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   Chapter 6 NIGHT SECOND.

ZigZag Journeys in Northern Lands; By Hezekiah Butterworth Characters: 13197

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

Seven Nights on the Rhine:-Basle.-Marshal Von Moltke.-The Story of the Enchanted Hen.

UR second night on the Rhine was passed at Basle. Leaving Lake Constance, the Rhine, full of vivid life, starts on its way to the sea. At the Rhinefall at Schaffhausen the water scenery becomes noble and exciting. A gigantic rock, over three hundred feet wide, impedes the course of the river, and over it the waters leap and eddy and foam, and then flow calmly on amid green woods, and near villages whose windows glitter in the sun.

We rode through the so-called Forest towns. High beeches stood on each side of the river, and the waters here were as blue as the sky, and so clear we could see the gravelly bed.

The river hastened to Basle. We hastened on like the river. Basle is the first town of importance on the Rhine.

Here we obtained a fine view of the Black Forest range of hills, and beheld the distant summits of the Jura and the Vosges.


Basle was a Roman fortified town in the days of the struggles of Rome with the Barbarians. It is gray with history,-with the battles of Church and State, battles of words, and battles of deeds and blood. But the sunlight was poured upon it, and the Rhine flowed quietly by, and the palaces of peace and prosperity rose on every hand, as though the passions of men had never been excited there, or the soil reddened with blood.


We took a principal street on our arrival, and followed the uncertain way. It led to the cathedral, on high ground. At the entrance to the grand old church stood the figures of St. George and St. Martin on prancing horses. The interior was high and lofty, with an imposing organ. Here we read on one of the tombs, "Erasmus of Rotterdam."

The famous Black Forest is comprised within the lines of an isosceles triangle, which has Basle and Constance at each end of the line of base. The Rhine turns toward the north at Basle, and very nearly follows two lines of the figure. The forest covers an area of about twelve hundred square miles. It is a romantic seclusion, having Basle, Freiburg, and Baden-Baden for its cities of supply and exchange; full of pastoral richness, lonely grandeur; a land of fable and song.

The Black Forest Railway is one of the great triumphs of engineering skill. It is ninety-three miles long, and has some forty tunnels. It takes the traveller from Baden at once into the primeval solitudes. Freiburg, a very quaint town, is situated in the forest.

Master Lewis spoke briefly to the Club of Von Moltke, the great Prussian general.


Never was a nation more fortunate in its leaders than was Prussia when she aimed to achieve German unity. It is often the case that when some great crisis comes upon a country, men able to deal with it rise and become the guides of the people. This was never more true than it was of Prussia when, thirteen years ago, she entered upon the war with France which was to decide not only her own destiny, but that of the whole German people.

Three Prussians towered, at that time, far above the rest,-William, the wise and energetic king; Bismarck, the resolute and far-seeing statesman; and Von Moltke, the skilful and consummate soldier. It was the united action of these three, as much as the valor of the Prussian army, which not only won the victory, but gathered and garnered its fruits.

All three of these men are still living (1882-83), and still active, each in his own sphere. The hale old king, now emperor, shows, at the age of eighty-six, little lessening of his sturdy powers. Bismarck, at seventy, still sways with his strong and stubborn will the affairs of the youthful empire. Von Moltke, at eighty-two, remains the foremost military figure of Germany.

Von Moltke is a very interesting personage. From his earliest youth he has followed the profession of arms. He has always been every inch a soldier. In the course of years, he became an absolute master of his art. He had military science at his fingers' ends. In every emergency he knew just what to do.


To be sure, he has not been one of those brilliant and dashing military chiefs who, by their daring exploits and sudden triumphs, become heroes in the eyes of men. He has been a careful, studious, deliberate commander, losing sight of nothing, ready for every exigency, looking well ahead, and closely calculating upon every possibility of events.

Yet the sturdy old soldier is by no means a dull man outside of his quarters or the barracks. In a quiet way, he enjoys life in many of its phases. He has always been a great reader on a great variety of subjects. He is known as one of the most delightful letter-writers in Germany. He is fond, too, of poetry, and reads history and fiction with much delight.

There is a Roman simplicity about Von Moltke's daily life. He lives in a building which serves as the headquarters of the general staff of the army in Berlin. Promptly at seven o'clock every morning, summer and winter, he enters his study, a plain room, with a table in the centre, covered with maps, papers, and books.

There he takes his coffee, at the same time smoking a cigar. He proceeds at once to work, and keeps at it till nine, when his mail is brought to him. At eleven he takes a plain breakfast, after which he again works steadily till two, when he holds a reception of officers.

The afternoon is devoted to work. After dinner, for the first time, this man of eighty-two enjoys some rest and recreation until eleven, at which hour he retires.

In personal appearance, Von Moltke is tall, thin, and slightly stooping. On horseback, however, he straightens up, and bears himself as erect as a man of thirty. His close-shaven face is much wrinkled, and his profile somewhat reminds one of that of Julius C?sar. He never appears in any other than a military dress; and is often seen walking alone in the Thiergarten at Berlin, his hands clasped behind him and his head bent forward, after the manner of the great Napoleon.

Von Moltke married, some years ago, an English girl many years younger than himself. She died suddenly in 1868; and this event cast a shadow over all his later life. He has always since worn a sad and thoughtful face. He often visits his wife's grave in the country; and on the mausoleum which he erected to her memory, he has caused to be engraved the sentence, "Love is the fulfilling of the law."

