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CHORUS of voices.
Lay Him in the shrine;
Spicy fillets twine.
Flowers by love supplied :
Angels ever bright,
Wave their wings of light.
Man and Deity!
Lord of earth and skies !
But with hearts that rise,
Spread it to the poles ;
THE CASTLE OF EHRENFELS. The Rhine, the green and constant Rhine, is still beautiful-still a rife prompter of spirit-stirring recollections and pleasant thoughts, notwithstanding the shoals of loud-talking, hock-drinking, moneyspending cockneys, whom London launches annually on its waters to invade the solemn quiet, and lessen the romantic and, in some cases, sublime beauty of its shores.
The seven mountains,—the Drachenfels, Nonnenwörth, the “ Brothers," the Pfalz, the mystic Lurlei-Berg,-are still there: and the same crags which frowned on Cæsar, forbidding his invasion, and were the fitting haunts of the gnomes and the goblins of later times, display to us their rugged fronts, and put the judgment at once, and entirely,
under the dominion of the imagination. The robber-lords with their retinue of daring dissolutes,-themselves but slaves,-have passed away, and left no name; but their embattled holds still remain to attest the story, and mock their master's impotency, even while they prove his skill. Centuries with these have dealt gently, nay, in some cases, have added new charms to the massive and moss-grown structure : truly
“ Time by his gradual touch,
Was only terrible.”
It was near one of the most picturesque and striking of these memorials of former dominion, these tangible tales of other days and other manners,—the Castle of Ehrenfels, which stands on a beetling crag close to the borders of the Rhine, and commands the mouth of the river Nahe,-that two students lingered till late in an autumnal evening of last year. They had been walking for some weeks in search of information, with knapsack on their backs, their portfolios and pipes, and were evidently fatigued by the day's journey.
One, about twenty, a tall slight youth, in whose eminently handsome face a degree of energy and power was apparent, sufficiently to enforce attention almost without effort on his part, was attired in a closely fitting coat of dark velveteen, buttoned to the throat, and quite devoid of ornament. A cloth skull-cap barely confined a most luxuriant head of hair, which, together with the small but clearly defined moustache, was of jetty black, and served to increase an air of seriousness, almost sadness, visible in his demeanour.
His companion, apparently four or five years older, was of an entirely different mould. Short, stout, and jovial; with whiskers and a beard of sandy hue, sufficient in quantity for a Prussian lancer, and an air which said as plainly as air can say, “ Fighting, laughing, and drinking, are my strong points.” He wore a slate-coloured blouse fastened round the waist by a leathern band, and adorned with innumerable pockets opened in all possible positions. A high-crowned straw hat completed his equipment, and this was entwined with artificial roses, somewhat the worse for hard travel and bad usage.
The sun had gone down, and some heavy black clouds were coming up with the wind, betokening a speedy storm. On the river, at all times, but those of its periodical disturbances by steam, quiet and deserted, not a boat or moving thing was to be seen over its whole expanse, -indeed, but for the song of some peasants, which, far away over the mountains, came at intervals clearly to the ear, the scene they gazed upon might have recalled the appearance of the earth when the waters were retiring from its face, after the universal deluge and destruction. The Maüsethurm, or Mouse-tower, as it is vulgarly called, seen isolated in the river, looked like the summit of a lofty building, still partially submerged.
“ Die Teufel, Herman,” said the elder of the travellers, “ see what your love of the sublime, not far from the ridiculous, allow me to say, has led us into. The night is getting dark, and threatens to be foul: the nearest village is at some distance, and difficult of access; and yet, here we linger without thought of shelter. What would my dainty sister Amilie say, did she know of the wanderings of her bespoken ?'
“You are right, Krapz ; we have overstayed prudence, and must lose no time in seeking a haven. Surely, however, this splendid scene is cheaply purchased. The intensity of those waters,—the solemn magnificence of the mountains which face us. Observe, too, the ruins of the Klopp, illuminated as they are, at this moment, by broad sheets of flame, recurring as fast as ceasing. The thoughts induced by one such view, open a new era in one's existence, and teach us we own mines of never-failing gratification, that are as yet unexplored.”
“Would that we rather owned a house at this moment,” interrupted his companion, “if it were ever so small. Donner, here comes the rain, in drops as large as a thaler; we must enter the castle, or we shall be drowned."
“ You remind me,” said Herman, “ that the ruins are said to be occupied by one of the vine-dressers. Wrench off yonder branch, and I will arouse him.”
They had now reached the present rude entrance gate, formed in one side of the keep, but found it close and strongly secured. The remains of some of the old walls jutting out from the tower, and on which a roof of reeds had been placed, was sufficient to defend them from the rain, which now came down heavily, and as if with a determination to continue. A long carved oaken bench, apparently at one time a portion of the fittings of some ecclesiastical building, was on one side of the enclosed porch; and into this Krapz threw himself, expressing his conviction that no human being could live in such a stone quarry, and uttering many good-tempered abjurations of the picturesque.
Without heeding his companion, Herman applied the truncheon with which he had provided himself, vigorously to the wooden door. His efforts woke up-a dozen echoes, but nothing more, reverberating within the old walls, until, “ frightened at the noise himself had made, he was fain to stay his hand.
Krapz, having thrown himself on the bench, was already dreaming of the last tasted bottle of Rudesheimer, the merits of which he began to praise aloud; not quite so intolerantly as Coleridge, when he wrote:
“Mr. Mums, Rudesheimer and the church of St. Gergon,
In the body and soul-stinking town of Cologne;" but still with marvellous energy and real gusto. In the intervals of his doze, he bade Herman cease knocking, (Herman had ceased ten minutes before,) and said it was quite certain that no man could live there.
