Charles James Lever.

The adventures of Arthur O'Leary online

. (page 39 of 40)
Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 39 of 40)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

no influence over him, the devoted attachment of her
whole nation towards her should have had that effect.
There was something unmanly in the cruelty that replied
to her supplication in favour of her country, by trifling
allusions to the last fashions of Paris, and the costumes of
the boulevard ; and when she accepted the moss-rose from
his hand, and tremblingly uttered the words — " Sire, avec
Magdebourg?" — a more suitable rejection of her suit
might have been found than the abrupt " Non ! " of Napo-
leon, as he turned his back and left her. There was some-
thing prophetic in her speech, when relating the anecdote
herself to Hardenberg, she added — " That man is too
pitiless to misfortune ever to support it himself, should it
be his lot!"

But what mean all these reflections, Arthur ? These
be matters of history which the world knows as well or
better than thyself. "Que diable allez-vous faire dans
cette galere?" Alas ! this comes of supping in the Speiss
Sdal of the " Kaiser" and chatting with the great round-
faced Prussian in uniform at the head of the table ; he
was a lieutenant of the guard at Tilsit, and also at Erfurt
with dispatches in 1808 ; he had a hundred pleasant
stories of the fdtes, and the droll mistakes the body-guard
of the Czar used to fall into bv igrnorance of the habits
and customs of civilized life. They were Bashkirs, and
always bivouacked in the open street before the Em-
peror's quarters, and spent the whole night through chant-
ing a wild and savage song, which some t')ok up as others
slept, and when day broke the whole concluded with a


dance, which, from the description I had of it, must have
been something of the most uucoutii and fearful that
coiihl be conceived.

Napoleon admired those fellows greatly, and more than
one among them left Erfurt with the cross of the Legion
at liis breast.

Tired and weary as 1 was, T sat up long past midnight,
listening to the Prussian wbo rolled oat his reminiscences
betvveen huge volumes of smoke in the most amusing
iasliiou. And when I did retire to rest, it was to fall into
a fearful dreamabout B ishkirs and bastions, iialf-moons, hot
shot, and bomb-proofs, that never left me till morning broke.

"The Rittmeister von Otterstadt presents his compli-
ments," said the waiter, awakening me from a heavy sleep
■ — " presents his compliineuts "

" Who?" cried I, with a shudder.

" The liittmeister von Otterstadt, who promised to show
you the fortress."

" I'm ill — seriously ill," said I, " I should not be sur-
prised if it were a fever.

" Probably so," echoed the immovable German, and went
on with his message. " The Herr Kittmeister regrets
much that he is ordered away on Court Martial duty to
Entenburg, and cannot have the honour of accompanying
you before Saturday, when "

" With Heaven's assistance, T shall be out of the visible
horizon of Erfurt," said 1, finishing the sentence for him.

Never was there a mind so rebeved as mine was l)y
this intelligence ; the horrors of that two days' perambu-
lations through arched passages, up and down flights of
stone steps, and into caves and cells, of whose uses and
objects I had not the most remote conception, had given me
a night of fearful dreatns, and now I was free once more.

Long live the King of Prussia! say I, who keeps up
smart discipline in his army, and I fervently trust that
Court Martial may be thoroughly digested and maturely
considered ; and the odds are in my favour that I'm. oiT
before it's over.

What is it, T wonder, that makes the inhabitants of
fortified towns always so stupid ? Is such the fact ? first
of all, asks some one of my readers. Not a doubt of it; if


yon ever visited them and passed a week or twowitliin
their walls, you would scarcely ask the question. Caa
curtains and bastions, fosses and half-moons, exclude intel-
ligence as effectually as they do an enemy ? are batteries
as fatal to pleasure as they are to platoons ? I cannot
say ; but what I can and will say is, that the most melan-
choly days ancl nights I ever passed have been in great
fortresses. Where the works are o"d and tumbling, some
little light of the world without will creep in through the
chinks and crevices, as at Antwerp and Mentz ; but let
them be well looked to — the fosses full, no weeds on the
ramparts, the palisades painted smart green,and the sentry-
boxes to match, and God help you !

There must be something in the humdrum routine of
military duty that has its effect upon the inhabitants.
They get up at morning by a signal gun, and tliey go to
bed by another; they dine by beat of drum, and the
garrison gives the word of command for every hour in the
twenty-four. Thei^e is no stir, no movement ; a patrol or
a fatigue party are the only things you meet, and when
you prick up your ears at the roll of wheels, it turns out
to be only a tumbril with a corporal's guard !

