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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Pilgrims Of The Rhine - Chapter 15. The Banks Of The Rhine...
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The Pilgrims Of The Rhine - Chapter 15. The Banks Of The Rhine... Post by :ron2316 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :3462

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The Pilgrims Of The Rhine - Chapter 15. The Banks Of The Rhine...

CHAPTER XV. THE BANKS OF THE RHINE.--FROM THE DRACHENFELS TO BROHL.--AN INCIDENT THAT SUFFICES IN THIS TALE FOR AN EPOCH.


FROM the Drachenfels commences the true glory of the Rhine; and once more Gertrude's eyes conquered the languor that crept gradually over them as she gazed on the banks around.

Fair blew the breeze, and freshly curled the waters; and Gertrude did not feel the vulture that had fixed its talons within her breast. The Rhine widens, like a broad lake, between the Drachenfels and Unkel; villages are scattered over the extended plain on the left; on the right is the Isle of Werth and the houses of Oberwinter; the hills are covered with vines; and still Gertrude turned back with a lingering gaze to the lofty crest of the Seven Hills.

On, on--and the spires of Unkel rose above a curve in the banks, and on the opposite shore stretched those wondrous basaltic columns which extend to the middle of the river, and when the Rhine runs low, you may see them like an engulfed city beneath the waves. You then view the ruins of Okkenfels, and hear the voice of the pastoral Gasbach pouring its waters into the Rhine. From amidst the clefts of the rocks the vine peeps luxuriantly forth, and gives a richness and colouring to what Nature, left to herself, intended for the stern.

"But turn your eye backward to the right," said Trevylyan; "those banks were formerly the special haunt of the bold robbers of the Rhine, and from amidst the entangled brakes that then covered the ragged cliffs they rushed upon their prey. In the gloomy canvas of those feudal days what vigorous and mighty images were crowded! A robber's life amidst these mountains, and beside this mountain stream, must have been the very poetry of the spot carried into action."

They rested at Brohl, a small town between two mountains. On the summit of one you see the gray remains of Rheinech. There is something weird and preternatural about the aspect of this place; its soil betrays signs that in the former ages (from which even tradition is fast fading away) some volcano here exhausted its fires. The stratum of the earth is black and pitchy, and the springs beneath it are of a dark and graveolent water. Here the stream of the Brohlbach falls into the Rhine, and in a valley rich with oak and pine, and full of caverns, which are not without their traditionary inmates, stands the castle of Schweppenbourg, which our party failed not to visit.

Gertrude felt fatigued on their return, and Trevylyan sat by her in the little inn, while Vane went forth, with the curiosity of science, to examine the strata of the soil.

They conversed in the frankness of their plighted troth upon those topics which are only for lovers: upon the bright chapter in the history of their love; their first meeting; their first impressions; the little incidents in their present journey,--incidents noticed by themselves alone; that life _within life which two persons know together,--which one knows not without the other, which ceases to both the instant they are divided.

"I know not what the love of others may be," said Gertrude, "but ours seems different from all of which I have read. Books tell us of jealousies and misconstructions, and the necessity of an absence, the sweetness of a quarrel; but we, dearest Albert, have had no experience of these passages in love. _We have never misunderstood each other; _we have no reconciliation to look back to. When was there ever occasion for me to ask forgiveness from you? Our love is made up only of one memory,--unceasing kindness! A harsh word, a wronging thought, never broke in upon the happiness we have felt and feel."

"Dearest Gertrude," said Trevylyan, "that character of our love is caught from you; you, the soft, the gentle, have been its pervading genius; and the well has been smooth and pure, for you were the spirit that lived within its depths."

And to such talk succeeded silence still more sweet,--the silence of the hushed and overflowing heart. The last voices of the birds, the sun slowly sinking in the west, the fragrance of descending dews, filled them with that deep and mysterious sympathy which exists between Love and Nature.

