The Old Man of the Mountain, The Lovecharm and Pietro of Abano Tales from the German of Tieck

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THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN.

 

 

The name of Herr Balthasar was well known throughout the whole hill-country: not a child but had heard of his vast riches, and had some story to tell of him. Everybody too loved and honoured him; for his bounty was as great as his wealth: but at the same time he was viewed with fear; for he harast both himself and others by a number of strange whims which no one could understand; and his moodiness, his silent reserve, were especially irksome to those who were nearest about him. No person had seen him smile for many years; he scarcely ever came out of his large house on the hill above the little mountain-town, nearly the whole of which belonged to him: its inhabitants too were almost all his dependents, whom he had drawn thither to work in his manufactories, his mines, and his alum pits. Thus through his means this small spot was very thickly peopled, and enlivened by the greatest activity. Waggons and horses were continually moving to and fro; and the clatter of the working machinery was mixt up with the roar of waters, and with the various noises from the pounding and smelting-houses. The smoke of the coals however, the steam from the pits, and the black heaps of dross and slag piled up on high all around, gave the gloomy sequestered valley a still more dismal appearance; so that no one who travelled for the sake of seeking out and enjoying the beauties of nature, would have any mind to linger there.

Among the multitude of persons who in consequence of his large undertakings and the variety of his concerns were employed by old Herr Balthasar, none seemed to enjoy his confidence in so high a degree as Edward, the head overseer of his mines and manufactories, and the manager of his accounts. He was about thirty years old, tall and of a fine figure, had always something sprightly and good-humoured on his lips, and thus formed a striking contrast to his morose monosyllabic master, who had grown old before his time, and whose withered, wrinkled features, with the faint sad look from his hollow eyes, were no less repulsive to all, than Edward's cheerful frankness was attractive of confidence and affection.

It was still very early on a summer morning when Edward was looking thoughtfully down into the smoking valley: the sun lay behind a thick mass of clouds; and the mists that were travelling along the bottom, and mingled with the black vapours from the steaming pits, checkt his view, and wrapt the landscape in a kind of grey veil. He mused over his youth, over the plans he had once formed, and then thought how, contrary to them all, he had become fixt in this melancholy solitude, which, as he was already verging on the maturity of manhood, he probably would never quit again. While he was thus losing himself in his meditations, young William hurried by him, fully equipt as it seemed for a journey, without even bidding him goodbye. The young man started as in passing he observed Edward standing there, and he looked very loth to meet his questions....