THE INVITATION – JOURNEY TO NICE – NICE TO GENOA – HÔTELDES QUATRE NATIONS – GENOA – THE DUOMO – A LONG DAY'SJOURNEY – ITALIAN RAILWAYS – BERGAMO – VENICE – SANMARCO – THE LIDO – NIGHT ON THE RAILWAY.
"'Tis well to walk with a cheerful heart,|
Wherever our fortunes fall;
With a friendly glance and an open hand,
And a gentle word for all."
DURING a long journey last summer on the Continent, many of my friends were firmly persuaded that I had, at last once, been taken prisoner by the Prussians; and, as some of my anxious relatives afterwards told me, their fears for my safety even induced them to apply to the Horse Guards, or the Foreign Secretary, for armed escorts, or Queen's Messengers, to be sent out in search of me. It was to set their minds at rest that, during four months absence, I wrote the following pages, originally in the form of letters.
When I said good-bye to my friends in London, in March, we only talked of the pleasurable excursion in store for me; and my mind was more fixed on my sister's approaching marriage at Nice, to which I had been summoned, than on any political crisis that might be impending on the Continent.
The last wedding in a family is a very absorbing event, as not only is there the future of the intended bride and bridegroom to talk over and speculate about, but memory also is busy with the recollections of the many former weddings, some of the first of which now reckon among the "long, long ago" days, and bring with them a numerous train of the absent and the dead. What with these thoughts for solitary moments, and the pleasant occupation of receiving letters of congratulation and presents for the bride, and afterwards saying farewell to my friends in England, I found myself crossing the Channel, and on my way to Nice, without having given a thought to Bismark! In fact, despite of him, the wedding at the little English church there went off brilliantly, and I spent a very pleasant fortnight, and found myself, with the friend who had joined me in that city, standing on the deck of the "Marco Polo," on a bright sunny morning in early April, steaming out of the harbour with only a vague idea that Venetia was discontented – that Prussia was grasping – and that Austria was sleeping in fancied security.
We had a lovely day's journey, coasting along the Corniche road till we got to Savona, from whence we struck across the bay to Genoa. The Corniche was looking, as it always does, beautiful and picturesque; but what will people say of it when the railroad, which seems going on very actively, and looks in many places near completion, is finished. Then we shall have only a confused idea of rushing in and out of tunnels, and short passing glimpses of the Mediterranean, and all the beauty of the road from Nice to Genoa, in its three days journey, will be over! What a pity, and what a heart of stone the engineer must have to design this cruel piece of practical travelling!
After we stood out from the shelter of the land, the cold north wind came cuttingly down from the mountains and every one on board was recalled from the recollections of the bright sun, and summer-like scent of the orange-gardens of Nice, back to our English wraps and furs. I noticed a poor servant next me perishing with cold in her light Italian shawl, and I heaped her up with cloaks and rugs, of which we had abundance.
Virtue in this case was not its whole sole reward, for, on entering the harbour of Genoa, the mistress, who was an English lady, came up and thanked me for my kindness to her maid, and if we had not fixed on any hotel, they strongly recommended the "Hôtel des Quatre Nations," to which they were going, and the landlord of which expected to meet them with his boat. We were very glad, and thankfully accepted her kind proposal that we should accompany them; but we were kept waiting an hour nearly, while one of the ship's officers went on shore to present our "bills of health," and obtain leave from the Quarantine for the passengers landing. This was granted in time, and then came the bustle of landing and passing the custom-house, in which our newly-made acquaintances were of great use, as they had lived some time near Genoa, and were used to the ways of the authorities.
The hotel to which they recommended us was extremely comfortable and reasonable, and the landlord quite charming, with an old-fashioned politeness and attention to his guests which made everything very pleasant. After the late table-d'hôte dinner, this kind old man came and suggested that, if we were not too tired, he should be allowed to accompany us through some of the principal streets, as, the next day being Sunday, all the silver and goldsmiths, and, in short, all the shops, would be closed.
So we went through the picturesque streets, alive with busy, thriving industry. They looked more striking by lamplight than when I had seen them at other times by day, especially the gold and silver street, in which all the shops appeared dazzlingly bright and glittering. We were glad of our little stroll in the evening with our kind guide, especially as he pointed out to us churches and galleries which we could afterwards visit by ourselves.
I am not going to tire my reader with a description of what we saw and did in Genoa – of course it is just the same as Murray and Bradshaw, and all the guide-books describe it. I have been there four times, and every time the city looks more superb and beautiful to my imagination, the lonely Vandycks in the Brignole Palace more fascinating, soft, and refined, the streets more picturesque and narrow, and the noise and bustle as astonishing as ever. The environs are beautiful – both the drives on the Corniche road, and those into the country behind the city; and the city itself seems so full of life, and so thriving, with its port crowded with ships from every part of the world.
It was very pretty on Sunday morning, looking down on the tall masts in a forest below us, each ship, in honour of the day, having hoisted its country's flag. If the ships "dressed" for the day, I am sure the women of Genoa did the same, for my Protestant prayers in the Duomo were much disturbed by the constant rustling of the silk dresses round me. Women came and knelt beside me, clothed in the very richest and stiffest of watered and brocaded silks, of the palest and most delicate colours, but with nothing on their heads except the soft white muslin veil, which they almost invariably retain. I regretted much to see on some dark Italian faces the present frightful little French bonnets, and felt sorry they could not appreciate better their graceful national head-dress.
Our good old landlord (who, in courtesy and attention, reminded me so strongly of dear old Mr. Wright of "the Fountain" at Canterbury, of well-known memory) tried most kindly to persuade us, though in vain, to stay another day, and take a drive down to his country-house on the Corniche road, where he offered us luncheon. He also placed his private carriage at our disposal, and offered us the additional inducement of as many flowers as we could carry; but as our time was limited, we had to decline most regretfully all these hospitable offers, and after paying our tiny bill, we prepared for our departure at three o'clock in the morning, our excellent host getting up see us off, a mark of attention which I appreciated more than anything.
From Genoa we went by Milan to Venice, a long day's journey, especially as express trains are things unknown; and it was only for a short distance, after leaving Milan, that the pace was at all accelerated. Indeed, we had a hard battle to be allowed (with our through tickets) to go by it, as they assured us that our train would not start till next morning. However, we had made up our minds to get to Venice that night, and so, with our tickets in hand, we seated ourselves, in spite of all remonstrances, in the train that was starting for Peschiera. By-and-by a very civil official came up, and on showing our tickets to him, we were allowed to proceed, after paying a trifle more. But the Italian railways are queerly managed, and the porters are so scrupulous about not infringing the by-laws of the company, that they put themselves out of the way of temptation by steadily and firmly declining to carry any small articles that the passengers can carry for themselves, and for the conveyance of which one would willingly offer a slight remuneration.
They are also extremely particular in not allowing in a first-class carriage any parcel, basket, or box beyond a certain height, depth, and breadth! The least attempt at argument on the part of the unfortunate traveller produces an abominable little measure, with which the dimensions of the article in dispute are determined.
We had the mortification at Genoa of seeing consigned to the guard's van the basket on which all our hopes of creature comforts for the long day's journey depended. We had carefully packed books, wraps, food, and drink in it, and, notwithstanding our earnest entreaties, it was ruthlessly torn from us. We were allowed to unpack some things of vital importance, but all our nice little comfortable arrangements for the day were destroyed. However, the scenery was very lovely, and as by good luck we had the carriage to ourselves, we were enabled to enjoy the views on different sides as the landscape opened out.
My last journey was through France, and the change from the frightful flat country, which most of the railway there passes through, to the beautiful varied scene on the road from Genoa to Milan, was most refreshing. After Milan the railway runs closer to the hills, and the country is very pretty. We passed by numberless picturesque villages and some fine towns. Amongst the latter Bergamo seemed to us most striking, standing on a commanding hill, with its old churches and domes, and strong-looking fortifications and towers. A river runs near the city, and in the distance is the beautiful broken chain of mountains round Como. We agreed that at some future time we must return and take up our quarters at Bergamo, and we promised ourselves many a long day's sketching in the tempting-looking environs.
Near Bergamo, at a little town station where we stopped, we noticed, facing the railway, a small old-fashioned tower on which was one of those quaint antique clocks that only mark to six. One often reads of them, but, as I think, happily, very rarely sees them now, for it appears to me that four sixes in the twenty-four must perplex one considerably. We reached Peschiera late in the afternoon. Just after leaving the custom-house, it struck us we had fallen on troublous times, as an incoming train of Austrian soldiers, coming from Italy, greeted our train with a mix- ture of groans and exclamations! – very like those heard from opposition carriages passing each other at an election.
A fortnight or three weeks after this, the bridge we had just passed over at Brescia was partly destroyed, and only rail enough left for the transit of troops.
It was dark when we got to Venice, where we had to go through a sort of custom-house formula again, the marking of our boxes with a piece of chalk, which was done by a tall man (out of uniform for a miracle), who wished us good night with a truly Austrian bow.
Our hotel was dismally grand, but very comfortable, all except the sheets, which were as wet as if they had come out of the canal. It was in vain to expostulate with the chambermaid, who assured us it was their nature in Venice – that all sheets were so there. As we were much too tired and sleepy to argue, we went to bed, taking it for granted at Venice we must do as the Vene- tians do; but sleep was just stealing pleasantly on, when we awoke to the fact that we were in a perfect vapour bath, from the intense damp. The sheets were, therefore, speedily consigned to the floor, and we did very well in shawls and blankets.
I was horribly disappointed in Venice with everything but the Doge's Palace. That is very fascinating, with its splendid rooms and paintings, its finished architecture, its rich adornments, and its dark, gloomy cells, about which the guides narrate such thrilling legends by the light of one very dim, strong-smelling tallow candle, which, by-the-way, sadly spoils the effect!
San Marco is much too oriental to please me for a church, giving one rather the idea of a mosque. I suppose one ought to feel a respect for Venice, when one thinks of her glorious days of old, and sees the remains of her power in the splendid prizes she bore away from the East in her palmy times – but it also makes the contrast suggested by her present state still more depressing. It struck me at Venice, the same as it did in Rome, years ago, that the scenes and events of the present day can be but a mockery of the pomp and splendour of the magnificent olden time. Rome always looks as if it had been formerly peopled by giants – men vast in mind to design such structures, and vast in body to occupy them – and we English, French, and Italians, who swarm over the ruins, appear like pigmies who have found out something marvellous to gaze and wonder at.
Venice produces much the same impression, only that, instead of giants, the ancient city must have been peopled with princes – of whom everything we see now seems the ruined splendour. The palaces still exhibit their original outside grandeur, but one looks in vain for the internal magnificence that ought to distinguish such gorgeous edifices. Some are hotels, some museums, and others stand empty; but desolation and squalid beggary seem to reign paramount. Even the gondolas one may suppose, by the exercise of a little imagination, to be the workhouse coffins of the gondoliers of former days, gliding about in jetty blackness. What a contrast, too, is presented by the shabby, starved-looking boatmen of the present day to the picture of their predecessors which memory conjures up from recitals of the olden days!
Venice can never, surely, be anything great and glorious again, but I wondered which government the people, a few years hence, would honestly prefer, if given their choice – that of the Kaiser, of Victor Emmanuel, or the glorious Republican days of yore? They ought to feel grateful to the Kaiser, but they certainly do not, for everywhere in Venice we met with discontent and murmuring. They little thought then what a change the summer would bring them, and I only hope they will derive all the benefit from it they seem to expect, though the fact that they received their freedom from the hands of the French must surely destroy all the bright gilding of the bitter pill, as it was the French who pillaged and ruined the city, and humbled the pride of the Queen of the Adriatic to the mud (one cannot say dust in Venice, where all is dampness and swamp).
Now the Austrians have everywhere respected the relics of Venetian greatness and the national memories of the people. Even when we were there in April, artisans and mechanics were busy in many public places regilding, restoring, and redecorating, under the orders of the committee for that purpose, appointed by the Emperor of Austria; and certainly the infusion of active German life amongst the sleepy Italians has given a stimulus to hotels and shops.
The dislike to Austria was insultingly manifested by the inhabitants, but borne by the hated Tedeschi with the patient pity they could afford to bestow. We were taking chocolate at the "Europa," on the Piazza of St. Mark, where a respectable number of idle-looking Venetians were lounging about, listening to the music of one of the native strolling bands. As the clocks struck the hour of three, and the Austrian band, in its white uniform, marched into the piazza, one would have thought that three o'clock was the Venetian curfew hour, so swiftly and instantaneously did all the gay spectators and listeners vanish from the scene, leaving only a few amused Austrian officers. There is only one consolation for the Austrians in being so hated, which is, that the Venetians have long detested their next-door neighbours ten times worse, and the Milanese will now probably become again the objects of their capricious spite.
We went to see the Lido one afternoon. A strong north-east wind was blowing furiously, and we were nearly shipwrecked on some of the mud-banks along the Lagune. Fancy what a ludicrous termination to our trip – wrecked in a gondola on a canal in Venice! After much labour and hard pulling, we arrived at the Lido, where the gondoliers assured us it was the right thing for us to land, and walk across to see the famous bathing-place on the sea side of the Lido, whilst they also landed, and drank our health at the little inn opposite the small pier. We were glad of the walk after our icy row and stormy encounter with the gale, and leaving the men to enjoy their sour wine, we started.
An Austrian officer passed and repassed us several times, kindly making his horse curvet and rear, to relieve the monotony of the scene; and when we arrived on the shore of the seaboard, a savage-looking man put his head out of a window to scowl at us; but this was all there was to see – nothing living besides. Spreading for miles was a dreary waste of sand, without a human being, and beyond that the blue stretch of sea, without a sail to break the monotony of the line; but it must be worth the row in fine weather, as the sea looked deliciously clean and fresh for bathing, which certainly could not be said of any water nearer the city of Venice.
We had a better row back, as the wind was more in our favour; but gondolas are heavy, lumbering things, and, of course, quite unfit for a rough day and high wind. But worse than the gondolas are the canals. I wonder what the Sanitary Commissioners would do in Venice? – I mean a good strict English Commission. They would first be at their wits' end, and then set to work to have all the small canals hermetically sealed, arched, and macadamized. Would those disgusting big rats and loathsome little crabs still crawl about, enjoying life in the dark underground receptacles of horrors that the romantic canals would then be? If Byron, and Dante, and Rogers had not imagined so much beauty about Venice, no doubt she would long ago have become a respectable, healthy city. We found the smells and sights unbearable in April, with a freezing north wind blowing – what must Venice be in the dog-days?
We left at 9.15, by the night train, and had no trouble with the very polite custom-house officials, who merely opened my dressing-case, the silver fit- tings of which they very much admired. I suppose it appeared to them the most unlikely thing that we could smuggle contraband articles in. We also had a most civil guard (Austrian of course), who locked us into a carriage, where we were not disturbed all night, save when an occasional train of merry, excited troops passed, or when we stopped at the frequent stations, and knew we might settle ourselves again for a nap, when the "forward" of the guard (instead of a shrill whistle) started us on our way.
NABRESINA – HURRICANES – SPRING ASPECT OF ENGLAND, FRANCE, AND ITALY – STEINBRUCK – GRATZ – THE SOMMERING PASS – TRIUMPH OF ENGINEERING SKILL – VIENNA – ST. STEPHEN'S CATHEDRAL – VIENNA TO PRESSBURG.
God of the earth's extended plains!|
The dark green fields contented lie;
The mountains rise like holy towers,
Where man may commune with the sky.
The tall cliff challenges the storm
That lowers upon the vale below,
Where shaded fountains send their streams,
With joyous music in their flow.
MY first really successful effort at shaking off sleep, and thoroughly opening my eyes, made me aware that we were slowly and laboriously toiling up a steep incline, with rough, rugged rocks of honeycombed-looking lava on each hand; and, occasionally, as we rounded the side of a hill, we could see the waters of the Adriatic far below us on the right. There are hills about Padua which have been supposed to be volcanic; and this part of Venetia looked very like the refuse remains of an extinct volcano.
About 6 A.M. we reached Nabresina, where we had to wait an hour for the train from Trieste, which time we passed very pleasantly in breakfasting. We should have been glad of the further luxury of a good wash, but this being an unheard-of thing, we had to go without it. Again to-day we met with much civility. For the greatest part of the journey we had the carriage quite to ourselves – a real comfort, especially where the scenery is very beautiful on both sides, as one can change places as often as one likes.
For some time after leaving Nabresina, the country is very wild and monotonous, reminding me forcibly of the uncultivated parts of Malta – nothing for miles but plains of desolate-looking masses of rocks and stones, without an atom of vegetation. I also noticed in several places large abysses, as if the earth underneath had given way; very like the famous pit at Malta, the Makluba, which no one is permitted to call volcanic, but which looks to an unenlightened mind very like it. Here, in Carniola, it looked exactly as if the pure earth had had a good boiling, and after bubbling and simmering for at least a thousand years, had sunk far down, leaving all the scum of rocks and stones in confusion on the surface. To add to the desolation, in many places very high barriers, with strong supports, were erected on the right bank of the railway, as if troops of elephants were in the habit of trespassing on the line, but in reality to prevent the furious winds that rage in these dreary wilds from upsetting the trains. These winds must be something fearful, as even on the tops of cuttings we see the same lofty strong fences. It made one shiver to look across the arid country, and think of the wretched horses and waggons that, with their drivers, are often whirled over the rugged rocks, when caught in these hurricanes. No wonder that even the smallest leaf is not seen in these parts. By-and-by a little vegetation appeared, in the shape of stunted black thorns, looking withered and wind-torn. This desolate scene, however, was only the preparation for a view so beautiful, that the contrast was all the more welcome.
Once past the Julian Alps, the country soon changed; and after the thorn bushes had given us hope of brighter tints to come, we passed several fertile plains, already sprinkled with the purple blossoms of the anemone sylvestris.
We grumble at the slowness of the trains abroad, but where the country is very lovely, the rate of ten miles an hour is not such a hardship. With my love of wild flowers I felt quite glad that our express (which, by-the-bye, runs only twice a week between Trieste and Vienna) enabled me to see and recognise many favourites which are rare in England; but I am not going to trouble my reader with a descriptive list, only while I am on the subject of flowers, I must say that it strikes me as an excellent plan to leave England in the spring – dear old England has such a bilious colouring in its spring garments! The trees have mostly a yellow tinge of green; the corn-fields are often yellow when the farmers shake their heads over them in March; and the meadows are celebrated in prose and verse as yellow with golden buttercups. The spring flowers, too, the aconite, crocus, primrose, jonquil, daffodil, laburnum, cowslip, are all yellow and bilious-looking.
To avoid this jaundice look, come abroad, and pass through France (the south, I mean) in March, and you will see a soft pink blush warming all the landscape, which glows with the delicate blossoms of the almond, peach, and nectarine trees, while scarlet anemones or pink corn flags mix with the bright little pheasant's eye, and make the fields look like a Turkey carpet.
In Italy it is the same, only in it you have the soft tender green of budding vines, fig trees, and pomegranate; and here in Austria, the glorious Carinthian mountains are veined with masses of the intense azure of the cynoglossum, while the plains below are rich in mantles of the Imperial blue of the exquisite gentians.
All that day's journey, from eleven A.M. till night set in, was the most lovely of my life – it was like sitting in an arm-chair and having a splendid panorama passed before my delighted sight. At one time we were going along the ledge of a mountain clothed with lofty pines, which threw a softened gloomy shade over the passing train; then from the forest we would emerge into the brilliant sunlight, and imagine that we should go for miles along the range of hills which we saw stretching into the distance, still keeping the fertile valley far below, with its snug villages, green meadows, and silvery streams; but in another ten minutes, we came to a sharp curve, and were passing on a gigantic viaduct over our "happy valley," looking our last on this fair scene, only to go through a cutting or tunnel on the opposite hill-side, and again emerge on another vista of broad valleys, steep precipices, and picturesque towns. Beyond all this was the beautiful frame to our ever-changing picture, the Carinthian chain of mountains, most of the way standing towering on the left. Of course in such a rocky country the tunnels were frequent, but they were a relief to eyes almost dazzled with so much variety.
Some distance before we reached Steinbrück, the railway proceeds along a narrow mountain pass, with the river Save running many feet below. All the country it traverses, till it joins the Danube, is said to be very beautiful, and is well worth a visit.
At Steinbrück, where the railway takes a turn due north, we stopped an hour to dine. The scenery is still very interesting, but quite different from that of the early part of the day. The valley is much narrower, and, consequently, we have no distant view.
At Marburg, the Drave, another tributary of the Danube, is crossed; and there are plenty of small mountain streams, as well as the river Mur, which runs by the railway for some distance. It is marvellous how, owing to the rocky nature of the country in Styria, the line has to wind. You see nothing but a mountain wall before you, and contemplate the prospect of a long tunnel; but the engineer has discovered some winding narrow valley, along which you glide until you come again to similar impassable-looking walls, where another mysterious outlet through narrow mountain gorges is found.
At Grätz, all the beauty and fashion of that old town seemed to have met at the railway station. Ladies with immense bouquets, and in very smart Parisian-looking toilettes, with officers in the full uniform of different regiments, crowded the platform.
After waiting some time, two of the brothers of the Emperor emerged from the waiting-room, and entered into conversation with those around them. One elderly officer, in a very splendid uniform, decorated with many orders, seemed much moved at the leave-taking, and kissed the hand of Archduke Albrecht with great fervour. All this time livery servants were hurry- ing luggage into the van; and when all was arranged, the Archduchess Albrecht, a tall, handsome woman, with a sweet, kind face, came out, and bowed very smilingly, right and left, as, leading her little child by the hand, she passed up the platform to her carriage. Poor thing! she must have had many a moment of anxiety afterwards, when her husband was with the army in Venetia.
When all was settled, we started again, and luckily it was still in broad daylight when we ascended the crowning glory of the day's journey – the beautiful Sömmering pass, the highest of the mountain passes in Styria. The ascent from the Styrian side is so gradual that you are not aware of the great height you have attained, thanks to the puffing, panting engine, which, near the summit, plunges into a tunnel nearly a mile long, and then rests in the chilly air of the high ground on the other side, evidently to take breath and look round. The railway-station at Sömmering is 4,000 feet above the level of the sea, the highest perch that splendid bird of passage – the railway – has yet attained.
While we waited here, the children who inhabit the few cottages in this high spot brought a profusion of most lovely bouquets of wild flowers to the passengers, arranged with much taste. They offered them on the ends of long sticks held up at the windows of the carriages, and were very glad of some small pieces of money in return.
When we set off again, it was to glide with great rapidity for some time down the most beautiful and wonderful piece of engineering that mortal brain ever planned. You go for some distance along the ledge of a splendid mountain, with such a maze of tangled beauty extended before you fathoms below. Through the mists that are shading the valley deep down the abyss you see some ruins, and a narrow shining white line. Some half hour later you find yourself, after innumerable turns and twists, passing under those ruins, the remains of a good-sized château, the white thread near which now appears as a fine broad mountain stream.
It seems as if unlimited boldness of design and amplitude of funds must have been required to execute such a line of railway. You go along a ledge of rock for some distance, and when you come to another gorge (which, if followed, would carry you too far out of your route, and in an opposite direction to that in which you wish to go), the rail is flung over the fearful chasm, on a marvel of a viaduct, of which, in a few minutes, you have an excellent view, as you are now on another ledge. One holds his breath as he gazes over the precipice into the abyss below, and then looks up to the rows of arches over which he has just passed. In some places the rocks have been blasted to allow for the winding road, and in other critical spots solid arches of masonry are built into the fissures of the rocks to supply the foundation. It is a scene so wonderful and so beautiful, that I cannot attempt to describe it. The sensations which I experienced when, safely arrived in the plain, I looked up at the stupendous mountain road I had glided down, the steep inclines and sharp curves of which the train had successfully followed, are equally beyond the power of my pen.
Luckily when we got to the plain twilight was coming on, and as the country is very ugly, we lost nothing, while the quiet of evening enabled us, while we rested, to recall all the beauties which we had passed during the course of the long day. It seems strange that, between two such cities as Vienna and Trieste, there should be only a single line of rail all the way, and but two express trains a week. In times of emergency – as, for instance, lately in war time – the inconvenience must be much felt when the trains are occupied by troops for days together; and even then they can take only a limited number, to allow of the return empty trains being shunted. The sidings seem an enormous length at most of the stations, as I noticed heavy timber trains of very great length, with two and three engines, waiting at some of the mountain stations, on their way to Trieste, for the express to pass.
Except the departure of the Archdukes from Grätz, and some troops exercising at another town, we did not notice any warlike preparations all along our road through Austria.
