Thomas Pike Lathy.

The invisible enemy; or, The mines of Wielitska. A Polish legendary romance .. (Volume 1) online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryThomas Pike LathyThe invisible enemy; or, The mines of Wielitska. A Polish legendary romance .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 13)
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slt^'iCR OF

Nature! freat Pare-t! - hcse unceasing hand
Rolis i\ ind the of the cl a .genii y-ar,
Kow rfilght; , how .: ajestic are thy works!
With what a pleasing aread the/ swell the soul !










JN OT far from the Carpathian, or, as
they arc now termed, the Krapae
Mountains, which separate Poland from
Transylvania, and at the distance of
eight leagues from the city of Cracow,
there formerly existed an ancient build-
ing, called the Castle of Vistulof. The
stupendous ruins with which it was sur-
rounded, afforded, at once, a pictu-
resque and awful scene of the grandeur
and decadence of the noblest of human
works, and announced that it had been,
at first, composed of a vast pile, which
the consuming hand of time, and the
devastations of long and disastrous wars,
vol. i. b had


had reduced to an edifice of very mo-
derate extent. At one place were sgcu.
fragments of buildings really detached
from each other, but seemingly united
by perspective, and loity masses of
ruins, admirable for their elevation and
boldness of architecture, as also for their
sturdy solidity; at another place ap-
Dcared mouldering walls, thick, heavy
turrets, and cumbrous battlements,
which, in their state of decay, seemed
to make the earth groan beneath their
pressure. It would be impossible, with-
out the aid of the pencil, to give an
adequate idea of the saliant towers,
raised at intervals, the greatest part of
whose crown- work had yielded to time,
after having, for centuries, resisted the
violence of the most furious storms ; of
the lofty ramparts, angular piles com-
posed of massy blocks, and of the but-
tresses, whose support should seem to



have been eternal, if the irresistible
force of ages had not demonstrated the
contrary. Amidst these mementos of
past grandeur and present decay, the
eye would find some repose by lighting
on the bushes, those children of chance
and nature, which grew in the midst of
the crevices ; on the trees, whose roots
had laid hold of the mortar, which time
had converted into a vegetative soil,
and whose verdant tops shaded the cor-
nices, and decorated the loftiest parts ;
and also on the tourii and lone-lived
ivv, whose thick foliaee and nervous
branches overspread a great part of the
surface, and served as a prop to those
ancient structures. Where any part was
entirely overthrown, it was. dinicult to
make way through the scattered frag-
ments which strewed the ground they
once proudly overlooked : where any
part was still standing, it appeared to
. n 2 brave


brave both time and seasons, and to
yield only after a most desperate con-
flict. At one spot, were roofs sinking
under their own weight, whose worm-
eaten rafters, and iron-work consumed
by rust, announced at once their anti-
quity and decay ; at another, stood in-
sulated masses, unshaken, on their bases,
which seemed as durable as the Egyp-
tian pyramids ; further on, had been an
edifice, of which some pilasters and
other fragments only remained, suffi-
cient to shew that it had been a chapel.
The outer area was separated from the
inner one by a broad ditch ; over this
there had been a drawbridge, which had
long since disappeared, except the pos-
terns ; the ditch itself was nearly filled
up, by the falling masses of the adja-
cent ramparts, and the bushy willows
which ranged through it. The front of
the tower, against which the draw-


bridge had stood, was covered with
saxifrage, whose seeds, borne by the
winds, attach to the smallest intervals ;
their vagrant stalks grew even in the
midst of the bas reliefs, arms, and tro-
phies, which formed the crown-work*
and of which some vestiges still re-

On all sides, the spectator was me-
naced by accumulated wreck and tot-
tering ruins ; his path was, at times,
overhung ' by the watch-turrets, which
jutted out from the tops of the loftiest
towers, where they appeared as if they
were suspended in the air. In spite of
the combined assaults of wind, rain,
frost, and the decomposing power of
time, they were still entire -, but, since
the destruction of the staircase leading
to them had rendered them inaccessible
to man, they served for retreats to se-
veral species of the winged creation.

b 3 Flocks


Flocks of jackdaws occupied the pin-
nacles and the holes whence stones had
been detached; and no sooner was a
new cavity formed, than a new family
took possession of it. They were con-
tinually cutting the air in the environs,
where, out of danger of the murdering
gun, they enjoyed happiness and liberty.
Swarms of owls and bats occupied the
interior and inferior parts.

