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“Ha! ha! ha!” laughed the band.
“ Who talks of drink? ” cried Peter the Black, from the further end of the room, as he heard the jingling of glasses—“Give me some brandy!"
“ Not a drop," replied Schinderhannes, “till we cross the Rhine.”
“ You had better humour him," said Moritz; “for I never saw him in such a mood before. He looks like a man in a trance; his eyes seem fixed upon some object invisible to us; and when I told him to cheer
and that he would soon be dancing upon the waters of the Rhine- I know it,' he answered, for I am called. Hark!' "Who calls,' asked I, what do you
hear ? What does it say ?' It cries help ! help! help!' was his reply, and I saw the perspiration rolling in great drops down his brow.”
“ Give him brandy,” said Schinderhannes. “ Give him laudanum, if
you have it!" While the company were in the height of their conviviality, Buckler rose from the table to inspect the state of the force out of doors; and Carl Benzel, who had been at first amused by the scene, but was now shocked by its unredeemed coarseness and vulgarity, was happy to follow him.
“That unhappy wretch!” said Buckler, musing. “I would for his own sake, that he was not upon, but beneath, the waters of the Rhine.”
“ I have heard his story," replied Carl. “Can you tell me what has become of his child ?
“ I never saw her ; but I have heard that she remains in her native valley; and, although still very young, that she is one of the most beautiful creatures the sun ever shone upon. Peter, when he committed the deed, fled from the spot, to which he never again returned ; and her friends, collecting the re
mainder of his property, preserved it for the child, who therefore enjoys a kind of independence.” He still walked on, seeming to avoid rather than seek his associates. It was not totally dark; for although the sky was thickly packed with clouds, there was a full moon behind them, and Carl could see that his friend had sunk into the deepest dejection.
u Benzel,” said Buckler at last, stopping suddenly,
you are aware that the engagement of the apprentice expires at the death of the master. If I fall tonight, you will he free, Will you—should the event occur—will you be a friend to Liese?”
May heaven desert me at my last hour, if I be not!”
“ She will not be entirely destitute ; for there is a secret fund, which she knows of, laid aside on purpose for her. This fund, however, small as it is, I wish to be divided into equal moieties ; one half for Liese, and one for— for
6. For whom ? ” asked Carl, in strong curiosity. Buckler turned away his head while he answered : “ For her who strikes the blow by which I fall, if I fall at all-for Magdalene-for the widow of Ishmael. You will see it done?”
“ I will."
“ Then let us to action. It is the hour--the night is dark enough. Too-whoo !”
THE PASSAGE OF THE RHINE.
The force assembled in the Soon-Wald consisted of upwards of fifty outlaws, and nearly a hundred and fifty apprentices; the latter suspected, in some cases, by the authorities, but all living unmolested in their usual homes, and following their usual professions. A small number of these had charge of the horses, and when the word was given, they separated in different directions. Among these were old Moritz and Kunz Weiner; who turned to the right-about with heavy hearts.
“ He is the flower of foresters,” cried the former, wiping his eyes“ the best and bravest fellow unhung!”
“ He had better have stayed at home,” said Kunz Weiner. 66 What is he afraid of? Death ? Pshaw!
if a man could not die on one bank of a river as well as another! Here he might have been visited in prison by the kindest friends in the world; and such a crowd of well-wishers would have flocked to his execution, as would have done his heart good to see it. For my own part, I am always for having a man remain where he is comfortable."
The whole of the main body began their march simultaneously through the midnight forest, without any further attempt at concealment. From the nature of the ground, it was impossible that they could be attacked before emerging into the open country; and, at any rate, the die was cast, and it was necessary to stand the hazard. They must cross the Rhine before daylight, with or without fighting; but even those among them who were the most inclined to anticipate evil, were by this time tolerably well satisfied that the coast was clear. They were continually met by their spies, returning, one after another, from the banks ; and all concurred in stating, that there was not so much as the bark of a dog heard along the river.
The scene of the march was wild and romantic in a high degree. Sometimes they dived into valleys so deep, that in that dark and mystic hour they might have imagined themselves to be descending into the bowels of the earth; sometimes their way lay along cliffs, which they could only scale by digging hands and feet into the interstices; sometimes they found themselves on the bald summit of a rock, with only the dark sky above their heads, and the black and formless trees below.
On one of these lofty eminences, they observed a change take place, for the first time, in the aspect of the night. The clouds, that had lain still and indefinite on the expanse of sky, heaped upon one another, so as almost wholly to neutralise the effects of the moon, began slowly to rend asunder, and roll in huge masses along the heavens. A breeze had evidently been born in upper air, although all was calm below. Buckler watched this phenomenon with intense interest; and when at length the planet-queen rose proudly from her prison, he uttered a cry of vexation and anxiety. Turning round, however, the next moment, to his men
“ There, my lads," cried he cheerily, “does not that reproach us for loitering? Come, since we have light to run by, let us use it in heaven's name.
I'll bet a bottle of Rhenish that I am first at the kochemer beye. Who takes ? ” and he set off at full speed, followed by the whole troop.
The quick tread of so many feet, startling the midnight echoes of the rock, produced a wild and singular effect; and if the cortège had been seen by any of the peasants, whose little solitary huts appeared sometimes stuck in a niche of the ravine, they must have thought they beheld one of those spectral chaces described in the ballads of their country. Schinderhannes himself took the character of the hunted animal, maintaining his ground gallantly far a-head of the troop, and bounding along with all the grace and freedom of a stag.
They were now within a short distance of the Rhine ; although this was not observed in the usual sloping of the ground which takes place near the banks of a large river. This noble stream, for a considerable distance above and below the spot, (not far from the old chateau of Soneck, so called from the Soon-Wald,) is hemmed in by rocks and precipitous hills that only stop at the water's edge. Although a view therefore was sometimes obtained of the river, disposed as if in a succession of lakes glittering in the moonlight, it was impossible to ascertain whether the banks were clear of enemies.
They at length arrived at the kochemer beye, which, in this instance, was the dwelling of a small proprietor ;