Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

most quiet and retired, and did everything, even before my wife or myself could ask her.

The news that the prince would return on the 1st of May, and bring illustrious guests with him, was correct enough; the head forester told me so himself, when I took my books up to Monplaisir on the 30th of April.

In consequence, when I returned home, I proposed to my wife that she should invite all our friends in the neighbourhood to come to us on the 1st of May, as we had not seen them for some time. On this day we were certain, in consequence of Prince Leopold's return to the Residence, that none of the royal family would come up, and when the duke had once, removed to Monplaisir, we should not have an hour at liberty. She was willing As, however, we did not wish any chattering, or inquiries, I ordered Sophie to remain the whole day in the pavilion, and locked the door myself upon her, in order to be quite certain, after I had taken her some food.

In those days we used to be merrier than we are now, as we did not spend so much in dress and that sort of nonsense. As the 1st of May was a glorious day, my wife had put the dinner-table under the chestnut trees before the house, and we were all in charming humour.

We had finished dinner: the men were sitting over their coffee, while the women and girls were running about and having their gossip out. I had not spared the wine, and we were already beginning not to care for anything that took place within fifty yards of us. Certain things, though, never escape a sportsman's ear, even if he is half deaf. The peasant waggons rolled past the house, without a soul turning to look at them; but suddenly your godfather, the forester Von Ellingen, said: “ By Jupiter! I hear the sound of horses' hoofs behind us, which must belong to some royal equipage.”

He was quite right; almost before we could wipe our beards and rise from our seats an open carriage drove up with two ladies, without any further escort than a livery servant behind.

We drew up in rank and file; but I thought I should have a stroke, and my face must have looked strange enough, when the Princess Leopold got down, walked straight to me, and said:

“ You need not disturb yourself, Monsieur Dietrich; I had a fancy to spend the pleasantest day of the year under the forest-trees. You can remain with your guests; only give me the keys of the pavilion, that we may rest there a little while. Your wife will perhaps be kind enough to bring us a glass of milk and some black bread, with some of her excellent butter; we mean to live like country folk to-day.”

The princess was really a pretty woman, and could be very affable when she pleased; but the thought that she was a king's daughter left her no peace, and jealousy had made her cold as ice. No one ever knew exactly how to take her, least of all on this day.

Still I did not like the idea of being taken by storm, and told her that I was proud of the honour done to my house; but that, with all possible devotion, I would advise her not to go to the pavilion, as the garden was not dry yet, and the walls and atmosphere might be damp.

She had got the idea in her head once for all, and insisted upon it. 66 Then, at least, I will go first, and open the shutters, so that the warm

air may blow through it for half an hour,” I said, and was going to hurry away.

She held me firmly by the arm, however : “ I am sure it is not necessary, dear forester. I will go with you at once; I will only speak a couple of words to your wife.”

She was remarkably gracious with my Catharine, who had now hurried up, and had not half finished her curtseys. Then, however, the princess motioned me to precede her, and followed close at my heels.

I did not know whether I should walk fast or slow, for I clearly perceived that she must have gained some scent of Sophie's affair, for, at other times, she was so anxious about her beauty and health ; and her present situation rendered such precautions doubly necessary.

I felt about as cheerful as a sinner on his road to the gallows, when he at length knows that there is no escape for him. And still less was I frightened about the disgrace which must fall upon me, than about the noise which two women would make who meet on this battle-field; for, when the question is about such a mine and thine, all respect and rank are forgotten.

Still, for all that, I did not lose my head, but hurried on like lightning ; when we reached the garden-gate, quickly unlocked the pavilion door, but pretended to be greatly surprised, as if I had found it open, and begged the princess, who hastily followed me, to pardon it, that a young woman, a relation of ours, was in the pavilion before we came, who had retired here without saying a word to any one, because we had been too noisy for her.

The princess nodded graciously, as if to intimate that it was of no consequence; but I saw that she assumed her royal countenance.

I, like a fool, had forgotten that she must necessarily know the girl, for Sophie had been ten months at the Scharffeneck farm, every window of which can be seen from the chateau.

