ROLLO ON THE RHINE,
Boston: Published By Taggard And Thompson M DCCC LXIV.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855, by Jacob Abbott, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts
Stereotyped at the Boston Stereotype Foundry
Riverside, Cambridge: Printed by H. O. Houghton
ROLLO'S TOUR IN EUROPE.
ORDER OF THE VOLUMES
ROLLO ON THE ATLANTIC. ROLLO IN PARIS. ROLLO IN SWITZERLAND. ROLLO IN LONDON. ROLLO ON THE RHINE. ROLLO IN SCOTLAND. ROLLO IN GENEVA. ROLLO IN HOLLAND. ROLLO IN NAPLES. ROLLO IN ROME.
PRINCIPAL PERSONS OF THE STORY.
ROLLO; twelve years of age.
MR. and MRS. HOLIDAY; Rollo's father and mother, travelling in Europe.
THANNY; Rollo's younger brother.
JANE; Rollo's cousin, adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Holiday.
MR. GEORGE; a young gentleman, Rollo's uncle.
I.—THE APPROACH TO COLOGNE, 13
II.—THE UNFINISHED CATHEDRAL, 28
III.—THE GALLERIES, 44
IV.—TRAVELLING ON THE RHINE, 60
V.—THE SIEBEN GEBIRGEN, 77
VI.—ROLAND'S TOWER, 95
VII.—ROLLO'S LIST, 107
VIII.—A SABBATH ON THE RHINE, 117
X.—ROLLO'S LETTER, 141
XI.—THE RAFT, 146
XIV.—THE RUIN IN THE GARDEN, 194
ROLANDSECK AND DRACHENFELS. FRONTISPIECE.
THE RIDE, 12
COLOGNE IN SIGHT, 19
THE BEGGAR, 31
MINNIE'S ROGUERY, 51
DONKEY RIDING, 75
THE STUDENTS, 114
THE NUN, 122
THE EMIGRANTS, 132
ROLLO ON THE RAFT, 163
DINNER ON THE RHINE, 173
THE NIGHT JOURNEY, 218
ROLLO ON THE RHINE.
THE APPROACH TO COLOGNE.
If a man were to be raised in a balloon high enough above the continent of Europe to survey the whole of it at one view, he would see the land gradually rising from the borders of the sea on every side, towards a portion near the centre, where he would behold a vast region of mountainous country, with torrents of water running down the slopes and through the valleys of it, while the summits were tipped with perpetual snow. The central part of this mass of mountains forms what is called Switzerland, the eastern part is the Tyrol, and the western Savoy. But though the men who live on these mountains have thus made three countries out of them, the whole region is in nature one. It constitutes one mighty mass of mountainous land, which is lifted up so high into the air that all the summits rise into the regions of intense and perpetual cold, and so condense continually, from the atmosphere, inexhaustible quantities of rain and snow.
The water which falls upon this mountainous region must of course find its way to the sea. In doing so the thousands of smaller torrents unite with each other into larger and larger streams, until at length they make four mighty rivers—the largest and most celebrated in Europe. All the streams of the southern slopes of the mountains form one great river, which flows east into the Adriatic. This river is the Po. On the western side the thousands of mountain torrents combine and form the Rhone, which, making a great bend, turns to the southward, and flows into the Mediterranean. On the eastern side the water can find no escape till it has traversed the whole continent to the eastward, and reached the Black Sea. This stream is the Danube. And finally, on the north the immense number of cascades and torrents which come out from the glaciers, or pour down the ravines, or meander through the valleys, or issue from the lakes, of the northern slope of the mountains, combine at Basle, and flow north across the whole continent, nearly six hundred miles, to the North Sea. This river is the Rhine.
All this, which I have thus been explaining, may be seen very clearly if you turn to any map of Europe, and find the mountainous region in the centre, and then trace the courses of the four great rivers, as I have described them.
It would seem that the country through which the River Rhine now flows was at first very uneven, presenting valleys and broad depressions, which the waters of the river filled, thus forming great shallow lakes, that extended over very considerable tracts of country. In process of time, however, these lakes became filled with the sediment which was brought down by the river, and thus great flat plains of very rich and level land were formed. At every inundation of the river, of course, these plains, or intervals, as they are sometimes called, would be overflowed, and fresh deposits would be laid upon them; so that in the course of ages the surface of them would rise several feet above the ordinary level of the river. In fact they would continue to rise in this way until they were out of the reach of the highest inundations.
Immense plains of the most fertile land, which seem to have been formed in this way, exist at the present time along the banks of the Rhine at various places. These plains are all very highly cultivated, and are rich and beautiful beyond description. To see them, however, it is necessary to travel over them in a diligence, or post chaise, or by railway trains; for in sailing up and down the river, along the margin of them, in a steam-boat, you are not high enough to overlook them. You see nothing all the way, in these places, but a low, green bank on each side of the river, with a fringe of trees and shrubbery along the margin of it.
For about one hundred miles of its course, however, near the central portion of it, the river flows through a very wild and mountainous district of country, or rather through a district which was once wild, though now, even in the steepest slopes and declivities, it is cultivated like a garden. The reason why these mountainous regions are so highly cultivated is because the soil and climate are such that they produce the best and most delicious grapes in the world. They have consequently, from time immemorial, been inhabited by a dense population. Every foot of ground where there is room for a vine to grow is valuable, and where the slope was originally steep and rocky, the peasants of former ages have gathered out the rocks and stones, and built walls of them to terrace up the land. The villages of these peasants, too, are seen every where nestling in the valleys, and clinging to the sides of the hills, while the summits of almost all the elevations are crowned with the ruins of old feudal castles built by barons, or chiefs, or kings, or military bishops of ancient times, famous in history. This picturesque portion of the river, which extends from Bonn, a little above Cologne, to Mayence,—which towns you will readily find on almost any map of Europe,—was the part which Mr. George and Rollo particularly desired to see. When they left Switzerland they intended to come down the river, and see the scenery in descending. But Mr. George met some friends of his on the frontier, who persuaded him to make a short tour with them in Germany, and so come to the Rhine at Cologne.
"We can then," said he to Rollo, "go up the river, and see it in ascending, which I think is the best way. When we get through all the fine scenery,—which we shall do at Mayence,-we can then go up to Strasbourg, and take the railroad there for Paris—the same way that we came."
"Yes," said Rollo, "I shall like that."
Rollo liked it simply because it would make the journey longer.
When at length, at the end of the tour in Germany, our travellers were approaching Cologne on the Rhine, Rollo began to look out, some miles before they reached it, to watch for the first appearance of the town. He had been riding in the coupe of the diligence with his uncle; but now, in order that he might see better, he had changed his place, and taken a seat on the banquette. The banquette is a seat on the top of the coach, and though it is covered above, it is open in front, and so it affords an excellent view. Mr. George remained in the coupe, being very much interested in reading his guide book.
[Footnote 1: The stage coaches on the continent of Europe are called diligences.]
At length Rollo called out to tell his uncle that the city was in view. The windows of the coupe were open, so that by leaning over and looking down he could speak to his uncle without any difficulty.
Mr. George was so busy reading his guide book that he paid little attention to what Rollo said.
"Uncle George," said Rollo, calling louder, "I can see the city; and in the midst of it is a church with a great square tower, and something very singular on the top of it."
Mr. George still continued his reading.
"There is a spire on the top of the church," continued Rollo, "but it is bent down on one side entirely, as if it had half blown over."
"O, no," said Mr. George, still continuing to read.
"It really is," said Rollo. "I wish you would look, uncle George. It is something very singular indeed."
Mr. George yielded at length to these importunities, and looked out. The country around in every direction was one vast plain, covered with fields of grain, luxuriant and beautiful beyond description. It was without any fences or other divisions except such as were produced by different kinds of cultivation, so that the view extended interminably in almost every direction. There were rows and copses of trees here and there, giving variety and life to the view, and from among them were sometimes to be seen the spires of distant villages. In the distance, too, in the direction in which Rollo pointed, lay the town of Cologne. The roofs of the houses extended over a very wide area, and among them there was seen a dark square tower, very high, and crowned, as Rollo had said, with what seemed to be a spire, only it was bent over half way; and there it lay at an angle at which no spire could possibly stand.
"What can it mean?" asked Rollo.
"I am sure I do not know," said Mr. George.
Next to Rollo, on the banquette, was seated a young man, who had mounted up there about an hour before, though Rollo had not yet spoken to him. Rollo now, however, turned to him, and asked him, in English, if he spoke English.
