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(Continued from p. 309.)
Daylight had long since disappeared when Oswald and Faith alighted from their wagon at a solitary inn beyond the Bohe. mian boundary. “Here you are for the present in safety,” said the conductor who had brought them from Friedland, knocking at the door.
“Who comes so late?" asked a little, dark-complexioned old woman, opening the door with her hand held before a flickering torch.
“A young wedded pair, mother Thekla,” answered the conductor, “ who are fleeing before the converters. Receive them kindly and take good care of them. God will reward you for it." “It is but our duty," said the woman.
• Come in, poor creatures."
“ Farewell,” said the conductor to Oswald. “ I intend to return directly; for my wife and children may not be safely left without a protector among the reckless soldiery."
“ And, that you have brought me here," said Oswald forc.. ing into his hand a couple of dollars over and above the fee agreed upon
“ I have already forgotten it," said the conducter laughing. “Besides, when I get into the forest, I intend to load my wagon with wood, which I shall gaily drag into Friedland early in the morning, and nobody will think of asking me what freigit I took thence. May God protect you!"
He mounted his wagon and drove rapidly away, while Oswald led his companion into the bar-room. To their great satisfaction it was tolerably empty. Only in one corner of the room snored three men and four large hounds on some straw, and at a table near the grey-headed host, with a goblet before him, sat a large strongly built man in the dress of a Bohemian peasant. Oswald observed the sabre which the guest bore, and the large knife in his girdle, with some suspicion ; but the honest lineaments and saddened expression of his brown, haggard face, again inspired him with confidence. He courteously seated himself at the table and called for a glass of wine, while Faith was arranging with the hostess for a supper and accomodation for the night.
** You are in flight on account of your faith, as I hear, my dear sir ?” a: ked the stranger in a voice of the deepest bass, and at the same time glancing at him mistrustfully with his wild, black eyes.
“The time and weather would have been hardly chosen for a journey of pleasure,” peevishly answered Dorn.
“You must surely have come from Jauer, or Loewenberg, or Schweidnitz ?” further asked the man; “for they are very strenuously pushing the counter-reformation in those places just now. “ You are by far too curious !” cried Oswald with displea
“ I do not willingly listen to such questions from strangers."
" It is the business of my office to ask questions, my young gentleman,' thundered the stranger; “ for I am a captain of Bohemian provincial troops, and am stationed here upon the border to guard against the influx of Silesian heretics.”
While he said this, the four hounds sprang up and placed themselves growling before Oswald, and the three men half raised their bodies from the straw, their flashing eyes peering from their dark brown faces, and their well scoured muskets glittering in their hands. Oswald instantly arose and drew his sword.
“ Put up your weapon !" the man now cried in an altered tone, seizing his goblet. “I but wished to be certain of my man. Come, be again quietly seated, and do me justice in a fresh goblet. Since we now understand each other, however, I may converse with you without reserve. You are not safe even here. For my old friend, our host, I will indeed be answerable ; but the converters sometimes come over the border to us ; especially when they deem that they have important game in view; and you appear to me as though you might be of some consequence. Therefore, if it be agreeable I will conduct you and your little wife to a place, where you may dwell in peace behind the everlasting walls which the Lord himself has built for the defence of persecuted innocents.”
“ There is no falsehood in that face !” answered Oswald ; " and I accept your offer with gratitude."
“ You will not indeed find our residence very elegant,” said the Bohemian; " and that delicate female form may be wholly unaccustomed to such quarters ; but necessity reconciles one to privations, and a very little suffices for our actual necessi
“ Be not concerned on that account,” said Faith, who had
now seated herself near Oswald. · A safe shelter is all we wish."
Well, eat your supper," said the Bohemian, “and retire quickly to rest, that you may be ready to start by day-break in the morning. I have been long accustomed to watch through the night, and wiil guard you faithfully. With the rising sun we shall be among the rocks."
Wrapped in his cloak, Oswald was yet sweetly and soundly sleeping upon the floor, before the only bed in the house, in which is fair companion was slumbering. A knock was heard at the door, and the Bohemian cried, “ bestir yourself, Sir. The morning breaks, and we must away!” The youth sprang upon his feet and awoke the maiden with a kiss. Soon ready to set out, they took a grateful leave of their worthy hosts and stepped to the door. Every object was obscured by a thick morning mist; and the sun, like a large red ball of fearful size, was just rising in the east.
“ Let us wait a little, until the sun has dissipated the mist," said the Bohemian, “ lest the lady should hurt her feet among the rocks."
