Page images
[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]




(With a Steel Plate.)

"Long hath the country, where the Switzer dwells
In peaceful loneliness, been famed for scenes-
Long may that character denote it still!—
Where bliss domestic finds a resting place:
Domestic bliss, that, like a harmless dove,
Honour and sweet endearment keeping guard,
Can centre, in a little quiet nest,

All that Desire would fly for through the earth!"

In a glen, remote from the noise and tumult of the busy and distracting world, Gertrude de Weimar first saw the light. To its tranquil recesses her parents had retired soon after their marriage; and here Margaret de Weimar brought forth her daughter, her only child.

Imagination, wide as oftentimes it wanders into the regions of fiction, would, perhaps, acknowledge it a task of no easy accomplishment, to point to a spot more lovely, or better adapted for the dear enjoyments, and dearer anticipations of conjugal affection, than this lonely and secluded retreat. Wild, yet cultivated, it was at once attractive from the luxuriance of nature, and from those scenes which inspire the feeling, that, though at a distance from their din and discord, we are yet conversant among men : a feeling, softened by the thought that there is still near us, some congenial being

[ocr errors]

"Whom we may whisper, Solitude is sweet."

Upon its sides, rising gradually, and sloping away until the eye which rested on the summit of the woody ridge that girded it, found its view obstructed only by the expanse of heaven, grew every variety of tree and shrub, which can decorate the landscape, or win the soul to own the beneficent Hand that presented, with a form so inviting, a prospect bespeaking the immediate operation of illimitable power. Deep in the bosom of this peaceful dell flowed a rill, which issued, clear as crystal, from a rock that overhung its higher extremity. From morning to evening, and from evening to morning, it held on its way. Reckless it was indeed of all the. sorrows that had attended humanity since first it paid its lucid tribute to the ocean; yet you might have fancied, so gentle was its murmur, that it sympathized with suffering, and was willing to assuage the anguish of the sons and daughters of affliction, should such visit the tranquillity of that scene of retirement whence it derived its transparent wave.

Far before the glen, and in that direction where it unbosomed to the world beyond, towered the majestic summits of the Alps: here, tall and

naked, there, in remoter perspective, covered with the mantle of everduring snows. Changing in their aspect with every rising and declining ray, now, they were dark and fearful amidst the gloom of storms: again, they aspired, as to the abodes of happiness, through the soft azure of an unclouded sky: now, they glowed in the tinge of day-break: again, they rose decked with the vermilion of the setting beam: one-while, they were clothed with a dazzling splendour in the blaze of noon: then, were they seen like beings more than human, and alarming to the eye of Superstition, amidst the appendages of approaching night. Such, often, does the wanderer of Switzerland contemplate with that indefinable emotion, which, originating in the deep sense of his being left alone, as it were, in the presence of Omnipotence, unfolds itself into the consciousness that all share alike in the protection of Him, at whose presence," the foundations of the hills are moved:"-the consciousness, that, in every diversity of appearance in nature, as, in “ every changing scene of human life," power is blended with compassion, and authority attempered by the balm of love.

A spot of such loveliness it was, a loveliness, which might not have been unworthy of a world untainted with crime, that Arnold and Margaret de Weimar chose for the interchange of their connubial hopes and fears. Long agitated by the stern interdict of a cruel parent, Arnold here looked forward to all the plenitude of wedded and paternal happiness, rendered yet dearer by the obstacles which had so long prevented the consummation of his earthly wishes; while Margaret, who seemed only to live while blest with his approving smile, anticipated in the silence and loneliness of this undisturbed retreat, the delightful realities of a felicity, alas, never to be found on earth!

Reginald de Weimar, the father of Arnold, was a man of a harsh and vindictive spirit. Educated amidst the turmoil and tumult, almost inseparable from feudal command, his only principle was private gratification. To an immoderate ambition, he united an avarice, which the wealth of the Indies could not have satiated; and his stern brow betrayed but too manifestly the darkness of those emotions which had indented it with furrows, such, as in others, might have been deemed the effects of age, but which were on his forehead the lines of deep and immitigable passions. Reginald had two sons: of these Arnold was the elder. Possessing manners the most engaging, endowed with a disposition but too gentle for the rude shocks he was doomed to meet with, and yet gifted with a courage undaunted, did duty summon him to arms. Arnold was in earlier life, the pride and boast of his father. He had shone amidst the foremost in his feudal wars. He it was who had ever claimed the post of danger; and to his skill and intrepidity had been owing the victory of many a hardly contested field. Yet, withal, while compelled to undergo the toils, and mingle in the horrors of all that a soldier must necessarily encounter, his heart was in other employments; and like him, confessedly "the glory of chivalry,*" his spirit, amidst camps and carnage, was in the avocations that embellish life, hovering over the endearments of milder and calmer scenes.

