So passed one day at Gabel; to ourselves most pleasantly, and if we might judge from the manners of the people about us, not less agreeably to them. The rest of our story at this stage is told in few words. We returned to the inn, changed our apparel, supped in our own room, with Mr. Madder and the postmaster as our guests; took of them, at ten o'clock, an affectionate leave, and went to bed. We were up next morning, and packed and ready for marching, by six o'clock.
OUR LANDLORD BECOMES OUR GUIDE. PECULIAR SCENERY OF THIS PART OF BOHEMIA. A VILLAGE BEER-HOUSE. TRAVELLING MECHANICS. ACCOUNT OF THE TORPINDAS. TOILSOME MARCH. MARCHOVIDES. ENTERTAINMENT THERE.
Up to this moment the elements had behaved towards us with remarkable kindness. We had, therefore, no right to complain, however deeply we might lament the circumstance, when, on drawing up the window-blinds, we ascertained that the rain was falling in torrents; and we felt that we must needs face it. We therefore descended to the tap-room, after discussing our cakes and coffee, and proceeded to bid our landlady farewell. But neither she nor her husband would permit us to budge an inch. The rain could not last. Only wait an hour, and the sky would be clear, when our host himself would be our guide, and put us in a way of reaching Liebenau much more agreeably, as well as with less fatigue, than if we followed the high road. We could not resist this appeal, so we sat still.
At length, about eight o'clock, though the rain had not entirely ceased, the heavens looked so bright that we expressed an earnest desire to push forward. As no mercenary motives had operated to produce the previous opposition of our hosts, so now such opposition was at once withdrawn; and the landlord, slinging his gun and pouch over his shoulder, declared himself at our command. We took leave of the kind landlady, not without tears on her side, and quitted Gabel, in all probability, for ever.
We had been correctly warned as to the probable duration of the storm. The rain, which fell in occasional showers when we first set out, soon ceased entirely, and we had once more a clear and cloudless sky, with a nice cool breeze just sufficiently powerful to refresh without incommoding us. Our walk, likewise, was very interesting; for, independently of the extreme beauty of the scene,—hills and dales, forests and cultivated fields, deep glens and swelling table-lands,—we passed over ground which had witnessed some sharp fighting during the movements of the French army upon Dresden. The Allies, it appears, manoeuvred well in this quarter; for, by showing numerous skeletons of corps, they led Napoleon to imagine that a large army of Austrians, Russians, and Prussians was here; and, while he watched them carefully, they had well-nigh cut him off from his line of retreat. During these demonstrations on both sides, foraging parties had been sent out from Gabel, to sweep the neighbouring villages. These our guide had seen, and one of them he followed so as to become eye-witness to an affair which it had near a hamlet which we passed. He described the scattering fire of the jagers, and the occasional dashes of the hussars, with great animation, though, according to his showing, this, like other rencounters of the sort, cost more powder than lives.
Having accompanied us at least two German miles,—that is, full ten miles according to our English mode of computing distances,—the landlord of the Hernhause stopped short, and prepared to take his leave. We shook hands warmly, and I thought I heard his voice quiver when, in return for a cast of flies, he thanked me. Nor must I permit it to be believed, that the regrets were all on his side. I do not know when my feelings have been more engaged among strangers, than by the unaffected kindness of the people of Gabel,—a kindness on which we had no right to calculate, however much we might be justified in looking for civility in return for our money.
Once more, then, the world was before us, and seldom has it shone out beneath the gaze of youth and inexperience more winningly than it did under the influence of that delicious day. The rain of the preceding night, and of the early part of the morning, had given to herb and tree a fresher and a fairer green. The fallows wore no longer a parched-up and dust-like hue, and the rivulets, swollen but not polluted, retained their lucid character as they rolled on their way. From brake and bush, from grove and hedge-row, thousands of unseen choristers filled the air with melody, and the very oxen and horses, as they dragged their ploughs, or toiled onwards with their wagons, seemed to acknowledge the blessed influence which other creatures felt. We sat beneath the shade of a small plantation to enjoy the scene, and then, with spirits unconsciously elevated, and hearts not, I trust, insensible to the glories of nature, and the goodness of nature's God, resumed our pilgrimage.
Our route lay, throughout the whole of this day's progress, through green fields, and over narrow footpaths. Not so much as once were we driven to the necessity of following the high road; but taking our observations carefully, and bearing with wonderful exactness from point to point, we had already arrived within an hour's walk of Liebenau, before we were aware. While compassing the space that intervened between the village where our guide quitted us and this, which had been marked down as our resting-place for the night, we passed many striking and beautiful landscapes, such as I would willingly pause to describe, were human language capable of describing them faithfully. Everywhere around us, bold conical hills stood up, not a few of which bore upon their summits the ruins of old castles, while all were more or less clothed throughout with noble forests. For the portion of Bohemia which we were now crossing, may with perfect truth be represented as a succession of glorious valleys, overshadowed by not less glorious mountains. The straths are all of them fertile to an extraordinary degree, and as I have already stated, both they and the hill-sides abound with inhabitants. Yet is the country a mountain district, in every sense of the word, though the very mountains either are by nature, or have by industry been rendered, uncommonly fertile.
The great defect in Bohemian scenery, is the absence of water. There is scarcely a lake in the whole kingdom, and, with the exception of two or three, such as the Elbe, the Iser, the Bober, &c., the rivers hardly deserve to take rank with the larger class of our mountain streams. Such a defect is sorely felt by him who, looking down from the brow of a lofty hill over a wide plain, beholds perfection in every particular, except that there is no water there; and when from the narrower ravines you miss the lochs and tarns, which give to Cumberland and the Highlands of Scotland their peculiar character, your disappointment scarcely falls short of mortification. Perhaps, indeed, a double motive may have operated with us to produce this feeling. Our eyes pined, in the first place, for the object on which, in such situations, they had been accustomed at home to repose; and secondly, our fishing-rods felt like useless burdens in our hands. But it was not destined to be so for ever, as I shall have occasion, in the course of my narrative, to show.
We had walked well and stoutly,—the sort of half-rest which we enjoyed the day before giving fresh vigour to our limbs,—so that between two and three o'clock we ventured to calculate that Liebenau could not be far distant. Hunger and thirst were, however, beginning to be rather inconveniently felt; and as our calculations might after all be erroneous, we judged it prudent to seek, in a little ale-house by the way-side, such refreshment as could be procured. Our hotel was of the very humblest description; namely, the beer-house of a small hamlet, and could furnish only brown bread, cheese, butter, and beer. These, in the existing state of our appetites, went down famously; and a pipe of good tobacco to wind up withal, was not out of place. Neither was even this unpretending house of call destitute to us of subjects of interest. We found when we entered the tap-room two young men asleep on the benches, and a couple of large packs lying beside them. They awoke shortly afterwards, and proved to be, as we had expected, journeymen mechanics. For in Germany a custom universally prevails, that young men, after serving their apprenticeship to the trade which they intend to practise, go forth upon their travels, and dispose of their wares, not only in remote towns and villages of their native state, but in foreign lands. Some of these journeymen travel from Saxony, for example, as far as Hamburg and Copenhagen. Several make their way into France; and I have even heard of them penetrating both the wilds of Russia, and the classical and fair fields of Italy. The consequence is, that they return home with minds very much enlarged, and an acquaintance, more or less accurate, not only with the systems of commerce, but with the languages of foreign countries, and that a stranger is surprised on entering a shop in Dresden or Zittau, to find that French, and perhaps Italian and English, are understood by the tradesman who keeps it.
The young men whom we found in occupation of the tap-room were by trade cutlers. Natives of some obscure town in Prussian Silesia, of which I have forgotten the name, they were wandering about through Bohemia with the intention by-and-by of proceeding into Saxony, and so round by Berlin and Potsdam to their homes. Their knapsacks, which they hastened according to established usage to unbuckle, contained a plentiful supply of knives, forks, scissors, and razors; but the poor fellows were not successful in driving a bargain, for their charges were exorbitantly high, and their goods of an indifferent quality. Even the host himself bid but one-half their demand, and neither he nor we could bring the merchants to our terms.
While we were haggling about an eighteen-penny clasp knife, the door of the tap-room opened, and there entered an old man, clothed in rags, with a wallet at his back and a long piked stick in his hand; who, uncovering his head, knelt down upon the floor, and began to pray and cross himself with surprising volubility. My young companion gave him a piece of money, which checked his devotions only for a moment; for he merely looked at it, nodded his head again, and resumed his muttering with all possible eagerness. But at the termination of, perhaps, five minutes, his prayers seemed to have been told out,—for he rose and with a loud voice pronounced a benediction on the house and all that were in it. This done, he turned about, and walked away.
