Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.
THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN
From Felix to Julius
I hasten to prepare you by the first possible opportunity, for an event of which the rumours will soon be afloat, both in town and country, and which will, of course, cause very material changes. Julius, the reigning Duke’s crimes are now frightfully avenged on his own head. I reflect with horror on that web of evil, which he has himself twined so industriously, and which, in the end, is only to supply the means of his own destruction. But you must now judge for yourself.
About eight days ago, the Duke, who since that attack of illness after the masquerade ball, has been always rather in bad health, was sitting in the dusk of the evening, in a small cabinet, at the end of a long suite of apartments. His temper is so variable, that those around him never know what he would like or dislike. Consequently, no one would venture to bring him lighted candles, unless he had rung for that purpose. So that, as chance would have it, the Duke having fallen asleep had forgotten the hour, and all his usual arrangements.
Meanwhile there came into the palace court an old grey-headed man, who ran hastily up the back staircase, and gave the pass-word and signal in such manner, that, in the dark, the guards never discovered that he was a stranger. So that the private door was directly opened, and he went forward to the chamber of our drowsy sovereign. The Duke was instantly roused by the noise his unexpected visitor made on entering the room, started up all in a tremor, and called aloud in a voice of the utmost anxiety and consternation, “Has he escaped? Has he come hither?”
Now the old man being by this time as much affrighted as the Duke, began also to vociferate, till at last, both standing opposite to each other, broke out into a fit of mad laughter. Which, at the same time being accompanied by all the symptoms of deadly fear, inspired the listeners with horror; and the nearest attendants, on looking in, perceived that their visages were abdominably writhen and contracted.
The groom of the chambers had indeed watched the whole transaction from the next room, and was so much agitated that he ran away for the physician, who came immediately, and tried every means in his power to bring the unhappy men to their senses. But it was impossible to make them listen to any third party. The same paroxysms of terror and utter madness were renewed, tall at last they were quite exhausted, and fell into a sleep or stupor so still, that it was like that of death.
As for the mysterious old man who caused all this disturbance, Leonardo the physician recognized in him at once the castellan of Scharfenstein, and being well aware of the circumstances there, he concluded that some fatal blow had been struck against the Duke from that quarter. At the same time, he endeavored to guard against any more outbreakings of such alarming madness. He therefore made the castellan be removed to another room, in hopes that such paroxysms would not recur, unless brought on by some outwardly exciting cause.
But though thus separated, no sooner had the Duke and the old man awoke from their unnatural slumber, than their eyes began to roll, and they seemed anxiously to look for each other. They continued under the influence of raging delirium, till they were again brought together, after which the same mad grimaces and laughter were renewed as before.
Since then their condition has remained equally perplexing and disastrous — notwithstanding all that the physicians have tried against it; so that with deep sorrow they were at last obliged to inform the Duchess that her son was incurably insane. She now sees the kingdom deserted, without any ruler, and yet begs that the ministers will, for some time at least, suspend their choice of a regent.
Meanwhile, the people begin to murmur, rather formidably, that Prince Charles is neither mad nor guilty. Even here, one may trace that inward born apprehension, that anticipation of truth, which, though it can be suppressed for a time, is yet a principle inherent in the human mind. Though they dare not speak freely, yet no one doubts in his heart that the Duke’s malady is an awful judgment against him, for the sufferings that he inflicted on his brother; and it is certain that a ministerial deputation will immediately be sent to Scharfenstein. It may be well, therefore, that you prepare the Prince for this visit, and assure him that the people have placed all their hopes on him.
Julius, dare any one in this world ever decide that he stands at the goal of his allotted course? Everywhere, and at all times, man but gropes in the dark; even when, by self-denial, and the renunciation of hopes which had been fondly cherished, he thinks that he must infallibly secure peace, he is disappointed — there are duties yet to be fulfilled betwixt him and the grave. But I shall not detain the courier for the sake of moralizing!
There remains but little to be added to the preceding letters, but that little dissolves every cloud, and for the rest, all is sunshine. As Felix had anticipated, the Prince found that the voice of Providence called him to the throne; and though the busy world, with all its goings on, was now more than ever disagreeable to him, he did not hesitate to obey the summons. The scene was, indeed, moving, when the old Duchess welcomed at court her son, who had been so long an exile, while the Prince’s dignified figure and quiet demeanor announced to every feeling heart how he had striven against his own passion, and conquered.
As to the Countess Julia, some time elapsed before she could be persuaded to leave her retirement. The veil that Providence had drawn betwixt her and the outward world, was, in her estimation, a token that she should ought never to change her mode of life. But wonderful and inscrutable are the mysteries of the connection between mind and bodily frame, acting and re-acting on each other!
In her excessive grief, her eyes became dim, till, for a time, their sense was wholly lost; but it was found that this evil was not irremediable. Once more she had regained some perception of the daylight. An English physician, who then passed through the capital, was employed, and completed her recovery. It is needless to add, that she remained the only female friend and confidante of the reigning Duke Charles, who, from the mere consciousness of her being near to him, drew inspirations of courage, energy and perseverance in all his undertakings.
As for Julius, he was, in every respect, happy and fortunate. Distinguished for his admirable conduct, both in private life and as a soldier on the battlefield, it came to pass in after years, when his beloved parents were united in death, when also the former Duke rested under a magnificent monument, and the sovereign power merged into another principality, Julius was appointed prime minister, and continued to behave with such spirit and propriety that he was respected even as much as if he had himself been on the throne.
~ The End ~
Caroline de la Motte-Fouque’
Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.
THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN
Chapter V, Part 2 of 2
Just before my departure for England
arewell, farewell, my beloved native land!
You cast me from you, cruelly, it is true. Disguised, and like an abandoned criminal in the darkness of the night, I must quit the walls of this town. No one here will regret my departure, and all will soon forget the poor guilty Julia, as if she had never been.
Guilty, indeed, I am; therefore, oh heart! be steady and unshrinking in thy penance; and Heaven will prove a just and merciful judge. That happiness which, in my levity and presumption, I wished to possess against the will of Providence, has been wholly taken from me. Be it so then; let my resignation, if possible, prove an atonement, and may I be guided henceforth by the pure influence of the Christian faith — by self-denial — voluntary suffering, and submission of spirit.
But my dearest Charles! I hear that they have invented wicked falsehoods to delude you! Truly, you cannot be reproached for believing them, for Heaven alone knows by what snares your life has been environed. I weep only because you cannot weep — because you cherish anger even against your faithful Julia, instead of compassion and forgiveness. If these words could only reach your ears, the truth would be felt in your inmost heart.
Alas, Charles! we shall now look anxiously forward to a far different journey from that which we had planned to India. Our wanderings are like those of the pilgrims, of whom it is said, that they advance two steps, and lose one, on their way to the Holy Land. But let us not be wearied or despondent, though the way be long, for at one time or another we must come to our journey’s end.
Here, Felix, there occur some lines half obliterated, on which I cannot venture; for the tears of heart-felt affliction have imprinted on them the sacred seal of mystery. How could we sport as we have so often done with this life, which, if the curtain be drawn from its concealed truths, is so frightfully tragic? I am, in truth, so disturbed and agitated, that it seems as if I could never more obtain even one hour of rest. What then, is our whole existence in this world, but a ceaseless conflict and alternation of crime and repentance?
Once more my feelings are completely changed; the balm of divine peace and consolation has been poured out profoundly on our heads; but, to understand me, you must hear all that passed last night, though I almost dread to set it on paper, as if it could not be real, and the spell might be broken!
It was late in the evening, when I was summoned to the Prince. I found him no longer confined to his bed, but resting on the sofa, just as he had appeared at our first interview. He seemed, with anxious inquiry, to read on my features the emotion that had been produced by the perusal of the manuscripts.
“Julius,” said he, “It is now my duty to give you an explanation of much which you cannot yet have even guessed; therefore, take your place, and listen quietly to what I have to say.”
The Prince then roused himself from the reclining posture in which I found him, and, with the fire of youth in his eyes, he leant forward and addressed me.
“Even though we should deny the personal existence of malignant demons in the world, yet we cannot doubt the influence of that one omnipotent spirit of evil, who tempts us into crimes — renders the ground, as it were, hollow beneath our feet, and, depriving us of reason and recollection, forces us into the gulf thus prepared for our destruction.
“What, then, would become of us, if it were not for the assistance of Divine Providence, by which our very enemies are sometimes turned into agents for our rescue? My heart was always too warm and too susceptible — the restraints that I laid on myself were feeble and easily broken through, — and alas! that barrier being removed, I did not fall myself alone, but forced along with me an amiable and angelic being into misery.
“Julia’s affection, indeed, was of such a character, that it ought to have shielded me against all the poisonous calumny of the world. But the belief in another’s innocence — such is our deprived nature — is an impression very easily disturbed. Could you have supposed that Julia’s devotion to me, and the unshrinking confidence with which she had received my addresses, formed the means by which our infernal adversary led me on to discontent and suspicion?
“It would have been long, indeed, before the Duke, with all his agents, could have brought me to this. Gabrielle had been constantly endeavouring to fan the fires of jealousy into flame, but in vain. My mother, too, deceived and misled by every one, accused Julia of blamable levity; for she thought, that before my arrival, the innocent girl, if she had not encouraged, yet, in consequence, perhaps of her timidity and inexperience, had submitted to receive attentions from the Duke, even that an understanding and mutual confidence still subsisted betwixt them.
“At last, my brother ventured one day, in a strain of bitter irony, to laugh at my romantic passion. He heaped insult upon insult, till at last he boasted, though with an air of contempt and indifference, that Julia had granted him many private interviews. I had never, in my life, been subject to anger; therefore was by no means on my guard against an attack of this passion. I knew not how its raging waves collect unobserved, till at once they break over our heads, and now, therefore, I fell an unresisting victim.
“Quite frantic with rage, forgetting all considerations, so that I thought not of revenge, but only of destruction to myself and all others, I rushed sword in hand against my brother. He parried my attack with a wave of his arm. He stood quietly and scornfully, and his looks of just reproach moved me in such manner that a complete revolution took place in my mind, and I threw myself at his feet.
“For a long while, indeed, I knew not what I did, nor what passed around me; and, on recovering my senses, I found myself in a chamber, of which the door was locked. Even then, I scarcely knew what had happened, nor could form any distinct thoughts or wishes. But late in the night I heard, under the floor, the noise of a carriage driving into the castle court. Soon afterwards, an officer, rather advanced in years, whom I had till now never seen, entered my room. He showed me the Duke’s written command, that I should go with him to Scharfenstein — to which I made not the slightest objection, for, in my despair, all circumstances were to me become indifferent.
“On my arrival here, I fell into a kind of melancholy stupefaction, that blunted my senses almost against every impression. The crime into which my ungovernable rage had betrayed me made me feel a kind of contempt even for all mankind. Above all, however, I detested myself, and that Julia whom I had so fondly loved. Even these impulses were feeble and imperfect. At that period I could scarcely be said to live. I had only faint glimmerings of thought, and these I wished to avoid rather than encourage. Years passed away in this mood, to which another succeeded that was far more insupportable.
“This was the consciousness of reviving strength, and the decrease of my dark melancholy, followed by intense paroxysms of hatred and revenge. I thought of wreaking vengeance on Julia, and escaping from the horrid bondage in which I now suffered. At length nature seemed to give way under this struggle, and I became very ill, of which news probably were sent to the capital, for the Duke’s physicians came to visit me. I had a great distrust of his remedies, and steadfastly refused to follow his prescriptions. The fear of poison was then never absent from my mind, and the love of life increased, as the hope, by degrees awoke, that my situation might yet be completely changed.
“In one respect, the change indeed came. I recovered, and, with returning health, came back the energies of my mind, and I acquired a victory over those passions by which I had been tormented. With regard to my own conduct at the last meeting with my brother, I reflected on it with deep humiliation, for I was more than ever conscious that I had been in the wrong. As to Julia, my emotions were now more of sorrow than of anger; yet, on this point, I was forced to acknowledge myself still as a mere ordinary mortal. When I thought of her, I could not be tranquil, and therefore sought repose by endeavouring, however, vainly, to avoid the recollection of her altogether.
“Yet, as if even this might not be, the parrot was then brought hither. I knew not from whence he came, but accepted the bird willingly as an amusement in my solitude. No sooner was he seated in his ring, that he screamed aloud, “Pardon — oh pardon!’ and ‘Farewell — farewell!” These words came from her, said I; but, alas! at that time I was far from giving to them a proper interpretation. I thought they were the expressions of a guilty, faithless woman, while it was she who had been injured, and who thus nobly forgave me!
“And yet, strange to tell, the tones moved me almost as much as if I had indeed heard her own voice; for Julius, there is a universal presence in recollection. I felt it in every whispering of the air through the window. Now and then I thought of my flute, on which, in better days, I had so often played in Julia’s presence. I longed for it, and requested that it might be brought to me, which was agreed to; and, with the flute was sent almost every thing that had been left in my cabinet in town — so that I found myself established here as if I had been at home. At last came my favourite dog. I could not help bursting into tears; when, recognizing me, he barked aloud for joy — put up his paws on my shoulders, and laid his head on my bosom.