The young man smiled and shook his head, implying that he did not understand.
Rollo then asked him, in French, if he spoke French.
The young man said, "Nein."
[Footnote 2: Pronounced nine.]
Rollo knew that nein was the German word for no, and he presumed that the language of his fellow-traveller was German. So he pointed to the steeple, and asked,—
"Was ist das?"
This phrase, Was ist das? is the German of What is that? Rollo knew very little of German, but he had learned this question long before, having had occasion to ask it a great many times. It is true he seldom or never could understand the answers he got to it, but that did not prevent him from asking it continually whenever there was occasion. He said it was some satisfaction to find that the people could understand his question, even if he could not understand what they said in reply to it.
[Footnote 3: The w is pronounced like v.]
The man immediately commenced an earnest explanation; but Rollo could not understand one word of it, from beginning to end.
The truth of the case was, that the supposed leaning spire, which Rollo saw, was in reality a monstrous crane that was mounted on one of the towers of the celebrated unfinished cathedral at Cologne. This cathedral was commenced about six hundred years ago, and was meant to be the grandest edifice of the kind in the world. They laid out the plan of it five hundred feet long, and two hundred and fifty feet wide, and designed to carry up the towers and spires five hundred feet high. You can see now how long this church was to be by going out into the road, or to any other smooth and level place, and there measuring off two hundred and fifty paces by walking. The pace—that is, the long step—of a boy of ten or twelve years old is probably about two feet. That of a full grown man is reckoned at three feet. So that by walking off, by long steps, till you have counted two hundred and fifty of them, you can see how long this church was to be; and then by turning a corner and measuring one hundred and twenty-five paces in a line at right angles to the first, you will see how wide it was to be. To walk entirely round such an area as this would be nearly a third of a mile.
The church was laid out and begun, and during the whole generation of the workmen that began it, the building was prosecuted with all the means and money that could be procured; and when that generation passed away, the next continued the work, until, at length, in about a hundred years it was so far advanced that a portion of it could have a roof put over it, and be consecrated as a church. They still went on, for one or two centuries more, until they had carried up the walls to a considerable height in many parts, and had raised one of the towers to an elevation of about a hundred and fifty feet. When the work had advanced thus far the government of Holland, in the course of some of the wars in which they were engaged, closed the mouth of the Rhine, so that the ships of Cologne could no more go up and down to get out to sea. This they could easily do, for the country of Holland is situated at the mouth of the Rhine, and the Dutch government was at that time extremely powerful. They had strong fleets and great fortresses at the mouth of the river, and thus they could easily control the navigation of it. Thus the merchants of Cologne could no more import goods from foreign lands for other people to come there and buy, but the inhabitants were obliged to send to Holland to purchase what they required for themselves. The town, therefore, declined greatly in wealth and prosperity, and no more money could be raised for carrying on the work of the cathedral.
At the time when the work was interrupted the builders were engaged chiefly on one of the towers, which they had carried up about one hundred and fifty feet. The stones which were used for this tower were very large, and in order to hoist them up the workmen used a monstrous crane, which was reared on the summit of it. This crane was made of timbers rising obliquely from a revolving platform in the centre, and meeting in a point which projected beyond the wall in such a manner that a chain from the end of it, hanging freely, would descend to the ground. The stones which were to go up were then fastened to this chain, and hoisted up by machinery. When they were raised high enough, that is, just above the edge of the wall, the whole crane was turned round upon its platform, in such a manner as to bring the stone in over the wall; and then it was let down into the place which had been prepared to receive it.
When the work on the cathedral was suspended on account of the want of funds, the men left this crane on the top of the tower, because they hoped to be able to resume the work again before long. But years and generations passed, and the prospect did not mend; and at last the old crane, which in its lofty position was exposed to all the storms and tempests of the sky, of course began gradually to decay. It is true it was protected as much as possible by a sort of casing made around it, to shelter it from the weather; but notwithstanding this, in the course of several centuries it became so unsound that there began to be danger that it might fall. The authorities of the town, therefore, decided to take it down, intending to postpone putting up a new one until the work of finishing the cathedral should be resumed, if indeed it ever should be resumed.
The people of the town were very sorry to see the crane taken down. It had stood there, like a leaning spire, upon the top of the cathedral, from their earliest childhood, and from the earliest childhood, in fact, of their fathers and grandfathers before them. Besides, the taking down of the crane seemed to be, in some sense, an indication that the thought of ever finishing the cathedral was abandoned. This made them still more uneasy, and a short time afterwards a tremendous thunder storm occurred, and this the people considered as an expression of the displeasure of Heaven at the impiety of forsaking such a work, and as a warning to them to put up the crane again. So a new crane was made, and mounted on the tower as before, and being encased and enclosed like the other, it had at a distance the appearance of a leaning spire, and it was this which had attracted Rollo's attention in his approach to Cologne.
Within a few years, on account of the opening again of the navigation of the Rhine, and other causes, the city of Cologne, with all the surrounding country, has been returning to its former prosperity, and the plan of finishing the cathedral has been resumed. The government of Prussia takes a great interest in the undertaking, and the kings and princes of other countries in Germany make contributions to it. A society has been organized, too, to collect funds for this purpose all over Europe. More than a million of dollars have already been raised, and the work of completing the cathedral has been resumed in good earnest, and is now rapidly going on.
All this Rollo's fellow-traveller attempted to explain to him; but as he spoke in German, Rollo did not understand him.
When Mr. George and Rollo reached their hotel, and had got fairly established in their room, Mr. George took his cane and prepared to "go exploring," as he called it.
"Well, Rollo," said he, "what shall we go to see first?"
"I want to go and see the cathedral," replied Rollo.
"The cathedral?" said Mr. George. "I am surprised at that. You don't usually care much about churches."
"But this does not look much like a church," said Rollo. "I saw the end of it as we came into the town. It looks like a range of cliffs rising high into the air, with grass and bushes growing on the top of them, and wolves and bears reaching out their heads and looking down."
Mr. George complied with Rollo's request, and went to see the cathedral first. The adventures which the travellers met with on the excursion will be described in the next chapter.
THE UNFINISHED CATHEDRAL.
As soon as Mr. George and Rollo issued from the door of their hotel into the street, which was very narrow and without sidewalks, so that they were obliged to walk in the middle of it, a young man, plainly but neatly dressed, came up to them from behind, and said something to them in German. He was what is called a commissioner, and he was coming to offer to act as their guide in seeing the town.
Nearly all the travelling on the Rhine is pleasure travelling. The strangers consequently, who arrive at any town or city by the steamboats and by railway, come, almost all of them, for the purpose of seeing the churches and castles, and other wonders of the place, and not to transact business; and in every town there is a great number of persons whose employment it is to act as guides in showing these things. These men hover about the doors of the hotels, and gather in front of all the celebrated churches, and in all public places where travellers are expected to go; and as soon as they see a gentleman, or a party of gentlemen and ladies, coming out of their hotel, or approaching any place of public interest, they immediately come up to them, and offer their services. Sometimes their services are valuable, and the traveller is very ready to avail himself of them, especially when in any particular town there is a great deal to see, and he has but little time to see it. At other times, however, it is much pleasanter to go alone to the remarkable places, as a map of the city will enable any one to find them very easily, and the guide book explains them in a much more satisfactory manner than any of these commissioners can do it.
The commissioners generally speak French, English, and German, and after trying one of these tongues upon the strangers whom they accost, and finding that they are not understood, they try another and another until they succeed.
The commissioner in this case addressed Mr. George first in German. Mr. George said, "Nein," meaning no, and walked on.
The commissioner followed by his side, and began to talk in French, enumerating the various churches and other objects of interest in Cologne, and offering to go and show them.
"No," said Mr. George, "I am acquainted with the town, and I have no need of a guide."
Mr. George had studied the map and the guide book, until he knew the town quite well enough for all his purposes.
"You speak English, perhaps," said the commissioner, and then proceeded to repeat what he had said before, in broken English. He supposed that Mr. George and Rollo were English people, and that they would be more likely to engage him as a guide, if they found that he could explain the wonders to them in their own language.
Mr. George said, "No, no, I do not wish for a guide."
"Dere is die churts of St. Ursula," said the commissioner, persisting, "and die grand towers of die gross St. Martin, which is vare bu'ful."
Mr. George finding that refusals did no good, determined to take no further notice of the commissioner, and so began to talk to Rollo, walking on all the time. The commissioner continued for some time to enumerate the churches and other public buildings, which he could show the strangers if they would but put themselves under his guidance; but when at length he found that they would not listen to him, he went away.
