Part 3 out of 8
remedy, for the irregular fitful gusts from the mountains had already
ceased, and were succeeded by a strong but steady gale from the north; and
the sorrow of Maso soon ended its characteristic plaints, to take a more
continued and even character.
During the whole of the foregoing scenes, the Common passengers had
crouched to the deck, partly in stupor, partly in superstitious dread,
and much of the time, from a positive inability to move without incurring
the risk of being driven from the defenceless vessel into the lake. But,
as the wind diminished in force, and the motion of the bark became more
regular, they rallied their senses, like men who had been in a trance, and
one by one they rose to their feet. About this time Adelheid heard the
sound of her father's voice, blessing her care, and consoling her sorrow.
The north wind blew away the canopy of clouds, and the stars shone upon
the angry Leman, bringing with them some such promise of divine aid as the
pillar of fire afforded to the Israelites in their passage of the Red Sea.
Such an evidence of returning peace brought renewed confidence. All in the
bark, passengers as well as crew, took courage at the benignant signs,
while Adelheid wept, in gratitude and joy, over the gray hairs of her
Maso had now obtained complete command of the Winkelried, as much by the
necessity of the case, as by the unrivalled skill and courage he had
manifested during the fearful minutes of their extreme jeopardy. No sooner
did he succeed in staying his own grief, than he called the people about
him, and issued his orders for the new measures that had become necessary.
All who have ever been subject to their influence know that there is
nothing more uncertain than the winds. Their fickleness has passed into a
proverb; but their inconstancy, as well as their power, from the fanning
air to the destructive tornado, are to be traced to causes that are
sufficiently clear, though hid in their nature from the calculations of
our forethought. The tempest of the night was owing to the simple fact,
that a condensed and chilled column of the mountains had pressed upon the
heated substratum of the lake, and the latter, after a long resistance,
suddenly finding vent for its escape, had been obliged to let in the
cataract from above. As in all extraordinary efforts, whether physical or
moral, reaction would seem to be a consequence of excessive action, the
currents of air, pushed beyond their proper limits, were now setting back
again, like a tide on its reflux. This cause produced the northern gale
that succeeded the hurricane.
The wind that came from off the shores of Vaud was steady and fresh. The
barks of the Leman are not constructed for beating to windward, and it
might even have been questioned, whether the Winkelried would have borne
her canvass against so heavy a breeze. Maso, however, appeared to
understand himself thoroughly, and as he had acquired the influence which
hardihood and skill are sure to obtain over doubt and timidity in
situations of hazard, he was obeyed by all on board with submission, if
not with zeal. No more was heard of the headsman or of his supposed agency
in the storm; and, as he prudently kept himself in the back-ground, so as
not to endanger a revival of the superstition of his enemies, he seemed
The business of getting the anchors occupied a considerable time, for Maso
refused, now there existed no necessity for the sacrifice, to permit a
yarn to be cut; but, released from this hold on the water, the bark
whirled away, and was soon driving before the wind. The mariner was at the
helm, and, causing the head-sail to be loosened, he steered directly for
the rocks of Savoy. This manoeuvre excited disagreeable suspicions in the
minds of several on board, for the lawless character of their pilot had
been more than suspected in the course of their short acquaintance, and
the coast towards which they were furiously rushing known to be
iron-bound, and, in such a gale fatal to all who came rudely upon its
rocks. Half-an-hour removed their apprehensions. When near enough to the
mountains to feel their deadening influence on the gale, the natural
effect of the eddies, formed by their resistance to the currents, he
luffed-to and set his main-sail. Relieved by this wise precaution, the
Winkelried now wore her canvass gallantly, and she dashed along the shore
of Savoy with a foaming beak, shooting past ravine, valley, glen, and
hamlet, as if sailing in air.
In less than an hour, St. Gingoulph, or the village through which the
dividing line between the territories of Switzerland and those of the King
of Sardinia passes, was abeam, and the excellent calculations of the
sagacious Maso became still more apparent. He had foreseen another shift
of wind, as the consequence of all this poise and counterpoise, and he was
here met by the true breeze of the night. The last current came out of the
gorge of the Valais, sullen, strong, and hoarse, bringing him, however,
fairly to windward of his port. The Winkelried was cast in season, and,
when the gale struck her anew, her canvass drew fairly, and she walked out
from beneath the mountains into the broad lake, like a swan obeying its
The passage across the width of the Leman, in that horn of the crescent
and in such a breeze, required rather more than an hour. This time was
occupied among the common herd in self-felicitations, and in those vain
boastings that distinguish the vulgar who have escaped an imminent danger
without any particular merit of their own. Among those whose spirits were
better trained and more rebuked, there were attentions to the sufferers
and deep thanksgivings with the touching intercourse of the grateful and
happy. The late scenes, and the fearful fate of the patron and Nicholaus
Wagner, cast a shade upon their joy, but all inwardly felt that they had
been snatched from the jaws of death.
Maso shaped his course by the beacon that still blazed in the grate of old
Roger de Blonay. With his eye riveted on the luff of his sail, his hip
bearing hard against the tiller, and a heart that relieved itself, from
time to time, with bitter sighs, he ruled the bark like a presiding
At length the black mass of the cotes of Vaud took more distinct and
regular forms. Here and there, a tower or a tree betrayed its outlines
against the sky, and then the objects on the margin of the lake began to
stand out in gloomy relief from the land. Lights flared along the strand,
and cries reached them, from the shore. A dark shapeless pile stood
directly athwart their watery path, and, at the next moment, it took the
aspect of a ruined castle-like edifice. The canvass flapped and was
handed, the Winkelried rose and set more slowly and with a gentler
movement, and glided into the little, secure, artificial haven of La Tour
de Peil. A forest of latine yards and low masts lay before them, but, by
giving the bark a rank sheer, Maso brought her to her berth, by the side
of another lake craft, with a gentleness of collision that, as the
mariners have it, would not have broken an egg.
A hundred voices greeted the travellers; for their approach had been seen
and watched with intense anxiety. Fifty eager Vevaisans poured upon her
deck, in a noisy crowd, the instant it was possible. Among others, a dark
shaggy object bounded foremost. It leaped wildly forward, and Maso found
himself in the embraces of Nettuno. A little later, when delight and a
more tempered feeling permitted examination, a lock of human hair was
discovered entangled in the teeth of the dog, and the following week the
bodies of Baptiste and the peasant of Berne were found still clenched in
the desperate death-gripe, washed upon the shores of Vaud.
The moon is up; by Heaven a lovely eve!
Long streams of light, o'er glancing waves expand,
Now lads on shore may sigh and maids believe:
Such be our fate when we return to land!
The approach of the Winkelried had been seen from Vevey throughout the
afternoon and evening. The arrival of the Baron de Willading and his
daughter was expected by many in the town, the rank and influence of the
former in the great canton rendering him an object of interest to more
than those who felt affection for his person and respect for his upright
qualities. Roger de Blonay had not been his only youthful friend, for the
place contained another, with whom he was intimate by habit, if not from a
community of those principles which are the best cement of friendships.
The officer charged with the especial supervision of the districts or
circles, into which Berne had caused its dependent territory of Vaud to be
divided, was termed a _bailli_, a title that our word bailiff will
scarcely render, except as it may strictly mean a substitute for the
exercise of authority that is the property of another, but which, for the
want of a better term, we may be compelled occasionally to use. The
bailli, or bailiff, of Vevey was Peter Hofmeister, a member of one of
those families of the buergerschaft, or the municipal aristocracy of the
canton, which found its institutions venerable, just, and, and if one
might judge from their language, almost sacred, simply because it had been
in possession of certain exclusive privileges under their authority, that
were not only comfortable in their exercise but fecund in other worldly
advantages. This Peter Hofmeister was, in the main, a hearty,
well-meaning, and somewhat benevolent person, but, living as he did under
the secret consciousness that all was not as it should be, he pushed his
opinions on the subject of vested interests, and on the stability of
temporal matters, a little into extremes, pretty much on the same
principle as that on which the engineer expends the largest portion of his
art in fortifying the weakest point of the citadel, taking care that there
shall be a constant flight of shot, great and small, across the most
accessible of its approaches. By one of the exclusive ordinances of those
times, in which men were glad to get relief from the violence and rapacity
of the baron and the satellite of the prince, ordinances that it was the
fashion of the day to term liberty, the family of Hofmeister had come into
the exercise of a certain charge, or monopoly, that, in truth, had always
constituted its wealth and importance, but of which it was accustomed to
speak as forming its principal claim to the gratitude of the public, for
duties that had been performed not only so well, but for so long a period,
by an unbroken succession of patriots descended from the same stock. They
who judged of the value attached to the possession of this charge, by the
animation with which all attempts to relieve them of the burthen were
repelled, must have been in error; for, to hear their friends descant on
the difficulties of the duties, of the utter impossibility that they
should be properly discharged by any family that had not been in their
exercise just one hundred and seventy-two years and a half, the precise
period of the hard servitude of the Hofmeisters, and the rare merit of
their self-devotion to the common good, it would seem that they were so
many modern Curtii, anxious to leap into the chasm of uncertain and
endless toil, to save the Republic from the ignorance and peculations of
certain interested and selfish knaves, who wished to enjoy the same high
trusts, for a motive so unworthy as that of their own particular
advantage. This subject apart, however, and with a strong reservation in
favor of the supremacy of Berne, on whom his importance depended, a better
or a more philanthropic man than Peter Hofmeister would not have been
easily found. He was a hearty laugher, a hard drinker, a common and
peculiar failing of the age, a great respecter of the law, as was meet in
one so situated, and a bachelor of sixty-eight, a time of life that, by
referring his education to a period more remote by half a century, than
that in which the incidents of our legend took place, was not at all in
favor of any very romantic predilection in behalf of the rest of the human
race. In short, the Herr Hofmeister was a bailiff, much as Balthazar was a
headsman, on account of some particular merit or demerit, (it might now be
difficult to say which,) of one of his ancestors, by the laws of the
canton, and by the opinions of men. The only material difference between
them was in the fact, that the one greatly enjoyed his station, while the
other had but an indifferent relish for his trust.
When Roger de Blonay, by the aid of a good glass, had assured himself that
the bark which lay off St. Saphorin, in the even tide, with yards
a-cock-bill, and sails pendent in their picturesque drapery, contained a
party of gentle travellers who occupied the stern, and saw by the plumes
and robes that a female of condition was among them, he gave an order to
prepare the beacon-fire, and descended to the port, in order to be in
readiness to receive his friend. Here he found the bailiff, pacing the
public promenade, which is washed by the limpid water of the lake, with
the air of a man who had more on his mind than the daily cares of office.
Although the Baron de Blonay was a Vaudois, and looked upon all the
functionaries of his country's conquerors with a species of hereditary
dislike, he was by nature a man of mild and courteous qualities, and the
meeting was, as usual, friendly in the externals, and of seeming
cordiality. Great care was had by both to speak in the second person; on
the part of the Vaudois, that it might be seen he valued himself as, at
least, the equal of the representative of Berne, and, on that of the
bailiff, in order to show that his office made him as good as the head of
the oldest house in all that region.
"Thou expectest to see friends from Genf in yonder bark?" said the Herr
"A friend, and one more than a friend;" answered the bailiff, evasively.
"My advices tell me that Melchior de Willading will sojourn among us
during the festival of the Abbaye, and secret notice has been sent that
there will be another here, who wishes to see our merry-making, without
pretension to the honors that he might fairly claim."
"It is not rare for nobles of mark, and even princes, to visit us on these
occasions, under feigned names and without the _eclat_ of their rank, for
the great, when they descend to follies, seldom like to bring their high
condition within their influence."
