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VISIT TO THE SALT MINES OF SALZBURG, I had ample time to discuss this prolific subject during my solitary drive to Hallein, and arriving, found all things ready. The ladies were packed into a species of go-cart, dragged by two horses, and we commenced the ascent of the mercilessly steep hill, whose bowels we were about to explore. After an hour's hard tug, a neat cottage at the summit was a welcome sight, where we were shown into separate apartments, for the purpose of making necessary alterations in dress. The costume for the Major and myself consisted of a coarse linen jacket and trousers, with a small black scull-cap edged with red, thick gloves, and a most particularly odd kind of leather apron, which, tying round our waists, protected the posterior part of our dresses, after the fashion of the flap of a coalheaver's hat. Our toilette was barely completed, when a clamour of female voices, in no very harmonious strains, assailed us from the passage. The door burst open, and without further preliminary, in marched la tante, her voice pitched at its highest soprano, and such a torrent of words streaming from her mouth, as being, as I have already said, not a married man, it had naturally never been my lot to hear before. The Major and I looked at one another, he seemingly more amazed than if a volley of musketry had saluted him. Still the tide rushed on—all flow, and no ebb: the falls of Golling were nothing to it. At length the ludicrous began to affect us; and we turned at once for relief and information to the unfortunate tire-woman, who seemed the object of all this invective, and who, having in vain ejaculated, “ Mais Madame," and "hören Sie gnädige Frau, stood modestly in the rear, waiting till Madame's supply of breath should be exhausted. From her we soon gathered that this storm was caused by the lady's objecting to put on the clothes provided for her. The poor girl accompanied these words with a look of despair, first at the furious aunt, and then at certain articles of dress which she held dangling on her arm. Here a sudden light broke simultaneously on the Major and myself, and with it the most cruel and unreasonable fit of laughter that ever shook our sides. The scene was meant for Cruickshank-d'abord, Madame, furbelowed and bustled in the extravagance of the mode; fury flashing from her eyes, and rouge smiling on her cheeks; ourselves literally unable to stand for laughter; and the meek attendant close by, with the obnoxious articles astride across her arm, hanging down as if ashamed of their masculine character. We laughed on, till the lady began to cry in good earnest, which stopped us, to our infinite relief, and induced us to remonstrate seriously on the impossibility of such ladies putting on clothes of such a gender; but in vain—no trousers, no mine. It was the established rule, and not only she should lose her place, but the ladies would find it impossible to descend without. “Et puis elles sont bien propres," said the saucy waiting-maid, protruding one of the detested legs. "Fi, de nasty ting," cried Madame, with the look of a Fury. Again the girl, who had now the game in her own hands, urged that every lady who visited the mines complied, and that it was even recorded in their annals that the gentle and feminine Maria Theresa had not disdained to wear the breeches
* Concluded from page 472, No. cc.
for a day. At this crisis the niece stepped forward, blushing like a rose; first proposed to abandon the expedition, then at an imploring look from the Major, as easily relenting, drew her aunt aside, and reminded her that they could put on cloaks; and thus it was finally settled. After a due delay, the ladies reappeared, Madame with fresh varnished smiles, and the niece quite irresistible in her fur-collared cloak, and pretty rededged cap, from under which a profusion of “schmacht locken”_ Anglicè, ringlets-flowed unrestrained.
The trajet to the mouth of the mine was but a step, and here, in the favouring darkness, the cloaks were obliged to be discarded, and torches being lighted, we seemed to form a party of one sex, miners and all being in the same garb. Madame's deportment, en culottes, needs no description. It was characteristic; but the truly feminine mind of the other gentle being shone more conspicuously through her coarse male disguise than even in her usual dress. “ To the pure, all things are pure;” and had we even been wanting in that delicacy and respect for the other sex, which is the manliest of ours, that quiet air of womanly pride, remote equally from too painful a timidity, or too open an unconcern, would have awed our looks and words into reverence.
