there was one political argument against that course, which Mr. Gordon justly considers unanswerable. It is this: Turkey in Europe has been long tottering on its basis. Now, were the attempt delayed until Russia had displaced her and occupied her seat, Greece would then have received her liberty as a boon from the conqueror; and the construction would have been that she held it by sufferance, and under a Russian warrant. This argument is conclusive. But others there were who fancied that 1825 was the year at which all the preparations for a successful revolt could have been matured. Probably some gain in such a case would have been balanced against some loss. But it is not necessary to discuss that question. Accident, it was clear, might bring on the first hostile movement at any hour, when the _minds_ of all men were prepared, let the means in other respects be as deficient as they might. Already, in 1820, circumstances made it evident that the outbreak of the insurrection could not long be delayed. And, accordingly, in the following year all Greece was in flames.
This affair of 1820 has a separate interest of its own, connected with the character of the very celebrated person to whom it chiefly relates; but we notice it chiefly as the real occasion, the momentary spark, which, alighting upon the combustibles, by this time accumulated everywhere in Greece, caused a general explosion of the long-hoarded insurrectionary fury. Ali Pacha, the far-famed vizier of Yannina, had long been hated profoundly by the Sultan, who in the same proportion loved and admired his treasures. However, he was persuaded to wait for his death, which could not (as it seemed) be far distant, rather than risk anything upon the chances of war. And in this prudent resolution he would have persevered, but for an affront which he could not overlook. An Albanian, named Ismael Pasho Bey, once a member of Ali’s household, had incurred his master’s deadly hatred; and, flying from his wrath to various places under various disguises, had at length taken refuge in Constantinople, and there sharpened the malice of Ali by attaching himself to his enemies. Ali was still further provoked by finding that Ismael had won the Sultan’s favor, and obtained an appointment in the palace. Mastered by his fury, Ali hired assassins to shoot his enemy in the very midst of Constantinople, and under the very eyes of imperial protection. The assassins failed, having only wounded him; they were arrested, and disclosed the name of their employer.
Here was an insult which could not be forgiven: Ali Pacha was declared a rebel and a traitor; and solemnly excommunicated by the head of the Mussulman law. The Pachas of Europe received orders to march against him; and a squadron was fitted out to attack him by sea.
In March, 1820, Ali became acquainted with these strong measures; which at first he endeavored to parry by artifice and bribery. But, finding _that_ mode of proceeding absolutely without hope, he took the bold resolution of throwing himself, in utter defiance, upon the native energies of his own ferocious heart. Having, however, but small reliance on his Mahometan troops in a crisis of this magnitude, he applied for Christian succors, and set himself to _court_ the Christians generally. As a first step, he restored the Armatoles–that very body whose suppression had been so favorite a measure of his policy, and pursued so long, so earnestly, and so injuriously to his credit amongst the Christian part of the population. It happened, at the first opening of the campaign, that the Christians were equally courted by the Sultan’s generalissimo, Solyman, the Pacha of Thessaly. For this, however, that Pacha was removed and decapitated; and a new leader was now appointed in the person of that very enemy, Ismael Pasho, whose attempted murder had brought the present storm upon Ali. Ismael was raised to the rank of Serasker (or generalissimo), and was also made Pacha of Yannina and Del vino. Three other armies, besides a fleet under the Captain Bey, advanced upon Ali’s territories simultaneously from different quarters. But at that time, in defiance of these formidable and overwhelming preparations, bets were strongly in Ali’s favor amongst all who were acquainted with his resources: for he had vast treasures, fortresses of great strength, inexhaustible supplies of artillery and ammunition, a country almost inaccessible, and fifteen thousand light troops, whom Mr. Gordon, upon personal knowledge, pronounces “excellent.”
Scarcely had the war commenced, when Ali was abandoned by almost the whole of his partisans, in mere hatred of his execrable cruelty and tyrannical government. To Ali, however, this defection brought no despondency; and with unabated courage he prepared to defend himself to the last, in three castles, with a garrison of three thousand men. That he might do so with entire effect, he began by destroying his own capital of Yannina, lest it should afford shelter to the enemy. Still his situation would have been most critical, but for the state of affairs in the enemy’s camp. The Serasker was attended by more than twenty other Pashas. But they were all at enmity with each other. One of them, and the bravest, was even poisoned by the Serasker. Provisions were running short, in consequence of their own dissensions. Winter was fast approaching; the cannonading had produced no conspicuous effect; and the soldiers were disbanding. In this situation, the Sultan’s lieutenants again saw the necessity of courting aid from the Christian population of the country. Ali, on his part, never scrupled to bid against them at any price; and at length, irritated by the ill-usage of the Turks on their first entrance, and disgusted with the obvious insincerity of their reluctant and momentary kindness, some of the bravest Christian tribes (especially the celebrated Suliotes) consented to take Ali’s bribes, forgot his past outrages and unnumbered perfidies, and, reading his sincerity in the extremity of his peril, these bravest of the brave ranged themselves amongst the Sultan’s enemies. During the winter they gained some splendid successes; other alienated friends came back to Ali; and even some Mahometan Beys were persuaded to take up arms in his behalf. Upon the whole, the Turkish Divan was very seriously alarmed; and so much so, that it superseded the Serasker Ismael, replacing him with the famous Kourshid Pacha, at that time viceroy of the Morea. And so ended the year 1820.
This state of affairs could not escape the attention of the vigilant Hetæria. Here was Ali Pacha, hitherto regarded as an insurmountable obstacle in their path, absolutely compelled by circumstances to be their warmest friend. The Turks again, whom no circumstances could entirely disarm, were yet crippled for the time, and their whole attention preoccupied by another enemy, most alarming to their policy, and most tempting to their cupidity. Such an opportunity it seemed unpardonable to neglect. Accordingly, it was resolved to begin the insurrection. At its head was placed Prince Alexander Ypsilanti, a son of that Hospodar of Wallachia whose deposition by the Porte had produced the Russian war of 1806. This prince’s qualifications consisted in his high birth, in his connection with Russia (for he had risen to the rank of major-general in that service), and, finally (if such things can deserve a mention), in an agreeable person and manners. For all other and higher qualifications he was wholly below the situation and the urgency of the crisis. His first error was in the choice of his ground. For some reasons, which are not sufficiently explained,–possibly on account of his family connection with those provinces,–he chose to open the war in Moldavia and Wallachia. This resolution he took in spite of every warning, and the most intelligent expositions of the absolute necessity that, to be at all effectual, the first stand should be made in Greece. He thought otherwise; and, managing the campaign after his own ideas, he speedily involved himself in quarrels, and his army, through the perfidy of a considerable officer, in ruinous embarrassments. This unhappy campaign is circumstantially narrated by Mr. Gordon in his first book; but, as it never crossed the Danube, and had no connection with Greece except by its purposes, we shall simply rehearse the great outline of its course. The signal for insurrection was given in January, 1821; and Prince Ypsilanti took the field, by crossing the Pruth in March. Early in April he received a communication from the Emperor of Russia, which at once prostrated his hopes before an enemy was seen. He was formally disavowed by that prince, erased from his army-list, and severely reproached for his “_folly and ingratitude_,” in letters from two members of the Russian cabinet; and on the 9th of April this fact was publicly notified in Yassy, the capital of Moldavia, by the Russian consul-general. His army at this time consisted of three thousand men, which, however, was afterwards reinforced, but with no gunpowder except what was casually intercepted, and no lead except some that had been stripped from the roof of an ancient cathedral. On the 12th of May the Pacha of Ibrail opened the campaign. A few days after, the Turkish troops began to appear in considerable force; and on the 8th of June an alarm was suddenly given “that the white turbans were upon them.” In the engagement which followed, the insurgent army gave way; and, though their loss was much smaller than that of the Turks, yet, from the many blunders committed, the consequences were disastrous; and, had the Turks pursued, there would on that day have been an end of the insurrection. But far worse and more decisive was the subsequent disaster of the 17th. Ypsilanti had been again reinforced; and his advanced guard had surprised a Turkish detachment of cavalry in such a situation that their escape seemed impossible. Yet all was ruined by one officer of rank, who got drunk, and advanced with an air of bravado–followed, on a principle of honor, by a sacred battalion [_hieros lochos_], composed of five hundred Greek volunteers, of birth and education, the very _élite_ of the insurgent infantry. The Turks gave themselves up for lost; but, happening to observe that this drunkard seemed unsupported by other parts of the army, they suddenly mounted, came down upon the noble young volunteers before they could even form in square; and nearly the whole, disdaining to fly, were cut to pieces on the ground. An officer of rank, and a brave man, appalled by this hideous disaster, the affair of a few moments, rode up to the spot, and did all he could to repair it. But the cowardly drunkard had fled at the first onset, with all his Arnauts; panic spread rapidly; and the whole force of five thousand men fled before eight hundred Turks, leaving four hundred men dead on the field, of whom three hundred and fifty belonged to the sacred battalion.
The Turks, occupied with gathering a trophy of heads, neglected to pursue. But the work was done. The defeated advance fell back upon the main body; and that same night the whole army, panic-struck, ashamed, and bewildered, commenced a precipitate retreat. From this moment Prince Ypsilanti thought only of saving himself. This purpose he effected in a few days, by retreating into Austria, from which territory he issued his final order of the day, taxing his army, in violent and unmeasured terms, with cowardice and disobedience. This was in a limited sense true; many distinctions, however, were called for in mere justice; and the capital defects, after all, were in himself. His plan was originally bad; and, had it been better, he was quite unequal to the execution of it. The results were unfortunate to all concerned in it. Ypsilanti himself was arrested by Austria, and thrown into the unwholesome prison of Mongatz, where, after languishing for six years, he perished miserably. Some of the subordinate officers prolonged the struggle in a guerilla style for some little time; but all were finally suppressed. Many were put to death; many escaped into neutral ground; and it is gratifying to add, that of two traitors amongst the higher officers, one was detected and despatched in a summary way of vengeance by his own associates; the other, for some unexplained reason, was beheaded by his Turkish friends at the very moment when he had put himself into their power, in fearless obedience to their own summons to _come and receive his well-merited reward_, and under an express assurance from the Pacha of Silistria that he was impatiently waiting to invest him with a pelisse of honor. Such faith is kept with traitors; such faith be ever kept with the betrayers of nations and their holiest hopes! Though in this instance the particular motives of the Porte are still buried in mystery.
