The Pilgrims Of The Rhine
E. Bulwer Lytton
Part 2 out of 5
by the ties of duty; and at least he was anxious that his hand, his
fortune, his esteem, his gratitude, should give to Lucille the only
recompense it was now in his power to bestow. Meanwhile, left alone so
often with Julie, and Julie bent on achieving the last triumph over his
heart, St. Amand was gradually preparing a far different reward, a far
different return, for her to whom he owed so incalculable a debt.
There was a garden, behind the house, in which there was a small arbour,
where often in the summer evenings Eugene and Lucille had sat
together,--hours never to return! One day she heard from her own
chamber, where she sat mourning, the sound of St. Amand's flute swelling
gently from that beloved and consecrated bower. She wept as she heard
it, and the memories that the music bore softening and endearing his
image, she began to reproach herself that she had yielded so often to the
impulse of her wounded feelings; that chilled by _his_ coldness, she had
left him so often to himself, and had not sufficiently dared to tell him
of that affection which, in her modest self-depreciation, constituted her
only pretension to his love. "Perhaps he is alone now," she thought;
"the air too is one which he knows that I love;" and with her heart in
her step, she stole from the house and sought the arbour. She had scarce
turned from her chamber when the flute ceased; as she neared the arbour
she heard voices,--Julie's voice in grief, St. Amand's in consolation. A
dread foreboding seized her; her feet clung rooted to the earth.
"Yes, marry her, forget me," said Julie; "in a few days you will be
another's, and I--I--forgive me, Eugene, forgive me that I have disturbed
your happiness. I am punished sufficiently; my heart will break, but it
will break in loving you." Sobs choked Julie's voice.
"Oh, speak not thus," said St. Amand. "I, _I_ only am to blame,--I,
false to both, to both ungrateful. Oh, from the hour that these eyes
opened upon you I drank in a new life; the sun itself to me was less
wonderful than your beauty. But--but--let me forget that hour. What do I
not owe to Lucille? I shall be wretched,--I shall deserve to be so; for
shall I not think, Julie, that I have embittered your life with our
ill-fated love? But all that I can give--my hand, my home, my plighted
faith--must be hers. Nay, Julie, nay--why that look? Could I act
otherwise? Can I dream otherwise? Whatever the sacrifice, _must_ I not
render it? Ah, what do I owe to Lucille, were it only for the thought
that but for her I might never have seen thee!"
Lucille stayed to hear no more; with the same soft step as that which had
borne her within hearing of these fatal words, she turned back once more
to her desolate chamber.
That evening, as St. Amand was sitting alone in his apartment, he heard a
gentle knock at the door. "Come in," he said, and Lucille entered. He
started in some confusion, and would have taken her hand, but she gently
repulsed him. She took a seat opposite to him, and looking down, thus
"My dear Eugene, that is, Monsieur St. Amand, I have something on my mind
that I think it better to speak at once; and if I do not exactly express
what I would wish to say, you must not be offended with Lucille: it is
not an easy matter to put into words what one feels deeply." Colouring,
and suspecting something of the truth, St. Amand would have broken in
upon her here; but she with a gentle impatience motioned him to be
silent, and continued:--
"You know that when you once loved me, I used to tell you that you would
cease to do so could you see how undeserving I was of your attachment. I
did not deceive myself, Eugene; I always felt assured that such would be
the case, that your love for me necessarily rested on your affliction.
But for all that I never at least had a dream or a desire but for your
happiness; and God knows, that if again, by walking barefooted, not to
Cologne, but to Rome--to the end of the world--I could save you from a
much less misfortune than that of blindness, I would cheerfully do it;
yes, even though I might foretell all the while that, on my return, you
would speak to me coldly, think of me lightly, and that the penalty to me
would--would be--what it has been!" Here Lucille wiped a few natural
tears from her eyes. St. Amand, struck to the heart, covered his face
with his hands, without the courage to interrupt her. Lucille
"That which I foresaw has come to pass; I am no longer to you what I once
was, when you could clothe this poor form and this homely face with a
beauty they did not possess. You would wed me still, it is true; but I
am proud, Eugene, and cannot stoop to gratitude where I once had love. I
am not so unjust as to blame you; the change was natural, was inevitable.
I should have steeled myself more against it; but I am now resigned. We
must part; you love Julie--that too is natural--and _she_ loves you; ah!
what also more in the probable course of events? Julie loves you, not
yet, perhaps, so much as I did; but then she has not known you as I have,
and she whose whole life has been triumph cannot feel the gratitude that
I felt at fancying myself loved; but this will come--God grant it!
Farewell, then, forever, dear Eugene; I leave you when you no longer want
me; you are now independent of Lucille; wherever you go, a thousand
hereafter can supply my place. Farewell!"
She rose, as she said this, to leave the room; but St. Amand seizing her
hand, which she in vain endeavoured to withdraw from his clasp, poured
forth incoherently, passionately, his reproaches on himself, his eloquent
persuasion against her resolution.
"I confess," said he, "that I have been allured for a moment; I confess
that Julie's beauty made me less sensible to your stronger, your holier,
oh! far, far holier title to my love! But forgive me, dearest Lucille;
already I return to you, to all I once felt for you; make me not curse
the blessing of sight that I owe to you. You must not leave me; never
can we two part. Try me, only try me, and if ever hereafter my heart
wander from you, _then_, Lucille, leave me to my remorse!"
Even at that moment Lucille did not yield; she felt that his prayer was
but the enthusiasm of the hour; she felt that there was a virtue in her
pride,--that to leave him was a duty to herself. In vain he pleaded; in
vain were his embraces, his prayers; in vain he reminded her of their
plighted troth, of her aged parents, whose happiness had become wrapped
in her union with him: "How,--even were it as you wrongly believe,--how,
in honour to them, can I desert you, can I wed another?"
"Trust that, trust all, to me," answered Lucille; "your honour shall be
my care, none shall blame _you_; only do not let your marriage with Julie
be celebrated here before their eyes: that is all I ask, all they can
expect. God bless you! do not fancy I shall be unhappy, for whatever
happiness the world gives you, shall I not have contributed to bestow it?
and with that thought I am above compassion."
She glided from his arms, and left him to a solitude more bitter even
than that of blindness. That very night Lucille sought her mother; to
her she confided all. I pass over the reasons she urged, the arguments
she overcame; she conquered rather than convinced, and leaving to Madame
le Tisseur the painful task of breaking to her father her unalterable
resolution, she quitted Malines the next morning, and with a heart too
honest to be utterly without comfort, paid that visit to her aunt which
had been so long deferred.
The pride of Lucille's parents prevented them from reproaching St. Amand.
He could not bear, however, their cold and altered looks; he left their
house; and though for several days he would not even see Julie, yet her
beauty and her art gradually resumed their empire over him. They were
married at Courtroi, and to the joy of the vain Julie departed to the gay
metropolis of France. But, before their departure, before his marriage,
St. Amand endeavoured to appease his conscience by obtaining for M. le
Tisseur a much more lucrative and honourable office than that he now
held. Rightly judging that Malines could no longer be a pleasant
residence for them, and much less for Lucille, the duties of the post
were to be fulfilled in another town; and knowing that M. le Tisseur's
delicacy would revolt at receiving such a favour from his hands, he kept
the nature of his negotiation a close secret, and suffered the honest
citizen to believe that his own merits alone had entitled him to so
unexpected a promotion.
Time went on. This quiet and simple history of humble affections took
its date in a stormy epoch of the world,--the dawning Revolution of
France. The family of Lucille had been little more than a year settled
in their new residence when Dumouriez led his army into the Netherlands.
But how meanwhile had that year passed for Lucille? I have said that her
spirit was naturally high; that though so tender, she was not weak. Her
very pilgrimage to Cologne alone, and at the timid age of seventeen,
proved that there was a strength in her nature no less than a devotion in
her love. The sacrifice she had made brought its own reward. She
believed St. Amand was happy, and she would not give way to the
selfishness of grief; she had still duties to perform; she could still
comfort her parents and cheer their age; she could still be all the world
to them: she felt this, and was consoled. Only once during the year had
she heard of Julie; she had been seen by a mutual friend at Paris, gay,
brilliant, courted, and admired; of St. Amand she heard nothing.
My tale, dear Gertrude, does not lead me through the harsh scenes of war.
I do not tell you of the slaughter and the siege, and the blood that
inundated those fair lands,--the great battlefield of Europe. The people
of the Netherlands in general were with the cause of Dumouriez, but the
town in which Le Tisseur dwelt offered some faint resistance to his arms.
Le Tisseur himself, despite his age, girded on his sword; the town was
carried, and the fierce and licentious troops of the conqueror poured,
flushed with their easy victory, through its streets. Le Tisseur's house
was filled with drunken and rude troopers; Lucille herself trembled in
the fierce gripe of one of those dissolute soldiers, more bandit than
soldier, whom the subtle Dumouriez had united to his army, and by whose
blood he so often saved that of his nobler band. Her shrieks, her cries,
were vain, when suddenly the troopers gave way. "The Captain! brave
Captain!" was shouted forth; the insolent soldier, felled by a powerful
arm, sank senseless at the feet of Lucille, and a glorious form, towering
above its fellows,--even through its glittering garb, even in that
dreadful hour, remembered at a glance by Lucille,--stood at her side; her
protector, her guardian! Thus once more she beheld St. Amand!
The house was cleared in an instant, the door barred. Shouts, groans,
wild snatches of exulting song, the clang of arms, the tramp of horses,
the hurrying footsteps, the deep music sounded loud, and blended terribly
without. Lucille heard them not,--she was on that breast which never
should have deserted her.
Effectually to protect his friends, St. Amand took up his quarters at
their house; and for two days he was once more under the same roof as
Lucille. He never recurred voluntarily to Julie; he answered Lucille's
timid inquiry after her health briefly, and with coldness, but he spoke
with all the enthusiasm of a long-pent and ardent spirit of the new
profession he had embraced. Glory seemed now to be his only mistress;
and the vivid delusion of the first bright dreams of the Revolution
filled his mind, broke from his tongue, and lighted up those dark eyes
which Lucille had redeemed to day.
She saw him depart at the head of his troops; she saw his proud crest
glancing in the sun; she saw his steed winding through the narrow street;
she saw that his last glance reverted to her, where she stood at the
door; and, as he waved his adieu, she fancied that there was on his face
that look of deep and grateful tenderness which reminded her of the one
bright epoch of her life.
She was right; St. Amand had long since in bitterness repented of a
transient infatuation, had long since distinguished the true Florimel
from the false, and felt that, in Julie, Lucille's wrongs were avenged.
But in the hurry and heat of war he plunged that regret--the keenest of
all--which embodies the bitter words, "TOO LATE!"
Years passed away, and in the resumed tranquillity of Lucille's life the
brilliant apparition of St. Amand appeared as something dreamed of, not
seen. The star of Napoleon had risen above the horizon; the romance of
his early career had commenced; and the campaign of Egypt had been the
herald of those brilliant and meteoric successes which flashed forth from
the gloom of the Revolution of France.
You are aware, dear Gertrude, how many in the French as well as the
English troops returned home from Egypt blinded with the ophthalmia of
that arid soil. Some of the young men in Lucille's town, who had joined
Napoleon's army, came back darkened by that fearful affliction, and
Lucille's alms and Lucille's aid and Lucille's sweet voice were ever at
hand for those poor sufferers, whose common misfortune touched so
thrilling a chord of her heart.
Her father was now dead, and she had only her mother to cheer amidst the
ills of age. As one evening they sat at work together, Madame le Tisseur
said, after a pause,--
"I wish, dear Lucille, thou couldst be persuaded to marry Justin; he
loves thee well, and now that thou art yet young, and hast many years
before thee, thou shouldst remember that when I die thou wilt be alone."