The passage we had now entered was quite wide, and high enough to admit one person, the roof peaked, and the sides shelving, so that our sphere of action was confined to a narrow space in the centre, where, guarded in front and rear by a body of sturdy mountain gnomes bearing torches, we marched on-an unsocial party-stopping occasionally to admire the glittering veins of red and white salt in the walls of our rocky corridor. At length the foremost guide made a halt, and flinging the blaze of his torch forward, showed a barrier to our progress, in a dark bottomless pit. I was in the rear of the party, and seeing neither ropes nor buckets visible, awaited further orders. In the mean time the chief of our miners had singled Madame from the group. I heard a series of shrill emphatic objections going forward, interspersed with the low growls of the miner's remonstrances; then just such a pause ensued as occurs when the executioner is adjusting the fatal rope. At last a signal was given, and stepping forward, I just caught the retreating figure, and last pathetic " Grand Dieu " of poor Madame, as she vanished from our eyes into the shades below. Thus, one by one, my companions disappeared, till I was left alone with a rough young gnome behind, Hurrah, the dead can ride apace, dost fear to ride with me?" from Burger's Eleonore,* was ringing in my ears; but before resigning myself to my fate, I will enlighten the mind of the reader by a brief natural history of this mysterious steed. The machine is simply this A passage of the same dimensions as the one we had traversed descended almost perpendicularly from where we stood. Down this were fixed two round, smooth beams of timber of about nine inches in diameter, and placed in parallel lines one foot and a-half asunder. Over and along the right beam is slung a rope, just affording room between that and the beam to admit the leg. The victim sits down, stretches a leg over each beam, as if astride across both, grasps the rope in his right hand, and leaning back, so as to be in almost a recumbent position, away he slides at a tremendous rate, the steepness of the descent, and
* From the elegant translation of this popular German ballad, by William Taylor, Esq., of Norwich.
his own weight, increasing the impetus to an almost frightful rapidity. All real danger, however, is obviated by the power which the rope passing through his hand gives him; a firm grasp of which serves as an immediate check. Thus a distance of 300 feet was traversed with the speed of lightning. The ascent is performed by means of narrow stairs, sunk deep between the beams. We gentlemen were left to take care of our own necks, but the ladies were mounted in exactly the same position, en croupe, behind the trustiest guides, whom they grasped for further surety by the collar. Again we continued our walk on level ground, and in a few minutes another of these Rollen, as they are termed, presented itself. This time I was the first to take the lover's leap, and on reaching the bottom, was not a little amused at the coup d'æil before me. Down came my companions, like falling angels; Madame perched on her gnome, like a monkey on Bruin; their hair whistling in the wind; their torches blown to the shortest span, and a shower of sparks from a thousand diamonds around and above, accompanying their fall, and marking the rapidity of their descent. Thus passenger after passenger was lodged at my feet, and all fear vanished. We began really to enjoy this novel exercise, and each succeeding Rolle was the signal for fresh merriment and reciprocal jokes. Again we pursued our apparently interminable path, the torches flinging a momentary gleam into the mouths of numberless dark avenues with which our path was intersected. Our miners, however, threaded their path through this maze with that confidence which a long intimacy with the secret of the mountain had given them, beguiling the way with appropriate anecdotes of ignorant sheep that had strayed from the right path. Of this description might be classed two at least of our party, who seemed fairly launched in a labyrinth of their own creation, the only exit to which it was easy to anticipate, lay through the temple of Hymen.
Occasionally our path widened into extensive chambers, amongst which we were shown a neater hewn apartment, a species of mineral store-room--the show boudoir of the mine-where various specimens of crystals and fossils in every gradation of colour, from white to the richest rose tint, gleamed from their dark recesses, like jewels from a lady's casket. Here also was an inexhaustible fund of entertainment to the antiquarian in the variety of antediluvian relics, and a rich collection of old bridles, rusty keys, arm rings, spoons, &c. At the entrance to this chamber stood a simple stone slab, commemorating the date of Maria Theresa's visit to these mines, with her imperial consort. Proceeding onwards, we executed three brilliant passages more, down our favourite Rollen, whereby the advantage of male attire over female drapery was satisfactorily substantiated. A depth of 1074 feet had been thus descended, and still there seemed no end to the rocky defiles and lofty chambers. At length a change in the atmosphere, a colder, fresher breeze, betokened the vicinity of some more spacious region. Our torches burnt straighter, a louder echo responded to our footsteps; and turning a sudden angle, a scene of enchantment, fit only for fairies and genii, burst on our view. Before us, in a dark, smooth, unruffled surface, lay stretched an immense lake, the extent of its shadowy shores dimly outlined by a succession of torches, which, placed at intervals, and receding, like the faintest stars, into the intense darkness, gave token of their existence only by their long tapering reflections in the black water, Above us blazed a mighty fretwork of diamonds, flashing as our torches waved to and fro in playful coruscations of light across the dark vault, and reflecting mirror of waters. At length, at a signal from our guides, one of the nearest lights moved from its station, and emerging from the darkness, a boat and boatman became visible. We entered, and took our places in silence, and as the vessel cleft the dark element, a thousand mimic fire-flies danced on the sullen ripples, whose low moaning murmurs alone disturbed the solemn stillness.