Here the ivy, which delights in soli-
tary and umbrageous places, might be
said to hold its domain. Like the
mournful yew and funereal cypress,
these companions of silence and death,
it frequents cemetries, and clothes their
ancient and venerable inclosures. Some-
times its tortuous and flexible branches
conceal the unmerited and forgotten
epitaphs of the rich; at others, they
er brace, from top to bottom, those
ancient crosses* or rude stones, which



the hands of the indigent have conse-
crated to the memory of a relative or
friend, without a flattering inscription :
whatever begins to be lost in the dis-
tance of time, or is remote from the
sight and destructive hands of man, it
claims for its own- — the mutilated gate-
way, on which some legends denote its
Gothic origin — the elliptic sweeps, the
chefs d'eeuvre of the twelfth century
— the tottering pillars, which still sus-
tain some arched fragments — all these it
usurps, as well as the deserted cottage.
Does the weight of years destroy the
roof of an edifice, rot its timbers, or
crack an arch, instantly the ivy ap-
pears in the midst of the ruins, traverses
them in every part, and embracing them
with its bands, its branches creep up
and fasten to the summit of the walls.
Do any crevices, or the void of a case-
ment, present themselves in its passage,

b4 it


It lays hold on them, and, aided by
those new ladders, it again takes a ver-
tical direction, and climbs on from story
to story, till it covers the cornices with
its evergreen garb. There, like a true
emblem of perseverance, a friend and
companion of solitude, silence, and ob-
livion, it remains faithful to the la^t,
and perishes only with the - edifice to
which it has attached itself, after having
long protected its old age, and delayed
its decrepitude— amidst the ruins of the
Castle of Vistulof, it displayed all its
majesty of gloom.

The entrance from the outer into the
inner area, was by a passage under two
enormous arches, which had been for-
merly defended by iron gratings and
portc ull ices. It was much less incum-
bered with ruins than the other, and, in
the middle of it, stood the body of the
building, which was tolerably preserved



by means of seme modern repairs, very
distinguishable from the original struc-
ture. The stile of the whole was simple,
yet noble. From the center of the build-
ing rose a very lofty tower, with a wind-
ing staircase : It was a beautiful piece
of ancient architecture, and in good pre-
servation ; as, except some of the steps,
nothing was wanting to its entirety. A
cupola of square stones, composed with
much taste, surmounted it. The stair-
case communicated, by means of gal-
leries, with the ramparts, platforms,
and apartments. In the latter were still
to be seen some vestiges of their ancient
magnificence, some traces of the rude
luxury of these remote times.

Beneath the castle were vast subter-
raneous caverns, which were still in.
perfect preservation. To behold them,
it seemed as if time could only destroy
those w r orks which are above ground..

b 5 These.-


These sonorous vaults were still in their
infancy, and appeared as solid as the
rock out of which they were excavated.
Of all the works of man, those subter-
raneous vaults alone, by being protected
from the ravages of the seasons, seem
to have no other termination than that
of the rfobe itself Such are the cis-


terns of Carthage, over which the Tu-
nisians plough j such the aqueducts of

exandria," and the common sewers of
Rome, whose origin was unknown at
the epoch of its foundation. In tra-
versing the subterraneans of Vistulof,
the echoes of those mute and solitary
caverns repeated the sounds ten times
over, and, made it appear like so many
voices welcoming the curious visitor in-
to another world,*

The landscape round the Castle of
Vistulof, was formed to delight every
soul, sensible of the varying and ma-


jestic scenes of unadorned nature. Here
were seen rocks, whose craggy and bare
precipices presented the image of steri-
lity, whilst others, clothed with wood
and verdure, appeared the picture of
fertility : There, the eye followed, with
delight, the undulation of a serpentine
brook, amidst tufts of furze, willows,
alders, and poplars. On one side ex-
tended a vast plain, which, when co-
vered with the verdure of soring:, re-
sembled the waving sea playing at the
will of the winds; and on the other
side, the horizon was determined by a
vast chain of mountains, covered with a
thick forest, impenetrable to the rays
of the sun, whose lofty summit seemed
like a vast hanging verdure suspended
from the azure sky.