Theatres can scarcely exist in such places ; a library
would die in a week ; there are no soirees ; no society.
Billiards and beer form the staple of officers' pleasures in
a foreign army, and certainly they have one recommenda-
tion, they are cheap.

Now as there was little to see in Erfurt, and still less
to do, I made up my mind to start early the next day, and
push forward to Weimar — a good resolution as far as it
went, but then, how was the day to be passed ? People
dine at " one" in Germany, or if they wish to push matters
to a fashionable extreme, they say "two." How is the
interval till dark to be filled up, taking it for granted you
have provided some occupation for that? Coffee and
smoking will do something, but except to a German they
can't fill up six mortal hours. Reading is out of the
question after such a dinner ; riding would give you
apoplexy ; sleep alone is the resource. Sleep " that wraps
a man as in a blanket," as honest Sancho saj'S, and sooth
to say one is fit for little else ; and so, having ordered a


pen and ink to my room, as if I were about to write
various letters, I closed the door and my eyes within five
minutes after, and never awoke till the bang of a " short
eighteen" struck six.



" Which is the way to the theatre ? " said I to an urchin
who stood at the inn door, in that professional attitude of
waiting your street runners in all cities can so well
assume ; for holding a horse and ringing a bell are accom-
plishments, however little some people may deem them.

"The theatre:"' echoed he, measuring me leisurely
from head to foot, and not stirring from his place.

" Yes," said I, " they told me there was one here, and
that they played to-night."

" Possibly," with a shrug of the shoulders, was the
reply, and he smoked his short pipe, as carelessly as before.

" Come, then, show me the way," said L pulling out some
kreutzers, "put up that pipe for ten minutes, and lead on."

Tlie jingle of the copper coin awakened his intelligence,
and though he could not fathom my antipathy to the fumes
ot bad tobacco, he deposited the weapon in his capacious
side pocket, and with a short nod bade me follow him.

Nowhere does nationality exhibit itself so strikingly as
in the conduct and bearing of tlie people who show you
the way in diti'erent cities. Your German is sententious
and solemn as an elephant. He goes plodding along
with his head down and his hands in his pockets, answer-
ing your questions with a sulky monosyllable, and seeming
annoyed when not left to his own meditations. The
Frenchman thinks, on the contrary, that he is bound to
be agreeable and entertaining ; he is doing the honours
of La Grande Nation, and it stands him upon that you
are not to go away discontented with the politeness of
" the only civilized people of Europe." Paddy has some
of this spirit, too, but less on national than individual


grounds ; he likes conversation, and leads the way to it ;
beside, no one, while affecting to give information him-
self, can pump a stranger like an Irishman. The Yankee
plan is cross-examination outright, and. no disguise
about it ; if he shows the way to one place, it is because
you must tell him where you came from last ; while
John Bull, with a brief " Don't know, I'm sure," is
equally indifferent to your road and your fortune, and
has no room for any thoughts about you.

My " avant courier" was worthy of his country; if
every word had cost him a molar tooth he couldn't have
been more sparing of them, and when by chance I either
did not hear or rightly understand what he did say,
nothing could induce him to repeat it ; and so on we went
from the more frequented part of the town till we arrived
at a quarter of nari'ow streets, and poor-looking houses,
over the roofs of which I coald from time to time catch
glimpses of the fortifications ; for we were at the extreme
limits of the place.

" Are you quite certain this is the way, my lad ?" said
I, for I began to fear lest he might have mistaken the
object of my inquiry.

"Yes, yes — there it was — there was the theatre," and
so he pointed to a large building of dark stone, which
closed the end of the street, and on the walls of which
various playcards and announcements were posted, which,
on coming nearer, I found were bills for their night's per-
formance, setting forth how the servants of His Majesty
would perform " Den Junker in den Residentz," and the
afterpiece of " Kriihwinkel." There was a very flourish-
iner catalognie of actors and actresses, with names as hard
as the dishes in a bill of fare ; and something about a
"ballet" and a " musical interrmezzo."

Come — said I to myself — this is a piece of good fortune.
And so dismissing my little foot page, I turned to the
door, which stood within a deep porch.

What was my amazement, however, to find it closed.
I looked on every side, but there was no other entrance ;
beside, the printed list of places and their prices left
no doubt that this was the regular place of admission.
There's no knowing, after all, tho.ught I ; these Germans



are strange folks ; perhaps they don't open the door with.
out knocking, and so here goes.

