The Earl of Beaconsfield
Part 11 out of 11
while Essper George rode forward to the village for assistance, his
master helped the postilion to extricate the horses and secure them on
the opposite bank. They had done all that was in their power some time
before Essper returned; and Vivian, who had seated himself on some
tangled beech-roots, was prevented growing impatient by contemplating
the enchanting scenery. The postilion, on the contrary, who had
travelled this road even day of his life, and who found no gratification
in gazing upon rocks, woods, and waterfalls, lit his pipe, and
occasionally talked to his horses. So essential an attribute of the
beautiful is novelty! Essper at length made his appearance, attended by
five or six peasants, dressed in holiday costume, with some fanciful
decorations; their broad hats wreathed with wild flowers, their short
brown jackets covered with buttons and fringe, and various coloured
ribbons streaming from their knees.
"Well, sir! the grandson is born the day the grandfather dies! a cloudy
morning has often a bright sunset' and though we are now sticking in a
ditch, by the aid of St. Florian we may be soon feasting in a castle!
Come, my merry men, I did not bring you here to show your ribbons; the
sooner you help us out of this scrape the sooner you will be again
dancing with the pretty maidens on the green! Lend a hand!"
The calèche appeared to be so much shattered that they only ventured to
put in one horse; and Vivian, leaving his carriage in charge of Essper
and the postilion, mounted Max, and rode to the village, attended by the
peasants. He learnt from them on the way that they were celebrating the
marriage of the daughter of their lord, who, having been informed of the
accident, had commanded them to go immediately to the gentleman's
assistance, and then conduct him to the castle.
They crossed the river over a light stone bridge of three arches, the
key-stone of the centre one being decorated with a splendidly
"This bridge appears to be very recently built?" said Vivian to one of
"It was opened, sir, for the first time yesterday, to admit the
bridegroom of my young lady, and the foundation stone was laid on the
day she was born."
"I see that your good lord was determined that it should be a solid
"Why, sir, it was necessary that the foundation should be strong,
because three succeeding winters it was washed away by the rush of that
mountain torrent. Turn this way, if you please, sir, through
Vivian was much struck by the appearance of the little settlement as he
rode through it. It did not consist of more than fifty houses, but they
were all detached, and each beautifully embowered in trees. The end of
the village came upon a large rising green, leading up to the only
accessible side of the castle. It presented a most animated scene, being
covered with various groups, all intent upon different rustic
amusements. An immense pole, the stem of a gigantic fir-tree, was fixed
nearly in the centre of the green, and crowned with a chaplet, the
reward of the most active young man of the village, whose agility might
enable him to display his gallantry by presenting it to his mistress,
she being allowed to wear it during the remainder of the sports. The
middle-aged men were proving their strength by raising weights; while
the elders of the village joined in the calmer and more scientific
diversion of skittles, which in Austria are played with bowls and pins
of very great size. Others were dancing; others sitting under tents,
chattering or taking refreshments. Some were walking in pairs,
anticipating the speedy celebration of a wedding day happier to them, if
less gay to others. Even the tenderest infants on this festive day
seemed conscious of some unusual cause of excitement, and many an
urchin, throwing himself forward in a vain attempt to catch in elder
brother or a laughing sister, tried the strength of his leading-strings,
and rolled over, crowing in the soft grass.
At the end of the green a splendid tent was erected, with a large white
bridal flag waving from its top, embroidered in gold, with a true
lover's knot. From this pavilion came forth, to welcome the strangers,
the lord of the village. He was a tall but thin bending figure, with a
florid benevolent countenance, and a quantity of long white hair. This
venerable person cordially offered his hand to Vivian, regretted his
accident, but expressed much pleasure that he had come to partake of
their happiness. "Yesterday," continued he, "was my daughter's wedding
day, and both myself and our humble friends are endeavouring to forget,
in this festive scene, our approaching loss and separation. If you had
come yesterday you would have assisted at the opening of my new bridge.
Pray what do you think of it? But I will show it to you myself, which I
assure you will give me great pleasure; at present let me introduce you
to my family, who will be quite happy to see you. It is a pity that you
have missed the Regatta; my daughter is just going to reward the
successful candidate. You see the boats upon the lake; the one with the
white and purple streamer was the conqueror. You will have the pleasure,
too, of seeing my son-in-law; I am sure you will like him; he quite
enjoys our sports. We shall have a fête champêtre to-morrow, and a dance
on the green to-night."