Such was the Castle of Vistulof*
when, about a century and a half since,
it became the scene of such surprising

• B 6 occur-


occurrences, as caused the greatest sen-
sation through all the provinces of Po-
land ; and tradition has yet preserved
them fresh in remembrance, among the
inhabitants of the country adjoining the
Carpathian Mountains. The castle had
been in the possession of the noble fa-
mily of Rosomaski during several pre-
ceding generations, and, at that time,
belonged to a branch of it, whose sur-
prising history, strongly marked by the
uncommon vicissitudes of fortune, and
by the superior comforts of conjugal
love and fidelity to every adverse trial,
forms the subject of the following





\^,OUNT Leopold Rcsomaski, from his
earliest infancy, gave evident tokens that
the bold, active, and impetuous blood of
his ancestors, ennobled his veins ; and yet
he arrived at the age of manhood, before
he knew that his education, and expecta-
tions in life, were by no means suitable to
his birth. He was brought up as the son of
one ByloiT, a humble peasant, who culti-
vated 211 unfrequented spot in the midst



of that immense forest, which bristles the
greatest part of the country adjacent to the
Carpathian mountains, and which was part
of the estate of Count Petrowitz. It was,
at no great distance from the Castle of Vis-
tulof, which justly belonged to Leopold,
but had been usurped from him by his
uncle on his father's side, upon whose
death his son, named Lanfranco, had taken
possession of it. As Leopold knew no
other than his reputed father, he did not
repine at the humble and laborious line of
life in which fortune had placed him, and
he cheerfully contributed his efforts to those
of BylofT and his son, who was his foster-
brother, for their mutual support. BylofT
made no sort of distinction between his
adopted and his real son. He called them
simply by their christian names, Leopold
and Ludowico, and made them both share
the same labours and the same fatigues.
Their residence was in the -very midst of
the forest, and in the gloomiest and most
impenetrable part of it. There, by un-


ceasing perseverance, and felling the trees,
thev had cleared a snet of about twelve


acres, at one end of which stood their cot-
tage, which was in the rudest stile of the
primitive ages; but, since Leopold and
Ludowico had been capable of assisting
By loir, it had been enlarged, and rendered
comfortable. At the back of the cottage,
and excavated, as it were, from the forest,
was a small kitchen-garden : Its only orna-
ment was a large venerable tree, which had
been reserved from the fury of the levelling
axe, for the pious purpose of sheltering
and protecting a mound of earth, neatly
covered with green sod. This was the mo-
nument of By Loft's wife, over which con-
jugal and filial piety often distilled their
precious drops.

In this remote and dreary situation they
never saw any person ; and Leopold and
Ludowico would have believed their own
little society to have been the sole human
inhabitants of the universe, if Bylolf had
not sometimes, on holidays, taken them
5 to


to Dorbalec, which was the name of the
castle of Count Petrowitz, to join in the
festivity of the vassals. They could not
conceive why EylofT had enjoined them
never to mention the place of their abode,
any more than they could guess what were
the utility of those exercises which he ne-
"ver failed, except in bad weather, to make
them practise after the labour of the day
was finished — these were riding, and the
use of arms. Byloff would sometimes
make them engage on horseback, sometimes
on foot ; at others, he would cause Leo-
pold on foot to attack Ludowico on horse-
back, and the reverse. Oftentimes he would
make them both attack himself, to shew
them with what dexterity he could defend
himself against such odds: he would also
join Leopold in an attack upon Ludowico,
and then take the part of Ludowico against
Leopold. By these sham rencounters the
two youths became so adroit, that they
were in a condition, although on foot, and
with no other weapon than a cudgel, of



avoiding the cuts of a sabre or pole-axe,
and dismounting any antagonist. At length
the time came which was to put them to a