"Ah, cease, dearest mother, I never can marry now; and as for love--once
taught in the bitter school in which I have learned the knowledge of
myself--I cannot be deceived again."
"My Lucille, you do not know yourself. Never was woman loved if Justin
does not love you; and never did lover feel with more real warmth how
worthily he loved."
And this was true; and not of Justin alone, for Lucille's modest virtues,
her kindly temper, and a certain undulating and feminine grace, which
accompanied all her movements, had secured her as many conquests as if
she had been beautiful. She had rejected all offers of marriage with a
shudder; without even the throb of a flattered vanity. One memory,
sadder, was also dearer to her than all things; and something sacred in
its recollections made her deem it even a crime to think of effacing the
past by a new affection.
"I believe," continued Madame le Tisseur, angrily, "that thou still
thinkest fondly of him from whom only in the world thou couldst have
"Nay, Mother," said Lucille, with a blush and a slight sigh, "Eugene is
married to another."
While thus conversing, they heard a gentle and timid knock at the door;
the latch was lifted. "This," said the rough voice of a _commissionaire_
of the town, "this, monsieur, is the house of Madame le Tisseur, and
_voila mademoiselle_!" A tall figure, with a shade over his eyes, and
wrapped in a long military cloak, stood in the room. A thrill shot
across Lucille's heart. He stretched out his arms. "Lucille," said that
melancholy voice, which had made the music of her first youth, "where art
thou, Lucille? Alas! she does not recognize St. Amand."
Thus was it indeed. By a singular fatality, the burning suns and the
sharp dust of the plains of Egypt had smitten the young soldier, in the
flush of his career, with a second--and this time with an
irremediable--blindness! He had returned to France to find his hearth
lonely. Julie was no more,--a sudden fever had cut her off in the midst
of youth; and he had sought his way to Lucille's house, to see if one
hope yet remained to him in the world!
And when, days afterwards, humbly and sadly he re-urged a former suit,
did Lucille shut her heart to its prayer? Did her pride remember its
wound; did she revert to his desertion; did she reply to the whisper of
her yearning love, "_Thou hast been before forsaken_"? That voice and
those darkened eyes pleaded to her with a pathos not to be resisted. "I
am once more necessary to him," was all her thought; "if I reject him who
will tend him?" In that thought was the motive of her conduct; in that
thought gushed back upon her soul all the springs of checked but
unconquered, unconquerable love! In that thought, she stood beside him
at the altar, and pledged, with a yet holier devotion than she might have
felt of yore, the vow of her imperishable truth.
And Lucille found, in the future, a reward, which the common world could
never comprehend. With his blindness returned all the feelings she had
first awakened in St. Amand's solitary heart; again he yearned for her
step, again he missed even a moment's absence from his side, again her
voice chased the shadow from his brow, and in her presence was a sense of
shelter and of sunshine. He no longer sighed for the blessing he had
lost; he reconciled himself to fate, and entered into that serenity of
mood which mostly characterizes the blind.
Perhaps after we have seen the actual world, and experienced its hollow
pleasures, we can resign ourselves the better to its exclusion; and as
the cloister, which repels the ardour of our hope, is sweet to our
remembrance, so the darkness loses its terror when experience has wearied
us with the glare and travail of the day. It was something, too, as they
advanced in life, to feel the chains that bound him to Lucille
strengthening daily, and to cherish in his overflowing heart the
sweetness of increasing gratitude; it was something that he could not see
years wrinkle that open brow, or dim the tenderness of that touching
smile; it was something that to him she was beyond the reach of time, and
preserved to the verge of a grave (which received them both within a few
days of each other) in all the bloom of her unwithering affection, in all
the freshness of a heart that never could grow old!
Gertrude, who had broken in upon Trevylyan's story by a thousand anxious
interruptions, and a thousand pretty apologies for interrupting, was
charmed with a tale in which true love was made happy at last, although
she did not forgive St. Amand his ingratitude, and although she declared,
with a critical shake of the head, that "it was very unnatural that the
mere beauty of Julie, or the mere want of it in Lucille, should have
produced such an effect upon him, if he had ever _really_ loved Lucille
in his blindness."
As they passed through Malines, the town assumed an interest in
Gertrude's eyes to which it scarcely of itself was entitled. She looked
wistfully at the broad market-place, at a corner of which was one of
those out-of-door groups of quiet and noiseless revellers, which Dutch
art has raised from the Familiar to the Picturesque; and then glancing to
the tower of St. Rembauld, she fancied, amidst the silence of noon, that
she yet heard the plaintive cry of the blind orphan, "Fido, Fido, why
hast thou deserted me?"
ROTTERDAM.--THE CHARACTER OF THE DUTCH.--THEIR RESEMBLANCE TO THE
GERMANS.--A DISPUTE BETWEEN VANE AND TREVYLYAN, AFTER THE MANNER OF THE
ANCIENT NOVELISTS, AS TO WHICH IS PREFERABLE, THE LIFE OF ACTION OR THE
LIFE OF REPOSE.--TREVYLYAN'S CONTRAST BETWEEN LITERARY AMBITION AND THE
AMBITION OF PUBLIC LIFE.
OUR travellers arrived at Rotterdam on a bright and sunny day. There is
a cheerfulness about the operations of Commerce,--a life, a bustle, an
action which always exhilarate the spirits at the first glance.
Afterwards they fatigue us; we get too soon behind the scenes, and find
the base and troublous passions which move the puppets and conduct the
But Gertrude, in whom ill health had not destroyed the vividness of
impression that belongs to the inexperienced, was delighted at the
cheeriness of all around her. As she leaned lightly on Trevylyan's arm,
he listened with a forgetful joy to her questions and exclamations at the
stir and liveliness of a city from which was to commence their pilgrimage
along the Rhine. And indeed the scene was rife with the spirit of that
people at once so active and so patient, so daring on the sea, so
cautious on the land. Industry was visible everywhere; the vessels in
the harbour, the crowded boat putting off to land, the throng on the
quay,--all looked bustling and spoke of commerce. The city itself, on
which the skies shone fairly through light and fleecy clouds, wore a
cheerful aspect. The church of St. Lawrence rising above the clean, neat
houses, and on one side trees thickly grouped, gayly contrasted at once
the waters and the city.
"I like this place," said Gertrude's father, quietly; "it has an air of
"And an absence of grandeur," said Trevylyan.
"A commercial people are one great middle-class in their habits and train
of mind," replied Vane; "and grandeur belongs to the extremes,--an
impoverished population and a wealthy despot."
They went to see the statue of Erasmus, and the house in which he was
born. Vane had a certain admiration for Erasmus which his companions did
not share; he liked the quiet irony of the sage, and his knowledge of the
world; and, besides, Vane was at that time of life when philosophers
become objects of interest. At first they are teachers; secondly,
friends; and it is only a few who arrive at the third stage, and find
them deceivers. The Dutch are a singular people. Their literature is
neglected, but it has some of the German vein in its strata,--the
patience, the learning, the homely delineation, and even some traces of
the mixture of the humorous and the terrible which form that genius for
the grotesque so especially German--you find this in their legends and
ghost-stories. But in Holland activity destroys, in Germany indolence
They stayed a day or two at Rotterdam, and then proceeded up the Rhine to
Gorcum. The banks were flat and tame, and nothing could be less
impressive of its native majesty than this part of the course of the
"I never felt before," whispered Gertrude, tenderly, "how much there was
of consolation in your presence; for here I am at last on the Rhine,--the
blue Rhine, and how disappointed I should be if you were not by my side!"
"But, my Gertrude, you must wait till we have passed Cologne, before the
_glories_ of the Rhine burst upon you."
"It reverses life, my child," said the moralizing Vane; "and the stream
flows through dulness at first, reserving its poetry for our
"I will not allow your doctrine," said Trevylyan, as the ambitious ardour
of his native disposition stirred within him. "Life has always action;
it is our own fault if it ever be dull: youth has its enterprise, manhood
its schemes; and even if infirmity creep upon age, the mind, the mind
still triumphs over the mortal clay, and in the quiet hermitage, among
books, and from thoughts, keeps the great wheel within everlastingly in
motion. No, the better class of spirits have always an antidote to the
insipidity of a common career, they have ever energy at will--"
"And never happiness!" answered Vane, after a pause, as he gazed on the
proud countenance of Trevylyan, with that kind of calm, half-pitying
interest which belonged to a character deeply imbued with the philosophy
of a sad experience acting upon an unimpassioned heart. "And in truth,
Trevylyan, it would please me if I could but teach you the folly of
preferring the exercise of that energy of which you speak to the golden
luxuries of REST. What ambition can ever bring an adequate reward? Not,
surely, the ambition of letters, the desire of intellectual renown!"
"True," said Trevylyan, quietly; "that dream I have long renounced; there
is nothing palpable in literary fame,--it scarcely perhaps soothes the
vain, it assuredly chafes the proud. In my earlier years I attempted
some works which gained what the world, perhaps rightly, deemed a
sufficient need of reputation; yet it was not sufficient to recompense
myself for the fresh hours I had consumed, for the sacrifices of pleasure
I had made. The subtle aims that had inspired me were not perceived; the
thoughts that had seemed new and beautiful to me fell flat and lustreless
on the soul of others. If I was approved, it was often for what I
condemned myself; and I found that the trite commonplace and the false
wit charmed, while the truth fatigued, and the enthusiasm revolted. For
men of that genius to which I make no pretension, who have dwelt apart in
the obscurity of their own thoughts, gazing upon stars that shine not for
the dull sleepers of the world, it must be a keen sting to find the
product of their labour confounded with a class, and to be mingled up in
men's judgment with the faults or merits of a tribe. Every great genius
must deem himself original and alone in his conceptions. It is not
enough for him that these conceptions should be approved as good, unless
they are admitted as inventive, if they mix him with the herd he has
shunned, not separate him in fame as he has been separated in soul. Some
Frenchman, the oracle of his circle, said of the poet of the 'Phedre,'
'Racine and the other imitators of Corneille;' and Racine, in his wrath,
nearly forswore tragedy forever. It is in vain to tell the author that
the public is the judge of his works. The author believes himself above
the public, or he would never have written; and," continued Trevylyan,
with enthusiasm, "he _is_ above them; their fiat may crush his glory, but
never his self-esteem. He stands alone and haughty amidst the wrecks of
the temple he imagined he had raised 'To THE FUTURE,' and retaliates
neglect with scorn. But is this, the life of scorn, a pleasurable state
of existence? Is it one to be cherished? Does even the moment of fame
counterbalance the years of mortification? And what is there in literary
fame itself present and palpable to its heir? His work is a pebble
thrown into the deep; the stir lasts for a moment, and the wave closes
up, to be susceptible no more to the same impression. The circle may
widen to other lands and other ages, but around _him_ it is weak and
faint. The trifles of the day, the low politics, the base intrigues,
occupy the tongue, and fill the thought of his contemporaries. He is
less known than a mountebank, or a new dancer; his glory comes not home
to him; it brings no present, no perpetual reward, like the applauses
that wait the actor, or the actor-like murmur of the senate; and this,
which vexes, also lowers him; his noble nature begins to nourish the base
vices of jealousy, and the unwillingness to admire. Goldsmith is
forgotten in the presence of a puppet; he feels it, and is mean; he
expresses it, and is ludicrous. It is well to say that great minds will
not stoop to jealousy; in the greatest minds, it is most frequent.* Few
authors are ever so aware of the admiration they excite as to afford to
be generous; and this melancholy truth revolts us with our own ambition.
