Away with these! — True Wisdom's world will be
Within its own creation, or in thine,
Maternal Nature! for who teems like thee
Thus on the banks of thy majestic Rhine?
There Harold gazes on a work divine,
A blending of all beauties, streams, and dells —
Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine,
And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells,
From gray but leafy walls, where ruin greenly dwells.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto III.
When Arthur Philipson left his father, to go on board the bark which was to waft him across the Rhine, he took but few precautions for his own subsistence, during a separation of which he calculated the duration to be very brief. Some necessary change of raiment, and a very few pieces of gold, were all which he thought it needful to withdraw from the general stock; the rest of the baggage and money he left with the sumpter-horse, which he concluded his father might need, in order to sustain his character as an English trader. Having embarked with his horse and his slender appointments on board a fishing skiff, she instantly raised her temporary mast, spread a sail across the yard, and, supported by the force of the wind against the downward power of the current, moved across the river obliquely in the direction of Kirch-hoff, which, as we have said, lies somewhat lower on the river than Hans-Chapelle. Their passage was so favorable that they reached the opposite side in a few minutes, but not until Arthur, whose eyes and thoughts were on the left bank, had seen his father depart from the Chapel of the Ferry, accompanied by two horsemen, whom he readily concluded to be the guide Bartholomew, and some chance traveller who had joined him; but the second of whom was in truth the Black Priest of St. Paul’s, as has been already mentioned.
This augmentation of his father’s company was, he could not but think, likely to be attended with an increase of his safety, since it was not probable he would suffer a companion to be forced upon him, and one of his own choosing might be a protection, in case his guide should prove treacherous. At any rate, he had to rejoice that he had seen his father depart in safety from the spot where they had reason to apprehend some danger awaited him. He resolved, therefore, to make no stay at Kirch-hoff, but to pursue his way, as fast as possible, towards Strassburg, and rest, when darkness compelled him to stop, in one of the dorffs, or villages, which were situated on the German side of the Rhine. At Strassburg, he trusted, with the sanguine spirit of youth, he might again be able to rejoin his father; and if he could not altogether subdue his anxiety on their separation, he fondly nourished the hope that he might meet him in safety. After some short refreshment and repose afforded to his horse, he lost no time in proceeding on his journey down the eastern bank of the broad river.
He was now upon the most interesting side of the Rhine, walled in and repelled as the river is on that shore by the most romantic cliffs, now mantled with vegetation of the richest hue, tinged with all the variegated colors of autumn; now surmounted by fortresses, over whose gates were displayed the pennons of their proud owners; or studded with hamlets, where the richness of the soil supplied to the poor laborer the food of which the oppressive hand of his superior threatened altogether to deprive him. Every stream which here contributes its waters to the Rhine winds through its own tributary dell, and each valley possesses a varying and separate character, some rich with pastures, cornfields, and vineyards, some frowning with crags and precipices, and other romantic beauties.
The principles of taste were not then explained or analyzed as they have been since, in countries where leisure has been found for this investigation. But the feelings arising from so rich a landscape as is displayed by the valley of the Rhine must have been the same in every bosom, from the period when our Englishman took his solitary journey through it, in doubt and danger, till that in which it heard the indignant Childe Harold bid a proud farewell to his native country, in the vain search of a land in which his heart might throb less fiercely.
