Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

. (page 28 of 40)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 28 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


supplying to the other the qualities which nature had
denied him. They were never separate in lecture-room,
or at home, or in the olJeQ — as the promenade was called
— or in the garden, where, each evening, the students
resorted to sup, and listen to the music of the Jager band.
Eisendecker and ^liiliry were names that no one ever
heard separated, and when one appeared the other was
never more than a few yards off.

Such was their friendship when an unhappy incident
occurred to trouble its even course, and sow dissension
between these who never had known a passing difference
in their lives. Tlie sub-rector of Gottingen was in the
haliit f f giving little receptions every week, to Avhich
many of the students were invited, and to which Eisen-



THE " STUDENT." 807

decker and ^Miihry were frequently asked, fis they both
belonged to the professor's class. In the quiet world of
a little University town, these soirees were fjreat occasions,
and the invited plumtd themselves not a little on the dis-
tinction of a card which gave the privilege of bowing in
the Herr profcssoi''s drawing-room, and kissing the hand
of his fair daughter, the Frederica von Etteuheim, the
belle of Gottingen. Frederica was the prettiest German
girl I ever saw, for this reason, that having been partly
educated at Paris, French esj)iefflerte relieved what had
been, otherwise, the too regular monotony of her Saxon
features, and imparted a character of sauciness — or
*'Jier/e " is a better word — to that quietude which is too
tame to give the varied expression, so charming in female
beauty. The esp7'it, that delicious ingredient which has
been so lamentably omitted in German character, she had
imbibed from her French education ; and in lieu of that
plodding interchange of flat commonplaces which consti-
tute the ordinary staple of conversation between the young
of opposite sexes beyond the Rhine, she had imported the
light, delicate tone of Parisian raillery — the easy and
familiar gaiety of French society, so inexpressibly charm-
ing in France, and such a boon from heaven, when one
meets it by accident, elsewhere.

Now, of all tongues ever invented by man, German is the
most difficult and clumsy, for all purposes of conversation.
You may preach in it — you may pray in it — you may hold
a learned argument, or you may lay down some involved
and intricate statement — you may, if you have the gift,
even tell a story in it, provided the hearers be patient —
and some have gone so far as to venture on expressing a :
humorous idea in German ; but these have been bold '
men, and their venturous conduct is more to be admired !
than imitated. At the same time, it is right to add, that '
a German joke is a very wooden contrivance at best, and
that the praise it meets with, is rather in the proportion
of the difficulty of the manufacture, than of the superi-
ority of the article — ^just as we admire those Indian toys
carved with a rusty nail, or those fourth-string perform-
ances of Paganini and his followers.

And now to come back to the students, whom, mayhap,

X 2



808 THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEART.

you deem to have been forgotten by me all this time, but
for whose peculiar illustration my digression was in-
tended ; it being neither more nor less than to show thaij-
if Frederica von Ettenheim turned half the heads in
Gottingen, Messrs. Eisendecker and Miihry were of th&
number. What a feature it was of the little town, her
coming to reside in it ! What a sweet atmosphere of
womanly gracefulness spread itself, like a perfume,,
through those old salons, whose dusty curtains and moth-
eaten chairs looked like the fossils of some antediluvian
furniture ! With what magic were the old ceremonials of
a professor's reception exchanged for the easier habits of a
politer world! The venerable dignitaries of the Univer-
sity felt the change, but knew not where it lay, and could
not account for the pleasure they now experienced in the-
vice-rector's soirees ; while the students knew no bounds
to the enthusiastic admiration; and "Die Ettenheim'*'
reigned in every heart in Gottingen.

Of all her admirers, none seemed to hold a higher
place in her favour than Von Miihry. Several causes,
contributed to this, in addition to his own personal ad-
vantages, and the distinction of his talents, which were-
of a high order. He was particularly noticed by the
vice-rector, from the circumstance of his father holding a,
responsible position in the Prussian government, while
Adolphe himself gave ample promise of one day making
a figure in the world. He was never omitted in any in-
vitation, nor forgotten in any of the many little parties
so frequent among the professors ; and even where the
society was limited to the dignitaries of the college, some
excuse would ever be made by the vice-rector, to have him
present, either on the pretence of wanting him for some-
thing, or that Frederica had asked him without thinking.