Thus terminated the first rash enterprise, which resulted from the too tempting invitation held out in the rebellion then agitating Epirus, locking up, as it did, and neutralizing, so large a part of the disposable Turkish forces. To this we return. Kourshid Pacha quitted the Morea with a large body of troops, in the first days of January, 1821, and took the command of the army already before Yannina. But, with all his great numerical superiority to the enemy with whom he contended, and now enjoying undisturbed union in his own camp, he found it impossible to make his advances rapidly. Though in hostility to the Porte, and though now connected with Christian allies, Ali Pacha was yet nominally a Mahometan. Hence it had been found impossible as yet to give any color of an anti-Christian character to the war; and the native Mahometan chieftains had therefore no scruple in coalescing with the Christians of Epirus, and making joint cause with Ali. Gradually, from the inevitable vexations incident to the march and residence of a large army, the whole population became hostile to Kourshid; and their remembrance of Ali’s former oppressions, if not effaced, was yet suspended in the presence of a nuisance so immediate and so generally diffused; and most of the Epirots turned their arms against the Porte. The same feelings which governed _them_ soon spread to the provinces of Etolia and Acarnania; or rather, perhaps, being previously ripe for revolt, these provinces resolved to avail themselves of the same occasion. Missolonghi now became the centre of rebellion; and Kourshid’s difficulties were daily augmenting. In July of this year (1821) these various insurgents, actively cooperating, defeated the Serasker in several actions, and compelled a Pacha to lay down his arms on the road between Yannina and Souli. It was even proposed by the gallant partisan, Mark Bozzaris, that all should unite to hem in the Serasker; but a wound, received in a skirmish, defeated this plan. In September following, however, the same Mark intercepted and routed Hassan Pacha in a defile on his march to Yannina; and in general the Turks were defeated everywhere except at the headquarters of the Serasker, and with losses in men enormously disproportioned to the occasions. This arose partly from the necessity under which they lay of attacking expert musketeers under cover of breastworks, and partly from their own precipitance and determination to carry everything by summary force; “whereas,” says Mr. Gordon, “a little patience would surely have caused them to succeed, and at least saved them much dishonor, and thousands of lives thrown away in mere wantonness.” But, in spite of all blunders, and every sort of failure elsewhere, the Serasker was still advancing slowly towards his main objects–the reduction of Ali Pacha. And by the end of October, on getting possession of an important part of Ali’s works, he announced to the Sultan that he should soon be able to send him the traitor’s head, for that he was already reduced to six hundred men. A little before this, however, the celebrated Maurocordato, with other persons of influence, had arrived at Missolonghi with the view of cementing a general union of Christian and Mahometan forces against the Turks. In this he was so far successful, that in November a combined attack was made upon Ismael, the old enemy of Ali, and three other Pachas, shut up in the town of Arta. This attack succeeded partially; but it was attempted at a moment dramatically critical, and with an effect ruinous to the whole campaign, as well as that particular attack. The assailing party, about thirty-four hundred men, were composed in the proportion of two Christians to one Mahometan. They had captured one half of the town; and, Mark Bozzaris having set this on fire to prevent plundering, the four Pachas were on the point of retreating under cover of the smoke. At that moment arrived a Mahometan of note, instigated by Kourshid, who was able to persuade those of his own faith that the Christians were not fighting with any sincere views of advantage to Ali, but with ulterior purposes hostile to Mahometanism itself. On this, the Christian division of the army found themselves obliged to retire without noise, in order to escape their own allies, now suddenly united with the four Pachas. Nor, perhaps, would even this have been effected, but for the precaution of Mark Bozzaris in taking hostages from two leading Mahometans. Thus failed the last diversion in favor of Ali Pacha, who was henceforward left to his own immediate resources. All the Mahometan tribes now ranged themselves on the side of Kourshid; and the winter of 1821-2 passed away without further disturbance in Epirus.
Meantime, during the absence of Kourshid Pacha from the Morea, the opportunity had not been lost for raising the insurrection in that important part of Greece. Kourshid had marched early in January, 1821; and already in February symptoms of the coming troubles appeared at Patrass, “the most flourishing and populous city of the Peloponnesus, the emporium of its trade, and residence of the foreign consuls and merchants.” Its population was about eighteen thousand, of which number two thirds were Christian. In March, when rumors had arrived of the insurrection beyond the Danube, under Alexander Ypsilanti, the fermentation became universal; and the Turks of Patrass hastily prepared for defence. By the twenty-fifth, the Greeks had purchased all the powder and lead which could be had; and about the second of April they raised the standard of the Cross. Two days after this, fighting began at Patrass. The town having been set on fire, “the Turkish castle threw shot and shells at random; the two parties fought amongst the ruins, and massacred each other without mercy; the only prisoners that were spared owed their lives to fanaticism; some Christian youths being circumcised by the Mollahs, and some Turkish boys baptized by the priests.”
“While the commencement of the war,” says Mr. Gordon, “was thus signalized by the ruin of a flourishing city, the insurrection gained ground with wonderful rapidity; and from mountain to mountain, and village to village, propagated itself to the furthest corner of the Peloponnesus. Everywhere the peasants flew to arms; and those Turks who resided in the open country or unfortified towns were either cut to pieces, or forced to fly into strongholds.” On the second of April, the flag of independence was hoisted in Achaia. On the ninth, a Grecian senate met at Calamata, in Messenia, having for its president Mavromichalis, Prince or Bey of Maina, a rugged territory in the ancient Sparta, famous for its hardy race of robbers and pirates. [Footnote: These Mainates have been supposed to be of Sclavonian origin; but Mr. Gordon, upon the authority of the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos, asserts that they are of pure Laconian blood, and became Christians in the reign of that emperor’s grandfather, Basil the Macedonian. They are, and over have been, robbers by profession; robbers by land, pirates by sea; for which last branch of their mixed occupation they enjoy singular advantages in their position at the point of junction between the Ionian and Egean seas. To illustrate their condition of perpetual warfare, Mr. Gordon mentions that there were very lately individuals who had lived for twenty years in towers, not daring to stir out lest their neighbors should shoot them. They were supplied with bread and cartridges by their wives; for the persons of women are sacred in Maina. Two other good features in their character are their hospitality and their indisposition to bloodshed. They are in fact _gentle thieves_–the Robin Hoods of Greece.]
On the sixth of April, the insurrection had spread to the narrow territory of Megaris, situated to the north of the isthmus. The Albanian population of this country, amounting to about ten thousand, and employed by the Porte to guard the defiles of the entrance into Peloponnesus, raised the standard of revolt, and marched to invest the Acrocorinthus. In the Messenian territory, the Bishop of Modon, having made his guard of Janissaries drunk, cut the whole of them to pieces; and then encamping on the heights of Navarin, his lordship blockaded that fortress. The abruptness of these movements, and their almost simultaneous origin at distances so considerable, sufficiently prove how ripe the Greeks were for this revolt as respected temper; and in other modes of preparation they never _could_ have been ripe whilst overlooked by Turkish masters. That haughty race now retreated from all parts of the Morea, within the ramparts of Tripolizza.
In the first action which occurred, the Arcadian Greeks did not behave well; they fled at the very sound of the Moslem tread. Colocotroni commanded; and he rallied them again; but again they deserted him at the sight of their oppressors; “and I,” said Colocotroni afterwards, when relating the circumstances of this early affair, “having with me only ten companions including my horse, sat down in a bush and wept.”
Meantime, affairs went ill at Patrass. Yussuf Pacha, having been detached from Epirus to Euba by the Scrasker, heard on his route of the insurrection in Peloponnesus. Upon which, altering his course, he sailed to Patrass, and reached it on the fifteenth of April. This was Palm Sunday, and it dawned upon the Greeks with evil omens. First came a smart shock of earthquake; next a cannonade announcing the approach of the Pacha; and, lastly, an Ottoman brig of war, which saluted the fort and cast anchor before the town.
The immediate consequences were disastrous. The Greeks retreated; and the Pacha detached Kihaya-Bey, a Tartar officer of distinguished energy, with near three thousand men, to the most important points of the revolt. On the fifth of May, the Tartar reached Corinth, but found the siege already raised. Thence he marched to Argos, sending before him a requisition for bread. He was answered by the men of Argos that they had no bread, but only powder and ball at his service. This threat, however, proved a gasconade; the Kihaya advanced in three columns; cavalry on each wing, and infantry in the centre; on which, after a single discharge, the Argives fled. [Footnote: It has a sublime effect in the record of this action to hear that the Argives were drawn up behind a wall originally raised as a defence _against the deluge of Inachus_.] Their general, fighting bravely, was killed, together with seven hundred others, and fifteen hundred women captured. The Turks, having sacked and burned Argos, then laid siege to a monastery, which surrendered upon terms; and it is honorable to the memory of this Tartar general, that, according to the testimony of Mr. Gordon, at a time when the war was managed with merciless fury and continual perfidies on both sides, he observed the terms with rigorous fidelity, treated all his captives with the utmost humanity, and even liberated the women.
Thus far the tide had turned against the Greeks; but now came a decisive reaction in their favor; and, as if forever to proclaim the folly of despair, just at the very crisis when it was least to have been expected, the Kihaya was at this point joined by the Turks of Tripolizza, and was now reputed to be fourteen thousand strong. This proved to be an exaggeration; but the subsequent battle is the more honorable to those who believed it. At a council of war, in the Greek camp, the prevailing opinion was that an action could not prudently be risked. One man thought otherwise; this was Anagnostoras; he, by urging the desolations which would follow a retreat, brought over the rest to his opinion; and it was resolved to take up a position at Valtezza, a village three hours’ march from Tripolizza. Thither, on the twenty- seventh of May, the Kihaya arrived with five thousand men, in three columns, having left Tripolizza at dawn; and immediately raised redoubts opposite to those of the Greeks, and placed three heavy pieces of cannon in battery. He hoped to storm the position; but, if he should fail, he had a reason for still anticipating a victory, and _that_ was the situation of the fountains, which must soon have drawn the Greeks out of their position, as they had water only for twenty-four hours’ consumption.
The battle commenced: and the first failure of the Kihaya was in the cannonade; for his balls, passing over the Greeks, fell amongst a corps of his own troops. These now made three assaults; but were repulsed in all. Both sides kept up a fire till night; and each expected that his enemy would retire in the darkness. The twenty-eighth, however, found the two armies still in the same positions. The battle was renewed for five hours; and then the Kihaya, finding his troops fatigued, and that his retreat was likely to be intercepted by Nikitas (a brave partisan officer bred to arms in the service of England), who was coming up by forced marches from Argos with eight hundred men, gave the signal for retreat. This soon became a total rout; the Kihaya lost his horse; and the Greeks, besides taking two pieces of cannon, raised a trophy of four hundred Moslem heads.
Such was the battle of Yaltezza, the inaugural performance of the insurrection; and we have told it thus circumstantially, because Mr. Gordon characterizes it as “remarkable for the moral effect it produced;” and he does not scruple to add, that it “certainly decided the campaign in Peloponnesus, _and perhaps even the fate of the revolution_.”
Three days after, that is, on the last day of May, 1821, followed the victory of Doliana, in which the Kihaya, anxious to recover his lost ground, was encountered by Nikitas. The circumstances were peculiarly brilliant. For the Turkish general had between two and three thousand men, besides artillery; whereas Nikitas at first sustained the attack in thirteen barricaded houses, with no more than ninety-six soldiers, and thirty armed peasants. After a resistance of eleven hours, he was supported by seven hundred men; and in the end he defeated the Kihaya with a very considerable loss.
These actions raised the enthusiasm of the Morea to a high point; and in the mean time other parts of Greece had joined in the revolt. In the first week of April an insurrection burst out in the eastern provinces of Greece, Attica, Boeotia, and Phocis. The insurgents first appeared near Livadia, one of the best cities in northern Greece. On the thirteenth, they occupied Thebes without opposition. Immediately after, Odysseus propagated the revolt in Phocis, where he had formerly commanded as a lieutenant of Ali Pacha’s. Next arose the Albanian peasantry of Attica, gathering in armed bodies to the west of Athens. Towards the end of April, the Turks, who composed one fifth of the Athenian population (then rated at ten thousand), became greatly agitated; and twice proposed a massacre of the Christians. This was resisted by the humane Khadi; and the Turks, contenting themselves with pillaging absent proprietors, began to lay up stores in the Acropolis. With ultra Turkish stupidity, however, out of pure laziness, at this critical moment, they confided the night duty on the ramparts of the city to Greeks. The consequence may be supposed. On the eighth of May, the Ottoman standard had been raised and blessed by an Tman. On the following night, a rapid discharge of musketry, and the shouts of _Christ has risen! Liberty! Liberty!_ proclaimed the capture of Athens. Nearly two thousand peasants, generally armed with clubs, had scaled the walls and forced the gates. The prisoners taken were treated with humanity. But, unfortunately, this current of Christian sentiment was immediately arrested by the conduct of the Turks in the Acropolis, in killing nine hostages, and throwing over the walls some naked and headless bodies.