Shall we be demigods in our closets at the price of sinking below
mortality in the world? No! it was from this deep sentiment of the
unrealness of literary fame, of dissatisfaction at the fruits it
produced, of fear for the meanness it engendered, that I resigned betimes
all love for its career; and if, by the restless desire that haunts men
who think much to write ever, I should be urged hereafter to literature,
I will sternly teach myself to persevere in the indifference to its
* See the long list of names furnished by Disraeli, in that most
exquisite work, "The Literary Character," vol. ii. p. 75. Plato,
Xenophon, Chaucer, Corneille, Voltaire, Dryden, the Caracci,
Domenico Venetiano, murdered by his envious friend, and the gentle
Castillo fainting away at the genius of Murillo.
"You say as I would say," answered Vane, with his tranquil smile; "and
your experience corroborates my theory. Ambition, then, is not the root
of happiness. Why more in action than in letters?"
"Because," said Trevylyan, "in action we commonly gain in our life all
the honour we deserve: the public judge of men better and more rapidly
than of books. And he who takes to himself in action a high and pure
ambition, associates it with so many objects, that, unlike literature,
the failure of one is balanced by the success of the other. He, the
creator of deeds, not resembling the creator of books, stands not alone;
he is eminently social; he has many comrades, and without their aid he
could not accomplish his designs. This divides and mitigates the
impatient jealousy against others. He works for a cause, and knows early
that he cannot monopolize its whole glory; he shares what he is aware it
is impossible to engross. Besides, action leaves him no time for
brooding over disappointment. The author has consumed his youth in a
work,--it fails in glory. Can he write another work? Bid him call back
another youth! But in action, the labour of the mind is from day to day.
A week replaces what a week has lost, and all the aspirant's fame is of
the present. It is lipped by the Babel of the living world; he is ever
on the stage, and the spectators are ever ready to applaud. Thus
perpetually in the service of others self ceases to be his world; he has
no leisure to brood over real or imaginary wrongs; the excitement whirls
on the machine till it is worn out--"
"And kicked aside," said Vane, "with the broken lumber of men's other
tools, in the chamber of their son's forgetfulness. Your man of action
lasts but for an hour; the man of letters lasts for ages."
"We live not for ages," answered Trevylyan; "our life is on earth, and
not in the grave."
"But even grant," continued Vane--"and I for one will concede the
point--that posthumous fame is not worth the living agonies that obtain
it, how are you better off in your poor and vulgar career of action?
Would you assist the rulers?--servility! The people?--folly! If you
take the great philosophical view which the worshippers of the past
rarely take, but which, unknown to them, is their sole excuse,--namely,
that the changes which _may_ benefit the future unsettle the present; and
that it is not the wisdom of practical legislation to risk the peace of
our contemporaries in the hope of obtaining happiness for their
posterity,--to what suspicions, to what charges are you exposed! You are
deemed the foe of all liberal opinion, and you read your curses in the
eyes of a nation. But take the side of the people. What caprice, what
ingratitude! You have professed so much in theory, that you can never
accomplish sufficient in practice. Moderation becomes a crime; to be
prudent is to be perfidious. New demagogues, without temperance, because
without principle, outstrip you in the moment of your greatest services.
The public is the grave of a great man's deeds; it is never sated; its
maw is eternally open; it perpetually craves for more. Where, in the
history of the world, do you find the gratitude of a people? You find
fervour, it is true, but not gratitude,--the fervour that exaggerates a
benefit at one moment, but not the gratitude that remembers it the next
year. Once disappoint them, and all your actions, all your sacrifices,
are swept from their remembrance forever; they break the windows of the
very house they have given you, and melt down their medals into bullets.
Who serves man, ruler or peasant, serves the ungrateful; and all the
ambitious are but types of a Wolsey or a De Witt."
"And what," said Trevylyan, "consoles a man in the ills that flesh is
heir to, in that state of obscure repose, that serene inactivity to which
you would confine him? Is it not his conscience? Is it not his
self-acquittal, or his self-approval?"
"Doubtless," replied Vane.
"Be it so," answered the high-souled Trevylyan; "the same consolation
awaits us in action as in repose. We sedulously pursue what we deem to
be true glory. We are maligned; but our soul acquits us. Could it do
more in the scandal and the prejudice that assail us in private life?
You are silent; but note how much deeper should be the comfort, how much
loftier the self-esteem; for if calumny attack us in a wilful obscurity,
what have we done to refute the calumny? How have we served our species?
Have we 'scorned delight and loved laborious days'? Have we made the
utmost of the 'talent' confided to our care? Have we done those good
deeds to our race upon which we can retire,--an 'Estate of
Beneficence,'--from the malice of the world, and feel that our deeds are
our defenders? This is the consolation of virtuous actions; is it so
of--even a virtuous--indolence?"
"You speak as a preacher," said Vane,--"I merely as a calculator; you of
virtue in affliction, I of a life in ease."
"Well, then, if the consciousness of perpetual endeavour to advance our
race be not alone happier than the life of ease, let us see what this
vaunted ease really is. Tell me, is it not another name for _ennui_?
This state of quiescence, this objectless, dreamless torpor, this
transition _du lit a la table, de la table au lit_,--what more dreary and
monotonous existence can you devise? Is it pleasure in this inglorious
existence to think that you are serving pleasure? Is it freedom to be
the slave to self? For I hold," continued Trevylyan, "that this jargon
of 'consulting happiness,' this cant of living for ourselves, is but a
mean as well as a false philosophy. Why this eternal reference to self?
Is self alone to be consulted? Is even our happiness, did it truly
consist in repose, really the great end of life? I doubt if we cannot
ascend higher. I doubt if we cannot say with a great moralist, 'If
virtue be not estimable in itself, we can see nothing estimable in
following it for the sake of a bargain.' But, in fact, repose is the
poorest of all delusions; the very act of recurring to self brings about
us all those ills of self from which, in the turmoil of the world, we can
escape. We become hypochondriacs. Our very health grows an object of
painful possession. We are so desirous to be well (for what is
retirement without health?) that we are ever fancying ourselves ill; and,
like the man in the 'Spectator,' we weigh ourselves daily, and live but
by grains and scruples. Retirement is happy only for the poet, for to
him it is _not_ retirement. He secedes from one world but to gain
another, and he finds not _ennui_ in seclusion: why? Not because
seclusion hath _repose_, but because it hath _occupation_. In one word,
then, I say of action and of indolence, grant the same ills to both, and
to action there is the readier escape or the nobler consolation."
Vane shrugged his shoulders. "Ah, my dear friend," said he, tapping his
snuff-box with benevolent superiority, "you are much younger than I am!"
But these conversations, which Trevylyan and Vane often held together,
dull as I fear this specimen must seem to the reader, had an
inexpressible charm for Gertrude. She loved the lofty and generous vein
of philosophy which Trevylyan embraced, and which, while it suited his
ardent nature, contrasted a demeanour commonly hard and cold to all but
herself. And young and tender as she was, his ambition infused its
spirit into her fine imagination, and that passion for enterprise which
belongs inseparably to romance. She loved to muse over his future lot,
and in fancy to share its toils and to exult in its triumphs. And if
sometimes she asked herself whether a career of action might not estrange
him from her, she had but to turn her gaze upon his watchful eye,--and
lo, he was by her side or at her feet!
GORCUM.--THE TOUR OF THE VIRTUES: A PHILOSOPHER'S TALE.
IT was a bright and cheery morning as they glided by Gorcum. The boats
pulling to the shore full of fishermen and peasants in their national
costume; the breeze freshly rippling the waters; the lightness of the
blue sky; the loud and laughing voices from the boats,--all contributed
to raise the spirit, and fill it with that indescribable gladness which
is the physical sense of life.
The tower of the church, with its long windows and its round dial, rose
against the clear sky; and on a bench under a green bush facing the water
sat a jolly Hollander, refreshing the breezes with the fumes of his
"How little it requires to make a journey pleasant, when the companions
are our friends!" said Gertrude, as they sailed along. "Nothing can be
duller than these banks, nothing more delightful than this voyage."
"Yet what tries the affections of people for each other so severely as a
journey together?" said Vane. "That perpetual companionship from which
there is no escaping; that confinement, in all our moments of ill-humour
and listlessness, with persons who want us to look amused--ah, it is a
severe ordeal for friendship to pass through! A post-chaise must have
jolted many an intimacy to death."
"You speak feelingly, dear father," said Gertrude, laughing; "and, I
suspect, with a slight desire to be sarcastic upon us. Yet, seriously, I
should think that travel must be like life, and that good persons must be
always agreeable companions to each other."
"Good persons, my Gertrude!" answered Vane, with a smile. "Alas! I fear
the good weary each other quite as much as the bad. What say you,
Trevylyan,--would Virtue be a pleasant companion from Paris to
Petersburg? Ah, I see you intend to be on Gertrude's side of the
question. Well now, if I tell you a story, since stories are so much the
fashion with you, in which you shall find that the Virtues themselves
actually made the experiment of a tour, will you promise to attend to the
"Oh, dear father, anything for a story," cried Gertrude; "especially from
you, who have not told us one all the way. Come, listen, Albert; nay,
listen to your new rival."
And, pleased to see the vivacity of the invalid, Vane began as follows:--
THE TOUR OF THE VIRTUES:
A PHILOSOPHER'S TALE.
ONCE upon a time, several of the Virtues, weary of living forever with
the Bishop of Norwich, resolved to make a little excursion; accordingly,
though they knew everything on earth was very ill prepared to receive
them, they thought they might safely venture on a tour from Westminster
Bridge to Richmond. The day was fine, the wind in their favour, and as
to entertainment,--why, there seemed, according to Gertrude, to be no
possibility of any disagreement among the Virtues.
They took a boat at Westminster stairs; and just as they were about to
push off, a poor woman, all in rags, with a child in her arms, implored
their compassion. Charity put her hand into her reticule and took out a
shilling. Justice, turning round to look after the luggage, saw the
folly which Charity was about to commit. "Heavens!" cried Justice,
seizing poor Charity by the arm, "what are you doing? Have you never
read Political Economy? Don't you know that indiscriminate almsgiving is
only the encouragement to Idleness, the mother of Vice? You a Virtue,
indeed! I'm ashamed of you. Get along with you, good woman;--yet stay,
there is a ticket for soup at the Mendicity Society; they'll see if
you're a proper object of compassion." But Charity is quicker than
Justice, and slipping her hand behind her, the poor woman got the
shilling and the ticket for soup too. Economy and Generosity saw the
double gift. "What waste!" cried Economy, frowning; "what! a ticket and
a shilling? _either_ would have sufficed."
"Either!" said Generosity, "fie! Charity should have given the poor
creature half-a-crown, and Justice a dozen tickets!" So the next ten
minutes were consumed in a quarrel between the four Virtues, which would
have lasted all the way to Richmond, if Courage had not advised them to
get on shore and fight it out. Upon this, the Virtues suddenly perceived
they had a little forgotten themselves, and Generosity offering the first
apology, they made it up, and went on very agreeably for the next mile or
The day now grew a little overcast, and a shower seemed at hand.