Arthur enjoyed the scene, although the fading daylight began to remind him that, alone as he was, and travelling with a very valuable charge, it would be matter of prudence to look out for some place of rest during the night. Just as he had formed the resolution of inquiring at the next habitation he passed, which way he should follow for this purpose, the road he pursued descended into a beautiful amphitheatre filled with large trees, which protected from the heats of summer the delicate and tender herbage of the pasture. A large brook flowed through it and joined the Rhine. At a short mile up the brook, its waters made a crescent round a steep craggy eminence, crowned with flanking walls, and Gothic towers and turrets, enclosing a feudal castle of the first order. A part of the savanna that has been mentioned had been irregularly cultivated for wheat, which had grown a plentiful crop. It was gathered in, but the patches of deep yellow stubble contrasted with the green of the undisturbed pasture land, and with the seared and dark-red foliage of the broad oaks which stretched their arms athwart the level space. There a lad, in a rustic dress, was employed in the task of netting a brood of partridges with the assistance of a trained spaniel; while a young woman, who had the air rather of a domestic in some family of rank, than that of all ordinary village, sat on the stump of a decayed tree, to watch the progress of the amusement. The spaniel, whose duty it was to drive the partridges under the net, was perceptibly disturbed at the approach of the traveller; his attention was divided, and he was obviously in danger of marring the sport, by barking and putting up the covey, when the maiden quitted her seat, and advancing towards Philipson, requested him for courtesy to pass at a greater distance, and not interfere with their amusement.
The traveller willingly complied with her request.
“I will ride, fair damsel,” he said, “at whatever distance you please. And allow me, in guerdon, to ask, whether there is convent, castle, or good man’s house, where a stranger, who is belated and weary, might receive a night’s hospitality?”
The girl, whose face he had not yet distinctly seen, seemed to suppress some desire to laugh, as she replied, “Hath not yon castle, think you,” pointing to the distant towers, “some corner which might accommodate a stranger in such extremity?”
“Space enough, certainly,” said Arthur; “but perhaps little inclination to grant it.”
“I myself,” said the girl, “being one, and a formidable part of the garrison, will be answerable for your reception. But as you parley with me in such hostile fashion, it is according to martial order that I should put down my visor.”
So saying, she concealed her face under one of those riding masks, which at that period women often wore when they went abroad, whether for protecting their complexion, or screening themselves from intrusive observation. But ere she could accomplish this operation, Arthur had detected the merry countenance of Annette Veilchen, a girl who, though her attendance on Anne of Geierstein was in a menial capacity, was held in high estimation at Geierstein. She was a bold wench, unaccustomed to the distinctions of rank, which were little regarded in the simplicity of the Helvetian hills, and she was ready to laugh, jest, and flirt with the young men of the Landamman’s family. This attracted no attention, the mountain manners making little distinction between the degrees of attendant and mistress, further than that the mistress was a young woman who required help, and the maiden one who was in a situation to offer and afford it. This kind of familiarity would perhaps have been dangerous in other lands, but the simplicity of Swiss manners, and the turn of Annette’s disposition, which was resolute and sensible, though rather bold and free, when compared to the manners of more civilized countries, kept all intercourse betwixt her and the young men of the family in the strict path of honor and innocence.
Arthur himself had paid considerable attention to Annette, being naturally, from his feelings towards Anne of Geierstein, heartily desirous to possess the good graces of her attendant; a point which was easily gained by the attentions of a handsome young man, and the generosity with which he heaped upon her small presents of articles of dress or ornament, which the damsel, however faithful, could find no heart to refuse.
“The assurance that he was in Anne’s neighborhood, and that he was likely to pass the night under the same roof, both of which circumstances were intimated by the girl’s presence and language, sent the blood in a hastier current through Arthur’s veins; for though, since he had crossed the river, he had sometimes nourished hopes of again seeing her who had made so strong an impression on his imagination, yet his understanding had as often told him how slight was the chance of their meeting and it was even now chilled by the reflection that it could be followed only by the pain of a sudden and final separation. He yielded himself, however, to the prospect of promised pleasure, without attempting to ascertain what was to be its duration or its consequence. Desirous, in the mean time, to hear as much of Anne’s circumstances as Annette chose to tell, he resolved not to let that merry maiden perceive that she was known by him, until she chose of her own accord to lay aside her mystery.
While these thoughts passed rapidly through his imagination, Annette bade the lad drop his nets, and directed him that, having taken two of the best fed partridges from the covey, and carried them into the kitchen, he was to set the rest at liberty.
“I must provide supper,” said she to the traveller, “since I am bringing home unexpected company.”
