Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

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ish hue, and shaded by large eyebrows that met when he
frowned. His dress was a black frock, braided in Prussian
taste, and decorated by a single cordon, which hung not
over the breast, but on an empty sleeve of his coat, for
I now perceived that he had lost his right arm near the
shoulder. That he was a soldier, and had seen service, the


most careless observer could have detected ; liis very look
aud bearing bespoke the militaire. He never spoke to
any one during supper, and from that circumstance, as
well as Ills dissimilarity to the others, I judged him to b©
a traveller. There are times when one is more thau
usually disposed to let Fancy take the bit in her mouth
and run oti' ■\vith them ; and so I suffered myself to weavo
a story, or rather a dozen stories, for my companion, and
did not perceive that while I was inventing a history for
him, he had most ungratefully decamped, leaving me in a
cloud of tobacco-smoke and difficult conjectures.

When I descended to the Saal the next morning I
found him there before me ; he was seated at breakfast
before one of the windows, which commanded a view over
the Platz and the distant mountains. And here let me
ask, — Have you ever been in Hesse Cassel ? The chances
are — not. It is the highroad — nowhere. You neither
pass it going to Berlin or Dresden. There is no wonder
of scenery or art to attract strangers to it, and yet if acci-
dent should bring you thither, and plant you in the
" Konig von Pi'cussen," with no pressing necessity urging
you onward, there are many less pleasant things you could
do than spend a Avcek there. The hotel stands on one
side of a great platz, or square, at either side of which, the
theatre and a museum iorm tlie other two wings; the
fourth being left free of building, is occupied by a massive
railing of most laboured tracery, which opens to a wide
gate in a broad flight of steps, descending about seventy
feet into a spacious park. The tall elms and beech trees
can be seen waving their tops over the grille above, and
seeming, from the Platz, like young timber ; beyond, and
many miles away, can be seen the bold chain of the
"Taunus" mountains stretching to the clouds, forming
altogether a view which, for extent and splendour, I know
of no city can present the equal. I could scarce restrain
my admiration, and as I stood actually rivetted to the
spot, I was totally inattentive to the second summons of
the waiter, informing mo that my breakfast awaited me
in another part of the room.

"What, yonder?" said I, in some disappointment at
being so far removed from all chance of the prospect.


*' Perhaps you would join me here, sir," said tlie officer,
rising, and witli a most affable air, saluting me.

" If not an intrusion "

*' By no means," said he; " I am a passionate admirer of
that view myself. I have known it many years, and I
always feel happy when a stranger participates in my
enjoyment of it."

I confess I was no less gratified by the opportunity
thus presented of forming an acquaintance with the officer
himself than with the scenery, and I took my seat with
much pleasure. As we chatted away, about the town and
the surrounding countr}^, he half expressed a curiosity at
my taking a route so little travelled by my countrymen,
and seemed much amused by my confession that the matter
was purely accidental, and that frequently I left the desti-
nation of my ramble to the halting-place of the diligence.

As English eccentricity can, in a foreigner's estimation,
carry any amount of absurdity, he did not set me down
for a madman, Avhich, had I been French or Italian, ho
most certainly would have done, and only smiled slightly
at my efforts to defend a procedure, in his eyes bo

" You confess," said I, at last, somewhat nettled by the
indifference with which he heard my most sapient argu-
ments, — " you confess on what mere casualties every event
of life turns : what straws decide the whole destiny of a
man, and what mere trivial circumstances influence the
fate of whole nations, and how, in our wisest and most
matured plans, some unexpected contingency is ever
arising to disconcert and disarrange us ; why, then, not go
a step farther, — leave more to fate, and reserve all our
effiarts to behave well and sensibly, wherever we may bo
placed, — in whatever situations thrown, — as we shall then
have fewer disappointments, we shall at least enjoy a more
equable frame of mind, to combat with the world's chances."

"True, possibly, if a man were to lead a life of idleness,
Buch a wayward course might suffice him as well as any
other ; but. bethink you, it is not thus men have wrought
great deeds, and won high names for themselves. It is not
by fickleness and caprice, by indolent yielding to the acci-
dent of the hour, that reputations have been acquired "


"Yon speak," said T, inteiTupting him at this place,—
"you speak as if humble men like myself were to occupy
their place in history, and not lie down in the dust of the
churchyard undistinguishable and forgotten."

