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Uncle Christian's Inheritance

 

Erckmann Chatrian

 

 

 

When my excellent uncle Christian Hâas, burgomaster of Lauterbach, died, I had a good situation as maître de chapelle, or precentor, under the Grand Duke Yen Peter, with a salary of fifteen hundred florins, notwithstanding which I was a poor man still.

Uncle Christian knew exactly how I was situated, and yet had never sent me a kreutzer. So when I learned that he had left me owner of two hundred acres of rich land in orchards and vineyards, a good bit of woodland, and his large house at Lauterbach, I could not help shedding tears of gratitude.

“My dear uncle,” I cried, “now I can appreciate the depth of your wisdom, and I thank you most sincerely for your judicious illiberality. Where would now the money be, supposing you had sent me anything? In the hands of the Philistines, no doubt; whereas by your prudent delays you have saved the country, like another Fabius Cunctator—

'Qui cunctando restituit rem—'

I honour your memory, Uncle Christian! I do indeed!” Having delivered myself of these deep feelings, and many more which I cannot enter into now, I got on horseback and rode off to Lauterbach.

Strange, is it not, how the Spirit of Avarice, hitherto quite a stranger to me, came to make my acquaintance?

“Caspar!” he whispered, “now you are a rich man! Hitherto vain shadows have filled your mind. A man must be a fool to follow glory. There is nothing solid but acres, and buildings, and crown-pieces, put out in safe mortgages. Fling aside all your vain delusions! Enlarge your boundaries, round off your estate, heap up money, and then you will be honoured and respected! You will be a burgomaster as your uncle was before you, and the country folks, when they see you coming a mile off, will pull off their hats, and say—'Here is Monsieur Caspar Hâas, the richest man and the biggest herr in the country.' ”

These notions kept passing and repassing in my mind like the figures in a magic-lantern, with grave and measured step. The whole thing seemed to me perfectly reasonable.

It was the middle of July. The lark was warbling in the sky. The crops were waving in the plain, the gentle breezes carried on them the soft cry of the quail and the partridge amongst the standing wheat; the foliage was glancing in the sunshine, and the Lauter ran its course beneath the willows; but what was all that to me, the great burgomaster? I puffed up my cheeks and rounded off my figure in anticipation of the portly appearance I was to present, and repeated to myself those delightful observations—

“This is Monsieur Caspar Hâas; he is a very rich man! he is the first herr in the country! Get on, Blitz!”

And the nag trotted forward.

I was anxious to try on my uncle's three-cornered hat and scarlet waistcoat. “If they fit me,” I said, “what is the use of buying?”

About four in the afternoon the village of Lauterbach appeared at the end of the valley, and very proud I felt as I surveyed the tall and handsome house of the late Christian Hâas, my future

abode, the centre of my property, real and speculative. I admired its situation by the long dusty road, its vast roof of grey shingle, the sheds and barns covering with their broad expanse the waggons, the carts, and the crops; behind, the poultry-yard, then the little garden, the orchard, the vineyards up the hill, the green meadows farther off.

I chuckled with delight over all these comforts and luxuries. As I went down the principal street the old women with nose and chin nearly meeting at the extremity, the bare-pated children with ragged hair, the men in their otter-skin caps, and silver- chained pipes in their mouths, all gaze upon me, and respectfully salute me—

“Good day, Monsieur Caspar! How do you do, Monsieur Hâas?” And all the small windows were filled with wondering faces. I am at home now; I seem as if I had always been a great landowner at Lauterbach, and a notable. My kapellmeister's life seems a dream, a thing of the past, my enthusiastic fondness for music a youthful folly! How money does modify men's views of things!

And now I draw bridle before the house of the village notary, Monsieur Becker. He has my title-deeds under his care, and is to hand them over to me. I fasten my horse to the ring at the door. I run up the steps, and the ancient scribe, with his bald head very respectfully uncovered, and his long spare figure clad in a green dressing-gown with full skirts, advances alone to receive me.

“Monsieur Caspar Hâas, I have the honour to salute you.”

“Your servant, Monsieur Becker.”

“Pray walk in, Monsieur Hâas.”

“After you, sir, after you.”

We cross the vestibule, and I find at the end of a small, neat, and well-aired room a table nicely and comfortably laid, and sitting by it a young maiden rosy and fresh-coloured, the very picture of modesty and propriety.

The venerable notary announced me— “Monsieur Caspar Hâas!” I bowed.

“My daughter Lothe!” added the good man.

And whilst I felt in myself a reviving taste for the beautiful, and was admiring Mademoiselle Lothe's pretty little chubby nose, the rosy lips, and the large blue eyes, her dainty little figure, and her dimpled hands, Maître Becker invited me to sit down at the table, informing me that he had been expecting me, and that before entering on matters of business it would be well to take a little refreshment, a glass of Bordeaux, an invitation of which I fully recognised the propriety, and which I accepted very willingly.

And so we sit down. We talk first of the beautiful country. And I form opinions about the old gentleman, and wonder what a notary is likely to make at Lauterbach!

“Mademoiselle, will you take a wing?”

“Monsieur, you are very kind; thank you, I will.” Lothe looks down bashfully. I fill her glass, in which she dips her rosy lips. Papa is in good spirits; he tells me about hunting and fishing.