" In Himmel's namen was ist das ? " screamed an angry
voice, as a very undignified-looking vrau peeped from a win-
dow of a foot square above the door — " What do you want
with that uproar there ? " roared she, louder than before.

" I want to get in — a place in the boxes or a ' stalle ' in
the 'balcony' — anywhere will do."

"What for?" cried she again.

" What for ! — for the play, to be sure — for the * Junker
in den Residentz.' "

" He is not here at all — go your ways — or I'll call the
Polizey," yelled she, while, banging the window, there
was an end of the dialogue.

" Can I be of any service to you, mein Herr ? " said a
portly little fellow, without a coat, who was smoking at
his door — " What is it you want ? "

" I came to see a play," said I in amazement at the
wliole proceedings, " and here I find nothing but an old
beldam that threatens me with the police."

" Ah ! as for the play I don't know," replied he, scratch-
ing his head; "but come with me over here to the 'Fox,' and
we're sure to see the Herr Director."

" But I've nothing to do with the Herr Director," said I ;
" if there's no performance I must only go back again —
that's all."

"Ah! but there may, though," rejoined my friend;
" come along and see the Herr himself, I know him well,
and he'll tell you all about it,"

The proposition was at least novel, and as the world goes,
that same is not without its advantages, and so I acceded,
and followed my new guide, who in the careless " negli-
gee " of a waistcoat and breeches, waddled along before me.

The " Fox " was an old-fashioned house, of framed
wood, with queer diamond-shaped panes to the windows,
and a great armorial coat over the door, where a fox, in
black oak, stood out conspicuously.

Scarcely had we entered the low arched door, when the
fumes of schnaps and tobacco nearly suffocated me ; while
the merry chorus of a drinking song proclaimed that a
jolly party was assembled.


1 nlrca'ly re])ented of my folly in yicldincr to the strange
mail's proposal, and had he been near, would at once liavB
declined any further step in the matter; l)ut he had dis-
appeared in the clouds, — the disc of his drab shorts was
all I could perceive through the nehula3. It was cou-
ioundedly awkward, so it was. What right had I to hunt
down the Herr Director, and disturb him in his lair. It was
enough that there was no play ; any other man would have
quietly returned home again, when he saw such was the case.

While I revolved these thoughts with, myself, ray fat
friend issued from the mist, followed by a tall, thin man,
dressed in deep black, with tights and hessians of admir-
able tit; a pair of large bushy whiskers bisected his face,
meeting at the corners of his nose ; while a sharp and
pointed chin tuft seemed to prolong the lower part of his
countenance to an immense extent.

Before the short man had well uttered his announce-
ment of the "Herr Director," I had launched f' rth into
the most profuse apologies for my unwarrantable intrusion,
expressing in all the German I could muster, the extent
of my sorrow, and ringing the changes of my grief and
my modesty, my modesty and my grief; at last I gave in,
fairly floored for want of the confounded verb one must
always clinch the end of a sentence with in German.

" It was to see the play, then, Monsieur came ? " said
the Director, inquiringly, for alas I my explanation had
been none of the clearest.

" Yes," said I, " for the play — but " Before I couid

finish the sentence, he flung himself into my arms, and
cried out with enthusiasm, " Dubistmein Vater's Sohn 1 "

This piece of family information was unquestionably
new to me, but I disengaged myself from my brother's
arms, curious to know the meaning of such enthusiasm.

" And so you came to see the play ? " cried he, in a
transport, while he threw himself into a stage attitude of
great effect.

" Yes," said I, " to see the ' Junker,' and ' Kriihwinkel.' "

" Ach Gott ! that was flue, that was noble! "

Now, how any man's enterprising a five franc piece or
two gulden-miintze could deserve such epithets, would
have puzzled me at another moment ; but as the dramatist

F F 2


said, I -wasn't going to " mind squibs aftor sitting over a
barrel of gri.npowder," and I didn't pay the least attention
to it.

" Give me your hand ! " cried he, in a rapture, " and let
me call vou friend."

The Director's mad as a March hare ! thoiifrht I, and I
wished myself well out of the whole adventure.

