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Title: Atala
Author: Chateaubriand, François Auguste de
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Atala" ***

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By François Auguste de Chateaubriand

Illustrated by Gustave Doré

[Illustration: 005]


Among the illustrious names which adorn the annals of France, that of
François Auguste de Chateaubriand, the author of "Atala," "Les Martyrs,"
"The Last of the Abencerages," and many other brilliant and renowned
works, occupies a proud pre-eminence. But his fame rests not merely upon
his literary achievements. His services as a statesman and the record
and example of his private life-even his sufferings and misfortunes-have
served to enhance his reputation and endear his memory, both among
his own countrymen, and among just, noble and patriotic minds in other
lands. He was great both by his character and abilities; and, while his
celebrity is undiminished by the lapse of time, his works are still read
and will long continue to be read and admired, even through all
changes in the manners and sentiments of mankind. Fashions and modes in
literature and art, as in society, come and go; new institutions
arise, demanding new methods and modifying cherished customs; and men's
thoughts enlarge and widen with improved conditions, as with the
inevitable progress of the age. But the master mind ever asserts its
power. He who has once truly stirred the human heart in its purest
depths speaks not alone to his own generation, but appeals to all other
hearts and belongs to all his race. His good gifts are the birthright
of the world. The rank of Chateaubriand has been fixed by the united
judgment of his associates and his successors; and since time has
allayed the fierce passions which raged in France during his lifetime,
his character is more and more deeply respected and admired. His
sincerity of purpose and enlightened understanding, his grandeur and
nobility of thought, his energy of action and loftiness of aim, preserve
for him ever his exalted position, made brilliant by the fires of genius
and perpetuated by the force of truth.

Chateaubriand was born at St. Malo in September, 1768, and died in
Paris, after an active and most eventful career, on the fourth of July,
1848. The earlier portion of his life was passed in the quiet of his
home at Combourg. At the termination of his collegiate training at Dole
and Rennes, he entered the army, in which he soon gained promotion. At
about the age of nineteen he was presented at court, became acquainted
with the fashionable world, and was received and welcomed into the
choicest literary circles of Paris, where he gained the friendship of La
Harpe, Fontanes, Malesherbes, and others among the distinguished savants
of that period. It was a troubled and stormy epoch in France. The social
and political forces which culminated in the great Revolution were
beginning to be seriously felt, and faction, turbulence and anarchy
were already rife in Paris when Chateaubriand left his native shores for
America, moved by a desire to discover the northwest passage, but also
with an attendant purpose, long cherished, of observing the mode of life
and studying the characteristics of the aborigines, for the purpose
of embodying in his writings the impressions thus gained of man in a
primitive condition.

From this period to the time of his death his life was a singular series
of vicissitudes--at one time the brilliant and revered statesman, at
another the voluntary abdicator of all his rights and honors; and even,
at one bitter passage of his existence, living in an unwarmed London
garret and obtaining a precarious livelihood by giving lessons in his
native tongue and translating for the booksellers.

The utter upheaval of affairs in France brought the greatest distress
upon himself, his family and his immediate friends, and, with the
sensitive heart of genius, the blows which had fallen so keenly
doubtless engendered the melancholy cast with which his writings are
sometimes tinged. His first work, an idyllic poem, showed little of
the genius so finely developed in after years; but his finest literary
productions--"The Martyrs," "The Last of the Abencerages" and
"The Genius of Christianity," to which "Atala" and "René" properly
belong--remain a splendid monument to his powers and exhibit his earnest
desire to be numbered among the benefactors and enlighteners of mankind.

The present work, "Atala," is the gathered fruit of his previous studies
amid the wilds of America. It abounds in sparkling description, romantic
incident and sentiments tender and heroic. It is pervaded by purity of
tone and elevation of thought, qualities the more commendable and marked
because produced in an age proverbially lax and frivolous.

The illustrations of M. Doré have given an additional value to this
tale, so simple, so unsophisticated, yet blooming with all the wild
luxuriance of nature. The artist has added his gifts to those of the
poet; and those acquainted only with his ready and original powers as
the delineator of farce and drollery, or of the exceptionally tragic and
horrible, will find new cause for admiration in these quiet renderings
of the primeval beauties of the American wild--its plains and forests,
its still lagoons and roaring cataracts, its mountain slopes and deep
defiles--all its aspects of rudest workmanship--and will welcome these
efforts of his genius in the lovely realm of descriptive art, wedded as
they are to the exquisite simplicity of this Indian romance. As in
his other works, here may be noted the same surpassing fertility of
resource, the same alertness of intellect and readiness and swiftness of
touch; but there may also be found new proofs of his complete sympathy
with all that is picturesque in forest beauty and his high intuitive
perception of every possible phase of nature in her wildest caprice and
most tender bloom.

We append the following extracts from different prefaces to the author's
writings, as constituting what is explanatory of the story that follows:

[From the Preface to the First Edition.]

"I was still very young when I conceived the idea of composing an epic
on 'The Man of Nature,' to depict the manners of savages, by uniting
them with some well-known event. After the discovery of America, I saw
no subject more interesting, especially to Frenchmen, than the massacre
of the Natchez colony in Louisiana, in 1727. All the Indian tribes
conspiring, after two centuries of oppression, for the restoration of
liberty to the New World, appeared to me to offer a subject almost as
attractive as the conquest of Mexico. I put some fragments of the work
to paper; but I soon found that I was weak in local coloring, and
that, if I wished to produce a picture of real resemblance, it became
necessary for me, in imitation of Homer's example, to visit the tribes I
was desirous of describing.

"In 1789 I made M. de Malesherbes acquainted with my idea of going to
America; but, wishing at the same time to give a useful object to my
voyage, I formed the project of discovering the overland passage so long
sought after, and concerning which even Captain Cook himself had left
some doubts. I started, visited the American solitudes, and returned
with plans for a second voyage, which was to last nine years. I proposed
to traverse the entire continent of North America, afterwards to explore
the coasts to the north of California, and to return by Hudson's Bay,
rounding the pole. M. de Malesherbes undertook to submit my plans to the
Government, and it was then that he listened to the first fragments of
the little work I now offer to the public. The Revolution put a stop
to all my projects. Covered with the blood of my only brother, of my
sister-in-law, and of the illustrious old man, their father; having
seen my mother and another talented sister die in consequence of the
treatment they had undergone in prison, I wandered forth to foreign
lands, where the only friend I had preserved stabbed himself in my arms.

"Of all my manuscripts upon America, I have only saved some fragments,
'Atala' in particular, which was itself but an episode of 'The Natchez.'
'Atala' was written in the desert, beneath the huts of the savages. I do
not know whether the public will like the story, which quits all beaten
tracks, and represents a nature and manners altogether foreign to
Europe. There is no adventure in 'Atala.' It is a sort of poem, half
descriptive, half dramatic. It consists entirely in the portraiture of
two lovers walking and talking together in the solitudes, and in the
picture of the trials of love in the midst of the calm of the desert.
I have endeavored to give to this work the most antique forms. It is
divided into Prologue, Recital and Epilogue. The principal parts of the
story have each a denomination, such as 'The Hunters,' 'The Laborers,'
etc.; and it was thus that, in the early ages of Greece, the rhapsodists
sang, under different titles, fragments of the 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey.'"

"The moralities I have been desirous of inculcating in 'Atala' are
easily discoverable, and as they are summed up in the Epilogue, I need
not speak of them here. I will merely say a word or two concerning
Chactas, the lover of Atala.

"He is a savage more than half civilized, since he knows not only the
living, but also the dead languages of Europe. He can therefore express
himself in a mixed style, suitable to the line upon which he stands,
between society and nature. This circumstance has given me some
advantages, by permitting Chactas to speak as a savage in the
description of manners, and as a European in the dramatic portions of
the narrative. Without that the work must have been abandoned. If I had
always made use of the Indian style, 'Atala' would have been Hebrew for
the reader.

"As to the missionary, he is a simple priest, who speaks without
blushing of the Cross, of the blood of his Divine Master, of the
corrupted flesh, etc.; in one word, he is really a priest. I am aware
that it is difficult to depict such a character without awakening ideas
of ridicule in the minds of certain readers. Where I do not draw a tear,
I may raise a smile; that must depend upon individual sentiment."

"I must say a last word as to 'Atala.' The subject is not entirely of my
invention. It is certain that there was a savage at the galleys and
at the court of Louis XIV.; it is certain that a French missionary
accomplished the facts I have related; it is certain that I saw savages
in the American forests carrying away the bones of their forefathers,
and a young mother exposing the body of her child upon the branches of a
tree. Some other circumstances narrated are also veritable, but as they
are not of general interest, it is needless for me to speak of them."

[From the Preface to "Alain" and "René" published in 1805. ]

"I have been stopped in the corrections neither by the consideration of
the cost of the book, nor by that of the length of the work. A few years
have sufficed to make me acquainted with the weak or defective portions
of that episode. Obedient upon this point to the critics, even so far
as to reproach myself with an excess of docility, I have proved to those
who attacked me that I never remain voluntarily in error, and that,
at all times and upon all subjects, I am ready to give way to lights
superior to my own. 'Atala' has been reprinted eleven times--five times
separately and six times in the 'Genius of Christianity.' If those
eleven editions were compared, scarcely two would be found to be
altogether alike.

"The twelfth, which I now publish, has been revised with the greatest
care. I have consulted the friends prompt to censure me; I have weighed
each phrase, examined every word. The style, freed from certain epithets
which embarrassed it, proceeds perhaps more naturally and with greater
simplicity. I have introduced more order and logic into certain ideas,
and I have effaced even the slightest inaccuracies of language. M. de
la Harpe observed to me, on the subject of 'Atala,' 'If you will shut
yourself up with me only for a few hours, that time will suffice for
wiping out the spots that cause your critics to cry out so loudly.' I
have passed four years in the revision of this episode; but it is now as
I intend it to remain. It is at present the only 'Atala' I shall ever in
future acknowledge."


"The new nature and the new manners I have described have also drawn
upon me another ill-considered reproach. I have been taken for the
inventor of certain extraordinary details, whereas I merely repeated
circumstances well known to all travellers. Some notes added to the
present edition of 'Atala' would easily have justified this assertion;
but if I had introduced them at every point where each reader might have
looked for them, they would soon have exceeded the length of the work
itself. I therefore gave up the idea of annotations."

[Illustration: 010]

[Illustration: 011]


France formerly possessed in North America a vast empire, extending from
Labrador to the Floridas, and from the shores of the Atlantic to the
most distant lakes of Upper Canada.

Four great rivers, deriving their sources from the same mountains,
divided these immense regions: the river St. Lawrence, which is lost to
the east in the gulf of that name; the Western River, whose waters flow
on to seas unknown; the river Bourbon, which runs from south to north
into Hudson's Bay; and the Mississippi, whose waters fall from north to
south into the Gulf of Mexico.

The last-named river, in its course of more than a thousand leagues,
waters a delicious country, called by the inhabitants of the United
States the New Eden, to which the French left the pretty appellation of
Louisiana. A thousand other rivers, tributaries of the Mississippi--the
Missouri, the Illinois, the Arkansas, the Wabache, the Tennessee--enrich
it with their mud and fertilize it with their waters. When all these
rivers have been swollen by the deluges of winter, uprooted trees,
forming large portions of forests torn down by tempests, crowd about
their sources. In a short time the mud cements the torn trees together,
and they become enchained by creepers, which, taking root in every
direction, bind and consolidate the débris. Carried away by the foaming
waves, the rafts descend to the Mississippi, which, taking possession
of them, hurries them down towards the Gulf of Mexico, throws them upon
sandbanks, and so increases the number of its mouths. At intervals the
swollen river raises its voice whilst passing over the resisting heaps,
and spreads its overflowing waters around the colonnades of the forests,
and the pyramids of the Indian tombs: and so the Mississippi is the Nile
of these deserts. But grace is always united to splendor in the scenes
of Nature: while the mid-stream bears away towards the sea the dead
trunks of pine-trees and oaks, the lateral currents on either side
convey along the shores floating islands of pistias and nenuphars,
whose yellow roses stand out like little pavilions. Green serpents, blue
herons, pink flamingoes, and baby crocodiles embark as passengers on
these rafts of flowers; and the brilliant colony, unfolding to the wind
its golden sails, glides along slumberingly till it arrives at some
retired creek in the river.

The two shores of the Mississippi present the most extraordinary
picture. On the western border vast savannahs spread away farther than
the eye can reach, and their waves of verdure, as they recede, appear
to rise gradually into the azure sky, where they fade away. In these
limitless meadows herds of three or four thousand wild buffaloes wander
at random. Sometimes, cleaving the waters as it swims, a bison, laden
with years, comes to repose among the high grass on an island of the
Mississippi, its forehead ornamented with two crescents, and its ancient
and slimy beard giving it the appearance of a god of the river throwing
an eye of satisfaction upon the grandeur of its waters, and the wild
abundance of its shores.

[Illustration: 013]

Such is the scene upon the western border; but it changes on the
opposite side, which forms an admirable contrast with the other shore.
Suspended along the course of the waters, grouped upon the rocks and
upon the mountains, and dispersed in the valleys, trees of every
form, of every color, and of every perfume, throng and grow together,
stretching up into the air to heights that weary the eye to follow. Wild
vines, bignonias, coloquintidas, intertwine each other at the feet of
these trees, escalade their trunks, and creep along to the extremity of
their branches, stretching from the maple to the tulip-tree, from the
tulip-tree to the holly-hock, and thus forming thousands of grottoes,
arches and porticoes. Often, in their wanderings from tree to tree,
these creepers cross the arm of a river, over which they throw a bridge
of flowers. Out of the midst of these masses, the magnolia, raising
its motionless cone, surmounted by large white buds, commands all the
forest, where it has no other rival than the palm-tree, which gently
waves, close by, its fans of verdure.

A multitude of animals, placed in these retreats by the hand of the
Creator, spread about life and enchantment. From the extremities of the
avenues may be seen bears, intoxicated with the grape, staggering
upon the branches of the elm-trees; cariboos bathe in the lake;
black-squirrels play among the thick foliage; mocking-birds, and
Virginian pigeons not bigger than sparrows, fly down upon the turf,
reddened with strawberries; green parrots with yellow heads, purple
woodpeckers, cardinals red as fire, clamber up to the very tops of the
cypress-trees; humming-birds sparkle upon the jessamine of the Floridas;
and bird-catching serpents hiss while suspended to the domes of the
woods, where they swing about like the creepers themselves.

If all is silence and repose in the savannahs on the other side of the
river, all here, on the contrary, is sound and motion; peckings against
the trunks of the oaks, frictions of animals walking along as they
nibble or crush between their teeth the stones of fruits, the roaring of
the waves, plaintive cries, dull bellowings and mild cooings, fill these
deserts with a tender yet wild harmony. But when a breeze happens to
animate these solitudes, to swing these floating bodies, to confound
these masses of white, blue, green, and pink, to mix all the colors and
to combine all the murmurs, there issue such sounds from the depths of
the forests, and such things pass before the eyes, that I should in
vain endeavor to describe them to those who have never visited these
primitive fields of Nature.

After the discovery of the Mississippi by Father Marquette and the
unfortunate La Salle, the first Frenchmen who established themselves at
Biloxi and at New Orleans entered into an alliance with the Natchez, an
Indian nation whose power was redoubtable in those countries. Quarrels
and jealousies subsequently ensanguined the land of hospitality. Amongst
these savages there was an old man named Chactas, * who, on account of
his age, wisdom and knowledge of the affairs of life, was the patriarch
and the beloved of the deserts. Like many other men, he had acquired
virtue by calamity. Not only were the forests of the New World filled
with his misfortunes, but he bore the tale of his calamities even to the
shores of France. Kept at the galleys at Marseilles by a cruel act of
injustice, restored to liberty, and presented to Louis XIV., he had
conversed with the great men of that age, and had been present at the
fêtes of Versailles, at the tragedies of Racine, and at the funeral
orations of Bossuet: in one word, the savage had contemplated society at
the moment of its greatest splendor.