Prudence, who had on a new bonnet, suggested the propriety of putting to
shore for half an hour; Courage was for braving the rain; but, as most of
the Virtues are ladies, Prudence carried it. Just as they were about to
land, another boat cut in before them very uncivilly, and gave theirs
such a shake that Charity was all but overboard. The company on board
the uncivil boat, who evidently thought the Virtues extremely low
persons, for they had nothing very fashionable about their exterior,
burst out laughing at Charity's discomposure, especially as a large
basket full of buns, which Charity carried with her for any
hungry-looking children she might encounter at Richmond, fell pounce into
the water. Courage was all on fire; he twisted his mustache, and would
have made an onset on the enemy, if, to his great indignation, Meekness
had not forestalled him, by stepping mildly into the hostile boat and
offering both cheeks to the foe. This was too much even for the
incivility of the boatmen; they made their excuses to the Virtues, and
Courage, who is no bully, thought himself bound discontentedly to accept
them. But oh! if you had seen how Courage used Meekness afterwards, you
could not have believed it possible that one Virtue could be so enraged
with another. This quarrel between the two threw a damp on the party;
and they proceeded on their voyage, when the shower was over, with
anything but cordiality. I spare you the little squabbles that took
place in the general conversation,--how Economy found fault with all the
villas by the way, and Temperance expressed becoming indignation at the
luxuries of the City barge. They arrived at Richmond, and Temperance was
appointed to order the dinner; meanwhile Hospitality, walking in the
garden, fell in with a large party of Irishmen, and asked them to join
Imagine the long faces of Economy and Prudence, when they saw the
addition to the company! Hospitality was all spirits; he rubbed his
hands and called for champagne with the tone of a younger brother.
Temperance soon grew scandalized, and Modesty herself coloured at some of
the jokes; but Hospitality, who was now half seas over, called the one a
milksop, and swore at the other as a prude. Away went the hours; it was
time to return, and they made down to the water-side, thoroughly out of
temper with one another, Economy and Generosity quarrelling all the way
about the bill and the waiters. To make up the sum of their
mortification, they passed a boat where all the company were in the best
possible spirits, laughing and whooping like mad; and discovered these
jolly companions to be two or three agreeable Vices, who had put
themselves under the management of Good Temper.
"So you see, Gertrude, that even the Virtues may fall at loggerheads with
each other, and pass a very sad time of it, if they happen to be of
opposite dispositions, and have forgotten to take Good Temper with them."
"Ah," said Gertrude, "but you have overloaded your boat; too many Virtues
might contradict one another, but not a few."
"Voila ce que veux dire," said Vane; "but listen to the sequel of my
tale, which now takes a new moral."
At the end of the voyage, and after a long, sulky silence, Prudence said,
with a thoughtful air, "My dear friends, I have been thinking that as
long as we keep so entirely together, never mixing with the rest of the
world, we shall waste our lives in quarrelling amongst ourselves and run
the risk of being still less liked and sought after than we already are.
You know that we are none of us popular; every one is quite contented to
see us represented in a vaudeville, or described in an essay. Charity,
indeed, has her name often taken in vain at a bazaar or a subscription;
and the miser as often talks of the duty he owes to _me_, when he sends
the stranger from his door or his grandson to jail: but still we only
resemble so many wild beasts, whom everybody likes to see but nobody
cares to possess. Now, I propose that we should all separate and take up
our abode with some mortal or other for a year, with the power of
changing at the end of that time should we not feel ourselves
comfortable,--that is, should we not find that we do all the good we
intend; let us try the experiment, and on this day twelvemonths let us
all meet under the largest oak in Windsor Forest, and recount what has
befallen us." Prudence ceased, as she always does when she has said
enough; and, delighted at the project, the Virtues agreed to adopt it on
the spot. They were enchanted at the idea of setting up for themselves,
and each not doubting his or her success,--for Economy in her heart
thought Generosity no Virtue at all, and Meekness looked on Courage as
little better than a heathen.
Generosity, being the most eager and active of all the Virtues, set off
first on his journey. Justice followed, and kept up with him, though at
a more even pace. Charity never heard a sigh, or saw a squalid face, but
she stayed to cheer and console the sufferer,--a kindness which somewhat
retarded her progress.
Courage espied a travelling carriage, with a man and his wife in it
quarrelling most conjugally, and he civilly begged he might be permitted
to occupy the vacant seat opposite the lady. Economy still lingered,
inquiring for the cheapest inns. Poor Modesty looked round and sighed,
on finding herself so near to London, where she was almost wholly
unknown; but resolved to bend her course thither for two reasons: first,
for the novelty of the thing; and, secondly, not liking to expose herself
to any risks by a journey on the Continent. Prudence, though the first
to project, was the last to execute; and therefore resolved to remain
where she was for that night, and take daylight for her travels.
The year rolled on, and the Virtues, punctual to the appointment, met
under the oak-tree; they all came nearly at the same time, excepting
Economy, who had got into a return post-chaise, the horses to which,
having been forty miles in the course of the morning, had foundered by
the way, and retarded her journey till night set in. The Virtues looked
sad and sorrowful, as people are wont to do after a long and fruitless
journey; and, somehow or other, such was the wearing effect of their
intercourse with the world, that they appeared wonderfully diminished in
"Ah, my dear Generosity," said Prudence, with a sigh, "as you were the
first to set out on your travels, pray let us hear your adventures
"You must know, my dear sisters," said Generosity, "that I had not gone
many miles from you before I came to a small country town, in which a
marching regiment was quartered, and at an open window I beheld, leaning
over a gentleman's chair, the most beautiful creature imagination ever
pictured; her eyes shone out like two suns of perfect happiness, and she
was almost cheerful enough to have passed for Good Temper herself. The
gentleman over whose chair she leaned was her husband; they had been
married six weeks; he was a lieutenant with one hundred pounds a year
besides his pay. Greatly affected by their poverty, I instantly
determined, without a second thought, to ensconce myself in the heart of
this charming girl. During the first hour in my new residence I made
many wise reflections such as--that Love never was so perfect as when
accompanied by Poverty; what a vulgar error it was to call the unmarried
state 'Single _Blessedness_;' how wrong it was of us Virtues never to
have tried the marriage bond; and what a falsehood it was to say that
husbands neglected their wives, for never was there anything in nature so
devoted as the love of a husband--six weeks married!
"The next morning, before breakfast, as the charming Fanny was waiting
for her husband, who had not yet finished his toilet, a poor,
wretched-looking object appeared at the window, tearing her hair and
wringing her hands; her husband had that morning been dragged to prison,
and her seven children had fought for the last mouldy crust. Prompted by
me, Fanny, without inquiring further into the matter, drew from her
silken purse a five-pound note, and gave it to the beggar, who departed
more amazed than grateful. Soon after, the lieutenant appeared. 'What
the devil, another bill!' muttered he, as he tore the yellow wafer from a
large, square, folded, bluish piece of paper. 'Oh, ah! confound the
fellow, _he_ must be paid. I must trouble you, Fanny, for fifteen pounds
to pay this saddler's bill.'
"'Fifteen pounds, love?' stammered Fanny, blushing.
"'Yes, dearest, the fifteen pounds I gave you yesterday.'
"'I have only ten pounds,' said Fanny, hesitatingly; 'for such a poor,
wretched-looking creature was here just now, that I was obliged to give
her five pounds.'
"'Five pounds? good Heavens!' exclaimed the astonished husband; 'I shall
have no more money this three weeks.' He frowned, he bit his lips, nay,
he even wrung his hands, and walked up and down the room; worse still, he
broke forth with--'Surely, madam, you did not suppose, when you married a
lieutenant in a marching regiment, that he could afford to indulge in the
whim of giving five pounds to every mendicant who held out her hand to
you? You did not, I say, madam, imagine'--but the bridegroom was
interrupted by the convulsive sobs of his wife: it was their first
quarrel, they were but six weeks married; he looked at her for one moment
sternly, the next he was at her feet. 'Forgive me, dearest
Fanny,--forgive me, for I cannot forgive myself. I was too great a
wretch to say what I did; and do believe, my own Fanny, that while I may
be too poor to indulge you in it, I do from my heart admire so noble, so
disinterested, a generosity.' Not a little proud did I feel to have been
the cause of this exemplary husband's admiration for his amiable wife,
and sincerely did I rejoice at having taken up my abode with these _poor_
people. But not to tire you, my dear sisters, with the minutiae of
detail, I shall briefly say that things did not long remain in this
delightful position; for before many months had elapsed, poor Fanny had
to bear with her husband's increased and more frequent storms of passion,
unfollowed by any halcyon and honeymoon suings for forgiveness: for at my
instigation every shilling went; and when there were no more to go, her
trinkets and even her clothes followed. The lieutenant became a complete
brute, and even allowed his unbridled tongue to call me--me, sisters,
_me_!--'heartless Extravagance.' His despicable brother-officers and
their gossiping wives were no better; for they did nothing but animadvert
upon my Fanny's ostentation and absurdity, for by such names had they the
impertinence to call _me_. Thus grieved to the soul to find myself the
cause of all poor Fanny's misfortunes, I resolved at the end of the year
to leave her, being thoroughly convinced that, however amiable and
praiseworthy I might be in myself, I was totally unfit to be bosom friend
and adviser to the wife of a lieutenant in a marching regiment, with only
one hundred pounds a year besides his pay."
The Virtues groaned their sympathy with the unfortunate Fanny; and
Prudence, turning to Justice, said, "I long to hear what you have been
doing, for I am certain you cannot have occasioned harm to any one."
Justice shook her head and said: "Alas! I find that there are times and
places when even I do better not to appear, as a short account of my
adventures will prove to you. No sooner had I left you than I instantly
repaired to India, and took up my abode with a Brahmin. I was much
shocked by the dreadful inequalities of condition that reigned in the
several castes, and I longed to relieve the poor Pariah from his
ignominious destiny; accordingly I set seriously to work on reform. I
insisted upon the iniquity of abandoning men from their birth to an
irremediable state of contempt, from which no virtue could exalt them.
The Brahmins looked upon my Brahmin with ineffable horror. They called
_me_ the most wicked of vices; they saw no distinction between Justice
and Atheism. I uprooted their society--that was sufficient crime. But
the worst was, that the Pariahs themselves regarded me with suspicion;
they thought it unnatural in a Brahmin to care for a Pariah! And one
called me 'Madness,' another, 'Ambition,' and a third, 'The Desire to
innovate.' My poor Brahmin led a miserable life of it; when one day,
after observing, at my dictation, that he thought a Pariah's life as much
entitled to respect as a cow's, he was hurried away by the priests and
secretly broiled on the altar as a fitting reward for his sacrilege. I
fled hither in great tribulation, persuaded that in some countries even
Justice may do harm."
"As for me," said Charity, not waiting to be asked, "I grieve to say that
I was silly enough to take up my abode with an old lady in Dublin, who
never knew what discretion was, and always acted from impulse; my
instigation was irresistible, and the money she gave in her drives
through the suburbs of Dublin was so lavishly spent that it kept all the
rascals of the city in idleness and whiskey. I found, to my great
horror, that I was a main cause of a terrible epidemic, and that to give
alms without discretion was to spread poverty without help. I left the
city when my year was out, and as ill-luck would have it, just at the
time when I was most wanted."
"And oh," cried Hospitality, "I went to Ireland also. I fixed my abode
with a squireen; I ruined him in a year, and only left him because he had
no longer a hovel to keep me in."
"As for myself," said Temperance, "I entered the breast of an English
legislator, and he brought in a bill against ale-houses; the consequence
was, that the labourers took to gin; and I have been forced to confess
that Temperance may be too zealous when she dictates too vehemently to
"Well," said Courage, keeping more in the background than he had ever
done before, and looking rather ashamed of himself, "that travelling
carriage I got into belonged to a German general and his wife, who were
returning to their own country. Growing very cold as we proceeded, she
wrapped me up in a polonaise; but the cold increasing, I inadvertently
crept into her bosom. Once there I could not get out, and from
thenceforward the poor general had considerably the worst of it. She
became so provoking that I wondered how he could refrain from an
explosion. To do him justice, he did at last threaten to get out of the
carriage; upon which, roused by me, she collared him--and conquered.