"The wiser they. I have my own troubles with these accursed fooleries,
for--it may be a weakness, but it is one that is official--I cannot help
imagining that a bailiff cuts but a shabby figure before the people, in
the presence of so many gods and goddesses. To own to thee the truth, I
rejoice that he who cometh, cometh as he doth.--Hast letters of late date
"None; though report says that there is like to be a change among some of
those who fill the public trusts."
"So much the worse!" growled the bailiff. "Is it to be expected that men
who never did an hour's duty in a charge can acquit themselves like those
who have, it might be said, sucked in practice with their mother's milk?"
"Ay; this is well enough for thee; but others say that even the Erlachs
had a beginning."
"Himmel! Am I a heathen to deny this? As many beginnings as thou wilt,
good Roger, but I like not thy ends. No doubt an Erlach is mortal, like
all of us, and even a created being; but a man is not a charge. Let the
clay die, if thou wilt, but, if thou wouldst have faithful or skilful
servants look to the true successor. But we will have none of this
to-day.--Hast many guests at Blonay?"
"Not one. I look for the company of Melchior de Willading and his
daughter--and yet I like not the time! There are evil signs playing about
the high peaks and in the neighborhood of the Dents since the sun has
"Thou art ever in a storm up in thy castle there! The Leman was never more
peaceable, and I should take it truly in evil part, were the rebellious
lake to get into one of its fits of sudden anger with so precious a
freight on its bosom."
"I do not think the Genfer See will regard even a bailiff's displeasure!"
rejoined the Baron de Blonay, laughing. "I repeat it; the signs are
suspicious. Let us consult the watermen, for it may be well to send a
light-pulling boat to bring the travellers to land."
Roger de Blonay and the bailiff walked towards the little earthen mole,
that partially protects the roadstead of Vevey, and which is for ever
forming and for ever washing away before the storms of winter, in order to
consult some of those who were believed to be expert in detecting the
symptoms that precede any important changes of the atmosphere. The
opinions were various. Most believed there would be a gust; but, as the
Winkelried was known to be a new and well-built bark, and none could tell
how much beyond her powers she had been loaded by the cupidity of
Baptiste, and as it was generally thought the wind would be as likely to
bring her up to her haven as to be against her, there appeared no
sufficient reason for sending off the boat; especially as it was believed
the bark would be not only drier but safer than a smaller craft, should
they be overtaken by the wind. This indecision, so common in cases of
uncertainty, was the means of exposing Adelheid and her father to all
those fearful risks they had just run.
When the night came on, the people of the town began to understand that
the tempest would be grave for those who were obliged to encounter it,
even in the best bark on the Leman. The darkness added to the danger, for
vessels had often run against the land by miscalculating their distances;
and the lights were shown along the strand, by order of the bailiff, who
manifested an interest so unusual in those on board the Winkelried, as to
draw about them more than the sympathy that would ordinarily be felt for
travellers in distress. Every exertion that the case admitted was made in
their behalf, and, the moment the state of the lake allowed, boats were
sent off, in every probable direction, to their succor. But the Winkelried
was running along the coast of Savoy, ere any ventured forth, and the
search proved fruitless. When the rumor spread, however, that a sail was
to be discerned coming out from under the wide shadow of the opposite
mountains, and that it was steering for La Tour de Peil, a village with a
far safer harbor than that of Vevey, and but an arrow's flight from the
latter town, crowds rushed to the spot. The instant it was known that the
missing party was in her, the travellers were received with cheers of
delight and cries of hearty greeting.
The bailiff and Roger de Blonay hastened forward to receive the Baron de
Willading and his friends, who were carried in a tumultuous and joyful
manner into the old castle that adjoins the port, and from which, in
truth, the latter derives its name. The Bernois noble was too much
affected with the scenes through which he had so lately passed, and with
the strong and ungovernable tenderness of Adelheid, who had wept over him
as a mother sobs over her recovered child, to exchange greetings with him
of Vaud, in the hearty, cordial manner that ordinarily characterized their
meetings. Still their peculiar habits shone through the restraint.
"Thou seest me just rescued from the fishes of thy Leman, dear de Blonay,"
he said, squeezing the other's hand with emotion, as, leaning on his
shoulder, they went into the chateau. "But for yonder brave youth, and as
honest a mariner as ever floated on water, fresh or salt, all that is left
of old Melchior de Willading would, at this moment, be of less value than
the meanest fera in thy lake!"
"God be praised that thou art as we see thee! We feared for thee, and
boats are out at this moment in search of thy bark: but it has been wiser
ordered. This brave young man, who, I see, is both a Swiss and a soldier,
is doubly welcome among us,--in the two characters just named, and as one
that hath done thee and us so great a service."
Sigismund received the compliments which he so well merited with modesty.
The bailiff, however, not content with making the usual felicitations,
whispered in his ear that a service like this, rendered to one of its most
esteemed nobles, would not be forgotten by the Councils on a proper
"Thou art happily arrived, Herr Melchior," he then added, aloud; "come as
thou wilt, floating or sailing in air. We have thee among us none the
worse for the accident, and we thank God, as Roger de Blonay has just so
well observed. Our Abbaye is like to be a gallant ceremony, for divers
gentlemen of name are in the town, and I hear of more that are pricking
forward among the mountains from countries beyond the Rhine. Hadst thou no
other companions in the bark but these I see around us?"
"There is another, and I wonder that he is not here! 'Tis a noble Genoese,
that thou hast often heard me name, Sire de Blonay, as one that I love.
Gaetano Grimaldi is a name familiar to thee, or the words of friendship
have been uttered in an idle ear."
"I have heard so much of the Italian that I can almost fancy him an old
and tried acquaintance. When thou first returnedst from the Italian wars,
thy tongue was never weary of recounting his praises: it was Gaetano said
this--Gaetano thought thus--Gaetano did that! Surely he is not of thy
"He, and no other! A lucky meeting on the quay of Genf brought us together
again after a separation of full thirty years, and, as if Heaven had
reserved its trials for the occasion, we have been made to go through the
late danger in company. I had him in my arms in that fearful moment,
Roger, when the sky, and the mountains, and all of earth, even to that
dear girl, were fading, as I thought for ever, from my sight,--he, that
had already been my partner in so many risks, who had bled for me, watched
for me, ridden for me, and did all other things that love could prompt for
me, was brought by Providence to be my companion in the awful strait
through which I have just passed!"
While the Baron was still speaking, his friend entered with the quiet and
dignified mien he always maintained, when it was not his pleasure to throw
aside the reserve of high station, or when he yielded to the torrents of
feeling that sometimes poured through his southern temperament, in a way
to unsettle the deportment of mere convention. He was presented to Roger
de Blonay and the bailiff, as the person just alluded to, and as the
oldest and most tried of the friends of his introducer. His reception by
the former was natural and warm, while the Herr Hofmeister was so
particular in his professions of pleasure and respect as to excite not
only notice but surprise.
"Thanks, thanks, good Peterchen," said the Baron de Willading, for such
was the familiar diminutive by which the bustling bailiff was usually
addressed by those who could take the liberty; thanks, honest Peterchen;
thy kindness to Gaetano is so much love shown to myself."
"I honor thy friends as thyself, Herr von Willading," returned the
bailiff; "for thou hast a claim to the esteem of the buergerschaft and all
its servants; but the homage paid to the Signor Grimaldi is due on his own
account. We are but poor Swiss, that dwell in the midst of wild mountains,
little favored by the sun if ye will, and less known to the world;--but we
have our manners! A man that hath been intrusted with authority as long as
I were unfit for his trust, did he not tell, as it might be by instinct,
when he has those in his presence that are to be honored. Signore, the
loss of Melchior von Willading before our haven, would have made the lake
unpleasant to us all, for months, not to say years; but, had so great a
calamity arrived as that of your death by means of our waters, I could
have prayed that the mountains might fall into the basin, and bury the
offending Leman under their rocks!"
Melchior de Willading and old Roger de Blonay laughed heartily at
Peterchen's hyperbolical compliments; though it was quite plain that the
worthy bailiff himself fancied he had said a clever thing.
"I thank you, Signore, no less than my friend de Willading," returned the
Genoese, a gleam of humor lighting his eye. "This courteous reception
quite outdoes us of Italy; for I doubt if there be a man south of the
Alps, who would be willing to condemn either of our seas to so
overwhelming a punishment, for a fault so venial, or at least so natural.
I beg, however, that the lake may be pardoned; since, at the worst, it was
but a secondary agent in the affair, and, I doubt not, it would have
treated us as it treats all travellers, had we kept out of its embraces.
The crime must be imputed to the winds, and as they are the offspring of
the hills, I fear it will be found that these very mountains, to which you
look for retribution, will be convicted at last as the true devisers and
abettors of the plot against our lives."
The bailiff chuckled and simpered, like a man pleased equally with his own
wit and with that he had excited in others, and the discourse changed;
though, throughout the night, as indeed was the fact on all other
occasions during his visit, the Signor Grimaldi received from him so
marked and particular attentions, as to create a strong sentiment in favor
of the Italian among those who had been chiefly accustomed to see
Peterchen enact the busy, important, dignified, local functionary.
Attention was now paid to the first wants of the travellers, who had great
need of refreshments after the fatigues and exposure of the day. To obtain
the latter, Roger de Blonay insisted that they should ascend to his
castle, in whose grate the welcoming beacon still blazed. By means of
_chars-a-banc_, the peculiar vehicle of the country, the short distance
was soon overcome, the bailiff, not a little to the surprise of the owner
of the house, insisting on seeing the strangers safely housed within its
walls. At the gate of Blonay, however, Peterchen took his leave, making a
hundred apologies for his absence, on the ground of the extensive duties
that had devolved on his shoulders in consequence of the approaching fete.
"We shall have a mild winter, for I have never known the Herr Hofmeister
so courteous;" observed Roger de Blonay, while showing his guests into the
castle. "Thy Bernese authorities, Melchior, are little apt to be lavish of
their compliments to us poor nobles of Vaud."
"Signore, you forget the interest of our friend;" observed the laughing
Genoese. "There are other and better bailiwicks, beyond a question, in
the gifts of the Councils, and the Signor de Willading has a loud voice in
their disposal. Have I found a solution for this zeal?"
"Thou hast not," returned the baron, "for Peterchen hath little hope
beyond that of dying where he has lived, the deputed ruler of a small
district. The worthy man should have more credit for a good heart, his
own, no doubt, being touched at seeing those who are, as it may be,
redeemed from the grave. I owe him grace for the kindness, and should a
better thing really offer, and could my poor voice be of account, why, I
do not say it should be silent; it is serving the public well, to put men
of these kind feelings into places of trust."
This opinion appeared very natural to the listeners, all of whom, with the
exception of the Signor Grimaldi, joined in echoing the sentiment. The
latter, more experienced in the windings of the human heart, or possessing
some reasons known only to himself, merely smiled at the remarks that he
heard, as if he thoroughly understood the difference between the homage
that is paid to station, and that which a generous and noble nature is
compelled to yield to its own impulses.
An hour later, the light repast was ended, and Roger de Blonay informed
his guests that they would be well repaid for walking a short distance, by
a look at the loveliness of the night. In sooth, the change was already so
great, that it was not easy for the imagination to convert the soft and
smiling scene that lay beneath and above the towers of Blonay, into the
dark vault and the angry lake from which they had so lately escaped.
Every cloud had already sailed far away towards the plains of Germany, and
the moon had climbed so high above the ragged Dent de Jaman as to its rays
to stream into, the basin of the Leman. A thousand pensive stars spangled
the vauk images of the benign omnipotence which unceasingly pervades and
governs the universe, whatever may be the local derangements or accidental
struggles of the inferior agents. The foaming and rushing waves had gone
down nearly as fast as they had arisen, and, in their stead, remained
myriads of curling ridges along which the glittering moonbeams danced,
rioting with mild impunity on the surface of the placid sheet. Boats were
out again, pulling for Savoy or the neighboring villages: and the whole
view betokened the renewed confidence of those who trusted habitually to
the fickle and blustering elements.