Arthur earnestly expressed his hope that his experiencing the hospitality of the castle would occasion no trouble to the inmates, and received satisfactory assurances upon the subject of his scruples.
“I would not willingly be the cause of inconvenience to your mistress,” pursued the traveller.
“Look you there,” said Annette Veilchen, “I have said nothing of master or mistress and this poor forlorn traveller has already concluded in his own mind that he is to be harbored in a lady’s bower!”
“Why, did you not tell me,” said Arthur, somewhat confused at his blunder, “that you were the person of second importance in the place? A damsel, I judged, could only be an officer under a female governor.”
“I do not see the justness of the conclusion,” replied the maiden. “I have known ladies bear offices of trust in lords’ families; nay, and over the lords themselves.”
“Am I to understand, fair damsel, that you hold so predominant a situation in the castle which we are now approaching and of which I pray you to tell me the name?”
“The name of the castle is Arnheim,” said Annette.
“Your garrison must be a large one.” said Arthur, looking at the extensive building, “if you are able to man such a labyrinth of walls and towers.”
“In that point,” said Annette, “I must needs own we are very deficient. At present we rather hide in the castle than inhabit it; and yet it is well enough defended by the reports which frighten every other person who might disturb its seclusion.
“And yet you yourselves dare to reside in it?” said the Englishman, recollecting the tale which had been told by Rudolph Donnerhugel, concerning the character of the Barons of Arnheim, and the final catastrophe of the family.
“Perhaps,” replied his guide, “we are too intimate with the cause of such fears to feel ourselves strongly oppressed with them — perhaps we have means of encountering the supposed terrors proper to ourselves — perhaps, and it is not the least likely conjecture, we have no choice of a better place of refuge. Such seems to be your own fate at present, sir, for the tops of the distant bills are gradually losing the lights of the evening; and if you rest not in Arnheim, well contented or not, you are likely to find no safe lodging for many a mile.”
As she thus spoke she separated from Arthur, taking, with the fowler who attended her, a very steep but short footpath, which ascended straight up to the site of the castle; at the same time motioning to the young English man to follow a horse-track, which, more circuitous, led to the same point, and, though less direct, was considerably more easy.
He soon stood before the south front of Arnheim Castle, which was a much larger building than he had conceived, either from Rudolph’s description, or from the distant view. It had been erected at many different periods, and a considerable part of the edifice was less in the strict Gothic than in what has been termed the Saracenic style, in which the imagination of the architect is more florid than that which is usually indulged in the North, — rich in minarets, cupolas, and similar approximations to Oriental structures. This singular building bore a general appearance of desolation and desertion, but Rudolph had been misinformed when he declared that it had become ruinous. On the contrary, it had been maintained with considerable care; and when it fell into the hands of the Emperor, although no garrison was maintained with in its precincts, care was taken to keep the building in repair; and though the prejudices of the country people prevented any one from passing the night within the fearful walls, yet it was regularly visited from time to time by a person having commission from the imperial chancery to that effect. The occupation of the domain around the castle was a valuable compensation for this official person’s labor, and he took care not to endanger the loss of it by neglecting his duty. Of late this officer had been withdrawn, and now it appeared that the young Baroness of Arnheim had found refuge in the deserted towers of her ancestors.
The Swiss damsel did not leave the youthful traveller time to study particularly the exterior of the castle, or to construe the meaning of emblems and mottoes, seemingly of an Oriental character, with which the outside was inscribed, and which expressed in various modes, more or less directly, the attachment of the builders of this extensive pile to the learning of the Eastern sages. Ere he had time to take more than a general survey of the place, the voice of the Swiss maiden called him to an angle of the wall in which there was a projection, from whence a long plank extended over a dry moat, and was connected with a window in which Annette was standing.
“You have forgotten your Swiss lessons already,” said she, observing that Arthur went rather timidly about crossing the temporary and precarious drawbridge.
