Part 5 out of 8
has only to imagine that he is the high personage I have just named, and
the most difficult part of the work is achieved to his hands."
"Thou hast forgotten to name thine own quality," cried Pippo, who was too
much used to buffoonery not to relish the whim of Maso, and who, with
Neapolitan fickleness, forgot his anger the instant he had given it vent.
"I will represent the sapient public, and, being well disposed to be
duped, the whole job is complete. Practise away, worthies, and ye shall
see with what open eyes and wide gullet I am ready to admire and swallow
all your philosophy."
This sally produced a hearty laugh, which rarely fails to establish
momentary good fellowship. The Vaudois, who had the thirsty propensities
of mountaineers, ordered wine, and, as their guardians looked upon their
confinement more as a measure of temporary policy than of serious moment,
the command was obeyed. In a short time, this little group of worldlings
were making the best of circumstances, by calling in the aid of physical
stimulants to cheer their solitude. As they washed their throats with the
liquor, which was both good and cheap and by consequence doubly agreeable,
the true characters of the different individuals began to show themselves
in stronger colors.
The peasants of Vaud, of whom there were three and all of the lowest
class, became confused and dull in their faculties though louder and more
vehement in speech, each man appearing to balance the increasing
infirmities of his reason by stronger physical demonstrations of folly.
Conrad, the pilgrim, threw aside the mask entirely, if, indeed, so thin a
veil as that he ordinarily wore when not in the presence of his employers
deserved such a name, and appeared the miscreant he truly was,--a strange
admixture of cowardly superstition, (for few meddle with superstition
without getting more or less entangled in its meshes,) of low cunning, and
of the most abject and gross sensuality and vice. The invention and wit of
Pippo, at all times ready and ingenious, gained increased powers, but the
torrent of animal spirits that were let loose by his potations swept
before it all reserve, and he scarce opened his mouth but to betray the
thoughts of a man long practised in frauds and all other evil designs on
the rights of his fellow-creatures. On Maso the wine produced an effect
that might almost be termed characteristic, and which it is in some sort
germane to the moral of the tale to describe.
Il Maledetto had indulged freely and with apparent recklessness in the
frequent draughts. He was long familiarized to the habits of this wild and
uncouth fellowship, and a singular sentiment, that men of his class choose
to call honor, and which perhaps deserves the name as much as half of the
principles that are described by the same appellation, prevented him from
refusing to incur an equal risk in the common assault on their faculties,
inducing him to swallow his full share of the intoxicating fluid as the
cup passed from one reeking mouth to another. He liked the wine, too, and
tasted its perfume, and cherished its glowing influence, with the perfect
good-will of a man who knew how to profit by the accident which placed
such generous liquor at his command. He had also his designs in wishing to
unmask his companions, and he thought the moment favorable to such an
intention. In addition to these motives, Maso had his especial reasons for
being uneasy at finding himself in the hands of the authorities, and he
was not sorry to bring about a state of things that might lead to his
being confounded with the others in a group of vulgar devotees of Bacchus.
But Maso yielded to the common disposition in a manner peculiar to
himself. His eyes became even more lustrous than usual, his face reddened,
and his voice even grew thick, while his senses retained their powers. His
reason, instead of giving way, like those of the men around him, rather
brightened under the excitement, as if it foresaw the danger it incurred,
and the greater necessity there existed for vigilance. Though born in a
southern clime, he was saturnine and cold when unexcited, and such
temperaments rather gain their tone than lose their powers by stimulants
under which men of feebler organizations sink. He had passed his life amid
wild adventure and in scenes of peril which suited such a disposition, and
it most probably required either some strong motive of danger, like that
of the tempest on the Leman, or a stimulant of another quality, to draw
out the latent properties of his mind, which so well fitted him to lead
when others were the most disposed to follow. He was, therefore, without
fear for himself while he aroused his companions; and he was free of his
purse, which did not, however, appear to be sufficiently stored to answer
very heavy demands, by ordering cup after cup to supply the place of those
which were so quickly drained to the dregs. In this manner an hour or two
passed swiftly, they who were charged with the care of the jolly party in
the town-house being much more occupied in noting the festivities without,
than those within, the prison.
"Thou hast a merry life of it, honest Pippo," cried Conrad with swimming
eyes, answering a remark of the buffoon. "Thou art but a laugh at the
best, and wilt go through the world grinning and making others grin. Thy
Policinello is a rare fellow, and I never meet one of thy set that weary
legs and sore feet are not forgotten in his fooleries!"
"Corpo di Bacco!--I wish this were so; but thou hast much the best of the
matter, even in the way of amusement, reverend pilgrim, though to the
looker-on it would seem otherwise. The difference between us, pious
Conrad, is just this--that thou laughest in thy sleeve without seeming to
be merry, whereas I yawn ready to split my jaws while I seem to be dying
with fun. Your often-told joke is a bad companion, and gets at last to be
as gloomy as a dirge. Wine can be swallowed but once, and laughter will
not come for ever for the same folly. Cospetto! I would give the earnings
of a year for a set of new jokes, such as might come fresh from the wit of
one who never saw a mountebank, and are not worn threadbare with being
rubbed against the brains of all the jokers in Europe."
"There was a wise man of old, of whom it is not probable that any of you
have ever heard," observed Maso, "who has said there was nothing new under
"He who said that never tasted of this liquor, which is as raw as if it
were still running from the press," rejoined the pilgrim. "Knave, dost
think that we are unknowing in these matters, that thou darest bring a pot
of such lees to men of our quality? Go to, and see that thou doest us
better justice in the next!"
"The wine is the same as that which first pleased you, but it is the
nature of drunkenness to change the palate; and therein Solomon was right
as in all other points," coolly remarked Il Maledetto. "Nay, friend, thou
wilt scarce bring thy liquors again to those who do not know how to do
them proper honor."
Maso thrust the lad who served them from the room, and he slipped a small
coin in his hand, ordering him not to return. Inebriety had made
sufficient ravages for his ends, and he was now desirous of stopping
"Here come the mummers--gods and goddesses, shepherds and their lasses and
all the other pleasantries, to keep us in humor! To do these Vevaisans
justice, they treat us rarely; for ye see they send their players to amuse
"Wine! liquor! raw or ripe, bring us liquor!" roared Conrad, Pippo, and
their pot-companions, who were much too drunk to detect the agency of Maso
in defeating their wishes, though they were just drunk enough to fancy
that what he said of the attention of the authorities was not only true
"How now, Pippo! art ashamed to be outdone in thine own craft, that thou
bellowest for wine at the moment when the actors have come into the square
to exhibit their skill?" cried the mariner. "Truly, we shall have a mean
opinion of thy merit, if thou art afraid to meet a few Vaudois peasants in
thy trade,--and thou a buffoon of Napoli!"
Pippo swore with pot-oaths that he defied the cleverest of Switzerland;
for that he had not only acted on every mall and mole of Italy, but that
he had exhibited in private before princes and cardinals, and that he had
no superior on either side of the Alps. Maso profited by his advantage,
and, by applying fresh goads to his vanity, soon succeeded in causing him
to forget the wine, and in drawing him, with all the others, to the
The processions, in making the circuit of the city, had now reached the
square of the town-house, where the acting and exhibition were repeated,
as has been already related in general terms to the reader. There were
the officers of the abbaye, the vine-dressers, the shepherds and the
shepherdesses, Flora, Ceres, Pales, and Bacchus, with all the others,
attended by their several trains and borne in state as became their high
attributes. Silenus rolled from his ass, to the great joy of a thousand
shouting blackguards, and to the infinite scandal of the prisoners at the
windows, the latter affirming to a man that there was no acting in the
case, but that the demigod was shamefully under the influence of too many
potations that had been swallowed in his own honor.
We shall not go over the details of these scenes, which all who have ever
witnessed a public celebration will readily imagine, nor is it necessary
to record the different sallies of wit that, under the inspiration of the
warm wines of Vevey and the excitement of the revels, issued from the
group that clustered around the windows of the prison. All who have ever
listened to low humor, that is rather deadened than quickened by liquor,
will understand their character, and they who have not will scarcely be
losers by the omission.
At length the different allegories drawn from the heathen mythology ended,
and the procession of the nuptials came into the square. The meek and
gentle Christine had appeared nowhere that day without awakening strong
sympathy in her youth, beauty, and apparent innocence. Murmurs of
approbation accompanied her steps, and the maiden, more accustomed to her
situation, began to feel, probably for the first time since she had known
the secret of her origin, something like that security which is an
indispensable accompaniment of happiness. Long used to think of herself as
one proscribed of opinion, and educated in the retirement suited to the
views of her parents, the praises that reached her ear could not but be
grateful, and they went warm and cheeringly to her heart, in spite of the
sense of apprehension and uneasiness that had so long harbored there.
Throughout the whole of the day, until now, she had scarce dared to turn
her eyes to her future husband,--him who, in her simple and single-minded
judgment, had braved prejudice to do justice to her worth; but, as the
applause, which had been hitherto suppressed, broke out in loud
acclamations in the square of the town-house, the color mantled brightly
on her cheek, and she looked with modest pride at her companion, as if she
would say in the silent appeal, that his generous choice would not go
entirely without its reward. The crowd responded to the sentiment, and
never did votaries of Hymen approach the altar seemingly under happier
The influence of innocence and beauty is universal. Even the unprincipled
and half-intoxicated prisoners were loud in praise of the gentle
Christine. One praised her modesty, another extolled her personal
appearance, and all united with the multitude in shouting to her honor.
The blood of the bridegroom began to quicken, and, by the time the train
had halted in the open space near the building, immediately beneath the
windows occupied by Maso and his fellows, he was looking about him in the
exultation of a vulgar mind, which finds its delight in, as it is apt to
form its judgments from, the suffrages of others.
"Here is a grand and beautiful festa!" said the hiccoughing Pippo, "and a
most willing bride San Gennaro bless thee, bella sposina, and the worthy
man who is the stem of so fair a rose! Send us wine, generous groom and
happy bride, that we may drink to the health of thee and thine!"
Christine changed color, and looked furtively around, for they who lie
under the weight of the world's displeasure, though innocent, are
sensitively jealous of allusions to the sore points in their histories.
The feeling communicated itself to her companion, who threw distrustful
glances at the crowd, in order to ascertain if the secret of his bride's
birth were not discovered.
"A braver festa never honored an Italian corso," continued the Neapolitan,
whose head was running on his own fancies, without troubling itself about
the apprehensions and wishes of others. "A gallant array and a fair bride!
Send us wine, felicissimi sposi, that we may drink to your eternal fame
and happiness! Happy the father that calls thee daughter, bella sposa, and
most honored the mother that bare so excellent a child! Scellerati, ye of
the crowd, why do ye not bear the worthy parents in your arms, that all
may see and do homage to the honorable roots of so rich a branch! Send us
wine, buona gente, send us cups of merry wine!"
The cries and figurative language of Pippo attracted the attention of the
multitude, who were additionally amused by the mixture of dialects in
which he uttered his appeals. The least important trifles, by giving a new
direction to popular sympathies, frequently become the parents of grave
events. The crowd, which followed the train of Hymen, had begun to weary
with the repetition of the same ceremonies, and it now gladly lent itself
to the episode of the felicitations and entreaties of the half-intoxicated
"Come forth, and act the father of the happy bride, thyself, reverend and
grave stranger;" cried one in derision, from the throng. "So excellent an
example will descend to thy children's children, in blessings on thy
A shout of laughter rewarded this retort. It put the quick-witted
Neapolitan on his mettle, to produce a prompt and suitable reply.