"There is a strong and fearful resemblance between the human passions and
these hot and angry gusts of nature;" observed the Signor Grimaldi, after
they had stood silently regarding the scene for several musing
minutes--"alike quick to be aroused and to be appeased; equally
ungovernable while in the ascendant, and admitting the influence of a
wholesome reaction, that brings a more sober tranquillity, when the fit is
over. Your northern phlegm may render the analogy less apparent, but it is
to be found as well among the cooler temperaments of the Teutonic stock,
as among us of warmer blood. Do not this placid hill-side, yon lake, and
the starry heavens, look as if they regretted their late unseemly
violence, and wished to cheat the beholder into forgetfulness of their
attack on our safety, as an impetuous but generous nature would repent it
of the blow given in anger, or of the cutting speech that had escaped in a
moment of spleen? What hast thou to say to my opinion, Signor Sigismund,
for none know better than thou the quality of the tempest we have
"Signore," answered the young soldier, modestly, "you forget this brave
mariner, without whose coolness and forethought all would have been lost.
He has come up to Blonay, at our own request, but, until now, he has been
Maso came forward at a signal from Sigismund, and stood before the party
to whom he had rendered so signal aid, with a composure that was not
"I have come up to the castle, Signore, at your commands," he said,
addressing the Genoese; "but, having my own affairs on hand, must now beg
to know your pleasure?"
"We have, in sooth, been negligent of thy merit. On landing, my first
thought was of thee, as thou knowest: but other things had caused me to
forget thee. Thou art, like myself, an Italian?"
"Signore, I am."
"Of what country?"
"Of your own, Signore; a Genoese, as I have said before."
The other remembered the circumstance, though it did not seem to please
him. He looked around, as if to detect what others thought, and then
continued his questions.
"A Genoese!" he repeated, slowly: "if this be so, we should know something
of each other. Hast ever heard of me, in thy frequent visits to the port?"
Maso smiled; at first, he appeared disposed to be facetious; but a dark
cloud passed over his swarthy lineaments, and he lost his pleasantry, in
an air of thoughtfulness that struck his interrogator as singular.
"Signore," he said, after a pause, "most that follow my manner of life
know something of your eccellenza; if it is only to be questioned of this
that I am here, I pray leave to be permitted to go my way."
"No, by San Francesco! thou quittest us not so unceremoniously. I am
wrong to assume the manner of a superior with one to whom I owe my life,
and am well answered. But there is a heavy account to be settled between
us, and I will do something towards wiping out the balance, which is so
greatly against me, now; leaving thee to apply for a further statement,
when we shall both be again in our own Genoa."
The Signor Grimaldi had reached forth an arm, while speaking, and received
a well-filled purse from his countryman and companion, Marcelli. This was
soon emptied of its contents, a fair show of sequins, all of which were
offered to the mariner, without reservation. Maso looked coldly at the
glittering pile, and, by his hesitation, left a doubt whether he did not
think the reward insufficient.
"I tell thee it is but the present gage of further payment. At Genoa our
account shall be fairly settled; but this is all that a traveller can
prudently spare. Thou wilt come to me in our own town, and we will look to
all thy interests."
"Signore, you offer that for which men do all acts, whether of good or of
evil. They jeopard their souls for this very metal; mock at God's laws;
overlook the right; trifle with justice, and become devils incarnate to
possess it; and yet, though nearly penniless, I am so placed as to be
compelled to refuse what you offer."
"I tell thee, Maso, that it shall be increased hereafter--or--we are not
so poor as to go a-begging! Good Marcelli, empty thy hoards, and I will
have, recourse to Melchior de Willading's purse for our wants, until we
can get nearer to our own supplies."
"And is Melchior de Willading to pass for nothing, in all this!" exclaimed
the Baron; "put up thy gold, Gaetano, and leave me to satisfy the honest
mariner for the present. At a later day, he can come to thee, in Italy:
but here, on my own ground, I claim the right to be his banker."
"Signore," returned Maso, earnestly and with more of gentle feeling than
he was accustomed to betray, "you are both liberal beyond my desires, and
but too well disposed for my poor wants. I have come up to the castle at
your order, and to do you pleasure, but not in the hope to get money. I am
poor; that it would be useless to deny, for appearances are against me--"
here he laughed, his auditors thought in a manner that was forced--"but
poverty and meanness are not always inseparable. You have more than
suspected to-day that my life is free, and I admit it; but it is a mistake
to believe that, because men quit the high-road which some call honesty,
in any particular practice, they are without human feeling. I have been
useful in saving your lives, Signori, and there is more pleasure in the
reflection, than I should find in having the means to earn twice the gold
ye offer. Here is the Signor Capitano," he added, taking Sigismund by the
arm, and dragging him forward, "lavish your favors on him, for no practice
of mine could have been of use without his bravery. If ye give him all in
your treasuries, even to its richest pearl, ye will do no more than
As Maso ceased, he cast a glance towards the attentive, breathless
Adelheid, that continued to utter his meaning even after the tongue was
silent The bright suffusion that covered the maiden's face was visible
even by the pale moonlight, and Sigismund shrunk back from his rude grasp
in the manner in which the guilty retire from notice.
"These opinions are creditable to thee, Maso," returned the Genoese,
affecting not to understand his more particular meaning, "and they excite
a stronger wish to be thy friend. I will say no more on the subject at
present, for I see thy humor. Thou wilt let me see thee at Genoa?"
The expression of Maso's countenance was inexplicable, but he retained his
usual indifference of manner.
"Signor Gaetano," he said, using a mariner's freedom in the address,
"there are nobles in Genoa that might better knock at the door of your
palace than I; and there are those, too, in the city that would gossip,
were it known that you received such guests."
"This is tying thyself too closely to an evil and a dangerous trade. I
suspect thee to be of the contraband, but surely it is not a pursuit so
free from danger, of so much repute, or, judging by thy attire, of so much
profit even, that thou needest be wedded to it for life. Means can be
found to relieve thee from its odium, by giving thee a place in those
customs with which thou hast so often trifled."
Maso laughed outright.
"So it is, Signore, in this moral world of ours. He who would run a fair
course, in any particular trust has only to make himself dangerous to be
bought up. Your thief-takers are desperate rogues out of business; your
tide-waiter has got his art by cheating the revenue; and I have been in
lands where it was said, that all they who most fleeced the people began
their calling as suffering patriots. The rule is firmly enough established
without the help of my poor name, and, by your leave, I will remain as I
am; one that hath his pleasure in living amid risks, and who takes his
revenge of the authorities by railing at them when defeated, and in
laughing at them when in success."
"Young man, thou hast in thee the materials of a better life!"
"Signore, this may be true," answered Maso, whose countenance again grew
dark; "we boast of being the lords of the creation, but the bark of poor
Baptista was not less master of its movements, in the late gust, than we
are masters of our fortunes. Signor Grimaldi, I have in me the materials
that make a man; but the laws, and the opinions, and the accursed strife
of men, have left me what I am. For the first fifteen years of my career,
the church was to be my stepping-stone to a cardinal's hat or a fat
priory; but the briny sea-water washed out the necessary unction."
"Thou art better born than thou seemest--thou hast friends who should be
grieved at this?"
The eye of Maso flashed, but he bent it aside, as if bearing down, by the
force of an indomitable will, some sudden and fierce impulse.
"I was born of woman!" he said, with singular emphasis.
"And thy mother--is she not pained at thy present course--does she know of
The haggard smile to which this question gave birth induced the Genoese to
regret that he had put it. Maso evidently struggled to subdue some feeling
which harrowed his very soul, and his success was owing to such a command
of himself as men rarely obtain.
"She is dead," he answered, huskily; "she is a saint with the angels. Had
she lived, I should never have been a mariner, and--and--" laying his hand
on his throat, as if to keep down the sense of suffocation, he smiled, and
added, laughingly,--"ay, and the good Winkelried would have been a
"Maso, thou must come to me at Genoa. I must see more of thee, and
question thee further of thy fortunes. A fair spirit has been perverted in
thy fall, and the friendly aid of one who is not without influence may
still restore its tone."
The Signor Grimaldi spoke warmly, like one who sincerely felt regret, and
his voice had all the melancholy and earnestness of such a sentiment. The
truculent nature of Maso was touched by this show of interest, and a
multitude of fierce passions were at once subdued. He approached the noble
Genoese, and respectfully took his hand.
"Pardon the freedom, Signore," he said more mildly, intently regarding the
wrinkled and attenuated fingers, with the map-like tracery of veins, that
he held in his own brown and hard palm; "this is not the first time that
our flesh has touched each other, though it is the first time that our
hands have joined. Let it now be in amity. A humor has come over me, and I
would crave your pardon, venerable noble, for the freedom. Signore, you
are aged, and honored, and stand high, doubtless, in Heaven's favor, as in
that of man--grant me, then, your blessing, ere I go my way."
As Maso preferred this extraordinary request, he knelt with an air of so
much reverence and sincerity as to leave little choice as to granting it.
The Genoese was surprised, but not disconcerted. With perfect dignity and
self-possession, and with a degree of feeling that was not unsuited to the
occasion, the fruit of emotions so powerfully awakened, he pronounced the
benediction. The mariner arose, kissed the hand which he still held, made
a hurried sign of salutation to all, leaped down the declivity on which
they stood, and vanished among the shadows of a copse.
Sigismund, who had witnessed this unusual scene with surprise, watched him
to the last, and he saw, by the manner in which he dashed his hand across
his eyes, that his fierce nature had been singularly shaken. On recovering
his thoughts, the Signor Grimaldi, too, felt certain there had been no
mockery in the conduct of their inexplicable preserver, for a hot tear had
fallen on his hand ere it was liberated. He was himself strongly agitated
by what had passed, and, leaning on his friend, he slowly re-entered the
gates of Blonay.
"This extraordinary demand of Maso's has brought up the sad image of my
own poor son, dear Melchior," he said; "would to Heaven that he could have
received this blessing, and that it might have been of use to him, in the
sight of God! Nay, he may yet hear of it--for, canst thou believe it, I
have thought that Maso may be one of his lawless associates, and that some
wild desire to communicate this scene has prompted the strange request I
The discourse continued, but it became secret, and of the most
confidential kind. The rest of the party soon sought their beds, though
lamps were burning in the chambers of the two old nobles to a late hour of
Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door:
What is the matter?
The American autumn, or fall, as we poetically and affectionately term
this generous and mellow season among ourselves, is thought to be
unsurpassed, in its warm and genial lustre, its bland and exhilarating
airs, and its admirable constancy, by the decline of the year in nearly
every other portion of the earth. Whether attachment to our own fair and
generous land, has led us to over-estimate its advantages or not, and
bright and cheerful as our autumnal days certainly are, a fairer morning
never dawned upon the Alleghanies, than that which illumined the Alps, on
the reappearance of the sun after the gust of the night which has been so
lately described. As the day advanced, the scene grew gradually more
lovely, until warm and glowing Italy itself could scarce present a
landscape more winning, or one possessing a fairer admixture of the grand
and the soft, than that which greeted the eye of Adelheid de Willading,
as, leaning on the arm of her father, she issued from the gate of Blonay,
upon its elevated and gravelled terrace.