The reflection that Anne, her mistress, might make the same observation, recalled the young traveller to the necessary degree of composure. He passed over the plank with the same sang froid with which he had learned to brave the far more terrific bridge, beneath the ruinous Castle of Geierstein. He had no sooner entered the window than Annette, taking off her mask, bade him welcome to Germany, and to old friends with new names.
“ Anne of Geierstein,” she said, “is no more; but you will presently see the Lady Baroness of Arnheim, who is extremely like her; and I, who was Annette Veilchen in Switzerland, the servant to a damsel who was not esteemed much greater than myself, am now the young Baroness’s waiting woman, and make everybody of less quality stand back.”
“If, in such circumstances,” said young Philipson, “you have the influence due to your consequence, let me beseech of you to tell the Baroness, since we must now call her so, that my present intrusion on her is occasioned by my ignorance.”
“Away, away,” said the girl laughing, “I know better what to say in your behalf. You are not the first poor man and pedler that has got the graces of a great lady; but I warrant you it was not by making humble apologies, and talking of unintentional intrusion. I will tell her of love, which all the Rhine cannot quench, and which has driven you hither, leaving you no other choice than to come or to perish!”
“Nay, but Annette, Annette — ”
“Fie on you for a fool, — make a shorter name of it, — cry Anne, Anne! and there will be more prospect of your being answered.”
So saying, the wild girl ran out of the room, delighted, as a mountaineer of her description was likely to be, with the thought of having done as she would desire to be done by, in her benevolent exertions to bring two lovers together, when on the eve of inevitable separation.
In this self-approving disposition, Annette sped up a narrow turnpike stair to a closet, or dressing-room, where her young mistress was seated, and exclaimed, with open mouth, — “Anne of Gei — I mean my Lady Baroness, they are come — they are come!”
“The Philipsons?” said Anne, almost breathless as she asked the question.
“Yes — no —” answered the girl; “that is, yes, — for the best of them is come, and that is Arthur.”
“What meanest thou, girl? Is not Seignor Philipson, the father, along with his son?”
“Not he, indeed,” answered Veileben, “nor did I ever think of asking about him. He was no friend of mine, nor of any one else, save the old Landamman; and well met they were for a couple of wiseacres, with eternal proverbs in their mouths, and care upon their brows.”
“Unkind, inconsiderate girl, what hast thou done?” said Anne of Geierstein. “Did I not warn and charge thee to bring them both hither? and you have brought the young man alone to a place where we are nearly in solitude? What will he — what can he think of me?”
“Why, what should I have done?” said Annette, remaining firm in her argument. “He was alone, and should I have sent him down to the dorff to be murdered by the Rhinegrave’s Lanzknechts? All is fish, I trow, that comes to their net; and how is he to get through this country, so beset with wandering soldiers, robber barons (I beg your ladyship’s pardon), and roguish Italians, flocking to the Duke of Burgundy’s standard?” — Not to mention the greatest terror of all, that is never in one shape or other absent from one’s eye or thought.”
“Hush, hush, girl! add not utter madness to the excess of folly; but let us think what is to be done. For our sake, for his own, this unfortunate young man must leave this castle instantly.”
“You must take the message yourself then, Anne — I beg pardon, most noble Baroness; — it may be very fit for a lady of high birth to send such a message, which, indeed, I have heard the minne-singers tell in their romances; but I am sure it is not a meet one for me, or any frank-hearted Swiss girl, to carry. No more foolery; but remember, if you were born Baroness of Arnheim, you have been bred and brought up in the bosom of the Swiss hills, and should conduct yourself like an honest and well-meaning damsel.”
“And in what does your wisdom reprehend my folly, good Mademoiselle Annette?” replied the Baroness.
“Ay, marry! now our noble blood stirs in our veins. But remember, gentle my lady, that it was a bargain between us when I left yonder noble mountains, and the free air that blows over them, to coop myself up in this land of prisons and slaves, that I should speak my mind to you as freely as I did when our heads lay on the same pillow.”
“Speak, then,” said Anne, studiously averting her face as she prepared to listen; “but beware that you say nothing which it is unfit for me to hear.”
