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A TALE. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 3 (Goetz von Berlichingen, Iphigenia in Tauris, Tarquato Tasso, etc) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 3.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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THE thick fog of an early autumnal morning obscured the extensive courts which surrounded the prince’s castle, but through the mists, which gradually dispersed, a stranger might observe a cavalcade of huntsmen, consisting of horse and foot, already engaged in their early preparations for the field. The active employments of the domestics were already discernible. These latter were engaged in lengthening and shortening stirrup-leathers, preparing the rifles and ammunition, and arranging the game-bags; whilst the dogs, impatient of restraint, threatened to break away from the slips by which they were held. Then the horses became restive, from their own high mettle, or excited by the spur of the rider, who could not resist the temptation to make a vain display of his prowess, even in the obscurity by which he was surrounded. The cavalcade awaited the arrival of the prince, who was detained a little too long by the tender endearments of his young wife.
Lately married, they thoroughly appreciated the happiness of their own congenial dispositions; both were lively and animated, and each shared with delight the pleasures and pursuits of the other. The prince’s father had already survived and enjoyed that period of life when one learns that all the members of a state should spend their time in diligent employments, and that every one should engage in some energetic occupation corresponding with his taste, and should by this means first acquire, and then enjoy, the fruits of his labor.
How far these maxims had proved successful might have been observed on this very day, for it was the anniversary of the great market in the town, a festival which might indeed be considered a species of fair. The prince had on the previous day conducted his wife on horseback through the busy scene, and had caused her to observe what a convenient exchange was carried on between the productions of the mountainous districts and those of the plain, and he took occasion then and there to direct her attention to the industrious character of his subjects.
But whilst the prince was entertaining himself and his courtiers almost exclusively with subjects of this nature, and was perpetually employed with his finance minister, his chief huntsman did not lose sight of his duty, and upon his representation it was impossible, during these favorable autumnal days, any longer to postpone the amusement of the chase, as the promised meeting had already been several times deferred, not only to his own mortification, but to that of many strangers who had arrived to take part in the sport.
The princess remained, reluctantly, at home. It had been determined to hunt over the distant mountains, and to disturb the peaceful inhabitants of the forests in those districts by an unexpected declaration of hostilities.
Upon taking his departure, the prince recommended his wife to seek amusement in equestrian exercise, under the conduct of her uncle Frederick; “and I commend you, moreover,” he said, “to the care of our trusty Honorio, who will act as your esquire, and pay you every attention:” and saying this as he descended the stairs, and gave the proper instructions to a comely youth who stood at hand, the prince quickly disappeared amid the crowd of assembled guests and followers.
The princess, who had continued waving her handkerchief to her husband as long as he remained in the court-yard, now retired to an apartment at the back of the castle, which showed an extensive prospect over the mountain, as the castle itself was situated on the brow of the hill, from which a view at once distant and varied opened in all directions. She found the telescope in the spot where it had been left on the previous evening, when they had amused themselves in surveying the landscape and the extent of mountain and forest amid which the lofty ruins of their ancestral castle were situated. It was a noble relic of ancient times, and shone out gloriously in the evening illumination. A grand but somewhat inadequate idea of its importance was conveyed by the large masses of light and shadow which now fell upon it. Moreover, by the aid of the telescope, the autumnal foliage was seen to lend an indescribable charm to the prospect, as it waved upon trees which had grown up amid the ruins, undisturbed and unmolested for countless years. But the princess soon turned the telescope in the direction of a dry and sandy plain beneath her, across which the hunting cavalcade was expected to bend its course. She patiently surveyed the spot, and was at length rewarded, as the clear magnifying power of the instrument enabled her delighted eyes to recognize the prince and his chief equerry. Upon this she once more waved her handkerchief as she observed, or rather fancied she observed, a momentary pause in the advance of the procession.
Her uncle Frederick was now announced, and he entered the apartment, accompanied by an artist, bearing a large portfolio under his arm.
“Dear cousin,” observed the worthy knight, addressing her, “we have brought some sketches of the ancestral castle for your inspection, to show how the old walls and battlements were calculated to afford defence and protection in stormy seasons and in years gone by, though they have tottered in some places, and in others have covered the plain with their ruins. Our efforts have been unceasing to render the place accessible, since few spots offer more beauty or sublimity to the eye of the astonished traveller.”
The prince continued, as he opened the portfolio containing the different views: “Here, as you ascend the hollow way, through the outer fortifications, you meet the principal tower, and a rock forbids all further progress. It is the firmest of the mountain range. A castle has been erected upon it, so constructed that it is difficult to say where the work of nature ceases and the aid of art begins. At a little distance, side-walls and buttresses have been raised, the whole forming a sort of terrace. The height is surrounded by a wood. For upwards of a century and a half, no sound of an axe has been heard within these precincts, and giant trunks of trees appear on all sides. Close to the very walls spring the glossy maple, the rough oak and the tall pine. They oppose our progress with their boughs and roots, and compel us to make a circuit to secure our advance. See how admirably our artist has sketched all this upon paper; how accurately he has represented the trees as they become entwined amid the masonry of the castle, and thrust their boughs through the opening in the walls. It is a solitude which possesses the indescribable charm of displaying the traces of human power long since passed away, contending with perpetual and still reviving nature.”
Opening a second picture, he continued his discourse: “What say you to this representation of the castle court, which has been rendered impassable for countless years by the falling of the principal tower? We endeavored to approach it from the side, and in order to form a convenient private road were compelled to blow up the old walls and vaults with gunpowder. But there was no necessity for similar operations within the castle walls. Here is a flat rocky surface which has been levelled by the hand of nature, through which, however, mighty trees have here and there been able to strike their roots. They have thriven well, and thrust their branches into the very galleries where the knights of old were wont to exercise, and have forced their way through doors and windows into vaulted halls, from which they are not likely now to be expelled, and whence we, at least, shall not remove them. They have become lords of the territory, and may remain so. Concealed beneath heaps of dried leaves we found a perfectly level floor, which probably cannot be equalled in the world.
“In ascending the steps which lead to the chief tower, it is remarkable to observe, in addition to all that we have mentioned above, how a maple tree has taken root on high, and has grown to a great size, so that in ascending to the highest turret to enjoy the prospect, it is difficult to pass. And here you may refresh yourself beneath the shade, for even at this elevation the tree of which we speak throws its shadows over all around.
“We feel much indebted to the talented artist who, in the course of several views, has brought thus the whole scenery as completely before us as if we had actually witnessed the original scene. He selected the most beautiful hours of the day and the most favorable season of the year for his task, to which he devoted many weeks incessantly. A small dwelling was erected for him and his assistant in a corner of the castle; you can scarcely imagine what a splendid view of the country, of the court, and of the ruins he there enjoyed. We intend these pictures to adorn our country-house, and every one who enjoys a view of our regular parterres, of our bowers and shady walks, will doubtless feel anxious to feed his imagination and his eyes with an actual inspection of these scenes, and so enjoy at once the old and the new, the firm and the pliant, the indestructible and the young, the perishable and the eternal.”
Honorio now entered and announced the arrival of the horses. The princess thereupon addressing her uncle, expressed a wish to ride up to the ruins and examine personally the subjects which he had so graphically described. “Ever since my arrival here,” she said, “this excursion has been intended, and I shall be delighted to accomplish what has been declared almost impracticable, and what the pictures show to be so difficult.”
“Not yet, my dear,” replied the prince; “these pictures only portray what the place will become; but many difficulties impede a commencement of the work.”
“But let us ride a little towards the mountain,” she rejoined, “if only to the beginning of the ascent; I have a great desire to-day to enjoy an extensive prospect.”
“Your desire shall be gratified,” answered the prince.
“But we will first direct our course through the town,” continued the lady, “and across the market-place, where a countless number of booths wear the appearance of a small town, or of an encampment. It seems as if all the wants and occupations of every family in the country were brought together and supplied in this one spot; for the attentive observer may behold here whatever man can produce or require. You would suppose that money was wholly unnecessary, and that business of every kind could be carried on by means of barter; and such in fact is the case. Since the prince directed my attention to this view yesterday, I have felt pleasure in observing the manner in which the inhabitants of the mountain and of the valley mutually comprehend each other, and how both so plainly speak their wants and their wishes in this place. The mountaineer, for example, has cut the timber of his forests into a thousand forms, and applied his iron to multifarious uses, while the inhabitant of the valley meets him with his various wares and merchandise, the very materials and object of which it is difficult to know or to conjecture.”
“I am aware,” observed the prince, “that my nephew devotes his attention wholly to these subjects, for at this particular season of the year he receives more than he expends; and this after all is the object and end of every national financier, and indeed of the pettiest household economist. But excuse me, my dear, I never ride with any pleasure through the market or the fair; obstacles impede one at every step, and my imagination continually recurs to that dreadful calamity which happened before my own eyes, when I witnessed the conflagration of as large a collection of merchandise as is accumulated here. I had scarcely—”
“Let us not lose our time,” said the princess, interrupting him, as her worthy uncle had more than once tortured her with a literal account of the very same misfortune. It had happened when he was upon a journey, and had retired fatigued to bed, in the best hotel of the town, which was situated in the marketplace. It was the season of the fair, and in the dead of the night he was awakened by screams and by the columns of fire which approached the hotel.