" \>flten they cease to act otherwise than to deserve
commemoration, rely upon it their course is a false one.
Our conscience may be — indeed often is — a bribed judge ;
and it is only by representing to ourselves how our modes
of acting and thinking would tell upon the minds of
others, reading of, but not knowing us, that we arrive at
that certain rule of right, so difficult in many worldly trials."

"And do you think a man becomes happier by this?"

"I did not say happier," said he, with a sorrowful em-
phasis on the last word. " He may be better."

With that he rose from his seat, and looking at his
watch he apologized for leaving me so suddenly, and

" Who is the gentleman that has just gone out ? " asked
I of the waiter.

" The Baron von Elgenheim," replied he ; " but they
mostly call him the Black Colonel. Not for his mous-
taches," added he, laughing with true German familiarity,
*' they are white enough, but he always wears mourning."

" Does he belong to Hesse, then ? "

'' Not he ; he's an ' Ouslander ' of some sort — a Swabian,
belike ; but he comes here every year, and stays three or
four weeks at a time. And, droll enough too, though he
has been doing so for fifteen or sixteen years, he has not a
single acquaintance in all Cassel ; indeed, I never saw
him speak to a stranger till this morning."

These particulars, few as they were, all stimulated my
curiosity to see more of tlie colonel, but he did not
present himself at the table d'hote on that day or the
following one, and I only met him by chance in the Park,
when a formal salute, given with cold politeness, seemed
to say our acquaintance was at an end.

Now there are certain inns, which, by a strange mag-
netism, are felt as homes at once ; there is a certain air of
quietude and repose about them that strike you when you
enter, and gain on you every hour of your stay. The
landlord, too, lias a bearing compounded of cordiality and


respect ; and tlie waiter, divining your tastes and partiali-
ties, falls quickly into your ways, and seems to regard you
as an hahilue while you are yet a stranger ; while the
ringletted young lady at the bar, who passed you the first
day on the stairs with a well-practised indifference, now
accosts you with a smile and a curtsey, and already believes
you an old acquaintance.

To an indolent man like myself, these houses are im-
possible to leave. If it be summer, you are sure to have
a fresh bouquet in your bed- room every morning when you
awake ; in winter, the garfon has discovered how you
like your slippers toasted on the fender, and your robe-de-
chambre airing on the chair ; the cook learns your taste
in cutlets, and knows to a nicety how to season your
"omelette aux fines herbes ; " the very washerwoman of
the establishment has counted the plaits in your shirt,
and wouldn't put one more or less for any bribery. By
degrees, too, you become a kind of confidant of the whole
household. The host tells you of ma'mselle's fortune, and
the match on the "tapis" for her, and all its difiiculties
and advantages, contra and pro ; the waiter has revealed
to you a secret of passion for the chambermaid — but for
which, he would be Heaven knows how many thousand
miles off, in some wonderful place, where the wages would
enable him to retire in less than a twelvemonth ; and even
"Boots," while depositing your Wellingtons before the
fire, has unburdened his sorrows and his hopes, and asks
your advice, "if he shouldn't become a soldier ? "

When this hour arrives, the house is your own. Let
what will happen, your fire burns brightly in your bed-
room ; let who will come, your dinner is cared for to a ;
miracle. The newspaper, coveted by a dozen, and eagerly
asked for, is laid by for your reading ; you are, then, in
poet's words, —

"Liber, honoratus, pnlcher — Rex denique Regum ;"

and, let me tell you, there are worse sovereignties.

Apply this to the " Konig von Preussen," and wonder not
if J found myself its inhabitant for three weeks afterwards.




