Part 2 out of 8
"Wilt thou have the history of thy coming perils, friend mariner?" cried
the mercurial mountebank: "A journal of thy future risks and tempests to
amuse you in this calm? Such a picture of sea-monsters and of coral that
grows in the ocean's caverns, where mariners sleep, that shall give thee
the night-mare for months, and cause thee to dream of wrecks and bleached
bones for the rest of thy life? Thou hast only to wish it, to have the
adventures of thy next voyage laid before thee, like a map."
"Thou would'st gain more credit with me, as one cunning in thy art, by
giving the history of the last."
"The request is reasonable, and thou shalt have it: for I love the bold
adventurer that trusts himself hardily upon the great deep;" answered the
unabashed Pippo. "My first lessons in necromancy were received on the mole
of Napoli, amid burly Inglesi, straight-nosed Greeks, swarthy Sicilians,
and Maltese with spirits as fine as the gold of their own chains. This was
the school in which I learned to know my art, and an apt scholar I proved
in all that touches the philosophy and humanity of my craft. Signore, thy
Maso spread his sinewy hand in the direction of the juggler, without
descending from his elevation, and in a way to show that, while he would
not balk the common humor, he was superior to the gaping wonder and
childish credulity of most of those who watched the result. Pippo affected
to stretch out his neck, in order to study the hard and dark lines, and
then he resumed his revelations, like one perfectly satisfied with what he
"The hand is masculine, and has been familiar with many friends in its
time. It hath dealt with steel, and cordage, and saltpetre, and most of
all with gold. Signori, the true seat of a man's digestion lies in the
palm of his hand; if that is free to give and to receive, he will never
have a costive conscience, for of all damnable inconveniences that afflict
mortals, that of a conscience that will neither give up nor take is the
heaviest curse. Let a man have as much sagacity as shall make him a
cardinal, if it get entangled in the meshes of one of your unyielding
consciences, ye shall see him a mendicant brother to his dying day; let
him be born a prince with a close-ribbed opinion of this sort, and he had
better have been born a beggar, for his reign will be like a river from
which the current sets outward, without any return. No, my friends, a palm
like this of Maso's is a favorable sign, since it hinges on a pliant will,
that will open and shut like a well-formed eye, or the jacket of a
shell-fish, at its owner's pleasure. Thou hast drawn near to many a port
before this of Vevey, after the sun has fallen low, Signor Maso!"
"In that I have taken a seaman's chances, which depend more on the winds
than on his own wishes."
"Thou esteemest the bottom of the craft in which thou art required to
sail, as far more important than her ancient. Thou hast an eye for a keel,
but none for color; unless, indeed, as it may happen to be convenient to
seem that thou art not."
"Nay, Master Soothsayer, I suspect thee to be an officer of some of the
Holy Brotherhoods, sent in this guise to question us poor travellers to
our ruin!" answered Maso. "I am, what thou seest, but a poor mariner that
hath no better bark under him than this of Baptiste, and on a sea no
larger than a Swiss lake."
"Shrewdly observed," said Pippo, winking to those near him, though he so
little liked the eye and bearing of the other that he was not sorry to
turn to some new subject. "But what matters it, Signori, to be speaking of
the qualities of men! We are all alike, honorable, merciful, more disposed
to help others than to help ourselves, and so little given to selfishness,
that nature has been obliged to supply every mother's son of us with a
sort of goad, that shall be constantly pricking us on to look after our
own interests. Here are animals whose dispositions are less understood,
and we will bestow a useful minute in examining their qualities. Reverend
Augustine, this mastiff of thine is named Uberto?"
"He is known by that appellation throughout the cantons and their allies.
The fame of the dog reaches even to Turin and to most of the towns in the
plain of Lombardy."
"Now, Signori, you perceive that this is but a secondary creature in the
scale of animals. Do him good and he will be grateful; do him harm, and he
will forgive. Feed him, and he is satisfied. He will travel the paths of
the St. Bernard, night and day, to do credit to his training, and when the
toil is ended, all he asks is just as much meat as will keep the breath
within his ribs. Had heaven given Uberto a conscience and greater wit, the
first might have shown him the impiety of working for travellers on holy
days and festas, while the latter would be apt to say he was a fool for
troubling himself about the safety of others at all."
"And yet his masters, the good Augustines themselves, do not hold so
selfish a creed!" observed Adelheid.
"Ah! they have heaven in view! I cry the reverend Augustine's pardon--but,
lady, the difference is in the length of the calculation. Woe's me,
brethren; I would that my parents had educated me for a bishop, or a
viceroy, or some other modest employment, that this learned craft of mine
might have fallen into better hands! Ye would lose in instruction, but I
should be removed from the giddy heights of ambition, and die at last with
some hopes of being a saint. Fair lady, thou travellest on a bootless
errand, if I know the reason that tempts thee to cross the Alps at this
late season of the year."
This sudden address caused both Adelheid and her father to start, for, in
despite of pride and the force of reason, it is seldom that we can
completely redeem our opinions from the shackles of superstition, and that
dread of the unseen future which appears to have been entailed upon our
nature, as a ceaseless monitor of the eternal state of being to which all
are hastening, with steps so noiseless and yet so sure. The countenance of
the maiden changed, and she turned a quick, involuntary glance at her
anxious parent, as if to note the effect of this rude announcement on him
before she answered.
"I go in quest of the blessing, health," she said, "and I should be sorry
to think thy prognostic likely to be realized. With youth, a good
constitution, and tender friends of my side, there is reason to think thou
mayest, in this at least, prove a false prophet."
"Lady, hast thou hope?"
Pippo ventured this question as he had adventured his opinion; that is to
say, recklessly, pretendingly, and with great indifference to any effect
it might have, except as it was likely to establish his reputation with
the crowd. Still, it would seem, that by one of those singular
coincidences that are hourly occurring in real life, he had unwittingly
touched a sensitive chord in the system of his fair fellow-traveller. Her
eyes sank to the deck at this abrupt question, the color again stole to
her polished temples, and the least practised in the emotions of the sex
might have detected painful embarrassment in her mein. She was, however,
spared the awkwardness of a reply, by the unexpected and prompt
interference of Maso.
"Hope is the last of our friends to prove recreant," said this mariner,
"else would the cases of many in company be bad enough, thine own
included, Pippo; for, judging by the outward signs, the Swabian campaign
has not been rich in spoils."
"Providence has ordered the harvests of wit much as it has ordered the
harvests of the field," returned the juggler, who felt the sarcasm of the
other's remark with all the poignancy that it could derive from truth;
since, to expose his real situation, he was absolutely indebted to an
extraordinary access of generosity in Baptiste, for his very passage
across the Leman. "One year, thou shall find the vineyard dripping liquors
precious as diamonds, while, the next, barrenness shall make it its seat.
To-day the peasant will complain that poverty prevents him from building
the covering necessary to house his crops, while to-morrow he will be
heard groaning over empty garners. Abundance and famine travel the earth
hard upon each other's heels, and it is not surprising that he who lives
by his wits should sometimes fail of his harvest, as well as he who lives
by his hands."
"If constant custom can secure success, the pious Conrad should be
prosperous," answered Maso, "for, of all machinery, that of sin is the
least seldom idle. His trade at least can never fail for want of
"Thou hast it, Signor Maso; and it is for this especial reason that I wish
my parents had educated me for a bishoprick. He that is charged with
reproving his fellow creatures for their vices need never know an idle
"Thou dost not understand what thou sayest," put in Conrad; "love for the
saints has much fallen away since my youth, and where there is one
Christian ready now to bestow his silver, in order to get the blessing of
some favorite shrine, there were then ten. I have heard the elders of us
pilgrims say, that, fifty years since, 'twas a pleasure to bear the sins
of a whole parish, for ours is a business in which the load does not so
much depend on the amount as the quality; and, in their time there were
willing offerings, frank confessions, and generous consideration for those
who undertook the toil."
"In such a trade, the less thou hast to answer for, in behalf of others,
the more will pass to thy credit on the score of thine own backslidings,"
pithily remarked Nicklaus Wagner, who was a sturdy Protestant, and apt
enough at levelling these side-hits at those who professed a faith,
obnoxious to the attacks of all who dissented from the opinions and the
spiritual domination of Rome.
But Conrad was a rare specimen of what may be effected by training and
well-rooted prejudices. In presenting this man to the mind of the reader,
we have no intention to impugn the doctrines of the particular church to
which he belonged, but simply to show, as the truth will fully warrant, to
what a pass of flagrant and impudent pretension the qualities of man,
unbridled by the wholesome corrective of a sound and healthful opinion,
was capable of conducting abuses on the most solemn and gravest subjects.
In that age usages prevailed, and were so familial to the minds of the
actors as to excite neither reflection nor comment, which would now lead
to revolutions, and a general rising in defence of principles which are
held to be clear as the air we breathe. Though we entertain no doubt of
the existence of that truth which pervades the universe, and to which all
things tend, we think the world, in its practices, its theories, and its
conventional standards of right and wrong, is in a condition of constant
change, which it should be the business of the wise and good to favor, so
long as care is had that the advantage is not bought by a re-action of
evil, that shall more than prove its counterpoise. Conrad was one of the
lowest class of those fungi that grow out of the decayed parts of the
moral, as their more material types prove the rottenness of the vegetable,
world; and the probability of the truth of the portraiture is not to be
loosely denied, without mature reflection on the similar anomalies that
are yet to be found on every side of us, or without studying the history
of the abuses which then disgraced Christianity, and which, in truth,
became so intolerable in their character, and so hideous in their
features, as to be the chief influencing cause to bring about their own
Pippo, who had that useful tact which enables a man to measure his own
estimation with others, was not slow to perceive that the more enlightened
part of his audience began to tire of this pretending buffoonery.
Resorting to a happy subterfuge, by means of one of his sleight-of-hand
expedients, he succeeded in transferring the whole of that portion of the
spectators who still found amusement in his jugglery, to the other end of
the vessel, where they established themselves among the anchors, ready as
ever to swallow an aliment, that seems to find an unextinguishable
appetite for its reception among the vulgar. Here he continued his
exhibition, now moralizing in the quaint and often in the pithy manner,
which renders the southern buffoon so much superior to his duller
competitor of the north, and uttering a wild jumble of wholesome truths,
loose morality, and witty inuendoes, the latter of which never failed to
extort roars of laughter from all but those who happened to be their
Once or twice Baptiste raised his head, and stared about him with drowsy
eyes, but, satisfied there was nothing to be done in the way of forcing
the vessel ahead, he resumed his nap, without interfering in the pastime
of those whom he had hitherto seemed to take pleasure in annoying. Left
entirely to themselves, therefore, the crowd on the forecastle represented
one of those every-day but profitable pictures of life, which abound under
our eyes, but which, though they are pregnant with instruction, are
treated with the indifference that would seem to be the inevitable
consequence of familiarity.
The crowded and overloaded bark might have been compared to the vessel of
human life, which floats at all times subject to the thousand accidents of
a delicate and complicated machinery: the lake, so smooth and alluring in
its present tranquillity, but so capable of lashing its iron-bound coasts
with fury, to a treacherous world, whose smile is almost always as
dangerous as its frown; and, to complete the picture, the idle, laughing,
thoughtless, and yet inflammable group that surrounded the buffoon, to the
unaccountable medley of human sympathies, of sudden and fierce passions,
of fun and frolic, so inexplicably mingled with the grossest egotism that
enters into the heart of man: in a word, to so much that is beautiful and
divine, with so much that would seem to be derived directly from the
demons, a compound which composes this mysterious and dread state of
being, and which we are taught, by reason and revelation, is only a
preparation for another still more incomprehensible and wonderful.
"How like a fawning publican he looks!"
