Various.

Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 online

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into the night; and I freely entered into the disappointment which I had
sustained in the unfortunate loss of my commission. I added, that I was
determined not to lead a life of idleness, even if I had possessed the
means; and that as the army was the profession which gave the fairest
prospect of being known to the world, I must pursue it if possible.

The idea was fully approved of by my energetic hearer. "Right!" said he.
"It is exactly the thing which I should have expected from you. You have
been ill-treated, I own, but there is no use in kicking at power, unless
you can kick it before you. The machinery of government is too huge for
any one of us to resist, and unless we run along with it, our only
wisdom is, to get out of its way. But you shall have a commission, ay,
even if it cost a thousand guineas. Never refuse; I am not in the habit
of throwing away my money; but you saved Mariamne's life, and I would
not have lost my child for all the bullion in the Bank of England, or on
the globe."

I was surprised by this burst of generosity, but it was real; and the
Jew, as if to put his sincerity beyond all doubt, had torn a leaf out of
his pocket-book, and was writing an order for the sum on his banker: he
laid it on the table. I returned it to him at once, perhaps not less to
his surprise than his offer had been to mine. But I reminded him, that I
had still a balance at my banker's; and I told him besides that I had
made up my mind to enter the regiment from which I had been so
unceremoniously dismissed, or none. He stared. "If," said I, "I shall
not be commissioned in the Coldstream, it will be utterly beyond my
power to persuade even my own relatives, much less the world, that I
have not been dismissed for some act of impropriety. Or, if men will not
hazard saying this to my face, they will only be more likely to say it
where I cannot defend myself."

"True!" said Mordecai, as if the opinion had cast a new light on him.
"Perfectly to the point. This is a world of scandal; and, like the
wolves, the whole pack fall on the wounded. You must recover your
commission in the Coldstream; or be ready to tell your story every day
of your life, and be only half believed after all. Yes, you must enter
that very corps, or be sneered at as long as you live; and if you have a
heart to be stung, it will be stung. Our people know that well."

"I should give my last shilling to be carrying its colours at this
moment," said I, "but unfortunately money is useless there. The Guards
are the favourite of royalty, and their commissions naturally go to men
of rank and fortune."

"We must go to town and see what is to be done. When will you be ready?"
asked my host.

"To-night - this moment - if possible, I should set out."

"No, no, Mr Marston, my movements cannot be quite so expeditious. I must
wait for my London letters in the morning. On their arrival we may
start, and, by taking four horses, reach town before the Horse Guards
closes for the day."

At breakfast next morning Mariamne was not to be seen: she excused
herself by a violent headach; and by the countenance of her Abigail,
generally a tolerable reflexion of the temper of the female authority of
a house, it was evident that I had fallen into disfavour. But how was
this to be accounted for? Mordecai, from the lateness of the hour at
which we parted, could not have seen her; even if she should condescend
to take my matrimonial chillness as an offence. But the mystery was
soon, cleared by her answer to the note which contained my farewell. It
was simply the enclosure of a few hapless lines of verse, in which the
name of Clotilde occurred, and which had been found in the clearance of
my chamber preparatory to my journey. This was decisive. Mariamne was a
sovereign, who, choose as she might her prime minister, would not suffer
her royal attendance to be diminished by the loss of a single slave. I
petitioned for a parting word, it was declined; and I had only to regret
my poetic error, or my still greater error in not keeping my raptures
under lock and key.

As the carriage drew up to the door, Mordecai casually asked me "have
you left your card at the Steyne?"

"No," was the reply. "Was it necessary?"

"Absolutely so; the prince has sent frequently to enquire for you during
your illness, and of course your leaving the neighbourhood without
acknowledging the honour would be impossible."

"Then let us drive there at once," said I.

On reaching the prince's cottage - for cottage it was, and nothing
more - the gentleman in waiting who received my card, told me that his
Royal highness had desired that whenever I called he should be apprized
of my coming, "as he wished to hear the history of the accident from
myself." The prince's fondness for hearing every thing out of the common
course, was well known; and I had only to obey. I had the honour of an
introduction accordingly; was received with all the customary graces of
his manner, and even with what attracts still more - with kindness. He
enquired into the circumstances, and was evidently taking an interest in
such parts of the narrative as I chose to give, when he was interrupted
by the arrival of a courier from London. The letters happened to be of
importance, and must be answered immediately. "But," said he, with his
irresistible smile, "I must not lose your story; we dine at seven. You
will probably meet some whom you would be gratified by seeing.
Adieu - remember, seven."