Very soon an old beggar man came limping along on a crutch, with a countenance haggard and miserable, and, advancing to them, held out his cap for alms. Mr. George, who thought it was not best to give to beggars in the streets, was going on without regarding him; but the man hobbled on by the side of the strangers, and seemed about to be as pertinacious as the commissioner. They went on so for a little distance, when at length, just as the man was about giving up in despair, Rollo put his hand in his pocket, and feeling among the money there, happened to bring up a small copper coin, which he at once and instinctively dropped into the beggar's cap. He performed the movement a little slyly, so that Mr. George did not see him. This he was able to do from the fact that the beggar was on his side, and not on Mr. George's, and, moreover, a little behind.
As soon as the man received the coin, he took it, put the cap on his head, and fell back out of view.
"I am glad he is gone," said Mr. George; "I was afraid he would follow us half through the town."
"What is it?" said Mr. George. "What makes you laugh?"
"Why, the fact is," said Rollo, "I gave him a batz."
"Ah!" said Mr. George.
"Yes," said Rollo, "or something like a batz, that I had in my pocket."
A batz is a small Swiss coin, of the value of a fifth of a cent. Rollo had become familiar with this money in the course of his travels in Switzerland, but he did not yet know the names of the Prussian coins. The money which he gave the beggar was really what they called a pfennige.
[Footnote 4: Pronounced fenniger.]
Rollo supposed that his uncle would not quite approve of his giving the beggar this money; but as he never liked to have any secrecy or concealment in what he did, he preferred to tell him. This is always the best way.
As soon as the beggar had gone, another commissioner came to offer his services. This time, however, Mr. George, after once telling the man that he did not wish for his services, took no further notice of him; and so he soon went away.
The streets of Cologne are exceedingly narrow, and there are no sidewalks—or scarcely any. In one place Mr. George and Rollo passed through a street which was so narrow, that, standing in the middle and extending his hands, Mr. George could touch the buildings at the same time on each side. And yet it seemed that carriages were accustomed to pass through this street, as it was paved regularly, like the rest, and had smooth stones laid on each side of it for wheels to run in, with grooves, which seemed to have been worn in them by the wheels that had passed there.
The reason why the streets are so narrow in these old towns is, that in the ancient times, when they were laid out, there were no wheeled carriages in use, and the streets were only intended for foot passengers. When, at length, carriages came into use, the houses were all built, and so the streets could not easily be widened.
Our travellers at length reached a large, open square, on the farther side of which the immense mass of the cathedral was seen rising, like a gray and venerable ruin. The wall which formed the front of it, and which terminated above in the unfinished mason work of the towers, was very irregular in its outline on the top, having remained just as it was left when the builders stopped their work upon it, five hundred years ago. The whole front of this wall, having been formed apparently of clusters of Gothic columns, which had become darkened, and corroded, and moss-covered by time, appeared very much, as Rollo had said, like a range of cliffs—the resemblance being greatly increased by the green fringe of foliage with which the irregular outline of the top was adorned. It may seem strange that such a vegetation as this could arise and be sustained at such a vast elevation. But ancient ruins are almost always found to be thus covered with plants which grow upon them, even at a very great height above the ground, with a luxuriance which is very surprising to those who witness this phenomenon for the first time. The process is this: Mosses and lichens begin to grow first on the stones and in the mortar. The roots of these plants strike in, and assisted by the sun and rain, they gradually disintegrate a portion of the masonry, which, in process of time, forms a soil sufficient for the seeds of other plants, brought by the wind, or dropped by birds, to take root in. At first these plants do not always come to maturity; but when they die and decay, they help to increase the soil, and to make a better bed for the seeds that are to come afterwards. Thus, in the course of centuries, the upper surfaces of old walls and towers become quite fertile in grass and weeds, and sometimes in shrubbery. I once gathered sprigs from quite a large rosebush which I found growing several hundred feet above the ground, on one of the towers of the cathedral of Strasbourg. It was as flourishing a rosebush as I should wish to see in any gentleman's garden.
What Rollo meant by the bears and wolves which he said he saw looking down from these cliff-like towers, were great stone figures of these animals, that projected from various angles and cornices here and there, to serve as waterspouts.
There was an immense door of entrance to the church, at the end of a very deep, arched recess in the middle of the wall, and Mr. George and Rollo went up to it to go in. They were met at the door by another commissioner, who offered his services to show them the church. Mr. George declined this offer, and went in.
The feeling of amazement and awe which the aspect of the interior of the cathedral first awakened in the minds of our travellers was for a moment interrupted by a man in a quaint costume, who came up to them, holding a large silver salver in his hand, with money in it. He said something to Mr. George and Rollo in German. They did not understand what he said; but his action showed that he was taking up a contribution, for something or other, from the visitors who came to see the church. Mr. George paid no attention to him, but walked on.
On looking above and around them, our travellers found themselves in the midst of a sort of forest of monstrous stone columns, which towered to a vast height above their heads, and there were lost in vaults and arches of the most stupendous magnificence and grandeur. The floor was of stone, being formed of square flags, all cracked and corroded by time. Along the sides of the church were various chapels, all adorned with great paintings, and containing altars richly furnished with silver lamps, and glittering paraphernalia of all kinds. Parties of ladies and gentlemen, strangers from all lands, were walking to and fro at leisure about the floor, looking at the paintings, or gazing up into the vaulted roofs, or studying out the inscriptions on the monuments and sculptures which meet the eye on every hand.
All this was in the body of the church, or the nave, as it is called, which is in fact only the vestibule to the more imposing magnificence of what is beyond, in the ambulatory and in the choir. Mr. George and Rollo advanced in this direction, and at length they came to a vast screen made of a very lofty palisade of iron. They approached a door in the centre of the screen, and looking through between the iron bars, they beheld a scene of grandeur and magnificence wholly indescribable. The carved oak stalls, the gorgeously decorated altar, the immense candlesticks with candles twenty feet high, and the lofty ceiling with its splendid frescoes, formed a spectacle so imposing that they both gazed at it for some moments in silent wonder.
"I wish we could get in," said Rollo.
"I wish so too," said Mr. George; "but I suppose that this is a sort of sacred place."
A moment after this, while Mr. George and Rollo were looking through this grating, a sudden sound of music burst upon their ears. It was produced evidently by an organ and a choir of singers, and it seemed to come from far above their heads. The sound was at once deepened in volume by the reverberation of the vaults and arches of the cathedral, and at the same time softened in tone, so that the effect was inconceivably solemn.
"Hark!" said Mr. George.
"Where does that music come from?" said Rollo.
"Hark!" repeated Mr. George.
So Mr. George and Rollo stood still and listened almost breathlessly to the music, until it ceased.
"That was good music," said Rollo.
Mr. George made a sort of inarticulate exclamation, which seemed to imply that he had no words to express the emotion which the music awakened in his mind, and walked slowly away.
Presently they came to a place on one side, where there was a great iron gate or door in the screen, which seemed to be ajar.
"Here's a door open," said Mr. George; "let us go in here."
Rollo shrank back a little. "I'm afraid they will not let us go in here," said he. "It looks like a private place."
Rollo was always very particular, in all his travels, to avoid every thing like intrusion. He would never go where it seemed to him doubtful whether it was proper to go. By this means he saved himself from a great many awkward predicaments that persons who act on a contrary principle often get themselves into while travelling. Mr. George was not quite so particular.
"It looks rather private," said Mr. George; "but if they do not wish us to go in, they must keep the door shut."
So he pushed the great iron gate open, and walked in. Rollo followed him, though somewhat timidly.
They passed between a row of chapels on one side, and a high, carved partition on the other, which seemed to separate them from the choir, until, at length, they came to the end of the partition, where there was a gate that led directly into the choir. Mr. George turned in, followed by Rollo, and they found themselves standing in the midst of a scene of gorgeous magnificence which it is utterly impossible to describe.
[Footnote 5: These chapels are recesses or alcoves along the side of the church, fitted up and furnished with altars, crucifixes, confessionals, paintings, images, and other sacred emblems connected with the ritual of the Catholic worship. They are usually raised a step or two above the floor of the church, and are separated from it by an ornamented railing, with a gate in the middle of it.]
"That is where the music came from that we heard," said Rollo, pointing upward.