"But as there's no play," said I, "another night will
do as well ; I shall remain here for a week to come, per-
haps longer " But while I went on expressing the

great probability of my passing a winter at Erfurt, he
never paid the least attention to my observations, but
seemed sunk in meditation, occasionally dropping in a
stray phrase, as thus — " Die Wurtzel is sick, that is, she is
at the music garden with the officers ; then, Blum is drunk
by this; der Ettenbaum couldn't sing a note after his supper
of schenkin. But then there's Grundeiiwald, and Catinka,
to be sure, and Alte Kreps — we'll do it, we'll do it! Come
along, mein aller Liebster, and choose the best ' loge du
premie,' take two, three, if you like it — you shall see a

" "^Miat do you mean ? you are surely not going to open
tlie house for one .'"'

" An't I though ! you shall soon see — it's the only
audience I ever had in Erfurt, and I'm not going to lose
it. Know, most worthy friend," continued he with a
most melodramatic tone and gesture, "that to-night is
the twelfth time I have given out an announcement of a
pla}', and yet never was able to attract — 1 will not say an
audience — but not a row — not a ' loge ' — not even a ' stalle '
in the balcon. I opened, why do I say I opened ? I
advertised, the first night, Schiller's ' Maria Stuart,' you
know the Maria — well, such a Lladchen as we have for
the part ! such tenderness — such music in her voice — such
grace and majesty in every movement; you shall see for
yourself, Catinka is here. Then I gave out ' Nathan
der AVeise,' then the ' Goctz,' then 'Lust und Licbe,' — why
do I go on ? in a word, I went through all our dramatic
authors from Schiller, Gbthe, Lessing, Werner, Grill-
parzer, down to Kotzebue, whose two pieces I advertized
for this evening.


" But — pardon my interruption — did you always keep
the doors closed as I found them ? "

"Not at tirst," responded he, solemnly; '* the doors were
open, and a system of telegraphs established between tiie
bureau for payment and the orchestra, by which the foot-
lii;hts were to be illuminated on the arrival of the tirst
visitor ; but the bassoon and the drum, the clarinetie and
the oboe, stood like cannoneers, match in hand, from hall-
past six till eight, and never came the word ' Fire ! ' but
here we are."

With these words he produced from his pocket a
massive key, with which he unlocked the door and led
me forward by the arm into a dark passage, followed by
our coatless friend, whom he addressed as " Herr Stauf,"
desirinor him to come in also. While the Herr Director
was waiting for a light, which the vrau seemed in no
hurry to bring, he continued his recital. "When I per-
ceived matters were thus, I vowed two vows, solemnly and
before the whole corps — ballet, chorus, and all ; first, that
I would give twelve representations — I mean announce-
ments of representations — from twelve separate dramatists
before I left Erfurt; and, secondly, tiiat for a single spec-
tator, I would open the house and have a phiy acted. One
part of my oath is already accomplished ; your appearance
calls on me for the other. This over, I shall leave Erfurt
for ever; and if," continued he, " the Fates ever discover
me again within the walls of a foi'titied town — unless 1 be
ser.t there in handcuffs and with a peloton of dragoons —
may I never cork my eyebrows while 1 live !"

This resolve, so perfectly in accordance with the medi-
tations I had lately indulged in myself, gave me a higher
opinion of the Herr Director's judgment, and I followed
him with a more tranquil conscience than at tirst.

" There are four steps there — take care," cried he, " and
feel along by the wall here ; for though this place should
be, and indeed is by right, one blaze of lamps, I must now
conduct you by this miserable candle."

And so, through many a narrow passage, and narrower
door, up-stairs and down, over benches, and under parti-
tions we went, until at length we arrived upon the stage
itself. The curtain was up, and before it in yawning


blackness, lay tlie audience part of the house — a gloorny
and drenry cavern ; the dark cells of the boxes, and the
long, untenanted benches of the " balcon," had an effect
of melancholy desolation impossible to convey. Up above,
the various skies and moon scenes hung, flapping to and
fro with the cold wind, that came, heaven knows whence,
but with a piercing sharpness I never felt the equal of
within doors, while the back of the stage was lost in a
dim distance, where fragments of huts, and woods, mills,
mountains, and rustic bridges, lay discordantly intermixed
— the chaos of a stage woi'ld.

The Herr Director waved his dip candle to and fro
above his head, like a stage musician, invoking spirits and
goblins damned, while he repeated, from one of Werner's
])ieces, some lines of an incantation.

" Gelobt sey Marie ! " said the Herr Stauf, blessing him-
self devoutly, for he had looked upon the whole as an act
of devotion.