For several years Chactas, restored to the bosom of his country, had
been in the enjoyment of repose. Nevertheless, Providence granted him
even this favor dearly: the old man had become blind. A young girl
used to accompany him on the hills of the Mississippi, just as Antigone
formerly guided the steps of Odipus over the Cithæron, or as Malvina
conducted Ossian over the rocks of Morven.

In spite of the numerous acts of injustice to which Chactas had been
subjected by the French, he was very partial to them. He ever remembered
Fénélon, whose guest he had been, and desired an opportunity for
rendering service to the fellow-countrymen of that virtuous man. A
favorable occasion presented itself. In 1725 a Frenchman named
René, driven thither by his passions and his misfortunes, arrived at
Louisiana. He ascended the Mississippi as far as the territory of the
Natchez, and asked to be accepted as a warrior of that nation.
Chactas, having questioned him, and finding him not to be shaken in
his resolution, adopted him as a son, and united him to an Indian girl
called Céluta. Shortly after this marriage the savages prepared to go

On account of the respect with which the Indian tribes regarded the old
man, Chactas, although blind, was appointed by the council of the wise
men to command the expedition. Prayers and fasts commenced, the jugglers
interpreted the dreams, the manitous were consulted, sacrifices
of tobacco were offered up, fillets of elk-tongues were burnt, the
assistants examining whether they sputtered in the flames, in order
to ascertain the will of the genii; and at length they started, after
having partaken of the sacred dog. René was of the party.

    * The harmonious voice.

With the assistance of the counter-currents, the pirogues reascended the
Mississippi, and reached the bed of the Ohio. One moonlight night, while
all the Natchez were asleep at the bottom of their pirogues, and the
Indian fleet, under a crowd of beast-skin sails, was flying before a
mild breeze, René, who had remained alone with Chactas, asked him to
tell the story of his adventures. The old man consented to satisfy his
curiosity, and began in these words:--

[Illustration: 016]

[Illustration: 017]

[Illustration: 019]


"The destiny which has brought us together, my dear son, is a singular
one. I see in you the civilized man become savage: you see in me the
wild man whom the Great Spirit (I know not from what motive) desired
to civilize. Having each entered upon the career of life from opposite
directions, you came to repose yourself at my place, and I have seated
myself in yours; so that we must have acquired a totally different view
of things. Which of the twain has gained or lost the more by this change
of position? That is known to the genii, the least learned of whom
possesses more wisdom than all mankind together.

"At the next flower-moon * there will be seven times ten snows, and
three snows more, since my mother brought me into the world on the banks
of the Mississippi. The Spaniards had recently established themselves
in the Bay of Pensacola, but no European yet inhabited Louisiana. I had
scarcely witnessed seventeen falls of the leaves when I marched with
my father, the warrior Outalissi, against the Muscogulges, a powerful
nation in the Floridas. We united our forces with those of the
Spaniards, our allies, and the combat took place upon one of the
branches of the Mobile. Areskoui * and the manitous were not favorable
to us. Our enemies triumphed: my father lost his life; I was twice
wounded whilst defending him. O why did I not then go down into the land
of souls! I should have avoided the misfortunes which were awaiting me
on earth. The Spirits ordained otherwise. I was dragged along by the
defeated crowd to Saint Augustine.

     * The month of Way.

"In that city, but then recently built by the Spaniards, I ran the risk
of being carried away to the mines of Mexico, when an old Castilian,
named Lopez, touched by my youth and simplicity, offered me an asylum,
and presented me to his sister, with whom he was living spouseless.

"Both of them took to me in the tenderest manner. I was brought up with
much care, and had all sorts of masters given to me. But after having
passed thirty moons at Saint Augustine, I was afflicted with a disgust
for the life of cities. I fell away visibly: sometimes I remained
motionless for hours whilst contemplating the summits of distant
forests; at other times I might be seen seated on the banks of a river,
gazing sadly upon the flowing waters. I figured to myself the woods
through which those waters had passed, and my soul was thus entirely
given up to solitude.

"No longer able to resist the desire of returning to the desert, I one
morning presented myself to Lopez dressed in my savage attire, holding
in one hand my bow and arrows, and in the other my European costume,
which I returned to my generous protector, at whose feet I fell,
shedding a torrent of tears, giving myself odious names, and accusing
myself of ingratitude. 'After all, O my father,' said I to him, 'you see
it yourself; I must die if I do not resume the life of the Indian.'

"Lopez, struck with astonishment, endeavored to change my determination.
He spoke of the dangers I was about to encounter, by exposing myself
to the possibility of falling into the hands of the Muscogulges. But
perceiving at last that I was resolved to risk everything, he melted
into tears, and, pressing me in his arms with affection, 'Go,' said he,
'child of Nature; take back this independence of man, of which Lopez
does not wish to deprive you. If I were myself younger, I would
accompany you to the desert (where I also have sweet remembrances), and
restore you to your mother's arms. When you shall be once again in your
forests, think sometimes of the old Spaniard who gave you hospitality,
and remember, in order that you may be disposed to love your
fellow-creatures, that your first experience of the human heart was
altogether in its favor.' Lopez finished by a prayer to the God of the
Christians, whose religion I had refused to embrace, and we separated
with much sadness.

     * The god of war.

"It was not long before I was punished for my ingratitude. My
inexperience caused me to lose myself in the wood, and I was taken by
a party of Muscogulges and Seminoles, as Lopez had predicted. My dress,
and the feathers ornamenting my head, caused me to be recognized
as a Natchez.

[Illustration: 021]

[Illustration: 023]

I was enchained, but slightly, on account of my youth. Simaghan, the
leader of the troop, desired to learn my name. I replied, 'I am called
Chactas, son of Outalissi, son of Miscou, who have taken more than a
hundred scalps from the heroes of the Muscogulges.' Simaghan then said,
'Chactas, son of Outalissi, son of Miscou, rejoice; thou shalt be burnt
at the big village.' I answered, 'That is well,' and began to chaunt the
song of death.

"Although a prisoner, I could not refrain, during the first few days,
from admiring my enemies. The Muscogulge, and especially his ally, the
Seminole, is full of gaiety, love and contentment. His walk is light,
his mien calm and open. He speaks much, and with volubility. His
language is harmonious and flowing. Even age does not deprive the
sachems of this joyous simplicity: like the old birds of our forests,
they mingle their ancient songs with the fresh notes of their young

"The women who accompanied the troop displayed for my youth a tender
pity and an amiable curiosity. They questioned me about my mother,
concerning the earliest days of my life; and they wanted to know whether
my cradle of moss had been hung upon the flowering branches of the
maple-trees, and whether the breezes had rocked me near the nests of the
little birds. Then came a thousand other questions as to the state of
my heart. They asked me if I had seen a white fawn in my dreams, and
whether the trees of the secret valley had advised me to love. I replied
with simplicity to the mothers, to the daughters, and to the spouses of
the men, saying, 'You are the graces of the day, and the night loves you
like dew. Man issues from your loins to hang upon your breast and upon
your lips: you know the magic words that lull every pain. So was I told
by her who brought me into the world, and who will never see me again!
She told me also that maidens are mysterious flowers met with in
solitary places.'

"These praises gave much pleasure to the women, who overwhelmed me with
all sorts of presents, and brought me cocoa-nut cream, maple-tree sugar,
saganrite, * bear-hams, beaver-skins, shells with which to ornament
myself, and moss for my couch. They sang and laughed with me, and then
took to shedding tears at the thought that I was to be burnt.

     * A description of cake made with Indian corn.

"One night, when the Muscogulges had pitched their camp on the outskirt
of a forest, I was seated near the war-fire with the guard who had
charge of me. All of a sudden, I heard the sound of a dress upon the
grass, and a female, half-veiled, came and sat down by my side. Tears
were rolling from beneath her eyelids, and I saw by the light of
the fire that a small golden crucifix shone upon her bosom. She was
altogether beautiful, and I remarked upon her countenance an expression
of virtue and passion of irresistible attraction. To that she added
the most tender graces: an extreme sensitiveness, united to a profound
melancholy, breathed in her looks, and her smile was heavenly.

"I took her to be the Virgin of the last Loves, the virgin sent to the
prisoner of war to enchant his tomb. Under this impression, I said to
her stammeringly, and with an emotion that did not, however, proceed
from any feeling of fear of the funeral pile, 'O virgin, you are worthy
of a first love, and you are not made for the last. The palpitations of
a heart that will soon cease to beat would ill respond to the movements
of your own. How can death and life lie mingled together? You would
cause me to regret too much the approach of day. Let another be happier
than myself, and may long embraces unite the tender plant to the oak!'

"The youthful maiden then said to me, 'I am not the Virgin of the last
Loves. Are you a Christian?' I replied that I had not betrayed the genii
of my cottage. At these words the Indian made an involuntary movement,
and said, 'I pity you for being merely a wicked idolator. My mother made
me a Christian; my name is Atala, and I am the daughter of Simaghan of
the Golden Bracelets, the chief of the warriors of this troop. We are
going to Apalachucla, where you will be burnt.' Having uttered these
words, Atala rose and took her departure."

Here. Chactas was compelled to interrupt his story. A crowd of souvenirs
rushed into his soul; his closed eyes inundated his furrowed cheeks with
tears, just as two springs, hidden in the profound depths of the earth,
reveal themselves by the waters they send filtering between the rocks.

"Oh, my son," said he, after a long pause, "you perceive that Chactas is
not very wise, notwithstanding his reputation for wisdom. Alas! my dear
child, although men can no longer see, they can still weep! Several days
passed. Every evening the old man's daughter came to converse with
me. Sleep had fled from my eyes, and Atala was in my heart like the
remembrance of the resting-place of my fathers.

"On the seventeenth day of our march, about the time when the ephemeran
rises from the waters, we entered upon the grand savannah of Alachua.
The plain is surrounded with hills, which, receding behind one another,
are covered, as they appear to touch the clouds, with ranges of forests
of palm-trees, citron-trees, magnolias and oaks. The chief uttered the
cry of arrival, and the troop encamped at the foot of a hill-side. I was
left at some distance, on the border of one of those natural wells so
famous in the Floridas, attached to the trunk of a tree, and guarded by
a warrior who watched me with impatience. I had passed but some moments
in this place when Atala appeared beneath the liquid ambers of the
fountain. 'Hunter,' said she to the Muscogulgan hero, 'if you would like
to chase the stag, I will guard the prisoner.' The warrior jumped for
joy at this offer of the chiefs daughter, and at once hurried from the
top of the hill, and directed his steps towards the plain.

"What a strange contradiction is the heart of man! I, who had so much
desired to speak of things mysterious to her whom I already loved like
the sun, suddenly became troubled and confused, and felt as though
I should have preferred to be thrown amongst the crocodiles in the
fountain to finding myself alone with Atala. The daughter of the desert
was as much affected as her prisoner. We observed a profound silence;
for the genii of love had deprived us of speech. After an interval,
Atala, making an effort, spoke thus: 'Warrior, you are held but
slightly: you can easily escape.' At these words courage returned to
my tongue, and I replied, 'But slightly held, O woman!'---- I could not
complete my phrase. Atala hesitated some moments, and then said, 'Fly!'
at the same time liberating me from the trunk of the tree. I seized the
cord, and returned it to the hand of the foreign maiden, forcing her
beautiful fingers to close themselves upon my chain. 'Take it back!
Take it back!' I cried. 'You are mad!' said Atala, in a voice full of
emotion. 'Wretched man, do you not know that you will be burnt? What
do you mean? Do you reflect that I am the daughter of a redoubtable
sachem?' 'There was a time,' I replied, with tears, 'when I also was
carried about in a beaver-skin on the shoulders of a mother: my father
also had a fine cottage, and his fawns drank of the waters of a thousand
torrents; but I now wander without a country. When I shall have ceased
to exist, no friend will place a little grass over my body, to keep the
insects away from it. The corpse of an unhappy stranger interests no

"These words touched Atala. Her tears fell into the fountain. 'Ah,'
I continued with vivacity, 'if your heart spoke like mine! Is not the
desert free? Do not the forests contain folds in which we could conceal
ourselves? And, in order to be happy, are there so many things necessary
for the children of the huts? O maiden, more beautiful than the first
dream of a spouse! O my well-beloved, dare to follow me!' Such was
my language. Atala replied to me in a tender tone of voice, 'My young
friend, you have learnt the expressions of the white men; it is easy to
deceive an Indian girl!' 'What!' I exclaimed, 'you call me your young
friend. Ah, if a poor slave'---- 'Well,' said she, leaning upon me, 'a
poor slave'----

I continued with ardor, 'Let a kiss assure him of your faith!' Atala
listened to my prayers. As a fawn appears to cling to the flowers of
the rosy creepers which it seizes with its delicate tongue on the
mountain-steeps, so I remained attached to the lips of my well-beloved.

[Illustration: 027]

"Alas, my dear son, pain is in close attendance upon pleasure. Who could
have thought that the moment in which Atala gave me the first token
of her love should be precisely that in which she would destroy all my
hopes? White hairs of old Chactas, what was your astonishment when the
daughter of the sachem pronounced these words: 'Beautiful prisoner, I
have foolishly given way to your desire; but whither will this passion
lead us? My religion separates me from you for ever----. Oh, my mother,
what hast thou done?'---- Atala became suddenly silent, and kept back
I know not what fatal secret about to escape from her lips. Her words
plunged me into despair. 'Well, then,' I exclaimed, 'I will be as cruel
as you; I will not escape. You shall see me in the flame of fire; you
shall hear the groans of my flesh, and you will be full of joy.' Atala
took my hands between both of hers. 'Poor young idolator,' she cried,
'I really grieve for you! You wish me, then, to weep my whole heart out?
What a pity I cannot fly with you! Unhappy was the bosom of thy mother,
O Atala! Why dost thou not throw thyself to the crocodiles in the

"That very moment the crocodiles, at the approach of the setting of the
sun, began to make their cries heard. Atala said to me, 'Let us leave
this place.' I led away the daughter of Simaghan to the foot of the
hills, which form gulfs of verdure by advancing their promontories into
the savannahs. Everything in the desert was splendidly imposing.
The stork was screaming upon its nest; the woods resounded with the
monotonous song of the quails, the whistling of the paraquets, the
lowing of the bisons and the neighing of the Siminolian cavalry.

"Our promenade was almost a dumb one. I walked by the side of Atala,
who was holding the end of the cord which I had forced her to take back
again. Sometimes we shed tears, and sometimes we endeavored to smile.
A look, now directed towards the sky and then towards the earth; an ear
listening to the song of the birds; a gesture towards the setting sun;
a hand tenderly pressed; a bosom by turns palpitating and tranquil:
the names of Chactas and Atala softly repeated at intervals! Oh, first
promenade of love, thy souvenir must be extremely powerful, since after
so many years of misfortune it can still stir the heart of old Chactas!

"How incomprehensible are mortals when agitated by the passions! I had
just abandoned the generous-hearted Lopez; I had just exposed myself to
every danger for the sake of liberty, and in one instant the look of a
woman had changed my tastes, my resolutions, my thoughts! Forgetful of
my country, my mother, my cabin, and the frightful death awaiting me,
I had become indifferent to everything that was not Atala. Lacking
strength to raise myself to the reason of a man, I had suddenly fallen
into a sort of childishness, and, far from being able to do anything to
extricate myself from threatening misfortunes, I almost required some
one to provide me with the means of sleep and nourishment.