We reached Vienna at ten, thoroughly tired and weary with our twenty-four hours' journey from Venice. While waiting on the platform for the luggage, one of the officials approached, cap in hand, and asked – "Had he the honour of addressing the Princess of —, as carriages were waiting for her highness?" Of course I had to disclaim the honour, and, instead of the luxurious carriage, had to content myself with the drosky, which was now ready, and the quiet little horses of which soon trotted us to the hotel, where we were most thankful to get a good supper and comfortable rooms.
When I looked in the glass, instead of a "princess," I was almost startled at seeing an exact representation of a "turnip bogie!" – the same perfectly colourless round disk for the face, and two black cavities for eyes. This transformation in my appearance only hurried me to bed the quicker, and all the fatigues of the day were soon forgotten in sound refreshing sleep.
The friend with whom we were going to stay at Pressburg came next morning to meet us, and advised us to go there by the Danube steamer. We fully intended seeing Vienna thoroughly when we left Pressburg – now we were much too tired of sight-seeing to think of it. After breakfast, we paid a visit to the excellent bath not far from the hotel, and close to the Danube. I was rather disappointed that the swimming bath was not yet open, as I had heard that was extremely amusing. The warm baths, however, are very comfortable and clean, and thoroughly English in all their appointments.
After a good wash, we left this establishment, crossed the bridge, and found our way to early prayers at St. Stephen's cathedral, in which we were thankful to join, safe at our long journey's end.
Centuries ago, when people went from London to York, prayers for their safe journey were offered up previously; but now we have grown such Pagans, that we go rushing all over sea and land without stopping to feel grateful for safety of life and limbs. The same good Providence rules us still, and the risks, though of a different sort, are surely no less now, if not greater, than in those times when bad roads, infested by highwaymen, were the torment of travelling. In former days such calamities as the destruction of trains full of happy excursionists, suddenly hurried into eternity, were unheard of.
The cathedral is so covered with scaffolding, both inside and out, that one has not much idea of what it will be some years hence, when the repairs are finished. The shops of leather-work in Vienna are most tempting in everything but price – at least, when I was there in April everything was very dear; but I was told that, just before the war, they were almost giving the things away.
We left Vienna at four by the Danube steamer – a very good boat, though not one of the finest, which only took us as far as Pesth. The scenery between Vienna and Pressburg, though not striking, is varied occasionally by very picturesque hills, covered with vineyards. At two small towns, where the streamer stops for passengers, there are the pretty ruins of an old castle. The left bank is very flat and ugly, till you reach Theben, where the March joins the Danube. Here there is a very fine, grand rock, on which was a large, imposing-looking castle, which the French knocked to pieces in 1810. Now there are only a few small watch-towers, and the remains of extensive walls and fortresses to show what the "Gate of the Danube" must once have been.
"MOTESITZKYSCHES HAUS" – PRESSBURG – ASCENT OF "THE MOUNTAINS" – TEA-GARDEN – HUNGARIAN COSTUME – NEW AND OLD MEADOWS – FOREIGN IMPRESSIONS OF ENGLAND – GREEN TREES HOTEL – CZIGANY BAND – VISIT TO A NOBLEMAN'S CASTLE – HUNGARIAN VILLAGE.
"A simultaneous burst of leaves|
Has clothed the forest now;
A single week's bright sunshine weaves
This vivid glad spring show."
VERY soon after leaving Theben, the castle above Pressburg is seen over the wooded banks of the river. Shortly after the bridge of boats came in sight, and we landed at the quay at seven o'clock, it being only three hours with the current down from Vienna. The house my friends were living in rejoiced in the euphonious name of "Motesitzkysches Haus," and it used to provoke me to hear the glib way in which the shop-keepers would run the name off when desired to send home parcels.
"Oh! yes, to 'Motesitzkysches Haus,'" just as if it had been Smith's or Jones'! Fancy the name in London, announced at a fashionable ball!
The city of Pressburg is rather pretty. A great part of it is built on the hill on which the castle stands, and the principal street, which is irregular and picturesque – with a curious old gateway half-way up – runs over a hill, at the top of which is situated the railway-station. The castle looks very well from the other bank of the Danube, from which the prettiest view of the town is also obtained; but on a closer inspection you find that the walls is all that is left of the castle, which was accidentally burnt in 1811.
The hill to which every newly-crowned King of Hungary repairs, on which he menacingly waves his sword to north, south, east, and west, defying the enemies of his country, and which Bradshaw tells us is outside the town, is nothing but a small mound with ornamental stonework balustrades, close to the landing-place and the bridge of boats. The country round is very flat and ugly, and, the soil being light, perpetually dusty in spring.
We had been invited several times to accompany friends, a charming excursion on foot, to see "the mountains;" and one day we determined to accept this offer, and see these famous hills, which we had looked for in vain. The ascent up the town is steep enough, and only the active little Hungarian horses could trot up it as nimbly as they do! We surmounted it slowly, husbanding our strength for the ascent of "the mountains;" but we walked on for some distance without much exertion in the way of climbing. On each side were vineyards, from whose grapes the pleasant Hungarian wines are made. They were all enclosed by stone walls. Of view there was little or none.
However, we came at last to a summer-house on a high bank, and were told to mount some steps to the top; when certainly it was wonderful, after creeping on between those walls and rows of fruit-trees, to see what a height we had gained, and what an extensive view we commanded! We looked over miles and miles of cultivated plains, green with the up-springing young corn, amid which the broad white lines of the Danube and its branches wound for a great distance, till they were lost to view beyond the limits of our horizon.
The scene was extremely flat and unvaried. There was every sign of industry in the fields, which wore the glad garb of spring, the thick masses of healthy young corn promising to repay the toil of the laborious peasantry. The fruit trees, too, were full of buds, and promised an abundant harvest.
Ah! little we thought, as we looked down on the pleasing scene, that those trees would never blossom into summer beauty, and that in only a few short weeks the promise of ripe grain would be marred by the last struggle of that "unholy war in which German fought against German." From the fair bosom of that then smiling Mother Earth might now arise a host of witnesses "before the judgment seat of History, and of the Eternal Almighty God, to bring those who caused the war to account for all the misery entailed on individuals, families, provinces, and countries!"
However, that is a question for the future to settle.
When I stood there, the earth, reposing in thankful peace, was bathed in the glad light of Heaven. Fields torn up and destroyed, trees broken and burnt, are all that remains to tell how the fair promise of that April day has been blighted, and a massive marble monument is the only token left to tell future years that the summer sun of the 22nd of July looked down on the field of Ganzenberg Blumenau, when the harvest gathered in was that of the dead bodies of the brave defenders of their native soil, and the rain that moistened the earth was the blood poured forth, in that unjust and wicked war, not for spoil and plunder – "not for a despot's name" – but for the rights of King and country, home and Fatherland!
After we had rested sufficiently, we descended, and went to a little tea-garden on the side of "the mountains," where some travelling musicians were playing alternately the everlasting "Csárdás," and an air from the opera of "Schöne Helene," which the Germans seem to appreciate greatly, for they have never tired of it this summer. Here we drank milk and coffee – some of the party even descended to the vulgarity of beer – and then wended our way back to the house with the unpronounceable name.
The thing that strikes a foreigner most forcibly in Pressburg is the prevalence of the Hungarian costume, which all the men, high and low, delight in wearing. Tight high waistcoats, very tight fitting coats, and knee breeches, all most profusely braided, with high Hessian boots, compose this dress, which is always made of dark cloth. Some of the peasants' dresses were much more picturesque, especially on Sundays or fête days, when the people from the country came in.
As the wind some days was blowing very keenly, the winter sheep-skin coat had not been laid aside by all. It must be a very comfortable garment, and really I used to envy some of the women, they looked so warm in it. It is also extremely picturesque. The reader must not fancy an Icelandic looking coat of rough skins, without shape or trimming. The description of one of these garments which I saw, will show that a great deal of taste is exhibited in their preparation. The sheepskin was very white and soft-looking, and the jacket made from it was of rather a close-fitting shape. It was lined with scarlet, and the lappets in front and behind were fastened back with very thick braid, to show the bright colour of the lining. The same coarse braid ornamented the sleeves and throat. I felt a great wish to buy the coat from the fair wearer, but it occurred to me in time that I might get more than I bargained for, in the persons of certain round flat insects, whose appearance does not strike the Hungarians with the intense disgust that we affect when we unfortunately come into contact with them.
Our favourite walk, after our early dinner, was over the bridge of boats to the public gardens on the other bank of the Danube. They are in the same style as Kensington Gardens in London, only much more extensive and with more underwood. On the outskirts they extend into wild woods and fields of considerable size. The cultivated part is called the New, and the rough the Old Meadows or Woods. In the Old Meadow-wood the wild flowers are most luxuriant, and the thickets are full of lilies of the valley, the white asphodel, a large variety of which is very pretty, and the deceitful blossoms of the wild garlic, which look so pure, white, and innocent, till you attempt to pick them, when the disagreeable garlic smell betrays their real nature. There is also a very graceful shrub, a sort of wild bird cherry, frequent here, and several other flowering shrubs, with white blossoms. It was curious, indeed, that all the spring flowers were white. A month earlier the ground must have looked like snow with the wild wood anemones.
The New Meadow-wood, which was kept very neat and trim, with broad walks and terraces bordered with flower-beds, as I said before, reminded me much of Kensington Gardens; but the nightingales sing in these Hungarian trees in a way that no nightingale has sung in London in the memory of the oldest inhabitant. All day long and late into the evening we used to hear them in hundreds answering each other from the depths of the glades of thorn and underwood.
Most of the population of Pressburg turn out in the fine evenings to wander in these beautiful woods; rich and poor, counts and tradespeople, officers and soldiers, all seeming to enjoy their rambles here.
It is wonderful to any one accustomed to our bleak springs, with their disappointing May days and chilly June evenings, how marvellously fast the spring in Hungary comes on. When once the cold winds in April were over, there seemed a lull in nature for a few days, and then the sun exerted its power to some purpose, as you could almost hourly see the fresh green leaves and bright flowers expanding. The song of the spring birds, too, seemed to fill the air in the glad sunshine. Late in April the days were so warm that we used to take our work and sit out in the meadow wood, as in July in England.
One very soft warm evening, a large party of us, English and Hungarians, had been tempted to remain out very late, listening to the nightingales, and finishing by drinking coffee at the pavilion near the race-course. On returning by the long bridge of boats over the Danube, the scene appeared so beautiful, that we stopped to look at the glorious full moon shining on the river.
"Ah!" said a Hungarian lady, looking pityingly at me, "in England, I suppose, you never see a moon like that?"
All her companions, who were apparently of the same opinion, united in a murmur of sympathy. In vain I assured them that we had a moon in England, and that during the harvest season it was so bright that it was almost warm in the moonlight! They listened politely, but I saw they did not believe a word of what I said.
It is marvellous how fully all foreigners are impressed with the firm conviction that we unhappy English live in a land of almost total darkness. Once or twice in the height of summer they suppose we may see a pale, cold sun; but for months together they are convinced that we are in a state of gloomy darkness, from the eternal fogs that always overhang this dreary island.
I have explained (with strong efforts at keeping my temper) that we have lovely bright weather in England, and that in Kent especially it is very sunny all the year. On the authority of Sir John Herschell, I could assure them that one spot in Kent had an unusual quantity of sunshine to bless it, even in winter. In our home garden the camellias and myrtles, I knew, lived all the year round out of doors, without any protection. The gardens of the Archdeacon of Canterbury, near Hythe, I told them, were like a dream of fairy-land in June, with their glowing masses of camellias, azaleas, and other tender shrubs which had lived out all winter. They might believe the facts I had stated, but they put on them their own interpretation. We might possess all these floral beauties, but it was necessary, even in June, if we wished to see them, to grope our way with lanterns through a thick impervious fog!
I always have an unpleasant idea, when they talk to me of our climate, that they feel as I should do if I were conversing with one of those creatures who people one of the planets described by some astronomers as being enveloped in such a dense mist all the year round, that nothing flourishes on it but mildew and green mould. One thing I have always noticed, that foreigners almost invariably come to England in November, a month in which they may not find that great centre of attraction – London – very bright.
The spring is certainly very trying in England; and it is seldom that in May we can sit out of doors and enjoy it as we did at Pressburg. The costume of the villagers, too, in May, would have been rather light for England; but it was charming here, and so picturesque – a snowy white shirt, with bright scarlet braces, and very broad belt of the same colour round waist; a dark coat, with heavy silver buttons hung over one shoulder; short olive green or brown breeches, with Hessian boots; and a round Spanish Matador-looking hat, with a bunch of long floating ribbons, and a plume – generally a tuft of heron's feathers, but occasionally the feather of a peacock's tail, which they wore almost straight up its full height.
We dined every day at the "Green Tree Hotel," the cookery of which was excellent – the best, I think, that I ever met with in Germany. We had an excellent soup sometimes – clear gravy, with plovers' eggs in it. The fish, too, was very good, sturgeon, salmon, and other large fish that we did not know the names of. I must not forget the tea either, which was delicious – "Caravan tea," enormously dear, but so delicate in flavour! Caviare, and other Russian delicacies, were very cheap.
As we used generally to dine a little later than most of the Pressburg people, we had the room almost to ourselves; but one day Herr Paluquay, the civil landlord, told us that a band of gipsies, or "Cziganies," as they are called, were coming to play in the dining saloon, and we therefore agreed to go to supper at nine.
When we entered at that hour, the room was crowded with Austrian officers! We retreated hurriedly, not liking to be the only ladies; but Herr Paluquay came to our rescue, and assured us that there were several of the wives of the officers present. We therefore re-entered, and when our eyes became accustomed to the smoke, we found it was so.
The long table next to ours consisted of thirty-two officers of one regiment; the colonel and his wife sitting at the head – the lady fully occupied eating her dinner – never speaking to any of the officers, but, as they dropped into their places, raising her eyes from picking her chicken-bones (in her fingers, by-the-by), and just returning their salute. They came in one after another, and each chose his dinner from the bill of fare, according to fancy. There were numbers of officers of other regiments in the room, but they all seemed to keep to their respective tables.
In the middle of the evening, the Prince of Tour and Taxis came in, when all the officers rose from their seats, and remained standing till he was seated. He is a tall, grim-looking man, and still wears a shade over one eye, the sight of which was destroyed by a sword-cut in the revolution in Hungary in 1849.
The Czigany band consisted of about seven men, dressed in dark Hungarian costume, and looking very like third-rate strolling musicians at some English watering place, only fiercer and dirtier. Their music was mostly national. They gave with great enthusiasm the "Rakotski March," which of course all Hungarians delight in, as it was so long forbidden, being named in honour of the revolutionary leader Rakotski. This enemy of oppression took up arms against the Austrian Government at the end of the seventeenth century, at the instigation of Louis XIV. of France, who, possessing the wisdom of the serpent, left him eventually to his fate. The Hungarian music has a harsh, jerking, wailing sound. My Hungarian-English friends will be surprised when I say it reminds me of Scotch national music.
We drove a long way into the country one day, to see a really national Hungarian nobleman's castle and a village, some distance out of Pressburg. The road to it was singularly uninteresting, deep in sandy dust, and passing through flat plains of light soil, thickly sown with upspringing corn. A few stunted pollard trees on each side formed the only shelter against the burning sun which poured down its rays that day.
The house we came to see was of rather a fantastic style of architecture, but extremely comfortable inside, furnished just like an English residence. The walls were hung with many of Landseer and Andsdell's engravings, and in the boudoir was a portrait of poor Lady Clementina Villers.
The drawing-room tables were covered with pretty knick-knacks and nicely-bound books. The grounds, varied and extensive, con- sisted of pleasure-grounds, gardens, a small, nicely-planted wood, and a sheet of water, with the proper accompaniment of a bridge and waterfall. The flower-beds were nicely kept, but the lawns were composed of the usual foreign substitute for turf, viz., rank coarse grass.
We were attended and shown over the house and grounds by two of the servants of the owner, dressed in their usual gorgeous hussar livery, with enormous silver spurs, which they clanked and jingled dexterously at every step. When we stopped to look at pictures, or turn over the books, they also stopped, and drew themselves up with soldier-like precision, never moving an inch from the attitude they first assumed, though we must have tried their patience extremely.
We went to the top of one of the towers, but the look-out over the flat, uninteresting plains of that part of Hungary was frightful. The small village church was nearly opposite the house, and a bird's-eye view we had of the village was very curious, the houses all standing in regular rows which diverged from the centre like rays. This village, Baron C— assured us, was the exact type of every one that you see in Hungary; very clean, but frightfully ugly. The streets are wide, and perfectly even, but all the houses facing into their own particular gardens, each street is composed of side-gables, without a window. A dazzling coat of white-wash spread over cottages and walls gives one an unpleasant idea that the place has been under strict supervision in consequence of the visit of some unwelcome fever, or other contagious disorder. Altogether, the villages in Hungary are indescribably dull and dreary. There is nothing picturesque in them – no cottage-windows full of flowers – no doors open, with children playing about, or neighbours chatting, nothing but the ugly white gables giving one a chilly impression of the cold shoulder.
When we stopped at the only inn in the place, I mistook for the public fountain or well, what turned out to be the public slaughtering-place, opposite the windows of the only house which faced the street. We stopped at the inn, as we heard the sounds of the Csárdás, which I wished very much to see danced. Baron C— went in to find out if we could see it, but came back assuring us that the room, which was very crowded, was so full of overpowering tobacco smoke, that he advised us not to attempt it. Feeling sure he was the best judge of an Hungarian atmosphere, we reluctantly consented to give up the pleasure we had anticipated.
I drove away from this village with a just appreciation, at last, of a tale which used to thrill me with horror as a child, and gave me a bad impression of the Hungarians. It was the story of a young man, who, pursued by a pack of starving wolves, rode through a village of Hungary without a window or door opening to save him, and whose horse's bit and stirrups alone were found next morning. But, of course, if all the windows looked away from the streets, and there were only blank walls to be appealed to, the cry for help might very naturally have been made in vain.
THEBEN – THE MARCHFELD – BEAUTIFUL SPECIMENS OF JEWELRY– GANSERNDORF – BRUNN – MORAVIAN SAUSAGES – PRAGUE– THE "GOLDEN ANGEL" – HUSSARS – THE "WIT" OF THE REGIMENT – HORSES FOR MILITARY SERVICE.
"Now, in travelling, we multiply events, and innocently. We set out, as it were, on our adventures, and many are those that occur to us, morning, noon, and night. Our prejudices leave us, one by one. Our benevolence extends itself with our knowledge."
ANOTHER day we took our luncheon and started rather early by one of the river steamers to sketch the rock and ruins at Theben. It was early in my stay at Pressburg, whilst the cold winds were still blowing, and we found them most cuttingly keen. As the east wind was blowing strong up the river, we crept into the lee of some bushes to do our sketch of the beautiful rugged rock, which stands at the confluence of the March and the Danube. We little thought, then, that only a few weeks later the Marchfeld would become a never-to-be-forgotten name in Austria's history. The last-fought battle of the victorious Prussians took place there, and was only stopped by the circumstance that the hour of truce arrived in the middle of the engagement.
Before we left there was great excitement in the little village of Theben, small boats putting off hurriedly, and rowing in hot haste up the river March. The boatmen had scarcely time to answer our inquiries, but the cause of the excitement proved to be that a flock of lambs had fallen into the river, and these boats had gone to the rescue. We made a strong resolve to eschew lamb at dinner for some days to come.
We had to wait till rather late for the steamer, and amused ourselves by wandering over the village. I had not been long enough from England not to find interest and amusement in everything, where all was so new and strange. A long train of low waggons came along the valley of Marchfeld, drawn by splendid teams of fine grey oxen, driven by Hungarian peasants, in their fur coats, and guarded by an extremely drunken policeman, who gave us a military salute with absurd attempts at gravity, very nearly upsetting one of us in his attempts to preserve his equilibrium. At sunset the cows of the village came running in from the hills and meadows round, each making for its respective home. I could not but admire their instinct, though I was rather alarmed by the presence of so many of these animals scampering about; but I took the precaution to ensconce myself behind the wicket-gate of a pretty little cottage garden, and I congratulated myself when most of my four-footed enemies had passed safely by on the other side of the fence. At last, one ferociously-horned creature – except for these formidable appendages the personification of gentleness – stopped exactly opposite my place of refuge. I urged it to go further, but it persisted in keeping its position; and there we stood vis-à-vis, the cow on one side of the gate and I on the other. At last a young woman passing called out, "The cow wants to get home!" Impossible, I thought, through this garden. However, as I felt there was something ridiculous in my position, I opened the gate with a beating heart, and the cow very quietly walked steadily down the path into a shed at the back. No cow in England, I feel sure, would have found itself in such a position without turning to have a munch at some pet stock or wallflower; but the Hungarian cows are evidently a superior race of animals.
As the village by this time was swarming with cattle, I suggested to my companion that we should go and sit on the little pier till the steamer arrived. We found this a pleasant change, as, except for the splashing of the Danube as it hurried past, and the never-ceasing song of the nightingales on the opposite bank, the place was perfectly quiet. We waited some time – till it was nearly dark, and the stars began to come out. I never see these luminaries now without thinking of a lovely evening in Bohemia two years ago, when, while waiting at a small station for the train, a friend who was with me, talking about the stars which were shining brilliantly overhead, was addressed by a German, who, in broken English, said, as he pointed up to the milky way, "And that in England you call Milk Street!"
I have never called it any other name since.
At last the welcome lights of our steamer appeared in the distance – when we had already begun to wish we had brought more food with us – and we gladly entered the ferry-boat and waited in the centre of the river for her. She proved to be one of those large Danube steamers which in ten days go all the way from Vienna to the Black Sea, travelling only by day and thus enabling one to see the beautiful scenery of the river. These steamers are very large and comfortable, with handsome dining saloons on the poop, and comfortable cabins. From the seats and awnings on the top of the saloon, you can have an excellent view as you pass along. Early spring, or late in the autumn, is the best time for a journey of pleasure, as the insects which swarm during summer, on the banks of the Danube, must be a serious annoyance. We were told that Pressburg, in hot weather, was almost unbearable from them; and, indeed, before we left, we noticed several very curious specimens of the creeping kind, and the midges danced in thousands over the bridge of boats.
We purchased some beautiful specimens of old Hungarian jewelry in Pressburg, thanks to a friend who lived in the town, and understood where to find such things. We even procured some which had never been in a trader's hands – white and black enamel earrings, set with river pearls and amethysts, the property formerly of the Esterhazy family; and a beautiful Sevigné, also in black enamel, wrought in the centre into the figure of a pelican, with its young one, the blood trickling from the breast of the parent bird being represented by a garnet, and the whole trinket terminating in a small green frog. This belonged to the family of the Hunyades. These, with some other objects of interest, are now in the loan museum at South Kensington. One of the friends I was stay- ing with also brought a beautiful set of turquoise, set in black and gold.
We were so extravagant, that we had serious misgivings as to the necessity of walking to Bohemia rather than going by train; but when we looked at our boxes, we saw that there was no alternative. It would have been a great want of taste and judgment on our part if we had failed to secure these wonderful specimens of Venetian jewelry – a consideration which quite restored our self-satisfaction. Since my return to England, I have found no reason to alter that opinion, antiquarians and judges praising these trinkets very much, and opening their eyes in wonder at their cheapness.
It was getting very hot and extremely dusty when we left Pressburg. I cannot say I regretted it – for were we not going back to our dear Bodenbach! We had proposed returning to Vienna, and spending a few days there to see the sights; but our extravagance in the purchase of jewelry decided us against returning to that tempting spot, remembering the old maxim, not to burn the candle at both ends! So we stepped out of the Pesth train at the junction at Ganserndorf, and with stoic fortitude watched it steam away to Vienna.
We had to wait for an hour for the express, which, like the one from Trieste, only runs on Tuesdays and Saturdays, doing the 251 miles between Vienna and Prague in about ten hours, at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour. We got a very respectable diner in the refreshment-room, and afterwards, when one of my companions had a cigar on the platform, we made friends with some old peasant women, who were sitting patiently there, with large baskets of very fine seakale for sale.
It struck us as very extraordinary that people on a journey should buy such things. One can understand the purchase of fruit and flowers, but for passengers to load themselves with heavy heads of seakale, seems very absurd. These poor women complained sadly of bad times, and the scarcity of money; but I never yet met anyone in any country who allowed that the times were good and money plentiful. The good time is always coming, and, it may be, the money with it!
The country through which the railway runs in Austria Proper is singularly uninteresting and flat, though highly cultivated, exhibiting every sign of laudable industry, but not pretty. When we enter Moravia it becomes much more interesting, reminding one very much of Derbyshire, near Mattock – just the same pleasant-looking fir-glens, with streams running through them, broken bits of rock, and bright green meadows.