The change of the juggler's scene of action left the party in the stern of
the barge, in quiet possession of their portion of the vessel. Baptiste
and his boatmen still slept among the boxes; Maso continued to pace his
elevated platform above their heads; and the meek-looking stranger, whose
entrance into the barge had drawn so many witticisms from Pippo, sate a
little apart, silent, furtively observant, and retiring, in the identical
spot he had occupied throughout the day. With these exceptions, the whole
of the rest of the travellers were crowding around the person of the
mountebank. Perhaps we have not done well, however, in classing either of
the two just named with the more common herd, for there were strong points
of difference to distinguish both from most of their companions.
The exterior and the personal appointments of the unknown traveller, who
had shrunk so sensitively before the hits of the Neapolitan, was greatly
superior to those of any other in the bark beneath the degree of the
gentle, not even excepting those of the warm peasant Nicklaus Wagner, the
owner of so large a portion of the freight. There was a decency of air
that commanded more respect than it was then usual to yield to the
nameless, a quietness of demeanor that denoted reflection and the habit of
self-study and self-correction, together with a deference to others that
was well adapted to gain friends. In the midst of the noisy, clamorous
merriment of all around him, his restrained and rebuked manner had won
upon the favor of the more privileged, who had unavoidably noticed the
difference, and had prepared the way to a more frank communication between
the party of the noble, and one who, if not their equal in the usual
points of worldly distinction, was greatly superior to those among whom he
had been accidentally cast by the chances of his journey. Not so with
Maso; he, apparently, had little in common with the unobtruding and silent
being that sat so near his path, in the short turns he was making to and
fro across the pile of freight. The mariner was thirty, while the head of
the unknown traveller was already beginning to be sprinkled with gray. The
walk, attitudes, and gestures, of the former, were also those of a man
confident of himself, a little addicted to be indifferent to others, and
far more disposed to lead than to follow. These are qualities that it may
be thought his present situation was scarcely suited to discover, but they
had been made sufficiently apparent, by the cool, calculating looks he
threw, from time to time, at the manoeuvres commanded by Baptiste, the
expressive sneer with which he criticised his decisions, and a few biting
remarks which had escaped him in the course of the day, and which had
conveyed any thing but compliments to the nautical skill of the patron and
his fresh-water followers. Still there were signs of better stuff in this
suspicious-looking person than are usually seen about men, whose attire,
pursuits and situation, are so indicative of the world's pressing hard
upon their principles, as happened to be the fact with this poor and
unknown seaman. Though ill clad, and wearing about him the general tokens
of a vagrant life, and that loose connexion with society that is usually
taken as sufficient evidence of one's demerits, his countenance
occasionally denoted thought, and, during the day, his eye had frequently
wandered towards the group of his more intelligent fellow-passengers, as
if he found subjects of greater interest in their discourse, than in the
rude pleasantries and practical jokes of those nearer his person.
The high-bred are always courteous, except in cases in which presumption
repels civility; for they who are accustomed to the privileges of station,
think far less of their immunities, than they, who by being excluded from
the fancied advantages, are apt to exaggerate a superiority that a short
experience would show becomes of very questionable value in the
possession. Without this equitable provision of Providence, the laws of
civilized society would become truly intolerable, for, if peace of mind,
pleasure, and what is usually termed happiness, were the exclusive
enjoyment of those who are rich and honoured, there would, indeed, be so
crying an injustice in their present ordinances as could not long
withstand the united assaults of reason and justice. But, happily for the
relief of the less gifted and the peace of the world, the fact is very
different. Wealth has its peculiar woes; honors and privileges pall in the
use; and, perhaps, as a rule, there is less of that regulated contentment,
which forms the nearest approach to the condition of the blessed of which
this unquiet state of being is susceptible, among those who are usually
the most envied by their fellow-creatures, than in any other of the
numerous gradations into which the social scale has been divided. He who
reads our present legend with the eyes that we could wish, will find in
its moral the illustration of this truth; for, if it is our intention to
delineate some of the wrongs that spring from the abuses of the privileged
and powerful, we hope equally to show how completely they fall short of
their object, by failing to confer that exclusive happiness which is the
goal that all struggle to attain.
Neither the Baron de Willading, nor his noble friend, the Genoese, though
educated in the opinions of their caste, and necessarily under the
influence of the prejudices of the age, was addicted to the insolence of
vulgar pride. Their habits had revolted at the coarseness of the majority
of the travellers, and they were glad to be rid of them by the expedient
of Pippo; but no sooner did the modest, decent air of the stranger who
remained, make itself apparent, than they felt a desire to compensate him
for the privations he had already undergone, by showing the civilities
that their own rank rendered so easy and usually so grateful. With this
view, then, as soon as the noisy _troupe_ had departed, the Signor
Grimaldi raised his beaver with that discreet and imposing politeness
which equally attracts and repels, and, addressing the solitary stranger,
he invited him to descend, and stretch his legs on the part of the deck
which had hitherto been considered exclusively devoted to the use of his
own party. The other started, reddened, and looked like one who doubted
whether he had heard aright.
"These noble gentlemen would be glad if you would come down, and take
advantage of this opportunity to relieve your limbs;" said the young
Sigismund, raising his own athletic arm towards the stranger, to offer its
assistance in helping him to reach the deck.
Still the unknown traveller hesitated, in the manner of one who fears he
might overstep discretion, by obtruding beyond the limits imposed by
modesty. He glanced furtively upwards at the place where Maso bad posted
himself, and muttered something of an intention to profit by its present
"It has an occupant who does not seem disposed to admit another," said
Sigismund, smiling; "your mariner has a self-possession when afloat, that
usually gives him the same superiority that the well-armed swasher has
among the timid in the street. You would do well, then, to accept the
offer of the noble Genoese."
The stranger, who had once or twice been called rather ostentatiously by
Baptiste the Herr Mueller, during the day, as if the patron were disposed
to let his hearers know that he had those who at least bore creditable
names, even among his ordinary passengers, no longer delayed. He came
down from his seat, and moved about the deck in his usual, quiet, subdued
manner, but in a way to show that he found a very sensible and grateful
relief in being permitted to make the change. Sigismund was rewarded for
this act of good-nature by a smile from Adelheid, who thought his warm
interference in behalf of one, seemingly so much his inferior, did no
discredit to his rank. It is possible that the youthful soldier had some
secret sentiment of the advantage he derived from his kind interest in the
stranger, for his brow flushed, and he looked more satisfied with himself,
after this little office of humanity had been performed.
"You are better among us here," the baron kindly observed, when the Herr
Mueller was fairly established in his new situation, "than among the
freight of the honest Nicklaus Wagner, who, Heaven help the worthy
peasant! has loaded us fairly to the water's edge, with the notable
industry of his dairy people. I like to witness the prosperity of our
burghers, but it would have been better for us travellers, at least, had
there been less of the wealth of honest Nicklaus in our company. Are you
of Berne, or of Zurich?"
"Of Berne, Herr Baron."
"I might have guessed that by finding you on the Genfer See, instead of
the Wallenstaetter. There are many of the Muellers in the Emmen Thal?"
"The Herr is right; the name is frequent, both in that valley, and in
"It is a frequent appellation among us of the Teutonick stock. I had many
Muellers in my company, Gaetano, when we lay before Mantua, I remember that
two of the brave fellows were buried in the marshes of that low country;
for the fever helped the enemy as much as the sword, in the life-wasting
campaign of the year we besieged the place."
The more observant Italian saw that the stranger was distressed by the
personal nature of the conversation, and, while he quietly assented to his
friend's remark, he took occasion to give it a new direction.
"You travel, like ourselves, Signore, to get a look at these far-famed
revels of the Vevasians?"
"That, and affairs, have brought me into this honorable company;" answered
the Herr Mueller, whom no kindness of tone, however, could win from his
timid and subdued manner of speaking.
"And thou, father," turning to the Augustine, "art journeying towards thy
mountain residence, after a visit of love to the valleys and their
The monk of St. Bernard assented to the truth of this remark, explaining
the manner in which his community were accustomed annually to appeal to
the liberality of the generous in Switzerland, in behalf of an institution
that was founded in the interest of humanity, without reference to
distinction of faith.
"'Tis a blessed brotherhood," answered the Genoese, crossing himself,
perhaps as much from habit as from devotion, "and the traveller need wish
it well. I have never shared of your hospitality, but all report speaks
fairly of it, and the title of a brother of San Bernardo, should prove a
passport to the favor of every Christian."
"Signore," said Maso, stopping suddenly, and taking his part uninvited in
the discourse, and yet in a way to avoid the appearance of an impertinent
interference, "none know this better than I! A wanderer these many years,
I have often seen the stony roof of the hospice with as much pleasure as I
have ever beheld the entrance of my haven, when an adverse gale was
pressing against my canvass. Honor and a rich _quete_ to the clavier of
the convent, therefore, for it is bringing succor to the poor and rest to
As he uttered this opinion, Maso decorously raised his cap, and pursued
his straitened walk with the industry of a caged tiger. It was so unusual
for one of his condition to obtrude on the discourse of the fair and
noble, that the party exchanged looks of surprise; but, the Signor
Grirnaldi, more accustomed than most of his friends to the frank
deportment and bold speech of mariners, from having dwelt long on the
coast of the Mediterranean, felt disposed rather to humor than to repulse
this disposition to talk.
"Thou art a Genoese, by thy dialect," he said, assuming as a matter of
course the right to question one of years so much fewer, and of a
condition so much inferior to his own.
"Signore," returned Maso, uncovering himself again, though his manner
betrayed profound personal respect rather than the deference of the
vulgar, "I was born in the city of palaces, though it was my fortune first
to see the light beneath a humble roof. The poorest of us are proud of the
splendor of Genova la Superba, even if its glory has come from our own
The Signor Grimaldi frowned. But, ashamed to permit himself to be
disturbed by an allusion so vague, and perhaps so unpremeditated, and more
especially coming as it did from so insignificant a source, his brow
regained its expression of habitual composure.
An instant of reflection, told him it would be in better taste to continue
the conversation, than churlishly to cut it short for so light a cause.
"Thou art too young to have had much connexion, either in advantage or in
suffering," he rejoined, "with the erection of the gorgeous dwellings to
which thou alludest."
"This is true, Signore; except as one is the better or worse for those who
have gone before him. I am what I seem, more by the acts of others than by
any faults of my own. I envy not the rich or great, however; for one that
has seen as much of life as I, knows the difference between the gay colors
of the garment, and that of the shrivelled and diseased skin it conceals.
We make our feluccas glittering and fine with paint, when their timbers
work the most, and when the treacherous planks are ready to let in the sea
to drown us."
"Thou hast the philosophy of it, young man, and hast uttered a biting
truth, for those who waste their prime in chasing a phantom. Thou hast
well bethought thee of these matters, for, if content with thy lot, no
palace of our city would make thee happier."
"If, Signore, is a meaning word!--Content is like the north-star--we
seamen steer for it, while none can ever reach it!"
"Am I then deceived in thee, after all? Is thy seeming moderation only
affected; and would'st thou be the patron of the bark in which fortune
hath made thee only a passenger?"
"And a bad fortune it hath proved," returned Maso, laughing. "We appear
fated to pass the night in it, for, so far from seeing any signs of this
land-breeze of which Baptiste has so confidently spoken, the air seems to
have gone to sleep as well as the crew. Thou art accustomed to this
climate, reverend Augustine; is it usual to see so deep a calm on the
Leman at this late season?"
A question like this was well adapted to effect the speaker's wish to
change the discourse, for it very naturally directed the attention of all
present from a subject that was rather tolerated from idleness than
interesting in itself, to the different natural phenomena by which they
were surrounded. The sunset had now fairly passed, and the travellers were
at the witching moment that precedes the final disappearance of the day. A
calm so deep rested on the limpid lake, that it was not easy to
distinguish the line which separated the two elements, in those places
where the blue of the land was confounded with the well-known and peculiar
color of the Leman.
