Leaving Trent, they reached San Michele, nominally the last Italian town on the frontier; but the German language had already prepared them for a change of country.
The road continued to wind by the Adige, and passing through Lavis, and Bronzoli, the brothers halted for the night at Botzen, a clean German town, watered by the Eisach.
The following day's journey, was one that few can take, and deem their time misspent.
Mossy cliffs—flowing cascades—"chiefless castles breaking stern farewells"—all these were met, and met again, as through Brixen, they reached the village of Muelks.
They had intended to have continued their route; but on drawing up at the post-house, were so struck with the gaiety of the scene, that they determined to remain for the night.
Immediately in rear of the small garden of the inn, and with a gentle slope upwards, a wide piece of meadow land extended. On its brow, was pitched a tent, or rather, a many-coloured awning; and, beside it, a pole adorned with flags. This was the station for expert riflemen, who aimed in succession at a fluttering bird, held by a silken cord.
The sloping bank of the hill was covered with spectators.
Age looked on with sadness, and mourned for departed manhood—youth with envy, and sighed for its arrival.
After seeing their bedrooms, George leant on Henry's arm, and, crossing the garden, they took a by-path, which led towards the tent.
The strangers were received with respect and cordiality.
Seats were brought, and placed near the scene of contest.
The trial of skill over, the victor took advantage, of his right, and selected his partner from the fairest of the peasant girls.
Shrill pipes struck up a waltz—a little blind boy accompanied these on a mandolin—and in a brief space, the hill's flat summit was swarming with laughing dancers.
Nor was youth alone enlisted in Terpsichore's service.
The mother joined in the same dance with the daughter; and not unfrequently tripped with foot as light.
Twilight came on, and the patriarchs of the village, and with them our travellers, adjourned to the inn.
The matrons led away their reluctant charges, and the youth of the village alone protracted the revels.
The brothers seated themselves at a separate table, and watched the village supper party, with some interest.
Bowls of thick soup, with fish swimming in butter, and fruit floating in cream, were successively placed in the middle of the table.
Each old man produced his family spoon, and helped himself with primitive simplicity:—then lighted his pipe, and told his long tale, till he had exhausted himself and his hearers.
Nor must we forget the comely waiter.
A bunch of keys hanging on one side,—a large leathern purse on the other—with a long boddice, and something like a hoop—she really resembled, save that her costume was more homely, one of the portraits of Vandyke.
The brothers left Muelks by sunrise, and were not long, ere they reached the summit of the Brenner, the loftiest point of the Tyrol.
From the beautiful town of Gries, embosomed in the deep valley, until they trod the steep Steinach, the mountain scenery at each step become more interesting. The road was cut on the face of a mountain. On one side, frowned the mountain's dark slope; on the other, lay a deep precipice, down which the eye fearfully gazed, and saw naught but the dark fir trees far far beneath. Dividing that dense wood, a small stream, entangled in the dark ravine, glided on in graceful windings, and looked more silvery from its contrast with the sombre forest.
At the Steinach Pietro pulled up, to show the travellers the capital of the Tyrol, and to point in the distance to Hall, famous for its salt works.
Casting a hasty glance, on the romantic vale beneath them:—the fairest and most extensive in the northern recesses of the Alps, Sir Henry desired his driver to continue his journey.
They rapidly descended, and passing by the column, commemorative of the repulse of the French and Bavarian armies, soon found themselves the inmates of an hotel in Inspruck.
The Students' Stories.
"The lilacs, where the robins built, And where my brother set The laburnum on his birth-day— The tree is living yet."
At Inspruck, Delme had the advantage of a zealous, if not an appropriate guide, in the red-faced landlord of the hotel, whose youth had been passed in stirring times, which had more than once, required the aid of his arm, and which promised to tax his tongue, to the last day of his life.
He knew all the heroes of the Tyrolese revolution—if revolution it can be called—and had his tale to tell of each.
He had got drunk with Hofer,—had visited Joseph Speckbacker, when hid in his own stable,—and had confessed more than once to Haspinger, the fighting Capuchin.
His stories were very characteristic; and, if they did not breathe all the poetry of patriotism, were at least honest versions, of exploits performed in as pure and disinterested a spirit, as any that have ever graced the sacred name of Liberty.
After seeing all its sights, and making an excursion to some glaciers in its neighbourhood, Delme and George left the capital of the Tyrol, to proceed by easy stages to Munich.
In the first day's route, they made the passage of the Zirl, which has justly been lauded; and Pietro failed not to point to a crucifix, placed on a jutting rock, which serves to mark the site of Maximilian's cave.
The travellers took a somewhat late breakfast, at the guitar-making Mittelwald, where chance detained them later than usual. They were still at some distance from their sleeping place, the hamlet of Wallensee, when the rich hues of sunset warned Pietro, that if he would not be benighted, he must urge on his jaded horses.
The sun's decline was glorious. For a time, vivid streaks of crimson and of gold, crowned the summits of the heaving purple mountains. Gradually, these streaks became fainter, and died away, and rolling, slate-coloured clouds, hung heavily in the west.
The scene and the air seemed to turn on a sudden, both cold and grey; and, as the road wound through umbrageous forests of pine, night came abruptly upon them; and it was a relief to the eye, to note the many bright stars, as they shone above the tops of the lofty trees.
A boding stillness reigned, on which the sound of their carriage wheels ungratefully broke. The rustling of each individual bough had an intonation of its own; and the deep notes of the woodman, endeavouring to forget the thrilling legends of his land, mingled fitfully with the hollow gusts, which came moaning through the leafless branches below.
Hist! can it be the boisterous revel of the forst geister, that meets his ear? or is it but the chirp of insects, replying from brake to underwood?
Woodman! stay not thy carol!
Yon sound may be the wild laugh of the Holz Koenig! Better for thee, to deem it the whine of thine own dog, looking from the cottage door, and awaiting but thy presence, to share in the homely meal.
Arrived on the summit of the hill, the lights of the hamlet at length glistened beneath them. The tired steeds, as if aware of the near termination of their labours, shook their rough manes, and jingled their bells in gladness.
An abrupt descent—and they halted, at the inn facing the lake.
And here may we notice, that it has been a source of wonder to us, that English tourists, whose ubiquity is great, have not oftener been seen straying, by the side of the lake of Wallensee.
A sweeter spot exists not;—whether we rove by its margin, and perpetrate a sonnet; limn some graceful tree, hanging over its waters; or gaze on its unruffled surface, and, noting its aspect so serene, preach from that placid text, peace to the wearied breast.
They were shown into a room in the inn, already thronged with strangers. These were students on their way to Heidelberg.
They were sitting round a table, almost enveloped in smoke; and were hymning praises to their loved companion—beer.
As being in harmony with the moustaches, beard, and bandit propensities—which true buerschen delight to cultivate—they received the strangers with an unfriendly stare, and continued to vociferate their chorus.
Sir Henry, a little dismayed at the prospect before them, called for the landlord and his bill of fare; and had the pleasure of discovering, that the provisions had been consumed, and that two hours would elapse, before more could be procured.
At this announcement, Delme looked somewhat blank. One of the students, observing this, approached, and apologising, in English, for their voracity, commenced conversing with the landlord, as to the best course to be pursued towards obtaining supper.
His comrades, seeing one of their number speaking with the travellers, threw off some part of their reserve, and made way for them at the table.
George and Henry accepted the proffered seats, although they declined joining the drinking party.
The students, however, did not appear at ease. As if to relieve their embarrassment, one of them addressed the young man, with whom Sir Henry had conversed.
"Carl! it is your turn now! if you have not a song, we must have an original story."
Carl at once complied, and related the following.
The First Story.
Perhaps some of you remember Fritz Hartmann and his friend Leichtberg. They were the founders of the last new liberty club, and were famous at renowning.
These patriots became officers of the Imperial Guard, and at Vienna were soon known for their friendship and their gallantries.
Fritz had much sentiment and imagination; but some how or other, this did not preserve him from inconstancy.
If he was always kind and gentle, he was not always faithful.
His old college chums had the privilege of joking him on these subjects; and we always did so without mercy. Fritz would sometimes combat our assertions, but they ordinarily made him laugh so much, that a stranger would have deemed he assented to their truth.
One night after the opera, the friends supped together at Fritz's.
I was of the party, and brought for my share a few bottles of Johannisberg, that had been sent me by my uncle from the last vintage. Over these we got more than usually merry, and sang all the songs and choruses of Mother Heidelberg, till the small hours arrived. The sitting room we were in, communicated on one side with the bedroom;—on the other, with a little closet, containing nothing but some old trunks.
This last was closed, but there was a small aperture in the door, over which was a slight iron lattice work.
The officer who had last tenanted Fritz's quarters, had kept pheasants there, and had had this made on purpose.