The whole affair was to us so novel in its character, that the questions which we put to the landlord were put eagerly, but our eagerness proved to be uncalled for. "Story! God bless you! I have none to tell, Sir." What we mistook for a striking incident, proved to be an everyday occurrence in Bohemia, and our imaginary palmer or devotee but a common beggar. And now, having touched on the subject, we proceeded to sound the depth of our host's information on the subject of gypsies. Where did they horde? how were we most likely to fall in with one of their camps, and what sort of treatment might we expect to receive at their hands? It was with some difficulty that we could make the honest man comprehend the object which we had in view; and when he did catch our meaning, his reply was brief and pithy. "The people you speak of we call Torpindas. They are an idle worthless set of vagabonds. They have no camps in Bohemia of which I ever heard,—neither is Bohemia their home. They come out of Hungary, and beg their way far and near in the summer months; going about in pairs or by threes, and sleeping at nights under sheds, or on the floors of such tap-rooms as are opened to them. I advise you to have as little to say to them as possible. Avowedly, they are mere beggars, but their hands are always prompt for picking and stealing, and they are said not to be over scrupulous in using their knives." Here, then, if our informant spoke correctly, was an end to one of the dreams which had prompted our incursion into Bohemia. But though we gave him full credit for speaking what he believed to be the truth, we took the liberty of questioning the accuracy of his information, particularly in reference to the more tremendous parts of it,—the hints touching the blood-thirsty propensities of the Torpindas. For the Austrian police is a great deal too vigilant to overlook, in any corner of the empire, the commission of murder; at least, the habitual perpetration of such a crime by any class of persons so marked as the gypsies. Though, therefore, we began to fear that we might be pursuing a shadow, and that either there were no gypsy camps to join, or that the excitement of such an adventure would not compensate for the desagremens attending it, we did not at once lay aside our determination of making up to the first horde whom we should meet, and striving to become their guests for four-and-twenty hours, if not for longer.
We had now rested our allotted period, so we wished our companions good luck, and resuming our march arrived in Liebenau about half-past four o'clock. It is a clean, neat town; built along the side of a hill, and commanding a fine view, across the intervening valley, of a bolder range than its own; but of its means of accommodating strangers I cannot speak. For the day was yet so young, and we felt so unusually fresh and vigorous, that, after a brief consultation, it was agreed between us to push on, if possible, some five or six miles farther. We accordingly proceeded to the post-office; where, on consulting the head of the department, we learned that about two stunden,—that is, about six English miles further, on the way to Hoen Elbe, was a place called Marchovides, where we should find excellent quarters for the night. This was precisely the sort of intelligence which we could have wished to receive, and we lost no time in acting upon it.
Would that I possessed the power of bringing before my reader's eye even a faint representation of the magnificent scenery through which this late march carried us. After climbing with infinite toil a long and steep ridge, by crossing which a prodigious detour was to be saved, we gained a point whence, on one hand, the eye could range over no inconsiderable portion of Bohemia; while on the other, the snowy peaks of the Riesengebirgen bounded the prospect, though still separated from us by a wide breadth of highlands. Close at our feet, on either side, were deep rich valleys, highly cultivated as usual, and swarming with villages; while far away lay town and tower, castle and convent, forest and green meadow, mountain and ravine, producing by their combinations as glorious and diversified a panorama as it has ever been my good fortune to behold. And yet I am not sure that even this scene, striking as it seemed to be, was not cast into the shade, when, after dragging our weary limbs across the hollow, and gaining the opposite ridge, we opened out a prospect, narrower to be sure, but far surpassing, in rugged grandeur, any on which we had as yet gazed. Another deep ravine lay beneath us, dark with the forest which covered its base; beyond which uprose a chain of jagged and pine-clad rocks, resembling in their forms the fragments of some huge castle, or rather of an enormous city of castles, shaken by an earthquake into ruins. Even now I am not satisfied that among these tall and beetling crags there were no remnants of man's handiwork; for the gloom of twilight was upon them when I saw them first, and ere I had ceased to gaze it had well nigh deepened into night.
Extreme fatigue is a serious damper to enthusiasm of any sort, and keen as our relish of nature's more colossal forms might be, I am not sure that we would not have exchanged, at that moment, the view of these wonders, with all the train of thoughts arising out of them, for the interior of a snug room in a village inn, and a mess of calves' flesh, with a bottle of wine to drink after it. Of our village inn we as yet, however, saw no symptoms; and wearily and slowly step followed step, without, as it seemed, bringing us nearer to the object of our wishes. At last, just as darkness had fairly set in, we met, at the brow of a hill, a rustic, and received from him the gratifying intelligence that Marchovides lay about a quarter of an hour's walk distant, in the valley beyond. "And the gasthof," cried we, "what sort of a place is it? Can we get supper, and beds, and a bottle of wine?" "Oh, yes," replied the countryman, "it is a capital quarter. Wine, and every other thing that is good, may be had there for the asking." "This is as it should be," said we one to another, while recalling our energies for a final effort we hitched our packs higher upon our shoulders, and quickened our pace.
We had not walked far along the descent when, through the thickening gloom, numerous lights glancing from cottage windows made us aware that we were approaching Marchovides. We made for one of the first of these dwellings, inquired for the inn, had its situation accurately described to us, and hurried towards it. The first impression made upon us by this "excellent quarter," was far from favourable. It served the two-fold purpose of a mill and a gasthof; and whatever the comparative merits of the mill might be, the gasthof department was clearly not of the highest order. Before the door stood a wagon, which the wagoner was mending by the light of a lantern, while beneath the staircase a huge archway showed itself, filled—as on a nearer inspection I, to my horror, ascertained—with wagons also. "God help us," cried I, "we have travelled far to reach a sorry resting-place; for I am greatly deceived if this be not a house of call for wains, the drivers of which will probably be our companions both at bed and board." First impressions are not, however, at all times to be relied upon; so we did our best to thrust aside the unpleasant anticipations which were beginning to crowd upon us, and recollecting that there was no other alternative than either to lodge here, or pass the night hungry and cheerless in the open air, we put a bold face on the matter, and entered.
We had calculated justly, for things were not quite so bad as the apparition of the wagons had led us to anticipate. The saloon, on the threshold of which we stood, contained of living creatures only one man, somewhat passed the middle of life, who seemed to be in the act of making his toilette; an old woman busily engaged with her needle, three wenches, who moved hither and thither, now poking about the stove, now arranging dirty linen, apparently for the wash-tub, and one or two children. Tables and benches there were, as usual; also water-buckets, a few chairs, and a tub or two, while a line drawn the whole length of the apartment, about a foot and a half from the roof, supported, in graceful disarray, a profusion of coats, trousers, aprons, petticoats, and stockings. To complete the picture, there were no candles burning, not even a rosin taper; but here and there a piece of blazing bog-pine, either stuck in some cranny, or borne about in the hands of a domestic, cast over the scene a dark red light. I dare say we should have been delighted with all this, had we been assured of obtaining an apartment, into which, when tired of the sublime and beautiful, it might be competent for us to retire; but being quite uncertain on that head, our first measure was to question the sempstress touching both her ability and inclination to accommodate us. Never surely was the spirit of patient industry more strikingly illustrated than in the personage whom we now addressed. Her needle did not cease to hold its course one moment; scarcely, indeed, would she lift her eyes above her spectacles; while, in a tone by no means conciliating, she informed us, that she had no chamber, no flesh of any kind, no eggs, no white bread, nor any other article which, in the vanity of our souls, we had rashly named.
"Why they told me these were excellent quarters!" said I, horrified out of the exercise of my usual tactics.
"So they are!" was the answer; "this is a capital quarter."
"But you have no beds nor bed-rooms!"
"Oh yes, we have!"
"Won't you give us one, then?"
"No, I won't!"
"Why, my dear creature? Depend upon it, we will not run away with them."
"Very likely; but we have none to give you all the same."
This was a poser, and my companion and I looked at one another with rueful countenances; At length I resumed:—
"Your house seems to be a large one; how comes it that you have no sleeping accommodation for your guests?"
"This is a large apartment," interposed the half-clad man from his distant table; "we can accommodate plenty of guests that are not too grand for us, here."
"Oho!" exclaimed I, "you can make up beds for us on the floor. That will do well enough; and now for supper."
The facility with which I slid into their peculiar views of comfortable sleeping accommodations seemed to have a very salutary effect upon the tempers of our hosts; for the half-clad man turned out to be the husband of the sewing woman, as well as a person of considerable importance in his own neighbourhood. The old lady discovered that there were some eggs in the cupboard after all, and that certain slices of bacon remained from a stock which had been laid in some time previously. Moreover, the cellar contained some wine; neither very strong nor very high flavoured, certainly, but sound and wholesome, as we discovered on trial, and more acceptable to our palates than beer. To work, therefore, the dame and her maidens went, and in half an hour we saw before us, on a nice clean cloth, and by the flame of a farthing rushlight, half a dozen eggs, sundry lumps of pork, some rye-bread and butter, and a flask of white wine. They did not continue long in the order of their integrity. The eggs disappeared in a twinkling. Several fierce inroads were made into the bread and butter, and even the bacon suffered considerably. As to the wine, it passed away like water spilled upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But there was another enemy pressing us sore, over and above hunger. We had walked upwards of thirty English miles, and my companion especially could scarcely keep his eyes open,—a circumstance which was not slow in attracting the attention of our now obliging hostess, and for which she hastened to provide. Some trusses of good clean straw were brought into the room and spread upon the floor. Over these was laid a sort of mattress, and the youngster, dressed as he was, cast his knapsack down for a pillow, and threw himself on the couch thus prepared for him. In five minutes he was just as happy as if he had rested on his own bed at Schandau.
Meanwhile sundry persons, all of them young men, entered the tap-room, and visions of wagoners snoring on the floor beside me began again to haunt my imagination; when, to my great relief, I ascertained that these were "the miller's men," who, having eaten their supper with the female members of the family, would withdraw to their nests in the cock-loft. And truly this affair of the domestics' supper was curious enough. Heaven knows what the mess might be, which, being brought piping hot from the oven, was planted down in a brown stew-pan, right in the centre of one of the tables; but the appetites of the twelve persons who forthwith gathered round it, spoon in hand, appeared excellent. It was quite edifying to behold the order, and silence, and regularity with which, one after another, they shovelled their respective portions into their mouths; and how patiently they endured the intense heat, which, judging from the hissing of the stew, must have accompanied each ladleful. Finally, the dish being emptied, they rose with one accord, and departed, the young men to their mattresses, or, it may be, to their occupations about the mill,—the young women to fulfil what remained of their daily tasks.