"It was therefore in vain that Atala, after our ramble in the savannah,
threw herself at my knees and again begged me to leave her. I declared
that I would return alone to the camp, if she refused to re-attach me
to the trunk of my tree. She was compelled to comply with my request,
hoping to convince me another time.

"The next day, which decided the fate of my life, we halted in a valley
not far from Cuscowilla, the capital of the Seminoles. These Indians,
together with the Muscogulges, form the confederation of the Creeks. The
daughter of the land of palm-trees came to find me in the middle of
the night. She conducted me to a great pine-forest, and renewed her
entreaties to induce me to escape. Without replying to her, I took her
hand in mine, and forced the thirsting fawn to wander with me into the
forest. The night was delicious. The genius of the air appeared to be
shaking the blue canopy, embalmed with the odor of the pines; and we
breathed a slight perfume of amber emitted by the crocodiles asleep
beneath the tamarind-trees by the river-side. The moon was shining in
the midst of a spotless azure, and the pearl-grey light fell upon the
undefined summit of the forests. Not a sound was to be heard, except I
know not what distant harmony that reigned in the depth of the woods. It
seemed as though the soul of solitude was sighing throughout the entire
extent of the desert.

"Through the trees we perceived a young man, who, holding a torch in his
hand, looked like the genius of spring visiting the forests to reanimate
Nature. He was a lover on his way to learn his fate at the cabin of his

"Should the maiden blow out the torch, she accepts the offered vows; but
if she veil herself without extinguishing it, she refuses the spouse.

"The warrior, gliding through the shades, chanted these words in a low
tone of voice:

"'I will outrun the steps of the daylight upon the mountain-tops to seek
my lonely dove in the midst of the oaks of the forest.

"'I have fastened around her throat a necklace of porcelain, * with
three red beads for my love, three violet ones for my fears, three blue
ones for my hopes.

     * A necklace of shells.

"'Mila has the eyes of an ermine, and hair as light as a field of rice;
her mouth is a pink shell lined with pearls; her two breasts are like
two little spotless kids, born the same day of one mother.

[Illustration: 031]

"'May Mila extinguish this torch! May her mouth cast a voluptuous shade
over it! I will fertilize her bosom! The hope of the country shall hang
from her fruitful breast, and I will smoke my calumet of peace by the
cradle of my son.

"'Ah! let me outrun the steps of the daylight upon the mountain-tops to
seek my lonely dove amidst the oaks of the forest!'

"Thus sang this young man, whose accents agitated me to the bottom of my
soul, and caused Atala to chance countenance. Our united hands trembled
in each other. But we were diverted from this scene by another scene not
less dangerous for us.

"We passed near a child's tomb, which served as a boundary between two
nations. It had been placed on the border of the road, according to
custom, in order that the young wives, when going to the fountain, might
draw into their bosom the soul of the innocent creature, and restore it
to the country. At this moment several newly-married spouses were there,
and, desirous of the sweets of maternity, were endeavoring, by opening
their lips, to receive the soul of the little child, which they fancied
they saw wandering amongst the flowers. The veritable mother came
afterwards, and deposited a bunch of corn and white lilies upon the
tomb; she sprinkled the earth with her milk, sat down upon the damp
turf, and spoke thus to her child in an impassioned voice:

"'Why do I weep for thee in thy earthly cradle, O my new-born? When the
little bird has grown, it must seek its own nutriment, and finds many
bitter seeds in the desert. At least thou hast been unconscious of
tears; at least thy heart has not been exposed to the devouring breath
of men. The bud that dries up in its envelope passes away with all its
perfumes, like thou, O my son, with all thine innocence. Happy are those
who die in the cradle! they have only known the kisses and smiles of a

"Already subdued by our own hearts, we were overwhelmed by the images
of love and maternity which seemed to pursue us in these enchanted
solitudes. I carried Atala away in my arms to the extremity of the
forest, where I told her things that I should in vain endeavor to repeat
to-day with my lips. The southern wind, my dear son, loses its heat on
passing over mountains of ice. The souvenirs of love in the heart of an
old man are like the fires of day reflected by the peaceful orb of the
moon when the sun has set, and silence spreads itself over the huts of
the savages.

"What could save Atala? what could prevent her from succumbing to
Nature? Nothing, doubtless, but a miracle; and that miracle was
accomplished. The daughter of Simaghan had recourse to the God of the
Christians; she threw herself upon the ground, and uttered a fervent
prayer, addressed to her mother and to the Queen of Virgins. It was
from this moment, O René, that I entertained a wonderful idea of that
religion which, in the forests, in the midst of all the privations of
life, imparts a thousand boons to the unfortunate; of that religion
which, opposing its power to the torrent of the passions, suffices alone
to conquer them, when everything else is in their favor--the secrecy of
the woods, the absence of men, and the fidelity of the shades. Ah, how
divine to me appeared that simple savage, the ignorant Atala, who, on
her knees before an old fallen pine-tree, as at the foot of an altar,
was offering up a prayer to her God in favor of an idolatrous lover! Her
eyes raised towards the star of the night, her cheeks, brilliant with
tears of religion and of love, were of immortal beauty. Several times
it appeared to me as though she were about to take her flight to heaven;
several times I fancied I saw come down upon the rays of the moon, and
heard amidst the trees, those genii whom the God of the Christians
sends to the hermits of the rocks when He is about to call them back to
Himself. I was afflicted by all this, for I feared that Atala had but
little time to remain on earth.

"Nevertheless, she shed such abundant tears, she appeared so unhappy,
that I was perhaps upon the point of consenting to take my departure,
when the cry of death resounded through the forest. Four armed men
rushed upon me. We had been discovered; the war-chief had given orders
for our pursuit.

"Atala, who resembled a queen in the pride of her demeanor, disdained to
speak to these warriors. She glanced nobly at them, and went forthwith
to Simaghan.

"She could obtain no concession. My guards were doubled, my chains
increased, and my lover was kept away from me. Five nights passed,
and then we perceived Apalachucla, situated on the banks of the river
Chata-Uche. I was immediately crowned with flowers; my face was painted
blue and red; beads were fastened to my nose and to my ears, and a
chichikoué * was placed in my hand.

"Thus prepared for the sacrifice, I entered Apalachucla amidst the
reiterated shouts of the crowd. My fate was sealed; when all of a sudden
the sound of a conch was heard, and the mico, or chief of the nation,
ordered an assembly.

"You know, my son, the torments to which savages subject their prisoners
of war. Christian missionaries, at the risk of their lives, and with
an indefatigable charity, had succeeded in inducing several nations to
substitute a comparatively mild slavery to the horrors of the funeral
pile. The Muscogulges had not yet adopted this custom, but a numerous
party amongst them had declared themselves in favor of it. It was
to decide upon this important matter that the mico had convoked the
sachems, or wise men. I was conducted to the place of deliberation.

"The pavilion of the council was situated upon an isolated mound not
far from Apalachucla. Three circles of columns constituted the elegant
architecture of this rotunda. The columns were of polished and carved
cypress-wood, increasing in height and in thickness, and diminishing in
number as they approached the centre, which was indicated by a single
pillar. From the summit of this pillar depended strips of bark, which,
passing over the tops of the other columns, covered the pavilion in the
guise of an open fan.

     * A musical instrument played by the savages.

"The council assembled. Fifty old men, in beaver cloaks, were ranged
upon the steps facing the door of the pavilion. The grand chief was
seated in their midst, holding in his hand the calumet of peace,
half-colored for war. On the right of the old men were placed fifty
women, dressed in robes of swan-feathers. The war-chiefs, with a
tomahawk in the hand, a bunch of feathers on the head, and their arms
and chests dyed with blood, occupied the left.

"At the foot of the central column the fire of the council was burning.
The first jungler, surrounded by eight guardians of the temple, dressed
in long vestments, and wearing a stuffed owl upon their heads, poured
some balm of copal upon the flames, and offered a sacrifice to the
sun. The triple row of old men, matrons, and warriors--the priests, the
clouds of incense, and the sacrifice--imparted to this council an aspect
altogether imposing.

[Illustration: 035]

"I was standing chained in the midst of the assembly. When the sacrifice
was finished, the mico spoke, and explained with simplicity the affair
that had brought the council together. He threw a blue necklace upon the
ground, as evidence of what he had just said.

"Then a sachem of the tribe of the Eagle rose, and spoke thus:

"'My father the mico, sachems, matrons, warriors of the four tribes
of the Eagle, the Beaver, the Serpent, and the Tortoise, let us change
nothing in the manners of our forefathers: let us burn the prisoner, and
let us not allow our courage to be weakened. It is a custom of the white
men that is now proposed to you; it cannot be other than pernicious.
Give a red collar which contains my words. I have spoken.'

"And he threw a red collar into the midst of the assembly.

"A matron then rose, and said:

"'My father Eagle, you have the cleverness of a fox and the prudent
slowness of a tortoise. I will polish the chain of friendship with you,
and we will plant together the tree of peace. But let us change the
customs of our forefathers when they are of a terrible character. Let us
have slaves to cultivate our fields, and let us no longer hear the
cries of the prisoners, which trouble the bosoms of the mothers. I have

"As the waves of the ocean are broken up by a storm; as in autumn
the dried leaves are carried away in a whirlwind; as the reeds of the
Mississippi bend and rise again during a sudden inundation; as a great
herd of deer bellow in the depths of a forest, so was the council
agitated and murmuring. Sachems, warriors, and matrons spoke by turns,
or all together. Interests clashed, opinions were divided, and the
council was about to be dissolved; but at length the ancient custom
prevailed, and I was condemned to the pile.

"A circumstance caused my punishment to be delayed: the Feast of the
Dead, or the Festival of Souls, was approaching, and it is the custom
not to put any captive to death during the days consecrated to that
ceremony. I was handed over to a strict guard, and doubtless the sachems
had sent away the daughter of Simaghan, as I saw her no longer.

"Meanwhile, the tribes for more than three hundred leagues around
came in crowds to celebrate the Festival of Souls. A long hut had been
constructed upon an isolated situation. On the day indicated, each cabin
exhumed the remains of its fathers from their private tombs, and the
skeletons were hung upon the walls of the Common-room of the Ancestors
in order and by families. The winds (a tempest had burst forth), the
forests, and the cataracts roared from without, while the old men of the
different nations were engaged in concluding treaties of peace between
the tribes over the bones of their fathers.

"Funeral amusements were indulged in, running, ball, and a game with
small bones. Two maidens tried to snatch from each other a willow-twig.
Their hands fluttered about the twig, which each in her turn held above
her head. Their beautiful naked feet intertwined, their mouths met,
their sweet breaths became confounded; they stooped, and their hairs
were mixed together; then they looked at their mothers, and blushed in
the midst of applause. * The jungler invoked Michabou, the genius of the
waters, and related the wars of the great Hare against Machimanitou,
the god of evil. He spoke of the first man, and of Athaënsic, the first
woman, being hurled from heaven for having lost their innocence; of the
earth having been reddened with a brother's blood; of the immolation of
Tahouistsarou by the impious Jouskeka; of the deluge commanded by the
voice of the Great Spirit; of Massou, the only one saved in his bark
vessel; and of the crow sent out to discover the land. He spoke,
moreover, of the beautiful Endaë, recalled from the land of souls by the
sweet songs of her spouse.

"After these games and hymns, preparations were made for giving the
ancestors an eternal sepulture.

"Upon the borders of the river Chata-Uche there was a wild fig-tree,
which the worship of the people had consecrated. The Indian maidens were
in the habit of washing their bark-dresses at this place, and exposing
them to the breath of the desert upon the branches of the ancient tree.
It was there that an immense tomb had been dug.

"While leaving the funeral chamber, the hymn of death was sung. Each
family carried some sacred remains. On arriving at the tomb, the relics
were lowered down into it, and spread out in layers, separated by the
skins of bears and beavers; the mound of the tomb was then raised, and
the tree of tears and of sleep planted upon it.

"Let us pity men, my dear son! Those very Indians whose customs are so
touching, those very women who had displayed such a tender interest in
my behalf, now called out loudly for my execution; and entire tribes
delayed their departure, in order to have the pleasure of seeing a young
man undergo the most horrible sufferings.

"In a valley to the north, at some distance from the grand village, was
a wood of cypresses and deals, called the Wood of Blood. It was reached
by the ruins of one of those monuments of which the origin is ignored,
and which were the work of a people now unknown. I was led thither in
triumph. Preparations were being made for my death. The pole of Areskoui
was planted; pine, elm, and cypress-trees fell beneath the axe; the
funeral pile was rising, and spectators were constructing amphitheatres
with the branches and trunks of trees. Each one was occupied in
inventing a torture. Some proposed to tear the skin off my head, others
to burn my eyes out with red-hot axes. I began to sing the song of

     * Blushing is a marked characteristic with young savages.

"'I do not fear torture: I am brave, O Muscognlges! I defy you; I
despise you more than women. My father, Outalissi, son of Miscou, drank
out of the skulls of your most famous warriors; you will not draw a sigh
from my breast.'

"Provoked by my song, a warrior pierced my arm with an arrow. I merely
said, 'Brother, I thank thee.'

"In spite of the activity of the executioners, the preparations for
my execution could not be completed before the setting of the sun. A
jungler was consulted, and he forbade the genii of the shades to be
troubled, so that my death was postponed till the following day. But, in
their impatience to enjoy the spectacle, and in order to be ready sooner
on the break of day, the Indians did not quit the Wood of Blood. They
lighted large fires, and began a series of festivities and dances.

[Illustration: 039]

"Meanwhile, I had been laid down upon my back. Cords from my neck, from
my feet, and from my arms, were attached to stakes fixed in the
ground. Warriors were seated upon these cords, and I could not make
the slightest movement without their knowledge. The night advanced; the
songs and dances gradually ceased; the fires emitted but a ruddy light,
in front of which I could see the shadows of some of the savages pass.
At last they all fell asleep; but as the noise of men became pacified,
that of the desert seemed to increase, and to the tumult of voices
succeeded the howlings of the winds in the forest.

"It was the hour when a young Indian recently become a mother awakes
with a start in the middle of the night, fancying she has heard the cry
of her first-born babe desirous of her sweet nutriment. With my eyes
gazing up to heaven, where the crescent moon was wandering in the
clouds, I was reflecting upon my destiny. Atala appeared to me to be
a monster of ingratitude thus to abandon me at the moment of
punishment--I, who had given myself up to the flames rather than leave
her! And yet I felt that I still loved her, and that I should die with
joy for Atala.

"In extreme pleasures there is a sting that excites one as though to
counsel us to profit by the rapidly passing moment: in great grief, on
the contrary, there is something heavy that induces drowsiness; the
eyes fatigued with tears naturally seek to close, and the goodness of
Providence may be thus remarked even in our misfortunes. I gave way,
in spite of myself, to that heavy sleep which sometimes overcomes the
wretched. I dreamt that my chains were being taken off; I thought I felt
the satisfaction experienced when, after having been tightly pressed, a
helping hand relieves us of our irons.