“Of course Monsieur Hâas will live as we do in the country. We have excellent rabbit-warrens. The rivers abound in trout. The shooting in the forests is let out. People mostly spend their evenings at the inn. Monsieur the inspector of woods and forests is a delightful young man. The juge-de-paix is a capital whist-player,” and so on, and so on.

I listen, and think all this quiet life must be delightful. Mademoiselle Lothe pleases me a good deal. She does not talk much, but she smiles and looks so agreeable! How loving and amiable she must be!

At last the coffee came, then the kirschwasser. Mademoiselle Lothe retires, and the old lawyer gradually passes to business. He explains to me the nature of my uncle's property, and I listen attentively. There was no part of the will in dispute; there were no legacies, no mortgages. Everything is clear and straightforward. Happy Caspar! Happy man!

Then we went into the office to look over the deeds. The close air of this place of dry, hard business, those long rows of boxes, the files of bills—all these together put weak notions of love out of my head. I sat down in an armchair while Monsieur Becker, collecting his thoughts, puts his horn spectacles in their place upon his long, sharp nose.

“These deeds relate to your meadow-land at Eichmatt. There, Monsieur Hâas, you have a hundred acres of excellent land, the finest and best-watered in the commune; two and even three crops a year are got off that land. It brings in four thousand francs a year. Here are the deeds belonging to your vine-growing land at Sonnenthâl, thirty-five acres in all. One year with another you may get from this two hundred hectolitres (4,400 gals.) of light wine, sold on the ground at twelve or fifteen francs the hectolitre. Good years make up for the bad. This, Monsieur Hâas, is your title to the forest of Romelstein, containing fifty or sixty hectares (a hectare is 2 1/2 acres) of excellent timber. This is your property at Hacmatt; this your pasture-land at Tiefenthal. This is your farm at Grüneswald, and here is the deed belonging to your house at Lauterbach; it is the largest house in the place, and was built in the sixteenth century.”

“Indeed, Monsieur Becker! but is that saying much in its favour?”

“Certainly, certainly. It was built by Jean Burckhardt, Count of Barth, for a hunting-box. Many generations have lived in it since then, but it has never been neglected, and it is now in excellent repair.”

I thanked Monsieur Becker for the information he had given me, and having secured all my title-deeds in a large portfolio which he was good enough to lend me, I took my leave, more full than ever of my vast importance!

Arriving before my house, I enjoyed introducing the key into the lock of the door, and bringing down my foot firmly and proudly on the first step.

“This is all mine!” I cried enthusiastically.

I enter the hall—“Mine!” I open the wardrobes—“Mine!” Mine—all that linen piled up to the top! I pace majestically up the broad staircase, repeating like a fool, “This is mine, and that is mine! Here I am, owner of all this! No more uneasiness about the future! Not an anxious thought for the morrow! Now I am going to make a figure in the world!—not on the weak ground of merit—not for anything that fashion can alter. I am a great man because I hold really and effectually that which the world covets.

“Ye poets and artists! what are you in comparison with the rich proprietor who has everything he wants, and who feeds your inspiration with the crumbs that fall from his table? What are you but ornamental portions of his feasts and banquets, just to fill up a weary interval? You are no more than the sparrow that warbles in his hedges, or the statue that figures in his garden-walk. It is by him and for him that you exist. What need has he to envy you the incense of pride and vanity—he who possesses the only solid good this world has to offer?”

At that moment of inflated conceit if the poor Kapellmeister Hâas had appeared before me I might very likely have turned and looked at him over my shoulder and asked, “What fool is that? What business has he with me?”

I threw a window open; evening was closing in. The setting sun gilded my orchards and my vines as far as I could see. On the declivity of the hill a few white patches indicated the cemetery.

I turned round. A great Gothic hall, with rich mouldings decorating the ceiling, pleased my taste exceedingly. This was the Seigneur Burckhardt's hunting-saloon.

An old spinet stood between two windows; I ran my fingers absently over the keys, and the loose strings jingled with the disagreeable squeaking of a toothless old woman trying to sing like a young damsel.

At the end of this long apartment was an arched alcove closed in by deep red curtains, and containing a lofty four-post bedstead with a kind of grand baldacchino covering it in. The sight of this reminded me that I had been six hours on horseback, and undressing with a self-satisfied smirk on my face all the time—

“It is the first time,” I said, “that I shall sleep in a bed of my own.” And laying myself comfortably down, with my eyes dreamily wandering over the distant plains on which the shadows of evening were settling down, I felt my eyelids gently yielding to the sweet influence of sleep. Not a leaf was stirring; the village noises ceased one by one, the last golden rays of the sun had disappeared, and I dropped into the unconsciousness of welcome sleep.

Dark night fell on the face of the earth, and then the moon was rising in all her splendour, when I awoke, I cannot tell why. The wandering scents of summer air reached me through the open window, fragrant with the sweet perfume of the new-mown hay. I gazed with surprise, then I made an effort to rise and open the window, but some obstacle prevented me. To my astonishment, though my head was perfectly free to move in any direction, my body was buried in a deep sleep like a lump of lead. Not a single muscle obeyed my repeated efforts to raise my body; I was conscious of my arms lying extended near me, and my legs being stretched out straight and immovable; but my head was swaying helplessly to and fro. My breathing, deep and regular—the breathing of my body went on all the same, and frightened me dreadfully. My head, exhausted with its vain efforts to obtain obedience from the limbs, fell back in despair, and I said, “What! is it paralysis?”