The princess hastened to mount her favorite palfrey, and led the way for her unwilling companion, when she rode through the front gate down the hill, in place of passing through the back gate up the mountain. But who could have felt unwilling to ride at her side or to follow wherever she led? And even Honorio had gladly abandoned the pleasure of his favorite amusement, the chase, in order to officiate as her devoted attendant.
As we have before observed, they could only ride through the market step by step, but the amusing observations of the princess rendered every pause delightful. “I must repeat my lesson of yesterday,” she remarked, “for necessity will try our patience.” And in truth the crowd pressed upon them in such a manner, that they could only continue their progress at a very slow pace. The people testified unbounded joy at beholding the young princess, and the complete satisfaction of many a smiling face evinced the pleasure of the people at finding that the first lady in the land was at once the most lovely and the most gracious.
Mingled together promiscuously were rude mountaineers who inhabited quiet cottages amongst bleak rocks and towering pine trees, lowlanders from the plains and meadows, and manufacturers from the neighboring small towns. After quietly surveying the motley crowd, the princess remarked to her companion that all the people she saw seemed to take delight in using more stuff for their garments than was necessary, whether it consisted of cloth, linen, ribbon or trimming. It seemed as if the wearers, both men and women, thought they would be the better if they looked a little larger.
“We must leave that matter to themselves,” answered the uncle; “every man must dispose of his superfluity as he pleases; well for those who spend it in mere ornament.”
The princess nodded her assent.
They had now arrived at a wide open square which led to one of the suburbs; they there perceived a number of small booths and stalls, and also a large wooden building from whence a most discordant howling issued. It was the feeding hour of the wild animals which were there enclosed for exhibition. The lion roared with that fearful voice with which he was accustomed to terrify both woods and wastes. The horses trembled, and no one could avoid observing how the monarch of the deserts made himself terrible in the tranquil circles of civilized life. Approaching nearer, they remarked the tawdry colossal pictures on which the beasts were painted in the brightest colors, intended to afford irresistible temptation to the busy citizen. The grim and fearful tiger was in the act of springing upon a negro to tear him to pieces. The lion stood in solemn majesty as if he saw no worthy prey before him. Other wonderful creatures in the same group presented inferior attractions.
“Upon our return,” said the princess, “we will alight and take a nearer inspection of these rare creatures.”
“Is it not extraordinary,” replied the prince, “that man takes pleasure in fearful excitements? The tiger, for instance, is lying quietly enough within his cage, and yet here the brute must be painted in the act of springing fiercely on a negro, in order that the public may believe that the same scene is to be witnessed within. Do not murder and death, fire and desolation, sufficiently abound, but that every mountebank must repeat such horrors? The worthy people like to be alarmed, that they may afterwards enjoy the delightful sensation of freedom and security.”
But whatever feelings of terror such frightful representations might have inspired, they disappeared when they reached the gate, and surveyed the cheerful prospects around. The road led down to a river, a narrow brook in truth, and only calculated to bear light skiffs, but destined afterwards, when swelled into a wider stream, to take another name, and to water distant lands. They then bent their course further through carefully cultivated fruit and pleasure gardens, in an orderly and populous neighborhood, until first a copse and then a wood received them as guests, and delighted their eyes with a limited but charming landscape. A green valley leading to the heights above, which had been lately mowed for the second time, and wore the appearance of velvet, having been watered copiously by a rich stream, now received them with a friendly welcome. They then bent their course to a higher and more open spot, which, upon issuing from the wood, they reached after a short ascent, and whence they obtained a distant view of the old castle, the object of their pilgrimage, which shone above the groups of trees, and assumed the appearance of a well-wooded rock. Behind them (for no one ever attained this height without turning to look round) they saw through occasional openings in the lofty trees the prince’s castle on the left, illuminated by the morning sun; the higher portion of the town obscured by a light cloudy mist, and on the right hand, the lower part through which the river flowed in many windings, with its meadows and its mills; whilst straight before them the country extended in a wide productive plain.
After they had satisfied their eyes with the landscape, or rather, as is often the case in surveying an extensive view from an eminence, when they had become desirous of a wider and less circumscribed prospect, they rode slowly along a broad and stony plain, where they saw the mighty ruin standing with its coronet of green, whilst its base was clad with trees of lesser height; and proceeding onwards they encountered the steepest and most impassable side of the ascent. It was defended by enormous rocks which had endured for ages; proof against the ravages of time, they were fast rooted in the earth and towered aloft. One part of the castle had fallen, and lay in huge fragments irregularly massed, and seemed to act as an insurmountable barrier, the mere attempt to overcome which is a delight to youth, as supple limbs ever find it a pleasure to undertake, to combat and to conquer. The princess seemed disposed to make the attempt; Honorio was at hand: her princely uncle assented, unwilling to acknowledge his want of agility. The horses were directed to wait for them under the trees, and it was intended they should make for a certain point where a large rock had been rendered smooth, and from which a prospect was beheld, which, though of the nature of a bird’s-eye view, was sufficiently picturesque.
It was midday; the sun had attained its highest altitude, and shed its clearest rays around; the princely castle in all its parts, battlements, wings, cupolas and towers presented a glorious appearance. The upper part of the town was seen in its full extent, the eye could even penetrate into parts of the lower town, and with the assistance of the telescope distinguish the market-place, and even the very booths. It was Honorio’s invariable custom to sling this indispensable instrument to his side. They took a view of the river, in its course and its descent, and of the sloping plain, and of the luxuriant country with its gentle undulations, and then of the numerous villages, for it had been from time immemorial a subject of contention how many could be counted from this spot.
Over the wide plain there reigned a calm stillness, such as is accustomed to rule at midday—an hour when, according to classical phraseology, the god Pan sleeps, and all nature is breathless, that his repose may be undisturbed.
“It is not the first time,” observed the princess, “that, standing upon an eminence which presents a wide extended view, I have thought how pure and peaceful is the look of holy nature, and the impression comes upon me that the world beneath must be free from strife and care; but returning to the dwellings of man, be they the cottage or the palace, be they wide or circumscribed, we find that there is in truth ever something to subdue, to struggle with, to quiet and allay.”
Honorio, in the meantime, had directed the telescope towards the town, and now exclaimed, “Look, look! the town is on fire in the market-place.”
They looked and saw a column of smoke arising, but the glare of daylight eclipsed the flames. “The fire increases,” they exclaimed, still looking through the instrument. The princess saw the calamity with the naked eye; from time to time they perceived a red flame ascending amid the smoke. Her uncle at length exclaimed, “Let us return; it is calamitous. I have always feared the recurrence of such a misfortune.”
They descended, and having reached the horses, the princess thus addressed her old relative, “Ride forward, sir, hastily with your attendant, but leave Honorio with me, and we will follow.”
Her uncle perceived the prudence and utility of this advice, and riding on as quickly as the nature of the ground would allow, descended to the open plain. The princess mounted her steed, upon which Honorio addressed her thus: “I pray your highness to ride slowly; the fire-engines are in the best order, both in the town and in the castle, there can surely be no mistake or error even in so unexpected an emergency. Here, however, the way is dangerous, and riding is insecure, from the small stones and the smooth grass, and, in addition, the fire will no doubt be extinguished before we reach the town.”
But the princess indulged no such hope; she saw the smoke ascend, and thought she perceived a flash of lightning and heard a thunder-clap, and her mind was filled with the frightful pictures of the conflagration which her uncle’s oft-repeated narrative had impressed upon her.
That calamity had indeed been dreadful, sudden and impressive enough to make one apprehensive for the repetition of a like misfortune. At midnight a fearful fire had broken out in the market-place, which was filled with booths and stalls, before the occupants of those temporary habitations had been roused from their deep slumber. The prince himself, after a weary day’s journey, had retired to rest, but rushing to the window perceived with dismay the flames which raged around on every side and approached the spot where he stood. The houses of the market-place, crimsoned with the reflection, appeared already to burn, and threatened every instant to burst out into a general conflagration. The fierce element raged irresistibly, the beams and rafters crackled, whilst countless pieces of consumed linen flew aloft, and the burnt and shapeless rags sported in the air and looked like foul demons revelling in their congenial element. With loud cries of distress, each individual endeavored to rescue what he could from the flames. Servants and assistants vied with their masters in their efforts to save the huge bales of goods already half consumed, to tear what still remained uninjured from the burning stalls, and to pack it away in chests, although they were even then compelled to abandon their labors and leave the whole to fall a prey to the conflagration. How many wished that the raging blaze would allow but a single moment’s respite, and pausing to consider the possibility of such a mercy, fell victims to their brief hesitation. Many buildings burned on one side, while the other side lay in obscure darkness. A few determined, self-willed characters bent themselves obstinately to the task of saving something from the flames, and suffered for their heroism. The whole scene of misery and devastation was renewed in the mind of the beautiful princess; her countenance was clouded, which had beamed so radiantly in the early morning; her eyes had lost their lustre, and even the beautiful woods and meadows around now looked sad and mournful.
