'Three lost souls!' said the captain.
'See how they run,' Temple sang, half audibly, and flushed hot, ashamed of himself.
''Twas I had to bear the news to his mother,' the captain pursued; 'and it was a task, my lads, for I was then little more than your age, and the glass was Robert's only fault, and he was my only brother.'
I offered my hand to the captain. He grasped it powerfully. 'That crew in a boat, and wouldn't you know the devil'd be coxswain?' he called loudly, and buried his face.
'No,' he said, looking up at us, 'I pray for no storm, but, by the Lord's mercy, for a way to your hearts through fire or water. And now on deck, my lads, while your beds are made up. Three blind things we verily are.'
Captain Welsh showed he was sharp of hearing. His allusion to the humming of the tune of the mice gave Temple a fit of remorse, and he apologized.
'Ay,' said the captain, 'it is so; own it: frivolity's the fruit of that training that's all for the flesh. But dip you into some o' my books on my shelves here, and learn to see living man half skeleton, like life and shadow, and never to living man need you pray forgiveness, my lad.'
By sheer force of character he gained the command of our respect. Though we agreed on deck that he had bungled his story, it impressed us; we felt less able to cope with him, and less willing to encounter a storm.
'We shall have one, of course,' Temple said, affecting resignation, with a glance aloft.
I was superstitiously of the same opinion, and praised the vessel.
'Oh, Priscilla's the very name of a ship that founders with all hands and sends a bottle on shore,' said Temple.
'There isn't a bottle on board,' said I; and this piece of nonsense helped us to sleep off our gloom.
I MEET OLD FRIENDS
Notwithstanding the prognostications it pleased us to indulge, we had a tolerably smooth voyage. On a clear cold Sunday morning we were sailing between a foreign river's banks, and Temple and I were alternately reading a chapter out of the Bible to the assembled ship's crew, in advance of the captain's short exhortation. We had ceased to look at ourselves inwardly, and we hardly thought it strange. But our hearts beat for a view of the great merchant city, which was called a free city, and therefore, Temple suggested, must bear certain portions of resemblance to old England; so we made up our minds to like it.
'A wonderful place for beer cellars,' a sailor observed to us slyly, and hitched himself up from the breech to the scalp.
At all events, it was a place where we could buy linen.
For that purpose, Captain Welsh handed us over to the care of his trusted mate Mr. Joseph Double, and we were soon in the streets of the city, desirous of purchasing half their contents. My supply of money was not enough for what I deemed necessary purchases. Temple had split his clothes, mine were tarred; we were appearing at a disadvantage, and we intended to dine at a good hotel and subsequently go to a theatre. Yet I had no wish to part with my watch. Mr. Double said it might be arranged. It was pawned at a shop for a sum equivalent in our money to about twelve pounds, and Temple obliged me by taking charge of the ticket. Thus we were enabled to dress suitably and dine pleasantly, and, as Mr. Double remarked, no one could rob me of my gold watch now. We visited a couple of beer-cellars to taste the drink of the people, and discovered three of our men engaged in a similar undertaking. I proposed that it should be done at my expense. They praised their captain, but asked us, as gentlemen and scholars, whether it was reasonable to object to liquor because your brother was carried out on a high tide? Mr. Double commended them to moderation. Their reply was to estimate an immoderate amount of liquor as due to them, with profound composure.
'Those rascals,' Mr. Double informed us, 'are not in the captain's confidence they're tidy seamen, though, and they submit to the captain's laws on board and have their liberty ashore.'
We inquired what the difference was between their privileges and his.
'Why,' said he, 'if they're so much as accused of a disobedient act, off they 're scurried, and lose fair wages and a kind captain. And let any man Jack of 'em accuse me, and he bounds a india-rubber ball against a wall and gets it; all he meant to give he gets. Once you fix the confidence of your superior, you're waterproof.'
We held our peace, but we could have spoken.
Mr. Double had no moral hostility toward theatres. Supposing he did not relish the performance, he could enjoy a spell in the open air, he said, and this he speedily decided to do. Had we not been bound in honour to remain for him to fetch us, we also should have retired from a representation of which we understood only the word ja. It was tiresome to be perpetually waiting for the return of this word. We felt somewhat as dogs must feel when human speech is addressed to them. Accordingly, we professed, without concealment, to despise the whole performance. I reminded Temple of a saying of the Emperor Charles V. as to a knowledge of languages.
'Hem!' he went critically; 'it's all very well for a German to talk in that way, but you can't be five times an Englishman if you're a foreigner.'
We heard English laughter near us. Presently an English gentleman accosted us.
'Mr. Villiers, I believe?' He bowed at me.
'My name is Richmond.'
He bowed again, with excuses, talked of the Play, and telegraphed to a lady sitting in a box fronting us. I saw that she wrote on a slip of paper; she beckoned; the gentleman quitted us, and soon after placed a twisted note in my hand. It ran:
'Miss Goodwin (whose Christian name is Clara) wishes very much to know how it has fared with Mr. Harry Richmond since he left Venice.'
I pushed past a number of discontented knees, trying, on my way to her box, to recollect her vividly, but I could barely recollect her at all, until I had sat beside her five minutes. Colonel Goodwin was asleep in a corner of the box. Awakened by the sound of his native tongue, he recognized me immediately.
'On your way to your father?' he said, as he shook my hand.
I thought it amazing he should guess that in Germany.
'Do you know where he is, sir?' I asked.
'We saw him,' replied the colonel; 'when was it, Clara? A week or ten days ago.'
'Yes,' said Miss Goodwin; 'we will talk of that by-and-by.' And she overflowed with comments on my personal appearance, and plied me with questions, but would answer none of mine.
I fetched Temple into the box to introduce him. We were introduced in turn to Captain Malet, the gentleman who had accosted me below.
'You understand German, then?' said Miss Goodwin.
She stared at hearing that we knew only the word ja, for it made our presence in Germany unaccountable.
'The most dangerous word of all,' said Colonel Goodwin, and begged us always to repeat after it the negative nein for an antidote.
'You have both seen my father?' I whispered to Miss Goodwin; 'both? We have been separated. Do tell me everything. Don't look at the stage-they speak such nonsense. How did you remember me? How happy I am to have met you! Oh! I haven't forgotten the gondolas and the striped posts, and stali and the other word; but soon after we were separated, and I haven't seen him since.'
She touched her father's arm.
'At once, if you like,' said he, jumping up erect.
'In Germany was it?' I persisted.
She nodded gravely and leaned softly on my arm while we marched out of the theatre to her hotel—I in such a state of happiness underlying bewilderment and strong expectation that I should have cried out loud had not pride in my partner restrained me. At her tea-table I narrated the whole of my adventure backwards to the time of our parting in Venice, hurrying it over as quick as I could, with the breathless termination, 'And now?'
They had an incomprehensible reluctance to perform their part of the implied compact. Miss Goodwin looked at Captain Malet. He took his leave. Then she said, 'How glad I am you have dropped that odious name of Roy! Papa and I have talked of you frequently—latterly very often. I meant to write to you, Harry Richmond. I should have done it the moment we returned to England.'
'You must know,' said the colonel, 'that I am an amateur inspector of fortresses, and my poor Clara has to trudge the Continent with me to pick up the latest inventions in artillery and other matters, for which I get no thanks at head-quarters—but it 's one way of serving one's country when the steel lies rusting. We are now for home by way of Paris. I hope that you and your friend will give us your company. I will see this Captain Welsh of yours before we start. Clara, you decided on dragging me to the theatre to-night with your usual admirable instinct.'
I reminded Miss Goodwin of my father being in Germany.
'Yes, he is at one of the Courts, a long distance from here,' she said, rapidly. 'And you came by accident in a merchant-ship! You are one of those who are marked for extraordinary adventures. Confess: you would have set eyes on me, and not known me. It's a miracle that I should meet my little friend Harry—little no longer my friend all the same, are you not?'
I hoped so ardently.
She with great urgency added, 'Then come with us. Prove that you put faith in our friendship.'
In desperation I exclaimed, 'But I must, I must hear of my father.'
She turned to consult the colonel's face.
'Certainly,' he said, and eulogized a loving son. 'Clara will talk to you. I'm for bed. What was the name of the play we saw this evening? Oh! Struensee, to be sure. We missed the scaffold.'
He wished us good-night on an appointment of the hour for breakfast, and ordered beds for us in the hotel.
Miss Goodwin commenced: 'But really I have nothing to tell you, or very little. You know, Papa has introductions everywhere; we are like Continental people, and speak a variety of languages, and I am almost a foreigner, we are so much abroad; but I do think English boys should be educated at home: I hope you'll go to an English college.'
Noticing my painful look, 'We saw him at the Court of the Prince of Eppenwelzen,' she said, as if her brows ached. 'He is very kindly treated there; he was there some weeks ago. The place lies out in the Hanover direction, far from here. He told us that you were with your grandfather, and I must see Riversley Grange, and the truth is you must take me there. I suspect you have your peace to make; perhaps I shall help you, and be a true Peribanou. We go over Amsterdam, the Hague, Brussels, and you shall see the battlefield, Paris, straight to London. Yes, you are fickle; you have not once called me Peribanou.'