The old gentleman paused for want of breath, and having stood a moment
to recover himself, he introduced his new guests to the inmates of the
tent: first, his maiden sister, a softened facsimile of himself; behind
her stood his beautiful and blushing daughter, the youthful bride,
wearing on her head a coronal of white roses, and supported by three
bridesmaids, the only relief to whose snowy dresses were large bouquets
on their left side. The bridegroom was at first shaded by the curtain;
but as he came forward Vivian started when he recognised his Heidelburg
friend, Eugene von Konigstein!
Their mutual delight and astonishment were so great that for an instant
neither of them could speak; but when the old man learnt from his
son-in-law that the stranger was his most valued and intimate friend,
and one to whom he was under great personal obligations, he absolutely
declared that he would have the wedding, to witness which appeared to
him the height of human felicity, solemnised over again. The bride
blushed, the bridesmaids tittered, the joy was universal.
Vivian inquired after the Baron. He learnt from Eugene that he had
quitted Europe about a month, having sailed as Minister to one of the
New American States. "My uncle," continued the young man, "was neither
well nor in spirits before his departure. I cannot understand why he
plagues himself so about politics; however, I trust he will like his new
appointment. You found him, I am sure, a delightful companion."
"Come! you two young gentlemen," said the father-in-law, "put off your
chat till the evening. The business of the day stops, for I see the
procession coming forward to receive the Regatta prize. Now, my dear!
where is the scarf? You know what to say? Remember, I particularly wish
to do honour to the victor! The sight of all these happy faces makes me
feel quite young again. I declare I think I shall live a hundred years!"
The procession advanced. First came a band of young children strewing
flowers, then followed four stout boys carrying a large purple and white
banner. The victor, proudly preceding the other candidates, strutted
forward, with his hat on one side, a light scull decorated with purple
and white ribbons in his right hand, and his left arm round his wife's
waist. The wife, a beautiful young woman, to whom were clinging two fat
flaxen-headed children, was the most interesting figure in the
procession. Her tight dark bodice set off her round full figure, and her
short red petticoat displayed her springy foot and ancle. Her neatly
braided and plaited hair was partly concealed by a silk cap, covered
with gold spangled gauze, flattened rather at the top, and finished at
the back of the head with a large bow. This costly head-gear, the
highest fashion of her class, was presented to the wearer by the bride,
and was destined to be kept for festivals. After the victor and his wife
came six girls and six boys, at the side of whom walked a very bustling
personage in black, who seemed extremely interested about the decorum of
the procession. A long train of villagers succeeded.
"Well!" said the old Lord to Vivian, "this must be a very gratifying
sight to you! How fortunate that your carriage broke down just at my
castle! I think my dear girl is acquitting herself admirably. Ah! Eugene
is a happy fellow, and I have no doubt that she will be happy too. The
young sailor receives his honours very properly: they are as nice a
family as I know. Observe, they are moving off now to make way for the
pretty girls and boys. That person in black is our Abbé, as benevolent,
worthy a creature as ever lived! and very clever too: you will see in a
minute. Now they are going to give us a little bridal chorus, after the
old fashion, and it is all the Abbé's doing. I understand that there is
an elegant allusion to my new bridge in it, which I think will please
you. Who ever thought that bridge would be opened for my girl's wedding?
Well! I am glad that it was not finished before. But we must be silent'
You will notice that part about the bridge; it is in the fifth verse, I
am told, beginning with something about Hymen, and ending with something
By this time the procession had formed a semicircle before the tent, the
Abbé standing In the middle, with a paper in his hand, and dividing the
two hands of choristers. He gave a signal with his cane, and the girls
_Chorus of Maidens_
Hours fly! it is Morn; he has left the bed of love! She follows him with
a strained eye when his figure is no longer seen; she leans her head
upon her arm. She is faithful to him as the lake to the mountain!
_Chorus of Youths_
Hours fly! it is Noon; fierce is the restless sun! While he labours he
thinks of her! while he controls others he will obey her! A strong man
subdued by love is like a vineyard silvered by the moon!