“Ah, indeed! the clergyman's pretty daughter from Wurzach !” the princess said, as she walked into the middle of the room. “I did not know that she was married. Who is the fortunate being ?”

What would I not have given to prompt Sophie with some falsehood! I made signs to her secretly that she should answer in this way; the affair could have been hushed up, for the moment at least.

But the girl either did not, or would not understand me. She remained for a while fixed like a statue, but at length said in a low voice, without raising her eyes, “I am not married.”

The princess attacked me.

“How can he dare to bring me near such a creature! It is most disgraceful, and more especially so in this case. What will become of our subjects if the daughters of the clergy thus openly ridicule morality and propriety?”

I have had one firm principle ever since I was a lad. If I am in the wood, and a shower commences, I run as hard as I can to get under shelter. When the storm, however, has got me firmly, I walk slowly, and let it pour over me; for I must become wet, and what is the use of troubling myself in the bargain?

I thought the same on this occasion: “ Keep quiet and let it pour !" In consequence, I made no reply, but made a motion towards the girl to lead her away.

But Sophie walked up close to the princess, and looked so boldly in her face with her black eyes that I was quite pleased at it, since matters had gone so far, for the princess could not support her glance, however much she forced herself to do so.

Sophie was pale as marble, and remained so during her whole life from that hour; her lips quivered and trembled as she said :

“ Too much is too much! How dare the princess upbraid me, when she herself ”

“Impudent creature !" the princess exclaimed in her anger, "you would insult my husband !"

“ Your husband who hates you—your husband who loves me,” Sophie said, almost in a whisper; but contempt spoke in her every feature. “ Trample on me, torture him, and then I swear to you your husband will become mine !"

The girl rushed out, and the princess sank without a word into the chair upon which her rival had so lately been sitting.

When we at length brought the princess to her senses, and the convulsions ceased, we carried her in a half dying state to her carriage. I blessed God that she was, at least, gone, apologised to my guests, who stood stupidly around, and could not understand it at all, and after saddling my best horse, galloped at full speed to Prince Leopold in the Residence.

I found him still dressed in travelling costume, and perfectly furious that his wife had gone out secretly this morning, not to be found to greet him on his return. Still he listened to me calmly, when I told him all, how it happened from the commencement, first with Sophie and then with the princess.

He then gave me directions to bring the girl that same evening, as soon as I reached home, with great secrecy to the house of his physician in ordinary at the Residence, where he would have everything prepared in the mean while. He then dismissed me very kindly :

“Adieu, Dietrich; you are an honest fellow, and no one shall do you any harm. But I fear, greatly, that Sophie is in the right; she will become my wife. I will not be condemned to unhappiness all my life merely because I am a prince. Remember me to my angel, and console her till I can do so myself.”

I was happy as a prince when I had delivered the girl that same evening to Dr. Klein, for she was entirely altered since the terrible scene. If ever I believed in an evil spirit, it was during this night's drive, for Sophie said nothing but, “ She or 1-she or I! If I knew a spell by which to kill her, I would utter it with joy !"

From this point I do not know the rest of the story so exactly, for I even avoided inquiring about it.

The separation, however, could not be effected so easily. The reigning duke, who alone could grant permission, was very angry about the scandal, and because he was disturbed in his own comfort and forced to marry, that he might have an heir to the throne.

We cannot, either, blame the princess, because she did not make room for the parson's daughter, or let herself be condemned in her youthful days to perpetual widowhood, for a princess is to be pitied in such a case; in the first place she is often married against her will, and even if she

separates from her husband afterwards, that does not give her her liberty again as it does other women.

An accident is the best thing to solve such a difficulty. Thus, very fortunately, the princess expired within a year, and, soon afterwards, the prince was united to Sophie with the left hand, by permission of Duke Maximilian, who had, in the mean while, been blessed with a son.

The married couple lived quietly and happily, as everybody said, but nearly always in foreign parts, until Duke Maximilian himself died, and Prince Leopold was compelled to undertake the regency.