This was equivalent to a command, and there was no resource, but to
defer my journey for twelve hours more. Mordecai was not unwilling to
exchange a dreary drive in which he had no immediate concern, for the
comforts of his own home; or perhaps the honour among his neighbours of
having for an inmate a guest of the heir-apparent, qualified the delay.
Mariamne at our approach fled from the drawing-room like a frightened
doe. And at the appointed hour I was at the pretty trellised porch of
the prince's residence.




THE DEVIL'S FRILLS.

A DUTCH ILLUSTRATION OF THE WATER CURE.


CHAPTER I.

A stranger who visits Haarlem is not a little astonished to see, hung
out from various houses, little frames coquettishly ornamented with
squares of the finest lace. His curiosity will lead him to ask the
reason of so strange a proceeding. But, however he may push his
questions - however persevering he may be in getting at the bottom of the
mystery - if he examine and cross-examine fifty different persons, he
will get no other answer than -

"These are the devil's frills."

The frills of the devil! Horrible! What possible connexion can there be
between those beautiful Valenciennes, those splendid Mechlins, those
exquisite Brussels points, and his cloven-footed majesty? Is Haarlem a
city of idolaters? Are all these gossamer oblations an offering to
Beelzebub?

And are we to believe, in spite of well-authenticated tale and history,
that instead of horns and claws, the gentleman in black sports frills
and ruffles, as if he were a young dandy in Bond Street?

"These are the devil's frills."

It is my own private opinion that these mystic words contain some
prodigiously recondite meaning; or, perhaps, arise from one of those
awful incidents, of which Hoffman encountered so many among the
ghost-seeing, all-believing Germans. But don't take it on my simple
assertion, but judge for yourself. I shall tell you, word for word, the
story as it was told to me, and as it is believed by multitudes of
people, who believe nothing else, in the good town of Haarlem.


CHAPTER II.

Yes, - one other thing everybody in Haarlem believes - and that is, that
Guttenberg, and Werner, and Faust, in pretending that they were the
discoverers of the art of printing, were egregious specimens of the art
of lying; for that that noble discovery was made by no human being save
and except an illustrious citizen of Haarlem, and an undeniable proof of
it exists in the fact, that his statue is still to be seen in front of
the great church. He rejoiced, while living, in the name of Laurentius
Castero; and, however much you may be surprised at the claims advanced
in his favour, you are hereby strictly cautioned to offer no
contradiction to the boastings of his overjoyed compatriots - they are
prouder of his glory than of their beer. But his merits did not stop
short at casting types. In addition to his enormous learning and
profound information, he possessed an almost miraculous mastery of the
fiddle. He was a Dutch Paganini, and drew such notes from his
instrument, that the burgomaster, in smoking his pipe and listening to
the sounds, thought it had a close resemblance to the music of the
spheres.

There was only one man in all Haarlem, in all Holland, who did not yield
the palm at fiddle-playing to Castero. That one man was no other than
Frederick Katwingen, the son of a rich brewer, whom his admirers - more
numerous than those of his rival - had called the Dutch Orpheus.

If the laurels of Miltiades disturbed the sleep of Themistocles; if the
exploits of Macedonia's madman interfered with the comfort of Julius
Cæsar, the glory of Katwingen would not let Castero get a wink of sleep.

What! a man of genius - a philosopher like the _doctus_ Laurentius, not
be contented with his fame as discoverer of the art of printing; but to
leave his manuscripts, and pica, and pie, to strive for a contemptible
triumph, to look with an eye of envy on a competitor for the applauses
of a music room! Alas! too true. Who is the man, let me ask you, who can
put bounds to his pretensions? Who is the man that does not feel as if
the praises of his neighbour were an injury to himself? And if I must
speak the whole truth, I am bound to confess that these jealous
sentiments were equally entertained by both the musicians. Yes, - if
Castero would acknowledge no master, Frederick could not bear that any
one should consider himself his rival, and insisted at any rate in
treating with him on equal terms. Laurentius, therefore, and the son of
the brewer were declared enemies; and the inhabitants of Haarlem were
divided into two parties, each ruled over with unlimited power by the
fiddlestick of its chief.