While this was going on, the landlord and I were keeping up an animated conversation, of which I remember nothing more than that it turned chiefly upon the state of his own family and affairs, and tended to impress me with becoming notions of his dignity. Indeed, I may state, once for all, that the landlord of a German inn, whether it be an hotel in a capital, or like this at Marchovides, a beer-shop in a remote village, is in his own eyes a person of very considerable importance. While his wife, poor soul, performs all the menial offices about you, which the domestics either cannot, or are not expected to perform, the host himself is content to keep you in talk, which he not unfrequently accomplishes by sitting down beside you, and helping you to discuss your wine or beer. Nor does it inflict the slightest wound upon your dignity, whatever your station in life may be, to fall in with his humours. If you cut him short, you may miss the opportunity of learning something which you could have wished to learn, and you are sure to suffer from the diminished attention which is shown to you ever after. If you indulge him, you may be bored for a while, it is true; but you have the satisfaction of reflecting, that you neither wounded a private man's feelings, nor offered wanton outrage to the customs of a community.
Like my boy I was by this time getting tired and sleepy; and I cast sundry wishful glances towards the heap of straw. The landlord understood my situation, and hastened to assure me that we should have the whole of the chamber to ourselves, and that if I would lie down, the place should be cleared for us in a quarter of an hour. "For, to tell you the truth," cried he, "we all sleep, my wife, and I, and the children, and these wenches, in a little chamber beyond; the whole house, large as you justly observed that it was, being occupied, either as store-rooms for flour, or with the machinery of the mill." I begged my friend not to put his household to the smallest inconvenience on my account, and lying down beside my companion, closed my eyes.
I soon found, however, that sleep was out of the question. The temperature of the apartment could not be less than a hundred degrees, and there were so many dim lights and strange figures passing to and fro, that all my efforts to abstract myself from them proved fruitless. I therefore opened my eyes again, and lay to observe the issue. In a short time landlord, landlady, and children withdrew. Then followed a sort of clearing-up of odds and ends by the maidens, and last of all a washing of feet and legs. This latter operation amused me exceedingly, and I could not resist the inclination which I felt of complimenting the lasses on their fair proportions. But they did not on that account lower their drapery a jot. On the contrary they laughed heartily, and chatted to me all the time their ablutions went forward, and wished me a sound sleep as soon as they were finished. As they carried with them the last of the torches, their wish was, in some measure, accomplished; for my eyes, after repeated efforts, closed of their own accord, and were not opened again, except during feverish and brief intervals, till five o'clock next morning.
MARCH RENEWED. SCENERY MORE AND MORE GRAND. A POPULATION OF WEAVERS. HOCHSTADT. THE ISER. MAGNIFICENT RIVER, AND CAPITAL TROUTING. STARKENBACH. EXTREME KINDNESS OF THE INHABITANTS. CARRIED TO THE CHANCELLOR'S HOUSE. FISH THE ISER AGAIN. THE EFFECT OF MY SPORT ON A RELIGIOUS PROCESSION. SUPPER AT THE HIGH BAILIFF'S. GAME AT CHESS. TAKE LEAVE OF OUR KIND HOSTS WITH MUTUAL REGRET.
Our toilet this morning was very speedily completed. A dip of the whole head into a basin of water, and a hasty and imperfect rinse of the hands; these, with the application of tooth-brush, hair-brush, and razor, to their respective departments, put us in marching order; and coffee being served without delay, by six we were en route. Hoen Elbe, not far from the fountain of the mighty Elbe, was our proposed point. But
The best laid schemes of mice and men, Gang aft awry,
and Hoen Elbe we were destined never to behold.
Our road to-day led over a succession of hills, each of which introduced us to scenery more wild and rugged than before; for each new step was now bringing us nearer and nearer to the loftiest of the Riesengebirg range. Still the population appeared not to diminish. The villages, if poorer and meaner, were not less frequent than ever, and each individual cottage seemed to swarm with inmates. We were, however, greatly struck with the squalid and unhealthy appearance of these poor people. Unlike our own mountaineers, the inhabitants of the Bohemian hills seem to be a race every way inferior to the occupants of the plain. The men are short, thin, and apparently feeble, with pale cheeks and sickly complexions. The women, over and above these disadvantages, are almost all goitred, and the children look like creatures born in sin and brought up to misery. Probably all this is owing as much to the sort of life which these highlanders lead, as to the severity of their climate. They are all either weavers, or spinners and teazers of flax, except the very few whose services are required in the cultivation of a barren soil. Now, were you to shut up even a hardy Argyleshire shepherd, in a heated chamber, where he should be condemned to breathe all day long foul air, abundantly mixed with minute portions of flax and wool, you would probably find, at the end of the year, that he was not what he used to be ere he took to spinning. I think, then, that I am right in concluding that the mountaineers of Bohemia would be like the mountaineers of Scotland, were they similarly employed; and I am quite sure that a more revolting spectacle is not to be seen anywhere than that which a mountain district presents, of which the inhabitants are chiefly weavers.
It is not, however, entirely to their devotion to sedentary pursuits that we are justified in attributing the squalid and unhealthy appearance of these highlanders. They are all manufacturers on their own account. They do not work for any master, nor receive, as a necessary consequence, regular wages; but they card the flax, spin the thread, weave the web, and carry it to market, all at their own risk, and in obedience to the spirit of speculation. If the articles take, then are they well off for a season; if the contrary result ensue, they must carry it home again, and sad, indeed, is their condition. I need scarcely add, that it was by these mountaineers, and their rivals on the Prussian side of the Riesengebirg range, that the most valuable of the German cotton and linen goods used to be produced; and that, till within the last quarter of a century, even our own manufacturers were quite unable to compete with them. The case is now, however, widely different, and they feel and mourn the result bitterly. Nor is it surprising that there should be gendered among them a strong prejudice against the English people. They carry this so far, in many instances, as to believe that the Bohemian and Silesian marks are forged by the manufacturers of Manchester and Glasgow; and that their goods are thrown back upon their hands because an inferior article is palmed off at the great fairs, and sold as if fabricated by themselves.
When people lose their way in other countries, it is for the lack of roads. In Bohemia, the multiplicity of roads is quite perplexing. I am sure that we went this day a full league, if not more, out of our way, from repeatedly following the wrong path, and being as often compelled to retrace our steps. Once, after climbing to the ridge of a lofty mountain, we learned, to our horror, that the road which we ought to have pursued, ran in the very bottom of the glen which we had quitted; and twice the good people's directions were given in a language so barbarous, that we could make nothing of them. But after a good deal of fatigue, and no trifling share of enjoyment, we reached, at twelve o'clock, the town of Hochstadt, the place at which, as it was represented to be only three hours' march from Hoen Elbe, we had resolved to dine. We had timed our arrival admirably; for twelve o'clock is, in Germany, the common hour of dinner; and of the fare which was served up in the neat little inn towards which our steps were turned, we had no right to complain.
Hochstadt, so named from the elevated nature of its situation, stands on the summit of a mountain, and is raised probably not less than three thousand feet above the level of the sea. It commands a magnificent mountain view, with a much larger scattering both of vegetation and culture, than we had any right to expect. Bleak it doubtless must be, in winter, for just across the valley which dips down from it on the west, are hills whose tops retain their snowy coverings till August; while eastward is an immense plain, undulating here and there, but scarcely broken by the wooded cones that are scattered over it. But in the month of June, when we beheld it, the landscape is exceedingly interesting, and the promise of an abundant harvest was bright. There was nothing, however, either in the town or its vicinity, to detain us longer than the space of time that might be necessary to appease our hunger and rest our limbs: so, between one and two, we paid our bill, took our host's directions, and departed. He told us that if we walked well, we might reach the Iser in an hour and a half, after which we could not be more than an hour and a half removed from Hoen Elbe.
Who that has read Campbell's glorious ballad of Hohenlinden, would not feel his imagination warmed by the thought of standing even for an hour, on the banks of "Iser rolling rapidly?" Who, likewise, that is acquainted with Sir Humphry Davy's exquisite Consolations, and has, as the amiable philosopher had, a true relish for the gentle craft of angling, would not begin to put his rod together as soon as Iser's waters met his view? For my own part, I cannot undertake to say which principle operated with me most powerfully,—whether the romantic associations which Campbell's muse must ever call up, or the more matter-of-fact, but hardly less animated description, which Sir Humphry gives of the capital sport which he had in a stream of the same name; but of this fact I am quite certain, that the hopes of discovering the river behind every eminence, or coming suddenly upon it as I emerged from each successive grove, served to render me, during this hour and a half's progress, proof against the encroachments of weariness. And my wishes were gratified at last. Just after we had obtained a glimpse of what we knew to be the iron foundry at Eisenhammer, we beheld rolling his waters beneath us, the Iser himself, not like the Elbe, in a troubled and dingy stream, nor, after the fashion of most of its tributaries, with a mere thread of silver, but roaring and chafing from pool to pool, or else gathered in a black mass under some huge crag, as if intervals of repose were necessary to the element itself, and it could repose only in darkness. And then when we cast our eyes along the banks,—the sides of magnificent mountains,—feathered from their bases with ancient forests, out of which, from time to time, a bald rock projected, truly we were forced to admit, that to obtain this gratification alone, all our fatigues had been well endured, and that here we might stand still without repining. But there was something more to be done than to admire the fair river. Out came the fishing-rods from their cases, down we hurried, loaded as we were, to the river's brink, and flies being selected, such as we judged would suit the state of the water, we set to work. Our sport was admirable. Not a trout rose under three-quarters of a pound weight, and several fell little short of three pounds, so that at the hour's end, all the space which we ventured to allow ourselves, we had laid in an ample stock of fresh fish for supper.
