamlet. The old curé himself, as he jogs along on his ambling pony,
suggests nothing save the figure of age and decrepitude. _You_ have not
seen the sparkling eyes and flushed cheeks of his humble flock, who
salute him as he passes, nor gazed upon that broad high forehead, where
benevolence and charity have fixed their dwelling. The foot-sore veteran
or the young conscript have not been your fellow-travellers; mayhap you
would despise them. Their joys and sorrows, their hopes, their fears,
their wishes, all move in a humble sphere, and little suit the ears of
those whose fortune is a higher one.

Not that the staff and the knapsack are the passports to only such as
these. My experience would tell very differently. With some of the most
remarkable men I ever met, my acquaintance grew on the road; some of the
very pleasantest moments of my life had their origin in the chances of
the wayside; the little glimpses I have ever enjoyed of national
character have been owing to these same accidents; and I have often
hailed some casual interruption to my route, some passing obstacle to my
journey, as the source of an adventure which might afford me the
greatest pleasure. I date this feeling to a good number of years back,
and in a great measure to an incident that occurred to me when first
wandering in this country. It is scarcely a story, but as illustrating
my position I will tell it.

Soon after my Polish adventure--I scarcely like to be more particular in
my designation of it--I received a small remittance from England, and
started for Namur. My Uncle Toby’s recollections had been an inducement
for the journey, had I not the more pleasant one in my wish to see the
Meuse, of whose scenery I had already heard so much.

The season was a delightful one--the beginning of autumn; and truly the
country far surpassed all my anticipations. The road to Dinant led along
by the river, the clear stream rippling at one side; at the other, the
massive granite rocks, rising to several hundred feet, frowned above
you; some gnarled oak or hardy ash, clung to the steep cliffs, and hung
their drooping leaves above your head. On the opposite bank of the
river, meadows of emerald green, intersected with ash rows and tall
poplars, stretched away to the background of dense forest that bounded
the view to the very horizon. Here and there a little farmhouse, framed
in wood and painted in many a gaudy colour, would peep from the little
inclosure of vines and plum-trees; more rarely still, the pointed roof
and turreted gable of a venerable chateau would rise above the trees.

How often did I stop to gaze on these quaint old edifices, with their
balustrades and terraces, on which a solitary peacock walked proudly to
and fro--the only sound that stirred being the hissing plash of the _jet
d’ eau_, whose sparkling drops came pattering on the broad water-lilies.
And as I looked, I wondered within myself what kind of life they led who
dwelt there. The windows were open to the ground, bouquets of rich
flowers stood on the little tables. These were all signs of habitation,
yet no one moved about, no stir or bustle denoted that there were
dwellers within. How different from the country life of our great houses
in England, with trains of servants and equipages hurrying hither and
thither--all the wealth and magnificence of the great capital
transported to some far-off county, that ennui and fastidiousness,
fatigue, and lassitude, should lose none of their habitual aids! Well,
for _my_ part, the life among green trees and flowers, where the thrush
sings, and the bee goes humming by, can scarcely be too homely for _my_
taste. It is in the peaceful aspect of all Nature, the sense of calm
that breathes from every leafy grove and rippling stream, that I feel
the soothing influence of the country. I could sit beside the trickling
stream of water, clear but brown, that comes drop by drop from some
fissure in the rocky cliff and falls into the little well below, and
dream away for hours. These slight and simple sounds that break the
silence of the calm air are all fraught with pleasant thoughts; the
unbroken stillness of a prairie is the most awful thing in all Nature.

Unoppressed in heart, I took my way along the river’s bank, my mind
revolving the quiet, pleasant thoughts that silence and lovely scenery
are so sure to suggest. Towards noon I sat myself down on a large flat
rock beside the stream, and proceeded to make my humble breakfast--some
bread and a few cresses, washed down with a little water scarce
flavoured with brandy, followed by my pipe; and I lay watching the white
bubbles that flowed by me, until I began to fancy I could read a moral
lesson in their course. Here was a great swollen fellow, rotund and
full, elbowing out of his way all his lesser brethren, jostling and
pushing aside each he met with; but at last bursting from very plethora,
and disappearing as though he had never been. There were a myriad of
little bead-like specks, floating past noiselessly, and yet having their
own goal and destination; some uniting with others, grew stronger and
hardier, and braved the current with bolder fortune, while others
vanished ere you could see them well. A low murmuring plash against the
reeds beneath the rock drew my attention to the place, and I perceived
that a little boat, like a canoe, was fastened by a hay-rope to the
bank, and surged with each motion of the stream against the weeds. I
looked about to see the owner, but no one could I detect; not a living
thing seemed near, nor even a habitation of any kind. The sun at that
moment shone strongly out, lighting up all the rich landscape on the
opposite side of the river, and throwing long gleams into a dense beech-
wood, where a dark, grass-grown alley entered. Suddenly the desire
seized me to enter the forest by that shady path. I strapped on my
knapsack at once, and stepped into the little boat. There was neither
oar nor paddle, but as the river was shallow, my long staff served as a
pole to drive her across, and I reached the shore safely. Fastening the
craft securely to a branch, I set forward towards the wood. As I
approached, a little board nailed to a tree drew my eye towards it, and
I read the nearly-effaced inscription, ‘Route des Ardennes.’ What a
thrill did not these words send through my heart! And was this, indeed,
the forest of which Shakespeare told us? Was I really ‘under the
greenwood tree,’ where fair Rosalind had rested, and where melancholy
Jaques had mused and mourned? And as I walked along, how instinct with
his spirit did each spot appear! There was the oak--


‘Whose antique root peeps out Upon the brook that brawls along the
wood.’ A little farther on I came upon--

‘The bank of osiers by the murmuring stream.’

What a bright prerogative has genius, that thus can people space with
images which time and years erase not, making to the solitary traveller
a world of bright thoughts even in the darkness of a lonely wood! And so
to me appeared, as though before me, the scenes he pictured. Each
rustling breeze that shook the leafy shade seemed like the impetuous
passion of the devoted lover; the chirping notes of the wood-pigeon,
like the flippant raillery of beauteous Rosalind; and in the low ripple
of the brook I heard the complaining sounds of Jaques himself.

Sunk in such pleasant fancies I lay beneath a spreading sycamore, and
with half-closed lids invoked the shades of that delightful vision
before me, when the tramp of feet, moving across the low brushwood,
suddenly aroused me. I started up on one knee, and listened. The next
moment three men emerged from the wood into the path. The two foremost,
dressed in blouses, were armed with carbines and a sabre; the last
carried a huge sack on his shoulders, and seemed to move with
considerable difficulty.

‘_Ventre du diable!_’ cried he passionately, as he placed his burden on
the ground; ‘don’t hasten on this way; they’ll never follow us so far,
and I am half dead with fatigue.’

‘Come, come, Gros Jean,’ said one of the others, in a voice of command,
‘we must not halt before we reach the three elms.’

‘Why not bury it here?’ replied the first speaker, ‘or else take your
share of the labour?’

‘So I would,’ retorted the other violently, ‘if you could take my place
when we are attacked; but, _parbleu!_ you are more given to running away
than fighting.’

During this brief colloquy my heart rose to my mouth. The ruffianly
looks of the party, their arms, their savage demeanour, and their secret
purpose, whatever it was, to which I was now to a certain extent privy,
filled me with terror, and I made an effort to draw myself back on my
hands into the brushwood beneath the tree. The motion unfortunately
discovered me; and with a spring, the two armed fellows bounded towards
me, and levelled their pistols at my head.

‘Who are you? What brings you here?’ shouted they both in a breath.

‘For heaven’s sake, messieurs,’ said I, ‘down with your pistols! I am
only a traveller, a poor inoffensive wanderer, an Englishman--an
Irishman, rather, a good Catholic’--Heaven forgive me if I meant an
equivocation here!--‘lower the pistols, I beseech you.’

‘Shoot him through the skull; he’s a spy!’ roared the fellow with the
sack.

‘Not a bit of it,’ said I; ‘I’m a mere traveller, admiring the country,
and an----’

‘And why have you tracked us out here?’ said one of the first speakers.

‘I did not; I was here before you came. Do put down the pistols, for the
love of Mary! there’s no guarding against accidents, even with the most
cautious.’

‘Blow his brains out!’ reiterated he of the bag, louder than before.

‘Don’t, messieurs, don’t mind _him_; he’s a coward! You are brave men,
and have nothing to fear from a poor devil like me.’

The two armed fellows laughed heartily at this speech, while the other,
throwing the sack from him, rushed at me with clenched hands.

‘Hold off, Gros Jean,’ said one of his companions; ‘if he never tells a
heavier lie than that, he may make an easy confession on Sunday’; and
with that he pushed him rudely back, and stood between us. ‘Come, then,’
cried he, ‘take up that sack and follow us.’

My blood curdled at the order; there was something fearful in the very
look of the long bag as it lay on the ground. I thought I could actually
trace the outline of a human figure. Heaven preserve me, I believed I
saw it move!

‘Take it up,’ cried he sternly; ‘there’s no fear of its biting you.’

‘Ah,’ said I to myself, ‘the poor fellow is dead, then.’ Without more
ado they placed the bag on my shoulders, and ordered me to move forward.

I grew pale and sick, and tottered at each step.

‘Is it the smell affects you?’ said one, with a demoniac sneer.

‘Pardon, messieurs,’ said I, endeavouring to pluck up courage, and seem
at ease; ‘I never carried a--a thing like this before.’

‘Step out briskly,’ cried he; ‘you ‘ve a long way before you’; and with
that he moved to the front, while the others brought up the rear.

As we proceeded on our way, they informed me that if by any accident
they should be overtaken by any of my friends or associates, meaning
thereby any of the human race that should chance to walk that way, the
first thing they would do would be to shoot me dead--a circumstance that
considerably damped all my ardour for a rescue, and made me tremble lest
at any turn of the way some faggot-gatherer might appear in sight.
Meanwhile, never did a man labour more strenuously to win the favour of
his company.

I began by protesting my extreme innocence; vowed that a man of more
estimable and amiable qualities than myself never did nor never would
exist. To this declaration they listened with manifest impatience, if
not with actual displeasure. I then tried another tack. I abused the
rich and commended the poor; I harangued in round terms on the grabbing
monopoly of the great, who enjoyed all the good things of this life, and
would share none with their neighbours; I even hinted a sly encomium on
those public-spirited individuals whose gallantry and sense of justice
led them to risk their lives in endeavours to equalise somewhat more
fairly this world’s wealth, and who were so ungenerously styled robbers
and highwaymen, though they were in reality benefactors and heroes. But
they only laughed at this; nor did they show any real sympathy with my
opinions till in my general attack on all constituted authorities--
kings, priests, statesmen, judges, and gendarmes--by chance I included
revenue-officers. The phrase seemed like a spark on gunpowder.

‘Curses be on the wretches! they are the plague-spots of the world,’
cried I, seeing how they caught at the bait; ‘and thrice honoured the
brave fellows who would relieve suffering humanity from the burden of
such odious oppression.’

A low whispering now took place among my escort, and at length he who
seemed the leader stopped me short, and placing his hand on my shoulder,
cried out--

‘Are you sincere in all this? Are these your notions?’

‘Can you doubt me?’ said I. ‘What reasons have I for speaking them? How
do I know but you are revenue-officers that listen to me?’

‘Enough, you shall join us. We are going to pass this sack of cigars.’

‘Ho! these are cigars, then,’ said I, brightening up. ‘It is not a--a--
eh?’

‘They are Dutch cigars, and the best that can be made,’ said he, not
minding my interruption. ‘We shall pass them over the frontier by Sedan
to-morrow night, and then we return to Dinant, where you shall come with
us.’

‘Agreed!’ said I, while a faint chill ran through my limbs, and I could
scarcely stand--images of galley life, irons with cannon-shot, and a
yellow uniform all flitting before me. From this moment they became
extremely communicative, detailing for my amusement many pleasing
incidents of their blameless life--how they burned a custom-house here,
and shot an inspector there--and in fact displaying the advantages of my
new profession, with all its attractions, before me. How I grinned with
mock delight at atrocities that made my blood curdle, and chuckled over
the roasting of a revenue-officer as though he had been a chestnut! I
affected to see drollery in cruelties that deserved the gallows, and
laughed till the tears came at horrors that nearly made me faint. My
concurrence and sympathy absolutely delighted the devils, and we shook
hands a dozen times over.

It was evening, when, tired and ready to drop with fatigue, my
companions called a halt.

‘Come, my friend,’ said the chief, ‘we’ll relieve you now of your
burden. You would be of little service to us at the frontier, and must
wait for us here till our return.’

It was impossible to make any proposal more agreeable to my feelings.
The very thought of being quit of my friends was ecstasy. I did not
dare, however, to vent my raptures openly, but satisfied myself with a
simple acquiescence.

‘And when,’ said I, ‘am I to have the pleasure of seeing you again,
gentlemen?’

‘By to-morrow forenoon at farthest.’

By that time, thought I, I shall have made good use of my legs, please
Heaven!

‘Meanwhile,’ said Gros Jean, with a grin that showed he had neither
forgotten nor forgiven my insults to his courage--‘meanwhile we’ll just
beg leave to fasten you to this tree’; and with the words, he pulled
from a great canvas pocket he wore at his belt a hank of strong cord,
and proceeded to make a slip noose on it.

‘It’s not your intention, surely, to tie me here for the whole night?’
said I, in horror.

‘And why not?’ interposed the chief. ‘Do you think there are bears or
wolves in the Ardennes forest in September?’

‘But I shall die of cold or hunger! I never endured such usage before!’

‘You’ll have plenty worse when you’ve joined us, I promise you,’ was the
short reply, as without further loss of time they passed the cord round
my waist, and began, with a dexterity that bespoke long practice, to
fasten me to the tree. I protested vigorously against the proceeding; I
declaimed loudly about the liberty of the subject; vowed that England
would take a frightful measure of retribution on the whole country, if a
hair of my head were injured, and even went so far in the fervour of my
indignation as to threaten the party with future consequences from the
police.

The word was enough. The leader drew his pistol from his belt, and
slapping down the pan, shook the priming with his hand.

‘So,’ cried he, in a harsh and savage voice, unlike his former tone,
‘you ‘d play the informer would you? Well, it’s honest at least to say
as much. Now then, my man, a quick shrift and a short prayer, for I’ll
send you where you’ll meet neither gendarmes nor revenue-officers, or if
you do, they’ll have enough of business on their hands not to care for
yours.’

‘Spare my life, most amiable monsieur,’ said I, with uplifted hands.
‘Never shall I utter one word about you, come what will. I’ll keep all
I’ve seen a secret. Don’t kill the father of eight children. Let me live
this time, and I’ll never wander off a turnpike road three yards as long
as I breathe.’

They actually screamed with laughter at the terror of my looks; and the
chief, seemingly satisfied with my protestation, replaced his pistol in
his belt, and kneeling down on the ground began leisurely to examine my
knapsack, which he coolly unstrapped and emptied on the grass.

‘What are these papers?’ said he, as he drew forth a most voluminous
roll of manuscript from a pocket.

‘They are notes of my travels,’ said I obsequiously--little pen sketches
of men and manners in the countries I’ve travelled in. I call them
“Adventures of Arthur O’Leary.” That’s my name, gentlemen, at your
service.’

‘Ah, indeed. Well, then, we’ve given you a very pretty little incident
for your journal this evening,’ said he, laughing, ‘in return for which
I’ll ask leave to borrow these memoranda for wadding for my gun. Believe
me, Monsieur O’Leary, they’ll make a greater noise in the world under my
auspices than under yours’; and with that he opened a rude clasp-knife
and proceeded to cut my valued manuscript into pieces about an inch
square. This done, he presented two of my shirts to each of his
followers, reserving three for himself; and having made a most impartial
division of my other effects, he pocketed the purse I carried, with its
few gold pieces, and then, rising to his feet said--

‘Antoine, let us be stirring now; the moon will be up soon. Gros Jean,
throw that sack on your shoulder and move forward. And now, monsieur, I
must wish you a good-night; and as in this changeful life we can never
answer for the future, let me commend myself to your recollection
hereafter, if, as may be, we should not meet again. Adieu, adieu,’ said
he, waving his hand.

‘Adieu,’ said I, with a great effort to seem at ease; ‘a pleasant
journey, and every success to your honest endeavours.’

‘You are a fine fellow,’ said he, stopping and turning about suddenly--
‘a superb fellow; and I can’t part from you without a _gage d’amitié_
between us’; and with the word he took my handsome travelling-cap from
my head and placed it on his own, while he crowned me with a villainous
straw thing that nothing save my bondage prevented me from hurling at
his feet.

He now hurried forward after the others, and in a few minutes I was in
perfect solitude.

‘Well,’ thought I (it was my first thought), ‘it might all have been
worse; the wretches might have murdered me, for such reckless devils as
practise their trade care little for human life. Murder, too, would only
meet the same punishment as smuggling, or nearly so--a year more or a
year less at the galleys; and, after all, the night is fine, and if I
mistake not he said something about the moon.’ I wondered where was the
pretty countess--travelling away, probably, as hard as extra post could
bring her. Ah, she little thought of my miserable plight now! Then came
a little interval of softness; and then a little turn of indignation at
my treatment--that I, an Englishman, should be so barbarously molested;
a native of the land where freedom was the great birthright of every
one! I called to mind all the fine things Burke used to say about
liberty, and if I had not begun to feel so cold I’d have tried to sing
‘Rule, Britannia,’ just to keep up my spirits; and then I fell asleep,
if sleep it could be called--that frightful nightmare of famished wolves
howling about me, tearing and mangling revenue-officers; and grisly
bears running backward and forward with smuggled tobacco on their backs.
The forest seemed peopled by every species of horrible shapes--half men,
half beast--but all with straw hats on their heads and leather gaiters
on their legs.

However, the night passed over, and the day began to break; the purple
tint, pale and streaky, that announces the rising sun, was replacing the
cold grey of the darker hours. What a different thing it is, to be sure,
to get out of your bed deliberately, and rubbing your eyes for two or
three minutes with your fingers, as you stand at the half-closed
curtain, and then through the mist of your sleep look out upon the east,
and think you see the sun rising, and totter back to the comfortable
nest again, the whole incident not breaking your sleep, but merely being
interwoven with your dreams, a thing to dwell on among other pleasant
fancies, and to be boasted of the whole day afterwards--what a different
thing it is, I say, from the sensations of him who has been up all night
in the mail; shaken, bruised, and cramped; sat on by the fat man, and
kicked by the lean one--still worse of him who spends his night _dos à
dos_ to an oak in a forest, cold, chill, and comfortless; no property in
his limbs beneath the knees, where all sensation terminates, and his
hands as benumbed as the heart of a poor-law guardian!

If I have never, in all my after-life, seen the sun rise from the Rigi,
from Snowdon, or the Pic du Midi, or any other place which seems
especially made for this sole purpose, I owe it to the experience of
this night, and am grateful therefore. Not that I have the most remote
notion of throwing disrespect on the glorious luminary, far from it--I
cut one of my oldest friends for speaking lightly of the equator; but I
hold it that the sun looks best, as every one else does, when he’s up
and dressed for the day. It’s a piece of prying, impertinent curiosity
to peep at him when he ‘s rising and at his toilette; he has not rubbed
the clouds out of his eyes, or you dared not look at him--and you feel
it too. The very way you steal out to catch a glimpse shows the
sneaking, contemptible sense you have of your own act. Peeping Tom was a
gentleman compared to your early riser.

The whole of which digression simply seems to say that I by no means
enjoyed the rosy-fingered morning’s blushes the more for having spent
the preceding night in the open air. I need not worry myself, still less
my reader, by recapitulating the various frames of mind which succeeded
each other every hour of my captivity. At one time my escape with life
served to console me for all I endured; at another, my bondage excited
my whole wrath. I vowed vengeance on my persecutors too, and meditated
various schemes for their punishment--my anger rising as their absence
was prolonged, till I thought I could calculate my indignation by an
algebraical formula, and make it exactly equal to the ‘squares of the
distance’ of my persecutors. Then I thought of the delight I should
experience in regaining my freedom, and actually made a bold effort to
see something ludicrous in the entire adventure: but no--it would not
do; I could not summon up a laugh.

At last--it might have been towards noon--I heard a merry voice chanting
a song, and a quick step coming up the _allée_ of the wood. Never did my
heart beat with such delight! The very mode of progression had something
joyous in it; it seemed a hop and a step and a spring, suiting each
motion to the tune of the air--when suddenly the singer, with a long
bound, stood before me. It would, indeed, have been a puzzling question
which of us more surprised the other; however, as I can render no
accurate account of _his_ sensations on seeing me, I must content myself
with recording mine on beholding him, and the best way to do so is to
describe him. He was a man, or a boy--Heaven knows which--of something
under the middle size, dressed in rags of every colour and shape; his
old white hat was crushed and bent into some faint resemblance of a
chapeau, and decorated with a cockade of dirty ribbons and a cock’s
feather; a little white jacket, such as men-cooks wear in the kitchen,
and a pair of flaming crimson-plush shorts, cut above the knee, and
displaying his naked legs, with sabots, formed his costume. A wooden
sword was attached to an old belt round his waist--an ornament of which
he seemed vastly proud, and which from time to time he regarded with no
small satisfaction.

‘Holloa!’ cried he, starting back, as he stood some six paces off, and
gazed at me with most unequivocal astonishment; then recovering his
self-possession long before I could summon mine, he said, ‘Bonjour,
bonjour, camarade! a fine day for the vintage.’

‘No better,’ said I; ‘but come a little nearer, and do me the favour to
untie these cords.’

‘Ah, are you long fastened up there?’

‘The whole night,’ said I, in a lamentable accent, hoping to move his
compassion the more speedily.

‘What fun!’ said he, chuckling. ‘Were there many squirrels about?’

‘Thousands of them. But, come, be quick and undo this, and I ‘ll tell
you all about it.’

‘Gently, gently,’ said he, approaching with great caution about six
inches nearer me. ‘When did the rabbits come out? Was it before day?’

‘Yes, yes, an hour before. But I’ll tell you everything when I ‘m loose.
Be alive now, do!’

‘Why did you tie yourself so fast?’ said he eagerly, but not venturing
to come closer.

‘Confound the fellow!’ said I passionately. ‘I didn’t tie myself; it was
the--the----

‘Ah, I know; it was the mayor, old Pierre Bogout. Well, well, he knows
best when you ought to be set free. Bonjour,’ and with that he began
once more his infernal tune, and set out on his way as if nothing had
happened; and though I called, prayed, swore, promised, and threatened
with all my might, he never turned his head, but went on capering as
before, and soon disappeared in the dark wood.

For a full hour, passion so completely mastered me that I could do
nothing but revile fools and idiots of every shade and degree--
inveighing against mental imbecility as the height of human wickedness,
and wondering why no one had ever suggested the propriety of having
‘naturals’ publicly whipped. I am shocked at myself now, as I call to
mind the extravagance of my anger; and I grieve to say that had I been
for that short interval the proprietor of a private madhouse, I fear I
should have been betrayed into the most unwarrantable cruelties towards
the patients; indeed, what is technically called ‘moral government’
would have formed no part of my system.

Meanwhile time was moving on, if not pleasantly, at least steadily; and
already the sun began to decline somewhat--his rays, that before came
vertically, being now slanting as they fell upon the wood. For a while
my attention was drawn off from my miseries by watching the weasels as
they played and sported about me, in the confident belief that I was at
best only a kind of fungus--an excrescence on an oak-tree. One of them
came actually to my feet, and even ran across my instep in his play.
Suddenly the thought ran through me--and with terror--how soon may it
come to pass that I shall only be a miserable skeleton, pecked at by
crows, and nibbled by squirrels! The idea was too dreadful; and as if
the hour had actually come, I screamed out to frighten off the little
creatures, and sent them back scampering into their dens.

‘Holloa there! what’s the matter?’ shouted a deep mellow voice from the
middle of the wood; and before I could reply, a fat, rosy-cheeked man of
about fifty, with a pleasant countenance terminating in a row of double
chins, approached me, but still with evident caution, and halting when
about five paces distant, stood still.

‘Who are you?’ said I hastily, resolving this time at least to adopt a
different method of effecting my liberation.

‘What’s all this?’ quoth the fat man, shading his eyes with his palm,
and addressing some one behind him, whom I now recognised as my friend
the fool who visited me in the morning.

‘I say, sir,’ repeated I, in a tone of command somewhat absurd from a
man in my situation, ‘who are you, may I ask?’

‘The Maire de Givet,’ said he pompously, as he drew himself up, and took
a large pinch of snuff with an imposing gravity, while his companion
took off his hat in the most reverent fashion, and bowed down to the
ground.

‘Well, Monsieur le Maire, the better fortune mine to fall into such
hands. I have been robbed, and fastened here, as you see, by a gang of
scoundrels’--I took good care to say nothing of smugglers--‘who have
carried away everything I possessed. Have the goodness to loosen these
confounded cords, and set me at liberty.’

‘Were there many of them?’ quoth the mayor, without budging a step
forward.

‘Yes, a dozen at least. But untie me at once. I’m heartily sick of being
chained up here.’

‘A dozen at least!’ repeated he, in an accent of wonderment. ‘_Ma foi_,
a very formidable gang. Do you remember any of their names?’

‘Devil take their names! how should I know them? Come, cut these cords,
will you? We can talk just as well when I ‘m free.’

‘Not so fast, not so fast,’ said he, admonishing me with a bland motion
of his hand. ‘Everything must be done in order. Now, since you don’t
know their names, we must put them down as “parties unknown.”’

‘Put them down whatever you like; but let me loose!’

‘All in good time. Let us proceed regularly. Who are your witnesses?’

‘Witnesses!’ screamed I, overcome with passion; ‘you’ll drive me
distracted! I tell you I was waylaid in the wood by a party of
scoundrels, and you ask me for their names, and then for my witnesses!
Cut these cords, and don’t be so infernally stupid! Come, old fellow,
look alive, will you?’

‘Softly, softly; don’t interrupt public justice,’ said he, with a most
provoking composure. ‘We must draw up the _procès-verbal_.’

‘To be sure,’ said I, endeavouring to see what might be done by
concurrence with him, ‘nothing more natural But let me loose first; and
then we ‘ll arrange the _procès_.’

‘Not at all; you’re all wrong,’ interposed he. ‘I must have two
witnesses first, to establish the fact of your present position; ay, and
they must be of sound mind, and able to sign their names.’

‘May Heaven grant me patience, or I’ll burst!’ said I to myself, while
he continued in a regular sing-song tone--


‘Then we’ll take the depositions in form. Where do you come from?’

‘Ireland,’ said I, with a deep sigh, wishing I were up to the neck in a
bog-hole there, in preference to my actual misfortune.

‘What language do you usually speak?’

‘English.’

‘There, now,’ said he, brightening up, ‘there’s an important fact
already in the class No. 1--identity--which speaks of “all traits,
marks, and characteristic signs by which the plaintiff may be known.”
 Now, we’ll set you forth as “an Irishman that speaks English.”’

‘If you go on this way a little longer, you may put me down as “insane,”
 for I vow to heaven I’m becoming so!’

‘Come, Bobeche,’ said he, turning towards the natural, who stood in mute
admiration at his side, ‘go over to Claude Gueirans, at the mill, and
see if the _notaire_ be up there--there was a marriage of his niece this
morning, and I think you ‘ll find him; then cross the bridge, and make
for Papalot’s, and ask him to come up here, and bring some stamped paper
to take informations with him. You may tell the curé as you go by that
there’s been a dreadful crime committed in the forest, and that “la
justice s’informe.’” These last words were pronounced with an accent of
the most magniloquent solemnity.

Scarcely had the fool set out on his errand when my temper, so long
restrained, burst all bounds, and I abused the mayor in the most
outrageous manner. There was no insult I could think of that I did not
heap on his absurdity, his ignorance, his folly, his stupidity; and I
never ceased till actually want of breath completely exhausted me. To
all this the worthy man made no reply, nor paid even the least
attention. Seated on the stump of a beech-tree, he looked steadily at
vacancy, till at length I began to doubt whether the whole scene were
real, and if he were not a mere creature of my imagination. I verily
believe I’d have given five louis d’ors to have been free one moment, if
only to pelt a stone at him.

Meanwhile, the shadow of coming night was falling on the forest; the
crows came cawing home to their dwelling in the tree-tops; the sounds of
insect life were stilled in the grass; and the odours of the forest,
stronger as night closed in, filled the air. Gradually the darkness grew
thicker and thicker, and at last all I could distinguish was the stems
of the trees near me, and a massive black object I judged to be the
mayor. I called out to him in accents intended to be most apologetic. I
begged forgiveness for my warmth of temper; protested my regrets, and
only asked for the pleasure of his entertaining society till the hour of
my liberation should arrive. But no answer came; not a word, not a
syllable in reply--I could not even hear him breathing. Provoked at this
uncomplying obstinacy, I renewed my attacks on all constituted
authorities; expressed the most lively hopes that the gang of robbers
would some day or other burn down Givet and all it contained, not
forgetting the mayor and the notary; and, finally, to fill up the
measure of insult, tried to sing the _ça ira_, which in good monarchical
Holland was, I knew, a dire offence, but I broke down in the melody, and
had to come back to prose. However, it came just to the same--all was
silent. When I ceased speaking, not even an echo returned me a reply. At
last I grew wearied; the thought that all my anathemas had only an
audience of weasels and woodpeckers damped the ardour of my eloquence,
and I fell into a musing fit on Dutch justice, which seemed admirably
adapted to those good old times when people lived to the age of eight or
nine hundred years, and when a few months were as the twinkling of an
eye. Then I began a little plan of a tour from the time of my
liberation, cautiously resolving never to move out of the most beaten
tracks, and to avoid all districts where the mayor was a Dutchman.
Hunger and thirst and cold by this time began to tell upon my spirits
too, and I grew sleepy from sheer exhaustion.

Scarcely had I nodded my head twice in slumber, when a loud shout awoke
me. I opened my eyes, and saw a vast mob of men, women, and children
carrying torches, and coming through the wood at full speed, the
procession being led by a venerable-looking old man on a white pony,
whom I at once guessed to be the curé, while the fool, with a very
imposing branch of burning pine, walked beside him. ‘Good-evening to
you, monsieur,’ said the old man, as he took off his hat, with an air of
courtesy.

‘You must excuse the miserable plight I ‘m in, Monsieur le Curé,’ said
I, ‘if I can’t return your politeness; but I ‘m tied.’

‘Cut the cords at once,’ said the good man to the crowd that now pressed
forward.

‘Your pardon, Father Jacques,’ said the mayor, as he sat up in the grass
and rubbed his eyes, which sleep seemed to have almost obliterated; ‘but
the _proces verbal_ is----’

‘Quite unnecessary here,’ replied the old man. ‘Cut the rope, my
friends.’

‘Not so fast,’ said the mayor, pushing towards me. ‘I ‘ll untie it.
That’s a good cord and worth eight sous.’

And so, notwithstanding all my assurances that I ‘d give him a crown-
piece to use more despatch, he proceeded leisurely to unfasten every
knot, and took at least ten minutes before he set me at liberty.

‘Hurrah!’ said I, as the last coil was withdrawn, and I attempted to
spring into the air; but my cramped and chilled limbs were unequal to
the effort, and I rolled headlong on the grass.

The worthy curé, however, was at once beside me, and after a few
directions to the party to make a litter for me, he knelt down to offer
up a short prayer for my deliverance; the rest followed the act with
implicit devotion, while I took off my hat in respect, and sat still
where I was.

‘I see,’ whispered he, when the _Ave_ was over--’ I see you are a
Protestant. This is a fast day with us; but we ‘ll get you a poulet at
my cottage, and a glass of wine will soon refresh you.’

With many a thankful speech, I soon suffered myself to be lifted into a
large sheet, such as they use in the vineyards; and with a strong
cortege of the villagers carrying their torches, we took our way back to
Givet.

The circumstances of my adventure, considerably exaggerated of course,
were bruited over the country; and before I was out of bed next morning,
a chasseur, in a very showy livery, arrived with a letter from the lord
of the manor, entreating me to take my abode for some days at the
Château de Rochepied, where I should be received with a perfect welcome,
and every endeavour made to recover my lost effects. Having consulted
with the worthy curé, who counselled me by all means to accept this
flattering invitation--a course I was myself disposed to--I wrote a few
lines of answer, and despatched a messenger by post to Dinant to bring
up my heavy baggage, which I had left there.

Towards noon the count’s carriage drove up to convey me to the château;
and having taken an affectionate farewell of my kind host, I set out for
Rochepied. The wicker conveniency in which I travelled, all alone,
albeit not the thing for Hyde Park, was easy and pleasant in its motion;
the fat Flemish mares, with their long tails tastefully festooned over a
huge cushion of plaited straw on their backs, went at a fair, steady
pace; the road led through a part of the forest abounding in pretty
vistas of woodland scenery; and everything conspired to make me feel
that even an affair with a gang of smugglers might not be the worst
thing in life, if it were to lead to such pleasant results afterwards.

As we jogged along, I learned from the fat Walloon coachman that the
château was full of company; that the count had invited numerous guests
for the opening of the _chasse_, and that there were French and Germans
and English, and for aught he knew Chinese expected to ‘assist’ at the
ceremony. I confess the information considerably damped the pleasure I
at first experienced. I was in hopes to see real country life, the
regular course of château existence, in a family quietly domesticated on
their own property. I looked forward to a peep at that _vie intime_ of
Flemish household, of which all I knew was gathered from a Wenix
picture, and I wanted to see the thing in reality. The good vrow, with
her high cap and her long waist, her pale features lit up with eyes of
such brown as only Van Dyck ever caught the colour of; the daughters,
prim and stately, with their stiff, quaint courtesy, moving about the
terraced walks, like figures stepping from an ancient canvas, with
bouquets in their white and dimpled fingers, or mayhap a jess-hawk
perched upon their wrist; the Mynheer Baron, a large and portly Fleming,
with a slouched beaver and a short trim moustache, deep of voice, heavy
of step, seated on a grey Cuyp-like horse, with a flowing mane and a
huge tassel of a tail, flapping lazily his brawny flanks, or slapping
with heavy stroke the massive jack-boots of his rider--such were my
notions of a Dutch household. The unchanged looks of the dwellings,
which for centuries were the same, in part suggested these thoughts. The
quaint old turrets, the stiff and stately terraces, the fosse, stagnant
and sluggish, the carved tracery of the massive doorway, were all as we
see them in the oldest pictures of the land; and when the rind looks so
like, it is hard to imagine the fruit with a different flavour.

It was then with considerable regret I learned that I should see the
family _en gala_; that I had fallen upon a time of feasting and
entertainment. Had it not been too late, I should have beaten my
retreat, and taken up my abode for another day with the curé of Givet;
as it was, I resolved to make my visit as brief as possible, and take to
the road with all convenient despatch.

As we neared the château, the Walloon remembered a number of apologies
with which the count charged him to account for his not having gone
himself to fetch me, alleging the claims of his other guests, and the
unavoidable details which the forthcoming _ouverture de la chasse_
demanded at his hands. I paid little attention to the mumbled and broken
narrative, interrupted by imprecations on the road and exhortations to
the horses; for already we had entered the precincts of the demesne, and
I was busy in noting down the appearance of the place. There was,
however, little to remark. The transition from the wide forest to the
park was only marked by a little improvement in the road; there was
neither lodge nor gate--no wall, no fence, no inclosure of any kind. The
trim culture, which in our country is so observable around the approach
of a house of some consequence, was here totally wanting; the avenue was
partly of gravel, partly of smooth turf; the brushwood of prickly holly
was let grow wild, and straggled in many places across the road; the
occasional views that opened seemed to have been made by accident, not
design; and all was rank vegetation and rich verdure, uncared for--
uncultivated, but like the children of the poor, seeming only the
healthier and more robust, because left to their own unchecked,
untutored impulses. The rabbits played about within a few paces of the
carriage tracks; the birds sat motionless on the trees as we passed,
while here and there through the foliage I could detect the gorgeous
colouring of some bright peacock’s tail, as he rested on a bough and
held converse with his wilder brethren of the air, just as if the
remoteness of the spot and its seclusions led to intimacies which in the
ordinary routine of life had been impossible. At length the trees
receded farther and farther from the road, and a beautiful expanse of
waving lawn, dotted with sheep, stretched before the eye. In the
distance, too, I could perceive the château itself--a massive pile in
the shape of a letter L, bristling with chimneys, and pierced with
windows of every size and shape; clumps of flowering shrubs and fruit-
trees were planted about, and little beds of flowers spangled the even
turf like stars in the expanse of heaven. The Meuse wound round the
château on three sides, and perhaps thus saved it from being inflicted
by a ditch, for without water a Dutchman can no more exist than a
mackerel.

‘Fine! isn’t it?’ said the Walloon, as he pointed with his finger to the
scene before me, and seemed to revel with delight in my look of
astonishment, while he plied his whip with renewed vigour, and soon drew
up at a wide flight of stone steps, where a row of orange-trees mounted
guard on each side, and filled the place with their fragrance.

A servant in the strange _mélange_ of a livery, where the colours seemed
chosen from a bed of ranunculuses just near, came out to let down the
steps and usher me into the house. He informed me that the count had
given orders for my reception, but that he and all his friends were out
on horseback, and would not be back before dinner-time. Not sorry to
have a little time to myself, I retired to my room, and threw myself
down on a most comfortable sofa, excessively well satisfied with the
locality and well disposed to take advantage of my good fortune. The
little bed, with its snow-white curtains and gilded canopy; the brass
dogs upon the hearth, that shone like gold; the cherry-wood table, that
might have served as a mirror; the modest book-shelf, with its pleasant
row of volumes; but, better than all, the open window, from which I
could see for miles over the top of a dark forest, and watch the Meuse
as it came and went, now shining, now lost in the recesses of the wood--
all charmed me; and I fully confessed what I have had very frequently to
repeat in life, that ‘Arthur O’Leary was born under a lucky planet.’



CHAPTER XII. CHATEAU LIFE

Stretched upon a large old-fashioned sofa, where a burgomaster might
have reclined with ‘ample room and verge enough,’ in all the easy
abandonment of dressing-gown and slippers; the cool breeze gently
wafting the window-blind to and fro, and tempering the lulling sounds
from wood and water; the buzzing of the summer insects and the far-off
carol of a peasant’s song--I fell into one of those delicious sleeps in
which dreams are so faintly marked as to leave us no disappointment on
waking: flitting shadowlike before the mind, they live only in a
pleasant memory of something vague and undefined, and impart no touch of
sorrow for expectations unfulfilled, for hopes that are not to be
realised. I would that my dreams might always take this shape. It is a
sad thing when they become tangible; when features and looks, eyes,
hands, words, and signs, live too strongly in our sleeping minds, and we
awake to the cold reality of our daily cares and crosses, tenfold less
endurable from very contrast. No! give me rather the faint and waving
outline, the shadowy perception of pleasure, than the vivid picture, to
end only in the conviction that I am but Christopher Sly after all; or
what comes pretty much to the same, nothing but--Arthur O’Leary.

Still, I would not have you deem me discontented with my lot; far from
it. I chose my path early in life, and never saw reason to regret the
choice. How many of you can say as much? I felt that while the tender
ties of home and family, the charities that grow up around the charmed
circle of a wife and children, are the great prizes of life, there are
also a thousand lesser ones in the wheel, in the kindly sympathies with
which the world abounds; that to him who bears no ill-will at his heart-
-nay, rather loving all things that are lovable, with warm attachments
to all who have been kind to him, with strong sources of happiness in
his own tranquil thoughts--the wandering life would offer many
pleasures.

Most men live, as it were, with one story of their lives, the traits of
childhood maturing into manly features; their history consists of the
development of early character in circumstances of good or evil fortune.
They fall in love, they marry, they grow old, and they die--each
incident of their existence bearing on that before and that after, like
link upon link of some great chain. He, however, who throws himself like
a plank upon the waters, to be washed hither and thither as wind or tide
may drive him, has a very different experience. To him life is a
succession of episodes, each perfect in itself; the world is but a
number of tableaux, changing with climate and country--his sorrows in
France having no connection with his joys in Italy; his delights in
Spain living apart from his griefs on the Rhine. The past throws no
shadow on the future; his philosophy is to make the most of the present;
and he never forgets La Bruyère’s maxim--‘Il faut rire avant d’être
heureux, _de peur de mourir sans avoir ri_.’

Now, if you don’t like my philosophy, set it down as a dream, and here I
am awake once more.

And certainly I claim no great merit on the score of my vigilance; for
the tantararara that awoke me would have aroused the Seven Sleepers
themselves. Words are weak to convey the most distant conception of the
noise; it seemed as though ten thousand peacocks had congregated beneath
my window, and with brazen throats were bent on giving me a hideous
concert; the fiend-chorus in _Robert le Diable_ was a psalm-tune
compared to it. I started up and rushed to the casement; and there, in
the lawn beneath, beheld some twenty persons costumed in hunting
fashion, their horses foaming and splashed, their coats stained with
marks of the forest. But the uproar was soon comprehensible, owing to
some half-dozen of the party who performed on that most diabolical of
all human inventions, the _cor de chasse_.

Imagine, if you can, and thank your stars that it is only a work of
imagination, some twenty feet of brass pipe, worn belt-fashion over one
shoulder and under the opposite arm, one end of the aforesaid tube being
a mouth-piece, and the other expanding itself into a huge trumpet-mouth;
then conceive a Fleming--one of Rubens’s cherubs, immensely magnified,
and decorated with a beard and moustaches--blowing into this with all
the force of his lungs, perfectly unmindful of the five other
performers, who at five several and distinct parts of the melody are
blasting away also--treble and bass, contralto and soprano, shake and
sostenuto, all blending into one crash of hideous discord, to which the
Scotch bagpipe in a pibroch is a soothing, melting melody. A deaf-and-
dumb institution ‘would capitulate in half an hour. Truly, the results
of a hunting expedition ought to be of the most satisfactory kind, to
make the ‘Retour de la Chasse’ (it was this they were blowing) at all
sufferable to those who were not engaged in the concert. As for the
performers, I can readily believe they never heard a note of the whole.

Even Dutch lungs grow tired at last. Having blown the establishment into
ecstasies, and myself into a furious headache, they gave in; and now an
awful bell announced the time to dress for dinner. While I made my
toilette, I endeavoured, as well as my throbbing temples would permit
me, to fancy the host’s personal appearance, and to conjecture the style
of the rest of the party. My preparations over, I took a parting look in
the glass, as if to guess the probable impression I should make below-
stairs, and sallied forth.

Cautiously stealing along over the well-waxed floors, slippery as ice
itself, I descended the broad oak stairs into a great hall, wainscoted
with dark walnut and decorated with antlers’ and stags’ heads, cross-
bows and arquebuses, and, to my shuddering horror, with various _cors de
chasse_, now happily, however, silent on the walls. I entered the
drawing-room, conning over to myself a little speech in French, and
preparing myself to bow for the next fifteen minutes; but, to my
surprise, no one had yet appeared. All were still occupied in dressing,
and probably taking some well-merited repose after their exertions on
the wind-instruments. I had now time for a survey of the apartment; and,
generally speaking, a drawing-room is no bad indication of the tastes
and temperament of the owners of the establishment.

The practised eye speedily detects in the character and arrangement of a
chamber something of its occupant. In some houses, the absence of all
decoration, the simple puritanism of the furniture, bespeaks the life of
quiet souls whose days are as devoid of luxury as their dwellings. You
read in the cold grey tints the formal stiffness and unrelieved
regularity around the Quaker-like flatness of their existence. In
others, there is an air of ill-done display, a straining after effect,
which shows itself in costly but ill-assorted details, a mingling of all
styles and eras without repose or keeping. The bad pretentious pictures,
the faulty bronzes, meagre casts of poor originals, the gaudy china, are
safe warranty for the vulgarity of their owners; while the humble
parlour of a village inn can be, as I have seen it, made to evidence the
cultivated tastes and polished habits of those who have made it the
halting-place of a day. We might go back and trace how much of our
knowledge of the earliest ages is derived from the study of the interior
of their dwellings; what a rich volume of information is conveyed in a
mosaic; what a treatise does not lie in a frescoed wall!

The room in which I now found myself was a long, and for its length a
narrow, apartment; a range of tall windows, deeply sunk in the thick
wall, occupied one side, opposite to which was a plain wall covered with
pictures from floor to cornice, save where, at a considerable distance
from one another, were two splendidly carved chimney-pieces of black
oak, one representing ‘The Adoration of the Shepherds,’ and the other
‘The Miraculous Draught of Fishes’--the latter done with a relief, a
vigour, and a movement I have never seen equalled. Above these were some
armorial trophies of an early date, in which, among the maces and
battle-axes, I could recognise some weapons of Eastern origin, which by
the family, I learned, were ascribed to the periods of the Crusades.

Between the windows were placed a succession of carved oak cabinets of
the seventeenth century--beautiful specimens of art, and for all their
quaintness far handsomer objects of furniture than our modern luxury has
introduced among us. Japan vases of dark blue-and-green were filled with
rare flowers; here and there small tables of costly buhl invited you to
the window recesses, where the downy ottomans, pillowed with Flemish
luxury, suggested rest if not sleep. The pictures, over which I could
but throw a passing glance, were all by Flemish painters, and of that
character which so essentially displays their chief merits of richness
of colour and tone--Gerard Dow and Ostade, Cuyp, Van der Meer, and
Terburg--those admirable groupings of domestic life, where the nation
is, as it were, miniatured before you; that perfection of domestic
quiet, which bespeaks an heirloom of tranquillity derived whole
centuries back. You see at once, in those dark-brown eyes and placid
features, the traits that have taken ages to bring to such perfection;
and you recognise the origin of those sturdy burgomasters and bold
burghers, who were at the same time the thriftiest merchants and the
haughtiest princes of Europe.

Suddenly, and when I was almost on my knees to examine a picture by
Memling, the door opened, and a small, sharp-looking man, dressed in the
last extravagance of Paris mode, resplendent in waistcoat and glistening
in jewellery, tripped lightly forward. ‘Ah, mi Lor O’Leary!’ said he,
advancing towards me with a bow and a slide.

It was no time to discuss pedigree; so gulping the promotion, I made my
acknowledgments as best I could; and by the time that we met, which on a
moderate calculation might have been two minutes after he entered, we
shook hands very cordially, and looked delighted to see each other. This
ceremony, I repeat, was only accomplished after his having bowed round
two tables, an ottoman, and an oak _armoire_, I having performed the
like ceremony behind a Chinese screen, and very nearly over a vase of
the original ‘green dragon,’ which actually seemed disposed to spring at
me for my awkwardness.

Before my astonishment--shall I add, disappointment?--had subsided, at
finding that the diminutive, overdressed figure before me was the
representative of those bold barons I had been musing over (for such he
was), the room began to fill. Portly ladies of undefined dates sailed in
and took their places, stiff, stately, and silent as their grandmothers
on the walls; heavy-looking gentlemen, with unpronounceable names, bowed
and wheeled and bowed again; while a buzz of _votre serviteur_, madame,
or monsieur, swelled and sank amid the murmur of the room, with the
scraping of feet on the glazed _parquet_, and the rustle of silk, whose
plenitude bespoke a day when silkworms were honest.

The host paraded me around the austere circle, where the very names
sounded like an incantation; and the old ladies shook their bugles and
agitated their fans in recognition of my acquaintance. The circumstances
of my adventure were the conversation of every group; and although, I
confess, I could not help feeling that even a small spice of malice
might have found food for laughter in the absurdity of my durance, yet
not one there could see anything in the whole affair save a grave case
of smuggled tobacco, and a most unwarrantable exercise of authority on
the part of the curé who liberated me. Indeed, this latter seemed to
gain ground so rapidly, that once or twice I began to fear they might
remand me and sentence me to another night in the air, ‘till justice
should be satisfied.’ I did the worthy Maire de Givet foul wrong, said I
to myself; these people here are not a whit better.

The company continued to arrive at every moment; and now I remarked that
it was the veteran battalion who led the march, the younger members of
the household only dropping in as the hour grew later. Among these was a
pleasant sprinkling of Frenchmen, as easily recognisable among Flemings
as is an officer of the Blues from one of the new police; a German
baron, a very portrait of his class, fat, heavy-browed, sulky-looking,
but in reality a good-hearted, fine-tempered fellow; two Americans; an
English colonel, with his daughters twain; and a Danish _chargé d’
affaires_--the minor characters being what, in dramatic phrase, are
called _premiers_ and _premieres_, meaning thereby young people of
either sex, dressed in the latest mode, and performing the part of
lovers; the ladies, with a moderate share of good looks, being perfect
in the freshness of their toilette and in a certain air of ease and
gracefulness almost universal abroad; the men, a strange mixture of
silliness and savagery (a bad cross), half hairdresser, half hero.

Before the dinner was announced, I had time to perceive that the company
was divided into two different and very opposite currents--one party
consisting of the old Dutch or Flemish race, quiet, plodding, peaceable
souls, pretending to nothing new, enjoying everything old, their
souvenirs referring to some event in the time of their grandfathers; the
other section being the younger portion, who, strongly imbued with
French notions on dress and English on sporting matters, attempted to
bring Newmarket and the Boulevards des Italiens into the heart of the
Ardennes.

Between the two, and connecting them with each other, was a species of
_pont du diable_, in the person of a little, dapper, olive-complexioned
man of about forty. His eyes were black as jet, but with an expression
soft and subdued, save at moments of excitement, when they flashed like
glow-worms; his plain suit of black with deep cambric ruffles, his silk
shorts and buckled shoes, had in them something of the ecclesiastic; and
so it was. He was the Abbé van Praet, the cadet of an ancient Belgian
family, a man of considerable ability, highly informed on most subjects;
a linguist, a musician, a painter of no small pretensions, who spent his
life in the _far niente_ of château existence--now devising a party of
pleasure, now inventing a madrigal, now giving directions to the chef
how to make an _omelette à la curé_, now stealing noiselessly along some
sheltered walk to hear some fair lady’s secret confidence; for he was
privy counsellor in all affairs of the heart, and, if the world did not
wrong him, occasionally pleaded his own cause when no other petitioner
offered. I was soon struck by this man, and by the tact with which,
while he preserved his ascendency over the minds of all, he never
admitted any undue familiarity, yet affected all the ease and
_insouciance_ of the veriest idler. I was flattered, also, by his notice
of me, and by the politeness of his invitation to sit next him at table.

The distinctions I have hinted at already, made the dinner conversation
a strange medley of Flemish history and sporting anecdotes; of
reminiscences of the times of Maria Theresa, and dissertations on
weights and ages; of the genealogies of Flemish families, and the
pedigrees of English racehorses. The young English ladies, both pretty
and delicate-looking girls, with an air of good-breeding and tone in
their manner, shocked me not a little by the intimate knowledge they
displayed on all matters of the turf and the stable--their acquaintance
with the details of hunting, racing, and steeplechasing, seeming to form
the most wonderful attraction to the moustached counts and whiskered
barons who listened to them. The colonel was a fine, mellow-looking old
gentleman, with a white head and a red nose, and with that species of
placid expression one sees in the people who perform those parts in
Vaudeville theatres called _pères nobles_. He seemed, indeed, as if he
had been daily in the habit of bestowing a lovely daughter on some
happy, enraptured lover, and invoking a blessing on their heads; there
was a rich unction in his voice, an almost imperceptible quaver, that
made it seem kind and affectionate; he finished his shake of the hand
with a little parting squeeze, a kind of ‘one cheer more,’ as they say
nowadays, when some misguided admirer calls upon a meeting for
enthusiasm they don’t feel. The Americans were (and one description will
serve for both, so like were they) sallow, high-boned, silent men, with
a species of quiet caution in their manner, as if they were learning,
but had not yet completed, a European education as to habits and
customs, and were studiously careful not to commit any solecisms which
might betray their country.

As dinner proceeded, the sporting characters carried the day. The
_ouverture de la chasse_, which was to take place the following morning,
was an all-engrossing topic, and I found myself established as judge on
a hundred points of English jockey etiquette, of which as my ignorance
was complete I suffered grievously in the estimation of the company,
and, when referred to, could neither apportion the weight to age, nor
even tell the number of yards in a ‘distance.’ It was, however, decreed
that I should ride the next day--the host had the ‘very horse to suit
me’; and, as the abbé whispered me to consent, I acceded at once to the
arrangement.

When we adjourned to the drawing-room, Colonel Muddleton came towards me
with an easy smile and an outstretched snuff-box, both in such perfect
keeping: the action was a finished thing.

‘Any relation, may I ask, of a very old friend and brother officer of
mine, General Mark O’Leary, who was killed in Canada?’ said he.

‘A very distant one only,’ replied I.

‘A capital fellow, brave as a lion, and pleasant. By Jove, I never met
the like of him! What became of his Irish property?--he was never
married, I think?’

‘No, he died a bachelor, and left his estates to my uncle; they had met
once by accident, and took a liking to each other.’

‘And so your uncle has them now?’

‘No; my uncle died since. They came into my possession some two or three
years ago.’

‘Eh--ah--upon my life!’ said he, with something of surprise in his
manner; and then, as if ashamed of his exclamation, and with a much more
cordial vein than at first, he resumed: ‘What a piece of unlooked-for
good fortune to be sure! Only think of my finding my old friend Mark’s
nephew!’

‘Not his nephew. I was only----’

‘Never mind, never mind; he was kind of an uncle, you know--any man
might be proud of him. What a glorious fellow!--full of fun, full of
spirit and animation. Ah, just like all your countrymen! I’ve a little
Irish blood in my veins myself; my mother was an O’Flaherty or an
O’Neil, or something of that sort; and there’s Laura--you don’t know my
daughter?’ ‘I have not the honour.’

‘Come along, and I’ll introduce you to her; a little reserved or so,’
said he, in a whisper, as if to give me the _carte du pays_--’ rather
cold, you know, to strangers; but when she hears you are the nephew of
my old friend Mark--Mark and I were like brothers.--Laura, my love,’
said he, tapping the young lady on her white shoulder as she stood with
her back towards us; ‘Laura, dear---the son of my oldest friend in the
world, General O’Leary.’

The young lady turned quickly round, and, as she drew herself up
somewhat haughtily, dropped me a low curtsy, and then resumed her
conversation with a very much whiskered gentleman near. The colonel
seemed, despite all his endeavours to overcome it, rather put out by his
daughter’s hauteur to the _son_ of his old friend; and what he would
have said or done I know not, but the abbé came suddenly up, and with a
card invited me to join a party at whist. The moment was so awkward for
all, that I would have accepted an invitation even to écarté to escape
from the difficulty, and I followed him into a small boudoir where two
ladies were awaiting us. I had just time to see that they were both
pleasing-looking, and of that time of life when women, without
forfeiting any of the attractions of youth, are much more disposed to
please by the attractions of manner and _esprit_ than by mere beauty,
when we sat down to our game. La Baronne de Meer, my partner, was the
younger and the prettier of the two; she was one of those Flemings into
whose families the race of Spain poured the warm current of southern
blood, and gave them the dark eye and the olive skin, the graceful
figure and the elastic step, so characteristic of their nation.

‘A la bonne heure,’ said she, smiling; ‘have we rescued one from the
enchantress?’

‘Yes,’ replied the abbé, with an affected gravity; ‘in another moment he
was lost.’

‘If you mean me,’ said I, laughing, ‘I assure you I ran no danger at
all; for whatever the young lady’s glances may portend, she seemed very
much indisposed to bestow a second on me.’

The game proceeded with its running fire of chitchat, from which I could
gather that Mademoiselle Laura was a most established man-killer, no one
ever escaping her fascinations save when by some strange fatality they
preferred her sister Julia, whose style was, to use the abbé’s phrase,
her sister’s ‘diluted.’ There was a tone of pique in the way the ladies
criticised the colonel’s daughters, which I have often remarked in those
who, accustomed to the attentions of men themselves, without any unusual
effort to please on their part, are doubly annoyed when they perceive a
rival making more than ordinary endeavours to attract admirers. They
feel as a capitalist would, when another millionaire offers money at a
lower rate of interest. It is, as it were, a breach of conventional
etiquette, and never escapes being severely criticised.

As for me, I had no personal feeling at stake, and looked on at the game
of all parties with much amusement.

‘Where is the Comte d’Espagne to-night?’ said the baronne to the abbé.
‘Has he been false?’

‘Not at all; he was singing with mademoiselle when I was in the salon.’

‘You’ll have a dreadful rival there, Monsieur O’Leary,’ said she
laughingly; ‘he is the most celebrated swordsman and the best shot in
Flanders.’

‘It is likely he may rust his weapons if he have no opportunity for
their exercise till I give it,’ said I.

‘Don’t you admire her, then?’ said she.

‘The lady is very pretty, indeed,’ said I.

‘The heart led,’ interrupted the abbé suddenly, as he touched my foot
beneath the table--‘play a heart.’

Close beside my chair, and leaning over my cards, stood Mademoiselle
Laura herself at the moment.

‘You have no heart,’ said she, in English, and with a singular
expression on the words, while her downcast eye shot a glance--one
glance--through me.

‘Yes, but I have though,’ said I, discovering a card that lay concealed
behind another; ‘it only requires a little looking for.’

‘Not worth the trouble, perhaps,’ said she, with a toss of her head, as
I threw the deuce upon the table; and before I could reply she was gone.

‘I think her much prettier when she looks saucy,’ said the baronne, as
if to imply that the air of pique assumed was a mere piece of acting got
up for effect.

I see it all, said I to myself. Foreign women can never forgive English
for being so much their superior in beauty and loveliness. Meanwhile our
game came to a close, and we gathered around the buffet.

There we found the old colonel, with a large silver tankard of mulled
wine, holding forth over some campaigning exploit, to which no one
listened for more than a second or two--and thus the whole room became
joint-stock hearers of his story. Laura stood eating her ice with the
Comte d’Espagne, the black-whiskered cavalier already mentioned, beside
her. The Americans were prosing away about Jefferson and Adams; the
Belgians talked agriculture and genealogy; and the French collecting
into a group of their own, in which nearly all the pretty women joined,
discoursed the ballet, the Chambre, the court, the coulisses, the last
mode, and the last murder, and all in the same mirthful and lively tone.
And truly, let people condemn as they will this superficial style of
conversation, there is none equal to it; it avoids the prosaic flatness
of German, and the monotonous pertinacity of English, which seems more
to partake of the nature of discussion than dialogue. French chit-chat
takes a wider range--anecdotic, illustrative, and discursive by turns;
it deems nothing too light, nothing too weighty for its subject; it is a
gay butterfly, now floating with gilded wings above you, now tremulously
perched upon a leaf below, now sparkling in the sunbeam, now loitering
in the shade; embodying not only thought, but expression, it charms by
its style as well as by its matter. The language, too, suggests shades
and nuances of colouring that exist not in other tongues; you can give
to your canvas the precise tint you wish, for when mystery would prove a
merit, the equivoque is there ready to your hand--meaning so much, yet
asserting so little. For my part I should make my will in English; but
I’d rather make love in French.

While thus digressing, I have forgotten to mention that people are
running back and forward with bedroom candles; there is a confused hum
of _bonsoir_ on every side; and, with many a hope of a fine day for the
morrow, we separate for the night.

I lay awake some hours thinking of Laura, and then of the baronne--they
were both arch ones; the abbé too crossed my thoughts, and once or twice
the old colonel’s roguish leer; but I slept soundly for all that, and
did not wake till eight o’clock the next morning. The silence of the
house struck me forcibly as I rubbed my eyes and looked about. Hang it,
thought I, have they gone off to the _chasse_ without me? I surely could
never have slept through the uproar of their trumpets. I drew aside the
window-curtains, and the mystery was solved: such rain never fell
before; the clouds, actually touching the tops of the beech-trees,
seemed to ooze and squash like squeezed sponges. The torrent came down
in that splashing stroke as if some force behind momentarily propelled
it stronger; and the long-parched ground seethed and smoked like a
heated caldron.

Pleasant this, was reflection number one, as I endeavoured to peer
through the mist, and beheld a haze of weeping foliage--pleasant to be
immured here during Heaven knows how many days, without the power to
escape. Lucky fellow, Arthur, was my second thought; capital quarters
you have fallen into. Better far the snug comforts of a Flemish chateau
than the chances of a wayside inn. Besides, here is a goodly company met
together; there will needs be pleasant people among them. I wish it may
rain these three weeks; château life is the very thing I ‘m curious
about. How do they get through the day? There’s no _Times_ in Flanders;
no one cares a farthing about who’s in and who’s out. There’s no Derby,
no trials for murder. What can they do? was the question I put to myself
a dozen times over. No matter; I have abundant occupation; my journal
has never been posted up since--since--alas, I can scarcely tell!

It might be from reflections like these, or perhaps because I was less
of a sportsman than my companions, but certainly, whatever the cause, I
bore up against the disappointment of the weather with far more
philosophy than they, and dispersed a sack of proverbs about patience,
hope, equanimity, and contentment which Sancho Panza himself might have
envied, until at length no one ventured a malediction on the day in my
presence, for fear of eliciting a hailstorm of moral reflections. The
company dropped down to breakfast by detachments, the elated looks and
flashing eyes of the night before saddened and overcast at the
unexpected change. Even the elders of the party seemed discontented; and
except myself and an old gentleman with the gout, who took an airing
about the hall and the drawing-room in a wheel-chair, all seemed
miserable.

Each window had its occupant posted against the glass, vainly
endeavouring to catch one bit of blue amid the dreary waste of cloud. A
little group, sulky and silent, were gathered around the weather-glass;
a literary inquirer sat down to con over the predictions of the almanac.
You might as well have looked for sociability among the inhabitants of a
private madhouse as here. The weather was cursed in every language from
Cherokee to Sanskrit; all agreed that no country had such an abominable
climate. The Yankee praised the summers of America, the Dane upheld his
own, and I took a patriotic turn, and vowed I had never seen such rain
in Ireland. The master of the house could scarcely show himself amid
this torrent of abusive criticism; and when he did by chance appear, he
looked as much ashamed as though he himself had pulled out the spigot,
and deluged the whole land with water.

Meanwhile, none of those I looked for appeared. Neither the colonel’s
daughter nor the baronne came down; the abbé too, did not descend to the
breakfast room, and I was considerably puzzled and put out by the
disappointment.

After then enduring a good hour’s boredom from the old colonel on the
subject of my late lamented parent, Mark O’Leary; after submitting to a
severe cross-examination from the Yankee gentleman as to the reason of
my coming abroad, what property and expectations I had, my age and
birthplace, what my mother died of, and whether I did not feel very
miserable from the abject slavery of submitting to an English
Government--I escaped into the library, a fine, comfortable old room,
which I rightly conjectured I should find unoccupied.

Selecting a quaint-looking quarto with some curious illuminated pages
for my companion, I drew a great deep leather chair into a recess of one
window, and hugged myself in my solitude. While I listlessly turned over
the leaves of my book, or sat lost in reflection, time crept along, and
I heard the great clock of the château strike three; at the same moment
a hand fell lightly on my shoulder; I turned about--it was the abbé.

‘I half suspected I should find you here,’ said he. ‘Do I disturb you,
or may I keep you company?’

‘But too happy,’ I replied, ‘if you ‘ll do me the favour.’

‘I thought,’ said he, as he drew a chair opposite to me,--‘I thought
you’d scarcely play dominoes all day, or discuss waistcoats.’

‘In truth I was scarcely better employed; this old volume here which I
took down for its plates----’

‘_Ma foi_, a most interesting one; it is Guchardi’s _History of Mary of
Burgundy_. Those quaint old processions, those venerable councils, are
admirably depicted. What rich stores for a romance writer lie in the
details of these old books! Their accuracy as to costume, the little
traits of everyday life, are so naïvely told; every little domestic
incident is so full of its characteristic era. I wonder, when the
springs are so accessible, men do not draw more frequently from them,
and more purely also.’

‘You forget Scott.’

‘No; far from it. He is the great exception; and from his intimate
acquaintance with this class of reading is he so immeasurably superior
to all other writers of his style. Not merely tinctured, but deeply
imbued with the habits of the feudal period, the traits by which others
attempt to paint the time with him were mere accessories in the picture;
costume and architecture he used to heighten, not to convey his
impressions; and while no one knew better every minute particular of
dress or arms that betokened a period or a class, none more sparingly
used such aid. He felt the same delicacy certain ancient artists did as
to the introduction of pure white into their pictures, deeming such an
unfair exercise of skill. But why venture to speak of your countryman to
you, save that genius is above nationality, and Scott’s novels at least
are European.’

After chatting for some time longer, and feeling struck with, the extent
and variety of the abbé’s attainments, I half dropped a hint expressive
of my surprise that one so cultivated as he was could apparently so
readily comply with the monotonous routine of a château life, and the
little prospect it afforded of his meeting congenial associates. Far
from feeling offended at the liberty of my remark, he replied at once
with a smile--

‘You are wrong there, and the error is a common one; but when you have
seen more of life, you will learn that a man’s own resources are the
only real gratifications he can count upon. Society, like a field-day,
may offer the occasion to display your troops and put them through their
manoeuvres; but, believe me, it is a rare and a lucky day when you go
back richer by one recruit, and the chance is that even he is a cripple,
and must be sent about his business. People, too, will tell you much of
the advantage to be derived from associating with men of distinguished
and gifted minds. I have seen something of such in my time, and give
little credit to the theory. You might as well hope to obtain credit for
a thousand pounds because you took off your hat to a banker.’