The insurrection next spread to Thessaly; and at last even to Macedonia, from the premature and atrocious violence of the Pacha of Salonika. Apprehending a revolt, he himself drew it on, by cutting off the heads of the Christian merchants and clergy (simply as a measure of precaution), and enforcing his measures on the peasantry by military execution. Unfortunately, from its extensive plains, this country is peculiarly favorable to the evolutions of the Turkish cavalry; the insurgents were, therefore, defeated in several actions; and ultimately took refuge in great numbers amongst the convents on Mount Athos, which also were driven into revolt by the severity of the Pacha. Here the fugitives were safe from the sabres of their merciless pursuers; but, unless succored by sea, ran a great risk of perishing by famine. But a more important accession to the cause of independence, within one month from its first outbreak in the Morea, occurred in the Islands of the Archipelago. The three principal of these in modern times, are Hydra, Spezzia, and Psarra. [Footnote: Their insignificance in ancient times is proclaimed by the obscurity of their ancient names–Aperopia, Tiparenus, and Psyra.] They had been colonized in the preceding century, by some poor families from Peloponnesus and Ionia. At that time they had gained a scanty subsistence as fishermen. Gradually they became merchants and seamen. Being the best sailors in the Sultan’s dominions, they had obtained some valuable privileges, amongst which was that of exemption from Turkish magistrates; so that, if they could not boast of _autonomy_, they had at least the advantage of executing the bad laws of Turkish imposition by chiefs of their own blood. And they had the further advantage of paying but a moderate tribute to the Sultan. So favored, their commerce had flourished beyond all precedent. And latterly, when the vast extension of European warfare had created first-rate markets for grain, selecting, of course, those which were highest at the moment, they sometimes doubled their capitals in two voyages; and seven or eight such trips in a year were not an unusual instance of good fortune. What had been the result, may be collected from the following description, which Mr. Gordon gives us, of Hydra: “Built on a sterile rock, which does not offer, at any season, the least trace of vegetation, it is one of the best cities in the Levant, and _infinitely superior to any other in Greece_; the houses are all constructed of white stone; and those of the aristocracy–erected at an immense expense, floored with costly marbles, and splendidly furnished–_might pass for palaces even in the capitals of Italy_. Before the revolution, poverty was unknown; all classes being comfortably lodged, clothed, and fed. Its inhabitants at this epoch exceeded twenty thousand, of whom four thousand were able-bodied seamen.”
The other islands were, with few exceptions, arid rocks; and most of them had the inestimable advantage of being unplagued with a Turkish population. Enjoying that precious immunity, it may be wondered why they should have entered into the revolt. But for this there were two great reasons: they were ardent Christians in the first place, and disinterested haters of Mahometanism on its own merits; secondly, as the most powerful [Footnote: Mr. Gordon says that “they could, without difficulty, fit out a hundred sail of ships, brigs, and schooners, armed with from twelve to twenty-four guns each, and manned by seven thousand stout and able sailors.” Pouqueville ascribes to them, in 1813, a force considerably greater. But the peace of Paris (one year after Pouqueville’s estimates) naturally reduced their power, as their extraordinary gains were altogether dependent on war and naval blockades.] nautical confederacy in the Levant, they anticipated a large booty from captures at sea. In that expectation, at first, they were not disappointed. But it was a source of wealth soon exhausted; for, naturally, as soon as their ravages became known, the Mussulmans ceased to navigate. Spezzia was the first to hoist the independent flag; this was on the ninth of April, 1821. Psarra immediately followed her example. Hydra hesitated, and at first even declined to do so; but, at last, on the 28th of April, this island also issued a manifesto of adherence to the patriotic cause. On the third of May, a squadron of eleven Hydriot and seven Spezzia vessels sailed from Hydra, having on the mainmast “an address to the people of the Egean sea, inviting them to rally round the national standard: an address that was received with enthusiasm in every quarter of the Archipelago where the Turks were not numerous enough to restrain popular feeling.”
“The success of the Greek marine in this first expedition,” says Mr. Gordon, “was not confined to merely spreading the insurrection throughout the Archipelago: a swarm of swift armed ships swept the sea from the Hellespont to the waters of Crete and Cyprus; captured every Ottoman trader they met with, and put to the sword, or flung overboard, the Mahometan crews and passengers; for the contest already assumed a character of terrible ferocity. It would be vain to deny that they were guilty of shocking barbarities; at the little island of Castel Rosso, on the Karamanian shore, they butchered, in cold blood, several beautiful Turkish females; and a great number of defenceless pilgrims (mostly old men), who, returning from Mecca, fell into their power, off Cyprus, were slain without mercy, because they would not renounce their faith.” Many such cases of hideous barbarity had already occurred, and did afterwards occur, on the mainland. But this is the eternal law and providential retribution of oppression. The tyrant teaches to his slave the crimes and the cruelties which he inflicts; blood will have blood; and the ferocious oppressor is involved in the natural reaction of his own wickedness, by the frenzied retaliation of the oppressed. Now was indeed beheld the realization of the sublime imprecation in Shakspeare: “one spirit of the first-born Cain” did indeed reign in the hearts of men; and now, if ever upon this earth, it seemed likely, from the dreadful _acharnement_ which marked the war on both sides,–the _acharnement_ of long-hoarded vengeance and maddening remembrances in the Grecian, of towering disdain in the alarmed oppressor,–that, in very simplicity of truth, “_Darkness would be the burier of the dead._”
Such was the opening scene in the astonishing drama of the Greek insurrection, which, through all its stages, was destined to move by fire and blood, and beyond any war in human annals to command the interest of mankind through their sterner affections. We have said that it was eminently a romantic war; but not in the meaning with which we apply that epithet to the semi-fabulous wars of Charlemagne and his Paladins, or even to the Crusaders. Here are no memorable contests of generosity; no triumphs glorified by mercy; no sacrifices of interest the most basely selfish to martial honor; no ear on either side for the pleadings of desolate affliction; no voice in any quarter of commanding justice; no acknowledgment of a common nature between the belligerents; nor sense of a participation in the same human infirmities, dangers, or necessities. To the fugitive from the field of battle there was scarcely a retreat; to the prisoner there was absolutely no hope. Stern retribution, and the very rapture of vengeance, were the passions which presided on the one side; on the other, fanaticism and the cruelty of fear and hatred, maddened by old hereditary scorn. Wherever the war raged there followed upon the face of the land one blank Aceldama. A desert tracked the steps of the armies, and a desert in which was no oasis; and the very atmosphere in which men lived and breathed was a chaos of murderous passions. Still it is true that the war was a great romance. For it was filled with change, and with elastic rebound from what seemed final extinction; with the spirit of adventure carried to the utmost limits of heroism; with self-devotion on the sublimest scale, and the very frenzy of patriotic martyrdom; with resurrection of everlasting hope upon ground seven times blasted by the blighting presence of the enemy; and with flowers radiant in promise springing forever from under the very tread of the accursed Moslem.
NOTE.–We have thought that we should do an acceptable service to the reader by presenting him with a sketch of the Suliotes, and the most memorable points in their history. We have derived it (as to the facts) from a little work originally composed by an Albanian in modern Greek, and printed at Venice in 1815. This work was immediately translated into Italian, by Gherardini, an Italian officer of Milan; and, ten years ago, with some few omissions, it was reproduced in an English version; but in this country it seems never to have attracted public notice, and is probably now forgotten.
With respect to the name of Suli, the Suliotes themselves trace it to an accident:–“Some old men,” says the Albanian author, reciting his own personal investigations amongst the oldest of the Suliotes, “replied that they did not remember having any information from their ancestors concerning the first inhabitants of Suli, except this only: that some goat and swine herds used to lead their flocks to graze on the mountains where Suli and Ghiafa now stand; that these mountains were not only steep and almost inaccessible, but clothed with thickets of wood, and infested by wild boars; that these herdsmen, being oppressed by the tyranny of the Turks of a village called to this day Gardichi, took the resolution of flying for a distance of six hours’ journey to this sylvan and inaccessible position, of sharing in common the few animals which they had, and of suffering voluntarily every physical privation, rather than submit to the slightest wrong from their foreign tyrants. This resolution, they added, must be presumed to have been executed with success; because we find that, in the lapse of five or six years, these original occupants of the fastness were joined by thirty other families. Somewhere about that time it was that they began to awaken the jealousy of the Turks; and a certain Turk, named Suli, went in high scorn and defiance, with many other associates, to expel them from this strong position; but our stout forefathers met them with arms in their hands. Suli, the leader and inciter of the Turks, was killed outright upon the ground; and, on the very spot where he fell, at this day stands the centre of our modern Suli, which took its name, therefore, from that same slaughtered Turk, who was the first insolent and malicious enemy with whom our country in its days of infancy had to contend for its existence.”
Such is the most plausible account which can now be obtained of the _incunabula_ of this most indomitable little community, and of the circumstances under which it acquired its since illustrious name. It was, perhaps, natural that a little town, in the centre of insolent and bitter enemies, should assume a name which would long convey to their whole neighborhood a stinging lesson of mortification, and of prudential warning against similar molestations. As to the _chronology_ of this little state, the Albanian author assures us, upon the testimony of the same old Suliotes, that “seventy years before” there were barely one hundred men fit for the active duties of war, which, in ordinary states of society, would imply a total population of four hundred souls. That may be taken, therefore, as the extreme limit of the Suliote population at a period of seventy years antecedently to the date of tke conversation on which he founds his information. But, as he has unfortunately omitted to fix the exact era of these conversations, the whole value of his accuracy is neutralized by his own carelessness. However, it is probable, from the internal evidence of his book, which brings down affairs below the year 1812, that his information was collected somewhere about 1810. We must carry back the epoch, therefore, at which Suli had risen to a population of four hundred, pretty nearly to the year 1740; and since, by the same traditionary evidence, Suli had then accomplished an independent existence through a space of eighty years, we have reason to conclude that the very first gatherings of poor Christian herdsmen to this sylvan sanctuary, when stung to madness by Turkish insolence and persecution, would take place about the era of the Restoration (of our Charles II.), that is, in 1660.
In more modern times, the Suliotes had expanded into four separate little towns, peopled by five hundred and sixty families, from which they were able to draw one thousand first-rate soldiers. But, by a very politic arrangement, they had colonized with sixty-six other families seven neighboring towns, over which, from situation, they had long been able to exercise a military preponderance. The benefits were incalculable which they obtained by this connection. At the first alarm of war the fighting men retreated with no incumbrances but their arms, ammunition, and a few days’ provision, into the four towns of Suli proper, which all lay within that ring fence of impregnable position from which no armies could ever dislodge them; meantime, they secretly drew supplies from the seven associate towns, which were better situated than themselves for agriculture, and which (apparently taking no part in the war) pursued their ordinary labors unmolested. Their tactics were simple, but judicious; if they saw a body of five or six thousand advancing against their position, knowing that it was idle for them to meet such a force in the open field, they contented themselves with detaching one hundred and fifty or two hundred men to skirmish on their flanks, and to harass them according to the advantages of the ground; but if they saw no more than five hundred or one thousand in the hostile column, they then issued in equal or superior numbers, in the certainty of beating them, striking an effectual panic into their hearts, and also of profiting largely by plunder and by ransom.
In so small and select a community, where so much must continually depend upon individual qualities and personal heroism, it may readily be supposed that the women would play an important part; in fact, “the women carry arms and fight bravely. When the men go to war, the women bring them food and provisions; when they see their strength declining in combat, they run to their assistance, and fight along with them; but, if by any chance their husbands behave with cowardice, they snatch their arms from them, and abuse them, calling them mean, and unworthy of having a wife.” Upon these feelings there has even been built a law in Suli, which must deeply interest the pride of women in the martial honor of their husbands; agreeably to this law, any woman whose husband has distinguished himself in battle, upon going to a fountain to draw water, has the liberty to drive away another woman whose husband is tainted with the reproach of cowardice; and all who succeed her, “from dawn to dewy eve,” unless under the ban of the same withering stigma, have the same privilege of taunting her with her husband’s baseness, and of stepping between her or her cattle until their own wants are fully supplied.
This social consideration of the female sex, in right of their husbands’ military honors, is made available for no trifling purposes; on one occasion it proved the absolute salvation of the tribe. In one of the most desperate assaults made by Ali Pacha upon Suli, when that tyrant was himself present at the head of eight thousand picked men, animated with the promise of five hundred piastres a man, to as many as should enter Suli, after ten hours’ fighting under an enfeebling sun, and many of the Suliote muskets being rendered useless by continual discharges, a large body of the enemy had actually succeeded in occupying the sacred interior of Suli itself. At that critical moment, when Ali was in the very paroxysms of frantic exultation, the Suliote women, seeing that the general fate hinged upon the next five minutes, turned upon the Turks _en masse_, and with such a rapture of sudden fury, that the conquering army was instantly broken–thrown into panic, pursued; and, in that state of ruinous disorder, was met and flanked by the men, who were now recovering from their defeat. The consequences, from the nature of the ground, were fatal to the Turkish army and enterprise; the whole camp equipage was captured; none saved their lives but by throwing away their arms; one third of the Turks (one half by some accounts) perished on the retreat; the rest returned at intervals as an unarmed mob; and the bloody, perfidious Pacha himself saved his life only by killing two horses in his haste. So total was the rout, and so bitter the mortification of Ali, who had seen a small band of heroic women snatch the long-sought prize out of his very grasp, that for some weeks he shut himself up in his palace at Yannina, would receive no visits, and issued a proclamation imposing instant death upon any man detected in looking out at a window or other aperture–as being _presumably_ engaged in noticing the various expressions of his defeat which were continually returning to Yannina.