The rest of the evening was spent in rehearsing Black Forest tales, one of the most interes

ting of which we give here.


Queer stories, as well as tragic ones, are related of the Black Forest; and one of the most popular legends of enchantment, the Hen Trench, is as absurd as it is amusing. Children like this story, for among German children the industrious and useful hen is something of a pet. Where, except in Germany, did there ever originate an heroic legend of a hen?

The main line of the Baden railway runs southward towards Freiburg, amid some of the most picturesque mountain scenery of the Black Forest. The second station is Bühl, from which a delightful excursion may be made to Forbach and the Murg Valley.

Here may be seen the extensive ruins of the old castle of Windeck, which was destroyed in the year 1561, about which a very remarkable story is told.

The old lords of Windeck were very quarrelsome people. They had feud after feud with the neighboring lords, and were continually at war with the Prince Bishops of Strasburg.


Queer times were those, and queer relations existed between the Church and State. The Lord of Windeck was at one time kidnapped by the Bishop of Strasburg, and confined in a tower three years,-a thing that would not be regarded as a very clerical or spiritual proceeding to-day. A little later the Dean of Strasburg was surprised by the retainers of the Lord of Windeck, and was in turn carried a prisoner to the gray old castle of Windeck.

The captive dean had a niece, a lovely girl, who was deeply attached to him. When she heard of his captivity she was much grieved, and set herself to devising plans for his release.

At the foot of the grim old castle, in the Black Forest, there lived an old woman. She was wiser than her neighbors, and was regarded as a witch. She was able to tell inquirers whatever they wished to know, and so was as useful as a newspaper, in her day and generation.

She was the last of her family. She lived alone, and her only society was some pure white hens, so large that the biggest of modern Shanghai fowls must have been mere pygmies to them.

The people of the region were very shy of the old woman and her strange hens. The timid never ventured past her door after dark, after her hens went to roost.

She was surprised one winter evening by a rap at her door.

She listened.

Tap, tap, tap!

"Come in."

A fair young girl lifted the latch.

"I am belated in the forest. Will you give me shelter?"

"Come in and sit down. Whence did you come?"

"I am on my way to the castle, but night has overtaken me."

"You are very near it. If it were light, I could show you its towers. But what can a dove like you be seeking in that vulture's nest?"

"My dear uncle, the Dean of Strasburg, is a prisoner there."

"I saw him when he was dragged into the castle, and very distressed and woe-begone the good man looked."

"I am going there to pray for his release."

"Umph. At that castle they don't give something for nothing. What ransom can you offer?"

"Nothing. I hope by prayers and tears to move the count's heart."

"I am wiser than you in the world's ways,-let me advise you. Cry with those pretty eyes, plead with your sweet voice, but not to the old count."

"To whom?"

"To his son."

"Will he influence his father?"

"Girl, I have taken a liking to you. You have a kind heart; I can see your disposition; I have met but few like you in the world. I will tell you what I will do. I will give you one of my white hens."

"A hen?"

"Yes. Go with the hen to the castle and inquire for Bernard, the count's son. Tell him that at daybreak the Count of Eberstein has planned an attack on the castle, and that you have come to warn him. Bid him fear nothing. Say that what he needs is a trench; and when he asks how one is to be made, tell him that you have brought him Scratch Gravel, the hen, who will immediately dig one for him."


"How will that rescue my uncle?"

"You shall see."

The maiden took the white hen, and went out into the night. The old woman pointed out to her the way to the castle.

As she drew near the castle, she heard a great noise in the highway. The count's son was returning late from the chase. As he drew near her on horseback, he accosted her politely and asked her errand.

The beautiful girl related the story the old woman had told her.

"I will take you to my father."

She related her story to the count, and showed him the white hen.

"Pooh! pooh!" said the count.

"I think her story is true," said the young man.


"I see truth written on her beautiful face."

"Is that so? I don't see it. Perhaps my eyes are not as good as they used to be. Well, well; let us see what the white hen will do."

They took the hen outside the castle, and put her down. Presently the gravel began to fly. It was like a storm. The air was filled with earth and stones, and the old count was filled with astonishment.

"The hen is bewitched," said the count.

"Did I not tell you that the girl is honest?"

"And handsome?"

"And handsome."

Before daybreak the white hen had dug a deep trench around the castle. The trench is shown to travellers to-day, a very remarkable proof of the truth of the story, with only one missing link in the chain of evidence.

The next morning the enemy appeared, but when he came to the trench he forbore to storm the castle.

The old count called the maiden into his presence.

"What reward do you ask for so great a service?"

"That you call the Dean of Strasburg to give thanks in the chapel."

The count called the bishop, and attended the service. When it was over, he did not remand the good man to his cell.

"I have one request to make of you," said Bernard to the maid, as they left the church.

"Name it."

"You promise to grant it?"

"Name it."

"That you make your home in the castle."

"On one condition."

"Name it."

"That the dean is released."

The young count went to his father.

"The maiden has one request to make."

"She shall have her request."

So the dean was released and went back to Strasburg. The maid became the wife of the young count, but what became of the hen the chroniclers do not tell.

But the trench remains,-the Henne-Graben,-and all that is wanting to make the evidence of the story sure is to connect the hen with the trench, after four hundred years. This may not be hard; geologists make connections in like cases after the lapse of a thousand years. Do they not?

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