Riding onwards she entered the sweet valley, but she felt uncheered by the refreshing coolness of the place. She had, however, not advanced far, before she observed an unusual appearance in the copse near the meadow where the sparkling brook which flowed through the adjacent country took its rise. She at once recognized a tiger couched in the attitude to spring, as she had seen him represented in the painting. The impression was fearful. “Fly! gracious lady,” cried Honorio, “fly at once!” She turned her horse to mount the steep hill which she had just descended, but her young attendant drew his pistol, and approaching the monster, fired; unfortunately he missed his mark, the tiger leaped aside, the horse started, and the terrified beast pursued his course and followed the princess. The latter urged her horse up the steep stony acclivity, forgetting for a moment that the pampered animal she rode was unused to such exertions. But urged by his impetuous rider the spirited steed made a new effort, till at length, stumbling at an inequality of the ground, after many attempts to recover his footing, he fell exhausted to the ground. The princess released herself from the saddle with great expertness and presence of mind, and brought her horse again to its feet. The tiger was in pursuit at a slow pace. The uneven ground and sharp stones appeared to retard his progress, though as Honorio approached, his speed and strength seemed to be renewed. They now came nearer to the spot where the princess stood by her horse, and Honorio, bending down, discharged a second pistol. This time he was successful and shot the monster through the head. The animal fell, and as he lay stretched upon the ground at full length, gave evidence of that might and terror, which was now reduced to a lifeless form. Honorio had leaped from his horse, and was now kneeling on the body of the huge brute. He had already put an end to his struggles, with the hunting knife which gleamed within his grasp. He looked even more handsome and active than the princess had ever seen him in list or tournament. Thus had he oftentimes driven his bullet through the head of the Turk in the riding-school, piercing his forehead under the turban, and, carried onward by his rapid courser, he had oftentimes struck the Moor’s head to the ground with his shining sabre. In all such knightly feats he was dexterous and successful, and here he had found an opportunity for putting his skill to the test.
“Despatch him quickly,” said the princess faintly, “I fear he may injure you with his claws.”
“There is no danger,” answered the youth, “he is dead enough, and I do not wish to spoil his skin—it shall ornament your sledge next winter.”
“Do not jest at such a time,” continued the princess; “such a moment calls forth every feeling of devotion that can fill the heart.”
“And I never felt more devout than now,” added Honorio, “and therefore are my thoughts cheerful; I only consider how this creature’s skin may serve your pleasure.”
“It would too often remind me of this dreadful moment,” she replied.
“And yet,” answered the youth, with burning cheek, “this triumph is more innocent than that in which the arms of the defeated are borne in proud procession before the conqueror.”
“I shall never forget your courage and skill,” rejoined the princess; “and let me add that you may during your whole life command the gratitude and favor of the prince. But rise, the monster is dead; rise, I say, and let us think what next is to be done.”
“Since I find myself now kneeling before you,” replied Honorio, “let me be assured of a grace, of a favor, which you can bestow upon me. I have oftentimes implored your princely husband for permission to set out upon my travels. He who dares aspire to the good fortune of becoming your guest, should have seen the world. Travellers flock hither from all quarters, and when the conversation turns on some town, or on some peculiar part of the globe, your guests are asked if they have never seen the same. No one can expect confidence who has not seen everything. We must instruct ourselves for the benefit of others.”
“Rise,” repeated the princess; “I can never consent to desire or request anything contrary to the wish of my husband; but, if I mistake not, the cause of your detention here has already been removed. It was the wish of your prince to mark how your character should ripen, and prove worthy of an independent nobleman, who might one day be required to assert his honor abroad, as you have done hitherto here at court, and I doubt not that your present deed of bravery will prove as good a passport as any youth can carry with him through the world.”
The princess had scarcely time to mark that, instead of an expression of youthful delight, a shade of grief now darkened his countenance, and, he could scarcely display his emotion, before a woman approached, climbing the mountain hastily, and leading a boy by the hand. Honorio had just risen from his kneeling posture and seemed lost in thought, when the woman advanced with piercing cries, and immediately flung herself upon the lifeless body of the tiger. Her conduct, no less than her gaudy and peculiar attire, bore evidence that she was the owner and attendant of the animal. The boy by whom she was accompanied was remarkable for his sparkling eyes and jet-black hair. He carried a flute in his hand, and he united his tears to those of his mother, whilst, with a more calm but deep-felt sorrow than she displayed, he knelt quietly at her side.
The violent expression of this wretched woman’s grief was succeeded by a torrent of expostulations, which rushed from her in broken sentences, reminding one of a mountain stream whose course is interrupted by impending rocks. Her natural expressions, short and abrupt, were forcible and pathetic; it would be a vain task to endeavor to translate them into our idiom; we must be satisfied with their general meaning. “They have murdered thee, poor animal, murdered thee without cause. Tamely thou would’st have lain down to await our arrival, for thy feet pained thee, and thy claws were powerless. Thou didst lack thy burning native sun to bring thee to maturity. Thou wert the most beautiful animal of thy kind. Who ever beheld a more noble royal tiger stretched out to sleep, than thou art as thou liest here never to rise again? When in the morning thou awokest at the earliest dawn of day, opening thy wide jaws and stretching out thy ruddy tongue, thou seemedst to us to smile; and even when a growl burst from thee, still didst thou ever playfully take thy food from the hand of a woman, or from the fingers of a child. Long did we accompany thee in thy travels, and long was thy society to us as indispensable as profitable. To us, in very truth, did food come from the ravenous, and sweet refreshment from the strong. But alas! alas! this can never be again!”
She had not quite finished her lamentations, when a troop of horsemen was observed riding in a body over the heights which led from the castle. They were soon recognized as the hunting cavalcade of the prince, and he himself was at their head. Riding amongst the distant hills, they had observed the dark columns of smoke which obscured the atmosphere, and, pushing on over hill and dale, as if in the heat of the chase, they had followed the course indicated by the smoke, which served them as a guide. Rushing forwards, regardless of every obstacle, they had come by surprise upon the astonished group, who presented a remarkable appearance in the opening of the hills. The recognition of each other produced a general surprise, and after a short pause a few words of explanation cleared up the apparent mystery. The prince heard with astonishment the extraordinary occurrence, as he stood surrounded by the crowd of horsemen and pedestrian attendants. There seemed no doubt about the necessary course. Orders and commands were at once issued by the prince.
A stranger now forced his way forward, and appeared within the circle. He was tall in figure, and attired as gaudily as the woman and her child. The members of the family recognized each other with mutual surprise and pain. But the man, collecting himself, stood at a respectful distance from the prince, and addressed him thus:—
“This is not a moment for complaining. My lord and mighty master, the lion has also escaped, and is concealed somewhere here in the mountain; but spare him, I implore you; have mercy upon him, that he may not perish, like this poor animal.”
“The lion escaped!” exclaimed the prince. “Have you found his track?”
“Yes, sire. A peasant in the valley, who needlessly took refuge in a tree, pointed to the direction he had taken—this is the way, to the left; but perceiving a crowd of men and horses before me I became curious to know the occasion of their assembling, and hastened forward to obtain help.”
“Well,” said the prince, “the chase must begin in this direction. Load your rifles; go deliberately to work; no misfortune can happen, if you but drive him into the thick woods below us; but in truth, worthy man, we can scarcely spare your favorite; why were you negligent enough to let him escape?”
“The fire broke out,” replied the other, “and we remained quiet and prepared; it spread quickly round, but raged at a distance from us. We were provided with water in abundance, but suddenly an explosion of gunpowder took place, and the conflagration immediately extended to us and beyond us. We were too precipitate, and are now reduced to ruin.”
The prince was still engaged in issuing his orders, and there was general silence for a moment, when a man was observed flying, rather than running, down from the castle. He was quickly recognized as the watchman of the artist’s studio, whose business it was to occupy the dwelling and to take care of the workmen. Breathless he advanced, and a few words served to announce the nature of his business.
“The lion had taken refuge on the heights, and had lain down in the sunshine behind the lofty walls of the castle. He was reposing at the foot of an old tree in perfect tranquillity. But,” continued the man, in a tone of bitter complaint, “unfortunately, I took my rifle to the town yesterday to have it repaired, or the animal had never risen again; his skin, at least, would have been mine, and I had worn it in triumph for my life.”
The princes whose military experience had often served him in time of need, for he had frequently been in situations where unavoidable danger pressed on every side—observed, in reply to the man, “What pledge can you give that, if we spare your lion, he will do no mischief in the country?”