Her voluble rattling succeeded in fencing off my questions before I could exactly shape them, as I staggered from blind to blind idea, now thinking of the sombre red Bench, and now of the German prince's Court.
'Won't you tell me any more to-night?' I said, when she paused.
'Indeed, I have not any more to tell,' she assured me.
It was clear to me that she had joined the mysterious league against my father. I began to have a choking in the throat. I thanked her and wished her good-night while I was still capable of smiling.
At my next interview with Colonel Goodwin he spoke promptly on the subject of my wanderings. I was of an age, he said, to know my own interests. No doubt filial affection was excellent in its way, but in fact it was highly questionable whether my father was still at the Court of this German prince; my father had stated that he meant to visit England to obtain an interview with his son, and I might miss him by a harum-scarum chase over Germany. And besides, was I not offending my grandfather and my aunt, to whom I owed so much? He appealed to my warmest feelings on their behalf. This was just the moment, he said, when there was a turning-point in my fortunes. He could assure me most earnestly that I should do no good by knocking at this prince's doors, and have nothing but bitterness if I did in the end discover my father. 'Surely you understand the advantages of being bred a gentleman?' he wound up. 'Under your grandfather's care you have a career before you, a fine fortune in prospect, everything a young man can wish for. And I must tell you candidly, you run great risk of missing all these things by hunting your father to earth. Give yourself a little time: reflect on it.'
'I have,' I cried. 'I have come out to find him, and I must.'
The colonel renewed his arguments and persuasions until he was worn out. I thanked him continually for his kindness. Clara Goodwin besought me in a surprising manner to accompany her to England, called herself Peribanou, and with that name conjured up my father to my eyes in his breathing form. She said, as her father had done, that I was called on now to decide upon my future: she had a presentiment that evil would come to me of my unchecked, headstrong will, which she dignified by terming it a true but reckless affection: she believed she had been thrown in my path to prove herself a serviceable friend, a Peribanou of twenty-six who would not expect me to marry her when she had earned my gratitude.
They set Temple on me, and that was very funny. To hear him with his 'I say, Richie, come, perhaps it's as well to know where a thing should stop; your father knows you're at Riversley, and he'll be after you when convenient; and just fancy the squire!' was laughable. He had some anxiety to be home again, or at least at Riversley. I offered him to Miss Goodwin.
She reproached me and coaxed me; she was exceedingly sweet. 'Well,' she said, in an odd, resigned fashion, 'rest a day with us; will you refuse me that?'
I consented; she knew not with what fretfulness. We went out to gaze at the shops and edifices, and I bought two light bags for slinging over the shoulder, two nightshirts, toothbrushes, and pocket-combs, and a large map of Germany. By dint of vehement entreaties I led her to point to the territory of the Prince of Eppenwelzen-Sarkeld. 'His income is rather less than that of your grandfather, friend Harry,' she remarked. I doated on the spot until I could have dropped my finger on it blindfold.
Two or three pitched battles brought us to a friendly arrangement. The colonel exacted my promise that if I saw my father at Sarkeld in Eppenwelzen I would not stay with him longer than seven days: and that if he was not there I would journey home forthwith. When I had yielded the promise frankly on my honour, he introduced me to a banker of the city, who agreed to furnish me money to carry me on to England in case I should require it. A diligence engaged to deliver me within a few miles of Sarkeld. I wrote a letter to my aunt Dorothy, telling her facts, and one to the squire, beginning, 'We were caught on our arrival in London by the thickest fog ever remembered,' as if it had been settled on my departure from Riversley that Temple and I were bound for London. Miss Goodwin was my post-bag. She said when we had dined, about two hours before the starting of the diligence, 'Don't you think you ought to go and wish that captain of the vessel you sailed in goodbye?' I fell into her plot so far as to walk down to the quays on the river-side and reconnoitre the ship. But there I saw my prison. I kissed my hand to Captain Welsh's mainmast rather ironically, though not without regard for him. Miss Goodwin lifted her eyelids at our reappearance. As she made no confession of her treason I did not accuse her, and perhaps it was owing to a movement of her conscience that at our parting she drew me to her near enough for a kiss to come of itself.
Four-and-twenty German words of essential service to a traveller in Germany constituted our knowledge of the language, and these were on paper transcribed by Miss Goodwin's own hand. In the gloom of the diligence, packed between Germans of a size that not even Tacitus had prepared me for, smoked over from all sides, it was a fascinating study. Temple and I exchanged the paper half-hourly while the light lasted. When that had fled, nothing was left us to combat the sensation that we were in the depths of a manure-bed, for the windows were closed, the tobacco-smoke thickened, the hides of animals wrapping our immense companions reeked; fire occasionally glowed in their pipe-bowls; they were silent, and gave out smoke and heat incessantly, like inanimate forces of nature. I had most fantastic ideas,—that I had taken root and ripened, and must expect my head to drop off at any instant: that I was deep down, wedged in the solid mass of the earth. But I need not repeat them: they were accurately translated in imagination from my physical miseries. The dim revival of light, when I had well-nigh ceased to hope for it, showed us all like malefactors imperfectly hanged, or drowned wretches in a cabin under water. I had one Colossus bulging over my shoulder! Temple was blotted out. His face, emerging from beneath a block of curly bearskin, was like that of one frozen in wonderment. Outside there was a melting snow on the higher hills; the clouds over them grew steel-blue. We were going through a valley in a fir-forest.
WE ARE ACCOSTED BY A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE LADY IN THE FOREST
Bowls of hot coffee and milk, with white rolls of bread to dip in them, refreshed us at a forest inn. For some minutes after the meal Temple and I talked like interchangeing puffs of steam, but soon subsided to our staring fit. The pipes were lit again. What we heard sounded like a language of the rocks and caves, and roots plucked up, a language of gluttons feasting; the word ja was like a door always on the hinge in every mouth. Dumpy children, bulky men, compressed old women with baked faces, and comical squat dogs, kept the villages partly alive. We observed one young urchin sitting on a stone opposite a dog, and he and the dog took alternate bites off a platter-shaped cake, big enough to require both his hands to hold it. Whether the dog ever snapped more than his share was matter of speculation to us. It was an education for him in good manners, and when we were sitting at dinner we wished our companions had enjoyed it. They fed with their heads in their plates, splashed and clattered jaws, without paying us any hospitable attention whatever, so that we had the dish of Lazarus. They were perfectly kind, notwithstanding, and allowed a portion of my great map of Germany to lie spread over their knees in the diligence, whilst Temple and I pored along the lines of the rivers. One would thrust his square-nailed finger to the name of a city and pronounce it; one gave us lessons in the expression of the vowels, with the softening of three of them, which seemed like a regulation drill movement for taking an egg into the mouth, and showing repentance of the act. 'Sarkeld,' we exclaimed mutually, and they made a galloping motion of their hands, pointing beyond the hills. Sarkeld was to the right, Sarkeld to the left, as the road wound on. Sarkeld was straight in front of us when the conductor, according to directions he had received, requested us to alight and push through this endless fir-forest up a hilly branch road, and away his hand galloped beyond it, coming to a deep place, and then to grapes, then to a tip-toe station, and under it lay Sarkeld. The pantomime was not bad. We waved our hand to the diligence, and set out cheerfully, with our bags at our backs, entering a gorge in the fir-covered hills before sunset, after starting the proposition—Does the sun himself look foreign in a foreign country?
'Yes, he does,' said Temple; and so I thought, but denied it, for by the sun's favour I hoped to see my father that night, and hail Apollo joyfully in the morning; a hope that grew with exercise of my limbs. Beautiful cascades of dark bright water leaped down the gorge; we chased an invisible animal. Suddenly one of us exclaimed, 'We 're in a German forest'; and we remembered grim tales of these forests, their awful castles, barons, knights, ladies, long-bearded dwarfs, gnomes and thin people. I commenced a legend off-hand.
'No, no,' said Temple, as if curdling; 'let's call this place the mouth of Hades. Greek things don't make you feel funny.'
I laughed louder than was necessary, and remarked that I never had cared so much for Greek as on board Captain Welsh's vessel.
'It's because he was all on the opposite tack I went on quoting,' said Temple. 'I used to read with my father in the holidays, and your Rev. Simon has kept you up to the mark; so it was all fair. It 's not on our consciences that we crammed the captain about our knowledge.'
'No. I'm glad of it,' said I.
Temple pursued, 'Whatever happens to a fellow, he can meet anything so long as he can say—I 've behaved like a man of honour. And those German tales—they only upset you. You don't see the reason of the thing. Why is a man to be haunted half his life? Well, suppose he did commit a murder. But if he didn't, can't he walk through an old castle without meeting ghosts? or a forest?'