All around bespoke another sphere, or vast chaos, where the germ of life still lay slumbering on the waters. An indefinable charm seemed to bind our thoughts in silence, while the remembrance of our own bright sun, and laughing world above, stole on our minds like "a sweet dream of the past," and faded into airy but alluring phantoms, before this scene of unearthly grandeur. To these impressions, the rough wild figures of the cave-nurtured beings around us, not a little contributed, while Charon himself could not have desired a truer representative on earth, than the uncouth figure who steered us over this modern Styx. We listened with much interest to the history of this lake, which, while it ministers to thoughts wild and dark as its own deep waters, is, at the same time, subservient to purposes of worldly emolument. A small cavity is hewn in the rock, into which a stream of fresh water is admitted; this, eating away the particles of salt with which the rock is impregnated, surely, but slowly, extends its domain, till one mighty fragment yielding after another before its dissolving touch, the bowels of the mountain receive a body of waters of the magnitude I have described. When the requisite dimensions are attained, the supply of water is stopped, and the further progress of the element checked by banks of clay; then, after standing the requisite period, the water is drawn off by wooden pipes, which, emerging from the side of the mountain, extend to the adjacent town of Hallein, where, by the common process of evaporation, the crystals which glittered in their dark mountain nests reappear in a purer form, Nature thus acting as her own workman. The revenue accruing to the Austrian government from these mines is 100,0001, annually.
It may seem almost incredible to state that in this mountain, or rather chain of mountains, there are contained no less than thirty-two lakes of this description. Some of the mighty chambers we had traversed were the dried-up beds of former lakes. The one I have described is kept up for purposes of inspection.
On the opposite shore, a means of conveyance awaited us, for to a long rough plank, with rude wheels at each end, and a swinging bar beneath,
I can give no more specific term. Upon this (I blush to record it) the whole party were obliged to mount astride, packed closer than was perhaps quite convenient, and holding on one another for support, with our feet resting on the unsteady bar beneath. In the narrow passage we had now entered no other position would have been practicable. “ On s'accoutume à tout,” said Madame, as her gentle arm encircled my waist. I answered by a most equivocal sigh, and off we set. Our steed was a nimble youth, who harnessed himself in front, another acting as steersman behind, and as our wheels ran in an iron rail, and the passage lay on a gentle slope, no exertion beyond that of running and guiding the machine was required. The lads seemed to enjoy the fun, and the faster they gallopped, the closer were we obliged to cling for safety, the impetus of the moment threatening to dash us against the rocky sides. The length of this passage was 7800 feet, having consumed in its formation the incessant labour of forty-four years.
At last a tiny star twinkled in the extreme distance, and in our rapid career seemed to advance to welcome us: the light of day dawned wider and brighter, and in another instant, emerging from the bowels of the mountain, the overpowering radiance of a splendid setting sun fell in showers of gold around us. The veil seemed rent from our eyes, and the glories of the temple revealed to our aching vision. Never had that firmament appeared so overwhelmingly dazzling, nor this fair earth so surpassingly lovely; every object seemed steeped in gold,---every mountain glowing with light. This sudden transition from the dank vapours and intense darkness (darkness that could be felt) of our subterranean tour was too powerful, and we stood blinded and bewildered, till the laughter of an increasing crowd of peasants, who had witnessed our sorti, summoned the mantling blushes to the cheeks of our fair companion, who thus recalled to a painful sense of her strange attire, fled like a frightened bird into an adjacent cottage. There the same attendant awaited their arrival, and by one of those counter-revolutions which so often take place in that most inexplicable of all machines, the female heart, our next meeting, in our usual dresses, called up those signs of unfeigned embarrassment, which, as long as the immediate cause for them existed, had been successfully stifled. We now bade adieu to Hallein, and turned with regret from our trusty conductors, who, by their tender care of our persons during our various evolutions, had quite won our hearts.
That evening found us again in Salzburg, and that evening formed an important era in the lives of two young and interesting beings, who during our short acquaintance had stolen deeply on my affections.
Thus ended an eventful day; but the next, in the language of Scherazadè, disclosed “ a still more wondrous tale;' with which, if the grand Sultan of all mankind think fit to prolong my life for another month, I may probably farour the public.
PLAGUES OF POPULARITY.
“ I love the people,
He was certainly not the last of philosophers, the Grecian who summed up the varied experience gathered by a long course of study in the one maxim, “ conceal your life.” We do not merely allude to the comprehension of the dogma-to the many virtues implied in its practice, though these are far from inconsiderable. The man who refuses to court publicity must be governed by great moderation; he must