There was no resisting the temptation to which our excellent sport in the Iser had subjected us. It was impossible to leave such a stream behind; so we made up our minds to a halt at Eisenhammer for the night, and after devoting the morrow exclusively to fishing, to add the lost hour and a half to the march of the day following. With this view we crossed the bridge, and entered the sort of hamlet, which consists merely of the foundry, and of a long range of buildings, occupied partly by the superintendents of the works, partly as a gasthof. In this gasthof, however, no separate chamber was to be had, and, though the reverse of fastidious, we could not quite make up our minds to spend a second night as we had done a former one at Marchovides. But we were happily relieved from the dilemma. One of the gentlemen whose duty it is to direct the workmen in the foundry, informed us that we should find at Starkenbach, about an hour's walk to the right, excellent accommodations, and putting us under the guidance of two travelling journeymen who were going that way, expressed his hope that he would see us again on the morrow. To the civility and kindness of that gentleman, we were much indebted both then and afterwards, and I am glad, though he may never be aware of the fact, thus publicly to acknowledge my obligations to him.
We reached Starkenbach about six o'clock, after a pleasant walk through green fields, and made for what had been represented as the best inn, a gasthof in the market-place. The landlady's manner was, as usual, somewhat repulsive at first, but the cloud soon passed from her brow. No sooner was it made known to her that we were Englishmen, travelling for amusement, than she bestirred herself sedulously to provide for our comforts; and we soon found ourselves in possession of a snug apartment, with the prospect before us of a good supper at the hour named by ourselves. But this was not all. An Englishman had never been seen in Starkenbach before, and as it had been at Gabel, so it was here,—multitudes of all ranks and classes flocked to obtain a glimpse of us. Moreover, it soon appeared that they came with more generous intentions than to gratify an idle curiosity, however innocent in itself. The real motive of one of them was, indeed, disguised under an affected anxiety to discharge an irksome duty; but the delicacy which prompted him thus to throw a temporary shade over his kindness, only enhanced the value of the kindness itself in our eyes.
Our landlady had been all civility and attention. Not only were water and other means of dressing supplied in abundance, but we had some difficulty in persuading her that her proposal to wash us from top to toe with her own hands could not be acceded to. We were thus in the midst of our ablutions when in walked a well-dressed young man, who began by saying, in Italian, that he understood we spoke that language, and that he was desired by the landlord to ascertain whether our room was to our liking. We assured him that it was, and expected, of course, that he would leave us free to go on with our dressing operations; but nothing of the sort took place. What were we?—Englishmen, he was aware; but had we any business, or did we come to dispose of any goods? We satisfied him on this head also, upon which he retired for a moment, but soon returned again. There was a gentleman in the next room, the head of the graff's chancery, who spoke French, and would be glad to make our acquaintance. We begged that he might be introduced, and in he came, followed by several others.
"You know, Messieurs," said he, "that we are obliged in this country to act somewhat uncivilly to strangers. You have, of course, a passport?"
I produced my passport at once; it was the only time I ever had occasion to show it in this quarter of Bohemia; but I was immediately taught by his manner of examining it, that the question relative to passports was a mere pretext on the part of the chancellor, for opening with us a friendly conversation; he contented himself by glancing hastily at the signature of the Austrian minister, and laid it down. And now began a discussion which I was reluctantly forced to interrupt by reminding him of the unfinished state of my toilet, and by begging that he would have the goodness to wait for a few minutes in another apartment till it should be completed. He withdrew at once, with numerous apologies, and carried his train along with him.
So far we had good reason to be satisfied with the reception that was awarded us in Starkenbach; but the kindness of its inhabitants was far from stopping here. After loitering about for a quarter of an hour, and receiving no renewed visit from the chancellor, we strolled out, with the intention of taking a survey of the environs while yet daylight lingered; but we had not proceeded far when our friend overtook us, and offered to be our guide. Nor was this all. In the most modest yet hospitable manner imaginable, he said that he would feel highly honoured and flattered if we would make his house our home during our stay in Starkenbach, and when we objected to his proposal on the ground that such a proceeding would not be fair towards the innkeeper, he assured us that that point was settled already. In a word, though he consented to be our guest at supper, which having been actually cooked could not be put aside, nothing short of the removal of our knapsacks from the inn would satisfy him, and we found ourselves in consequence, about ten o'clock at night, under the shadow of his hospitable roof.
The habitation of which we had thus unexpectedly become the inmates, consisted of a suite of apartments in one of the numerous outbuildings attached to the schloss of Graff Horach, the lord of the manor. Though not very commodious, it was both clean and comfortable; and served to satisfy the wishes of its occupant; whose family consisted only of a young wife, and two female servants. For a German of the class to which our friend belongs is not ambitious of living in a style above either his means or his pretensions, and the ideas of Germans, generally, relative to what is essential to the comforts of home, are far more humble than ours. This gentleman and his bride, for example, (and a bride she might be termed, having been married only half a year,) were content to eat and sleep in the same apartment, the elegance of which was little, if at all, broken in upon by the couple of neat box beds with silk coverings, which occupied one of the corners. In like manner the chamber which was assigned to us, at once more capacious and better furnished, led through theirs; a circumstance which not only appeared in no wise to disturb or annoy them, but of which they took advantage to press their good offices upon us. For, as our host would hardly leave us at night till we were ready to step into bed, so, no sooner were we astir in the morning, than in he came, anxious to know how we had rested, as well as to offer his services in supplying any want of which we might experience the pressure. I really never saw, in any country, or among any class of people, such incessant and genuine hospitality.
We had barely time, over-night, to be introduced to the lady of the mansion. In the morning we met her at breakfast, and her first act was to add her entreaties to those of her husband, that we would not think of leaving them that day. What need was there for so much haste? We had been pleased with the scenery of the Iser; why not visit it again? Or if that were not agreeable to us, there were various points in the immediate vicinity of the town, which it might be worth our while to inspect. We could not hold out against such arguments, more especially as they happened to accord exactly with our own wishes; so we agreed to fish the Iser once more, and return to sup and sleep at the chancellor's.
This point being settled to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned, we proceeded to equip ourselves in our travelling costume, and, rod in hand, bent our steps towards Eisenhammer. A more unpropitious day for the angler can scarcely be imagined; for a cold east wind blew, and from time to time a thin drizzling rain beat in our faces. Still we determined to make the attempt, and truly we had no cause to repent of our resolution. In the course of four hours, which we devoted to the sport, we caught upwards of ten pounds of trout; the number of fish killed being at the same time only eleven,—a clear proof that the Bohemian Iser deserves just as much praise as Sir Humphry Davy, in his charming little book, has bestowed upon its namesake near Munich. But killing the trout constituted by no means the sole amusement which we that day enjoyed. An English fishing-rod and English tackle were objects quite as novel to the good folks of Eisenhammer, as they had been to the citizens of Gabel; and the consequence was, that we had the entire population of the village and hamlets round, in our train. And the astonishment of these simple people, first at the machinery, and then at our mode of using it, I have no language to describe. When first I hooked a trout, there was a general rush to the river-side,—the movement being produced, manifestly enough, by alarm lest the line should break; and though the animal was floundering and springing about in twelve feet of water at least, two or three young men could scarcely be restrained from jumping in. But when they saw the monster, and a very large fellow he was, after running away with some fathoms of line, and bending the rod like a willow-wand, gradually lose his strength, and sail reluctantly towards the shore, I really thought they would have gone crazy with delight. They jumped about, swore, and shouted like mad people, and made such a plunge into the shallows, to bring him out, that we had well-nigh lost him. The scene was altogether quite irresistible.
There was no work performed that day in the iron foundry. Every soul belonging to it, from the superintendent down to the errand-boy, came forth to swell our train; and we walked up the Iser, attended as never Highland chief was, even in the good old times of heritable jurisdictions. Nor was this all. A religious procession, that is to say, a numerous body of peasants from some of the villages near, bound on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James in Starkenbach, happened to descend the hill just as I was playing a fish, and the effect produced upon them was quite as miraculous as could have been brought about by the saint himself. The sound of their psalmody ceased. The crucifix was lowered, and man and woman, boy and maiden, breaking loose from their ranks, flocked down, en masse, to ascertain the cause of so strange a phenomenon. I suspect that St. James received but a scanty allowance of worship that evening; at least, I am sure that the number of his votaries became sadly diminished; for when the chant rose again, and the crucifix was uplifted as a signal for moving, the retinue that attended it, came short by at least one-half of that which had followed, with all imaginable decorum, as far as the banks of the Iser.