The dusky scenery of a strange land was influencing Temple. It affected me so, I made the worst of it for a cure.
'Fancy those pines saying, "There go two more," Temple. Well; and fancy this—a little earth-dwarf as broad as I'm long and high as my shoulder. One day he met the loveliest girl in the whole country, and she promised to marry him in twenty years' time, in return for a sack of jewels worth all Germany and half England. You should have seen her dragging it home. People thought it full of charcoal. She married the man she loved, and the twenty years passed over, and at the stroke of the hour when she first met the dwarf, thousands of bells began ringing through the forest, and her husband cries out, "What is the meaning of it?" and they rode up to a garland of fresh flowers that dropped on her head, and right into a gold ring that closed on her finger, and—look, Temple, look!'
'Where?' asked the dear little fellow, looking in all earnest, from which the gloom of the place may be imagined, for, by suddenly mixing it with my absurd story, I discomposed his air of sovereign indifference as much as one does the surface of a lake by casting a stone in it.
We rounded the rocky corner of the gorge at a slightly accelerated pace in dead silence. It opened out to restorative daylight, and we breathed better and chaffed one another, and, beholding a house with pendent gold grapes, applauded the diligence conductor's expressive pantomime. The opportunity was offered for a draught of wine, but we held water preferable, so we toasted the Priscilla out of the palms of our hands in draughts of water from a rill that had the sound of aspen-leaves, such as I used to listen to in the Riversley meadows, pleasantly familiar.
Several commanding elevations were in sight, some wooded, some bare. We chose the nearest, to observe the sunset, and concurred in thinking it unlike English sunsets, though not so very unlike the sunset we had taken for sunrise on board the Priscilla. A tumbled, dark and light green country of swelling forest-land and slopes of meadow ran to the West, and the West from flaming yellow burned down to smoky crimson across it. Temple bade—me 'catch the disc—that was English enough.' A glance at the sun's disc confirmed the truth of his observation. Gazing on the outline of the orb, one might have fancied oneself in England. Yet the moment it had sunk under the hill this feeling of ours vanished with it. The coloured clouds drew me ages away from the recollection of home.
A tower on a distant hill, white among pines, led us to suppose that Sarkeld must lie somewhere beneath it. We therefore descended straight toward the tower, instead of returning to the road, and struck confidently into a rugged path. Recent events had given me the assurance that in my search for my father I was subject to a special governing direction. I had aimed at the Bench—missed it—been shipped across sea and precipitated into the arms of friends who had seen him and could tell me I was on his actual track, only blindly, and no longer blindly now.
'Follow the path,' I said, when Temple wanted to have a consultation.
'So we did in the London fog!' said he, with some gloom.
But my retort: 'Hasn't it brought us here?' was a silencer.
Dark night came on. Every height stood for a ruin in our eyes, every dip an abyss. It grew bewilderingly dark, but the path did not forsake us, and we expected, at half-hour intervals, to perceive the lights of Sarkeld, soon to be thundering at one of the inns for admission and supper. I could hear Temple rehearsing his German vocabulary, 'Brod, butter, wasser, fleisch, bett,' as we stumbled along. Then it fell to 'Brod, wasser, bett,' and then, 'Bett' by itself, his confession of fatigue. Our path had frequently the nature of a waterway, and was very fatiguing, more agreeable to mount than descend, for in mounting the knees and shins bore the brunt of it, and these sufferers are not such important servants of the footfarer as toes and ankles in danger of tripping and being turned.
I was walking on leveller ground, my head bent and eyes half-shut, when a flash of light in a brook at my feet caused me to look aloft. The tower we had marked after sunset was close above us, shining in a light of torches. We adopted the sensible explanation of this mysterious sight, but were rather in the grip of the superstitious absurd one, until we discerned a number of reddened men.
'Robbers!' exclaimed one of us. Our common thought was, 'No; robbers would never meet on a height in that manner'; and we were emboldened to mount and request their help.
Fronting the tower, which was of white marble, a high tent had been pitched on a green platform semicircled by pines. Torches were stuck in clefts of the trees, or in the fork of the branches, or held by boys and men, and there were clearly men at work beneath the tent at a busy rate. We could hear the paviour's breath escape from them. Outside the ring of torchbearers and others was a long cart with a dozen horses harnessed to it. All the men appeared occupied too much for chatter and laughter. What could be underneath the tent? Seeing a boy occasionally lift one of the flapping corners, we took licence from his example to appease our curiosity. It was the statue of a bronze horse rearing spiritedly. The workmen were engaged fixing its pedestal in the earth.
Our curiosity being satisfied, we held debate upon our immediate prospects. The difficulty of making sure of a bed when you are once detached from your home, was the philosophical reflection we arrived at, for nothing practical presented itself. To arm ourselves we pulled out Miss Goodwin's paper. 'Gasthof is the word!' cried Temple. 'Gasthof, zimmer, bett; that means inn, hot supper, and bed. We'll ask.' We asked several of the men. Those in motion shot a stare at us; the torchbearers pointed at the tent and at an unseen height, muttering 'Morgen.' Referring to Miss Goodwin's paper we discovered this to signify the unintelligible word morning, which was no answer at all; but the men, apparently deeming our conduct suspicious, gave us to understand by rather menacing gestures that we were not wanted there, so we passed into the dusk of the trees, angry at their incivility. Had it been Summer we should have dropped and slept. The night air of a sharp season obliged us to keep active, yet we were not willing to get far away from the torches. But after a time they were hidden; then we saw one moving ahead. The holder of it proved to be a workman of the gang, and between us and him the strangest parley ensued. He repeated the word morgen, and we insisted on zimmer and bett.
'He takes us for twin Caspar Hausers,' sighed Temple.
'Nein,' said the man, and, perhaps enlightened by hearing a foreign tongue, beckoned for us to step at his heels.
His lodging was a woodman's hut. He offered us bread to eat, milk to drink, and straw to lie on: we desired nothing more, and were happy, though the bread was black, the milk sour, the straw mouldy.
Our breakfast was like a continuation of supper, but two little girls of our host, whose heads were cased in tight-fitting dirty linen caps, munched the black bread and drank the sour milk so thankfully, while fixing solemn eyes of wonder upon us, that to assure them we were the same sort of creature as themselves we pretended to relish the stuff. Rather to our amazement we did relish it. 'Mutter!' I said to them. They pointed to the room overhead. Temple laid his cheek on his hand. One of the little girls laid hers on the table. I said 'Doctor?' They nodded and answered 'Princess,' which seemed perfectly good English, and sent our conjectures as to the state of their mother's health astray. I shut a silver English coin in one of their fat little hands.
We now, with the name Sarkeld, craved of their father a direction to that place. At the door of his but he waved his hand carelessly South for Sarkeld, and vigorously West where the tower stood, then swept both hands up to the tower, bellowed a fire of cannon, waved his hat, and stamped and cheered. Temple, glancing the way of the tower, performed on a trumpet of his joined fists to show we understood that prodigious attractions were presented by the tower; we said ja and ja, and nevertheless turned into the Sarkeld path.
Some minutes later the sound of hoofs led us to imagine he had despatched a messenger after us. A little lady on a pony, attended by a tawny-faced great square-shouldered groom on a tall horse, rode past, drew up on one side, and awaited our coming. She was dressed in a grey riding-habit and a warm winter-jacket of gleaming grey fur, a soft white boa loose round her neck, crossed at her waist, white gauntlets, and a pretty black felt hat with flowing rim and plume. There she passed as under review. It was a curious scene: the iron-faced great-sized groom on his bony black charger dead still: his mistress, a girl of about eleven or twelve or thirteen, with an arm bowed at her side, whip and reins in one hand, and slips of golden brown hair straying on her flushed cheek; rocks and trees, high silver firs rising behind her, and a slender water that fell from the rocks running at her pony's feet. Half-a-dozen yards were between the charger's head and the pony's flanks. She waited for us to march by, without attempting to conceal that we were the objects of her inspection, and we in good easy swing of the feet gave her a look as we lifted our hats. That look was to me like a net thrown into moonlighted water: it brought nothing back but broken lights of a miraculous beauty.
Burning to catch an excuse for another look over my shoulder, I heard her voice:
'Young English gentlemen!'
We turned sharp round.
It was she without a doubt who had addressed us: she spurred her pony to meet us, stopped him, and said with the sweetest painful attempt at accuracy in pronouncing a foreign tongue:
'I sthink you go a wrong way?'
Our hats flew off again, and bareheaded, I seized the reply before Temple could speak.
'Is not this, may I ask you, the way to Sarkeld?'
She gathered up her knowledge of English deliberately.
'Yes, one goes to Sarkeld by sthis way here, but to-day goes everybody up to our Bella Vista, and I entreat you do not miss it, for it is some-s-thing to write to your home of.'
'Up at the tower, then? Oh, we were there last night, and saw the bronze horse, mademoiselle.'