“My wife and child,” answered the father, hastily, “will quiet him and lead him peacefully along, until I repair his shattered cage, and then we shall keep him harmless and uninjured.”
The child seemed to be looking for his flute. It was that species of instrument which is sometimes called the soft, sweet flute, short in the mouthpiece, like a pipe. Those who understood the art of using it could extract from it the most delicious tones.
In the meantime the prince inquired of the caretaker on which path the lion had ascended the mountain.
“Through the low road,” replied the latter; “it is walled in on both sides, has long been the only passage, and shall continue so. Two footpaths originally led to the same point, but we destroyed them, that there might remain but one way to that castle of enchantment and beauty which is to be formed by the taste and talent of Prince Frederick.”
After a thoughtful pause, during which the prince stood contemplating the child, who continued playing softly on his flute, the former turned towards Honorio, and said:
“Thou hast this day rendered me an essential service; finish the task you have begun. Occupy the narrow road of which we have heard, hold your rifle ready, but do not shoot if you think it likely that the lion may be driven back; but under any circumstances kindle a fire, that he may be afraid to descend in this direction. The man and his wife must answer for the consequences.”
Honorio proceeded without delay to execute the orders he had received.
The child still continued to play upon his flute. He produced no exact melody, as a mere succession of notes followed, without any precise order or artistic arrangement, yet, perhaps for this very reason, the effect seemed replete with enchantment. Every one was delighted with the simple music, when the father, full of a noble enthusiasm, addressed the assembled spectators thus:—
“God has bestowed the gift of wisdom upon the prince, and the power of seeing that all divine works are good, each after its kind. Behold how the rocks stand firm and motionless, proof against the effects of sun and storm. Their summits are crowned with ancient trees, and, elated with the pride of their ornaments, they look round boldly far and wide. But should a part become detached, it no longer appears as before; it breaks into a thousand pieces, and covers the side of the declivity. But even there the pieces find no resting-place; they pursue their course downwards, till the brook receives them, and carries them onward to the river. Thence, unresisting and submissive, their sharp angles having become rounded and smooth, they are borne along with greater velocity from stream to stream, till they finally attain the ocean, in whose mighty depths giants abide and dwarfs abound.
“But who celebrates the praise of the Lord, whom the stars praise from all eternity? Why, however, should we direct our vision so far? Behold the bee, how he makes his provision in harvest time, and constructs a dwelling, rectangular and level, at once the architect and workman. Behold the ant, she knows her way, and loses it not; she builds her habitation of grass and earth and tiny twigs, builds it high and strengthens it with arches, but in vain,—the prancing steed approaches and treads it into nothing, destroying the little rafters and supports of the edifice. He snorts with impatience and with restlessness, for the Lord has formed the horse as companion to the wind, and brother to the storm, that he may carry mankind whither he will. But in the palm forest even he takes to flight. There, in the wilderness, the lion roams in proud majesty; he is monarch of the beasts, and nothing can resist his strength. But man has subdued his valor; the mightiest of animals has respect for the image of God, in which the very angels are formed, and they minister to the Lord and His servants. Daniel trembled not in the lions’ den; he stood full of faith and holy confidence, and the wild roaring of the monsters did not interrupt his pious song.”
This address, which was delivered with an expression of natural enthusiasm, was accompanied by the child’s sweet music. But when his father had concluded, the boy commenced to sing with clear and sonorous voice, and some degree of skill. His parent in the meantime seized his flute, and in soft notes accompanied the child as he sung:
The father continued to accompany the verses with his flute, whilst the mother’s voice was occasionally heard to intervene as second.
The effect of the whole was rendered more peculiar and impressive by the child’s frequently inverting the order of the verses. And if he did not, by this artifice, give a new sense and meaning to the whole, he at least highly excited the feelings of his audience:
Then all three joined with force and emphasis:
The music ceased. Silence reigned around. Each one listened attentively to the dying tones, and now for the first time could one observe and note the general impression. Every listener was overcome, though each was affected in a different manner. The prince looked sorrowfully at his wife, as though he had only just perceived the danger which had lately threatened him, whilst she, leaning upon his arm, did not hesitate to draw forth her embroidered handkerchief to dry the starting tear. It was delightful to relieve her youthful heart from the weight of grief with which she had for some time felt oppressed. A general silence reigned around, and the fears were forgotten which all had experienced both from the conflagration below and the appearance of the formidable lion above.
The repose of the whole company was first interrupted by the prince, who made a signal to lead the horses nearer; he then turned to the woman and addressed her thus: “You think, then, to master the lion wherever you meet him, by the power of your song, assisted by that of the child and the tones of your flute, and believe that you can thus lead him harmless and uninjured to his cage?”
She protested and assured him that she would do so; whereupon a servant was ordered to show her the way to the castle. The prince and a few of his attendants now took their departure hastily, whilst the princess, accompanied by the rest, followed more slowly after. But the mother and the child, accompanied by the servant, who had armed himself with a rifle, hastened to ascend the mountain.
At the very entrance of the narrow road which led to the castle, they found the hunting attendants busily employed in piling together heaps of dry brushwood to kindle a large fire.
“There is no necessity for such precaution,” observed the woman; “all will yet turn out well.”
They perceived Honorio at a little distance from them, sitting upon a fragment of the wall, with his double-barrelled rifle in his lap, prepared as it seemed for every emergency. But he paid little attention to the people who approached; he was absorbed in his own contemplations, and seemed engaged in deepest thought. The woman entreated that he would not permit the fire to be kindled; he, however, paid not the smallest attention to her request. She then raised her voice, and exclaimed with a loud cry: “Thou handsome youth, who killed my tiger, I curse thee not; but spare my lion, and I will bless thee.”
But Honorio was looking upon vacancy; his eyes were bent upon the sun, which had finished its daily course and was now about to set.
“You are looking to the evening,” cried the woman, “and you are right, for there is yet much to do; but hasten, delay not, and you will conquer. But, first of all, conquer yourself.” He seemed to smile a this observation—the woman passed on, but could not avoid looking round to observe him once more. The setting sun had cast a rosy glow upon his countenance; she thought she had never beheld so handsome a youth.
“If your child,” said the attendant, “can, as you imagine, with his fluting and his singing, entice and tranquillize the lion, we shall easily succeed in mastering him; for the ferocious animal has lain down to sleep under the broken arch, through which we have secured a passage into the castle court, as the chief entrance has been long in ruins. Let the child then entice him into the interior, when we can close the gate without difficulty, and the child may, if he please, escape by a small winding staircase, which is situated in one of the corners. We may in the meantime conceal ourselves; but I shall take up a position which will enable me to assist the child at any moment with my rifle.”
“These preparations are all needless; Heaven and our own skill, bravery and good fortune are our best defence.”
“But first let me conduct you by this steep ascent to the top of the tower, right opposite to the entrance of which I have spoken. The child may then descend into the arena, and there he can try to exercise his power over the obedient animal.”
This was done. Concealed above, the attendant and the mother surveyed the proceeding. The child descended the narrow staircase and soon appeared in the wide courtyard. He immediately entered into the narrow opening opposite, when the sweet sounds of his flute were heard, but these gradually diminished till at length they finally ceased. The pause was fearful—the solemnity of the proceeding filled the old attendant with apprehension, accustomed as he was to every sort of danger. He declared that he would rather engage the enraged animal himself. But the mother preserved her cheerful countenance, and, leaning over the parapet in a listening attitude, betrayed no sign of the slightest fear.
At length the flute was heard again. The child had issued from the dark recess, his face beaming with triumph; the lion was slowly following, and seemed to walk with difficulty. Now and then the animal appeared disposed to lie down, but the child continued to lead him quietly along, bending his way through the half-leafless autumn-tinged trees, until he arrived at a spot which was illumined by the last rays of the setting sun. They were shedding their parting glory through the ruins, and in this spot he recommenced his sweet song, which we cannot refrain from repeating:
The lion in the meantime had lain quietly down, and raising his heavy paw, had placed it in the lap of the child. The latter stroked it gently and continued his chant, but soon observed that a sharp thorn had penetrated into the ball of the animal’s foot. With great tenderness the child extracted the thorn, and taking his bright-colored silk handkerchief from his neck, bound it round the foot of the huge creature, whilst the attentive mother, still joyfully leaning over the parapet with outstretched arms, would probably have testified her approbation with loud shouts and clapping of hands, if the attendant had not rudely seized her and reminded her that the danger was not yet completely over.
The child now joyfully continued his song, after he had hummed a few notes by way of prelude:
If it were possible to conceive that the features of so fierce a monster, at once the tyrant of the forest and the despot of the animal kingdom, could display an expression of pleasure and grateful joy, it might have been witnessed upon this occasion; and, in very truth, the child, in the fulness of his beauty, looked like some victorious conqueror, though it could not be said that the lion seemed subdued, for his mighty power was only for a time concealed; he wore the aspect of some domesticated creature, who had been content to make a voluntary surrender of the mighty power with which it was endued. And thus the child continued to play and to sing, transposing his verses or adding to them, as he felt inclined:
The Good Women.
