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Florentine Nights Post by :passion72 Category :Essays Author :Heinrich Heine Date :November 2011 Read :3761

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Florentine Nights

(Heine wrote the fragment entitled Florentine Nights in 1835, and published it two years later in the third volume of the Salon. It is a series of brilliant pictures united by a very slight thread of connection. There is unquestionably an additional element of autobiographical interest; Maximilian's visits to Potsdam and London correspond to Heine's, and throughout this various record of impressions we frequently hear Heine's own voice. The translation here given has not been previously published.)


FIRST NIGHT.

In the ante-room Maximilian found the doctor just as he was drawing on his black gloves. "I am greatly pressed for time," the latter hurriedly said to him. "Signora Maria has not slept during the whole night; she has only just now fallen into a light slumber. I need not caution you not to wake her by any noise; and when she wakes on no account must she be allowed to talk. She must lie still, and not disturb herself; mental excitement will not be salutary. Tell her all kinds of odd stories, so that she must listen quietly."

"Be assured, doctor," replied Maximilian, with a melancholy smile. "I have educated myself for a long time in chattering, and will not let her talk. I will narrate abundance of fantastic nonsense, as much as you require. But how long can she live?"

"I am greatly pressed for time," answered the doctor, and slipped away.

Black Deborah, quick of hearing as she was, had already recognised the stranger's footstep, and softly opened the door. At a sign from him she left as softly, and Maximilian found himself alone with his friend. A single lamp dimly lighted the chamber. This cast now and then half timid, half inquisitive gleams upon the countenance of the sick lady, clothed entirely in white muslin, who lay stretched on a green sofa in calm sleep.

Silent, and with folded arms, Maximilian stood a little while before the sleeping figure, and gazed on the beautiful limbs which the light garments revealed rather than covered; and every time that the lamp threw a ray of light over the pale countenance, his heart quivered. "For God's sake!" he said softly, "what is that? What memories are awaking in me? Yes, now I know. This white form on the green ground, yes, now...."

At this moment the invalid awoke, and gazing out, as it were, from the depths of a dream, the tender dark-blue eyes rested upon him, asking, entreating.... "What were you thinking of, just now, Maximilian?" she said, in that awful, gentle voice so often found in consumptives, and wherein we seem to recognise the lisping of children, the twittering of birds, and the gurgle of the dying. "What were you thinking of, just then, Maximilian?" she repeated again, and started up so hastily that the long curls, like roused snakes, fell in ringlets around her head.

"For God's sake!" exclaimed Maximilian, as he gently pressed her back on to the sofa, "lie still, do not talk; I will tell you all I think, I feel, yes, what I myself do not know!

"In fact," he pursued, "I scarcely know what I was thinking and feeling just now. Dim visions of childhood were passing through my mind. I was thinking of my mother's castle, of the deserted garden there, of the beautiful marble statue that lay in the grass.... I said, 'my mother's castle,' but pray do not imagine anything grand and magnificent. To this name I have indeed accustomed myself; my father always laid a special emphasis on the words, 'the castle,' and accompanied them always with a singular smile. The meaning of that smile I understood later, when, a boy of some twelve years, I travelled with my mother to the castle. It was my first journey. We spent the whole day in passing through a thick forest; I shall never forget its gloomy horror; and only towards evening did we stop before a long cross-bar which separated us from a large meadow. Here we waited nearly half-an-hour before the boy came out of the wretched hut near by, removed the barrier, and admitted us. I say 'the boy,' because old Martha always called her forty years' old nephew 'the lad.' To receive his gracious mistress worthily, he had assumed the livery of his late uncle; and it was in consequence of its requiring a little previous dusting that he had kept us waiting so long. Had he had time, he would have also put on stockings; the long red legs, however, did not form a very marked contrast with the glaring scarlet coat. Whether there were any trousers underneath I am unable to say. Our servant, John, who had likewise often heard of 'the castle,' put on a very amazed grimace as the boy led us to the little ruined building in which his master had lived. He was, however, altogether at a loss when my mother ordered him to bring in the beds. How could he guess that at the 'castle' no beds were to be found, and my mother's order that he should bring bedding for us he had either not heard or considered as superfluous trouble.

"The little house, only one storey high, which in its best days contained, at the most, five habitable rooms, was a lamentable picture of transitoriness. Broken furniture, torn carpets, not one window-frame left entire, the floor pulled up here and there, everywhere the hated traces of the wantonest military possession. 'The soldiers quartered with us have always amused themselves,' said the boy, with a silly smile. My mother signed that we should all leave her alone, and while the boy and John were busying themselves, I went out to see the garden. This also offered the most disconsolate picture of ruin. The great trees were partly destroyed, partly broken down, and parasites were scornfully spreading over the fallen trunks. Here and there by the grown-up box-bushes the old paths might be recognised. Here and there also stood statues, for the most part wanting heads, or at all events noses. I remember a Diana whose lower half the dark ivy grew round in a most amusing way, as I also remember a Goddess of Plenty, out of whose cornucopia mere ill-odorous weeds were blooming. Only one statue had been spared from the malice of men and of time; it had, indeed, been thrown from off its pedestal into the high grass; but there it lay, free from mutilation, the marble goddess with pure lovely features and the noble deep-cleft bosom, which seemed, as it glowed out of the grass, like a Greek revelation. I almost started when I saw it; this form inspired me with a singular feeling, and bashfulness kept me from lingering long near so sweet a sight.

"When I returned to my mother, she was standing at the window, lost in thought, her head resting on her right arm, and the tears were flowing over her cheeks. I had never seen her weep so before. She embraced me with passionate tenderness, and asked my forgiveness, because, owing to John's negligence, I should have no regular bed. 'Old Martha,' she said, 'is very ill, dear child, and cannot give up her bed to you; but John will arrange the cushions out of the coach, so that you will be able to sleep upon them, and he can also give you his cloak for a covering. I shall sleep on the straw; this was my dear father's bed-room; it was much better here once. Leave me alone!' And the tears came still more impetuously.

"Whether it was owing to my unaccustomed place of rest or to my disturbed heart, I could not sleep. The moonlight streamed in through the broken window-panes, and seemed to allure me out into the bright summer night. I might lie on the right or the left side, close my eyes or impatiently open them again--I could still think of nothing but the lovely marble statue I had seen lying in the grass. I could not understand the shyness which had come over me at the sight of it; I was vexed at this childish feeling, and 'To-morrow,' I said softly to myself, 'to-morrow I will kiss you, you lovely marble face, kiss you just on that pretty corner of your mouth where the lips melt into such a sweet dimple!' An impatience I had never before felt was stirring through all my limbs; I could no longer rule the strange impulse, and I sprang up at last with audacious vivacity, exclaiming, 'And why should I not kiss you to-night, you dear image?' Quietly, so that mother might not hear my steps, I left the house; with the less difficulty, since the entrance was furnished with an escutcheon indeed, but no longer with a door, and hastily worked my way through the abundant growth of the neglected garden. There was no sound; everything was resting silent and solemn in the still moonlight. The shadows of the trees seemed to be nailed on the earth. In the green grass lay the beautiful goddess, likewise motionless, yet no stony death, but only a quiet sleep, seemed to hold her lovely limbs fettered; and as I came near, I almost feared lest the least noise should awake her out of her slumber. I held my breath, as I leant over to gaze on the beautiful features; a shuddering pain thrust me back, but a boyish wantonness drew me again towards her; my heart was beating wildly, and at last I kissed the lovely goddess with such passion and tenderness and despair as I have never in this life kissed with again. And I have never been able to forget the fearful and sweet sensation which flowed through my soul as the blissful cool of those marble lips touched my mouth.... And so you see, Maria, that as I was just now standing before you, and saw you lying in your white muslin garments on the green sofa, your appearance suggested to me the white marble form in the green grass. Had you slept any longer my lips would not have been able to resist----"

"Max! Max!" she cried from the depth of her soul. "Horrible! You know that a kiss from your mouth----"

"Oh, be silent only; I know you think that something horrible. Do not look at me so imploringly. I do not misunderstand your feelings, although their causes are hidden from me. I have never dared to press my mouth on your lips."

But Maria would not let him finish speaking; she seized his hand, covered it with passionate kisses, and then said, smiling--"Please tell me more of your love affairs. How long did you adore the marble beauty that you kissed in your mother's castle garden?"

"We went away the next day," Maximilian answered, "and I have never seen the lovely statue again. It occupied my heart, however, for nearly three years. A wonderful passion for marble statues has since then developed in my soul, and this very day I have felt its transporting power. I was coming out of the Laurentian, the library of the Medici, and I wandered, I know not how, into the chapel where that most magnificent of Italian families built for itself a resting-place of jewels, and is quietly sleeping. For a whole hour I was absorbed in gazing on the marble figure of a woman, whose powerful body witnesses to the cunning strength of Michael Angelo, while yet the whole form is pervaded by an ethereal sweetness which we are not accustomed to seek in that master. The whole dream-world, with its silent blisses, lives in that marble; a tender repose dwells in the lovely limbs, a soothing moonlight seems to course through the veins. It is the Night of Michael Angelo Buonarotti. O, how willingly would I sleep the eternal sleep in the arms of that Night!

"Painted women forms," Maximilian pursued, after a pause, "have never so powerfully interested me as statues. Only once was I in love with a painting. It was a wondrously lovely Madonna that I learnt to know at a church in Cologne. I was at that time a very zealous church-goer, and my heart was absorbed in the mysticism of the Catholic religion. I would then have willingly fought like a Spanish knight, at the peril of my life, for the immaculate conception of Mary, the Queen of Angels, the fairest lady of Heaven and earth! I was interested in all the members of the holy family at that time, and I took my hat off in an especially friendly manner whenever I passed near a picture of the holy Joseph. This disposition did not last long, however, and I deserted the Mother of God almost without any explanations, having become acquainted, in a gallery of antiquities, with a Grecian nymph, who for a long time held me enchained in marble fetters."

"And you only loved sculptured or painted women?" said Maria, smiling.

"No, I have also loved dead women," answered Maximilian, over whose face an expression of seriousness had spread. He failed to perceive Maria start and shrink at these words, and quietly proceeded--

"Yes, it is very strange that I once fell in love with a girl after she had been seven years dead. When I became acquainted with little Very I liked her extremely. For three days I occupied myself with this young person, and experienced the greatest pleasure in all that she said and did, and in every expression of her charming wayward being, without being betrayed withal into any over-tender emotion. And so I was not too deeply grieved when a few months later I heard that a fever that had seized her suddenly resulted in death. I forgot her entirely, and I am convinced that from one year's end to another's I had not one thought of her. Seven years passed away, and I found myself at Potsdam, to enjoy the beautiful summer in undisturbed solitude. My society was confined to the statues in the garden of Sansouci. It happened there one day that I recollected certain features, and a singular, lovely way of speaking and moving, without being able to remember to whom they belonged. Nothing is more annoying than such a drifting into old memories, and I was therefore joyfully surprised when, after some days, I recollected little Very, and discovered that it was her dear, forgotten form that had hovered before me so restlessly. Yes, I rejoiced at this discovery like one who unexpectedly meets his most intimate friend; the pale hues gradually grew bright, and at last her sweet little person seemed to stand bodily before me, smiling, pouting, witty, and prettier than ever. From that time forth the sweet vision never left me, it filled my whole soul; wherever I went or stood, that went and stood at my side, spoke with me, laughed with me, always gentle, and yet never over-tender. I was, however, more and more fascinated with this vision, which daily gained more and more reality for me. It is easy to raise ghosts, but it is difficult to send them back again to their dark night; they look at us then so imploringly, our own hearts lend them such powerful intercession. I could not tear myself free, and fell in love with little Very after she had been seven years dead. I lived thus at Potsdam for six months, quite buried in this love. I guarded myself more carefully than ever from any contact with the outer world, and if anyone in the street came at all near me, I experienced the most miserable oppression. I cherished a deep horror of every occurrence, such as, perhaps, the night-wandering spirits of the dead experience; for these, it is said, are terrified when they meet a living man, as much as a living man is terrified when he meets a spectre. By chance a traveller came at that time to Potsdam whom I could not escape--namely, my brother. His appearance and his accounts of the latest news woke me as from a deep dream, and I suddenly felt, with a shudder, in what a frightful solitude I had been so long living. In this condition I had not once noted the change of the seasons, and I now gazed with wonder on the trees, long since leafless, decked in their autumn mellowness. I immediately left Potsdam and little Very, and in another town, where important business was awaiting me, and by means of difficult circumstances and relations, I was soon again plunged into crude reality.