At Brünn we had to wait a little time for some troops to be taken in. In the capital of Moravia, we were guilty of such a disgracefully vulgar act, that if the doors of society had been closed against us we could not have complained. There was a very neat tidy Moravian going up and down the platform with a bright clean saucepan, full of small delicate-looking sausages, steaming hot! Several of the passengers and railway men who had bought some began eating them; and one of my friends, who had been intently examining them through her eye-glass, remarked –
"They look excellent! Are you not very hungry?"
The suggestion was sufficient, for one always is hungry travelling. A fragile-looking string of these dainties was quickly handed in at the carriage window, and – shall I confess it? – eaten in our fingers! I am sorry to say, even the guard laughed, we looked so greedily pleased with our treat. Our only excuse was that they were so delicious – so hot – so delicate (not larger than one's finger), and so full of gravy!
I have not made up my mind to this day what they were composed of. I think, however, nothing objectionable, as though Bradshaw tells us that a lively trade is carried on at Brünn, it is only for woollen things, carpets, &c. – nothing, in short, of which the débris could be converted into sausages. I make this avowal in order that, if my reader ever finds himself at Brünn, he may be sure to look out for the Moravian with the hot sausages.
It was very late, and quite dark, before we crossed the Moldau, and arrived at beautiful Prague. We found at the station kind friends, who had come to meet us. Everywhere in Germany I have found it the same. When once they profess friendship, they are the kindest and most faithful of friends. They never allow their own personal convenience to stand in the way of their kind offices. Prompt, punctual, and untiring in their friendly services, they win our lasting esteem and regard, and must ever come next in our affection to our English friends!
On proceeding to the "Golden Angel," we did not find things so comfortable as we had anticipated. The people were civil enough, but the King and Queen of Saxony, with the Princesses and suite, having expressed their intention to occupy, in two months, thirty rooms in the hotel, the landlord had determined to clean and redecorate his establishment, and when we arrived everything was in disorder and confusion. As it was too late, however, to hunt for rooms in another hotel, we put up with those allotted to us, and went down to small side apartments, then used as eating-rooms. Two tables were crowded with eager politicians, thundering forth their opinions on the expected war.
The attendants were only a decrepit old man, and a little boy, from whom we got some supper and went to bed. Oh! how abominably the bedroom smelt of very strong, stale tobacco smoke. It was no use sleeping with the window open, the horrible odour seemed to cling round one, and I find my entry next morning in my journal stands headed, "The 'Golden Angel,' twice tried, is an horrific ghost!"
I got up very early, as sleep was out of the question, and was agreeably entertained by watching out of the window (which looked across the street to the entrance of some barracks) a number of horses which dealers were bringing for selection for a cavalry regiment. The horses were at once taken inside into the courtyard. I was much amused by the guard at the gates – some very stern, solemn-looking hussars – who, when any one besides the dealers attempted to enter with the horses, warned them back with a shake of the head, a wave of the hand, or a few impressive words. Some more daring spirit, who seemed to slight this warning, pressing forward, an hussar, with a corporal's stars and stripes, instantly started out of the guard-room, and caught the intruder. This man was evidently the wit of the regiment, for he used neither force nor strong words, but, evidently, a great deal of "chaff," which not only sent his admiring comrades into peals of laughter, but made the civilian retire dis- comfited. Then, with a few cheery words, the corporal would return to the guard-room, till another assailant forced him to reappear, and exert his eloquence again. About fifty horses, all brown, and good strong-looking animals, were chosen that morning. We saw the soldiers go out on them when we came in for luncheon, and a rough, unmanageable lot they seemed, but capitally handled, with much temper and tact. One brute, indeed, plunged and kicked in such a way that it managed to unseat its rider, whose only consolation was a severe rating from his serjeant.
PRAGUE – BODENBACH – TETSCHEN – CASTLE OF COUNT THUN – MANAGEMENT OF CATTLE – SCLAVES – WANDERING CZECHS – GENERAL BRANDENSTEIN – DWARF ENGLISH FOWLS – MODEL FARM – BOHEMIAN FAIRS – CROATS.
"Hold your tongues, both Swabian and Saxon!"|
A bold Bohemian cries:
"If there's a heaven upon this earth,
In Bohemia it lies."
WE had stayed at Prague for a few days two years ago, and had then done all due homage to the spot on the bridge where St. Johanko von Nepomuk was plunged into the Moldau, by the orders of his tyrant king, Wenceslaus IV. We had also seen, and duly admired, the astounding height of the council-chamber window in the Hradschin, whence the two lords of the Imperial assembly and their secretary were flung by their furious colleagues, an inglorious tumble from which they merely got up, shook themselves, and, after the secretary had humbly apologized for falling on one of them, walked unscathed away. We had also wondered at the iron ring which St. Wenceslaus had grasped in his death agony, and pitied the saintly victim of fratricidal treachery. Lastly, we had been to the Jews' quarter, and had visited the glass-shops. In short, we had thoroughly done Prague, and enjoyed our visit there extremely. The short time we had now to stay we therefore devoted to wandering about the beautiful streets, so temptingly picturesque for sketching, either in detail or as views, and in which, every time we passed through them, we found something new or striking to admire. The view from the bank of the Moldau, looking over the river at the old part of the town, with its beautiful towers and quaint buildings, and the summit of the Hradschin crowned with the stately Cathedral, the Imperial Palace, and the various lines of fortifications, when seen in the rich glow of sunset, is a spectacle never to be forgotten.
We met, while looking at this view, an hussar officer, a former acquaintance of my friend's, who stopped for a long chat with him. Poor fellow! he looked so bright, cheerful, and soldierlike in his spotless white jean coat and close-fitting cap – but in another six weeks his young life was over, for he died a soldier's death on the field of Münchengrätz.
Prague certainly did not seem at all encumbered with soldiers. They were by no means so numerous as in 1864, when so many troops were returning from the Schleswig-Holstein war, which was just over. Though every one now talked of war, there seemed no immediate preparations for it, except that the yard of the railway-station was filled with artillery-waggons and ammunition, ready to be transported to the frontier when wanted.
We left Prague at nine in the evening, and had a very tedious journey, without any amusing incident, to Bodenbach. We brought from Prague to Theresienstadt some war ammunition, in the shape of several carriages of recruits. There were some sad and tearful leave-takings on start- ing, but they got very merry and cheerful before the lights of the capital had faded in the distance, and, when they were marched off, seemed to have cast all care away.
I remember, the last time I passed Theresienstadt, I was very much horrified at two old ladies, who were in the same carriage with me, returning from a visit to the refreshment-counter with a hot roast chicken, which they divided with a clasp-knife, and picked in their fingers. After my sausage adventure, however, I felt we were very much on a par. It was half-past two in the morning before we reached our longed-for haven, the Zum Bad Hotel at Bodenbach. We were too happy to feel tired, but nevertheless slept soundly.
The first news that greeted us next morning was that war was imminent from Italy, and that already the bridge at Peschiera, which we had crossed such a short time before, had been broken down. However, as Italy was a long way off, the news did not disturb the enjoyment of our first day's return to Bodenbach. We found a regiment of white-coated soldiers billeted here and in Tetschen, and we much feared they would destroy the quiet and retirement of this lovely spot; but they were kept so hard at drill, that they had no inclination for quiet walks, and we never experienced the slightest annoyance from the large body of men quartered around.
And now I must try to do justice to our beloved Bodenbach, by a description of its varied beauties. I have no misgivings that my picture will be over-coloured. I only wish I could so delineate the place that you could thoroughly appreciate it. Towns are situated on both shores of the river – that on the left bank is Bodenbach, while Tetschen occupies the right. I cannot pretend that there is any poetry about the Elbe. Instead of being clear as silver or beautifully blue, it is generally dark and muddy, and after rains, gravel-coloured, but it is swift and strong, and generally covered with rafts of wood or barges of merchan- dise. Notwithstanding the railway which runs along its banks, the river is still much used for the conveyance of heavy goods. The barges and rafts go very pleasantly down the current, but it is hard work for the two or four horses which they employ to drag them up against the stream. A light-looking suspension-bridge crosses the river, and unites the two small towns. It was erected by Count Thun not many years ago, and is not only very ornamental, but also convenient – how convenient we found later in the summer, when we had only a ferry-boat to go over in, the Prussians, after the invasion, having caused part of the bridge to be demolished.
The cliffs are very beautiful at Bodenbach – far finer than those on the other side of the river, where one steep rock stands, on which is situated the Castle of Count Thun – a very large building, without any pretensions to architectural beauty. All the country round, for miles and miles, belongs to Count Thun, who, with his family, is greatly loved and respected by all the inhabitants for his kindness and charity. This castle contains a chapel, a theatre, and an armoury. As in the feudal days in England, everything belongs to the Count. Just below the castle is a mill and a liquor-factory, which are his property; the game and the fish, also, are his; and, in fact, he is lord of all he surveys.
There are some very fine trees in the Castle garden, and the grounds, which are naturally very beautiful, are well laid out and kept. Oh! if it had but English turf, and English roses, it would be perfect; but there is only the usual rank thick grass, and the roses are much smaller than in England – perhaps from the intense cold of their winters. The Count has a beautiful collection of orchidaceous plants, to which several houses are devoted. He has a large staff of gardeners. The principal one, who has been to England, and speaks English, duly appreciates the climate of our island for gardening.
The crowing glory of Tetschen is its castle. It has also a church, a large market-place, and a town-hall. It had a second large church, a very handsome-looking building, but when finished, the government decided that the town did not require it, and had it turned into a warehouse, with a large crane projecting from the porch.
There are several cotton factories outside the town, on the banks of a large clear stream, called the Polzen, which runs into the Elbe just above the castle. But it is on the Bodenbach side of the river that the great beauty of the scene lies. There you have such beautiful rocks, cliffs, and mountains, all piled and tumbled about, leaving room between them only for a narrow mountain stream, or a winding roadway. The houses that are dotted about are very picturesque, and like Swiss cottages, with overhanging eaves and supports of black timber beams. The extensive pine-woods have judiciously-planned walks winding through them for miles and miles. These were formed under Count Thun's directions, to employ the poor people when labour was scarce. The inhabitants can now carry their loads of hay or wood, or their baskets of wares, for miles, from one village to another, with great comfort. In the hot summer one can walk for miles without tiring under the delicious shade all the way, enjoying the strong, fresh smell of the pine woods.
All the rocks, hills, and cliffs around are covered with dark fir-trees, some of them of magnificent dimensions. Occasionally one comes on a clearing, where the trees have been felled, and slid down the hill-side into the river to be converted into rafts. Far into the distance stretches the range of mountains called the Erzgebirge, which bound Bohemia on the north. The people who dwell on these mountains are most industrious, and exceedingly skilful with their fingers, making beautiful lace and delicate embroidery on muslins or silks. But the Erzgebirge are some distance off, and the walks round Bodenbach tempt one from straying very far. We were very fond of one beautiful path up to a lonely trout pool, filled by a little spring, which we used to follow up to the source whence it rose, vigorous and bright, from the rocky basin on the shaded hill-side.
From the rocky nature of the country there is very little cultivated land, except small patches in the valley of the Elbe. There are but few pastures, and these are very small. Most of the fields during my first visit were yellow with blossoms of the rape seed. There are two or three hop gardens in the neighbourhood. The people take great care of their cattle. They never allow the cows to be out in the fields till the autumn, and then they are all tethered by the horns in one long string, held by some courageous woman or little boy. The animals look very awkward in these lines, as of course they are placed irrespective of size, a mammoth of a cow coming side by side with a year old calf. This plan, however, is delightfully safe. They never allow cows or cattle to wander about the roads or feed by the hedges, and when they have to move them they are always carefully led by a strong rope. They are much used, too, in drawing carts and drays, and are kept so closely at work, that they have no time or energy for being vicious. Hence abroad we never hear of those horrible deaths and injuries by cattle which we constantly read of in English papers, and have often met with in our own neighbourhood.
The first story that greeted me this autumn, on going to see my sister at her home in the New Forest, was one of a remarkably pretty white heifer which had strayed from the park into the house during the servants' dinner-hour, had made its way along the passage, up a winding stone staircase into the housekeeper's bed-room, and had sportively lain down on her bed. I believe the poor woman's first thought was that it would eat her best cap, which hung on the looking-glass. A nice task they must have had to get it downstairs again. In Bohemia our comfort is never disturbed by the intrusion of cows into our bedrooms, or by fear of their attack during our walks.
We had a visit one day from a party of fourteen bears of all sizes. They were led by a party of Slovaks or Sclaves, such a ragged set of vagabonds, with some small ponies, on which the children were seated amidst a mass of tin pots and pans. They were all brown alike, but of different shades of that colour, and would have made a life-like drawing in Sepia – Sclaves, bears, children, and ponies.
We often met the wandering Czechs, who are the principal tinkers of the place. Their dress is ragged and brown, but always adorned with some bright steel ornaments set in the belts and gaiters, strangely contrasting with their otherwise untidy appearance. They are fearful beggars, but generally carry a bun- dle of tin skewers, a few saucepans, or a basket of the utterly worthless refuse glass of Bohemian manufacture, for which they ask an enormous price. For a wine-glass or tumbler, so crooked that it will hardly stand, they will demand four times the sum they eventually take.
In winter, I fancy, the country must be almost impassable, as the snow is very deep here, and the Elbe frequently or always frozen over. It is both a much warmer climate in summer than ours, and very much colder in winter. The peasantry are quiet, contented, and industrious, but sadly poor, and must frequently endure great privations. What with cholera, war, and bad crops, I cannot think what they will do this winter. The women work fearfully hard at field-work, and also assist masons, not only mixing mortar for them, but also carrying very heavy loads of bricks, sand, and water. They are extremely sober. Amongst the lower orders, I don't think I ever saw one drunken man, and, certainly, not a drunken woman. They have fascinating manners, and charm us at once by the pleasant, cordial way in which they greet us, kissing our hands. This custom, which is much followed here, is not only a mark of respect, but an expression of gratitude either for some trifle received, or for some kind word. The children almost invariably kissed our hands when they met us.
I used every morning to take my work before breakfast, and sit in the wood, close to the side-door of the hotel; and many a cordial greeting I there received. One old beggar man especially, on whom, when in a liberal mood, I sometimes bestowed a half-farthing, always expressed great gratitude. Towards the end of the week, however, his kiss on the hand made me almost regret my liberality, his beard, which by that time had had the benefit of some days' growth, had such an irritating, file-like effect!
Of course, the first thing that every one began talking about when we arrived was the threat- ened war, which all looked on as very imminent. There was, as I said before, a regiment, or part of a regiment, of Austrian soldiers billeted in Bodenbach and Tetschen. They were called Graf Hangwitz's regiment, and were mostly Italian soldiers. They wore a white tunic, with geranium-coloured facings, of cloth in the uniforms of the soldiers, and of velvet in those of the officers. The men looked, without exception, very miserable. I cannot pretend to say why, though it might be because they did not like their officers. They did not appear to be looked on with great confidence, as they were marched off to Austrian Silesia before hostilities commenced. There was an extremely gentlemanly captain of this regiment quartered in our hotel, with his servant; and at the other hotel lodged a General Brandenstein, whose aide-de-camp this captain had been at Solferino. The General, with whom we sometimes conversed, was very pleasant, and spoke English extremely well. He had at one time been in command in Carinthia, and fully joined in our admiration of it, strongly advising a visit there at some future time. He described the people as very civil and primitive, and, though the accommodation provided for strangers travelling in the country was rough, yet the beauty of the scenery quite made up for the discomfort. Poor General Brandenstein had a command given him, the week after I left, in the army of the North, and got shot through both feet in a very early part of the war.
I was making inquiries at this time for a particular sort of fowls that I wanted – oddly enough called "Dwarf English fowls," though I have never seen any of them in England. They are not large, but are very peculiar in appearance, having small wings attached to their feet. They would be invaluable in gardens, in which these wings would prevent their scratching.
We took a walk one afternoon to the Agricultural College, in the hope of hearing of some in that direction. Amongst our party was the General, who told us that during the Italian war he always had several of these hens, which travelled with the troops, and on the march used to perch on the baggage-waggons, being great pets of the soldiers. Since my last visit this sort of fowl had quite disappeared. I heard of some at a railway official's near, but as the train had just destroyed a number of them, he was not willing to part with any, and my search for more was in vain.
The agricultural model farm is a very useful institution, for the education and training of the sons of gentlemen of all classes and nations, and an idle, careless set of young scamps the students are! Their sole object seemed to be singing, dancing, and getting into mischief all over the place. Some of them played the piano beautifully, and others had a great taste for theatricals, with which they enliven Tetschen in the winter. But smoking is their unfailing resource. The value of the cigars consumed on the model farm must amount to a considerable sum.
There was a fair in Tetschen on the 7th of May. Half the market place was filled with earthenware of the coarsest description; and the other half was devoted to booths, where wandering merchants sold bright calicoes, coarse lace from the Erzgebirge, and very common embroidery. There was one small stand for Bohemian garnets, but none for glass, which I was surprised at, as some of the best manufactories of Bohemian glass are within an easy distance of Tetschen; and some of the slightly-damaged or imperfectly-coloured specimens, I should have thought, might have been brought here for sale. As the Bohemians do not wear a national dress, the scene did not present any special interest; and except for the presence of some of the soldiers, we might have imagined ourselves to be enjoying the pleasures of a country fair in an English village.
There was a much more amusing fair in August, 1864, which took place in a large field near Tetschen, called the "Bird's Meadow." There were a great many booths, full of toys, cakes, and sweets. Some were devoted to pistol-shooting; and one contained a collection of wax figures, representing a scene out of the New Testament, in which the figures were made to move their arms and hands, and roll their eyes, while the exhibitors recited verses. Another booth contained a collection of snakes and stuffed animals; and in one cage was a little boy, clothed with a skin, and with chains on, who was described as an orangoutang. He seemed much to enjoy showing off his antics to an admiring crowd of children, who, no doubt, thought him a wonderful specimen of the strange creatures brought from distant lands. The worthy proprietor also exhibited a piece of the real Noah's Ark, some of the bread that was brought to Elijah by the ravens, and other marvels, which took much amongst the credulous. A bull of unusual magnitude proved highly attractive to the rural community. Feats of horse- manship were preformed in a spacious tent, with some rather nice horses. We went down in the evening to see the performance. Amongst the equestrians was a very small child of about ten, who danced and rode, and was much applauded, but seemed nervous and delicate. After it was over, I went to a booth near, and bought some sweets and cakes for her. I found my way to the canvas enclosure beyond the tent, and, on asking for admittance, a rough-looking man, half-groom and half-performer, lifted a corner of the covering to admit me, while he called the little girl. It was such a striking scene, I wished more than ever that I could sketch animals. I must describe it. The enclosure was lighted by a very full moon, shining brightly down. Several of the horses were standing about, and the large bull was tethered to a tree in the centre. The poor little girl, who was in her coarse common clothes, had folded up the bright-coloured, shining dress in which she had danced, and was placing it in a large trunk open before her, beside which kneeled a still smaller child, who was holding a dim-looking candle to light her sister. It would have made such a nice picture. The poor thing was delighted with her fairings! Her first impulse was to put up her face to kiss me. I hope it was not unkind, but even in the moonlight the little visage looked so dirty with its paint, that I did not respond very readily. She instantly seemed to understand, and seizing both my hands, covered them with kisses, and marched back to her trunk with her prize. The lot of children in such a position, there is too much reason to fear, is far from desirable. This fair in the market-place was one of very inferior attraction, and only lasted two days.
We heard next day that the Italian regiment (Graf van Hangwitz's) was to leave directly, and be replaced by three thousand Croats. The day following we should know for certain whether it was to be peace or war. If the latter was declared, the Croats would march the following week to Dresden! All this was very exciting news.
The arrival of the Croats was not looked forward to with any particular enthusiasm, for they are more disliked and dreaded by the population than even the Prussians! And no wonder – for they are as lawless and turbulent a body of men as can well be met with. They are of powerful build, and the most arrant thieves in the world Even in the shops a party of them will enter, and while one or two keep the owners engaged in talk, the rest will help themselves to what they fancy. They have also the character of being very violent and quarrelsome. The Austrian Government showed during the war that they understood the disposition of their troops by keeping the Croats in Vienna, and the large towns, where the police are numerous and vigilant; while the regiments which were not thoroughly to be depended on, were sent out of the way of the fighting to guard some distant frontier, where the enemy were not expected in such strength as on the borders of Bohemia.
DRESDEN – ANTICIPATION OF WAR – THE STREETS – PUBLIC OPINION – RUMOURS – THE CITY DESERTED – STATE OF FEELING AMONG THE SAXONS – DETERMINE TO LEAVE DRESDEN – A USEFUL BOOK – HINTS ON ETIQUETTE.
"Heaven from all creatures hides the book of fate,|
All but the page prescribed, their present state."
ON the 9th I left Bodenbach. I was very sorry to go, though I was cheered by the hope of a speedy return with the friend whom I was now going to stay with in Dresden. The railway is beautiful all the way through Saxon Switzerland – well-known and always admired. J—, who met me at the station, tried in vain to persuade me that there was no cause to anticipate war; but at the same time agreed to call with me on an English family who were very intimate at the Court of Saxony, and who would be sure to know all the news. Their account, however, only confirmed my reports – that things looked very dark and gloomy, and that, though at present everything was undecided, war appeared inevitable.
Though J— had been all the winter at Dresden, and, perhaps, had got used to hearing the events of the day discussed, [s]he did not appear to have heard half as much about the war as we had in Bodenbach. The weather was very cold, quite as cold as an English May, and one day we had the discomfort of seeing a little snow.
The shop-keepers all talked very gloomily, and if they had not the goods one wanted, they frankly confessed they were not disposed to send for them, as the less they had in their shops now the better. Some of the large establishments were daily dismissing hands, and the court jeweller had only reserved the people in his shop, all his workmen being dismissed. Of course distress was abounding, and the future was looked forward to with dread.
The country people round were getting in their hay harvest as fast as they could long before it was ready; and to add to the troubles of the times, a severe frost one night blackened and destroyed all the young shoots of the vines, completely blighting every hope of a good vintage year. It was melancholy to see all the tender branches of the less hardy shrubs in the public gardens and environs of Dresden, hanging scorched and shriveled as if a fire had passed over them.
The streets abounded in Saxon soldiers and forage carts, and artillery were passing and repassing every hour of the day. Near the principal bridge a pontoon bridge was lying, moored just below the artillery barracks. Things altogether looked very warlike.
The Crown Prince had his summer residence just beyond where we were living, and mounted orderlies and expresses were trotting past all day long. The state of uncertainty lasted the whole of this month. One day the public opinion was that there would not be war, the next day that things looked very dark and gloomy. The day following peace was certain, and on the next news had arrived that all hopes of peace were over, and that war was to begin at once. Then came a bright ray of hope. A Congress of Russia, France, and England had been accepted, and for a few days everything seemed cheerful. A regular panic then ensued, and all the salt shops were besieged by crowds of customers, as, directly hostilities were commenced with Prussia, the salt supplies would be cut off.
On Whit Monday, the 21st of May, we dined on the Brïcheschen Terrace with my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Eden. Mr. Eden was attaché at the English Embassy, and had been all along very sanguine in his hopes of peace; but to-day, for the first time, he talked of what must be done if war was declared; and on his wife asking him, "Do you really, then, think that things look very bad?" he replied, very gravely,
"We must always be prepared for the worst."
J— and I considered that we ought also to be prepared for the same, and resolved to hurry our return to Bodenbach, though many of our English friends in Dresden tried to persuade us to remain, saying that the entry of the Prussian troops would be most interesting – that there would be no inconvenience or annoyance – that there would be no fighting – and that it would only be a friendly visit; a pleasant prospect at the time, though they must since have discovered that it was purely imaginary.
At the opera-house at this time there was scarcely a person of the higher classes. The pit, gallery, &c., were crowded by the lower orders, but none of the society of Dresden had heart or inclination for amusement. The English families were daily discovering what a charming spot Switzerland was for a summer excursion, and each Sunday, as we gathered at the Protestant English church, the congregation became smaller, till at last three pews would have held us all. In short, the place became most dreary, and we felt convinced that we had better follow the example of the Saxon army, which every day was gathering in Dresden, and on the borders of Austria, and, like them, decide on a safe retreat.
It did not strike me that the Saxon people of Dresden dreaded or disliked the Prussian occupation, which was even then talked of. They appeared to treat the matter in a very phlegmatic way, and, except for the disastrous consequences of war to trade, they did not seem to take any interest as to whether King John or King William was to be their master. I should think there were no people in Germany less demonstrative, and certainly towards Leipsic they were more than favourably disposed towards the Prussians. At last some plain-spoken friend informed us that, in case the Prussians met the Austrians on the other side of Dresden, and fighting began, the side of the square in which we lived would be extremely in the way of the firing, and consequently would most likely have to come down, in order to give the cannon full room to play into the city. We therefore made up our minds to retire to Bodenbach, where everyone assured us we should be perfectly safe.