It has already been said that this ancient and historical building stood
against the bosom of the mountains, at the distance of a short league
behind the town of Vevey. All the elevations of this region are so many
spurs of the same vast pile, and that on which Blonay has now been seated
from the earliest period of the middle ages belongs to that particular
line of rocky ramparts, which separates the Valais from the centre cantons
of the confederation of Switzerland, and which is commonly known as the
range of the Oberland Alps. This line of snow-crowned rocks terminates in
perpendicular precipices on the very margin of the Leman, and forms, on
the side of the lake, a part of that magnificent setting which renders the
south-eastern horn of its crescent so wonderfully beautiful. The upright
natural wall that overhangs Villeneuve and Chillon stretches along the
verge of the water, barely leaving room for a carriage-road, with here
and there a cottage at its base, for the distance of two leagues, when it
diverges from the course of the lake, and, withdrawing inland, it is
finally lost among the minor eminences of Fribourg. Every one has observed
those sloping declivities, composed of the washings of torrents, the
_debris_ of precipices, and what may be termed the constant drippings of
perpendicular eminencies and which lie like broad buttresses at their
feet, forming a sort of foundation or basement for the superincumbent
mass. Among the Alps, where nature has acted on so sublime a scale, and
where all the proportions are duly observed, these _debris_ of the high
mountains frequently contain villages and towns, or form vast fields,
vineyards, and pasturages, according to their elevation or their exposure
towards the sun. It may be questioned, in strict geology, whether the
variegated acclivity that surrounds Vevey, rich in villages and vines,
hamlets and castles, has been thus formed, or whether the natural
convulsions which expelled the upper rocks from the crust of the earth
left their bases in the present broken and beautiful forms; but the fact
is not important to the effect, which is that just named, and which gives
to these vast ranges of rock secondary and fertile bases, that, in other
regions, would be termed mountains of themselves.
The castle and family of Blonay, for both still exist, are among the
oldest of Vaud. A square, rude tower, based upon a foundation of rock, one
of those ragged masses that thrust their naked heads occasionally through
the soil of the declivity, was the commencement of the hold. Other
edifices have been reared around this nucleus in different ages, until the
whole presents one of those peculiar and picturesque piles, that ornament
so many both of the savage and of the softer sites of Switzerland.
The terrace towards which Adelheid and her father advanced was an
irregular walk, shaded by venerable trees that had been raised near the
principal or the carriage gate of the castle, on a ledge of those rocks
that form the foundation of the buildings themselves. It had its parapet
walls, its seats, its artificial soil, and its gravelled _allees_, as is
usual with these antiquated ornaments; but it also had, what is better
than these, one of the most sublime and lovely views that ever greeted
human eyes. Beneath it lay the undulating and teeming declivity, rich in
vines, and carpeted with sward, here dotted by hamlets, there park-like
and rural with forest trees, while there was no quarter that did not show
the roof of a chateau or the tower of some rural church. There is little
of magnificence in Swiss architecture, which never much surpasses, and is,
perhaps, generally inferior to our own; but the beauty and quaintness of
the sites, the great variety of the surfaces, the hill-sides, and the
purity of the atmosphere, supply charms that are peculiar to the country.
Vevey lay at the water-side, many hundred feet lower, and seemingly on a
narrow strand, though in truth enjoying ample space; while the houses of
St. Saphorin, Corsier, Montreux, and of a dozen more villages, were
clustered together, like so many of the compact habitations of wasps stuck
against the mountains. But the principal charm was in the Leman. One who
had never witnessed the lake in its fury, could not conceive the
possibility of danger in the tranquil shining sheet that was now spread
like a liquid mirror, for leagues, beneath the eye. Some six or seven
barks were in view, their sails drooping in negligent forms, as if
disposed expressly to become models for the artist, their yards inclining
as chance had cast them, and their hulls looming large, to complete the
picture. To these near objects must be added the distant view, which
extended to the Jura in one direction, and which in the other was bounded
by the frontiers of Italy, whose aerial limits were to be traced in that
region which appears to belong neither to heaven nor to earth, the abode
of eternal frosts. The Rhone was shining, in spots, among the meadows of
the Valais, for the elevation of the castle admitted of its being seen,
and Adelheid endeavored to trace among the mazes of the mountains the
valleys which led to those sunny countries, towards which they journeyed.
The sensations of both father and daughter, when they came beneath the
leafy canopy of the terrace, were those of mute delight. It was evident,
by the expression of their countenances, that they were in a favorable
mood to receive pleasurable impressions; for the face of each was full of
that quiet happiness which succeeds sudden and lively joy. Adelheid had
been weeping; but, judging from the radiance of her eyes, the healthful
and brightening bloom of her cheeks, and the struggling smiles that played
about her ripe lips, the tears had been sweet, rather than painful. Though
still betraying enough of physical frailty to keep alive the concern of
all who loved her, there was a change for the better in her appearance,
which was so sensible as to strike the least observant of those who lived
in daily communication with the invalid.
"If pure and mild air, a sunny sky, and ravishing scenery, be what they
seek who cross the Alps, my father," said Adelheid, after they had stood a
moment, gazing at the magnificent panorama, "why should the Swiss quit his
native land? Is there in Italy aught more soft, more winning or more
healthful, than this?"
"This spot has often been called the Italy of our mountains. The fig
ripens near yonder village of Montreux, and, open to the morning sun while
it is sheltered by the precipices above, the whole of that shore well
deserves its happy reputation. Still they whose spirits require diversion,
and whose constitutions need support, generally prefer to go into
countries where the mind has more occupation, and where a greater variety
of employments help the climate and nature to complete the cure."
"But thou forgettest, father, it is agreed between us that I am now to
become strong, and active, and laughing, as we used to be at Willading,
when I first grew into womanhood."
"If I could but see those days again, darling, my own closing hours would
be calm as those of a saint--though Heaven knows I have little pretension
to that blessed character in any other particular."
"Dost thou not count a quiet conscience and a sure hope as something,
"Have it as thou wilt, girl. Make a saint of me, or a bishop, or a hermit,
if thou wilt; the only reward I ask is, to see thee smiling and happy, as
thou never failedst to be during the first eighteen years of thy life. Had
I foreseen that thou wert to return from my good sister so little like
thyself, I would have forbidden the visit, much as I love her, and all
that are her's. But the wisest of us are helpless mortals, and scarce know
our own wants from hour to hour. Thou saidst, I think, that this brave
Sigismund honestly declared his belief that my consent could never be
given to one who had so little to boast of, in the way of birth and
fortune? There was, at least, good sense, and modesty, and right feeling,
in the doubt, but he should have thought better of my heart."
"He said this;" returned Adelheid, in a timid and slightly trembling
voice, though it was quite apparent by the confiding expression of her
eye, that she had no longer any secret from her parent. "He had too much
honor to wish to win the daughter of a noble without the knowledge and
approbation of her friends."
"That the boy should love thee, Adelheid, is natural; it is an additional
proof of his own merit--but that he should distrust my affection and
justice is an offence that I can scarce forgive. What are ancestry and
wealth to thy happiness?"
"Thou forget'st, dear sir, he is yet to learn that my happiness, in any
measure, depends on his."
Adelheid spoke quickly and with warmth.
"He knew I was a father and that thou art an only child; one of his good
sense and right way of thinking should have better understood the feelings
of a man in my situation, than to doubt his natural affection."
"As he has never been the parent of an only daughter, father," answered
the smiling Adelheid, for, in her present mood, smiles came easily, "he
may not have felt or anticipated all that thou imagin'st. He knew the
prejudices of the world on the subject of noble blood, and they are few
indeed, that, having much, are disposed to part with it to him who hath
"The lad reasoned more like an old miser than a young soldier, and I have
a great mind to let him feel my displeasure for thinking so meanly of me.
Have we not Willading, with all its fair lands, besides our rights in the
city, that we need go begging money of others, like needy mendicants! Thou
hast been in the conspiracy against my character, girl, or such a fear
could not have either uneasiness for a moment."
"I never thought, father, that thou would'st reject him on account of
poverty, for I knew our own means sufficient for all our own wants; but I
did believe that he who could not boast the privileges of nobility might
fail to gain thy favor."
"Are we not a republic?--is not the right of the buergerschaft the one
essential right in Berne--why should I raise obstacles about that on which
the laws are silent?"
Adelheid listened, as a female of her years would be apt to listen to
words so grateful, with a charmed ear; and yet she shook her head, in a
way to express an incredulity that was not altogether free from
"For thy generous forgetfulness of old opinions in behalf of my happiness,
dearest father," she resumed, the tears starting unbidden to her
thoughtful blue eye, "I thank thee fervently. It is true that we are
inhabitants of a republic, but we are not the less noble."
"Dost thou turn against thyself, and hunt up reasons why I should not do
that which thou hast just acknowledged to be so necessary to prevent thee
from following thy brothers and sisters to their early graves?"
The blood rushed in a torrent to the face of Adelheid, for though, weeping
and in the moment of tender confidence which succeeded her thanksgivings
for the baron's safety, she had thrown herself on his bosom, and confessed
that the hopelessness of the sentiments with which she met the declared
love of Sigismund was the true cause of the apparent malady that had so
much alarmed her friends, the words which had flowed spontaneously from
her heart, in so tender a scene, had never appeared to her to convey a
meaning so strong, or one so wounding to virgin-pride, as that which her
father, in the strength of his masculine habits, had now given them.
"In God's mercy, father, I shall live, whether united to Sigismund or not,
to smooth thine own decline, and to bless thy old age. A pious daughter
will never be torn so cruelly from one to whom she is the last and only
stay. I may mourn this disappointment, and foolishly wish, perhaps, it
might have been otherwise; but ours is not a house of which the maidens
die for their inclinations in favor of any youths, however deserving!"
"Noble or simple," added the baron, laughing, for he saw that his daughter
spoke in sudden pique, rather than from her excellent heart. Adelheid,
whose good sense, and quick recollections, instantly showed her the
weakness of this little display of female feeling, laughed faintly in her
turn, though she repeated his words as if to give still more emphasis to
"This will not do, my daughter. They who profess the republican doctrine,
should not be too rigid in their constructions of privileges. If Sigismund
be not noble, it will not be difficult to obtain for him that honorable
distinction, and, in failure of male line, he may bear the name and
sustain the honors of our family. In any case he will become of the
buergerschaft, and that of itself will be all that is required in Berne."
"In Berne, father," returned Adelheid, who had so far forgotten the recent
movement of pride as to smile on her fond and indulgent parent, though,
yielding to the waywardness of the happy, she continued to trifle with her
own feelings--"it is true. The buergerschaft will be sufficient for all
the purposes of office and political privileges, but will it suffice for
the opinions of our equals, for the prejudices of society, or for your own
perfect contentment, when the freshness of gratitude shall have passed?"
"Thou puttest these questions, girl, as if employed to defeat thine own
cause--Dost not truly love the boy, after all?"
"On this subject, I have spoken sincerely and as became thy child,"
frankly returned Adelheid. "He saved my life from imminent peril, as he
has now saved thine, and although my aunt, fearful of thy displeasure,
would not that thou should'st hear the tale, her prohibition could not
prevent gratitude from having its way. I have told thee that Sigismund has
declared his feelings, although he nobly abstained from even asking a
return, and I should not have been my mother's child, could I have
remained entirely indifferent to so much worth united to a service so
great What I have said of our prejudices is, then, rather for your
reflection, dearest sir, than for myself. I have thought much of all this,
and am ready to make any sacrifice to pride, and to bear all the remarks
of the world, in order to discharge a debt to one to whom I owe so much.
But, while it is natural, perhaps unavoidable, that I should feel thus,
thou art not necessarily to forget the other claims upon thee. It is true
that, in one sense, we are all to each other, but there is a tyrant that
will scarce let any escape from his reign; I mean opinion. Let us then not
deceive ourselves--though we of Berne affect the republic, and speak much
of liberty, it is a small state, and the influence of those that are
larger and more powerful among our neighbors rules in every thing that
touches opinion. A noble is as much a noble in Berne, in all but what the
law bestows, as he is in the Empire--and thou knowest we come of the
German root, which has struck deep into these prejudices."
The Baron de Willading had been much accustomed to defer to the superior
mind and more cultivated understanding of his daughter, who, in the
retirement of her father's castle, had read and reflected far more than
her years would have probably permitted in the busier scenes of the world.
He felt the justice of her remark, and they had walked the entire length
of the terrace in profound silence, before he could summon the ideas
necessary to make a suitable answer.
"The truth of what thou sayest, is not to be denied," he at length said,
"but it may be palliated. I have many friends in the German courts, and
favors may be had; letters of nobility will give the youth the station he
wants, after which he can claim thy hand without offence to any opinions,
whether of Berne or elsewhere."
"I doubt if Sigismund will willingly become a party to this expedient. Our
own nobility is of ancient origin; it dates from a period anterior to the
existence of Berne as a city, and is much older than our institutions. I
remember to have heard him say, that when a people refuse to bestow these
distinctions themselves, their citizens can never receive them from others
without a loss of dignity and character, and one of his moral firmness
might hesitate to do what he thinks wrong for a boon so worthless as that
"By the soul of William Tell! should the unknown peasant dare--But he is a
brave boy, and twice has he done the last service to my race! I love him,
Adelheid, little less than thyself; and we will win him ever to our
purpose gently, and by degrees. A maiden of thy beauty and years to say
nothing of thy other qualities, thy name the lands of Willading, and the
rights of Berne are matters, after all, not to me lightly refused by a
nameless soldier who hath naught--"
"But his courage, his virtues, his modesty, and his excellent sense,
"Thou wilt not let me have the naked satisfaction of vaunting my own
wares! I see Gaetano Grimaldi making signs at his window, as if he were
about to come forth: go thou to thy chamber, that I may discourse of this
troublesome matter with that excellent friend; in good season thou shalt
know the result."
Adelheid kissed the hand that she held in her own, and left him with a
thoughtful air. As she descended from the terrace, it was not with the
same elastic step as she had come up half an hour before.
Early deprived of her mother, this strong-minded but delicate girl had
long been accustomed to make her father a confidant of all her hopes,
thoughts, and pictures of the future. Owing to her peculiar circumstances,
she would have had less hesitation than is usual to her sex in avowing to
her parent any of her attachments; but a dread that the declaration might
conduce to his unhappiness, without in any manner favoring her own cause,
had hitherto kept her silent. Her acquaintance with Sigismund had been
long and intimate. Rooted esteem and deep respect lay at the bottom of her
sentiments, which were, however, so lively as to have chased the rose from
her cheek in the endeavor to forget them, and to have led her sensitive
father to apprehend that she was suffering under that premature decay
which had already robbed him of his other children. There was in truth no
serious ground for this apprehension, so natural to one in the place of
the Baron de Willading; for, until thought, and reflection paled her
cheek, a more blooming maiden than Adelheid, or one that united more
perfect health with feminine delicacy, did not dwell among her native
mountains. She had quietly consented to the Italian journey, in the
expectation that it might serve to divert her mind from brooding over what
she had long considered hopeless, and with the natural desire to see lands
so celebrated, but not under any mistaken opinions of her own situation.
The presence of Sigismund, so far as she was concerned, was purely
accidental, although she could not prevent the pleasing idea from
obtruding--an idea so grateful to her womanly affections and maiden
pride--that the young soldier, who was in the service of Austria, and who
had become known to her in one of his frequent visits to his native land,
had gladly seized this favorable occasion to return to his colors.
Circumstances, which it is not necessary to recount, had enabled Adelheid
to make the youth acquainted with her father, though the interdictions of
her aunt, whose imprudence had led to the accident which nearly proved so
fatal, and from whose consequences she had been saved by Sigismund,
prevented her from explaining all the causes she had for showing him
respect and esteem. Perhaps the manner in which this young and imaginative
though sensible girl was compelled to smother a portion of her feelings
gave them intensity, and hastened that transition of sentiment from
gratitude to affection, which, in another case, might have only been
produced by a more open and prolonged association. As it was, she scarcely
knew herself how irretrievably her happiness was bound up in that of
Sigismund, though she had so long cherished his image in most of her
day-dreams, and had unconsciously admitted his influence over her mind and
hopes, until she learned that they were reciprocated.
The Signor Grimaldi appeared on one end of the terrace, as Adelheid de
Willading descended at the other. The old nobles had separated late on
the previous night, after a private and confidential communication that
had shaken the soul of the Italian, and drawn strong and sincere
manifestations of sympathy from his friend. Though so prone to sudden
shades of melancholy, there was a strong touch of the humorous in the
native character of the Genoese, which came so quick upon his more painful
recollection, as greatly to relieve their weight, and to render him, in
appearance at least, a happy, while the truth would have shown that he was
a sorrowing man. He had been making his orisons with a grateful heart, and
he now came forth into the genial mountain air, like one who had relieved
his conscience of a heavy debt. Like most laymen of the Catholic
persuasion, he thought himself no longer bound to maintain a grave and
mortified exterior, when worship and penitence were duly observed, and he
joined his friend with a cheerfulness of air and voice that an ascetic, or
a puritan, might have attributed to levity, after the scenes through which
he had so lately passed.
"The Virgin and San Francesco keep thee in mind, old friend!" said the
Signor Grimaldi, cordially kissing the two cheeks of the Baron de
Willading. "We both have reason to remember their care, though; heretic as
thou art, I doubt not thou hast already found some other mediators to
thank, that we now stand on this solid terrace of the Signor de Blonay,
instead of being worthless clay at the bottom of yonder treacherous lake."
"I thank God for this, as for all his mercies--for thy life, Gaetano, as
well as for mine own."
"Thou art right, thou art right, good Melchior: 'twas no affair for any
but Him who holds the universe in the hollow of his hand, in good faith,
for a minute later would have gathered both with our lathers. Still thou
wilt permit me, Catholic as I am, to remember the intercessors on whom I
called in the moment of extremity."
"This is a subject on which we have never agreed, and on which we probably
never shall," answered the Bernese, with somewhat of the reserve of one
conscious of a stronger dissidence than he wished to express, as they
turned and commenced their walk up and down the terrace, "though I believe
it is the only matter of difference that ever existed between us."
"Is it not extraordinary," returned the Genoese, "that men should consort
together in good and evil, bleed for each other, love each other, do all
acts of kindness to each other, as thou and I have done, Melchior, nay, be
in the last extremity, and feel more agony for the friend than for one's
self, and yet entertain such opinions of their respective creeds, as to
fancy the unbeliever in the devil's claws all this time, and to entertain
a latent distrust that the very soul which, in all other matters, is
deemed so noble and excellent, is to be everlastingly damned for the want
of certain opinions and formalities that we ourselves have been taught to
"To tell thee the truth," returned the Swiss, rubbing his forehead like a
man who wished to brighten up his ideas, as one would brighten old silver,
by friction; "this subject, as thou well knowest, is not my strong side.
Luther and Calvin, with other sages, discovered that it was weakness to
submit to dogmas, without close examination, merely because they were
venerable, and they winnowed the wheat from the chaff. This we call a
reform. It is enough for me that men so wise were satisfied with their
researches and changes, and I feel little inclination to disturb a
decision that has now received the sanction of nearly two centuries of
practice. To be plain with thee, I hold it discreet to reverence the
opinions of my fathers."
"Though it would seem not of thy grandfathers," said the Italian, drily,
but in perfect good humor. "By San Francesco! thou wouldst have made a
worthy cardinal, had chance brought thee into the world fifty leagues
farther south, or west, or east. But this is the way with the world,
whether it be your Turk, your Hindoo, or your Lutheran, and I fear it is
much the same with the children of St. Peter too. Each has his arguments
for faith, or politics, or any interest that may be named, which he uses
like a hammer to knock down the bricks of his opponent's reasons, and when
he finds himself in the other's intrenchments, why he gathers together the
scattered materials in order to build a wall for his own protection. Then
what was oppression yesterday is justifiable defence to-day; fanaticism
becomes logic; and credulity and pliant submission get, in two centuries,
to be deference to the venerable opinion of our fathers! But let it
go--thou wert speaking of thanking God, and in that; Roman though I am, I
fervently and devoutly join with or without saints' intercession."
The honest baron did not like his friend's allusions, though they were
much too subtle for his ready comprehension, for the intellect of the
Swiss was a little frosted by constant residence among snows and in full
view of glaciers, and it wanted the volatile play of the Genoese's fancy,
which was apt to expand like air rarefied by the warmth of the sun. This
difference of temperament, however, so far from lessening their mutual
kindness, was, most probably, the real cause of its existence, since it is
well known that friendship, like love, is more apt to be generated by
qualities that vary a little from our own than by a perfect homogeneity of
character and disposition which is more liable to give birth to rivalry
and contention, than when each party has some distinct capital of his own
on which to adventure, and with which to keep alive the interest of him
who, in that particular feature, may be but indifferently provided. All
that is required for a perfect community of feeling is a mutual
recognition of, and a common respect for, certain great moral rules,
without which there can exist no esteem between the upright. The alliance
of knaves depends on motives so hackneyed and obvious, that we abstain
from any illustration of its principle as a work of supererogation. The
Signor Grimaldi and Melchior de Willading were both very upright and
justly-minded men, as men go, in intention at least, and their opposite
peculiarities and opinions had served, during hot youth, to keep alive the
interest of their communications, and were not likely, now that time had
mellowed their feelings and brought so many recollections to strengthen
the tie, to overturn what they had been originally the principal
instruments in creating.
"Of thy readiness to thank God, I have never doubted," answered the baron,
when his friend had ended the remark just recorded, "but we know that his
favors are commonly shown to us here below by means of human instruments.
Ought we not, therefore, to manifest another sort of gratitude in favor of
the individual who was so serviceable in last night's gust?"
"Thou meanest my untractable countryman? I have bethought me much since we
separated of his singular refusal, and hope still to find the means of
conquering his obstinacy."
"I hope thou may'st succeed, and thou well know'st that I am always to be
counted on as an auxiliary. But he was not in my thoughts at the instant;
there is still another who nobly risked more than the mariner in our
behalf, since he risked life."
"This is beyond question, and I have already reflected much on the means
of doing him good. He is a soldier of fortune, I learn, and if he will
take service in Genoa, I will charge myself with the care of his
preferment. Trouble not thyself, therefore, concerning the fortunes of
young Sigismund; thou knowest my means, and canst not doubt my will."
The baron cleared his throat, for he had a secret reluctance to reveal his
own favorable intentions towards the young man, the last lingering feeling
of worldly pride, and the consequence of prejudices which were then
universal, and which are even now far from being extinct. A vivid picture
of the horrors of the past night luckily flashed across his mind, and the
good genius of his young preserver triumphed.
"Thou knowest the youth is a Swiss," he said, "and, in virtue of the tie
of country, I claim at least an equal right to do him good."
"We will not quarrel for precedence in this matter, but thou wilt do well
to remember that I possess especial means to push his interests;--means
that thou canst not by possibility use."
"That is not proved;" interrupted the Baron de Willading. "I have not thy
particular station, it is true, Signor Gaetano, nor thy political power,
nor thy princely fortune; but, poor as I am in these, there is a boon in
my keeping that is worth them all, and which will be more acceptable to
the boy, or I much mistake his mettle, than any favors that thou hast
named or canst name."
The Signor Grimaldi had pursued his walk, with eyes thoughtfully fastened
on the ground; but he now raised them, in surprise, to the countenance of
his friend, as if to ask an explanation. The baron was not only committed
by what had escaped him, but he was warming with opposition, for the best
may frequently do very excellent things under the influence of motives of
but a very indifferent aspect.
"Thou knowest I have a daughter," resumed the Swiss firmly, determined to
break the ice at once, and expose a decision which he feared his friend
might deem a weakness.
"Thou hast; and a fairer, or a modester, or a tenderer, and yet, unless my
judgment err, a firmer at need, is not to be found among all the excellent
of her excellent sex. But thou wouldst scarce think of bestowing Adelheid
in reward for such a service on one so little known, or without her wishes
"Girls of Adelheid's birth and breeding are ever ready to do what is meet
to maintain the honor of their families. I deem gratitude to be a debt
that must not stand long uncancelled against the name of Willading."
The Genoese looked grave, and it was evident he listened to his friend
with something like displeasure.
"We who have so nearly passed through life, good Melchior," he said,
"should know its difficulties and its hazards. The way is weary, and it
has need of all the solace that affection and a community of feeling can
yield to lighten its cares. I have never liked this heartless manner of
trafficking in the tenderest ties, to uphold a failing line or a failing
fortune; and better it were that Adelheid should pass her days unwooed in
thy ancient castle, than give her hand, under any sudden impulse of
sentiment, not less than under a cold calculation of interest. Such a
girl, my friend, is not to be bestowed without much care and reflection."
"By the mass! to use one of thine own favorite oaths, I wonder to hear
thee talk thus!--thou, whom I knew a hot-blooded Italian, jealous as a
Turk, and maintaining at thy rapier's point that women were like the steel
of thy sword, so easily tarnished by rust, or evil breath, or neglect,
that no father or brother could be easy on the score of honor, until the
last of his name was well wedded, and that, too, to such as the wisdom of
her advisers should choose! I remember thee once saying thou couldst not
sleep soundly till thy sister was a wife or a nun."
"This was the language of boyhood and thoughtless youth, and bitterly
rebuked have I been for having used it. I wived a beauteous and noble
virgin, de Willading; but I much fear that, while my fair conduct in her
behalf won her respect and esteem, I was too late to win her love. It is a
fearful thing to enter on the solemn and grave ties of married life,
without enlisting in the cause of happiness the support of the judgment,
the fancy, the tastes, with the feelings that are dependent on them, and,
more than all, those wayward inclinations, whose workings too often baffle
human foresight. If the hopes of the ardent and generous themselves are
deceived in the uncertain lottery of wedlock, the victim will struggle
hard to maintain the delusion; but when the calculations of others are
parent to the evil, a natural inducement, that comes of the devil I fear,
prompts us to aggravate, instead of striving to lessen, the evil."
"Thou dost not speak of wedlock as one who found the condition happy, poor
"I have told thee what I fear was but too true," returned the Genoese,
with a heavy sigh. "My birth, vast means, and I trust a fair name, induced
the kinsmen of my wife to urge her to a union, that I have since had
reason to fear her feelings not lead her to form. I had a terrible ally
too in the acknowledged unworthiness of him who had captivated her young
fancy, and whom, as age brought reflection, her reason condemned. I was
accepted, therefore, as a cure to a bleeding heart and broken peace, and
my office, at the best, was not such as a good man could desire, or a
proud man tolerate. The unhappy Angiolina died in giving birth to her
first child, the unhappy son of whom I have told thee so much. She found
peace at last in the grave!"
"Thou hadst not time to give thy manly tenderness and noble qualities an
opportunity; else, my life on it, she would have come to love thee,
Gaetano, as all love thee who know thee!" returned the baron, warmly.
"Thanks, my kind friend; but beware of making marriage a mere convenience.
There may be folly in calling each truant inclination that deep sentiment
and secret sympathy which firmly knits heart to heart, and doubtless a
common fortune may bind the worldly-minded together; but this is not the
holy union which keeps noble qualities in a family, and which fortifies
against the seductions of a world that is already too strong for honesty.
I remember to have heard from one that understood his fellow-creatures
well, that marriages of mere propriety tend to rob woman of her greatest
charm, that of superiority to the vulgar feeling of worldly calculations,
and that all communities in which they prevail become, of necessity,
selfish beyond the natural limits, and eventually corrupt"
"This may be true;--but Adelheid loves the youth."
"Ha! This changes the complexion of the affair. How dost thou know this?"
"From her own lips. The secret escaped her, under the warmth and sincerity
of feeling that the late events so naturally excited."
"And Sigismund!--he has thy approbation?--for I will not suppose that one
like thy daughter yielded her affections unsolicited."
"He has--that is--he has. There is what the world will be apt to call an
obstacle, but it shall count for nothing with me. The youth is not noble."
"The objection is serious, my honest friend. It is not wise to tax human
infirmity too much, where there is sufficient to endure from causes that
cannot be removed. Wedlock is a precarious experiment, and all unusual
motives for disgust should be cautiously avoided.--I would he were noble."
"The difficulty shall be removed by the Emperor's favor. Thou hast princes
in Italy, too, that might be prevailed on to do us this grace, at need?"
"What is the youth's origin and history, and by what means has a daughter
of thine been placed in a situation to love one that is simply born?"
"Sigismund is a Swiss, and of a family of Bernese burghers, I should
think, though, to confess the truth, I know little more than that he has
passed several years in foreign service, and that he saved my daughter's
life from one of our mountain accidents, some two years since, as he has
now saved thine and mine. My sister, near whose castle the acquaintance
commenced, permitted the intercourse, which it would now be too late to
think of prohibiting. And, to speak honestly, I begin to rejoice the boy
is what he is, in order that our readiness to receive him to our arms may
be the more apparent. If the young fellow were the equal of Adelheid in
other things, as he is in person and character, he would have too much in
his favor.--No, by the faith of Calvin!--him whom thou stylest a
heretic--I think I rejoice that the boy is not noble!"
"Have it as thou wilt," returned the Genoese whose countenance continued
to express distrust and thought, for his own experience had made him wary
on the subject of doubtful or ill-assorted alliances; "let his origin be
what it may, he shall not need gold. I charge myself with seeing that the
lands of Willading shall be fairly balanced: and here comes our hospitable
host to be witness of the pledge."
Roger de Blonay advanced upon the terrace to greet his guests, as the
Signor Grimaldi concluded. The three old men continued their walk for an
hour longer, discussing the fortunes of the young pair, for Melchior de
Willading was as little disposed to make a secret of his intentions with
one of his friends as with the other.
--But I have not the time to pause
Upon these gewgaws of the heart.
Though the word castle is of common use in Europe, as applied to ancient
baronial edifices, the thing itself is very different in style, extent,
and cost, in different countries. Security, united to dignity and the
means of accommodating a train of followers suited to the means of the
noble, being the common object, the position and defences of the place
necessarily varied according to the general aspect of the region in which
it stood. Thus ditches and other broad expanses of water were much
depended on in all low countries, as in Flanders, Holland, parts of
Germany, and much of France; while hills, spurs of mountains, and more
especially the summits of conical rocks, were sought in Switzerland,
Italy, and wherever else these natural means of protection could readily
found. Other circumstances, such as climate wealth, the habits of a
people, and the nature of the feudal rights, also served greatly to modify
the appearance and extent of the building. The ancient hold in Switzerland
was originally little more than a square solid tower, perched upon a rock,
with turrets at its angles. Proof against fire from without, it had
ladders to mount from floor to floor and often contained its beds in the
deep recesses of the windows, or in alcoves wrought in the massive wall.
As greater security or greater means enabled, offices and constructions of
more importance arcse around its base, inclosing a court. These
necessarily followed the formation of the rock, until, in time, the
confused and inartificial piles, which are now seen mouldering on so many
of the minor spurs of the Alps, were created.
As is usual in all ancient holds, the Rittersaal--the Salle des
Chevaliers--or the knights' hall, of Blonay, as it is differently called
in different languages, was both the largest and the most laboriously
decorated apartment of the edifice. It was no longer in the rude gaol-like
keep that grew, as it were, from the living rock, on which it had been
reared with so much skill as to render it difficult to ascertain where
nature ceased and art commenced; but it had been transferred, a century
before the occurrences; related in our tale, to a more modern portion of
the buildings that formed the south-eastern angle of the whole
construction. The room was spacious, square, simple, for such is the
fashion of the country, and lighted by windows that looked on one side
towards Valais, and on the other over the whole of the irregular, but
lovely declivity, to the margin of the Leman, and along that beautiful
sheet, embracing hamlet, village, city, castle, and purple mountain, until
the view was limited by the hazy Jura. The window on the latter side of
the knights' hall, had an iron balcony at a giddy height from the ground,
and in this airy look-out Adelheid had taken her seat, when, after
quitting her father, she mounted to the apartment common to all the guests
of the castle.
We have already alluded generally to the personal appearance and to the
moral qualities of the Baron de Willading's daughter, but we now conceive
it necessary to make the reader more intimately acquainted with one who is
destined to act no mean part in the incidents of our tale. It has been
said that she was pleasing to the eye, but her beauty was of a kind that
depended more on expression, on a union of character with feminine grace,
than on the vulgar lines of regularity and symmetry. While she had no
feature that was defective, she had none that was absolutely faultless,
though all were combined with so much harmony and the soft expression of
the mild blue eye accorded so well with the gentle play of a sweet mouth,
that the soul of their owner seemed ready at all times to appear through
these ingenuous tell-tales of her thoughts. Still, maidenly reserve sate
in constant watch over all, and it was when the spectator thought himself
most in communion with her spirit, that he most felt its pure and
correcting influence. Perhaps a cast of high intelligence, of a natural
power to discriminate, which much surpassed the limited means accorded to
females of that age, contributed their share to hold those near her in
respect, and served in some degree as a mild and wise repellant, to
counteract the attractions of her gentleness and candor. In short, one
cast unexpectedly in her society would not have been slow to infer, and he
would have decided correctly, that Adelheid de Willading was a girl of
warm and tender affections, of a playful but regulated fancy, of a firm
and lofty sense of all her duties, whether natural or merely the result of
social obligations, of melting pity, and yet of a habit and quality to
think and act for herself, in all those cases in which it was fitting for
a maiden of her condition and years to assume such self-control.
It was now more than a year since Adelheid had become fully sensible of
the force of her attachment for Sigismund Steinbach, and during all that
time she had struggled hard to overcome a feeling which she believed could
lead to no happy result. The declaration of the young man himself, a
declaration that was extorted involuntarily and in a moment of powerful
passion, was accompanied by an admission of its uselessness and folly, and
it first opened her eyes to the state of her own feelings. Though she had
listened, as all of her sex will listen, even when the passion is
hopeless, to such words coming from lips they love, it was with a
self-command that enabled her to retain her own secret, and with a settled
and pious resolution to do that which she believed to be her duty to
herself, to her father, and to Sigismund. From that hour she ceased to see
him, unless under circumstances when it would have drawn suspicion on her
motives to refuse, and while she never appeared to forget her heavy
obligations to the youth, she firmly denied herself the pleasure of even
mentioning his name when it could be avoided. But of all ungrateful and
reluctant tasks, that of striving to forget is the least likely to
succeed. Adelheid was sustained only by her sense of duty and the desire
not to disappoint her father's wishes, to which habit and custom had given
nearly the force of law with maidens of her condition, though her reason
and judgment no less than her affections were both strongly enlisted on
the other side. Indeed, with the single exception of the general unfitness
of a union between two of unequal stations, there was nothing to
discredit her choice, if that may be termed choice which, after all, was
more the result of spontaneous feeling and secret sympathy than of any
other cause, unless it were a certain equivocal reserve, and a manifest
uneasiness, whenever allusion was made to the early history and to the
family of the soldier. This sensitiveness on the part of Sigismund had
been observed and commented on by others as well as by herself, and it had
been openly ascribed to the mortification of one who had been thrown, by
chance, into an intimate association that was much superior to what he was
entitled to maintain by birth; a weakness but too common, and which few
have strength of mind to resist or sufficient pride to overcome. The
intuitive watchfulness of affection, however, led Adelheid to a different
conclusion; she saw that he never affected to conceal, while with equal
good taste he abstained from obtrusive allusions to the humble nature of
his origin, but she also perceived that there were points of his previous
history on which he was acutely sensitive, and which at first she feared
must be attributed to the consciousness of acts that his clear perception
of moral truth condemned, and which he could wish forgotten. For some time
Adelheid clung to this discovery as to a healthful and proper antidote to
her own truant inclinations, but native rectitude banished a suspicion
which had no sufficient ground, as equally unworthy of them both. The
effects of a ceaseless mental struggle, and of the fruitlessness of her
efforts to overcome her tenderness in behalf of Sigismund, have been
described in the fading of her bloom, in the painful solicitude of a
countenance naturally so sweet, and in the settled melancholy of her
playful and mellow eye. These were the real causes of the journey
undertaken by her father, and, in truth, of most of the other events
which we are about to describe.
The prospect of the future had undergone a sudden change. The color,
though more the effect of excitement than of returning health--for he tide
of life, when rudely checked, does not resume its currents at the first
breath of happiness--again brightened her cheek and imparted brilliancy to
her looks, and smiles stole easily to those lips which had long been
growing pallid with anxiety. She leaned forward from the balcony, and
never before had the air of her native mountains seemed so balmy and
healing. At that moment the subject of her thoughts appeared on the
verdant declivity, among the luxuriant nut-trees that shade the natural
lawn of Blonay. He saluted her respectfully, and pointed to the glorious
panorama of the Leman. The heart of Adelheid beat violently; she struggled
for an instant with her fears and her pride, and then, for the first time
in her life, she made a signal that she wished him to join her.
Notwithstanding the important service that the young soldier had rendered
to the daughter of the Baron de Willading, and the long intimacy which had
been its fruit, so great had been the reserve she had hitherto maintained,
by placing a constant restraint on her inclinations, though the simple
usages of Switzerland permitted greater familiarity of intercourse than
was elsewhere accorded to maidens of rank, that Sigismund at first stood
rooted to the ground, for he could not imagine the waving of the hand was
meant for him. Adelheid saw his embarrassment, and the signal was
repeated. The young man sprang up the acclivity with the rapidity of the
wind, and disappeared behind the walls of the castle.
The barrier of reserve, so long and so success fully observed by
Adelheid, was now passed, and she felt as if a few short minutes must
decide her fate. The necessity of making a wide circuit in order to enter
the court still afforded a little time for reflection, however, and this
she endeavored to improve by collecting her thoughts and recovering her
When Sigismund entered the knights' hall, he found the maiden still seated
near the open window of the balcony, pale and serious, but perfectly calm,
and with such an expression of radiant happiness in her countenance as he
had not seen reigning in those sweet lineaments for many painful, months.
The first feeling was that of pleasure at perceiving how well she bore the
alarms and dangers of the past night. This pleasure he expressed, with the
frankness admitted, by the habits of the Germans.
"Thou wilt not suffer, Adelheid, by the exposure on the lake!" he said,
studying her face until the tell-tale blood stole to her very temples.
"Agitation of the mind is a good antidote to the consequences of bodily
exposure. So far from suffering by what has passed, I feel stronger to-day
and better able to endure fatigue, than at any time since we came through
the gates of Willading. This balmy air, to me, seems Italy, and I see no
necessity to journey farther in search of what they said was necessary to
my health, agreeable objects and a generous sun."
"You will not cross the St. Bernard!" he exclaimed in a tone of
Adelheid smiled, and he felt encouraged, though the smile was ambiguous.
Notwithstanding the really noble sincerity of the maiden's disposition,
and her earnest desire to set his heart at ease, nature, or habit, or
education, for we scarcely know to which the weakness ought to be
ascribed, tempted her to avoid a direct explanation.
"Why need one desire aught that is more lovely than this?" she answered,
evasively. "Here is a warm air, such a scene as Italy can scarcely
surpass, and a friendly roof. The experience of the last twenty-four hours
gives little encouragement for attempting the St. Bernard, notwithstanding
the fair promises of hospitality and welcome that have been so liberally
held out by the good canon."
"Thy eye contradicts thy tongue, Adelheid; thou art happy and well enough
to use pleasantry to-day. For heaven's sake, do not neglect to profit by
this advantage, however, under a mistaken opinion that Blonay is the
well-sheltered Pisa. When the winter shall arrive, thou wilt see that
these mountains are still the icy Alps, and the winds will whistle through
this crazy castle, as they are wont to sing in the naked corridors of
"We have time before us, and can think of this. Thou wilt proceed to
Milan, no doubt, as soon as the revels of Vevey are ended."
"The soldier has little choice but duty. My long and frequent leaves of
absence of late,--leaves that have been liberally granted to me on account
of important family-concerns,--impose an additional obligation to be
punctual, that I may not seem forgetful of favors already enjoyed.
Although we all owe a heavy debt to nature, our voluntary engagements have
ever seemed to me the most serious."
Adelheid listened with breathless attention. Never before had he uttered
the word family, in reference to himself, in her presence. The allusion
appeared to have created unpleasant recollections in the mind of the young
man himself, for when he ceased to speak his countenance fell, and he
even appeared to be fast forgetting the presence of his fair companion.
The latter turned sensitively from a subject which she saw gave him pain,
and endeavored to call his thoughts to other things. By an unforeseen
fatality, the very expedient adopted hastened the explanation she would
now have given so much to postpone.
"My father has often extolled the site of the Baron de Blonay's castle,"
said Adelheid, gazing from the window, though all the fair objects of the
view floated unheeded before her eyes: "but, until now, I have always
suspected that friendly feeling had a great influence on his
"You did him injustice then," answered Sigismund, advancing to the
opening: "of all the ancient holds of Switzerland, Blonay is perhaps
entitled to the palm, for possessing the fairest site. Regard yon
treacherous lake, Adelheid! Can we fancy that sleeping mirror the same
boiling cauldron on which we were so lately tossed, helpless and nearly
"Hopeless, Sigismund, but for thee!"
"Thou forgett'st the daring Italian, without whose coolness and skill we
must indeed have irredeemably perished."
"And what would it be to me if the worthless bark were saved, while my
father and his friend were abandoned to the frightful fate that befell the
patron and that unhappy peasant of Berne!"
The pulses of the young man beat high, for there was a tenderness in the
tones of Adelheid to which he was unaccustomed, and which, indeed, he had
never before discovered in her voice.
"I will go seek this brave mariner," he said, trembling lest his
self-command should be again lost by the seductions of such a
communion:--"it is time he had more substantial proofs of our gratitude."
"No, Sigismund," returned the maiden; firmly, and in a way to chain him
to the spot, "thou must not quit me yet--I have much to say--much that
touches my future happiness, and, I am perhaps weak enough to believe,
Sigismund was bewildered, for the manner of his companion, though the
color went and came in sudden and bright flashes across her pure brows,
was miraculously calm and full of dignity. He took the seat to which she
silently pointed, and sat motionless as if carved in stone, his faculties
absorbed in the single sense of hearing. Adelheid saw that the crisis was
arrived, and that retreat, without an appearance of levity that her
character and pride equally forbade, was impossible. The inbred and
perhaps the inherent feelings of her sex would now have caused her again
to avoid the explanation, at least as coming from herself, but that she
was sustained by a high and holy motive.
"Thou must find great delight, Sigismund, in reflecting on thine own good
acts to others. But for thee Melchior de Willading would have long since
been childless; and but for thee his daughter would now be an orphan. The
knowledge that thou hast had the power and the will to succor thy friends
must be worth all other knowledge!"
"As connected with thee, Adelheid, it is," he answered in a low voice: "I
would not exchange the secret happiness of having been of this use to
thee, and to those thou lovest, for the throne of the powerful prince I
serve. I have had my secret wrested from me already, and it is vain
attempting to deny it, if I would. Thou knowest I love thee; and, in spite
of myself, my heart cherishes the weakness. I rather rejoice, than dread,
to say that it will cherish it until it cease to feel. This is more than
I ever intended to repeat to thy modest ears, which ought not to be wounded
by idle declarations like these, but--thou smilest--Adelheid!--can thy
gentle spirit mock at a hopeless passion!"
"Why should my smile mean mockery?"
"Adelheid!--nay--this never can be. One of my birth--my ignoble,
nameless origin, cannot even intimate his wishes, with honor, to a lady of
thy name and expectations!"
"Sigismund, it _can_ be. Thou hast not well calculated either the heart of
Adelheid de Willading, or the gratitude of her father."
The young man gazed earnestly at the face of the maiden, which, now that
she had disburdened her soul of its most secret thought, reddened to the
temples, more however with excitement than with shame, for she met his
ardent look with the mild confidence of innocence and affection. She
believed, and she had every reason so to believe, that her words would
give pleasure, and, with the jealous watchfulness of true love, she would
not willingly let a single expression of happiness escape her. But,
instead of the brightening eye, and the sudden expression of joy that she
expected, the young man appeared overwhelmed with feelings of a very
opposite, and indeed of the most painful, character. His breathing was
difficult, his look wandered, and his lips were convulsed. He passed his
hand across his brow, like a man in intense agony, and a cold perspiration
broke out, as by a dreadful inward working of the spirit, upon his
forehead and temples, in large visible drops.
"Adelheid--dearest Adelheid--thou knowest not what thou sayest!--One like
me can never become thy husband."
"Sigismund!--why this distress? Speak to me--ease thy mind by words. I
swear to thee that the consent of my father is accompanied on my part by
a willing heart. I love thee, Sigismund--wouldst thou have me--can I say
The young man gazed at her incredulously, and then, as thought became more
clear, as one regards a much-prized object that is hopelessly lost. He
shook his head mournfully, and buried his face in his hands.
"Say no more, Adelheid--for my sake--for thine own sake, say no more--in
mercy, be silent! Thou never canst be mine--No, no--honor forbids it; in
thee it would be madness, in me dishonor--we can never be united. What
fatal weakness has kept me near thee--I have long dreaded this--"
"Nay, do not repeat my words,--for I scarce know what I say. Thou and thy
father have yielded, in a moment of vivid gratitude, to a generous, a
noble impulse--but it is not for me to profit by the accident that has
enabled me to gain this advantage. What would all of thy blood, all of the
republic say, Adelheid, were the noblest born, the best endowed, the
fairest, gentlest, best maiden of the canton, to wed a nameless,
houseless, soldier of fortune, who has but his sword and some gifts of
nature to recommend him? Thy excellent father will surely think better of
this, and we will speak of it no more!"
"Were I to listen to the common feelings of my sex, Sigismund, this
reluctance to accept what both my father and myself offer might cause me
to feign displeasure. But, between thee and me, there shall be naught but
holy truth. My father has well weighed all these objections, and he has
generously decided to forget them. As for me, placed in the scale against
thy merits, they have never weighed at all. If thou canst not become noble
in order that we may be equals, I shall find more happiness in descending
to thy level, than by living in heartless misery at the vain height where
I have been placed by accident."
"Blessed, ingenuous girl!--But what does it all avail? Our marriage is
"If thou knowest of any obstacle that would render it improper for a weak,
but virtuous girl--"
"Hold, Adelheid!--do not finish the sentence. I am sufficiently
humbled--sufficiently debased--without this cruel suspicion."
"Then why is our union impossible--when my father not only consents, but
wishes it may take place?"
"Give me time for thought--thou shalt know all, Adelheid, sooner or later.
Yes, this is, at the least, due to thy noble frankness, Thou shouldst in
justice have known it long before."
Adelheid regarded him in speechless apprehension, for the evident and
violent physical struggles of the young man too fearfully announced the
mental agony he endured. The color had fled from her own face, in which
the beauty of expression now reigned undisputed distress; but it was the
expression of the mingled sentiments of wonder, dread, tenderness, and
alarm. He saw that his own sufferings were fast communicating themselves
to his companion, and, by a powerful effort, he so far mastered his
emotions as to regain a portion of his self-command.
"This explanation has been too heedlessly delayed," he continued: "cost
what it may, it shall be no longer postponed. Thou wilt not accuse me of
cruelty, or of dishonest silence, but remember the failing of human
nature, and pity rather than blame a weakness which may be the cause of as
much future sorrow to thyself, beloved Adelheid, as it is now of bitter
regret to me. I have never concealed from thee that my birth is derived
from that class which throughout Europe, is believed to be of inferior
rights to thine own; on this head, I am proud rather than humble, for the
invidious distinctions of usage have too often provoked comparisons, and I
have been in situations to know that the mere accidents of descent bestow
neither personal excellence, superior courage, nor higher intellect.