"The living women," Maximilian pursued, while a sorrowful smile played on his upper lip, "the living women with whom I then came into unavoidable contact, how they tormented me, tenderly tormented me with their pouting, jealousy, and constant sighs. At how many balls must I trot round with them, in how much gossip must I mix myself! What restless vanity, what delight in lying, what kissing treachery, what envenomed flowers! These women spoilt all pleasure and love for me, and I was for some time a misogynist, who damned the whole sex. It went with me almost as with the French officer, who, in the Prussian campaign, only saved himself with the greatest difficulty from the ice-pits at Beresina, and since that retains such an antipathy to everything frozen, that now he thrusts away with disgust the sweetest and most delicious of Tortoni's ices. Yes, the remembrance of the Beresina of love that I passed through then spoilt for me, for a time, even the most charming ladies, women like angels, girls like Vanilla sherbert."

"Pray, do not abuse women," exclaimed Maria. "That is a worn-out commonplace among men. In the end, to be happy, you need women after all."

"Oh," sighed Maximilian, "that is true, certainly. But women, unfortunately, have only one way of making us happy, while they have thirty thousand ways of making us unhappy."

"Dear friend," replied Maria, suppressing a little smile, "I am speaking of the concord of two souls in unison. Have you never experienced this joy? But I see an unaccustomed blush spreading over your cheeks. Tell me, Max."

"It is true, Maria, I feel as confused almost as a boy at confessing to you the happy love with which I was once infinitely blessed. That memory is not yet lost to me, and to its cool shades my soul often flies, when the burning dust and day's heat of life grow almost unbearable. Yet I am not able to give you a just idea of her. She was such an ethereal creature that she only seemed revealed to me in dreams. I think that you, Maria, have no vulgar prejudice against dreams; those nightly visions have, in truth, as much reality as the coarser shapes of day, which we can touch with our hands, and by which we are not seldom besmutched. Yes, it was in a dream that I knew that sweet being who has made me most happy on earth. I can say little of her outward appearance. I am not able to describe the form of her features with precision. It was a face that I had never seen before, and that I have never in my life seen since. So much I remember; it was not white and rosy, but all of one colour--a soft, reddened, pale-yellow, transparent as crystal. The charm of this face was not in firm regularity of beauty, nor in interesting vivacity; its characteristic was, rather, a charming, enrapturing, almost terrible veracity. It was a face full of conscious fire and gracious goodness; it was more a soul than a face, and on that account I have never been able to make her outward form quite present to myself. The eyes were soft as flowers, the lips rather pale, but charmingly arched. She wore a silk dressing-gown of a corn-flour blue colour, and in that consisted her entire clothing; neck and feet were naked, and through the thin delicate garment now and then peeped stealthily the slender tenderness of the limbs. Nor can I make plain the words we said to one another; I only know that we betrothed each other, and that we chatted with one another, gay and familiar and open-hearted, like bridegroom and bride, almost like brother and sister. Often we left off talking, and gazed into each other's eyes; we spent whole eternities so. What waked me I cannot say, but I revelled for a long time in the after-feeling of these love-blisses. I was long, as it were, intoxicated with ineffable delight, the pining depth of my heart was filled with bliss, a hitherto unknown joy seemed poured over all my emotions, and I remained glad and joyful, though I never saw the beloved form in my dreams again. But had I not enjoyed whole eternities in her gaze? and she knew me too well not to be aware that I do not like repetitions."

"Truly," exclaimed Maria, "you are an homme à bonne fortune. But, tell me, was Mademoiselle Laurence a marble statue or a painting--was she dead or a dream?"

"Perhaps she was all these together," answered Maximilian, very earnestly.

"I can imagine, dear friend, that this sweetheart was of very doubtful character. And when will you tell me the history?"

"To-morrow. It is too long, and I am tired to-night. I have just come from the opera, and have too much music in my ears."

"You often go to the opera now, and I think, Max, you go there more to see than to hear."

"You are not mistaken, Maria; I go to the opera, indeed, to look at the faces of the beautiful Italian women. In truth, they are beautiful enough outside the theatre, and a connoisseur in faces could easily trace in the ideality of their features the influence which the arts have had on the physique of the Italian people. Nature has taken back from the artists the capital she once lent, and see how delightfully the interest has increased! Nature, who once furnished the artists with their model, now on her side copies the masterpieces which have thus arisen. The sense of the beautiful has permeated the whole people, and as once the flesh on the spirit, so now the spirit works on the flesh. The devotion paid before those fair Madonnas and lovely altar-pieces, which impress themselves on the mind of the bridegroom, while the bride bears a handsome saint in her ardent heart, is not fruitless. From this affinity a race has arisen still fairer than the gracious earth on which it flourishes, and the sunny sky that is as bright around it as a golden frame. The men do not interest me much when they are not painted or sculptured, and I resign to you, Maria, all possible enthusiasm in regard to those handsome, supple Italians, who have such wild-black beards, such bold noble noses, and such soft subtle eyes. They say the Lombards are the most handsome men. I have never made any investigations on the subject, but I have earnestly considered the Lombardy women, and they, I have noted well, are indeed as beautiful as report announces. Even in the middle ages they must have been tolerably beautiful. It is said of Francis I. that the fame of the beauty of the Milanese women was a secret motive which impelled him to the Italian campaign; the chivalrous king was certainly curious whether the kinsfolk of his spiritual muses were really as beautiful as fame reported. Poor rogue! he had to atone dearly for this curiosity at Pavia!

"But how beautiful they are, these Italian women, when music illuminates their countenances! I say 'illuminates,' because the effect of the music, which I marked in the opera, on the faces of the beautiful women altogether resembled those light-and-shade effects which surprise us so when we look at statues by torch-light at night-time. These marble forms reveal to us then, with terrifying truth, their indwelling spirit and their horrible dumb secrets. In the same way the whole life of the fair Italian women becomes known to us when we see them in the opera; the changing melodies wake in their souls a succession of emotions, memories, wishes, scandals, which visibly speak in the movements of their features, in their blushes, in their pallors, and even in their eyes. He who knows how to read them may then see in their faces many very sweet and interesting things--histories as remarkable as Boccaccio's tales, emotions as tender as Petrarch's sonnets, caprices as full of adventure as Ariosto's ottaverime, sometimes, too, fearful treachery and sublime wickedness as poetic as Dante's Inferno. It is worth while to gaze at the boxes. If the men would only express their enthusiasm meanwhile with less frightful sounds! This mad noise in an Italian theatre often annoys me. But music is the soul of these men, their life, their national business. In other countries, certainly, there are musicians who equal the greatest Italian masters, but there is no other musical nation. Here, in Italy, music is not represented by individuals; it manifests itself in the whole population; music has become a nation. With us in the north it is quite different; there music only becomes a man, and is called Mozart or Meyerbeer; and when, moreover, they would accurately investigate what is the best that this northern music offers us, they find it in Italian sunshine and orange-perfume; and much rather than to our Germany those belong to fair Italy, the home of music. Yes, Italy will always be the home of music, even though her great maestri descend early into the grave or become dumb--even though Bellini dies and Rossini keeps silence."

"Indeed," remarked Maria, "Rossini has preserved a very long silence. If I do not mistake, he has been silent for ten years."

"Perhaps that is a joke on his part," answered Maximilian. "He wishes to show that the title, "Swan of Pesaro," which has been conferred upon him, is quite unsuitable. Swans sing at the end of their lives, but Rossini has left off singing in the middle of his life. And I believe that he has done well in that, and shown, even by that, that he is a genius. The artist who has only talent retains to the end of his life the impulse to exercise that talent; ambition stimulates him; he feels that he is constantly perfecting himself, and he is compelled to strive after the highest. But genius has already accomplished the highest; it is content; it contemns the world and small ambition, and goes home to Stratford-on-Avon, like William Shakespeare, or walks about the Boulevard des Italiens at Paris, and laughs and jokes, like Giacomo Rossini. If genius has a not altogether badly constituted body, it lives on in this way for a good while after it has given forth its masterpieces, or, as people express it, after it has fulfilled its mission. It is owing to a prepossession that people say that genius must die early; I think that from the thirtieth to the thirty-fourth year has been indicated as the most dangerous period for genius. How often have I bantered poor Bellini on this subject, and playfully prophesied that, being a genius, and having reached that dangerous age, he must soon die. Singular! in spite of the playful tone, he tormented himself about this prophecy; he called me his jettatore, his evil eye, and always made the jettatore sign. He so wished to live, he had an almost passionate hatred of death: he would hear nothing of dying; he was frightened of it as a child who is afraid to sleep in the dark.... He was a good, dear child, often rather naughty, but then one only needed to threaten him with an early death, and he would immediately draw in, and entreat, and make with his two raised fingers the jettatore sign. Poor Bellini!"

"So you knew him personally? Was he handsome?"

"He was not ugly. You see, we cannot answer affirmatively when anyone asks us such a question about our own sex. He had a tall, slender figure, which moved in an elegant, I might say a coquettish, manner; always a quatre épingles; a long, regular face, with a pale rosiness; very fair, almost golden, hair, put into small curls; very high noble brows, a straight nose, pale blue eyes, a beautifully-chiselled mouth, a round chin. His features had something vague and characterless; something like milk, and in this milk-face often mingled, half sweet, half bitter, an expression of sorrow. This expression of sorrow compensated for the want of soul in Bellini's face, but it was a sorrow without depth; it glistened in the eyes without poetry, it played passionless about his lips. The young Maestro seemed anxious to make this flat, languid sorrow conspicuous in his whole person. His hair was curled in such a fanciful, melancholy way, his clothes sat so languidly about his frail body, he carried his little Spanish cane in so idyllic a way, that he always reminded me of the affected young shepherds with their be-ribboned sticks, and bright-coloured jackets, and pantaloons that we see in our pastorals. And his gait was so young-lady-like, so elegiac, so ethereal. The whole man looked like a sigh en escarpins. He had received much applause among women, but I doubt if he anywhere awakened a strong passion. In himself his appearance had something comically unenjoyable, the reason of which lay in his way of speaking French. Although Bellini had lived many years in France, he spoke the language so badly, that even in England it could scarcely be spoken worse. I ought not to call it 'bad;' bad is here much too good. One must call it awful, a violation, something enough to overturn the world. Yes, when one was in society with him, and he mangled the poor French words like an executioner, and displayed, unmoved, his colossal coq-à-l'âne, one thought sometimes that the world must fall in with a crash of thunder. The stillness of the grave reigned on the whole room; a death agony was painted on all faces in chalk or in vermilion; the ladies were uncertain whether to faint or to escape; the gentlemen gazed in alarm at their trousers, to convince themselves that they actually had them on; and what was most horrible, this fright raised at the same time a convulsive desire to laugh, which could hardly be suppressed. So that when one was in Bellini's society, his presence inspired a certain anxiety, which by a horrible charm was at once repellant and attractive. Often his involuntary calembours were merely amusing, and in their droll insipidity reminded one of the castle of his fellow-countryman, the Prince of Pallagonia, which Goethe in his Italian Journey has described as a museum of uncouth distortions and absurd deformities. As Bellini on such occasions always imagined he had said something quite harmless and earnest, his face and his words formed the maddest contrast. That which displeased me in his face came at such moments specially prominent. What I disliked could not be exactly described as something lacking, and may not have been displeasing to women at all. Bellini's face, like his whole appearance, had that physical freshness, that bloom of flesh, that rosiness which makes a disagreeable impression on me--on me, because I like much more what is death-like and marble. Later on, when I had known him a long time, I felt some liking for Bellini. This arose after I had observed that his character was thoroughly noble and good. His soul was certainly pure and unspotted by any hateful contagion. And he was not wanting in that good-natured, childlike quality which we never miss in men of genius, even if they do not wear it as an outward show.