On Sunday, the 27th of May, we felt thoroughly glad that we had made up our minds to leave, printed papers having been left on this day at all the houses, asking how many soldiers could be accommodated in each. As the rooms (six in number) that J— occupied all opened one into another, like the domestic arrangements of an ant-hill or rabbit-warren, it would not have been pleasant to have such guests. Though we did consider ourselves very foreign in our manners and customs, yet we could not afford to lose the last coating of rigid propriety on which the British female prides herself, and which our soldier inmates might have considered irksome.
There flashed across my mind the thought of a small book at home, over which in by-gone years I and my sister had often had a hearty laugh. Certainly a copy of this work to each of our expected guests would have been most advisable; and I must try to remember a few of the rules in these "Hints on Etiquette," which I am sure would have proved very useful.
"It is not permitted but to the chief in quality, or to him who hath charge of the fire, to stir it up with the fire-fork, to kindle it, or take it away, or put fuel on."
"Set not in order at every instant thy beard (if thou hast one) or thy stockings."
"It is uncivil to stretch out thine arms at length, and writhe them thither or hither."
"In yawning, howl not; and thou shouldst abstain as much as thou canst from yawning, especially when thou speakest."
"When thou blowest thy nose, make not thy nose sound like a trumpet."
"Do not pick your teeth much at table, as however satisfactory a practice to yourself, to witness it is not at all pleasant."
"At a strange table, say 'If you please,' and 'Thank you;' it may be said in a manner which will not encourage familiarity."
"If you are so unfortunate as to have contracted the low habit of smoking, be careful to practise it under certain restrictions. What man of delicacy would presume to address a lady with his breath smelling of onions? Yet tobacco is equally odious."
"Spit not far off thee, nor behind thee, but aside, a little distant, and not upon thy friend."
BAD SYMPTOMS – ITALIAN SOLDIERS – EXCHANGE OF GREETINGS – AUSTRIAN CONSCRIPTION IN ITALY – ACCOUTREMENTOF THE JAGERS – NIGHT ALARMS – WANT OF BROTHERHOOD IN THE AUSTRIAN ARMY – WAR DECLARED.
"Over the hills and far away,|
'Neath the bayonet's gleam and the banner's play,
And the mighty host tread down the grass,
And the birds are hushed where the trumpets pass,
And the lonely hills send back again
The clang and the hum of armed men."
HOW glad we were when the setting sun shone brightly on us, as we were sitting happily at supper next evening on the terrace of the Hotel Zum Bad at dear, pretty Bodenbach, in the perfect quiet of that lovely valley of the Elbe – away from the perpetual clatter of the streets of Dresden, made ten times worse lately by the constant passing of forage carts, ammunition-waggons, and artillery at every hour of the day, from early in the morning until quite late at night.
Our pleasure was lessened, however, by finding in Austria how bad everything looked for war. Every one talked of it, but still, while things here remained so quiet, it was earnestly hoped it was not inevitable. The day after we arrived we noticed one very bad sign (though good for us), namely, the enormous exchange we received on a circular note – for twenty pounds we got five pounds extra.
The weather was most enjoyable, not too hot, and the immense pine-woods were cool and fragrant with the fresh spring smell of the young fir shoots, and perfectly carpeted with the tender green of the whortleberry plant, which is of such a brilliant green in spring, and here covers every hill and rock.
The melancholy-looking infantry regiment (Graf Hangwitz's) that was here in April, had been sent into Austrian Silesia, and was replaced by the 26th battalion of Feld Jägers; and though the grey loose dresses of the latter did not look pleasing after the smart white uniforms and geranium-coloured facings of the former, yet we soon got used to them, and found constant amusement in watching these light- hearted, merry little riflemen. They were, like the former regiment, principally Italians; but the officers and non-commissioned officers were mostly, or all, Germans. There were a good many Bohemians amongst the men, which was fortunate for them, as most of the soldiers could not speak a word of German; and where several were billeted on a house, they generally had one amongst them who could act as spokesman for the party. Every cottage and house around had its Jäger inmates, and they seemed immense favourites with the Bohemian people. It really was touching to see their gentle, kind ways, like those of very gentlemanly schoolboys. You never saw them mustering for parade, but that each soldier had one or two of the peasant children running by his side; and it was especially pleasant at the hour when the children came from school – (for here, as in all parts of Germany, it is imperative that the children be sent to school, from the age of six to fourteen) – to see them running to meet their friends the Jägers, relieving them of muskets, knapsacks, and other accoutrements; while those children who could not find anything to carry, each seized a hand and conducted their tired guests home.
The soldiers had an extra allowance, to enable them to pay for their billets; but even the poorest of the villagers would not hear of taking any payment, and cheerfully shared their humble fare with the merry Jägers. They seemed to have a great deal of hard drill work, perhaps from so many being fresh recruits. They were up nearly at dawn, and home again about nine. Some had a very long walk to join the muster. Then they were out again at twelve, and once more about four or five – but this last seemed a very short affair, and never in full dress.
The weather, part of the time, in June, was fearfully thundery and hot; but hot or cold, fine or showery, it seemed all the same to them. They would come back through drenching thunder showers, singing their merry Italian songs, and laughing and joking the same as they did on fine sunny days. They were not under very strict discipline, I should think; at least not like that of our soldiers. In their forage caps they wore what feathers they chose, and it was most amusing to see the variety that love or money had procured for them. The feathers of Guinea fowls, peacocks, ostriches, parrots, and wild birds' wings were very common, but the favourite decoration seemed to be the tail feathers of the black cock or capercailzie, the same as those their officers wore in their forage caps. The men generally, on leaving their quarters, had some bright summer roses given them. Every morning, and even on parade in full dress, these roses were fixed amongst the black plumes of their round hats.
We had one day a goose for dinner, and I was much amused on noticing afterwards one of its large white wings decorating the forage-cap of a Jäger billeted in our hotel. Poor fellow! I was so sorry for him. He was one of the very few who were not merry or bright, and I had noticed his unhappy face on my arrival. But evidently the Jägers had been strictly ordered to keep out of our way. They occupied rooms on the floor below ours, and if we were going down or upstairs when any of them were in the way, directly they heard the rustle of a dress, they would retreat as if their presence was an intrusion. However, after a few days they forgot their orders, and we used to meet and exchange such greetings as "Felice notte," or "Buon giorno, Signora," with remarks on the weather. The corporal in command always met us with the Bohemian greeting, "kiss your hand." One day I had a long talk with the unhappy-looking soldier, who told me all his sorrow. His father and mother had a small farm near Mantua, and he was the youngest of four sons. His brothers had all been drawn for the army. Two had been killed in Schleswig-Holstein, and the other wounded. Three months ago, he had been car- ried off, and "there was no one left with his old parents." His eyes were full of tears when he told me this. He hated the army, the war, and the Austrians. His whole heart and soul seemed bound up in his little home circle, about whom he appeared delighted to talk, for he told me all about them. He had two sisters, who were married, and one had a young daughter aged six.
"Oh! quite a little thing!" I said.
"Oh! no," he answered, quickly, "not at all a little thing, she is very tall for her age, and comes up to here," touching his pouch-belt.
Poor lad! I often wonder if he will ever go back to the old people and little farm at Mantua, or whether he has been struck down by that horrible needle-gun, and left amongst the heaps of slain on those red Bohemian fields of battle.
The dress of the Jägers seemed very useful, and far more rational for soldier's work than any smarter or stiffer-looking uniform. When they went on long marches, on the very hot days in June, the tunic was rolled up in their knapsack, and only the very loose great-coat worn, which they all said was very cool; but they seemed to me, to carry an immense heap of things above and below the knapsack, including a small tin saucepan.
We had one or two night alarms to test the activity of the men. After the bugle had sounded, in three minutes they were up, their toilette completed, everything they possessed at Bodenbach packed up, and on their backs, and they had sallied forth. Very quick work. But we would gladly have dispensed with these night alarms and early drills, for after the merry bugler had come from the village above, and passed our hotel, making all the rocks echo with his réveillé as he went along, he would seat himself on a pile of logs on the bank of the Elbe, just below, and while the soldiers were waiting for those of their comrades who had to come from more distant houses, the bugle would be laughingly passed from one to another, and, amidst peals of laughter and volleys of wit, trumpet calls, Italian airs, and merry dance tunes, would be alternately tried upon it. Undoubtedly one great weakness of the Austrian army is its want of brotherhood. I noticed that none of the Bohemian or German soldiers ever joined the band of laughing Jägers, who, fair weather or foul, used to muster on the piles of timber. The want of a common language could not account for this, for the little village children always gathered thickly round the Italians, sometimes teaching them German words, and sometimes begging two or three pinches of gunpowder, or a few percussion caps. At the twelve o'clock muster, when the women from the large sydrolith factory of Herr Schiller came out for their dinner hour, many a group of Italians was interspersed with the pink-aproned Bohemian women, in their many-coloured headkerchiefs, who were trying to talk Italian, and be amused with the lavish compliments of their swarthy admirers. But, however entertaining might be the joke, or whatever was the point of interest, the Bohemian soldier always coldly passed by his Italian comrade, and the Italians never tried to fraternize with their German brothers-in-arms. I may here venture to confirm the opinion expressed by a much abler pen than mine, that in the Austrian army, as it was this summer, "the great bond of brotherhood, the stimulus of patriotism, was wanting."
The officers of these regiments are keenly alive to the fact, and it must make them feel very nervous about their men in battle. Several times the orders which came down were read in Italian to the men at their musters. They all began and ended in the same style, threatening that the first who ran away in battle should be shot, and assuring them that the Prussians were the general enemies of mankind.
The officers of Graf Hangwitz's regiment told us that, doubting their Italian soldiers, they took every opportunity of assuring them that it was the Prussians who had conquered Italy, and had already been defeated at Solferino and Magenta. I dare say they believed it all – poor, simple fellows!
A great mistake which, I fancy, the Austrian army, or, at least, our Jäger regiment, was led into, was to rely upon the bayonet. Surely, when they remembered that only two years ago they had fought side by side with the Prussians, and had seen the terrible effects of the needle-gun, it was madness to tell the Jägers that they were to close in fight with them, and rely upon their bayonets. These bayonets were terrible-looking weapons, no doubt – more than half the length of their rifles, and very broad; but what chance had they of using them against the needle-gun?
Amongst the many wounded whom I saw afterwards on our journey home, there was only one who had been injured by a bayonet thrust, which had done its deadly work on him, for the poor fellow was not expected to live a week. One cannot but regret that such excellent material was so badly used, for these Jägers were wonderfully good marksmen, and were out practising rifle-shooting every day. A gentleman, who had watched them, told me that in an hour, at eight hundred paces, only four did not hit the target. What might they not have done, if equally well armed with the Prussians, even though they had a tardy Clamgallas, a traitor in Heinkstein von Helle at the head of the staff, and a general without any plan to command them! However, I just go back to peaceful days, when we used to spend the long summer evenings in rambles through that lovely country.
The rumours of war had effectually frightened away all travellers, and though we were told continually that rooms had been ordered, and that families were coming, they never appeared, and we had the place nearly to ourselves. We used to wander on for miles though the pine woods, picking lovely bouquets of the wild flowers that abound in that delightful neighbourhood, but which, perhaps, only those who love Nature can appreciate. There were among them many of the flowers we cultivate in our gardens – lilies of the valley, star of Bethlehem, several sorts of campanile, white, purple, and red salvias, besides the pale yellow evening primrose, with which, in war time (when the trains were stopped), the banks, as we walked home in the dusk along the railway, were covered. There was only one scarce flower, the Pyrola Uniflora, which it was difficult to find. In the fir-woods there was a dark, lovely-looking trout pond, shadowed over with solemn pine-trees, and so surrounded by cliffs, that no breeze ever found its way down to disturb the perfect calm of its black-looking water. The only bright-looking things near were the fringes of blue forget-me-nots and green lady-fern; and the delicate white blossoms of the graceful Pyrola Uniflora were sometimes, though not often, found. The ferns are beautiful round Bodenbach, and the natural rockeries with which the woods abound, are plentifully furnished with the oak, beech, and fragile fern. One longs to transport a whole rockery, with its graceful inhabitants, to one's garden in England.
I think I should almost have been tempted to return home when war was first talked of, and insisted on J—'s coming with me; but she was very determined that the iron waters of Bodenbach should cure my yearly enemy, the hay fever. When I came out here with her two years ago, I had been extremely ill with that complaint, but the air of Bodenbach had so completely cured me, that for a long time after I had never had a day's illness. I was therefore only too glad to be overpersuaded. When the 2nd of June brought the first glorious summer day, my horrid old enemy came also, and I feared all my enjoyment of out-door amusement was over. Dr. Biedermann, however, prescribed for me, and for the sake of others who suffer from this wretched malady, I shall here give his prescription, and the regime I followed. I was up at half-past six, and had a cup of tea and a morsel of bread. While I was dressing, I drank a bottle of Güsselghen water, taking a quarter every fifteen minutes. I then went out into the woods for a walk till half-past nine, when J— was ready for breakfast. At twelve I had a Russian bath of the iron water, at the bath-house, and this, I am convinced, did me the real good. The very hot iron vapour seemed at once to strengthen my throat, eyes, and chest. As I inhaled the vapour, all sneezing ceased, every tickling sensation left the throat, all aching went from the eyes, every pain from the chest, and I was well and able to enjoy life for the rest of the day. I had long arguments with Dr. Biedermann on the uselessness of early rising, and of the cold water I had to drink; and though he insisted on attention to his prescriptions, I shall always think that the iron vapour I inhaled was the really efficient cure.
I think it was about the 7th of June when the world of Bodenbach concluded that, though peace was not hopeless, things yet looked very bad and very warlike, and that we must think of the laurels and ovations for the conquerors who were to beat back the vanquished Prussians to Berlin. On the 8th, the first preparation for war really commenced, by an engineer bringing some peasants up to where the railway crosses the high road to Saxony on the level, to bore the ground, and find if it was adapted for mining. This was done as an experiment, we were told. In the evening a telegram came announcing that Prussia had sent word to Vienna that she would at once enter Schleswig- Holstein, a step which was considered tantamount to the commencement of hostilities, and in consequence of which we all felt very warlike and excited.
Having left Dresden rather in a hurry, some of our letters had been forwarded to us from that city. As we had amongst them some commissions from friends for china, and other things, J— thought it best to go in without delay, and do the necessary shopping. So, on Monday, the 11th of June, she went in by train. When I went down to the station in the evening to meet her, I was able to inform her that our war preparations had actually commenced, a party of engineers, who had arrived, having begun to work actively about a mine, by measuring the ground, and making plans and sketches.
When I went down along to supper, the only occupants of the table-d'hôte room were a party of these men, who were having their frugal meal. They all rose and bowed, and did not seat themselves till I had taken my place.
The private soldiers certainly have charming manners abroad. When J— and I were out walking, if we met the Jäger regiment marching, the soldiers whom we knew always smiled and saluted us. I suppose in England they would have been shot for doing so! One day we met a detachment on the bridge, each man carrying four or five loaves of black bread slung together. The loaves of one man became untied, from the strap breaking, and fearing they would roll into the water, J— and I stopped them, and helped the soldier to gather them up. Thereupon, all of them, as they passed, poured out upon us every pretty and complimentary Italian epithet that they could heap together. Was it not nice of them?
J— brought no news from Dresden. There was as yet no certainty of war, for there still seemed some hope that, through English intervention or some miracle, the appeal to arms might be averted. Things, however, looked very black and gloomy, and the poor tradespeople seemed in despair.
On the 12th, at noon, the engineers who had arrived began to labour with a will, relays of eight men working at the mine day and night for a week. The two first nights, when they were on or near the surface, they talked so much, and had so many spectators, that it was nearly impossible to sleep, and I kept getting up to see how they were progressing. The result was some valuable hints for a spirited sketch à la Martin or Turner! I accordingly took my pencils and drew a picture of Bodenbach and the distant hills in grey, the silver-white Elbe, and the dark foreground, only relieved by the lurid gleam of the soldiers' lights in the mine, against which the passing figures of the engineers came out in a very demoniacal manner.
I was glad, when I had finished my sketch, that my rest for once had been so disturbed, for after the second night they got too far underground for any glimmer of light to appear. Though the engineers worked very hard, they, too, found time to accept pink and red roses, and to fix them in their caps.
And now everything began to be very exciting. Papers and telegrams were anxiously looked for, and every man, as he laid down his theory, was a Bismark or a Benedek in his own estimation. Parties ran high, and much excellent speaking was expended by the village politicians, over their evening glasses of beer, on the terrace of the inn. All were so assured of victory, that nothing less would satisfy them.
On the 13th we heard that Austria and Prussia had withdrawn their respective ambassadors. On the 14th and 15th, the whole day nearly, extra trains were running, conveying the Saxon troops, and leaving the coast clear for Prussia.
It seemed perfectly incredible that things should have come to such a pass. For several days it was a most animated scene – trains full of soldiers coming out of Dresden, and empty carriages returning to bring more away. They mostly went past in covered waggons, but some, belonging to the artillery, were, with their gun-carriages, in open trucks. I could not help feeling sorry for the men. They were only obeying orders, but it did not look the right thing to be leaving their country at that moment. Though the railway by the hotel was crowded with people to see them pass, there was not a cheer to welcome them – only a few little boys tried to raise a feeble shout, which made the lack of real welcome more felt. Here and there in the crowd the soldiers recognised a Saxon face amongst the railway-men, and exchanged a passing greeting.
Owing to the mine's being dug under the railway, all the trains had to move at a slow pace just at this spot, and on Saturday, when the royal family of Saxony pass- ed, we had an excellent view of them – the poor pretty Crown Princess, with her face swollen with weeping, the Princess George, looking proud and indignant, and her children amused and unconcerned.
War had been declared that day, and the ministers of Würtemberg and Bavaria supped and slept at our hotel. J—, who knew the latter, asked him his opinion of things. He assured her that Bodenbach was perfectly safe, and congratulated her on the secure and beautiful retreat we had chosen.
There was much activity on the Elbe, also, during these days. Steamers, towing rafts covered with guns and warlike implements, were constantly passing. Towards evening came, like spectres, barges of gunpowder, slowly towed along by tugs, and waiting in broad parts of the river for the trains to pass, before they came to the spot where the railway runs close to the bank. It had been slow work coming from Dresden, and it was a bright golden sunset when they passed Bodenbach. The large dark barges, with their black flags flying, looked very funereal and eerie.
The same day our soldiers were fully occupied sharpening their bayonets in the inn-yard. It made one shudder to see these merry brown fellows singing their gay songs over their murderous preparations. There was no more child's play with their bayonets after this day.
About this time the Jäger officers asked us to a concert they were giving; but the band was too loud, and we did not stop very long, which we regretted afterwards, as they introduced some hussars belonging to an Hungarian regiment, and made them perform some of their national dances, the very thing that I had failed to see at Pressburg.
The mine being nearly finished, we were advised to pack up our things and send them from the hotel, so that, in case of its being sprung suddenly, we should be ready to leave at the shortest notice. When once the mine was loaded, I must say that I felt nervous, especially at night. Knowing the inveterate smoking propensity of the Austrian soldiers, I was afraid of a stray spark or ash falling. We had also so many heavy thunderstorms at this time that I used to lie awake and watch the lightning flashes with some alarm. The engineers, indeed, had a sentry, who always kept guard at the loaded mine, warning away all men with pipes and cigars. As to the lightning, he certainly used the most effectual means of preventing a flash entering the mine by seating himself on the sandbags which covered the opening.
Thanks to our friend Herr Garreïs, we got our heavy things safely stowed away in Herr Schiller's warehouses; and that gentleman, for greater precaution, kindly placed them in boxes intended for sydrolith ware, packages of which were piled upon them. We hardly knew in those early war times what the Prussians might do if they came. We hoped, however, if they did arrive, they would begin by opening the top cases, and finding only earthenware, would not pursue their search farther, but leave ours unmolested. Every night and every morning we used to have our things ready for instant flight – not from the Prussians, but from the powder mine; and though we could not hope to make so speedy a réveillé as the Jägers, yet we flattered ourselves we were well prepared.
OCCUPATION OF DRESDEN – THE EMPEROR'S PROCLAMATION – THE RAILWAY – THE SIGNAL PORTER'S LODGE – NIGHT ALARM – THE JAGERS – CLEARING THE GROUND – ORDER FOR SPRINGING THE MINE – IN DER KUCHE.
"Oh! you who rule the nation,|
Take now the toil-worn hand –
Brothers you are in sorrow,
In duty to your land.
Each one his all has perilled,
Each has the same great stake;
Each soul can have but patience,
Each heart can only break."
THE soldiers were now withdrawn from all the houses and hotels; but though, owing to this, we were spared the bugles, yet, as they bivouacked for two nights on the shores of the Elbe and in the streets of Tetschen, it was anything but a quiet time. I suppose they must have slept at some time, but long before light the chorus-singing used to begin, and go on till the early parade. It seemed an unnecessary commencement to a campaign, and many of the young soldiers were thoroughly tired before their weary week of fighting began.
News came, too, that the Prussians had really entered Dresden. It had been privately arranged by the officials, some time before, that the entrance of the Prussians should be made known to the Bodenbach authorities when they telegraphed to Dresden, asking what were the national colours of Saxony. This question had been answered every day, as agreed on; but on the afternoon of the 18th, when the usual inquiry was made, the reply came back – "Green and White!" and then the Austrians knew that Dresden, its railway and telegraph, were in the hands of the enemy. Men set to work at once to break up the rails in several places, a task at which they worked busily all day. The telegraph wires of course were cut between Bodenbach and Dresden. Luckily, only the night before, all the locomotives had been taken away out of the enemy's reach. We had counted forty in one train. We rejoiced to think they were safe at Prague; but in a short time afterwards they were all in the hands of the Prussians. The Saturday before, one train had passed with all the carriages belonging to the King and the Royal family of Saxony; and as they slowly went by our windows, J— recognised the favourite vehicles of various members of the Royal family, in which she had been accustomed to see them in the winter, and which, only a fortnight before I left Dresden, had been carrying them to a grand review of troops just outside the town.
An extra sheet of newspaper, published by the Bohemia, on the 18th day of June, contained the Emperor's proclamation to his subjects. It was so full of earnest good feeling, that I must copy it here for the benefit of my readers:–
"TO MY PEOPLES.
"In the midst of a work of peace which I had undertaken in order to establish the foundations of a constitution which would confirm the har- mony and peace of my whole Empire, and yet assure to each state and nation an independent interior development, my duties as Sovereign oblige me to call on my whole army to take up arms.
"On the borders of the Empire, both in the north and south, stand the armies of two allied enemies, intent on lessening the balance of power which Austria holds in Europe. It is not on my part that the causes of war have arisen, for I always considered it my first and most solemn duty as Ruler, to preserve the blessings of peace to my subjects; and I take the most High God as my Judge that I have always endeavoured to fulfil those duties faithfully.
"One of these hostile armies, even without a pretext, but desirous of annexing portions of my Empire, makes use of this favourable moment for the commencement of war.
"The Prussian troops, which now oppose us as enemies, were, two years ago, allied with a por- tion of my brave army, and with them had gone to the shores of the North Sea.
"I had entered into this military alliance with Prussia in order to uphold constitutional rights – to protect a German nation – to limit the miseries of an unavoidable war into the narrowest bounds; and, finally, in a sincere union with those two great powers of Middle Europe (whose particular duty is the care of preserving the peace of Europe), to gain a durable guarantee of peace for the welfare of my Empire, of Germany, of Europe.
"I had not gone to seek for conquest – I joined with Prussia from the most unselfish intentions, and aspired to no advantages to myself at the Congress of Peace at Vienna. Austria has not been the cause of that melancholy succession of obnoxious intrigues which never would have arisen, and whose first appearance would have immediately been settled by the integrity of the allies, had Prussia possessed the same unselfish motives.
"These intrigues arose from a desire of realizing selfish aims, and therefore it was impossible for my Government to set them right by peaceable means.
"Thus the serious aspect of affairs was considerably increased! But even then – when the two hostile states prepared openly for war, and it became evident that the understanding between them was based upon the intention of a common attack on my Empire – conscious of my duties as Ruler, I remained in the profoundest peace, and was ready to concede everything – provided it agreed with the honour and welfare of my peoples.
