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smile, and there was no intelligence in her smooth fair brow. She had fair hair, not bad eyebrows, and a white, well-formed throat, but her hands and feet were large; in fact, she was altogether on a large scale, and short men looked pigmies when they danced with her.
Alphonse saw her efforts to attract him, and laughed at them, assuring Agatha that he would rather marry her without a sou than that Miss Wells if she had a million of money. Nevertheless, as time wore on, he thawed a little towards "the Iceberg," and Agatha commended him for being so good natured as to dance with her once or twice. Thus lauded, he carried his good nature a little farther, and was actually seen returning from a moonlight stroll which he had been taking alone with her on the little acclivity behind the Conversation House! Did Agatha also approve of this? Perhaps not, but she wisely made no remark on it.
Miss Wells and her chaperone always tried to join the De Florennes's party, and they contrived to fasten themselves upon Alphonse and his friends on their visit to the remarkable dungeens under the NEUE SCHLOSS, the palace at which the Duke of Baden and his family occasionally reside, and which stands on a height overlooking the town of Baden. These sad memorials of guilt and suffering form one of the sights of Baden-Baden. Descending, with candles in their hands, by a narrow winding staircase under a tower of the palace, and passing by the remains of an old Roman bath, they were conducted by the guide to those low, gloomy vaults where the cheering rays of the sun, the balmy breath of heaven, never entered, but all was darkness, mystery, and desolation. This entrance, dismal as it is, has only been made in modern times. The dungeons were originally only accessible by an opening at a great height above, through which, down a sort of perpendicular shaft, it is said that the unhappy prisoners, bound and blindfolded, were conveyed in some kind of chair or machine, worked by a windlass, into the frightful dungeons below, hewn out of the solid rock on which the ducal castle stands. This shaft, through which escape was impossible, served also to convey air to those subterranean prisons, which consist of small vaulted chambers, the largest forming the JUDGMENT HALL. Here the judges sat on stone benches, the remains of which may still be traced, as may also some small remnants of the apparatus for the instruments of torture, in the vault which was called the RACK CHAMBER. It is said that there was, in ancient times, a subterranean passage which led from the Hall of Judgment to the ALTE SCHLOSS, an old ruined castle on the summit of the hill above, which was the residence of the Duke of Baden's ancestors in the middle ages; but that passage, if it ever existed, is now walled up.
Adjoining the Judgment Hall is a narrow passage, the scene of that terrible punishment entitled "Le Baiser de la Vierge." The wretched victim who was condemned to this frightful fate was led along that passage, and compelled to kiss a statue of the Virgin Mary, placed in a niche in the massive wall. No sooner did the miserable being step forward than the flooring, a trap-door, gave way beneath his feet, and he fell to a great depth below upon a revolving machine studded with lances and sharp instruments, by which he was literally torn to pieces. Horrible! that the mind of man could conceive such tortures for his fellow-man! There was something inexpressibly sad in the sound of the heavy door
which closed on these abodes of misery. The doors of the cells were composed of solid slabs of stone, fully eight or ten inches thick; some of them still remain, and add to the melancholy and awe with which are viewed these monuments of the cruelty, the injustice, and the tyranny of ages gone by.
Agatha and Hortense shuddered at the thought of what must have been the feelings of the unhappy victim when he heard that sound, and knew that that heavy door had closed on him for ever, shutting him out from upper earth, from home, from hope, from life, and devoting him to tortures of mind and body, aggravated by darkness, mystery, and despair!
"Ah!" exclaimed Agatha, "well might Dante's lines have been inscribed above yon fatal door
Lasciate ogni Speranza voi ch' entrate !"
"Well indeed!" replied Baron Vanderhoven, who was not only interested in the scene around him, but was also making a comparison in his own mind between the strong impression it seemed to make upon his wife and her friend, who were pale with emotion, and the smiling apathy of "the Iceberg," who looked with the utmost indifference on these mementoes of a fearful past, and which appeared to awe even the frivolous Madame de Florennes.
Happily, the power of committing such outrages on humanity no longer exists. Civilisation has tempered the awards of justice, and laws have checked the licence of unbridled passion and calculating villany. The rack, the torture-chamber, the secret subterranean prison, no longer immolate their helpless victims; the dungeons of Baden are entered only by the curious, perhaps the thoughtless, visitor; the reign of demons has ceased in these now tenantless underground recesses; but, does not the power of the great enemy of mankind still too often triumph, not far from the same spot, over the hearts and actions of men? Go to yonder brilliantly illuminated saloons, pass through yonder gay and moving throng, approach yonder crowded tables, and see what is doing there!