_Chorus of Youths and Maidens_
Hours fly! it is Eve; the soft star lights him to his home; she meets
him as his shadow falls on the threshold! she smiles, and their child,
stretching forth its tender hands from its mother's bosom, struggles to
_Chorus of Maidens_
Years glide! it is Youth; they sit within a secret bower. Purity is in
her raptured eyes, Faith in his warm embrace. He must fly! He kisses his
farewell: the fresh tears are on her cheek! He has gathered a lily with
the dew upon its leaves!
_Chorus of Youths_
Years glide! it is Manhood. He is in the fierce Camp: he is in the
deceitful Court. He must mingle sometimes with others, that he may be
always with her! In the false world, she is to him like a green olive
_Chorus of Youths and Maidens_
Years glide! it is Old Age. They sit beneath a branching elm. As the
moon rises on the sunset green, their children dance before them! Her
hand is in his; they look upon their children, and then upon each other!
"The fellow has some fancy," said the old Lord, "but given, I think, to
conceits. I did not exactly catch the passage about the bridge, but I
have no doubt it was all right."
Vivian was now invited to the pavilion, where refreshments were
prepared. Here our hero was introduced to many other guests, relations
of the family, who were on a visit at the castle, and who had been on
the lake at the moment of his arrival.
"This gentleman," said the old Lord, pointing to Vivian, "is my son's
friend, and I am quite sure that you are all delighted to see him. He
arrived here accidentally, his carriage having fortunately broken down
in passing one of the streams. All those rivulets should have bridges
built over them! I could look at my new bridge for ever. I often ask
myself, 'Now, how can such a piece of masonry ever be destroyed?' It
seems quite impossible, does not it? We all know that everything has an
end; and yet, whenever I look at that bridge, I often think that it can
only end when all things end."
In the evening they all waltzed upon the green. The large yellow moon
had risen, and a more agreeable sight than to witness two or three
hundred persons so gaily occupied, and in such a scene, is not easy to
imagine. How beautiful was the stern old castle, softened by the
moonlight, the illumined lake, the richly-silvered foliage of the woods,
and the white brilliant cataract!
As the castle was quite full of visitors, its hospitable master had
lodged Vivian for the night at the cottage of one of his favourite
tenants. Nothing would give greater pleasure to Vivian than this
circumstance, nor more annoyance to the worthy old gentleman.
The cottage belonged to the victor in the Regatta, who himself conducted
the visitor to his dwelling. Vivian did not press Essper's leaving the
revellers, so great an acquisition did he seem to their sports! teaching
them a thousand new games, and playing all manner of antics; but perhaps
none of his powers surprised them more than the extraordinary facility
and freedom with which he had acquired and used all their names. The
cottager's pretty wife had gone home an hour before her husband, to put
her two fair-haired children to bed and prepare her guest's
accommodation for the night. Nothing could be more romantic and lovely
than the situation of the cottage. It stood just on the gentle slope of
the mountain's base, not a hundred yards from the lower waterfall. It
was in the middle of a patch of highly-cultivated ground, which bore
creditable evidence to the industry of its proprietor. Fruit trees,
Turkey corn, vines, and flax flourished in luxuriance. The dwelling
itself was covered with myrtle and arbutus, and the tall lemon-plant
perfumed the window of the sitting-room. The casement of Vivian's
chamber opened full on the foaming cataract. The distant murmur of the
mighty waterfall, the gentle sighing of the trees, the soothing
influence of the moonlight, and the faint sounds occasionally caught of
dying revelry, the joyous exclamation of some successful candidate in
the day's games, the song of some returning lover, the plash of an oar
in the lake: all combined to produce that pensive mood in which we find
ourselves involuntarily reviewing the history of our life.
As Vivian was musing over the last harassing months of his burthensome
existence he could not help feeling that there was only one person in
the world on whom his memory could dwell with solace and satisfaction,
and this person was Lady Madeleine Trevor!
It was true that with her he had passed some agonising hours; but he
could not forget the angelic resignation with which her own affliction
had been borne, and the soothing converse by which his had been
alleviated. This train of thought was pursued till his aching mind sunk
into indefiniteness. He sat for some little time almost unconscious of
existence, till the crying of a child, waked by its father's return,
brought him back to the present scene. His thoughts naturally ran to his
friend Eugene. Surely this youthful bridegroom might reckon upon
happiness! Again Lady Madeleine recurred to him. Suddenly he observed a
wonderful appearance in the sky. The moon was paled in the high heavens,
and surrounded by luminous rings, almost as vividly tinted as the
rainbow, spreading and growing fainter, till they covered nearly half
the firmament. It was a glorious and almost unprecedented halo!