'Yes, I know. I called on my poor sick woman in a but where you fell asleep, sirs. Her little ones are my lambs; she has been of our household; she is good; and they said, two young, strange, small gentlemen have gone for Sarkeld; and I supposed, sthey cannot know all go to our Bella Vista to-day.'
'You knew at once we were English, mademoiselle?'
'Yes, I could read it off your backs, and truly too your English eyes are quite open at a glance. It is of you both I speak. If I but make my words plain! My "th" I cannot always. And to understand, your English is indeed heavy speech! not so in books. I have my English governess. We read English tales, English poetry—and sthat is your excellence. And so, will you not come, sirs, up when a way is to be shown to you? It is my question.'
Temple thanked her for the kindness of the offer.
I was hesitating, half conscious of surprise that I should ever be hesitating in doubt of taking the direction toward my father. Hearing Temple's boldness I thanked her also, and accepted. Then she said, bowing:
'I beg you will cover your heads.'
We passed the huge groom bolt upright on his towering horse; he raised two fingers to the level of his eyebrows in the form of a salute.
Temple murmured: 'I shouldn't mind entering the German Army,' just as after our interview with Captain Bulsted he had wished to enter the British Navy.
This was no more than a sign that he was highly pleased. For my part delight fluttered the words in my mouth, so that I had to repeat half I uttered to the attentive ears of our gracious new friend and guide:
'Ah,' she said, 'one does sthink one knows almost all before experiment. I am ashamed, yet I will talk, for is it not so? experiment is a school. And you, if you please, will speak slow. For I say of you English gentlemen, silk you spin from your lips; it is not as a language of an alphabet; it is pleasant to hear when one would lull, but Italian can do that, and do it more—am I right? soft?
'Bella Vista, lovely view,' said I.
'Lovely view,' she repeated.
She ran on in the most musical tongue, to my thinking, ever heard:
'And see my little pensioners' poor cottage, who are out up to Lovely View. Miles round go the people to it. Good, and I will tell you strangers: sthe Prince von Eppenwelzen had his great ancestor, and his sister Markgrafin von Rippau said, "Erect a statue of him, for he was a great warrior." He could not, or he would not, we know not. So she said, "I will," she said, "I will do it in seven days." She does constantly amuse him, everybody at de Court. Immense excitement! For suppose it!—a statue of a warrior on horseback, in perfect likeness, chapeau tricorne, perruque, all of bronze, and his marshal's baton. Eh bien, well, a bronze horse is come at a gallop from Berlin; sthat we know. By fortune a most exalted sculptor in Berlin has him ready,—and many horses pulled him to here, to Lovely View, by post-haste; sthat we know. But we are in extremity of puzzlement. For where is the statue to ride him? where—am I plain to you, sirs?—is sthe Marshal Furst von Eppenwelzen, our great ancestor? Yet the Markgrafin says, "It is right, wait!" She nods, she smiles. Our Court is all at de lake-palace odder side sthe tower, and it is bets of gems, of feathers, of lace, not to be numbered! The Markgrafin says—sthere to-day you see him, Albrecht Wohlgemuth Furst von Eppenwelzen! But no sculptor can have cast him in bronze—not copied him and cast him in a time of seven days! And we say sthis:—Has she given a secret order to a sculptor—you understand me, sirs, commission—where, how, has he sthe likeness copied? Or did he come to our speisesaal of our lake-palace disguised? Oh! but to see, to copy, to model, to cast in bronze, to travel betwixt Berlin and Sarkeld in a time of seven days? No! so-oh! we guess, we guess, we are in exhaustion. And to-day is like an eagle we have sent an arrow to shoot and know not if he will come down. For shall we see our ancestor on horseback? It will be a not-scribable joy! Or not? So we guess, we are worried. At near eleven o'clock a cannon fires, sthe tent is lifted, and we see; but I am impatient wid my breaths for de gun to go.'
I said it would be a fine sight.
'For strangers, yes; you should be of de palace to know what a fine sight! sthe finest! And you are for Sarkeld? You have friends in Sarkeld?'
'My father is in Sarkeld, mademoiselle. I am told he is at the palace.'
'Indeed; and he is English, your fater?'
'Yes. I have not seen him for years; I have come to find him.'
'Indeed; it is for love of him, your fater, sir, you come, and not speak German?'
I signified that it was so.
'She stroked her pony's neck musing.
'Because, of love is not much in de family in England, it is said,' she remarked very shyly, and in recovering her self-possession asked the name of my father.
'His name, mademoiselle, is Mr. Richmond.'
'Mr. Richmond Roy.'
She sprang in her saddle.
'You are son to Mr. Richmond Roy? Oh! it is wonderful.'
'Mademoiselle, then you have seen him lately?'
'Yes, yes! I have seen him. I have heard of his beautiful child, his son; and you it is?'
She studied my countenance a moment.
'Tell me, is he well?' mademoiselle, is he quite well?'
'Oh, yes,' she answered, and broke into smiles of merriment, and then seemed to bite her underlip. 'He is our fun-maker. He must always be well. I owe to him some of my English. You are his son? you were for Sarkeld? You will see him up at our Bella Vista. Quick, let us run.'
She put her pony to a canter up the brown path between the fir-trees, crying that she should take our breath; but we were tight runners, and I, though my heart beat wildly, was full of fire to reach the tower on the height; so when she slackened her pace, finding us close on her pony's hoofs, she laughed and called us brave boys. Temple's being no more than my friend, who had made the expedition with me out of friendship, surprised her. Not that she would not have expected it to be done by Germans; further she was unable to explain her astonishment.
At a turning of the ascent she pointed her whip at the dark knots and lines of the multitude mounting by various paths to behold the ceremony of unveiling the monument.
I besought her to waste no time.
'You must, if you please, attend my pleasure, if I guide you,' she said, tossing her chin.
'I thank you, I can't tell you how much, mademoiselle,' said I.
She answered: 'You were kind to my two pet lambs, sir.'
So we moved forward.
THE STATUE ON THE PROMONTORY
The little lady was soon bowing to respectful salutations from crowds of rustics and others on a broad carriage-way circling level with the height. I could not help thinking how doubly foreign I was to all the world here—I who was about to set eyes on my lost living father, while these people were tip-toe to gaze on a statue. But as my father might also be taking an interest in the statue, I got myself round to a moderate sentiment of curiosity and a partial share of the general excitement. Temple and mademoiselle did most of the conversation, which related to glimpses of scenery, pine, oak, beech-wood, and lake-water, until we gained the plateau where the tower stood, when the giant groom trotted to the front, and worked a clear way for us through a mass of travelling sight-seers, and she leaned to me, talking quite inaudibly amid the laughter and chatting. A band of wind instruments burst out. 'This is glorious!' I conceived Temple to cry like an open-mouthed mute. I found it inspiriting.
The rush of pride and pleasure produced by the music was irresistible. We marched past the tower, all of us, I am sure, with splendid feelings. A stone's throw beyond it was the lofty tent; over it drooped a flag, and flags were on poles round a wide ring of rope guarded by foresters and gendarmes, mounted and afoot. The band, dressed in green, with black plumes to their hats, played in the middle of the ring. Outside were carriages, and ladies and gentlemen on horseback, full of animation; rustics, foresters, town and village people, men, women, and children, pressed against the ropes. It was a day of rays of sunshine, now from off one edge, now from another of large slow clouds, so that at times we and the tower were in a blaze; next the lake-palace was illuminated, or the long grey lake and the woods of pine and of bare brown twigs making bays in it.
Several hands beckoned on our coming in sight of the carriages. 'There he is, then!' I thought; and it was like swallowing my heart in one solid lump. Mademoiselle had free space to trot ahead of us. We saw a tall-sitting lady, attired in sables, raise a finger to her, and nip her chin. Away the little lady flew to a second carriage, and on again, as one may when alive with an inquiry. I observed to Temple, 'I wonder whether she says in her German, "It is my question"; do you remember?' There was no weight whatever in what I said or thought.
She rode back, exclaiming, 'Nowhere. He is nowhere, and nobody knows. He will arrive. But he is not yet. Now,' she bent coaxingly down to me, 'can you not a few words of German? Only a smallest sum! It is the Markgrafin, my good aunt, would speak wid you, and she can no English-only she is eager to behold you, and come! You will know, for my sake, some scrap of German—ja? You will—nicht wahr? Or French? Make your glom-pudding of it, will you?'
I made a shocking plum-pudding of it. Temple was no happier.
The margravine, a fine vigorous lady with a lively mouth and livelier eyes of a restless grey that rarely dwelt on you when she spoke, and constantly started off on a new idea, did me the honour to examine me, much as if I had offered myself for service in her corps of grenadiers, and might do in time, but was decreed to be temporarily wanting in manly proportions.
She smiled a form of excuse of my bungling half-English horrid French, talked over me and at me, forgot me, and recollected me, all within a minute, and fished poor Temple for intelligible replies to incomprehensible language in the same manner, then threw her head back to gather the pair of us in her sight, then eyed me alone.