In somewhat less tlian a fortniglit's time, I Lad made a
bowing acquaintance with some half-dozen good subjects
of Hesse, and formed a chatting intimacy with some
three or four frequenters of the table d'hote, with whom I
occasionally strolled out of an afternoon into the Paik, to
drink coffee, and listen to the military baud that played
there every evening. The quiet uniformity of the life
pleased and never wearied me ; for, happily — or unhap-
pily, as some would deem it — mine is one of those tame
and commonplace natures which need not costly amuse-
ments, nor expensive tastes to occupy it. I enjoy the
society of agreeable peo^ole with a gusto few possess ; I
can also put up with the association with those of a dif-
ferent stamp, feeling sensibly how much more I am on a
level with them, and how little pretension I have to find
myself among the others. Fortunately, too, I have no sym-
pathy with the pleasures which wealth alone commands.
It was a taste denied me ; I neither afiect to undervalue
their importance, nor sneer at their object ; I simply con-
fess that the faculty which renders them desirable was by
some accident omitted in my nature, and I never yet felt
the smallness of my fortune a source of regret. There is
DO such happiness, to my notion, as that which enables a
man to be above the dependence on others for his plea-
sures and amusements — to have the sources of enjoyment
in his own mind, and to feel that his own thoughts, and
his own reflections, are his best wealth. There is no
selfishness in this — far from it — the stores thus laid by
make a man a better member of society — more ready to
assist — more able to advise his fellow-men. By standing
aloof from the game of life, you can better estimate the
chances of success and tlie skill of the players ; and as
you have no stake in the issue, the odds arc that your
opinion is a con-ect one. But, better than all, hovf

"the park." 871)

many enjoyments which, to the glitter of wealth, or the
grandeur of a high {)osition, would seem insiguiticant
and valueless, are to the humble man sources of hourly
delight ; and is our happiness anything but an aggregate
of these grains of pleasure ? There is as much philosophy
in the child's toy as the nobleman's coronet ; — all the
better for him who can limit his desires to the attainable,
and be satisfied with what lies within his reach. I have
practised the system for a life long, and feel that if I now
enjoy much of the buoyancy and the spirit of more youthful
days, it is because I have never taxed my strength beyond
its ability, and striven for more than I could justly pretend
to. There is something of indolence in all this — I know
there is — but I was born under a lazy star, and I cannot
say I regret my destiny.

From this little expose of my tastes and habits it may
be gathered that Cassel suited me perfectly. The air of
repose which rests on these little secluded capitals has
something — to me at least — inexpressibly pleasurable :
the quaint, old-fashioned equipages, drawn along at a
gentle amble — the obsolete dress of the men in livery —
the studious ceremony of the passers to each other — the
absence of all bustle — the primitive objects of sale exposed
in the various shops — all contrasting so powerfully with
the wealth-seeking tumult of richer communities — suggest
thoughts of tranquillity and contentment. They are the
bourgeoisie of the great political world ; debarred from
the great game which empires and kingdoms are playing,
they retire within the limits of their own narrow but safe
enjoyments, with ample means for every appliance of com-
fort ; they seek not to astonish the world by any display,
but content themselves with the homely happiness within
their reach.

Every day I lingered here I felt this conviction the
stronger. The small interests which occupied the public
mind originated no violent passions, no exaggerated party
spirit. The journals — those indices of a nation's mind —
contained less politics than criticism ; an amicable little
contention about the site of a new fountain, or the posi-
tion of an elector's statue, was the extent of any discus-
sion ; while at every opportunity crept out some little


congratulating expression on the goodness of the harvest,
the abundance of the vintage, or, what was scarcely less
valued, the admirable operatic company which had just
arrived. These may seem very petty incidents for men
to pass their liv«6 amongst, thought I, but still they all
seem very happy : there is much comfort, there is no
poverty. Like the court whist-table, where the points are
only for silver groschen, the amusement is just as great,
and no one is ruined by high play.

I'm not sure but that I should have made an excellent
Hessian ! thought I, as I deposited two little silver pieces,
about the size of a spangle, on the table, in payment for
a very appetizing little supper, and an ink-bottleful of
Rhine wine ; — and now for the coffee.