After one of our songs, Leichtberg attacked Fritz on the old score.
"Fritz! you very Werter of sentiment! I was amazed to see you with no loves to-night at the opera. Where is the widow with sandy hair? or the actress who gave your kirschenwasser such a benefit? where our sallow-faced friend? or more than all, where may the fair Pole be who sells such charming fruit? Fritz! Fritz! your sudden attachment to grapes is too ominous."
"Come, Leichtberg!" said Hartmann, laughing, "this is really not fair. Do you know I think myself very constant, and as to the Pole, I have thought of little else for these three months."
"Not so fast! not so fast! Master Hartmann. Was it not on Wednesday week I met you arm in arm with the actress? Were you not waltzing with the widow at the Tivoli? have you not"—
"Come, come!" said Fritz, reddening, "let us say no more. I confess to having made a fool of myself with the actress, but she begged and prayed to see me once more, ere we parted for ever. With this exception——"
"Yes, yes!" interrupted Leichtberg, "I know you, Master Fritz, and all your evil doings. Have you heard of our Polish affaire de coeur, Carl?", and he turned to me.
"No!" replied I, "let me hear it."
"Well, you must know that a certain friend of ours is very economical, and markets for himself. He bargains for fruit and flowers with the peasant girls, and the prettiest always get his orders, and bring up their baskets, and—we will say no more. Well! our friend meets a foreign face, dark eye—Greek contour—and figure indescribable. She brings him home her well arranged bouquets. He swears her lips are redder than her roses—her brow whiter than lilies—and her breath—which he stoops to inhale—far sweeter than her jasmines. To his amazement, the young flower girl sees no such great attractions in the Imperial Guardsman; leaves her nosegays,—throws his Napoleon, which he had asked her to change, in his face,—and makes her indignant exit. Our sentimental friend finds out her home, and half her history;—renews his flattering tales—piques her pride,—rouses her jealousy;—and makes her love him, bon gre—mal gre, better than either fruit or flowers.
"Fritz swears eternal constancy, and keeps it, as I have already told you, with the actress and the sandy haired widow."
Leichtberg told this story inimitably, and Fritz laughed as much as I did. At length we rose to wish him good night, and saw him turn to his bedroom door, followed by a Swiss dog, which always slept under his bed. The rest of the story we heard from his dying lips.
It was as near as he could guess, between two and three in the morning, that he awoke with the impression that some one was near him. For a time he lay restless and ill at ease; with the vague helpless feeling, that often attacks one, after a good supper.
Fritz had just made up his mind to ascribe to this cause, all his nervousness; when something seemed to drop in the adjoining room; and his dog, starting to its feet, commenced barking furiously.
Again all was still.
He got up for a moment, but fancying he heard a footstep on the stair, concluded that the noise proceeded from one of the inmates of the house, who was come home later than usual.
But Fritz could not sleep; and his dog seemed to share his feelings; for he turned on his side restlessly, and occasionally gave a quick solitary bark.
Suddenly a conviction flashed across Hartmann, that there was indeed some one in the chamber.
His curtain stirred.
He sprang from his bed, and reached his tinder box. As the steel struck sparks from the flint, these revealed the face of the intruder.
It was the young Polish girl.
A fur cloak was closely folded around her;—her face was deadly pale;—with one hand she drew back her long dark hair, while she silently uplifted the other.
Our friend's last impression was his falling back, at the moment his dog made a spring at the girl.
The inmates of the house were alarmed. His friends were all sent for.
I arrived among the earliest. What a sight met me!
The members of the household were so stupefied that they had done nothing. Fritz Hartmann lay on the floor insensible:—his night shirt steeped in blood, still flowing from a mortal wound in his breast.
At his feet, moaning bitterly, its fangs and mouth filled with mingled fur and gore, lay the Swiss dog, with two or three deep gashes across the throat. In the adjoining room, thrown near the door, was the instrument of Fritz's death—one of the knives we had used the evening before.
Beside it, lay a woman's cloak, the fur literally dripping with blood.
Fritz lingered for five hours. Before death, he was sensible, and told us what I have stated:—and acknowledged that he had loved the girl, more than her station in life might seem to warrant.
Of course, the young Pole had been concealed in the closet, and heard Leichtberg's sallies. Love and jealousy effected the rest.
We never caught her, although we had all the Vienna police at our beck; and accurate descriptions of her person were forwarded to the frontiers.
We were not quite certain as to her fate, but we rather suppose her to have escaped by a back garden; in which case she must have made a most dangerous leap; and then to have passed as a courier, riding as such into Livonia.
Where she obtained the money or means to effect this, God knows. She must have been a heroine in her way, for this dog is not easily overpowered, and yet—look here! these scars were given him by that young girl.
The student whistled to a dog at his feet, which came and licked his hand, while he showed the wounds in his throat.
"I call him Hartmann," continued he, "after my old friend. His father sent him to me just after the funeral, and Leichtberg has got his meershaum."
* * * * *
The students listened attentively to the story, refilling their pipes during its progress, with becoming gravity. Carl turned towards his right hand neighbour. "Wilhelm! I call on you!"
The student, whom he addressed, passed his hand through his long heard, and thus commenced.
The Second Story.
My father's brother married at Lausanne, in the Canton de Vaud, and resided there. He died early, and left one son; who, as you may suppose, was half a Frenchman. In spite of that, I thought Caspar von Hazenfeldt a very handsome fellow. His chestnut hair knotted in curls over his shoulders. His eyes, the veins of his temples, and I would almost say, his very teeth, had a blueish tint, that I have noticed in few men; and which must, I think, be the peculiar characteristic of his complexion. When engaged in pleasure parties, either pic-nicing at the signal, or promenading in the evening on Mont Benon, or sitting tete-a-tete at Languedoc, he had no eyes or ears but for Caroline de Werner.
He waltzed with her—he talked with her—and he walked with her—until he had fairly talked, walked, and waltzed himself into love.
She was the daughter of a rich old colonel of the Empire:—he was the poor son of a poorer widow. What could he do? Caspar von Hazenfeldt could gaze on the house of the old soldier; but the avenue of elms, the waving corn-fields, and the luxuriant gardens, told him that the heiress of Beau-Sejour could never he his.
He was one evening sitting on a stone, in a little ruined chapel, near the house of his beloved; ruminating as usual on his ill fate, and considering which would be the better plan, to mend his fortunes by travel, or mar them by suicide;—when an elderly gentleman, dressed in a plain suit of black, appeared hat in hand before him.
After the usual compliments, they entered into conversation, and at last, having walked for some distance, towards Hazenfeldt's house, agreed to meet again at the chapel on the next evening.
Suffice it to say that they often met, and as often parted, on the margin of the little stream, that ran before the door of Caspar's mother's house:—that they became great friends;—and that the young man confided the tale of his love, hopes, and miseries, to the sympathising senior.
At last the old gentleman, for such he really was, told Caspar that he would help him in a trice, through all his difficulties.
"There is one condition, Caspar!" said he, "but that is a mere trifle. You are young, and would be quite happy, were it not for this love affair of yours:—you sleep soundly, you seek and quit your bed early, and you care not for night-roving. Henceforth, lend me your body from ten at night, until two in the morning, and I promise that Caroline de Werner shall be yours. Here she is!" continued he, as he opened his snuff box, and showed the lid to Caspar, "here she is!"
And sure enough, there she was on the inside of the lid, apparently reading to the gouty old colonel, as he sat in his easy chair in the petit salon of Beau-Sejour.
One evening, the old gentleman delighted Caspar, by telling him that he had authority from Colonel de Werner, to bring a guest to a ball at Beau-Sejour, and by begging Caspar to be his shade—to use our Continental expression—on the occasion.
Caspar von Hazenfeldt and he became greater friends than ever, since their singular contract had been made; for made it was in a thoughtless unguarded moment.
Hazenfeldt was introduced to Caroline in due form, and engaged her for the first dance.
Before the quadrille began, his friend in black came to present his compliments, and to say that he had never seen a more beautiful pair.
"Caspar!" continued he, "when your dance is over, give me a few minutes in the next room. We will chat together, and sip our negus."
Caspar did so, and did sip his negus. The little gentleman in black, was very facetious, and very affable.
"Are you not going to dance again, Caspar? Look at all those pretty girls, waiting for partners! Why do you not lead one to the country dance?"
As he ended speaking, a sylph-like figure, with long golden ringlets, floated past them.
"I can, and I will," replied Caspar, laughing, as he took the fair-haired girl by the hand, and led her to the dance.
He turned to address his friend in triumph, but he had disappeared.
The dance was over, and Caspar led the stranger towards a silken ottoman.
"Will you not try one waltz?" said the beautiful girl, as she shook her ringlets, over his flushed cheek; "but I must not ask you, if you are tired."