“I will speak nature and common sense and if your noble ears are not made fit to hear and understand these, the fault lies in them, and not in my tongue. Look you, you have saved this youth from two great dangers, — one at the earth-shoot at Geierstein, the other this very day, when his life was beset. A handsome young man he is, well spoken, and well qualified to gain deservedly a lady’s favor. Before you saw him, the Swiss youth were at least not odious to you. You danced with them, — you jested with them, — you were the general object of their admiration, — and, as you well know, you might have had your choice through the Canton — Why, I think it impossible a little urgency might have brought you to think of Rudolph Donnerhugel as your mate.”
“Never, wench, never!” exclaimed Anne.
“Be not so very positive, my lady. Had he recommended himself to the uncle in the first place, I think, in my poor sentiment, he might at some lucky moment have carried the niece. But since we have known this young Englishman, it has been little less than contemning, despising, and something like hating, all the men whom you could endure well enough before.”
“Well, well,” said Anne, “I will detest and hate thee mote than any of them, unless you bring your matters to an end.”
“Softly, noble lady, fair and easy go far. All this argues you love the young man, and let those say that you are wrong, who think there is anything wonderful in the matter. There is much to justify you, and nothing that I know against it.”
“What, foolish girl! Remember my birth forbids me to love a mean man — my condition to love a poor man — my father’s commands to love one whose addresses are without his consent — above all, my maidenly pride forbids me fixing my affections on one who cares not for me, — nay, perhaps, is prejudiced against me by appearances.
“Here is a fine homily!” said Annette; “but I can clear every point of it as easily as Father Francis does his text in a holiday sermon. Your birth is a silly dream, which you have only learned to value within these two or three days, when, having come to German soil, some of the old German weed, usually called family pride, has begun to germinate in your heart. Think of such folly as you thought when you lived at Geierstein, that is, during all the rational part of your life, and this great terrible prejudice will sink into nothing. By condition, I conceive you mean estate. But Philipson’s father, who is the most free-hearted of men, will surely give his son as many zechins as will stock a mountain farm. You have firewood for the cutting, and land for the occupying, since you are surely entitled to part of Geierstein, and gladly will your uncle put you in possession of it. You can manage the dairy, Arthur can shoot, hunt, fish, plough, harrow, and reap.”
Anne of Geierstein shook her head, as if she greatly doubted her lover’s skill in the last of the accomplishments enumerated.
“Well, well, he can learn, then,” said Annette Veilchen; “and you will only live the harder the first year or so. Besides, Sigismund Biederman will aid him willingly, and he is a very horse at labor; and I know another besides, who is a friend — ”
“Of thine own, I warrant,” quoth the young Baroness.
“Marry, it is my poor friend, Martin Sprenger; and I’ll never be so false-hearted as to deny my bachelor.”
“Well, well, but what is to be the end of all this?” said the Baroness, impatiently.
“The end of it, in my opinion,” said Annette, “is very simple. Here are priests and prayer-books within a mile — go down to the parlor, speak your mind to your lover, or hear him speak his mind to you; join hands, go quietly back to Geierstein in the character of man and wife, and get everything ready to receive your uncle on his return. This is the way that a plain Swiss wench would cut off the romance of a German Baroness — ”
“And break the heart of her father,” said the young lady, with a sigh.
“It is more tough than you are aware of,” replied Annette; he hath not lived without you so long but that he will be able to spare you for the rest of his life, a great deal more easily than you, with all your new fangled ideas of quality, will be able to endure his schemes of wealth and ambition, which will aim at making you the wife of some illustrious Count, like De Hagenbach, whom we saw not long since make such an edifying end, to the great example of all Robber-Chivalry upon the Rhine.”
“Thy plan is naught, wench; a childish vision of a girl, who never knew more of life than she has heard told over her milking-pail. Remember that my uncle entertains the highest ideas of family discipline, and that, to act contrary to my father’s will, would destroy us in his good opinion. Why else am I here? wherefore has he resigned his guardianship? and why am I obliged to change the habits that are dear to me, and assume the manners of a people that are strange, and therefore unpleasing to me?”
