Imágenes de páginas

sence of mind. With the one oar he so guided our bark as to enable me to regain our lost oar and hand it to him. Before he could fix another pin, however, a swelling wave bore us on its crest towards the frowning rock, but he skilfully succeeded with both oars in stemming our course, although, in anticipation of the shock, I recoiled with horror, when rolling back with tremendous force it carried us away from the dreaded shore.

“ Bravo, Angelo ! bravo !" shouted the man on the rock; and with rejoicing hearts we repeated the cry.

It was truly a masterpiece of skill. Angelo's figure rose at the momentous period ; the oars grew suddenly under his hands, his eyes flashed fire, his whole frame seemed suddenly rooted to the bottom of our boat, and we were saved.

Our approbation produced but little effect on his features ; he worked quietly on, but after a few seconds he gazed upon the rocky wall and exclaimed, “ God be praised ! Had you not given me the oar, we should all have been lost.” Then striking in the new pin with his horny hand, he bent with renewed strength to the oars.

A DAY AT THE BARRICADES. FORTUNATELY for themselves, few Englishmen are in a capacity to join with me in saying that they have also spent a day at the barricades ; the inhabitants of this happy island are still blessedly ignorant of even the first principles of their erection, and none of our generals have been yet compelled to exchange the sword for the pen, and explain the proper method of scaling them. The only barricades we ever see are those raised in our thoroughfares when repairs are going on, to the profit of our cabmen; and the only weapons with which they are assailed are winged, but not death-dealing, consisting, as they do, of a volley of objurgations on the heads of the leaders of the destructive and constructive band.

Our political excitement ends in a very different fashion from that which was formerly en vogue on the Continent: when a thing grievously annoys us, and cannot by possibility be endured any longer, we even join together in a peaceful conspiracy, and abolish it by the employment of moral force a more powerful weapon than all the warlike equipments to be found in Woolwich Arsenal. For all that, though, our cousins-german must not be utterly blamed for their appeal to the sword: they never were in a position to understand the real blessings of liberty, and persons under such circumstances are only too prone to be seduced by the meretricious blandishments of that painted lady, Democracy.

For my own part, I was led to comprehend the delights of revolution by a very peculiar process : at the first outbreak of hostilities I may safely avouch that there was not a more peaceful Civis Britannicus in the whole territory of Baden than myself; but I presume the enjoyment of revolution is something like that of opium—the first taste is inexpressibly nauseous, but, by degrees, it becomes a necessity to existence. At least, it was so in my case; when the news arrived across the frontier that Louis Philippe had scented the danger and betaken himself to England, under the vulgar name of Mr. Smith, I felt rather more than curious to know what would be the result of the movement in the ducal residence of Carlsruhe. Thither I went, and had the distinguished honour of forming one of the body-guard hurriedly raised to protect the grand duke from any hostile attack. Fortunately for myself, the only opportunity I found of exhibiting my prowess was in wielding my knife and fork, and drinking several bottles of the celebrated white wine from Eberstein, which, though heretofore exclusively kept for the grand ducal table, was, by the levelling process going on, considered not a whit too good for his gallant defenders.

As the political excitement waxed fiercer, in equal ratio did mine, and I gradually found myself shouting vehemently for Hecker and other worthies, who have since left their country for their country's good, although up to that time their names were almost unknown to me, and it was a matter of perfect indifference whether the National Guard were formed or not. But here I must correct myself; for, after it came into existence, the unlucky drums used to beat the reveillé every morning at four o'clock, and I, consequently, lost a considerable portion of my natural rest.

The first great popular meeting that was held took place at Offenburg, and an ominous sign of the times was rendered by Hecker's reply to the request that he would accept office as minister of justice, “ Ich kann kein Fürsten Diener seyn;" words which, although placed by Schiller in the mouth of the Marquis Posa, had a terrible significance here, as they left the people to choose between a grand duke who was indifferent to them, and a man like Hecker, who was born to be the darling of a mob.

The popular ferment increased instead of becoming diminished; armed meetings grew into fashion through the whole length of the land, from Heidelberg to Basle, and, to my sorrow I must confess, I went regularly to all of them. Hecker and his friends retired to Switzerland after the breaking up of the Vor Parliament, and all threatened a very lively, episode in the history of Baden.

Towards the close of the month of May, the political refugees, wearied of the monotony of peace, thought it high time to have their innings, and word was soon brought that they were moving on the Rhine, as some said, with half a dozen red-trousered French regiments at their back. The excitement was of course intense, and a popular armed meeting was immediately convened at Freyburg, to see in the words of the programme) what encouragement should be given to the progress of the Republic. But, before telling you what they said and did there, I may as well give a short description of this most interesting town.

