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narrow apertures—never had she seen any views so charming as those exquisite snatches of landscape, framed by the massive masonry into little cabinet pictures, of a few inches square — so small, indeed, that the two friends, pressed cheek to cheek, could only behold them with one eye apiece | The Englishwoman knew at least a dozen of such tableaux, to be seen through particular loopholes in certain angles of the walls of Coblentz—but these “pictures of the Lahneck gallery,” as she termed them, transcended them all ! Nevertheless it cost her a sigh to reflect how many forlorn captives, languishing perhaps within those very walls, had been confined to such glimpses of the world without — nay, whose every prospect on this side the grave had been framed in stone. But such thoughts soon pass away from the minds of the young, the healthy, and the happy, and the next moment the fair moralist was challenging the echoes to join with her in a favorite air. Now and then indeed the song abruptly stopped, or the voice quavered on a wrong note, as a fragment of mortar rattled down to the basement, or a disturbed bat rustled from its lurking-place, or the air breathed through a crevice with a sound so like the human sigh, as to revive her melancholy fancies. But these were transient terrors, and only gāve rise to peals of light-hearted merriment, that were mocked by laughing voices from each angle of the walls. g At last the toilsome ascent was safely accomplished, and the two friends stood together on the top of the tower, drawing a long, delicious breath of the fresh, free air. For a time they were both dazzled to blindness by the sudden change from gloom to sunshine, as well as dizzy from the unaccustomed height; but these effects soon wore off, and the whole splendid panorama, – variegated with mountains, valleys, rocks, castles, chapels, spires, towns, villages, vineyards, cornfields, forests, and rivers, was revealed to the delighted sense. As the Englishwoman had anticipated, her eye could now travel unimpeded round the entire horizon, which it did again and again and again, while her lips kept repeating all the superlatives of admiration. “It is mine Faderland,” murmured the German girl, with a natural tone of triumph in the beauty of her native country. “Speak — did I not well to persuade you to remain here, by little bits, and little bits, instead of a stop at Horcheim P”
“You did, indeed, my dear Amanda. Such a noble prospect would well repay a much longer walk.” “Look!—see—dere is Rhense—and de Marxberg”—but the finger was pointed in vain, for the eyes it would have guided continued to look in the opposite direction across the Lahn. “Is it possible, from here,” inquired the Englishwoman, “to see Coblentz P” Instead of answering this question, the German girl looked up archly in the speaker's face, and then smiling and nodding her head, said slily, “Ah, you do think of a somebody at home !” Q “I was thinking of him, indeed,” replied the other, “and regretting that he is not at this moment by my side to enOW — 39 J 'so stopped short—for at that instant a tremendous peal, as of the nearest thunder, shook the tower to its very foundation. The German shrieked, and the ever-ready “Ach Gott!” burst from her quivering lips; but the Englishwoman neither stirred nor spoke, though her cheek turned of the hue of death. Some minds are much more apprehensive than others, and hers was unusually quick in its conclusions, – the thought passed from cause to consequence with the rapidity of the voltaic spark. Ere the sound had done rumbling, she knew the nature of the calamity as distinctly as if an evil spirit had whispered it in her ear. Nevertheless, an irresistible impulse, that dreadful attraction which draws us in spite of ourselves to look on what is horrible and approach to the very verge of danger, impelled her to seek the very sight she most feared to encounter. Her mind indeed recoiled, but her limbs, as by a volition superior to her own, dragged her to the brink of the abyss she had prophetically painted, where the reality presented itself with a startling resemblance to the ideal picture. Yes, there yawned that dark chasm, unfathomable by the human eye, a great gulf fixed—perhaps eternally fixed— between herself and the earth, with all it contained of most dear and precious to the heart of a wife and a mother. Three — only the three uppermost steps of the gigantic staircase still remained in their place, and even these as she gazed at them suddenly plunged into the dreary void; and after an interval which indicated the frightful depth they had to
plumb, reached the bottom with a crash that was followed by a roll of hollow echoes from the subterranean vaults!