The wars, in which the adventurous courage of the Suliotes (together with their menacing position) could not fail to involve them, were in all eleven. The first eight of these occurred in times before the French Revolution, and with Pachas who have left no memorials behind them of the terrific energy or hellish perfidy which marked the character of Ali Pacha. These Pachas, who brought armies at the lowest of five thousand, and at the most of twelve thousand men, were uniformly beaten; and apparently were content to be beaten. Sometimes a Pacha was even made prisoner; but, as the simple [Footnote: On the same occasion the Pacha’s son, and sixty officers of the rank of _Aga_, were also made prisoners by a truly rustic mode of assault. The Turks had shut themselves up in a church; into this, by night, the Suliotes threw a number of hives, full of bees, whose insufferable stings soon brought the haughty Moslems into the proper surrendering mood. The whole body were afterwards ransomed for so trifling a sum as one thousand sequins.] Suliotes little understood the art of improving advantages, the ransom was sure to be proportioned to the value of the said Pacha’s sword-arm in battle, rather than to his rank and ability to pay; so that the terms of liberation were made ludicrously easy to the Turkish chiefs.
These eight wars naturally had no other ultimate effect than to extend the military power, experience, and renown, of the Suliotes. But their ninth war placed them in collision with a new and far more perilous enemy than any they had yet tried; above all, he was so obstinate and unrelenting an enemy, that, excepting the all-conquering mace of death, it was certain that no obstacles born of man ever availed to turn him aside from an object once resolved on. The reader will understand, of course, that this enemy was Ali Pacha. Their ninth war was with him; and he, like all before him, was beaten; but _not_ like all before him did Ali sit down in resignation under his defeat. His hatred was now become fiendish; no other prosperity or success had any grace in his eyes, so long as Suli stood, by which he had been overthrown, trampled on, and signally humbled. Life itself was odious to him, if he must continue to witness the triumphant existence of the abhorred little mountain village which had wrung laughter at his expense from every nook of Epirus. _Delenda est Carthago! Suli must be exterminated!_ became, therefore, from this time, the master watchword of his secret policy. And on the 1st of June, in the year 1792, he commenced his second war against the Suliotes, at the head of twenty-two thousand men. This was the second war of Suli with Ali Pacha; but it was the tenth war on their annals; and, as far as their own exertions were concerned, it had the same result as all the rest. But, about the sixth year of the war, in an indirect way, Ali made one step towards his final purpose, which first manifested its disastrous tendency in the new circumstances which succeeding years brought forward. In 1797 the French made a lodgment in Corfu; and, agreeably to their general spirit of intrigue, they had made advances to Ali Pacha, and to all other independent powers in or about Epirus. Amongst other states, in an evil hour for that ill-fated city, they wormed themselves into an alliance with Prevesa; and in the following year their own quarrel with Ali Pacha gave that crafty robber a pretence, which he had long courted in vain, for attacking the place with his overwhelming cavalry, before they could agree upon the mode of defence, and long before _any_ mode could have been tolerably matured. The result was one universal massacre, which raged for three days, and involved every living Prevesan, excepting some few who had wisely made their escape in time, and excepting those who were reserved to be tortured for Ali’s special gratification, or to be sold for slaves in the shambles. This dreadful catastrophe, which in a few hours rooted from the earth an old and flourishing community, was due in about equal degrees to the fatal intriguing of the interloping French, and to the rankest treachery in a quarter where it could least have been held possible; namely, in a Suliote, and a very distinguished Suliote, Captain George Botzari; but the miserable man yielded up his honor and his patriotism to Ali’s bribe of one hundred purses (perhaps at that time equal to twenty-five hundred pounds sterling). The way in which this catastrophe operated upon Ali’s final views was obvious to everybody in that neighborhood. Parga, on the sea-coast, was an indispensable ally to Suli; now, Prevesa stood in the same relation to Parga, as an almost indispensable ally, that Parga occupied towards Suli.
This shocking tragedy had been perpetrated in the October of 1798; and, in less than two years from that date, namely, on the 2d of June, 1800, commenced the eleventh war of the Suliotes; being their third with Ali, and the last which, from their own guileless simplicity, meeting with the craft of the most perfidious amongst princes, they were ever destined to wage. For two years, that is, until the middle of 1802, the war, as managed by the Suliotes, rather resembles a romance, or some legend of the acts of Paladins, than any grave chapter in modern history. Amongst the earliest victims it is satisfactory to mention the traitor, George Botzari, who, being in the power of the Pacha, was absolutely compelled to march with about two hundred of his kinsmen, whom he had seduced from Suli, against his own countrymen, under whose avenging swords the majority of them fell, whilst the arch-traitor himself soon died of grief and mortification. After this, Ali himself led a great and well-appointed army in various lines of assault against Suli. But so furious was the reception given to the Turks, so deadly and so uniform their defeat, that panic seized on the whole army, who declared unanimously to Ali that they would no more attempt to contend with the Suliotes–“Who,” said they, “neither sit nor sleep, but are born only for the destruction of men.” Ali was actually obliged to submit to this strange resolution of his army; but, by way of compromise, he built a chain of forts pretty nearly encircling Suli; and simply exacted of his troops that, being forever released from the dangers of the open field, they should henceforward shut themselves up in these forts, and constitute themselves a permanent blockading force for the purpose of bridling the marauding excursions of the Suliotes. It was hoped that, from the close succession of these forts, the Suliotes would find it impossible to slip between the cross fires of the Turkish musketry; and that, being thus absolutely cut off from their common resources of plunder, they must at length be reduced by mere starvation. That termination of the contest was in fact repeatedly within a trifle of being accomplished; the poor Suliotes were reduced to a diet of acorns; and even of this food had so slender a quantity that many died, and the rest wore the appearance of blackened skeletons. All this misery, however, had no effect to abate one jot of their zeal and their undying hatred to the perfidious enemy who was bending every sinew to their destruction. It is melancholy to record that such perfect heroes, from whom force the most disproportioned, nor misery the most absolute, had ever wrung the slightest concession or advantage, were at length entrapped by the craft of their enemy; and by their own foolish confidence in the oaths of one who had never been known to keep any engagement which he had a momentary interest in breaking. Ali contrived first of all to trepan the matchless leader of the Suliotes, Captain Foto Giavella, who was a hero after the most exquisite model of ancient Greece, Epaminondas, or Timoleon, and whose counsels were uniformly wise and honest. After that loss, all harmony of plan went to wreck amongst the Suliotes; and at length, about the middle of December, 1803, this immortal little independent state of Suli solemnly renounced by treaty to Ali Pacha its sacred territory, its thrice famous little towns, and those unconquerable positions among the crests of wooded inaccessible mountains which had baffled all the armies of the crescent, led by the most eminent of the Ottoman Pachas, and not seldom amounting to twenty, twenty-five, and in one instance even to more than thirty thousand men. The articles of a treaty, which on one side there never was an intention of executing, are scarcely worth repeating; the amount was–that the Suliotes had perfect liberty to go whither they chose, retaining the whole of their arms and property, and with a title to payment in cash for every sort of warlike store which could not be carried off. In excuse for the poor Suliotes in trusting to treaties of any kind with an enemy whom no oaths could bind for an hour, it is but fair to mention that they were now absolutely without supplies either of ammunition or provisions; and that, for seven days, they had suffered under a total deprivation of water, the sources of which were now in the hands of the enemy, and turned into new channels. The winding up of the memorable tale is soon told:–the main body of the fighting Suliotes, agreeably to the treaty, immediately took the route to Parga, where they were sure of a hospitable reception, that city having all along made common cause with Suli against their common enemy, Ali. The son of Ali, who had concluded the treaty, and who inherited all his father’s treachery, as fast as possible despatched four thousand Turks in pursuit, with orders to massacre the whole. But in this instance, through the gallant assistance of the Parghiotes, and the energetic haste of the Suliotes, the accursed wretch was disappointed of his prey. As to all the other detachments of the Suliotes, who were scattered at different points, and were necessarily thrown everywhere upon their own resources without warning or preparation of any kind,–they, by the terms of the treaty, had liberty to go away or to reside peaceably in any part of Ali’s dominions. But as these were mere windy words, it being well understood that Ali’s fixed intention was to cut every throat among the Suliotes, whether of man, woman, or child,–nay, as he thought himself dismally ill-used by every hour’s delay which interfered with the execution of that purpose,–what rational plan awaited the choice of the poor Suliotes, finding themselves in the centre of a whole hostile nation, and their own slender divisions cut off from communication with each other? What could people so circumstanced propose to themselves as a suitable resolution for their situation? Hope there was none; sublime despair was all that their case allowed; and, considering the unrivalled splendors of their past history for more than one hundred and sixty years, perhaps most readers would reply, in the famous words of Corneille–_Qu’ils mourussent_. That was their own reply to the question now so imperatively forced upon them; and die they all did. It is an argument of some great original nobility in the minds of these poor people, that none disgraced themselves by useless submissions, and that all alike, women as well as men, devoted themselves in the “high Roman fashion” to the now expiring cause of their country. The first case which occurred exhibits the very perfection of _nonchalance_ in circumstances the most appalling. Samuel, a Suliote monk, of somewhat mixed and capricious character, and at times even liable to much suspicion amongst his countrymen, but of great name, and of unquestionable merit in his military character, was in the act of delivering over to authorized Turkish agents a small outpost, which had greatly annoyed the forces of Ali, together with such military stores as it still contained. By the treaty, Samuel was perfectly free, and under the solemn protection of Ali; but the Turks, with the utter shamelessness to which they had been brought by daily familiarity with treachery the most barefaced, were openly descanting to Samuel upon the unheard-of tortures which must be looked for at the hands of Ali, by a soldier who had given so much trouble to that Pacha as himself. Samuel listened coolly; he was then seated on a chest of gunpowder, and powder was scattered about in all directions. He watched in a careless way until he observed that all the Turks, exulting in their own damnable perfidies, were assembled under the roof of the building. He then coolly took the burning snuff of a candle, and threw it into a heap of combustibles, still keeping his seat upon the chest of powder. It is unnecessary to add that the little fort, and all whom it contained, were blown to atoms. And with respect to Samuel in particular, no fragment of his skeleton could ever be discovered. [Footnote: The deposition of two Suliote sentinels at the door, and of a third person who escaped with a dreadful scorching, sufficiently established the facts; otherwise the whole would have been ascribed to the treachery of Ali or his son.] After this followed as many separate tragedies as there were separate parties of Suliotes; when all hope and all retreat were clearly cut off, then the women led the great scene of self- immolation, by throwing their children headlong from the summit of precipices; which done, they and their husbands, their fathers and their sons, hand in hand, ran up to the brink of the declivity, and followed those whom they had sent before. In other situations, where there was a possibility of fighting with effect, they made a long and bloody resistance, until the Turkish cavalry, finding an opening for their operations, made all further union impossible; upon which they all plunged into the nearest river, without distinction of age or sex, and were swallowed up by the merciful waters. Thus, in a few days, from the signing of that treaty, which nominally secured to them peaceable possession of their property, and paternal treatment from the perfidious Pacha, none remained to claim his promises or to experience his abominable cruelties. In their native mountains of Epirus, the name of Suliote was now blotted from the books of life, and was heard no more in those wild sylvan haunts, where once it had filled every echo with the breath of panic to the quailing hearts of the Moslems. In the most “palmy” days of Suli, she never had counted more than twenty-five hundred fighting men; and of these no considerable body escaped, excepting the corps who hastily fought their way to Parga. From that city they gradually transported themselves to Corfu, then occupied by the Russians. Into the service of the Russian Czar, as the sole means left to a perishing corps of soldiers for earning daily bread, they naturally entered; and when Corfu afterwards passed from Russian to English masters, it was equally inevitable that for the same urgent purposes they should enter the military service of England. In that service they received the usual honorable treatment, and such attention as circumstances would allow to their national habits and prejudices. They were placed also, we believe, under the popular command of Sir R. Church, who, though unfortunate as a supreme leader, made himself beloved in a lower station by all the foreigners under his authority. These Suliotes have since then returned to Epirus and to Greece, the peace of 1815 having, perhaps, dissolved their connection with England, and they were even persuaded to enter the service of their arch-enemy, Ali Pacha. Since his death, their diminished numbers, and the altered circumstances of their situation, should naturally have led to the extinction of their political importance. Yet we find them in 1832 still attracting (or rather concentrating) the wrath of the Turkish Sultan, made the object of a separate war, and valued (as in all former cases) on the footing of a distinct and independent nation. On the winding up of this war, we find part of them at least an object of indulgent solicitude to the British government, and under their protection transferred to Cephalonia. Yet again, others of their scanty clan meet us at different points of the war in Greece; especially at the first decisive action with Ibrahim, when, in the rescue of Costa Botzaris, every Suliote of his blood perished on the spot; and again, in the fatal battle of Athens (May 6, 1827), Mr. Gordon assures us that “almost all the Suliotes were exterminated.” We understand him to speak not generally of the Suliotes, as of the total clan who bear that name, but of those only who happened to be present at that dire catastrophe. Still, even with this limitation, such a long succession of heavy losses descending upon a people who never numbered above twenty-five hundred fighting men, and who had passed through the furnace, seven times heated, of Ali Pacha’s wrath, and suffered those many and dismal tragedies which we have just recorded, cannot but have brought them latterly to the brink of utter extinction.