It was announced one morning that the Stadtholder would pass through the
town in the course of the day. The burgomaster determine to receive the
illustrious personage in proper style, and ordered the two rivals to
hold themselves in readiness. Here, then, was a contest worthy of them
an opportunity of bringing the great question to issue of which of them
played the first fiddle in Holland - perhaps in Europe. It fell to
Frederick's chance to perform first - in itself a sort of triumph over
Laurentius. The Stadtholder entered by the Amsterdam road, attended by
his suite - they passed along the street, and stopped under a triumphal
arch which had been hastily prepared. The burgomaster made a speech very
much like the speeches of burgomasters before and since on similar
tremendous occasions; and Frederick finally advanced and made his salaam
to the chief magistrate of the United Provinces. The performer knew that
the Stadtholder was a judge of music, and this gave him courage to do
his best. He began without more ado, and every thing went on at first as
he could wish; fountains of harmony gushed out from under his bow. There
seemed a soul at the end of each of his fingers, and the countenance of
the chief magistrate showed how enchanted he was with his powers. His
triumph was on the point of being complete; a few more bars of a
movement composed for the occasion - a few magnificent flourishes to show
his mastery of the instrument, and Castero will be driven to despair by
the superiority of his rival; - but crash! crash! - at the very moment
when his melody is steeping the senses of the Stadtholder in Elysium, a
string breaks with hideous sound, and the whole effect of his
composition is destroyed. A smile jumped instantaneously to the
protruding lip of the learned Laurentius, and mocked his mishap: the son
of the brewer observed the impertinent smile, and anger gave him
courage - the broken string is instantly replaced. The artist rushes full
speed into the allegretto - and under the pressure of his hands, burning
with rage and genius, the chord breaks again! The fiddle must be
bewitched - Frederick became deadly pale - he trembled from head to
foot - he was nearly wild.

But the piece he had composed was admirable; he knew it - for in a moment
of inspiration he had breathed it into existence from the recesses of
his soul. And was he doomed never to play this cherished work to the
governor of his country? - An approving motion from that august
individual encouraged him to proceed, and he fitted a string for the
third time.

Alas, alas! the result is the same - the chord is too much tightened, and
breaks in the middle of a note! Humbled and ashamed, Frederick gives up
his allegretto. He retires, abashed and heartbroken, and Castero takes
his place. Mixed up in the crowd, his eyes swam in tears of rage and
disappointment when the frantic applauses of the assemblage - to whom the
Stadtholder had set the example - announced to him the triumph of his
rival. He is vanquished - vanquished without having had the power to
fight - oh, grief! oh, shame! oh, despair!

His friends tried in vain to console him in promising him a brilliant
revenge. The son of the brever believed himself eternally disgraced. He
rushed into his room, double locked the door and would see nobody. He
required solitude - but the wo of the _artiste_ had not yet reached its
height. He must drink the cup of humiliation to the dregs. Suddenly
innumerable voices penetrated the thick walls of the brewery, and
reached the chamber of the defeated candidate. Those voices - Frederick
recognized them too well - were those of the faction which acknowledged
Castero for their chief. A triumphal march, performed by twenty
instruments, in honour of his rival, succeeded in overturning the reason
of the unhappy youth. His fiddle was before him on the table - that
fiddle which had disappointed his hopes. Exasperated, out of his senses,
the brewer's son seized the instrument - a moment he held it aloft at the
corner of the chimney, and yielding to the rage that gnawed his soul, he
dashed it into a thousand pieces. Faults, like misfortunes, never come
single. "Blood calls for blood," says Machiavel - "ruin for ruin." - By
that fatal tendency of the human mind never to stop when once we have
gone wrong, but to go on from bad to worse, instead of blushing at our
folly - Frederick, after that act of vandalism, dashed like a madman out
of the brewery. The sight of his instrument in a thousand fragments had
completed the business - life was a torment to him. He hurried towards
the lake of Haarlem, determined to seek in its gloomy depths a refuge
from disgrace. - Poor Frederick!


CHAPTER III.