It was now getting on towards three o'clock, and as the weather, instead of improving, became every moment more boisterous, we determined to abandon our fishing. We accordingly adjourned to the gasthof, where a roasted fowl had been prepared for us, and made a hearty dinner, in the midst of the same crowd which had watched our mode of operations on the river. To them we were obliged to explain the whole process by which rods are unscrewed and put together again, reels turned round, and flies attached to casting lines; and I dare say that to this hour, they have not ceased to talk about the whole affair as an invention, second in point of ingenuity, only to the steam-engine.
This done, we became, in our turn, the querists. We begged to be conducted over the foundry, and our wishes were immediately attended to. It is on a small scale, but apparently very complete, with one furnace and numerous models; and it was stated to supply very many of the manufacturies both in Bohemia and Austria Proper, with the iron-work required for their machinery. As to the ore itself, that is found in abundance among the hills hard by, and is said to be of excellent quality. I need scarcely add, that, though they have pit-coal at their command, they use only coke and charcoal for smelting, because everybody knows that for such purposes charcoal is the most approved species of fuel.
We had had a capital day's sport, and the rain having at length ceased, we turned our faces towards Starkenbach. The fish, with which we loaded a countryman, and conveyed by his means to our host's dwelling, caused almost as much astonishment there, as our mode of catching them had occasioned at Eisenhammer. Not only our hosts, but their domestics, and not they alone, but the people in the streets as we passed, shouted and clapped their hands at the spectacle. But the chancellor had other and more agreeable occupation chalked out for us, than listening to the exclamations of his clients. He led us through the town, took us to call upon the priest,—a respectable-looking old man, who had expressed a wish to be introduced to us,—and informed us that he had ventured to accept in our name an invitation from the grand bailiff, to sup in his apartments. It may be necessary, perhaps, to add, that the grand bailiff is the graff's representative, who not only manages his private affairs, but superintends the proceedings of the chancery, and who is, therefore, in the absence of the graff himself, by far the most important personage in the herschafte.
The grand bailiff's apartments, which formed part of the schloss itself, were both large and well furnished. There were no carpets on the floors, of course,—the Germans make very little use of carpets anywhere,—but his dining-room was amply stocked with chairs, sofas, tables, cabinets, and mirrors, and his cuisine, though plain, was excellent. We were so fortunate, moreover, as to meet at his table, not only the whole of the chancery, but the commissary of the circle, who happened to be going his rounds, and who proved a very agreeable addition to our party.
The supper was good, and the Hungarian wine of excellent flavour. The attentions of the bailiff and his lady were likewise unremitting; indeed, the latter was almost too kind, for she seemed anxious that we should eat of every dish, and drink out of every flask and bottle. We had a little music too,—for she played the piano; and the commissary, likewise a performer, paid us the compliment to dash off in very good style, "God save the King." But the circumstance which amused me most of all remains to be stated. I was asked if I played chess; and I replied in the affirmative, adding, however, as the facts of the case required, that I was no master of the game. Immediately a petition was brought forward, that I would play one game with the bailiff. He had heard much of the extraordinary skill of Englishmen in this noble game, and being a little of an amateur himself, it had long been his ambition to measure his strength with that of an Islander. Alas for my country! she had but a sorry champion to sustain her honour; for, if the truth must be spoken, though I get very much interested in chess after the game has fairly begun, I always sit down to it as Dr. Johnson says he did to Paradise Lost, as to a task. And the consequence is, that, avoiding it wherever I can, I have not yet entitled myself to pass muster in the first class of bunglers. But it would have been cruel to thwart the hospitable bailiff in his humours, so to it we fell. I don't think that he and his friends gave me quite fair play. With one accord they ranged themselves on the side of their countryman, and, complimenting my adroitness all the while, they assisted him in every difficulty with their counsels. However, the result would have been, I make no doubt, the same, had they remained silent. I was soundly beaten, and my worthy host rose up as much pleased as if he had conquered a province. I learned from the chancellor next day, that to have lost the game would have seriously affected his peace of mind. I am therefore heartily glad that fortune declared in his favour.
My tale of Starkenbach is told. We returned to the chancellor's to sleep, breakfasted with him and his interesting young wife next morning, and at seven o'clock took the road to Troutenau, which he recommended as a good halting-place. His last words at parting were, "Nous sons beaucoup triste," and when I added "Et nous aussi," I spoke but as I felt.
THE ELBE, A MOUNTAIN-STREAM. WE FISH IT. DINE ON OUR FISH IN A VILLAGE INN. THE YOUNG TORPINDA. ARNAU. THE STATUES IN THE MARKET-PLACE. THE FRANCISCAN CONVENT. TROUTENAU. THE WANDERING MINSTRELS. MARCH CONTINUED. FISH THE RIVER. A VILLAGE INN, AND ACCOUNT OF THE TORPINDAS. OUR FIRST MEETING WITH THESE FORMIDABLE PEOPLE IN A WOOD. ANOTHER PEDESTRIAN TOURIST. ADERSPACH. EXCELLENT QUARTERS. MOST REMARKABLE ROCKS. THE MINSTRELS AGAIN.
Our journey towards Troutenau was for a while prolific in few events, with an account of which it is worth while to entertain my reader. In point of scenery, each new step that we took introduced us to new and constantly varying beauties; but on that head I have said as much, perhaps more, than was necessary. For who, after all, can so describe nature's handiwork, as to create in the mind of him who has never looked upon the original, anything like a correct idea of what it is? The painter may indeed accomplish this, though even he will accomplish it imperfectly; but the mere narrator,—in good sooth, his words, however appropriate, must ever fall comparatively dull upon the ear, which is not the organ through which to convey to the mind any notion, however incomplete, of external scenery. When, then, I have stated, that our path carried us over hill and dale,—that we threaded deep forests, and from time to time traversed an open plain, and that all this while the snowy ridges of the Riesengebirgen stood up like a wall upon our left hand, I have left myself nothing in the shape of description to add, out of which the reader could hope to derive an accession, either to his information or his amusement.
Of one occurrence that befel in the course of this day's pilgrimage, it is, however, necessary that I should take notice. At the distance of perhaps ten English miles from Starkenbach, we came upon the Elbe; how unlike to the lordly river with which we formed our first acquaintance at Hamburg, and which two months' residence at Schandau had latterly made so familiar to us! A narrow mountain-stream,—so narrow, indeed, and so shallow, that a mere rustic bridge sufficed to span it,—was all that reminded us of that prodigious body of water, which serves as a channel of communication between Dresden and the North Sea, and fertilizes in its course the plains of Bohemia, Saxony, Prussia, Mecklenburg, Hanover, and even Denmark. The fact is, as I need scarcely pause to state, that we were now but a short day's march from its source, which lies,—a mere fountain or well-head,—in the side of the mountain that overhangs Hoen Elbe. As our friend the chancellor had assured us, however, that at the well-head in question there was really nothing to see, we determined to leave it unexplored, and to push on, instead, as far as Aderspach, where we were given to understand that nature had accomplished many freaks well deserving to be noted.
Though the Elbe was by no means so promising as the Iser, we yet felt that to pass it by untried, while we had fishing-rods in our hands, would be disgraceful to us as anglers. The implements were accordingly screwed together, and for half-an-hour we threw our flies with all our accustomed skill, and more than our usual patience; but we gathered little by the exercise of these qualities. A few grayling, with a trout or two of meagre dimensions, alone rewarded our care; and these, we judiciously concluded, were not of sufficient value to compensate for the loss of time that would be sustained in adding to their numbers. Besides we found that our strange attire and gestures created much alarm among the junior branches of one or two small communities through which we passed. The children, wherever we came, ran from the water's edge screaming with fright; a pretty broad hint that our company was not desired, at least by them.
We dined this day in a clean tidy little ale-house, the landlady of which cooked our trout, and supplied us with bread and butter, and beer. She was a member of what seemed to be a remarkably happy, as well as primitive family, where three generations dwelt together in harmony; the oldest and the youngest being, as she informed us, dependant on the exertions of her husband, and the profits of the inn. Neither were we without a trifling adventure, such as it was. While we were smoking our pipes after dinner, a gypsy, or Torpinda, entered, and we had him up to our table forthwith, that we might reconnoitre and catechise him. He was a mere lad, apparently not more than sixteen or seventeen years of age, though in costume, complexion, and expression of countenance, a perfect specimen of his tribe. His dress was a broad-brimmed low hat, a dark brown cloak with sleeves, and a solitary under-garment, which, woven apparently without seam, served him for vest, pantaloons, and stockings. The only apertures in these curious looking pantoufles which we could detect, were from the heel to about midway in the calf of the leg, and these were carefully laced-up with brass wires.
Under his cloak the youth carried a calf's-skin pouch, which was suspended from a leathern belt that crossed his right shoulder; and we observed that this latter piece of dress was ornamented with exceeding care. It was indented all over with minute lines, not very unlike the tatooing on a South Sea islander's face; and it bore, just over the chest, a lion's head made of brass, from a ring attached to which were suspended about twenty or thirty brass pipe-pickers. His avowed object in entering the beer-house was to dispose of some of these latter, which he offered for sale at three kreutzers a-piece; and I need scarcely add that we became purchasers. But we were not content with the pickers. Having questioned him as to the value which he put upon his belt, I pulled out the money, and offered to purchase that too; but he would not part with it; and to all our questions touching the head-quarters of his tribe he turned a deaf ear. He either could not, or would not, understand us; and made his escape on the first lull that took place in our conversation.