MEMORIALS, AND OTHER PAPERS, VOL. II.
BY THOMAS DE QUINCEY
THE SPHINX’S RIDDLE
THE TEMPLARS’ DIALOGUES
The winter of 1633 had set in with unusual severity throughout Suabia and Bavaria, though as yet scarcely advanced beyond the first week of November. It was, in fact, at the point when our tale commences, the eighth of that month, or, in our modern computation, the eighteenth; long after which date it had been customary of late years, under any ordinary state of the weather, to extend the course of military operations, and without much decline of vigor. Latterly, indeed, it had become apparent that entire winter campaigns, without either formal suspensions of hostilities, or even partial relaxations, had entered professedly as a point of policy into the system of warfare which now swept over Germany in full career, threatening soon to convert its vast central provinces–so recently blooming Edens of peace and expanding prosperity–into a howling wilderness; and which had already converted immense tracts into one universal aceldama, or human shambles, reviving to the recollection at every step the extent of past happiness in the endless memorials of its destruction. This innovation upon the old practice of war had been introduced by the Swedish armies, whose northern habits and training had fortunately prepared them to receive a German winter as a very beneficial exchange; whilst upon the less hardy soldiers from Italy, Spain, and the Southern France, to whom the harsh transition from their own sunny skies had made the very same climate a severe trial of constitution, this change of policy pressed with a hardship that sometimes [Footnote: Of which there is more than one remarkable instance, to the great dishonor of the French arms, in the records of _her_ share in the Thirty Years’ War.] crippled their exertions.
It was a change, however, not so long settled as to resist the extraordinary circumstances of the weather. So fierce had been the cold for the last fortnight, and so premature, that a pretty confident anticipation had arisen, in all quarters throughout the poor exhausted land, of a general armistice. And as this, once established, would offer a ready opening to some measure of permanent pacification, it could not be surprising that the natural hopefulness of the human heart, long oppressed by gloomy prospects, should open with unusual readiness to the first colorable dawn of happier times. In fact, the reaction in the public spirits was sudden and universal. It happened also that the particular occasion of this change of prospect brought with it a separate pleasure on its own account. Winter, which by its peculiar severity had created the apparent necessity for an armistice, brought many household pleasures in its train–associated immemorially with that season in all northern climates. The cold, which had casually opened a path to more distant hopes, was also for the present moment a screen between themselves and the enemy’s sword. And thus it happened that the same season, which held out a not improbable picture of final restoration, however remote, to public happiness, promised them a certain foretaste of this blessing in the immediate security of their homes.
But in the ancient city of Klosterheim it might have been imagined that nobody participated in these feelings. A stir and agitation amongst the citizens had been conspicuous for some days; and on the morning of the eighth, spite of the intense cold, persons of every rank were seen crowding from an early hour to the city walls, and returning homewards at intervals, with anxious and dissatisfied looks. Groups of both sexes were collected at every corner of the wider streets, keenly debating, or angrily protesting; at one time denouncing vengeance to some great enemy; at another, passionately lamenting some past or half-forgotten calamity, recalled to their thoughts whilst anticipating a similar catastrophe for the present day.
Above all, the great square, upon which the ancient castellated palace or _schloss_ opened by one of its fronts, as well as a principal convent of the city, was the resort of many turbulent spirits. Most of these were young men, and amongst them many students of the university: for the war, which had thinned or totally dispersed some of the greatest universities in Germany, under the particular circumstances of its situation, had greatly increased that of Klosterheim. Judging by the tone which prevailed, and the random expressions which fell upon the ear at intervals, a stranger might conjecture that it was no empty lamentation over impending evils which occupied this crowd, but some serious preparation for meeting or redressing them. An officer of some distinction had been for some time observing them from the antique portals of the palace. It was probable, however, that little more than their gestures had reached him; for at length he moved nearer, and gradually insinuated himself into the thickest part of the mob, with the air of one who took no further concern in their proceedings than that of simple curiosity. But his martial air and his dress allowed him no means of covering his purpose. With more warning and leisure to arrange his precautions, he might have passed as an indifferent spectator; as it was, his jewel-hilted sabre, the massy gold chain, depending in front from a costly button and loop which secured it half way down his back, and his broad crimson scarf, embroidered in a style of peculiar splendor, announced him as a favored officer of the Landgrave, whose ambitious pretensions, and tyrannical mode of supporting them, were just now the objects of general abhorrence in Klosterheim. His own appearance did not belie the service which he had adopted. He was a man of stout person, somewhat elegantly formed, in age about three or four and thirty, though perhaps a year or two of his apparent age might be charged upon the bronzing effects of sun and wind. In bearing and carriage he announced to every eye the mixed carelessness and self-possession of a military training; and as his features were regular, and remarkably intelligent, he would have been pronounced, on the whole, a man of winning exterior, were it not for the repulsive effect of his eye, in which there was a sinister expression of treachery, and at times a ferocious one of cruelty.
Placed upon their guard by his costume, and the severity of his countenance, those of the lower rank were silent as he moved along, or lowered their voices into whispers and inaudible murmurs. Amongst the students, however, whenever they happened to muster strongly, were many fiery young men, who disdained to temper the expression of their feelings, or to moderate their tone. A large group of these at one corner of the square drew attention upon themselves, as well by the conspicuous station which they occupied upon the steps of a church portico, as by the loudness of their voices. Towards them the officer directed his steps; and probably no lover of _scenes_ would have had very long to wait for some explosion between parties both equally ready to take offence, and careless of giving it; but at that moment, from an opposite angle of the square, was seen approaching a young man in plain clothes, who drew off the universal regard of the mob upon himself, and by the uproar of welcome which saluted him occasioned all other sounds to be stifled. “Long life to our noble leader!”–“Welcome to the good Max!” resounded through the square. “Hail to our noble brother!” was the acclamation of the students. And everybody hastened forward to meet him with an impetuosity which for the moment drew off all attention from the officer: he was left standing by himself on the steps of the church, looking down upon this scene of joyous welcome– the sole spectator who neither fully understood its meaning, nor shared in its feelings.
The stranger, who wore in part the antique costume of the university of Klosterheim, except where he still retained underneath a travelling dress, stained with recent marks of the roads and the weather, advanced amongst his friends with an air at once frank, kind, and dignified. He replied to their greetings in the language of cheerfulness; but his features expressed anxiety, and his manner was hurried. Whether he had not observed the officer overlooking them, or thought that the importance of the communications which he had to make transcended all common restraints of caution, there was little time to judge; so it was, at any rate, that, without lowering his voice, he entered abruptly upon his business.
“Friends! I have seen the accursed Holkerstein; I have penetrated within his fortress. With my own eyes I have viewed and numbered his vile assassins. They are in strength triple the utmost amount of our friends. Without help from us, our kinsmen are lost. Scarce one of us but will lose a dear friend before three nights are over, should Klosterheim not resolutely do her duty.”
“She shall, she shall!” exclaimed a multitude of voices.
“Then, friends, it must be speedily; never was there more call for sudden resolution. Perhaps, before to-morrow’s sun shall set, the sword of this detested robber will be at their throats. For he has some intelligence (whence I know not, nor how much) of their approach. Neither think that Holkerstein is a man acquainted with any touch of mercy or relenting. Where no ransom is to be had, he is in those circumstances that he will and must deliver himself from the burden of prisoners by a general massacre. Infants even will not be spared.”
Many women had by this time flocked to the outer ring of the listening audience. And, perhaps, for _their_ ears in particular it was that the young stranger urged these last circumstances; adding,
“Will you look down tamely from your city walls upon such another massacre of the innocents as we have once before witnessed?”
“Cursed be Holkerstein!” said a multitude of voices.
“And cursed be those that openly or secretly support him!” added one of the students, looking earnestly at the officer.
“Amen!” said the officer, in a solemn tone, and looking round him with the aspect of one who will not suppose himself to have been included in the suspicion.
“And, friends, remember this,” pursued the popular favorite; “whilst you are discharging the first duties of Christians and brave men to those who are now throwing themselves upon the hospitality of your city, you will also be acquitting yourselves of a great debt to the emperor.”
“Softly, young gentleman, softly,” interrupted the officer; “his serene highness, my liege lord and yours, governs here, and the emperor has no part in our allegiance. For debts, what the city owes to the emperor she will pay. But men and horses, I take it–“
“Are precisely the coin which the time demands; these will best please the emperor, and, perhaps, will suit the circumstances of the city. But, leaving the emperor’s rights as a question for lawyers, you, sir, are a soldier,–I question not, a brave one,–will you advise his highness the Landgrave to look down from the castle windows upon a vile marauder, stripping or murdering the innocent people who are throwing themselves upon the hospitality of this ancient city?”
“Ay, sir, that will I, be you well assured–the Landgrave is my sovereign–“
“Since when? Since Thursday week, I think; for so long it is since your _tertia_ [Footnote: An old Walloon designation for a battalion.] first entered Klosterheim. But in that as you will, and if it be a point of honor with you gentlemen Walloons to look on whilst women and children are butchered. For such a purpose no man is _my_ sovereign; and as to the Landgrave in particular–“
“Nor ours, nor ours!” shouted a tumult of voices, which drowned the young student’s words about the Landgrave, though apparently part of them reached the officer. He looked round in quest of some military comrades who might support him in the _voye du fait_, to which, at this point, his passion prompted him. But, seeing none, he exclaimed, “Citizens, press not this matter too far–and you, young man, especially, forbear,–you tread upon the brink of treason!”
A shout of derision threw back his words.
“Of treason, I say,” he repeated, furiously; “and such wild behavior it is (and I say it with pain) that perhaps even now is driving his highness to place your city under martial law.”
“Martial law! did you hear that?” ran along from mouth to mouth.
“Martial law, gentlemen, I say; how will you relish the little articles of that code? The provost marshal makes short leave-takings. Two fathom of rope, and any of these pleasant old balconies which I see around me (pointing, as he spoke, to the antique galleries of wood which ran round the middle stories in the Convent of St. Peter), with a confessor, or none, as the provost’s breakfast may chance to allow, have cut short, to my knowledge, the freaks of many a better fellow than any I now see before me.”
