« PreviousContinue »
not of remarkably rapid growth, and how are the poor peasantry to subsist in the mean time P But supposing the trees full-grown, the worms hatched, fed, transfigured, and enclosed in myriads of cocoons, is it not probable that the same untoward causes and commercial obstacles which denied them a profitable market in the wine trade, will be equally adverse to the sale of their silk 2 Besides, Moselle wine is only grown on the Moselle; whereas, in the other article, there will be a competition. But the system is in fault, not the commodity; and when a man does business on a losing principle, it is all one whether he deals in figs or in tenpenny nails l’” In our progress from the market, we arrived at a small Square, in the midst of which stood an extraordinary vehicle, that, except for the inscription, might have been taken for a Mammoth's travelling caravan. On measurement, it was nine (German) feet wide and thirty-six long. Markham pointed at it with great glee. “That unwieldy machine,” said he, “was
the invention of one of the military contractors, a Mr. Bohne, or Bean, who ought to be called Broad Bean for the future. A fortnight ago it left Berlin, with eleven thousand schakos, two thousand of which it has delivered by the way, at Erfurt and Mayence; the rest are bound to Luxemburg. The Germans have a proverb, that, if you can get over the dog, you can get over his tail; but in the present case the hitch was comparatively at the tail. The monster machine had got over the greater part of the journey, when it stuck in the gate of Baccharach, stopping the eil-wagen, the extra-posts, and every other carriage in its rear. Next, it was two whole days in getting through, or rather round, Boppart, for it had to be taken to pieces, and to circumvent the town by water, — and now here it is, with a few more such difficulties between itself and its ultimate destination. However, the thing carries a moral. Goethe charged the English with want of reflection, that they did not look backward enough ; and here is a proof that the Germans do not sufficiently look ahead ; in short, whilst our object is pace, and our only cry is ‘Hark, forward l’ they are perpetually trying back, with a cold scent, towards their great-grandfathers and grandmothers.” There ! You have had a tolerable course of Markham ; but you will be interested in the tone of his mind, as well as in the course of his fortunes. He afterwards took me up to Ehrenbreitstein, where we met with a friend of his, Captain Walton, an Englishman by birth, but in the Prussian service. On comparing notes with this gentleman, it came out that I was familiar with several of his friends in Kent; and from what I heard of him, it is likely that we shall be intimates. From the Fortress, we proceeded to view an ancient Roman tower in the vicinity, where I picked up a hint for the story you will find enclosed. Love to Emily from Yours ever truly, FRANK SOMERVILLE.
THE LAST OF THE ROMANS.
A TALE OF EHRENBREITSTEIN.
THE night was breezy and cloudy, but the moon was at full, and, as the opaque vapors flitted across her silver disk, that grand mass of rock and masonry, “the Broad Stone of Honor,” gleamed fitfully or frowned darkly on the valley beneath. On the right rose the mouldering, slender, round tower, of Roman origin; on the left, the wind moaned through the waving poplars on the height of Pfaffendorf; below, lay the snugly sheltered Thal Ehrenbreitstein, beyond which the broad, rapid Rhine reflected the red and yellow lights of the opposite city of Coblentz.
The hour was late, for Germany; and the good Pfarrer Schmidt, aided by the steep descent, was stepping homeward at a good round pace, when suddenly a sound struck on his ear like a groan. He instantly paused to listen, and distinctly heard a rattling, which, to his surprise, seemed to come from the ancient Tower, and in another minute a tall, stalwart figure came stumbling down the dilapidated steps of the old gray building; and, staggering like a drunken man towards our wayfarer, addressed him with a few words, in one of the dead tongues. The language, however, was not unknown, for it was the same in which the good pastor repeated the offices of his religion, — wherefore, replying to the stranger in Latin, they entered at once into discourse. But the conversation had not gone far, ere, suddenly recoiling three or four steps backward, the priest began to mutter and cross himself with the utmost fervor. And little wonder ; for, by help of a glance of the moon, it was plain that the figure had no kind of clothing on its body, save an old rusty cuirass, which, with the extraordinary tenor of its last question, — “And how fares the noble Caesar P” – sufficed to convince the astonished priest that he was communing with either a resuscitated Roman, or a Roman Ghost !