“So unconquerable,” said I, “are the impressions of attachment, even in irrational creatures, — it is principle that God has implanted in all beings — but for the human race alone, it is reserved to be faithless.” At that moment, it seemed as if the voice of some invisible monitor said to me, “Love may be injured, but it is an amaranthine flower; it is immortal; preserve it, then, like a sacred relic in thy soul, and it will be restored to its first perfection in Heaven!”
“Henceforth, not only could I bear to think steadfastly of Julia, but her image constantly hovered around me, like a glorified visitant from the habilitations of the blest. Her faults and errors belonged only to this earth; but the Julia whom I loved was mine for eternity. These thoughts, for the future, were to me like the rainbow’s arch of forgiveness, hope and promise, succeeding a dark tempest in the sky. I have been better both in mind and frame; have been little disturbed by temporal cares, and my affections were indeed fixed on another world.
“But then, Julius, you made your appearance. The general whose name you mentioned as your father was Julia’s guardian. This circumstance, and even the sound of your name, of course, broke in greatly upon my repose — for a thousand questions occurred to me, which I would have wished to ask. But fearful that the truth would not bear investigation, I timidly repressed them all. It was the will of Providence, however, that, by your means, the veil of mystery should one day be withdrawn; and now I may ask of you, do you know, or can you guess whether the unhappy Julia yet lives? Or – but I cannot help faltering when I speak of this — how her heart was reconciled to her sad destiny and mine? Conceal nothing, my dear friend, however agonizing the truth may be. I can bear it better than suspense.”
I was on the point of making the Prince acquainted with my own dim recollections — of the letters which my mother used to receive, from an unfortunate sister resident in England, and all the rest, which has been already described to you. When the physician, who had not been here for several days, made his appearance. There was somewhat reserved in his looks and demeanor, which immediately struck me; and he in his turn was visibly surprised by the improved looks of the Prince. “What miracle has wrought this change?” said he. “I find his Highness’ pulse beating like that of a healthy young man, and there is not the slightest symptom of fever. “
“It will be well,” said the Prince, “when you have thus restored me to the strength of youth, if you can protect me also from its mental delusions and disquietude.” The physician, after some other questions, finding that his advice was no longer required here, rose to take his leave, and seeming in great haste, refused the Prince’s invitation to remain all night, as his business called him hence. He had been appointed by a lady, who was now very ill, for a visit at that hour, and he could not keep her waiting any longer. “You are perhaps going farther by the same road,” said the Prince, “and may return by our castle?”
“Your Highness will excuse me,” said the physician, “my visit thus far was to you alone, but why should I conceal that there is a patient whom I am now to see on my homeward route whose recovery altogether depended on that of your Highness.”
“You speak in riddles,” said the Prince.
“In short,” replied the physician. “there resides in this neighbourhood a very beautiful, though blind lady, who lives, as she says, altogether by the notes of your flute, which fall cheeringly as that sunlight which she can never more behold, into the darkness of her world, and change her wearisome night into bright morning.”
At these words the Prince turned pale, and looked anxiously at the doctor.
“In direct terms,” added the latter, “I must explain to your Highness, this unfortunate lady says that all the pleasantest remembrances of her youth are awoke by your music — that these form now the only solace that she has left to support existence. That in listening to you she beholds every scene or image, once more in the most vivid hues, as if all had been restored. But now, since the flute has been for several nights neglected, she has fallen into a state which one might well call a living death. All this was revealed to me by an old nurse who attends her, and who begged me to say whether the beloved music would be heard again, or was indeed silent forever?
“I now hasten to her with the information, that since your Highness is quite recovered, your evening amusements will doubtless be resumed.”
“Who is the lady?” said the Prince in a faltering voice.
“She is an English emigree,” said the physician, “who came many years ago to reside in this forest, having purchased an old ruinous castle, of which she has since been a constant inmate. It is said that early affliction and constant weeping deprived her thus untimely of her sight.”
“It is she — it is Julia!” cried the Prince, bursting into tears, and throwing himself into my arms.
“For Heaven’s sake,” said I to the physician, “let me go with you on your visit! A thousand cherished recollections crowd upon my mind, and hopes that may yet be realized. I must see the lady.”
“You can see her indeed, without leaving this room,” said the physician, leading me to the window. “Mark yonder in the moonlight. Her form is distinguishable on the wild rocky cliff, where she never fails to watch at this hour, in hopes that the music will be heard once more — and bring back youth and sunlight to her imagination.”
The Prince had now opened the lattice. He knelt down with the flute in his hands, and tried to wake its wonted notes, but could not — sobbed aloud — bent down his head for some moments in silent prayer. Then, as if supernaturally tranquilized, resumed the instrument, and without once faltering, poured forth such an exquisite stream of sorrowful modulation, that the effect was unearthly. It was like the voice of a beneficent spirit, lamenting over the misfortunes and errors of mankind.
I could not remain any longer within the doors. I ran down stairs and across the court. The draw bridge fell at my signal. I rushed forth, and never halted in my breathless course till I had reached the summit of the rock and stood beside her. I cannot describe what follows; the impressions of all that passed are remembered like those of a dream. The first words that she uttered, proved to me that my hopes have been well-founded. She fell fainting into my arms and, scarcely aware of what I did, but acting by mere impulse, I bore her down the cliff. I know not how the distance was got over; but I never relaxed in my efforts, nor awoke to self-possession and consciousness, till I had brought her into the Prince’s apartments.
Felix, what a moment was that when they met again, though they could not mutually behold each other!
“It is morning,” said the Countess, when she first recovered from her swoon, and breathed once more on the bosom of her beloved.
The clear light of day has indeed broken out around us — and as you, Felix, may doubtless have anticipated, it is proved that I am the offspring of this ill-fated and yet now happy marriage. Oh dearest mother, how sincerely my heart now feels your affection, and how grateful I am for the counsels that you afforded me! No longer am I at any loss to explain the mysterious voice that of yore spoke to me in solitude, or the unconquerable yearnings of my spirit, even in childhood, after that rank in life, and that domestic happiness of which it seemed that I was debarred forever.
How deeply moving was her appearance now! Her head from long habit declined in melancholy — her dark eyes shrouded by their impenetrable veil! The Prince looked at her with emotion to which no words could give adequate utterance. “Oh, my beloved Julia,” said he. “How much has my attachment cost you? Those beautiful eloquent eyes?” With those words, he kissed them gently.
“My dearest Charles,” answered she. “Heaven has yet allowed us to retain all the freshness of our youthful feelings. Though I have spent many years in darkness, and you have been shut up within prison walls. The malignant influence of the world has not destroyed those emotions, and I was almost happy, when I knew that you were so near to me and could reckon you still mine.”
“You should be informed, Felix, that at the period when she appeared to me as a traveling dealer in Nüremberg toys, she had just then ventured back to her native country, and saw me for the first time since the month of my birth. “So then” said she to herself, “I have a son, and he is a stranger among strangers. Who knows whether he will ever find his way back to his father’s capital — and to his proper sphere in life?” Soon afterwards, she entrusted me to her old friend Madame Nägelin, who had accompanied her to England, and who brought me to my mother’s guardian. He was at that time traveling with his wife, being sent as a diplomatist to a distance country, where he remained for several years. The Count received me very willingly, and after his return, I passed, without exciting any suspicion, for his own son.
So, then, Felix — such are the intricate ways of Providence. I have been here appointed as my father’s watcher. I have been to him at last like a peace messenger from Heaven, inspiring him with new hope. Indeed, with a tranquility and confidence. Who can measure or appreciate the deep inscrutable plans of Supreme Power?
You will ask me, perhaps, what is to happen farther; but I have nothing more to relate. We are all of us at peace, and contented with our lot. The Prince is a state prisoner, and the Countess Julia remains, or seems to remain, a female hermit as before. It is requisite to keep up appearances, and no other course was under existing circumstances at our command. Yet, in those two hearts, how deep and placid is now the feeling of boundless unanimity and confidence! To them, henceforth, what is all the world, with its anxieties, tumults and intrigues? They know not even that it exists.
Felix, it is needless to attempt a delineation in words of that which is quite indescribable. But I would wish to feel as much of all this, as it is possible for a looker-on to feel by sympathy.
However, that the sky might not remain at present altogether free from clouds, the crafty castellan has contrived to make his escape from Scharfenstein. Whither has he directed his flight? What new misfortune will he contrive to raise up against us? It cannot, however, be quite overpowering, and, whatever may happen, I am prepared and resolute. At the worst, I shall betake myself as a dernier resort to the old Duchess, in whose presence possibly the whole truth may be brought to light.
Perhaps I alone must do penance for the short interval of cheerfulness which I was the means of affording to these two sufferers. But I must confess, my feelings as to present and actual experiences have been such, that, for some time past, I have had little room left in my mind for speculations on the future.
To be continued…
Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.
THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN
Chapter V, Part 1 of 2
Recollections of the Julia de__
20th December, 17_
h, Heaven! The days of peace, joy, and delightful illusions are now past!Aye, this is indeed that love, of which the mere reflection, as it is described in romances and poems, has so often agitated my heart.And how fearful is this reality!Amid the dreadful conflict of feelings by which I am assailed, I know not whither to turn for support and consolation.If I dared speak to the Duchess!But no – that is impossible – she is far too elevated in rank to be made a confidante, and the Countess is unfortunately very ill.Either of them might assist me; but as to Madame Nägelin, though good and kind-hearted, yet, in the affairs of this world, she is helpless as a child.
That unfortunate hunting party at Scharfenstein!
From the very onset, I was afraid of its consequences; and yet, the day was so beautiful, our drive thither, and our amusements there so inviting! Alas! Why must joy and sorrow so often travel together? By how many people in the town must our brilliant appearance have been envied! Every window was crowded with admiring spectators, all watching our grand sledges, our fine prancing and richly caparisoned horses, hung with bells, which sounded so delightfully in the still morning air.
And, as to myself, did I not forget all the past, and every thing else in the world, so totally was I engrossed by this new pleasure? Did not my heart heave with rapture, when I flew, swift as an arrow, along the smooth glittering road, and the Prince sitting behind me, guided our course so adroitly and securely. The town soon lay far behind us, and we came always deeper and deeper into the dark regions of the pine forests, where, how strange was the contrast presented by the silent loneliness of all nature and the lively ringing of our horses’ accoutrements!
What I then heard or said, truly I could not repeat; the time passed away like a fairy dream. Only, I well remember that when we were mounting the steep ascent to Scharfenstein, the Duke, who was driving his mother also in a sledge, came up with us, and shouted wildly that we might keep out of his way. Then, for the first time, my dream was broken, and my heart was again awoke to fearful and gloomy apprehensions.
The party assembled in the castle at a sumptuous dejeune a la fourchette. Here, it happened that the Duchess was forcibly reminded of the pleasant days that she had spent in early life with her late husband at Scharfenstein. She pointed out his portrait and her own, and then asked the Duke whether he had no thoughts of ever bringing home a princess to share in his prosperity?
His dark brows immediately contracted, and he threw back his head with an air of disdain. “Where is there any woman,” said he, “by whom this heart could be understood? As well might you expect to use the fires of Hecla in the narrow chamber of a cottage, as to confine me with the trammels of domestic life!”
His mother looked at him mournfully, and meanwhile the young prince’s eyes were anxiously searching for mine. I answered him kindly in the same manner; and though I could have controlled my words, yet my looks unavoidably betrayed that I was glad to cling to him as a friend. The Duke’s expression was indeed so strange and ill-timed, that the whole party seemed perplexed, and lost in my mysterious apprehensions.
Soon after this, however, the bugle-horns were heard from the castle court, and the hunt was immediately to begin. Our breakfast party dispersed, in a short time we reassembled at the outward gate, where the Duchess and all the other ladies mounted courageously on horseback. At that time Prince Charles came to me and said in a low voice, “Will Julia, then, fulfill the promise which her looks already made to her too happy lover?” Heaven forgive me, I spoke sincerely and answered him “Yes.”
But how fearful are the consequences that this word may bring on him and on me! In a few minutes afterwards, the Duke came up at a hard trot, forced himself betwixt us, — took hold of my horse’s bridle, and forced me to ride away with him into a wild thicket. There he broke out into such passionate vehemence of language, accompanied with such tones and gestures, that I might have fallen senseless at my tormentor’s feet, had it not been that the whole party came right after us, and the sport then properly began.
I cannot tell what happened through the rest of the day. It was not till late in the evening that I recollected myself, when I was seated in a carriage with the Duchess; and I knew that a wearisome life of suffering and conflict was before me. Oh happy days of youth and hope — how soon your illusions have passed away — and an inward voice almost warns me that it is forever!
30th February, 17__ (in the following year)
When I now read over the preceding pages, it seems as if many years had elapsed since I wrote them. What bitter tears have fallen to efface their traces! That Julia who wrote them is no longer the same. Her once childish and smiling countenance is become gloomy and pale; her tearful eyes look dimly on the glimmering twilight of the past. Tormented both by her own emotions and the passions of others, she is an unhappy being; held constantly in suspense between the respectful homage of an ardent lover, and the persecution of insolent tyranny. Which of these two is indeed to prevail, and how can all this end?