Such was the state of this little world, when I settled
in it, and took up my residence at the Meissner Thor,
intending to pass my summer there. The first evening I
ppent at the vice-rector's, the matter was quite clear to
my eyes. Frederica and Adolphe were lovers. It was to
no purpose, that when he had accompanied her on the
])iaiio he retreated to a distant part of the room, when
blie ceased to sing. It signified not, that he scarcely ever



THE " STUDENT. 300

■Bpoke to her, and when he did, but a few -worc/s, hur-
riedly and in confusion. Their looks met once; I saw
them exchange one glance — a fleeting one, too — but I
read in it their whole secret, mayhap even more than
they knew themselves. Well had it been, if I alone had
witnessed this, but there was another at my side who
' saw it also, and whispered in my ear, " Der Zahme is in
love." I turned round — it was Eisendecker : his face,
sallow and sickly, while large circles of dark olive sur-
rounded his eyes, and gave him an air of deep sufl'ering.
" Did you see that? " said he suddenly, as he leaned his
•hand on my arm, where it shook like one in ague.

" Did you sec that?"

"What?— the flower?"

" Yes — the flower. It was she dropped it, when she
crossed the room. You saw him take it up — didn't
you?"

The tone he spoke in was harsh, and hissing, as if he
Tittered the words with his teeth clenched. It was clear
to me now, that he, too, was in love with Frederica, and
I trembled to think of the cruel shock their friendship
must sustain ere long.

A short time after, when I was about to retire, Eisen-
decker took my arm, and said, " Are you for going home ?
May I go with you?" I gave a willing assent, our
lodgings being near, and we spent much of every day in
each other's chambers. It was the first time we had 'ever
returned without waiting for Miihry ; and fearing what a
separation, once begun, might lead to, I stopped suddenly
on the stairs, and said, as if suddenly remembering, — ■

" By the bye, we ai'e going without Adolphe."

Eisendecker's fingers clutched me convulsively, and
■while a bitter laugh broke from him, he said, " You
■wouldn't tear them asunder — would you ? " For the rest
of the way, he never spoke again, and I, fearful of awaken-
ing the expression of that grief, which, when avowed,
became confirmed, never opened my lips, save to say —
*' Good-night."

I never intended to have involved myself in a regular
story when I began this chapter, nor must I do so now,
though, sooth to say, it would not be without its interest,



810 THE ADVENTURES OF ATITHUR o'lEARY.

to trace the career of tliese two youth?, who now became
gradually estranged from each other, and were no longer
to be seen, as of" old, walking with arms on each other's
shovilder — the most perfect realization of true brotherly
affection. Uay by day the distance widened between
them ; each knew the secret of the other's heart, yet
neither dared to speak of it. From distrust iLere is lout
a short step to dislike — alas I it is scarcely even a step.
They parted.

Another change came over them, and a stranger still.
Eisendecker, the violent youth, of ungovernable temper,
and impetuous passion — who loved the wildest freak of
student-daring, and ever was the first to lead the way in
each mad scheme — had now become silent and thoughtful
• — a gentle sadness tempei'ed down the fierce traits of his
Lot nature, and he no longer frequented his old haunts of
the cellar and the fighting school, but wandered alone into
the country, and spent whole days in solitude. Yon
Miihry, on the other hand, seemed to have assumed the
castaway mantle of his onco friend : the gentle bearing,
and almost submissive tone of his manner, were exchanged
for an air of conscious pride — a demeanour that bespoke a
triumphant spirit — and the quiet youth suddenly seemed
changed to a rash, high-spirited boy, reckless from very
happiness. During this time, Eisendecker had attached
himself particularly to me ; and although I had always
hitherto preferred Von Miihry, the feeling of the other's,
unhappiness — a sense of compassion for suffering, which
it was easy to see was great — drew me closer in my friend-
ship towards him ; and, at last, I scarcely saw Adolphe at
all — and when wo did meet, a mutual feeling of embar-
rassment separated and estranged us from each other.
About this time I set off on an excursion to the Hartz.
Mountains, to visit the Brocken, and see the mines ; my
absence, delayed beyond what I first intended, was above-
four weeks, and 1 returned to Gottingcii, just as tho
summer vacation was about to begin.