"How can I refuse?" rejoined Caspar.
Caroline was forgotten, as his partner's golden hair floated on his shoulders, and her soft white arms were twined around him, as they danced the mazy coquettish waltz, which was then the fashion in Lausanne.
"How warm these rooms are!" she exclaimed at last. "The moon is up: let us walk in the avenue."
Caspar assented; for he grew fonder of his new partner, and more forgetful of Caroline. She pressed closer and closer to his side. A distant clock struck ten. Entwined in her tresses, encircled in her arms, he sunk senseless to the ground.
When Caspar recovered from the trance, into which he had fallen, the cold morning breeze, that precedes the dawn, was freshening his cheek; a few faint streaks on the horizon, reflected the colours of the coming sun; and the night birds were returning tired to the woods, as the day birds were merrily preparing for their flight. He was not where he had fallen: he was sitting on a rustic bench, beneath a moss-grown rock.
Caroline de Werner was beside him.
Her white frock was torn; her hair was hanging in Bacchante curls, twined with the ivy that had wreathed it; her eyes glared wildly, and blood bubbled from her mouth. Her hand was fast locked in that of Hazenfeldt.
"Caroline!" he exclaimed, in a tone of wonderment, as one who awakes from a deep sleep, "Caroline! why are we here? what means this disorder?"
"You now speak," said she, "as did my Caspar,"
Caroline de Werner is in a mad-house near Vevay:—the man in black has not been seen since he disappeared from the ball room of Beau-Sejour:—my cousin, Caspar von Hazenfeldt, took to wandering alone over the Swiss mountains; and before three months had elapsed, from the time he met the old gentleman, was buried in the fall of an avalanche, near the pass of the Gemmi.
* * * * *
Supper was not ready as the student finished this story; and George proposed a stroll. The change from the heated room to the margin of the lake, was a most refreshing one. As the brothers silently gazed upwards, a young lad approached, and accosted them.
"Gentlemen! I have seen the horses fed, and they are now lying down."
"Have you?" said Delme, drily.
"A very fine night! gentlemen! Perhaps you have heard of the famous echo, on the other side of the lake. It will be a good hour, I am sure, before your supper is ready. My boat lies under that old tree. If you like it, I will loose the chain, and row you over."
The brothers acquiesced. They were just in the frame of mind for an unforeseen excursion. The motion of the boat, too, would be easy for George, and he might there unrestrainedly give way to his excited feelings, or commune ungazed on, with the current of his thoughts.
A thin crescent of a moon had risen. It was silvering the tops of the overhanging boughs, and was quiveringly mirrored on the light ripple. George leant against the side of the boat, and listened to the liquid music, as the broad paddle threw back the resisting waters.
How soothing is the hour of night to the wounded spirit!
The obscurity which shrouds nature, seems to veil even man's woes—the harsh outline of his sufferings is discerned no more. Grief takes the place of despair—pensive melancholy of sorrow.
As we gaze around, and feel the chill air damp each ringlet on the pallid brow; know that that hour hath cast a shade on each inanimate thing around us; we feel resigned to our bereavements, and confess, in our heart's humility, that no changes should overwhelm, and that no grief should awaken repinings.
To many a bruised and stricken spirit, night imparts a grateful balm.
In the morning, the feelings are too fresh;—oblivion is exchanged for conscious suffering;—the merriment of the feathered songsters seems to us as a taunt;—our sympathies are not with waking nature. The glare and splendour of noon, bid us recal our hopes, and their signal overthrow. The zenith of day's lustre meets us as a wilful mockery.
Eve may bring rest, but on her breast is memory. But at night! when the mental and bodily energies are alike worn out by the internal struggle;—when hushed is each sound—softened each feature—dimmed each glaring hue;—a calm which is not deceptive, steals over us, and we regard our woes as the exacted penalty of our erring humanity.
Calumniated night! to one revelling in the full noon-tide of hope and gladness:—to the one, to whom a guilty conscience incessantly whispers, "Think! but sleep not!"—to such as these, horrors may appear to bound thy reign!—but to him who hath loved, and who hath lost,—to many a gentle but tried spirit, thou comest in the guise of a sober, and true friend.
The boat for some time, kept by the steep bank, under the shadows of the trees. As it emerged from this, towards where the moon-beams cast their light on the water, the night breeze rustled through the foliage, and swept a yet green leaf from one of the drooping boughs.
It fell on the surface of the lake, and George's eye quickly followed it.
"Look at that unfaded leaf! Henry. What a gentle breeze it was, that parted it from its fellows! To me it resembles a youthful soul, cut off in its prime, and wandering mateless in eternity."
Sir Henry only sighed.
The young rower silently pursued his course across the lake; running his boat aground, on a small pebbly strand near a white cottage.
Jumping nimbly from his seat, and fastening the boat to a large stone, the guide, followed by the brothers, shouted to the inmates of the cottage, and violently kicked at its frail door.
An upper window was opened, and the guardian of the echo—a valorous divine in a black night-cap—demanded their business. This was soon told. The priest descended—struck a light—unbarred the door—and with the prospect of gain before him, fairly forgot that he had been aroused from a deep slumber.
They were soon ushered into the kitchen. An aged crone descended, and raking the charcoal embers, kindled a flame, by which the rower was enabled to light his pipe.
The young gentleman threw himself into an arm chair, and puffed away with true German phlegm. The old man bustled about, in order to obtain the necessary materials for loading an ancient cannon; and occupied himself for some minutes, in driving the charge into the barrel.
This business arranged, he led the way towards the beach; and aided by the old woman, pointed his warlike weapon. A short pause—it was fired! Rebounding from hill to hill, the echo took its course, startling the peasant from his couch, and the wolf from his lair.
Again all was still;—then came its distant reverberation—a tone deep and subdued—dying away mournfully on the ear.
"How wonderfully fine!" said George, "but let us embark, for I feel quite chilled."
"I will run for the youngster," replied his brother. As he moved towards the cottage, the priest seized him by the collar of the coat, and held up the torch, by which he had fired the cannon.
"This echo is indeed a wonderful one! It has nineteen distinct repetitions; the first twelve being heard from this side of a valley, which, were it day, I would point out; the other seven, on the opposite side. Tradition tells us, that nineteen castles in ancient times, stood near the spot; that each of these laid claim to the echo; and that, as it passes the ruin, where once dwelt Sigismund of the Bloody Hand, the chief springs from the round ivied tower—waves his sword thrice, the drops of blood falling from its hilt as he does so—and proclaims aloud, that whosoever dare gainsay"—
"I am sorry to leave you," interrupted Sir Henry, as he shook him off, "particularly at this interesting part of the story; but it is late, and my brother feels unwell, and I wish to go to the cottage to call our guide."
Delme was pursued by the echo's elucidator, who being duly remunerated, allowed Sir Henry to accompany the guide towards the boat. George was not standing where he had left him. Delme stepped forward, and nearly fell over a prostrate body.
It was the motionless one of his brother.
He gave a shriek of anguish; flew towards the house, and in a moment, was again on the spot, bearing the priest's torch. He raised his brother's head. One hand was extended over the body, and fell to the earth like a clod of clay as it was.
He gazed on that loved face. In that gaze, how much was there to arrest his attention.
On those features, death had stamped his seal.
But there was a thought, which bore the ascendancy over this in Delme's mind. It was a thought which rose involuntarily,—one for which he could not then account, and cannot now. For some seconds, it swayed his every emotion. He felt the conviction—deep, undefinable—that there was indeed a soul, to "shame the doctrine of the Sadducee."
He deemed that on those lineaments, this was the language forcibly engraven! The features were still and fixed:—the brow alone revealed a dying sense of pain.
The lips! how purple were they! and the eye, that erst flashed so freely:—the yellow film of death had dimmed its lustre.
The legs were apart, and one of the feet was in the lake. Henry tried to chafe his brother's forehead.
In vain! in vain! he knew it was in vain!
He let the head fall, and buried his face in his hands.
He turned reproachfully, to gaze on that cloudless Heaven, where the moon, and the brilliant stars, and the falling meteor, seemed to hold a bright and giddy festival.
He clasped his hands in mute agony. For a brief moment—his dark eye seeming to invite His wrath—he dared to arraign the mercy of God, who had taken what he had made.
It was but for a moment he thus thought.
He had watched that light of life, until its existence was almost identified with his own. He had seen it flicker—had viewed it reillumed—blaze with increased brilliancy—fade—glimmer—and fade. Now! where was it?
A bitter cry escaped! his limbs trembled convulsively, and could no longer support him.
He fell senseless beside his brother.
"What is my being? thou hast ceased to be."