Yon heaps of silver and of gold!
His damning trade the reckless gamester plies,
How can the young, and fair,
And innocent, seek gaiety within
The walls that grant protection to such sin!
It is even more melancholy to glance at these frightful gaming-tables than to wander by torchlight through the rock-prisons of Baden. How intensely does passion display itself in the countenances of the victims of the gambling-table! How fatal are the results of that seducing vice!
After a six weeks' sojourn at Baden-Baden, the baron thought it was time to wend their way homewards, and Alphonse agreed more readily to leave the fascinations of that favourite place of resort than his sister had expected, for she had remarked, with regret, that he did not always
pass the rouge-et-noir tables with stoical indifference, but not unfrequently joined the players. Agatha also saw this with some uneasiness, and always exerted her influence to withdraw him from their vicinity, while Miss Mary Wells encouraged him to play by often asking him to put down a few thalers for her.
"I trust," said Hortense one day to Agatha, for she did not choose to animadvert in the slightest degree on her brother either to her husband or her mother" I trust that Alphonse, who is so very excitable, and takes such sudden fancies, may not rush headlong into a passion for gambling; it would be downright ruin to him, for his means would not stand the drains of a gambling-table, and his pride would prevent him from drawing back if he were either winning much or losing much."
"I have often heard him condemn the vice of gambling," said Agatha, "and I think, notwithstanding his impulsive temper, that he has enough of moral courage to resist the temptation to do what his judgment disapproves."
"Alas! I fear he is not always guided by his better judgment," replied his sister. "I cannot forget one winter he spent in Paris. I am sorry to say he plunged headlong into all the wild gaiety of that dissipated capital, and his expenses were frightful; but all of a sudden he became disgusted with the life he was leading, and sick of the folly around him—and what do you think he did? He actually went to a monastery of La Trappe, near Lisle, where the superior was a connexion of ours, and where one or two of the junior monks had been school companions of his, and there he remained practising most of their austerities for three months! My mother was miserable lest he should become a monk himself, and most thankful we were when the solitary fit passed off, and he returned to Brussels and to active life. But when he is married to you, dear Agatha," she continued, "all will be well, for you will keep him in the right path. My mother, though so fond of him, is not the person to guide him.”
"Ah! I fear I should be still less capable of doing so than Madame de Florennes. How could I attempt to guide one so clever as Alphonse?" "Your quiet good sense will sober him down when he gets into his flighty fits, and your cheerful conversation will enliven him when he falls into his melancholy moods. I hope to see dear Alphonse quite a rational being when he has you for his kind monitress."
The day for their departure was fixed, and the morning before Alphonse asked his sister, carelessly, if she did not think he ought to leave a P.P.C. card for "the Iceberg." Hortense said he might as well do so, and he departed for that purpose; but he did not return to dinner, and the evening was pretty well advanced before he joined his own party at the Conversation House. No sooner did he make his appearance than his mother assailed him with a torrent of inquiries as to where he had béen, and with whom he had been, and cross-questioned him until she elicited that he had spent the day with Miss Mary Wells and her chaperone.
"I thought you were only going to leave a card?" said Madame de Florennes.
"So I had intended," he replied, glancing towards Agatha, "but I met Miss Wells at the door of her hotel; I could not thrust the card into
her hands, and, after sitting with her a little while, she told me they were going to take a drive up the valley of the Mourg, and pressed me to escort them. You know how good natured I am," he added, laughing, SO I allowed myself to be dragged off: indeed, I was not sorry to be out of the way when you were all packing, for I hate the litter and fuss you women make when you are going even the shortest journey. We had a pleasant drive, upon the whole. I found "the Iceberg" not quite a statue or a fool, and she had ordered a most recherché little dinner on our return, for, of course, we were too late for the table d'hôte. Ah! I assure you, Mademoiselle Marie is not such an icicle as we thought her."
"Then may we suppose her a snow-clad volcano," said the baron— "cheto fuor, commoto deutro?"
"No, I don't think there is anything volcanic about her, nor have I discovered any evidences of hidden fire, but-she is not entirely a stone; the girl seems to have some feeling, for she is terribly afraid of being married only for her money."
"So she was confidential!" said the baron.
that you are an engaged man ?"