The sun rose red, the air was thick and hot. Anticipating that the day
would be very oppressive, Vivian and Essper were on their horses' backs
at an early hour. Already, however, many of the rustic revellers were
about, and preparations were commencing for the fête champêtre, which
this day was to close the wedding festivities. Many and sad were the
looks which Essper George cast behind him at the old castle on the lake.
"No good luck can come of it!" said he to his horse; for Vivian did not
encourage conversation. "O! master of mine, when wilt thou know the
meaning of good quarters! To leave such a place, and at such a time!
Why, Turriparva was nothing to it! The day before marriage and the hour
before death is when a man thinks least of his purse and most of his
neighbour. O! man, man, what art thou, that the eye of a girl can make
thee so pass all discretion that thou wilt sacrifice for the whim of a
moment good cheer enough to make thee last an age!"
Vivian had intended to stop and breakfast after riding about ten miles;
but he had not proceeded half that way when, from the extreme sultriness
of the morning, he found it impossible to advance without refreshment.
Max, also, to his rider's surprise, was much distressed; and, on turning
round to his servant, Vivian found Essper's hack panting and puffing,
and breaking out, as if, instead of commencing their day's work, they
were near reaching their point of destination.
"Why, how now, Essper? One would think that we had been riding all
night. What ails the beast?"
"In truth, sir, that which ails its rider; the poor dumb brute has more
sense than some who have the gift of speech. Who ever heard of a horse
leaving good quarters without much regretting the indiscretion?"
"The closeness of the air is so oppressive that I do not wonder at even
Max being distressed. Perhaps when the sun is higher, and has cleared
away the vapours, it may be more endurable: as it is, I think we had
better stop at once and breakfast here. This wood is as inviting as, I
trust, are the contents of your basket!"
"St. Florian devour them!" said Essper, in a very pious voice, "if I
agree not with you, sir; and as for the basket, although we have left
the land of milk and honey, by the blessing of our Black Lady! I have
that within it which would put courage in the heart of a caught mouse.
Although we may not breakfast on bridecake and beccaficos, yet is a
neat's tongue better than a fox's tail; and I have ever held a bottle of
Rhenish to be superior to rain-water, even though the element be
filtered through a gutter. Nor, by All Saints! have I forgotten a bottle
of Kerchen Wasser from the Black Forest, nor a keg of Dantzic brandy, a
glass of which, when travelling at night, I am ever accustomed to take
after my prayers; for I have always observed that, though devotion doth
sufficiently warm up the soul, the body all the time is rather the
colder for stopping under a tree to tell its beads."
The travellers accordingly led their horses a few yards into the wood,
and soon met, as they had expected, with a small green glade. It was
surrounded, except at the slight opening by which they had entered it,
with fine Spanish chestnut trees, which now, loaded with their large
brown fruit, rich and ripe, clustered in the starry foliage, afforded a
retreat as beautiful to the eye as its shade was grateful to their
senses. Vivian dismounted, and, stretching out his legs, leant back
against the trunk of a tree: and Essper, having fastened Max and his own
horse to some branches, proceeded to display his stores. Vivian was
silent, thoughtful, and scarcely tasted anything: Essper George, on the
contrary, was in unusual and even troublesome spirits, and had not his
appetite necessarily produced a few pauses in his almost perpetual
rattle, the patience of his master would have been fairly worn out. At
length Essper had devoured the whole supply; and as Vivian not only did
not encourage his remarks, but even in a peremptory manner had desired
his silence, he was fain to amuse himself by trying to catch in his
mouth a large brilliant fly which every instant was dancing before him.
Two individuals more singularly contrasting in their appearance than the
master and the servant could scarcely be conceived; and Vivian, lying
with his back against a tree, with his legs stretched out, his arms
folded, and his eyes fixed on the ground; and Essper, though seated, in
perpetual motion, and shifting his posture with feverish restlessness,
now looking over his shoulder for the fly, then making an unsuccessful
bite at it, and then, wearied with his frequent failures, amusing
himself with acting Punch with his thumbs; altogether presenting two
figures, which might have been considered as not inapt personifications
of the rival systems of Ideality and Materialism.