My eyes closed. I was reflecting with a feeling of horror upon this strange phenomenon, and my ears were listening intently to the agitated beating of my heart, over whose hurried flow of blood the mind had no power.

“What, what is this?” I thought presently. “Do my own body and limbs refuse to obey my will? Cannot Caspar Hâas, the undisputed lord of so many rich vineyards and fat pastures, move this wretched clod of earth which most certainly belongs to him? Oh, what does it all mean?”

As I was thus wondering and meditating I heard a slight noise. The door of my alcove opened, and a man clothed in some stiff material resembling felt, such as is worn by the monks in the chapel of St. Werburgh at Mayence, with a broad-brimmed hat and feather pushed off from the left ear, his hands buried up to the elbows in gauntlets of strong untanned leather, entered the room. This gentleman's huge jack-boots came over the knees, and were folded down again. A heavy chain of gold, with decorations suspended to it, hung from his shoulders. His tanned and angular countenance, his sallow complexion, his hollow eyes, bore an expression of bitterness and melancholy.

This dismal personage traversed the hall with a hard and sounding step as measured as the ticking of a clock, and placing his skinny hand upon the hilt of an immense long rapier, and stamping with his heel on the floor, he uttered in a horribly disagreeable creaking voice

resembling the grating of an engine these words, which dropped in a dry mechanical fashion from his ashy lips:—

“This is mine—mine—Hans Burckhardt, Count of Barth!”

I felt a creeping sensation coming all over me.

At the same instant the door opposite flew open wide, and the Count of Barth disappeared in the next apartment; and I could hear his hard, dry automatic tread upon the stairs descending the steps, one by one, for a long time; there seemed no end to it, until at last the awful sounds died in the remote distance as if they had descended into the bowels of the earth.

But as I was still listening, and hearing nothing further, all in a moment the vast hall filled as if by magic with a numerous company; the spinet began to jingle; there was music and singing of love, and pleasure, and wine.

I gazed and saw by the bluish-grey moonlight ladies in the bloom of youth negligently floating over the floor, and chiefly about the old spinet; elegant cavaliers attired, as in the olden time, in innumerable dangling ribbons, and the very perfection of lace collars and ruffles, seated cross- legged upon gold-fringed stools, affectedly inclining sidelong, shaking their perfumed locks, making little bows, studying all kinds of graceful attitudes, and paying their court to the ladies, all so elegantly, and with such an air of gallantry, that it reminded me of the old mezzotint engravings of the graceful school of Lorraine in the sixteenth century.

And the stiff little fingers of an ancient dowager, with a parrot bill, were rattling the keys of the old spinet; bursts of thin laughter set discordant echoes flying, and ended in little squeaks with such a sharp discordant rattle of constrained laughter as made my hair stand on end.

All this silly little world—all this quintessence of fashion and elegance, long out of date, all exhaled the acrid odour of rose-water and essence of mignonette turned into vinegar.

I made new and superhuman exertions to get rid of this disagreeable nightmare, but it was all in vain. But at that instant a lady of the highest fashion cried aloud—

“Lords, you are at home here in all this domain—”

But she was cut short in her compliments; a silence like death fell on the whole assembly. They faded away. I looked, and the whole picture had vanished from my sight.

Then the sound of a trumpet fell on my listening ears. Horses were pawing the ground outside, dogs were barking, while the moon, calm, clear, inviting to meditation, still poured her soft light into my alcove.

The door opened as if by a blast of wind, and fifty huntsmen, followed by a company of young ladies attired as they were two centuries ago, in long trains, defiled with majestic pace out of one chamber into the other. Four serving-men passed amongst them, bearing on their brawny shoulders on a stout litter of oak boughs the bloody carcass of a monstrous wild boar, with dim and faded eye, and with the foam yet lying white on his formidable tusks and grisly jaws.

Then I heard the flourishes of the brazen trumpets redoubled in loudness and energy; but silence fell, and the pomp and dignity passed away with a sigh like the last moans of a storm in the woods; then—nothing at all—nothing to hear—nothing to see!

As I lay dreaming over this strange vision, and my eyes wandering vaguely over the empty space in the silent darkness, I observed with astonishment the blank space becoming silently occupied by one of the old Protestant families of former days, calm, solemn, and dignified in their bearing and conversation.

There sat the white-haired patriarch with the big Bible upon his knees; the aged mother, tall and pale, spinning the flax grown by themselves, sitting as straight and immovable as her own distaff, her ruff up to her ears, her long waist compressed in a stiff black bodice; then there sat

the fat and rosy children, with serious countenances and thoughtful blue eyes, leaning in silence with their elbows on the table; the dog lay stretched by the great hearth apparently listening to the reading; the old clock stood in the corner ticking seconds; farther on in the shadow were girls' faces and young men, talking seriously to them about Jacob and Rachel by way of love- making.

And this good family seemed penetrated with the truth of the sacred story; the old man in broken accents was reading aloud the edifying history of the settlement of the children of Israel in the Land of Canaan—

“This is the Land of Promise—the land promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob your fathers—that you may be multiplied in it as the stars of heaven for multitude, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. And none shall disturb you, for ye are the chosen people.”

The moon, which had veiled her light for a few minutes, reappeared, and hearing no more sounds of voices, I looked round, and her clear cold rays fell in the great empty hall. Not a figure, not a shade, was left. The moonlight poured its silver flood upon the floor, and in the distance the forms of a few trees stood out against the dark purple sky.