The precise position of the Winkelried was near mid-way between the shores
of Vaud and those of Savoy, though nearer to the first than to the last.
Not another sail was visible on the whole of the watery expanse, with the
exception of one that hung lazily from its yard, in a small bark that was
pulling towards St. Gingoulph, bearing Savoyards returning to their homes
from the other side of the lake, and which, in that delusive landscape,
appeared to the eye to be within a stone's throw of the base of the
mountain, though, in truth, still a weary row from the land.
Nature has spread her work on a scale so magnificent in this sublime
region that ocular deceptions of this character abound, and it requires
time and practice to judge of those measurements which have been rendered
familiar in other scenes. In like manner to the bark under the rocks of
Savoy, there lay another, a heavy-moulded boat, nearly in a line with
Villeneuve, which seemed to float in the air instead of its proper
element, and whose oars were seen to rise and fall beneath a high mound,
that was rendered shapeless by refraction. This was a craft, bearing hay
from the meadows at the mouth of the Rhone to their proprietors in the
villages of the Swiss coast. A few light boats were pulling about in
front of the town of Vevey, and a forest of low masts and latine yards,
seen in the hundred picturesque attitudes peculiar to the rig, crowded the
wild anchorage that is termed its port.
An air-line drawn from St. Saphorin to Meillerie, would have passed
between the spars of the Winkelried, her distance from her haven,
consequently, a little exceeded a marine league. This space might readily
have been conquered in an hour or two by means of the sweeps, but for the
lumbered condition of the decks, which would have rendered their use
difficult, and the unusual draught of the bark, which would have caused
the exertion to be painful. As it has been seen, Baptiste preferred
waiting for the arrival of the night breeze to having recourse to an
expedient so toil some and slow.
We have already said, that the point just described was at the place where
the Leman fairly enters its eastern horn, and where its shores possess
their boldest and finest faces. On the side of Savoy, the coast was a
sublime wall of rocks, here and there clothed with chestnuts, or indented
with ravines and dark glens, and naked and wild along the whole line of
their giddy summits. The villages so frequently mentioned, and which have
become celebrated in these later times by the touch of genius, clung to
the uneven declivities, their lower dwellings laved by the lake, and their
upper confounded with the rugged faces of the mountains. Beyond the limits
of the Leman, the Alps shot up into still higher pinnacles, occasionally
showing one of those naked excrescences of granite, which rise for a
thousand feet above the rest of the range--a trifle in the stupendous
scale of the vast piles--and which, in the language of the country are not
inaptly termed Dents, from some fancied and plausible resemblance to
human teeth. The verdant meadows of Noville, Aigle and Bex. spread for
leagues between these snow-capped barriers, so dwindled to the eye,
however, that the spectator believed that to be a mere bottom, which was,
in truth, a broad and fertile plain. Beyond these again, came the
celebrated pass of St. Maurice, where the foaming Rhone dashed between two
abutments of rock, as if anxious to effect its exit before the
superincumbent mountains could come together, and shut it out for ever
from the inviting basin to which it was hurrying with a never-ceasing din.
Behind this gorge, so celebrated as the key of the Valais, and even of the
Alps in the time of the conquerors of the world, the back-ground took a
character of holy mystery. The shades of evening lay thick in that
enormous glen, which was sufficiently large to contain a sovereign state,
and the dark piles of mountains beyond were seen in a hazy, confused
array. The setting was a grey boundary of rocks, on which fleecy clouds
rested, as if tired with their long and high flight, and on which the
parting day still lingered soft and lucid. One cone of dazzling white
towered over all. It resembled a bright stepping-stone between heaven and
earth, the heat of the hot sun falling innocuously against its sides, like
the cold and pure breast of a virgin repelling those treacherous
sentiments which prove the ruin of a shining and glorious innocence.
Across the summit of this brilliant and cloud-like peak, which formed the
most distant object in the view, ran the imaginary line that divided Italy
from the regions of the north. Drawing nearer, and holding its course on
the opposite shore, the eye embraced the range of rampart-like rocks that
beetle over Villeneuve and Chillon, the latter a snow-white pile that
seemed to rest partly on the land and partly, on the water. On the vast
debris of the mountains clustered the hamlets of Clarens, Montreux,
Chatelard, and all those other places, since rendered so familiar to the
reader of fiction by the vivid pen of Rousseau. Above the latter village
the whole of the savage and rocky range receded, leaving the lake-shore to
vine-clad cotes that stretch away far to the west.
This scene; at all times alluring and grand, was now beheld under its most
favorable auspices. The glare of day had deserted all that belonged to
what might be termed the lower world, leaving in its stead the mild hues,
the pleasing shadows, and the varying tints of twilight. It is true that a
hundred chalets dotted the Alps, or those mountain pasturages which spread
themselves a thousand fathoms above the Leman, on the foundation of rock
that lay like a wall behind Montreux, shining still with the brightness of
a bland even, but all below was fast catching the more sombre colors of
As the transition from day to night grew more palpable, the hamlets of
Savoy became gray and hazy, the shades thickened around the bases of the
mountains in a manner to render their forms indistinct and massive, and
the milder glory of the scene was transferred to their summits. Seen by
sun-light, these noble heights appear a long range of naked granite, piled
on a foundation of chestnut-covered hills, and buttressed by a few such
salient spurs as are perhaps necessary to give variety and agreeable
shadows to their acclivities. Their outlines were now drawn in those
waving lines that the pencil of Raphael would have loved to sketch, dark,
distinct, and appearing to be carved by art. The inflected and capricious
edges of the rocks stood out in high relief against the back-ground of
pearly sky, resembling so much ebony wrought into every fantastic
curvature that a wild and vivid fancy could conceive. Of all the wonderful
and imposing sights of this extraordinary region, there is perhaps none in
which there is so exquisite an admixture of the noble, the beautiful, and
the bewitching, as in this view of these natural arabesques of Savoy, seen
at the solemn hour of twilight.
The Baron de Willading and his friends stood uncovered, in reverence of
the sublime picture, which could only come from the hands of the Creator,
and with unalloyed enjoyment of the bland tranquillity of the hour.
Exclamations of pleasure had escaped them, as the exhibition advanced; for
the view, like the shifting of scenes, was in a constant state of
transition under the waning and changing light, and each had eagerly
pointed out to the others some peculiar charm of the view. The sight was,
in sooth, of a nature to preclude selfishness, no one catching a glimpse
that he did not wish to be shared by all. Vevey, their journey, the
fleeting minutes, and their disappointment, were all forgotten in the
delight of witnessing this evening landscape, and the silence was broken
only to express those feelings of delight which had long been uppermost in
"I doff my beaver to thy Switzerland, friend Melchior," cried the Signor
Grimaldi, after directing the attention of Adelheid to one of the peaks of
Savoy, of which he had just remarked that it seemed a spot where an angel
might love to light in his visits to the earth; "if thou hast much of
this, we of Italy must look to it, or--by the shades of our fathers! we
shall lose our reputation for natural beauty. How is it young lady; hast
thou many of these sun-sets at Willading? or, is this, after all, but an
exception to what thou seest in common--as much a matter of astonishment
to thyself, as--by San Francesco! good Marcelli, we must even own, it is
to thee and me!"
Adelheid laughed at the old noble's good-humored rhapsody, but, much as
she loved her native land, she could not pervert the truth by pretending
that the sight was one to be often met with.
"If we have not this, however, we have our glaciers, our lakes, our
cottages, our chalets, our Oberland, and such glens as have an eternal
twilight of their own."
"Ay, my true-hearted and pretty Swiss, this is well for thee who wilt
affirm that a drop of thy snow-water is worth a thousand limpid springs,
or thou art not the true child of old Melchior de Willading; but it is
lost on the cooler head of one who has seen other lands. Father Xavier,
thou art a neutral, for thy dwelling is on the dividing ridge between the
two countries, and I appeal to thee to know if these Helvetians have much
of this quality of evening?"
The worthy monk met the question in the spirit with which it was asked,
for the elasticity of the air, and the heavenly tranquillity and
bewitching loveliness of the hour, well disposed him to be joyous.
"To maintain my character as an impartial judge," he answered, "I will say
that each region has its own advantages. If Switzerland is the most
wonderful and imposing, Italy is the most winning. The latter leaves more
durable impressions and is more fondly cherished. One strikes the senses,
but the other slowly winds its way into the affections; and he who has
freely vented his admiration in exclamations and epithets in one, will, in
the end, want language to express all the secret longings, the fond
recollections, the deep repinings, that he retains for the other."
"Fairly reasoned, friend Melchior, and like an able umpire, leaving to
each his share of consolation and vanity. Herr Mueller, dost thou agree in
a decision that gives thy much vaunted Switzerland so formidable a rival?"
"Signore," answered the meek traveller, "I see enough to admire and love
in both, as is always the fact with that which God hath formed. This is a
glorious world for the happy, and most might be so, could they summon
courage to be innocent."
"The good Augustine will tell thee that this bears hard on certain points
of theology, in which our common nature is treated with but indifferent
respect. He that would continue innocent must struggle hard with his
The stranger was thoughtful, and Sigismund; whose eye had been earnestly
riveted on his face, thought that it denoted more of peace then usual.
"Signore," rejoined the Herr Mueller, when time had been given for
reflection, "I believe it is good for us to know unhappiness. He that is
permitted too much of his own will gets to be headstrong, and, like the
overfed bullock, difficult to be managed; whereas, he who lives under the
displeasure of his fellow-creatures is driven to look closely into
himself, and comes, at last, to chasten his spirit by detecting its
"Art thou a follower of Calvin?" demanded the Augustine suddenly,
surprised to hear opinions so healthful in the mouth of a dissenter from
the true church.
"Father, I belong neither to Rome nor to the religion of Geneva. I am a
humble worshipper of God, and a believer in the blessed mediation of his
"How!--Where dost thou find such sentiments out of the pale of the
"In mine own heart. This is my temple, holy Augustine, and I never enter
it without adoration for its Almighty founder. A cloud was over the roof
of my father at my birth, and I have not been permitted to mingle much
with men; but the solitude of my life has driven me to study my own
nature, which I hope has become none the worse for the examination. I know
I am an unworthy and sinful man, and I hope others are as much better than
I as their opinions of themselves would give reason to think."
The words of the Herr Mueller, which lost none of their weight by his
unaffected and quiet manner, excited curiosity. At first, most of the
listeners were disposed to believe him one of those exaggerated spirits
who exalt themselves by a pretended self-abasement, but his natural,
quiet, and thoughtful deportment soon produced a more favorable opinion.
There was a habit of reflection, a retreating inward look about his eye,
that revealed the character of one long and truly accustomed to look more
at himself than at others, and which wrought singularly in his behalf.
"We may not all have these flattering opinions of ourselves that thy words
would seem to imply Signor Mueller," observed the Genoese, his tone
changing to one better suited to soothe the feelings of the person
addressed, while a shade insensibly stole over his own venerable features;
"neither are all at peace that so seem. If it will be any consolation to
thee to know that others are probably no more happy than thyself, I will
add that I have known much pain, and that, too, amid circumstances which
most would deem fortunate, and which, I fear, a great majority of mankind
might be disposed to envy."
"I should be base indeed to seek consolation in such a source! I do not
complain, Signore, though my whole life has so passed that I can hardly
say that I enjoy it. It is not easy to smile when we know that all frown
upon us; else could I be content. As it is, I rather feel than repine."
"This is a most singular condition of the mind;" whispered Adelheid to
young Sigismund; for both had been deeply attentive listeners to the calm
but strong language of the Herr Mueller. The young man did not answer, and
his fair companion saw with surprise, that he was pale, and with
difficulty noticed her remark with a smile.