Leopold and Ludowico were verging
towards manhood, when; one very sultry
afternoon, as they were resting from their
labour of hewing wood for a provision of
winter-fuel, and were taking some repast
in the cool shade of a tree, they beheld
two females approaching them. They rose
up and saluted them with the utmost re-
spect. Their salutation was returned with
no less civility. The females, who were
far different, both in dress and manners,
from all whom the young peasants had
ever before seen, struck them forcibly by
'their affable demeanour, and the easy con-
descension with which they asked them se-
veral questions. After some few minutes
passed in conversation, they bade adieu,
and continued their walk, leaving Leopold
and Ludowico in a state of almost stupid
admiration.. They stood looking after



them whilst they continued in view, and
even after they were out, of sight, their
limbs continued motionless, and their eves
rivetted towards the road which they had
taken. In a short time, they heard the
most piercing and alarming cries, and as
they were those of females, they had no
doubt but they proceeded from the two
who had just leh them. By a sudden im-
pulse, they instantly seized their axes, and
ran towards the spot whence the sound
seemed to proceed. They beheld the two
females struggling with four men, who
were dismounted, whilst two others, mount-
ed, and holding the horses of their com-
rades, were encouraging them in their

Leopold, bounding like a tyger on his
prey, soon came up with, and levelled two
of the then, who held one of the females,
to the ground. In an instant, Ludowico
struck down one of the others, who held
the other female; and the fourth ran to-
wards his comrades, and mounted. Leopold



was supporting the female whom he had
rescued, and who had fainted in his arms,
when the remaining horsemen, alter some
conversation, drew their sabres, and began
to move towards them. Leaving the sense-
less maiden to the care of her companion,
Leopold and Ludcwico grasped their axes,,
and advanced to meet the horsemen.

cc Who are vcu, base slaves?" cried one
of the horsemen, " and how dare you thus
obstruct our purposes ?"

" We arc not base slaves/' replied Leo-
pold, <% or we should be your associates in
villainy. Notwithstanding the meanness
of our garb, we ihel our hearts beat as
those of men, whore duty it is to protect
female innocence from the insults of such
miscreants as you are/'

" Insolent scoundrel !" exclaimed the
same h< — <( retire this instant, or

you shall receive the chastisement which
you deserve \"

The peasants made no reply, but bran-
dished their axes, and the horsemen pushed



towards them. Leopold sprung forwards,
and, before the foremost horseman had
time to use his sabre, struck his horse so
violent a blow on the head, as instantly
brought it and its rider to the ground.
The other two assailed Ludowico, hoping
to crush him before Leopold could give
assistance, but he avoided them by jump-
ing aside, and then instantly springing for-
wards ao'ain, and adroitly catching the le^:
of one of them, he whirled him off his
horse. LeoDold then ioined him, and their
appearance was so resolute, and what to-
ken they had given of their prowess had so
astonished the ravishers, that the two dis-
mounted ones ran oft] and the only re-
maining horseman thought proper to fol-
low them.

Leopold and Ludowico, being thus leh
masters ol the field of battle, returned to
the females, exclaiming, lf Fear nothing —
ye are safe, and the villains are fled I" At
these words, the female who had fainted
opened her eyes, and beholding Leopold



covered with the blood of the horse in
whose head he had buried his axe, instantly
relapsed. It was some time before she re-
covered again, and the first words she ut-
tered were, ce Oh ! my brave deliverer is
wounded !" Leopold, guessing that her
relapse had been occasioned by her fear on
his account, replied, " No, no, thank Hea-
ven ! my dear Lady, we are safe enough.
The blood which alarms you, is only that
of an innocent horse, which paid the for-
feit for its guilty rider." The female, to
whom he addressed himself; appeared to
regain her spirits by this assurance, and de-
sired that they might lose no time in get-
ting out of the forest, lest the fugitives
should return, and overpower her gallant

« We will escort you to your home,"
said Leopold, " and if they were to return
with an host, we would face them in your
defence /"