After a quarter of an hour's run across the fields, he arrived at last
at the side of the lake, with the sounds of his rival's triumphal march
for ever sounding in his ears. The evening breeze, the air from the sea,
"the wandering harmonies of earth and sky," were all unable to bring
rest to the perturbed spirit of the musician. He was no longer conscious
of the sinful act he was about to commit. He shut his eyes - he was just
going to throw himself into the water when he felt a hand laid upon his
left shoulder. Frederick turned quickly round. He saw at his side a tall
man wrapped up in large cloak - in spite of the hot weather - which hid
every part of him but his face. His expression was hard, almost
repulsive. His eyes shot sinister glances on the youth from beneath the
thick eyebrows that overshadowed them. The brewer's son, who had been on
the point of facing death without a tremour, grew pale and trembled. He
wished to fly, but an irresistible power nailed him to the spot. He was
fascinated by the look of the Unknown.

"Madman!" said the stranger in a hollow voice - "madman who cannot resist
the first impulse of anger and false shame!"

"Leave me," answered Frederick in his turn; "I am disgraced, and have no
resource but to die."

"The triumph of Castero, then - the triumph he owes to luck - has cowed
you so that you are afraid to challenge him to another trial?" - rejoined
the stranger in an angry tone.

"Every thing is lost," said Frederick, "don't you hear those sounds?" he
added, holding his hands out towards the city - "my courage cannot bear
up against such mockery - _væ victis_! - my doom is sealed."

"But you do not yet know the full extent of your rival's victory. There
is a young girl who was to have been your wife - a girl who loves you - "

"Maïna!" - cried Frederick, to whom these words restored his
recollection.

"Yes, Maïna, the daughter of Jansen Pyl, the burgomaster of Haarlem.
Well, encouraged by his success, Castero went to the house, and demanded
the hand of her you love."

"What? - what do I hear?" - said Frederick, and looked once more towards
the lake.

"The burgomaster never liked you very well, as you are aware. In
consenting to receive you as his son-in-law, he yielded more to the
wishes of his daughter, to her prayers and tears, than to his preference
of you over the other adorers of the Beauty of Haarlem. Castero's fame
had long predisposed him in his favour; and the triumph he obtained
to-day has entirely won the old man's heart."

"He has promised her?" enquired Frederick in a voice almost inaudible
from anxiety.

"To-morrow he will decide between you. You are ignorant of the
arrangement entered into; and, yielding to a cowardly impulse, you give
up the happiness of your life at the moment it is in your grasp. Listen.
The Stadtholder, who did not intend to remain at Haarlem, has accepted
the invitation of the burgomaster, and will not leave the city till
to-morrow afternoon. That illustrious personage has expressed a wish to
hear again the two performers who pleased him so much, and his patronage
is promised to the successful candidate in the next trial. He is a
judge of music - he perceived the fineness of your touch, and saw that it
was a mere accident which was the cause of your failure. Do you
understand me now? Maïna will be the wife of the protégé of the
Stadtholder - and you give up your affianced bride if you refuse to
measure your strength once more against Castero."

The explanation brought tears into Frederick's eyes. In his agony as a
musician he had forgotten the object of his love - the fair young girl
whose heart was all his own. Absorbed in the one bitter thought of his
defeat - of the disgrace he had endured - he had never cast a recollection
on the being who, next to his art, was dearer to him than all the world.
The fair maid of Haarlem occupied but the second place in the musician's
heart; but not less true is it, that to kiss off a tear from the white
eyelid of the beautiful Maïna, he would have sacrificed his life. And
now to hear that she was about to be carried off by his rival - by
Castero - that Castero whom he hated so much - that Maïna was to be the
prize of the conqueror! His courage revived. Hope played once more round
his heart - he felt conscious of his superiority; but - oh misery! - his
fiddle - his Straduarius, which could alone insure his victory - it was
lying in a million pieces on his floor!

The Unknown divined what was passing in his mind; a smile of strange
meaning stole to his lip. He went close up to Frederick, whose agitated
features betrayed the struggle that was going on within. "Maïna will be
the reward of the protégé of the Stadtholder, and Castero will be the
happy man if you do not contest the prize," he whispered in poor
Frederick's ear.

"Alas! my fate is settled - I have no arms to fight with," he answered in
a broken voice.

"Does your soul pant for glory?" enquired the stranger.

