Part 4 out of 8
manner related. But the intention to appeal to her father caused him to
view the subject more dispassionately, for his strong sense was not slow
in pointing out the difference between the two judges, in a case like his.
"Trouble him not, Adelheid; the consciousness that his prudence denies
what a generous feeling might prompt him to bestow, may render him
unhappy. It is impossible that Melchior de Willading should consent to
give an only child to a son of the headsman of his canton. At some other
time, when the recollections of the late storm shall be less vivid, thine
own reason will approve of his decision."
His companion, who was thoughtfully leaning her spotless brow on her hand,
did not appeal to hear his words. She had recovered from the shock given
by the sudden announcement of his origin, and was now musing intently, and
with cooler discrimination, on the commencement of their acquaintance, its
progress and all its little incidents, down to the two grave events which
had so gradually and firmly cemented the sentiments of esteem and
admiration in the stronger and indelible tie of affection.
"If thou art the son of him thou namest, why art thou known by the name of
Steinbach, when Balthazar bears another?" demanded Adelheid anxious to
seize even the faintest hold of hope.
"It was my intention to conceal nothing, but to lay before thee the
history of my life, with all the reasons that may have influenced my
conduct," returned Sigismund: "at some other time, when both are in a
calmer state of mind, I shall dare to entreat a hearing--"
"Delay is unnecessary--it might even be improper. It is my duty to explain
every thing to my father, and he may wish to know why thou hast not always
appeared what thou art. Do not fancy, Sigismund, that I distrust thy
motive, but the wariness of the old and the confidence of the young have
so little in common!--I would rather that thou told me now."
He yielded to the mild earnestness of her manner, and to the sweet, but
sad, smile with which she seconded the appeal.
"If thou wilt hear the melancholy history, Adelheid," he said, "there is
no sufficient reason why I should wish to postpone the little it will be
necessary to say. You are probably familiar with the laws of the canton, I
mean those cruel ordinances by which a particular family is condemned, for
a better word can scarcely be found, to discharge the duties of this
revolting office. This duty may have been a privilege in the dark ages
but it is now become a tax that none, who have been educated with better
hopes, can endure to pay. My father, trained from infancy to expect the
employment, and accustomed to its discharge in contemplation, succeeded to
his parent while yet young; and, though formed by nature a meek and even a
compassionate man, he has never shrunk from his bloody tasks, whenever
required to fulfil them by the command of his superiors. But, touched by a
sentiment of humanity, it was his wish to avert from me what his better
reason led him to think the calamity of our race. I am the eldest born,
and, strictly, I was the child most liable to be called to assume the
office, but, as I have heard, the tender love of my mother induced her to
suggest a plan by which I, at least, might be rescued from the odium that
had so long been attached to our name. I was secretly conveyed from the
house while yet an infant; a feigned death concealed the pious fraud, and
thus far, Heaven be praised! the authorities are ignorant of my birth!"
"And thy mother, Sigismund; I have great respect for that noble mother,
who, doubtless, is endowed with more than her sex's firmness and
constancy, since she must have sworn faith and love to thy father, knowing
his duties and the hopelessness of their being evaded? I feel a reverence
for a woman so superior to the weaknesses, and yet so true to the real and
best affections, of her sex!"
The young man smiled so painfully as to cause his enthusiastic companion
to regret that she had put the question.
"My mother is certainly a woman not only to be loved, but in many
particulars deeply to be revered. My poor and noble mother has a thousand
excellencies, being a most tender parent, with a heart so kind that it
would grieve her to see injury done even to the meanest living thing. She
was not a woman, surely, intended by God to be the mother of a line of
"Thou seest, Sigismund," said Adelheid, nearly breathless in the desire to
seek an excuse for her own predilections, and to lessen the mental agony
he endured--"thou seest that one gentle and excellent woman, at least,
could trust her happiness to thy family. No doubt she was the daughter of
some worthy and just-viewing burgher of the canton, that had educated his
child to distinguish between misfortune and crime?"
"She was an only child and an heiress, like thy self, Adelheid;" he
answered, looking about him as if he sought some object on which he might
cast part of the bitterness that loaded his heart. "Thou art not less the
Beloved and cherished of thine own parent than was my excellent mother of
"Sigismund, thy manner is startling!--What wouldst thou say?"
"Neufchatel, and other countries besides Berne, have their privileged! My
mother was the only child of the headsman of the first. Thus thou seest,
Adelheid, that I boast my quarterings as well as another. God be praised!
we are not legally compelled, however, to butcher the condemned of any
country but our own!"
The wild bitterness with which this was uttered, and the energy of his
language, struck thrilling chords on every nerve of his listener.
"So many honors should not be unsupported;" he resumed. "We are rich, for
people of humble wishes, and have ample means of living without the
revenues of our charge--I love to put forth our long-acquired honors! The
means of a respectable livelihood are far from being wanted. I have told
you of the kind intentions of my mother to redeem one of her children, at
least, from stigma which weighed upon us all, and the birth of a second
son enabled her to effect this charitable purpose, without attracting
attention. I was nursed and educated apart, for many years, in ignorance
of my birth. At a suitable age, notwithstanding the early death of my
brother, I was sent to seek advancement in the service of the house of
Austria, under the feigned name I bear. I will not tell thee the anguish I
felt, Adelheid, when the truth was at length revealed! Of all the
cruelties inflicted by society, there is none so unrighteous in its nature
as the stigma it entails in the succession of crime or misfortune: of all
its favors, none can find so little justification, in right and reason, as
the privileges accorded to the accident of descent."
"And yet we are much accustomed to honor those that come of an ancient
line, and to see some part of the glory of the ancestor even in the most
"The more remote, the greater is the world's deference. What better proof
can we have of the world's weakness? Thus the immediate child of the hero,
he whose blood is certain, who bears the image of the father in his face,
who has listened to his counsels, and may be supposed to have derived, at
least, some portion of his greatness from the nearness of his origin, is
less a prince than he who has imbibed the current through a hundred vulgar
streams, and, were truth but known, may have no natural claim at all upon
the much-prized blood! This comes of artfully leading the mind to
prejudices, and of a vicious longing in man to forget his origin and
destiny, by wishing to be more than nature ever intended he should
"Surely, Sigismund, there is something justifiable in the sentiment of
desiring to belong to the good and noble!"
"If good and noble were the same. Thou hast well designated the feeling;
so long as it is truly a sentiment, it is not only excusable but wise; for
who would not wish to come of the brave, and honest, and learned, or by
what other greatness they may be known?--it is wise, since the legacy of
his virtues is perhaps the dearest incentive that a good man has for
struggling against the currents of baser interest; but what hope is left
to one like me, who finds himself so placed that he can neither inherit
nor transmit aught but disgrace! I do not affect to despise the advantages
of birth, simply because I do not possess them; I only complain that
artful combinations have perverted what should be sentiment and taste,
into a narrow and vulgar prejudice, by which the really ignoble enjoy
privileges greater than those perhaps who are worthy of the highest honors
man can bestow."
Adelheid had encouraged the digression which, with one less gifted with
strong good sense than Sigismund, might have only served to wound his
pride, but she perceived that he eased his mind by thus drawing on his
reason, and by setting up that which should be in opposition to that which
"Thou knowest," she answered, "that neither my father nor I am disposed to
lay much stress on the opinions of the world, as it concerns thee."
"That is, neither will insist on nobility; but will either consent to
share the obloquy of a union with an hereditary executioner?"
"Thou hast not yet related all it may be necessary to know that we may
"There is left little to explain. The expedient of my kind parents has
thus far succeeded. Their two surviving children, my sister and myself,
were snatched, for a time at least, from their accursed fortune, while my
poor brother, who promised little, was left, by a partiality I will not
stop to examine, to pass as the inheritor of our infernal privileges--
Nay, pardon, dearest Adelheid, I will be more cool; but death has saved
the youth from the execrable duties, and I am now the only male child of
Balthazar--yes," he added, laughing frightfully, "I, too have now a narrow
monopoly of all the honors of our house!"
"Thou--thou, Sigismund--with thy habits, thy education, thy feelings, thou
surely canst not be required to discharge the duties of this horrible
"It is easy to see that my high privileges do not charm you, Mademoiselle
de Willading; nor can I wonder at the taste. My chief surprise should be,
that you so long tolerate an executioner in your presence."
"Did I not know and understand the bitterness of feeling natural to one so
placed, this language would cruelly hurt me, Sigismund; but thou canst not
truly mean there is a real danger of thy ever being called to execute this
duty? Should there be the chance of such a calamity, may not the influence
of my father avert it? He is not without weight in the councils of the
"At present his friendship need not be taxed, for none but my parents, my
sister, and thou, Adelheid, are acquainted with the facts I have just
related. My poor sister is an artless, but an unhappy girl, for the
well-intentioned design of our mother has greatly disqualified her from
bearing the truth, as she might have done, had it been kept constantly
before her eyes. To the world, a young kinsman of my father appears
destined to succeed him, and there the matter must stand until fortune
shall decide differently. As respects my poor sister, there is some little
hope that the evil may be altogether averted. She is on the point of a
marriage here at Vevey, that may be the means of concealing her origin in
new ties. As for me, time must decide my fate."
"Why should the truth be ever known!" exclaimed Adelheid, nearly gasping
for breath, in her eagerness to propose some expedient that should rescue
Sigismund for ever from so odious an office.
"Thou sayest that there are ample means in thy family--relinquish all to
this youth, on condition that he assume thy place!"
"I would gladly beggar myself to be quit of it--"
"Nay, thou wilt not be a beggar while there is wealth among the de
Willadings. Let the final decision, in respect to other things, be what it
may, this can we at least promise!"
"My sword will prevent me from being under the necessity of accepting the
boon thou wouldst offer. With this good sword I can always command an
honorable existence, should Providence save me from the disgrace of
exchanging it for that of the executioner. But there exists an obstacle of
which thou hast not yet heard. My sister, who has certainly no admiration
for the honors that have humiliated our race for so many generations--I
might say ages--have we not ancient honors, Adelheid, as well as thou?--my
sister is contracted to one who bargains for eternal secrecy on this
point, as the condition of his accepting the hand and ample dowry of one
of the gentlest of human beings! Thou seest that others are not as
generous as thyself, Adelheid! My father, anxious to dispose of his child,
has consented to the terms and as the youth who is next in succession to
the family-honors is little disposed to accept them, and has already some
suspicion of the deception as respects her, I may be compelled to appear
in order to protect the offspring of my unoffending sister from the
This was assailing Adelheid in a point where she was the weakest. One of
her generous temperament and self-denying habits could scarce entertain
the wish of exacting that from another which she was not willing to
undergo herself, and the hope that had just been reviving in her heart was
nearly extinguished by the discovery. Still she was so much in the habit
of feeling under the guidance of her excellent sense, and it was so
natural to cling to her just wishes, while there was a reasonable chance
of their being accomplished, that she did not despair.
"Thy sister and her future husband know her birth, and understand the
chances they run."
"She knows all this, and such is her generosity, that she is not disposed
to betray me in order to serve herself. But this self-denial forms an
additional obligation on my part to declare myself the wretch I am. I
cannot say that my sister is accustomed to regard our long-endured
fortunes with all the horror I feel, for she has been longer acquainted
with the facts, and the domestic habits of her sex have left her less
exposed to the encounter of the world's hatred, and perhaps she is partly
ignorant of all the odium we sustain. My long absences in foreign services
delayed the confidence as respects myself, while the yearnings of a mother
towards an only daughter caused her to be received into the family, though
still in secret, several years before I was told the truth. She is also
much my junior; and all these causes, with some difference in our
education, have less disposed her to misery than I am; for while my
father, with a cruel kindness, had me well and even liberally instructed,
Christine was taught as better became the hopes and origin of both. Now
tell me, Adelheid, that thou hatest me for my parentage, and despisest me
for having so long dared to intrude on thy company, with the full
consciousness of what I am for ever present to my thoughts!"