"This sensation was so vivid that it caused me to raise my eyelids. By
the light of the moon, a ray of which was escaping between two clouds,
I saw a tall white figure leaning over me, and silently occupied in
loosening my bonds. I was about to utter a cry, when a hand, which I
instantly recognized, closed my mouth. A single cord remained, but it
appeared impossible to cut it without touching a warrior who covered
it entirely with his body. Atala placed her hand upon it. The warrior,
half-awakened, bestirred himself, and sat up. Atala remained motionless,
and looked at him. The Indian thought he was looking at the Spirit of
the ruins; and he lay down again, closing his eyes and invoking his
manitou. The bond was broken. I arose and followed my deliverer, who
tendered to me the end of a bow of which she held the other extremity.
But with what dangers were we surrounded! At times we were on the point
of stumbling over the sleeping savages; then a guard questioned us,
and Atala replied in an assumed voice. Children were crying, and dogs
barking. Scarcely had we got clear of the fatal enclosure, when terrible
howlings resounded through the forest. The camp was aroused. A thousand
fires were lighted, and savages were running about in all directions
with torches. We hurried away with precipitation.

"When day broke upon the Apalaches, we were already far away. Great was
my felicity on finding myself again in solitude with Atala--with Atala
my deliverer, with Atala who was giving herself to me for ever! Words
failed my tongue. I fell on my knees, and said to the daughter of
Simaghan: 'Men are but little; but when the genii visit them, they are
nothing at all. You are a genius; you have visited me, and I cannot
speak before you.' Atala offered me her hand with a smile: 'I am obliged
to follow you,' she said, 'since you will not fly without me. During
the night I seduced the jungler with presents, I intoxicated your
executioners with essence of fire, * and I risked my life for you,
because you had given yours for me. Yes, young idolator!' she added,
with an accent that alarmed me, 'the sacrifice will be reciprocal.'

"Atala gave me the weapons she had had the precaution to bring, and then
she dressed my wound. Whilst wiping it with a papaya-leaf, she wetted it
with her tears. 'It is a balm,' I said to her, 'that you are dropping on
my arm.' 'I am rather afraid that it may be a poison,' she replied. She
tore one of the coverings from her bosom, with which she made a first
bandage that she fastened with a tress of lier hair.

"Intoxication, which lasts a long time upon savages, and is for them a
species of malady, prevented them from pursuing us during the first few
days. If they sought for us afterwards, it was probably in a westerly
direction, as they must have thought we should make for the Mississippi;
but we had taken our flight towards the fixed star, ** guiding ourselves
by the moss on the trunks of the trees.

     * Brandy.

     ** The north.

"We were not long in perceiving that we had gained but little by
my deliverance. The desert now unrolled before us its immeasurable
solitudes. Without experience in forest life, having lost our way, and
walking on at hazard, what was to become of us? Often, while gazing upon
Atala, I remembered the ancient story of Agar, that Lopez had given me
to read, and which happened in the desert of Beersheba a long time ago,
when men lived to three times the age of the oak.

"Atala made me a cloak out of some ash-bark, and she also embroidered me
a pair of musk rat skin moccasins with porcupine's hair. In my turn, I
did all in my power to ornament her attire. First of all, I placed upon
her head a crown of those blue mallows that crowded beneath our feet
in the abandoned Indian cemeteries; then I made her necklaces of red
azalea-berries; and after all I smiled in the contemplation of her
wonderful beauty.

"When we encountered a river, we crossed it either on a raft or by
swimming. Atala placed one of her hands upon my shoulder, and thus, like
a pair of migratory swans, we traversed the solitary waves.

"During the great heat of the day we often sought shelter beneath the
moss of the cedars. Nearly all the Floridan trees, especially the cedar
and the oak, are covered with a white moss, which descends from their
branches down to the very ground. At night-time, by moonlight, should
you happen to see, in the open savannah, an isolated holm dressed in
such drapery, you would imagine it to be a phantom dragging after it a
number of long veils. The scene is not less picturesque by day, when a
crowd of butterflies, brilliant insects, colibris, green paroquets, and
blue jackdaws entangle themselves amongst the moss, and thus produce the
effect of a piece of white woollen tapestry embroidered by some clever
European workman with beautiful birds and sparkling insects.

[Illustration: 043]

[Illustration: 045]

"It was in the shade of such smiling quarters, prepared by the Great
Spirit, that we stopped to repose ourselves. When the winds come down
from heaven to rock the great cedar, when the aerial castles built upon
its brandies undulate with the birds and the travellers sleeping beneath
its shelter, when thousands of sighs pass through the corridors of the
waving edifice, there is nothing amongst the wonders of the ancient
world to be compared with this monument of the desert.

"Every evening we lighted a large fire and built a travelling hut of
bark raised upon four stakes. When I had killed a wild turkey, a pigeon,
or a wood-pheasant, we attached it to the end of a pole before a pile
of burning oak, and left the care of turning the hunter's prey to the
caprices of the wind. We used to eat a kind of moss called rock-tripe,
sweetened bark, and May-apples, that tasted of the peach and the
raspberry. The black-walnut-tree, the maple-tree, and the sumach
furnished our table with wine. Sometimes I went and fetched from
amongst the reeds a plant whose flower, in the form of an elongated cup,
contained a glass of the purest dew. We blessed Heaven for having placed
this limpid spring upon the stalk of a flower, in the midst of the
corrupted marshes, just as it has placed hope at the bottom of hearts
ulcerated by grief; just also as it has caused virtue to well up from
the bosom of the miseries of life!

"I soon discovered, alas! that I had deceived myself as to the apparent
calm of my beloved Atala. The farther we advanced the sadder she became.
She frequently shuddered without a cause, and turned her head aside
hurriedly. I sometimes caught her regarding me with a passionate look,
which she at once cast towards the sky with a profound melancholy. What
alarmed me above all was a secret thought concealed in the bottom of her
soul, but which I read in her eyes. Constantly drawing me towards her
and then pushing me away, re-animating my hopes, and then destroying
them when I thought I had made some progress in her heart, I found
myself still at the same point. How many times she said to me, 'O my
young sweetheart! I love you like the shade of the woods at mid-day!'
You are as beautiful as the desert with all its flowers and all its
breezes. If I incline towards you, I tremble: when my hand falls upon
yours, it seems to me as though I were about to die. The other day the
wind blew your hair upon my face as you were reposing yourself upon my
bosom, and I fancied I felt the light touch of the invisible spirits.
Yes, I have seen the young kids of the mountain of Occona; I have
listened to the language of men ripe with years; but the mildness of
goats and the wisdom of old men are less agreeable and less powerful
than your words. Ah, my poor Chactas! I shall never be your spouse!'

"The constant struggle between Atala's love and religion, her tender
freedom and the chastity of her conduct, the pride of her character and
her profound sensitiveness, the elevation of her soul in great things,
her susceptibility about trifles, rendered her, in my opinion, an
incomprehensible being. Atala could not hold a weak empire over a man.
Full of passion, she was full of power. She must either be adored or

"After fifteen nights of hurried march, we entered upon the chain of the
Alleghany mountains, and reached one of the branches of the Tennessee, a
river that falls into the Ohio. Aided by the advice of Atala, I built a
boat, which I coated with plum-tree gum, after having re-sewn the bark
with roots of the fir. I subsequently embarked therein with Atala, and
we abandoned ourselves to the current of the river.

"The Indian village of Sticoë, with its pyramidal tombs and ruined huts,
appeared on our left at the turn of a promontory; on the right we left
the valley of Keow, terminated by the perspective of the cabins of Jore,
which seemed to be suspended from the forehead of the mountain of the
same name. The river which carried us along flowed between high cliffs,
at the extremity of which we perceived the setting sun. The profound
solitudes were not disturbed by the presence of men. We only saw one
Indian hunter, who, leaning motionless upon his bow, on the peak of a
rock, looked like a statue raised upon the mountain to the genius of
those deserts.

"Atala and myself added our silence to the silence of this scene. All
of a sudden, the daughter of exile filled the air by thus singing, in a
voice replete with melancholy emotion, of her absent country:

"'Happy are they who have not seen the smoke of foreign festivals, and
who have never been seated elsewhere than at the rejoicings of their

"'If the blue jackdaw of the Mississippi were to say to the nonpareil
of the Floridas, "Why dost thou complain so sadly? Hast thou not here
beautiful waters and lovely shades, and all sorts of pastures, as in
thine own forests?"

"Yes," would reply the fugitive nonpareil; "but my nest is in the
jessamine; who will bring it to me? And the sun of my savannah, where is

"'Happy are they who have not seen the smoke of foreign festivals, and
who have never been seated elsewhere than at the rejoicings of their

"'After hours of painful wayfare, the traveller sits down in sadness. He
sees around him the roofs of men's habitations, but has no place wherein
to repose his head. The traveller knocks at a cabin, places his bow
behind the door, and asks for hospitality. The master makes a gesture of
the hand; the traveller takes back his bow, and returns to the desert.

"'Happy are they who have not seen the smoke of foreign festivals, and
who have never been seated elsewhere than at the rejoicings of their

"'Wondrous stories told around the hearth, tender effusions of the
heart, long habits of loving so necessary to life, you have filled the
days of those who have not quitted their natal place! Their tombs are
in the land of their birth, with the setting sun, the tears of their
friends and the charms of religion.

"'Happy are they who have not seen the smoke of foreign festivals, and
who have never been seated elsewhere than at the rejoicings of their

"Thus sang Atala. Nothing interrupted the course of her lamentations,
except the almost imperceptible sound of our boat upon the waves. In two
or three places only were they taken up by a weak echo, which repeated
them to a second, and the second to a third, faintly and more faintly
still. It seemed as though the souls of two lovers, formerly unfortunate
like ourselves, and attracted by the touching melody, were enjoying the
pleasure of sighing forth the dying sounds of its music in the mountain.

"Nevertheless, the solitude, the constant presence of the beloved
object, even our misfortunes, increased our affection from one instant
to another. Atala prayed continuously to her mother, whose irritated
shade she seemed as though wishing to appease. She sometimes asked me
if I did not hear a plaintive voice, and see flames issuing out of the
earth. As for myself, exhausted with fatigue, but still burning with
desire, and thinking that I was perhaps irretrievably lost in the midst
of those forests, I was a hundred times upon the point of drawing my
spouse to my arms, and a hundred times did I urge Atala to allow me to
build a hut upon the river side, so that we might bury ourselves therein
together. But she always resisted my propositions. 'Remember, my young
friend,' she would say, 'that a warrior owes himself to his country.
What is a woman compared to the duties you have to fulfil? Take courage,
son of Outalissi; do not murmur against your destiny. The heart of man
is like a river-sponge, that imbibes pure water during calm weather, and
is swollen with muddy liquid when the sky has troubled the waves. Has
the sponge the right to say, "I thought there would never be any storms,
and that the sun would never be scorching?"'

"O René, if you fear the trials of the heart, be upon your guard against
solitude. The great passions are solitary, and to transport them to
the desert is to restore them to their triumph. Overcome with cares
and fears; exposed to the danger of falling into the hands of Indian
enemies, to be swallowed up by the waters, stung by serpents, devoured
by beasts; finding the poorest nourishment with difficulty, and not
knowing whither to direct our steps, it seemed impossible for our
misfortunes to be greater, when an accident brought them to a climax.

"It was the twenty-seventh sun since our departure from the cabins. The
moon of fire had commenced her course, and everything announced a storm.
Towards the hour when the Indian matrons hang up the plough-handle to
the branches of the sabin-tree, and when the paroquets retire into the
hollows of the cypress, the sky began to be overcast. The voices of
the solitude died away, the desert became silent, and the forests were
reposing in the midst of a universal calm. Shortly after, the rollings
of a distant thunder, prolonged through the woods as old as the world,
re-issued from them with sublime sounds. Fearful of being submerged, we
hastened to reach the bank of the river, and withdrew into a forest.

     * The month of July.

"The ground in this place was marshy. We advanced with difficulty under
a vault of smilax, amidst vines, indigo-plants, bean-trees, and creeping
ivy that entangled our feet like nets. The spongy soil trembled around
us, and at each instant we were on the point of sinking into the
quagmires. Insects without number, and enormous bats, blinded us;
bell-serpents were hissing in every direction, and wolves, bears,
carcajous, and young tigers, come to hide themselves in these retreats,
made them resound with their roarings.

"Meanwhile, the darkness increased. The lowering clouds were entering
beneath the leafy covering of the woods. Suddenly the sky was rent, and
the lightning traced a rapid zig-zag of fire. A violent wind from the
west rolled clouds upon clouds; the forests bent; the sky opened time
after time, and from between the interstices other skies and ardent
scenes might be perceived. What a frightful, what a magnificent
spectacle! The lightning set fire to the forest; the conflagration
extended like a head-dress of flame; columns of sparks and of smoke
besieged the clouds, which were vomiting their flashes into the vast
burning mass. Then the Great Spirit covered the mountain with heavy
darkness; and from the midst of this chaos there arose a confused
moaning, formed by the rushing of the winds, the cracking of trees, the
howling of wild beasts, the buzzing of the inflamed vegetation, and the
repeated fall of thunderbolts hissing as they died out in the waters.

"The Great Spirit knows that at this moment I saw and thought of nothing
but Atala. I managed to guard her against the torrents of rain by
placing her beneath the inclining trunk of a birch-tree, under which I
sat down, holding my well-beloved upon my knees, and warming her naked
feet between my hands; and thus I found myself happier than the young
spouse who feels her future offspring quiver in her bosom for the first

[Illustration: 051]

"We were listening to the sound of the tempest, when all of a sudden I
felt one of Atala's tears fall upon my breast. 'Storm of the heart,'
I cried to myself, 'is it a drop of your rain?' Then embracing her I
loved, I said, 'Atala, you are concealing something from me. Open your
heart to me, O beauty! It does one so much good when a friend looks into
one's soul. Tell me this secret of grief which you persist in hiding
from me. Ah! I see you are weeping for your country.' She immediately
retorted, 'Child of men, why should I weep for my country, since my
father came not from the land of palms?'--'What!' I replied, with
profound astonishment, 'your father was not from the land of palms! What
was he then who brought you upon this earth? Reply!' Atala answered in
these words:

"'Before my mother brought to the warrior Simaghan, as a marriage
portion, thirty mares, twenty buffaloes, a hundred measures of nut-oil,
fifty beaver-skins, and a quantity of other riches, she had known a man
of white flesh. Now the mother of my mother threw water in her face, and
forced her to marry the magnanimous Simaghan, who was like unto a king,
and honored by the people as a genius. But my mother said to her new
spouse, "My bosom has conceived; kill me." Simaghan replied to her, "May
the Great Spirit preserve me from such an action! I will not mutilate
you. I will neither cut off your nose nor your ears, because you have
been sincere and have not betrayed my couch. The fruit of your bosom
shall be my fruit, and I will not visit you till after the departure of
the bird of the rice-fields, when the thirteenth moon shall have shone."
About that time I issued from my mother's bosom, and I began to grow,
proud as a Spaniard and as a savage. My mother made me a Christian, so
that her God and the God of my father might also be my God. Afterwards
love-sickness fell upon her, and she went down into the little pit
furnished with skins, from which no one ever comes out.'

"Such was Atala's story. 'And who was your father, then, poor orphan?' I
said to her; 'how was he called by men upon earth, and what name did he
bear among the genii?'--'I never washed my father's feet,' said Atala:
'I only know that he lived with his sister at Saint Augustine, and that
he ever remained faithful to my mother. Philip was his name amongst the
angels, and men called him Lopez."