The abbé paused after this, and seemed to be occupied with his own
thoughts; then raising his head suddenly, he said--

‘As to happiness, believe me, it lives only in the extremes of perfect
vacuity or true genius. Your clever fellow, with a vivid fancy and
glowing imagination, strong feeling and strong power of expression, has
no chance of it. The excitement he lives in is alone a bar to the
tranquil character of thought necessary to happiness; and however cold a
man may feel, he should never warm himself through a burning-glass.’

There seemed through all he said something like a retrospective tone, as
though he were rather giving the fruit of past personal experiences than
merely speculating on the future; and I could not help throwing out a
hint to this purport.

‘Perhaps you are right,’ said he; then, after a long silence, he added:
‘It is a fortunate thing after all when the faults of a man’s
temperament are the source of some disappointment in early life, because
then they rarely endanger his subsequent career. Let him only escape the
just punishment, whatever it be, and the chances are that they embitter
every hour of his after-life. His whole care and study being not
correction, but concealment, he lives a life of daily duplicity; the
fear of detection is over him at every step he takes; and he plays a
part so constantly that he loses all real character at last in the
frequency of dissimulation. Shall I tell you a little incident with
which I became acquainted in early life. If you have nothing better to
do, it may while away the hours before dinner.’



CHAPTER XIII. THE ABBE’S STORY

‘Without tiring you with any irrelevant details of the family and
relatives of my hero, if I dare call him such, I may mention that he was
the second son of an old Belgian family of some rank and wealth, and
that in accordance with the habits of his house he was educated for the
career of diplomacy. For this purpose, a life of travel was deemed the
best preparation--foreign languages being the chief requisite, with such
insight into history, national law, and national usages as any young man
with moderate capacity and assiduity can master in three or four years.

‘The chief of the Dutch mission at Frankfort was an old diplomat of some
distinction, but who, had it not been from causes purely personal
towards the king, would not have quitted The Hague for any embassy
whatever. He was a widower, with an only daughter--one of those true
types of Dutch beauty which Terburg was so fond of painting. There are
people who can see nothing but vulgarity in the class of features I
speak of, and yet nothing in reality is farther from it. Hers was a
mild, placid face, a wide, candid-looking forehead, down either side of
which two braids of sunny brown hair fell; her skin, fair as alabaster,
had the least tinge of colour, but her lips were full, and of a carmine
hue, that gave a character of brilliancy to the whole countenance; her
figure inclined to embonpoint, was exquisitely moulded, and in her walk
there appeared the composed and resolute carriage of one whose
temperament, however mild and unruffled, was still based on principles
too strong to be shaken. She was indeed a perfect specimen of her
nation, embodying in her character the thrift, the propriety, the high
sense of honour, the rigid habits of order, so eminently Dutch; but
withal there ran through her nature the golden thread of romance, and
beneath that mild eyebrow there were the thoughts and hopes of a highly
imaginative mind.

‘The mission consisted of an old secretary of embassy, Van Dohein, a
veteran diplomat of some sixty years, and Edward Norvins, the youth I
speak of. Such was the family party, for you are aware that they all
lived in the same house, and dined together every day--the _attachés_ of
the mission being specially intrusted to the care and attention of the
head of the mission, as if they were his own children. Norvins soon fell
in love with the pretty Marguerite. How could it be otherwise? They were
constantly together; he was her companion at home, her attendant at
every ball; they rode out together, walked, read, drew, and sang
together, and in fact very soon became inseparable. In all this there
was nothing which gave rise to remark. The intimate habits of a mission
permitted such; and as her father, deeply immersed in affairs of
diplomacy, had no time to busy himself about them, no one else did. The
secretary had followed the same course at every mission for the first
ten years of his career, and only deemed it the ordinary routine of an
_attachés_ life.

‘Such, then, was the pleasant current of their lives, when an event
occurred which was to disturb its even flow--ay, and alter the channel
for ever. A despatch arrived one morning at the mission, informing them
that a certain Monsieur von Halsdt, a son of one of the ministers, who
had lately committed some breach of discipline in a cavalry regiment,
was about to be attached to the mission. Never was such a shock as
Marguerite and her lover sustained. To her the idea of associating with
a wild, and unruly character like this was insupportable. To him it was
misery; he saw at once all his daily intimacy with her interrupted; he
perceived how their former habits could no longer be followed--that with
this arrival must cease the companionship that made him the happiest of
men. Even the baron himself was indignant at the arrangement to saddle
him with a _vaurien_ to be reclaimed; but then he was the minister’s
son. The king himself had signed the appointment, and there was no help
for it.

‘It was indeed with anything but feelings of welcome that they awaited
the coming of the new guest. Even in the short interval between his
appointment and his coming, a hundred rumours reached them of his
numerous scrapes and adventures, his duels, his debts, his gambling, and
his love exploits. All of course were duly magnified. Poor Marguerite
felt as though an imp of Satan was about to pay them a visit, and
Norvins dreaded him with a fear that partook of a presentiment.

‘The day came, and the dinner-hour, in respect for the son of the great
man, was delayed twenty minutes in expectation of his coming; and they
went to table at last without him, silent and sad--the baron, annoyed at
the loss of dignity he should sustain by a piece of politeness exercised
without result; the secretary, fretting over the _entrées_ that were
burned; Marguerite and Edward, mourning over happiness never to return.
Suddenly a _calèche_ drove into the court at full gallop, the steps
rattled, and a figure wrapped in a cloak sprang out. Before the first
surprise permitted them to speak, the door of the _salle_ opened, and he
appeared.

‘It would, I confess, have been a difficult matter to fix on that
precise character of looks and appearances which might have pleased all
the party. Whatever were the sentiments of others I know not, but
Norvins’ wishes would have inclined to see him short and ill-looking,
rude in speech and gesture--in a word, as repulsive as possible. It is
indeed a strange thing--you must have remarked it, I’m certain--that the
disappointment we feel at finding people we desire to like inferior to
our own conceptions of them, is not one-half so great as is our chagrin
at discovering those we are determined to dislike very different from
our preconceived notions, with few or none of the features we were
prepared to find fault with, and, in fact, altogether unlike the bugbear
we had created for ourselves. One would suppose that such a revulsion in
feeling would be pleasurable rather than otherwise. Not so, however; a
sense of our own injustice adds poignancy to our previous prejudice, and
we dislike the object only the more for lowering us in our own esteem.

‘Van Halsdt was well calculated to illustrate my theory. He was tall and
well made; his face, dark as a Spaniard’s (his mother was descended from
a Catalonian family), was manly-looking and frank, at once indicating
openness of temperament, and a dash of heroic daring that would like
danger for itself alone; his carriage had the easy freedom of a soldier,
without anything bordering on coarseness or effrontery. Advancing with a
quiet bow, he tendered his apologies for being late, rather as a matter
he owed to himself, to excuse his want of punctuality, than from any
sense of inconvenience to others, and ascribed the delay to the
difficulty of finding post-horses. “While waiting, therefore,” said he,
“I resolved to economise time, and so dressed for dinner at the last
stage.”

‘This apology at least showed a desire on his part to be in time, and at
once disposed the secretary in his favour. The baron himself spoke
little; and as for Marguerite, she never opened her lips to him the
whole time of dinner; and Norvins could barely get out the few
commonplaces of table, and sat eyeing him from time to time with an
increasing dislike.

‘Van Halsdt could not help feeling that his reception was of the
coldest; yet either perfectly indifferent to the fact, or resolved to
overcome their impressions against him, he talked away unceasingly of
everything he could think of--the dinners at court, the theatres, the
diplomatic soirées, the news from foreign countries, all of which he
spoke of with knowledge and intimacy. Yet nothing could he extract in
return. The old baron retired, as was his wont, immediately after
dinner; the secretary dropped off soon after; Marguerite went to take
her evening drive on the boulevards; and Norvins was left alone with his
new comrade. At first he was going to pretend an engagement. Then the
awkwardness of the moment came forcibly before him, and he sat still,
silent and confused.

‘“Any wine in that decanter?” said Van Halsdt, with a short abrupt tone,
as he pointed to the bottle beside him. “Pray pass it over here. I have
only drunk three glasses. I shall be better aware to-morrow how soon
your party breaks up here.”

‘“Yes,” said Edward timidly, and not well knowing what to say. “The
baron retires to his study every evening at seven.”

‘“With all my heart,” said he gaily; “at six, if he prefer it, and he
may even take the old secretary with him. But the mademoiselle, shall we
see any more of her during the evening? Is there no salon? Eh, what do
you do after dinner?”

‘“Why, sometimes we drive, or we walk out on the boulevards; the other
ministers receive once or twice a week, and then there’s the opera.”

‘“Devilishly slow you must find all this,” said Van Halsdt, filling a
bumper, and taking it off at a draught. “Are you long here?”

‘“Only three months.”

‘“And well sick of it, I ‘ll be sworn.”

‘“No, I feel very happy; I like the quiet.”

‘“Oh dear! oh dear!” said he, with a long groan, “what is to become of
me?”

‘Norvins heartily wished he could have replied to the question in the
way he would have liked; but he said nothing.

‘“It’s past eight.” said Van Halsdt, as he perceived him stealing a look
at his watch. “Never mind me, if you’ve any appointment; I ‘ll soon
learn to make myself at home here. Perhaps you’d better ring for some
more claret, however, before you go; they don’t know me yet.”

‘Edward almost started from his chair at this speech. Such a liberty had
never before been heard of as to call for more wine; indeed, it was not
their ordinary habit to consume half what was placed on the table; but
so taken by surprise was he, that he actually rose and rang the bell, as
he was desired.

‘“Some claret, Johann,” said he with a gulp, as the old butler entered.

‘The man started back, and fixed his eyes on the empty decanter.

‘“And I say, ancient,” said Van Halsdt, “don’t decant it; you shook the
last bottle confoundedly. It’s old wine, and won’t bear that kind of
usage.”

‘The old man moved away with a deep sigh, and returned in about ten
minutes with a bottle from the cellar.

‘“Didn’t Providence bless you with two hands, friend?” said Van Halsdt.
“Go down for another.”

‘“Go, Johann,” said Norvins, as he saw him hesitate, and not knowing
what his refusal might call forth; and then, without waiting for further
parley, he arose and withdrew.

‘“Well,” thought he, when he was once more alone, “if he is a good-
looking fellow, and there’s no denying _that_, one comfort is, he is a
confirmed drunkard. Marguerite will never be able to endure him”; for
such, in his secret heart, was the reason of his premature dislike and
dread of his new companion; and as he strolled along he meditated on the
many ways he should be able to contrast his own acquirements with the
other’s deficiencies, for such he set them down at once, and gradually
reasoned himself into the conviction that the fear of all rivalry from
him was mere folly; and that whatever success his handsome face and
figure might have elsewhere, Marguerite was not the girl to be caught by
such attractions, when coupled with an unruly temper and an uneducated
mind.

‘And he was right. Great as his own repugnance was towards Van Halsdt,
hers was far greater. She not only avoided him on every occasion, but
took pleasure, as it seemed, in marking the cold distance of her manner
to him, and contrasting it with her behaviour to others. It is true he
appeared to care little for this; and only replied to it by a half-
impertinent style of familiarity--a kind of jocular intimacy most
insulting to a woman, and horribly tantalising for those to witness who
are attached to her.

‘I don’t wish to make my story a long one; nor could I without entering
into the details of everyday life, which now became so completely
altered. Marguerite and Norvins met only at rare intervals, and then
less to cultivate each other’s esteem than expatiate on the many
demerits of him who had estranged them so utterly. All the reports to
his discredit that circulated in Frankfort were duly conned over; and
though they could lay little to his charge of their own actual
knowledge, they only imagined the more, and condemned him accordingly.

‘To Norvins he became hourly more insupportable. There was in all his
bearing towards him the quiet, measured tone of a superior to an
inferior, the patronising protection of an elder to one younger and less
able to defend himself--and which, with the other’s consciousness of his
many intellectual advantages over him, added double bitterness to the
insult. As he never appeared in the bureau of the mission, nor in any
way concerned himself with official duties, they rarely met save at
table; there, his appearance was the signal for constraint and reserve -
-an awkwardness that made itself felt the more, as the author of it
seemed to exult in the dismay he created.

‘Such, then, was the state of events when Norvins received his
nomination as secretary of legation at Stuttgart. The appointment was a
surprise to him; he had not even heard of the vacancy. The position,
however, and the emoluments were such as to admit of his marrying; and
he resolved to ask the baron for his daughter’s hand, to which the rank
and influence of his own family permitted him to aspire without
presumption.

‘The baron gave his willing consent; Marguerite accepted; and the only
delay was now caused by the respect for an old Dutch custom--the bride
should be at least eighteen, and Marguerite yet wanted three months of
that age. This interval Norvins obtained leave to pass at Frankfort; and
now they went about to all public places together as betrothed; paid
visits in company, and were recognised by all their acquaintances as
engaged to each other.

‘Just at this time a French cuirassier regiment marched into garrison in
the town; they were on their way to the south of Germany, and only
detained in Frankfort to make up their full complement of horses. In
this regiment was a young Dutch officer, who once belonged to the same
regiment as Van Halsdt, and who was broke by the court-martial for the
same quarrel. They had fought twice with swords, and only parted with
the dire resolve to finish the affair at the next opportunity. This
officer was a man of an inferior class, his family being an obscure one
of North Holland; and thus, when dismissed the service, he had no other
resource than to enter the French army, at that time at war with
Austria. He was said to be a man of overbearing temper and passion, and
it was not likely that the circumstance of his expatriation and disgrace
had improved him. However, some pledge Van Halsdt had made to his father
decided him in keeping out of the way. The report ran that he had given
a solemn promise never to challenge nor accept any challenge from the
other on any pretext whatsoever. Whatever the promise, certain it was he
left Frankfort the same day the regiment marched into town, and retired
to Wiesbaden.

‘The circumstance soon became the subject of town gossip, and plenty
there were most willing to attribute Van Halsdt’s departure to
prudential motives, rather than to give so wild a character any credit
for filial ones. Several who felt offended at his haughty, supercilious
manner now exulted in this, as it seemed, fall to his pride; and
Norvins, unfortunately, fell into the same track, and by many a sly
innuendo and half allusion to his absence gave greater currency to the
report that his absence was dictated by other considerations than those
of parental respect.

‘Through all the chit-chat of the time, Marguerite showed herself highly
indignant at Van Halsdt’s conduct. The quiet timid girl, who detested
violence and hated crime in any shape, felt disgusted at the thought of
his poltroonery, and could not hear his name mentioned without an
expression of contempt. All this delighted Edward; it seemed to be the
just retribution on the former insolence of the other, and he longed for
his return to Frankfort to witness the thousand slights that awaited
him.

‘Such a strange and unaccountable thing is our triumph over others for
the want of those qualities in which we see ourselves deficient. No one
is so loud in decrying dishonesty and fraud as the man who feels the
knave in his own heart. Who can censure female frailty like her who has
felt its sting in her own conscience? You remember the great traveller,
Mungo Park, used to calculate the depths of rivers in Africa by rolling
heavy stones over their banks and watching the air-bubbles that mounted
to the surface; so, oftentimes, may you measure the innate sense of a
vice by the execration some censor of morals bestows upon it. Believe
me, these heavy chastisements of crime are many times but the cries of
awakened conscience. I speak strongly, but I feel deeply on this
subject.

‘But to my story. It was the custom for Marguerite and her lover each
evening to visit the theatre, where the minister had a box; and as they
were stepping into the carriage one night as usual, Van Halsdt drove up
to the door and asked if he might accompany them. Of course, a refusal
was out of the question; he was a member of the mission; he had done
nothing to forfeit his position there, however much he had lost in the
estimation of society generally; and they acceded to his request, still
with a species of cold courtesy that would, by any other man, have been
construed into a refusal.

‘As they drove along in silence, the constraint increased at every
moment, and had it not been for the long-suppressed feeling of hated
rivalry, Norvins could have pitied Van Halsdt as he sat, no longer with
his easy smile of self-satisfied indifference, but with a clouded, heavy
brow, mute and pale. As for Marguerite, her features expressed a species
of quiet, cold disdain whenever she looked towards him, far more
terrible to bear than anything like an open reproach. Twice or thrice he
made an effort to start some topic of conversation, but in vain; his
observations were either unreplied to, or met a cold, distant assent
more chilling still. At length, as if resolved to break through their
icy reserve towards him, he asked in a tone of affected indifference--

‘“Any changes in Frankfort, mademoiselle, since I had the pleasure of
seeing you last?”

‘“None, sir, that I know of, save that the French cuirassier regiment
marched this morning for Baden, _of which, however, it is more than
probable you are aware already_.”

‘On each of these latter words she laid an undue stress, fixing her eyes
steadfastly on him, and speaking in a slow, measured tone. He grew
deeply red, almost black for a moment or two; his moustache seemed
almost to bristle with the tremulous convulsion that shook his upper
lip; then as suddenly he became lividly pale, while the great drops of
perspiration stood on his brow, and fell upon his cheek. Not another
word was spoken. They soon reached the theatre, when Norvins offered
Marguerite his arm, Van Halsdt slowly following them upstairs.

‘The play was one of Lessing’s and well acted; but somehow Norvins could
pay no attention to the performance, his whole soul being occupied by
other thoughts. Marguerite appeared to him in a different light from
what he had ever seen her--not less to be loved, but altogether
different. The staid, placid girl, whose quiet thoughts seemed never to
rest on topics of violent passion or excitement, who fled from the very
approach of anything bordering on overwrought feeling, now appeared
carried away by her abhorrence of a man to the very extreme of hatred
for conduct which Norvins scarcely thought she should have considered
even faulty. If, then, his triumph over Van Halsdt brought any pleasure
to his heart, a secret sense of his own deficiency in the very quality
for which she condemned him made him shudder.

‘While he reflected thus, his ear was struck with a conversation in the
box next his, in which were seated a large party of young men, with two
or three ladies, whose air, dress, and manners were at least somewhat
equivocal. ‘“And so, Alphonse, you succeeded after all?” said a youth to
a large, powerful, dark-moustached man, whose plain blue frock could not
conceal the soldier.

‘“Yes,” replied he, in a deep sonorous voice; “our doctor managed the
matter for me. He pronounced me unable to march before to-morrow; he
said that my old wound in the arm gave symptoms of uneasiness, and
required a little more rest. But, by Saint Denis, I see little benefit
in the plan, after all. This ‘white feather’ has not ventured back, and
I must leave in the morning without meeting him.”

‘These words, which were spoken somewhat loudly, could be easily heard
in any part of the adjoining box; and scarcely were they uttered when
Van Halsdt, who sat the entire evening far back, and entirely concealed
from view, covered his face with both hands, and remained in that
posture for several minutes. When he withdrew them, the alteration in
his countenance was actually fearful. Though his cheeks were pale as
death, his eyes were bloodshot, and the lids swelled and congested; his
lips, too, were protruded, and trembled like one in an ague, and his
clasped hands shook against the chair.

‘Norvins would have asked him if he were ill, but was afraid even to
speak to him, while again his attention was drawn off by the voices near
him.

‘“Not got a bouquet?” said the large man to a lady beside him; “_pardi_,
that’s too bad. Let me assist you. I perceive that this pretty damsel,
who turns her shoulder so disdainfully towards us, makes little use of
hers, and so _avec permission_, mademoiselle!” With that he stood up,
and leaning across the division into their box, stretched over his hand
and took the bouquet that lay before Marguerite, and handed it to the
lady at his side.

‘Marguerite started back, as her eyes flashed with offended pride, and
then turned them on her lover. He stood up, not to resent the insult,
but to offer her his arm to leave the box. She gave him a look: never in
a glance was there read such an expression of withering contempt; and
drawing her shawl around her, she said in a low voice, “The carriage.”
 Before Edward could open the box door to permit her to pass out, Van
Halsdt sprang to the front of the box, and stretched over. Then came a
crash, a cry, a confused shout of many voices together, and the word
_polisson_ above all; but hurrying Marguerite along, Norvins hastened
down the stairs and assisted her into the carriage. As she took her
place, he made a gesture as if to follow, but she drew the door towards
her, and with a shuddering expression, “No!” leaned back, and closed the
door. The _calèche_ moved on, and Norvins was alone in the street.

‘I shall not attempt to describe the terrific rush of sensations that
came crowding on his brain. Coward as he was, he would have braved a
hundred deaths rather than endure such agony. He turned towards the
theatre, but his craven spirit seemed to paralyse his very limbs; he
felt as if were his antagonist before him, he would not have had energy
to speak to him. Marguerite’s look was ever before him; it sank into his
inmost soul; it was burning there like a fire, that no memory nor after
sorrow should ever quench.

‘As he stood thus, an arm was passed hastily through his, and he was led
along. It was Van Halsdt, his hat drawn over his brows, and a slight
mark of blood upon his cheek. He seemed so overwhelmed with his own
sensations as not to be cognisant of his companion’s.

‘“I struck him,” said he, in a thick guttural voice, the very breathings
of vengeance--“I struck him to my feet. It is now _à la mort_ between
us, and better it should be _so_ at once.” As he spoke thus he turned
towards the boulevard, instead of the usual way towards the embassy.
‘“We are going wrong,” said Norvins--“this leads to the Breiten gasse.”

‘“I know it,” was the brief reply; “we must make for the country; the
thing was too public not to excite measures of precaution. We are to
rendezvous at Katznach.” ‘“With swords?”

‘“No; pistols, _this time_.” said he, with a fiendish emphasis on the
last words.

‘They walked on for above an hour, passing through the gate of the town,
and reaching the open country, each silent and lost in his own thoughts.

‘At a small cabaret they procured horses and a guide to Katznach, which
was about eleven miles up the mountain. The way was so steep that they
were obliged to walk their horses, and frequently to get down and lead
them; yet not a word was spoken on either side. Once, only, Norvins
asked how he was to get his pistols from Frankfort; to which the other
answered merely, “They provide the weapons!” and they were again silent.

‘Norvins was somewhat surprised, and offended also, that his companion
should have given him so little of his confidence at such a moment;
gladly, indeed, would he have exchanged his own thoughts for those of
any one else, but he left him to ruminate in silence on his unhappy
position, and to brood over miseries that every minute seemed to
aggravate.

‘“They’re coming up the road yonder; I see them now,” said Van Halsdt
suddenly, as he aroused the other from a deep train of melancholy
thoughts. “Ha! how lame he walks!” cried he, with savage exultation.

‘In a few minutes the party, consisting of four persons, dismounted from
their horses, and entered the little burial-ground beside the chapel.
One of them advancing hastily towards Van Halsdt, shook him warmly by
the hand, and whispered something in his ear. The other replied; when
the first speaker turned towards Norvins with a look of ineffable scorn
and then passed over to the opposite group. Edward soon perceived that
this man was to act as Halsdt’s friend; and though really glad that such
an office fell not to his share, he was deeply offended on being thus,
as it were, passed over. In this state of dogged anger he sat down on a
tombstone, and, as if having no interest whatever in the whole
proceedings, never once looked towards them.

‘Norvins did not notice that the party now took the path towards the
wood, nor was he conscious of the flight of time, when suddenly the loud
report of two pistols, so close together as to be almost blended, rang
through his ears. Then he sprang up, a dreadful pang piercing his bosom,
some terrible sense of guilt he could neither fathom nor explain
flashing across him. At the same instant the brushwood crashed behind
him, and Van Halsdt and his companion came out; the former with his eyes
glistening and his cheek flushed, the other pale and dreadfully
agitated. He nodded towards Edward significantly, and Van Halsdt said,
“Yes.”

‘Before Norvins could conjecture what this meant, the stranger
approached him, and said--

‘“I am sorry, sir, the sad work of this morning cannot end here; but of
course you are prepared to afford my friend the only reparation in your
power.”

‘“Me! reparation! what do you mean? Afford whom?”

‘“Monsieur van Halsdt,” said he coolly, and with a slight emphasis of
contempt as he spoke.

‘“Monsieur van Halsdt! he never offended _me_; I never insulted, never
injured _him_,” said Edward, trembling at every word.

‘“Never injured me!” cried Van Halsdt. “Is it nothing that you have
ruined me for ever; that your cowardice to resent an affront offered to
one who should have been dearer than your life, a hundred times told,
should have involved me in a duel with a man I swore never to meet,
never to cross swords nor exchange a shot with? Is it nothing that I am
to be disgraced by my king, disinherited by my father--a beggar and an
exile at once? Is it nothing, sir, that the oldest name of Friesland is
to be blotted from the nobles of his nation? Is it nothing that for you
I should be _what I now am?_”

‘The last words were uttered in a voice that made Norvins, very blood
run cold; but he could not speak, he could not mutter a word in answer.

‘“What!” said Van Halsdt, in an accent of cutting sarcasm, “I thought
that perhaps in the suddenness of the moment your courage, unprepared
for an unexpected call, might not have stood your part; but can it be
true that you are a coward? Is this the case?”

‘Norvins hung down his head; the sickness of death was on him. The
dreadful pause was broken at last; it was Van Halsdt who spoke--

‘“Adieu, sir; I grieve for you. I hope we may never meet again; yet let
me give you a counsel ere we part. There is but one coat men can wear
with impunity when they carry a malevolent and a craven spirit; you can
be a------“’

‘Monsieur l’Abbé, the dinner is on the table,’ said a servant, entering
at this moment of the story.

‘_Ma foi_, and so it is,’ said he, looking gaily at his watch, as he
rose from his chair.

‘But mademoiselle,’ said I, ‘what became of her?’

‘Ah, Marguerite: she was married to Van Halsdt in less than three
months. The cuirassier fortunately recovered from his wounds; the duel
was shown to be a thing forced by the stress of consequences. As for Van
Halsdt, the king forgave him, and he is now ambassador at Naples.’

‘And the other, Norvins?--though I scarcely feel any interest in him.’

‘I’m sorry for it,’ said he, laughing; ‘but won’t you move forward?’

With that he made me a polite bow to precede him towards the dinner-
room, and followed me with the jaunty step and the light gesture of an
easy and contented nature.

I need scarcely say that I did not sit next the abbé that day at dinner;
on the contrary, I selected the most stupid-looking old man I could find
for my neighbour, hugging myself in the thought, that, where there is
little agreeability, Nature may kindly have given in recompense some
traits of honesty and some vestiges of honour. Indeed, such a disgust
did I feel for the amusing features of the pleasantest part of the
company, and so inextricably did I connect repartee with rascality, that
I trembled at every good thing I heard, and stole away early to bed,
resolving never to take sudden fancies to agreeable people as long as I
lived--an oath which a long residence in a certain country that shall be
nameless happily permits me to keep, with little temptation to
transgress.

The next morning was indeed a brilliant one--the earth refreshed by
rain, the verdure more brilliant, the mountain streams grown fuller; all
the landscape seemed to shine forth in its gladdest features. I was up
and stirring soon after sunrise; and with all my prejudices against such
a means of ‘lengthening one’s days,’ I sat at my window, actually
entranced with the beauty of the scene. Beyond the river there rose a
heath-clad mountain, along which misty masses of vapour swept hurriedly,
disclosing as they passed some tiny patch of cultivation struggling for
life amid granite rocks and abrupt precipices. As the sun grew stronger,
the grey tints became brown and the brown grew purple, while certain
dark lines that tracked their way from summit to base began to shine
like silver, and showed the course of many a mountain torrent tumbling
and splashing towards that little lake that lay calm as a mirror below.
Immediately beneath my window was the garden of the château-- a
succession of terraces descending to the very river. The quaint yew
hedges carved into many a strange device, the balustrades half hidden by
flowering shrubs and creepers, the marble statues peeping out here and
there, trim and orderly as they looked, were a pleasant feature of the
picture, and heightened the effect of the desolate grandeur of the
distant view. The very swans that sailed about on the oval pond told of
habitation and life, just as the broad expanded wing that soared above
the mountain peak spoke of the wild region where the eagle was king.

My musings were suddenly brought to a close by a voice on the terrace
beneath. It was that of a man who was evidently, from his pace, enjoying
his morning’s promenade under the piazza of the château, while he hummed
a tune to pass away the time:--


‘“Why, soldiers, why Should we be melancholy, boys? Why, soldiers, why?
Whose business----”

Holloa, there, François, ain’t they stirring yet? Why, it’s past six
o’clock!’

The person addressed was a serving-man, who in the formidable attire of
an English groom--in which he was about as much at home as a coronation
champion feels in plate armour--was crossing the garden towards the
stables.

‘No, sir; the count won’t start before eight.’

‘And when do we breakfast?’

‘At seven, sir.’

‘The devil! another hour--


“Why, soldiers, why Should we be-----”

I say, François, what horse do they mean for Mademoiselle Laura to-day?’

‘The mare she rode on Wednesday, sir. Mademoiselle liked her very much.’

‘And what have they ordered for the stranger that came the night before
last--the gentleman who was robbed----’

‘I know, I know, sir; the roan, with the cut on her knee.’

‘Why, she’s a mad one! she’s a runaway!’

‘So she is, sir; but then monsieur is an Englishman, and the count says
he ‘ll soon tame the roan filly.’


‘“Why, soldiers, why-----“’

hummed the old colonel, for it was Muddleton himself; and the groom
pursued his way without further questioning. Whereupon two thoughts took
possession of my brain: one of which was, what peculiar organisation it
is which makes certain old people who have nothing to do early risers;
the other, what offence had I committed to induce the master of the
château to plot my sudden death.

The former has been a puzzle to me all my life. What a blessing should
sleep be to that class of beings who do nothing when awake; how they
should covet those drowsy hours that give, as it were, a sanction to
indolence; with what anxiety they ought to await the fall of day, as
announcing the period when they become the equals of their fellow-men;
and with what terror they should look forward to the time when the busy
world is up and stirring, and their incapacity and slothfulness only
become more glaring from contrast! Would not any one say that such
people would naturally cultivate sleep as their comforter? Should they
not hug their pillow as the friend of their bosom? On the contrary,
these are invariably your early risers. Every house where I have ever
been on a visit has had at least one of these troubled and troublesome
spirits--the torment of Boots, the horror of housemaids. Their chronic
cough forms a duet with the inharmonious crowing of the young cock, who
for lack of better knowledge proclaims day a full hour before his time.
Their creaking shoes are the accompaniment to the scrubbing of brass
fenders and the twigging of carpets, the jarring sounds of opening
shutters and the cranking discord of a hall door chain; their heavy step
sounds like a nightmare’s tread through the whole sleeping house. And
what is the object of all this? What new fact have they acquired; what
difficult question have they solved; whom have they made happier or
wiser or better? Not Betty the cook, certainly, whose morning levée of
beggars they have most unceremoniously scattered and scared; not Mary
the housemaid, who, unaccustomed to be caught _en déshabillé_, is cross
the whole day after, though he was ‘only an elderly gentleman, and wore
spectacles’; not Richard, who cleaned their shoes by candle-light; nor
the venerable butler, who from shame’s sake is up and dressed, but who,
still asleep, stands with his corkscrew in his hand, under the vague
impression that it is a late supper-party.

These people, too, have always a consequential, self-satisfied look
about them; they seem to say they know a ‘thing or two’ others have no
wot of--as though the day, more confidential when few were by, told them
some capital secrets the sleepers never heard of, and they made this
pestilential habit a reason for eating the breakfast of a Cossack, as if
the consumption of victuals was a cardinal virtue. Civilised differs
from savage life as much by the regulation of time as by any other
feature. I see no objection to your red man, who probably can’t go to
breakfast till he has caught a bear, being up betimes; but for the
gentleman who goes to bed with the conviction that hot rolls and coffee,
tea and marmalade, bloaters and honey, ham, muffins, and eggs await him
at ten o’clock--for him, I say, these absurd vagabondisms are an
insufferable affectation, and a most unwarrantable liberty with the
peace and privacy of a household.

Meanwhile, old Colonel Muddleton is parading below; and here we must
leave him for another chapter.



CHAPTER XIV. THE CHASE

I wish any one would explain to me why it is that the tastes and
pursuits of nations are far more difficult of imitation than their
languages or institutions. Nothing is more common than to find Poles and
Russians speaking half the tongues of Europe like natives. Germans
frequently attain to similar excellence; and some Englishmen have the
gift also. In the same way it would not be difficult to produce many
foreigners well acquainted with all the governmental details of the
countries they have visited--the policy, foreign and domestic; the
statistics of debt and taxation; the religious influences; the
resources, and so forth. Indeed, in our days of universal travel, this
kind of information has more or less become general, while the tastes
and habits, which appear so much more easily acquired, are the subjects
of the most absurd mistakes, or the most blundering imitation. To
instance what I mean, who ever saw any but a Hungarian dance the mazurka
with even tolerable grace? Who ever saw waltzing except among the
Austrians? Who ever beheld ‘toilette’ out of France? So it is, however.
Some artificial boundary drawn with a red line on a map by the hand of
Nesselrode or Talleyrand, some pin stuck down in the chart by the
fingers of Metternich, decides the whole question, and says, ‘Thus far
shalt thou dance and no farther. Beyond this there are no _pâtés de
Perigord_. Here begin pipes and tobacco; there end macaroni and music.’

Whatever their previous tastes, men soon conform to the habits of a
nation, and these arbitrary boundaries of the gentlemen of the red tape
become like Nature’s own frontiers of flood or mountain. Not but it must
have been somewhat puzzling in the good days of the Consulate and the
Empire to trim one’s sails quick enough for the changes of the political
hurricane. You were an Italian yesterday, you are a Frenchman to-day;
you went to bed a Prussian, and you awoke a Dutchman. These were sore
trials, and had they been pushed much further, must have led to the most
strange misconceptions and mistakes.

Now, with a word of apology for the digression, let me come back to the
cause of it--and yet why should I make my excuses on this head? These
‘Loiterings’ of mine are as much in the wide field of dreamy thought as
over the plains and valleys of the material world. I never promised to
follow a regular track, nor did I set out on my journey bound, like a
king’s messenger, to be at my destination in a given time. Not a bit of
it. I ‘ll take ‘mine ease in mine inn.’ I’ll stay a week, a fortnight--
ay, a month, here, if I please it. You may not like the accommodation,
nor wish to put up with a ‘settle and stewed parsnips.’ Be it so. Here
we part company then. If you don’t like my way of travel, there’s the
diligence, or, if you prefer it, take the extra post, and calculate, if
you can, how to pay your postillion in kreutzers--invented by the devil,
I believe, to make men swear--and for miles, that change with every
little grand-duchy of three acres in extent. I wish you joy of your
travelling companions--the German who smokes, and the Frenchman who
frowns at you; the old _vrau_ who falls asleep on your shoulder, and the
_bonne_ who gives you a baby to hold in your lap. But why have I put
myself into this towering passion? Heaven knows it’s not my wont. And
once more to go back, and find, if I can, what I was thinking of. I have
it. This same digression of mine was _apropos_ to the scene I witnessed,
as our breakfast concluded at the château.

All the world was to figure on horseback--the horses themselves no bad
evidence of the exertions used to mount the party. Here was a rugged
pony from the Ardennes, with short neck and low shoulder, his head broad
as a bull’s, and his counter like the bow of a Dutch galliot; there, a
great Flemish beast, seventeen hands high, with a tail festooned over a
straw ‘bustle,’ and even still hanging some inches on the ground--
straight in the shoulder, and straighter in the pasterns, giving the
rider a shock at every motion that to any other than a Fleming would
lead to concussion of the brain. Here stood an English thoroughbred,
sadly ‘shook’ before, and with that tremulous quivering of the forelegs
that betokens a life of hard work; still, with all his imperfections,
and the mark of a spavin behind, he looked like a gentleman among a
crowd of low fellows--a reduced gentleman it is true, but a gentleman
still; his mane was long and silky, his coat was short and glossy, his
head finely formed, and well put on his long, taper, and well-balanced
neck. Beside him was a huge Holsteiner, flapping his broad flanks with a
tail like a weeping ash--a great massive animal, that seemed from his
action as if he were in the habit of ascending stairs, and now and then
got the shock one feels when they come to a step too few. Among the mass
there were some ‘Limousins’--pretty, neatly formed little animals, with
great strength for their appearance, and showing a deal of Arab
breeding--and an odd Schimmel or two from Hungary, snorting and pawing
like a war-horse; but the staple was a collection of such screws as
every week are to be seen at Tattersall’s auction, announced as ‘first-
rate weight-carriers with any foxhounds, fast in double and single
harness, and “believed” sound by the owner.’

Well, what credulous people are the proprietors of horses! These are the
great exports to the Low Countries, repaid in mock Van Dycks, apocryphal
Rembrandts, and fabulous Hobbimas, for the exhibition of which in our
dining-rooms and libraries we are as heartily laughed at as they are for
their taste in manners equine. And in the same way exactly as we insist
upon a great name with our landscape or our battle, so your Fleming must
have a pedigree with his hunter. There must be ‘dam to Louisa,’ and ‘own
brother to Ratcatcher’ and Titus Oates, that won the ‘Levanter Handicap’
in--no matter where. Oh dear, oh dear! when shall we have sense enough
to go without Snyders and Ostade? And when will Flemings be satisfied to
ride on beasts which befit them--strong of limb, slow of gait, dull of
temper, and not over-fastidious in feeding; whose parentage has had no
registry, and whose blood relations never were chronicled?

Truly, England is the land of ‘turn-out.’ All the foreign imitations of
it are most ludicrous--from Prince Max of Bavaria, who brought back with
him to Munich a lord-mayor’s coach, gilding, emblazonry, wigs, and all,
as the true type of a London equipage, down to those strange merry-
andrew figures in orange-plush breeches and sky-blue frocks, that one
sees galloping after their masters along the Champs Élysées, like insane
comets taking an airing on horseback. The whole thing is absurd. They
cannot accomplish it, do what they will; there’s no success in the
endeavour. It is like our miserable failures to get up a _petit dîner_
or a _soirée_. If, then, French, Italians, and Germans fail so
lamentably, only think, I beseech you, of Flemings--imagine Belgium _à
cheval_! The author of _Hudibras_ discovered years ago that these people
were fish; that their land-life was a little bit of distraction they
permitted themselves to take from time to time, but that their real
element was a dyke or a canal. What would he have said had he seen them
on horseback?

Now, I am free to confess that few men have less hope to win the world
by deeds of horsemanship than Arthur O’Leary. I have ever looked upon it
as a kind of presumption in me to get into the saddle. I have regarded
my taking the reins as a species of duplicity on my part--a tacit
assumption that I had any sort of control oyer the beast. I have
appeared to myself guilty of a moral misdemeanour--the ‘obtaining a ride
under false pretences.’ Yet when I saw myself astride of the ‘roan with
the cut on her knee,’ and looked around me at the others, I fancied that
I must have taken lessons from Franconi without knowing it; and even
among the moustached heroes of the evening before, I bore myself like a
gallant cavalier.

‘You sit your horse devilish like your father; he had just the same easy
_dégagé_ way in his saddle,’ said the old colonel, tapping his snuff-
box, and looking at me with a smile of marked approval; while he
continued in a lower tone, ‘I ‘ve told Laura to get near you if the mare
becomes troublesome. The Flemings, you know, are not much to boast of as
riders.’

I acknowledged the favour as well as I could, for already my horse was
becoming fidgety--every one about me thinking it essential to spur and
whip his beast into the nearest approach to mettle, and caper about like
so many devils, while they cried out to one another--

‘Regardez, Charles, comment il est vif ce “Tear away.” C’est une bête du
diable. Ah, tiens, tiens, vois donc “Albert.” Le voilà, c’est, “All-in-
my-eye,” fils de “Charles Fox,” frère de “Sevins-de-main.”’

‘Ah, marquis, how goes it? Il est beau votre cheval.’

‘Oui, parbleu; he is frère aîné of “Kiss-mi-ladi,” qui a gagné le
handicap à l’Ile du Dogs.’

And thus did these miserable imitators of Ascot and Doncaster, of
Leamington and the Quorn, talk the most insane nonsense, which had been
told to them by some London horse-dealer as the pedigree of their
hackneys.

It was really delightful amid all this to look at the two English girls,
who sat their horses so easily and so gracefully. Bending slightly with
each curvet, they only yielded to the impulse of the animal as much as
served to keep their own balance; the light but steady finger on the
bridle, the air of quiet composure, uniting elegance with command. What
a contrast to the distorted gesture, the desperate earnestness, and the
fearful tenacity of their much-whiskered companions! And yet it was to
please and fascinate these same pinchbeck sportsmen that these girls
were then there. If they rode over everything that day--fence or rail,
brook or bank--it was because the _chasse_ to them was less _au cerf_
than _au mari_.

Such was the case. The old colonel had left England because he preferred
the Channel to the fleet; the glorious liberty which Englishmen are so
proud of would have been violated in his person had he remained. His
failing, like many others, was that he had lived ‘not wisely, but too
well’; and, in short, however cold the climate, London would have proved
too hot for him had he stayed another day in it.

What a deluge of such people float over the Continent, living well and
what is called ‘most respectably’; dining at embassies and dancing at
courts; holding their heads very high, too--most scrupulous about
acquaintances, and exclusive in all their intimacies! They usually
prefer foreign society to that of their countrymen, for obvious reasons.
Few Frenchmen read the _Gazette_. I never heard of a German who knew
anything about the list of outlaws. Of course they have no more to say
to English preserves, and so they take out a license to shoot over the
foreign manors; and though a marquis or a count are but ‘small deer,’
it’s the only game left, and they make the best of it.

At last the host appeared, attired in a scarlet frock, and wearing a
badge at his button-hole something about the shape and colour of a new
penny-piece. He was followed by above a dozen others, similarly habited,
minus the badge; and then came about twenty more, dressed in green
frocks, with red collars and cuffs--a species of smaller deities, who I
learned were called ‘Aspirants,’ though to what they aspired, where it
was, or when they hoped for it, nobody could inform me. Then there were
_piqueurs_ and grooms and whippers-in without number, all noisy and all
boisterous--about twenty couple of fox-hounds giving tongue, and a due
proportion of the scarlet folk blowing away at that melodious pipe, the
_cor de chasse_.

With this goodly company I moved forward, ‘alone, but in a crowd’; for,
unhappily, my want of tact as a sporting character the previous evening
had damaged me seriously with the hunting youths, and Mademoiselle Laura
showed no desire to accept the companionship her worthy father had
selected for her. ‘No matter,’ thought I, ‘there’s a great deal to see
here, and I can do without chatting in so stirring a scene as this.’

Her companion was the Comte d’Espagne, an admirable specimen of what the
French call ‘Tigre’; for be it known that the country which once
obtained a reputation little short of ludicrous for its excess of
courtesy and the surplusage of its ceremony, has now, in the true spirit
of reaction, adopted a degree of abruptness we should call rudeness, and
a species of cold effrontery we might mistake for insolence. The
disciples of this new school are significantly called ‘Young France,’
and are distinguished for length of hair and beard, a look of frowning
solemnity and mock preoccupation, very well-fitting garments and yellow
gloves. These gentlemen are sparing of speech, and more so of gesture.
They give one to understand that some onerous deed of regeneration is
expected at their hands, some revival of the old spirit of the nation;
though in what way it is to originate in curled moustaches and lacquered
boots is still a mystery to the many. But enough of them now; only of
these was the Comte d’Espagne.

I had almost forgotten to speak of one part of our cortége, which should
certainly not be omitted. This was a wooden edifice on wheels, drawn by
a pair of horses at a brisk rate at the tail of the procession. At first
it occurred to me that it might be an ambulant dog-kennel, to receive
the hounds on their return. Then I suspected it to be a walking hospital
for wounded sportsmen; and certainly I could not but approve of the
idea, as I called to mind the position of any unlucky _chasseur_, in the
event of a fall, with his fifteen feet of ‘metal main’ around him, and I
only hoped that a plumber accompanied the expedition. My humanity,
however, led me astray; the pagoda was destined for the accommodation of
a stag, who always assisted at the _chasse_, whenever no other game
could be started. This venerable beast, some five-and-twenty years in
the service, was like a stock piece in the theatres, which, always
ready, could be produced without a moment’s notice. Here was no
rehearsal requisite if a prima donna was sulky or a tenor was drunk; if
the fox wouldn’t show or the deer were shy, there was the stag,
perfectly prepared for a pleasant canter of a few miles, and ready, if
no one was intemperately precipitate, to give a very agreeable morning’s
sport. His perfections, however, went further than this; for he was
trained to cross the highroad at all convenient thoroughfares,
occasionally taking the main streets of a village or the market-place of
a bourg, swimming whenever the water was shallow enough to follow him on
horseback, and giving up the ghost at the blast of a _grand maître’s_
bugle with an accuracy as unerring as though he had performed at
Franconi’s.

Unhappily for me, I was not fated to witness an exhibition of his
powers; for scarcely had we emerged from the wood when the dogs were
laid on, and soon after found a fox.

For some time the scene was an animated one, as every Fleming seemed to
pin his faith on some favourite dog; and it was rather amusing to
witness the eagerness with which each followed the movements of his
adopted animal, cheering him on, and encouraging him to the top of his
bent. At last the word ‘Away’ was given, and suddenly the dogs broke
cover, and made across the plain in the direction of a great wood, or
rather forest, above a mile off. The country, happily for most of us (I
know it was so for me), was an open surface of gentle undulation,
stubble and turnips the only impediments, and clay soft enough to make a
fall easy.

The sight was so far exhilarating that red coats in a gallop have always
a pleasant effect; besides which, the very concourse of riders looks
well. However, even as unsportsmanlike an eye as mine could detect the
flaws in jockeyship about me--the fierce rushings of the gentlemen who
pushed through the deepest ground with a loose rein, flogging manfully
the while; the pendulous motions of others between the mane and the
haunches, with every stride of the beast.

But I had little time for such speculations; the hour of my own trial
was approaching. The roan was getting troublesome, the pace was
gradually working up her mettle; and she had given three or four
preparatory bounds, as though to see whether she’d part company with me
before she ran away or not. My own calculations at the moment were not
very dissimilar; I was meditating a rupture of the partnership too. The
matrix of a full-length figure of Arthur O’Leary in red clay was the
extent of any damage I could receive, and I only looked for a convenient
spot where I might fall unseen. As I turned my head on every side,
hoping for some secluded nook, some devil of a hunter, by way of
directing the dogs, gave a blast of his brass instrument about a hundred
yards before me. The thing was now settled; the roan gave a whirl of her
long vicious tail, plunged fearfully, and throwing down her head and
twisting it to one side, as if to have a peep at my confusion, away she
went. From having formed one of the rear-guard, I now closed up with the
main body--‘aspirants’ all--through whom I dashed like a catapult, and
notwithstanding repeated shouts of ‘Pull in, sir!’ ‘Hold back!’ etc, I
continued my onward course; a few seconds more and I was in the thick of
the scarlet coats, my beast at the stretch of her speed, and caring
nothing for the bridle. Amid a shower of _sacrés_ that fell upon me like
hail, I sprang through them, making the ‘red ones’ black with every
stroke of my gallop. Leaving them far behind, I flew past the _grand
maître_ himself, who rode in the van, almost upsetting him by a side
spring, as I passed--a malediction reaching me as I went; but the forest
soon received me in its dark embrace, and I saw no more.

It was at first a source of consolation to me to think that every stride
removed me from the reach of those whose denunciations I had so
unfortunately incurred; _grand maître, chasseurs_, and ‘aspirants’--they
were all behind me. Ay, for that matter, so were the dogs and the
_piqueurs_, and, for aught I knew, the fox with them. When I discovered,
however, that the roan continued her speed still unabated, I began to be
somewhat disconcerted. It was true the ground was perfectly smooth and
safe--a long _allée_ of the wood, with turf shorn close as a pleasure-
ground. I pulled and sawed the bit, I jerked the bridle, and performed
all the manual exercise I could remember as advised in such extremities,
but to no use. It seemed to me that some confounded echo started the
beast, and incited her to increased speed. Just as this notion struck
me, I heard a voice behind cry out--

‘Do hold in! Try and hold in, Mr. O’Leary!’ I turned my head, and there
was Laura, scarce a length behind, her thoroughbred straining every
sinew to come up. No one else was in sight, and there we were, galloping
like mad, with the wood all to ourselves.

I can very well conceive why the second horse in a race does his best to
get foremost, if it were only the indulgence of a very natural piece of
curiosity to see what the other has been running for; but why the first
one only goes the faster because there are others behind him, that is a
dead puzzle to me. But so it was; my ill-starred beast never seemed to
have put forth her full powers till she was followed. _Ventre à terre_,
as the French say, was now the pace; and though from time to time Laura
would cry out to me to hold back, I could almost swear I heard her
laughing at my efforts. Meanwhile the wood was becoming thicker and
closer, and the _allée_ narrower and evidently less travelled. Still it
seemed to have no end or exit; scarcely had we rounded one turn when a
vista of miles would seem to stretch away before us, passing over which,
another, as long again, would appear.

After about an hour’s hard galloping, if I dare form any conjecture as
to the flight of time, I perceived with a feeling of triumph that the
roan was relaxing somewhat in her stride; and that she was beginning to
evince, by an up-and-down kind of gait, what sailors call a ‘fore-and
aft’ motion, that she was getting enough of it. I turned and saw Laura
about twenty yards behind--her thoroughbred dead beat, and only able to
sling along at that species of lobbing canter blood-cattle can
accomplish under any exigency. With a bold effort I pulled up short, and
she came alongside of me; and before I could summon courage to meet the
reproaches I expected for having been the cause of her runaway, she
relieved my mind by a burst of as merry and good-tempered laughter as
ever I listened to. The emotion was contagious, and so I laughed too,
and it was full five minutes before either of us could speak.

‘Well, Mr. O’Leary, I hope you know where we are,’ said she, drying her
eyes, where the sparkling drops of mirth were standing, ‘for I assure
you I don’t.’

‘Oh, perfectly,’ replied I, as my eye caught a board nailed against a
tree, on which some very ill-painted letters announced ‘La route de
Bouvigne’--‘we are on the highroad to Bouvigne, wherever that may be.’

‘Bouvigne!’ exclaimed she, in an accent of some alarm; ‘why, it’s five
leagues from the château! I travelled there once by the highroad. How
are we ever to get back?’

That was the very question I was then canvassing in my own mind, without
a thought of how it was to be solved. However, I answered with an easy
indifference, ‘Oh, nothing easier; we ‘ll take a _calèche_ at Bouvigne.’

‘But they ‘ve none.’

‘Well, then, fresh horses.’

‘There’s not a horse in the place; it’s a little village near the Meuse,
surrounded with tall granite rocks, and only remarkable for its ruined
castle, the ancient schloss of Philip de Bouvigne.’

‘How interesting!’ said I, delighted to catch at anything which should
give the conversation a turn; ‘and who was Philip de Bouvigne?’

‘Philip,’ said the lady, ‘was the second or third count, I forget which,
of the name. The chronicles say that he was the handsomest and most
accomplished youth of the time. Nowhere could he meet his equal at joust
or tournament; while his skill in arms was the least of his gifts--he
was a poet and a musician. In fact, if you were only to believe his
historians, he was the most dangerous person for the young ladies of
those days to meet with. Not that he ran away with them, _sur la grande
route_.’ As she said this, a burst of laughing stopped her; and it was
one I could really forgive, though myself the object of it. ‘However,’
resumed she, ‘I believe he was just as bad. Well, to pursue my story,
when Philip was but eighteen, it chanced that a party of warriors bound
for the Holy Land came past the Castle of Bouvigne, and of course passed
the night there. From them, many of whom had already been in Palestine,
Philip heard the wondrous stories the crusaders ever brought back of
combats and encounters, of the fearful engagements with the infidels and
the glorious victories of the Cross. And at length, so excited did his
mind become by the narrations, that he resolved on the spot to set out
for the Holy Land, and see with his own eyes the wonderful things they
had been telling him.

‘This resolution could not fail of being applauded by the rest, and by
none was it met with such decided approval as by Henri de Bethune, a
young Liégeois, then setting out on his first crusade, who could not
help extolling Philip’s bravery, and above all his devotion in the great
cause, in quitting his home and his young and beautiful wife; for I must
tell you, as indeed I ought to have told you before, he had been but a
few weeks married to the lovely Alice de Franchemont, the only daughter
of the old Graf de Franchemont, of whose castle you may see the ruins
near Chaude Fontaine.’

I nodded assent, and she went on.

‘Of course you can imagine the dreadful grief of the young countess when
her husband broke to her his determination. If I were a novelist I’d
tell you of tears and entreaties and sighs and faintings, of promises
and pledges and vows, and so forth; for, indeed, it was a very sorrowful
piece of business, as she didn’t at all fancy passing some three or four
years alone in the old keep at Bouvigne, with no society, not one single
friend to speak to. At first, indeed, she would not hear of it; and it
was only at length when Henri de Bethune undertook to plead for him--for
he kindly remained several days at the château, to assist his friend at
this conjuncture--that she gave way, and consented. Still, her consent
was wrung from her against her convictions, and she was by no means
satisfied that the arguments she yielded to were a whit too sound. And
this, let me remark, _en passant_, is a most dangerous species of
assent, when given by a lady; and one she always believes to be
something of the nature of certain Catholic vows, which are only binding
while you believe them reasonable and just.’

‘Is that really so?’ interrupted I. ‘Do you, indeed, give me so low a
standard of female fidelity as this?’

‘If women are sometimes false,’ replied she, ‘it is because men are
never true; but I must go on with my tale.--Away went Count Philip, and
with him his friend De Bethune--the former, if the fact were known, just
as low-spirited, when the time came, as the countess herself. But, then,
he had the double advantage that he had a friend to talk with and make
participator of his sorrows, besides being the one leaving, not left.’

‘I don’t know,’ interrupted I at this moment, ‘that you are right there;
I think that the associations which cling to the places where we have
been happy are a good requital for the sorrowful memories they may call
up. I ‘d rather linger around the spot consecrated by the spirit of past
pleasure, and dream over again, hour by hour, day by day, the bliss I
knew there, than break up the charm of such memories by the vulgar
incidents of travel and the commonplace adventures of a journey.’

‘There I differ from you completely,’ replied she. ‘All your reflections
and reminiscences, give them as fine names as you will, are nothing but
sighings and repinings for what cannot come back again; and such things
only injure the temper, and spoil the complexion, whereas---- But what
are you laughing at?’

‘I was smiling at your remark, which has only a feminine application.’

‘How teasing you are! I declare I ‘ll argue no more with you. Do you
want to hear my story?’

‘Of all things; I ‘m greatly interested in it.’

‘Well, then, you must not interrupt me any more. Now, where was I? You
actually made me forget where I stopped.’

‘You were just at the point where they set out, Philip and his friend,
for the Holy Land.’

‘You must not expect from me any spirit-stirring narrative of the events
in Palestine. Indeed, I’m not aware if the _Chronique de Flandre_, from
which I take my tale, says anything very particular about Philip de
Bouvigne’s performances. Of course they were in accordance with his
former reputation: he killed his Saracens, like a true knight--that
there can be no doubt of. As for Henri de Bethune, before the year was
over he was badly wounded, and left on the field of battle, where some
said he expired soon after, others averring that he was carried away to
slavery. Be that as it might, Philip continued his career with all the
enthusiasm of a warrior and a devotee, a worthy son of the Church, and a
brave soldier--unfortunately, however, forgetting the poor countess he
had left behind him, pining away her youth at the barred casements of
the old château; straining her eyes from day to day along the narrow
causeway that led to the castle, and where no charger’s hoof re-echoed,
as of old, to tell of the coming of her lord. Very bad treatment, you
‘ll confess; and so, with your permission, we’ll keep her company for a
little while. Madame la Comtesse de Bouvigne, as some widows will do,
only become the prettier from desertion. Her traits of beauty mellowed
by a tender melancholy, without being marked too deeply by grief,
assumed an imaginative character, or what men mistake for it.’

‘Indeed!’ said I, catching at the confession.

‘Well, I’m sure it is so,’ replied she. ‘In the great majority of cases
you are totally ignorant of what is passing in a woman’s mind. The girl
that seemed all animation to-day may have an air of deep depression to-
morrow, and of downright wildness the next, simply by changing her
coiffure from ringlets to braids, and from a bandeau to a state of
dishevelled disorder. A little flattery of yourselves, artfully and well
done, and you are quite prepared to believe anything. In any case, the
countess was very pretty and very lonely.

‘In those good days when gentlemen left home, there were neither
theatres nor concerts to amuse their poor neglected wives; they had no
operas nor balls nor soirées nor promenades. No; their only resource was
to work away at some huge piece of landscape embroidery, which, begun in
childhood, occupied a whole life, and transmitted a considerable labour
of background and foliage to the next generation. The only pleasant
people in those times, it seems to me, were the _jongleurs_ and the
pilgrims; they went about the world fulfilling the destinies of
newspapers; they chronicled the little events of the day--births,
marriages, deaths, etc.--and must have been a great comfort on a
winter’s evening.

‘Well, it so chanced that as the countess sat at her window one evening,
as usual, watching the sun go down, she beheld a palmer coming slowly
along up the causeway, leaning on his staff, and seeming sorely tired
and weary----

‘But see,’ cried Laura, at this moment, as we gained the crest of a
gentle acclivity, ‘yonder is Bouvigne; it is a fine thing even yet.’

We both reined in our horses, the better to enjoy the prospect; and
certainly it was a grand one. Behind us, and stretching for miles in
either direction, was the great forest we had been traversing; the old
Ardennes had been a forest in the times of Caesar, its narrow pathways
echoing to the tread of Roman legions. In front was a richly cultivated
plain, undulating gently towards the Meuse, whose silver current wound
round it like a garter--the opposite bank being formed by an abrupt wall
of naked rocks of grey granite, sparkling with its brilliant hues, and
shining doubly in the calm stream at its foot. On one of the highest
cliffs, above an angle of the river, and commanding both reaches of the
stream for a considerable way, stood Bouvigne. Two great square towers
rising above a battlemented wall, pierced with long loopholes, stood out
against the clear sky; one of them, taller than the other, was
surmounted by a turret at the angle, from the top of which something
projected laterally, like a beam.

‘Do you see that piece of timber yonder?’ said Laura. ‘Yes,’ said I;
‘it’s the very thing I’ve been looking at, and wondering what it could
mean.’

‘Carry your eye downward,’ said she, ‘and try if you can’t make out a
low wall connecting two masses of rock together, far, far down: do you
see it?’

‘I see a large archway, with some ivy over it.’ ‘That’s it; that was the
great entrance to the schloss; before it is the fosse--a huge ditch cut
in the solid rock, so deep as to permit the water of the Meuse, when
flooded, to flow into it. Well, now, if you look again, you ‘ll see that
the great beam above hangs exactly over that spot. It was one of the
rude defences of the time, and intended, by means of an iron basket
which hung from its extremity, to hurl great rocks and stones upon any
assailant. The mechanism can still be traced by which it was moved back
and loaded; the piece of rope which opened the basket at each discharge
of its contents was there not many years ago. There’s a queer, uncouth
representation of the _panier de la mort_, as it is called, in the
_Chronique_, which you can see in the old library at Rochepied. But here
we are already at the ferry.’

As she spoke we had just reached the bank of the Meuse, and in front was
a beautifully situated little village, which, escarped in the mountain,
presented a succession of houses at different elevations, all looking
towards the stream. They were mostly covered with vines and
honeysuckles, and with the picturesque outlines of gable and roof,
diamond windows and rustic porches, had a very pleasing effect.

As I looked, I had little difficulty in believing that they were not a
very equestrian people--the little pathways that traversed their village
being inaccessible save to foot-passengers, frequently ascending by
steps cut in the rock, or by rude staircases of wood which hung here and
there over the edge of the cliff in anything but a tempting way, the
more so, as they trembled and shook with every foot that passed over
them. Little mindful of this, the peasants might now be seen leaning
over their frail barriers, and staring at the unwonted apparition of two
figures on horseback, while I was endeavouring, by signs and gestures,
to indicate our wish to cross over.

At last a huge raft appeared to move from beneath the willows of the
opposite bank, and by the aid of a rope fastened across the stream two
men proceeded slowly to ferry the great platform over. Leading our
horses cautiously forward, we embarked in this frail craft, and landed
safely in Bouvigne.



CHAPTER XV. A NARROW ESCAPE

‘Will you please to tell me, Mr. O’Leary,’ said Laura, in the easy tone
of one who asked for information’s sake, ‘what are your plans here; for
up to this moment I only perceive that we have been increasing the
distance between us and Rochepied.’

‘Quite true,’ said I; ‘but you know we agreed it was impossible to hope
to find our way back through the forest. Every _allée_ here has not only
its brother, but a large family, so absolutely alike no one could
distinguish between them; we might wander for weeks without extricating
ourselves.’

‘I know all that,’ said she somewhat pettishly; ‘still my question
remains unanswered. What do you mean to do here?’

‘In the first place,’ said I, with the affected precision of one who had
long since resolved on his mode of proceeding, ‘we ‘ll dine.’

I stopped here to ascertain her sentiments on this part of my
arrangement. She gave a short nod, and I proceeded. ‘Having dined,’ said
I, ‘we’ll obtain horses and a calèche, if such can be found, for
Rochepied.’

‘I ‘ve told you already there are no such things here. They never see a
carriage of any kind from year’s end to year’s end; and there is not a
horse in the whole village.’

‘Perhaps, then, there may be a château near, where, on making known our
mishap, we might be able----’

‘Oh, that’s very simple, as far as you ‘re concerned,’ said she, with a
saucy smile; ‘but I’d just as soon not have this adventure published
over the whole country.’

Ha! by Jove, thought I, there’s a consideration completely overlooked by
me; and so I became silent and thoughtful, and spoke not another word as
we led our horses up the little rocky causeway towards the ‘Toison
d’Or.’

If we did not admire the little _auberge_ of the ‘Golden Fleece,’ truly
the fault was rather our own than from any want of merit in the little
hostelry itself. Situated on a rocky promontory on the river, it was
built actually over the stream--the door fronting it, and approachable
by a little wooden gallery, along which a range of orange-trees and
arbutus was tastefully disposed, scenting the whole air with their
fragrance. As we walked along we caught glimpses of several rooms
within, neatly and even handsomely furnished--and of one salon in
particular, where books and music lay scattered on the tables, with that
air of habitation so pleasant to look on.

So far from our appearance in a neighbourhood thus remote and secluded
creating any surprise, both host and hostess received us with the most
perfect ease, blended with a mixture of cordial civility very acceptable
at the moment.

‘We wish to dine at once,’ said I, as I handed Laura to a chair.

‘And to know in what way we can reach Rochepied,’ said she; ‘our horses
are weary and not able for the road.’

‘For the dinner, mademoiselle, nothing is easier; but as to getting
forward to-night----’

‘Oh, of course I mean to-night--at once.’

‘Ah, voilà,’ said he, scratching his forehead in bewilderment; ‘we’re
not accustomed to that, never. People generally stop a day or two; some
spend a week here, and have horses from Dinant to meet them.’

‘A week here!’ exclaimed she; ‘and what in Heaven’s name can they do
here for a week?’

‘Why, there’s the château, mademoiselle--the château of Philip de
Bouvigne, and the gardens terraced in the rock; and there’s the well of
St. Sèvres, and the Ile de Notre Dame aux bois; and then there’s such
capital fishing in the stream, with abundance of trout.’

‘Oh, delightful, I’m sure,’ said she impatiently; ‘but we wish to get
on. So just set your mind to that, like a worthy man.’

‘Well, we’ll see what can be done,’ replied he; ‘and before dinner’s
over, perhaps I may find some means to forward you.’

With this he left the room, leaving mademoiselle and myself _tête-à-
tête_. And here let me confess, never did any man feel his situation
more awkwardly than I did mine at that moment; and before any of my
younger and more ardent brethren censure me, let me at least ‘show
cause’ in my defence. First, I myself, however unintentionally, had
brought Mademoiselle Laura into her present embarrassment; but for me
and the confounded roan she had been at that moment cantering away
pleasantly with the Comte d’Espagne beside her, listening to his
_fleurettes_ and receiving his attentions. Secondly, I was, partly from
bashfulness, partly from fear, little able to play the part my present
emergency demanded, which should either have been one of downright
indifference and ease, or something of a more tender nature, which
indeed the very pretty companion of my travels might have perfectly
justified.

‘Well,’ said she, after a considerable pause, ‘this is about the most
ridiculous scrape I’ve ever been involved in. What _will_ they think at
the château?’

‘If they saw your horse when he bolted----’

‘Of course they did,’ said she; ‘but what could they do? The Comte
d’Espagne is always mounted on a slow horse: _he_ couldn’t overtake me;
then the _maîtres_ couldn’t pass the grand maître.’