“Your uncle,” said Annette, firmly, “is Landamman of the Canton of Unterwalden; respects its freedom, and is the sworn protector of its laws, of which, when you, a denizen of the Confederacy, claim the protection, he cannot refuse it to you.”
“Even then,” said the young Baroness, “I should forfeit his good opinion, his more than paternal affection; but it is needless to dwell upon this. Know, that although I could have loved the young man, whom I will not deny to be as amiable as your partiality paints him — Know,” — she hesitated for a moment, — “that be has never spoken a word to me on such an object as you, without knowing either his sentiments or mine, would intrude on my consideration.”
“Is it possible?” answered Annette. “I thought — I believed, though I have never pressed on your confidence-that you must-attached as you were to each other — have spoken. together, like true maid and true bachelor, before now. I have done wrong, when I thought to do for the best. — Is it possible!. — such things have been heard of even in our Canton — is it possible he can have harbored so unutterably base purposes, as that Martin of Breisach, who made love to Adela of the Sundgau, enticed her to folly — the thing, though almost incredible, — is true, — fled — fled from the country and boasted of his villany, till her cousin Raymond silenced forever his infamous triumph, by beating his brains out with his club, even in the very street of the villain’s native town? By the Holy Mother of Einsiedlen! could I suspect this Englishman of meditating such treason, I would saw the plank across the moat till a fly’s weight would break it, and it should be at six fathom deep that he should abye the perfidy which dared to meditate dishonor against an adopted daughter of Switzerland.”
As Annette Veilchen spoke, all the fire of her mountain courage flashed from her eyes, and she listened reluctantly while Anne of Geierstein endeavored to obliterate the dangerous impression which her former words had impressed on her simple but faithful attendant.
“On my word” — she said, “on my soul — you do Arthur Philipson injustice — foul injustice, in intimating such a suspicion; — his conduct towards me has ever been upright and honorable — a friend to a friend — a brother to a sister — could not, in all he has done and said, have been more respectful, more anxiously affectionate, more undeviatingly candid. In our frequent interviews and intercourse he has indeed seemed very kind — very attached. But had I been disposed — at times I may have been too much to — to listen to him with endurance,"-the young lady here put her hand on her forehead, but the tears streamed through her slender fingers, — “he has never spoken of any love — any preference; if he indeed entertains any, some obstacle, insurmountable on his part, has interfered to prevent him.”
“Obstacle?” replied the Swiss damsel. “Ay, doubtless — some childish bashfulness — some foolish idea about your birth being so high above his own — some dream of modesty pushed to extremity which considers as impenetrable the ice of a spring frost. This delusion may be broken by a moment’s encouragement, and I will take the task on myself to spare your blushes, my dearest Anne.”
“No, no; for heaven’s sake, no, Veilchen!” answered the Baroness, to whom Annette had so long been a companion and confidant, rather than a domestic. “You cannot anticipate the nature of the obstacles which may prevent his thinking on what you are so desirous to promote. Hear me — My early education, and the instructions of my kind uncle, have taught me ro know something more of foreigners and their fashions, than I ever could have learned in our happy retirement of Geierstein; I am well-nigh convinced that these Philipsons are of rank, as they are of manners and bearing, far superior to the occupation which they appear to hold. The father is a man of deep observation, of high thoughts and pretension, and lavish of gifts, far beyond what consists with the utmost liberality of a trader.”
“That is true,” said Annette; “I will say for myself, that the silver chain he gave me weighs against ten silver crowns, and the cross which Arthur added to it, the day after the long ride we had together up towards Mont Pilatre, is worth, they tell me, as much more. There is not the like of it in the Cantons. Well, what then? They are rich, so are you. So much the better.”