About five leagues from Goitingen, on the road towards
Nordheim, there is a little village called Meissner, a
favourite resort of the students, in all their festivals —
while, at something less than a mile distant, stands a



THE " STUDENT. ' 811

tvater-mill, on a little rivulet among the liills — a wild,
sequestered spot, overgrown with stunted oak and brush-
wood. A narrow bridle-path leads to it from the village,
and this was the most approved place for settling all those
affairs of honour whose character was too serious to make
it safe to decide nearer the University ; for, strangely
enough — while, by the laws of the University, duelling
was rigidly denounced, yet, whenever the quarrel was
decided by the sword, the authorities never, or almost
never, interfered — but if a pistol was the weapon, the
thing at once took a more serious aspect.

For what reasons the mills have been always selected,
as the appropriate scenes for such encounters, I never
could discover; but the fact is unquestionable — and I
never knew a University town that did not possess its
" water privileges " in this manner.

Towards the mill I was journeying at the easy pace of
my pony, early on a summer's morning, preferi'ing the
rural breakfast witli the miller — for they are always a
kind of innkeepers — to the fai'e of the village. I entered
the little bridle-path that conducted to his door, and was
sauntering listlessly along, dreaming pleasantly, as one
does, when the song of the lark, and the heavy odour of
dew-pressed flowers, steep the heart in happiness all its
own — when, behind me, I heard the regular tramp of
inarching. I listened — had I been a stranger to the
sound, I should have thought them soldiers — but I knew
too well the measured tread of the student, and I heard
the jingling of their heavy sabres, a peculiar clank a
student's ear cannot be deceived in. I. guessed at once
the object of their coming, and grew sick at heart to
think that the storm of men's stubborn passions, and the
strife of their revengeful nature, should desecrate a peace-
ful spot like this. I was about to turn back, disgusted at
the thought, when I remembered I must return by the
same path, and meet them — but even this I shrunk from.
The footsteps came nearer and nearer, and I had barely
time to move off the path, into the brushwood, and lead
my pony after, when they turned the angle of the way.
They who walked first were muffled in their cloaks,
whose high collars concealed their faces, but the caps of



312 THE ADVENTURES OF Ar.THUR o'lEARY.

many a gaudy colour proclaimed tliem students. At a
little distance bcliind, and with a slower step, came
another party, among whom I noticed one who walked
between two others, his head sunk on his bosom, and
evidently overcome with emotions of deep sorrow. A
movement of my horse, at this instant, attracted their
attention towards the thicket — they stopped, and a voice
called out my name. I looked round, and there stood
Eisendecker before me. He was dressed in deep mourn-
ing, and looked pale and worn — his black beard and
moustache deepening the haggard expression of features,
to which the red borders of his eyelids, and his bloodless
lips, gave an air of the deepest suffering. " Ah ! my
friend," said he, with a sad effort at a smile, " you are
here quite a-propos. I am going to fight Adolphe this
morning." A fearful presentiment that such was the
case came over me the instant I saw him — but when he
eaid so, a thrill ran through me, and I grew cold from
head to foot.

" I see you are sorry," said he, tenderly, while he took
my hand within both of his ; " but you would not blame
me — indeed you would not —if you knew all."

" What, then, was the cause of this quarrel? How
came you to an open rupture? "

He turned round, and as he did so his face was purple,
the blood suffused every feature, and his very eyeballs
seemed like bursting with it. He tried to speak ; but 1
only heard a rushing noise like a hoarse-drawn breath.

" Be calm, my dear Eisendecker," said I. " Cannot
this be settled otherwise than thus ? "

" No, no," said he, in the voice of indignant passion I

used to hear from him long before, "never!" He waved

his hand impatiently as he spoke, and turned his head from

ne. At the same moment one of his companions made

a sign with his hand towards me.

*' What! " whispered I, in horror—" a blow ? "

A brief nod was the reply. Alas! from that minute
all hope left me. Too well 1 knew the desperate alterna-
tive that awaited such an insult. Reconciliation was no
longer to be thought of. I asked no more, but followed
the group along the path towards the mill.



THE " STUDENT. 313

In a little garden, as it was called — wo should rather
term it a close-shaven grass-plot — where some tables and
benches were placed, under the shade of large chestnut
trees, Adolphe von Miihry stood, surrounded by a number
of his friends. He was dressed in his costume as a mem-
ber of the Prussian club of the Landsraanschaft — a kind of
uniform of blue and white, with a silver braidincr on the
cuffs and collar, and looked handsomer than ever I saw
him. The change his features had undergone gave him
an air of manliness and confidence that greatly improved
liim, and his whole carriage indicated a degree of self-
reliance and energy which became him perfectly. A faint
blush coloured his cheek as he saw me enter, and he lifted
his cap straight above his head and saluted me cour-
teously, but with an evident efi'ort to appear at ease before
me. I returned his salute mournfully — perhaps reproach-
fully, too — for he turned away and whispered something
to a friend at his side.