"The frowns of men, my son," observed the monk, "are usually reserved for
those who offend its ordinances. The latter may not be always just, but
there is a common sentiment which refuses to visit innocence, even in the
narrow sense in which we understand the word, with undeserved
The Herr Mueller looked earnestly at the Augustine, and he seemed about to
answer; but, checking the impulse, he bowed in submission. At the same
time, a wild, painful smile gleamed on his face.
"I agree with thee, good canon," rejoined the simple-minded baron: "we are
much addicted to quarrelling with the world, but, after all, when we look
closely into the matter, it will commonly be found that the cause of our
grievances exists in ourselves."
"Is there no Providence, father?" exclaimed Adelheid, a little
reproachfully for one of her respectful habits and great filial
tenderness. "Can we recall the dead to life, or keep those quick whom God
is pleased to destroy?"
"Thou hast me, girl!--there is a truth in this that no bereaved parent can
This remark produced an embarrassed pause, during which the Herr Mueller
gazed furtively about him, looking from the face of one to that of
another, as if seeking for some countenance on which he could rely. But
he turned away to the view of those hills which had been so curiously
wrought by the finger of the Almighty, and seemed to lose himself in their
"This is some spirit that has been bruised by early indiscretion," said
the Signor Grimaldi, in a low voice, "and whose repentance is strangely
mixed with resignation. I know not whether such a man is most to be envied
or pitied. There is a fearful mixture of resignation and of suffering in
"He has not the mien of a stabber or a knave," answered the baron. "If he
comes truly of the Muellers of the Emmen Thal, or even of those of
Entlibuch, I should know something of his history. They are warm burghers,
and mostly of fair name. It is true, that in my youth one of the family
got out of favor with the councils, on account of some concealment of
their lawful claims in the way of revenue, but the man made an atonement
that was deemed sufficient in amount, and the matter was forgotten. It is
not usual, Herr Mueller, to meet citizens in our canton who go for neither
Rome nor Calvin."
"It is not usual, mein Herr, to meet men placed as I am. Neither Rome nor
Calvin is sufficient for me;--I have need of God!"
"I fear thou hast taken life?"
The stranger bowed, and his face grew livid, seemingly with the intensity
of his own thoughts. Melchior de Willading so disliked the expression,
that he turned away his eyes in uneasiness. The other glanced frequently
at the forward part of the bark, and he seemed struggling hard to speak,
but, for some strong reason, unable to effect his purpose. Uncovering
himself, at length, he said steadily, as if superior to shame, while he
fully felt the import of his communication, but in a voice that was
"I am Balthazar, of your canton, Herr Baron, and I pray your powerful
succor, should those untamed spirits on the forecastle come to discover
the truth. My blood hath been made to curdle to-day whilst listening to
their heartless threats and terrible maledictions. Without this fear, I
should have kept my secret,--for God knows I am not proud of my office!"
The general and sudden surprise, accompanied as it was by a common
movement of aversion, induced the Signor Grimaldi to demand the reason.
"Thy name is not in much favour apparently, Herr Mueller, or Herr
Balthazar, whichever it is thy pleasure to be called," observed the
Genoese, casting a quick glance around the circle. "There is some mystery
in it, that to me needs explanation."
"Signore, I am the headsman of Berne."
Though long schooled in the polished habits of his high condition, which
taught him ordinarily to repress strong emotions, the Signor Grimaldi
could not conceal the start which this unexpected announcement produced,
for he had not escaped the usual prejudices of men.
"Truly, we have been fortunate in our associate, Melchior," he said drily,
turning without ceremony from the man whose modest, quiet mien had lately
interested him so much, but whose manner he now took to be assumed,--few
pausing to investigate the motives of those who are condemned of
opinion:--"here has been much excellent and useful morality thrown away
upon a very unworthy subject!"
The baron received the intelligence of the real name of their travelling
companion with less feeling. He had been greatly puzzled to account for
the singular language he had heard, and he found relief in so brief a
solution of the difficulty.
"The pretended name, after all, then, is only a cloak to conceal the
truth! I knew the Muellers of the Emmen Thal so well, that I had great
difficulty in fitting the character which the honest man gave of himself
fairly upon any one of them all. But it is now clear enough, and doubtless
Balthazar has no great reason to be proud of the turn which Fortune has
played his family in making them executioners."
"Is the office hereditary?" demanded the Genoese, quickly.
"It is. Thou knowest that we of Berne have great respect for ancient
usages. He that is born to the Buergerschaft will die in the exercise of
his rights, and he that is born out of its venerable pale must be
satisfied to live out of it, unless he has gold or favor. Our institutions
are a hint from nature, which leaves men as they are created, preserving
the order and harmony of society by venerable and well-defined laws, as is
wise and necessary. In nature, he that is born strong remains strong, and
he that has little force must be content with his feebleness."
The Signor Grimaldi looked like one who felt contrition.
"Art thou, in truth, an hereditary executioner?" he asked, addressing
"Signore, I am: else would hand of mine have never taken life. 'Tis a hard
duty to perform, even under the obligations and penalties of the
law;--otherwise, it were accursed!"
"Thy fathers deemed it a privilege!"
"We suffer for their error: Signore, the sins of the fathers, in our case,
have indeed been visited on the children to the latest generations."
The countenance of the Genoese grew brighter and his voice resumed the
polished tones in which he usually spoke.
"Here has been some injustice of a certainty," he said, "or one of thy
appearance would not be found in this cruel position. Depend on our
authority to protect thee, should the danger thou seemest to apprehend
really occur. Still the laws must be respected, though not always of the
rigid impartiality that we might wish. Thou hast owned the imperfection of
human nature, and it is not wonderful that its work should have flaws."
"I complain not now of the usage, which to me has become habit, but I
dread the untamed fury of these ignorant and credulous men, who have taken
a wild fancy that my presence might bring a curse upon the bark."
There are accidental situations which contain more healthful morals than
can be drawn from a thousand ingenious and plausible homilies, and in
which facts, in their naked simplicity, are far more eloquent than any
meaning that can be conveyed by words. Such was the case with this meek
and unexpected appeal of Balthazar. All who heard him saw his situation
under very different colors from those in which it would have been
regarded had the subject presented itself under ordinary circumstances. A
common and painful sentiment attested strongly against the oppression that
had given birth to his wrongs, and the good Melchior de Willading himself
wondered how a case of this striking injustice could have arisen under the
laws of Berne.
Methought I saw a thousand fearful wrecks,
A thousand men that fishes gnawed upon;
Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,
All scattered in the bottom of the sea.
The flitting twilight was now on the wane, and the shades of evening were
gathering fast over the deep basin of the lake. The figure of Maso, as he
continued to pace his elevated platform, was drawn dark and distinct
against the southern sky, in which some of the last rays of the sun still
lingered, but objects on both shores were getting to be confounded with
the shapeless masses of the mountains. Here and there a pale star peeped
out, though most of the vault that stretched across the confined horizon
was shut in by dusky clouds. A streak of dull, unnatural light was seen in
the quarter which lay above the meadows of the Rhone, and nearly in a
direction with the peak of Mont Blanc, which, though not visible from this
portion of the Leman, was known to lie behind the ramparts of Savoy, like
a monarch of the hills entrenched in his citadel of rocks and ice.
The change, the lateness of the hour, and the unpleasant reflections left
by the short dialogue with Balthazar, produced a strong and common desire
to see the end of a navigation that was beginning to be irksome. Those
objects which had lately yielded so much and so pure a delight were now
getting to be black and menacing, and the very sublimity of the scale on
which Nature had here thrown together her elements was an additional
source of uncertainty and alarm. Those fairy-like, softly-delineated,
natural arabesques, which had so lately been dwelt upon with rapture were
now converted into dreary crags that seemed to beetle above the helpless
bark, giving unpleasant admonitions of the savage and inhospitable
properties of their iron-bound bases, which were known to prove
destructive to all who were cast against them while the elements were in
These changes in the character of the scene, which in some respects began
to take the aspect of omens, were uneasily witnessed by all in the stern
of the bark, though the careless laughter, the rude joke, and the noisy
cries, which from time to time arose on the forecastle, sufficiently
showed that the careless spirits it held were still indulging in the
coarse enjoyments most suited to their habits. One individual, however,
was seen stealing from the crowd, and establishing himself on the pile of
freight, as if he had a mind more addicted to reflection, and less
disposed to unmeaning revelry, than most of those whom he had just
abandoned. This was the Westphalian student, who, wearied with amusements
that were below the level of his acquirements, and suddenly struck with
the imposing aspect of the lake and the mountains, had stolen apart to
muse on his distant home and the beings most dear to him, under an
excitement that suited those morbid sensibilities which he had long
encouraged by a very subtle metaphysical system of philosophy. Until now,
Maso had paced his lofty post with his eye fixed chiefly on the heavens in
the direction of Mont Blanc, occasionally turning it, however, over the
motionless bulk of the bark, but when the student placed himself across
his path, he stopped and smiled at the abstracted air and riveted regard
with which the youth gazed at a star.
"Art thou an astronomer, that thou lookest so closely at yonder shining
world?" demanded Il Maledetto, with the superiority that the mariner
afloat is wont successfully to assume over the unhappy wight of a
landsman, who is very liable to admit his own impotency on the novel and
dangerous element:--"the astrologer himself would not study it more
"This is the hour agreed upon between me and one that I love to bring the
unseen principle of our spirits together, by communing through its
"I have heard of such means of intercourse. Dost see more than others by
reason of such an assistant?"
"I see the object which is gazed upon, at this moment, by kind blue eyes
that have often looked upon me in affection. When we are in a strange
land, and in a fearful situation, such a communion has its pleasures!"
Maso laid his hand upon the shoulder of the student, which he pressed with
the force of a vice.
"Thou art right," he said, moodily; "make the most of thy friendships,
and, if there are any that love thee, tighten the knot by all the means
thou hast. None know the curse of being deserted in this selfish and cruel
battle of interest better than I! Be not ashamed of thy star, but gaze at
it till thy eye-strings crack. See the bright eyes of her that loves thee
in its twinkling, her constancy in its lustre, and her melancholy in its
sadness; lose not the happy moments, for there will soon be a dark curtain
to shut out its view."
The Westphalian was struck with the singular energy as well as with the
poetry of the mariner, and he distrusted the obvious allusion to the
clouds, which were, in fact, fast covering the vault above their heads.
"Dost thou like the night?" he demanded, turning from his star in doubt.
"It might be fairer. This is a wild region, and your cold Swiss lakes
sometimes become too hot for the stoutest seaman's heart. Gaze at thy star
young man, while thou mayest, and bethink thee of the maiden thou lovest
and of all her kindness; we are on a crazy water, and pleasant thoughts
should not be lightly thrown away."
Maso walked away, leaving the student alarmed, uneasy at he knew not what,
and yet bent with childish eagerness on regarding the little luminary that
occasionally was still seen wading among volumes of vapor. At this
instant, a shout of unmeaning, clamorous merriment arose on the
Il Maledetto did not remain any longer on the pile, but abandoning it to
the new occupant, he descended among the silent, thoughtful party who were
in possession of the cleared space near the stern. It was now so dark that
some little attention was necessary to distinguish faces, even at trifling
distances. But, by means of moving among these privileged persons with
great coolness and seeming indifference, he soon succeeded in placing
himself near the Genoese and the Augustine.
"Signore," he said, in Italian, raising his cap to the former with the
same marked respect as before, though it was evidently no easy matter to
impress him with the deference that the obscure usually feel for the
great--"this is likely to prove an unfortunate end to a voyage that began
with so fair appearances. I could wish that your eccellenza, with all this
noble and fair company, was safely landed in the town of Vevey."
"Dost thou mean that we have cause to fear more than delay?"