HENRIETTA and Armidoro had been for some time engaged in walking through the garden in which the Summer Club was accustomed to assemble. It had long been their practice to arrive before the other members, for they entertained the warmest attachment to each other, and their pure and virtuous friendship fostered the delightful hope that they would shortly be united in the bonds of unchanging affection.
Henrietta, who was of a lively disposition, no sooner perceived her friend Amelia approach the summer-house from a distance, than she ran to welcome her. The latter was already seated at a table in the ante-chamber, where the newspapers, journals and other recent publications lay displayed.
It was her custom to spend occasional evenings in reading in this apartment, without paying attention to the company who came and went, or suffering herself to be disturbed by the rattling of the dice or the loud conversation which prevailed at the gaming-tables. She spoke little, except for the purpose of rational conversation. Henrietta, on the contrary, was not so sparing of her words, being of an easily satisfied disposition, and ever ready with expressions of commendation. They were soon joined by a third person, whom we shall call Sinclair. “What news do you bring?” exclaimed Henrietta, addressing him as he approached.
“You will scarcely guess,” replied Sinclair, as he opened a portfolio. “And even if I inform you that I have brought for your inspection the engravings intended for the Ladies’ Almanac of this year, you will hardly guess the subjects they portray; but when I tell you that young ladies are represented in a series of twelve engravings—”
“Indeed!” exclaimed Henrietta, interrupting him, “you have no intention, I perceive, of putting our ingenuity to the test. You jest, if I mistake not; for you know how I delight in riddles and charades, and in guessing my friends’ enigmas. Twelve young ladies, you say—sketches of character, I suppose; some adventures, or situations, or something else that redounds to the honor of the sex.”
Sinclair smiled in silence, whilst Amelia watched him with calm composure, and then remarked, with that fine sarcastic tone which so well became her, “If I read his countenance truly, he has something to produce of which we shall not quite approve. Men are so fond of discovering something which shall have the appearance of turning us into ridicule.”
You are becoming serious, Amelia, and threaten to grow satirical. I shall scarcely venture to open my little packet.
Oh! produce it.
They are caricatures.
I love them of all things.
Sketches of naughty ladies.
So much the better; we do not belong to that class. Their portraits would afford us as little pleasure as their society.
Shall I show them?
Do so at once.
So saying, she snatched the portfolio from him, took out the pictures, spread six of them upon the table, glanced over them hastily, and then shuffled them together as if they had been a pack of cards. “Capital!” she exclaimed; “they are done to the very life. This one, for instance, holding a pinch of snuff to her nose, is the very image of Madame S—. whom we shall meet this evening; and this old lady with the cat is not unlike my grand-aunt;—that figure, holding the skein of thread, resembles our old milliner. We can find an original for every one of these ugly figures; and even amongst the men I have somewhere or other seen an old fellow bent double, just like that picture; and also a close resemblance to the figure holding the thread. They are full of fun, these engravings, and admirably executed.”
Amelia, who had glanced carelessly at the pictures, and instantly withdrawn her eyes, inquired how they could look for resemblances in such things. “One deformity is like another, just as the beautiful ever resembles the beautiful. Our minds are irresistibly attracted by the latter, in the same degree as they are repelled by the former.”
But our fancy and our wit find more amusement in deformity than in beauty. Much can be made of the former, but nothing at all of the latter.
“But beauty exalts, whilst deformity degrades us,” observed Armidoro, who, from his post at the window, had paid silent attention to all that had occurred. Without approaching the table, he then adjourned into the adjoining cabinet.
All clubs have their peculiar epochs. The interest of the various members towards each other, and their friendly harmony together, are of a fluctuating character. The club of which we speak had now attained its zenith. The members were, for the most part, men of refinement, or at least of calm and quiet deportment; they mutually recognized each other’s value, and allowed all want of merit to find its own level. Each one sought his own individual amusement, and the general conversation was often of a nature to attract attention.
At this time a gentleman named Seyton arrived, accompanied by his wife. He was a man who had seen much of the world, first from his engagement in business, and afterwards in political affairs; he was moreover an agreeable companion; although, in mixed society, he was chiefly remarkable for his talent as a card-player. His wife was a worthy woman, kind and faithful, and enjoying the most perfect confidence and esteem of her husband. She felt happy that she could now give uncontrolled indulgence to her taste for pleasure. At home she could not exist without a companion, and she found in amusement and dissipation the only incentive to home enjoyment.
We must treat our readers as strangers, or rather as visitors to the club, and in full confidence we must introduce them speedily to our new society. A poet paints his characters by describing their actions; we must adopt a shorter course, and by a hasty sketch introduce our readers rapidly to the scenes.
Seyton approached the table and looked at the pictures.
“A discussion has arisen,” observed Henrietta, “with respect to caricatures. What side do you take? I am an advocate for them, and wish to know whether all caricatures do not possess something irresistibly attractive.”
And does not every evil calumny, provide it relate to the absent, also possess an incredible charm?
But does not a sketch of this kind produce an indelible impression?
And that is just the reason why I condemn it. Is not the indelible impression of what is disagreeable precisely the evil which so constantly pursues us in life and destroys our greatest enjoyments?
Favor us, Seyton, with your opinion.
I should propose a truce to the argument. Why should our pictures be better than ourselves? Our nature seems to have two sides, which cannot exist separately. Light and darkness, good and evil, height and depth, virtue and vice, and a thousand other contradictions unequally distributed, appear to constitute the component parts of human nature; and why, therefore, should I blame an artist who, whilst he paints an angel bright, brilliant and beautiful, on the other hand paints a devil black, ugly and hateful?
There could be no objection to such a course if caricaturists did not introduce within their province subjects which belong to higher spheres.
So far I think you perfectly right. But artists, whose province is the Beautiful alone, also appropriate what does not precisely belong to them.
I have no patience, however, with caricaturists who ridicule the portraits of eminent men. In spite of my better sense, I can never consider that great man Pitt as anything else than a snub-nosed broomstick; and Fox, who was in many respects an estimable character, anything better than a stall-fed swine.
Precisely my view. Caricatures of such a nature make an indelible impression, and I cannot deny that it often affords amusement to evoke their recollection and pervert them even into worse distortions.
But, ladies, allow us to revert for a moment from this discussion to a consideration of our engravings.
I observe that a fancy for dogs is here delineated in no very flattering manner.
That I have no objection to, for I detest such animals.
First an enemy to caricatures, and then unfriendly to the dog tribe.
And why not? What are such animals but caricatures of men?
You remember, probably, what a certain traveller relates of the city of Grätz, “that the place was full of dogs, and of dumb persons half idiotic.” Might it not be possible that the habitual sight of so many barking, senseless animals should have produced an effect upon the human race?
Our attachment to animals deteriorates our passions and affections.
But if our reason, according to the general expression, is sometimes capable of standing still, it may surely do so in the presence of dogs.
Fortunately there is no one in our company who cares for dogs but Madame Seyton. She is very much attached to her pretty greyhound.
And that same animal is particularly dear and valuable to her husband.
Madame Seyton, from a distance, raised her finger to her lips in an attitude of playful threatening.
I know a proof that such animals detach our affections from their legitimate objects. May I not, my dear child (addressing his wife), relate our anecdote? We need not be ashamed of it.
Madame Seyton signified her assent by a friendly nod, and he commenced his narration.
“We loved each other and had entered into an engagement to marry before we had well considered the possibility of supporting an establishment. At length better hopes began to dawn, when I was unexpectedly compelled to set out upon a journey which threatened to last longer than I could have wished. On my departure I forgot my favorite greyhound. It had often been in the habit of accompanying me to my intended wife’s house, sometimes returning with me, and occasionally remaining behind. It now became her property, was a cheerful companion, and reminded her of my return. At home the little animal afforded much amusement, and in the promenades, where we had so often walked together, it seemed constantly engaged in looking for me, and barked as if announcing me as it sprang from among the trees. My darling little Meta amused itself thus for a considerable time by fancying me really present, until at length, about the time when I had hoped to return, the period of my absence being again indefinitely prolonged, the poor animal pined away and died.”
Just so, dear husband! And your narrative is sweetly interesting.
You are quite at liberty to interrupt me, my dear, if you think fit. My friend’s house now seemed desolate, her walks had lost all their interest, her favorite dog, which had ever been at her side when she wrote to me, had grown to be an actual necessity of existence, and her letters were now discontinued. But she found, however, some consolation in the company of a handsome youth, who evinced an anxiety to fill the place of her former four-footed companion, both in the house and in the promenades. But without enlarging on this subject, and let me be ever so inimical to rash judgments, I may say that matters began to assume a rather critical appearance.
I must let you continue. A story which is all truth and wholly free from exaggeration is seldom worth hearing.
