The Earl of Beaconsfield
Part 6 out of 11
most foolish game, he will be taken in now, if he is not on his guard;
we really never meet, at: least not in a quiet friendly way; and so now,
will you come?"
"St. George is positively coming?"
"Oh yes' positively; do not be afraid of his gaining ground on the
little Violet in your absence."
"Well, then, my dear Von Konigstein, I will come."
"Well, that is yourself again. It made me quite unhappy to see you look
so sour and melancholy; one would have thought that I was some bore,
Salvinski at, least, by the way you spoke to me. Well, mind you come; it
is a promise, good. I must go and say just one word to the lovely little
Saxon girl; by-the-bye, Grey, one word before I am off. List to a
friend; you are on the wrong scent about Miss Fane; St. George, I think,
has no chance there, and now no wish to succeed. The game is your own,
if you like; trust my word, she is an angel. The good powers prosper
you!" So saying, the Baron glided off.
Mr. St. George had danced With Miss Fane the only quadrille in which
Lady Madeleine allowed her to join. He was now waltzing with Aurelia
Fitzloom, and was at the head of a band of adventurous votaries of
Terpsichore; who, wearied with the commonplace convenience of a saloon,
had ventured to invoke the Muse on the lawn.
"A most interesting sight, Lady Madeleine!" said Mr. Fitzloom, as he
offered her his arm, and advised their instant presence as patrons of
the "Fête du Village," for such Baron von Konigstein had most happily
termed it. "A delightful man, that Baron von Konigstein, and says such
delightful things! Fête du Village! how very good!"
"That is Miss Fitzloom, then, whom my brother is waltzing with?" asked
"Not exactly, my Lady," said Mr. Fitzloom, "not exactly _Miss_ Fitzloom,
rather Miss Aurelia Fitzloom, my third daughter; our third eldest, as
Mrs. Fitzloom sometimes says; for really it is necessary to distinguish,
with such a family as ours, you know."
"Let us walk," said Miss Fane to Vivian, for she was now leaning upon
his arm; "the evening is deliriously soft, but even with the protection
of a cashmere I scarcely dare venture to stand still. Lady Madeleine
seems very much engaged at present. What amusing people these
"Mrs. Fitzloom; I have not heard her voice yet."
"No; Mrs. Fitzloom does not talk. Albert says she makes it a rule never
to speak in the presence of a stranger. She deals plenteously, however,
at home in domestic apophthegms. If you could but hear him imitating
them all! Whenever she does speak, she finishes all her sentences by
confessing that she is conscious of her own deficiencies, but that she
has taken care to give her daughters the very best education. They are
what Albert calls fine girls, and I am glad he has made friends with
them; for, after all, he must find it rather dull here. By-the-bye, Mr.
Grey, I am afraid that you cannot find this evening very amusing, the
absence of a favourite pursuit always makes a sensible void, and these
walls must remind you of more piquant pleasures than waltzing with fine
London ladies, or promenading up a dull terrace with an invalid."
"I assure you that you are quite misinformed as to the mode in which I
generally pass my evenings."
"I hope I am!" said Miss Fane, in rather a serious tone. "I wish I could
also he mistaken in my suspicions of the mode in which Albert spends his
time. He is sadly changed. For the first month that we were here he
seemed to prefer nothing in the world to our society, and now--I was
nearly saying that we had not seen him for one single evening these
three weeks. I cannot understand what you find at this house of such
absorbing interest. Although I know you think I am much mistaken in my
suspicions, still I feel very anxious. I spoke to Albert to-day; but he
scarcely answered me; or said that which it was a pleasure for me
"Mr. St. George should feel highly gratified in having excited such an
interest in the mind of Miss Fane."
"He should not feel more gratified than all who are my friends; for all
who are such I must ever experience the liveliest interest."
"How happy must those be who feel that they have a right to count Miss
Fane among their friends!"
"I have the pleasure then, I assure you, of making many happy, and among
them, Mr. Grey."
Vivian was surprised that he did not utter some complimentary answer;
but he knew not why, the words would not come; and instead of speaking,
he was thinking of what had been spoken.
"How brilliant are these gardens!" said Vivian, looking at the sky.
"Very brilliant!" said Miss Fane, looking on the ground. Conversation
seemed nearly extinct, and yet neither offered to turn back.
"Good heavens! you are ill," exclaimed Vivian, when, on accidentally
turning to his companion, he found she was in tears. "Shall we go back,
or will you wait here? Can I fetch anything? I fear you are very ill!"
"No, not very ill, but very foolish; let us walk on," and, sighing, she
seemed suddenly to recover.
"I am ashamed of this foolishness; what can you think? But I am so
agitated, so nervous. I hope you will forget--I hope--"
"Perhaps the air has suddenly affected you; shall we go in? Nothing has
been said, nothing happened; no one has dared to say or do anything to
annoy you? Speak, dear Miss Fane, the, the--" the words died on Vivian's
lips, yet a power he could not withstand urged him to speak, "the, the,
"Ah!" almost shrieked Miss Fane. "Stop one second; an effort, and I must
be well; nothing has happened, and no one has done or said anything; but
it is of something that should be said, of something that should be
done, that I was thinking, and it overcame me."
"Miss Fane," said Vivian, "if there be anything which I can do or
devise, any possible way that I can exert myself in your service, speak
with the most perfect confidence; do not fear that your motives will be
misconceived, that your purpose will be misinterpreted, that your
confidence will be misunderstood. You are addressing one who would lay
down his life for you, who is willing to perform all your commands, and
forget them when performed. I beseech you to trust me; believe me, that
you shall not repent."
She answered not, but holding down her head, covered her face with her
small white hand; her lovely face which was crimsoned with her flashing
blood. They were now at the end of the terrace; to return was
impossible. If they remained stationary, they must be perceived and
joined. What was to be done? He led her down a retired walk still
farther from the house. As they proceeded in silence, the bursts of the
music and the loud laughter of the joyous guests became fainter and
fainter, till at last the sounds died away into echo, and echo
A thousand thoughts dashed through Vivian's mind in rapid succession;
but a painful one, a most painful one to him, to any man, always
remained the last. His companion would not speak; yet to allow her to
return home without freeing her mind of the fearful burden which
evidently overwhelmed it, was impossible. At length he broke a silence
which seemed to have lasted an age.
"Do not believe that I am taking advantage of an agitating moment to
extract from you a confidence which you may repent. I feel assured that
I am right in supposing that you have contemplated in a calmer moment
the possibility of my being of service to you; that, in short, there is
something in which you require my assistance, my co-operation; an
assistance, a co-operation, which, if it produce any benefit to you,
will make me at length feel that I have not lived in vain. No feeling of
false delicacy shall prevent me from assisting you in giving utterance
to thoughts which you have owned it is absolutely necessary should be
expressed. Remember that you have allowed me to believe that we are
friends; do not prove by your silence that we are friends only in name."
"I am overwhelmed; I cannot speak. My face burns with shame; I have
miscalculated my strength of mind, perhaps my physical strength; what,
what must you think of me?" She spoke in a low and smothered voice.
"Think of you! everything which the most devoted respect dare think of
an object which it reverences. Do not believe that I am one who would
presume an instant on my position, because I have accidentally witnessed
a young and lovely woman betrayed into a display of feeling which the
artificial forms of cold society cannot contemplate, and dare to
ridicule. You are speaking to one who also has felt; who, though a man,
has wept; who can comprehend sorrow; who can understand the most secret
sensations of an agitated spirit. Dare to trust me. Be convinced that
hereafter, neither by word nor look, hint nor sign, on my part, shall
you feel, save by your own wish, that you have appeared to Vivian Grey
in any other light than in the saloons we have just quitted."
"Generous man, I dare trust anything to you that I dare trust to human
being; but--" here her voice died away.
"It is a painful thing for me to attempt to guess your thoughts; but if
it be of Mr. St. George that you are thinking, have no fear respecting
him; have no fear about his present situation. Trust to me that there
shall be no anxiety for his future one. I will be his unknown guardian,
his unseen friend; the promoter of your wishes, the protector of your--"
"No, no," said Miss Fane, with firmness, and looking quickly up, as if
her mind were relieved by discovering that all this time Vivian had
never imagined she was thinking of him. "No, no, you are mistaken; it is
not of Mr. St. George, of Mr. St. George only, that I am thinking. I am
much better now; I shall be able in an instant to speak; be able, I
trust, to forget how foolish, how very foolish I have been.
"Let us walk on," continued Miss Fane, "let us walk on; we can easily
account for our absence if it be remarked; and it is better that it
should be all over. I feel quite well, and shall be able to speak quite
"Do not hurry; there is no fear of our absence being remarked, Lady
Madeleine is so surrounded."
"After what has passed, it seems ridiculous in me to apologise, as I
had intended, for speaking to you on a graver subject than what has
generally formed the point of conversation between us. I feared that you
might misunderstand the motives which have dictated my conduct. I have
attempted not to appear agitated, and I have been overcome. I trust that
you will not be offended if I recur to the subject of the New House. Do
not believe that I ever would have allowed my fears, my girlish fears,
so to have overcome my discretion; so to have overcome, indeed, all
propriety of conduct on my part; as to have induced me to have sought an
interview with you, to moralise to you about your mode of life. No, no;
it is not of this that I wish to speak, or rather that I will speak. I
will hope, I will pray, that Albert and yourself have never found in
that which you have followed as an amusement, the source, the origin,
the cause of a single unhappy or even anxious moment; Mr. Grey, I will
believe all this."
"Dearest Miss Fane, believe it with confidence. Of St. George, I can
with sincerity aver, that it is my firm opinion, that, far from being
involved, his fortune is not in the slightest degree injured. Believe
me, I will not attempt to quiet you now, as I would have done at any
other time, by telling you that you magnify your fears, and allow your
feelings to exaggerate the danger which exists. There has been danger.
There is danger; play, high play, has been and is pursued at this New
House, but Mr. St. George has never been a loser; and if the exertions
of man can avail, never shall, at least unfairly. As to the other
individual, whom you have honoured by the interest which you have
professed in his welfare, no one can more thoroughly detest any practice
which exists in this world than he does the gaming-table."
"Oh! you have made me so happy! I feel so persuaded that you have not
deceived me! the tones of your voice, your manner, your expression,
convince me that you have been sincere, and that I am happy, at least
for the present."
"For ever, I trust, Miss Fane."
"Let me now prevent future misery. Let me speak about that which has
long dwelt on my mind like a nightmare, about that which I did fear it
was almost too late to speak. Not of your pursuit, not even of that
fatal pursuit, do I now think, but of your companion in this amusement,
in all amusements! it is he, he whom I dread, whom I look upon with
horror, even to him, I cannot say, with hatred!"
"The Baron?" said Vivian, calmly.
"I cannot name him. Dread him, fear him, avoid him! it is he that I
mean, he of whom I thought that you were the victim. You must have been
surprised, you must have wondered at our conduct towards him. Oh! when
Lady Madeleine turned from him with coolness, when she answered him in
tones which to you might have appeared harsh, she behaved to him, in
comparison to what is his due, and what we sometimes feel to be our
duty, with affection, actually with affection and regard. No human being
can know what horror is, until he looks upon a fellow-creature with the
eyes that I look upon that man." She leant upon Vivian's arm with her
whole weight, and even then he thought she must have sunk; neither
spoke. How solemn is the silence of sorrow!
