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Charles Brandon, and Mary queen of France
Story of two Highlanders
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A tale of the cavern
Four anecdotes The diving belle-Dumbiedikes in the Heart
FLOWERS OF LITERATURE.
THE BATH OF BEAUTY.
A TALE ABRIDGED FROM THE GERMAN.
AMONG the romantic mountains of the Vortenburgh, in Swabia, there is a little streamlet, well known by the name of the Swan's Pool, which is reported to possess the power of restoring or perpetuating female beauty. Its efficacy, however, is confined to the fairies, or their descendants, who are accustomed to pay an annual visit to the pool; and in the shape of swans, with a light gossamer veil flowing down their necks, to bathe in its limpid waters, and renew their personal attractions.
On the banks of the lake was erected a simple hermitage, as remarkable for the beauty of its situation as for the virtues of the anchoret who inhabited it. He was a man who had resided there for many years, and though his name was unknown to all, he procured universal respect, for the patriarchal simplicity of his life. He had formed the hermitage himself, reared the most beautiful shrubberies around it, and raised a plantation of flowers, interspersed with delicious vineyards. The natural amenity of his manners ingratiated him strongly with the peasants, who had recourse to him on every emergency where advice or consolation was needed, and, in return for his kindness, presented him with all the comforts, and many of the superfluities of life. But there was one circumstance in his general conduct that was food for the astonishment of his neighbours. At
sunrise, whether the winds were abroad, or the rain fell in torrents, he was always discovered in tears by the banks of the lake, with his eyes raised to heaven, and his hands clasped in an attitude of the deepest devotion. Many were the conjectures respecting this singular conduct; but at last, after mature deliberation, a synod of the villagers came to the sage opinion, that it was a very extraordinary circumstance.
It happened one summer's evening, when the last rays of the setting sun had tinged the lake with a faint reflection of its light, that a young Swabian peasant, who had escaped the slaughter of his countrymen, when their territories were laid waste by the Austrians, arrived at the hermitage, and entreated the protection of its venerable owner. He was received with a hearty welcome, and after remaining a few days, was invited to take up his final residence at the cottage. This request was cheerfully complied with. Brenno, for that was the name of the young soldier, had met with numerous misfortunes; and unwilling, from past experience, to encounter more, resolved to quit the world for ever, and assume the dress and behaviour of an anchoret. Every succeeding day increased the friendship of the hermit for his young companion. He accompanied him in all his rambles, ministered to him in his sorrows, and assisted him by his advice and consolation. Such intimacy at last produced a perfect confidence on both sides, and soon the hermit acquainted Brenno with all the particulars of his past life. At the season of the equinox, the natural kindliness of his manner seemed chilled into a gloomy reserve; and he never failed to send Brenno to the extremity of the pool, to ascertain whether any swans made their appearance on its surface. If the flight was numerous, the hermit, to the infinite surprise of his companion, seemed greatly elated in health and spirits; but when none appeared, he grew more gloomy and discontented.
One morning, while Brenno was keeping his annual watch by the side of the pool, he observed a vast number of swans alight on the surface, a circumstance which
he immediately related to the hermit. The old man was enraptured; he bestowed unusual commendation on the vigilance of Brenno, and desired him to prepare a supper, with an extra modicum of wine. The glass went cheerily round, the reserve of age gradually wore off before its exhilarating effects, and the good father grew remarkably loquacious: he laid aside his accustomed sanctity, hymned songs in praise of his long neglected deity, Bacchus; and with eyes that sparkled with unwonted vivacity, related to his protegée some of the principal occurrences of his life. He informed him of the peculiar properties of the Swan's Pool, of the beautiful fairies who paid their annual visit to the stream, and of the mode to be adopted in insnaring them. "I was myself," continued the aged narrator, "in love with one whom I encountered at her father's palace, in Bohemia; but she died from the jealousy of her parents, who refused to permit her visit to the pool, and I resolved to pass the rest of my life in a spot which had once been honoured with her presence. She was lovely as the summer rose, and grateful as the earliest breath of morning; but she faded in the spring of her days, aad left me for ever inconsolable. But you, my young friend, who are yet in the morning of your life, may succeed where I failed. By annually watching at the magic pool, you may see the beautiful swans lay aside their gossamer veils, and assume the appearance of virgins, lovely as the warmest imagination can conceive. Select the one most agreeable to your fancy; mark where she deposits her veil when she bathes in the Bath of Beauty, seize it, and the virgin will be unable to reassume the appearance of a swan, till the magic texture is restored to her. You may perhaps be surprised at the existence of these etherial spirits. Tradition reports, that they once lived with man in familiar intercourse; till sin degraded his character, and compelled his fairy companions to return to their native heaven. But their descendants still flourish on earth, and partake of the sensibilities of human nature, with the privilege of immortal youth, obtained by an annual visit to the magic
pool. This visit occupies them but a few days; and if at the time of the equinox, when the sun is high in heaven, and the mountain shadows lengthen along the glassy surface of the pool, you seize the veil which will be deposited by its side, a fairy will be your prize. Never let her know the theft, but endeavour to win her heart by gentleness, and she will make you an exemplary wife. Ever blooming in youth and beauty, when you fade into the tomb, she will still be lovely, and remain as a tender ever-green mourning upon a new sodded grave. Years have gone by since the bright form of my fairy virgin withered in the silent tomb. She was prevented from visiting the pool, and lost its privileges. But her form is ever before me; it steals upon me in the night season, and consoles me with the prospect of our union. At day-break I wander to the spot where I once saw her; I there offer up my orisons to the Deity, and pray that the fond fairy, who was refused to me on earth, may be restored to me in heaven. It is this alone that sheds a gleam of sunshine upon the snow of my existence. I recall the past to my mind; I think of my girl,-lovely, innocent as I first found her, and feel assured that she is smiling on me from above. As for my life, unconnected with my love, I look back on it as a dream that had better be forgotten, as an age spent in fruitless exertions and unavailable despondency."
It is probable that the old gentleman would have continued his harangue like two parallel lines, ad infinitum, had not a snore from the musical nose of Brenno warned him that a great deal of good but lengthy morality had been wasted on a reprobate. Mortified at the somnolent effect of his eloquence, and astonished at such symptoms of bad taste in his auditor, he reluctantly prepared to follow his example; and having finished a brace of Te Deums, to which the clerkly snout of his companion furnished an "amen," he threw himself on his couch of rushes.
Morning dawned; and every lark that welcomed the uprising sun was mistaken by Brenno for a swan.