But now suddenly the high walls appeared lined with books, the old spinet gave way to the secrétaire of some man of learning, whose full-bottomed wig was peering above the back of a red-leather arm-chair. I could hear the quill coursing over the paper. The learned man, buried in thought, never moved; the silence was oppressive.

But fancy my astonishment when, slowly turning, the great scholar faced me, and I recognised the portrait of the famous lawyer Gregorius, marked No. 253 in the portrait-gallery at Darmstadt.

How on earth had this personage walked out of his grave?

I was asking myself this question when, in a hollow sepulchral voice, he pronounced these words:—

“Dominorum, ex jurè Quintio, est jus utendi et abutendi quatenus naturalis ratio patitur.” As this sapient precept dropped oracularly from his lips, a word at a time, his figure faded and turned pale. With the last word he had passed out of existence.

What more shall I tell you, my dear friends? For hours, twenty generations came defiling past me in Hans Burckhardt's ancient mansion—Christians and Jews, nobles and commoners, fools and wise men of high art, and men of mere prose. Every one proclaimed his indefeasible right to the property; every one firmly believed himself sole lord and master of all he surveyed. Alas! Death breathed upon one after another, and they were all carried out, each as his turn came!

I was beginning to be familiar with this strange phantasmagoria. Each time that any of these honest folks turned round and declared to me, “This is mine!” I laughed and said, “Wait a bit, my fine fellow!—you will melt away just like the rest!”

At last I began to feel tired of it, when far away—very far—the cock crowed, announcing the dawn of day. His piercing call began to rouse the sleeper. The leaves rustled with the morning air; a slight shiver shook my frame; I felt my limbs gradually regaining their freedom, and, resting upon my elbow, I gazed with rapture upon the silent wide-spread land. But what I saw presently did not tend to exalt my spirits.

Along the little winding path to the cemetery were moving, in solemn procession, all the ghosts that had visited me in the night. Step by step they approached the decaying moss-grown door of the sacred inclosure; that silent, mournful march of spectres under the dim grey light of early morning was a gaunt and fearful sight.

And as I lay, more dead than alive, with gaping mouth and my face wet with cold perspiration, the head of the dismal line melted and disappeared among the weeping willows.

There were not many spectres left, and I was beginning to feel a little more composed, when the very last, my uncle Christian himself, turned round to me under the mossy gate and beckoned me to follow! A distant faint ironical voice said—

“Caspar! Caspar! come! Six feet of this ground belong to you!”

Then he too disappeared.

A streak of crimson and purple stretched across the eastern sky announced the coming day. I need not tell you that I did not accept my uncle Christian's invitation, though I am quite aware that a similar call will one day arrive from One who must be obeyed. The remembrance of my brief abode at Burckhardt's fort has wonderfully brought down the great opinion I had once formed of my own importance, for the vision of that night taught me that though orchards and meadows may not pass away their owners do, and this fact compels to serious reflection upon the nature of our duties and responsibilities.

I therefore wisely resolved not to risk the loss of manly energy and of the best prizes of life by tarrying at that Capua, but to betake myself, without further loss of time, to the pursuit of music as a science, and I hope to produce next year, at the Royal Theatre of Berlin, an opera which, I hope, will disarm all criticism at once.

I have come to the final conclusion that glory and renown, which speculative people speak of as if they were mere smoke, is, after all, the most enduring good. Life and a noble reputation do not depart together; on the contrary, death confirms well-deserved glory and adds to it a brighter lustre.

Suppose, for instance, that Homer returned to life, no one would dispute with him his claim to be the author of the Iliad, and each would vie with the rest to do honour to the father of epic poetry. But if peradventure some rich landowner of that day came back to assert a claim to the fields, the woods, the pastures of which he used to be so proud, ten to one he would be received like a thief and perhaps die a miserable death.

The Bear-Baiting

By Erckmann-Chatrian

“If any one thing distresses my dear aunt,” said Caspar, “more than my fondness for Sébaldus Dick's tavern, it is that there is an artist in the family!

“Dame Catherine would have been glad to see me an advocate, a priest, or a councillor. If I had become a councillor, like Monsieur Andreas Van Berghem; if I had snuffled out long and weary sentences, caressing my lace bands with dainty finger-tips, with what esteem and veneration would not that worthy woman have regarded monsieur her nephew! She would have greeted Monsieur le Conseiller Caspar with profound respect; she would have set before me her best preserves, she would have poured out for me, in the midst of her circle of gossips, just a drop of—Muscadel of the year XI. with—

“Pray take this, monsieur le conseiller; I have but two bottles left!” Anything that monsieur my nephew Caspar, conseiller at the court of justice, could do would certainly have been perfectly right and suitable, and quite perfect in its way.

Alas for the vanity of human wishes! the poor woman's ambition was never to be gratified. Her nephew is plain Caspar—Caspar Diderich; he has no title, no wand of office, no big wig—he is just an artist! and Dame Catherine has running in her head the old proverb, “Beggarly as an artist,” which distresses her more than she can tell.

At first I used to try to make her understand that a true artist is worthy of great respect, that his works sometimes endure for ages, and are admired by many successive generations, and that, in point of fact, a good artist is quite as good as a councillor. Unhappily, I failed to convince her; she merely shrugged her shoulders, clasped her hands in despair, and vouchsafed no answer.

