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“It is hard, mine friend,” sobbed the German, “not one thinks but for themselves.” “It is unjust,” might have retorted the wife and mother, “for I think of my husband and children, and they think of me.” Why else did her sobs so disturb the tranquil air, or wherefore did she paint her beloved Edward and her two fairhaired boys with their faces so distorted by grief? The present and the future — for time is nothing in such visions — were almost simultaneously before her, and the happy home of one moment was transfigured at the next instant into the house of mourning. The contrast was agonizing but unspeakable — one of those stupendous woes which stupefy the soul, as when the body is not pierced with a single wound, but mortally crushed. She was not merely stricken, but stunned. “Mein Gott l” exclaimed the German girl, after a vain experiment on the passiveness of her companion, “why do you not speak something — what shall we do?” “Nothing,” answered a shuddering whisper, “except— die l’” A long pause ensued, during which the German girl more than once approached and looked down the pitch black orifice which had opened to the fallen stairs. Perhaps it looked less gloomy than by daylight in the full blaze of the sun, – perhaps she had read and adopted a melancholy, morbid tone of feeling too common to German works, when they treat of a voluntary death, or perhaps the Diabolical Prompter was himself at hand with the desperate suggestion, fatal alike to body and to soul, - but the wretched creature drew nearer and nearer to the dangerous verge. Her purpose, however, was checked. Although the air was perfectly still, she heard a sudden rustle amongst the ivy on that side of the Tower, which, even while it made her start, had whispered a new hope in her ear. Was it possible that her signals had been observed — that her cries had been heard? And again the sound was audible, followed by a loud, harsh cry, and a large Owl, like a bird of ill omen, as it is, fluttered slowly over the heads of the devoted pair, and again it shrieked and flapped round them, as if to involve them in a magical circle, and then with a third and shriller screech sailed away like an Evil Spirit, in the direction of the Black Forest.
Nor was that boding fowl without its sinister influence on human destiny. The disappointment it caused to the victim was mortal. It was the drop that overbrimmed her cup.
“No,” she muttered, “dere is no more hopes. For myself I will not starve up here, — I know my best friend, and will cast my troubles on the bosom of my mother earth.”
Absorbed in her own grief the Englishwoman did not at first comprehend the import of these words; but all at once their meaning dawned on her with a dreadful significance. It was, however, too late. Her eye caught a glimpse of the skirt of a garment, her ear detected a momentary flutter, — and she was alone on that terrible tower
And did she too perish P Alas! ask the peasants and the fishermen who daily worked for their bread in that valley or on its river; ask the ferryman who hourly passed to and fro, and the bargeman, who made the stream his thoroughfare, and they will tell you, one and all, that they heard nothing and saw nothing, for Labor looks downward and forward, and round about, but not upward. Nay, ask the angler himself, who withdrew his fly from the circling eddies of the rapids to look at the last beams of sunshine glowing on the lofty ruin, — and he answers that he never saw living creature on its summit, except once, when the crow and the raven were hovering about the building, and a screaming eagle, although it had no nest there, was perched on the Tower of Lahneck.
NotE. — This story — which some hardy critic affirmed was “an old Legend of the Rhine, to be found in any Guide-book " — was suggested by the recital of two ladies, who attempted to ascend to the top of the Tower of Lahneck, but were deterred by the shaking of the stone stairs. They both consider, to this day, that they narrowly escaped a fate akin to the catastrophe of F. Amy Robsart; and have visible shudderings when they hear, or read, of old Rhenish castles and oubliettes.