"Yes, I remember," Maximilian pursued, sinking down on the chair, on the back of which he had been hitherto leaning--"I remember one moment when Bellini appeared in so amiable a light, that I gazed on him with pleasure, and resolved to become more intimately acquainted with him. But, unhappily, it was the last time I should see him in this life. It was one evening after we had been dining together at the house of a great lady who had the smallest foot in Paris. We were very merry, and the sweetest melodies rang out from the piano. I see him still, the good-natured Bellini, as, at last, exhausted with the mad Bellinism that he chattered, he sank into a seat.... It was a very low one, so that Bellini found himself sitting at the foot, as it were, of a beautiful lady, stretched on a sofa opposite, who gazed down on him with a sweet, malicious delight, as he worked off some French expressions to entertain her, and was compelled, as usual, to communicate what he had said in his Sicilian jargon to show that it was no sottise, but, on the contrary, the most delicate flattery. I think the fair lady paid little attention to Bellini's conversation. She had taken from his hand the little Spanish cane with which he often used to assist his weak rhetoric, and was making use of it for a calm destruction of the elegant curl-edifice on the young Maestro's brows. But this wanton occupation was well repaid by the smile which gave her face an expression which I have seen on no other living human countenance. That face will never leave my memory! It was one of those faces which belong more to the kingdom of poetry than to the crude reality of life, contours which remind one of Da Vinci--that noble oval, with the naïve cheek-dimples and the sentimental pointed chin of the Lombard school. The colouring was more soft and Roman, with the dull gleam of pearls, a distinguished pallor, morbidezza. In short, it was one of those faces which can only be found in early Italian portraits, which, perhaps, represent those great ladies with whom the Italian artists of the sixteenth century were in love when they created their masterpieces, of whom the poets of those days thought when they sang themselves immortal, and which kindled German and French heroes with desire when they girded on their swords and started across the Alps in search of great deeds. Yes, it was such a face, and on it played a smile of sweetest, malicious delight and most delicate wantonness, as she, the fair lady, with the point of the little Spanish cane destroyed the blonde curls on the good-natured Bellini's brows. At that moment Bellini seemed to me as if touched by an enchanted wand, as if transformed, and he was at once akin to my heart. His face shone with the reflection of that smile; it was, perhaps, the most joyful moment of his life. I shall never forget it. Fourteen days afterwards I read in the papers that Italy had lost one of her most famous sons!

"Strange! At the same time Paganini's death was announced. About his death I had no doubt, for the old, ash-coloured Paganini always looked like a dying man; but the death of the young, rosy Bellini seemed to me incredible. And yet the news of the death of the first was only a newspaper error; Paganini is safe and sound at Genoa, and Bellini lies in his grave at Paris!"

"Do you like Paganini?" asked Maria. "He is the ornament of his country," answered Maximilian, "and deserves the most distinguished mention in speaking of the musical notabilities of Italy."

"I have never seen him," Maria remarked, "but according to report his outward appearance does not altogether satisfy the sense of beauty. I have seen portraits of him."

"Which are all different," broke in Maximilian; "they either make him uglier or handsomer than he is; they do not give his actual appearance. I believe that only one man has succeeded in putting Paganini's true physiognomy on to paper--a deaf painter, Lyser by name, who, in a frenzy full of genius, has, with a few strokes of chalk, so well hit Paganini's head that one is at the same time amused and terrified at the truth of the drawing. 'The devil guided my hand,' the deaf painter said to me, chuckling mysteriously, and nodding his head with good-natured irony in the way he generally accompanied his genial witticisms. This painter was, however, a wonderful old fellow; in spite of his deafness he was enthusiastically fond of music, and he knew how, when near enough to the orchestra, to read the music on the musicians' faces, and to judge the more or less skilful execution by the movements of their fingers; indeed, he wrote critiques on the opera for an excellent journal at Hamburg. And is that peculiarly wonderful? In the visible symbols of the performance the deaf painter could see the sounds. There are men to whom the sounds themselves are invisible symbols in which they hear colours and forms."

"You are one of those men!" exclaimed Maria.

"I am sorry that I no longer possess Lyser's little drawing; it would perhaps have given you an idea of Paganini's outward appearance. Only with black and glaring strokes could those mysterious features be seized, features, which seemed to belong more to the sulphurous kingdom of shades than to the sunny world of life. 'Indeed, the devil guided my hand,' the deaf painter assured me, as we stood before the Alster pavilion at Hamburg on the day when Paganini gave his first concert there. 'Yes, my friend,' he pursued, 'it is true, as everyone believes, that he has sold himself to the devil, body and soul, in order to become the best violinist, to fiddle millions of money, and principally to escape the damnable galley where he had already languished many years. For, you see, my friend, when he was chapel-master at Lucca he fell in love with a princess of the theatre, was jealous of some little abbate, was perhaps deceived by the faithless Amata, stabbed her in approved Italian fashion, came in the galley to Genoa, and, as I said, sold himself to the devil to escape from it, become the best violin-player, and impose upon us this evening a contribution of two thalers each. But, you see, all good spirits praise God; there in the avenue he comes himself, with his suspicious Famulus!'

"It was indeed Paganini himself, whom I then saw for the first time. He wore a dark grey overcoat, which reached to his feet, and made his figure seem very tall. His long black hair fell in neglected curls on his shoulders, and formed a dark frame round the pale, cadaverous face, on which sorrow, genius, and hell had engraved their indestructible lines. Near him danced along a little pleasing figure, elegantly prosaic--with rosy, wrinkled face, bright grey little coat with steel buttons, distributing greetings on all sides in an insupportably friendly way, leering up, nevertheless, with apprehensive air at the gloomy figure who walked earnest and thoughtful at his side. It reminded one of Retzsch's representation of Faust and Wagner walking before the gates of Leipsic. The deaf painter made comments to me in his mad way, and bade me observe especially the broad, measured walk of Paganini. 'Does it not seem,' said he, 'as if he had the iron cross-pole still between his legs? He has accustomed himself to that walk for ever. See, too, in what a contemptuous, ironical way he sometimes looks at his guide when the latter wearies him with his prosaic questions. But he cannot separate himself from him; a bloody contract binds him to that companion, who is no other than Satan. The ignorant multitude, indeed, believe that this guide is the writer of comedies and anecdotes, Harris from Hanover, whom Paganini has taken with him to manage the financial business of his concerts. But they do not know that the devil has only borrowed Herr George Harris's form, and that meanwhile the poor soul of this poor man is shut up with other rubbish in a trunk at Hanover, until the devil returns its flesh-envelope, while he perhaps will guide his master through the world in a worthier form--namely, as a black poodle.'

"But if Paganini seemed mysterious and strange enough when I saw him walking in bright mid-day under the green trees of the Hamburg Jungfernstieg, how his awful bizarre appearance startled me at the concert in the evening! The Hamburg Opera House was the scene of this concert, and the art-loving public had flocked thither so early, and in such numbers, that I only just succeeded in obtaining a little place in the orchestra. Although it was post-day, I saw in the first row of boxes the whole educated commercial world, a whole Olympus of bankers and other millionaires, the gods of coffee and sugar by the side of their fat goddesses, Junos of Wandrahm and Aphrodites of Dreckwall. A religious silence reigned through the assembly. Every eye was directed towards the stage. Every ear was making ready to listen. My neighbour, an old furrier, took the dirty cotton out of his ears in order to drink in better the costly sounds for which he had paid two thalers. At last a dark figure, which seemed to have arisen from the under-world, appeared upon the stage. It was Paganini in his black costume--the black dress-coat and the black waistcoat of a horrible cut, such as is perhaps prescribed by infernal etiquette at the court of Proserpina; the black trousers anxiously hanging around the thin legs. The long arms appeared to grow still longer, as, holding the violin in one hand and the bow in the other, he almost touched the ground with them while displaying to the public his unprecedented obeisances. In the angular curves of his body there was a horrible woodenness, and also something absurdly animal-like, that during these bows one could not help feeling a strange desire to laugh; but his face, that appeared still more cadaverously pale in the glare of the orchestra lights, had about it something so imploring, so simply humble, that a sorrowful compassion repressed one's desire to laugh. Had he learnt these complimentary bows from an automaton or a dog? Is that the entreating gaze of one sick unto death, or is there lurking behind it the mockery of a crafty miser? Is that a man brought into the arena at the moment of death, like a dying gladiator, to delight the public with his convulsions? Or is it one risen from the dead, a vampire with a violin, who, if not the blood out of our hearts, at any rate sucks the gold out of our pockets?

"Such questions crossed our minds while Paganini was performing his strange bows, but all those thoughts were at once still when the wonderful master placed his violin under his chin and began to play. As for me, you already know my musical second-sight, my gift of seeing at each tone a figure equivalent to the sound, and so Paganini with each stroke of his bow brought visible forms and situations before my eyes; he told me in melodious hieroglyphics all kinds of brilliant tales; he, as it were, made a magic-lantern play its coloured antics before me, he himself being chief actor. At the first stroke of his bow the stage scenery around him had changed; he suddenly stood with his music-desk in a cheerful room, decorated in a gay, irregular way after the Pompadour style; everywhere little mirrors, gilded Cupids, Chinese porcelain, a delightful chaos of ribbons, garlands of flowers, white gloves, torn lace, false pearls, diadems of gold leaf and spangles--such tinsel as one finds in the room of a prima-donna. Paganini's outward appearance had also changed, and certainly most advantageously; he wore short breeches of lily-coloured satin, a white waistcoat embroidered with silver, and a coat of bright blue velvet with gold buttons; the hair in little carefully curled locks bordered his face, which was young and rosy, and gleamed with sweet tenderness as he ogled the pretty little lady who stood near him at the music-desk, while he played the violin.

