« PreviousContinue »
As Macheath sings, “a terrible show !” — but the doctor, in common with his countrymen, entertained some rather exaggerated notions as to English habits, and our general addiction to high feeding and fast living, — an impression that materially aggravated the treatment. “He must be a horse-doctor l’” thought Miss Crane, as she looked over the above articles — at any rate she resolved — as if governed by the proportion of four legs to two — that her parent should only take one half of each dose that was ordered. But even these reduced quantities were too much for the Rev. T. C. The first instalment he swallowed, the second he smelt, and the third he merely looked at. To tell the truth, he was fast transforming from a Malade Imaginaire, into a Malade Malgré Lui. In short, the cure procecded with the rapidity of a Hohenlohe miracle, – a result the doctor did not fail to attribute to the energy of his measures, at the same time resolving that the next English patient he -might catch should be subjected to the same decisive treatment. Heaven keep the half, three quarters, and the whole lengths of my dear countrymen and countrywomen from his Exhibitions ! His third visit to the Englishers at the Adler was his last. He found the Convalescent in his travelling-dress, – Miss Ruth engaged in packing, — and the Schoolmistress writing the letter which was to prepare Miss Parfitt for the speedy return of the family party to Lebanon House. It was, of course, a busy time; and the Medecin Rath speedily took his fees and his leave. There remained only the account to settle with the landlord of the Adler; and as English families rarely stopped at that wretched inn, the amount of the bill was quite as extraordinary. Never was there such a realization of the “large reckoning in a little room.” “Well, I must say,” murmured the Schoolmistress, as the coach rumbled off towards home, “I do wish we had reached Gotha, that I might have got my shades of wool.” “Humph !” grunted the Rev. T. C., still sore from the recent disbursement. “They went out for wool, and they returned shorn.” “We went abroad for pleasure,” grumbled Miss Ruth, “and have met with nothing but pain and trouble.”
“And some instruction too,” said Miss Crane, with even more than her usual gravity. “For my own part I have met with a lesson that has taught me my own unfitness for a Governess. For I cannot think that a style of education which has made me so helpless and useless as a daughter, can be the proper one for young females who are hereafter to become wives and mothers, a truth that every hour has impressed on me since I have been a Schoolmistress Abroad.”
AMONGST the many castled crags on the banks of the Rhine, one of the most picturesque is the ruin of Lahneck, perched on a conical rock, close to that beautiful little river the Lahn. The castle itself is a venerable fragment, with one lofty tower rising far above the rest of the building, — a characteristic feature of a feudal stronghold, – being in fact the observatory of the Robber-Baron, whence he watched, not the motions of the heavenly bodies, but the movements of such earthly ones as might afford him a booty, or threaten him with an assault. And truly, Lahneck is said to have been the residence of an order of Teutonic Knights exactly matching in number the famous band of thieves in the Arabian Tale.
However, when the sun sets in a broad blaze behind the heights of Capellen, and the fine ruin of Stolzenfels on the opposite banks of the Rhine, its last rays always linger on the lofty tower of Lahneck. Many a time, while standing rod in hand on one or other of the brown rocks which, narrowing the channel of the river, form a small rapid, very favorable to the fisherman, – many a time have I watched the rich warm light burning beacon-like on the very summit of that solitary tower, whilst all the river lay beneath in deepest shadow, save the golden circles that marked where a fish rose to the surface, or the bright corruscations made by the screaming swallow as it sportively dipped its wing in the dusky water, like a gay friend breaking in on the cloudy reveries of a moody mind. And as these natural lights faded away, the artificial ones of the village of Lahnstein began to twinkle, — the glowing windows of Duquet's hospitable pavilion, especially, throwing across the stream a series of dancing reflections that shone the brighter for the sombre shadows of a massy cluster of acacias in the tavern-garden. Then the myriads of chafers, taking to wing, filled the air with droning, — whilst the lovely fireflies with their fairy lamps began to flit across my homeward path, or hovered from osier to osier, along the calm waterside. But a truce to these personal reminiscences.
It was on a fine afternoon, towards the close of May, 1830, that two ladies began slowly to climb the winding path which leads through a wild shrubbery to the ruined Castle of Lahneck. They were unaccompanied by any person of the other sex; but such rambles are less perilous for unprotected females in that country than in our own, – and they had enjoyed several similar excursions without accident or offence. At any rate, to judge from their leisurely steps, and the cheerful tone of their voices, they apprehended no more danger than might accrue to a gauze or a ribbon from an overhanging branch or a stray bramble. The steepness of the ascent forced them occasionally to halt to take breath, but they stopped quite as frequently to gather the wild-flowers, and especially the sweet valley-lilies, there so abundant, — to look up at the time-stained ruin from a new point, or to comment on the beauties of the scenery.
The elder of the ladies spoke in English, to which her companion replied in the same language, but with a foreign accent, and occasional idioms, that belonged to another tongue. In fact, she was a native of Germany, whereas the other was one of those many thousands of British travellers whom the long peace, the steamboat, and the poetry of Byron had tempted to visit the “blue and arrowy” river. Both were young, handsome, and accomplished; but the Fraulein Von B. was unmarried ; whilst Mrs. was a wife and a mother, and with her husband and her two children had occupied for some weeks a temporary home within the walls of Coblentz. It was in this city that a friendship had been formed between the German girl and the fair Islander, — the gentle pair who were now treading so freely and fearlessly under the walls of a castle where womanly beauty might formerly have ventured as safely as the doe near the den of the lion. But those days are happily gone by, - the dominion of brute force is over, — and the Wild Baron who doomed his victims to the treacherous abyss has dropped into an Oubliette as dark and as deep as his own.
At last the two ladies gained the summit of the mountain, and for some minutes stood still and silent, as if entranced by the beauty of the scene before them. There are elevations at which the mind loses breath as well as the body, - and pants too thickly with thought upon thought to find ready utterance. This was especially the case with the Englishwoman, whose cheek flushed, while her eyes glistened with tears; for the soul is touched by beauty as well as melted by kindness, and here nature was lavish of both, – at once charming, cheering, and refreshing her with a magnificent prospect, the brightest of sunshine, and the balmiest air. Her companion, in the mean time, was almost as taciturn, merely uttering the names of the places, – Ober-Lahnstein, Capellen, Stolzenfels, Nieder-Lahnstein, St. John's Church, – to which she successively pointed with her little white finger. Following its direction, the other lady slowly turned round, till her eyes rested on the castle itself, but she was too near to see the ruin to advantage, and her neck ached as she strained it to look up at the lofty tower which rose almost from her feet. Still she continued to gaze upward, till her indefinite thoughts grew into a wish that she could ascend to the top, and thence, as if suspended in air, enjoy an uninterrupted view of the whole horizon. It was with delight, therefore, that on turning an angle of the wall she discovered a low open arch which admitted her to the interior, where, after a little groping, she perceived a flight of stone steps, winding, as far as the eye could trace, up the massive walls.
The staircase, however, looked very dark, or rather dismal, after the bright sunshine she had just quitted, but the whim of the moment, the spirit of adventure and curiosity, induced her to proceed, although her companion, who was more phlegmatic, started several difficulties and doubts as to the practicability of the ascent. There were, however no obstacles to surmount beyond the gloom, some trifling heaps of rubbish, and the fatigue of mounting so many gigantic steps. But this weariness was richly repaid, whenever through an occasional loophole she caught a sample of the bright blue sky, and which like samples in general appeared of a far more intense and beautiful color than any she had ever seen in the whole piece. No, never had heaven seemed so heavenly, or earth so lovely, or water so clear and pure, as through those