A mutual friend of ours, who was a prudent man, versed in the world, and acquainted with human nature, continued to reside near my dear friend after my departure. He paid frequent visits at her house, and observed with pain and anxiety the change which she had undergone. He formed his plan in secrecy, and called upon her one day, accompanied by a greyhound which precisely resembled mine. The cordially affectionate and appropriate address with which he accompanied his present, the unexpected appearance of a favorite, which seemed to have risen from the grave, the silent rebuke with which her susceptible heart reproached her at the sight, brought back to her mind a lively recollection of me. My young supplanter accordingly received his congé in the politest manner possible, and the new favorite was retained by the lady as her constant companion. When, upon my return, I held my beloved in my embrace, I thought the greyhound was my own, and wondered not a little that he barked at me as at a stranger. I thought that dogs of the present day had far less faithful memories than those of classical times, and observed that Ulysses had been remembered by his dog after many years’ absence, whilst mine had forgotten me in an incredibly short space of time. “But yet he has taken good care of your Penelope,” she replied, promising at the same time to explain her mysterious speech. This was soon done, and unbroken confidence has ever since been the characteristic of our union.
Well, now, conclude with the anecdote. If you please, I will walk for an hour, for you intend doubtless to sit down to the card-table.
He signified his assent. She took the arm of her companion and went towards the door. “Take the dog with you, my dear!” he exclaimed, as she departed. The entire company smiled, as did Seyton also when he saw the precise point of his unintentional observation, and every one else silently felt a trifling degree of malicious satisfaction.
You have related an anecdote of a dog which was happily instrumental in promoting a marriage; I can tell another whose influence destroyed one. I was also once in love, and it was also my fate to set out upon a journey, and, moreover, left a dear young friend behind me. But there was this difference between the two cases, my wish to possess my treasure had been as yet undeclared. At length I returned. The many adventures in which I had engaged were imprinted strongly upon my mind. Like all travellers, I was fond of recounting them, and I hoped by this means to win the attention and sympathy of my beloved. I was anxious that she should know all the experience I had acquired and the pleasures I had enjoyed. But I found that her attention was wholly directed to a dog. Whether she so engaged herself from that spirit of opposition which so often characterizes the fair sex, or whether it arose from some unlucky accident, it so happened that the amiable qualities of the dog, their amusements together and her attachment to the little animal were the sole topics of conversation which she could find for a lover who had long been passionately devoted to her. I wondered and felt astonished, and related a thousand circumstances to prove my affection for her. I then felt vexed at her coldness, and took my leave, but soon returned with feelings of self-reproach and became even more unhappy than before. Under these circumstances our attachment cooled and our acquaintance was discontinued, and I felt in my heart that I might attribute the misfortune to a dog.
Armidoro, who had once more joined the company from the cabinet, observed, upon hearing the anecdote, “that it would be interesting to make a collection of stories showing the influence which social animals of the lower order exercise over mankind. In the expectation that such a collection will be one day made, I will relate an ancedote to show how a dog was the cause of a very tragical occurrence.
“Ferdinand and Cardano, two young noblemen, had been attached friends from their very earliest youth. As court pages and as officers in the same regiment they had shared many adventures together, and had become thoroughly acquainted with each other’s dispositions. Cardano’s attraction was the fair sex, whilst Ferdinand had a passion for play. The former was thoughtless and haughty, the latter suspicious and reserved. It happened, at a time when Cardano was accidentally obliged to break off a certain tender attachment, that he left a beautiful little pet spaniel behind him. He soon procured another, which he afterwards presented to a second lady, from whom he was about to separate; and from that time, upon taking leave of every new female friend with whom he had become intimate, he invariably presented her with a similar little spaniel. Ferdinand was aware of Cardano’s peculiar habit in this respect, but he never paid much attention to the circumstance.
“The different pursuits of the two friends at length caused a long separation between them, and, when they next met, Ferdinand had become a married man, and was leading the life of a country gentleman. Cardano spent some time with him, either at his house or in the neighborhood, where, as he had many relations and friends, he resided for nearly a year.
“Upon his departure Ferdinand’s attention was attracted by a very beautiful spaniel of which his wife had lately become possessed. He took it in his arms, admired its beauty, stroked it, praised it and inquired where she had obtained so charming an animal. She replied, ‘from Cardano.’ He was struck at once with the memory of bygone times and events, and with a recollection of the significant memorial with which Cardano was accustomed to mark his insincerity; he felt oppressed with the indignity of an injured husband, raged violently, flung the innocent little animal with fury to the earth and ran from the apartment amid the cries of the spaniel and the supplications of his astonished wife. A fearful dispute and countless disagreeable consequences ensued, which, though they did not produce an actual divorce, ended in a mutual agreement to separate; and a ruined household was the termination of this adventure.”
The story was not quite finished when Eulalia entered the apartment. She was a young lady whose society was universally sought after, and she formed one of the most attractive ornaments of the club—an accomplished woman and a successful authoress.
The female caricatures were laid before her with which the clever artist, before alluded to, had attacked the fair sex, and she was invited to defend her good sisterhood.
“Probably,” said Amelia, “a collection of these charming portraits is intended for the almanac, and possibly some celebrated author will undertake the witty task of explaining in words what the ingenious artist has represented in his pictures.”
Sinclair felt that the pictures were not worthy of utter condemnation, nor could he deny that some sort of explanation of their meaning was necessary, as a caricature which is not understood is worthless, and is in fact only valuable for its application. For however the ingenious artist may endeavor to display his wit, he cannot always succeed, and without a title or an explanation his labor is lost: words alone can give it value.
Then let words bestow a value upon this little picture. A young lady has fallen asleep in an armchair, having been engaged, as it appears, with some sort of writing. Another lady, who stands by weeping, presents a small box, or something else, to her companion. What can it mean?
Shall I endeavor to explain it, notwithstanding that the ladies seem but ill-disposed both to caricatures and their exposition? I am told that it is intended to represent an authoress who was accustomed to compose at night; she always obliged her maid to hold her inkstand, and forced the poor creature to remain in that posture even when she herself had been overcome by sleep, and the office of her maid had thus been rendered useless. She was desirous, on awaking, to resume the thread of her thoughts and of her composition, and wished to find her pen and ink ready at the same moment.
Arbon, an artist of talent who had accompanied Eulalia, declared war against the picture. He observed that to delineate the situation or circumstance above alluded to another course should have been adopted.
Let us then compose the picture afresh.
But let us first of all consider the subject attentively. It seems natural enough that a person employed in writing should cause the inkstand to be held, if the circumstances are such that no place can be found to set it down. So Brantome’s grandmother held the inkstand for the Queen of Navarre, when the latter, reposing in her litter, composed the history which we have all read with so much pleasure. Again, that any one who writes in bed should cause his inkstand to be held is quite conceivable. But tell us, pretty Henrietta, you who are so fond of questioning and guessing, tell us what the artist should have done to represent this subject properly.
He should have put the table away, and have so arranged the sleeper that nothing should appear at hand upon which an inkstand could be placed.
Quite right. I should have drawn her in a well-cushioned easy-chair, of the fashion which, if I mistake not, are called Bergères; she should have been near the fireplace, and presenting a front view to the spectator. I should suppose her to be engaged in writing upon her knee, for usually one becomes uncomfortable in exacting an inconvenience from another. The paper sinks upon her lap, the pen from her hand, and a sweet maiden stands near holding the inkstand with a forlorn look.
Quite right. But here we have an inkstand upon the table already; and what is to be done, therefore, with the inkstand in the hand of the maiden? It is not easy to conceive why she should be engaged in wiping away her tears.
Here I defend the artist; he allows scope for the ingenuity of the commentator.
Who will probably be engaged in exercising his wit upon the headless men that hang against the wall. This seems to me a clear proof of the inevitable confusion that arises from uniting arts between which there is no natural connection. If we were not accustomed to see engravings with explanations appended to them, the evil would cease. I have no objection that a clever artist should attempt witty representations; but they are difficult to execute, and he should at all events endeavor to make his subject independent of explanations. I could even tolerate remarks and little sentences issuing from the mouths of his figures, provided he restricted himself to being his own commentator.
But if you allow such a thing as a witty picture, you must admit that it is intended only for persons of intelligence; it can possess an attraction for none but those conversant with the occurrences of the day; why then should we object to a commentator who enables us to understand the nature of the intellectual amusement prepared for us?
I have no objection to explanations of pictures which fail to explain themselves. But they should be short and to the point. Wit is for the intelligent; they alone can understand a witty work; and the productions of bygone times and foreign lands are completely lost upon us. It is all well enough with the aid of such notes as we find appended to Rabelais and Hudibras, but what should we say of an author who should find it necessary to write one witty work to elucidate another? Wit, even when fresh from its fountain, is oftentimes feeble enough; it will scarcely become stronger by passing through two or three hands.
How I wish that, instead of thus arguing, we could assist our friend, the owner of these pictures, who would be glad to hear the opinions that have been expressed.
