Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]

66 Is


I was often amused with the congratulations and greetings that were exchanged between the interesting invalids as they rapidly passed and repassed each other. “How's

your woman ?”

“ First rate.

" A fine day, colonel.” “Yes, dreadful.”


brother Zeth well?" “ Yes, quite elegant."

The country around Saratoga is not very pretty, though in some degree interesting from the circumstance of two battles having been fought in the immediate neighbourhood during the revolutionary war, in both of which the Americans whipped us, as they call it. The result was the surrender of Burgoyne and his whole army at Saratoga, on the 17th of October, 1777.

On the 19th of August I left Saratoga by railroad for Schenectady, twenty-two miles, and from thence travelled eighty miles to Utica, through the lovely Valley of the Mohawk. This was one of the most beautiful rides I had in America, the country throughout being richly cultivated, and enclosed on either side by lofty hills wooded to their summits. I took up my quarters at Bagg's hotel at Utica, and the next day rode fifteen miles in a gig to Trenton Falls, passing through scenery that often reminded me of North and South Wales. I passed three hours at the Falls, which are extremely beautiful ; the river dasbing through walls of rock 150 feet bigh in a succession of torrents, and the tops of the precipices covered with noble forest-trees.

On my return to Utica I once more passed through the fertile Vale of Mohawk to Schenectady, and from thence to Troy, twenty-seven miles, one of the prettiest towns on the banks of the Hudson, with fine avenues of trees extending along its principal streets. From thence I took steamer on the noble Hudson to the village of Katskill, where I found four-horse stages in readiness to convey passengers to Pine Orchard House on the Katskill mountains-a charming spot, and at which I passed two most delightful days. The elevation of the hotel above the river is 2212 feet ; and the whole Vale of the Hudson, of immense extent, is spread out before you as on a large map. Near the hotel, in a wild wood, is one of the most picturesque falls that can be conceived, which greatly reminded me of that of the Devil's bridge in Wales.

From the Katskill landing I embarked on board a noble steamer to West Point, a distance of eighty miles. This is the post which the traitor Arnold had arranged through André to deliver up to the British ; but the plot was discovered, and André was shortly afterwards hung as a spy at Tappan. 1 saw the very spot where he met his fate, poor fellow !

The military academy of the States is at West Point, and the cadets are about 200 in number. They were in camp at the time of my visit, and a very pretty sight it was ; they went through their various military manæuvres very creditably three or four times a-day, and their whole time seemed to be passed in this way.

One of the officers connected with the establishment, to whom I had a letter of introduction, told me that his duty there was by no means an agreeable one, as the pupils came there with too great notions of equality, and consequently required a great deal of breaking in before they could tamely submit to the rigid discipline of the fort ; and that they very frequently left with angry feelings towards their superiors, which they cherished in after-life. They bivouacked in


tents, he said, three months every summer, and in winter lived in the barracks, studying the theoretical part of their profession ; that the examination in tactics and mathematics was so severe that numbers were turned back and sent to their friends, and who in consequence did all in their power to undermine the institution, which, he said, was hated by the great mass of the people, as being far too dignified and aristocratic to suit their notions of equality; and he concluded by remarking, that formerly the officers of the United States army were often low, ignorant fellows, but now they were most anxious they should be men of education and gentlemen, and every means would be resorted to, urider God's favour, to render them such.

The most beautiful part of the Hudson is from West Point to New York, a distance of fifty miles—especially the highlands, where for nearly twenty miles the river is enclosed on either side with bluffs and headlands, clothed with foliage from the edge of the water to their very summits, with here and there beautiful valleys between them. On leaving the highlands, and approaching New York, the scenery of the river becomes still more varied and picturesque ; an immense range of perpendicular walls of rock, called the Palisades, from 300 to 500 feet high, rising from the water for a distance of nearly twenty miles.

I upon the whole much pleased with the scenery of the Hudson, though I will not go the length of saying it is equal to the Rhine, which is a more interesting river from its historical associations, and the picturesque ruins which adorn its banks.

From New York I made an excursion to Boston, the metropolis of New England—a beautiful city, containing a population of 80,000 inhabitants. I had many delightful drives and walks in its lovely neighbourhood, the scenery of which very closely resembles that of England, and is diversified with pretty villas and country-seats. I went one day to Mount Auburn, the Père la Chaise of Boston, as lovely a spot as I have anywhere seen, and of great extent, its romantic grounds comprising almost every variety of hill and dale.