I would have done anything to convert my aunt Catherine to my views—anything; but I would rather die than sacrifice art and an artist's life, music, painting, and Sébaldus's tavern!

Sébaldus's tavern is delightful. It is the corner house between the narrow Rue des Hallebardes and the little square De la Cigogne. As soon as you are through the archway you find within a spacious square court, with old carved wooden galleries all round it, and a wooden staircase to reach it; everywhere are scattered in disorder small windows of last century with leaden sashes, skylights, and air-holes; old wooden posts are nearly yielding under the weight of a roof that threatens to sink in. The barn, the rows of casks piled up in a corner, the cellar door at the left, a pigeon-cote forming the point of the gable end; then, again, beneath the galleries, other darkened windows in the same style, where you can see swillers and topers in three-cornered hats, distinguished by noses red, purple, or crimson; little women of Hundsruck, in velvet caps with long fluttering ribbons, some grave, some laughing, others queer and grotesque-looking; the hay- loft high up under the roof; stables, pigsties, cow-sheds, all in picturesque confusion, attract and confound your attention. It is a strange sight!

For fifty years not a hammer has been lifted against this venerable ruin. You would think it was left for the special accommodation of rats! And when the glowing autumn sun, red as fire, showers golden rain upon the decaying walls and timbers; when, as daylight fades into evening, the angular projections stand out more boldly, and the shadows deepen; when all the tavern rings with songs, and shouts, and roars of laughter; when fat Sébaldus, in leathern apron, runs to and from the cellar with the big jug in his band; when his wife Gredel throws up the kitchen window, and with her long knife, well hacked along the edge, cleans the fish, or cuts the necks of hens,

ducks, or geese which struggle and gurgle in their own blood; when pretty Fridoline, with her rosy little mouth and her long fair hair, leans out of her window to tend the honeysuckle, and over her head the neighbour's tabby cat is gently swaying her tail and watching, with her cunning green eyes, the swallow circling in the deepening purple—I do assure you that a man must be utterly devoid of taste for the picturesque not to stop and contemplate in ecstasy and listen to the murmuring sounds, or the louder din, or the falling whispers, and observe with an artist's eye the trembling lights, the flying shadows, and whisper to himself, “Is not this beautiful?”

But you should see Maître Sébaldus's tavern on a great occasion, when all the jovial folks of Bergzabern crowd into the immense public room—some day when a cock-fight is going on, or a dog-fight, or a magic-lantern.

Last autumn, on a Saturday—and it was Michaelmas Day—we were all sitting round the oaken table, between one and two o'clock in the afternoon; old Doctor Melchior, Eisenloffel the blacksmith, and his old wife old Berbel Rasimus, Johannes the capuchin monk, Borves Fritz the clarionet-player at the Pied de Boeuf, and half a hundred more, laughing, singing, drinking, playing at youker, draining jugs and glasses, eating puddings and amdouilles.

Mother Gredel was coming and going; the pretty maid-servants, Heinrichen and Lotté, were flying up and down the kitchen stairs like squirrels, and outside, under the broad archway, was the booming, and banging, and jingling of the big drum and the cymbals, while the exciting proclamation was being made: “Ho! ho! hi! Great battle to come off! The Asturian bear, Beppo, and Baptist, the Savoyard bear, against all dogs that may come. Boom! boom! Walk in, ladies! Walk in, gentlemen! Here's the buffalo from Calabria, and the onagra of the desert! Walk in, walk in! Don't be frightened! All walk in!”

And they did come in, in crowds.

Sébaldus, barring the passage with his burly form, as Horatius guarded the bridge in the brave days of old, shouted to all—

“Your five kreutzers, friends and neighbours! Five kreutzers for admittance! Pay, or I'll throttle you!”

It was an awful confusion; people climbed over each other's backs to get in faster, until Bridget Kéra lost a stocking and Anna Seller half her petticoat.

About two, the bear-leader, a tall, rough-looking fellow, with red ragged hair and beard, and mounting a high sugar-loafed hat, pushed the door ajar, and cried, looking in—

“Just going to begin the fight!”

In an instant all the tables were emptied, many an untasted glass being left upon it. I ran to the hayloft, climbed up the ladder four steps at a time, and drew it up after me. There, seated all alone upon a bundle of hay, just inside the little skylight, I had a capital view.

What a throng! The old galleries were bending under their weight, the roofs were visibly swaying. I shuddered to think of what might happen. It seemed inevitable that they would all come down together like grapes in the wine-press, heaped up in a sea of heads.

They were hanging in clusters on the wooden pillars; yet higher in the gutters along the roof; yet higher about the pigeon-cote; higher still over the skylights in the roof of the mairie; yet higher in the spire of St. Christopher's; and all this multitude were bowling and shouting—

“The bears! the bears!”

When I had sufficiently admired and wondered at the immense crowd, looking down I saw in the middle of the court a poor, wretched, depressed-looking donkey, lean and ragged, his sleepy eyes half-closed, his ears hanging down. This dreadful object was to open the sports.

“What fools some people are!” I thought. Minutes were passing away, the tumult increased, impatience was waxing into anger, when the great red scoundrel, with his immense sugar-loaf hat, advanced carelessly into the middle of the open space, and cried solemnly, with his fist upon his hips—

“The onagra of the desert against any dog in the town!”

There was a silence of astonishment. Daniel, the butcher, with staring eyes and gaping mouth, asks—

“Where is the onagra?”