When he got to his own district, things grew worse, for if any
_aide-de-camp_ offended her she insisted that he might be publicly
reprimanded; and should the poor general refuse she would with her own
hands confer a caning upon the delinquent. The additional force she had
gained in me was too much odds against the poor general, and he died of a
broken heart, six months after my _liaison_ with his wife. She after
this became so dreaded and detested, that a conspiracy was formed to
poison her; this daunted even me, so I left her without delay,--_et me
"Humph," said Meekness, with an air of triumph, "I, at least, have been
more successful than you. On seeing much in the papers of the cruelties
practised by the Turks on the Greeks, I thought my presence would enable
the poor sufferers to bear their misfortunes calmly. I went to Greece,
then, at a moment when a well-planned and practicable scheme of
emancipating themselves from the Turkish yoke was arousing their youth.
Without confining myself to one individual, I flitted from breast to
breast; I meekened the whole nation; my remonstrances against the
insurrection succeeded, and I had the satisfaction of leaving a whole
people ready to be killed or strangled with the most Christian
resignation in the world."
The Virtues, who had been a little cheered by the opening
self-complacence of Meekness, would not, to her great astonishment, allow
that she had succeeded a whit more happily than her sisters, and called
next upon Modesty for her confession.
"You know," said that amiable young lady, "that I went to London in
search of a situation. I spent three months of the twelve in going from
house to house, but I could not get a single person to receive me. The
ladies declared that they never saw so old-fashioned a gawkey, and
civilly recommended me to their abigails; the abigails turned me round
with a stare, and then pushed me down to the kitchen and the fat
scullion-maids, who assured me that, 'in the respectable families they
had the honour to live in, they had never even heard of my name.' One
young housemaid, just from the country, did indeed receive me with some
sort of civility; but she very soon lost me in the servants' hall. I now
took refuge with the other sex, as the least uncourteous. I was
fortunate enough to find a young gentleman of remarkable talents, who
welcomed me with open arms. He was full of learning, gentleness, and
honesty. I had only one rival,--Ambition. We both contended for an
absolute empire over him. Whatever Ambition suggested, I damped. Did
Ambition urge him to begin a book, I persuaded him it was not worth
publication. Did he get up, full of knowledge, and instigated by my
rival, to make a speech (for he was in parliament), I shocked him with
the sense of his assurance, I made his voice droop and his accents
falter. At last, with an indignant sigh, my rival left him; he retired
into the country, took orders, and renounced a career he had fondly hoped
would be serviceable to others; but finding I did not suffice for his
happiness, and piqued at his melancholy, I left him before the end of the
year, and he has since taken to drinking!"
The eyes of the Virtues were all turned to Prudence. She was their last
hope. "I am just where I set out," said that discreet Virtue; "I have
done neither good nor harm. To avoid temptation I went and lived with a
hermit to whom I soon found that I could be of no use beyond warning him
not to overboil his peas and lentils, not to leave his door open when a
storm threatened, and not to fill his pitcher too full at the
neighbouring spring. I am thus the only one of you that never did harm;
but only because I am the only one of you that never had an opportunity
of doing it! In a word," continued Prudence, thoughtfully,--"in a word,
my friends, circumstances are necessary to the Virtues themselves. Had,
for instance, Economy changed with Generosity, and gone to the poor
lieutenant's wife, and had I lodged with the Irish squireen instead of
Hospitality, what misfortunes would have been saved to both! Alas! I
perceive we lose all our efficacy when we are misplaced; and _then_,
though in reality Virtues, we operate as Vices. Circumstances must be
favourable to our exertions, and harmonious with our nature; and we lose
our very divinity unless Wisdom direct our footsteps to the home we
should inhabit and the dispositions we should govern."
The story was ended, and the travellers began to dispute about its moral.
Here let us leave them.
COLOGNE.--THE TRACES OF THE ROMAN YOKE.--THE CHURCH OF ST.
MARIA.--TREVYLYAN'S REFLECTIONS ON THE MONASTIC LIFE.--THE TOMB OF THE
THREE KINGS.--AN EVENING EXCURSION ON THE RHINE.
ROME--magnificent Rome! wherever the pilgrim wends, the traces of thy
dominion greet his eyes. Still in the heart of the bold German race is
graven the print of the eagle's claws; and amidst the haunted regions of
the Rhine we pause to wonder at the great monuments of the Italian yoke.
At Cologne our travellers rested for some days. They were in the city to
which the camp of Marcus Agrippa had given birth; that spot had resounded
with the armed tread of the legions of Trajan. In that city, Vitellius,
Sylvanus, were proclaimed emperors. By that church did the latter
receive his death.
As they passed round the door they saw some peasants loitering on the
sacred ground; and when they noted the delicate cheek of Gertrude they
uttered their salutations with more than common respect. Where they then
were the building swept round in a circular form; and at its base it is
supposed by tradition to retain something of the ancient Roman masonry.
Just before them rose the spire of a plain and unadorned church,
singularly contrasting the pomp of the old with the simplicity of the
The church of St. Maria occupies the site of the Roman Capitol, and the
place retains the Roman name; and still something in the aspect of the
people betrays the hereditary blood.
Gertrude, whose nature was strongly impressed with _the venerating
character_, was fond of visiting the old Gothic churches, which, with so
eloquent a moral, unite the living with the dead.
"Pause for a moment," said Trevylyan, before they entered the church of
St. Maria. "What recollections crowd upon us! On the site of the Roman
Capitol a Christian church and a convent are erected! By whom? The
mother of Charles Martel,--the Conqueror of the Saracen, the arch-hero of
Christendom itself! And to these scenes and calm retreats, to the
cloisters of the convent once belonging to this church, fled the bruised
spirit of a royal sufferer,-the victim of Richelieu,--the unfortunate and
ambitious Mary de Medicis. Alas! the cell and the convent are but a vain
emblem of that desire to fly to God which belongs to Distress; the
solitude soothes, but the monotony recalls, regret. And for my own part
in my frequent tours through Catholic countries, I never saw the still
walls in which monastic vanity hoped to shut out the world, but a
melancholy came over me! What hearts at war with themselves! what
unceasing regrets! what pinings after the past! what long and beautiful
years devoted to a moral grave, by a momentary rashness, an impulse, a
disappointment! But in these churches the lesson is more impressive and
less sad. The weary heart has ceased to ache; the burning pulses are
still; the troubled spirit has flown to the only rest which is not a
deceit. Power and love, hope and fear, avarice, ambition,--they are
quenched at last! Death is the only monastery, the tomb is the only
"Your passion is ever for active life," said Gertrude. "You allow no
charm to solitude, and contemplation to you seems torture. If any great
sorrow ever come upon you, you will never retire to seclusion as its
balm. You will plunge into the world, and lose your individual existence
in the universal rush of life."
"Ah, talk not of sorrow!" said Trevylyan, wildly. "Let us enter the
They went afterwards to the celebrated cathedral, which is considered one
of the noblest of the architectural triumphs of Germany; but it is yet
more worthy of notice from the Pilgrim of Romance than the searcher after
antiquity, for here, behind the grand altar, is the Tomb of the Three
Kings of Cologne,--the three worshippers whom tradition humbled to our
Saviour. Legend is rife with a thousand tales of the relics of this
tomb. The Three Kings of Cologne are the tutelary names of that golden
superstition which has often more votaries than the religion itself from
which it springs and to Gertrude the simple story of Lucille sufficed to
make her for the moment credulous of the sanctity of the spot. Behind
the tomb three Gothic windows cast their "dim, religious light" over the
tessellated pavement and along the Ionic pillars. They found some of the
more credulous believers in the authenticity of the relics kneeling
before the tomb, and they arrested their steps, fearful to disturb the
superstition which is never without something of sanctity when contented
with prayer and forgetful of persecution. The bones of the Magi are
still supposed to consecrate the tomb, and on the higher part of the
monument the artist has delineated their adoration to the infant Saviour.
That evening came on with a still and tranquil beauty, and as the sun
hastened to its close they launched their boat for an hour or two's
excursion upon the Rhine. Gertrude was in that happy mood when the quiet
of nature is enjoyed like a bath for the soul, and the presence of him
she so idolized deepened that stillness into a more delicious and
subduing calm. Little did she dream as the boat glided over the water,
and the towers of Cologne rose in the blue air of evening, how few were
those hours that divided her from the tomb! But, in looking back to the
life of one we have loved, how dear is the thought that the latter days
were the days of light, that the cloud never chilled the beauty of the
setting sun, and that if the years of existence were brief, all that
existence has most tender, most sacred, was crowded into that space!
Nothing dark, then, or bitter, rests with our remembrance of the lost:
_we_ are the mourners, but pity is not for the mourned,--our grief is
purely selfish; when we turn to its object, the hues of happiness are
round it, and that very love which is the parent of our woe was the
consolation, the triumph, of the departed!
The majestic Rhine was calm as a lake; the splashing of the oar only
broke the stillness, and after a long pause in their conversation,
Gertrude, putting her hand on Trevylyan's arm, reminded him of a promised
story: for he too had moods of abstraction, from which, in her turn, she
loved to lure him; and his voice to her had become a sort of want.
"Let it be," said she, "a tale suited to the hour; no fierce
tradition,--nay, no grotesque fable, but of the tenderer dye of
superstition. Let it be of love, of woman's love,--of the love that
defies the grave: for surely even after death it lives; and heaven would
scarcely be heaven if memory were banished from its blessings."
"I recollect," said Trevylyan, after a slight pause, "a short German
legend, the simplicity of which touched me much when I heard it; but,"
added he, with a slight smile, "so much more faithful appears in the
legend the love of the woman than that of the man, that _I_ at least
ought scarcely to recite it."
"Nay," said Gertrude, tenderly, "the fault of the inconstant only
heightens our gratitude to the faithful."
THE SOUL IN PURGATORY; OR LOVE STRONGER THAN DEATH.
THE angels strung their harps in heaven, and their music went up like a
stream of odours to the pavilions of the Most High; but the harp of
Seralim was sweeter than that of his fellows, and the Voice of the
Invisible One (for the angels themselves know not the glories of
Jehovah--only far in the depths of heaven they see one Unsleeping Eye
watching forever over Creation) was heard saying,--
"Ask a gift for the love that burns in thy song, and it shall be given
thee." And Seralim answered,--
"There is in that place which men call Purgatory, and which is the escape
from hell, but the painful porch of heaven, many souls that adore Thee,
and yet are punished justly for their sins; grant me the boon to visit
them at times, and solace their suffering by the hymns of the harp that
is consecrated to Thee!"
And the Voice answered,--
"Thy prayer is heard, O gentlest of the angels! and it seems good to Him
who chastises but from love. Go! Thou hast thy will."
Then the angel sang the praises of God; and when the song was done he
rose from his azure throne at the right hand of Gabriel, and, spreading
his rainbow wings, he flew to that melancholy orb which, nearest to
earth, echoes with the shrieks of souls that by torture become pure.
There the unhappy ones see from afar the bright courts they are hereafter
to obtain, and the shapes of glorious beings, who, fresh from these
Fountains of Immortality, walk amidst the gardens of Paradise, and feel
that their happiness hath no morrow; and this thought consoles amidst
their torments, and makes the true difference between Purgatory and Hell.
Then the angel folded his wings, and entering the crystal gates, sat down
upon a blasted rock and struck his divine lyre, and a peace fell over the
wretched; the demon ceased to torture and the victim to wail. As sleep
to the mourners of earth was the song of the angel to the souls of the
purifying star: one only voice amidst the general stillness seemed not
lulled by the angel; it was the voice of a woman, and it continued to cry
out with a sharp cry,--
"Oh, Adenheim, Adenheim! mourn not for the lost!"