"More than for life - more than for love - more than for - "

"Go on."

"More than for my eternal salvation!" exclaimed the youth in his
despair.

A slight tremour went through the stranger as he heard these words.

"Glory!" he cried, fixing his sparkling eyes on the young man's face
"glory, the passion of noble souls - of exalted natures - of superior
beings! - Go home to your room, you will find your fiddle restored," he
added in a softer tone.

"My fiddle?" repeated Frederick.

"The fiddle of which the wreck bestrewed your chamber when you left it,"
replied the stranger.

"But who are you?" said Frederick amazed. "You who know what passes in
my heart - you whose glances chill me with horror - you, who promise me a
miracle which only omnipotence can accomplish. Who are you?"

"Your master," answered the man in the mantle, in an altered voice.
"Recollect the words you used a minute or two ago, 'Glory is dearer to
me than life - than love - than eternal salvation!' That is quite enough
for me; and we must understand each other. Adieu. Your favourite
instrument is again whole and entire, and sweeter toned than ever. You
will find it on the table in your room. Castero, your rival, will be
vanquished in this second trial, and Maïna will be yours - for you are
the protégé of a greater than the Stadtholder. Adieu - we shall meet
again." On finishing this speech the Unknown advanced to the lake.
Immediately the waves bubbled up, and rose in vast billows; and opening
with dreadful noise, exposed an unfathomable abyss. At the same moment
thunder growled in the sky, the moon hid herself behind a veil of
clouds, and the brewer's son, half choked with the smell of brimstone,
fell insensible on the ground.


CHAPTER IV.

When Frederick came to his senses he found himself in his chamber,
seated on the same sofa of Utrecht brocade which he had watered with his
tears two hours before. On the table before him lay the fiddle which he
had dashed to atoms against the corner of the chimney. On seeing the
object of his affection, the enraptured musician, the rival of Castero,
rushed towards it with a cry of joyful surprise. He took the instrument
in his hands - he devoured it with his eyes, and then, at the summit of
his felicity, he clasped it to his bosom. The instrument was perfectly
uninjured, without even a mark of the absurd injustice of its owner. Not
a crack, not a fissure, only the two gracefully shaped § § to give vent
to the double stream of sound. But is he not the victim of some
trick - has no other fiddle been substituted for the broken Straduarius?
No! - 'tis his own well-known fiddle, outside and in - the same delicate
proportions, the same elegant neck, and the same swelling rotundity of
contour that might have made it a model for the Praxiteles of violins.
He placed the instrument against his shoulder and seized the bow. But
all of a sudden he paused - a cold perspiration bedewed his face - his
limbs could scarcely support him. What if the proof deceives him. What
if - ; but incertitude was intolerable, and he passed the bow over the
strings. Oh blessedness! Frederick recognized the unequalled tones of
his instrument - he recognized its voice, so clear, so melting, and yet
so thrilling and profound,

"The charm is done,
Life to the dead returns at last,
And to the corpse a soul has past."

Now, then, with his fiddle once more restored to him, with love in his
heart, and hatred also lending its invigorating energies, he felt that
the future was still before him, and that Castero should pay dearly for
his triumph of the former day.

When these transports had a little subsided, Frederick could reflect on
the causes which gave this new turn to his thoughts. The defeat he had
sustained - his insane anger against his Straduarius - his attempt at
suicide - his meeting with the stranger, and his extraordinary
disappearance amidst the waves of the lake.

But, with the exception of the first of these incidents, had any of them
really happened? He could not believe it. Was it not rather the sport of
a deceitful dream? His fiddle - he held it in his hands - he never _could_
have broken it. In fact, the beginning of it all was his despair at
being beaten, and he was indebted to his excited imagination for the
rest - the suicide, the lake, and the mysterious Unknown.

"That must be it," he cried at last, delighted at finding a solution to
the mystery, and walking joyously up and down his chamber. "I have had a
horrible dream - a dream with my eyes open; that is all."

Two gentle taps at the door made him start; but the visitor was only one
of the brewery boys, who gave him a letter from the burgomaster.

"Yoran, did you see me go out about two hours ago?" asked Frederick
anxiously.

"No, meinheer," said the boy.


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Online LibraryVariousBlackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 54, No. 334, August 1843 → online text (page 15 of 23)