Although I had seen many duels with the sword, it
was the first time I was present at an affair with pistols
in Germany; and I was no less surprised than shocked to
perceive that one of the party produced a dice-bos and
dice, and placed them on a table.

Eisendecker all this time sat far apart from the rest,
and, with folded arms and half-closed eyelids, seemed to
wait in patience for the moment of being called on.

" What are they throwing for, yonder? " whispered I
to a Saxon student near me.

" For the shot, of course," said he ; " not but that they
might spare themselves the labour. Eisendecker must fire
first ; and as for who comes second after him "

" Is he so sure as that?" asked I in terror; for the
fearful vision of blood would not leave my mind.

" That is he. The fellow that can knock a bullet off a
champagne bottle at five-and-twenty paces may chance to
hit a man at fifteen."

" Miihry has it," cried out one of those at the table ;
and I heard the words repeated from mouth to mouth till
they reached Eisendecker, as he moved his cane listlessly
to and fro in the mill-stream.

*' Remember Ludwig," said his friend, as he grasped



oil THE ADVENTURES OF ARTHUR o'lEARY.

his arm with a strong clasp; "remember what I told
you.

The othei' nodded carelessly, and merely said, " Is aU
ready ? "

" Stand here, Eisendecker," said Muhry's second, as ho
dropped a pebble in the grass.

Miihry was already placed, and stood erect, his eyes
steadily directed to his antagonist, who never once looked
towards him, but kept his glance fixed straight in
front.

" You fire first, sir," said Miihry's friend, while I could
mark that his voice trembled slightly at the words. " You
may reserve your fire till I have counted twenty after the
word is given."

As he spoke he placed the pistol in Eisendecker's hand,
and called out, —

" Gentlemen, fall back, fall back ; I am about to give
the word. Herr Eisendecker, are you ready ?"

A nod was the reply.

" Xow ! " cried he, in a loud voice ; and scarcely was
the word uttered wheu the discharge of the pistol was
heard. So rapid, indeed, was the motion, that we never
paw him lift his arm ; nor could any one say what direc-
tion tlie ball had taken.

" I knew it, I knew it," muttered Eisendecker's friend,
in tones of agony. " All is over with him now."

Before a minute elapsed, tlie word to fall back was again
given, and I now beheld Von Miihry standing with his
pistol in hand, while a smile of cool but determined malice
sat on his features.

While the second repeated the same words over to
him, I turned to look at Eisendecker, but he evinced no
apparent consciousness of what was going on about him ;.
his eyes, as before, were bent on vacancy ; his pale face,
unmoved, showed no signs of passion. In an instant the
fearful " Now " rang out, and ^llihry ^^lowly raised his arm,
and, levelling his pi.'^tol steadily, stood with his eye bent
on his victim. While the deep voice of the second slowly
repeated one — two — three — four — never was anything like
the terrible suspense of that moment. It seemed as if
the very seconds of human life were measuring out one



THE " STUDENT. * 315

by one. As the word " ten " dropped from his lips, I saw
Miihry's hand shake. In his revengeful desire to kill his
man, he had waited too long, and now he was growiu"-
nervous : he let fall his arm to his side, and waited for a
few seconds, then raising it again, he took a steady aim,
and at the word " nineteen " fired.

A slight movement of Eisendecker's head at this instant
brought his face full front ; and the bullet, which would
have transfixed his head, now merely passed along his
cheek, tearing a rude flesh-wound as it went.

A half-cry broke from Miiliry : I heard not the word ; but
the accent I shall never cease to remember. It was now
Eisendecker's time ; and as the blood streamed down his
cheek, and fell in great drops upon his neck and shoulders,
I saw his face assume the expression it used to wear in
former days. A terrible smile lit up his dark features,
and a gleam of passionate vengeance made his eye glow
like that of a maniac.

" 1 am ready — give the word," cried he, in frantic
impatience.

But Miihry's second, fearful of giving way to such a
moment of passion, hesitated ; when Eisendecker again
called out, "The word, sir, the word;" and the by-
standers, indignant at the appearance of iinfairness,
repeated the cry.