The angel struck chord after chord, till his most skilful melodies were
exhausted; but still the solitary voice, unheeding--unconscious of--the
sweetest harp of the angel choir, cried out,--
"Oh, Adenheim, Adenheim! mourn not for the lost!"
Then Seralim's interest was aroused, and approaching the spot whence the
voice came, he saw the spirit of a young and beautiful girl chained to a
rock, and the demons lying idly by. And Seralim said to the demons,
"Doth the song lull ye thus to rest?"
And they answered, "Her care for another is bitterer than all our
torments; therefore are we idle."
Then the angel approached the spirit, and said in a voice which stilled
her cry--for in what state do we outlive sympathy?--"Wherefore, O
daughter of earth, wherefore wailest thou with the same plaintive wail;
and why doth the harp that soothes the most guilty of thy companions fail
in its melody with thee?"
"O radiant stranger," answered the poor spirit, "thou speakest to one who
on earth loved God's creature more than God; therefore is she thus justly
sentenced. But I know that my poor Adenheim mourns ceaselessly for me,
and the thought of his sorrow is more intolerable to me than all that the
demons can inflict."
"And how knowest thou that he laments thee?" asked the angel.
"Because I know with what agony I should have mourned for _him_," replied
the spirit, simply.
The divine nature of the angel was touched; for love is the nature of the
sons of heaven. "And how," said he, "can I minister to thy sorrow?"
A transport seemed to agitate the spirit, and she lifted up her mistlike
and impalpable arms, and cried,--
"Give me--oh, give me to return to earth, but for one little hour, that I
may visit my Adenheim; and that, concealing from him my present
sufferings, I may comfort him in his own."
"Alas!" said the angel, turning away his eyes,--for angels may not weep
in the sight of others,--"I could, indeed, grant thee this boon, but thou
knowest not the penalty. For the souls in Purgatory may return to Earth,
but heavy is the sentence that awaits their return. In a word, for one
hour on earth thou must add a thousand years to the torture of thy
"Is that all?" cried the spirit. "Willingly then will I brave the doom.
Ah, surely they love not in heaven, or thou wouldst know, O Celestial
Visitant; that one hour of consolation to the one we love is worth a
thousand ages of torture to ourselves! Let me comfort and convince my
Adenheim; no matter what becomes of me."
Then the angel looked on high, and he saw in far distant regions, which
in that orb none else could discern, the rays that parted from the
all-guarding Eye; and heard the VOICE of the Eternal One bidding him act
as his pity whispered. He looked on the spirit, and her shadowy arms
stretched pleadingly towards him; he uttered the word that loosens the
bars of the gate of Purgatory; and lo, the spirit had re-entered the
It was night in the halls of the lord of Adenheim, and he sat at the head
of his glittering board. Loud and long was the laugh, and merry the jest
that echoed round; and the laugh and the jest of the lord of Adenheim
were louder and merrier than all. And by his right side sat a beautiful
lady; and ever and anon he turned from others to whisper soft vows in her
"And oh," said the bright dame of Falkenberg, "thy words what ladye can
believe? Didst thou not utter the same oaths, and promise the same love,
to Ida, the fair daughter of Loden, and now but three little months have
closed upon her grave?"
"By my halidom," quoth the young lord of Adenheim, "thou dost thy beauty
marvellous injustice. Ida! Nay, thou mockest me; _I_ love the daughter
of Loden! Why, how then should I be worthy thee? A few gay words, a few
passing smiles,--behold all the love Adenheim ever bore to Ida. Was it
my fault if the poor fool misconstrued such common courtesy? Nay,
dearest lady, this heart is virgin to thee."
"And what!" said the lady of Falkenberg, as she suffered the arm of
Adenheim to encircle her slender waist, "didst thou not grieve for her
"Why, verily, yes, for the first week; but in thy bright eyes I found
At this moment, the lord of Adenheim thought he heard a deep sigh behind
him; he turned, but saw nothing, save a slight mist that gradually faded
away, and vanished in the distance. Where was the necessity for Ida to
. . . . . . .
"And thou didst not, then, do thine errand to thy lover?" said Seralim,
as the spirit of the wronged Ida returned to Purgatory.
"Bid the demons recommence their torture," was poor Ida's answer.
"And was it for this that thou added a thousand years to thy doom?"
"Alas!" answered Ida, "after the single hour I have endured on Earth,
there seems to be but little terrible in a thousand fresh years of
* This story is principally borrowed from a foreign soil. It
seemed to the author worthy of being transferred to an English
one, although he fears that much of its singular beauty in the
original has been lost by the way.
"What! is the story ended?" asked Gertrude.
"Nay, surely the thousand years were not added to poor Ida's doom; and
Seralim bore her back with him to Heaven?"
"The legend saith no more. The writer was contented to show us the
perpetuity of woman's love--"
"And its reward," added Vane.
"It was not _I_ who drew that last conclusion, Albert," whispered
THE SCENERY OF THE RHINE ANALOGOUS TO THE GERMAN LITERARY GENIUS.--THE
ON leaving Cologne, the stream winds round among banks that do not yet
fulfil the promise of the Rhine; but they increase in interest as you
leave Surdt and Godorf. The peculiar character of the river does not,
however, really appear, until by degrees the Seven Mountains, and "THE
CASTLED CRAG OF DRACHENFELS" above them all, break upon the eye. Around
Nieder Cassel and Rheidt the vines lie thick and clustering; and, by the
shore, you see from place to place the islands stretching their green
length along, and breaking the exulting tide. Village rises upon
village, and viewed from the distance as you sail, the pastoral errors
that enamoured us of the village life crowd thick and fast upon us. So
still do these hamlets seem, so sheltered from the passions of the
world,--as if the passions were not like winds, only felt where they
breathe, and invisible save by their effects! Leaping into the broad
bosom of the Rhine come many a stream and rivulet upon either side.
Spire upon spire rises and sinks as you sail on. Mountain and city, the
solitary island, the castled steep, like the dreams of ambition, suddenly
appear, proudly swell, and dimly fade away.
"You begin now," said Trevylyan, "to understand the character of the
German literature. The Rhine is an emblem of its luxuriance, its
fertility, its romance. The best commentary to the German genius is a
visit to the German scenery. The mighty gloom of the Hartz, the feudal
towers that look over vines and deep valleys on the legendary Rhine; the
gigantic remains of antique power, profusely scattered over plain, mount,
and forest; the thousand mixed recollections that hallow the ground; the
stately Roman, the stalwart Goth, the chivalry of the feudal age, and the
dim brotherhood of the ideal world, have here alike their record and
their remembrance. And over such scenes wanders the young German
student. Instead of the pomp and luxury of the English traveller, the
thousand devices to cheat the way, he has but his volume in his hand, his
knapsack at his back. From such scenes he draws and hives all that
various store which after years ripen to invention. Hence the florid
mixture of the German muse,--the classic, the romantic, the
contemplative, the philosophic, and the superstitious; each the result of
actual meditation over different scenes; each the produce of separate but
confused recollections. As the Rhine flows, so flows the national
genius, by mountain and valley, the wildest solitude, the sudden spires
of ancient cities, the mouldered castle, the stately monastery, the
humble cot,--grandeur and homeliness, history and superstition, truth and
fable, succeeding one another so as to blend into a whole.
"But," added Trevylyan, a moment afterwards, "the Ideal is passing slowly
away from the German mind; a spirit for the more active and the more
material literature is springing up amongst them. The revolution of mind
gathers on, preceding stormy events; and the memories that led their
grandsires to contemplate will urge the youth of the next generation to
dare and to act."*
* Is not this prediction already fulfilled?--1849.
Thus conversing, they continued their voyage, with a fair wave and
beneath a lucid sky.
The vessel now glided beside the Seven Mountains and the Drachenfels.
The sun, slowly setting, cast his yellow beams over the smooth waters.
At the foot of the mountains lay a village deeply sequestered in shade;
and above, the Ruin of the Drachenfels caught the richest beams of the
sun. Yet thus alone, though lofty, the ray cheered not the gloom that
hung over the giant rock: it stood on high, like some great name on which
the light of glory may shine, but which is associated with a certain
melancholy, from the solitude to which its very height above the level of
the herd condemned its owner!
THE LEGEND OF ROLAND.--THE ADVENTURES OF NYMPHALIN ON THE ISLAND OF
NONNEWERTH.--HER SONG.--THE DECAY OF THE FAIRY-FAITH IN ENGLAND.
ON the shore opposite the Drachenfels stand the Ruins of
Rolandseck,--they are the shattered crown of a lofty and perpendicular
mountain, consecrated to the memory of the brave Roland; below, the trees
of an island to which the lady of Roland retired, rise thick and verdant
from the smooth tide.
Nothing can exceed the eloquent and wild grandeur of the whole scene.
That spot is the pride and beauty of the Rhine.
The legend that consecrates the tower and the island is briefly told; it
belongs to a class so common to the Romaunts of Germany. Roland goes to
the wars. A false report of his death reaches his betrothed. She
retires to the convent in the isle of Nonnewerth, and takes the
irrevocable veil. Roland returns home, flushed with glory and hope, to
find that the very fidelity of his affianced had placed an eternal
barrier between them. He built the castle that bears his name, and which
overlooks the monastery, and dwelt there till his death,--happy in the
power at least to gaze, even to the last, upon those walls which held the
treasure he had lost.
The willows droop in mournful luxuriance along the island, and harmonize
with the memory that, through the desert of a thousand years, love still
keeps green and fresh. Nor hath it permitted even those additions of
fiction which, like mosses, gather by time over the truth that they
adorn, yet adorning conceal, to mar the simple tenderness of the legend.
All was still in the island of Nonnewerth; the lights shone through the
trees from the house that contained our travellers. On one smooth spot
where the islet shelves into the Rhine met the wandering fairies.
"Oh, Pipalee! how beautiful!" cried Nymphalin, as she stood enraptured by
the wave, a star-beam shining on her, with her yellow hair "dancing its
ringlets in the whistling wind." "For the first time since our departure
I do not miss the green fields of England."
"Hist!" said Pipalee, under her breath; "I hear fairy steps,--they must
be the steps of strangers."
"Let us retreat into this thicket of weeds," said Nymphalin, somewhat
alarmed; "the good lord treasurer is already asleep there." They whisked
into what to them was a forest, for the reeds were two feet high, and
there sure enough they found the lord treasurer stretched beneath a
bulrush, with his pipe beside him, for since he had been in Germany he
had taken to smoking; and indeed wild thyme, properly dried, makes very
good tobacco for a fairy. They also found Nip and Trip sitting very
close together, Nip playing with her hair, which was exceedingly
"What do you do here?" said Pipalee, shortly; for she was rather an old
maid, and did not like fairies to be too close to each other.
"Watching my lord's slumber," said Nip.
"Pshaw!" said Pipalee.
"Nay," quoth Trip, blushing like a sea-shell; "there is no harm in
_that_, I'm sure."
"Hush!" said the queen, peeping through the reeds.
And now forth from the green bosom of the earth came a tiny train;
slowly, two by two, hand in hand, they swept from a small aperture,
shadowed with fragrant herbs, and formed themselves into a ring: then
came other fairies, laden with dainties, and presently two beautiful
white mushrooms sprang up, on which the viands were placed, and lo, there
was a banquet! Oh, how merry they were! what gentle peals of laughter,
loud as a virgin's sigh! what jests! what songs! Happy race! if mortals
could see you as often as I do, in the soft nights of summer, they would
never be at a loss for entertainment. But as our English fairies looked
on, they saw that these foreign elves were of a different race from
themselves: they were taller and less handsome, their hair was darker,
they wore mustaches, and had something of a fiercer air. Poor Nymphalin
was a little frightened; but presently soft music was heard floating
along, something like the sound we suddenly hear of a still night when a
light breeze steals through rushes, or wakes a ripple in some shallow
brook dancing over pebbles. And lo, from the aperture of the earth came
forth a fay, superbly dressed, and of a noble presence. The queen
started back, Pipalee rubbed her eyes, Trip looked over Pipalee's
shoulder, and Nip, pinching her arm, cried out amazed, "By the last new
star, that is Prince von Fayzenheim!"