"Signore, the mariner's life is one of unequal chances: now he floats in a
lazy calm, and presently he is tossed between heaven and earth, in a way
to make the stoutest heart sick. My knowledge of these waters is not
great, but there are signs making themselves seen in the sky, here above
the peak that lies in the direction of Mont Blanc, that would trouble me,
were this our own clue but treacherous Mediterranean."
"What thinkest thou of this, father; a long residence in the Alps must
have given thee some insight into their storms?"
The Augustine had been grave and thoughtful from the moment that he ceased
to converse with Balthazar. He, too, had been struck with the omens, and,
long used to study the changes of the weather, in a region where the
elements sometimes work their will on a scale commensurate with the
grandeur of the mountains, his thoughts had been anxiously recurring to
the comforts and security of some of those hospitable roofs in the city to
which they were bound, and which were always ready to receive the clavier
of St. Bernard, in return for the services and self-denial of his
"With Maso, I could wish we were safely landed," answered the good canon;
"the intense heat that a day like this creates in our valleys and on the
lakes so weakens the sub-strata, or foundations of air, that the cold
masses which collect around the glaciers sometimes descend like avalanches
from their heights, to fill the vacuum. The shock is fearful, even to
those who meet it in the glens and among the rocks, but the plunge of such
a column of air upon one of the lakes is certain to be terrible."
"And thou thinkest there is danger of one of these phenomena at present?"
"I know not; but I would we were housed! That unnatural light above, and
this deep tranquillity below, which surpasses an ordinary cairn have
already driven me to my aves."
"The reverend Augustine speaks like a book man, and one who has passed his
time, up in his mountain-convent, in study and reflection," rejoined Maso;
"whereas the reasons I have to offer savor more of the seaman's practice.
A calm like this, will be followed, sooner or later, by a commotion in the
atmosphere. I like not the absence of the breeze from the land, on which
Baptiste counted so surely, and, taking that symptom with the signs of
yonder hot sky, I look soon to see this extraordinary quiet displaced by
some violent struggle among the winds. Nettuno, too, my faithful dog, has
given notice, by the manner in which he snuffs the air, that we are not to
pass the night in this motionless condition."
"I had hoped ere this to be quietly in our haven. What means yonder bright
light? Is it a star in the heavens, or does it merely lie against the side
of the huge mountain?"
"There shines old Roger de Blonay!" cried the baron, heartily; "he knows
of our being in the bark, and he has fired his beacon that we may steer by
The conjecture seemed probable, for, while the day remained, the castle of
Blonay, seated on the bosom of the mountain that shelters Vevey to the
north-east, had been plainly visible. It had been much admired, a pleasing
object in a view that was so richly studded with hamlets and castles, and
Adelheid had pointed it out to Sigismund as the immediate goal of her
journey. The lord of Blonay being apprized of the intended visit nothing
was more probable than that he, an old and tried friend of Melchior de
Willading's should show this sign of impatience; partly in compliment to
those whom he expected, and partly as a signal that might be really useful
to those who navigated the Leman, in a night that threatened so much murky
The Signor Grimaldi rightly deemed the circumstances grave, and, calling
to him his friend and Sigismund, he communicated the apprehensions of the
monk and Maso. A braver man than Melchior de Willading did not dwell in
all Switzerland, but he did not hear the gloomy predictions of the Genoese
without shaking in every limb.
"My poor enfeebled Adelheid!" he said, yielding to a father's tenderness:
"what will become of this frail plant, if exposed to a tempest in an
"She will be with her father, and with her father's friend," answered the
maiden herself; for the narrow limits to which they were necessarily
confined, and the sudden burst of feeling in the parent, which had
rendered him incautious in pitching his voice, made her the mistress of
the cause of alarm. "I have heard enough of what the good Father Xavier
and this mariner have said, to know that we are in a situation that might
be better; but am I not with tried friends? I know already what the Herr
Sigismund can do in behalf of my life, and come what may, we have all a
beneficent guardian in One, who will not leave any of us to perish without
remembering we are his children."
"This girl shames us all," said the Signor Grimaldi; "but it is often thus
with these fragile beings, who rise the firmest and noblest in moments
when prouder man begins to despair. They put their trust in God, who is a
prop to sustain even those who are feebler than our gentle Adel held. But
we will not exaggerate the causes of apprehension, which, after all, may
pass away like many other threatening dangers, and leave us hours of
felicitation and laughter in return for a few minutes of fright."
"Say, rather of thanksgiving," observed the clavier, "for the aspect of
the heavens is getting to be fearfully solemn. Thou, who art a
mariner--hast thou nothing to suggest?"
"We have the simple expedient of our sweeps, father; but, after neglecting
their use so long, it is now too late to have recourse to them. We could
not reach Vevey by such means, with this bark loaded to the water's edge,
before the night would change, and, the water once fairly in motion, they
could not be used at all."
"But we have our sails," put in the Genoese; "they at least may do us good
service when the wind shall come."
Maso shook his head, but he made no answer. After a brief pause, in which
he seemed to study the heavens still more closely, he went to the spot
where the patron yet lay lost in sleep, and shook him rudely.--"Ho!
Baptiste! awake! there is need here of thy counsel and of thy commands."
The drowsy owner of the bark rubbed his eyes, and slowly regained the use
of his faculties.
"There is not a breath of wind," he muttered; "why didst awake me,
Maso?--One that hath led thy life should know that sleep is sweet to those
"Ay, 'tis their advantage over the pampered and idle. Look at the heavens,
man, and let us know what thou thinkest of their appearance. Is there the
stuff in thy Winkelried to ride out a storm like this we may have to
"Thou talkest like a foolish quean that has been frightened by the
fluttering of her own poultry. The lake was never more calm, or the bark
in greater safety."
"Dost see yonder bright light; here, over the tower of thy Vevey church?"
"Ay, 'tis a gallant star! and a fair sign for the mariner."
"Fool, 'tis a hot flame in Roger de Blonay's beacon. They begin to see
that we are in danger on the shore, and they cast out their signals to
give us notice to be active. They think us be-stirring ourselves like
stout men, and those used to the water, while, in truth, we are as
undisturbed as if the bark were a rock that might laugh at the Leman and
its waves. The man is benumbed," continued Maso, turning away towards the
anxious listeners; "he will not see that which is getting to be but too
plain to all the others in his vessel."
Another idle and general laugh from the forecastle came to contradict this
opinion of Maso's, and to prove how easy it is for the ignorant to exist
in security, even on the brink of destruction. This was the moment, when
nature gave the first of those signals that were "intelligible to vulgar
capacities. The whole vault of the heavens was now veiled, with the
exception of the spot so often named, which lay nearly above the brawling
torrents of the Rhone. This fiery opening resembled a window admitting of
fearful glimpses into the dreadful preparations that were making up among
the higher peaks of the Alps. A flash of red quivering light was emitted,
and a distant, rumbling rush, that was not thunder but rather resembled
the wheelings of a thousand squadrons into line, followed the flash. The
forecastle was deserted to a man, and the hillock of freight was again
darkly seen peopled with crouching human forms. Just then the bark which
had so long lain in a state of complete rest slowly and heavily raised its
bows, as if laboring under its great and unusual burthen, while a sluggish
swell passed beneath its entire length, lifting the whole mass, foot by
foot, and passing away by the stern, to cast itself on the shores of Vaud.
"'Tis madness to waste the precious moments longer!" said Maso hurriedly,
on whom this plain and intelligent hint was not lost. "Signori, we must be
bold and prompt, or we shall be overtaken by the tempest unprepared. I
speak not for myself, since, by the aid of this faithful dog, and favored
by my own arms, I have always the shore for a hope. But there is one in
the bark I would wish to save, even at some hazard to myself. Baptiste is
unnerved by fear, and we must act for our selves or perish!"
"What wouldest thou?" demanded the Signor Grimaldi; "he that can proclaim
the danger should have some expedient to divert it?"
"More timely exertion would have given us the resource of ordinary means;
but, like those who die in their sins, we have foolishly wasted most
precious minutes. We must lighten the bark, though it cost the whole of
A cry from Nicklaus Wagner announced that the spirit of avarice was still
active as ever in his bosom. Even Baptiste, who had lost all his dogmatism
and his disposition to command, under the imposing omens which had now
made themselves apparent even to him, loudly joined in the protest against
this waste of property. It is rare that any sudden and extreme proposal,
like this of Maso's, meets with a quick echo in the judgments of those to
whom the necessity is unexpectedly presented. The danger did not seem
sufficiently imminent to have recourse to an expedient so decided; and,
though startled and aroused, the untamed spirits of those who crowded
the, menaced pile were rather in a state of uneasiness, than of that
fierce excitement to which they were so capable of being wrought, and
which was in some degree necessary to induce even them, thriftless and
destitute as they were, to be the agents of effecting so great a
destruction of properly. The project of the cool and calculating Maso
would therefore have failed entirely, but for another wheeling of those
airy squadrons, and a second wave which lifted the groaning bark until the
loosened yards swung creaking above their heads. The canvass flapped, too,
in the darkness, like some huge bird of prey fluttering its feathers
previously to taking wing.
"Holy and just Ruler of the land and the sea!" exclaimed the Augustine,
"remember thy repentant children, and have us, at this awful moment, in
thy omnipotent protection!"
"The winds are come down, and even the dumb lake sends us the signal to be
ready!" shouted Maso. "Overboard with the freight, if ye would live!"
A sudden heavy plunge into the water, proved that the mariner was in
earnest. Notwithstanding the imposing and awful signs with which they were
surrounded, every individual of the nameless herd bethought him of the
puck that contained his own scanty worldly effects, and there was a
general and quick movement, with a view to secure them. As each man
succeeded in effecting his own object, he was led away by that community
of feeling which rules a multitude. The common rush was believed to be
with a view to succor Maso, though each man secretly knew the falsity of
the impression as respected his own particular case; and box after box
began to tumble into the water, as new and eager recruits lent themselves
to the task. The impulse was quickly imparted from one to another, until
even young Sigismund was active in the work. On these slight accidents do
the most important results depend, when the hot impulses that govern the
mass obtain the ascendant.
It is not to be supposed that either Baptiste, or Nicklaus Wagner,
witnessed the waste of their joint effects with total indifference. So far
from this, each used every exertion in his power to prevent it, not only
by his voice, but with his hands. One menaced the law--the other
threatened Maso with condign punishment for his interference with a
patron's rights and duties; but their remonstrances were uttered to
inattentive ears. Maso knew himself to be irresponsible by situation, for
it was not an easy matter to bring him within the grasp of the
authorities; and as for the others, most of them were far too
insignificant to feel much apprehension for a reparation that would be
most likely, if it fell at all, to fall on those who were more able to
bear it. Sigismund alone exerted himself under a sense of his liabilities;
but he worked for one that was far dearer to him than gold, and little did
he bethink him of any other consequences than those which might befall the
precious life of Adelheid de Willading.
The meagre packages of the common passengers had been thrown in a place of
safety, with the sort of unreflecting instinct with which we take care of
our limbs when in danger. This timely precaution permitted each to work
with a zeal that found no drawback in personal interest, and the effect
was in proportion. A hundred hands were busy, and nearly as many throbbing
hearts lent their impulses to the accomplishment of the one important
Baptiste and his people, aided by laborers of the port, had passed an
entire day in heaping that pile on the deck of the Winkelried, which was
now crumbling to pieces with a rapidity that seemed allied to magic. The
patron and Nicklaus Wagner bawled themselves hoarse, with uttering useless
threats and deprecations, for by this time the laborers in the work of
destruction had received some such impetus as the rolling stone acquires
by the increased momentum of its descent. Packages, boxes, bales, and
everything that came to hand, were hurled into the water frantically, and
without other thought than of the necessity of lightening the groaning
bark of its burthen. The agitation of the lake, too, was regularly
increasing, wave following wave, in a manner to cause the vessel to pitch
heavily, as it rose upon the coming, or sunk with the receding swell. At
length, a shout announced that, in one portion of the pile, the deck was
The work now proceeded with greater security to those engaged, for,
hitherto the motion of the bark, and the unequal footing, frequently
rendered their situations, in the darkness and confusion, to the last
degree hazardous. Maso now abandoned his own active agency in the toil,
for no sooner did he see the others fairly and zealously enlisted in the
undertaking, than he ceased his personal efforts to give those directions
which, coming from one accustomed to the occupation, were far more
valuable than any service that could be derived from a single arm.