"I am overcome," continued Miss Fane; "the remembrance of what he has
done overwhelms me. I cannot speak it; the recollection is death; yet
you must know it. That you might know it, I have before attempted. I
wished to have spared myself the torture which I now endure. You must
know it. I will write; ay! that will do. I will write: I cannot speak
now; it is impossible; but beware of him; you are so young'"
"I have no words now to thank you, dear Miss Fane, for this. Had I been
the victim of Von Konigstein, I should have been repaid for all my
misery by feeling that you regretted its infliction; but I trust that I
am in no danger: though young, I fear that I am one who must not count
his time by calendars. 'An aged interpreter, though young in days.'
Would that I could be deceived! Fear not for your cousin. Trust to one
whom you have made think better of this world, and of his
The sound of approaching footsteps, and the light laugh of pleasure,
told of some who were wandering like themselves.
"We had better return," said Miss Fane; "I fear that Lady Madeleine will
observe that I look unwell. Some one approaches! No, they pass only the
top of the walk." It was Mr. St. George and Aurelia Fitzloom.
Quick flew the brilliant hours; and soon the dance was over, and the
It was late when Vivian retired. As he opened his door he was surprised
to find lights in his chamber. The figure of a man appeared seated at
the table. It moved; it was Essper George.
The reader will remember that Vivian had agreed to dine, on the day
after the fête, with the Baron, in his private apartments. This was an
arrangement which, in fact, the custom of the house did not permit; but
the irregularities of great men who are attended by chasseurs are
occasionally winked at by a supple maître d'hôtel. Vivian had reasons
for not regretting his acceptance of the invitation; and he never shook
hands with the Chevalier de Boeffleurs, apparently, with greater
cordiality, than on the day on which he met him at dinner at the Baron
von Konigstein's. Mr. St. George had not arrived.
"Past five!" said the Baron; "riding out, I suppose, with the Fitzlooms.
Aurelia is certainly a fine girl; but I should think that Lady Madeleine
would hardly approve the connection. The St. Georges have blood in their
veins; and would, I suppose, as soon think of marrying a Fitzloom as we
Germans should of marrying a woman without a _von_ before her name. We
are quite alone, Grey, only the Chevalier and St. George. I had an idea
of asking Salvinski, but he is such a regular steam-engine, and began
such a long story last night about his interview with the King of
Ashantee, that the bare possibility of his taking it into his head to
finish it to-day frightened me. You were away early from the Grand
Duke's last night. The business went off well."
"Very well, indeed!" said the Chevalier de Boeffleurs; completing by
this speech the first dozen of words which he had uttered since his
stay at Ems.
"I think that last night Lady Madeleine Trevor looked perfectly
magnificent; and a certain lady, too, Grey, eh? Here is St. George. My
dear fellow, how are you? Has the fair Aurelia recovered from the last
night's fatigues? Now, Ernstorff, dinner as soon as possible."
The Baron made up to-day, certainly, for the silence of his friend the
Chevalier. He outdid himself. Story after story, adventure after
adventure, followed each other with exciting haste. In fact, the Baron
never ceased talking the whole dinner, except when he refreshed himself
with wine, which he drank copiously. A nice observer would, perhaps,
have considered the Baron's high spirits artificial, and his
conversation an effort. Yet his temper, though lively, was generally
equable; and his ideas, which always appeared to occur easily, were
usually thrown out in fluent phraseology. The dinner was long, and a
great deal of wine was drunk: more than most of the parties present for
a long time had been accustomed to. About eight o'clock the Chevalier
proposed going to the Redoute, but the Baron objected.
"Let us have an evening altogether: surely we have had enough of the
Redoute. In my opinion one of the advantages of the fête is, that there
is no New House to-night. Conversation is a novelty. On a moderate
calculation I must have told you to-day at least fifty original
anecdotes. I have done my duty. It is the Chevalier's turn now. Come, de
Boeffleurs, a choice one!"
"I remember a story Prince Salvinski once told me."
"No, no, that is too bad; none of that Polish bear's romances; if we
have his stories, we may as well have his company."
"But it is a very curious story," continued the Chevalier, with a little
"Oh! so is every story, according to the storier."
"I think, Von Konigstein, you imagine no one can tell a story but
yourself," said De Boeffleurs, actually indignant. Vivian had never
heard him speak so much before, and really began to believe that he was
not quite an automaton.
"Let us have it!" said St. George.
"It is a story told of a Polish nobleman, a Count somebody: I never can
remember their crack-jaw names. Well! the point is this," said the
silent little Chevalier, who, apparently, already repented of the
boldness of his offer, and, misdoubting his powers, wished to begin with
the end of his tale: "the point is this, he was playing one day at
ecarté with the Governor of Wilna; the stake was trifling, but he had a
bet, you see, with the Governor of a thousand roubles; a bet with the
Governor's secretary, never mind the amount, say two hundred and fifty,
you see; then, he went on the turn-up with the Commandant's wife; and
took the pips on the trumps with the Archbishop of Warsaw. To understand
the point of the story, you see, you must have a distinct conception how
the game stood. You see, St. George, there was the bet with the
Governor, one thousand roubles; the Governor's secretary, never mind the
amount, say two hundred and fifty; turn-up with the Commandant's lady,
and the pips with the Archbishop of Warsaw. Proposed three times, one
for the king, the Governor drew ace; the Governor was already three and
the ten. When the Governor scored king, the Archbishop gave the odds,
drew knave queen one hand. The count offered to propose fourth time.
Governor refused. King to six, ace fell to knave, queen cleared on.
Governor lost, besides bets with the whole état-major; the Secretary
gave his bill; the Commandant's lady pawned her jewels; and the
Archbishop was done on the pips!"
"By Jove, what a Salvinski!"
"How many trumps had the Governor?" asked St. George.
"Three," said the Chevalier.
"Then it is impossible: I do not believe the story; it could not be."
"I beg your pardon," said the Chevalier; "you see the Governor had--"
"By Jove, don't let us have it all over again!" said the Baron. "Well!
if this be your model for an after-dinner anecdote, which ought to be as
piquant as an anchovy toast, I will never complain of your silence
"The story is a true story," said the Chevalier; "have you got a pack of
cards, Von Konigstein? I will show it you."
"There is not such a thing in the room," said the Baron.
"Well, I never heard of a room without a pack of cards before," said the
Chevalier; "I will send for one to my own apartments."
"Perhaps Ernstorff has got a pack. Here, Ernstorff, have you got a pack
of cards? That's well; bring it immediately."
The cards were brought, and the Chevalier began to fight his battle over
again; but could not satisfy Mr. St. George. "You see, there was the bet
with the Governor, and the pips, as I said before, with the Archbishop
"My dear De Boeffleurs, let's no more of this. If you like to have a
game of ecarté with St. George, well and good; but as for quarrelling
the whole evening about some blundering lie of Salvinski's, it really is
too much. You two can play, and I can talk to Don Vivian, who,
by-the-bye, is rather of the rueful countenance to-night. Why, my dear
fellow, I have not heard your voice this evening: frightened by the fate
of the Archbishop of Warsaw, I suppose?"
"Ecarté is so devilish dull," said St. George; "and it is such a trouble
"I will deal for both, if you like," said De Boeffleurs; "I am used to
"Oh! no, I won't play ecarté; let us have something in which we can all
"Rouge-et-noir," suggested the Chevalier, in a careless tone, as if he
had no taste for the amusement.
"There is not enough, is there?" asked St. George.
"Oh! two are enough, you know; one deals, much more four."
"Well, I don't care; rouge-et-noir then, let us have rouge-et-noir. Von
Konigstein, what say you to rouge-et-noir? De Boeffleurs says we can
play it here very well. Come, Grey."
"Oh! rouge-et-noir, rouge-et-noir," said the Baron; "have not you both
had rouge-et-noir enough? Am I not to be allowed one holiday? Well,
anything to please you; so rouge-et-noir, if it must be so."
"If all wish it, I have no objection," said Vivian.
"Well, then, let us sit down; Ernstorff has, I dare say, another pack of
cards, and St. George will be dealer; I know he likes that ceremony."
"No, no; I appoint the Chevalier."
"Very well," said De Boeffleurs, "the plan will be for two to bank
against the table; the table to play on the same colour by joint
agreement. You can join me, Von Konigstein, and pay or receive with me,
from Mr. St. George and Grey."
"I will bank with you, if you like, Chevalier," said Vivian.
"Oh! certainly; that is if you like. But perhaps the Baron is more used
to banking; you perhaps don't understand it."
"Perfectly; it appears to me to be very simple."
"No, don't you bank, Grey," said St. George. "I want you to play with me
against the Chevalier and the Baron; I like your luck."
"Luck is very capricious, remember."
"Oh, no, I like your luck; don't bank."
"Be it so."
Playing commenced. An hour elapsed, and the situation of none of the
parties was materially different from what it had been when they began
the game. Vivian proposed leaving off; but Mr. St. George avowed that he
felt very fortunate, and that he had a presentiment that he should win.
Another hour elapsed, and he had lost considerably. Eleven o'clock:
Vivian's luck had also deserted him. Mr. St. George was losing
desperately. Midnight: Vivian had lost back half his gains on the
season. St. George still more desperate, all his coolness had deserted
him. He had persisted obstinately against a run on the red; then
floundered and got entangled in a seesaw, which alone cost him
Ernstorff now brought in refreshments; and for a moment they ceased
playing. The Baron opened a bottle of champagne; and St. George and the
Chevalier were stretching their legs and composing their minds in very
different ways, the first in walking rapidly up and down the room, and
the other by lying very quietly at his full length on the sofa; Vivian
was employed in building houses with the cards.
"Grey," said the Chevalier de Boeffleurs, "I cannot imagine why you do
not for a moment try to forget the cards: that is the only way to win.
Never sit musing over the table."
But Grey was not to be persuaded to give up building his pagoda: which,
now many stories high, like a more celebrated but scarcely more
substantial structure, fell with a crash. Vivian collected the scattered
cards into two divisions.
"Now!" said the Baron, seating himself, "for St. George's revenge."
The Chevalier and the greatest sufferer took their places.
"Is Ernstorff coming in again, Baron?" asked Vivian.
"No! I think not."
"Let us be sure; it is disagreeable to be disturbed at this time of
"Lock the door, then," said St. George.
"A very good plan," said Vivian; and he locked it accordingly.
"Now, gentlemen," said Vivian, rising from the table, and putting both
packs of cards into his pocket; "now, gentlemen, I have another game to
play." The Chevalier started on his chair, the Baron turned pale, but
both were silent. "Mr. St. George," continued Vivian, "I think that you
owe the Chevalier de Boeffleurs about four thousand Napoleons, and to
Baron von Konigstein something more than half that sum. I have to inform
you that it is unnecessary for you to satisfy the claims of either of
these gentlemen, which are founded neither in law nor in honour."
"Mr. Grey, what am I to understand?" asked the quiet Chevalier de
Boeffleurs, with the air of a wolf and the voice of a lion.
"Understand, sir!" answered Vivian, sternly, "that I am not one who will
be bullied by a blackleg."
"Grey! good God! what do you mean?" asked the Baron.
"That which it is my duty, not my pleasure, to explain, Baron von
"If you mean to insinuate," burst forth the Chevalier.
"I mean to insinuate nothing. I leave insinuations and innuendoes to
chevaliers d'industrie. I mean to prove everything."