‘What!’ cried I, in amazement; ‘I don’t comprehend you perfectly.’

‘It’s quite clear, nevertheless,’ replied she; ‘but I see you don’t know
the rules of the _chasse_ in Flanders.’

With this she entered into a detail of the laws of the hunting-field,
which more than once threw me into fits of laughter. It seemed, then,
that the code decided that each horseman who followed the hounds should
not be left to the wilfulness of his horse or the aspirings of his
ambition, as to the place he occupied in the chase. It was no momentary
superiority of skill or steed, no display of jockeyship, no blood that
decided this momentous question. No; that was arranged on principles far
less vacillating and more permanent at the commencement of the hunting
season, by which it was laid down as a rule that the _grand maître_ was
always to ride first. His pace might be fast or it might be slow, but
his place was there. After him came the _maîtres_, the people in
scarlet, who in right of paying double subscription were thus costumed
and thus privileged; while the ‘aspirants’ in green followed last, their
smaller contribution only permitting them to see so much of the sport as
their respectful distance opened to them--and thus that indiscriminate
rush, so observable in our hunting-fields, was admirably avoided and
provided against. It was no headlong piece of reckless daring, no
impetuous dash of bold horsemanship; on the contrary, it was a decorous
and stately canter--not after hounds, but after an elderly gentleman in
a red coat and a brass tube, who was taking a quiet airing in the
pleasing delusion that he was hunting an animal unknown. Woe unto the
man who forgot his place in the procession! You might as well walk into
dinner before your host, under the pretence that you were a more nimble
pedestrian.

Besides this, there were subordinate rules to no end. Certain notes on
the _cor de chasse_ were royalties of the _grand maître_; the _maîtres_
possessed others as their privileges which no ‘aspirant’ dare venture
on. There were quavers for one, and semiquavers for the other; and, in
fact, a most complicated system of legislation comprehended every
incident, and I believe every accident, of the sport, so much that I
can’t trust my memory as to whether the wretched ‘aspirants’ were not
limited to tumbling in one particular direction--which, if so, must have
been somewhat of a tyranny, seeing they were but men, and Belgians.

‘This might seem all very absurd and very fabulous if I referred to a
number of years back; but when I say that the code still exists, in the
year of grace, 1856, what will they say at Melton or Grantham? So you
may imagine,’ said Laura, on concluding her description, which she gave
with much humour, ‘how manifold your transgressions have been this day.
You have offended the _grand maître, maîtres_, and aspirants, in one
_coup_; you have broken up the whole “order of their going.”’

‘And run away with the belle of the château,’ added I, _pour comble de
hardiesse_. She did not seem half to relish my jest, however; and gave a
little shake of the head, as though to say, ‘You’re not out of _that_
scrape yet.’

Thus did we chat over our dinner, which was really excellent, the host’s
eulogy on the Meuse trout being admirably sustained by their merits; nor
did his flask of Haut-Brion lower the character of his cellar. Still no
note of preparation seemed to indicate any arrangements for our
departure; and although, sooth to say, I could have reconciled myself
wonderfully to the inconvenience of the Toison d’Or for the whole week
if necessary, Laura was becoming momentarily more impatient, as she
said--

‘_Do_ see if they are getting anything like a carriage ready, or even
horses; we can ride, if they’ll only get us animals.’

As I entered the little kitchen of the inn, I found my host stretched at
ease in a wicker chair, surrounded by a little atmosphere of smoke,
through which his great round face loomed like the moon in the grotesque
engravings one sees in old spelling-books. So far from giving himself
any unnecessary trouble about our departure, he had never ventured
beyond the precincts of the stove, contenting himself with a wholesome
monologue on the impossibility of our desires, and that great Flemish
consolation, that however we might chafe at first, time would calm us in
the end.

After a fruitless interrogation about the means of proceeding, I asked
if there were no château in the vicinity where horses could be borrowed.

He replied,’ No, not one for miles round.’

‘Is there no mayor in the village--where is he?’

‘I am the mayor,’ replied he, with a conscious dignity.

‘Alas!’ thought I, as the functionary of Givet crossed my mind, ‘why did
I not remember that the mayor is always the most stupid of the whole
community?’

‘Then I think,’ said I, after a brief silence, ‘we had better see the
curé at once.’

‘I thought so,’ was the sententious reply.

Without troubling my head why he ‘thought so,’ I begged that the curé
might be informed that a gentleman at the inn begged to speak with him
for a few minutes.

‘The Père José, I suppose?’ said the host significantly.

‘With all my heart,’ said I; ‘José or Pierre, it’s all alike to me.’

‘He is there in waiting this half-hour,’ said the host, pointing with
his thumb to a small salon off the kitchen.

‘Indeed!’ said I; ‘how very polite the attention! I ‘m really most
grateful.’

With which, without delaying another moment, I pushed open the door, and
entered.

The Père José was a short, ruddy, astute-looking man of about fifty,
dressed in the canonical habit of a Flemish priest, which from time and
wear had lost much of its original freshness. He had barely time to
unfasten a huge napkin, which he had tied around his neck during his
devotion to a great mess of vegetable soup, when I made my bow to him.

‘The Père José, I believe?’ said I, as I took my seat opposite to him.

‘That unworthy priest!’ said he, wiping his lips, and throwing up his
eyes with an expression not wholly devotional.

‘Père José,’ resumed I, ‘a young lady and myself, who have just arrived
here with weary horses, stand in need of your kind assistance.’ Here he
pressed my hand gently, as if to assure me I was not mistaken in my man,
and I went on: ‘We must reach Rochepied to-night; now, will you try and
assist us at this conjuncture? We are complete strangers.’

‘Enough, enough!’ said he. ‘I’m sorry you are constrained for time. This
is a sweet little place for a few days’ sojourn. But if,’ said he, ‘it
can’t be, you shall have every aid in my power. I ‘ll send off to Poil
de Vache for his mule and car. You don’t mind a little shaking?’ said
he, smiling.

‘It’s no time to be fastidious, _père_, and the lady is an excellent
traveller.’

‘The mule is a good beast, and will bring you in three hours, or even
less.’ So saying, he sat down and wrote a few lines on a scrap of paper,
with which he despatched a boy from the inn, telling him to make every
haste. ‘And now monsieur, may I be permitted to pay my respects to
mademoiselle?’

‘Most certainly, Père José; she will be but too happy to add her thanks
to mine for what you have done for us.’

‘Say rather, for what I am about to do,’ said he, smiling.

‘The will is half the deed, father.’

‘A good adage, and an old,’ replied he, while he proceeded to arrange
his drapery, and make himself as presentable as the nature of his
costume would admit.

‘This was a rapid business of yours,’ said he, as he smoothed down his
few locks at the back of his head.

‘That it was, _père_--a regular runaway.’

‘I guessed as much,’ said he. ‘I said so, the moment I saw you at the
ferry.’

The _père_ is no bad judge of horse-flesh, thought I, to detect the
condition of our beasts at that distance.

‘“There’s something for me,” said I to Madame Guyon. “Look yonder! See
how their cattle are blowing! They’ve lost no time, and neither will I.”
 And with that I put on my gown and came up here.’

‘How considerate of you, _père_; you saw we should need your help.’

‘Of course I did,’ said he, chuckling. ‘Of course I did. Old Grégoire,
here, is so stupid and so indolent that I have to keep a sharp lookout
myself. But he’s the _maire_, and one can’t quarrel with him.’

‘Very true,’ said I. ‘A functionary has a hundred opportunities of doing
civil things, or the reverse.’

‘That’s exactly the case,’ said the _père_. ‘Without him we should have
no law on our side. It would be all _sous la cheminée_, as they say.’

The expression was new to me, and I imagined the good priest to mean,
that without the magistrature, respect for the laws might as well be ‘up
the chimney.’

‘And now, if you will allow me, we ‘ll pay our duty to the lady,’ said
the Père José, when he had completed his toilette to his satisfaction.

When the ceremonial of presenting the _père_ was over I informed Laura
of his great kindness in our behalf, and the trouble he had taken to
provide us with an equipage.

‘A sorry one, I fear, mademoiselle,’ interposed he, with a bow. ‘But I
believe there are few circumstances in life where people are more
willing to endure sacrifices.’

‘Then monsieur has explained to you our position?’ said Laura, half
blushing at the absurdity of the adventure.

‘Everything, my dear young lady--everything. Don’t let the thought give
you any uneasiness, however. I listen to stranger stories every day.

‘Taste that Haut-Brion, _père_,’ said I, wishing to give the
conversation a turn, as I saw Laura felt uncomfortable, ‘and give me
your opinion of it. To my judgment it seems excellent.’

‘And your judgment is unimpeachable in more respects than that,’ said
the _père_, with a significant look, which fortunately was not seen by
mademoiselle.

Confound him, said I to myself; I must try another tack. ‘We were
remarking, Père José, as we came along that very picturesque river, the
Château de Bouvigne; a fine thing in its time, it must have been.’

‘You know the story, I suppose?’ said the père.

‘Mademoiselle was relating it to me on the way, and indeed I am most
anxious to hear the dénouement.’

‘It was a sad one,’ said he slowly. ‘I’ll show you the spot where Henri
fell--the stone that marks the place.’

‘Oh, Père José,’ said Laura, ‘I must stop you--indeed I must--or the
whole interest of my narrative will be ruined. You forget that monsieur
has not heard the tale out.’

‘Ah! _ma foi_, I beg pardon--a thousand pardons. Mademoiselle, then,
knows Bouvigne?’

‘I ‘ve been here once before, but only part of a morning. I ‘ve seen
nothing but the outer court of the château and the _fosse du traître_.’

‘So, so; you know it all, I perceive,’ said he, smiling pleasantly. ‘Are
you too much fatigued for a walk that far?’

‘Shall we have time?’ said Laura; ‘that’s the question.’

‘Abundance of time. Jacob can’t be here for an hour yet, at soonest. And
if you allow me, I’ll give all the necessary directions before we leave,
so that you ‘ll not be delayed ten minutes on your return.’

While Laura went in search of her hat, I again proffered my thanks to
the kind _père_ for all his good nature, expressing the strong desire I
felt for some opportunity of requital.

‘Be happy,’ said the good man, squeezing my hand affectionately; ‘that’s
the way you can best repay me.’

‘It would not be difficult to follow the precept in your society, Père
José,’ said I, overcome by the cordiality of the old man’s manner.

‘I have made a great many so, indeed,’ said he. ‘The five-and-thirty
years I have lived in Bouvigne have not been without their fruit.’

Laura joined us here, and we took the way together towards the château,
the priest discoursing all the way on the memorable features of the
place, its remains of ancient grandeur, and the picturesque beauty of
its site.

As we ascended the steep path which, cut in the solid rock, leads to the
château, groups of pretty children came flocking about us, presenting
bouquets for our acceptance, and even scattering flowers in our path.
This simple act of village courtesy struck us both much, and we could
not help feeling touched by the graceful delicacy of the little ones,
who tripped away ere we could reward them; neither could I avoid
remarking to Laura, on the perfect good understanding that seemed to
subsist between Père José and the children of his flock--the paternal
fondness on one side, and the filial reverence on the other. As we
conversed thus, we came in front of a great arched doorway, in a curtain
wall connecting two massive fragments of rock. In front lay a deep
fosse, traversed by a narrow wall, scarce wide enough for one person to
venture on. Below, the tangled weeds and ivy concealed the dark abyss,
which was full eighty feet in depth.

‘Look up, now,’ said Laura; ‘you must bear the features of this spot in
mind to understand the story. Don’t forget where that beam projects--do
you mark it well?’

‘He’ll get a better notion of it from the tower,’ said the _père_,
‘Shall I assist you across?’

Without any aid, however, Laura trod the narrow pathway, and hasted
along up the steep and time-worn steps of the old tower. As we emerged
upon the battlements, we stood for a moment, overcome by the splendour
of the prospect. Miles upon miles of rich landscape lay beneath us,
glittering in the red, brown, and golden tints of autumn--that gorgeous
livery which the year puts on, ere it dons the sad-coloured mantle of
winter. The great forest, too, was touched here and there with that
light brown, the first advance of the season; while the river reflected
every tint in its calm tide, as though it also would sympathise with the
changes around it.

While the Père José continued to point out each place of mark or note in
the vast plain, interweaving in his descriptions some chance bit of
antiquarian or historic lore, we were forcibly struck by the thorough
intimacy he possessed with all the features of the locality, and could
not help complimenting him upon it.

‘Yes, ‘_ma foi_,’ said he, ‘I know every rock and crevice, every old
tree and rivulet for miles round. In the long life I have passed here,
each day has brought me among these scenes with some traveller or other;
and albeit they who visit us here have little thought for the
picturesque, few are unmoved by this peaceful and lovely valley. You’d
little suspect, mademoiselle, how many have passed through my hands
here, in these five-and-thirty years. I keep a record of their names, in
which I must beg you will kindly inscribe yours.’

Laura blushed at the proposition which should thus commemorate her
misadventure; while I mumbled out something about our being mere passing
strangers, unknown in the land.

‘No matter for that,’ replied the inexorable father, ‘I’ll have your
names--ay, autographs too!’

‘The sun seems very low,’ said Laura, as she pointed to the west, where
already a blaze of red golden light was spreading over the horizon: ‘I
think we must hasten our departure.’

‘Follow me, then,’ said the _père_, ‘and I ‘ll conduct you by an easier
path than we came up by.’

With that he unlocked a small postern in the curtain wall, and led us
across a neatly-shaven lawn to a little barbican, where, again unlocking
the door, we descended a flight of stone steps into a small garden
terraced in the native rock. The labour of forming it must have been
immense, as every shovelful of earth was carried from the plain beneath;
and here were fruit-trees and flowers, shrubs and plants, and in the
midst a tiny _jet d’eau_, which, as we entered, seemed magically to
salute us with its refreshing plash. A little bench, commanding a view
of the river from a different aspect, invited us to sit down for a
moment. Indeed, each turn of the way seduced us by some beauty, and we
could have lingered on for hours.

As for me, forgetful of the past, careless of the future, I was totally
wrapped up in the enjoyment of the moment, and Laura herself seemed so
enchanted by the spot that she sat silently gazing on the tranquil
scene, apparently lost in delighted reverie. A low, faint sigh escaped
her as she looked; and I thought I could see a tremulous motion of her
eyelid, as though a tear were struggling within it My heart beat
powerfully against my side. I turned to see where was the _père_. He had
gone. I looked again, and saw him standing on a point of rock far
beneath us, and waving his handkerchief as a signal to some one in the
valley. Never was there such a situation as mine; never was mortal man
so placed. I stole my hand carelessly along the bench till it touched
hers; but she moved not away--no, her mind seemed quite preoccupied. I
had never seen her profile before, and truly it was very beautiful. All
the vivacity of her temperament calmed down by the feeling of the
moment, her features had that character of placid loveliness which
seemed only wanting to make her perfectly handsome. I wished to speak,
and could not. I felt that if I could have dared to say ‘Laura,’ I could
have gone on bravely afterwards--but it would not come. ‘Amen stuck in
my throat.’ Twice I got half-way, and covered my retreat by a short
cough. Only think what a change in my destiny another syllable might
have caused! It was exactly as my second effort proved fruitless that a
delicious sound of music swelled up from the glen beneath, and floated
through the air--a chorus of young voices singing what seemed to be a
hymn. Never was anything more charming. The notes, softened as they rose
on high, seemed almost like a seraph’s song--now lifting the soul to
high and holy thoughts, now thrilling within the heart with a very
ecstasy of delight. At length they paused, the last cadence melted
slowly away, and all was still.

We did not dare to move; when Laura touched my hand gently, and
whispered, ‘Hark! there it is again! And at the same instant the voices
broke forth, but into a more joyous measure. It was one of those sweet
peasant-carollings which breathe of the light heart and the simple life
of the cottage. The words came nearer and nearer as we listened, and at
length I could trace the refrain which closed each verse--


‘Puisque l’herbe et la fleur parlent mieux que les mots, Puisque un aveu
d’amour s’exhale de la rose, Que le “ne m’oublie pas” de souvenir
s’arrose, Que le laurier dit Gloire! et cyprès sanglots.’

At last the wicket of the garden slowly opened, and a little procession
of young girls, all dressed in white, with white roses in their hair,
and each carrying bouquets in their hands, entered, and with steady step
came forward. We watched them attentively, believing that they were
celebrating some little devotional pilgrimage, when to our surprise they
approached where we sat, and with a low curtsy each dropped her bouquet
at Laura’s feet, whispering in a low silver voice as they passed, ‘May
thy feet always tread upon flowers!’ Ere we could speak our surprise and
admiration of this touching scene--for it was such, in all its
simplicity--they were gone, and the last notes of their chant were dying
away in the distance.

‘How beautiful! how very beautiful!’ said Laura; ‘I shall never forget
this.’

‘Nor I,’ said I, making a desperate effort at I know not what avowal,
which the appearance of the _père_ at once put to flight. He had just
seen the boy returning along the river-side with the mule and cart, and
came to apprise us that we had better descend.

‘It will be very late indeed before we reach Dinant,’ said Laura; ‘we
shall scarcely get there before midnight.’

‘Oh, you’ll be there much earlier. It is now past six; in less than ten
minutes you can be _en route_. I shall not cause you much delay.’

Ah, thought I, the good Father is still dreaming about his album; we
must indulge his humour, which, after all, is but a poor requital for
all his politeness.

As we entered the parlour of the ‘Toison d’Or,’ we found the host in all
the bravery of his Sunday suit, with a light-brown wig, and stockings
blue as the heaven itself, standing waiting our arrival. The hostess,
too, stood at the other side of the door, in the full splendour of a
great quilted jupe, and a cap whose ears descended half-way to her
waist. On the table, in the middle of the room, were two wax-candles, of
that portentous size which we see in chapels. Between them there lay a
great open volume, which at a glance I guessed to be the priest’s album.
Not comprehending what the worthy host and hostess meant by their
presence, I gave a look of interrogation to the _père_, who quickly
whispered--

‘Oh, it is nothing; they are only the witnesses.’

I could not help laughing outright at the idea of this formality, nor
could Laura refrain either when I explained to her what they came for.
However, time passed; the jingle of the bells on the mules’ harness
warned us that our equipage waited, and I dipped the pen in the ink and
handed it to Laura.

‘I wish he would excuse me from performing this ceremony,’ said she,
holding back; ‘I really am quite enough ashamed already.’

‘What says mademoiselle?’ inquired the _père_, as she spoke in English.

I translated her remark, when he broke in, ‘Oh, you must comply; it’s
only a formality, but still every one does it.’

‘Come, come,’ said I, in English, ‘indulge the old man; he is evidently
bent on this whim, and let us not leave him disappointed.’

‘Be it so, then,’ said she; ‘on your head, Mr. O’Leary, be the whole of
this day’s indiscretion’; and so saying, she took the pen and wrote her
name, ‘Laura Alicia Muddleton.’

‘Now, then, for my turn,’ said I, advancing; but the _père_ took the pen
from her fingers and proceeded carefully to dry the writing with a scrap
of blotting-paper.

‘On this side, monsieur,’ said he, turning over the page; ‘we do the
whole affair in orderly fashion, you see. Put your name there, with the
date and the day of the week.’

‘Will that do?’ said I, as I pushed over the book towards him, where
certainly the least imposing specimen of calligraphy the volume
contained now stood confessed.

‘What a droll name!’ said the priest, as he peered at it through his
spectacles. ‘How do you pronounce it?’

While I endeavoured to indoctrinate the father into the mystery of my
Irish appellation, the mayor and the mayoress had both appended their
signatures on either page.

‘Well, I suppose now we may depart at last,’ said Laura; ‘it’s getting
very late.’

‘Yes,’ said I, aloud; ‘we must take the road now; there is nothing more,
I fancy, Père José?’

‘Yes, but there is though,’ said he, laughing.

At the same moment the galloping of horses and the rumble of wheels were
heard without, and a carriage drew up in the street. Down went the steps
with a crash; several people rushed along the little gallery, till the
very house shook with their tread. The door of the salon was now banged
wide, and in rushed Colonel Muddleton, followed by the count, the abbé,
and an elderly lady.

‘Where is he?’--‘Where is she?’--‘Where is he?’--‘Where is she?’--‘Where
are they?’ screamed they, in confusion, one after the other.

‘Laura! Laura!’ cried the old colonel, clasping his daughter in his
arms; ‘I didn’t expect this from you!’

‘Monsieur O’Leary, vous êtes un----’

‘Before the count could finish, the abbé interposed between us, and said
‘No, no! Everything may be arranged. Tell me, in one word, is it over?’

‘Is what over?’ said I, in a state two degrees worse than insanity--‘is
what over?’

‘Are you married?’ whispered he.

‘No, bless your heart! never thought of it.’

‘Oh, the wretch!’ screamed the old lady, and went off into strong
kickings on the sofa.


‘It’s a bad affair,’ said the abbé, in a low voice; ‘take my advice--
propose to marry her at once.’

‘Yes, _parbleu!_’ said the little count, twisting his moustaches in a
fierce manner; ‘there is but one road to take here.’

Now, though unquestionably but half an hour before, when seated beside
the lovely Laura in the garden of the château, such a thought would have
filled me with delight, the same proposition, accompanied by a threat,
stirred up all my indignation and resistance.

Not on compulsion, said Sir John; and truly there was reason in the
speech.

But, indeed, before I could reply, the attention of all was drawn
towards Laura herself, who from laughing violently at first had now
become hysterical, and continued to laugh and cry at intervals; and as
the old lady continued her manipulations with a candlestick on an oak
table near, while the colonel shouted for various unattainable remedies
at the top of his voice, the scene was anything but decorous--the abbé,
who alone seemed to preserve his sanity, having as much as he could do
to prevent the little count from strangling me with his own hands; such,
at least, his violent gestures seemed to indicate. As for the priest and
the mayor and the she-mayor, they had all fled long before. There
appeared now but one course for me, which was to fly also. There was no
knowing what intemperate act the count might commit under his present
excitement; it was clear they were all labouring under a delusion, which
nothing at the present moment could elucidate. A nod from the abbé and a
motion towards the open door decided my wavering resolution. I rushed
out, over the gallery and down the road, not knowing whither, nor
caring.

I might as well try to chronicle the sensations of my raving intellect
in my first fever in boyhood as convey any notion of what passed through
my brain for the next two hours. I sat on a rock beside the river,
vainly endeavouring to collect my scattered thoughts, which only
presented to me a vast chaos of a wood and a crusader, a priest and a
lady, veal cutlets and music, a big book, an old lady in fits, and a man
in sky-blue stockings. The rolling near me of a carriage with four
horses aroused me for a second, but I could not well say why, and all
was again still, and I sat there alone.

‘He must be somewhere near this,’ said a voice, as I heard the tread of
footsteps approaching; ‘this is his hat. Ah, here he is.’ At the same
moment the abbé stood beside me. ‘Come along, now; don’t stay here in
the cold,’ said he, taking me by the arm. ‘They’ve all gone home two
hours ago. I have remained to ride back the nag in the morning.’

I followed without a word.

‘_Ma foi!_’ said he, ‘it is the first occasion in my life where I could
not see my way through a difficulty. What, in Heaven’s name, were you
about? What was your plan?’

‘Give me half an hour in peace,’ said I; ‘and if I’m not deranged before
it’s over, I’ll tell you.’

The abbé complied, and I fulfilled my promise--though in good sooth the
shouts of laughter with which he received my story caused many an
interruption. When I had finished, he began, and leisurely proceeded to
inform me that Bouvigne’s great celebrity was as a place for runaway
couples to get married; that the inn of the ‘Golden Fleece’ was known
over the whole kingdom, and the Père Jose’s reputation wide as the
Archbishop of Ghent’s; and as to the phrase ‘sous la cheminée’, it is
only applied to a clandestine marriage, which is called a ‘mariage sous
la cheminée.’

‘Now I,’ continued he, ‘can readily believe every word you ‘ve told me;
yet there’s not another person in Rochepied would credit a syllable of
it. Never hope for an explanation. In fact, before you would be listened
to, there are at least two duels to fight--the count first, and then
D’Espagne. I know Laura well; she ‘d let the affair have all its éclat
before she will say a word about it; and, in fact, your executors may be
able to clear your character--you ‘ll never do so in your lifetime.
Don’t go back there,’ said the abbé, ‘at least for the present.’

‘I’ll never set my eyes on one of them,’ cried I, in desperation. ‘I’m
nigh deranged as it is; the memory of this confounded affair----’

‘Will make you laugh yet,’ said the abbé. ‘And now good-night, or rather
good-bye: I start early to-morrow morning, and we may not meet again.’

He promised to forward my effects to Dinant, and we parted.

‘Monsieur will have a single bed?’ said the housemaid, in answer to my
summons.

‘Yes,’ said I, with a muttering I fear very like an oath.

Morning broke in through the half-closed curtains, with the song of
birds and the ripple of the gentle river. A balmy gentle air stirred the
leaves, and the sweet valley lay in all its peaceful beauty before me.

‘Well, well,’ said I, rubbing my eyes, ‘it was a queer adventure; and
there’s no saying what might have happened had they been only ten
minutes later. I’d give a napoleon to know what Laura thinks of it now.
But I must not delay here--the very villagers will laugh at me.’

I ate my breakfast rapidly and called for my bill. The sum was a mere
trifle, and I was just adding something to it when a knock came to the
door.

‘Come in,’ said I, and the _père_ entered.

‘How sadly unfortunate,’ began he, when I interrupted him at once,
assuring him of his mistake--telling him that we were no runaway couple
at all, had not the most remote idea of being married, and in fact owed
our whole disagreeable adventure to his ridiculous misconception.

‘It’s very well to say that _now_,’ growled out the _père_, in a very
different accent from his former one. ‘You may pretend what you like,
but’--and he spoke in a determined tone--‘you’ll pay _my_ bill.’

‘_Your_ bill!’ said I, waxing wroth. ‘What have I had from you. How am I
_your_ debtor? I should like to hear.’

‘And you shall,’ said he, drawing forth a long document from a pocket in
his cassock. ‘Here it is.’

He handed me the paper, of which the following is a transcript:--


NOCES DE MI LORD O’LEARY ET MADEMOISELLE MI LADY DE MUDDLETON.


FRANCS.

Two conversations--preliminary,  admonitory, and consolatory    10   0

Advice to the young couple, with moral maxims interspersed       3   0

Soirée, and society at wine                                      5   0

Guide to the château,  with details, artistic and antiquarian   12   0

Eight children with flowers, at half a franc each                4   0

Fees at the château                                              2   0

Chorus of virgins, at one franc per virgin                      10   0

Roses for virgins                                                2  10

M. le Maire et Madame ‘en grande tenue’                          1   0

Book of Registry, setting forth the date of the marriage-----

‘The devil take it!’ said I; ‘it was no marriage at all.’ ‘Yes, but it
was, though,’ said he. ‘It’s your own fault if you can’t take care of
your wife.’

The noise of his reply brought the host and hostess to the scene of
action; and though I resisted manfully for a time, there was no use in
prolonging a hopeless contest, and, with a melancholy sigh, I disbursed
my wedding expenses, and with a hearty malediction on Bouvigne--its
château, its inn, its _père_, its _maire_, and its virgins--I took the
road towards Namur, and never lifted my head till I had left the place
miles behind me.



CHAPTER XVI. A MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE

It was growing late on a fine evening in autumn, as I, a solitary
pedestrian, drew near the little town of Spa. From the time of my
leaving Chaude Fontaine, I lingered along the road, enjoying to the
utmost the beautiful valley of the Vesdre, and sometimes half hesitating
whether I would not loiter away some days in one of the little villages
I passed, and see if the trout, whose circling eddies marked the stream,
might not rise as favourably to my fly as to the vagrant insect that now
flitted across the water. In good sooth I wished for rest, and I wished
for solitude; too much of my life latterly had been passed in salons and
soirées; the peaceful habit of my soul, the fruit of my own lonely
hours, had suffered grievous inroads by my partnership with the world,
and I deemed it essential to be once more apart from the jarring
influences and distracting casualties which every step in life is beset
by, were it only to recover again my habitual tranquillity--to refit the
craft ere she took the sea once more.

I wanted but little to decide my mind; the sight of an inn, some
picturesque spot, a pretty face--anything, in short, would have
sufficed. But somehow I suppose I must have been more fastidious than I
knew of, for I continued to walk onward; and at last, leaving the little
hamlet of Pepinsterre behind me, I set out with brisker pace towards
Spa. The air was calm and balmy; no leaf stirred; the river beside the
road did not even murmur, but crept silently along its gravelly bed,
fearful to break the stillness. Gradually the shadows fell stronger and
broader, and at length mingled into one broad expanse of gloom; in a few
minutes more it was night.

There is something very striking, I had almost said saddening, in the
sudden transition from day to darkness in those countries where no
twilight exists. The gradual change by which road and mountain, rock and
cliff, mellow into the hues of sunset, and grow grey in the gloaming,
deepening the shadows, and by degrees losing all outline in the dimness
around, prepares us for the gloom of night. We feel it like the tranquil
current of years marking some happy life, where childhood and youth and
manhood and age succeed in measured time. Not so the sudden and
immediate change, which seems rather like the stroke of some fell
misfortune, converting the cheerful hours into dark, brooding
melancholy. Tears may--they do--fall lightly on some; they creep with
noiseless step, and youth and age glide softly into each other without
any shock to awaken the thought that says, Adieu to this! Farewell to
that for ever!

Thus was I musing, when suddenly I found myself at the spot where the
road branched off in two directions. No house was near, nor a living
thing from whom I could ask the way. I endeavoured by the imperfect
light of the stars, for there was no moon, to ascertain which road
seemed most frequented and travelled, judging that Spa was the most
likely resort of all journeying in these parts; but unhappily I could
detect no difference to guide me. There were wheel-tracks in both, and
ruts and stones tolerably equitably adjusted; each had a pathway, too--
the right-hand road enjoying a slight superiority over the other in this
respect, as its path was more even.

I was completely puzzled. Had I been mounted, I had left the matter to
my horse; but unhappily my decision had not a particle of reason to
guide it. I looked from the road to the trees, and from the trees to the
stars, but they looked down as tranquilly as though either way would do-
-all save one, a sly little brilliant spangle in the south, that seemed
to wink at my difficulty. ‘No matter,’ said I, ‘one thing is certain--
neither a supper nor a bed will come to look for me here; and so now for
the best pathway, as I begin to feel foot-sore.’

My momentary embarrassment about the road completely routed all my
musings, and I now turned my thoughts to the comforts of the inn, and to
the pleasant little supper I promised myself on reaching it. I debated
as to what was in season and what was not. I spelled October twice to
ascertain if oysters were in, and there came a doubt across me whether
the Flemish name for the month might have an r in it, and then I laughed
at my own bull; afterwards I disputed with myself as to the relative
merits of Chablis and Hochheimer, and resolved to be guided by the
_garçon_. I combated long a weakness I felt growing over me for a pint
of mulled claret, as the air was now becoming fresh; but I gave in at
last, and began to hammer my brain for the French words for cloves and
nutmeg.

In these innocent ruminations did an hour pass by, and yet no sign of
human habitation, no sound of life, could I perceive at either side of
me. The night, ‘tis true, was brighter as it became later, and there
were stars in thousands in the sky; but I would gladly have exchanged
Venus for the chambermaid of the humblest _auberge_, and given the Great
Bear himself for a single slice of bacon. At length, after about two
hours’ walking, I remarked that the road was becoming much more steep;
indeed, it had presented a continual ascent for some miles, but now the
acclivity was very considerable, particularly at the close of a long
day’s march. I remembered well that Spa lay in a valley, but for the
life of me I could not think whether a mountain was to be crossed to
arrive there. ‘That comes of travelling by post,’ said I to myself; had
I walked the road, I had never forgotten so remarkable a feature.’ While
I said this, I could not help confessing that I had as lief my present
excursion had been also in a conveyance.


‘Forwärts! fort, und immer fort!’

hummed I, remembering Körner’s song; and taking it for my motto, on I
went at a good pace. It needed all my powers as a pedestrian, however,
to face the mountain, for such I could see it was that I was now
ascending; the pathway, too, less trodden than below, was encumbered
with loose stones, and the trees which lined the way on either side
gradually became thinner and rarer, and at last ceased altogether,
exposing me to the cold blast which swept from time to time across the
barren heath with a chill that said October was own brother to November.
Three hours and a half did I toil along, when at last the conviction
came over me that I must have taken the wrong road. This could not
possibly be the way to Spa; indeed, I had great doubts that it led
anywhere. I mounted a little rock, and took a survey of the bleak
mountain-side; but nothing could I see that indicated that the hand of
man had ever laboured in that wild region. Fern and heath, clumps of
gorse and misshapen rocks, diversified the barren surface on every side,
and I now seemed to have gained the summit, a vast tableland spreading
away for miles. I sat down to consider what was best to be done. The
thought of retracing so many leagues of way was very depressing; and yet
what were my chances if I went forward?

Ah, thought I, why did not some benevolent individual think of erecting
lighthouses inland? What a glorious invention would it have been! Just
think of the great mountain districts which lie in the very midst of
civilisation, pathless, trackless, and unknown, where a benighted
traveller may perish within the very sound of succour, if he but knew
where to seek it. How cheering to the wayworn traveller as he plods
along his weary road, to lift from time to time his eyes to the guide-
star in the distance! Had the monks been in the habit of going out in
the dark, there’s little doubt they’d have persuaded some good Catholics
to endow some institutions like this. How well they knew how to have
their chapels and convents erected! I’m not sure but I’d vow a little
lighthouse myself to the Virgin, if I could only catch a glimpse of a
gleam of light this moment.

Just then I thought I saw something twinkle, far away across the heath.
I climbed up on the rock, and looked steadily in the direction. There
was no doubt of it-there was a light; no Jack-o’-Lantern either, but a
good respectable light, of domestic habits, shining steadily and
brightly. It seemed far off; but there is nothing so deceptive as the
view over a flat surface. In any case, I resolved to make for it; and
so, seizing my staff, I once more set forward. Unhappily, however, I
soon perceived that the road led off in a direction exactly the reverse
of the object I sought, and I was now obliged to make my choice of
quitting the path or abandoning the light; my resolve was quickly made,
and I started off across the plain, with my eyes steadily fixed upon my
beacon.

The mountain was marshy and wet--that wearisome surface of spongy
hillock, and low, creeping brushwood, the most fatal thing to a tired
walker--and I made but slow progress; besides, frequently, from
inequalities of the soil, I would lose sight of the light for half an
hour together, and then, on its reappearing suddenly, discover how far I
had wandered out of the direct line. These little aberrations did not
certainly improve my temper, and I plodded along, weary of limb and out
of spirits.

At length I came to the verge of a declivity. Beneath me lay a valley,
winding and rugged, with a little torrent brawling through rocks and
stones--a wild and gloomy scene by the imperfect light of the stars. On
the opposite mountain stood the coveted light, which now I could
discover proceeded from a building of some size, at least so far as I
could pronounce from the murky shadow against the background of sky.

I summoned up one great effort, and pushed down the slope--now sliding
on hands and feet, now trusting to a run of some yards where the ground
was more feasible. After a fatiguing course of two hours, I reached the
crest of the opposite hill, and stood within a few hundred yards of the
house--the object of my wearisome journey. It was indeed in keeping with
the deserted wildness of the place. A ruined tower, one of those square
keeps which formerly were intended as frontier defences, standing on a
rocky base, beside the edge of a steep cliff, had been made a dwelling
of by some solitary herdsman--for so the sheep collected within a little
inclosure bespoke him. The rude efforts to make the place habitable were
conspicuous in the door formed of wooden planks nailed coarsely
together, and the window, whose panes were made of a thin substance like
parchment, through which, however, the blaze of a fire shone brightly
without.

Creeping carefully forward to take a reconnaissance of the interior
before I asked for admission, I approached a small aperture, where a
single pane of glass permitted a view. A great heap of blazing furze,
that filled the old chimney of the tower, lit up the whole space, and
enabled me to see a man who sat on a log of wood beside the hearth, with
his head bent upon his knees. His dress was a coarse blouse of striped
woollen descending to his knees, where a pair of gaiters of sheepskin
were fastened by thongs of untanned leather; his head was bare, and
covered only by a long mass of black hair, that fell in tangled locks
down his back, and even over his face as he bent forward. A shepherd’s
staff and a broad hat of felt lay on the ground beside him; there was
neither chair nor table, nor, save some fern in one corner, anything
that might serve as a bed; a large earthenware jug and a metal pot stood
near the fire, and a knife, such as butchers kill with, lay beside them.
Over the chimney, however, was suspended, by two thongs of leather, a
sword, long and straight, like the weapon of the heavy cavalry of
France; and, higher again, I could see a great piece of printed paper
was fastened to the wall. As I continued to scan, one by one, these
signs of utter poverty, the man stretched out his limbs and rubbed his
eyes for a minute or two, and then with a start sprang to his feet,
displaying, as he did so, the proportions of a most powerful and
athletic frame.


He was, as well as I could guess, about forty-five years of age; but
hardship and suffering had worn deep lines about his face, which was
sallow and emaciated. A black moustache, that hung down over his lip and
descended to his chin, concealed the lower part of his face; the upper
was bold and manly, the forehead high and well developed; but his eyes--
and I could mark them well as the light fell on him--were of an
unnatural brilliancy; their sparkle had the fearful gleam of a mind
diseased, and in their quick, restless glances through the room I saw
that he was labouring under some insane delusion. He paced the room with
a steady step, backwards and forwards, for a few minutes, and once, as
he lifted his eyes above the chimney, he stopped abruptly and carried
his hand to his forehead in a military salute, while he muttered
something to himself. The moment after he threw open the door, and
stepping outside, gave a long shrill whistle; he paused for a few
seconds, and repeated it, when I could hear the distant barking of a dog
replying to his call. Just then he turned abruptly, and with a spring
seized me by the arm.

‘Who are you? What do you want here?’ said he, in a voice tremulous with
passion.

A few words--it was no time for long explanations--told him how I had
lost my way in the mountain, and was in search of shelter for the night.

‘It was a lucky thing for you that one of my lambs was astray,’ said he,
with a fierce smile. ‘If Tête-noir had been at home, he’d have made
short work of you. Come in.’

With that he pushed me before him into the tower, and pointed to the
block of wood where he had been sitting previously, while he threw a
fresh supply of furze upon the hearth, and stirred up the blaze with his
foot.

‘The wind is moving round to the southard,’ said he; ‘we ‘ll have a
heavy fall of rain soon.’

‘The stars look very bright, however.’

‘Never trust them. Before day breaks, you’ll see the mountain will be
covered with mist.’

As he spoke, he crossed his arms on his breast, and recommenced his walk
up and down the chamber. The few words he spoke surprised me much by the
tones of his voice, so unlike the accents I should have expected from
one of his miserable and squalid appearance; they were mild, and bore
the traces of one who had seen very different fortunes from his present
ones.

I wished to speak, and induce him to converse with me; but the efforts I
made seeming only to excite his displeasure, I abandoned the endeavour
with a good grace; and having disposed my knapsack as a pillow,
stretched myself full length before the hearth, and fell sound asleep.

When I awoke, the shepherd was not to be seen. The fire, which blazed
brightly, showed, however, that he had not long been absent; a huge log
of beech had recently been thrown upon it. The day was breaking, and I
went to the door to look out. Nothing, however, could I see; vast clouds
of mist were sweeping along before the wind, that sighed mournfully over
the bleak mountains and concealed everything a few yards off, while a
thin rain came slanting down, the prelude to the storm the shepherd had
prophesied.

Never was there anything more dreary within or without; the miserable
poverty of the ruined tower was scarcely a shelter from the coming
hurricane. I returned to my place beside the fire, sad and low at heart.
While I was conjecturing within myself what distance I might be from
Spa, and how I could contrive to reach it, I chanced to fix my eyes on
the sabre above the chimney, which I took down to examine. It was a
plain straight weapon, of the kind carried by the soldiery; its only
sign of inscription was the letter ‘N’ on the blade. As I replaced it, I
caught sight of the printed paper, which, begrimed with smoke and partly
obliterated by time, was nearly illegible. After much pains, however, I
succeeded in deciphering the following; it was headed in large letters--


‘Ordre du Jour, de l’Armée Française. Le 9 Thermidor.’

The lines which immediately followed were covered by another piece of
paper pasted over them, where I could just here and there detect a stray
word, which seemed to indicate that the whole bore reference to some
victory of the republican army. The last four lines, much clearer than
the rest, ran thus:--

‘Le citoyen Aubuisson, chef de bataillon de Grenadiers, de cette demi-
brigade, est entré le premier dans la redoute. Il a eu son habit criblé
de balles.’

I read and re-read the lines a dozen times over; indeed, to this hour
are they fast fixed in my memory. Some strange mystery seemed to connect
them with the poor shepherd; otherwise, why were they here? I thought
over his figure, strong and well-knit, as I saw him stand upright in the
room, and of his military salute; and the conviction came fully over me
that the miserable creature, covered with rags and struggling with want,
was no other than the citizen Aubuisson. Yet, by what fearful
vicissitude had he fallen to this? The wild expression of his features
at times did indeed look like insanity; still, what he said to me was
both calm and coherent. The mystery excited all my curiosity, and I
longed for his return, in the hope of detecting some clue to it.

The door opened suddenly. A large dog, more mastiff than sheep-dog,
dashed in; seeing me, he retreated a step, and fixing his eyes steadily
upon me, gave a fearful howl. I could not stir from fear. I saw that he
was preparing for a spring, when the voice of the shepherd called out,
‘Couche-toi, Tête-noir, couche!’ The savage beast at once slunk quietly
to a corner, and lay down--still never taking his eyes from me, and
seeming to feel as if his services would soon be in request in my
behalf; while his master shook the rain from his hat and blouse, and
came forward to dry himself at the fire. Fixing his eyes steadfastly on
the red embers as he stirred them with his foot, he muttered some few
and broken words, among which, although I listened attentively, I could
but hear, ‘Pas un mot; silence, silence, à la mort!’

‘You were not wrong in your prophecy, shepherd; the storm is setting in
already,’ said I, wishing to attract his attention.

‘Hush!’ said he, in a low whisper, while he motioned me with his hand to
be still--‘hush! not a word!’

The eager glare of madness was in his eye as he spoke, and a tremulous
movement of his pale cheek betokened some great inward convulsion. He
threw his eyes slowly around the miserable room, looking below and above
with the scrutinising glance of one resolved to let nothing escape his
observation; and then kneeling down on one knee beside the blaze he took
a piece of dry wood, and stole it quietly among the embers.

‘There, there!’ cried he, springing to his legs, while he seized me
rudely by the shoulder, and hurried me to the distant end of the room.
‘Come quickly! stand back, stand back there! see, see!’ said he, as the
crackling sparks flew up and the tongued flame rose in the chimney,
‘there it goes!’ Then putting his lips to my ear he muttered, ‘Not a
word! silence! silence to the death!’

As he said this, he drew himself up to his full height, and crossing his
arms upon his breast stood firm and erect before me, and certainly,
covered with rags the meanest poverty would have rejected, shrunk by
famine and chilled by hunger and storm, there was still remaining in him
the traits of a once noble face and figure. The fire of madness,
unquenched by every misery, lit up his dark eye, and even on his
compressed lip there was a curl of pride. Poor fellow! some pleasant
memory seemed to flit across him; he smiled, and as he moved his hair
from his forehead he bowed his head slightly, and murmured, ‘Oui, sire!’
How soft, how musical that voice was then! Just at this instant the deep
bleating of the sheep was heard without, and Tête-noir, springing up,
rushed to the door, and scratched fiercely with his fore-paws. The
shepherd hastened to open it, and to my surprise I beheld a boy about
twelve years of age, poorly clad and dripping with wet, who was carrying
a small canvas bag on his back.

‘Has the lamb been found, Lazare?’ said the child, as he unslung his
little sack.

‘Yes; ‘tis safe in the fold.’

‘And the spotted ewe? You don’t think the wolves could have taken her
away so early as this----’

‘Hush, hush!’ said the shepherd, with a warning gesture to the child,
who seemed at once to see that the lunatic’s vision was on him; for he
drew his little blouse close around his throat, and muttered a ‘Bonjour,
Lazare,’ and departed.

‘Couldn’t that boy guide me down to Spa, or some village near it?’ said
I, anxious to seize an opportunity of escape.

He looked at me without seeming to understand my question. I repeated it
more slowly, when, as if suddenly aware of my meaning, he replied
quickly--

‘No, no; little Pierre has a long road to go home; he lives far away in
the mountains. I ‘ll show you the way myself.

With that, he opened the sack, and took forth a loaf of coarse wheaten
bread, such as the poorest cottagers make, and a tin flask of milk.
Tearing the loaf asunder, he handed me one-half, which more from policy
than hunger, though I had endured a long fast, I accepted. Then passing
the milk towards me he made a sign for me to drink, and when I had done,
seized the flask himself, and nodding gaily with his head, cried, ‘A
vous, camarade.’ Simple as the gesture and few the words, they both
convinced me that he had been a soldier once; and each moment only
strengthened me in the impression that I had before me in the shepherd
Lazare an officer of the Grande Armée--one of those heroes of a hundred
fights, whose glory was the tributary stream in the great ocean of the
Empire’s grandeur.

Our meal was soon concluded, and in silence; and Lazare, having
replenished his fire, went to the door and looked out.

‘It will be wilder ere night,’ said he, as he peered into the dense
mist, which, pressed down by rain, lay like a pall upon the earth; ‘if
you are a good walker, I ‘ll take you by a short way to Spa.’

‘I’ll do my best,’ said I, ‘to follow you.’

‘The mountain is easy enough; but there may be a stream or two swollen
by the rains. They are sometimes dangerous.’

‘What distance are we then from Spa?’

‘Four leagues and a half by the nearest route--seven and a half by the
road. Come, Tête-noir, bonne bête,’ said he, patting the savage beast,
who with a rude gesture of his tail evinced his joy at the recognition.
‘Thou must be on guard to-day; take care of these for me--that thou
wilt, old fellow; farewell, good beast, good-bye!’

The animal, as if he understood every word, stood with his red eyes
fixed upon him till he had done, and then answered by a long low howl.
Lazare smiled with pleasure, as he waved his hand towards him, and led
the way from the tower.

I had but time to leave two louis-d’ors on the block of wood, when he
called out to me to follow him. The pace he walked at, as well as the
rugged course of the way he took, prevented my keeping at his side; and
I could only track him as he moved along through the misty rain, like
some genius of the storm, his long locks flowing wildly behind him, and
his tattered garments fluttering in the wind.

It was a toilsome and dreary march, unrelieved by aught to lessen the
fatigue. Lazare never spoke one word the entire time; occasionally he
would point with his staff to the course we were to take, or mark the
flight of some great bird of prey soaring along near the ground, as if
fearless of man in regions so wild and desolate; save at these moments,
he seemed buried in his own gloomy thoughts. Four hours of hard walking
brought us at last to the summit of a great mountain, from which, as the
mist was considerably cleared away, I could perceive a number of lesser
mountains surrounding it, like the waves of the sea. My guide pointed to
the ground, as if recommending a rest, and I willingly threw myself on
the heath, damp and wet as it was.

The rest was a short one; he soon motioned me to resume the way, and we
plodded onward for an hour longer, when we came to a great tableland of
several miles in extent, but which still I could perceive was on a very
high level. At last we reached a little grove of stunted pines, where a
rude cross of stone stood--a mark to commemorate the spot where a murder
had been committed, and to entreat prayers for the discovery of the
murderers. Here Lazare stopped, and pointing to a little narrow path in
the heather, he said--

‘Spa is scarce two leagues distant; it lies in the valley yonder; follow
this path, and you ‘ll not fail to reach it.’

While I proffered my thanks to him for his guidance, I could not help
expressing my wish to make some slight return for it. A dark, disdainful
look soon stopped me in my speech, and I turned it off in a desire to
leave some souvenir of my night’s lodging behind me in the old tower.
But even this he would not hear of; and when I stretched out my hand to
bid him good-bye, he took it with a cold and distant courtesy, as though
he were condescending to a favour he had no fancy for.

‘Adieu, monsieur,’ said I, still tempted, by a last effort of allusion
to his once condition, to draw something from him--‘adieu!’

He approached me nearer, and with a voice of tremulous eagerness, he
muttered--

‘Not a word yonder, not a syllable! Pledge me your faith in that!’

Thinking now that it was merely the recurrence of his paroxysm, I
answered carelessly, ‘Never fear, I’ll say nothing.’

‘Yes, but swear it,’ said he, with a fixed look of his dark eye; ‘swear
it to me now, that so long as you are below there’--he pointed to the
valley--‘you will never speak of me.’

I made him the promise he required, though with great unwillingness, as
my curiosity to learn something about him was becoming intense.

‘Not a word!’ said he, with a finger on his lip, ‘that’s the _consigne_.

‘Not a word!’ repeated I, and we parted.



CHAPTER XVII. THE BORE--A SOLDIER OF THE EMPIRE.

Two hours after, I was enjoying the pleasant fire of the Hôtel de
Flandre, where I arrived in time for table d’hôte, not a little to the
surprise of the host and six waiters, who were totally lost in
conjectures to account for my route, and sorely puzzled to ascertain the
name of my last hotel in the mountains.

A watering-place at the close of a season is always a sad-looking thing.
The barricades of the coming winter already begin to show; the little
statues in public gardens are assuming their greatcoats of straw against
the rigours of frost; the _jets d’ eau_ cease to play, or perform with
the unwilling air of actors to empty benches; the tables d’hôte present
their long dinner-rooms unoccupied, save by a little table at one end,
where some half-dozen shivering inmates still remain, the débris of the
mighty army who flourished their knives there but six weeks before--
these half-dozen usually consisting of a stray invalid or two,
completing his course of the waters, having a fortnight of sulphuretted
hydrogen before him yet, and not daring to budge till he has finished
his ‘heeltap’ of abomination. Then there’s the old half-pay major, that
has lived in Spa, for aught I know, since the siege of Namur, and who
passes his nine months of winter in shooting quails and playing
dominoes; and there’s an elderly lady, with spectacles, always working
at a little embroidery frame, who speaks no French, and seems not to be
aware of anything going on around her--no one being able to guess why
she is there, she probably not knowing why herself. Lastly, there is a
very distracted-looking young gentleman, with a shooting-jacket and
young moustaches, who having been ‘cleaned out’ at _rouge et noir_, is
waiting in the hope of a remittance from some commiserating relative in
England.

The theatre is closed; its little stars, dispersed among the small
capitals, have shrunk back to their former proportions of third and
fourth-rate parts--for though butterflies in July, they are mere grubs
in December. The clink of the croupier’s mace is no longer heard,
revelling amid the five-franc pieces; all is still and silent in that
room which so late the conflict of human passion, hope, envy, fear, and
despair, had made a very hell on earth.

The donkeys, too, who but the other day were decked in scarlet
trappings, are now despoiled of their gay panoply, and condemned to the
mean drudgery of the cart. Poor beasts! their drooping ears and fallen
heads seem to show some sense of their changed fortunes; no longer
bearing the burden of some fair-cheeked girl or laughing boy along the
mountain-side, they are brought down to the daily labour of the cottage,
and a cutlet is no more like a mutton-chop than a donkey is like an ass.

So does everything suffer a ‘sea-change.’ The modiste, whose pretty cap
with its gay ribbons was itself an advertisement of her wares, has taken
to a close bonnet and a woollen shawl--a metamorphosis as complete as is
the misshapen mass of cloaks and mud-boots of the agile danseuse, who
flitted between earth and air a few moments before. Even the doctor--and
what a study is the doctor of a watering-place!--even he has laid by his
smiles and his soft speeches, folded up in the same drawer with his
black coat for the winter. He has not thrown physic to the dogs, because
he is fond of sporting, and would not injure the poor beasts, but he has
given it an _au revoir_; and as grouse come in with autumn, and black-
cock in November, so does he feel chalybeates are in season on the first
of May. Exchanging his cane for a Manton, and his mild whisper for a
dog-whistle, he takes to the pursuit of the lower animals, leaving men
for the warmer months.

All this disconcerts one. You hate to be present at those
_déménagements_, where the curtains are coming down, and the carpet is
being taken up; where they are nailing canvas across pictures, and
storing books into pantries. These smaller revolutions are all very
detestable, and you gladly escape into some quiet and retired spot, and
wait till the fussing be over. So felt I. Had I come a month later, this
place would have suited me perfectly, but this process of human moulting
is horrible to witness; and so, say I once more, _En route_.

Like a Dutchman who took a run of three miles to jump over a hill, and
then sat down tired at the foot of it, I flurried myself so completely
in canvassing all the possible places I might, could, would, should, or
ought to pass the winter in, that I actually took a fortnight to recover
my energies before I could set out.

Meanwhile I had made a close friendship with a dyspeptic countryman of
mine, who went about the Continent with a small portmanteau and a very
large medicine-chest, chasing health from Naples to Paris, and from Aix-
la-Chapelle to Wildbad, firmly persuaded that every country had only one
month in the year at most wherein it were safe to live there--Spa being
the appropriate place to pass the October. He cared nothing for the
ordinary topics that engross the attention of mankind; kings might be
dethroned and dynasties demolished; states might revolt and subjects be
rebellious--all he wanted to know was, not what changes were made in the
code but in the pharmacopoeia. The liberty of the Press was a matter of
indifference to him; he cared little for what men might say, but a great
deal for what it was safe to swallow, and looked upon the inventor of
blue-pill as the greatest benefactor of mankind. He had the analysis of
every well and spring in Germany at his fingers’ end, and could tell you
the temperature and atomic proportions like his alphabet. But his great
system was a kind of reciprocity treaty between health and sickness, by
which a man could commit any species of gluttony he pleased when he knew
the peculiar antagonist principle. And thus he ate--I was going to say
like a shark, but let me not in my ignorance calumniate the fish; for I
know not if anything that ever swam could eat a soup with a custard
pudding, followed by beef and beetroot, stewed mackerel and treacle,
pickled oysters and preserved cherries, roast hare and cucumber,
venison, salad, prunes, hashed mutton, omelettes, pastry, and finally,
to wind up with effect, a sturgeon baked with brandy-peaches in his
abdomen--a thing to make a cook weep and a German blessed. Such was my
poor friend, Mr. Bartholomew Cater, the most thin, spare, emaciated, and
miserable-looking man that ever sipped at Schwalbach or shivered at
Kissingen.

To permit these extravagances in diet, however, he had concocted a code
of reprisals, consisting of the various mineral waters of Germany and
the poisonous metals of modern pharmacy; and having established the fact
that ‘bitter wasser’ and ‘Carlsbad,’ the ‘Powon’ and ‘Pilnitz,’ combined
with blue-pill, were the natural enemies of all things eatable, he
swallowed these freely, and then left the matter to the rebellious
ingredients--pretty much as the English used to govern Ireland in times
gone by: set both parties by the ears, and wait the result in peace,
well aware that a slight derangement of the balance, from time to time,
would keep the contest in motion. Such was the state policy of Mr.
Cater, and I can only say that _his_ constitution survived it, though
that of Ireland seems to suffer grievously from the experiment.

This lively gentleman was then my companion; indeed, with that cohesive
property of your true bore, he was ever beside me, relating some little
interesting anecdote of a jaundice or a dropsy, a tertian or a typhus,
by which agreeable souvenirs he preserved the memory of Athens or
Naples, Rome or Dresden, fresh and unclouded in his mind. Not satisfied,
however, with narration, like all enthusiasts he would be proselytising;
and whether from the force of his arguments or the weakness of my
nature, he found a ready victim in me, insomuch that under his admirable
instruction I was already beginning to feel a dislike and disgust to all
things edible, with an appetite only grown more ravenous, while my
reverence for all springs of unsavoury taste and smell--once, I must
confess, at a deplorably low ebb--was gradually becoming more developed.
It was only by the accidental discovery that my waistcoat could be made
to fit by putting it twice round me, and that my coat was a dependency
of which I was scarcely the nucleus, that I really became frightened.
‘What!’ thought I, ‘can this be that Arthur O’Leary whom men jested on
his rotundity? Is this me, around whom children ran, as they would about
a pillar or a monument, and thought it exercise to circumambulate?
Arthur, this will be the death of thee; thou wert a happy man and a fat
before thou knewest Kochbrunnens and thermometers; run while it is yet
time, and be thankful at least that thou art in racing condition.’

With noiseless step and cautious gesture, I crept downstairs one morning
at daybreak. My enemy was still asleep. I heard him muttering as I
passed his door; doubtless he was dreaming of some new combination of
horrors, some infernal alliance of cucumbers and quinine. I passed on in
silence; my very teeth chattered with fear. Happy was I to have them to
chatter! another fortnight of his intimacy, and they would have trembled
from blue-pill as well as panic! With a heavy sigh I paid my bill, and
crossed the street towards the diligence office. One place only remained
vacant--it was in the _banquette_. No matter, thought I, anywhere will
do at present.

‘Where is monsieur going?--for there will be a place vacant in the
_coupé_ at--’

‘I have not thought of that yet,’ said I; ‘but when we reach Verviers we
‘ll see.’

‘_Allons_, then,’ said the _conducteur_, while he whispered to the clerk
of the office a few words I could not catch.

‘You are mistaken, friend,’ said I; ‘it’s not creditors, they are only
chalybeates I ‘m running from’; and so we started.

Before I follow out any further my own ramblings, I should like to
acquit a debt I owe my reader--if I dare flatter myself that he cares
for its discharge--by returning to the story of the poor shepherd of the
mountains, and which I cannot more seasonably do than at this place;
although the details I am about to relate were furnished to me a great
many years after this, and during a visit I paid to Lyons in 1828.

In the Café de la Coupe d’Or, so conspicuous in the Place des Terreaux,
where I usually resorted to pass my evenings, and indulge in the cheap
luxuries of my coffee and cheroot, I happened to make a bowing
acquaintance with a venerable elderly gentleman, who each night resorted
there to read the papers, and amuse himself by looking over the chess-
players, with which the room was crowded. Some accidental interchange of
newspapers led to a recognition, and that again advanced to a few words
each time we met--till one evening, chance placed us at the same table,
and we chatted away several hours, and parted in the hope, mutually
expressed, of renewing our acquaintance at an early period.

I had no difficulty in interrogating the _dame du café_ about my new
acquaintance. He was a striking and remarkable-looking personage, tall
and military-looking, with an air of _grand seigneur_, which in a
Frenchman is never deceptive; certainly I never saw it successfully
assumed by any who had no right to it. He wore his hair _en queue_, and
in his dress evinced, in several trifling matters, an adherence to the
habitudes of the old régime--so, at least, I interpreted his lace
ruffles and silk stockings, with his broad buckles of brilliants in his
shoes. The ribbon of St. Louis, which he wore unostentatiously on his
waistcoat, was his only decoration.

‘This is the Vicomte de Berlemont, _ancien colonel-en-chef_,’ said she,
with an accent of pride at the mention of so distinguished a frequenter
of the café; ‘he has not missed an evening here for years past.’

A few more words of inquiry elicited from her the information that the
vicomte had served in all the wars of the Empire up to the time of the
abdication; that on the restoration of the Bourbons he had received his
rank in the service from them, and, faithful to their fortunes, had
followed Louis XVIII. in exile to Ghent.

‘He has seen a deal of the world, then, madame, it would appear?’

‘That he has, and loves to speak about it too; time was when they
reckoned the vicomte among the pleasantest persons in Lyons; but they
say he has grown old now, and contracted a habit of repeating his
stories. I can’t tell how that may be, but I think him always amiable.’
A delightful word that same ‘amiable’ is! and so thinking, I wished
madame good-night, and departed.

The next evening I lay in wait for the old colonel, and was flattered to
see that he was taking equal pains to discover me. We retired to a
little table, ordered our coffee, and chatted away till midnight. Such
was the commencement, such the course, of one of the pleasantest
intimacies I ever formed.

The vicomte was unquestionably the most agreeable specimen of his nation
I had ever met--easy and unaffected in his manner, having seen much, and
observed shrewdly; not much skilled in book-learning, but deeply read in
mankind. His views of politics were of that unexaggerated character
which are so often found correct; while of his foresight I can give no
higher token than that he then predicted to me the events of the year
1830, only erring as to the time, which he deemed might not be so far
distant. The Empire, however, and Napoleon were his favourite topics.
Bourbonist as he was, the splendour of France in 1810 and 1811, the
greatness of the mighty man whose genius then ruled its destinies, had
captivated his imagination, and he would talk for hours over the events
of Parisian life at that period, and the more brilliant incidents of the
campaigns.

It was in one of our conversations, prolonged beyond the usual time, in
discussing the characters of those immediately about the person of the
Emperor, that I felt somewhat struck by the remark he made, that, while
‘Napoleon did meet unquestionably many instances of deep ingratitude
from those whom he had covered with honours and heaped with favours,
nothing ever equalled the attachment the officers of the army generally
bore to his person, and the devotion they felt for his glory and his
honour. It was not a sentiment,’ he said, ‘it was a religious belief
among the young men of my day that the Emperor could do no wrong. What
you assume in your country by courtesy, we believed _de facto_. So many
times had events, seeming most disastrous, turned out pregnant with
advantage and success, that a dilemma was rather a subject of amusing
speculation amongst us than a matter of doubt and despondency. There
came a terrible reverse to all this, however,’ continued he, as his
voice fell to a lower and sadder key; ‘a fearful lesson was in store for
us. Poor Aubuisson----’

‘Aubuisson!’ said I, starting; ‘was that the name you mentioned?’

‘Yes,’ said he, in amazement; ‘have you heard the story, then?’

‘No,’ said I, ‘I know of no story; it was the name alone struck me. Was
it not one of that name who was mentioned in one of Bonaparte’s
despatches from Egypt?’

‘To be sure it was, and the same man too; he was the first in the
trenches at Alexandria; he carried off a Mameluke chief his prisoner at
the battle of the Pyramids.’

‘What manner of man was he?’

‘A powerful fellow, one of the largest of his regiment, and they were a
Grenadier battalion; he had black hair and black moustache, which he
wore long and drooping, in Egyptian fashion.’

‘The same, the very same!’ cried I, carried away by my excitement.

‘What do you mean?’ said the colonel; ‘you’ve never seen him, surely; he
died at Charenton the same year Waterloo was fought.’

‘No such thing,’ said I, feeling convinced that Lazare was the person.
‘I saw him alive much later’; and with that I related the story I have
told my reader, detailing minutely every little particular which might
serve to confirm my impression of the identity.

‘No, no,’ said the vicomte, shaking his head, ‘you must be mistaken;
Aubuisson was a patient at Charenton for ten years, when he died. The
circumstances you mention are certainly both curious and strange, but I
cannot think they have any connection with the fortunes of poor Lazare;
at all events, if you like to hear the story, come home with me, and I
‘ll tell it; the café is about to close now, and we must leave.’

I gladly accepted the offer, for whatever doubts he had concerning
Lazare’s identity with Aubuisson, my convictions were complete, and I
longed to hear the solution of a mystery over which I had pondered many
a day of march and many a sleepless night.

I could scarcely contain my impatience during supper. The thought of
Lazare absorbed everything in my mind, and I fancied the old colonel’s
appetite knew no bounds when the meal had lasted about a quarter of an
hour. At last having finished, and devised his modest glass of weak wine
and water, he began the story, of which I present the leading features
to my readers, omitting, of course, those little occasional digressions
and reflections by which the narrator himself accompanied his tale.



CHAPTER XVIII. THE RETREAT FROM LEIPSIC

‘The third day of the disastrous battle of Leipsic was drawing to a
close, as the armies of the coalition made one terrible and fierce
attack, in concert, against the Imperial forces. Never was anything
before heard like the deafening thunder, as three hundred guns of heavy
artillery opened their fire at once from end to end of the line, and
three hundred thousand men advanced, wildly cheering, to the attack.

‘Wearied, worn out, and exhausted, the French army held their ground,
like men prepared to die before their Emperor, but never desert him,
when the fearful intelligence was brought to Napoleon that in three days
the army had fired ninety-five thousand cannon-balls; that the reserve
ammunition was entirely consumed, and but sixteen thousand cannon-balls
remained, barely sufficient to maintain the fire two hours longer! What
was to be done? No resources lay nearer than Magdeburg or Erfurt. To the
latter place the Emperor at once decided on retiring, and at seven
o’clock the order was given for the artillery waggons and baggage to
pass the defile of Lindenau, and retreat over the Elster, the same order
being transmitted to the cavalry and the other corps of the army. The
defile was a long and difficult one, extending for two leagues, and
traversing several bridges. To accomplish the retreat in safety,
Napoleon was counselled to hold the allies in check by a strong force of
artillery, and then set fire to the faubourg; but the conduct of the
Saxon troops, however deserving of his anger, could not warrant a
punishment so fearful on the monarch of that country, who, through every
change of fortune, had stood steady in his friendship. He rejected the
course at once, and determined on retreating as best he might.