Carl Obers was as enthusiastic a being as ever Germany sent forth. Brought up in a lone recess in the Hartz mountains, with neither superiors nor equals to commune with, he first entered the miniature world, as a student at Heidelberg.
His education had been miserably neglected. He had read much; but his reading had been without order and without system.
The deepest metaphysics, and the wildest romances had been devoured in succession; until the young man hardly knew which was the real, or which was the visionary world:—the one he actually lived in, or the one he was always brooding over:—where souls are bound together by mysterious and hidden links, and where men sell themselves to Satan;—the penalty merely being:—to walk through life, and throw no shadow.
Enrolled amongst a select corps of brueschen, warm and true; his ear was caught by the imposing jargon of patriotism; and his imagination dwelt on those high sounding words, "the rights of man;"—until he became the staunch advocate and unflinching votary of a state of things, which, for aught we know, may exist in one of the planets, but which never can, and which never will exist on this earth of ours.
"What!" would exclaim our enthusiast, "have we not all our bodily and our mental, energies? Doth not dame Nature, in our birth, as in our death, deal out impartial justice? She may endow me with stronger limbs, than another:—our feelings as we grow up, may not be chained down to one servile monotony;—the lip of the precocious cynic"—this was addressed to a young matter of fact Englishman—"who sneers at my present animation, may not curl with a smile as often as my own; but let our powers of acting be equal,—our prerogatives the same."
Carl Obers, with his youth and his vivacity, carried his auditors—a little knot of beer drinking liberty-mongers—with him, and for him, in all he said; and the orator would look round, with conscious power, and considerable satisfaction; and flatter himself, that his specious arguments were as unanswerable, as they were then unanswered.
Many of our generation may remember the unparalleled enthusiasm, which, like an electric flash, spread over the civilised world; as Greece armed herself, to shake off her Moslem ruler.
It was one that few could help sharing.
To almost all, is Greece a magic word. Her romantic history—the legacies she has left us—our early recollections, identifying with her existence as a nation, all that is good and glorious;—no wonder these things should have shed a bright halo around her,—and have made each breast deeply sympathise with her in her unwonted struggle for freedom.
Carl Obers did not hear of this struggle with indifference. He at once determined to give Greece the benefit of his co-operation, and the aid of his slender means. He immediately commenced an active canvass amongst his personal friends, in order to form a band of volunteers, who might be efficient, and worthy of the cause on which his heart was set.
He now first read an useful lesson from life's unrolled volume.
Many a voice, that had rung triumphantly the changes on liberty, was silent now, or deprecated the active attempt to establish it.
The hands that waved freely in the debating room, were not the readiest to grasp the sword's hilt. Many who had poetically expatiated on the splendours of modern Greece; on reflection preferred the sunny views of the Neckar, to the prospect of eating honey on Hymettus.
Youth, however, is the season for enterprise; and Carl, with twenty-three comrades, was at length on his way to Trieste.
He had been offered the command of the little band, but had declined it, with the sage remark, that "as they were about to fight for equality, it was their business to preserve it amongst themselves."
A slight delay in procuring a vessel, took place at Trieste. This delay caused a defection of eight of the party.
The remaining students embarked in a miserable Greek brigantine, and after encountering some storms in the Adriatic, thought themselves amply repaid, as the purple hills of Greece rose before them.
On their landing, they felt disappointed.
No plaudits met them; no vivas rung in the air: but a Greek soldier filched Carl's valise, and on repairing to the commandant of the town, they were told that no redress could be afforded them.
Willing to hope that the scum of the irregular troops was left behind, and that better feeling, and stricter discipline, existed nearer the main body; our students left on the morrow;—placed themselves under the command of one of the noted leaders of the Revolution:—and had shortly the satisfaction of crossing swords with the Turk.
For some months, the party went through extraordinary hardships;—engaged in a series of desultory but sanguinary expeditions;—and gradually learnt to despise the nation, in whose behalf they were zealously combating.
At the end of these few months, what a change in the hopes and prospects of the little band! Some had rotted in battle field, food for vultures; others had died of malaria in Greek hamlets, without one friend to close their eyes, or one hand to proffer the cooling draught to quench the dying thirst;—two were missing—had perhaps been murdered by the peasants;—and five only remained, greatly disheartened, cursing the nation, and their own individual folly.
Four of the five turned homewards.
Carl was left alone, but fought on.
Now there was a Greek, Achilles Metaxa by name, who had attached himself to Carl's fortunes. In person, he was the very model of an ancient hero. He had the capacious brow, the eye of fire, and the full black beard, descending in wavy curls to his chest.
The man was brave, too, for Carl and he had fought together.
It so happened, that they slept one night in a retired convent. Their hardships latterly had been great, and the complaints of Achilles had been unceasing in consequence. In the morning Carl rose, and found that his clothes and arms had vanished, and that his friend was absent also.
Carl remained long enough to satisfy himself, that his friend was the culprit; and then turned towards the sea coast, determined at all hazards to leave Greece.
He succeeded in reaching Missolonghi, in the early part of 1823, shortly after the death of Marco Botzaris—being then in a state of perfect destitution, and his mental sufferings greatly aggravated by the consciousness, that he had induced so many of his comrades to sacrifice their lives and prospects in an unworthy cause.
At Missolonghi, where Mavrocordato reigned supreme, he was grudged the paltry ration of a Suliote soldier, and might have died of starvation, had it not been for the timely interposition of a stranger.
Moved by that stranger's persuasion, Carl consented to form one of a contemplated expedition against Lepanto; and, had his illustrious benefactor lived, might have found a steady friend.
As it was, he waited not to hear the funeral oration, delivered by Spiridion Tricoupi; but was on the deck of the vessel that was to bear him homewards, and shed tears of mingled grief, admiration, and gratitude, as thirty-seven minute guns, fired from the battery, told Greece and Carl Obers, that they had lost Byron, their best friend.
Carl reached Germany, a wiser man than when he left it.
He found his father dead, and he came into possession of his small patrimony; but felt greatly, as all men do who are suddenly removed from active pursuits, the want of regular and constant employment.
He was glad to renew his intercourse with his old University; and found himself greatly looked up to by the students, who were never wearied with listening to his accounts of the Morea, and of the privations he had there encountered.
We need hardly inform our readers, that Carl Obers was one of the pedestrian students at Wallensee, and was indeed the identical narrator of the Vienna story.
We left George and his brother, on the shore below the priest's cottage. The one was laid cold and motionless—the other wished that he also were so.
Immediately on Delme's falling, the young guide alarmed the priest—brought him down to the spot—pointed to the brothers—threw himself into the boat—and paddled swiftly across the lake, to alarm the guests at the inn.
It was with feelings of deep commiseration, that Carl looked on the two brothers. He was the only person present, whose time was comparatively his own; he spoke English, although imperfectly; and he owed a deep debt of gratitude to an Englishman.
These circumstances seemed to point him out, as the proper person to attend to the wants of the unfortunate traveller; and Carl Obers mentally determined, that he would not leave Delme, as long as he had it in his power to befriend him, Sir Henry Delme was completely unmanned by his bereavement. He had been little prepared for such a severe loss; although it is more than probable, that George's life had long been hanging on a thread, which a single moment might snap.
The medical men had been singularly sanguine in his case, for it is rarely that disease of the heart attacks one so young; but it now seemed evident, that even had not anxiety of mind, and great constitutional irritability, hastened the fatal result, that poor George could never have hoped to have survived to a ripe old age.
There was much in his character at any time, to endear him to an only brother. As it was, Delme had seen George under such trying circumstances—had entered so fully into his feelings and sufferings—that this abrupt termination to his brother's sorrows, appeared to Sir Henry Delme, to bring with it a sable pall, that enveloped in darkness his own future life and prospects.
The remains of poor George were placed in a small room, communicating with one intended for Sir Henry.
Here Delme shut himself up, brooding over his loss, and permitting no one to intrude on his privacy.
Carl had offered his services, which were gratefully accepted, in making the necessary arrangements for his brother's obsequies; and Sir Henry, in the solitude of the dead man's chamber, could give free scope to a flood of bitter recollections.
It may be, that those silent hours of agony, when the brother looked fixedly on that moveless face, and implored the departed spirit to breathe its dread and awful secret, were not without their improving tendency; for haggard and wan as was the mourner's aspect, there was no outward sign of quivering, even as he saw the rude coffin lowered, and as fell on his ear, the creaking of cords, and that harsh jarring sound, to which there is nothing parallel on earth, the heavy clods falling on the coffin lid.
The general arrangements had been simple; but Carl's directions had been given in such a sympathising spirit, that they could not be otherwise than acceptable.
About the church-yard itself, there is nothing very striking. It is formed round a small knoll, on the summit of which stands a sarcophagus literally buried in ivy.