I was seated beneath a great chestnut tree, whose spread-
ing branches shaded me from the rays of the setting sun
that came slanting to my very feet. At a short distance off
sat a little family part}' — grandfather, grandchildren, and
all — there was no mistaking them ; they were eating their
Bupper in the park, possibly in honour of some domestic
fSte. Tes, there could be no doubt of it ; it was the birth-
day of that pretty, dark-eyed little girl, of some ten years
of age, who wore a wreath of roses in her hair, and sat
at the top of the table, beside the " Greis." A burst of
delighted laughter broke from them all as I looked, and
now I could see a little boy of scarce five j-ears old. whose
long yellow locks hung midway down his back ; l.'^ was
standing beside his sister's chair, and I could hear his in-
fant voice reciting a little verse he had learned in honour
of the day. The little man, whose gravity contrasted so
ludicrously with the merry looks about, went through his
task as steadily as a court preacher holding forth before
royalty ; an occasional breach of memory would make him
now and then turn his head to one side, where an elder
sister knelt, and then he would go on again as before.
I wished much to catch the words, but could only hear
the refrain of each verse, which he always repeated louder
than the rest, —

" Da, Bind die Tiige lang genuch
Da, sind die nachte mild. "

Scarcely had he finished when his mother caught him

"the park." 881

to lier arrao and kissed him a hundred times, while the
others struggled to take him, the little fellow clinging to
her neck with all his strength.

It was a picture of such happiness, to look on it were
alone a blessing. I have that night's looks and cheerful
voices fresh in my memory, and have thought of them
many a long mile away from where I then heard them.

A slight noise beside me made me turn round, and I
saw the black Colonel, as the waiter called him, and
whom I had not met for sevei-al days past. He was
seated on a bench near, but with his back tow^ards me,
and I could perceive he was evidently unaware of my
presence. I had, I must confess it, felt somewhat piqued
at his avoidance of me, for such the distant recognition
with which he saluted me seemed to imply. He had
made the first advances himself, and it was scarcely fair
that he should have thus abruptly stopped short, after in-
viting acquaintance. While I was meditating a retreat,
he turned suddenly about, and then, taking off his hat,
saluted me with a courtly politeness quite different from
his ordinary manner.

" I see, sir," said he, with a very sweet smile, as ho
looked towards the little group, " I see, sir, you are
indeed an admirer of pretty prospects."

Few and simple as the words were, they were enough
to reconcile me to the speaker ; his expression, as he spoke
them, had a depth of feeling in it, which showed that his
heart was touched.

After some commonplace remark of mine on the sim-
plicity of German domestic habits, and the happy im-
munity they enjoyed from that rage of fashion which in
other countries involved so many in rivalling with others
wealthier than themselves, the Colonel assented to the
observation, but expressed his sorrow that the period of
primitive tastes and pleasures was rapidly passing away.
The French Revolution first, and subsequently the wars
of the Empire, had done much to destroy the native sim-
plicity of Gei-man character ; while, in latter days, the
tide of travel had brought a host of vulgar rich people,
whose gold corrupted the once happy peasantry, suggest-
ing wants and tastes they never knew, nor need to know.


** As for the great cities of Germany," continued he, "they
have scarcely a trace left of their ancient nationality.
Vienna and Bei-liu, Dresden and Munich, are but poor
imitations of Paris ; it is only in the old and less visited
towns, such as ^Nuremberg or Augsburg, that the * Alt
Deutsch ' habits still survive. Some few of the Grand
Ducal States — Weimar, for instance — preserve the primi-
tive simplicity of former days even in courtly etiquette,
and there, really, the government is paternal, in the
fullest sense of the term.

" You would think it strange, would you not, to dine
at court at four o'clock, and to see the grand ducal minis-
ters and their ladies — the elite of a little world of their
own — proceeding, many of them on foot, in court-dress,
to dinner with their sovereign? Strange, too, would you
deem it — dinner over — to join a promenade with the party
in the park, where all the bourgeoisie of the town are
strolling about with their families, taking their coffee
and their tea, and only interrupting their conversation
or their pleasure to salute the Grand Duke or Grand
Duchess, and respectfully bid them a ' good e'en.' And
then, as it grew later, to return to the palace for a little
whist or a game of chess, or, better still, to make one of
that delightful circle in the drawing-room where Goethe
was sitting. Yes, such is the life of Weimar. The luxury
of your great capitals — the gorgeous salons of London
and Paris — the voluptuous pleasures which unbounded
wealth and all its train of passions beget — are utterly
unknown there; but there is a world of pure enjoyment
and of intercourse with high and gifted minds which more
than repay you for their absence.