"Yes, I saw at his side a pretty young creature, in antique costume, the white satin swelled out below the waist, making the figure still more charmingly slender; the high raised hair was powdered and curled, and the pretty round face shone out all the more openly with it glancing eyes, its little rouged cheeks, its little beauty-patches, and the sweet impertinent little nose. In her hand was a roll of white paper, and by the movements of her lips as well as by the coquettish waving to and fro of her little upper lip she seemed to be singing; but none of her trills were audible to me, and only from the violin with which the young Paganini led the lovely child could I discover what she sang, and what he himself during her song felt in his soul. O, what melodies were those! Like the nightingale's notes, when the fragrance of the rose intoxicates her yearning young heart with desire, they floated in the evening twilight. O, what melting, languid delight was that! The sounds kissed each other, then fled away pouting, and then, laughing, clasped each other and became one, and died away in intoxicated harmony. Yes, the sounds carried on their merry game like butterflies, when one, in playful provocation, will escape from another, hide behind a flower, be overtaken at last, and then, wantonly joying with the other, fly away into the golden sunlight. But a spider, a spider can prepare a sudden tragical fate for such enamoured butterflies. Did the young heart anticipate this? A melancholy sighing tone, a foreboding of some slowly approaching misfortune, glided softly through the enrapturing melodies that were streaming from Paganini's violin. His eyes became moist. Adoringly he knelt down before his Amata. But, alas! as he bowed down to kiss her feet, he saw under the bed a little abbate! I do not know what he had against the poor man, but the Genoese became pale as death, he seized the little fellow with furious hands, gave him sundry boxes on the ear, as well as a considerable number of kicks, flung him outside, drew a stiletto from its sheath, and buried it in the young beauty's breast.

"At this moment, however, a shout of 'Bravo! Bravo!' broke out from all sides. Hamburg's enthusiastic sons and daughters were paying the tribute of their uproarious applause to the great artist, who had just ended the first part of his concert, and was now bowing with even more angles and contortions than before. And on his face the abject humility seemed to me to have become more intense. From his eyes stared a sorrowful anxiety like that of a poor malefactor. 'Divine!' cried my neighbour, the furrier, as he scratched his ears; 'that piece alone was worth two thalers.'

"When Paganini began to play again a gloom came before my eyes. The sounds were not transformed into bright forms and colours; the master's form was clothed in gloomy shades, out of the darkness of which his music moaned in the most piercing tones of lamentation. Only at times, when a little lamp that hung above cast its sorrowful light over him, could I catch a glimpse of his pale countenance, on which the youth was not yet extinguished. His costume was singular, in two colours, yellow and red. Heavy chains weighed upon his feet. Behind him moved a face whose physiognomy indicated a lusty goat-nature. And I saw at times long hairy hands seize assistingly the strings of the violin on which Paganini was playing. They often guided the hand which held the bow, and then a bleating laugh of applause accompanied the melody, which gushed from the violin ever more full of sorrow and anguish. They were melodies which were like the song of the fallen angels who had loved the daughters of earth, and, being exiled from the kingdom of the blessed, sank into the under-world with faces red with shame. They were melodies in whose bottomless shallowness glimmered neither consolation nor hope. When the saints in heaven hear such melodies, the praise of God dies upon their paled lips, and they cover their heads weeping. At times when the obligato goat's laugh bleated in among the melodious pangs, I caught a glimpse in the background of a crowd of small women-figures who nodded their odious heads with wicked wantonness. Then a rush of agonising sounds came from the violin, and a fearful groan and a sob, such as was never heard upon earth before, nor will be perhaps heard upon earth again; unless in the valley of Jehoshaphat, when the colossal trumpets of doom shall ring out, and the naked corpses shall crawl forth from the grave to abide their fate. But the agonised violinist suddenly made one stroke of the bow, such a mad despairing stroke, that his chains fell rattling from him, and his mysterious assistant and the other foul mocking forms vanished.

"At this moment my neighbour, the furrier, said, 'A pity, a pity; a string has snapped--that comes from the constant pizzicato.'

"Had a string of the violin really snapped? I do not know. I only observed the alteration in the sounds, and Paganini and his surroundings seemed to me again suddenly changed. I could scarcely recognise him in the monk's brown dress, which concealed rather than clothed him. With savage countenance half hid by the cowl, waist girt with a cord, and bare feet, Paganini stood, a solitary defiant figure, on a rocky prominence by the sea, and played his violin. But the sea became red and redder, and the sky grew paler, till at last the surging water looked like bright scarlet blood, and the sky above became of a ghastly, corpse-like pallor, and the stars came out large and threatening; and those stars were black, black as glooming coal. But the tones of the violin grew ever more stormy and defiant, and the eyes of the terrible player sparkled with such a scornful lust of destruction, and his thin lips moved with such a horrible haste, that it seemed as if he murmured some old accursed charms to conjure the storm and loose the evil spirits that lie imprisoned in the abysses of the sea. Often, when he stretched his long thin arm from the broad monk's sleeve, and swept the air with his bow, he seemed like some sorcerer who commands the elements with his magic wand; and then there was a wild wailing from the depth of the sea, and the horrible waves of blood sprang up so fiercely that they almost besprinkled the pale sky and the black stars with their red foam. There was a wailing and a shrieking and a crashing, as if the world was falling into fragments, and ever more stubbornly the monk played his violin. He seemed as if by the power of violent will he wished to break the seven seals wherewith Solomon sealed the iron vessels in which he had shut up the vanquished demons. The wise king sank those vessels in the sea, and I seemed to hear the voices of the imprisoned spirits while Paganini's violin growled its most wrathful bass. But at last I thought I heard the jubilee of deliverance, and out of the red billows of blood emerged the heads of the fettered demons: monsters of legendary horror, crocodiles with bats' wings, snakes with stags' horns, monkeys with shells on their heads, seals with long patriarchal beards, women's faces with breasts in place of cheeks, green camels' heads, hermaphrodites of incomprehensible combination--all staring with cold, crafty eyes, and with long fin-like claws grasping at the fiddling monk. From the latter, however, in the furious zeal of his conjuration, the cowl fell back, and the curly hair, fluttering in the wind, fell round his head in ringlets, like black snakes.

"So maddening was this vision that, to keep my senses, I closed my ears and shut my eyes. When I again looked up the spectre had vanished, and I saw the poor Genoese in his ordinary form, making his ordinary bows, while the public applauded in the most rapturous manner.

"'That is the famous performance upon G,' remarked my neighbour; 'I myself play the violin, and I know what it is to master that instrument.' Fortunately, the pause was not considerable, or else the musical furrier would certainly have engaged me in a long conversation upon art. Paganini again quietly set his violin to his chin, and with the first stroke of his bow the wonderful transformation of melodies again also began. They no longer fashioned themselves so brightly and corporeally. The melody gently developed itself, majestically billowing and swelling like an organ chorale in a cathedral, and everything around, stretching larger and higher, had extended into a colossal space which, not the bodily eye, but only the eye of the spirit could seize. In the midst of this space hovered a shining sphere, upon which, gigantic and sublimely haughty, stood a man who played the violin. Was that sphere the sun? I do not know. But in the man's features I recognised Paganini, only ideally lovely, divinely glorious, with a reconciling smile. His body was in the bloom of powerful manhood, a bright blue garment enclosed his noble limbs, his shoulders were covered by gleaming locks of black hair; and as he stood there, sure and secure, a sublime divinity, and played the violin, it seemed as if the whole creation obeyed his melodies. He was the man-planet about which the universe moved with measured solemnity and ringing out beatific rhythms. Those great lights, which so quietly gleaming swept around, were they the stars of heaven, and that melodious harmony which arose from their movements, was it the song of the spheres, of which poets and seers have reported so many ravishing things? At times, when I endeavoured to gaze out into the misty distance, I thought I saw pure white garments floating around, in which colossal pilgrims passed muffled along with white staves in their hands, and, singular to relate, the golden knob of each staff was even one of those great lights which I had taken for stars. These pilgrims moved in large orbit around the great performer, the golden knobs of their staves shone even brighter at the tones of the violin, and the chorale which resounded from their lips, and which I had taken for the song of the spheres, was only the dying echo of those violin tones. A holy, ineffable ardour dwelt in those sounds, which often trembled, scarce audibly, in mysterious whisper on the water, then swelled out again with a shuddering sweetness, like a bugle's notes heard by moonlight, and then finally poured forth in unrestrained jubilee, as if a thousand bards had struck their harps and raised their voices in a song of victory. These were sounds which the ear never hears, which only the heart can dream when it rests at night on a beloved breast. Perhaps also the heart can grasp them in the bright light of day, when it loses itself with joy in the curves of beauty in a Grecian work of art...."

"Or when one has drunk one too many bottles of champagne!" broke in suddenly a laughing voice, which woke our story-teller as from a dream. Turning round, he saw the doctor, who, under the guidance of black Deborah, had gently entered the room to inform himself of the effect of his medicine on the patient.

"That sleep does not please me," he said, pointing to the sofa.

Maximilian, who, absorbed in the fancies of his own discourse, had not observed that Maria had long since fallen asleep, bit his lip with vexation.

"That sleep," the doctor pursued, "gives to her countenance already the appearance of death. Does it not look like those white masks, those plaster casts, in which we seek to preserve the features of the dead?"

"I should like," Maximilian whispered in his ear, "to have such a cast of our friend's face. Even as a corpse she would be very lovely."

"I do not advise you to do so," answered the doctor. "Such masks spoil the recollection of those we love. We think that in the plaster we have procured something of their life, but it is only death that we have caught. Beautiful regular features get something horribly rigid, mocking, fatal, with which they terrify rather than delight us; but the casts of those faces whose charm was of a more spiritual kind, whose features were less regular than interesting, are absolute caricature; for as soon as the graces of life are extinguished, the real declinations from the line of ideal beauty are no longer compensated by the spiritual charm. A certain enigmatic expression is common to all these casts, which, after long contemplation, send an intolerable chill through our souls; they look as if on the point of going a long journey."

"Whither?" asked Maximilian, as the doctor took his arm and led him from the room.


SECOND NIGHT.

"And why will you torment me with this horrible medicine, since I must die so soon?"

It was Maria who, as Maximilian entered, spoke these words. The doctor was standing before her with a medicine bottle in one hand and in the other a little glass in which a brownish liquor frothed nauseously. "My dear fellow," he exclaimed, turning to the new-comer, "you have just come at the right time; try and persuade Signora to swallow these few drops; I am in a hurry."

"I entreat you, Maria!" whispered Maximilian, in that tender voice which one did not often observe in him, and which seemed to come from so wounded a heart that the patient, singularly touched, took the glass in her hand. Before she put it to her mouth, she said, smiling, "Will you reward me with the story of Laurence?"

"All that you wish shall be done," nodded Maximilian.

The pale lady then drank the contents of the glass, half smiling, half shuddering.

"I am in a hurry," said the doctor, drawing on his black gloves. "Lie down quietly, Signora, and move as little as possible."

Led by black Deborah, who lighted him, he left the room. When the two friends were left alone, they looked at each other for a long time in silence. In the souls of both thoughts were clamorous which each strove to hide from the other. The woman, however, suddenly seized the man's hand and covered it with glowing kisses.

"For God's sake," said Maximilian, "do not agitate yourself so, and lie back quietly on the sofa."

As Maria fulfilled this wish, he covered her feet carefully with a shawl, which he previously touched with his lips. She probably noticed him, for her eyes winked with contentment, like a happy child's.

"Was Mademoiselle Laurence very beautiful?"