Beneath this, is the vault of the baronial family, that for centuries swayed the destinies of the little hamlet; but which family has been extinct for some years.
Round it are grouped the humbler osiered graves; over which, in lieu of tomb stones, are placed large black iron crosses, ornamented with brass, and bearing the simple initials of the bygone dead.
Even Delme, with all his ancestral pride, felt that George "slept well."
It is true no leaden coffin enclosed his relics, nor did the murky vault of his ancestors, open with creaking hinge to receive another of the race. No escutcheon darkened the porch whence they bore him; and no long train of mourners followed his remains to their last home.
But there was something in the quiet of the spot, that seemed to Delme in harmony with his history; and to promise, that a sorrowless world had already opened, on one who had loved so truly, and felt so deeply in this.
Sir Henry returned to the inn, and darkened his chamber.
He had not the heart to prosecute his journey, nor to leave the spot, which held what was to him so dear.
Carl Obers attempted to combat his despondency; but observing how useless were his arguments, wisely allowed his grief to take its course.
There was one point, in which Delme was decidedly wrong.
He could not bring himself, to communicate their loss to his sister.
Carl pressed this duty frequently on him, but was always met by the same reply.
"No! no! how can I inflict such a pang?"
It is possible the intelligence might have been very long in reaching England, had it not been for a providential circumstance, that occurred shortly after George's funeral.
A carriage, whose style and appointments bespoke it English, changed horses at the inn at Wallensee. The courier, while ordering the relays, had heard George's story; and touching his hat to the inmates of the vehicle, retailed it with natural pathos.
On hearing the name of Delme, the lady was visibly affected. She was an old friend of the family; and as Melicent Dashwood, had known George as a boy.
It was not without emotion, that she heard of one so young, and to her so familiar, being thus prematurely called to his last account.
The lady and her husband alighted, and sending up their cards, begged to see the mourner.
The message was delivered; but Delme, without comment or enquiry, at once declined the offer; and it was thought better not to persist. They were too deeply interested, however, not to attempt to be of use. They saw Carl and Thompson,—satisfied themselves that Sir Henry was in friendly hands; and thanking the student with warmth and sincerity, for his attention to the sufferer, exacted a promise, that he would not leave him, as long as he could in any way be useful.
The husband and wife prepared to continue their journey; but not before the former had left his address in Florence, with directions to Carl to write immediately, in case he required the assistance of a friend; and the latter had written a long letter to Mrs. Glenallan, in which she broke as delicately as she could, the melancholy and unlooked-for tidings.
"And from a foreign shore Well to that heart might hers these absent greetings pour."
Three weeks had elapsed since George's death.
It would be difficult to depict satisfactorily, the state of Sir Henry Delme's mind during that period. The pride of life appeared crushed within him. He rarely took exercise, and when he did, his step was slow, and his gait tottering.
That one terrible loss was ever present to his mind; and yet his imagination, as if disconnected with his feelings, or his memory, was constantly running riot over varying scenes of death, and conjuring up revolting pictures of putrescence and decay.
A black pall, and an odour of corruption, seemed to commingle with each quick-springing fantasy; and Delme would start with affright from his own morbid conceptions, as he found himself involuntarily dwelling on the waxen rigidity of death,—following the white worm in its unseemly wanderings,—and finally stripping the frail and disgusting coat from the disjointed skeleton.
Sir Henry Delme had in truth gone through arduous and trying scenes.
The very circumstance that he had to conceal his own feelings, and support George through his deeper trials, made the present reaction the more to be dreaded.
Certain are we, that trials such as his, are frequently the prevailing causes, of moral and intellectual insanity. Fortunately, Sir Henry was endued with a firm mind, and with nerves of great power of endurance.
One morning, at an early hour, Thompson brought in a letter.
It was from Emily Delme; and as Sir Henry noted the familiar address, and the broad black edge, which told that the news of his brother's death had reached his sister, he cast it from him with a feeling akin to pain.
The next moment, however, he sprang from the bed, threw open the shutters, and commenced reading its contents.
My own dear brother,
My heart bleeds for you! But yesterday, we received the sad, sad letter. To-day, although blinded with tears, I implore you to remember, that you have not lost your all! Our bereavement has been great! our loss heavy indeed. But if a link in the family love-chain be broken—shall not the remaining ones cling to each other the closer?
My aunt is heart-broken. Clarendon, kind as he is, did not know our George! Alas! that he should be ours no more!
My only brother! dwell not with strangers! A sister's arms are ready to clasp you:—a sister's sympathy must lighten the load of your sufferings.
Think of your conduct! your devotedness! Should not these comfort you?
Did you not love and cherish him? did you not—happier than I—soothe his last days? were you not present to the end?
From this moment, I shall count each hour that divides us.
On my knees both night and morning, will I pray the Almighty God, who has chastened us, to protect my brother in his travels by sea and land.
May we be spared, my dearest Henry, to pray together, that HE may bestow on us present resignation, and make us duly thankful for blessings which still are ours.
Your affectionate sister,
Delme read the letter with tearless eye. For some time he leant his head on his hand, and thought of his sister, and of the dead.
He shook, and laughed wildly, as he beat his hand convulsively against the wall.
Carl Obers and Thompson held him down, while this strong paroxysm lasted.
His sobs became fainter, and he sunk into a placid slumber. The student watched anxiously by his side. He awoke; called for Emily's letter; and as he read it once more, the tears coursed down his sunken cheeks.
Ah! what a relief to the excited man, is the fall of tears.
It would seem as if the very feelings, benumbed and congealed as they may hitherto have been, were suddenly dissolving under some happier influence, and that,—with the external sign—the weakness and pliability of childhood—we were magically regaining its singleness of feeling, and its gentleness of heart.
Sir Henry swerved no more from the path of manly duty. He saw the vetturino, and arranged his departure for the morrow. On that evening, he took Carl's arm, and sauntered through the village church-yard.
Already seemed it, that the sods had taken root over George's grave.
The interstices of the turf were hidden;—a white paper basket, which still held some flowers, had been suspended by some kind stranger hand over the grave;—from it had dropped a wreath of yellow amaranths.
There was great repose in the scene. The birds appeared to chirp softly and cautiously;—the tufts of grass, as they bowed their heads against the monumental crosses, seemed careful not to rustle too drearily.
Sir Henry's sleep was more placid, on that, his last night at Wallensee, than it had been for many a night before.
* * * * *
Acting up to his original design, Delme passed through the capitals of Bavaria and Wurtemburg; and quickly traversing the picturesque country round Heilbron, reached the romantic Heidelberg, washed by the Neckar.
The student, as might be expected, did not arrive at his old University, with feelings of indifference; but he insisted, previous to visiting his college companions, on showing Sir Henry the objects of interest.
The two friends, for such they might now be styled, walked towards the castle, arm in arm; and stood on the terrace, adorned with headless statues, and backed by a part of the mouldering ruin, half hid by the thick ivy.
They looked down on the many winding river, murmuringly gliding through its vine covered banks.
Beyond this, stretched a wide expanse of country; while beneath them lay the town of Heidelberg—the blue smoke hanging over it like a magic diadem.
"Here, here!" said Carl Obers, as he gazed on the scene, with mournful sensations, "here were my youthful visions conceived and embodied—here did I form vows, to break the bonds of enslaved mankind—here did I dream of grateful thousands, standing erect for the first time as free men—here did I brood over, the possible happiness of my fellow men, and in attempting to realise it, have wrecked my own."
"My kind friend!" replied Delme, "your error, if it be such, has been of the head, and not the heart. It is one, natural to your age and your country. Far from being irreparable, it is possible it may have taught you a lesson, that may ultimately greatly benefit you. This is the first time we have conversed regarding your prospects. What are your present views?"
"I have none. My friends regard me as one, who has improvidently thrown away his chance of advancement. My knowledge of any one branch of science is so superficial, that this precludes my ever hoping to succeed in a learned profession. I cannot enter the military service in my own country, without commencing in the lowest grade. This I can hardly bring my mind to."
"What would you say to the Hanoverian army?" replied Delme.
"I would say," rejoined Carl: "for I see through your kind motive in asking, that I esteem myself fortunate, if I have been in any way useful to you; but that I cannot, and ought not, to think, of accepting a favour at your hands."
Sir Henry said no more at that time: and they reached the inn in silence.
Delme retired for the night. Carl Obers sought his old chums; and, exhilarated by his meershaum, and the excellent beer—rivalling the famous Lubeck beer, sent to Martin Luther, during his trial, by the Elector of Saxony—triumphantly placed "young Germany" at the head of nations.
Early the following morning, they were again en route.
They passed through Manheim, where the Rhine and Neckar meet,—through Erpach,—through Darmstadt, that cleanest of Continental towns,—and finally reached Frankfort-on-the-Maine, where it was agreed that Sir Henry and Thompson were to part from their travelling companions.