Mr. George looked up where Rollo had pointed, and there he saw a gallery at a great elevation above them, with a choir of singers in front, and an enormous organ towering to a great height towards the vaulted roof behind. The choir was separated from the body of the church by ranges of columns above, and by richly-carved and ornamental screens and railings below. The ceilings were beautifully painted in fresco, and here and there were to be seen lofty windows of stained glass, antique and venerable in form, and indescribably rich and gorgeous in coloring.
After gazing about upon this scene for a few minutes with great admiration and awe, Rollo called his uncle's attention to a discovery which he suddenly made.
"See," said he; "uncle George, there is a congregation."
So saying, Rollo pointed across the choir to a sort of gateway, which was opposite to the side on which they came in, and where, through the spaces which opened between the great columns that intervened, a congregation were seen assembled. They were in a chapel which was situated in that part of the church. The chapel itself was full, and a great many persons were seated in the various spaces rear. Mr. George and Rollo walked across the choir, and joined this congregation by taking a position near a pillar, where they could see what was going on.
At a corner near a little gateway in a railing, where the people appeared to come in, there was a woman sitting with a brush in her hand. The brush was wet with holy water. The people, as they came in,—for a few came in after Rollo and Mr. George arrived at the place,—touched their fingers to this brush, to wet them, and then crossed themselves with the holy water.
At the altar was a priest dressed in splendid pontificals. He was standing with his back to the people. There was a great number of immensely tall candlesticks on each side of him, and a great many other glittering emblems. The priest was dressed in garments richly embroidered with gold. There was a boy behind him dressed also in a very singular manner. The priest and the boy went through with a great variety of performances before the altar, none of which Rollo could at all understand. From time to time the boy would ring a little bell, and the organ and the choir of singers in the lofty gallery would begin to play and sing; and then, after a short time, the music would cease, and the priest and the boy would go on with their performances as before.
Presently Rollo heard a sound of marching along the paved floor, and looking into the choir whence the sounds proceeded, he saw a procession formed of boys, with a priest, bearing some glittering sacred utensils of silver in his hands, at the head of them. The boys were all dressed alike. The dress consisted of a long crimson robe with a white frock over it, which came down below the waist, and a crimson cape over the frock, which covered the shoulders. Thus they were red above and below, and white in the middle.
One of these boys had a censer in his hands, and another had a little bell; and as they came along you could see the censer swinging in the air, and the volumes of fragrant smoke rising from it, and you could hear the tinkling of the little bell. The priest advanced to the altar before which the audience were sitting, and there, while the censer was waving and the smoke was ascending, he performed various ceremonies which Rollo could not at all understand, but which seemed to interest the congregation very much, for they bowed continually, and crossed themselves, and seemed impressed with a very deep solemnity.
Presently, when the ceremony was completed, the procession returned into the choir, the priest at the head of it, just as it came.
When the procession had passed away, Mr. George made a sign for Rollo to follow him, and then walked along out through the gate where the woman was sitting with the holy water. She held out the brush to Mr. George and Rollo as they passed, but they did not take it.
"What ridiculous mummeries!" said Rollo, in a low tone, as soon as they had got out of the hearing of the congregation.
"Yes," said Mr. George, "they seem so to us; but I have a certain respect for all those ceremonies, since they are meant to be the worship of God."
"I thought it was the worship of images," said Rollo. "Did not you see the images?"
"Yes," said Mr. George, "I saw them; and perhaps we can make it out that those rites are, in reality, the worship of images; but they are not meant for that. They are meant for the worship of God."
"I want to get up upon the towers," said Rollo, "if we can."
"Yes," said Mr. George, "but I want first to go and see the tomb of the three kings."
"What is that?" asked Rollo.
"I will show you," said Mr. George. So saying, Mr. George led the way, and Rollo followed, along what is called the ambulatory, which is a broad space that extends all around the head of the cross in the cathedral churches of Europe, between the screen of the choir on one side and the ranges of chapels on the other. The ambulatory is usually very grand and imposing in the effect which it produces on the mind of the visitor, on account of the immense columns which border it, the loftiness of the vaulted roof, which forms a sort of sky over it above, and by the elaborate carvings and sculptures of the screen on one side, and the gorgeous decorations of the chapels on the other. Then all along the floor there are sculptured monuments of ancient warriors armed to the teeth in marble representations of iron and steel, while the walls are adorned with rich paintings of immense magnitude, representing scenes in the life of the Savior. There seemed to Mr. George some incongruity between the reverence evinced for the teachings and example of Jesus, in the pictures above, and the honor paid to the barbarous valor of the fighting old barons, in the monuments and effigies which occupied the pavement below.
At length, at the head of the cross, exactly opposite to the centre of the high altar, which faced the choir, in the place which seemed to be the special place of honor, Mr. George pointed to a small, square enclosure, or sort of projecting closet, which was richly carved and gilded, and adorned with a variety of ancient inscriptions.
"There," said Mr. George, "that must be the tomb of the three kings. That is the sepulchre which contains, as they pretend, the skulls of the three wise men of the east, who came to Bethlehem to worship Jesus the night on which he was born."
"How came they here?" asked Rollo.
"They were at Milan about six or eight hundred years ago," said Mr. George, "and they were plundered from the church there by a great general, and given to the Archbishop of Cologne, and he put them in this church. They have been here ever since, and they are prized very highly indeed. They are set round with gold and precious stones, and have the names of the men marked on them in letters formed of rubies."
"Can we see them?" asked Rollo. As he said this he climbed up upon a little step, and attempted to look through a gilded grating in the front of the coffer which contained the rubies.
"Yes," said Mr. George, "but we must pay the sacristan for showing them to us. We can ask him about them when we come down from the galleries."
"And besides," continued Mr. George, "the guide book says that under the floor of the church, just in front of the tomb of the three kings, the heart of Mary de Medicis is buried. That must be the place."
So saying, Mr. George pointed to a large, square flagstone, which looked somewhat different from the others around it. Rollo gazed a moment at the stone, and then said,—
"I suppose so; but I don't care much about these things, uncle George. Let us go up into the towers."
"Very well," said Mr. George, "we will go and see if we can find the way."
So our travellers went on along the ambulatory, and thence into the aisles and nave of the church, stopping, however, every few minutes to gaze at some gorgeously decorated altar, or large and beautiful painting, or quaint old effigy, or at some monument, or inscription, or antique and time-worn sculpture. There were a great many other parties of visitors, consisting of ladies and gentlemen, and sometimes children, rambling about the church at the same time. Rollo observed, as he passed these groups, that some were talking French, some German, and some English. Here and there, too, Rollo passed plain-looking people, dressed like peasants, who were kneeling before some altar or crucifix, saying their prayers or counting their beads, and wearing a very devout and solemn air. Some of these persons took no notice of Mr. George and Rollo as they passed them; but others would follow them with their eyes, scrutinizing their dress and appearance very closely until they got by, though they continued all the time to move their lips and utter inarticulate murmurings.
"I don't think those girls are attending much to their prayers," said Rollo.
"I'm afraid the girls in the Protestant churches in America do not attend to them much better," said Mr. George. "There is a great deal of time spent in seeing how people are dressed by worshippers in other churches than the Roman Catholic."
At length Rollo caught a view of the man who had held the plate for a contribution, at the time when he and Mr. George came in at the church door. He was walking to and fro, with his plate in his hand, in a distant portion of the church. Rollo immediately offered to go to him, and ask how he and Mr. George were to get to the towers. So he left Mr. George looking at a great painting, and walked off in that direction.
Just before Rollo came to the man, his attention was attracted by a girl of about twelve or thirteen years of age, who was strolling about the church at a little distance before him, swinging her bonnet in her hand. She was very pretty, and her dark eyes shone with a very brilliant, but somewhat roguish expression. She stopped when she saw Rollo coming, and eyed him with a mingled look of curiosity and pleasure.
Rollo, observing that this young lady appeared not to be particularly afraid of him, thought he would accost her.
"Do you speak French?" said he in French, as he was walking slowly by her. He supposed from her appearance that she was a French girl, and so he spoke to her in that language.
The girl replied, not in French, but in English,—
"Yes, and English too."
"How did you know that I spoke English?" said Rollo, speaking now in English himself.
"By your looks," said the girl.
"What is your name?" asked Rollo.
"Tell me your name first," said the girl.
"My name is Rollo," said Rollo.
"And mine," replied the stranger, "is Minnie."
"Do you see that man out there," said Minnie, immediately after telling her name, "who is gathering the donations? Come and see what a play I will play him."
Minnie was a French girl, and so, though she had learned English, she did not speak it quite according to the established usage.