"If you will not interrupt me, dear friend, and promise to listen quite silently, I will tell you circumstantially all that you wish to know." Smiling in response to Maria's affirmative glance, Maximilian seated himself on the chair which was beside the sofa, and began his story:--

It is now eight years since I travelled to London to become acquainted with the language and the people. Confound the people and their language too! There they take a dozen monosyllables in their mouths, chew them, gnash them, spit them out again, and they call that speaking! Fortunately, they are by nature tolerably taciturn, and though they always gape at us with open mouths, they spare us long conversations. But woe unto us if we fall into the hands of a son of Albion who has made the great tour and learnt French on the Continent. He will use the opportunity to exercise the achieved language, and overwhelm us with questions on all possible subjects. And scarcely is one question answered before he comes out with another about one's age or home or length of one's stay, and with these incessant inquiries he thinks he is entertaining us in the most delightful manner. One of my friends at Paris was perhaps right when he maintained that the English learn their French conversation at the Bureaux des Passeports. Their talk is most useful at table, when they carve their colossal roast beef and inquire which cut you like, overdone or underdone, the inside or the brown outside, fat or lean. This roast beef and this roast mutton are the only good things they have. Heaven preserve every Christian man from their sauces, which consist of one part of flour and two of butter, or when the composition aims at a change, of one part of butter and two of flour. Heaven preserve anyone also from their vegetables, which they bring on the table cooked in water, just as God created them. Still more horrible than the cookery of the English are their toasts and obligato speeches, when the table-cloth is taken away and the ladies retire, and instead of them just so many bottles of port wine are brought up; for they think that that is the best way to replace the absence of the fair sex. I say the 'fair' sex, for the English women deserve that name. They are fair, slender creatures. Only the excessive space between the nose and the mouth, which is found in them as frequently as in the men, has often spoiled for me in England the most beautiful faces. This declination from the type of beauty acts upon me still more fatally when I see the English here in Italy, where their sparingly chiselled noses, and the broad space of flesh that stretches from there to the mouth, forms so much the more uncouth contrast with the faces of the Italians, whose features have a more antique regularity, and whose noses, either curved in the Roman way or inclined in the Grecian, degenerate into too great a length. Very correct is the observation of a German traveller that the English, when among the Italians, all look like statues with the points of their noses broken off.

Yes, when one meets the English in a foreign land, the contrast brings out their deficiencies distinctly. They are the gods of ennui, who travel through all lands at post haste in shining, lacquered coaches, and leave everywhere a grey, dark cloud of mournfulness behind them. Their curiosity without interest, their dressed-up awkwardness, their insolent timidity, their angular egotism, and their empty joy at all melancholy objects, aid in this impression. In the last three weeks an Englishman has been visible every day on the Piazza del Gran Duca, gazing for an hour at a time at a quack sitting on a horse who draws people's teeth. Perhaps this performance compensates the noble son of Albion for the loss of the executions of his own dear native land. For after boxing and cock-fights, there is no more delightful sight for a Briton than the agony of some poor devil who has stolen a sheep, or imitated somebody's handwriting, and is exhibited for an hour in front of the Old Bailey before he is thrown into eternity. It is no exaggeration to say that forgery and the theft of a sheep in that detestable and barbarous land are punished in the same way as the most awful crimes, as parricide and incest.(12) I, myself, led by a sad chance, saw a man hanged for stealing a sheep, and after that I lost all pleasure in roast mutton; the fat reminded me of the poor culprit's white cap. Near him an Irishman was hanged for forging the signature of a rich banker; I still see poor Paddy's death agony; he could not understand at the assizes why he should be so hardly punished for imitating a signature when he would allow any human being to imitate his own! And these people talk constantly of Christianity, and never miss church on Sunday, and flood the whole world with Bibles.

"I confess to you, Maria, that if I relished nothing in England, men or cookery, the reason lay partly in myself. I brought over a good store of ill-humour with me, and I was seeking amusement among a people who can only kill their ennui in the whirlpool of political and mercantile activity. The perfection of machinery, which is applied to everything here, and has superseded so many human functions, has for me something dismal; this artificial life of wheels, bars, cylinders, and a thousand little hooks, pins, and teeth which move almost passionately, fills me with horror. I am annoyed no less by the definiteness, the precision, the strictness, in the life of the English; for just as the machines in England seem to have the perfection of men, so the men seem like machines. Yes, wood, iron, and brass seem to have usurped the human mind there, and to have gone almost mad from fulness of mind, while the mindless man, like a hollow ghost, exercises his ordinary duties in a machine-like fashion; at the appointed moment eats beef-steaks, makes parliamentary speeches, trims his nails, mounts the stage-coach, or hangs himself.

"You can well imagine how my dissatisfaction increased in this country. Nothing, however, equalled the gloomy mood which once came over me as I stood on Waterloo Bridge towards evening and gazed on the water. It seemed to me as if my soul was mirrored there, and was gazing up out of the water at me with all its scars. The most sorrowful stories came to my recollection. I thought of the rose which was always watered with vinegar, and so lost its sweet fragrance and faded early. I thought of the strayed butterfly which a naturalist, who ascended Mount Blanc, saw fluttering amid the ice. I thought of the tame monkey who was so familiar with men, played with them, eat with them, but once at table recognised in the roast meat on the dish her own little monkey baby, quickly seized it, and hastened to the woods, never more to be seen among her human friends. Ah, I felt so sorrowful that the hot tears started from my eyes. My tears fell down into the Thames, and floated on to the great sea which has swallowed so many tears without noticing them.

"At this moment it happened that a singular music awoke me from my gloomy dreams, and looking round, I saw on the bank a crowd of people, who seemed to have formed a circle round some amusing display. I drew nearer, and saw a family of performers, consisting of the following four persons:--

"Firstly, a short, thick-set woman, dressed entirely in black, who had a very little head and a very large, protuberant belly. Upon this belly was hung an immense drum, upon which she drummed away most unmercifully.

"Secondly, a dwarf, who wore an embroidered coat like an old French marquis. He had a large powdered head, but for the rest, had very thin contemptible limbs, and danced to and fro striking the triangle.

"Thirdly, a young girl of about fifteen years, who wore a short close-fitting jacket of blue-striped silk, and broad pantaloons also with blue stripes. She was an ærially-made figure. The face was of Grecian loveliness. A straight nose, sweet lips turned outwards, a dreamy, tender, rounded chin, the colour a sunny yellow, the hair of a gleaming black, wound round the brows. So she stood, slender and serious; yes, ill-humoured, and gazed upon the fourth person of the company, who was just then engaged in his performance.

"This fourth person was a learned dog, a very hopeful poodle, and to the great delight of the English public, he had just put together from some wooden letters before him, the name of the Duke of Wellington, and joined to it a very flattering word--namely, "Hero." Since the dog, as one might conclude from his witty expression, was no English beast, but had, like the other three persons, come from France, the sons of Albion rejoiced that their great general had at least obtained from the French dog that recognition which the other French creatures had so disgracefully denied.

"In fact, this company consisted of French people, and the dwarf, who now announced himself as Monsieur Turlutu, began to bluster in French, and with such vehement gestures, that the poor English opened their mouths and noses still wider than usual. Often, after a long phrase, he crowed like a cock, and these cock-a-doodle-doos, as also the names of many emperors, kings, and princes which he mixed up with his discourse, were probably the only sounds the poor spectators understood. Those emperors, kings, and princes he extolled as his patrons and friends. When only a boy of eight years, so he assured us, he had had an interview with his most sacred majesty Louis XVI., who also, later on, always asked his advice on weighty matters. He escaped the storms of the Revolution, like many others, by flight, and he only returned under the empire to his beloved country to take part in the glory of the great nation. Napoleon, he said, never loved him, whereas His Holiness Pope Pius VII. almost idolised him. The Emperor Alexander gave him bon-bons, and the Princess Wilhelm von Kyritz always placed him on her lap. His Highness Duke Charles of Brunswick often allowed him to ride on his dogs, and his majesty King Ludwig of Bavaria read to him his sublime poems. The Princes of Reuss-Schleiz-Kreuz and of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen loved him as a brother, and always smoked the same pipe with him. Yes, from childhood up, he said, he had lived among sovereigns; the present monarchs, had, as it were, grown up with him; he looked upon them as equals, and he felt deep sorrow every time that one of them passed from the scene of life. After these solemn words he crowed like a cock.

"Monsieur Turlutu was, in fact, one of the most curious dwarfs I ever saw; his wrinkled old face formed such a droll contrast with his scanty, childish, little body, and his whole person again contrasted as comically with his performances. He threw himself into the most sprightly postures, and with thrusts of an inhumanly long rapier he transfixed the air, affirming all the while, on his honour, that no one could parry this quarte or that tierce; that, on the contrary, his own defence could be broken through by no mortal man, and he challenged anyone to engage with him in the noble art. After the dwarf had carried this performance on for some time, and found no one who would resolve on open conflict with him, he bowed with old French grace, gave thanks for the applause which was bestowed upon him, and took the liberty of announcing to the very honourable public the most extraordinary performance ever displayed upon English ground. 'You see this person,' he exclaimed, after drawing on dirty kid gloves, and leading the young girl of the company with respectful gallantry into the middle of the circle--'this is Mademoiselle Laurence, the only daughter of the honourable Christian lady whom you see there with the drum, and who still wears mourning for the loss of her dearly-beloved husband, the greatest ventriloquist in Europe! Mademoiselle Laurence will now dance! Now, admire the dancing of Mademoiselle Laurence.' After these words, he again crowed like a cock.

"The young girl appeared to care not the least either for these words or the gaze of the spectators; ill-humouredly absorbed in herself, she waited till the dwarf had spread a large carpet at her feet, and under the guidance of the great drum had again begun to play his triangle. It was strange music, a mixture of awkward humming and a delightful tinkling, and I caught a pathetic, foolish, melancholy, bold, bizarre melody of, nevertheless, the most singular simplicity. But I soon forgot the music when the young girl began to dance.

"Dance and dancer powerfully seized my attention. It was not the classical dance which we still see in our great ballets, where, just as in classical tragedy, only sprawling unities and artificialities reign; it was not those danced Alexandrines, those declamatory springs, those antithetic capers, that noble emotion which pirouets round on one foot, so that one sees nothing except heaven and petticoats, ideality and lies! There is, indeed, nothing so odious to me as the ballet at the Paris Grand Opera, where the traditions of that classical dance are retained in their purest forms, while in the rest of the arts, in poetry, in music, and in painting, the French have overturned the classical system. It will be, however, difficult for them to bring about a similar revolution in the art of dancing; they will need, as in their political revolution, to have recourse to terrorism, and guillotine the legs of the obdurate dancers. Mademoiselle Laurence was no great dancer; the joints of her feet were not very supple, her legs were not exercised in all possible dislocations, she understood nothing of the art of dancing as Madame Vestris teaches it, but she danced as nature commands to dance: her whole being was in harmony with her pas; not only her feet but her whole body danced; her face danced--she was often pale, almost deathly pale, her eyes opened to an almost ghostly size, desire and pain quivered on her lips, and her black hair, which enclosed her brows in smooth oval, moved like a pair of fluttering wings. It was, indeed, no classical dance, but also no romantic dance, in the sense of a young Frenchman of the Eugène Renduel school. This dance had nothing mediæval, nor Venetian, nor hump-backed, nor Macabrian about it; there was neither moonshine nor incest in it. It was a dance which did not seek to answer by outward movements, but the outward movements seemed words of a strange speech which strove to express strange things. But what did this dance express? I could not understand, however passionately this speech uttered itself. I only guessed sometimes that it spoke of something intensely sorrowful. I, who so easily seized the meaning of all appearances, was nevertheless unable to solve this danced riddle; and that I groped in vain for the sense of it was partly the fault of the music, which certainly pointed intentionally to false roads, cunningly sought to lead me astray, and always disturbed me. Monsieur Turlutu's triangle often tittered maliciously. Madame, however, beat upon her drum so wrathfully, that her face glowed forth from the black cloud of cap like a blood-red northern light.