"I like not to hear thee make these bitter allusions to an accident of
this nature, Sigismund. Were I to tell thee that I do not feel this
circumstance with nearly, if not quite, as much poignancy as thyself,"
added the ingenuous girl, with a noble frankness, "I should do injustice
to my gratitude and to my esteem for thy character. But there is more
elasticity in the heart of woman than in that of thy imperious and proud
sex. So far from thinking of thee as thou wouldst fain believe, I see
naught but what is natural and justifiable in thy reserve. Remember, thou
hast not tempted my ears by professions and prayers, as women are commonly
entreated, but that the interest I feel in thee has been modestly and
fairly won. I can neither say nor hear more at present for this unexpected
announcement has in some degree unsettled my mind. Leave me to reflect on
what I ought to do, and rest assured that thou canst not have a kinder or
more partial advocate of what truly belongs to thy honor and happiness
than my own heart."
As the daughter of Melchior de Willading concluded, she extended her hand
with affection to the young man, who pressed it against his breast with
manly tenderness, when he slowly and reluctantly withdrew.
To know no more
Is woman's happiest knowledge, and her praise.
Our heroine was a woman in the best meaning of that endearing, and, we
might add, comprehensive word. Sensitive, reserved, and at times even
timid, on points that did not call for the exercise of higher qualities,
she was firm in her principles, constant as she was fond in her
affections, and self-devoted when duty and inclination united to induce
the concession, to a degree that placed the idea of sacrifice out of the
question. On the other hand, the liability to receive lively impressions,
a distinctive feature of her sex, and the aptitude to attach importance to
the usages by which she was surrounded, and which is necessarily greatest
in those who lead secluded and inactive lives, rendered it additionally
difficult for her mind to escape from the trammels of opinion, and to
think with indifference of circumstances which all near her treated with
high respect, or to which they attached a stigma allied to disgust. Had
the case been reversed, had Sigismund been noble, and Adelheid a
headsman's child, it is probable the young man might have found the means
to indulge his passion without making too great a sacrifice of his pride.
By transporting his wife to his castle, conferring his own established
name, separating her from all that was unpleasant and degrading in the
connexion, and finding occupation for his own mind in the multiplied and
engrossing employments of his station, he would have diminished motives
for contemplating, and consequently for lamenting, the objectionable
features of the alliance he had made. These are the advantages which
nature and the laws of society give to man over the weaker but the truer
sex: and yet how few would have had sufficient generosity to make even the
sacrifice of feeling which such a course required! On the other hand,
Adelheid would be compelled to part with the ancient and distinguished
appellation of her family, to adopt one which was deemed infamous in the
canton, or, if some politic expedient were found to avert this first
disgrace, it would unavoidably be of a nature to attract, rather than to
avert, the attention of all who knew the facts, from the humiliating
character of his origin. She had no habitual relief against the constant
action of her thoughts, for the sphere of woman narrows the affections in
such a way as to render them most dependent on the little accidents of
domestic life; she could not close her doors against communication with
the kinsmen of her husband, should it be his pleasure to command or his
feeling to desire it; and it would become obligatory on her to listen to
the still but never-ceasing voice of duty, and to forget, at his request,
that she had ever been more fortunate, or that she was born for better
We do not say that all these calculations crossed the mind of the musing
maiden, though she certainly had a general and vague view of the
consequences that were likely to be drawn upon herself by a connexion with
Sigismund. She sat motionless, buried in deep thought, long after his
disappearance. The young man had passed by the postern around the base of
the castle, and was descending the mountain-side, across the sloping
meadows, with rapid steps, and probably for the first time since their
acquaintance her eye followed his manly figure vacantly and with
Her mind was too intently occupied for the usual observation of the
senses. The whole of that grand and lovely landscape was spread before her
without conveying impressions, as we gaze into the void of the firmament
with our looks on vacuum. Sigismund had disappeared among the walls of the
vineyards, when she arose, and drew such a sigh as is apt to escape us
after long and painful meditation. But the eyes of the high-minded girl
were bright and her cheek flushed, while the whole of her features wore an
expression of loftier beauty than ordinarily distinguished even her
loveliness. Her own resolution was formed. She had decided with the rare
and generous self-devotion of a female heart that loves, and which can
love in its freshness and purity but once. At that instant footsteps were
heard in the corridor, and the three old nobles whom we so lately left on
the castle-terrace, appeared together in the knights' hall.
Melchior de Willading approached his daughter with a joyous face, for he
too had lately gained what he conceived to be a glorious conquest over his
prejudices, and the victory put him in excellent humor with himself.
"The question is for ever decided," he said, kissing the burning forehead
of Adelheid with affection, and rubbing his hands, in the manner of one
who was glad to be free from a perplexing doubt "These good friends agree
with me, that, in a case like this, it becomes even our birth to forget
the origin of the youth. He who has saved the lives of the two last of the
Willadings at least deserves to have some share in what is left of them.
Here is my good Grimaldi, too, ready to beard me if I will not consent to
let him enrich the brave fellow--as if we were beggars, and had not the
means of supporting our kinsman in credit at borne. But we will not be
indebted even to so tried a friend for a tittle of our happiness. The work
shall be all our own, even to the letters of nobility, which I shall
command at an early day from Vienna; for it would be cruel to let the
noble fellow want so simple an advantage, which will at once raise him to
our own level, and make him as good--ay, by the beard of Luther! better
than the best man in Berne."
"I have never known thee niggardly before, though I have known thee often
well intrenched behind Swiss frugality;" said the Signor Grimaldi,
laughing. "Thy life, my dear Melchior, may have excellent value in thine
own eyes, but I am little disposed to set so mean a price on my own, as
thou appearest to think it should command. Thou hast decided well, I will
say nobly, in the best meaning of the word, in consenting to receive this
brave Sigismund as a son; but thou art not to think, young lady, because
this body of mine is getting the worse for use, that I hold it altogether
worthless, and that it is to be dragged from yonder lake like so much foul
linen, and no questions are to be asked touching the manner in which the
service has been done. I claim to portion thy husband, that he may at
least make an appearance that becomes the son-in-law of Melchior de
Willading. Am I of no value, that ye treat me so unceremoniously as to say
I shall not pay for my own preservation?
"Have it thine own way, good Gaetano--have it as thou wilt, so thou dost
but leave us the youth--"
"I will have no maidenly affectation, Adelheid I expect thee to receive
the husband we offer with as good a grace as if he wore a crown. It has
been agreed upon between us that Sigismund Steinbach is to be my son; and
from time immemorial, the daughters of our house have submitted, in these
affairs, to what has been advised by the wisdom of their seniors, as
became their sex and inexperience."
The three old men had entered the hall full of good-humor, and it would
have been sufficiently apparent, by the manner of the Baron de Willading,
that he trifled with Adelheid, had it not been well known to the others
that her feelings were chiefly consulted in the choice that had just been
But, notwithstanding the high glee in which the father spoke, the pleasure
and buoyancy of his manner did not communicate itself to the child as
quickly as he could wish. There was far more than virgin embarrassment in
the mien of Adelheid. Her color went and came, and her look turned from
one to the other painfully, while she struggled to speak. The Signor
Grimaldi whispered to his companions, and Roger de Blonay discreetly
withdrew, under the pretence that his services were needed at Vevey, where
active preparations were making for the Abbaye des Vignerons. The Genoese
would then have followed his example, but the baron held his arm, while he
turned an inquiring eye towards his daughter, as if commanding her to deal
more frankly with him.
"Father," said Adelheid, in a voice that shook in spite of the effort to
control her feelings, "I have something important to communicate, before
this acceptance of Herr Steinbach is a matter irrevocably determined."
"Speak freely, my child; this is a tried friend, and one entitled to know
all that concerns us, especially in this affair. Throwing aside all
pleasantry, I trust, Adelheid, that we are to have no girlish trifling
with a youth like Sigismund; to whom we owe so much, even to our lives,
and in whose behalf we should be ready to sacrifice every feeling of
prejudice, or habit--all that we possess, ay, even to our pride."
"I have said all. I will not take back a letter of the word, though it
should rob me of Willading, my rank in the canton, and an ancient name to
boot. Am I not right, Gaetano? I place the happiness of the boy above all
other considerations, that of Adelheid being understood to be so
intimately blended with his. I repeat it, therefore, all."
"It would be well to hear what the young lady has to say, before we urge
this affair any farther;" said the Signor Grimaldi, who, having achieved
no conquest over himself, was not quite so exuberant in his exultation as
his friend; observing more calmly, and noting what he saw with the
clearness of a cooler-headed and more sagacious man. "I am much in error,
or thy daughter has that which is serious, to communicate."
The paternal affection of Melchior now took the alarm, and he gave an
eager attention to his child. Adelheid returned his evident solicitude by
a smile of love, but its painful expression was so unequivocal as to
heighten the baron's fears.
"Art not well, love? It cannot be that we have been deceived--that some
peasant's daughter is thought worthy to supplant thee? Ha!--Signor
Grimaldi, this matter begins, in sooth, to seem offensive;--but, old as I
am--Well, we shall never know the truth, unless thou speakest
frankly--this is a rare business, after all, Gaetano--that a daughter of
mine should be repulsed by a hind!"
Adelheid made an imploring gesture for her father to forbear, while she
resumed her seat from farther inability to stand. The two anxious old men
followed her example, in wondering silence.
"Thou dost both the honor and modesty of Sigismund great injustice,
father;" resumed the maiden, after a pause, and speaking with a calmness
of manner that surprised even herself. "If thou and this excellent and
tried friend will give me your attention for a few minutes, nothing shall
Her companions listened in wonder, for they plainly saw that the matter
was more grave than either had at first imagined. Adelheid paused again,
to summon force for the ungrateful duty, and then she succinctly, but
clearly, related the substance of Sigismund's communication. Both the
listeners eagerly caught each syllable that fell from the quivering lips
of the maiden, for she trembled, notwithstanding a struggle to be calm
that was almost superhuman, and when her voice ceased they gazed at each
other like men suddenly astounded by some dire and totally unexpected
calamity. The baron, in truth, could scarcely believe that he had not been
deceived by a defective hearing, for age had begun a little to impair that
useful faculty, while his friend admitted the words as one receives
impressions of the most revolting and disheartening nature.
"This is a damnable and fearful fact!" muttered the latter, when Adelheid
had altogether ceased to speak.
"Did she say that Sigismund is the son of Balthazar, the public headsman
of the canton!" asked the father of his friend, in the way that one
reluctantly assures himself of some half-comprehended and unwelcome
truth,--"of Balthazar--of that family accursed!"
"Such is the parentage it hath been the will of God to bestow on the
preserver of our lives," meekly answered Adelheid.
"Hath the villain dared to steal into my family-circle, concealing this
disgusting and disgraceful fact!--Hath he endeavored to engraft the
impurity of his source on the untarnished stock of a noble and ancient
family! There is something exceeding mere duplicity in this, Signor
Grimaldi. There is a dark and meaning crime."
"There is that which much exceeds our means of remedying, good Melchior.
But let us not rashly blame the boy, whose birth is rather to be imputed
to him as a misfortune than as a crime. If he were a thousand Balthazars,
he has saved all our lives!"
"Thou sayest true--thou sayest no more than the truth. Thou wert always of
a more reasonable brain than I, though thy more southern origin would seem
to contradict it. Here, then, are all our fine fancies and liberal schemes
of generosity blown to the winds!"
"That is not so evident," returned the Genoese, who had not failed the
while to study the countenance of Adelheid, as if he would fully ascertain
her secret wishes. "There has been much discourse, fair Adelheid, between
thee and the youth on this matter?"