" A feiv years more, and all this will be but ' matter for
an old man's memory.' Increased facilities of travel,
and greater knowledge of language, erase nationality most
rapidly. The venerable habits transmitted from father
to son for centuries — the traditional customs of a people
— cannot survive a caricature nor a satire. The ' Esprit
Moqueur ' of France and the insolent wealth of England
liave left us scarce a vestige of our Yaterland. Our
literature is at this instant a thing of shreds and patches
•—bad translations of bad books. The deep wisdom and


THE PAKK." 883

the racy Immour of Jean Paul are unknown; while the
vapid wit of a modern French novel is extolled. They
prefer the false glitter of Dumas and Balzac to the sterling
gold of Schiller and Herder ; and even Leipsic and
Waterloo have not freed us from the slavish adulation of
the conquered to the conqueror."

" What would you have ?" said I.

" I would have Germany a nation once more— a nation
whose limits should reach from the Baltic to the Tyrol.
Her language, her people, her institutions, entitle her to
be such ; and it is only when parcelled into kingdoms and
pett}^ states, divided by the artful policy of foreign powers,
that our nationality pines and withers."

" I can easily conceive," said I, " that the Confederation
of the Rhine must have destroyed, in a great measure,
the patriotic feeling of Western Germany ; the peasantry
were sold as mercenaries ; the nobles, little better, took
arms in a cause many of them hated and detested "

" I must stop yOQ here," said he, with a smile ; " not
that you would, or could, say that which should wound
my feelings, but you might hurt your own when you came
to know that he to whom you are speaking served in that
army. Yes, sir, I was a soldier of iSTapoleon."

Although nothing could be more unaffectedly easy than
his manner as he said this, I feared I might already have
said too much ; indeed, I knew not the exact expressions
I had used, and there was a pause of some minutes,
broken at length by the Colonel saying, —

" Let us walk towards the town ; for, if I mistake not,
they close the gates of the Park at midnight, and I believe
we are the only persons remaining here now."

Chattering of indifferent matters, we arrived at the
hotel ; and after accepting an invitation to accompany the
baron the next day to Wilhelms Hohe, I wished him
good night and retired.



THE baron's STORT.

EvKTvT one knows how rapidly acquaintance ripens into
intimacy -when mere accident throws people together in
situations where they have no other occupation than each
other's society ; days do the work of years, confidences
spring up where mere ceremonies would have been inter-
clianged before, and, in fact, a freedom of thought and
speech as great as we enjoy in our oldest friendships.
Such, in less than a fortnight, was the relation between
the Baron and myself. We breakfasted together every
morning, and usually sallied forth afterwards into the
country, generally on horseback, and only carae back to
dinner, a ramble in the Park concluding our da}'.

I still look back to those days as amongst the plea-
eantest of my life, for although the temper of my com-
panion's mind was melancholic, it seemed rather the
sadness induced by some event of his life than the de-
pression resulting from a desponding temperament — a
great difference, by the way; as great as between the
shadow we see at noonday and the uniform blackness of
midnight. He had evidently seen much of the world,
and in the highest class ; he spoke of Paris as he knew it
in the gorgeous time of the Empire — of the Tuileries,
when the salons were crowded with kings and sovereign
princes — of Napoleon, too, a-s lie saw him, wet and cold,
beside the bivouack f-irc, interclianging a rude jest with
some " gronard " of the " Gar Jc," or commanding, in tones
of loud superiority, to the marshals who stood awaiting-
his orders. The Emperor, he said, never liked the Ger-
mans, and although many evinced a warm attachment to
hia person and his cause, they were not Frenchmen, and
he could not forgive it. Tlie Alsatians he trusted, and
was partial to ; but his sympathies stopped short at the
lihine, and he always felt that if fortune turned, iha
wrongs of Germany must have their recompense.

THE baron's story. 385

While speaking freely on iliese matters, I remarked
that he studiously avoided all mention of his own ser-
vices ; a mere passing mention of " I was there," or,
*' My regiment was engaged in it," being the extent of his
observations regarding himself. His age and rank, his
wound itself, showed that he must have seen service in
its most active times, and my curiosity was piqued to

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 34 of 40)