Saying this, he bowed with a mock solemnity all round to the crowd, which, by this time, had increased in number and violence. Those who were in the outermost circles, and beyond the distinct hearing of what he said, had been discussing with heat the alarming confirmation of their fears in respect to Holkerstein, or listening to the impassioned narrative of a woman, who had already seen one of her sons butchered by this ruffian’s people under the walls of the city, and was now anticipating the same fate for her last surviving son and daughter, in case they should happen to be amongst the party now expected from Vienna. She had just recited the tragical circumstances of her son’s death, and had worked powerfully upon the sympathizing passions of the crowd, when, suddenly, at a moment so unseasonable for the officer, some imperfect repetition of his words about the provost martial and the rope passed rapidly from mouth to mouth. It was said that he had threatened every man with instant death at the drum-head, who should but speculate on assisting his friends outside, under the heaviest extremities of danger or of outrage. The sarcastic bow and the inflamed countenance of the officer were seen by glimpses further than his words extended. Kindling eyes and lifted arms of many amongst the mob, and chiefly of those on the outside, who had heard his words the most imperfectly, proclaimed to such as knew Klosterheim and its temper at this moment the danger in which he stood. Maximilian, the young student, generously forgot his indignation in concern for his immediate safety. Seizing him by the hand, he exclaimed,
“Sir, but a moment ago you warned me that I stood on the brink of treason: look to your own safety at present; for the eyes of some whom I see yonder are dangerous.”
“Young gentleman,” the other replied, contemptuously, “I presume that you are a student; let me counsel you to go back to your books. There you will be in your element. For myself, I am familiar with faces as angry as these–and hands something more formidable. Believe me, I see nobody here,” and he affected to speak with imperturbable coolness, but his voice became tremulous with passion, “whom I can even esteem worthy of a soldier’s consideration.”
“And yet, Colonel von Aremberg, there is at least one man here who has had the honor of commanding men as elevated as yourself.” Saying which, he hastily drew from his bosom, where it hung suspended from his neck, a large flat tablet of remarkably beautiful onyx, on one side of which was sculptured a very striking face; but on the other, which he presented to the gaze of the colonel, was a fine representation of an eagle grovelling on the dust, and beginning to expand its wings–with the single word _Resurgam_ by way of motto.
Never was revulsion of feeling so rapidly expressed on any man’s countenance. The colonel looked but once; he caught the image of the bird trailing its pinions in the dust, he heard the word _Resurgam_ audibly pronounced; his color fled, his lips grew livid with passion; and, furiously unsheathing his sword, he sprung, with headlong forgetfulness of time and place, upon his calm antagonist. With the advantage of perfect self-possession, Maximilian found it easy to parry the tempestuous blows of the colonel; and he would, perhaps, have found it easy to disarm him. But at this moment the crowd, who had been with great difficulty repressed by the more thoughtful amongst the students, burst through all restraints. In the violent outrage offered to their champion and leader, they saw naturally a full confirmation of the worst impressions they had received as to the colonel’s temper and intention. A number of them rushed forward to execute a summary vengeance; and the foremost amongst these, a mechanic of Klosterheim, distinguished for his herculean strength, with one blow stretched Von Aremberg on the ground. A savage yell announced the dreadful fate which impended over the fallen officer. And, spite of the generous exertions made for his protection by Maximilian and his brother students, it is probable that at that moment no human interposition could have availed to turn aside the awakened appetite for vengeance, and that he must have perished, but for the accident which at that particular instant of time occurred to draw off the attention of the mob.
A signal gun from a watch-tower, which always in those unhappy times announced the approach of strangers, had been fired about ten minutes before; but, in the turbulent uproar of the crowd, it had passed unnoticed. Hence it was, that, without previous warning to the mob assembled at this point, a mounted courier now sprung into the square at full gallop on his road to the palace, and was suddenly pulled up by the dense masses of human beings.
“News, news!” exclaimed Maximilian; “tidings of our dear friends from Vienna! “This he said with the generous purpose of diverting the infuriated mob from the unfortunate Von Aremberg, though himself apprehending that the courier had arrived from another quarter. His plan succeeded: the mob rushed after the horseman, all but two or three of the most sanguinary, who, being now separated from all assistance, were easily drawn off from their prey. The opportunity was eagerly used to carry off the colonel, stunned and bleeding, within the gates of a Franciscan convent. He was consigned to the medical care of the holy fathers; and Maximilian, with his companions, then hurried away to the chancery of the palace, whither the courier had proceeded with his despatches.
These were interesting in the highest degree. It had been doubted by many, and by others a pretended doubt had been raised to serve the Landgrave’s purpose, whether the great cavalcade from Vienna would be likely to reach the entrance of the forest for a week or more. Certain news had now arrived, and was published before it could be stifled, that they and all their baggage, after a prosperous journey so far, would be assembled at that point on this very evening. The courier had left the advanced guard about noonday, with an escort of four hundred of the Black Yagers from the Imperial Guard, and two hundred of Papenheim’s Dragoons, at Waldenhausen, on the very brink of the forest. The main body and rear were expected to reach the same point in four or five hours; and the whole party would then fortify their encampment as much as possible against the night attack which they had too much reason to apprehend.
This was news which, in bringing a respite of forty-eight hours, brought relief to some who had feared that even this very night might present them with the spectacle of their beloved friends engaged in a bloody struggle at the very gates of Klosterheim; for it was the fixed resolution of the Landgrave to suffer no diminution of his own military strength, or of the means for recruiting it hereafter. Men, horses, arms, all alike were rigorously laid under embargo by the existing government of the city; and such was the military power at its disposal, reckoning not merely the numerical strength in troops, but also the power of sweeping the main streets of the town, and several of the principal roads outside, that it was become a matter of serious doubt whether the unanimous insurrection of the populace had a chance for making head against the government. But others found not even a momentary comfort in this account. They considered that, perhaps, Waldenhausen might be the very ground selected for the murderous attack. There was here a solitary post-house, but no town, or even village. The forest at this point was just thirty-four miles broad; and if the bloodiest butchery should be going on under cover of night, no rumor of it could be borne across the forest in time to alarm the many anxious friends who would this night be lying awake in Klosterheim.
A slight circumstance served to barb and point the public distress, which otherwise seemed previously to have reached its utmost height. The courier had brought a large budget of letters to private individuals throughout Klosterheim; many of these were written by children unacquainted with the dreadful catastrophe which threatened them. Most of them had been long separated, by the fury of the war, from their parents. They had assembled, from many different quarters, at Vienna, in order to join what might be called, in Oriental phrase, _the caravan_. Their parents had also, in many instances, from places equally dispersed, assembled at Klosterheim; and, after great revolutions of fortune, they were now going once more to rejoin each other. Their letters expressed the feelings of hope and affectionate pleasure suitable to the occasion. They retraced the perils they had passed during the twenty-six days of their journey,–the great towns, heaths, and forests, they had traversed since leaving the gates of Vienna; and expressed, in the innocent terms of childhood, the pleasure they felt in having come within two stages of the gates of Klosterheim. “In the forest,” said they, “there will be no more dangers to pass; no soldiers; nothing worse than wild deer.”
Letters written in these terms, contrasted with the mournful realities of the case, sharpened the anguish of fear and suspense throughout the whole city; and Maximilian with his friends, unable to bear the loud expression of the public feelings, separated themselves from the tumultuous crowds, and adjourning to the seclusion of their college rooms, determined to consult, whilst it was yet not too late, whether, in their hopeless situation for openly resisting the Landgrave without causing as much slaughter as they sought to prevent, it might not yet be possible for them to do something in the way of resistance to the bloody purposes of Holkerstein.
The travelling party, for whom much anxiety was felt in Klosterheim, had this evening reached Waldenhausen without loss or any violent alarm; and, indeed, considering the length of their journey, and the distracted state of the empire, they had hitherto travelled in remarkable security. It was now nearly a month since they had taken their departure from Vienna, at which point considerable numbers had assembled from the adjacent country to take the benefit of their convoy. Some of these they had dropped at different turns in their route, but many more had joined them as they advanced; for in every considerable city they found large accumulations of strangers, driven in for momentary shelter from the storm of war as it spread over one district after another; and many of these were eager to try the chances of a change, or, upon more considerate grounds, preferred the protection of a place situated like Klosterheim, in a nook as yet unvisited by the scourge of military execution. Hence it happened, that from a party of seven hundred and fifty, with an escort of four hundred yagers, which was the amount of their numbers on passing through the gates of Vienna, they had gradually swelled into a train of sixteen hundred, including two companies of dragoons, who had joined them by the emperor’s orders at one of the fortified posts.
It was felt, as a circumstance of noticeable singularity, by most of the party, that, after traversing a large part of Germany without encountering any very imminent peril, they should be first summoned to unusual vigilance, and all the most jealous precautions of fear, at the very termination of their journey. In all parts of their route they had met with columns of troops pursuing their march, and now and then with roving bands of deserters, who were formidable to the unprotected traveller. Some they had overawed by their display of military strength; from others, in the imperial service, they had received cheerful assistance; and any Swedish corps, which rumor had presented as formidable by their numbers, they had, with some exertion of forethought and contrivance, constantly evaded, either by a little detour, or by a temporary halt in some place of strength. But now it was universally known that they were probably waylaid by a desperate and remorseless freebooter, who, as he put his own trust exclusively in the sword, allowed nobody to hope for any other shape of deliverance.
Holkerstein, the military robber, was one of the many monstrous growths which had arisen upon the ruins of social order in this long and unhappy war. Drawing to himself all the malcontents of his own neighborhood, and as many deserters from the regular armies in the centre of Germany as he could tempt to his service by the license of unlimited pillage, he had rapidly created a respectable force; had possessed himself of various castles in Wirtemberg, within fifty or sixty miles of Klosterheim; had attacked and defeated many parties of regular troops sent out to reduce him; and, by great activity and local knowledge, had raised himself to so much consideration, that the terror of his name had spread even to Vienna, and the escort of yagers had been granted by the imperial government as much on his account as for any more general reason. A lady, who was in some way related to the emperor’s family, and, by those who were in the secret, was reputed to be the emperor’s natural daughter, accompanied the travelling party, with a suite of female attendants. To this lady, who was known by the name of the Countess Paulina, the rest of the company held themselves indebted for their escort; and hence, as much as for her rank, she was treated with ceremonious respect throughout the journey.
The Lady Paulina travelled with, her suite in coaches, drawn by the most powerful artillery horses that could be furnished at the various military posts. [Footnote: Coaches were common in Germany at this time amongst people of rank. At the reinstatement of the Dukes of Mecklenburg, by Gustavus Adolphus, though without much notice, more than four-score of coaches were assembled.] On this day she had been in the rear; and having been delayed by an accident, she was waited for with some impatience by the rest of the party, the latest of whom had reached Waldenhausen early in the afternoon. It was sunset before her train of coaches arrived; and, as the danger from Holkerstein commenced about this point, they were immediately applied to the purpose of strengthening their encampment against a night attack, by chaining them, together with all the baggage-carts, in a triple line, across the different avenues which seemed most exposed to a charge of cavalry. Many other preparations were made; the yagers and dragoons made arrangements for mounting with ease on the first alarm; strong outposts were established; sentinels posted all round the encampment, who were duly relieved every hour, in consideration of the extreme cold; and, upon the whole, as many veteran officers were amongst them, the great body of the travellers were now able to apply themselves to the task of preparing their evening refreshments with some degree of comfort; for the elder part of the company saw that every precaution had been taken, and the younger were not aware of any extraordinary danger.
Waldenhausen had formerly been a considerable village. At present there was no more than one house, surrounded, however, by such a large establishment of barns, stables, and other outhouses, that, at a little distance, it wore the appearance of a tolerable hamlet. Most of the outhouses, in their upper stories, were filled with hay or straw; and there the women and children prepared their couches for the night, as the warmest resorts in so severe a season. The house was furnished in the plainest style of a farmer’s; but in other respects it was of a superior order, being roomy and extensive. The best apartment had been reserved for the Lady Paulina and her attendants; one for the officers of most distinction in the escort or amongst the travellers; the rest had been left to the use of the travellers indiscriminately.
In passing through the hall of entrance, Paulina had noticed a man of striking and _farouche_ appearance,–hair black and matted, eyes keen and wild, and beaming with malicious cunning, who surveyed her as she passed with a mixed look of insolence and curiosity, that involuntarily made her shrink. He had been half reclining carelessly against the wall, when she first entered, but rose upright with a sudden motion as she passed him–not probably from any sentiment of respect, but under the first powerful impression of surprise on seeing a young woman of peculiarly splendid figure and impressive beauty, under circumstances so little according with what might be supposed her natural pretensions. The dignity of her deportment, and the numbers of her attendants, sufficiently proclaimed the luxurious accommodations which her habits might have taught her to expect; and she was now entering a dwelling which of late years had received few strangers of her sex, and probably none but those of the lowest rank.