I of course visited Bunker's Hill, where the famous battle was fought in 1775. They have just completed a splendid monument there, which is 220 feet high. I ascended to its summit by steam, and had a delightful view of the surrounding country. I was much pleased with Boston. It is quite an English-looking city; has a handsome park, and many ercellent private residences. It is one of the oldest cities in the Union, having been founded in 1630.

My visit to Boston completed this portion of my tour in America, and on the 11th of September I set sail for merry old England in the splendid ship Ashburton, of 1100 tons, with the pleasing reflection that neither

my time nor my money had been fruitlessly spent. There is not that pleasure in making a tour on the American continent that there is in an excursion of a similar nature in Europe ; for though scenes of exquisite beauty and grandeur are to be met with, they are far apart, and the general character of the scenery is too monotonous to please me; neither are there to be found those interesting relics of antiquity which give such a peculiar charm to European countries.



[ocr errors]

THE Silesian city of Trachenberg, which stands on the banks of the Bartsch and the Schetzke, should properly be called " Drachenberg," as it takes its name from a mountain upon the top of which were found a niest of snakes, or, as they were then termed, dragons." The chief object of interest in this place is a large castle, once of extraordinary strength, which has recently been beautified by the addition of handsome parks. To this castle belongs our principal legend.

In the garden attached to the edifice there are four stone statues, not very beautiful as works of art, but connected with a tale so striking, that it furnished our dear friend Herr Gödssche (to whom we have been indebted for many legends) with the subject for a two-volume novel, which he published in the year 1837. Of the merits of this same novel we know nothing, not having seen even the outside of the same. We also confess that we have not curiosity enough to send to Germany for a copy. We take the story short, and a very good story it is.

Two of the statues in question represent a couple of very elegant personages about to open a dance. If these are not so handsome as they might be, we easily see that the fault lies with the artist; but with respect to the other pair, who play on the fiddle, they are evidently meant to be repulsive. One of them, to be sure, is a fine-looking fellow, apparently led astray by evil passions ; but as for his companion, there is a devilish enjoyment about his face which makes us shudder as we gaze

upon him.

[Our readers will be good enough to understand that when we say we easily see,” and “we shudder as we gaze," and so on, we have not the slightest notion of persuading them that we have actually beheld the figures. We imbue ourselves as much as we can with the spirit of our story, and occasionally we fancy the objects are really before us, but as for setting our eyes on this Jumber of Trachenberg-bah !]

Now, according to the tale connected with these statues, a knight once lived at Castle Trachenberg who possessed the very usual treasure of a lovely daughter. So dazzling was her beauty that it seems to have even obliterated her name, for to this day she is known by no other appellation than that of the “fair one of Trachenberg."

This " fair one” proved a sad annoyance to her respectable father. At first she was so grand that not a single suitor appeared worthy of acceptance in her eyes, although remarkably good offers poured in from all parts of Silesia and Poland. Then the haughty mania went off, and she so far forgot herself as to fall in love with—a wandering ratcatcher.

Rat-catchers were remarkable persons in the old days. The cunning which was necessary to ensnare the rat was supposed to be combined with a craft that passed terrestrial bounds. Thus we read of a rat-catcher who not only fascinated all the vermin out of a city by the charm of his music, but who afterwards piped all the children into a river, when a dispute arose as to his remuneration. Our present ratNov.-VOL. LXXXVII. NO. CCCXLVII.

2 D

catcher looked superior to his vocation. He was a tall, stately, handsome man, with an Italian cast of countenance ; and when he stopped at the castle, which was not a little troubled by rats, he attracted the attention of all the servants. The “fair one's” own maid was particularly struck, and could not enough expatiate on the attractions of the rat-catcher while she dressed the hair of her young mistress. She almost fancied, she said, that he was some lovely supernatural being, like the Nixie who once appeared on the Bartsch.

“ And what sort of a Nixie was that?” asked the lady.

“A very beautiful creature,” answered the maid, “who wore a dress of a light watery hue, and a head-gear gracefully formed of reeds. One day when a number of persons were dancing, she astonished them by appearing in the midst of them, and joining in their sports without uttering a syllable. Still more did she surprise them when she vanished no one knew how or whither. Two young fellows became so desperately enamoured of her, that they would not rest satisfied till they followed her; and when they saw her plunge into the Bartsch, it had such an effect on their weak minds that they died within three days afterwards."