"At last, perceiving that a vacillating appearance would be injurious to an effective defence, and consequently endanger the monarchy, I was obliged to make those heavy sacrifices which are indispensably connected with preparations for war. The assurances of my wish for peace expressed by my Ministry, as well as my repeated declarations of my readiness for a common disarming on both sides, have been answered by Prussia with demands which, if granted, would have proved hurtful to the honour and safety of my Empire. Prussia demanded our instant and entire disarming, not only on account of its own interests, but also in favour of that other hostile Power which stands on the frontier of my Empire in Italy, and for whose peaceful intentions no guarantee was promised, nor could any be given. All transactions with Prussia concerning the question of the Duchies have increased the proofs of this fact – viz., 'That an answer to this question, becoming the dignity of Austria, the right and interests of Germany and the Dukedoms, cannot be procured by an agreement with Prussia's well-known grasping policy.'
"Negotiations were broken off, and the whole affair was transferred to the decision of the Bund, and at the same time the representatives of Holstein were recalled.
"The threatening aspect of affairs induced the three Powers of France, England, and Russia to invite my administration to a congress, whose aim should be the preservation of peace. We did not refuse this proposal; but only made the agreement that the basis of this undertaking should rest on the upholding of established European rights, that the treaties already existing must form the foundation of this attempt at mediation, and that the peace-making Powers should not seek for any private interest which might endanger the political balance of Europe or the rights of Austria.
"In the total wreck of the prospects of peace founded on these most reasonable proposals, we have had revealed sufficient proofs that these consultations could never have ended in the preservation and confirmation of peace.
"The latest events unquestionably prove: THAT PRUSSIA NOW SUBSTITUTES OPEN VIOLENCE IN THE ROOM OF RIGHT.
"The privileges of Austria, the rights and honour of the whole German Nation, are no longer regarded by Prussia as a hindrance to its mysterious and increasing ambition. Prussian troops, entering Holstein, violently dispersed the Diet, which had been assembled by the Imperial Stadtholder; and though the administration of Holstein had been jointly entrusted, at the Congress of Vienna, to both Austria and Prussia – yet now was seized by the Prussians, and the Austrian garrison was obliged to succumb to a power ten times as strong.
"The German Confederacy, startled at this unconventional, arbitrary behaviour, decided, at the request of Austria, that the Confederate troops should be put in readiness. On this decision, Prussia, who aspires to be the head of German interests, proceeded on the already chosen path of destruction, and tearing asunder the bond of German Nationality, declared its intention of leaving the Confederation, and demanded of (dared to dictate to) the German Governments a certain 'bill of Reform,' which realizes the divisions of Germany, and finally threatened with military power those Sovereigns who kept faithful to the Confederation.
"THUS THE MOST UNHOLY OF WARS, A WAR IN WHICH GERMANS HAVE TO FIGHT AGAINST GERMANS, HAS BECOME UNAVOIDABLE. FOR ALL THE CALAMITIES WHICH THIS WAR MUST ENTAIL ON INDIVIDUALS, FAMILIES, PROVINCES, AND COUNTRIES, I SUMMON THOSE WHO CAUSED IT TO ANSWER BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF HISTORY, AND OF THE ETERNAL ALMIGHTY GOD!
"I go to war with that confidence which is inspired by a just cause, and with that feeling of strength which reposes on a mighty Empire, where Sovereign and subjects are alike animated by one and the same thought, 'The true rights of Austria!' With hearty and strong courage I behold my brave soldiers prepared for war, and forming the rampart on which the strength of Austria's enemies will be broken; and I meet the gaze of my faithful subjects, who with one accord are prepared for any sacrifices.
"The pure flame of patriotic inspiration blazes everywhere, far and near, in my extensive dominions. The soldiers have cheerfully obeyed the summons to join their regiments – volunteers are anxious to be enrolled in the army, in those countries mostly threatened with becoming the scene of war – as many of the population as can bear arms are prepared for defence; and, finally, many inspired with most noble unselfishness and disinterested devotion, have hastened forward to mitigate the sufferings and alleviate the woes that war must bring.
"There is only one and the same feeling that prevails amongst the inhabitants of my kingdoms and countries, – the feeling of unity, and of strength by that unity, but with a strong sense of indignation against such unheard-of treachery. It makes my heart sad that the work of 'Remodelling Austria's Interior Constitution' has not proceeded far enough to enable the representatives of all my nations to assemble round my throne at this serious and important crisis. Though at present in want of this support, yet the more it behoves me as Ruler to assure my Empire that my firm resolve is fixed to insure this support for future times.
"We shall not stand alone in the fight. The princes and nations of Germany, our allies, recognizing that their freedom and independence are endangered by a power whose actions are solely guided by the selfish plans of an indiscreet desire of extending its dominions, and knowing that in Austria they find a strong protection and mighty support to the powers and integrity of the whole 'German Fatherland,' have, like ourselves, taken up arms to defend the most precious cause for which men can fight.
"The weapons of war were forced into our hands. Well! now we have grasped them, we neither dare nor will lay them down, until we have established the free interior development, and secured the power of my Empire, and that of the Allied German States in Europe.
"BUT WE REST NOT OUR CONFIDENCE ALONE ON OUR OWN STRENGTH AND UNITY. WE PUT OUR HOPE AND TRUST IN THE ALMIGHTY AND MOST JUST GOD, WHOM MY HOUSE HAS SERVED FROM ITS VERY BEGINNING. HE DOES NOT FORSAKE THOSE WHO TRUST IN HIS RIGHTEOUS CARE. I SHALL FERVENTLY IMPLORE HIS ASSISTANCE TO GRANT US VICTORY, AND I CALL ON ALL MY SUBJECTS TO JOIN IN MY SUPPLICATIONS.
"Given at my residence in the capital of my Empire, Vienna, June 17th, 1866.
The 19th was a very peaceful day, after the noise of the preceding ones, which had been so disturbed, especially during the night-time, not with the sound of music, but with the perpetual lumbering of the retreating, rolling stock of King John's railway. Now all that was over, and the only remains of what had been were a line of empty engines at the station, which I amused myself by wandering round. There was only a single English one amongst them, and most of them looked the worse for wear, and so ugly, with their large, low, funnel-shaped chimneys. No doubt these were of least consequence, as they were left to the last; but they also disappeared in a few days, being taken to Prague, and we were then abandoned to the dead, dull calm of suspense. There were no more trains, no steamers, no post. A very few carriages only came over the hills from Dresden, with flying travellers, and that was our sole excitement, as even the mine was finished, and only the solitary figure of the watch- ful sentry remained sitting on the sand-bags.
We found some signs of bustle at the signal-porter's lodge, which joined our hotel. In preparation for the springing of the mine, he was moving all his plants, poor man! He had such a bright, pretty garden, and took such pride and pleasure in it, that it seemed very sad to dig up all his beds of blue lark-spurs and marigolds, and his young plants of stocks and china-asters; but as time was precious, I got a large knife, and set to work to help him, and before long we had reduced his beautiful garden to a muddy wilderness. His standard rose-trees he bent down, and covered their stalks and heads, as far as possible, with mould. In the empty rooms of the lodge we stored his plants. The furniture of all the cottages near had been removed some days before, and everything was prepared for the expected explosion.
For two nights there had been rumours that Prussian riflemen were in the woods behind us. A picked party of Jägers (those who had not had the luxury of a night on the quays, or in the streets) were therefore ordered to patrol the woods. The first night they passed, I fully thought they had cleverly surprised the Prussians. I had been asleep about an hour, when, my window being open, I heard the stealthy tread of a large body of men, who, moving up the hill underneath, stopped almost as I woke. I thought – Now the next thing will be a command to surrender, in the name of King William, or that excellent Bismark! I crept cautiously to the window to know the worst, and saw that the lane was full of soldiers. It was so dark I could not distinguish their uniforms, but those just under my window were whispering rather loudly. To my intense relief, I heard the officer say, in a subdued voice –
"Piano! – piano!"
"The Jägers!" I joyfully exclaimed, as I returned to bed, where I was asleep in a minute.
The next day, the 20th, a detachment went up to the woods in the morning, instead of evening. It was the sixth company, which was under the command of an officer we knew.
In the afternoon, about six o'clock, thirty men came and took up their station just below the hotel, on a patch of ground which, the week before, had been covered with timber. I must say one good effect of the war was the surprising way in which every spot about was tidied up. Of course, this was to prevent any scrap of useful material falling into the hands of the enemy. All the huge piles of timber which had been on the banks of the Elbe ever since I was there, two years ago, were rolled into the river, and hastily converted into rafts. Men were working all day, moving every chip and twig, and the wood disappeared like snow under a hot sun, not even a stick of fir-wood being left. All that was not worth carrying away was piled up into feeble barricades at the entrance of the railway tunnels. When the timber had been completely removed, there was a small piece of soft-looking ground, where the Jägers could pile arms, and rest themselves. After the hard, stony streets of Tetschen, it must have been somewhat luxurious.
Our hours were early at the Hôtel Zum Bad, and at ten o'clock we were in our rooms. One night my dress was just off, when I heard footsteps running down the lane, and some one speaking breathlessly – what he said I could not understand, but the reply was an interrogative "Not really?" Feeling sure that something was going to happen, I hurried along the passages to J—'s room, and telling her what I had heard, begged her to go down to the sentry on the sand-bags, and ask him if the mine was to be sprung.
She instantly went down, but the engineer on duty had heard nothing.
As she was re-entering the house, she met the burgomaster, with an order that the mine was to be sprung at four o'clock. When the alarm-drum from Tetschen sounded, every one was to leave the hotel. Our excellent arrangements now served us well, as we were almost immediately ready.
Herr Garreïs came to offer any assistance, as the poor hotel-people were much too busy to think of us – their poor children having to be taken up out of their beds, and sent over the river to Tetschen. The little things, naturally surprised at this proceeding, went on their way crying bitterly.
With Herr Garreïs' help, we carried our carpet-bags and dressing-cases to the bath-house, where they were considered safe, and after leaving them under the care of my old friend the bath-woman, we returned to the hotel. As we had spent the whole day before in helping to take down muslin curtains, and pack them away, unscrew looking-glasses, remove pictures, and help as far as we could, we had now nothing to do but sit still, and glean scraps of news from those who came in. At last we found it so very cold in the front hall, that we begged permission to go into the kitchen, and warm ourselves at the stove. The cook accordingly made us up a good fire, and we took possession of the nice warm room.
UNEXPECTED ADDITION TO OUR PARTY – AMUSING QUESTIONS – THE ALARM DRUM – A CATASTROPHE PREVENTED – AUSTRIAN OFFICERS – EXPLOSION OF A MINE AT CHATHAM – IMITATIVE FACULTY OF CHILDREN – MINE ON THE TÖPLITZ ROAD.
"Farewell to Lochaber, and farewell, my Jean,|
Where heartsome with thee I've many days been;
For Lochaber no more, Lochaber no more,
We'll maybe return to Lochaber no more."
ABOUT twelve o'clock we were disturbed by a rap outside the window, which looked into the lane, and had a raised pathway running past it. A very brown face appeared, and J—, instantly mounting the dresser, opened the window. It was one of the Jägers, who said he was dreadfully cold – might he come in and warm himself? "Oh! yes," said J—, "and have some beer also."
So in marched the Jäger, and we had to go and discover the key of the cellar, as well as the way to draw the beer. By-and-bye, others of the bivouac finding the warm kitchen better than the cold night air, we had the room full of them. J— not only gave them all beer, but she and her maid cut them thick slices of bread and butter. They were so pleased and delighted, that in the warmth and light they soon regained their usual spirits and conversational powers.
We laughed heartily, thinking how astonished our friends in England would have been if they could only have seen us in this sanded kitchen from twelve at midnight till two in the morning, surrounded by large open baskets of crockery, all packed ready to be carried away, with Jägers seated on every available place, chairs, stools, and even the kitchen dresser – the floor strewn with their knapsacks, and their round hats covered by drooping black plumes (no roses in them now) hanging on every available peg and projection.
I was sitting over the fire, Gamp-like, with my bonnet and shawl on ready for a start. Whilst J— and her maid attended to the men's suppers, I gave them lights for their pipes and cigars. I also did the conversational department; and very pleasant and amusing they were to talk to – so natural and simple, like children. One poor boy, who had only joined the 26th three weeks, came in so eagerly, asking, "Where is the lady who speaks Italian?" But he was too wearied to talk, and complained much of fatigue. In fact, they all said they were very tired of sleeping in the streets for nothing.
I asked this recruit if he liked the thought of war; but instead of answering, he got red, and the others laughed. All the rest, however, seemed eager enough, and showed me their bayonets and swords, how sharp they were. It was charming to see the delicate, gentlemanly way in which they offered money for the beer; and when they found that no payment was to be taken, the vexed manner in which, on the arrival of others, they murmured, "They feared it was too encroaching – there were too many!" One man, who had had a second tankard of beer, tried to pay surreptitiously for it; but as J— and I were the barmaids, and kept the accounts, this was not easily done, and he had to put his money back. The reckoning, however, was strictly kept, and paid, much to the astonishment of the good landlord and his wife, who had no idea, I believe, of the amount of eating and drinking going on in their kitchen, whilst they were preparing for the safety of their furniture.
The questions the soldiers asked us were most amusing. When, in reply to the question, "What country did we come from?" I answered "From England," some of them looked as if they had never heard of such a country before, while others seemed astonished, and asked, "Why were we living in Bodenbach? Did the house belong to us?" "No, it was an hotel." "Why were we up so late?" "Because there was a mine going to be sprung close by at four that morning." This delighted them, as I suppose they thought it looked like business. They wondered much why we had come from England, and asked, "Were not all the English light, with blue eyes and fair hair, like the other lady?"
It was very odd that, everywhere in the out-of-the-way parts of Germany, the people never would believe I was English. They could no more believe that any English had dark hair and eyes than they could believe that we sometimes had exceptionally fine days on which we saw the sun. I had to tell the Jägers a good deal about England, and the way to reach it. They were also very curious to know where I had learned Italian. They not only willingly told us their own histories, but also their names, and where they came from. They were delighted when I told them I had been through their part of Italy only two months before.
All this chat served to while away the long hours of expectation. At half-past two they said they must go, as the lieutenant and the rest of the men would be returning from the woods. One man, who seemed to be the spokesman for the others, came up to me, and after making a long, speech in Italian, ended by saying that it was doubtful if they should ever see us again on earth, but whether destiny called them to heaven, or sent them again safe home to Italy, they should always with love and gratitude remember the two English ladies, and the pleasant night they had passed in the Inn at Bodenbach.
A corporal arrived soon after the men had left, and told us the lieutenant's party were just coming down the hill. We therefore sent a message to ask our friend to come in and have some hot coffee, which was waiting on the stove.
At three o'clock the alarm drum began dismally sounding from over the water at Tetschen. That was our summons to leave the comfortable fire and go out into the night, to see the poor hotel, where we had passed so many pleasant days, blown into ruins! Going out into the corridor, I met a tall soldier. Even in the dim light, I knew by the height and appearance of his plume that it was the Lieutenant. He came into the kitchen, half dead with cold. I could not triumph over the dear Bohemians in their hour of distress; but I longed to tell them that I doubted if, even in England, the night of the 20th of June was as piercingly cold as it was in Bodenbach.
The warning sound of the drum still continuing, we were in a great hurry – so much so, that J— poured out the first cup of coffee without using any strainer; but the lieutenant said it was very hot, and very good, and he was very thankful for it. Though by this time, I believe, the lamp had been put out, and the coffee-making was carried on by the light of the stove, the second cup was pronounced a great success. However, I had to interrupt my friends, and remind them of the alarm which warned us that the mine was about to explode. The corporal also came hurrying in, having awoke to the fact that we were on the very scene of danger. So we took leave, hoping some day, in happier times, to meet again. How often after- wards we used to repeat the Lieutenant's parting exclamation – "In a month you will hear of us in Berlin!"
These were the words with which Lieutenant von L— returned to his men, while J— and I, accompanied by Herr Garreïs, took up our position on a rising ground at a little distance, from whence we could see the explosion. The time seemed endless, for the cold was very keen. Towards four all the beautiful rocks and mountains round began to assume a bright, soft, rose-coloured tint from the rising sun, a sight to be seen only at that early hour!
All the good people of Tetschen had also turned out to see the explosion; and on the other side of the Elbe every little hill and knoll of ground had its group of anxious spectators. The Jäger detachment, which had been drawn up in line close to the mine, were at this moment being marched away to cross the bridge and return to Tetschen. For some days past men had been employed sawing away the supports of the suspension-bridge, and taking out all the bolts and screws, so that now it was only fastened together by cords and slips of wood. Directly the soldiers had passed, workmen began to cut away these fastenings. Figures were also flitting about the mine, and the match was actually lighted, when an express came with orders that the explosion should not take place.
There was a moment's pause. The engineers, I think, were sorry that the mine was not to be fired. In another second, they were pouring water on the train, and bucket after bucket full was emptied upon the cases containing fourteen hundred-weight of gunpowder, thus spoiling the work of many nights and days. It must have cost a good sum of money, too; and where guldens are scarce, this was a consideration. To say nothing of the waste of powder, six carpenters had been employed every day in preparing the wood for the supports and for the boxes. Men and horses, too, were employed to draw the timber; and there was also a Dientsmann, for two days after the mine was charged, sitting by the sentry. I never quite made out this official's especial duty – whether it was to keep the sentry from going to sleep, or to prevent his smoking. However, here was the end of our mine; but the express came too late to save the bridge, which went down with a great crash, about the moment that the mine should have exploded.
We learnt afterwards that we had to thank the major of the 26th battalion for having saved us this catastrophe. He saw not only the inutility of the proceeding, but the ruin and misery it would cause to so many, and used the most strenuous efforts with the authorities at Prague to prevent its completion. He also objected to the sacrifice of the beautiful suspension-bridge over the Elbe; and suggested the removal of only one distinct portion, a plan which was adopted. It was a great saving of the expense, labour, and time which would necessarily have been lavished if the engineer major's plans had been carried out.
Before I quite take leave of the Major, I must tell you that at Königgrätz he had his horse shot under him, and was taken prisoner, but rescued by his men. Another officer we knew was shot dead. His soldiers, determined to keep his body, formed round it, and all were shot but eighteen, who were taken prisoners.
While the process of chopping and cutting was going on over the bridge, we saw a mounted hussar appear at full speed on the Tetschen side, and try to cross. He saw the attempt was useless, and turned his horse's head. Once indeed he stopped, apparently determined to try again, but as the bridge was even then beginning to totter, he perceived he could not possibly pass, and slowly rode back.
We heard later that he was an express sent to stop the springing of the mine on the Töplitz road; but as he failed to cross the river, and there were no cavalry soldiers on our side of it, at half-past four the mine went off in a column of dust and earth, seen for a long distance. It was more heavily charged than ours, but not being near any village its explosion did not matter so much.
How the Prussians – when they had swept victoriously past us – must have laughed at our feeble attempts to stop their way at Bodenbach. If the Saxons at Dresden, and Benedek with his fine army, had taken only half as much trouble comparatively, perhaps the fate of Austria might have been different.
When we had seen the mine disposed of, and the bridge broken down, we knew the best thing we could do was to return thankfully to our beds, glad to think that, instead of everything being scattered to the four winds of heaven, even the bouquet of roses on my table would be precisely as I left it. At this moment, when the rising sun was appearing, and the earth began to look glorious in its first early beams, on the morning of the longest day, there arose on the stillness, from the market-place of Tetschen the solemn tones of a mournful hymn played by a military band. The sound, heard in the distance, was at once so sweet and plaintive that while listening to it we felt as if entranced, and for a few moments were unable to utter a word.
"It is the Jägers preparing to start," observed Herr Garreïs; "they always have a prayer played by the band before they commence a march, when leaving a town."
Light-hearted Jägers! – many a soldier's heart joined in that prayer and farewell, which to not a few was the last on earth, as amongst all the Italian battalions, who in that brief and deadly campaign fought most gallantly, clinging to their colours and officers with unshaken fidelity, the 26th were eminently distinguished. Faithfully and bravely they did their duty to the country whose pay they took, and to the leaders whom they followed.
Many an anecdote we heard afterwards of the dauntless manner in which the Jägers plunged into the rain of bullets poured upon them by the needle-guns, to rescue their wounded or captured officers.
When the hospital beds were filled with the dying and the wounded, and Major —, who commanded the 26th Battalion, moved from couch to couch, filled with his suffering soldiers, from not one did there arise a murmur or complaint; but as he bent over the wounded men, from each and all came the muttered whisper – from the lips of men writhing in the death agony, whose work was nearly done:
"Don't grieve for us, Major – only tell us you are contented with us. We have done our best."
And these are the men who, the English papers tell us, threw down their arms, and shouted "Garibaldi!" All the Austrian officers will, I think, be very sorry when their brave, warm-hearted soldiers are disbanded to return to their homes round Padua, Mantua, and Vicenza. Poor fellows! – if, in the course of events, they should be drawn again in conscription for the Italian army, how they will feel the change from the quiet, firm, gentlemanly rule of the Austrian officer, to the brag and swagger of their Italian masters! As a newspaper correspondent wrote only last week from Venice, "The Austrian, though a perfect officer, never forgets he is a perfect gentleman," and as such, he wins the love and confidence of his soldiers. With what a gleam of enthusiasm their dark Italian eyes lighted up when the names of their respective lieutenants or captains were mentioned. "Ah! he is kind!" "We would follow him anywhere!" "There is no one like —!" With them such language was not merely talk, for, as I said before, many a soldier sealed his words with his life's blood.
During this digression, however, I have left our party shivering on the hill-top at four o'clock in the morning, listening eagerly to the sad strains of the parting hymn, and joining earnestly in the prayer that went up to heaven with those martial notes, on the early breeze of morning, from the groups that stood around with reverently uncovered heads – "that God would bless the arms of Austria." That prayer has not been granted, but in that future land, "where all is made right which so puzzles us here," we shall be satisfied that this denial, like many another we have all had to take on trust, was for some wise and good purpose. We felt indeed very sanguine and very confident, as the sound of the band, in a wild, soul-stirring march, faded away in the distance, and we took our way homewards – first visiting the ruins of the mine, over which the engineers had just finished pouring water. The men, with a smile, expressed their sorrow at the waste of so much good material. Then salut- ing us, and wishing us good-bye, with the usual "Kiss your hand," they jumped into a boat (for there was no bridge now) which was waiting, crossed the Elbe, scrambled up the further bank, and were seen no more, while we were left to experience the results of Benedek's mysterious plans, &c., or to trust to the mercy of the Prussians. Just now, however, bed was our first thought, and we returned to our hotel as our poor little landlady, with tears of joy, was welcoming back her children to the home that was still standing safe and firm to receive them.
If the mine had been sprung, the part of the hotel nearest to the road must have fallen; and as the landlord had only bought the house this year, and had spent much money not only in repainting and decorating it, but also in adding to it, its destruction would have been absolute ruin to him. How sound, too, I slept that night! Perhaps I was more nervous than I need have been; but I could not help dwelling on what might happen if the mine were to explode accidentally. Once, some years ago, at Chatham, at a grand sham fight, a mine accidentally exploded; and though no one was killed, or seriously hurt, I have a vivid recollection of seeing soldiers, with dust, stones, and rubbish, all flying up into the air together. The Sappers I remember worked energetically for an hour, digging for any bodies which might have been buried; and H. R. H. the Duke of Cambridge manifested intense anxiety, as first a cap, and then a musket, was dug up, every one expecting heads and limbs to follow.
As this calamity had been produced by the entanglement of an officer's spur in the wire of a battery, I had still darker misgivings as to the effects of an Austrian pipe, or of some of the loose gunpowder with which the village children were always making trains.
What curious imitative little beings children are, all the world over – very like monkeys! In England the seaside children are always sailors – the land-children are either drovers or plough-men. In fact, I knew the little son of a Kentish squire, who thought his calling was decidedly that of a navvy during the time some large works were being carried out on his father's estate. At Bodenbach, the little urchins were constantly drilling, or making powder-mines. With the wonderfully correct ear of their nation, they used always to whistle or sing to perfection the various marches and bugle-calls of the Jägers. We were often amused watching them as they came from school, acting the part of soldiers; and when dismissed from their mimic drill, inquiring where was house Number So-and-so, where they were to be billeted.
When we had recovered from our "night out," Dr. Biedermann advised us to pay a visit to the ruins of the powder-mine on the Töplitz road, as it was only an hour's journey. So, when the heat of the day was over, about seven o'clock in the evening, J— and I started on our walk.
The road through the valley beyond Bodenbach and under the Schneeberg was very pretty, but we thought wonderfully long. Indeed, we found out afterwards that it was an hour's driving, so about five miles off, and we did not get there till half-past eight. The sight, however, was quite worth the long walk. The mine had been more heavily charged than ours – with eighteen hundredweight of powder – and had made a tremendous pitfall in the road. The engineers had chosen a very pretty spot for their work of destruction, on the brow of a slight hill, where the road, winding under the Schneeberg, was overhung with large trees, the torn branches and leaves of which were now strewn over it, mingled with large stones and bits of rock; while above the ruin the bright little fireflies floated about like the lingering sparks of the ruthless gunpowder exulting over the wreck below.
There were a good many peasant women and children around, and by-and-by two wood-cutters arrived. As they said they lived close by, J— inquired of them how long the engineers had been digging this mine, and informed them they had worked a week at the Bodenbach one. But they would not hear for a moment of the mines being modern works, and gravely assured J— that they were made yeas ago, when the roads were formed. As they looked too stupid and awestruck to be accused of "chaff," we also tried to assume the same appearance at the intelligence thus communicated to us.
It was past ten when we got back to supper, but a lovely evening, and the banks were everywhere covered with the pale-coloured enothera, which, from only opening its blossoms when the sun goes down, has acquired its English name of "evening primrose." The fireflies, too, were a novelty to us. Such numbers of them, glancing in and out of the trees, with their vivid blue light, looked very striking. We used often to see them floating over our heads when, later in the hot evenings, we took our supper out on the terrace of the hotel; but the night we went to visit the ruins of the mine on the Töplitz road was the first time since the bright hot evenings at Malta that I had seen them.
RAPID MOVEMENTS OF THE PRUSSIANS – MY OLD BATH-WOMAN – MUSICAL EVENINGS – RIVER POLICE – DEPARTURE OF CONSCRIPTS – RECEPTION OF THE KING AND QUEEN OF SAXONY – THE WOUNDED AT PRAGUE – LIEUTENANT PFEIFFER.
"Theirs was the crown of victory, the hour|
Of triumph, and the applause of distant lands
Might have been envied; but I know the gore
Of murdered kindred dyed the victors' hands."
ON midsummer day we were greeted with the intelligence that the Prussians were within three hours' march of us; but as ours was an obscure little village, and off the great battle route, the news did not alarm us. We were also told that sixteen hundred troops were coming into Tetschen next day. This was worse information, as, of course, the Austrian troops must offer resistance to the Prussians, and sixteen hundred would not do much against the Prussian army! A battle round our windows would have been dreadful; but no doubt the Austrians found out how near the enemy was, for the sixteen hundred men never appeared, though on the Monday morning following, the Prussians did, and an outpost marched into Tetschen. They were very tired and hungry, and the people flocked round them, giving them food and drink, and listening to their adventures. They all told the same tale – that they hated the war, that they would willingly lay down their arms directly they met Benedek, and that they had anxiously hoped to have met the Austrians in Dresden, where they would have fraternised with them at once!
We believed them implicitly, for everywhere we heard the same story, and I really think, in the early part of the campaign, the common feelings with which they regarded their Fatherland made them averse to this fratricidal war. Everywhere in Austria the Prussian soldiers seem to have behaved tolerably well, when acting from their own free will; but the officers made themselves hated by their arrogance, insolence, and unfeeling conduct.
Everywhere, even before war was dreamt of, the Prussian officer was regarded as the most haughty and repulsive of mortals, as poor Austria soon found by bitter experience. At a later period, when they were flushed with unparalleled success, and intoxicated with unexampled victories, one could not wonder if the loved Bund and the claims of brotherhood were forgotten; but on the 25th of June, we fully thought that there would be, at least, a stage embrace when the contending armies met – that much would be forgiven and forgotten on both sides – and that a lasting peace would be the result. Despite of Dr. Cumming, however, we are still far from the Millennium, and the lists of killed and wounded that in a few short days were furnished to the world showed how wildly extravagant were our hopes, and how fallacious the words of the Prussian hussars.
One of the officers in command of this little party was a relation of Count Thun's, at the Castle of Tetschen. He sent a hurried note by one of the troopers to Countess Juza, the Count's daughter, saying he was very hungry, and praying that she would take pity on him, and send him some food. The Countess, though a most patriotic Bohemian, took compassion on her enemy, and was hastily superintending the packing of a hamper of provisions, when a peremptory summons so hastened the hussar's departure, that he derived no benefit from the store of good things. Truly the Prussians did not let the grass grow under their feet in their rapid movements. We, on the other side of the Elbe, were in a very isolated position that day. We had not even the excitement of seeing the Prussians, as our poor little ferry-boat was sunk, and we were only able to guess at what was going on; but in the evening, when the enemy had left, we got a queer little boat (without even an apology for a seat) to take us over to Tetschen.
There we saw Miss Adair and the Countess Juza, and heard the news of the hussar's visit. These ladies walked part of the way back with us, and when near the ferry we met the postmaster with an express just arrived, containing the report of a battle – heavy losses on both sides; but success on the part of Austria.
Next day there was great excitement on the arrival of a train from Prague; but it only stayed to unload, take in the letters, water the engine, and then was off again, on its return to the capital.
Our position at Tetschen and Bodenbach was always looked on as highly dangerous, as we were situated between the two fortresses of Königstein and Theresienstadt, the only places passed by the Prussians in their victorious march which remained the property of their respective monarchs.
The weather was fearfully hot. Quite early in the morning we used to hear in the distance the heavy firing, which we knew portended the be- ginning of another day of slaughter. This, mingled with some very heavy thunder-storms, went on day after day for nearly a week from the 26th of June.
The most horrible sign of carnage I noticed was in the appearance of several carrion crows, which, regularly every morning, in the very early dawn, used to come down from the mountains beyond, and resting for a few moments on the rocks opposite my windows, where they uttered their discordant cries, then pursued their flight in the direction of the red field of battle, not to reappear till the next morning's light started them again on their repulsive errand!
One day, when taking my Russian bath, I heard, as I thought, the sound of heavy firing in the distance, and asked the old bath woman if she also heard it.
She went out to listen, and came back saying,
"No; it is only the cannon-thunder of the good God!"
This old woman used to amuse me during my bath-hour by devising bath-tortures for Bismark. He was to be left in the hot vapour, vainly imploring for a cold douche; he was to be thrust into the red-hot furnace, and the door closed on his shrieks; or he was to be held under the cold douche till his senses departed! Poor thing! she used to envy me because I was going back to England, saying that there, where there was peace, all went smooth! I think if she had seen Hyde Park on the evening of the 23rd of July last, as I did, perhaps she would have preferred even the Prussian soldiers to the "roughs" of "peaceful England."
She came from Prague in her youth, and had worked industriously with her husband at these baths, till they had saved money to buy a pretty Swiss villa in Bodenbach. The view from the balcony was lovely. In the evenings of the long summer days in 1864, when this Swiss cottage was inhabited by some English friends of mine, many a happy hour we passed in that balcony. It was pleasure enough to sit there, and feast one's eyes on the lovely view; and to sketch it was a work of which we never tired.
About September the landscape looked so very picturesque late at night, when all along both banks of the Elbe the peasants used to light fires, in order to attract a small sort of flying insect which came in large swarms in the hot evenings. When they had gathered these into cloths, they rolled them into a sort of paste, and sold them at a good price as food for cage-birds. I have often counted more than sixty fires lighting up the groups of women and children, and illuminating for a long distance the swift-running waters of the Elbe.
In those tranquil days, too, we often used to have very pleasant musical evenings, when we listened, not to the martial airs with which we had now become very familiar, but to the soft, sweet Bohemian choruses of the musical society at Tetschen. Once, when a glorious harvest- moon was shining, we were asked to meet a large party on the opposite bank of the Elbe; and there for hours we wandered, listening to melodious duets and choruses seldom, if ever, heard in England; the voices on the tops of the high cliffs and amongst the echoing pine woods sounding so wild and heart-stirring.
Those glad days, however, were gone, and we alone remained of the large, cheerful party that used to meet in 1864. The bath-house, hotels, and Swiss cottage were no longer filled with visitors from Prague and Töplitz. A solitary Saxon lady alone occupied rooms in one hotel.
I often looked with very covetous eyes at the Swiss cottage, thinking how delighted I should be if it were mine; but it was not a Naboth's vineyard to me, for the dark days being come, the poor bath people wanted to sell it. I should have liked much to purchase it – they only wanted a little over a thousand pounds English for it – but I comforted myself with the reflection that, if I bought it, I could not afford to live there; or, if I did, I should have to walk yearly to and from Calais, as I could not pay for my ticket also, and I should not like to spend the winter in Bodenbach, when the vast pine forests are encrusted with snow, and the Elbe's swift current is locked in fetters of ice.
Every day now brought reports of battles, and the victory was invariably announced on the side of Austria. As newspapers were very rare and uncertain, we had to be thankful even for rumours. The post came from Prague some days on a "lorry." Occasionally the trains ventured as far from that city as Aussig, and then sent on the letters by the more modest conveyance. Of course, no passengers cared to risk a journey in these troubled times, and as the railway was nearly everywhere broken up, no merchandise was sent.
Herr Schiller's sydrolith-ware works went on as usual, luckily for the many hands he employed. The wares, not being perishable, could be stored, and wait till prosperity and peace were re-established. Though the manufactory of Jordaiens and Timmins (whose chocolate gained the prizes in the Exhibitions both of 1851 and 1862) had to be partially closed, the firm generously continued to pay their poor work-people, even though they could not give them employment.
For a wonder, on the 27th, a steamer – the "King John" – came down the river. Instead of the groups of brightly-dressed holiday folks, who usually occupied her decks, we now only saw a detachment of Austrian soldiers, doing the duty of river police, to clear the Elbe of rafts. These soldiers used also to patrol the banks, on the look out for Prussian outposts. These were now the only signs of life in Bodenbach, for, as I said before, even since our arrival, except the soldiers, we had been the sole occupants of the hotel. In short, except one family of visitors, we were the only strangers in the place, and quite looked on the hotel, with the Count's beautiful pine woods, as exclusively our own. The idea was very delightful, but what shall we think if we ever go there again?
In my early morning walks through the lonely forests, I used to wander on, never meeting anything more alarming than unusually large lion ants, or the black and yellow lizards sunning themselves in the warmth of the morning rays. A human being in the shape of a woodcutter was almost as startling as if he had been a Prussian. How much pleasanter was this than meeting "bath patients" and "bath guests" at every turn, and having to sally forth in those warm mornings, arrayed in bonnet and shawl, to meet the requirements of society. I knew that on the woodcutter, the lizard, and the lion ant, my print dress, and a thick Italian parasol, would have exactly the same effect as a saucer bonnet and mantle of the newest Paris fashion; and very happily I used to wander about, admiring the magnificent trees and abundant wild flowers, and hoping and longing for news of a glorious victory. But alas! on the 28th came tidings of sorrow; the Austrians were still victorious, but our poor Jägers had been fearfully cut up in a hard-won battle. They had fought bravely and well, the papers said, but had suffered terribly.
I hardly know at this time how events succeeded each other, our news, beyond the ideas suggested by the heavy firing we heard, was so meagre and so contradictory. I can only tell what happened as we heard it – no doubt very different from what it really was, and from what was known in England.
I did not wish to leave Bohemia till we had heard that the victory of Austria was thoroughly assured, and Prussia completely humiliated; but I often longed to be in England, to see English papers, and know what really was going on. I got one letter from home on the 28th, the first I had had for ages, and most thankfully was it welcomed. Later in the week I received two old English newspapers, which had been travelling round by Vienna, as our post now came that way. At a later period it had to come from thence by waggon, and very ancient were our letters when they arrived. Many never found their way to us at all, and were probably either left by the roadside in some broken-down old vehicle, or else they became the lawful prey of some Prussian regiment. I only hope the literal translation repaid them for the trouble of appropriating them.
The 29th, the "King John" appeared again, and returned late in the evening, driving slowly before it a very small steamer which it had rescued at Krippen, as it was just going to be sent, by some not very patriotic Saxon, to the Prussians at Dresden.
The two steamers had sad work the next two days – taking away from Tetschen, Bodenbach, and the neighbourhood, the conscripts who had been drawn to join the army. When I saw the immense procession winding down to the Elbe, I fully thought it was the Prussians; but it was a melancholy sight – no one appeared willing to be the first to leave his native shore. A desperate resolve, however, seemed at last to nerve one. He made a dash up the plank on to the deck of the steamer, and then the others were obliged to follow him. It was piteous to see the lingering way in which some went, many with their friends clinging round them, to take the last farewell on board, and it was not until the utmost verge of patience on the part of the captain was passed, that they could be prevailed upon to go.
One of those drawn was the son of the woodcutter just above our hotel, and the poor old mother came back, after seeing her son off, with her apron flung over her face, sobbing bit- terly. A young girl came down the hill to meet her, and, silently taking her hand, led her home. This son had been the principal support of his parents; and though many a sad group passed up the hill that evening, the poor old mother's loss has lingered in my mind as the saddest reminiscence of all.
After this there was another period of suspense – no letters, no trains, no papers – only the telegram from Prague. One day I received a letter from a Bohemian friend in that city (Prague is five hours from Bodenbach by train, and my letter had been three days coming). It gave me a description of the reception of the King and Queen of Saxony, some days before. The Queen and princesses came first, and occupied thirty rooms at the "Golden Angel." They were always most simply dressed, and walked out unknown and unmolested. When the King arrived, Her Majesty went to meet him, and wept dreadfully. The people of Prague cheered him as he passed, to show their sympathy, and he appeared much touched.
My friend in the capital of Bohemia had not heard more reliable news than we had in secluded Bodenbach, for she ended her letter of the 21st of June say saying –
"We hear that the Prussians retire slowly again from Saxony. Everyone here believes that the Austrians will attack the Prussians on the Silesian frontier, and all are sanguine of victory for us. Heaven grant it!"
The people at the telegraph-office were very civil; but J— never learnt any intelligence there. They went so far one day as to say that, if the news ever was good, it would soon be known. We had therefore to rest satisfied with such information as we could obtain from private sources. Everything that was official oozed out only in a garbled form, from which we could learn little or nothing.
Every day there came reports in some shape or other of victories won by Austria. Even the last days before Königgrätz, we were still buoyed up with promises of success. But the suspense and the utter dearth of official news were unbearable; and though we rejoiced over reported victories, yet we could not help observing, when we traced the movements of the opposing forces on a map of the country kindly lent us by Herr Garreïs, that after every fresh success the Austrians retreated, and the Prussians followed. On my venturing to remark to some one that this seemed inconsistent with the idea of conquest, I was told that it was Benedek's strategy, the result of which would be a triumph so complete, that Prussia would be humbled to the dust!
We heard of a great many wounded on the Austrian side. They were conveyed to Prague, where their reception was most touching – people crowding the streets, so that the carriages with the maimed soldiers could only advance very slowly. Everybody tried to give them something – money, cigars, or eatables. Even the beggars I was told gave the poor soldiers a kreutzer or two! Many of them seemed pleased to receive these tokens of compassion, and even murmured a few words of thanks; but some, alas! refused everything with a mournful shake of the head, as if they were past all relief or hope!
On the 4th of July, we were told that a great battle was expected, and that we should now be able to appreciate the splendid plans of the Austrian general. No cathedral town or watering-place gossips could ever have had a more insatiable thirst for news than that which possessed us. It seemed marvellous to be within twenty miles of the battle-fields, and yet know nothing reliable! We heard the firing, and fancied heavy masses of clouds were the smoke from the cannons. Yet no whisper came to tell us how the day was going! We had now, however, the satisfaction of going over to Tetschen to talk things over with our English friends there, as our little ferry-boat had been fished up again from the bottom of the Elbe, where it had been sunk when the Prussians were considered too near; though, all this time, any one walking from Tetschen, five miles on the Kamnitz road, might have seen the white tents of the enemy pitched on the side of the Kaltenberg.
Poor young Lieutenant Pfeiffer returned about this time, wounded, from the encounter at Jiejn. He belonged to the Würtemberg Hussars (not really from Würtemberg; but as the Austrian regiments have no numbers, they are designated by such names at the Würtemberg, the Graf Hangwitz, and even the King of Prussia's Hussars). Lieutenant Pfeiffer had his horse shot under him, and was then wounded by a sword-cut over his shoulder. When he recovered sufficiently to disentangle himself from his dead charger, he luckily caught another which was running loose, and was enabled to ride to the rear, where he had his wound dressed. Being perfectly disabled in his sword-arm, and very weak from loss of blood, he was ordered to return home. If he could have come across the hills, this would have been a very short ride; but all that part of the country being now in the hands of the enemy, he had to ride very slowly to Prague, thence by train to Aussig, and home to Bodenbach by "lorry." He was much reduced by his journey, which had been very harassing, from the road being so blocked by soldiers and war material. So great was his weakness, from loss of blood, that he seemed to suffer more from the haunting horrors of what he had seen at Jiejn than from his wound. For days and nights, whether waking or sleeping, he could not shake off the recollection of an extremely tall Prussian soldier who, armed with the deadly needle-gun, had rained death around him! In vain young Pfeiffer had attempted to make his men charge, as horses and riders were alike struck down by the fearful shower of bullets. This man, who, towering over his comrades, appeared to stand scathless, seemed to return now, in the delirium of fever, to revisit the poor lieutenant!
For many days not all the joys of his home, nor the care and attentions of his family circle, could bring a smile to his face, so deeply was he impressed with the horrors of that day, when, lying under the weight of his dead horse, wounded and bleeding, he saw his men falling round him in fearful numbers. Out of the seventy-two officers of his regiment, fifty were wounded, and the men literally fell in masses. Of course he could tell nothing with regard to the termination of the day's fighting; but there was a general impression that Austria had won a series of small encounters at Podel on the 26th, at Münchengrätz on the 27th, at Jung Bunzlau on the 28th, at Jiejn on the 29th, and that the Prussians were being lured into a trap, where their destruction would be complete!
DEFEAT OF AUSTRIA – CONDUCT OF THE PRUSSIANS – CHANGING CIRCULAR NOTES – MAKING LINT – LETTER FROM PRAGUE – THE LITTLE KELLNER – WAITING FOR THE POST – SCHNEEBERG – A GROUP AT PRAYER.
"Love oft since this strange world began,|
Walking his path of awe and wonder,
Has brought a better age to man
In blood, and fire, and battle thunder.
Angels, that with the evening star
Looked down upon the field of doom,
Wept – but serenely, for they saw
Beyond the veil the good to come."
WE went over to Tetschen in the evening, but a gloomy distrust seemed on every face – a dim foreshadowing of the dismal tidings that burst on us next morning, when the sad fact could no longer be withheld, and we learnt the melancholy truth that Austria had been beaten – utterly and completely beaten. Her soldiers, we were informed, had fought bravely at Königgrätz, but her generals had disagreed, and the subordinate commanders had refused to obey the orders of their superiors, the result of which was the total defeat and dispersion of the Austrian army.
We heard nothing of the needle-gun in those days – only execrations, loud and deep, on Clam-Gallas, who, late at Magenta, was no less than forty-eight hours behind his time in fulfilling Benedek's orders to defend the passes near Reichenberg. Some said he had been celebrating in champagne, at a small inn, the victory of Custozza, when his men were anxiously watching for their commander to lead them to the field of battle. What sickening misery it must have been to Benedek, while, with the weak wing of his army, he waited in vain for the tardy Bavarians and their unpunctual commander, and when, after having seven times beaten back the Prussians from Chlum, he was at length compelled to yield. When that position was taken, and his men felt the full power of the Prussian cross-fire, well might he have exclaimed, "Save me from my friends!"
J— went down to the station in the afternoon of this sad 5th of July, but could neither hear good news, nor even particulars of the fearful battle of the 3rd at Königgrätz. In the evening, however, we had no longer a ray of hope left that the sad news might have been exaggerated. Everyone confirmed the morning's bad tidings, and it was a sad party that gathered for supper that evening in the parlour of the Hotel Zum Bad. In the hall was a poor woman just arrived from Töplitz, very tired and footsore, and sadly frightened by the Prussian soldiers, who had ordered out of the town all who had no occupation, or who were not invalids. This poor woman, a widow, having no trade to follow, had fled with many others, but in her flight had left everything behind, thankful to escape with her life. How startling it was to find that the Prussians were the first to break the promises which they had voluntarily made! At Kissingen and at Töplitz, both places where there were mineral springs devoted to the sick and feeble, they had behaved atrociously.
It was piteous this evening, and on many succeeding days, to see the numbers of poor people – raftsmen and wood-cutters out of employ, and many other sturdy-looking Bohemians who had nothing to do, for there was no work to be had – standing the whole day on the banks of the Elbe, watching for the first sight of the victorious Prussian army. Horsemen were reported to have been seen in the distance; but as they had work further on to do, whilst we were looking for them they were far on their way to Prague. In obedience to orders received, the telegraph wires on the other side of the the station, between Bodenbach and Prague, were cut, and all the government officials – railway, post-office, and custom-house – disappeared.
When we were crossing in our little boat from Tetschen in the evening, there came over with us a poor woman, evidently in great grief. On J—'s inquiring what was the matter, she told her that she was hurrying home to bake seven loaves of bread, as the Prussians would be in Bodenbach in a couple of days; and as she usually had only two loaves in her cottage, if they found only that small number, they would be so angry that they would assuredly kill her. To appease their wrath, therefore, she was going to have a grand baking. Poor thing, I hope she was quieted by J—'s assurance that the Prussians would scarcely trouble themselves to pillage such small cottages, and that Bodenbach itself was not rich enough to tempt them to linger for such a strict search.
On going down to the Bank at Bodenbach next evening, we found a significant sign of the times in the fact that the door was fastened, and a chain put across it. The last time we went to change a circular note they gave us seven pounds fourteen shillings extra on twenty pounds English, but now they declined changing one at all, as in the present state of the country they did not know how long it might be before they could get these notes circulated. We had therefore to be economical and live on what we had left till they got better news – a very distant and un- certain prospect, for the brighter days seemed farther off than ever, and everything looked dark and gloomy.
There was no talk now of pleasant walks or excursions. Our time was principally taken up in making lint from old linen supplied by Countess Juza. Lint is made quite differently in Austria from what it is in England. When we explained our method to Dr. Biederman, he courteously answered that it seemed very excellent, yet they naturally preferred having it prepared their own way – viz., cut into small squares and long strips – pulling every thread separate – the smaller lengths for gunshot wounds, and the long fibres for sword cuts. Except for this employment I don't think we were any more busy than the poor raftsmen, for all day we were constantly turning our eyes to the windows or listening for the sound of firing.
Walking was out of the question, when at any turn we might meet a Prussian outpost. All the evening on the terrace we used to watch for the beacon fires which occasionally answered each other from the hills. Our greatest mental occupation was in trying to calculate how long the Archduke Albrecht, with the victorious southern army, would take to come from Venetia, by that terrible single line railway, to the help of Benedek – for that now seemed our only hope.
The evening of the 6th of July I had another letter from Prague (only one day coming). It was so sad that it made me still more miserable but it showed how great was the despair that reigned in the Bohemian capital when the unexpected truth burst upon them.
"I intended to tell you of our happiness about our Italian victories, and was sure you would rejoice with us; and just now comes the dreadful news that we are beaten by the Prussians, and that they are on their march to Prague. Our friends wish us to leave, but I hate the thought of flight, and will stay where I am. People are flying by thousands to Pilsen and Vienna; but, my dear, dear Miss Eden, deeply I feel the humiliation for my country. I am so unhappy about it – could only something be done to help my Austria, and my poor Emperor! And those overbearing, hateful Prussians – shall they come here, and take possession of Bohemia? I cannot bear that thought. And the Bund! – great help that has given us! The Bund made the condition that we should not march into Silesia, or else they would take the part of Prussia. So we were obliged to let the Prussians come here, and now they conquer us. Oh! this humiliation, to be conquered by them! I scarcely know what I write – what I think. I have only one prayer – help for Austria! The whole day we make charpie (lint) for our poor wounded soldiers, of whom a very large number arrived already two days ago. It is fearful to see them suffer, and to know now that all their sufferings were in vain. They fought so bravely – so gallantly; and shall they have done their duty so well only to become prisoners to our enemies? Great heaven! hast thou no justice any more, to let the Prussians, who broke their word, and are no better than thieves, be our victors?"
I did not dare to answer immediately this earnest outburst of wounded feeling, for if I had written as I felt, the letter would never have been delivered; but I looked forward with great pleasure to writing the first day that the Prussians were clear of Bohemia, and telling my friend that, victorious though they were, there were other places besides Prague where the Prussians, with their king at their head, were looked upon as no better than thieves and liars.