'C'est peut-etre le fils de son petit papa, et c'est tout dire.'
Such was her summary comment.
But not satisfied with that, she leaned out of the carriage, and, making an extraordinary grimace appear the mother in labour of the difficult words, said, 'Doos yo' laff?'
There was no helping it: I laughed like a madman, giving one outburst and a dead stop.
Far from looking displeased, she nodded. I was again put to the dreadful test.
'Can yo' mak' laff?'
It spurred my wits. I had no speech to 'mak' laff' with. At the very instant of my dilemma I chanced to see a soberly-clad old townsman hustled between two helpless women of the crowd, his pipe in his mouth, and his hat, wig, and handkerchief sliding over his face, showing his bald crown, and he not daring to cry out, for fear his pipe should be trodden under foot.
'He can, your Highness.'
Her quick eyes caught the absurd scene. She turned to one of her ladies and touched her forehead. Her hand was reached out to me; Temple she patted on the shoulder.
'He can—ja: du auch.'
A grand gentleman rode up. They whispered, gazed at the tent, and appeared to speak vehemently. All the men's faces were foreign: none of them had the slightest resemblance to my father's. I fancied I might detect him disguised. I stared vainly. Temple, to judge by the expression of his features, was thinking. Yes, thought I, we might as well be at home at old Riversley, that distant spot! We 're as out of place here as frogs in the desert!
Riding to and fro, and chattering, and commotion, of which the margravine was the centre, went on, and the band played beautiful waltzes. The workmen in and out of the tent were full of their business, like seamen under a storm.
'Fraulein Sibley,' the margravine called.
I hoped it might be an English name. So it proved to be; and the delight of hearing English spoken, and, what was more, having English ears to speak to, was blissful as the leap to daylight out of a nightmare.
'I have the honour to be your countrywoman,' said a lady, English all over to our struggling senses.
We became immediately attached to her as a pair of shipwrecked boats lacking provender of every sort are taken in tow by a well-stored vessel. She knew my father, knew him intimately. I related all I had to tell, and we learnt that we had made acquaintance with her pupil, the Princess Ottilia Wilhelmina Frederika Hedwig, only child of the Prince of Eppenwelzen.
'Your father will certainly be here; he is generally the margravine's right hand, and it's wonderful the margravine can do without him so long,' said Miss Sibley, and conversed with the margravine; after which she informed me that she had been graciously directed to assure me my father would be on the field when the cannon sounded.
'Perhaps you know nothing of Court life?' she resumed. 'We have very curious performances in Sarkeld, and we owe it to the margravine that we are frequently enlivened. You see the tall gentleman who is riding away from her. I mean the one with the black hussar jacket and thick brown moustache. That is the prince. Do you not think him handsome? He is very kind—rather capricious; but that is a way with princes. Indeed, I have no reason to complain. He has lost his wife, the Princess Frederika, and depends upon his sister the margravine for amusement. He has had it since she discovered your papa.'
'Is the gun never going off?' I groaned.
'If they would only conduct their ceremonies without their guns!' exclaimed Miss Sibley. 'The origin of the present ceremony is this: the margravine wished to have a statue erected to an ancestor, a renowned soldier—and I would infinitely prefer talking of England. But never mind. Oh, you won't understand what you gaze at. Well, the prince did not care to expend the money. Instead of urging that as the ground of his refusal, he declared there were no sculptors to do justice to Prince Albrecht Wohlgemuth, and one could not rely on their effecting a likeness. We have him in the dining-hall; he was strikingly handsome. Afterward he pretended—I'm speaking now of the existing Prince Ernest—that it would be ages before the statue was completed. One day the margravine induced him to agree to pay the sum stipulated for by the sculptor, on condition of the statue being completed for public inspection within eight days of the hour of their agreement. The whole Court was witness to it. They arranged for the statue, horse and man, to be exhibited for a quarter of an hour. Of course, the margravine did not signify it would be a perfectly finished work. We are kept at a great distance, that we may not scrutinize it too closely. They unveil it to show she has been as good as her word, and then cover it up to fix the rider to the horse,—a screw is employed, I imagine. For one thing we know about it, we know that the horse and the horseman travelled hither separately. In all probability, the margravine gave the order for the statue last autumn in Berlin. Now look at the prince. He has his eye on you. Look down. Now he has forgotten you. He is impatient to behold the statue. Our chief fear is that the statue will not maintain its balance. Fortunately, we have plenty of guards to keep the people from pushing against it. If all turns out well, I shall really say the margravine has done wonders. She does not look anxious; but then she is not one ever to show it. The prince does. Every other minute he is glancing at the tent and at his watch. Can you guess my idea? Your father's absence leads me to think-oh! only a passing glimmer of an idea—the statue has not arrived, and he is bringing it on. Otherwise, he would be sure to be here. The margravine beckons me.'
'Don't go!' we cried simultaneously.
The Princess Ottilia supplied her place.
'I have sent to our stables for two little pretty Hungarian horses for you two to ride,' she said. 'No, I have not yet seen him. He is asked for, and de Markgrafin knows not at all. He bades in our lake; he has been seen since. The man is exciteable; but he is so sensible. Oh, no. And he is full of laughter. We shall soon see him. Would he not ever be cautious of himself for a son like you?'
Her compliment raised a blush on me.
The patience of the people was creditable to their phlegm. The smoke of pipes curling over the numberless heads was the most stirring thing about them.
Temple observed to me,
'We'll give the old statue a British cheer, won't we, Richie?'
'After coming all the way from England!' said I, in dejection.
'No, no, Richie; you're sure of him now. He 's somewhere directing affairs, I suspect. I say, do let us show them we can ring out the right tune upon occasion. By jingo! there goes a fellow with a match.'
We saw the cannonier march up to the margravine's carriage for orders. She summoned the prince to her side. Ladies in a dozen carriages were standing up, handkerchief in hand, and the gentlemen got their horses' heads on a line. Temple counted nearly sixty persons of quality stationed there. The workmen were trooping out of the tent.
Miss Sibley ran to us, saying,—
'The gun-horror has been commanded. Now then: the prince can scarcely contain himself. The gunner is ready near his gun; he has his frightful match lifted. See, the manager-superintendent is receiving the margravine's last injunctions. How firm women's nerves are! Now the margravine insists on the prince's reading the exact time by her watch. Everybody is doing it. Let us see. By my watch it is all but fifteen minutes to eleven, A.M. Dearest,' she addressed the little princess; 'would you not like to hold my hand until the gun is fired?'
'Dearest,' replied the princess, whether in childish earnest or irony I could not divine, 'if I would hold a hand it would be a gentleman's.'
All eyes were on the Prince of Eppenwelzen, as he gazed toward the covered statue. With imposing deliberation his hand rose to his hat. We saw the hat raised. The cannon was fired and roared; the band struck up a pompous slow march: and the tent-veil broke apart and rolled off. It was like the dawn flying and sunrise mounting.
I confess I forgot all thought of my father for awhile; the shouts of the people, the braying of the brass instruments, the ladies cheering sweetly, the gentlemen giving short, hearty expressions of applause, intoxicated me. And the statue was superb-horse and rider in new bronze polished by sunlight.
'It is life-like! it is really noble! it is a true Prince!' exclaimed Miss Sibley. She translated several exclamations of the ladies and gentlemen in German: they were entirely to the same effect. The horse gave us a gleam of his neck as he pawed a forefoot, just reined in. We knew him; he was a gallant horse; but it was the figure of the Prince Albrecht that was so fine. I had always laughed at sculptured figures on horseback. This one overawed me. The Marshal was acknowledging the salute of his army after a famous victory over the infidel Turks. He sat upright, almost imperceptibly but effectively bending his head in harmony with the curve of his horse's neck, and his baton swept the air low in proud submission to the honours cast on him by his acclaiming soldiery. His three-cornered lace hat, curled wig, heavy-trimmed surcoat, and high boots, reminded me of Prince Eugene. No Prince Eugene—nay, nor Marlborough, had such a martial figure, such an animated high old warrior's visage. The bronze features reeked of battle.
Temple and I felt humiliated (without cause, I granted) at the success of a work of Art that struck us as a new military triumph of these Germans, and it was impossible not to admire it. The little Princess Ottilia clapped hands by fits. What words she addressed to me I know not. I dealt out my stock of German—'Ja, ja—to her English. We were drawn by her to congratulate the margravine, whose hand was then being kissed by the prince: he did it most courteously and affectionately. Other gentlemen, counts and barons, bowed over her hand. Ladies, according to their rank and privileges, saluted her on the cheek or in some graceful fashion. When our turn arrived, Miss Sibley translated for us, and as we were at concert pitch we did not acquit ourselves badly. Temple's remark was, that he wished she and all her family had been English. Nothing was left for me to say but that the margravine almost made us wish we had been German.
Smiling cordially, the margravine spoke, Miss Sibley translated:
'Her Royal Highness asks you if you have seen your father?'