This story, which certainly was poor and pointless enough, had not the effect of stifling in the bosom of the “fair one” a burning curiosity to see the wonderful stranger. Ah! she might have been warned against the effects of curiosity, by the fate not only of the youths who followed the Nixie, but also by that of the wiseacre who had lately taken it into his head to stare at the “spectral hearse."

Our readers are probably not aware, that in the Lent of every year a hearse drawn by four black horses was in the habit of passing through Trachenberg, till it came to the Polish gate ; making a dreadful rattling noise as it went along, while the spectacle was enlivened by the fire which proceeded from the hoofs and nostrils of the horses. At the gate it remained stationary for a moment; when all of a sudden the horses sprang into the air and vanished, and the hearse disappeared in a contrary direction, plunging itself into the castle ditch. An accidental meeting with this unlucky vehicle invariably produced a swelling in the head; and a godless wight, who ventured to peep at it from a window, was frightened to death in no time. Ultimately (after the time of our legend), the supernatural nuisance was stopped by the discovery and respectable interment of a human skeleton. That the gentleman was desirous of Christian burial is conceivable enough; but why he was so spiteful at every one who looked at the vehicle by which he gave notice of his wishes, we cannot explain.

Curiosity, it must be observed, was rather a standing vice at Trachenberg. Once a number of citizens, who were out late on the road leading to the castle, saw something white at a distance; and one of them returned to the spot on the following morning, to have the benefit of a closer inspection. When he came home again he had seven noses, as the reward of his impertinent investigation !

The "fair one," obeying the impulse of the true Trachenberg curiosity, contrived to see the rat-catcher unobserved; and in an instant fell desperately in love with him. The rat-catcher had previously beheld the “ fair one,” and had likewise been smitten. Glances were soon followed by assignations; and in time the knight's daughter and the gallant snarer

he re

of vermin met every evening in the castle garden. It is consoling to learn, also, that our hero was no real rat-catcher, but an Italian nobleman, who had Aed his country for political reasons, and merely adopted as a dernier ressort the honourable profession of which he was an apparent member.

At one of the interviews in the garden, the Italian told his beloved that he must set out for his own land on the following morning, and made the


reasonable request that she would remain constant to him for one year. Surely this was not so long a time—this one little year. Nevertheless, we grieve to say that it proved too long for the “fair one" of Trachenberg, although she had made the most solemn vows of fidelity.

What were the political views of the count we cannot say; but this we know, that events at home proved favourable to his interests; that he recovered his estates; and that, when before the end of the year turned Silesia, and rode up to Castle Trachenberg to claim his bride, he cut a very stately figure, and was followed by a very splendid train. Greatly was he disgusted when he overtook another train, equally splendid, and heard that the ladies and gentlemen who composed it were going to the castle on purpose to celebrate the marriage of the “ fair one" with-somebody else.

In the presence of all the company he swore very lustily that he would be revenged; and to attain that end he adopted the expedient of calling on the Father of Evil, who, in those days, seems to have been always ready to appear, on the slightest hint that his presence was desirable.

The devil rose into sight, and made an agreement, by which he undertook to grant a full allowance of revenge to the count; the latter, on his part, giving himself up, body and soul, in return, on the old-fashioned plan. Thus was a very good cause spoiled by the employment of very sorry expedients.

The wedding ceremony was performed at the castle on the following day, when our worthy confederates introduced themselves in the guise of foreign musicians, and offered to accompany the dancers with some rare instruments. The offer was gladly accepted ; and when evening came, and the tables were removed, the bride and bridegroom stood up to open the dance,

Among all the horrible sounds that ever were heard in this world, there was never found one to equal the sound that arose when the two strange musicians struck up. Not only did a frightful yelling and shrieking proceed from the strings, but there was a sort of derisive jabbering all round the room, as if a troop of devils were mocking at the solemnities. The bride and bridegroom could not stir from their place, and felt, to their horror, that their clothes were growing rigid like metallic sheets, and that the blood in their veins was turning colder and colder. This most unpleasant sensation gained in intensity; the unfortunate couple were unable to draw a breath, and at length stood, garments and all, transformed to stone. A roar of exultation from the strange musicians followed this extraordinary change ; but their mirth was stayed by a tremendous clap of thunder, which had no sooner ceased than they also were petrified to statues. That the guests fled in all directions is not to be wondered at ; nor do we see any cause to envy the old knight of the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »