In 1787 Mozart's father died at Salzburg, less happy, it is to be feared, than his own worth and his son's genius should have made him. But he was ignorant of the great truth, that fame, and often merely posthumous fame, is the chief external blessing that awaits men of extraordinary mental powers in the arts, and that the appropriate reward of genius, any more than of virtue, is not always—"bread." On hearing of his father's illness, Mozart had written him in affectionate terms—
"I have just received some news which has given me a sad blow; the more so, as your last letter left me reason to suppose that you were in perfect health. I now, however, learn that you are really very ill. How anxiously I await and hope for some comforting intelligence from you I need hardly say, although I have long since accustomed myself in all things to expect the worst. As death, rightly considered, fulfils the real design of our life, I have for the last two years made myself so well acquainted with this true friend of mankind, that his image has no longer any terrors for me, but much that is peaceful and consoling; and I thank God that he has given me the opportunity to know him as the key to our true felicity. I never lie down in bed without reflecting that, perhaps (young as I am), I may never see another day; yet no one who knows me will say that I am gloomy or morose in society. For this blessing I daily thank my Creator, and from my heart wish it participated by my fellow-men."
In the autumn of the same year, he lost a valued and valuable friend in Dr Barisani of Vienna, whose medical attentions had already been eminently useful to him, and might, if they had been continued, have saved him from those irregularities of alternate labour and indulgence which so soon afterwards began to affect his health. Mozart made, on this occasion, an affecting entry in his memorandum-book, under some lines which his friend had written for him.
"To-day, the 2d of September, I have had the misfortune to lose, through an unexpected death, this honourable man, by best and dearest friend, and the preserver of my life. He is happy!—but I—we, and all who thoroughly knew him, cannot again be so—till we have the felicity to meet him in a better world, never again to separate."
In 1789, Mozart visited Prussia, where he was well received by every one, and seems to have been happy. We may here insert part of a well-known letter, written about this time, to an amateur baron, which gives a curious picture of Mozart's character and habits, as well as of the mixed tone of good humour and good sense with which he seems to have both written and conversed. The baron had sent him some tolerable music, and some better wine.
"TO THE BARON V——.
"Herewith I return you, my good baron, your scores; and if you perceive that in my hand there are more nota benes than notes, you will find from the sequel of this letter how that has happened. Your symphony has pleased me, on account of its ideas, more than the other pieces, and yet I think that it will produce the least effect. It is too much crowded, and to hear it partially or piecemeal (stueckweise) would be, by your permission, like beholding an ant-hill (Ameisen haufen). I mean to say, that it is as if Eppes, the devil, were in it.
"You must not snap your fingers at me, my dearest friend, for I would not for all the world have spoken out so candidly if I could have supposed that it would give you offence. Nor need you wonder at this; for it is so with all composers who, without having from their infancy, as it were, been trained by the whip and the curses (Donnerwetter) of the maestro, pretend to do every thing with natural talent alone. Some compose fairly enough, but with other people's ideas, not possessing any themselves; others, who have ideas of their own, do not understand how to treat and master them. This last is your case. Only do not be angry, pray! for St Cecilia's sake, not angry that I break out so abruptly. But your song has a beautiful cantabile, and your dear Fraenzl ought to sing it very often to you, which I should like as much to see as to hear. The minuet in the quartet is also pleasing enough, particularly from the place I have marked. The coda, however, may well clatter or tinkle, but it will never produce music; sapienti sat, and also to the nihil sapienti, by whom I mean myself. I am not very expert in writing on such subjects; I rather show at once how it ought to be done.
"You cannot imagine with what joy I read your letter; only you ought not to have praised me so much. We may get accustomed to the hearing of such things, but to read them is not quite so well. You good people make too much of me; I do not deserve it, nor my compositions either. And what shall I say to your present, my dearest baron, that came like a star in a dark night, or like a flower in winter, or like a cordial in sickness? God knows how I am obliged, at times, to toil and labour to gain a wretched livelihood, and Staenerl, (Constance,) too, must get something.
"To him who has told you that I am growing idle, I request you sincerely (and a baron may well do such a thing) to give him a good box on the ear. How gladly would I work and work, if it were only left me to write always such music as I please, and as I can write; such, I mean to say, as I myself set some value upon. Thus I composed three weeks ago an orchestral symphony, and by to-morrow's post I write again to Hoffmeister (the music-seller) to offer him three pianoforte quatuors, supposing that he is able to pay. Oh heavens! were I a wealthy man, I would say, 'Mozart, compose what you please, and as well as you can; but till you offer me something finished, you shall not get a single kreutzer. I'll buy of you every MS., and you shall not be obliged to go about and offer it for sale like a hawker.' Good God! how sad all this makes me, and then again how angry and savage, and it is in such a state of mind that I do things which ought not to be done. You see, my dear good friend, so it is, and not as stupid or vile wretches (lumpen) may have told you. Let this, however, go a cassa del diavolo.
"I now come to the most difficult part of your letter, which I would willingly pass over in silence, for here my pen denies me its service. Still I will try, even at the risk of being well laughed at. You say, you should like to know my way of composing, and what method I follow in writing works of some extent. I can really say no more on this subject than the following; for I myself know no more about it, and cannot account for it. When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer—say, travelling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not; nor can I force them. Those ideas that please me I retain in memory, and am accustomed, as I have been told, to hum them to myself. If I continue in this way, it soon occurs to me how I may turn this or that morsel to account, so as to make a good dish of it; that is to say, agreeably to the rules of counterpoint, to the peculiarities of the various instruments, &c.
"All this fires my soul, and, provided I am not disturbed, my subject enlarges itself, becomes methodized and defined, and the whole, though it be long, stands almost complete and finished in my mind, so that I can survey it, like a fine picture or a beautiful statue, at a glance. Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, but I hear them, as it were, all at once (gleich alles zusammen.) What a delight this is I cannot tell! All this inventing, this producing, takes place in a pleasing lively dream. Still the actual hearing of the tout ensemble is after all the best. What has been thus produced I do not easily forget, and this is perhaps the best gift I have my Divine Maker to thank for.
"When I proceed to write down my ideas, I take out of the bag of my memory, if I may use that phrase, what has previously been collected into it in the way I have mentioned. For this reason the committing to paper is done quickly enough, for every thing is, as I said before, already finished; and it rarely differs on paper from what it was in my imagination. At this occupation, I can therefore suffer myself to be disturbed; for whatever may be going on around me, I write, and even talk, but only of fowls and geese, or of Gretel or Baerbel, or some such matters. But why my productions take from my hand that particular form and style that makes them Mozartish, and different from the works of other composers, is probably owing to the same cause which renders my nose so or so large, so aquiline, or, in short, makes it Mozart's, and different from those of other people. For I really do not study or aim at any originality; I should, in fact, not be able to describe in what mine consists, though I think it quite natural that persons who have really an individual appearance of their own, are also differently organized from others, both externally and internally. At least I know that I have constituted myself neither one way nor the other.
* * * * *
"Here, my best friend and well-wisher, the pages are full, and the bottle of your wine, which has done the duty of this day, is nearly empty. But since the letter which I wrote to my father-in-law, to request the hand of my wife, I hardly ever have written such an enormously long one. Pray take nothing ill. In speaking, as in writing, I must show myself as I am, or I must hold my tongue, and throw my pen aside. My last word shall be—my dearest friend, keep me in kind remembrance. Would to God I could one day be the cause of so much joy to you as you have been to me. Well! I drink to you in this glass: long live my good and faithful ——." "W. A. MOZART."
Before he left Prussia, the King offered him an appointment and a liberal pension. "Can I leave my good Emperor?" said Mozart with emotion. The proposal, however, made its impression, and shortly afterwards probably encouraged him, at Vienna, on occasion of fresh intrigues against him, to tender his resignation of his paltry situation there. But a kind-like appeal from his imperial patron drove him at once from his intention, and fixed him where he was. It was afterwards hinted to him that he might, at least, have taken this opportunity to stipulate for a better provision for himself. "Satan himself," he replied, "would hardly have thought of bargaining at such a moment."
The year 1789-90 seems to have been about the most disastrous in the situation of his affairs, and led to the most unhappy results.
"The music-shops, as a source of income, were almost closed to him, as he could not submit his genius to the dictates of fashion. Hoffmeister, the publisher, having once advised him to write in a more popular style, or he could not continue to purchase his compositions, he answered with unusual bitterness, 'Then I can make no more by my pen, and I had better starve, and go to destruction at once.' The fits of dejection which he experienced were partly the effect of bodily ailments, but more of a weariness with the perplexity of affairs, and of a prospect which afforded him but one object on which he could gaze with certainty of relief, and that was—death. Constant disappointment introduced him to indulgences which he had not before permitted himself.