At length Essper became silent for the sake of variety, and imagining,
from his master's example, that there must be some sweets in meditation
hitherto undiscovered by him, he imitated Vivian's posture! So perverse
is human nature, that the moment Vivian was aware that Essper was
perfectly silent, he began to feel an inclination to converse with him.
"Why, Essper!" said he, looking up and smiling, "this is the first time
during our acquaintance that I have ever seen thought upon your brow.
What can now be puzzling your wild brain?"
"I was thinking, sir," said Essper, with a very solemn look, "that if
there were a deceased field-mouse here I would moralise on death."
"What! turned philosopher!"
"Ay! sir, it appears to me," said he, taking up a husk which lay on the
turf, "that there is not a nutshell in Christendom which may not become
matter for very grave meditation!"
"Can you expound that?"
"Verily, sir, the whole philosophy of life seems to me to consist in
discovering the kernel. When you see a courtier out of favour or a
merchant out of credit, when you see a soldier without pillage, a sailor
without prize money, and a lawyer without paper, a bachelor with
nephews, and an old maid with nieces, be assured the nut is not worth
the cracking, and send it to the winds, as I do this husk at present."
"Why, Essper!" said Vivian, laughing, "Considering that you have taken
your degree so lately, you wear the Doctor's cap with authority! Instead
of being in your noviciate, one would think that you had been a
philosopher long enough to have outlived your system."
"Bless you, sir, for philosophy, I sucked it in with my mother's milk.
Nature then gave me the hint, which I have ever since acted on, and I
hold that the sum of all learning consists in milking another man's cow.
So much for the recent acquisition of my philosophy! I gained it, you
see, sir, with the first wink of my eye; and though I lost a great
portion of it by sea-sickness in the Mediterranean, nevertheless, since
I served your Lordship, I have resumed my old habits, and do opine that
this vain globe is but a large football to be kicked and cuffed about by
"You must have seen a great deal in your life, Essper," said Vivian.
"Like all great travellers." said Essper, "I have seen more than I
remember, and remember more than I have seen."
"Have you any objection to go to the East again?" asked Vivian. "It
would require but little persuasion to lead me there."
"I would rather go to a place where the religion is easier; I wish, sir,
you would take me to England!"
"Nay, not there with me, if with others."
"With you, or with none."
"I cannot conceive, Essper, what can induce you to tie up your fortunes
with those of such a sad-looking personage as myself."
"In truth, sir, there is no accounting for tastes. My grandmother loved
a brindled cat!"
"Your grandmother, Essper! Nothing would amuse me more than to be
introduced to your family."
"My family, sir, are nothing more nor less than what all of us must be
counted, worms of five feet long, mortal angels, the world's epitome,
heaps of atoms which Nature has kneaded with blood into solid flesh,
little worlds of living clay, sparks of heaven, inches of earth,
Nature's quintessence, moving dust, the little all, smooth-faced
cherubim, in whose souls the Ring of stars has drawn the image
"And how many years has breathed the worm of five feet long that I am
now speaking to?"
"Good, my Lord, I was no head at calculating from a boy; but I do
remember that I am two days older than one of the planets."
"How is that?"
"There was one born in the sky, sir, the day I was christened with a
"Come, Essper," said Vivian, who was rather interested by the
conversation; Essper, having, until this morning, skilfully avoided any
discourse upon the subject of his birth or family, adroitly turning the
conversation whenever it chanced to approach these subjects, and
silencing inquiries, if commenced, by some ludicrous and evidently
fictitious answer. "Come, Essper," said Vivian, "I feel by no means in
the humour to quit this shady retreat. You and I have now known each
other long, and gone through much together. It is but fair that I should
become better acquainted with one who, to me, is not only a faithful
servant, but what is more valuable, a faithful friend, I might now
almost add, my only one. What say you to whiling away a passing hour by
giving me some sketch of your curious and adventurous life? If there be
anything that you wish to conceal, pass it over; but no invention,
nothing but the truth, if you please; the whole truth, if you like."