As we had no letters or newspapers now, we were very doubtful about our route home to England. We could not find out if the railway beyond Dresden had been restored by the Prussians. We knew it had not been so on this side, for the torn-up rails were lying in the garden below us. By Prague and Pilsen, of course, we could not go. However, J— determined to send her German maid home to Dresden, if it could be managed; and as Paulina had a brother who was employed on the railway, she thought he might be able to bring a "lorry" for her, a vehicle which now seemed to us the height of luxurious travelling. I suppose, however, they were not able to manage that, for they arrived at ten o'clock at night from Dresden, with a pass for twenty-four hours' leave from the Prussian official in command there. They gave a not very pleasing account of the state of the road between Bodenbach and Dresden. So much timber had been felled across it, that half the time in coming had been occupied in lifting the carriage over it, with the assistance of peasants. If they had had luggage, it would have been endless work. Neither was the account of the state of Dresden, with the Prussian troops billeted on the townspeople, very inviting. We all knew by this time the character of the Prussians, their rough, brutal soldiers, and their ungentlemanly officers, the former greedy and wasteful, the latter indulging in an unpardonable system of extortion, the meanness of which they endeavoured to cover by their excessive arrogance and presumption.
One Russian widow lady, who was known to be very rich, had, they assured us, a hundred men quartered in her house; and this we could well believe, when we were told that the rooms which J— had occupied had now the privilege of containing eight men and two officers. We often amused ourselves wondering if the officers passed through the men's rooms, or the men through the officer's; for, as I said before, the rooms all opened one into the other, and, though very picturesque and charming, were ill calculated to hold a mixed company.
The first question that the Prussians asked, when they entered Dresden, and found the place, to their astonishment, empty, was, "Where are those Saxon hounds?"
People in England will hardly believe the extreme secresy observed in all the movements of the Austrian army. With letters and newspapers stopped, all correspondence under the strictest surveillance, the telegraphs everywhere under Government control, and every means of transmitting information most rigidly and jealously guarded from the public, it may be imagined how difficult it was to obtain reliable news of the army.
In those days Prussian spies and traitors were plentiful; and events since have proved how utterly Austria was at the mercy of her rival, who had taken care to collect from every source such information as might prove serviceable to her in the campaign.
But to return to the Saxon family of J—'s pretty lady's-maid, who, in the hotel, were pouring out their lamentations at the enormous appetites of the Prussians. They told us that they had coffee, bread, and butter early; at eleven, coffee, bread and butter, and meat; at dinner, hot meat, vegetables, and pudding – a bottle of wine for each officer, and beer for the men. Afternoon coffee, and supper of bread, meat, cheese, and the best beer; six excellent cigars a day for the officers, and the same number of inferior ones for each man. At one private house, where, a party being quartered, the lady had sent away her silver, and substituted German metal, they demanded the silver back. "Were they pigs, that they could eat without silver?" They appeared to be anything but pleasant guests. In the streets they have been known to take the horses out of the droskies and appropriate them to the use of the army.
One pleasant little anecdote was very satisfactory to us to hear. It appears that when the Prussians came to the Green Vaults in the palace at Dresden, where are the large collections of all the choicest treasures of the Crown of Saxony, they found the doors locked, and demanded the keys. They were informed they were at the English Minister's. They desired them to be brought from there, that they might take possession of them. They were told that that could not be done, as they were now the property of Great Britain. However, as they insisted on the keys being brought, they were procured from our Minister's; and when the doors were opened, all the gems, jewels, and treasures of every description, to their extreme disgust, had the seal of England affixed to them.
A wonderful tale was also circulated regarding the workmen in the Grosse Garten, who, on being employed to fell the beautiful trees there, for the purpose of erecting barricades, &c., were stopped by a mysterious personage, whose very presence seemed to inspire awe, and who was said to be the representative of England. As we were informed, however, on good authority that this story was not true, we were obliged reluctantly to disbelieve the little romance.
The weather even seemed now to share in the general depression, and changed from the intense heat of the previous week to cold, chilly days. A melancholy little robin, too, used to come and perch itself close to my window, and sing its dreary song all day, so that I felt in my room as melancholy as if I were in a churchyard. I quite longed to be told some day with a grin by our cheery-looking little waiter – (a rosy-cheeked urchin, who, on the night of the mine alarm, only appeared, as the drum sounded for us to evacuate the house, with a very polished face, rubbing his eyes, having been enjoying a sound sleep, whilst he left J— and me to do his work, that of drawing beer and cutting bread and butter for the soldiers) – that there were robins for dinner, among which this one might be included, so that henceforth we should be rid of its doleful song. This Kellner in miniature used generally to explain to us what the different dishes, with the mys- terious-sounding names, really were; but we could not always depend on his choice of one being "very excellent," for we soon found that the chief recommendation in his eyes was an extra coating of grease or suet, and a plentiful supply of jam. We found once on the bill of fare some small birds, of which, from Karl's description, we could make nothing. They were not pigeons, nor quails, nor partridges, nor fieldfares, but Karl said they were very delicious, his eyes glistening with a hungry look. As change was desirable, we ordered them, and when they appeared they proved to be crossbills swimming in grease. They were not bad; but, perhaps from choice, they had a slight venison flavour. I am sure that in England crossbills are looked upon as carrion, and never eaten.
It is wonderful that they have any flying things left here but bats. I don't think they have tried to eat them yet, but every sort of bird that flies they shoot, and, I conclude, have no game laws, for all seasons seem alike to them.
When we were in Hungary, at the end of April, we several times had pheasant, for an especial dainty dish, when in England all well-regulated pheasant households would be thinking of their nests and nursery arrangements. Variety, however, is certainly pleasant, and, considering the hard times, and that we were the only guests, we generally had very tidy cooking at Bodenbach. Very few of the government officials or mercantile employés came to the mid-day meal, though they made their appearance generally at the supper hour. The mutton was always excellent – more like the Barbary mutton we used to get in Malta than any we have here in England. The veal cutlets were extremely good, and always forthcoming. This did not surprise me, for we constantly met numbers of small calves, as the merciless butcher was leading them, poor things, to slaughter. All the time I was at Bodenbach, I do not remember having ever seen either a flock or a single sheep – so where the mutton came from, I cannot conjecture. I used to imagine formerly that it was brought by railway, but as our trains had stopped running, without the failure of our mutton, that could not have been the case. The omelettes, too, were excellent, and, later in the autumn, they had an extremely good dish of a beautiful sort of fungus, which grows like a large head of coralline. This chopped up with eggs tasted like very delicate mushroom omelette. When we were at Bodenbach, two years ago, we never used to tire of our fungus dish for supper. The mountain strawberries we had now in plenty were delicious, but all fruit seemed much later, and less abundant, than in England.
The 8th of July was the last Sunday of our stay, and we walked down to the railway station, to find out something about trains, if we could. The post from Vienna had just come in, and brought some newspapers – old ones, no doubt. The way in which the newspapers were eagerly scanned by anxious groups would have made a fine subject for an engraving in the "Illustrated London News." Alas! no good tidings were to be expected from Vienna, where all was sorrow and overthrow, the news of which made the gloomy faces grow more darkly woe-struck. The deep groan of bitter despair burst from more than one manly breast when it became known how painful were the depths of humiliation and ruin into which the Empire was hopelessly plunging.
Scarcely anyone in England will ever know the extent of the misery and beggary which that fatal six weeks has brought on Bohemia. Many who were rich and prosperous are now fearfully reduced, and thousands are literally beggars. All, however, bear their hard doom with wonderful resignation, and make the best of their sad fate.
One evening recently, J— and I took a walk to a lovely spot, rather more than a mile from our inn, uphill all the way. On coming to a little roadside cross, we struck off into a narrow path, through lanes, and by peaceful little cottage gardens, till we came to a lovely spot, which we had long ago called the "Scotch Mountain," from its likeness to some of the beautiful rough, craggy hills in Argyleshire – broken piles of rock, more than half covered with short heather and the pretty little red bear-berry. When we were last at Bodenbach, in the autumn, the mountain side was dark green, with a lining of scarlet from the masses of berries with which it was covered. Now it was delicately fringed with pearly little blossoms, and the view from where we used to take our seats was lovely in the extreme! Clusters of tidy little cottages, with their pretty gardens, were situated far down in the valley at our feet. Behind them was a cliff, covered with deep green pine woods. A village, with its picturesque little church, was seen in the distance. Rocky heights, covered with pine woods, extended all the way to the lofty Schneeberg.
Schneeberg was now looked upon with dislike and fear, for during many weeks past there had been well authenticated tales of Prussians who, having taken up their quarters there, were often seen lingering about the woods that crown its summit, on which Count Thun had erected a tower. The view from this elevation was very extensive, reaching far into the interior of Bohemia on one side, and all over Saxon Switzerland on the other. I am not sure that this view on the Saxon Switzerland side was not the grandest, with the rows of mountain-looking hills, and the strange broken rocks that mark the course of the Elbe, on its way to Dresden, which was also visible from the Schneeberg in clear weather. The Prussians, however, had now the full enjoyment of this beautiful view (as they had also of most of the best things in Austria), and we felt very sad to think how all our hopes and wishes had been scattered to the winds, and that on departing from Bohemia, we were leaving it in the hands of a grasping avaricious enemy! Poor Austria! how we pity its Emperor and people!
Descending our mountain we came on a little wayside cross, and as the Ave Maria was ringing from the churches in the valley below, the lamps were lit at this primitive out-door chapel, around which about twenty peasant women from the surrounding cottages were kneeling, repeating their evening prayers. The aged women, who knelt nearest to the cross, never turned at the sound of our footsteps, but seemed quite absorbed in their devotions, their sad gaze fixed anxiously on the pitying face on the cross, as if they expected some sign of hope, or some grace for the bitter sorrow of the times, from the imaged lips of Him who on a far distant hillside, long centuries ago, had said to a group of mourning women, "Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children;" words the full significance of which had been bitterly experienced by the devout mourners before me.
No doubt many a loved and cherished one belonging to those kneeling there was fighting with unflinching courage, yet with a despairing heart, for his beloved Bohemia. Numbers were even now beyond the need of those earnest prayers – happily safe where war and famine are over for ever. I longed to kneel too, and join in the devotion of that earnest circle, whose prayers, breathed forth from the heart, ascended like incense to heaven.
THE BOATMEN ON THE ELBE – PRUSSIAN ARROGANCE – THE SIGNAL PORTER AND HIS WIFE – PRUSSIANS AT COUNT THUN'S CASTLE – BRUTAL INHUMANITY – A PRUSSIAN SPY – NATIONAL FORTRESSES – APPALLING TALE.
Still as I view each well-known scene,|
Think what is now, and what has been,
Seems as to me, of all bereft,
Sole friends thy woods and streams were left;
And thus I love thee better still,
Even in extremity of ill.
THE 10th of July was the last day of our stay in Bodenbach. As we had many adieus to make, and much to do, it was six o'clock before we could start to make some last purchases in the little town. We had got only a short distance beyond the first railway tunnel, when we saw a woman rushing across the road in a state of wild excitement, flinging her arms above her head in a frenzy of despair. Instantly guessing the cause of her excitement, I said to J—, "It must be the Prussians coming!" Directly we turned the bend in the rocky road we saw them, riding slowly along the railway from Töplitz towards us!
They halted for a few moments at the deserted railway-station, and then came on, still keeping on the rails, and entered the tunnel just above us. By-and-by we heard a sound like that of horses galloping back, which proved to be the troopers pulling down the weak little barricades erected.
We had hoped that on finding this noble piece of engineering, they would have been compelled, in wrath and anger, to turn back. We had also looked forward to the pleasure of seeing them still more annoyed at the difficulty of descending on horseback the railway embankment, which was very steep, and paved with large boulder stones.
However, as we were disappointed in this, we resolved to see the end of their visit. I felt firmly convinced that we should find them snugly ensconced in our rooms at the inn; an idea which made us still more angry and indignant. However, when we had gone back a little way, we found they had mostly dismounted after they had made their way through the tunnel. The officer and some of his men were gone down to the river, where they were hailing the ferry-boat, which had been taken to the other side when they were first seen. The boatmen were now departing, turning a deaf ear to the orders of the irritated Prussian officer, and moving up the bank with an air of stolid indifference, which showed that his rage was perfectly immaterial to them. When the Prussian found that his words were useless, he ordered his men to fire. The raising of their carbines by the hussars had more effect on the boatmen than all the stormy commands of the officer – and discretion being, in their circumstances, the better part of valour, they slowly and reluctantly brought their boat across.
Of course by this time there was a great crowd on the bank – all the inhabitants of Bo- denbach on one side, and most of the Tetschen people on the other, having turned out to see what would follow the arrival of these unwelcome guests. The boat having reached the bank, the officer ordered his men in. Then, turning round and scanning the crowd with the true supercilious Prussian air, he singled out about half a dozen men whose dress (either by a bit of gold lace in the cap or some braid on the coat) gave them the least pretension to an official look, and with a wave of authority he ordered them also into the boat.
What a mortification it must have been to the inhabitants to see this handful of men thus lord it over them! If the boatmen had upset them in the river, or put them into the town-hall at Tetschen, which I longed to see done, it would only have brought down the whole swarm from Töplitz, breathing vengeance on the place. I doubt if any poor people in England would have allowed a small party of any foreign enemy to have such a quiet entrance into one of our villages. The Prussians certainly were not welcomed, but their arrival was observed with perfect apathy by the lower orders. A few of the better class seemed to feel the humiliation, but curiosity or indifference was certainly the general feeling. I am sure that J— and I expressed ourselves much more strongly than any of the Austrians. J—, indeed, got so very vehement in her outspoken sentiments, that I had to implore her to desist, as her indignation could do no good, and might make the soldiers rude – but oh! how I hated them!
When we had seen them into the boat, I bethought me of a poor old woman whose husband was signal-porter between the tunnels, at the entrance of one of which was their little cottage, just where the hussars were left in charge of the horses. The poor woman had been very kind when we were here two years ago, and when no trains were due, used always to allow us to walk the short way to our inn through the tunnel. She seemed so cheerful and contented in those days, and was constantly employed in her tiny garden, from which she used to give me many a sweet-smelling nosegay. Her husband, too, humble as was his position, was quite a finished old gentleman in his manners. Since then the poor old woman had become blind, requiring the constant attention of the old man, who devoted himself entirely to her, watching every change of her blind face, in a way that was most touching.
I knew the poor old woman would be sadly frightened with all this fuss and noise, and on hastening up to her cottage, found her, as I expected, dreadfully alarmed, calling on the Virgin and saints to protect them. When I entered, she flung her arms round my neck, and burst into floods of tears. In her anxiety to know when the firing would begin, it was some time before she could be pacified, and made to believe that everything was going on very quietly. By-and-by I persuaded her that the hussars were very handsome, and if she would come outside, I would describe them to her. As we were all stifling in her little room, I led her out to the bench by her door, and we sat down together, she tightly holding both my hands.
The hussars were certainly very good-looking men, smart and soldier-like, with extremely plain, dark uniforms. Their horses, too, looked sleek and comfortable, not appearing more than their riders as if they had suffered from short commons or hard discipline. I happened to be wearing a dress of broad black and white stripes, so common in England last summer. One of the soldiers laughed, and pointing to me, said, "Well, there is some one who must be Prussian, as she wears our colours." One of the bystanders eagerly explained that, far from being a Prussian, or even having a Prussian tendency, I was English.
When I had quieted and soothed my poor old woman, I found we must pursue our walk quickly, in order to finish our purchases. I therefore begged her to sit outside till we returned, promising to bring her something very good if she obeyed. We then pursued our interrupted way, and in every shop we entered we heard the same story of the intolerable arrogance and grasping voracity of the Prussians, mingled with expressions of regret for the terrible losses the poor Jägers had sustained. The latter seemed universal favourites amongst the people, who heard with sorrow the terrible accounts of the masses of killed and wounded that were piled in the streets of Jung Bunzlau, or lay in the blood-stained field of Münchengrätz, rousing an implacable feeling of hatred against their deadly enemies.
It was not with a very welcome feeling that we met the Prussians on our return home. They were marching from the ferry, having sent their horses through the tunnel, in charge of the mounted troopers, to meet them at the railway station. They were escorted by an immense crowd of ragged children, and most of the idle population of Bodenbach. As I passed the officer, I attempted as much of a grimace as was compatible with a strictly ladylike demeanour; but it was very trying not to be able to speak one's mind to him.
We returned over the Elbe to Tetschen, to find out what arrangements our kind friend, Miss A—, had made about our departure next day. Major W— A—, her brother, had promised to escort us home; but we now found that the good-natured authorities of Bodenbach had tried their best for our comfort, and that we had the option of an open boat down the Elbe to Schandau, or of a "trolly" or "lorry" on the deserted rail- way to Krippen. The weather was very showery, and not very inviting for an open boat, especially as our voyage was to be performed by night. We, therefore, chose the "trolly," gladly accepting the offer of it, as it was to be the best they had, with six chairs on it, and abundance of room for our boxes. As we might choose our own hour for the journey, we named twelve o'clock next day.
At Tetschen we heard the particulars of the visit of the Prussians that evening. They first went to the town-hall, where they ordered the burgomaster to accompany them; and then proceeded to Count Thun's castle, which they inspected. Fortunately the Count and his family, who were not at home at that hour, were spared the reception of these uninvited and unwelcome guests. The evil hour, alas! was only delayed. Very shortly afterwards the castle was filled with Prussian troops, and has continued so up to the hour I write. The last three weeks or month has altered things for the better in one way – viz., that they have now to pay for what they eat. When the order first came, the Prussians sent word to Count Thun that they would like to have their food still supplied from his kitchen, as they approved of the cooking, but it might be put down in their bill. The Count, I need not say, indignantly declined the office of hotel-keeper.
The men, however, were considered very quiet and pleasant (for Prussians), but the officers were, as usual, overbearing and disagreeable. Those from the Rhine provinces were generally liked, but the "Prussians proper" were detestable and detested. It must have been the flower of the army of "Prussia proper" that filled poor Prague! These men were neither brutal nor violent, as our friends in England seemed to fear, but meanly grasping and insultingly rapacious. Their "requisitions" comprised every conceivable thing, even down to handles for steel pens, quantities of leather, and gloves for the officers. We were told that if the shops were left open they were respected, and that the soldiers paid for what they took; but if the shutters were up, and distrust exhibited, they might pillage as they liked. I don't know if this is true, or whether it is the usual custom of war. We were told of one poor farmer in Bohemia who had been reduced to comparative beggary. When the Prussians took away his cattle, he begged them to shoot him in mercy, as without his cows he must starve. We were informed they obligingly took him at his word; but I much doubt it, as we never heard of any wanton murder, though cruelty of the most despicable kind was common in their dealings with the poor, whose cows they drove off, and sold shortly after for four or six shillings. Near Quassitz in Moravia they stole two carriage-horses belonging to a lady, merely because a "gentlemanly" officer wanted them. The worst feature of their con- duct was, in my opinion, their inhumanity to the sick and wounded Austrians. Newspapers may contradict the statement, and Prussians declare it false, but I know it to be perfectly true, as published in a Prague paper, which, though under Prussian supervision, was never contradicted by them, that the Austrian wounded were turned out of the hospitals after Königgrätz to make room for the Prussians. One man was too badly wounded to be moved, but he did not trouble them long, as death put an end to his sufferings very shortly. Even the officers were taken out of their beds and laid upon straw sacks to make room for those who could so ungenerously abuse their victory. In Prague the Bohemian people were required to furnish fresh flowers and Prussian flags to decorate the city for the arrival of the King of Prussia and of Bismark! How could they expect an "enthusiastic reception" from a high-spirited people, whose pride had been humbled to the dust, and whose hearts must have been wrung with agony at the conquest of their country, the loss of their brave army, and the dissipation of their dreams of glory. How bitter must have been their reflections in looking back to that time of ardent aspirations, when they exclaimed, "A month hence we shall be in Berlin." What a mockery of all our hopes it seemed when we remembered the conversations in which we had exulted over the additions of beautiful pictures to be made to the Imperial Gemälde Gallerie of Vienna, from the Picture Gallery in the New Museum in Berlin!
How did the Prussians occupy their evening at Tetschen whilst we were shopping? When they arrived at the Castle and found the Count was out, they asked for the custodian, or house-steward. He was a very old servant of the Count's, and came, we may be sure, unwillingly enough. After they had made him show them all over the building, they announced that they should come next day from Töplitz to take possession, as it would do to accommodate a large body of troops. They added, with wonderful consideration, that they would endeavour to leave the family dwelling-rooms in the possession of the Count and his family. Thanks, however, to the natural features of the country, the excellent old Count was permitted to remain a few more days in his loved home. The Prussians, finding that the Elbe and the Polzen did not quite surround the lofty rock on which the castle is perched, and that it could be commanded from the Schefferwald (a beautiful craggy cliff in Bodenbach, on the opposite bank of the Elbe), changed their minds, evidently not deeming the fortress a sufficient protection for their valuable persons.
When we returned to supper at our hotel, we found the table-d'hôte room in a state of great excitement, all present declaring positively that a man in plain clothes, who walked by the officer commanding the Prussian party, was no other than a well-known engineer in the neighbourhood, who had for some time past been employed on the fortifications at Theresienstadt, and had come with them, no doubt, as a spy and a traitor. I hardly think, however, it could have been the case, as the weak points of the castle could have been observed from the Schefferwald, and so have saved the Prussians their evening ride. Everywhere, however, it is the same. National fortresses are guarded with jealous care. Even at Dover there is a tradition that no one was allowed to go over the castle who could not pronounce "bread and cheese" in good English. At Gibraltar, I remember, we had to go through several ceremonies and forms before we were allowed to pass through the long, endless galleries.
Years ago I strongly recommended the well-known artist, Mr. Leitch, to take a view of Ehrenbreitstein from one of the arches under the bridge over the Moselle. The consequence was that, before the sketch had reached a satisfactory state, the talented artist found himself hurried off to prison, to be taken afterwards before some sitting magistrate of Rhine-Prussia.
At Königstein a fearful tale is told of some Saxon lads who urged one another to attempt the daring exploit of scaling that formidable fortress. One of them, after persevering in his attempts for no less than three years, at last succeeded, but, being pounced on by the soldiers in charge, has never since been heard of. This thrilling narrative has no doubt successfully deterred many venturesome youths from birds'-nesting in the beautiful trees that overhang the rocks of Königstein.
DEPARTURE FROM BOHEMIA – ATTENTION OF THE SIGNAL PORTERS – NIEDERGRUND – KÖNIGSTEIN AND LILIENSTEIN – IMPROVEMENT ON OLD TIMES – DRESDEN OCCUPIED BY PRUSSIANS – ANCIENT SERVITORS OF KING JOHN.
"Beyond the hills and far away,|
Where no bayonets gleam or trumpets bray,
They silent sleep through the live-long day,
Each stilly laid in eternal rest;
And the grass waves free o'er the steeled breast,
And the birds sing fearless in their nest,
Beyond the hills and far away."
THE morning of the 11th of July, luckily for us, rose bright and sunny, with a pleasant breeze from the west. We had not the heart now to say good-bye to any of the well-known spots around, whichh ad been favourite haunts of ours before the Prussians had overrun Bohemia, and the name of "New Prussia," by which we heard the Prince of Prussia desired it should henceforth be called, had been dreamed of. Our packing was finished, and our cases ready, all but one heavy box of treasures, which was to follow when the railway was restored.
At twelve o'clock Major A— arrived, with his sister, to see the party off, but no "trolly." We had asked some friends in Dresden to send a carriage to meet us at Schandau, and we hoped it was waiting for us there. As we had heard that the gates of Dresden closed at ten, we got rather into a fidget when twelve passed and no "trolly" appeared. In vain we went down the steps and looked up the line, but could see nothing, except on the rails close to the signal-porter's lodge, a plain, dirty-looking vehicle, which used to come every day with workmen or porters.
Something must surely have happened. If the Prussians had seized our commodious "trolly," this shabby one, which in other circumstances would have been regarded as unworthy of our notice, appeared now as our ark of refuge. Permission, however, had first to be obtained from the "overlooker of the porters," a Saxon of immense importance in his own estimation, who, though his wife and children were without common necessaries at home, had been steadily trying to drown the remembrance of his own and his country's wrongs in copious libations of beer and brandy ever since the commencement of the war.
As this man was now smoking and drinking in the garden, we asked Herr Garreïs to undertake the onerous task of trying to persuade him to let us take the porter's "lorry." I believe he graciously acceded to the request. We took it, however, and the signal-porters, with whom we were great friends, soon gathered from all the lodges to assist us. One man apologised for his shirt-sleeve not being clean, saying that he would not keep us waiting while he changed. Another brought me a beautiful bouquet of roses and mignonette from his little garden. These, with two others, then proceeded to put the luggage on. One, too, brought chairs from his lodge, but as we found we could not possibly have room for them, they were dispensed with, and we made ourselves comfortable on our boxes, the men standing two on each side, with long poles, to propel the "lorry" along the line.