(Coming from the cabinet.) I perceive that the company is still engaged about these censurable pictures: had they produced a pleasant impression, they would doubtless have been laid aside long ago.
I propose that that be their fate now; the owner must be required to make no use of them. What! a dozen and more hateful, objectionable pictures to appear in a ladies’ almanac! Can the man be blind to his own interest? He will ruin his speculation. What lover will present a copy to his mistress, what husband to his wife, what father to his daughter, when the first glance will display such a libel upon the sex?
I have a proposal to make. These objectionable pictures are not the first of the kind which have appeared in the best almanacs. Our celebrated Chodoviecki has, in his collection of monthly engravings, already represented scenes not only untrue to nature, but low and devoid of all pretensions to taste; but how did he do it? Opposite the pictures I allude to he delineated others of a most charming character—scenes in perfect harmony with nature, the result of a high education, of long study, and of an innate taste for the Good and Beautiful. Let us go a step beyond the editor of the proposed almanac and act in opposition to his project. If the intelligent artist has chosen to portray the dark side of his subject, let our author or authoress, if I may dare to express my view, choose the bright side to exercise her talents, and so form a complete work. I shall not longer delay, Eulalia, to unite my own wishes to this proposal. Undertake a description of good female characters. Create the opposite to these engravings, and employ the charm of your pen, not to elucidate these pictures, but to annihilate them.
Promise to comply, Eulalia. Place us under so great an obligation to you.
Authors are ever apt to promise too easily, because they hope for ability to execute their wishes: but experience has rendered me cautious. And even if I could foresee the necessary leisure, within so short a space of time, I should yet hesitate to undertake the arduous duty. The praises of our sex should be spoken by a man—a young, ardent, loving man. A degree of enthusiasm is requisite for the task, and who has enthusiasm for one’s own sex?
I should prefer intelligence, justice and delicacy of taste.
And who can discourse better on the character of good women than the authoress from whose fairy tale of yesterday we all derived such pleasure and so much incomparable instruction?
The fairy tale was not mine.
To that I can bear witness.
But still it was a lady’s?
The production of a friend.
Then there are two Eulalias.
Many, perhaps; and better than—
Will you relate to the company what you so lately confided to me? You will all hear with astonishment how this delightful production originated.
A young lady, with whose great excellence I became accidentally acquainted upon a journey, found herself once in a situation of extreme perplexity, the circumstances of which it would be tedious to narrate. A gentleman to whom she was under many obligations, and who finally offered her his hand, having won her entire esteem and confidence, in a moment of weakness obtained from her the privileges of a husband, before their vows of love had been cemented by marriage. Some peculiar circumstances compelled him to travel, and, in the retirement of a country residence, she anticipated with fear and apprehension the moment when she should become a mother. She used to write to me daily, and informed me of every circumstance that happened. But there was shortly nothing more to fear—she now needed only patience, and I observed, from the tone of her letters, that she began to reflect with a disturbed mind upon all that had already occurred, and upon what was yet to take place in her regard. I determined, therefore, to address her in an earnest tone on the duty which she owed no less to herself than to her infant, whose support, particularly at the commencement of its existence, depended so much upon her mind being free from anxiety. I sought to console and to cheer her, and for this purpose sent her several volumes of fairy tales, which I expressed a wish that she should read. Her own desire to escape from the burden of her melancholy thoughts, and the arrival of these books, formed a remarkable coincidence. She could not help reflecting frequently upon her peculiar fate, and she therefore adopted the expedient of clothing all her past sorrowful adventures, as well as her painful apprehensions for the future, in a garb of romance. The events of her past life—her attachment, her passion, her errors and her sweet maternal cares—no less than her present sad condition, were all embodied by her imagination in forms vivid, though impalpable, and passed before her mind in a varied succession of strange and unearthly fancies. With pen in hand, she spent many a day and night in noting down her reflections.
In which occupation she must have found it difficult to hold her inkstand.
Thus did I acquire the rare collection of letters which I now possess. They are all picturesque, strange and romantic. I never received from her an account of anything actual, so that I sometimes trembled for her reason. Her own situation, the birth of her infant, her sweet affection for her offspring, her joys, her hopes and her maternal fears, were all treated as events of another world, from which she only expected to be liberated by the arrival of her husband. Upon her nuptial day she concluded the fairy tale, which you heard recited yesterday, almost in her own words, and which derives its chief interest from the unusual circumstances under which it was composed.
The company could not sufficiently express their astonishment at this statement, and Seyton, who had abandoned his place at the gaming-table to another person, now entered the apartment, and made inquiries concerning the subject of conversation. He was briefly informed that it related to a fairy tale, which, partly founded on facts, had been composed by the fantastic imagination of a mind that was diseased.
“It is a great pity,” he remarked, “that private diaries are so completely out of fashion. Twenty years ago they were in general use, and many persons thought they possessed a veritable treasure in the record of their daily thoughts. I recollect a very worthy lady upon whom this custom entailed a sad misfortune. A certain governess had been accustomed from her earliest youth to keep a regular diary, and, in fact, she considered its composition to form an indispensable part of her daily duties. She continued the habit when she grew up, and did not lay it aside even when she married. Her memorandums were not looked upon by her as absolute secrets, she had no occasion for such mystery, and she frequently read passages from it for the amusement of her friends and of her husband. But the book in its entirety was intrusted to nobody. The account of her husband’s attachment had been entered in her diary with the same minuteness with which she had formerly noted down the ordinary occurrences of the day: and the entire history of her own affectionate feelings had been described from their first opening hour until they had ripened into a passion, and become at length a rooted habit. Upon one occasion this diary accidentally fell in her husband’s way, and the perusal afforded him a strange entertainment. He had undesignedly approached the writing-desk upon which the book lay, and, without suspicion or intention, had read through an entire page which was open before him. He took the opportunity of referring to a few previous and subsequent passages, and then retired with the comfortable assurance that it was high time to discontinue the disagreeable amusement.
But, according to the wish of my friend, our conversation should be confined to good women, and already we are turning to those who can scarcely be counted amongst the best.
Why this constant reference to bad and good? Should we not be quite as well contented with others as with ourselves, either as we have been formed by nature, or improved by education?
I think it would be at once pleasant and useful to arrange and collect a series of anecdotes such as we have heard narrated, and many of which are founded on real occurrences. Light and delicate traits, which mark the characters of men, are well worthy of our attention, even though they give birth to no extraordinary adventures. They are useless to writers of romance, being devoid of all exciting interest; and worthless to the tribe of anecdote-collectors, for they are for the most part destitute of wit and spirit; but they would always prove entertaining to a reader who, in a mood of quiet contemplation, should wish to study the general characteristics of mankind.
Well said. And if we had only thought of so praiseworthy a work a little earlier, we might have assisted our friend, the editor of the Ladies’ Calendar, by composing a dozen anecdotes, if not of model women, at least of well-behaved personages, to balance his catalogue of naughty ladies.
I should be particularly pleased with a collection of incidents to show how a woman forms the very soul and existence of a household establishment; and this because the artist has introduced a sketch of a spendthrift and improvident wife, to the defamation of our sex.
I can furnish Amelia with a case precisely in point.
Let us hear it. But do not imitate the usual custom of men who undertake to defend the ladies: they frequently begin with praise and end with censure.
Upon this occasion, however, I do not fear the perversion of my intention through the influence of any evil spirit. A young man once became tenant of a large hotel which was established in a good situation. Amongst the qualities which recommend a host, he possessed a more than ordinary share of good temper, and as he had from his youth been a friend to the ale-house, he was peculiarly fortunate in selecting a pursuit in which he found it necessary to devote a considerable portion of the day to his home duties. He was neither careful nor negligent, and his own good temper exercised a perceptible influence over the numerous guests who assembled around him.
He had married a young person who was of a quiet, passive disposition. She paid punctual attention to her business, was attached to her household pursuits, and loved her husband, though she often found fault with him in secret for his carelessness in money matters. She had a great love for ready money; she thoroughly comprehended its value and understood the advantage of securing a provision for herself. Devoid of all activity of disposition, she had every tendency to avarice. But a small share of avarice becomes a woman, however ill extravagance may suit her. Generosity is a manly virtue, but parsimony is becoming in a woman. This is the rule of nature, and our judgments must be subservient thereto.