"My blessing on the blushing rose!" he answered in an instant. "There are
worse parents than Pippo, for he who lives by making others laugh deserves
well of men, whereas there is your medico, who eats the bread of colics,
and rheumatisms, and other foul diseases, of which he pretends to be the
enemy, though, San Gennaro to aid!--who is there so silly, as not to see
that the knavish doctor and the knavish distemper play into each others
hands, as readily as Policinello and the monkey."
"Hast thou another worse than thyself that can be named," cried he of the
"A score, and thou shalt be of the number. My blessing on the fair bride!
thrice happy is she that hath a right to receive the benediction from one
of so honest life as the merry Pippo. Speak not I the truth, figligiola?"
Christine perceived that the hand of her companion was coldly releasing
her own, and she felt the creeping sensation of the blood which is the
common attendant of extreme and humiliating shame. Still she bore up
against the weakness, with that deep reliance on the justice of others
which is usually the most strongly seated in those who are the most
innocent; and she followed the procession, in its circuit, with a step
whose trembling was mistaken for no more than the embarrassment natural to
At this moment, as the mummers were wheeling past the town-house, and the
air was filled with music, while a general movement stirred the multitude,
a cry of alarm arose in the building. It was immediately succeeded by such
a rush of bodies towards the spot, as indicates, in a throng, a sudden
and general interest in some new and extraordinary event.
The crowd was beaten back and dispersed, the procession had disappeared,
and there was an unusual appearance of activity and mystery among the
officials of the place, before the cause of this disturbance began to be
whispered among the few who remained in the square. The rumor ran that one
of the prisoners, an athletic Italian mariner had profited by the
attention of all the other guardians of the place being occupied by the
ceremonies, to knock down the solitary sentinel, and to effect his escape,
followed by all the drunkards who were able to run.
The evasion of a few lawless blackguards from their prison was not an
event likely long to divert the attention of the curious from the
amusements of the day, especially as it was understood that their
confinement would have terminated of itself with the setting sun. But when
the fact was communicated to Peter Hofmeister, the sturdy bailiff swore
fifty harsh oaths at the impudence of the knaves, at the carelessness of
their keepers, and in honor of the good cause of justice in general. After
which he incontinently commanded that the runaways should be apprehended.
This material part of the process achieved, he moreover, ordered that they
should be brought forthwith into his presence, even should he be engaged
in the most serious of the ceremonies of the day. The voice of Peter
speaking in anger was not likely to be unheard, and the stern mandate had
scarcely issued from his lips, when a dozen of the common thief-takers of
Vaud set about the affair in good earnest, and with the best possible
intentions to effect their object. In the mean time the sports continued,
and, as the day drew on, and the hour for the banquet approached, the good
people began to collect once more in the great square to witness the
closing scenes, and to be present at the nuptial benediction, which was to
be pronounced over Jacques Colis and Christine by a real servitor of the
altar, as the last and most important of the ceremonies of that eventful
Ay, marry; now unmuzzle your wisdom.
The hour of noon was past, when the stage was a second time filled with
the privileged. The multitude was again disposed around the area of the
square, and the bailiff and his friends once more occupied the seats of
honor in the centre of the long estrade. Procession after procession now
began to reappear, for all had made the circuit of the city, and each had
repeated its mummeries so often that the actors grew weary of their
sports. Still, as the several groups came again into the high presence of
the bailiff and the elite not only of their own country but of so many
others, pride overcame fatigue, and the songs and dances were renewed with
the necessary appearance of good will and zeal. Peter Hofmeister and
divers others of the magnates of the canton, were particularly loud in
their plaudits on this repetition of the games, for, by a process that
will be easily understood, they, who had been revelling and taking their
potations in the marquees and booths while the mummers were absent, were
more than qualified to supply the deficiencies of the actors by the
warmth and exuberance of their own warmed imaginations. The bailiff, in
particular, as became, his high office and determined character, was
unusually talkative and decided, both as respects the criticisms and
encomiums he uttered on the various performances, making as light of his
own peculiar qualifications to deal with the subject, as if he were a
common hack-reviewer of our own times, who is known to keep in view the
quantity rather than the quality of his remarks, and the stipulated price
he is to receive per line. Indeed the parallel would hold good in more
respects than that of knowledge, for his language was unusually captious
and supercilious, his tone authoritative, and his motive the desire to
exhibit his own endowments, rather than the wish he affected to manifest
of setting forth the excellences of others. His speeches were more
frequently than ever directed to the Signor Grimaldi, for whom there had
suddenly arisen in his mind a still stronger gusto than that he had so
liberally manifested, and which had already drawn so much attention to the
deportment of this pleasing but modest stranger. Still he never failed to
compel all, within reach of a reasonable exercise of his voice, to listen
to his oracles.
"Those that have passed, brother Melchior," said the bailiff, addressing
the Baron de Willading in the fraternal style of the buergerschaft, while
his eye was directed to the Genoese, in whom in reality he wished to
excite admiration for his readiness in Heathen lore, "are no more than
shepherds and shepherdesses of our mountains, and none of your gods and
demigods, the former of which are to be known in this ceremony from all
others by the fact that they are carried on men's shoulders, and the
latter that they ride on asses, or have other conveniences natural to
their wants. Ah! here we have the higher orders of the mummers in person
--this comely creature is, in reality, Mariette Marron of this country,
as strapping a wench as there is in Vaud, and as impudent--but no matter!
She is now the Priestess of Flora, and I'll warrant you there is not a
horn in all our valleys that will bring a louder echo out of the rocks
than this very priestess will raise with her single throat! That yonder on
the throne is Flora herself, represented by a comely young woman, the
daughter of a warm citizen here in Vevey, and one able to give her all the
equipments she bears, without taxing the abbaye a doit. I warrant you that
every flower about her was culled from their own garden!"
"Thou treatest the poetry of the ceremonies with so little respect, good
Peterchen, that the goddess and her train dwindle into little more than
vine-dressers and milk-maids beneath thy tongue."
"Of Heaven's sake, friend Melchior," interrupted the amused Genoese, "do
not rob us of the advantage of the worthy bailiff's graphic remarks. Your
Heathen may be well enough in his way, but surely he is none the worse for
a few notes and illustrations, that would do credit to a Doctor of Padova.
I entreat you to continue, learned Peter, that we strangers may lose none
of the niceties of the exhibition."
"Thou seest, baron," returned the well-warmed bailiff, with a look of
triumph, "a little explanation can never injure a good thing, though it
were even the law itself. Ah! yon is Ceres and her company, and a goodly
train they appear! These are the harvest-men and harvest-women, who
represent the abundance of our country of Vaud, Signor Grimaldi, which,
truth to say, is a fat land, and worthy of the allegory. These knaves,
with the stools strapped to their nether parts, and carrying tubs, are
cowherds, and all the others are more or less concerned with the dairy.
Ceres was a personage of importance among the ancients, beyond dispute,
as may be seen by the manner in which, she is backed by the landed
interest. There is no solid respectability, Herr von Willading, that is
not fairly bottomed on broad lands. Ye perceive that the goddess sits on a
throne whose ornaments are all taken from the earth; a sheaf of wheat tops
the canopy; rich ears of generous grain are her jewels, and her sceptre is
the sickle. These are but allegories, Signor Grimaldi, but they are
allusions that give birth to wholesome thoughts in the prudent. There is
no science that may not catch a hint from our games; politics, religion,
or law--'tis all the same for the well-disposed and cunning."
"An ingenious scholar might even find an argument for the buergerschaft in
an allegory that is less clear;" returned the amused Genoese. "But you
have overlooked, Signor Bailiff, the instrument that Ceres carries in the
other hand, and which is full to overflowing with the fruits of the
earth;--that which so much resembles a bullock's horn, I mean."
"That is, out of question, some of the utensils of the ancients; perhaps a
milking vessel in use among the gods and goddesses, for your deities of
old were no bad housewives, and made a merit of their economy; and Ceres
here, as is seen, is not ashamed of a useful occupation. By my faith, but
this affair has been gotten up with a very creditable attention to the
moral! But our dairy-people are about to give us some of their airs."
Peterchen now put a stop to his classic lore, while the followers of Ceres
arranged themselves in order, and began to sing. The contagious and wild
melody of the Ranz des Vaches rose in the square, and soon drew the
absorbed and delighted attention of all within hearing which, to say the
truth, was little less than all who were within the limits of the town,
for, the crowd chiming in with the more regular artists, a, sort of
musical enthusiasm seized upon all present who came of Vaud and her
valleys. The dogmatical, but well-meaning bailiff; though usually jealous
of his Bernese origin, and alive on system to the necessity of preserving
the superiority of the great canton by all the common observances of
dignity and reserve, yielded to the general movement, and shouted with the
rest, under favor of a pair of lungs that nature had admirably fitted to
sustain the chorus of a mountain song. This condescension in the deputy of
Berne was often spoken of afterwards with admiration, the simple-minded
and credulous ascribing the exaltation of Peterchen to a generous warmth
in their happiness and interests, while the more wary and observant were
apt to impute the musical excess to a previous excess of another
character, in which the wines of the neighboring cotes were fairly
entitled to come in for a full share of the merit. Those who were, nearest
the bailiff were secretly much diverted-with his awkward attempts at
graciousness, which one fair and witty Vaudoise likened to the antics of
one of the celebrated animals that are still fostered in the city which
ruled so much of Switzerland, and from whom, indeed, the town and canton
are both vulgarly supposed to have derived their common name; for, while
the authority of Berne weighed so imperiously and heavily on its
subsidiary countries, as is usual in such cases, the people of the latter
were much addicted to taking an impotent revenge, by whispering the
pleasantest sarcasms they could invent against their masters.
Notwithstanding this and many more criticisms on his performance, the
bailiff enacted his part in the representation to his own entire
satisfaction; and he resumed his seat with a consciousness of having at
least merited the applause of the people, for having entered with so much
spirit into their games, and with the hope that this act of grace might be
the means of causing them to forget some fifty, or a hundred, of his other
acts, which certainly had not possessed the same melodious and
After this achievement the bailiff was reasonably quiet, until Bacchus and
his train again entered the square. At the appearance of the laughing
urchin who bestrode the cask, he resumed his dissertations with a
confidence that all are apt to feel who are about to treat on a subject
with which they have had occasion to be familiar.
"This is the god of good liquor," said Peterchen, always speaking to any
who would listen although, by an instinct of respect, he chiefly preferred
favoring the Signor Grimaldi with his remarks, "as may plainly be seen by
his seat; and these are dancing attendants to show that wine gladdens the
heart;--yonder is the press at work, extracting the juices, and that huge
cluster is to represent the grapes which the messengers of Joshua brought
back from Canaan when sent to spy out the land, a history which I make no
doubt you Signore, in Italy, have at your fingers' ends."
Gaetano Grimaldi looked embarrassed, for, although well skilled in the
lore of the heathen mythology, his learning as a male papist and a laic
was not particularly rich in the story of the Christian faith. At first he
supposed that the bailiff had merely blundered in his account of the
mythology, but, by taxing his memory a little, he recovered some faint
glimpses of the truth, a redemption of his character as a book-man for
which he was materially indebted to having seen some celebrated pictures
on this very subject, a species of instruction in holy writ that is
sufficiently common those who inhabit the Catholic countries of the other
"Thou surely hast not overlooked the history of the gigantic cluster of
grapes, Signore" exclaimed Peterchen, astonished at the apparent
hesitation of the Italian. "'Tis the most beautiful of all the legends of
the holy book. Ha! as I live, there is the ass without his rider;--what
has become of the blackguard Antoine Giraud? The rogue has alighted to
swallow a fresh draught from some booth, after draining his own skin to
the bottom. This comes of neglect; a sober man, or at least one of a
harder head, should have been put to the part;--for, look you,'tis a
character that need stand at least a gallon, since the rehearsals alone
are enough to take a common drinker off his centre."