‘The movement was then begun at once, and every avenue that led to the
faubourg of Lindenau was crowded by troops of all arms, eagerly pressing
onward--a fearful scene of confusion and dismay, for it was a beaten
army that fled, and one which until now never had thoroughly felt the
horrors of defeat. From seven until nine the columns came on at a quick
step, the cavalry at a trot; defiling along the narrow gorge of
lindenau, they passed a mill at the roadside, where at a window stood
one with arms crossed and head bent upon his bosom. He gazed steadfastly
at the long train beneath, but never noticed the salutes of the general
officers as they passed along. It was the Emperor himself, pale and
care-worn, his low chapeau pressed down far on his brows, and his
uniform splashed and travel-stained. For over an hour he stood thus
silent and motionless; then throwing himself upon a bed he slept. Yes;
amid all the terrible events of that disastrous retreat, when the
foundations of the mighty empire he had created were crumbling beneath
him, when the great army he had so often led to victory was defiling
beaten before him, he laid his wearied head upon a pillow and slept!

‘A terrible cannonade, the fire of seventy large guns brought to bear
upon the ramparts, shook the very earth, and at length awoke Napoleon,
who through all the din and clamour had slept soundly and tranquilly.

‘“What is it, Duroc?” said he, raising himself upon one arm, and looking
up.

‘“It is Swartzenberg’s attack, sire, on the rampart of Halle.”

‘“Ha! so near?” said he, springing up and approaching the window, from
which the bright flashes of the artillery were each moment discernible
in the dark sky. At the same moment an aide-de-camp galloped up, and
dismounted at the door; in another minute he was in the room.

‘The Saxon troops, left by the Emperor as a guard of honour and
protection to the unhappy monarch, had opened a fire on the retreating
columns, and a fearful confusion was the result. The Emperor spoke not a
word. Macdonald’s corps and Poniatowskf s division were still in
Leipsic; but already they had commenced their retiring movement on
Lindenau. Lauriston’s brigade was also rapidly approaching the bridge
over the Elster, to which now the men were hurrying madly, intent alone
on flight. The bridge--the only one by which the troops could pass --had
been mined, and committed to the charge of Colonel Montfort of the
Engineers, with directions to blow it up when the enemy appeared, and
thus gain time for the baggage to retreat.

‘As the aide-de-camp stood awaiting Napoleon’s orders in reply to a few
lines written in pencil by the Duke of Tarento, another staff-officer
arrived, breathless, to say that the allies had carried the rampart, and
were already in Leipsic. Napoleon became deadly pale; then, with a
motion of his hand, he signed to the officer to withdraw.

‘“Duroc,” said he, when they were alone, “where is Nansouty?”

‘“With the eighth corps, sire. They have passed an hour since.”

‘“Who commands the picket without?”

‘“Aubuisson, sire.”

‘“Send him to me, and leave us alone.”

‘In a few moments Colonel Aubuisson entered. His arm was in a sling from
a sabre-wound he had received the morning before, but which did not
prevent his remaining on duty. The stout soldier seemed as unconcerned
and fearless in that dreadful moment as though it were a day of gala
manoeuvres, and not one of disaster and defeat.

‘“Aubuisson,” said the Emperor, “you were with us at Alexandria?”

‘“I was, sire,” said he, as a deeper tinge coloured his bronzed
features.

‘“The first in the rampart--I remember it well,” said Napoleon; “the
_ordre du jour_ commemorates the deed. It was at Moscow you gained the
cross, I believe?” continued he, after a slight pause.

‘“I never obtained it, sire,” replied Aubuisson, with a struggle to
repress some disappointment in his tone.

‘“How, never obtained it!--you, Aubuisson, an ancient _brave_ of the
Pyramids! Come, come, there has been a mistake somewhere; we must look
to this. Meanwhile, _General_ Aubuisson, take mine.”

‘With that he detached his cordon from the breast of his uniform, and
fastened it on the coat of the astonished officer, who could only mutter
the words, “Sire, sire!” in reply.

‘“Now, then, for a service you must render me, and speedily, too,” said
Napoleon, as he laid his hand on the general’s shoulder.

‘The Emperor whispered for some seconds in his ear, then looked at him
fixedly in the face. “What!” cried he, “do you hesitate?”

‘“Hesitate, sire!” said Aubuisson, starting back. “Never! If your
Majesty had ordered me to the mouth of a mortar--but I wish to know----”

‘Napoleon did not permit him to conclude, but drawing him closer,
whispered again a few words in his ear. “And, mark me,” said he, aloud,
as he finished, “mark me, Aubuisson! silence--pas un mot? silence à la
mort!”

‘“A la mort, sire!” repeated the general, while at the same moment Duroc
hurried into the room, and cried out--

‘“They are advancing towards the Elster; Macdonald’s rear-guard is
engaged----”

‘A motion of Napoleon’s hand towards the door and a look at Aubuisson
was the only notice he took of the intelligence, and the officer was
gone.

‘While Duroc continued to detail the disastrous events the last arrived
news had announced, the Emperor approached the window, which was still
open, and looked out. All was in darkness towards that part of the city
near the defile. The attack was on the distant rampart, near which the
sky was red and lurid. Still, it was towards that dark and gloomy part
that Napoleon’s eyes were turned, and not in the direction where the
fight was still raging. Peering into the dense blackness, he stood
without speaking, when suddenly a bright gleam of light shot up from the
gloom, and then came three tremendous reports, so rapidly, one after the
other, as almost to seem like one. The same instant a blaze of fire
flashed upwards towards the sky, and glittering fragments of burning
timber were hurled into the air. Napoleon covered his eyes with his
hand, and leaned against the side of the window.

‘“It is the bridge over the Elster!” cried Duroc, in a voice half wild
with passion. “They’ve blown up the bridge before Macdonald’s division
have crossed.”

‘“Impossible!” said the Emperor. “Go see quickly, Duroc, what has
happened.”

‘But before the general could leave the room, a wounded officer rushed
in, his clothes covered with the marks of recent fire.

‘“The Sappers, sire! the Sappers-----”

‘“What of them?” said the Emperor.

‘“They’ve blown up the bridge, and the fourth corps are still in
Leipsic.”

‘The next moment Napoleon was on his horse, surrounded by his staff, and
galloping furiously towards the river.

‘Never was a scene more awful than that which now presented itself
there. Hundreds of men had thrown themselves headlong into the rapid
river, where masses of burning timber were falling on every side; horse
and foot all mixed up in fearful confusion struggled madly in the
stream, mingling their cries with the shouts of those who came on from
behind, and who discovered for the first time that the retreat was cut
off. The Duke of Tarento crossed, holding by his horse’s mane. Lauriston
had nearly reached the bank, when he sank to rise no more; and
Poniatowski, the chivalrous Pole, the last hope of his nation, was seen
for an instant struggling with the waves, and then disappeared for ever.

‘Twenty thousand men, sixty great guns, and above two hundred waggons
were thus left in the power of the enemy. Few who sought refuge in
flight ever reached the opposite bank, and for miles down, the shores of
the Elster were marked by the bodies of French soldiers, who thus met
their death on that fearful night.

‘Among the disasters of this terrible retreat was the fate of Reynier,
of whom no tidings could be had; nor was it known whether he died in
battle, or fell a prisoner into the hands of the enemy. He was the
personal friend of the Emperor, who in his loss deplored not only the
brave and valorous soldier, but the steady adherent to his fortunes
through good and evil. No more striking evidence of the amount of this
misfortune can be had than the bulletin of Napoleon himself. That
document, usually devoted to the expression of vainglorious and
exaggerated descriptions of the triumphs of the army--full of those
high-flown narratives by which the glowing imagination of the Emperor
conveyed the deeds of his soldiers to the wondering ears of France--was
now a record of mournful depression and sad reverse of fortune.

‘“The French army,” said he, “continues its march on Erfurt--a beaten
army. After so many brilliant successes, it is now in retreat.”

‘Every one is already acquainted with the disastrous career of that
army, the greatest that ever marched from France. Each step of their
return, obstinately contested against overwhelming superiority of force,
however it might evidence the chivalrous spirit of a nation who would
not confess defeat, brought them only nearer to their own frontiers,
pursued by those whose countries they had violated, whose kings they had
dethroned, whose liberties they had trampled on. The fearful Nemesis of
war had come. The hour was arrived when all the wrongs they had wreaked
on others were to be tenfold inflicted on themselves; when the plains of
that “belle France,” of which they were so proud, were to be trampled
beneath the feet of insulting conquerors; when the Cossack and the Uhlan
were to bivouac in that capital which they so arrogantly styled “the
centre of European civilisation.”

‘I need not dwell on these things; I will but ask you to accompany me to
Erfurt, where the army arrived five days after. A court-martial was
there summoned for the trial of Colonel Montfort of the Engineers, and
the party under his command, who in violation of their orders had
prematurely blown up the bridge over the Elster, and were thus the cause
of that fearful disaster by which so many gallant lives were sacrificed,
and the honour of a French army so grievously tarnished. Contrary to the
ordinary custom, the proceedings of that court-martial were never made
known; * the tribunal sat with closed doors, accessible only to the
Emperor himself and the officers of his personal staff.


* The vicomte’s assertion is historically correct.

‘On the fourth day of the investigation, a messenger was despatched to
Braunach, a distant outpost of the army, to bring up General Aubuisson,
who, it was rumoured, was somehow implicated in the transaction. The
general took his place beside the other prisoners, in the full uniform
of his grade. He wore on his breast the cross the Emperor himself had
given him, and he carried at his side the sabre of honour he had
received on the battlefield of Eylau. Still, they who knew him well
remarked that his countenance no longer wore its frank and easy
expression, while in his eye there was a restless, anxious look, as he
glanced from side to side, and seemed troubled and suspicious.

‘An order, brought by one of the aides-de-camp of the Emperor, commanded
that the proceedings should not be opened that morning before his
Majesty’s arrival, and already the court had remained an hour inactive,
when Napoleon entered suddenly, and saluting the members of the tribunal
with a courteous bow, took his place at the head of the table. As he
passed up the hall he threw one glance upon the bench where the
prisoners sat; it was short and fleeting, but there was one there who
felt it in his inmost soul, and who in that rapid look read his own fate
for ever.

‘“General Aubuisson,” said the President of the court-martial, “you were
on duty with the peloton of your battalion on the evening of the 18th?”

‘A short nod of the head was the only reply. “It is alleged,” continued
the President, “that a little after nine o’clock you appeared on the
bridge over the Elster, and held a conversation with Colonel Montfort,
the officer commanding the post; the court now desires that you will
recapitulate the circumstances of that conversation, as well as inform
it generally on the reasons of your presenting yourself at a post so
remote from your duty.”

‘The general made no reply, but fixed his eyes steadfastly on the face
of the Emperor, whose cold glance met his own, impassive and unmoved.

‘“Have you heard the question of the court?” said the President, in a
louder tone, “or shall I repeat it?”

‘The prisoner turned upon him a look of vacancy. Like one suddenly
awakened from a frightful dream, he appeared struggling to remember
something which no effort of his mind could accomplish. He passed his
hand across his brow, on which now the big drops of sweat were standing,
and then there broke from him a sigh, so low and plaintive it was
scarcely audible.

‘“Collect yourself, general,” said the President, in a milder tone; “we
wish to hear from your own lips your account of this transaction.”

‘Aubuisson cast his eyes downwards, and with his hands firmly clasped,
seemed to reflect. As he stood thus, his look fell upon the cross of the
Legion which he wore on his bosom; with a sudden start he pressed his
hand upon it, and drawing himself up to his full height, exclaimed, in a
wild and broken voice--

‘“Silence--silence à la mort!”

‘The members of the court-martial looked from one to the other in
amazement, while after a pause of a few minutes the President repeated
his question, dwelling patiently on each word, as if desirous to suit
the troubled intellect of the prisoner.

‘“You are asked,” said he, “to remember why you appeared at the bridge
of the Elster.”

‘“Hush!” replied the prisoner, placing his finger upon his lips, as if
to instil caution; “not a word!”

‘“What can this mean?” said the President, “his mind appears completely
astray.”

‘The members of the tribunal leaned their heads over the table, and
conversed for some moments in a low tone, after which the President
resumed the interrogatory as before.

‘“Que voulez-vous?” said the Emperor, rising, while a crimson spot on
his cheek evinced his displeasure; “Que voulez-vous, messieurs! do you
not see the man is mad?”

‘“Silence!” reiterated Aubuisson, in the same solemn voice; “silence à
la mort!”

‘There could no longer be any doubt upon the question. From whatever
cause proceeding, his intellect was shaken, and his reason gone. Some
predominant impression, some all-powerful idea, had usurped the seat of
both judgment and memory, and he was a maniac.

‘In ten days after, General Aubuisson--the distinguished soldier of the
Republic, the _brave_ of Egypt, and the hero of many a battle in
Germany, Poland, and Russia--was a patient of Charenton. A sad and
melancholy figure, wasted and withered like a tree reft by lightning,
the wreck of his former self, he walked slowly to and fro; and though at
times his reason would seem to return free and unclouded, suddenly a
dark curtain would appear to drop over the light of his intellect, and
he would mutter the words, “Silence! silence à la mort!” and speak not
again for several hours after.’

The Vicomte de Berlemont, from whom I heard this sad story, was himself
a member of the court-martial on the occasion. For the rest, I visited
Paris about a fortnight after I heard it, and determining to solve my
doubts on a subject of such interest I paid an early visit to Charenton.
On examining the registry of the institution, I found the name of
‘Gustave Guillaume Aubuisson, native of Dijon, aged thirty-two. Admitted
at Charenton the 31st of October, 1813. Incurable.’ And on another page
was the single line, ‘Aubuisson escaped from Charenton, June 16, 1815.
Supposed to have been seen at Waterloo on the 18th.’

One more fact remains to be mentioned in this sad story. The old tower
still stands, bleak and desolate, on the mountains of the Vesdre; but it
is now uninhabited save by the sheep that seek shelter within its gloomy
walls, and herd in that spacious chimney. There is another change, too,
but so slight as scarcely to be noticed: a little mound of earth, grass-
grown and covered with thistles, marks the spot where ‘Lazare the
shepherd’ takes his last rest. It is a lone and dreary spot, and the
sighing night-winds as they move over the barren heath seem to utter his
last _consigne_, and his requiem--‘Silence! silence à la mort!’



CHAPTER XIX. THE TOP OF A DILIGENCE

‘Summa diligentia,’ as we used to translate it at school, ‘on the top of
the diligence,’ I wagged along towards the Rhine. A weary and a lonely
way it is; indeed, I half believe a frontier is ever thus--a kind of
natural barrier to ambition on either side, where both parties stop
short and say, ‘Well, there’s no temptation there, anyhow!’

Reader, hast ever travelled in the _banquette_ of a diligence? I will
not ask you, fair lady; for how could you ever mount to that Olympus of
trunks, carpet-bags, and hat-boxes; but my whiskered friend with the
cheroot yonder, what says he? Never look angry, man--there was no
offence in my question; better men than either of us have done it.

First, if the weather be fine, the view is a glorious thing; you are not
limited, like your friends in the _coupé_, to the sight of the
conductor’s gaiters, or the leather disc of the postillion’s
‘continuations.’ No; your eye ranges away at either side over those
undulating plains which the Continent presents, unbroken by fence or
hedgerow--one stretch of vast cornfields, great waving woods,
interminable tracts of yellowish pasture-land, with here and there a
village spire, or the pointed roof of some château rising above the
trees. A yellow-earthy byroad traverses the plain, on which a heavy
waggon plods along, the eight huge horses, stepping as free as though no
weight restrained them; their bells are tinkling in the clear air, and
the merry chant of the waggoner chimes in pleasantly with them. It is
somewhat hard to fancy how the land is ever tilled; you meet few
villages; scarcely a house is in sight--yet there are the fragrant
fields; the yellow gold of harvest tints the earth, and the industry of
man is seen on every side. It is peaceful, it is grand, too, from its
very extent; but it is not homelike. No; our own happy land alone
possesses that attribute. _It_ is the country of the hearth and home.
The traveller in France or Germany catches no glances as he goes of the
rural life of the proprietors of the soil. A pale white château,
seemingly uninhabited, stands in some formal lawn, where the hot sun
darts down his rays unbroken, and the very fountain seems to hiss with
heat. No signs of life are seen about; all is still and calm, as though
the moon were shedding her yellow lustre over the scene. Oh how I long
for the merry schoolboy’s laugh, the clatter of the pony’s canter, the
watch-dog’s bark, the squire breathing the morning air amid his woods,
that tell of England! How I fancy a peep into that large drawing-room,
whose windows open to the greensward, letting in a view of distant
mountains and far-receding foreground, through an atmosphere heavy with
the rose and the honeysuckle! Lovely as is the scene, with foliage
tinted in every hue, from the light sprayey hazel to the dull pine or
the dark copper beech--how I prefer to look within where _they_ are met
who call this ‘home!’ And what a paradise is such a home!----

But I must think no more of these things. I am a lone and solitary man;
my happiness is cast in a different mould, nor shall I mar it by
longings which never can be realised.

While I sat thus musing, my companion of the _banquette_, of whom I had
hitherto seen nothing but a blue-cloth cloak and a travelling-cap, came
‘slap down’ on me with a snort that choked him, and aroused me.

‘I ask your pardon, sir,’ said he in a voice that betrayed Middlesex
most culpably. ‘Je suis--that is, j’ai----’

‘Never mind, sir; English will answer every purpose,’ cried I. ‘You have
had a sound sleep of it.’

‘Yes, Heaven be praised! I get over a journey as well as most men. Where
are we now--do you happen to know?’

‘That old castle yonder, I suspect, is the Alten Burg,’ said I, taking
out my guidebook and directory. ‘The Alten Burg was built in the year
1384, by Carl Ludwig Graf von Löwenstein, and is not without its
historic associations-----’

‘Damn its historic associations!’ said my companion, with an energy that
made me start. ‘I wish the devil and his imps had carried away all such
trumpery, or kept them to torture people in their own hot climate, and
left us free here. I ask pardon, sir! I beseech you to forgive my
warmth; you would if you knew the cause, I’m certain.’

I began to suspect as much myself, and that my neighbour being insane,
was in no wise responsible for his opinions; when he resumed--

‘Most men are made miserable by present calamities; some feel
apprehensions for the future; but no one ever suffered so much from
either as I do from the past. No, sir,’ continued he, raising his voice,
‘I have been made unhappy from those sweet souvenirs of departed
greatness which guidebook people and tourists gloat over. The very
thought of antiquity makes me shudder; the name of Charlemagne gives me
the lumbago; and I’d run a mile from a conversation about Charles the
Bold or Philip van Artevelde. I see what’s passing in your mind; but you
‘re all wrong. I’m not deranged, not a bit of it; though, faith, I might
be, without any shame or disgrace.’

The caprices of men, of Englishmen in particular, had long ceased to
surprise me; each day disclosed some new eccentricity or other. In the
very last hotel I had left there was a Member of Parliament planning a
new route to the Rhine, avoiding Cologne, because in the coffee-room of
the ‘Grossen Rheinberg’ there was a double door that everybody banged
when he went in or out, and so discomposed the honourable and learned
gentleman that he was laid up for three weeks with a fit of gout,
brought on by pure passion at the inconvenience.

I had not long to wait for the explanation in this case. My companion
appeared to think he owed it to himself to ‘show cause’ why he was not
to be accounted a lunatic; and after giving me briefly to understand
that his means enabled him to retire from active pursuits and enjoy his
ease, he went on to recount that he had come abroad to pass the
remainder of his days in peace and tranquillity. But I shall let him
tell his own story in his own words.

‘On the eighth day after my arrival at Brussels, I told my wife to pack
up; for as Mr. Thysens the lawyer, who promised to write before that
time, had not done so, we had nothing to wait for. We had seen Waterloo,
visited the Musée, skated about in listed slippers through the Palais
d’Orange, dined at Dubos’s, ate ice at Velloni’s, bought half the old
lace in the Rue de la Madelaine, and almost caught an ague in the Allée
Verte. This was certainly pleasure enough for one week; so I ordered my
bill, and prepared “to evacuate Flanders.” Lord help us, what beings we
are! Had I gone down to the railroad by the Boulevards and not by the
Montagne de la Cour, what miseries might I not have been spared! Mr.
Thysens’s clerk met me, just as I emerged from the Place Royale, with a
letter in his hand. I took it, opened, and read:--

‘“Sir,--I have just completed the purchase of the beautiful Château of
Vanderstradentendonk, with all its gardens, orchards, pheasantries,
piscinae, prairies, and forest rights, which are now your property.
Accept my most respectful congratulations upon your acquisition of this
magnificent seat of ancient grandeur, rendered doubly precious by its
having been once the favourite residence and château of the great Van
Dyck.”

‘Here followed a long encomium upon Rubens and his school, which I did
not half relish, knowing it was charged to me in my account; the whole
winding up with a pressing recommendation to hasten down at once to take
possession, and enjoy the partridge shooting, then in great abundance.

‘My wife was in ecstasy to be the Frow Vanderstradentendonk, with a
fish-pond before the door, and twelve gods and goddesses in lead around
it. To have a brace of asthmatic peacocks on a terrace, and a dropsical
swan on an island, were strong fascinations--not to speak of the
straight avenues leading nowhere, and the winds of heaven blowing
everywhere; a house with a hundred and thirty windows and half as many
doors, none of which would shut close; a garden, with no fruit but crab-
apples; and a nursery, so called, because the playground of all the
brats for a league round us. No matter, I had resolved to live abroad
for a year or two, and one place would do just as well as another; at
least, I should have quietness--that was something; there was no
neighbourhood, no town, no highroad, no excuse for travelling
acquaintances to drop in, or rambling tourists to bore one with letters
of introduction. Thank God! there was neither a battlefield, a
cathedral, a picture, nor a great living poet for ten miles on any side.

‘Here, thought I, I shall have that peace Piccadilly cannot give.
Cincinnatus-like, I’ll plant my cabbages, feed my turkeys, let my beard
grow, and nurse my rental. Solitude never bored me; I could bear
anything but intrusive impertinence. So far did I carry this feeling,
that on reading Robinson Crusoe I laid down the volume in disgust on the
introduction of his man Friday!

‘It mattered little, therefore, that the _couleur de rose_ picture the
lawyer had drawn of the château had little existence out of his own
florid imagination; the quaint old building, with its worn tapestries
and faded furniture, suited the habit of my soul, and I hugged myself
often in the pleasant reflection that my London acquaintances would be
puzzling their brains for my whereabouts, without the slightest clue to
my detection. Now, had I settled in Florence, Frankfort, or Geneva, what
a life I must have led! There is always some dear Mrs. Somebody going to
live in your neighbourhood, who begs you ‘ll look out for a house for
her--something very eligible; eighteen rooms well furnished; a southern
aspect; in the best quarter; a garden indispensable; and all for some
forty pounds a year--or some other dear friend who desires you ‘ll find
a governess, with more accomplishments than Malibran and more learning
than Porson, with the temper of five angels, and a “vow in heaven” to
have no higher salary than a college bed-maker. Then there are the
Thompsons passing through, whom you have taken care never to know
before; but who fall upon you now as strangers in a foreign land, and
take the “benefit” of the “Alien Act” in dinners at your house during
their stay. I stop not to enumerate the crying wants of the more lately
arrived resident, all of which are refreshed for your benefit; the
recommendations to butlers who don’t cheat, to moral music-masters,
grave dancing-masters, and doctors who never take fees--every infraction
by each of these individuals in his peculiar calling being set down as a
just cause of complaint against yourself, requiring an animated
correspondence in writing, and concluding with an abject apology and a
promise to cut the delinquent that day, though you owe him a half-year’s
bill. These are all pleasant; not to speak of the curse of disjointed
society, ill-assorted, ill-conceived, unreasonable pretension, vulgar
impertinence, and fawning toadyism on every side, and not one man to be
found to join you in laughing at the whole thing, which would amply
repay one for any endurance. No, thought I, I ‘ve had enough of this! I
‘ll try my barque in quieter waters, and though it’s only a punt, yet
I’ll hold the sculls myself, and that’s something.

‘So much for the self-gratulation I indulged in, as the old _chaise de
poste_ rattled over the heavy pavement, and drew up short at the portico
of my future dwelling. My wife was charmed with the procession of
villagers who awaited us on the steps, and (although an uglier
population never trod their mother earth in wooden slippers) fancied she
could detect several faces of great beauty and much interest in the
crowd. For my part, I saw nothing but an indiscriminate haze of cotton
nightcaps, striped jackets, blouses, black petticoats and sabots; so,
pushing my way through them, I left the bassoon and the burgomaster to
the united delights of their music and eloquence, and shutting the hall
door threw myself on a seat, and thanked Heaven that my period of peace
and tranquillity was at length to begin.

‘Peace and tranquillity! What airy visions! Had I selected the post of
cad to an omnibus, a steward to a Greenwich steamer, were I a guide to
the Monument or a waiter at Long’s my life had been one of dignified
repose in comparison with my present existence.

‘I had not been a week in the château when a travelling Englishman
sprained his ankle within a short distance of the house. As a matter of
course he was brought there, and taken every care of for the few days of
his stay. He was fed, housed, leeched, and stuped, and when at length he
proceeded upon his journey was profuse in his acknowledgments for the
services rendered him; and yet what was the base return of the
ungrateful man? I have scarcely temper to record it. During the very
moment when we were most lavish in our attention to him, he was sapping
the very peace of his benefactors. He learned from the Flemish servants
of the house that it had formerly been the favourite residence of Van
Dyck; that the very furniture was unchanged since his time; the bed, the
table, the chair he had sat on were all preserved. The wretch--am I not
warranted in calling him so?--made notes of all this; before I had been
three weeks in my abode, out came a _Walk in Flanders_, in two volumes,
with a whole chapter about me, headed “Château de Van Dyck.” There we
were, myself and my wife, in every window of the Row: Longman, Hurst,
Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, and Blue, had bought us at a price, and paid
for us; there we were--we, who courted solitude and retirement--to be
read of by every puppy in the West End, and every apprentice in
Cheapside. Our hospitality was lauded, as if I kept open house for all
comers, with “hot chops and brown gravy” at a moment’s notice. The
antiquary was bribed to visit me by the fascinations of a spot “sacred
to the reveries of genius”; the sportsman, by the account of my
“preserves”; the idler, to say he had been there; and the guide-
bookmaker and historical biographer, to vamp up details for a new
edition of _Belgium as it was_, or _Van Dyck and his Contemporaries_.

‘From the hour of the publication of that horrid book I never enjoyed a
moment’s peace or ease. The whole tide of my travelling countrymen--and
what a flood it is!--came pouring into Ghent. Post-horses could not be
found sufficient for half the demand; the hotels were crowded;
respectable peasants gave up their daily employ to become guides to the
château; and little busts of Van Dyck were hawked about the
neighbourhood by children of four years old. The great cathedral of
Ghent, Van Scamp’s pictures, all the historic remains of that ancient
city were at a discount; and they who formerly exhibited them as a
livelihood were now thrown out of bread. Like the dancing-master who has
not gone up to Paris for the last pirouette, or the physician who has
not taken up the stethoscope, they were reputed old-fashioned and
_passé_; and if they could not describe the Château de Van Dyck, were
voted among the bygones.

‘The impulse once given, there was no stopping; the current was
irresistible. The double lock on the gate of the avenue, the bulldog at
the hall door, the closed shutters, the cut-away bell-rope, announced a
firm resolution in the fortress not to surrender; but we were taken by
assault, escaladed, and starved out in turns.

‘Scarcely was the tea-urn on the breakfast-table when they began to pour
in--old and young, the halt, the one-eyed, the fat, the thin, the
melancholy, the merry, the dissipated, the dyspeptic, the sentimental,
the jocose, the blunt, the ceremonious, the courtly, the rude, the
critical, and the free and easy. One came forty miles out of his way,
and pronounced the whole thing an imposition, and myself a humbug;
another insisted upon my getting up at dinner, that he might sit down in
my chair, characterised by the confounded guides as “le fauteuil de Van
Dyck”; a third went so far as to propose lying down in our great four-
post bed, just to say he had been there, though my wife was then in it.
I speak not of the miserable practice of cutting slices off all the
furniture as relics. John Murray took an inventory of the whole contents
of the house for a new edition of his guidebook; and Holman, the blind
traveller, _felt_ me all over with his hand as I sat at tea with my
wife; and last of all, a respectable cheesemonger from the Strand, after
inspecting the entire building from the attics to the cellar, pressed
sixpence into my hand at parting, and said, “Happy to see you, Mr. Van
Dyck, if you come into the city!”

‘Then the advice and counsel I met with, oral and written, would fill a
volume, and did; for I was compelled to keep an album in the hall for
the visitors’ names. One suggested that my desecration of the temple of
genius would be less disgusting if I dined in my kitchen, and left the
ancient dining-room as the great artist had left it. Another hinted that
my presence in my own house destroyed all the illusion of its historic
associations. A third, a young lady--to judge by the writing--proposed
my wearing a point-beard and lace ruffles, with trunk hose and a feather
in my hat, probably to favour the “illusion” so urgently mentioned by
the other writer, and, perhaps, to indulge visitors like my friend the
cheesemonger. Many pitied me--well might they!--as one insensible to the
associations of the spot; while my very servants, regarding me only as a
show part of the establishment, neglected their duties on every side,
and betook themselves to ciceroneship, each allocating his peculiar
territory to himself, like the people who show the lions and the armour
in the Tower.

‘No weather was either too hot or too cold, too sultry or too
boisterous; no hour too late or too early; no day was sacred. If the
family were at prayers or at dinner or at breakfast or in bed, it
mattered not; they had come many miles to see the chateau, and see it
they would. “Alas!” thought I, “if, as some learned persons suppose,
individuals be recognisable in the next world, what a melancholy time of
it will be yours, poor Van Dyck! If they make all this hubbub about the
house you lived in, what will they do about your fleshy tabernacle?”

‘As the season advanced, the crowds increased; and as autumn began, the
conflicting currents to and from the Rhine all met in my bedroom. There
took place all the rendezvous of Europe. Runaway daughters there first
repented in papa’s arms, and profligate sons promised amendment for the
future. Myself and my wife were passed by unnoticed and disregarded amid
this tumult of recognition and salutation. We were emaciated like
skeletons; our meals we ate when we could, like soldiers on a retreat;
and we slept in our clothes, not knowing at what moment the enemy might
be upon us. Locks, bolts, and bars were ineffectual; our resistance only
increased curiosity, and our garrison was ever open to bribery.

‘It was to no purpose that I broke the windows to let in the north wind
and acute rheumatism; to little good did I try an alarm of fire every
day about two, when the house was fullest; and I failed signally in
terrifying my torturers when I painted the gardener’s wife sky-blue, and
had her placed in the hall, with a large label over the bed, “collapsed
cholera.” Bless your heart! the tourist cares for none of these; and I
often think it would have saved English powder and shot to have exported
half a dozen of them to the East for the siege of Seringapatam. Had they
been only told of an old picture, a teapot, a hearth-brush, or a
candlestick that once belonged to Godfrey de Bouillon or Peter the
Hermit, they would have stormed it under all the fire of Egypt! Well,
it’s all over at last; human patience could endure no longer. We escaped
by night, got away by stealth to Ghent, took post-horses in a feigned
name, and fled from the Château de Van Dyck as from the plague.
Determined no longer to trust to chances, I have built a cottage myself,
which has no historic associations further back than six weeks ago; and
fearful even of being known as the _ci-devant_ possessor of the château,
I never confess to have been in Ghent in my life; and if Van Dyck be
mentioned, I ask if he is not the postmaster at Tervueren.

‘Here, then, I conclude my miseries. I cannot tell what may be the
pleasure that awaits the _live_ “lion,” but I envy no man the delights
that fall to his lot who inhabits the den of the _dead_ one.’



CHAPTER XX. BONN AND STUDENT LIFE

When I look at the heading of this chapter, and read there the name of a
little town upon the Rhine--which, doubtless, the majority of my readers
has visited--and reflect on how worn the track, how beaten the path I
have been guiding them on so long, I really begin to feel somewhat
faint-hearted. Have we not all seen Brussels and Antwerp, Waterloo and
Quatre Bras? Are we not acquainted with Belgium, as well as we are with
Middlesex; don’t we know the whole country, from its cathedrals down to
Sergeant Cotton?--and what do we want with Mr. O’Leary here? And the
Rhine--bless the dear man!--have we not steamed it up and down in every
dampschiffe of the rival companies? The Drachenfels and St. Goar, the
Caub and Bingen, are familiar to our eyes as Chelsea and Tilbury Fort.
True, all true, mesdames and messieurs--I have been your fellow-
traveller myself. I have watched you pattering along, John Murray in
hand, through every narrow street and ill-paved square, conversing with
your commissionaire in such French as it pleased God, and receiving his
replies in equivalent English. I have seen you at table d’hôte, vainly
in search of what you deemed eatable--hungry and thirsty in the midst of
plenty; I have beheld you yawning at the opera, and grave at the
Vaudeville; and I knew you were making your summer excursion of
pleasure, ‘doing your Belgium and Germany,’ like men who would not be
behind their neighbours. And still, with all this fatigue of sea and
land, this rough-riding and railroading, this penance of short bed and
shorter board, though you studied your handbook from the Scheldt to
Schaffhausen, you came back with little more knowledge of the Continent
than when you left home. It is true, your son Thomas--that lamblike
scion of your stock, with light eyes and hair--has been initiated into
the mysteries of _rouge et noir_ and _roulette_; madame, your wife, has
obtained a more extravagant sense of what is becoming in costume; your
daughter has had her mind opened to the fascinations of a French
_escroc_ or a ‘refugee Pole’; and you, yourself, somewhat the worse for
your change of habits, have found the salads of Germany imparting a
tinge of acidity to your disposition. These are, doubtless, valuable
imports to bring back--not the less so, that they are duty free. Yet,
after all, ‘joy’s recollection is no longer joy’; and I doubt if the
retrospect of your wanderings be a repayment for their fatigues.

‘Would he have us stay at home, Pa?’ lisps out, in pouting accents of
impatience, some fair damsel, whose ringlets alone would make a furore
at Paris.

Nothing of the kind, my dear. Travel by all means. There’s nothing will
improve your French accent like a winter abroad; and as to your carriage
and air, it is all-essential you should be pressed in the waltz by some
dark-moustached Hungarian or tight-laced Austrian. Your German will fall
all the more trippingly off your tongue that you have studied it in the
land of beer and beetroot; while, as a safeguard against those
distressing sensations of which shame and modesty are the parents, the
air of the Rhine is sovereign, and its watering-places an unerring
remedy. All I bargain for is, to be of the party. Let there be a corner
in a portmanteau, or an imperial, a carriage-pocket, or a courier’s sack
for me, and I’m content. If ‘John’ be your guide, let Arthur be your
mentor. He’ll tell you of the roads; I, of the travellers.

To him belong pictures and statues, churches, châteaux, and curiosities;
_my_ province is the people--the living actors of the scene, the
characters who walk the stage in prominent parts, and without some
knowledge of whom your ramble would lose its interest. Occasionally, it
is true, they may not be the best of company. Que voulez-vous? ‘If ever
you travel, you mustn’t feel queer,’ as Mathews said or sung--I forget
which. I shall only do my endeavour to deal more with faults than vices,
more with foibles than failings. The eccentricities of my fellow-men are
more my game than their crimes; and therefore do not fear that in my
company I shall teach you bad habits, nor introduce you to low
acquaintances; and above all, no disparagement--and it is with that
thought I set out--no disparagement of me that I take you over a much-
travelled track. If it be so, there’s the more reason you should know
the company whom you are in the habit of visiting frequently; and
secondly, if you accompany me here, I promise you better hereafter; and
lastly, one of the pleasantest books that ever was written was the
_Voyage autour de ma Chambre_. Come, then, is it agreed--are we fellow-
travellers? You might do worse than take me. I’ll neither eat you up,
like your English footmen, nor sell you to the landlord, like your
German courier, nor give you over to brigands, like your Italian valet.
It’s a bargain, then; and here we are at Bonn.

It is one o’clock, and you can’t do better than sit down to the table
d’hôte: call it breakfast, if your prejudices run high, and take your
place. I have supposed you at ‘Die Sterne’ (The Star), in the little
square of the town; and, certes, you might be less comfortably housed.
The cuisine is excellent, both French and German, and the wines
delicious. The company at first blush might induce you to step back,
under the impression that you had mistaken the salon, and accidentally
fallen upon a military mess. They are nearly all officers of the cavalry
regiments garrisoned at Bonn, well-looking and well-dressed fellows,
stout, bronzed, and soldierlike, and wearing their moustaches like men
who felt hair on the upper lip to be a birthright. If a little too noisy
and uproarious at table, it proceeds not from any quarrelsome spirit:
the fault, in a great measure, lies with the language. German, except
spoken by a Saxon madchen, invariably suggests the idea of a row to an
uninterested bystander; and if Goethe himself were to recite his ballads
before an English audience, I’d venture long odds they’d accuse him of
blasphemy. Welsh and Irish are soft zephyrs compared to it.

A stray Herr Baron or two, large, portly, responsible-looking men, with
cordons at their button-holes, and pipe-sticks projecting from their
breast-pockets, and a sprinkling of students of the higher class--it is
too dear for the others--make up the party. Of course, there are
English; but my present business is not with them.

By the time you have arrived at the ‘Rae-braten, with capers’--which on
a fair average, taken in the months of spring and summer, may be after
about an hour and a half’s diligent performance--you’ll have more time
to survey the party, who by this time are clinking their glasses, and
drinking hospitably to one another in champagne; for there is always
some newly returned comrade to be feted, or a colonel’s birthday or a
battle, a poet or some sentimentalism about the Rhine or the Fatherland,
to be celebrated. Happy, joyous spirits, removed equally from the
contemplation of vast wealth or ignominious poverty! The equality so
much talked of in France is really felt in Germany; and however the
exclusives of Berlin and Vienna, or the still more exalted coteries of
Baden or Darmstadt, rave of the fourteen quarterings which give the
_entrée_ to their salons, the nation has no sympathy with these follies.
The unaffected, simple-minded, primitive German has no thought of
assuming an air of distance to one his inferior in rank; and I have
myself seen a sovereign prince take his place at table d’hôte beside the
landlord, and hobnob with him cordially during dinner.

I do not mean to say that the German has no respect for rank; on the
contrary, none more than he looks up to aristocracy, and reveres its
privileges; but he does so from its association with the greatness of
the Fatherland. The great names of his nobles recall those of the heroes
and sages of whom the traditions of the country bear record; they are
the watchwords of German liberty or German glory; they are the monuments
of which he feels proudest. His reverence for their descendants is not
tinged with any vulgar desire to be thought their equal or their
associate; far from it, he has no such yearnings. His own position could
never be affected by anything in theirs. The skipper of the fishing-
craft might join convoy with the great fleet, but he knows that he only
commands a shallop after all.

This, be it remarked, is a very different feeling from what we
occasionally see nearer home. I have seen a good deal of student-life in
Germany, and never witnessed anything approaching that process so
significantly termed ‘tuft-hunting’ with us. Perhaps it may be alleged
in answer that rank and riches, so generally allied in this country, are
not so there; and that consequently much of what the world deems the
prestige of condition is wanting to create that respect. Doubtless this
is, to a certain extent, true; but I have seen the descendants of the
most distinguished houses in Germany mixing with the students of a very
humble walk on terms the most agreeable and familiar, assuming nothing
themselves, and certainly receiving no marks of peculiar favour or
deference from their companions. When one knows something of German
character, this does not surprise one. As a people, highly imaginative
and poetic in temperament, dreamy and contemplative, falling back rather
on the past than facing the future, they are infinitely more assailable
by souvenirs than promises; and in this wise the ancient fame of a
Hohenstauffen has a far firmer hold on the attachment of a Prussian than
the hopes he may conceive from his successor. It was by recalling to the
German youth the former glories of the Fatherland, that the beautiful
queen of that country revived the drooping spirit of the nation. It was
over the tomb of the Great Frederick that the monarch swore to his
alliance with Alexander against the invading legions of France. The
songs of Uhland and Goethe, the lyrics of Burger and Korner, have their
source and spirit in the heartfelt patriotism of the people. The great
features of the land, and the more striking traits of national
character, are inextricably woven in their writings, as if allied to
each other; and the Rhine and the male energy of German blood, their
native mountains and their native virtues, are made to reciprocate with
one another; and thus the eternal landmarks of Germany are consecrated
as the altars of its faithfulness and its truth.

The students are a means of perpetuating these notions. The young German
is essentially romantic. A poet and a patriot, his dreams are of the
greatness of his Fatherland, of its high mission among the nations of
Europe; and however he may exaggerate the claims of his country or
overrate his own efforts in her cause, his devotion is a noble one; and
when sobered down by experience and years, it gives to Germany that race
of faithful and high-souled people, the best guardians of her liberty
and the most attached defenders of her soil.

A great deal of _mauvaise plaisanterie_ has been expended by French and
English authors on the subject of the German student. The theme was
perhaps an inviting one. Certainly nothing was easier than to ridicule
absurdities in their manner and extravagances in their costume--their
long pipes and their long beards, their long skirts and long boots and
long sabres, their love of beer and their law-code of honour. Russell,
in his little work on Germany--in many respects the only English book
worth reading on that country--has been most unjustly severe upon them.
As to French authors, one never expects truth from _them_, except it
slip out unconsciously in a work of fiction. Still, they have displayed
a more than common spirit of detraction when speaking of the German
student. The truth is, they cannot forget the part these same truths
performed in repelling the French invasion of their country. The spirit
evoked by Kôrner, and responded to from the Hartz to the Black Forest,
was the death-note to the dominant tyranny of France. The patriotism
which in the Basque provinces called into existence the wild Guerillas,
and in the Tyrol created the Jager-bund, in more cultivated Germany
elicited that race of poets and warriors whose war-songs aroused the
nation from its sleep of slavery, and called them to avenge the injuries
of their nation.

Laugh, then, if you will, at the strange figures whose uncouth costumes
of cap and jack-boot bespeak them a hybrid between a civilian and a
soldier. The exterior is, after all, no bad type of what lies within;
its contradictions are indeed scarcely as great. The spectacles and
moustaches, the note-book beneath the arm and the sabre at the side, the
ink-bottle at the button-hole and the spurs jingling at the heels, are
all the outward signs of that extraordinary mixture of patient industry
and hot-headed enthusiasm, of deep thought and impetuous rashness, of
matter-of-fact shrewdness and poetic fervour, and, lastly, of the most
forgiving temper allied to an unconquerable propensity for duelling.
Laugh if you will at him, but he is a fine fellow for all that; and
despite all the contrarieties of his nature he has the seed of those
virtues which in the peaceful life of his native country grow up into
the ripe fruits of manly truth and honesty.

I wish you then to think well of the Bursche, and forgive the
eccentricities into which a college life and a most absurd doctrine of
its ordinances will now and then lead him. That wild-looking youth, for
all that he has a sabre-wound across his cheek, and wears his neck bare
like a Malay, despite his savage moustache and his lowering look, has a
soft heart, though it beats behind that mass of nonsensical braiding. He
could recite you for hours long the ballads of Schiller and the lyrics
of Uhland; ah! and sing for you, too, with no mean skill, the music of
Spohr and Weber, accompanying himself the while on the piano, with a
touch that would make your heart thrill. And I am not sure that even in
his wildest moments of enthusiastic folly he is not nearly as much an
object of hope to his country as though he were making a book on the
Derby, or studying ‘the odds’ among the ‘legs’ at Tattersall’s.

Above all things, I would beg of you not to be too hasty in judging him.
Put not much trust in half what English writers lay to his charge;
believe not one syllable of any Frenchman on the subject--no, not even
that estimable Alexandre Dumas, who represents the ‘Student’ as
demanding alms on the highroad--thus confounding him with the Lehr-
Junker (the travelling apprentice), who by the laws of Germany is
obliged to spend two years in wandering through different countries
before he is permitted to reside permanently in his own. The blunder
would have been too gross for anything but a Frenchman and a Parisian;
but the Rue St. Denis covers a multitude of mistakes, and the Boulevard
de Montmartre is a dispensation to all truth. Howitt, if you can read a
heavy book, will tell you nearly everything a _book_ can tell; but
setting a Quaker to describe Burschen life, was pretty much like sending
a Hindu to report at a county meeting.

Now, all this time we have been wandering from Bonn and its gardens,
sloping down into the very Rhine, and its beautiful park, the former
pleasure-ground of that palace which now forms the building of the
University. There are few sweeter spots than this. You have escaped from
the long, low swamps of Holland, you have left behind you the land of
marsh and fog, and already the mountainous region of Germany breaks on
the view; the Sieben Gebirge are in sight, and the bold Drachenfels,
with its ruined tower on its summit, is an earnest of the glorious
scenery to come. The river itself looks brighter and fresher; its eddies
seem to sparkle with a lustre they know not when circling along the
swampy shores of Nimmegen.

Besides, there is really something in a name, and the sound of
Deutschland is pleasanter than that of the country of ‘dull fogs and
dank ditches’; and although I would not have you salute it, like
Voltaire--


‘Adieu, canaille--canards, canaux!’

still, be thankful for being where you are, take your coffee, and let us
have a ramble through the Park.

Alas! the autumn is running into the winter; each breeze that sighs
along the ground is the dirge over the dead leaves that lie strewn
around us. The bare branches throw their gaunt arms to and fro as the
cold grey clouds flit past; the student, too, has donned his fur-lined
mantle, and strides along, with cap bent down, and hurried step. But a
few weeks since, and these alleys were crowded with gay and smiling
groups, lingering beneath the shadow of tall trees, and listening to the
Jager band that played in yonder pavilion. The grey-haired professor
moved slowly along, uncovering his venerable head as some student
passed, and respectfully saluting him; and there too walked his fair
daughters, the ‘frauleins with the yellow hair.’ How calmly sweet their
full blue eyes! what gentleness is written in their quiet gait! Yet,
see! as each bar of the distant waltz is heard beating on the ear, how
their footsteps keep time and mark the measure! Alas! the summer hours
have fled, and with them those calm nights when by the flickering moon
the pathways echoed to the steps of lingering feet now homeward turning.

I never can visit a University town in Germany without a sigh after the
time when I was myself a Bursche, read myself to sleep each night with
Ludwig Tieck, and sported two broadswords crosswise above my chimney.

I was a student at Göttingen, the Georgia Augusta; and in the days I
speak of--I know not well what King Ernest has done since--it was rather
a proud thing to be ein Göttinger Bursche. There was considered
something of style to appertain to it above the other Universities; and
we looked down upon a Heidelberger or a Halle man as only something
above a ‘Philister.’ The professors had given a great celebrity to the
University too. There was Stromeyer in chemistry, and Hausman in
philology; Behr in Greek, Shrader in botany; and, greater than all, old
Blumenbach himself, lecturing four days each week on everything he could
think of--natural philosophy, physics, geography, anatomy, physiology,
optics, colours, metallurgy, magnetism, and the whale-fishery in the
South Seas--making the most abstruse and grave subjects interesting by
the charm of his manner, and elevating trivial topics into consequence
by their connection with weightier matters. He was the only lecturer I
ever heard of who concluded his hour to the regret of his hearers, and
left them longing for the continuation. Anecdote and illustration fell
from him with a profusion almost inconceivable and perfectly miraculous,
when it is borne in mind that he rarely was known to repeat himself in a
figure, and more rarely still in a story; and when he had detected
himself in this latter he would suddenly stop short, with an ‘Ach Gott,
I’m growing old,’ and immediately turn into another channel, and by some
new and unheard-of history extricate himself from his difficulty. With
all the learning of a Buffon and a Cuvier, he was simple and unaffected
as a child. His little receptions in the summer months were in his
garden. I have him before me this minute, seated under the wide-
spreading linden-tree, with his little table before him, holding his
coffee and a few books--his long hair, white as snow, escaping beneath
his round cap of dark-green velvet, falling loosely on his shoulders,
and his large grey eyes, now widely opened with astonishment at some
piece of intelligence a boy would have heard without amazement, then
twinkling with sly humour at the droll thoughts passing through his
mind; while around him sat his brother professors and their families,
chatting pleasantly over the little news of their peaceful community --
the good vraus knitting and listening, and the frauleins demurely
sitting by, wearing a look of mock attention to some learned
dissertation, and ever and anon stealing a sly glance at the handsome
youth who was honoured by an invitation to the soirée.

How charming, too, to hear them speak of the great men of the land as
their old friends and college companions! It was not the author of
_Wallenstein_ and _Don Carlos_, but Frederick Schiller, the student of
medicine, as they knew him in his boyhood--bold, ardent, and ambitious;
toiling along a path he loved not, and feeling within him the working of
that great genius which one day was to make him the pride of his
Fatherland; and Wieland, strange and eccentric, old in his youth, with
the innocence of a child and the wisdom of a sage; and Hoffman, the
victim of his gloomy imagination, whose spectral shapes and dark
warnings were not the forced efforts of his brain, but the companions of
his wanderings, the beings of his sleep. How did they jest with him on
his half-crazed notions, and laugh at his eccentricities! It was strange
to hear them tell of going home with Hummel, then a mere boy, and how,
as the evening closed in, he sat down to the pianoforte, and played and
sang, and played again for hours long, now exciting their wonder by
passages of brilliant and glittering effect, now knocking at their
hearts by tones of plaintive beauty. There was a little melody he played
the night they spoke of--some short and touching ballad, the inspiration
of the moment--made on the approaching departure of some one amongst
them, which many years after in _Fidelio_ called down thunders of
applause; mayhap the tribute of his first audience was a sweeter homage
after all.

While thus they chatted on, the great world without and all its mighty
interests seemed forgotten by them. France might have taken another
choleric fit, and been in march upon the Rhine; England might have once
more covered the ocean with her fleets, and scattered to the waves the
wreck of another Trafalgar; Russia might be pouring down her hordes from
the Don and Dnieper--little chance had they of knowing aught of these
things! The orchards that surrounded the ramparts shut out the rest of
Europe, and they lived as remote from all the collisions of politics and
the strife of nations as though the University had been in another
planet.

I must not forget the old Hofrath Froriep, Ordentliche-Professor von--
Heaven knows what! No one ever saw his collegium (lecture-room); no one
ever heard him lecture. He had been a special tutor to the Princes--as
the Dukes of Cumberland and Cambridge were then called--about forty
years ago, and he seemed to live upon the memory of those great days
when a Royal Highness took notes beside his chair, and when he addressed
his class as ‘Princes and Gentlemen!’ What pride he felt in his clasp of
the Guelph, and an autograph letter of the Herzog von Clarence, who once
paid him a visit at his house in Gottingen! It was a strange thing to
hear the royal family of England spoken thus of among foreigners, who
neither knew our land nor its language. One was suddenly recalled to the
recollection of that Saxon stock from which our common ancestry
proceeded--the bond of union between us, and the source from which so
many of the best traits of English character take their origin. The love
of truth, the manly independence, the habits of patient industry which
we derived from our German blood are not inferior to the enterprising
spirit and the chivalrous daring of Norman origin.

But to return to the Hofrath, or Privy Councillor Froriep, for so was he
most rigidly styled. I remember him so well as he used to come slowly
down the garden-walk, leaning on his sister’s arm. He was the junior by
some years, but no one could have made the discovery now; the thing
rested on tradition, however, and was not disputed. The Fräulein Martha
von Froriep was the daguerreotype of her brother. To see them sitting
opposite each other was actually ludicrous; not only were the features
alike, but the expressions tallied so completely that it was as if one
face reflected the other. Did the professor look grave, the Fräulein
Martha’s face was serious; did he laugh, straightway her features took a
merry cast; if his coffee was too hot, or did he burn his fingers with
his pipe, the old lady’s sympathies were with him still. The Siamese
twins were on terms of distant acquaintanceship, compared with the
instinctive relation these two bore each other.

How was it possible, you will ask, that such an eternal similarity
should have marked their dispositions? The answer is an easy one. The
fräulein was deaf, perfectly destitute of hearing. The last recorded act
of her auditory nerves was on the occasion of some public rejoicing,
when twenty-four large guns were discharged in a few seconds of time,
and by the reverberation broke every window in Göttingen; the old lady,
who was knitting at the time, merely stopped her work and called out
‘Come in!’ thinking it was a tap at the room door. To her malady, then,
was it owing that she so perfectly resembled the professor, her brother.
She watched him with an anxious eye; his face was the dial that
regulated every hour of her existence; and as the telegraph repeats the
signal that is made to it, yet knows not the interpretation of the sign,
so did she signalise the passing emotions of his mind long perhaps after
her own could take interest in the cause.

Nothing had a stranger effect, however, than to listen to the
professor’s conversation, to which the assent of the deaf old lady
chimed in at short and regular intervals. For years long she had been in
the habit of corroborating everything he said, and continued the
practice now from habit; it was like a clock that struck the hour when
all its machinery had run down. And so, whether the Hofrath descanted on
some learned question of Greek particles, some much-disputed fact of
ancient history, or, as was more often the case, narrated with German
broadness some little anecdote of his student life, the old lady’s ‘Ja,
ja, den sah ich selbst; da war ich auch!’ (Yes, yes, I saw it myself; I
was there, too!) bore testimony to the truth of Tacitus or Herodotus,
or, more remarkable still, to these little traits of her brother’s
youthful existence, which, to say the least, were as well
uncorroborated.

The Hofrath had passed his life as a bachelor--a circumstance which
could not fail to surprise, for his stories were generally of his love
adventures and perils; and all teemed with dissertations on the great
susceptibility of his heart, and his devoted admiration of female
beauty--weaknesses of which it was plain he felt vain, and loved to hear
authenticated by his old associates. In this respect Blumenbach indulged
him perfectly--now recalling to his memory some tender scene, or some
afflicting separation, which invariably drew him into a story.

If these little reminiscences possessed not all the point and interest
of more adventurous histories, to me at least they were more amusing by
the force of truth, and by the singular look, voice, and manner of him
who related them. Imagine, then, a meagre old man, about five feet two,
whose head was a wedge with the thin side foremost, the nose standing
abruptly out, like the cut-water of a man-o’-war gig; a large mouth,
forming a bold semicircle, with the convexity downwards, the angles of
which were lost in a mass of wrinkles on his withered cheeks; two
fierce-looking, fiery, little grey eyes set slantwise in his head
without a vestige of eyelash over them. His hair combed back with great
precision, and tied behind into a queue, had from long pulling gradually
drawn the eyebrows upwards to double their natural height, where they
remained fixed, giving to this uncouth face an expression of everlasting
surprise--in fact, he appeared as if he were perpetually beholding the
ghost of somebody. His voice was a strange, unnatural, clattering sound,
as though the machinery of speech had been left a long while without
oiling, and could not work flippantly; but to be sure, the language was
German, and that may excuse much.

Such was the Herr Hofrath Froriep--once, if you were to believe himself,
a lady-killer of the first water. Indeed, still, when he stretched forth
his thin and twisted shanks attired in satin shorts and black silk
stockings, a gleam of conscious pride would light up his features, and
he would seem to say to himself, ‘These legs might do some mischief
yet.’ Caroline Pichler, the novelist, had been one of his loves, and, if
you believed himself, a victim to his fascinations. However, another
version of the tale had obtained currency, and was frequently alluded to
by his companions at those moments when a more boastful spirit than they
deemed suitable animated his discourse; and at such times I remarked
that the Hofrath became unusually sensitive, and anxious to change the
subject.

It was one evening, when we sat somewhat later than our wont in the
garden, tempted by the delicious fragrance of the flowers and the mild
light of a new moon, that at last the Hofrath’s madchen made her
appearance, lantern in hand, to conduct him home. She carried on her arm
a mass of cloaks, shawls, and envelopes that would have clothed a
procession, with which she proceeded leisurely and artistically to dress
up the professor and his sister, until the impression came over the
bystanders that none but she who hid them in that mountain of wearables
would ever be able to discover them again.

‘Ach Gott,’ exclaimed the Hofrath, as she crowned him with a quilted
nightcap, whose jaws descended and fastened beneath the chin like an
antique helmet, leaving the miserable old face, like an uncouth pattern,
in the middle of the Berlin embroidery--‘Ach Gott, but for that!’

‘But for that!’ reiterated old Hausman, in a solemn tone, as if he knew
the secret grief his friend alluded to, and gave him all his sympathy.

‘Sit down again, Froriep,’ said Blumenbach; ‘it is an hour too soon for
young folk like us to separate. We’ll have a glass of Rosenthaler, and
you shall tell us that story.’

‘Be it so,’ said the Hofrath, as he made signs to the madchen that he
would cast his skin. ‘Ich bin dabei (I ‘m ready).’


‘Wi’ tippenny we fear nae evil; Wi’ usquebaugh we ‘d face the devil,’

quoth Burns; and surely Tarn’s knowledge of human nature took a wide
circuit when he uttered those words. The whole philosophy of temptation
is comprised in the distich, and the adage of coming up ‘to a man’s
price’ has no happier illustration; and certainly, had the poet been a
Bursche in Germany, he could not have conveyed the ‘sliding scale’ of
professors’ agreeability under a more suitable formula. He who would be
civil with a pipe becomes communicative with coffee, and brotherly with
beer; but he opens every secret of his nature under the high-pressure
power of a flask of Rhenish. The very smack of the Hofrath’s lips as he
drained his glass to the bottom, and then exclaimed in a transport, ‘Er
ist zum küssen, der Wein!’ announced that the folding-doors of his heart
stood wide open, and that he might enter who would.

‘Rosenthaler was Goethe’s favourite,’ quoth Stromeyer; ‘and he had a
good taste in wine.’

‘Your great folk,’ said Hausman, ‘ever like to show some decided
preference to one vintage above the rest; Napoleon adopted chambertin,
Joseph the Second drank nothing but tokay, and Peter the Great found
brandy the only fluid to his palate.’

‘A plague on their fancies!’ interrupted old Blumenbach. ‘Let us have
the story!’

‘Ah, well, well,’ said the Hofrath, throwing up his eyes with an air of
sentimentalism, ‘so you shall. Love’s young dream was sweet, after all!
We were in the Hartz,’ continued he, at once springing into his story
with a true Demosthenic abruptness--‘we were in the Hartz Mountains,
making a little tour, for it was semester, and all the classes were
closed in the University. There was Tieck, and Feldtbourg the Dane, and
Upsal, and old Langendorf of Jena, and Grotchen von Zobelschein, and
Mina Upsal, and Caroline, and Martha there--she, poor thing, was getting
deaf at the time, and could not take the same pleasure as the rest of
us. She was always stupid, you know.’

Here he looked over at her, when she immediately responded--

‘Yes, yes, what he says is true.’

‘Each morning we used to set off up the mountains, botanising and
hammering among the limestone rocks, and seeking for cryptogamia and
felspar, lichens and jungermannia and primitive rock--mingling our
little diversions with pleasant talk about the poets, and reciting
verses to one another from Hans Sachs and the old writers, and chatting
away about Schiller: the “Lager” was just come out, and more than one
among us could scarcely believe it was Frederick did it.

‘Tieck and I soon found that we were rivals; for before a week each of
us was in love with Caroline. Now, Ludwig was a clever fellow, and had a
thousand little ways of ingratiating himself with a pretty woman--and a
poetess besides. He could come down every day to breakfast with some ode
or sonnet, or maybe a dream; and then he was ready after dinner with his
bit of poetry, which sometimes, when he found a piano, he ‘d set to
music; or maybe in the evening he’d invent one of those strange
rigmarole stories of his, about a blue-bottle fly dying for love of a
white moth or some superannuated old drone bee, retiring from public
life, and spending his days reviling the rest of the world. You know his
nonsense well; but somehow one could not help listening, and, what’s
worse, feeling interest in it. As for Caroline, she became crazed about
gnats and spiders, and fleas, and would hear for whole days long the
stories of their loves and sorrows.

‘For some time I bore up as well as I could. There was a limit--Heaven
be thanked!--to that branch of the creation; and as he had now got down
to millepedes, I trusted that before the week was over he ‘d have
reached mites, beyond which it was impossible he could be expected to
proceed. Alas! I little knew the resources of his genius; for one
evening, when I thought him running fast aground, he sat down in the
midst of us, and began a tale of the life and adventures of the Herr
Baron von Beetroot, in search of his lost love the Fräulein von
Cucumber. This confounded narrative had its scene in an old garden in
Silesia, where there were incidents of real beauty and interest
interwoven, ay, and verses that would make your heart thrill. Caroline
could evidently resist no longer. The Baron von Beetroot was ever
uppermost in her mind; and if she ate Gurken-salat, it brought the tears
into her eyes. In this sad strait I wandered out alone one evening, and
without knowing it reached the “Rase Mühle,” near Oltdorf. There I went
in and ordered a supper; but they had nothing but thick-milk and kalte-
schade. *


* Thick-milk--a mess of sour cream thickened with sugar and crumbs of
bread _Kallte-schade_--the same species of abomination, the only
difference being beer, for cream, for the fluid.

No matter, thought I--a man in such grief as mine need little care what
he eats; and I ordered both, that I might afterwards decide which I’d
prefer. They came, and were placed before me. Himmel und Erde! what did
I do but eat the two!--beer and cream, cream and beer, pepper and sugar,
brown bread and nutmeg! Such was my abstraction, that I never noticed
what I was doing till I saw the two empty bowls before me. “I am a dead
Hofrath before day breaks,” said I, “and I’ll make my will”; but before
I could put the plan into execution I became very ill, and they were
obliged to carry me to bed. From that moment my senses began to wander;
exhaustion, sour beer, and despair were all working within me, and I was
mad. It was a brief paroxysm, but a fearful one. A hundred and fifty
thousand ridiculous fancies went at racing speed through my mind, and I
spent the night alternately laughing and crying. My pipe, that lay on
the chair beside the bed, figured in nearly every scene, and performed a
part in many a strange adventure.

‘By noon the others learned where I was, and came over to see me. After
sitting for half an hour beside me they were going away, when I called
Caroline and Martha back. Caroline blushed; but, taking Martha’s arm,
she seated herself upon a sofa, and asked in a timid voice what I wished
for.

‘“To hear before I die,” replied I; “to listen to a wonderful vision I
have seen this night.”

“A vision,” said Caroline; “oh, what was it?”

‘“A beautiful and a touching one. Let me tell it to you. I will call it
‘The-never-to-be-lost-sight-of, though not-the-less-on-that-account-to-
be-concealed, Loves of the Mug and the Meerschaum.’”

‘Caroline sprang to my side as I uttered these words, and as she wiped
the tears from her eyes she sobbed forth--

‘“Let me but hear it! let me but hear it!”

‘“Sit down,” said I, taking her hand and pressing it to my lips--“sit
down, and you shall.” With that I began my tale. I suppose,’ continued
the Hofrath, ‘you don’t wish to have the story?’

‘Gott bewahre (Heaven forbid)!’ broke in the whole company in a breath.
‘Leave the Mug and the Meerschaum, and go on with Caroline!’

‘Well, from that hour her heart was mine. Ludwig might call all the
reptiles that ever crawled, every vegetable that ever grew, to his aid--
the victory was with me. He saw it, and, irritated by defeat, returned
to Berlin without bidding us even farewell; and we never heard of him
till we saw his new novel of _Fortunio_. But to go on. The day after
Tieck left us was my birthday, and they all arranged to give me a little
fête; and truly nothing could be prettier. The garden of the inn was a
sweet spot, and there was a large linden like this, where the table was
spread; and there was a chair all decked with roses and myrtle for me--
Caroline herself had done it; and they had composed a little hymn in
honour of me, wherein were sundry compliments to my distinction in
science and poesy, the gifts of my mind and the graces of my person.
Ach, ja! I was handsome then.


‘Well, well, I must close my tale--I cannot bear to think of it even
now. Caroline came forward, dressed in white, with a crown of roses and
laurel leaves intertwined, and approached me gracefully, as I sat
waiting to receive her--all the rest ranged on either side of me.


‘Auf seine Stirne, wo das Licht-----’

(Upon that brow where shines the light)

said Caroline, raising the chaplet.

‘“Ach, Du Heiliger!” screamed Martha, who only that instant saw I was
bareheaded, “the dear man will catch his death of cold!” and with that
she snatched this confounded nightcap from her pocket, and rushing
forward clapped it on my head before I could know it was done. I
struggled and kicked like one possessed, but it was of no use; she had
tied the strings in a black knot, and they could neither be loosened nor
broken. “Be still there!” said she; “thou knowest well that at fifty-
three----” You can conceive,’ said the Hofrath in a parenthesis, ‘that
her passion obliterated her memory. At fifty-three one can’t play the
fool like at twenty.’

‘Ach, ja! it was over with me for ever. Caroline screamed at the cap,
first laughing, then crying, and then both; the rest nearly died of it,
and so did I. Caroline would never look at me after, and I came back
home, disappointed in my love--and all because of a woollen nightcap.’

When the Hofrath concluded, he poured the remainder of the Rosenthaler
into his glass, and bowing to each in turn, wished us good-night, while
taking the Fraulein Martha’s arm they both disappeared in the shade, as
the little party broke up and each wended his way homeward.



