« 上一页继续 »
blinded. "How came this strange and wonderful city here?" asked she with astonishment. "Is it indeed a city?"
"Certainly," answered the Bohemian, laughing. call it the stone city, and divide it into city and suburbs. It is here, however, properly called the rocks of Aldersbach.” "Are we to go in among those rocks?" anxiously asked Faith, clasping her Oswald more closely.
"There is no other way, my child," answered the latter. "Be not alarmed-you see that I am not disturbed, which I should be, if I anticipate any danger to you."
"Ah, you iron-nerved men never anticipate danger until it is close at hand," said the maiden; "and then it is too late to avoid it."
"Go on in advance, Lotek," said the Bohemian to one of his companions. "Beat the path a little where the snow lies too deep; announce to the worthy pastor that I bring him guests, and kindle a good fire in my quarters, that the lady may be rendered comfortable on her arrival."
Lotek threw his musket upon his back, whistled to his wolfdog, stepped off with long strides, and soon disappeared among the rocks.
"Now, if agreeable, we also will start," said the Bohemian. "The sun is tolerably high, and I would not willingly remain abroad in open day."
"Come, my child," said Oswald, offering his arm to Faith, which she took with a sigh, and they briskly entered among the rocks. The procession was led by the Bohemian, closed by his armed companions, and flanked by the hounds.
"These masses are frightfully high," said Faith, looking anxiously up at their summits.
They appear so to you," said the Bohemian, looking back. "These, however, are but small affairs. We are now only in the suburbs. In the city you will see rocks worth talking about."
"Heaven take pity on us!" sighed Faith, wandering on until she came to an open space. Here towered up, solitary and frightful, a single monstrous gray rock, formed like an inverted cone, with its base stretching high up into the clouds and its apex imbedded in a lake of ice.
"Do not go so near, Oswald," said Faith. rock must in the next moment tumble over."
"Fear it not," said the Bohemian. "This is the Sugarloaf, which has been standing thus upon its head for thousands
of years, and will surely retain its position long after we are in our graves."
They were still advancing, when Faith, who was somewhat ashamed to exhibit her fears to the Bohemian, whispered to Oswald, "only see that horrible gray giant's head projecting over us from between those high towers. I can plainly discern a monstrous, solemn looking face, surrounded by flowing gray locks."
"That is the burgomaster," said the laughing Bohemian, who well understood the whisper. "So is this sport of nature called, and it is the most beautiful of any here. You need not fear him, for he is the only burgomaster on earth who never troubled any one."
They continued to proceed farther and farther, until at length they were interrupted by a purling mountain stream. Beyond it, stood a broad mass of stone. The Bohemian leaped across the rivulet, rattling down a quantity of loose stones behind him, and with the humming operation of some wheel-work, the heavy stone moved slowly aside, and discovered a low, narrow opening.
"Do we enter there?" asked Faith in a tone so disconsolate as to call forth a hearty laugh from all the Bohemians. Ever Oswald joined in the laugh, and, clasping the maiden in his arms, he sprung with her to the opposite bank. They all now stood within a narrow passage, the wheel-work again moved, the entrance closed, and they were enveloped in dark
"It is very dark here!" cried Faith.
"We shall soon come into the light," said their leader, advancing. The others followed, and they thus proceeded in a narrow path, floored with yielding planks, and bounded by high perpendicular walls of dark gray stone, between which was seen the dark blue sky-so dark indeed, that they could almost distinguish the stars in broad day-light. The trickling water glistened upon the walls like silver threads upon a black velvet ground; and here and there little waterfalls, forming dazzling crystals with their congealing spray, bounded down the rocks and disappeared under the planks upon which they were walking.
"If we follow this path much longer," protested Faith, "I shall die of fear and anxiety." "For shame, my love!" answered Oswald. "Will you, who spoke so boldly for me to the grim Wallenstein, lose your
courage here in the bosom of harmonious nature, where we are especially and wholly in the hands of a protecting God?" "We are at the end!" exclaimed the Bohemian, stepping out into the clear sunshine. The fugitives followed him, and found themselves in a narrow but pleasant valley, surrounded by high snow-covered rocks which cut off this quiet retreat from the rest of the world. A clear, silver fountain, which gushed from a cleft in the rocks, meandered through the vale, while among and upon the rocks, like eyries, were to be seen about ten huts, built of rough branches, and well covered with moss, to secure their inhabitants from the inclemencies of the weather. Men, women, and children, were moving in and about these simple dwellings as quietly and confidently as if they had resided there all their lives. The fire ordered by the Bohemian twirled its smoke up into the clear heavens, and there sat Lotek, assiduously turning a haunch of vension which was roasting before it.
"The morning is fine," said Faith to Oswald after breakfast, as their venerable host seated himself, "and the valley here is so narrow and close that these huge rocks seem to press upon my heart. Let us therefore walk out a short distance beyond their confines."