"He became wild in the pursuit of pleasure; whatever changed the scene was delightful to him, and the more extravagant the better. His associates, and the frequent guests at his table, were recommended by their animal spirits and capacity as boon companions. They were stage-players and orchestral musicians, low and unprincipled persons, whose acquaintance injured him still more in reputation than in purse. Two of these men, Schickaneder, the director of a theatre (for whom Mozart wrote the 'Zauberfloete,') and Stadler, a clarionet-player, are known to have behaved with gross dishonesty towards the composer; and yet he forgave them, and continued their benefactor. The society of Schickaneder, a man of grotesque humour, often in difficulties, but of inexhaustible cheerfulness and good-fellowship, had attractions for Mozart, and led him into some excesses that contributed to the disorder of his health, as he was obliged to retrieve at night the hours lost in the day. A long-continued irregularity of income, also, disposed him to make the most of any favourable moment; and when a few rouleaus of gold brought the means of enjoyment, the Champagne and Tokay began to flow. This course is unhappily no novelty in the shifting life of genius, overworked and ill-rewarded, and seeking to throw off its cares in the pursuits and excitements of vulgar existence. It is necessary to know the composer as a man of pleasure, in order to understand certain allusions in the correspondence of his last years, when his affairs were in the most embarrassed condition, and his absence from Vienna frequently caused by the pressure of creditors. He appears at this time to have experienced moments of poignant self-reproach. His love of dancing, masquerades, masked balls, &c., was so great, that he did not willingly forego an opportunity of joining any one of those assemblies, whether public or private. He dressed handsomely, and wished to make a favourable impression in society independently of his music. He was sensitive with regard to his figure, and was annoyed when he heard that the Prussian ambassador had said to some one, 'You must not estimate the genius of Mozart by the insignificance of his exterior.' The extremity of his animal spirits may occasion surprise. He composed pantomimes and ballets, and danced in them himself, and at the carnival balls sometimes assumed a character. He was actually incomparable in Arlequin and Pierrot. The public masquerades at Vienna, during the carnival, were supported with all the vivacity of Italy; the emperor occasionally mingled in them, and his example was generally followed. We are not, therefore, to measure these enjoyments by our colder northern notions."
It should be added, what Mr Holmes tells us on good authority, that the vice of ebriety was not among Mozart's failings. "He drank to the point of exhilaration, but not beyond." His fondness for ballet-dancing may seem strange to us, who have almost a Roman repugnance to such exhibitions in men of good station. But it is possible that in some minds the love of graceful motion may be a refined passion and an exalted art; and it is singular that Mozart's wife told of him, that, in his own estimation, his taste lay in dancing rather than in music.
"That these scenes of extravagant delight seduced him into occasional indulgences, which cannot be reconciled with the purity of his earlier life, it would be the worst affectation in his biographer to deny. Nor is it necessary to the vindication of Mozart that such temporary errors should be suppressed by a feeling of mistaken delicacy. Living such a round of excitements, and tortured by perpetual misfortunes, there is nothing very surprising in the fact, that he should sometimes have been drawn into the dangerous vortex; but he redeemed the true nobility of his nature by preserving, in the midst of his hasty inconstancies, the most earnest and unfailing attachment to his home. It is a curious illustration of his real character, that he always confessed his transgressions to his wife, who had the wise generosity to pardon them, from that confidence in his truth which survived alike the troubles and temptations of their checkered lives."
Let none lightly dare either to condemn or to imitate the irregularities of life of such wondrous men as Mozart and our own Burns. Those who may be gifted with equally strong and exquisite sensibilities as they, as fine and flexible affections, as bright an imagination, beautifying every object on which its rainbow colours rest, and who have been equally tried by affliction and misconstruction, and equally tempted by brilliant opportunities of pleasure in the intervals of penury and pain—these, if they stand fast, may be allowed to speak, and they will seldom speak uncharitably, of their brethren who have fallen; or, if they fall, they may be heard to plead a somewhat similar excuse. But let ordinary men, and men less extraordinary than those we speak of, beware how they either refer to them as a reproach, or follow them as an example.
The excesses of men of genius are always exaggerated by their enemies, and often overrated even by their friends and companions. With characteristic fervour they enter enthusiastically into every thing in which they engage; and, when they indulge in dissipation, delight to sport on the brink of all its terrors, and to outvie in levity and extravagance the most practised professors of their new art. Few that see or hear them think, that even in the midst of their revels their hearts are often far away, or are extracting good from the evil spread before them; and that all the waste of time and talent, so openly and ostentatiously exhibited, is compensated in secret by longer and intenser application to the true object of their pursuit, and by acts of atonement and self-denial, of which the conscious stars of heaven are the only created witnesses. The worst operation of dissolute indulgences on genius is not, perhaps, in producing depravity of heart or habits, for its pure plumes have a virtue about them that is a preservative against pollution; but in wearing out the frame, ruffling the temper, and depressing the spirits, and thus embittering as well as shortening a career that, even when most peaceful and placid, is often destined to be short and sad enough.
The good-natured sympathy which Mozart always felt in the welfare of the very humblest of his brethren of the lyre, is highly creditable to him. But the extent to which he sacrificed his own interests to serve them, was often any thing but prudent. He was devoid of every sordid and avaricious feeling, and indeed carried his generosity to an excess.
"The extreme kindness of his nature was grossly abused by artful performers, music-sellers, and managers of theatres. Whenever any poor artists, strangers in Vienna, applied to him for assistance, he offered them the use of his house and table, introduced them to the persons whom he thought could be of use to them, and frequently composed for their use concertos, of which he did not even keep a copy, in order that they might have the exclusive advantage of playing them. But, not content with this, they sold these pieces to music-publishers; and thus repaid his kindness by robbing him. He seldom received any recompense for his pianoforte compositions, but generally wrote them for his friends, who were, of course, anxious to possess some work of his for their own use, and suited to their powers of playing. Artaria, a music-seller of Vienna, and other members of the trade, contrived to get possession of many of these pieces, and published them without obtaining the author's consent, or making him any remuneration for them. A Polish count, who was invited to a concert at Mozart's house, heard a quintet performed for the first time, with which he was so greatly delighted that he asked Mozart to compose for him a trio for the flute. Mozart agreed, on condition that he should do it at his own time. The count next day sent a polite note, expressive of his thanks for the pleasure he had enjoyed, and, along with it, one hundred gold demi-sovereigns (about L100 sterling.) Mozart immediately sent him the original score of the quintet that had pleased him so much. The count returned to Vienna a year afterwards, and, calling upon Mozart, enquired for the trio. Mozart said that he had never found himself in a disposition to write any thing worthy of his acceptance. "Perhaps, then," said the count, "you may find yourself in a disposition to return me the hundred demi-sovereigns I paid you beforehand." Mozart instantly handed him the money, but the count said not a word about the quintet; and the composer soon afterwards had the satisfaction of seeing it published by Artaria, arranged as a quartet, for the pianoforte, violin, tenor, and violoncello. Mozart's quintets for wind instruments, published also as pianoforte quartets, are among the most charming and popular of his instrumental compositions for the chamber; and this anecdote is a specimen of the manner in which he lost the benefit he ought to have derived, even from his finest works. The opera of the 'Zauberfloete' was composed for the purpose of relieving the distresses of a manager, who had been ruined by unsuccessful speculations, and came to implore his assistance. Mozart gave him the score without price, with full permission to perform it in his own theatre, and for his own benefit; only stipulating that he was not to give a copy to any one, in order that the author might afterwards be enabled to dispose of the copyright. The manager promised strict compliance with the condition. The opera was brought out, filled his theatre and his pockets, and, some short time afterwards, appeared at five or six different theatres, by means of copies received from the grateful manager."
Mozart's career, when hastening to its close, was illumined by gleams of prosperity that came but too late. On returning from Prague, in Nov. 1791, from bringing out the Clemenza di Tito, at the coronation of Leopold, the new Emperor—
"He found awaiting him the appointment of kapell-meister to the cathedral church of St Stephen, with all its emoluments, besides extensive commissions from Holland and Hungary for works to be periodically delivered. This, with his engagements for the theatres of Prague and Vienna, assured him of a competent income for the future, exempt from all necessity for degrading employment. But prospects of worldly happiness were now phantoms that only came to mock his helplessness, and embitter his parting hour."
"Now must I go," he would exclaim, "just as I should be able to live in peace; now leave my art when, no longer the slave of fashion, nor the tool of speculators, I could follow the dictates of my own feeling, and write whatever my heart prompts. I must leave my family—my poor children, at the very instant in which I should have been able to provide for their welfare."