“There she stands!”

“That! why, it's an ass!”

“It's an onagra.”

“Well, let us see what it is,” cried the butcher, laughing. He whistled his dog to come, and, pointing to the ass, cried— “Foux, catch him!”

But, strange to say, as soon as the ass saw the dog running to the attack, he turned nimbly round, and launched out with the whole length of his leg—so well aimed a kick that the dog fell back as if struck by lightning, with his jaw fractured!

Loud laughter rang all round, while the poor dog fled with a piteous yell of pain. The bear-leader smiled at the butcher, and asked—

“Well, what's your opinion? Is my onagra an ass?”

“No,” said Daniel, rather ashamed, “it is an onagra.”

“All right! all right! any more dogs coming to fight my desert-born, desert-bred onagra? Come on, the onagra is ready!”

But no one came forward; and the bear-leader shouted in vain in his shrill tones—

“Gentlemen! ladies! are you all afraid? afraid of the onagra? The dogs of your town ought to be ashamed of themselves. Come on! courage, gentlemen! courage, ladies!”

But no one was inclined to risk his dog's life or limbs against so dangerous an animal, and the cries for the bears were beginning again.

“The bears! the bears! bring out the bears!”

After waiting a quarter of an hour the fellow saw that his onagra was not likely to get any more customers, so, putting the beast up in the stable, he approached the pigsty, opened it, and drew out by his chain Baptiste, the Savoy bear, an old brute with a brown mangy-looking coat, as sulky and ashamed as a sweep coming down a chimney. For all he was not handsome the shouts of applause rang out, and the fighting dogs themselves, shut into the tavern porch, smelling a wild beast, set up a tragic howl that made your hair stand on end. The miserable bear was led quietly enough to a stake firmly driven in the ground, to which he was chained, all the time slowly surveying the excited crowd with a melancholy eye.

“Poor old traveller!” I cried to myself, “would anybody have told you ten years ago, when grave, terrible, and solitary you were traversing from side to side the high glaciers in Switzerland, in the gloomy glens of the Unterwald, and your deep growls made the old oaks tremble in every leaf—who could have told you that the day would come when, sad and resigned, with an iron collar round your throat, you would be tied to a post and devoured by dogs to amuse a mob at Bergzabern? Alas! Sic transit gloria mundi!”

As these meditations were occupying my thoughts, noticing that everybody was bending forward to see, I did like the rest, and I soon saw the possibility of warm work.

A pair of boar-hounds, belonging to old Heinrich, were being led to the other end of the court. Struggling in the chain, these ferocious creatures were foaming with rage. One was of the large Danish breed, white, with large black spots, supple of limb, with muscles like steel springs, jaws opening wide like an alligator's; the other a huge hound from the Tannewald, never disabled in one leg according to law, ribs barely covered, the backbone hard and knotted like a bamboo cane. They did not bark, but they were straining against the chain with all their might, and there stood old Heinrich with his grey broad head flung back, his ruddy moustache bristling, his thin razor-backed nose hooked over his lips, and his long leather-gaitered legs firmly planted against the stones in his strenuous efforts to restrain with both hands the eager appetite of his dogs for the fight, while he opposed to their attempts to bound forward the whole weight of his body.

“Back! back!” he shouted to the bear-leader, and the ruffian ran back to the shelter of a faggot- stack.

Then every face bending over the galleries grew red and hot with the excitement of the horrid fray, and starting eyes glanced from every nook and corner.

The bear sat on his haunches gathered together ready for action, his huge paws uplifted. I could see how he quivered in his rough skin, and his muzzle seemed to annoy him terribly. All at once the chain was slipped; at a single leap the hounds cleared the intervening space, and their sharp fangs were in a moment fixed in both poor Baptiste's ears, whose heavy paws and long sharp claws hugged each bitter enemy around the neck, slowly digging into their straining bodies till the blood spurted out in streams. But he, too, was bleeding, for his ears were suffering cruel lacerations; the dogs held on, and his tawny eyes were raised to the sky with a pitiable look of appeal. Not a cry, not a sigh or a groan escaped from a single combatant; the three animals formed a group as motionless as if they had been carved in wood.

I could feel the perspiration running down my face.

This went on for five minutes.

At length the Tannenthaler seemed to be relaxing slightly; the bear weighed more heavily on him with his heavy paw, his eye kindling with a gleam of hope; then there was another brief pause. There was a horrid groan, a cracking; the hound's backbone was broken, and he fell back upon the stones, his jaws reeking with blood.

Then Baptiste, with a tremor of delight, threw both paws round the Dane, who had not yet let go his hold, but his teeth were slipping from the torn and bloody ear. Suddenly he shook himself and sprang backward; the bear made a rush at his flying foe, but the chain held him back. The dog fled, red with blood, and only stopped when he had got safe behind his master, who gave him a favourable reception, while casting a glance at his other dog, which lay motionless.

And here Baptiste placed his mighty paw upon the victim of his fury and his valour; carrying his head high, he snuffed the carnage with distended nostrils and panting sides The veteran warrior was himself again. Frantic applause rose from the galleries to the church spire. The bear seemed to understand. I have never seen a more proud and resolute bearing.