The tongue of the bailiff ran on in accompaniment, during the time that
the followers of Bacchus were going through with their songs and pageants,
and when they disappeared, it gained a louder key, like the "rolling river
that murmuring flows and flows for ever," rising again on the ear, after
the din of any adventitious noise has ceased.
"Now we may expect the pretty bride and her maids," continued Peterchen,
winking at his companions, as the ancient gallant is wont to make a parade
of his admiration of the fair; "the solemn ceremony is to be pronounced
here, before the authorities, as a suitable termination to this happy day.
Ah! my good old friend Melchior, neither of us is the man he was, or these
skipping hoydens would not go through their pirouettes without some aid
from our arms! Now, dispose of yourselves, friends; for this is to be no
acting, but a downright marriage, and it is meet that we keep a graver
air. How! what means the movement among the officers?"
Peterchen had interrupted himself, for just at that moment the
thief-takers entered the square in a body, inclosing in their centre a
group, who had the mien of captives too evidently to be mistaken for
honest men. The bailiff was peculiarly an executive officer; one of that
class who believe that the enactment of a law is a point of far less
interest than its due fulfilment. Indeed, so far did he push his favorite
principle, that he did not hesitate sometimes to suppose shades of meaning
in the different ordinances of the great council that existed only in his
own brain, but which were, to do him justice, sufficiently convenient to
himself in carrying out the constructions which he saw fit to put on his
own duties. The appearance of an affair of justice was unfortunate for the
progress of the ceremonies, Peterchen having some such relish for the
punishment of rogues, and more especially for such as seemed to be an
eternal reproach to the action of the Bernese system by their incorrigible
misery and poverty, as an old coachman is proverbially said to retain for
the crack of the whip. All his judicial sympathies were not fully
awakened, on the present occasion, however: the criminals, though far from
belonging to the more lucky of their fellow-creatures, not being quite
miserable enough in appearance to awaken all those powers of magisterial
reproach and severity that lay dormant in the bailiff's moral temperament,
ready, at any time, to vindicate the right of the strong against the
innovations of the feeble and unhappy. The reader will at once have
anticipated that the prisoners were Maso and his companions, who had been
more successful in escaping from their keepers, than fortunate in evading
the attempts to secure their persons a second time.
"Who are these that dare affront the ruling powers on this day of general
good-will and rejoicing?" sternly demanded the bailiff, when the minions
of the law and their captives stood fairly before him. "Do ye not know,
knaves, that this is a solemn, almost a religious ceremony at Vevey--for
so it would be considered by the ancients at least--and that a crime is
doubly a crime when committed either in an honorable presence, on a solemn
and dignified occasion, like this, or against the authorities;--this last
being always the gravest and greatest of all?"
"We are but indifferent scholars, worshipful bailiff, as you may easily
perceive by our outward appearance, and are to be judged leniently,"
answered Maso. "Our whole offence was a hot but short quarrel touching a
dog, in which hands were made to play the part of reason, and which would
have done little harm to any but ourselves, had it been the pleasure of
the town authorities to have left us to decide the dispute in our own way.
As you well say, this is a joyous occasion, and we esteem it hard that we
of all Vevey should be shut up on account of so light an affair, and cut
off from the merriment of the rest."
"There is reason in this fellow, after all," said Peterchen, in a low
voice. "What is a dog more or less to Berne, and a public rejoicing to
produce its end should go deep into the community. Let the men go, of
God's name! and look to it, that all the dogs be beaten out of the square,
that we have no more folly."
"Please you, these are the men that have escaped from the authorities,
after knocking down their keeper;" the officer humbly observed.
"How is this! Didst thou not say, fellow, that it was all about a dog?"
"I spoke of the reason of our being shut up. It is true that, wearied with
breathing pent air, and a little heated with wine, we left the prison
without permission; but we hope this little sally of spirit will be
overlooked on account of the extraordinary occasion."
"Rogue, thy plea augments the offence. A crime committed on an
extraordinary occasion becomes an extraordinary crime, and requires an
extraordinary punishment, which I intend to see inflicted, forthwith. You
have insulted the authorities, and that is the unpardonable sin in all
communities. Draw nearer, friends, for I love to let my reasons be felt
and understood by those who are to be affected by my decisions, and this
is a happy moment, to give a short lesson to the Vevaisans--let the bride
and bridegroom wait--draw nearer all, that ye may better hear what I have
The crowd pressed more closely around the foot of the stage, and
Peterchen, assuming a didactic air, resumed his discourse.
"The object of all authority is to find the means of its own support,"
continued the bailiff; "for unless it can exist, it must fall to the
ground; and you all are sufficiently schooled to know that when a thing
becomes of indifferent value, it loses most of its consideration. Thus
government is established in order that it may protect itself; since
without this power it could not remain a government, and there is not a
man existing who is not ready to admit that even a bad government is
better than none. But ours is particularly a good government, its greatest
care on all occasions being to make itself respected, and he who respects
himself is certain to have esteem in the eyes of others. Without this
security we should become like the unbridled steed, or the victims of
anarchy and confusion, ay, and damnable heresies in religion. Thus you see
my friends, your choice lies between the government of Berne, or no
government at all; for when only two things exist, by taking one away the
number is reduced half, and as the great canton will keep its own share of
the institutions, by taking half away, Vaud is left as naked as my hand.
Ask yourselves if you have any government but this? You know you have not.
Were you quit of Berne, therefore, you clearly would have none at all.
Officer, you have a sword at your side, which is a good type of our
authority; draw it and hold it up, that all may see it. You perceive, my
friends, that the officer hath a sword; but that he hath only one sword.
Lay it at thy feet, officer. You perceive, friends, that having but one
sword, and laying that sword aside, he no longer hath a sword at all! That
weapon represents our authority, which laid aside becomes no authority,
leaving us with an unarmed hand."
This happy comparison drew a murmur of applause; the proposition of
Peterchen having most of the properties of a popular theory, being
deficient in neither a bold assertion, a brief exposition, nor a practical
illustration. The latter in particular was long afterwards spoken of in
Vaud, as an exposition little short of the well-known judgment of Solomon,
who had resorted to the same keen-edged weapon in order to solve a point
almost as knotty as this settled by the bailiff. When the approbation had
a little subsided, the warmed Peterchen continued his discourse, which
possessed the random and generalized logic of most of the dissertations
that are uttered in the interests of things as they are, without paying
any particular deference to things as they should be.
"What is the use of teaching the multitude to read and write?" he asked.
"Had not Franz Kauffman known how to write, could he have imitated his
master's hand, and would he have lost his head for mistaking another man's
name for his own? a little reflection shows us he would not. Now, as for
the other art, could the people read bad books had they never learned the
alphabet? If there is a man present who can say to the contrary, I absolve
him from his respect, and invite him to speak boldly, for there is no
Inquisition in Vaud, but we invite argument. This is a free government,
and a fatherly government, and a mild government, as ye all know; but it
is not a government that likes reading and writing; reading that leads to
the perusal of bad books, and writing that causes false signatures.
Fellow-citizens, for we are all equal, with the exception of certain
differences that need not now be named, it is a government for your good,
and therefore it is a government that likes itself, and whose first duty
it is to protect itself and its officers at all hazards, even though it
might by accident commit some seeming injustice. Fellow, canst thou read?"
"Indifferently, worshipful bailiff," returned Maso. "There are those who
get through a book with less trouble than myself."
"I warrant you, now, he means a good book but, as for a bad one, I'll
engage the varlet goes through it like a wild boar! This comes of
education among the ignorant! There is no more certain method to corrupt a
community, and to rivet it in beastly practices, than to educate the
ignorant. The enlightened can bear knowledge, for rich food does not harm
the stomach that is used to it, but it is hellebore to the ill-fed.
Education is an arm, for knowledge is power, and the ignorant man is but
an infant, and to give him knowledge is like putting a loaded blunderbuss
into the hands of a child. What can an ignorant man do with knowledge? He
is as likely to use it wrong end uppermost as in any other manner.
Learning is a ticklish thing; it was said by Festus to have maddened even
the wise and experienced Paul and what may we not expect it to do with
your downright ignoramus? What is thy name prisoner?"
"Tommaso Santi; sometimes known among my friends as San Tommaso; called by
my enemies, Il Maledetto, and by my familiars, Maso."
"Thou hast a formidable number of aliases, the certain sign of a rogue.
Thou hast confessed that thou canst read----"
"Nay, Signor Bailiff, I would not be taken to have said----"
"By the faith of Calvin, thou didst confess it, before all this goodly
company! Wilt thou deny thine own words, knave, in the very face of
justice? Thou canst read--thou hast it in thy countenance, and I would go
nigh to swear, too, that thou hast some inkling of the quill, were the
truth honestly said. Signor Grimaldi, I know not how you find this affair
on the other side of the Alps, but with us, our greatest troubles come
from these well-taught knaves, who, picking up knowledge fraudulently, use
it with felonious intent, without thought of the wants and rights of the
"We have our difficulties, as is the fact wherever man is found with his
selfishness and passions Signor Bailiff; but are we not doing an ungallant
act towards yonder fair bride, by giving the precedency to men of this
cast? Would it not be better to dismiss the modest Christine, happy in
Hymen's chains, before we enter more deeply into the question of the
manacles of these prisoners?"
To the amazement of all who knew the bailiff's natural obstinacy, which
was wont to increase instead of becoming more manageable in his cups,
Peterchen assented to this proposition with a complaisance and apparent
good-will, that he rarely manifested towards any opinion of which he did
not think himself legitimately the father; though, like many others who
bear that honorable title, he was sometimes made to yield the privileges
of paternity to other men's children. He had shown an unusual deference to
the Italian, however, throughout the whole of their short intercourse, and
on no occasion was it less equivocal, than in the promptness with which he
received the present hint. The prisoners and officers were commanded to
stand aside, but so near as to remain beneath his eye, while some of the
officials of the abbaye were ordered to give notice to the train, which
awaited these arrangements in silent wonder, that it might now approach.
Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinion against Providence;
Call imperfection what thou fanciest such;
Say, here he gives too little, there too much;
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,
And say, if man's unhappy, God's unjust.
It is unnecessary to repeat the list of characters that acted the
different parts in the train of the village nuptials. All were there at
the close of the ceremonies, as they had appeared earlier in the day, and
as the last of the legal forms of the marriage was actually to take place
in presence of the bailiff, preparatory to the more solemn rites of the
church, the throng yielded to its curiosity, breaking through the line of
those who were stationed to restrain its inroads, and pressing about the
foot of the estrade in the stronger interest which reality is known to
possess over fiction. During the day, a thousand new inquiries had been
made concerning the bride, whose beauty and mien were altogether so
superior to what might have been expected in one who could consent to act
the part she did on so public an occasion, and whose modest bearing was in
such singular contradiction to her present situation. None knew, however,
or, if it were known, no one chose to reveal, her history; and, as
curiosity had been so keenly whetted by mystery, the rush of the multitude
was merely a proof of the power which expectation, aided by the thousand
surmises of rumor, can gain over the minds of the idle.
Whatever might have been the character of the conjectures made at the
expense of poor Christine--and they were wanting in neither variety nor
malice--most were compelled to agree in commending the diffidence of her
air, and the gentle sweetness of her mild and peculiar beauty. Some,
indeed, affected to see artifice in the former, which was pronounced to be
far too excellent, or too much overdone, for nature. The usual amount of
common-place remarks were made, too, on the lucky diversity that was to be
found in tastes, and on the happy necessity there existed of all being
able to find the means to please themselves. But these were no more than
the moral blotches that usually disfigure human commendation. The
sentiment and the sympathies of the mass were powerfully and irresistibly
enlisted in favor of the unknown maiden--feelings that were very
unequivocally manifested as she drew nearer the estrade, walking timidly
through a dense lane of bodies, all of which were pressing eagerly
forward to get a better view of her person.