“I’ll tell you what it is,” said the President of the Social Glassites, at the same time mixing a fresh tumbler of grog, — rather stiffer than the last, — for the subject of Temperance and Tea-totalism had turned up, and he could not discuss it with dry lips, – “I’ll tell you what it is: Temperance is all very well, provided it’s indulged in with moderation, and without injury to your health or business; but when it sets a man spouting, and swaggering, and flag-carrying, and tea-gardening, and dressing himself up like a play-actor, why he might as well have his mind unsobered with anything else.” “That's very true,” said the Vice-President, — a gentleman with a remarkably red nose. “I have seen many Teatotal Processions,” continued the President, “and I don't hesitate to say, that every man and woman amongst them was more or less intoxicated —” “Eh, what?” asked a member, hastily removing his cigar. “Yes, intoxicated, I say, with pride and vanity— what with the bands of music, and the banners, and the ribbons, and maybe one of their top-sawyers, with his white wand, swaggering along at their head, and looking quite convinced that because he has n’t made a Beast of himself he must be a Beauty. Instead of which, to my mind, there can't be a more pitiful sight than a great hulking fellow all covered with medals and orders, like a Lord Nelson, for only taking care of his own precious health, and trying to live long in the land; and particularly if he's got a short neck and a full habit. Why the Royal Humane Society might just as well make a procession of the people who don't drink water to excess, instead of those objects that do, and with ribbons and medals round their necks, for being their own life-preservers l’” “That’s very true,” said the Vice. “I’ve seen a Master Grand of a Teatotaller with as many ornaments about him as a foreign prince 1 ° “Why I once stopped my own grog,” continued the President, “for twelve months together, of my own accord, because I was a little wheezy ; and yet never stuck even a snip of ribbon at my buttonhole. But that's modest merit, — whereas a regular Temperance fellow would have put on a broad blue sash, as if he was a Knight of the Bath, and had drunk the bath all up instead of swimming in it.” “That’s very true,” repeated the Vice. “Temperance is, no doubt, a virtue,” said the President; “but is not the only one ; though, to judge by some of their Tracts and Speeches, you would think that because a Totaller drinks Adam's ale he is as innocent as our first Parents in Paradise, which, begging their pardons, is altogether an error, and no mistake. Sin and strong drink are not born relations; though they often come together. The first murderer in the world was a water-drinker, and when he killed his poor brother, was as sober as a judge.”
“If that arn’t true,” exclaimed the red-nosed Vice, “I’ll be pounded !” “It was intemperance, however,” said the President ; “because why? it was indulging in ardent passions and fermented feelings, agin which, in my humble opinion, we ought to take Long and Short Pledges, as much as agin spirituous liquors. Not to mention the strong things that come out of people's mouths, and are quite as deleterious as any that go into them —for example, profane swearing, and lying, and slandering, and foul language, and which, not to name names, are dealt in by parties who would not even look at Fine Old Pineapple Rum, or Cream of the Valley.” “That's correct, anyhow,” said the Vice; and he replenished his tumbler. “To be sure, Temperance has done wonders in Ireland,” continued the President, “and to my mind, little short of a miracle—namely, repealing the Old Union of Whiskey-andWater, — and which would have seemed a much tougher job than O'Connell's. However, Father Matthew has accomplished it, and instead of a Parliament in College Green we are likely to see a far stranger sight, and that’s a whole County of Cork without a bottle to it.” “Humph 1” ejaculated the Vice, and took a liberal draught of his mixture. “But they'll take to party spirit in loo.” “Like enough,” said the President; “for when once we get accustomed to strong stimuluses, we find it hard to go without 'em ; and they do say, that many of those parties who have left off liquors, have taken to opium. But the greatest danger with new converts and prostelytes, is of their rushing into another extreme—and that reminds me of a story to the point.” “Now then,” said the member with the cigar. “It was last September,” said the President, “when I owned the Rose in June, and a sweet pretty craft she was. I had bought a lot of lines and a trawling net along with her; and besides cruising for pleasure, we used now and then to cast about for a bit of fresh fish for my missus, or by way of present to a friend. Well, one day, just below Gravesend, we had fished all the morning, but without any luck at all, except one poor little skate that lay on the deck, making faces at us like a dying Christian, first pouting out its lips, and then