So she walked along towards the contribution man, wearing a very grave and demure expression of countenance as she went. Rollo kept by her side. As soon as they came near, the man held out his plate, hoping to receive a contribution from them. But as the plate already contained money which had been put in by former contributors, the action was precisely as if the man were offering money to the children, instead of asking it of them. So Minnie put forth her hand, and making a courtesy, took one of the pieces of money that were in the plate, pretending to suppose that the man meant to give it to her, and said at the same time, in French,—
"I am very much obliged to you, sir. It is just what I wanted."
The man immediately exclaimed, "Nein nein!" which is the German for No! no! and then went on saying something in a very earnest tone, and holding out his hand for Minnie to give him back the money. Minnie did so, and then, looking up at Rollo with a very arch and roguish expression of countenance, she turned round and skipped away over the stone pavement, until she was lost from view behind an enormous column. Rollo saw her afterwards walking about with a gentleman and lady, the party to which she belonged.
Rollo then asked the man who held the plate what he should do to get up into the towers. He asked this question in French, and the man replied in French that he must go "to the Swiss, and the Swiss would give him a ticket.
"Where shall I find the Swiss?" asked Rollo.
The man pointed to a distant part of the church, where a number of people were going in through a great iron gateway.
"You will find him there somewhere," said the man, "and you will know him by his red dress."
So Rollo went and reported to his uncle George, and they together went in pursuit of the Swiss. They soon came to the great gate; and just inside of it they saw a man dressed in a long red gown which came down to his ankles. This proved to be what they called the Swiss. On making known to him what they wanted, this man gave them a ticket,—they paying him the usual fee for it,—and then went and found a guide who was to show them up into the galleries.
The guide, taking them under his charge, led them outside the church, and then conducted them to a door leading into a small round tower, which was built at an angle of the wall. This tower, though small in size, was as high as the church, and it contained a spiral staircase of stone, which conducted up into the upper parts of the edifice. Mr. George and Rollo, however, found that they could not go up to the towers but only to what were called the galleries. But it proved in the end that they had quite enough of climbing and of walking along upon dizzy heights, in visiting these galleries, and Rollo was very willing to come down again when he had walked round the upper one of them, without ascending to the towers.
There were three of these galleries. The first was an inner one; that is, it was inside the church. The two others were outside. The party was obliged to ascend to a vast height before they reached the first gallery. This gallery was a very narrow passage, barely wide enough for one person to walk in, which extended all around the choir, with a solid wall on one side, and arches through which they could look down into the church below on the other. After walking along for several hundred feet, listening to the swelling sounds of the music, which, coming from the organ and choir below, echoed grandly and solemnly among the vaults and arches above them, until they reached the centre of the curve at the head of the cross, Mr. George and Rollo stopped, and leaned over the stone parapet, and looked down. The parapet was very high and very thick, and Rollo had to climb up a little upon it before he could see over.
They gazed for a few minutes in silence, completely overwhelmed with the dizzy grandeur of the view. It is always impossible to convey by words any idea of the impression produced upon the mind by looking down from any great height upon scenes of magnificence or of beauty; but it would be doubly impossible in such a case as this. Far below them in front, they could see the choir of singers in the singing gallery, with the organ behind them. The distance was, however, so great that they could not distinguish the faces of the singers, or even their persons. Then at a vast distance, lower still, was the floor of the choir, paved beautifully in mosaic, and with little dots of men and women, slowly creeping, like insects, over the surface of it. At a distance, through the spaces between the columns, a part of the congregation could be seen, with the women and children at the margin of it, kneeling on the praying chairs, and a little red spot near a gate, which Rollo thought must be the Swiss. The whole of the interior of the choir, which they looked down into as you would look down into a valley from the summit of a mountain, was so magnificently decorated with paintings, mosaics, and frescoes, and enriched with columns, monuments, sculptures, and carvings, and there were, moreover, so many railings, and screens, and stalls, and canopies, and altars, to serve as furnishing for the vast interior, that the whole view presented the appearance of a scene of enchantment.
Mr. George said it was the most imposing spectacle that he ever saw.
After this, the guide led our two travellers up about a hundred feet higher still, till they came to the first outer gallery; and the scene which presented itself to view here would be still more difficult to describe than the other. The gallery was very narrow, like the one within, and it led through a perfect maze of columns, pinnacles, arches, turrets, flying buttresses, and other constructions pertaining to the exterior architecture of the church. It was like walking on a mountain in the midst of a forest of stone. The analogy was increased by the monstrous forms of bears, lions, tigers, boars, and other wild and ferocious beasts, which projected from the eaves every where to convey the water that came down from rains, out to a distance from the walls of the building. These images had deep grooves cut along their backs for the water to flow in. These grooves led to the mouths of the animals, and they were invisible to persons looking up from below, so that to observers on the ground each animal appeared perfect in his form, and was seen stretching out the whole length of his body from the cornices of the building, and pouring out the water from his mouth.
From these outer galleries Rollo could not only see the pinnacles, and turrets, and flying buttresses, of the part of the church which was finished, but he could also observe the immense works of scaffolding and machinery erected around the part which was now in progress. Men were at work hoisting up immense stones, and moving them along by a railway to the places on the walls where they were destined to go. The yard, too, on one side, far, far down, was covered with blocks, some rough, and others already carved and sculptured, and ready to go up. The towers were in view too, with the monstrous crane leaning over from the summit of one of them; but there seemed to be no way of getting to them but by crossing long scaffoldings where the masons were now at work. This Rollo would have had no wish to do, even if the guide had proposed to conduct him.
So, after spending half an hour in surveying the magnificent prospect which opened every where around them over the surrounding country, and in scrutinizing the details of the architecture near, the sculptures, the masonry, the painted windows, the massive piers, and the buttresses hanging by magic, as it were, in the air, and all the other wonders of the maze of architectural constructions which surrounded them, the party began their descent.
"I am glad they are going to finish it," said Rollo to Mr. George, as they were walking round and round, and round and round, in the little turret, going down the stairs. "The next time we come here, perhaps, it will be done."
"They expect it will take twenty years to finish it," said Mr. George.
"Twenty years!" repeated Rollo, surprised.
"Yes," said Mr. George, "and about four millions of dollars. Why, when they first determined that they would attempt to finish it, it took fifteen years to make the repairs which were necessary in the old work, before they could begin any of the new. And now, at the rate that they are going on, it will take twenty years to finish it. For my part, I do not know whether we ought to be glad to have it finished or not, on account of the immense cost. It seems as if that money could be better expended."
"Perhaps it could," said Rollo. "But every body that comes here to see it gets a great deal of pleasure; and as an immense number of people will come, I think the amount of the pleasure will be very great in all."
"That is true," said Mr. George, "and that is the right way to consider it; but let us make the calculation in the same way that we made the calculation about the gold chain that you were going to buy in London. If we suppose that the church was half done when they left off the work, and that it will now cost four millions of dollars to finish it, that will make eight millions of dollars in all. Now, what is the interest of eight millions of dollars, say at three per cent.?"
Rollo began to calculate it in his mind; but before he had got through, Mr. George said that it was two hundred and forty thousand dollars a year.
"That," said Mr. George, "is equal, with a proper allowance for repairs, to, say a thousand dollars per day. Now, do you think that the people who will come here to see it will get pleasure enough from it to amount in all to a thousand dollars a day?"
"I don't know," said Rollo, doubtfully. "I'd give one dollar, I know, to see it."
"Yes," said Mr. George, "so would I; and I do not know but that there would be three hundred thousand to come in a year, including all the great occasions that would bring out immense assemblages from all the surrounding country."
"At any rate, I hope they will finish it," said Rollo.
"So do I," said Mr. George.
"And I mean to put a little in the man's plate when I go down," said Rollo, "and then I shall have a share in it."
"I will too," said Mr. George.
Accordingly, as they passed by the man when they were leaving the church, Mr. George put a franc into his plate, and Rollo half a franc. Just at the time that they put their money in, the party that Minnie belonged to came by, and the gentleman put in a silver coin called a thaler, which is worth about seventy-five cents; so that Rollo had the satisfaction of seeing that one of the four millions of dollars was raised on the spot.
TRAVELLING ON THE RHINE.