The bailiff, under ordinary circumstances, would have taken in dudgeon
this violation of the rules prescribed for the government of the
multitude; for he was perfectly sincere in his opinions, absurd as so many
of them were, and, like many other honest men who defeat the effects they
would produce by forced constructions of their principles, he was a little
apt to run into excesses of discipline. But in the present instance, he
was rather pleased than otherwise to see the throng within the reach of
his voice. The occasion was, at best, but semi-official, and he was so far
under the influence of the warm liquors of the cotes as to burn with the
desire of putting forth still more liberally his flowers of eloquence and
his stores of wisdom. He received the inroad, therefore, with an air of
perfect good-humor, a manifestation of assent that encouraged still
greater innovations on the limits until the space occupied by the
principal actors in this closing scene was reduced to the smallest
possible size that was at all compatible with their movements and
comforts. In this situation of things the ceremonies proceeded.
The gentle flow of hope and happiness which was slowly increasing in the
mild bosom of the bride, from the first moment of her appearance in this
unusual scene to that in which it was checked by the cries of Pippo, had
been gradually lessening under a sense of distrust, and she now entered
the square with a secret and mysterious dread at the heart, which her
inexperience and great ignorance of life served fearfully to increase. Her
imagination magnified the causes of alarm into some prepared and designed
insult. Christine, fully aware of the obloquy that pressed upon her race,
had only consented to adopt this unusual mode of changing her condition,
under a sensitive, apprehension that any other would have necessarily led
to the exposure of her origin. This fear, though exaggerated, and indeed
causeless, was the result of too much brooding of late over her own
situation, and of that morbid sensibility in which the most pure and
innocent are, unhappily, the most likely to indulge. The concealment, as
has already been explained, was that of her intended husband, who, with
the subterfuge of an interested spirit, had hoped to mislead the little
circle of his own acquaintances and gratify his cupidity at the cheapest
possible rate to himself. But there is a point of self-abasement beyond
which the perfect consciousness of right rarely permits even the most
timid to proceed. As the bride moved up the lane of human bodies, her eye
grew less disturbed and her step firmer,--for the pride of rectitude
overcame the ordinary girlish sensibilities of her sex, and made her the
steadiest at the very instant that the greater portion of females would
have been the most likely to betray their weakness. She had just attained
this forced but respectable tranquillity, as the bailiff, signing to the
crowd to hush its murmurs and to remain motionless, arose, with a manner
that he intended to be dignified, and which passed with the multitude for
a very successful experiment in its way, to open the business in hand by a
short address. The reader is not to be surprised at the volubility of
honest Peterchen, for it was getting to be late in the day, and his
frequent libations throughout the ceremonies would have wrought him up to
even a much higher flight of eloquence, had the occasion and the company
at all suited such a display of his powers.
"We have had a joyous day, my friends" he said; "one whose excellent
ceremonies ought to recall to every one of us our dependence on
Providence, our frail and sinful dispositions, and particularly our
duties to the councils. By the types of plenty and abundance, we see the
bounty of nature, which is a gift from Heaven; by the different little
failures that have been, perhaps, unavoidably made in some of the nicer
parts of the exhibition--and I would here particularly mention the
besotted drunkenness of Antoine Giraud, the man who has impudently
undertaken to play the part of Silenus, as a fit subject of your
attention, for it is full of profit to all hard-drinking knaves--we may
see our own awful imperfections; while, in the order of the whole, and the
perfect obedience of the subordinates, do we find a parallel to the beauty
of a vigilant and exact police and a well-regulated community. Thus you
see, that though the ceremony hath a Heathen exterior, it hath a Christian
moral; God grant that we all forget the former, and remember the latter,
as best becomes our several characters and our common country. And now,
having done with the divinities and their legends--with the exception of
that varlet Silenus, whose misconduct, I promise you, is not to be so
easily overlooked--we will give some attention to mortal affairs. Marriage
is honorable before God and man, and although I have never had leisure to
enter into this holy state myself, owing to a variety of reasons, but
chiefly from my being wedded, as it were, to the State, to which we all
owe quite as much, or even greater duty, than the most faithful wife owes
to her husband, I would not have you suppose that I have not a high
veneration for matrimony. So far from this, I have looked on no part of
this day's ceremonies with more satisfaction than these of the nuptials,
which we are now called upon to complete in a manner suitable to the
importance of the occasion. Let the bridegroom and the bride stand forth,
that all may the better see the happy pair."
At the bidding of the bailiff, Jacques Colis led Christine upon the little
stage prepared for their reception, where both were more completely in
view of the spectators than they had yet been. The movement, and the
agitation consequent on so public an exposure, deepened the bloom on the
soft cheeks of the bride, and another and a still less equivocal murmur of
applause arose in the multitude. The spectacle of youth, innocence, and
feminine loveliness, strongly stirred the sympathies of even the most
churlish and rude; and most present began to feel for her fears, and to
participate in her hopes.
"This is excellent!" continued the well-pleased Peterchen, who was never
half so happy as when he was officially providing for the happiness of
others; "it promises a happy _menage_. A loyal, frugal, industrious, and
active groom, with a fair and willing bride, can drive discontent up any
man's chimney. That which is to be done next, being legal and binding,
must be done with proper gravity and respect. Let the notary advance--not
him who hath so aptly played this character, but the commendable and
upright officer who is rightly charged with these respectable
functions--and we will listen to the contract. I recommend a decent
silence, my friends, for the true laws and real matrimony are at the
bottom--a grave affair at the best, and one never to be treated with
levity; since a few words pronounced now in haste may be repented of for a
whole life hereafter."
Every thing was conducted according to the wishes of the bailiff, and with
great decency of form. A true and authorized notary read aloud the
marriage-contract, the instrument which contained the civic relations and
rights of the parties, and which only waited for the signatures to be
complete. This document required, of course, that the real names of the
contracting parties, their ages, births, parentage, and all those facts
which are necessary to establish their identity, and to secure the rights
of succession, should be clearly set forth in a way to render the
instrument valid at the most remote period, should there ever arrive a
necessity to recur to it in the way of testimony. The most eager attention
pervaded the crowd as they listened to these little particulars, and
Adelheid trembled in this delicate part of the proceedings, as the
suppressed but still audible breathing of Sigismund reached her ear, lest
something might occur to give a rude shock to his feelings. But it would
seem the notary had his cue. The details touching Christine were so
artfully arranged, that while they were perfectly binding in law, they
were so dexterously concealed from the observation of the unsuspecting,
that no attention was drawn to the point most apprehended by their
exposure. Sigismund breathed freer when the notary drew near the end of
his task, and Adelheid heard the heavy breath he drew at the close, with
the joy one feels at the certainty of having passed an imminent danger.
Christine herself seemed relieved, though hor inexperience in a great
degree prevented her from foreseeing all that the greater practice of
Sigismund had led him to anticipate.
"This is quite in rule, and naught now remains but to receive the
signatures of the respective parties and their friends," resumed the
bailiff. "A happy menage is like a well-ordered state, a foretaste of the
joys and peace of Heaven; while a discontented household and a turbulent
community may be likened at once to the penalties and the pains of hell!
Let the friends of the parties step forth, in readiness to sign when the
principals themselves shall have discharged this duty."
A few of the relatives and associates of Jacques Colis moved out of the
crowd and placed themselves at the side of the bridegroom, who immediately
wrote his own name, like a man impatient to be happy. A pause succeeded,
for all were curious to see who claimed affinity to the trembling girl on
this the most solemn and important event of her life. An interval of
several minutes elapsed, and no one appeared. The respiration of Sigismund
became more difficult; he seemed about to choke, and then yielding to a
generous impulse, he arose.
"For the love of God!--for thine own sake!--for mine! be not too hasty!"
whispered the terrified Adelheid; for she saw the hot glow that almost
blazed on his brow.
"I cannot desert poor Christine to the scorn of the world, in a moment
like this! If I die of shame, I must go forward and own myself."
The hand of Mademoiselle de Willading was laid upon his arm, and he
yielded to this silent but impressive entreaty, for just then he saw that
his sister was about to be relieved from her distressing solitude. The
throng yielded, and a decent pair, attired in the guise of small but
comfortable proprietors, moved doubtingly towards the bride. The eyes of
Christine filled with tears, for terror and the apprehension of disgrace
yielded suddenly to joy. Those who advanced to support her in that moment
of intense trial were her father and mother. The respectable-looking pair
moved slowly to the side of their daughter, and, having placed themselves
one on each side of her, they first ventured to cast furtive and subdued
glances at the multitude.
"It is doubtless painful to the parents to part with so fair and so
dutiful a child," resumed the obtuse Peterchen, who rarely saw in any
emotion more than its most common-place and vulgar character; "Nature
pulls them one way, while the terms of the contract and the progress of
our ceremonies pull another. I have often weaknesses of this sort myself,
the most sensitive hearts being the most liable to these attacks. But my
children are the public, and do riot admit of too much of what I may call
the detail of sentiment, else, by the soul of Calvin! were I but an
indifferent bailiff for Berne!--Thou art the father of this fair and
blushing maiden, and thou her mother?"
"We are these," returned Balthazar mildly.
"Thou art not of Vevey, or its neighborhood, by thy speech?"
"Of the great canton, mein Herr;" for the answer was in German, these
contracted districts possessing nearly as many dialects as there are
territorial divisions. "We are strangers in Vaud."
"Thou hast not done the worse for marrying thy daughter with a Vevaisan,
and, more especially, under the favor of our renowned and liberal Abbaye.
I warrant me thy child will be none the poorer for this compliance with
the wishes of those who lead our ceremonies!"
"She will not go portionless to the house of her husband," returned the
father, coloring with secret pride; for to one to whom the chances of life
left so few sources of satisfaction, those that were possessed became
"This is well! A right worthy couple! And I doubt not, a meet companion
will your offspring prove. Monsieur le Notaire, call off the names of
those good people aloud, that they may sign, at least, with a decent
"It is settled otherwise." hastily answered the functionary of the quill,
who was necessarily in the secret of Christine's origin, and who had been
well bribed to observe discretion. "It would altogether derange the order
and regularity of the proceedings."
"As thou wilt; for I would have nothing illegal, and least of all, nothing
disorderly. But o' Heaven's sake! let us get through with our penmanship,
for I hear there are symptoms that the meats are likely to be overbaked.
Canst thou write, good man?"
"Indifferently, mein Herr: but in a way to make what I will binding before
"Give the quill to the bride, Mr. Notary, and let us protract the happy
event no longer."
The bailiff here bent his head aside and whispered to an attendant to
hurry towards the kitchens and to look to the affairs of the banquet.
Christine took the pen with a trembling hand and pallid cheek, and was
about to apply it to the paper, when a sudden cry from the throng diverted
the attention of all present to a new matter of interest.
"Who dares thus indecently interrupt this grave scene, and that, too, in
so great a presence?" sternly demanded the bailiff.
Pippo, who with the other prisoners had unavoidably been inclosed in the
space near the estrade by the pressure of the multitude, staggered more
into view, and removing his cap with a well-managed respect, presented
himself humbly to the sight of Peterchen.