“Alas! Annette, they are not only rich, but noble. I am persuaded of this; for I have observed often, that even the father retreated, with an air of quiet and dignified contempt, from discussions with Donnerhugel and others, who, in our plain way, wished to fasten a dispute upon him. And when a rude observation or blunt pleasantry was pointed at the son, his eyes flashed, his cheek colored, and it was only a glance from his father which induced him to repress the retort of no friendly character which rose to his lips.”
“You have been a close observer,” said Annette. “All this may be true, but I noted it not. But what then, I say once more? If Arthur has some fine noble name in his own country, are not you yourself Baroness of Arnheim? And I will frankly allow it as something of worth, if it smooths the way to a match, where I think you must look for happiness — I hope so, else I am sure it should have no encouragement from me.”
“I do believe so, my faithful Veilchen; but alas! how can you, in the state of natural freedom in which you have been bred, know, or even dream, of the various restraints which this gilded or golden chain of rank and nobility hangs upon those whom it fetters and encumbers, I fear, as much as it decorates I In every country, the distinction of rank binds men to certain duties. It may carry with it restrictions, which may prevenv alliances in foreign countries — it often may prevent them from consulting their inclinations when they wed in their own. It leads to alliances in which the heart is never consulted, to treaties of marriage, which are often formed when the parties are in the cradle, or in leading strings, but which are not the less binding on them in honor and faith. Such may exist in the present case. These alliances are often blended and mixed up with state policy; and if the interest of England, or what he deems such, should have occasioned the elder Philipson to form such an engagement, Arthur would break his own heart — the heart of any one else — rather than make false his father’s word.”
“The more shame to them that formed such an engagement!” said Annette. “Well, they talk of England being a Iree country; but if they can bar young men and women of the natural privilege to call their hands and hearts their own, I would as soon be a German serf. — Well, lady, you are wise, and I am ignorant. But what is to be done? I have brought this young man here, expecting, God knows, a happier issue to your meeting. But it is clear you cannot marry him without his asking you. Now, although I confess that, if I could think him willing to forfeit the hand of the fairest maid of the Cantons, either from want of manly courage to ask it, or from regard to some ridiculous engagement, formed betwixt his father and some other nobleman of their island of noblemen, I would not in either case grudge him a ducking in the moat; yet it is another question, whether we should send him down to be murdered among those cutthroats of the Rhinegrave; and unless we do so, I know not how to get rid of him.”
“ Then let the boy William give attendance on him here, and do you see to ills accommodation. It is best we do not meet.”
“I will,” said Annette “yet what am I to say for you? Unhappily, I let him know that you were here.”
“Alas, imprudent girl! Yet why should I blame thee,” said Anne of Geierstein, when the imprudence has been so great on my own side? It is myself, who, suffering my imagination to rest too long upon this young man and his merits, have led me into this entanglement. But I will show thee that I can overcome this folly, and I will not seek in my own error a cause for evading the duties of hospitality. Go, Veilchen, get some refreshment ready. Thou shalt sup with us, and thou must not leave us. Thou shalt see me behave as becomes both a German lady and a Swiss maiden. Get me first a candle, however, my girl, for I must wash these tell-tales, my eyes, and arrange my dress.”
To Annette this whole explanation had been one scene of astonishment, for, in the simple ideas of love and courtship in which she had been brought up amid the Swiss mountains, she had expected that the two lovers would have taken the first opportunity of the absence of their natural guardians, and have united themselves forever; and she had even arranged a little secondary plot, in which she herself and Martin Sprenger, her faithful bachelor, were to reside with the young couple as friends and dependants. Silenced, therefore, but not satisfied, by the objections of her young mistress, the zealous Annette retreated murmuring to herself, — “That little hint about her dress is the only natural and sensible word she has said in my hearing. Please God, I will return and help her in the twinkling of an eye. That dressing my mistress is the only part of a waiting-lady’s life that I have the least fancy for — it seems so natural for one pretty maiden to set off another-in faith we are but learning to dress ourselves at another time.”
And with this sage remark Annette Veilchen tripped down stairs.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00