The story of his composing the requiem for a mysterious stranger, and his melancholy forebodings during its composition, are too well known to require repetition here. The incident, to all appearance, was not extraordinary in itself, and owed its imposing character chiefly to the morbid state of Mozart's mind at the time.
On the 5th of December 1791, the ill-defined disease under which he had for some time laboured, ended in his dissolution; and subsequent examination showed that inflammation of the brain had taken place. He felt that he was dying—"The taste of death," he said to his sister-in-law, "is already on my tongue—I taste death; and who will be near to support my Constance if you go away?"
"Suessmayer (an assistant) was standing by the bedside, and on the counterpane lay the 'Requiem,' concerning which Mozart was still speaking and giving directions. As he looked over its pages for the last time, he said, with tears in his eyes, 'Did I not tell you that I was writing this for myself?'"
It should be added that this "Suessmayer, who had obtained possession of one transcript of the 'Requiem,' the other having been delivered to the stranger immediately after Mozart's decease, published the score some years afterwards, claiming to have composed from the Sanctus to the end. As there was no one to contradict this extraordinary story, it found partial credit until 1839, when a full score of the 'Requiem' in Mozart's handwriting was discovered."
We have now done. The life and character that we have been considering, speak for themselves. Mozart is not perhaps the greatest composer that ever lived, but Handel only is greater than he; and to be second to Handel, seems now to us the highest conceivable praise. Yet, in some departments, Mozart was even greater than his predecessor. It is not our intention to characterise his excellences as a composer. The millions of mankind that he has delighted in one form or other, according to their opportunities and capacities, have spoken his best panegyric in the involuntary accents of open and enthusiastic admiration; and his name will for ever be sweet in the ear of every one who has music in his soul.
Two remarks only we will make upon Mozart's taste and system as a master. The first is, that he invariably considered and proclaimed, that the great object of music was, not to astonish by its difficulty, but to delight by its beauty. Some of his own compositions are difficult as well as beautiful, and in some the beauty may be too transcendental for senses less exalted than his own. But the production of pleasure, in all its varied forms and degrees, was his uniform aim and effort; and no master has been more successful. Our next remark is, that, with all his genius, he was a laborious and learned musician; and the monument to his own fame which he has completed in his works, was built upon the most anxious, heartfelt, and humble study of all the works of excellence that then existed, and without knowing and understanding which, he truly felt that he could never have equalled or surpassed them.
 The Life of Mozart, including his Correspondence. By EDWARD HOLMES Author of "A Ramble among the Musicians of Germany." London: Chapman and Hall. 1845
TO THE EDITOR OF BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE.
SIR,—The accompanying narrative was originally sent from the Sandwich Islands in the shape of a letter. Since my return to England, it has been suggested to me that it would suit your pages. If you think so, I shall be happy to place it at your disposal. The ground-plan annexed is intended merely to assist the description: it has no pretensions to strict accuracy, the distances have been estimated, not measured.—I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
AN OFFICER OF THE ROYAL NAVY.
ACCOUNT OF A VISIT TO THE VOLCANO OF KIRAUEA, IN OWHYHEE, SANDWICH ISLANDS, IN SEPTEMBER 1844.
The ship being about to proceed to Byron's Bay, (the Hilo of the natives,) on the N.E. side of Owhyhee, to water, the captain arranged, that to give all opportunity to all those who wished to visit the volcano, distant from the anchorage forty miles, the excursion should be made in two parties. Having anchored on Wednesday the 11th of September, he and several of the officers left Hilo early on the 12th; they travelled on horseback, and returned on the ensuing Monday, highly delighted with their trip, but giving a melancholy description of the road, which they pronounced to be in some places impassable to people on foot. This latter intelligence was disheartening to the second division, some of whom, and myself of the number, had intended to walk. These, notwithstanding, adhered to their resolution; and the second party, consisting of eight, left the ship at 6 A.M. on Tuesday. Some on horseback, and some on foot, we got away from the village about eight o'clock, attended by thirteen natives, to whose calabashes our prog and clothing had been transferred; these calabashes answer this purpose admirably; they are gourds of enormous size, cut through rather above their largest diameter, which is from eighteen inches to two feet; the half of another gourd forms the lid, and keeps all clean and dry within; when filled, they are hung by net-work to each end of a pole thrown across the shoulders of a native, who will thus travel with a load of fifty or sixty pounds about three miles an hour. The day was fine and bright, and we started in high spirits, the horsemen hardly able to conceal their exultation in their superiority over the walkers, whilst they cantered over the plain from which our ascent commenced; this, 4000 feet almost gradual in forty miles, is not fatiguing; and thus, although we found the path through a wood about three miles long, very deep, and the air oppressive, we all arrived together without distress at the "half-way house," by 1 P.M. Suppose a haystack hollowed out, and some holes cut for doors and windows, and you have a picture of the "half-way house," and the ordinary dwellings of the natives of these islands; it is kept by a respectable person, chiefly for the accommodation of travellers, and in it we found the comfort of a table, a piece of furniture by these people usually considered superfluous. Here we soon made ourselves snug, commencing by throwing ourselves on the mats, and allowing a dozen vigorous urchins to "rumi rumi" us. In this process of shampooing, every muscle is kneaded or beaten; the refreshing luxury it affords can only be perfectly appreciated by those who have, like us, walked twenty miles on a bad road, in a tropical climate. Here we were to stay the night, and our first object was to prepare dinner and then to eat it; all seemed disposed to assist in the last part of this operation, and where every one was anxious to please, and determined to be pleased, sociability could not be absent. After this we whiled away our time with books and conversation, till one by one dropping asleep, all became quiet, except a wretched child belonging to our hostess, who, from one corner of the hut, every now and then set up its shrill pipe to disturb our slumbers.
Explanation of Plan:—
A A The outer rim. B B The inner rim. C The active crater. D D D D D The surface of the larger crater. E E E E The dike. F The house. G The hut. H H Track to and from crater. I I Track of party on Wednesday night. o o o o o o Cones in large crater.