We found out afterwards that what we had suspected at the time was correct. The Saxon overlooker, though ordered by the railway authorities to give us the use of the best "lorry," had determined that, as we had not asked his leave first, we should be "punished." Trusting to the barricades at the first tunnel, and to the fact that most of the officials were dispersed, he conjectured rightly we should not have time to make any fuss about it. However, when we had gone through our sad adieus, doubly sad from the state of sorrow and distress in which we left our kind friends in Bohemia, we went along very merrily and at a good pace, although a strong wind was blowing dead against us.
Considering the short time the railway had been closed, the crop of weeds that covered the line, in many places up to the top of the "trolly," was wonderful. Along this very grass-grown railway, it was not two years ago that we used to see the victorious Austrian troops returning from the perpetration of that "foul deed," the severance from Denmark of Schleswig-Holstein. If it were not that Prussia has gone scathless, one would say that this was retribution. Perhaps her turn will come. It used to make us very angry in 1864 to see the enthusiastic way in which the troops were greeted on their return. How thankful we should have been now for only one little laurel-leaf for Austria from that blood-stained wreath with which King Frederick William has crowned the effigies on his coins.
At Niedergrund we had to dismount and walk, and as the rails there had been taken up, our porters had to lift our luggage and the trolly. It was hard work altogether, and though we had taken an extra porter from one of the lodges, yet having given a lift to a postman of the King of Saxony in his bright canary-coloured livery, and to two other travellers, we were a heavy freight, and it was half-past two before we approached Krippen.
Here the heart of one of the porters beginning to fail him, he murmured, "Suppose the Prussians were near, and seized the 'lorry,' what should they do, as they were responsible? – therefore had not they better stop before they reached Krippen?" But the others with a laugh overruled his objection, and shooting cheerily past the station, we stopped opposite the ferry, where we left our "lorry," quite sorry we were not going all the way to Dresden on it, as not only was its motion very pleasant, but we had a far better view of the beautiful country from it than we ever had from the train. Our railway-porters insisted on carrying our luggage down to the Elbe, which they crossed with us, and on taking it up to the Dampfschiff Hotel, where we went to inquire for our carriage.
Here again, as with the overlooker of the porters, we were victims to Saxon incivility and dishonesty. The landlord assured us, in German, French, and English, that the carriage had waited till two o'clock, and had only just returned to Dresden, having despaired of our arrival.
It was now only three o'clock, and we felt certain that the landlord had sent the carriage back with a gratuity, soon after the horses had rested sufficiently, in order that we might use his. Vexatious as it was, there was no remedy for it, and we had therefore to ask, had he any carriages? Oh! yes, he had plenty of horses and carriages, but it was no use our thinking of starting now, as it would take us eight hours to get to Dresden, and by that time the gates would be closed for the night, and of course we could not enter.
This we assured him would not deter us, as we felt convinced, on properly representing our case, they would open for us. We also knew perfectly well that, with all the obstacles they met, it took our German maid's family only twelve hours to travel from Dresden to Boden- bach, double the distance, and we had already come twenty miles of the way. As we doubted painfully the word of the landlord, we insisted on the carriages and horses being produced.
We waited patiently another half-hour, and then Major A— announced that he would go to the stables and find the horses, which accelerated proceedings. The railway men, having cheerfully loaded the carriages, came in to be paid and take leave. There was no charge for the "lorry," and the men were delighted with their little present of money, kissing our hands all round, including Major A—'s, and begging us to come back soon.
We had seen the last of our Austrian friends. We felt grim and irritable when we found ourselves at the mercy of the Saxons, whom we did not appreciate, and the Prussians looming in the distance. However, there never was a more beautiful drive than the one we had through Saxon Switzerland that afternoon, over some very steep roads with splendid views, on each side, of rugged cliffs and ravines, and endless forests of pine trees. On one side for some distance we saw with satisfaction the fortress of Königstein, not yet in the hands of the enemy. Opposite to it was Lilienstein, which had been sadly disfigured by the removal from its summit of its picturesque clothing of fir-trees, lest, as it commanded Königstein, cannon might be taken up, under cover of the trees, unknown to the watchers of that fortress.
In the distance, beyond the hills of Schandau, towered the lofty Schneeberg, at which we looked sadly, knowing that the Prussians were now gathered on it – the last Bohemian ground on which we should look. We stopped twice to bait the horses. The last time the landlord came out, and with true Saxon forethought warned us that, as we could not possibly enter Dresden before the gates were closed, we had better descend at once, and make up our minds to pass the night there, as otherwise we should have to return and do so. To his extreme disgust, J— assured him we were going to continue our journey, and passing the outposts, sleep at the Royal Hotel at Dresden. The men with the horses were very dilatory; but at last we set off again, and soon began to see signs of Prussian occupation in soldiers and flags of obnoxious colours. By-and-by we came to the outpost, but they did not stop us. Only a few minutes after a lancer escort trotted clattering up, and stayed with us till we came to the brewery in Dresden, I suppose to see if we were really going into the town.
We went straight to the railway-station, which we found full of soldiers, just arrived. Major W— A— and J— went in to get the tickets, and have the luggage registered, which, from the crowds of soldiers, was very difficult to do. I stayed in the carriage, while the soldiers round, a very heavy, harmless-looking set, amused themselves by asking the driver all sorts of questions about us.
J— paid for our tickets by a circular note, which the official received at the time without any remark. Next morning, however, when we were going to start, he came up with the Saxon smile, and said that he must have a little more money, as he should certainly lose on the note. As our experience was exactly the reverse of that of this worthy man, I showed him my name on my passport, and asked him if he knew the gentleman of that designation, who was acting as Minister now for England in Dresden, as he was my cousin, and would pay him anything he lost by the note. This crumb of comfort silenced if it did not satisfy him; and Mr. Eden never of course heard anything of him or of his loss.
This was the only time since I left England that I had to show my passport; and now it was a voluntary act on my part. What an improvement it is on old times! I had passed through France, part of Italy, Austria, and Saxony, and had not once been required to show it. The day before the war began, when J— went to Dresden, she was asked for hers on her return at Bodenbach; but that was the solitary exception.
After we had seen our luggage placed in safety, we drove to the Royal Hotel, which is close to the station, and there dismissed our carriages. When we entered the table d'hôte room it was ten o'clock, and the solitary occupant was a Prussian officer, who greeted our entrance politely, with the cold stiff bend of "Prussia Proper." Being very hungry and tired, we were glad to finish our supper and go to bed. When we got to our room, and the tidy little chambermaid came, we asked her how the Prussians were liked, and how many they had quartered on the hotel. They seem to have behaved very quietly. There was a large number of officers, of the Landwehr, from Berlin, with their wives, stationed at this house. "But," she added, "we have also an Austrian prisoner and his servant here." This was very interesting intelligence to us, and we asked all particulars.
The Austrian, who was very quiet and sad, belonged to a Jäger regiment. He had been taken prisoner at Königgrätz. He never hardly left the house, and seemed very unhappy. He was a very charming gentleman, and gave no trouble. The maid then asked us where we had come from, and we told her our history. She paused a little, and with a very pretty blush asked, did we know where the Fifth Army Corps was, and was there any use sending a letter to it? – would it ever arrive? She was dreadfully afraid the Prussians would seize it before it left Dresden.
We told her that, if she wrote her letter and directed it fully, as we were going to England next day, we would take it and post it there, from whence it would pass through a peaceful country, get safe to Vienna, and be forwarded to the Fifth Army Corps. She was so thankful, and expressed her gratitude with such warmth, that it was easy to see that her heart was with some gallant soldier of the Austrian army.
We had promised ourselves a long night's sleep and a late breakfast to prepare for our tedious journey, but the conversation we had just held with the blushing chambermaid quite changed our plans. Would not the poor prisoner also like to have letters safely sent from England. The more treason in them against Prussia, the more pleased we should be to take them.
Early in the morning we got up, breakfasted, and sallied forth into the town. We were very anxious to see how Dresden looked with its new occupants. Of course the city swarmed with soldiers, and with immense black and white flags. That we were quite prepared for. The two beautiful bridges were both undermined, and the soldiers were still busy under the piers completing their work of destruction. Double Prussian sentries were placed in the embrasures of the bridges, for what reason I could not find out; but the Brichtschen Terrace, – "that favourite resort of the Germans, to indulge in the luxury of harmless small beer," – which we had read such lamentations over in the newspapers, to our great surprise we found untouched. We looked everywhere for the earthworks and fortifications which were said to disfigure it so much, but could not find the least change in it, save that the large beds of gaudy-coloured parrot tulips had been replaced by scarlet geraniums, which we thought an improvement, and therefore did not consider it worth while to blame the Prussians for.
The shops, too, seemed exactly the same as when under the rule of King John. One or two large establishments, indeed, had been forced to succumb to the pressure of hard times. Even the Dresden china shop held its proud position by the side of its Berlin rival. Opposite, in the entrance of the palace, lounged about, as usual, a number of the servants of King John in canary-coloured liveries. I hardly expected to see these ancient-looking servitors about, but I suppose, as they were not a formidable body, they were allowed to remain and sun themselves without hindrance. A magnificent mounted Prussian dragoon was stationed at the entrance of the "Grüne Gewölbe," or Green Vaults, instead of the humdrum-looking Saxon sentry who used to stand there in the good days of peace.
CAPTIVE AUSTRIAN OFFICER – TABLE D'HÔTE – CONFEDERATION OF ST. JOHN – WOUNDED SOLDIERS – THE JAGER AND HIS COMRADE – BRUSSELS – ERRORS OF THE AUSTRIAN COMMANDERS – THE FUTURE OF AUSTRIA.
"From desolate homes is rising|
One prayer, 'Let carnage cease!
On friends and foes have mercy,
O Lord, and give us peace!'"
THIS day, the twelfth of July, for the first time since the occupation by the Prussians, the museum, picture-gallery, and other public objects of interest were again opened to the people. In the old market we found a decided change, in its very diminished preparations. Formerly the whole space of the large square used to be covered with the booths and stalls of the vendors of flowers, fruit, boxes, toys, tin utensils, and many other necessary domestic articles. At twelve o'clock the front stalls (principally of flower and vegetables) had to draw back and leave a broad margin for the increased traffic of mid-day. But now the market-place was only one quarter occupied, and we looked in vain for the delightful flower-stalls with their fragrant bouquets and wreaths.
Our principal errand was with this department, where of course we were disappointed. I went, therefore, to the Hôtel de l'Europe, where I chose the largest, sweetest, and best bouquet that the conservatory could furnish. This was for the captive Austrian officer – it was such a beauty, and so large that it made my wrist ache carrying it. We did not forget the poor servant, equally a prisoner, but got for him a bundle of cigars; and thus loaded, returned to our hotel.
We at once sent for the Jäger servant. It was very sad to see the grey uniform under these circumstances, but the man, who was a Bohemian from near Theresienstadt, seemed tolerably resigned to his fate. He was greatly pleased with his cigars and with the bouquet for his master, which he carried off with a message from us, expressing our warmest sympathy, and offering to carry any letters for him.
As we expected, a few minutes after the Jäger re-appeared, and asked if his master might come himself and thank us, to which we gladly gave an affirmative reply. Poor fellow, he did indeed look down-hearted and melancholy, as with tears in his eyes he thanked us for the beautiful bouquet, and still more for our sympathy, which in his present miserable state was most precious.
He told us he belonged to the first battalion of Feldjägers, in which he held a captain's commission. In the middle of the fight at Königgrätz, at five P.M., his horse had been shot under him, and they had both fallen together. He was so entangled with the dead animal, and with the bodies of his men, who fell thickly over him, that he was unable to extricate himself before the Prussians came up, who, after digging him from under sixteen corpses, took him prisoner.
He seemed unable to talk much about the battle, or express any opinion as to where the fault lay. He would only answer "Perhaps," or shake his head in reply to any question as to the truth or falsehood of the newspaper accounts. He said that the hotel being full of Prussian officers, whose company was not very pleasant, he always dined in his room. To-day, however, as we were there, he should come to the table-d'hôte dinner at one. The table was managed with great tact and good taste by the very civil landlord, who presided at one end, with one or two Dresden people, the prisoner, Major A—, and ourselves gathered round him – while the Prussians and two ladies had the larger half entirely to themselves, with a respectful space left between us.
With that poor Austrian before us, we really could hardly look at the Prussian end of the table. In the middle of dinner one of the enemy's regiments marched past from the railway-station, with band playing and colours flying. Of course the Prussians rose en masse, and hurried to the windows; but we kept our places, and I implored Major A— not even to turn his head to look at them. J— and I promised, though we were sitting opposite the windows, not even to glance out in the direction of these boors in uniform. So, though we had some difficulty in concealing our irritation, we continued our conversation, looking perfectly unconscious that anything worth notice was going on.
I hope we were not rude, as the Prussians really behaved very civilly at table, but it was out of the question appearing to enter into their exuberant joy when it was gall and wormwood to us. We had one toast which we gave softly, lest the Prussian swords should smite us to the ground! Major A—, the prisoner, and ourselves chinked glasses, and drank, "Better days to Austria!" and as the prisoner repeated the words, his face lighted up, for the first time, with a gleeful smile, and he drained his glass to the last drop.
Just as we had finished our dinner my cousin, Mr. C. Eden, with his pretty wife, drove up to see us and take leave. He was now acting as Chargé d'Affaires, as Sir C. Murray had left, and his successor had not yet arrived. He told us that at first, when the army of occupation came, they had moved into Dresden, but finding everything so quiet and peaceable they had returned to their pretty country house at Blasewitz, where they and their two little children were living perfectly unmolested. They must have found Dresden very dull just now, as nearly every one had left it. Luckily, however, they were not people to mind that.
At 2.45 P.M. our train started. There seemed very few passengers, but numbers of wounded Prussian soldiers, with whom the station also was full. As we had got our tickets and our luggage registered the night before, we did not go to the station till the last moment, and had not time to see much. With the exception of one or two, the soldiers did not seem badly wounded. As in the city in the morning, and afterwards during the whole course of our journey till we reached Cologne, we observed here many priests and laymen with the distinguishing badge of the Geneva Confederation of St. John, a broad white band, with a red cross, round the left arm. This emblem, which with the black robes of the priests looked very picturesque, was alike honourable to all, the order comprising such as voluntarily offered their services for the relief of the wounded.
At Coswig, Pristewitz, and other places at which we stopped, the stations, houses, and cottages near seemed full of the wounded. The grassy lawns and banks around, too, were covered with them, sunning themselves and enjoying the fresh air. Some seemed very ill indeed, and neither moved nor looked when the train drew up, while others appeared to have only slight wounds, which did not affect the spirits.
At Riesa the bridge had only very lately been repaired. The Saxons had destroyed it before their retreat, and of course all communication that way between Dresden and Leipsic had been cut off. We went very slowly over it, as the supports looked very temporary affairs, and drew up at the station, which, like all the others, was full of wounded, those who were well enough coming up to the carriages to exchange greetings with their equally luckless comrades in the train.
At Leipsic we had again to undergo that mysterious change of carriages, the discomfort of which we had once before experienced on our way out. We had also to make a short promenade through the suburbs of Leipsic itself, which on a wet day is exceedingly tiresome. Luckily this day was lovely and perfectly cloudless. An Irish-American family, however, just in front of us, were anything but pleasant neighbours. It really was too much for one's patience to be compelled to listen to the abominable language which one of the party – evidently a spoiled only son – made use of for the edification of his father, mother, and sisters, with whom his conversation was carried on in an astounding Irish jargon, mixed with American expletives, which, if possible, were rendered more revolting by the horrid nasal twang with which they were uttered. I was thankful to be assured that the repulsive patois must be an unknown tongue to the Saxon railway officials who carried our things.
If this change of carriages was tiresome for us, what must it have been for the poor wounded soldiers! One who was badly wounded, and who eventually was taken from the train at Minden, seemed half dying, as, with his face covered, he was carried out by railway porters. This was the only man we saw who seemed to have suffered from the terrible bayonets, by which he had been fearfully stabbed in the stomach. They thought he could not live.
Another poor fellow came into the refresh- ment-room at Magdeburg, where we had half an hour to wait. It was painful to see how white his face was, his lips becoming livid even. The train had shaken him so dreadfully, that it must have added much to his sufferings. This poor lad was returning to his mother near Düsseldorf. He had been wounded by a bit of shell, which had carried off his thumb, and part of the iron was still in his arm. He, too, had lain for two days under the heaps of killed and wounded, and was half dead when found. He did not look even now as if he had much life in him. His face appeared quite blanched, as if he had not a drop of blood in his body. The one hand we could see was white and delicate-looking as a lady's; and his eyes had that anxious, dilated look which severe suffering so often gives. I noticed a painful shrinking if any one came within a yard of his wounded arm. He spoke a little English.
This reminds me that the greatest surprise we ever had in this way, was one day, during the war, while we were at Bodenbach, when a party of Jägers had gone up into the woods at Beila. J— and I were at dinner in the salon, when the door opened, and a very tall Jäger, fully accoutred, came in, and removing his hat and plumes in the most gentlemanly manner, began a speech by a few words in German, which, to our intense astonishment, he quickly changed into English, in which language he delivered a message from his officer. When J— had gone upstairs to get what the officer wanted, I asked the man where he learned English, and he informed me that he had twice, for his amusement, been to England, and had visited Shields, Newcastle, Sunderland, and London. He was a native of Trieste, and had gone on board trading vessels from thence. He spoke wonderfully well, and with such a pretty accent.
I saw a comrade waiting for him in the lane, and as the day was fearfully hot, and they had a long hill before them, I went out to ask this man also to come in and have some beer. When I returned with the Italian, the "English" Jäger had finished his beer, and was sitting down to the piano, on which he played some very brilliant Hungarian airs! Of course I did not disturb his enjoyment, as I felt sure he had not touched such an instrument for a long time, and it must have been an irresistible temptation seeing one open. So the Italian had his beer in the front hall, and, on going away, begged a rose to fix in his plume.
I must now, however, return to our hot, weary journey. As night came on, after we left Magdeburg, we had such an uncivil guard, who first came with his hand held out, hollowed into something like the shape of a saucer large enough to hold any amount of money. Finding he did not get any, he desired us all to sit close together, which we politely but firmly declined doing. At the first station afterwards he almost insisted on some people coming in, but seeing so many wraps, and our weary, sleepy look, they refused to enter. He paid us out well for our meanness, however, by putting in others at the next station, and we had rather an unquiet night of it; and, oh! the heat and dust!
When we got to Brussels next day, we looked like the lowest order of sweeps, notwithstanding we had washed and breakfasted at Cologne. This was owing to the heat and dust, and the crowded state of the carriage. The trains did not seem to keep time, or to fit as they generally do; doubtless owing to the time we had stopped at some of the stations to get out the wounded, who had been evidently expected, as every platform was crowded with people to meet the train, or even to see it pass.
At Brussels we had three hours to wait. On our route we were stopped only at one custom-house, which I did not even enter. We had a very pleasant journey through tranquil green fields and peaceful slumbering villages, till we reached Calais, where we were very glad to recognise Mr. Tompsett, the English vice-consul, who kindly gave us a most comfortable cabin on the deck of the L. C. and D. steamer "Breeze." I only remember shaking hands with him and thanking him – I was so tired; and I awoke to find myself at the pier at Dover, back in dear old England.
We got home at four in the morning, and as my letter from Bodenbach, written a week before we left, announcing that our return might be expected some day that week, never arrived till ten days after I had been home, of course we found the household wrapped in slumber, and my mother away in the country; but we felt so thankful to be back again in peace and quiet, that having to wait till fires were lit, and water boiled, and rooms ready seemed a very small annoyance. I spent the time in enjoying the sight of the lovely lawn, which was so soft and rich that it really looked like green velvet. It was so long since I had gazed on English turf that I felt I should never weary of it, after the harsh stubbly grass I had been used to. My lovely little garden in the dell, too, looked so bright, and smelt so delicious, full, as it was, of roses and mignonette, that I felt "there was no place like home." It was many days before I could shake off the idea that I occasionally heard distant firing, or could quite assure myself that the village children were not playing at being Austrian soldiers.
Since my return I have heard a few people say that they were disappointed with the Austrian soldiers. I cannot think how any one could be so. Surely they showed themselves highly disciplined – the bravest of the brave. After they had seen, at Podel, Münchengrätz, Jung Bunzlau, and Jiejn, their comrades fall round them, dead and wounded, in perfect walls of mangled bodies, as column after column was formed up in close order to be mown down before the needle guns, yet there was no halting, no hesitation at Königgrätz, though they knew that the muskets they held in their hands were only children's toys compared with the deadly weapons of their enemy, and that the bayonets they had been trained to rely on were as useless as willow wands. Surely it required no common courage to face the foe after they had been convinced that they marched either to certain death or to assured captivity.
After the first skirmishes the soldiers were perfectly aware of their fearful inequality to the Prussians. Even Benedek, days before Königgrätz, had told the Emperor that the continuance of the war was useless. The number of Austrian prisoners has been significantly noticed, but how few amongst them were unwounded! It does not seem at all wonderful, when we remember that the men lay piled in masses, that so few of those only slightly hurt succeeded in escaping from the heaps of dead, wounded, and dying that were hurled over them.
If the people said they were surprised at the conduct of the Austrian generals, all the world would surely agree with them. Shall we ever have a satisfactory explanation of that unaccountable apathy which permitted an army of the size and strength of Benedek's to allow the Prussians to enter those very passes which Napoleon held against a large combined force with only two thousand men? The order that the men should rely on their bayonets was, as we have already said, a great blunder. The formation of the Austrians in dense masses, which the enemy not only decimated, but (as described to us) completely mowed down, the dying and wounded making a wall for their comrades to fire over, was an act of blindness we are unable to comprehend. The determination of the aristocratic generals not to obey their plebeian commander-in-chief, we heard rumoured even before the war began. It is often said there is no smoke without fire, and we fear there must have been some truth in rumours which were the common talk of the country.
How could Austria, with disunited commanders with a force composed of mixed nations, and with disorganised and unfaithful allies, wage war successfully against Prussia, with its homogeneous army, led by patriotic generals, acting harmoniously together in order to ensure victory by carrying out all the details of a campaign which had been planned with singular wisdom and foresight? Everything was against her. Let us hope, however, that a better era may arise out of the distress and woe of the present, and that peace and prosperity may yet shine upon Austria as they have never done before. Her peoples – even in Hungary – are all brave, hopeful, happy-tempered, contented races; and, if only united by the bond of a common patriotism, no empire could look forward to a more happy and glorious future.
Now the dream of Fatherland is over, Austria will soon see that it was only a poetical vision, which, happily for "young Germany," has been, perhaps somewhat rudely, dispelled. Austria and her peoples, we may now hope, will rise a brighter Phœnix, in days to come, from the dead ashes of the past; not by force of arms or military glory, but by self-reliance and the development of her natural resources. This coming winter will, however, I fear, witness a hard struggle on the part of the inhabitants of that portion of the Austrian Empire over which the flood of battle has rolled. Bohemia has especially suffered. The lot of the population from severe poverty was one hard enough to bear before the war began, and since then they have been almost starving. Melancholy, indeed, would be their condition when the snows began, and out-door employments ceased!
In the upper parts, especially of Bohemia, the harvests were hurriedly got in for fear of the Prussians. Many fields were trampled down and wasted, horses everywhere were seized, and cattle taken away. If His Majesty of Prussia could take the merino sheep of Prince Lobkowitz – if General de X— could appropriate the carriage horses of the Countess Leopoldine's mother – if the Prussian officer in command at Count Thun's castle could observe to that gentleman, on being shown his collection of old family armour, "Ah! it is lucky for you that Prince Karl is not here – he is a great admirer of old armour, and always takes what he fancies," – if those in authority could set such examples, can we wonder that the common soldiers, elated with victory, should have committed excesses, in Bohemia and Moravia, which call to mind the invasions of barbarians at the commencement of the dark ages? The dire results of these ravages will be acutely felt by the poor inhabitants, who are left without food or shelter, and thousands without even the means of obtaining either. The cholera, too, for the last two months has been committing fearful havoc amongst them. The Emperor no doubt will do his best to ameliorate their deplorable condition, but, alas! with the most benevolent intentions, what can be done when the purse has already been drained, and economy has to be practised, even in the requirements of daily life, at the imperial palace in Vienna?
Many warm hearts in England have already freely expressed their sympathy, not only by words but by deeds, for the wounded soldiers of Austria, and thankfully has their generosity been received and acknowledged. Want, famine, and death, however, are still following in the blood-stained steps of war, and any sum, however small, that can be sent out to that country will help to soften and ameliorate the keen pangs of grinding poverty in this dark hour of their national history.
LONDON: PRINTED BY MACDONALD AND TUGWELL, BLENHEIM HOUSE.