"Long after the troop had passed away, I remained standing at the same spot, considering what that dance might signify. Was it a national dance of the south of France or of Spain? In such a dance might appear the impetuosity with which the dancer swung her little body to and fro, and the wildness with which she often threw her head backward in the bold way of those Bacchantes whom we gaze at with amazement on ancient vases. There was an intoxicated absence of will about her dance, something gloomy and inevitable; it was like the dance of fate. Or was it a fragment of some venerable forgotten pantomime? Or was she dancing her personal history? Often the girl bent down to the earth with a listening ear, as though she heard a voice which spoke up to her. She trembled then like an aspen leaf, bent suddenly to another side, went through her maddest, most unrestrained leaps, then again bent her ear to the earth, listened more anxiously than before, nodded her head, became red and pale by turns, shuddered, stood for a while stiffly upright as if benumbed, and made finally a movement as one who washes his hands. Was it blood that so long and with such care, such horrible care, she was washing from her hands? She threw therewith a sideward glance so imploring, so full of entreaty, so soul-dissolving--and that glance fell by chance upon me.

"All the following night I was thinking of that glance, of that dance, of that strange accompaniment; and as, on the following day, I sauntered as usual through the streets of London, I longed to meet the pretty dancer again, and I constantly pricked my ears in case I might somewhere hear the music of the drum and the triangle. I had at last found something in London which interested me, and I no longer wandered aimless through its yawning streets.

"I had just come out of the Tower, after carefully examining the axe which cut off Anne Bullen's head, as well as the English crown-diamonds and the lions, when in front of the Tower I caught a glimpse, amid a crowd, of Madame with the great drum, and heard Monsieur Turlutu crowing like a cock. The learned dog again scraped together the heroism of the Duke of Wellington, the dwarf again showed his not-to-be-parried tierces and quartes, and Mademoiselle Laurence again began her wondrous dance. There were again the same enigmatic movements, the same speech which I could not understand, the same impetuous throwing back of the beautiful head, the same leaning down to the earth, the anguish which sought to soothe itself by ever madder leaps, and again the listening ear bent to the earth, the trembling, the pallor, the benumbed stiffness; then also the fearful mysterious washing of the hands, and at last the imploring side-glance, which rested upon me this time still longer than before.

"Yes, women, and young girls as well as women, immediately observe when they have excited the attention of a man. Although Mademoiselle Laurence, when she was not dancing, gazed immovable and ill-humouredly before her, and while she was dancing often cast only one glance on the public, it was now no mere chance that this glance fell upon me; and the oftener I saw her dance, the more significantly it gleamed, but also the more incomprehensibly. I was fascinated by this glance, and for three weeks, from morning till evening, I wandered about the streets of London, always remaining wherever Mademoiselle Laurence danced. In spite of the greatest confusion of sounds, I could catch the tones of the drum and the triangle at the farthest distance; and Monsieur Turlutu, as soon as he saw me hastening near, raised his most friendly crow. Although I never spoke a word to him or to Mademoiselle Laurence, or to madame, or to the learned dog, I seemed at last as if I belonged to the company. When Monsieur Turlutu made a collection, he always behaved with the most delicate tact as he drew near me, and looked in the opposite direction when I put a small coin in his little three-cornered hat. His demeanour was indeed most distinguished; he reminded one of the good manners of the past; one could tell that the little man had grown up with monarchs, and all the stranger was it when at times, altogether forgetting his dignity, he crowed like a cock.

"I cannot describe to you how vexed I became, when, after seeking for three days in vain for the little company through all the streets of London, I was forced to conclude that they had left the town. Ennui again took me in its leaden arms, and again closed my heart. At last I could endure it no longer; I said farewell to the four estates of the realm--i.e., the mob, the blackguards, the gentlemen, and the fashionables--and travelled back again to civilised terra firma, where I knelt in adoration before the white apron of the first cook I met. Here once more I could sit down to dinner like a reasonable being, and refresh my soul by gazing at good-natured, unselfish faces. But I could not forget Mademoiselle Laurence; she danced in my memory for a long time; at solitary hours I often reflected over the lovely child's enigmatic pantomime, especially over the listening ear bent to the earth. It was a long time, too, before the romantic melodies of the triangle and drum died away in my memory."

"And is that the whole story?" cried out Maria, all at once, starting up eagerly.

Maximilian pressed her softly down, placed his finger significantly to his lips, and whispered, "Still! still! do not talk! Lie down, good and quiet, and I will tell you the rest of the story. Only on no account interrupt me."

Leaning slowly back in his chair, Maximilian pursued the story:--

"Five years afterwards I came for the first time to Paris, and at a very noteworthy period. The French had just performed their July revolution, and the whole world was applauding. This piece was not so horrible as the earlier tragedies of the Republic and the Empire. Only some thousand corpses remained upon the stage. The political Romanticists were not very contented, and announced a new piece in which more blood should flow, and the executioner have more to do.

"Paris delighted me by the cheerfulness which prevails there, and which exercises its influence over the most sombre minds. Singular! Paris is the stage on which the greatest tragedies of the world's history are performed--tragedies at the recollection of which hearts tremble and eyes become moist in the most distant lands; but to the spectator of these tragedies it happens as it happened to me once at the Porte Saint-Martin Theatre, when I went to see the Tour de Nesle performed. I found myself sitting behind a lady who wore a hat of rose-red gauze, and this hat was so broad that it obstructed the whole of my view of the stage, and I saw all the tragedy only through the red gauze of this hat, and all the horror of the Tour de Nesle appeared in the most cheerful rose-light. Yes, there is such a rose-light in Paris, which makes all tragedies cheerful to the near spectator, so that his enjoyment of life is not spoilt there. In the same way all the terrible things that one may bring in his own heart to Paris there lose their tormenting horror. Sorrows are singularly soothed. In this air of Paris all wounds are healed quicker than anywhere else; there is in this air something as generous, as kind, as amiable as in the people themselves.

"What most pleased me in the people of Paris was their polite bearing and distinguished air. Sweet pine-apple perfume of politeness! how beneficently thou refreshedst my sick soul, which had swallowed down in Germany so much tobacco smoke, sauerkraut odour, and coarseness! The simple words of apology of a Frenchman, who, on the day of my arrival, only gently pushed against me, rang in my ears like the melodies of Rossini. I was almost terrified at such sweet politeness, I, who was accustomed to German clownish digs in the ribs without apology. During the first week of my stay in Paris I several times deliberately sought to be jostled, simply to delight myself with this music of apology. But the French people has for me a certain touch of nobility, not only on account of its politeness, but also on account of its language. For, as you know, with us in the north the French language is one of the attributes of high birth; from childhood I had associated the idea of speaking French with nobility. And a Parisian market-woman spoke better French than a German canoness with sixty-four ancestors.

"On account of this language, which lends a distinguished bearing to it, the French people has in my eyes something delightfully fabulous. This originated in another reminiscence of my childhood. The first book in which I learnt French was the Fables of La Fontaine; its naïve, sensible manner of speech impressed itself on my recollection ineffaceably, and as I now came to Paris and heard French spoken everywhere, I was constantly reminded of La Fontaine's Fables, I constantly imagined I was hearing the well-known animal voices; now the lion spoke, then the wolf, then the lamb, or the stork, or the dove, not seldom, I thought, I caught the voice of the fox, and often the words awoke in my memory--'Eh! bonjour, Monsieur du Corbeau! Que vous êtes joli! que vous me semblez beau!'

"Such reminiscences, however, awoke in my soul still oftener when at Paris I ascended to that higher region which is called 'the world.' This was even that world which gave up to the happy La Fontaine the types of his animal characters. The winter season began soon after my arrival at Paris, and I took part in the salon life in which that world more or less joyfully moves. What struck me as most interesting in this world was not so much the equality of good manners which reigned there as the variety of its ingredients. Often when I gazed round at the people gathered peacefully together in a large drawing-room I thought I was in one of those curiosity shops where relics of all ages lie beside each other, a Greek Apollo, a Chinese pagoda, a Mexican Vizlipuzli by a Gothic Ecce-Homo, Egyptian idols with little dogs' heads, holy caricatures made of wood, of ivory, of metal, and so on. There I saw old mousquetaires who had danced with Marie Antoinette, republicans who were deified in the National Assembly, Montagnards without spot and without mercy, former men of the Directory who were throned in the Luxembourg, great dignitaries of the Empire, before whom all Europe had trembled, ruling Jesuits of the Restoration--in short, mere faded, mutilated deities of olden times, in whom nobody believed any longer. The names seem to recoil from each other, but the men one may see standing peaceful and friendly together like the antiquities in the shops of the Quai Voltaire. In German countries, where the passions are not so easily disciplined, for such a heterogeneous mass of persons to live together in society would be quite impossible. And with us in the cold north the vivacity of speech is not so strong as in warmer France, where the greatest enemies, if they meet one another in a salon, cannot long observe a gloomy silence. In France, also, the desire to please is so great that people zealously strive to please not only their friends, but also their enemies. There is constant drapery and affectation, and the women here have the delightful trouble of excelling the men in coquetry; but they succeed, nevertheless.

"I do not mean anything wicked by this observation, certainly not as regards the French ladies, and least of all as regards the Parisian ladies. I am their greatest adorer, and I adore them on account of their failings still more than on account of their virtues. I know nothing more excellent than the legend that the Parisian women come into the world with all possible failings, but that a kind fairy has mercy upon them and lends to each fault a spell by which it works as a charm. That kind fairy is Grace! Are the Parisian women beautiful? Who can say? Who can see through all the intrigues of the toilet? Who can decipher whether what the tulle betrays is genuine, or what the swelling silk displays, false? And when the eye succeeds in piercing the shell, and we are at the point of finding the kernel, we discover that it is enclosed in a new shell, and after this again in another, and with this ceaseless change of fashions they mock masculine acuteness. Are their faces beautiful? Even this is difficult to find out. For all their features are in constant movement; every Parisian woman has a thousand faces, each more laughing, spirituel, gracious than the other, and puts to confusion those who seek to choose the loveliest face among them, or at all events, who wishes to guess which is the true face. Are their eyes large? What do I know! We cease investigating the calibre of the canon when the ball carries off our heads. And when their eyes do not hit, they at least blind us with the flash, and we are glad enough to get out of range. Is the space between nose and mouth broad or narrow? It is often broad when they wrinkle up their noses; it is often narrow when they give their upper lips an insolent little pout. Have they large or small mouths? Who can say where the mouth leaves off and where the smile begins? In order to give a just opinion, both the observer and the object of observation must be in a state of rest. But who can be quiet near a Parisian, and what Parisian woman is ever quiet? There are people who think that they can observe a butterfly quite accurately when they have stuck it on to paper with a pin. That is as foolish as it is cruel. The motionless transfixed butterfly is a butterfly no longer. One must observe the butterfly in his antics round the flowers, and one must observe the Parisian woman, not at home, when she is made fast by a pin through her breast, but in the salon, at soirées, and balls, when she flutters about with her wings of gauze and silk beneath the gleaming chandeliers. Then is revealed in her an impetuous passion for life, a longing after a sweet stupor, a thirsting for intoxication, by which means she becomes almost horribly beautiful, and wins a charm which at the same time delights and terrifies our souls.