Poor Nymphalin gazed again, and her little heart beat under her
bee's-wing bodice as if it would break. The prince had a melancholy air,
and he sat apart from the banquet, gazing abstractedly on the Rhine.
"Ah!" whispered Nymphalin to herself, "does he think of me?"
Presently the prince drew forth a little flute hollowed from a small
reed, and began to play a mournful air. Nymphalin listened with delight;
it was one he had learned in her dominions.
When the air was over, the prince rose, and approaching the banqueters,
despatched them on different errands; one to visit the dwarf of the
Drachenfels, another to look after the grave of Musaeus, and a whole
detachment to puzzle the students of Heidelberg. A few launched
themselves upon willow leaves on the Rhine to cruise about in the
starlight, and an other band set out a hunting after the gray-legged
moth. The prince was left alone; and now Nymphalin, seeing the coast
clear, wrapped herself up in a cloak made out of a withered leaf; and
only letting her eyes glow out from the hood, she glided from the reeds,
and the prince turning round, saw a dark fairy figure by his side. He
drew back, a little startled, and placed his hand on his sword, when
Nymphalin circling round him, sang the following words:--
THE FAIRY'S REPROACH.
By the glow-worm's lamp in the dewy brake;
By the gossamer's airy net;
By the shifting skin of the faithless snake,
Oh, teach me to forget:
For none, ah none
Can teach so well that human spell
As thou, false one!
By the fairy dance on the greensward smooth;
By the winds of the gentle west;
By the loving stars, when their soft looks soothe
The waves on their mother's breast,
Teach me thy lore!
By which, like withered flowers,
The leaves of buried Hours
Blossom no more!
By the tent in the violet's bell;
By the may on the scented bough;
By the lone green isle where my sisters dwell;
And thine own forgotten vow,
Teach me to live,
Nor feed on thoughts that pine
For love so false as thine!
Teach me thy lore,
And one thou lov'st no more
Will bless thee and forgive!
"Surely," said Fayzenheim, faltering, "surely I know that voice!"
And Nymphalin's cloak dropped off her shoulder. "My English fairy!" and
Fayzenheim knelt beside her.
I wish you had seen the fay kneel, for you would have sworn it was so
like a human lover that you would never have sneered at love afterwards.
Love is so fairy-like a part of us, that even a fairy cannot make it
differently from us,--that is to say, when we love truly.
There was great joy in the island that night among the elves. They
conducted Nymphalin to their palace within the earth, and feasted her
sumptuously; and Nip told their adventures with so much spirit that he
enchanted the merry foreigners. But Fayzenheim talked apart to
Nymphalin, and told her how he was lord of that island, and how he had
been obliged to return to his dominions by the law of his tribe, which
allowed him to be absent only a certain time in every year. "But, my
queen, I always intended to revisit thee next spring."
"Thou need'st not have left us so abruptly," said Nymphalin, blushing.
"But do _thou_ never leave me!" said the ardent fairy; "be mine, and let
our nuptials be celebrated on these shores. Wouldst thou sigh for thy
green island? No! for _there_ the fairy altars are deserted, the faith
is gone from the land; thou art among the last of an unhonoured and
expiring race. Thy mortal poets are dumb, and Fancy, which was thy
priestess, sleeps hushed in her last repose. New and hard creeds have
succeeded to the fairy lore. Who steals through the starlit boughs on
the nights of June to watch the roundels of thy tribe? The wheels of
commerce, the din of trade, have silenced to mortal ear the music of thy
subjects' harps! And the noisy habitations of men, harsher than their
dreaming sires, are gathering round the dell and vale where thy co-mates
linger: a few years, and where will be the green solitudes of England?"
The queen sighed, and the prince, perceiving that he was listened to,
"Who, in thy native shores, among the children of men, now claims the
fairy's care? What cradle wouldst thou tend? On what maid wouldst thou
shower thy rosy gifts? What barb wouldst thou haunt in his dreams?
Poesy is fled the island, why shouldst thou linger behind? Time hath
brought dull customs, that laugh at thy gentle being. Puck is buried in
the harebell, he hath left no offspring, and none mourn for his loss; for
night, which is the fairy season, is busy and garish as the day. What
hearth is desolate after the curfew? What house bathed in stillness at
the hour in which thy revels commence? Thine empire among men hath
passed from thee, and thy race are vanishing from the crowded soil; for,
despite our diviner nature, our existence is linked with man's. Their
neglect is our disease, their forgetfulness our death. Leave then those
dull, yet troubled scenes, that are closing round the fairy rings of thy
native isle. These mountains, this herbage, these gliding waves, these
mouldering ruins, these starred rivulets, be they, O beautiful fairy! thy
new domain. Yet in these lands our worship lingers; still can we fill
the thought of the young bard, and mingle with his yearnings after the
Beautiful, the Unseen. Hither come the pilgrims of the world, anxious
only to gather from these scenes the legends of Us; ages will pass away
ere the Rhine shall be desecrated of our haunting presence. Come then,
my queen, let this palace be thine own, and the moon that glances over
the shattered towers of the Dragon Rock witness our nuptials and our
In such words the fairy prince courted the young queen, and while she
sighed at their truth she yielded to their charm. Oh, still may there be
one spot on the earth where the fairy feet may press the legendary soil!
still be there one land where the faith of The Bright Invisible hallows
and inspires! Still glide thou, O majestic and solemn Rhine, among
shades and valleys, from which the wisdom of belief can call the
creations of the younger world!
WHEREIN THE READER IS MADE SPECTATOR WITH THE ENGLISH FAIRIES OF THE
SCENES AND BEINGS THAT ARE BENEATH THE EARTH.
DURING the heat of next day's noon, Fayzenheim took the English visitors
through the cool caverns that wind amidst the mountains of the Rhine.
There, a thousand wonders awaited the eyes of the fairy queen. I speak
not of the Gothic arch and aisle into which the hollow earth forms
itself, or the stream that rushes with a mighty voice through the dark
chasm, or the silver columns that shoot aloft, worked by the gnomes from
the mines of the mountains of Taunus; but of the strange inhabitants that
from time to time they came upon. They found in one solitary cell, lined
with dried moss, two misshapen elves, of a larger size than common, with
a plebeian working-day aspect, who were chatting noisily together, and
making a pair of boots: these were the Hausmannen or domestic elves, that
dance into tradesmen's houses of a night, and play all sorts of
undignified tricks. They were very civil to the queen, for they are
good-natured creatures on the whole, and once had many relations in
Scotland. They then, following the course of a noisy rivulet, came to a
hole from which the sharp head of a fox peeped out. The queen was
frightened. "Oh, come on," said the fox, encouragingly, "I am one of the
fairy race, and many are the gambols we of the brute-elves play in the
German world of romance." "Indeed, Mr. Fox," said the prince, "you only
speak the truth; and how is Mr. Bruin?" "Quite well, my prince, but
tired of his seclusion; for indeed our race can do little or nothing now
in the world; and lie here in our old age, telling stories of the past,
and recalling the exploits we did in our youth,--which, madam, you may
see in all the fairy histories in the prince's library."
"Your own love adventures, for instance, Master Fox," said the prince.
The fox snarled angrily, and drew in his head.
"You have displeased your friend," said Nymphalin.
"Yes; he likes no allusions to the amorous follies of his youth. Did you
ever hear of his rivalry with the dog for the cat's good graces?"
"No; that must be very amusing."
"Well, my queen, when we rest by and by, I will relate to you the history
of the fox's wooing."
The next place they came to was a vast Runic cavern, covered with dark
inscriptions of a forgotten tongue; and sitting on a huge stone they
found a dwarf with long yellow hair, his head leaning on his breast, and
absorbed in meditation. "This is a spirit of a wise and powerful race,"
whispered Fayzenheim, "that has often battled with the fairies; but he is
of the kindly tribe."
Then the dwarf lifted his head with a mournful air; and gazed upon the
bright shapes before him, lighted by the pine torches that the prince's
"And what dost thou muse upon, O descendant of the race of Laurin?" said
"Upon TIME!" answered the dwarf, gloomily. "I see a River, and its waves
are black, flowing from the clouds, and none knoweth its source. It
rolls deeply on, aye and evermore, through a green valley, which it
slowly swallows up, washing away tower and town, and vanquishing all
things; and the name of the River is TIME."
Then the dwarf's head sank on his bosom, and he spoke no more.
The fairies proceeded. "Above us," said the prince, "rises one of the
loftiest mountains of the Rhine; for mountains are the Dwarf's home.
When the Great Spirit of all made earth, he saw that the hollows of the
rocks and hills were tenantless, and yet that a mighty kingdom and great
palaces were hid within them,--a dread and dark solitude, but lighted at
times from the starry eyes of many jewels; and there was the treasure of
the human world--gold and silver--and great heaps of gems, and a soil of
metals. So God made a race for this vast empire, and gifted them with
the power of thought, and the soul of exceeding wisdom, so that they want
not the merriment and enterprise of the outer world; but musing in these
dark caves is their delight. Their existence rolls away in the luxury of
thought; only from time to time they appear in the world, and betoken woe
or weal to men,--according to their nature, for they are divided into two
tribes, the benevolent and the wrathful." While the prince spoke, they
saw glaring upon them from a ledge in the upper rock a grisly face with a
long matted beard. The prince gathered himself up, and frowned at the
evil dwarf, for such it was; but with a wild laugh the face abruptly
disappeared, and the echo of the laugh rang with a ghastly sound through
the long hollows of the earth.
The queen clung to Fayzenheim's arm. "Fear not, my queen," said he.
"The evil race have no power over our light and aerial nature; with men
only they war; and he whom we have seen was, in the old ages of the
world, one of the deadliest visitors to mankind."
But now they came winding by a passage to a beautiful recess in the
mountain empire; it was of a circular shape of amazing height; in the
midst of it played a natural fountain of sparkling waters, and around it
were columns of massive granite, rising in countless vistas, till lost in
the distant shade. Jewels were scattered round, and brightly played the
fairy torches on the gem, the fountain, and the pale silver, that gleamed
at frequent intervals from the rocks. "Here let us rest," said the
gallant fairy, clapping his hands; "what, ho! music and the feast."
So the feast was spread by the fountain's side; and the courtiers
scattered rose-leaves, which they had brought with them, for the prince
and his visitor; and amidst the dark kingdom of the dwarfs broke the
delicate sound of fairy lutes. "We have not these evil beings in
England," said the queen, as low as she could speak; "they rouse my fear,
but my interest also. Tell me, dear prince, of what nature was the
intercourse of the evil dwarf with man?"
"You know," answered the prince, "that to every species of living thing
there is something in common; the vast chain of sympathy runs through all
creation. By that which they have in common with the beast of the field
or the bird of the air, men govern the inferior tribes; they appeal to
the common passions of fear and emulation when they tame the wild steed,
to the common desire of greed and gain when they snare the fishes of the
stream, or allure the wolves to the pitfall by the bleating of the lamb.