Freyburg is situated in an exquisite valley in the Black Forest, at no great distance from the Swiss frontier and the Rhine. It contains a population of about 10,000 souls, and enjoys the usual gentle dulness of collegiate towns. It is the seat of the Catholic University of Baden, and would scarcely ever be visited by strangers were it not for the very splendid cathedral it boasts. It is, in fact, the finest specimen of Gothic architecture in a complete state to be found in Germany, or, I might


[ocr errors]

almost say, in Europe. At least I cannot, at the moment, recollect any other great church completed in accordance with the original design, except, perhaps, the Madeleine in Paris, or our own St. Paul's. The cathedral of Cologne may be grander in conception, but it is not yet finished, and never will be, unless they progress considerably faster than they are doing at present. “Besides this, Freyburg Cathedral is remarkable from being the result of the united energies of the people, for they completed it, after kings and princes had given up the task in despair. Houses and lands were mortgaged to raise the money; and where a man had neither, he voluntarily gave his days and labour to complete the noble work : the result was one of the most beautiful buildings it is possible to imagine.”

The presence of the cathedral in Freyburg has had considerable influence on the fortunes of the town; the inhabitants are perfectly well acquainted with the current value of English sovereigns, and do not evince the slightest objection to receive any quantity their distinguished visitors may feel inclined to exchange for Dutch clocks and straw hats, the staple articles of barter drawn from the Black Forest. From these data it might be inferred, naturally, that the population of the town would be disinclined towards revolution or rebellion, if you like to call it so; and so they would have been, if the season had commenced. As it was, they felt dull after a severe winter-their blood had been put in active circulation by the various émeutes all around them--strangers had not yet begun to appear, that is, those who were worth shearing, and the consequence was, the good people of Freyburg thought that they would have their fun as well, though it might be death to others : nor were the means and appliances wanting.

At the close of May, then, the long-talked-of armed popular meeting took place, and thousands flocked to Freyburg, myself among them. My knowledge of such assemblies was becoming rather extensive, and I soon saw that there was some mischief in the wind, through the number of strange faces I perceived, and which could only belong to Poles, those carrion crows of revolution. It was a most peculiar fact that, during the whole progress of the outbreaks in Vienna, Berlin, Frankfort, &c., Poles were immediately found in the front ranks as soon as the first gun was fired in anger. Whence they came nobody appeared to know, or how they disappeared; as soon as hostilities ceased they modestly retired, without waiting to receive the meed of valour at the hands of a grateful mob, or anticipating it by carrying away with them a few dozen silver spoons, and such unconsidered trifles, as a reminiscence.

As for the rest of the assembly, they were the old familiar faces; the detachment of blouse, or scythe, men, as they were indiscriminately termed, I had seen before, but, as my readers may not have enjoyed that peculiar good fortune, I may as well devote a few lines to them. They were a corps of picked men, of herculean forms, dressed in blue linen blouses and grey-felt sombreros, adorned with red feathers, and carried a most extraordinary weapon, formed of a combination of scythe and reaping-hook, fastened to the end of a pole about five feet long. This curious instrument was a reminiscence of the last Polish war, and was intended to be employed in repulsing cavalry attacks: the reaping-hook serving to catch the rider by the neck and drag him from the saddle, when the

scythe effectually settled him. I believe, however, its value was never properly established, at least by a fair trial, for when it came to cavalry attacks the rebels used to remember the adage of “running away" in order to “live to fight another day," and very speedily took themselves out of harm's way.

The remainder of the mob collected on the market-place of Freyburg consisted of Turner, or members of the gymnastic societies, dressed in their white linen jackets and trousers, and armed with muskets the grand duke had been good enough to give them, at considerable expense to the country, and a vast number of long-booted, red-waistcoated peasants, whose armament was, to use the mildest term for it, extraordinary. An antiquarian would have gloated over the guns and pistols, swords and daggers there brought to light, with intense satisfaction. There were the long rifles with which their forefathers had repulsed the French in 1794, now quite disabled by rust, and weapons of such quaint and peculiar form that it would not have required any great stretch of imagination to suppose that they had been employed in the terrible peasant war of 1525. Add to these a quantity of fat citizens from the towns of the Underland, some dragging huge sabres rattling at their heels, others tripped up by their straight court swords, and the reader may form a tolerably correct idea of the components of a German armed meeting in those days.