"Signore, there has. I was about to communicate the intentions of my
father; for the circumstances in which we were placed, the weight of our
many obligations, the usual distance which rank interposes between the
noble and the simply born, perhaps justified this boldness in a maiden,"
she added, though the tell-tale blood revealed her shame. "I was making
Sigismund acquainted with my father's wishes, when he met my confidence by
the avowal which I have just related."
"He deems his birth--?"
"An insuperable barrier to the connexion. Sigismund Steinbach, though so
little favored in the accident of his origin, is not a beggar to sue for
that which his own generous feelings would condemn."
Adelheid lowered her eyes, and seemed to reflect on the nature of her
"Thou wilt pardon this curiosity, which may wear too much the aspect of
unwarrantable meddling, but my age and ancient friendship, the recent
occurrences, and a growing love for all that concerns thee, must plead my
excuses. Unless we know thy wishes, daughter, neither Melchior nor I can
act as we might wish?"
Adelheid was long and thoughtfully silent. Though every sentiment of her
heart, and all that inclination which is the offspring of the warm and
poetical illusions of love, tempted her to declare a readiness to
sacrifice every other consideration to the engrossing and pure affections
of woman, opinion with its iron gripe still held her in suspense on the
propriety of braving the prejudices of the world. The timidity of that sex
which, however ready to make an offering of its most cherished privileges
on the shrine of connubial tenderness, shrinks with a keen sensitiveness
from the appearance of a forward devotion to the other, had its weight
also, nor could a child so pious altogether forget the effect her decision
might have on the future happiness of her sole surviving parent.
The Genoese understood the struggle, though he foresaw its termination,
and he resumed the discourse himself, partly with the kind wish to give
the maiden time to reflect maturely before she answered, and partly
following a very natural train of his own thoughts.
"There is naught sure in this fickle state of being;" he continued.
"Neither the throne, nor riches, nor health, nor even the sacred
affections are secure against change. Well may we pause then and weigh
every chance of happiness, ere we take the last and final step in any
great or novel measure. Thou knowest the hopes with which I entered life,
Melchior, and the chilling disappointments with which my career is likely
to close. No youth was born to fairer hopes, nor did Italy know one more
joyous than myself, the morning I received the hand of Angiolina; and yet
two short years saw all those hopes withered, this joyousness gone, and a
cloud thrown across my prospects which has never disappeared. A widowed
husband, a childless father, may not prove a bad counsellor, my friend, in
a moment when there is so much doubt besetting thee and thine."
"Thy mind naturally returns to thine own unhappy child, poor Gaetano, when
there is so much question of the fortunes of mine."
The Signor Grimaldi turned his look on his friend, but the gleam of
anguish, which was wont to pass athwart his countenance when his mind was
drawn powerfully towards that painful subject, betrayed that he was not
just then able to reply.
"We see in all these events," continued the Genoese, as if too full of his
subject to restrain his words, "the unsearchable designs of Providence.
Here is a youth who is all that a father could desire; worthy in every
sense to be the depository of a beloved and only daughter's weal; manly,
brave, virtuous, and noble in all but the chances of blood, and yet so
accursed by the world's opinion that we might scarce venture to name him
as the associate of an idle hour, were the fact known that he is the man
he has declared himself to be!"
"You put the matter in strong language Signor Grimaldi;" said Adelheid,
"A youth of a form so commanding that a king might exult at the prospect
of his crown descending on such a head; of a perfection of strength and
masculine excellence that will almost justify the dangerous exultation of
health and vigor; of a reason that is riper than his years; of a virtue of
proof; of all qualities that we respect, and which come of study and not
of accident, and yet a youth condemned of men to live under the reproach
of their hatred and contempt, or to conceal for ever the name of the
mother that bore him! Compare this Sigismund with others that may be
named; with the high-born and pampered heir of some illustrious house, who
riots in men's respect while he shocks men's morals; who presumes on
privilege to trifle with the sacred and the just; who lives for self, and
that in base enjoyments; who is fitter to be the lunatic's companion than
any other's, though destined to rule in the council; who is the type of
the wicked, though called to preside over the virtuous; who cannot be
esteemed, though entitled to be honored; and let us ask why this is so,
what is the wisdom which hath drawn differences so arbitrary, and which,
while proclaiming the necessity of justice, so openly, so wantonly, and so
ingeniously sets its plainest dictates at defiance?"
"Signore, it should not be thus--God never intended it should be so!"
"While every principle would seem to say that each must stand or fall by
his own good or evil deeds, that men are to be honored as they merit,
every device of human institutions is exerted to achieve the opposite.
This is exalted, because his ancestry is noble; that condemned for no
better reason than that he is born vile. Melchior! Melchior! our reason is
unhinged by subtleties, and our boasted philosophy and right are no more
than unblushing mockeries, at which the very devils laugh!"
"And yet the commandments of God tell us, Gaetano, that the sins of the
father shall be visited on the descendants from generation to generation.
You of Rome pay not this close attention, perhaps, to sacred writ, but I
have heard it said that we have not in Berne a law for which good warranty
cannot be found in the holy volume itself."
"Ay, there are sophists to prove all that they wish. The crimes and
follies of the ancestor leave their physical, or even their moral taint,
on the child, beyond a question, good Melchior;--but is not this
sufficient? Are we blasphemously, even impiously, to pretend that God has
not sufficiently provided for the punishment of the breaches of his wise
ordinances, that we must come forward to second them by arbitrary and
heartless rules of our own? What crime is imputable to the family of this
youth beyond that of poverty, which probably drove the first of his race
to the execution of their revolting office. There is little in the mien or
morals of Sigismund to denote the visitations of Heaven's wise decrees,
but there is everything in his present situation to proclaim the injustice
"And dost thou, Gaetano Grimaldi, the ally of so many ancient and
illustrious houses--thou, Gaetano Grimaldi, the honored of Genoa--dost
thou counsel me to give my only child, the heiress of my lands and name,
to the son of the public executioner, nay, to the very heritor of his
"There thou hast me on the hip, Melchior; the question is put strongly,
and needs reflection for an answer. Oh! why is this Balthazar so rich in
offspring, and I so poor? But we will not press the matter; it is an
affair of many sides, and should be judged by us as men, as well as
nobles. Daughter, thou hast just learned, by the words of thy father, that
I am against thee, by position and heritage, for, while I condemn the
principle of this wrong, I cannot overlook its effects, and never before
did a case of as tangled difficulty, one in which right was so palpably
opposed by opinion, present itself for my judgment. Leave us, that we may
command ourselves; the required decision exacts much care, and greater
mastery of ourselves than I can exercise, with that sweet pale face of
thine appealing so eloquently to my heart in behalf of the noble boy."
Adelheid arose, and first offering her marble-like brow to the salutations
of both her parents, for the ancient friendship and strong sympathies of
the Genoese, gave him a claim to this appellation in her affections at
least, she silently withdrew.
As to the conversation which ensued between the old nobles, we momentarily
drop the curtain, to proceed to other incidents of our narrative. It may,
however, be generally observed that the day passed quietly away, without
the occurrence of any event which it is necessary to relate, all in the
chateau, with the exception of the travellers, being principally occupied
by the approaching festivities. The Signor Grimaldi sought an occasion to
have a long and confidential communication with Sigismund, who, on his
part, carefully avoided being seen again by her who had so great an
influence on his feelings, until both had time to recover their
Hold, hurt him not, for God's sake;--he is mad.
Comedy of Errors.
The festivals of Bacchus are supposed to have been the models of those
long-continued festivities, which are still known in Switzerland by the
name of the Abbaye des Vignerons.
This fete was originally of a simple and rustic character, being far from
possessing the labored ceremonies and classical allegories of a later day,
the severity of monkish discipline most probably prohibiting the
introduction of allusions to the Heathen mythology, as was afterwards
practised; for certain religious communities that were the proprietors of
large vineyards in that vicinity appear to have been the first known
patrons of the custom. So long as a severe simplicity reigned in the
festivities, they were annually observed; but, when heavier expenses and
greater preparations became necessary, longer intervals succeeded; the
Abbaye, at first, causing its festival to become triennial, and
subsequently extending the period of vacation to six years. As greater
time was obtained for the collection of means and inclination, the
festival gained in _eclat_, until it came at length to be a species of
jubilee, to which the idle, the curious, and the observant of all the
adjacent territories were accustomed to resort in crowds. The town of
Vevey profited by the circumstance, the usual motive of interest being
enlisted in behalf of the usage, and, down to the epoch of the great
European revolution, there would seem to have been an unbroken succession
of the fetes. The occasion to which there has so often been allusion, was
one of the regular and long-expected festivals; and, as report had spoken
largely of the preparations, the attendance was even more numerous than
Early on the morning of the second day after the arrival of our travellers
at the neighboring castle of Blonay, a body of men, dressed in the guise
of halberdiers, a species of troops then known in most of the courts of
Europe, marched into the great square of Vevey, taking possession of all
its centre, and posting its sentries in such a manner as to interdict the
usual passages of the place. This was the preliminary step in the coming
festivities; for this was the spot chosen for the scene of most of the
ceremonies of the day. The curious were not long behind the guards, and by
the time the sun had fairly arisen above the hills of Fribourg, some
thousands of spectators were pressing in and about the avenues of the
square, and boats from the opposite shores of Savoy were arriving at each
instant, crowded to the water's edge with peasants and their families.
Near the upper end of the square, capacious scaffoldings had been erected
to contain those who were privileged by rank, or those who were able to
buy honors with the vulgar medium; while humbler preparations for the less
fortunate completed the three sides of a space that was in the form of a
parallelogram, and which was intended to receive the actors in the coming
scene. The side next the water was unoccupied, though a forest of latine
spars, and a platform of decks, more than supplied the deficiency of
scaffolding and room. Music was heard, from time to time, intermingled or
relieved by those wild Alpine cries which characterize the songs of the
mountaineers. The authorities of the town were early afoot, and, as is
customary with the important agents of small concerns, they were
exercising their municipal function with a bustle, which of itself
contained reasonable evidence that they were of no great moment, and a
gravity of mien with which the chiefs of a state might have believed it
possible to dispense.
The estrade, or stage, erected for the superior class of spectators was
decorated with flags, and a portion near its centre had a fair display of
tapestry and silken hangings. The chateau-looking edifice near the bottom
of the square, and whose windows, according to a common Swiss and German
usage, showed the intermingled stripes that denoted it to be public
property, were also gay in colors, for the ensign of the Republic floated
over its pointed roofs, and rich silks waved against the walls. This was
the official residence of Peter Hofmeister, the functionary whom we have
already introduced to the reader.
An hour later, a shot gave the signal for the various _troupes_ to appear,
and soon after, parties of the different actors arrived in the square. As
the little processions approached to the sound of the trumpet or horn,
curiosity became more active and the populace was permitted to circulate
in those portions of the square that were not immediately required for
other purposes. About this time, a solitary individual appeared on the
stage. He seemed to enjoy peculiar privileges, not only from his
situation, but by the loud salutations and noisy welcomes with which he
was greeted from the crowd below. It was the good monk of St. Bernard,
who, with a bare head and a joyous contented face, answered to the several
calls of the peasants, most of whom had either bestowed hospitality on the
worthy Augustine, in his many journeyings among the charitable of the
lower world, or had received it at his hands in their frequent passages
of the mountain. These recognitions and greetings spoke well for humanity;
for in every instance they wore the air of cordial good-will, and a
readiness to do honor to the benevolent character of the religious
community that was represented in the person of its clavier or steward.