Mr. St. George did not speak, but seemed as utterly astounded and
overwhelmed as Baron von Konigstein himself, who, with his arm leaning
on the table, his hands clasped, and the forefinger of his right hand
playing convulsively on his left, was pale as death, and did not
"Gentlemen," said Vivian, "I shall not detain you long, though I have
much to say that is to the purpose. I am perfectly cool, and, believe
me, perfectly resolute. Let me recommend to you all the same
temperament; it may be better for you. Rest assured, that if you flatter
yourselves that I am one to be pigeoned and then bullied, you are
mistaken. In one word, I am aware of everything that has been arranged
for the reception of Mr. St. George and myself this evening. Your marked
cards are in my pocket, and can only be obtained by you with my life.
Here are two of us against two; we are equally matched in number, and I,
gentlemen, am armed. If I were not, you would not dare to go to
extremities. Is it not, then, the wisest course to be temperate,
"This is some vile conspiracy of your own, fellow," said De Boeffleurs:
"marked cards, indeed! a pretty tale, forsooth! The Ministers of a
first-rate Power playing with marked cards! The story will gain credit,
and on the faith of whom? An adventurer that no one knows, who, having
failed this night in his usual tricks, and lost money which he cannot
pay, takes advantage of the marked cards, which he has not succeeded in
introducing, and pretends, forsooth, that they are those which he has
stolen from our table; our own cards being, previously to his
accusation, concealed in a secret pocket."
The impudence of the fellow staggered even Vivian. As for Mr. St.
George, he stared like a wild man. Before Vivian could answer him the
Baron had broken silence. It was with the greatest effort that he seemed
to dig his words out of his breast.
"No, no; this is too much! It is all over! I am lost; but I will not add
crime to crime. Your courage and your fortune have saved you, Mr. Grey,
and your friend from the designs of villains. And you! wretch," said he,
turning to De Boeffleurs, "sleep now in peace; at length you have undone
me." He leant on the table, and buried his face in his hands.
"Chicken-hearted fool!" said the Chevalier; "is this the end of all your
promises and all your pledges? But remember, sir! remember. I have no
taste for scenes. Good night, gentlemen. Baron, I expect to hear
"Stop, sir!" said Vivian; "no one leaves this room without my
"I am at your service, sir, when you please," said the Chevalier.
"It is not my intention to detain you long, sir; far from it. I have
every inclination to assist you in your last exit from this room; had I
time, it should not be by the door. As it is, go! in the devil's name."
So saying he hurled the adventurous Frenchman half down the corridor.
"Baron von Konigstein," said Vivian, turning to the Baron, "you have
proved yourself, by your conduct this evening, to be a better man than I
imagined you. I confess that I thought you had been too much accustomed
to such scenes to be sensible of the horror of detection."
"Never!" said the Baron, with emphasis, with energy. The firm voice and
manner in which he pronounced this single word wonderfully contrasted
with his delivery when he had last spoke; but his voice immediately
"'Tis all over! I have no wish to excite your pity, gentlemen, or to
gain your silence, by practising upon your feelings. Be silent. I am not
the less ruined, not the less disgraced, not the less utterly undone. Be
silent; my honour, all the same, in four-and-twenty hours, has gone for
ever. I have no motive, then, to deceive you. You must believe what I
speak; even what _I_ speak, the most degraded of men. I say again,
_never_, never, never, never, never was my honour before sullied, though
guilty of a thousand follies. You see before you, gentlemen, the unhappy
victim of circumstances; of circumstances which he has in vain struggled
to control, to which he has at length fallen a victim. I am not
pretending, for a moment, that my crimes are to be accounted for by an
inexorable fate, and not to be expiated by my everlasting misery. No,
no! I have been too weak to be virtuous: but I have been tried, tried
most bitterly. I am the most unfortunate of men; I was not born to be a
villain. Four years have passed since I was banished from the country in
which I was honoured, my prospects in life blasted, my peace of mind
destroyed; and all because a crime was committed of any participation in
which I am as innocent as yourselves. Driven in despair to wander, I
tried, in the wild dissipation of Naples, to forget my existence and my
misery. I found my fate in the person of this vile Frenchman, who never
since has quitted me. Even after two years of madness in that fatal
place, my natural disposition rallied; I struggled to save myself; I
quitted it. I was already involved to De Boeffleurs; I became still more
so, in gaining from him the means of satisfying all claims against me.
Alas! I found I had sold myself to a devil, a very devil, with a heart
like an adder's. Incapable of a stray generous sensation, he has looked
upon mankind during his whole life with the eyes of a bully of a
gaming-house. I still struggled to free myself from this man; and I
indemnified him for his advances by procuring him a place in the mission
to which, with the greatest difficulty and perseverance, I had at length
obtained my appointment. In public life I yet hoped to forget my private
misery. At Frankfort I felt that, though not happy, I might be calm. I
determined never again even to run the risk of enduring the slavery of
debt. I foreswore, with the most solemn oaths, the gaming table; and had
it not been for the perpetual sight of De Boeffleurs, I might, perhaps,
have felt at ease; though the remembrance of my blighted prospects, the
eternal feeling that I experienced of being born for nobler ends, was
quite sufficient perpetually to embitter my existence. The second year
of my Frankfort appointment I was tempted to this unhappy place. The
unexpected sight of faces which I had known in England, though they
called up the most painful associations, strengthened me, nevertheless,
in my resolution to be virtuous. My unexpected fortune at the Redoute,
the first night, made me forget all my resolves, and has led to all this
misery. I make my sad tale brief. I got involved at the New House: De
Boeffleurs once more assisted me, though his terms were most severe.
Yet, yet again, I was mad enough, vile enough, to risk what I did not
possess. I lost to Prince Salvinski and a Russian gentleman a
considerable sum on the night before the fête. It is often the custom at
the New House, as you know, among men who are acquainted, to pay and
receive all losses which are considerable on the next night of meeting.
The fête gave me breathing time: it was not necessary to redeem my
pledge till the fourth night. I rushed to De Boeffleurs; he refused to
assist me, alleging his own losses and his previous advance. What was to
be done? No possibility of making any arrangement with Salvinski. Had he
won of me as others have done, an arrangement, though painful, would
perhaps have been possible; but, by a singular fate, whenever I have
chanced to be successful, it is of this man that I have won. De
Boeffleurs, then, was the only chance. He was inexorable. I prayed to
him; I promised him everything; I offered him any terms; in vain! At
length, when he had worked me up to the last point of despair, he
whispered hope. I listened; let me be quick! why finish? You know I
fell!" The Baron again covered his face, and appeared perfectly
"By God! it is too horrible," said St. George. "Grey, let us do
something for him."
"My dear St. George," said Vivian, "be calm. You are taken by surprise.
I was prepared for all this. Believe me, it is better for you to leave
us. I recommend you to retire, and meet me in the morning. Breakfast
with me at eight; we can then arrange everything."
Vivian's conduct had been so decisive, and evidently so well matured,
that St. George felt that, in the present case, it was for him only to
obey, and he retired with wonder still expressed on his countenance; for
he had not yet, in the slightest degree, recovered from the
"Baron von Konigstein," said Vivian to the unhappy man, "we are alone.
Mr. St. George has left the room: you are freed from the painful
presence of the cousin of Captain Fane."
"You know all, then!" exclaimed the Baron quickly, looking up, "or you
have read my secret thoughts. How wonderful! at that very moment I was
thinking of my friend. Would I had died with him! You know all, then;
and now you must believe me guilty. Yet, at this moment of annihilating
sorrow, when I can gain nothing by deceit, I swear; and if I swear
falsely, may I fall down a livid corpse at your feet; I swear that I was
guiltless of the crime for which I suffered, guiltless as yourself.
What may be my fate I know not. Probably a few hours, and all will be
over. Yet, before we part, sir, it would be a relief; you would be doing
a generous service to a dying man, to bear a message from me to one with
whom you are acquainted; to one whom I cannot now name."
"Lady Madeleine Trevor?"
"Again you have read my thoughts! Lady Madeleine! Is it she who told you
of my early history?"
"All that I know is known to many."
"I must speak! If you have time, if you can listen for half an hour to a
miserable being, it would be a consolation to me. I should die with ease
if I thought that Lady Madeleine could believe me innocent of that first
"Your Excellency may address anything to me, if it be your wish, even at
this hour of the night. It may be better; after what has passed, we
neither of us can sleep, and this business must be arranged at once."
"My object is, that Lady Madeleine should receive from me at this
moment, at a time when I can have no interest to deceive, an account of
the particulars of her cousin's and my friend's death. I sent it written
after the horrid event; but she was ill, and Trevor, who was very bitter
against me, returned the letters unopened. For four years I have never
travelled without these rejected letters; this year I have them not. But
you could convey to Lady Madeleine my story as now given to you; to you
at this terrible moment."
"I must say one word of my connection with the family to enable you
fully to understand the horrid event, of which, if, as I believe, you
only know what all know, you can form but a most imperfect conception.
When I was Minister at the Court of London I became acquainted; became,
indeed, intimate, with Mr. Trevor, then in office, the husband of Lady
Madeleine. She was just married. Of myself at that time, I may say that,
though depraved, I was not heartless, and that there were moments when I
panted to be excellent. Lady Madeleine and myself became friends; she
found in me a companion who not only respected her talents and delighted
in her conversation, but one who in return was capable of instructing,
and was overjoyed to amuse her. I loved her; but when I loved her I
ceased to be a libertine. At first I thought that nothing in the world
could have tempted me to have allowed her for an instant to imagine that
I dared to look upon her in any other light than as a friend; but the
negligence, the coldness of Trevor, the overpowering mastery of my own
passions, drove me one day past the line, and I wrote that which I dared
not utter. It never entered into my mind for an instant to insult such a
woman with the commonplace sophistry of a ribald. No! I loved her with
all my spirit's strength. I would have sacrificed all my views in life,
my ambition, my family, my fortune, my country, to have gained her; and
I told her this in terms of respectful adoration. I worshipped the
divinity, even while I attempted to profane the altar. When I had sent
this letter I was in despair. Conviction of the insanity of my conduct
flashed across my mind. I expected never to see her again. There came an
answer; I opened it with the greatest agitation; to my surprise, an
appointment. Why trouble you with a detail of my feelings, my mad hope,
my dark despair! The moment for the interview arrived. I was received
neither with affection nor anger. In sorrow she spoke. I listened in
despair. I was more madly in love with her than ever. That very love
made me give her such evidences of a contrite spirit that I was
pardoned. I rose with a resolution to be virtuous, with a determination
to be her friend: then I made the fatal promise which you know of, to be
doubly the friend of a man whose friend I already was. It was then that
I pledged myself to Lady Madeleine to be the guardian spirit of her
cousin." Here the Baron, overpowered by his emotions, leant back in his
chair, and ceased to speak. In a few minutes he resumed.