His remark had the effect of reminding his companion that some person did certainly live there, although he had not chosen to reply; and, stimulated by the rain which now began to find entrance through the rude roof, he once more plied his truncheon vigorously—and this time with better success.
“What do you want ?" said a thin querulous voice, from a loophole somewhere over Herman's head ; “ Tausend Teufels, what are you making that noise about?”
“Why don't you open the gate then,” said Herman, “and let us find shelter from this storm? We are benighted on the mountain, and must stay here, if not till the morning, at all events till the weather be fairer."
“ Hi-bi-hi,” said the voice, “ I shan't do any such thing; so go your way, and don't disturb us."
Herman replied only by a fresh attack on the gate, which peopled the whole place with voices, and seemed to be replied to from the opposite bank of the river.
“There, stop your thumping, -stop your thumping. If you will have it opened, why, there it is ;-but, mind, I didn't ask you to come in. It is your own seeking -Hi-hi-hi,- it's your own seeking." The figure that emerged from the rude doorway, which he had unbarred while uttering these words, somewhat startled the student. The voice had led him to expect a diminutive and weakly body in extreme old age : whereas the man from whom it proceeded was in stature and bulk a Hercules. His head was covered with long dishevelled red hair, which reached his shoulders, as was also the lower part of his face. His nose, if so a small pimple over his mouth might be called, would not have afforded a handle to the most vindictive of his enemies, and served, with a jaw frightfully under-hung, to give a sensual and brutal aspect to the man, only slightly relieved by a pair of small twinkling grey eyes, in which, though not destitute of ferocity, there was an occasional expression of merriment and intelligence.
His attire was as extraordinary as his person, and consisted chiefly of a large sack opened down the middle, and secured by a cord round his neck. His arms were exposed, and showed a fresh profusion of matted hair, not the most agreeable in its appearance. His legs, from the knee downwards, were cased in strong leathern boots of rude manufacture. He bore a small lantern in his hand, and this he at once applied unceremoniously to the faces of the visitants. Apparently the examination of Herman's was not displeasing to him. “Oh! it's you, is it?—This is better than could have been hoped for. We are waiting for you. Come, rouse up, rouse up, man !” he continued passing the light before the eyes of Krapz, who, first vowing that the lightning was stronger than ever, slowly recovered his consciousness, and prepared to follow him.
To Herman the address of the strange being before him was quite incomprehensible :-“Waiting for me?” said he; “impossible ! you must be mistaken. I am here a traveller, and solely by chance." "Chance ?” replied the man ;-“ Pooh! what's chance ?- That's the way with men of the world. You are all bearing part in an arrange. ment you don't understand, and think chance is your guide ; Hi-hi -hi. Well, --you know the damsel Amilie ;-no starting !-come in," Perfectly, as one thunderstruck, unable to fathom what he had heard, and yet convinced that the man was acquainted with at least a portion of his history, Herman followed his enormous guide into the building, vainly seeking to explore the pitchy darkness on all sides by aid of the lantern's light.
“Now, then!” shrieked the guide ; and, to his horror, he found himself precipitated into a yawning chasm, the extent and depth of which he had no time to estimate. “God !” said Herman. "The Devil !” exclaimed Krapz, who, although close behind, yet continued to fall without coming into contact with him. Down they went with inconceivable velocity, the silence broken only by one “ Hi-hi-hi!" from the guide, who had already reached a sort of ledge jutting out into the chasm, whereon they afterwards both alighted, bewildered and breathless, but unhurt. To return was impossible : above, below, was void and darkness; they therefore followed their almost unearthly conductor, who, entering a fissure in the rock, proceeded forward on his hands and knees.
At this moment a faint scream was heard (apparently from the far end of the passage they were threading), which called forth an exclamation from both the friends, and prompted them to further haste. “ Are we bewitched ?" said Krapz, “or was that truly the voice of my delicate sister Amilie ?-Hark! it is there again !-Speak, Herman, what say you ?"
“Waste po time in speaking,” replied Herman, “but, for God's sake, let us on. What these things mean I am at a loss to guess, but sorely fear some horrible event."
"Endeavour to let me pass over your body," said Krapz, (the way was still so small that they were unable to stand upright,) and I will rush upon yonder rascal, and force the truth from him :-luckily I have a pistol with me."
“ On no account, Krapz," he replied; “ such a course would entail certain destruction. Even were you able to overcome this fellow,-a thing improbable,-all means of escape from this extraordinary cavern would be cut off.” The fissure had now enlarged sufficiently for them to raise themselves upright in it, and they had approached close to their conductor, when he suddenly moved back a mass of stone, poised accurately on its centre, to serve for a door, and thrust them both forcibly through it. The room they thus entered was of the most gorgeous description, and was so brilliantly illuminated by a number of torches composed of a wood, which diffused an overpowering, though agreeable odour, that for some time they were quite unable to discern what surrounded them. The walls were covered with the most exquisite creations of the pencil; the ceiling was a mass of fretted gold, enhanced by slight colourings, and throwing off from its thousand points sparkling reflections : while on the floor were spread shawls of the most luxurious softness and singular beauty. The air, which elsewhere had been cold and damp, was here of a delightful warmth, and served in some degree to revive and re-assure the friends.
The tenants of this glittering chamber, (made more so, too, by its powerful contrast with that part of the building they had already seen,) were three females of surpassing mien, who reclined, rather than sat, on a low couch, occupying one side of it. Their attire, of costly and