"Good luck to thee, Father Xavier, and a rich _quete_" cried a burly
peasant; "thou hast of late unkindly forgotten Benoit Emery and his. When
did a clavier of St. Bernard ever knock at my door, and go away with an
empty hand? We look for thee, reverend monk, with thy vessel, to-morrow;
for the summer has been hot, the grapes are rich, and the wine is
beginning to run freely in our tubs. Thou shalt dip without any to look at
thee, and, take it of which color thou wilt, thou shalt take it with a
"Thanks, thanks, generous Benoit; St. Augustine will remember the favor,
and thy fruitful vines will be none the poorer for thy generosity. We ask
only that we may give, and on none do we bestow more willingly than on the
honest Vaudois whom may the saints keep in mind for their kindness and
"Nay, I will have none of thy saints; thou knowest we are St. Calvin's men
in Vaud, if there must be any canonized. But what is it to us that thou
hearest mass, while we love the simple worship! Are we not equally men?
Does not the frost nip the members of Catholic and Protestant the same? or
does the avalanche respect one more than the other? I never knew thee, or
any of thy convent, question the frozen traveller of his faith, but all
are fed, and warmed, and, at need, administered to from the pharmacy, with
brotherly care, and as Christians merit. Whatever thou mayest think of the
state of our souls, thou on thy mountain there, no one will deny thy
tender services to our bodies. Say I well, neighbors, or is this only the
foolish gossip of old Benoit, who has crossed the Col so often, that he
has forgotten that out churches have quarrelled, and that the learned will
have us go to heaven by different roads?"
A general movement among the people, and a tossing of hands, appeared in
support of the truth and popularity of the honest peasant's sentiments,
for in that age the hospice of St. Bernard, more exclusively a refuge for
the real and poor traveller than at present, enjoyed a merited reputation
in all the country round.
"Thou shalt always be welcome on the pass, thou and thy friends, and all
others in the shape of men, without other interference in thy opinions
than secret prayers;" returned the good-humored and happy-looking clavier,
whose round contented face shone partly in habitual joy, partly in
gratification at this public testimonial in favor of the brotherhood, and
a little in satisfaction perhaps at the promise of an ample addition to
the convent's stores; for the community of St. Bernard, while so much was
going out, had a natural and justifiable desire to see some return for its
incessant and unwearied liberality. "Thou wilt not deny us the happiness
of praying for those we love, though it happen to be in a manner different
from that in which they ask blessings for themselves."
"Have it thine own way, good canon; I am none of those who are ready to
refuse a favor because it savors of Rome. But what has become of our
friend Uberto? He rarely comes into the valleys, that we are not anxious
to see his glossy coat."
The Augustine gave the customary call, and the mastiff mounted the stage
with a grave deliberate step, as if conscious of the dignity and
usefulness of the life he led, and like a dog accustomed to the friendly
notice of man. The appearance of this well-known and celebrated brute
caused another stir in the throng, many pressing upon the guards to get a
nearer view, and a few casting fragments of food from their wallets, as
tokens of gratitude and regard. In the midst of this little by-play of
good feeling, a dark shaggy animal leaped upon the scaffolding, and very
coolly commenced, with an activity that denoted the influence of the keen
mountain air on his appetite, picking up the different particles of meat
that had, as yet, escaped the eye of Uberto. The intruder was received
much in the manner that an unpopular or an offending actor is made to
undergo the hostilities of pit and galleries, to revenge some slight or
neglect for which he has forgotten or refused to atone. In other words, he
was incontinently and mercilessly pelted with such missiles as first
presented themselves. The unknown animal, which the reader, however, will
not be slow in recognizing to be the water-dog of Il Maledetto, received
these unusual visitations with some surprise, and rather awkwardly; for,
in his proper sphere, Nettuno had been quite as much accustomed to meet
with demonstrations of friendship from the race he so faithfully served,
as any of the far-famed and petted mastiffs of the convent. After dodging
sundry stones and clubs, as well as a pretty close attention to the
principal matter in hand would allow, and with a dexterity that did equal
credit to his coolness and muscle, a missile of formidable weight took the
unfortunate follower of Maso in the side, and sent him howling from the
stage. At the next instant, his master was at the throat of the offender,
throttling him till he was black in the face.
The unlucky stone had come from Conrad. Forgetful of his assumed
character, he had joined in the hue and cry against a dog whose character
and service should have been sufficiently known to him, at least, to prove
his protection, and had given; the crudest blow of all. It has been
already seen that there was little friendship between Maso and the
pilgrim, for the former appeared to have an instinctive dislike of the
latter's calling, and this little occurrence was not of a character likely
to restore the peace between them.
"Thou, too!" cried the Italian, whose blood had mounted at the first
attack on his faithful follower, and which fairly boiled when he witnessed
the cowardly and wanton conduct of this new assailant--"art not satisfied
with feigning prayers and godliness with the credulous, but thou must even
feign enmity to my dog, because it is the fashion to praise the cur of St.
Bernard at the expense of all other brutes! Reptile!--dost not dread the
arm of an honest man, when raised against thee in just anger?"
"Friends--Vevaisans--honorable citizens!" gasped the pilgrim, as the gripe
of Maso permitted breath. "I am Conrad, a poor, miserable, repentant
pilgrim--Will ye see me murdered for a brute?"
Such a contest could not continue long in such a place. At first the
pressure of the curious, and the great density of the crowd, rather
favored the attack of the mariner; but in the end they proved his enemies
by preventing the possibility of escaping from those who were especially
charged with the care of the public peace. Luckily for Conrad, for passion
had fairly blinded Maso to the consequences of his fury, the halberdiers
soon forced their way into the centre of the living mass, and they
succeeded in seasonably rescuing him from the deadly gripe of his
assailant. Il Maledetto trembled with the reaction of this hot sally, the
moment his gripe was forcibly released, and he would have disappeared as
soon as possible, had it been the pleasure of those into whose hands he
had fallen to permit so politic a step. But now commenced the war of
words, and the clamor of voices, which usually succeed, as well as
precede, all contests of a popular nature. The officer in charge of this
portion of the square questioned; twenty answered in a breath, not only
drowning each other's voices, but effectually contradicting all that was
said in the way of explanation. One maintained that Conrad had not been
content with attacking Maso's dog, but that he had followed up the blow by
offering a personal indignity to the master himself; this was the publican
in whose house the mariner had taken up his abode, and in which he had
been sufficiently liberal in his expenditure fairly to entitle him to the
hospitable support of its landlord. Another professed his readiness to
swear that the dog was the property of the pilgrim, being accustomed to
carry his wallet, and that Maso, owing to an ancient grudge against both
master and beast, had hurled the stone which sent the animal away howling,
and had resented a mild remonstrance of its owner in the extraordinary
manner that all had seen. This witness was the Neapolitan juggler, Pippo,
who had much attached himself to the person of Conrad since the adventure
of the bark, and who was both ready and willing to affirm anything in
behalf of a friend who had so evident need of his testimony, if it were
only on the score of boon-companionship. A third declared that the dog
belonged truly to the Italian, that the stone had been really hurled by
one who stood near the pilgrim, who had been wrongfully accused of the
offence by Maso; that the latter had made his attack under a false
impression, and richly merited punishment for the unceremonious manner in
which he had stopped Conrad's breath. This witness was perfectly honest,
but of a vulgar and credulous mind. He attributed the original offence to
one near that happened to have a bad name, and who was very liable to
father every sin that, by possibility, could be laid at his door, as well
as some that could not. On the other hand, he had also been duped that
morning by the pilgrim's superabundant professions of religious zeal a
circumstance that of itself would have prevented him from detecting
Conrad's arm in the air as it cast the stone, and which served greatly to
increase his certainty that the first offence came from the luckless wight
just alluded to; since they who discriminate under general convictions and
popular prejudices, usually heap all the odium they pertinaciously
withhold from the lucky and the favored, on those who seem fated by
general consent to be the common target of the world's darts.
The officer, by the time he had deliberately heard the three principal
witnesses, together with the confounding explanations of those who
professed to be only half-informed in the matter, was utterly at a loss to
decide which had been right and which wrong. He came, therefore, to the
safe conclusion to send all the parties to the guard-house, including the
witnesses, being quite sure that he had hit on an effectual method of
visiting the true criminal with punishment, and of admonishing all those
who gave evidence in future to have a care of the manner in which they
contradicted each other. Just as this equitable decision was pronounced,
the sound of a trumpet proclaimed the approach of a division of the
principal mummers, if so irreverent a term can be applied to men engaged
in a festival as justly renowned as that of the vine-dressers. This
announcement greatly quickened the steps of Justice, for they who were
charged with the execution of her decrees felt the necessity of being
prompt, under the penalty of losing an interesting portion of the
spectacle. Actuated by this new impulse, which, if riot as respectable,
was quite as strong, as the desire to do right, the disturbers of the
peace, even to those who had shown a quarrelsome temper by telling stories
that gave each other the lie, were hurried away in a body, and the public
was left in the enjoyment of that tranquillity which, in these perilous
times of revolution and changes, is thought to to be so necessary to its
dignity, so especially favorable to commerce, and so grateful to those
whose duty it is to preserve the public peace with as little inconvenience
to themselves as possible.
A blast of the trumpet was the signal for a more general movement, for it
announced the commencement of the ceremonies. As it will be presently
necessary to speak of the different personages who were represented on
this joyous occasion, we shall only say here, that group after group of
the actors came into the square, each party marching to the sound of music
from its particular point of rendezvous to the common centre. The stage
now began to fill with the privileged, among whom were many of the high
aristocracy of the ruling canton, most of its officials, who were too
dignified to be more than complacent spectators of revels like these, many
nobles of mark from Prance and Italy, a few travellers from England, for
in that age England was deemed a distant country and sent forth but a few
of her _elite_ to represent her on such occasions, most of those from the
adjoining territories who could afford the time and cost, and who by rank
or character were entitled to the distinction, and the wives and families
of the local officers who happened to be engaged as actors in the
representation. By the time the different parts of the principal
procession were assembled in the square, all the seats of the estrade were
crowded, with the exception of those reserved for the bailiff and his
So once were ranged the sons of ancient Rome,
A noble show! While Roscius trod the stage.
The day was not yet far advanced, when all the component parts of the
grand procession had arrived in the square. Shortly after, a flourish of
clarions gave notice of the approach of the authorities. First came the
bailiff, filled with the dignity of station, and watching, with a vigilant
but covert eye, every indication of feeling that might prove of interest
to his employers, even while he most affected sympathy with the occasion
and self-abandonment to the follies of the hour; for Peter Hofmeister owed
his long-established favor with the buergerschaft more to a
never-slumbering regard to its exclusive interests and its undivided
supremacy, than to any particular skill in the art of rendering men
comfortable and happy. Next to the worthy bailiff, for apart from an
indomitable resolution to maintain the authority of his masters, for good
or for evil, the Herr Hofmeister merited the appellation of a worthy man,
came Roger de Blonay and his guest the Baron de Willading, marching, _pari
passu_, at the side of the representative of Berne himself. There might
have been some question how far the bailiff was satisfied with this
arrangement of the difficult point of etiquette, for he issued from his
own gate with a sort of side-long movement that kept him nearly confronted
to the Signor Grimaldi, though it left him the means of choosing his path
and of observing the aspect of things in the crowd. At any rate, the
Genoese, though apparently occupying a secondary station, had no grounds
to complain of indifference to his presence. Most of the observances and
not a few of the sallies of honest Peter, who had some local reputation as
a joker and a _bel esprit_, as is apt to be the case with your municipal
magistrate, more especially when he holds his authority independently of
the community with whom he associates, and perhaps as little likely to be
the fact when he depends on popular favor for his rank, were addressed to
the Signor Grimaldi. Most of these good things were returned in kind, the
Genoese meeting the courtesies like a man accustomed to be the object of
peculiar attentions, and possibly like one who rather rioted in the
impunity from ceremonies and public observation, that he now happened to
enjoy. Adelheid, with a maiden of the house of Blonay, closed the little
As all commendable diligence was used by the officers of the peace to make
way for the bailiff, Herr Hofmeister and his companions were soon in their
allotted stations, which, it is scarcely necessary to repeat, were the
upper places on the estrade. Peter had seated himself, after returning
numerous salutations, for none in a situation to catch his eye neglected
so fair an opportunity to show their intimacy with the bailiff, when his
wandering glance fell upon the happy visage of Father Xavier. Rising
hastily, the bailiff went through a multitude of the formal ceremonies
that distinguished the courtesy of the place and period, such as frequent
wavings and liftings of the beaver, profound reverences, smiles that
seemed to flow from the heart, and a variety of other tokens of
extraordinary love and respect. When all were ended, he resumed his place
by the side of Melchior de Willading, with whom he commenced a
"We know not, noble Freiherr," (he spoke in the vernacular of their common
canton,) "whether we have most reason to esteem or to disrelish these
Augustines. While they do so many Christian acts to the travellers on
their mountain yonder, they are devils incarnate in the way of upholding
popery and its abominations among the people. Look you, the
commonalty--God bless them as they deserve!--have no great skill at
doctrinal discussions, and are much disposed to be led away by
appearances. Numberless are the miserable dolts who fancy the godliness
which is content to pass its time on the top of a frozen hill, doing good,
feeding the hungry, dressing the wounds of the fallen, and--but thou
knowest the manner in which these sayings run--the ignorant, as I was
about to add, are but too ready to believe that the religion which leads
men to do this, must have some savor of Heaven in it, after all!"