"I did my duty; by all that's sacred, I did my duty! Night and day I was
with young Fane. A hundred times he was on the brink of ruin; a hundred
times I saved him. One day, one never-to-be-forgotten day, one most dark
and damnable day, I called on him, and found him on the point of joining
a coterie of desperate character. I remonstrated with him, I entreated,
I supplicated him not to go, in vain. At last he agreed to forego his
engagement on condition that I dined with him. There were important
reasons that day for my not staying with him; yet every consideration
vanished when I thought of her for whom I was exerting myself. He was
frantic this day; and, imagining that there was no chance of his
leaving his home, I did not refuse to drink freely, to drink deeply. My
doing so was the only way to keep him at home. As we were passing down
Pall Mall we met two foreigners of distinction and a noble of your
country; they were men of whom we both knew little. I had myself
introduced Fane to the foreigners a few days before, being aware that
they were men of high rank. After some conversation they asked us to
join them at supper at the house of their English friend. I declined;
but nothing could induce Fane to refuse them, and I finally accompanied
them. Play was introduced after supper: I made an ineffectual struggle
to get Fane home, but I was too full of wine to be energetic. After
losing a small sum I got up from the table, and, staggering to a sofa,
fell fast asleep. Even as I passed Fane's chair in this condition, my
master thought was evident, and I pulled him by the shoulder: all was
useless; I woke to madness!" It was terrible to witness the anguish of
"Could you not clear yourself?" asked Vivian, for he felt it necessary
"Clear myself! Everything told against me. The villains were my friends,
not the sufferer's; I was not injured. My dining with him was part of
the conspiracy; he was intoxicated previous to his ruin. Conscious of my
innocence, quite desperate, but confiding in my character, I accused the
guilty trio; they recriminated and answered, and without clearing
themselves convinced the public that I was their dissatisfied and
disappointed tool. I can speak no more."
It is awful to witness sudden death; but, oh! how much more awful it is
to witness in a moment the moral fall of a fellow-creature! How
tremendous is the quick succession of mastering passions! The firm, the
terrifically firm, the madly resolute denial of guilt; that eagerness of
protestation which is a sure sign of crime, then the agonising suspense
before the threatened proof is produced, the hell of detection, the
audible anguish of sorrow, the curses of remorse, the silence of
despair! Few of us, unfortunately, have passed through life without
having beheld some instance of this instantaneous degradation of human
nature. But, oh! how terrible is it when the confessed criminal has been
but a moment before our friend! What a contrast to the laugh of joyous
companionship is the quivering tear of an agonised frame! how terrible
to be prayed to by those whose wishes a moment before we lived only to
"Von Konigstein," said Vivian, after a long silence, "I feel for you.
Had I known this I would have spared both you and myself this night of
misery; I would have prevented you from looking back to this day with
remorse. You have suffered for that of which you were not guilty; you
shall not suffer now for what has passed. Much would I give to see you
freed from that wretched knave, whose vile career I was very nearly
tempted this evening to have terminated for ever. I shall make the
communication you desire, and I will endeavour that it shall be
credited; as to the transactions of this evening, the knowledge of them
can never transpire to the world. It is the interest of De Boeffleurs to
be silent; if he speak no one will credit the tale of such a creature,
who, if he speak truth, must proclaim his own infamy. And now for the
immediate calls upon your honour; in what sum are you indebted to Prince
Salvinski and his friend?"
"Thousands! two, three thousand."
"I shall then have an opportunity of ridding myself of that the
acquisition of which, to me, has been matter of great sorrow. Your
honour Is saved. I will discharge the claims of Salvinski and
"Impossible! I cannot allow--"
"Stop; in this business I must command. Surely there can be no feelings
of delicacy between us two now. If I gave you the treasures of the
Indies you would not be under so great an obligation to me as you are
already: I say this with pain. I recommend you to leave Ems to-morrow;
public business will easily account for your sudden departure. And now,
your character is yet safe, you are yet in the prime of life, you have
vindicated yourself from that which has preyed upon your mind for years;
cease to accuse your fate!" Vivian was about to leave the room when the
Baron started from his seat and seized his hand. He would have spoken,
but the words died upon his lips, and before he could recover himself
Vivian had retired.
The sudden departure of Baron von Konigstein from the Baths excited
great surprise and sorrow; all wondered at the cause, and all regretted
the effect. The Grand Duke missed his good stories, the rouge-et-noir
table his constant presence, and Monsieur le Restaurateur gave up, in
consequence, an embryo idea of a fête and fireworks for his own benefit,
which agreeable plan he had trusted that, with his Excellency's generous
co-operation as patron, he should have had no difficulty in carrying
into execution. But no one was more surprised, and more regretted the
absence of his Excellency, than his friend Mr. Fitzloom. What could be
the reason? Public business, of course; indeed he had learnt as much,
confidentially, from Cracowsky. He tried Mr. Grey, but could elicit
nothing satisfactory; he pumped Mr. St. George, but produced only the
waters of oblivion: Mr. St. George was gifted, when it suited his
purpose, with a most convenient want of memory. There must be something
in the wind, perhaps a war. Was the independence of Greece about to be
acknowledged, or the dependence of Spain about to be terminated? What
first-rate Power had marched a million of soldiers into the land of a
weak neighbour, on the mere pretence of exercising the military? What
patriots had had the proud satisfaction of establishing a constitutional
government without bloodshed, to be set aside in the course of the next
month in the same manner? Had a conspiracy for establishing a republic
in Russia been frustrated by the timely information of the intended
first Consuls? Were the Janissaries learning mathematics, or had Lord
Cochrane taken Constantinople in the James Watt steampacket? One of
these many events must have happened; but which? At length Fitzloom
decided on a general war. England must interfere either to defeat the
ambition of France, or to curb the rapacity of Russia, or to check the
arrogance of Austria, or to regenerate Spain, or to redeem Greece, or to
protect Portugal, or to shield the Brazils, or to uphold the Bible
Societies, or to consolidate the Greek Church, or to monopolise the
commerce of Mexico, or to disseminate the principles of free trade, or
to keep up her high character, or to keep up the price of corn. England
must interfere. In spite of his conviction, however, Fitzloom did not
alter the arrangements of his tour; he still intended to travel for two
years. All he did was to send immediate orders to his broker in England
to sell two millions of consols. The sale was of course effected, the
example followed, stocks fell ten per cent., the exchange turned, money
became scarce. The public funds of all Europe experienced a great
decline, smash went the country banks, consequent runs on the London, a
dozen Baronets failed in one morning, Portland Place deserted, the cause
of infant Liberty at a terrific discount, the Greek loan disappeared
like a vapour in a storm, all the new American States refused to pay
their dividends, manufactories deserted, the revenue in a decline, the
country in despair, Orders in Council, meetings of Parliament, change of
Ministry, and new loan! Such were the terrific consequences of a
diplomatist turning blackleg! The secret history of the late distress is
a lesson to all modern statesmen. Rest assured that in politics, however
tremendous the effects, the causes are often as trifling.
Vivian found his reception by the Trevor party, the morning after the
memorable night, a sufficient reward for all his anxiety and exertion.
St. George, a generous, open-hearted young man, full of gratitude to
Vivian, and regretting his previous want of cordiality towards him, now
delighted in doing full justice to his coolness, courage, and ability.
Lady Madeleine said a great deal in the most graceful and impressive
manner; but Miss Fane scarcely spoke. Vivian, however, read in her eyes
her approbation and her gratitude.
"And now, how came you to discover the whole plot, Mr. Grey?" asked Lady
Madeleine, "for we have not yet heard. Was it at the table?"
"They would hardly have had recourse to such clumsy instruments as would
have given us the chance of detecting the conspiracy by casual
observation. No, no; we owe our preservation and our gratitude to one
whom we must hereafter count among our friends. I was prepared, as I
told you, for everything; and though I had seen similar cards to those
with which they played only a few hours before, it was with difficulty
that I satisfied myself at the table that the cards we lost by were
prepared, so wonderful is the contrivance!"
"But who is the unknown friend?" said Miss Fane, with great eagerness.
"I must have the pleasure of keeping you all in suspense," said Vivian:
"cannot any of you guess?"
"None, none, none!"
"What say you, then, to--Essper George?"
"Is it possible?"
"It is the fact that he, and he alone, is our preserver. Soon after my
arrival at this place this singular being was seized with the
unaccountable fancy of becoming my servant. You all remember his
unexpected appearance one day in the saloon. In the evening of the same
day, I found him sleeping at the door of my room; and, thinking it high
time that he should be taught more discretion, I spoke to him very
seriously the next morning respecting his troublesome and eccentric
conduct. It was then that I learnt his wish. I objected, of course, to
engaging a servant of whose previous character I was ignorant, and of
which I could not be informed, and one whose peculiar habits would
render both himself and his master notorious. While I declined his
services, I also advised him most warmly to give up all idea of
deserting his present mode of life, for which I thought him extremely
well suited. The consequence of my lecture was, what you all perceived
with surprise, a great change in Essper's character. He became serious,
reserved, and retiring, and commenced his career as a respectable
character by throwing off his quaint costume. In a short time, by dint
of making a few bad bargains, he ingratiated himself with Ernstorff, Von
Konigstein's pompous chasseur. His object in forming this connection was
to gain an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the duties of a
gentleman's servant, and in this he has succeeded. About a week since,
he purchased from Ernstorff a large quantity of cast-off apparel of the
Baron's, and other perquisites of a great man's valet; among these were
some playing cards which had been borrowed one evening in great haste
from the servant of that rascal De Boeffleurs, and never returned. On
accidentally examining these cards, Essper detected they were marked.
The system on which the marks are formed and understood is so simple and
novel, that it was long before I could bring myself to believe that his
suspicions were founded even on a probability. At length, however, he
convinced me. It is at Vienna, he tells me, that he has met with these
cards before. The marks are all on the rim of the cards; and an
experienced dealer, that is to say, a blackleg, can with these marks
produce any results and combinations which may suit his purpose. Essper
tells me that De Boeffleurs is even more skilled in sleight-of-hand than
himself. From Ernstorff, Essper learnt on the day of the fête that Mr.
St. George was to dine with the Chevalier at the Baron's apartments on
the morrow, and that there was a chance that I should join them. He
suspected that villany was in the wind, and when I retired to my room at
a late hour on the night of the fête, I there met him, and it was then
that he revealed to me everything which I have told you. Am I not right,
then, in calling him our preserver?"
"What can be done for him?" said Lady Madeleine.
"His only wish is already granted; he is my servant. That he will serve
me diligently and faithfully I have no doubt. I only wish that he would
accept or could appreciate a more worthy reward."
"Can man be more amply rewarded," said Miss Fane, "than by choosing his
own remuneration? I think he has shown in his request his accustomed
talent. I must go and see him this moment."
"Say nothing of what has passed; he is prepared for silence from all
A week, a happy week, passed over, and few minutes of the day found
Vivian absent from the side of Violet Fane; and now he thought again of
England, of his return to that country under very different
circumstances to what he had ever contemplated. Soon, very soon, he
trusted to write to his father, to announce to him the revolution in his
wishes, the consummation of his hopes. Soon, very soon, he trusted that
he should hail his native cliffs, a reclaimed wanderer, with a matured
mind and a contented spirit, his sorrows forgotten, his misanthropy
It was about a week after the departure of the Baron that two young
Englishmen, who had been college friends of Mr. St. George, arrived at
the Baths. These were Mr. Anthony St. Leger and Mr. Adolphus St. John.
In the academic shades of Christchurch these three gentlemen had been
known as "All Saints." Among their youthful companions they bore the
more martial style of "The Three Champions," St. George, St. John, and
St. John and St. Anthony had just completed the grand tour, and, after
passing the Easter at Rome, had returned through the Tyrol from Italy.
Since then they had travelled over most parts of Germany; and now, in
the beginning of July, found themselves at the Baths of Ems. Two years'
travel had not produced any very beneficial effect on either of these
sainted personages. They had gained, by visiting the capitals of all
Europe, only a due acquaintance with the follies of each; and the only
difference that could be observed in their conduct on their return was,
that their affectation was rather more fantastical, and therefore
"Corpo di Bacco, my champion! who ever thought of meeting thee thou holy
saint! By the eyebrow of Venus, my spirit rejoiceth!" exclaimed St.
Anthony, whose peculiar affectation was an adoption in English of the
"This is the sweetest spot, St. Anthony, that we have found since we
left Paradiso; that is, St. George, in the vulgar, since we quitted
Italia. 'Italia! O Italia!' I forget the rest; probably you remember it.
Certainly, a most sweet spot this, quite a Gaspar!"
Art was the peculiar affectation of St. John; he was, indeed, quite a
patron of the Belle Arti, had scattered his orders through the studios
of most of the celebrated sculptors of Italy, and spoke on all subjects
and all things only with a view to their capability of forming material
for the painter. According to the school of which Mr. St. John was a
disciple, the only use of the human passions is, that they produce
situations for the historical painter; and nature, according to these
votaries of the [Greek: to kalon], is only to be valued as affording
hints for the more perfect conceptions of a Claude or a Salvator.
"By the girdle of Venus, a devilish fine woman!" exclaimed St. Anthony.
"A splendid bit!" ejaculated St. John; "touched in with freedom, a grand
tournure, great gout in the swell of the neck. What a study for Retsch!"
"In the name of the Graces, who is it, mio Santo?"
"Ay! name la bellissima Signora."
"The 'fine bit,' St. John, is my sister."
"Will you introduce us, most holy man?"
This request from both, simultaneously arranging their mustachios.
The two saints were accordingly, in due time, introduced; but finding
the attention of Miss Fane always engrossed, and receiving some not very
encouraging responses from Lady Madeleine, they voted her ladyship
cursedly satirical; and passing a general censure on the annoying
coldness of Englishwomen, they were in four-and-twenty hours attached to
the suite of the Miss Fitzlooms, to whom they were introduced by St.
George as his particular friends, and were received with the most
"By the aspect of Diana! fine girls," swore St. Anthony.
"Truly most gorgeous colouring! quite Venetian! Aurelia is a perfect
Giorgione!" said St. John.
"Madeleine," said St. George, one morning, to his sister, "have you any
objection to make up a party with the Fitzlooms to pass a day at Nassau?
You know we have often talked of it; and as Violet is so well now, and
the weather so delightful, there surely can be no objection. The
Fitzlooms are very agreeable people; and though you do not admire the
Santi, still, upon my word, when you know them a little more, you will
find them very pleasant fellows, and they are extremely good-natured;
and just the fellows for such a party. Do not refuse me. I have set my
mind upon your joining the party. Pray nod assent; thank you. Now I must
go and arrange everything. Let us see: there are seven Fitzlooms; for we
cannot count on less than two boys; yourself, Grey, Violet, and myself,
four; the Santi; quite enough, a most delightful party. Half a dozen
servants and as many donkeys will manage the provisions. Then three
light carriages will take us all. 'By the wand of Mercury!' as St.
Anthony would vow, admirably planned!"
"By the breath of Zephyr! a most lovely day, Miss Fane," said St.
Anthony, on the morning of the intended excursion.
"Quite a Claude!" said St. John.
"Almost as beautiful as an Italian winter day, Mr. St. Leger?" asked
"Hardly!" said St. Anthony, with a serious air; for he imagined the
question to be quite genuine.
The carriages are at the door; into the first ascended Mrs. Fitzloom,
two daughters, and the travelling saints. The second bore Lady
Madeleine, Mr. Fitzloom, and his two sons; the third division was formed
of Mr. St. George and Aurelia Fitzloom, Miss Fane and Vivian.
Away, away, rolled the carriages; the day was beautiful, the sky was
without a cloud, and a mild breeze prevented the heat of the sun from
being overpowering. All were in high spirits; for St. George had made a
capital master of the ceremonies, and had arranged the company in the
carriages to their mutual satisfaction. St. Anthony swore, by the soul
of Psyche! that Augusta Fitzloom was an angel; and St. John was in equal
raptures with Araminta, who had an expression about the eyes which
reminded him, of Titian's Flora. Mrs. Fitzloom's natural silence did not
disturb the uninterrupted jargon of the Santi, whose foppery elicited
loud and continued approbation from the fair sisters. The mother sat
admiring these sprigs of noble trees. The young Fitzlooms, in crimson
cravats, conversed with Lady Madeleine with a delightful military air;
and their happy parent, as he gazed upon them with satisfied affection,
internally promised them both a commission in a crack regiment.
The road from Ems to Nassau winds along the banks of the Lahn, through
two leagues of delightful scenery; at the end of which, springing up
from the peak of a bold and richly-wooded mountain, the lofty tower of
the ancient castle of Nassau meets your view. Winding walks round the
sides of the mountain lead through all the varieties of sylvan scenery,
and command in all points magnificent views of the surrounding country.
These finally bring you to the old castle, whose spacious chambers,
though now choked up with masses of grey ruin or covered with underwood,
still bear witness to the might of their former lord! the powerful Baron
whose sword gained for his posterity a throne.
All seemed happy; none happier than Violet Fane. Never did she look so
beautiful as to-day, never was she so animated, never had she boasted
that her pulse beat more melodious music, or her lively blood danced a
more healthful measure. After examining all the antique chambers of the
castle, and discovering, as they flattered themselves, secret passages,
and dark dungeons, and hidden doors, they left this interesting relic of
the middle ages; and soon, by a gradual descent through delightful
shrubberies, they again found themselves at the bottom of the valley.
Here they visited the modern château of Baron von Stein, one of the most
enlightened and able politicians that Germany has ever produced. As
Minister of Prussia, he commenced those reforms which the illustrious
Hardenberg perfected. For upwards of five centuries the family of Stein
have retained their territorial possessions in the valley of the Lahn.
Their family castle, at present a ruin, and formerly a fief of the House
of Nassau, is now only a picturesque object in the pleasure-grounds of
the present lord.
The noon had passed some hours before the delighted wanderers complained
of fatigue, and by that time they found themselves in a pleasant green
glade on the skirts of the forest of Nassau. It was nearly environed by
mountains, covered with hanging woods, which shaded the beautiful
valley, and gave it the appearance of a sylvan amphitheatre. From a
rocky cleft in these green mountains a torrent, dashing down with
impetuous force, and whose fall was almost concealed by the cloud of
spray which it excited, gave birth to a small and gentle river, whose
banks were fringed with beautiful trees, which prevented the sun's darts
from piercing its coldness, by bowing their fair heads over its waters.
From their extending branches Nature's choristers sent forth many a
Of God's high praise, and of their loves' sweet teen.
Near the banks of this river, the servants, under the active direction
of Essper George, had prepared a banquet for the party. The cloth had
been laid on a raised work of wood and turf, and rustic seats of the
same material surrounded the picturesque table. It glowed with
materials, and with colours to which Veronese alone could have done
justice: pasties, and birds, and venison, and groups of fish, gleamy
with prismatic hues, while amid pyramids of fruit rose goblets of
fantastic glass, worthy of the famous wines they were to receive.
"Well!" said Miss Fane, "I never will be a member of an adventurous
party like the present, of which Albert is not manager."
"I must not take the whole credit upon myself, Violet; St. John is
butler, and St. Leger my vice-chamberlain."
"Well, I cannot praise Mr. St. John till I have tasted the malvoisie
which he has promised; but as for the other part of the entertainment,
Mr. St. Leger, I am sure this is a temptation which it would be a sin,
even in St. Anthony, to withstand.'
"By the body of Bacchus, very good!" swore Mr. St. Leger.
"These mountains," said Mr. St. John, "remind me of one of Gaspar's cool
valleys. The party, indeed, give it a different character, quite
"Now, Mrs. Fitzloom," said St. George, who was in his element, "let me
recommend a little of this pike! Lady Madeleine, I have sent you some
lamb. Miss Fitzloom, I hope St. Anthony is taking care of you.
Wrightson, plates to Mr. St. Leger. Holy man, and much beloved! send
Araminta some chicken. Grey has helped you, Violet? Aurelia, this is for
you. William Pitt Fitzloom, I leave you to yourself. George Canning
Fitzloom, take care of the ladies near you. Essper George! Where is
Essper? St. John, who is your deputy in the wine department? Wrightson!
bring those long green bottles out of the river, and put the champagne
underneath the willow. Will your Ladyship take some light claret? Mrs.
Fitzloom, you must use your tumbler; nothing but tumblers allowed, by
Miss Fane's particular request!"
"St. George, thou holy man!" said Miss Fane, "methinks you are very
impertinent. You shall not be my patron saint if you say such words."
For the next hour there was nothing heard save the calling of servants,
the rattling of knives and forks, the drawing of corks, and continued
bursts of laughter, which were not occasioned by any brilliant
observations, either of the Saints, or any other persons, but merely the
result of an exuberance of spirits on the part of every one present.
"Well, Aurelia," said Lady Madeleine, "do you prefer our present mode of
life to feasting in an old hall, covered with banners and battered
shields, and surrounded by mysterious corridors and dark dungeons?"
Aurelia was so flattered by the notice of Lady Madeleine, that she made
her no answer; probably because she was intent on a plover's egg.
"I think we might all retire to this valley," said Miss Fane, "and
revive the feudal times with great success. Albert might take us to
Nassau Castle, and you, Mr. Fitzloom, might re-fortify the old tower of
Stein. With two sons, however, who are about to enter the Guards, I am
afraid we must be your vassals. Then what should we do? We could not
have wood parties every day; I suppose we should get tired of each
other. No! that does seem impossible; do not you all think so?"
"We must, however, have some regular pursuit, some cause of constant
excitement, some perpetual source of new emotions. New ideas, of course,
we must give up; there would be no going to London for the season, for
new opinions to astound country cousins on our return. Some pursuit must
be invented; we all must have something to do. I have it! Albert shall
be a tyrant."
"I am very much obliged to you, Violet."
"Yes! a cruel, unprincipled, vindictive, remorseless tyrant, with a long
black beard, I cannot tell how long, about twenty thousand times longer
than Mr. St. Leger's mustachios."
"By the beard of Jove!" swore St. Anthony, as he almost started from his
seat, and arranged with his thumb and forefinger the delicate Albanian
tuft of his upper lip, "by the beard of Jove, Miss Fane, I am obliged
"Well, then," continued Violet, "Albert being a tyrant, Lady Madeleine
must be an unhappy, ill-used, persecuted woman, living on black bread
and green water, in an unknown dungeon. My part shall be to discover her
imprisonment. Sounds of strange music attract my attention to a part of
the castle which I have not before frequented. There I shall distinctly
hear a female voice chaunting the 'Bridesmaids' Chorus,' with Erard's
double pedal accompaniment. By the aid of the confessors of the two
families, two drinking, rattling, impertinent, most corrupt, and most
amusing friars, to wit, our sainted friends--"
Here both Mr. St. Leger and Mr. St. John bowed low to Miss Fane.
"A most lively personage is Miss Fane," whispered St. Anthony to his
neighbour, Miss Fitzloom, "great style!"
"Most amusing, delightful girl, great style! rather a display today, I
"Oh, decidedly! and devilish personal too; some people wouldn't like it.
I have no doubt she will say something about you next."