Under a mask of icy coldness, the Duke’s whole existence labours under the frenzy of passion which threatens every moment to break out. As for his mother’s conduct, it is guided alternately by compassionate sympathy, and the mere pompous formality of high rank. She has sent me warning messages by the Countess, and has threatened me with being deposed and exiled from court. In return, as far was I from expressing my regret on that account, that I only begged permission to go for a few months into voluntary retirement.
My request would be taken into consideration was the answer, for she cannot venture to provoke the Duke by any decisive measures. Even this woman, firm and exalted as she seems, trembles in the presence of her eldest son. How or where, then, shall a poor helpless girl, such as I am, hope to be secure against his anger? As for thee, my only beloved Charles, least of all must thou know the cause of my terror; and Heaven grant that no apprehension of the truth may find its way to thy mind!
1st May 17__
How have I strength to carry through that which I deemed utterly impossible? Am I awake, or has it not all been but a dream? If I can believe my senses, we were privately betrothed in the church of St. Mary. The good Madame Nägelin was a witness to the ceremony, and in few days we are to set sail for India. In his arms, after this long interval of doubts and fears, I shall greet a new world. I shall behold him ever with me, and no human power shall…
Shall part us, I would have written; but I was interrupted by a summons to attend the Duchess. I found her in tears, and she could hardly tranquilize herself so as to speak with me. “Julia,” said she at last, “It is you alone who can restore to me my lost peace of mind. You have indeed been the cause of discord in the family of your benefactress — but I well know that this is not the result of any design on your part. You have been misled by the too great susceptibility of your own heart, which is yet young and inexperienced. But it is your duty to recall it from wandering.
“Promise me to exert your utmost skill and ingenuity in order that Prince Charles may get the better of his present mad passion. For, believe me, Julia, the feelings by which he is actuated are not justifiable. It is but a base and selfish attachment that can thus contend against the dictates of reason; for he knows well that his rank forbids him to marry the daughter of a subject. If he really loved you, he would fly from your presence.
“Therefore, my dear child, you must prove that you are too pure and too proud to encourage in him these dishonourable and unworthy purposes. I placed the utmost confidence in your virtue, and I now beseech you, let me not be disappointed. Say, Julia, shall the Duchess have thrown herself on your generosity and implored you in vain?”
I now fell at her feet, and clung to her garments. I was on the point of disclosing to her the whole truth, but a single thought of the consequences that this might bring on Charles, closed my lips and my heart. I wept, without making any answer, kissed her hand, and retired from her presence like a condemned sinner.
Incapable of telling a direct falsehood, I have yet deceived her, for, by her looks I read plainly that she considered my excessive affliction as a proof that I had determined for the future to avoid those errors which had thus rendered both her and myself so unhappy. Such, alas! are the evils — the curse, I may say – which follows duplicity and concealment. One act of necessity leads to another.
What I have experienced and suffered today no language could even faintly express. Oh merciful Heaven! How has this fate come at once like a thunder-cloud over us! Prince Charles has been arrested by order of the Duke, and dragged away from the capital.
Lately an obscure rumour spread that the former had, under the influence of a temporary fit of madness, drawn his sword again his brother. Alas! poor unsuspecting Charles! Couldst thou but have known that the wicked Duke has, for a long time, had no object nearer to his heart than that of accomplishing thy destruction!
Those who wish to bring about a reconciliation between the brothers, say that Charles is mad, and is only to be pitied for what he has done. All this I have learned from Madame Nägelin, who is the only one with whom I now can speak in confidence, and who goes out from time to time to bring me intelligence. Madness, indeed!
Alas, how deep and acute feelings, — how the noblest attributes of the human heart are misunderstood and calumniated in this world! — But the world adds more in the present instance. People insist that a wildness and inconsistency have for a long time been visible in his demeanour. My beloved Charles! They have discovered that thou art insane, because thou art not like others, cold-hearted, insensible, and a hypocrite! But why should their words disturb him or me? Could he but regain his liberty, and were I but once more in his presence all might yet be well!
Madame Nägelin has again gone to visit one of her acquaintance, and till she returns I feel so terrified that I cannot for a moment compose myself. I sit here as if in prison, like a proscribed and condemned criminal. No one comes to inquire for me; the chambers of the Duchess are closed against me, and my guardian has been for some time absent on diplomatic business. How shall I support this unexampled suspense and misery?
Oh, Heaven! That was, indeed, too much!
The Duke here in my apartments! How could he bear to look at me, or I at him? Before I had time to reflect, unexpectedly, and sudden as fate, he stood before me. “Julia,” said he, “my visit is, no doubt, as unwelcome as it is unceremonious, and, perhaps, you have already cursed me in your heart?”
I was so terrified that I could not express my indignation. I trembled in every limb, and even held up my hands imploringly, but could not speak.
“Unhappy girl,” said he. “Your presence has at length rendered us all miserable. Our domestic peace is undermined and ruined. But do not think worse of me than I deserve. I can yet forgive, if you will prove that you repent of what you have done.”
I turned from him with a kind of horror.
“Reflect,” added he, after a little time. “Reflect, that Charles must, from henceforth, be dead to this world. You are unavoidably and forever separated from him. The court — your family — even people of middling rank will look on you with distrust and aversion. Wither, now, can you turn for refuge?”
“Banish us both then!” cried I, throwing myself at his feet. “Grant us but the favour that we may leave this country, and never more hold any intercourse with its inhabitants!”
The Duke laughed scornfully. “So, then,” said he, “the melancholy brain-sick fool has infected you with his own absurd fancies, and their influence has become thus deeply rooted in your heart? Go – go!” added he scornfully, quitting my hand, which he had taken to raise me up. “You are too childish to love, or to be loved by any man. It is only good for nothing fantastic coxcombs that you can encourage.”
Wounded to the heart by such expressions in contempt of my betrothed husband, I felt, at that moment, not only the conscious rectitude of Charles, but was even inspired with a share of his pride. The Duke had, indeed, said every thing that was possible, in order to degrade himself in my estimation. He had just now uttered a more insulting falsehood, and it seemed to me as if my whole frame were clad in iron armour.
I despised him too much to care for his menaces. He was already at the door on his retreat, and I covered my face with both hands, that I might now see him; when, suddenly, he turned back, and ran to me with great impetuosity.
“Julia,” cried he, “without my aid, you are utterly lost. Do not deceive and betray yourself … for if you had but the courage to be happy, and would follow good counsel, all might yet be retrieved.”
I shuddered at these words. I was unwilling to allow my thoughts to dwell on his meaning, which was but too evident. In this contention I was quite confused, and know not what I answered. I heard, for a while, the Duke’s vehement thundering voice. It tormented me, though I did not attend to the sense of what he uttered. But, at length, all was silent; he had taken his departure, and I was left quite alone.
Yet, no! I should not have said this! Heavenly Father, thou are with me still, and also with Charles. Oh! May thy merciful support and guidance never forsake us!
Madame Nägelin is arrived, and has come without news, for Martin, the Prince’s valet, was not to be found. In a short time, however, my guardian is to return home. I depend much on his counsel. What will his decision be? What can I do now?
To be continued…
Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.
THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN
From the Diary of the Countess Julia de____,
After her entrance into public Life.
Thursday Evening, 10th Sept. 17__
That I am now actually here in the great capital, and thirty leagues from home, appears to me still like a dream. I had said to myself a hundred times on the way, that I should of course find a scene and mode of life the most different possible from all to which I had been accustomed at my aunt’s castle. But of what consequence was all that self-preparation? The ideas that I had formed were in reality nothing, though the good Madame Nägelin did what she could to assist my imagination.
She talked to me of streets, squares, theatres, casinos, arsenals, churches, crowds of people, noise, and confusion; yet, notwithstanding the picture she had drawn, I was quite confounded when we drove across the large illuminated Place de Parade down to my guardian’s house. Already on the high road from the last post-station, I could sometimes scarcely refrain from bursting into tears, all that we met with was so new, and I felt myself so much like a stranger, — like an intruder, in the world.
We met at every turn so many finely-dressed horsemen, so many grand equipages, and every one — even to the foot-passengers, stared so boldly into our carriage! Perhaps all the people could read in my pale and bewildered countenance what passed in my mind, for I saw that many of them laughed ironically, which doubled my confusion.
At the town-gate one of the Duke’s equipages passed by us on the way to the palace, which we saw at some distance. Our postillion directed our attention to this, — pointing to the carriage. “Her Highness the Duchess dowager,” said he; and I must confess that at this moment I felt a kind of triumph in the thought, that, in future, I, too, should be driven about in such an equipage. I was half-impelled to say to our talkative postillion that I was a demoiselle d’honneur at court, but conquered the propensity.
If such thoughts were blamable, it was not long ere I underwent the proper penance of a terrible embarrassment. I had leaned too far out of our carriage to look after the Duchess, when a young man in uniform passed quite close to me on horseback, and taking off his hat, bowed with great politeness. I felt that I blushed deep as crimson, for my cheeks even burned painfully as I drew back my head. “That was the Grand Duke himself — God bless him!” said the postillion. Good Heaven! how I trembled in very limb at these words! What must his Highness have thought of my boldness, and even indecorum!
At this house, my timidity and confused manners are treated with great indulgence, and, on our first arrival, my guardian came down stairs in the kindest manner to welcome us. How tranquil and firm he looks in the midst of all the bustle by which we are here surrounded! I was glad to give him my hand for protection, and he led me up stairs to the room that was appointed as mine.
“You will rest yourself here for a little while,” said he; “The Countess will soon be with you. I shall go to her and announce your arrival.” When he had retired, I begged of Madame Nägelin that she would not leave me; but she said, “It is now full time that I should learn to take care of myself. Besides, the rules of society in high life rendered it impossible that she could be always with me, as she was not entitled to move in the same circles. She knew her duty in this respect, and would, therefore, from the first moment, withdraw to her proper distance.”
It seemed to me that she was rather irritated, because the Count had not shown her much attention. But her vexation is this, — that on our very first entrance into what is called the world, the pleasant connections and habits of private life are disturbed and broken! Must this of necessity be so! — It is methinks, rather an evil omen!
As for the Countess, she seems to me in her demeanor somewhat too stiff and solemn; but, perhaps I do her injustice. Her looks and manner may be influenced by ill health; at least her complexion is very pale. Madame Nägelin thinks this is but the effect of the white and red paint which she must wear when she attends at court, hearing which, I answered, that I should never, as long as I lived, learn to disguise myself in that manner. She laughed rather ironically, and said, “I would change my mind in due time; for youth soon passed away, more especially with those who moved in the gay circles.”
Alas! this is but a sombre prospect! One cannot then enjoy life with impunity; and this reminds me of our very good priest’s favourite simile of the “thorns that lurk under the fairest flowers.” But in truth I can believe it all; for one’s mind feels here so restless and unquiet. Today I have particularly suffered on that account. The Countess desired me to go with her to the drawing-room, where she introduced me to many strange ladies and gentlemen. I trembled through every limb, and in my terror and confusion could not utter a word. Indeed I knew not what to say, and could only walk, bow, and curtsy like an automaton.
Besides, my face had not recovered from the cold air on our journey; my cheeks must have been as red as scarlet, and my hair was not properly arranged. One chance reflection that I caught in the mirror had completely ruined my self-possession that I might have otherwise retained, and I looked ashamed and confounded at the neatly adjusted dress and tranquil aspect of the ladies around me. I became quite distraught; and in a little while self-reproach was added to my other distress, for I could not but confess that the pain I now felt was but the result of mortified vanity, or perhaps some worse failing. How unfortunate, if for the future, I am doomed often to discover such dark shades in my own character!
No — it surely cannot be absolutely sinful to take delight, as I have done, in the beautiful sights and varied amusements that are found here! At last I feel my spirits elated, and I am quite happy. “All this,” I have often said to myself, “is the result of human labour, — contrivance — or, in a word, of genius. How powerful — almost unlimited — is this genius, and how great and good that omniscient Ruler from whom all such gifts proceed!” And never have I felt myself more inclined to devout reflection than now, when my heart is thus filled with joy and gratitude.
Yesterday, I went to hear high mass sung in the great church, where, for the first time, I saw the Duke’s family assembled together. There appeared to me somewhat remarkable and affecting in this, that under the influence of such solemn music I should first behold those persons on whom my future lot and fortunes in life depend. I was particularly struck with their dignity of appearance and demeanor, and still more by the unaffected humility and sincerity of their devotion.
Through the whole assemblage, indeed, I was glad to perceive the most respectful conduct; and it seems to me as if such meetings were more requisite here , than in the serenity of the country, where one’s mind need never be disturbed from religious impressions. Yet, if among the woods and fields my heart was moved to devotion, here my attention is doubly fixed and concentrated.
The solemnity that awaits me tomorrow, is of a very different kind. I am presented to the Duchess, and this will cost me no little share of anxiety and trepidation. Meanwhile, I have learned from the Countess the circumstances that led to my being chosen as a maid of honour, which place she herself held for twelve years. Some months ago, when she was married, the good old Duchess requested the Count, her husband, to find some young person of his own family to replace the lady of whose service he had deprived her. He suggested me, and his proposal was approved of.
How one event always entwines itself in this world with another? We never know when or how circumstances, over which we have no control, may throw us at once into a situation wholly new, and perhaps uncongenial; but all this must be the work of a beneficent Providence, however, strange it appears to me!