"This thirst to enjoy life, as if death was about to snatch them from the bubbling spring of enjoyment, or as if that spring was about to cease flowing, this haste, this fury, this madness of the Parisian women, especially as it shows itself at balls, reminds me always of the legend of the dead dancing-girls which we call Willis. These are young brides who died before the wedding-day, and the unsatisfied desire of dancing is preserved so powerfully in their hearts that they come every night out of their graves, assemble in bands on the high roads, and give themselves up at midnight to the wildest dances. Dressed in their wedding clothes, with garlands on their heads, and glittering rings on their pale hands, laughing horribly, irresistibly lovely, the Willis dance in the moonshine, and they dance ever more madly the more they feel that the hour of dancing, which has been granted them, is coming to an end, and that they must again descend to their cold graves.

"At a soirée once in the Chaussée d'Antin this idea moved my soul profoundly. It was a brilliant soirée, and none of the customary ingredients of social pleasure were wanting: enough light to illuminate us, enough mirrors to see ourselves in, enough people to heat us with the squeeze, enough eau sucrée to cool us. They began with music. Franz Liszt allowed himself to be drawn to the piano, pushed his hair over his genial brows, and waged one of his most brilliant battles. The keys seemed to bleed. If I am not mistaken, he played a passage from the Palingenesis of Ballanche, whose ideas he was translating into music, which was very useful for those who cannot read the works of that famous writer in the original. Afterwards he played Berlioz's La Marche au Supplice, that excellent piece which the young musician, if I am not mistaken, composed on the morning of his wedding-day. Throughout the room paled faces, heaving bosoms, highly-drawn breath during the pauses, were succeeded at last by stormy applause. The women are always as it were intoxicated when Liszt plays anything for them. The Willis of the salon now gave themselves up to dancing with frantic delight, and I had difficulty in getting out of this confusion and saving myself in the adjoining room. Here card-playing was going on, and several ladies were resting in large chairs, looking on at the players, or at all events pretending to interest themselves in the play. As I passed one of these ladies, and my arm touched her dress, I felt from hand to shoulder a slight quiver as from a very weak electric shock. A similar shock, but of the greatest force, went through my whole heart when I saw the lady's countenance. Was it she, or was it not? It was the same face, with the form and sunny colour of an antique, only it was no longer so marble pure and marble smooth as formerly. The acute observer might perceive on brow and cheeks several little flaws, perhaps small-pox marks, which here exactly resembled those delicate weather-flecks which may be seen on the faces of statues that have been standing some time in the rain. It was the same black hair which covered the brows in smooth oval like a raven's wings. As, however, her eyes met mine, and with that well-known side-glance, whose swift lightning had always shot so enigmatically through my soul, I doubted no longer--it was Mademoiselle Laurence.

"Stretched in a distinguished way on her chair, with a bouquet in one hand and the other placed on the arm of the chair, Mademoiselle Laurence sat not far from one of the tables, and seemed to devote her whole attention to the cards. Her dress of white satin was elegant and distinguished, but still quite simple. Except bracelets and breast-pins of pearl, she wore no jewels. An abundance of lace covered the youthful bosom, covered it almost puritanically up to the neck, and in this simplicity and modesty of clothing she formed a lovely and touching contrast with some elderly ladies, gaily adorned and glistening with diamonds, who sat near her, and displayed to view the ruins of former magnificence, the place where once Troy stood, in a state of melancholy nakedness. She had the same wondrous loveliness, the same enrapturing look of ill-humour, and I was irresistibly drawn towards her, till at last I stood behind her chair, burning with desire to speak to her, and yet held back by a trembling delicacy.

"I must have been standing silently behind her for some time, when she suddenly drew a flower from her bouquet and, without looking round, held it to me over her shoulder. The perfume of that flower was strong, and it exercised a peculiar enchantment over me. I felt myself freed from all social formality, and I seemed in a dream, where one does and says all kinds of things at which oneself wonders, and when one's words have an altogether childish, familiar, and simple character. Quiet, indifferent, negligent, as one does with old friends, I leant over the arm of the chair, and whispered in the youthful lady's ear, 'Mademoiselle Laurence, where is, then, the mother with the drum?'

'She is dead,' answered she, in just the same tone--as quiet, indifferent, negligent.

"After a short pause, I again leant over the arm of the chair, and whispered in the youthful lady's ear, 'Mademoiselle Laurence, where is the learned dog?'

"'He has run away into the wide world,' she answered, in the same quiet, indifferent, negligent tone.

"And again, after a short pause, I leant over the arm of the chair, and whispered in the youthful lady's ear, 'Mademoiselle Laurence, where, then, is Monsieur Turlutu, the dwarf?'

"'He is among the giants in the Boulevard du Temple,' she answered. She had hardly spoken these words, and in just the same quiet, indifferent, negligent tone, when a serious old man, with a tall military figure, came towards her and announced that her carriage was ready. Slowly rising from her seat, she leant upon his arm, and without casting one glance back to me, left the company.

"When I inquired of the lady of the house, who had been standing all the evening at the entrance of the principal saloon, presenting her smiles to those who came or went, the name of the young lady who had just gone out with the old man, she laughed gaily in my face, and exclaimed--'Mon Dieu! who can know everybody! I know her as little.'--She stopped, for she was about to say as little as myself, whom she had that evening seen for the first time. 'Perhaps,' I remarked, 'your husband can give me some information; where shall I find him?'

"'At the hunt at Saint Germain,' answered the lady, with a yet louder laugh; 'he went early yesterday morning, and will return to-morrow evening. But wait. I know somebody who has been talking a good deal with the lady you inquire after; I do not know his name, but you can easily find him out by inquiring after the young man whom M. Casimir Perrier kicked, I don't know where.'

"Although it is rather difficult to recognise anyone by the fact of his having received a kick from a minister, I soon discovered my man, and I desired from him a more intimate knowledge of the singular creature who had so interested me, and whom I could describe to him clearly enough. 'Yes,' said the young man, 'I know her very well; I have spoken to her at several soirées'--and he repeated to me a mass of meaningless things with which he had entertained her. What especially surprised him was her earnest look whenever he said anything complimentary to her. He also wondered not a little that she always declined his invitation to a contre danse, assuring him that she was unable to dance. Of name and condition he knew nothing. And nobody, as much as I inquired, could give me any more distinct information on the subject. In vain I ran through all possible soirées; nowhere could I find Mademoiselle Laurence."

"And that is the whole story?" exclaimed Maria, as she slowly turned round and yawned sleepily--"that is the whole memorable story? And you have never again seen either Mademoiselle Laurence, or the mother with the drum, or the dwarf Turlutu, or the learned dog?"

"Remain lying still," replied Maximilian. "I have seen them all again, even the learned dog. The poor rascal was certainly in a very sad state of necessity when I came across him at Paris. It was in the Quartier Latin. I had just passed the Sorbonne, when out of its gates rushed a dog, and behind him with sticks a dozen students, who were soon joined by two dozen old women, who all cried in chorus, 'The dog is mad!' The animal looked almost human in his death agony, tears flowed from his eyes, and as he ran panting by and lifted his moist glance towards me, I recognised my old friend the learned dog, the Duke of Wellington's panegyrist, who had once filled the people of England with wonderment. Was he really mad? Had he been driven mad by mere learning while pursuing his studies in the Quartier Latin? Or had he in the Sorbonne, by his growling and scratching, marked his disapprobation of the puffed-up charlatanry of some professor, who sought to free himself from his unfavourable hearer by proclaiming him to be mad? And, alas! the youths are not long investigating whether it is the wounded conceit of learning or envy that first called out, 'The dog is mad!' and they strike with their thoughtless sticks, and the old women are ready with their howling, and cry down the voice of innocence and reason. My poor friend must yield; before my eyes he was miserably struck to death, insulted, and at last thrown on a dunghill! Poor martyr of learning!

"Not much more pleasant was the condition of the dwarf, Monsieur Turlutu, when I found him on the Boulevard du Temple. Mademoiselle Laurence had certainly told me that he had gone there, but whether I had not thought of actually seeing him there, or that the crowd had hindered me, it was some time before I noted the place where the giants were to be seen. When I entered I found two tall fellows who lay idly on benches, and quickly sprang up and placed themselves in giant posture before me. They were, in truth, not as large as they boasted on the placards hanging outside. These two long fellows, who were dressed in pink tricots, had very black, perhaps false, whiskers, and brandished hollow wooden clubs over their heads. When I asked after the dwarf, whom the placards also announced, they replied that for four weeks he had not been exhibited on account of his increasing illness--that I could see him, however, on paying double the price of admission. How willingly one pays double admission-fee to see a friend again! And, alas, this was a friend who lay on his death-bed. This death-bed was properly a cradle, and the poor dwarf lay inside with his yellow shrivelled old face. A little girl of some fourteen years sat beside him, and rocked the cradle with her foot, and sang in a laughing, roguish tone--

"'Sleep, little Turlutu, sleep!'

"When the little fellow saw me, he opened his glassy pale eyes as wide as possible, and a melancholy smile played on his white lips; he seemed to recognise me again, stretched his shrunken little hand towards me, and gently rattled--'Old friend!'

"It was, in fact, a sad condition in which I found the man who, in his eighth year, had had a long conversation with Louis XVI., whom the Czar Alexander had fed with bon-bons, whom the Princess von Kyritz had taken on her lap, who had ridden on the Duke of Brunswick's dogs, whom the King of Bavaria had read his poems to, who had smoked out of the same pipe with German princes, whom the Pope had idolised, and Napoleon never loved! This last circumstance troubled him on his death-bed, or, as I said, in his death-cradle, and he wept over the tragic fate of the great Emperor, who had never loved him, but who died in such a sorrowful way at Saint Helena--'just as I am dying,' he added, 'solitary, misunderstood, forsaken by all kings and princes, a caricature of former magnificence!'

"Although I could not rightly understand how a dwarf who died among giants could compare himself with a giant who died among dwarfs, I was nevertheless moved by poor Turlutu's words and by his forsaken condition at the last moment. I could not help expressing my astonishment that Mademoiselle Laurence, who was now so grand, gave herself no trouble about him. I had scarcely uttered this name than the dwarf in the cradle was seized by the most fearful spasms, and he whispered with his white lips--'Ungrateful child! that I brought up, that I would elevate to be my wife, that I taught to move and behave among the great of this world, how to smile, how to bow at court, how to act--you have used my instructions well, and you are now a great lady, and you have a coach and footmen, and plenty of money, and plenty of pride, and no heart. You leave me here to die--to die alone and in misery, as Napoleon died at Saint Helena! O Napoleon! you never loved me.' What he added I could not catch. He raised his head, made some movements with his hand, as if fighting against somebody, perhaps against death. But that is an opponent whose scythe neither a Napoleon nor a Turlutu can withstand. No skill in fencing avails here. Faint, as if overcome, the dwarf let his head sink down again, looked at me a long time with an indescribable, ghostly stare, suddenly crowed like a cock, and expired.

"His death troubled me the more since he had been unable to give me any more exact information about Mademoiselle Laurence. Where should I now find her again? I was not in love with her, nor did I feel my former inclination towards her; yet a mysterious desire spurred me to seek her everywhere. When I entered a drawing-room and examined the company, and could not find the well-known face, I soon lost all repose and was driven away. Reflecting over this feeling, I stood one day at a remote entrance to the Great Opera, waiting for a carriage, and waiting with considerable annoyance, for it was raining very fast. But no carriage came, or, rather, only carriages which belonged to other people, who placed themselves comfortably inside, and the place around me became gradually solitary. "Then you must come with me," said at last a lady, who, concealed in her black mantilla, had stood for a little time near me, and was now on the point of getting into a carriage. The voice sent a quiver through my heart, the well-known side-glance again exercised its charm, and I was again as in a dream on finding myself beside Mademoiselle Laurence in a cosy warm carriage. We did not speak, indeed we could not have understood each other, as the carriage rattled noisily through the streets of Paris for a long time, till it stopped at last before a great gateway.