"At these words I uttered a cry which re-echoed throughout the solitude;
the soumis of my transports mingled with those of the storm. Pressing
Atala to my heart, I exclaimed with sobs, 'O my sister! O daughter of
Lopez! daughter of my benefactor!' Atala, alarmed, sought to ascertain
the cause of my agitation; but when she learnt that Lopez was the
generous host who had adopted me at Saint Augustine, and whom I had
quitted in order to be free, she was herself stricken with joy and

"This fraternal friendship which came upon us and joined its love to our
love, was too much for our hearts. Already had I intoxicated myself with
her breath, already had I drunk all the magic of love upon her lips.
With my eyes raised towards heaven, amidst the flash of the lightnings,
I held my spouse in my arms in the presence of the Eternal. Splendid
pomp, worthy of our misfortunes and of the grandeur of our loves; superb
forests, that shook your creeping plants and your leafy domes as though
they were to be the curtains and the canopy of our couch; overflowing
river, roaring mountains, frightful and sublime Nature, were you then
but a combination prepared to deceive us, and could you not for one
moment conceal a man's felicity amidst your mysterious horrors?

"Suddenly a vivid flash, followed by a clap of thunder, ran through the
thickness of the shades, filled the forest with sulphur and light,
and rent a tree close by us. We fled. O surprise! In the silence which
followed, we heard the sound of a bell. Both speechless, we listened to
the sound, so strange in a desert. At the same instant a dog barked in
the distance. It approached, redoubled its cries, came up to us, and
howled with joy at our feet. An old hermit, carrying a small lantern,
was following the animal through the darkness of the forest. 'Heaven be
praised!' he cried, as soon as he perceived us; 'I have been looking for
you a long time! Our dog smelt you as soon as the storm commenced, and
has guided me hither. Poor children, how young you are, and how you must
have suffered! Come; I have brought a bear-skin. It shall be for this
young woman, and there is some wine in our gourd. Let God be praised in
all His works! His mercy is great and His goodness is infinite!'

"Atala threw herself at the feet of the monk. 'Chief of prayer,' said
she to him, 'I am a Christian. Heaven has sent you to save me!' 'My
daughter,' said the hermit, raising her up, 'we usually ring the
mission-bell during the night and during tempests, to call strangers;
and, in imitation of the example of our brethren of the Alps and of the
Liban, we have taught our dog to discover lost travellers.'

"I scarcely understood the hermit. This charity appeared to me so much
above man that I thought I was dreaming. By the light of the little
lantern the monk was holding in his hand I saw that his beard and
hair were saturated with water; his feet, his hands, and his face were
bleeding: from their encounters with the brambles. 'Old man!' I at
length cried, 'what sort of heart have you, that you did not fear being
struck by the lightning?' 'Fear!' retorted the father, with a certain
ardor, 'fear when men are in danger and I can be useful to them! I
should in that case be an unworthy servant of Jesus Christ!' 'But do you
know,' I interrupted, 'that I am not a Christian?' 'Young man,' replied
the hermit, 'did I ask you your religion? Jesus Christ did not say, "My
blood shall wash this one or that one." He died for the Jew and for
the Gentile, and He only considered all the races of men as brothers
in misfortune. What I am now doing for you is but little, and you would
find elsewhere plenty of other help; but the glory of it should not
fall upon the priests. What are we poor hermits, if not the coarse
instruments of a celestial work? And what soldier would be cowardly
enough to retreat when his Chief, with the cross in His hand and His
forehead covered with thorns, marches before him to the assistance of
suffering humanity?'

"These words went to my heart; tears of admiration and tenderness fell
from my eyes. 'My dear children,' said the missionary, 'I govern in
these forests a little flock of your wild brethren. My grotto is not far
from here, in the mountain. Come and warm yourselves under my roof.
You will not find the conveniences of life there, but you shall have
shelter, and you should thank the Divine goodness even for that, for
there are many men who are without it.'

[Illustration: 054]

[Illustration: 055]

[Illustration: 057]


"There are some righteous people whose conscience is so tranquil that
one cannot approach them without participating in the peace emitted,
so to say, by their heart and by their language. As the hermit went on
speaking, I felt the passions calm down in my bosom, and even the
storm of heaven appeared to recede at his voice. The clouds were soon
sufficiently dispersed to permit us to quit our retreat. We issued from
the forest, and commenced climbing a high mountain. The dog walked by
our side, carrying the extinguished lantern at the end of a stick.

I held Atala by the hand, and we followed the missionary. He frequently
turned round to look at us, and seemed to pity our youth and our
misfortunes. A book was hanging from his neck, and he leant upon a white
staff. His figure was tall, his face pale and thin, and his countenance
simple and sincere. His features showed that he had seen bad days,
and the deep wrinkles in his forehead were the noble scars of passions
overcome by virtue and by the love of God and of man. When he spoke
to us standing and motionless, his long beard, his eyes modestly cast
downwards, the affectionate tone of his voice, everything about him was
calm and sublime. Whoever, like myself, has seen Father Aubry with
his breviary and staff, on his lonely way in the desert, preserves a
veritable idea of the Christian traveller upon earth.

"After half an hour's dangerous march through the paths of the
mountain, we arrived at the missionary's grotto. We entered it over an
accumulation of wet ivy and wild plants, washed down from the rocks by
the rain. There was nothing in the place beyond a mat of papaya-leaves,
a gourd for drawing up water, a few wooden vessels, a spade, a harmless
serpent, and, upon a block of stone that served as a table, a crucifix
and the Book of the Christians.

"The man of ancient days was not long in lighting a fire with some dried
leaves. He then crushed some Indian corn between two stones, and having
made a cake with it, placed it beneath the ashes to bake. When the cake
had come to a fine golden color, he served it to us hot, with nut-cream,
in a maple bowl. The evening having restored calm, the servant of the
Great Spirit proposed that we should go and sit at the entrance to the
grotto, which commanded an immense view. The remains of the storm
had been carried in disorder towards the east; the fires of the
conflagration caused in the forests by the lightning were still shining
in the distance; at the foot of the mountain an entire pine-wood had
been thrown down into the mud, and the river was charged pell-mell with
molten clay, trunks of trees, and the bodies of dead animals and of dead
fishes, floating upon the still agitated surface of the waters.

"It was in the midst of this scene that Atala related our history to the
old genius of the mountain. His heart appeared to be touched, and tears
fell upon his beard. 'My child,' he said to Atala, 'you must offer your
sufferings to God, for whose glory you have already done so many things.
He will give you rest. Look at those smoking forests, those receding
torrents, those scattered clouds: do you imagine that He who can calm
such a tempest cannot appease the troubles of the heart of man? If you
have no better retreat, my dear daughter, I offer you a place amongst
the flock I have had the happiness of calling to Jesus Christ. I will
instruct Chactas, and I will give him to you as a husband when he shall
have proved himself worthy to be your spouse.'

"At these words I fell at the hermit's knees, shedding tears of joy; but
Atala became as pale as death. The old man raised me with benignity,
and I then perceived that both his hands were mutilated. Atala at once
comprehended his misfortunes. 'The barbarians!' she exclaimed.

"'My daughter,' replied the hermit, with a pleasant smile, 'what is that
in comparison with the sufferings of my Divine Master? If the Indian
idolators have tortured me, they are poor, blind creatures, whom God
will enlighten some day. I love them all the more for the injury they
have done me. I could not remain in my country, to which I had gone
back, and where an illustrious queen did me the honor to look upon
these poor marks of my apostolate. And what more glorious reward could
I receive for my labors than that of obtaining, from the head of our
religion, the permission to celebrate the Divine sacrifice with these
mutilated hands? It only remained for me, after such an honor, to try
and render myself worthy of it; so I returned to the; new world to pass
the rest of my lift: in the service of my God. I have dwelt in these
solitudes nearly thirty years, and it will be twenty-two to-morrow since
I took possession of this rock. When I came to the place, I encountered
but a few wandering families, whose manners were ferocious and whose
life was miserable. I have induced them to listen to the word of Peace,
and their manners have become gradually softened. They now live together
at the foot of this mountain. Whilst teaching them the way of salvation,
I endeavored to instruct them in the primary arts of life, but without
carrying them too far, and constantly keeping the honest people within
the bounds of that simplicity which constitutes happiness. Fearing to
trouble them by my presence, I retired to this grotto, where they
come to consult me. It is here that far from man, I admire God in the
grandeur of the solitude, and prepare myself for the death which the
length of my years announces to me as approaching.'

[Illustration: 059]

"On finishing this discourse, the hermit fell upon his knees, and we
imitated his example. He began in a loud voice a prayer to which Atala
responded. Some dull flashes of lightning still opened the sky in the
east, and upon the western clouds three suns seemed to be shining at the
same time.

"We re-entered the grotto, where the hermit stretched out a bed of
cypress-moss for Atala. Profound language was depicted in the eyes and
movements of the maiden. She looked at Father Aubry as though she wished
to reveal a secret to him; but something appeared to deter her from
so doing--either my presence, or a sort of shame, or perhaps the
uselessness of the avowal. I heard her get up in the middle of the
night. She went to look for the hermit; but, as he had given up his
couch to Atala, he had gone to contemplate the beauty of the heavens,
and to pray to God on the top of the mountain. He told me the next day
that such was his custom, even during winter, as he loved to see the
forests wave their stripped summits, the clouds fly through the air, and
to hear the winds and the torrents roar in the solitude. My sister was
therefore obliged to return to her couch, where she immediately fell
asleep. Alas! full of hope, I thought Atala's weakness was nothing more
than a passing sign of weariness.

"The following morning I was awakened by the songs of the cardinals and
the mockingbirds, nestled in the acacias and laurels that surrounded the
grotto. I went forth and gathered a magnolia rose, and placed it, wet
with the tears of the morning, upon the head of my sleeping Atala. I
hoped, according to the religion of my country, that the soul of some
child dead at the breast might have descended upon this flower in a
dew-drop, and that a happy dream might convey it to the bosom of my
future spouse. I afterwards sought my host. I found him, his gown turned
up into his two pockets, and a chaplet in his hand, waiting for me,
seated upon the trunk of a pine-tree that had fallen from old age. He
proposed that we should go together to the Mission while Atala was still
reposing. I accepted his offer, and we immediately started on our way.

"On descending the mountain, I perceived some oaks upon which the genii
seemed to have drawn foreign characters. The hermit told me that he
had traced them himself; that they were some verses of an ancient poet
called Homer, and a few sentences of another poet, more ancient still,
named Solomon. There was a sort of mysterious harmony between the wisdom
of former times, the verses eaten into by moss, the old hermit who had
engraved them, and the aged oaks which had served him for books.

"His name, his age, and the date of his mission were also marked upon a
reed of the savannah at the foot of those trees. I was surprised at the
fragility of the latter monument. 'It will last longer than I,' replied
the father, 'and it will always be of more value than the little good I
have done.'

"From thence we arrived at the entrance to a valley, where I saw a
wonderful work. It was a natural bridge, similar to that in Virginia,
of which you have perhaps heard. Men, my son, especially those of
your country, often imitate Nature, and their copies are always
insignificant. It is not the same with Nature when she appears to
imitate the labors of men by in reality offering them models. Then it is
that she throws bridges from the summit of one mountain to the summit
of another, suspends roads in the air, spreads rivers for canals, carves
out hills for columns, and for basins excavates seas.

"We passed beneath the sole arch of this bridge, and found ourselves in
front of another wonder, the cemetery of the Indians of the Mission, or
the Groves of Death. Father Aubry had permitted his neophytes to bury
their dead in their manner, and to continue its original name to their
place of sepulture. He had merely sanctified the place with a cross. *
The soil was divided, like fields set out for harvest, into as many lots
as there were families. Each lot formed a wood of itself, which varied
according to the taste of those who had planted it. A stream meandered
noiselessly through the groves. It went by the name of the River of
Peace. This smiling refuge of souls was closed on the east by the bridge
beneath which we had passed. Two hills bounded it on the north and on
the south, and it was open only towards the west, where stood a large
forest of fir trees. The trunks of these trees, spotted with green,
and growing without branches up to their very summits, resembled tall
columns, and formed the peristyle of this temple of death. We remarked
a religious sound, similar to the half-suppressed murmurs of an organ
beneath the roof of a church; but when we had penetrated into the
interior of the sanctuary, we could hear nothing beyond the hymns of the
birds celebrating an eternal fête to the memory of the dead.

"On emerging from the wood, we perceived the village of the Mission,
situated on the side of a lake, in the midst of a savannah planted
with flowers. It was reached by an avenue of magnolias and oaks, which
bordered one of 'those ancient roads met with towards the mountains that
separate Kentucky from the Floridas. As soon as the Indians saw their
pastor in the plain, they abandoned their labors, and hastened to meet
him. Some of them kissed his gown, others assisted him to walk; the
mothers raised their little children in their arms to show them the man
of Jesus Christ who had shed tears. Father Aubry inquired as he went
along of what was going on in the village. He gave counsel to one, and
a mild reprimand to another, He spoke of harvests to be gathered, of
children to be instructed, of troubles to be consoled; and he alluded to
God in every topic he touched upon.

"Thus escorted, we arrived at the foot of the large cross placed by
the roadside. It was here that the servant of God was in the habit of
celebrating the mysteries of his religion. 'My dear neophytes,' said he,
turning himself towards the crowd, 'a brother and a sister have come up
to you, and, as an additional happiness, I see that Providence spared
your harvests yesterday. Behold two great reasons for thankfulness. Let
us therefore offer up the holy sacrifice, and may each of you bring
to it deep attention, a lively faith, infinite gratitude, and a humble

     * Father Aubry had done like the Jesuits in China, who
     allowed the Chinese to inter their relations in their
     gardens, according to an ancient custom.

"The holy priest forthwith put on a white tunic of mulberry-bark; the
sacred cups were withdrawn from a tabernacle at the foot of the cross;
the altar was set out on a portion of the rock, water was procured from
the neighboring torrent, and a bunch of wild grapes furnished the wine
for the sacrifice. We all went down upon our knees in the high grass,
and the mystery began.

"Break of day, appearing from behind the mountains, inflamed the
eastern sky. Everything in the solitude was golden or roseate. The sun,
announced by so much splendor, at length issued from an abyss of light,
and its first ray fell upon the consecrated host, which the priest was
at that very moment raising in the air.

"After the sacrifice, during which nothing was wanting to me but the
daughter of Lopez, we went to the village. The most touching mixture of
social and natural life reigned there. By the side of a cypress-wood of
the ancient desert was a nascent vegetation; ears of corn rolled like
gold about the trunk of a fallen oak, and summer sheaves replaced the
tree of three centuries. On all sides forests given up to the flames
were sending up their smoke into the air, and the plough was being
pushed slowly through the remains of their roots. Surveyors with long
chains went to measure the ground; arbitrators marked out the first
properties; the bird gave up its nest; the den of the wild beast was
converted into a cabin; forges were heard to roar, and the blows of the
axe caused the echoes to resound for the last time as they expired with
the trees which had served them for a refuse.

"I wandered with delight in the midst of these scenes, rendered still
more enchanting by the image of Atala and by the dreams of felicity with
which I was feeding my heart. I admired the triumph of Christianity
over savage life. I saw the Indian becoming civilized by the voice of
religion; I assisted at the primitive union of man and the earth--man,
by this great contract, abandoning to the earth the inheritance of
his labors; and the earth undertaking in return to bear faithfully the
harvests, the sons, and the ashes of man.

"During this time a child was presented to the missionary, who baptized
it among the flowering jessamine on the border of a spring, whilst a
coffin, in the midst of these joys and labors, was being carried to the
Groves of Death. Two spouses received the nuptial benediction beneath an
oak, and we afterwards went to install them in a corner of the desert.
The pastor walked in front of us, blessing here and there a rock, a tree
or a fountain, as of old, according to the book of the Christians, God
blessed the untilled land when He gave it to Adam for an inheritance.
This procession, which, with the flocks, was following its venerable
chief from rock to rock, represented to my affected heart the migrations
of the first families, when Shem, with his children, advanced into an
unknown world, following the sun as his guide.

