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head, pressed backward against the wall, as if he would have shrunk for refuge into the solid stone.
“ For shame!” cried Carl, struggling with the contagion of horror, “rouse thee—be a man!"
- A man! Can a man look upon such a sight as that? Can the ears of a man listen to those fearful cries ! Do
bid me be a man? Oh, never, never, never, never more !”
PRISON HOURS. It was evident that the brain of Peter Schwarz was still affected by the dose administered to him by the jolly landlord of the Fig-tree. A quart of brandy was perhaps an extra allowance even for him; and at any rate his sleep since then had been too short, and too much disturbed to exert any permanent influence on the nervous system. Having unburthened his mind in the manner we have related, he began to wander, with great irregular strides, through the room, as if searching for something on which to expend the surplus of his animal energy, and bestowing on our adventurer every now and then as he passed, one of those dull glares which are worse to bear than a look of absolute hostility.
“Do you know," said he, stopping suddenly short, while his meaningless face was lighted up with an expression of as much fierceness as might be supposed to linger on the features of a dead man; you
know why I confessed myself to you, who are neither priest nor angel? Answer me that. Was it for your pleasure, think you? Was it at your bidding ?”
“ No,” replied Carl, calmly; “I sought not your confidence.”
“ It is a lie! You looked at me, and I knew that I must answer. When
drew me out of that vaultwhich is worse than hell, because there are no flames in it, nor company, nor men's voices, nor strife, nor struggling -I knew what it was for. And now what will
you do? Will you bring me to trial for drowning my wife? Ho! ho 1 ho! As if human law could touch me! Why, what a fool you are; my neck would turn the edge of the headsman's axe; the rope that held me would break like a gossamer thread. Where could I die but where I murdered her? What other instrument of death could harm me than the waves of the cannibal Rhine ? I knew when I fled from the spot that I should one day return to fly no more. The same voice that cried · Help!' called after me ‘Come back, come back !' and as I fled the more, her drowning scream was mingled with shrieks of laughter. Will you bring the question to proof? Call the gaoler and his myrmidons and try what they can do. Look here”-and, seizing one of the iron bars of the window with both hands, he wrenched it from its bed : “ Now let them come. What ho! Rascals, do you not hear? It is I who call-Peter the Black !” and he smote the door with his newly-acquired weapon till the whole building resounded with the din. In another moment the huge key turned in the lock, the door sprang open, and the gaoler, followed by two subalterns, rushed into the room.
“What, the tiger loose !" cried the principal functionary—“ Back one of you, and call up the guard. Good Peter, you must down again into your hole; and you, sir vagabond, whom nobody knows, you shall down with him!” Peter in the meanwhile had retired to the further end of the room, where he stood for a
moment, his stolid features moving and twisting, his dead eyes gleaming with preternatural light, his teeth grating and grinding, and the white foam gathering about his lips.
“ You shall see,” said he, in a voice scarcely louder than a whisper, while he nodded to Carl; 66 You shall see! You shall see whether rope or steel has mission for Peter Schwarz !” and with a sudden bound, and a shout like the roar of a wild beast, he sprang upon the gaoler and his follower. One he felled to the ground, the other he pitched into the vault, and crying, “ Follow me if you dare be free !” he bounded down the stairs.
Carl hesitated for an instant. To escape would be to cut the gordian knot of his difficulties at once ! Το escape would be to personate Schinderhannes to the life, whom no chains could bind, and no prison hold ! The next moment he snatched the sword from the hand of the prostrate subaltern, and rushed down into the court.
A single glance convinced him that there was no hope; for the small wicket was shut, and the semicircle of wall was at least twelve feet high. He crossed swords, however, in desperation with the officer of the guard who ran to receive him, and continued an aimless struggle till overpowered by numbers. Peter Schwarz he saw, was still fighting desperately at the other end of the area, where the wall met the tower at the edge of the rock. He owed his life, however, it was evident, to the forbearance of his enemies. Shut up by impassable walls in a court not a dozen yards in diameter, and defended by twenty men, what could he do ? More than once a musket was levelled at his breast, and the next moment dropped, as the idea
occurred to the marksman that it would be greater glory to take so famous a bandit alive. All, however, closed fiercely in upon him with their bayonets and halberds, maddening with shame to think they were defied so long by a single man.
Peter, in the meantime, continued whirling without intermission his terrible weapon round his head; but the shout which he gave on seeing the diversion made in his favour by the minstrel, struck still more dread into his enemies. This at last was over: Carl was secured ; and half the garrison were rushing back to throw themselves upon him.
“ Ho!” cried he at the moment, with another of his peculiar roars which made the heart tremble, “ well done! Rope and steel! Ha! ha!” All looked round in a panic, and Peter stooping instantaneously, tore up the iron grating which covered the mouth of the sewer of the fortress, hurled it in his enemies' faces, jumped into the cavity, and disappeared.*
Carl was hurried up stairs, and flung into his prison. The din without was deafening. Shouts and curses rose simultaneously with the jowing of the alarm bell; and, mingling with these, the clash of swords proclaimed that some of the disappointed soldiers had gone to loggerheads on the spot. He flew to the window. Peter was already across the river, and scouring up the banks, with a shower of bullets from the lower windows of the tower hissing round his head. He seemed to bear a charmed life. The earth was torn up at his feet, the shrubs broken by his sideand still he kept on his way: till at length he gained
• Another escape of the same Peter Schwarz, while crossing a river with a strong escort, gave rise (in the author's opinion) to the admirable scene of this sort in “ Rob Roy."