We were on the march the next morning at six, the walkers more confident than the horsemen, some of whose beasts did not seem at all disposed for another day's work. Our road lay for the most part through immense seas of lava, in the crevices of which a variety of ferns had taken root, and, though relieving the otherwise triste appearance, in many places shut out our view of any thing besides. Two of the walkers, and some of the horsemen, came in at the journey's end, shortly after eleven o'clock; the remainder, some leaving their horses behind them, straggled in by two P.M. Here we were at the crater! Shall I confess that my first feeling was disappointment? The plan shows some distance between the outer and inner rims, immediately below the place where the house (F) is situated; this is filled up by another level, which shuts out a great part of the prospect; the remainder was too distant, and the sun's rays too powerful, to allow of our seeing more than a quantity of smoke, and an occasional fiery ebullition from the further extremity. It was not until we had walked to the hut (G) that we became sensible of the awful grandeur of the scene below; from this point we looked perpendicularly down on the blackened mass, and felt our insignificance. The path leads between many fissures in the ground, from which sulphurous vapour and steam issue; the latter, condensing on the surrounding bushes, and falling into holes in the compact lava, affords a supply of most excellent water. As evening set in, the active volcano assumed from the house the appearance of a city in flames; long intersecting lines of fire looked like streets in a blaze; and when here and there a more conspicuous burst took place, fancy pictured a church or some large building a prey to the element. Not contented with this distant view, three of our party started for the hut, whence in the afternoon we had so fine a prospect. When there, although our curiosity was highly gratified, it prompted us to see more; so, pressing a native into our service, we proceeded along the brink of the N.W. side, until, being nearly half-way round the outer circle of the crater, we had hoped to obtain almost a bird's-eye view of the active volcano; we were therefore extremely chagrined to find, that as we drew nearer our object, it was completely shut out by a ridge below the one on which we stood. Our walking had thus far been very difficult, if not dangerous, and this, with the fatigues of the morning, had nearly exhausted our perseverance. We determined, however, to make another effort before giving it up, and were repaid by the discovery of a spur which led us down, and thence through a short valley to the point where our track (I) terminates. We came in sight of the crater as we crested the hill; the view from hence was most brilliant. The crater appeared nearly circular, and was traversed in all directions by what seemed canals of fire intensely bright; several of these radiated from a centre near the N.E. edge, so as to form a star, from which a coruscation, as if of jets of burning gas, was emitted. In other parts were furnaces in terrible activity, and undergoing continual change, sometimes becoming comparatively dark, and then bursting forth, throwing up torrents of flame and molten lava. All around the edge it seemed exceedingly agitated, and noise like surf was audible; otherwise the stillness served to heighten the effect upon the senses, which it would be difficult to describe. The waning moon warned us to return, and reluctantly we retraced our steps; it required care to do this, so that we did not get back to the house before midnight. Worn out with the day's exertions, we threw ourselves on the ground and fell asleep, but not before I had revolved the possibility of standing at the brink of the active crater after nightfall. In the morning we matured the plan, which was to descend by daylight, so as to reconnoitre our road, to return to dinner, and then, if we thought it practicable, to leave the house about 5 P.M., and to remain in the large crater till after night set in. The only objection to this scheme (and it was a most serious one) was, that when we mentioned it to the guides, they appeared completely horror-struck at the notion of it. Here, as elsewhere in the neighbourhood of volcanic activity, the common people have a superstitious dread of a presiding deity; in this place, especially, where they are scarcely rescued from heathenism, we were not surprised to find it. This, and their personal fears, (no human being ever having, as the natives assured us, entered the crater in darkness,) we then found insuperable: all we could do was to take the best guides we were able to procure with us by daylight, so that they should refresh their memories as to the locale, and ascertain if any change had taken place since their last visit, and trust to being able during our walk to persuade one to return with us in the evening. Accordingly we all left the house after breakfast, following the track marked (H), which led us precipitously down, till we landed on the surface of the large crater, an immense sheet of scoriaceous lava cooled suddenly from a state of fusion; the upheaved waves and deep hollows evidencing that congelation has taken place before the mighty agitation has subsided. It is dotted with cones 60 or 70 feet high, and extensively intersected by deep cracks, from both of which sulphurous smoke ascends. It is surrounded by a wall about twelve miles in circumference, in most parts 1000 feet deep. I despair of conveying an idea of what our sensations were, when we first launched out on this fearful pit to cross to the active crater at the further end. With all the feeling of insecurity that attends treading on unsafe ice, was combined the utter sense of helplessness the desolation of the scene encouraged: it produced a sort of instinctive dread, such as brutes might be supposed to feel in such situations. This, however, soon left us, and attending our guides, who led us away to the right for about a mile, we turned abruptly to the left, and came upon a deep dike, which, running concentric with the sides, terminates near the active crater, with which I conceive its bottom is on a level. The lava had slipped into it where we crossed, and the loose blocks were difficult to scramble over. In the lowest part where these had not fallen, the fire appeared immediately beneath the surface. The guides here evinced great caution, trying with their poles before venturing their weight; the heat was intense, and made us glad to find ourselves again on terra firma, if that expression may be allowed where the walking was exceedingly disagreeable, owing to the hollowness of the lava, formed in great bubbles, that continually broke and let us in up to our knees. This dike has probably been formed by the drainage of the volcano by a lateral vent, as the part of the crater which it confines has sunk lower than that outside it, and the contraction caused by loss of heat may well account for its width, which varies from one to three hundred yards. In support of this opinion, I may mention, that in 1840 a molten river broke out, eight miles to the eastward, and, in some places six miles broad, rolled down to the sea, where it materially altered the line of coast. From where we crossed, there is a gradual rise until within 200 yards of the volcano, when the surface dips to its margin. Owing to this we came suddenly in view of it, and, lost in amazement, walked silently on to the brink. To the party who had made the excursion the previous evening, the surprise was not so great as to the others; moreover, a bright noonday sun, and a floating mirage which made it difficult to discern the real from the deceptive, robbed the scene of much of its brilliancy; still it was truly sublime, as a feeble attempt at description will show. This immense caldron, two and three quarter miles in circumference, is filled to within twenty feet of its brim with red molten lava, over which lies a thin scum resembling the slag on a smelting furnace. The whole surface was in fearful agitation. Great rollers followed each other to the side, and, breaking, disclosed deep edges of crimson. These were the canals of fire we had noticed the night before diverging from a common centre, and the furnaces in equal activity; while what had appeared to us like jets of gas, proved to be fitful spurts of lava, thrown up from all parts of the lake (though principally from the focus near the N.E. edge) a height of thirty feet. Most people probably would have been satisfied with having witnessed this magnificent spectacle; but our admiration was so little exhausted, that the idea continually suggested itself, "How grand would this be by night!" The party who had encountered the difficulties of the walk the night before, were convinced that no greater ones existed in that of to-day; and therefore, if it continued fine, and we could induce the guide to accompany us, the project was feasible. The avarice of one of these ultimately overcame his fears, and, under his direction, we again left the house at 5 P.M., and, returning by our old track, reached the hill above the crater about the time the sun set, though long after it had sunk below the edge of the pit. Here we halted, and smoking our cigars lit from the cracks (now red-hot) which we had passed unnoticed in the glare of the sunlight, waited until it became quite dark, when we moved on; and, great as had been our expectations, we found them faint compared with the awful sublimity of the scene before us. The slag now appeared semi-transparent, and so extensively perforated as to show one sheet of liquid fire, its waves rising high, and pouring over each other in magnificent confusion, forming a succession of cascades of unequalled grandeur; the canals, now incandescent, the restless activity of the numerous vents throwing out great volumes of molten lava, the terrible agitation, and the brilliancy of the jets, which, shooting high in the air, fell with an echoless, lead-like sound, breaking the otherwise impressive stillness; formed a picture that language (at least any that I know) is quite inadequate to describe. We felt this; for no one spoke except when betrayed into an involuntary burst of amazement. On our hands and knees we crawled to the brink, and lying at full length, and shading our faces with paper, looked down at the fiery breakers as they dashed against the side of the basin beneath. The excessive heat, and the fact that the spray was frequently dashed over the edge, put a stop to this fool-hardiness; but at a more rational distance we stood gazing, with our feelings of wonder and awe so intensely excited, that we paid no regard to the entreaties of our guide to quit the spot. He at last persuaded us of the necessity of doing so, by pointing to the moon, and her distance above the dense cloud which hung, a lurid canopy, above the crater. Taking a last look, we "fell in" in Indian file, and got back to the house, with no further accident than a few bruises, about ten o'clock. The walk had required caution, and it was long after I had closed my eyes ere the retina yielded the impressions that had been so nervously drawn on them. The next morning at nine, we started on our return to the ship, sauntering leisurely along, picking strawberries by the way, and enjoying all the satisfaction inherent to the successful accomplishment of an undertaking. With health and strength for any attempt we had been peculiarly favoured by the weather, and had thus done more than any who had preceded us. Our party, under these circumstances, was most joyous; so that, independent of the object, the relaxation itself was such as we creatures of habit and discipline seldom experience.
To make this narrative more intelligible, it will be necessary to describe briefly the position and general features of this volcano, which does not, like most others, spring from a cone, but has excavated for itself a bed in the side of Mowna Roa, which rises 14,000 feet above the level of the sea; it is about sixteen miles distant from the summit of the mountain, wherein is an enormous extinct crater, from which this is probably the outlet; it is 4000 feet above the level of the sea, and twenty miles from the nearest coast line. Several distinct levels in the present crater prove that it has eaten its way to its present depth. On the most elevated of these large trees now grow, evidences of many years' tranquillity; lower down we come to shrubs, and lastly to the fern, apparently the most venturesome of the vegetable kingdom; it seems to require nothing but rest and water, for we found it shooting out of crevices where the lava appeared to have undergone no decomposition. Nowhere, I conceive, (not even in Iceland,) can be seen such stupendous volcanic efforts as in Owhyhee. The whole island, eighty-six miles long by seventy broad, and rising, as it does at Mowna Keah, more than 15,000 feet above the sea, would seem to have been formed by layers of lava imposed at different periods. Some of these have followed quickly on each other; while the thickness of soil, made up of vegetable mould and decomposed lava, indicates a long interval of repose between others. The present surface is comparatively recent, though there is no tradition of any but partial eruptions.
"O Lord! how manifold are Thy works: in wisdom hast Thou made them all!"
We reached the village the next day at 1 P.M., and after a refreshing bathe, returned on board to find the ship prepared for sea, to which we proceeded the following morning at four o'clock.
THE DAYS OF THE FRONDE.
At the beginning of the present year, and upon the authority of M. Alexandre Dumas, we laid before the readers of this Magazine a sketch of certain incidents in the lives of three French guardsmen, who, in company with a young cadet of Gascony, fought, drank, loved, and plotted under the reign of Louis the Thirteenth and the rule of Richelieu. The sketch was incomplete: contrary to established practice, M. Dumas neither married nor killed his heroes; but after exposing them to innumerable perils, out of all of which they came triumphant, although from none did they derive any important benefit, he left them nearly as he found them—with their fortunes still to make, and with little to rely upon save their good swords and their dauntless courage. He promised, however, a continuation of their history, and that promise he has kept, but with a difference. Passing over a score of years, he again introduces us to the guardsmen, whom he left in the heyday of youth, and who have now attained, most of them passed, the sober age of forty.