After this fight all the spectators were taking breath; the capuchin friar Johannes, seated upon the banister facing the field of battle, shook his stick, smiling with satisfaction in his long brown beard. People wanted a little relief; pinches of snuff were offered and accepted, and the voice of Doctor Melchior, discussing and explaining the different phases of the conflict, was heard over the noise of many talkers. But he had no time to finish his speech, for in a moment the barn-door flew open, and more than five-and-twenty dogs, great and small, the very vagrants and scum of the town, offered up as a sacrifice to do honour to the occasion, wallowed in a heap into the yard, howling and yelling, barking, snapping, and snarling; then, as if second thoughts had rather

modified their ideas about valour, they all retreated into a safe corner of the yard, the farthest from the bear, where they contented themselves with angry protests, making short runs at the enemy and quick retreats, making a very sorry pretence of war.

“Oh, those cowardly curs! the miserable little brutes!” cried the valorous occupants in the gallery.

And the much wiser and discreeter dogs looked up in answer, and seemed to say— “Go yourselves!”

Still the bear was standing well on the defensive when, to the general astonishment, Heinrich reappeared, holding his Danish hound by the chain.

I have since been informed that he had wagered fifty forms with Joseph Kilian, the gamekeeper, that the boar-hound would renew the attack. He advanced slowly, patting the dog with his hand, and saying persuasively—

“Good dog, Blitz! good dog!”

And the noble animal, in spite of his bleeding wounds, rushed in; then the whole pack of mongrels, curs, puppies, lurchers, and turnspits ran in too in a long string, till poor Baptiste was covered with the vile rabble rout; he did what he could, he rolled over and over as far as his chain would let him, growling and grunting, crushing one, sending another away with a bite, struggling furiously. The brave Dane still showed the greatest intrepidity; he had caught the bear between the ears, and rolled over with him, his fore-legs in the air, whilst the rest were biting, some his legs, and some his torn and bleeding ears. There seemed no end to this plague of dogs.

“Enough! enough!” was the cry in every direction. Yet still some were not satisfied, and kept crying on the dogs.

Heinrich at that moment darted across the yard like a flash of lightning; he seized his dog by the ear, and pulling it away with all his strength, cried—

“Blitz, Blitz, let go!”

But this was of no use. At last the man succeeded in making him loose his hold by a tremendous cut with his whip across his body, and, dragging the animal away, they both disappeared under the archway.

The mongrels had not waited for this event to give up the battle; four or five only still hung upon Bruin's side; the rest, scared, limping, yelping, were trying to find a way out. Suddenly one of those heroes, a cur belonging to Rasimus, caught sight of the kitchen window, and, fired by a noble enthusiasm for his safety, he crashed through glass and all. All the rest of the yelling crew, struck by the ingenuity of this plan, followed in the same road without a moment's hesitation. Plates and dishes, glasses and bottles, saucepans and kettles were all heard making a fearful clatter, while Mother Gredel rent the air with her piercing cries of “Help, help!”

This was the best joke of the day. Roars of laughter hailed the propitious escape of the dogs, even at the cost of so much good crockery. They laughed till the tears came into their eyes, and rolled down their red faces, and they panted for breath.

In a quarter of an hour there came a lull; then people began to think it was time for the terrible bear from Asturias to make his appearance.

“The Asturian bear! the Spanish bear!” was the cry.

The bear-leader made signs to the people to be quiet, as he had something to say to them. It was impossible! The cries and the uproar redoubled.

“The bear of Asturias! the bear of Asturias!”

Then the fellow muttered a few unintelligible words, unfastened the brown bear, and took it back into its den; then with every appearance of precaution he loosened the door of the pigsty

and took the end of a chain which was lying on the ground. A formidable growling was heard inside. The man quickly passed the chain through a ring in the wall and fled, crying—

“Now, you there, let the dogs go!”

Immediately a black bear, low, and almost stunted in its stature, with a low forehead, ears wide apart, eyes red as fire, and glowing with a fierce sullen passion, hurled himself out into the open, and finding the chain fast in the wall, howled furiously. Evidently this was a bear of the most deplorably low moral character! Moreover, he had been roused to madness by the noise of the preceding combats, and his master had good reason for not trusting himself much to him.

“Let go the dogs!” cried the bear-leader, putting his head out of the granary skylight; “let them loose!”

Then he added—

“If you are not satisfied this time it won't be my fault. There will be a battle now!” At that moment Ludwig Karl's big mastiff and Fischer de Heischland's pair of wolf-hounds, with tails low, hair straight and smooth, heads advanced and ears erect, came into the court together.

The heavy-headed mastiff calmly yawned as he stretched his sinewy legs and caved in his long back. But after a long and leisurely yawn he slowly turned round, and catching sight of the bear he stood immovable as if stupefied. The bear, too, fixed his vicious glowing eyes upon him with ears expanded and his huge claws indenting the ground under them.

The wolf-hounds drew up as reserves in the rear of the mastiff. Then such silence fell upon all that excited multitude that a dead leaf might have been heard rustling to the ground; but there followed a deep, low, fierce growl, like a coming thunderstorm, which sent a shudder through the crowd.

Suddenly the mastiff sprang forward, the two others followed, and then for several seconds nothing was seen but a confused mass rolling round the chain, then blood and entrails mingled flowing over the stones, then the bear rising on his haunches hugging the mastiff between his terrible claws, swaying to and fro his heavy head for a moment and gaping wide with his crimson jaws, for the muzzle was gone; in the struggle it had fallen off!