"Oh, I shall be very surprised, indeed, if she does! It may be very well
to you, but Miss Fane must be aware--"
Before this pompous sentence could be finished an incident occurred
which prevented Miss Fane from proceeding with her allotment of
characters, and rendered unnecessary the threatened indignation of
Miss Fane, as we mentioned, suddenly ceased speaking; the eyes of all
were turned in the direction in which she was gazing as if she had
seen a ghost.
"What are you looking up at, Violet?" asked St. George.
"Did not you see anything? did not any of you see anything?"
"Mr. Grey, surely you must have seen it!"
"I saw nothing."
"It could not be fancy; impossible. I saw it distinctly. I cannot be in
a dream. See there! again, on that topmost branch. It moves!"
Some odd shrill sounds, uttered in the voice of a Pulcinello, attracted
the notice of them all; and lo! high in the air, behind a lofty chestnut
tree, the figure of a Pulcinello did appear, hopping and vaulting in the
unsubstantial air. Now it sent forth another shrill, piercing sound, and
now, with both its hands, it patted and complacently stroked its ample
paunch; dancing all the time with unremitting activity, and wagging its
queer head at the astounded guests.
"Who, what can it be?" cried all. The Misses Fitzloom shrieked, and the
Santi seemed quite puzzled.
"Who, what can it be?"
Ere time could be given for any one to hazard a conjecture, the figure
had advanced from behind the trees, and had spanned in an instant the
festal board, with two enormous stilts, on which they now perceived it
was mounted. The Misses Fitzloom shrieked again. The figure imitated
their cries in his queer voice, and gradually raising one enormous stilt
up into the air, stood only on one support, which was planted behind the
"O! inimitable Essper George!" exclaimed Violet Fane.
Here Signor Punch commenced a song, which he executed in the tone
peculiar to his character, and in a style which drew applauses from all;
and then, with a hop, step, and a jump, he was again behind the
chestnut-tree. In a moment he advanced without his stilts towards the
table. Here, on the turf, he again commenced his antics; kicking his
nose with his right foot, and his hump with his left one; executing
splendid somersets, and cutting every species of caper, and never
ceasing for a moment from performing all his movements to the inspiring
music of his own melodious voice. At last, jumping up very high in the
air, he fell as if all his joints were loosened, and the Misses
Fitzloom, imagining that his bones were really broken, shrieked again.
But now Essper began the wonderful performance of a dead body possessed
by a devil, and in a minute his shattered corpse, apparently without the
assistance of any of its members, began to jump and move about the
ground with miraculous rapidity. At length it disappeared behind the
"I really think," said Mr. St. George, "it is the most agreeable day I
ever passed in all my life."
"Decidedly!" said St. Anthony. "St. John, you remember our party to
Paestum with Lady Calabria M'Crater and the Marquis of Agrigentum. It
was nothing to this! Nothing! Do you know I thought that rather dull."
"Yes, too elaborate; too highly finished; nothing of the pittore
improvisatore. A party of this kind should be more sketchy in its style;
the outline more free, and less detail."
"Essper is coming out to-day," said Vivian to Miss Fane, "after a long,
and, I venture to say, painful forbearance. However, I hope you will
excuse him. It seems to amuse us."
"I think it is delightful. See! here he comes again."
He now appeared in his original costume; the one in which Vivian first
met him at the fair. Bowing, he threw his hand carelessly over his
mandolin, and having tried the melody of its strings, sang with great
taste, and a sweet voice; sweeter from its contrast with its previous
shrill tones; a very pretty romance. All applauded him very warmly, and
no one more so than Miss Fane.
"Ah! inimitable Essper George, how can we sufficiently thank you! How
well he plays! and his voice is quite beautiful. Oh! could not we dance?
would not it be delightful? and he could play on his guitar. Think of
the delicious turf!"
Omnes, "Delightful! delightful!" They rose from the table.
"Violet, my dear," asked Lady Madeleine, "what are you going to do?"
"By the toe of Terpsichore!" as Mr. St. Leger would say, "I am going to
"But remember, to-day you have done so much! let us be moderate; though
you feel so much better, still think what a change to-day has been from
your usual habits!"
"But, dearest Lady Madeleine, think of dancing on the turf, and I feel
"By the Graces! I am for the waltz," said St. Anthony.
"It has certainly a very free touch to recommend it," said St. John.
"No, no," said Violet; "let us all join in a country dance." But the
Misses Fitzloom preferred a quadrille.
The quadrille was soon formed: Violet made up for not dancing with
Vivian at the Grand Duke's. She was most animated, and kept up a
successful rivalry with Mr. St. Leger, who evidently prided himself, as
Mr. Fitzloom observed, "on his light fantastic toe." Now he pirouetted
like Paul, and now he attitudinised like Albert; and now Miss Fane
eclipsed all his exertions by her inimitable imitations of Ronzi
Vestris' rushing and arrowy manner. St. Anthony, in despair, but quite
delighted, revealed a secret which had been taught him by a Spanish
dancer at Milan; but then Miss Fane vanquished him for ever with the pas
de Zephyr of the exquisite Fanny Bias.
The day was fast declining when the carriages arrived; the young people
were in no humour to return; and as, when they had once entered the
carriage, the day seemed finished for ever, they proposed walking part
of the way home. Lady Madeleine made little objection to Violet joining
the party, as after the exertion that Miss Fane had been making, a drive
in an open carriage might be dangerous: and yet the walk was too long,
but all agreed that it would be impossible to shorten it; and, as Violet
declared that she was not in the least fatigued, the lesser evil was
therefore chosen. The carriages rolled off; at about halfway from Ems,
the two empty ones were to wait for the walking party. Lady Madeleine
smiled with fond affection, as she waved her hand to Violet the moment
before she was out of sight.
"And now," said St. George, "good people all, instead of returning by
the same road, it strikes me, that there must be a way through this
little wood; you see there is an excellent path. Before the sun is set
we shall have got through it, and it will bring us out, I have no doubt,
by the old cottage which you observed, Grey, when we came along. I saw a
gate and path there; just where we first got sight of Nassau Castle;
there can be no doubt about it. You see it is a regular right-angle, and
besides varying the walk, we shall at least gain a quarter of an hour,
which, after all, as we have to walk nearly three miles, is an object.
It is quite clear, if I have a head for anything, it is for finding
"I think you have a head for everything," said Aurelia Fitzloom, in a
soft sentimental whisper; "I am sure we owe all our happiness to-day
"If I have a head for everything, I have a heart only for one person!"
As every one wished to be convinced, no one offered any argument in
opposition to Mr. St. George's view of the case; and some were already
in the wood.
"Albert," said Miss Fane, "I do not like walking in the wood so late;
pray come back."
"Oh, nonsense, Violet! come. If you do not like to come, you can walk by
the road; you will meet us round by the gate, it is only five minutes'
walk." Ere he had finished speaking, the rest were in the wood, and some
had advanced. Vivian strongly recommended Violet not to join them; he
was sure that Lady Madeleine would not approve of it; he was sure that
it was very dangerous, extremely; and, by-the-bye, while he was talking,
which way had they gone? he did not see them. He halloed; all answered,
and a thousand echoes besides. "We certainly had better go by the road,
we shall lose our way if we try to follow them; nothing is so puzzling
as walking in woods; we had much better keep to the road." So by the
road they went.
The sun had already sunk behind the mountains, whose undulating forms
were thrown into dark shadow against the crimson sky. The thin crescent
of the new moon floated over the eastern hills, whose deep woods glowed
with the rosy glories of twilight. Over the peak of a purple mountain
glittered the solitary star of evening. As the sun dropped, universal
silence seemed to pervade the whole face of nature. The voice of the
birds was still; the breeze, which had refreshed them during the day,
died away, as if its office were now completed; and none of the dark
sounds and sights of hideous Night yet dared to triumph over the death
of Day. Unseen were the circling wings of the fell bat; unheard the
screech of the waking owl; silent the drowsy hum of the shade-born
beetle! What heart has not acknowledged the influence of this hour, the
sweet and soothing hour of twilight! the hour of love, the hour of
adoration, the hour of rest! when we think of those we love, only to
regret that we have not loved more dearly; when we remember our enemies
only to forgive them!
And Vivian and his beautiful companion owned the magic of this hour, as
all must do, by silence. No word was spoken, yet is silence sometimes a
language. They gazed, and gazed again, and their full spirits held due
communion with the starlit sky, and the mountains and the woods, and the
soft shadows of the increasing moon. Oh! who can describe what the
o'ercharged spirit feels at this sacred hour, when we almost lose the
consciousness of existence, and our souls seem to struggle to pierce
futurity! In the forest of the mysterious Odenwald, in the solitudes of
the Bergstrasse, had Vivian at this hour often found consolation for a
bruised spirit, often in adoring nature had forgotten man. But now, when
he had never felt nature's influence more powerful; when he had never
forgotten man and man's world more thoroughly; when he was experiencing
emotions, which, though undefinable, he felt to be new; he started when
he remembered that all this was in the presence of a human being! Was it
Hesperus he gazed upon, or something else that glanced brighter than an
Evening star? Even as he thought that his gaze was fixed on the
countenance of nature, he found that his eyes rested on the face of
nature's loveliest daughter!
"Violet! dearest Violet!"
As in some delicious dream the sleeper is awakened from his bliss by the
sound of his own rapturous voice, so was Vivian roused by these words
from his reverie, and called back to the world which he had forgotten.
But ere a moment had passed, he was pouring forth in a rapid voice, and
incoherent manner, such words as men speak only once. He spoke of his
early follies, his misfortunes, his misery; of his matured views, his
settled principles, his plans, his prospects, his hopes, his happiness,
his bliss; and when he had ceased, he listened, in his turn, to some
small still words, which made him the happiest of human beings. He bent
down, he kissed the soft silken cheek which now he could call his own.
Her hand was in his; her head sank upon his breast. Suddenly she clung
to him with a strong grasp. "Violet! my own, my dearest; you are
overcome. I have been rash, I have been imprudent. Speak, speak, my
beloved! say, you are not ill!"
She spoke not, but clung to him with a fearful strength, her head still
upon his breast, her full eyes closed. Alarmed, he raised her off the
ground, and bore her to the river-side. Water might revive her. But when
he tried to lay her a moment on the bank, she clung to him gasping, as a
sinking person clings to a stout swimmer. He leant over her; he did not
attempt to disengage her arms; and, by degrees, by very slow degrees,
her grasp loosened. At last her arms gave way and fell by his side, and
her eyes partly opened.
"Thank God! Violet, my own, my beloved, say you are better!"
She answered not, evidently she did not know him, evidently she did not
see him. A film was on her sight, and her eye was glassy. He rushed to
the water-side, and in a moment he had sprinkled her temples, now
covered with a cold dew. Her pulse beat not, her circulation seemed
suspended. He rubbed the palms of her hands, he covered her delicate
feet with his coat; and then rushing up the bank into the road, he
shouted with frantic cries on all sides. No one came, no one was near.
Again, with a cry of fearful anguish, he shouted as if an hyaena were
feeding on his vitals. No sound; no answer. The nearest cottage was
above a mile off. He dared not leave her. Again he rushed down to the
water-side. Her eyes were still open, still fixed. Her mouth also was no
longer closed. Her hand was stiff, her heart had ceased to beat. He
tried with the warmth of his own body to revive her. He shouted, he
wept, he prayed. All, all in vain. Again he was in the road, again
shouting like an insane being. There was a sound. Hark! It was but the
screech of an owl!