"It is I, illustrious and excellent governor," returned the wily
Neapolitan, who retained just enough of the liquor he had swallowed to
render him audacious, without weakening his means of observation. "It is
I, Pippo; an artist of humble pretensions, but, I hope, a very honest man
and, as I know, a great reverencer of the laws and a true friend to
"Let the good man speak up boldly. A man of these principles has a right
to be heard. We live in a time of damnable innovations, and of most
atrocious attempts to overturn the altar, the state, and the public
trusts, and the sentiments of such a man are like dew to the parched
The reader is not to imagine, from the language of the bailiff, that Vaud
stood on the eve of any great political commotion, but, as the Government
was in itself an usurpation, and founded on the false principle of
exclusion, it was quite as usual then, as now, to cry out against the
moral throes of violated right, since the same eagerness to possess, the
same selfishness in grasping, however unjustly obtained, and the same
audacity of assertion with a view to mystify, pervaded the Christian world
a century since as exist to-day. The cunning Pippo saw that the bait had
taken, and, assuming a still more respectful and loyal mien, he
"Although a stranger, illustrious governor, I have had great delight in
these joyous and excellent ceremonies. Their fame will be spread far and
near, and men will talk of little less for the coming year but of Vevey
and its festival. But a great scandal hangs over your honorable heads
which it is in my power to turn aside, and San Gennaro forbid! that I, a
stranger, that hath been well entertained in your town, should hesitate
about raising his voice on account of any scruples of modesty. No doubt,
great governor, your eccellenza believes that this worthy Vevaisan is
about to wive a creditable maiden, whose name could be honorably mentioned
with those of the ceremonies and your town, before the proudest company in
"What of this, fellow? the girl is fair, and modest enough, at least to
the eye, and if thou knowest aught else, whisper thy secret to her husband
or her friends, but do not come in this rude manner to disturb our harmony
with thy raven throat, just as we are ready to sing an epithalamium in
honor of the happy pair. Your excessive particularity is the curse of
wedlock, my friends, and I have a great mind to send this knave, in spite
of all this profession of order, which is like enough to produce disorder,
for a month or two into our Vevey dungeon for his pains."
Pippo was staggered, for, just drunk enough to be audacious, he had not
all his faculties at his perfect command, and his usual acumen was a
little at fault. Still, accustomed to brave public opinion, and to carry
himself through the failures of his exhibitions by heavier drafts on the
patience and credulity of his audience, he determined to persevere as the
most likely way of extricating himself from the menaced consequences of
"A thousand pardons, great bailiff;" he answered. "Naught, but a burning
desire to do justice to your high honor, and to the reputation of the
abbaye's festival, could have led me so far, but--"
"Speak thy mind at once, rogue, and have done with circumlocution."
"I have little to say, Signore, except that the father of this illustrious
bride, who is about to honor Vevey by making her nuptials an occasion for
all in the city to witness and to favor, is the common headsman of
Berne--a wretch who lately came near to prove the destruction of more
Christians than the law has condemned, and who is sufficiently out of
favor with Heaven to bring the fate of Gomorrah upon your town!"
Pippo tottered to his station among the prisoners with the manner of one
who had delivered himself of an important trust, and was instantly lost to
view. So rapid and unlooked for had been the interruption, and so vehement
the utterance of the Italian while delivering his facts, that, though
several present saw their tendency when it was too late, none had
sufficient presence of mind to prevent the exposure. A murmur arose in the
crowd, which stirred like a vast sheet of fluid on which a passing gust
had alighted, and then became fixed and calm. Of all present, the bailiff
manifested the least surprise or concern, for to him the last minister of
the law was an object, if not precisely of respect, of politic good-will
rather than of dishonor.
"What of this!" he answered, in the way of one who had expected a far more
important revelation. "What of this, should it be true! Harkee,
friend,--art thou, in sooth, the noted Balthazar, he to whose family the
canton is indebted for so much fair justice?"
Balthazar saw that his secret was betrayed, and that it were wiser simply
to admit the facts, than to have recourse to subterfuge or denial. Nature,
moreover, had made him a man with strong and pure propensities for the
truth, and he was never without the innate consciousness of the injustice
of which he had been made the victim by the unfeeling ordinance of
society. Raising his head, he looked around him with firmness, for he too,
unhappily, had been accustomed to act in the face of multitudes, and he
answered the question of the bailiff, in his usual mild tone of voice, but
"Herr Bailiff, I am by inheritance the last avenger of the law."
"By my office! I like the title; it is a good one! The last avenger of
the law! If rogues will offend, or dissatisfied spirits plot, there must
be a hand to put the finishing blow to their evil works, and why not thou
as well as another! Harkee, officers, shut me up yonder Italian knave for
a week on bread and water, for daring to trifle with the time and
good-nature of the public in this impudent manner. And this worthy dame is
thy wife, honest Balthazar; and that fair maiden thy child--Hast thou more
of so goodly a race?"
"God has blessed me in my offspring, mein Herr."
"Ay; God hath blessed thee!--and a great blessing it should be, as I know
by bitter experience--that is, being a bachelor, I understand the misery
of being childless--I would say no more. Sign the contract, honest
Balthazar, with thy wife and daughter, that we may have an end of this."
The family of the proscribed were about to obey this mandate, when Jacques
Colis abruptly threw down the emblems of a bridegroom, tore the contract
in fragments, and publicly announced that he had changed his intention,
and that he would not wive a headsman's child. The public mind is usually
caught by any loud declaration in favor of the ruling prejudice, and,
after the first brief pause of surprise was past, the determination of the
groom was received with a shout of applause that was immediately followed
by general, coarse, and deriding laughter. The throng pressed upon the
keepers of the limits in a still denser mass, opposing an impenetrable
wall of human bodies to the passage of any in either direction, and a dead
stillness succeeded, as if all present breathlessly awaited the result of
the singular scene.
So unexpected and sudden was the purpose of the groom, that they who were
most affected by it, did not, at first, fully comprehend the extent of
the disgrace that was so publicly heaped upon them The innocent and
unpractised Christine stood resembling the cold statue of a vestal, with
the pen raised ready to affix her as yet untarnished name to the contract,
in an attitude of suspense, while her wondering look followed the
agitation of the multitude, as the startled bird, before it takes wing,
regards a movement among the leaves of the bush. But there was no escape
from the truth. Conviction of its humiliating nature came too soon, and,
by the time the calm of intense curiosity had succeeded to the momentary
excitement of the spectators, she was standing an exquisite but painful
picture of wounded feminine feeling and of maiden shame. Her parents, too,
were stupified by the suddenness of the unexpected shock, and it was
longer before their faculties recovered the tone proper to meet an insult
so unprovoked and gross.
"This is unusual;" drily remarked the bailiff, who was the first to break
the long and painful silence.
"It is brutal!" warmly interposed the Signor Grimaldi. "Unless there has
been deception practised on the bridegroom, it is utterly without excuse."
"Your experience, Signore, has readily suggested the true points in a very
knotty case, and I shall proceed without delay to look into its merits."
Sigismund resumed his seat, his hand releasing the sword-hilt that it had
spontaneously grasped when he heard this declaration of the bailiff's
"For the sake of thy poor sister, forbear!" whispered the terrified
Adelheid. "All will ye be well--all must be well--it is impossible that
one so sweet and innocent should long remain with her honor unavenged!"
The young man smiled frightfully, at least so it seemed to his companion:
but he maintained the appearance of composure. In the mean time Peterchen,
having secretly dispatched another messenger to the cooks, turned his
serious attention to the difficulty that had just arisen.
"I have long been intrusted by the council with honorable duties," he
said, "but never, before to-day, have I been required to decide upon a
domestic misunderstanding, before the parties were actually wedded. This
is a grave interruption of the ceremonies of the abbaye, as well as a
slight upon the notary and the spectators, and needs be well looked to.
Dost thou really persist in putting this unusual termination to a
marriage-ceremony, Herr Bridegroom?"
Jacques Colis had lost a little of the violent impulse which led him to
the precipitate and inconsiderate act of destroying an instrument he had
legally executed; but his outbreaking of feeling was followed by a sullen
and fixed resolution to persevere in the refusal at every hazard to
"I will not wive the daughter of a man hunted of society, and avoided by
all;" he doggedly answered.
"No doubt the respectability of the parent is the next thing to a good
dowry, in the choice of a wife," returned the bailiff, "but one of thy
years has not come hither, without having first inquired into the
parentage of her thou wert about to wed?"
"It was sworn to me that the secret should be kept. The girl is well
endowed, and a promise was solemnly made that her parentage should never
be known. The family of Colis is esteemed in Vaud, and I would not have it
said that the blood of the headsman of the canton hath mixed in a stream
as fair as ours."
"And yet thou wert not unwilling, so long as the circumstance was
unknown? Thy objection is less to the fact, than to its public exposure."
"Without the aid of parchments and tongues, Monsieur le Bailli, we should
all be equal in birth. Ask the noble Baron de Willading, who is seated
there at your side, why he is better than another. He will tell you that
he is come of an ancient and honorable line; but had he been taken from
his castle in infancy, and concealed under a feigned name, and kept from
men's knowledge as being that he is, who would think of him for the deeds
of his ancestors? As the Sire de Willading would, in such a case, have
lost in the world's esteem, so did Christine gain; but as opinion would
return to the baron, when the truth should be published, so does it desert
Balthazar's daughter, when she is known to be a headsman's child. I would
have married the maiden as she was, but, your pardon, Monsieur le Bailli,
if I say, I will not wive her as she is."
A murmur of approbation followed this plausible and ready apology, for,
when antipathies are active and bitter, men are easily satisfied with a
doubtful morality and a weak argument.
"This honest youth hath some reason in him," observed the puzzled bailiff,
shaking his head. "I would he had been less expert in disputation, or that
the secret had been better kept! It is apparent as the sun in the heavens,
friend Melchior, that hadst thou not been known as thy father's child,
thou wouldst not have succeeded to thy castle and lands--nay, by St Luke!
not even to the rights of the buergerschaft."
"In Genoa we are used to hear both parties," gravely rejoined the Signor
Grimaldi, "that we may first make sure that we touch the true merits of
the case. Were another to claim the Signor de Willading's honors and name,
thou wouldst scarce grant his suit, without questioning our friend here,
touching his own rights to the same."
"Better and better! This is justice, while that which fell from the
bridegroom was only argument. Harkee, Balthazar, and thou good woman, his
wife--and thou too, pretty Christine--what have ye all to answer to the
reasonable plea of Jacques Colis?"
Balthazar, who, by the nature of his office, and by his general masculine
duties, had been so much accustomed to meet with harsh instances of the
public hatred, soon recovered his usual calm exterior, even though he felt
a father's pang and a father's just resentment at witnessing this open
injury to one so gentle and deserving as his child. But the blow had been
far heavier on Marguerite, the faithful and long-continued sharer of his
fortunes. The wife of Balthazar was past the prime of her days, but she
still retained the presence, and some of the personal beauty, which had
rendered her, in youth, a woman of extraordinary mien and carriage. When
the words which announced the slight to her daughter first fell on her
ears, she paled to the hue of the dead. For several minutes she stood
looking more like one that had taken a final departure from the interests
and emotions of life, than one that, in truth, was a prey to one of the
strongest passions the human breast can ever entertain, that of wounded
maternal affection. Then the blood stole slowly to her temples, and, by
the time the bailiff put his question, her entire face was glowing under a
tumult of feeling that threatened to defeat its own wishes, by depriving
her of the power of speech.
"Thou canst answer him, Balthazar," she said huskily, motioning for her
husband to arouse his faculties; "thou art used to these multitudes and
to their scorn. Thou art a man, and canst do us justice."
"Herr Bailiff," said the headsman, who seldom lost the mild deportment
that characterized his manner, "there is much truth in what Jacques hath
urged, but all present may have seen that the fault did not come of us,
but of yonder heartless vagabond. The wretch sought my life on the lake,
in our late unfortunate passage hither; and, not content with wishing to
rob my children of their father, he comes now to injure me still more
cruelly. I was born to the office I hold, as you well know, Herr
Hofmeister, or it would never have been sought by me; but what the law
wills, men insist upon as right. This girl can never be called upon to
strike a head from its shoulders, and, knowing from childhood up the scorn
that awaits all who come of my race, I sought the means of releasing her,
at least, from some part of the curse that hath descended on us."