Though human inventions may serve to depress the less fortunate, God has
given fixed limits to the means of men. He that would be greater than his
kind, and illustrious by unnatural expedients, must debase others to
attain his end. By different means than these there is no nobility, and he
who is unwilling to admit an inferiority which exists only in idea can
never be humbled by an artifice so shallow. On the subject of mere birth,
as it is ordinarily estimated, whether it come from pride, or philosophy,
or the habit of commanding as a soldier those who might be deemed my
superiors as men, I have never been very sensitive. Perhaps the heavier
disgrace which crushes me may have caused this want to appear lighter than
it otherwise might."
"Disgrace!" repeated Adelheid, in a voice that was nearly choked. "The
word is fearful, coming from one of thy regulated mind, and as applied to
"I cannot choose another. Disgrace it is by the common consent of men--by
long and enduing opinion--it would almost seem by the just judgment of
God. Dost thou not believe, Adelheid, that there are certain races which
are deemed accursed, to answer some great and unseen end--races on whom
the holy blessings of Heaven never descend, as they visit the meek and
well-deserving that come of other lines!"
"How can I believe this gross injustice, on the part of a Power that is
wise without bounds, and forgiving to parental love?"
"Thy answer would be well, were this earth the universe, or this state of
being the last. But he whose sight extends beyond the grave, who fashions
justice, and mercy, and goodness, on a scale commensurate with his own
attributes, and not according to our limited means, is not to be estimated
by the narrow rules that we apply to men. No, we must not measure the
ordinances of God by laws that are plausible in our own eyes. Justice is a
relative and not an abstract quality; and, until we understand the
relations of the Deity to ourselves as well as we understand our own
relations to the Deity, we reason in the dark."
"I do not like to hear thee speak thus, Sigismund, and, least of all, with
a brow so clouded, and in a voice so hollow!"
"I will tell my tale more cheerfully, dearest. I have no right to make
thee the partner of my misery; and yet this is the manner I have reasoned,
and thought, and pondered--ay, until my brain has grown heated, and the
power to reason itself has nearly tottered. Ever since that accursed hour,
in which the truth became known to me, and I was made the master of the
fatal secret, have I endeavored to feel and reason thus."
"What truth?--what secret?--If thou lovest me, Sigismund, speak calmly and
The young man gazed at her anxious face in a way to show how deeply he
felt the weight of the blow he was about to give. Then, after a pause he
"We have lately passed through a terrible scene together, dearest
Adelheid. It was one that may well lessen the distances set between us by
human laws and the tyranny of opinions. Had it been the will of God that
the bark should perish, what a confused crowd of ill-assorted spirits
would have passed together into eternity! We had them, there, of all
degrees of vice, as of nearly all degrees of cultivation, from the subtle
iniquity of the wily Neapolitan juggler to thine own pure soul. There
would have died in the Winkelried the noble of high degree, the reverend
priest, the soldier in the pride of his strength, and the mendicant! Death
is an uncompromising leveller, and the depths of the lake, at least, might
have washed out all our infamy, whether it came of real demerits or merely
from received usage; even the luckless Balthazar, the persecuted and hated
headsman, might have found those who would have mourned his loss."
"If any could have died unwept in meeting such a fate, it must have been
one that, in common, awakes so little of human sympathy; and one too, who,
by dealing himself in the woes of others, has less claim to the compassion
that we yield to most of our species."
"Spare me--in mercy, Adelheid, spare me--thou speakest of my father!"
Fortune had smil'd upon Guelberto's birth.
The heir of Valdespesa's rich domain;
An only child, he grew in years and worth,
And well repaid a father's anxious pain.
As Sigismund uttered this communication, so terrible to the ear of his
listener, he arose and fled from the room. The possession of a kingdom
would not have tempted him to remain and note troubled air and rapid
strides as he passed them, but, too simple to suspect more than the
ordinary impetuosity of youth, he succeeded in getting through the
inferior gate of the castle and into the fields, without attracting any
embarrassing attention to his movements. Here he began to breathe more
freely, and the load which had nearly choked his respiration became
lightened. For half an hour the young man paced the greensward scarcely
conscious whither he went, until he found that his steps had again led him
beneath the window of the knights' hall. Glancing an eye upward, he saw
Adelheid still seated at the balcony, and apparently yet alone. He thought
she had been weeping, and he cursed the weakness which had kept him from
effecting the often-renewed resolution to remove himself, and his cruel
fortunes, for ever from before her mind. A second look, however, showed
him that he was again beckoned to ascend! The revolutions in the purposes
of lovers are sudden and easily effected; and Sigismund, through whose
mind a dozen ill-digested plans of placing the sea between himself and her
he loved had just been floating, was now hurriedly retracing his steps to
Adelheid had necessarily been educated under the influence of the
prejudices of the age and of the country in which she lived. The existence
of the office of headsman in Berne, and the nature of its hereditary
duties, were well known to her: and, though superior to the inimical
feeling which had so lately been exhibited against the luckless Balthazar,
she had certainly never anticipated a shock so cruel as was now produced,
by abruptly learning that this despised and persecuted being was the
father of the youth to whom she had yielded her virgin affections. When
the words which proclaimed the connexion had escaped the lips of
Sigismund, she listened like one who fancied that her ears deceived her.
She had prepared herself to learn that he derived his being from some
peasant or ignoble artisan, and, once or twice, as he drew nearer to the
fatal declaration, awkward glimmerings of a suspicion that some repulsive
moral unworthiness was connected with his origin troubled her imagination;
but her apprehensions could not, by possibility, once turn in the
direction of the revolting truth. It was some time before she was able to
collect her thoughts, or to reflect on the course it most became her to
pursue. But, as has been seen, it was long before she could summon the
self-command to request what she now saw was doubly necessary, another
meeting with her lover. As both had thought of nothing but his last words
during the short separation, there appeared no abruptness in the manner in
which he resumed the discourse, on seating himself at her side, exactly as
if they had not parted at all.
"The secret has been torn from me, Adelheid. The headsman of the canton is
my father; were the fact publicly known, the heartless and obdurate laws
would compel me to be his successor. He has no other child, except a
gentle girl--one innocent and kind as thou."
Adelheid covered her face with both her hands, as if to shut out a view of
the horrible truth. Perhaps an instinctive reluctance to permit her
companion to discover how great a blow had been given by this avowal of
his birth, had also its influence in producing the movement. They who have
passed the period of youth, and who can recall those days of inexperience
and hope, when the affections are fresh and the heart is untainted with
too much communion with the world,--and, especially, they who know of what
a delicate compound of the imaginative and the real the master-passion is
formed, how sensitively it regards all that can reflect credit on the
beloved object, and with what ingenuity it endeavors to find plausible
excuses for every blot that may happen, either by accident or demerit, to
tarnish the lustre of a picture that fancy has so largely aided in
drawing, will understand the rude nature of the shock that she had
received. But Adelheid de Willading, though a woman in the liveliness and
fervor of her imagination, as well as in the proneness to conceive her own
ingenuous conceptions to be more founded in reality than a sterner view of
things might possibly have warranted, was a woman also in the more
generous qualities of the heart, and in those enduring principles, which
seem to have predisposed the better part of the sex to make the heaviest
sacrifices rather than be false to their affections. While her frame
shuddered, therefore, with the violence and abruptness of the emotions she
had endured, dawnings of the right gleamed upon her pure mind, and it was
not long before she was able to contemplate the truth with the steadiness
of principle, though it might, at the same time, have been with much of
the lingering weakness of humanity. When she lowered her hands, she looked
towards the mute and watchful Sigismund, with a smile that caused the
deadly paleness of her features to resemble a gleam of the sun lighting
upon a spotless peak of her native mountains.
"It would be vain to endeavor to conceal from thee, Sigismund," she said,
"that I could wish this were not so. I will confess even more--that when
the truth first broke upon me, thy repeated services, and, what is even
less pardonable, thy tried worth, were for an instant forgotten in the
reluctance I felt to admit that my fate could ever be united with one so
unhappily situated. There are moments when prejudices and habits are
stronger than reason; but their triumph is short in well-intentioned
minds. The terrible injustice of our laws have never struck me with such
force before, though last night, while those wretched travellers were so
eager for the blood of--of--?"
"My father, Adelheid."
"Of the author of thy being, Sigismund," she continued, with a solemnity
that proved to the young man how deeply she reverenced the tie, "I was
compelled to see that society might be cruelly unjust; but now I find its
laws and prohibitions visiting one like thee, so far from joining in its
oppression, my soul revolts against the wrong."
"Thanks--thanks--a thousand thanks!" returned the young man, fervently. "I
did not expect less than this from thee, Mademoiselle de Willading."
"If thou didst not expect more--far more, Sigismund," resumed the maiden,
her ashen hue brightened to crimson, "thou hast scarcely been less unjust
than the world; and I will add, thou hast never understood that Adelheid
de Willading, whose name is uttered with so cold a form. We all have
moments of weakness; moments when the seductions of life, the worthless
ties which bind together the thoughtless and selfish in what are called
the interests of the world, appear of more value than aught else. I am no
visionary, to fancy imaginary and factitious obligations superior to those
which nature and wisdom have created--for if there be much unjustifiable
cruelty in the practices, there is also much that is wise in the
ordinances, of society--or to think that a wayward fairy is to be indulged
at any and every expense to the feelings and opinions of others. On the
contrary; I well know that so long as men exist in the condition in which
they are, it is little more than common prudence to respect their habits;
and that ill-assorted unions, in general, contain in themselves a
dangerous enemy to happiness. Had I always known thy history, dread of the
consequences, or those cold forms which protect the fortunate would
probably have interposed to prevent either from learning much of the
other's character.--I say not this, Sigismund, as by thy eye I see thou
wouldst think, in reproach for any deception, for I well know the
accidental nature of our acquaintance, and that the intimacy was forced
upon thee by our own importunate gratitude, but simply, and in explanation
of my own feelings. As it is, we are not to judge of our situation by
ordinary rules, and I am not now to decide on your pretensions to my hand
merely as the daughter of the Baron de Willading receiving a proposal from
one whose birth is not noble, but as Adelheid should weigh the claims of
Sigismund, subject to some diminution of advantages, if thou wilt, that is
perhaps greater than she had at first anticipated."
"Dost thou consider the acceptance of my hand possible, after what thou
knowest!" exclaimed the young man, in open wonder.
"So far from regarding the question in that manner, I ask myself if it
will be right--if it be possible, to reject the preserver of my own life,
the preserver of my father's life, Sigismund Steinbach, because he is the
son of one that men persecute?"
"Do not anticipate my words," said the maiden calmly, but in a way to
check his impatience by the quiet dignity of her manner, "This is an
important, I might say a solemn decision, and it has been presented to me
suddenly and without preparation. Thou wilt not think the worse of me, for
asking time to reflect before I give the pledge-that in my eyes, will be
for ever sacred. My father, believing thee to be of obscure origin, and
thoroughly conscious of thy worth, dear Sigismund, authorized me to speak
as I did in the beginning of our interview; but my father may possibly
think the conditions of his consent altered by this unhappy exposure of
the truth. It is meet that I tell him all, for thou knowest I must abide
by his decision. This thine own sense and filial piety will approve."
In spite of the strong objectionable facts that he had just revealed, hope
had begun to steal upon the wishes of the young man, as he listened to the
consoling words of the single-minded and affectionate Adelheid. It would
scarcely have been possible for a youth so endowed by nature, and one so
inevitably conscious of his own value, though so modest in its exhibition,
not to feel encouraged by her ingenuous and frank admission, as she
betrayed his influence over her happiness in the undisguised and simple