At so awful a discovery, it is natural to suppose that the priest must have immediately taken to flight; but, in the first place, he had a strong belief in the efficacy of the exorcisms and other spiritual defences with which he was armed; and, secondly, terror, which acts variously on different individuals, seemed to root him to the spot. In the mean time, the figure, folding its arms, turned from side to side, cast a glance at the dark modern citadel, then at the opposite fort of Pfaffendorf, and then, muttering the word “Confluentia,” took a long, long look across the glittering river. Again and again the apparition rubbed its eyes as if doubtful of being in a dream. At last, arousing from this reverie, the figure again addressed the pastor with great earnestness, at the same time laying its hand upon his arm. The action made the priest start and tremble excessively; but by a very sensible pressure, it served to convince him that the figure, whatever it might be, was not merely a phantom. Wonder now began to mingle and struggle with fear, and by degrees getting the mastery, the priest, after a devout inward prayer, took courage, and by a sign invited the stranger to accompany him towards his home. The figure immediately complied, - and walking parallel with each other, but with a good space between, they began to descend the steep, the priest noticing with secret satisfaction, as the moon shone out, that his mysterious companion, like a solid body, threw a distinct shadow across the road. Arrived at the parsonage, which was not far distant, the pastor conducted his strange guest into his study, and carefully closed the door. His next concern was to furnish his visitor with decent garments; and, with much difficulty and persuasion, the ancient was induced to put on a modern suit of black. For some considerable time neither of them spoke a word, each being absorbed in the same occupation of gazing and marvelling at the other; and remembering that the host was a Catholic priest of the nineteenth century, and the guest a contemporary of Julius Caesar, it is easy to imagine that they mutually found matter enough for admiration to tie up their tongues. But at last, the stranger breaking the silence, they again engaged in discourse, which was long and earnest, as needs must have been, where one party had to be convinced that he had been dead and buried above a thousand years. However, the hasty observations he had made on the altered aspect of Confluentia and its vicinity, helped to confirm the Roman that only a vast lapse of time could have wrought the great changes he had remarked. In reply to the priest, he said that he was a Centurion, by name Paratus Postumus, of the 22d Legion, who had accompanied Julius Caesar in his second passage across the Rhine to make war on the Catti. That he was subject to fits, and had once or twice been on the point of premature interment whilst he lay in a trance. Thereupon, as if recollecting himself, he suddenly started up on his feet, and eagerly inquired for the nearest temple, that he might go and offer up his grateful vows for his wondrous revival. Such a question made the pious pastor look extremely grave, and he again crossed himself very fervently, on being thus vividly reminded that the stranger introduced beneath his roof was in verity a heathen However, on reflection, he comforted himself with the hope of the glory that would accrue to himself and to his church, by making so miraculous a convert; and to this end, after giving a rapid sketch of the decline and fall of Paganism, he began to unfold and extol the grand scheme of Christianity, according to the interpretations of the Council of Trent. But to this latter part of his discourse, the Roman listened with impatience, and finally ceased to listen at all. The downfall of his own multifarious faith, – the destruction of its temples and altars, under Constantine, alone engrossed his thoughts, and, to judge by the workings of his rugged countenance, gave him singular pain and concern. For some time he remained buried in meditation, but at length suddenly raising his arms towards heaven, and lifting his eyes in the same direction, “O great Jupiter l’’ he exclaimed, “it cannot be There must be some relics of that glorious theogony still left upon earth, – and I will wander the whole wide world through till I discover where they exist!” So saying, he pointed to the door with so stern a look, that the trembling priest, giving up all hope of his miraculous convert, was fain to obey the signal, which was again repeated at the outer gate. For a moment the figure paused at the threshold, and then, after a gracious expression of thanks, strode forth into the blank darkness, and disappeared