“Know your distance, fellow!” exclaimed one of the waiting-women, angrily, noticing his rude gaze and the effect upon her mistress.
“Good faith, madam, I would that the distance between us were more; it was no prayers of mine, I promise you, that brought upon me a troop of horses to Waldenhausen, enough in one twelve hours to eat me out a margrave’s ransom. Light thanks I reckon on from yagers; and the payments of dragoons will pass current for as little in the forest, as a lady’s frown in Waldenhausen.”
“Churl!” said an officer of dragoons, “how know you that our payments are light? The emperor takes nothing without payment; surely not from such as you. But _à propos_ of ransoms, what now might be Holkerstein’s ransom for a farmer’s barns stuffed with a three years’ crop?”
“How mean you by that, captain? The crop’s my own, and never was in worse hands than my own. God send it no worse luck to-day!”
“Come, come, sir, you understand me better than that; nothing at Waldenhausen, I take it, is yours or any man’s, unless by license from Holkerstein. And when I see so many goodly barns and garners, with their jolly charges of hay and corn, that would feed one of Holkerstein’s garrisons through two sieges, I know what to think of him who has saved them scot-free. He that serves a robber must do it on a robber’s terms. To such bargains there goes but one word, and that is the robber’s. But, come, man, I am not thy judge. Only I would have my soldiers on their guard at one of Holkerstein’s outposts. And thee, farmer, I would have to remember that an emperor’s grace may yet stand thee instead, when a robber is past helping thee to a rope.”
The soldiers laughed, but took their officer’s hint to watch the motions of a man, whose immunity from spoil, in circumstances so tempting to a military robber’s cupidity, certainly argued some collusion with Holkerstein.
The Lady Paulina had passed on during this dialogue into an inner room, hoping to have found the quiet and the warmth which were now become so needful to her repose. But the antique stove was too much out of repair to be used with benefit; the wood-work was decayed, and admitted currents of cold air; and, above all, from the slightness of the partitions, the noise and tumult in a house occupied by soldiers and travellers proved so incessant, that, after taking refreshments with her attendants, she resolved to adjourn for the night to her coach; which afforded much superior resources, both in warmth and in freedom from noise.
The carriage of the countess was one of those which had been posted at an angle of the encampment, and on that side terminated the line of defences; for a deep mass of wood, which commenced where the carriages ceased, seemed to present a natural protection on that side against the approach of cavalry; in reality, from the quantity of tangled roots, and the inequalities of the ground, it appeared difficult for a single horseman to advance even a few yards without falling. And upon this side it had been judged sufficient to post a single sentinel.
Assured by the many precautions adopted, and by the cheerful language of the officer on guard, who attended her to the carriage door, Paulina, with one attendant, took her seat in the coach, where she had the means of fencing herself sufficiently from the cold by the weighty robes of minever and ermine which her ample wardrobe afforded; and the large dimensions of the coach enabled her to turn it to the use of a sofa or couch.
Youth and health sleep well; and with all the means and appliances of the Lady Paulina, wearied besides as she had been with the fatigue of a day’s march, performed over roads almost impassable from roughness, there was little reason to think that she would miss the benefit of her natural advantages. Yet sleep failed to come, or came only by fugitive snatches, which presented her with tumultuous dreams,–sometimes of the emperor’s court in Vienna, sometimes of the vast succession of troubled scenes and fierce faces that had passed before her since she had quitted that city. At one moment she beheld the travelling equipages and far-stretching array of her own party, with their military escort filing off by torchlight under the gateway of ancient cities; at another, the ruined villages, with their dismantled cottages,–doors and windows torn off, walls scorched with fire, and a few gaunt dogs, with a wolf-like ferocity in their bloodshot eyes, prowling about the ruins,–objects that had really so often afflicted her heart. Waking from those distressing spectacles, she would fall into a fitful doze, which presented her with remembrances still more alarming: bands of fierce deserters, that eyed her travelling party with a savage rapacity which did not confess any powerful sense of inferiority; and in the very fields which they had once cultivated, now silent and tranquil from utter desolation, the mouldering bodies of the unoffending peasants, left un-honored with the rites of sepulture, in many places from the mere extermination of the whole rural population of their neighborhood. To these succeeded a wild chaos of figures, in which the dress and tawny features of Bohemian gypsies conspicuously prevailed, just as she had seen them of late making war on all parties alike; and, in the person of their leader, her fancy suddenly restored to her a vivid resemblance of their suspicious host at their present quarters, and of the malicious gaze with which he had disconcerted her.
A sudden movement of the carriage awakened her, and, by the light of a lamp suspended from a projecting bough of a tree, she beheld, on looking out, the sallow countenance of the very man whose image had so recently infested her dreams. The light being considerably nearer to him than to herself, she could see without being distinctly seen; and, having already heard the very strong presumptions against this man’s honesty which had been urged by the officer, and without reply from the suspected party, she now determined to watch him.
The night was pitch dark, and Paulina felt a momentary terror creep over her as she looked into the massy blackness of the dark alleys which ran up into the woods, forced into deeper shade under the glare of the lamps from the encampment. She now reflected with some alarm that the forest commenced at this point, stretching away (as she had been told) in some directions upwards of fifty miles; and that, if the post occupied by their encampment should be inaccessible on this side to cavalry, it might, however, happen that persons with the worst designs could easily penetrate on foot from the concealments of the forest; in which case she herself, and the splendid booty of her carriage, might be the first and easiest prey. Even at this moment, the very worst of those atrocious wretches whom the times had produced might be lurking in concealment, with their eyes fastened upon the weak or exposed parts of the encampment, and waiting until midnight should have buried the majority of their wearied party into the profoundest repose, in order then to make a combined and murderous attack. Under the advantages of sudden surprise and darkness, together with the knowledge which they would not fail to possess of every road and by- path in the woods, it could scarcely be doubted that they might strike a very effectual blow at the Vienna caravan, which had else so nearly completed their journey without loss or memorable privations;–and the knowledge which Holkerstein possessed of the short limits within which his opportunities were now circumscribed would doubtless prompt him to some bold and energetic effort.
Thoughts unwelcome as these Paulina found leisure to pursue; for the ruffian landlord had disappeared almost at the same moment when she first caught a glimpse of him. In the deep silence which succeeded, she could not wean herself from the painful fascination of imagining the very worst possibilities to which their present situation was liable. She imaged to herself the horrors of a _camisade_, as she had often heard it described; she saw, in apprehension, the savage band of confederate butchers, issuing from the profound solitudes of the forest, in white shirts drawn over their armor; she seemed to read the murderous features, lighted up by the gleam of lamps–the stealthy step, and the sudden gleam of sabres; then the yell of assault, the scream of agony, the camp floating with blood; the fury, the vengeance, the pursuit;–all these circumstances of scenes at that time too familiar to Germany passed rapidly before her mind.
But after some time, as the tranquillity continued, her nervous irritation gave way to less agitating but profound sensibilities. Whither was her lover withdrawn from her knowledge? and why? and for how long a time? What an age it seemed since she had last seen him at Vienna! That the service upon which he was employed would prove honorable, she felt assured. But was it dangerous? Alas! in Germany there was none otherwise. Would it soon restore him to her society? And why had he been of late so unaccountably silent? Or again, _had_ he been silent? Perhaps his letters had been intercepted,–nothing, in fact, was more common at that time. The rarity was, if by any accident a letter reached its destination. From one of the worst solicitudes incident to such a situation Paulina was, however, delivered by her own nobility of mind, which raised her above the meanness of jealousy. Whatsoever might have happened, or into whatever situations her lover might have been thrown, she felt no fear that the fidelity of his attachment could have wandered or faltered for a moment; that worst of pangs the Lady Paulina was raised above, equally by her just confidence in herself and in her lover. But yet, though faithful to her, might he not be ill? Might he not be languishing in some one of the many distresses incident to war? Might he not even have perished?
That fear threw her back upon the calamities and horrors of war; and insensibly her thoughts wandered round to the point from which they had started, of her own immediate situation. Again she searched with penetrating eyes the black avenues of the wood, as they lay forced almost into strong relief and palpable substance by the glare of the lamps. Again she fancied to herself the murderous hearts and glaring eyes which even now might be shrouded by the silent masses of forest which stretched before her,–when suddenly a single light shot its rays from what appeared to be a considerable distance in one of the avenues. Paulina’s heart beat fast at this alarming spectacle. Immediately after, the light was shaded, or in some way disappeared. But this gave the more reason for terror. It was now clear that human beings were moving in the woods. No public road lay in that direction; nor, in so unpopulous a region, could it be imagined that travellers were likely at that time to be abroad. From their own encampment nobody could have any motive for straying to a distance on so severe a night, and at a time when he would reasonably draw upon himself the danger of being shot by the night-guard.
This last consideration reminded Paulina suddenly, as of a very singular circumstance, that the appearance of the light had been followed by no challenge from the sentinel. And then first she remembered that for some time she had ceased to hear the sentinel’s step, or the rattle of his bandoleers. Hastily looking along the path, she discovered too certainly that the single sentinel posted on that side of their encampment was absent from his station. It might have been supposed that he had fallen asleep from the severity of the cold; but in that case the lantern which he carried attached to his breast would have continued to burn; whereas all traces of light had vanished from the path which he perambulated. The error was now apparent to Paulina, both in having appointed no more than one sentinel to this quarter, and also in the selection of his beat. There had been frequent instances throughout this war in which by means of a net, such as that carried by the Roman _retiarius_ in the contests of the gladiators, and dexterously applied by two persons from behind, a sentinel had been suddenly muffled, gagged, and carried off, without much difficulty. For such a purpose it was clear that the present sentinel’s range, lying by the margin of a wood from which his minutest movements could be watched at leisure by those who lay in utter darkness themselves, afforded every possible facility. Paulina scarcely doubted that he had been indeed carried off, in some such way, and not impossibly almost whilst she was looking on.
She would now have called aloud, and have alarmed the camp; but at the very moment when she let down the glass the savage landlord reappeared, and, menacing her with a pistol, awed her into silence. He bore upon his head a moderate-sized trunk, or portmanteau, which appeared, by the imperfect light, to be that in which some despatches had been lodged from the imperial government to different persons in Klosterheim. This had been cut from one of the carriages in her suite; and her anxiety was great on recollecting that, from some words of the emperor’s, she had reason to believe one, at least, of the letters which it conveyed to be in some important degree connected with the interests of her lover. Satisfied, however, that he would not find it possible to abscond with so burdensome an article in any direction that could save him from instant pursuit and arrest, she continued to watch for the moment when she might safely raise the alarm. But great was her consternation when she saw a dark figure steal from a thicket, receive the trunk from the other, and instantly retreat into the deepest recesses of the forest.
Her fears now gave way to the imminence of so important a loss; and she endeavored hastily to open the window of the opposite door. But this had been so effectually barricaded against the cold, that she failed in her purpose, and, immediately turning back to the other side, she called, loudly,–“Guard! guard!” The press of carriages, however, at this point, so far deadened her voice, that it was some time before the alarm reached the other side of the encampment distinctly enough to direct their motions to her summons. Half a dozen yagers and an officer at length presented themselves; but the landlord had disappeared, she knew not in what direction. Upon explaining the circumstances of the robbery, however, the officer caused his men to light a number of torches, and advance into the wood. But the ground was so impracticable in most places, from tangled roots and gnarled stumps of trees, that it was with difficulty they could keep their footing. They were also embarrassed by the crossing shadows From the innumerable boughs above them; and a situation of greater perplexity for effective pursuit it was scarcely possible to imagine. Everywhere they saw alleys, arched high overhead, and resembling the aisles of a cathedral, as much in form as in the perfect darkness which reigned in both at this solemn hour of midnight, stretching away apparently without end, but more and more obscure, until impenetrable blackness terminated the long vista. Now and then a dusky figure was seen to cross at some distance; but these were probably deer; and when loudly challenged by the yagers, no sound replied but the vast echoes of the forest. Between these interminable alleys, which radiated as from a centre at this point, there were generally thickets interposed. Sometimes the wood was more open, and clear of all undergrowth–shrubs, thorns, or brambles–for a considerable distance, so that a single file of horsemen might have penetrated for perhaps half a mile; but belts of thicket continually checked their progress, and obliged them to seek their way back to some one of the long vistas which traversed the woods between the frontiers of Suabia and Bavaria.