Once more at the river-side, once more bending over her with starting
eyes, once more the attentive ear listening for the soundless breath. No
sound! not even a sigh! Oh! what would he have given for her shriek of
anguish! No change had occurred in her position, but the lower part of
her face had fallen; and there was a general appearance which struck him
with awe. Her body was quite cold, her limbs stiffened. He gazed, and
gazed, and gazed. He bent over her with stupor rather than grief stamped
on his features. It was very slowly that the dark thought came over his
mind, very slowly that the horrible truth seized upon his soul. He gave
a loud shriek, and fell on the lifeless body of VIOLET FANE!
The green and bowery summer had passed away. It was midnight when two
horsemen pulled up their steeds beneath a wide oak; which, with other
lofty trees, skirted the side of a winding road in an extensive forest
in the south of Germany.
"By heavens!" said one, who apparently was the master, "we must even lay
our cloaks, I think, under this oak; for the road winds again, and
assuredly cannot lead now to our village."
"A starlit sky in autumn can scarcely be the fittest curtain for one so
weak as you, sir; I should recommend travelling on, if we keep on our
horses' backs till dawn."
"But if we are travelling in a directly contrary way to our voiturier,
honest as we may suppose him to be, if he find in the morning no
paymaster for his job, he may with justice make free with our baggage.
And I shall be unusually mistaken if the road we are now pursuing does
not lead back to the city."
"City, town, or village, you must sleep under no forest tree, sir. Let
us ride on. It will be hard if we do not find some huntsman's or
ranger's cottage; and for aught we know a neat snug village, or some
comfortable old manor-house, which has been in the family for two
centuries; and where, with God's blessing, they may chance to have wine
as old as the bricks. I know not how you may feel, sir, but a ten hours'
ride when I was only prepared for half the time, and that, too, in an
autumn night, makes me somewhat desirous of renewing my acquaintance
with the kitchen-fire."
"I could join you in a glass of hock and a slice of venison, I confess,
my good fellow; but in a nocturnal ride I am no longer your match.
However, if you think it best, we will prick on our steeds for another
hour. If it be only for them, I am sure we must soon stop."
"Ay! do, sir; and put your cloak well round you; all is for the best.
You are not, I guess, a Sabbath-born child?"
"That am I not, but how would that make our plight worse than it is?
Should we be farther off supper?"
"Nearer, perhaps, than you imagine; for we should then have a chance of
sharing the spoils of the Spirit Hunter."
"Ah! Essper, is it so?"
"Truly yes, sir; and were either of us a Sabbath-born child, by holy
cross! I would not give much for our chance of a down bed this night."
Here a great horned owl flew across the road.
"Were I in the north," said Essper, "I would sing an Ave Mary against
the STUT OZEL."
"What call you that?" asked Vivian.
"Tis the great bird, sir; the great horned owl, that always flies before
the Wild Hunter. And truly, sir, I have passed through many forests in
my time, but never yet saw I one where I should sooner expect to hear a
midnight bugle. If you will allow me, sir, I will ride by your side.
Thank God, at least, it is not the Walpurgis night!"
"I wish to Heaven it were!" said Vivian, "and that we were on the
Brocken. It must be highly amusing!"
"Hush! hush! it is lucky we are not in the Hartz; but we know not where
we are, nor who at this moment may be behind us."
And here Essper began pouring forth a liturgy of his own, half Catholic
and half Calvinistic, quite in character with the creed of the country
through which they were travelling.
"My horse has stumbled," continued Essper, "and yours, sir, is he not
shying? There is a confounded cloud over the moon, but I have no sight
in the dark if that mass before you be not a devil's-stone. The Lord
have mercy upon our sinful souls!"
"Peace! Essper," said Vivian, who was surprised to find him really
alarmed; "I see nothing but a block of granite, no uncommon sight in a
"It is a devil-stone, I tell you, sir; there has been some church here,
which he has knocked down in the night. Look! is it the moss-people that
I see! As sure as I am a hungry sinner, the Wild One is out a-hunting
"More luck for us, if we meet him. His dogs, as you say, may gain us a
supper. I think our wisest course will be to join the cry."
"Hush! hush! you would not talk so if you knew what your share of the
spoils might be. Ay! if you did, sir, your cheek would be paler, and
your very teeth would chatter. I knew one man who was travelling in the
forest, just as we are now; it was about this time; and he believed in
the Wild Huntsman about as much as you, that is, he liked to talk of the
Spirit, merely to have the opportunity of denying that he believed in
him; which showed, as I used to say, that his mind was often thinking of
it. He was a merry knave, and as firm a hand for a boar-spear as ever I
met with, and I have met many. We used to call him, before the accident,
Left-handed Hans, but they call him now, sir, the Child-Hunter. Oh! it
is a very awful tale, and I would sooner tell it in blazing hall than in
free forest. You did not hear any sound to the left, did you?"
"Nothing but the wind, Essper; on with your tale, my man."
"It is a very awful tale, sir, but I will make short work of it. You
see, sir, it was a night just like this; the moon was generally hid, but
the stars prevented it from ever being pitch dark. And so, sir, he was
travelling alone; he had been up to the castle of the baron, his master;
you see, sir, he was head-ranger to his lordship, and he always returned
home through the forest. What he was thinking of, I cannot say, but most
likely of no good; when all on a sudden he heard the baying of hounds in
the distance. Now directly he heard it; I have heard him tell the story
a thousand times; directly he heard it, it struck him that it must be
the Spirit Huntsman; and though there were many ways to account for the
hounds, still he never for a moment doubted that they were the
hell-dogs. The sounds came nearer and nearer. Now I tell you this,
because if ever, which the Holy Virgin forbid! if ever you meet the Wild
Huntsman, you will know how to act: conduct yourself always with
propriety, make no noise, but behave like a gentleman, and don't put the
dogs off the scent; stand aside, and let him pass. Don't talk; he has no
time to lose; for if he hunt after daybreak, a night's sport is
forfeited for every star left in the morning sky. So, sir, you see
nothing puts him in a greater passion than to lose his time in answering
impertinent questions. Well, sir, Left-handed Hans stood by the
road-side. The baying of the dogs was so distinct, that he felt that in
a moment the Wild One would be up: his horse shivered like a sallow in a
storm. He heard the tramp of the Spirit-steed: they came in sight. As
the tall figure of the Huntsman passed; I cannot tell you what it was;
it might have been; Lord, forgive me for thinking what it might have
been! but a voice from behind Hans, a voice so like his own, that for a
moment he fancied that he had himself spoken, although he was conscious
that his lips had been firmly closed the whole time; a voice from the
road-side, just behind poor Hans, mind, said, 'Good sport, Sir Huntsman,
'tis an odd light to track a stag!' The poor man, sir, was all of an
ague; but how much greater was his horror when the tall huntsman
stopped! He thought that he was going to be eaten up on the spot, at
least: not at all. 'My friend!' said the Wild One, in the kindest voice
imaginable; 'my friend, would you like to give your horse a breathing
with us?' Poor Hans was so alarmed that it never entered into his head
for a single moment to refuse the invitation, and instantly he was
galloping by the side of the Wild Huntsman. Away they flew! away! away!
away! over bog, and over mere; over ditch, and over hedge; away! away!
away! and the Ranger's horse never failed, but kept by the side of the
Wild Spirit without the least distress; and yet it is very singular that
Hans was about to sell this very beast only a day before, for a matter
of five crowns: you see, he only kept it just to pick his way at night
from the castle to his own cottage. Well, it is very odd, but Hans soon
lost all fear, for the sport was so fine and he had such a keen relish
for the work, that, far from being alarmed, he thought himself one of
the luckiest knaves alive. But the oddest thing all this time was, that
Hans never caught sight for one moment of either buck or boar, although
he saw by the dogs' noses that there was something keen in the wind, and
although he felt that if the hunted beast were like any that he had
himself ever followed before, it must have been run down with such dogs,
quicker than a priest could say a paternoster. At last, for he had grown
quite bold, says Hans to the Wild Huntsman, 'The beasts run quick o'
nights, sir, I think; it has been a long time, I ween, ere I scampered
so far, and saw so little!' Do you know that the old gentleman was not
the least affronted, but said, in the pleasantest voice imaginable, 'A
true huntsman should be patient, Hans; you will see the game quick
enough; look forward, man! what see you?' And sure enough, your
Highness, he did look forward. It was near the skirts of the forest,
there was a green glade before them, and very few trees, and therefore
he could see far a-head. The moon was shining very bright, and sure
enough, what did he see? Running as fleet over the turf as a rabbit, was
a child. The little figure was quite black in the moonlight, and Hans
could not catch its face: in a moment the hell-dogs were on it. Hans
quivered like a windy reed, and the Wild One laughed till the very woods
echoed. 'How like you hunting moss-men?' asked the Spirit. Now when Hans
found it was only a moss-man, he took heart again, and said in a shaking
voice, that 'It is rare good sport in good company;' and then the Spirit
jumped off his horse, and said, 'Now, Hans, you must watch me well, for
I am little used to bag game.' He said this with a proudish air, as much
as to hint, that had not he expected Hans he would not have rode out
this evening without his groom. So the Wild One jumped on his horse
again, and put the bag before him. It was nearly morning when Hans found
himself at the door of his own cottage; and, bowing very respectfully to
the Spirit Hunter, he thanked him for the sport, and begged his share of
the night's spoil. This was all in joke, but Hans had heard that 'talk
to the devil, and fear the last word;' and so he was determined, now
that they were about to part, not to appear to tremble, but to carry it
off with a jest. 'Truly, Hans,' said the Huntsman, 'thou art a bold lad,
and to encourage thee to speak to wild huntsmen again, I have a mind to
give thee for thy pains the whole spoil. Take the bag, knave, a moss-man
is good eating; had I time I would give thee a receipt for sauce;' and,
so saying, the Spirit rode off, laughing very heartily. Well, sir, Hans
was so anxious to examine the contents of the bag, and see what kind of
thing a moss-man really was, for he had only caught a glimpse of him in
the chase, that instead of going to bed immediately, and saying his
prayers, as he should have done, he lighted a lamp and undid the string;
and what think you he took out of the bag? As sure as I am a born
sinner, his own child!"
"'Tis a wonderful tale," said Vivian; "and did the unfortunate man tell
you this himself?"
"Often and often. I knew Left-handed Hans well. He was ranger, as I
said, to a great lord; and was quite a favourite, you see. For some
reason or other he got out of favour. Some said that the Baron had found
him out a-poaching; and that he used to ride his master's horses
a-night. Whether this be true or not, who can say? But, howsoever, Hans
went to ruin; and instead of being a flourishing active lad, he was
turned out, and went a-begging all through Saxony; and he always told
this story as the real history of his misfortunes. Some say he is not as
strong in his head as he used to be. However, why should we say it is
not a true tale? What is that?" almost shrieked Essper.
Vivian listened, and heard distinctly the distant baying of hounds.
"'Tis he!" said Essper; "now don't speak, sir, don't speak! and if the
devil make me join him, as may be the case, for I am but a cock-brained
thing, particularly at midnight, don't be running after me from any
foolish feeling, but take care of yourself, and don't be chattering. To
think you should come to this, my precious young master!"
"Cease your blubbering! Do you think that I am to be frightened by the
idiot tales of a parcel of old women, and the lies of a gang of detected
poachers? Come, sir, ride on. We are, most probably, near some
huntsman's cottage. That distant baying is the sweetest music I have
heard a long while."