As the sound ceased, the Englishwoman turned away, with a gasp and a visible shudder, from the horrid chasm. It was with the utmost difficulty that she had mastered a mechanical inclination to throw herself after the falling mass — an impulse very commonly induced by the unexpected descent of a large body from our own level. But what had she gained P Perhaps but a more lingering and horrible fate — a little more time to break her heart in — so many more wretched hours to lament for her lost treasures — her cheerful home — her married felicity — her maternal joys, and to look with unavailing yearnings towards Coblentz. But that sunny landscape had become intolerable; and she hastily closed her eyes and covered her face with her hands. Alas! she only beheld the more vividly the household images, and dear familiar faces that distractingly associated the happiness of the past with the misery of the present — for out of the very sweetness of her life came intenser bitterness, and from its brightest phases an extremer darkness, even as the smiling valley beneath her had changed into that of the Shadow of Death ! The Destroyer had indeed assumed almost a visible presence, and like a poor trembling bird, conscious of the stooping falcon, the devoted victim sank down and cowered on the hard, cold, rugged roof of the fatal Tower
The German girl, in the mean while, had thrown herself on her knees, and with her neck at full stretch over the low parapet, looked eagerly from east to west for succor, – but from the mill up the stream to the ferry down below, and along the road on either side of the river, she could not descry a living object. Yes — no — yes — there was one on the mountain itself, moving among the brushwood, and even approaching the castle; closer he came, – and closer yet, to the very base of the Tower. But his search, whatever it was, tended earthwards, for he never looked up.
“Here ! — come ! — gleich — quickl” and the agitated speaker hurriedly beckoned to her companion in misfortune,— “we must make a cry both togeder, and so loud as we can,” and setting the example she raised her voice to its utmost pitch; but the air was so rarefied that the sound seemed feeble even to herself.
At any rate it did not reach the figure below, -nor would a far louder alarm, for that figure was little Kranz, the deaf and dumb boy of Lahnstein, who was gathering bunches of the valley-lilies for sale to the company at the inn. Accordingly, after a desultory ramble round the ruins, he descended to the road, and slowly proceeded along the water-side towards the ferry, where he disappeared. “Lieber Gott!” exclaimed the poor girl; “it is too far to make one hear!” So saying, she sprang to her feet, and with her white handkerchief kept waving signals of distress, till from sheer exhaustion her arms refused their office. But not one of those pleasure-parties so frequent on fine summer days in that favorite valley had visited the spot. There was a Kirch-Weih at Neundorf, down the Rhine, and the holiday-makers had all proceeded with their characteristic uniformity in that direction. “Dere is nobody at all,” said the German, dropping her arms and head in utter despondence, — “not one to see us!” “And if there were,” added a hollow voice, “what human help could avail us at this dreadful height 2" The truth of this reflection was awfully apparent; but who when life is at stake can resign hope, or its last, tearful contingency, though frail as a spider's thread encumbered with dew-drops? The German, in spite of her misgivings, resumed her watch; till after a long, weary, dreary hour, a solitary figure issued from a hut a little lower down on the opposite side of the Lahn, and stepping into a boat propelled it to the middle of the stream. It was one of the poor fishermen who rented the water, and rowing directly to the rapid, he made a cast or two with his net, immediately within the reflection of the castle. . But he was too distant to hear the cry that appealed to him, and too much absorbed in the success or failure of his peculiar lottery to look aloft. Like the deaf and dumb boy, he passed on, but in the opposite direction, and gradually disappeared. “It will never be seen l’” ejaculated the German girl, again dropping her arm — a doubtful prophecy, however, for immediately afterwards the Rhenish steamboat crossed the mouth of the lesser river, and probably more than one telescope was pointed to the romantic ruin of Lahneck. But the distance was great, and even had it been less, the waving of a white handkerchief would have been taken for a merry or a friendly salute. In the mean time the steamboat passed out of sight behind the high ground; but the long streamer of smoke was still visible, like a day-meteor, swiftly flying along, and in a direction that made the Englishwoman stretch out her arms after the fleeting vapor as if it had been a thing sensible to human supplication. e “It is gone also !” exclaimed her partner in misery. “And in a short while my liebe mutter will see it come to Coblentz l’” The Englishwoman groaned. “It is my blame,” continued the other, in an agony of selfreproach; “it was my blame to come so wide — not one can tell where. Nobody shall seek at Lahneck — dey will think we are dropped into de Rhine. Yes — we must die both ! We must die of famishment — and de cornfields, and de vines is all round one !” And thus hour passed after hour, still watching promises that budded and blossomed and withered — and still flowered again and again without fruition — till the shades of evening began to fall, and the prospect became in every sense darker and darker. Barge after barge had floated down the river, but the steersman had been intent on keeping his craft in the middle of the current in the most difficult part of his navigation — the miller had passed along the road at the base of the mountain, but his thoughts were fixed on the home within his view — the female peasant drove her cows from the pasture — the truant children returned to the village, and the fisherman drifting down the stream, again landed, and after hanging his nets up to dry between the trees on the opposite meadows, reentered his hut. But none saw the signal, none heard the cry, or if they did it was supposed to be the shrill squeak of the bat. There was even company at the inn, for the windows of Duquet's pavilion began to sparkle, but the enjoyments of the party had stopped short of the romantic and the picturesque — they were quaffing Rhein wein, and eating thick, sour cream, sweetened with sugar, and flavored with cinnamon.