In this perplexity of paths, the officer halted his party to consider of his further course. At this moment one of the yagers protested that he had seen a man’s hat and face rise above a thicket of bushes, apparently not more than a hundred and fifty yards from their own position. Upon that the party were ordered to advance a little, and to throw in a volley, as nearly as could be judged, into the very spot pointed out by the soldier. It seemed that he had not been mistaken; for a loud laugh of derision rose immediately a little to the left of the bushes. The laughter swelled upon the silence of the night, and in the next moment was taken up by another on the right, which again was echoed by a third on the rear. Peal after peal of tumultuous and scornful laughter resounded from the remoter solitudes of the forest; and the officer stood aghast to hear this proclamation of defiance from a multitude of enemies, where he had anticipated no more than the very party engaged in the robbery.
To advance in pursuit seemed now both useless and dangerous. The laughter had probably been designed expressly to distract his choice of road at a time when the darkness and intricacies of the ground had already made it sufficiently indeterminate. In which direction, out of so many whence he had heard the sounds, a pursuit could be instituted with any chance of being effectual, seemed now as hopeless a subject of deliberation as it was possible to imagine. Still, as he had been made aware of the great importance attached to the trunk, which might very probably contain despatches interesting to the welfare of Klosterheim, and the whole surrounding territory, he felt grieved to retire without some further attempt for its recovery. And he stood for a few moments irresolutely debating with himself, or listening to the opinions of his men.
His irresolution was very abruptly terminated. All at once, upon the main road from Klosterheim, at an angle about half a mile ahead where it first wheeled into sight from Waldenhausen, a heavy thundering trot was heard ringing from the frozen road, as of a regular body of cavalry advancing rapidly upon their encampment. There was no time to be lost; the officer instantly withdrew his yagers from the wood, posted a strong guard at the wood side, sounded the alarm throughout the camp, agreeably to the system of signals previously concerted, mounted about thirty men, whose horses and themselves were kept in perfect equipment during each of the night-watches, and then advancing to the head of the barriers, prepared to receive the party of strangers in whatever character they should happen to present themselves.
All this had been done with so much promptitude and decision, that, on reaching the barriers, the officer found the strangers not yet come up. In fact, they had halted at a strong outpost about a quarter of a mile in advance of Waldenhausen; and though one or two patrollers came dropping in from by-roads on the forest-heath, who reported them as enemies, from the indistinct view they had caught of their equipments, it had already become doubtful from their movements whether they would really prove so.
Two of their party were now descried upon the road, and nearly close up with the gates of Waldenhausen; they were accompanied by several of the guard from the outpost; and, immediately on being hailed, they exclaimed, “Friends, and from Klosterheim!”
He who spoke was a young cavalier, magnificent alike in his person, dress, and style of his appointments. He was superbly mounted, wore the decorations of a major-general in the imperial service, and scarcely needed the explanations which he gave to exonerate himself from the suspicion of being a leader of robbers under Holkerstein. Fortunately enough, also, at a period when officers of the most distinguished merit were too often unfaithful to their engagements, or passed with so much levity from service to service as to justify an indiscriminate jealousy of all who were not in the public eye, it happened that the officer of the watch, formerly, when mounting guard at the imperial palace, had been familiar with the personal appearance of the cavalier, and could speak of his own knowledge to the favor which he had enjoyed at the emperor’s court. After short explanations, therefore, he was admitted, and thankfully welcomed in the camp; and the officer of the guard departed to receive with honor the generous volunteers at the outpost.
Meantime, the alarm, which was general throughout the camp, had assembled all the women to one quarter, where a circle of carriages had been formed for their protection. In their centre, distinguished by her height and beauty, stood the Lady Paulina, dispensing assistance from her wardrobe to any who were suffering from cold under this sudden summons to night air, and animating others, who were more than usually depressed, by the aids of consolation and of cheerful prospects. She had just turned her face away from the passage by which this little sanctuary communicated with the rest of the camp, and was in the act of giving directions to one of her attendants, when suddenly a well-known voice fell upon her ear. It was the voice of the stranger cavalier, whose natural gallantry had prompted him immediately to relieve the alarm, which, unavoidably, he had himself created; in a few words, he was explaining to the assembled females of the camp in what character, and with how many companions, he had come. But a shriek from Paulina interrupted him. Involuntarily she held out her open arms, and involuntarily she exclaimed, “Dearest Maximilian!” On his part, the young cavalier, for a moment or two at first, was almost deprived of speech by astonishment and excess of pleasure. Bounding forward, hardly conscious of those who surrounded them, with a rapture of faithful love he caught the noble young beauty into his arms,–a movement to which, in the frank innocence of her heart, she made no resistance; folded her to his bosom, and impressed a fervent kiss upon her lips; whilst the only words that came to his own were, “Beloved Paulina! 0, most beloved lady! what chance has brought you hither?”
In those days of tragical confusion, and of sudden catastrophe, alike for better or for worse,–when the rendings asunder of domestic charities were often without an hour’s warning, when reunions were as dramatic and as unexpected as any which are exhibited on the stage, and too often separations were eternal,–the circumstances of the times concurred with the spirit of manners to sanction a tone of frank expression to the stronger passions, which the reserve of modern habits would not entirely license. And hence, not less than from the noble ingenuousness of their natures, the martial young cavalier, and the superb young beauty of the imperial house, on recovering themselves from their first transports, found no motives to any feeling of false shame, either in their own consciousness, or in the reproving looks of any who stood around them. On the contrary, as the grown-up spectators were almost exclusively female, to whom the evidences of faithful love are never other than a serious subject, or naturally associated with the ludicrous, many of them expressed their sympathy with the scene before them by tears, and all of them in some way or other. Even in this age of more fastidious manners, it is probable that the tender interchanges of affection between a young couple rejoining each other after deep calamities, and standing on the brink of fresh, perhaps endless separations, would meet with something of the same indulgence from the least interested witnesses.
Hence the news was diffused through the camp with general satisfaction, that a noble and accomplished cavalier, the favored lover of their beloved young mistress, had joined them from Klosterheim, with a chosen band of volunteers, upon whose fidelity in action they might entirely depend. Some vague account floated about, at the same time, of the marauding attack upon the Lady Paulina’s carriage. But naturally enough, from the confusion and hurry incident to a nocturnal disturbance, the circumstances were mixed up with the arrival of Maximilian, in a way which ascribed to him the merit of having repelled an attack, which might else have proved fatal to the lady of his heart. And this romantic interposition of Providence on a young lady’s behalf, through the agency of her lover, unexpected on her part, and unconscious on his, proved so equally gratifying to the passion for the marvellous and the interest in youthful love, that no other or truer version of the case could ever obtain a popular acceptance in the camp, or afterwards in Klosterheim. And had it been the express purpose of Maximilian to found a belief, for his own future benefit, of a providential sanction vouchsafed to his connection with the Lady Paulina, he could not, by the best-arranged contrivances, have more fully attained that end.
It was yet short of midnight by more than an hour; and therefore, on the suggestion of Maximilian, who reported the roads across the forest perfectly quiet, and alleged some arguments for quieting the general apprehension for this night, the travellers and troops retired to rest, as the best means of preparing them to face the trials of the two next days. It was judged requisite, however, to strengthen the night-guard very considerably, and to relieve it at least every two hours. That the poor sentinel on the forest side of the encampment had been in some mysterious way trepanned upon his post, was now too clearly ascertained, for he was missing; and the character of the man, no less than the absence of all intelligible temptation to such an act, forbade the suspicion of his having deserted. On this quarter, therefore, a file of select marksmen were stationed, with directions instantly to pick off every moving figure that showed itself within their range. Of these men Maximilian himself took the command; and by this means he obtained the opportunity, so enviable to one long separated from his mistress, of occasionally conversing with her, and of watching over her safety. In one point he showed a distinguished control over his inclinations; for, much as he had to tell her, and ardently as he longed for communicating with her on various subjects of common interest, he would not suffer her to keep the window down for more than a minute or two in so dreadful a state of the atmosphere. She, on her part, exacted a promise from him that he would leave his station at three o’clock in the morning. Meantime, as on the one hand she felt touched by this proof of her lover’s solicitude for her safety, so, on the other, she was less anxious on his account, from the knowledge she had of his long habituation to the hardships of a camp, with which, indeed, he had been familiar from his childish days. Thus debarred from conversing with her lover, and at the same time feeling the most absolute confidence in his protection, she soon fell placidly asleep. The foremost subject of her anxiety and sorrow was now removed; her lover had been restored to her hopes; and her dreams were no longer haunted with horrors. Yet, at the same time, the turbulence of joy and of hope fulfilled unexpectedly had substituted its own disturbances; and her sleep was often interrupted. But, as often as that happened, she had the delightful pleasure of seeing her lover’s figure, with its martial equipments, and the drooping plumes of his yager barrette, as he took his station at her carriage, traced out on the ground in the bright glare of the flambeaux. She awoke, therefore, continually to the sense of restored happiness; and at length fell finally asleep, to wake no more until the morning trumpet, at the break of day, proclaimed the approaching preparations for the general movement of the camp.
Snow had fallen in the night. Towards four o’clock in the morning, amongst those who held that watch there had been a strong apprehension that it would fall heavily. But that state of the atmosphere had passed off; and it had not in fact fallen sufficiently to abate the cold, or much to retard their march. According to the usual custom of the camp, a general breakfast was prepared, at which all, without distinction, messed together–a sufficient homage being expressed to superior rank by resigning the upper part of every table to those who had any distinguished pretensions of that kind. On this occasion Paulina had the gratification of seeing the public respect offered in the most marked manner to her lover. He had retired about daybreak to take an hour’s repose,–for she found, from her attendants, with mingled vexation and pleasure, that he had not fulfilled his promise of retiring at an earlier hour, in consequence of some renewed appearances of a suspicious kind in the woods. In his absence, she heard a resolution proposed and carried, amongst the whole body of veteran officers attached to the party, that the chief military command should be transferred to Maximilian, not merely as a distinguished favorite of the emperor, but also, and much more, as one of the most brilliant cavalry officers in the imperial service. This resolution was communicated to him on his taking the place reserved for him, at the head of the principal breakfast-table; and Paulina thought that he had never appeared more interesting, or truly worthy of admiration, than under that exhibition of courtesy and modest dignity with which he first earnestly declined the honor in favor of older officers, and then finally complied with what he found to be the sincere wish of the company, by frankly accepting it. Paulina had grown up amongst military men, and had been early trained to a sympathy with military merit,–the very court of the emperor had something of the complexion of a camp,– and the object of her own youthful choice was elevated in her eyes, if it were at all possible that he should be so, by this ratification of his claims on the part of those whom she looked up to as the most competent judges.
Before nine o’clock the van of the party was in motion; then, with a short interval, came all the carriages of every description, and the Papenheim dragoons as a rear-guard. About eleven the sun began to burst out, and illuminated, with the cheerful crimson of a frosty morning, those horizontal draperies of mist which had previously stifled his beams. The extremity of the cold was a good deal abated by this time, and Paulina, alighting from her carriage, mounted a led horse, which gave her the opportunity, so much wished for by them both, of conversing freely with Maximilian. For a long time the interest and animation of their reciprocal communications, and the magnitude of the events since they had parted, affecting either or both of them directly, or in the persons of their friends, had the natural effect of banishing any dejection which nearer and more pressing concerns would else have called forth. But, in the midst of this factitious animation, and the happiness which otherwise so undisguisedly possessed Maximilian at their unexpected reunion, it shocked Paulina to observe in her lover a degree of gravity almost amounting to sadness, which argued in a soldier of his gallantry some overpowering sense of danger. In fact, upon being pressed to say the worst, Maximilian frankly avowed that he was ill at ease with regard to their prospects when the hour of trial should arrive; and that hour he had no hope of evading. Holkerstein, he well knew, had been continually receiving reports of their condition, as they reached their nightly stations, for the last three days. Spies had been round about them, and even in the midst of them, throughout the darkness of the last night. Spies were keeping pace with them as they advanced. The certainty of being attacked was therefore pretty nearly absolute. Then, as to their means of defence, and the relations