"Servants in gorgeous livery lighted us up the steps and through a succession of rooms. A lady's-maid met us with sleepy face, and stammering many excuses, said that there was only a fire in the red room. Motioning to the woman to go away, Laurence said, with a laugh, 'Chance is leading you a long way to-night; there is only a fire in my bed-room.'

"In this bed-room, in which we soon found ourselves alone, blazed a large open fire, which was the pleasanter since the room was of immense size and height. This large sleeping-room, which rather deserved the name of a sleeping-hall, had a similarly desolate appearance. Furniture and decoration, all bore the impress of a time whose brilliance seems to us now so bedimmed, its sublimity so jejune, that its remains raise a certain dislike within us, if not indeed a smile. I speak of the time of the Empire, of the time of the golden eagle, of high-flying plumes, of Greek coiffures, of glory, of great drum-majors, of military masses, of official immortality (conferred by the Moniteur), of continental coffee prepared from chickory, of bad sugar manufactured from beet root, and of princes and dukes made from nothing at all. But it had its charm, though, that time of pathetic materialism. Talma declaimed, Gros painted, Bigottini danced, Grassini sang, Maury preached, Rovigo had the police, the Emperor read Ossian, Pauline Borghese let herself be moulded as Venus, and quite naked too,(13) for the room was well warmed, like the bed-room in which I found myself with Mademoiselle Laurence.

"We sat by the fire chatting familiarly, and she told me with a sigh that she was married to a Buonopartist hero, who enlivened her every evening before going to bed with a description of one of his battles; a few days ago, before going away, he had fought for her the battle of Jena; he was very ill, and with difficulty survived the Prussian campaign. When I asked her how long her father had been dead, she laughed, and confessed that she had never known a father, and that her so-called mother had never been married.

"'Not married!' I exclaimed; 'I saw her myself in London in the deepest mourning on account of her husband's death!'

"'Oh,' replied Laurence, 'for twelve years she had always dressed herself in black, to excite people's compassion as an unhappy widow, as well as to allure any donkey desirous of marrying, for she hoped to reach the haven of marriage quicker under black flags. But only death had pity on her, and she died of a hæmorrhage. I never loved her, for she always, gave me plenty of beating and little to eat. I should have died of starvation if Monsieur Turlutu had not often given me a little piece of bread on the sly; but the dwarf wished to marry me on that account, and when his hopes were frustrated he made common cause with my mother--I say 'mother' from custom--and both agreed to torment me. They always said that I was a superfluous creature, and that the learned dog was worth a thousand times more than I with my bad dancing. And then they praised the dog at my expense, extolled him to the skies, caressed him, fed him with cakes, and threw me the crumbs. The dog, they said, was their best support; he delighted the public, who were not in the least interested in me; the dog must support me by his work. I ate the bread of the dog. The cursed dog!'

"'Oh, do not curse him any more,' I broke in upon her passion; 'he is dead now; I saw him die.'

"'Is the beast dead?' exclaimed Laurence, springing up with a red glow of joy over her face.

"'And the dwarf is also dead,' I added.

"'Monsieur Turlutu?' cried Laurence, also with joy. But this joy gradually died from her face, and in a milder, almost melancholy tone, she added, 'Poor Turlutu!'

"When I told her, without any concealment, that the dwarf had complained of her very bitterly on his death-bed, she became passionately disturbed, and assured me, with many protestations, that she had had the foresight to care for him as well as possible, that she had offered him a pension if he would go and live quietly somewhere in the country. 'But ambitious as he was,' Laurence pursued, "he wished to stay in Paris, and even to live at my house; he could then, he thought, through my interposition, renew his connections in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, and again take his former brilliant position in society. When I flatly refused him this, he told me that I was a cursed ghost, a vampyre, a death-child."

"Laurence suddenly stopped, shuddered violently, and said at last, with a deep sigh, 'Ah, I wish they had left me in the grave with my mother!' As I pressed her to explain these mysterious words, a stream of tears flowed from her eyes, and, trembling and sobbing, she confessed to me that the black woman with the drum, who gave herself out as her mother, had once herself told her that the rumour which went about concerning her birth was no mere story. 'For in the town where we lived,' pursued Laurence, 'they always called me the death-child! The old woman maintained that I was the daughter of a Count who lived there, and who constantly ill-treated his wife, and when she died buried her very magnificently; she was, however, near her confinement, and only apparently dead, and when some churchyard thieves opened the grave to strip the richly-adorned corpse, they found the countess alive and in child-birth; and as she expired immediately after delivery, the thieves placed her again quietly in her grave, took away the child, and gave it to the receiver of the stolen goods, the great ventriloquist's sweetheart, to be brought up. This poor child, who had been buried before it was born, was everywhere called the death-child. Ah! you cannot understand how much sorrow I felt even as a little girl when anyone called me by that name. While the great ventriloquist was alive, whenever he was discontented with me, he always called out, 'Cursed death-child, I wish you had never been taken out of the grave!' He was a skilful ventriloquist, and could so modulate his voice that it seemed to come up out of the earth, and he told me that that was the voice of my dead mother telling me her fate. He might well know that horrible fate, for he had been a valet of the Count's. He took a cruel pleasure in the horrible fright which I, poor little girl, received from the words which seemed to ascend from the earth. These words, which seemed to ascend from the earth, mingled together fearful tales--tales which I never understood in their connection, and which later on I gradually forgot; but when I danced they would again come into my mind with living power. Yes, when I danced a singular remembrance seized me; I forgot myself, and I seemed to be quite another person, and as if all the sorrows and secrets of this person were poisoning me, and as soon as I left off dancing it was all extinguished in my memory.'

"While Laurence said this, slowly and as if questioning, she stood before me at the fireplace, where the fire was burning pleasanter than ever; and I sat in the easy-chair, which was apparently the seat of her husband, where he told her his battles before going to bed of an evening. Laurence looked at me with her large eyes as if she was asking my advice; she moved her head to and fro in such a melancholy, reflective way; she filled me with such a sweet compassion; she was so slender, so young, so lovely, this lily that had sprung out of the grave, this daughter of death, this ghost with the face of an angel and the body of a bayadere! I do not know how it came to pass; perhaps it was the influence of the easy-chair on which I was sitting, but it suddenly came into my mind that I was the old general who had described the battle of Jena yesterday from this place, and as if I must go on with my narrative, and I said, 'After the battle of Jena all the Prussian fortresses yielded themselves up within a few weeks, almost without drawing a sword. First Magdeburg yielded; it was the strongest fortress, and had three hundred cannon. Was not that disgraceful?'

"But Mademoiselle Laurence allowed me to say no more; the troubled mood had vanished from her face; she laughed like a child, and cried, 'Yes, that was disgraceful, more than disgraceful! If I was a fortress and had three hundred guns, I would never yield myself!'

"But as Mademoiselle Laurence was not a fortress, and had not three hundred guns----"

At these words Maximilian suddenly stopped in his story, and, after a short pause, asked gently, "Are you asleep, Maria?"

"I'm asleep," answered Maria.

"So much the better," said Maximilian, with a smile; "then I need not be afraid of wearying you if I describe the furniture of the room in which I found myself, as novelists are accustomed to do rather at length now-a-days."

"Say what you like, dear friend; I'm asleep."

"It was," continued Maximilian, "a very magnificent bed. The feet, as in all the beds of the Empire, consisted of caryatides and sphinxes; it gleamed with richly-gilt eagles, billing like turtle doves, perhaps an emblem of love under the Empire. The curtains of the bed were of red silk, and as the flames from the fireplace shone brightly through them, I found myself with Laurence in a fiery red illumination, and I seemed to be the god Pluto with the flames of hell blazing round him as he held the sleeping Proserpine in his arms. She was asleep, and in this condition I gazed on her sweet face, and sought in her features a clue to that sympathy which my soul felt for her. What was the meaning of this woman? What sense lurked under the symbolism of that beautiful form? I held the charming enigma in my arms now as my own property, and yet I could not find the solution of it.

"But is it not folly to wish to sound the inner meaning of any phenomenon outside us, when we cannot even solve the enigma of our own souls? We hardly know even whether outside phenomena really exist! We are often unable to distinguish reality from mere dream-faces. Was it a shape of my fancy, or was it horrible reality that I heard and saw on that night? I know not. I only remember that as the wildest thoughts were flowing through my heart, a singular sound came to my ear. It was a crazy melody, peculiarly soft. It seemed known to me, and at last I distinguished the tones of a triangle and a drum. This music, whirring and humming, seemed to come from afar, and yet as I looked up I saw near me in the middle of the room a well-known performance. It was Monsieur Turlutu the dwarf who played the triangle, and Madame beating the great drum, while the learned dog was scratching about on the floor, as if searching for his wooden letters. The dog appeared to move with difficulty, and his skin was spotted with blood. Madame still wore her black mourning, but her belly was no longer so spaciously protuberant, but repulsively pendant. Her face, too, was no longer red, but pale. The dwarf, who still wore the embroidered coat of an old French marquis and a powdered toupet, appeared to have grown somewhat, perhaps because he was so horribly lean. He again exhibited his skill in fencing, and seemed to be again spinning off his old vaunts; but he spoke so softly that I was unable to understand a word, and only by the movements of his lips could I sometimes observe that he was again crowing like a cock.

"While this ludicrous, horrible caricature moved like a magic lantern with confused haste before my eyes, I felt Mademoiselle Laurence breathing more and more uneasily. A cold paroxysm froze her whole body, and her sweet limbs writhed as if with unbearable agony. At last, however, supple as an eel, she glided from my arms, stood suddenly in the middle of the room, and began to dance, while the mother with the drum and the dwarf with the triangle continued their deadened soft music. She danced just as formerly on Waterloo Bridge and in the squares of London. There were the same mysterious pantomimes, the same outbreaks of passionate leaping, the same Bacchante-like throwing of the head backwards, often also the same leaning towards the earth, as if she wished to hear somebody speaking beneath, then also the trembling, the pallor, the benumbed stiffness, and again the listening with ear bent to the earth. Again also she rubbed her hands as if washing herself. At last she appeared again to cast her intense, sorrowful, imploring glance upon me, but now only in the features of her death-pale countenance could I recognise that glance--not in her eyes, for they were shut. In ever softer sounds the music died away; the mother with the drum and the dwarf, gradually growing pale and breaking like mist, vanished at last altogether; but Mademoiselle Laurence still stood and danced with closed eyes. This dance with closed eyes in the silent nocturnal chamber gave this sweet being so ghostly an appearance that a disagreeable feeling seized me; I shuddered, and was heartily glad when she finished her dance, and as easily as she had slipped away again glided into my arms.

"In truth, this scene was not pleasant to me. But we accustom ourselves to everything. And it is even possible that what was mysterious in this woman lent her a more peculiar charm, that an awful tenderness mingled with my emotions. In any case, after some weeks I ceased to wonder in the least when the low sounds of the drum and triangle were heard at night, and my dear Laurence suddenly started up and danced a solo with closed eyes. Her husband, the old Buonapartist, commanded in the neighbourhood of Paris, and his duties allowed him to pass the day only in the city. Of course he became my most intimate friend, and he wept when later on he bade me farewell. He travelled with his wife to Sicily, and I have seen neither of them again since."

When Maximilian had finished this narrative, he hastily seized his hat and slipped out of the room.


(The end)
Heinrich Heine's essay: Florentine Nights

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