"Why, sweet sir, as for this odd knot of soul and body, which none but
the hand of Heaven could have twined, it was first seen, I believe, near
the very spot where we are now sitting; for my mother, when I saw her
first and last, lived in Bohemia. She was an Egyptian, and came herself
from the Levant. I lived a week, sir, in the Seraglio when I was at
Constantinople, and I saw there the brightest women of all countries,
Georgians, and Circassians, and Poles; in truth, sir, nature's
masterpieces. And yet, by the Gods of all nations! there was not one of
them half so lovely as the lady who gave me this tongue!" Here Essper
exhibited at full length the enormous feature which had so much enraged
the one-eyed sergeant at Frankfort.
"When I first remember myself," he continued, "I was playing with some
other gipsy-boys in the midst of a forest. Here was our settlement! It
was large and powerful. My mother, probably from her beauty, possessed
great influence, particularly among the men; and yet I found not among
them all a father. On the contrary, every one of my companions had a man
whom he reverenced as his parent, and who taught him to steal; but I
was called by the whole tribe the mother-son, and was honest from my
first year out of mere wilfulness; at least, if I stole anything, it was
always from our own people. Many were the quarrels I occasioned, since,
presuming on my mother's love and power, I never called mischief a
scrape; but acting just as my fancy took me, I left those who suffered
by my conduct to apologise for my ill-behaviour. Being thus an idle,
unprofitable, impudent, and injurious member of this pure community,
they determined one day to cast me out from their bosom; and in spite of
my mother's exertions and entreaties, the ungrateful vipers succeeded in
their purpose. As a compliment to my parent, they allowed me to tender
my resignation, instead of receiving my expulsion. My dear mother gave
me a donkey, a wallet, and a ducat, a great deal of advice about my
future conduct, and, what was more interesting to me, much information
about my birth.
"'Sweet child of my womb!' said my mother, pressing me to her bosom; 'be
proud of thy white hands and straight nose! Thou gottest them not from
me, and thou shalt take them from whence they came. Thy father is a
Hungarian Prince; and though I would not have parted with thee, had I
thought that thou wouldst ever have prospered in our life, even if he
had made thee his child of the law and lord of his castle, still, as
thou canst not tarry with us, haste thou to him! Give him this ring and
this lock of hair; tell him none have seen them but the father, the
mother, and the child! He will look on them, and remember the days that
are passed; and thou shalt be unto him as a hope for his lusty years and
a prop for his old age.'
"My mother gave me all necessary directions, which I well remembered,
and much more advice, which I directly forgot.
"Although tempted, now that I was a free man, to follow my own fancy, I
still was too curious to sec what kind of a person was my unknown father
to deviate either from my route or my maternal instructions, and in a
fortnight's time I had reached my future Principality.
"The Sun sank behind the proud castle of my princely father, as,
trotting slowly along upon my humble beast, with my wallet slung at my
side, I approached it through his park. A guard, consisting of twenty or
thirty men in magnificent uniforms, were lounging at the portal. I--but
sir, sir, what is the meaning of this darkness? I always made a vow to
myself that I never would tell my history. Ah! what ails me?"
A large eagle fell dead at their feet.
"Protect me, master!" screamed Essper, seizing Vivian by the shoulder;
"what is coming? I cannot stand; the earth seems to tremble! Is it the
wind that roars and rages? or is it ten thousand cannon blowing this
globe to atoms?"
"It is, it must be the wind!" said Vivian, agitated. "We are not safe
under these trees: look to the horses!"
"I will," said Essper, "if I can stand. Out of the forest! Ah, look at
Vivian turned, and beheld his spirited horse raised on his hind legs,
and dashing his fore feet against the trunk of a tree to which they had
tied him. The terrified and furious creature was struggling to disengage
himself, and would probably have sustained or inflicted some terrible
injury, had not the wind suddenly hushed. Covered with foam, he stood
panting, while Vivian patted and encouraged him. Essper's less spirited
beast had, from the first, crouched upon the earth, covered with sweat,
his limbs quivering and his tongue hanging out.
"Master!" said Essper, "what shall we do? Is there any chance of getting
back to the castle? I am sure our very lives are in danger. See that
tremendous cloud! It looks like eternal night! Whither shall we go; what
shall we do?"
"Make for the castle!" said Vivian, mounting.
They had just got into the road when another terrific gust of wind
nearly took them off their horses, and blinded them with the clouds of
sand which it drove out of the crevices of the mountains.