Sir Henry in his distress of mind, felt that theirs was not a casual farewell. On reaching the quay, he pressed the student's hand with grateful warmth, but dared not trust to words.
On the deck of the steamer, assisting Thompson to arrange the portmanteaux, stood Pietro Molini.
The natural gaiety of the old driver had received a considerable check at George's death.
He could not now meet Sir Henry, without an embarrassment of manner; and even in his intercourse with Thompson, his former jocularity seemed to have deserted him.
"Good bye, Pietro!" said Delme, extending his hand. "I trust we may one day or other meet again."
The vetturino grasped it,—his colour went and came,—he looked down at his whip,—then felt in his vest for his pipe, As he saw Delme turn towards the poop, and as Thompson warned him it was time to leave the vessel,—his feelings fairly gave way.
He threw his arms round the Englishman's neck and blubbered like a child.
We have elsewhere detailed the luckless end of the vetturino.
As for Carl Obers, that zealous patriot; the last we heard of him, was that he was holding a commission in the Hanoverian Jaegers, obtained for him by Sir Henry's intervention. He was at that period, in high favour with that liberal monarch, King Ernest.
"'Tis sweet to hear the watchdog's honest bark Bay deep-mouth'd welcome as we draw near home, 'Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark Our coming, and look brighter when we come."
Embarking on its tributary stream, Delme reached the Rhine—passed through the land of snug Treckschut, and wooden-shoed housemaid—and arrived at Rotterdam, whence he purposed sailing for England.
To that river, pay we no passing tribute! The Rhine—with breast of pride—laving fertile vineyards, cities of picturesque beauty, beetling crags, and majestic ruins; hath found its bard to hymn an eulogy, in matchless strains, which will be co-existent, with the language they adorn.
Sir Henry was once more on the wide sea. Where were they who were his companions when his vessel last rode it? where the young bride breathing her devotion? where the youthful husband whispering his love?
The sea yet glistened like a chrysolite; the waves yet laughed in the playful sunbeams—the bright-eyed gull yet dipped his wing in the billow, fearless as heretofore;—where was the one, who from that text had deduced so fair a moral?
Sir Henry wished not to dwell on the thought, but as it flashed across him, his features quivered, and his brow darkened.
He threw himself into the chaise which was to bear him to his home, with alternate emotions of bitterness and despair!
Hurrah for merry England! Click, clack! click, clack! thus cheerily let us roll!
Great are the joys of an English valet, freshly emancipated from sauerkraut, and the horrors of silence!
Sweet is purl, and sonorous is an English oath. Bright is the steel, arming each clattering hoof! Leather strap and shining buckle, replace musty rope and ponderous knot! The carriage is easier than a Landgravine's,—the horses more sleek,—the driver as civil,—the road is like a bowling green,—the axletree and under-spring, of Collinge's latest patent. But the heart! the heart! that may be sad still.
Delme's voyage and journey were alike a blank. On the ocean, breeze followed calm;—on the river, ship succeeded ship;—on the road, house and tree were passed, and house and tree again presented themselves. He drew his cap over his eyes, and his arms continued folded.
His first moment of full consciousness, was as a sharp turn, followed by a sudden pause, brought him in front of the lodge at Delme.
On the two moss-grown pillars, reposed the well known crest of his family. The porter's daughter, George's friend, issued from the lodge, and threw open the iron gates.
She was dressed in black. How this recalled his loss.
"My dear—dear—dear brother!"
Emily bounded to his embrace, and her cheek fell on his shoulder. He felt the warm tear trickle on his cheek. He clasped her waist,—gazed on her pallid brow,—and held her lip to his.
How it trembled from her emotion!
"My own brother! how pale—how ill you look!"
"Emily! my sister! I have something yet left me on earth! and my worthy kind aunt, too!"
He kissed Mrs. Glenallan's forehead, and tried to soothe her. She pressed her handkerchief to her eyes, and checked her tears; but continued to sob, with the deep measured sob of age.
How mournful, yet how consoling, is the first family meeting, after death has swept away one of its members! How the presence of each, calls up sorrow, and yet assists to repress it,—awakes remembrances full of grief, yet brings to life indefinable hopes, that rob that grief of its most poignant sting! The very garb of woe, whose mournful effect is felt to the full, only when each one sees it worn by the other—the very garb paralyses, and brings impressively before us, the awful truth, that for our loss, in this world, there is no remedy. How holy, how chaste is the affection, which we feel disposed to lavish, on those who are left us.
Surely if there be a guardian spirit, which deigns to flit through this wayward world, to cheer the stricken breast, and purify feelings, whose every chord vibrates to the touch of woe; surely such presides, and throws a sunny halo, on the group, that blood has united—on which family love has shed its genial influence—and of which, each member, albeit bowed down by sympathetic grief, attempts to lift his drooping head, and to others open some source of comfort, which to the kind speaker, is inefficient and valueless indeed!
For many months, Sir Henry continued to reside with his family. Clarendon Gage was a constant visitor, and companion to the brother and sister in their daily walks and rides.
He had never met poor George, but loved Emily so well, that he could not but sympathise in their heavy loss; and as Delme noted this quiet sympathy, he felt deeply thankful to Providence, for the fair prospect of the happiness, that awaited his sister.
Winter passed away. The fragile snowdrop, offspring of a night—the mute herald of a coming and welcome guest—might be seen peering beneath the gnarled oak, or enlivening the emerald circle beneath the wide-spreading elm.
Spring too glided by, and another messenger came. The migratory swallow, returned from foreign travel, sought the ancient gable, and rejoicing in safety, commenced building a home. At twilight's hour might she be seen, unscared by the truant's stone, repairing to the placid pool—skimming over its glassy surface, in rapid circle and with humid wing—and returning in triumph, bearing wherewithal to build her nest.
Summer too went by; and as the leaves of Autumn rustled at his feet, Delme started, as he felt that the sting and poignancy of his grief was gone. It was with something like reproach, that he did so. There is a dignity in grief—a pride in perpetuating it—and his had been no common affliction.
It is a trite, but true remark, that time scatters our sorrows, as it scatters our joys.
The heat of fever and the delirium of love, have their gradations; and so has grief. The impetuous throbbing of the pulse abates;—the influence of years makes us remember the extravagance of passion, with something approaching to a smile;—and Time—mysterious Time—wounding, but healing all, leads us to look at past bereavements, as through a darkened glass.
We do not forget; but our memory is as a dream, which awoke us in terror, but over which we have slept. The outline is still present, but the fearful details, which in the darkness of the hour, and the freshness of conception, so scared and alarmed us,—these have vanished with the night.
Emily's wedding day drew nigh, and the faces of the household once more looked bright and cheerful.
"'Tis time this heart should be unmoved, Since others it has ceased to move, But though I may not be beloved, Still let me love!"
"I saw her but a moment, Yet methinks I see her now, With a wreath of orange blossoms Upon her beauteous brow."
Spring of life! whither art thou flown?
A few hot sighs—and scalding tears—fleeting raptures and still fading hopes—and then—thou art gone for ever. Lovelorn we look on beauty: no blush now answers to our glance; for cold is our gaze, as the deadened emotions of our heart.
Fresh garlands bedeck the lap of Spring. Faded as the shrivelled flowers, that withering sink beneath her rosy feet: yet we exclaim:—Spring of life! how and whither art thou flown?
Clarendon Gage was a happy man. He had entered upon the world with very bright prospects. The glorious visions of his youth were still unclouded, and his heart beat as high with hope as ever.
Experience had not yet instilled that sober truth, that Time will darken the sunniest, as well as the least inviting anticipations; and that the visions of his youth were unclouded, because they were undimmed by the reflections of age.
Clarendon Gage was happy and grateful; and so might he well be! Few of us are there, who, on our first loving, have met with a love, fervent, confiding, and unsuspecting as our own,—fewer are there, who in reflection's calm hour, have recognised in the form that has captivated the eye, the mind on which their own can fully and unhesitatingly rely,—and fewest of all are they, who having encountered such a treasure, can control adverse circumstances—can overcome obstacles that oppose—and finally call it their own.
Passionate, imaginative, and fickle as man may be, this is a living treasure beyond a price: than which this world has none more pure—none as enduring, to offer.
Ah! say and act as we may—money-making—worldly—ambitious as we may become—who among us that will not allow, that in the success of his honest suit—that in his possession of the one first loved—and which first truly loved him—a kind ray from heaven, seems lent to this changeful world. Such affection as this, lends a new charm to man's existence. It lulls him in his anger—it soothes him in his sorrow—calms him in his fears—cheers him in his hopes—it deadens his grief—it enlivens his joy.