As heterogeneous, however, as the assembly was, it was just the same with their opinions. The majority of the peasants was only animated with one wish, that of eking their revenge upon the Jews, who certainly deserved punishment if all behaved in the same way as one of whose villany I was once witness. I had been out shooting, and in the afternoon turned into a village inn to have some refreshment. The only inmates of the room where I sat were an old peasant and two children of Israel, money-lenders or corn-dealers, for in Germany they generally unite both professions. The peasant wanted to borrow the sum of forty florins, or about three pounds ten, on mortgage of his farm, to which the Jews consented, but the main difficulty appeared to be that they had not so much money with them, their united capital only amounting to twenty-six florins. They, however, drew up a bill, handed over the twenty-six florins to the peasant, inserted the amount in the document, and all appeared to be going on correctly. One of the Jews, however, suddenly recollected that he had some money to receive in the village, and promised the peasant that, if he succeeded, he would let him have the other fourteen florins. He went out for a time, and returned with the money, which he handed over to the peasant, and duly inserted in the document. I had forgotten all about the affair, when, some three months afterwards, the old peasant came to call upon me in a state of terrible tribulation, and begged in the name of all the saints that I would help him. It appeared that the Jews had begun an action against him for 2614 florins, which they swore they had lent him, and which was borne out by the bill he had signed. They had put down the first 26 florins they had given him, and added the other 14 close by their side afterwards, so that it read 2614, and had it not been for my active interference, and after an infinity of trouble, caused by the Jews' perjury (for they would not give in until the chief rabbi of Carlsruhe was summoned to take their oath by some dreadful process peculiar to themselves), the poor old peasant would indubitably have been sold out. Nor was this an isolated case; but as it occurred in my own presence, I can vouch for the fact. Indeed, in Alsace many of the Jews were terribly maltreated about this time, and even the great Israelite, Baron von Rothschild, according to popular rumour, was glad to remove his treasures to the strong fortress of Mayence, not deeming them sufficiently secure in Frankfort. By the way, I wonder what his mamma, Madame Rothschild, if she be still living, thinks about the complication with Russia. It is said that, at the time when a war was apprehended between France and Germany, several years ago, one of her commères ran in to tell the old lady the terrible news; she was, however, speedily consoled by the reply: “Pah, pah! my son won't permit it-he won't lend them any money.” Surely Mr. Cobden must have derived his notions of finance from this worthy dame, when present at the Peace Congress at Frankfort. After this long digression, let me return to the good town of Freyburg.

The balcony of the first floor windows in the Hotel zum Ritter was selected as the oratorical tribune, and it was soon densely crowded with students, newspaper editors, and other dissatisfied heroes, who wished to make a little noise in the world. The usual turbulent speeches were held, the flags were waved from below, guns and pistols were continually fired, regardless of danger and expense, and I breathed somewhat more freely, for I fancied things would end in the accustomed manner. la this, however, I was lamentably mistaken, for a horseman came suddenly riding in who brought the news that Hecker and Struvé had, that afternoon, passed the Rhine at Lörrach, and were hurrying with forced marches to Freyburg, fully determined to do or die. It was surprising how this intelligence inflamed the hearers. Hecker's name was idolised by the people, and the feeling had been maintained by many artful rumours. One, for instance, I remember, was universally circulated and believed, that he was the second son of the Grand Duchess Stephanie of Baden, and carried off, when born, by the White Lady from the palace of Carlsruhe. This was an adaptation of the Caspar Hauser legend, which had never been satisfactorily cleared up, but was so fully credited that reputable persons pointed out to me the actual murderer of the boy, who was a gentleman held in high repute, and personally received at the grand ducal court. But this is ever à misfortune contingent on absolutism, that the inost outré stories obtain credence through the exertions of the police to suppress them. For my own part, I succeeded in procuring the secret history of Caspar Hauser, and studied it carefully, and I have no doubt that the suspicions cast on the Grand Duke Leopold could have been easily dissipated at the time ; he, however, dared public opinion, and has gone to the grave with the unenviable reputation of having been implicated in an assassination. Be this as it may, the original story had been so successful, that it was thought advisable to spread reports that Hecker was the younger brother of Caspar Hauser, and removed by the same process; and it was not at all a bad scheme, for it reconciled many, who would have shrunk from rebellion, to an armed interference in favour of the legitimate heir.

As I said before, the arrival of the messenger caused the greatest excitement in Freyburg, and the armed meeting formed the groundwork

« AnteriorContinuar »