I wish fervently that the hour of my presentation at the palace were only past. Those old swarthy walls, ramparts, and towers, inspire me with a kind of horror, and I felt this particularly today when I drove past them in the Countess’ carriage. She pointed out to me some lofty windows and said, “Mark, Julia, you will be living there soon. These were my apartments. May your time be spent there as contentedly as mine was, and may you leave them as gratefully and happy!”
I know not how it happened, but when she pronounced these words, her tone was very plaintive, and the tears rushed into my eyes as I looked up again at the windows. Alas! Why did my kind-hearted guardian make choice of me for this duty? Methinks he could scarcely have found any one who was less fitted for living at court.
19th September 17__
I can scarcely help laughing now at my childish fears of yesterday. My embarrassment, indeed, was soon over; for the Duchess is all kindness and condescension. She looked at me most favourably, when I made my curtsy before her; cast a significant glance of satisfaction at the Countess, then embraced me, and said, “How much I love these timid downcast eyes,” for after the first moment, I had indeed looked awkwardly on the ground, and felt that I blushed deeply. Afterwards she desired me to take my place on an ottoman that was opposite to her, and describe how I had lived till now, and how I had filled up my time in the country.
Perhaps my story was not given in the proper court style, for my hearers often looked at each other, and the Duchess often smiled. She listened very attentively, however, and doubtless was not dissatisfied; for she herself took the trouble of leading me through all the principal apartment, explaining to me the paintings, portraits, and statues with which the palace is richly adorned. She showed me also many specimens of the most curious mechanism; set the musical clocks in motion; and at last, because I expressed great wonder at a little golden bird, that, when wound up, clapped its wings, and sang like a bullfinch, she forced me to accept it as a present.
This has delighted me beyond measure, and at least ten times today I have wound him up, and the pretty creature has entertained me with his music. How kind was it in the Duchess to indulge my childish fancy in this manner! Doubtless she well knows how to win the hearts of those about her; for there was nothing she could have offered me by which I would have been so perfectly enchanted.
I was much struck by her manner when she spoke of her son the reigning Duke, to whom she is obviously much attached. His portrait, large as life, hangs in her own chamber; and though she directed my attention to it only as the likeness of our sovereign, yet it was easy to perceive, that she regarded it with all a mother’s pride and fondness. I was glad to perceive this, but I cannot say that I by any means admired his countenance. He has a cold proud expression, a look of imperious authority, that excites in the beholder dislike rather than willing obedience.
The looks of prince Charles pleased me far better; I should say that he had a liveliness of disposition, and kindness of heart, of which the other is devoid. In his picture, however, he is represented gazing with rather a mournful expression on the wide sea, and distant blue sky, which fill one side of the canvas. Prince Charles accompanied our troops to the East Indies, and for the last three years has been absent on this foreign service. The thoughts of his being thus so far remote were perhaps more than the Duchess could bear to dwell upon; she went hastily past his portrait, which I would gladly have contemplated for a long time.
Well, I shall soon have leisure enough to study all the paintings, for, in a few days, I am to begin my regular attendance. The Duchess will not allow of any further delay; and, I must confess, that my impatience is such, I can hardly wait so long. How rapidly one mood of mind is changed for another in this world! But, a little while ago, I feared that which I now so ardently wished for; but, I trust, it is not merely my own vanity, and the dazzling pomp of the court, that has thus changed my mind. No!
The unexpected condescension of the Duchess, her kindness, which is like that of a mother, and the security that I shall enjoy under her protection — these are considerations which might surely have a natural influence over my feelings; and Heaven will protect me from the sin of irrational and childish fickleness.
The Lady Gabrielle, who is premiere dame d’honneur, is much older than I am. Of course, she has not so fresh a complexion, nor such lively spirits; but, as to these last circumstances, she herself seems to be of a different opinion. She dresses precisely as I do, wears roses in her hair; and trips up the great staircase fast enough, indeed, but not without so great exertion, that, when she comes to the last steps, she is quite exhausted, and totters, panting and breathless, into her own apartment.
I behaved so incautiously, that on one occasion, when this happened, I could not help laughing at her. Observing how I was amused, she gave me a very severe look, and turned away without speaking; but, since then, she has often scolded me, and has exposed me to many vexations.
I suffered most from her conduct yesterday evening, when the Duchess had the pleasure of a visit from the Grand Duke – on which occasion, the circle happened to be pretty numerous, and more formal than usual. The Duchess, however, who was in a gay humour, proposed that every one in the company should assume some historical or theatrical character and, for the rest of the evening, keep up a conversation suited to the part so chosen, which would, of course, give rise to the most laughable associations, and meetings of incongruous heroes and heroines.
I was terrified at this plan, as I knew not any part that I could play, and, even if I had known one, would have been unable to fancy myself anything else but what I really am. When I was sitting there quite puzzled, and vainly considering what I ought to do, Gabrielle began to laugh. “Now, Countess,” said she; “have the fairy tales of the nursery, or the fetes champetres of your aunt’s rural abode, left no beau ideal in your mind, such as you could now impersonize for our amusement?”
At these words I blushed so violently that I durst not lift up my eyes, or attempt any answer, while the Duke, rather, as I thought, in a tone of irritation, called out, “Mademoiselle Gabrielle, you say that a nursery tale is to afford the character to be adopted by the Countess. Of course, then, she will decide upon Cinderella, who started from her seclusion and solitude like a beautiful flower from the bud, completely eclipsing the charms of her elder sisters, and beholding all the princes of the earth at her feet.”
Hearing this, Gabrielle immediately turned pale, and retired into the background. The Duchess followed her with an angry look; but towards me, too, her regards were by no means so kind and encouraging as usual, though, being quite unconscious of having committed any fault, I could not comprehend for what reason she should be offended with me.
It seemed, however, as if this little interruption had broken in upon the good spirits of all the party, so that the intended games were, of course, given up. The Duke continued to speak in a tone of sharpness and irritation; the Duchess herself was half embarrassed, and I was, of course, quite downcast and afraid. Music at length began, and this brought all into the usual train. Gabrielle sang, and the applause that she obtained from every one, by her full clear voice, indemnified her amply for the slight vexation that she had met with before; while, on the contrary, I remained, through the whole evening, retired and in confusion, not venturing to address to her, or to any one else, a single word.
When, on returning to my own apartments, I related what had happened to the good Madame Nägelin, she shook her head doubtfully, as if she thought that this affair might lead to very serious consequences. “I well know,” said she, “what effects arise from such petty jealousies, among people of the world, and I heartily wish my Julia had never provoked any such hostility; for, of all the enemies to which we can be exposed, affronted Vanity is the most dangerous, because it is in secret always that she plans her revenge; we are ruined before we have had time to suspect that we are in danger.
Besides, vanity, my child, gives birth to vanity. It flatters us in one way, even if we should feel pain in another, to be exalted and triumph over our neighbors. Julia, Julia,” added she, in a serious tone, “be therefore on your guard.”
Certainly I shall act according to these hints, and, today, in the first place, I shall wait on the lady Gabrielle. Perhaps I shall yet be able to win her confidence by respectful behavior, and by praising (which would, indeed, be no more than just) her talents in music, and her superior knowledge of the world, to which I cannot make any pretensions. Even if these methods should fail, yet, in my own conscience, I can remain tranquil, for I have never, in thought, word, or deed, injured this irritable lady.
1st week of the Carnival, 2d October
Formerly, when I read in romances of the festivities and splendour which I now witness, I always supposed that the author had made a free use of his poetic privileges, and had invented much of the pageantry which he described. How little did I then expect that I should one day find a realization of all these dreams! Were I to speak of the opera alone, how could I express what delight it has afford me?
I need not attempt to describe what I felt; – the scenery – the actors – the grouping – the situation, and the story so brilliantly developed, would, of course have been enough, alone, to rivet my attention; but, when such impressions are strengthened and concentrated, when the scenes as it were, acquire tenfold life, by means of the most enchanting music, this union in one place, and for one purpose, of many noble arts, appear to me the most exquisite of all princely enjoyments. I was here so confounded and wrapt up in what passed before me, that it was long before I remarked how the Duke was constantly gazing at me through his glass.
To say the truth, this manner of his is always very disagreeable, and I am glad to appear as if I did not take any notice of his conduct. However, between the acts, his Highness maneuvered so as to have a place next to mine, and whispered, “Has then the Countess Julia eyes and ears only for this passing stage play, and can nothing more serious engage her attention?”
I knew not what to answer; it seemed as if he expected that I should understand him, though he would not be at the trouble to explain his meaning. “I thought,” said I, “that we were all met here in order to enjoy the opera — I did not know that any other object…”
“So, then,” said he, interrupting me, “the mere framework of the picture contents you?” He looked dark and frowningly, and I was about to tell him that his words were an absolute riddle, but just then the Duchess called to us. She kept me for a long time fixed beside her, asking what I thought of the opera, and a hundred other questions, so that I escaped by this means the continuance of a tiresome dialogue with the Duke.
I must not forget to mention that one evening before this, when we had gone to a tragedy, his conduct had given me much annoyance. The play was Othello, and Desdemona’s grief moved me indescribably, so that I could not help shedding tears, which the Duke remarked; and, as I thought, he laughed at me scornfully.
“Whom are you weeping for?” said he. “Is it for her who has kindled these flames of jealousy and revenge? Or for the unhappy man who feels them burning within him, and consuming his vitals? Of what consequence are a few woman’s tears, compared with the nameless torments which he suffers? Women only know the difference between a clear and cloudy sky; but we must have either Paradise or Pandemonium. This Moor utters not one-half of the rage which I could express.”
I trembled at these frightful words, and was indeed so much discomposed, that I could scarcely sit out the remainder of the tragedy. Alas! Why is it so ordained that this proud and violent man should so often disturb my best and most innocent enjoyments!
In a few days there is to be a masquerade, and for a long time past this has been almost the only topic of conversation. Remembering what I have heard and read of such entertainments, I cannot deny that my curiosity is raised, and yet I am afraid of the licentiousness and confusion to which they are said to give rise. If the Duke only — I scarcely know what I would say — if he would not be so wild and overbearing! When he comes near me, I am so confounded and perplexed, that my usual good spirits quite desert me.
Besides, who knows what construction the world may put to his presumption, which always gains confidence from my timidity. This very morning, Gabrielle assailed me with a volley of ironical questions. She spoke of stolen confidential converse – of significant glances – of suspicious whispers, and so forth. Well, Heaven is my witness how gladly I would dispense with all such attentions, and how thankful I should be to any one who could show me the means of escaping from them.
5th October. After the Ball.
What an evening was that of yesterday! In the grand illuminated hall, amid the rose-coloured light, and the crowd of masks, was I not altogether changed, not only in dress, but even in feelings and character, and are such changes allowable? I fear not; for even now, I can scarcely recollect again what I was or what I ought to be. How did it happen then?
Aye … the Duchess had transformed me into a kind of Indian fairy-queen, and I was to play the part of Titania. My ornaments were fantastic enough. I had a diamond crown in my hair, over this was thrown a light purple veil, so long, that it extended from the crown of my head to the ground. My other dress, which I thought was cut much too short in the skirts, was of a bright sparkling silver stuff. I had besides, a pearl necklace and ear-rings; a golden sceptre twined round with lotus flowers in my right hand; and, in the other, a fan of palm tree leaves from the banks of the Ganges. In this grand attire, they placed me before a large mirror, and with shame, I must confess, that my heart beat quickly with a feeling of triumph, at the brilliant figure which I made there.
At last the waiting-maid brought me the small half mask of black silk, which, though it cannot in reality prevent our being recognized, yet gives to the wearer a feeling as if she were under a veil of mystery, and renders one’s spirits, therefore, more bold and buoyant. The Duchess examined my dress carefully before I left my room, and expressed satisfaction at my appearance. Yet I know not how it was — all at once she seemed to hesitate, and the tones of her voice changed as if some painful apprehension had come over her; till, as if determined to resist such an untimely mood of mind, she hastened away to her carriage.
Arrived at the rooms, how astonished and confounded was I at first, by the infinite variety of figures, many graceful and attractive, but far more that were beyond description hideous and absurd. I was glad to cling for protection to Gabrielle’s arm, who walked proudly and confidently through the saloon in an antique Spanish dress. The Grand Duke had disdained the trouble of assuming any character, appearing in a black Venetian mantle, with a mask indeed, though every one knew him, and his humour seemed a strange mixture of gaiety and chagrin. From the first moment of my appearance, his regards were directed at me, and continued fixed in such manner, as to rob me of all self-possession.
“Why then, beautiful Julia,” said he, “have you assumed an empire only over the fabulous spirits of the air? Would you thus appear to mortals only by fits and starts, in your uncertain wanderings? Yet beware! For fairies sometimes fall under the power of more potent spirits, and there are influences in the world of which you know not yet.”
While the Duke thus spoke, and I wished heartily that I could escape from him, there arose through the ball-room a strange murmuring of voices and involuntarily we were obliged to move as the crowd drove us on, till I perceived that all this attention had been excited by the figure of a tall graceful Bramin. He had just then made his entree, and was looking round on the motley groups. At last his eyes lighted on me, and he immediately hastened up, took my hand, and led me towards the Duchess.
“This brilliant fairy queen,” said he, “calls me from my own land of dark superstitions into a new sphere of light and joy. For her sake, then, I cast off, along with these garments, my old faith and all the prejudices of my country, in order to bend submissively beneath the sceptre of this gracious and beautiful empress.”
With these words, throwing aside his Bramin attire, he presented to us the figure of a handsome young knight, with the eastern insignia of the order of St. John. “CHARLES — Charles!” exclaimed the Duchess, and he threw himself at the feet of his enraptured mother. She could say no more, but that single tone of her voice, as she pronounced his name, had deeply moved every heart in the assembly.
“The Prince — the Prince returned from India!” was now called aloud, and echoed through all the rooms. In her great joy, the Duchess kissed and embraced me as well as her son. “Dear little enchantress!” said she, “thy appearance tonight with thy diamond crown, and palm-tree leaves, was a kind of foreboding what happiness would come to me from the shores of the Ganges.”
The Prince also continued to address me in the most flattering terms; but the Duke’s expression and looks, which I just then met (for he had taken off his mask), were horrible, and I felt quite overpowered by this unexpected scene. It seems the Prince had contrived to obtain leave of absence, and had come home alone, when no one was aware of his intention. The army will not return for many months.
Afterwards I had the honour of being his partner in the dance, and he begged that I would make allowances for his awkwardness, as during his long absence, he had been quite unaccustomed to such amusements. But how little did he require to make any such apology! He danced so lightly — so simply and gracefully! Surely he is far handsomer than his picture, though it was by my recollection of it that I was enabled at the first glance to recognize him.
It seems now as if I had seen and known him all the days of my life, and as if I could share with him all the cherished thoughts of my own heart; – but how little resemblance there is between this Prince Charles and his brother, whose looks are always as dark and threatening as a thunder-cloud? Since Prince Charles returned, the Duke once said to me, “Forget not Othello!” and his tone was such, that my blood ran cold in every vein.
There is one part of my own conduct, with which perhaps I ought not to be quite satisfied. The Prince requested that I would allow him to keep the mask which I had laid aside at the supper-table; and I gave it to him without hesitation. “It would serve,” he said, “as a remembrance of the day when he returned home, and of the remarkable coincidence between his Asiatic habiliments, and mine as an Indian fairy.
“This dark shrine,” added he, “empty as it now is, will not fail to remind us of the angelic beauty that greeted me on my first entrance here, and in these hollow circles, unmeaning as they would seem to others, I discover still the radiance of two bright eyes, that I shall evermore behold, in hours when they no longer behold me.” I felt the delightful influence of these words penetrate to my very heart, but that I had not done right in giving him a present, as if to encourage such flatteries, was not long after very painfully proved, when the Duchess happened to ask what I had done with my mask?
Alas! instead of venturing to tell her the truth, I was silent and embarrassed, — till at last I had recourse to deception. I stooped down as if I would search for it under the table — and then, with a faltering tongue stammered out, “I have lost it.” This, indeed, has left a sad stain on my conscience, and I know not when it will be effaced.
To be continued…
Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.
THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN
Julius to Felix
10th February 17__
he Prince has now become very ill, and I could not bear to see him thus neglected.Of course, a physician was ordered from the neighboring town, and to this necessary measure, the castellan dared to make a violent opposition.What I long anticipated and wished for has come to pass.I have quarreled with him; and, in virtue of my commission from the Duke, he is now under arrest, and in bondage, so that I may act as I please.
No one can interfere with my audience of the Prince, and I shall not desist till I have learned by what fearful mystery he is thus rendered ill and miserable, for that mental depression is the cause of his malady, there can be no doubt.
At last, Felix, wonderful changes have occurred, and the former mysteries have dissolved. As the Prince lay on his sick-bed, he gave me to understand that there were important concealments in the apartment lately occupied by the castellan (at least, though he did not say so directly, yet I gathered so much from his conversation).
Accordingly, I acted on his hint, and persevered on a strict search, till, under a moveable sliding board of the floor, I found a small box, which was locked, and without a key. It was too light to contain money or jewels. I poised it for a few moments reflectingly in my hand, then suddenly broke open the lock. I found many letters and packets, on which was written, “To be given to the Prince, when his last hour approaches.”
With these I ran to the sick man’s chamber. “Here,” said I, “is a treasure, which as a trust has been discovered in good time, and will restore your highness to strength and spirits.”
The Prince looked feebly at the papers; he seemed to recognize the hand-writing, and a deep blush came for a moment over his pale features. For a little while, he sat up in bed, but suddenly pushed the box from him, exclaiming, “Away, away with it!”
“Nay,” said I. “May I be allowed to suggest that these manuscripts must doubtless contain information of importance, or they would not have been so anxiously concealed and withheld from your Highness?” Then I described to him how I had been led by his hints of the morning to find the papers, and how carefully the castellan had guarded the treasure that had been entrusted to him.
The Prince seemed to reflect deeply. At last, with an indescribable smile of melancholy resignation, he said, “Of what consequence would this be to me now? Were I to read these letters, what effect would they produce, but only to revive passions that had long been conquered, and force me to dwell on injuries that have long been forgiven?”
“It might be so,” answered I, resolved not to give up my point. “But what if the reality were different from which your Highness believes it to be? If that peace of mind, which has been acquired in solitude should not be looked on as confirmed, until you have investigated the whole truth? Nor could it be without a special purpose that Providence has now brought these papers to light.”
“Young soldier,” said the Prince, visibly agitated. “How comes it that you are thus so earnest and persevering in your admonitions to me? From the first moment indeed of your appearance here, that inward peace, which I had with such difficulty gained, has been disturbed and broken. What recollections and conflicts have you not already awoke in my mind!”
“Might it not be concluded then,” said I, “that I have been sent hither by the special ordinance of Supreme Power, and who can tell how far my commission extends, and to what important consequences it may lead!”
“You speak with great confidence, young man,” answered the Prince. “But the arrangements of Providence are inscrutable, and the presumption that in every occurrence we can read a special interposition for or against us, and a revelation of the duties that we must fulfill, may be too often proven but a sinful delusion of our own minds.”
“Yet,” said I, “the truth at least is always to be sought after and honoured. That impulse, so deeply implanted in the human heart to break through the veil of mystery, cannot surely be a snare laid for our destruction.”
He looked at me with deepened emotion. “But how,” said he, “if my sight has now become too weak to bear with that truth which you would have me to disclose? If we should too rashly…”
“Nay,” said I, “your Highness would scarcely now resolve to close your eyes on that which is already half revealed, when you are at this moment so near the light.”
“Aye, indeed,” he interposed, “You are in the right — it must be so. — But you cannot imagine with what fear one at my advanced age perceives the approach of novelty; how reluctantly one sees the fabric, which had been sedulously built up, and so long cherished in his own mind, on the point of being destroyed, and the hand of a stranger meddling with his joys or his sorrows!”
With a visible inward conflict, he now drew the papers towards him, and looked at them more attentively. “What is here?” cried he. “A letter from my brother!”
He broke the seal in vehement haste, and the feebleness of his malady seemed completely to have left him; his eyes gleamed, and with all the impatience of youth he glanced over the contents. Rapidly he turned over the first leaf, and a deep blush of anger suffused his expressive countenance. Afterwards he became all of a sudden deadly pale, let the paper fall from his hand, and looked at me for some time in silence.
At length, pointing to the letter, and with an almost convulsive quivering of the lips, he said, “You may learn there the mystery from which you compelled me to draw the veil, and judge (if youth be capable of judging) how one must feel, who, after twenty long years of ceaseless conflict and suffering, discovers that he has all this time been the victim of treachery and deception!”
He gave me the letter, and at the same time made a signal that I should retire. Here follows a transcript; and you may imagine, Felix, how its contents must have agitated the unhappy Prince.
“Brother, — in the hour when these papers will be delivered, you will probably be free at last from those vain passions and struggles to which you have hitherto been subjected. This world, with all its delusions, will then lie behind you like a far distant country through which you have once travelled, and whither you cannot return.
“You will retain, however, as I hope, the full power of reasoning on the past; — you will judge as a man! though now freed from all his perturbing desires and impulses. With these hopes, and because I would not, that, with the veil still over your eyes, you should pass from this world into the next, I shall withdraw the obstacle, and reveal to you at once the whole truth.
“Good credulous man! You allowed yourself to be deceived. You mistrusted her in whom you should have confided, in order to escape destruction, and placed yourself in the power of those who made sport of your weakness.
“Should love see only itself alone, and think but of its own rights? Revenge, you should have known, is a passion as powerful, and as imperious. You were, indeed, far from being able to understand a disposition like mine; but now you will comprehend me better, and all the rest, when I tell you, in three words, that Julia forsook the court, and her native land, faithful, pure, and spotless.
“Should you rightly consider what is due to a prince’s care of the public weal, you will perceive that this disclosure could not have been made earlier, for had this been done, such was your want of caution, that we should have been both exposed and obnoxious to censure, and the people would not have been greatly edified by the quarrels and weaknesses of their rulers. But, indeed, the consequences would have been ruinous, and the preservation of public tranquility demanded some sacrifice.
“Who, then, was to be the victim? Your fall, or mine, was inevitable. Lay your hand on your heart, and say, Whether, in my situation, with the reins of power in your hands, you would have let them go, in order that the capricious passion of another man, even of a brother, might be granted?
“That which had already happened betwixt us — the discoveries I had made, and the resentment I had conceived against you, were past and irrevocable. Your vehement temperature, and my disposition, spoiled by indulgence, the necessity of attending to the public weal, and apprehensions of the stains that might be cast on our family honour — all these circumstances fell at once into overwhelming combination, or rather contention.
“At that time, indeed, no kindness nor rational expostulations could have acquired any influence over you. Therefore I adopted the stratagem of changing the passion by which you were actuated into another of a very different character. Jealousy is a poisonous serpent that attacks the brain, and nestles there rather than in the heart. You were lost as soon as you gave way to these new impulse.
“The madness by which you were then assailed brought you completely under my power. — At a moment when you knew not what you said or did, you had threatened my life, and thus your own was forfeited if I had chosen to bring you to trial. To such measures, indeed, I felt invincible repugnance, but a barrier of separation was now raised up betwixt us, which could never be broken through. —
“We could not, so long as we lived, ever meet again; and I was contented, if by the public you were looked on as insane, and morally dead, without bringing you to trial for high-treason. I granted you, therefore, a safe and secluded asylum at Scharfenstein, well knowing that the delusion under which you then laboured, would hold you as securely as if you had been bound with adamantine chains in your prison. I was satisfied that you would make no attempt to return to a world, in which, since you had been thus disappointed in the object of your affection, you no longer found any interest or attraction.
“Now, at the close of your life, I give you back those peaceful recollections of which I deprived you, and the bond of mutual accusation should be cancelled betwixt us. The Diary of the beautiful Julia, which her guardian wished to send you, along with other papers and letters, on account of your madness, remained in my hands. The perusal of them will reveal to you the feelings of a heart that was indeed too tender and sensitive for this world, and that, by mere timidity perhaps, was led into errors.
“But her life and character will have, by this time, wholly changed; her dreams, like yours, will have passed away. For, what are all these impressions to which we attach so much importance, more than delusions arising from a certain state of the nerves and blood, — mere physical impulses, powerful in youth, but which afterwards decay, as if they had never been?
“In early years, such delusions are, indeed, like pictures, exhibiting beautiful and seductive forms with all the richness of colouring that imagination can bestow. In old age, these representations change into a hard stern outline, from which every glowing tint has faded away. We move, then, along the straight and joyless path of necessity, till all is dark, or till a new morning dawns on our souls. May this last be your lot, and may the Divine light refresh and strengthen you. Farewell!”
Prince Charles, then, had been attached to a lady of inferior rank, and the family pride of his elder brother had interfered to prevent their union. Methinks, there may have been other motives, — but of this more hereafter. Meanwhile, Felix, may I beg of you to reflect a little, and tell me what would man become if reasons only, without emotions of the heart, were to be his ruling attribute?
My answer is, he would be a demon — an incarnate devil, who would persist in talking of right and wrong, fitness and unfitness, though the hearts of all around him were breaking, and his own to boot. How admirably connected, and dovetailed one into another, are the crimes revealed in this letter; how artfully woven, I should rather say into a net, by which the guilty wretch is himself caught, and never thinks of resistance, but rather exalts in his own iniquity, persuading himself, all the while, that he is in the right!
But, after all, Felix, the devil himself is, in this world, sufficiently contemptible. He never understands any thing beyond his own limited sphere. There are mysteries in the soul of man for which he is wholly unprepared, and the complicated machinery and ordinances of Providence, in which consists what we call Fate, are hidden, probably from the devil as much as from us.
These are to him like covert walks in a mine, over which he strides, like a pompous actor in a theatre, without reflecting that all his schemes may be defeated, and he may fall headlong into the hidden labyrinth. How deceitful and hollow this reigning duke appears to me, and how strange it is to feel that a heart yet beats in that corporeal frame which he parades before the public! — Poor deluded wretch! — Felix, to how many criminals might these words be applied?
For the last twenty-four hours I have lived in the most tormenting disquietude. The Prince had locked himself up in his chamber, and would not see any one.
In vain did I watch day and night at his room door. I was never admitted; till, about an hour ago, his bell rang, and I hastened to answer the summons. He received me with a smile of the utmost composure and beneficience. “Do not be afraid,” said he. “I am not more indisposed, either in body or mind, than before; somewhat more excited, perhaps, but that also will soon be over.
“I am, however, like a blind man restored to sight, who must, for some time afterwards, remain in the dark; for the world which now opens on me is a scene so new and unexpected, that I must have time for reflection, ere I can find my way through its paths. Therefore, you must allow me to pass the whole of this day alone. I do not now want medical advice nor food, but will ask for both in due time; also for the pleasure of your society — only I must not be disturbed at present.”
I bowed, and was retiring — when he added, “You are not offended, then, by what I have just said? — I know that you are anxious on my account, and, therefore, wished you to see that I am not ill, and to be aware what is most requisite for me under present circumstances — that is, solitude.”
With these words he had kindly given me his hand, and seemed conflicting with some emotion which he could not venture to express. Yet a smile hovered on his lips, and at last he collected the papers which were lying strewed about on the sofa, and gave them to me, saying, “Read these, Julius! Your kind heart will be almost as much affected as mine has been, and vibrate between pain and pleasure. You must feel the conflict that I undergo, before I can profit by your friendly sympathy.”
I have now read the papers, Felix, and here following, you shall have a copy of these confessions of a heart as pure and innocent as it was sensitive and suffering. Alas! why was a being so childlike and angelic ever enticed to move in the dangerous paths of the world! As she engaged in its pleasures, could no guardian spirit warn her what a destruction was prepared under her feet? —
If I am not mistaken, I have heard before the name of this lady. Methinks, too — but no — it is needless to set such confused phantasms on paper. They are but shadowy remembrances, which I am striving in vain to unite with present impressions. Whatever is deeply interesting, one would willingly bring home to himself, and believe that it is connected with his own personal experiences. But this is all groundless. Read, then, what here follows.
To be continued …
Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.
THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN
Julius to Felix
6th February 17__
He is not mad; or if he is so, then I too have lost my senses amid the gloom of these pine-tree forests.But you must hear, in the first place, what happened today.
We had one of those mild evenings that sometimes occur in the month of February, and which irresistibly entice us abroad by the pleasant promise and anticipation of approaching spring.I went down to walk on the terrace.The river murmured so soothingly in its ceaseless course! Great flocks of water birds were wheeling over the forest marshes; and the air was filled with humming insects.
Thus it seemed that Nature was unobserved and gradually preparing for her triumph over winter, and her approaching days of jubilee.I would have gladly taken a ramble out among the mountains; but, for reasons inscrutable, I felt as if spell-bound within the castle walls; and I cannot bring myself to hunt or shoot. Every such enjoyment of freedom seems like a cruel mockery of the unhappy prisoner.Therefore, I am contented for the present to walk up and down in the allee of trees on the outer rampart.Here, dark-green ivy in clustering thickets overspreads the castle walls and forms a complete mantling over a small chapel, whose lofty round cupola and shining cross, that still caught the twilight, seemed as if floating in the air and detached from the darkness.
I was quickly contemplating this building, when behold!The prince all of a sudden made his appearance on the terrace, attended by the castellan and two valets.He was visibly struck by my presence, and greeted me at first with an air of coldness and hauteur.This was but the effect of transient indignation against the mere passive instrument of tyranny; in another moment his wonted courtesy and bienveillance returned.
As if to make amends for his first coldness, he drew near to me, and, in a manner equally affable and polite, he said, “How sincerely do I regret, on your account, the melancholy retirement to which you are here condemned!Your time of life seems indeed ill adapted to such duty, — for one who still has claims on what is called the world, must have absolutely despair.”
“Prince,” answered I, “how narrow-minded and contemptible I must be, if, in this place, I could for a moment think of myself alone!”
During this discourse, we had begun to walk together on the terrace.The sky was now bright with stars and by their light the Prince seemed to be attentively scanning my figure and features.Was it the effect of my deep inwardemotion reflected in my countenance that interested him, or was he struck merely by the appearance of one who was at least so different from the gaoler to whom, for twenty-one years, he had been accustomed?However this might be, I could perceive, by a gleam of lingering twilight that came on his features as we turned a corner of the rampart, that his lips quivered, when, rather abruptly, he put the question. “Young soldier, what is your Christian name?”
I repeated it twice before he made any answer.“A son of the General?” said he.“But that cannot be; he had no children.How old are you?”I said that in a few months I should be twenty-one.“Aye, so,” answered he.“That indeed is possible, and Julius is your name?Julius … yes … I heard correctly.”Here a long pause occurred, and I was too much perplexed to speak, fearing that I might excite some attack of his malady.But he resumed in a quiet mournful tone.
“It is, perhaps, some confirmation of the soul’s divine origin, that Time, which destroys all things, has, as it were, no power over itself . I scarcely know what to say. But there are moments of recollection so vivid, that the gulf of years, which should lie betwixt us and our former existence, seems annihilated; as, for example, your presence has carried me back so completely into the sphere of old circumstances and connections, that every impression of that period is renewed as fresh and vividly, as if the events had happened but yesterday.I was well acquainted with your family, therefore you must forgive my questions.To young men, however, such details and retrospects are often very tiresome, and I must now bid you good night.”
With these words he turned, and was on the point of disappearing as suddenly as he had come, when, quite overpowered by the kind condescension of his manner and the plaintive tones of his voice, I stept up to him. “May it please your Highness not to think more unfavourably of me than I deserve. My time and attention are here wholly at your disposal.Through the few days that I have spent here, my only wish has been to prove to you how little my own feelings and inclination are in unison with the painful task that has here devolved on me.I begged that I might be permitted the honour of a personal interview, but was answered that your Highness never saw any visitors.”
The Prince here smiled bitterly.“No doubt, young man,” said he, “they have told you more than this.But enough for the present.It is needless to waste time on these circumstances which are now unchangeable.Good night … Julius.”He wished to have pronounced my name … but his voice faltered; he could not utter another syllable, and, with hurried steps, retired into the castle.
About an hour has passed since that interview, and I now hear him again playing the flute.Always the same deep melancholy, and longing notes!But how gentle and harmonious are the modulations!How rounded and correct are the pauses in his composition?For these notes are wholly his own, and, by Heaven, Felix, such music cannot be the result of madness!Though, indeed, it may be the natural effort at lamentation of a broken heart.What could he mean, however, by that excessive emotion, when he repeated the name of Julius?Was he at that moment under some delusion of his malady, which any external circumstance was sufficient to develop and exasperate?
Well, I must see him tomorrow again.I cannot bear this uncertainty, and not only the painful suspense under which I suffer, but the respect and attachment which I feel towards him render it indispensable that I should have another interview.
That accursed castellan!He never left us for a single moment; or, if he went, his place was supplied by one of those tall cut-throat-looking spies, dressed out in orange livery, who pretend to act as servants.Is this because the old fox wishes to hold the reins of power in his own clutches, or, out of sheer malevolence, he is resolved that the unhappy captive shall be debarred that slight consolation which he might derive from my presence and sympathy?However this may be, I shall not endure any continuance of double gaolership.Either he must be set aside, or I shall contrive my own dismissal from the castle.
By this commencement, Felix, you perceive that I have again been with the Prince.He received me in a handsome cheerful apartment, with windows looking out on the river.The walls are furnished with tall cases, having glass doors through which are visible many books; also guns, swords, pistols, and all sorts of accoutrements for the chase.In one of the windows is placed a spacious cage for singing birds divided into compartments; and shadowed over with exotic plants.In another, I saw a large grey parrot swinging about on his golden ring, who stretched his neck and turned his head expressively as he wondered at my presence.
The prince was reclining on a green moreen sofa. At his feet lay a roe-coloured greyhound.Before him stood a massive writing table on which was a confused heap of books and papers, a star and a ribbon, some withered flowers; but one object attracted my attention more than all the rest.This was a black mask – a kind of half vizor, such as ladies wear at a carnival assembly.And I looked at it – I know not why – with a kind of horror.
The Prince rose from the sofa, and came forward a few steps to meet me.“You perceive,” said he, “that my abode here is by no means so dull and melancholy as you might have supposed.In this room, I have collected round me all those objects which are likely to revive my best associations.If, by the tyranny of circumstances, one is shut out from the crowded walks of life.Yet the kingdom of the mind remains as free to him as ever.”He took his place again at the table, and made a sign that I should draw in a chair near him.
The fine old greyhound wakened up at my approach from his deep winter sleep, looked at me attentively for a while, then turned round to lick the hand which his master held out to him, as if he could say, “It is you alone that I know and confide in.”He composed himself as before for slumber, and the Prince said, almost in a faltering voice, “Sultan is an old faithful friend, and should he die before me, I should miss him sadly!”
At that moment, the parrot, having already uttered several inarticulate screams, pronounced in a clear intelligible voice, the words, “Pardon … oh pardon!”and, directly afterwards, “Farewell … farewell!”
“There,” said his Highness, “you now hear the only language to which I am accustomed, and it may sound strange enough in your ears.It is a real and impressive language, however, and thus it is that Nature, in a thousand different ways if we but make her our confidante, supplies the balm of sympathy, or diversion of thought in our affliction.
All this while my heart beat with such unwonted and unaccountable anxiety that I should certainly have exposed myself to the remarks of the castellan, had not the Prince, perceiving my disquietude, and, perhaps, agitated himself by painful impressions, turned the discourse by a determined effort to subjects ordinary and indifferent.He inquired if the horse which I had brought with me was a favourite – whether I was a lover of field sports, and why I had not taken advantage of the fine opportunity for shooting excursions which the woods round Scharfenstein afforded?
I followed his lead for some minutes, and answered his questions very calmly.However, he directed my attention to the book-cases, from which he took down a rare and curious fowling-piece which had belonged to his father, describing the grand hunting parties which had in former days been held at this castle, and the notable exploits that had been performed in the chase.The contrast between the diversions of which he spoke, and his own forlorn state, was to my feelings quite overpowering.I forgot all regular form of parlance, and exclaimed, “Good Heaven!Such was the mode of life once led here, and you are now…”
“Hush!”said he, with a warning look at the castellan, who just then presented his detestable visage at the door.“My brother,” added he, in a continued whisper,” has, no doubt, been much mistaken when he made choice of you for a confidant.You are, indeed, the most unfit person that could have been selected for his purposes.Be therefore on your guard, for your rash zeal might soon lead to your own destruction.”
I was confused, and ashamed of my inconsiderate conduct.He had now placed himself at a window, stood for a while with his arms folded, and then said, “Perhaps there is no one situated in the busy world whose life has afforded more varied sensations than I have experienced in this deep solitude.
There is no storm and conflict of passion that I have not encountered, and at last I have triumphed; for the bitterest hatred, and deepest sense of injury have declined into mild emotions of compassion and forgiveness.Now, then, my worthy young friend, you may be assured, that, even were it in my power, I would not willingly leave the secluded scene, where this existence, so monotonous in appearance, but so varied in reality, has been protracted for twenty long years.To me the world, with all its inhabitants and pleasures, is now dead – even as if I had never shared in its delusions.”
I have never, in the course of my life, felt so much respect and attachment towards any individual as for the Prince at that moment.I know not why this should be, but I could almost have thrown myself at his feet.Oftentimes he, too, seemed to be contending with his own recollections, and fixed his eyes on me with an expression of deep melancholy, so that methought they were even filled with tears.Is he determined never to trust any one with the secret history of his misfortune … or is it that he dare not speak?– Well, I shall not rest till I have tried every possible means of dispersing this cloud of mystery.I could not return to my former station in the capital with that weight which I now feel on my spirits.
This morning he has used some expressions to which I listened with horror!Would that it were possible for him to recall them!The prepossessions that I had cherished are now frightfully deranged, and my inward conflicts are worse than ever.Felix, he accused himself today as the greatest of criminals, adding, that he was thankful to Heaven for the mercy shown to him, inasmuch as he might thus be permitted to await in solitude and peace the natural end of his life!What crime, then, can possibly weigh upon his spirit, which is now evidently so pure and so blameless?Let the truth be what it may, even the transient allusion to these circumstances must have distressed him much; for he is at present very ill, and today I could not see him.
Indeed I have also become, for the first time in my life, an invalid, or, as you will say, un malade imaginaire.The atmosphere of this prison still oppresses me; and I shall for once take a long ride into the woods – and so, perhaps, my spirits will recover their wonted tone.Yet, after all, how is that possible?Who can even breathe freely in this abode of inscrutable mysteries, dark passions, and conflicting emotions?
If he, in truth, is a criminal, with those eyes so full of benign intelligence and affection … with that mildness and tone and demeanor as if he were at peace with all the world … who is then to be trusted?
I rode out as I intended, and have been, Heaven knows where!There are numberless roads through the forest, and I followed at haphazard the first that offered; but seems it not Felix, as if it were fortune’s especial pleasure and determination always to throw difficulties and riddles in my way, so that I can never get free from the nets by which I am entangled?
I had wandered about for some time without consideration whither I was going – I thought only of riding on chance through the lonely forest; till, having passed a high rocky eminence, I saw rising out of the fir woods a second old castle – another hunting seat, of whose existence I had never before heard, and indeed, it seemed to be almost in ruins.I determined to examine this mansion more narrowly; spurred my horse, rode up, and came in due time to an iron gateway.“Is it possible that any one lives here,” thought I, “or is the old building neglected and desolate in this frightful forest?”
I halted, of course, and, for a long time, remained gazing at the coat of arms that was carved in stone over the portal. When, to my surprise, the door of the inner keep was opened.I saw a lady descending the staircase.A boy was with her, and she had her hand on his shoulder, so that I perceived at once she was blind!She stood for some time in the doorway, as if to enjoy the mild noonday air, and I had time to watch her with attention.She was evidently no longer young; but her figure was still fine and graceful.I could not at first see her features as her head was bent forward, and shadowed by a large English straw hat.
Probably the child had informed her of my presence; for at last she turned her head towards me; seemed at the same time to ask him questions, and I doubted not that he was describing to her my appearance.Her large eyes were now visible; but there was no lustre; she could not behold me, and this look of anxious search, that could find no object, touched me to the heart.Now, Felix, was it merely that innate compassion and natural sympathy which one human being feels for another in distress, by which I was agitated … or what it an absurd wandering of imagination?I know not why my feelings that for many years have been more allied to careless levity, than to any deeper impressions, should now be at every moment so easily excited.
But I could not help believing that the features of this lady were well known to me.That it was the same incognito from whom I had received the book of moral maxims, and whose recollected voice yet sounds like sweet music to my ears.I strove against those ideas, believing that all was but delusion; till a faint smile came over her countenance – a smile that has often appeared to me in dreams, and could never be mistaken.My heart heaved, and I felt inspired by new and irresistible emotions.It was fortunate, perhaps, that the lady now returned into the castle, and the gate was closed after her, for in the end all has turned out but a fiction of my own brain.
Soon afterwards, a young chasseur came riding up, and I asked him if he knew who lived in that desolate ruin?He answered rather boorishly, as if sneering at my question.“Aye, forsooth, it is inhabited by a blind English lady, who likes to nestle with the bats and owls in old moldering walls.She has been there now for a long time, and it is said that she was not always blind; and that she thinks living among the green woods will perhaps restore her eyesight.
She is now quite used to the place, and will probably never leave it.What seems odd enough, is that, during the day, she never comes beyond the gate; but at night, even in all weathers, through the rain and snow storm, a little boy that stays with her must lead her out to yon high cliff near Scharfenstein, where she sits for hours together and listens to the mad prince that plays on the flute.”
An English lady!It is very strange.The recollection steals over me sometimes I used to see my mother reading letters, and weeping bitterly; then, if I inquired why she was so sad, she used to answer.“Your dear unhappy aunt in England has written to us again.”I knew not and know not yet the real history of this relation; but now, as in a dream, the thoughts of England, and the unfortunate aunt, collects like a melancholy cloud before the mind’s eye; and out of this cloud steps forward the tragical figure of the lady at the castle, altogether forming a most mysterious union of intricate associations.
But then, Felix, is not your heart also moved, when you reflect how the mournful notes of the midnight flute-player touch responsive chords in her bosom, who is thus by darkness shut out from the world?Can you feel how the two prisoners are attracted to each other in sad sympathy?“Even in all weathers, through the rain and snow storms,” said the unreflecting chasseur, who, of course, could never have understood how one could take as much trouble for the sake of listening to music, as he would do in order to capture a stag or wild boar.
Methinks I see her, as he described, at her station on the rocks.Oh how anxiously she watches every cadence, and accompanies every note with the deepest throbbings of her own heart!The Prince never fails to take his flute at the same hour.Who knows what unexplained intercourse of soul, what a bond of mutual aid and consolation may thus have been established betwixt her and the unfortunate Charles.”
To be continued…
Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES:Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.”By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes.Vol. I.London:1826.
THE CASTLE OF SCHARFENSTEIN
Letter from Julius to Felix
29th January, 17__
o then, it is your opinion that Fortune has at last become reconciled to me, and that, for the future, we are to continue on good terms!On the contrary, this capricious queen-regent, has just now determined on exposing me to one of the severest trials of patience that I have for a long while encountered.You will say, no doubt, that my being stationed here is a mark of the Grand Duke’s favour, a special proof of the confidence he reposes in me, and so forth.However, if his Highness could find no better method of showing his good intentions, than that of forcing me away at my time of life from all the gaieties of the capital, to reside for – Heaven knows how long – in this desolate wilderness, only to watch over his insane brother, this is a step in the ladder of honour, which, for my own part, I should have been very glad to leave out altogether.
You may laugh perhaps at my discontent, but I can assure you, Felix, my present situation is one, which few people, whether old or young, would very calmly encounter.Shut up within these horrid dark walls, I feel as if I could scarcely breathe; even from the first moment that I beheld this ghastly old castle, — the prison of a maniac – I have been depressed in spirits to a degree for which I cannot well account, and such as I had never before experienced.
You know that we had been quartered for some time in the barracks at Marienthal.It was night, therefore, when we arrived in the neighborhood; — both men and horses were a good deal fatigued, and not without grumbling in our hearts, did we plod after our guide, through the trackless forest, while the wind swept lamentably through the heavy branches of the pine trees, that showered down snow and icicles on our heads.The men became at length so tired, that they gave over their catches and glees, by which they had for some time beguiled the way, and nothing was heard, except the rushing wind, and monotonous stamping of the horses; nothing visible, unless when a transient gleam of star-light caught on the burnished helmet of a trooper.
So we laboured on, always uphill, till we arrived at a level glade, where the ground was clear, and we could distinguish the grim old castle, in all its melancholy and loneliness.We were stopt at the outer portal (for the bridge was drawn up) and waited, till there came a grey-headed invalid, coughing and groaning, out of his ruinous wooden lodge.He held a lantern in his hand, and had a short stump of a tobacco-pipe in his mouth; as for his useless weapons, they were only visible, hung on the wall of his smoky cabin.
I produced the Prince’s written order, at sight of which, he pulled off his small skull-cap, such as old men wear under their hats, and in a hoarse croaking voice, gave the word for the bridge being let down, which was accomplished with a vile creaking of the rusty chains and hinges, and we trotted across the main portal, whose heavy wings were laboriously opened by another old man.I saddened at the death-like stillness which reigned around us when we entered the wide castle court.
No mortal appeared, not a step was heard, and the windows were then all dark, while the loud “hollah!” of our own troopers was reverberated from the gloomy walls.At length we perceived some spectral and shadowy-like movements through the windows, and after a tiresome interval, the castellan made his appearance on the great staircase, attended by two servants with lights in their hands.Impatiently I ran up the steps, commanded the astonished old man to show me a chamber suitable to the rank with which I was to be henceforth invested at the castle, and read over to him, as rapidly as possible, the Duke’s orders.
“How then?” cried he, staring at me as we stood on a landing-place, “and all those soldiers are to remain with us?The castle is at once to be so powerfully garrisoned, only for the sake of the poor sick Prince?If any inadvertence on my part has caused this new arrangement…”I would have tried to pacify him on that score, however, he added in a cool tone of confidence, “At all events, through the course of twenty-one years that I have been here, I am not conscious to myself of having committed any very great oversight!”
“Twenty-one years!”My very inmost heart seemed to re-echo the words.Twenty-one years of an abode like this!The thought was overpowering; and, more than ever discontented, I followed the old man, who was a grey-headed, shriveled, and stern-looking wretch, through the long half-dark corridor.There, when he opened the outer door of a suite of apartments that were to be mine, and, with a vile constrained motion of his arm, intimated that I should enter, the notions of an executioner, a prison, a scaffold, and so forth, rose all at once on my mind, so that my blood ran ice-cold in every vein, and I made a sign that this detestable conductor should retire.
I now found myself alone in a spacious chamber, and walked up and down for a long time, wondering at the strange fashion of the now faded, but once costly furniture, till a most suspicious-looking fellow (who is perhaps dumb, for I could not extract from him one syllable) came and lighted the fire in a large open chimney, for there are here no stoves.The castle had been furnished only for a hunting residence, that would be neglected all the rest of the year, after the season of the chase was over…And, yet, to have lived invariably here, like the poor insane Prince, for twenty-one years!There is somewhat like the scorn and mockery of Fate, in this contrast between what was intended, and what has really come to pass!
I had asked for writing implements, and have scribbled all this to you within the last half hour.If I speak aloud, the desolate walls seem to answer to my voice in a strange hollow echo, and I cannot bear to look on them.It is almost frightful to see the red damask hangings with their gilded borders glittering in the fire-light, for even in this I could imagine a kind of ghostly sarcasm.How long may it have been since even a human step was heard, — since a voice sounded or a heart beat, whether gladly or sorrowfully, within these apartments!
Over the doors, and elsewhere, are hung family portraits, and that which fronts me at this moment represents a young man in a hunting-dress, with a cheerful smiling countenance, on which it seems as if worldly care had never imprinted a single trace.His hair is, in the old mode, stiffly frizzled and powdered, and on his head, he wears a little three-cornered hat with a white feather.His coat, too, is cut in the most formal fashion, with turned up yellow lappelles, yet the expression of his countenance gives to the tout-ensemble an air of careless freedom, as with one arm turned back, he points over his shoulder towards the woods in the background, in which probably he has just performed some notable exploit in the boar or stag-hunt.If I am not mistaken this was the present Duke’s father.
Not far from this gay sportsman, over another door, I see the portrait of a lady done in crayons.The colours are of course somewhat faded, yet it is easy to distinguish the fine features of our present old Duchess, taken while she was yet in the bloom of her youth and beauty.She accompanied her husband in all his excursions, and this castle was perhaps the scene of her greatest happiness!In the portrait she is represented as Diana, with a hunting spear in her hand, and a crescent moon fixed on a little green hat, turned up smartly on one side with a band of pearls, which (the hat I mean) hangs archly enough over her left eyebrow.
This fantastic production (doubtless of a French artist), this Diana with her spear and her crescent, — reminds one of the with innocent self-delusions of children, who build fairy palaces of chairs and tables in the nursery, make themselves into kings and queens with spangles and peacocks’ feathers, and dwell there as in some far-famed Eldorado!The looks too of the Duchess are here so childlike and unconcerned;– she loved and was beloved; what more was wanting to her contentment in this world?If it were true that moods of mind are hereditary, how could she have given birth to sons whose dispositions are so dark, and so fearfully opposed to her own!
As to the unfortunate being who is now confined here, there certainly must be some deep mystery in his fate, which has not even been guessed at.You know there was of late a rumor spread about, that, in his lucid intervals, he had made vehement attempts to obtain his liberty, — that he wished to resume his former station in the capital, — and that, to his disordered imagination, nothing less seemed satisfactory, than bringing a legal accusation against the Duke for having kept him in confinement. In all this, however, I can assure you, that there was not one word of truth.In fact, it was a dream, — literally a mere dream, that led to my being sent hither, and this I have learned on the authority of the old physician, Leonardo.
During the night, after a grand masked ball at the house of the Prussian ambassador (who now inhabits the palace that belonged formerly to the insane Prince Charles), the Duke was taken ill.Leonardo, of course, was summoned, and found him under an attack of fever, — very restless, and talking so incoherently, that the old man pretends he could not remember a word of what his Highness had said.Towards morning he was exhausted, and fell into a deep slumber, not awaking till mid-day, when he arose, went to the window, and looked around him with a very strange and perturbed expression.
After seeming to reflect for some time, he made a sign for the physician, who was in the room, to come nearer.“Mark you,” said he, in a tone of irony, “can you resolve this question?Is it certain that dreams are always the result of intemperance or disordered nerves, and that they may not be supernatural warnings of some evil to come?”
The physician hesitated, not knowing whether the Duke alluded to himself, or only started a subject, pour passer le tems?“Last night,” rejoined his Highness, “it is true, that contrary to custom, I supped heartily, not to excess, indeed, but yet without attending to my usual rules.At the same time I drank some glasses of strong Sicilian wine, after which I felt the blood circulating like fire through every vein, and it seemed, for a short interval, as if I had shaken the cumbrous load of years from my shoulders.All appeared to me as in days of yore.But for such moments of renewed youth, one, at my advanced age, must do penance afterwards.
I have had frightful dreams through the night, and methought, all the while, my insane brother Charles held me in his arms firmly embraced.”The Duke turned pale as he pronounced these words, and seemed, with difficulty, to regain self-possession. “Now,” added he, “if any credit is to be given to these fantasms of a heated brain, I should conclude from them, that some misfortune threatened us at the Castle of Scharfenstein.Just before I awoke, methought I was on a shooting excursion in the forest there, and saw a large bird wheeling in circles round its grey weather-beaten towers.
I raised my fowling-piece and took aim, but the distance was too great, and I did not fire.The bird descended, however, and lighted on the river.There I perceived that it was a noble white swan, — but as he coursedgracefully along the stream, methought his track was red with blood, and I felt, at that moment, as if some one plunged a dagger into my heart.”
Absurd as this dialogue with old Leonardo will seem to you, take notice, Felix, that, within two days after this, I received orders to repair to Scharfenstein.I was chosen, forsooth, for this service, because the Duke had before shown me favour, and because he had confidence in my prudence and fidelity.Well, no doubt he has been kind to me!My parents died when I was but a child, and his Highness paid for my education at a military college, and gave me afterwards a commission in his body guard.Such, it must be allowed, is the truth; but then, my father had been a faithful servant to this Duke’s father, and, for the most part, I have looked on the kindness shown to me but as a payment of a just debt, and scarcely thought that it demanded from me any very deep sense of gratitude; for probably I could have acquired for myself a livelihood in the world without his interference.