Though at court and in town, the imperial Countess von Geierstein, as Sophie was now called, was not beloved, however much good she did, and however little she interfered in matters which did not concern a woman. The common people never saw her smile, and at court all was as quiet as in a monastery, or in a house where some one had lately died. The blame was also attached to her, that the prince regent took away so much money from the country, to spend it in his eternal travels through Europe.

From these reasons folks were also disposed to say evil of Sophie, and the story was long current, that she had never been cheerful since the cook to the former princess confessed on his dying bed, “that he had given the princess something to render the countess well disposed towards him.”

Even at the present day I can form no clear idea on the subject, and it is a difficult task to do so. For whenever any one who is in the way dies suddenly at court, people cry “Poison !" directly, though it may have been the most ordinary disease.

However, a true blessing and real joy never rested, most certainly, on this branch of the family.

A VOICE TO THE SA D.

BY G. W. THORNBURY.
There's always sunshine somewhere in the world,
For when 'tis night with us 'tis well nigh day.
Where Tamerlane his flame-dyed flag unfurled,
Casting a shade o'er Indus ages past,
Leaving the deserts thrilling with his blast.
The cloud that's dark to us hath silver lining
That tips with azure frost our neighbour's roof;
'Tis often but a thousand dyes combining
That woven from the tempest's dusky woof.
And when we fear it's heaven-molten fire
Will fuse our city to one common pyre,
It bursteth like the seed-pod of a flower,
And 'stead of death comes down the balmy shower-
Our long-expected wish, and our desire.

FURTHER EXTRACTS FROM THE COMMONPLACE-BOOK OF

A LATELY DECEASED AUTHOR.

SHADOWS ON CHURCH WALLS. Tax Rev. Robert Conglomery snatches up the last trumpet with irreverent hand, and plays upon it the most fashionable hymn-tunes, with the richest roulades and the newest variations, and all to tickle the ears of his hearers and to fill his pews. Then there's the Rev. Curius W- , that ecclesiastical son of Anak, whose sermons are almost as long as himself, and embrace as many subjects as yesterday's Times. He speaks as if each word was accompanied by a blow; his wh's whistle like a sword cutting the air, his sentences conclude with an emphatic compression, like the last twist of a thumb-screw, and he mounts the pulpit-stairs as if he was mounting a Papist scaffold. Add to these the Rev. C- of Cheltenham, the apostle of Pump-rooms, to whom the ladies erected a pyramid of worked slippers in the city of waters, where they discuss the Pope between the tea and the muffins; and last comes Dr. Cwho one month writes a book to expound the Apocalypse, and next month writes another to refute his own arguments.

THE PERFECT MEN. In the middle ages, great men united a dozen different sciences, and excelled in all. Now we're puny, and talent is subdivided. Michael Angelo was sculptor, architect, painter, and poet. Now, we have the education of parts: the harper's finger, the jockey's knee, the engraver's eye, the dancer's foot. We prune a tree back to one branch to get any fruit at all, and when it comes 'tis stunted.

SOBRIQUETS. The English poor, in spite of their dulness, are often happy in their nicknames. I remember an old commodore at Dover who was called by the sailors “ Admiral Wholebones,” because he always escaped danger by never running into it; and during a very severe engagement with two French frigates, off Cherbourg, unfortunately could not find his slippers till just as the enemy sheered off. A usurer's house in Gloucestershire was known as “ Pinchpoor Castle;" and I have heard of a doctor famous for decimating the infant population, who got the name of “Herod" from his constant “massacre of the Innocents."

WATERING-PLACES. A facetious friend of mine, while spending a season at Ems, proposed, and actually carried into operation, a plan of classifying the company at the daily table d'hôte according to the rank of their disease. Thus: A severe liver complaint sat at the head of the table and carved, while his vis-à-vis was a disordered spleen; St. Vitus's Dance opened the ball, and a very respectable palsy presided at the tea-table. When I last heard from him he was trying to obtain a patent for a new sort of waistcoat for aldermen, with an india-rubber back, adapted for civic dinners, warranted to expand to any size, but to burst at a safe distance from

« ZurückWeiter »