"Are they so very wrong, friend Peter, that we were wise to disturb the
monks in the enjoyment of a favor that is so fairly earned?"
The bailiff looked askance at his brother burgher, for such was the humble
appellation that aristocracy assumed in Berne, appearing desirous to probe
the depth of the other's political morals before he spoke more freely.
"Though of a house so honored and trusted, I believe thou art not much
accustomed of late to mingle with the council?" he evasively observed.
"Since this heavy losses in my family, of which thou may'st have heard,
the care of this sole surviving child has been my principal solace and
occupation, I know not whether the frequent and near sight of death among
those so tenderly loved may have softened my heart towards the Augustines,
but to me theirs seems a self-denying and a right worthy life."
"'Tis doubtless as you say, noble Melchior, and we shall do well to let
our love for the holy canons be seen. Ho! Mr. Officer--do us the favor to
request the reverend monk of St. Bernard to draw nearer, that the people
may learn the esteem in which their patient charities and never-wearying
benevolence are held by the lookers-on. As you will have occasion to pass
a night beneath the convent's roof, Herr von Willading, in your journey to
Italy, a little honor shown to the honest and pains-taking clavier will
not be lost on the brotherhood, if these churchmen have even a decent
respect for the usages of their fellow-creatures."
Father Xavier took the proffered place, which was nearer to the person of
the bailiff than the one he had just quitted, and insomuch the more
honorable, with the usual thanks, but with a simplicity which proved that
he understood the compliment to be due to the fraternity of which he was a
member, and not to himself. This little disposition made, as well as all
other preliminary matters properly observed, the bailiff seemed satisfied
with himself and his arrangements, for the moment.
The reader must imagine the stir in the throng the importance of the minor
agents appointed to marshal the procession, and the mixture of weariness
and curiosity that possessed the spectators, while the several parts of so
complicated and numerous a train were getting arranged, each in its
prescribed order and station. But, as the ceremonies which followed were
of a peculiar character, and have an intimate connexion with the events of
the tale, we shall describe them with a little detail, although the task
we have allotted to ourselves is less that of sketching pictures of local
usages, and of setting before the reader's imagination scenes of real or
fancied antiquarian accuracy, than the exposition of a principle, and the
wholesome moral which we have always flattered ourselves might, in a
greater or less degree, follow from our labors.
A short time previously to the commencement of the ceremonies, a guard of
honor, composed of shepherds, gardeners, mowers, reapers, vine-dressers,
escorted by halberdiers and headed by music, had left the square in quest
of the abbe, as the regular and permanent presiding officer of the abbaye,
or company, is termed. This escort, all the individuals of which were
dressed in character, was not long in making its appearance with the
officer in question, a warm, substantial citizen and proprietor of the
place, who, otherwise attired in the ordinary costume of his class in that
age, had decorated his beaver with a waving plume, and, in addition to a
staff or baton, wore a flowing scarf pendent from his shoulder. This
personage, on whom certain judicial functions had devolved, took a
convenient position in the front of the stage, and soon made a sign for
the officials to proceed with their duties.
Twelve vine-dressers led by a chief, each having his person more or less
ornamented with garlands of vine-leaves, and bearing other emblems of his
calling, marched in a body, chanting a song of the fields. They escorted
two of their number who had been pronounced the most skilful and
successful in cultivating the vineyards of the adjacent cotes. When they
reached the front of the estrade, the abbe pronounced a short discourse
in honor of the cultivators of the earth in general, after which he
digressed into especial eulogiums on the successful candidates, two
pleased, abashed, and unpractised peasants, who received the simple prizes
with throbbing hearts. This little ceremony observed, amid the eager and
delightful gaze of friends, and the oblique and discontented regards of
the few whose feelings were too contracted to open to the joys of others,
even on this simple and grateful festival, the trumpets sounded again, and
the cry was raised to make room.
A large group advanced from among the body of the actors to an open space,
of sufficient size and elevation, immediately in front of the stage. When
in full view of the multitude, those who composed it arranged themselves
in a prescribed and seemly order. They were the officials of Bacchus. The
high-priest, robed in a sacrificial dress, with flowing beard, and head
crowned with the vine, stood foremost, chanting in honor of the craft, of
the vine-dresser. His song also contained a few apposite allusions to the
smiling blushing candidates. The whole joined in the chorus, though the
leader of the band scarce needed the support of any other lungs than those
with which he had been very amply furnished by nature.
The hymn ended, a general burst of instrumental music succeeded; and, the
followers of Bacchus regaining their allotted station, the general
procession began to move, sweeping around the whole area of the square in
a manner to pass in order before the bailiff.
The first body in the march was composed of the council of the abbaye,
attended by the shepherds and gardeners. One in an antique costume, and
bearing a halberd, acted as marshal. He was succeeded by the two crowned
vine-dressers, after whom came the abbe with his counsellors, and large
groups of shepherds and shepherdesses, as well as a number of both sexes
who toiled in gardens, all attired in costumes suited to the traditions of
their respective pursuits. The marshal and the officers of the abbaye
moved slowly past, with the gravity and decorum that became their
stations, occasionally halting to give time for the evolutions of those
who followed; but the other actors now began in earnest to play their
several parts. A group of young shepherdesses, clad in closely fitting
vests of sky-blue with skirts of white, each holding her crook, came
forward dancing, and singing songs that imitated the bleatings of their
flocks and all the other sounds familiar to the elevated pasturages of
that region. These were soon joined by an equal number of young shepherds
also singing their pastorals, the whole exhibiting an active and merry
group of dancers, accustomed to exercise their art on the sward of the
Alps; for, in this festival, although we have spoken of the performers as
actors, it is not in the literal meaning of the term, since, with few
exceptions none appeared to represent any other calling than that which,
in truth, formed his or her daily occupation. We shall not detain the
narrative to say more of this party, than that they formed a less striking
exception to the conventional picture of the appearance of those engaged
in tending flocks, than the truth ordinarily betrays; and that their
buoyant gaiety, blooming faces, and unweaned action, formed a good
introductory preparation for the saltation that was to follow.
The male gardeners appeared in their aprons, carrying spades, rakes, and
the other implements of their trade; the female supporting baskets on
their heads filled with rich flowers, vegetables, and fruits. When in
front of the bailiff, the young men formed a sort of fasces of their
several implements, with a readiness that denoted much study while the
girls arranged their baskets in a circle at its foot. Then, joining hands,
the whole whirled around, filling the air with a song peculiar to their
During the whole of the preparations of the morning, Adelheid had looked
on with a vacant eye, as if her feelings had little connexion with that
which was passing before her face. It is scarcely necessary to say, that
her mind, in spite of herself, wandered to other scenes, and that her
truant thoughts were busy with interests very different from those which
were here presented to the senses. But, by the time the group of gardeners
had passed dancing away, her feelings began to enlist with those who were
so evidently pleased with themselves and all around them, and her father,
for the first time that morning, was rewarded for the deep attention with
which he watched the play of her features, by an affectionate and natural
"This goes off right merrily, Herr Bailiff;" exclaimed the baron, animated
by that encouraging smile, as the blood is quickened by a genial ray of
the sun's heat when it has been long chilled and deadened by cold.--"This
goes off with a joyful will, and is likely to end with credit to thy town!
I only wonder that you have not more of this, and monthly. When joy can be
had so cheap, it is churlish to deny it to a people."
"We complain not of the levities, noble Freiherr, for your light thinker
makes a sober and dutiful subject; but we shall have more of this, and of
a far better quality, or our time is wasted.--What is thought at Berne,
noble Melchior, of the prospects of the Emperor's obtaining a new
concession for the levy of troops in our cantons!"
"I cry thy mercy, good Peterchen, but by thy leave, we will touch on
these matters more at our leisure. Boyish though it seem to thy eyes, so
long accustomed to look at matters of state, I do confess that these
follies begin to have their entertainment and may well claim an hour of
idleness from him that has nothing better in hand."
Peter Hofmeister ejaculated a little expressively. He then examined the
countenance of the Signor Grimaldi, who had given himself to the merriment
with the perfect good-will and self-abandonment of a man of strong
intellect, and who felt his powers too sensibly to be jealous of
appearances. Shrugging his shoulders, like one that was disappointed, the
pragmatical bailiff turned his look towards the revellers, in order to
detect, if possible, some breach of the usages of the country, that might
require official reproof; for Peter was of that class of governors who
have an itching to see their fingers stirring even the air that is
breathed by the people, lest they should get it of a quality or in a
quantity that might prove dangerous to a monopoly which it is now the
fashion to call the conservative principle. In the mean time the revels
No sooner had the gardeners quitted the arena, than a solemn and imposing
train appeared to occupy the sward. Four females marched to the front,
bearing an antique altar that was decorated with suitable devices. They
were clad in emblematical dresses, and wore garlands of flowers on their
heads. Boys carrying censers preceded an altar that was dedicated to
Flora, and her ministering official came after it, mitred and carrying
flowers. Like all the priestesses that followed, she was laboriously
attired in the robes that denoted her sacred duty. The goddess herself was
borne by four females on a throne canopied by flowers, and from whose
several parts sweeping festoons of every hue and die descended to the
earth. Haymakers of both sexes, gay and pastoral in their air and attire,
succeeded, and a car groaning with the sweet-scented grass of the Alps,
accompanied by females bearing rakes, brought up the rear.
The altar and the throne being deposited on the sward, the priestess
offered sacrifice, hymning the praise of the goddess with mountain lungs.
Then followed the dance of the haymakers, as in the preceding exhibition,
and the train went off as before.
"Excellent well, and truer than it could be done by your real pagan!"
cried the bailiff, who, in spite of his official longings, began to watch
the mummery with a pleased eye. "This beateth greatly our youthful follies
in the Genoese and Lombard carnivals, in which, to say truth, there are
sometimes seen rare niceties in the way of representing the old deities."
"Is it the usage, friend Hofmeister," demanded the baron, "to enjoy these
admirable pleasantries often here in Vaud?"