"I desired to know from the hermit how he governed his flock. With great
patience he replied to me, 'I have laid down no law for them; I have
merely taught them to love one another, to pray to God, and to hope for
a better life. All the laws in the world are comprised therein. Towards
the middle of the village you may perceive a cabin somewhat larger than
the rest. It serves as a chapel during the rainy season. My children
assemble there morning and evening to praise the Lord, and when I am
absent an old man offers up the prayers; for old age, like maternity,
is a sort of priesthood. The people afterwards go to work in the fields;
and although the properties are divided, in order that each may learn
something of social economy, the harvests are deposited in the same
storehouse, out of a spirit of brotherly charity. Four old men are
charged with the equal distribution of the produce of the general
labors. Add to all that our religious ceremonies, plenty of hymns, the
cross where I celebrate the mysteries, the elm-tree beneath which I
preach in fine weather, our tombs near our corn-fields, our rivers into
which I plunge the little children, and the Saint Johns of this new
Bethany, and you will have a complete idea of this kingdom of Jesus

"The language of the hermit delighted me, and I felt the superiority of
this stable and busy life over the wandering and idle existence of the

"Ah, René! I do not repine against Providence, yet I confess I never
think of that evangelical society without experiencing bitter regret.
How a hut, with Atala, in that neighborhood, would have rendered my life
happy! There all my wanderings would have ceased; there, with a spouse,
ignored by men and concealing my happiness in the depths of the forest,
my days would have flown by like those rivers which have not even a name
in the desert. Instead of the peace I was then bold enough to promise
myself, amidst what troubles have my years been cast! The constant
plaything of fortune, wrecked upon every shore, long an exile from
my country, and on my return thither finding only a ruined cabin and
friends in the tomb--such was to be the destiny of Chactas.

[Illustration: 064]

[Illustration: 065]

[Illustration: 067]


"If my dream of happiness was bright, it was also of short duration, and
I was to be awakened from it at the hermit's grotto. On arriving there
in the middle of the clay, I was surprised at not seeing Atala come
forth to meet us. I cannot tell what sudden apprehension took possession
of me. As we approached the grotto, I dared not call the daughter of
Lopez; my imagination was equally frightened by the idea of the noise or
of the silence that might follow my cries. Still more terrified by the
dark appearance of the entrance to the rock, I said to the missionary,
'O you, whom heaven accompanies and strengthens, penetrate into those

"How weak is the man who is governed by his passions! How strong is he
who relies upon God! There was more courage in that religious heart,
withered by seventy-six years, than in all the ardor of my youth. The
man of peace entered the grotto, whilst I remained outside, full of
terror. Soon a feeble murmur of complaint issued from the interior
of the rock, and fell upon my ear. Uttering a cry as I recovered my
strength, I rushed into the darkness of the cavern. Spirits of my
fathers, you alone know the spectacle that met my view!

"The hermit had lighted a pine-torch, which he was holding with a
trembling hand over Atala's couch. With her hair in disorder, the young
and beautiful woman, slightly raised upon her elbow, looked pale
and suffering. Drops of painful sweat shone upon her forehead; her
half-extinguished eyes still sought to express her love to me, and her
mouth endeavored to smile. As though struck by lightning, with my eyes
fixed, my arms outstretched, and my lips apart, I remained motionless.
A profound silence reigned for a moment between the three personages of
this scene of grief. The hermit was the first to break it. 'This,'
he said, 'can only be a fever occasioned by fatigue, and if we resign
ourselves to God's will, He will take pity on us.'

"At these words my heart revived, and, with the mobility of the savage,
I passed suddenly from an excess of fear to an excess of confidence,
from which, however, Atala soon aroused me. Shaking her head sadly, she
made us a sign to approach her couch.

"'My father,' she said, in a weak voice, addressing herself to the
hermit, 'I am upon the point of death. O Chactas! listen without despair
to the fatal secret I had concealed from you in order not to make you
too miserable, and out of obedience to my mother. Try not to interrupt
me by any marks of grief, which would shorten the few moments I have to
live. I have many things to tell of, and from the beatings of my heart,
which slacken--I do not know what icy burden presses within my bosom--I
feel that I cannot make too much haste!'

"After a short silence, Atala continued thus:--

"'My sad destiny began almost before I had seen the light. My mother had
conceived me in misfortune. I wearied her bosom, and she brought me into
the world with such painful difficulty that my life was despaired of. To
save me, my mother made a vow. She promised the Queen of Angels that I
should consecrate myself to an unwedded life if I escaped from death.
That fatal vow is now hurrying me to the tomb!

"'I was entering upon my sixteenth year when I lost my mother. Some
hours before her death she called me to her bedside. "My daughter,"
she said, in the presence of the missionary who was consoling her last
moments, "you know the vow I made for you. Would you belie your mother?
O my Atala, I am leaving you in a world that is not worthy of possessing
a Christian--in the midst of idolators who persecute the God of your
father and of your mother, the God who, after having given you life, has
preserved it to you by a miracle. Ah, my dear child, by accepting the
virgin's veil, you only renounce the cares of the cabin and the fatal
passions which have tormented your mother's breast! Come, then, my
well-beloved, come; swear upon this image of the Saviour's Mother, held
by the hands of this holy priest and of your dying parent, that you will
not betray me in the face of heaven. Remember what I promised for you
in order to save your life, and that, if you do not keep my promise, you
will plunge your mother's soul into eternal tortures."

"'O my mother, why spake you thus? O Religion, the cause of my ills and
of my felicity, my ruin and my consolation at the same time! And you,
dear and sad object of a passion that is consuming me even in the arms
of death, you can now see, O Chactas, what has caused the hardship of
our destiny! Melting into tears, and throwing myself upon my mother's
bosom, I promised all that I was asked to promise. The missionary
pronounced over me the fearful language of my oath, and gave me the
scapulary that bound me forever. My mother threatened me with her
malediction if ever I broke my vow; and, after having advised me to keep
the secret inviolably from the pagans, the persecutors of my religion,
she expired, whilst holding me in a tender embrace.

[Illustration: 069]

[Illustration: 071]

[Illustration: 073]

[Illustration: 075]

"'I did not at first know the danger of my oath. Full of ardor and a
veritable Christian, proud, too, of the Spanish blood that flowed in my
veins, I saw myself surrounded by men unworthy of receiving my hand, and
I congratulated myself upon having no other spouse than the God of my
mother. I saw you, young and beautiful prisoner; I pitied your lot; I
had the courage to speak to you at the funeral pile in the forest. Then
it was that I felt the weight of my vows!'

"When Atala had finished littering these words, I cried out, with
clenched fists, and looking at the missionary with a threatening air,
'This, then, is the religion you have so much vaunted to me! Perish the
oath that deprives me of Atala! Man-priest, why did you come into these

'"To save you,' said the old man, in a terrible voice; 'to conquer
your passions, and to prevent you, blasphemer, from drawing down upon
yourself the wrath of Heaven! It is becoming, indeed, for so young a
man, scarcely entered upon life, to complain of his griefs! Where are
the marks of your sufferings? Where are the acts of injustice you have
had to support? Where are your virtues, which alone could give you a
certain right to murmur? What services have you rendered? What good have
you done? What, miserable creature! you can only show me passions,
and you dare to accuse Heaven! When, like Father Aubry, you shall have
passed thirty years in exile upon the mountains, you will be less prompt
to judge of the designs of Providence. You will then understand that
you know nothing and are nothing, and that there is no chastisement
so severe, no misfortune so terrible, that our corrupt flesh does not
deserve to suffer.'

"The lightnings that flashed from the old man's eyes, the beatings of
his beard against his breast, and his fiery language, made him like to
a god. Overcome by his majesty, I fell at the father's knees, and asked
pardon for my anger. 'My son,' he replied, in a tone so mild that
a feeling of remorse entered my soul, 'it was not for myself that I
reprimanded you. Alas! you are right, my dear child: I have done but
very little in these forests, and God has no servant more unworthy than
myself. But, my son, it is Heaven--Heaven, I say--that should never be
accused! Pardon me if I have offended you, and let us listen to your
sister. There may still perhaps be some remedy; do not let us tire
of hoping. Chactas, the religion which has made a virtue of hope is a
Divine religion!'

"'My young friend,' resumed Atala, 'you have been a witness of my
struggles, and nevertheless you have seen but the smallest portion of
them. I concealed the rest from you. No; the black slave who moistens
the hot sands of the Floridas with his sweat is less miserable than
Atala has been. Urging you to flight, and yet certain to die if you left
me; fearful of flying with you to the desert, and still panting after
the shade of the woods--ah! if it had only been required of me to
abandon my relations, my friends, my country! if even (frightful
thought!) I should only have incurred the loss of my soul! But thy
shadow, O my mother! thy shadow was always there, reminding me of thy
tortures! I heard thy complaints; I saw the flames of hell consuming
thee. My nights were barren, and haunted by phantoms, my days were
disconsolate; the evening dew dried as it fell upon my burning skin; I
opened my lips to the breezes, and the breezes, far from refreshing me,
became heated with the fire of my breath. What torture it was for me,
Chactas, to see you constantly near me, far from all mankind, in the
depths of the solitude, and to feel that there was an invincible barrier
between you and myself! To have passed my life at your feet, to have
waited upon you like a slave, to have prepared your repasts and your
couch in some unknown corner of the universe, would have been for me
supreme happiness. That happiness was within my reach, yet I could not
enjoy it. What plans I have imagined! What dreams have passed through
this sad heart of mine! Occasionally, when I fixed my eyes upon you, I
went so far as to encourage desires that were as foolish as they were
culpable: sometimes I wished I were the only creature living with you
upon the earth: at other times, feeling a divinity that stopped me in
my horrible transports, I seemed to desire that that divinity might
be annihilated, provided that, pressed in your arms, I might roll from
abyss to abyss with the ruins of God and of the world! Even now--shall I
say it?--now that eternity is about to swallow me up, that I am going to
appear before the inexorable Judge; at the moment when, from obedience
to my mother, I see with joy my vow devouring my life; well, even now,
by a frightful contradiction, I carry away with me the regret of not
having been yours----'

"'My daughter,' interrupted the missionary, 'your grief misleads you.
The excess of passion to which you are abandoning yourself is rarely
just; it is not even natural; and for that reason it is less culpable in
the eyes of God, because it is rather an error of the mind than a vice
of the heart. You must therefore put away such passionate feelings,
which are unworthy of your innocence. At the same time, my dear child;
your impetuous imagination has alarmed you too much concerning your
vows. Religion requires no superhuman sacrifice. Its true sentiments,
its moderated virtues, are far above the exalted sentiments and the
forced virtues of a pretending heroism. If you had succumbed--well, poor
lost sheep! the Good Shepherd would have sought for you, and would have
brought you back to the flock. The treasures of repentance were open to
you; torrents of blood are required to wipe out our faults in the
eyes of men; a single tear suffices with God. Tranquilize yourself,
therefore, my dear daughter; your situation needs calm. Let us address
ourselves to God, who heals all the wounds of His servants. If it be
His will, as I trust it may be, that you escape from this malady, I will
write to the Bishop of Quebec; he has the power to release you from your
vows, which are but simple vows; and you shall finish your days near me,
with Chactas as your spouse.'

"As the old man finished speaking, Atala was seized with a violent
convulsion, from which she emerged with all the signs of fearful
suffering. 'What!' said she, joining her two hands with passion,
'there was a remedy! I could have been released from my vows!' 'Yes, my
daughter,'replied the father; 'and it is still time.' 'It is too late it
is too late!' she cried.

'Must I die at the moment when I learn that I might have been happy? Why
did I not know * this old man sooner? At present what happiness should I
be enjoying with you, with my Chactas, a Christian--consoled, comforted
by this august priest--in this desert--for ever--Oh! my felicity would
have been too great!' 'Calm yourself,' I said to her, taking hold of
one of the unfortunate maiden's hands; 'calm yourself: that happiness is
still in store for us.' 'Never! never!' said Atala. 'How?' I asked. 'You
do not know all,' cried the maiden. 'Yesterday--during the storm--I was
on the point of breaking my vows; I was going to plunge my mother into
the flames of the abyss. Already her malediction was upon me, already
I lied to the God who had saved my life. Whilst you were kissing my
trembling lips, you were not aware that you were embracing death!' 'O
heaven!' cried the missionary; 'dear child, what have you done?' 'A
crime, my father,' said Atala, with her eyes wandering; 'but I only
destroyed myself, and I saved my mother.' 'Finish then!' I exclaimed,
full of fear. 'Well,' she said, 'I had foreseen my weakness; and on
quitting the cabins I took away with me----'

'What?' I interrupted with horror. 'A poison?' said the father. 'It is
now at my heart,' cried Atala.

"The torch slipped from the hermit's hand. I fell fainting near Lopez's
daughter. The old man took each of us in his arms, and during a short
interval we all three mingled our sobs on the funeral couch.

"'Let us be stirring; let us be stirring,' said the courageous father,
as he rose to light a lamp. 'We are losing precious moments: like
intrepid Christians, let us brave the assaults of adversity; with
the cord about our necks, and with ashes upon our heads, let us throw
ourselves at the feet of the Most High, to implore His clemency, and
to submit ourselves to His decrees. Perhaps it may still be time. My
daughter, you ought to have told me of this last night.'

"'Alas! my father,' said Atala, 'I looked for you last night; but
heaven, as a punishment for my faults, kept you away from me. Besides,
all help would have been useless; for even the Indians themselves, who
are so clever in what concerns poisons, know no remedy for that I have
taken. O Chactas, judge of my astonishment when I found that the result
was not so prompt as I had expected! My love redoubled my strength, and
my soul was unwilling to separate thus quickly from you!'

"It was no longer by sobs that I now interrupted Atala's recital, but
by a torrent of passionate transports known only to savages. I rolled
myself upon the ground, twisting my arms and biting my hands. The
old priest, with wonderful tenderness, ran from brother to sister,
endeavoring to relieve us in a thousand ways. Through the calmness of
his heartland from the experience due to his weight of years, he knew
how to act upon our youth, and his religion furnished him with accents
even more tender and more ardent than our passions. Does not this
priest, who had passed forty years of daily sacrifice in the service of
God and man upon the mountain, remind you of the holocausts of Israel
smoking perpetually on the high places before the Lord?

"Alas! it was in vain that he tried to procure a remedy for Atala's
sufferings. Fatigue, grief, poison, and a passion more mortal than all
the poisons together, had united to snatch the flower from the desert.
Towards evening terrible symptoms began to show themselves. A general
numbness took possession of Atala's limbs, and the extremities of her
body became cold. 'Touch my fingers,' she said to me; 'do they not feel
quite icy?' I could not reply. I was overcome with horror. Afterwards
she added, 'Even yesterday, my well-beloved, your contact made me
quiver: and now I can no longer feel your hand; I scarcely hear your
voice, and the objects in the grotto are disappearing from my sight
one after the other. Are not the birds singing? The sun must be nearly
setting? Chactas, its rays will be very beautiful in the desert, over my

"Atala perceiving that her language had melted us into tears, said
softly, 'Pardon me, my kind friends; I am very weak, but perhaps I shall
get stronger. And yet to die so young, all at once, when my heart was so
full of life! Chief of prayer, take pity on me; support me. Do you
think my mother will be satisfied, and that God will forgive what I have

"'My daughter,' replied the holy man, shedding tears, and wiping them
away with his trembling, mutilated fingers, 'all your misfortunes are
the result of your ignorance. Your savage education and the want of
instruction have been your ruin. You did not know that a Christian
cannot dispose of his life. Console yourself, therefore, my dear lamb;
God will pardon you, on account of the simplicity of your heart. Your
mother, and the imprudent missionary who guided her, are more to be
blamed than you; they exceeded their power in imposing an indiscreet vow
upon you: but may the Lord be with them! You all three offer a terrible
example of the dangers of enthusiasm, and of the want of enlightenment
on religious matters. Be of good cheer, my child; He who fathoms our
thoughts and our hearts will judge you according to your intentions,
which were pure, and not from your action, which was condemnable.