The steamboats and hotels, and all the arrangements made for the accommodation of travellers on the Rhine, are entirely different from those of any American river, partly for the reason that so very large a portion of the travelling there is pleasure travelling. The boats are smaller, and they go more frequently. The company is more select. They sit upon the deck, under the awnings, all the day, looking at their guide books, and maps, and panoramas of the river, and studying out the names and history of the villages, and castles, and ruined towers, which they pass on the way. The hotels are large and very elegant. They are built on the banks of the river, or wherever there is the finest view, and the dining room is always placed in the best part of the house, the windows from it commanding views of the mountains, or overlooking the water, so that in sitting at table to eat your breakfast, or your dinner, you have before you all the time some charming view. Then there is usually connected with the dining room, and opening from it, some garden or terrace, raised above the road and the river, with seats and little tables there, shaded by trees, or sheltered by bowers, where ladies and gentlemen can sit, when the weather is pleasant, and read, or drink their tea or coffee, or explore, with an opera glass, or a spy glass, the scenery around. They can see the towers and castles across the river, and follow the little paths leading in zigzag lines up among the vineyards to the watchtowers, and pavilions, and belvideres, that are built on the pinnacles of the rocks, or on the summits of the lower mountains.
The hotels and inns, even in the smallest villages, are very nice and elegant in all their interior arrangements. These small villages consist usually of a crowded collection of the most quaint and queer-looking houses, or rather huts, of stone, with an antique and venerable-looking church in the midst of them, looking still more quaint and queer than the houses. The hotels, however, in these villages, or rather on the borders of them,—for the hotels are often built on the open ground beyond the town, where there is room for gardens and walks, and raised terraces around them,—are palaces in comparison with the dwellings of the inhabitants. And well they may be, for the villagers are almost all laborers of a very humble class—boatmen, who get their living by plying boats up and down the river; vinedressers, who cultivate the vineyards of the neighboring hills; or hostlers and coachmen, who take care of the carriages and of the horses employed in the traffic of the river. A great number of horses are employed; for not only are the carriages of such persons as choose to travel on the Rhine by land, or to make excursions on the banks of the river, drawn by them, but almost all the boats, except the steamboats that go up the river, are towed up by these animals. To enable them to do this, a regular tow path has been formed all the way up the river, on the left bank, and boats of all shapes and sizes are continually to be seen going up, drawn, like canal boats in America, by horses—and sometimes even by men. Once I saw some boys drawing up a small boat in this way. It seems they had been going down the stream to take a sail, or perhaps to convey a traveller down; and now they were coming up again, drawing their boat by walking along the bank, the current being so rapid that it is much easier to draw a boat up than it is to row it. The boys had a long line attached to the mast of their boat, and both of them were drawing upon this line by means of broad bands, forming a sort of harness, which were passed over their shoulders.
Now, the small villages that I was speaking of are formed almost exclusively of the dwellings of the various classes which I have described, while the hotels or inns that are built on the margins of them are intended, not as they would be in America, for the accommodation of the people of the same class, but for travellers of wealth, and rank, and distinction, who come from all quarters of the world to explore the beauties and study the antiquities of the Rhine. Thus the inns, however small and secluded they may be, and however retired and solitary the places in which they stand, are always very nice, and even elegant, in their interior arrangements. The chambers are furnished and arranged in the prettiest possible manner. Handsome open carriages and pretty boats are ready to convey visitors on any excursion which they may desire to make in the neighborhood, and the table is provided with almost as many delicacies and niceties as you can have in Paris.
The roads along the banks of the Rhine, too, are absolutely perfect. Well they may be so in fact, for workmen have been constantly employed in making and perfecting them for nearly two thousand years. Julius Caesar worked upon them. Charlemagne worked upon them. Frederic the Great worked upon them. Napoleon worked upon them. They are walled up wherever necessary on the side towards the river; the rock is cut away on the side towards the land; valleys have been filled up; hill sides have been terraced, and ravines bridged over; until the road, though passing along the margin of a very mountainous region, is almost as level as a railway throughout the whole of its course. And as it is macadamized throughout, and is kept in the most perfect condition, it is always, in wet weather as well as dry, as firm, and hard, and smooth as a floor.
With such roads and such carriages on the land, and such pretty steamboats as they have upon the water, it would be very pleasant going up through the highlands of the Rhine, if there were nothing but the natural scenery to attract the eye of the traveller. But besides the quaint and ancient villages, and the curious old churches which adorn them,—villages which sometimes line the margin of the water, and sometimes cling to the slopes of the hills, or nestle in the higher valleys,—there are other still stronger attractions, in the castles, towers, and palaces, which are seen scattered every where on the river banks, adorning every prominent and commanding position along the shores, and crowning, in many cases, the summits of the hills. Many of these castles and towers, though built originally hundreds of years ago, are still kept in repair and inhabited, some being used as the summer residences of princes, or of private men of fortune, and others, being armed with cannon and garrisoned with soldiers, are held as strongholds by the kings, or dukes, or electors, in whose dominions they lie. There are a great many of them, however, that have been allowed to go to decay; and the ruins of these still stand, presenting to the eye of the traveller who gazes up to them from the deck of the steamer, or from his seat in his carriage, or who climbs up to visit them more closely, by means of the zigzag paths which lead to them, very interesting relics and memorials of ancient times. The ruins are generally on very lofty summits, and they usually occupy the most commanding positions, so that the view from them up and down the river is almost always very grand. The castles were built by the dukes, and barons, and other feudal chieftains of the middle ages, and they are placed in these commanding positions in order that the chieftains who lived in them might watch the river, and the roads leading along the banks of it, and come down with a troop of their followers to exact what they called tribute, but what those who had to pay it called plunder, from the merchants or travellers whom they saw from the windows of their watchtowers, passing up and down.
In fact these men were really robbers; being just like any other robbers, excepting that they restricted themselves to some rule and system in their plunderings, such as an enlightened regard for their own interest required. If, when they found a vessel laden with merchandise, or a company of travellers coming down the river, they had robbed them of every thing they possessed, the river and the roads would soon have been entirely abandoned, and their occupation would have been gone. In order to avoid this result, they were accustomed to content themselves with a certain portion of the value which the traveller was carrying; and they called the money which they exacted a tribute, or tax, paid for the privilege of passing through their dominions. They kept continual watch in their lofty castles, both up and down the river, to see who came by, and then, descending with a sufficient force to render resistance useless, they would take what they pretended to consider their due, and retreat with it to their almost inaccessible fastnesses, where they were safe from all pursuers.
They often had wars with one another; and in the progress of these wars the weaker chieftains became, in the course of time, subjected to the stronger, and thus two or more small dominions would often become united into one. These amalgamations went on continually; and as they advanced, the condition of the cultivator of the ground, and of the peaceful merchant or traveller, was improved, for the rules and regulations for the collection of the tribute became more fixed and settled, and men knew more and more what they could calculate upon, and could regulate their business accordingly. Arrangements were made, too, to collect a regular tax from the cultivators of the ground; and just so far as these arrangements were matured, and the produce of the plunder, or the tribute, or the tax, or whatever we call it, increased, just so far it became for the interest of the chieftains that the cultivation of the land and the traffic on the river should be increased, and should be protected from all depredations but their own. Thus a system of law grew up, and arrangements for preserving public order, for promoting the general industry, and rules and regulations for the collection of the tribute, until at length, when all these arrangements were matured, and the multitude of petty chieftains became combined under one great chieftain ruling over the whole, and collecting the revenue for his subordinates, we find a great kingdom as the result, in which the descendants of the ancient marauders that lived in castles on the hills, under the name of princes and nobles, collect the means of enabling themselves to live in idleness and luxury out of the avails of the labor of the agriculturists, the merchants, and the manufacturers, by a combined and concerted arrangement, and a regular system of rents, taxes, and tolls, instead of by irregular forrays and depredations, as in former years.
When any one of these nobles is questioned as to the nature of his claim to the enjoyment of so large a portion of the produce of the land, without doing any thing to earn or deserve it, he says that it is a vested right; that is, that he has a right to claim and take a certain portion of the proceeds of the toil of the present generation of laborers, because his forefathers claimed and took a similar portion from theirs. And the one monarch, whose ancestors succeeded in overpowering or crowding out the others, claims his right to rule on the same ground. Thus, in the progress of ages, by a strange commutation, robbery and plunder, when systematized, and extended, and established on a permanent basis, become legitimacy, and the divine right of kings.
In America there is no such division of the fruits of industry between those who do the work and a class of idle nobles, and soldiers, and priests, who do nothing but consume the proceeds of it. There every man possesses the full fruit of his labor, except so far as he himself joins with his fellow-citizens in setting apart a portion for the purposes of public and general utility. This is the reason why such immense numbers of laboring men are every year leaving Germany and emigrating to America.