"She knows, of course,
Agatha coloured, and looked uneasy; Alphonse coloured too, but, going up to her, he drew her arm within his, and whispered : "You are not jealous, my little Agatha, are you?" "Jealous? Oh, Alphonse !"
ALPHONSE VISITS ENGLAND.
THE voyage down the Rhine, as everybody knows, is accomplished much more speedily than the upward voyage, therefore our travellers soon reached Brussels, where the Vanderhovens were to stay two or three weeks with Madame de Florennes, before returning to Louvain. It was a dull time of the year in the capital of Belgium, and Alphonse, so open to impressions, seemed to participate in the general ennui. He never took the trouble of concealing his feelings or his fancies, therefore his bad spirits were evident enough to all who were not blind like Agatha. She herself felt acutely the contrast between the tedium of her Brussels home and the charming voyage she had made up the Rhine, and her delightful visit to Baden-Baden.
She resided with two old ladies, cousins of her mother. They were very good, kind-hearted women, but exceedingly bornées in their ideas, and leading a most monotonous life. They cared to go nowhere but to church, or to market, and the acme of felicity to them was a quiet game of cards with Monsieur le Curé, when he sometimes condescended to spend an evening with them, and to sup on an excellent omelette and a glass or two of parfait amour, a liqueur which the ancient demoiselles never bestowed upon any one but his reverence. This daily routine, however, was very wearisome to Agatha, and though she went occasionally into society and to public places with Madame de Florennes, who undertook to be her chaperone at the pressing request of her son and her daughter, yet she was often left to solitary meditation, and a visit from Alphonse, or a walk with him, was equally a relief and a pleasure to her, even though he might not be in a very vivacious mood.
Hortense saw with pain that something harassed her brother; though, however narrowly she might scan his countenance, and however adroitly she might question him, she could elicit nothing. She thought, too, that he was cooling towards poor Agatha. But Agatha herself did not perceive this: she judged of his love by the intensity of her own; and in her humility, thinking herself unworthy of the preference of one so superior as she considered Alphonse, she was only grateful for any attention he might pay her. How could she doubt him when he proposed that their marriage should take place early in the coming year? And was not this wish, emanating from himself, sufficient to reassure the too sceptical Hortense, and to dispel her half-formed doubts of his constancy to her favourite friend?
A very few days before the Baron and Baroness Vanderhoven were to return to Louvain, a young English baronet, whom they had know nat Baden-Baden, arrived at Brussels, on his way to England. He called, as he had promised to do, on Alphonse, and renewed an invitation which he had before given him to pay him a visit in England. He pressed Alphonse, indeed, to accompany him over at once. Hunting and shooting, and races and yachting, and Brighton, were all held forth in alluring array; and Alphonse confessed he was not philosophical enough to forego so many pleasures as were offered to him; he had long wished to go to England; yes, he would accept the baronet's invitation. Madame de Florennes contended that it would be better to put off his visit to England until he were married, and go there for his wedding trip, for this, she said, would save the expense of two journeys; but Alphonse declared that though his English acquaintance was willing to receive him as a bachelor, he might not be inclined to be troubled with a lady and a lady'smaid; and, moreover, that he had promised Agatha to take her to Paris. He took, as usual, his own way, and assuring them all that he would not be absent more than three weeks, and telling Agatha, as he exhorted her to set about getting her wedding paraphernalia ready, that he would order over from London a magnificent wedding-cake, he started in the highest spirits for Ostend and Dover.
On his arrival in England he wrote to his mother and to Agatha; and in about ten days Agatha received a second letter from him, wherein he informed her that he would be soon back, and told her that she need not write to him, as he could give her no address, for he would not be stationary anywhere, but was going to visit Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight, Brighton, Cheltenham, Cambridge, Oxford, London, and other places too numerous to mention.
"How much he will have to tell me when he returns!" exclaimed Agatha to her sombre cousins, as she finished reading his much-prized letter. "Oh, how I wish he could meet dear Bertha von Altenberg!"
Time flies quickly to the hopeful and the happy, and also to the busy. Agatha was all these. She was looking forward to the day when she should become Madame Alphonse de Florennes; often and often she repeated to herself the magic conjunction of names : Agatha de Florennes," and sometimes she even ventured to trace these words in pencil in her pocket-book; but whenever she thus anticipated her future signature, she felt as guilty as if she had deliberately broken one of the Ten Commandments, and hastened to rub out the evidence of her folly. She had a great deal to do, for, her finances being very slender, she was