There is no denying that the whole appearance of this youth was very picturesque, but it was a great deal more picturesque than attractive. His long shaggy hair and dark olive complexion were alike remarkable; but the expression of his countenance was decidedly bad, and he never looked you straight in the face. To be sure, the treatment which, in common with others of his class, he probably receives from the Bohemians, is not calculated to make him fall in love with them; for the people of the country seem to regard these wanderers with a mixture of contempt and loathing. Yet I imagined that I read in that downcast look, and in the stealthy air which attached to all his movements, marks of the sort of training which may be expected to produce an accomplished vagabond. I dare say that young fellow knew perfectly well how to silence the cackling of a barn-door fowl in a hurry, and might not be inexpert in the operation of removing quietly a knapsack, or other load, from beneath a sleeping man's head. But the thews and sinews of the boy, and I may add, of all of his tribe whom we encountered, were not such as to impress me with any very exalted ideas of their strength or prowess. I fancied that, with the aid of a good stick, I should not be afraid to give any three of them the knives of which I had heard so much, and then join battle.
When the boy was gone we proceeded to question our landlady as to the habits of his people, and we received from her an account corresponding in all respects with that which our first informant had given us. She added, over and above, that there was no trusting them; that they were deceitful to a degree unparalleled among men, and that no arts or offices of kindness ever won their forbearance. We listened to her statements more than half disposed to credit them, yet we adhered to our original determination, nevertheless, of joining the first gypsy camp on which, during the course of our tour, we might stumble.
By this time it was necessary to move; and I state the fact in consequence of a trifling incident, illustrative, I conceive, of the extreme honesty of this simple people. We had advanced, perhaps, a quarter of an English mile towards Arnau, a town through which our route lay, when we heard a female voice shouting behind us, and on turning round saw our landlady in full pursuit. I had left behind me on the table a penknife,—of very little value, inasmuch as one of the blades was broken,—and this good woman would not permit me to be the loser of it. When I add, that she was in a state during which running must have been both inconvenient and hurtful to her, the strength of the principle which urged her to bring me my knife will be better understood.
Arnau is an old-fashioned town, with a wide market-place, in the centre of which stand two colossal statues, representing two warriors in complete armour, each armed with a sword. The people told us they were of very ancient date, and represented the two knights, by whom, in old times, the town was founded. There is, besides, a convent of Franciscan monks in the immediate neighbourhood, which contains eighty brothers; a clumsy pile, evidently of modern construction, and resembling in its exterior a manufactory, much more than a house of religious persons. One of the brothers we met in the town, to whom the children seemed to pay much respect. His dress was a brown coarse frock, a bare head, with a shaven crown, bare legs, sandals for his feet, and a rosary of black beads fastened round his middle. I asked him the way to Troutenau, and received a very short, and somewhat unsatisfactory answer.
We did not halt in Arnau, neither were we tempted to solicit admission into the convent. I had been initiated into all the mysteries of such a place of abode long ago; and my young companion appeared more anxious to reach Aderspach and Schnee-Koppee as speedily as possible, than to take his first lesson in monachism here. It was well, too, that, retaining our resolution of passing that night at Troutenau, we had self-denial enough to pass the monastery by; for a long and toilsome way was before us, which we did not compass till past seven o'clock. No doubt the march was prolific in objects to charm the sense of sight. As we drew towards them, the snowy mountains assumed continually a bolder and more striking aspect; while, several of the villages, and one schloss, which was undergoing repair, drew forth our liveliest admiration. But the journey proved to be, upon the whole, both tedious and toilsome; and right glad were we, when, on gaining the summit of a steep ascent, we beheld Troutenau at our feet. We made directly for the inn, which was recommended as the best; and, except that the house was full of workmen, our chamber small, and our beds detestable, we have no right to put down the Gasthof zum Weissen Ross, as one of the bad places of call on the march to Schnee-Koppee.
The inn was in great confusion, for unfortunately for ourselves we arrived at a moment when bricklayers, carpenters, and plasterers were busy in counteracting the effect of time and rough usage almost everywhere, except in the coffee-room. This latter, however, proved to be comfortable enough; and we enjoyed it the more that it was divided into two compartments, one of which was allotted to the humbler classes of travellers, while the other, which commanded a view of the square, was assigned to gentlefolks. Moreover there occurred two circumstances, which, by furnishing us with objects of contemplation, contributed to make the evening pass lightly away. First, we saw from our window the completion of a ceremony similar to that which at Eisenhammer we had so cruelly interrupted by our fishing. A whole posse of peasants, male and female, with crucifix and mass-book at their head, marched in procession towards the market-cross; and, after chanting a hymn, fell down upon their knees, one after another, and covered the hands and feet of the stone statues that ornamented it, with kisses. This done, the larger number dispersed, and, as it seemed, retired quietly to their homes. But there were others who appeared to think that a work so pious as that in which they had been engaged merited, on the part of the body, some refreshment. These adjourned to the inn, and drank sundry flasks of beer with great relish.
In the next place we found that the outer portion of the coffee-room was occupied in part by a band of wandering musicians,—a sort of calling which is in Bohemia very frequent, and which, both there and elsewhere in Germany, holds a higher place in public estimation than among us. These men wore a sort of uniform, namely, high-crowned white hats, with flowers in the front, gray frocks, and half-boots; and their performance, I am bound to add, was by no means contemptible. They played one or two airs very sweetly under the burgomaster's window, which, as the said window looked out into the square, enabled us, as well as a multitude of the town's-people, to share in the treat.
We retired early to bed, for we were a good deal fatigued, and the cold,—an unusual ground of complaint with us ever since we set out from home,—was disagreeable. The truth indeed is, that we were now at a great elevation above the level of the sea, and that the wind happening to blow from Schnee-Koppee, the back of which, white with the deposit of a thousand storms, lay towards us, came keen and biting. So sharp, indeed, was the temperature, that the landlord, whom we consulted relative to the nature of a river which, with a broad clear current, flows past the town, assured us that it would be vain to think of fishing in it, because though it abounded with fine trout, the season was not sufficiently advanced to admit of their being taken with the rod and line. I took the liberty in this case, as in the case of the gypsies, to credit something less than half of the intelligence conveyed to me; and I found, on the morrow, when the question was tried on its own merits, that I had come to the right conclusion.
It was a fine bright bracing morning, and the clocks were striking seven when we quitted Troutenau; a very pretty clean town, well situated, on the slope of a hill, and commanding, as I have hinted above, a noble view of the snowy ridges of the Riesengebirgen. Aderspach was our point for the day,—a place represented to us as well worth visiting on account of the remarkable rocks and fells which abound in its vicinity. As it was said, however, to be no more than three or four stunden distant, we did not think that we were required to make any extraordinary exertions, and the river looked so tempting, that, in spite of the landlord's advice to the contrary, we resolved to try it. We cannot boast much of our success. Three or four grayling, with a trout of moderate size, were all the prizes that rewarded our toil, till we came to a deep pool, into which, not without a hope of better things, I threw my fly. A magnificent fish rose instantly, and I hooked him. We had a tough battle for it, inasmuch as my tackle happened to be light, and I was standing on an awkward sort of a weir when he took the fly; but victory declared for me. After ten minutes' pleasant manoeuvring, I landed a trout, which would have done no discredit, in point of size and form, to the Iser itself.
By this time, noon was approaching, and as we had no disposition to burden ourselves with some tons' weight of fish, we wound up, and restored our rods to their cases. We then turned our faces steadily towards Aderspach, and following the chaussee, found that in proportion as we got involved among the numerous green hills which overlook it, all ground of complaint on the score of a sharp temperature, was taken away. The weather, in short, became intensely oppressive, and we, in consequence, on whom the exercise of fishing had not been without its effect, began to get excessively tired. We pushed on, however, with an occasional halt, till we could calculate that half our journey was accomplished; when having arrived at a comfortable-looking village inn, we carried our fish into the tap-room, and had them cooked for dinner. They were excellent, and sufficed not only for ourselves, but for the landlord and the whole of his family, whose mittagsmahl, as the Germans call it, had, by some extraordinary accident, been delayed full two hours beyond the customary period of noon.
We found our village innkeeper, as, indeed, was the case with almost all persons of his rank and calling, a good-humoured, obliging, and intelligent man. He had been twice married, was the father of five sons, from one of whom, a jager in the Austrian service, he had just received a letter, which, as it happened to be written remarkably well, he showed us with all a father's pride. He gave us, likewise, as much information touching the local affairs of the neighbourhood as we considered it worth while to require, and spoke freely about the Torpindas, with whom he seemed to be well acquainted. The prevalent tales of their blood-thirstiness he entirely confirmed, though he seemed to insinuate that they were more free with the lives of one another, than with those of strangers; and he warned us that we should look in vain for a camp. Nothing of the kind existed, nor was permitted by the police to exist, in this quarter of Austria. "As to the people themselves," continued he, "they are an idle, good-for-nothing set, exceedingly fond of money, and great hoarders of it when they can get it. I have seen, in this room, a Torpinda produce as many as a hundred guldens; and yet he would not disburse a single kreutzer for straw to sleep upon." We were more mortified by this man's account of the gypsies than by any which we had yet received; for it bore about it a greater air of truth, and, as a necessary result, tended more than any thing which we had yet heard, to dissipate into thin air the visions of gypsy life which up to that moment we continued to cherish.
Having rested an hour in the inn, we set out again, accompanied by our host, who volunteered to show us both a shorter and more pleasant path than that which we had heretofore followed. This was the more acceptable by reason of the discovery which we made, that in speaking of Aderspach as only four hours' walk from Troutenau, our host of the latter place had erred widely from the mark. It was still four good hours' ahead of us. Nevertheless, we had plenty of daylight before us; and the prospect of using it among green fields and umbrageous forests was not without its effect on the minds of persons who had toiled throughout the morning along a dusty and burning high-road.