CHAPTER XXI. THE STUDENT

If I were not sketching a real personage, and retailing an anecdote once
heard, I should pronounce the Hofrath von Froriep a fictitious
character, for which reason I bear you no ill-will if you incline to
that opinion. I have no witness to call in my defence. There were but
two Englishmen in Gottingen in my day; one of them is now no more. Poor
fellow! he had just entered the army; his regiment was at Corfu, and he
was spending the six months of his first leave in Germany. We chanced to
be fellow-travellers, and ended by becoming friends. When he left me, it
was for Vienna, from which after a short stay he departed for Venice,
where he purchased a yacht, and with eight Greek sailors sailed for a
cruise through the Ionian Islands. He was never seen alive again; his
body, fearfully gashed and wounded, was discovered on the beach at
Zante. His murderers, for such they were, escaped with the vessel, and
never were captured. Should any Sixty-first man throw his eye over these
pages he will remember that I speak of one beloved by every one who knew
him. With all the heroic daring of the stoutest heart, his nature was
soft and gentle as a child’s. Poor G----! some of the happiest moments
of my life were spent with you; some of the saddest, in thinking over
your destiny.

You must take my word for the Hofrath, then, good reader. They who read
the modern novels of Germany--the wild exaggerations of Fouqué and
Hoffman, Musaeus and Tieck--will comprehend that the story of himself
has no extravagance whatever. To ascribe language and human passions to
the lower animals, and even to the inanimate creation, is a favourite
German notion, the indulgence of which has led to a great deal of that
mysticism which we find in their writings; and the secret sympathies of
cauliflowers and cabbages for young ladies in love is a constant theme
among this class of novelists.

A word now of the students, and I have done. Whatever the absurdities in
their code of honour, however ludicrous the etiquette of the ‘comment’
as it is called, there is a world of manly honesty and true-heartedness
among them. There is nothing mean or low, nothing dishonourable or
unworthy in the spirit of the Burschen-schaft. Exaggerated ideas of
their own importance, an overweening sense of their value to the
Fatherland, there are in abundance, as well as a mass of crude,
unsettled notions about liberty and the regeneration of Germany. But,
after all, these are harmless fictions; they are not allied to any evil
passions at the time, they lead to no bad results for the future. The
murder of Kotzebue, and the attempt on the life of Napoleon by Staps,
were much more attributable to the mad enthusiasm of the period than to
the principles of the Student-league. The spirit of the nation revolted
at the tyranny they had so long submitted to, and these fearful crimes
were the agonised expression of endurance pushed to madness. Only they
who witnessed the frantic joy of the people when the tide of fortune
turned against Napoleon, and his baffled legions retreated through
Germany on their return from the Russian campaign, can understand how
deeply stored were the wrongs for which they were now to exact
vengeance. The _Völker Schlacht_ (the ‘people’s slaughter’), as they
love to call the terrible fight of Leipsic, was the dreadful recompense
of all their sufferings.

When the French Revolution first broke out, the German students, like
many wiser and more thinking heads than theirs in our own country, were
struck with the great movement of a mighty people in their march to
liberty; but when, disgusted with the atrocities that followed, they
afterwards beheld France the first to assail the liberties and trample
on the freedom of every other country, they regarded her as a traitor to
the cause she once professed. And while their apathy in the early wars
of the republican armies marked their sympathy with the wild notions of
liberty of which Frenchmen affected to be the apostles in Europe, yet
when they saw the lust of conquest and the passion for dominion usurp
the place of those high-sounding virtues--_Liberté, Egalité_--the
reverse was a tremendous one, and may well excuse, if excuse were
needful, the proud triumph of the German armies when they bivouacked in
the streets of Paris.

The changed fortunes of the Continent have of course obliterated every
political feature in the student life of Germany; or if such still
exist, it takes the form merely of momentary enthusiasm in favour of
some banished professor, or a Burschen festival in honour of some martyr
of the Press. Still their ancient virtues survive, and the German
student is yet a type--one of the few remaining---of the Europe of
thirty years ago. Long may he remain so, say I; long may so interesting
a land have its national good faith and brotherly affection rooted in
the minds of its youth; long may the country of Schiller, of Wieland,
and of Goethe possess the race of those who can appreciate their
greatness, or strive to emulate their fame!

I leave to others the task of chronicling their beer orgies, their wild
festivals, and their duels; and though not disposed to defend them on
such charges, I might, were it not invidious, adduce instances nearer
home of practices little more commendable. At those same festivals, at
many of which I have been present, I have heard music that would shame
most of our orchestras, and listened to singing such as I have never
heard surpassed except within the walls of a grand opera. And as to
their duelling, the practice is bad enough in all conscience; but still
I would mention one instance, of which I myself was a witness, and
perhaps even in so little fertile a field we may find one grain of
goodly promise.

Among my acquaintances in Gôttingen were two students, both Prussians,
and both from the same small town of Magdebourg. They had been school-
fellows, and came together to the University, where they lived together
on terms of brotherly affection, which even there, where friendship
takes all the semblance of a sacred compact, was the subject of remark.
Never were two men less alike, however, than these. Eisendecker was a
bold, hotheaded fellow, fond of all the riotous excesses of Burschen
life; his face, seamed with many a scar, declared him a ‘hahn,’ as in
student phrase a confirmed duellist is termed. He was ever foremost in
each scheme of wild adventure, and continually being brought up before
the senate on some charge of insubordination. Von Mühry, his companion,
was exactly the opposite. His sobriquet--for nearly every student had
one--was ‘der Zahme (the gentle),’ and never was any more appropriate.
His disposition was mildness itself. He was very handsome, almost
girlish in his look, with large blue eyes and fine, soft silky hair,
which, Germanlike, he wore upon his neck. His voice--the index of his
nature--soft, low, and musical, would have predisposed you at once in
his favour. Still, those disparities did not prevent the attachment of
the two youths; on the contrary, they seemed rather to strengthen the
bond between them--each, as it were, supplying to the other the
qualities which Nature had denied him. They were never separate in
lecture-room, at home, or in the _allée_ (as the promenade was called)
or in the garden, where each evening the students resorted to sup, and
listen to the music of the Jâger band. Eisendecker and Mühry were names
that no one ever heard separated, and when one appeared the other was
never more than a few yards off.

Such was their friendship, when an unhappy incident occurred to trouble
its even course, and sow dissension between these who never had known a
passing difference in their lives. The sub-rector of Göttingen was in
the habit of giving little receptions every week, to which many of the
students were invited, and to which Eisendecker and Mühry were
frequently asked, as they both belonged to the professor’s class. In the
quiet world of a little University town, these soirées were great
occasions; and the invited plumed themselves not a little on the
distinction of a card which gave the privilege of bowing in the Herr
professor’s drawing-room, and kissing the hand of his fair daughter the
Frederica von Ettenheim, the belle of Göttingen. Frederica was the
prettiest German girl I ever saw; for this reason, that having been
partly educated at Paris, French _espièglerie_ relieved what had been
otherwise the too regular monotony of her Saxon features, and imparted a
character of sauciness--or _fierté_ is a better word--to that quietude
which is too tame to give the varied expression so charming in female
beauty. The _esprit_, that delicious ingredient which has been so
lamentably omitted in German character, she had imbibed from her French
education; and in lieu of that plodding interchange of flat commonplaces
which constitute the ordinary staple of conversation between the young
of opposite sexes beyond the Rhine, she had imported the light, delicate
tone of Parisian raillery--the easy and familiar gaiety of French
society, so inexpressibly charming in France, and such a boon from
heaven when one meets it by accident elsewhere.

Oh, confess it, ye who, in the dull round of this world’s so-called
pleasure, in the Eryboean darkness of the dinners and evening parties of
your fashionable friends, sit nights long, speaking and answering, half
at random, without one thought to amuse, without one idea to interest
you--what pleasure have you felt when some chance expression, some
remark--a mere word, perhaps--of your neighbour beside you, reveals that
she has attained that wondrous charm, that most fascinating of all
possessions--the art to converse; that neither fearful of being deemed
pedantic on the one hand, or uninformed on the other, she launches forth
freely on the topic of the moment, gracefully illustrating her meaning
by womanly touches of sensibility and delicacy, as though to say, these
lighter weapons were her own peculiar arms, while men might wield the
more massive ones of sense and judgment. Then with what lightness she
flits along from theme to theme, half affecting to infer that she dares
not venture deep, yet showing every instant traits of thoughtfulness and
reflection!

How long since have you forgotten that she who thus holds you entranced
is the brunette, with features rather too bold than otherwise; that
those eyes which now sparkle with the fire of mind seemed but half an
hour ago to have a look of cold effrontery? Such is the charm of
_esprit_; and without it the prettiest woman wants her greatest charm. A
diamond she may be, and as bright and of purest water; but the setting,
which gives such lustre to the stone, is absent, and half the brilliancy
of the gem is lost to the beholder.

Now, of all tongues ever invented by man, German is the most difficult
and clumsy for all purposes of conversation. You may preach in it, you
may pray in it, you may hold a learned argument, or you may lay down
some involved and intricate statement--you may, if you have the gift,
even tell a story in it, provided the hearers be patient, and some have
gone so far as to venture on expressing a humorous idea in German; but
these have been bold men, and their venturous conduct is more to be
admired than imitated. At the same time, it is right to add that a
German joke is a very wooden contrivance at best, and that the praise it
meets with is rather in the proportion of the difficulty of the
manufacture than of the superiority of the article--just as we admire
those Indian toys carved with a rusty nail, or those fourth-string
performances of Paganini and his followers.

And now to come back to the students, whom mayhap you deem to have been
forgotten by me all this time, but for whose peculiar illustration my
digression was intended--it being neither more nor less than to show
that if Frederica von Ettenheim turned half the heads in Göttingen,
Messrs. Eisendecker and Mühry were of the number. What a feature it was
of the little town, her coming to reside in it! What a sweet atmosphere
of womanly gracefulness spread itself like a perfume through those old
salons, whose dusty curtains and moth-eaten chairs looked like the
fossils of some antediluvian furniture! With what magic were the old
ceremonials of a professor’s reception exchanged for the easier habits
of a politer world! The venerable dignitaries of the University felt the
change, but knew not where it lay, and could not account for the
pleasure they now experienced in the vice-rector’s soirees; while the
students knew no bounds to the enthusiastic admiration, and ‘Die
Ettenheim’ reigned in every heart in Göttingen.

Of all her admirers none seemed to hold a higher place in her favour
than Von Mühry. Several causes contributed to this, in addition to his
own personal advantages and the distinction of his talents, which were
of a high order. He was particularly noticed by the vice-rector, from
the circumstance of his father holding a responsible position in the
Prussian Government; while Adolphe himself gave ample promise of one day
making a figure in the world. He was never omitted in any invitation,
nor forgotten in any of the many little parties so frequent among the
professors; and even where the society was limited to the dignitaries of
the college, some excuse would ever be made by the vice-rector to have
him present, either on the pretence of wanting him for something, or
that Frederica had asked him without thinking.

Such was the state of this little world when I settled in it, and took
up my residence at the Meissner Thor, intending to pass my summer there.
The first evening I spent at the vice-rector’s, the matter was quite
clear to my eyes. Frederica and Adolphe were lovers. It was to no
purpose that when he had accompanied her on the piano he retreated to a
distant part of the room when she ceased to sing. It signified not that
he scarcely ever spoke to her, and when he did, but a few words,
hurriedly and in confusion. Their looks met once; I saw them exchange
one glance--a fleeting one, too--but I read in it their whole secret,
mayhap even more than they knew themselves. Well had it been, if I alone
had witnessed this, but there was another at my side who saw it also,
and whispered in my ear, ‘Der Zahme is in love.’ I turned round--it was
Eisendecker: his face, sallow and sickly, while large circles of dark
olive surrounded his eyes, and gave him an air of deep suffering. ‘Did
you see that?’ said he suddenly, as he leaned his hand on my arm, where
it shook like one in ague.

‘Did you see that?’

‘What--the flower?’

‘Yes, the flower. It was she dropped it, when she crossed the room. You
saw him take it up, didn’t you?’

The tone he spoke in was harsh and hissing, as if he uttered the words
with his teeth clenched. It was clear to me now that he, too, was in
love with Frederica, and I trembled to think of the cruel shock their
friendship must sustain ere long.

A short time after, when I was about to retire, Eisendecker took my arm,
and said, ‘Are you for going home? May I go with you?’ I gave a willing
assent, our lodgings being near, and we spent much of every day in each
other’s chambers. It was the first time we had ever returned without
waiting for Mühry; and fearing what a separation, once begun, might lead
to, I stopped suddenly on the stairs, and said, as if suddenly
remembering--‘By-the-bye, we are going without Adolphe.’

Eisendecker’s fingers clutched me convulsively, and while a bitter laugh
broke from him, he said, ‘You wouldn’t tear them asunder, would you?’
For the rest of the way he never spoke again, and I, fearful of
awakening the expression of that grief which, when avowed, became
confirmed, never opened my lips, save to say, ‘Good-night.’

I never intended to have involved myself in a regular story when I began
this chapter, nor must I do so now, though, sooth to say, it would not
be without its interest to trace the career of these two youths, who now
became gradually estranged from each other, and were no longer to be
seen, as of old, walking with arms on each other’s shoulder--the most
perfect realisation of true brotherly affection. Day by day the distance
widened between them; each knew the secret of the other’s heart, yet
neither dared to speak of it. From distrust there is but a short step to
dislike--alas! it is scarcely even a step. They parted.

Every one knows that the reaction which takes place when some long-
standing friendship has been ruptured is proportionate to the warmth of
the previous attachment. Still the cause of this, in a great measure, is
more attributable to the world about us than to ourselves; we make
partisans to console us for the loss of one who was our confidant, and
in the violence of _their_ passions we are carried away as in a current.
The students were no exception to this theory; scarcely had they ceased
to regard each other as friends when they began to feel as enemies.
Alas! is it not ever so? Does not the good soil, which, when cultivated
with care, produce the fairest flowers and the richest fruits, rear up,
when neglected and abandoned, the most noxious weeds and the rankest
thistles? And yet it was love for another--that passion so humanising in
its influence, so calculated to assuage the stormy and vindictive traits
of even a savage nature--it was love that made them thus. To how many is
the ‘light that lies in woman’s eyes’ but a beacon to lure to ruin? When
we think that but one can succeed where so many strive, what sadness and
misery must not result to others?

Another change came over them, and a stranger still. Eisendecker, the
violent youth, of ungovernable temper and impetuous passion, who loved
the wildest freak of student-daring, and ever was the first to lead the
way in each mad scheme, had now become silent and thoughtful; a gentle
sadness tempered down the fierce traits of his hot nature, and he no
longer frequented his old haunts of the cellar and the fighting school,
but wandered alone into the country, and spent whole days in solitude.
Von Muhry, on the other hand, seemed to have assumed the castaway mantle
of his once friend: the gentle bearing and almost submissive tone of his
manner were exchanged for an air of conscious pride--a demeanour that
bespoke a triumphant spirit; and the quiet youth suddenly seemed changed
to a rash, high-spirited boy, reckless from very happiness. During this
time, Eisendecker had attached himself particularly to me; and although
I had always hitherto preferred Von Muhry, the feeling of the other’s
unhappiness, a sense of compassion for suffering, which it was easy to
see was great, drew me closer in my friendship towards him; and, at
last, I scarcely saw Adolphe at all, and when we did meet, a mutual
feeling of embarrassment separated and estranged us from each other.
About this time I set off on an excursion to the Hartz Mountains, to
visit the Brocken, and see the mines; my absence, delayed beyond what I
first intended, was above four weeks, and I returned to Gottingen just
as the summer vacation was about to begin.

About five leagues from Gottingen, on the road towards Nordheim, there
is a little village called Meissner, a favourite resort of the students,
in all their festivals; while, at something less than a mile distant,
stands a water-mill, on a little rivulet among the hills--a wild,
sequestered spot, overgrown with stunted oak and brushwood. A narrow
bridle-path leads to it from the village, and this was the most approved
place for settling all those affairs of honour whose character was too
serious to make it safe to decide nearer the University: for, strangely
enough, while by the laws of the University duelling was rigidly
denounced, yet whenever the quarrel was decided by the sword, the
authorities never or almost never interfered, but if a pistol was the
weapon, the thing at once took a more serious aspect.

For what reasons the mills have been always selected as the appropriate
scenes for such encounters, I never could discover; but the fact is
unquestionable, and I never knew a University town that did not possess
its ‘water-privileges’ in this manner.

Towards the mill I was journeying at the easy pace of my pony, early on
a summer’s morning, preferring the rural breakfast with the miller--for
they are always a kind of innkeepers--to the fare of the village. I
entered the little bridle-path that conducted to his door, and was
sauntering listlessly along, dreaming pleasantly, as one does, when the
song of the lark and the heavy odour of dew-pressed flowers steep the
heart in happiness all its own, when, behind me, I heard the regular
tramp of marching. I listened; had I been a stranger to the sound, I
should have thought them soldiers, but I knew too well the measured
tread of the student, and I heard the jingling of their heavy sabres--a
peculiar clank a student’s ear cannot be deceived in. I guessed at once
the object of their coming, and grew sick at heart to think that the
storm of men’s stubborn passions and the strife of their revengeful
nature should desecrate a peaceful spot like this. I was about to turn
back, disgusted at the thought, when I remembered I must return by the
same path, and meet them; but even this I shrank from. The footsteps
came nearer and nearer, and I had barely time to move off the path into
the brushwood, and lead my pony after, when they turned the angle of the
way. They who walked first were muffled in their cloaks, whose high
collars concealed their faces; but the caps of many a gaudy colour
proclaimed them students. At a little distance behind, and with a slower
step, came another party, among whom I noticed one who walked between
two others, his head sunk on his bosom, and evidently overcome with
emotions of deep sorrow. A movement of my horse at this instant
attracted their attention towards the thicket; they stopped, and a voice
called out my name. I looked round, and there stood Eisendecker before
me. He was dressed in deep mourning, and looked pale and worn, his black
beard and moustache deepening the haggard expression of features, to
which the red borders of his eyelids, and his bloodless lips, gave an
air of the deepest suffering. ‘Ah, my friend,’ said he, with a sad
effort at a smile, ‘you are here quite _à propos_. I am going to fight
Adolphe this morning.’ A fearful presentiment that such was the case
came over me the instant I saw him; but when he said so, a thrill ran
through me, and I grew cold from head to foot.

‘I see you are sorry,’ said he, tenderly while he took my hand within
both of his; ‘but you would not blame me--indeed you would not--if you
knew all.’

‘What, then, was the cause of this quarrel? How came you to an open
rupture?’

He turned round, and as he did so his face was purple, the blood
suffused every feature, and his very eyeballs seemed as if about to
burst. He tried to speak; but I only heard a rushing noise like a
hoarse-drawn breath.

‘Be calm, my dear Eisendecker,’ said I. ‘Cannot this be settled
otherwise than thus?’

‘No, no!’ said he, in the voice of indignant passion I used to hear from
him long before, ‘never!’ He waved his hand impatiently as he spoke, and
turned his head from me. At the same moment one of his companions made a
sign with his hand towards me.

‘What!’ whispered I in horror--‘a blow?’

A brief nod was the reply. Alas! from that minute all hope left me. Too
well I knew the desperate alternative that awaited such an insult.
Reconciliation was no longer to be thought of. I asked no more, but
followed the group along the path towards the mill.

In a little garden, as it was called--we should rather term it a close-
shaven grass-plot--where some tables and benches were placed under the
shade of large chestnut-trees, Adolphe von Muhry stood, surrounded by a
number of his friends. He was dressed in his costume as a member of the
Prussian club of the Landsmanschaft--a kind of uniform of blue and
white, with a silver braiding on the cuffs and collar--and looked
handsomer than ever I saw him. The change his features had undergone
gave him an air of manliness and confidence that greatly improved him,
and his whole carriage indicated a degree of self-reliance and energy
which became him perfectly. A faint blush coloured his cheek as he saw
me enter, and he lifted his cap straight above his head and saluted me
courteously, but with an evident effort to appear at ease before me. I
returned his salute mournfully--perhaps reproachfully, too, for he
turned away and whispered something to a friend at his side.

Although I had seen many duels with the sword, it was the first time I
was present at an affair with pistols in Germany; and I was no less
surprised than shocked to perceive that one of the party produced a
dice-box and dice, and placed them on a table.

Eisendecker all this time sat far apart from the rest, and, with folded
arms and half-closed eyelids, seemed to wait in patience for the moment
of being called on.

‘What are they throwing for, yonder?’ whispered I to a Saxon student
near me.

‘For the shot, of course,’ said he; ‘not but that they might spare
themselves the labour. Eisendecker must fire first; and as for who comes
second after him----’

‘Is he so sure as that?’ asked I in terror; for the fearful vision of
blood would not leave my mind.

‘That is he. The fellow that can knock a bullet off a champagne bottle
at five-and-twenty paces may chance to hit a man at fifteen.’

‘Mühry has it,’ cried out one of those at the table; and I heard the
words repeated from mouth to mouth till they reached Eisendecker, as he
moved his cane listlessly to and fro in the mill-stream.

‘Remember Ludwig,’ said his friend, as he grasped his arm with a
stronger clasp; ‘remember what I told you.’

The other nodded carelessly, and merely said, ‘Is all ready?’

‘Stand here, Eisendecker,’ said Mühry’s second, as he dropped a pebble
in the grass.

Mühry was already placed, and stood erect, his eyes steadily directed to
his antagonist, who never once looked towards him, but kept his glance
fixed straight in front.

‘You fire first, sir,’ said Mühry’s friend, while I could mark that his
voice trembled slightly at the words. ‘You may reserve your fire till I
have counted twenty after the word is given.’

As he spoke he placed the pistol in Eisendecker’s hand, and called out--

‘Gentlemen, fall back, fall back; I am about to give the word. Herr
Eisendecker, are your ready?’

A nod was the reply.

‘Now!’ cried he, in a loud voice; and scarcely was the word uttered when
the discharge of the pistol was heard. So rapid, indeed, was the motion,
that we never saw him lift his arm; nor could any one say what direction
the ball had taken.

‘I knew it, I knew it,’ muttered Eisendecker’s friend, in tones of
agony. ‘All is over with him now.’

Before a minute elapsed, the word to fall back was again given, and I
now beheld Von Mühry standing with his pistol in hand, while a smile of
cool but determined malice sat on his features.

While the second repeated the same words over to him, I turned to look
at Eisendecker, but he evinced no apparent consciousness of what was
going on about him; his eyes, as before, were bent on vacancy; his pale
face, unmoved, showed no signs of passion. In an instant the fearful
‘Now’ rang out, and Mühry slowly raised his arm, and, levelling his
pistol steadily, stood with his eye bent on his victim. While the deep
voice of the second slowly repeated one--two--three--four--never was
anything like the terrible suspense of that moment. It seemed as if the
very seconds of human life were measuring out one by one. As the word
‘ten’ dropped from his lips, I saw Mühry’s hand shake. In his revengeful
desire to kill his man, he had waited too long, and now he was growing
nervous; he let fall his arm to his side, and waited for a few seconds,
then raising it again, he took a steady aim, and at the word ‘nineteen’
fired.

A slight movement of Eisendecker’s head at this instant brought his face
full front; and the bullet, which would have transfixed his head, now
merely passed along his cheek, tearing a rude flesh-wound as it went.

A half-cry broke from Mühry: I heard not the word; but the accent I
shall never cease to remember. It was now Eisendecker’s time; and as the
blood streamed down his cheek, and fell in great drops upon his neck and
shoulders, I saw his face assume the expression it used to wear in
former days. A terrible smile lit up his dark features, and a gleam of
passionate vengeance made his eye glow like that of a maniac.

‘I am ready--give the word,’ cried he, in frantic impatience.

But Mühry’s second, fearful of giving way to such a moment of passion,
hesitated; when Eisendecker again called out, ‘The word, sir, the word!’
and the bystanders, indignant at the appearance of unfairness, repeated
the cry.

The crowd fell back, and the word was given. Eisendecker raised his
weapon, poised it for a second in his hand, and then, elevating it above
his head, brought it gradually down, till, from the position where I
stood, I could see that he aimed at the heart.

His hand was now motionless, as if it were marble; while his eye,
riveted on his antagonist, seemed to be fixed on one small spot, as
though his whole vengeance was to be glutted there. Never was suspense
more dreadful, and I stood breathless, in the expectation of the fatal
flash, when, with a jerk of his arm, he threw up the pistol and fired
above his head; and then, with a heart-rending cry of ‘Mein bruder, mein
brader!’ he rushed into Mühry’s arms, and fell into a torrent of tears.

The scene was indeed a trying one, and few could witness it unmoved. As
for me, I turned away completely overcome; while my heart found vent in
thankfulness that such a fearful beginning should end thus happily.

‘Yes,’ said Eisendecker, as we rode home together that evening, when,
after a long silence, he spoke; ‘yes, I had resolved to kill him; but
when my finger was even on the trigger, I saw a look upon his features
that reminded me of those earlier and happier days when we had but one
home and one heart, and I felt as if I was about to become the murderer
of my brother.’

Need I add that they were friends for ever after?

But I must leave Göttingen and its memories too. They recall happy days,
it is true; but they who made them so--where are they?



CHAPTER XXII. SPAS AND GRAND DUKEDOMS

It was a strange ordinance of the age that made watering-places equally
the resort of the sick and the fashionable, the dyspeptic and the
dissipated. One cannot readily see by what magic chalybeates can
minister to a mind diseased, nor how sub-carbonates and proto-chlorides
may compensate to the faded spirit of an _ennuyée_ fine lady for the
bygone delights of a London or a Paris season; much less, through what
magnetic influence gambling and gossip can possibly alleviate affections
of the liver, or roulette be made a medical agent in the treatment of
chronic rheumatism.

It may be replied that much of the benefit--some would go farther, and
say all--to be expected from the watering-places is derivable from
change of scene and habit of living, new faces, new interests, new
objects of curiosity, aided by agreeable intercourse, and what the
medical folk call ‘pleasant and cheerful society.’ This, be it known, is
no chance collocation of words set down at random; it is a _bona fide_
technical--as much so as the hardest Greek compound that ever floored an
apothecary. ‘Pleasant and cheerful society!’ they speak of it as they
would of the latest improvement in chemistry or the last patent
medicine--a thing to be had for asking for, like opodeldoc or Morison’s
pills. A line of treatment is prescribed for you, winding up in this one
principle; and your physician, as he shakes your hand and says ‘good-
bye,’ seems like an angel of benevolence, who, instead of consigning you
to the horrors of the pharmacopoeia and a sick-bed, tells you to pack
off to the Rhine, spend your summer at Ems or Wiesbaden, and, above all
things, keep early hours, and ‘pleasant, cheerful society.’

Oh, why has no martyr to the miseries of a ‘liver’ or the sorrows of
‘nerves’ ever asked his M.D. where--where is this delightful intercourse
to be found? or by what universal principle of application can the same
tone of society please the mirthful and the melancholy, the man of
depressed, desponding habit, and the man of sanguine, hopeful
temperament? How can the indolent and lethargic soul be made to derive
pleasure from the hustling energies of more excited natures, or the
fidgety victim of instability sympathise with the delights of quiet and
tranquillity? He who enjoys ‘rude health’--the phrase must have been
invented by a fashionable physician; none other could have deemed such a
possession an offensive quality--may very well amuse himself by the
oddities and eccentricities of his fellow-men, so ludicrously exhibited
_en scene_ before him. But in what way will these things appear to the
individual with an ailing body and a distempered brain? It is impossible
that contrarieties of temperament would ever draw men into close
intimacy during illness. The very nature of a sick man’s temper is to
undervalue all sufferings save his own and those resembling his. The
victim of obesity has no sympathies with the martyr to atrophy; he may
envy, he cannot pity him. The man who cannot eat surely has little
compassion for the woes of him who has the ‘wolf,’ and must be muzzled
at meal times. The result, then, is obvious. The gloomy men get together
in groups, and croak in concert; each mind brings its share of
affliction to the common fund, and they form a joint-stock company of
misery that rapidly assists their progress to the grave; while the
nervously excited ones herd together by dozens, suggesting daily new
extravagances and caprices for the adoption of one another, till there
is not an air-drawn dagger of the mind unfamiliar to one among them; and
in this race of exaggerated sensibility they not uncommonly tumble over
the narrow boundary that separates eccentricity from something worse.

This massing together of such people in hundreds must be ruinous to
many, and few can resist the depressing influence which streets full of
pale faces suggest, or be proof against the melancholy derivable from a
whole promenade of cripples. There is something indescribably sad in
these rendezvous of ailing people from all parts of Europe--north,
south, east, and west; the snows of Norway and the suns of Italy; the
mountains of Scotland and the steppes of Russia; comparing their
symptoms and chronicling their sufferings; watching with the egotism of
sickness the pallor on their neighbour’s cheek, and calculating their
own chances of recovery by the progress of some other invalid.

But were this all, the aspect might suggest gloomy thoughts, but could
not excite indignant ones. Unhappily, however, there is a reverse to the
medal. ‘The pleasant and cheerful society,’ so confidently spoken of by
your doctor has another representation than in the faces of sick people.
These watering-places are the depots of continental vice, the licensed
bazaars of foreign iniquity, the sanctuary of the outlaw, the home of
the swindler, the last resource of the ruined debauchee, the one spot of
earth beneath the feet of the banished defaulter. They are the
parliaments of European blackguardism, to which Paris contributes her
_escrocs_, England her ‘legs’ from Newmarket and Doncaster, and Poland
her refugee counts--victims of Russian cruelty and barbarity.

To begin--and to understand the matter properly, you must begin by
forgetting all you have been so studiously storing up as fact from the
books of Head, Granville, and others, and merely regard them as the
pleasant romances of gentlemen who like to indulge their own easy
humours in a vein of agreeable gossip, or the more profitable occupation
of collecting grand-ducal stars and snuff-boxes.

These delightful pictures of Brunnens, secluded in the recesses of wild
mountain districts inaccessible save to some adventurous traveller; the
peaceful simplicity of the rural life; the primitive habits of a happy
peasantry; the humble but contented existence of a little community
estranged from all the shocks and strife of the world; the lovely
scenery; the charming intercourse with gifted and cultivated minds; the
delightful reunions, where Metternich, Chateaubriand, and Humboldt are
nightly to be met, mixing among the rest of the company, and chatting
familiarly with every stranger; the peaceful tranquillity of the spot--
an oasis in the great desert of the world’s troubles, where the
exhausted mind and tired spirit may lie down in peace and take its rest,
lulled by the sound of falling water or the strains of German song --
these, I say, cleverly put forward, with ‘eight illustrations taken on
the spot,’ make pretty books--pleasant to read, but not less dangerous
to follow; while exaggerated catalogues of cures and recoveries, the
restoration from sufferings of a life long, the miraculous list of sick
men made sound ones through the agency of sulphurates and sub-
carbonates, are still more to be guarded against as guides to the spas
of Germany.

Now, I would not for a moment be supposed to throw discredit on the
efficiency of Aix or Ems, Wiesbaden or Töplitz, or any of them. In some
cases they have done, and will do, it may be hoped, considerable benefit
to many sufferers. I would merely desire to slide in, amidst the
universal paen of praise, a few words of caution respecting the _morale_
of these watering-places; and in doing so I shall be guided entirely by
the same principle I have followed in all the notes of my ‘Loiterings,’
rather to touch follies and absurdities than to go deeper down into the
strata of crimes and vices; at the same time, wherever it may be
necessary for my purpose, I shall not scruple to cut into the quick if
the malady need it.

And to begin--imagine in the first place a Grand-Duchy of such moderate
proportions that its sovereign dare not take in the ‘Times’ newspaper;
for if he opened it, he must intrude upon the territory of his
neighbours. His little kingdom, however, having all the attributes of a
real state, possesses a minister for the home and a minister for the
foreign department; it has a chancellor of the exchequer and a
secretary-at-war; and if there were half a mile of seaboard, would
inevitably have a board of admiralty and a _ministre de la marine_. It
is also provided with a little army, something in the fashion of
Bombastes Furioso’s, where each arm of the service has its one
representative, or that admirable Irish corps, which, when inquired
after by the General of the District, ‘Where is the Donegal Light
Horse?’ was met by the answer of, ‘Here I am, yer honour!’ And though
certainly nothing could possibly be more modestly devised than the whole
retinue of state, though the _fantassins_ be fifty, and the cavalry
five, still they must be fed, clothed, and kept in tobacco--a question
of some embarrassment, when it is considered that the Grand-Duchy
produces little grain and less grass, has neither manufacture nor trade,
nor the means of providing for other wants than those of a simple and
hard-working peasantry. There is, however, a palace, with its
accompaniments of grand maréchal, equerries, cooks, and scullions--a
vast variety of officials of every grade and class, who must be provided
for. How is this done? Simply enough, when the secret is once known--
four yards of green baize, with two gentlemen armed with wooden rakes,
and a box full of five-franc pieces. Nothing more is wanting. For the
mere luxury of the thing, as a matter of pin-money to the grand-duchess,
if there be one, you may add a roulette-table; but _rouge et noir_ will
supply all the trumpery expedients of taxation, direct and indirect. You
neither want collectors, custom-houses, nor colonies; you may snap your
fingers at trade and import duties, and laugh at the clumsy contrivances
by which other chancellors provide for the expenditure of other
countries.

The machinery of revenue reduces itself to this: first catch a Jew. For
your petty villainies any man will suffice; but for your grand schemes
of wholesale plunder, there is nothing like an Israelite; besides, he
has a kind of pride in his vocation. For the privilege of the gambling-
table he will pay munificently, he will keep the whole grand-ducal realm
in beer and beetroot the year through, and give a very respectable privy
purse to the sovereign besides. To him you deliver up all the nations of
the earth outside your own little frontier, none of those within it
being under any pretext admitted inside the walls of the gambling-house;
for, like the sick apothecary, you know better than to take anything in
the shop. You give him a carte-blanche, sparing the little realm of
Hesse-Homburg, to cheat the English, pigeon the Russians, ruin French,
Swedes, Swiss, and Yankees to his heart’s content; you set no limits to
his grand career of roguery; you deliver, bound, into his hands all
travellers within your realm, to be fleeced as it may seem fit. What
care you for the din of factories or the clanking hammers of the
foundries? The rattle of the dice-box and the scraping of the croupier’s
mace are pleasanter sounds, and fully as suggestive of wealth. You need
not descend into the bowels of the earth for riches; the gold, ready
stamped from the mint, comes bright and shining to your hand. Fleets may
founder and argosies may sink, but your dollars come safely in the
pockets of their owners, and are paid, without any cost of collection,
into the treasury of the State. Manchester may glut the earth with her
printed calicoes, Sheffield may produce more carving-knives than there
are carvers. _Your_ resources can suffer no such casualties as these;
you trade upon the vices of mankind, and need never dread a year of
scarcity. The passion for play is more contagious than the smallpox, and
unhappily the malady returns after the first access. Every gambler who
leaves fifty napoleons in your territory is bound in a kind of
recognisance to return next year and lose double the sum. Each loss is
but an instalment of the grand total of his ruin, and you have
contracted for that.

But even the winner does not escape you. A hundred temptations are
provided to seduce him into extravagance and plunge him into expense--
tastes are suggested, and habits of luxury inculcated, that turn out sad
comforters when a reverse of fortune compels him to a more limited
expenditure; so that when you extinguish the unlucky man by a summary
process, you reserve a lingering death for the more fortunate one. In
the language of the dock, it is only ‘a long day’ he obtains, after all.

How pleasant, besides, to reflect that the storms of political strife,
which agitate other heads, never reach yours. The violence of party
spirit, the rancour of the press, are hushed before the decorous silence
of the gaming-table and the death-like stillness of _rouge et noir_.
There is no need of a censorship when there is a croupier. The
literature of your realm is reduced to a card, to be pricked by the pin
of a gamester; and men have no heads for the pleasures of reading, when
stared in the face by ruin. Other states may occupy themselves with
projects of philanthropy and benevolence, they may project schemes of
public usefulness and advantage, they may advance the arts of
civilisation, and promote plans of national greatness; your course is an
easier path, and is never unsuccessful.

But some one may say here, How are these people to live? I agree at once
with the sentiment--no one is more ready to assent to that excellent
adage--‘Il faut que tout le monde vive, even grand-dukes.’ But there are
a hundred ways of eking out subsistence in cheap countries, without
trenching on morality. The military service of Austria, Prussia, and
Russia is open to them, should their own small territories not suffice
for moderate wants and wishes. In any case I am not going to trouble my
head with providing for German princes, while I have a large stock of
nephews and nieces little better off. All I care for at present is to
point out the facts of a case, and not to speculate how they might be
altered.

Now, to proceed. In proportion as vice is more prevalent, the decorum of
the world would appear to increase, and internal rottenness and external
decency bear a due relation to each other. People could not thus violate
the outward semblance of morality, by flocking in hundreds and tens of
hundreds to those gambling states, those _rouge et noir_ dependencies,
those duchies of the dice-box. A man’s asking a passport for Baden would
be a tacit averment, ‘I am going to gamble.’ Ordering post-horses for
Ems would be like calling for ‘fresh cards’; and you would as soon
confess to having passed a few years in Van Diemen’s Land as acknowledge
a summer on the Rhine.

What, then, was to be done? It was certainly a difficulty, and might
have puzzled less ingenious heads than grand-ducal advisers. They,
however, soon hit upon the expedient. They are shrewd observers, and
clever men of the world. They perceived that while other eras have been
marked by the characteristic designation of brass, gold, or iron,
_this_, with more propriety, might be called the age of bile. Never was
there a period when men felt so much interested in their stomachs; at no
epoch were mankind so deeply concerned for their livers; this passion--
for it is such--not being limited to the old or feeble, to the broken
and shattered constitution, but extending to all age and sex, including
the veteran of a dozen campaigns and the belle of a London season, the
hard-lined and seasoned features of a polar traveller, and the pale,
soft cheek of beauty, the lean proportions of shrunken age, and the
plump development of youthful loveliness. In the words of the song--


‘No age, no profession, no station is free.’

It is the universal mania of our century, and we may expect that one
day, our vigorous pursuit of knowledge on the subject will allow us to
be honourably classed with the equally intelligent seekers for the
philosopher’s stone. With this great feature of the time, then, nothing
was easier than to comply. The little realm of Hesse-Homburg might not
have attractions of scenery or society; its climate might, like most of
those north of the Alps, be nothing to boast of; its social advantages
being a zero, what could it possess as a reason--a good, plausible
reason, for drawing travellers to its frontier? Of course, a Spa!--
something very nauseous and very foul smelling, as nearly as possible
like a warm infusion of rotten eggs, thickened with red clay. Germany
happily abounds in these; Nature has been kind to her, at least
underground, and you have only to dig two feet in any limestone district
to meet with the most sovereign thing on earth for stomachic
derangements.

The Spa discovered, a doctor was found to analyse it, and another to
write a book upon it. Nothing more were necessary. The work, translated
into three or four languages, set forth all the congenial advantages of
pumps and promenades, sub-carbonates, tables d’hôte, waltzing, and
mineral waters. The pursuit of health no longer presented a grim goddess
masquerading in rusty black and a bald forehead, but a lovely nymph, in
a Parisian toilette, conversing like a Frenchwoman, and dancing like an
Austrian.

Who would not be ill, I wonder? Who would not discover that Hampshire
was too high and Essex too low, Devon too close and Cumberland too
bracing? Who would not give up his village M.D., and all his array of
bottles, with their long white cravats, for a ramble to the Rhine, where
luxurious living, belles, and balls abounded, and where _soit dit en
passant_, the _rouge et noir_ table afforded the easy resource of
supplying all such pleasures, so that you might grow robust and rich at
once, and while imbibing iron into your blood, lay up a stock of gold
with your banker? Hence the connection between Spas and gambling; hence
the fashionable flocking to those healthful spots by thousands who never
felt illness; hence the unblushing avowal of having been a month at
Baden by those who would flinch at acknowledging an hour in a ‘hell’;
and hence, more important than all, at least to one individual
concerned, the source of that real alchemy by which a grand-duke, like
Macheath, can


‘Turn all his lead to gold.’ Well may he exclaim, with the gallant
captain--

‘Fill every glass!’

Were the liquor champagne or tokay, it could not be a hundredth part as
profitable; and the whole thing presents a picture of ‘hocussing’ on the
grandest scale ever adopted.

The fifteen glasses of abomination demand a walk of half an hour, or a
sojourn in the Cursaal. The Cursaal is a hell! there is no need to mince
it. The taste for play is easily imbibed--what bad taste is not?--and
thus, while you are drawing the pump, the grand-duke is diving into your
pocket. Here, then--I shall not add a word--is the true state of the
Spas of Germany. As I believe it is customary to distinguish all writers
on these ‘fountains of health’ by some mark of princely favour
proportionate to their services of praise, I beg to add, if the Gross
Herzog von Hesse-Homburg deems the present a suitable instance for
notice, that Arthur O’Leary will receive such evidence of grand-ducal
approbation with a most grateful spirit, and acknowledge the same in
some future volume of his ‘Loiterings,’ only requesting to mention that
when Theodore Hook--poor fellow!--was dining once with a London alderman
remarkable for the display and the tedium of his dinners, he felt
himself at the end of an hour and a half’s vigorous performance only in
the middle of the entertainment; upon which he laid down his knife, and
in a whisper uttered: ‘_Eating_ more is out of the question; so I ‘ll
take the rest out in money.’



CHAPTER XXIII. THE TRAVELLING PARTY

I have already taken occasion to indoctrinate my reader on the subject
of what I deem the most perfect species of table d’hôte. May I now beg
of him, or her, if she will be kind enough, to accompany me to the
_table-monstre_ of Wiesbaden, Ems, or Baden-Baden? We are at the
Cursaal, or Shuberts, or the ‘Hof von Nassau’ at Wiesbaden. Four hundred
guests are assembled, their names indicative of every land of Europe,
and no small portion of America; the mixture of language giving the
impression of its being a grand banquet to the ‘operatives at Babel,’
but who, not satisfied with the chances of misunderstanding afforded by
speaking their own tongues to foreigners, have adventured on the more
certain project of endeavouring to being totally unintelligible, by
speaking languages with which they are unacquainted; while in their
dress, manner, and appearance, the great object seems to be an accurate
imitation of some other country than their own. Hence Frenchmen affect
to seem English, English to look like Prussians, Prussians to appear
Poles, Poles to be Calmucks. Your ‘elegant’ of the Boulevard de Ghent
sports a ‘cut away’ like a Yorkshire squire, and rides in cords; your
Londoner wears his hair on his shoulders, and his moustaches, like a
Pomeranian count; Turks find their way into tight trousers and
‘Wellingtons’; and even the Yankees cannot resist the general tendency
to transmutation, but take three inches off their hair behind.

Nothing is more amusing than these general congresses of European
vagrancy. Characters the most original meet you at every step, and
display most happily traits you never have the opportunity to inspect at
home. For so it is, the very fact of leaving home with most people seems
like an absolution from all the necessities of sustaining a part. They
feel as though they had taken off the stage finery in which they had
fretted away their hours before, and stand forth themselves _in
propria_. Thus your grave Chancery lawyer becomes a chatty pleasant man
of the world, witty and conversable; your abstruse mathematician,
leaving conic sections behind him, talks away with the harmless
innocence of a child about men and politics; and even your cold
‘exclusive’ bids a temporary farewell to his ‘morgue,’ and answers his
next neighbour at table without feeling shocked at his obtrusion.

There must be some secret sympathy--of whose operations we know nothing-
-between our trunks and our temperaments, our characters and our carpet-
bags; and that by the same law which opens one to the inspection of an
official at the frontier, the other must be laid bare when we pass
across it. How well would it have been for us, if the analogy had been
pushed a little further, that the fiscal regulations adopted in the
former were but extended to the latter, and that we had applied the
tariff to the morals, as well as to the manufactures, of the Continent.

It was in some such musing as this I sat in a window of the ‘Nassau,’ at
Wiesbaden, during the height of the season of----. Strangers were
constantly arriving, and hourly was the reply ‘no room’ given to the
disconsolate travellers, who peered from their carriages with the road-
sick look of a long journey. As for myself, I had been daily and nightly
transferred from one quarter of the hotel to another--now sleeping in an
apartment forty feet square, in a bed generally reserved for royalty,
now bivouacking under the very slates; one night exposed to the
incessant din of the street beside my windows, the next, in a remote
wing of the building, where there were no bells in the chambers, nor any
waiter was ever known to wander. In fact, I began to believe that they
made use of me to air the beds of the establishment, and was seriously
disposed to make a demand for some compensation in my bill; and if I
might judge from the pains in my bones I contracted in ‘Lit de Parade,’
I must have saved her Majesty of Greece, who was my successor in it, a
notable attack of rheumatism. To this shuttlecock state of existence the
easiness of my nature made me submit tamely enough, and I never dreamed
of rebellion.

I was sitting conning over to myself the recollections of some faces I
had seen before, when the head waiter appeared before me, with a request
that I would be kind enough to give up my place at the table, which was
No. 14, to a gentleman lately arrived, and who desired to sit near his
friends in that vicinity. ‘To be sure,’ said I at once; ‘I have no
acquaintance here, and 114 will do me as well as 14--place me where you
like.’ At the same time, it rather puzzled me to learn what the
individual could be like who conceived such a violent desire to be in
the neighbourhood of some Hamburg Jews--for such were the party around
me--when the waiter began to make room for a group that entered the
room, and walked up to the end of that table. A glance told they were
English. There was an elderly man, tall and well-looking, with the air
‘gentleman’ very legibly written on his quiet, composed features; the
carriage of his head, and a something in his walk, induced me to believe
him military. A lady leaned on his arm, some thirty years his junior--he
was about sixty-six or seven--whose dress and style were fashionable,
and at the same time they had not that perfect type of unpretending
legitimacy that belongs essentially to but one class. She was, in fact,
_trop bien mise_ for a table d’hote; for although only a morning
costume, there was a display about it which was faulty in its taste; her
features, without being handsome, were striking, as much for the
carriage of her head as anything in themselves. There was an air of good
looks, as though to say, ‘If you don’t think me handsome, the fault is
yours.’ Her eyes were of a bluish grey, large and full, with lightly
arched brows; but the mouth was the most characteristic feature--it was
firm and resolute-looking, closely compressed, and with a slight
protrusion of the lower lip, that said as plainly as words could say it,
‘I will, and that’s enough.’ In walking, she took some pains to display
her foot, which, with all the advantages of a Parisian shoe, was
scarcely as pretty as she conceived it, but on the whole was well
formed, and rather erring on the score of size than symmetry.

They were followed by three or four young men, of whom I could only
remark that they wore the uniform appearance of young Englishmen of good
class, very clean-looking faces, well-brushed hair, and well-fitting
frock-coats. One sported a moustache of a dirty-yellow colour, and
whiskers to match, and by his manner, and a certain half-shut-eye kind
of glance, proclaimed himself the knowing man of the party.

While they were taking their places, which they did at once on entering,
I heard a general burst of salutations break from them in very welcome
accent: ‘Oh, here he is, here he comes. Ah, I knew we should see him.’
At the same instant, a tall, well-dressed fellow leaned over the table
and shook hands with them all in succession.

‘When did you arrive?’ said he, turning to the lady.

‘Only an hour ago; Sir Marmaduke would stay at Frankfort yesterday, to
see Duvernet dance, and so we were detained beyond our time.’

The old gentleman half blushed at this charge, and while a look of
pleasure showed that he did not dislike the accusation, he said--

‘No, no; I stayed to please Calthorpe.’

‘Indeed!’ said the lady, turning a look of very peculiar, but
unmistakable, anger at him of the yellow moustache. ‘Indeed, my lord!’

‘Oh yes, that is a weakness of mine,’ said he, in an easy tone of
careless banter, which degenerated to a mutter, heard only by the lady
herself.

‘I ought to have a place somewhere here about,’ said the tall man.
‘Number 14 or 15, the waiter said. Hallo, _garçon_-----’

At this he turned round, and I saw the well-remembered face of my
fellow-traveller, the Honourable Jack Smallbranes. He looked very hard
at me, as if he were puzzled to remember where or when we had met, and
then, with a cool nod, said, ‘How d’ye do?--over in England lately?’

‘Not since I had the pleasure of meeting you at Rotterdam. Did you go
far with the alderman’s daughters?’

A very decided wink and a draw down of the brows cautioned me to silence
on that subject; but not before the lady had heard my question, and
looked up in his face with an expression that said--‘I’ll hear more of
that affair before long.’

‘Monsieur has given you his place, sir,’ said the waiter, arranging a
chair at No. 14. ‘I have put _you_ at 83.’

‘All right,’ replied Jack, as if no recognition were called for on his
part, and that he was not sorry to be separated from one with an
unpleasant memory.

‘I am shocked, sir,’ said the lady, addressing me in her blandest
accents, ‘at our depriving you of your place, but Mr. Carrisbrook will,
I ‘m sure, give you his.’

While I protested against such a surrender, and Mr. Carrisbrook looked
very much annoyed at the proposal, the lady only insisted the more, and
it ended in Mr. Carrisbrook--one of the youths already mentioned--being
sent down to 83, while I took up my position in front of the party in
his place.

I knew to what circumstance I was indebted for this favourable notice;
she looked up to me as a kind of king’s evidence, whenever the
Honourable Jack should be called up for trial, and already I had seen a
great deal into the history and relative position of all parties. Such
was the state of matters when the soup appeared.

And now, to impart to my readers, as is my wont, such information as I
possessed afterwards, and not to keep them waiting for the order in
which I obtained it: the party before me consisted of Sir Marmaduke
Lonsdall and his lady--he, an old general officer of good family and
connections, who, with most unexceptionable manners and courtly address,
had contrived to spend a very easy, good-for-nothing existence, without
ever seeing an hour’s service, his clubs and his dinner-parties filling
up life tolerably well, with the occasional excitement arising from who
was in and who was out, to season the whole. Sometimes a Lord of the
Treasury, with a seat for a Government borough, and sometimes
patriotically sitting among the opposition when his friends were out, he
was looked upon as a very honourable, straightforward person, who could
not be ‘overlooked’ when his party were distributing favours.

My Lady Lonsdall was a _soi-disant_ heiress, the daughter of some person
unknown in the city, the greater part of whose fortune was unhappily
embarked in Poyais Scrip--a fact only ascertained when too late, and,
consequently, though discoursing most eloquently in a prospectus about
mines of gold and silver, strata of pearl necklaces, and diamond ear-
rings, all ready to put on, turned out an unfortunate investment, and
only realised an article in the _Times_, headed ‘another bubble
speculation.’ Still, however, she was reputed very rich, and Sir
Marmaduke received the congratulations of his club on the event with the
air of a conqueror. She married him simply because, having waited long
and impatiently for a title, she was fain to put up at last with a
baronet. Her ambition was to be in the fashionable world; to be among
that sect of London elect who rule at Almack’s and dictate at the West
End; to occupy her portion of the _Morning Post_, and to have her name
circulated among the illustrious few who entertain royalty, and receive
archdukes at luncheon. If the Poyais investment, in its result, denied
the means of these extravagances, it did not, unhappily, obliterate the
taste for them; and my lady’s ambition to be fashionable was never at a
higher spring-tide than when her fortunes were at the ebb. Now, certes,
there are two ways to London distinction--rank and wealth. A fair union
of both will do much, but, without either, the pursuit is utterly
hopeless. There is but one course, then, for these unfortunate aspirants
of celebrity--it is to change the venue and come abroad. They may not,
it is true, have the rank and riches which give position at home. Still,
they are better off than most foreigners: they have not the wealth of
the aristocracy, yet they can imitate their wickedness; their habits may
be costly, but their vices are cheap; and thus they can assert their
high position and their fashionable standing by displaying the
abandonment which is unhappily the distinctive feature of a certain set
in the high world of London.

Followed, then, by a train of admirers, she paraded about the Continent,
her effrontery exalted into beauty, her cold insolence assumed to be
high breeding; her impertinence to women was merely exclusiveness, and
her condescending manner to men the simple acknowledgment of that homage
to which she was so unquestionably entitled.

Of her suite, they were animated by different motives. Some were young
enough to be in love with any woman who, a great deal older than
themselves, would deign to notice them. The noble lord, who accompanied
her always, was a ruined baron, whose own wife had deserted him for
another; he had left his character and his fortune at Doncaster and
Epsom; and having been horsewhipped as a defaulter, and outlawed for
debt, was of course in no condition to face his acquaintances in
England. Still he was a lord--there was no denying that; Debrett and
Burke had chronicled his baptism, and the eighth baron from Hugo de
Colbrooke, who carried the helmet of his sovereign at Agincourt, was
unquestionably of the best blood of the peerage. Like your true white
feather, he wore a most _farouche_ exterior; his moustaches seemed to
bristle with pugnacity, and the expression of his eye was indescribably
martial; he walked as if he was stepping out the ground, and in his
salute he assumed the cold politeness with which a second takes off his
hat to the opposite principal in a duel; even his valet seemed to favour
the illusion, as he ostentatiously employed himself cleaning his
master’s pistols, and arranging the locks, as though there was no
knowing at what moment of the day he might not be unexpectedly called to
shoot somebody.

This noble lord, I say, was a part of the household. Sir Marmaduke
finding his society rather agreeable, and the lady regarding him as the
cork-jacket on which she was to swim into the ocean of fashion at some
remote period or other of her existence.

As for the Honourable Jack Smallbranes, who was he not in love with-- or
rather who was not in love with him? Poor fellow! he was born, in his
own estimation, to be the destroyer of all domestic peace; he was
created to be the ruin to all female happiness. Such a destiny might
well have filled any one with sadness and depression; most men would
have grieved over a lot which condemned them to be the origin of
suffering. Not so, Jack; he felt he couldn’t help it--that it was no
affair of his if he were the best-looking fellow in the world. The thing
was so palpable; women ought to take care of themselves; he sailed under
no false flag. No, there he was, the most irresistible, well-dressed,
and handsomest fellow to be met with; and if they didn’t escape--or, to
use his own expression, ‘cut their lucky’ in time--the fault was all
their own. If queens smiled and archduchesses looked kind upon him, let
kings and archdukes look to it. He took no unfair or underhand
advantages; he made no secret attacks, no dark advances--he carried
every fortress by assault, and in noonday. Some malicious people-- the
world abounds in such--used to say that Jack’s gallantries were
something like Falstaff’s deeds of prowess, and that his victims were
all ‘in buckram.’ But who could believe it? Did not victory sit on his
very brow; were not his looks the signs of conquest; and, better than
all, who that ever knew him had not the assurance from his own lips?
With what a happy mixture of nonchalance and self-satisfaction would he
make these confessions! How admirably blended was the sense of triumph
with the consciousness of its ease! How he would shake his ambrosial
curls, and throw himself into a pose of elegance, as though to say,
‘’Twas thus I did it; ain’t I a sad dog?’

Well, if these conquests were illusions, they were certainly the
pleasantest ever a man indulged in. They consoled him at heart for the
loss of fortune, country, and position; they were his recompense for all
the lost glories of Crockford’s and the ‘Clarendon.’ Never was there
such a picture of perfect tranquillity and unclouded happiness. Oh, let
moralists talk as they will about the serenity of mind derivable alone
from a pure conscience, the peaceful nature that flows from a source of
true honour, and then look abroad upon the world and count the hundreds
whose hairs are never tinged with grey, whose cheeks show no wrinkles,
whose elastic steps suffer no touch of age, and whose ready smile and
cheerful laugh are the ever-present signs of their contentment--let them
look on these, and reflect that of such are nine-tenths of those who
figure in lists of outlawry, whose bills do but make the stamps they are
written on of no value, whose creditors are legion and whose credit is
at zero, and say which seem the happier. To see them one would opine
that there must be some secret good in cheating a coachmaker, or some
hidden virtue in tricking a jeweller; that hotel-keepers are a natural
enemy to mankind, and that a tailor has not a right even to a decimal
fraction of honesty. Never was Epicurean philosophy like theirs; they
have a fine liberal sense of the blackguardisms that a man may commit,
and yet not forfeit his position in society. They know the precise
condition in life when he may practise dishonesty; and they also see
when he must be circumspect. They have one rule for the city and another
for the club; and, better than all, they have stored their minds with
sage maxims and wise reflections, which, like the philosophers of old,
they adduce on every suitable occasion; and many a wounded spirit has
been consoled by that beautiful sentiment, so frequent in their mouths,
of--


‘Go ahead! for what’s the odds so long as you ‘re happy?’

Such, my reader, was the clique in which, strangely enough, I now found
myself; and were it not that such characters abound in every part of the
Continent, that they swarm at spas and infest whole cities, I would
scruple to introduce you to such company. It is as well, however, that
you should be put on your guard against them, and that any amusement you
may derive from the study of eccentricity should not be tarnished with
the recollection of your being imposed upon.

There happened, on the day I speak of, to be a man of some rank at
table, with whom I had a slight, a very slight acquaintance; but in
passing from the room he caught my eye, came over and conversed with me
for a few minutes. From that moment Lady Lonsdall’s manners underwent a
great change in my regard. Not only did she venture to look at me
without expressing any air of supercilious disdain, but even vouchsafed
the ghost of a smile; and, as we rose from table, I overheard her ask
the Honourable Jack for my name. I could not hear the first part of his
reply, but the last was couched in that very classic slang, expressive
of my unknown condition--


‘I take it, he hain’t got no friends!’

Notwithstanding this Foundling-hospital sentence, Sir Marmaduke was
instructed to invite me to take coffee--an honour which, having
declined, we separated, as do people who are to speak when next they
meet.

Meditating on the unjust impression foreigners must conceive of England
and the English by the unhappy specimens we ‘grind for exportation,’ I
sat alone at a little table in the park. It was a sad subject, and it
led me further than I wished or knew of. I thought I could trace much of
the animosity of foreign journals to English policy in their mistaken
notions of national character, and could well conceive how dubiously
they must receive our claim to being high-spirited and honourable, when
their own experiences would incline to a different conclusion; for,
after all, the Fleet Prison, however fashionable its inmates, would
scarcely be a flattering specimen of England, nor do I think Horsemonger
Lane ought to be taken as a fair sample of the country. It is vain to
assure foreigners that these people are not known nor received at home,
neither held in credit nor estimation; their conclusive reply is, ‘How
is it, then, that they are admitted to the tables of your ambassadors,
and presented at our courts? Is it possible you would dare to introduce
to our sovereigns those whom you could not present to your own?’ This
answer is a fatal one. The fact is so; the most rigid censor of morals
leaves his conscience at the Ship Hotel at Dover; he has no room for it
on a voyage, or perhaps he thinks it might be detained by a revenue-
officer. Whatever the cause, he will know at Baden--ay, and walk with--
the man he would cut in Bond Street, and drive with the party at
Brussels he would pass to-morrow if he met in Hyde Park.

This ‘sliding scale’ of morality has great disadvantages; none greater
than the injury it inflicts on national character, and the occasion it
offers for our disparagement at the hands of other people. It is in vain
that liberal and enlightened measures mark our government, or that
philanthropy and humanity distinguish our institutions, we only get
credit for hypocrisy so long as we throw a mantle over our titled
swindlers and dishonourable defaulters. If Napoleon found little
difficulty in making the sobriquet of ‘La Perfide Albion’ popular in
France, we owe it much more to the degraded characters of our refugee
English than to any justice in the charge against the nation. In a word,
I have never met a foreigner commonly fair in his estimate of English
character, who had not travelled in England; and I never met one unjust
in all that regarded national good faith, honesty, and uprightness, who
had visited our shores. The immunity from arrest would seem to suggest
to our runaways an immunity from all the ties of good conduct and
character of our countrymen, who, under that strange delusion of the
‘immorality of France,’ seem to think that a change of behaviour should
be adopted in conformity with foreign usage; and as they put on less
clothing, so they might dispense with a little virtue also.

These be unpleasant reflections, Arthur, and I fear the coffee or the
maraschino must have been amiss; in any case, away with them, and now
for a stroll in the Cursaal!



CHAPTER XXIV. THE GAMBLING-ROOM

Englishmen keep their solemnity and respectful deportment for a church;
foreigners reserve theirs for a gambling-table. Never was I more struck
than by the decorous stillness and well-bred quietness of the room in
which the highest play went forward. All the animation of French
character, all the bluntness of German, all the impetuosity of the
Italian or the violent rashness of the Russian, were calmed down and
subdued beneath the influence of the great passion; and it seemed as
though the Devil would not accept the homage of his votaries if not
rendered with the well-bred manners of true gentlemen. It was not enough
that men should be ruined--they should be ruined with easy propriety and
thorough good-breeding. Whatever their hearts might feel, their faces
should express no discomfiture; though their head should ache and their
hand should tremble, the lip must be taught to say ‘rouge’ or ‘noir’
without any emotion.

I do not scruple to own that all this decorum was more dreadful than any
scene of wild violence or excitement The forced calmness, the pent-up
passion, might be kept from any outbreak of words; but no training could
completely subdue the emotions which speak by the bloodshot eye, the
quivering cheek, the livid lip.

No man’s heart is consecrated so entirely to one passion as a gambler’s.
Hope with him usurps the place of every other feeling. Hope, however
rude the shocks it meets from disappointment, however beaten and
baffled, is still there; the flame may waste down to a few embers, but a
single spark may live amid the ashes, yet it is enough to kindle up into
a blaze before the breath of fortune. At first he lives but for moments
like these; all his agonies, all his sufferings, all the torturings of a
mind verging on despair are repaid by such brief intervals of luck. Yet
each reverse of fate is telling on him heavily; the many disappointments
to his wishes are sapping by degrees his confidence in fortune. His hope
is dashed with fear; and now commences within him that struggle which is
the most fearful man’s nature can endure. The fickleness of chance, the
waywardness of fortune, fill his mind with doubts and hesitations.
Sceptical on the sources of his great passion, he becomes a doubter on
every subject; he has seen his confidence so often at fault that he
trusts nothing, and at last the ruling feature of his character is
suspicion. When this rules paramount, he is a perfect gambler; from that
moment he has done with the world and all its pleasures and pursuits;
life offers to him no path of ambition, no goal to stimulate his
energies. With a mock stoicism he affects to be superior to the race
which other men are running, and laughs at the collisions of party and
the contests of politics. Society, art, literature, love itself, have no
attractions for him then; all excitements are feeble compared with the
alternations of the gaming-table; and the chances of fortune in real
life are too tame and too tedious for the impatience of a gambler.

I have no intention of winding up these few remarks by any moral episode
of a gambler’s life, though my memory could supply me with more than one
such--when the baneful passion became the ruin, not of a thoughtless,
giddy youth, inexperienced and untried, but of one who had already won
golden opinions from the world, and stood high in the ranks which lead
to honour and distinction. These stories have, unhappily, a sameness
which mars the force of their lesson; they are listened to like the
refrain of an old song, and from their frequency are disregarded. No; I
trust in the fact that education and the tastes that flow from it are
the best safeguards against a contagion of a heartless, soulless
passion, and would rather warn my young countrymen at this place against
the individuals than the system.

‘Am I in your way, sir?’ said a short, somewhat overdressed man, with
red whiskers, as he made room for me to approach the play-table, with a
politeness quite remarkable--‘am I in your way, sir?’

‘Not in the least; I beg you ‘ll not stir.’

‘Pray take my seat; I request you will.’

‘By no means, sir; I never play. I was merely looking on.’

‘Nor I either--or at least very rarely,’ said he, rising with the air of
a man who felt no pleasure in what was going forward. ‘You don’t happen
to know that young gentleman in the light-blue frock and white vest
yonder?’

‘No, I never saw him before.’

‘I ‘m sorry for it,’ said he in a whisper; ‘he has just lost seventy
thousand francs, and is going the readiest way to treble the sum by his
play. I ‘m certain he is English by his look and appearance, and it is a
cruel thing, a very cruel thing, not to give him a word of caution
here.’

The words, spoken with a tone of feeling, interested me much in the
speaker, and already I was angry with myself for having conceived a
dislike to his appearance and a prejudice against his style of dress.

‘I see,’ continued he, after a few seconds’ pause--‘I see you agree with
me. Let us try if we can’t find some one who may know him. If Wycherley
is here--you know Sir Harry, I suppose?’

‘I have not that honour.’

‘Capital fellow--the best in the world. He’s in the Blues, and always
about Windsor or St. James’s. He knows everybody; and if that young
fellow be anybody, he’s sure to know him. Ah, how d’ye do, my lord?’
continued he, with an easy nod, as Lord Colebrook passed.

‘Eh, Crotty, how goes it?’ was the reply.

‘You don’t happen to know that gentleman yonder, my lord, do you?’

‘Not I; who is he?’

‘This gentleman and I were both anxious to learn who he is; he is losing
a deal of money.’

‘Eh, dropping his tin, is he? And you ‘d rather save him, Crotty? All
right and sportsmanlike,’ said his lordship, with a knowing wink, and
walked on.