I shook my head.
The Princess Ottilia translated, 'Her Highness, my good aunt, would know, would you know him, did you see him?'
'Yes, anywhere,' I cried.
The margravine pushed me back with a gesture.
'Yes, your Highness, on my honour; anywhere on earth!'
She declined to hear the translation.
Her insulting disbelief in my ability to recognize the father I had come so far to embrace would have vexed me but for the wretched thought that I was losing him again. We threaded the carriages; gazed at the horsemen in a way to pierce the hair on their faces. The little princess came on us hurriedly.
'Here, see, are the horses. I will you to mount. Are they not pretty animals?' She whispered, 'I believe your fater have been hurt in his mind by something. It is only perhaps. Now mount, for de Markgrafin says you are our good guests.'
We mounted simply to show that we could mount, for we would rather have been on foot, and drew up close to the right of the margravine's carriage.
'Hush! a poet is reading his ode,' said the princess. 'It is Count Fretzel von Wolfenstein.'
This ode was dreadful to us, and all the Court people pretended they liked it. When he waved his right hand toward the statue there was a shout from the rustic set; when he bowed to the margravine, the ladies and gentlemen murmured agreeably and smiled. We were convinced of its being downright hypocrisy, rustic stupidity, Court flattery. We would have argued our case, too. I proposed a gallop; Temple said,
'No, we'll give the old statue our cheer as soon as this awful fellow has done. I don't care much for poetry, but don't let me ever have to stand and hear German poetry again for the remainder of my life.'
We could not imagine why they should have poetry read out to them instead of their fine band playing, but supposed it was for the satisfaction of the margravine, with whom I grew particularly annoyed on hearing Miss Sibley say she conceived her Highness to mean that my father was actually on the ground, and that we neither of us, father and son, knew one another. I swore on my honour, on my life, he was not present; and the melancholy in my heart taking the form of extreme irritation, I spoke passionately. I rose in my stirrups, ready to shout, 'Father! here's Harry Richmond come to see you. Where are you!' I did utter something—a syllable or two: 'Make haste!' I think the words were. They sprang from my inmost bosom, addressed without forethought to that drawling mouthing poet. The margravine's face met mine like a challenge. She had her lips tight in a mere lip-smile, and her eyes gleamed with provocation.
'Her Highness,' Miss Sibley translated, 'asks whether you are prepared to bet that your father is not on the ground?'
'Beg her to wait two minutes, and I'll be prepared to bet any sum,' said I.
Temple took one half the circle, I the other, riding through the attentive horsemen and carriage-lines, and making sure the face we sought was absent, more or less discomposing everybody. The poet finished his ode; he was cheered, of course. Mightily relieved, I beheld the band resuming their instruments, for the cheering resembled a senseless beating on brass shields. I felt that we English could do it better. Temple from across the sector of the circle, running about two feet in front of the statue, called aloud,
'Richie! he's not here!'
'Not here!' cried I.
The people gazed up at us, wondering at the tongue we talked.
'Richie! now let 's lead these fellows off with a tiptop cheer!'
Little Temple crowed lustily.
The head of the statue turned from Temple to me.
I found the people falling back with amazed exclamations. I—so prepossessed was I—simply stared at the sudden-flashing white of the statue's eyes. The eyes, from being an instant ago dull carved balls, were animated. They were fixed on me. I was unable to give out a breath. Its chest heaved; both bronze hands struck against the bosom.
'Richmond! my son! Richie! Harry Richmond! Richmond Roy!'
That was what the statue gave forth.
My head was like a ringing pan. I knew it was my father, but my father with death and strangeness, earth, metal, about him; and his voice was like a human cry contending with earth and metal-mine was stifled. I saw him descend. I dismounted. We met at the ropes and embraced. All his figure was stiff, smooth, cold. My arms slid on him. Each time he spoke I thought it an unnatural thing: I myself had not spoken once.
After glancing by hazard at the empty saddle of the bronze horse, I called to mind more clearly the appalling circumstance which had stupefied the whole crowd. They had heard a statue speak—had seen a figure of bronze walk. For them it was the ancestor of their prince; it was the famous dead old warrior of a hundred and seventy years ago set thus in motion. Imagine the behaviour of people round a slain tiger that does not compel them to fly, and may yet stretch out a dreadful paw! Much so they pressed for a nearer sight of its walnut visage, and shrank in the act. Perhaps I shared some of their sensations. I cannot tell: my sensations were tranced. There was no warmth to revive me in the gauntlet I clasped. I looked up at the sky, thinking that it had fallen dark.
MY FATHER BREATHES, MOVES, AND SPEAKS
The people broke away from us like furrowed water as we advanced on each side of the ropes toward the margravine's carriage.
I became a perfectly mechanical creature: incapable, of observing, just capable of taking an impression here and there; and in such cases the impressions that come are stamped on hot wax; they keep the scene fresh; they partly pervert it as well. Temple's version is, I am sure, the truer historical picture. He, however, could never repeat it twice exactly alike, whereas I failed not to render image for image in clear succession as they had struck me at the time. I could perceive that the figure of the Prince Albrecht, in its stiff condition, was debarred from vaulting, or striding, or stooping, so that the ropes were a barrier between us. I saw the little Princess Ottilia eyeing us with an absorbed comprehensive air quite unlike the manner of a child. Dots of heads, curious faces, peering and starting eyes, met my vision. I heard sharp talk in German, and a rider flung his arm, as if he wished to crash the universe, and flew off. The margravine seemed to me more an implacable parrot than a noble lady. I thought to myself: This is my father, and I am not overjoyed or grateful. In the same way, I felt that the daylight was bronze, and I did not wonder at it: nay, I reasoned on the probability of a composition of sun and mould producing that colour. The truth was, the powers of my heart and will were frozen; I thought and felt at random. And I crave excuses for dwelling on such trifling phenomena of the sensations, which have been useful to me by helping me to realize the scene, even as at the time they obscured it.
According to Temple's description, when the statue moved its head toward him, a shudder went through the crowd, and a number of forefingers were levelled at it, and the head moved toward me, marked of them all. Its voice was answered by a dull puling scream from women, and the men gaped. When it descended from the saddle, the act was not performed with one bound, as I fancied, but difficultly; and it walked up to me like a figure dragging logs at its heels. Half-a-dozen workmen ran to arrest it; some townswomen fainted. There was a heavy altercation in German between the statue and the superintendent of the arrangements. The sun shone brilliantly on our march to the line of carriages where the Prince of Eppenwelzen was talking to the margravine in a fury, and he dashed away on his horse, after bellowing certain directions to his foresters and the workmen, by whom we were surrounded; while the margravine talked loudly and amiably, as though everything had gone well. Her watch was out. She acknowledged my father's bow, and overlooked him. She seemed to have made her courtiers smile. The ladies and gentlemen obeyed the wave of her hand by quitting the ground; the band headed a long line of the commoner sort, and a body of foresters gathered the remnants and joined them to the rear of the procession. A liveried groom led away Temple's horse and mine. Temple declared he could not sit after seeing the statue descend from its pedestal.
Her Highness's behaviour roughened as soon as the place was clear of company. She spoke at my father impetuously, with manifest scorn and reproach, struck her silver-mounted stick on the carriage panels, again and again stamped her foot, lifting a most variable emphatic countenance. Princess Ottilia tried to intercede. The margravine clenched her hands, and, to one not understanding her speech, appeared literally to blow the little lady off with the breath of her mouth. Her whole bearing consisted of volleys of abuse, closed by magisterial interrogations. Temple compared her Highness's language to the running out of Captain Welsh's chaincable, and my father's replies to the hauling in: his sentences were short, they sounded like manful protestations; I barely noticed them. Temple's version of it went: 'And there was your father apologizing, and the margravine rating him,' etc. My father, as it happened, was careful not to open his lips wide on account of the plaster, or thick coating of paint on his face. No one would have supposed that he was burning with indignation; the fact being, that to give vent to it, he would have had to exercise his muscular strength; he was plastered and painted from head to foot. The fixture of his wig and hat, too, constrained his skin, so that his looks were no index of his feelings. I longed gloomily for the moment to come when he would present himself to me in his natural form. He was not sensible of the touch of my hand, nor I of his. There we had to stand until the voluble portion of the margravine's anger came to an end. She shut her eyes and bowed curtly to our salute.
'You have seen the last of me, madam,' my father said to her whirling carriage-wheels.
He tried to shake, and strained in his ponderous garments. Temple gazed abashed. I knew not how to act. My father kept lifting his knees on the spot as if practising a walk.