"I know not if this were legal!" interrupted the bailiff, quickly. "What
is your opinion, Her von Willading? Can any in Berne escape their
heritable duties, any more than hereditary privileges can be assumed? This
is a grave question; innovation leads to innovation, and our venerable
laws and our sacred usages must be preserved, if we would avert the curse
"Balthazar hath well observed that a female cannot exercise the
"True, but a female may bring forth them that can. This is a cunning
question for the doctors-in-law, and it must be examined; of all damnable
offences, Heaven keep me from that of a wish for change. If change is ever
to follow, why establish? Change is the unpardonable sin in politics,
Signor Grimaldi; since that which is often changed becomes valueless in
time, even if it be coin.
"The mother hath something she would utter, said the Genoese, whose quick
but observant eye had been watching the workings of the countenances of
the repudiated family, while the bailiff was digressing in his usual
prolix manner on things in general, and who detected the throes of feeling
which heaved the bosom of the respectable Marguerite, in a way to announce
a speedy birth to her thoughts.
"Hast thou aught to urge, good woman?" demanded Peterchen, who was well
enough disposed to hear both sides in all cases of controversy, unless
they happened to touch the supremacy of the great canton. "To speak the
truth, the reasons of Jacques Colis are plausible and witty, and are
likely to weigh heavy against thee."
The color slowly disappeared from the brow of the mother, and she turned
such a look of fondness and protection on her child, as spoke a complete
condensation of all her feelings in the engrossing, sentiment of a
"Have I aught to urge!" slowly repeated Marguerite, looking steadily about
her at the curious and unfeeling crowd which, bent on the indulgence of
its appetite for novelty, and excited by its prejudices, still pressed
upon the halberds of the officers--"Has a mother aught to say in defence
of her injured and insulted child! Why hast thou not also asked, Herr
Hofmeister, if I am human? We come of proscribed races, I know, Balthazar
and I, but like thee, proud bailiff, and the privileged at thy side, we
come too of God! The judgment and power of men have crushed us from the
beginning, and we are used to the world's scorn and to the world's
"Say not so, good woman, for no more is required than the law sanctions.
Thou art now talking against thine own interests, and I interrupt thee in
pure mercy. 'Twould be scandalous in me to sit here and listen to one that
hath bespattered the law with an evil tongue."
"I know naught of the subtleties of thy laws, but well do I know their
cruelty and wrongs, as respects me and mine! All others come into the
world with hope, but we have been crushed from the beginning. That surely
cannot be just which destroys hope. Even the sinner need not despair,
through the mercy of the Son of God! but we, that have come into the world
under thy laws, have little before us in life but shame and the scorn of
"Nay, thou quite mistakest the matter, dame; these privileges were first
bestowed on thy families in reward for good services, I make no doubt, and
it was long accounted profitable to be of this office."
"I do not say that in a darker age, when oppression stalked over the land,
and the best were barbarous as the worst to-day, some of those of whom we
are born may not have been fierce and cruel enough to take upon themselves
this office with good will; but I deny that any short of Him who holds the
universe in his hand, and who controls an endless future to compensate for
the evils of the present time, has the power to say to the son, that he
shall be the heritor of the father's wrongs!"
"How! dost question the doctrine of descents? We shall next hear thee
dispute the rights of the buergerschaft!"
"I know nothing, Herr Bailiff, of the nice distinctions of your rights in
the city, and wish to utter naught for or against. But an entire life of
contumely and bitterness is apt to become a life of thoughtfulness and
care; and I see sufficient difference between the preservation of
privileges fairly earned, though even these may and do bring with them
abuses hard to be borne, and the unmerited oppression of the offspring for
the ancestors' faults. There is little of that justice which savors of
Heaven in this, and the time will come when a fearful return will be made
for wrongs so sore!"
"Concern for thy pretty daughter, good Marguerite, causes thee to speak
"Is not the daughter of a headsman and a headsman's wife their offspring,
as much as the fair maiden who sits near thee is the child of the noble at
her side? Am I to love her less, that she is despised by a cruel world?
Had I not the same suffering at the birth, the same joy in the infant
smile, the same hope in the childish promise, and the same trembling for
her fate when I consented to trust her happiness to another, as she that
bore that more fortunate but not fairer maiden hath had in her? Hath God
created two natures--two yearnings for the mother--two longings for our
children's weal--those of the rich and honored, and those of the crushed
"Go to, good Marguerite; thou puttest the matter altogether in a manner
that is unusual. Are our reverenced usages nothing--our solemn edicts
--our city's rule--and our resolution to govern and that fairly and with
"I fear that these are stronger than the right, and likely to endure when
the tears of the oppressed are exhausted, when they and their fates shall
"Thy child is fair and modest," observed the Signor Grimaldi, "and will
yet find a youth who will more than atone for this injury. He that has
rejected her was not worthy of her faith."
Marguerite turned her look, which had been glowing with awakened feeling,
on her pale and still motionless daughter. The expression of her softened,
and she folded her child to her bosom, as the dove shelters its young.
All her aroused feelings appeared to dissolve in the sentiment of love.
"My child is fair, Herr Peter;" she continued, without adverting to the
interruption; "but better than fair, she is good! Christine is gentle and
dutiful, and not for a world would she bruise the spirit of another as
hers has been this day bruised. Humbled as we are, and despised of men,
bailiff, we have our thoughts, and our wishes, and our hopes, and memory,
and all the other feelings of those that are more fortunate; and when I
have racked my brain to reason on the justice of a fate which has
condemned all of my race to have little other communion with their kind
but that of blood, and when bitterness has swollen at my heart, ay, near
to bursting, and I have been ready to curse Providence and die, this mild,
affectionate girl hath been near to quench the fire that consumed me, and
to tighten the cords of life, until her love and innocence have left me
willing to live even under a heavier load than this I bear. Thou art of an
honored race, bailiff, and canst little understand most of our suffering;
but thou art a man, and shouldst know what it is to be wounded through
another, and that one who is dearer to thee than thine own flesh."
"Thy words are strong, good Marguerite," again interrupted the bailiff,
who felt an uneasiness, of which he would very gladly be rid. "Himmel! Who
can like any thing better than his own flesh? Besides, thou shouldst
remember that I am a bachelor, and bachelors are apt, naturally, to feel
more for their own flesh than for that of others. Stand aside, and let the
procession pass, that we may go to the banquet, which waits. If Jacques
Colis will none of thy girl, I hove not the power to make him. Double the
dowry, good woman, and thou shalt have a choice of husbands, in spite of
the axe and the sword that are in thy escutcheon. Let the halberdiers make
way for those honest people there who, at least, are functionaries of the
law, and are to be protected as well as ourselves."
The crowd obeyed, yielding readily to the advance of the officers, and, in
a few minutes, the useless attendants of the village nuptials, and the
train of Hymen, slunk away, sensible of the ridicule that, in a double
degree, attaches itself to folly when it fails of effecting even its own
The weeping blood in woman's breast
Was never known to thee;
Nor the balm that drops on wounds of woe
From woman's pitying e'e.
A large portion of the curious followed the disconcerted mummers from the
square, while others hastened to break their fasts at the several places
selected for this important feature in the business of the day. Most of
those who had been on the estrade now left it, and, in a few minutes, the
living carpet of heads around the little area in front of the bailiff was
reduced to a few hundreds of those whose better feelings were stronger
than their self indulgence. Perhaps this distribution of the multitude is
about in the proportion that is usually found in those cases in which
selfishness draws in one direction, while feeling or sympathy with the
wronged pulls in another, among all masses of human beings that are
congregated as spectators of some general and indifferent exhibition of
interests in which they have no near personal concern.
The bailiff and his immediate friends, the prisoners, and the family of
the headsman, with a sufficient number of the guards, were among those who
remained. The bustling Peterchen had lost some of his desire to take his
place at the banquet, in the difficulties of the question which had
arisen, and in the certainty that nothing material, in the way of
gastronomy, would be attempted until he appeared. We should do injustice
to his heart, did we not add, also, that he had troublesome qualms of
conscience, which intuitively admonished him that the world had dealt
hardly with the family of Balthazar. There remained the party of Maso,
too, to dispose of, and his character of an upright as well as of a firm
magistrate to maintain. As the crowd diminished, however, he and those
near him descended from their high places, and mixed with the few who
occupied the still guarded area in front of the stage.
Balthazar had not stirred from his riveted posture near the table of the
notary, for he shrunk from encountering, in the company of his wife and
daughter, the insults to which he should be exposed now his character was
known, by mingling with the crowd, and he waited for a favorable moment to
withdraw unseen. Marguerite still stood folding Christine to her bosom, as
if jealous of farther injury to her beloved. The recreant bridegroom had
taken the earliest opportunity to disappear, and was seen no more in Vevev
during the remainder of the revels.
Peterchen cast a hurried glance at this group, as his foot reached the
ground, and then turning towards the thief-takers he made a sign for them
to advance with their prisoners.
"Thy evil tongue has balked one of the most engaging rites of this day's
festival, knave;" observed the bailiff, addressing Pippo with a certain
magisterial reproof in his voice. "I should do well to send thee to Berne,
to serve a month among those who sweep the city streets, as a punishment
for thy raven throat. What, in the name of all thy Roman saints and idols,
hadst thou against the happiness of these honest people, that thou must
come, in this unseemly manner, to destroy it?"
"Naught but the love of truth, eccellenza, and a just horror of the man of
"That thou and all like thee should have a horror of the ministers of the
law, I can understand; and it is more than probable that thy dislike will
extend to me, for I am about to pronounce a just judgment on thee and thy
fellows for disturbing the harmony of the day, and especially for having
been guilty of the enormous crime of an outrage on our agents."
"Couldst thou grant me a moment's leave?" asked the Genoese in his ear.
"An hour, noble Gaetano, if thou wilt."
The two then conversed apart, for a minute or more. During the brief
dialogue, the Signor Grimaldi occasionally looked at the quiet and
apparently contrite Maso, and stretched his arm towards the Leman, in a
way to give the observers an inkling of his subject. The countenance of
the Herr Hofmeister changed from official sternness to an expression of
decent concern as he listened, and ere long it took a decidedly forgiving
laxity of muscle. When the other had done speaking, he bowed a ready
assent to what he had just heard, and returned to the prisoners.
"As I have just observed," he resumed, "it is my duty now to pronounce
finally on these men and their conduct. Firstly they are strangers, and as
such are not only ignorant of our laws, but entitled to our hospitality;
next, they have been punished sufficiently for the original offence, by
being abridged of the day's sports; and as to the crime committed against
ourselves, in the person of our agents, it is freely forgiven, for
forgiveness is a generous quality, and becomes a paternal form of rule.
Depart therefore, of God's name! all of ye to a man, and remember
henceforth to be discreet. Signore, and you, Herr Baron, shall we to the
The two old friends had already moved onward, in close and earnest
discourse, and the bailiff was obliged to seek out another companion. None
offered, at the moment, but Sigismund, who had stood, since quitting the
stage, in an attitude of complete indecision and helplessness,
notwithstanding his great physical energy and his usual moral readiness to
act. Taking the arm of the young soldier, with the disregard of ceremony
that denotes a sense of condescension, the bailiff drew him away from the
spot, heedless himself of the other's reluctance, and without observing
that, in consequence of the general desertion, for few were disposed to
indulge their compassion unless it were in company with the honored and
noble, Adelheid was left absolutely alone with the family of Balthazar.
"This office of a headsman, Herr Sigismund," commenced the unobservant
Peterchen, too full of his own opinions, and much too sensible of his
right to be delivered of them in the presence of his junior and inferior,
to note the youth's trouble, "is at the best but a disgusting affair;
though we, of station and authority, are obliged prudently to appear to
deem it otherwise before the people, in our own interest. Thou hast had
occasion to remark often, in the discipline of thy military followers,
that a false coloring must be put upon things, lest they who are very
necessary to the state should not think the state quite so necessary to
them. What is thy opinion, Captain Sigismund, as a man who has yet his
hopes and his views on the softer sex, of this act of Jacques Colis?--Is
it conduct to be approved of, or to be condemned?"