But to return to the Rhine. Of course, just so fast and so far as the smaller chieftains were conquered and dispossessed, and the country came into the hands of a smaller number of greater princes, the old castles became useless. Besides, when rules and laws, instead of surprises and violence, became the means by which contributions were levied, it was no longer necessary to have strongholds on high hills to come down from, when a vessel or a traveller was coming by, and to retreat to with the booty when the plunder had been taken. A great number of these old castles have, therefore, gone to decay; for they were generally built too high on the hills and rocks to be convenient as dwellings for peaceable men. A few of the largest and strongest of them were retained as fortresses; and those that were retained have been greatly enlarged and strengthened in their defences in modern times, so that some of them are now the greatest and strongest fortresses in the world. Others, that were built in tolerably accessible situations, or which commanded an unusually beautiful view, were retained and kept in repair, and are used now as the summer residences of wealthy men. The rest were suffered gradually to go to decay, and the ruins and remains of them are seen crowning almost every remarkable height all along the river. Some of these ruins are still in a very good state of preservation, so that in going up to explore them you can make out very easily the whole original plan of the edifice. You can find the turret, with the remains of the stairs which led up to the watchtower, and the kitchen, and the hall, and the armory, and the stables. In others, there is nothing to be seen but a confused mass of unintelligible ruins; and in others still, every thing is gone, except, perhaps, some single arch or gateway, which stands among a mass of shapeless mounds, the last remaining relic of the edifice it once adorned, and itself tottering, perhaps, on the brink of its precipitous foundation, as if just ready to fall.
These old ruins are visited every year by thousands of persons who come from every part of the world to see them. These visitors arrive every year in such numbers that the steamboats, both going up and coming down, and all the hotels, and thousands of carriages, which are perpetually plying to and fro along the shores on both sides of the river, are constantly filled with them. A great many people merely pass up or down the river in a steamer, in a day and a night, and only see the ruins and the other scenery by gazing at them from the deck of the vessel. But in this case they get no idea whatever of the Rhine. It is necessary to travel slowly, to stop frequently at the towns on the bank, to make excursions along the shores and into the interior, and to ascend to the sites of the ruins, and to other elevated points, so as to view the valley and the stream meandering through it from above, or you obtain no correct idea whatever of travelling on the Rhine.
The work of ascending to the old ruins would be a very arduous and difficult one for all but the young and robust, were it not for the assistance that is afforded by the donkeys that are kept at the foot of every remarkable hill that travellers might be supposed desirous to ascend. These donkeys have a sort of chair fitted upon them, that is, a saddle, flat upon the top, and guarded all around one side by a sort of back, like the back of a chair. The trappings are covered with some kind of scarlet cloth, so that the troop of donkeys standing together under the shade of the trees, at the foot of the hill which they are to ascend, make a very gay appearance. The donkeys look very small to bear so heavy a load as a full grown person; but they are very strong, and they carry their burden quite easily, especially as the distance is not very great. For these mountains of the Rhine, celebrated as they are for the romantic grandeur which they impart to the scenery, are, after all, seldom more than a few hundred feet high. There is also, almost always, an excellent path leading up to them. It winds usually by zigzags through the groves of trees, or between gardens and vineyards, in a very delightful manner, so that the ascent in going up any of these hills would make a very pleasant excursion even without the ruins on the top.
Such, in its general features, is the mountainous region of the Rhine, as it appears to the travellers who go to visit it at the present day; and it was this region that Rollo and Mr. George were now going to explore.
THE SIEBEN GEBIRGEN.
The word Sieben means seven, and Gebirgen means mountains. Thus the Sieben Gebirgen is the Seven Mountains. It is the name given to a mountainous mass of land which rises into seven or more principal peaks, just at the entrance of the romantic part of the Rhine. The highest of these mountains is the celebrated Drachenfels, which has a ruined castle on the top of it, and an inn for the accommodation of travellers just below. The Seven Mountains and Drachenfels are on the east bank of the river. Opposite to them on the left bank are some other remarkable mountains, crowned also with celebrated ruins. The river flows between these highlands as through a gateway. They form, in fact, the commencement of the mountainous region of the Rhine, in ascending the river from Cologne.
[Footnote 6: The words are pronounced as they are spelled, except that the g in Gebirgen is hard.]
[Footnote 7: The reader must be very careful to get the idea right in his mind in respect to which way is up on the Rhine. The river flows north. Of course, in looking on the map, what is down on the page is up in respect to the flow of the river.]
The large town next below where these mountains commence is Bonn, which is, perhaps, thirty or forty miles above Cologne. The country up as far as Bonn from Cologne is pretty level, and a railroad has been made there. At Bonn the mountains begin, and the railroad has accordingly not been yet carried any farther. Mr. George and Rollo went up to Bonn by the railroad.
Mr. George wished to stop at Bonn for half a day to visit a celebrated university that is there. The buildings of this university were formerly a palace; but they were afterwards given up to the use of the university, which subsequently became one of the most distinguished seminaries of learning in Europe. Mr. George wished to visit this university. He had letters of introduction to some of the professors. He wished also to see the library and the cabinets of natural history that were there. He invited Rollo to go with him, but Rollo concluded not to go. He would have liked to have seen the library very well, and the cabinets, but he was rather afraid of the professors.
So, while Mr. George went to visit the literary institution, Rollo amused himself by rambling about the town, and looking at the quaint old churches, and the houses, and the fortifications, and in strolling along the quay, by the shore of the river, to see the steamers and tow boats go up and down.
At length he went to the hotel. The hotel was just without the gates, near the river. There was a garden between the hotel and the river, with a terrace at the margin of it, overlooking the water, where there were tables and chairs ready for any person who might choose to take coffee or any other refreshments there. Mr. George's room was on this side of the hotel, and being pretty high it overlooked the gardens, and the terrace, and the river, and afforded a charming view. Up the river, on the other side, about three or four miles off, the Sieben Gebirgen were plainly to be seen, the summits of them tipped with ancient ruins.
After Rollo had been sitting there about half an hour, Mr. George came home. It was then about one o'clock.
"Well, Rollo," said he, "we are going up the river. I have engaged the landlord to send us up in a carriage to some pleasant place on the bank of the river among the mountains, where we can spend the Sabbath."
"Why, what day is it?" asked Rollo.
"It is Saturday," replied Mr. George.
Rollo was quite surprised to find that it was Saturday. In fact, in travelling on the Rhine, as there is so little to mark or distinguish one day from another, we almost always soon lose our reckoning.
"What is the name of the place where we are going?" asked Rollo.
"I don't know," replied Mr. George. "I cannot understand very well. He is going to send us somewhere. How it will turn out I cannot tell. We must trust to the fortune of war."
Mr. George often called the luck that befell him in travelling the fortune of war. "If we were contented," he would say, "to travel over and over again in places that we know, then we could make some calculations, and could know beforehand, in most cases, where we were going and how we should come out. But in travelling in new and strange places we cannot tell at all, especially when there is no language that we can communicate well with the people in. So we have to trust to the fortune of war."
Mr. George, however, determined to make one more effort to find out where he was going; and so, when the carriage came to the door, and he and Rollo were about to get into it, he asked the porter of the house—who was the man that "spoke English"—what the name of the place was where they were going to stop.
"Yes, sare," replied the man. "You will stop. You will go to Poppensdorf and to Kreitzberg, and then you will go to Gottesberg, and then you will go to Rolandseck, where there is a boat that will take you to Drachenfels, or to Koenigswinter."
He said all this with so strong a German accent, and pronounced the barbarous words with so foreign an intonation, that no trace or impression whatever was left by them on Mr. George's ear.
"But which is the place," asked Mr. George, speaking very deliberately and plainly,—"which is the place where we are to be left by the carriage to stay on Sunday? Is it Rolandseck or Koenigswinter?"
"Yes, sare," said the porter, making a very polite bow. "Yes, sare, you will go to Rolandseck, and to Kreitzberg, and to Gottesberg, and if you please you can stop at Poppensdorf."
"Very well," said Mr. George. "Tell him to drive on."
This is a tolerably fair specimen of the success to which travellers, and the porters, and waiters, who "speak English," attain to, in their attempts to understand one another. In fact, the attempts of these domestic linguists to speak English are sometimes still more unfortunate than their attempts to understand it. One of them, in talking to Mr. George, said "No, yes," for no, sir. Another told Rollo that the dinner would be ready in fiveteen minutes, and a very worthy landlord, in commenting on the pleasant weather, said that the time was very agregable. So a waiter said one day that the bifstek was just coming up out of the kriken. He meant kitchen.