The tent was in its old place covering the bronze horse. A workman stepped ahead of us, and we all went at a strange leisurely pace down the hill through tall pinetrees to where a closed vehicle awaited us. Here were also a couple of lackeys, who deposited my father on a bed of moss, and with much effort pulled his huge boots off, leaving him in red silk stockings. Temple and I snatched his gauntlets; Temple fell backward, but we had no thought of laughter; people were seen approaching, and the three of us jumped into the carriage. I had my father's living hand in mine to squeeze; feeling him scarcely yet the living man I had sought, and with no great warmth of feeling. His hand was very moist. Often I said, 'Dear father!—Papa, I'm so glad at last,' in answer to his short-breathed 'Richie, my little lad, my son Richmond! You found me out; you found me!' We were conscious that his thick case of varnished clothing was against us. One would have fancied from his way of speaking that he suffered from asthma. I was now gifted with a tenfold power of observation, and let nothing escape me.
Temple, sitting opposite, grinned cheerfully at times to encourage our spirits; he had not recovered from his wonderment, nor had I introduced him. My father, however, had caught his name. Temple (who might as well have talked, I thought) was perpetually stealing secret glances of abstracted perusal at him with a pair of round infant's eyes, sucking his reflections the while. My father broke our silence.
'Mr. Temple, I have the honour,' he said, as if about to cough; 'the honour of making your acquaintance; I fear you must surrender the hope of making mine at present.'
Temple started and reddened like a little fellow detected in straying from his spelling-book, which was the window-frame. In a minute or so the fascination proved too strong for him; his eyes wandered from the window and he renewed his shy inspection bit by bit as if casting up a column of figures.
'Yes, Mr. Temple, we are in high Germany,' said my father.
It must have cost Temple cruel pain, for he was a thoroughly gentlemanly boy, and he could not resist it. Finally he surprised himself in his stealthy reckoning: arrived at the full-breech or buttoned waistband, about half-way up his ascent from the red silk stocking, he would pause and blink rapidly, sometimes jump and cough.
To put him at his ease, my father exclaimed, 'As to this exterior,' he knocked his knuckles on the heaving hard surface, 'I can only affirm that it was, on horseback—ahem! particularly as the horse betrayed no restivity, pronounced perfect! The sole complaint of our interior concerns the resemblance we bear to a lobster. Human somewhere, I do believe myself to be. I shall have to be relieved of my shell before I can at all satisfactorily proclaim the fact. I am a human being, believe me.'
He begged permission to take breath a minute.
'I know you for my son's friend, Mr. Temple: here is my son, my boy, Harry Lepel Richmond Roy. Have patience: I shall presently stand unshelled. I have much to relate; you likewise have your narrative in store. That you should have lit on me at the critical instant is one of those miracles which combine to produce overwhelming testimony—ay, Richie! without a doubt there is a hand directing our destiny.' His speaking in such a strain, out of pure kindness to Temple, huskily, with his painful attempt to talk like himself, revived his image as the father of my heart and dreams, and stirred my torpid affection, though it was still torpid enough, as may be imagined, when I state that I remained plunged in contemplation of his stocking of red silk emerging from the full bronzed breech, considering whether his comparison of himself to a shell-fish might not be a really just one. We neither of us regained our true natures until he was free of every vestige of the garb of Prince Albrecht Wohlgemuth. Attendants were awaiting him at the garden-gate of a beautiful villa partly girdled by rising fir-woods on its footing of bright green meadow. They led him away, and us to bath-rooms.
WE PASS A DELIGHTFUL EVENING, AND I HAVE A MORNING VISION
In a long saloon ornamented with stags' horns and instruments of the chase, tusks of boars, spear-staves, boarknives, and silver horns, my father, I, and Temple sat down to a memorable breakfast, my father in his true form, dressed in black silken jacket and knee-breeches, purple-stockings and pumps; without a wig, I thanked heaven to see. How blithely he flung out his limbs and heaved his chest released from confinement! His face was stained brownish, but we drank old Rhine wine, and had no eye for appearances.
'So you could bear it no longer, Richie?' My father interrupted the narrative I doled out, anxious for his, and he began, and I interrupted him.
'You did think of me often, papa, didn't you?'
His eyes brimmed with tenderness.
'Think of you!' he sighed.
I gave him the account of my latest adventures in a few panting breaths, suppressing the Bench. He set my face to front him.
'We are two fools, Mr. Temple,' he said.
'No, sir,' said Temple.
'Now you speak, papa,' said I.
He smiled warmly.
'Richie begins to remember me.'
I gazed at him to show it was true.
'I do, papa—I'm not beginning to.'
At his request, I finished the tale of my life at school. 'Ah, well! that was bad fortune; this is good!' he exclaimed. 'Tis your father, my son: 'tis day-light, though you look at it through a bed-curtain, and think you are half-dreaming. Now then for me, Richie.'
My father went on in this wise excitedly:
'I was laying the foundation of your fortune here, my boy. Heavens! when I was in that bronze shell I was astonished only at my continence in not bursting. You have grown,—you have shot up and filled out. I register my thanks to your grandfather Beltham; the same, in a minor degree, to Captain Jasper Welsh. Between that man Rippenger and me there shall be dealings. He flogged you: let that pass. He exposed you to the contempt of your school-fellows because of a breach in my correspondence with a base-born ferule-swinger. What are we coming to? Richie, my son, I was building a future for you here. And Colonel Goodwin-Colonel Goodwin, you encountered him too, and his marriageable daughter—I owe it to them that I have you here! Well, in the event of my sitting out the period this morning as the presentment of Prince Albrecht, I was to have won something would have astonished that unimpressionable countryman of ours. Goodness gracious, my boy! when I heard your English shout, it went to my marrow. Could they expect me to look down on my own flesh and blood, on my son—my son Richmond—after a separation of years, and continue a statue? Nay, I followed my paternal impulse. Grant that the show was spoilt, does the Markgrafin insist on my having a bronze heart to carry on her pastime? Why, naturally, I deplore a failure, let the cause be what it will. Whose regrets can eclipse those of the principal actor? Quotha! as our old Plays have it. Regrets? Did I not for fifteen minutes and more of mortal time sit in view of a multitude, motionless, I ask you, like a chiselled block of stone,—and the compact was one quarter of an hour, and no farther? That was my stipulation. I told her—I can hold out one quarter of an hour: I pledged myself to it. Who, then, is to blame? I was exposed to view twenty-three minutes, odd seconds. Is there not some ancient story of a monstrous wretch baked in his own bull? My situation was as bad. If I recollect aright, he could roar; no such relief was allowed to me. And I give you my word, Richie, lads both, that while that most infernal Count Fretzel was pouring forth his execrable humdrum, I positively envied the privilege of an old palsied fellow, chief boatman of the forest lake, for, thinks I, hang him! he can nod his head and I can not. Let me assure you, twenty minutes of an ordeal like that,—one posture, mind you, no raising of your eyelids, taking your breath mechanically, and your heart beating—jumping like an enraged balletdancer boxed in your bosom—a literal description, upon my honour; and not only jumping, jumping every now and then, I may say, with a toe in your throat: I was half-choked:—well, I say, twenty minutes, twenty-seven minutes and a half of that, getting on, in fact, to half-an-hour, it is superhuman!—by heavens, it is heroical!
And observe my reward: I have a son—my only one. I have been divided from him for years; I am establishing his fortune; I know he is provided with comforts: Richie, you remember the woman Waddy? A faithful soul! She obtained my consent at last—previously I had objections; in fact, your address was withheld from the woman—to call at your school. She saw Rippenger, a girl of considerable attractions. She heard you were located at Riversley: I say, I know the boy is comfortably provided for; but we have been separated since he was a little creature with curls on his forehead, scarce breeched.'
'Papa, I have been in jacket and trousers I don't know how long.'
'Let me pursue,' said my father. 'And to show you, Richie, it is a golden age ever when you and I are together, and ever shall be till we lose our manly spirit, and we cling to that,—till we lose our princely spirit, which we never will abandon—perish rather!—I drink to you, and challenge you; and, mind you, old Hock wine has charms. If Burgundy is the emperor of wines, Hock is the empress. For youngsters, perhaps, I should except the Hock that gets what they would fancy a trifle pique, turned with age, so as to lose in their opinion its empress flavour.'
Temple said modestly: 'I should call that the margravine of wines.'
My father beamed on him with great approving splendour. 'Join us, Mr. Temple; you are a man of wit, and may possibly find this specimen worthy of you. This wine has a history. You are drinking wine with blood in it. Well, I was saying, the darling of my heart has been torn from me; I am in a foreign land; foreign, that is, by birth, and on the whole foreign. Yes!—I am the cynosure of eyes; I am in a singular posture, a singular situation; I hear a cry in the tongue of my native land, and what I presume is my boy's name: I look, I behold him, I follow a parent's impulse. On my soul! none but a fish-father could have stood against it.
Well, for this my reward is—and I should have stepped from a cathedral spire just the same, if I had been mounted on it—that I, I,—and the woman knows all my secret—I have to submit to the foul tirade of a vixen.