It was after such a silence--a long silence, that seemed but as a moment--that Trevylyan spoke, but Gertrude answered not; and, yearning once more for her sweet voice, he turned and saw that she had fainted away.

This was the first indication of the point to which her increasing debility had arrived. Trevylyan's heart stood still, and then beat violently; a thousand fears crept over him; he clasped her in his arms, and bore her to the open window. The setting sun fell upon her countenance, from which the play of the young heart and warm fancy had fled, and in its deep and still repose the ravages of disease were darkly visible. What were then his emotions! His heart was like stone; but he felt a rush as of a torrent to his temples: his eyes grew dizzy,--he was stunned by the greatness of his despair. For the last week he had taken hope for his companion; Gertrude had seemed so much stronger, for her happiness had given her a false support. And though there had been moments when, watching the bright hectic come and go, and her step linger, and the breath heave short, he had felt the hope suddenly cease, yet never had he known till now that fulness of anguish, that dread certainty of the worst, which the calm, fair face before him struck into his soul; and mixed with this agony as he gazed was all the passion of the most ardent love. For there she lay in his arms, the gentle breath rising from lips where the rose yet lingered, and the long, rich hair, soft and silken as an infant's, stealing from its confinement: everything that belonged to Gertrude's beauty was so inexpressibly soft and pure and youthful! Scarcely seventeen, she seemed much younger than she was; her figure had sunken from its roundness, but still how light, how lovely were its wrecks! the neck whiter than snow, the fair small hand! Her weight was scarcely felt in the arms of her lover; and he--what a contrast!--was in all the pride and flower of glorious manhood! His was the lofty brow, the wreathing hair, the haughty eye, the elastic form; and upon this frail, perishable thing had he fixed all his heart, all the hopes of his youth, the pride of his manhood, his schemes, his energies, his ambition!

"Oh, Gertrude!" cried he, "is it--is it thus--is there indeed no hope?"

And Gertrude now slowly recovering, and opening her eyes upon Trevylyan's face, the revulsion was so great, his emotions so overpowering, that, clasping her to his bosom, as if even death should not tear her away from him, he wept over her in an agony of tears; not those tears that relieve the heart, but the fiery rain of the internal storm, a sign of the fierce tumult that shook the very core of his existence, not a relief.

Awakened to herself, Gertrude, in amazement and alarm, threw her arms around his neck, and, looking wistfully into his face, implored him to speak to her.

"Was it my illness, love?" said she; and the music of her voice only conveyed to him the thought of how soon it would be dumb to him forever. "Nay," she continued winningly, "it was but the heat of the day; I am better now,--I am well; there is no cause to be alarmed for me!" and with all the innocent fondness of extreme youth, she kissed the burning tears from his eyes.

There was a playfulness, an innocence in this poor girl, so unconscious as yet of her destiny, which rendered her fate doubly touching, and which to the stern Trevylyan, hackneyed by the world, made her irresistible charm; and now as she put aside her hair, and looked up gratefully, yet pleadingly, into his face, he could scarce refrain from pouring out to her the confession of his anguish and despair. But the necessity of self-control, the necessity of concealing from _her a knowledge which might only, by impressing her imagination, expedite her doom, while it would embitter to her mind the unconscious enjoyment of the hour, nerved and manned him. He checked by those violent efforts which only men can make, the evidence of his emotions; and endeavoured, by a rapid torrent of words, to divert her attention from a weakness, the causes of which he could not explain. Fortunately Vane soon returned, and Trevylyan, consigning Gertrude to his care, hastily left the room.

Gertrude sank into a revery.

"Ah, dear father!" said she, suddenly, and after a pause, "if I indeed were worse than I have thought myself of late, if I were to die now, what would Trevylyan feel? Pray God I may live for his sake!"

"My child, do not talk thus; you are better, much better than you were. Ere the autumn ends, Trevylyan's happiness will be your lawful care. Do not think so despondently of yourself."

"I thought not of myself," sighed Gertrude, "but of _him_!"

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