Then a low but rising cry of fear passed over the crowd in the galleries. No applause now, only a well-grounded alarm! The mastiff was in the agonies of death, with a rattling in his throat; the wolf-hounds lay torn and dead on the bloodstained earth; in the stables all round the court long agitated roaring and bellowing betrayed the terror of the cattle, whose kicking and plunging made the walls shake; but the bear never stirred: he seemed to be enjoying the universal alarm.

But id in this predicament was heard a slight but tin-mistakable cracking like timber giving way, then more cracks; the old rotten galleries were beginning to yield under the heavy pressure of the crowd; and there was in this noise, just heard in the midst of the dead silence of suspense, something so dreadful that I, in my place of safety, felt a cold shiver pass over inc. Taking a rapid survey of the galleries before me, I saw every face changed in colour, pale with a bluish, ashy paleness; some open-mouthed, others with bristling hair, listening intently, holding their breath. The capuchin friar Johannes seated on the banister had turned from crimson to a greenish hue, and the big red nose of Doctor Melchior had turned from red to sallow the first time for twenty years; the poor little women trembled without stirring from their places, knowing that the least agitation would bring down the whole place.

I could have wished to fly too. I fancied I could see the thick oaken pillars of the gallery bowing to the ground. I cannot tell whether this was illusion or not, but in a moment the principal beam gave a loud crack and became depressed by three inches at the least. Then, my friends, it

was horrible to behold—the deep silence of a minute before was succeeded by tumult, cries, screams, and ravings. That mass of human beings heaped up in the galleries, one above another, were some clutching the walls, the pillars, the banisters; others were fighting with fury, and even biting, to get away faster, and from the midst of this frightful confusion arose the plaintive voices of the suffering women. I shudder at the remembrance. Oh, may I never sec such a sight as this again!

But, most terrible circumstance of all, the bear was chained close by the staircase that leads up to the galleries!

If I were to live a thousand years never should I forget the horror of Friar Johannes, who had cleared a way for himself with his long staff, and was placing his foot on the last step when he discovered, just before the bottom of the staircase, Beppo seated calmly on his tail, his chain tightened, his eye expressive of joy, ready to snap him up first!

None can tell the muscular power which Maitre Johannes was obliged to put forth to stem the force that was driving him in from behind. Convulsively grasping the banister with both hands, his broad shoulders formed a mighty buttress against the pressing flood. Like Atlas, I do believe he would have borne the earth upon his back to save his precious skin.

In the midst of this confusion and tumult, and when there seemed no way to avert the threatening catastrophe, suddenly the door of the cattle-shed opened violently, and the redoubtable Horni, Maître Sébaldus's magnificent bull, rushed into the arena, his massive

dewlap shaking loosely like an apron, his tail extended straight, his mouth and nostrils white with fleecy foam.

It was an inspiration of the master's. He had resolved to risk his bull to save human life. At the same moment the fat, round, rosy face of our landlord appeared through the skylight of the stable, crying to the crowd not to be alarmed, for that he would open the inner door which abuts into the old synagogue, and let out the crowd by the Jews' street, which was done in two or three minutes, to the immense relief and comfort of the public.

But now listen to the end of my story.

Scarcely had the bear caught sight of the bull when he made an ugly rush upon this new adversary with so terrible a shock that the chain burst. The bull retired, facing his foe, to a corner of the court near the pigeon-cote, and there, head well down between his short legs and horns presented, he awaited the shock of war.

The bear made several feints, slipping along by the wall from right to left; but the bull, with his forehead almost touching the ground, followed the enemy's movements with marvellous coolness.

In five minutes the galleries had been cleared; the noise of the crowd taking refuge down the Jews' street was becoming more remote, and this manoeuvring of the two huge brutes seemed as if they were meditating a drawn battle, when suddenly the bull, losing patience, threw himself upon the bear with the whole momentum of his monstrous bulk. The unhappy brute, pressed so closely, took refuge under the wood-shed, but the head and horns of his foe pursued him thither, and there no doubt he nailed his adversary to the wall, for although I could only see the bull's hind-quarters, I could hear a dreadful shriek, followed by a crunching of bones, and presently a pool of blood was flowing over the pavement.

I could only see the bull's hind-quarters and his tail waving aloft like a battle-flag. You would have thought he wanted to bring the walls down by the furious and violent pounding of his hind- feet. That silent scene in shadow was fearful. I did not wait to see the end. I came carefully down my ladder, and slipped out of the court like a thief. You may imagine with what pleasure I inhaled the pure open air; and passing through the crowd collected round the door where the bear-leader was tearing his hair in his wild despair, I ran off to my aunt's house.

I was just going round under the arcades when I was stopped by my old drawing-master, Conrad Schmidt.

“Caspar!” he cried, “where are you going in such a hurry?”

“I am going to paint the great bear-fight!” I answered enthusiastically. “Another tavern scene, I suppose,” he remarked with a shrug.

“Why not, Master Conrad? Is not a tavern scene as good as one in the forum?” I would have said a good deal, but we were standing at his door.

“Good night, Maître Conrad,” I cried, pressing his hand. “Don't bear a grudge against me for not going to study in Italy.”

“Grudge! No,” replied the old master, smiling. “You know that privately I am of your opinion. If I tell you now and then to go to Italy, it is to satisfy Dame Catherine. But follow out your own idea, Caspar. Men who only follow other men's ideas never do any good.”