‘A very bad one, indeed, I fear,’ said Crotty, looking after him; ‘but I
didn’t think him so heartless as that. Let us take a turn, and look out
for Wycherley.’

Now, although I neither knew Wycherley nor his friend Crotty, I felt it
a case where one might transgress a little on etiquette, and probably
save a young man--he didn’t look twenty--from ruin; and so, without more
ado, I accompanied my new acquaintance through the crowded salons,
elbowing and pushing along amid the hundreds that thronged there. Crotty
seemed to know almost every one of a certain class; and as he went, it
was a perpetual ‘Comment ça va,’ prince, count, or baron; or, ‘How d’ye
do, my lord?’ or, ‘Eh, Sir Thomas, you here?’ etc; when at length, at
the side of a doorway leading into the supper-room, we came upon the
Honourable Jack, with two ladies leaning upon his arms. One glance was
enough; I saw they were the alderman’s daughters. Sir Peter himself, at
a little distance off, was giving directions to the waiter for supper.

‘Eh, Crotty, what are you doing to-night?’ said Jack, with a triumphant
look at his fair companions; ‘any mischief going forward, eh?’

‘Nothing half so dangerous as your doings,’ said Crotty, with a very
arch smile; ‘have you seen Wycherley? Is he here?’

‘Can’t possibly say,’ yawned out Jack; then leaning over to me, he said
in a whisper, ‘Is the Princess Von Hohenstauvenof in the rooms?’

‘I really don’t know; I ‘m quite a stranger.’

‘By Jove, if she is,’ said he, without paying any attention to my reply,
‘I ‘m floored, that’s all. Lady Maude Beverley has caught me already. I
wish you ‘d keep the Deverington girls in talk, will you?’

‘You forget, perhaps, I have no acquaintance here.’

‘Oh yes, by Jove, so I did! Glorious fun you must have of it! What a
pace I ‘d go along if I wasn’t known, eh! wouldn’t I?’

‘There’s Wycherley--there he is,’ said Crotty, taking me by the arm as
he spoke, and leading me forward. ‘Do me the favour to give me your
name; I should like you to know Wycherley’--and scarcely had I
pronounced it, when I found myself exchanging greetings with a large,
well-built, black-whiskered and moustached man of about forty. He was
dressed in deep mourning, and looked in his manner and air very much the
gentleman.

‘Have you got up the party yet, Crotty?’ said he, after our first
salutations were over, and with a half-glance towards me.

‘No, indeed,’ said Crotty slowly; ‘the fact is, I wasn’t thinking of it.
There’s a poor young fellow yonder losing very heavily, and I wanted to
see if you knew him; it would be only fair to----’

‘So it would; where is he?’ interrupted the baronet, as he pushed
through the crowd towards the play-room.

‘I told you he was a trump,’ said Crotty, as we followed him--‘the
fellow to do a good-natured thing at any moment.

While we endeavoured to get through after him, we passed close beside a
small supper-table, where sat the alderman and his two pretty daughters,
the Honourable Jack between them. It was evident from his boisterous
gaiety that he had triumphed over all his fears of detection by any of
the numerous fair ones he spoke of--his great object at this instant
appearing to be the desire to attract every one’s attention towards him,
and to publish his triumph to all beholders. For this, Jack conversed in
a voice audible at some distance off, surveying his victims from time to
time with the look of the Great Mogul; while they, poor girls, only
imagined themselves regarded for their own attractions, which were very
considerable, and believed that the companionship of the distinguished
Jack was the envy of every woman about them. As for the father, he was
deep in the mysteries of a _vol-au-vent_, and perfectly indifferent to
such insignificant trifles as Jack’s blandishments and the ladies’
blushes.

Poor girls! no persuasion in life could have induced them to such an
exhibition in their own country, and in company with one their equal in
class. But the fact of its being Germany, and the escort being an
Honourable, made all the difference in the world; and they who would
have hesitated with maiden coyness at the honourable proposals of one of
their own class, felt no scruple at compromising themselves before
hundreds, to indulge the miserable vanity of a contemptible coxcomb. I
stood for a second or two beside the table, and thought within myself,
‘Is not this as much a case to call for the interference of friendly
caution as that of the gambler yonder?’ But then, how was it possible?

We passed on and reached the play-table, where we found Sir Harry
Wycherley in low and earnest conversation with the young gentleman. I
could only catch a stray expression here and there, but even they
surprised me--the arguments advanced to deter him from gambling being
founded on the inconsiderate plan of his game, rather than on the
immorality and vice of the practice itself.

‘Don’t you see,’ said Sir Harry, throwing his eye over the card all
dotted with pinholes--‘don’t you see it’s a run, a dead run; that you
may bet on red, if you like, a dozen times, and only win once or twice?’
The youth blushed and said nothing.

‘I ‘ve seen forty thousand francs lost that way in less than an hour.’

‘I’ve lost _seventy_ thousand!’ muttered the young man, with a shudder
like one who felt cold all over.

‘Seventy!--not to-night, surely?’

‘Yes, to-night,’ replied he. ‘I won fourteen hundred naps here when I
came first, and didn’t play for three weeks afterwards; but
unfortunately I strolled in here a few nights ago, and lost the whole
back, as well as some hundreds besides; but this evening I came bent on
winning back--that was all I desired--winning back my own.’

As he said these words, I saw Sir Harry steal a glance at Crotty. The
thing was as quick as lightning, but never did a glance reveal more; he
caught my eye upon him, and looking round fully at me said, in a deep,
ominous voice--

‘That’s the confounded part of it; it’s so hard to stop when you ‘re
losing.’

‘Hard!--impossible!’ cried the youth, whose eyes were now riveted on the
table, following every card that fell from the banker’s hands, and
flushing and growing pale with every alternation of the game. ‘See now,
for all you’ve said, look if the red has not won four times in
succession?’

‘So it has,’ replied the baronet coolly; ‘but the previous run on black
would have left your purse rather shallow, or you must have a devilish
deep one, that’s all.’

He took up a pencil as he spoke, and began to calculate on the back of
the card; then holding it over, he said, ‘There’s what you ‘d have lost
if you went on betting.’

‘What!--two hundred and eighty thousand francs?’

‘Exactly! Look here’; and he went over the figures carefully before him.

‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough of it to-night?’ said Crotty, with an
insinuating smile; ‘what say you if we all go and sup together in the
Saal?’

‘Agreed,’ said Sir Harry, rising at once. ‘Crotty, will you look at the
carte and do the needful? You may trust him, gentlemen,’ continued he,
turning towards us with a smile; ‘old Crotty has a most unexceptionable
taste in all that regards _cuisine_ and _cave_; save a slight leaning
towards expense, he has not a fault!’

I mumbled out something of an apology, which was unfortunately supposed
by the baronet to have reference to his last remark. I endeavoured to
explain away the mistake, and ended like a regular awkward man by
complying with a request I had previously resolved to decline. The young
man had already given his consent, and so we arose and walked through
the rooms, while Crotty inspected the bill of fare and gave orders about
the wine.

Wycherley seemed to know and be known by every one, and as he
interchanged greetings with the groups that passed, declined several
pressing invitations to sup. ‘The fact is,’ said he to one of his most
anxious inviters, ‘the fact is’--and the words were uttered in a whisper
I could just hear--‘there’s a poor young fellow here who has been
getting it rather sharp at the gold table, and I mustn’t lose sight of
him to-night, or he’ll inevitably go back there.’

These few words dispelled any uneasiness I had already laboured under
from finding myself so unexpectedly linked with two strangers. It was
quite clear that Sir Harry was a fine-hearted fellow, and that his
manly, frank countenance was no counterfeit. As we went along, Wycherley
amused us with his anecdotes of the company, with whose private history
he was conversant in its most minute details; and truly, low as had been
my estimate of the society at first, it fell considerably lower as I
listened to the private memoirs with which he favoured us.

Some were the common narratives of debt and desertion, protested bills,
and so forth; others were the bit-by-bit details of extravagant habits
pushed beyond all limits, and ending in expatriation for ever. There
were faithless husbands, outraging all decency by proclaiming their bad
conduct; there were as faithless wives, parading about in all the
effrontery of wickedness. At one side sat the roué companion of George
the Fourth, in his princely days, now a mere bloated debauchee, with
rouged cheeks and dyed whiskers, living on the hackneyed anecdotes of
his youthful rascality, and earning his daily bread by an affected
epicurism and a Sybarite pretension, which flattered the vulgar vanity
of those who fed him; while the lion of the evening was a newly arrived
earl, whose hunters were that very day sold at Tattersall’s, and whose
beautiful countess, horror-stricken at the ruin so unexpectedly come
upon them, was lying dangerously ill at her father’s house in London.
The young peer, indeed, bore up with a fortitude that attracted the
highest encomiums, and from an audience the greater portion of which
knew in their own persons most of the ills he suffered. He exchanged an
easy nod or a familiar shake of the hand with several acquaintances, not
seen before for many a day, and seemed to think that the severest blow
fortune had dealt him was the miserable price his stud would fetch at
such a time of the year.

‘The old story,’ said Wycherley, as he shook him by the hand, and told
him his address--‘the old story; he thought twenty thousand a year would
do anything, but it won’t though. If men will keep a house in town, and
another in Gloucestershire, with a pack of fox-hounds, and have four
horses in training at Doncaster--not to speak of a yacht at Cowes and
some other fooleries--they must come to the Jews; and when they come to
the Jews, the pace is faster than for the Derby itself. Two hundred per
cent, is sharp practice, and I can tell you not uncommon either; and
then when a man does begin to topple, his efforts to recover always ruin
him. It’s like a fall from your horse--make a struggle, and you ‘re sure
to break your leg or your collar-bone; take it kindly, and the chances
are that you get up all right again, after the first shock.’

I did not like either the tone or the morality of my companion; but I
well knew both were the conventional coinage of his set, and I suffered
him to continue without interruption.

‘There’s Mosely Cranmer,’ said he, pointing to a slight, effeminate-
looking young man, with a most girlish softness about his features. He
was dressed in the very extreme of fashion, and displayed all that array
of jewelry in pins, diamond vest-buttons, and rings, so frequently
assumed by modern dandyism. His voice was a thin reedy treble, scarcely
deep enough for a child.

‘Who is he, and what is he doing here?’ asked I.

‘He is the heir to about eighty thousand per annum, to begin with,’ said
Wycherley, ‘which he has already dipped beyond redemption. So far for
his property. As to what he is doing here, you may have seen in the
_Times_ last week that he shot an officer of the Guards in a duel--
killed him on the spot. The thing was certain--Cranmer’s the best
pistol-shot in England.’

‘Ah, Wycherley, how goes it, old fellow?’ said the youth, stretching out
two fingers of his well-gloved hand. ‘You see Edderdale is come over.
Egad! we shall have all England here soon--leave the island to the Jews,
I think!’

Sir Harry laughed heartily at the conceit, and invited him to join our
party at supper; but he was already, I was rejoiced to find, engaged to
the Earl of Edderdale, who was entertaining a select few at his hotel,
in honour of his arrival.

A waiter now came to inform us that Mr. Crotty was waiting for us, to
order supper, and we immediately proceeded to join him in the Saal.

The baronet’s eulogium on his friend’s taste in _gourmandise_ was well
and justly merited. The supper was admirable--the ‘potage printanière’
seasoned to perfection, the ‘salmi des perdreaux, aux points
d’asperges,’ delicious, and the ‘ortolans à la provençale’ a dish for
the gods; while the wines were of that _cru_ and flavour that only
favoured individuals ever attained to at the hands of a landlord. As
_plat_ succeeded _plat_, each admirably selected in the order of
succession to heighten the enjoyment and gratify the palate of the
guest, the conversation took its natural turn to matters gastronomic,
and where, I must confess, I can dally with as sincere pleasure as in
the discussion of any other branch of the fine arts. Mr. Crotty’s forte
seemed essentially to lie in the tact of ordering and arranging a very
admirable repast. Wycherley, however, took a higher walk; he was
historically _gastronome_, and had a store of anecdotes about the dishes
and their inventors, from Clovis to Louis Quatorze. He knew the
favourite meats of many illustrious personages, and told his stories
about them with an admirable blending of seriousness and levity.

There are excellent people, Arthur, who will call you sensualist for all
this--good souls, who eat like Cossacks and drink like camels in the
desert; before whose masticatory powers joints become beautifully less
in shortest space of time, and who while devouring in greedy silence
think nothing too severe to say of him who, with more cultivated palate
and discriminating taste, eats sparingly but choicely, making the
nourishment of his body the nutriment of his mind, and while he supports
nature, can stimulate his imagination and invigorate his understanding.
The worthy votaries of boiled mutton and turnips, of ribs and roasts,
believe themselves temperate and moderate eaters, while consuming at a
meal the provender sufficient for a family; and when, after an hour’s
steady performance, they sit with hurried breathing and half-closed
eyelids, sullen, stupid, and stertorous, drowsy and dull, saturated with
stout and stuffed with Stilton, they growl out a thanksgiving that they
are not like other men--epicures and wine-bibbers. Out upon them, I say!
Let me have my light meal, be its limits a cress, and the beverage that
ripples from the rock beside me; but be it such, that, while eating,
there is no transfusion of the beast devoured into the man, nor, when
eaten, the semi-apoplectic stupor of a gorged boa!

Sir Harry did the honours of the table, and sustained the burden of the
conversation, to which Crotty contributed but little, the young man and
myself being merely noneffectives; nor did we separate until the
_garçon_ came to warn us that the Saal was about to close for the night.



CHAPTER XXV. A WATERING-PLACE DOCTOR

Nothing is more distinct than the two classes of people who are to be
met with in the morning and in the afternoon, sauntering along the
_allées_ of a German watering-place. The former are the invalid portion,
poured forth in numbers from hotel and lodging-house; attired in every
absurdity of dressing-room toilette, with woollen nightcaps and flannel
jackets, old-fashioned _douillettes_ and morocco slippers, they glide
along, glass in hand, to some sulphur spring, or to repose for an hour
or two in the delights of a mud bath. For the most part, they are the
old and the feeble, pale of face and tottering in step. The pursuit of
health with them would seem a vain and fruitless effort; the machine
appears to have run its destined time, and all the skill of man is
unavailing to repair it. Still, hope survives when strength and youth
have failed, and the very grouping together in their gathering-places
has its consolation; while the endless diversity of malady gives an
interest in the eye of a sick man.

This may seem strange, but it is nevertheless perfectly true. There is
something which predisposes an invalid to all narratives of illness;
they are the topics he dwells on with most pleasure, and discourses
about with most eagerness. The anxiety for the ‘gentleman next door’ is
neither philanthropy, nor is it common curiosity. No, it is perfectly
distinct from either; it is the deep interest in the course of symptoms,
in the ups and downs of chance; it is compounded of the feelings which
animate the physician and those which fill the invalid. And hence we see
that the severest sufferings of their neighbours make less impression on
the minds of such people than on those in full health. It is not from
apathy nor selfishness they are seemingly indifferent, but simply
because they regard the question in a different light: to take an
illustration from the gaming-table, they have too deep an interest in
the game itself to feel greatly for the players. The visit of the doctor
is to them the brightest moment of the day; not only the messenger of
good tidings to the patient, he has a thousand little bits of sick-room
gossip, harmless, pointless trifles, but all fraught with their own
charm to the greedy ear of the sick man. It is so pleasant to know how
Mrs. W. bore her drive, or Sir Arthur liked his jelly; what Mrs. T. said
when they ordered her to be bled, and whether dear Mr. H. would consent
to the blister. And with what consummate tact your watering-place doctor
doles out the infinitesimal doses of his morning’s intelligence! How
different his visit from the hurried flight of a West-End practitioner,
who, while he holds his watch in hand, counts the minutes of his stay
while he feels your pulse, and whose descent downstairs is watched by a
cordon of the household, catching his directions as he goes, and
learning his opinion as he springs into his chariot! Your Spa doctor has
a very different mission; his are no heroic remedies, which taken to-day
are to cure tomorrow; his character is tried by no subtle test of
immediate success; his patients come for a term, or, to use the proper
phrase, for ‘a course of the waters’--then they are condemned to
chalybeates for a quarter of the year, so many glasses per diem. With
their health, properly speaking, he has no concern; his function is
merely an inspection that the individual drinks his fluid regularly, and
takes his mud like a man. The patient is invoiced to him, with a bill of
lading from Bell or Brodie; he has full information of the merchandise
transmitted, and the mode in which the consignee desires it may be
treated--out of this ritual he must not move. The great physician of the
West End says, ‘Bathe and drink’; and his _chargé d’affaires_ at
Wiesbaden takes care to see his orders obeyed. As well might a _forçat_
at Brest or Toulon hope to escape the punishment described in the
catalogue of prisoners, as for a patient to run counter to the remedies
thus arranged, and communicated by post. Occasionally changes will take
place in a sick man’s condition _en route_ which alter the applicability
of his treatment; but, then, what would you have? Brodie and Chambers
are not prophets; divination and augury are not taught in the London and
Middlesex hospitals!

I remember, myself, a marquis of gigantic proportions, who had kept his
prescription by him from the time of his being a stripling till he
weighed twenty stone. The fault here lay not with the doctor. The bath
he was to take contained some powerful ingredient--a preparation of
iron, I believe; well, he got into it, and immediately began swelling
and swelling out, till, big as he was before, he was now twice the size,
and at last, like an overheated boiler, threatened to explode with a
crash. What was to be done? To lift him was out of the question--he
fitted the bath like a periwinkle in its shell; and in this dilemma no
other course was open than to decant him, water and all--which was
performed, to the very considerable mirth of the bystanders.

The Spa doctor, then, it will be seen, moves in a very narrow orbit. He
must manage to sustain his reputation without the aid of the
pharmacopoeia, and continue to be imposing without any assistance from
the dead languages.

Hard conditions! but he yields to them, like a man of nerve.

He begins, then, by extolling the virtues of the waters, which by
analysis of ‘his own making,’ and set forth in a little volume published
by himself, contain very different properties from those ascribed to
them by others. He explains most clearly to his non-chemical listener
how ‘pure silica found in combination with oxide of iron, at a
temperature of thirty-nine and a half, Fahrenheit,’ must necessarily
produce the most beneficial effects on the knee-joint; and he describes,
with all the ardour of science, the infinite satisfaction the nerves
must experience when invigorated by ‘free carbonic gas’ sporting about
in the system. Day by day he indoctrinates the patient into some stray
medical notion, giving him an interest in his own anatomy, and putting
him on terms of familiar acquaintance with the formation of his heart or
his stomach. This flatters the sick man, and, better still, it occupies
his attention. He himself thus becomes a _particeps_ in the first degree
to his own recovery; and the simplicity of treatment, which had at first
no attractions for his mind, is now complicated with so many little
curious facts about the blood and the nerves, mucous membranes and
muscles, as fully to compensate for any lack of mystery, and is in truth
just as unintelligible as the most involved inconsistency of any written
prescription. Besides this, he has another object which demands his
attention. Plain, common-sense people, who know nothing of physic or its
mysteries, might fall into the fatal error of supposing that the wells
so universally employed by the people of the country for all purposes of
washing, bathing, and cooking, however impregnated by mineral
properties, were still by no means so capable, in proportions of great
power and efficacy, of effecting either very decided results, curative
or noxious. The doctor must set his heel on this heresy at once; he must
be able to show how a sip too much or a half-glass too many can produce
the gravest consequences; and no summer must pass over without at least
one death being attributed to the inconsiderate rashness of some
insensate drinker. Woe unto him then who drinks without a doctor! You
might as well, in an access of intense thirst, rush into the first
apothecary’s shop, and take a strong pull at one of the vicious little
vials that fill the shelves, ignorant whether it might not be aqua
fortis or Prussic acid.

Armed, then, with all the terrors of his favourite Spa, rich in a
following which is as much partisan as patient, the Spa doctor has an
admirable life of it. The severe and trying cases of illness that come
under the notice of other physicians fall not to his share; the very
journey to the waters is a trial of strength which guards against this.
His disciples are the dyspeptic “diners-out” in the great worlds of
London, Paris, or Vienna; the nervous and irritable natures, cloyed with
excess of enjoyment and palled with pleasure; the imaginary sick man, or
the self-created patient who has dosed himself into artificial malady--
all of necessity belonging to the higher or at least the wealthier
classes of mankind, with whom management goes further than medicine, and
tact is a hundred times better than all the skill of Hippocrates. He had
need, then, to be a clever man of the world; he may dispense with
science, he cannot with _savoir faire_. Not only must he be conversant
with the broader traits of national character, but he must be intimately
acquainted with the more delicate and subtle workings of the heart in
classes and gradations of mankind, a keen observer and a quick actor. In
fact, to get on well, he must possess in a high degree many of those
elements, any one of which would insure success in a dozen other walks
in life.

And the Spa doctor must have all these virtues, as Swift says, ‘for
twenty pounds per annum’--not literally, indeed, but for a very
inadequate recompense. These watering-place seasons are brief intervals,
in which he must make hay while the sun shines. With the approach of
winter the tide turns, and the human wave retires faster than it came.
Silent streets and deserted promenades, closed shutters and hermetically
sealed cafés, meet him at every step; and then comes the long, dreary
time of hibernation. Happy would it be for him if he could but imitate
the seal, and spend it in torpor; for if he be not a sportsman, and in a
country favourable to the pursuit, his life is a sad one. Books are
generally difficult to come at; there is little society, there is no
companionship; and so he has to creep along the tedious time silent and
sad, counting over the months of his durance, and longing for spring.
Some there are who follow the stream, and retire each winter to the
cities where their strongest connection lies; but this practice I should
deem rather dictated by pleasure than profit. Your Spa doctor without a
Spa is like Liszt or Herz without a pianoforte. Give him but his
instrument, and he will ‘discourse you sweet music’; but deprive him of
it, and he is utterly helpless. The springs of Helicon did not suggest
inspiration more certainly than do those of Nassau to their votaries;
but the fount must run that the poet may rhyme. So your physician must
have the odour of sulphurets in his nose; he must see the priestess
ministering, glass in hand, to the shivering shades around her; he must
have the long vista of the promenade, with its flitting forms in flannel
cased, ere he feel himself ‘every inch a doctor.’ Away from these, and
the piston of a steam-engine without a boiler is not more helpless. The
fountain is, to use Lord Londonderry’s phrase, the ‘fundamental feature
on which his argument hinges,’ and he could no more exist without water
than a fish.

Having said so much of the genus, let me be excused if I do not dilate
on the species; nor, indeed, had I dwelt so long on the subject, but in
this age of stomach, when every one has dyspepsia, it is as well to
mention those who rule over our diets and destinies; and where so many
are worshippers at the Temple, a word about the Priest of the Mysteries
may not be unseasonable.

And now, to change the theme, who is it that at this early hour of the
morning seems taking his promenade, with no trace of the invalid in his
look or dress? He comes along at a smart walk; his step has the assured
tramp of one who felt health, and knew the value of the blessing. What!
is it possible--can it be, indeed? ‘Yes, it is Sir Harry Wycherley
himself, with two lovely children, a boy and a girl--the eldest scarcely
seven years old; the boy a year or so younger. Never did I behold
anything more lovely. The girl’s eyes were dark, shaded with long deep
fringe, that added to their depth, and tempered into softness the
glowing sparkle of youth. Her features were of a pensive but not
melancholy character, and in her walk and carriage ‘gentle blood’ spoke
out in accents not to be mistaken. The boy, more strongly formed,
resembled his father more, and in his broad forehead and bold, dashing
expression looked like one who would become one day a man of nerve and
mettle. His dress, too, gave a character to his appearance that well
suited him--a broad hat, turned up at the side, and ornamented with a
dark-blue feather, that hung drooping over his shoulder; a blue tunic,
made so as to show his chest in its full breadth, and his arms naked the
whole way; a scarlet scarf, knotted carelessly at his side, hanging down
with its deep fringe beside his bare leg, tanned and bronzed with sun
and weather; and even his shoes, with their broad silver buckles,
showing that care presided over every part of his costume.

There was something intensely touching in the sight of this man of the
world--for such I well knew he was--thus enjoying the innocence and
fresh buoyancy of his children, turning from the complex web of men’s
schemes and plottings, their tortuous paths and deep designings, to
relax in the careless gaiety of infant minds. Now pursuing them along
the walk, now starting from behind some tree where he lay in ambush, he
gives them chase, and as he gains on them they turn sharp round, and
spring into his arms, and clasp him round the neck.

Arthur, thou hast had a life of more than man’s share of pleasure; thou
hast tasted much happiness, and known but few sorrows; but would not a
moment like this outnumber them all? Where is love so full, so generous,
so confiding? What affection comes so pure and unalloyed, not chilled by
jealous doubts or fears, but warm and gushing--the incense of a happy
heart, the outpourings of a guileless nature. Nothing can be more
beautiful than the picture of maternal fondness, the gracefulness of
woman thrown like a garment around her children. Her look of love
etherealised by the holiest sentiment of tenderness; her loveliness
exalted above the earth by the contemplation of those, her own dear
ones, who are but a ‘little lower than the angels’--is a sight to make
the eyes gush tears of happiness, and the heart swell with thankfulness
to Heaven. Second alone to this is the unbending of man’s stern nature
before the charms of childhood, when, casting away the pride of manhood
and the cold spirit of worldly ambition, he becomes like one among his
children, the participator in their joys and sorrows, the companion of
their games, the confidant of their little secrets. How insensibly does
each moment thus passed draw him further from the world and its cares;
how soon does he forget disappointments, or learn to think of them less
poignantly; and how by Nature’s own magnetism does the sinless spirit of
the child mix with the subtle workings of the man, and lift him above
the petty jarrings and discords of life! And thus, while he teaches
_them_ precepts of truth and virtue, _they_ pour into his heart lessons
of humility and forbearance. If he point out the future to them, with
equal force they show the past to him, and a blessing rests on both. The
_populus me sibilat_ of the miser is a miserable philosophy compared to
his who can retire from the rancorous assaults of enemies and the dark
treachery of false friends, to the bosom of a happy home, and feel his
hearth a sanctuary where come no forms of malice to assail him!

Such were my musings as I saw the father pass on with his children; and
never before did my loneliness seem so devoid of happiness.

Would that I could stop here; would that I might leave my reader to
ponder over these things, and fashion them to his mind’s liking; but I
may not. I have but one object in these notes of my loiterings. It is to
present to those younger in the world, and fresher to its wiles than
myself, some of the dangers as well as some of the enjoyments of foreign
travel; and having surveyed the cost with much care and caution, I would
fix a wreck-buoy here and there along the channel as a warning and a
guide. And now to begin.

Let me take the character before me--one of whom I hesitate not to say
that only the name is derived from invention. Some may have already
identified him; many more may surmise the individual meant. It is enough
that I say he still lives, and the correctness of the portrait may
easily be tested by any traveller Rhinewards; but I prefer giving him a
chapter to himself.



CHAPTER XXVI. SIR HARRY WYCHERLEY

Sir Harry Wycherley was of an old Hampshire family, who, entering the
army when a mere boy, contrived, before he came of age, so completely to
encumber a very large estate that his majority only enabled him to
finish the ruin he had so actively begun, and to leave him penniless at
seven-and-twenty. Before the wreck of his property became matter of
notoriety, he married an earl’s daughter with a vast fortune, a portion
of which was settled on any children that might be born to their union.
She, poor girl, scarcely nineteen when she married (for it was a love
match), died of a broken heart at three-and-twenty--leaving Sir Harry,
with two infant children, all but irretrievably ruined, nearly
everything he possessed mortgaged beyond its value, and not even a house
to shelter him. By the advice of his lawyer, he left England secretly
and came over to Paris, whence he travelled through Germany down to
Italy, where he resided some time. The interest of the fortune settled
on the children sufficed to maintain him in good style, and enabled him
to associate with men of his own rank, provided he incurred no habits of
extravagance. A few years of such prudence would, he was told, enable
him to return with a moderate income; and he submitted.

This career of quiet, unobtrusive character was gradually becoming more
and more insupportable to him. At first the change from a life beset by
duns and bailiffs, by daily interviews with Jews and consultations with
scheming lawyers, was happiness itself; the freedom he enjoyed from
pressing difficulties and contingencies which arose with every hour was
a pleasure he never knew before, and he felt like a schoolboy escaped
from the drudgery of the desk. But by degrees, as he mixed more with
those who were his former associates and companions--many of them exiles
on the same plea as himself--the old taste for past pleasures revived.
Their conversation brought back London with all its brilliant gaiety
before him. Its clubs and coteries, the luxurious display of the dinners
at the ‘Clarendon’ or the reckless extravagance of the nights at
Crockford’s, the triumphs of the Derby, and the glories of Ascot, passed
all in review before him, heightened by the recollection of the high
spirits of his youth. He began once more to hanker after the world he
believed he had quitted without regret; and a morbid anxiety to learn
what was doing and going forward in the circles he used to move in took
possession of his mind. All the gossip of Tattersall’s, all the chitchat
of the Carlton, all the scandal of Graham’s, became at once
indispensable to his existence, Who was going it ‘fastest’ among the
rising spirits of the day, and which was the favourite of ‘Scott’s lot,’
were points of vital interest to him; while he felt the deepest anxiety
about the fortunes of those who were tottering on the brink of ruin, and
spent many a sleepless night in conjectures as to how they were to get
through this difficulty or that, and whether they could ever ‘come
round’ again.

Not one of the actors in that busy scene, into whose wild chaos fate
mixes up all that is highest and everything the most depraved of human
nature, ever took the same interest in it as he did. He lived henceforth
in an ideal world, ignorant and careless of what was passing around him;
his faculties strained to regard events at a distance, he became
abstracted and silent. A year passed over thus, twelve weary months, in
which his mind dwelt on home and country with all the ardour of a
banished man. At last the glad tidings reached him that a compromise had
been effected with his principal creditors; his most pressing debts had
been discharged, and time obtained to meet others of less moment; and no
obstacle any longer existed to his returning to England.

What a glorious thing it was to come back again once more to the old
haunts and scenes of pleasure; to revisit the places of which his days
and nights were filled with the very memory; to be once again the
distinguished among that crowd who ruled supreme at the table and on the
turf, and whose fiat was decisive from the Italian Opera to Doncaster!
Alas and alas! the resumption of old tastes and habits will not bring
back the youth and buoyancy which gave them all their bright colouring.
There is no standing still in life; there is no resting-place whence we
can survey the panorama, and not move along with it. Our course
continues, and as changes follow one another in succession without, so
within our own natures are we conforming to the rule, and becoming
different from what we had been. The dream of home, the ever-present
thought to the exile’s mind, suffers the rude shock when comes the hour
of testing its reality; happy for him if he die in the delusion! Early
remembrances are hallowed by a light that age and experience dissipate
for ever, and as the highland tarn we used to think grand in its wild
desolation in the hours of our boyhood becomes to our manhoods eye but a
mere pond among the mountains, so do we look with changed feelings on
all about us, and feel disappointment where we expected pleasure.

In all great cities these changes succeed with fearful rapidity.
Expensive tastes and extravagant habits are hourly ruining hundreds who
pass off the scene where they shone, and are heard of no more. The
‘lion’ of the season--whose plate was a matter of royal curiosity, whose
equipage gave the tone to the time, whose dinner invitations were
regarded as the climax of fashionable distinction--awakes some morning
to discover that an expenditure of four times a man’s income, continued
for several years, may originate embarrassment in his affairs. He finds
out that tailors can be uncivil, and coachmakers rude and--horror of
horrors!--he sees within the precincts of his dressing-room the plebeian
visage of a sherrifs officer, or the calculating countenance of a West-
End auctioneer.

He who was booked for Ascot now hurries away to Antwerp. An ambiguous
paragraph in an evening paper informs London that one among the ranks of
extravagance has fallen; a notice of ‘public competition’ by the hand of
George Robins comes next; a criticism, and generally a sharp one, on the
taste of his furniture and the value of his pictures follows; the broad
pages of the _Morning Post_ become the winding-sheet of his memory, and
the knock of the auctioneer’s hammer is his requiem! The ink is not
dried on his passport ere he is forgotten. Fashionable circles have
other occupations than regrets and condolences; so that the exile may be
a proud man if he retain a single correspondent in that great world
which yesterday found nothing better than to chronicle his doings.

When Sir Harry Wycherley then came back to London he was only remembered
--nothing more. The great majority of his contemporaries had, like
himself, passed off the boards during the interval; such of them as
remained were either like vessels too crippled in action to seek safety
in flight, or, adopting the philosophy of the devil when sick, had
resolved on prudence when there was no more liking for dissipation. He
was almost a stranger in his club; the very waiters at Mivart’s asked
his name; while the last new peer’s son, just emerging into life, had
never even heard of him before. So is it decreed--dynasties shall fall
and others succeed them; Charles le Dix gives place to Louis-Philippe,
and Nugee occupies the throne of Stultz.

Few things men bear worse than this oblivion in the very places where
once their sway was absolute. It is very hard to believe that the world
has grown wiser and better, more cultivated in taste and more correct in
its judgments than when we knew it of old; and a man is very likely to
tax with ingratitude those who, superseding him in the world’s favour,
seem to be forgetful of claims which in reality they never knew of.

Sir Harry Wycherley was not long in England ere he felt these truths in
all their bitterness, and saw that an absence of a few years teaches
one’s friends to do without them so completely that they are absolutely
unwilling to open a new want of acquaintance, as though it were an
expensive luxury they had learned to dispense with. Besides, Wycherley
was decidedly _rococo_ in all his tastes and predilections. Men did not
dine now where they used in _his_ day--Doncaster was going out, Goodwood
was coming in; people spoke of Grisi, not Pasta, Mario more than Rubini.
Instead of the old absolute monarchy of fashion, where one dictated to
all the rest, a new school sprung up, a species of democracy, who
thought Long Wellesley and D’Orsay were unclean idols, and would not
worship anything but themselves.

Now of all the marks of progress which distinguish men in the higher
circles, there is none in these latter days at all comparable with the
signs of--to give it a mild name--increased ‘sharpness,’ distinguishable
amongst them. The traveller by the heavy Falmouth mail whisked along
forty miles per hour in the Grand Junction, would see far less to
astonish and amaze him than your shrewd man about town of some forty
years back, could he be let down any evening among the youth at
Tattersall’s, or introduced among the rising generation just graduating
at Graham’s.

The spirit of the age is unquestionably to be ‘up and doing.’ A good
book on the Oaks has a far higher preeminence, not to say profit, than
one published in ‘the Row’; the ‘honours’ of the crown are scarcely on a
par with those scored at whist; and to predict the first horse at Ascot
would be a far higher step in the intellectual scale than to prophesy
the appearance of a comet or an eclipse; the leader in the House can
only divide public applause with the winner of the Léger, and even the
versatile gyrations of Lord Brougham himself must yield to the more
fascinating pirouettes of Fanny Ellsler. Young men leave Eton and
Sandhurst now with more tact and worldly wit than their fathers had at
forty, or than their grandfathers ever possessed.

Short as Sir Harry Wycherley’s absence had been, the march of mind had
done much in all these respects. The babes and sucklings of fashion were
more than his equals in craft and subtlety; none like _them_ to
ascertain what was wrong with the favourite, or why ‘the mare’ would not
start; few could compete with them in those difficult walks of finance
which consist in obtaining credit from coach-makers, and cash from Jews.
In fact, to that generation who spent profusely to live luxuriously had
succeeded a race who reversed the position, and lived extravagantly in
order to have the means of spending. Wiser than their fathers, they
substituted paper for cash payments, and saw no necessity to cry ‘stop’
while there was a stamp in England.

It was a sad thing for one who believed his education finished to become
a schoolboy once more, but there was nothing else for it. Sir Harry had
to begin at the bottom of the class; he was an apt scholar it is true,
but before he had completed his studies he was ruined. High play and
high interest, Jews and jockeys, dinners and danseuses, with large
retinues of servants, will help a man considerably to get rid of his
spare cash; and however he may--which in most cases he must--acquire
some wisdom _en route_, his road is not less certain to lead to ruin. In
two years from the time of his return, another paragraph and another
auction proclaimed that ‘Wycherley was cleaned out,’ and that he had
made his ‘positively last appearance’ in England.

The Continent was now to be his home for life. He had lost his ‘means,’
but he had learned ‘ways’ of living, and from pigeon he became rook.

There is a class, possibly the most dangerous that exists, of men, who
without having gone so far as to forfeit pretension to the society and
acquaintance of gentleman, have yet involved their name and reputation
in circumstances which are more than suspicious. Living expensively,
without any obvious source of income; enjoying every luxury, and
indulging every taste that costs dearly, without any difficulty in the
payment, their intimacy with known gamblers and blacklegs exposes them
at once to the inevitable charge of confederacy. Rarely or never playing
themselves, however, they reply to such calumnies by referring to their
habits; their daily life would indeed seem little liable to reproval. If
married, they are the most exemplary of husbands. If they have children,
they are models for fathers. Where can you see such little ones, so
well-mannered, so well-dressed, with such beautifully curled hair, and
such perfectly good-breeding--or, to use the proper phrase, ‘so
admirably taken care of’? They are liberal to all public charities; they
are occasionally intimate with the chaplain of the Embassy too--of whom,
a word hereafter; and, in fact, it would be difficult to find fault with
any circumstance in their bearing before the world. Their connection by
family with persons of rank and condition is a kind of life-buoy of
which no shipwreck of fortune deprives them, and long after less well-
known people have sunk to the bottom, they are to be found floating on
the surface of society. In this way they form a kind of ‘Pont du Diable’
between persons of character and persons of none--they are the narrow
isthmus, connecting the mainland with the low reef of rocks beyond it.

These men are the tame elephants of the swindling world, who provide the
game, though they never seem to care for the sport. Too cautious of
reputation to become active agents in these transactions, they introduce
the unsuspecting traveller into those haunts and among those where ruin
is rife; and as the sheriff consigns the criminal to the attentions of
the hangman, so these worthies halt at the ‘drop,’ and would scorn with
indignation the idea of exercising the last office of the law.

Far from this, they are eloquent in their denunciations of play. Such
sound morality as theirs cannot be purchased at any price; the dangers
that beset young men coming abroad--the risk of chance acquaintance, the
folly of associating with persons not known--form the staple of their
talk--which, lest it should seem too cynical in its attack on pleasure,
is relieved by that admirable statement so popular in certain circles.
‘You know a man of the world must see everything for himself, so that
though I say don’t gamble, I never said don’t frequent the Cursaal;
though I bade you avoid play, I did not say shun blacklegs.’ It is
pretty much like desiring a man not to take the yellow fever, but to be
sure to pass an autumn on the coast of Africa!

Such, then, was the character of him who would once have rejected with
horror the acquaintance of one like himself. A sleeping partner in
swindling, he received his share of the profits, although his name did
not appear in the firm. His former acquaintances continued to know him,
his family connections were large and influential, and though some may
have divined his practices, he was one of those men that are never
‘cut.’ Some pitied him; some affected to disbelieve all the stories
against him; some told tales of his generosity and kindness, but
scarcely any one condemned him--‘Ainsi va le monde?’

Once more I ask forgiveness, if I have been too prolix in all this;
rather would I have you linger in pleasanter scenes, and with better
company, but--there must always be a ‘but’--he is only a sorry pilot who
would content himself with describing the scenery of the coast,
expatiating on the beauty of the valleys and the boldness of the
headlands, while he let the vessel take her course among reefs and
rocks, and risk a shipwreck while he amused the passengers. Adieu, then,
to Spas and their visitors! The sick are seldom the pleasantest company;
the healthy at such places are rarely the safest.

‘You are going, Mr. O’Leary?’ said a voice from a window opposite the
hotel, as my luggage was lifted into a _fiacre_, I looked up. It was the
youth who had lost so deeply at the Cursaal.

‘Only to Ooblentz, for a few days,’ said I; ‘I am weary of gaiety and
fine people. I wish for quiet just now.’

‘I would that I had gone some weeks ago,’ exclaimed he, with a sigh.
‘May I walk with you as far as the river?’

I assented with pleasure, and in a moment after he was by my side.

‘I trust,’ said I, when we had walked together some time--‘I trust you
have not been to the Cursaal again?’

‘Never since I met you; that night was the last I ever passed there!’ He
paused for some minutes, and then added, ‘You are not acquainted with
either of the gentlemen in whose company we supped--I think you told me
so on the way home?’

‘No, they were both strangers to me; it was a chance rencontre, and in
the few weeks I passed at Wiesbaden I learned enough not to pursue the
acquaintance further. Indeed, to do them justice, they seemed as well
disposed as myself to drop the intimacy; I seldom play, never among
strangers.’

‘Ah,’ said he, in an accent of some bitterness, ‘that resolve would
avail you little with _them; they_ can win without playing for it.’

‘How so; what do you mean?’

‘Have you a mind for a short story? It is my own adventure, and I can
vouch for the truth.’ I assented, and he went on:--

‘About a week ago, Mr. Crotty, with two others, one of whom was called
Captain Jacob, came to invite me to a little excursion to Kreuznach.
They were to go one day and return the following one. Sir Harry was to
join the party also, and they spoke of Lord Edderdale and some others.
But Wycherley only came down to the steamboat, when a messenger arrived
with a pressing letter, recalling him to Wiesbaden, and the rest never
appeared. Away we went, however, in good spirits; the day was fine, and
the sail down the Rhine, as you know, delightful. We arrived at
Kreuznach to dinner, spent the evening in wandering about the pretty
scenery, and came back by moonlight to a late supper. As usual with
them, cards were produced after supper, but I had never touched a card,
nor made a bet, since my unlucky night at the Cursaal; so I merely sat
by the table and looked on at the game--of course taking that interest
in it a man fond of play cannot divest himself of--but neither
counselling any party, nor offering a bet to either side. The game
gradually became interesting, deeply so, as well from the skill of the
players as the high stakes they played for. Large sums of money changed
owners, and heavy scores were betted besides. Meanwhile, champagne was
called for, and, as the night wore on, a bowl of smoking bishop, spiced
and seasoned to perfection. My office was to fill the glasses of the
party, and drink toasts with each of them in succession, as luck
inclined to this side or that.

‘The excitement of play needs not wine to make it near to madness; but
with it no mania is more complete. Although but a looker-on, my
attention was bent on the game; and what with the odorous bowl of
bishop, and the long-sustained interest, the fatigue of a day more than
usually laborious, and a constitution never strong, I became so heavy
that I threw myself upon a sofa, and fell fast asleep.

‘How I reached my bed and became undressed, I never knew since; but by
noon the next day I was awakened from a deep slumber, and saw Jacob
beside me.

‘“Well, old fellow, you take it coolly,” said he, laughing; “you don’t
know it’s past twelve o’clock.”

‘“Indeed!” said I, starting up, and scarce remembering where I was. “The
fact is, my wits are none of the clearest this morning--that bowl of
bishop finished me.”

‘“Did it, by Jove?” replied he, with a half saucy laugh; “I’ll wager a
pony, notwithstanding, that you never played better in your life.”

‘“Played! why, I never touched a card,” said I, in horror and amazement.

‘“I wish you hadn’t, that’s all,” said he, while he took a pocket-book
from his pocket, and proceeded to open it on the bed. “If you hadn’t, I
should have been somewhat of a richer man this morning.”

‘“I can only tell you,” said I, as I rubbed my eyes, and endeavoured to
waken up more completely--“I can only tell you that I don’t remember
anything of what you allude to, nor can I believe that I would have
broken a firm resolve I made against play----”

‘“Gently, sir, gently,” said he, in a low, smooth voice; “be a little
careful, I beseech you; what you have just said amounts to something
very like a direct contradiction of my words. Please to remember, sir,
that we were strangers to each other yesterday morning. But to be brief,
was your last bet a double or quit, or only a ten-pound note, for on
that depends whether I owe you two hundred and sixty, or two hundred and
seventy pounds? Can you set me right on that point--they made such a
noise at the time, I can’t be clear about it.”

‘“I protest, sir,” said I, once more, “this is all a dream to me; as I
have told you already, I never played----”

‘“You never played, sir?”

‘“I mean, I never knew I played, or I have no remembrance of it now.”

‘“Well, young gentleman, fortune treats _you_ better when asleep than
she does _me_ with my eyes open, and as I have no time to lose, for I
leave for Bingen in half an hour, I have only to say, here is your
money. You may forget what you have won; I have also an obligation, but
a stronger one, to remember what I have lost; and as for the ten pounds,
shall we say head or tail for it, as we neither of us are quite clear
about it?”

‘“Say anything you like, for I firmly believe one or the other of us
must be out of our reason.”

‘“What do you say, sir--head or tail?”

‘“Head!” cried I, in a frenzy; “there ought to be _one_ in the party.”

‘“Won again, by Jove!” said he, opening his hand; “I think you’ll find
that rouleau correct; and now, sir, _au revoir_. I shall have my revenge
one of these days.”

‘He shook my hand and went out, leaving me sitting up in the bed, trying
to remember some one circumstance of the previous night, by which I
could recall my joining the play-table. But nothing of the kind; a thick
haze was over everything, through which I could merely recollect the
spicy bishop, and my continued efforts to keep their glasses filled.
There I sat, puzzled and confused, the bed covered with bank-notes,
which after all have some confounded magic in their faces that makes our
acceptance of them a matter of far less repugnance than it ought. While
I counted over my gains, stopping every instant to think on the strange
caprices of fortune, that wouldn’t afford me the gambler’s pleasure of
winning, while enriching me with gain, the door opened, and in came
Crotty.

‘“Not up yet! why, we start in ten minutes; didn’t the waiter call you?”

‘“No. I am in a state of bewilderment this whole morning-----”

‘“Well, well, get clear of it for a few seconds, I advise you, and let
us settle scores----”

‘“What!” cried I, laughing, “have I won from you also?”

‘“No, by Jove, it’s the other way. You pushed me rather sharply though,
and if I had taken all your bets I should have made a good thing of it.
As it is”--here he opened a memorandum-book and read out--“as it is, I
have only won seven hundred and twenty, and two hundred and fifty-eight-
-nine hundred and seventy-eight, I believe; does not that make it?”

‘I shivered like one in the ague, and couldn’t speak a word.

‘“Has Jacob booked up?” asked Crotty.

‘“Yes,” said I, pointing to the notes on the bed, that now looked like a
brood of rattlesnakes to my eyes.

‘“All right,” continued he, “Jacob is a most punctilious fellow--
foolishly so, indeed, among friends. Well, what are we to say about
this--are you strong in cash just now?”

‘“No,” stammered I, with a sigh.

‘“Well, never mind--a short bill for the balance; I’ll take what’s here
in part payment, and don’t let the thing give you any inconvenience.”

‘This was done in a good off-hand way. I signed the bill which he drew
up in due form. He had a dozen stamps ready in his pocket-book. He
rolled up the banknotes carelessly, stuffed them into his coat-pocket,
and with a most affectionate hope of seeing me next day at Wiesbaden,
left the room.

‘The bill is paid--I released it in less than a week. My trip to
Kreuznach just cost me seven hundred pounds, and I may be pardoned if I
never like “bishop” for the rest of my life after.’

‘I should not wonder if you became a Presbyterian to-morrow,’ said I,
endeavouring to encourage his own effort at good-humour: ‘but here we
are at the Rhine. Good-bye; I needn’t warn you about----’

‘Not a word, I beseech you; I’ll never close my eyes as long as I live
without a double lock on the door of my bedroom.’



CHAPTER XXVII. THE RECOVERY HOUSE

Frankfort is a German Liverpool, minus the shipping, and consequently
has few attractions for the mere traveller. The statue of ‘Ariadne,’ by
the Danish sculptor Danneker, is almost its only great work of art.
There are some, not first-rate, pictures in the Gallery and the Hôtel de
Ville, and the Town Library possesses a few Protestant relics--among
others, a pair of Luther’s slippers.

There is, however, little to delay a wanderer within the walls of the
Frey Stadt, if he have no peculiar sympathy with the Jews and money-
changers. The whole place smacks of trade and traders, and seems far
prouder of being the native city of Rothschild than the birthplace of
Goethe.

The happy indolence of a foreign city, the easy enjoyment of life so
conspicuous in most continental towns, exists not here. All is activity,
haste, and bustle. The tables d’hôte are crowded to excess by eager
individuals eating away against time, and anxious to get back once more
to the Exchange or the counting-house. There is a Yankee abruptness in
the manners of the men, who reply to you as though information were a
thing not to be had for nothing; and as for the women, like the wives
and daughters of all commercial communities, they are showy dressers and
poor talkers, wear the finest clothes and inhabit the most magnificent
houses, but scarcely become the one and don’t know how to live in the
other.

I certainly should not like to pitch my tent in Frankfort, even as
successor to the great Munch Bellinghausen himself--Heaven grant I may
have given him all his consonants!--the President of the Diet. And yet
to the people themselves few places take such rooted hold on the
feelings of the inhabitants as trading cities. Talk of the attachment of
a Swiss or a Tyrolese to his native mountains--the dweller in Fleet
Street or the Hoch Grasse will beat him hollow. The daily occupations of
city life, filling up every nook and crevice of the human mind, leave no
room for any thought or wish beyond them. Hence arises that insufferable
air of self-satisfaction, that contented self-sufficiency, so observable
in your genuine Cockney. Leadenhall Street is to his notion the
touchstone of mankind, and a character on ‘Change the greatest test of
moral worth. Hamburg or Frankfort, Glasgow or Manchester, New York or
Bristol, it is all the same; your men of sugar and sassafras, of hides,
tallow, and train-oil, are a class in which nationality makes little
change. No men enjoy life more, few fear death as much. This is truly
strange! Any ordinary mind would suppose that the common period of human
life spent in such occupations as Frankfort, for instance, affords would
have little desire for longevity--that, in short, a man, let him be ever
such a glutton of Cocker, would have had enough of decimal fractions and
compound interest after fifty years; and that he could lay down the pen
without a sigh, and even for the sake of a little relaxation be glad to
go into the next world. Nothing of the kind; your Frankforter hates
dying above all things. The hardy peasant who sees the sun rise from his
native mountains, and beholds him setting over a glorious landscape of
wood and glen, of field and valley, can leave the bright world with
fewer regrets than your denizen of some dark alley or some smoke-dried
street in a great metropolis. The love of life--it may be axiomised--is
in the direct ratio of its artificiality. The more men shut out Nature
from their hearts and homes, and surround themselves with the hundred
little appliances of a factitious existence, the more do they become
attached to the world. The very changes of flood and field suggest the
thought of a hereafter to him who dwells among them; the falling leaf,
the withered branch, the mouldering decay of vegetation, bear lessons
there is no mistaking; and the mind thus familiarised learns to look
forward to the great event as the inevitable course of that law by which
he lives and breathes--while to others, again, the speculations which
grow out of the contemplation of Nature’s great works invariably are
blended with this thought. Not so your man of cities, who inhabits some
brick-surrounded kingdom, where the incessant din of active life as
effectually excludes deep reflection as does the smoky atmosphere the
bright sky above it. Immersed in worldly cares, interested heart and
soul in the pursuit of wealth, the solemn idea of death is not broken to
his mind by any analogy whatever. It is the pomp of the funeral that
realises the idea to him; it is as a thing of undertakers and mourning-
coaches, of mutes and palls, scarfs, sextons, and grave-diggers, that he
knows it--the horrid image of human woe and human mockery, of grief
walking in carnival. No wonder if it impress him with a greater dread!

‘What has all this sad digression to do with Frankfort, Mr. O’Leary?’
inquires some very impatient reader, who always will pull me short up
when I ‘m in for a four-mile-heat of moralising. Come, then, I’ll tell
you. The train of thought was suggested to me as I strolled along the
Boulevard to my hotel, meditating on one of the very strangest
institutions it had ever been my lot to visit in any country; and which,
stranger still, so far as I know, guidebook people have not mentioned in
any way.

In a cemetery of Frankfort--a very tasteful imitation of Père la Chaise-
-there stands a large building, handsomely built, and in very correct
Roman architecture, which is called the Recovery House--being neither
more nor less than an institution devoted to the dead, for the purpose
of giving them every favourable opportunity of returning to life again
should they feel so disposed. The apartments are furnished with all the
luxurious elegance of the best houses; the beds are decorated with
carving and inlaying, the carpets soft and noiseless to the tread; and,
in fact, few of those who live and breathe are surrounded by such
appliances of enjoyment. Beside each bed there stands a small table, in
which certain ivory keys are fixed, exactly resembling those of a
pianoforte. On these is the hand of the dead man laid as he lies in the
bed; for instead of being buried, he is conveyed here after his supposed
death, and wrapped up in warm blankets, while the temperature of the
room itself is regulated by the season of the year. The slightest
movement of vitality in his fingers would press down one of the keys,
which communicate with a bell at the top of the building, where resides
a doctor, or rather two doctors, who take it watch and watch about,
ready at the summons to afford all the succour of their art.
Restoratives of every kind abound--all that human ingenuity can devise--
in the way of cordials and stimulants, as well as a large and admirably
equipped staff of servants and nurses, whose cheerful aspect seems
especially intended to reassure the patient should he open his eyes once
more to life.

The institution is a most costly one. The physicians, selected from
among the highest practitioners of Frankfort, are most liberally
remunerated, and the whole retinue of the establishment is maintained on
a footing of even extravagant expenditure. Of course, I need scarcely
say that its benefits, if such they be, are reserved for the wealthy
only. Indeed, I have been told that the cost of ‘this lying in state’
exceeds that of the most expensive funeral fourfold. Sometimes there is
great difficulty in obtaining a vacant bed. Periods of epidemic disease
crowd the institution to such a degree that the greatest influence is
exerted for a place. Now, one naturally asks, What success has this
system met with to warrant this expenditure, and continue to enjoy
public confidence? None whatever. In seventeen years which one of the
resident doctors passed there, not _one_ case occurred of restored
animation; nor was there ever reason to believe that in any instance the
slightest signs of vitality ever returned. The physicians themselves
make little scruple at avowing the incredulity concerning its necessity,
and surprised me by the freedom with which they canvassed the excellent
but mistaken notions of its founders.

To what, then, must we look for the reason of maintaining so strange an
institution? Simply to that love of life so remarkably conspicuous in
the people of Frankfort. The failure in a hundred instances is no
argument to any man who thinks his own case may present the exception.
It matters little to him that his neighbour was past revival when he
arrived there; the question is, What is his own chance? Besides that,
the fear of being buried alive--a dread only chimerical in other
countries--must often present itself here, when an institution is
maintained to prevent the casualty; in fact, there looks a something of
scant courtesy in consigning a man to the tomb at once, in a land where
a kind of purgatorial sojourn is provided for him. But stranger than all
is the secret hope this system nourishes in the sick man’s heart, that
however friends may despond, and doctors may pronounce, he has a chance
still; there is a period allowed him of appealing against the decree of
death--enough if he but lift a finger against it. What a singular
feature does the whole system expose, and how fond of the world must
they be who practise it! Who can tell whether this House of Recovery
does not creep in among the fading hopes of the death-bed, and if, among
the last farewells of parting life, some thoughts of that last chance
are not present to the sick man’s mind? As I walked through its silent
chambers, where the pale print of death was marked in every face that
lay there, I shuddered to think how the rich man’s gold will lead him to
struggle against the will of his Creator. La Morgue, in all its fearful
reality, came up before me, and the cold moist flags on which were
stretched the unknown corpses of the poor seemed far less horrible than
this gorgeous palace of the wealthy dead.

Unquestionably, cases of recovery from trance occur in every land, and
the feelings of returning animation, I have often been told, are those
of most intense suffering. The inch to inch combat with death is a
fearful agony; yet what is it to the horrible sensations of _seeming_
death, in which the consciousness survives all power of exertion, and
the mind burns bright within while the body is about to be given to the
earth. Can there be such a state as this? Some one will say, Is such a
condition possible? I believe it firmly. Many years ago a physician of
some eminence gave me an account of a fearful circumstance in his own
life, which not only bears upon the point in question, but illustrates
in a remarkable degree the powerful agency of volition as a principle of
vitality. I shall give the detail in his own words, without a syllable
of comment, save that I can speak, from my knowledge of the narrator, to
the truth of his narrative.



CHAPTER XXVIII. THE ‘DREAM OF DEATH’

‘It was already near four o’clock ere I bethought me of making any
preparation for my lecture. The day had been, throughout, one of those
heavy and sultry ones that autumn so often brings in our climate, and I
felt from this cause much oppressed and disinclined to exertion,
independently of the fact that I had been greatly over-fatigued during
the preceding week, some cases of a most trying and arduous nature
having fallen to my lot--one of which, from the importance of the life
to a young and dependent family, had engrossed much of my attention, and
aroused in me the warmest anxiety for success. In this frame of mind I
was entering my carriage to proceed to the lecture-room, when an
unsealed note was put into my hands; I opened it hastily, and read that
poor H-----, for whom I was so deeply interested, had just expired. I
was greatly shocked. It was scarcely an hour since I had seen him; and
from the apparent improvement since my former visit, I had ventured to
speak most encouragingly, and had even made some jesting allusions to
the speedy prospect of his once more resuming his place at hearth and
board. Alas! how short-lived were my hopes destined to be! how awfully
was my prophecy to be contradicted.

‘No one but him who has himself experienced it knows anything of the
deep and heartfelt interest a medical man takes in many of the cases
which professionally come before him. I speak here of an interest
perfectly apart from all personal regard for the patient, or his
friends; indeed, the feeling I allude to has nothing in common with
this, and will often be experienced as thoroughly for a perfect stranger
as for one known and respected for years. To the extreme of this feeling
I was ever a victim. The heavy responsibility, often suddenly and
unexpectedly imposed; the struggle for success, when success was all but
hopeless; the intense anxiety for the arrival of those critical periods
which change the character of a malady, and divest it of some of its
dangers or invest it with new ones; the despondence when that period has
come only to confirm all the worst symptoms, and shut out every prospect
of recovery; and, last of all, that most trying of all the trying duties
of my profession, the breaking to the perhaps unconscious relatives that
my art has failed, that my resources are exhausted, and, in a word, that
there is no longer a hope--these things have preyed on me for weeks, for
months long, and many an effort have I made in secret to combat this
feeling, but without the least success, till at last I absolutely
dreaded the very thought of being summoned to a dangerous and critical
illness. It may then be believed how very heavily the news I had just
received came upon me; the blow, too, was not even lessened by the poor
consolation of my having anticipated the result and broken the shock to
the family. I was still standing with the half-opened note in my hands,
when I was aroused by the coachman asking, I believe for the third time,
whither he should drive. I bethought me for an instant, and said, “To
the lecture-room.”

‘When in health, lecturing had ever been to me more of an amusement than
a labour; and often, in the busy hours of professional visiting, have I
longed for the time when I should come before my class, and divesting my
mind of all individual details, launch forth into the more abstract and
speculative doctrines of my art. It so chanced, too, that the late hour
at which I lectured, as well as the subjects I adopted, usually drew to
my class many of the advanced members of the profession, who made this a
lounge after the fatigues of the morning.

‘Now, however, I approached this duty with fear and trembling; the
events of the morning had depressed my mind greatly, and I longed for
rest and retirement. The passing glance I threw at the lecture-room
through the half-opened door showed it to be crowded to the very roof,
and as I walked along the corridor I heard the name of some foreign
physician of eminence, who was among my auditory. I cannot describe the
agitation of mind I felt at this moment. My confusion, too, became
greater as I remembered that the few notes I had drawn up were left in
the pocket of the carriage, which I had just dismissed, intending to
return on foot. It was already considerably past the usual hour, and I
was utterly unable to decide how to proceed. I hastily drew out a
portfolio that contained many scattered notes and hints for lectures,
and hurriedly throwing my eye across them, discovered some singular
memoranda on the subject of insanity. On these I resolved at once to
dilate a little, and eke out, if possible, the materials for a lecture.

‘The events of the remainder of that day are wrapped in much obscurity
to my mind, yet I well remember the loud thunder of applause which
greeted me on entering the lecture-room, and how, as for some moments I
appeared to hesitate, they were renewed again and again, till at last,
summoning resolution, I collected myself sufficiently to open my
discourse. I well remember, too, the difficulty the first few sentences
cost me--the doubts, the fears, the pauses, which beset me at every step
as I went on--my anxiety to be clear and accurate in conveying my
meaning making me recapitulate and repeat, till I felt myself, as it
were, working in a circle. By degrees, however, I grew warmed as I
proceeded; and the evident signs of attention my auditory exhibited gave
me renewed courage, while they impressed me with the necessity to make a
more than common exertion. By degrees, too, I felt the mist clearing
from my brain, and that even without effort my ideas came faster, and my
words fell from me with ease and rapidity. Simile and illustration came
in abundance, and distinctions which had hitherto struck me as the most
subtle and difficult of description I now drew with readiness and
accuracy. Points of an abstruse and recondite nature, which under other
circumstances I should not have wished to touch upon, I now approached
fearlessly and boldly, and felt, in the very moment of speaking, that
they became clearer and clearer to myself. Theories and hypotheses which
were of old and acknowledged acceptance I glanced hurriedly at as I went
on, and with a perspicuity and clearness I never before felt exposed
their fallacies and unmasked their errors. I thought I was rather
describing events, things actually passing before my eyes at the
instant, than relating the results of a life’s experience and
reflection. My memory, usually a defective one, now carried me back to
the days of my early childhood; and the whole passages of a life lay
displayed before me like a picture. If I quoted, the very words of the
author rushed to my mind as palpably as though the page lay open before
me. I have still some vague recollection of an endeavour I made to trace
the character of the insanity in every case to some early trait of the
individual in childhood, when, overcome by passion or overbalanced by
excitement, the faculties run wild into all those excesses which in
after years develop eccentricities of character, and in some weaker
temperaments aberrations of intellect. Anecdotes illustrating this novel
position came thronging to my mind; and events in the early years of
some who subsequently died insane, and seemed to support my theory, came
rushing to my memory.

‘As I proceeded, I became gradually more and more excited; the very ease
and rapidity with which my ideas suggested themselves increased the
fervour of my imaginings, till at last I felt my words come without
effort and spontaneously, while there seemed a commingling of my
thoughts which left me unable to trace connection between them, though I
continued to speak as fluently as before. I felt at this instant a
species of indistinct terror of some unknown danger which hung over me,
yet which it was impossible to avert or to avoid. I was like one who,
borne on the rapid current of a fast-flowing river, sees the foam of the
cataract before him, yet waits passively for the moment of his
destruction, without an effort to save. The power which maintained my
mind in its balance had gradually forsaken me, and shapes and fantasies
of every odd and fantastic character flitted around and about me. The
ideas and descriptions my mind had conjured up assumed a living,
breathing vitality, and I felt like a necromancer waving his wand over
the living and the dead. I paused; there was a dead silence in the
lecture-room. A thought rushed like a meteor-flash across my brain, and
bursting forth into a loud laugh of hysteric passion, I cried, “And I,
and I too am a maniac!” My class rose like one man; a cry of horror
burst through the room. I know no more.

‘I was ill, very ill, and in bed. I looked around me--every object was
familiar to me. Through the half-closed window-shutter there streamed
one long line of red sunlight; I felt it was evening. There was no one
in the room, and as I endeavoured to recall my scattered thoughts
sufficiently to find out why I was thus, there came an oppressive
weakness over me. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep, and was roused by
some one entering the room. It was my friend Dr. G------; he walked
stealthily towards my bed, and looked at me fixedly for several minutes.
I watched him closely, and saw that his countenance changed as he looked
on me; I felt his hand tremble slightly as he placed it on my wrist, and
heard him mutter to himself in a low tone, “My God! how altered!” I
heard now a voice at the door, saying in a soft whisper, “May I come
in?” The doctor made no reply, and my wife glided gently into the
apartment. She looked deathly pale, and appeared to have been weeping;
she leaned over me, and I felt the warm tears fall one by one upon my
forehead. She took my hand within both of hers, and putting her lips to
my ear, said, “Do you know _me_, William?” There was a long pause. I
tried to speak, but I could not. I endeavoured to make some sign of
recognition, and stared her fully in the face; but I heard her say, in a
broken voice, “He does not know _me_ now”; and then I felt it was in
vain. The doctor came over, and taking my wife’s hand, endeavoured to
lead her from the room. I heard her say, “Not now, not now”; and I sank
back into a heavy unconsciousness.

‘I awoke from what appeared to have been a long and deep sleep. I was,
however, unrefreshed and unrested. My eyes were dimmed and clouded, and
I in vain tried to ascertain if there was any one in the room with me.
The sensation of fever had subsided, and left behind the most depressing
debility. As by degrees I came to myself, I found that the doctor was
sitting beside my bed; he bent over me, and said, “Are you better,
William?” Never until now had my inability to reply given me any pain or
uneasiness; now, however, the abortive struggle to speak was torture. I
thought and felt that my senses were gradually yielding beneath me, and
a cold shuddering at my heart told me that the hand of death was upon
me. The exertion now made to repel the fatal lethargy must have been
great, for a cold, clammy perspiration broke profusely over my body; a
rushing sound, as if of water, filled my ears; a succession of short
convulsive spasms, as if given by an electric machine, shook my limbs. I
grasped the doctor’s hand firmly in mine, and starting to the sitting
posture I looked wildly about me. My breathing became shorter and
shorter, my grasp relaxed, my eyes swam, and I fell back heavily in the
bed. The last recollection of that moment was the muttered expression of
my poor friend G------, saying, “It is over at last.”

‘Many hours must have elapsed ere I returned to any consciousness. My
first sensation was feeling the cold wind across my face, which seemed
to come from an open window. My eyes were closed, and the lids felt as
if pressed down by a weight. My arms lay along my side, and though the
position in which I lay was constrained and unpleasant, I could make no
effort to alter it; I tried to speak, but I could not.

‘As I lay thus, the footsteps of many persons traversing the apartment
broke upon my ear, followed by a heavy dull sound, as if some weighty
body had been laid upon the floor; a harsh voice of one near me now
said, as if reading, “William H------, aged thirty-eight years; I
thought him much more.” The words rushed through my brain, and with the
rapidity of a lightning flash every circumstance of my illness came
before me; and I now knew that I had died, and that for my interment
were intended the awful preparations about me. Was this then death?
Could it be that though coldness wrapped the suffering clay, passion and
sense should still survive, and that while every external trace of life
had fled, consciousness should still cling to the cold corpse destined
for the earth? Oh, how horrible, how more than horrible, the terror of
the thought! Then I thought it might be what is termed a trance; but
that poor hope deserted me as I brought to mind the words of the doctor,
who knew too well all the unerring signs of death to be deceived by its
counterfeit, and my heart sank as they lifted me into the coffin, and I
felt that my limbs had stiffened, as I knew this never took place in a
trance. How shall I tell the heart-cutting anguish of that moment, as my
mind looked forward to a futurity too dreadful to think upon--when
memory should call up many a sunny hour of existence, the loss of
friends, the triumph of exertion, and then fall back upon the dread
consciousness of the ever-buried life the grave closed over; and then I
thought that perhaps sense but lingered round the lifeless clay, as the
spirits of the dead are said to hover around the places and homes they
have loved in life ere they leave them for ever, and that soon the lamp
should expire upon the shrine when the temple that sheltered it lay
mouldering and in ruins. Alas! how fearful to dream of even the
happiness of the past, in that cold grave where the worm only is a
reveller! to think that though


“Friends, brothers, and sisters are laid side by side, Yet none have ere
questioned, nor none have replied;”

yet that all felt in their cold and mouldering hearts the loves and
affections of life, budding and blossoming as though the stem was not
rotting to corruption that bore them. I brought to mind the awful
punishment of the despot who chained the living to the dead man, and
thought it mercy when compared to this.

‘How long I lay thus I know not, but the dreary silence of the chamber
was again broken, and I found that some of my dearest friends were come
to take a farewell look at me ere the coffin was closed upon me for
ever. Again the horror of my state struck me with all its forcible
reality, and like a meteor there shot through my heart the bitterness of
years of misery condensed into the space of a minute. And then I
remembered how gradual is death, and how by degrees it creeps over every
portion of the frame, like the track of the destroyer, blighting as it
goes, and said to my heart, All may yet be still within me, and the mind
as lifeless as the body it dwelt in. Yet these feelings partook of life
in all their strength and vigour; there was the will to move, to speak,
to see, to live, and yet all was torpid and inactive, as though it had
never lived. Was it that the nerves, from some depressing cause, had
ceased to transmit the influence of the brain? Had these winged
messengers of the mind refused their office? And then I recalled the
almost miraculous efficacy of the will, exerted under circumstances of
great exigency, and with a concentration of power that some men only are
capable of. I had heard of the Indian father who suckled his child at
his own bosom, when he had laid its mother in her grave; yet was it not
the will had wrought this miracle? I myself have seen the paralytic limb
awake to life and motion by the powerful application of the mind
stimulating the nervous channels of communication, and awakening the
dormant powers of vitality to their exercise. I knew of one whose heart
beat fast or slow as he did will it. Yes, thought I, in a transport, the
will to live is the power to live; and only when this faculty has
yielded with bodily strength need death be the conqueror over us.

‘The thought of reanimation was ecstatic, but I dared not dwell upon it;
the moments passed rapidly on, and even now the last preparations were
about to be made, ere they committed my body to the grave. How was the
effort to be made? If the will did indeed possess the power I trusted
in, how was it to be applied? I had often wished to speak or move during
my illness, yet was unable to do either. I then remembered that in those
cases where the will had worked its wonders, the powers of the mind had
entirely centred themselves in the one heart-filling desire to
accomplish a certain object, as the athlete in the games strains every
muscle to lift some ponderous weight. Thus I knew that if the heart
could be so subjected to the principle of volition, as that, yielding to
its impulse, it would again transmit the blood along its accustomed
channels, and that then the lungs should be brought to act upon the
blood by the same agency, the other functions of the body would be more
readily restored by the sympathy with these great ones. Besides, I
trusted that so long as the powers of the mind existed in the vigour I
felt them in, that much of what might be called latent vitality existed
in the body. Then I set myself to think upon those nerves which preside
over the action of the heart--their origin, their course, their
distribution, their relation, their sympathies; I traced them as they
arose in the brain, and tracked them till they were lost in millions of
tender threads upon the muscle of the heart. I thought, too, upon the
lungs as they lay flaccid and collapsed within my chest, the life-blood
stagnant in their vessels, and tried to possess my mind with the
relation of these two parts to the utter exclusion of every other
endeavoured then to transmit along the nerves the impulse of that
faculty my whole hopes rested on. Alas! it was in vain. I tried to heave
my chest and breathe, but could not; my heart sank within me, and all my
former terrors came thickening around me, more dreadful by far as the
stir and bustle in the room indicated they were about to close the
coffin.

‘At this moment my dear friend B------ entered the room.

He had come many miles to see me once more, and they made way for him to
approach me as I lay. He placed his warm hand upon my breast, and oh the
throb it sent through my heart! Again, but almost unconsciously to
myself, the impulse rushed along my nerves; a bursting sensation seized
my chest, a tingling ran through my frame, a crashing, jarring
sensation, as if the tense nervous cords were vibrating to some sudden
and severe shock, took hold on me; and then, after one violent
convulsive throe which brought the blood from my mouth and eyes, my
heart swelled, at first slowly, then faster, and the nerves
reverberated, clank! clank! responsive to the stroke. At the same time
the chest expanded, the muscles strained like the cordage of a ship in a
heavy sea, and I breathed once more.

‘While thus the faint impulse to returning life was given, the dread
thought flashed on me that it might not be real, and that to my own
imagination alone were referable the phenomena I experienced. At the
same instant the gloomy doubt crossed my mind it was dispelled; for I
heard a cry of horror through the room, and the words, “He is alive! he
still lives!” from a number of voices around me. The noise and confusion
increased.

I heard them say, “Carry out B------ before he sees him again; he has
fainted!” Directions and exclamations of wonder and dread followed one
upon another; and I can but call to mind the lifting me from the coffin,
and the feeling of returning warmth I experienced as I was placed before
a fire, and supported by the arms of my friend.

‘I will only add that after some weeks of painful debility I was again
restored to health, having tasted the full bitterness of death.’



CHAPTER XXIX. THE STRANGE GUEST

The Eil Wagen, into whose bowels I had committed myself on leaving
Frankfort, rolled along for twenty-four hours before I could come to any
determination as to whither I should go; for so is it that perfect
liberty is sometimes rather an inconvenience, and a little despotism is
now and then no bad thing; and at this moment I could have given a ten-
gulden piece to any one who should have named my road, and settled my
destination.

‘Where are we?’ said I, at length, as we straggled, nine horses and all,
into a great vaulted _porte cochère_.

‘At the “Koenig von Preussen,” mein Herr,’ said a yellow-haired waiter,
who flourished a napkin about him in truly professional style.

‘Ah, very true; but in what town, city, or village, and in whose
kingdom?’

‘Ach, du lieber Gott!’ exclaimed he, with his eyes opened to their
fullest extent. ‘Where would you be but in the city of Hesse-Cassel, in
the Grand-Duchy of Seiner Königlichen Hoheit-----’

‘Enough, more than enough! Let me have supper.’

The Speisesaal was crowded with travellers and townspeople as I entered;
but the room was of great size, and a goodly table, amply provided,
occupied the middle of it. Taking my place at this, I went ahead through
the sliced shoe-leather, yclept beef, the Kalbs-braten and the Gurken-
salat, and all the other indigestible abominations of that light meal a
German takes before he lies down at night. The company were, with the
exception of a few military men, of that nondescript class every German
town abounds with--a large-headed, long-haired, plodding-looking
generation, with huge side-pockets in their trousers, from one of which
a cherry-wood pipe-stick is sure to project; civil, obliging, good sort
of people they are, but by no means remarkable for intelligence or
agreeability. But then, what mind could emerge from beneath twelve solid
inches of beetroot and bouilli, and what brain could bear immersion in
Bavarian beer?

One never can understand fully how atrocious the tyranny of Napoleon
must have been in Germany, until he has visited that country and seen
something of its inhabitants; then only can one compute what must the
hurricane have been that convulsed the waters of such a landlocked bay.
Never was there a people so little disposed to compete with their
rulers, never was obedience more thoroughly an instinct. The whole
philosophy of the German’s mind teaches him to look within rather than
without; his own resources are more his object in life than the
enjoyment of state privileges, and to his peaceful temper endurance is a
pleasanter remedy than resistance. Almost a Turk in his love of
tranquillity, he has no sympathy with revolutions or public disturbances
of any kind, and the provocation must indeed be great when he arouses
himself to resist it. That when he is thus called on he can act with
energy and vigour, the campaigns of 1813 and 1814 abundantly testify.
Twice the French armies had to experience the heavy retribution on
unjust invasion. Both Spain and Germany repaid the injuries they had
endured, but with a characteristic difference of spirit. In the one case
it was the desultory attacks of savage guerillas, animated by the love
of plunder as much as by patriotism; in the other, the rising of a great
people to defend their homes and altars, presented the glorious
spectacle of a nation going forth to the fight. The wild notes of the
Basque bugle rang not out with such soul-stirring effects as the
beautiful songs of Körner, heard beside the watch-fire or at the
peasant’s hearth. The conduct of their own princes might have debased
the national spirit of any other people; but the German’s attachment to
Fatherland is not a thing of courtly rule nor conventional agreement. He
loves the land and the literature of his fathers; he is proud of the
good faith and honesty which are the acknowledged traits of Saxon
character; he holds to the ‘sittliche Leben,’ the orderly domestic
habits of his country; and as he wages not a war of aggression on
others, he resists the spoliation of an enemy on the fields of his
native country.

When the French revolution fire broke out, the students were amongst its
most ardent admirers; the destruction of the Bastile was celebrated
among the secret festivals of the Burschenschaft; and although the fever
was a brief one, and never extended among the more thinking portion of
the nation, to that same enthusiasm for liberty was owing the great
burst of national energy which in 1813 convulsed the land from the
Baltic to the Tyrol, and made Leipsic the compensation for Jena.

With all his grandeur of intellect, Napoleon never understood the
national character--perhaps he may have despised it. One of his most
fatal errors, undoubtedly, was the little importance he attached to the
traits which distinguish one country from another, and the seeming
indifference with which he propounded notions of government
diametrically opposed to all the traditions and prejudices of those for
whom they were intended. The great desire for centralisation; the
ambition to make France the heart of Europe, through whose impulse the
life-blood should circulate over the entire Continent; to merge all
distinctions of race and origin, and make Frenchmen of one quarter of
the globe--was a stupendous idea, and if nations were enrolled in
armies, might not be impossible. The effort to effect it, however, cost
him the greatest throne of Christendom.

The French rule in Spain, in Italy, and in Holland, so far from
conciliating the good-will and affection of the people, has sown the
seeds of that hatred to France in each of these countries that a century
will not eradicate; while no greater evidence of Napoleon’s ignorance of
national character need be adduced than in the expectations he indulged
in the event of his landing an army in England. His calculation on
support from any part of the British people--no matter how opposed to
the ministry of the day, or how extreme in their wishes for extended
liberties--was the most chimerical thought that ever entered the brain
of man. Very little knowledge of our country might have taught him that
the differences of party spirit never survive the mere threat of foreign
invasion; that however Englishmen may oppose one another, they reserve a
very different spirit of resistance for the stranger who should attack
their common country; and that party, however it may array men in
opposite ranks, is itself but the evidence of patriotism, seeking
different paths for its development.

It was at the close of a little reverie to this purpose that I found
myself sitting with one other guest at the long table of the Speisesaal;
the rest had dropped off one by one, leaving him in the calm enjoyment
of his meerschaum and his cup of black coffee. There was something
striking in the air and appearance of this man, and I could not help
regarding him closely; he was about fifty years of age, but with a
carriage as erect and a step as firm as any man of twenty. A large white
moustache met his whiskers of the same colour, and hung in heavy curl
over his upper lip; his forehead was high and narrow, and his eyes,
deeply set, were of a greenish hue, and shaded by large eyebrows that
met when he frowned. His dress was a black frock, braided in Prussian
taste and decorated by a single cordon, which hung not over the breast,
but on an empty sleeve of his coat, for I now perceived that he had lost
his right arm near the shoulder. That he was a soldier and had seen
service, the most careless observer could have detected; his very look
and bearing bespoke the _militaire_. He never spoke to any one during
supper, and from that circumstance, as well as his dissimilarity to the
others, I judged him to be a traveller. There are times when one is more
than usually disposed to let Fancy take the bit in her mouth and run off
with them; and so I suffered myself to weave a story, or rather a dozen
stories, for my companion, and did not perceive that while I was
inventing a history for him he had most ungratefully decamped, leaving
me in a cloud of tobacco-smoke and difficult conjectures.

When I descended to the Saal the next morning I found him there before
me; he was seated at breakfast before one of the windows, which
commanded a view over the platz and the distant mountains. And here let
me ask, Have you ever been in Hesse-Cassel? The chances are, not. It is
the highroad--nowhere. You neither pass it going to Berlin or Dresden.
There is no wonder of scenery or art to attract strangers to it; and yet
if accident should bring you thither, and plant you in the ‘König von
Preussen,’ with no pressing necessity urging you onward, there are many
less pleasant things you could do than spend a week there. The hotel
stands on one side of a great platz, or square, at either side of which
the theatre and a museum form the other two wings; the fourth being left
free of building, is occupied by a massive railing of most laboured
tracery, which opens to a wide gate in a broad flight of steps,
descending about seventy feet into a spacious park. The tall elms and
beech-trees can be seen waving their tops over the grille above, and
seeming, from the platz, like young timber; beyond, and many miles away,
can be seen the bold chain of the Taunus Mountains stretching to the
clouds, forming altogether a view which for extent and splendour I know
no city that can present the equal. I could scarce restrain my
admiration; and as I stood actually riveted to the spot, I was totally
inattentive to the second summons of the waiter, informing me that my
breakfast awaited me in another part of the room.

‘What, yonder?’ said I, in some disappointment at being so far removed
from all chance of the prospect.

‘Perhaps you would join me here, sir,’ said the officer, rising, and
with a most affable air saluting me.

‘If not an intrusion----’

‘By no means,’ said he. ‘I am a passionate admirer of that view myself.
I have known it many years, and I always feel happy when a stranger
participates in my enjoyment of it.’

I confess I was no less gratified by the opportunity thus presented of
forming an acquaintance with the officer himself than with the scenery,
and I took my seat with much pleasure. As we chatted away about the town
and the surrounding country, he half expressed a curiosity at my taking
a route so little travelled by my countrymen, and seemed much amused by
my confession that the matter was purely accidental, and that frequently
I left the destination of my ramble to the halting-place of the
diligence. As English eccentricity can, in a foreigner’s estimation,
carry any amount of absurdity, he did not set me down for a madman--
which, had I been French or Italian, he most certainly would have done--
and only smiled slightly at my efforts to defend a procedure in his eyes
so ludicrous.

‘You confess,’ said I, at last, somewhat nettled by the indifference
with which he heard my most sapient arguments--‘you confess on what mere
casualties every event of life turns, what straws decide the whole
destiny of a man, and what mere trivial circumstances influence the fate
of whole nations, and how in our wisest and most matured plans some
unexpected contingency is ever arising to disconcert and disarrange us;
why, then, not go a step farther--leave more to fate, and reserve all
our efforts to behave well and sensibly, wherever we may be placed, in
whatever situations thrown? As we shall then have fewer disappointments,
we shall also enjoy a more equable frame of mind, to combat with the
world’s chances.’

‘True, if a man were to lead a life of idleness, such a wayward course
might possibly suffice him as well as any other; but, bethink you, it is
not thus men have wrought great deeds, and won high names for
themselves. It is not by fickleness and caprice, by indolent yielding to
the accident of the hour, that reputations have been acquired----’

‘You speak,’ said I, interrupting him at this place--‘you speak as if
humble men like myself were to occupy their place in history, and not
lie down in the dust of the churchyard undistinguishable and forgotten.’

‘When they cease to act otherwise than to deserve commemoration, rely
upon it their course is a false one. Our conscience may be--indeed often
is--a bribed judge; and it is only by representing to ourselves how our
modes of acting and thinking would tell upon the minds of others,
reading of but not knowing us, that we arrive at that certain rule of
right so difficult in many worldly trials.

‘And do you think a man becomes happier by this?’

‘I did not say happier,’ said he, with a sorrowful emphasis on the last
word. ‘He may be better.’

With that he rose from his seat, and looking at his watch he apologised
for leaving me so suddenly, and departed.

‘Who is the gentleman that has just gone out?’ asked I of the waiter.

‘The Baron von Elgenheim,’ replied he; ‘but they mostly call him the
Black Colonel. Not for his moustaches,’ added he, laughing with true
German familiarity, ‘they are white enough, but he always wears
mourning.’

‘Does he belong to Hesse, then?’

‘Not he; he’s an Auslander of some sort--a Swabian, belike; but he comes
here every year, and stays three or four weeks at a time. And, droll
enough too, though he has been doing so for fifteen or sixteen years, he
has not a single acquaintance in all Cassel; indeed, I never saw him
speak to a stranger till this morning.’

These particulars, few as they were, all stimulated my curiosity to see
more of the colonel; but he did not present himself at the table d’hôte
on that day or the following one, and I only met him by chance in the
Park, when a formal salute, given with cold politeness, seemed to say
our acquaintance was at an end.

Now, there are certain inns which by a strange magnetism are felt as
homes at once; there is a certain air of quietude and repose about them
that strikes you when you enter, and which gains on you every hour of
your stay. The landlord, too, has a bearing compounded of cordiality and
respect; and the waiter, divining your tastes and partialities, falls
quickly into your ways, and seems to regard you as an _habitué_ while
you are yet a stranger; while the ringleted young lady at the bar, who
passed you the first day on the stairs with a well-practised
indifference, now accosts you with a smile and a curtsy, and already
believes you an old acquaintance.

To an indolent man like myself, these houses are impossible to leave. If
it be summer, you are sure to have a fresh bouquet in your bedroom every
morning when you awake; in winter, the _garçon_ has discovered how you
like your slippers toasted on the fender, and your _robe de chambre_
airing on the chair; the cook learns your taste in cutlets, and knows to
a nicety how to season your _omelette aux fines herbes_; the very
washerwoman of the establishment has counted the plaits in your shirt,
and wouldn’t put one more or less for any bribery. By degrees, too, you
become a kind of confidant of the whole household. The host tells you of
ma’mselle’s fortune, and the match on the tapis for her, and all the
difficulties and advantages, contra and pro; the waiter has revealed to
you a secret of passion for the chambermaid, but for which he would be
Heaven knows how many thousand miles off, in some wonderful place, where
the wages would enable him to retire in less than a twelvemonth; and
even Boots, while depositing your Wellingtons before the fire, has
unburdened his sorrows and his hopes, and asks your advice, ‘if he
shouldn’t become a soldier?’ When this hour arrives, the house is your
own. Let what will happen, _your_ fire burns brightly in your bedroom;
let who will come, _your_ dinner is cared for to a miracle. The
newspaper, coveted by a dozen and eagerly asked for, is laid by for your
reading; you are, then, in the poets words--


‘Liber, honoratus, pulcher--Rex denique Regum’;

and let me tell you, there are worse sovereignties.

Apply this to the ‘König von Preussen,’ and wonder not if I found myself
its inhabitant for three weeks afterwards.



CHAPTER XXX. THE PARK

In somewhat less than a fortnight’s time I had made a bowing
acquaintance with some half-dozen good subjects of Hesse, and formed a
chatting intimacy with some three or four frequenters of the table
d’hôte, with whom I occasionally strolled out of an afternoon into the
Park, to drink coffee, and listen to the military band that played there
every evening. The quiet uniformity of the life pleased and never
wearied me; for happily--or unhappily, as some would deem it--mine is
one of those tame and commonplace natures which need not costly
amusements nor expensive tastes to occupy it. I enjoyed the society of
agreeable people with a gusto few possess; I can also put up with the
association with those of a different stamp, feeling sensibly how much
more I am on a level with them, and how little pretension I have to find
myself among the others. Fortunately, too, I have no sympathy with the
pleasures which wealth alone commands--it was a taste denied me. I
neither affect to undervalue their importance, nor sneer at their
object; I simply confess that the faculty which renders them desirable
was by some accident omitted from my nature, and I never yet felt the
smallness of my fortune a source of regret.

There is no such happiness, to my notion, as that which enables a man to
be above the dependence on others for his pleasures and amusements, to
have the sources of enjoyment in his own mind, and to feel that his own
thoughts and his own reflections are his best wealth. There is no
selfishness in this; far from it. The stores thus laid by make a man a
better member of society, more ready to assist, more able to advise his
fellow-men. By standing aloof from the game of life, you can better
estimate the chances of success and the skill of the players; and as you
have no stake in the issue, the odds are that your opinion is a correct
one. But, better than all, how many enjoyments which to the glitter of
wealth or the grandeur of a high position would seem insignificant and
valueless, are to the humble man sources of hourly delight! And is our
happiness anything but an aggregate of these grains of pleasure? There
is as much philosophy in the child’s toy as in the nobleman’s coronet;
all the better for him who can limit his desires to the attainable, and
be satisfied with what lies within his reach. I have practised the
system for a life long, and feel that if I now enjoy much of the
buoyancy and the spirit of more youthful days, it is because I have
never taxed my strength beyond its ability, nor striven for more than I
could justly pretend to. There is something of indolence in all this--I
know there is; but I was born under a lazy star, and I cannot say I
regret my destiny.

From this little _exposé_ of my tastes and habits it may be gathered
that Cassel suited me perfectly. The air of repose which rests on these
little secluded capitals has something--to me at least--inexpressibly
pleasurable. The quaint old-fashioned equipages, drawn along at a gentle
amble; the obsolete dress of the men in livery; the studious ceremony of
the passers to each other; the absence of all bustle; the primitive
objects of sale exposed in the various shops--all contrasting so
powerfully with the wealth-seeking tumult of richer communities--suggest
thoughts of tranquillity and contentment. They are the bourgeoisie of
the great political world. Debarred from the great game which empires
and kingdoms are playing, they retire within the limits of their own
narrow but safe enjoyments, with ample means for every appliance of
comfort; they seek not to astonish the world by any display, but content
themselves with the homely happiness within their reach.

Every day I lingered here I felt this conviction the stronger. The small
interests which occupied the public mind originated no violent passions,
no exaggerated party spirit. The journals--those indices of a nation’s
mind--contained less politics than criticism; an amicable little
contention about the site of a new fountain or the position of an
elector’s statue was the extent of any discussion; while at every
opportunity crept out some little congratulating expression on the
goodness of the harvest, the abundance of the vintage, or, what was
scarcely less valued, the admirable operatic company which had just
arrived. These may seem very petty incidents for men to pass their lives
amongst, thought I, but still they all seem very happy; there is much
comfort, there is no poverty. Like the court whist-table, where the
points are only for silver groschen, the amusement is just as great, and
no one is ruined by high play.

I am not sure but I should have made an excellent Hessian, thought I, as
I deposited two little silver pieces, about the size of a spangle, on
the table, in payment for a very appetising little supper, and an ink-
bottleful of Rhine wine. And now for the coffee.

I was seated beneath a great chestnut-tree, whose spreading branches
shaded me from the rays of the setting sun that came slanting to my very
feet. At a short distance off sat a little family party--grandfather,
grandchildren, and all--there was no mistaking them; they were eating
their supper in the Park, possibly in honour of some domestic fête. Yes,
there could be no doubt of it; it was the birthday of that pretty, dark-
eyed little girl, of some ten years of age, who wore a wreath of roses
in her hair, and sat at the top of the table, beside the Greis. A peal
of delighted laughter broke from them all as I looked. And now I could
see a little boy of scarce five years old, whose long yellow locks hung
midway down his back; he was standing beside his sister’s chair, and I
could hear his infant voice reciting a little verse he had learned in
honour of the day. The little man, whose gravity contrasted so
ludicrously with the merry looks about, went through his task as
steadily as a court preacher holding forth before royalty; an occasional
breach of memory would make him now and then turn his head to one side,
where an elder sister knelt, and then he would go on again as before. I
wished much to catch the words, but could only hear the refrain of each
verse, which he always repeated louder than the rest--


‘Da sind die Tage lang genuch, Da sind die Nachte mild.’

Scarcely had he finished when his mother caught him to her arms and
kissed him a hundred times; while the others struggled to take him, the
little fellow clung to her neck with all his strength.

It was a picture of such happiness, that to look on it were alone a
blessing. I have that night’s looks and cheerful voices fresh in my
memory, and have thought of them many a long mile away from where I then
heard them.

A slight noise beside me made me turn round, and I saw the Black
Colonel, as the waiter called him, and whom I had not met for several
days past. He was seated on a bench near, but with his back towards me,
and I could perceive he was evidently unaware of my presence. I had, I
must confess it, felt somewhat piqued at his avoidance of me, for such
the distant recognition with which he saluted me seemed to imply. He had
made the first advances himself, and it was scarcely fair that he should
have thus abruptly stopped short, after inviting acquaintance. While I
was meditating a retreat, he turned suddenly about, and then, taking off
his hat, saluted me with a courtly politeness quite different from his
ordinary manner.

‘I see, sir,’ said he with a very sweet smile, as he looked towards the
little group--‘I see, sir, you are indeed an admirer of pretty
prospects.’

Few and simple as the words were, they were enough to reconcile me to
the speaker; his expression, as he spoke them, had a depth of feeling in
it which showed that his heart was touched.

After some commonplace remark of mine on the simplicity of German
domestic habits and the happy immunity they enjoyed from that rage of
fashion which in other countries involved so many in rivalry with others
wealthier than themselves, the colonel assented to the observation, but
expressed his sorrow that the period of primitive tastes and pleasures
was rapidly passing away. The French Revolution first, and subsequently
the wars of the Empire, had done much to destroy the native simplicity
of German character; while in latter days the tide of travel had brought
a host of vulgar rich people, whose gold corrupted the once happy
peasantry, suggesting wants and tastes they never knew nor need to know.

‘As for the great cities of Germany,’ continued he, ‘they have scarcely
a trace left of their ancient nationality. Vienna and Berlin, Dresden,
and Munich, are but poor imitations of Paris; it is only in the old and
less visited towns, such as Nuremberg, or Augsburg, that the Alt Deutsch
habits still survive. Some few of the Grand-Ducal States--Weimar, for
instance--preserve the primitive simplicity of former days even in
courtly etiquette; and there, really, the government is paternal, in the
fullest sense of the term. You would think it strange, would you not, to
dine at court at four o’clock, and see the grand-ducal ministers and
their ladies--the élite of a little world of their own--proceeding, many
of them on foot, in court-dress, to dinner with their sovereign?
Strange, too, would you deem it--dinner over--to join a promenade with
the party in the Park, where all the bourgeoisie of the town are
strolling about with their families, taking their coffee and their tea,
and only interrupting their conversation or their pleasure to salute the
Grand-Duke or Grand-Duchess, and respectfully bid them a “good-e’en”;
and then, as it grew later, to return to the palace, for a little whist
or a game of chess, or, better still, to make one of that delightful
circle in the drawing-room where Goethe was sitting? Yes, such is the
life of Weimar. The luxury of your great capitals, the gorgeous salons
of London and Paris, the voluptuous pleasures which unbounded wealth and
all its train of passions beget, are utterly unknown there; but there is
a world of pure enjoyment and of intercourse with high and gifted minds
which more than repay you for their absence. A few years more, and all
this will be but “matter for an old man’s memory.” Increased facilities
of travel and greater knowledge of language erase nationality most
rapidly. The venerable habits transmitted from father to son for
centuries--the traditional customs of a people--cannot survive a
caricature nor a satire. The _esprit moqueur_ of France and the insolent
wealth of England have left us scarce a vestige of our Fatherland. Our
literature is at this instant a thing of shreds and patches--bad
translations of bad books; the deep wisdom and the racy humour of Jean
Paul are unknown, while the vapid wit of a modern French novel is
extolled. They prefer the false glitter of Dumas and Balzac to the
sterling gold of Schiller and Herder; and even Leipsic and Waterloo have
not freed us from the slavish adulation of the conquered to the
conqueror.’

‘What would you have?’ said I.

‘I would have Germany a nation once more--a nation whose limits should
reach from the Baltic to the Tyrol. Her language, her people, her
institutions entitle her to be such; and it is only when parcelled into
kingdoms and petty States, divided by the artful policy of foreign
powers, that our nationality pines and withers.’

‘I can easily conceive,’ said I, ‘that the Confederation of the Rhine
must have destroyed in a great measure the patriotic feeling of Western
Germany. The peasantry were sold as mercenaries; the nobles, little
better, took arms in a cause many of them hated and detested----’

‘I must stop you here,’ said he, with a smile; ‘not that you would or
could say that which should wound my feelings, but you might hurt your
own when you came to know that he to whom you are speaking served in
that army. Yes, sir, I was a soldier of Napoleon.’

Although nothing could be more unaffectedly easy than his manner as he
spoke, I feared I might already have said too much; indeed, I knew not
the exact expressions I had used, and there was a pause of some minutes,
broken at length by the colonel saying--

‘Let us walk towards the town; for if I mistake not they close the gates
of the Park at midnight, and I believe we are the only persons remaining
here now.’

Chattering of indifferent matters, we arrived at the hotel; and after
accepting an invitation to accompany the baron the next day to Wilhelms
Höhe, I wished him good-night and retired.



CHAPTER XXXI. THE BARON’S STORY

Every one knows how rapidly acquaintance ripens into intimacy when mere
accident throws two persons together in situations where they have no
other occupation than each other’s society; days do the work of years,
confidences spring up where mere ceremonies would have been interchanged
before, and in fact a freedom of thought and speech as great as we enjoy
in our oldest friendships. Such in less than a fortnight was the
relation between the baron and myself. We breakfasted together every
morning, and usually sallied forth afterwards into the country,
generally on horseback, and only came back to dinner--a ramble in the
Park concluding our day.

I still look back to those days as amongst the pleasantest of my life;
for although the temper of my companion’s mind was melancholic, it
seemed rather the sadness induced by some event of his life than the
depression resulting from a desponding temperament--a great difference,
by the way; as great as between the shadow we see at noonday and the
uniform blackness of midnight. He had evidently seen much of the world,
and in the highest class; he spoke of Paris as he knew it in the
gorgeous time of the Empire--of the Tuileries, when the salons were
crowded with kings and sovereign princes; of Napoleon, too, as he saw
him, wet and cold, beside the bivouac fire, interchanging a rude jest
with some grognard of the Garde, or commanding, in tones of loud
superiority, the marshals who stood awaiting his orders. The Emperor, he
said, never liked the Germans; and although many evinced a warm
attachment to his person and his cause, they were not Frenchmen, and he
could not forgive it. The Alsatians he trusted, and was partial to; but
his sympathies stopped short at the Rhine; and he always felt that if
fortune turned, the wrongs of Germany must have their recompense.

While speaking freely on these matters, I remarked that he studiously
avoided all mention of his own services--a mere passing mention of ‘I
was there,’ or, ‘My regiment was engaged in it,’ being the extent of his
observations regarding himself. His age and rank, his wound itself,
showed that he must have seen service in its most active times; and my
curiosity was piqued to learn something of his own history, but which I
did not feel myself entitled to inquire.

We were returning one evening from a ramble in the country, when
stopping to ask a drink at a wayside inn, we found a party of soldiers
in possession of the only room, where they were regaling themselves with
wine; while a miserable-looking object, bound with his arms behind his
back, sat pale and woe-begone in one corner of the apartment, his eyes
fixed on the floor, and the tears slowly stealing along his cheeks.

‘What is it?’ asked I of the landlord, as I peeped in at the half-open
door.

‘A deserter, sir----‘’

The word was scarcely spoken when the colonel let fall the cup he held
in his hand, and leaned, almost fainting, against the wall.

‘Let us move on,’ said he, in a voice scarcely articulate, while the
sickness of death seemed to work in his features.

‘You are ill,’ said I; ‘we had better wait----’

‘No, not here--not here,’ repeated he anxiously; ‘in a moment I shall be
well again--lend me your arm.’

We walked on, at first slowly, for with each step he tottered like one
after weeks of illness; at last he rallied, and we reached Cassel in
about an hour’s time, during which he spoke but once or twice. ‘I must
bid you a good-night here,’ said he, as we entered the inn; ‘I feel but
poorly, and shall hasten to bed.’ So saying, and without waiting for a
word on my part, he squeezed my hand affectionately, and left me.

It was not in my power to dismiss from my mind a number of gloomy
suspicions regarding the baron, as I slowly wended my way to my room.
The uppermost thought I had was, that some act of his past life--some
piece of military severity, for which he now grieved deeply--had been
brought back to his memory by the sight of the poor deserter. It was
evident that the settled melancholy of his character referred to some
circumstance or event of his life; nothing confirmed this more than any
chance allusions he would drop concerning his youthful days, which
appeared to be marked by high daring and buoyant spirits.

While I pondered over these thoughts, a noise in the inn-yard beneath my
window attracted my attention. I leaned out, and heard the baron’s
servant giving orders for post-horses to be ready by daybreak to take
his master’s carriage to Meissner, while a courier was already preparing
to have horses in waiting at the stages along the road. Again my brain
was puzzled to account for this sudden departure, and I could not
repress a feeling of pique at his not having communicated his intention
of going, which, considering our late intimacy, had been only common
courtesy. This little slight--for such I felt it--did not put me in
better temper with my friend, nor more disposed to be lenient in judging
him; and I was already getting deeper and deeper in my suspicions, when
a gentle tap came to my door, and the baron’s servant entered, with a
request that I would kindly step over to his master, who desired to see
me particularly. I did not delay a moment, but followed the man along
the corridor, and entered the room, which I found in total darkness.

‘The baron is in bed, sir,’ said the servant; ‘but he wishes to see you
in his room.’

On a small camp-bed, which showed it to have been once a piece of
military equipment, the Baron was lying. He had not undressed, but
merely thrown on his _robe de chambre_ and removed his cravat from his
throat; his one hand was pressed closely on his face, and as he
stretched it out to grasp mine, I was horror-struck at the altered
expression of his countenance. The eyes, bloodshot and wild, glanced
about the room with a hurried and searching look, while his parched lips
muttered rapidly some indistinct sounds. I saw that he was very ill, and
asked him if it were not as well he should have some advice.

‘No, my friend, no,’ said he, with more composure in his manner; ‘the
attack is going off now. It rarely lasts so long as this. You have never
heard perhaps of that dreadful malady which physicians call “angina,”
 the most agonising of all diseases, and I believe the least understood.
I have been subject to it for some years, and as there is no remedy, and
as any access of it may prove fatal, life is held on but poor
conditions----’

He paused for a second or two, then resumed, but with a manner of
increased excitement.

‘They will shoot him! Yes, I have heard it all. It’s the second time he
has deserted; there is not a chance left him. I must leave this by
daybreak--I must get me far away before to-morrow evening; there would
not come a stir, the slightest sound, but I should fancy I heard the
fusilade.’

I saw now clearly that the deserter’s fate had made the impression which
brought on the attack; and although my curiosity to learn the origin of
so powerful a sensibility was greater than ever, I would willingly have
sacrificed it to calming his mind, and inducing thoughts of less violent
excitement. But he continued, speaking with a thick and hurried
utterance--

‘I was senior lieutenant of the Carabiniers de la Garde at eighteen. We
were quartered at Strasbourg; more than half of the regiment were my
countrymen, some from the very village where I was born. One there was,
a lad of sixteen, my schoolfellow and companion when a boy; he was the
only child of a widow whose husband had fallen in the wars of the
Revolution. When he was drawn in the conscription, no less than seven
others presented themselves to go in his stead; but old Girardon, who
commanded the brigade, simply returned for answer, “Such brave men are
worthy to serve France; let them all be enrolled,” and they were so. A
week afterwards Louis my schoolfellow deserted. He swam the Rhine at
Kehl, and the same evening reached his mother’s cottage. He was scarcely
an hour at home when a party of his own regiment captured him; he was
brought back to Strasbourg, tried by torchlight, and condemned to death.

‘The officer who commanded the party for his execution fainted when the
prisoner was led out; the men, horror-struck at the circumstance,
grounded their arms and refused to fire. Girardon was on the ground in
an instant; he galloped up to the youth who knelt there with his arms
bound behind him, and drawing a pistol from his holster, placed the
muzzle on his forehead, and shot him dead! The men were sent back to the
barracks, and by a general order of the same day were drafted into
different regiments throughout the army; the officer was degraded to the
ranks--it was myself.’

It was with the greatest difficulty the colonel was enabled to conclude
this brief story; the sentences were uttered with short, almost
convulsive efforts, and when it was over he turned away his face, and
seemed buried in grief.

‘You think,’ said he, turning round and taking my hand in his--‘you
think that the sad scene has left me such as you see me now. Would to
Heaven my memory were charged with but that mournful event! Alas! it is
not so.’ He wiped a tear from his eye, and with a faltering voice
continued. ‘You shall hear my story. I never breathed it to one living,
nor do I think now that my time is to be long here.’

Having fortified his nerves with a powerful opiate, the only remedy in
his dreadful malady, he began:--

‘I was reduced to the ranks in Strasbourg; four years after, day for
day, I was named Chef de Bataillon on the field of Elchingen. Of twelve
hundred men our battalion came out of action with one hundred and
eighty; the report of the corps that night was made by myself as senior
officer, and I was but a captain.

‘“Who led the division of stormers along the covered way?” said the
Emperor, as I handed our list of killed and wounded to Duroc, who stood
beside him.

‘“It was I, sire.”

‘“You are major of the Seventh regiment,” said he. “Now, there is
another of yours I must ask for; how is he called that surprised the
Austrian battery on the Dorran Kopf?”

‘“Himself again, sire,” interrupted Duroc, who saw that I hesitated how
to answer him.

‘“Very well, very well indeed, Elgenheim; report him as Chef de
Bataillon, Duroc, and colonel of his regiment. There, sir, your
countrymen call me unjust and ungenerous. Show them your brevet to-
night, and do _you_, at least, be a witness in my favour.”

‘I bowed and uttered a few words of gratitude, and was about to
withdraw, when Duroc, who had been whispering something in the Emperor’s
ear, said aloud, “I’m certain he’s the man to do it. Elgenheim, his
Majesty has a most important despatch to forward to Innspruck to Marshal
Ney. It will require something more than mere bravery to effect this
object--it will demand no small share of address also. The passes above
Saltzbourg are in the possession of the Tyrolese sharpshooters; two
vedettes have been cut off within a week, and it will require at least
the force of a regiment to push through. Are you willing to take the
command of such a party?”

‘“If his Majesty will honour me with----”

‘“Enough, sir,” interrupted the Emperor; “we have no time to lose here.
Your orders shall be ready by daybreak; you shall have a squadron of
Chasseurs, as scouts, and be prepared to march to-morrow.”

‘The following day I left the camp with my party of eight hundred men,
and moved to the southward. It may seem strange to think of a simple
despatch of a few lines requiring such a force--indeed, I thought so at
the time; but I lived to see two thousand men employed on a similar
service in Spain, and, worse still, not always successfully. In less
than a week we approached Landherg, and entered the land of mountains.
The defiles, which at first were sufficiently open to afford space for
manouvres, gradually contracted; while the mountains at either side
became wilder and more lofty, a low brushwood of holly and white-oak
scarce hiding the dark granite rocks that seemed actually piled loosely
one above another, and ready to crash down at the least impulse. In the
valleys themselves the mountain rivulets were collected into a strong
current, which rattled along amid masses of huge rock, and swept in
broad flakes of foam sometimes across the narrow road beside it. Here,
frequently, not more than four men could march abreast; and as the
winding of the glens never permitted a view of much more than a mile in
advance, the position, in case of attack, was far from satisfactory.

‘For three entire days we continued our march, adopting, as we went,
every precaution against surprise I could think of; a portion of the
cavalry were always employed as _éclaireurs_ in advance, and the
remainder brought up the rear, following the main body at the distance
of a mile or two. The stupendous crags that frowned above, leaving us
but a narrow streak of blue sky visible; the mournful echoes of the deep
valleys; the hoarse roar of the waters or the wild notes of the black
eagle--all conspired to throw an impression of sadness over our party,
which each struggled against in vain. It was now the third morning since
we entered the Tyrol, and yet never had we seen one single inhabitant.
The few cottages along the roadside were empty, the herds had
disappeared from the hills, and a dreary waste, unrelieved by one living
object, stretched far away before us. My men felt the solitude far more
deeply than if every step had been contested with them. They were long
inured to danger, and would willingly have encountered an enemy of
mortal mould; but the gloomy images their minds conjured up were foes
they had never anticipated nor met before. For my own part, the
desolation brought but one thought before me; and as I looked upon the
wild wastes of mountain, where the chalet of the hunter or the cot of
the shepherd reared its humble head, the fearful injustice of invasive
war came fully to my mind. Again and again did I ask myself what
greatness and power could gain by conflict with poverty like this? How
could the humble dweller in these lonely regions become an object of
kingly vengeance, or his bleak hills a thing for kingly ambition? And,
more than all, what could the Tyrol peasant ever have done thus to bring
down upon his home the devastating tide of war? To think that but a few
days back the cheerful song of the hunter resounded through those glens,
and the laugh of children was heard in those cottages where now all was
still as death. We passed a small cluster of houses at the opening of a
glen--it could scarce be called a village--and here, so lately had they
been deserted, the embers were yet warm on the hearth, and in one hut
the table was spread and the little meal laid out, while they who were
to have partaken of it were perhaps miles away.

‘Plunged in these sad reflections, I sat on a little eminence of rock
behind the party, while they reposed themselves during the heat of noon.
The point I occupied afforded a view for some miles of the road we had
travelled, and I turned to see if our cavalry detachment was coming up;
when, as I strained my eyes in the direction, I thought I could perceive
an object moving along the road, and stooping from time to time. I
seized my glass, and now could distinctly perceive the figure of a man
coming slowly onwards. That we had not passed him on the way was quite
evident, and he must therefore have been on the mountain, or in
concealment beside the road. Either thought was sufficient to excite my
suspicion, and without a second’s delay I sprang into the saddle, and
putting my horse to his speed galloped back as fast as I could. As I
came nearer, I half fancied I saw the figure move to one side and then
back again, as though irresolute how to act; and fearing lest he should
escape me by taking to the mountain, I called to him aloud to halt. He
stood still as I spoke, and I now came up beside him. He was an old man,
seemingly over eighty years of age; his hair and beard were white as
snow, and he was bent almost double with time; his dress was the common
costume of a Tyrolese, except that he wore in addition a kind of cloak
with a loose hood, such as the pilgrims wear in Austria; and indeed his
staff and leathern bottle bespoke him such. To all my questions as to
the road and the villages he replied in a kind of patois I could make
nothing of, for although tolerably well versed in all the dialects of
Southern Germany, his was quite unintelligible to me. Still, the
question how he came there was one of great moment; if _he_ had been
concealed while we passed so near, why not others? His age and
decrepitude forbade the thought of his having descended the mountain,
and so I felt puzzled in no common degree. As these doubts passed
through my mind, the poor old man stood trembling at my side as though
fearing what fate might be in store for him. Anxious to recompense him
for the trouble I had caused him, I drew out my purse; but no sooner did
he see it than he motioned it away with his hand, and shook his head in
token of refusal.

‘“Come, then,” said I, “I never met a pilgrim who would refuse a cup of
wine;” and with that I unslung my canteen and handed it to him. This he
seized eagerly and drained it to the bottom, holding up both hands when
he had finished, and muttering something I conjectured to be a prayer.
He was the only living object belonging to the country that I had seen;
a sudden whim seized me, and I gave him back the flask, making a sign
that he should keep it. He clutched the gift with the avidity of old
age, and sitting down upon a stone began to admire it with eager eyes.
Despairing of making him understand a word, and remembering it was time
to move forward, I waved my hand in adieu and galloped back.

‘The cavalry detachment came up soon after; and guess my astonishment to
learn that they had not seen the old man on the road, nor, although they
narrowly watched the mountain, perceived any living thing near. I
confess I could not dismiss a feeling of uncomfortable suspicion from my
mind, and all the reflections I bestowed upon his age and decrepitude
were very far from reassuring me. More than once I regretted not having
brought him forward with us; but again the fact of having such a
prisoner would have exposed me to ridicule at headquarters, if not to a
heavy reprimand.

‘Full of these reflections, I gave the word to move forward. Our object
was, if possible, to reach the opening of the Mittenwald before night,
where I was informed that a small dismantled fort would afford a secure
position if attacked by any mountain party. On comparing the route of
the map, however, with the road, I discovered that the real distances
were in many cases considerably greater than they were set down, and
perceived that with all our efforts we could not hope to emerge from the
ravine of the Schwartz-thal before the following day. This fact gave me
much uneasiness; for I remembered having heard that as the glen
approaches the Mittenwald, the pass is narrowed to a mere path,
obstructed at every step by masses of fallen rock, while the mountains,
more thickly covered with underwood, afford shelter for any party lying
in ambush. Nothing could be more fatal than an attack in such a
position, where a few determined men in front could arrest the march of
a whole regiment; while from the close sides of the pass, a well-
directed fire must sweep the ranks of those below. This gorge, which,
narrowing to a mere portal, has been called the Mitten-Thor, was the
scene of some fearful struggles between the French troops and the
Tyrolese, and was always believed to be the most dangerous of all the
passes of the Tyrol--every despatch to the headquarters of the army
referring to the disasters that befell there, and suggesting plans for
the occupation of the blockhouse near it, as a means of defence.

‘By the advice of my officers, one of whom was already acquainted with
all the circumstances of the ground, I determined on halting at a part
of the glen about two miles from the Mitten-Thor, where a slight
widening of the valley afforded more space for movement if attacked; and
here we arrived as evening was beginning to fall. It was a small oval
spot between the mountains, through which a little stream ran, dividing
it almost into equal portions, and crossed by a bridge of rude planks,
to which a little path conducted, and led up the mountains. Scarcely
were our watch-fires lighted when the moon rose, and although herself
not visible to our eyes as we lay in the deep valley, a rich flood of
silver light fell on one range of the mountains, marking out every cliff
and crag with the distinctness of day. The opposite mountain, wrapped in
deepest shadow, was one mass of undistinguishable blackness, and seemed
to frown ominously and gloomily upon us. The men were wearied with a
long march, and soon lay down to rest beside their fires; and save the
low subdued hum of the little encampment, the valley was in perfect
silence. On the bridge, from which the pass was visible for a good
distance in both directions, I had placed a lookout sentry; and a chain
of patrols was established around the bivouac.

‘These arrangements, which occupied me some time, being completed, I
threw myself down beside my fire, and prepared for sleep. But somehow,
though I had passed a day of fatigue and exertion, I could not slumber;
every time I closed my eyes the vision of the old pilgrim was before me,
and a vague, undefined feeling of apprehension hung over me. I tried to
believe it was a mere fancy, attributable to the place, of whose terrors
I had heard so much; but my mind dwelt on all the disasters of the
Schwartz-thal, and banished every desire for repose.

As I lay there, thinking, my eyes were attracted by a little rocky
point, about thirty feet above me on the mountain, on which the full
splendour of the moonlight shone at intervals as the dark clouds drifted
from before her; and a notion took me--why and how I never could explain
to myself--to ascend the crag, and take a view down the valley. A few
minutes after, and I was seated on the rock, from which I could survey
the pass and the encampment stretched out beneath me. It was just such a
scene as Salvator used to paint--the wild fantastic mountains, bristling
with rude pines and fragments of granite; a rushing torrent, splashing
and boiling beneath; a blazing watch-fire, and the armed group around
it, their weapons glancing in the red light; while, to add to the mere
picture, there came the monotonous hum of the soldier’s song as he
walked to and fro upon his post.

‘I sat a long while gazing at this scene, many a pleasant thought of
that bandit life we Germans feel such interest in, from Schiller’s play,
passing through my mind, when I heard the rustling of leaves, and a
crackling sound as of broken branches, issue from the mountain almost
directly above me. There was not a breath of wind nor a leaf stirring,
save there. I listened eagerly, and was almost certain I could hear the
sound of voices talking in a low undertone. Cautiously stealing along, I
began to descend the mountain, when, as I turned a projecting angle of
the path, I saw the sentry on the bridge with his musket at his
shoulder, taking a steady and deliberate aim at some object in the
direction of the noise. While I looked, he fired; a crashing sound of
the branches followed the report, and something like a cry, and as the
echoes died away in the distance a heavy mass tumbled over the cliff,
and fell from ledge to ledge till it rolled into the deep grass below. I
had but time to perceive it was the corpse of a man fully armed, when
the quick roll of the drum beat to arms. In an instant the men were
formed; the cavalry standing beside their horses, and the officers
crowding around me for orders. It was the discharge of the sentry’s
musket had given the alarm; for, save himself, no one had seen anything.

‘Just then a wild unearthly cry of “Ha! ha!” rang out from one mountain
and was answered from the other; while the sounds, increasing and
multiplied by the echoes, floated hither and thither, as though ten
thousand voices were shouting there. They ceased; all was still for a
few seconds, and then a hailstorm of bullets tore through our ranks, and
the valley rang again with the roar of musketry. Every cliff and crag,
every tuft of brushwood, seemed to be occupied; while the incessant roll
of the fire showed that our assailants were in great numbers. Resistance
was vain; our enemy was unseen; our men were falling at each discharge;
what was to be done? Nothing remained but to push forward to the
Mittenwald, where, the valley opening into a plain, we should be able to
defend ourselves against any irregular troops that might be brought
against us. The order was given, and the men advanced in a run, the
cavalry leading the way. Meanwhile the fire of the Tyrolese increased,
and the fatal marksmen seldom missed a shot; two of our officers already
lay dead, and three others dangerously wounded could scarce keep up with
our party.

‘“The road is barricaded and intrenched,” cried the sergeant of the
dragoons, galloping back to the main body in dismay.

‘A cry broke from the soldiers as they heard the sad tidings, while some
springing from their ranks called out, “Forward, and to the storm!”

‘Rushing to the head of these brave fellows, I waved my cap, and cheered
them on; the others followed, and we soon came in sight of the barrier,
which was formed of large trees thrown crossways, and forming, by their
massive trunks and interwoven branches, an obstacle far beyond our power
to remove. To climb the stockade was our only chance, and on we rushed;
but scarcely were we within half-musket-shot, when a volley met us
directed point-blank. The leading files of the column went down like one
man, and though others rushed eagerly forward, despair and desperation
goading them, the murderous fire of the long rifles dealt death at every
discharge; and we stood among the cumbered corpses of our fellow
comrades. By this time we were attacked in rear as well as front; and
now, all hope gone, it only remained to sell life as dearly as we could.
One infuriated rush to break through the barricade had forced a kind of
passage, through which, followed by a dozen others, I leaped, shouting
to my men to follow. The cry of my triumph was, however, met by a wilder
still, for the same instant a party of Tyrolese, armed with the two-
handed sword of their country, came down upon us. The struggle was a
brief and bloody one; man for man fell at either side, but overcome by
numbers I saw my companions drop dead or wounded around me. As for
myself, I clove the leader through the skull with one stroke. It was the
last my arm ever dealt; the next instant it was severed from my body. I
fell covered with blood, and my assailant jumped upon my body, and
drawing a short knife from his belt was about to plunge it in my bosom,
when a shout from a wounded Tyrolese at my side arrested the stroke, and
I saw an uplifted arm stretched out as if to protect me. I have little
memory after this. I heard--I think I hear still--the wild shouts and
the death-cries of my comrades as they fell beneath the arm of their
enemies. The slaughter was a dreadful one; of eight hundred and forty
men, I alone survived that terrible night.

‘Towards daybreak I found myself lying in a cart upon some straw, beside
another wounded man dressed in the uniform of the Tyrolese Jagers. His
head was fearfully gashed by a sabre-cut, and a musket-ball had
shattered his forearm. As I looked at him, a grim smile of savage glee
lit up his pale features, and he looked from my wound to his own with a
horrid significance. All my efforts to learn the fate of my comrades
were fruitless; he could neither comprehend me nor I him, and it was
only by conjecturing from the tones and gestures of those who
occasionally came up to the cart to speak to him, that I could learn the
fearful reality.

‘That day and the following one we journeyed onwards, but I knew naught
of time. The fever of my wound, increased by some styptic they had used
to stop the bleeding, had brought on delirium, and I raved of the fight,
and strove to regain my legs and get free. To this paroxysm, which
lasted many days, a low lingering fever succeeded, in which all
consciousness was so slight that no memory has remained to tell of my
sensations.

‘My first vivid sensation--it is before me at this minute--was on
entering the little mountain village of the Marien Kreutz. I was borne
on a litter by four men, for the path was inaccessible except to foot
passengers. It was evening, and the long procession of the wounded men
wound its way up the mountain defile and along the little street of the
village, which now was crowded by the country-people, who with sad and
tearful faces stood looking on their sons and brothers, or asking for
those whom they were never to behold again. The little chapel of the
village was converted into a hospital, and here beds were brought from
every cabin, and all the preparations for tending the sick began with a
readiness that surprised me.

‘As they bore me up the aisle of the chapel, a voice called out some
words in Tyrolese; the men halted and turned round, and then carried me
back into a small chapelry, where a single sick man was lying, whom in
an instant I recognised as my wounded companion of the road. With a nod
of rude but friendly recognition, he welcomed me, and I was placed near
him on a straw mattress stretched beneath the altar.

‘Why I had been spared in the fearful carnage, and for what destiny I
was reserved, were thoughts which rapidly gave way to others of deep
despondency at my fortune--a despair that made me indifferent to life.
The dreadful issue of the expedition would, I well knew, have ruined
more prosperous careers than mine in that service, where want of success
was the greatest of all crimes. Careless of my fate, I lived on in
gloomy apathy, not one gleam of hope or comfort to shine upon the
darkness of my misery.

‘This brooding melancholy took entire possession of me, and I took no
note of the scenes around me. My ear was long since accustomed to the
sad sounds of the sickbeds; the cries of suffering, and the low moanings
of misery had ceased to move me; even the wild and frantic ravings of
the wounded man near broke not in upon my musings, and I lived like one
immured within a solitary dungeon.

‘I lay thus one night--my sadness and gloom weightier than ever on my
broken spirits--listening to the echoed sounds of suffering that rose
into the vaulted roof, and wishing for death to call me away from such a
scene of misery, when I heard the low chanting of a priest coming along
the aisle; and the moment after the footsteps of several persons came
near, and then two acolytes, carrying lighted tapers, appeared, followed
by a venerable man robed in white, and bearing in his hands a silver
chalice. Two other priests followed him, chanting the last service, and
behind all there came a female figure dressed in deep mourning; she was
tall and graceful-looking, and her step had the firm tread of youth, but
her head was bowed down with sorrow, and she held her veil pressed
closely over her face. They gathered round the bed of the wounded man,
and the priest took hold of his hand and lifted it slowly from the bed;
and letting it go, it fell heavily down again, with a dull sound. The
old man bent over the bed, touched the pale features, and gazed into the
eyes, and then with clasped hands he sank down on his knees and prayed
aloud; the others knelt beside him--all save one; she threw herself with
frantic grief upon the dead body (for he was dead) and wept
passionately. In vain they strove to calm her sorrow, or even withdraw
her from the spot. She clung madly to it, and would not be induced to
leave it.

‘I think I see her still before me--her long hair, black as night,
streaming back from her pale forehead, and hanging down her shoulders;
her eyes fixed on the dead man’s face, and her hands pressed hard upon
her heart, as if to lull its agony. In all the wild transport of her
grief she was beautiful; for although pale to sickness, and worn with
watching, her large and lustrous eyes, her nose straight and finely
chiselled like the features of an antique cameo, and her mouth, where
mingled pride and sorrow trembled, gave her an expression of loveliness
I cannot convey. Such was she, as she watched beside her brother’s
death-bed day and night, silent and motionless; for as the first burst
of grief was over she seemed to nerve her courage to the task; and even
when the hour came, and they bore the body away to its last resting-
place, not a sigh or sob escaped her.

‘The vacant spot--though it had been tenanted by suffering and misery--
brought gloom to my heart. I had been accustomed each day to look for
him at sunrise, and each evening to see him as the light of day
declined; and I sorrowed like one deserted and alone. Not all alone!
for, as if by force of habit, when evening came, _she_ was at her place
near the altar.

‘The fever, and my own anxious thoughts, preyed on my mind that night;
and as I lay awake I felt parched and hot, and wished to drink, and I
endeavoured with my only arm to reach the cup beside me. She saw the
effort, and sprang towards me at once; and as she held it to my lips, I
remembered then that often in the dreary nights of my sickness I had
seen her at my bedside, nursing me and tending me. I muttered a word of
gratitude in German, when she started suddenly, and stooping down, said
in a clear accent--

‘“Bist du ein Deutscher (Are you a German)?”

‘“Yes,” said I, mournfully, for I saw her meaning.

‘“Shame! shame!” cried she, holding up her hands in horror. “If the
wolves ravage the flocks it is but their nature; but that our own
kindred, our very flesh and blood, should do this----”

‘I turned my head away in very sorrow and self-abasement, and a
convulsive sob burst from my heart.

‘“Nay, nay, not so,” said she, “a poor peasant like me cannot judge what
motives may have influenced you and others like you; and after all,” and
she spoke the words in a trembling voice--“and after all, you succoured
_him_ when you believed him sick and weary.”

‘“I! how so? It never was in my power----”

‘“Yes, yes,” cried she, passionately; “it was you. This _gourde_ was
yours; he told me so; he spoke of you a hundred times.” And at the
instant, she held up the little flask I had given to the pilgrim in the
valley.

‘“And was the pilgrim then----”

‘“Yes,” said she, as a proud flash lit up her features, “he was my
brother; many a weary mile he wandered over mountain and moor to track
you; faint and hungry, he halted not, following your footsteps from the
first hour you entered our land. Think you but for him that you had been
spared that nights slaughter, or that for any cause but his a Tyrolese
girl had watched beside your sick-bed, and prayed for your recovery?”

‘The whole truth now flashed upon me; every circumstance doubtful before
became at once clear to my mind, and I eagerly asked the fate of my
comrades.

‘A gloomy shake of the head was the only reply.

‘“All?” said I, trembling at the word.

‘“All!” repeated she, in an accent whose pride seemed almost amounting
to ferocity.

‘“Would I had perished with them!” cried I, in the bitterness of my
heart, and I turned my face away and gave myself up to my grief.

‘As if sorry for the burst of feeling she had caused me, she sat down
beside my bed, took my hand in hers, and placed her cold lips upon it,
while she murmured some words of comfort. Like water to the seared,
parched lips of some traveller in the desert, the accents fell upon my
almost broken heart, suggesting a thought of hope where, all was
darkness and despair, I listened to each word with a tremulous fear lest
she should cease to speak, and dreading that my ecstasy were but a
dream. From that hour, I wished to live; a changed spirit came over me,
and I felt as though with higher and more ennobling thoughts I should
once more tread the earth. Yes, from the humble lips of a peasant girl I
learned to feel that the path I once deemed the only road to heroism and
high ambition could be but “the bandit’s trade,” who sells his blood for
gain. That war which animated by high-souled patriotism can call forth
every sentiment of a great and generous nature, becomes in an unjust
cause the lowest slavery and degradation. Lydchen seldom quitted my
bedside, for my malady took many turns, and it was long--many months--
after that I was enabled to leave my bed and move up and down the
chapel.

‘Meanwhile the successes of our army had gradually reduced the whole
country beneath French rule, and except in the very fastnesses of the
mountains the Tyrolese had nowhere they could call their own. Each day
some peasant would arrive from the valleys with information that fresh
troops were pouring in from Germany, and the hopes of the patriotic
party fell lower and lower. At last one evening as I sat on the steps of
the little altar, listening to Lydchen reading for me some Tyrol legend,
a wild shout in the street of the village attracted our notice, which
seemed to gain strength as it came nearer. She started up suddenly, and
throwing down her book rushed from the chapel. In another moment she was
back beside me, her face pale as a corpse, and her limbs trembling with
fear.

‘“What has happened? Speak, for God’s sake! what is it?” said I.

‘“The French have shot the prisoners in the Platz at Innspruck! twenty-
eight have fallen this morning,” cried she, “seven from this very
village; and now they cry aloud for your blood; hear them, there!”

‘And as she spoke a frightful yell hurst from the crowd without, and
already they stood at the entrance to the chapel, which even at such a
time they had not forgotten was a sanctuary. The very wounded men sat up
in their beds and joined their feeble cries to those without, and the
terrible shout of “blood for blood!” rang through the vaulted roof.

‘“I am ready,” said I, springing up from the low step of the altar.
“They must not desecrate this holy spot with such a crime. I am ready to
go where you will.”

‘“No, no,” cried Lydchen; “you are not like our enemies. You wish us
naught of evil; your heart is with the struggle of a brave people, who
fight but for their homes and Fatherland. Be of us, then; declare that
you are with us. Oh, do this, and these will be your brothers and I your
sister; ay, more than sister ever was.”

‘“It cannot be; no, never,” said I; “it is not when life is in the
balance that fealty can change.”

‘With difficulty I freed myself from the clasp of her arms, for in her
grief she had thrown herself at my feet, when suddenly we heard the deep
accents of the aged priest, as he stood upon the steps of the altar, and
commanded silence. His tones were those of severity and sternness, and I
could mark that not a murmur was raised as he continued.

‘“You are safe,” whispered Lydchen; “till to-morrow you are safe; before
that you must be far away.”

‘The respite of the priest was merely to give me time to prepare for
death, which it was decreed I should suffer the following morning in the
Platz of the village.

‘Scarcely had evening begun to fall when Lydchen approached my bed and
deposited a small bundle upon it, whispering gently, “Lose no time; put
on these clothes, and wait for my return.”

‘The little chapelry where I lay communicated by a small door with the
dwelling of the priest, and by her passing through this I saw that the
father was himself conniving at the plan of my escape. By the imperfect
glimmer of the fading day I could perceive that they were her brother’s
clothes she had brought me; the jacket was yet stained with his blood. I
was long in equipping myself, with my single arm, and I heard her voice
more than once calling to me to hasten, ere I was ready.

‘At length I arose, and passing through the door entered the priest’s
house, where Lydchen, dressed in hat and mantle, stood ready for the
road. As I endeavoured to remonstrate she pressed her hand on my mouth,
and walking on tiptoe led me forward; we emerged into a little garden,
crossing which she opened a wicket that led into the road. There a
peasant was in waiting, who carried a small bundle on his shoulder, and
was armed with the long staff used in mountain travelling. Again, making
a sign for me to be silent, she moved on before me, and soon turning off
the road entered a foot-track in the mountain. The fresh breeze of the
night and the sense of liberty nerved me to exertion, and I walked on
till day was breaking. Our path generally lay in a descending direction,
and I felt little fatigue, when at sunrise Lydchen told me that we might
rest for some hours, as our guide could now detect the approach of any
party for miles round, and provide for our concealment. No pursuit,
however, was undertaken in that direction, the peasants in all
likelihood deeming that I would turn my steps towards Lahn, where a
strong French garrison was stationed; whereas we were proceeding in the
direction of Saltzbourg, the very longest and therefore the least likely
route through the Tyrol.

‘Day succeeded day, and on we went. Not one living thing did we meet on
our lonely path. Already our little stock of provisions was falling low,
when we came in sight of the hamlet of Altendorf, only a single day’s
march from the lake of Saltzbourg. The village, though high in the
mountain, lay exactly beneath us as we went, and from the height we
stood on we could see the little streets of the town and its market-
place like a map below us. Scarcely had the guide thrown his eyes
downwards than he stopped short, and pointing to the town, cried out
“The French! the French!” and true enough, a large party of infantry
were bivouacked in the streets, and several horses were picketed in the
gardens about. While the peasant crept cautiously forward to inspect the
place nearer, I stood beside Lydchen, who, with her hands pressed
closely on her face, spoke not a word.

‘“We part here!” said she, with a strong, full accent, as though
determined to let no weakness appear in her words.

‘“Part, Lydchen!” cried I, in an agony; for up to that moment I believed
that she never intended returning to the Tyrol.

‘“Yes. Thinkest thou that I hold so light my home and country as thou
dost? Didst thou believe that a Tyrol girl would live ‘midst those who
laid waste her Fatherland, and left herself an orphan, without one of
her kindred remaining?”

‘“Are there no ties save those of blood, Lydchen? Is your heart so
steeled against the stranger that the devotion, the worship, of a life
long would not move you from your purpose?”

‘“Thou hast refused me once,” said she proudly; “I offered to be all
your own when thou couldst have made me so with honour. If thou wert the
Kaiser Franz, I would not have thee now.”

‘“Oh, speak not thus, Lydchen, to him whose life you saved, and made him
feel that life is a blessing! Remember that if _your_ heart be cold to
me, you have made _mine_ your own for ever. I will not leave you. No----
“

‘“Is it that thou mayst bring me yonder and show me amongst thy
comrades--the Tyrol maiden that thou hast captured, thy spoil of war?”

‘“Oh, Lydchen, dearest, why will you speak thus----”

‘“Never!” cried she, as her eyes flashed proudly, and her cheek flushed
red, “never! I have the blood of Hofer in my veins; and bethinkest thou
I would stoop to be a jest, a mockery, before thy high-born dames, who
would not deem me fit to be their waiting-woman? Farewell, sir. I hoped
to part with thee less in anger than in sorrow.”

‘“Then I will remain,” said I.

‘“Too late, too late!” cried she, waving her hand mournfully; “the hour
is past. See, there come your troops; a moment more, and I shall be
taken. You wish not this, at least----”

‘As she spoke, a cavalry detachment was seen coming up the valley at a
canter. A few minutes more and she would be discovered. I knew too well
the ruffian natures of the soldiery to hazard such a risk. I caught her
to my arms with one last embrace, and the next moment dashed down the
path towards the dragoons. I turned my head once, but she was gone; the
peasant guide had left the breach of the chasm, and they both were lost
to my view.

‘My story is now soon told. I was tried by a court-martial, honourably
acquitted, and restored to my grade--_en retraite_, however, for my
wound had disabled me from active service. For three years I lived in
retirement near Mayence, the sad memory of one unhappy event embittering
every hour of my life.

‘In the early part of 1809 a strong division of the French army,
commanded by my old friend and companion Lefebvre, entered Mayence, on
their way to Austria; and as my health was now restored, I yielded to
his persuasion to join his staff as first aide-de-camp. Indeed, a
carelessness and indifference to my fortune had made me submit to
anything, and I assented to every arrangement of the general, as if I
were totally unconcerned in it all. I need not trace the events of that
rapid and brilliant campaign. I will only remark that Eckmühl and
Ratisbon both brought back all the soldier’s ardour to my heart; and
once more the crash of battle, and the din of marching columns, aroused
my dormant enthusiasm.

‘In the month of April, a _corps d’armée_ of twenty thousand men entered
the Tyrol, and pushed forward to the Niederwald, where Lefebvre had his
headquarters. I cannot stay to speak of the terrible scenes of that
period, the most fearful in the spirit of resistance that ever our arms
encountered. Detachments were cut off every day; whole columns
disappeared, and never again were heard of; no bivouac was safe from a
nightly attack, and even the sentinels at the gates of Innspruck were
repeatedly found dead on their posts. But, worse than all, daily
instances occurred of assassination by peasants, who sometimes dressed
as sutlers entered the camp, and took the opportunity to stab or shoot
our officers, caring nothing, as it seemed, for the certain death that
awaited them. These became of such frequent occurrence that scarce a
report did not contain one or two such casualties, and consequently
every precaution that could be thought of was adopted; and every peasant
taken with arms--in a country, too, where none are unarmed--was shot
without trial of any kind whatever. That little mercy, or indeed
justice, was meted out to the people, I need only say that Girardon was
commandant of the garrison, and daily inspected the executions on
parade.

‘It happened that one morning this savage old officer was stabbed by an
Austrian peasant, who had long been employed as a camp servant and
trusted in situations of considerable confidence. The man was
immediately led out for execution to the Platz, where was another
prisoner,--a poor boy found rambling within the lines, and unable to
give any account of his presence there. Girardon, however, was only
slightly wounded, and countermanded the the execution of his assassin,
not from motives of forgiveness, but in order to defer it till he was
himself able to be present and witness it. And upon me, as next in
command, devolved the melancholy duty of being present on the parade.
The brief note I received from Girardon, reminded me of a former
instance of weakness on my part, and contained a sneering hope that I
‘had learned some portion of a soldier’s duty, since I was reduced to
the ranks at Strasbourg.’

“When I reached the Platz, I found the officers of the Staff in the
middle of the square, where a table was placed, on which the order for
the execution was lying, awaiting my signature.

“‘The prisoner begs a word with the officer in command,’ said the
orderly serjeant.

“‘I cannot accede to his request.’ said I, trembling from head to foot,
and knowing how totally such an interview would unman me.

“‘He implores it, sir, with the utmost earnestness, and says he has some
important secret to reveal before his death.’

“‘The old story--anything for five minutes more of life and sun-shine,’
said an officer beside me.

“‘I must refuse.’ said I, ‘and desire that these requests may not be
brought before me.’

“‘It is the only way, Colonel.’ said another; ‘and indeed such intervals
have little mercy in them; both parties suffer the more from them.’

“This speech seemed to warrant my selfish determination, and I seized
the pen, and wrote my name to the order; and then handing it to the
officer, covered my face with my hands, and sat with my head leaning on
the table.

“A bustle in front, and a wild cry of agony, told me that the
preparations were begun, and quick as lightning, the roar of a platoon
fire followed. A shriek, shrill and piercing, mingled with the crash,
and then came a cry from the soldiers, ‘It is a woman!’

“‘With madness in my brain, and a vague dread--I know not of what--I
dashed forward through the crowd, and there, on the pavement, weltering
in her blood, lay the body of Lydchen: she was stone dead, her bosom
shattered by a dozen bullets.

“I fell upon the corpse, the blood poured from my mouth in torrents; and
when I arose, it was with a broken heart, whose sufferings are bringing
me to the grave.”

This sad story I have related without any endeavour to convey to my
reader, either the tone of him who told it, or the dreadful conflict of
feeling, which at many times prevented his continuing. In some few
places the very words he made use of were those I have employed, since
they have remained fast rooted in my memory, and were associated with
the facts themselves. Except in these slight particulars, I have told
the tale as it lives in my recollection, coupled with one of the saddest
nights I ever remember.

It was near morning when he concluded, tired and exhausted, yet to all
appearance calmer and more tranquil from the free current of that sorrow
he could not longer control.

“Leave me now,” said he, “for a few hours; my servant shall call you
before I go.”

It was to no purpose that I offered to accompany him, alleging--as with
an easy conscience I could do--that no one was less bound by any ties of
place or time. He refused my offer of companionship, by saying, that
strict solitude alone restored him after one of his attacks, and that
the least excitement invariably brought on a relapse. “We shall soon
meet again, I hope,” was the extent of promise I could obtain from him;
and I saw that to press the matter further was both unfair and
indelicate.

Though I lay down in bed I could not sleep; a strange feeling of dread,
an anxious fear of something undefined, was over me; and at every noise
I arose and looked out of the window, and down the streets, which were
all still and silent. The terrible events of the tale were like a
nightmare on my mind, and I could not dismiss them. At last I fell into
a half slumber, from which I was awakened by the Baron’s servant. His
master was dangerously ill; another attack had seized him, and he was
lying senseless. I hastened to the room, where I found the sick man
stretched half dressed upon the bed, his face purple, and his eyeballs
strained to bursting; his breathing was heavy, and broken by a low,
tremulous quaver, that made each respiration like a half-suppressed
sigh. While I opened the window to give him air, and bathed his forehead
with cold water, I dispatched a servant for a doctor.

The physician was soon beside me; but I quickly saw that the case was
almost hopeless. His former disease had developed a new and, if
possible, worse one--aneurism of the heart.

I will not speak of the hourly vacillations of hope and fear in which I
passed that day and the following one. He had never regained
consciousness; but the most threatening symptoms had considerably
abated, and, in the physician’s eyes, he was better. On the afternoon of
the third day, as I sat beside his bed, sleep overtook me in my
watching, and I awoke feeling a hand within my own: it was Elgenheim’s.

Overjoyed at this sign of returning health, I asked him how he felt. A
faint sigh, and a motion of his hand towards his side, was all his
reply. Not daring to speak more, I drew the curtain, and sat still and
silent at his side. The window, by the physician’s order, was left open,
and a gentle breeze stirred the curtains lightly, and gave a refreshing
air within the apartment. A noise of feet, and a hurried movement in the
street, induced me to look out, and I now saw the head of an infantry
battalion turning into the Platz. They marched in slow time, and with
arms reversed. With a throb of horror, I remembered the deserter! Yes,
there he was! He marched between two dismounted gendarmes, without coat
or cap; a broad placard fixed on his breast, inscribed with his name and
his crime. I turned instantly towards the bed, dreading lest already the
tramp of the marching men had reached the sick man’s ear, but he was
sleeping calmly, and breathing without effort of any kind.

The thought seized me, to speak to the officer in command of the party,
and I rushed down, and making my way through the crowd, approached the
staff, as they were standing in the middle of the Platz. But my excited
manner, my look of wild anxiety, and my little knowledge of the
language, combined to make my appeal of little moment.

“If it be true, sir,” said a gruff old veteran, with a grisly beard,
“that he was an Officer of the Empire, the fire of a platoon can
scarcely hurt his nerves.”

“Yes, but,” said I, “there is a circumstance of his life which makes
this ten-fold more dangerous--I cannot explain it--I am not at liberty--
“

“I do not desire to learn your secrets, sir,” replied the old man
rudely; “stand back, and suffer me to do my duty.”

I turned to the others, but they could give me neither advice nor
assistance, and already the square was lined with soldiers, and the men
of the “death party” were ordered to stand out.

“Give me at least time enough to move my friend to a distant chamber, if
you will not do more,” said I, driven to madness; but no attention was
paid to my words, and the muster roll continued to be read out.

I rushed back to the inn, and up the stairs; but what was my horror to
hear the sound of voices, and the tramp of feet, in the sick room I had
left in silence. As I entered, I saw the landlord and the servant,
assisted by the doctor, endeavouring to hold down the Baron on his bed,
who with almost superhuman strength, pushed them from him in his efforts
to rise. His features were wild to insanity, and the restless darting of
his glistening eye, showed that he was under the excitement of delirium.

“The effort may kill him,” whispered the doctor in my ear; “this
struggle may be his death.”

“Leave me free, sir!” shouted the sick man. “Who dares to lay hands on
me--stand aside there--the peloton will take ground to the right,”
 continued he, raising his voice as if commanding on parade; “Ground
arms!”

Just at this instant, the heavy clank of the firelocks was heard
without, as though in obedience to his word. “Hark!” said he, raising
his hand--“Not a word--silence in the ranks.” And in the deadly
stillness we could now hear the sentence of death, as it was read aloud
by the Adjutant. A hoarse roll of the drum followed, and then, the tramp
of the party as they led forward the prisoner, to every step of which
the sick man kept time with his hand.

We did not dare to move--we knew not at what instant our resistance
might be his death.

“Shoulder arms!” shouted out the officer from the Platz.

“Take the orders from _me_,” cried Elgenheim wildly. “This duty is mine-
-no man shall say I shrunk from it.”

“Present arms--Fire----”

“Fire!” shouted Elgenheim, with a yell that rose above the roll of
musketry; and then with a groan of agony, he cried out, “There--there--
it’s over now!” and fell back, dead, into our arms.

***** *****

Thus died the leader of the stormers at Elchingen,--the man who carried
the Hill of Asperne against an Austrian battery. He sleeps now in the
little churchyard of the “Marien Hülfe” at Cassel.



CHAPTER XXXII. THE WARTBURG AND EISENACH.

I left Cassel with a heart far heavier than I had brought into it some
weeks before. The poor fellow, whose remains I followed to the grave,
was ever in my thoughts, and all our pleasant rambles and our familiar
intercourse, were now shadowed over by the gloom of his sad destiny. So
must it ever be. He who seeks the happiness of his life upon the world’s
highways, must learn to carry, as best he may, the weary load of trouble
that “flesh is heir to.” There must be storm for sunshine; and for the
bright days and warm airs of summer, he must feel the lowering skies and
cutting winds of winter.

I set out on foot, muttering as I went, the lines of poor Marguerite’s
song, which my own depression had brought to memory.


“Mein Ruh ist hin. Mein Hers ist schwer; Ich finde sie nimmer--und,
nimmer mehr.”

The words recalled the Faust--the Faust, the Brocken, and so I thought I
could not do better than set out thither. I was already within three
days’ march of the Hartz, and besides, I should like to see Göttingen
once more, and have a peep at my old friends there.

It was only as I reached Münden to breakfast, that I remembered it was
Sunday, and so when I had finished my meal, I joined my host and his
household to church. What a simplicity is there in the whole
Protestantism of Germany--how striking is the contrast between the
unpretending features of the Reformed, and the gorgeous splendour of the
Roman Catholic Church. The benches of oak, on which were seated the
congregation, made no distinctions of class and rank. The little village
authorities were mingled with the mere peasants--the Pastor’s family sat
nearest to the reading-desk--that, was the only place distinguished from
the others. The building, like most of its era, was plain and un-
ornamented--some passages from Scripture were written on the walls, in
different places, but these were its only decoration. As I sat, awaiting
the commencement of the service, I could not avoid being struck by the
marked difference of feature, observable in Protestant, from what we see
in Roman Catholic communities--not depending upon nationality, for
Germany itself is an illustration in point. The gorgeous ceremonial of
the Romish Church--its venerable architecture--its prestige of
antiquity--its pealing organ, and its incense--all contribute to a
certain exaltation of mind, a fervour of sentiment, that may readily be
mistaken for true religious feeling. These things, connected and bound
up with the most awful and impressive thoughts the mind of man is
capable of, cannot fail to impress upon the features of the worshippers,
an expression of profound, heartfelt adoration, which poetizes the most
commonplace, and elevates the tone of even the most vulgar faces. Retsch
had not to go far for those figures of intense devotional character his
works abound in--every chapel contained innumerable studies for his
pencil. The features of the Protestant worshippers were calm, even to
sternness--the eyes, not bent upon some great picture, or some holy
relic, with wondering admiration, were downcast in meditation deep, or
raised to heaven with thoughts already there. There was a holy and a
solemn awe in every face, as though in the presence of _Him_, and in
_His_ Temple, the passions and warm feelings of man were an unclean
offering; that to understand His truths, and to apply His counsels, a
pure heart and a clear understanding were necessary--and these they
brought. To look on their cold and stedfast faces, you would say that
Luther’s own spirit--his very temperament, had descended to his
followers. There was the same energy of character--the indomitable
courage--the perseverance, no obstacle could thwart--the determination,
no opposition could shake. The massive head, square and strong--the
broad, bold forehead--the full eye--the wide nostril, and the thick lip-
-at once the indication of energy, of passion, and of power, are seen
throughout Saxony as the types of national features.

The service of the Lutheran church is most simple, and like that of our
Presbyterians at home, consists in a hymn, a portion of Scripture read
out, and--what is considered the greatest point of all--a sermon, half
prayer, half dissertation, which concludes the whole. Even when the
Pastors are eloquent men, which they rarely are, I doubt much if German
be a language well suited for pulpit oratory. There is an eternal
involution of phrase, a complexity in the expression of even simple
matters, which would for ever prevent those bold imaginative flights by
which Bossuet and Massillon appealed to the hearts and minds of their
hearers. Were a German to attempt this, his mysticism--the “maladie du
pays”--would at once interfere, and render him unintelligible. The
pulpit eloquence of Germany, so far as I have experience of it, more
closely resembles the style of the preachers of the seventeenth century,
when familiar illustrations were employed to convey such truths as rose
above the humble level of ordinary intellects; having much of the
grotesque quaintness our own Latimer possessed, without, unhappily, the
warm glow of his rich imagination, or the brilliant splendour of his
descriptive talent. Still the forcible earnestness, and the strong
energy of conviction, are to be found in the German pulpit, and these
also may be the heirlooms of “the Doctor.” as the Saxons love to call
the great reformer.

Some thoughts like these suggested a visit to the Wartburg, the scene of
Luther’s captivity--for such, although devised with friendly intent, his
residence there was; and so abandoning the Brocken, for the “nonce,” I
started for Eisenach.

As you approach the town of Eisenach--for I’m not going to weary you
with the whole road,--you come upon a little glen in the forest, the
“Thuringer Wald,” where the road is completely overshadowed, and even at
noonday, is almost like night. A little well, bubbling in a basin of
rock, stands at the road-side, where an iron ladle, chained to the
stone, and a rude bench, proclaim that so much of thought has been
bestowed on the wayfarer. As you rest from the heat and fatigue of the
day, upon that humble seat, you may not know that Martin Luther himself
sat on that very bench, tired and wayworn, as he came back from Worms,
where, braving the power of king and kaiser, he had gone manfully to
defend his opinions, and assert the doctrines of the Reformation.

It was there he lay down to sleep--a sleep I would dare to say; not the
less tranquil, because the excommunication of Rome had been fulminated
over his head. He was alone. He had refused every offer of
companionship, which zeal for the cause and personal friendship had
prompted, when suddenly he was aroused by the tramp of armed men, and
the heavy clattering of horses, coming up the glen. He knew his life was
sought for by his enemies, and what a grateful deed his assassination
would be to record within the halls of many a kingly palace. In an
instant, he was on his legs, and grasping his trusty broad-sword, he
awaited the attack. Not too soon, however, for scarcely had the horsemen
come within sight, than, putting spurs to their steeds, they bore down
upon him; then checking their horses suddenly, the leader called aloud
to him, to surrender himself his prisoner.

Good Martin’s reply was a stroke of his broad-sword that brought the
summoner from his saddle to the ground. Parley was at an end now, and
they rushed on him at once. Still, it was clear that their wish was not
to kill him, which from their numbers and superior equipment, could not
have been difficult. But Luther’s love of liberty was as great as his
love of life, and he laid about him like one who would sell either as
dearly as he could. At length, pressed by his enemies on every side, his
sword broke near the hut, he threw the useless fragment from his hand,
and called out, “Ich kann nicht mehr!”--“I can do no more!”

He was now bound with cords, and his eyes bandaged, conveyed to the
castle of the Wartburg, about two miles distant, nor did he know for
several days after, that the whole was a device of his friend and
protector, the Elector of Saxony, who wished to give currency to the
story, that Luther’s capture was a real one, and the Wartburg his
prison, and not, as it really proved, his asylum. Here he spent nearly a
year, occupied in the translation of the Bible, and occasionally
preaching in the small chapel of the “Schloss.” His strange fancies of
combats with the evil one, are among the traditions of the place, and
the torn plaster of the wall is pointed out as the spot where he hurled
his inkstand at the fiend, who tormented him in the shape of a large
blue-bottle fly.

One cannot see, unmoved, that rude chamber, with its simple furniture of
massive oak, where the great monk meditated those tremendous truths that
were to shake thrones and dynasties, and awake the world from the
charmed sleep of superstition, in which, for centuries, it lay buried.

The force of his strong nature, his enthusiasm, and a kind of savage
energy he possessed, frequently overbalanced his reason, and he gave way
to wild rantings and ravings, which often followed on the longest
efforts of his mental labour, and seemed like the outpourings of an
overcharged intellect. The zeal with which he prosecuted his great task,
was something almost miraculous--often for thirty, or even forty, hours,
did he remain at the desk without food or rest, and then such was his
exhaustion, bodily as well as mental, that he would fall senseless on
the floor, and it required all the exertions of those about him to rally
him from these attacks. His first sensations on recovering, were ever
those of a deadly struggle with the evil one, by whose agency alone he
believed his great work was interrupted; and then the scene which
succeeded would display all the fearful workings of his diseased
imagination. From these paroxysms, nothing seemed to awake him so
readily, as the presence of his friend Melancthon, whose mild nature and
angelic temperament were the exact opposites of his bold, impetuous
character. The sound of his voice alone would frequently calm him in his
wildest moments, and when the torrent of his thought ran onward with mad
speed, and shapes and images flitted before his disordered brain, and
earthly combats were mingled in his mind with more dreadful conflicts,
and that he burst forth into the violent excesses of his passion--then,
the soft breathings of Melancthon’s flute, would still the storm, and
lay the troubled waters of his soul--that rugged nature would yield even
to tears, and like a child, he would weep till slumber closed his eyes.

I lingered the entire day in the Wartburg--sometimes in the Rittersaal,
where suits of ancient and most curious armour are preserved; sometimes
in the chapel, where the rude desk is shown at which Luther lectured to
the household of the “Schloss.” Here, too, is a portrait of him, which
is alleged to be authentic. The features are such as we see in all his
pictures; the only difference I could perceive, was, that he is
represented with a moustache, which gives, what a Frenchman near me
called an “air brigand” to the stern massiveness of his features. This
circumstance, slight as it is, rather corroborates the authenticity of
the painting, for it is well known that during his residence at the
Wartburg, he wore his beard in this fashion, and to many retainers of
the castle, passed for a Ritter, or a knight confined for some crime
against the state.

With a farewell look at the old chamber, where stands his oaken chair
and table, I left the Schloss, and as night was falling descended
towards Eisenach--for a description of whose water-mills and windmills,
whose cloth factories and toy shops, I refer you to various and several
guide books--only begging to say, on my own account, that the “Reuten
Kranta” is a seemly inn, and the host a pleasant German of the old
school; that is, in other words, one whose present life is always about
twenty years in advance of his thoughts, and who, while he eats and
drinks in the now century, thinks and feels with that which is gone. The
latest event of which he had any cognizance, was the retreat from
Leipsic, when the French poured through the village for five days
without ceasing. All the great features of that memorable retreat,
however, were absorbed in his mind, by an incident which occurred to
himself, and at which, by the gravity of his manner in relating it, I
could not help laughing heartily.

When the commissariat arrived at Eisenach, to make arrangement for the
troops on their march, they allowed the inhabitants the option--a
pleasant one--of converting the billets, imposed upon them, for a
certain sum of money, in virtue of which, they obtained an exemption
from all intrusion on the part of men and officers, save those of the
rank of colonel and upwards; and in evidence, a great placard was
affixed to their door, setting forth the same, as a “general order,” Now
as it was agreed that only one officer should be accommodated at a time,
the privilege was worth paying for, particularly by our host of the “Rue
Garland,” whose larder was always stored with delicacies, and whose
cellar was famed for thirty miles round. He accordingly counted down his
reichs-thalers, gulden, and groschen--with a heavy heart it is true, but
to avert a heavier evil, and with his grand patent of immunity, hung out
upon his sign post, he gave himself no farther trouble about the war or
its chances. On the third evening of the retreat, however, a regiment of
the Chasseurs de la Garde, conspicuous by their green coats and white
facings, the invariable costume of the Emperor himself, entered the
town, and bivouacked in the little square. The colonel, a handsome
fellow of about five-and-thirty, or forty, looked about him sharply for
a moment or two, irresolute where he should fix his resting-place; when
a savoury odour of sausages frying in the “Reuten Krantz,” quickly
decided his choice. He entered at once, and making his bow to mine host,
with that admirable mixture of deference and command a Frenchman can
always assume, ordered his dinner to be got ready, and a bed prepared
for him.

It was well worth the host’s while to stand on good terms with the
officers of rank, who could repress, or wink, at the liberties of the
men, as occasion served, and so the “Rue Garland” did its utmost that
day to surpass itself.

“Je dois vous prévenir,” said the colonel, laughing as he strolled from
the door, after giving his directions, “Je dois vous prévenir, que je
mange bien, et beaucoup.”

“Monsieur shall be content,” said the host, with a tap on his own
stomach, as though to say,--“The nourishment that has sufficed for this,
may well content such a carcass as thine--”

“And as for wine--continued the colonel.

“Zum kissen!” cried the host, with a smack of his lips, that could be
heard over the whole Platz, and which made a poor captain’s mouth water,
who guessed the allusion.

I shall not detail for my reader, though I most certainly heard myself
the long bill of fare, by which the Rue Branch intended to astonish the
weak nerves of the Frenchman, little suspecting, at the time, how mutual
the surprise was destined to be. I remember there was “fleisch” and
“braten” without end, and baked pike, and sausages, and boar’s head, and
eels, and potted mackerel, and brawn, and partridges; not to speak of
all the roots that ever gave indigestion since the flood, besides
sweetmeats and puddings, for whose genera and species it would take
Buffon and Cuvier to invent a classification. As I heard the formidable
enumeration, I could not help expressing my surprise at the extent of
preparations, so manifestly disproportionate to the amount of the
company; but the host soon satisfied me on this head, by saying, “that
they were obliged to have an immense supply of cold viands always ready
to sell to the other officers throughout the town, whom,” he added in a
sly whisper, “they soon contrived to make pay for the heavy ransom
imposed on themselves.” The display, therefore, which did such credit to
his hospitality, was made with little prospect of injuring his pocket--a
pleasant secret, if it only were practicable.

The hour of dinner arrived at last, and the Colonel, punctual to the
moment, entered the salon, which looked out by a window on the Platz--a
strange contrast, to be sure, for his eyes; the great side-board loaded
with luscious fare, and covered by an atmosphere of savoury smoke; and
the meagre bivouack without, where groups of officers sat, eating their
simple rations, and passing their goblets of washy beer from hand to
hand.

Rouchefoucauld says, “There is always something pleasant in the
misfortunes of our best friends;” and as I suppose he knew his
countrymen, I conclude that the Colonel arranged his napkin on his knee
with a high sense of enjoyment for the little panorama which met his
eyes on the Platz.

It must certainly have been a goodly sight, and somewhat of a surprise
besides, for an old campaigner to see the table groaning under its
display of good things; amid which, like Lombardy poplars in a Flemish
landscape, the tall and taper necks of various flasks shot up--some
frosted with an icy crest, some cobwebbed with the touch of time.

Ladling the potage from a great silver tureen of antique mould, the host
stood beside the Colonel’s chair, enjoying--as only a host can enjoy--
the mingled delight and admiration of his guest; and now the work began
in right earnest. What an admirable soup, and what a glass of
“Niederthaler”--no hock was ever like it; and those pâtés--they were “en
bechamelle.” “He was sorry they were not oysters, but the Chablis, he
could vouch for.” And well he might; such a glass of wine might console
the Emperor for Leipsic.

“How did you say the trout was fried, my friend?”

“In mushroom gravy, dashed with anchovy.”

“Another slice, if you’ll permit me,” pop! “That flask has burst its
bonds in time; I was wishing to taste your ‘OEil de Perdrix.’”

The outposts were driven in by this time, and the heavy guns of the
engagement were brought down; in other words, the braten, a goodly dish
of veal, garnished with every incongruity the mind of man could muster,
entered; which, while the host carved at the side-board, the Colonel
devoured in his imagination, comforting himself the while by a salmi of
partridges with truffles.

Some invaluable condiment had, however, been forgotten with the veal,
and the host bustled out of the room in search of it. The door had not
well closed, when the Colonel dashed out a goblet of Champagne, and
drank it at a draught; then, springing from the window into the Platz,
where already the shadow of evening was falling, was immediately
replaced by the Major, whose dress and general appearance were
sufficiently like his own to deceive any stranger.

Helping himself without loss of time to the salmi, he ate away, like one
whose appetite had suffered a sore trial from suspense.

The salmi gave place to the veal, and the veal to the baked pike; for so
it is, the stomach, in Germany, is a kind of human ark, wherein, though
there is little order in the procession, the animals enter whole and
entire. The host watched his guest’s performance, and was in ecstasies--
good things never did meet with more perfect appreciation; and as for
the wine, he drank it like a Swabian, whole goblets full at a draught.
At length, holding up an empty flask, he cried out “Champagne!” And away
trotted the fat man to his cellar, rather surprised, it is true, how
rapidly three flasks of his “Aï Mousseux” had disappeared.

This was now the critical moment, and with a half-sigh of regret, the
Major leaped into the street, and the first Captain relieved the guard.

Poor fellow, he was fearfully hungry, and helped himself to the first
dish before him, and drank from the bottle at his side, like one whose
stomach had long ceased to be pampered by delicacies.

“Du Heiliger!” cried the host to himself, as he stood behind his chair,
and surveyed the performance. “Du Heiliger! how he does eat, one
wouldn’t suppose he had been at it these fifty minutes; art ready for
the capon now?” continued he, as he removed the keel and floor timbers
of a saddle of mutton.

“The capon,” sighed the other; “Yes, the capon, now.” Alas! he knew that
delicious dish was reserved for his successor. And so it was; before the
host re-entered, the second Captain had filled his glass twice, and was
anxiously sitting in expectation of the capon.

Such a bird as it was!--a very sarcophagus of truffles--a mine of
delicious dainties of every clime and cuisine.

“Good--eh?”

“Delicious!” said the second Captain, filling a bumper, and handing it
to the host, while he clinked his own against it in friendly guise.

“A pleasant fellow, truly,” said the host, “and a social--but, Lord, how
he eats! There go the wings and the back! Himmel und Erde! if he isn’t
at the pasty now!”

“Wine!” cried the Frenchman, striking the table with the empty bottle,
“Wine.”

The host crossed himself, and went out in search of more liquor,
muttering as he shuffled along, “What would have become of me, if I
hadn’t paid the indemnity!”

The third Captain was at his post before the host got back, and whatever
the performance of his predecessors, it was nothing to his. The pasty
disappeared like magic, the fricandeau seemed to have melted away like
snow before the sun; while he drank, indiscriminately, Hock, Hermitage,
and Bordeaux, as though he were a camel, victualling himself for a three
weeks’ tramp in the desert.


The poor host now walked round the board, and surveyed the “débris” of
the feast, with a sad heart. Of all the joints which he hoped to have
seen cold on the shelves of his larder, some ruined fragments alone
remained. Here was the gable end of a turkey--there, the side wall of a
sirloin; on one side, the broken roof of a pasty; on the other, the bare
joists of a rib of beef. It was the Palmyra of things eatable, and a sad
and melancholy sight to gaze on.

“What comes next, good host?” cried the third Captain, as he wiped his
lips with his napkin.

“Next!” cried the host, in horror, “Hagel und regen! thou canst not eat
more, surely!”

“I don’t know that,” replied the other, “the air of these mountains
freshens the appetite--I might pick a little of something sweet.”

With a groan of misery, the poor host placed a plum pie before the all-
devouring stranger, and then, as if to see that no legerdemain was
practised, stationed himself directly in front, and watched every
morsel, as he put it into his mouth. No, the thing was all fair, he ate
like any one else, grinding his food and smacking his lips, like an
ordinary mortal. The host looked down on the floor, and beneath the
cloth of the table--what was that for? Did he suspect the stranger had a
tail?

“A glass of mulled claret with cloves!” said the frenchman, “and then
you may bring the dessert.”

“The Heavens be praised!” cried the host as he swept the last fragments
of the table into a wide tray, and left the room.

“Egad! I thought you had forgotten me altogether, Captain,” said a
stout, fat fellow, as he squeezed himself with difficulty through the
window, and took his seat at the table. This was the Quarter-master of
the Regiment, and celebrated for his appetite throughout the whole
brigade.

“Ach Gott! how he is swelled out!” was the first exclamation of the
host, as he re-entered the room; “and no wonder either, when one thinks
of what he has eaten.”

“How now, what’s this?” shouted the Quarter-master, as he saw the
dessert arranging on the table, “Sacré tonnerre! what’s all this?”

“The dessert--if you can eat it,” said the host, with a deep sigh.

“Eat it!--no--how the devil should I?”

“I thought not,” responded the other, submissively, “I thought not, even
a shark will get gorged at last!”

“Eh, what’s that you say?” replied the Quarter-master, roughly, “you
don’t expect a man to dine on figs and walnuts, or dried prunes and
olives, do you?”

“Dine!” shouted the host, “and have you not dined?”

“No, mille bombes, that I haven’t--as you shall soon see!”

“Alle Gute Geisten loben den Hernn!” said the host, blessing himself,
“An thou be’st the Satanus, I charge thee keep away!”

A shout of laughter from without, prevented the Quartermaster’s reply to
this exorcism being heard; while the trumpet sounded suddenly for “boot
and saddle.”

With a bottle of wine stuffed in each pocket, the Quartermaster rose
from table, and hurried away to join his companions, who had received
sudden orders to push forward towards Cassel, and as the bewildered host
stood at his window, while the regiment filed past, each officer saluted
him politely, as they cried out in turn, “Adieu, Monsieur! my
compliments to the braten”--“the turkey was delicious”--“the salmi
perfect”--“the capon glorious”--“the venison a chef-d’ouvre!” down to
the fat Quarter-master, who, as he raised a flask to his lips, and shook
his head reproachfully, said, “Ah! you old screw, nothing better than
nuts and raisins to give a hungry man for his dinner!” And so they
disappeared from the Platz, leaving mine host in a maze of doubt and
bewilderment, which it took many a day and night’s meditation to solve
to his own conviction.

Though I cannot promise myself that my reader will enjoy this story as
much as I did, I could almost vouch for his doing so, if he heard it
from the host of the “Reuten Krantz” himself, told with the staid
gravity of German manner, and all the impressive seriousness of one who
saw in the whole adventure, nothing ludicrous whatever, but only a most
unfair trick, that deserved the stocks, or the pillory.

He was indeed a character in his way, his whole life had only room for
three or four incidents, about, and around which, his thoughts revolved,
as on an axis, and whose impression was too vivid to admit of any
occurrence usurping their place. When a boy, he had been in the habit of
acting as guide to the “Wartburg” to his father’s guests--for they were
a generation of innkeepers, time out of mind, and even yet, he spoke of
those days with transport.

It was amusing, too, to hear him talk of Luther, as familiarly as though
he had known him personally, mentioning little anecdotes of his career,
and repeating his opinions as if they were things of yesterday; but
indeed his mind had little more perspective than a Chinese tea-tray--
everything stood beside its neighbour, without shadow, or relief of any
kind, and to hear him talk, you would say that Melancthon and Marshal
Macdonald might have been personal friends, and Martin Luther and Ney
passed an evening in the blue salon of the Reuten Krantz. As for
Eisenach and all about it, he knew as little as though it were a city of
Egypt. He _hoped_ there was a public library now--he _knew_ there was in
his father’s time, but the French used to make cartridges with the books
in many towns they passed through--perhaps they had done the same here.
These confounded French--they seemed some way to fill every avenue of
his brain--there was no inlet of his senses, without a French sentinel
on guard over it.

Now,--for my sins, I suppose,--it so chanced that I was laid up here for
several weeks, with a return of an old rheumatism I had contracted in
one of my wanderings. Books, they brought me, but alas! the only volumes
a German circulating library ever contains are translations of the very
worst French and English works. The weather was, for the most part,
rainy and broken, and even when my strength permitted me to venture into
the garden, I generally got soundly drenched before I reached the house
again. What insupportable ennui is that which inhabits the inn of a
little remote town, where come few travellers, and no news! What a
fearful blank in existence is such a place. Just think of sitting in the
little silent and sanded parlour, with its six hard chairs, and one
straight old sofa, upholstered with flock and fleas; counting over the
four prints in black wood frames, upon the walls. Scripture subjects,
where Judith, with a quilted petticoat and sabots, cuts the head off a
Holofernes in buckskins and top boots, and catches the blood in a soup
tureen; an Abraham with a horse pistol, is threatening a little Isaac in
jacket and trowsers, with a most villanous expression about the corners
of his eyes; and the old looking-glass, cracked in the middle, and
representing your face, in two hemispheres, with a nose and one eye to
each--the whole tinged with a verd antique colouring that makes you look
like a man in bronze.

Outside the door, but near enough for every purpose of annoyance, stands
a great hulking old clock, that ticks away incessantly--true type of
time that passes on its road whether you be sick or sorry, merry or
mournful. With what a burr the old fellow announces that he is going to
strike--it is like the asthmatic wheezing of some invalid, making an
exertion beyond his strength, and then, the heavy plod of sabots, back
and forward through the little hall, into the kitchen, and out again to
the stable yard; with the shrill yell of some drabbled wench, screaming
for “Johann” or “Jacob;” and all the little platitudes of the “ménage”
 that reach you, seasoned from time to time by the coarse laughter of the
boors, or the squabbling sounds that issue streetwards, where some
vender of “schnaps” or “kirch-wasser” holds his tap.

What a dreary sensation comes over one, to think of the people who pass
their lives in such a place, with its poor little miserable interests
and occupations! and how one shudders at the bare idea of sinking down
to the level of such a stagnant pool--knowing the small notorieties, and
talking like them; and yet, with all this holy horror, how rapidly, and
insensibly, is such a change induced. Every day rubs off some former
prejudice, and induces some new habit, and, as the eye of the prisoner,
in his darksome dungeon, learns to distinguish each object clear, as if
in noon-day; so will the mind accommodate itself to the moral gloom of
such a cell as this, ay, and take a vivid interest in each slight event
that goes on there, as though he were to the “manner born.”

In a fortnight, or even less, I lay awake, conjecturing why the urchin
who brought the mail from Gotha, had not arrived;--before three weeks I
participated in the shock of the town, at the conduct of the Frow von
Bütterwick, who raised the price of Schenkin or Schweinfleisch, I forget
which--by some decimal of a farthing; and fully entered into the
distressed feelings of the inhabitants, who foretold a European war,
from the fact that a Prussian corporal with a pack on his shoulders, was
seen passing through the town, that morning, before day-break.

When I came to think over these things, I got into a grievous state of
alarm. “Another week, Arthur,” said I, “and thou art done for: Eisenach
may claim thee as its own; and the Grand Duke of------, Heaven forgive
me! but I forget the Potentate of the realm,--he may summon thee to his
counsels, as the Hoch Wohlgeborner und Gelehrter, Herr von O’Leary; and
thou may’st be found here some half century hence, with a pipe in thy
mouth, and thy hands in thy side pockets, discoursing fat consonants,
like any Saxon of them all. Run for it, man, run for it; away, with half
a leg, if need be; out of the kingdom with all haste; and if it be not
larger than its neighbours, a hop, step, and jump, ought to suffice for
it.”

Will any one tell me--I’ll wager they cannot--why it is, that if you
pass a week or a month, in any out-of-the-way place, and either from
sulk or sickness, lead a solitary kind of humdrum life; that when you
are about to take your leave, you find half the family in tears. Every
man, woman, and child, thinks it incumbent on them to sport a mourning
face. The host wipes his eye with the corner of the bill; the waiter
blows his nose in the napkin; the chambermaid holds up her apron; and
boots, with a side wipe of his blacking hand, leaves his countenance in
a very fit state for the application of the polishing brush. As for
yourself, the position is awkward beyond endurance.

That instant you feel sick of the whole household, from the cellar to
the garret. You had perilled your soul in damning them all in turn; and
now it comes out, that you are the “enfant chéri” of the establishment.
What a base, blackhearted fellow you must be all the time; in short, you
feel it; otherwise, why is your finger exploring so low in the recesses
of your purse. Confound it, you have been very harsh and hasty with the
good people, and they did their best after all.

Take up your abode at Mivart’s or the Clarendon; occupy for the six
months of winter, the suite of apartments at Crillons or Meurice; engage
the whole of the “Schwann” at Vienna; aye, or even the Grand Monarque,
at Aix; and I’ll wager my head, you go forth at the end of it, without
causing a sigh in the whole household. Don’t flatter yourself that
Mivart will stand blubbering over the bill, or Meurice be half choked
with his sobs. The Schwann doesn’t care a feather of his wing, and as
for the Grand Monarque, you might as well expect his prototype would
rise from the grave to embrace you. A civil grin, that half implies,
“You’ve been well plucked here,” is the extent of parting emotion, and a
tear couldn’t be had for the price of Tokay.

Well, I bid adieu to the Reuten Krantz, in a different sort of mood from
what I expected. I shook the old “Rue Branch” himself heartily by the
hand, and having distributed a circle of gratuities--for the sum total
of which I should have probably been maltreated by a London waiter--I
took my staff, and sallied forth towards Weimar, accompanied by a shower
of prayers and kind wishes, that, whether sincere or not, made me feel
happier the whole day after.



CHAPTER XXXIII. “ERFURT”

I narrowly escaped being sent to the guardhouse for the night, as I
approached Erfurt--for seeing that it was near nine o’clock when the
gates of the fortress are closed, I quickened my pace to a trot, not
aware of the “règlement” which forbids any one to pass rapidly over the
drawbridges of a fortification. Now, though the rule be an admirable one
when applied to those heavy diligences which, with three tons of
passengers, and six of luggage, come lumbering along the road, and might
well be supposed to shake the foundations of any breast-work or
barbican; yet, that any man of mortal mould, any mere creature of the
biped class--even with two shirts and a night-cap in his pack--could do
this, is more than I can conceive; and so it was, I ran, and if I did, a
soldier ran after me, three more followed him, and a corporal brought up
the rear, and in fact, so imposing was the whole scene, that any
unprejudiced spectator, not overversed in military tactics, might have
imagined that I was about to storm Erfurt, and had stolen a march upon
the garrison. After all, the whole thing was pretty much like what Murat
did at Vienna, and perhaps it was that which alarmed them.

I saw I had committed a fault, but what it was I couldn’t even guess,
and as they all spoke together, and such precious bad German, too, (did
you ever know a foreigner not complain of the abominable faults people
commit in speaking their own language?) that though I cried “peccavi,” I
remembered myself, and did not volunteer any confessions of iniquity,
before I heard the special indictment, and it seemed I had very little
chance of doing that, such was the confusion and uproar.

Now, there are two benevolent institutions in all law, and according to
these, a man may plead, either “in forma pauperis,” or “in forma
stultus.” I took the latter plea, and came off triumphant--my sentence
was recorded as a “Dummer Englander,” and I went my way, rejoicing.

Well, “I wish them luck of it!” as we say in Ireland, who have a fancy
for taking fortified towns. Here was I, inside of one, the gates closed,
locked, and barred behind me, a wall of thirty feet high, and a ditch of
fifty feet deep, to keep me in, and hang me if I could penetrate into
the interior. I suppose I was in what is called a parallel, and I walked
along, turning into a hundred little, crooked corners, and zig-zag
contrivances, where an embrasure, and a cannon in it, were sure to be
found. But as nothing are so like each other as stone walls, and as I
never, for the life of me, could know one seventy-four pounder from
another, I wandered about, very sadly puzzled to ascertain if I had not
been perambulating the same little space of ground for an hour and a
half. Egad! thought I, if there were no better engineers in the world
than me, they might leave the gates wide open, and let the guard go to
bed. Hollo, here’s some one coming along, that’s fortunate, at last--and
just then, a man wrapped in a loose cloak, German fashion, passed close
beside me.

“May I ask, mein Herr, which is the direction of the town, and where I
can find an inn?” said I, taking off my hat, most punctiliously, for
although it was almost pitch-dark, that courtesy cannot ever be omitted,
and I have heard of a German, who never talked to himself, without
uncovering.

“Straight forward, and then to your left, by the angle of the citadel--
you can take a short cut through the covered way----”

“Heaven forbid!” interrupted I; “where all is fair and open, my chance
is bad enough--there is no need of a concealed passage, to confuse me.”

“Come with me, then,” said he, laughing, “I perceive you are a
foreigner--this is somewhat longer, but I’ll see you safe to the
‘Kaiser,’ where you’ll find yourself very comfortable.”

My guide was an officer of the garrison, and seemed considerably
flattered by the testimony I bore to the impregnability of the fortress;
describing as we went along, for my better instruction, the various
remarkable features of the place. Lord, how weary I was of casemates and
embrasures, of bomb-proofs and culverins, half-moons and platforms; and
as I continued, from politeness to express my surprise and wonderment,
he took the more pains to expound those hidden treasures; and I verily
believe he took me a mile out of my way, to point out the place, in the
dark, where a large gun lay, that took a charge of one hundred and
seventy livres weight. I was now fairly done up; and having sworn
solemnly that the French army dare not show their noses this side of the
Rhine, so long as a Corporal’s guard remained at Erfurt, I begged hard
to have a peep at the “Kaiser.”

“Won’t you see the Rothen Stein?” said he.

“To-morrow,--if I survive,” said I, dropping my voice for the last
words.

“Nor the Wunder Brucke?----”

“With God’s blessing, to-morrow, I’ll visit them all; I came for the
purpose.” Heaven pardon the lie, I was almost fainting.

“Be it so, then,” said he, “We must go back again now. We have come a
good distance out of our road.”

With a heavy groan, I turned back; and if I did not curse Vauban and
Carnot, it was because I am a good Christian, and of a most forgiving
temper.

“Here we are now, this is the Kaiser,” said he, as after half an hour’s
sharp walking, we stood within a huge archway, dimly lighted by a great
old-fashioned lantern.

“You stop here some days, I think you said?”

“Yes, for a fortnight; or a week, at least.”

“Well, if you’ll permit me, I’ll have great pleasure in conducting you
through the fortress, to-morrow and next day. You can’t see it all under
two days, and even with that, you’ll have to omit the arsenals and the
shot batteries.”

I expressed my most grateful acknowledgments, with an inward vow, that
if I took refuge in the big mortar, I’d not be caught by my friend the
next morning.

“Good night, then,” said he, with a polite bow. “Bis Morgen.”--

“Bis Morgen,” repeated I, and entered the Kaiser.

The “Romischer Kaiser” was a great place once; but now, alas! its “Diana
is fallen!” Time was, when two Emperors slept beneath its roof, and the
Ambassadors of Kings assembled within its walls. It was here Napoleon
exercised that wonderful spell of enchantment he possessed above all
other men, and so captivated the mind of the Emperor Alexander, that not
even all the subsequent invasion of his empire, nor the disasters of
Moscow, could eradicate the impression. The Czar alone, of his enemies,
would have made terms with him in 1814; and when no other voice was
raised in his favour, Alexander’s was heard, commemorating their ancient
friendship, and recalling the time when they had been like brothers.
Erfurt was the scene of their first friendship. Many now living, have
seen Napoleon, with his arm linked within Alexander’s, as they walked
along; and marked the spell-bound attention of the Czar, as he listened
to the burning words, and rapid eloquence of Buonaparte, who, with a
policy all his own, devoted himself completely to the young Emperor, and
resolved on winning him over. They were never separate on horseback or
on foot. They dined, and went to the theatre together each evening; and
the flattery of this preference, so ostentatiously paraded by Napoleon,
had its full effect on the ardent imagination, and chivalrous heart of
the youthful Czar.

Fêtes, reviews, gala parties, and concerts, followed each other in quick
succession. The corps of the “Français” was brought expressly from
Paris; the ballet of the Opera also came, and nothing was omitted which
could amuse the hours of Alexander, and testify the desire of his host--
for such Napoleon was--to entertain him with honour. Little, then, did
Napoleon dream, that the frank-hearted youth, who hung on every word he
spoke, would one day prove the most obstinate of all his enemies; nor
was it for many a day after, that he uttered, in the bitter venom of
disappointment, when the rugged energy of the Muscovite showed an
indomitable front to the strength of his armies, and was deaf to his
attempted négociations, “Scrape the Russian, and you’ll come down on the
Tartar.”

Alexander was indeed the worthy grandson of Catherine, and, however a
feeling of personal regard for Napoleon existed through the vicissitudes
of after-life, it is no less true that the dissimulation of the Russian
had imposed on the Corsican; and that while Napoleon believed him all
his own, the duplicity of the Muscovite had overreached him. It was in
reference to that interview and its pledged good faith, Napoleon, in one
of his cutting sarcasms, pronounced him, “Faux comme un Grec du Bas
Empire.”

Nothing troubled the happiness of the meeting at Erfurt. It was a joyous
and a splendid fête, where, amid all the blandishments of luxury and
pleasure, two great kings divided the world at their will. It was
Constantine and Charlemagne who partitioned the East and West between
each other. The sad and sorrow-struck King of Prussia came not there as
at Tilsit; nor the fair Queen of that unhappy kingdom, whose beauty and
misfortunes might well have claimed the compassion of the conqueror.

Never was Napoleon’s character exhibited in a point of view less amiable
than in his relations with the Queen of Prussia. If her position and her
personal attractions had no influence over him, the devoted attachment
of her whole nation towards her, should have had that effect. There was
something unmanly in the cruelty that replied to her supplication in
favour of her country, by trifling allusions to the last fashions of
Paris, and the costumes of the Boulevard; and when she accepted the
moss-rose from his hand, and tremblingly uttered the words--“Sire, avec
Magdebourg?”--a more suitable rejection of her suit might have been
found, than the abrupt “Non!” of Napoleon, as he turned his back and
left her. There was something prophetic in her speech, when relating the
anecdote herself to Hardenberg, she added--

“That man is too pitiless to misfortune, ever to support it himself,
should it be his lot!”

But what mean all these reflections, Arthur? These be matters of
history, which the world knows as well, or better than thyself. “Que
diable allez-vous faire dans cette galère?” Alas! this comes of supping
in the Speise Saal of the “Kaiser,” and chatting with the great round-
faced Prussian in uniform, at the head of the table; he was a lieutenant
of the guard at Tilsit, and also at Erfurt with despatches in 1808; he
had a hundred pleasant stories of the fêtes, and the droll mistakes the
body-guard of the Czar used to fall into, by ignorance of the habits and
customs of civilized life. They were Bashkirs, and always bivouacked in
the open street before the Emperor’s quarters, and spent the whole night
through chanting a wild and savage song, which some took up, as others
slept, and when day broke, the whole concluded with a dance, which, from
the description I had of it, must have been something of the most
uncouth and fearful that could be conceived.

Napoleon admired those fellows greatly, and more than one among them
left Erfurt with the cross of the Legion at his breast.

Tired and weary, as I was, I sat up long past midnight, listening to the
Prussian, who rolled out his reminiscences between huge volumes of
smoke, in the most amusing fashion. And when I did retire to rest, it
was to fall into a fearful dream about Bashkirs and bastions; half-
moons, hot shot, and bomb-proofs, that never left me till morning broke.

“The Rittmeister von Otterstadt presents his compliments,” said the
waiter, awakening me from a heavy sleep--“presents his compliments---”

“Who?” cried I, with a shudder.

“The Rittmeister von Otterstadt, who promised to show you the fortress.”

“I’m ill,--seriously ill,” said I, “I should not be surprised if it were
a fever.”

“Probably so,” echoed the immovable German, and went on with his
message. “The Herr Rittmeister regrets much that he is ordered away on
Court Martial duty to Entenburg, and cannot have the honour of
accompanying you, before Saturday, when----”

“With Heaven’s assistance, I shall be out of the visible horizon of
Erfurt,” said I, finishing the sentence for him.

Never was there a mind so relieved as mine was by this intelligence; the
horrors of that two days’ perambulations through arched passages, up and
down flights of stone steps, and into caves and cells, of whose uses and
objects I had not the most remote conception, had given me a night of
fearful dreams, and now, I was free once more.

Long live the King of Prussia! say I, who keeps up smart discipline in
his army, and I fervently trust, that Court Martial may be thoroughly
digested, and maturely considered; and the odds are in my favour that
I’m off before it’s over.

What is it, I wonder, that makes the inhabitants of fortified towns
always so stupid? Is such the fact?--first of all, asks some one of my
readers. Not a doubt of it--if you ever visited them, and passed a week
or two within their walls, you would scarcely ask the question. Can
curtains and bastions--fosses and half-moons, exclude intelligence as
effectually as they do an enemy? are batteries as fatal to pleasure as
they are to platoons? I cannot say; but what I can and will say, is,
that the most melancholy days and nights I ever passed, have been in
great fortresses. Where the works are old and tumbling, some little
light of the world without, will creep in through the chinks and
crevices, as at Antwerp and Mentz; but let them be well looked to--the
fosses full--no weeds on the ramparts--the palisades painted smart
green, and the sentry boxes to match, and God help you!

There must be something in the humdrum routine of military duty, that
has its effect upon the inhabitants. They get up at morning, by a signal
gun; and they go to bed by another; they dine by beat of drum, and the
garrison gives the word of command for every hour in the twenty-four;
There is no stir, no movement; a patrol, or a fatigue party, are the
only things you meet, and when you prick up your ears at the roll of
wheels, it turns out to be only a tumbril with a corporal’s guard!

Theatres can scarcely exist in such places; a library would die in a
week; there are no soirées; no society. Billiards and beer, form the
staple of officers’ pleasures, in a foreign army, and certainly they
have one recommendation, they are cheap.

Now, as there was little to see in Erfurt, and still less to do, I made
up my mind to start early the next day, and push forward to Weimar, a
good resolution as far as it went, but then, how was the day to be
passed? People dine at “one” in Germany, or, if they wish to push
matters to a fashionable extreme, they say “two.” How is the interval,
till dark, to be filled up--taking it for granted you have provided some
occupation for that? Coffee, and smoking, will do something, but except
to a German, they can’t fill up six mortal hours. Reading is out of the
question after such a dinner,--riding would give you apoplexy--sleep,
alone, is the resource. Sleep “that wraps a man, as in a blanket,” as
honest Sancho says, and sooth to say, one is fit for little else, and
so, having ordered a pen and ink to my room, as if I were about to write
various letters, I closed the door, and my eyes, within five minutes
after, and never awoke till the bang of a “short eighteen” struck six.



CHAPTER XXXIV. THE HERR. DIRECTOR KLUG.

“Which is the way to the theatre?” said I to an urchin who stood at the
inn door, in that professional attitude of waiting, your street runners,
in all cities, can so well assume; for, holding a horse, and ringing a
bell, are accomplishments, however little some people may deem them.

“The theatre?” echoed he, measuring me leisurely from head to foot, and
not stirring from his place.

“Yes,” said I, “they told me there was one here, and that they played
to-night.”

“Possibly,” with a shrug of the shoulders, was the reply, and he smoked
his short pipe, as carelessly as before.

“Come then, show me the way,” said I, pulling out some kreutzers, “put
up that pipe for ten minutes, and lead on.”

The jingle of the copper coin awakened his intelligence, and though he
could not fathom my antipathy to the fumes of bad tobacco, he deposited
the weapon in his capacious side pocket, and with a short nod, bade me
follow him.

No where does nationality exhibit itself so strikingly, as in the
conduct and bearing of the people who show you the way, in different
cities. Your German is sententious and solemn as an elephant, he goes
plodding along with his head down and his hands in his pockets,
answering your questions with a sulky monosyllable, and seeming annoyed
when not left to his own meditations. The Frenchman thinks, on the
contrary, that he is bound to be agreeable and entertaining, he is doing
the honours of La Grande Nation, and it stands him upon, that you are
not to go away discontented with the politeness of “the only civilized
people of Europe.” Paddy has some of this spirit too, but less on
national than individual grounds; he likes conversation, and leads the
way to it; beside, no one, while affecting to give information himself,
can pump a stranger, like an Irishman. The Yankee plan is cross-
examination outright, and no disguise about it; if he shows the way to
one place, it is because you must tell him where you came from last;
while John Bull, with a brief “Don’t know, I’m sure,” is equally
indifferent to your road and your fortune, and has no room for any
thoughts about you.

My “avant courier” was worthy of his country; if every word had cost him
a molar tooth, he couldn’t have been more sparing of them, and when by
chance I either did not hear or rightly understand what he did say,
nothing could induce him to repeat it; and so, on we went from the more
frequented part of the town, till we arrived at a quarter of narrow
streets, and poor-looking houses, over the roofs of which I could from
time to time, catch glimpses of the fortifications; for we were at the
extreme limits of the place.

“Are you quite certain this is the way, my lad?” said I, for I began to
fear lest he might have mistaken the object of my inquiry.

“Yes, yes--there it was--there was the theatre,” and so he pointed to a
large building of dark stone, which closed the end of the street, and on
the walls of which, various placards and announcements were posted,
which, on coming nearer, I found were bills for their night’s
performance, setting forth how the servants of his Majesty would perform
“Den Junker in den Residentz,” and the afterpiece of “Krähwinkel.” There
was a very flourishing catalogue of actors and actresses, with names as
hard as the dishes in a bill of fare; and something about a “ballet,”
 and a “musical intermezzo.”

Come--said I to myself--this is a piece of good fortune. And so,
dismissing my little foot page I turned to the door, which stood within
a deep porch.

What was my amazement, however, to find it closed--I looked on every
side, but there was no other entrance; besides, the printed list of
places and their prices, left no doubt that this was the regular place
of admission. There’s no knowing, after all,--thought I--these Germans
are strange folks; perhaps they don’t open the door without knocking,
and so, here goes.

“In Himmel’s namen was ist das?” screamed an angry voice, as a very
undignified-looking Vrau peeped from a window of a foot square, above
the door--“What do you want with that uproar there?” roared she, louder
than before.

“I want to get in--a place in the boxes, or a ‘stalle’ in the ‘balcon’--
anywhere will do.”

“What for?” cried she again.

“What for!--for the play to be sure--for the ‘Junker in den Resident.’”

“He is not here at all--go your ways--or I’ll call the Polizey,” yelled
she, while, banging the window, there was an end of the dialogue.

“Can I be of any service to you, mein Herr?” said a portly little
fellow, without a coat, who was smoking at his door--“What is it you
want?”

“I came to see a play,” said I, in amazement at the whole proceedings,
“and here I find nothing but an old beldam that threatens me with the
police.”

“Ah! as for the play I don’t know,” replied he, scratching his head,
“but come with me over here to the ‘Fox’ and we’re sure to see the Herr
Director.”

“But I’ve nothing to do with the Herr Director,” said I; “if there’s no
performance I must only go back again--that’ s all.”

“Aye! but there may though,” rejoined my friend; “come along and see the
Herr himself, I know him well, and he’ll tell you all about it.”

The proposition was at least novel, and as the world goes, that same is
not without its advantages, and so I acceded, and followed my new guide,
who, in the careless _négligée_ of a waistcoat and breeches, waddled
along before me.

The “Fox” was an old-fashioned house, of framed wood, with queer
diamond-shaped panes to the windows, and a great armorial coat over the
door, where a fox, in black oak, stood out conspicuously.

Scarcely had we entered the low arched door, when the fumes of schnaps
and tobacco nearly suffocated me; while the merry chorus of a drinking
song, proclaimed that a jolly party was assembled.

I already repented of my folly in yielding to the strange man’s
proposal, and had he been near, would at once have declined any further
step in the matter; but he had disappeared in the clouds,--the disc of
his drab shorts was all I could perceive through the nebulae. It was
confoundedly awkward, so it was. What right had I to hunt down the Herr
Director, and disturb him in his lair. It was enough that there was no
play; any other man would have quietly returned home again, when he saw
such was the case.

While I revolved these thoughts with myself, my fat friend issued from
the mist, followed by a tall, thin man, dressed in deep black, with
tights and hessians of admirable fit; a pair of large, bushy whiskers
bisected his face, meeting at the corners of the nose; while a sharp,
and pointed chin tuft, seemed to prolong the lower part of his
countenance to an immense extent.

Before the short man had well uttered his announcement of the “Herr
Director,” I had launched forth into the most profuse apologies for my
unwarrantable intrusion, expressing in all the German I could muster,
the extent of my sorrow, and ringing the changes on my grief and my
modesty, my modesty and my grief; at last I gave in, fairly floored for
want of the confounded verb one must always clinch the end of a sentence
with, in German.

“It was to see the play then, Monsieur came?” said the Director,
inquiringly, for alas! my explanation had been none of the clearest.

“Yes,” said I, “for the play--but----” Before I could finish the
sentence, he flung himself into my arms, and cried out with enthusiasm,
“Du bist mein Vater’s Sohn!”

This piece of family information, was unquestionably new to me, but I
disengaged myself from my brother’s arms, curious to know the meaning of
such enthusiasm.

“And so you came to see the play?” cried he, in a transport, while he
threw himself into a stage attitude of great effect.

“Yes.” said I, “to see the ‘Junker,’ and ‘Krähwinkel.’”

“Ach Grott! that was fine, that was noble!”

Now, how any man’s enterprising a five-franc piece or two gulden-müntze,
could, deserve such epithets, would have puzzled me at another moment;
but as the dramatist said, I wasn’t going to “mind squibs after sitting
over a barrel of gunpowder,” and I didn’t pay the least attention to it.

“Give me your hand!” cried he, in a rapture, “and let me call you
friend.”

The Director’s mad as a March hare! thought I, and I wished myself well
out of the whole adventure.

“But as there’s no play,” said I, “another night will do as well; I
shall remain here for a week to come, perhaps longer----”

But while I went on expressing the great probability of my passing a
winter in Erfurt, he never paid the least attention to my observations,
but seemed sunk in meditation, occasionally dropping in a stray phrase,
as thus--“Die Wurtzel is sick, that is, she is at the music garden with
the officers; then, Blum is drunk by this; der Ettenbaum couldn’t sing a
note after his supper of schinkin. But then there’s Grundenwald, and
Catinka, to be sure, and Alte Kreps--we’ll do it, we’ll do it! Come
along, mien aller Liebster, and choose the best ‘loge du premier,’ take
two, three, if you like it--you shall see a play.”

“What do you mean? you are surely not going to open the house for _me!_”

“Ain’t I though! you shall soon see--it’s the only audience I ever had
in Erfurt, and I’m not going to lose it. Know, most worthy friend,”
 continued he with a most melodramatic tone and gesture, “that to-night
is the twelfth time I have given out an announcement of a play, and yet
never was able to attract--I will not say an audience--but not a row--
not a ‘loge’--not even a ‘stalle’ in the balcon. I opened, why do I say
I opened? I advertised, the first night, Schiller’s Maria Stuart, you
know the Maria--well, such a Madchen as we have for the part! such
tenderness--such music in her voice--such grace and majesty in every
movement; you shall see for yourself, Catinka is here. Then I gave out
‘Nathan der Weise,’ then the ‘Goetz,’ then ‘Lust und Liebe,’--why do I
go on? in a word I went through all our dramatic authors from Schiller,
Göthe, Leasing, Werner, Grillparzer, down to Kötzebue, whose two pieces
I advertised for this evening--”

“But--pardon my interruption--did you always keep the doors closed, as I
found them?”

“Not at first,” responded he, solemnly; “the doors were open, and a
system of telegraphs established between the bureau for payment and the
orchestra, by which the footlights were to be illuminated on the arrival
of the first visiter; but the bassoon and the drum, the clarinette and
the oboe, stood like cannoneers, match in hand, from half-past six till
eight, and never came the word ‘fire!’ But here we are.”

With these words he produced from his pocket a massive key, with which
he unlocked the door, and led me forward by the arm into a dark passage,
followed by our coatless friend, whom he addressed as “Herr Stauf,”
 desiring him to come in also. While the Herr Director was waiting for a
light, which the Vrau seemed in no hurry to bring, he continued his
recital. “When I perceived matters were thus, I vowed two vows,
solemnly, and before the whole corps, ballet, chorus, and all; first,
that I would give twelve representations--I mean announcements of
representation--from twelve separate dramatists, before I left Erfurt;
and, secondly, that for a single spectator, I would open the house, and
have a play acted. One part of my oath is already accomplished; your
appearance calls on me for the other. This over, I shall leave Erfurt
for ever; and if,” continued he, “the fates ever discover me again
within the walls of a fortified town--unless I be sent there in
handcuffs, and with a peloton of dragoons--may I never cork my eyebrows
while I live!”

This resolve, so perfectly in accordance with the meditations I had
lately indulged in myself, gave me a higher opinion of the Herr
Director’s judgment, and I followed him with a more tranquil conscience
than at first.

“There are four steps there--take care,” cried he, “and feel along by
the wall here; for though this place should be, and indeed is, by right,
one blaze of lamps, I must now conduct you by this miserable candle.”

And so, through many a narrow passage, and narrower door, up-stairs and
down, over benches, and under partitions, we went, until at length we
arrived upon the stage itself. The curtain was up, and before it, in
yawning blackness, lay the audience part of the house--a gloomy and
dreary cavern; the dark cells of the boxes, and the long, untenanted,
benches of the “balcon,” had an effect of melancholy desolation
impossible to convey. Up above, the various skies and moon scenes hung,
flapping to and fro with the cold wind, that came, Heaven knows whence,
but with a piercing sharpness I never felt the equal of within doors;
while the back of the stage was lost in a dim distance, where fragments
of huts, and woods, mills, mountains, and rustic bridges, lay
discordantly intermixed--the chaos of a stage world.

The Herr Director waved his dip candle to and fro, above his head, like
a stage magician, invoking spirits and goblins damned; while he
repeated, from one of Werner’s pieces, some lines of an incantation.

“Gelobt sey Marie!” said the Herr Stauf, blessing himself devoutly; for
he had looked upon the whole as an act of devotion.

“And now, friend,” continued the Director, “wait here, at this fountain,
and I will return in a few minutes.” And so saying, he quitted the
place, leaving Stauf and me in perfect dark