"We partake of them, from time to time, as the abbaye desires, and much as
thou seest. The honorable Signor Grimaldi--who will pardon me that he gets
no better treatment than he receives, and who will not fail to ascribe
what, to all who know him, might otherwise pass for inexcusable neglect,
to his own desire for privacy--he will tell us, should he be pleased to
honor us with his real opinion, that the subject is none the worse for
occasions to laugh and be gay. Now, there is Geneva, a town given to
subtleties as ingenious and complicated as the machinery of their own
watches; it can never have a merry-making without a leaven of disputation
and reason, two as damnable ingredients in the public humor as schism in
religion, or two minds in a _menage_. There is not a knave in the city
who does not fancy himself a better man than Calvin, and some there are
who believe if they are not cardinals, it is merely because the reformed
church does not relish legs cased in red stockings. By the word of a
bailiff! I would not be the ruler, look ye, of such a community, for the
hope of becoming Avoyer of Berne itself. Here it is different. We play our
antics in the shape of gods and goddesses like sober people, and, when all
is over, we go train our vines, or count our herds, like faithful subjects
of the great canton. Do I state the matter fairly to our friends, Baron de
Roger de Blonay bit his lip, for he and his had been of Vaud a thousand
years, and he little relished the allusion to the quiet manner in which
his countrymen submitted to a compelled and foreign dictation. He bowed a
cold acquiescence to the bailiff's statement, however, as if no farther
answer were needed.
"We have other ceremonies that invite our attention," said Melchior de
Willading, who had sufficient acquaintance with his friend's opinions to
understand his silence.
The next group that approached was composed of those who lived by the
products of the dairy. Two cowherds led their beasts, the monotonous tones
of whose heavy bells formed a deep and rural accompaniment to the music
that regularly preceded each party, while a train of dairy-girls, and of
young mountaineers of the class that tend the herds in the summer
pasturages, succeeded, a car loaded with the implements of their calling
bringing up the rear. In this little procession, no detail of equipment
was wanting. The milking-stool was strapped to the body of the dairyman;
one had the peculiarly constructed pail in his hand, while another bore
at his back the deep wooden vessel in which milk is carried up and down
the precipices to the chalet. When they reached the sodded arena, the men
commenced milking the cows, the girls set in motion the different
processes of the dairy, and the whole united in singing the Ranz des
Vaches of the district. It is generally and erroneously believed that
there is a particular air which is known throughout Switzerland by this
name, whereas in truth nearly every canton has its own song of the
mountains, each varying from the others in the notes, as well as in the
words, and we might almost add in the language. The Ranz des Vaches of
Vaud is in the patois of the country, a dialect that is composed of words
of Greek and Latin origin, mingled on a foundation of Celtic. Like our own
familiar tune, which was first bestowed in derision, and which a glorious
history has enabled us to continue in pride, the words are far too
numerous to be repeated. We shall, however, give the reader a single verse
of a song which Swiss feeling has rendered so celebrated, and which is
said often to induce the mountaineer in foreign service to desert the
mercenary standard and the tame scenes of towns; to return to the
magnificent nature that haunts his waking imagination and embellishes his
dreams. It will at once be perceived that the power of this song is
chiefly to be found in the recollections to which it gives birth, by
recalling the simple charms of rural life, and by reviving the indelible
impressions that are made by nature wherever she has laid her hand on the
face of the earth with the same majesty as in Switzerland.
Le zermailli dei Colombiette
De bon matin, se san leha.--
Ha, ah! ha, ah!
Liauba! Liauba! por aria.
Bllantz' et naire,
Rodz et motaile,
Dzjouvan' et etro
Dezo ou tzehano,
Io vo z' ario
Dezo ou triembllo,
Io ie triudzo,
Liauba! Liauba! por aris.
[The cowherds of the Alps
Arise at an early hour.
Ha, ah! ha, ah!
Liauba! Liauba! in order to milk.
Come all of you,
Black and white,
Red and mottled,
Young and old;
Beneath this oak
I am about to milk you.
Beneath this poplar,
I am about to press,
Liauba! Liauba! in order to milk.]
The music of the mountains is peculiar and wild, having most probably
received its inspiration from the grandeur of the natural objects. Most of
the sounds partake of the character of echoes, being high-keyed but false
notes; such as the rocks send back to the valleys, when the voice is
raised above its natural key in order to reach the caverns and savage
recesses of inaccessible precipices. Strains like these readily recall the
glens and the magnificence amid which they were first heard, and hence, by
an irresistible impulse, the mind is led to indulge in the strongest of
all its sympathies, those which are mixed with the unalloyed and
unsophisticated delights of buoyant childhood.
The herdsmen and dairymaids no sooner uttered the first notes of this
magic song, than a deep and breathing stillness pervaded the crowd. As the
peculiar strains of the chorus rose on the ear, murmuring echoes issued
from among the spectators, and ere the wild intonations could be repeated
which accompanied the words "Liauba! Liauba!" a thousand voices were
lifted simultaneously, as it were, to greet the surrounding mountains with
the salutations of their children. From that moment the remainder of the
Ranz des Vaches was a common burst of enthusiasm, the offspring of that
national fervor, which forms so strong a link in the social chain, and
which is capable of recalling to the bosom that, in other respects, has
been hardened by vice and crime, a feeling of some of the purest
sentiments of our nature.
The last strain died amid this general exhibition of healthful feeling.
The cowherds and the dairy-girls collected their different implements, and
resumed their march to the melancholy music of the bells, which formed a
deep contrast to the wild notes that had just filled the square.
To these succeeded the followers of Ceres, with the altar, the priestess,
and the enthroned goddess, as has been already described in the approach
of Flora. Cornucopiae ornamented the chair of the deity, and the canopy was
adorned with the gifts of autumn. The whole was surmounted by a sheaf of
wheat. She held the sickle as her sceptre, and a tiara composed of the
bearded grain covered her brow. Reapers followed, bearing emblems of the
season of abundance, and gleaners closed the train. There was the halt,
the chant, the chorus, and the song in praise of the beneficent goddess of
autumn, as had been done by the votaries of the deity of flowers. A dance
of the reapers and gleaners followed, the threshers flourished their
flails, and the whole went their way.
After these came the grand standard of the abbaye and the vine-dressers
the real objects of the festival, succeeded. The laborers of the spring
led the advance, the men carrying their picks and spades, and the women
vessels to contain the cuttings of the vines. Then came a train bearing
baskets loaded with the fruit, in its different degrees of perfection and
of every shade of color. Youths holding staves topped with miniature
representations of the various utensils known in the culture of the grape,
such as the laborer with the tub on his back, the butt, and the vessel
that first receives the flowing juice, followed. A great number of men,
who brought forward the forge that is used to prepare the tools, closed
this part of the exhibition. The song and the dance again succeeded, when
the whole disappeared at a signal given by the approaching music of
Bacchus. As we now touch upon the most elaborate part of the
representation, we seize the interval that is necessary to bring it
forward, in order to take breath ourselves.
And thou, O wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,
That stand'st between her father's ground and mine
Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,
Show me thy chink, to blink through with mine eyne.
_Midsummer Night's Dream._
"'Odds my life, but this goes off with a grace, brother Peter!" exclaimed
the Baron de Willading, as he followed the vine-dressers in their retreat,
with an amused eye--"If we have much more like it, I shall forget the
dignity of the buergerschaft, and turn mummer with the rest, though my good
for wisdom were the forfeit of the folly."
"That is better said between ourselves than performed before the vulgar
eye, honorable Melchior It would sound ill, of a truth, were these Vaudois
to boast that a noble of thy estimation in Berne were thus to forget
"None of this!--are we not here to be merry and to laugh, and to be
pleased with any folly that offers? A truce, then, to thy official
distrusts and superabundant dignity, honest Peterchen," for such was the
good-natured name by which the worthy bailiff was most commonly addressed
by his friend; "let the tongue freely answer to the heart, as if we were
boys rioting together, as was once the case, long ere thou wert thought of
for this office, or I knew a sorrowful hour."
"The Signor Grimaldi shall judge between us: I maintain that restraint is
necessary to those in high trusts."
"I will decide when the actors have all played their parts," returned the
Genoese, smiling; "at present, here cometh one to whom all old soldiers
pay homage. We will not fail of respect in so great a presence, on account
of a little difference in taste."
Peter Hofmeister was not a small drinker, and as the approach of the god
of the cup was announced by a flourish from some twenty instruments made
to speak on a key suited to the vault of heaven, he was obliged to reserve
his opinions for another time. After the passage of the musicians, and a
train of the abbaye's servants, for especial honors were paid to the ruby
deity, there came three officials of the sacrifice, one leading a goat
with gilded horns, while the two others bore the knife and the hatchet. To
these succeeded the altar adorned with vines, the incense-bearers, and the
high-priest of Bacchus, who led the way for the appearance of the youthful
god himself. The deity was seated astride on a cask, his head encircled
with a garland of generous grapes, bearing a cup in one hand, and a vine
entwined and fruit-crowned sceptre in the other. Four Nubians carried him
on their shoulders, while others shaded his form with an appropriate
canopy; fauns wearing tiger-skins, and playing their characteristic
antics, danced in his train, while twenty laughing and light-footed
Bacchantes flourished their instruments, moving in measure in the rear.
A general shout in the multitude preceded the appearance of Silenus, who
was sustained in his place on an ass by two blackamoors. The half-empty
skin at his side, the vacant laugh, the foolish eye, the lolling tongue,
the bloated lip, and the idiotic countenance, gave reason to suspect that
there was a better motive for their support than any which belonged to the
truth of the representation. Two youths then advanced, bearing on a pole a
cluster of grapes that nearly descended to the ground, and which was
intended to represent the fruit brought from Canaan by the messengers of
Joshua--a symbol much affected by the artists and mummers of the other
hemisphere, on occasions suited to its display. A huge vehicle, ycleped
the ark of Noah, closed the procession. It held a wine-press, having its
workmen embowered among the vines, and it contained the family of the
second father of the human race. As it rolled past, traces of the rich
liquor were left in the tracks of its wheels.
Then came the sacrifice, the chant, and the dance, as in most of the
preceding exhibitions, each of which, like this of Bacchus, had contained
allusions to the peculiar habits and attributes of the different deities.
The bacchanal that closed the scene was performed in character; the
trumpets flourished, and the procession departed in the order in which it
Peter relented a little from his usual political reserve, as he witnessed
these games in honor of a deity to whom he so habitually did practical
homage, for it was seldom that this elaborate functionary, who might be
termed quite a doctrinaire in his way, composed his senses in sleep,
without having pretty effectually steeped them in the liquor of the
neighboring hills; a habit that was of far more general use among men of
his class in that age than in this of ours, which seems so eminently to be
the season of sobriety.
"This is not amiss, of a verity;" observed the contented bailiff, as the
Fauns and Bacchantes moved off the sward, capering and cutting their
classical antics with far more agility and zeal than grace. "This looks
like the inspiration of good wine, Signior Genoese, and were the truth
known, it would be found that the rogue who plays the part of the fat
person on the ass--how dost call the knave, noble Melchior?"
"Body o' me! if I am wiser than thyself, worthy bailiff; it is clearly a
rogue who can never have done his mummery so expertly, without some aid
from the flask."
"Twill be well to know the fellow's character, for there may be the
occasion to commend him to the gentlemen of the abbaye, when all is over.
Your skilful ruler has two great instruments that he need use with
discretion, Baron de Willading, and these are, fear and flattery; and
Berne hath no servant more ready to apply both, or either, as there may be
necessity, than one of her poor bailiffs that hath not received all his
dues from the general opinion, if truth were spoken. But it is well to be
prepared to speak these good people of the abbaye fairly, touching their
exploits. Harkee master halberdier; thou art of Vevey, I think, and a
warm citizen in thy every-day character, or my eyes do us both
"I am, as you have said, Monsieur le Bailli, a Vevaisan, and one that is
well known among our artisans."
"True, that was visible, spite of thy halberd. Thou art, no doubt, rarely
gifted, and taught to the letter in these games. Wilt name the character
that has just ridden past on the ass--he that hath so well enacted the
drunkard, I mean? His name hath gone out of our minds for the moment,
though his acting never can, for a better performance of one overcome by
liquor is seldom seen."
"Lord keep you! worshipful bailiff, that is Antoine Giraud, the fat
butcher of La Tour de Peil, and a better at the cup there is not in all
the country of Vaud! No wonder that he hath done his part so readily; for,
while the others have been reading in books, or drilling like so many
awkward recruits under the school-master, Antoine hath had little more to
perform than to dip into the skin at his elbow. When the officers of the
abbaye complain, lest he should disturb the ceremonies, he bids them not
to make fools of themselves, for every swallow he gives is just so much
done in honor of the representation; and he swears, by the creed of
Calvin! that there shall be more truth in his acting than in that of any
other of the whole party."
"'Odds my life! the fellow hath humor as well as good acting in him--this
Antoine Giraud! Will you look into the written order they have given as,
fair Adelheid, that we may make sure this artisan-halberdier hath not
deceived us? We in authority must not trust a Vevaisan too lightly."
"It will be vain, I fear, Herr Bailiff, since the characters, and not the
names of the actors, appear in the lists. The man in question represents
Silenus I should think, judging from his appearance and all the other
"Well, let it be as thou wilt. Silenus himself could not play his own part
better than it hath been done by this Antoine Giraud. The fellow would
gain gold like water at the court of the emperor as a mime, were he only
advised to resort thither. I warrant you, now, he would do Pluto or
Minerva, or any other god, just as well as he hath done this rogue
The honest admiration of Peter, who, sooth to say, had not much of the
learning of the age, as the phrase is, raised a smile on the lip of the
beauteous daughter of the baron, and she glanced a look to catch the eye
of Sigismund, towards whom all her secret sympathies, whether of sorrow or
of joy, so naturally and so strongly tended. But the averted head, the
fixed attention, and the nearly immovable and statue-like attitude in
which he stood, showed that a more powerful interest drew his gaze to the
next group. Though ignorant of the cause of his intense regard, Adelheid
instantly forgot the bailiff, his dogmatism, and his want of erudition, in
the wish to examine those who approached.
The more classical portion of the ceremonies was now duly observed. The
council of the abbaye intended to close with an exhibition that was more
intelligible to the mass of the spectators than anything which had
preceded it, since it was addressed to the sympathies and habits of every
people, and in all conditions of society. This was the spectacle that so
engrossingly attracted the attention of Sigismund. It was termed the
procession of the nuptials, and it was now slowly advancing to occupy the
space left vacant by the retreat of Antoine Giraud and his companions.
There came in front the customary band, playing a lively air which use
has long appropriated to the festivities of Hymen. The lord of the manor,
or, as he was termed, the baron, and his lady-partner led the train, both
apparelled in the rich and quaint attire of the period. Six ancient
couples, the representatives of happy married lives, followed by a long
succession of offspring of every age, including equally the infant at the
breast and the husband and wife in the flower of their days, walked next
to the noble pair. Then appeared the section of a dwelling, which was made
to portray the interior of domestic economy, having its kitchen, its
utensils, and most of the useful and necessary objects that may be said to
compose the material elements of an humble _menage_. Within this moiety of
a house, one female plied the wheel, and another was occupied in baking.
The notary, bearing the register beneath an arm, with hat in hand, and
dressed in an exaggerated costume of his profession, strutted in the rear
of the two industrious housemaids. His appearance was greeted with a
general laugh, for the spectators relished the humor of the caricature
with infinite gout. But this sudden and general burst of merriment was as
quickly forgotten in the desire to behold the bride and bridegroom, whose
station was next to that of the officer of the law. It was understood that
these parties were not actors, but that the abbaye had sought out a
couple, of corresponding rank and means, who had consented to join their
fortunes in reality on the occasion of this great jubilee, thereby lending
to it a greater appearance of that genuine joy and festivity which it was
the desire of the heads of the association to represent. Such a search had
not been made without exciting deep interest in the simple communities
which surrounded Vevey. Many requisites had been proclaimed to be
necessary in the candidates--such as beauty, modesty, merit, and the
submission of her sex, in the bride; and in her partner those qualities
which might fairly entitle him to be the repository of the happiness of a
maiden so endowed.
Many had been the speculations of the Vevaisans touching the individuals
who had been selected to perform these grave and important characters
which, for fidelity of representation, were to outdo that of Silenus
himself; but so much care had been taken by the agents of the abbaye to
conceal the names of those they had selected, that, until this moment,
when disguise was no longer possible, the public was completely in the
dark on the interesting point. It was so usual to make matches of this
kind on occasions of public rejoicing, and marriages of convenience, as
they are not unaptly termed, enter so completely into the habits of all
European communities--perhaps we might say of all old communities--that
common opinion would not have been violently outraged had it been known
that the chosen pair saw each other for the second or third time in the
procession, and that they had now presented themselves to take the nuptial
vow, as it were, at the sound of the trumpet or the beat of drum. Still,
it was more usual to consult the inclinations of the parties, since it
gave greater zest to the ceremony, and these selections of couples on
public occasions were generally supposed to have more than the common
interest of marriages, since they were believed to be the means of
uniting, through the agency of the rich and powerful, those whom poverty
or other adverse circumstances had hitherto kept asunder. Rumor spoke of
many an inexorable father who had listened to reason from the mouths of
the great, rather than balk the public humor; and thousands of pining
hearts, among the obscure and simple, are even now gladdened at the
approach of some joyous ceremony, which is expected to throw open the
gates of the prison to the debtor and the criminal, or that of Hymen to
those who are richer in constancy and affection than in any other stores.
A general murmur and a common movement betrayed the lively interest of the
spectators, as the principal and real actors in this portion of the
ceremonies drew near. Adelheid felt a warm glow on her cheek, and a
gentler flow of kindness at her heart, when her eye first caught a view of
the bride and bridegroom, whom she was fain to believe a faithful pair
that a cruel fortune had hitherto kept separate, and who were now willing
to brave such strictures as all must encounter who court public attention,
in order to receive the reward of their enduring love and self-denial.
This sympathy, which was at first rather of an abstract and vague nature,
finding its support chiefly in her own peculiar situation and the
qualities of her gentle nature, became intensely heightened, however, when
she got a better view of the bride. The modest mien, abashed eye, and
difficult breathing of the girl, whose personal charms were of an order
much superior to those which usually distinguish rustic beauty in those
countries in which females are not exempted from the labors of the field,
were so natural and winning as to awaken all her interest; and, with
instinctive quickness, the lady of Willading bent her look on the
bridegroom, in order to see if one whose appearance was so eloquent in her
favor was likely to be happy in her choice. In age, personal appearance,
and apparently in condition of life, there was no very evident unfitness,
though Adelheid fancied that the mien of the maiden announced a better
breeding than that of her companion--a difference which she was willing to
ascribe, however, to a greater aptitude in her own sex to receive the
first impress of the moral seal, than that which belongs to man.
"She is fair," whispered Adelheid, slightly bending her head towards
Sigismund, who stood at her side, "and must deserve her happiness."
"She is good, and merits a better fate!" muttered the youth, breathing so
hard as to render his respiration audible.
The startled Adelheid raised her eyes, and strong but suppressed agitation
was quivering in every lineament of her companion's countenance. The
attention of those near was so closely drawn towards the procession, as to
allow an instant of unobserved communication.
"Sigismund, this is thy sister!"
"God so cursed her."
"Why has an occasion, public as this, been chosen to wed a maiden of her
modesty and manner?"
"Can the daughter of Balthazar be squeamish? Gold, the interest of the
abbaye, and the foolish _eclat_ of this silly scene, have enabled my
father to dispose of his child to yonder mercenary, who has bargained like
a Jew in the affair, and who, among other conditions, has required that
the true name of his bride shall never be revealed. Are we not honored by
a connexion which repudiates us even before it is formed!"
The hollow stifled laugh of the young man thrilled on the nerves of his
listener, and she ceased the stolen dialogue to return to the subject at a
more favorable moment. In the mean time the procession had reached the
station in front of the stage, where the mummers had already commenced
A dozen groomsmen and as many female attendants accompanied the pair who
were about to take the nuptial vow. Behind these came the _trousseau_ and
the _corbeille_; the first being that portion of the dowry of the bride
which applies to her personal wants, and the last is an offering of the
husband, and is figuratively supposed to be a pledge of the strength of
his passion. In the present instance the trousseau was so ample, and
betokened so much liberality, as well as means, on the part of the friends
of a maiden who would consent to become a wife in a ceremony so public, as
to create general surprise; while, on the other hand, a solitary chain of
gold, of rustic fashion, and far more in consonance with the occasion, was
the sole tribute of the swain. This difference between the liberality of
the friends of the bride, and that of the individual, who, judging from
appearances, had much the most reason to show his satisfaction, did not
fail to give rise to many comments. They ended as most comments do, by
deductions drawn against the weaker and least defended of the parties. The
general conclusion was so uncharitable as to infer that a girl thus
bestowed must be under peculiar disadvantages, else would there have been
a greater equality between the gifts; an inference that was sufficiently
true, though cruelly unjust to its modest but unconscious subject.
While speculations of this nature were rife among the spectators, the
actors in the ceremony began their dances, which were distinguished by the
quaint formality that belonged to the politeness of the age The songs that
succeeded were in honor of Hymen and his votaries, and a few couplets that
extolled the virtues and beauty of the bride were chanted in chorus. A
sweep appeared at the chimney-top, raising his cry, in allusion to the
business of the menage, and then all moved away, as had been done by those
who had preceded them. A guard of halberdiers closed the procession.
That part of the mummeries which was to be enacted in front of the
estrade was now ended for the moment, and the different groups proceeded
to various other stations in the town, where the ceremonies were to be
repeated for the benefit of those who, by reason of the throng, had not
been able to get a near view of what had passed in the square. Most of the
privileged profited by the pause to leave their seats, and to seek such
relaxation as the confinement rendered agreeable. Among those who entirely
quitted the square were the bailiff and his friends, who strolled towards
the promenade on the lake-shore, holding discourse, in which there was
blended much facetious merriment concerning what they had just seen.
The bailiff soon drew his companions around him, in a deep discussion of
the nature of the games, during which the Signor Grimaldi betrayed a
malicious pleasure in leading on the dogmatic Peter to expose the
confusion that existed in his head touching the characters of sacred and
profane history. Even Adelheid was compelled to laugh at the commencement
of this ludicrous exhibition, but her thoughts were not long in recurring
to a subject in which she felt a nearer and a more tender interest.
Sigismund walked thoughtfully at her side, and she profited by the
attention of all around them being drawn to the laughable dialogue just
mentioned, to renew the subject that had been so lightly touched on
"I hope thy fair and modest sister will never have reason to repent her
choice," she said, lessening her speed, in a manner to widen the distance
between herself and those she did not wish to overhear the words, while it
brought her nearer to Sigismund; "It is a frightful violence to all maiden
feeling to be thus dragged before the eyes of the curious and vulgar, in
a scene; trying and solemn as that in which she plights her marriage
"Poor Christine! her fate from infancy has been pitiable. A purer or
milder spirit than hers, one that more sensitively shrinks from rude
collision, does not exist, and yet, on whichever side she turns her eyes,
she meets with appalling prejudices or opinions to drive a gentle nature
like hers to madness It may be a misfortune, Adelheid, to want
instruction, and to be fated to pass a life in the depths of ignorance,
and in the indulgence of brutal passions, but it is scarcely a blessing to
have the mind elevated above the tasks which a cruel and selfish world so
"Thou wast speaking of thy mild and excellent sister?--"
"Well hast thou described her! Christine is mild, and more than
modest--she is meek. But what can meekness itself do to palliate such a
calamity? Desirous of averting the stigma of his family from all he could
with prudence, my father caused my sister, like myself, to be early taken
from the parental home. She was given in charge to strangers, under such
circumstances of secrecy, as left her long, perhaps too long, in ignorance
of the stock from which she sprang. When maternal pride led my mother to
seek her daughter's society, the mind of Christine was in some measure
formed, and she had to endure the humiliation of learning that she was one
of a family proscribed. Her gentle spirit, however, soon became reconciled
to the truth, at least so far as human observation could penetrate, and,
from the moment of the first terrible agony, no one has heard her murmur
at the stern decree of Providence. The resignation of that mild girl has
ever been a reproach to my own rebellious temper, for, Adelheid, I cannot
conceal the truth from thee--I have cursed all that I dared include in my
wicked imprecations, in very madness at this blight on my hopes! Nay, I
have even accused my father of injustice, that he did not train me at the
side of the block, that I might take a savage pride in that which is now
the bane of my existence. Not so with Christine; she has always warmly
returned the affection of our parents, as a daughter should love the
authors of her being, while I fear I have been repining when I should have
loved. Our origin is a curse entailed by the ruthless laws of the land,
and it is not to be attributed to any, at least to none of these later
days, as a fault; and such has ever been the language of my poor sister
when she has seen a merit in their wishes to benefit us at the expense of
their own natural affection. I would I could imitate her reason and
"The view taken by thy sister is that of a female, Sigismund, whose heart
is stronger than her pride; and, what is more, it is just."
"I deny it not; 'tis just. But the ill-judged mercy has for ever
disqualified me to sympathize as I could wish with those to whom I belong.
'Tis an error to draw these broad distinctions between our habits and our
affections. Creatures stern as soldiers cannot bend their fancies like
pliant twigs, or with the facility of female--"
"Duty," said Adelheid gravely, observing that he hesitated.
"If thou wilt, duty. The word has great weight with thy sex, and I do not
question that it should have with mine."
"Thou canst not be wanting in affection for thy father, Sigismund. The
manner in which thou interposedst to save his life, when we were in that
fearful jeopardy of the tempest, disproves thy words."
"Heaven forbid that I should be wanting in natural feeling of this sort,
and yet, Adelheid, it is horrible not to be able to respect, to love
profoundly, those to whom we owe our existence! Christine in this is far
happier than I, an advantage that I doubt not she owes to her simple life,
and to the closer intimacies which unite females. I am the son of a
headsman; that bitter fact is never absent from my thoughts when they turn
to home and those scenes in which I could so gladly take pleasure.
Balthazar may have meant a kindness when he caused me to be trained in
habits so different from his own, but, to complete the good work, the veil
should never have been removed."
Adelheid was silent. Though she understood the feelings which controlled
one educated so very differently from those to whom he owed his birth, her
habits of thought were opposed to the indulgence of any reflections that
could unsettle the reverence of the child for its parent.
"One of a heart like thine, Sigismund, cannot hate his mother!" she said,
after a pause.
"In this thou dost me no more than justice; my words have ill represented
my thoughts, if they have left such an impression. In cooler moments, I
have never considered my birth as more than a misfortune, and my education
I deem a reason for additional respect and gratitude to my parents, though
it may have disqualified me in some measure to enter deeply into their
feelings. Christine herself is not more true, nor of more devoted love,
than my poor mother. It is necessary, Adelheid, to see and know that
excellent woman in order to understand all the wrongs that the world
inflicts by its ruthless usages."
"We will now speak only of thy sister. Has she been here bestowed without
regard to her own wishes, Sigismund?"
"I hope not. Christine is meek;, but, while neither word nor look betrays
the weakness, still she feels the load that crushes us both. She has long
accustomed herself to look at all her own merits through the medium of
this debasement, and has set too low a value on her own excellent
qualities. Much, very much depends, in this life, on our own habits of
self-estimation, Adelheid; for he who is prepared to admit unworthiness--I
speak not of demerit towards God but towards men--will soon become
accustomed to familiarity with a standard below his just pretensions, and
will end perhaps in being the thing he dreaded. Such has been the
consequence of Christine's knowledge of her birth, for, to her meek
spirit, there is an appearance of generosity in overlooking this grand
defect, and it has too well prepared her mind to endow the youth with a
hundred more of the qualities that are absolutely necessary to her esteem,
but which I fear exist only in her own warm fancy."
"This is touching on the most difficult branch of human knowledge,"
returned Adelheid, smiling sweetly on the agitated brother; "a just
appreciation of ourselves. If there is danger of setting too low a value
on our merits, there is also some danger of setting too high; though I
perfectly comprehend the difference you would make between vulgar vanity,
and that self-respect which is certainly in some degree necessary to
success. But one, like her thou hast described, would scarce yield her
affections without good reason to think them well bestowed."
"Adelheid, thou, who hast never felt the world's contempt, cannot
understand how winning respect and esteem can be made to those who pine
beneath its weight! My sister hath so long accustomed herself to think
meanly of her hopes, that the appearance of liberality and justice in this
youth would have been sufficient of itself to soften her feelings in his
favor. I cannot say I think--for Christine will soon be his wife--but I
will say, I fear that the simple fact of his choosing one that the world
persecutes has given him a value in her eyes he might not otherwise have
"Thou dost not appear to approve of thy sister's choice?"
"I know the details of the disgusting bargain better than poor Christine,"
answered the young man, speaking between his teeth, like one who repressed
bitter emotion. "I was privy to the greedy exactions on the one side, and
to the humiliating concessions on the other. Even money could not buy this
boon for Balthazar's child, without a condition that the ineffaceable
stigma of her birth should be for ever concealed."
Adelheid saw, by the cold perspiration that stood on the brow of
Sigismund, how intensely he suffered, and she sought an immediate occasion
to lead his thoughts to a less disturbing subject. With the readiness of
her sex, and with the sensitiveness and delicacy of a woman that sincerely
loved, she found means to effect the charitable purpose, without again
alarming his pride. She succeeded so far in calming his feelings, that,
when they rejoined their companions, the manner of the young man had
entirely regained the quiet and proud composure in which he appeared to
take refuge against the consciousness of the blot that darkened his hopes,
frequently rendering life itself a burthen nearly too heavy to be borne.
--Come apace, good Audrey, I will fetch
Up your goats, Audrey: and how, Audrey? am
I the man yet? Doth my simple features content
_As You Like It._
While the mummeries related were exhibiting in the great square, Maso,
Pippo, Conrad, and the others concerned in the little disturbance
connected with the affair of the dog, were eating their discontent within
the walls of the guard-house. Vevey has several squares, and the various
ceremonies of the gods and demigods were now to be repeated in the smaller
areas. On one of the latter stands the town-house and prison. The
offenders in question had been summarily transferred to the gaol, in
obedience to the command of the officer charged with preserving the peace.
By an act of grace, however, that properly belonged to the day, as well as
to the character of the offence, the prisoners were permitted to occupy a
part of the edifice that commanded a view of the square, and consequently
were not precluded from all participation in the joyousness of the
festivities. This indulgence had been accorded on the condition that the
parties should cease their wrangling, and otherwise conduct themselves in
a way not to bring scandal on the exhibition in which the pride of every
Vevaisan was so deeply enlisted. All the captives, the innocent as well as
the guilty, gladly subscribed to the terms; for they found themselves in
a temporary duresse which did not admit of any fair argument of the merits
of the case, and there is no leveller so effectual as a common misfortune.
The anger of Maso, though sudden and violent, the effect of a hot
temperament, had quickly subsided in a calm which more probably belonged
to his education and opinions, in all of which he was much superior to his
profligate antagonist. Contempt, therefore, soon took the place of
resentment; and though too much accustomed to rude contact with men of the
pilgrim's class to be ashamed of what had occurred, the manner strove to
forget the occurrence. It was one of those moral disturbances to which he
was scarcely less used than he was accustomed to encounter physical
contests of the elements like that in which he had lately rendered so
essential service on the Leman.
"Give me thy hand, Conrad;" he said, with the frank forgiveness which is
apt to distinguish the reconciliation of men who pass their lives amid the
violent, but sometimes ennobling, scenes of adventure and lawlessness.
"Thou hast thy humors and habits, and I have mine. If thou findest this
traffic in penances and prayers to thy fancy, follow the trade, of
Heaven's sake, and leave me and my dog to live by other means!"
"Thou ought'st to have bethought thee how much reason we pilgrims have to
prize the mastiffs of the mountain," answered Conrad, "and how likely it
was to stir my blood to see another cur devouring that which was intended
for old Uberto. Thou hast never toiled up the sides of St. Bernard, friend
Maso, loaded with the sins of a whole parish, to say nothing of thine own,
and therefore canst not know the value of these brutes, who so often
stand between us pilgrims and a grave of snow."
Il Maledetto smiled grimly, and muttered a sentence between his teeth;
for, in perfect consonance with the frank lawlessness of his own life,
there was a reckless honesty in his nature, which caused him to despise
hypocrisy as unworthy of the bold attributes of manhood.
"Have it as thou wilt, pious Conrad," he said sneeringly, "so there be
peace between us. I am, as thou knowest, an Italian, and though we of the
south seek revenge occasionally of those who wrong us, it is not often
that we do violence after giving a willing palm--I trust ye of Germany are
no less honest?"
"May the Virgin be deaf to every ave I have sworn to repeat, and the good
fathers of Loretto refuse absolution, if I think more of it! 'Twas but the
gripe of a throat, and I am not so tender in that part of the body as to
fear it is to be the forerunner of a closer squeeze. Didst ever hear of a
churchman that suffered in this way?"
"Men often escape with less than their deserts;" Maso drily answered.
"Well, fortune, or the saints, or Calvin, or whatever power most suits
your tastes, good friends, has at length put a roof over our heads,--an
honor that rarely arrives to most of us, if I may judge by appearances and
some little knowledge of the different trades we follow. Thou wilt have a
fair occasion to suffer Policinello to rest from his uneasy antics, Pippo,
while his master breathes the air through a window for the first time in
many a day, as I will answer."
The Neapolitan had no difficulty in laughing at this sally; for his was a
nature that took all things pleasantly, though it took nothing under the
corrective of principle or a respect for the rights of others.
"Were this Napoli, with her gentle sky and hot volcano," he said, smiling
at the allusion, "no one would have less relish for a roof than myself."
"Thou wast born beneath the arch of some Duca's gateway," returned Maso,
with a sort of reckless sarcasm, that as often cut his friends as his
enemies; "thou wilt probably die in the hospital of the poor, and wilt
surely be shot from the death-cart into one of the daily holes of thy
Campo Santo, among a goodly company of Christians, in which legs and arms
will be thrown at random like jack-straws, and in which the wisest among
ye all will be puzzled to tell his own limbs from those of his neighbors,
at the sound of the last trumpet."
"Am I a dog, to meet this end!" demanded Pippo, fiercely--"or that I
should not know my own bones from those of some infidel rascal, who may
happen to be my neighbor!"
"We have had one disturbance about brutes, let us not have another;"
sarcastically rejoined Il Maledetto. "Princes and nobles," he added, with
affected gravity, "we are here bound by the heels, during the good
pleasure of those who rule in Vevey; the wisest course will be to pass the
time in good-humor with each other, and as pleasantly as our condition
will allow. The reverend Conrad shall have all the honors of a cardinal,
Pippo shall have the led horse at his funeral, and, as for these worthy
Vaudois, who, no doubt, are men of substance in their way, they shall be
bailiffs sent by Berne to rule between the four walls of our palace! Life
is but a graver sort of mummery, gentlemen, and the second of its barest
secrets is to make others fancy us what we wish to appear--the first
being, without question, the faculty of deceiving ourselves. Now each one