Heaven knows how it happens that I have never felt any special attachment to our Sovereign, and least of all, here.His conduct throughout is very strange; and many times there are suspicions that irresistibly force themselves on my mind, of some concealed guilt, of which the world has never dreamed.
The night is now very quiet, and the moon has risen.I had gone to the window, from whence is visible the river, just under the terrace, winding its way through the rocky cliffs, and gleaming in the silvery light.I could not help remembering the Duke’s vision, and imagining to myself the white swan bleeding as he sailed through the water.But who in the world can it be that here plays that flute?For a long time already I have been watching the protracted melancholy notes that come from an opposite wing of the building.How, if it were the madman?
The windows on that side are all firmly secured with iron-work; but they are dark too, as if no one were living there.If I have judged correctly, the tones are not steady in one place; they seem to advance and recede.Methinks I see a lonely exile moving slowly to and fro in his chamber, while that favourite instrument supplies an echo to his grief, and he breathes through it all those expressions of suffering and painful remembrance in which no one is allowed to share and sympathize.Unhappy prisoner!How the thoughts of your being so near oppress and affect me!
I have now seen him; but it is impossible, Felix, to describe to you adequately, the impression made on me by his looks.My heart still beats quick when I think of him.It was midday, and the guards fell to be relieved in the inner court.I was stationed at a window looking down upon them, when suddenly there opened on the opposite side of the quadrangle, a folding door, with glass panels, that leads into a balcony.The Prince soon came forward, and took his station, leaning on the front of the iron balustrade.Involuntarily I started and trembled at this apparition.
Tall, dignified in demeanour, very pale, yet, with an aspect quite tranquil and rational, he regarded the unusual appearance of the soldiers.A smile, more of surprise than bitterness, stole over his features.He seemed comparing his recollections of the past with what now took place before him.It was as if he said to himself, “So then, such is the way of the world now-a-days!”
Gradually his features became more animated, and he seemed to take more interest in what was going forward.He wears still the uniform of his old cavalry regiment; a head-piece with a plume of feathers, military gloves, and field-officer’s boots; the left hand rested on his sword-hilt, and the right was pressed on his bosom, as if aided to support his frame, now thin and emaciated.On his appearance, the guard immediately grounded arms; but, with a courteous gesture, he intimated that he could dispense with this homage, and at that moment looked, indeed, like a king.
He stood for a while as if he were considering the uniform, the discipline and duty of the little troop, — then he raised his very beautiful eyes, and, with an expression of soul, which one must have beheld in order to appreciate, his regards were directed to the steep rocks of the fortress, and then away to the distant country, through which he never more might wander.– I shall never forget that gaze.Was this, perhaps, one of his lucid intervals?For, in truth, there was not once in his countenance the slightest trace of insanity.
In the course of this morning, I endeavoured to obtain a personal interview with the Prince, though, indeed, this formed no part of my commission; however, the castellan assured me that he never saw any one, and that, if a stranger offered him a visit, it was always rejected with indignation and vehemence.But he may have his own reasons for this.By whom have such visits been offered?To myself, however, it is of little consequence, for it is not impossible that within a month my services may be at an end; the Duke by that time may have forgotten his dream, and supplied its place with some new fancy, in which case, every thing here will be restored to the old footing.
How frightful!Have you ever fully considered the dark, deep, and maddening impression which is made on the heart of a prisoner, by the notion that his fate is utterly unchangeable, — that he is shut out from the pleasant walks of life forever?— The very idea of this is to me so overpowering, that I cannot dwell on the subject; indeed, I am very unfit for my station here.A wild lonely country proves by no means salutary to one of my disposition; for many strange and wayward feelings, which were repressed and kept under subjection, when I mixed with the busy world, are now roused to an undue strength, when aided by the gloomy influences of external nature. –
The gay imagery of real life is thrown into the back ground, and the dim dark phantoms of the mind are too powerfully developed.Among other thoughts, it recurs to me, that, even in my gayest moods, I have never been perfectly content or happy.Do not mistake me, Felix – I have not forgotten the many hours of merriment and careless dissipation that we have passed together, — but then, those were but fleeting intervals.Consistent happiness depends on domestic felicity in a family circle, and this I have never known.
I was only four or five years old when it happened that my attendants dressed me out in a full suit of black, and in a lamentable tone, I was given to understand that my father was dead, — that he had fallen in the field of battle.I wept as I saw others do, though without rightly knowing wherefore, for as to my father, I only recollected his having spoken to me once, when he was returning from parade on horseback, and his saying, “Mark you, Julius, so you will ride the great horse one day, when you grow taller.”Such was the meaning of his words, but what he then addressed to me was an absurd rhyme, that nurses use, when they rock a boisterous child on the knee.
Of course I thought of nothing afterwards but riding the great horse, as gentlemen’s sons should ride; but after my father’s death, my situation became sadly changed.One evening, my mother, who was a pale-visaged invalid, took me on her lap, and after we had sat for some time in silence, she pressed me to her heart, and in a tone of deepest affection, exclaimed, “Poor unfortunate child, what will now become of you?”These words, which I have never since forgotten, affected me even at that time, so that I burst into tears; it seemed as if there were in my mind dark anticipation of the hard fate that awaited me, and I was carried, still crying, to bed.
Not long after, we journeyed from our town residence to a remote village among the mountains, — where the country was very beautiful – and we took up our abode in the clergyman’s house.At such an early age, one soon becomes accustomed to any change in circumstances.I played with his children, and rambled about very contentedly, while my mother had gone back to the capital, in order to take the situation offered to her of gouvernante to the young Princess, with whom she went into Italy, where, after a few years, she died.
The pleasure which I had taken at first in my childish plays, was soon embittered by the scanty food, and other discomforts of the family with whom I was boarded.Scarcely separated from the servants of the household, I was doomed to hear their rough language and noisy disputes every hour of the day; while their talk was of swine, geese, sheep, and oxen – but never, by any chance, of fine horses or young gentlemen learning to ride.In the very house itself, there was established a large crib for poultry, and we children were called on to assist in much menial drudgery, in which I acquitted myself so ill, that I was often heartily scolded.As to good clothes and fine linen, to which I was also partial, as well as to horses, I was never allowed to wear them.
The clergyman’s wife, if I complained on that score, used to answer tartly, that for the trifling pension which I paid, it was not in her power to afford those luxuries.The kind-hearted old preacher used at such times to pat me on the cheek, and gave me in secret some bits of his sugar which had been allowed him for his own morning coffee, telling me to be good and patient.He himself bore his cross in silence.Yet I could not help becoming every day more fretful and discontented, not being able to understand why I was to remain so very long in that small and ill-appointed house.
One evening, I was sitting on the threshold, cutting a large tube of elder tree, which I laboured to fashion into a post-boy’s horn, endeavouring to make it sound like a bugle which I had heard just before in the forest, where some travelers were passing by.Heaven knows what mysterious longing that signal had awoke in my heart!About an hour afterwards, there came a lady in a very plain dress, like that of a citizen’s wife or daughter, — with a covered basket on her arm, who entered by the court gateway, and directly made up to me.
Milord, the large mastiff dog who was chained in the court, rushed out in great wrath from his wooden camp, and snapped at her dress; however, I started forward between them, – struck Milord heartily with my bugle horn of elder-tree, and expecting that the lady must have something very fine in her basket, I was eager to lead her into the house.She looked at me for a few moments without saying a word, and, perceiving that she trembled, I believed that she was still afraid of the mastiff – I took her hand therefore, and brought her into the parlour, in which we found the old clergyman, while, in order to offer some apology for her coming, she had drawn the cover from her basket, in which there was a great collection of Nürnberg toys, men on horseback, coaches and horses, guns, swords, and beasts of all shapes and sizes.
Of course, all the children who had now burst into the room, gathered round her in admiration; but the clergyman’s wife soon put an end to their hopes.“Nothing – nothing, good woman, we have no need for such things here.”With these words she spread out both her broad hands over the basket, that we might no longer be tempted by the sight of treasures which we were not to possess.At this, the strange lady smiled a little, and in a soft and genteel tone of voice, to which I had been here but little accustomed, she said, “Nay, nay, – but my goods are very cheap; allow every one of the young people to take something from my stores.
I shall not demand any money, but only a cast-off piece of dress from the youngest who is here present, for he is just about the same age with my own boy.If I might beg also a lock of his hair, it would be better still, for he reminds me so of one whom I shall not see for a long while again, and he has been so kind in protecting me from your great watch-dog!”All hands had already been plunged into the basket, and, much against her own inclinations, the old lady was forced to go to the wardrobe, and bring into the room the worst and most useless of my worn-out dresses.
By that time, I stood triumphant with a blue painted saber, and a bronze-coloured fowling piece.The stranger looked at me for a while, seeming to rejoice in my feelings, then she took the clothes and ringlet of hair that were now offered in return for her goods, examined them, folded them up, and took them down again as if unwilling to depart; — at last, turning to me, stroked my forehead to part my wild straggling locks, said, in a voice scarcely audible, “God be with you dearest child,” and abruptly retiring, she disappeared.
I remember well that through that whole evening, I sat retired in a corner with my newly purchased toys, — in a very perplexed mood; I knew not whether to laugh or weep, but felt a confused impression, that I was now quite forsaken and alone in the world.It was the sword perhaps that made me think of former days, and awoke manifold associations which I was altogether unable to arrange or interpret.
This had happened on a Saturday evening, and next day, the family and all the servants were at church.My playmates were roving about in the fields, and I was left sitting on a stone under a lime tree, at some distance from the village.I happened to be gazing intently in that direction, when I saw the stranger lady that had given us the toys come out of an inn, and walk for some time along the high road, till at last, on perceiving me, she turned from it, and came up to the place where I was stationed.“So, Julius,” said she in a low timid voice, “I have found you alone! – Yesterday, O could not thank you, my dearest child, for your kindness to me, but, in token of my gratitude, I must beg that you accept this small remembrance.”
She now gave me a beautiful book, in a red binding, with a gold claps fashioned into the shape of two hands joined together, with an engraved motto, “Trust in God.”On touching a spring, the volume flew open, and I found that it contained a great number of separate blank leaves, of the finest French paper, all embossed, and with some religious or moral maxim inscribed on each.“Look you, Julius,” said she, “these leaves are intended for a journal, and there are just as many of them as there are days in the year.You can supply their places, however, with others, to fit the volume, in case any of these should be lost or written out.
Above all, do not forget the maxims; — read one of them as a lesson every morning, and ask yourself at night whether you have remembered and fulfilled through the day the admonition contained therein.Then, under the original inscription, add, in your own hand, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – or any other remark which your own conscience may dictate.In order to act up to our duties in the world, it is necessary that one should use some method of this kind – that we should have some outward as well as inward monitor.Do not neglect, Julius, to take such precautions now when you are young; thus in early life, you will rend self-examination a regular habit, instead of having to acquire it afterwards by laborious effort.Wilt thou do this my dear child?”
Every word of her address was uttered in tones of the most heartfelt affection.She seated herself beside me on the grass, and took me in her arms; I wept, and was confounded by that kindness, such as I had never experienced since my mother’s departure.Suddenly and abruptly she let me go, and in the next moment had disappeared in the neighbouring wood.I was terrified; I started up and ran after her; but, notwithstanding all my endeavours, my cries and lamentations, she was absolutely gone.I threw myself on the ground in an agony of grief; and, not long after, when I heard the notes of a bugle again sounding from the woods, till they died away into the blue realms of distance, my agitation increased almost to distraction.
Time, that blunts all feelings, at length weakened the impression even of this adventure.Yet, though weakened, it could not be effaced.Amid the cold and heartless goings-on of the world, it was then only that I had felt as if there were some one could take a real interest in my fate, — who looked on me with affection, and sympathized in my distresses.– It was more from instinctive feeling than from reflection, that I was afterwards induced to keep a strict silence as to what has passed.The book which I had received from the lady was placed every night on my pillow, and by day it carried it in my bosom.
It was my companion, too, at the military school to which the Duke’s recollection of my father’s services soon afterwards induced him to send me.Oftentimes, indeed, I forgot to consult the leaves at the hours appointed; but frequently, too, a single glance at them completely roused my faculties, when indolence was ready to steal upon me; and the natural obstinacy of my heart was softened when I read over some of the moral rhymes, which I could never do without remembering the gentle and musical tones of the Unknown, which inseparably blended with the words.No doubt, I might have neglected all my studies, and given myself up to dissipation, had it not been that Providence had supplied me with this means of self-warning and guidance.
Now, in this wilderness, where I find another heart as lonely and suffering as mine has been, and where, as I have already said, the gloomy influences of external nature break the habits that social life had induced, all my old feelings of perplexity and harassing reflections are awoke.Uncalled and unsought for emotions crowd upon my mind; some, indeed, welcome and pleasant, but many that bring along with them bitterness and discontent.Indeed, one is in solitude too much occupied with himself, and yet it is only by means of this intermediate conflicts, that he can again obtain tranquility and a better mood of mind.
To be continued…