Margaret (for such was the name of this prudent personage) was very much dissatisfied with her husband’s carelessness. Upon occasions when large payments were made to him by his customers, it was his habit to leave the money lying for a considerable time upon the table, and then to collect it in a basket, from which he afterwards paid it away, without making it up into packages, and without keeping any account of its application. His wife plainly perceived that, even without actual extravagance, where there was such a total want of system, considerable sums must be wasted. She was above all things anxious to make her husband change his negligent habits, and she became grieved to observe that the small savings which she collected and so carefully retained were as nothing in comparison with the money that was squandered; and she determined, therefore, to adopt a rather dangerous expedient to make her husband open his eyes. She resolved to defraud him of as much money as possible, and for this purpose had recourse to an extraordinary plan. She had observed that when he had once counted his money, which he allowed to remain so long upon the table, he never reckoned it over a second time before putting it away; she therefore rubbed the bottom of a candlestick with tallow, and then, apparently without design, she placed it near the spot where the ducats lay exposed, a species of coin for which she entertained a warm partiality. She thus gained possession of a few pieces, and subsequently of some other coins, and was soon sufficiently well satisfied with her success. She therefore repeated the operation frequently, and entertained no scruple about employing such evil means to effect so praiseworthy an object, and she tranquillized her conscience on the subject by the reflection that such a mode of abstracting her husband’s money could not be termed robbery, as her hands were not employed for the purpose. Her secret treasure increased gradually, and soon became very much greater by the addition of the ready money which she herself received from the customers of the hotel, and of which she invariably retained possession.
She had carried on this practice for a whole year, and, though she carefully watched her husband, she never had reason to believe that his suspicions were awakened, until at length he began to grow discontented and unhappy. She induced him to tell her the cause of his anxiety, and learned that he was grievously perplexed. After the last payment which he had made of a considerable sum of money, he had laid aside the amount of his rent, and not only this had disappeared, but he was unable to meet the demand of his landlord from any other channel; and as he had always been accustomed to keep his accounts in his head, and to write down nothing, he could not possibly understand the cause of the deficiency.
Margaret reminded him of his great carelessness, censured his thoughtless manner of receiving and paying away money, and spoke of his general imprudence. Even his generous disposition did not escape her remarks; and, in truth, he had no excuse to offer for a course of conduct the consequences of which he had so much reason to regret.
But she could not leave her husband long in this state of grievous trouble, more especially as she felt a pride in being able to render him once more happy. Accordingly, to his great astonishment, on his birthday, which she was always accustomed to celebrate by presenting him with something useful, she entered his private apartment with a basket filled with rouleaux of money. The different descriptions of coin were packed together separately, and the contents were carefully indorsed in a handwriting by no means of the best. It would be difficult to describe his astonishment at finding before him the precise sums which he had missed, or at his wife’s assurance that they belonged to him. She thereupon circumstantially described the time and the manner of her abstracting them, confessed the amount which she had taken, and told also how much she had saved by her own careful attention. His despair was now changed into joy, and the result was that he abandoned to his wife all the duty of receiving and paying away money for the future. His business was carried on even more prosperously than before; although from the day of which we have spoken not a farthing ever passed through his hands. His wife discharged the duty of banker with extraordinary credit to herself; no false money was ever taken; and the establishment of her complete authority in the house was the natural and just consequence of her activity and care; and, after the lapse of ten years, she and her husband were in a condition to purchase the hotel for themselves.
And so all this truth, love and fidelity ended in the wife becoming the veritable mistress. I should like to know how far the opinion is just that women have a tendency to acquire authority.
There it is again. Censure, you observe, is sure to follow in the wake of praise.
Favor us with your sentiments on this subject, good Eulalia. I think I have observed in your writings no disposition to defend your sex against this imputation.
In so far as it is a grievous imputation, I should wish it were removed by the conduct of our sex. But where we have a right to authority we can need no excuse. We like authority because we are human. For what else is authority, in the sense in which we use it, than a desire for independence, and for the enjoyment of existence as much as possible. This is a privilege which all men seek with determination; but our ambition appears, perhaps, more objectionable because nature, usage and social regulations place restraints upon our sex, whilst they enlarge the authority of men. What men possess naturally, we have to acquire; and property obtained by a laborious struggle will always be more obstinately held than that which is inherited.
But women, as I think, have no reason to complain on that score. As the world goes, they inherit as much as men, if not more; and in my opinion it is a much more difficult task to become a perfect man than a perfect woman. The phrase, “He shall be thy master,” is a formula characteristic of a barbarous age long since passed away. Men cannot claim a right to become educated and refined without conceding the same privilege to women. As long as the process continues, the balance is even between them; but, as women are more capable of improvement than men, experience shows that the scale soon turns in their favor.
There is no doubt that in all civilized nations women in general are superior to men, for where the two sexes exert a corresponding influence over each other, man becomes effeminate, and that is a disadvantage; but when a woman acquires any masculine virtue, she is the gainer, for if she can improve her own peculiar qualities by the addition of masculine energy, she becomes an almost perfect being.
I have never considered the subject so deeply. But I think it is generally admitted that women do rule and must continue to do so; and therefore whenever I become acquainted with a young lady, I always inquire upon what subjects she exercises her authority, since it must be exercised somewhere.
And thus you establish the point with which you started?
And why not? Is not my reasoning as good as that of philosophers in general, who are convinced by their experience? Active women, who are given to habits of acquisition and saving, are invariably mistresses at home; pretty women, at once graceful and superficial, rule in large societies, whilst those who possess more sound accomplishments exert their influence in smaller circles.
And thus we are divided into three classes.
All honorable, in my opinion; and yet those three classes do not include the whole sex. There is still a fourth, to which perhaps we had better not allude, that we may escape the charge of converting our praise into censure.
Then we must guess the fourth class. Let us see.
Well, then, the first three classes were those whose activity was displayed at home, in large societies, or in smaller circles.
What other sphere can there be where we can exercise our activity?
There may be many. But I am thinking of the reverse of activity.
Indolence! How could an indolent woman rule?
In what manner?
By opposition. Whoever adopts such a course, either from character or principle, acquires more authority than one would readily think.
I fear we are about to fall into the tone of censure so general to men.
Do not interrupt him, Amelia. Nothing can be more harmless than these mere opinions, and we are the gainers by learning what other persons think of us. Now, then, for the fourth class, what about it?
I must take the liberty of speaking unreservedly. The class I allude to does not exist in our country, and does not exist in France, because the fair sex, both amongst us and our gallant neighbors, enjoys a proper degree of freedom. But in countries where women are under restraint and debarred from sharing in public amusements, the class I speak of is numerous. In a neighboring country there is a peculiar name by which ladies of this class are invariably designated.
You must tell us the name; we can never guess names.
Well, I must tell you, they are called roguish.
A strange appellation.
Some time ago you took great interest in reading the speculations of Lavater upon physiognomy; do you remember nothing about roguish countenances in his book?
It is possible; but it made no impression upon me. I may perhaps have construed the word in its ordinary sense, and read on without noticing it.
It is true that the word “roguish” in its ordinary sense is usually applied to a person who, with malicious levity, turns another into ridicule; but in its present sense it is meant to describe a young lady, who, by her indifference, coldness and reserve—qualities which attach to her as a disease—destroys the happiness of one upon whom she is dependent. We meet with examples of this everywhere; sometimes even in our own circle. For instance, when I have praised a lady for her beauty, I have heard it said in reply, “Yes, but she is a bit of a rogue.” I even remember a physician saying to a lady who complained of the anxiety she suffered about her maid-servant, “My dear madam, the girl is somewhat of a rogue, and will give a deal of trouble.”
Amelia rose from her seat and left the apartment.
That seems rather strange.
I thought so too, and I therefore took a note of the symptoms, which seemed to mark a disease half moral and half physical, and framed an essay which I entitled “A Chapter on Rogues,” and as I meant it to form a portion of a work on general anthropological observations, I have kept it by me hitherto.
But you must let us see it, and if you know any interesting anecdotes to elucidate your meaning of the word “rogue,” they must find a place in our intended collection of novels.
This may be all very well, but I find I have failed in the object which brought me hither. I was anxious to find some one in this intelligent assembly to undertake an explanation of these engravings, or who could recommend a talented writer for the purpose; in place of which, the engravings are abused and pronounced worthless, and I must take my leave without having attained my purpose. But if I had only made notes of our conversation and anecdotes this evening, I should almost possess an equivalent.
(Coming from the cabinet, to which he had frequently retired.) Your wish is accomplished. I know the motive of our friend, the editor of the work. I have taken down the heads of our conversation upon this paper. I will arrange the draft, and if Eulalia will kindly promise to impart to the whole that spirit of charming animation which she possesses, the graceful tone of the work, and perhaps also its contents, will in some measure expiate the offence of the artist for his ungallant attack.
I cannot blame your officious friendship, Armidoro, but I wish you had not taken notes of our conversation; it is setting a bad example. Our intercourse together has been quite free and unrestrained, and nothing can be worse than that our unguarded conversation should be overheard and written down, perhaps even printed for the amusement of the public.
But Henrietta’s scruples were silenced by a promise that nothing should meet the public eye except the little anecdotes which had been related.
Eulalia, however, could not be persuaded to edit the notes of the short-hand writer. She had no wish to withdraw her attention from the fairy tale with which she was then occupied. The notes remained in possession of the gentlemen of the party, who, with the aid of their own memories, generously afforded their assistance, that they might thereby contribute to the general edification of all “good women.”
Reynard the Fox.