"Venture not too far, my children!" said the pastor, in a warning voice without raising his eyes from his book. My old body is a true and faithful weather prophet, and tells me that we shall have a severe storm to-day. These storms rage much more furiously here than in the plains, and, when they come, every living creature finds it necessary to seek a shelter."
"We will soon return," promised Faith, slipping forth by Oswald's side.
Mark well the place of entrance to our retreat," "said the porter who opened the outer stone door for them; "that you may be sure to find it again. The passages along the rocks are very similar, and if by mistake you enter a wrong one you may be compelled to wander about all day long."
Never fear !" answered Oswald. "It would ill become a soldier to be unable to remember anything it might be necessary * for him to find again." He then looked at the highest peaks in the vicinity, impressed their relative positions upon his memory, carefully examined the secret door, and thus prepared, they went forth into the clear fresh morning air, and soon became engaged in a conversation of such interest as to render them entirely heedless of the lapse of time.
"I know not how it is," said Faith, fanning her glowing face with her handkerchief; "it is yet mid-winter here, and I am so very warm."
"It is incident to the summer of life," said their former guide, who suddenly stood before them as they turned a corner; especially when the sun of love shines warmly. It is not probable you will have much further occasion to complain of the heat to-day, for a storm is approaching.'
"With the sky so clear? Impossible !" cried Faith.
"You know nothing of the tricks of the mountain-sprites," said the Bohemian. "One moment we have sunshine, the next thunder and lightning. That is the way with them. You will do well to return to the valley betimes."
He passed on and was soon out of sight. "We had better follow him," said Oswald. "Yet but one quarter of an hour," begged Faith; "and then we will return as fast as we can.'
"Who can deny you anything," said the youth; even when you solicit what should not be granted?"
They still continued to advance, until they came where the rocks were less compactly clustered, and glimpses of the plain, presenting brilliant winter landscapes, were occasionally obtained through the openings.
"Ah, how much pleasanter it is here than in the pent up valley!" cried Faith, clapping her hands with childish joy. Oswald suddenly started and listened. "Did you hear nothing?" he asked the maiden. "It sounded like a distant trumpet.'
"Yes," said Faith, after listening a moment; "it must be the blast of a trumpet."
"It may be our pursuers!" cried Oswald. "Let us hasten back to our asylum."
He now turned quickly about with Faith, and, rather bearing than leading her, hastened to retrace the path by which they had come. Before proceeding far on their return, they were met by a colder and sharper wind, and the snow which it blew from the summits of the rocks involved them in a white fleecy cloud.
Alas, Oswald, I can no longer see," complained Faith. "It is but little better with me," answered Oswald, groping after the path to the right, which he supposed to be the one he should take. Still sharper blew the wind as the storm rapidly approached, and the dark gray mountain-clouds lashed the immense rocks with their mighty wings, sending down
their accumulated snows upon the heads of the poor wanderers. Still more wildly rushed and whistled and howled the winds among the rocks, in strangely horrible tones, and in the midst of the uproar they distinguished the sounds of distant rolling thunder and the flashes of lightning in the low dark clouds. In this struggle of the elements, all the summits and other landmarks which Oswald had noted to guide his returning steps, had completely dissappeared, and at length he impatiently cried: "I have lost the way. Why was I weak enough to yield to the wishes of a child!"
"Chide not, dear Oswald," entreated Faith, submissively. “I will willingly endure every hardship which is suffered with you."
"That is what distresses me," said Oswald. alone, I should enjoy this storm instead of trembling at it; for nature appears to me most beautiful in anger, and I have already been compelled to expose this brow to many a wild tempest. My anxiety for you troubles me. If your health should be injured by this exposure I should be inconsolable, and have only my own thoughtlessness to blame for it."
A brighter flash and louder report now put it beyond doubt that a terrible storm was at hand. The echoes thundered among the rocks, now nearer and now farther off, until they finally died away in indistinct murmurs.
"A thunderstorm in winter!" cried the trembling Faith. "That is doubly horrible."
"Who knows that this tempest may not bring a blessing; and certainly it cannot do much harm here among these old rocks," said Oswald by way of consoling her, still continuing to advance at random.
"Thank heaven, I hear human voices !" exultingly shouted Faith and like a doe she skipped towards an eminence with such speed that Oswald could scarcely follow her.
A multitude of people were approaching, sure enough. It was composed of colonel Goes, the detestable Hurka, and a troop of Lichtenstein dragoons, who immediately aimed their arms at the fugitives.
"Stand!" cried Goes, amid the thunder of the storm, to his son, whom he instantly recognised. "Stand, or I command the troops to fire."
"Father, do no violence!" cried the despairing youth, throwing himself before the maiden, who had sunk upon her knees; God judges righteously and protects the innocent! Hear how he warns you with the voice of his thunder !"