"I deem him a heartless, mercenary, miscreant!"
The suppressed energy with which these unexpected words were uttered
caused the bailiff to stop and to look up in his companion's face, as if
to ask its reason. But there all was already calm, for the young man had
too long been accustomed to drill its expression, when the sensitive sore
of his origin was probed, as so frequently happened, to permit the
momentary weakness long to maintain its ascendency.
"Ay, this is the opinion of thy years;" resumed Peterchen. "Thou art at a
time of life when we esteem a pretty face and a mellow eye of more account
even than gold. But we put on our interested spectacles after thirty, and
seldom see any thing very admirable, that is not at the same time very
lucrative. Here is Melchior de Willading's daughter, now, a woman to set a
city in a blaze, for she hath wit, and lands, and beauty, besides good
blood;--what, for instance, is thy opinion of her merit?"
"That she is deserving of all the happiness that every human excellence
ought to confer!"
"Hum--thou art nearer to thirty than I had thought thee, Herr Sigismund!
But touching this Balthazar, thou art not to believe, on account of the
few words of grace which fell from me, that my aversion for the wretch is
less than thine, or than that of any other honest man; but it would be
unseemly and unwise in a bailiff to desert the last minister of the law's
decrees in the face of the public. There are feelings and sentiments that
are natural to us all, and among them are to be classed respect and honor
for the well and nobly born," (the discourse was in German,) "and hatred
and contempt for those who are condemned of men. These are feelings which
belong to human nature itself, and God forbid that I, a man already past
the age of romance, should really entertain any sentiments that are not
"Do they not rather belong to abuses--to our prejudices?"
"The difference is not material, in a practical view, young man. That
which is fairly bred into the mind, by discipline and habit, gets to be
stronger than instinct, or even than one of the senses. Let there be an
unseemly sight, or a foul smell near thee, and thou hast only to turn thy
eyes, or hold thy nose, to be rid of it; but I could never find the means
to lessen a prejudice that was once fairly seated in the mind. Thou mayest
look whither thou wilt, and shut out the unsavory odors of the imagination
by all the means thou canst invent, but if a man is, in truth, condemned
of opinion, he might as well make his appeal to God at once for justice,
as to any mercy he is likely to receive from men. This much have I learned
in my experience as a public functionary."
"I should hope that these are not the legal dogmas of our ancient canton,"
returned the youth, conquering his feelings, though it cost him a severe
"As far from it as Basle is from Coire. We hold no such discreditable
doctrines. I challenge the world to show a state that possesses a fairer
set of maxims than ourselves, and we even endeavor to make our practice
chime in with our opinions, whenever it can be done in safety. No in these
particulars, Berne is a paragon of a community, and as rarely says one
thing and does another, as any government you shall see. What I now tell
thee, young man, is said to thee in the familiarity of a fete, as thou
know'st, in which there have been some fooleries, to open confidence and
to loosen the tongue. We openly and loudly profess great truth and
equality before the law saving the city's rights, and take holy, heavenly,
upright justice for our guide in all matters of theory. Himmel! If thou
would'st have thy affair decided on principle, go before the councils, or
the magistracy of the canton, and thou shalt hear such wisdom, and witness
such keen-sightedness into chicanery, as would have honored Solomon
"And notwithstanding this, prejudice is a general master."
"How canst thou have it otherwise? Is not a man a man? Will he not lean as
he has been weighed upon?--does not the tree grow in the way the twig is
bent? No, while I adore justice, Herr Sigismund, as becomes a bailiff, I
confess to both prejudice and partiality, mentally considered. Now, yonder
maiden, the pretty Christine, lost some of her grace in my eyes, as no
doubt she did in thine, when the truth came to be known that she was
Balthazar's child. The girl is fair and modest and winning in her way; but
there is something--I cannot tell thee what--but a certain damnable
something--a taint--a color--a hue--a--a--a--that showed her origin the
instant I heard who was her parent--was it not so with thee?"
"When her origin was proved, but not previously."
"Ay, of a certainty; I mean not otherwise. But a thing is not seen any the
worse because it is seen thoroughly, although it may be seen falsely when
there are false covers to conceal its ugliness. Particularity is necessary
to philosophy. Ignorance is a mask to conceal the little details that are
necessary to knowledge. Your Moor might pass for a Christian in a mask,
but strip him of his covering and the true shade of the skin is seen.
Didst thou not observe, for instance, in all that touches feminine grace
and perfection, the manifest difference between the daughter of Melchior
de Willading and the daughter of this Balthazar?"
"There was the difference between a maiden of most honored and happy
extraction and a maiden most miserably condemned!"
"Nay, the Demoiselle de Willading is the fairer."
"Nature has certainly been most bountiful to the heiress of Willading,
Herr Bailiff, who is scarcely less attractive for her female grace and
goodness, than she is fortunate in the accidents of birth and condition."
"I knew thou couldst not, in secret, be of a different mind from the rest
of men!" exclaimed Peterchen in triumph, for he, took the warmth of his
companion's manner to be a reluctant and half-concealed assent to his own
proposition. Here the discourse ended: for, the earnest conference between
Melchior and the Signor Grimaldi having terminated, the bailiff hastened
to join his more important guests, and Sigismund was released from an
examination that had harrowed every feeling of his soul, while he even
despised the besotted loquacity of the man who had been the instrument of
The separation of Adelheid from her father was anticipated and previously
provided for; since the men were expected to resort to the banquet at this
hour. She had continued near Christine and her mother, therefore, without
attracting any unusual attention to her movements, even in those who were
the objects of her sympathy, a feeling that was so natural in one of her
years and sex. A male attendant, in the livery of her father's house
remained near her person, a protector who certain to insure not only her
safety in the thronged streets of the town, but to exact from those whose
faculties were beginning to yield to the excesses of the occasion the
testimonials of respect that were due to her station. It was under these
circumstances, then, that the more honored, and, to the eyes of the
uninstructed, the happier of these maidens, approached the other, when
curiosity was so far appeased as to have left the family of Balthazar
nearly alone in the centre of the square.
"Is there no friendly roof near, to which thou canst withdraw?" asked the
heiress of Willading of the mother of the pallid and scarcely conscious
Christine; "thou wouldst do better to seek some shelter and privacy for
thy unoffending and much injured child. If any that belong to me can be of
service, I pray that thou wilt command as freely as if they were followers
of thine own."
Marguerite had never before spoken with a female of a rank superior to the
ordinary classes. The ample means of both her father's and her husband's
family had furnished all that was necessary to the improvement of the mind
of one in her station, and perhaps she had been the gainer, in mere
deportment, by having been greatly excluded, by their prejudices, from
association with females of her own condition. As is often seen among
those who have the thoughts without the conventional usages of a better
caste in life, she was slightly tinctured with an exhibition of what might
be termed an exaggerated manner, while at the same time it was perfectly
free from vulgarity or coarseness. The gentle accents of Adelheid fell on
her ear soothingly, and she gazed long and earnestly at the beautiful
speaker without a reply.
"Who and what art thou that canst think a headman's child may receive an
insult that is unmerited, and who offerest the service of thy menials, as
if the very vassal would not refuse his master's bidding in our behalf!"
"I am Adelheid de Willading, the daughter of the baron of that name, and
one much disposed to temper this cruel blow to the feelings of poor
Christine. Suffer that my people seek the means to convey thy child to
some other place!"
Marguerite folded her daughter still closer to her bosom, passing a hand
across her brow, as if to recall some half-obscured idea.
"I have heard of thee, lady.--'Tis said that thou art kind to the wronged,
and of excellent dispositions towards the unhappy--that thy father's
castle is an honored and hospitable abode, which those who enter rarely
love to quit. But hast thou well weighed the consequences of this
liberality towards a race, that is and has been proscribed of men, from
generation to generation--from him who first lent himself to his bloody
office, with a cruel heart and a greedy desire for gold, to him whose
courage is scarcely equal to the disgusting duty? Hast thou bethought thee
of this, or hast thou yielded, heedlessly, to a sudden and youthful
"Of all this have I thought," said Adelheid, eagerly; "whatever may be the
injustice of others, thou hast none to fear from me."
Marguerite yielded the form of her child to the support of her father's
arm, and drew nearer, with a gaze of earnest and pleased interest, to the
blushing but still composed Adelheid. She took the hand of the latter,
and, with a look of recognition and intelligence, said slowly, as if
communing with herself, rather than speaking to another----
"This is getting to be intelligible!" she murmured; "there is still
gratitude and creditable feeling in the world. I can understand why we
are not revolting to this fair being: she has a sense of justice that is
stronger than her prejudices. We have done her service, and she is not
ashamed of the source whence it has come!"
The heart of Adelheid throbbed quick and violently; and, for a moment, she
doubted her ability to command her feelings. But the pleasing conviction
that Sigismund had been honorable and delicate, even in his most sacred
and confidential communications with his own mother, came to relieve her,
and to make her momentarily happy; since nothing is so painful to the pure
mind, as to think those they love have acted unworthily; or nothing so
grateful, as the assurance that they merit the esteem we have been induced
liberally and confidingly to bestow.
"You do me no more than justice," returned the pleased listener of this
flattering and seemingly involuntary opinion--"we are indeed--indeed we
are truly grateful; but had we not reason for the sacred obligations of
gratitude, I think we could still be just. Will you not now consent that
my people should aid you?"
"This is not necessary, lady. Send away thy followers, for their presence
will draw unpleasant observations on our movements. The town is now
occupied with feasts, and, as we have not blindly overlooked the necessity
of a retreat for the hunted and persecuted, we will take the opportunity
to withdraw unseen. As for thyself--"
"I would be near this innocent at a moment so trying,"--added Adelheid
earnestly, and with that visible sympathy which rarely fails to meet an
"Heaven bless thee! Heaven bless thee, sweet girl! And Heaven will bless
thee, for few wrongs go unrequited in this life, and little good without
its reward. Send thy followers away, or if thy habits require their
watchfulness, let them be near unseen, whilst thou wateriest our
movements; and when the eyes of all are turned on their own pleasures,
thou canst follow. Heaven bless thee--ay, and Heaven will!"
Marguerite then led her daughter towards one of the least frequented
streets. She was accompanied by the silent Balthazar, and closely watched
by one of the menials of Adelheid. When fairly housed, the domestic
returned to show the spot to his mistress, who had appeared to occupy
herself with the hundred silly devices that were invented to amuse the
multitude. Dismissing her attendants, with an order to remain at hand,
however, the heiress of Willading soon found means to enter the humble
abode in which the proscribed family had taken refuge, and, as she was
expected, she was soon introduced into the chamber where Christine and her
mother had taken refuge.
The sympathy of the young and tender Adelheid was precious to one of the
character of Christine. They wept together, for the weakness of her sex
prevailed over the pride of the former, when she found herself
unrestrained by the observation of the world, and she gave way to the
torrent of feeling that broke through its bounds, in spite of her
endeavors to control it. Marguerite was the only spectator of this silent
but intelligible communion between these two young and pure spirits, and
her soul was shaken by the unlooked-for commiseration of one so honored,
and who was usually esteemed so happy.
"Thou hast the consciousness of our wrongs," she said, when the first
burst of emotion had a little subsided. "Thou canst then believe that a
headsman's child is like the offspring of another and is not to be hunted
of men like the young of a wolf."
"Mother, this is the Baron de Willading's heiress," said Christine: "would
she come here, did she not pity us?"
"Yes, she can pity us--and yet I find it hard even to be pitied! Sigismund
has told us of her goodness, and she may, in truth, feel for the
The allusion to her son caused the temples of Adelheid to burn like fire,
while there was a chill, resembling that of death, at her heart. The first
arose from the quick and uncontrollable alarm of female sensitiveness; the
last was owing to the shock inseparable from being presented with this
vivid, palpable picture of Sigismund's close affinity with the family of
an executioner. She could have better borne it, had Marguerite spoken of
her son less familiarly, or with more of that feigned ignorance of each
other, which, without stopping to scan its fitness, she had been led to
think existed between the young man and his family.
"Mother!" exclaimed Christine reproachfully, and in surprise, as if a
great indiscretion had been thoughtlessly committed.
"It matters not, child; it matters not. I saw by the kindling eye of
Sigismund to-day, that our secret will not much longer be kept. The noble
boy must show more energy than those who have gone before him; he must
quit for ever a country in which he was condemned, even before he was
"I shall not deny that your connexion with Monsieur Sigismund is known to
me," said Adelheid, summoning all her resolution to make an avowal which
put her at once into the confidence of Balthazar's family. "You are
acquainted with the heavy debt of gratitude we owe your son, and it will
explain the nature of the interest I now feel in your wrongs."
The keen eye of Marguerite studied the crimsoned features of Adelheid till
forgetfulness got the better of discretion. The search was anxious, rather
than triumphant, the feeling most dreaded by its subject; and, when her
eyes were withdrawn, the mother of the youth became thoughtful and
pensive. This expressive communion produced a deep and embarrassing
silence, which each would gladly have broken, had they not both been
irresistibly tongue-tied by the rapidity and intensity of their thoughts.
"We know that Sigismund hath been of service to thee," observed
Marguerite, who always addressed her gay companion with the familiarity
that belonged to her greater age, rather than with the respect which
Adelheid had been accustomed to receive from those who were of a rank
inferior to her own. "The brave boy hath spoken of it, though he hath
spoken of it modestly."
"He had every right to do himself justice in his communications with those
of his own family. Without his aid, my father would have been childless;
and without his brave support, the child fatherless. Twice has he stood
between us and death."
"I have heard of this," returned Marguerite, again fastening her
penetrating eye on the tell-tale features of Adelheid, which never failed
to brighten and glow, whenever there was allusion to the courage and
self-devotion of him she secretly loved, "As to what thou say'st of the
intimacy of our poor boy with those of his blood, cruel circumstances
stand between us and our wishes. If Sigismund has told thee of whom he
comes he has also most probably told thee of the manner in which he
passes, in the world, for that which he is not."
"I believe he has not withheld any thing that he knew, and which it was
proper to communicate to me;" answered Adelheid, dropping her eyes before
the attentive, expectant look of Marguerite. "He has spoken freely, and--"
"Thou wouldst have said--"
"Honorably, and as became a soldier;" continued Adelheid, firmly.
"He has done well! This lightens my heart of one burthen at least. No; God
has destined us to this fate, and it would have grieved me that a son of
mine should have failed of principle in an affair, of all others, in which
it is most wanted. You look amazed, lady!"
"These sentiments, in one so situated, surprise as much as they delight
me! If any thing could excuse some looseness in the manner of regarding
the usual ties of life, it would surely be to find oneself so placed, by
no misconduct of our own, as to be a but to the world's dislike and
injustice; and yet here, where there was reason to expect some resentment
against fortune, I meet with sentiments that would honor a throne!"
"Thou thinkest as one more accustomed to consider thy fellow-creatures
through the means of what men fancy, than through things as they are. This
is the picture of youth, and inexperience, and innocence; but it is not
the picture of life. 'Tis misfortune, and not prosperity that chasteneth,
by proving our insufficiency for true happiness, and by leading the soul
to depend on a power greater than any that is to be found on earth. We
fall before the temptation of happiness, when we rise in adversity. If
thou thinkest, innocent one, that noble and just sentiments belong to the
fortunate, thou trustest to a false guide. There are evils which flesh
cannot endure, it is true; but, removed from these overwhelming wants, we
are strongest in the right, when least tempted by vanity and ambition.
More starving beggars abstain from stealing the crust they crave, than
pampered gluttons deny themselves the luxury that kills them. They that
live under the rod, see and dread the hand that holds it; they who riot in
earth's glories, come at last to think they deserve the short-lived
distinctions they enjoy. When thou goest down into the depths of misery,
thou hast naught to fear except the anger of God! It is when raised above
others, that thou shouldst tremble most for thine own safety."
"This is not the manner in which the world is used to reason."
"Because the world is governed by those whose interest it is to pervert
truth to their own objects, and not by those whose duties run hand-in-hand
with the right. But we will say no more of this, lady; here is one that
feels too acutely just now to admit truth to be too freely spoken."
"Dost, feel thyself better, and more able to listen to thy friends, dear
Christine?" asked Adelheid, taking the hand of the repudiated and deserted
girl with the tenderness of an affectionate sister.
Until now the sufferer had only spoken the few words related, in mild
reproof of her mother's indiscretion. That little had been uttered with
parched lips and a choked voice, while the hue of her features was deadly
pale, and her whole countenance betrayed intense mental anguish. But this
display of interest in one of her own years and sex, of whose excellencies
she had been accustomed to hear such fervid descriptions from the
warm-hearted Sigismund, and of whose sincerity she was assured by the
subtle and quick instinct that unites the innocent and young, caused a
quick and extreme change in her sensibilities. The grief which had been
struggling and condensed, now flowed more freely from her eyes, and she
threw herself, sobbing and weeping, in a paroxysm of gentle, but
overwhelming, feeling, on the bosom of this new found friend. The
experienced Marguerite smiled at this manifestation of kindness on the
part of Adelheid, though even this expression of satisfaction was austere
and regulated in one who had so long stood at bay with the world. And,
after a short pause, she left the room, under the belief that such a
communion with a spirit, pure and inexperienced as her own, a communion so
unusual to her daughter, would be more likely to produce a happy effect,
if left to themselves, than when restrained by her presence.
The two girls wept in common, for a long time after Marguerite had
disappeared. This intercourse, chastened as it was by sorrow, and rendered
endearing on the one side by a confiding ingenuousness, and on the other
by generous pity, caused both to live in that short period, as it were,
months together in a near and dear intimacy. Confidence is not always the
growth of time. There are minds that meet each other with a species of
affinity that resembles the cohesive property of matter, and with a
promptitude and faith that only belongs to the purer essence of which they
are composed. But when this attraction of the ethereal part of the being
is aided by the feelings that have been warmed by an interest so tender as
that which the hearts of both the maidens felt in a common object, its
power is not only stronger, but quicker, in making itself felt. So much
was already known by each of the other's character, fortunes, and hopes
(always with the exception of Adelheid's most sacred secret, which
Sigismund cherished as a deposit by far too sacred to be shared even with
his sister) that the meeting under no circumstances could have been that
of strangers, and their mutual knowledge came as an assistant to break
down the barriers of those forms which were so irksome to their longings
for a freer interchange of feeling and thought. Adelheid possessed too
much intellectual tact to have recourse to the every-day language of
consolation. When she did speak, which, as became her superior rank and
less embarrassed situation, she was the first to do, it in general but
"Thou wilt go with us to Italy, in the morning," she said, drying her
eyes; "my father quits Blonay, in company with the Signor Grimaldi, with
to-morrow's sun, and thou wilt be of our company?"
"Where thou wilt--anywhere with thee--anywhere to hide my shame!"
The blood mounted to the temples of Adelheid; her air even appeared
imposing to the eyes of the artless and unpractised Christine, as she
"Shame is a word that applies to the mean and mercenary, to the vile and
unfaithful," she said, with womanly and virtuous indignation; "but not to
"O! do not, do not condemn him;" whispered Christine, covering her face
with her hands. "He has found himself unequal to bearing the burthen of
our degradation, and he should be spoken of in pity rather than with
Adelheid was silent; but she regarded the poor trembling girl, whose head
now nestled in her bosom, with melancholy concern.
"Didst thou know him well?" she asked in a low tone, following rather the
chain of her own thoughts, than reflecting on the nature of the question
she put. "I had hoped that this refusal would bring no other pain than the
unavoidable mortification which I fear belongs to the weakness of our sex
and our habits."
"Thou knowest not how dear preference is to the despised!--how cherished
the thought of being loved becomes to those, who, out of their own narrow
limits of natural friends, have been accustomed to meet only with contempt
and aversion! Thou hast always been known, and courted, and happy! Thou
canst not know how dear it is to the despised to seem even to be
"Nay, say not this, I pray thee!" answered Adelheid, hurriedly, and with a
throb of anguish at her heart; "there is little in this life that speaks
fairly for itself. We are not always what we seem; and if we were, and far
more miserable than anything but vice can make us, there is another state
of being, in which justice--pure, unalloyed justice--will be done."
"I will go with thee to Italy," answered Christine, looking calm and
resolved, while a glow of holy hope bloomed on each cheek; "when all is
over, we will go together to a happier world!"
Adelheid folded the stricken and sensitive plant to her bosom. Again they
wept together, but it was with a milder and sweeter sorrow than before.
I'll show thee the best springs; I'll pluck thee berries.
The day dawned clear and cloudless on the Leman, the morning that
succeeded the Abbaye des Vignerons. Hundreds among the frugal and
time-saving Swiss had left the town before the appearance of the light,
and many strangers were crowding into the barks, as the sun came bright
and cheerfully over the rounded and smiling summits of the neighboring
cotes. At this early hour, all in and around the rock-seated castle of
Blonay were astir, and in motion. Menials were running, with hurried air,
from room to room, from court to terrace and from lawn to tower. The
peasants in the adjoining fields rested on their utensils of husbandry, in
gaping, admiring attention to the preparations of their superiors. For
though we are not writing of a strictly feudal age, the events it is our
business to record took place long before the occurrence of those great
political events, which have since so materially changed the social state
of Europe. Switzerland was then a sealed country to most of those who
dwelt even in the adjoining nations, and the present advanced condition of
roads and inns was quite unknown, not only to these mountaineers, but
throughout the rest of what was then much more properly called the
exclusively civilized portion of the globe, than it is to-day. Even horses
were not often used in the passage of the Alps, but recourse was had to
the surer-footed mule by the traveller, and, not unfrequently, by the more
practised carrier and smuggler of those rude paths. Roads existed, it is
true, as in other parts of Europe, in the countries of the plain, if any
portion of the great undulating surface of that region deserve the name;
but once within the mountains, with the exception of very inartificial
wheel-tracks in the straitened and glen-like valleys, the hoof alone was
to be trusted or indeed used.
The long train of travellers, then, that left the gates of Blonay just as
the fog began to stir on the wide alluvial meadows of the Rhone, were all
in the saddle. A courier, accompanied by a sumpter-mule, had departed
over-night to prepare the way for those who were to follow, and active
young mountaineers had succeeded, from time to time, charged with
different orders, issued in behalf of their comforts.
As the cavalcade passed beneath the arch of the great gate, the lively,
spirit-stirring horn sounded a fare well air, to which custom had attached
the signification of good wishes. It took the way towards the level of the
Leman by means of a winding and picturesque bridle-path that led, among
alpine meadows, groves, rocks, and hamlets, fairly to the water-side.
Roger de Blonay and his two principal guests rode in front, the former
seated on a war-horse that he had ridden years before as a soldier, and
the two latter well mounted on beasts prepared for, and accustomed to, the
mountains. Adelheid and Christine came next, riding by themselves, in the
modest reserve of their maiden condition. Their discourse was low,
confidential, and renewed at intervals. A few menials followed, and then
came Sigismund at the side of the Signor Grimald's friend, and one of the
family of Blonay, the latter of whom was destined to return with the