"Thou art known to me, Signor Maso," said Baptiste, hoarse with his
impotent efforts to restrain the torrent, "and thou shalt answer for this,
as well as for other of thy crimes, so soon as we reach the haven of
"Dotard! thou would'st carry thyself and all with thee, by thy narrowness
of spirit, to a port from which, when it is once entered, none ever sail
"It lieth between ye both," rejoined Nicklaus Wagner; "thou art not less
to blame than these madmen, Baptiste. Hadst thou left the town at the hour
named in our conditions, this danger could not have overtaken us."
"Am I a god to command the winds! I would that I had never seen thee or
thy cheeses, or that thou wouldst relieve me of thy presence, and go after
them into the lake."
"This comes of sleeping on duty; nay, I know not but that a proper use of
the oars would still bring us in, in safety, and without necessary harm to
the property of any. Noble Baron de Willading, here may be occasion for
your testimony, and, as a citizen of Berne, I pray you to heed well the
Baptiste was not in a humor to bear these merited reproaches, and he
rejoined upon the aggrieved Nicklaus in a manner that would speedily have
brought their ill-timed wrangle to an issue, had not Maso passed rudely
between them, shoving them asunder with the sinews of a giant. This
repulse served to keep the peace for the moment, but the wordy war
continued with so much acrimony, and with so many unmeasured terms, that
Adelheid and her maids, pale and terror-struck by the surrounding scene as
they were, gladly shut their ears, to exclude epithets of such bitterness
and menace that they curdled the blood. Maso passed on among the workmen,
when he had interposed between the disputants. He gave his orders with
perfect self-possession, though his understanding eye perceived that,
instead of magnifying the danger, he had himself not fully anticipated its
extent. The rolling of the waves was now incessant, and the quick, washing
rush of the water, a sound familiar to the seaman, announced that they
had become so large that their summits broke, sending their lighter foam
ahead. There were symptoms, too, which proved that their situation was
understood by those on the land. Lights were flashing along the strand
near Vevey, and it was not difficult to detect, even at the distance at
which they lay, the evidences of a strong feeling among the people of the
"I doubt not that we have been seen," said Melchior de Willading, "and
that our friends are busy in devising means to aid us. Roger de Blonay is
not a man to see us perish without an effort, nor would the worthy
bailiff, Peter Hofmeister, be idle, knowing that a brother of the
buergerschaft, and old school associate, hath need of his assistance."
"None can come to us, without running an equal risk with ourselves,"
answered the Genoese. "It were better that we should be left to our own
exertions. I like the coolness of this unknown mariner, and I put my faith
A new shout proclaimed that the deck had been gained, on the other side of
the bark. Much the greater part of the deck-load had now irretrievably
disappeared, and the movements of the relieved vessel were more lively and
sane. Maso called to him one or two of the regular crew, and together they
rolled up the canvass, in a manner peculiar to the latine rig; for a
breath of hot air, the first of any sort that had been felt for many hours
passed athwart the bark. This duty was performed, as canvass is known to
be furled at need, but it was done securely. Maso then went among the
laborers again, encouraging them with his voice, and directing their
efforts with his counsel.
"Thou art not equal to thy task," he said, addressing one who was vainly
endeavoring to roll a bale to the side of the vessel, a little apart from
the rest of the busy crowd; "thou wilt do better to assist the others,
than to waste thy force here."
"I feel the strength to remove a mountain! Do we not work for our lives?"
The mariner bent forward, and looked into the other's face. These frantic
and ill-directed efforts came from the Westphalian student.
"Thy star has disappeared," he rejoined, smiling--for Maso had smiled in
scenes far more imposing, than even that with which he was now surrounded.
"She gazes at it still; she thinks of one that loves her, who is
journeying far from the fatherland."
"Hold! Since thou wilt have it so, I will help thee to cast this bale into
the water. Place thine arm thus; an ounce of well-directed force is worth
a pound that acts against itself."
Stooping together, their united strength did that which had baffled the
single efforts of the scholar. The package rolled to the gangway, and the
German, frenzied with excitement, shouted aloud! The bark lurched, and the
bale went over the side, as if the lifeless mass were suddenly possessed
with the desire to perform the evolution which its inert weight had so
long resisted. Maso recovered his footing, which had been deranged by the
unexpected movement, with a seaman's dexterity, but his companion was no
longer at his side. Kneeling on the gangway, he perceived the dark bale
disappearing in the element, with the feet of the Westphalian dragging
after. He bent forward to grasp the rising body, but it never returned to
the surface, being entangled in the cords, or, what was equally probable,
retained by the frantic grasp of the student, whose mind had yielded to
the awful character of the night.
The life of Il Maledetto had been one of great vicissitudes and peril. He
had often seen men pass suddenly into the other state of existence, and
had been calm himself amid the cries, the groans, and what is far more
appalling, the execrations of the dying, but never before had he witnessed
so brief and silent an end. For more than a minute, he hung suspended over
the dark and working water, expecting to see the student return; and, when
hope was reluctantly abandoned, he arose to his feet, a startled and
admonished man. Still discretion did not desert him. He saw the
uselessness, and even the danger, of distracting the attention of the
workmen, and the ill-fated scholar was permitted to pass away without a
word of regret or a comment on his fate. None knew of his loss but the
wary mariner, nor was his person missed by any of those who had spent the
day in his company. But she to whom he hud plighted his faith on the banks
of the Elbe long gazed at that pale star, and wept in bitterness that her
feminine constancy met with no return. Her true affections long outlived
their object, for his image was deeply enshrined in a warm female heart.
Days, weeks, months, and years passed for her in the wasting cheerlessness
of hope deferred, but the dark Leman never gave up its secret, and he to
whom her lover's fate alone was known little bethought him of an accident
which, if not forgotten, was but one of many similar frightful incidents
in his eventful career.
Maso re-appeared among the crowd, with the forced composure of one who
well knew that authority was most efficient when most calm. The command of
the vessel was now virtually with him, Baptiste, enervated by the
extraordinary crisis, and choking with passion, being utterly incapable of
giving a distinct or a useful order. It was fortunate for those in the
bark that the substitute was so good, for more fearful signs never
impended over the Leman than those which darkened the hour.
We have necessarily consumed much time in relating these events, the pen
not equalling the activity of the thoughts. Twenty minutes, however, had
not passed since the tranquillity of the lake was first disturbed, and so
great had been the exertions of those in the Winkelried, that the time
appeared to be shorter. But, though it had been so well employed, neither
had the powers of the air been idle. The unnatural opening in the heavens
was shut, and, at short intervals, those fearful wheelings of the aerial
squadrons were drawing nearer. Thrice had fitful breathings of warm air
passed over the bark, and occasionally, as she plunged into a sea that was
heavier than common, the faces of those on board were cooled, as it might
be with some huge fan. These were no more, however, than sudden changes in
the atmosphere, of which veins were displaced by the distant struggle
between the heated air of the lake and that which had been chilled on the
glaciers, or, they were the still more simple result of the violent
agitation of the vessel.
The deep darkness which shut in the vault, giving to the embedded Leman
the appearance of a gloomy, liquid glen, contributed to the awful
sublimity of the night. The ramparts of Savoy were barely distinguishable
from the flying clouds, having the appearance of black walls, seemingly
within reach of the hand; while the more varied and softer cotes of Vaud
lay an indefinable and sombre mass, less menacing, it is true, but equally
confused and unattainable.
Still the beacon blazed in the grate of old Roger de Blonay, and flaring
torches glided along the strand. The shore seemed alive with human
beings, able as themselves to appreciate and to feel for their situation.
The deck was now cleared, and the travellers were collected in a group
between the masts. Pippo had lost all his pleasantry under the dread signs
of the hour, and Conrad, trembling with superstition and terror, was free
from hypocrisy. They, and those with them, discoursed on their chances, on
the nature of the risks they ran, and on its probable causes.
"I see no image of Maria, nor even a pitiful lamp to any of the blessed,
in this accursed bark!" said the juggler, after several had hazarded their
quaint and peculiar opinions. "Let the patron come forth, and answer for
The passengers were about equally divided between those who dissented from
and those who worshipped with Rome. This proposal, therefore, met with a
mixed reception. The latter protested against the neglect, while the
former, equally under the influence of abject fear, were loud in declaring
that the idolatry itself might cost them all their lives.
"The curse of heaven alight on the evil tongue that first uttered the
thought!" muttered the trembling Pippo between his teeth, too prudent to
fly openly in the face of so strong an opposition, and yet too credulous
not to feel the omission in every nerve--"Hast nothing by thee, pious
Conrad, that may avail a Christian?"
The pilgrim reached forth his hand with a rosary and cross. The sacred
emblem passed from mouth to mouth, among the believers, with a zeal little
short of that they had manifested in unloading the deck. Encouraged by
this sacrifice, they called loudly upon Baptiste to present himself.
Confronted with these unnurtured spirits, the patron shook in every limb,
for, between anger and abject fear, his self-command had by this time
absolutely deserted him. To the repeated appeals to procure a light, that
it might be placed before a picture of the mother of God which Conrad
produced, he objected his Protestant faith, the impossibility of
maintaining the flame while the bark pitched so violently, and the divided
opinions of the passengers. The Catholics bethought them of the country
and influence of Maso, and they loudly called upon him, for the love of
God! to come and enforce their requests. But the mariner was occupied on
the forecastle, lowering one anchor after another into the water,
passively assisted by the people of the bark, who wondered at a precaution
so useless, since no rope could reach the bottom, even while they did not
dare deny his orders. Something was now said of the curse that had
alighted on the vessel, in consequence of its patron's intention to embark
the headsman. Baptiste trembled to the skin of his crown, and his blood
crept with a superstitious awe.
"Dost think there can really be aught in this!" he asked, with parched
lips and a faltering tongue.
All distinction of faith was lost in the general ridicule. Now the
Westphalian was gone, there was not a man among them to doubt that a
navigation, so accompanied, would be cursed. Baptiste stammered, muttered
many incoherent sentences, and finally, in his impotency, he permitted the
dangerous secret to escape him.
The intelligence that Balthazar was among them produced a solemn and deep
silence. The fact, however, furnished as conclusive evidence of the cause
of their peril to the minds of these untutored beings, as a mathematician
could have received from the happiest of his demonstrations. New light
broke in upon them, and the ominous stillness was followed by a general
demand for the patron to point out the man. Obeying this order, partly
under the influence of a terror that was allied to his moral weakness, and
partly in bodily fear, he shoved the headsman forward, substituting the
person of the proscribed man for his own, and, profiting by the occasion,
he stole out of the crowd.
When the Herr Mueller, or as he was now known and called, Balthazar, was
rudely pushed into the hands of these ferocious agents of superstition,
the apparent magnitude of the discovery induced a general and breathless
pause. Like the treacherous calm that had so long reigned upon the lake,
it was a precursor of a fearful and violent explosion. Little was said,
for the occasion was too ominous for a display of vulgar feeling, but
Conrad, Pippo, and one or two more, silently raised the fancied offender
in their arms, and bore him desperately towards the side of the bark.