"'As for life, if the moment has come for you to sleep in the Lord,
ah! my child, you lose but little by losing this world! In spite of the
solitude in which you have lived, you have known sorrow; what would
you have felt, then, if you had witnessed the evils of society?--if, on
visiting the shores of Europe, your ear had been stricken by the long
cry of suffering heard throughout that old land? The dweller in the
cabin, the inhabitant of a palace, both suffer and groan here below:
queens have been seen to cry like simple women, and people have been
astonished at the quantity of tears shed by kings!

"'Is it your love that you regret? My daughter, you might as well weep
over a dream. Do you know the heart of man, and could you reckon upon
the inconstancies of his affection? Sacrifices and kindnesses, Atala,
are not eternal ties. One day, perhaps, disgust would have come with
satiety, the past would have been considered as nothing, and naught
would have remained but the inconveniences of a poor and despised union.
Doubtless, my dear daughter, the most beautiful loves were those of the
man and woman who issued from the hand of the Creator. A paradise had
been prepared for them. They were innocent and immortal. Perfect in soul
and body, they suited each other in every respect. Eve had been created
for Adam, l and Adam for Eve. If they, nevertheless, could not remain in
that state of happiness, what couple after them could do so? I will
not speak to you of the marriages of the first-born of men, of
those ineffable unions between sister and brother, in which love and
friendship were confounded in the same heart, and the purity of the one
increased the delights of the other. All those unions were troubled;
jealousy crept over the altar of turf upon which the goat was
sacrificed, it existed beneath the tent of Abraham, and even in the
abodes of the patriarchs, where they experienced so much joy that they
forgot the death of their mothers.

"'Do you suppose, then, my child, that you are more innocent and more
fortunate in your ties than those holy families from which Jesus Christ
deigned to descend? Again, woman renews her sufferings each time she
becomes a mother, and she weeps on her marriage-day. What grief there
is for her in the mere loss of her new-born babe, to whom she gave
nourishment, and who dies upon her bosom! The mountain was full of
groans: nothing could console Rachel for the loss of her sons. The
bitterness attendant upon human affections is so powerful that I have in
my country seen grand ladies, the beloved of kings, quit the life of
a court to bury themselves in a cloister, and mutilate that rebellious
flesh, the pleasures of which are only the precursors of sorrow.

"'But perhaps you would say that these last examples do not affect you;
that all your ambition was limited to the desire of living in an obscure
cabin with the man of your choice; that you sought less after the sweets
of marriage than after the charms of that folly which youth calls love?
Delusion, chimera, vanity--the dream of a diseased imagination! I also,
my daughter, have known the troubles of the heart. This head has not
been always bald, nor this breast always so calm as it appears to you
to-day. Believe in my experience: if man, constant in his affections,
could unceasingly respond to a sentiment constantly renewed, solitude
and love would doubtless render him the equal of God Himself; for those
are the two eternal pleasures of the Great Being. But the soul of man
becomes weary, and never loves the same object long and fully. There are
always some points upon which two hearts do not agree, and in the end
those points suffice to render life insupportable.

"'Finally, my dear child, the great error of men, in their dream of
happiness, is that they forget the infirmity of death inseparable from
their nature; the end must come. Sooner or later, whatever might have
been your felicity, your beautiful visage would have been changed into
that uniform face which the sepulchre gives to the family of Adam. Even
the eye of Chactas would not have been able to distinguish you from
amongst your sisters of the tomb. Love does not extend its empire so far
as the worms in the coffin. What have I to say (O vanity of vanities!),
what can I say concerning the durability of earthly friendships? Would
you, my dear daughter, know its extent? If a man were to return to light
some years after his death, I do not believe he would be received with
joy even by those who had shed the most tears to his memory; so quickly
are new ties contracted, so easily fresh habits are indulged in, so
entirely is inconstancy natural to man, and so little is our life even
in the hearts of our friends!

"'Thank, therefore, the Divine goodness, my dear daughter, for taking
you away thus early from this valley of misery. Already the white robe
and the brilliant crown of virgins are being prepared for you in the
skies; already I hear the Queen of the Angels crying out to you, "Come,
my worthy servant; come, my dove; come and sit down upon the throne of
candor, amidst all those maidens who have sacrificed their beauty and
their youth in the service of humanity, in the education of children,
and in works of penitence."'

"As the last ray of daylight stills the winds and spreads tranquillity
through the sky, so the old man's calm language appeased the passions in
the bosom of my lover. She no longer thought of anything but my grief,
and of the means for enabling me to support her loss. At first she said
that she should die happy if I would promise her to dry my tears;
then she spoke to me of my mother and of my country, and endeavored
to distract me from present grief by referring to past sufferings. She
exhorted me to patience and virtue. 'You will not always be unhappy,'
she said; 'if Heaven tries you to-day, it is merely to render you more
compassionate for the ills of others. The heart, Chactas, is like those
trees that only yield their balm for healing men's wounds after having
been themselves seared with iron.'

"When she had thus spoken, Atala turned towards the missionary, seeking
from him the consolation she had been endeavoring to impart to me; and,
by turns consoling and consoled, she gave and received the word of life;
upon the couch of death.

"Nevertheless, the hermit redoubled his zeal. With the torch of religion
in his hand, he appeared to be guiding Atala to the tomb, to show her
its secret wonders. The humble grotto was full of the grandeur of this
Christian agony, and the heavenly spirits were no doubt attentive to the
scene, in which Religion had to struggle alone against Love, Youth and

"Divine Religion triumphed, and her victory was perceptible from the
holy sadness that followed our hearts' previous passionate transports.
Towards the middle of the night, Atala seemed to revive, and repeated
the prayers pronounced by the monk at the side of her couch. Shortly
afterwards, she offered me her hand, and, in a voice scarcely audible,
said, 'Son of Outalissi, do you remember the night when you took me for
the Virgin of the Last Loves? What a singular omen of our destiny! She
stopped, then continued: 'When I think that I am leaving you for ever,
my heart makes such an effort to live, that I feel almost strong enough
to render myself immortal by the power of my love. But, O God! Thy will
be done!' Atala became silent during a few instants; then she added: 'It
only remains for me to ask your pardon for all the ills I have caused
you. Chactas, a little earth thrown upon my body will place a world
between you and me, and will deliver you forever from the weight of my

"'Pardon you!' I exclaimed, drowned in tears; 'Is it not I who have
caused all your misfortunes?' 'My friend,' she replied, interrupting
me, 'you have rendered me very happy, and if I had to begin my life over
again, I should still prefer the happiness of having loved you for a few
short moments in an exile of adversity to an entire life of repose in my
own country.'

[Illustration: 084]

"Here Atala's voice languished: the shadows of death spread themselves
about her eyes and her mouth; her wandering fingers endeavored to catch
at something and she spoke lowly with the invisible spirits. Soon,
however, making an effort, she attempted, but in vain, to take the
little crucifix from her neck; she asked me to untie it myself, and then
said to me:--

[Illustration: 088]

"'When I spoke to you for the first time, by the light of the fire you
saw this cross shining upon my bosom; it is the only treasure that Atala
possesses. Lopez, your father and mine, sent it to my mother a few days
after my birth. Accept the inheritance, then, from me, my brother, and
keep it in remembrance of my misfortunes. Chactas, I have a last request
to make of you. Our union on earth, my friend, would have been short;
but after this life there is a longer life. I only go before you to-day,
and I will wait for you in the celestial empire. If you have loved me,
get yourself instructed in the Christian religion, which will prepare
our re-union. That religion has worked a great miracle under your own
eyes, since it enables me to quit you without the anguish of despair.
Still, Chactas, I only desire you to make me a simple promise. I know
too well what it costs to ask an oath from you. Perhaps such a vow might
separate you from some woman happier than I. O my mother, pardon thy
daughter! I am again succumbing to my weaknesses, and am turning aside
from Thee, O my God, thoughts that should be thine, and thine only!'

"Overwhelmed with grief, I promised Atala that I would one day embrace
the Christian religion. At this moment the hermit, rising with an
inspired air, and stretching his arms towards the roof of the grotto,
exclaimed, 'It is time--it is time to call God hither!'

"Scarcely had he uttered those words, when a supernatural force
constrained me to fall upon my knees and to turn my head towards the
foot of Atala's couch. The priest opened a secret place that contained
a golden urn covered with a silk veil; he then knelt down and prayed
fervently. Suddenly the grotto appeared to be illuminated: songs of
angels and the vibrations of celestial harps were heard in the air; and
when the hermit drew the sacred vessel from the tabernacle, I thought I
saw God Himself issue forth from the side of the mountain.

"The priest opened the cup, took between his fingers a wafer white as
snow, and approached Atala as he pronounced some mysterious words. That
saint's eyes were upturned in ecstacy. All her sufferings appeared to be
suspended; her entire being concentrated itself upon her mouth; her lips
parted, and advanced with respect to seek the God concealed beneath the
mystic bread. The saintly old man afterwards soaked a piece of cotton in
the consecrated oil, and looked for a moment at the dying maiden; when
all of a sudden he uttered these imposing words, 'Go, Christian soul,
go; return to your Creator!' Raising then my downcast head, I cried,
looking at the vessel that contained the holy oil, 'My father, will that
remedy restore Atala to life?' 'Yes, my son,' said the old man, falling
into my arms, 'to life eternal!' Atala had just expired.

At this point Chactas was obliged, for the second time, to interrupt the
recital of his story. His tears flowed copiously, and the tremor of his
voice only permitted him to utter broken words. The blind sachem opened
his breast and drew forth Atala's crucifix. "Here it is!" he cried;
"dear token of adversity! O René, O my son! You see it; but I can see it
no longer.

Tell me whether, after so many years, the gold of it is tarnished? Do
you see any traces of my tears upon it? Could you recognize the part
which had been touched by the lips of a saint? How is it that Chactas is
not yet a Christian? What trivial motives of policy or nationality have
kept him in the errors of his fathers? No; I will no longer delay. The
earth is crying out to me, 'When, then, wilt thou go down into the tomb,
and for what art thou waiting to embrace a Divine religion?'.... Earth!
thou shalt not wait long, for as soon as a priest shall have regenerated
by baptism this head whitened with grief, I hope to be re-united to
Atala.... But let me finish what remains to be told of my story."

[Illustration: 091]

[Illustration: 092]

[Illustration: 094]

[Illustration: 096]


[Illustration: 098]

"I will not undertake, René, to picture the despair that took possession
of my soul when Atala had heaved her last sigh. It would require more
warmth than I have left, and that my closed eyes might re-open to the
sun, to ask it to tell of the tears they shed in its light. Yes, the
moon now shining above our heads will become weary of lighting the
solitudes of Kentucky--the river that is now bearing our pirogues will
suspend the course of its waters--before my tears cease to flow for
Atala! During two days I was insensible to the hermit's conversation.
In trying to calm my grief, the excellent man did not employ the
commonplace reasonings of earthly minds. All he said was, 'My son, it
is the will of God;' and then he pressed me in his arms. I should never
have thought there was so much consolation in those few words of a
resigned Christian, if I had not myself experienced it.

"The mild tenderness and the unvarying patience of the old servant of
God at length conquered the obstinacy of my grief; I became ashamed of
the tears I caused him to shed. 'My father,' I said, 'this is too
much: let the passions of a young man disturb the peace of your days no
longer. Permit me to carry away the remains of my spouse; I will inter
them in some corner of the desert; and if I am condemned to live on for
a time, I will endeavor to render myself worthy of the eternal nuptials
that were promised me by Atala.'

"At this unexpected return of courage, the good father trembled with
joy, saying, 'O blood of Jesus Christ, blood of my Divine Master, I
acknowledge herein Thy merits! Thou wilt no doubt save this young man.
My God, finish Thy work; restore peace to this troubled soul, and leave
it but the humble and useful remembrances of its misfortunes!'

"The righteous man refused to give up to me the body of Lopez's
daughter; but he proposed to call together his neophytes, and to inter
it with all the pomp of the Christian ceremonial. In my turn, I refused.
'Atala's misfortunes and virtues,' I said, 'were unknown to men; let her
grave, dug secretly by our hands, share that obscurity.' We agreed to
set off the next morning at sunrise, and to bury Atala beneath the arch
of the natural bridge at the entrance to the Groves of Death. It was
also decided that we should pass the night in prayer near the corpse of
the saint.

"Towards evening we transported the precious remains to an opening of
the grotto looking to the north. The hermit had enveloped them in a
piece of European lawn, woven by his mother. It was the only thing still
remaining to him of his country, and he had long preserved it for his
own tomb. We laid Atala upon a turf of mountain-sensitives; her feet,
her head, her shoulders, and a part of her bosom were uncovered. There
was a faded magnolia in her hair, the same flower I had placed upon
the virgin's couch to render her fruitful. Her lips, like a rose-bud
gathered two mornings before, seemed to languish and smile. Her cheeks,
of sparkling whiteness, showed a number of blue veins. Her beautiful
eyes were closed, her modest feet joined together, and her hands of
alabaster pressed against her heart an ebony crucifix; the scapulary of
her vows was fastened about her neck. She appeared as though enchanted
by the angel of melancholy, and by the double sleep of innocence and of
the tomb.

I never saw anything so heavenly. By a person unconscious that this
young girl had enjoyed the light, she might have been taken for a statue
of Sleeping Virginity.

"The monk did not cease praying all night. I sat in silence at the end
of my Atala's funeral couch. How often, during her sleep, I had held
that charming head upon my knees! How many times I had leaned over her
to hear her breathe, and to inhale her breath! But at present no sound
issued from that motionless breast, and it was in vain that I looked for
the awakening of my love!

"The moon lent her pale light to this funereal watching; she rose in the
middle of the night, like a white vestal come to weep over the coffin of
a companion. From time to time the monk dipped a flowering branch into
the holy water, and shaking its moistened leaves, perfumed the night air
with heavenly balms. Occasionally also he repeated, to an ancient tune,
these verses by an old poet named Job:

[Illustration: 100]

"'I have passed away like a flower; I have withered like the grass of
the fields.

"'Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the
bitter in soul?'

"Thus sang the old man. His deep and irregular voice went rolling
through the silence of the desert. The name of God and of the tomb
issued from all the echoes, from all the torrents, and from all the
forests, and the Groves of Death seemed to be murmuring a distant chorus
of the departed in reply to the hermit's sacred chant.

"Nevertheless, a bar of gold was forming in the east. The sparrow-hawks
were crying upon the rocks, and the martins creeping back into the
hollows of the elm-trees: these were so many signs that the time had
come for Atala's interment. I took the body on my shoulders; the hermit
walked in front of me, carrying a spade in his hand. We commenced the
descent from rock to rock; old age and death combined equally to slacken
our pace. At the sight of the dog which had found us in the forest,
and which now, jumping with joy, led us by another route, I melted
into tears. Atala's long hair, the plaything of the morning breezes,
frequently threw its golden veil over my eyes, and, bending beneath
the burden, I was obliged to lay it down often upon the moss, and
sit awhile, to recover my strength. At length we arrived at the spot
selected by my grief, and we entered beneath the arch of the bridge. O
my son, you should have seen the youthful savage and the old hermit, on
their knees in front of each other, in the desert, digging with their
hands a grave for the poor girl whose body lay stretched out close at
hand, in the dried-up bed of a torrent!