The first part of this speech, which was
uttered with a most intrepid tone, was so



different from the last three words of it,
which were softened into an inexpressible
tenderness for her personal safety, that it
caused the lady to look at Leopold ; and
when she beheld him covered with blood,
and brandishing his stained axe, and yet
discerned in his eyes the most respectful
submission and tender solicitude for her
safety, it made such an impression of ad-
miration and gratitude on her heart, as
were never afterwards to be erazed. Her
eyes no sooner met the eager glances of
Leopold's, than they were directed to the
ground ; and, after a moment's pause, she
told her companion, that they had best be
going ; and, without waiting for an an-
swer, she turned to Leopold, and desired
the support of his arm. Leopold's eyes
glistened with pleasure at the request : he
took her arm within his, and felt, at that
moment, a mingled emotion of pride and
pleasure, such as his heart had never en-
tertained before ; but his pleasure was ra-
ther damped, when, on asking her whither



he was to conduct her, he was informed
that she lived at Dorbalec, and was the
daughter of Count Petrowitz. Notwith-
standing the retired situation in which they
lived, BylofF, whenever the weather was
unfavourable to their exercises in the open
air, had taught his children to read and
write; and, from some few books which he
had, Leopold had gained a sufficient know-
ledge of the world, to understand the dif-
ference which there was betwixt the situa-
tion of himself and his fair partner. He
became thoughtful, and walked on without
scarcely speaking another word. The lady,
who perhaps guessed the cause of his si-
lence, and was employed in a similar me-
ditation, was equally pensive, until they
reached the edge of the forest, whence
thev had a view of Dorbalec.

Here an involuntary sigh escaped from
Leopold's bosom, Ke stopped, and told
the lady, that, as she and her companion
were now in safety, himself and his bro-
ther would take their leave of them.

" Surely/ 1


" Surely/' cried she, (C you will go home
with us, and give my father an opportunity
of shewing his grateful sense of your gal-
lant and generous conduct."

" Excuse us for the present," replied
Leopold — cc we are not in a condition to
be seen there ; besides, our father waits
for us ; he will be alarmed at our absence
beyond the usual hour."

" My father," said she, cc will send a
messenger to acquaint yours with your be-
ing at Dorbalec, and he will come and
witness, with pleasure, the respect which
will be paid to his gallant sons."

However galling was the separation to
the feelings of Leopold, for he was en-
slaved by her whom he had risked his life
to defend, yet he remembered the injunc-
tion of Byloff, not to disclose the place of
their abode. Lie told the lady, that there
were circumstances, unknown even to
themselves, which made it improper for
them to obey her; but, seeing^ her much
chagiined at the refusal, he gave her a



solemn promise, that, when she should have
recovered from the fright which such an
outrage must have occasioned, himself and
brother would certainly call at Dorbalec.
The ladv seemed somewhat satisfied with
this assurance.

" It would be ungenerous, " said she,
" to press you to that for which vou have
no inclination."

'•' No inclination !" exclaimed Leopold
— <e Lady, I would rather obey your com-
mands, than be the first man in the uni-
verse ; but, in this instance, filial duty "

" Ought to be superior to every other
consideration/' said the lady, interrupting
him — " We must be contented with your
promise of seeing us soon. You must not,
however," added she, drawing out a pune,
" refuse to accept some little present mark
of our gratitude— I am ashamed it is so

ei Lady/' said Leopold, " we have ever
been maintained by the labour of our
hands, and are unacquainted with the want

vol. i. c of


of money. Besides, the man who will ac-
cept a remuneration for a good deed, will
be easily bribed to a had one."

" Your^discourse ill besuits your dress/'
said the lady — " you are not what you ap-
pear to be : We might have expected from
vou the language of honest plainness, but
not that of polished honour and senti-

cc We are, however," replied Leopold,
" nothing more than what our gr*b be-
speaks us — labouring foresters ; and this is
the first time in my life that I ever felt dis-
satisfied with my lowly station."

The lady blushed at this speech, and
Leopold instantly became sensible of the
boldness of it. A pause ensued, which was
at length broken by the lady.

" Well then," said she, " I must be con-
tent to postpone my gratitude till you shall
think proper to claim it. Accept, how-
ever, this bracelet," added she, taking one
from her arm, " and wear it in remem-
brance of me."

« I will

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Online LibraryThomas Pike LathyThe invisible enemy; or, The mines of Wielitska. A Polish legendary romance .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 13)