"Don't be rash, sir; don't be rash. If you were to give me fifty crowns
now, I could not remember a single line of a single prayer. Ave Maria!
it always is so when I most want it. Paternoster! and whenever I have
need to remember a song, sure enough I am always thinking of a prayer.
'Unser vater, der du bist im himmel, sanctificado se el tu nombra; il
tuo regno venga.'" Here Essper George was proceeding with a scrap of
modern Greek, when the horsemen suddenly came upon one of those broad
green vistas which we often see in forests, and which are generally cut,
either for the convenience of hunting, or carting wood. It opened on the
left side of the road; and at the bottom of it, though apparently at a
great distance, a light was visible.
"So much for your Wild Huntsman, friend Essper! I shall be much
disappointed if here are not quarters for the night. And see! the moon
comes out, a good omen!"
After ten minutes' canter over the noiseless turf, the travellers found
themselves before a large and many-windowed mansion. The building formed
the farthest side of a quadrangle, which you entered through an ancient
and massy gate; on each side of which was a small building, of course
the lodges. Essper soon found that the gate was closely fastened; and
though he knocked often and loudly, it was with no effect. That the
inhabitants of the mansion had not yet retired was certain, for lights
were moving in the great house; and one of the lodges was not only very
brilliantly illuminated, but full, as Vivian was soon convinced, of
clamorous if not jovial guests.
"Now, by the soul of my unknown father!" said the enraged Essper, "I
will make these saucy porters learn their duty--What ho! there; what ho!
within; within!" But the only answer he received was the loud
reiteration of a rude and roaring chorus, which, as it was now more
distinctly and audibly enunciated, evidently for the purpose of enraging
the travellers, they detected to be something to the following effect:--
Then a prayer to St. Peter, a prayer to St. Paul!
A prayer to St. Jerome, a prayer to them all!
A prayer to each one of the saintly stock,
But devotion alone, devotion to Hock!
"A right good burden'" said Essper. The very words had made him recover
his temper, and ten thousand times more desirous of gaining admittance.
He was off his horse in a moment, and scrambling up the wall with the
aid of the iron stanchions, he clambered up to the window. The sudden
appearance of his figure startled the inmates of the lodge, and one of
them soon staggered to the gate.
"What want you, ye noisy and disturbing varlets? what want you, ye most
unhallowed rogues, at such a place, and at such an hour? If you be
thieves, look at our bars (here a hiccup). If you be poachers, our
master is engaged, and ye may slay all the game in the forest (another
hiccup); but if ye be good men and true--"
"We are!" halloed Essper, eagerly.
"You are!" said the porter, in a tone of great surprise; "then you ought
to be ashamed of yourselves for disturbing holy men at their devotions!"
"Is this the way," said Essper, "to behave, ye shameless rascals, to a
noble and mighty Prince, who happens to have lost his way in your
abominable forest, but who, though he has parted with his suite, has
still in his pocket a purse full of ducats? Would ye have him robbed by
any others but yourselves? Is this the way you behave to a Prince of the
Holy Roman Empire, a Knight of the Golden Fleece, and a most particular
friend of your own master? Is this the way to behave to his secretary,
who is one of the merriest fellows living, can sing a jolly song with
any of you, and so bedevil a bottle of Geisenheim with lemons and
brandy that for the soul of ye you wouldn't know it from the greenest
Tokay? Out, out on ye! you know not what you have lost!"
Ere Essper had finished more than one stout bolt had been drawn, and the
great key had already entered the stouter lock.
"Most honourable sirs!" hiccuped the porter, "in our Lady's name enter.
I had forgot myself, for in these autumn nights it is necessary to
anticipate the cold with a glass of cheering liquor; and, God forgive
me! if I did not mistake your most mighty Highnesses for a couple of
forest rovers, or small poachers at least. Thin entertainment here, kind
sir (here the last bolt was withdrawn); a glass of indifferent liquor
and a prayer-book. I pass the time chiefly these cold nights with a few
holy-minded friends at our devotions. You heard us at our prayers,
"A prayer to St. Peter, a prayer to St. Paul!
A prayer to St. Jerome, a prayer to them all!"
Here the devout porter most reverently crossed himself.
"A prayer to each one of the saintly stock,
But devotion alone, devotion to Hock!"
added Essper George; "you forget the best part of the burden, my honest
"Oh!" said the porter, with an arch smile, as he opened the lodge door;
"I am glad to find that your honourable Excellencies have a taste
The porter led them into a room, at a round table in which about
half-a-dozen individuals were busily engaged in discussing the merits of
various agreeable liquors. There was an attempt to get up a show of
polite hospitality to Vivian as he entered, but the man who offered him
his chair fell to the ground in an unsuccessful struggle to be
courteous; and another one, who had filled a large glass for the guest
on his entrance, offered him, after a preliminary speech of incoherent
compliments, the empty bottle by mistake. The porter and his friends,
although they were all drunk, had sense enough to feel that the presence
of a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, a Chevalier of the Golden Fleece,
and the particular friend of their master, was not exactly a fit
companion for themselves, and was rather a check on the gay freedom of
equal companionship; and so, although the exertion was not a little
troublesome, the guardian of the gate reeled out of the room to inform
his honoured lord of the sudden arrival of a stranger of distinction,
Essper George immediately took his place, and ere the master of the
lodge had returned the noble secretary had not only given a choice
toast, sung a choice song, and been hailed by the grateful plaudits of
all present, but had proceeded in his attempt to fulfil the pledge which
he had given at the gate to the very letter by calling out lustily for a
bottle of Geisenheim, lemons, brandy, and a bowl.
"Fairly and softly, my little son of Bacchus," said the porter as he
re-entered, "fairly and softly, and then thou shalt want nothing; but
remember I have to perform my duties unto the noble Lord my master, and
also to the noble Prince your master. If thou wilt follow me," continued
the porter, reeling as he bowed with the greatest consideration to
Vivian; "if thou wilt follow me, most high and mighty sir, my master
will be right glad to have the honour of drinking your health. And as
for you, my friends, fairly and softly say I again. We will talk of the
Geisenheim anon. Am I to be absent from the first brewing? No, no!
fairly and softly; you can drink my health when I am absent in cold
liquor, and say those things which you could not well say before my
face. But mind, my most righteous and well-beloved, I will have no
flattery. Flattery is the destruction of all good fellowship; it is like
a qualmish liqueur in the midst of a bottle of wine. Speak your minds,
say any little thing that comes first, as thus, 'Well, for Hunsdrich,
the porter, I must declare that I never heard evil word against him;' or
thus, 'A very good leg has Hunsdrich the porter, and a tight-made lad
altogether; no enemy with the girls, I warrant me;' or thus, 'Well, for
a good-hearted, good-looking, stout-drinking, virtuous, honourable,
handsome, generous, sharp-witted knave, commend me to Hunsdrich the
porter;' but not a word more, my friends, not a word more, no
flattery--Now, sir, I beg your pardon."
The porter led the way through a cloistered walk, until they arrived at
the door of the great mansion, to which they ascended by a lofty flight
of steps; it opened into a large octagonal hail, the sides of which were
covered with fowling-pieces, stags' heads, couteaux de chasse,
boar-spears, and huge fishing-nets. Passing through this hall, they
ascended a noble stair-case, on the first landing-place of which was a
door, which Vivian's conductor opened, and ushering him into a large and
well-lighted chamber, withdrew. From the centre of this room descended a
magnificently cut chandelier, which threw a graceful light upon a
sumptuous banquet table, at which were seated eight very
singular-looking personages. All of them wore hunting-dresses of various
shades of straw-coloured cloth, with the exception of one, who sat on
the left hand of the master of the feast, and the colour of whose
costume was a rich crimson purple. From the top to the bottom of the
table extended a double file of wine-glasses and goblets, of all sizes
and all colours. There you might see brilliant relics of that ancient
ruby-glass the vivid tints of which seem lost to us for ever. Next to
these were marshalled goblets of Venetian manufacture, of a cloudy,
creamy white; then came the huge hock glass of some ancient Primate of
Mentz, nearly a yard high, towering above its companions, as the church,
its former master, predominated over the simple laymen of the middle
ages. Why should we forget a set of most curious and antique
drinking-cups of painted glass, on whose rare surfaces were emblazoned
the Kaiser and ten electors of the old Empire?
Vivian bowed to the party and stood in silence, while they stared a
scrutinising examination. At length the master of the feast spoke. He
was a very stout man, with a prodigious paunch, which his tightened
dress set off to great advantage. His face, and particularly his
forehead, were of great breadth. His eyes were set far apart. His long
ears hung down almost to his shoulders; yet singular as he was, not only
in these, but in many other respects, everything was forgotten when your
eyes lighted on his nose. It was the most prodigious nose that Vivian
ever remembered not only seeing, but hearing or even reading of. It
fact, it was too monstrous for a dream. This mighty nose seemed to hang
almost to its owner's chest.
"Be seated," said this personage, in no unpleasing voice, and he pointed
to the chair opposite to him. Vivian took the vacated seat of the
Vice-President, who moved himself to the right. "Be seated, and whoever
you may be, welcome! If our words be few, think not that our welcome is
scant. We are not much given to speech, holding it for a principle that
if a man's mouth be open, it should be for the purpose of receiving that
which cheers a man's spirit; not of giving vent to idle words, which, so
far as we have observed, produce no other effect save filling the world
with crude and unprofitable fantasies, and distracting our attention
when we are on the point of catching those flavours which alone make the
world endurable. Therefore, briefly, but heartily, welcome! Welcome, Sir
Stranger, from us, and from all: and first from us, the Grand Duke of
Johannisberger." Here his Highness rose, and pulled out a large ruby
tumbler from the file. Each of those present did the same, without,
however, rising, and the late Vice-President, who sat next to Vivian,
invited him to follow their example.
The Grand Duke of Johannisberger brought forward, from beneath the
table, an ancient and exquisite bottle of that choice liquor from which
he took his exhilarating title. The cork was drawn, and the bottle
circulated with rapidity; and in three minutes the ruby glasses were
filled and emptied, and the Grand Duke's health quaffed by all present.
"Again, Sir Stranger," continued the Grand Duke, "briefly, but heartily,
welcome! welcome from us and welcome from all; and first from us, and
now from the Archduke of Hockheimer!"
The Archduke of Hockheimer was a thin, sinewy man, with long, carroty
hair, eyelashes of the same colour, but of a remarkable length; and
mustachios, which, though very thin, were so long that they met under
his chin. Vivian could not refrain from noticing the extreme length,
whiteness, and apparent sharpness of his teeth. The Archduke did not
speak, but, leaning under the table, soon produced a bottle of
Hockheimer. He then took from the file one of the Venetian glasses of
clouded white. All followed his example; the bottle was sent round, his
health was pledged, and the Grand Duke of Johannisberger again spoke:
"Again, Sir Stranger, briefly, but heartily, welcome! Welcome from us,
and welcome from all; and first from us, and now from the Elector of
The Elector of Steinberg was a short, but very broad-backed,
strong-built man. Though his head was large, his features were small,
and appeared smaller from the immense quantity of coarse, shaggy, brown
hair which grew over almost every part of his face and fell down upon
his shoulders. The Elector was as silent as his predecessor, and quickly
produced a bottle of Steinberg. The curious drinking cups of painted
glass were immediately withdrawn from the file, the bottle was sent
round, the Elector's health was pledged, and the Grand Duke of
Johannisberger again spoke:
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