"When our work was terminated, we transported the loved one into her bed
of clay. Taking then a little dust in my hand, and observing a fearful
silence, I looked upon Atala's face for the last time. I afterwards
spread the earth over that forehead of eighteen springs; gradually I
saw the features of my sister disappear, and her graces become hidden
beneath the curtain of eternity. 'Lopez!' I exclaimed, 'behold your son
burying your daughter!' And I finished by covering Atala entirely with
the earth of sleep.

"We returned to the grotto, where I made the missionary acquainted
with the project I had formed of remaining with him. The saint, who
wonderfully understood the heart of man, penetrated my thought and the
artfulness of my grief. He said: 'Chactas, son of Outalissi, so long as
Atala was alive, I myself desired that you should live with me; but at
present your lot is changed; you owe yourself to your country. Believe
me, my son, such griefs are not eternal. Sooner or later they wear
themselves out, because the heart of man is finite. That is one of our
great miseries; we are not even capable of being unhappy for a long
time. Return to the Mississippi; go and console your mother, who weeps
for you day by day, and who stands in need of your support. Get yourself
instructed in Atala's religion, whenever an opportunity presents itself;
and remember that you promised her to be virtuous and Christian. I will
watch over her tomb. Go, my son; God, your sister's soul, and the heart
of your old friend, will follow you!'

"Such was the language of the man of the rock. His authority was too
great, his wisdom too profound, not to be obeyed. The next morning I
quitted my venerable host, who, pressing me to his heart, gave me his
last counsels, his last blessing, and his last tears. I went to the
grave, and was surprised at finding a little cross placed over the
body, as one may sometimes perceive the mast of a vessel that has been
wrecked. I judged that the hermit had been there to pray during the
night. This mark of friendship and religion caused me to shed an
abundance of tears. I was almost tempted to re-open the tomb, in order
to gaze once more upon my well-beloved; a religious fear withheld me. I
sat down upon the recently-disturbed ground. With an elbow resting upon
my knees, and my head supported by my hand, I remained buried for a time
in a most bitter reverie. O René! it was then that, for the first time,
I made serious reflections upon the vanity of our days, and the still
greater vanity of our projects. Ah! my child, who has not made such
reflections? I am no longer but an old stag whitened by the winters; my
years compete with those of the crow. Well, in spite of the number of
days accumulated over my head, in spite of such a long experience of
life, I have not yet met with a man who had not been deceived in his
dreams of happiness, nor a heart that did not contain a hidden wound.

"Having thus seen the sun rise and set upon this place of grief, the
next day, at the first cry of the stork, I prepared to leave the sacred
sepulchre. I quitted it as the spot from which I desired to start upon
a career of virtue. Three times I evoked the soul of Atala; three times
the genius of the desert responded to my cries beneath the funeral
arch. I afterwards saluted the East, and then I perceived, amongst the
mountain paths in the distance, the friendly hermit going to the cabin
of some unhappy creature. Falling upon my knees, and ardently embracing
Atala's grave, I exclaimed, 'Sleep in peace in this foreign land, too
unfortunate maiden! In return for your love, for your exile, and for
your death, you are going to be abandoned, even by Chactas!' Then,
shedding a flood of tears, I separated from Lopez's daughter, and,
tearing myself from the spot, left at the foot of nature's monument a
monument still more august--the humble Tomb of Virtue."

[Illustration: 103

[Illustration: 104]


[Illustration: 107]

Chactas, son of Outalissi the Natchez, related this story to René the
European. Fathers have repeated it to their sons; and I, a traveller to
distant lands, have faithfully narrated what the Indians told me. I
saw in this story the picture of the hunting people and of the laboring
people; religion, the first lawgiver of men; the dangers of ignorance
and religious enthusiasm opposed to the light, the charity and the
veritable spirit of the Evangile; the struggles of the passions and the
virtues in a simple heart; and, finally, the triumph of Christianity
over the most ardent sentiment and the most terrible fear--Love and

When a Seminole related this story to me, I found it very instructive
and perfectly beautiful, because he narrated it with the flowery
eloquence of the desert, the grace of the cabin, and a simplicity in
describing grief which I am afraid I have not been able to preserve. But
one thing remained for me to learn. I wished to know what had become of
Father Aubry, and no one could tell me. I should never have ascertained
if Providence, who guides all, had not led me to discover what I was
seeking. This is how the matter came about.

I had visited the shores of the Mississippi, which formerly constituted
the southern boundary of New France, and I was desirous of seeing, in
the north, that other wonder of the American empire, the cataract of
Niagara. I had nearly reached the falls, in the ancient country of the
Agannonsioni, * when one morning, as I was crossing a plain, I perceived
a woman seated beneath a tree, and holding a dead child upon her knees.
I quietly approached the young mother, and heard her singing to this

"If thou hadst remained amongst us, dear babe, with what grace thy hand
might have bent the bow! Thy arm might have tamed the furious bear,
and thy steps might have outrun the flying kid on the summit of the
mountain. White ermine of the rock, to go so young to the land of souls!
How wilt thou manage to live there? Thy father is not there to feed thee
with the produce of his chase. Thou wilt be cold, and no Spirit will
give thee skins to cover thyself. Oh! I must hasten to rejoin thee, to
sing songs to thee and to give thee my breast." And the young mother
sang with a trembling voice, rocked the child upon her knees, wetted its
lips with her maternal milk, and bestowed upon the dead all those cares
which are usually given to the living.

According to the Indian custom, the woman desired to dry the body of her
son upon the branches of a tree before taking it away to the tomb of
its ancestors. She therefore undressed the new-born babe, and, after
breathing some instants upon its mouth, uncovered its breast, and
embraced the icy remains, which would certainly have been re-animated by
the fire of that maternal heart, if God had not reserved to Himself the
breath that imparts life.

She rose, and looked about for a tree upon which she might lay her
child. She selected a maple with red flowers, festooned with garlands of
apios, that emitted the sweetest perfumes. With one hand she pulled down
the lowest branch, and with the other she placed the body thereon;
then loosing the branch, it returned to its natural position, with the
remains of innocence concealed in its ordoriforous foliage. Oh, how
touching is this Indian custom! Pompous monuments of the Crassi and
of the Cæsars, I have seen you in your desolated plains; but I by far
prefer those aërian tombs of the savages, those mausoleums of flowers
and verdure, perfumed by the bee and waved by the zephyr, wherein the
nightingale builds its nest and warbles its plaintive melody. When the
mortal remains are those of a young maiden suspended by the hand of
a lover to the tree of death, or of a beloved child placed by a fond
mother in the dwelling of the little birds, the charm is still greater.
I approached her who was groaning at the foot of the maple-tree, and
placed my hands upon her head as I uttered the three cries of grief.
Afterwards, without speaking to the young mother, I imitated her by
taking a bough and driving away the insects that were buzzing about the
child's body. But I was careful not to disturb a neighboring dove. The
Indian woman said to it: "Dove, if thou art not the soul of my departed
son, thou art doubtless a mother seeking for something to make a nest.
Take these hairs, which I shall no more wash in scented water; take them
for a bed for thy little ones, and may the Great Spirit preserve them to

     * The Iroquois,

Nevertheless, the mother wept with joy on remarking the stranger's
politeness. As we were thus occupied, a young man came up and said,
"Daughter of Céluta, take down our child: we will no longer sojourn in
this place; we will set off at the rising of the next sun." I then said,
"Brother, I wish you a blue sky, plenty of game, a beaver cloak, and
hope! You are not of the desert, then?"

"No," replied the young man; "we are exiles, and we are going to seek a
country." Saying that, the warrior lowered his head upon his breast, and
began knocking off the heads of some flowers with the end of his bow.
I saw that there were tears at the bottom of this story, so I remained
silent. The mother took her son's body down from the branch of the tree,
and gave it to her spouse to carry. I then said, "Will you allow me to
light your fire to-night?"

"We have no cottage," replied the warrior; "but if you desire to follow
us, we are going to camp on the border of the Falls."

"With pleasure," I replied; and we started off together.

We soon arrived at the border of the cataract, which announced itself
with frightful roarings. It is formed by the river Niagara, which takes
its rise in Lake Erie, and falls into Lake Ontario. Its perpendicular
height is one hundred and forty-four feet. From Lake Erie to the Falls,
the river flows with a rapid inclination; and at the leap it is less a
river than a sea whose torrents crush each other in the yawning mouth
of an abyss. The cataract is divided into two branches, and bends like a
horse-shoe. Between the two falls there is an island, hollow underneath,
and which hangs with all its trees over the chaos of the waves. The mass
of the river which rushes towards the north, assumes the form of a vast
cylinder, unrolling itself into a field of snow, and shining with every
color in the sun; that which flows to the east descends into a fearful
shade, and might be taken for a column of the water of the Deluge. A
thousand rainbows bend and cross each other above the abyss. Striking
against the shaken rock, the water rebounds in whirlwinds of froth that
rise above the forests like smoke from a vast burning mass. Pine-trees,
walnut-trees, and rocks worn into fantastic forms, ornament the scene.
Eagles, carried along by the current of air, are whirled down to the
bottom of the gulf; and carcajous, hanging by their flexible tails to
the ends of the fallen branches, wait to seize in the abyss the crushed
bodies of bears and elks.

Whilst I was contemplating this spectacle with a sort of pleasure mixed
with terror, the Indian and his spouse left me. I looked for them as I
ascended the river-side above the Falls, and soon discovered them in a
place suited to their grief. They were lying down upon the grass, with
a number of old men, near some human bones wrapped in bear-skins.
Astonished at everything I had seen during the last few hours, I sat
down near the young mother, and said, "What is all this, my sister?"
She replied: "My brother, the earth of our country and the ashes of our
forefathers follow us in our exile."

"And how," I asked, "have you been reduced to such a misfortune?" The
daughter of Céluta responded, "We are the remains of the Natchez. After
the massacre of our nation by the French, to avenge their compatriots,
those of our brothers who escaped from the conquerors found refuge with
our neighbors, the Chikassas. We remained tranquilly with them for some
time; but seven moons ago, the white men from Virginia took possession
of our fields, affirming that they had been given to them by a king of
Europe. So we raised our eyes to heaven, and, laden with the remains of
our forefathers, started on our way across the desert. I was confined
during the march, and as my milk was bad on account of my grief, it
caused my child to die." As she spoke, the mother wiped her eyes with
her hair. I wept also.

After a while I said, "My sister, let us adore the Great Spirit;
everything happens by His command. We are all travellers; our fathers
were the same; but there is a place where we shall find rest. If I were
not afraid of my tongue being as indiscreet as that of a white man, I
would ask of you if you have heard speak of Chactas the Natchez."

At these words the Indian woman looked at me, and asked, ''Who has
spoken to you of Chactas the Natchez? "I replied, "Wisdom." The Indian
rejoined, "I will tell you what I know, because you drove away the flies
from the body of my son, and uttered good words concerning the Great
Spirit. I am the daughter of the daughter of René, the European whom
Chactas had adopted. Chactas, who had received baptism, and René, my
unfortunate grandfather, perished in the massacre."

"Man passes constantly from grief to grief," I replied, bending myself
with humility. "You might also perhaps be able to give me news of Father

"He was not more fortunate than Chactas," said the Indian. "The
Cherokees, who were hostile to the French, attacked his Mission. They
were guided thither by the sound of a bell that was rung to succor
travellers. Father Aubry could have escaped, but he would not abandon
his children, and remained to encourage them to die by his example. He
was burnt with great torture; but his enemies could not draw from him
a single cry that might be turned to the shame of his God or to the
dishonor of his country. During the punishment he never ceased to pray
for his executioners, and to pity the lot of his fellow-victims. In
order to compel him to betray a mark of weakness, the Cherokees led to
his feet a Christian savage, whom they had horribly mutilated. But they
were much surprised when they saw the young man go down upon his knees
and kiss the wounds of the old hermit, who cried out to him, 'My
child, we have been given as a spectacle to men and to the angels.'
The Indians, furious at his expression, forced a red-hot iron down his
throat to prevent him from speaking; and thereupon, no longer able to
console his fellow-creatures, he expired.

"It is said that the Cherokees, accustomed though they were to see
savages suffer with indifference, could not refrain from confessing that
there was in Father Aubry's courage something unknown to them, and which
surpassed every description of courage they had witnessed. Several of
them, struck by his remarkable death, afterwards became Christians.

[Illustration: 111]

"On his return to the land of white men, several years later, Chactas,
having heard of the misfortunes of the chief of prayer, went to gather
the Father's ashes, and those of Atala. He arrived at the spot where the
mission had formerly existed, but he could scarcely recognize it. The
lake was overflown, and the savannah changed into a marsh; the natural
bridge, which had fallen in, had buried Atala's tomb and the Groves of
Death beneath its ruins. Chactas wandered about the place for a length
of time: he visited the hermit's grotto, which he found full of weeds
and raspberry-trees, and occupied by a fawn giving suck to her kid. He
sat down upon the rock beneath which he had watched his dying Atala; but
there was nothing on it beyond a few feathers fallen from the wings of
some birds of passage.

"While he was weeping, the missionary's tamed serpent issued from the
neighboring bushes, and came creeping to his feet. Chactas warmed in
his bosom the faithful friend who had remained alone in the midst of the
ruins. The son of Outalissi stated that several times, at the approach
of night, he fancied he saw the shades of Atala and Father Aubry rise
out of the misty twilight. These visions filled him with religious fear
and a joyful sadness.

[Illustration: 113]

[Illustration: 115]

"After having sought the tomb of his sister and of the hermit in vain,
he was on the point of abandoning the spot, when the fawn from the
grotto set to leaping in front of him. She stopped at the foot of the
Mission cross. That cross was then half surrounded by water; the wood
of it was covered with moss, and the pelican of the wilderness loved to
perch upon its worm-eaten arms. Chactas judged that the graceful fawn
had led him to the tomb of his host.

"He dug below the rock that had formerly served as an altar, and there
found the remains of a man and woman. He had no doubt but they were
those of the priest and of the virgin, buried, perhaps, by the angels
in that place; so he wrapped them in bear-skins, and started on his way
back to his country, carrying off the precious remains, which sounded
on his shoulders like the quiver of death. At night he placed them under
his pillow, and had dreams of love and of virtue. O stranger! you may
here contemplate that dust, and also the remains of Chactas himself."

As the Indian finished speaking, I rose, went towards the sacred ashes,
and prostrated myself before them in silence. I afterwards walked away
slowly, and with long strides, saying to myself, "Thus ends upon earth
all that is good, virtuous and feeling! Man, thou art but a rapid
and painful dream! Thou only existest by misfortune; and if thou art
anything at all, it is merely by the sadness of thy soul and the eternal
melancholy of thy thoughts!"

I was preoccupied with such reflections all night. The next morning, at
day-break, my hosts left me. The young warriors opened the march, and
their wives closed it. The former were charged with the holy relics,
the latter carried their infants. The old men walked slowly in the
middle--placed between their forefathers and their posterity, between
remembrance and hope, between the lost country and the country to be

O what tears are shed when we thus abandon our native land!--when, from
the summit of the mountain of exile, we look for the last time upon the
roof beneath which we were bred, and see the hut-stream still flowing
sadly through the solitary fields surrounding our birth-place!

Unfortunate Indians!--you whom I have seen wandering in the deserts
of the New World with the ashes of your ancestors;--you who gave
me hospitality in spite of your misery--I could not now return your
generosity, for I am wandering, like you, at the mercy of men; but less
fortunate than you in my exile, I have not brought with me the bones of
my fathers.

[Illustration: 118]


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