Arnold was yet a youth, when the youngest of the daughters of Oswald de Guiscald met his eye. She had come with her father and brothers to a tournament, celebrated in honour of the anniversary of his birth; for during many years, Arnold ruled in the castle of Reginald de Weimar, so

* Sir Philip Sydney: so styled by a writer of his times.

fond was the parent, unkind as he was to many, of this, the heir of his -titles and estates. Margaret de Guiscald was then in her fourteenth year, opening into bloom and beauty. She had come, attended by her page, arrayed as became the dignity of her line. The domains of de Guiscald then were wide, and wealth and splendour decked his almost regal court. Her attire, perhaps, was gayer than was usual, even amidst the pomp and magnificence of the times. Her arms were of gold and silver, for she 7 came equipped, as in mockery of war and fair was the palfry that bore her. As if conscious of its lovely burthen, it champed the bit, and pawed the ground with pride, at the encouraging voice or soothing hand of its mistress; ready, if she touched the rein, either to bear her foremost in the chace, to track the lists of tournament, itself exempt from the dangers of combat, or carry her to the toils of lighter recreation, amid the pæans of the admiring multitude. And well might they gaze on a form, which, could angels sojourn in a mortal frame, might have been deemed the tenement of a being that only visited the world she inhabited,

"On errands of supernal grace."

In stature above middle size, for she had outstripped her equals, and, as we often find in other climates, had even at her age attained a maturity which we should consider beyond the period of girlhood, and of a symmetry so exactly proportioned, as to command the attention of the most unobservant eyes: dignified withal, and in every motion betraying her exalted lineage, though as unaffected in her actions as the lily of the valley, when it bends to the passing breeze-cold were the heart that would not have responded to the universal acclaim that hailed, unrivalled, Margaret de Guiscald. Nor was her countenance less attractive than her figure. Her cheek, warmed with blood, as yet unchilled by sorrow, was bright as the beam upon the wings of the morning, and played on too by many a smile, that spoke how buoyant was the bosom below; while her eye, of a deep hazel hue, and soft, as if nought save pity breathed within its orb, told of a something that still might harbour in her breast, and for ever destroy its peace. We say not, however-for let not the historian of her lovely life overstep the limits of veracity—we say not that peace was long a stranger to the heart of Margaret. Doomed she was indeed to suffer in secret, and to pine through long long years over an affection she believed unrequited, over a tenderness she knew not was unchangeably returned; but, amidst the trials that awaited her, a voice was yet to be heard-a voice which, while

"It thunders terror to the guilty heart,

With tongues of seraphs whisper'd peace to hers."


Upon his youthful mien,

A mild, but sad intelligence was seen :
Courage was on his open brow; yet care
Seem'd like a wand'ring shade to linger there;
And though his eye shone as the eagle's bright,
It beamed with humid, melancholy light."

IT was in that season the die was cast. Big with events of no trivial importance, those moments came and fled. Arnold, in whose honour the festivities were held, looking forward-for the young and inexperienced are but too often the visitors of regions where only Fancy, illusive Fancy dwells-to pleasures unsullied; a sun whose morning would suffer no decline;-received, while least he expected it, an arrow in his bosom, which was destined, if not to bear him to an untimely grave, though we dare not affirm even this, to give a colouring of the deepest interest to every hour of his future existence. But we must retrace our steps to scenes which we have, perhaps, rather anticipated in the preceding division of our narrative.

The sun, though verging towards the west, was yet high in the heavens, when de Guiscald, on the long-hailed anniversary, was ushered amidst the clamour of thousands in the distance, and the near answer of trumpets from the warder tower, within the baronial portals of de Weimar. Arnold, at the instant, was returning from the chace. Hearing the well-known echo, he spurred forward his yet untired steed, and hasting, on wings as light as ever expectation lent, to be greeted as lord of the approaching solemnities, arrived just in time to meet his exalted guests, when they halted in the inner court of the castle. Unconcerned about his dishabille, and the other marks of a pastime, in those days considered the badge of nobility, Arnold rushed to the spot, and presented himself to the party, who were now waiting for the accustomed ceremonials of welcome.

"There drawn in fair array,

The countless vassals of his father's house,

Their javelins sparkling in the slanting beam,

Spread their triumphant banners: high plum'd helms
Rose o'er the martial ranks; and prancing steeds

Made answer to the trumpet's stirring voice,

While the far hills shook their dull silence off."

De Guiscald passed and saluted him, as did successively his sons and daughter. Margaret was apart, and approached him, attended by her page. She had had her eye fixed on the comely youth, and, prepared as she was to greet him with accustomed homage, ere she could pronounce it, the accents died upon her lips.

Arnold coloured :-Margaret was pale as the wreath upon her native

« PreviousContinue »