Twenty years later, then, we find D'Artagnan, the young Gascon gentleman aforesaid, alone upon the scene. His three friends, influenced by various motives, have retired from the corps of mousquetaires: Athos to reside upon a small estate in Poitou, Porthos to marry a rich widow, Aramis to become an abbe. D'Artagnan alone, having no estate to retire to larger than a cabbage-garden, no widow to marry, or inclination for the church, has stuck to the service with credit, but with small profit to himself; and the lieutenancy bestowed upon him by the Cardinal-Duke in 1628, is still a lieutenancy in 1648, under Richelieu's less able, but equally ambitious successor, Cardinal Mazarine. Moreover, deprived, during the greater part of these twenty years, of the society of his three fiends, who had in some measure formed his character, and from the example of two of whom he had caught much of what chivalry and elegance he possessed—deprived also of opportunities of displaying those peculiar talents for bold intrigue, which had once enabled him to thwart the projects of Richelieu himself, D'Artagnan has degenerated into a mere trooper. His talents and shrewdness have not deserted him; on the contrary, the latter has increased with his experience of the world; but instead of being employed in the service of queens and princes, their exercise has been for some years confined to procuring their owner those physical and positive comforts which soldiers seek and prize—namely, a good table, comfortable quarters, and a complaisant hostess.
Although thus making the best of his position, and only occasionally grumbling at the caprice of Dame Fortune, who seems entirely to have forgotten him, it is with a lively sensation of joy that D'Artagnan, one evening when on guard at the Palais Royal, hears himself summoned to the presence of Mazarine. It is at the commencement of the Fronde; the exactions of the cardinal have irritated the people, who show symptoms of open resistance; his enemies, already sufficiently numerous, are daily increasing and becoming more formidable. Mazarine trembles for his power, and looks around him for men of head and action, to aid him in breasting the storm and carrying out his schemes. He hears tell of the four guardsmen, whose fidelity and devotion had once saved the reputation of Anne of Austria, and baffled the most powerful minister France ever saw; these four men he resolves to make his own, and D'Artagnan is dispatched to find his three former companions, and induce them to espouse the cause of the cardinal. The mission is but partially successful. D'Artagnan finds Porthos, whose real name is Du Vallon, rich, flourishing, and a widower, but, notwithstanding all these advantages, perfectly unhappy because he has no title. Vanity was always the failing of Porthos. Aramis, otherwise the Chevalier—now the Abbe—d'Herblay, is up to the ears in intrigues of every description. Athos, Count de la Fere, has abandoned the wine-flask, formerly the deity of his adoration, and is busied in the education of a natural son, a youth of sixteen, of whom the beautiful Duchess of Chevreuse is the mother. By the promise of a barony, D'Artagnan easily induces Porthos to follow him to Paris; but with his other two friends he is less successful. Athos and Aramis put him off with excuses, for both have already pledged themselves to the cause of the Fronde and of the Duke of Beaufort.
This prince, the grandson of Henry the Fourth, and of the celebrated Gabrielle D'Estrees, is a prisoner in the fortress of Vincennes, and a constant subject of uneasiness to Mazarine. Brave as steel, but of limited capacity, the idol of the people, who, by the use of his name, are easily roused to rebellion, the duke has beguiled his long captivity by abuse of the Facchino Mazarini, as he styles the cardinal, and by keeping up a constant petty warfare with the governor of Vincennes, Monsieur de Chavigny. On his way to prison, he boasted to his guards that he had at least forty plans of escape, some one of which would infallibly succeed. This was repeated to the cardinal; and so well is the duke guarded in consequence, that five years have elapsed and he is still at Vincennes. At last his friends find means of communicating with him, and Grimaud, the servant of the Count de la Fere, is introduced, in the capacity of an under jailer, into the fortress, where, by his taciturnity and apparent strictness, he gains the entire confidence of La Ramee, an official who, under M. de Chavigny, is appointed to the especial guardianship of the Duke of Beaufort. An attempt to escape is fixed for the day of the Pentecost. Upon the morning of that day, Monsieur de Chavigny starts upon a short journey, leaving the castle in charge of La Ramee, whom the duke invites to sup with him upon a famous pasty, that has been ordered for the occasion from a confectioner who has recently established himself at Vincennes. Here is what takes place at the repast.
La Ramee, who, at the bottom of his heart, entertained a considerable degree of regard and affection for M. de Beaufort, made himself a great treat of this tete-a-tete supper. His chief foible was gluttony, and for this grand occasion the confectioner had promised to outdo himself. The pasty was to be of pheasants, the wine of the best vintage of Chambertin. By adding to the agreeable images which this promise called up in his mind, the society of the duke, who in the main was such an excellent fellow, who played Monsieur de Chavigny such capital tricks, and made such biting jokes against the cardinal, La Ramee had composed a picture of a perfectly delightful evening, which he looked forward to with proportionate jubilation, and with an impatience almost equalling that of the duke. His first visit that morning had been to the pastrycook, who had shown him the crust of a gigantic pasty, decorated at the top with the arms of Monsieur de Beaufort. The said crust was still empty, but beside it were a pheasant and two partridges, so minutely and closely larded, that each of them looked like a cushion stuck full of pins. La Ramee's mouth watered at the sight.
Early in the day, M. de Beaufort went to play at ball with La Ramee; a sign from Grimaud warned him to pay attention to every thing. Grimaud walked before them, as if to point out the road that he and the duke would have to take that evening. The place where they were in the habit of playing was the smaller court of the fortress—a solitary enclosure, where sentinels were only stationed when the duke was there; even that precaution seeming unnecessary, on account of the great height of the ramparts. There were three doors to open before reaching this court, and each door was opened with a different key. All three keys were kept by La Ramee. When they reached the court, Grimaud seated himself negligently in one of the embrasures, his legs dangling outside the wall. The duke understood that the rope-ladder was to be fixed at that place. This, and other manoeuvres, comprehensible enough to M. de Beaufort, and carefully noted by him, had, of course, no intelligible meaning for La Ramee.
The game began. M. de Beaufort was in play, and sent the balls wherever he liked; La Ramee could not win a game. When they had finished playing, the duke, whilst rallying La Ramee on his ill success, pulled out a couple of louis-d'ors, and offered them to his guards, who had followed him to the court to pick up the balls, telling them to go and drink his health. The guards asked La Ramee's permission, which he gave, but for the evening only. Up to that time he had various important matters to arrange, some of which would require him to absent himself from his prisoner, whom he did not wish to be lost sight of.
Six o'clock came, and although the dinner-hour was fixed for seven, the table was already spread, and the enormous pie placed upon the side-board. Every body was impatient for something: the guards to go and drink, La Ramee to dine, and Monsieur de Beaufort to escape. Grimaud was the only one who seemed to be waiting for nothing, and to remain perfectly calm; and at times when the duke looked at his dull, immoveable countenance, he almost doubted whether that could be the man who was to aid his projected flight.
At half-past six La Ramee dismissed the guards, the duke sat down at the table, and signed to his jailer to take a chair opposite to him. Grimaud served the soup, and stationed himself behind La Ramee. The most perfect enjoyment was depicted on the countenance of the latter, as he commenced the repast from which he had been anticipating so much pleasure. The duke looked at him with a smile.
"Ventre St Gris! La Ramee," cried he, "if I were told that at this moment there is in all France a happier man than yourself, I would not believe it."
"And you would be quite right not to do so, Monseigneur," said La Ramee. "I confess that, when I am hungry, I know no pleasure equal to that of sitting down to a good dinner; and when I remember that my Amphitryon is the grandson of Henry the Fourth, the pleasure is at least doubled by the honour done to me."
The duke bowed. "My dear La Ramee," said he, "you are unequaled in the art of paying compliments."
"It is no compliment, Monseigneur," said La Ramee; "I say exactly what I think."
"You are really attached to me then?" said the duke.
"Most sincerely," replied La Ramee; "and I should be inconsolable if your highness were to leave Vincennes."
"A singular proof of affection that!" returned the duke.
"But, Monseigneur," continued La Ramee, sipping at a glass of Madeira, "what would you do if you were set at liberty? You would only get into some new scrape, and be sent to the Bastile instead of to Vincennes."
"Indeed!" said the duke, considerably amused at the turn the conversation was taking, and glancing at the clock, of which the hands, as he thought, advanced more slowly than usual.
"M. de Chavigny is not very amiable," said La Ramee, "but M. de Tremblay is a great deal worse. You may depend, Monseigneur, that it was a real kindness to send you here, where you breathe a fine air, and have nothing to do but to eat and drink, and play at ball."
"According to your account, La Ramee, I was very ungrateful ever to think of escaping."
"Exceedingly so," replied La Ramee; "but your highness never did think seriously of it."
"Indeed did I, though!" said the duke; "and what is more, folly though it may be, I sometimes think of it still."
"Still by one of your forty plans, Monseigneur?"
The duke nodded affirmatively.
"Monseigneur," resumed La Ramee, "since you have so far honoured me with your confidence, I wish you would tell me one of the forty methods of escape which your highness had invented."
"With pleasure," replied the duke. "Grimaud, give me the pasty."
"I am all attention," said La Ramee, leaning back in his chair, and raising his glass so as to look at the setting sun through the liquid amber which it contained. The duke glanced at the clock. Ten minutes more and it would strike seven, the hour for which his escape was concerted. Grimaud placed the pie before M. de Beaufort, who took his silver-bladed knife—steel ones were not allowed him—to cut it; but La Ramee, unwilling to see so magnificent a pasty mangled by a dull knife, passed him his own, which was of steel.
"Well, Monseigneur," said he, "and this famous plan?"
"Do you wish me to tell you," said the duke, "the one on the success of which I most reckoned, and which I intended to try the first?"
"By all means," said La Ramee.
"Well," said M. de Beaufort, who was busy in the dissection of the pie, "in the first place I hoped to have for my guardian some honest fellow like yourself, Monsieur La Ramee."
"Your hope was realized, Monseigneur. And then?"
"I said to myself," continued the duke, "if once I have about me a good fellow like La Ramee, I will get a friend, whom he does not know to be my friend, to recommend to him a man devoted to my interests, and who will aid my escape."
"Good!" said La Ramee. "No bad idea."
"When I have accomplished this," said the duke, "if the man is skilful, and manages to gain the confidence of my jailer, I shall have no difficulty in keeping up a communication with my friends."
"Indeed!" said La Ramee; "how so?"
"Easily enough," replied M. de Beaufort; "in playing at ball, for instance."
"In playing at ball!" repeated La Ramee, who was beginning to pay great attention to the duke's words.
"Yes. I strike a ball into the moat; a man who is at hand, working in his garden, picks it up. The ball contains a letter. Instead of throwing back the same ball, he throws another, which contains a letter for me. My friends hear from me and I from them, without any one being the wiser."
"The devil!" said La Ramee, scratching his head, "you do well to tell me this, Monseigneur. In future I will keep an eye on pickers up of balls. But, after all, that is only a means of correspondence."
"Wait a little. I write to my friends—'On such a day and at such an hour, be in waiting on the other side of the moat with two led horses.'"
"Well," said La Ramee, with some appearance of uneasiness, "but what then? Unless, indeed, the horses have wings, and can fly up the rampart to fetch you."
"Or that I have means of flying down," said the duke, carelessly. "A rope-ladder, for instance."
"Yes," said La Ramee, with a forced laugh; "but a rope ladder can hardly be sent in a tennis-ball, though a letter may."
"No; but it may be sent in something else. Let us only suppose, for argument's sake, that my cook, Noirmont, has purchased the pastrycook's shop opposite the castle. La Ramee, who is a bit of an epicure, tries his pies, finds them excellent, and asks me if I would like to taste one. I accept the offer, on condition that he shall help me to eat it. To do so more at his ease, he sends away the guards, and only keeps Grimaud here to wait upon us. Grimaud is the man whom my friend has recommended, and who is ready to second me in all things. The moment of my escape is fixed for seven o'clock. At a few minutes to seven"——
"At a few minutes to seven!" repeated La Ramee, perspiring with alarm.
"At a few minutes to seven," continued the duke, suiting the action to the word, "I take the crust off the pie. Inside it, I find two poniards, a rope-ladder, and a gag. I put one of the poniards to La Ramee's breast, and I say to him—'My good friend, La Ramee, if you make a motion or utter a cry, you are a dead man!'"
The duke, as we have already said, whilst uttering these last sentences, had acted in conformity. He was now standing close to La Ramee, to whom his tone of voice, and the sight of the dagger levelled at his heart, intimated plainly enough that M. de Beaufort would keep his word. Meanwhile Grimaud, silent as the grave, took out of the pie the second poniard, the rope-ladder, and the gag. La Ramee followed each of these objects with his eyes with a visibly increasing terror.
"Oh, Monseigneur!" cried he, looking at the duke with an air of stupefaction, which at any other time would have made M. de Beaufort laugh heartily, "you would not have the heart to kill me?"
"No, if you do not oppose my flight."
"But, Monseigneur, if I let you escape, I am a ruined man."
"I will pay you the value of your office."
"And if I defend myself, or call out?"
"By the honour of a gentleman, you die upon the spot!"
At this moment the clock struck.
"Seven o'clock," said Grimaud, who had not yet uttered a word.
La Ramee made a movement. The duke frowned, and the unlucky jailer felt the point of the dagger penetrate his clothes, and press against his breast.
"Enough, Monseigneur," cried he; "I will not stir. But I entreat you to tie my hands and feet, or I shall be taken for your accomplice."
The duke took off his girdle, and gave it to Grimaud, who tied La Ramee's hands firmly behind his back. La Ramee then held out his legs; Grimaud tore a napkin into strips, and bound his ankles together.
"And now the gag!" cried poor La Ramee; "the gag! I insist upon it; or they will hang me for not having given the alarm."
In an instant La Ramee was gagged, and laid upon the ground; two or three chairs were overturned, to make it appear that there had been a struggle. Grimaud took from La Ramee's pockets all the keys that they contained, opened the room-door, shut and double-locked it when the duke and himself had passed out, and led the way to the court. This the fugitives reached without accident or encounter, and found it entirely deserted; no sentinels, nor any body at the windows that overlooked it. The duke hurried to the rampart, and saw upon the further side of the moat three horsemen and two led horses. He exchanged a sign with them; they were waiting for him. Meanwhile Grimaud was fastening the rope by which the descent was to be effected. It was not a ladder, but a silken cord rolled upon a stick, which was to be placed between the legs, and become unrolled by the weight of the person descending.
"Go," said the duke.
"First, Monseigneur?" asked Grimaud.
"Certainly," was the reply; "if I am taken, a prison awaits me; if you are caught, you will be hung."
"True," said Grimaud; and putting himself astride the stick, he commenced his perilous descent. The duke followed him anxiously with his eyes. About three quarters of the distance were accomplished, when the cord broke, and Grimaud fell into the moat. M. de Beaufort uttered a cry; but Grimaud said nothing, although he was evidently severely hurt, for he remained motionless upon the spot on which he had fallen. One of the three horsemen slid down into the moat, fastened the noose of a rope under the arms of Grimaud, and his two companions, who held the other end, pulled him up.
"Come down, Monseigneur," cried the cavaliers; "the fall is only about fifteen feet, and the grass is soft."
The duke was already descending. His task was difficult; for the stick was no longer there to sustain him, and he was obliged to lower himself along the slender rope from a height of fifty feet by sheer force of wrist. But his activity, strength, and coolness came to his aid; in less than five minutes he was at the end of the cord. He then let go his hold, and fell upon his feet without injury. Climbing out of the moat, he found himself in the company of Count Rochefort, and of two other gentlemen with whom he was unacquainted. Grimaud, whose senses had left him, was fastened upon a horse.
"Gentlemen," said the duke, "I will thank you by and by; just now we have not an instant to lose. Forward then, and let who loves me follow."
And springing upon his horse, he set off at full gallop, breathing as if a load were removed from his breast, and exclaiming in accents of inexpressible joy—
"Free! Free! Free!"
The two cavaliers who accompany the Duke and the Count de Rochefort, are Athos and Aramis. D'Artagnan and Porthos are sent in pursuit of the cardinal, and in the obscurity by night the four friends, who have so often fought side by side, find themselves at sword's point with each other. Fortunately a recognition ensues before any harm is done. A strong party of the Duke of Beaufort's adherents comes up, and D'Artagan and Porthos are taken prisoners, but immediately set at liberty by the duke.
The readers of the Three Mousquetaires will not have forgotten a certain Lady de Winter, having a fleur-de-lis branded on her shoulder, who plays an important part in that romance, and who, after committing innumerable crimes, at last meets her death at the hands of a public executioner, but without form of trial. This latter, indeed, might be considered almost superfluous, so numerous and notorious were her offences; but nevertheless, D'Artagnan and his three friends, by whose order and in whose presence the execution took place, sometimes feel pangs of remorse for the deed, which none of the many lives they have taken in fair and open fight ever occasion them. Athos especially, the most reflecting and sensitive of the four, continually reproaches himself with the share he took in that act of illegal justice. This woman has left a son, who inherits all her vices, and who, having been proved illegitimate, has been deprived of Lord De Winter's estates, and passes by the name of Mordaunt. He is now brought upon the scene. Raoul, Viscount of Braguelonne, the son of Athos, is proceeding to Flanders, in company with the young Count de Guiche, to join the army under the Prince of Conde, when, on the last day of his journey, and whilst passing through a forest, he falls in with, and disperses a party of Spanish marauders who are robbing and ill-treating two travellers. Of these latter, one is dead, and the other, who is desperately wounded, implores the aid of a priest. Raoul and his friend order their attendants to form a litter of branches, and to convey the wounded man to a neighbouring forest inn, whilst they hasten on to the next village to procure him the spiritual consolation he is so urgent to obtain.
The two young men had ridden more than a league, and were already in sight of the village of Greney, when they saw coming towards them, mounted upon a mule, a poor monk, whom, from his large hat and grey woollen gown, they took to be an Augustine friar. Chance seemed to have sent them exactly what they were seeking. Upon approaching the monk, they found him to be a man of two or three and twenty years of age, but who might have been taken for some years older, owing probably to long fasts and severe penances. His complexion was pale, not that clear white paleness which is agreeable to behold, but a bilious yellow; his hair was of a light colour, and his eyes, of a greenish grey, seemed devoid of all expression.
"Sir," said Raoul, with his usual politeness, "have you taken orders?"
"Why do you ask?" said the stranger, in a tone so abrupt as to be scarcely civil.
"For our information," replied the Count de Guiche haughtily.
The stranger touched his mule with his heel, and moved onwards. With a bound of his horse, De Guiche placed himself before him, blocking up the road. "Answer, sir" said he. "The question was polite put, and deserves a reply."
"I am not obliged, I suppose, to inform the first comer who and what I am."
With considerable difficulty De Guiche repressed a violent inclination to break the bones of the insolent monk.
"In the first place," said he, "we will tell you who we are. My friend here is the Viscount of Braguelonne, and I am the Count de Guiche. It is no mere caprice that induces us to question you; we are seeking spiritual aid for a dying man. If you are a priest, I call upon you in the name of humanity to afford him the assistance he implores; if, on the other hand, you are not in orders, I warn you to expect the chastisement which your impertinence merits."
The monk's pale face became livid, and a smile of so strange an expression overspread it, that Raoul, whose eyes were fixed upon him, felt an involuntary and unaccountable uneasiness.
"He is some spy of the Imperialists," said the viscount, putting his hand upon his pistols. A stern and menacing glance from the monk replied to the accusation.
"Well, sir," said De Guiche, "will you answer?"
"I am a priest," replied the young man, his face resuming its former calm inexpressiveness.
"Then, holy father," said Raoul, letting his pistol fall back into the holster, and giving a tone of respect to his words, "since you are a priest, you have now an opportunity of exercising your sacred functions. A man wounded to death is at the little inn which you will soon find upon your road, and he implores the assistance of one of God's ministers."
"I will go to him," said the monk calmly, setting his mule in motion.
"If you do not, sir," said De Guiche, "remember that our horses will soon overtake your mule, that we possess sufficient influence to have you seized wherever you go, and that then your trial will be very short. A tree and a rope are to be found every where."
The eyes of the monk emitted an angry spark, but he merely repeated the words, "I will go to him," and rode on.
"Let us follow," said De Guiche; "it will be the surest plan."
"I was about to propose it," said Raoul. And the young men followed the monk at pistol-shot distance.
On arriving in sight of the roadside tavern, they saw their servants approaching it from the opposite direction, leading their horses, and carrying the wounded man. On perceiving the monk, an expression of joy illuminated the countenance of the sufferer.
"And now," said Raoul, "we have done all we can for you, and must hasten onwards to join the prince's army. There is to be a battle to-morrow, it is said, and we would not miss it."
The host had got everything ready, a bed, lint and bandages, and a messenger had been dispatched to Lens, which was the nearest town, to bring back a surgeon.
"You will follow us," said Raoul to the servants, "as soon as you have conveyed this person to his room. A horseman will arrive here in the course of the afternoon," added he to the innkeeper, "and will probably enquire if the Viscount de Braguelonne has passed this way. He is one of my attendants, and his name is Grimaud. You will tell him that I have passed, and shall sleep at Cambrin."
By this time the litter had reached the door of the inn. The monk got off his mule, ordered it to be put in the stable without unsaddling, and entered the house. The two young men rode away, followed by the benedictions of the wounded man.
The litter was just being carried into the inn, when the hostess hurried forward to receive her guests. On catching sight of the sufferer, she seized her husband's arm with an exclamation of terror.
"Well," said the host, "what is the matter?"
"Do you not recognise him?" said the woman, pointing to the wounded man.
"Recognise him! No—yet—surely I remember the face. Can it be?"——
"The former headsman of Bethune," said his wife, completing the sentence.
"The headsman of Bethune!" repeated the young monk, recoiling with a look and gesture of marked repugnance.
The chief of Raoul's attendants perceived the disgust with which the monk heard the quality of his penitent.
"Sir," he said, "although he may have been an executioner, or even if he still be so, it is no reason for refusing him the consolations of religion. Render him the service he claims at your hands, and you will have the more merit in the sight of God."
The monk made no reply, but entered a room on the ground-floor, in which the servants were now placing the wounded man upon a bed. As he did so, every one left the apartment, and the penitent remained alone with his confessor. The presence of Raoul's and De Guiche's followers being no longer required, the latter remounted their horses, and set off at a sharp trot to rejoin their masters, who were already out of sight.
They had been gone but a few minutes, when a single horseman rode up to the door of the inn.
"What is your pleasure, sir?" said the host, still pale and aghast at the discovery his wife had made.
"A feed for my horse, and a bottle of wine for myself," was the reply. "Have you seen a young gentleman pass by," continued the stranger, "mounted on a chestnut horse, and followed by two attendants."
"The Viscount de Braguelonne?" said the innkeeper.
"Then you are Monsieur Grimaud?"
The traveller nodded assent.
"Your master was here not half an hour ago," said the host. "He has ridden on, and will sleep at Cambrin."
Grimaud sat down at a table, wiped the dust and perspiration from his face, poured out a glass of wine, and drank in silence. He was about to fill his glass a second time, when a loud shrill cry was heard, issuing from the apartment in which the monk and the patient were shut up together. Grimaud started to his feet.
"What is that?" exclaimed he.
"From the wounded man's room," replied the host.
"What wounded man?"
"The former headsman of Bethune, who has been set upon and sorely hurt by Spanish partisans. The Viscount de Braguelonne rescued and brought him hither, and he is now confessing himself to an Augustine friar. He seems to suffer terribly."
"The headsman of Bethune," muttered Grimaud, apparently striving to recollect something. "A man of fifty-five or sixty years of age, tall and powerful; of dark complexion, with black hair and beard?"
"The same; excepting that his beard has become grey, and his hair white. Do you know him?"
"I have seen him once," replied Grimaud gloomily.
At this moment another cry was heard, less loud than the first, but followed by a long deep groan. Grimaud and the innkeeper looked at each other.
"It is like the cry of a man who is being murdered," said the latter.
"We must see what it is," said Grimaud.
Although slow to speak, Grimaud was prompt in action. He rushed to the door, and shook it violently; it was secured on the inner side.
"Open the door instantly," cried he, "or I break it down."
No answer was returned. Grimaud looked around him, and perceived a heavy crowbar standing in a corner of the passage. This he seized hold of, and before the host could interfere, the door was burst open. The room was inundated with blood, which was trickling from the mattrass; there was a hoarse rattling in the wounded man's throat; the monk had disappeared. Grimaud hurried to an open window which looked upon the court-yard.
"He has escaped through this," said he.
"Do you think so?" said the host. "Boy, see if the monk's mule is still in the stable."
"It is gone," was the answer.
Grimaud approached the bed, and gazed upon the harsh and strongly marked features of the wounded man.
"Is he still alive?" said the host.
Without replying, Grimaud opened the man's doublet to feel if his heart beat, and at the same time the innkeeper approached the bed. Suddenly both started back with an exclamation of horror. A poniard was buried to the hilt in the left breast of the headsman.
What had passed between the priest and his penitent was as follows.
It has been seen that the monk showed himself little disposed to delay his journey in order to receive the confession of the wounded man; so little, indeed, that he would probably have endeavoured to avoid it by flight, had not the menaces of the Count de Guiche, and afterwards the presence of the servants, or perhaps his own reflections, induced him to perform to the end the duties of his sacred office.
On finding himself alone with the sufferer, he approached the pillow of the latter. The headsman examined him with one of those rapid, anxious looks peculiar to dying men, and made a movement of surprise.
"You are very young, holy father," said he.
"Those who wear my dress have no age," replied the monk severely.
"Alas, good father, speak to me more kindly! I need a friend in these my last moments."
"Do you suffer much?" asked the monk.
"Yes, but in soul rather than in body."
"We will save your soul," said the young man; "but, tell me, are you really the executioner of Bethune, as these people say?"
"I was," replied the wounded man hurriedly, as though fearful that the acknowledgment of his degrading profession might deprive him of the assistance of which he stood in such imminent need. "I was, but I am so no longer; I gave up my office many years ago. I am still obliged to appear at executions, but I no longer officiate. Heaven forbid that I should!"
"You have a horror of your profession, then?"
The headsman groaned.
"So long as I only struck in the name of the law and of justice," said he, "my conscience was at rest, and my sleep untroubled; but since that terrible night when I served as instrument of a private vengeance, and raised my sword with hatred against one of God's creatures—since that night"——
The headsman paused, and shook his head despairingly.
"Speak on," said the monk, who had seated himself on the edge of the bed, and began to take an interest in a confession that commenced so strangely.
"Ah!" exclaimed the dying man, "what efforts have I not made to stifle my remorse by twenty years of good works! I have exposed my own existence to preserve that of others, and have saved human lives in exchange for the one I had unwarrantably taken. I frequented the churches, sought out the poor to console and relieve them; those who once avoided became accustomed to see me, and some have even loved me. But God has not pardoned me; for, do what I will, the memory of my crime pursues me, and each night in my dreams the spectre of that woman stands menacing before me."
"A woman! Was it a woman, then, whom you assassinated?" cried the monk.
"And you, too," exclaimed the headsman—"you, too, use that word, assassinated. It was an assassination, then, not an execution, and I am a murderer!"
He shut his eyes and uttered a hollow moan. The monk feared probably that he would die without completing his confession, for he hastened to console him.
"Go on," said he. "I cannot yet know how far you are guilty. When I have heard all, I will decide. Tell me, then, how you came to commit this deed."
"It was night," resumed the headsman, in faltering accents: "a man came to my house to seek me, and showed me an order. I followed him. Four other gentlemen were waiting for him; they put a mask upon my face, and led me with them. I was resolved to resist, if what they required me to do appeared unjust. We rode on for five or six leagues almost without uttering a word; at last we halted—and they showed me, through the window of a cottage, a woman seated at a table. 'That,' said they, 'is she whom you are to decapitate.'"
"Horrible!" exclaimed the monk. "And you obeyed?"
"Father, that woman was a monster; she had poisoned her husband, had tried to assassinate her brother-in-law, who was one of the men that now accompanied me; she had murdered a young girl whom she thought her rival; and, before leaving England, had instigated the assassination of the king's favourite."
"Buckingham?" exclaimed the monk.
"Yes, Buckingham—that was the name."
"She was an Englishwoman, then?"
"No—a Frenchwoman, but she had been married to an English nobleman."
The monk grew pale, passed his hand across his forehead, and, rising from the bed, approached the door and bolted it. The headsman thought that he was leaving him, and implored him to return.
"I am here," said the monk, resuming his seat. "Who were the five men who accompanied you?"
"One was an Englishman; the other four were French, and wore the uniform of the mousquetaires."
"Their names?" demanded the monk.
"I do not know them. But the four Frenchmen called the Englishman 'My lord.'"
"And the woman; was she young?"
"Young and beautiful, most beautiful, as she kneeled before me imploring mercy. I have never been able to understand how I had the courage to strike off that pale and lovely head."
The monk seemed to be under the influence of some violent emotion; his limbs trembled, and he appeared unable to speak. At last, mastering himself by a strong effort—"The name of this woman?" said he.
"I do not know it. She had been married twice, once in France and once in England."
"And you killed her!" said the monk, vehemently. "You served as instrument to those dastardly villains who dared not kill her themselves. You had no pity on her youth, her beauty, her weakness! You killed her!"
"Alas! holy father," said the headsman, "this woman concealed, under the exterior of an angel, the vices of a demon; and when I saw her, when I remembered all that I had myself suffered from her"——
"You? And what could she have done to you?"
"She had seduced my brother, who was a priest, had fled with him from his convent, lost him both body and soul."
"Yes, my brother had been her first lover. Oh, my father! do not look at me thus. I am very guilty, then! You cannot pardon me!"
The monk composed his features, which had assumed a terrible expression during the latter part of the dying man's confession.
"I will pardon you," said he, "if you tell me all. Since your brother was her first lover, you must know her maiden name. Tell it me."
"Oh, my God! my God!" exclaimed the headsman—"I am dying! Absolution, holy father! absolution!"
"Her name," said the monk, "and I give it to you."
The headsman, who was convulsed with agony, both physical and moral, seemed scarcely able to speak. The monk bent over him as if to catch the smallest sound he should utter.
"Her name," said he, "or no absolution." The dying man seemed to collect all his strength.
"Anne de Bueil," murmured he.
"Anne de Bueil!" repeated the monk, rising to his feet and lifting his hands to heaven, "Anne de Bueil! Did you say Anne de Bueil?"
"Yes, yes, that was her name; and now absolve me, for I am dying."
"I absolve you?" cried the monk, with a laugh that made the sufferer's hair stand on end; "I absolve you? I am no priest!"
"You are no priest!" cried the headsman; "but who and what are you, then?"
"I will tell you, miscreant! I am John de Winter, and that woman"——
"And that woman"——gasped the executioner.
"Was my mother!"
The headsman uttered a shriek, the long and terrible one which Grimaud and the innkeeper had heard.
"Oh, pardon, pardon!" murmured he—"forgive me, if not in God's name, at least in your own. If not as a priest, as a son."
"Pardon you!" replied the pretended monk; "pardon you! God may perhaps do it, but I never will. Die, wretch, die! unabsolved, despairing, and accursed." And, drawing a dagger from under his gown, he plunged it into the breast of the headsman. "Take that," said he, "for my absolution."
It was then that the second cry, followed by a long moan, had been uttered. The headsman, who had partially raised himself, fell back upon the bed. The monk, without withdrawing his dagger from the wound, ran to the window, opened it, jumped out into the little flower-garden below, and hurried to the stable. Leading out his mule, he plunged into the thickest part of the adjacent forest, stripped off his monk's garb, took a horseman's dress out of his valise, and put it on. Then, making all haste to the nearest post-house, he took a horse, and continued with the utmost speed his journey to Paris.
The headsman lives long enough to inform Grimaud of what has passed; and Grimaud, who was present at the decapitation of Lady de Winter, returns to Paris, to put Athos and his friends on their guard against the vengeance of her son. Mordaunt, alias De Winter, is one of Cromwell's most devoted and unscrupulous agents, and is proceeding to the French capital to negotiate with Mazarine on the part of the Parliamentary general. Guided by what he has heard from the executioner of Bethune, he discovers who the men are by whose order his mother was beheaded, and he vows their destruction. The four friends soon afterwards meet in England, whither D'Artagnan and Porthos have been sent on a mission to Cromwell; whilst Athos and Aramis have repaired thither to strive to prop the falling fortunes of Charles the First. We cannot say much in favour of that portion of the book of which the scene is laid on English ground. M. Dumas is much happier in his delineations of Frondeurs and Mazarinists than of Puritans and Cavaliers; and his account of Charles the First, and of the scenes prior to his execution, is horribly Frenchified.
After numerous narrow escapes from Mordaunt, who pursues them with unrelenting rancour, and succeeds in assassinating their friend and his uncle, Lord de Winter, the four guardsmen embark on board a small vessel to return to France. Mordaunt discovers this, gets the captain and crew out of the way, replaces them by one Groslow and other creatures of his own, and conceals himself on board. His plan is, so soon as the vessel is a short distance out at sea, to escape in a boat with his confederates, after firing a train communicating with some barrels of powder in the hold. There is some improbability in this part of the story; but gunpowder plots have special privilege of absurdity. The guardsmen, however, discover the mischief that is brewing against them, just in time to escape through the cabin windows, and swim off to the boat, which is towing astern.