They looked round on every side, and Hope gave way before the scene of
desolation. Immense branches were shivered from the largest trees; small
ones were entirely stripped of their leaves; the long grass was bowed to
the earth; the waters were whirled in eddies out of the little rivulets;
birds deserting their nests to shelter in the crevices of the rocks,
unable to stem the driving air, flapped their wings and fell upon the
earth: the frightened animals in the plain, almost suffocated by the
impetuosity of the wind, sought safety, and found destruction: some of
the largest trees were torn up by the roots; the sluices of the
mountains were filled, and innumerable torrents rushed down before empty
gulleys. The heavens now open, and lightning and thunder contend with
the horrors of the wind!
In a moment all was again hushed. Dead silence succeeded the bellow of
the thunder, the roar of the wind, the rush of the waters, the moaning
of the beasts, the screaming of the birds! Nothing was heard save the
splashing of the agitated lake as it beat up against the black rocks
which girt it in.
"Master!" again said Essper, "is this the day of doom?"
"Keep by my side. Essper; keep close, make the best of this pause: let
us but reach the village!"
Scarcely had Vivian spoken when greater darkness enveloped the trembling
earth. Again the heavens were rent with lightning, which nothing could
have quenched but the descending deluge. Cataracts poured down from the
lowering firmament. In an instant the horses dashed round; beast and
rider, blinded and stifled by the gushing rain, and gasping for breath.
Shelter was nowhere. The quivering beasts reared, and snorted, and sank
upon their knees. The horsemen were dismounted. Vivian succeeded in
hoodwinking Max, who was still furious: the other horse appeared nearly
exhausted. Essper, beside himself with terror, could only hang over
Another awful calm.
"Courage, Essper!" said Vivian. "We are still safe: look up, man! the
storm cannot last long thus; and see! I am sure the clouds are
The heavy mass of vapour which had seemed to threaten the earth with
instant destruction suddenly parted. The red and lurid Sun was visible,
but his light and heat were quenched in the still impending waters.
"Mount, Essper!" said Vivian, "this is our only chance: five minutes'
good speed will take us to the village."
Encouraged by his master's example, Essper once more got upon his horse,
and the panting animals, relieved by the cessation of the hurricane,
carried them at a fair pace towards the village, considering that their
road was now impeded by the overflowing of the lake.
"Master!" said Essper, "cannot we get out of these waters?"
He had scarcely spoken before a terrific burst, a noise, they knew not
what, a rush they could not understand, a vibration which shook them on
their horses, made them start back and again dismount. Every terror
sank before the appalling roar of the cataract. It seemed that the
mighty mountain, unable to support its weight of waters, shook to the
foundation. A lake had burst on its summit, and the cataract became a
falling Ocean. The source of the great deep appeared to be discharging
itself over the range of mountains; the great grey peak tottered on its
foundations! It shook! it fell! and buried in its ruins the castle, the
village, and the bridge!
Vivian with starting eyes beheld the whole washed away; instinct gave
him energy to throw himself on the back of his horse: a breath, and he
had leaped up the nearest hill! Essper George, in a state of
distraction, was madly laughing as he climbed to the top of a high tree:
his horse was carried off in the drowning waters, which had now
reached the road.
"The desolation is complete!" thought Vivian. At this moment the wind
again rose, the rain again descended, the heavens again opened, the
lightning again flashed! An amethystine flame hung upon rocks and
waters, and through the raging elements a yellow fork darted its fatal
point at Essper's resting-place. The tree fell! Vivian's horse, with a
maddened snort, dashed down the hill; his master, senseless, clung to
his neck; the frantic animal was past all government; he stood upright
in the air, flung his rider, and fell dead!
Here leave we Vivian! It was my wish to have detailed, in the present
portion of this work, the singular adventures which befell him in one of
the most delightful of modern cities, light-hearted Vienna! But his
history has expanded under my pen, and I fear that I have, even now, too
much presumed upon an attention which I am not entitled to command. I
am, as yet, but standing without the gate of the Garden of Romance. True
it is, that as I gaze through the ivory bars of its Golden Portal, I
would fain believe that, following my roving fancy, I might arrive at
some green retreats hitherto unexplored, and loiter among some leafy
bowers where none have lingered before me. But these expectations may be
as vain as those dreams of Youth over which all have mourned. The
Disappointment of Manhood succeeds to the delusion of Youth: let us hope
that the heritage of Old Age is not Despair.
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