The place where the porter, who engaged the carriage for Mr. George, intended to leave him, was really Rolandseck. Rolandseck is the name of a ruined arch, the remains of an ancient tower which may be seen in the engraving a little farther on, upon the height of land on the left side of the view. The lofty ruin on the right, farther in the distance, is Drachenfels. At the foot of Drachenfels, a little farther down the river,—and we are looking down the river in the engraving,—is a town called Koenigswinter, which is the place that people usually set out from to ascend the mountain, a great number of donkeys being kept there for that purpose. Beneath the tower of Rolandseck, near the margin of the water, is a row of three or four houses, two of which are hotels. The land rises so suddenly from the river here, that there is barely room for the road and the houses between the water and the hill. In fact, the road itself is terraced up with a wall ten or fifteen feet high towards the water, and the houses in the same manner from the road. You enter them, indeed, from the level of the road; but you are immediately obliged to ascend a staircase to reach the principal floor of the house, which is ten or fifteen feet above the road, and the gardens of the house are on terraces raised to that height by a wall. Thus from the gardens and terraces you look down fifteen feet over a wall to the road, and from the road you look down fifteen feet over a wall to the water. Along the outer margin of the road is a broad stone wall or parapet, flat at the top and about three feet high. All this you can see represented in the engraving.
In the middle of the river, opposite to the hotels, is a very beautiful island with a nunnery upon it. This island is called Nonnenwerth. Now, in regard to all these castles and churches, and other sacred edifices on the Rhine, there is almost always some old legend or romantic tale, which has come down through succeeding generations from ancient times, and which adds very much to the interest of the locality where the incidents occurred. The tale in respect to Rolandseck and Nonnenwerth is this: Roland was the nephew of the great monarch and conqueror, Charlemagne. He became engaged to the daughter of the chieftain who lived in Drachenfels, the ruins of which you see in the engraving crowning the hill on the right bank of the river, some little distance down the stream. In a battle in which he was engaged, he killed his intended father-in-law by accident, being deceived by the darkness of the night, and thinking that he was striking an enemy instead of a friend. After this, he could not be married to his intended bride, the etiquette of those days forbidding that a warrior should marry one whose father he had slain. The maiden, in her grief and despair, betook herself to the nunnery on the island near her father's castle, and Roland, since he could not be permitted to visit her there, built a tower on the nearest pinnacle of the opposite shore, in order that he might live there, and at least comfort himself with a sight of the building where his beloved was confined. The story is, however, that the unhappy nun lived but a short time. Roland himself, however, continued to live in his tower, a lonely hermit, for many years.
Another version of this legend is, that the maiden was led to go to the convent and consecrate herself as a nun, on account of a false report which she had heard, that Roland himself was killed in the battle, and that when she learned that he was still alive, it was too late for her to be released from her vows. However this may be, Roland retired to this lofty tower, in order to be as near her as possible, and to be able to look down upon the dwelling where she lived. How well he could do this you can easily see by observing how finely the ruined tower on the top of the hill commands a view of the river and of the island, as well as of the nunnery itself, imbosomed in the trees.
A little below the ruin of Roland's Tower you see a pavilion on a point of the rock, which, though somewhat lower in respect to elevation, projects farther towards the stream, and consequently commands a finer view. This pavilion has been erected very lately by a gentleman who lives in one of the houses at the margin of the road, and who owns the vineyards that cover the slope of the hill. The road to it leads up among these vineyards through the gentleman's grounds, but he leaves it open in order that visitors who ascend up to Roland's Tower may go to the pavilion on the way, and enjoy the view.
It was to one of these hotels at Rolandseck that the porter at Bonn had arranged to send Mr. George, as the pleasantest place that was near to spend the Sabbath in. He could not have made a better selection.
The ride, too, in the carriage from Bonn up to Rolandseck, was delightful. Nothing could be more enchanting than the scenery which was presented to view on every hand. The carriage, like all the other private carriages used for travellers on the Rhine, was an open barouche, and when the top was down it afforded an entirely unobstructed view. The day was pleasant, and yet the sun was so obscured with clouds that it was not warm, and Rollo stood up in the carriage nearly all the way, supporting himself there by taking hold of the back of the driver's seat, and looking about him on every side, uttering continual exclamations of wonder and delight. He attempted once or twice to talk with the driver, trying him in French and English; but the driver understood nothing but German, and so the conversation soon settled down to an occasional Was ist das? from Rollo, and a long reply to the question from the driver, not a word of which Rollo was able to understand.
They passed out of Bonn by means of a most singular avenue. It was formed of a very broad space in the centre, which seemed, by its place, to have been intended for the road way; but instead of being a road way, it was covered with a rich growth of grass, like a mowing field. On each side of this green were two rows of trees, which bordered a sort of wide sidewalk, of which there were two, one on each side of the road. These side passages were the carriage ways.
"See, uncle George," said Rollo. "The road has all grown up to grass, and we are riding on the sidewalk."
The carriage passed on, and when it reached the end of the avenue, it came to a beautiful and extensive edifice, standing in the midst of groves and gardens, which was formerly a chateau, but is now used for a museum of natural history. Here were arranged the cabinets which Mr. George had been to see that morning. Passing this place, the carriage gradually ascended a long hill, on the summit of which, half concealed by groves of trees, was an ancient-looking church. Mr. George had seen this hill before from the windows of the hotel, and knew it must be the Kreitzberg.
"He is taking us to the Kreitzberg," said Mr. George.
"What is that famous for?" asked Rollo.
"It is an ancient church, on the top of a high hill," said Mr. George, "where there is a flight of stairs made to imitate those that Jesus ascended at Jerusalem, when he went to Pilate's judgment hall. Nobody is allowed to go up or down these stairs except on their knees.
"Then, besides," continued Mr. George, looking along the page of his guide book as he spoke, "the air is so dry up at the top of this high hill, that the bodies of the old monks, who were buried there hundreds of years ago, did not corrupt, but they dried up and turned into a sort of natural mummies; and there they lie now under the church, in open coffins, in full view."
"Let us go down and see them," said Rollo.
What Mr. George said was true; and these things are but a specimen of the strange and curious legends and tales that are told to the traveller, and of the extraordinary relics and wonders that are exhibited to his view, in the old churches and monasteries, which are almost as numerous as the castles, on the Rhine. The carriage, after ascending a long time, stopped at a gate by the way side, whence a long, straight road led up to the church, which stood on the very summit of the hill. Mr. George and Rollo got out and walked up. When they drew near to the church, they turned round to admire the splendor of the landscape, and to see if the carriage was still waiting for them below. They saw that the carriage still stood there, and that there was another one there too, and that a party of ladies and gentlemen were descending from it to come up and see the church. There was a little girl in this party.
"I should not wonder if that was Minnie," said Rollo.
In a short time this party, with a commissioner at the head of them, came up the walk. The girl proved to be really Minnie. She seemed very glad to see Rollo, and she stopped to speak with him while the rest of the party went on.
Rollo and Minnie followed closely behind. The commissioner led the way round to the side of the church, where there were some other ancient buildings, which were formerly a nunnery. Here they found a man who had the care of the place. He was a sacristan. He brought a great key, and unlocked the church door, and let the party in.
[Footnote 8: A sacristan is an officer who has charge of the sacred utensils and other property of the church, and who shows them to visitors.]
The interior of the church was very quaint and queer,—as in truth the interiors of all the old churches are on the banks of the Rhine,—and was adorned with a great many curious old effigies and paintings. After waiting a few minutes for the company to look at these, the sacristan went to a place in the middle of the church before the altar, and lifted up a great trap door in the floor. When the door was lifted up, a flight of steps was seen leading down under ground.
"Where are they going now?" said Minnie.
"I suppose they are going down to see the monks," said Rollo.
The party went down the stairs, Rollo and Minnie following them. The sacristan had two candles in his hands. As soon as he got to the bottom of the stairs, he passed along a narrow passage way between two rows of open coffins, placed close together side by side, and in each coffin was a dead man, his flesh dried to a mummy, his clothes all in tatters, and his face, though shrivelled and dried up, still preserving enough of the human expression to make the spectacle perfectly horrid. When Rollo and Minnie reached the place near enough to see what was there, the sacristan was moving his candles about over the coffins, one in each hand, so as to show the bodies plainly. At the first glance which Minnie obtained of this shocking sight, she uttered a scream, and ran up the stairs again as fast as she could go.