"Call on Maria, for the good of thy soul!" whispered the Neapolitan, with
a strange mixture of Christian zeal, in the midst of all his ferocity.
The sound of words like these usually conveys the idea of charity and
love, but, notwithstanding this gleam of hope, Balthazar still found
himself borne towards his fate.
On quitting the throng that clustered together in a dense body between the
masts, Baptiste encountered his old antagonist, Nicklaus Wagner. The fury
which had so long been pent in his breast suddenly found vent, and, in the
madness of the moment, he struck him. The stout Bernese grappled his
assailant, and the struggle became fierce as that of brutes. Scandalized
by such a spectacle, offended by the disrespect, and ignorant of what else
was passing near--for the crowd had uttered its resolutions in the
suppressed voices of men determined--the Baron de Willading and the Signor
Grimaldi advanced with dignity and firmness to prevent the shameful
strife. At this critical moment the voice of Balthazar was heard above the
roar of the coming wind, not calling on Maria, as he had been admonished,
but appealing to the two old nobles to save him. Sigismund sprang forward
like a lion, at the cry, but too late to reach those who were about to
cast the headsman from the gangway, he was just in time to catch the body,
by its garments, when actually sailing in the air. By a vast effort of
strength its direction was diverted. Instead of alighting in the water,
Balthazar encountered the angry combatants, who, driven back on the two
nobles, forced the whole four over the side of the bark into the water.
The struggle between the two bodies of air ceased, that on the surface of
the lake yielding to the avalanche from above, and the tempest came
howling upon the bark.
---and now the glee
Of the loud hills shakes with their mountain-mirth.
It is necessary to recapitulate a little, in order to connect events. The
signs of the hour had been gradually but progressively increasing. While
the lake was unruffled, a stillness so profound prevailed, that sounds
from the distant port, such as the heavy fall of an oar, or a laugh from
the waterman, had reached the ears of those in the Winkelried, bringing
with them the feeling of security, and the strong charm of a calm at even.
To these succeeded the gathering in the heavens, and the roaring of the
winds, as they came rushing down the sides of the Alps, in their first
descent into the basin of the Leman. As the sight grew useless, except as
it might study the dark omens of the impending vault, the sense of hearing
became doubly acute, and it had been a powerful agent in heightening the
vague but acute apprehensions of the travellers. The rushes of the wind,
which at first were broken, at intervals resembling the roar of a
chimney-top in a gale, had soon reached the fearful grandeur of those
aerial wheelings of squadrons, to which we have more than once alluded,
passing off in dread mutterings, that, in the deep quiet of all other
things, bore a close affinity to the rumbling of a surf upon the
sea-shore. The surface of the lake was first broken after one of these
symptoms, and it was this infallible sign of a gale which had assured Maso
there was no time to lose. This movement of the element in a calm is a
common phenomenon on waters that are much environed with elevated and
irregular head-lands, and it is a certain proof that wind is on some
distant portion of the sheet. It occurs frequently on the ocean, too,
where the mariner is accustomed to find a heavy sea setting in one
direction, the effects of some distant storm, while the breeze around him
is blowing in its opposite. It had been succeeded by the single rolling
swell, like the outer circle of waves produced by dropping a stone into
the water, and the regular and increasing agitation of the lake, until the
element broke as in a tempest, and that seemingly of its own volition,
since not a breath of air was stirring. This last and formidable symptom
of the force of the coming gust, however, had now become so unequivocal,
that, at the moment when the three travellers and the patron fell from her
gangway, the Winkelried, to use a seaman's phrase, was literally wallowing
in the troughs of the seas.
A dull unnatural light preceded the winds, and notwithstanding the
previous darkness, the nature of the accident was fully apparent to all.
Even the untamed spirits that had just been bent upon so fierce a
sacrifice to their superstitious dread, uttered cries of horror, while the
piercing shriek of Adelheid sounded, in that fearful moment, as if beings
of super-human attributes were riding in the gale. The name of Sigismund
was heard, too, in one of those wild appeals that the frantic suffer to
escape them, in their despair. But the interval between the plunge into
the water and the swoop of the tempest was so short, that, to the senses
of the travellers, the whole seemed the occurrence of the same teeming
Maso had completed his work on the forecasts, had seen that other
provisions which he had ordered were duly made, and had reached the
tiller, just in time to witness and to understand all that occurred.
Adelheid and her female attendants were already lashed to the principal
masts, and ropes were given to the others around her, as indispensable
precautions; for the deck of the bark, now cleared of every particle of
its freight, was as exposed and as defenceless against the power of the
wind, as a naked heath. Such was the situation of the Winkelried, when the
omens of the night changed to their dread reality.
Instinct, in cases of sudden and unusual danger must do the office of
reason. There was no necessity to warn the unthinking but panic-struck
crowd to provide for their own safety, for every man in the centre of the
barge threw his body flaon the deck, and grasped the cords that Maso had
taken care to provide for that purpose, with the tenacity with which all
who possess life cling to the means of existence. The dogs gave beautiful
proofs of the secret and wonderful means that nature has imparted, to
answer the ends of their creation. Old Uberto crouched, cowering, and
oppressed with a sense of helplessness, at the side of his master, while
the Newfoundland follower of the mariner went leaping from gangway to
gangway, snuffing the heated air, and barking wildly, as if he would
challenge the elements to close for the strife.
A vast body of warm air had passed unheeded athwart the bark, during the
minute that preceded the intended sacrifice of Balthazar. It was the
forerunner of the hurricane, which had chased it from the bed where it had
been sleeping, since the warm and happy noon-tide. Ten thousand chariots
at their speed could not have equalled the rumbling that succeeded, when
the winds came booming over the lake. As if too eager to permit anything
within their fangs to escape, they brought with them a wild, dull light,
which filled while it clouded the atmosphere, and which, it was scarcely
fanciful to imagine, had been hurried down, in their vortex, from those
chill glaciers, where they had so long been condensing their forces for
the present descent. The waves were not increased, but depressed by the
pressure of this atmospheric column, though it took up hogshead, of water
from their crests, scattering it in fine penetrating spray, till the
entire space between the heavens and the earth seemed saturated with its
The Winkelried received the shock at a moment when the lee-side of her
broad deck was wallowing in the trough, and its weather was protruded on
the summit of a swell. The wind howled when it struck the pent limits, as
if angered at being thwarted, and there was a roar under the wide
gangways, resembling that of lions. The reeling vessel was raised in a
manner to cause those or board to believe it about to be lifted bodily
from the water, but the ceaseless rolling of the element restored the
balance. Maso afterwards affirmed that nothing but this accidental
position, which formed a sort of lee, prevented all in the bark from being
swept from the deck, before the first gust of the hurricane.
Sigismund had heard the heart-rending appeal of Adelheid, and,
notwithstanding the awful strife of the elements and the fearful character
of the night, he alone breasted the shock on his feet. Though aided by a
rope, and bowed like a reed, his herculean frame trembled under the shock,
in a way to render even his ability to resist seriously doubtful. But, the
first blast expended, he sprang to the gangway, and leaped into the
cauldron of the lake unhesitatingly, and yet in the possession of all his
faculties. He was desperately bent on saving a life so dear to Adelheid,
or on dying in the attempt.
Maso had watched the crisis with a seaman's eye, a seaman's resources, and
a seaman's coolness. He had not refused to quit his feet, but kneeling on
one knee, he pressed the tiller down, lashed it, and clinging to the
massive timber, faced the tempest with the steadiness of a water-god.
There was sublimity in the intelligence, deliberation, and calculating
skill, with which this solitary, unknown, and nearly hopeless, mariner
obeyed his professional instinct, in that fearful concussion of the
elements, which, loosened from every restraint, now appeared abandoned to
their own wild and fierce will. He threw aside his cap, pushed forward his
thick but streaming locks, as veils to protect his eyes, and watched the
first encounter of the wind, as the wary but sullen lion keeps his gaze on
the hostile elephant. A grim smile stole across his features, when he felt
the vessel settle again into its watery bed, after that breathless moment
in which there had been reason to fear it might actually be lifted from
its proper element. Then the precaution, which had seemed so useless and
incomprehensible to others, came in play. The bark made a fearful whirl
from the spot where it had so long lain, yielding to the touch of the gust
like a vane turning on its pivot, while the water gurgled several streaks
on deck. But the cables were no sooner taut than the numerous anchors
resisted, and brought the bark head to wind. Maso felt the yielding of the
vessel's stern, as she swung furiously round, and he cheered aloud. The
trembling of the timbers, the dashing against the pointed beak, and that
high jet of water, which shot up over the bows and fell heavily on the
forecastle, washing aft in a flood, were so many evidences that the cables
were true. Advancing from his post, with some such dignity as a master of
fence displays in the exercise of his art, he shouted for his dog.
"Nettuno!--Nettuno!--where art thou, brave Nettuno?"
The faithful animal was whining near him, unheard in that war of the
elements. He waited only for this encouragement to act. No sooner was his
master's voice heard, than, barking bravely, he snuffed the gale, dashed
to the side of the vessel, and leaped into the boiling lake.
When Melchior de Willading and his friend returned to the surface, after
their plunge, it was like men making their appearance in a world abandoned
to the infernal humors of the fiends of darkness. The reader will
understand it was at the instant of the swoop of the winds, that has just
been detailed, for what we have taken so many pages to describe in words,
scarce needed a minute of time in the accomplishment.
Maso knelt on the verge of the gangway, sustaining himself by passing an
arm around a shroud, and, bending forward, he gazed into the cauldron of
the lake with aching eyes. Once or twice, he thought he heard the stifled
breathing of one who struggled with the raging water; but, in that roar of
the winds, it was easy to be deceived. He shouted encouragement to his
dog, however, and gathering a small rope rapidly, he made a heaving coil
of one of its ends. This he cast far from him, with a peculiar swing and
dexterity, hauling-in, and repeating the experiments, steadily and with
unwearied industry. The rope was necessarily thrown at hazard, for the
misty light prevented more than it aided vision; and the howling of the
powers of the air filled his ears with sounds that resembled the laugh of
In the cultivation of the youthful manly exercises, neither of the old
nobles had neglected the useful skill of being able to buffet with the
waves. But both possessed what was far better, in such a strait, than the
knowledge of a swimmer, in that self-command and coolness in emergencies
which they are apt to acquire, who pass their time in encountering the
hazards and in overcoming the difficulties of war. Each retained a
sufficiency of recollection, therefore, on coming to the surface, to
understand his situation, and not to increase the danger by the
ill-directed and frantic efforts that usually drown the frightened. The
case was sufficiently desperate, at the best, without the additional risk
of distraction, for the bark had already drifted to some unseen spot,
that, as respects them, was quite unattainable. In this uncertainty, it
would have been madness to steer amid the waste of waters, as likely to
go wrong as right, and they limited their efforts to mutual support and
encouragement, placing their trust in God.
Not so with Sigismund. To him the roaring tempest was mute, the boiling
and hissing lake had no horrors, and he had plunged into the fathomless
Leman as recklessly as he could have leaped to land. The shriek, the
"Sigismund! oh, Sigismund!" of Adelheid, was in his ears, and her cry of
anguish thrilled on every nerve. The athletic young Swiss was a practised
and expert swimmer, or it is improbable that even these strong impulses
could have overcome the instinct of self-preservation. In a tranquil
basin, it would have been no extraordinary or unusual feat for him to
conquer the distance between the Winkelried and the shores of Vaud; but,
like all the others, on casting himself into the water, he was obliged to
shape his course at random, and this, too, amid such a driving spray as
rendered even respiration difficult. As has been said, the waves were
compressed into their bed rather than augmented by the wind; but, had it
been otherwise, the mere heaving and settling of the element, while it
obstructs his speed, offers a support rather than an obstacle to the
Notwithstanding all these advantages, the strength of his impulses, and
the numberless occasions on which he had breasted the surges of the
Mediterranean, Sigismund, on recovering from his plunge, felt the fearful
chances of the risk he ran, as the stern soldier meets the hazards of
battle, in which he knows if there is victory there is also death. He
dashed the troubled water aside, though he swam blindly, and each stroke
urged him farther from the bark, his only hope of safety. He was between
dark rolling mounds, and, on rising to their summits, a hurricane of mist
made him glad to sink again within a similar shelter. The breaking crests
of the waves, which were glancing off in foam, also gave him great
annoyance, for such was their force, that, more than once, he was hurled
helpless as a log before them. Still he swam boldly, and with strength;
nature having gifted him with more than the usual physical energy of man.