It was a lovely morning in May—the first of the month. Not a cloud veiled the sun's splendour—the birds strained their throats in praise of day—and the rural May-pole, which was in the broad avenue of walnut trees, immediately at the foot of the lawn, was already encircled with flowers. Half way up this, was the station of the rustic orchestra—a green bower, which effectually concealed them from the view of the dancers.
On the lawn itself, tents were pitched in a line facing the house. Behind these, between the tents and the May-pole, extended a long range of tables, for the coming village feast.
Emily Delme looked out on the fair sunrise, and noted the gay preparations with some dismay. Her eye fell on her favourite bed of roses, the rarest and most costly that wealth and extreme care could produce; and she mournfully thought, that ere those buds were blown, a very great change would have taken place in her future prospects. She thought of all she was to leave.
Will he be this, and more to me?
How many a poor girl, when it is all too late, has fearfully asked herself the same question, and how deeply must the answer which time alone can give, affect the happiness of after years!
Emily took her mother's miniature, and gazing on that face, of which her own appeared a beautiful transcript; she prayed to God to support him who was still present to her every thought.
The family chapel of the Delmes was a beautiful and picturesque place of worship. With the exception of one massive door-way, whose circular arch and peculiar zig-zag ornament bespoke it co-eval with, or of an earlier date than, the reign of Stephen—and said to have belonged to a ruin apart from the chapel, whose foundations an antiquary could hardly trace—Delme chapel might be considered a well preserved specimen of the florid Gothic, of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The progress of the edifice, had been greatly retarded during the wars of the Roses; but it was fortunately completed, before, the doctrine of the Cinquecentists—who saw no beauty save in the revived dogmas of Vitruvius—had so far gained ground, as to make obsolete and unfashionable, the most captivating and harmonious style of Architecture, that has yet flourished in England.
Its outer appearance was comparatively simple—it had neither spire, lantern, or transepts—and its ivy-hidden belfry was a detached tower.
The walls of the aisles were supported by massive buttresses, and surmounted by carved pinnacles; and from them sprung flying buttresses, ornamented with traced machicolations, to bear the weight of the embattled roof of the nave.
The interior was more striking. As the stranger entered by the western door, and proceeded up the nave, each step was re-echoed from the crypt below:—as he trod on strange images, and inscriptions in brass; commemorative of the dead, whose bones were mouldering in the subterranean chapel. On them, many coloured tints fantastically played, through gorgeously stained panes—the workmanship of the Middle Ages.
The richly carved oaken confessional—now a reading desk—first attracted the attention.
In the very centre of the chapel, stood a white marble font, whose chaplet of the flower of the Tudors, encircled by a fillet, sufficiently bespoke its date. Between the altar and this font was a tomb, which merits special attention. It was the chantry of Sir Reginald Delme, the chief of his house in the reign of Harry Monmouth. It was a mimic chapel, raised on three massive steps of grey stone. The clustered columns, that bore the light and fretted roof, were divided by mullions, rosettes, and trefoils in open work; except where the interstices were filled up below, to bear the sculptured, and once emblazoned shields of the Delmes, and their cognate families. The entrance to the chantry, was through a little turret at its north-eastern corner, the oaken door of which, studded with quarrel-headed nails, was at one time never opened, but when the priests ascended the six steep and spiral steps, and stood around the tomb to chant masses for the dead.
The diminutive font, and the sarcophagus itself, had once been painted. On this, lay the figure of Sir Reginald Delme.
On a stone cushion—once red—supported by figures of angels in the attitude of prayer, veiling their eyes with their wings, reposed the unarmed head of the warrior:—his feet uncrossed rested on the image of a dog, crouching on a broken horn, seeming faithfully to gaze at the face of his master.
The arms were not crossed—the hands were not clasped; but were joined as in prayer. Sir Reginald had not died in battle. Above the head of the sleeping warrior, hung his gorget, and his helmet, with its beaver, and vizor open; and the banner he himself had won, on the field of Shrewsbury, heavily shook its thick folds in the air. The fading colours on the surcoat of the recumbent knight, still faintly showed the lilies and leopards of England;—and Sir Henry himself was willing to believe, that the jagged marks made in that banner by the tooth of Time, were but cuts, left by the sword of the Herald, as at the royal Henry's command, he curtailed the pennon of the knight; and again restored it to Sir Reginald Delme—a banner.
The altar, which extended the whole width of the chapel, was enclosed by a marble screen, and was still flanked by the hallowed niche, built to receive the drainings of the sacred cup.
The aisles were divided from the nave, by lancet arches, springing from clustered columns. But how describe the expansive windows, with their rich mullions, and richer rosettes—their deeply moulded labels, following the form of the arch, and resting for support on the quaintest masks—how describe the matchless hues of the glass—valued mementoes of a bygone age, and of an art that has perished?
The walls of the chapel were profusely ornamented with the richest carving; and the oaken panels of the chancel, were adorned with those exquisite festoons of fruit and flowers, so peculiarly English. The very ceiling exacted admiration. It closed no lantern—it obstructed no view—and its light ribs, springing from voluted corbels, bore at each intersection, an emblazoned escutcheon, or painted heraldic device. The intricate fan-like tracery of the roof—the enriched bosses at each meeting of the gilded ribs—gave an airy charm and lightness to the whole, which well accorded with the florid Architecture, and with the chivalrous associations, with which it is identified.
And here, beneath this spangled canopy, in this ancient shrine, whose every ornament was as a memory of her ancestors; stood Emily Delme, as fair as the fairest of her race, changeful and trembling, a faint smile on her lip, and a quivering tear in her eye.
Clarendon Gage took her hand in his, and placed on her finger the golden pledge of truth, and as he did so, an approving sunbeam burst through the crimson-stained pane, and before lightening the tomb of Sir Reginald, fell on her silvery veil—her snowy robe—her beautiful face.
There was a very gay scene on the lawn, as they returned from the chapel.
The dancing had already commenced—strains of music were heard from on high—the ever moving circle became one moment contracted, then expanded to the full length of the arms of the dancers, as they actively footed it round the garlanded May-pole.
At the first sight of the leading carriage, however, a signal was given—the music suddenly ceased—and the whole party below, with the exception of one individual, proceeded in great state towards an arch, composed of flowers and white thorn, which o'ercanopied the road.
The carriage stopped to greet the procession.
On came the blushing May-Queen, and Maid Marian—both armed with wands wreathed with cowslips—followed by a jovial retinue of morrice dancers with drawn swords—guisers in many-coloured ribbons—and a full train of simple peasants, in white smock-frocks.
The May Queen advanced to the carriage, followed by the peasant girls, and timidly dropped a choice wreath into the lap of the bride. Loud hurras rung in the air, as Sir Henry gave his steward some welcome instructions as to the village feast; and the cavalcade continued its route.
We have said that one individual lingered near the May-pole. As he was especially active, we may describe him and his employment. He was apparently about fifteen. He had coarse straight white hair—a face that denoted stupidity—but with a cunning leer, which seemed to belie his other features.
He was taking advantage of the cessation of dancing, to supply the aspiring musicians with sundry articles of good cheer. A rope, armed with a hook, was dropped from their lofty aerie, and promptly drawn up, on the youngster's obtaining from the neighbouring tents, wherewithal to fill satisfactorily the basket which he attached.
Sir Henry Delme and George had been so much abroad, and Emily's attachment to Clarendon was of so early a date, that it happened that the members of the Delme family had mixed little in the festivities of the county in which they resided; and were not intimately known, nor perhaps fully appreciated, in the neighbourhood.
But the family was one of high standing, and had ever been remarkable for its kind-heartedness; and what was known of its individuals, was so much to their credit, that it kept alive the respect and consideration that these circumstances might of themselves warrant.
Sir Henry, on the other hand, regarded his sister's marriage as an event, at which it might be proper to show, that neither hauteur nor want of sociability, had precluded their friendly intercourse with the neighbouring magnates; and consequently, most of the principal families were present at Emily's wedding.
While this large assemblage increased the gaiety of the scene, it was somewhat wearisome to Delme, who was too truly attached to his sister, to be otherwise than thoughtful during the ceremony, and the breakfast that succeeded it.
At length the time came when Emily could escape from the gay throng; and endeavour, in the quiet of her own room, to be once more calm, before she prepared to leave her much-loved home.
The preparations made, a note was despatched to her brother, begging him to meet her in the library. As he did so, a fresh pang shot through Delme's heart.
As he looked on Emily's flushed face—her dewy cheek—and noted her agitated manner; he for the first time perceived, her very strong resemblance to poor George, and wondered that he had never observed this before.
Clarendon announced the carriage.
"God bless you! dear Henry!"
"God bless and preserve you! my sweet! Clarendon! good bye! I am sure you will take every care of her!"