She drew language, I protest, from the slums. And I entreat you, Mr. Temple, with your "margravine of wines"—which was very neatly said, to be sure—note you this curious point for the confusion of Radicals in your after life; her Highness's pleasure was to lend her tongue to the language—or something like it—of a besotted fish-wife; so! very well, and just as it is the case with that particular old Hock you youngsters would disapprove of, and we cunning oldsters know to contain more virtues in maturity than a nunnery of May-blooming virgins, just so the very faults of a royal lady-royal by birth and in temper a termagant—impart a perfume! a flavour! You must age; you must live in Courts, you must sound the human bosom, rightly to appreciate it. She is a woman of the most malicious fine wit imaginable.
She is a generous woman, a magnanimous woman; wear her chains and she will not brain you with her club. She is the light, the centre of every society where she appears, like what shall I say? like the moon in a bowl of old Rhenish. And you will drain that bowl to the bottom to seize her, as it were—catch a correct idea of her; ay, and your brains are drowned in the attempt. Yes, Richie; I was aware of your residence at Riversley. Were you reminded of your wandering dada on Valentine's day? Come, my boy, we have each of us a thousand things to relate. I may be dull—I do not understand what started you on your journey in search of me. An impulse? An accident? Say, a directing angel! We rest our legs here till evening, and then we sup. You will be astonished to hear that you have dined. 'Tis the fashion with the Germans. I promise you good wine shall make it up to you for the return to school-habits. We sup, and we pack our scanty baggage, and we start tonight. Brook no insult at Courts if you are of material value: if not, it is unreservedly a question whether you like kickings.'
My father paused, yawned and stretched, to be rid of the remainder of his aches and stiffness. Out of a great yawn he said:
'Dear lads, I have fallen into the custom of the country; I crave your permission that I may smoke. Wander, if you choose, within hail of me, or sit by me, if you can bear it, and talk of your school-life, and your studies. Your aunt Dorothy, Richie? She is well? I know not her like. I could bear to hear of any misfortune but that she suffered pain.
My father smoked his cigar peacefully. He had laid a guitar on his knees, and flipped a string, or chafed over all the strings, and plucked and thrummed them as his mood varied. We chatted, and watched the going down of the sun, and amused ourselves idly, fermenting as we were. Anything that gave pleasure to us two boys pleased and at once occupied my father. It was without aid from Temple's growing admiration of him that I recovered my active belief and vivid delight in his presence. My younger days sprang up beside me like brothers. No one talked, looked, flashed, frowned, beamed, as he did! had such prompt liveliness as he! such tenderness! No one was ever so versatile in playfulness. He took the colour of the spirits of the people about him. His vivacious or sedate man-of-the-world tone shifted to playfellow's fun in a twinkling. I used as a little fellow to think him larger than he really was, but he was of good size, inclined to be stout; his eyes were grey, rather prominent, and his forehead sloped from arched eyebrows. So conversational were his eyes and brows that he could persuade you to imagine he was carrying on a dialogue without opening his mouth. His voice was charmingly clear; his laughter confident, fresh, catching, the outburst of his very self, as laughter should be. Other sounds of laughter were like echoes.
Strange to say, I lost the links of my familiarity with him when he left us on a short visit to his trunks and portmanteaux, and had to lean on Temple, who tickled but rejoiced me by saying: 'Richie, your father is just the one I should like to be secretary to.'
We thought it a pity to have to leave this nice foreign place immediately. I liked the scenery, and the wine, and what I supposed to be the habit of the gentlemen here to dress in silks. On my father's return to us I asked him if we could not stay till morning.
'Till morning, then,' he said: 'and to England with the first lark.'
His complexion was ruddier; his valet had been at work to restore it; he was getting the sanguine hue which coloured my recollection of him. Wearing a black velvet cap and a Spanish furred cloak, he led us over the villa. In Sarkeld he resided at the palace, and generally at the lake-palace on the removal of the Court thither. The margravine had placed the villa, which was her own property, at his disposal, the better to work out their conspiracy.
'It would have been mine!' said my father, bending suddenly to my ear, and humming his philosophical 'heigho,' as he stepped on in minuet fashion. We went through apartments rich with gilded oak and pine panellings: in one was a rough pattern of a wooden horse opposite a mirror; by no means a figure of a horse, but apparently a number of pieces contributed by a carpenter's workshop, having a rueful seat in the middle. My father had practised the attitude of Prince Albrecht Wohlgemuth on it. 'She timed me five and twenty minutes there only yesterday,' he said; and he now supposed he had sat the bronze horse as a statue in public view exactly thirty-seven minutes and a quarter. Tubs full of colouring liquid to soak the garments of the prince, pots of paint, and paint and plaster brushes, hinted the magnitude of the preparations.
'Here,' said my father in another apartment, 'I was this morning apparelled at seven o'clock: and I would have staked my right arm up to the collar-bone on the success of the undertaking!'
'Weren't they sure to have found it out in the end, papa?' I inquired.
'I am not so certain of that,' he rejoined: 'I cannot quaff consolation from that source. I should have been covered up after exhibition; I should have been pronounced imperfect in my fitting-apparatus; the sculptor would have claimed me, and I should have been enjoying the fruits of a brave and harmless conspiracy to do honour to an illustrious prince, while he would have been moulding and casting an indubitable bronze statue in my image. A fig for rumours! We show ourself; we are caught from sight; we are again on show. Now this being successfully done, do you see, Royalty declines to listen to vulgar tattle. Presumably, Richie, it was suspected by the Court that the margravine had many months ago commanded the statue at her own cost, and had set her mind on winning back the money. The wonder of it was my magnificent resemblance to the defunct. I sat some three hours before the old warrior's portraits in the dining-saloon of the lake-palace. Accord me one good spell of meditation over a tolerable sketch, I warrant myself to represent him to the life, provided that he was a personage: I incline to stipulate for handsome as well. On my word of honour as a man and a gentleman, I pity the margravine—my poor good Frau Feldmarschall! Now, here, Richie,'—my father opened a side-door out of an elegant little room into a spacious dark place, 'here is her cabinet-theatre, where we act German and French comediettas in Spring and Autumn. I have superintended it during the two or more years of my stay at the Court. Humph! 'tis over.'
He abruptly closed the door. His dress belonged to the part of a Spanish nobleman, personated by him in a Play called The Hidalgo Enraged, he said, pointing a thumb over his shoulder at the melancholy door, behind which gay scenes had sparkled.
'Papa!' said I sadly, for consolation.
'You're change for a sovereign to the amount of four hundred and forty-nine thousand shillings every time you speak!' cried he, kissing my forehead.
He sparkled in good earnest on hearing that I had made acquaintance with the little Princess Ottilia. What I thought of her, how she looked at me, what I said to her, what words she answered, how the acquaintance began, who were observers of it,—I had to repair my omission to mention her by furnishing a precise description of the circumstances, describing her face and style, repeating her pretty English.
My father nodded: he thought I exaggerated that foreign English of hers; but, as I said, I was new to it and noticed it. He admitted the greater keenness of attention awakened by novelty.
'Only,' said he, 'I rather wonder—' and here he smiled at me inquiringly. ''Tis true,' he added, 'a boy of fourteen or fifteen—ay, Richie, have your fun out. A youngster saw the comic side of her. Do you know, that child has a remarkable character? Her disposition is totally unfathomable. You are a deep reader of English poetry, I hope; she adores it, and the English Navy. She informed me that if she had been the English people she would have made Nelson king. The Royal family of England might see objections to that, I told her. Cries she: "Oh! anything for a sea-hero." You will find these young princes and princesses astonishingly revolutionary when they entertain brains. Now at present, just at present, an English naval officer, and a poet, stand higher in the esteem of that young Princess Ottilia than dukes, kings, or emperors. So you have seen her!' my father ejaculated musingly, and hummed, and said: 'By the way, we must be careful not to offend our grandpapa Beltham, Richie. Good acres—good anchorage; good coffers—good harbourage. Regarding poetry, my dear boy, you ought to be writing it, for I do—the diversion of leisure hours, impromptus. In poetry, I would scorn anything but impromptus. I was saying, Richie, that if tremendous misfortune withholds from you your legitimate prestige, you must have the substantial element. 'Tis your springboard to vault by, and cushions on the other side if you make a miss and fall. 'Tis the essence if you have not the odour.'
I followed my father's meaning as the shadow of a bird follows it in sunlight; it made no stronger an impression than a flying shadow on the grass; still I could verify subsequently that I had penetrated him—I had caught the outline of his meaning—though I was little accustomed to his manner of communicating his ideas: I had no notion of what he touched on with the words, prestige, essence, and odour.
My efforts to gather the reason for his having left me neglected at school were fruitless. 'Business, business! sad necessity! hurry, worry-the-hounds!' was his nearest approach to an explicit answer; and seeing I grieved his kind eyes, I abstained. Nor did I like to defend Mr. Rippenger for expecting to be paid. We came to that point once or twice, when so sharply wronged did he appear, and vehement and indignant, that I banished thoughts which marred my luxurious contentment in hearing him talk and sing, and behave in his old ways and new habits.