In their turn, in the older ages of the world, it was by the passions
which men had in common with the demon race that the fiends commanded or
allured them. The dwarf whom you saw, being of that race which is
characterized by the ambition of power and the desire of hoarding,
appealed then in his intercourse with men to the same characteristics in
their own bosoms,--to ambition or to avarice. And thus were his victims
made! But, not now, dearest Nymphalin," continued the prince, with a
more lively air,--"not now will we speak of those gloomy beings. Ho,
there! cease the music, and come hither all of ye, to listen to a
faithful and homely history of the Dog, the Cat, the Griffin, and the
THE WOOING OF MASTER FOX.*
* In the excursions of the fairies, it is the object of the author
to bring before the reader a rapid phantasmagoria of the various
beings that belong to the German superstitions, so that the work
may thus describe the outer and the inner world of the land of
the Rhine. The tale of the Fox's Wooing has been composed to
give the English reader an idea of a species of novel not
naturalized amongst us, though frequent among the legends of our
Irish neighbours; in which the brutes are the only characters
drawn,--drawn too with shades of distinction as nice and subtle
as if they were the creatures of the civilized world.
You are aware, my dear Nymphalin, that in the time of which I am about to
speak there was no particular enmity between the various species of
brutes; the dog and the hare chatted very agreeably together, and all the
world knows that the wolf, unacquainted with mutton, had a particular
affection for the lamb. In these happy days, two most respectable cats,
of very old family, had an only daughter. Never was kitten more amiable
or more seducing; as she grew up she manifested so many charms, that in a
little while she became noted as the greatest beauty in the
neighbourhood. Need I to you, dearest Nymphalin, describe her
perfection? Suffice it to say that her skin was of the most delicate
tortoiseshell, that her paws were smoother than velvet, that her whiskers
were twelve inches long at the least, and that her eyes had a gentleness
altogether astonishing in a cat. But if the young beauty had suitors in
plenty during the lives of monsieur and madame, you may suppose the
number was not diminished when, at the age of two years and a half, she
was left an orphan, and sole heiress to all the hereditary property. In
fine, she was the richest marriage in the whole country. Without
troubling you, dearest queen, with the adventures of the rest of her
lovers, with their suit and their rejection, I come at once to the two
rivals most sanguine of success,--the dog and the fox.
Now the dog was a handsome, honest, straightforward, affectionate fellow.
"For my part," said he, "I don't wonder at my cousin's refusing Bruin the
bear, and Gauntgrim the wolf: to be sure they give themselves great airs,
and call themselves '_noble_,' but what then? Bruin is always in the
sulks, and Gauntgrim always in a passion; a cat of any sensibility would
lead a miserable life with them. As for me, I am very good-tempered when
I'm not put out, and I have no fault except that of being angry if
disturbed at my meals. I am young and good-looking, fond of play and
amusement, and altogether as agreeable a husband as a cat could find in a
summer's day. If she marries me, well and good; she may have her
property settled on herself: if not, I shall bear her no malice; and I
hope I sha'n't be too much in love to forget that there are other cats in
With that the dog threw his tail over his back, and set off to his
mistress with a gay face on the matter.
Now the fox heard the dog talking thus to himself, for the fox was always
peeping about, in holes and corners, and he burst out a laughing when the
dog was out of sight.
"Ho, ho, my fine fellow!" said he; "not so fast, if you please: you've
got the fox for a rival, let me tell you."
The fox, as you very well know, is a beast that can never do anything
without a manoeuvre; and as, from his cunning, he was generally very
lucky in anything he undertook, he did not doubt for a moment that he
should put the dog's nose out of joint. Reynard was aware that in love
one should always, if possible, be the first in the field; and he
therefore resolved to get the start of the dog and arrive before him at
the cat's residence. But this was no easy matter; for though Reynard
could run faster than the dog for a little way, he was no match for him
in a journey of some distance. "However," said Reynard, "those
good-natured creatures are never very wise; and I think I know already
what will make him bait on his way."
With that, the fox trotted pretty fast by a short cut in the woods, and
getting before the dog, laid himself down by a hole in the earth, and
began to howl most piteously.
The dog, hearing the noise, was very much alarmed. "See now," said he,
"if the poor fox has not got himself into some scrape! Those cunning
creatures are always in mischief; thank Heaven, it never comes into my
head to be cunning!" And the good-natured animal ran off as hard as he
could to see what was the matter with the fox.
"Oh, dear!" cried Reynard; "what shall I do? What shall I do? My poor
little sister has fallen into this hole, and I can't get her out; she'll
certainly be smothered." And the fox burst out a howling more piteously
"But, my dear Reynard," quoth the dog, very simply, "why don't you go in
after your sister?"
"Ah, you may well ask that," said the fox; "but, in trying to get in,
don't you perceive that I have sprained my back and can't stir? Oh,
dear! what shall I do if my poor little sister is smothered!"
"Pray don't vex yourself," said the dog; "I'll get her out in an
instant." And with that he forced himself with great difficulty into the
Now, no sooner did the fox see that the dog was fairly in, than he rolled
a great stone to the mouth of the hole and fitted it so tight, that the
dog, not being able to turn round and scratch against it with his
forepaws, was made a close prisoner.
"Ha, ha!" cried Reynard, laughing outside; "amuse yourself with my poor
little sister, while I go and make your compliments to Mademoiselle the
With that Reynard set off at an easy pace, never troubling his head what
became of the poor dog. When he arrived in the neighbourhood of the
beautiful cat's mansion, he resolved to pay a visit to a friend of his,
an old magpie that lived in a tree and was well acquainted with all the
news of the place. "For," thought Reynard, "I may as well know the blind
side of my mistress that is to be, and get round it at once."
The magpie received the fox with great cordiality, and inquired what
brought him so great a distance from home.
"Upon my word," said the fox, "nothing so much as the pleasure of seeing
your ladyship and hearing those agreeable anecdotes you tell with so
charming a grace; but to let you into a secret--be sure it don't go
"On the word of a magpie," interrupted the bird.
"Pardon me for doubting you," continued the fox; "I should have
recollected that a pie was a proverb for discretion. But, as I was
saying, you know her Majesty the lioness?"
"Surely," said the magpie, bridling.
"Well; she was pleased to fall in--that is to say--to--to--take a caprice
to your humble servant, and the lion grew so jealous that I thought it
prudent to decamp. A jealous lion is no joke, let me assure your
ladyship. But mum's the word."
So great a piece of news delighted the magpie. She could not but repay
it in kind, by all the news in her budget. She told the fox all the
scandal about Bruin and Gauntgrim, and she then fell to work on the poor
young cat. She did not spare her foibles, you may be quite sure. The
fox listened with great attention, and he learned enough to convince him
that however much the magpie might exaggerate, the cat was very
susceptible to flattery, and had a great deal of imagination.
When the magpie had finished she said, "But it must be very unfortunate
for you to be banished from so magnificent a court as that of the lion?"
"As to that," answered the fox, "I console myself for my exile with a
present his Majesty made me on parting, as a reward for my anxiety for
his honour and domestic tranquillity; namely, three hairs from the fifth
leg of the amoronthologosphorus. Only think of that, ma'am!"
"The what?" cried the pie, cocking down her left ear.
"La!" said the magpie; "and what is that very long word, my dear
"The amoronthologosphorus is a beast that lives on the other side of the
river Cylinx; it has five legs, and on the fifth leg there are three
hairs, and whoever has those three hairs can be young and beautiful
"Bless me! I wish you would let me see them," said the pie, holding out
"Would that I could oblige you, ma'am; but it's as much as my life's
worth to show them to any but the lady I marry. In fact, they only have
an effect on the fair sex, as you may see by myself, whose poor person
they utterly fail to improve: they are, therefore, intended for a
marriage present, and his Majesty the lion thus generously atoned to me
for relinquishing the tenderness of his queen. One must confess that
there was a great deal of delicacy in the gift. But you'll be sure not
to mention it."
"A magpie gossip indeed!" quoth the old blab.
The fox then wished the magpie good night, and retired to a hole to sleep
off the fatigues of the day, before he presented himself to the beautiful
The next morning, Heaven knows how! it was all over the place that
Reynard the fox had been banished from court for the favour shown him by
her Majesty, and that the lion had bribed his departure with three hairs
that would make any lady whom the fox married young and beautiful
The cat was the first to learn the news, and she became all curiosity to
see so interesting a stranger, possessed of "qualifications" which, in
the language of the day, "would render any animal happy!" She was not
long without obtaining her wish. As she was taking a walk in the wood
the fox contrived to encounter her. You may be sure that he made her his
best bow; and he flattered the poor cat with so courtly an air that she
saw nothing surprising in the love of the lioness.
Meanwhile let us see what became of his rival, the dog.
"Ah, the poor creature!" said Nymphalin; "it is easy to guess that he
need not be buried alive to lose all chance of marrying the heiress."
"Wait till the end," answered Fayzenheim.
When the dog found that he was thus entrapped, he gave himself up for
lost. In vain he kicked with his hind-legs against the stone,--he only
succeeded in bruising his paws; and at length he was forced to lie down,
with his tongue out of his mouth, and quite exhausted. "However," said
he, after he had taken breath, "it won't do to be starved here, without
doing my best to escape; and if I can't get out one way, let me see if
there is not a hole at the other end." Thus saying, his courage, which
stood him in lieu of cunning, returned, and he proceeded on in the same
straightforward way in which he always conducted himself. At first the
path was exceedingly narrow, and he hurt his sides very much against the
rough stones that projected from the earth; but by degrees the way became
broader, and he now went on with considerable ease to himself, till he
arrived in a large cavern, where he saw an immense griffin sitting on his
tail, and smoking a huge pipe.
The dog was by no means pleased at meeting so suddenly a creature that
had only to open his mouth to swallow him up at a morsel; however, he put
a bold face on the danger, and walking respectfully up to the griffin,
said, "Sir, I should be very much obliged to you if you would inform me
the way out of these holes into the upper world."
The griffin took the pipe out of his mouth, and looked at the dog very
"Ho, wretch!" said he, "how comest thou hither? I suppose thou wantest
to steal my treasure; but I know how to treat such vagabonds as you, and
I shall certainly eat you up.
"You can do that if you choose," said the dog; "but it would be very
unhandsome conduct in an animal so much bigger than myself. For my own
part, I never attack any dog that is not of equal size,--I should be
ashamed of myself if I did. And as to your treasure, the character I
bear for honesty is too well known to merit such a suspicion."
"Upon my word," said the griffin, who could not help smiling for the life
of him, "you have a singularly free mode of expressing yourself. And
how, I say, came you hither?"
Then the dog, who did not know what a lie was, told the griffin his whole
history,--how he had set off to pay his court to the cat, and how Reynard
the fox had entrapped him into the hole.
When he had finished, the griffin said to him, "I see, my friend, that
you know how to speak the truth; I am in want of just such a servant as
you will make me, therefore stay with me and keep watch over my treasure
when I sleep."
"Two words to that," said the dog. "You have hurt my feelings very much
by suspecting my honesty, and I would much sooner go back into the wood
and be avenged on that scoundrel the fox, than serve a master who has so
ill an opinion of me. I pray you, therefore, to dismiss me, and to put
me in the right way to my cousin the cat."
"I am not a griffin of many words," answered the master of the cavern,
"and I give you your choice,--be my servant or be my breakfast; it is
just the same to me. I give you time to decide till I have smoked out my
The poor dog did not take so long to consider. "It is true," thought he,
"that it is a great misfortune to live in a cave with a griffin of so
unpleasant a countenance; but, probably, if I serve him well and
faithfully, he'll take pity on me some day, and let me go back to earth,
and prove to my cousin what a rogue the fox is; and as to the rest,
though I would sell my life as dear as I could, it is impossible to fight
a griffin with a mouth of so monstrous a size." In short, he decided to
stay with the griffin.
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