They stood a short time, waiting and shivering in the morning wind. Oswald had thrown his cloak over Faith, and held her closely clasped to keep her warm. Tne mist moved before them like a waving ocean, and apparently resolved itself into numerous dark clouds, which settled down upon the earth, and seemed to root themselves there. Meana hile the sun had mounted higher, the waving of the ocean of mist increased, and suddenly there came a powerful gust of wind which rent and pressed down the immense cloud-curtain, when a scene as singular as it was magnificent, lay before Oswald's astonished eyes. The dark clouds that had appeared to sink down upon the earth, had changed to huge masses of gray rocks, which, rising up into the blue ether like countless palaces, churches and high towers, assumed the appearance of a gigantic city. Softly rounded snow-domes, crimsoned by the rays of the morning sun and glistening with thousands of diamonds, adorned the summits of these natural edifices, and the undying verdure of the pines and firs which arose here and there from the clefts of the rocks, gave a cheerful aspect to the view.
“ Great is the Lord, when seen in his works!" cried the enraptured Oswald, withdrawing his mantle from Faith, to enable her to enjoy the spectacle.
Opening her large and beautiful eyes, she stood awhile as if
blinded. ! How came this strange and wonderful city here?" asked she with astonishment. “ Is it indeed a city ?”
“ Certainly,” answered the Bohemian, laughing. call it the stone city, and divide it into city and suburbs. It is here, however, properly called the rocks of Aldersbach.”
“ Are we to go in among those rocks ?” anxiously asked Faith, clasping her Oswald more closely.
“ There is no other way, my child,” answered the latter. “Be not alarmed-you see that I am not disturbed, which I should be, if I anticipate any danger to you."
“Ah, you iron-nerved men never anticipate danger until it is close at hand," said the maiden ; " and then it is too late to avoid it."
“Go on in advance, Lotek,” said the Bohemian to one of his companions. “ Beat the path a little where the snow lies too deep ; announce to the worthy pastor that I bring him guests, and kindle a good fire in my quarters, that the lady may be rendered comfortable on her arrival.”
Lotek threw his musket upon his back, whistled to his wolfdog, stepped off with long strides, and soon disappeared among the rocks.
“Now, if agreeable, we also will start," said the Bohemian. “The sun is tolerably high, and I would not willingly remain abroad in open day.
" Come, my child,” said Oswald, offering his arm to Faith, which she took with a sigh, and they briskly entered among the rocks. The procession was led by the Bohemian, closed by his armed companions, and flanked by the hounds.
“These masses are frightfully high,” said Faith, looking anxiously up at their summits.
“ They appear so to you,” said the Bohemian, looking back. “ These, however, are but small affairs. We are now only in the suburbs. In the city you will see rocks worth talking about."
“ Heaven take pity on us !" sighed Faith, wandering on until she came to an open space. Here towered up, solitary and frightful, a single monstrous gray rock, formed like an inverted cone, with its base stretching high up into the clouds and its apex imbedded in a lake of ice. “Do not go so near, Oswald," said Faith.
" This large rock must in the next moment tumble over.'
“ Fear it not,” said the Bohemian. 6- This is the Sugarloaf, which has been standing thus upon its head for thousands
years, and will surely retain its position long after we are in our graves.'
They were still advancing, when Faith, who was somewhat ashamed to exhibit her fears to the Bohemian, whispered to Oswald, “ only see that horrible gray giant's head projecting over us from between those high towers. I can plainly discern a monstrous, solemn looking face, surrounded by flowing gray locks."
“ That is the burgomaster," said the laughing Bohemian, who well understood the whisper. “ So is this sport of nature called, and it is the most beautiful of any here. You need not fear him, for he is the only burgomaster ou earth who never troubled any one.”
They continued to proceed farther and farther, until at length they were interrupted by a purling mountain stream. Beyond it, stood a broad mass of stone. The Bobemian leaped across the rivulet, rattling down a quantity of loose stones behind him, and with the humming operation of some wheel-work, the heavy stone moved slowly aside, and discovered a low, narrow opening.
“ Do we enter there ?" asked Faith in a tone so disconsolate as to call forth a hearty laugh from all the Bohemians. Even Oswald joined in the laugh, and, clasping the maiden in his arms, he sprung with her to the opposite bank. They all now stood within a narrow passage, the wheel-work again moved, the entrance closed, and they were enveloped in dark
“ It is very dark here !" cried Faith.
“ We shall soon come into the light,” said their leader, advancing. The others followed, and they thus proceeded in a narrow path, floored with yielding planks, and bounded by high perpendicular walls of dark gray stone, between which was seen the dark blue sky-so dark indeed, that they could almost distinguish the stars in broad day-light. The trickling water glistened upon the walls like silver threads upon a black velvet ground; and here and there little waterfalls, forming dazzling crystals with their congealing spray, bounded down the rocks and disappeared under the planks upon which they were walking.
“If we follow this path much longer," protested Faith, “ I shall die of fear and anxiety.”
“For shame, my love !" answered Oswald. who spoke so boldly for me to the grim Wallenstein, lose your
6. Will you,