The crowd fell back, and the word was given. Eisen-
decker raised his weapon, poised it for a second in his
hand, and then, elevating it above his head, brought it
gradually down, till, from the position whei'e I stood,
I could see that he aimed at the heart.

His hand was now motionless, as if it were marble ;
while his e3"e, rivctted on his antagonist, seemed to fix oil
one small spot, as though his whole vengeance was to be
glutted there. Never was suspense more dreadful, and I
stood breathless, in the expectation of the fatal flash, when,
with a jerk of his arm, he threw up the pistol and fired
above his head ; and then, with a heart-rending cry of
" Mein bruder, mein bruder," rushed into Miihry's arms,
and fell into a torrent of teai'S.

The scene was indeed a trying one, and few could wit-
ness it unmoved. As for me, I turned away completely



316 THE ADVEXTUPxES OF ARTHUR o'lEARY.

overcome ; Avhile my Iw ar found vent in thankfulness that
such a fearful beginning should end thus happily.

"Yes," said Eiscndccker, as we rode home together
that evening, -when, alter a long silence, he spoke ; " yes,
I had resolved to kill him ; but when my finger was even
on the trigger, I saw a look upon his features that re-
minded me of those earlier and happier days when we
had but one home and one heart ; and I felt as if I was
about to become the murderer of my brother."

Need I add that they were friends for ever after ?

But I must leave Gottingen and its memories too.
They recall happy days, it is true; but they who made
them so — where are they ?



CHAPTER XXI.

TBB IRAYELLINO PARTT.

I HAVE already taken occasion to indoctrinate my reader on
the subject of what I deem the most perfect species of
table dl.ote. May I now beg of him, or her, if she will
be kind enough, to accompany me to the iabJe-ivonstre
of Wiesbaden, Ems, or Baden-Baden? We are at the
Cursaal or Shuberts, or the " Hof von Nassau " at Wies-
baden. Four hundred guests are assembled ; their names
indicative of eveiy land of p]urope, and no small portion
of America ; the mixture of language giving the impres-
sion of its being a grand banquet to the " operatives at
Babel," but who, not satisfied with the chances of mis-
understanding afforded by speaking their own tongues
to foreigners, have adventured on the more certain project
of endeavouring to be totally unintelligible, by speaking
ian<;uages with wliieh they are unacquainted ; while ia
their dress, manner, and appearance, the great object
Heenis to be an accurate imitation of some other country
than their own.



THE TRAVELLING PARTY. 817

Hence Frenclimen affect to seem English — English to
look like Prussians — Prussians to appear Poles — Poles
to be Calraucks. Your "elegant" of the Boulevard
de Ghent sports a "cut away" like a Yorkshire squire,
and rides in cords ; your Londoner wears his hair on
his shoulders, and his moustaches like a Pomeranian
count ; Turks find their way into tight trousers and
*' Wellingtons ; " and even the Yankees cannot resist the
Boft impeachment, but take three inches off their hair
behind, and don't whittle before company.

Nothing is more amusing than these general congresses
of European vagrancy. Characters the most original
meet you at every step, and display most happily traits
you never have the opportunity to inspect at home. For
BO it is, the very fact of leaving home, with most people,
seems like an absolution from all the necessities of sus-
taining a part. They feel as though they had taken off
the stage finery in which they had fretted away their
hours before, and stand forth themselves in proprid. Thus
your grave Chancery lawyer becomes a chatty pleasant
man of the world, witty and conversable ; — your abstruse
mathematician, leaving conic sections behind him, talks
away with the harmless innocence of a child about men and
politics ; and even your cold " exclusive " bids a temporary
farewell to his "morgue," and answers his next neighbour
at table without feeling shocked at his obtrusion.

There must be some secret sympathy — of whose opera-
tions we know nothing — between our trunks and our
temperaments — our characters and our carpet-bags ; and
that by the same law which opens one to the inspection of
an official at the frontier, the other must be laid bare when
we pass across it. How well would it have been for us, if
the analogy had been pushed a little farther, that the fiscal
regulations adopted in the former were but extended to the
latter, and that we had applied the tarifi" to the morals, as
well as to the manufactures, of the Continent.

It was in some such musing as this I sat in a window
of the Nassau, at Wiesbaden, during the height of the

season of . Strangers were constantly arriving,



Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 28 of 40)