Though I have, perhaps, said more respecting the scenery of this part of Bohemia than was necessary, I cannot omit to mention, that from the brow of a hill which we ascended soon after our host quitted us, we obtained as glorious a view of a cultivated mountain district as the eye of man will probably rest upon in any quarter of the world. The abundant wood of this fine country gives, indeed, to all its landscapes, a charm which there needs but the presence of water to complete, and to the particular scene on which we now looked down, water happened not to be wanting. From the bosom of the river which flows past Troutenau, the sun's rays were reflected; and as its course lay through groves and fells,—now hidden between overhanging rocks, now emerging again into a wide valley,—the effect was altogether very striking. Moreover, to a varied and picturesque extent of hill and vale, forest and green meadow, hamlet and town,—the latter either cast into the recess of some deep glen, or straggling upwards along the mountain side,—the Riesengebirgen formed the back ground; bald, and frowning in all the majesty of rocky shoulders and snow-clad summits. It was, indeed, a glorious view, and it tempted us to linger so long in the enjoyment of it, that we did not reach our quarters,—the comfortable inn at Aderspach,—till near eight o'clock.
There befel nothing during our progress from this beautiful spot, till we arrived at the place where we had resolved to pass the night, of which I need be expected to give a detailed account. All travellers on foot, through strange countries, must expect to lose their way occasionally; and we formed no exception to the general rule. Moreover, our mishaps, this day, were the more provoking, that we chanced to have penetrated into a comparatively thinly-peopled region, the two villages which we traversed lying far apart one from the other, and there being no hamlets nor detached houses to keep up the communication. Nor were we, as it seemed, the only pedestrians to whom the district was strange. As we were passing through a deep forest, at a point admirably suited to deeds of violence, we met a couple of Torpindas, who stopped us to inquire the way to the nearest town; at least I conclude that this was their object, from the peculiar gestures which they used, and the intonation which they gave to their voices; for as to their words, of these I could make nothing. Having just been stuffed with a tale of their lawless habits, the sight of these persons threw me, of course, on the alert. I grasped the butt of my gaff-stick,—an excellent weapon, about the length and weight of a policeman's staff,—and braced up my nerves for the melee. But when we stood face to face, all idea that they would venture to begin the fray vanished. Though they were young men, in the prime of life, probably not more than five or six-and-twenty, I verily believe, that with the weapons which nature has given me, I could have rendered them both incapable of molesting henroosts for ever, and been but little fatigued by the exercise.
The Torpindas passed on quietly enough when they found that they could not make themselves understood; and there followed them soon afterwards, another foot-passenger, whose style of travel amused us not a little. He was a stout, elderly man, arrayed in a brown frock coat, long and loose, and descending to his ankles, and he trudged forward with a good cudgel in his hand, as independently as need be. But he carried no load on his back. On the contrary, there followed him a peasant with a wheelbarrow, on which was laid the stout gentleman's trunk, and as they happened, when we encountered them, to be descending a hill, the strange vehicle kept up famously. How it would fare with them after they crossed the valley beneath, I do not know. But probably our friend had fixed stages, at each of which, instead of ordering out fresh horses, he ordered merely a fresh wheelbarrow and trundler. I dare say he journeyed with extreme satisfaction to himself; at least I am quite sure that he looked as if he did.
It was late in the evening, and our patience was well-nigh exhausted, when, on gaining the brow of an eminence, we beheld a straggling village at our feet; and were almost as much surprised as delighted to find that it was Aderspach. Let nobody form a judgment of the sort of quarters which he will find at the Trucktere-Gasthof, from the miserable appearance which the town of Aderspach presents. To be sure, he must pass through the town entirely, leave the schloss, a huge pile of brickwork, behind him, and penetrate into the fells ere the Trucktere-house becomes visible; but the first aspect of it will, unless I much deceive myself, excite in his mind anticipations, not only of good fare, but of clean apartments, and unpretending civility. Nor will such anticipations be disappointed. A nicer country inn I never inhabited, and I say this without excepting either the inn at Dalmally, near Loch Awe, nor its rival in comfort, if not in elegance, at Tyne-drom.
The Fells, or Felsen, at Aderspach, is justly accounted one of the most extraordinary productions of nature's handiwork in all Bohemia. Masses of rock, some of them two or three hundred feet in height, have, by some strange convulsion, been so tossed about, that now they stand on end like detached towers, or rather like the turreted walls of some gigantic labyrinth, through which a narrow path twists and turns in the most extraordinary manner possible. Very many of these rocks bear a striking resemblance, some to beasts, some to men, some to musical instruments, and others to different articles which we constantly meet either in our walks through the populous city, or within the domestic circle. As might be expected, the people of the country have called each image after the name of the original which it represents. Not far from the back door of the inn is an enormous inverted Sugar-loaf; a little way removed from it is the Chimney, and it must be acknowledged that the resemblance which both of them bear to the objects from which their names are derived, is very striking.
But this is the least of the wonders attaching to the place, in order to introduce which to the reader's acquaintance, it will be necessary that I should take him, as it were, by the hand, and join him to our little party as we make the tour of the labyrinth.
Suppose us, then, snugly housed in the Trucktere-house, well-fed, well attended, supplied with clean, tidy beds, and greatly refreshed by a sound night's sleep, such as monarchs might envy. We rise next morning at seven, to find that here, even more keenly than at Troutenau, the influence of an elevated situation is felt, and that over the long inclined plane which stretches upwards from us in the direction of the Riesengebirgen, a sharp, cold wind blows cuttingly. This circumstance, however, interferes, in no respect, with our breakfast, which, as far as the means furnished will allow, is eaten with great relish. After which, about nine o'clock, we sally forth in quest of adventures, under the guidance of a ragged youth, who is to officiate as our cicerone. From the inn-door we look abroad upon a mountain of basalts, covered on its summit by a forest of pines, and beautifully feathered along its face with birch-trees. That mountain, well nigh semicircular in the front which is turned towards us, constitutes the Felsen; and along its base we walk, following a narrow foot-path, which is bordered by a little stream, and leads, serpent-fashion, towards the rocks. We pass, in this brief progress, the Sugar-loaf; and observing the ravages which time is making on its inverted cone, we anticipate the hour, probably not very distant, when it will topple over, and fall flat upon the earth. But this is nothing. Our ragged guide conducts us across a wooden bridge, up a road, hollowed out by nature, through the rocks, till suddenly we reach what resembles the mouth of a mine, across which a door is drawn. The sum of four groschens, or sixpence a head, applies a key to the lock of that door, and we are immediately introduced into the giant's dwelling. For as the term Riesengebirgen signifies "The Giant's Mountains," so these fells are represented by tradition to have been the abode of the monster-man, after whom the range which separates Bohemia from Silesia has been named. Of this giant's personal history it is needless to say more, than that he is the same Number Nip with whose mischievous exploits we have all, from our early childhood, been familiar. His favourite haunts were here and in one of the ravines of Schnee-Koppee; and I must say this much for him, that in his choice of quarters, he exhibited not only a great deal of skill, but a very commendable share of taste into the bargain.
The door being opened, we find ourselves in a narrow passage, open to the heavens, perhaps a couple of hundred feet over-head, but walled in on either hand by rocks, perpendicular as the drop of the plummet. The passage being exceedingly tortuous, does not permit any extensive view to the front; but at each new turn some new wonder presents itself, either in the formation of some particular rock, or in the grotesque and striking combinations of masses. Here the guide stops us to point out a chimney most distinctly defined; by-and-by two enormous kettle-drums are exhibited; then comes a barrel-organ on one hand, and a pulpit on the other, beyond which lies the chancel of a church. Above our heads, meanwhile, on the very summits of detached peaks, stand the Burgomaster, in his full-bottomed wig, the Emperor Leopold,—an exact resemblance,—and John the Baptist preaching in the desert. This last is really a very curious specimen of what Dame Nature can sometimes accomplish, when she takes it into her head to become sculptor. On a lofty cone, yet little elevated above the surrounding masses, the very emblems of desolation, stands the image of a man, with a shaggy mantle thrown across his shoulders, and one arm raised as if in the act of speaking,—no inappropriate monument to him who, though the greatest of the prophets that lived under the Law, was in his day of mortality less than the least of those to whom the Gospel dispensation has been communicated.
After pausing awhile to examine these, as well as the form of a dog in a recumbent position, not far removed from them, we passed on; first, into the Giant's Mouth,—an enormous arch, armed, as it seems, with teeth,—and then into the Frauen Zimmer, or Giantess's Apartment. It must have been but a sorry lodging for a lady of so much personal weight in the world, and supposing her proportions to have resembled those of her husband, would not fail to cramp her exceedingly; for it is nothing more than a hole in the rock, measuring perhaps twenty feet in length, by six or eight in width. But giants and giantesses lived, it is presumed, chiefly in the open air, and this which is called her chamber, may have been, after all, nothing more than her couch. If such were the case, she must have had no taste for down mattresses and feather-bed coverings.