"And now, friend," continued the Director, "wait here
at this fountain, and I will return in a few minutes ;" and
so saying he quitted the place, leaving Stauf and me in
perfect darkness, a circumstance which I soon discovered
was nut a whit more gratifying to my friend tlian myself.

" This is a fearful place to be in the dark," quoth Stauf,
edging close up to me ; "you don't know, but I do, that
this was the Augustine Convent formerly, and the monks
were all murdered by the Elector Frederick, in — What was
that ? — Didn't you see something like a blue flame yonder?"

" Well, and what then ? You know these people have
H hundred contrivances for stage purposes — "

" Ach Gott ! that's true ; but I wish I was out again,
in the Mohren Gasse ; I'm only a poor sausage maker, and
one needn't be brave for my trade."

" Come, come, take courage ; here comes the Herr
Director," and wifli that he entered with two candles in
large gilt candlesticks.

" Now, friend," said he, " where will you sit ? My
advice is, the orchestra; take a place near the middle,
Viehind the leader's bench, and you'll be out of the draught
of wind. Stauf, do you hold the candies, and sit in the
' pupitre.' You'll excuse my lighting the foot-lights, won't


you ? — wfll, what do you say to a great coat? — you feel it
cold — I see you do."

" If not too much trouble "

"Not at all — don't speak of it;" and with that he
slipped behind the Hats, and returned in an instant with
a hn^e fur mantle of mock sable. " I wear that in 'Otto
von Cohmen,'" said he, proudly; " and it always produces
an immense effect. It is in that same ' peltzer ' I stab the
king, in the fourth act; do you remember where he says
(it is at the chess table), — ' Check to the Queen ;' then I
reply, ' Zura Koenig, selbst,' and run him through."

" Gott bewahr ! " piously ejaculated Stauf, who seemed
quite beyond all chance of distinguishing fiction fromreality.

" You'll have to wait ten or twenty minutes, I fear,'
said the Director. " Der Catinka can't be found, and Der
Ungedroht has just washed his doublet, and can't appear
till "it's dry; but we'll give you the Kra'iwinkel in good
style. You shall be content ; and now I must go dress too."

" He is a strange carl," said Stauf, as he sat up on a
tall bench, like an office stool; "but I wish from my soul
it was over ! "

I can't say I did not participate in the wish, notwith-
standing a certain curiosity to have a peep at the rest of
the company. I had seen, in my day, some droll exhibi-
tions in the dramatic way, but this, certainly if not the
most amusing, was the very strangest of them all.

I remember at Corfu, where an Italian company came
one winter, and gave a series of operas, amongst others,
" II Turco in Italia." The strength of the corps did not,
however, permit of their being equal to those armies of
Turks and Italians who occasionally figure "en scene,"
and they were driven to ask assistance from the Comman-
dant of the garrison, who very readily lent them a com-
pany of, 1 believe, the 88th regiment.

The worthy Director had sad work to drill his troops,
for unha|)pily he couldn't speak a word of English, and as
they knew little or no Italian, he was reduced to signs and
pantomime. When the piece, however, was going for-
ward, and the two rival armies should alternately attack
and repulse each other, the luckless Director, unable to
make them fight and rally to the quick movement of the


orchestra, was heard shouting out behind the scenes, in
wild excitement, "Avaiiti Turki ! — Avanti Christiani ! —
All, bravo Turki! — ^Maledetti Chi'istiani ! " which threw
the whole audience into a perfect paroxysm of laughter.

Como, then, thought I, who knows but this may be as
good as Corfu. But lo ! here he comes; and now the
Director, dressed in the character of the " Herr Berg-Bau
und Weg-Inspector," came to the front of the stage, and,
beginning thus, spoke, " Meine Hurren und Damen — there
are no ladies," said he, stopping short ; " but whose fault
is that ? Meine Herren, it grieves me much to be obli^'cd

on this occasion Make a row there, why don't you ? "

said he, addressing me — " ran-tan-tan ! — an apology is
always interrupted by the audience ; if it were not, one
could never get through it."

I followed his directions by hammering on the bench
with my cane ; ari^l he continued to explain that various
ladies and gentlemen of the corps were seriously indis-
posed, and that, though the piece should go on, it must be
with only three out of the seven characters. I renewed

Online LibraryCharles James LeverThe adventures of Arthur O'Leary → online text (page 39 of 40)