In another moment, the carriage was whirling past the library window; and Sir Henry felt little inclined, to join the formal party in the drawing-room. Sending therefore a brief message to Mrs. Glenallan, he threw open the library window, and with hurried steps reached a summer-house, half hidden in the shrubbery. He there fell into a deep reverie, which was by no means a pleasurable one.
He thought of Emily—of George—of Acme,—and felt that he was becoming an isolated being.
And had he not loved too? As this thought crossed him, his ambitious dreams were almost forgotten.
Sir Henry Delme was aroused by the sound of voices. A loving couple, too much engaged to observe him, passed close to the summer-house.
It was the "Queen of the May," the prettiest and one of the poorest girls in the parish, walking arm in arm with her rural swain. They had left the "roasted beeves," and the "broached casks," for one half-hour's delicious converse.
There was some little coquettish resistance on the part of the girl, as they sat down together at the foot of a fir tree.
Her lover put his arm round her waist.
"Oh! Mary! if father would but give us a cow or so!"
This little incident decided the matter. Delme at once resolved that Mary Smith should have a cow or so; and also that his own health would be greatly benefited, by a short sojourn at Leamington.
"Oh ever loving, lovely, and beloved! How selfish sorrow ponders on the past, And clings to thoughts now better far removed, But Time shall tear thy shadow from me last."
We know not whether our readers have followed us with due attention, as we have incidentally, and at various intervals, made our brief allusion to the gradual change of character, wrought on Delme, by the eventful scenes in which he so lately played a prominent part.
When we first introduced him to our reader's notice, we endeavoured to depict him as he then really was,—a man of strong principles, warm heart, and many noble qualities; but one, prone to over-estimate the value of birth and fortune—with a large proportion of pride and reserve—and with ideas greatly tinctured with the absurd fallacies of the mere man of the world.
But there was much in the family events we have described, to shake Delme's previous convictions, and to induce him to recal many of his former opinions.
He had seen his brother form a connection, which set at naught all those convenances, which he had been accustomed to regard as essential to, and as indeed forming the very ingredient of, domestic happiness.
And yet Sir Henry Delme could not disguise from himself, that if, in George's short-lived career, there had been much of pain and sorrow, they were chiefly engendered by George's mental struggle, to uphold those very opinions to which he himself was wedded; and that to this alone, might be traced much of the suffering he had undergone. This was it that had so weakened mind and body, as to render change of scene necessary;—this was it that exposed Acme to the air of the pestiferous marshes, and which left George himself—a broken hearted man—totally incapable of bearing his bereavement.
On the other hand, the sunny happiness his brother had basked in,—and it was very great,—had sprung from the natural out-pourings of an affection, which,—unfettered as it had been by prudential considerations,—had yet the power to make earth a heaven while Acme shared it with him, and the dark grave an object of bright promise, when hailed as the portal, through which he must pass, ere he gazed once more on the load-star of his hopes.
In the case, too, of Emily and Clarendon, although their union was far more in accordance with his earlier theories, yet he could not but note, how little their happiness seemed to rest on their position in society, and how greatly was it based on their love for each other.
These considerations were strengthened, by a growing feeling of isolation, which the death of George and of Acme,—the marriage of his sister,—and probably the time of life he had arrived at, were all calculated to awaken.
With the knowledge of his disease, sprung up the hope of an antidote; and it may be, that the little episode of the May Queen in our last chapter, came but as a running comment, to reflections that had long been cherished and indulged.
The thoughts of Sir Henry Delme anxiously centred in Julia Vernon; and as he recalled her graceful emotion when they last parted, the unfrequent blush,—it might be of shame, it might be of consciousness,—coloured his sun-burnt cheek.
At length,—the guests being dismissed, Delme was at leisure to renew an acquaintance, which had already proved an eventful one to him. He had heard little of Miss Vernon since his return to England. His sister had thought it better to let matters take their own course; and Julia, who knew that in the eyes of the world, her circumstances were very different to what they had been previous to her uncle's death; had from motives of delicacy, shunned any intercourse that might lead to a renewed intimacy with the family.
Her health, too, had been precarious, and her elasticity of mind was gone. Slowly wasting from day to day, she had sought to banish all thoughts that were not of a world less vain than this—and her very languor of body—while it gave her an apology for declining all gaieties, induced a resigned spirit, and a quiet frame of mind.
When Sir Henry Delme was announced, Julia was alone in the drawing-room. At that name, she attempted to rise from the sofa; but she was weak, and her head fell back on the white pillow.
Delme stood for a moment irresolute,—a prey to the deepest pangs of remorse.
Well might he be shocked at that altered form!
Her figure was greatly attenuated,—her cheeks sunken,—her eyes bright and large; while over the forehead and drooping eyelid branched the sapphire veins, with their intricate windings so clearly marked, that Delme almost thought, that he could trace the motion of the blood beneath. That momentary pause, and the one mutual glance of recognition, told a more accurate tale than words could convey.
As Sir Henry pressed that small transparent hand, Julia's thin lip quivered convulsively. She attempted to speak, but the exertion of utterance was too great, and she burst into a flood of tears.
"Julia! my own Julia! forgive me! we will never part more!"
After this interview, it is needless to say that there was little else to be explained. Mrs. Vernon was delighted at Julia's happy prospects, and it was settled that their marriage should take place in the ensuing August. Such arrangements as could be made on the spot to facilitate this, were at once entered on.
At the end of two months, it became necessary that Delme should proceed to town, for the purpose of seeing the Commander-in-Chief, in order to withdraw a previous application to be employed on active service. He was anxious also to consult a friend, whom he proposed appointing one of the trustees for his marriage settlement; and Clarendon and Emily had exacted a promise, that he would pay them a visit on his way to Delme Park; which he had determined to take on his route to town, that he might personally inspect some alterations he had lately planned there.
It was with bright prospects before him, that Delme kissed off the big tear that coursed down Julia's cheek; as she bade him farewell, with as much earnestness, as if years, instead of a short fortnight, were to elapse before they met again.
Miss Vernon's health had decidedly improved. She was capable of much greater exertion; and her spirits were sometimes as buoyant as in other days.
When Sir Henry first reached Leamington, the only exercise that Julia could take was in a wheel chair; and great was her delight at seeing a hand present itself over its side, and know that it was his. Latterly, however, she had been able to lean on his arm, and take a few turns on the lawn, and had on one occasion even reached the public gardens.
Mrs. Vernon, with the deceptive hope common to those, who watch day by day by the side of an invalid's couch, and in the very gradual loss of strength, lose sight of the real extent of danger, had never been desponding as to her daughter's ultimate recovery; and was now quite satisfied that a few weeks more would restore her completely to health.
Sir Henry Delme, with the gaze of a lover, would note each flush of animation, and mistake it for the hue of health; while Julia herself felt her love, and thought it strength.
There was only one person who looked somewhat grave at these joyous preparations. This was Dr. Jephson, who noticed that Julia's voice continued very weak, and that she could not get rid of a low hollow cough, that had long distressed her.
Clarendon and his wife were resident at a beautiful cottage near Malvern, on the road to Eastnor Castle. The cottage itself was small, and half hidden with fragrant honey-suckles, but had well appointed extensive grounds behind it. They were not of the very many, who after the first fortnight of a forced seclusion,—the treacle moon, as some one has called it,—find their own society, both wearisome and unprofitable. Theirs was a lover felt but by superior and congenial minds—a love, neither sensual nor transient—a love on which affection and reflection shed their glow,—which could bear the test of scrutiny,—and which owed its chief charm to the presence of truth.
Delme passed a week at Malvern, and then proceeded towards town, with the pleasing conviction that his sister's happiness was assured.
Twenty-four hours at Delme sufficed to inspect the alterations, and to give orders as to Lady Delme's rooms.
Sir Henry had received two letters from Julia, while at Malvern, and both were written in great spirits. At his club in London another awaited him, which stated that she had not been quite so well, and that she was writing from her room. A postscript from Mrs. Vernon quite did away with any alarm that Sir Henry might otherwise have felt.
Delme attended Lord Hill's levee; and immediately afterwards proceeded to his friend's office. To his disappointment, he was informed that his friend had left for Bath; and thinking it essential that he should see him; he went thither at an early hour the following day.
At Bath he was again doomed to be disappointed, for his friend had gone to Clifton. Sir Henry dined that day with Mr. Belliston Graeme; and on returning to the hotel, had the interview with Oliver Delancey, that has been described in the thirteenth chapter of our first volume.
On the succeeding morning, Delme was with the future trustee; and finally arranged the affair to his entire satisfaction. His absence from Leamington, had been a day or two more protracted than he had anticipated, and his not finding his friend in London, had prevented his hearing from Miss Vernon so lately as he could have wished.