We were advanced by this time, many hundred yards into the bowels of the mountain, and stood at length on a fair open platform, surrounded as heretofore, by enormous cliffs, yet having room enough, and to spare. Here a small rustic arbour has been formed with rough-hewn pine logs, and close by is a sort of pantry, composed of similar materials, while facing them a little rivulet pours its water from a ledge of rock, causing the air around to reverberate with its ceaseless and most refreshing music. Our guide described the spot merely as the lesser waterfall, while he invited us to drink from a fountain which bubbled up close to the stream. I do not think that I ever tasted water more deliciously cool and limpid.
The phrase "Lesser Waterfall" naturally associated itself in our minds with something more wonderful, and we questioned the guide on the subject, who, instead of answering directly, invited us to follow him. We did so, winding round the corner of a huge column; but no cataract met our inquiring gaze. "Wait you here," said the boy, "or rather go on into that recess, while I run up the face of the cliff, and lift the sluice." The idea of a sluice, as connected with one of the most sublime of nature's productions, was too ludicrous. It reminded us of a miserable little affair, not far from Schandau, on the road to the Kuhstall, which the delighted Saxons exhibit to you as one of the wonders of their land, and for the display of which you are charged one groschen. For this Saxon cataract consists of a stream of water, a size or too more voluminous than that which may, at any time, be seen winding its way along the groved outsides of the streets in one of our fifth-rate boroughs in England. Yet the Saxons make the most of it. By means of a deal fence they dam it up on the top of a rock, perhaps twelve feet high, and so keep it till some pleasure-seeking stranger happens to approach the spot. Then, after exciting his curiosity to the utmost, an old man leaves the wanderer in the road to gaze about in vain, not only for the cataract, but for any place where a cataract might be expected to exist. Yet the stranger must not begin to murmur too speedily. All at once a cracked voice bids him attend. He turns round; the sluice is raised, and out comes a volume of water, of all things in creation most resembling that which in the old town of Edinburgh follows on the exclamation, "Garde loo!" I advise the astonished traveller not to indulge his admiration too long. If, in the intensity of his ardour, he keep the sluice open more than ten minutes, not only does the waterfall fade and disappear before his own eyes, but a month may elapse ere it shall be in a fit state to be exhibited again.
All these brilliant images took possession of our fancies as soon as the boy had uttered the unlucky word "sluice;" and smiling to one another, we made up our minds to rest contentedly where we were. But we did not adhere to this determination. In a few minutes there came upon us a noise like the growling of distant thunder; by-and-by the fall of water was loudly and fiercely distinct, and we knew, to our extreme surprise, that this was a very different affair from the cataract in Saxon Switzerland. We therefore hurried round the angle of the rock, and guided by the sound, came at last to behold what really was a very fine sight. From a ledge, perhaps thirty or forty feet high, a rivulet discharged a considerable body of water into a cavern, beneath the foundations of which, though it was impossible to say in what direction, the current held its course. I must confess that we stood and gazed upon the scene for some moments in great admiration,—a feeling which was probably heightened in consequence of the unlooked-for issue to an adventure, of the commencement of which we had augured so unfavourably.
Having thus witnessed the effect, we naturally enough desired to look upon the cause also; in other words, nothing would content us, except to ascend the cliff and watch the whole process of lifting and replacing the sluice. I am not sure that the sight recompensed us for the labour that was necessary to obtain it. The stream, to be sure, looked dark and deep, hemmed in as it was, between walls of rock, and to watch the descent of the mass of water from above, was quite as fine as to look up to it from below; but the process of climbing was both toilsome and hazardous, and I do not therefore advise others to undergo it, unless they be both strong of head and sure of foot.
The waterfall, like the general discharge of fire-works at Vauxhall, or the blowing-up of the beleaguered fortress in a melo-drama, was the last and greatest wonder which our guide had to show us, and the termination of the play was marked by the usual application for a little drinkgelt. This we gave, of course; but having heard something of a wonderful echo, we begged him at the same time to conduct us to the spot where it was to be heard. We were drawing, in this instance, too much either upon his goodnature or his powers. The echo was not in his department. A separate functionary called that forth at will, and to his care we were transferred. He was an old man, who played wretchedly on the French horn and clarionet, both of which, as well as a double-barrelled gun, were called into operation, and there is no denying that the effect was fine. Four reverberations followed each blast; all of them clear and distinct, as if four separate instruments had spoken. The last sounded like the voice of a trumpet, issuing from some dark woods, perhaps five or six miles distant.
Such were the wonders which we saw and heard at Aderspach,—a mighty show-place, as it appears, to Poles, Prussians, Bohemians, and even Saxons; yet strange to say, not often visited by our own more restless countrymen. Yet our adventures in the Trucktere-house did not end here. There arrived, soon after we came in, the identical travelling band which had delighted us with their music in Troutenau; and partly to conciliate us, partly to ensure for themselves a supper free of expense, they played some airs very sweetly in the passage. One of these took my fancy so much, that I begged to have a copy of the notes, and sent out a florin as the price of my purchase. But in thus paying for the goods before I got them, I had over-calculated the honesty even of Bohemian minstrels. The master of the band pronounced that the air should be ready for me next morning, but it never came; and when I inquired for the performers, they were gone. So much for paying beforehand for matters so light as the notes of music.
WALK TO SHATZLAR. MAGNIFICENT SCENERY. EXTREME FATIGUE. OUR LANDLORD. EARLY ASSOCIATIONS AWAKENED BY A SCENE IN THE MARKET-PLACE. REST FOR A DAY. ASCENT OF SCHNEE-KOPPEE. HALT AT A VILLAGE ON THE SILESIAN SIDE.
All the wonders which I have inadequately described in the preceding chapter, having been investigated between the hours of nine and twelve, we made up our minds to dine like gentlemen at Aderspach, and to proceed that evening as far as Shatzlar, a town at the Bohemian foot of Schnee-Koppee. We were the more induced to adopt this course, because Shatzlar was stated to be only four hours' walk from Aderspach, and we believed ourselves sufficiently strong, not only to accomplish that over-night, but to undertake the ascent of the mountain himself on the morrow. The result proved that our calculations had rested on no solid basis. Instead of a four hours' walk, Shatzlar proved to be rather more than six hours' distant; and the way being mountainous and rugged, we came in thoroughly knocked up. I do not recollect that throughout the whole of our excursion we were, on any other occasion, so indifferent to the magnificent scenery that surrounded us; and probably the reader will not be displeased that the case was so, seeing that our indifference at the moment saves him the labour now of perusing what might very possibly be felt as a wearisome description of it.
Shatzlar is a large straggling burgh, destitute of manufactures, and apparently little visited by travellers; though the inn, which is kept by the burgomaster, can boast of very tolerable accommodations, and a host and hostess both well disposed to fall in with their guests' wishes. There is a schloss hard by, inhabited by certain officials, who, however, exercise no jurisdiction over the town; and a church, not remarkable for anything, except the good order of its charnel-house. This, a small building separated by the breadth of the churchyard from the main edifice, seems to be a place of deposit for all the skulls and other bones which may be thrown up in digging the graves; and they are arranged round the walls with as much taste as their ghastly character will allow.
We felt so tired, and our feet were suffering so much from blisters, that we resolved to give ourselves a day of total rest in Shatzlar; and in spite of the ennui attendant on such an arrangement, we adhered to it with laudable pertinacity. Rising at seven, and breakfasting at eight in the morning, we whiled away the time till dinner by strolling up the side of the hill, along which the town is built, and enjoying the exquisite panorama which, from various points, it opened out upon us. We visited likewise the fountain of the Bober, a well deep in the forest, and drank of its waters ere yet they had become polluted by flowing among the habitations of men. Our guide, the burgomaster's son, conducted us likewise to a corner of the wood which is set apart for bird-catching, and where every tree is armed with one or more gins, skilfully made of horse-hair and attached to the bark. The pencil also was appealed to, but in vain. This was too extensive, as well as too glorious a scene, to be copied by one so little skilled in the art as myself; so, after spoiling two or three leaves in my journal book, I desisted from the attempt; and we descended to the inn, where the smell of calf's-flesh in preparation warned us that the hour of dinner was not far distant. It came in due course, and the meal was discussed effectually; after which the burgomaster favoured us with his company, though he steadily refused to partake of the excellent wine which his own cellar produced. He was a man of some intelligence, and had an ambition to see his children rise upwards on the hill of life. Accordingly one of his sons, a delicate youth, is preparing himself for holy orders; another is studying medicine at the university of Vienna; and the third, the lad who accompanied us in our morning's ramble, had served his time with a cotton manufacturer. But the confinement not agreeing with his delicate constitution, the burgomaster had brought him home; and he now officiates as a sort of waiter in the hotel, with the understanding that at his father's decease, or perhaps before it, he shall succeed to the hotel itself.
In listening to such details one hour was spent. Another passed away in watching from the window such objects as this most quiet of quiet Bohemian burghs might produce. And of these there was one which, being associated with the memory of other days, interested me not a little. There is a fountain in the middle of the market-place, into which one stream of fresh water is continually flowing, while another drains off from it. Hither the women bring their clothes to be washed; not in the fountain itself, but in their own tubs, which they range round it; and the proceedings of one of these industrious damsels amused me much. She filled her tub to the brim, and then kilting her petticoats, set to work tramping with might and main, precisely as, in years long gone by, I have seen a Scotch girl do, on the Back-walk at Stirling, or the Calton Hill in Edinburgh. What a strange thing is association, and how easily is it called into play by the veriest trifles. The woman's legs had nothing to boast of in the way of symmetry, but I confess that I watched them, in their alternate rise and fall, with a degree of interest such as I have not for many a day bestowed on any other pair of understandings, whether male or female.