But, uncertain in his course, unable to see the length of his own body,
and pressed hard upon by the wind, even the spirit of Sigismund Steinbach
could not long withstand so many adverse circumstances. He had already
turned, wavering in purpose, thinking to catch a glimpse of the bark in
the direction he had come, when a dark mass floated immediately before his
eyes, and he felt the cold clammy nose of the dog, scenting about his
face. The admirable instinct, or we might better say, the excellent
training of Nettuno, told him that his services were not needed here, and,
barking with wild delight, as if in mockery of the infernal din of the
tempest, he sheered aside, and swam swiftly on. A thought flashed like
lightning on the brain of Sigismund. His best hope was in the inexplicable
faculties of this animal. Throwing forward an arm, he seized the bushy
tail of the dog, and suffered himself to be dragged ahead, he knew not
whither, though he seconded the movement with his own exertions. Another
bark proclaimed that the experiment was successful, and voices, rising as
it were from the water, close at hand, announced the proximity of human
beings. The brunt of the hurricane was past, and the washing of the waves,
which had been stilled by the roar and the revelry of the winds, again
The strength of the two struggling old men was sinking fast. The Signor
Grimaldi had, thus far, generously sustained his friend, who was less
expert than himself in the water, and he continued to cheer him with a
hope he did not feel himself, nobly refusing to the last to separate their
"How dost find thyself, old Melchior?" he asked. "Cheer thee, friend--I
think there is succor at hand."
The water gurgled at the mouth of the baron, who was near the gasp.
"'Tis late--bless thee, dearest Gaetano--God be with my child--my
The utterance of this precious name, under a father's agony of spirit,
most probably saved his life. The sinewy arm of Sigismund, directed by the
words, grasped his dress, and he felt at once that a new and preserving
power had interposed between him and the caverns of the lake. It was time,
for the water had covered the face of the failing baron, ere the muscular
arm of the youth came to perform its charitable office.
"Yield thee to the dog, Signore," said Sigismund, clearing his mouth of
water to speak calmly, once assured of his own burthen; "trust to his
sagacity, and,--God keep us in mind!--all may yet be well!"
The Signor Grimaldi retained sufficient presence of mind to follow this
advice, and it was probably quite as fortunate that his friend had so far
lost his consciousness, as to become an unresisting burthen in the hands
"Nettuno!--gallant Nettuno!"--swept past them on the gale for the first
time, the partial hushing of the winds permitting the clear call of Maso
to reach so far. The sound directed the efforts of Sigismund, though the
dog had swum steadily away the moment he had the Genoese in his gripe, and
with a certainty of manner that showed he was at no loss for a direction.
But Sigismund had taxed his powers too far. He, who could have buffeted
an ordinary sea for hours, was now completely exhausted by the unwonted
exertions, the deadening influence of the tempest, and the log-like weight
of his burthen He would not desert the father of Adelheid, and yet each
fainting and useless stroke told him to despair. The dog had already
disappeared in the darkness, and he was even uncertain again of the true
position of the bark. He prayed in agony for a single glimpse of the
rocking masts and yards, or to catch one syllable of the cheering voice of
Maso. But in both his wishes were vain. In place of the former, he had
naught but the veiled misty light, that had come on with the hurricane;
and, instead of the latter, his ears were filled with the washing of the
waves and the roars of the gusts. The blasts now descended to the surface
of the lake, and now went whirling and swelling upward, in a way to lead
the listener to fancy that the viewless winds might, for once, be seen.
For a single painful instant, in one of those disheartening moments of
despair that will come over the stoutest, his hand was about to relinquish
its hold of the baron, and to make the last natural struggle for life; but
that fair and modest picture of maiden loveliness and truth, which had so
long haunted his waking hours and adorned his night-dreams, interposed to
prevent the act. After this brief and fleeting weakness, the young man
seemed endowed with new energy. He swam stronger, and with greater
apparent advantage, than before.
"Nettuno--gallant Nettuno!"--again drove over him, bringing with it the
chilling certainty, that turned from his course by the rolling of the
water he had thrown away these desperate efforts, by taking a direction
which led him from the bark. While there was the smallest appearance of
success no difficulties, of whatever magnitude, could entirely extinguish
hope; but when the dire conviction that he had been actually aiding,
instead of diminishing the danger, pressed upon Sigismund, he abandoned
his efforts. The most he endeavored or hoped to achieve, was to keep his
own head and that of his companion above the fatal element, while he
answered the cry of Maso with a shout of despair.
"Nettuno!--gallant Nettuno!"--again flew past on the gale.
This cry might have been an answer, or it might merely be the Italian
encouraging his dog to bear on the body, with which it was already loaded
Sigismund uttered a shout, which he felt must be the last. He struggled
desperately, but in vain the world and its allurements were vanishing from
his thoughts, when a dark line whirled over him, and fell thrashing upon
the very wave which covered his face. An instinctive grasp caught it, and
the young soldier felt himself impelled ahead. He had seized the rope
which the mariner had not ceased to throw, as the fisherman casts his
line, and he was at the side of the bark, before his confused faculties
enabled him to understand the means employed for his rescue.
Maso took a hasty turn with the rope, and, stooping forward, favored by a
roll of the vessel, he drew the Baron de Willading upon deck. Watching his
time, he repeated the experiment, always with admirable coolness and
dexterity, placing Sigismund also in safety. The former was immediately
dragged senseless to the centre of the bark, where he received those
attentions that had just been eagerly offered to the Signior Grimaldi, and
with the same happy results. But Sigismund motioned all away from himself,
knowing that their cares were needed elsewhere. He staggered forward a
few paces, and then, yielding to a complete exhaustion of his power, he
fell at full length on the wet planks. He long lay panting, speechless,
and unable to move, with a sense of death on his frame.
"Nettuno! gallant, gallant Nettuno!"--shouted the indefatigable Maso,
still at his post on the gangway, whence he cast his rope with unchanging
perseverance. The fitful winds, which had already played so many fierce
antics that eventful night, sensibly lulled, and, giving one or two sighs,
as if regretting that they were about to be curbed again by that almighty
Master, from whose benevolent hands they had so furtively escaped, as
suddenly ceased blowing. The yards creaked, swinging loosely, above the
crowded deck, and the dull washing of water filled the ear. To these
diminished sounds were to be added the barking of the dog, who was still
abroad in the darkness, and a struggling noise like the broken and
smothered attempts of human voices. Although the time appeared an age to
all who awaited the result, scarcely five minutes had elapsed since the
accident occurred and the hurricane had reached them. There was still
hope, therefore, for those who yet remained in the water. Maso felt the
eagerness of one who had already been successful beyond his hopes, and, in
his desire to catch some guiding signal, he leaned forward, till the
rolling lake washed into his face.
"Ha! gallant--gallant Nettuno!"
Men certainly spoke, and that near him. But the sounds resembled words
uttered beneath a cover. The wind whistled, too, though but for a moment,
and then it seemed to sail upward into the dark vault of the heavens.
Nettuno barked audibly, and his master answered with another shout, for
the sympathy of man in his kind is inextinguishable.
"My brave, my noble Nettuno!"
The stillness was now imposing, and Maso heard the dog growl. This
ill-omened signal was undeniably followed by smothered voices. The latter
became clearer, as if the mocking winds were willing that a sad exhibition
of human frailty should be known, or, what is more probable, violent
passion had awakened stronger powers of speech. This much the mariner
"Loosen thy grasp, accursed Baptiste!"
"Wretch, loosen thine own!"
"Is God naught with thee?"
"Why dost throttle so, infernal Nicklaus?"
"Thou wilt die damned!"
He heard no more. The merciful elements interposed to drown the appalling
strife. Once or twice the dog howled, but the tempest came across the
Leman again in its might, as if the short pause had been made merely to
take breath. The winds took a new direction; and the bark, still held by
its anchors, swung wide off from its former position, tending in towards
the mountains of Savoy. During the first burst of this new blast, even
Maso was glad to crouch to the deck, for millions of infinitely fine
particles were lifted from the lake, and driven on with the atmosphere
with a violence to take away his breath. The danger of being swept before
the furious tide of the driving element was also an accident not
impossible. When the lull returned, no exertion of his faculties could
catch a single sound foreign to the proper character of the scene, such as
the plash of the water, and the creaking of the long, swinging yards.
The mariner now felt a deep concern for his dog. He called to him until he
grew hoarse, but fruitlessly. The change of position, with the constant
and varying drift of the vessel, had carried them beyond the reach of the
human voice. More time was expended in summoning "Nettuno! gallant
Nettuno!" than had been consumed in the passage of all the events which it
has been necessary to our object to relate so minutely, and always with
the same want of success. The mind of Maso was pitched to a degree far
above the opinions and habits of those with whom his life brought him
ordinarily in contact, but as even fine gold will become tarnished by
exposure to impure air, he had not entirely escaped the habitual
weaknesses of the Italians of his class. When he found that no cry could
recall his faithful companion, he threw himself upon the deck in a
paroxysm of passion, tore his hair, and wept audibly.
"Nettuno! my brave, my faithful Nettuno!" he said. "What are all these to
me, without thee! Thou alone lovedst me--thou alone hast passed with me
through fair and foul--through good and evil, without change, or wish for
another master! When the pretended friend has been false, thou hast
remained faithful! When others were sycophants thou wert never a
Struck with this singular exhibition of sorrow, the good Augustine, who,
until now, like all the others, had been looking to his own safety, or
employed in restoring the exhausted, took advantage of the favorable
change in the weather, and advanced with the language of consolation.
"Thou hast saved all our lives, bold mariner," he said; "and there are
those in the bark who will know how to reward thy courage and skill,
Forget, then, thy dog, and indulge in a grateful heart to Maria and the
saints, that they have been our friends and thine in this exceeding
"Father, I have eaten with the animal--slept with the animal--fought,
swum, and made merry with him, and I could now drown with him! What are
thy nobles and their gold to me, without my dog? The gallant brute will
die the death of despair, swimming about in search of the bark in the
midst of the darkness, until even one of his high breed and courage must
suffer his heart to burst."
"Christians have been called into the dread presence, unconfessed and
unshrived, to-night; and we should bethink us of their souls, rather than
indulge in this grief in behalf of one that, however faithful, ends but an
unreasoning and irresponsible existence."
All this was thrown away upon Maso, who crossed himself habitually at the
allusion to the drowned, but who did not the less bewail the loss of his
dog, whom he seemed to love, like the affection that David bore for
Jonathan, with a love surpassing that of women. Perceiving that his
counsel was useless, the good Augustine turned away, to knee and offer up
his own orisons of gratitude, and to bethink him of the dead.
"Nettuno! _povera, carissima bestia!_" continued Maso, "whither art thou
swimming, in this infernal quarrel between the air and water? Would I were
with thee, dog! No mortal shall ever share the love I bore thee, _povero
Nettuno!_--I will never take another to my heart, like thee!"
The outbreaking of Maso's grief was sudden, and it was brief in its
duration. In this respect it might be likened to the hurricane that had
just passed. Excessive violence, in both cases, appeared to bring its own